TO THE DREAMERS – a letter from me

“If I see you still working here in another five years, you might as well quit writing. Because at that point it’s clearly not for you.”

Ah. Words. Such funny little things, aren’t they? Sometimes I really love words, and sometimes–sometimes–I really, REALLY hate them.

This sentence in particular makes my very skin fibers tingle with self-righteous anger. Firstly, because the mere thought of someone putting a time limit on another’s success makes me furious. And secondly, because this very sentence was aimed directly at me a few months ago.

But in order to tell the story properly, we must first go back a few months to a drizzly February day. This day in particular hadn’t been the best thus far, mostly because I was nursing a horrid head cold which would later dissolve into the flu. But I digress. It’s February. It’s drizzly. And an older gentleman has just waltzed up to my counter.

The man seemed mild, at first. A quiet sort, with one of those “knowledgeable” voices that makes you automatically grin and nod because anything else is going to start a debate. (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, you are l u c k y.) He also had a head full of questions. Something I found out the hard way as he started badgering me with them relentlessly. Under the disguise of harmless checkout chatter (something the employers are constantly trying to strangle out of us), I did not foresee what was happening until we were already knee-deep into the dark, tumultuous waters of dangerous conversation.

He found out I like to write.

This, of course, has never been something I’ve kept hidden. I will forever scream at the universe that I–the great and powerful Kenzie–love to write. Fiction, blogging, some weird little poems that will never see the light of day. . . You’ll know I like to write, all right, but actually getting to see some of my work will be where the main hassle lies.

But this kind soul did not have any interest in seeing my work. Instead, he wanted to impart on me his wisdom.

And hoo boy, did he have some wisdom to share. . .

As fate would have it (I despise you, Fate), he was a writer, too! What were the odds? He then proceeded to tell me about his own writing adventures–about how he’d sent out his own work to a local, trusted librarian, and how I should do that with my writing, as well, because it’s what Stephen King suggested people do with their writing. Getting feedback was important. It was necessary.

He then completely ignored the fact that I was–at the moment–rounding up beta readers for my novel.

He also said I should attend a writing conference.

What was holding me back, aside from the cost? Taking care of a bird? Don’t let the bird stop me. You only get one chance at life, you know.

Oh, I hoped to go someday? When is someday? Someday is going to slip me by, because I’ll keep saying “I’ll do it someday” my entire life until I die.

50 cent laughing GIF

All throughout this exchange, I was trying my best to view his additions to the conversation in a positive light. Perhaps this is God sending me someone to get me thinking about my books and career after such a long hiatus in December, I thought, whipping out one of our store bags to start bagging up his merchandise. Perhaps this is the push I need to forget about this blasted cold and start writing again. . .

And oh, it was a push, all right. Just not the kind of push I had anticipated. Not the kind of push anyone would anticipate, because instead of a gentle nudge in the right direction, I was most ungraciously flung head-first off the cliffs of aspirations to land face-down in the murky swamp of spite.

For as this man was leaving, after wishing me luck in my writing ventures, he imparted unto me one little phrase that I will never, in all my life, forget: “If I see you still working here in another five years, you might as well quit the writing. Because at that point it’s clearly not for you.”

. . .

. . .

*awkward cough* Okay, then. Well. Here’s the moment in which this post could branch off into one of two directions.

Direction A) I snarkily roast this poor unfortunate soul for all he’s worth in a blog post he will never see, or–

Direction B) I use my spite and frustration at having experienced this to build up other writers and encourage them to follow their dreams no matter what.

SO, since I am nothing if not a conundrum-centric pickle, I believe I will choose Direction Cwhich is to combine the best of both worlds. Meaning I shall encourage other writers to follow their dreams no matter what, while also layering in a bit of snark.

I’m sorry, random writer man, but you kinda sorta deserve just a little bit of spite from me.

So without further ado, here is a list of all the things I would like you–whether you’re a seasoned writer or a smol sapling freshly risen from the earth’s core with dreams and aspirations the size of a unicorn–to know. About writing. About yourself. About what it takes to follow your dreams to the ends of the earth. These are the things that I feel everyone needs to hear, even if we already know them in our hearts. It’s kind of like affirmations. Except, instead of talking to myself in the mirror (which I already do on an eerily regular basis), I’m writing it down. Which makes it a lot less creepy and a lot more helpful for the people out there like me.

Just Kidding Finger Guns GIF

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TO THE DREAMERS - a letter from me

To The Dreamers. . .

“no one can put a time limit on your success”

And how DARE they if they even try. You were given a gift for creativity–and even if you don’t feel your gift is as advanced as another’s, you were still given the passion and drive to continue learning and growing, and that’s even more precious than raw talent. You were created and designed to make art. Beautiful, glorious, sometimes messy art. And if anyone has the audacity to put a time limit on how long you have until your art actually means something? . . .well, the joke’s on them, because your art already DOES mean something. To you. To your family. To the people who truly love you.

