influences

All posts in the influences category

2nd Look: Of Stories and General Jerkishness

Published September 20, 2017 by admin

Another look back at the teachers who have helped to shape my life and kindle the creative spark. This time, we’re going to junior high English class.

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So to truly kick of this whole new world for you and me   direction where I discuss craft and influences a little bit more, I did hunker down and think a lot about where to begin. I’ve talked in the past about my mom being very pro-books, being a library fanatic to the point of getting locked in one as a kid, and growing up a Reading Rainbow addict.

There are other people, though, who may or may not realize the part they’ve played, who may or may not accept the role they played in not only my love of reading, but the formation of the gloriously weird person that I’ve turned into. Yeah, like I’m totally going to claim all of that as my fault. Please. I’m also not going to name names, because I feel like if people don’t have a public personality, sometimes shining a beacon on them is the last thing that they’d actually want, especially if they’re part of something as vast and sundry as the public education system. I’ll leave it up to them to call me out in the comments section or something, heh.

Back in Jr. High, I went through what one might have called a phase of being something of a royal jerk. We all have those phases, and it seems that the twelve and thirteen-year-old bracket is ripe for this part of personality development. Granted, my version of jerkishness was probably tame in comparison to a lot of other people, but I definitely had those smart-alecky moments. I don’t know if growing up a minister’s kid or if growing up in a community where my parents would know what I’d been up to by dinner finally made me lash out a bit at certain points. I don’t know if I was enabled by certain friends,…honestly there’s no point really blaming anyone or anything. It was a part of my growing up, and for the most part, I’ve grown out of it.

Granted, I can still rock the sarcasm when I need to, but I consider that a life skill.

There was one English teacher, in particular, my snark got leveled at. I have no clue why. I don’t know if it was because he was younger than a lot of my other teachers if he just seemed to rise to the occasion more, or if I was just that cranky by that point in the afternoon. Maybe it was because at that point in life I liked to get the last word, maybe it was because a certain friend and I both had him as a teacher, or maybe it was the sheer fact that he didn’t know my parents so the likelihood of me hearing about what a weirdo I was at dinner every night was less likely with that class.

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2nd Look: Dropping the Mask and Exposing the Spirit

Published September 15, 2017 by admin

What can I say – I’m back from vacation this week and the wireless has been cutting out on me. At any rate, I wanted to do a second look at this post, because I think it warrants it. It’s probably the only serious post I’ll ever do under the Lost Manuscripts tag (usually reserved for horribly illustrated stuff I did as a kid, hilarious school projects, and pages of my angst journals). I’m also getting back into Jung, and everything seems to point to that sort of undercurrent lately: Clarissa Pinkola Estes keeps showing up in my social media, The Unwritten series with the whole Leviathan symbolism, and I was given a copy of the reader’s edition of The Red Book last Christmas (still working through that beast). My fascination with this kind of thing is fairly personal and probably goes back to my teen years. It may even go back to this very project.

So, without further adieu, click here to read all about that time I did a gigantic 2 volume school project on my personal interpretation of the masks people wear in society. And my parents wondered why it was hard for me to date as a teen…

 

2nd look: It’s okay to stand up for yourself

Published September 13, 2017 by admin

Going to highlight another amazing teacher in my life this week, this time from junior high and in a class that I didn’t exactly excel at any given point:

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So obviously, I was a right gem in Jr. High. Honestly, I think a lot of my attitude and ineptness was residual issues that came with moving to a new area when I was like nine or ten. Unlike where I grew up originally, I didn’t have kids right across the street and I wasn’t as constantly enabled as I had been before. Sure, I had people at the church I went to and some friends at school, but tween years are that wonderful age where you can be friends and not friends depending on the day and time. Plus, my school friends weren’t actually in my class, or even my end of the building. Add to that a much younger sibling who I spent the bulk of my time around, vastly different interests than a lot of people my age, and no cable, and yeah, I’m sure I came across like a socially inept mutant a lot of the time. It’s honestly always been easier for me to connect with people younger or older than myself, and I know that didn’t help, either.  I had no concept of self at eleven. I knew how I wanted to be, and how I saw others, but I had absolutely no idea how to bridge the gap or lessen the tension. As I’ve said before, I wandered through the Forest of Awkward and bumped into every stinkin’ tree trying to find the way out.

