The Carousel of Life

In the time since my last entry, I’ve continued to work from home due to the continued spread of COVID-19, the world (namely the states) have erupted with social unrest because too many humans still don’t know how to act decent and worthy of the air they breathe, and I experienced traveling during both of these pandemics.

I want to say I’ve been making the most of my time, spending it creatively and wisely, but it’s been a struggle. I’ve finished two short stories, written a grip of pages for a third; I’ve written a few local interest stories for my organization’s sister site, but since the semester ended, I have not been nearly as creative as I would have liked to be. It’s all in there–the fuel, the ideas–but nothing wants to budge.

It’s pretty easy to get angry about this–to look back at the work of my predecessors in literature who went through equally trying (if not worse) times, and see that they were highly productive. At the very least, they turned out works that are still praised today, one hundred or more years ago. Why can’t I do that? Why can’t I come up with something brilliant, life-changing for others–something that brings a sense of justice, grace, and positive restoration to this horrific circumstance? I’ve been cheated out of so many other things in this lifetime–why can’t I have and also give this?

There is no making up for anything. We’d all like to think so, but my life has so far proven that it’s a myth. The tails tied onto my kite that are supposed to help it soar higher only weigh it down more. There are some things I can do to try and cut those loose, but every small victory ribbon has the potential to catch on some dead and gnarled branch. Maybe there’s still a bud of a green leaf on there–that little bit of life that captures my interest, but will never grow and become free to its and my fullest delight–and ultimately, it just stunts me more and makes me withdraw even further from the things that could still offer the good–why take the risk? Because I’m a fool–I will always take the risk. It’s just that the temptations have to be that much more intriguing, that much more impressive and that’s a rarity. And when it comes to people…well, let’s just say that a few have caused the bar to be higher for all the rest. Don’t blame me–blame them.

There’s an early morning ramble for you. Back on task–

I’ve put the story writing on hold for the sake of trying to edit through Darling Orphan. It’s almost criminal that it’s been hanging out there for so long. And just as I said the last time: it needs to be done. There’s so much in it that I need to put to rest, and the only way to do it is to get the book cleaned up and released. Here’s hoping it will at long last see that moment..

My Daily Cake (Written on April 17th, 2020)

