Posted in blogging

Happy Anniversary

As of yesterday, the Written Vixen is officially three years old. Seeing that notification gave me a moment to take a look back at where things started. In a lot of ways, it’s surprised me to see how much my blog has grown in just three years.

In honor of that, I went all the way back to the start of the blog, with my introductory post.

Most of the time I write sci-fi and fantasy, but I’ve dabbled a little bit in just about every form of fiction. This blog is dedicated to book reviews, thoughts on writing, some short stories, and the trials and triumphs of publishing.

An Introduction

Book reviews aside, I think I’ve done a fairly good job of keeping up on what I set out to do. In the three years I’ve written sixty-four stories. I’ve also written and posted one hundred and sixty-eight writing exercises and prompts.

At almost a year, I posted about what I’d learned in that short time. Everything I said then still holds true today. Consistency matters, but so does interacting with other bloggers and reaching out into your community. It helps to keep a few ideas on the go, for those inevitable moments when I need a post and don’t have any new ideas handy.

And, above all else, be patient. When I first started blogging I had one follower—myself. Today, I have over two hundred people to thank—including you, reading this post. You’ve given me your time and attention. Many of my readers come from different walks of life, but you’ve all let me know that my words are being read and appreciated. For that, you have my thanks and my admiration.

If you’re just starting out: keep at it, and be patient. It takes time to grow things.

I had one goal when I started blogging, and that was to hopefully inspire someone else. Today I know I have inspired others. My prompts and exercises remain consistently among my top-performing posts.  For that, I again have everyone reading today’s post to thank.

Three years in and I’m happy with how things stand. Where I’ll go next, I don’t know, but I do know that I’m excited. There’s new goals to set and reach and new things to discover. Who knows what comes next? Maybe I’ll finally start getting some reviews written.

Thank you. I’m looking forward to sharing the next year with all of you.

Posted in books

2021 Reading Challenge

Last year I set a reading challenge for myself to read twenty-four books. That ended up being a wash, in part due to a string of DNF-worthy books that killed my reading mood early on in the year. The other part of that was because I left it a little too broad for myself, which lead me to looking at most of my books through loopholes.

I’m still aiming for twenty-four books this year, but I’ve restructured slightly, adding in monthly themes. In order to qualify as part of my reading challenge, a book needs to meet at least one of the monthly themes. Bonus points are of course, awarded for meeting two or more categories.

Plot: Based off my handy-dandy plot list, to qualify the book in question needs to have a main plot based on the one chosen for the month. I.e. in January my plot of choice is revenge. If the main plot doesn’t feature some of revenge or seeking revenge, it’s won’t qualify. Since I won’t always know what the plot is until I’ve read the book, back cover copy is key here.

Location: Travel is still off the table in real-life, but there’s no reason I can’t pick another location to read about. I’m trying to alternate between general locations like ‘beach’ or ‘woods’ and specifics like Berlin and Seoul.  The story must be predominantly set in the given location in order to qualify.

Word: If it has the word in the title, it qualifies. Variants are allowed but only if they’re a variant of the same word. Fire, for instance, counts under fired, but not under flame.

Image: I know the saying is that you can’t judge a book by its cover, but some covers are simply stunning! Hence, if the image on the cover matches the theme, it can still qualify for the challenge.

Although I’m only aiming for twenty-four books for the year, I went with four categories every month, both to give myself a little room and on the off-chance I get more than two books read.

January Themes

Plot: Revenge

Location: Woods

Word: Door

Image: Fire

What will you be reading in January?

Posted in recaps

Recapping 2020

With all of the news that came out of 2020, it’s hard to know where to start. The year has been a whirlwind of changes and tragedies. While there’s some good hope for 2021, there’s still reason to be cautious. ‘Normal’ is a long way off, and there’s still no telling how Covid-19 will continue to change and redefine what we consider ‘normal’ in the coming months.

While we can’t tell what will happen, we can still celebrate our accomplishments for this year. It’s been an incredibly tough year, one that challenged us all in many different ways.

2020 Accomplishments

150 posts written and published here on the Written Vixen

Crimson and Gold  released on Amazon in January!

Seventh released as a serial on the Written Vixen!

Patreon launched in October!

Although I’d also planned on providing a stat break down of how many words I’d written throughout the year, that ended up not happening. My agenda got lost somewhere in the moving shuffle and while I’ve got a new one, I’m still missing about four months of wordcounts.

2021 Goals

With how insane 2020 has been, very few of my goals for next year have been focused on writing. There’s a variety of reasons for that, which I’ll save for another post, largely because this post is long enough as is and because I don’t want to derail the topic. There are however, two big ones for next year that I want to work on which do tie in here.

I freely admit I forget to do header images and pictures for my posts. There’s also relatively little reason for that because I do try to give myself plenty of time between writing and posting that I could come up with something. So, for next year, the goal is to get at least one blog image for the week. Prompts won’t count for that, largely because they’re already in an image format.

