The Dawning of the Age of Aquarius

One of the traits commonly assigned to people who fall within my particular zodiac sign is a certain kind of flightiness in which we have a lot of ideas, but find it difficult to focus on just one. I don’t necessarily believe in astrology, but I’ve got to own up to this one. Ideas come in abundance and I have a very hard time deciding what I want to work on next.

This is part of the reason I struggle with blogging regularly.  My brain goes off on so many tangential directions and I struggle to pin down a focus.

I want to write a blog about my gardening efforts.

I want to write a blog about my genealogy work.

I want to start a podcast.

I want to write a blog about home renovations.

I want to open an Etsy shop to sell paintings…and knitwear…and aromatherapy soaps…

And don’t even get me starts on the 30 different books (both fiction and non, in all sorts of different genres) and stories, I want to devote all of my time to.

On and on and on and on…

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, about how I have so many different interests and how, in our specialization-style world, I feel as if I’m expected to dedicate myself to only one thing forever and am completely unable to do so. It’s enough to drive a person mad.

Of course, I know I’m not the only one, so I’d love to hear from you guys about your struggles and triumphs with the specialization expectation. Do you chafe at the idea of having to have multiple social media accounts for separate identities or does this come more naturally to you (and if so do you have any tips, pretty please, I’m begging you)? Did you change your major 8 times in college and still end up with a career unrelated to any of them? Do you find yourself showing different aspects of your personality when around different people and sometimes wonder which one is the authentic you? I’d love to hear your story. I can’t guarantee I’ll ever do any further work on this subject (as evidenced by its very nature), but at the moment, I would very much like to explore it.

 

Not a stand alone piece in any way…

The next installment of Season of the Witch, “Daughter of Detroit” is out for edits right now. I’m pretty excited about it. I really enjoy Clarissa as a character. I feel like her out-of-time disconnect really speaks to me. Like many of the Season of the Witch characters, Clarissa has a hard time connecting with the world around her, but unlike many of those other characters, Clarissa desperately wants to. She wants to be part of the world and finds herself ill-equipped to do so. (A lot like someone else I know. *whistles innocently* but that’s another blog post for another day.)

What I’m pondering today before I dive into edits and try to make my self imposed deadline, is one observation my boyfriend made: “Well, it’s not a stand alone piece in any way.”

Which is completely true. It’s not a stand alone piece. It hasn’t been for awhile.

Season of the Witch has been slowly moving away from being stand alones since I decided to write a sequel to Jaclyn of the Lantern. Even Jaclyn, though, benefits greatly from the added knowledge acquired by reading on. Since Red, when the series diverged from the originally planned six novellas to a much more extended set of episodes, I have known quite well that the stories in the series are all part of a greater mythology, a larger artistic work that hopefully, one day, will be collected into a single tome (Hence the Patreon, which hints at this goal. I would love to make said collection an illustrated and unique work of art, but that’s way down the road). The fact that the pieces are not stand alone is not a failing, but it makes me wonder though if I need to rethink my release structure. I mean, it is a -huge- experiment after all. Sometimes, I think I’m flailing around in the dark with this self publishing thing.

As things currently stand, I put out an installment once every few months by publishing it on Smashwords. I do this so that I can get the largest amount of formats for the smallest investment. By using this method, it creates a separate “book” for each installment, which I don’t necessarily mind. I started doing this with Jaclyn because at that time the plan was six stand alone novellas, but I’ve kept it up because as of right now I’m not aware of a more effective method, and besides, in my mind, it adds something to the endeavor. I jokingly call Season of the Witch my “comic book project” for this reason. But is this really best? Or is it just confusing to people who come to the project expecting full length stories, only to find something a lot more episodic than what they were after? Is there a release structure that would be more indicative of what the series truly is?

I’ve been thinking a lot about comics and sequential art lately…

Or do I just think too much?

Powering through moments of Self-Doubt

TW: I wrote this to discuss a anxiety spiral I deal with.