Goals and aspirations are amazing, but don’t look so far ahead that you forget to relish in the moments you have now–the late nights hunched over your keys, the early mornings with steaming mugs of hot cocoa by your side as you wrestle through plot holes, the sheer joy of getting to write down the words spoken by characters taking over your mind. If your only goal as a writer is to publish, then you’ll never find true joy in each of the many writing stages. And there is so much joy to be found in all of them, my friend. Don’t let the chance to truly fall in love with your craft slip you by in the name of chasing stardom.

“write what makes you happy”

Do what makes you happy. Be the kind of creative that drives you to produce the kind of art YOU love.

Everywhere you turn, there’s another blossoming method for “10 Ways To Be Your Most Productive Self”, or “How To Use (fill in the blank) To Plan Your Entire Month!”, or what have you. Everyone everywhere is looking for hacks and tips to do the most they possibly can in their time on this earth. And while I can’t necessarily blame them, I’ve noticed that this mindset is a little bit toxic, especially to a creative like me who thrives in the chaos.

Planning out my entire novel before I write it HORRIFIES me. It cripples my creativity, and I’m lucky if I barely scratch the surface of 30,000 words before calling it quits. But there are people out there who swear by plotting out your entire novel and discovering your characters’ backstories before writing a single word.

Planning out my entire week hour-by-hour also horrifies me. I need flexibility. I need randomness. And while I love setting goals for myself and making checklists of all my To-Do’s for the day, going any further than that causes a mental block. But, again, there are people out there who think this is the greatest thing since sliced cheese. But–and here’s the interesting thing–for them, it is.

That’s the beautiful thing about art, isn’t it? The fact that all of us are so different, yet are absolutely in love with the same thing: writing beautiful books. Some of us love plotting out every inch of our stories and our lives, some of us thrive better with a general direction and an overabundance of curiosity. However you write, however you live, make sure the life you’re leading is the kind of life that helps you create the kind of art which sets your soul on fire.

You were not created to be some kind of rehashed version of your favorite artists. You were created to be perfectly, beautifully, uniquely your own kind of wonderful. So don’t let someone else’s process define who you can be or what you can write. Be yourself, be true to who you are, and–because I am nothing if not an oxymoron–don’t be afraid to try new things while finding your style.

“ignore the naysayers”

Now, there’s a very distinct line between “naysayers” and “critiquers”. The latter are people who are going to give you feedback on your work in order to improve your craft. Some–if not most–of the feedback they give isn’t going to be what you want to hear (no one wants to hear that they’re main character is a whiny baby who needs some massive revision, but alas. if it’s true, it needs to be stated. *glares at Peter from everlost*), but the beautiful thing about this feedback is that, even if it hurts to hear it at first, it’s all given out of love. It’s given to you by people who care about you and your craft, and  who understand that this precious book child you have entrusted them with means the universe to you. Trust me: them giving you honest feedback is almost as scary for them as it is for you to receive it. So whatever you do, L I S T E N to them. Take as much time as you need to process–they’ll understand–but in the end, objectively look at the feedback you’re given and listen. (this is something I’m still trying to get better at. it’s . . . a process, folks.)

BUT! We are not here to talk about the critiquers, because those people you definitely, 100% SHOULD listen to. Instead, we’re here to talk about the naysayers. The people who exist solely to drag you down and tell you that your dreams aren’t worth pursuing. That you’re not going to make it. That you’re not good enough.

I’d like to give these people the benefit of the doubt and think that the only reason they’re this pessimistic about someone else’s dream is because they, themselves, had a similar dream once upon a time. But they–like you–had someone tell them they couldn’t, or that they weren’t good enough, and instead of rising like a phoenix from the ashes, they actually listened.

Or maybe they tried, and they failed, and they didn’t have the strength to get back up and try again. So now, in their own weird little way, they’re trying to save you from the same heartache that they experienced.

I like to give the benefit of the doubt. I try to give the benefit of the doubt. But at the end of the day, the only thing you can really do is ignore them. Sure, they’re going to try and persuade you with their words and their bullet points, but the truth is it doesn’t matter what they think of you or your dream. What matters is that you continue pushing forward no matter how hard they shove back. What matters is that you write the stories of your heart. Because if what you write matters to you, inevitably it’s going to matter to someone else, and all those naysayers are eventually going to have to eat their words.

“write like the wind, bullseye, and don’t you dare look back”

At the end of the day, everything I’ve said boils down to one thing: write. Write all of the things. Write like the wind, and never look back.

Write, revise, rinse, repeat. Because no matter what anyone says, you were given this gift of storytelling for a reason. You were designed to write. It’s in your blood. And despite what anyone else thinks of you or your abilities, the only way to prove them wrong is to do the thing that everyone says you can’t do.

So write a book, a blog, those short stories burning inside of you. Write the things you love, and then write some more of them. And if you don’t get published today or in thirty years, you are still as valid of a writer as anybody else. And no one–especially not some random stranger wading through your checkout line–can tell you otherwise.



talk to me, peasants!

  • have you ever had someone tell you that you weren’t cut out for writing? (and if so, how did you respond? I highly recommend not responding like I did, which was to laugh awkwardly and internally daydream about stabbing him in the pinky toe.)
  • what is something you wish every writer knew? a piece of encouragement, a bit of knowledge you’ve picked up on your own writerly joureny, a quote that inspires you, etc. . .

and most importantly. . .