One week ago today (which happened to be a Good Friday), this heathen decided to bake a cake. What kind, you may ask? Devil’s food, of course. No real connection there between beliefs and tastebud desires, I assure you. Devil’s food just happens to be the only cake recipe I have for which I also had the ingredients. Believe me–I would rather have had pistachio, but that wasn’t on my mind when I made my last grocery store run. If this were any other time than during a statewide stay-at-home order, I might have ventured out to get what I’d need to remedy that. But, here we are and here I am: at home with this 9×13 inch casserole pan partially full of imminent regret.
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Making a cake under normal (not these) circumstances isn’t usually that big of a deal. As this past week has shown (in comparison to past cakes in my life), I’m not eating it very quickly, even though I’m eating some every single day–and not very small pieces either. It’s been a week and I still have just under half a cake left. Chances are, on April 24th, 2020 (a week from today), I’m still going to be eating this carbo-bomb, aptly described for the two cups of confectioner’s sugar in the frosting alone. Thank goodness I used decaf coffee in the cake batter. Can you imagine?? If I’d used all that sugar and caffeinated coffee during a quarantining? And inside a very small apartment, might I add. Horrors the likes of which no horror has ever been horrified before.
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Anyway, I’m about convinced that it made some kind of it’s own pact with the devil in my fridge and has been multiplying like one of those salads that just never seems to end, and causes you to chew until your jaw hurts. Cows don’t have that problem–they can chew for hours and you never see them complain about it. They also don’t eat cake. This has also been kind of like those endless strands of spaghetti on a date night, that have no intentions of nourishing you. They’re just stringy imps of gluten that insist on making a slow, betraying appearance at “middle ground” some time later on, like just before putting on a favorite outfit for the next big date. I know you know what I am talking about.
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So a week from today: maybe by then I’ll be finishing up this never-ending delectable. Mostly because, in good conscience, I must. And in a time when pretty much everything I put into it has been scarce on the shelves because everyone suddenly must bake for their lives, let’s not waste cake. Here’s hoping I won’t waist it either.
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It’s hard to say whether making a cake was really a wise choice, given the circumstances of social distancing. I could get out for walks, but I haven’t, really. Some might say that the properties in chocolate are comforting so it’s okay, and I can’t much argue the comfort factor of just-slightly-melting peanut butter frosting on a just-slightly-warm piece of cake–but no doubt I’m racking up the cortisol like a telethon racks up dollars. Only the cortisol isn’t going to go off to a better cause, and because of that, neither are the calories. This cake could be hanging around for much longer than a couple of weeks. I know this, and yet at ten o’clock every morning since April 11th, I have my daily cake. It has become a ritual–an expectation, almost. Even long after the cake itself is gone, and even if it doesn’t stick around certain areas of my physique, we all know it’s not really going to be gone at all.
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If you’re anything like me, you tend to draw lines between thoughts and things and situations. Kind of like how I played Crunch Time on my phone once for the entire duration of a double feature of Big Trouble in Little China and Resident Evil, and now I can’t think of any one of those without the other. Or how every time I move and spend weeks looking for boxes after work and on weekends, the residue of looking for boxes is still there every Monday through Friday at 5pm and all day Saturdays and Sundays long after I’ve already unpacked at the new place and dumped the cardboard in a recycling dumpster. Out of sight, stuck in the craw.
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For a long time to come, I will think about a piece of devil’s food cake with peanut butter frosting at ten A.M., just as I will associate that same cake with the time a virus was sweeping over the world and picking off victims like the torrent of waves released from a suddenly breached dam. I’ll continue to shop like I don’t know when I’ll have my next paycheck, even though I’ve been one of the luckier ones through this and have still been working from home, and flinch if there’s an empty spot on a grocery store shelf–even if I will never, if I can help it, eat hominy or boxed mac-n-cheese, or smoked oysters.
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I’ll probably also go back to looking out for others more than for myself, which isn’t always a bad thing when done reasonably. I’ll go back to acting on my plans, grateful that I made them before all this started, because I know what effort it would otherwise take if I had to rely on starting cold to move forward again. And I will go forward, holding those close to me even closer, because the sweetness of my last seven-to-however-many ten A.M.s can’t compare to the sweetness of having those people in my life.
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When this has passed, and long after that pyrex dish has been emptied and washed, and my cat climbs into it for the hundredth time because it’s in her way on the kitchen table, there will be cake again–for celebrating, for savoring, for just because. And for remembering, daily, what other things always get me through.

The end of Week 2’s quarantine…

And as of Monday, I’ll be heading into a third week. Some things are easing up as far as adjusting to all of this goes, so that is a good thing. I’m still not where I want to be on a creative level. I will have an assignment due for my Creative Writing class (yes, I am in one to fulfill my degree requirements, and yes, it does feel weird), by the end of the upcoming week, so at least that will push me. As it’s a personal essay and I have, for the past few years, tried to identify what exactly is the definition of “Home”, I think I have my work cut out for me in getting that down on paper. Or, in this case: on the computer.  (And side note: I have recently determined what “Home” is to me, have figured out where that is, and am taking steps to get there. It’s quite exciting, to say the least!)

I just finished reading through “The Merry Widow of Frankenstein”, and after I clean a few bits of that up, I will start to format it for publication. I wish I had a good audio recording program so I could put it (and the rest of my work) out in that format, but I don’t and I make too many mistakes reading out loud to offer raw content. Not a priority right now, but it’s still on a warm burner.

