A Writer's Journey

March 20, 2023

Is It Time for a New Laptop?

Filed under: off topic — mackenziew @ 12:00 pm
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Back when I wrote my first Expedition Nostalgia post about my struggle to play an updated version of a beloved computer game, I had started to write a much longer explanation about why I was hesitant to buy a RAM upgrade. I decided to cut it to make the post shorter and figured it would become its own post.

So here’s the post!

Let’s talk about some recent history. Last month, I accidentally spilled soda on my laptop. This is really the first time I’ve ever really spilled anything on one of my laptops so I think that after over 20 years of laptop ownership this is my first true spill, it’s not that bad.

Clearly, I didn’t do any serious damage. But there are some issues from the spill. Namely I’ve lost the use of my left arrow. It just doesn’t work. And sometimes, it then appears to be stuck until I press it to stop the cursor from moving to the left or a video from going back 5 seconds. All the other arrow keys do work.

Several keys are not really stuck but they are harder to press down and sometimes stay down longer than they need to. If you’re ever reading a post and you see strange capitalization, the reason is probably that I struggled to hold the shift key down or it stayed down so long that other letters were affected. I try to catch them but I’m only human and will likely miss one here or there.

I did try cleaning my keyboard with some rubbing alcohol and a Q-tip but I don’t think it really got deep down to where the true stickiness is. It did help for a little while (and did unstick the space bar) so I might have to try it again. However, I do have to ask myself how much longer will I be able to put up with this and if it is reason enough to buy a new laptop.

I’ve yet to give myself an answer.

There’s more to it though than just a sticky keyboard.

For starters, my laptop is now six years old and will be seven this year. And we know that for technology, that can be old. I know that I don’t have the minimum requirements to upgrade to Windows 11 now. Not that I’m really looking to do that just yet and I know it will likely be some time before Microsoft sunsets Windows 10 but it’s still something to keep an eye on.

A new issue was briefly mentioned last week – I was unable to remove all the screws so I could get to the insides of my laptop. I first wasn’t sure if maybe that was because I would have to constantly remove them in order to sort of reset my battery when my laptop refused to turn on but I don’t think that’s the case. The screwdriver just was unable to catch the grooves in order to turn the screw. It almost felt like it was just grinding it away, making me wonder if the screws are corroding.

I didn’t think the soda got under the laptop but maybe I missed that? Or maybe it’s just six years of use. I don’t know.

The main reason that concerns me is that after six years, my battery is almost shot. It lasts for about a half-hour before needing to be plugged in. And soon, it will likely need to just be plugged in all the time to work. If I wanted to change the battery, I likely won’t be able to get the cover off in order to do that.

That’s a lot of reasons to get a new laptop, huh? So you may be wondering why I’m still hesitant.

For starters, my current laptop still works and everything I mentioned are just nuisances I can work around for now.

I also started to look at what Dell has to offer. And while they all look good and there are some in a reasonable price range. My main hang-up is the size. I really like the size of my current laptop, which has an 11 inch screen. There really isn’t anything that small anymore. And I don’t want to go too big again. So I might have to go up in size. I think I’ll measure my work laptop and see if there’s a middle point between my current laptop and my work one.

And I’ll probably look at other brands. I have had good experiences with Dell and would prefer to stay with it, but if another good brand has what I’m looking for then I may just make the switch.

But I don’t have to make a decision soon. I thought I would by my birthday but that’s fast approaching so I think I may put it off a bit more. See how it goes as I approach the summer.

If there’s a good deal and a size I like, I may just snap it up.

I guess it will likely boil down to what happens first – I get annoyed with my keyboard or my battery dies.

We’ll see.

See you next time!

March 7, 2023

Expedition Nostalgia–Fanfic Edition

Filed under: journey,writing — mackenziew @ 12:00 pm
Tags: , , ,

(Sorry for the delay. This appears to be longer than I expected, even when I decided to split this from the last post).

So a brief update on my saga to play Pharaoh: A New Age: I decided to get the 8 GB RAM. However, when I went to install it, I was unable to remove all the screws to separate the back of my laptop to do so. I’m going to keep trying but it may not happen anytime soon.

