Dunkin’s Spooky Ghost Pepper Donuts – Great marketing, good treat

It’s no secret I’m something of a spicy food addict. I have a shelf in my fridge dedicated to hot sauce, which has overflowed onto other shelves. I try the hottest wings available at restaurants for kicks and giggles. You get the idea.

However! There has to be taste and not just heat. I hate spicy things that just taste like pain (looking at you, Triple Atomic Wings at Quaker Steak & Lube).

Enter Dunkin’ with their Spooky Ghost Pepper Donut. A friend of mine brought it to my attention, and I am a shameless buffoon when it comes to gimmicks. I knew I had to try this damn thing. For science, obviously. Before proceeding, some details worth noting:

  • The Ghost Pepper clocks in around 1 million Scoville Heat Units (SHU) (the scale by which spicy foods are measured).
  • For comparison, the Carolina Reaper is around 1.5 SHU.
  • Both the Dragon’s Breath and Pepper X peppers are hotter still.
  • That said, 1.5 million is nothing to sneeze at.
  • The Spooky Ghost Pepper Donut is a standard Dunkin strawberry iced donut with the addition of both cayenne and ghost pepper powders.
  • There obviously aren’t just straight-up peppers on the donuts – they’re present in powdered form. Eating a whole ghost pepper is absolutely a different experience from having something seasoned with it.
  • I would not recommend eating a straight-up ghost pepper.
Proof of acquiring the donuts, I guess.

The local Dunkin had plenty of Spooky Ghost Pepper Donuts this morning, which honestly surprised me because I have trash luck with this kind of thing. I went in with mixed expectations, and honestly was pleased with the end product. These balance sweet and heat nicely. The spiciness hits right after the first bite, creeping up the throat and spreading around the mouth. It lingers. It’ll leave your face feeling a bit warm. It’s nothing crazy, but it’s definitely a treat I can see being too much for some.

Omnomnom. Spooky, spicy treat.

Dunkin’ did these perfectly, I think, in terms of heat. People who went into eating these expecting something that will melt their faces off were clearly disappointed, and I’m admittedly a little baffled by that response. Dunkin’ had to pull off a careful balancing act with this release. No real heat, and this would be just another strawberry donut. Too much heat? For starters, that would likely impact sales. People are intrigued by the prospect of trying something that could be a bit spicy, and word of mouth will help sell it. If it’s agony to eat one of these? Not as likely to make sales.

Also, with Dunkin’ encouraging people to use these to put a little mischief in their Halloween spirit by prankong friends with them? I see lawsuit potential galore if they packed these with enough heat to make it feel like you’re passing lava the next day.

The strawberry is a bit too cloyingly sweet, but otherwise the balance of cayenne and ghost pepper make this a fun novelty treat worth checking out. Just don’t be that person and surprise a friend with it, or you deserve suitably terrible pranks in response.

Overall, this is a solid offering and I hope it returns to haunt Dunkin’ stores each year around spooky season.

Lockdown Times, Life, and Raising Kids During COVID-19

Happy…what day is it? Tuesday. Happy Tuesday! For those of you for whom it applies: happy book birthday to The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue. I have my copy and I’m eager to devour it.

Tonight’s post is a study in messing around with the WordPress mobile app to post. I apologize for no formatting issues. Not sorry at all.

I’ve been dwelling on a few things that have happened during these strange Quarantimes, and so I decided to share some of them. This is a partially selfish post as it’s to quiet some of the noise in my brain, and partially to share my experiences. Partially to help commiserate, perhaps?

I’m going to focus on positive shit because I started typing about the bad moments from 2020 and it made me tired so I said the Hell with it. There’s enough negative out there.

Distance Learning, The Beginnings, were a real treat. It was a wild learning curve for Kiddo 1, and for Steff and me. Seesaw wasn’t terrifically cooperative, and there were a few nights I was up until after 11 recalling my third grade math skills. It was a bonding experience wrapped in shared frustration, but we survived it without my daughter trying to kill me while I slept. And that’s really the heart and soul of parenting. (It isn’t. I’m just very bad at parenting.)

I accidentally killed the oven. The stove top still works. The silver lining? I’ve gotten really damn good at prepping pork chops and chicken breasts in the skillet. Our go-to Tuesday dinner comfort food is my half-assed take on chicken divan. I enjoy cooking and I’ve had no complaints from my family thus far, so I’ll chalk that up as a win.

We got some projects finished around my house. I didn’t succeed at writing the next best-selling novel. I didn’t read a book a week. I still haven’t fully prepped for NaNoWriMo. There are definitely days I think about those things, but increasingly I focus on the things I have managed to accomplish. I’ve been writing four serial stories consistently. I’ve kept up, mostly, with a personal productivity tracker. I tried a weekly planner and discovered it wasn’t for me.