 

I sometimes get these weird moods when it comes to my writing. I refer them as my “Fitzgerald Fits” because the first time I read a biography about everyone’s second favorite alcoholic expat author I really recognized a lot of his complaints and concerns (definitely not all of them, but…I’m tangenting now…) They’re something I’m sure every writer gets from time to time, though. Let me break it down for you.

  • Halfway through a project I start to worry about it, doubt it, wonder if it’s actually coming along the way I envision
  • I start looking at other things I’ve done and the poor response, low readership numbers, etc (assumed or actual, keep this in mind. Anxiety is a lying liar and tells me things sometimes that aren’t necessarily true.)
  • I decide, “Well, if I’m not popular, that’s okay. Lots of great writers weren’t popular in their life time, but they wrote works that stood and shaped our society.” (In keeping with our Fitzgerald theme, I often remind myself about how during most of his life Gatsby was his poorest seller.)
  • Then I look at my work again and decide that it’s not literary enough, serious enough, important enough, to stand this required test of time. I mean…A LOT of what I write has supernatural elements. Beyond Frankenstein  and Dracula how much of the cannon really does?
    • Well, Wuthering Heights kinda does…and Shakespeare…I suppose. Okay, I’m making myself feel a lot better, actually, wow…
    • But still, I start telling myself how I’m not like those great authors. My work doesn’t have those lasting, serious elements.
    • Well, at least my early work doesn’t. I’m only in my late 20s. I’ve got time to write my masterpiece!
  • Someone posts something online charting the relative age that authors wrote their first masterpiece. I ignore the actual ages and see how often it was their first or second book. Often it was. Anxiety makes me pretend that the nature of the publishing industry in different time periods has nothing to do with this.
  • Anxiety tells me I’m too old to write anything great or accomplish anything because I’m no longer an ingenue and the world keeps looking toward younger and younger people for genius. And, of course, “Don’t trust anyone over 30.”
    • I’m really close to 30!
  • The panic spiral continues for awhile until I decide to just power through the project I was halfway done with. I reread what I’ve written, decide to change some things here and there, but usually I do get excited about it again!
  • Process starts over at the first point at least two more times  on average before I finish the project, with other nuanced and project specific steps added it.

It’s a struggle that I think a lot of those in creative professions can relate to and I don’t have the answer*. I can spout empty platitudes about how you should “write the story you want to tell” and ignore any other considerations, but that’s not going to stop you or I for doubt our talents or whatever else we’re doubting. The only thing I can direct you to is the penultimate point, the one where I decide to power through. It doesn’t work for everyone. Some people can’t reread their own work without trashing it. I am lucky to not be that way (I think it comes from being trained as an archivist…aka another story about lack of fulfilled ambitions, but we’re not going there today)…most of the time. There’s something that works for you too. I promise you’re a better artist than your brain thinks sometimes. I believe in you.

Hunger Games Trilogy Hits Home For Me

The Appalachian region of the United States, while abundant in natural resources and rich in potential, lags behind the rest of the Nation… its people have not shared properly in the Nation’s prosperity. -The Appalachian Regional Development Act of 1965

“The majority of mountain people are unprincipled ruffians. There are two remedies only: education or extermination.” Editors of the New York Times, 1912. [Lovely. Thanks a lot, NYT.]

I’ve been super excited for the new Hunger Games movie and today I was asked why.

“It’s a kids book,” I was informed. “Love triangles for teenage girls…”

I shall save the rage about the dismissal of the YA genre for the moment (that’s a whole post in and of itself) and give you a reason for my love of this series that you probably aren’t expecting.

I could get into the fact that it addresses the crazy celeb culture or desensitization to violence caused by reality tv or elitism, all those deeply important issues that I love to see addressed, but it’s simpler than that.

I love this series because they are the first pieces of media I have ever consumed that take my home seriously.

I don’t know if I can give proper voice to how that feels.