Now onto Part II of my Expedition Nostalgia.


Late last year, I published this post about the possible demise of Fanfiction.net. It’s still up, so don’t worry about that. Yet, at least, as I’m still sure it’s coming. Just likely not this year.

In that post, I recommended backing up any stories, reviews and other things anyone using FFN didn’t want to lose. I’ll admit that I haven’t done it yet myself but I did go through my favorites list to see what I would want to keep and what I would be okay with losing.

When going through my favorites list, I came across the very first one on my list. It is an old Harry Potter fic and I remembered how much I loved it so I decided to read it again to see if it had held up over the years.

(Note: I do condemn J.K. Rowling’s position on transwomen, no matter how she tries to dress it up as concern about women. Men who want to hurt women will do so without pretending to be a woman. And statistics show that trans people are more likely to experience violence, which is unacceptable. As long as they aren’t actively hurting someone else, everyone should be free to be who they are).

I remember reading this story when it was being posted, which was almost twenty years ago when I was still in high school. (Boy, do I feel old now). And judging by the author’s notes, the author was about the same age as me so it was also being written by a teenager.

And honestly, it holds up.


I don’t want to name the story right now though as I do not know if the author is still around under a new name. But I will describe/summarize the story as I discuss it. Maybe you’ll recognize it, maybe you won’t.

The main thing that really doesn’t hold up is the characterizations but that honestly isn’t too surprising. Once again, the writer was young and so the characters come across the same way. The story bounces between when the Marauders were in school and during Harry’s 7th Year (once again, this was written before even the 5th book was released). There isn’t much difference between the characters as teenagers and the characters as adults, despite the years and trauma they all experienced.

Sirius, especially. He is very similar to the young man we see in the flashbacks and doesn’t seem to take into account his time in Azkaban.

The story also features an original character – Dumbledore’s great niece who transfers into the school during the Marauders’ time and befriends them along with Lily. She then comes back to teach History of Magic during Harry’s time, bonds with Hermione and reconnects with Sirius and Remus.

I don’t want to call her a Mary Sue but it was the only thing that kept popping into my mind. But I think there was a good foundation for a character. Tone some things down – like the special magical abilities and the special magical training – and flesh other things out – how her mother’s family’s hatred of magic affected her or her tendency to set herself on fire to keep others warm – and she would be a good character.

(Oh, and maybe not make her Dumbledore’s grandniece now that we know so much more about his family).

The writer was also a theater kid so many of the characters were theater kids as well. There was a lot of showtunes being sung in the story. It was pretty amusing and didn’t distract too much from the story, though it was an interesting collection of songs used.

(But a few probably could’ve been cut).

I don’t mean for this to be a review of the story and so I’m going to wrap things up before moving on. I’ll just say that the story was a good one but it was mostly remained on the surface level. There were things she could’ve gone deeper into rather than just gloss over. I hope she is still writing somewhere because I think she would’ve only gotten better over time.

Moving on now…

Going back to this fanfic was like going back in time and not just because I read this as a teenager. I came upon a chapter that started with responses to reviews and was immediately taken back to when that was a thing on FFN. We didn’t have the ability to respond to reviews like we do now and so most authors acknowledged their reviewers in their author’s notes. Some writers would put responses as an entire chapter, which led to the rule banning chapters that don’t feature any content and are just author’s notes or announcements.

I also realized how much I’ve witnessed in fandom over the years and how things have changed. How I now know people who wouldn’t know that we couldn’t answer reviews at one point, that we had to answer them in our chapters.

As I mentioned the story had song lyrics, which people who are familiar with the FFN guidelines would know are also forbidden. But they weren’t back when this story was written, serving as another reminder of a bygone time.

(I also had someone review a story where I also used lyrics where they informed me that lyrics were banned. I politely told them that I had written the story before that ban went into effect and didn’t really feel the need to edit the story. It seems they understood).

I could probably go on and on but this post is long enough. So I think I will end it here. It’s just crazy how one small thing can send you back in time.

Anyway, I’ll see you next week!

