An Aptly-Titled Update

I just took a glance through all of the topics I’ve breached since the very beginning of this, and wanted to post a summarized update (you know, an actually-up-to-date-update) on all topics for anyone who is interested. So, let’s get started.

Children’s Books:

Honestly, I have all but given up finding an illustrator that can do this at a price I can afford. I have hope that, eventually, the funds will be there to make this work. I’ve not made any progress, or attempted to make any progress, on furthering this project. I do have good reason for that, though: I have too many other things going on. It makes more sense to prioritize what’s possible, instead of focusing on trying to fix what cannot be fixed. I am still keeping my eye out for someone to partner with on this, but it’s no longer an active search.

Poetry Book:

As some of you already know, this book is on another Free Promotion that runs from May 11 to May 15, over Mother’s Day weekend. After that, the price has dropped down to a dollar. I much appreciate all those that invested in the work when it first released, but not a single copy has sold since then. This doesn’t come as a surprise to me, since I figure there’s not a giant market on poetry to begin with. To any who are interested in the free download during the timeframe, or purchasing the book for $0.99 USD, you can click here to access the page.

First Quest Novel:

There are reserves/pre-orders being taken for the digital version, which was intended to give me a chance to change a few little things before the launch date. However, it took me several days to get the cover to fit the requirements for the paperback copy and, once it did, Amazon published it without an option for pre-order. So, despite the counter-intuitive nature of what I’m about to say, the digital copy can be pre-ordered now for its release on May 17th, but the paperback is available for purchase right now. The digital copy can be pre-ordered by following this link, and will have a $6.99 price point. The paperback copy can be purchased outright at this link, but will have a $12.99 price point.

I have already gotten several purchases on the paperback copy, and appreciate all of the support of my friends, family, and strangers in trying to help me market this by myself. If things go well, I want to set up a way for people to get their copies signed that will not break the bank for anyone, but for now I am settled on a plain release. Any input on this topic would be more than appreciated, but I will be looking it up as well in the near future.

Boulder City Chronicles:

Most of what has already been posted for BCC was content that I have had for years, save for the last 2 (maybe 3?) parts. That said, anything else that goes into the chronicles may be reserved for future publications, or the potential for a webcomic series. I feel it would do really well with visual aide, but am not actively pursuing this as I haven’t seen much of an interest in the series. Granted, that is likely due to my own inactivity. If you haven’t yet taken a look at the series, go here to get started reading it in its entirety. I highly recommend starting with Part 0 and working your way up, but whatever makes you happy.

If anyone is opposed to me stopping this series or has feedback on that topic, please let me know. It’s hard to tell what people are reading, what they like, and what PARTS they like in order to justify continuing dedicating time to a project. Your feedback might just get you what you want 😉

Cooking:

I moved, and since then have barely cooked. Anyone who likes being in the kitchen should understand when I say: I have none of my tools, I can barely fit in this room, it’s uncomfortable and seems dirty no matter how much I clean it, and I refuse to work under these conditions!

General Update:

It is getting warmer, and I live in a house with no air conditioning. My computer is meant for gaming, and so only contributes to the heat in this place. The hope is that I can find a window-unit before it gets too gross in here so that I can continue to write without my hands sticking to everything (it gets really humid here, as well).

 

Those are all of the points that I think needed to be made. If I missed anything that you were wondering about, though, let me know in the comments. I would be more than happy to fill in the blanks.

As always, thank you for reading.

Lost Myself for a While

I lost myself for a while in a mess of normalcy and expectations.

There’s this constant struggle between following your dreams and sticking with the tried and proven methods that work.  I’ve been living in the latter for too long, again, true to my patterns of ebbing and flowing between passions and necessities.

No more.

No more, she says, as if that were a solid statement meant to finalize this ever-changing mess.

No more, for now.

Queries to Agents and Publishing companies alike have resulted in nothing but automated responses (at best), and my obsessing over how much they really mean it when they tell you not to submit more than once.  That being said, I have decided that the Mentalist series will be self-published, and it will be launching within the week.  If I fail, I fail, but I have never been the type that can sit around waiting for someone’s approval in order to further my own goals.

Hasty and foolish of me, perhaps, but if ever there were a time when this might be wise, it is now.  I am presently a body containing nothing but free time, and it’s time that I move toward building my own bridges instead of petitioning someone to build them for me.

Once the Mentalists: First Quest is out there, I have a handful of smaller projects that I will be working on to really see where my forte is.  There are a few genres I’ve been interested in dabbling in to see if I would be any good at them, and it will be a nice distraction from this major project I’ve been absorbed in (as well as the plethora of other things I need distracting from).

I will keep this blog updated on progress and teasers for those other projects, as well as any new information on the second book of the Mentalist series (which I have outlined in full already and am just waiting for the inspiration to return).

Thank you to all of the people who have been reading this blog, even when I haven’t been updating it.  I look forward to bringing new content, once again. 🙂

Perspective

It occurs to me often, but especially today, that people have a huge problem with not seeing  potential other points of view.

For instance: I did some ghostwriting work for someone, just a small project.  When they reviewed it, they were grateful in their response back to me.  The site that I did this on has a 1-5 star rating system, as well as the option to leave a comment.  The person didn’t do the review, and I didn’t really notice until a few days ago.  When they finally filed the review, they put it in with 5 stars but with no comment.  At first, I was pretty offended.  For the amount of time I had spent working with this person, I had expected a little more than just a one-click response to the effort.  In addition, even adding just a few words into those reviews can make a world of a difference to viewers that check them before hiring.  My immediate mental response to it was that the buyer was just lazy.