. . . is there anything I can do to help/encourage you?

Even if it’s as simple as praying for you and your writing or just overall life-ish-ness, let me know what I can do for you down in the comments below! My inbox is a l w a y s open, so feel free to hit me up anytime you wish!

As always, let us talk about ALL OF THE THINGS! down in the comments below, and until next time. . .

_flings cookies in the air and disappears_

Featured Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

THE SILMARIL AWARDS BEGIN! — Most Nefarious Villain Nomination

NOMINATIONS ARE NOW CLOSED! Thank you to everyone who nominated and seconded(edededed)! Stay tuned to vote for the finalists! <3

>>> <<<

happy monday, cyberspace!

Today is a very important day in the history of days, my friends. Not only is this the last day of August (which obviously means that Autumn is just around the corner, because September is the start of fall [this is what my heart believes, so don’t go crushing me with facts, peasants]), but it is also the very first day of the 2020 Silmaril Awards!!!

The Office Party Hard GIF

Oh my goodness, I am so beyond excited for this, you guys. I’ve seen the Silmaril Awards floating past my blog feed every year, but I never really knew what it was until Jenelle (one of the creators and the actual SWEETEST bean in the whole entire planet) contacted me to ask if I’d help host it this year. So for anyone–like me–who might be a wee bit confuzzled by this whole Silmaril Awards fandangle, allow me to take a moment to explain it all!

The Silmaril Awards

WHAT IS IT?

In the smallest of nutshells, the Silmaril Awards is like the Oscars–but for literary fantasy characters! It’s a yearly event where you are able to nominate and vote for your favorite characters in fantasy fiction in the hopes that they go home with the famed Silmaril Award!

Nominations open TODAY and run through September 4th, so make sure to get your nominations in for each character category before it’s too late! (the other presenters and categories are all linked at the very end of this post, so keep your eyeballs peeled for that)

“But Kenzie,” I hear you saying to your screen, “how does this all work?!”

Well, my dear bean, there are few ways to explain that. First and foremost, I would recommend checking out the official Silmaril Awards site for all the “officially official” rules. But if clicky buttons scare you, I’ve also tried my best to replicate the general gist for you down below. Please continue at your own discretion.

The Ruleses and Whatsits Galore

RULE #1no characters from Tolkien can be nominated for the silm award

Tolkien’s characters are actually the ones presenting the Silmaril Awards to the winners, so unfortunately we are unable to have any of them be the recipients of such awards. (otherwise we would have a time-space paradox on our hands, and that would make this a science-fiction award. of which it is most decidedly not.)

RULE #2 … only fantastical literary characters allowed!

As someone who greatly enjoys reading and writing science-fiction/fantasy, I am very aware of how heartbreaking this is to all my fellow sci-fi lovers. But remember that this is a fantasy literary award, and every character nominated/voted for MUST be from a fantasy book! There are, of course, some stories that have both fantasy AND science-fiction elements to them, so if you believe that the character’s story is fantastical enough, drop their name anyway! It can never hurt to ask, right? (or maybe it can? I’ve never done this before, don’t look at me for information. XD)

RULE #3 … tell us which book the character you’re nominating is from!

My brain is an actual marshmallow, so if you don’t tell me which book your character is from, I’m probably just going to melt into a puddle of confusion and Google searches.

RULE #4 … you can nominate/second however many characters you want! the sky is the limit!

The top five characters with the most amount of “seconds” (we’ll get there in a moment) are going to move on to the VOTING round, so be sure to nominate and second all of the characters you want to see move forward! (but also please remember that you cannot “second” a character you nominated. so. keep that in mind.)

RULE #5 … authors cannot nominate their own characters!

It’s a bummer, I know, but you can definitely give your readers a gentle nudge in the right direction! I’ve found that threatening to chop their legs off with my trusty pitchfork has worked wonders in the past…

RULE #6 … previous winners cannot win twice!

The Silmaril Awards are actually considered “lifetime” awards, so make sure you’re not re-nominating someone who’s already won! (for a full list of characters who’ve won each of the categories, check out this page right here)

RULE #7 … HAVE FUN!

Apparently this is an actual rule. So DO IT OR ELSE, PEASANT!!! *waves pitchfork at you menacingly*

>>> <<<

All right! Now that you hopefully know how the nominating works, let’s talk about how to actually … you know. Nominate. Aheh.

So! Firstly first, you’re going to pop down into that delightful little comment section down below and drop off the name(s) and book(s) of the character(s) you want to nominate! Then, as time progresses and more names appear, you can go through and “second” any of the characters you think deserve to win this most illustrious award! The 5 characters with the most amount of “seconds” are going to move on to the voting round, where I believe the process begins all over again and we narrow it all down to a single winner!

Sound like fun? TRICK QUESTION. Of course it sounds like fun! And now that all the rules are behind us, we can finally get to the thing that I’ve been dying to talk about…

MY CATEGORY!

