A Writer's Journey

March 31, 2020

Novel Progress Check In – March

Filed under: journey,writing — mackenziew @ 8:00 pm
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First, a regular check in: How’s everyone doing? You staying safe? Following all instructions? Washing your hands often? Trying to avoid touching your face? (I’ll admit I’m failing at this one) Avoiding large groups? Staying home, especially if you’re sick?

And if you’re home, are you doing your best to stay busy and not succumb to cabin fever?

I know I am.

Right now, I’m busy with work – which is why there was no post last week. This all happened so fast and now we’re essentially playing catch up as things change almost hourly. I’m hoping to set up a schedule for myself as this continues so that I have some sense of normalcy.

Please make sure you follow all instructions and stay home even if you feel fine. It’s time to follow the Universal Precaution. If you’re unfamiliar with that term, it comes up when I do the Blood Borne Pathogen training for our new hires but you’re probably familiar with the concept: assume all blood might be infected with a pathogen so use barrier to avoid touching it directly. So new Universal Precaution – assume you and everybody around you has COVID-19 and protect yourself accordingly. It may make you chafe and it’s human nature to suddenly want to do the things we’re told not to, but if we make these sacrifices now, the sooner we can lift the restrictions.

With that said, let’s get down to the real reason you’re (hopefully) reading this blog:

My writing!

As we end March, I figured it was time to do my monthly check in to see how much closer The Christmas Wish is to publication.

Not much.

And while it feels like just another excuse, I have to blame the coronavirus. This just happened so fast that I feel like I haven’t been able to focus on anything else. The fact I was able to even complete OQ Realms Week is kind of a miracle in and of itself.

I have come to a decision. I will not try to get group critiques on The Christmas Wish. There’s just not enough time. I have renewed my Scribophile membership and am working to building karma so I can workshop my next story there.

More about that next week!

So what are my next steps now? Well, frankly, I’m a bit torn about it. Because I know it is getting a copy editor because at least one other pair of eyes should look at the story before I go forward with publication.

However, I do worry. That’s going to cost money. (Well, maybe not. I think I have a few chips I can cash in). And while I am still working and have a paycheck, I do work for a nonprofit that relies on membership dues. We can’t charge said dues if we’re not providing programs. Hopefully some of the stimulus package will provide us with relief but the longer this goes on, the more my steady paycheck comes into doubt. I need to be careful with my money.

And I know I’m not alone. It’s why I’m not going to include my normal ask to support me on Patreon. But I am going to ask you go over there because I plan on releasing some new original material there.

I don’t want to put The Christmas Wish on hold yet again but I hate all this uncertainty. Maybe I just need to plow ahead and see what happens.

March is almost over. Hopefully April is better.

March 18, 2020

Quarantined?

Filed under: off topic — mackenziew @ 12:00 pm
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Things have gotten even more serious regarding the coronavirus. I advise everyone to take this seriously and to follow all guidance coming from the CDC and government officials but to not panic. Right now, we all need to work to mitigate the spread of this virus. Avoid large groups, stay home if you’re not feeling well and, of course, WASH YOUR HANDS!

I’ve gone into the work for most of this week and then I’ll be home for the foreseeable future. Hopefully we won’t have to be closed for too long but we are operating on a day-by-day basis now. I plan to go for a walk when I can to get some fresh air and sunshine and just to get out of the house for a bit.

(Note: Vitamin D is important and sunshine is one of your best sources of it so if you can, try to get out of your house for some time every day).

Anyway, I know this must be a difficult and boring time. You may be trying to find something to do because there’s only so much work you can probably do from work, if that’s the set up you have. So what do I suggest?

Reading!

(Warning: Some shameless plugging to follow!)

Now seems like a good time to remind you that I do have a blog dedicated to book reviews. Check out what I’ve read and reviewed for something new to read!

And if you like fanfiction, might I suggest doing a reread of all your favorites?

Or you can read my fanfiction! I love getting new readers.

You can also check out my Patreon to read some of my posts there. And perhaps support me too?

We’ll get through this together. Just apart. For now. I have all faith that we will emerge from this and will return to a new normal.

March 9, 2020

Another Story?

Filed under: journey,writing — mackenziew @ 12:00 pm
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I know what you are thinking: Really, Allie? Really?

Really.

