“If we understand the problems facing us, we are better armed to fight them.”

A Commonplace Book, Writing Life

So I haven’t played Vampire the Masquerade, or VTM as the kids might still call it, in a long time. Last month when Mr. J came to visit me he picked up a copy of V5, the newest edition of the core rule book. His d&d group wants to try it. I was about to read the rule book myself and see how much things changed from the old days and I was really struck by the Mature Content Warning on the first page.

The V5 core rulebook has probably the most awesome, compassionate, patient, tolerant Mature Content Warning I have ever seen and I would love to take it as my own but that would be plagiarism.

My favorite part of this has to be “Including a problematic subject in a Storytelling game is not the same as glorifying it, if you take the chance to explore it critically, it can be the exact opposite.”

As a horror writer, this sentiment is very important to me and I’m so glad I finally found something that expresses my feelings so clearly and professionally. Even if they thought it was okay to put a Malkavian in yellow leggings. That I don’t think I’m okay with. But whatever. The times they are a changing.

Quotes and Excerpt from Vampire: the Masquerade V5, written by Kenneth Hite, Martin Ericsson, Matthew Dawkins, Karim Muammar, and Juhana Pettersson, produced by Jason Carl, published by White Wolf Entertainment, 2018.

How I got into Stephen King

Writing Life

I don’t like all Stephen King books but I can’t deny he is a master of the horror genre. And the books of his that I do like, I like because they entertain me as a reader, not a writer. I get transported into that world and I don’t want to leave because there’s something there in the terror that feels like home.

So when I was a kid, my mom went to Pennsylvania for a conference or something and first I got scared because I didn’t hear Pennsylvania, I heard Transylvania and I thought Dracula was going to kill her. I was corrected rather quickly about that before I could realize that if Dracula “killed” her she could turn into a vampire and have a pretty cool life after that.

But then after we dropped her off at the airport my dad said something about how her plane might crash, a possibility that had never popped into my head before even though I had my first plane ride when I was 3, and when we got home he put on The Langoliers.

And I fucking loved it.

I loved the creepy abandoned airport, I love how the characters could pick through other people’s stuff and explore things that seemed ordinary but were really out of the ordinary.

I loved the little girl, I wanted to be her. I loved the tough Australian guy, I wanted to marry him and I was sad when he died. I loved the pilot and his bravery flying the plane through the rip in reality knowing that if he fucked it up they would all die. I even liked the guy who ripped up paper, even though he was also kinda creepy. And I felt kinda bad that he was messed up. But I also loved it when the Langoliers ate him.

I could go on and on about those characters. I think it’s one of the few stories where I like every single character, which doesn’t happen often.

I hot-glued cotton balls to a rock and drew teeth on it. I am not artistic. It was an albino langolier. Whatever.

I thought those monsters were fucking adorable. And if you think about it, knowing that a toothy, round monster thing eats the past is kind of comforting because everything embarrassing or humiliating that ever happened to you is, technically, gone now.

And that’s how I got into Stephen King.

Character Consciousness

Writing Life

This is an example of one of the ways I think up characters:

Me: (recording poems for my audiobook)

Icharus: I want to be a character now.

Me: But you already are.

Icharus: In a book.

Me: …what?

Icharus: I want to be in a book. I didn’t die when I fell. And I love Orpheus.

Me: You do? Ok just hang on a–

Icharus: And I want my book to be like every James Baldwin novel but with more sex.

Me: I don’t know if I can be that brutal.

Icharus: And it’s going to be a trilogy.

Me: Really?

Icharus: Yep.

Me: Well you’ll have to get in line behind Regina, all the Echos, Helen, and everybody else.

Icharus: Did I mention I love Orpheus? And maybe one of the gods too. Apollo could be very metaphorical.

Me: Take a number and get in line!

Icharus: I really, really want a book-trilogy.

Me: You’ll get one just shut up and let me work!

Icharus: I don’t trust you.

Me: It’ll happen! You’re in the queue. I promise!

Icharus: You’re going to have to do a lot of research. Geography is really important.

Me: I know!

Icharus: …maybe Achilles…

Me: Don’t push it.