I’m hoping my being able to get through the editing of the poem means I’m adjusting enough to this new “norm” to be able to get back into other projects with more gusto. At the very least, the stuff needing edited. I forgot to mention it in the last post, but Darling Orphan is STILL hanging out there. While it would be a great book to plunge my concentration into, I’m afraid it’s going to require far more than a survival mode mood will allow for. I’m trying to just let it be for now. It’s time will come. If memory serves, I’ve hit such walls before with other books, and they still got done. If only I could blaze through ALL of my projects like I do with some of them. Speaking of which: I don’t think I mentioned that, a few months back, I started a sequel to In the Clothing of Wolves. Again, it will be a novella, though this one will be in epistolary form. Something new I wanted to test out. I have several pages of it written, though by no means close to the majority of it. I never intended to write a sequel to that one–I kind of liked where it ended–but sadly, when a muse misbehaves to detrimental proportions, we creators do what we must to clean up the internal damage. For more details on that, you’re just going to have to read it. I have no predicted release date on that one at this time.

One last thing before I end this post: A few nights ago, I participated in a Zoom session with my Creative Writing class to discuss the upcoming personal essay assignment, as well as creative non-fiction in general. One of the things we were directed to was Brevity Magazine. I so love that format of storytelling, that one of my immediate goals is to see what stories I might have in my archives (memory) to tell in that fashion–and I do have hundreds of them. Not only could it be a great place to start as far as getting more of my work out into the world, but short reflections like that might be the perfect composition style for a time like this, and to help me feel like I’m actually being productive. All good things.

Take care, everyone, and be well.

These Foggy Times We Live In

Like many, I am currently quarantined in my home while COVID-19 runs rampant, and those in power here continue to abuse their privilege of office and exacerbate the problem. First of all, I want to wish everyone reading this well. Be safe. Take great care of yourself and those around you. Yes, I am onboard with trying to reduce the casualties (and more so, the fatalities) of the virus, and have yet to wrap my head around what could possibly be going on in the heads of those who are incapable of taking this seriously. I’m thinking about everyone I know and love and care about, and I’m not willing to picture the loss of them due to the stupidity of others with any sense of peace or grace. I know I’m not at all alone in that.

Do your part, if you aren’t already. Be a bigger person. Believe the hype that this is serious and will cyclone it’s way through all of our lives somehow. No one is immune to either the virus itself or the aftermath. No one. Don’t disappoint me.

So what am I doing in this time?

I’m grateful to say that I can work from home. It hasn’t been easy, as I’ve long been a believer that work should stay at work and not enter my creative space. I spend my “workday” at my kitchen table, which is the least comfortable place to sit (especially for 8 hours), drawing mental barriers to keep the rest of this tiny apartment sacred. Sure, my work is important and I’m grateful to have that as well. Some lines you just don’t cross and activities you don’t mix. For the sake of my sanity, it has to be this way, or I’ll do a half-assed job of everything, professional, creative-professional, or otherwise. Boundaries, people.

It’s been particularly challenging to stay creative since my quarantine. Working-from-home started on March 16th. My last day out was March 14th, and I’ve only been to the store once–March 20th. I constantly feel like I’m waiting on something (maybe from being on top of my work email during the workdays?), and can’t focus enough to get through much. Thankfully, I finished “The Merry Widow of Frankenstein” before WFH started (barely). I’ve stumbled through some editing on “Cradled” for The Doll Collection: Volume Three. I’ve read through about a third of “The Merry Widow…” to see how it sounds (so far, so good), and wrote a couple of pretty lame poems. At some point before all this, I started another pulp story called “High Horse”, and last night, started yet another one titled “Adam’s Apple”. As you may have noticed from previous posts here, “Casting Couch” and “Dead Drop” have been written, and yes–eventually I will put a whole alphabet’s worth into a single book. By then, “Casting Couch” will be available for republishing, after it’s appearance in Crazy 8 Press’ Thrilling Adventure Yarns, Volume 2. I don’t expect to get through 20-some stories quickly, so timing on that should work out well.

Speaking of Crazy 8 Press: we met our goal for funding BAD ASS MOMS, and I believe it will still be out in July, as expected, though it’s too early to know if we’ll launch it at Shore Leave. So many events have been cancelled and that’s just far enough out that it’s hard to say. Here’s hoping it will be a go.

At the end of the last post, I mentioned reading the first pages or so of my stories and posting the videos. I attempted to do this but with some technical difficulties, so I will have to revisit that once I find a way around it. I was recording through my laptop, but may have to resort to using my phone, since I seem to be able to do it that way and upload with no problem. Not sure what the issue was via the laptop. I did it through a program I’ve never used before, so… Probably operator error.