MEEP! I think the fairy godmothers over at Silmaril Awards HQ know me just a leeeeeeetle too well, because for my first ever hosting of this most prestigious award, they were kind enough to grant me with the category for … (drumroll please)

MOST NEFARIOUS VILLAIN!

EEP! Oh my goodness, guys!!! I am so impossibly blessed to be able to be the host for this category this year! My September month has been made. And also this ties in perfectly with the fact that I wanted the two months leading up to Halloween to be filled with epic-villainy and nefarious schemes, but I digress. Let’s talk about the actual award, shall we?

>>> <<<

Nefarious Villains. Everyone here knows that I’m a sucker for a good villain. They are the broken, evil brains behind the most vile of plots. The darkness to the hero’s light. my smol children who deserve nothing but the best out of life and who I shall avenge to the death. There are many facets to a good evil villain, from the polished, wise, and terrifying (*cough*moriarty*cough*) to the madman with a bloody knife (*cough*stillmoriarty*cough*). But every villain has exactly one thing in common–the unrelenting desire to stop their hero, no matter the cost.

They also have a lot of emotional baggage and more than a few inner scars but SHHH. We don’t talk about those ’round here, okay. That’s for our midnight therapy sessions.

The previous winners for Most Nefarious Villain include:

  • 2016 … The White Witch from The Chronicles of Narnia
  • 2017 … Shift from The Chronicles of Narnia
  • 2018 … Queen Levana from The Lunar Chronicles
  • 2019 … Death In Life from Tales of the Goldstone Wood

–so make sure that any nominations this year do NOT include these most nefarious of villains!

Personally, I see a gaping hole where a very specific villain should be listed, but…you know. There’s still hope for this year, amiright? (unfortunately I don’t believe that series is actually considered fantasy, but it’s fine. we can change that.)

sherlock moriarty GIF

AHEM. Anyway. Moving on.

Unfortunately there are just a few more things that I need to throw at your face before we can officially wrap this post up and get to the nominating, but don’t worry. You’re gonna love them!

First and foremost, this year we’re having a Silmaril Award GIVEAWAY, in which you can enter to win some fun prizes! I’m kinda jealous that I won’t be able to participate in this one, actually. But the fact that I get to house all the lovely villains this year makes up for it. XD

And secondly, we have a #silmarilawards2020 bookstagram challenge going on during the course of the Silmaril Awards! I’ve been a little behind with the daily challenges recently (hello, Life), but I’m definitely hoping to get caught up with that today! So if you haven’t already, hop on over to Instagram and share some of YOUR favorite literary characters with us!

And finally, here are the other hosting blogs and the schedule overview for the 2020 Silmaril Awards (a few of the names may not be available at the moment. I’m doing my best to track them down, however!)! I am so impossibly excited to be a part of this amazing team this year, and I cannot wait to see all the lovely villains you guys nominate! (just be sure to remind them to bring their sleeping bags, toothbrushes, and pitchforks when they come over. I heard we’re crashing the most epic heroine party, so maybe we should bring some s’mores, as well…)

SCHEDULE OVERVIEW

NOMINATIONS WEEK – August 31st – September 4th

VOTING WEEK – September 7th – 11th

AWARDS CEREMONIES – September 14th – 25th

THE PRESENTERS

>>> <<<

talk to me, peasants!

OH MY GOODNESS. I honestly cannot believe that this is actually happening… I’M HELPING HOST THE SILMARIL AWARDS, PEASANTS!!! *flails for five-thousand days* And not only that, but I get to play with all the VILLAINS!!!! My heart. I don’t think it could get any fuller than it is in this moment, guys…

BUT! Enough about me! Let’s get to the nominating…! Go ahead and drop your nominations and seconds down in the comments below, my friends! I cannot WAIT to see what lovely villains I get to house this year… (I’m thinking I should have stocked up on more candy, though. if anyone has some to spare, I’d be eternally grateful.)

And as always, until next time…!

*flings cookies in the air and disappears*

Another One Bites The Dust

good morning, cyberspace!

Well, here we are! The post you’ve all been waiting for. I hinted last week two weeks ago now (lol, oops) that I had some exciting news to share, and this post right here is the one in which I spill the beans. *rubs hands together gleefully* I may or may not be a little too excited about this…

But anyway! Some of you may already know my news. Some of you may not. I’ve been trying to keep it a secret until this post could come out, but if you’re in my inner writing circle, you proooooobably already know what this is. Maybe. I don’t know for sure. But we’re all here today and I’m ready to finally–officially–announce it to the universe.

So here we go!

Drumroll please…!

Here it comes…!

I FINISHED THE FIRST DRAFT OF PROJECT SUNSET!

Oh my goodness. OH MY GOODNESS. I can’t believe I’m actually typing these words right now! But it’s real and it’s true and I finished it! I mean, of course the first draft is kinda … you know … less than ideal. But it’s mine. This tiny child of trash and sunshine is mine, and oh, how I love it. It’s everything I never knew I wanted it to be and so much more. And–not to give spoilers away or anything–the last three chapters that I wrote almost made me cry.