Flash forward (or, backwards?) to about ten minutes ago.  I was filtering through some old notifications on the same site, many of them being reminders to review my buyers.  My first instinct was to just click them all five star (I really didn’t have much to say about it aside from ‘Yay you gave me work and your money is real’), go down the list to get rid of the notifications, and move right along from there.  I had let them kind of pile up because, honestly, I haven’t been getting much work, and the work I have gotten has been pretty easy to do and quick to complete.  Five or ten dollars here or there doesn’t really add up as much as it feels like it should, especially when there is always a hold on the funds.  I felt like, for all of the effort that I had been putting in lately in order to market myself and my skills, I had received very little in return.  Depression falling on me like the dark cloud that it is, I started clicking through the list and marking each with their stars without review.

That is when it occurred to me that I was doing exactly the thing that I had been irritated about earlier this week.  I thought about the person who had commissioned me for that task, and wondered if they, too, had been in a funk when they’d finally decided to go down through the list and mark things off.  Or perhaps they were so busy being on the other side of the coin that they just hadn’t had time.

Sometimes, as a writer, I just assume that it’s just as easy for everyone else to come up with something to say as it is for me.  I cannot comprehend what it is like to have nothing to say, to have no feedback, or to not really understand how much those words will matter.  I live my life talking and writing, telling stories and leaving my comments from the peanut-gallery everywhere I go.  And yet, there are times when even I am unwilling to put forth the effort it would take to write something so basic as a buyer-review.  It isn’t that I don’t have the words, but that I do not want to write them.

This, of course, is only one small example in a slew of the things that went through my mind before writing this.  So it comes down to this point: every time you think the words ‘why would someone do that?’, remember that there is, in fact, a reason.  You probably don’t know it and likely never will, in much the same way that there are plenty of people who think the same thing about you at times.  The point is, we all have our reasons for the things that we do.  We place so much weight on understanding the reasons that other people do or don’t do something, when in reality the only thing that we need to understand is that they had their reasons.  Sure, knowing the reason can often turn a bad situation into a good one, but sometimes it’s just none of our business.  If one of my buyers came back and asked why I didn’t leave a written review, I would be loathe to tell them about my depression and lack of motivation during the period when I finally convinced myself to click on those stars.  It’s unprofessional to talk about those things, and (to the contrary of what the world will have us believe) it is unprofessional to lie.

I know they’ll likely never see this, but I appreciate every person who doesn’t ask me why I half-assed something. Sometimes, it takes twice as much effort to half-ass it when you feel like doing nothing than it does to go full-force when you’re actually motivated.  So, I didn’t half-ass it.  I just couldn’t wait any more time before it got done, and gave it the best that I had to offer at that time.  And I will remember this, the next time I think that someone is being lazy.  Whether I am right or wrong is irrelevant; the fact remains that they might have really put all that they had left into clicking those stars, and I should be grateful that, at the very least, that much was accomplished.

Shifting Priorities

An update to anyone that is actually following.  I know I haven’t posted much lately, and I do intend to change that as soon as things are back on straight again.  I have two posts in the works for the Boulder City Chronicles, and just have to finish one of them.  So for anyone waiting around for more on their story, I assure you there is more coming soon.

For the time being, my priorities have been a little shifted.  My father came to visit for a weekend, and my cat was sick for a while.  Of course, she’s a mama’s girl, so shes gotten a lot more of my love and affection than ever before (though, mostly to make up for all of the angry looks I get after giving her medicine).

I have finally started to get some feedback from people on my novel.  That, of course, is my primary focus (outside of cooking, cleaning, and seeking additional income).  It is both terrifying and exciting to know that other people are finally seeing what I have already read through so many times.  Most of the feedback I’ve gotten so far were on things I already knew needed to be fixed, which is great.  It is like getting permission to go back and fix those things, since I didn’t allow myself to fix anything else after the second draft was done lest I butcher it beyond repair.  I’ve started a list, chronologically, so that once everyone with feedback has finally finished it, I can comb through it in order with the recommendations I agree with (because, let’s face it, not everything someone points out is going to be something I want to change).

I will likely be back to the regular working world (or something like it) very soon, which both excites and troubles me.  I know where my energy levels go for creativity when I’m working, and I’m a little bit worried that all of this will fall by the wayside again.  While I know that’s entirely in my control, I would rather post nothing than nothing of quality.  That said, I will at the very least post updates, and hope that when I do have the drive to continue my work that I will also have the time to.

trend.pngWhat other updates need…um…updating?  Hm.   Ah, yes.  The poetry book.  As some of you probably saw, Last Resort was up for free a while ago.  I did post an ad in My Book for Free, and it seems to have gotten some attention.  I want to thank everyone who liked, shared, or downloaded this.  It really means a lot to me every time someone shows an interest in the work.  I hope when my novel is finally ready to release that I don’t disappoint anyone.  As a side note, I was looking at the charts for download during the period that it was free, and I just had to share this.  It trended like a kitty.

A bit more good news on the topic of my not-yet-released novel.  The title will be getting changed.  The “First Quest” title I’ve been using for now is more of a placeholder for myself.  I have been sketching out some ideas for a cover, and a friend of mine (who is also reviewing the book) works for a printing company.  So my dreams of actually getting printed (instead of just this e-book nonsense) might actually be a reality!  Of course, self-publishing, I would have to deal with marketing it on my own, but there are resources out there that will help with that.

As for the children’s books, I reconnected with an artist friend of mine.  Of course, nothing is free (which to be honest, I would rather pay him for his efforts than not), and we came to a good price that works for both of us on that.  Again, I just need to wait for the money to start existing on my end.  It amazes me how much money it costs to maybe make money in the writing world, sometimes.  I know some alternative routes with contracts, but for the moment am really hoping to go the route of self-publishing on all of my titles.  Maybe this is a mistake.  If anyone reading this has any feedback on that topic, please let me know.  I am always always always open to suggestions and learning from other people’s experiences.

Timing is everything, and my coffeepot just beeped.  Time to awaken the caffeine-addicted parts of my brain and see what they have to offer.  Look out for another post very soon, hopefully with more elves and witches and fish people.

You Won’t Miss Anything if You Don’t Read This Post

I have so much inspiration today – so many ideas picking at my brain and begging me to write them write them please please write them.  In the last half-hour, I have started and stopped half-a-dozen projects.  My attention-span is potatoes and I don’t know how to goldfish it back to airplane.

