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Welcome to Jinxed

Hello, visitor. I’m Catherine, an author, artist, publisher, reader, photographer, mom, and cat herder with way too many hobbies. This is my personal blog and website where you can find more information about my work as well as posts about writing, books, or whatever else I feel like talking about. Keep reading for my latest posts or check the archive or category listing for specific dates/topics.

April wrap-up

Been a while. What’s been going on? A bit, and I don’t feel like going into details, so I’ll summarize.

  • After over 140 hours of game play, I finally beat The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. While I don’t anticipate wanting to play it again anytime soon, I dare say it beats out Ocarina of Time as my favourite Zelda game. It was an absolute joy in so many ways and terribly addicting.
  • Editing on book three of the Sisters of Chaos trilogy progresses, if not quite as quickly as I had wanted. Had a bit of writer’s (editor’s?) block in the past two months, but I’m finally starting to get some momentum again. I am close to the end of the first character’s scenes.
  • I’ve been completely absorbed in reading middle grade books, and as a result I have now read 26 books of my 2021 goal of 30. My belief has also been proven that they are my favourite type of book to read.
  • I played and recorded music. After many years of following Dwelling of Duels, a monthly themed video game cover competition, as well as s l o w l y learning guitar, I finally talked myself into submitting to April’s Free Month contest. It turned out to be one of the biggest and highest quality entry months in DoD’s history, and I got third from last place, which was honestly better than I expected. The encouraging comments from the community have also inspired me to work harder at music, and my pattern of the last few days has been alternating days of practice on guitar and piano.
  • Japanese lessons have been a little less productive, in a way. As I drew near to level 5 on Duolingo, I found myself increasingly frustrated that I haven’t seemed to be retaining anything for quite some time. So I went back to the beginning of level 3 and have been re-taking lessons to try to actually learn the words being taught, rather than just get it good enough to pass Duolingo’s multiple choice method and moving on. It hasn’t been easy, as I often find I max out the levels in a lesson before I fully retain everything it taught me. It’s also slow going, as I go back to previous finished lessons every few days to ensure I still remember everything. However, it feels better knowing that I am learning these words now. It’ll just be a while before I actually progress with my knowledge.
  • Planting has begun. The tomatoes I started have taken off very quickly and need to be transplanted into their final home; bell peppers have sprouted nicely; and I started broccoli seeds, though they haven’t been doing quite as well and I’m still not sure if I should restart them. I picked up other seeds from the grocery store and after the frost we got yesterday morning, I’m hoping we’re in the clear enough to start planting the outdoor garden. Also, the tulips I planted out front last autumn are coming up and that makes me happy.
  • Art? What’s that?

I think that’s pretty much my last two months in a nutshell. That and waiting, Disney princess-style, for my COVID-19 vaccine to come…

February wrap-up

I meant to write more blog posts about my endeavours in January, but, well, now it’s March.

First, of course, is writing. I didn’t make a lot of progress with the third Sisters of Chaos book in January, as I spent much of the month rereading my draft from last year and making notes on how to begin my edits. I also cut fully a third of last year’s writing, 30,000 words, from the draft. By the end of the month, I had just finished rewriting the opening scene of the book.

By the end of February, I rewrote the next three scenes from that character’s POV and then reviewed them again. Despite the trouble the same strategy left me with the second book, I’ve decided to focus on one character’s scenes at a time for the time being. (And really, the problems with doing it this way with the second book mainly equated to fitting all the scenes together, and I’m going to have some reshuffling to do with this book anyway.) While I have plenty of editing to do on following scenes, I at least don’t have to completely rewrite these next ones.

I still wish I had made more progress in February, though I have been fighting seasonal affective disorder in the first part of this year, which has affected my motivation for writing. It’s also had me throwing myself into media escapes—namely, reading the Wings of Fire books and continuing to play The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Of the former, I’ve read the first eight books, and of the latter, after more than forty hours of game play, I’m not halfway through yet. Both have proven incredibly addicting, so after deleting my latest mobile time-waster game, I tend to spend free time when I’m not feeling writing or don’t want to get completely lost in a book or game watching YouTube videos.