Like actual, eye-burning, cheek-wetting tears. Of course, I was able to suck it up like a man and didn’t actually shed anything, but it was still really weird to have something that I wrote make me tear up. There was one specific moment where I literally shoved my laptop away from me in frustration (not from the writing itself, of course, but an event within the story that was … unexpected), and I’m pretty sure in that moment I realized how horrible of a human I truly am.

i’m sorry, my children…

It was, in a nutshell, an all around strange day.

But I digress! Now that the first draft is done, I’m forced to reflect on this project as a whole, and I just … what a whirlwind this story has been. I first began drafting this book in April of 2019, tried NaNo-ing it in November, scrapped the majority of what I’d written (with the exception of exactly two chapters), and then wrote 90,000 words during quarantine, with 60,000 of that being written in April alone.

Just… *head implodes* This has been a crazy experience. And today I’d like to share some of the whirlwind with you all! (and also some sneaky peeks into the story itself, but SHHHH. that’s a surprise.)

PROJECT SUNSET: THE FIRST DRAFT

37 chapters

125,000 words

much death

Where to begin, where to begin. Project Sunset first came to me on a Saturday morning about two years ago, when I was reading through blog posts and thinking about basically nothing at all. I think that’s when the best ideas come to us, actually. Those spare snatches of time when our brains are filled with a blissful nothingness, perfectly open to whatever random, beautiful ideas may come knocking.

The idea for Project Sunset wasn’t my typical plot bunny, however. It wasn’t a scene or a character. Not a setting, a theme, or even a plot twist. Instead, it was a single, specific sentence. One sentence–a concept, really–so intriguing that the minute it fluttered into my brain, I knew there was no hope of shaking it.

In my experience, there are many forms of plot bunnies. Some of them are “maybes”, some of them “somedays”, and others are bunnies so floofy and smol that you just know this was a book you were always meant to write. It’s like it was designed for you, waiting for you to finally think the right thought to blossom it into existence. That’s what happened with The Dragon Elements. It’s what happened with everlost. And it’s what happened with this particular manuscript, as well. As soon as I had the idea, I knew that this was it. Project Sunset was supposed to be my next novel.

black and white love GIF

As with all things in my life, though, there were many detours along the way to this manuscript’s completion. But now, almost two whole years later, it is here–rough, choppy first draft though it may be. Project Sunset is written, and while I’m sure a road filled with excruciating editing is before me, I’m still so excited to be able to have something to edit. Something hard and concrete–more than just a few blank pages and an idea.

I won’t go into the details of the plot right now. (some things must still remain secret, of course! mwahahaha!) but–as promised–I will be sharing some snippets from the book! (but please keep in mind that this is VERY rough draft material. like, so rough it could probably impale you if you touch it. Ye’ve been warned.)

And for anyone who enjoys playlists, I’ve got one of those coming your way, as well! *thumbs up*

— SNIPPETS —

Ed woke up with a frown on his face. It was there when he first looked in the mirror as he rolled out of bed, there when he got dressed—his green-checked flannel shirt fit a little bit tighter around the middle than he remembered—there when he smoothed back the grey wisps of hair crowning his head, there when he yanked his cane off the hook on the wall and plunked it into the carpet, and there—more pronounced than ever before, shrouded beneath two thick grey eyebrows and one big, bulbous nose—when he finally found himself squished at the rickety table in Setting Suns’ sunlit dining hall between Samuel Plinkett and Eugene Crandall.

As it turned out, Eleanor was not joking about the ice cream. Much to Shelby’s shock and Ed’s very transparent, very audible displeasure, Carlos whipped Stanley’s van into the teeny parking lot of Mel’s Ice Cream Shack, nearly hitting a child on a glistening green tricycle in the process.
The child, quickly attended to by his frantic mother, dropped his baby-sized mint chocolate chip ice cream cone and proceeded to promptly have a temper tantrum right in the middle of the parking lot.
“Nasty kid,” Carlos muttered, jamming the stick into park and dislodging the key from the ignition. “Has no one taught him the rules of the road?”
“He’s three years old, Carlos,” Eugene pointed out from the back seat.
Now that Liam and Beau were absent, everyone fit perfectly on the back bench, and for the whole fifteen minute drive back to the city center, no one bothered to complain about the cramped quarters.
The silence had nearly been deafening.
“And I’d be willing to bet my left foot that he knows more about the rules of driving than you do,” Sam added.
“Your left foot is the one with the fungus, right?” Eugene asked.
“Yep.”

“What are you ladies getting up to over here?” Eugene sidled into the booth beside Shelby, handing her a slightly lopsided Super Mega Chocolate Fountain Sundae with a plastic spoon stuck into the side, its indent already dripping with gooey hot fudge and a few dislodged sprinkles.
Shelby blinked down at the sundae, and her eyes caught on an already scooped out section, where someone had clearly taken a scoop and a bite.
“Hey!” Shelby said. “You ate my ice cream!”
Eugene licked hot fudge off his thumb and bit a section off his mint chocolate chip cone without acknowledging her.
Eleanor and Juanita pulled apart begrudgingly as Sam puddled in beside Eugene, his hands cradled around a massive milkshake in a Styrofoam cup.
“You two look like you’re scheming,” the old man said knowingly, draping his white cane across his knees. He pointed his milkshake towards them, jabbing the straw their way like an extendable finger. “Spill.”
“We’re not scheming anything,” Eleanor answered. “We’re talking. There’s a difference.”
“When two women get to talking, rarely anything good comes out of it,” Sam said, and shot Shelby a wink.