So I find myself here, again, wondering if I’ll even be able to finish this post and hoping that maybe some free-writing will help me put my thoughts in order.  That sentence took me two minutes to write.  It is not looking promising.

None of the people that I sent my book to have read it.  I’m loathe to hand it off to a stranger for review, but it looks like that might be the task set forward.  I’ve become increasingly aware lately how little the people I know truly care about my accomplishing anything.  They repeatedly tell me they just want me to be happy, but I can’t help but wonder if that’s really under the pretense that they don’t have to put forth any effort into helping me get there.  Bitterness takes hold again.  It has been an incredibly disappointing week, so apologies in advance (if it can be considered advance, at this point) for the disheartened paragraphs I’m wont to produce.

I need a lighter note.  So this inspiration I mentioned before comes from a few articles I’ve read recently that have given me some interesting scene ideas.  Something as simple as “this is how a camel walks” can send me into a spiral that ends with “I have a strong desire to write for a character with a drug problem…right now”.  The problem is, in the projects I’m working on already, there’s no room for someone like that.  So my mind formulates another world, forgetting more of reality to be replaced with fiction as I mentally write a novel in only moments.  When pen hits paper or fingers hit keyboard, though, I’m immediately drawn out of that world, forced into this chaotic stream of couches and dinosaurs and vultures.

I think I need a new setting.  The position I’m sitting in, the distractions, the lack of– I don’t know what I’m on about anymore.  Everything just seems wrong, I think.  I feel guilty for writing, editing, writing again.  I have produced very little worth reading, as is apparent by the lack of reading actually going on here.  Even I can’t read more than a few sentences into anything I’ve done without rolling my eyes at yet another so-called “writer” spitting useless words onto the internet and hoping that someone cares.

Focus.  It’s not so easy to find, today.  I would sleep, but my mind just keeps spinning on potentials and lacks of potentials and potentially unintentional nonessentials.

I am regretting this already, but the post will go on.  This may very well be the only thing I accomplish today, so it might as well be public.  I will try picking up my series again today.  If that fails, maybe I will just cook instead.

Voodoo

About ten years ago, before I left my home state for what would be the first of many adventures, I took my little sister out to a place where I used to hang out all the time when I was younger.  It was a billiards hall named The Spot, and we played some pool there.  One of the things she had always been amazed by was how long my fingernails got without my even trying.  On this particular day, while we were playing pool, one of those long nails (more than a centimeter in length) broke off.  Desperately seeking any sort of object she could keep forever to somehow feel that I wasn’t all the way across the country anymore, she insisted on keeping it.  In case it isn’t already apparent, my family is pretty strange.

Skip forward a few years.  I had done my time in the south and moved back north for a while just to get my feet back on the ground before setting them on the road again.  It was my birthday or Christmas or perhaps no special event at all when she gave me a box.  The box was wooden with a small latch on the front that folded over to lock, and all sides except the bottom had symbols and words burned into the surface delicately.  On the top of the box was a symbol from one of our favorite fantasy book series, and all around the sides were inspirational quotes from authors.

My sister has always been good with crafts, and her gifts are always so well thought out — I couldn’t wait to see what was inside.  When I opened the box, it was stuffed with a thin lacy cloth with a piece of paper sitting on top of it.  Anxious as I was to find out what was under the cloth, I set the note aside for a moment and removed the delicate bundle, unfolding the edges carefully.  My expectation was something fragile, but when the last fold came undone it revealed a small purple doll.  Handcrafted, it had buttons for eyes and was made from what I immediately recognized as cloth from an old shirt of mine.  The hand-stitched seams were solid, almost perfect, and it stared at me with its dark button eyes as if looking into my soul.

Confused, I opened the note.

Enola,  I used a few things that were yours to make this doll.  Inside of it is the fingernail that broke off when we were playing pool that one time.  This doll, from now on, is an extension of you: I hope that you take care of it, the way that I hope you will one day learn to take care of yourself.

Despite the scrawling of good intentions, I was infuriated by this.  I am no stranger to occult practices, and even in all of my poor choices in that field years prior, I had never stooped to voodoo.  This doll, I knew, was made with all of the intentions of a voodoo doll.  Superstitious or not (as my own stance on the topic ebbs and flows depending on my mood), it was not at all a comfort to know that someone had made a voodoo doll of -me-.

I will admit here that I never have fully forgiven this.  Again, whether I believed that it could actually harm me or not, it was the idea more than anything that bothered me.  Of course, I voiced my displeasure to my sister, who defended herself with the long list of reasons why she had made it for me.  She had wanted to make something personal, and wanted to put to use the fingernail that she had kept for so many years (again, yes, we are strange).  More than that, though, the entire idea behind it had been to force me to finally care for something that could potentially effect my own well-being.

Partially out of respect for her and partially out of fear of what might happen if I didn’t care for the thing, I kept the doll.  Wrapped in lacy white cotton and stuffed in a box with the same note that had always been with it, the only change I ever made was the addition of a handful of dried rose petals to prevent the inevitable musty smell that can form when things are left alone for too long.  For the rest of its life, it would sit like that: hidden in this box where nobody could see it or hurt it -or hurt me.

Every time I’ve moved since then -there were at least ten more instances of my packing up boxes and relocating- the box was put inside of another box where all of the little boxes filled with memories were tucked safely away.  Whenever I got to my new “home”, it would be unpacked, set on a shelf, and left alone.  If anyone asked what was in it, I would tell them it was just a doll that someone made for me.  They didn’t need to know more than that.