I’ve consumed a modest amount of whiskey, but stopped drinking soda entirely.

This year has been an adventure so far. It has been far from perfect, but I’m grateful for the good that has come of it. I hope anyone who reads this has had some good in 2020 as well.

I could write more, but my dishes still don’t wash themselves and it’s a work night. I like writing, but I like sleep a little more. Take care, folks.

Nearly NaNoWriMo, and More

It’s almost October? No, no. I distinctly remember August just ending yesterday or so. Right?

It’s almost October.

Oh. Oh no.

I posted a poll on Twitter asking which of a few ideas I’ve had rattling around in my brain for a while should be used for NaNoWriMo. All three were stories I have a special place for in my heart (and in numerous notes across numerous notebooks).

A Princess, A Lich, and Some Murders won, and while I’m excited I’m also a bit terrified. I haven’t worked on that story in several years, and this is a near-total reboot. Keeping the core concept, more or less, but revamping a lot of it with knowledge acquired from years of more writing, developing an understanding of the community, and so on. It’s a story I’m looking forward to writing.

The flip-side of this? This isn’t a story I just want to charge into without planning it out first. I’ve got my Kickstarter Edition of the Page One notebook ready to go for this…as soon as I start putting thoughts to pages.

Which brings me back to the fact that it’s already nearly October. Which means November, and NaNoWriMo, are practically here.

October should also be interesting for the serials. I’ve gotten into a relatively decent, somewhat bordering-onto-nearly-late schedule of rotating through the four stories. They’re terrific fun for me to share, and it seems like people enjoy them which is really just an added bonus.

The bad news? There is no real bad news just yet.

The good news? The plan right now is to write ahead in October so I have November’s installments lined up. The most work I’ll have to do is manually sharing on Facebook. Unless I make a Fan Page for my writing, which is something I’ve actively avoided for a while now because that requires a level of ego or confidence that I absolutely lack.

So November will be pre-written in October, but before then I also have a bit of Halloween spookiness in store for these stories. Tricks AND treats, folks. It’s going to be fun. Hopefully.

Meanwhile, I’m keeping busy and trying to stay sane through the continued horrors spewed forth from the Hellmaw that is 2020. Hope you’re all surviving, and perhaps even thriving, despite all of the excitement that 2020 has provided.

On Notebooks: Breathing Life into the Pages

I’ve absolutely got a problem, and that problem is I love buying notebooks. Pocket-sized notebooks. Large notebooks. Notebooks so big you can use them as makeshift tables. Plain or decorated. Notebooks of sorts.

Don’t even get me started on notebook brands. I’m a reformed Moleskine addict, though I still buy their products from time to time. Targeted ads call out to me, showcasing brands of notebooks I’d previously never heard of and immediately want to try out for myself.

Suffice it to say: I love notebooks, and my collection of various notebooks–many barely filled if used at all–is a testament to this. But what, I recently have wondered, is a notebook for without actually filling it with something? Is it not then just a rectangular footprint of space occupied by so much potential?

These are the thoughts that actually keep me up at night, when I am trying to drown out the world at large.

I have long treated notebooks like sacred objects, only worthy of the perfect notes to be entered into them. Once I commit to cataloguing one idea in a notebook I could not bring myself to shift gears and use it for other things. That would be blasphemy. Instead, I needed another notebook. Let’s not discuss the notebooks I didn’t even use as they were just too nice to deface and defile with thoughts made manifest by way of words in ink.

This past week included organizing, somewhat, a number of these notebooks as well as purchasing the second of three Legend of Zelda Moleskine notebooks. They have Limited Edition nonsense to them, and they are very nice, so naturally I was paralyzed initially as to what I’d use them for other than display purposes.

Over the course of a conversation with a friend on Facebook, it hit me. I had, as Smee once said, an apostrophe. An epiphany. Lightning did, in fact, strike the Notebook Center of my brain.

I would use the Zelda notebooks, all three once I finished the collection, to fully reboot and revamp the Roger & Silence trilogy, a name that makes little sense to many but was a labor of love that I want desperately to revisit. Three very snazzy book ideas deserve three very snazzy looking notebooks, no?

As writers, I think we romanticize notebooks too much. They become these sacred objects instead of empty vessels to be filled with ideas and stories, characters and far-off places poured freely from our hearts and imaginations. They are treated as perfect objects, not to be marred by the words that could easily be kept track of within those pages.

Use the notebooks. Free those thoughts and fill those pages. In doing so, those notebooks are given a soul and a story. One day they will, if nothing else, be a treasure to sift through and a source of warmth on difficult days.

Happy writing, folks.