Look, I know it seems the past update about The Christmas Wish may have seemed like more excuses to put off taking the plunge to self-publish the book. I do. But I really am trying to be proactive to achieve my goal.

And I do need to think about my next story. What do I want to publish next after The Christmas Wish? I have plenty of fanfics to mine from. Do I want to do that?

Well, yes. Most are good stories that can translate to a non-fandom audience in my opinion. And it’ll be fun to do that.

It’ll also be fun to expand some of my shorter stories. I had started to do that with one I wrote called “The Last Lifetime.” But I’ve overthought that so I’ve set it aside for now. Maybe I’ll return to it when I can just write it and not overthink it.

But there was a short story I wrote for Halloween this year where Robin learns everyone in Storybrooke is a coven and if he wants to marry Regina, he needs to join as well. I think that might make a good novella and I want to expand it next.

I know, I know. I have a lot of ideas and they tend to fizzle out. Unfortunately, that’s the reality of being a writer. For every published book, there’s probably ten unfinished ones sitting in a drawer or on a hard drive or on in the cloud. So we’ll see what happens with this one.


With the continuing spread of coronavirus, I want to remind all my readers to take important precautions to help prevent getting or spreading the disease. Wash your hands constantly and avoid touching your face. If you develop a cough, cough into your elbow or a tissue that you dispose of immediately. And if you start running a fever, try to stay home until you go 24 hours fever free without the aid of fever reducers.

I know it may be scary right now but the most important thing is to not panic. We need to take this seriously but we can’t let fear control our lives. Together, we will get through this.

March 2, 2020

Book Analysis: “What the Wind Knows” by Amy Harmon

Filed under: journey,writing — mackenziew @ 12:00 pm
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I realized it has been a while since I did one of my book analyses so I thought I would resurrect it now that we’re in 2020. What better time to resurrect something I enjoyed and learned from? 

Please note this is an analysis and not a review. I look at how the author builds characters, settings, etc. and discuss her choices as a way for me to learn and grow as a writer.

Summary: When Anne Gallagher’s beloved grandfather passes away, she fulfills his final wishes and brings his ashes back to his native Ireland. She scatters them on one particular lake and finds herself transported back to the beginning of the 20th century, during Ireland’s struggle for independence from the British. Mistaken for her own great-grandmother, Anne is soon thrust into a world of intrigue and danger as well as love when she meets the handsome doctor, Thomas Smith. Will she ever return to the 21st century…or does her destiny lay in the past?

SPOILERS under the cut.

This book shares some elements with Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. For starters, it is written in first person—much like Outlander. Like that book, it allows us to see the world through Anne’s eyes and get to know her. We see Ireland through her and experience history along with her, a history she knows—just like Claire does in Outlander.

But it is also unfair to the book and Ms. Harmon to compare her to Gabaldon. She is her own writer and her book should stand on its own. All she is doing is taking a common trope and reinventing it. That’s something all writers—myself included—do everyday. So let’s look at her writing and forget the Outlander lens.

While the story is told from Anne’s POV, we do get a chance to get Thomas’ thoughts and perspective as well. Each chapter ends with one of Thomas’ journal entries, detailing events that happened during the time as well as his feelings about the characters, including Anne. I thought this was a creative and clever way to develop his character as well as give the reader a deeper look at the struggle for Irish independence. This reminds me to try to think out of the box and to remember there are so many different tools available to me when it comes to character development.

Anne is a good main character as well. I think Harmon found a good balance between her being a fish out of water and being able to navigate her surroundings due to her research as a writer. She is able to make Anne relatable but create tension as we watch her try to keep her secret from coming out. It’s difficult because many of us want our heroes or heroines to be the best but know that would make the story boring. No one wants to read about someone who does everything right and has no stakes.

(See my post here for more on that).

Thomas is a great romantic interest. He’s kind, selfless, intelligent, passionate and devoted to Anne, even when he learns she’s not who he thinks she is. I was drawn in reading about his interactions with Anne, eager for them to get together. Harmon did a good job yet again but I do feel like we could’ve gotten more. I think a little more will-they-won’t-they wouldn’t have hurt in this situation, a little more seeing that Thomas is just as conflicted as Anne in their interactions and not just his journal entries.