February 21, 2023

Expedition Nostalgia–Computer Game Edition

Filed under: off topic — mackenziew @ 12:00 pm
Tags: , , ,

So I’ve been bingeing Expedition Unknown on Discovery+. It started airing on the Travel Channel in 2015 before moving to Discovery in 2018, where it still airs. I have not found confirmation of an eleventh season but the tenth aired in late spring/early summer 2022 so if there is an eleventh season, it would likely air then.

Expedition Unknown follows archeologist and explorer Josh Gates as he travels the world looking for the truth behind different legends and some treasure along the way. I’m a big fan of history and traveling so I’ve enjoyed learning new things as well as seeing some amazing places I hope I could travel to one day but may never get to visit.

So I decided to borrow the title for today’s post. Kinda.

Because I’ve been on a nostalgia kick lately and that’s where the second half of the title comes from.

Growing up, I played a city-building computer game called Pharaoh. And I loved that game. I also wasn’t alone in loving it as a few friends also have recalled that game from time to time. I know I still have the original CD-ROM somewhere and while I do have an external CD-ROM drive to use it on my computer, I know that my system is likely now far too advanced to play it properly.

So I was excited to learn a company was creating an updated version of the game. It was released this past Wednesday and I happily bought it then downloaded it. I went to play it and…


After using some workarounds and playing with a few things, I was able to get it to load but I can’t make it to the first mission. My laptop doesn’t meet all the minimum specs – namely the need for 8 GB RAM – and I have a feeling that might be the issue. I looked it up and I can add more RAM to my laptop but that has brought up some questions for me to answer.

Namely, if it’s time to get a new laptop but that’s a story for another post.

But the important part for this post is my debate over whether I want to buy a RAM upgrade if I’m possibly going to buy myself a new laptop. But since I haven’t made any firm decision on that, I am learning toward buying the upgrade.

After all, I really don’t want to wait to return to Ancient Egypt and build my empire again.

I’ll keep you updated and maybe by next week, I’ll be on my way to ruling Ancient Egypt.

Here I’m going to end this part of my Expedition Nostalgia. Come back next week for the second part!

Until then, I hope you have a great week!

February 14, 2023

Valentine’s Day– A Short Story

Filed under: journey,writing — mackenziew @ 11:54 pm
Tags: , ,

I had hoped to have something longer written for today but it clearly didn’t work out. So enjoy this short story instead.

“What do you mean we don’t have a reservation?” Sean asked, frowning. He held up his phone. “I got a confirmation.”

The hostess frowned as she looked over the email. “Let me get my manager,” she said.

She walked away as Sean groaned. He turned to Lucy, hoping he hadn’t screwed everything up. “I’m really sorry about this,” he said.

“It’s okay,” she replied sweetly. “This seems to be the restaurant’s issue, not yours.”

“Still, this isn’t how I imagined our Valentine’s Day going,” he said as the hostess returned with a harried-looking man following her.

The man, likely the manager, sighed. “I’m so sorry. There was an error and your reservation time was accidentally double-booked.”

“What does that mean?” Sean asked, confused.

“Can you give us another slot?” Lucy asked, placing her hand on his arm as she stepped closer.

The manager shook his head. “Not today. We’re all booked up and I now worry this won’t be the only reservation that’s been double-booked.”

“I hope not,” Sean said. “But I am more concerned about my double-booked reservation.”

“Right,” the manager said, looking even redder now. “The best I can do is offer you a slot on a different day as well as a gift certificate.”

Sean wanted to argue that his offer didn’t help him now. What was he supposed to do for his Valentine’s Day celebration with Lucy now? Certainly they couldn’t celebrate it in a couple days instead.

Lucy, though, placed her hand on his arm. “That sounds generous, thank you. When can we book our new reservation?”

“We can do that now,” he replied. “Our next opening is this coming Friday…”

“Well, that was a complete bust,” Sean said, sitting in his car as he slumped down in defeat. “I am so sorry.”

Lucy reached over and took his hand. “It’s okay.”

He sighed, lacing their fingers together. “I just wanted to give you the Valentine’s Day you deserve,” he said.

