A Writer's Journey

January 8, 2018

(Almost) A Week in Virginia

Filed under: off topic — mackenziew @ 1:00 pm
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Happy New Year! I know I wished you all that last week, but I wanted to repeat it. I hope you all had a great holiday week and that you ended 2017 on a good note.

I also hope you ended it some place warm because even though I was in Virginia, we were cold. I think we only got above freezing two days.

I flew down to Richmond the day after Christmas. I worked that day, running my company’s payroll for the last pay of the year. Then I hopped in my car and drove the ten minutes to the airport, leaving my car in long-term parking at Newark-Liberty International Airport.

Which is about three miles from the airport itself. I just kept driving and driving until I found the lot. Planes were landing overhead and I had to take a shuttle back to the terminals.

I got to Terminal A and breezed through security. I grabbed some food and then did some writing as I waited for my plane to show up. Our flight ended up being delayed but not by much. I think we got into the air about a half hour after we were supposed to.

Our flight was only an hour so we pretty much landed on time, though we spent some time taxiing to the gate. I hurried off the plane and met up with my parents, dismayed to find out it was just as cold in Virginia. No relief from the cold for me.

I hadn’t gotten much sleep the night before as I was still packing. And then I had developed a stuffy nose that woke me up, preventing me from getting a good amount of sleep. While it hadn’t effected me while working, I was definitely tired by the time I got to the hotel. I took a shower and pretty much went to bed.

(more…)

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January 1, 2018

My 2018 Anticipations

Filed under: journey,writing — mackenziew @ 1:00 am
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Happy New Year! I hope 2018 is a lot less stressful than 2017 turned out to be for everyone!

As I’ve done for the past few years, I’m sharing my anticipations for 2018. I don’t like the word “resolution” and feel that’s just setting myself for failure. But if I anticipate something…well…that’s different.

So here are my anticipations for the year:

  • Work on The Christmas Wish with aim of self-publishing by Christmas
  • Jump start the Big Project and work for self-publishing in 2019
  • Finish “Better When I’m Dancing” and start to turn my Soldier Verse drabbles into a proper story
  • Work on some original pieces
  • Network more with authors, both in and out of fandom
  • Continue my regular posting schedule on this blog
  • Read 13 books this year
  • Review more books on my other blog

And on a personal note:

  • Exercise more and lose some weight

So those are my anticipations. Here’s a toast to 2018 and wish that it’s not as crazy as 2017 was.

Please share your own anticipations for 2018 in the comments. I’d love to read them!

    December 25, 2017

    Christmas Lights

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

    It was cold.

    She rubbed her hands together as they were getting cold despite the gloves she wore. Her nose had lost feeling a while ago and she could feel her body trembling. Yet she waited, knowing it would be worth it in the end.

    “I’ve brought hot chocolate,” he said, holding out a thermos. “You want some?”

    “Thank you.” She took it, smiling at the man. Like her, he came up here every Christmas Eve. She never asked him his name and he never asked for hers. They just sat on the hoods of their cars, watching the city below.

    He watched as she poured some hot chocolate into a cup and then took the thermos from her. Instead of going back to his car, though, he lingered. “May I join you?”

    “Umm, sure…” She scooted over a bit so he had some room to sit on her hood.

    Their shoulders brushed as they watched the sun set over the hills. “Almost time,” he said.

    She nodded, sipping the hot chocolate. “This is good. Thanks again for it.”

    “You’re welcome,” he replied before they fell into an awkward silence again.

    Setting aside her hot chocolate, she held out her hand. “I’m Noelle, by the way.”

    He chuckled. “Noelle? How appropriate.”

    “Thank you.” When he didn’t say anything else, she leaned closer. “And you are…?”

    “Kris,” he replied. “Like Kris Kringle.”

    She giggled, trying to hide it behind her hand. “Sorry. It’s probably not funny.”

    “No, it kinda is. I’ve come to accept it.” He winked at her and she flushed.

    “I get it, though,” she said. “I’m a Christmas baby and I was teased mercilessly.”

    “Christmas baby as in…?”

    She nodded. “Tomorrow is my birthday.”

    “Is it as bad as I’ve heard?”

    “I think it depends on your parents,” she replied. “Mine are pretty good at trying to separate the two, so it’s not as sucky. But I’ve never had a birthday with my friends on my birthday. When I was little, that’s all I wanted. I even asked Santa for it.”

    He smiled. “I doubt he could give you that.”

    “No, he couldn’t, though he did leave a very nice apology letter and a doll wrapped in birthday wrapping paper,” she said.

    “Santa was considerate.”

    She laughed. “Yes, he was.”

    “Today’s my birthday,” Kris said, sipping his own hot chocolate. “I’ve escaped my birthday party.”

    “What? Why?” She set down her drink, focused on him now.