*

And on and on it went and that is how I made the decision to eventually write a gay romance. A character popped into my head that wouldn’t shut up. But really this character has been in my head since 2012 and didn’t find his voice until day before yesterday. Before that he was a shadowy idea floating around in my brain meat.

It happened during a writing exercise I did back in grad school (see how long ago). The exercise was to look at a book cover and write the synopsis on the back. No influence from the real synopsis or any other information from the book. Just write something based off the cover. You should try it, it’s super fun.

When I read my little blurb the girl sitting at the table directly across from me lit up with a smile and after class she told me I had to write that character, that his voice was so clear to her.

At the time I wasn’t writing fiction but I thought she was super nice to say so, so I put the suggestion away and now almost 7, count em, 7 years later here’s that voice again.

But this time I am writing fiction and I don’t want to tell him to go away. So I guess I’m adding another project to my publication schedule.

*

How do your characters come to you?

Or, if you’re a poet, how do poems happen?

Just Another Day

Everyday Life, Writing Life

Me: (making a cup of green tea after 2 cups of coffee) I’ve already written 1000 words this morning and committed a heinous act of violence!

Mom: (not looking up from her newspaper) Well, easy come, easy go.

Let me know if you have family and friends who are not impressed when you tell them one of your characters has murdered another because it’s just another day at the office for them.

New Year’s Resolutions

Writing Life

I have never successfully been able to keep any new year’s resolutions except the one I made back in 2013 when I told myself I would either make my life better or kill myself. Somewhere in there I decided I wasn’t done living and I successfully did that (made my life better) and that, at the time was really hard. So why could I do the really hard stuff but not the easy stuff like give up soda and go for a walk every day?

I’ve had these goals for a long time now and I really don’t want to write them out again for another year of “failure” but for posterity, here’s what I’ve tried to do for the last 4 years:

1. Lose 50lbs

2. Practice yoga every day

3. Walk every day (even when it’s gross and rainy)

4. Write every day

5. Find a day job that supports my writing

6. Read more books

7. Clean my house regularly

8. Stop dwelling on past mistakes and embarrassments, live life in the present moment

9. Meditate every day

10. Deepen my spiritual/religious practices

11. Teach myself how to play a musical instrument.

Here’s why I couldn’t do all those things last year (not that these are excuses but…)

My job took up most of my time so I couldn’t write, exercise, or clean every day or read books because I was always working.

When I decided to put time away for writing because writing is important, I sacrificed exercise/yoga time, meditation time, time with Mr. J, and, of course, cleaning time to write.

When I changed jobs and went back to school for more medical certifications, all my extra time went to studying, practicing, and writing.

When I got a job with more reasonable hours I spent my extra time obsessing about how much that job annoyed me and all my extra energy went to finding a solution and getting out.

SO now I’m at the beginning of another year with a completely clean slate, a brand new, fresh start.

How am I going to fuck it up?

I completely resonate with the statement: insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result. So I am extremely determined this year to change what I’ve been doing and hopefully I’ll reach some of my goals.

The first thing I’ve done is started early, which may or may not be cheating on the whole new year thing, I don’t know and I don’t care. I’ve changed my diet exponentially, by going Whole30. I’m not expecting the weight to fly off but my digestion has greatly improved since I started almost 20 days ago. (And I’ve lost 5 pounds so…)

In December 2018 I moved back in with my mom because Mr. J is being transferred away for work and I decided would be easier for me to live with my mom–rent free–than get an apartment just for me while Mr. J is away working.

Moving in with my mom fixed several of the problems I had fulfilling my new year’s resolutions:

I won’t have to cook for myself. And no, I am not ashamed to say my mom still makes my meals even though I’m 32. I am not ashamed because I am a TERRIBLE cook. Ask anyone. Ask Mr. J. He’ll tell you. It’s for the best, really.

My mom is a yoga teacher. I have zero excuses to not do yoga.

My mom lives in a neighborhood where there are actually nice places to walk (the place I used to live was fine but it was next to a highway and there was literally no place to walk).

It’s going to take time and discipline but I believe that if I don’t find a job that stresses me the fuck out I will be able to start devoting more time to things I enjoy. Like yoga and walking.