When I lived in the Centipede Graveyard, the entire basement area that I was renting had flooded.  Before removing my electronics and protecting the things that could easily be destroyed and rendered useless, the first thing that I did was pulled this box out of its storage space, lifted it to somewhere safe, and made sure that it was thoroughly dry before I set to the terrible task of dealing with the rest of the house.  That moment, I think, was a big turning point.  I realized, then, that I really had done my best to take care of it, and that it wasn’t just because of the symbolism.  I thought back to other times when I had taken the doll’s “feelings” and comfort into consideration: its placement on a windowsill during the summer so that the sun could reach it, moving it to the dresser when it started to get cold, keeping it always somewhere visible just in case, ensuring that my cat never messed with it or tried to knock it down, never smoking too close to it for fear of accidentally setting it on fire and…and what?  And it was then that I realized that a much bigger part of me than I had been willing to admit fully believed that, if something bad happened to this doll, it would happen to me.

Three months after coming to this realization (which I was happy to pretend was a conversation that myself and I had never had), I was packing up whatever I could fit into my car and moving across the country again.  My boyfriend, Kyle, was helping me move, and helping me make sense of the process-of-elimination that’s required when you understand that you can’t take everything that you have with you.  Every time I have moved long distance, most of the things that I owned have been left behind.  This process is to determine what things are most important: what has to come with me, what I want to come with me, and what things I can live without.

When he asked about the box, I told him the real story and the meaning behind it.  He, of course, voted to sort it into the optional pile, and only bring it with if I ended up with extra room after all of the non-optional things were packed.  I refused.  This box and its contents had to be with me – that wasn’t an option.  He didn’t understand or agree, and I cannot blame him.  A part of me, even writing this now, feels foolish for being so stubborn about it.  I couldn’t help thinking, though, what might happen if someone else had the doll.  What if they didn’t take care of it?  What would happen to me?  It was no longer about the symbolism that my sister had intended, and was now entirely about the idea that this doll held my livelihood in its hands.

Several times, we had to go back through the non-optional pile and figure out what was going to have to become optional.  There just wasn’t enough room for everything to go, and I had to compromise and re-prioritize all of my belongings.  Each time we came to the box with the doll, we had the same disagreement: it took up too much space and was just going to sit on a shelf, but I couldn’t let it fall in the hands of anyone else.

In the end, the box came with us.  This time, however, it wasn’t tucked neatly into another box and packed with the rest of my things.  In order to fit as much as we possibly could into the car, everything was taken out of boxes and fit wherever we could stuff it in the car.  So I packed this box last, making sure that I left room for it right behind the headrest of the driver’s seat.  There, I could see it in my rear-view mirror while driving, and could know that it was safe.

The trip from my home up north to my new home down south would be two days of driving consistently.  All the while, the box was in my view.  We stopped at a few tolls, and were almost out of the city by the time we hit the last toll.  It was well into the winter night at this point, and the only light was the one inside of the tiny booth the operator stood in.  As I rolled down the window and handed the money to the man in the booth, he looked directly at me and said, “What’s done is done.”

At first, I had no response, and the only thing I could force from my lips was, “Excuse me?”

“What’s done is done,” he repeated, matter-of-factly, but that still didn’t clarify.

“I…I don’t understand,” I replied, becoming increasingly paranoid about what exactly that was supposed to mean.

He nodded at me, and explained, “The quote on the box behind you.  ‘What’s done is done.  William Shakespeare.'”

My heart-rate almost instantly returned to normal.  I laughed nervously.  “Oh, yeah.  It’s a good quote,” I replied, still feeling a bit off but at least no longer freaking out about whether this guy was threatening me or something.  It sounds silly, I know, but in the pitch dark on the outskirts of a city, when a strange man starts spouting off words of wisdom, one tends to assume he is crazy.

“It’s good advice,” he said, eerily expressionless, and handed me my change.  I thanked him and waved goodnight before driving through the toll, still feeling a bit strange about the whole thing.  The rest of the night was without incident, and we stayed the night at my brother’s house – the convenient halfway point between the point of departure and our final destination.

The next day we set out for the final half of our trip, and stopped about two hours in for food and gas.  We had pulled up to a drive through that was just a block from the gas station just off of a 3-lane city street.  After taking the food through the window, I left it rolled down as I made a right hand turn onto the road.  A loud clunk sounded, and immediately I  thought that something had broken in my car.  That would be my luck, after all, and every possible issue that could have made the sound raced through my head as I drove carefully to the gas station.  Nothing felt different, but that didn’t mean something wasn’t wrong.

Something was very wrong, in fact, and I realized it as soon as we pulled into the gas station.  As I glanced into my rear-view mirror, I saw that the box was gone.  Instantly, I understood where the sound had come from, and I asked Kyle to fill up the tank while I went back to get it.  He looked at me like I was crazy, of course, but that wouldn’t dissuade me.  I’d been crazy my whole life, and that was not about to keep me from continuing the rampage of nonsensical decisions that was to thank for most of my adventures.  More than that wild determination, though, there was the sudden feeling like I could die at any moment if someone hit that box.  It was big enough that there was no way someone wouldn’t notice it in the street, but the traffic had been moving so fast that it really was a gamble.

I ran the block back to where I had heard the sound, just outside of the Wendy’s or Taco Bell or whatever cursed place had set this series of events into motion.  There in the middle of the road was the box, broken into pieces.  The doll had been tossed into the middle lane, and the note floated up down with every gust made by the passing tires.  Dried rose petals were dancing scattered across the road, and the white lacy cloth was now covered in thick dark tracks that had turned it almost black.

I knew that I could get it.  There would have to be a pause in traffic at some point, since there was a red light not far back from there.  I could wait until the road was clear and run out to pick up the doll and the note and whatever I could salvage of the rest of it.  The box, at least, had mostly survived, and the doll was still in one piece.  Its cold dark button eyes stared at me, and I was overwhelmed with a feeling of dread.  I knew, suddenly, that I would die if I went out there.  What was even scarier was the intense need I felt to go out anyway, to get hit by a truck right after the doll had been hit by a truck.

Watching the cars, I judged the timing.  I could make it.  This feeling was wrong; I could easily get to the doll.  Even if a car came, it was a clear and sunny day – there was no way they wouldn’t see me and slow down.  I took a step closer to the road.