Not much else to report at the moment. Just trying to keep on keepin’ on, like everyone else, and not let anything but positivity lead the way. As always, the hardest part of that is in not knowing what is on the horizon…

 

Marching On

If I can manage to post every other month, that will be great! Though the goal is to do more than that. Again.

Early in February, The Doll Collection: Volume Two was released!

Since then, I’ve finished drafts for 11 out of 13 stories for volume three. One of the last two needs to be written. The other just needs a serious overhaul from what I already had. I’ve really been bouncing back and forth between a bunch of projects, which certainly delays finishing anything, but it’s good to be working on anything at all!

I’ve done some editing on Darling Orphan. Still need to slog through that and get it going. I also recently started an epic poem based on the Bride of Frankenstein. A new twist to that whole story, called “The Merry Widow of Frankenstein”. It’s just over 30 pages long at this point, and I am still trying to work out how I want to format and publish it.

The Kickstarter for Crazy 8 Press’s Bad Ass Moms started almost a month ago. Sorry for just now mentioning it! I figured anyone who reads this is probably connected with me in some way via Facebook, Twitter, or saw me at FarPoint last month, so I didn’t jump on it to promote it here as well. But, since I’m here now: http://kck.st/2SimbnD . We’re down to the last 60-some hours, so if you’re seeing this for the first time, please go check it out! I’m really excited to be a part of the project, and thrilled that we’ve been funded for it. Those stretch goals though… some really great stuff in there, if we make them!

Speaking of Crazy 8 Press: I had mentioned in my last post that I was asked to contribute to Thrilling Adventure Yarns: Volume Two, and I have. I sent a different story than the one mentioned, so at some point, I’m hoping people will pick it up and see what “Casting Couch” is all about. Between writing it and “Dead Drop”, I’m loving the pulp style and hope to do more of it at some point. (Like I don’t have a hundred other things to write…)

I think the only other thing I’ve been really working on to any great length, has been a small book of poetry, simply titled October. Last year, I wrote a poem a day for the month of October (like many artists do for “Inktober” but with drawings), and was pleased with the results. I’ve been working off and on to format illustrations into it, but once I am settled on an actual book size, I’ll be able to push that one closer to publication.

More shows on the docket for the year, so that’s always great, plus some awesome personal changes that should make other endeavors fun, interesting, and lively. I can’t really talk about much there, but all great things!

Lastly, for now: I am considering reading the beginning pages of my books and stories in individual videos, and posting them on social media and YouTube to draw more of an audience. My attempts thus far haven’t worked well, due to an uploading issue, but I’ll keep at it. If I can find a moment at work to live stream off of better internet, I may go that route. Stay tuned, of course.

New Year…Again

Wow, I’ve really been terrible with keeping up with this. Marketing (including blogging) has never been my strong suit. Well, here I am to make an update and I’ll try to pick up where I left off over the summer.

I believe the last thing I posted was that the cover of Darling Orphan: The Case of Lucy Stewart was completed and I was hoping to get back into finishing the manuscript. Good news: I did. I just started the first round of edits a few weeks ago, but since I’m taking a winter course, I don’t have the entire five weeks of break before the spring semester begins–just one, and it’s coming up as of the 14th of this month. More good news though: not getting to it right away has allowed my eyes (and mind) to be far enough away from the book that looking at it now seems to go smoothly. Even the parts I’ve read a million times are tolerable for a millionth and one pass. That said, I will see what I can knock out during the upcoming week I have free for it. At this rate, I’m hoping to pull off an early summer release.

The manuscript for The Doll Collection: Volume Two is ready to go. All illustrations are also completed, so I’m just waiting for the cover art at this point. As I may have mentioned, Felix Eddy-McLean is doing this once again, so it will be amazing for sure.

