Tami Parker

Fantasy Author & Other Duties as Assigned

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On Discouragement and “Hate Reading”

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The Unclimactic Climax

I unfollowed a blog the other day.

It was an excellent writer’s blog. Frequent updates of a very high quality, including a system to showcase old content that was still relevant but potentially new to many of the readers.

It was witty, entertaining, and it gave superb advice.

Unfortunately, I never once left it feeling fired up and excited to write.

I ALWAYS left it with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. A feeling of shame and worthlessness and hopelessness.

It’s Not You, It’s Me

It took me a very long time to realize what was happening because the blog itself is intended to help writers.

It must be me, I said to myself. His advice isn’t wrong. For example, I SHOULD write every day if I actually want to be a writer.

So I told myself the problem was with me rather than with his blog. That it was my failings as a writer that needed fixing. That I couldn’t turn away from the ugly truth just because I didn’t want to hear it. The very fact that I felt guilt when I read his advice was proof enough that I had something I knew I was doing wrong.

Right?

WRONG.

It’s Not Your Life, It’s Mine

So here’s the thing.

It doesn’t matter if he gave good advice.

He wasn’t giving good advice FOR ME.

I should have stopped following him months ago. Not only was I not his target audience, I was the opposite. I was the lazy wannabe writer he so often impaled on the sharpness of his wit.

I was reading because I thought it would make me a better writer but in truth all I was doing was hurting myself.

He didn’t lie or falsely advertise his blog.

HE TOLD ME HE WAS HOLDING A SPEAR. It’s hardly his fault I kept blindly running forward and stabbing myself with it.

His readership wants his message. Needs it. Theoretically, it is helping them hone their writing edge.

I Need Something Else

I want to spend my time on things that elevate me. Things that inspire me and make me feel good about writing. Things that make me think “hey, I could do that,” or “that’s a great idea, I should try that.”

I know that not all writing is rainbows and unicorns. I know that it’s often a slog. I know that selling a book is a combination of luck and skill that I can never guarantee.

I know, I know, I know.

So I don’t need to keep rubbing my face in it. It doesn’t help me any more than it does a dog or cat making a mess on the carpet.

I need positive reinforcement.

“Hate Reading”

I mention it to you because I realized what I was doing and I want you to stop and think about the social media YOU consume.

Granted, my example is writing related, but you’re not all writers here. You probably ARE all folks who wade in the complex, foggy miasma of the InterWebs.

Do you have blogs that you follow out of a sense of obligation or duty?

Do you have content you read that riles you up in a bad way, that angers or sickens or disgusts you on the regular?

Is it affecting your well-being throughout the day? Is it affecting your pleasure in activities you used to enjoy? Is your reaction to it affecting your friends or family?

Then my suggestion is … maybe stop hate reading.

Maybe stop reading things that make you feel hate.

Self-Defense

YOU HAVE PERMISSION TO PROTECT YOURSELF.

The world is out there and as an American citizen who Can See The Shit Happening, I know how easy it is to fall down several different kinds of awful, horrible, wells.

I know how easy it is to feel like you HAVE to read it. You HAVE to expose yourself to this awfulness because if you don’t, you’re just deliberately being ignorant.

Right?

Wrong.

Just because you aren’t deliberately diving into a river of sewage daily in order to Make Yourself A Better Person, that doesn’t mean you have to be ignorant of what’s happening and that you can’t or shouldn’t do the right thing.

Find Your Warriors

There are people out there who THRIVE on this. There are people for whom it isn’t hate reading. They are our warriors, our defenders, our champions. I salute them and I depend upon them.

I try to find those people and read what they share and listen to what they have to say, because I am trying to find a balance somewhere between burying my head in the sand and caring so much I shred the heart on my sleeve daily.

I pick my battles based on my energy levels and the things around me. I vote with my money. I vote with my vote. I don’t back down when “mild” racism or misogyny crop up in my life. (Well, I try. I’m not even close to perfect, but I am making an effort).

