Introduction to the Music Shuffle Challenge

Photo credit epicfireworks; permissions: CC BY 2.0.

March has been incredibly busy for me – partly because of a writing project I undertake every March (which I’m going to talk about here) and largely because of much more boring and horrible nonsense (which I shan’t mention again).

March is Music Shuffle Month for me – a challenge I established for myself in 2010.

Music Shuffles are one of my favourite writing challenges in and of themselves, actually! They’re great for people like me who enjoy writing to prompts, but also like being able to go off and follow however the idea branched with no idea how it related to a prompt. Of course, I also love music (and having a large music collection makes this challenge even more fun and/or unpredictable).

I don’t, however, run the challenge the way I originally found it. I tried that once and decided some of the rules needed to be shifted a little to make it more workable for me. So here are the rules as I use them!

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Apple Spice Scones

Even if you don’t generally like scones, you may like these – or so I am informed by several people who tried them with varying levels of wariness.

The recipe is pretty thoroughly of my own creation, though its inspiration did once upon a time come from one I found online. I stumbled across it and decided to make these ‘apple scones’ and take them along to a movie night with friends. Only I wound up twisting and altering the recipe far more than I usually do the first time I make something. Baker’s intuition . . . and I was playing, honestly. I do love to bake!

One friend at that movie night was dubious, and the other actively knew she had never liked scones. Both bravely tried these anyway. Two scones made it home with me for breakfast the next morning. The one who did not like scones is one main reason why this recipe stuck around my kitchen and was further played with and finessed into its current form – and if I go too long without baking them, occasionally I get puppy eyes.

These scones are moist and sweet (but not too sweet) and spicy, but not overpoweringly so (unless you decide to double or triple the spices, which the recipe can stand up to just fine). You may like them with butter, but I never serve them with it, they are moist and flavourful enough on their own.

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Museum Heist – (Story for a Flashfiction Challenge)

Once again sharing a flashfiction story written for a challenge some time back – this one was the first I wrote for one of Chuck Wendig‘s weekly flashfiction challenges, back in March of 2013. (The challenge was Super-Ultra-Mega Game Of Aspects.)

There was a limit of 2,000 words, which I met precisely, and five challenge parametres to be selected from at random, which are noted below the story.

Summary: What happens when a werewolf and a vampire break into a museum to steal a priceless artefact?

WARNING: This story contains explicit sexual content and somewhat graphic, if brief, violence.

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Romance as a Genre (Original Fiction vs. Fanfiction)

I was drawn into a discussion about reading (and writing) genres recently, and it made me think (of course). The line my thoughts wandered off to the most strongly, however, was romance – it’s never been a genre that captivated my attention for long, personally.

(If I am reading a novel that is pure romance, I tend to get bored. Or sometimes the characters just aggravate me. Or I just . . . can’t get caught by the story.)

When I read novels with a romance element, they often need something else happening to keep my attention – that’s a personal thing, not a slight on the genre – so when I do, I tend to read paranormal romance, or mysteries a romantic subplot, etc. The romance can be a heavy part of the plot, but I have to have something else unfolding to tangle out as well. This is almost certainly due to the most common executions of novels in the genre, rather than an artefact of the genre itself.

I am also very, very sensitive to fremdschämen (even/especially on the behalf of fictional characters) and embarrassing or silly situations seem to be something of a staple of the romance genre, unfortunately. If I read a confrontation that makes me want to hide my face and shove the book under a pillow, I may be discouraged from enjoying the story.

All those things might make one think – not unreasonably – that romance doesn’t feature very prominently in my own writing. That assumption would be drastically incorrect – there is almost always at least some thread of love or romance. Sometimes it is close friends, siblings, etc. not always a romantic love, but those kinds of personal interactions draw me as being incredibly interesting (some of the most intense of human emotion and expression bloom from the centre of love).

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I’ll never be a writer

But I’m never going to be a writer

No, I really did say that. For years.

Feel free to take a moment to laugh. I’ll just be over here dropping my head against my work table with a loud, hollow ‘thunk’ and watching my dog freak out and my cats re-index my level of insanity. It’s fun.

(If you are familiar with me at all, including just reading almost any randomly-chosen paragraph from this blog, you are entirely justified in any laughter this post prompts.)