“You can’t just leave me here!” Shelby’s bare feet slapped across the kitchen floor after her brother, but Stanley was doing a fine job of ignoring her. Grabbing his wallet off the counter, he walked out of the kitchen without even bothering to glance her way. “Stanley!”
Stanley sighed—she could see his shoulders rise and fall with it—but even though he spoke, he still didn’t turn to look at her.
Maybe he couldn’t.
“Shells… You know I don’t like being the bad guy, but—”
“I wasn’t just wandering around!” Shelby argued. Plowing forward, she pushed herself in front of him and spun on her heel, forcing him to look at her.
Or, at the very least, to stop walking.
Stanley sighed again, and this time he turned his gaze out the front window. “Those people you were with—”
“They weren’t trying to hurt me!” Shelby insisted. “They were protecting me!”
The words slipped out before she could stop them, and she froze, her teeth chomping down on her bottom lip far too late.
Now she’d done it…
Stanley’s eyes met hers now. The confusion inside of them was tangible. “What?”
“They wouldn’t hurt me,” Shelby repeated, dodging his question. “I know they wouldn’t. They’re kind.”
“How much did you talk to them?” Stanley asked. “Shells, if you told them anything about us—”
“Why are you so concerned about a bunch of old people?” Shelby asked. “You’re always telling me to make friends. I’m just doing what you wanted me to.”
“Yeah, make friends with kids your age, not some crackpot band of old folks rotting away in a nursing home.”
“Retirement village,” Shelby muttered.
“Whatever.” Stanley waved her away. “People were talking about them, Shells. They were telling stories about the strange group at table two, and I just … I don’t want you hanging around with them anymore. I don’t trust them.”

Maria was late. Shelby had time to make popcorn and find the perfect angle of squish from the couch before the doorbell rang.
Tossing a slightly burnt kernel into her mouth, she rolled her eyes. “COME IN!” she screamed, her voice rising above the television, which she’d cranked up to 20. Captain Blade reruns were supposed to be enjoyed at maximum volume—a fact her mother had taught her, and one that Stanley greatly disagreed with.
Why was Maria even bothering to use the doorbell? She was always Shelby’s babysitter—not that she really needed one. Maria was more like a super cool older sister who typically barged right in, throwing assortments of chocolaty snacks and watercolor supplies everywhere with a soft, “Today—we create.” She was an amazing artist, and an even better friend—one who wouldn’t complain that Shelby’s breakfast of choice had been buttered popcorn—so it was no surprise that Stanley had a huge, secret crush on her. Of course, he denied it every time Shelby brought it up, but the beet redness of his cheeks was enough of a tip-off. And why else would he insist on Maria always coming over whenever he left? Shelby was almost twelve. She could totally take care of herself by now.
The doorbell rang again.
“COME IN!” Shelby screamed. This time she was positive her voice exceeded that of Captain Blade, who was mid-battle with a zombie from planet Gorgon. “THE DOOR’S UNLOCKED!”
The doorbell chimed for the third time, and this time Shelby groaned, pulling herself off the couch with some difficulty.
It was rare she was able to find the perfect amount of squish. She’d have to wriggle around for another thirty minutes just to find it again.
Her bare feet padded across the wood floor, and she whipped the door open without thinking to check the front porch first.
“The door was open,” she said, swinging it back so that a warm autumn breeze swept in. “Are your hands full or somethin—”
Shelby stopped short. It wasn’t Maria standing on her front stoop. Short, beautiful Maria with the caramel skin and the hair that always seemed to be changing colors.
It was a man. A tall, thin, horribly familiar looking man.
“Well. I must say I was hoping you would have better manners for someone your age,” Casey said, staring down at her. He was neither smiling nor scowling. It was a sizing-you-up kind of stare.
The kind that made Shelby’s heart drop like a stone.
“You’ve been taking lessons from Sam and Eugene, no doubt.”
Shelby’s fingers tightened against the door, but something kept her from slamming it closed in his face. She was frozen. Completely, utterly frozen.
“Oh, come now, don’t look so frightened,” Casey said cheerfully. His voice was like a strange, methodical coo. “I’m not here to hurt you, my dear. Not yet, anyway. Aren’t you going to invite me in?”
Shelby’s heart hammered against her ribs, and her eyes flicked out into the street.
Please, please come, Maria. Please, please, please, please…
“That won’t do you any good, Miss Westburn. Let’s just keep this little thing between you and me, yes? We wouldn’t want anything to happen to that special big brother of yours, now would we?”
Shelby’s eyes widened.
Stanley…
“What…” Her voice cracked, and she tried again, forcing her legs to remain steady beneath her. “What do you want from me?”
“Ah, nothing much, my dear. Nothing much at all.” Casey smiled at her now, and the sight was so warm and genuine that it almost had the reverse effect—it was cold and cruel and horrid and welcoming all at once. Slowly, he extended one wrinkled old hand towards her, veins flashing blue beneath the sunlight. “All I ask is that you come with me.”