And here are the negatives of living with my mom:

I’m not living with Mr. J anymore which makes me very sad (we’re still very much married and we talk every day but his absence from my life is, at its worst, debilitatingly painful).

My mom is a hoarder.

No one gets under your skin quite like family.

Write every day: I was doing pretty good in November 2018, I even won nanowrimo. When I moved in December I had to put writing on the back burner because my mom needed help cleaning her house. I’ve slowly been trying to add writing back into my “daily routine” but living in a clean, de-cluttered house is more important that writing.

Find a day job to support my writing: before I moved in my mom told me her house wasn’t that bad, that she’d been working on it since I cleaned out half of the clutter in 2016. When I came home I discovered all the space I had cleared out had filled back up. So when I saw how much work I had ahead of me I told my mom I wasn’t going to get a job until I got her house completely de-cluttered and re-organized. Because I cannot work a full time schedule AND get rid of a shit ton of garbage. It’s too much.

Read more books: well, you can always read more books so that’s kind of like an unobtainable goal but last year I didn’t read very much and this year, if I am determined to up my writing game, I have to read, read, read. So that’s what I’m going to do. And reading will provide a great escape for when my depression and anxiety get bad. (So does tying knots. Once, when I was having a really bad panic attack, Mr. J sat me down and re-taught me how to tie a bowline knot. Tie the knot, untie the knot. Tie the knot, untie the knot. I carry paracord in my purse.)

Stop dwelling on past mistakes and embarrassments, live life in the present moment: I think I will always be working on this. My anxiety and depression manifest when I remember all the stupid shit I’ve done. I get triggered really easily and since I’ve moved back into the house I grew up in, I’ve found a lot of things that remind me of all the things I’d rather not remember. It’s hard to live in the present moment when all you think about is how shitty your childhood was.

SO what am I going to do to succeed this year and actually fulfill my new year’s resolutions?

1. Clean my mom’s house. (As of Dec. 31, 2018, I only have 1 room to go!)

2. Dedicate time to write, practice yoga, and meditate. I don’t care how busy my schedule gets. If it’s important to me I can make the time for it.

3. Follow the Whole30 diet and stay away from things that fuck up my digestion. Including bread and pastries.

4. Don’t be a home body like I was when I was living with Mr. J and get out of the house. I can use the library as my office, like Ray Bradbury did.

5. Mr. J gave me the first 5 volumes of Goblin Slayer so I have plenty of books to read.

6. Forgive myself for all the stupid shit I’ve done and move on with my life. (Easier said than done, I know, but I’ve got to start somewhere.)

7. And somewhere in there I’m going to re-learn music theory and teach myself how to play a musical instrument…yeah…

Happy New Year! Keep on keeping on!

2019 Writing Goals

Writing Life

As the new year rolls around I’ve been thinking a lot about how I want to spend all of my 2019 future time. I don’t know what this year is going to be. Happy, sad, vicious, exhausting. Lonely? Definitely. But determined and pernicious also.

So, here’s a tentative list of all the writing projects I want to complete and publish before this same time next year:

Havoc’s Moon (Slaughter Chronicles Book 1): paranormal horror

Resonance: stand alone sci-fi novel

Here and Away (The Heart of the Forest Cycle Book 1): urban fantasy

2 Slaughter Chronicles short stories

Another Slaughter Chronicles novella

So that’s 6 things. I have never completed 6 works in progress before. I’ve already got one of the short stories done, more on that later, so really I only have 5 but still, I am being extremely ambitious right now.

I also want to write more poems. Even though I revamped my two poetry collections last year, I have only written like maybe 4 new poems since 2016. I need to fix that.

But the biggest thing that I want to do is change who I am as a writer–not change my writing style or anything–I want to be a bigger, badder writer. I want to be a braver, more fearless writer. I want to make writing a happy thing.

Right now, whenever I sit down to write, all the negative thoughts–

This is shit

No one will like this

You’re doing it wrong

–can’t leave me alone and sometimes I don’t have the strength to push them away.

I want to be a stronger writer.

I also want to win camp nanowrimo this year. And nanowrimo again in November.

That’s it, simple right?

Let’s make it happen.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!