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My drug of choice is writing--writing, art, reading, inspiration, books, creativity, process, craft, blogging, grammar, linguistics, and did I mention writing?

Monday, July 24, 2017

Mapping Out the Last Week of Summer School (Personal Update/Meta)

This post is as much for me, my planning lobe, and my easily shamed sense of accountability as for my readers, but for the eight of you who might care about my update schedule and the three of you who wondered what happened on Friday and why even my "weekend heavy" schedule has fallen apart, it has entirely to do with the impact of "week six" of summer school. As we round wrap up the final week of teaching middle schoolers how to care about Latin roots, prefixes, and suffixes, our "pledge drive," and begin to scrape the bottom of the bandwidth barrel for even our jazz-hands-heavy not-hiatus, let me tell you what you can expect from Writing About Writing for the next few days:

  1. Teaching is tough and teaching this summer has been extra tough because I've been writing curriculum and lesson plans for not one, but two classes as I go. 
  2. I sort of thought things would be easier once the curriculum and lesson plans were written for the first class. (The second three weeks is just me teaching the same class again to a new batch of kids.) And they WERE, but I was also starting to slide into the grind. (See #3)
  3. The grind: When a schedule is young new and everything is exciting and interesting and life is new and fresh and a sunset still causes a noble moment of pause, you can easily cram too much in. It's why the first week of Nanowrimo goes so well for so many people.  All this writing that kind fits on paper is doable and the spirit hasn't broken yet. But eventually, if there's not some R&R in there, all that productivity starts to fall apart. My grind has always been about 4-5 weeks: just enough to get through college final season (which for an English major starts early as the essays roll in). Front loading the grind can cause seemingly FAR easier schedules to still be overwhelming later on--as there has not been a full recovery yet.
  4. So, in my case, as the weeks of summer school grind on, I need longer and longer to recover, and by the sixth week, I'm usually pretty cooked. There are some thousand yard stares and at least one moment of questioning my life choices. Fortunately no casualties. 
  5. As long as I've been blogging, I've been doing summer school. (They both started the same year). And pretty much, by the end of the six weeks like clockwork, I kind of blow off an entire weekend, everything sort of falls into shambles, and I'm lucky if I can get a post up about my favorite color. (Not a thoughtfully written piece about my favorite color; just an announcement with a picture of said color somewhere in the post.) So that's where we are. The last week. And even though you could set your watch to the sound of the collapse, I'm sitting here trying to wiggle my big toe.
  6. This next week is going to be pretty light. My main goal is just to get through it. That's going to involve a lot of Fallout 4, Final Fantasy IX, and tying myself to the mast so that I can't kill myself when I hear the sweet siren song of guilt that I'm being unproductive.
  7. I'll see if I can find a guest blog for tomorrow. 
  8. Wednesday we're off. That might change after next week–the new schedule could be pretty regular–but for now it's still in effect.
  9. Thursday we're going to post the last of the "pledge drive" posts, and hope that we squeak out just enough to keep Writing About Writing from having to start hosting ads.
  10. Friday I'm going to make last call for our current poll nominations. If you haven't been over there yet, it's shaping up to be our biggest poll ever, so drop a nomination and/or a second.
  11. Saturday I'll put that poll up. Or rather, I will put up the first quarterfinal because......DAMN.
  12. Mostly, though, it's going to be a weekend off for me. Not an admin weekend. (I'll do that on the weekend of the 5th and 6th.) I actually need a weekend OFF. If I try to work, I will freeze me in liquid nitrogen and then shoot myself after saying a terrible pun in an Austrian accent like: "This is not self care, my friend. Chill out."
  13. Monday I'm going to come out swinging. (And I mean SWINGING!  I have some *GREAT* ideas.)  Not only back to full posting fervor, but you might even see some things you haven't seen yet.
  14. Thank you all!  You've all been very patient with jazz hands through my summer school. One of these days I might make enough that I don't need to teach at all, but it is not today. 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

We Regret To Inform You.....

Will Writing About Writing need to start hosting ads and running constant pleas to whitelist us from your ad blockers?  

Welcome to our fifth of six "fund raiser" posts. In just a week (and four days) I'm going to know whether Writing About Writing is going to have to start hosting ads to try and make a little bit more money. And more importantly whether it is feasible to keep writing.

We held steady at 65% of the way to the major "You-can-make-it!" milestone.

If this were a story, we'd be in the final section where all hope is lost. Unfortunately, I'm pretty worried because life doesn't often work like stories, and I'm kind of thinking all hope might actually be lost. I have one more week to try.

On the upside, that means our pledge drive is almost over. For better or for worse.

Hang on. I haven't told you the down side yet.
The downside is that we're pretty far from even our modest goal.

A six week "pledge drive" is a new thing here at Writing About Writing. (Though we're only reminding you every week instead of every ten minutes.) However, budgets for the coming 12 months or so need to be finalized by early August, and summer school is currently cannibalizing about half of my regular writing time. I thought I'd take these six weeks to try and hit a goal that isn't "making it" but is "enough progress to think making it might be possible."

Below is a screenshot from MY PATREON.

This is the best and easiest way to support me as an artist. Set up a payment for as little as a single dollar a month and forget about it.

I'm currently 65% to my third goal. My third goal is based on the Kickstarter I ran last year. That money is still ready to fund a few months of full time writing. The goal I'm trying to reach now will keep me from having to drive for Lyft or something once I run through those Kickstarter funds allotted for the novel and keep me writing instead.

Stuck at 65%


There is only 35% to go. But also, we seem sort of stuck here. We've lost some donors, gained some donors, but it mostly evened out in the end.

As much as I completely adore my big ticket patrons, I would really love to have a lot of smaller donor. You know it's too easy to imagine that folks who light their cigars with hundred dollar bills will just throw money they don't really need at Writing About Writing, but what's really happening is that real people who aren't rich by any means are reaching deep into their generosity and when life happens that's no longer money they can afford not to have.

What I would love is if more people made small donations they could afford and kept the dozen or so folks from having to do all the heavy lifting. Yes, I have bills to pay, but there's no need for anyone to handle all of them.

There's a fourth goal and a fifth goal. The goals go all the way up to eleven.



For example one goal coming up in the next year or two has to do with my nannying day job. It is on a long, slow phase out because the kid in question is growing up. Projections for this coming school year are less than half of the hours of last year. And they'll probably go down again next year around this time. If I can't make up the income, I'm eventually going to have to find a clock to punch in order to not starve.