You see, I come from a place referred to as Appalachia, a chronically depressed and exploited region of the United States. The history of my home is a long story of being servant to outside companies who come in to take the resources that should have made the region and its people quite wealthy. In the past that meant dangerous mine shafts and black lung. It still means those things, but now we also have the added benefits of ritualistic destruction of our mountains, piles of coal tar left haphazardly about, and the paying of criminally low amounts to put poisonous natural gas wells in our back yards.

I went to graduate school to study about information management in communities and one of the papers I did while there focused on the effect of digital divide on the rural poor. I had a professor argue the entire concept of the digital divide with me. He would not believe me that the entire world was not covered by a 4G network.

I tried to argue. Plenty of the worlds people (including some where I grew up) do not have smart phones; or cell service; or computers in their homes; some do not have running water. He would not believe me. 

But living here doesn’t just mean extreme poverty, lack of access to technology and resources, and absurdly high cancer rates, it also means cultural shaming almost every time your home region is shown in the media.

Appalachia is, believe it or not, rich in history and culture. I mean, have you ever heard a song played on a mountain dulcimer? It is a true melting pot region, every bit as much as New York City. We have music, folklore and dialect that is influenced by a huge variety of ethnic groups as well as a flavor all it’s own. Our culture makes me proud to be from this region.

But whenever I see Appalachian culture mentioned in movies, television, or other places, it is always the same: banjo playing “hillbillies” with no teeth and a shotgun aimed at intruders.

[imagine an image of Fuzzy Lumpkins from Powerpuff Girls here. I loved that show, but…yeah…that guy made me uncomfortable.]

There used to be a joke between my mother and I that whenever the state or national news came to interview someone from our town, they would tell them to put on the worst thing they owned and to pretend they were high on meth before they would agree to talk with them about current events. People in my town were poor and struggling, but their conditions were constantly played for a laugh.

When  I read Katniss’s annoyance in The Hunger Games that people from District 12 were always sent out in coal miner’s uniforms, I couldn’t help feeling a sting of familiarity in my gut. The people of District 12 were my people. I recognized their world and the ridicule that they knew.

As I read this trilogy, I could see that the home I love despite all it’s flaws being portrayed in a new way. These people weren’t bucktoothed half-humans hopped up on moonshine, they were strong and scrappy. They sang mountain airs and healed with the herbal medicinal traditions that we’ve passed down for generations. They struggled with their exploitative jobs and the trilogy even portrayed very real and troubling “please, sir, can I have some more?” attitude of a region that has been kicked so many times that it will take whatever it can get.

I love The Hunger Games trilogy because it did the one thing I had been begging media to do for as long as I can remember, even if I had never actually voiced this desperate plea: portray my home with the respect it deserves.

Reading to Cats

My recent radio silence in the online writing the community can be explained in two ways:

  1. I am working on a side project that demands I complete it before I can rest or work on anything else writing related.
  2. ImageImage

My recent adoption of two shelter kittens has probably been one of the most enriching things I’ve done in a long time. My two new babies have required a lot of work and attention (especially since one must be hand fed), but they are both worth every second.

Until I went to college, there was a cat solidly in my life from the age of three when my mom brought home her aloof and somewhat temperamental orange tabby, who had been living with her parents. Since then, many a feline has crossed my path and taught me about love and life in different ways: from the fat cat who had to tame his wild ways, the orphan rescued from abuse who would only respond to me, the cynical and emotionally bruised calico who could never love another cat again after her best friend’s death, the orange baby whose survival instinct knew no bounds, the clingy calico diva, the regal tabby who played fetch and hunted like a king, to the splotchy tabby with an odd interest in clothes.

Out of the roommate life and on my own, I knew I wanted a cat for my companion, but I struggled with feeling ready for it. Now here we are. I sit on the couch, reading Devil in the White City with a cat on my lap and in the crock of my arm and I find myself reading out loud. I know that may put me firmly in the “Crazy Cat Lady” camp (a moniker I could rant about for a variety of other reasons), but they seem to like the sound of my voice even if they don’t know what the words mean.