Honor those on the front line fighting the battles you cannot.

And Unfollow The Rest

Everyone has a different limit. For me, that particular writing blog was having the opposite effect on me – I associated writing with failure, which is just about the worst thing that could have happened to my productivity.

(Sorry, the blog was encroaching on politics there, so I’m wrapping it up. I’m not interested in preaching to a choir OR a lively round of sea-lioning from anyone looking to spark a debate.)

I just … I want everyone to drop any burdens they don’t need. If you can lighten your mental and emotional load, please consider doing it.

Finish the Story: Lake

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Join in for a lighthearted, no-pressure writing prompt. Leave your perfectionist at the door and follow a dangling story thread to see where it leads you.

I always post my story doodle in the comments, and I’d absolutely love to see yours as well if you feel comfortable sharing it!

The lake was as still and shiny as glass, as if he could step on it and walk all the way across. It was one of those days when anything seems possible, and he stood there, breathing deep and imagining …

Craptastic Customer Service Experience With HelloFresh

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Edit: All free boxes have found new homes!

Much Wailing and Gnashing of Teeth

So. Needless to say, I have cancelled my HelloFresh subscription based on a Very Bad customer experience interaction.

My second box arrived and once again, one of the proteins was problematic. This time, the beef package wasn’t completely enclosed, so it bled all over the other meats. I mistakenly thought it was the pork causing the problem, which means the beef also bled in my fridge and I didn’t trust it by the time I needed it.

Also, the herbs I received were VERY sad and floppy.

So, when I got their email asking me how my box was, I let them know I was closing my account and why. I closed my account.

The next day, I notice that I have a $70 charge from them for another box in my pending transactions for my credit card.

Um. No.

I contact their customer service, where someone whose name almost certainly wasn’t “Ethel” tried to convince me that a) I hadn’t actually closed my account despite the fact that I was staring at a page with a red message declaring that my account was closed, then b) telling me they had no record of me “pausing” that week, followed by c) I was not eligible to have the charges reversed because it was not 5+ days before the next box was due to be delivered.

I contacted them before the box was shipped. I contacted them before the charge ACTUALLY hit my account.

I was stonewalled. I could not be helped. It was my fault for not pausing the week.

Now, there is a chance I made a mistake and didn’t pause the week. I don’t think that’s true, because I paused ALL WEEKS AVAILABLE to me. All of them. I only UNpaused the two boxes I wanted to get — so if I didn’t pause it, it was very very much a mistake. Even if Box 2 had been glorious, I would not want two weeks in a row. It’s too much food for me.

Even if that were true, why would you not allow a justifiably unhappy customer to reverse a charge if they make the effort to contact your customer service about it with time before the box was actually shipped?!

ALSO, this means that even if I wasn’t in the habit of pausing all my weeks, I would have only TWO days (including the delivery day) to decide to make changes or pause the following week.

That. Is. Ridiculous.

Box The Third

So now I have a box that was delivered to me filled with meals I did not choose and that I was incapable of cancelling. This AFTER having the bad experience of one useless protein in each box.

Now, the first box I got was free, so I wasn’t upset at the bad chicken I got.

Box 2 was discounted in price, so I was happy to give them a second chance.

Unwanted and uncancellable box 3 at full price pisses me right the hell off, I don’t mind telling you.

Contrast This with StitchFix

Do you want to know what Stitchfix did? When I cancelled my account, they reversed the $20 charge without me having to ask them. (I honestly had planned on receiving that last box, but was totally fine with them stopping everything the moment I closed the account.)

StitchFix win.

HelloFresh superfail.

Damn The Man

So here’s the rub.

In that unwanted box, they gave me THREE passes for free boxes for friends who haven’t tried it yet. (Free – equivalent to $69.95 discount. You can’t get ANY box, but you can easily get their low tier for free)

I am going to give those free passes to the first three friends who ask for them. (Sorry Perry, it’s for US residents only). (Edit: all free boxes have been rehomed)

Now, some of you may be raising an eyebrow. Why am I perpetuating this company that pissed me off and gave me admittedly substandard box contents?