News, Present and Future

Happy nearly-Friday, everyone! Unless it’s already Friday when you read this, in which case Happy Friday! Or if it’s another day or if you’re a time-traveler, in which case I invite you to stop making things so difficult for me. What should’ve been a simple greeting became something far more convoluted because of you. Especially you damn time-travelers.

With that out of the way, some news about Misadventures In Fiction and my current projects!

If you’ve been keeping up with this page at all lately, you’ll have noticed I’ve settled into a regular rotation of posts – Fantasy Fridays and Sci-Fi Saturdays. I have two serialized stories for each, which I’m alternating (Fantasy Fridays switches between A Puzzling, New World and Wanted Adventurers, while Sci-Fi Saturdays consists of Warpt Factor‘s triumphant return and Follow The Ashes). It’s been a wild ride keeping up with those self-imposed deadlines, but I love the stories I’m writing and they’ve gotten quite a bit of love especially in these dreary times. I have each of them outlined quite a bit ahead, and so thankfully there shouldn’t be a hiccup for some time.

I say for some time because time is a strange, broken construct in 2020, and before we know it November will be here (and here I am speaking such a time-leap into existence). I made the mistake of suggesting I may participate in NaNoWriMo this year and my wife, Steff, has thrown all of her support behind that very bad idea*. To balance my sanity and not burn myself out, I’m deciding well enough ahead of time that I will be on a hiatus from all other stories during that time. Sure, I may jot down some ideas here and there, but I don’t think it would be wise. Additionally, a wise friend from Twitter (Nisha) suggested such a hiatus and she’s one to juggle projects with ease while knowing a writer’s limits. So great minds think alike, but also if I don’t heed her advise she might kill me in a short story. Which isn’t a bad thing, really? I don’t know, I lost my train of thought since it’s very nearly midnight and I work in the morning.

*NaNoWriMo eats me alive each time I participate, but that’s partially because I let it and I’m too hard on myself for not meeting the word count each day. Yes, I’m finally admitting to those things.

Now, as you’re reading this you may also notice something else different. There aren’t ads currently! Huzzah, yeah? I opted to take advantage of WordPress’s sale and so the domain name is mine until next July now and I also have an ad-free site. Sure, it could use work in other areas, but this feels like a step in the right direction for someone who often…neglects his site entirely.

At any rate, those are the serials I’m working on, but there are short story ideas ready to get drafted so hopefully I can share good news about those in the semi-distant future.

For now? Take care, stay safe, wear your damn masks when going out, and be sure to pause and find magic in the world when you can. It’s still out there, still brilliant, and available to any who seek it. Until next time, fellow Misadventurers!

Amazon’s Upload provides a great escape

Technology-centric dystopian futures are a dime a dozen, and who really wants more bleak sci-fi futures portrayed in media right now while we are all living through a pandemic AND murder hornets? I’m also acutely aware of how absurd it is for Amazon to be producing a show about morally dubious tech giants and a future dominated by corporate sponsorships. Let’s just carefully meander around that rabbithole as that’s a topic for another time.

“Upload” is not just another such show. Disclaimer before proceeding: I was already interested thanks to the trailer, but still apprehensive – it was a great blend of comedy, romance, and just enough dramatic tension. My fear? Trailers like this often give away all of the show or movie’s best moments and the rest falls flat. Not the case here.

Nathan Brown, played by Robbie Amell, is forced to choose between being taken to an operating room where he may end up dying or being uploaded to Lakeview, a premium digital afterlife. The caveat is that he would be uploaded to his girlfriend Ingrid Kannerman’s (played by Allegra Edwards) family account. Upon arrival, Nathan is greeted by his customer service representative, Nora Antony (played by Andy Allo) who he initially only knows as his angel. Nathan gradually realizes he can’t remember certain things from when he was alive, and it comes to light that some memories were damaged – something that wouldn’t normally happen in the uploading process.

Season one is ten episodes, with the pacing just right to establish things without dragging the story out or speeding through character development. Greg Daniels expertly plays out plot threads that separate and return to one another, culminating in one of the most frustrating season finale cliffhangers of recent memory.

Fair warning has been given and I take no responsibility for anyone snapping their phone in half over said cliffhanger. Especially those last five or so minutes.

The drama and tension built as Nora and Nathan work together to recover his memories, all while hints are dropped that something far more sinister is at play, is a huge part of why this show is so easy to get lost in. The romance and comedy don’t take a backseat to the drama – it adds and works well with it. Comedic moments break up tension nicely at times, while the romance between Nathan and Nora acts as a great foil to the mystery behind Nathan’s memory gaps. There’s no shortage of fun banter, entertaining visual gags (the Lakeview AI is often involved), and genuine moments.