Secondly, I want to start having guest writers. I have a lot of ideas for how I want that to work out, but for right now I’m not putting any concrete dates or guidelines down for it. If you’d be interested in writing a guest post here on the Written Vixen, let me know! I’d appreciate any ideas you might have for contributions as well.

That’s all I have for right now, but I’d love to hear from you!  What are your goals for the new year? What did you accomplish this last year?

Posted in General

The Importance of Rest

Normally I like to have my posts written at least a couple of days before actually posting them. This way if there’s any extra research I need to do or if I know I’m going to have a busy week, I don’t have to stress about a post last minute.

The exception to that however, is today’s post, and the reason behind it is painfully obvious: I overloaded myself. Between holiday celebrations, my day-job, editing, and trying to prep myself for next year, I forgot to give myself time to rest.

Ultimately it resulted in me sitting down on Sunday with a list of things I wanted to get done and absolutely no energy to do any of it.

Often when we’re working on multiple projects or obligations, we forget that we ourselves are one such obligation. Eating, bathing and sleeping are our most basic needs but as people we have another basic need: rest. As a general rule, humans are anxious creatures but we’re not meant to stay in a constant state of energy consumption. We need to take time to rest and recover. Just like you need to put your phone or laptop on the charger, you need to recharge your own batteries.

And just like that electronic you need to charge, while you can ignore the draining battery for a while, at some point you need to recharge it. Screens dim their brightness to conserve battery, background processes and apps get limited. Your creative abilities are limited when you need rest and your willingness to complete a task is similarly hamstrung.

If, like me, you’re staring at your to-do list and getting none of it done, the easy fix is to take some rest. Take the day and enjoy the hobbies you enjoy just for yourself. Take a walk or a hike, indulge yourself in a long bubble bath, a glass of wine or some other treat. Let yourself rest.

We’re almost through 2020. It’s been an incredibly stressful year trying to manage so much bad news. Take a day or two before the year ends and let yourself recharge.

Posted in Stories, writing

Short Story: Holiday Cheer

The one thing that pained him about Sadie was how expressive she was. Even without saying a word, Charles knew when his ten-year-old wasn’t enjoying the meal prep. It came across in the way she kept her head ducked and inspected her task with care before she actually started it.

“Why so glum?” he asked and she looked up from where she’d been carefully crimping a pie as instructed.

“What’s glum?”

He laughed. “It means you’re unhappy. Something bothering you Sadie-bug?”

She considered it while she turned the pie one last time. “We’re making a lot of food,” she said.

“Yes,” he said.

“But it’s just you and me,” she said and looked at him. There was trouble in her earth-toned gaze. “Not even Uncle Marshall this year.”

It surprised him. She was a social butterfly, as evidenced by the fact that at ten, her list of phone numbers was more than double his and her weekends were rarely ‘free’.

“Well, it’s a holiday for family.”

“Uncle Marshall is family,” Sadie said.

“Yes, but he has other family.” He had to be careful about that. She was by no means an unintelligent child and if she started asking how closely related they were to her ‘uncle’ she was going to uncover a whole other set of problems.

“Family we don’t have?”

Time to head off that conversation. “Honey, what’s going on with you? Why are you so concerned with it?”

She shrugged a little as he came to sit in the chair next to her. “It’s just, this is supposed to be for families, right? So…where’s the rest of my family? I don’t have grandparents or…or aunts or anything. Just you and Uncle Marshall.”

Expressive as her body language could be, getting actual information out of her verbally sometimes felt like panning for gold. It was all in the tiny things.

“What’s that ‘or anything’ you’re so concerned with?” Charles questioned. Sadie didn’t look at him. She’d finished crimping the pie, and the fork she’d been using showed him only a warped reflection when she turned away. “I can’t fix a problem if you don’t tell me about it.”

Another moment of silence. “Where’s my mom?”

That was a blow and Charles had to inhale a little. He’d been hoping she wouldn’t ask, even while he knew eventually Sadie would. Explaining what had happened with her mother was an involved tale.

Even for a ten-year-old that could and did pick up on things she shouldn’t have.

Especially for a ten-year-old that had told him before which kids in her class weren’t getting enough lunch and which ones were being hurt at home.

He must have taken too long to respond because she sighed. “You’re not going to tell me, are you?”

“Hold on, a minute,” he said. “You surprised me, that’s all. Come on, turn and face me.”

Sadie obliged but he could tell by her face she wasn’t happy about something.

“You’re smart enough and old enough to know that sometimes moms and dads don’t stay together,” he said. “And sometimes when that sort of thing happens, there’s a lot of nastiness involved.”

“They get divorced,” Sadie replied, almost matter-of-fact. There was an underlying question in her tone that indicated she wasn’t sure where this was going.

“That’s only when they get married,” Charles said. “I…I never married your mom. I asked her a couple of times, and we were going to, but we ended up not.”

“Then where is she now?”

“Well,” Charles said and had to pause before he exhaled slowly. This was the one thing he hadn’t ever wanted to tell Sadie. “The truth of it is honey, your mom fell in love with someone else, and she decided he was a little more important to her than you were,” Charles said.

He could tell she was processing it, but the look of shock on her face broke his heart. “She didn’t want me?”