“I know,” she replied. “But as long as I’m with you, I’m happy.”

“So what do you want to do now?” he asked, hoping he could still salvage their day.

She smirked. “I have an idea…”

Within the hour, they were curled up on their couch as they enjoyed pizza while watching a cheesy rom-com. They were dressed in comfortable clothing and the lights were dimmed low. It wasn’t the fancy restaurant he had planned but Sean realized this was much better.

Lucy was right. As long as they were together, the day was perfect.

February 7, 2023

Mystery and Suspense

Filed under: journey,writing — mackenziew @ 12:00 pm
Tags: , , ,

Last weekend, I had a bizarre dream. In it, I was at my sister’s wedding but things were just weird. I won’t go into too many details because I’m not sure I can accurately explain it since it’s a dream. The most important thing to know is that I felt like I was going crazy. I was told that things I knew to be true were wrong and no one seemed to question anything that was happening except me.

I did wake up and tried to shake it off. But it stayed with me, especially how like I felt I was going crazy.

And it made me think – once again, my writer brain unable to stop.

Last year, I finally read The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn. I had received it a few years ago with the book club I belong to. I wasn’t as impressed with it as others clearly were and I found it wasn’t very suspenseful at all.

Warning for spoilers. I’ll try to avoid them if I can but I’m not sure if I’ll be able to.

This book tells the story of Dr. Anna Fox, who suffers from agoraphobia and cannot leave her house. She spends her days watching classic horror or suspense movies, taking pictures of her neighbors as she watches their daily activities, playing chess online and drinking lots of wine.

Her life gets more exciting when she gets new neighbors. She befriends the wife but ends up seeing the wife die from across the street. However, no one believes that she saw a murder. She ties to convince them she did while questioning if maybe they are right that she made it all up.

I’m not sure if Anna was meant to be an unreliable narrator or not. Part of me wonders if Finn was trying to play with it by painting Anna to be a really obvious unreliable narrator but TWIST! she really was a reliable narrator all along! But to me, this fell flat and was just really obvious in the framing that Anna was a reliable narrator. I think a twist would’ve been if she was proven to be an unreliable narrator all along.

Right now, I’m reading The Space Between by Dete Meserve and I feel she is doing a better job at creating mystery and suspense than Finn did in his book. And she’s doing it by slowly revealing how everything that first appeared normal wasn’t normal all.

I wonder if The Woman in the Window would’ve been more suspenseful if we weren’t told about how big of a mess Anna was from the first word of the novel. That she is portrayed as a normal woman with a family and a career. But that over time, little things start to clue the reader that all may not be what it seems and so we start to question if Anna is a reliable narrator after all. Then comes the big twist that makes you think she is an unreliable narrator before the second big twist that proves she is.

I think it would’ve helped with the impact of the first big twist and better set up the second one.

So what does this have to do with me?

I’ve always written romance and have bounced between historical and fantasy as the secondary genres. But I wouldn’t mind attempting to write something suspenseful. Maybe take on the dream I had and expand on it, creating a mystery as to why someone seems so normal but is also very wrong.

Will you get a chance to read it? Honestly, probably not. This would be more of a writing exercise and not necessarily something I’ll intend for public consumption. It’s just to challenge myself and try to gain new skills as a writer.

But I’ve learned to never say never.

Until then, see you next week!

January 31, 2023


Filed under: journey,writing — mackenziew @ 12:00 pm
Tags: , , , ,

I’m not sure if I mentioned this already. If I have, please forgive me. But my sister is getting married at the end of the year!

Exciting, right?

I am a bridesmaid in her wedding. She has not yet officially invited us or let us know who the maid (or matron) of honor will be. However, we all know we’re in her bridal party and are starting to get our dresses. But without the official invite or knowing who is who in the party, it’s hard to plan for anything. And there are definitely things we need to plan – like the bachelorette party!

But there are some things we can do. My sister is letting us pick our own dresses as her bridesmaids so that we’re in something that is comfortable for us rather than trying to reconcile four different styles. Her only requirements are that we wear juniper green and chiffon.