The goal that I'm 65% of the way to hitting is only a fraction of what I would need to write as my full-time day job–even if ate nothing but raman forever. However, I am counting the performance of this "pledge drive" as something of a bellwether. If I can make just this one, smaller goal, then I'll consider myself reasonably safe for what's coming in the next couple of years. (More patrons will trickle in.) Every dollar I make now will mean that much longer before I have to start hitting my Kickstarter money, and the longer it will last.

Besides it only costs $5 a month to get biweekly selfies.

Epic cuteness could be yours!
Image description: Epic cuteness.

Future goals involve more stable living situations and even my retirement need, but I can deal with them in the future. For now I just want to know it's plausible that I could get there.

Since this blog's inception, due to the breathtaking generosity of patrons and donations from readers like you, we have been able to:

  • Quit teaching night classes during the regular year and write instead
  • Bring you more content
  • Remove the annoying ads
  • Up the number of high quality posts each week. 
  • (Not to put too fine a point on it, but we've been able to keep bringing you content through what would otherwise have been some completely devastating life transitions that would have put most bloggers on hiatus.) 
  • Gone from five posts a week to six. 
  • And we've been able to take far fewer random days off. 


Here are some things I'd like to add if we continue to get more support:
  • Even more posts, and more high-quality posts (less jazz hands)
  • But also more and better jazz hands (on top of the less jazz hands) in the way of potpourris, plot arc posts, and guest bloggers.
  • A seventh and even eight post each week (or more?)
  • A greater number of carefully (perhaps even professionally) edited and revised posts
  • More fiction!!
  • Always and ever free longer fiction (books)
  • An always, forever, ad free experience on Writing About Writing
  • If I can't reach the goal of this pledge drive by the end of the six weeks [especially if I don't even come "frustratingly close"], I may have to return to hosting ads on Writing About Writing and possibly other ways to monetize my work.  Ads will actually limit the rage of certain kinds of content I can post, and will probably involve no small amount of cleaning out old posts of the same. [Copyright stuff is a little less strident if you're noncommercial.] And if I really can't hit this goal, I have to think about day jobs–day jobs which would see me pulling back from writing.


*ominus thunder rumble*

That doesn't have to happen though.  For the mere cost of twelve dollars a year–just ONE DOLLAR a month–you you in on backchannel conversations with other patrons, polls, and conversations about future projects including sometimes me trying to get your input about what you'd like to see. But perhaps, most importantly, you'll get that warm and fuzzy feeling that you are supporting an artist to continue making art and entertainment.

So if you like what I do and want to see me do more of it. Or if you don't want to see me have to do less of it. Or if you want to continue to see me do it without ads, please consider a small pledge. We wouldn't have gotten this far without our patrons, and we can't go any further without you.

Again here is that link: https://www.patreon.com/chrisbrecheen

And of course if committing to a monthly amount isn't feasible, you can always make a one-time donation through my Paypal (at the top left of the screen).

Thank you all so much. No matter what is feasible at this time or what you can spare. I couldn't have made it this far without all of you.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Writing: How It Actually Works by Pramodh Anand Iyer

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Photo Credit:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/92329419@N00/2465577583
Writing: How It Actually Works
by Pramodh Anand Iyer 

12 years of actually writing goes into this post and I don’t really need  degree  in creative writing or English literature to learn any of this. All I had to do was...

What works:

  1. Writing: Cliche, but touche! If you don’t write, you can’t aspire or claim to be a writer. Write something every day other than what you do for social media. And remember that Mark Zuckerberg and the rest don’t pay or applaud you for ‘sharing’.
  2. Ignore your critics when they say that writing doesn’t work or pay you: It does and you’ll at least feel better than a slave of the 9-5 IT department, even if you don’t get paid as much initially.
  3. Read a fellow aspirant: A lot of fellow aspirants would want a beta reader and they may not be very sincere with their quality of work. It’s actually an opportunity to know how far you’ve come, what could go wrong if you don’t pay enough attention, and to encourage them to be a part of a writer’s cult (if you really aren’t judging their consistent abuse of slang and typos).
  1. Read a book: Our generation, especially in my country, India, find reading books repulsive, especially because we’re used to being forced to read atrocious academic textbooks which never really mattered or made sense to us. Reading a book, especially if it’s light and brief, could help break the inertia of not reading as well as the developed allergies. They have good samples for ideas you could steal… I mean, improvise on or S.C.A.M.P.E.R. [Ed note: SCAMPER]
  2. Blog: Blogging doesn’t always fetch you sufficient readership unless you write well AND get a hang of SEO technicalities. But, it’s a free platform to regularly express yourself. Wattpad and Wordpress are ways to find readers who you never thought would actually do even if your friends are busy being a bunch of dicks.
  3. Don’t stick to linearity: Go Christopher Nolan and mess around with the timeline. Start from the middle of the article/story/novel/poem and resume from any other point in the same if you don’t know how else to keep going. But KEEP GOING, FOR TOLKIEN’S SAKE!!!

What doesn’t seem to work (for me):

  1. Excessive swearing/political biases/gender biases/nihilism: I don’t get it but I don’t get much from any of this kind of writing. It’s probably a cultural issue with my geography, but it hasn’t fetched me much reaction.
  2. Expecting a considerable number of readership to motivate you into writing: If you’re going to write for cookies, please don’t. Write because it’s fun to express yourself and not because you want to impress your favorite dickheads. (The cookies have been stolen by the girl-scouts and eaten by your professors.)
  3. Writing for free: Are you nuts? I must ask myself this every time I offer to assist a pretty girl for content and deny that I require payment. Writers write and if they don’t pay us, they can go write for their-pretty-selves!
  4. Planning: If you were to be so organized and routine with your work, you’d be an effing Engineer or Doctor doing the boring but well-paid work.

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Photo Credit:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/7146974@N02/33152254404

“Just write like your life depends on it, for someday it will!” - I probably stole this from the Doctor Strange Movie, or probably not.

“Write like nobody is reading. Because they’re actually busy commenting on your crush’s last few Facebook updates.” - I stole a part of this too from some Facebook post about dancing.

Yeah, well sue me. But at least I’ll write about that too.