BECAUSE IT IS GOING TO COST THEM A LOT OF MONEY, THAT’S WHY.

Muahahaha.

So, here’s the scoop.

  1. Tell me that you want the code in a comment. Remember that I only have three, and I will NOT be handing them out to random strangers who visit the blog — friends and family only.*
  2. I will email you a picture of the code you can use.
  3. You will go to hellofresh.com
  4. OPTIONALLY: you can hang on to the card until the delivery week is one whose meals are more interesting to you. You are FORCED to get the first box after you create your account — you cannot pause the first week after creating your account.**
  5. Create your account and use the code when prompted. You will have to hook up an actual payment method as well, so be prepared.
  6. Choose your meals.
  7. Pause upcoming weeks, just to be safe.
  8. Verify that your box is incoming.
  9. CLOSE YOUR ACCOUNT. Do not dawdle, otherwise you’ll get trapped into paying for a second box you don’t even want.  (I mean, you obviously don’t have to do this step. Maybe you will really like the service, which is totally fine. In my world, I’m sticking it to The Man here, so I’m going to pretend you all get a free box and thumb your nose at them.)
  10. Cook the meals, enjoy the food, and let me know how it went! I really loving sharing food and cooking, which is why I’m extra pissed about how this all went down. Besides, they DO have some really good recipes and this is a great excuse to try something you wouldn’t normally have the ingredients for (like the bibimbap that I tried and loved last week.)

Blue Apron

Another coworker gave me a free BlueApron box that I’ll be trying in a few weeks. Same concept, different company. BlueApron would allow me to only get TWO meals a week, though, which is much closer the speed I can actually consume this food. I was able to choose which week I wanted my first delivery week to be at the time I created the account, which I was a fan of.

Dinner Bell

So! Who wants a free HelloFresh box? Faith? Steven? Kestrel? Angie? Barto? Bre? Anyone?

Footnotes

* I will turn off comments to this post if it starts getting out of hand with folks and freebie-bots who don’t understand this rule.

** I specify this because someone else I know got a free code the same time I did and they were forced to get that week’s box when they created their account. They couldn’t pause it or make any changes, which is b.s. I don’t want you to have the same problem.

Finish the Story: Penny

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Join in for a lighthearted, no-pressure writing prompt. Leave your perfectionist at the door and follow a dangling story thread to see where it leads you.

I always post my story doodle in the comments, and I’d absolutely love to see yours as well if you feel comfortable sharing it!

I asked her if she was joking. Her frown told me she wasn’t. “Every last penny, gone,” she said. “And that’s not the worst of it,” she continued, leaning across the table …

Finish the Story: The Desert

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Join in for a lighthearted, no-pressure writing prompt. Leave your perfectionist at the door and follow a dangling story thread to see where it leads you.

I always post my story doodle in the comments, and I’d absolutely love to see yours as well if you feel comfortable sharing it!

The desert is an unforgiving place. This one is called Death Valley for a reason. Every living thing there has to fight for survival. And we would have to fight, too, or else …

Say Hello to Moose

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I realized that I posted over on Facebook about my new kittencat, but never actually posted here!

I know, I am just as aghast as you.

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That’s my Moosey.

After Tiny’s stress-based health scare (he stopped eating, which is pretty alarming if you know how food-obsessed he is) I realized that he was lonely.

Like … waiting for me asleep against the front door when I got home from work lonely.

So I set out to find him a companion quickfast. I didn’t want to wait for another Siberian even though my allergies would have preferred it … I wanted to get him a friend in weeks, not months.

So I looked around and found Angel’s Wish, a cat rescue organization in the area with a LOT of cats. Once my application was approved, my mom came down and we evaluated dozens of felines.

My vet recommended a kitten to make the transition easier, so I tried to only look at fluffbeans under 2 years old.

Tiny is NOT a small cat, and I remember his playstyle being more of a full-body suplex, pounce/tackle/bunnykick sort of thing … so most of the really tiny kittens were also rejected.