Sometimes, though, the universe, fate, a higher power, whatever you want to call it, is looking out for you. And sometimes other people are, too.

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Becoming a Germ of the Wild, another look back

Published September 6, 2017 by admin

Since we’re at back to school time, I want to tip my hat to some teachers that forever shaped me (and who are probably regretting that now). These are actually past blog posts of mine, so I’ll give you the intro and then link you to the rest of the original post. Today’s look back takes us to senior year of high school:

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After fumbling through the beginning of teenagerdom in Jr. High, dealing with on and off friends, and all the other fun things that 80’s sitcoms didn’t fully prepare me for, high school was mostly uneventful. My freshman year was a little bit of an acclimation time. There was also a theme of me fast growing into a professional piner for dudes who I viewed as unobtainable and who probably wouldn’t have been good for me/would have been a let down had anything actually happened. Other than that, though, I kept my head down and avoided most drama. School work plus a growing love of theatre and music occupied my free time, and then there was college and the ever-important looming future to think about. Then senior year happened.

It’s not something I’m going to waste a lot of time talking about or fully get into, because at the end of the day it’s something that happened long ago, is minimal in the scheme of things, and bringing up specifics would turn into a they-said/she-said situation, and I don’t need that in my life. What’s important is that my reactions to it changed me forever as a person.

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Influences: Billy Wirth and the Best Advice I’ve Ever Gotten

Published September 3, 2017 by admin

So the other day I talked about the oddly profound effect The Lost Boys has had on my creative life, so we’ll just piggy back on that theme today because it’s the weekend and thinking, ugh.

I’ve mentioned this story before on podcasts and in interviews when talking about influences and advice for authors/creatives in general. I wanted to share it here because not only does it fit the theme and fill up an entry, but it’s a great example of how simple sentiment and advice can have a profound real-world effect. It’s also evidence of my giant dorkiness, so there’s entertainment value for ya, too.

I also feel bad, because I had promised Billy’s fan club gal, the amazing Max, a write up when I first met him and that may have been back in 2009. I would just like every editor that I have worked with to feel better about themselves and recount this time lapse any time they’re tapping their foot at me. It could always be worse. Seriously, at the time I kept getting massive costume workloads dumped on me, a lot of life stuff happened, and then through the years, I discovered a horrible, awful truth.

You guys, I’m so bad at being a fangirl. For real. I know I geek out about a lot and I’ve regularly moderated fandom panels at different cons (though I still think it’s because I helped diffuse a brawl at one), you’d think this would be cake. I love what I love, I appreciate the people who have made those things to a huge degree, but I can’t really separate the part of me that likes to analyze and wants to know how things work and is used to looking at things/critiquing from different angles. At the end of the day, I’d rather just talk to people as people then try to put a fandom spin on it or jump around because they’ve been in something I love (and there is nothing wrong with that, if that’s your deal, you do you).

I tried. I tried so hard, and I am just so bad at writing the ‘hey I met this person this is what they’re like’ kind of post without having a theme or a guiding moment to base it around. I end up feeling like a creeper. Case in point: I actually had the idea for this post in the spring, knowing the 30 year anniversary of Lost Boys was coming up. I started jotting down what I remembered from that first convention meeting…

And I may have turned it into the intro for a horror story. I tried again. And turned it into an outline for a novel about the symbiotic nature of fandom and the dynamic of fans and celebs involving ancient gods and soul sucking.

I swear I’m not a bad person.

So, I’m going back to the anecdote that I know will work and, so help me, I am going to do this. I won’t be able to be overly descriptive or starry-eyed, but there are plenty of posts telling you what the Lost Boys convention experience is like. Apologies in advance for tangents and background info – my blog, my rules, yo.

Winter of 2009 was a weird, turning-point time for me. I was slowly getting freelance work and doing more side gigs along with seasonal creative day job, but before I really got a sense of confidence in myself. It was directly after the death of my grandfather, and the family had recently gone through a tumultuous time. While on break from seasonal job, the holiday gigs stretched out much longer than usual, with some extra opportunities coming up, plus some business and other curve balls.  It was a lot all at once during a time when I should have been hibernating, and I was exhausted and emotionally burnt out.