Freelance Writer at Mentoria
Editorial Intern at Indians 4 Social Change Forum
A Chief Editor of The Symphony of Insanity Magazine
Poet at The Equilibrium of Life
The Panda Publishing House

Monday, July 17, 2017

Falling Out of Warp (Personal Update)

Captain's Log Supplemental: Stardate Zero-seven-one-seven-one-seven-two-point-zero-three.

The Hyperbolize is currently travelling impulse speed in the Sel F'carian expanse while Chief Engineer Fordy LaGeorge takes the warp core offline to make badly needed maintenance repairs, including stress warping along the bulkheads and microfractures in the dilithium crystals which, were we to ignore, could leave us on little but thrusters and fusion power uncomfortably close to Driian space.

My own misgivings about this mission notwithstanding, The Federation's need for the assistance offered to us by the Ferengi is dire. Overextended along every front, we will be in trouble in less than a year without an infusion of fresh resources, and who knows how long we would last if one of our enemies took advantage of the situation. Fortunately the D'Kora-class Marauders are capable of high warp in battle circumstances, but not for extended periods. We are entering the fifth week of our six week trek across the Alpha quadrant at speed, delivering children to Nowligi.

While the crew being unaccustomed a heightened level of urgency for such an extended period, their general complaints about holodeck shutdowns and stellar cartography being useless at high velocities are easily assuaged, maintaining speeds over warp seven for such extended periods has caused stress to The Hyperbolize itself that cannot go unaddressed for two more weeks. I've ordered the Hyperbolize out of warp to make badly needed repairs.

Given the distances involved. my second officer, Deets, has calculated a sweet spot warp factor (8.7) that will allow us to bring the warp engines offline each day for long enough for Mr. LaGeorge to do the required maintenance while making up the time in transit without causing undue additional stresses. We will lose some routine productivity, and we will definitely need a loving refit and level one maintenance upon delivery, as well as some badly needed shore leave for the crew, when we are done. However we should be able to deliver on schedule.

I have allotted emergency power to the engineering teams that will be forced to do repairs through our impulse downtimes, that they might enjoy the holodeck themselves while the Hyperbolize is at warp as well as any other recreational activities they may wish to enjoy while off duty. However, for the rest of the crew, these periods of impulse "downtime" provide a splendid moment for a little bit of rest and relaxation. Or, a trip over to stellar cartography if that's more one's cup of tea....

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Best Modern Fantasy (Nominations and Seconds Needed)

I've still got two weeks left of summer school, so it's still jazz hands and "pledge drive" here at Writing About Writing. Therefore, tonight let me just take a moment to say that if the nominations are any indication, our latest poll of best fantasy written in the last 25 years is going to be a grudge match of titanic proportions.

While I will get the first of what will no doubt go into quarter finals up on Thursday of next week, for now we need you to bounce back and get up any last nominations as well as second anything you'd like to see going on to the poll itself.

Please go back to the original entry for both the rules and to drop a comment or second. If you place them here, they will not get counted (and probably not given the needed second).

Friday, July 14, 2017

Finding Feedback Readers (Mailbox)

Where should I go for feedback? 

[Remember, keep sending in your questions to chris.brecheen@gmail.com with the subject line "W.A.W. Mailbox" and I will try to answer a couple each week. I will use your first name ONLY unless you tell me explicitly that you'd like me to use your full name, first initial only, or you would prefer to remain anonymous.  I'm still underwater from teaching summer school even though the pressure is off a bit, so I'm just going to do a pretty quick one today.]    

Alexa asks:

Are you still doing the mailbox thing? I wasn't sure, most of the mailboxes I've read are re-posts dated 2014.

If you are: I was wondering if you had any advice for finding good feedback readers. How do you find people who have the time, willingness, and skill-set to get the feedback you need on later drafts? 

So far I've had a mixed experience with workshops, irl and online. My friends are lovely and do read my work but are often reading outside of their preferred genres and lean towards being 100% supportive.

​Thanks. 

I've been really happy to find your facebook page and through that your blog. 


[Note: I added the link above to the question.]

My reply:

I'm absolutely still doing the mailbox thing. We're just on the back end of a (roughly) 18 month period of non-stop burnination where my life was playing the part of the thatched roof cottages. The reason there are are so many from 2014 was those were the halcyon days before it all went wrong when I was particularly good at getting a mailbox up once a week like clockwork. These last couple of years, I've been struggling to do one every other week or so. But they're still one of the most popular bits I do here at Writing About Writing, and if anything I'm going to step up the mailbox game a bit just as soon as I finish summer school.

But let me try to kick around your question. At least let's get to a quick and dirty answer of your question that will be woefully unsatisfying. I've had this series of posts about blogging that I've been pecking away at, and after that the next series I want to do is about how to find, give, and receive feedback because it's really this huge skill set unto itself including a lot of potential pitfalls if done haphazardly. But the silk sheets and candles are at least a couple of months out, so I'll try to do a "drop your pants, the lasagna will be microwaved in five" version in the meantime.

Unfortunately one of the main answers to this is that there are no good or easy answers to this. Finding good beta readers is a long shitty process of sifting through all the dross. People who are just there to get feedback and give it like it's a horrible chore (rather than perhaps the single best way to improve as a writer). People who don't like your style, genre, vocabulary. People who are pretentious as all fuck and really want to make sure everyone hears them say that your piece reminds them of late Dadaism with its "profound and paradoxical" chiasmi. And of course the legions of "I liked it," feedback that make you want to rip your hair out in tufts. And when you can get this motley crew to give you feedback you can use at all, sometimes it's basically contradictory to the point of being mutually exclusive. And that's if you can find feedback without huge disparities in writing skill that often mean one person is being mentored and the other is getting nothing out of the exchange.

There's a reason that peer reviewers who work well together often form lifelong friendships with each other. I still have a couple of people in my "rolodex" from my time getting a creative writing degree going on six years ago now, but what is perhaps more impressive is that my MOM still has people SHE can call from her Iowa writing program days in the early eighties. If you find someone you trust to give you useful feedback in a way that isn't too gentle or too brutal, who knows what you are doing with your writing and respects your artistic choices, and who you enjoy interacting with, hold onto them like you are going over a cliff in a mountain climbing movie (tears and "please don't let go" pleas included), for they are precious.