What’s done is done.

Frozen, I stared into the dolls cold dead eyes as another truck came and ran it over.  It bounced and tossed in the road, farther away from me and farther away from salvation.

What’s done is done.

I stepped back.  Another car whizzed past, driving right over the doll without hitting it.  Its eyes bore into me, begging me to walk out there, to come save it, not to leave behind these memories, to take care of myself like I’d promised, to die here like I was meant to.

What’s done is done.

I turned and walked away.  The truth is, I hadn’t been taking care of myself or the doll:  hiding it away from everyone, lying about what it was and what it meant to me, pretending I was caring for it when really it was just neglected.  That wasn’t taking care of it.  Neither was leaving it in the middle of the road, but how much care could I possibly have for my own life if I was foolish enough to run into traffic?

As I walked back to the car, I was simultaneously heartbroken and relieved.  I heard the pop as another set of tires plowed over the wood in the road – its last call to me.  Don’t you dare walk away.

When I got back to the gas station, Kyle was in the car waiting for me.  His questioning gaze rested on my eyes as I smiled, blinking back tears.  “Well?” he asked, finally.

I shrugged.  “What’s done is done.”

Shameless Self-Promotion

Between the Boulder City project and shameless self-promotion, this weekend was a nice respite from all of the ideas and syllables I toss around regularly.  But, Monday (hush, today is my Monday) arrives and it’s back to the taka-taka-taka of my keyboard.

Admittedly, I know very little about how some of these social-networking platforms function.  While I’m familiar enough with Facebook (and had an ancient MySpace back in the day), that is about the extent of my network.  Twitter always baffled me, Tumblr seemed more for fun than anything, and I don’t even know what other platforms people are using these days.  Something about short video clips?  -throws her hands up in exasperation-

I spent a few hours researching twitter the other day to attempt (yet again) to get an idea for how it all worked.  Never has something made me feel so old as reading how the hashtag has transformed since I used to utilize it in old IRCs.  That, coupled with the understanding that I had to actually Google something that people these days seem to use without a second thought, reminded me of my mother: “Oh!  I get it!  This is how you let someone know you’re talking to them!”

I must say, I am glad that I took the time to understand it all.  Twitter, especially, has such a fantastic and supportive network for writers of all kinds.  I have found more support in the strangers and fellow writers there than I have through some of my own friends.  After working in competitive sales markets for so much of my life, it is incredibly refreshing to see the camaraderie in this peer network, and I hope I’m doing my part to be as supportive as some of my own followers have been.

The quest for peer review on my novel isn’t going as well as planned.  I am still waiting for feedback from the friends and family who have already received a copy, each having their own (however, valid) excuses for why they haven’t gotten to it, yet.  I’ve considered branching out to a less exclusive list, but for now am content to wait for as long as I can stand it.  I still need to work on the cover design, anyway, so it’s fair to wait at least a little while longer before I do something desperate.  In the meantime, I am finishing sorting through the last details for the second book of this series, and becoming acutely aware that (once the first is published) there will very soon be no going back to make room for changes.  It’s both exciting and terrifying.

As for the children’s books, those will be (strangely enough) a more long-term project.  Finding an illustrator that is both within my budget (which is not very large) and has an appealing style has proven nigh impossible.  After some research, it became evident that publishing an illustrated book is a very expensive thing to do.  While I could work on the designs myself, my art has some serious consistency issues that I feel would prove to be more frustrating than it would be worth.  However this pans out, the stories themselves will be published.  I just hope that I do not have to settle for art that I dislike, since I know that will hurt the sales and entertainment level.

As I say, the side-projects of my side-projects are my friends.  I have another number of short stories and novel ideas brewing and in the works.  I am very much the type who requires 9001 different projects to work on in order to accomplish anything.  If I give too much attention to one thing, I end up trying to pack those thousands of ideas all into the same project.  Clutter can be charming, but only in my head.  On paper, it needs to look like it all made sense while I was thinking it.

Today’s rambling completed, I think coffee is in order.  Lots and lots of coffee, and a little something to help my attention span.  I hope you are all enjoying whatever bits you’ve been able to read.  Thank you, again, to everyone who has given me even a sliver of support: every like, comment, and share (mostly shares) help.  🙂

For the Sake of Self-Discipline

Some free-writing today, if only for the sake of not falling out of the loop and landing myself in I-don’t-wanna-ville (population: me).

 

Since I figure most people don’t know me, and the ones that do are probably tired of hearing what I have to say, here are some facts to preface the bit I’m about to write (or, might be about to write, as my mind is in a state of chaos at the moment).

I move.  A lot.  I will be 27 years old in a little less than 2 weeks, and have had legal residence (well, mostly legal) in 6 states.  That is not to mention the many times within each of those states that I have relocated.  I have not stayed in the same “home” for more than 2 years since I was 12.  Some places, less than 2 months.  Legal residences aside, I drifted for a little while, too, and have taken a few trips as well.  My conquest map below.

places

 

I am the water.  Everything in me and everything I do ebbs and flows.  For example, my moves have gone North, South, North, South, North, and now South again.  I have gone from Country, to City, to Country, to City, to Suburb, to Ghetto, to Country…you get the picture.  Unfortunately, my likes and dislikes, moods and opinions, have gotten dragged along on this same pattern.  The only things consistent in my life have been my cat and my weight.

I am a Jack of All Trades, and master of One.  I tend to almost-master whatever new thing I’m interested in, before moving on to something else.  I have, in the past, started countless projects that have never seen their end.  In fact, of all of the things I have started, my novel is the only thing I can confidently say that I’ve finished.  When it comes to work, however, I make myself an asset.  I learn everything I can like some creepy walking wiki on the topic, and do my best to be the best because someone is paying me to.  Sadly, that information gets lost on resumes (and even in cover-letters).