I can’t remember if I’ve shared the playlist of this book before, but either way, I’m pretty sure there have been some new additions to the lineup. So, here’s the newest version of the Project Sunset playlist! (for all you peeps out there who enjoy listening to music…)

I also have a few songs that are “character specific”, so for anyone who’s into things like that, here are some of the songs which my darling have adopted for their own:

ED – Song for Ten

SHELBY – Song for Sienna

EUGENE – Honeycomb

LIAM – Time Warp

CARLOS AND JUANITA – Sway

CASEY – Who Wants To Live Forever

SAM – The Show Must Go On

>>> <<<

Obviously I’ve left out some major factors of this book. The plot is still something that I’ve been meaning to tweak, the characters are still going by their pseudonyms rather than their actual titles, and there is–I’m not going to lie–something rather obvious that I’m not ready to share yet. But I’m so beyond excited to share this story with you all someday–because I WILL share the entirety of this story with you all someday–and when that time comes, I can’t wait to spill every single bean I’ve been collecting over the course of the past two years.

For today, however, I hope this is enough to tithe you over until the book is a little more polished and “shareable”!

>>> <<<

talk to me, peasants!

  • Do you have any questions about Project Sunset? I can’t promise I’ll share ALL of the gory details, but I’m definitely open to answering any non-spoilery things!
  • How long does it typically take you to finish a first draft?
  • How long do you wait after finishing a first draft to dive into edits? I’m thinking I’m going to wait at least three months for this one, but I’m not entirely sure yet. (I may or may not have a smol goblin story that I want to write next, so we’ll see if that happens or not!)
  • Is there a particular character you would like to see interviewed for a sort of celebratory interview post? I’m open to anyone as long as we don’t pit Sam and Eugene together again. I don’t think I can handle that right now. XD

And most importantly…

WHICH SNIPPET WAS YOUR FAVORITE?

Assuming, of course, that you had a favorite. XD

As always, let’s talk about ALL OF THE THINGS down in the comments below! And until next time…

Kenzie’s Chaotic Return To The Blogosphere!: Ft. Where I’ve Been & What’s To Come

good morning, cyberspace!

*crashes through brick wall*

*skids to a halt*

*whips pitchfork onto the sofa*

I’M BACK, PEASANTS! Didja miss me? Didja not even notice I was gone? Do you wish that I would stay away for the next three thousand years and ne’er return because I am an amorphic blob of a mess who needs continual emotional support?

actually, don’t answer that.

Anyway, anyway. I am officially back, and it feels so so so SO good to finally be posting again! I mean, I realize I was only gone for a total of two weeks, but this past two weeks has been interesting, my friends. I broke a ukulele string (the horror), had a pre-midlife-crisis, and also started drafting a super secret project which I’m super secretly excited about! (shhhhh. it’s a secret. [but also more on this in a moment.])

I’m also still in quarantine. Which–I’ll be honest–is kind of making me lose my mind at this point. I COULD go over to the calendar and count how many days I’ve been in quarantine–I vividly remember my last normal day outside–but I’m pretty sure in doing so I will literally lose my mind. SO. We shall refrain from counting the days and instead focus on the fact that–with any luck–quarantine for my state will soon be over.

Hopefully.

Probably.

Please get me out of here. . . .

. . .moving on.

Seeing as though we are now halfway through May (excuse me, yes, I would like a refund on the year 2020, please. . .), I thought it would be fun to not only look back and reflect on the past two weeks of my absence, but also on the past four months.

If y’all remember, I made a list at the beginning of the year of all my super mega awesome goals for 2020. This post–alongside a giant, totally-doable timetable, also outlined a step-by-step plan that I fondly called The Four Month Fandangle Fantastic.

i am also beginning to deeply regret this name, so let’s just ignore that for now. XD

This plan was to ensure that I kept my aforementioned “totally doable” goals within check all throughout the year, and since we’ve just stepped across that first four-month threshold, I think now is the perfect time to take a peek back at that list and see how we’re doing!

And also make some much-needed revisions, because goodness knows we’re gonna need it.Read More »

THE END OF CAMP NANOWRIMO: Episode VI – Finish Your Sprint

GOOD MORNING, CYBERSPACE!

Today I have some very exciting news to share! And it is NOT, as you might have guessed, the fact that I’m actually posting on a Tuesday for once. Aha. No no. That would be far too short of a blog post. . .

. . .

Actually, now that you mention it. . .

*end credits start rolling*

OKAY OKAY, THAT ISN’T MY ANNOUNCEMENT. Ahem. It’s something a lot more exciting, of course, and–*adjusts invisible bow tie*–something I am very excited about. . .

My friends, on April 26, 2020, I won Camp NaNoWriMo with 60,292 words!!!

*insert intense flailing here*
Read More »

CAMP NANOWRIMO CONTINUES!: Episode V (and a half) – Wordcounts and Laptops

GOOD MORNING, CYBERSPACE!

Today I’m popping in to say that I really don’t have a blog post this week.