“She…no. She decided she didn’t.”

Sadie was silent for a long moment. “I’m going go play in my room,” she said.

“Okay.”

His heart squeezed, painted as she wandered towards her room and closed the door softly. He couldn’t do anything to alleviate the pain of knowing that at least one parent had abandoned her.

Reminded of the whole mess, Charles sighed and looked over the dishes still in the middle of prepping. He knew there were others in the fridge, waiting for tomorrow when they would start cooking. These were the ones he wanted prepped ahead of time—the cheesecake, and the pies, mostly, but also Sadie’s favorite cheesy potatoes.

He took time putting everything up. The pies were stacked on wire racks, repurposed from their usual cookie-cooling days so he could more on the shelf. The casserole sat on the shelf below that, covered in tinfoil already. The turkey and the ham were similarly ready, though both still packaged up and waiting to be prepped for tomorrow.

There was plenty of other items—fruits and veggies to be displayed as snacking foods, potatoes for more mashed. Eggs, cooling from this morning and waiting to be deviled or mashed into egg salad.

In fact, the only thing they seemed to be missing for tomorrow’s feast, was ice cream to top the pie.

Ice cream, he decided, and maybe something to cheer up Sadie. It wasn’t much, but maybe she’d perk up once she was able to look over the holiday decorations.

“Sadie?” He knocked on her door softly and it took her a moment to open it. He could tell she was still upset and smiled. “We forgot something when we did the shopping.”

“Like what?”

“Can’t have apple pie without vanilla ice cream on top, now can we?”

It was such a tiny smile. “I need to get my shoes.”

The drive was a short one, and with a holiday station turned on, Charles was glad to see a little more cheer as it spread over Sadie.

Finding the ice cream wasn’t hard to do, and Sadie ranged down the aisle a little while Charles lingered near the ice cream bars. He knew they really did have enough food at home for the rest of the week, but an ice cream sandwich sounded like a perfect reward for all the work they’d put in to prepping today.

From the corner of one eye, he saw Sadie as she opened a freezer door to reach up for the ice cream. It must have been farther back on the shelf and he saw her step back, the door slapping shut in defeat.

Time to go rescue her from a too-high shelf, he decided.

Someone else had seen her plight though. He couldn’t have been more than fourteen, but grinned as he opened the door and fetched it down. “That the one you need?”

“Yes. Thank you!”

“Alec, I already told you no.”

He knew that voice and turned, startled to see someone he was certain wouldn’t have been in town: Marshall’s sister.

“Hi, Lila,” he said.

Lila blinked and looked at him before she laughed. “Hi! I didn’t even recognize you for a minute. I see I’m not the only one leaving the holiday shopping to the last minute.”

He laughed as Sadie came over, her prize in hand. “Yes and no. We got most of it done the last couple of days, but needed just a couple odds and ends.”

“Who’s this?” Sadie asked and Lila laughed.

“I’m Lila. I helped Charles with the landscaping for the restaurant.”

“You’re the one who put in the gardenias! Hi! I’m Sadie.”

Charles laughed as the boy sauntered over to half-glare at Charles. “This is my girl.”

Lila beamed. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Sadie. This is Alec.”

The boy responded with a faint nod. “’Sup?” It earned him a faint sigh from Lila and Charles laughed.

“Thank you for helping Sadie, Alec,” he said.

“No problem.” He said and half-smiled at Sadie. “She almost had it. Just needs another inch or so.”

She beamed and looked at Charles. “How long is going to take for me to grow an inch?”

“With my luck? You’ll grow an inch the week after we get you a new jacket for winter,” he said.

Lila laughed. “That’s how it always works,” she said. “We’ve got just a few things left to get, so we’ll get out of your hair.”

He noted the shopping list in the front of the cart, how short it was. A tight budget, perhaps? Or just a very small celebration. His gaze traveled to her hands, noting the lack of a wedding band.

“You know,” he said and glanced at Sadie. “Sadie and I are doing the holiday with just the two of us. You guys are welcome to join us.”

“Please do,” Sadie said. “Daddy made four pies and both turkey and ham.”

Lila laughed and glanced at Alec, who shrugged. “I like pie,” he said noncommittally.

“Then…I think we’d love to,” Lila said. “If you’re certain. It’s just Alec and I this year as well, but we don’t want to impose.”

“You’re not imposing. You’re invited,” Charles promised and glanced at Sadie. “Besides. Sadie’s right. I may have gone a little overboard on cooking.”

Lila laughed. “We can probably help with that.”

Maybe it wasn’t her mom, but Charles smiled as Sadie grinned, immediately launching into a detailed accounting of everything they already had and asking how Alec liked his turkey—what kind of gravy did he prefer? Did Lila like apple pie or cherry?

No, he couldn’t replace her mother. But maybe, just maybe, he could prove to Sadie that there were more people who wanted her around than the one who’d abandoned them both.

_________

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this short story you can find more over on my short stories page. Alternately, you can get exclusive stories and early access by supporting me on Patreon. 

Happy Holidays!