All of that being said, I got to Alabama (no joke) at the beginning of 2016.  Between writing and trying to put my head back on my shoulders after the unfortunate series of events in the months preceding, I have been job-searching like mad.  Two years ago, my resume was impressive, and I still had a hard time finding actual work.  These days, I know what it looks like to prospective employers: a couple of temp-jobs following a scattering of other things, my obvious downfall being when the company I was with for 5 years decided they just didn’t want me around anymore.  More on that, perhaps, another time.

Since I have gotten here there have actually been LOTS of jobs for me to apply to.  When I first got in, I was skeptical: I had just come from an area smack dab between Chicago and Milwaukee where the job spread was thick but the number of applicants was thicker.  Here, there were fewer jobs to apply to, but even from online applications I received e-mails and phone calls.

To anyone who has been unemployed in the past few years, you know the feeling when you get that correspondence: excitement, relief, and a little bit of apprehension.  There’s this sudden realization that you could be going into a whole new floor of hell when you’ve already grown so familiar with the one you’re living on.  For me, I am past that.  I absolutely loathe feeling useless, and want nothing more than to help ANYONE do ANYTHING and get paid for it, so that I can help my amazing man keep us fed and warm.  While he’d be content if I just make sure he smiles whenever he’s home, I have never not had my own income and finances.  I just haven’t.

Imagine my disappointment when every job that has contacted me has been wasting my time.  MY TIME, which is completely worthless at this point, is being wasted.  Which means that THEIR TIME is really what’s being wasted, and I don’t understand.  It’s not as though I’m being contacted and interviewed for positions that they later decide they don’t want me for (which would be understandable, really, albeit surprising).

The only jobs I have been contacted for have been ones that I didn’t apply to.  I have repeatedly in the last two months been contacted about scams, pure-commission positions, or jobs where the interviewer simply never showed up for the interviews.  Today, for example: I am, as I write this, waiting on someone to “meet me” online for an interview because she is late.  The person who messaged me was suspicious from the start, but my mentality is that if I do not have to leave my house for the interview, then I will go to it.  I have had Skype interviews before, and they are one of my favorite things because they force me to shower but do not force me to wear pants.  I waste zero gas in online interviews, and that is the most important part.

Back on track (sorry, I am drifting some today and, admittedly, pretty irked).

I have to wonder where some people’s souls are, or if they really don’t realize how this effects people.  Here I sit, every second that goes by that this woman does not respond to me losing more and more hope.  I wish that that feeling could be applied to this situation alone, but every time one of these things goes wrong in some fashion or another, it snowballs and I start to wonder why.  Why everything, really.  But mostly: why even try anymore?

 

Well.  Free-writing didn’t go as well as I’d planned, but at least I got something up.  It will keep this page from seeming dead, at least for a few days so I can pick up my head and do something productive again.  This post brought to you for the sake of self-disciplining, and nothing more.

My Centipede Graveyard

11043131_1057782717572367_868355833880592436_nI awoke slapping my leg in a frenzy, trying desperately to kill whatever had pinched or bitten or stung or otherwise assaulted me as I slept.  My eyes were greeted by the pitch-blackness that my rented basement had to offer, and even my hand on my thigh held no answers to where the pain had come from.  Mau shifted and let out a sigh, brushing her feline tail against my face as if to say, “It’s okay, mom, just go back to sleep.”

I couldn’t sleep, though.  To be honest, I hadn’t slept (not really) for weeks.  Living underground so close to a lake, my days and nights were spent surrounded by insects and arachnids and everything in between.  Bugs.  Bugs that bugged me so much that I would rather be at work fixing a buggy program than at home doing anything.  I considered getting a cot set up in the warehouse, tucked behind a pallet of bug spray.  I would be safe there.

Trying to convince myself there was nothing in my bed, I lay my head back down and resigned that the cat was right.  It was okay.  I just needed to go back to sleep.  A tickle on my neck contradicted this lie, and I sprung out of the bed immediately, swatting at my neck and hair and chest and arms like a crazy person.  I felt like a crazy person.  Maybe I was.  Even so, I would be a crazy person who killed that damn spider or ant or centipede or nothing.

Even in the darkness, I knew my surroundings.  I consistently managed to avoid ever bashing my leg against the computer table that was set up in front of my bed, always escaping the self-imposed enclosure through the narrow path at the foot of the bed.  Rushing to the door, I slapped my free hand against the wall as the other continued its frantic search for the intruder.  Blindly, I lifted the hand, knowing that it had to hit a light-switch sometime, and was assaulted with a bright light before my brain even registered the feel of the switch on my palm.

Mau sat on the floor staring up at me, her gold-green eyes narrowed as her tail twitched irritably.  Her face said, “Okay, I’m up, and I’m here for you,” but her tail said, “This shit again, really?”

centipede-246402_960_720centipede-562036_960_720The carpet in front of my bedroom door was littered with  the corpses of centipedes.  Most people don’t know, but there are two types that live in Northern Illinois: the long curlicue ones that die in a pretty spiral of decorative legs and hard black shell, and the thick terrifying ones with legs like a spider’s and an orange and black striped body that, to me, seems straight out of a nightmare.  The former, thankfully, was what I dealt with most often, and I had been living with them by the swarms.  There was no door or barrier they couldn’t get through, though they tended to at least avoid my bed and clothes and didn’t bite or sting (unlike the aforementioned nightmare-centipedes, which went wherever they wanted whenever they wanted and stung anything that moved).

I had, admittedly, stopped cleaning up their bodies.  It gets to a point when you’re vacuuming twice a day that you start to wonder if leaving their corpses will deter their kin from swarming anymore.  Like a crunchy centipede graveyard that I would carefully step over each day in a desperate attempt to pretend they weren’t there, their bodies would serve as a warning to the other brainless insects to please please please just leave me alone.  I wondered, at times, how terrifying a monster I would seem to the bugs, if only their thoughts ran so deep.  This graveyard of murder and symbol of death left there only out of my own fear that these harmless things might never leave me alone.  Was that really how I lived my life?