There's some good news: you only need a couple of these really solid readers that you trust–not some wellspring source you can rely on to provide an endless fountain of awesome peer review. Early in one's writing process it might be useful to get lots of criticism from lots of places like trying on many prom dresses, but eventually you narrow it down to the few you like and really bring out your broad shoulders. Pretty soon a writer is going to realize that a lot of criticism tries to make the writer do what the reader wants rather than help the writer's OWN vision be the best it can be. The latter is professional level feedback. (As in, you will have to pay money for it, and if you ARE getting it for free and you're not already banging them, you owe someone a lobster dinner and should always help them move. Like fucking always.)

Professional editing is what you're going to want when you start getting ready to write professional level work. So enjoy the "taste spoons" of all kinds of other feedback, but know that they're basically playing a long game of Survivor in your heart. And when you realize that their feedback isn't really helping you, extinguish their tiki torch with extreme prejudice. 

Further, you will always want feedback, but you will find that the time in which peer review is useful to you begins to narrow like the opening the heroes want to fly out of in any movie ever. Early on, a writer might have someone read their very first drafts and their very last drafts and all the drafts between trying to get a sense of what they're doing right (or not-so-right) at each step. And that's okay if that's where you are. (Christ I remember handing rough drafts to anyone who would read them, including my bosses when I worked in hospitality, and getting these weak ass smiles. "It was.....great. Listen I'm going to make you side dish tonight, and we will never speak of this again. Ever. Now go scoop a thousand garlic butters.") 

But the more a writer starts to trust their own vision and their own revision process, the smaller that window of feedback's usefulness becomes. Though the particulars of when they want that feedback are often different for each writer, they start to identify exactly when they most need and appreciate a little guidance from some fresh eyes.  For example, many writers know they don't want anybody to see what they're cooking until the third or fourth draft when it's got some definition and their vision is starting to be teased out, but after the fifth or sixth draft, they need to be confident about many of the choices they've made and get different kinds of feedback (the professional stuff that I mentioned earlier that really helps them to bring out their own vision rather than change it so late in the game). 

This is why you'll probably end up with only a small handful of very trusted readers...and of course your editor (also a relationship that will probably involve kissing a few frogs before you find one you work well with). 

Beta readers are a bit different. They are reading a mostly finished work. With them, a writer is looking for particular impressions and is at the point of fine tuning their work. The writer may only have one thing they want to find out is working or not. A beta reader suggesting big fixes needs to be someone a writer can cheerfully ignore, not have an existential crisis and go back to square one about. (Unless of course they're all saying the same thing, but that's a whole different kettle of cliches.) Also, beta readers usually enjoy their job though as the work is mostly finished and their feedback is much less demanding, so it is easier to rope larger numbers of them in. You can set up closed FB groups or email lists for beta reader feedback, and really just find anyone who is willing to read and give you feedback.

Peer review tends to be quite a lot of work–usually unpaid–which is why it's really obnoxious not to peer review back.

As for where you can look to find those one or two people you really like, that's harder. It's one of the benefits of writing programs, though I'm not quite sure a lead on a good peer review is worth the $25,000 price tag. There are some online services a lot of folks swear by like Scriblophile that have a really good system of getting and giving criticism, but you're still going to have to filter through the dross.  I put up a post on my page every few weeks but even with half a million followers, it usually doesn't get much response. ("I'm not bitter about that, considering ten thousand people said they really wanted it. NOT BITTER AT ALL!" he yelled knocking over a tray of shrimp puffs as he stormed out.) Of course there are all kinds of dedicated subreddits or FB groups for finding readers. And several blogs are set up specifically for peer reviewers to meet and greet.

I would generally encourage you to stick to online unless you can get into some structured workshops (like in a college setting or hosted by a third party who really knows what they're doing). The limitations of geography in all but the hugest cities and self selection of a typical writing group mean almost all of them have limited returns on effort that is....how to say this nicely....sub-optimal. If your writing group consists of six people, three of whom hate your genre, one of whom is trolling for their next ex and two who've been writing for a fraction of the time you have, you're already in trouble.

I hate to be so flip as to say keep doing what you're doing, but....keep doing what you're doing. There's no magic formula. Just a lot of trial and error. 

Oh and before I put this article in the can, let me give you one more piece of advice I can't underscore enough: trust your bad vibes about criticism.  Not everyone who is giving you bad advice or is doing it in a way that seems like it might be crueler than is necessary is doing either of those things because they don't know any better. The dream of being a writer is so strong that some people would rather see no one make it. Give yourself a break and don't try to worry about someone's internal motives in their heart of hearts or whether they're a good person. You just worry about you and your writing. If you feel like their criticism isn't helping you be a better writer, find other readers and don't look back. Because yes, maybe you just didn't mesh well. Maybe they were just too blunt or too soft. Maybe they were just not seeing your vision. Maybe they were genuinely good people. All true. But maybe–and I wish I could say this wasn't ever true, but it actually horrifyingly ubiquitous–maybe they saw something in you as a threat and tried to pull you down. 

Far too common in our little world.

Good luck, Alexa!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Great Comeback?

Can we make it to our next major goal in time? It's all up to you. With only two full weeks remaining it's not looking great, but it's still totally possible.

We are now 65% of the way to the major "You-can-make-it!" milestone, and crawling back from our last week's setback.  Today marks the fourth of six "pledge drive" Thursdays. Glad portents everyone! We're 2/3 of the way there.

That means only two weeks left of summer school after today.
That also means we're 2/3 of the way to trying to hit our major goal, and we still have 35% of it to go.

Normally this blog doesn't ask for money so explicitly more than once a month. But since budgets for the coming 12 months or so need to be finalized by early August, and summer school is currently what I'm doing with about half of my regular writing time, I thought I'd take these six weeks to try and hit a goal that isn't "making it" but is "enough progress to think making it might be possible."

This is a screenshot from MY PATREON.  I'm currently 65% to my third goal. My third goal is based on the Kickstarter I ran last year. That money is still ready to fund a few months of full time writing. The goal I'm trying to reach now will keep me from having to drive for Lyft or something once I run through those Kickstarter funds allotted for the novel and keep me writing instead.


Only 35%% to go!!!

We are struggling back from last week's setback. We got the big donor we lost back (it was just a credit card problem) but we lost another. These things happen. As much as I completely adore my big ticket patrons, I would really love to have a lot of smaller donor. You know it's too easy to imagine that folks who light their cigars with hundred dollar bills will just throw money they don't really need at Writing About Writing, but what's really happening is that real people who aren't rich by any means are reaching deep into their generosity and when life happens that's no longer money they can afford not to have.