“Upload” hits at its viewers hard with no shortage of emotional drama only to provide enough laughs to balance it out before another painful suckerpunch to the feels.

The plot of “Upload” season one is excellent, but it’s thanks to the cast that it really comes to life. Upload has an extraordinary, diverse cast. Each character is compelling and complex enough that they could at any point be the focus of the show.

Luke, played by Kevin Bigley, is a fun, at times immature, wingman to Nathan at Lakeview, acting both as a helping hand in adjusting to the digital afterlife while also getting Nathan into his fair share of trouble. Luke’s angel, Aleesha (played by Zainab Johnson) is wise to Luke’s constant shortcuts around the rules and she takes none of his bullshit. Chris Williams as Dave Antony, Nora’s father acts as a great countpoint to the culture of digital afterlifes as he instead wants to die so he can be reunited with his wife in Heaven.

I could go on about each actor, but the simpler way to say it is that every role in this show plays out like a main character in their own rights, and that is a credit to the phenomenal cast and the work they clearly put into making “Upload” what it is.

“Upload” is a well-paced emotional journey through drama, comedy, and romance with brilliantly realized character living out complex, yet still relatable, narratives, and to miss out on it would be to miss out on some of the best television entertainment available right now. (And, again, we need that because have you seen the murder hornets? Because they’re proper nightmare fuel.)

Rating? Five stars, easily.

2020 Goals (and so on)

Prior to turning 32, a year of no particular consequence by any means, I decided my thirty-second year of life would be one of reinvention, reinvigoration, and rebirth. In short, I would rise from the ashes of 31 and the trials it entailed.

I had a post in mind for this. I stashed it neatly in my thoughts, where it waited. And waited. And then quietly packed its things before leaving. So it goes.

Continue reading

Life, the Adventure – Self-reflection

This post is something that’s been rattling around in my head for some time, but one that obviously hasn’t gotten proper attention until this point. Suffice it to say, some of the words have likely gotten lost or replaced. So it goes.

I have, in the past year or so, come to the following conclusion:

Simply put, life is an adventure. We are all equipped to some degree or another, ready to go forth and save our proverbial kingdoms by way of conquering goals, realizing (and, at times, rescuing) dreams, and slaying our own personal dragons and demons. Looking at anyone who has succeeded thoroughly and undeniably at their life’s quest, it seems like everything should be a linear series of steps forward. It’s also the easiest way to tinge your view with envy, fill your head with frustration, and make your heart ache for a place where you may not yet be – not out of personal failures, but because you simply haven’t arrived there yet.

When I think about life as an adventure, especially with regards to my writing, I find myself oftentimes discounting the steps back. The setbacks. The unexpected mishaps and misfortunes.

Life is an adventure, but hardly a linear one. The path may be blocked or broken, with long and circuitous detours waiting just out of sight. The weather will not always be fair, and the wind will not always be at your back. Sometimes – yes, sometimes – the dragons win and the demons get their time to gloat, but still I continue.

I have been ruminating on a lot lately. Some more personal than I’m willing to share here, and some that’s simply my want to become something with my writing while not making nearly enough time to actually complete my writing.

This is my reminder that the goalposts in the distance – the castle to rescue, the dragons to slay, the victories to be achieved – are all still very much in the distance, and the only way I will ever find my way there is if I stop letting my self-doubt, anger, and frustration stand as walls in my path.

Breathe. One foot, then the other, moving inexorably forward.

I can do this. I simply have to do this, if only for me.

An Unintentional Hiatus, and Remembering to Breathe

Life happens, or so the saying goes, as does work and writing and finding time to exercise. Organizing parties. Dozing off in the middle of the day. And so on.

I’ve certainly kept busy, and sometimes I am kept busy. Sometimes I find myself time to simply be, and sometimes I am reminded to simply be (or, with a gentle nudge and much love from my wife, I am told to simply be). It’s during the downtime of being that I find myself thinking about what I should be doing and what I could be doing, and how I’ve not necessarily gotten any closer to accomplishing those things. On the plus side, I’ve gotten no farther from doing so either. Instead, I’m enjoying the adventure of being a father to two fantastic children, navigating the adventures of marriage with my entirely remarkable wife (who supports my writing far more than I do at times), and so on.

So what’s next, then? What misadventures wait ahead?

There will certainly be more Follow the Ashes sooner than later. Still plenty of distance to travel before we reach our destination with that story.

Introductions to Amira, and her Quest, are probably in order. We’ll see.

Then, of course, there’s a small matter of things to do with ducks, and if that’s confusing to read I promise it was just as perplexing to type.

Those, however, are misadventures for other days. Today, instead, I’m choosing again to simply be and remember to breathe.