I tell you this to really give context to the fact that when someone sent me a link about a Lost Boys reunion at Horror Hound Indianapolis, I thought it was a great idea to go. Because I am a genius like that. At the time I just needed to get away, and what harm would a weekend be? Yeah, then I was suddenly told I had to get my tail back to the day job the day after the convention or else. And everything I had known there was being shifted around with the workload doubling and tripling up. And with everything going on and coming to a head, I kinda sorta didn’t really sleep for five days leading up to the con. In retrospect, this was probably a vague foreshadowing of the medical mystery tour, but in the absence of mind-numbing pain or any real symptoms, my doc figured I was grieving and said to go live it up as long as I didn’t drive myself there.

Thank god for friends who are eternally patient and understanding, and I’m forever grateful to my friend Laurean for going with me. This was also the first time I had set foot in a con, so it was a total learning experience (though I’d been working on haunted events for like five years anyway, so it wasn’t like I didn’t feel fine at a horror convention). At that point, I kept half an eye on the fandom and had been talked into joining Billy Wirth’s fan club mailing list. I mention I’m going, get encouraged to say hi and all that great stuff, maybe take some pictures and do a write up for the web page (and you can see how well that went).

Another curveball: I’m so shy, guys. Even my best friends refuse to believe it, and yeah, give me a sewing machine, give me a script, put me in a panel or production meeting and watch me go, point me to an editor at a bar to talk to about an idea, fine, but just to like show up somewhere and make small talk with people? You have no idea the amount of psyching myself up that I have to do. Now, after more experience, it’s not as bad, but back then, especially on top of everything else, yeah, but I was going to try my best to fake it and fall on that sword a million times before chickening out. We finally arrive, check in, get our wristbands, start looking around. My friend suddenly yanks on my sleeve “Oh hey, there he is and there’s no one at the table. Let’s go!”

Now, despite my twitchy feelings on fandom, if you go back a post, you know how deeply I feel about The Lost Boys. I love that movie and I probably owe it a lot. Billy’s also an actor that I half was aware of through the nineties, but this was before wiki and Google and so it took me a long time to realize that a lot of the performances in stuff that I liked or that intrigued me were actually the same guy. And the cast hadn’t really don’t much in the Midwest, so now, here, was an awesome opportunity. And okay I was nervous and emotionally exhausted, but I had read up on stuff and I’d just try acting like what a fan was supposed to act like and yes I know that was the dumbest idea ever.

Needless to say, Laurean, who thought she knew me completely, was somewhat startled when I looked over at her declaration, had a sudden flood of panic, and decided “You know what, yeah, I’m just gonna go back to the room, laterz.”

Though she wasn’t as startled as I was when she glowered at me, physically lifted me off my feet, and dragged me over to the Lost Boys tables, where Billy was on his own and setting up. I really don’t know which of the three of us was more surprised. Tact and grace, that’s what I’m all about.

So yeah, this is the bit you came for, I know. Intros are made, and I’ve said before how awesome all the Lost Boys dudes are, but seriously, I can’t stress this enough. It was probably the best first con experience I could have had, in all honesty. Billy, himself, is super sweet, though I think the thing that always strikes me when I’ve been around him is how present he is. It’s something you don’t see very often, and I’m always struck by how much he listens to people and takes things in. It’s an enviable trait. Truly, watching him and the others interact with people prepared me for when I finally got on the other side of the table in a way I could never have predicted, and for that alone I’m grateful.

Standard fan interaction and transactions commence, there’s not a crowd so we start talking about stuff. I’m exhausted and my brain isn’t functioning great for small talk, but he’s very kind and doesn’t flip a table on me or anything. I mention vaguely that I’ve done entertainment work (in that delightfully dismissive way I’ve had to make myself stop doing).  He asks the sort of thing I do.

Ugh.

I’m still kind of amazed I stayed put, at the time. I’ve never been great about walking around with my resume stapled to my head. These days, I’m better about it, but at the time I was keenly aware of all the things I hadn’t done. It tended to slip my mind that I’d worked with a lot of great theatres and opera and amusement parks, licensed properties and other stuff. And so much was just so weird, and how do you even throw that into a conversation? I mean I’ve wrecked dinner parties and gotten out of bad dates with work conversation, that’s the level of weird I’ve been at. And damn it, every time I tried to be dismissive he kept asking follow up questions, and I really wasn’t used to that. He was patient and I think I sort of vaguely fumbled through an explanation and mentioned how I was frustrated with where I was at and really wanted to do more design type work, I was still trying to find my exact niche, insert standard artistic angst here.