    “Because everyone gets overly cheery in trying to pretend that my birthday isn’t Christmas Eve and after awhile, I need a break from all the attention, you know?”

    Noelle nodded. “I guess so.”

    “So, I come here and watch the lights with you,” he continued. “Then I go and get a drink at a nearby bar with my friends.”

    “That actually sounds great.”

    Kris nodded before looking out over the little town they called home. “It’s about to start.”

    They both fell silent as church bells rang to welcome the evening. Houses began to light up, block by block, until the whole town was illuminated in bright reds, greens, blues, yellows and whites. She could make out some Santas as well as several reindeer and an army of snowmen. There were also a few Nativities and a bunch of stars shining below them.

    It was a Christmas Eve tradition though no one knew why everyone started to wait for the bells to ring to turn on their lights. Noelle had discovered how beautiful they were from that particular overlook and that’s when she had met Kris. And now they were on their way to becoming friends.

    “Beautiful,” he said.

    She smiled. “It is. People are definitely missing out.”

    “I agree,” he replied. “But I hope they don’t catch on. I like this being our own private thing.”

    “Me too,” Noelle agreed.

    Kris hopped off her hood. “Well, now that we know each other’s names and that our birthdays are so close together, care to join me for my birthday drink?”

    “I’d love to.” She hopped off as well. “Where are we going?”

    “Just follow me. It’s not far away.” He headed toward his car.

    Noelle smiled before catching sight of his thermos. She held it up. “Do you want this?”

    He grinned, leaning against his door. “Give it to me at the bar. That way I’ll know you will follow me.”

    “Don’t trust me?” She leaned against her car again, grinning at him as well.

    “I do,” he said. “But a little insurance never hurt, right?”

    Noelle laughed and placed the thermos in her car. “See you there.”

    He nodded, getting the car. Together, they turned on their lights and soon pulled away from the spot. Behind them, the Christmas lights twinkled and beckoned them to a night they would never forget.

    December 18, 2017

    Year in Review: 2017

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

    So, we’re at the end of the year. Next week, Christmas, I have a special short story I wrote last year but missed Christmas so I set it up for this year. And then after that is New Year’s, which will have my anticipations for 2018.

    For now, though, I would like to review how 2017 went for me. Let’s start with my anticipations for the year:

    Continue to post regularly here on WordPress.

    I’d say I’ve been pretty successful at this. Maybe I could’ve been better, but overall, I succeeded.

    Post a flash fiction a day on my tumblr.

    I tried but I ended up falling off sometime around the mid-year. I just ended up focusing on other things—like my Soldier Verse prompts.

    Work on the Big Project and self publish it by the end of the year.

    I’ve written about this lately. You all know what happened to the Big Project and my plans for it in the New Year.

    Work on the Christmas Project and self publish it by Christmas.

    Yeah. Didn’t get to do this.

    Get back on a regular fanfiction posting schedule.

    Where’s a laughing gif when you need one? I think I even threw myself off more this year due to a switch in my work schedule.

    Network with more writers, both in fandom and out of it.

    I met a few writers—both online and in person. So I guess that counts? They were mostly fandom, though, but I’m not complaining about that…

    Continue to try to read a book a month.

    Well, I didn’t really succeed with once a month. However, my goal for the year was 12 books and I surpassed it with 13. So I’m going to count this as a success.

    Write more book reviews for my blog.

    I’m on track to have 18 reviews for this year, which is equal to the amount I published in 2014. I probably could’ve done more—maybe gone back and reviewed a few older books—but I’m impressed with this amount.

    So my 2017 wasn’t too bad. I discovered a new Outlaw Queen universe—the Soldier Verse—and participated in a bunch of fandom related writing events. Those were definitely fun!

    In two weeks, I’ll set my anticipations for 2018! Stay tuned!

    December 5, 2017

    My Favorite Holiday Movies

    Filed under: off topic — mackenziew @ 12:00 pm
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    It’s December! I know Hallmark has been showing Christmas movies since right before Halloween because…well…that’s what they do but let’s talk holiday movies now that we’re closer to the actually holidays.

    We all have our favorites—the movies we have to see before December ends. For me, the list includes a blend of old classics and new ones.

    So here’s my top ten…this year.

    1. Love, Actually

    Who doesn’t love this movie? I had a friend in college who hated rom coms and after he watched it with his girlfriend, came back and admitted he loved it. There’s just something so appealing about these intertwined stories about love and Christmas that has lasted for over a decade. It also boasts an amazing cast—Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Colin Firth, Liam Neeson, Laura Linney, Alan Rickman, Andrew Lincoln, Keira Knightley and so many more!

    This year, most of the cast reunited to do a short special catching the fans up with what their characters had been up to since the movie ended. You should check it out if you haven’t yet.