Yes. I did indeed deny that I could ever be a writer. Not because I had anything against it – far from it! I was such a voracious reader (my mother first called me a bibliophage when I was six, and I adored the title, the idea of devouring books, and continue to do so now) and I loved the idea of being an author.

I just didn’t think I could ever do it. Not because of the things that daunt me now – or, mostly not – but because I really did think that I was not capable of coming up with ideas, much less putting them into anything coherent, much less on any kind of regular basis.

For reference, as of the publication of this post, I have written some form of fiction every single day for 2,215 days*, I have participated in seven National Novel Writing Months (and every session of Camp NaNo to date – ten), and written fanfiction for a rather alarming seventy-eight fandoms.

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A Computer Saga, feat. Tea (but not in a good way)

First of all, Happy Halloween! (and Samhain or New Year or whatever you may celebrate now) This post is mostly me telling a story.

So I have always (count from roughly six months after I started writing, when I started seriously writing) backed up my work fairly regularly. (Sometimes the ‘schedule’ is a bit sketchy, but it’s there.) I didn’t personally need another reminder that it is very important to do so just in case, but here on NaNoWriMo-eve, perhaps someone else will take from it.

At the end of last month, shortly after we (the Ferrets) returned from our writing retreat (what I actually wanted to write about for a blog post this month) I had an Incident.

It was a perfectly fine evening, if you can say that about one o’clock in the morning, and I had just settled down with cinnamon tea and graham crackers to write (a new project I’d started instead of the one with a deadline I should have been doing). Upon fishing out a piece of graham cracker from the depths of tea, I left the spoon balanced across my cup, which meant when the cat divebombed from the back of the couch to the floor, her jostling of the table and/or my elbow knocked the spoon into the full cup of tea.

This splashed out roughly three tablespoons of tea directly onto the trackpad of my laptop, two inches away. This was Not A Good Thing.

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When Ideas Strike

Of course, when you’ve chased down an idea, you’re usually ready for it – at least in the basics of having pen and paper, or a keyboard, or whatever method you prefer to record your writings by. I don’t know, human ingenuity on the topic of recording the written word is pretty extensive. Maybe you use granite and a set of chisels for your writing. (If you do, more power to you and I am very impressed – also, how do you edit?) Whichever method, if you were hunting an idea, you were prepared to write it.

When an idea chases you down, however, it can be far from such convenience to retain it for later use, much less express it coherently afterwards.
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Hurt/Comfort (Fanfiction Specific Genres)

This is perhaps my favourite of the genres reading (and writing) fanfiction introduced me to, and while it is in spirit certainly not restricted to only fanfiction, it is it seems most clearly indulged there.

Hurt/Comfort is an easily-defined and yet very malleable genre. In its simplest form it is in just two parts, though those parts may be more complex in themselves.

One’s main character (or characters) suffer some manner of pain, be it physical (perhaps an accident or act of malice that leaves injuries) or mental/emotional (the loss of a friend, the failure of a quest, a break up); then that hurt is . . . comforted by another character or characters. How that comfort is provided – and whether it is a true ‘fix’ or merely soothing offered on the topic of something that cannot be simply repaired – depends on the situation and the writer, of course.

The idea is to break you character apart – to varying degrees, and this can be taken so far as to leave a reader teary-eyed and wondering if they are beyond repair – and then ever-so-gently restore them, piecing the broken shards into one cohesive whole and leaving a reader feeling relieved or delighted. Ideally, one should be wrapped up to some degree in the pain of the breaking and the happiness of the re-assembly. (Shouldn’t we always, ideally, be wrapped up by and drawn into a story, though?)

There’s a feeling of . . . satisfaction, to reading a well-done hurt/comfort story, in my experience. It might bring me out to the precipice and leave me dangling with my hand clutched over my heart for a while, but eventually it will bring me back to safe ground and assure me that everything is okay, probably even better now than it ever was before.

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New Door – (Story for a Flashfiction Challenge)

I had plans for writing something new and specific here these past couple of weeks, but . . . then I spent some time hardcore preparing for a joint garage sale with some friends, then working the garage sale, and that didn’t happen. Yet.

Instead, have another story written for a flashfiction challenge (again, one of Chuck Wendig‘s), this one completed in early April of 2013. The challenge was The Secret Door (using this fun little door).

Summary: Caden discovers a new door in his master’s house.

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