Writing Advice: Shop at ALDI

Where I live, we have several options for buying food. In addition to the local grocery store chain, there’s a fancy yuppie market, a “whole foods” -style store that sells a lot of vegan/veggie foods, a farmer’s market (a couple of days of week through the summer), an Aldi, Walmart, an Asian market… even the Target has a grocery section. Usually, I do one or two big shopping trips to Aldi a month, and that covers everything except for what I get at the Asian market (lumpia wrappers, pancit noodles, etc), and a a trip to the chain store to get the few items I can’t get otherwise (or I’ll get them if I have to go to Target that month).

The last few weeks I’ve been so busy that instead of taking the time to shop at Aldi*, I’ve been picking up just what I need most, at the chain store. It’s much more expensive, and though it’s quick, it’s a time spent on lot of little trips. Plus, instead of having a fridge full of food to choose from, I end up stressed and annoyed that I don’t have choices; I don’t eat as healthily, and it’s tempting to get fast food or order delivery instead of yet another trip to the store to get dinner…
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Quick Updates (Writing, editing, job hunt, SFWA, and more)

The bullet points:

  • WordPress decided to feature my recent post “11 Exhausted SF Tropes You Should Avoid” as their Fresh Pressed blog today. Hello, new readers!
  • I still have spots open in my Short Fiction Workshop, which begins August 1. You can read more about it here and here. Only $50 for a 4 week online class in micro and flash fiction, sign up today!
  • I’m also still taking editing clients, though I’m nearly booked up. See my editing services page for rates and notes.
  • The last few days have been stressful and sad; I’ve had trouble sleeping, haven’t been eating. Managed to convince myself to get something today–which ended up being a giant cheeseburger and fries. Okay, not healthy, but the most delicious thing I’ve eaten since Friday. I’ve had a lot of success losing weight and getting fitter recently by remembering to balance healthy food with tasty food. I had to buy a suit this week, for job interviews, and was pleasantly surprised to find I’d gone down a pants size since Readercon. So, yes, carrots, hummus,  fruit, prawns, steamed vegetables… and white rice, lumpia*, corned beef, bacon, and cheeseburgers. Mmm.
  • Speaking of interviews: I had two phone interviews last week, an in-person interview yesterday, one scheduled for tomorrow, and another one on Friday. All summer, I’ve sent out resumes and heard nothing. Now that Fall is looming, they’re all calling. I expect to be working in a dayjob again by the end of August. A stable paycheck and a consistent work schedule will make it a lot easier for me to pursue my writing and Dagan Books projects. It seems like a dayjob would mean I have less time, but in fact I think I’ll have more–freelance editing, which is a great skill that few have and I feel lucky to have it as a fallback, means spending hours and hours a week just looking for work, or doing sample edits (which is essentially applying for and interviewing for a job, with every single editing project I take on).
  • SFWA continues to move forward with its plan to reorganize the Bulletin; I got to proof the survey which is about to go out to members, and I can say it’s quite comprehensive.
  • “Editors of Gor” is still a thing I am writing. I have a couple of editing deadlines this week, but I’m hoping to get my Gor parody story finished this weekend. I am a woman of my word, after all, even if those words are, “Wait, what do you want me to write?”
  • My SF Signal column has been on a brief hiatus while I sort out what to write about. I’m locked into a very small segment of comics–SF/F/H independent comics only, and Top Shelf/Image/Dark Horse don’t count as indie for this purposes of this column. When I came to SF Signal, there was already another writer handling those titles, and sharing isn’t an option at this point. I can write more than I have been, if I want to write negative reviews of truly indie books I’ve read but didn’t like. That’s not the kind of reviewer I am. I want to share the titles you should be reading, not tearing down the ones I think you shouldn’t. So, a break… But not for too much longer, I hope. I’ve been writing there for 8 months and I’ve like to do at least a year before I decide whether to move on.

* I made pork/shrimp lumpia this week that were dryer than usual; realized that I’d used a leaner cut of pork, so there was hardly any fat. Yeah, that’s not going to work. But on the up side, there are vegetables in there, too! Well. Some shredded carrots and onion. Oh, and garlic! See, it’s healthy.


Read these things, the Nemo storm edition.

If you’re stuck inside with not much to do, take a look at the stories, essays, and interviews that have interested me this week:

Shimmer interviews my friend A.C. Wise, whose story “Tasting of the Sea” appears in issue #16.

Rose Lemberg collected speculative fiction poetry recommendations from various editors – read the list here.

Geoff Ryman’s famously sad novel, Was, is now available as an ebook from Weightless Books (their page has excerpts from the book).

Avi Steinberg talks writing and the Gilbert v Roth argument:

That’s the kind of a person it takes to be a writer: someone who’s zealous and ready to argue, someone who has Philip Roth tell him, “It’s torture, don’t do it,” and replies, “You had me at ‘torture.’ ” You don’t enter into it because it’s a great lifestyle decision—it isn’t—you do it because, for whatever reason, you believe in it, and you believe in it because, for whatever reason, you need to believe in it.

Discover News says readers grasp digital media (aka ebooks) just as well as print.