I also feel Harmon did a good job weaving in the historical backdrop into the story, much like she had done with Sand and Ash. There was some more space between Thomas’ home and the upheaval in Ireland, a little haven though the upheaval crashes in due to Thomas’ association with several prominent Irish leaders. Anne starts to befriend them too, which adds to her guilt about her knowledge of what will happen. But it makes the danger Anne is in all that much more real and adds to the tension. She is a person who has to keep secrets in a time when no one can trust anyone, even their own family.

So I think I’ve picked up some helpful tips and ideas to file away as I continue my own writing. If you haven’t read anything by Amy Harmon, I highly recommend it. She is a wonderful and captivating writer.

You can read my review of this book here.

Don’t forget to support me on Patreon!

February 24, 2020

Novel Progress Check In

Filed under: journey,writing — mackenziew @ 12:00 pm
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First, I hope you all enjoyed my posts about my Milan trip!

Okay, now back to my writing and The Christmas Wish.

So last month, I wrote about how I was going to keep you updated as a way of holding myself accountable for taking the necessary steps to getting The Christmas Wish published by Christmas this year.

Time for me to check in again!

Last time, I talked back looking into getting a copy editor for the story. So I started to do some research and discovered some advice that gave me pause. I started to wonder if I should try to get some feedback from some other writers who are reading it cold before I start paying for an editor.

So I’ve changed course and I have been researching that. Maybe it’s another way I’m standing in my way or maybe it will be beneficial. I hope to know by next month.

How am I going to get some critiques?

Well, I’m still doing some research about that. I’m going to reactivate my Scribophile account and see if I can get some feedback that way. The only problem is that I need to build up the credits to be able to publish all my chapters. And that will take time. But it might be my best bet right now.

I’m going to keep researching and looking into it. If it doesn’t seem feasible by my March check-in, then I will pull the plug and go back to my original plan.

If anyone else knows of some good writing groups or critique sites I could use, I’d appreciate it. Let me know in the comments below.


And don’t forget to check out my Patreon! I plan to post a deleted scene from The Christmas Wish there later today!

February 23, 2020

Milan Days 6 and 7: A Happy Ending

Filed under: off topic — mackenziew @ 12:00 pm
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For the most part.

More on that later.

Sunday morning, a group of us met for breakfast before we parted ways. Some were heading home, some were heading to Lake Como and I was going to spend one last day in Milan. There was more laughter and pictures before we said our goodbyes.

I then hopped on the Metro and went to church. I found an English Mass but they followed a slightly different rite. But the Gospel was still the same (Week after Easter=Doubting Thomas) and most things were still the same, though they were using the old translation for many of the English responses.

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Where I went to Mass

After Mass and lighting a candle, I then headed down to find where I needed to board the boat for a nice little cruise up Milan’s canal. I found it in a sweet little neighborhood that was packed thanks to an outdoor market. But I walked along the streets before it was time for my cruise and it was absolutely beautiful. All the buildings around me were brightly colored and there was history all around me, including a Roman gate!

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Roman. Gate.

(Sorry. I have mentioned I’m a complete history nerd, right?)

I then boarded the boat for my little cruise down the canal. There was some history about the founding of Milan and how it was built up over the centuries, including the importance of the canal. It was a beautiful ride and I got to see a lot more of the city.

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The canal (and probably my thumb).

After I got off the canal cruise, I walked around that part of Milan a bit more before boarding the metro and heading back to the main part. I visited the aquarium which…was kind of a let down, especially after all the aquariums I’ve been to in the past. But I did catch this eel posing, so there’s that.

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He’s going to be star!

After a walk in the park, I finally got a picture of the Duomo in the sunshine.

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With one last look, I headed back to the hotel. I stopped at the mall for one last cup of gelato (pistachio, lemon and milk chocolate) before going to relax in my room. I later ordered room service and then took a shower before starting to pack.

I eventually turned in, hoping to get plenty of sleep before having to wake up early. Of course, I struggled to fall asleep and only slept a few hours before waking up at 5:30 AM. It has been years since I woke up that early. I finished packing and then checked out of my hotel.

I took an Uber to Central Station and my driver dropped me off right in front of my bus. I put my luggage in it and climbed onboard, ready to head to the airport. As I did, I got a beautiful view of the Italian Alps.

At Malpensa, I checked into my flight and checked my luggage. I went through security and easily found my gate. However, there weren’t that many seats by my gate. Thankfully I found one near it. Boarding went smoothly and we took off with no problem.

I watched “Mary Poppins Returns” on the way back and enjoyed a nice lunch. Though I tried to get in a nap, it did not come. So I did some writing and listened to my music as we headed back to New York.