I want to spend more time working on my book, however. I know it needs a fair bit of work still, but I don’t want this first round of edits to take as long as writing 120,000 words did.

As for updating this blog more often… well, we’ll see.

January wrap-up: Video games

I completely forgot that I proposed finishing off a video game each month at the beginning of the year, so it’s just as well I pretty much completed one on Sunday anyway. I can’t recall if it was technically 2021 when I finished The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening for Nintendo Switch, but I haven’t much to say about it anyway: it was cute, it was fun, graphics and sounds were charming, laugh-out-loud funny at times, and a nice (re)addition to the franchise.

I also played more Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, which I’ve ended up enjoying more than I anticipated. Seeing video footage of tracks that straight-up change the way gravity works felt a little too strange, but upon playing, it actually ended up working well. The tracks are very fun – particularly those that are one long track, rather than a series of laps – the graphics are so, well, normal, and the updated soundtracks on some of the classic tracks, like Super Circuit for Game Boy Advance, are incredibly satisfying to hear. After playing Mario Kart Wii and Mario Kart Double Dash for so many years, it’s great to have new tracks to play, as well as new vehicles and characters, of course. The Koopalings seem to be my favourite.

For games I actually started in January, after taking a break with the ease of Link’s Awakening, I finally began the game I was most looking forward to on Switch, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

Unfortunately, a Joy-Con issue that necessitated sending my only controllers in for repair meant I couldn’t put too much time on it, but I played enough to immediately fall in love.

When Twilight Princess was first advertised prior to release, I remember it being pitched as a different kind of Legend of Zelda. Yet, when I actually played it, I found it just another Zelda game. It had a darker mood than many games, sure, but the game play and the way the story unfolded was very much the same. Same with Skyward Sword and even Wind Waker. The way you get around the map may be different, but overall it’s the same type of game. Not that that’s bad, just not what I was expecting.

Breath of the Wild, on the other hand, is a totally new type of Zelda game. The open world, of course, along with entirely new mechanics like the variety and durability of weapons, stamina gauge, and eating/cooking give it a very fresh feel while still providing the same classic adventure and game play that always draws me in to the series.

In addition to that, the graphics are gorgeous, the minimalist soundtrack is ethereal and atmospheric (when it’s even there! the silence of the open fields is both stark and calming), and the history that has been set up is already providing more of a different feel to the game than Twilight Princess did.

I started with Link’s Awakening after Christmas because I wanted something a little lighter before delving into the beast of this game, but now I can’t wait to immerse myself in the story and the world. But, before I did that, despite getting my repaired Joy-Cons back much sooner than I feared, I dove back into a game I’ve been working on for years.

Despite my dedication to the original anime series and my daughter’s obsession with all iterations of the series, Pokemon Ultra Sun is the first console Pokemon game I’ve ever played. So, I really wasn’t sure what to expect.

Turns out, it’s 100% side quests. It made the game very easy to pick up and put down, the latter which I’ve done months at a time, even over a year when I put off getting my Nintendo 2DS repaired for fear of cost involved*.

While I was waiting to play my Switch again, I decided to jump back in to Pokemon Ultra Sun rather than start a new game on PS4 (or pick up one of the several other 3DS games I also still need to play). I ended up putting a total of ninety hours into the game before month’s end before finally beating it. More than a little of this month’s worth was spent grinding to evolve the various lower form Pokemon I had acquired throughout the game, but then, I’ve never had a problem with grinding.

To be honest, I got so used to the idea of the game being nothing but side quests that by the time it tried to introduce some plot into it, I was kind of annoyed by the change. Still, it didn’t really change the game’s dynamic, and it does offer a convenient stopping point when one isn’t really that concerned with catching ’em all. (But gosh darn it, I want my Eeveelutions.)

Knowing that this was the first game in 3D, I’m impressed by how well the graphics and gameplay translated, better than some remakes I’ve seen/heard of recently. Admittedly, I don’t know the difference between the regular and ultra versions of the game, but as a new player, it felt very natural and smooth.