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I needed someone who was big enough to handle Tiny and calm enough to transition nicely into the house. Also, my apartment only allows 2 cats, so I couldn’t take any bonded pairs.

This still left me with dozens of options. There was a gorgeous (bonded) seal-point siamese. There was a timid silver-black girl who is going to be flipping GORGEOUS when she grows up and her medium-haired coat leaves her with black mittens and a snowy body. There was a too-pushy calico. Two orange tabbies who were adopted before I could look at them. One orange tabby that I specifically asked to see but whose foster parent didn’t bring him in that day.

Nobody felt “right”.

Just as we turned to leave, another foster arrived with a whole passel of kittencats, and there he was. Twice as big as the other litter he was housed with, but the same age. Cool as a cucumber with the silliest gray “hat” I’ve ever seen and big brown eyes.

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His foster mom wanted to keep him (and I still send her emails with updates). He was the last surviving barn kitten — they think a raccoon got not only his siblings but also his mother.

He was born in May, which makes him the biggest dingdang kitten I have ever seen. He came with the name Moose and there wasn’t a chance in the world that I was going to change it.

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He transitioned into the house in less than 24 hours, despite Tiny hissing and growling at the start. 1 day, you guys. That’s so short that it surpasses “unbelievable” and saunters right into “magical” territory.

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He is still incredibly calm. And incredibly huge.

He snuggles under the blanket with me. He goads Tiny into play. He amuses HIMSELF with toys for hours.

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He’s still a little hand shy, but getting used to being petted. His ears and toe beans are multicolored.

He’s perfect.

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NaNoWriMo – Modified

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I … am attempting a thing.

NaNoWriMo

As many of you may know, November is known as National Novel Writing Month, a self-inflicted game whose only real rule seems to be reaching a wordcount of 50,000 before December.

The benefits of this exercise are well documented — it forces you to set aside your internal editor and aspirations of Perfection in the interests of just getting the bloody words out already. It also fosters a feeling of community as the lonely art of writing becomes an activity discussed and celebrated in group format.

The downsides area also publicly lamented — quantity over quality rarely yields publishable results and the grueling pace it demands doesn’t forgive even single-day failures or missteps. Miss a day and you’ve got a LOT of work to do in order to catch back up … and that work happens to fall on a dreaded Family Holiday Month.

My Sordid NaNoWriMo History

I have “won” NaNoWriMo twice.

Neither time yielded a marketable story. Neither time yielded a revisable story. In truth, neither time yielded a story I ever wanted to see ever again, may it burn in hell for a billion years.

Ahem.

That being said, I don’t regret either of them, and some of the lessons I learned on those frantic months are ones I could probably do with a refresher for.

I did get a coupon that allowed me to purchase Scrivener for a drastically reduced price, which is still my all-time favorite software (the mac version. The Windows version is gaaaarbage).

I also got a lifetime pass to the Complain About NaNoWriMo club, which is nothing to sneeze at. *wink*

Lessons
My Primary Goal:

  • Build a Habit of Making Time For Writing

Additional Reminders I Need:

  • Stop Waiting For Perfect
  • Stop Making Excuses About Not Having Time
  • Remember What the Flow of Writing Feels Like
  • Any Draft (Even an Admittedly Terrible One) is Better Than Nothing
  • Push Through the Saggy Middle Doldrums

“Lessons” I can Live Without:

  • Not Writing A Lot Every Day is Doom
  • Meet This Goal Or Fail
  • Florid Writing Is Better Than Clean, Concise Writing
  • Any Plot Point Will Do As Long As You Don’t Stop
  • Don’t Stop Dear God Don’t Stop Ever

This Year

I’m not doing NaNoWriMo this year.

At least, not according to the rules. (breakin’ the lawr, breakin’ the lawr)

I want to build the writing habit, and I want to do it in a way that encourages me to continue without using the Sharp, Pointy Stick of Failure to “motivate” me.