This past Saturday, I started dress shopping along with another bridesmaid who lives up here in New York, our friend Diana. We tried on a few dresses and I did find two I liked. She found one she liked and one she kinda liked. Unfortunately, the one she liked did not come in the color my sister wants. So we’re going to see what we can do while continuing to look at other stores. We have appointments for the next two weekends. If the dress I saw today ends up being my choice, I can always go back and order it.

I’ll let you know what happens once I make my decision.

The wedding will likely be my family’s main focus until December, though some of us are starting to get a bit tired of it. But I also feel that in some ways I always have weddings on my brain as I still consider myself a romance writer first and foremost.

I have already written many weddings. One of my fandom friends has even called me the “Queen of [OQ] Weddings” because how I can make each wedding unique to each verse I’ve written in.

And I do enjoy writing weddings. I had to remind myself that I was looking for a dress for me and not a character while browsing David’s Bridal. I love finding the perfect dress for my characters (namely Regina Mills) and the perfect dress for her bridesmaids. I also love putting together different types of wedding ceremonies as well as their receptions.

Honestly, I’ve probably have planned so many weddings by now. And I’ll probably plan many, many more.

I’m going to be a wedding expert by then.

So far, I would have to say my favorite wedding is the one from my Outlaw Queen fic Comfort Food, with Crown My Heart a close second.

Comfort Food is a modern AU so the wedding was rather modern. It took place in the backyard of Robin and Regina’s house with both her parents walking her down the aisle. Then they went elsewhere for the reception, enjoying themselves until it was time to go home. This one ended on a quiet note with the two making dinner together because they never got a chance to really eat at their reception.

Crown My Heart is an alternate universe where Robin is king of Sherwood and Regina marries him. This wedding was fun to put together – what would this fictional country’s wedding customs entail? What elements of ceremonies I know would I use? My favorite aspect is that I incorporated lilies, which represent fertility, into it as well. Their reception – or ball, really – ended with fireworks before the couple retreated for their wedding night.

I also look forward to writing some weddings in my original work as well. At least one story is planned to end with one so that will be fun. Maybe my sister’s will inspire me when I’m writing it or maybe it will inspire another fanfiction.

Or maybe it will just stay hers alone.

Time will tell.

Until then, I’ll see you next week!

January 24, 2023

Can I Turn Off My Writer’s Brain?

Filed under: journey,writing — mackenziew @ 12:00 pm
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Last weekend, I went to see another production of “Staten Island the Musical,” the musical a family friend created with some of his friends. I’ve talked about it before in this post from 2021.

He made some changes and finetuned the story some more. For instance, he dropped a subplot where some shady mall walkers were trying to steal the main character’s inheritance. It didn’t really add anything to the main plot, which was more than strong enough to stand on its own. And I’m glad he’s doing that.

I enjoyed the show but part of me couldn’t help but wonder about some changes I would make to the plot if it was up to me.

And this wasn’t an isolated incident. There are times I am unable to turn off my writer’s brain and just enjoy things – books, shows, plays, movies, etc. I just can’t help but analyze it and wonder what I would’ve done.

Sometimes this is helpful. I’ve written several analyses of books I’ve read to help me figure out my own writing style and what I can learn from them. But sometimes, I just want to enjoy something.

That’s not too much to ask, right?

Do any other creatives have this problem? That you’re watching something or reading something or looking at a piece of art and analyzing it rather than enjoying it? Because I can’t believe it’s just me.

(And I say analyze rather than critique because I don’t always think of things that I feel the author should do better but how I would do it differently).

If you find yourself doing the same thing, let me know in the comments.

And I’ll see you all next week!

January 16, 2023

Some Upcoming Short Stories

Filed under: journey,writing — mackenziew @ 12:00 pm
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Or at least, I hope they are.

It never seems like my planning ever works out. Of course, I also have a tendency to start projects a bit too late for my own deadline.

Which I have kinda set for these two stories I’m working on.

Good luck to me, I guess.

The first is a Valentine’s Day story. It was born from an idea I had for my Patreon account but never finished. I got a great idea for how it could play out so I decided to pursue that as a short story for Wattpad instead.