Overall, it was a fun game, if more of a casual pick up and go rather than a deeply involved experience like Breath of the Wild.

Oh, and while I don’t play it that often, my inner twelve year old still absolutely loves Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit.

Aside from the simple novelty of the game and the fun you can have designing your own courses with things in your house, the creators actually did a really good job of making the different “tracks” very interesting, engaging, and challenging. I haven’t even played all of them yet but I have a lot of fun with each one. And, of course, the cats’ reaction is just as entertaining as the game itself. I do recommend vacuuming before you play, however, especially if you have pets. Ask me how I know.

* It turned out to be very reasonable and I have nothing but good things to say about Nintendo’s repair service. I highly recommend them if you have any issues with your software or hardware.

January wrap-up: TV

Instead of posting only about my writing (editing) progress for last month, I thought I would talk a little more about the various things I spent the month doing (aside from working and screaming internally). First on the list is an unusual one for me: television shows.

We don’t really watch TV. We don’t have cable, Netflix or Amazon Prime, or any other streaming service, and we don’t download shows, either. We can’t even pick up any local stations with an antenna. We have a number of series on DVD/Blu-Ray or Apple TV, but over the last year or so, we haven’t even been watching those. Not even ones that we’ve been very curious about, strangely. While the lack of desire to have access to TV programming is nothing new – a number of years ago, we did in fact take advantage of a few-months-free promotion on cable, only to decide a year later that we really weren’t that interested and cancelled it – perhaps this aversion to TV over the last year has been a pandemic thing. It’s hard to want to get invested in new media when we could just spend three hours watching random YouTube gameplay/cats/slow motion/cooking videos.

However, at the beginning of the month, we were gifted a year’s subscription to Disney+. So, we had to start by watching the one series we’ve actually been interested in and previously unable to access.

The Mandalorian

We heard all the hype (and saw a few spoilers) and yeah. It’s pretty good. I like the fact that not only does it focus on new characters, but they are character types that have been glossed over in the main movies. That was what I loved about Rogue One – the slightly greyer depiction of the rebellion and the things they had to do – and showing those shades of grey in The Mandalorian has really helped add depth to the universe.

And yet, for all that it’s forging new terrain in ways, it has a very classic Star Wars feel to it as well. Some of my favourite shots have been aboard Imperial ships, with the traditional 70s-style aesthetic and uniforms, portrayed with modern cinematography. It’s truly a Star Wars for the 21st century.

I also like that for as episodic as it is, a lot of the characters and situations introduced in episodes throughout each season come back around in some way. It’s also given a lot of opportunity for great character development. It is interesting that each season has wrapped so neatly, but perhaps it’s just been a while since I’ve taken in a TV show.

I also convinced my husband to try out another new show.

WandaVision

It was more morbid curiosity than true interest that drew me to start watching WandaVision. I’m not a fan of that style of stupid sitcom humour. It was a hard sell, and to tell the truth, I wasn’t really that interested in the meat of the show. It was the hints of the background story that kept me watching.

And then we saw this week’s episode.

The callbacks! The threads weaving together! The echoes of classic comic storylines! I can understand how it could be confusing to someone not intimately acquainted with the MCU, but for those of us who have seen (almost) every movie multiple times, some of the tie-in material, and have at least a rudimentary understanding of the stories it is drawing from, it was so satisfying.

Beyond that, it was wonderful to immerse myself in a story of drama and technobabble that, like The Mandalorian, built on some things introduced in the movies that weren’t really explored beyond their immediate impact on the main heroes (i.e. the Snap), as well as drawing on characters introduced as backup in other movies, answering questions raised by the first three episodes, and raising more. That episode alone is enough to keep us hooked for at least the near future.

Whether we’ll continue taking in more TV with this subscription remains to be seen, although I am rather interested in watching more Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the first two seasons which we saw, and Agent Carter, which we never were able to. Aside from that, YouTube has for some reason recently been recommending heavily-edited versions of The Twilight Zone episodes, which so far I have been enjoying quite a bit.

Here we go again

My early adulthood flew by at high speed. Weeks passed in a blink and years blurred into each other. It was, frankly, a little scary, particularly with what I heard from those of previous generations that the older you get, the faster your life goes.