    2. The Holiday

    I absolutely love this rom com starring Kate Winslet, Jack Black, Cameron Diaz and Jude Law. Diaz and Law have great chemistry and Winslet is an absolute delight to watch on screen as she plays a woman taking control of her life again. And it has shots of sunny California and snowy England. It’s the best of both worlds!

    3. A Princess for Christmas

    This is a popular Hallmark Channel movie that launched a genre of its own—regular girl falls in love with royal, is awkward but endearing trying to fit in at court and lives happily ever after. This one stars Katie McGrath and Outlander’s Sam Heughan and the two have amazing chemistry. You need to check it out if you haven’t.

    4. A Charlie Brown Christmas

    How can anyone hate this classic? Come on.

    5. Santa Claus is Coming to Town

    There’s just something sweet and nostalgic about stop motion. And this is a great tale about how Santa Claus came to be—abandoned baby taken in by kindly toymakers, a man who wants to give presents out of the kindness of his heart, a mean dictator who could represent communist dictators, and a beautiful schoolteacher who learns that some rules may be meant to be broken. The Winter Warlock is pretty cool too.

    It also provided me some inspiration that has gotten me through a few hard times: “You put one foot in front of the other and soon you’ll be walking across the floor. You put one foot in front of the other and soon you’ll be walking out the door.”

    6. Once Upon a Christmas/Twice Upon a Christmas

    These two are considered on entry because they are linked—one’s a sequel to the other. They are more Hallmark staples starring Kathy Ireland and Touched by an Angel’s John Dye. She’s Santa’s daughter and when it seems that there are more naughty children than good, she goes to Dye’s family to try to turn their behavior around and make them want to celebrate Christmas again. It works and soon love is in the air…but she also has to stop her evil sister from ruining Christmas forever.

    The sequel deals with the evil sister once again trying to destroy Christmas and sell the North Pole to Donald Trump (!) while Kathy Ireland tries to find out who she is, having forgotten everything due to actions she took in the first movie. It’s a romantic follow up to the first movie and has a pretty interesting plot. And I love both of them.

    7. Rudolph’s Shiny New Year

    Over the years, Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer hasn’t really held up for me. Everyone in it is pretty much a jerk—Santa included—and it makes me mad that everyone just kinda gets a pass in the end. But I do love this sequel, where Rudolph needs to save the New Year when Baby New Year runs away because people were jerks and laughed at the ears he no doubt would grow into. Rudolph jumps around the islands where every year goes to, meeting Ben Franklin, a knight and a caveman. There’s also a whale that helps him too. It’s a lot of fun…even if I’m just realizing that there aren’t really any female characters.

    Geez.

    8. Mickey’s Christmas Carol

    This was a special made in the 1980s, just ahead of the Disney Renaissance that started with The Little Mermaid. It stars Scrooge McDuck as Ebenezer Scrooge and follows the classic Christmas story as he learns the true meaning of Christmas. Donald is his nephew Fred, Mickey is Bob Cratchit, Goofy is Marley, Jiminy Cricket is the Ghost of Christmas Past, Willie the Giant is the Ghost of Christmas Present and Pete is the Ghost of Christmas Future. It’s a cute little cartoon and I love it.

    (Fun Fact: It’s the first official appearance of Wayne Allwine as Mickey Mouse).

    9. The Santa Clause

    The sequels were good but there’s just something endearing about the very first one, where workaholic dad Tim Allen accidentally kills Santa and therefore has to become Santa. Watching as he transforms into the jolly old elf and how it transforms his life is heartwarming and hysterical.

    10. The Christmas List

    My parents actually got me hooked on this one but I don’t think it’s aired in recent years. Mimi Rogers plays a mousy mall worker with a nose for perfumes who decides to submit a Christmas list to Santa’s mailbox. She’s surprised when it starts to come true—leading her to a possible new romance and new career opportunities.

    So those are my top ten Christmas movies. What are yours?

    November 27, 2017

    NaNoWriMo 2017 Wrap Up

    Filed under: journey,writing — mackenziew @ 1:00 am
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    I know there’s still almost a week left but I’m calling it now: I’m not winning NaNoWriMo this year. And it won’t be a record breaking year either.

    I’m okay with that.

    This year just wasn’t my year. I never really felt either of my stories. I thought I was excited about both but nothing really ever took off. My second attempt just seems too out of character for Regina and I’m not sure I can salvage it—as a fanfiction. I think it might work as an original story, though.

    I’ll have to see.

    Not feeling my options were a big reason why I’m not going to win. I know that. I did finish an 11k one shot for this year’s Outlaw Queen Advent Calendar but that didn’t have anything to do with it (except be the reason why I had no writing to add on Friday). I had the same thing last year but still managed to write a lot then—but I really was into my project last year.

    Maybe next year will be better. And maybe I’ll return to an original work then. We’ll see.

    How was your NaNo?