…which considering what I’m reading is probably best. No need to give them nightmares for goodness sake.

Oh hi there, blog. How have you been?

This year I am doing NaNoWriMo and one of the Detroit region pep talks for the week included these words:

Words have power. Your words can change the world. But before they can perform this feat, you have to write them. They do no good trapped inside of you, slowly driving you mad. Now is the time to give those voices and stories and world changing ideas the freedom to spill out onto a page and be preserved there for all of us to learn from.

Ever since I was small, I wanted to be a writer. I was always writing. Even before I knew how to read and write much or could really hold a pencil, I voiced the concern to my family that I would very much like to keep a journal. When the fine motor skills developed, I was off like a rocket.

Then…somewhere along the line. Something happened. I became afraid of my words.

For starters, I had this idea in my head for a long time that I was too young to write a lot of the ideas that I had. I wasn’t “good enough” yet. I had to spend more time practice my writing and learning about writing. This is rubbish. Not only are there plenty of talented young writers, but every writer spends a lifetime learning their craft. If I wait until I’m a “perfect writer” to get these thoughts down in print, it is extremely likely that I will never write them. In all honesty, I’ll probably forget the things that inspired me to write them in the first place. And, if they turn out to be absolutely shit, I can always try again later.

Second, at some point in my life, I grew afraid of having an opinion. I had always been a shy girl, but when social media started becoming more and more intrenched in the world around me, I suddenly became more and more terrified of my thoughts and words. I didn’t want to say something and start a fight. I didn’t want people who perhaps disagreed with me to think less of me. It wasn’t, necessarily, that I didn’t want to be disagreed with (I love to be engaged in good debates); it was more that I didn’t want people I cared for to write me off because I didn’t share their opinions. As someone who tries their best to research things, I was also very nervous that I would miss an important angle and others would judge me because of it. It wasn’t just political things. I didn’t want to say I was sad that day for fear of people taking it the wrong way. I kept most things to myself and that I did say, I agonized over for hours after it escaped to the world. Many stories and essays did not get written because of this fear. How horrifying is that?

I made a pact with myself in September to stop being so fearful when it comes to my thoughts and my writing. Also, I’m going to try to update this more. Blame nanowrimo.

Let’s see how that goes.

"And she wrote the whole novel via e-mail"

She sits at the local coffee shop all day, sipping subtly on a cup of Earl Grey, hoping that the management doesn’t see fit to kick her out as she scribbles her dreams onto the most handy surface: napkins.

My secret writing shame is that I am (in the most cliché way possible) completely enamored with the idea of writing on napkins. Probably because I’ve never actually done it. While I have written poetry on the back of receipts (to be later revised, of course, but sometimes those flashes of imagery don’t stay with you long!), I could never actually bring myself to write on napkins. The preservation specialist in me gasps in horror at the mere thought. I am more:

  • Typing away at the keyboard at my desk, drinking coffee!coffee!coffee! and being endlessly distracted by the barn swallow that perches on my window and attempts non-harmonious communication.

Even when writing with real pen and ink, I like to have little notebooks with me at all times, even if I didn’t (in times when receipt writing has to occur)…I wouldn’t reach for a napkin. They tend to rip when you put a pen to them.

Nevertheless, I am intrigued by the romantic image conjured up by the idea of napkin writing. There’s something of the classic Cinderella archetype in it, especially when you hear the “J.K. Rowling did it” anecdote, which. incidentally, she has refuted, despite the fact that I am sure magic napkins wouldn’t rip when you put a pen to them.

I’ve never actually heard of any real writer who did this. I have however heard of a novel written via text messaging on a cell-phone. The modern day equivalent of napkin writing, perhaps?

Something to consider when my commute balloons to an hour and a half next week.