I lifted the forgiving leg of my thin pajamas and checked my thigh for marks.  A small red dot in exactly the place where the pain had started sent a shiver through my whole body.  Something was in my bed.  Something was in my pants.  I shook both legs, and my cat stood to back up, away from the crazy person and whatever might come flying out of my pants.  Nothing did.  I ran a hand through my hair, still tingling from the feeling that at any moment I could find a spider or an ant or a centipede boldly going where no bug had gone before.  Again.

I couldn’t stay there anymore.  I told myself this every day.  Everyone did.  It’s so easy to tell someone or to tell yourself, “You need to move,” but that statement never takes into account the cost, the effort, the time, the motivation…all of which I was lacking.  I had plenty of reasons to leave.  The swarm – yes, they swarmed – of centipedes from the moment I approached my basement door was not reason enough.  The spiders that multiplied and coated every subtle curve on my car, every door handle, every mirror, every windshield wiper, were not enough to make me go.  The crazy lady who rented to me, her fence-hopping floor-pissing constantly-barking Shih Tzu (who had turned both the yard and half of my basement into a shit-zoo) was not enough to make me leave.

What could motivate me, if not for all of that?

Some time after this incident, this repeat offense on my sleep and my sanity, it rained while I was at work.  That summer had been wet and miserable in more ways than one, but this rain was a torrential downpour the likes of which I’d only seen during monsoon season in the time I spent in Arizona.  I drove home from work that night knowing there would be water on the floor, on my boxes, and probably on the towels I would want to use to clean it all up.  I had no idea, no idea at all, the extent of the damage I would walk into.

I took the three steps down to the sliding glass door that opened into my basement.  At least, I told myself, there were no bugs.  At the bottom of those steps where the centipedes normally swarmed, there was a useless drain that was clogged with corpses and leaves and sticks.  The water came up to the top of the last step, well above the bottom of the sliding glass door.  I planned my entrance carefully in the dark, holding my flashlight between my teeth as I dug through the mud and grass in the yard to seek anything suitable to brush away the debris.

My hands gripped instinctively around the first stick they found, but it wasn’t long or sturdy enough to do much more than poke at the water.  After three failures, I found one that would suit my purposes, and quickly set to brushing away whatever blocked the drain.  I wish I could say I was calm through all of this, but (my temper being what it is) I was angry.  Angry that I lived with someone who did nothing for a living and didn’t even have the courtesy to make sure that her property was in order.  Angry that I had worked twelve hour shifts for days only to come home and spend another hour trying to get through my door.  Angry that I hadn’t just left the first moment that I realized that this place was a nightmare.

The stick was great, really it was: I don’t want to belittle its usefulness or its effort in this story.  It was a trooper and it did its best, but ultimately it made no difference in the end.  For every clump of blockage I was able to move, three more were sucked into its place by the motion of the water trying desperately to get out of my way.  There was no safe way inside, and I knew this.  I stepped over the gap, placing my shoe on the edge of the plastic door-frame and hoping to whatever god existed that I didn’t break the damn thing with my weight.  Holding my breath, I slid the door open quickly, jumping inside of the basement before slamming it closed behind me.  The walls shook, but I had made it inside.  Into my pitch-black prison of bugs and spiders and dog-shit and…

And water.

So much water.

It didn’t matter that I’d opened the door and managed to only let a small flood in.

It didn’t matter that I’d spent the last hour trying to clear out the path.

It didn’t matter that I’d been smart enough to place towels in between the rooms the last time it flooded, in case it happened again.

None of that mattered as I heard the sloshing of my already-wet feet as I hurried across the room to the light switch.  From what little control I had over the flashlight in my mouth, I could already see (but refused to believe) the mess I had walked into.  I was afraid to turn the light on.  Despite the knowledge that I could very well have electrocuted myself just by flipping the switch, the real fear was in seeing the damage that was done.  What was worse was that it was still raining.

I could just go to bed.  No manner of flooding could have possibly gotten that far into the basement, all the way to my room, all the way up the bed.  I could just sleep, and not deal with it, pretend I didn’t notice, and just be miserable in the morning.  I was so tired.  The night before had been another night of bugs and disappointed glares from my cat, and I just wanted to sleep and pretend that none of this was happening.

I turned on the light.

The good news (though it didn’t feel so good at the time) is that I didn’t die.  No wave of electricity came to set me free from the mess that now assaulted all of my senses.  As the light came on, the only thing I felt was the last shred of hope leaving.

Water.

So much water.

My centipede graveyard floated around me, little black spirals of bone and legs twisting in the water as I disturbed their peaceful rest with every step.  The towels at the rooms’ edges were just wet messes of cloth beneath the water, and I rushed to the door of my room to check on Mau.  Never mind my electronics.  Never mind my computers and the consoles and the television.  Never mind my clothes.  Never mind the bed.  I should have known by the fact that she didn’t rush to the glass door when she heard my car pull up that something was wrong, and now I panicked as I stood at the cracked door that led to even more darkness, wondering if I even wanted to know.

I won’t mess with your feelings here, or lead you to believe anything happened to her.  That cat is my world, my daughter, and my best friend.  She’s smarter than most of the people I know, and obviously smarter than I.  When I walked into the carpeted room that had now gone a darker shade of ugly tan, she sat atop my dresser with a wide-eyed expression that said, “Oh my god, mom, make it stop.”  I rushed over to her, hearing the squish of every step I took into the room, and for the first and only time ever she jumped into my arms.  I pet her to comfort her, trying not to show her how much I was freaking out as I looked around the room and started making a mental list of all of the things I needed to do.

With all of the assumptions I’d made that night, there was one that I was right about: the top of the bed was dry.  Only the top.  I placed her down there, and immediately set to unplugging everything and picking up the things off the floor that were at the top of my priorities: the soaking wet towels, my computers, my consoles.  The room looked so dry, but every squishy step I took reminded me that it was only getting wetter the longer the sea of corpses in the rest of the basement existed.