I don’t want to give too much away but let’s just say there’s a little magic involved and plenty of romance.

The second is another attempt at a story I started last year. It was inspired by a coloring app I use. After the New Year, most of the pictures to color under the “holiday” tab were inspired by Mardi Gras. So I got an idea to write a story about a Mardi Gras party, which I did and then shelved.

As I started this year, I wanted to dust off that Mardi Gras story and edit it for this year’s Mardi Gras. But I then realized I really didn’t really like what I had written last year so I decided to start over with a whole new direction.

(The old direction was the premise that it was all a dream with the ending being essentially “Or was it?” Now, it’s definitely not a dream).

I’m excited about these stories and I hope to get at least one ready for the deadline I set. If I do, I promise I will share it with you. So keep an eye out for that!

Don’t forget to check out my Patreon for additional content! As I hopefully start posting more original work on Wattpad, I will offer the chance to read it first to Patreon supporters.

See you next week!

January 9, 2023

Reading Challenge 2022: Wrapping Up the Year

Filed under: off topic — mackenziew @ 12:00 pm
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As I said in my wrap up post, I read 18 books! So let’s check out the final books I read in 2022.

The League of Gentlewomen Witches by India Holton: Set in a world where pirates fly houses as their ships, witches use their magic to steal while denying their existence and both parties hate each other. Witch Charlotte Pettifer teams up with Pirate Alex O’Reilly as they chase after a powerful amulet that is Charlotte’s birthright.

The Deepest Blue by Sarah Beth Durst: On her wedding day, Mayara reveals her deepest secret – she has the power to control the spirits that torment her island nation. She is then forced to participate in a competition that could crown her an Heir – but most likely kill her. Will Mayara survive – or does fate have other plans for her?

The Women in the Window by A.J. Finn: Unable to leave her house, Anna Fox spends her days watching old thriller movies as well as her neighbors while also mixing copious amounts of alcohol and prescription drugs. When she believes she witnesses a murder across the street, will she be able to convince people it was real – or question her own sanity as well?

The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna: Mika Moon has grown up understanding the rules of being witch – namely, that it is a lonely existence in order to prevent the outside world from learning their secret. But when she becomes the tutor to three young witches, she starts to question every rule she was taught.

We Are Not Like Them by Christine Pride and Jo Piazza: The aftermath of another police-involved shooting of a young Black teenager is seen through the eyes of two best friends – Rory, a Black reporter covering the story, and Jen, her white friend who is also married to one of the officers. They each have to face their own beliefs about race – and each other.

Wildland by Rebecca Hodge: Kat rents a beautiful cabin in the Blue Ridge Mountain to get everything in order after a life-changing moment. When a forest fire sweeps through her retreat, she has to make decisions that affect not only her but others as well. And in the process, she may realize just how strong she truly is.

And that was my 2022! As I said last week, I’ve set a goal to read 20 books this year. Come April, I look forward to sharing the books I’ll read in this first quarter of the year.

How did you do? Did you meet your goal for 2022? Do you have a goal for 2023? Let me know in the comments!

I hope you have a great week! I’ll see you next week.

January 4, 2023

Welcome 2023!

Filed under: journey,writing — mackenziew @ 12:00 pm
Tags: , ,

Happy New Year!

It’s January again and we’re staring down another year. Who knows what the next 12 months will bring? Hopefully, it will be more good than bad – for all of us!

Now, I don’t have a crystal ball but as I always do, I am going to make a list of anticipations for the coming year. These are things I will hopefully do within the next twelve months.

Here we go!

I anticipate further polishing The Lost King (Book I) this year and having it ready for some consumption.

I anticipate finishing The Sister Stones.

I anticipate restarting my original fiction Wattpad account with a few short stories.

I anticipate submitting to one writing contest.

I anticipate posting regularly – both here and Patreon.

I anticipate updating my fanfics regularly – at least once a week.

I anticipate reading 20 books this year.

I think I will end there as that does appear to be a good number of anticipations. So, let’s do this, 2023!

How about you? What are your goals or anticipations for this year? Let me know in the comments below!

And I’ll see you next week!

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