We landed early in Newark and I easily went through customs. I got my luggage and met my dad outside, hoping into his car. He drove me home and I immediately took a shower because my hair does not travel well. I also knew I would most likely fade fast that night so it was best to shower before then.

As the afternoon wore on, I felt the telltale early signs of a cold. By the time I ate dinner, I was sick. I turned in and ended up fighting a cold for the rest of the week. So that’s why my Milan trip only had a mostly happy ending.

But I had lots of fun and hope to go back to Italy one day. There’s still so many places I want to see—Venice, Pisa, Rome, Sicily, etc. Here’s to a future Italian adventure!

February 22, 2020

Milan Day 5: CON TIME! (Part Deux)

Filed under: off topic — mackenziew @ 12:00 pm
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Saturday morning dawned and we had breakfast yet again before heading to the con, which started late as they waited for Tiera Skoyvbe (Robin Mills) to arrive. Poor thing was exhausted but she was still really friendly and energetic throughout the con.

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Tiera Skovbye (Robin Mills)

I decided to go to Lana’s autograph session after the opening panel. And boy was there a long line! My Mongoose pass really paid off as I was able to get closer to the front than others. I got my art signed—which Lana loved, so I told Jen that as I passed her while she was still on line.

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The art by my friend Jen (Starscythe on Twitter and Instagram) signed by Lana and Sean

Then there were a flurry of photo ops—including one with Tiera Skoyvbe as well as one with Tiera and Rose Reynolds (Alice). I also caught a few panels when I could before the lunch break.

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Adelaide Kane (Drizella Tremaine/Ivy Belfrey)

I’ll admit I didn’t have much of a lunch. I grabbed a snack bar and took a few moments in my hotel room to enjoy the silence.

Then I headed back for the afternoon session. And it was just as fast-paced and crazy as the morning session. Because we were still running behind, panels and photo ops kept getting shifted. I managed to catch a panel with both Tiera and Sean as well as just Sean before having to run out to get my autos with Tiera. It took a while and I worried I would miss my duo with Sean and Lana, but I managed to make it.

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Lana, Me and Sean

And I managed to make it in time to get Adelaide Kane’s autograph, which I worried about because of how long everything was taking. Score!

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Adelaide Kane and me

We then all settled into the panel room for Lana’s panel. It went well…and then Sean dropped by with a glass of wine for her. He joined her for the last part of her panel and we got a Lana/Sean panel. Win for us!

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Sean Maguire (Robin Hood) and Lana Parrilla (Regina Mills)

Then there was a flurry of photo ops, mostly group shots. I got my duo with Tiera and Bex before heading back down to the panel room.

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Rebecca Mader, me, and Tiera Skovbye

The rest of the cast piled into the room and the con ended with an announcement that there will be another one in 2020!

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The cast! (Though I cut off Robbie Kay).

Lana then graciously stayed longer to take photos with those who hadn’t gotten a chance to do so due to the rush to stay on schedule. Most of us hung around so we could pick up the last of our photo ops, everyone talking and enjoying the last moments of the con.

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Rose Reynolds, me and Tiera Skovbye

Eventually, we all got our photo ops and started to drift back to the hotel. Dinner was gotten, drinks were had, farewells were made and then we all turned in for the night.

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Tiera and me

The con was officially over.

Next time: My last day in Milan and then my trip home.

February 20, 2020

Milan Day 4: CON TIME!

Filed under: off topic — mackenziew @ 12:00 pm
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I woke up on Friday and packed my suitcase. After checking out of the DoubleTree, I called an Uber and headed to the con hotel. Stacy let me put my bag in her room and then we all went down to have breakfast ahead of the con.

Once we had eaten, we headed over to the convention hall. We all streamed upstairs and into the main room, finding our seats as we waited for the opening ceremony to begin.

There were some rules we had to follow. For example, actress Rebecca Mader (Zelena/Wicked Witch of the West) had announced the day before that she and her husband Marc were expecting, so we were informed that we weren’t allowed to touch her stomach and that poses with her might be limited. We all seemed to understand that.

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Colin O’Donoghue (Sorry for the blurriness)

After the actors were introduced at the opening ceremony, the con truly began! Panels, autos and photo ops were all running at the same time, so you had to keep everything in order. Fortunately, they had multiple panels with the actors throughout the day, which made it easier to plan. I decided to focus on getting my autos and photo ops in the morning and going to panels in the afternoon. And that was a good approach for me.