I stuffed the corpse-coated towels in the drier, then retrieved the hanging towels from the bathroom.  Somehow, even those were wet, and I touched a hand to the wall to find that it, too, was soaked.  I hurried to the bedroom closet, all the while Mau watching me with eyes that begged me to calm down, but I couldn’t anymore.  I pulled anything dry and cotton from the hangers, tearing off spider-webs that had been formed during my hours at work that day, and tossed the clothes into the water at the doorway, soaking up whatever I could with whatever I could for however long it would last.

Everything that went down on the floor got stuffed into the drier when a load was done, and everything in the drier immediately went down on the floor.  I had bunched up a large rug in front of the doorway to at least slow the advance of more water, and even that got replaced with dry towels after a while.  This cycle continued for hours, way past my bedtime, until all of the water in the basement had been soaked up save for a few stray puddles that I just couldn’t get myself to consider a threat compared to the task that awaited me in the carpeted room.

Once the hard floors were dry, and there was (I thought) no more water going into my bedroom, I started on trying to dry the carpet with the same process.  It was futile.  It didn’t take me long to realize this, and the moment I did, I stopped.  I stopped trying to clean it, stopped trying to make it better, stopped trying to fix something that couldn’t be fixed.  I stopped making excuses for the lady upstairs, for the bugs that kept me from sleeping, for the water that came through the walls and the door and the ceiling.  I stopped everything.  I took off my shoes on the dry-ish floor outside of my bedroom doorway and let my toes squish and crunch on the centipede-corpse-covered-water-soaked carpet as I went to my bed.  I brushed the black spirals of legs and exoskeleton off of my feet, squashed a spider that was walking across my pillow, and lay down to sleep as if everything were alright.

I want to make something clear at this point, because this is very important: I did not give up early.  No matter how much more I had tried to dry that carpet, it wouldn’t have made a difference.  The only way to get the water out of that room would have been to tear up the carpet and pray to whatever god there might be that the walls held up despite the insulation and wood of the inner walls being soaked.  I know I haven’t set a very good impression of my motivation with this story, but when I saw that water, I have never been more driven to get my horrible bug-infested life back on the dry-track.

You would think that this would be enough.  This would be my breaking point, my end of the line, the fifty-thousand pound straw that broke the camel’s back.  When I went to bed that night, I wasn’t angry anymore.  I was just done.  I was so tired, so depressed in my dark spider cave, and so tired of fighting with what seemed like the inevitable downpour of misfortune and chaos.

I slept through the whole night.  If something bit me, I didn’t care.  If something crawled on my head, I let it plant its flag and name that section of scalp after itself.  If something terrible had happened, I wouldn’t have known or cared or responded.  When I awoke to my alarm, I could taste the water in the air, still.  I could feel the wet at the top of my pillow where the cloth had touched the damp wall all night long.  I could see my cat still hadn’t left the bed.  I could hear the lady upstairs complaining to someone about all of the rain from the day before.  I could smell…

Mold.

So much mold.

I didn’t go to work.  I honestly don’t remember anymore if I called out or just conveniently happened to have the day off.  I spent the day looking for ways out of that place, and trying to ignore the mild burn that had started in my throat and in my lungs that I knew would only get worse.  For all of the time I had spent secretly wishing this place would kill me so I didn’t have to live in it anymore, I was acutely aware that, this time, it very much could.

Sadly, it almost did.  I wish I could say I was gone within the week.  I wish I could tell you that I applied for an apartment and was accepted immediately, that I got my things out of there and never looked back.  I wish the world was that easy to maneuver, but instead I spent another two months waiting for any apartment complex anywhere to say, “You are good enough.”  In that time, I never stopped being sick.  I came down with a horrible cough that made talking and even breathing more than a task: simple communication was a gift.  Granted, it peaked at the beginning and slowly got better, but it never really got better.  And I do mean never.  I still have a chronic cough that feels like, at any moment, I could get sick all over again.  I still wake up feeling like things are crawling on me, even though I’ve yet to see a bug in this place.  I still hear the rain outside and want to check the windows and the doors and the walls and my cat and make sure that we’re not going to drown.

Everything we experience in life, good or bad, stays with us forever in some subtle (and some not-so-subtle) way.  It may fade, it may get better, but it might never get better.

I have many bright sides now.  I have more hope.  I have lights and dryness and I can breathe again.  Despite my breaking point, though, and the weight of the terror that can be found in knowing that your own floors and walls are trying to kill you, there is an even brighter side.  In all the time I spent surrounding myself with corpses to keep out the innocent swarms that simply wanted the warmth my room had to offer, I can walk into my house without stepping over a graveyard.  I can take a deep breath without fearing what I might inhale.  I can look at my feet and at the path I am walking and know, without a doubt, that the road is clear, and I won’t be stepping on a carpet soaked in bad memories.  I can turn on the light and no longer be afraid of what I’m going to see.

That prison, I’m free of.  That freedom has shown me how possible it is to tear down the walls that are soaked from a storm, and rebuild a life where those walls are just words, now, that detail a nightmare that I finally awoke from.

Update in Progress

I haven’t had much to post about in a few days.  Life is decidedly non-fiction at the moment.  I am anxiously awaiting feedback from the few people who’ve gotten the draft copies of my book.  Their silence is dreadful, but I’m feigning patience.

I’ve thrown my creativity into the kitchen lately, instead. Quite a lot of research has gone into risky recipes that could make or break a meal time, and (thus far) I have yet to mess anything up horribly.  There are a few alterations I would make to each of my recipes (because it is forbidden for me to just find a recipe and cook it; I must find 30 recipes and make my own from those), but ultimately everything has been satisfying.

The plan this week is to work on editing some of the short stories I’ve done, and continue the search for an illustrator for the children’s books.  I am planning to share some of my work here before Friday, and my fingers are crossed that all will be on schedule to make that possible.

That’s all for now, insofar as updates go.  I have a massive meatloaf (such a gross word) in the oven, all wrapped in bacon, that needs a little love.

Edit: My camera is terrible, but here is the finished product.  It was so good.