I get emails from folks who feel terrible because they have to pull back their support, and I try to assuage them that there is no rational world in which they need to apologize for not handing me money. So what I would love is if more people made small donations they could afford and kept the dozen or so folks from having to do all the heavy lifting. Yes, I have bills to pay, but there's no need for anyone to handle all of them.

There's a fourth goal and a fifth goal. The goals go all the way up to eleven. (I may have done that on purpose.)

For example one goal coming up in the next year or two has to do with my nannying day job. It is on a long, slow phase out because the kid in question is growing up. Projections for this coming school year are less than half of the hours I was needed last year. And they'll probably go down again next year around this time. If I can't make up the income, I'm eventually going to have to find a clock to punch in order to not starve.

The goal that I'm 65% of the way to hitting is not enough to cover the loss of said job. It's not enough to be a full time writer–even if ate nothing but raman forever. However, I am counting the performance of this "pledge drive" as something of a bellwether. If I can make just this one, smaller goal, then I'll consider myself reasonably safe for what's coming in the next couple of years. Every dollar I make now will mean that much longer before I have to start hitting my Kickstarter money, and the longer it will last.

Besides it only costs $5 a month to get biweekly selfies.

Epic cuteness could be yours!
Tomorrow's goals involve more stable living situations and even my retirement need, but I can deal with them tomorrow. For now I just want to know it's plausible that I could get there.

Since this blog's inception, due to the breathtaking generosity of patrons and donations from readers like you, we have been able to:
  • Quit teaching night classes during the regular year and write instead
  • Bring you more content
  • Remove the annoying ads
  • Up the number of high quality posts each week. 
  • (Not to put too fine a point on it, but we've been able to keep bringing you content through what would otherwise have been some completely devastating life transitions that would have put most bloggers on hiatus.) 
  • Gone from five posts a week to six. 
  • And we've been able to take far fewer random days off. 

Here are some things I'd like to add if we continue to get more support:
  • Even more posts, and more high-quality posts (less jazz hands)
  • But also more and better jazz hands (on top of the less jazz hands) in the way of potpourris, plot arc posts, and guest bloggers.
  • A seventh and even eight post each week (or more?)
  • A greater number of carefully (perhaps even professionally) edited and revised posts
  • More fiction!!
  • Always and ever free longer fiction (books)
  • An always, forever, ad free experience on Writing About Writing
If I can't reach the goal of this pledge drive by the end of the six weeks [especially if I don't even come "frustratingly close"], I may have to return to hosting ads on Writing About Writing and possibly other ways to monetize my work.  Ads will actually limit the rage of certain kinds of content I can post, and will probably involve no small amount of cleaning out old posts of the same. [Copyright stuff is a little less strident if you're noncommercial.] And if I really can't hit this goal, I have to think about day jobs–day jobs which would see me pulling back from writing.

*ominus thunder rumble*

That doesn't have to happen though.  For the mere cost of twelve dollars a year–just ONE DOLLAR a month–you you in on backchannel conversations with other patrons, polls, and conversations about future projects including sometimes me trying to get your input about what you'd like to see. But perhaps, most importantly, you'll be supporting an artist to continue making art and entertainment.

So if you like what I do and want to see me do more of it. Or if you don't want to see me have to do less of it. Or if you want to continue to see me do it without ads, please consider a small pledge. We wouldn't have gotten this far without our patrons, and we can't go any further without you.

Again here is that link:  https://www.patreon.com/chrisbrecheen

And of course if committing to a monthly amount isn't feasible, you can always make a one-time donation through my Paypal (at the top left of the screen).

[Note: In a revised form, perhaps with more bells and whistles, a version of this post will be going up for three more Thursdays.]

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

In Which I Have an Unwelcome Visitor by Rahnia Collins

Image description: Feet up on the couch.
In Which I Have an Unwelcome Visitor 
by Rahnia Collins  


I’ve had a visitor at my place, an unwelcome visitor. You might have met my visitor. She might even have come to stay with you in the past. I’ve had Procrastination staying with me. She’s been hanging out in the best spot on the couch, eating all the good snacks and watching Masterchef, which means that I have to watch Masterchef too (it’s only polite to watch what your visitor wants to watch). This would all be fine except that she is needy, and I mean NEEDY! So I can’t get to my writing because I have to hang out with Procrastination. And I swear she can read my mind because every time I even think about going to write in my very, rare and valuable spare time, she entices me into some time-sucking, unproductive activity. She’ll hand me my phone and somehow half an hour has gone by, the baby is awake and all I’ve done is browse bloody Facebook and read a couple of news articles.

Or she pats the sofa next to her and I find myself watching something fun but non-essential in the precious after-children’s-bed-time peace. It would be rude to refuse, after all she is our guest and the ancient laws of hospitality require that I give her what she wants, but I wish she’d go the hell away!

Of course all of this raises the question, how have I managed to write this blog post at all? Ahh, well, I got sneaky. I put my writing journal in my handbag when I was procrasti-tidying and Procrastination doesn’t like doing the school run with me so I’ve had the twenty minutes of waiting in the pick-up zone to get this done. Mind you, in its way, this very blog post is procrasti-blogging because it’s not my WIP, and it is my WIP which has really been suffering the neglect from Procrastination’s visit. But it is writing and I’ve extended my sneakiness further.

When Procrastination hands me the phone, I read writing articles. That’s how I started doing some morning writing in a modified version to accommodate small children who wake at o’death hundred hours. Yah boo sucks to you, Procrastination! I felt like I was winning. And then...she infiltrated my bedroom. I woke up when my alarm went off and there, in the early morning gloom of my bedroom, was Procrastination watching me sleep.

‘You don’t want to get out of bed do you? It’s cold and your bed is so warm and comfortable,’ she cooed, in her warmest, fuzziest voice.