A few weeks ago, I finished a short story called “Shape Up Or Ship Out” for a Crazy 8 Press anthology called Bad Ass Moms. That should be out in early July. Speaking of Crazy 8 Press: I was also invited to submit a short story for the second volume of Thrilling Adventure Yarns (in the fashion of old pulp novels), and coincidentally, I just finished a story called “Dead Drop”, which I’m pretty excited about. Just working on tightening that one up. I may have to cut about 4k words, but we’ll see how it goes.

Those are the major pieces I’ve been able to work on here and there. Sadly, I had no new releases in 2019, which means I need to really get cracking for this year. As previously mentioned, I’d love for As Fate Would Have It: Eight Tales of Certain Absurdity to be one to come out this year. Six out of eight of the illustrations are completed, as well as two of the stories. All the rest are in progress, though I’ve got to find a way to get back in the mood to write them. Dark comedy does take a special kind of inspiration.

Whatever else will be released this year is anyone’s guess at this point. I have quite a lot of irons in the fire (The Pound, TDC:V3, TDC:V4, TDC:V5, and many others), so I guess as usual it will be a matter of what’s clamoring to be completed. Could be something already in progress, could be something brand new. With a few new (and really great) muses on the fore, new projects could start stacking up quickly.

Additionally, there is looking to be some travel in a few months. Three events are already confirmed and on the books, so I’m looking forward to all of that. A change of scenery could spark even more ideas and I sincerely welcome all of it.

Wow…Well…

So what’s been going on for the past seven months???

With the exception of January through the first week of May, while the semester still dominated my existence, I’ve been writing like mad to get as much done as I possibly can before the next semester starts. The Doll Collection: Volume Two is completed except for my final read through, just to make sure my editors and I didn’t miss anything pertinent. Three out of thirteen illustrations are left to be done (I’ve got Felix Eddy on board again!!), and the cover art. It’s looking like a late October release on this one–not entirely off schedule, so that is Great!

Some crazy news about Darling Orphan: The Case of Lucy Stewart–Book Five in The Case Files series: I found an artist to do the covers. Her name is Megan Luddy ( www.behance.net/meganluddy ) and she has some fantastic artwork! A few days ago, she completed the cover art and as soon as I tweak a few things with the text on the back and title on the front, I will post it here. Some really awesome news about the book itself: I have FINALLY put my nose to the grindstone on getting the manuscript done. This poor book has been back burnered so many times because of other projects, so I told myself that this was it–this summer I would get it done before I touched anything else, and I’ve actually stuck to it. I’m in the last 20 or so pages of what is already written (yes, that includes the end), and after some major overhauling of the entire book, I don’t think it’s going to take too much more to finish it up. Once I’ve done that, I’ll give TDC:V2 its last look over, format it, and get it as prepped as I can until the last of the art arrives, while D.O. rests.

Next up will be a short story for an anthology put out by Crazy 8 Press–Bad Ass Moms. I’m super excited to have been invited to submit something to this one! That has an actual deadline, so it will be my focus before giving Darling Orphan a read through and my first edit pass. As soon as those three projects are done and dusted, guess who’s coming back on board?? That’s right: As Fate Would Have It.  Those little vignettes have been (ahem) dying to come out, and since I’ve been in the mood to write dark comedy these past few months, I’m really looking forward to getting back into them! The goal is to complete them all and get them on their way.

After that–besides finishing up the last of D.O.–I have half the stories done for TDC:V3 (Oh, yes! I sure do!), so it seems like an obvious one to complete. I had hoped to get another novel done this year–either The Pound or another futuristic fantasy thing I’ve had bouncing around and partially written for a few years–but looks like it’ll be 2020 for either of those. Really, what comes next is anybody’s guess. There are so many books still locked away in my head, I just don’t know. The Case Files has 3 more books to go, so who knows? Maybe I’ll get the bug to work on one of those. Maybe the vignettes will get me going on some more dark comedy (wouldn’t bother me one bit!), or the doll stories will just keep coming. Or, something completely different.

In any case, stay tuned for the upcoming releases, and also check out the Events page. I just added shows from now through February 2020.