Once I had my daughter, however, time seemed to slow down; or rather, I felt the passing time much more keenly. After all, there is a big difference in a year of a child’s life, and looking back, it certainly felt like a significant period of time had passed. It has been a blessedly ongoing state of mind.

Now, however, as I look back on 2020, I’m feeling the same sense of disbelief that it’s been so long as I felt in my twenties. I was there, obviously; I lived through it all, suffered the same stress and know that I did so, but now that the year has finally turned, I’m amazed that it’s already gone.

And, despite that my family and I were homebound for much of the year, it’s not as though nothing happened. I released eight new books, twice as many as the previous best year for Brain Lag, one of them my own, and wrote the first draft of a new one. I doubled my reading goal for the year, played through several video games, and continued learning Japanese and guitar. Celebrated birthdays and my fifteenth anniversary. Got a kitten and watched her grow up into a crazy little cat.

Some things did fall by the wayside, of course. All my in-person events planned for the year were cancelled. Rarely got out into nature or took photographs or, of course, interacted with other people. While it has been nice to have nearly all my weekends free, I have missed conventions, and the number of photos I took with my good camera this year dropped steeply.

But, I am here, I made the best of it, and I and my family are safe. I can’t complain in the face of that.

So, looking back at last year’s new year post, did I achieve my goals for 2020? For my reading goal: yes. All I really wanted to do was get through my physical TBRs, and I did that by summer. With conventions suspended, I bought only a handful of new ones, so I fully caught up with those, and began going through the ebooks I have collected over the years.

I also finally kicked the habit of playing pointless mobile games in down time and drastically reduced the amount of TV (read: YouTube) I watched in the evenings, giving me more reading time. By the end of the year, I surpassed my goal of 23 books to finish 46. (Again, not counting the books read for Brain Lag.)

My only other main goal of 2020 was to finish the first draft of the final book of my Sisters of Chaos trilogy, and as I posted here a month ago, I finished that in November. I should have spent more time working on the story last month, but I rode the success of having finished the draft too much, and barely added 1,000 words. Also, I baked a lot of cookies after hours instead of writing. And read, and played video games…

I did a fairly good job of maintaining other healthy habits this year. I’m closing on a two-year daily streak on DuoLingo for Japanese (minus a handful of cheat days). I may not feel very proficient in the language, but it’s learning, anyway. I had a bit of a lull with guitar practice in early fall, but I have made further progress with it. I even learned a new song on piano, which I hadn’t touched in many years, though lack of good instruction kept me from progressing any more with it.

Overall, I’m pretty content with my progress for last year. Pleased, even.

I’m not really in competition with myself, so for 2021, I’m going to set my reading goal at a nice even 30 and see where I end up.

Writing is a little trickier. I don’t anticipate needing to, and don’t want to, spend a long time in the first round of edits, but it’s hard to guess at how long it’s going to take. Perhaps by mid-year I can get the draft out to beta readers, and given a couple of months for them to go over it, I should hopefully be well on my way to a final draft by the end of 2021.

For everything else, again, I don’t really have progress goals, I just want to maintain habits. Thanks to a sale on my preferred guitar instruction app, I have more time with which to practice, and intend to continue doing so. Japanese I’m content with trying to reach my daily goal; I’m just learning it for fun, not really out to master it or reach any particular level of proficiency in any given period of time. Perhaps I should make some goals for finishing some of the video games I’ve had piling up over the past couple years. One a month should be doable, and will make a good dent in the pile.

2020 was a pretty messy year, but we can only do what we can do, and vow to do our best going forward.

I’m ready for it. Let’s do this.

December update: Home stretch

We have successfully passed the penultimate month of this singular year, so it’s time for another progress update on writing the final installment of my Sisters of Chaos trilogy.

Despite a strong start, a series of setbacks starting mid-month including my birthday, new video games, the release of a much anticipated next book in a favourite series, and an increased interest in guitar (and even piano) practice conspired to keep me from meeting my word count goal. However, I’m quite satisfied with my progress, not least because I hit two important milestones this month: I reached my 2020 word count goal of 120,000 words in the manuscript, and I wrote the end of the story.