New Goal

So instead of the almighty Word Count as my goal, I am instead going to set myself a Number Of Days goal.

How many days? In a utopia, I’d write every day. While we don’t (yet) live in a distopia … we are still miles away from ideal. (Which is not to disparage the advice to write every day. It’s got its place and purpose, but it is not my goal for this challenge).

So instead, I am going to focus on what I know I want to get out of this, which is a habit.

So! I’m going to steadily increase my involvement, with an eye toward reasonable goals … even considering Teslacon at the beginning of the month, Thanksgiving at the rear, and an absurd number of social events in the middle.

Calendar Time!

November has days on five separate weeks, with the first and final weeks having fewer days.

  • The first week of November, my goal is to write 2 times.
  • The second and third week of November, my goal is to write 3 times.
  • The fourth week of November, my goal is to write 4 times.
  • The fifth week of November, my goal is to write 3 times.

If I miss a day, I can make it up in a following week.

My Monthly goal is 12 writing sessions.

What Does It Mean to “Write”?

I have to be specific, because Procrastinating-Against-Writing Me is really good at finding loopholes. Just as my super-clean house every time I try to work on a plot wrinkle.

Rules, rules, rules:

  1. Writing must be on Creative Works. It can be a short story or a novel-length work or anything in between, but it cannot be emails or blog posts.
  2. Writing must be at least 45 minutes in length. I have a sand timer to assist me in this endeavor.For those who do not follow the Writing Excuses podcast, the sand timer was a tool they recommended because it runs out of time SILENTLY, so if you’re in the middle of a good flow, you often just keep going without realizing your self-imposed time has run out.
  3. Writing CAN include minor research.But if details can be bracketed out with [[Find out How Vodka Is Distilled And Add Details Here]] they should be.
  4. Writing CAN include “Crap, How Do I Fix This Plot Point” type planning…. but not for two sessions in a row. If I am more than one-session worth of stuck, I need to skip over it, work around it, or phone a friend to help me iron it out before the next session.
  5. Writing does not include Editing for the purposes of this NaNoWriMo challenge.

So Stick That In Your Pipe and Smoke It, November

I’m hoping that by openly blogging about this, it’s more likely to stick. “Secret” goals are a lot easier to shrug off when things are a lot less shiny around week two and three of a new habit.

I think I’m finally ready to stop dipping my toe into the wading pool of flash fiction twiddles (though I do hope some of you have been enjoying those) and get back into a more serious mindset.

If anyone wants to join me in any sort of November Writing Festivities, I’d love to hear what you’re doing and have a buddy (or three) who are also rising up to meet goals that have been consistently pushed aside.

Finish the Story: Guarding the Door

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Join in for a lighthearted, no-pressure writing prompt. Leave your perfectionist at the door and follow a dangling story thread to see where it leads you.

I always post my story doodle in the comments, and I’d absolutely love to see yours as well if you feel comfortable sharing it!

We took turns guarding the door, neither of us sleeping very much. Ricky looked nervous, and suddenly I felt bad about getting him involved. I shouldn’t have …

HelloFresh Update – Box 1

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Boxy BoxBox

This was my free box — thanks to a friend with a handy coupon.

The box itself was HEAVY and bigger than expected. When I opened it up, I saw that the cardboard was lined with something akin to silver bubble wrap.

Recipe cards and three brown paper bags were on top. Each bag was labeled with the meal it contained.

Below that I found the meat sandwiched neatly between two frozen “pillows”.

(Note: I gave my mom the box, lining, and frozen pillows when she was here this weekend. The pillows remained frozen overnight. Super cool.)

Recipe 1: Crispy Breaded Tilapia

I chose this recipe because cooking fish is still daunting to me, and I’ve not got much experience breading and frying things.

The sides were roasted asparagus and ciabatta toasts (with butter and chives).

I saved one of the two ciabatta rolls they sent me because I (correctly) assumed mom would want to make a sandwich with the other. I will say that I was surprised at how lovely the fresh chives were on a toasted ciabatta. I honestly thought it would have needed garlic or something.