    November 23, 2017

    Time to Give Thanks

    Filed under: journey,writing — mackenziew @ 1:00 am
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    Today is Thanksgiving. It’s amazing to think it’s already upon us. I told you this part of the year always seems to fly by.

    Anyway, since it’s Thanksgiving, I want to once again share what I’m thankful for.

    Of course, I am always thankful for my family. I love each of them—no matter how crazy some of them are. (Though in some circles, I’m probably an eccentric cousin. At least, I hope so. It seems like a cool role to fill).

    I’m also thankful for still having steady employment at a place I love to go to every day. I am grateful for having amazing coworkers who have created a great atmosphere that makes it a great place to work. And I am grateful to be aligned with an organization that does such great work in the community.

    I’m thankfully for finding Once Upon a Book Club as it has introduced me to books I might not have read otherwise. I’ve been enjoying expanding my bookshelf.

    I’m thankful for Lana Parrilla and Sean Maguire. Thanks to them, I found an amazing group of friends.

    Which leads to me thanking my friends. You all are amazing and I enjoy talking with you. I’m so grateful I got a chance to meeting a lot of you this year—either if we went to dinner in March or met up at OUAT NJ last month. You all are amazing.

    Thank you to the Outlaw Queen fandom. We’ve been through a lot but we’re still standing strong.

    And my biggest thank you goes to all my readers! Whether you read my fanfics or read this blog, you all are amazing. I would probably write anyway, but it’s nice to know I’m not just shouting into the void. That there are people listening to me, reading my words and liking them. And not just liking them but commenting and engaging with me. I enjoy all our interactions.

    So thank you, thank you, thank you!

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    November 20, 2017

    Reading Challenge Update

    Filed under: off topic — mackenziew @ 1:00 am
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    It’s November. The year is almost over. So let’s take a look at how my Reading Challenge is doing.

    As a reminder, I challenged myself to read 12 books this year, which would break down to one book a month.

    I am happy to report that I am on track and may even finish early if I can finish one of my Once Upon a Book Club books before November is over. (My money is on A Strange Companion over The Saturday Evening Girls Club, though I doubt that won’t be too far behind).

    So I’m proud of myself. I met my goal and read so many new books this year. Will I up my goal for next year? I’m not sure. I’ll have to see.

    But one goal I definitely know I’ll set for 2018? Finally finishing The Night Circus. It’ll be going on two years and I don’t want to abandon it.

    Did you challenge yourself this year? How are you doing? Will you challenge yourself in 2018? Sound off below! 

    November 13, 2017

    A Change in the Air

    Filed under: off topic — mackenziew @ 1:00 am
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    Two weeks ago, I went to a YMCA training course on Fiscal Management. Pretty much, it explains the budget, how to build one and how to monitor one so you can help with your YMCA’s fiscal responsibilities. I’m in a department that’s considered “overhead”—we don’t have a revenue stream, so the other departments cover us. But I’m not here to explain that to you. It’s just…background. Setting, if you would.

    That morning, it had been freezing in my room and I had been hesitant to get out of bed. But I knew I had to because I had to go to this training. So I pulled on a nice warm shirt, some warm pants and then checked my phone for the temperature. When I saw it was in the thirties, I knew I had to break out my jacket for the first time since the winter. My car heater was jacked up and I headed on my way.

    When the training was over for the day, I stepped outside and paused. Because it was a day that just screamed “November” to me.

    It was overcast and the skies were gray as a cool wind blew. My jacket kept me warm against the cold air as I hurried to the car. Around me were trees, all starting to change colors. Reds, golds, browns and oranges stood out against the gray. It was beautiful.

    For a moment, I just stood in the parking lot admiring how perfect a fall day it was. It just reminded me how much I love the season.

    November 10, 2017

    Starting Over (NaNoWriMo Edition)

    Filed under: journey,writing — mackenziew @ 1:00 am
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    Yes, I decided to scrap the project I was working on and start all over on a new one.

    Why?

    I just wasn’t feeling my original project. To be honest, I had been waffling for most of the month so far. And keep in mind, we’re barely ten days in. But I couldn’t come up with a better idea so I decided to power through it.

    Then came Tuesday. I was trying to find something to watch and saw that Hallmark Channel was airing A Princess for Christmas. I had seen it a couple days earlier but it was the only good thing, so I watched it again. And a couple days ago, I caught “Crown for Christmas,” another Hallmark Christmas movie.

    It hit me hard. I was going to do “Crown for Christmas” but with an Outlaw Queen twist. Robin would be the hotel worker who meets the queen of a small European nation (Regina) and is then recruited to help care for her son—just as a tutor rather than a governess. Or whatever the male version would be.

    So I’m doing that now. And it’s definitely going better than my original idea. Always goes to show that sometimes it pays to take risks.

    Wish me luck!

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