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Rose Reynolds (Alice/Tilly)

I made a new friend, Mandy, and helped her get to Colin’s auto session. Because I had the best pass, I was able to stand on line first and I took her with me. No one really was checking on Friday so I was able to get her up to Colin. And I managed to film it for her as they were not strict about approaching with your phone out—mostly because many tickets were digital ones that needed to be scanned from the phone. Surprisingly, Colin was a bit chatty and even spoke with me when I got my poster signed.

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Robbie Kay (Peter Pan)

Actually, many of the actors spoke with me. I think many of them were relieved when they realized I was a native English speaker. While they tried to speak to everyone, most people needed translators. I didn’t, so we could have a bit more conversations.

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Rebecca Mader (Zelena/The Wicked Witch of the West) had to sit in a different chair to accommodate her pregnancy.

Except with Sean Maguire. I still clammed up around him on this day of the convention.

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My photo op with Sean

That night, a group of us went to dinner at the nearby mall. I had a delicious red martini. I’m still not entirely sure what was in it, but it was amazing and went well with my pasta.

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My dinner along with that amazing drink

After dinner, I went to get some snacks for my room and we headed back to the hotel. We met up with some others and we all talked before calling it a night, knowing we had another busy day in the morning.

Next time: Con Day 2!

February 19, 2020

Milan Day 3: Have Fun Storming the Castle!

Filed under: off topic — mackenziew @ 12:00 pm
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Disclosure: I didn’t really storm the castle.

Rather, I took the train to the Lanza station and walked right into the Castle Sforza. Named for one of the dukes of Milan, the earliest parts of the castle date back to the 14th century and majority was built during the 15th. Several dukes lived there and the castle was added to during subsequent centuries up to the 19th. Now, it houses several museums.

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Inside the Castle Sforza

And I got into all of them for only five euros!

That’s what I call a steal!

I also got the audio tour so I could more information about the castle, starting with the courtyard as it rained on me. Before I headed into the main parts of the museum, I stopped and grabbed some lunch at a tented restaurant set up in one of the courtyards.

Once I got into the main part of the museums, I spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around them. There were artifacts and pieces of art from the time of the Roman Empire as well as early Christianity. Actually, there was a lot of religious art until I got into more modern eras.

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I believe this depicts the Agony in the Garden

There was also a whole wing dedicated to furniture over the years and a museum about instruments. I only made it halfway through that one before closing time hit. So I missed getting to see Michelangelo’s Pieta, though it doesn’t look like I missed much there.

I walked around a bit more after that, going back to the street where we ate the day before and walking it until I got close to the Duomo. While the skies were still gray, it was not raining anymore, so I decided to try and get a picture of the cathedral.

And that’s how I ended up at a parade.

Because it was Liberation Day, when the Italians commemorate the end of the fascist regime under Mussolini, Nazi occupation, and World War II. It was a national holiday and so there was a large crowd watching the parade. Music, floats and people dressed in traditional clothes were all around…as well as some people with communist flags.

I decided it was best for me to move before I finally met a CIA agent.

Once the parade passed by, I realized the crowd wasn’t going anywhere so my picture of the Duomo would have to wait. Instead, I grabbed some gelato and then headed to the hotel to meet up with more of my friends now that more people were arriving for the convention the next day. We had dinner, did some drinking and then I headed back to my hotel to pack up since I would be checking out in the morning.

Next time: The convention begins!

February 18, 2020

Milan Day 2: Exploring the City

Filed under: writing — mackenziew @ 12:00 pm
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I woke up feeling refreshed on Wednesday and ready to explore Milan, starting with the public transportation system. Google maps got me to a nearby train station and I was able to get into the main part of the city, going to register for the con and pickup my badge, poster and autograph or photo op tickets. My friends were waiting there and we then went to get some lunch.

Finding food in Milan was pretty easy. And finding something I liked even easier. I’m a rather picky eater but I live in an area with a large Italian-American population, so a lot of the food were things I’ve grown up eating. I got pasta with bolognaise sauce for lunch, something I’ve had many times here in New York.

Of course, it was much better in Milan as all the ingredients were no doubt fresher. It was absolutely delicious.

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Spaghetti Bolognese

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