I stared back at her and for a few long, long seconds, it was duelling gazes. Then, without breaking eye contact, I sat up and reached over to the bedside table for my notebook and pen and started writing. She stood there for a few minutes longer, waiting for me to look up at her but I just kept writing and she slunk out of the room. She was there again the next morning cooing at me. My husband rolled over and stared up at her groggily, ‘This is getting creepy!’ he muttered and pulled the blankets up over his head. And the next morning, and the next…and yet the morning free writing continues and it feels like cheating, which is maybe why it works, it just doesn’t feel like really writing, there’s no pressure to get the right word or to make a character believable and I can just have fun with it. I know that if I planned to do anything but freewriting (write this post or prod the WIP for instance) in that morning session, I’d fail, I’d pull up the covers and go back to sleep, but the freewriting is easy because if all else fails I can write, ‘I don’t know what to write.’ Maybe this is why it keeps slipping past Procrastination. And let’s face it she’s lazy by her nature so a lot of this just involves waiting her out. She’s stopped coming into the bedroom because she had to keep getting up early and that is really not her style.

Now I’ve started sneaking work on this blog post into small spaces in my day that I’d dismissed as not being good for anything. Ha, in your face, Procrastination! She didn’t want me to finish this post – apparently if I abandon it here she and I can still be friends and hang out. But I know that really it means she’ll have won another small victory in the war on writing. She knows this is a critical time and she’s there waiting when I’m tired, which is all the time these days, to whisper that all the things which stop me writing are so real and completely justified and totally understandable (‘After all, sweetie, you have three small children, and the littlie is only six months old, of course it’s hard to find time for writing’ and so on). But I’m not listening to her siren song of ‘Do Less’ and although these are small steps I’m taking, they are concrete and constructive. And you know what? I’ve got the interest back, that tingle in my fingers that means I’m just itching to write the first chance I get. Consequently, those chances present themselves more often.

And you know what else? Procrastination looks a bit less ensconced on the sofa these days. She has trouble meeting my eyes and she’s started making noises about feeling restless, about needing fresh horizons, greener pastures (naturally she talks in clich├ęs). If I persist, one of these days I’ll come home from the school run and she’ll have taken off. Of course, that doesn’t mean she’ll stay away, she’s a bit like a vampire, once you invite her in she can come in any time she likes and probably will. But now I have some defences against her, and next time it will be easier to send her packing quickly. In the meantime, the writing is starting to flow more easily and I’m enjoying it all again. Hooray!


Rahnia Collins is an English teacher by profession, a writer by aspiration and a reader by addiction. She wishes there was some sort of grant that would fund her reading habit. Her other addictions are tea and cats. If her husband had not set a strict two cat limit she would already be a crazy cat lady. 



If you would like to guest blog for Writing About Writing we would love to have an excuse to take a day off a wonderful diaspora of voices. Take a look at our guest post guidelines, and drop me a line at chris.brecheen@gmail.com.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Best Modern Fantasy (Nominations Needed)

Image description:
Prince of Thorns book cover
by Mark Lawrence
What is the best book (or series) written in the fantasy genre in the last 25 years?  

Back when this blog was young, I did a best sci/fi or fantasy poll and even with only twenty readers, I somehow ended up in a seven part poll with over a hundred nominations, so I've spent a lot of time trying to break those genres into smaller subsets for the purposes of running a poll that didn't take months.  A year and change ago I was doing best classic sci fi, best modern sci fi, best stand alone sci fi, best stand alone fantasy, best sci fi series, best fantasy series, best classic fantasy...

But I somehow forgot best modern fantasy. So here we go.


Rules- 

1- As always, I leave the semantics about "fantasy" to your best judgement because I'd rather be inclusive. I might arch an eyebrow at your ridiculous stretch to get, but I'm not going to argue.

2- To avoid multi-decade spanning series being on our poll because an author tossed out a recent sequel, the book OR FIRST BOOK IN THE SERIES must have a copyright date no earlier than 1992. If your series kicked off in the eighties, you'll have to pick one book (that came later) to nominate.

3- You may nominate two (2) works of modern fantasy. Remember that I am a terrifying megalomaniac who hates free will and all things that smell like liberty.  I will NOT take any books or series beyond the second that you suggest. (I will consider everything after your second rec in a long list to be "seconds" if the work is nominated before or after yours.)

3- You may (and should) second as many nominations of others as you wish. That is the only way they'll be making it to the final poll.

4- Please put your nominations here. I will take nominations on reminder posts; however, they may not get the seconds you need to go onto our poll because no one will see them. But I can't sift through all the social media cross posting. (Seriously, Deloris Umbridge got a nomination on our best villain poll, but she received no seconds because she was nominated on Facebook instead of here. And then everyone got sad that she wasn't on the polls–though she probably should have been.)

5- You are nominating WRITTEN WORKS, not their movie portrayals. CGI epic fights might be very pretty, but if you found Game of Thrones to be too dense a read (I didn't, but just by way of example), you shouldn't nominate it because Kit Harrington rocks a tux.

6- "Best" means whatever you as a reader think it should. Most challenging. Most engaging. Most fun. Most literary. It's up to you what "best" means.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Half Way Point (Personal Update)

Ironically my McKayla Maroney is a pretty good descriptor.
Hi folks.

So I'm probably going to get my latest call for nominations up on Monday, and spend tomorrow trying to clean up my current inbox of doom of hopeful guest bloggers and hopper of those who have written something for us cleaned up.

Remember a few things:

1) This is what it looks like when I am working a day job.

I write as often as I can but blogging is a time commitment, and I'm a human who needs time off and it takes time to write articles and do the behind-the-scenes work that is required for big, meaty articles and even guest blogging posts. (It's a lot more involved than just cut and paste.) I have been incredibly fortunate to get the support from many of you I needed to keep writing and teach less, but this is what my update schedule will look like if I have to go back to work.

2) I'm halfway done with summer school and then we can get back to our regular pace.

I'm as frustrated as you, but the summer school gig pays really well, so I'd be very foolish to give it up. I take a deep breath and slog it out for six weeks. And at this point, I'm probably more disappointed in my update schedule and lack of solid updates than all but the tiniest handful of you, but I do feel sort of like I'm letting folks down. So maybe as much to me as to anyone: there's only three weeks of this crap left, and then we can get back to some serious updating mojo.

3) It might get easier now.

I was writing curriculum and lesson plans for two classes during the first session. It easily added two hours to every morning I taught. It might be a bit less stressful now, allowing me to write more.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Best Book (or series) Marketed to Young Women (Final Result)

Wow! What an amazing turn out for the final round of this poll. Thank you so much to everyone for participating. We had a really strong showing for nominations and great enthusiasm through quarter and semi finals (which is sometimes hard to do).