The asparagus was good, but disappointingly slim. I ate ALL of it as part of my first meal and ended up pairing my leftover fish with some veggie bites I had in the freezer.

The fish itself was really good. A co-worker told me that if I would have let the breaded-but-uncooked fish sit for at least 5 minutes, the breading would have stuck to the final product a little better.

Even so, the panko was super tasty and I was pleased with the overall meal. A fun experience that I would never have bought the ingredients for and tried on my own.

Recipe 2: Cherry Drizzled Pork Chops

HUGE win. Super delicious and tasty, and fun to make to boot!

The only downside is that one of the ingredients was missing. There should have been a little packet of soup base to use in the cherry drizzle sauce, but it was nowhere to be found.

The couscous side was very easy to make (though if I make it again, I’ll saute the shallots before adding them to the mix) and turned out zingy and fresh.

The pork chops turned out PERFECT. Delightfully crisp on the outside and the cherry sauce? MAGNIFIQUE.

I added the pork chops and cherry sauce to my recipe cards.

Recipe 3: Winner Winner Chicken Orzo Dinner

The side dish was a big big win, but the chicken itself was uninspiring.

Alas, the downside this time was the chicken itself. One of the breasts was off-color and both of them had … an odor. We rinsed them, sniffed again, and decided not to chance it.

Luckily, I live across the street from a butcher shop, so we got some replacements there.

The chicken was just butterflied and fried with spices. If I do this again, I’m slicing, marinating in italian dressing, and frying THAT up. OM NOM.

However, I bought the recipe because I wanted to try the orzo and I was NOT disappointed.

What a LOVELY texture and shape the orzo has!

Plus, they had me roast zucchini and tomato … then sprinkle panko, mozzarella, and parmesan over top and broil until toasty.

I then added THAT glorious, cheesy, crispy mess back to the orzo and you guys?

*kisses fingertips*

You bet your bottom dollar that recipe got added to my box.

Another Box?

Yup! I want at least one more … plus, I emailed in about the chicken and the missing soup base and they gave me a $30 rebate.

I mean. They addressed the email to “Rick” but I still got the rebate, so I’m not complaining. 😉

The next box isn’t for another couple of weeks (I paused the next few until I found a week with three awesome-looking recipes) so expect another post sometime after Halloween.

StitchFix Update – Box 2

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Box 2 hath arrived!

I lowered the price point on this one to the minimum for all categories.

I got:

1) A navy knit top with a heavy lace hem and a string/tie in the back.

Nice, flattering, good fit, LOVED the lace … but the tie tangled in my hair and was a super duper no-go. Alas.

2) A black knit top with a twist in the back.

Boring in the front and the fun twist was totally hidden by my hair. No-go.

3) A heavy white long-sleeved shirt with a HUGE rope/string lace-up the front. 

Huge rope/string was super awkwardly huge. Like … as wide as my thumb huge. Also, the neckline it was lacing went waaaay down, so it would have needed an undershirt. No-go.

4) An ADORABLE silk kimono top in a blue and gold pattern.

Flattering and amazing … but every three steps, it gossammer’d its way off my shoulders. SO SAD. But I had to let it go. Practicality first!

5) A clingy/stretchy black long sleeved cover-up.

Originally I didn’t think I’d like it, but it was SUPER comfy and the hemline does this flattering swoopy curve thing that involves POCKETS so … yeah. I kept it.

Another Box?
Yes, but it may be my last one. It’s been fun, but also expensive and I’m just not a clotheshorse. I’m fine wearing a $15 top I got from J.C. Penney that I might see someone else wearing … or even a $5 top from a resale shop, without cringing or shame.

I did request to get two bottoms in this next box and specified that I like boot cut. We shall see how they do … I’ve been told sometimes they hit the jackpot on pants that fit, and I hate pants shopping.

So! One more box for sure, but perhaps the last one. We shall see!

Tami Parker Fantasy Author & Other Duties as Assigned

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