New Year, New Accomplishments

Off to a decent start here. On New Year’s Eve, I finished another story for The Doll Collection series–“Within”. Since I was having so much trouble with “Cradled”, and “Within” was needing to be finished, I went ahead and did it. It took the better part of the evening, but it was very much worth it. Probably the most cathartic writing experience I’ve had so far, and it helped me to shed a whole lot of emotional dead weight. It feels really good. That said, I have definitely picked Darling Orphan: The Case of Lucy Stewart back up–again. This time for good. I’m about 55 of 245 pages into rereading it so I can get back into the vibe. The ending is written and I know there are about half a dozen scene gaps. My rough assessment is that 30-50 pages more will finish the first draft. I cannot tell you how glad I will be to have this one done! I have also recently found an artist to do the cover, and that is a major motivator for wrapping this one up. I’m pretty excited and hopeful about it. Should be an October release (as seems to be about the usual for this series). I’m not sure why that is, but what can I say? Should all go well with the artwork for that, and the illustrations and cover art for The Doll Collection: Volume Two, I’m looking at at least 2 new books out for this year. My part in both should be complete no later than March, so I guess that means 1-2 more books on top of that could easily happen. The Pound….Definitely at the top of the list. Since I can do the cover for that one myself, it should be an easier accomplishment. As for whatever the 4th book…. I’m not sure yet. It would probably be wise to do another one I can complete on my own, cover wise. It’s not cheap, paying artists–Nor should it be!

Nothing much else going on. FarPoint is a month away and I’m ready for that!

I hope this New Year brings all good things to those reading this.

Update Nightmares. Tech Is Not Savvy

I just spent about an hour trying to troubleshoot Word Press’s latest editor update. Wow. More bugs than the apocalypse. I figured it out and for not being a computer nerd, that’s a pretty big deal. We’ll see if this post makes it–that will be the true test.

Anyway…

Just coming off a four day weekend, most of which I spent by myself. Not previously the plan but that’s how it worked out. I’d sure like to NOT be alone for another holiday (starting New Years would actually suit me). I have had quite enough of my own company.

So, I spent it working on editing The Doll Collection: Volume Two. I’m down to the last story and knew going in that it was going to be a struggle. What it all boils down to is that it was inspired by that first big photo shoot back in July. I got the bulk of the story out just fine, but there is a dynamic between the two main characters that I could not make solid enough to hold. Why? Because I know one of them and I’m the other one. Stupidly, I opened my mouth way back when and told him about the story I had in mind (loosely). He was totally game for it. The problem is, I’m finding that those two characters must be a couple. Trying to force them not to be is damaging to the story. It just doesn’t work. I tried and in several ways, but they just have to be together on the page. So why did I resist? Really, I shouldn’t have cared and just went with letting it be what it needed to be. The fact is, anyone who reads this and knows him, knows of the photo shoot location, and props involved will know it’s him. I didn’t even bother changing his name–that’s how clearly defined he is. He wants to read this when it’s done, and of course that makes me nervous, but I’ll let him. The real problem: he’s also married… Do you see where this is going? I tried to force this story to be something it isn’t, for the sake of saving face (mine and his), because the relationship between “Chad” and “Lainey” doesn’t actually exist between him and me–and I REALLY don’t want anyone who knows either of us to think that it does. Quite a monkey wrench, isn’t it? The downside to short stories is that the muses who inspire the characters tend to stick hard. At least with writing novels, the characters eventually morph into their own deities, and any original influence as to who they are is replaced. Not so here. Not in the least. It’s….truly awkward. Anyhow, I’m about six pages into the rewrite and it’s somewhat more comfortable so far. I’ll keep going and see how things develop. Once it’s done and I’m satisfied with it, I’ll have to make the decision on whether to go ahead and forward it to him, or to just pretend we never made that deal…

Other updates:

More has been added to The Pound.  Not much, but definitely enough to get it moving again and at least 2 gaps have been filled. Aside from that, I poked around with a super old story a few nights ago. I had started revamping it months back–oh, it was so very, very bad!!! And was happy with where it was advancing to. The several pages I recently added are taking it in a nice direction. Not sure if it will ever be in print for public consumption–kind of a historical bodice-ripper type–but we’ll see. It sure does make me want to stow away on the ship of a rebellious prince, just to see what would happen though.