The first gives me somewhat mixed feelings as an achievement; after spending all year working towards that goal, now that I’ve surpassed it, anything beyond seems too long. This isn’t really a concern for now, though. There are a few notes still in the text at the moment, along with scenes, or attempted scenes, that I already know I’m going to remove. I’m keeping them in for now merely to keep track of my word count for the rest of writing the first draft. More importantly, I’m sure there will be some content trimmed out in editing. Not that I’m really opposed to a longer book if it needs to be, anyway. There are a number of things to wrap up, after all.

As for writing the end, that turned out to be less of an event than I expected. In fact, I was already drafting blog posts in my head about writing those two magic words leading up to it as I wrapped up the climax, anticipating how I’d feel as I completed the final epilogue. Only… it didn’t happen. I considered it for a few days, but realized I really had written everything I wanted to say for a particular character prior to the epilogue. So by the time I decided how I was going to end the words on the page, I had already finished writing them a few days before.

Granted, there’s a little more wrapping up I still want to do with a couple other characters that I didn’t write yet, and I suppose that kind of negates the accomplishment. But I’ve gone back to my new opening scene and have gotten in the mindset of fleshing out those scenes I had planned to focus on for the remainder of the year, and I’m rolling with it rather than finishing up the ending. At worst, I’m expecting to add some content in editing anyway.

For now, it feels good to have reached those milestones. The first draft is coming together and I think I should be well on my way to starting true edits after the calendar turns. Editing will be a harder pill to swallow, and a harder task to quantify, but it feels good to achieve my writing goals (nearly) for 2020.

November update: Er, September?

First, I’d like to wish happy writing to everyone participating in NaNoWriMo this year. I’m still working on my own challenge so I won’t be taking part officially.

Speaking of which, what happened to September’s update on writing the final part of my Sisters of Chaos trilogy? I kept considering, even drafting, something, but ultimately, I’m not as skilled at some people at talking about nothing. That’s right, I followed up my best month of the year with my worst, and failed to add a single word to the draft. Apparently the disappointment of actually reaching my writing goal in August only to get no relief from my continued expectations was enough to discourage me from writing all month.

October ended up a bit better.

Granted, that first graph doesn’t look that impressive, but with that one exceedingly good day* and my increased word count goal of 1,000 words/day following it, I was actually on track to meet my goal in October as well. Halloween festivities ended up leaving me little time and energy to write at the end of the month, but I don’t regret it. I’m still pleased with my progress.

More importantly, and likely the main reason I was so successful this month, was that I determined how the rest of the year’s going to look for me. Upon realizing toward the end of September that there were only three months left of 2020, I decided that I would spend a month (or so) writing the climax up to the end of the book, and then the remainder of the year going back and filling in missing scenes or fleshing out those that were written mainly in exposition. Not editing, yet; I’m saving that for 2021.

I was close to the climax by the end of August, though it did end up taking me about the first third of this month to actually get to its true beginning. Interestingly, while I always felt I enjoyed the process of writing the middle of a story—the setup, the character development, putting pieces into place—I found myself energized by working on the climax. Admittedly, I’ve done a lot more of the former than the latter. (That, and I’ve had at least parts of this climax swimming through my head for many years now.) I’m looking forward to continuing to write the finale of this trilogy.

And with Halloween done and an extra hour of a day with few other obligations to me? I’m ready to get this done.

* Two notes about this particular day: first, it was actually not inspired by the idea of catching up, but simply a desire/joy to keep writing and finish the scene I was working on, which ended up taking longer than I initially surmised. As a result, that day ended up being my best writing day of the year.

This… is… Halloween!

It’s been non-stop celebration today!

Breakfast: Pumpkin monster bagels and apple monsters

Lunch: Deviled eggs, pumpkin pastries, and spider bread

Dinner: Yummy mummy empanadas, pumpkin risotto and roasted vegetables

Drinks: (semi) Glow-in-the-dark orange punch

Dessert: EVERYTHING!

The final socks

Happy Halloween!