Congrats to The Raven Boys, Cinder, and Alanna, but really congrats to all the titles for their strong showing through all the attrition.

New poll topic will be up tomorrow so stay tuned.

Text version of results below.

The Raven Boys - M. Stiefvater 346 22.11%
Cinder - M. Meyer 329 21.02%
Alanna - T. Pierce 269 17.19%
The Finishing School Series - G. Carriger 225 14.38%
Harper Hall Trilogy - A.&T. McCaffery 195 12.46%
Terrier - T. Pierce 150 9.58%
Old Kingdom -G. Nix 40 2.56%
The Ruby in the Smoke - P. Pullman 11 0.7%

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Writing About Writing and the Curious Case of the Receding Goal

We are 60% of the way to the major "You-can-make-it!" milestone, and this is the part of the story where there is a setback, success becomes unclear, and a major character is found to be working with the enemy all along....or something.

Today marks the third of six "pledge drive" Thursdays. Glad portents everyone! We're halfway there. And I should be able to give the blog a little more love from this point forward since I'm not waking up every morning I teach to write curriculum and lesson plans.



Normally our air/fuel mixture is a lot more towards the content side. I don't even put up a post like this one more than once a month. But since budgets for the coming 12 months or so need to be finalized by early August, and I am overwhelmed by summer school anyway, I thought I'd take a moment to try and hit a goal that isn't "making it" but is "enough progress to think making it might be possible."

This is a screenshot from MY PATREON.  I'm currently 60% to my third goal. My third goal is based on the Kickstarter I ran last year. That money is still ready to fund a few months of full time writing. (This last year was just antithetical to productivity.) The goal I'm trying to reach now will keep me from having to drive for Lyft or something once I run through those Kickstarter funds allotted for the novel and keep me writing instead.




Only 40% to go!!!

But CHRIS. Wasn't this at 67% last week?

It was. (Thanks for playing.)

I lost one of my really big Patrons. (I know. I know. Don't even attempt to contain your tears.) Maybe I'll get them back–it looked like it might be a credit card issue–or maybe I won't. The mercurial winds of fate tear at us all, and I know this is a particularly fraught time for anyone to be committing big chunks of money every month to a "local artist."

HOWEVER.....it helps me to illustrate a wonderful point. While I love my few, big donors to super bitsy bits, I would be a lot less vulnerable if I actually had a lot of little donors too. In fact, if all five hundred thousand and change of my Facebook followers would sign up for a mere dollar a month, that'd be super swell. In fact, heck, it wouldn't have to be every one of them. I mean I could totally live on $50,000 a month–that's only ten percent! I can always clip coupons.

No?

Yeah, I didn't think so either. But maybe where folks can find their generosity a dollar a month to a daily entertainer would be a cool bucket to drop into.

One of my jobs is on a long, slow phase out. Projections for this coming school year are less than half of the hours I was needed last year. If I can't make up the income, I'm eventually going to have to find a clock to punch in order to not starve.

The goal that I'm 60% of the way to hitting is not enough to cover the loss of said job. However, I am counting the performance of this "pledge drive" as something of a bellwether. If I can make just this one, smaller goal, then I'll consider myself reasonably safe for what's coming in the next couple of years. Every dollar I make now will mean that much longer before I have to start hitting my Kickstarter money, and the longer it will last.

I have like nine levels of Patreon goals going all the way up to amounts that actually literally make me laugh. (Then again, if that one asshole can make five grand a month for trashing feminism, maybe there's hope.)

Adventure. Heh. Excitement. Heh.  

Wait...that's Yoda.

Retirement. Heh. A small studio apartment. Heh. You are feckless. 


Um....anyway, some of the smaller goals back at the bottom absolutely have to do with continuing to write full time and keeping the lights on around here. The funds allotted through Kickstarter are finite and will be used up. Will I have to hang up my full-time quill and return to slinging spaghetti or gun running from Mexico because who couldn't trust this face?


Srs trustface.

Some of my down-the-road goals are because my current living situation won't last forever. Some because eventually this buttercup is going to have to do some up-sucking and start contributing to that retirement plan. But right now....today....at least hitting this ONE goal before my drive is over will be a step in the right direction enough to give me hope that the rest can be done given time.

Since this blog's inception, due to the breathtaking generosity of patrons and donations from readers like you, we have been able to:
  • Quit teaching during the regular year and write instead
  • Bring you more content
  • Remove the annoying ads
  • Up the number of high quality posts each week. 
  • (Not to put too fine a point on it, but we've been able to keep bringing you content through what would otherwise have been some completely devastating life transitions that would have put most bloggers on hiatus.) 
  • Gone from five posts a week to six. 
  • And we've been able to take far fewer random days off. 

Here are some things I'd like to add if we continue to get more support:
  • Even more posts, and more high-quality posts (less jazz hands)
  • But also more and better jazz hands (on top of the less jazz hands) in the way of potpourris, plot arc posts, and guest bloggers.
  • A seventh and even eight post each week (or more?)
  • A greater number of carefully (perhaps even professionally) edited and revised posts
  • More fiction
  • Always and ever free longer fiction (books)
  • An always, forever, ad free experience on Writing About Writing

If I can't reach this goal by the end of the six weeks and especially if I didn't even come frustratingly close, I may have to return to hosting ads on Writing About Writing and possibly other ways to monetize my work.  Ads will actually limit the rage of certain kinds of content I can post, and will probably involve no small amount of cleaning out old posts of the same. And if I really can't hit this goal, I have to think about day jobs.

*ominus thunder rumble*

Technically I could eat nothing but store brand peanut butter on store brand bread for every meal, but that's not as awesome as it sounds. ("But Chris, that doesn't actually sound–" Yeah, I meant to do that.)

The mere cost of twelve dollars a year–just ONE DOLLAR a month–gets you in on backchannel conversations with other patrons, polls, and conversations about future projects including sometimes me trying to get your input. But perhaps, most importantly, you'll be supporting an artist to continue making art and entertainment.

So if you like what I do and want to see me do more of it, don't want to see me have to do less of it, and want to continue to see me do it without ads, please consider a small pledge. We wouldn't have gotten this far without our patrons, and we can't do more without you.

Again here is that link:  https://www.patreon.com/chrisbrecheen

And of course if committing to a monthly amount isn't feasible, you can always make a one-time donation through my Paypal (at the top left of the screen).

[Note: In a revised form, perhaps with more bells and whistles, a version of this post will be going up for three more Thursdays.]