. . .which is kinda weird, since I’m technically posting this as a blog post, but . . . you know. Ignore that oxymoron.

Basically, I’ve been really enveloped in my Camp NaNoWriMo story, Project Sunset, and haven’t exactly made the effort to carve out any of my writing time for blogging. I could say that I deeply regret this decision, but honestly? The fact that I’m so in love with my book is a wave that I’m going to ride for as long as I possibly can, because soon enough I’ll be absolutely dreading even trying to write a single word. And at that point, I’ll probably bust back into the blogosphere with all the force of a thousand suns.

(oh, look at that. I’m finally beginning to understand my own brain! hallelujah.)

So instead of an actual blog post this week, I thought I’d just bullet-point a few highlights from the past week of NaNo!!! Because that’s both simple AND recap-ish! It’s a win-win situation, amiright?

*claps hands together* Let’s go!Read More »

CAMP NANOWRIMO CONTINUES!: Episode V – Weeks 1 & 2 (and LIVESREAM NEWS!)

First thing’s first, before we pop into the main topic of today’s blog–I HAVE SOME SUPER IMPORTANT LIVESTREAM NEWS!!!

Today (April 18th), Phoebe, Ally, and I are going live over on Ally’s Youtube channel (The Nature of Pages) for our second ever Plots & Plans livestream!!! We’re going to be talking about writing and Camp and hosting writing sprints, so if you want to come and join the fun, come join us at 3 pm EDT right HERE! (please come. I’ll give you cookies!!)

. . .and now back to your regularly scheduled programming. . .

Blog Divider

GOOD MORNING, CYBERSPACE!

This blog post is late. Obviously. You can probably tell that by the slapped together graphic and the fact that it was NOT released on Tuesday morning. Which, despite the fact that I pretty much never post on a Tuesday morning anymore, is actually my reserved posting time.

But I digress.

Truth is, this post is late in going up because I have been reading. And also writing. A lot. It’s gotten to the point where I’ve become so infused with fictional realms that I’m really quite astounded I haven’t dissolved into a flurry of paper and ink by now. (there’s still a potential this will happen soon, so if I spontaneously disappear from the internet, YA KNOW WHY.)

But all this writing and reading and very-much-not-being-here has a very simple explanation, and I’m sure you all know what it is.

CAMP NANOWRIMO. It’s in full-swing, folks. We’re officially two three? who even knows anymore weeks in. And holy guacamole, my friends, have I been writing a book.Read More »

CAMP NANOWRIMO BEGINS!: Day 1 – Freebies and Frenzies!

GOOD MORNING, CYBERSPACE!

I’ve been flipping and flopping over how to start this month off here on Smudged Thoughts. As you all know, April’s Camp NaNoWriMo is one of my absolute F A V O R I T E months of the year, which means that I naturally want this first post–this first step into the month of April–to be something truly special.

I debated character interviews, Camp NaNoWriMo blog tags, pep talks, writing prompts. . . But none of them felt right. During all of this mental brainstorming, however, I was working on a side project of my own–a simple little thing that I was planning on using to make this Camp NaNoWriMo the best NaNoWriMo I’ve had thus far. Spurred on by my constant failure at tracking my writing process, I decided to delve into the confusion that is Google Spreadsheets and create my own kind of progress tracker–a tracker which, instead of being filled with a bunch of useless information I had no desire of knowing, was filled with the kinds of things I was actually excited to track.Read More »

CAMP NANOWRIMO APPROACHES!: Episode III – Liam & Eleanor

This episode of LET’S CHAT! is brought to you by . . . Sir Arthur Conan Doilies! Now available in 221 different colors!



KENZIE: Good morning, everyone, and welcome back to another episode of LET’S CHAT! In our last interview, we got a sneak peek into the lives of Ed, Shelby, and Beau–three of the main characters within the universe of SK! Today, we’re going to be interviewing two new characters from that very same cast!

KENZIE: Ladies and gents, boys and girls, please give a big, warm welcome to Eleanor and Liam!Read More »

CAMP NANOWRIMO APPROACHES!: Episode II – Preparing for Camp (#campnano2020)

GOOD MORNING, CYBERSPACE!

Last week I announced what project I was going to be working on for Camp NaNoWriMo 2020. This week, we’re going to be diving into my preparations for the end of the world Camp!

A few years ago I made a post detailing my NaNoWriMo Survival Kit, and–quite honestly–most of the things I listed in that post still apply. I still hoard candy like the smol little gremlin that I am. I still collect notebooks and hide them into every nook and cranny in my room. I still stuff my friends into my briefcase and haul them around lest they abandon me. However, there are some things I’m doing this year that are a little bit different than years previous. I have some new materials that I shall be trying to utilize for productivity in April (planners, a google spreadsheet??? [what is this madness??]) and–if all goes according to plan–hopefully they’ll help me conquer my goals and become the ultimate productivity master!

(this is not happening. i’m just gonna call it now, folks.)

So this week in my Camp NaNo 2020 series, we’re going to be taking a closer look into my step-by-step guide to preparing for Camp NaNoWriMo!Read More »