Eddie Huang (author, chef, and tv personality) talks to NPR about Asian-American food, family, and masculinity. (podcast/interview)

NY Review of Books talks about Wes Anderson as a writer.

Stupefying Stories put together a free ebook of shorts by authors eligible for this year’s Campbell Award.

Wonderful Chet Baker documentary “Let’s Get Lost” now on YouTube.

My latest appearance on the SF Signal podcast is now up: “2013 SF/F/H Conventions We’re Anticipating“. I mainly talk about how great Readercon is.

Oh, and I shared the introduction from FISH over at Dagan Books.

Links, Updates, and Et Ceteras

I’ve been guest hosting over at Functional Nerds, with Patrick Hester and John Anealio. Our first episode together was posted online yesterday (you can listen to it here). We talked about a bunch of random topics, including web shows, comics, Duotrope, and Patrick’s interest in my legs. Recorded another one last night (more comics, whether we should change book covers for digital audiences, and only one accidentally unfortunate comment about me from Patrick) which will go live on the 25th. We’re doing two more shows in January too. John and Patrick are great guys to hang out with, and I’m flattered that I was their first choice to be a host after their format change.

My indie comics column at SF Signal is going great. Next Tuesday will be two months that I’ve been writing about one of my favorite storytelling mediums, and the list of titles I get to talk about is just getting longer. Click on the links to read my latest reviews: Richard Sala’s Delphine, Ursula Vernon’s Digger, and Royden Lepp’s Rust. I’ve gotten some very supportive comments:

Thanks for reviewing this wonderful, intoxicating work. Without your review, I never would have fallen for this book. Speculative fiction comics need wider exposure; thank you for providing it in such a delightful way.


Thank you for reviewing this. I don’t often find people talking about Sala’s work and that is a shame.


Keep this stuff coming!

Comics can be amazing. Beautiful art, brilliant writing – I love that readers of speculative fiction novels are finding themes they love in comics too.

I’ve started writing short fiction again. My novel is still progressing slowly, but it’s been months since I spent any time on a short story. I’m a person that needs small goals, short accomplishments, and while I get that from my column, I’ve never had a hard time churning out non-fiction. I like it but I find my opinion of myself as a writer isn’t as wrapped up in non-fic as it is in fiction. That’s where I find challenges and spend time perfecting a style. That’s where I need to do well.

It’s getting harder to write fast, though. I used to be able to do thousands of words in a day. Now if I can write two hundred I’m thrilled, and some days I delete more than I’ve written. It turns out that the better I get as a writer the more I can see my own skills and flaws, and the more I take my time writing. Words have to be perfect. Sentences have to flow, one into the other, and paragraphs are blocks of time that have to express a mood and distinct chunk of information. Writing takes work and time to perfect. I’d rather devote myself to that than churn out a thousand words of average (or worse) prose that I can’t be proud of.

One last thing: food. Eating non-dairy has been great for my son, and eating a lot more fruits and vegetables (whole meals that way, instead of mostly carbs) means I’ve got more energy and am losing weight again. All good things. You know what else is good? A juicy medium-rare burger. A thick cut of steak seared in a cast iron pan… yum. Eating a lot more vegan dishes has been working for me, but I have to admit that am not ready to give up meat entirely. I tried it and what’s right for me is going to be balancing healthy choices with occasionally unhealthy delicious ones.

With food, or writing, or anything else in my life, I have to balance what I love with what I need, what drives me, and what makes me happy. I think that with a little effort I can have everything I want.

Some Thoughts On Becoming A (Maybe Part-Time?) Vegan

Those of you who have followed my writing for a while will remember my cooking experiments from last year, where I practiced French and Asian cuisine, and even some dishes from the Moosewood Cafe cookbook (a vegetarian restaurant). You may have seen my Instagram photos of especially delicious-looking dishes from the last several months; just whatever I cooked up that day. Some people noticed that my plethora of meat dishes has, over the last year or so, become more veggie-centric, then vegetarian, and finally, lately, vegan.

Well. Yeah. Since folks have started to ask, I have to admit: I am a vegan.

Except when I’m not.

I’ve been a vegetarian before, a couple of times, but had never gone all of the way to vegan (and never quite all of the way back to carnivore – I still can’t stomach meat on the bone, and have to have it boneless/shredded/ground). As part of my dietary changes and losing weight the last two years, I slowly moved from eating a very unhealthy diet to one that still included the occasional junk food but cut down on fast food, included more vegetables, and even experimented with tofu. I made writer friends who happened to be vegetarian, vegan, or have dietary restrictions against dairy or certain meats, and I learned to cook foods they would like. Which happened to be tasty.

I also traveled more this year, which included eating bar food and fast food and getting to compare how I felt after a weekend of heavy greasy/meaty food to how I felt after a week of not eating that way. I had to admit that I felt better when my diet was more than just meat and starches. But how do you get from “eat more fruits and vegetables” to “vegan”?

It started with me wanting to take better care of my son. He’s had a milk allergy his whole life, so we’ve always had soy milk in the house, but his current special education director noticed a recurring rash he has and suggested he might be more allergic to milk that I’d thought. The only way to test it was to go dairy-free for a while and find out if it had an effect.

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