Monday, July 3, 2017

Twelve Little Meta Things (Some Personal )

Come at me bro life.
Me holding a long-armed monkey wire holder thing.
A collection of a dozen miscellaneous meta bits (some personal) that were never going to fit neatly into a single post.


  1. This week is going to go very, very quickly. Tomorrow is one of the holidays where the staff refuses to come in because "fast food coupons aren't real compensation Chris, and we at least get bank holidays," or some shit like that. Slackers! Wednesday will be my regular day off. Thursday will be the same thing we've been posting on Thursdays (and will continue to post for four more weeks until I'm done teaching summer school).
  2. On Friday I will post the results from the Best Book (or series) Marketed to Young Women poll, as well as fire up the nomination process for our next poll. So this is absolutely your last call to vote in the final round.
  3. Saturday I'll try to get something meaty up. I may even say something like "Enjoy this meaty post of mine."  Because I am twelve.
  4. The spambots found me! I opened up the security on Friday's Mailbox Post to commenters everywhere, so that anyone could comment without even a captcha, but it didn't take long for the T-Rex of internet fuckery to be attracted to the movement and flood W.A.W. with spammy bullshit. ("This is so insightful. Thank you for your wise words. I especially like your second point. It reminds me of ESSAY WRITING SERVICE.") So I had to set that back to the default security setting.
  5. When I'm done with summer school I'll total up everything that I've made beyond bills over the course of summer. This includes some freelance work, pet sitting, and a couple of one-time donations. This will get thrown into a savings account. Then the countdown begins. The countdown to when the money runs out and the book has to be written and hopefully good enough to justify everyone's faith and generosity. Every pet sitting job, nanny shift, and Patreon will add a bit of time to that countdown.
  6. The NEXT three weeks of summer school should be a little easier. You see I've been writing curriculum and lesson plans for two classes as I go. Sometimes it was desperately trying to finish on time like one of those movies where they're trying to outrun the ground collapsing behind them. But the second session is three weeks just like the first, so that part will already be done. I still have to go and teach, but that'll give me probably 6-10 extra hours a week and a bit more bandwidth for writing.
  7. Pet sitting and house sitting are great, but I've slept in my own bed only once in the last three weeks. I think I'm missing that a bit. I think I sleep just a little bit better there.
  8. There was a meme that went around my friend's list on Facebook a few days ago about the object to your left being what you had to defend yourself if you were in the hallway with Darth Vader. As you can see from the picture I added to this post, I am in deep, deep trouble. Unless Vader needs a vallet. In which case sleep tight, Chris, he'll most likely force choke me in the morning.  ("Twas the monkey that caught my attention...")
  9. Maybe in 2012, heading into the hardcore election cycle of Obama's second term, you could have really shamed me for not feeling star spangled awesome at least one day a year about a revolutionary experiment in self-governance. I was more of a read-Sotomayor's-scathing-dissent, bring back the 90% tax bracket, "you DO know that Thomas Jefferson was a rapist," railing against the prison industrial complex kind of patriot, but, you know, I still had some shred of hope in that arc of history thing.           
    • But then the Harvard report came out that we were an oligarchy, not a democracy, and the reports of just how many votes got disenfranchised through computer gerrymandering showed up, the transparently racist voter ID laws exploded, the candidate that won the popular vote lost for the second time in my life (this time by four million votes) because of a system put into place so that slavers wouldn't lose the humans they owned, and the a guy who brags about sexual assault and can't move his lips without lying got elected on a transparent campaign of hating the parts of America I thought were the best bits, who then proceeded to use an unprecedented number of executive orders (which suddenly were not so executively-overreachy to the GOP) to kick over every Obama sandcastle he could see, and then we found out that our greatest geopolitical enemy influenced our (very, very close) election deliberately, but try getting the people who won to even furrow their brow and press their lips together like they've been done a heckin concern. Now there's a sustained telegraphing of further voter suppression coming, and the Republican lawmakers are trying to pass legislation that could take health care from 34 million Americans and give it to the rich in the form of tax breaks within a smoke filled room that eschews the debate that they were apoplectic they only got eight months of with the A.C.A.. White nationalism and literal nazisim is on the rise and are using jingoism as their camouflage.
    • And at every step of the way, these concerns about the fundamental threats to our democracy were not just dismissed by those whose agendas were benefitting from them, they were MOCKED. By the same group that has wrapped itself in the flag and wondered why I hate America every time I deign to so much as complain about right-wing governance since 9/11. By the same group that falls down screaming like a men's soccer player and suddenly becomes a bunch of constitutional scholars when they think a judge is "legislating from the bench" or a law gets passed that they don't like. By the same group insisting that I build a bridge to them if they so much as feel bad when it is pointed out that they empowered naked bigotry.
    • Can you even conceive of how apeshit the right would be going if it were seeing this from the left? You don't have to think hard. The mere hint of impropriety or overreach in any outcome that didn't go exactly their way in the last quarter century would be a fine example. 
    • The fact is I don't think we're a "center right" country. I think WHITE PEOPLE are center right, and if there were free and fair elections like are supposed to be the foundation of our entire society, this bullshit ideology that the Republican leadership is trying to cram down even its moderate base's throats would get its ass kicked up one side of the beltway and down the other. And the reason they have to come up with more and more deplorable ways to cheat, and act like we're out of line every single fucking time we point it out, is because they bloody well fucking KNOW it.
    • So I'm not too impressed with the ol' Stars and Stripes this year, and I'm sorry if even my normal subversive patriotism is running tepid. I kind of like what America's framework is supposed to be (even though an overhaul of every institution that has been built to support inequality is desperately needed across the board), but more and more we're making a beeline in the wrong direction because white men felt their power dwindling and have begun to cheat en mass. That proud feeling burbling up unbidden feels more like like an uncle who is using "the way things were when I was young" to be a misogynistic racist. And I just want to take it's cheeseburger away mid-bite, kick it out of the barbecue, and tell it not to come back until it can do better.
  10. I am, however, looking forward to the day off! 
  11. I plan on playing Final Fantasy IX which a friend bought me when she found out that despite the huge discounts, I couldn't really afford to avail myself of the many wonderful titles available during the Steam Summer Sale event. 
  12. It's nine PM and I want to watch Supernatural reruns and do the dishes, and I can't think of a twelfth thing.