Since then, having been on the other side of the table, I get that there are certain conversations that you’re going to have at these things, and I get that he was likely being nice and trying to be supportive while determining if I was a vague threat to his personage. Still, what he said next has stayed with me to this day:

“Well, you know, you just have to keep at it, just keep working.”

In a story, this would be the turning point in which the protagonist realized this wisdom and begins reapplying herself, cue montage of projects toward the next plot development. In reality, it was all I could do to not lean across the table and smack him (That is a joke.  Also, he’s like three feet taller than me and could’ve easily blocked that).

Beyond the whole frazzled bit, you’ve got to understand that at that point I’d been working professionally for about a decade. That’s not a lot in the scheme of things, but it felt like I was going nowhere and wasn’t figuring things out. Plus, I don’t really see it, but I’ve been told by more than a few people that my will power is apparently off the human scale. Brooke was fond of referring to that part of me as a pit bull because when I apply myself to something, that’s it. My will is iron until I know for a fact that things won’t come together. So, my immediate thought to being told to just keep working was something like What the hell do you think I’ve been doing why are you giving me this motivational la de da you don’t know my life, what the what?!?! Quitting is not an option!!!

I didn’t say that out loud because that would have been dumb, and it was obvious he meant well and didn’t say it to brush me off. I have no idea how much of a poker face I actually kept, but I’m sure the entertainment value of that whole conversation was amazing. And if I didn’t let on, then awesome, all the acting classes worked out!

We also had some great conversations about the clothes in the movie, I met Brooke, Chance, and G the next day, and all in all it was a great weekend. I went back to my life, hit the ground running, and although I didn’t want to admit it, at times Billy’s words were in the back of my mind. Where they ticked me off again. So, I went back to what I was doing.

The thing is…I inadvertently, instinctively followed his advice. In the following years, I made the decision to embrace the experiences offered to me to see what would happen. While this hasn’t bagged me Hollywood gigs, it did flesh out my resume a lot and provided a lot of material that no one would believe if I wrote my autobiography. I was a goth mascot for a roller derby team for a while, I did more freelance design work, puppeteered with a fairly known company on their holiday show for a couple years.

Costume-wise, I really started putting myself out there and ended up working on all sorts of stage shows: kid shows, character shows, ice shows, magic shows, Cirque-style stuff, musical review, indoor, outdoor, did tailoring and rigging for people, a logistics manual on some stuff for a place in Canada…I made all sorts of haunted attraction characters and started getting invited to production meetings I hadn’t been part of in the past. And I got comfortable with my weird and in meeting challenges like making a Dracula costume for a 20 foot T Rex statue, a pirate costume for an animatronic dinosaur, a grim reaper jumping out of a giant birthday cake, and things like a goth rocker fairy tale werewolf. On stilts. With the only budget going to the stilts and safety gear. I warned you: so weird. 

Billy’s words didn’t really come back to me until a couple of years later, when I was fully in the grasp of the medical mystery tour, on my seasonal break, and waiting to figure out what the hell was wrong with me. I was in pain, I was getting a few hours of sleep every four days or so, and my full attention was on trying to keep healthy, juggling doctor appointments and calls, and distracting myself from falling apart. After exhausting youtube videos and meditation, I decided that I really, really wanted to take up writing again. I’d never given it a fair shot, and after being mistold at the time that I might have cancer, it occurred to me that I didn’t want to not try something that could make me really happy. The mountain was overwhelming, but his words came back to me all of a sudden, out of nowhere.

Just keep working.

This time, I consciously kept them in the front of my mind, even clung to them, because everything was a fight at that point. So I would make myself get up (or sit up if it was a bed day), pull up a document, and get to it until I sent out a submission, then start a new one. If it got rejected, edit and repeat. I kept it up through the surgery that made me feel human again, through starting the day job back up, and slowly, things began to happen.

Whether it was a platitude or not (and I truly don’t think it was), the brilliance of advice like that is it’s so simple and applicable in different ways. You don’t get anywhere unless you work at it. There’s no networking, no improving skills, no figuring things out if you aren’t doing it. Sure, it’s not guaranteed where you’ll end up, but if you don’t keep at it, you won’t get there, anyway. You also won’t learn to enjoy the journey if you don’t keep taking it. You won’t learn about yourself and how to deal with all the irritations and other emotions that all these experiences bring if you don’t go through them. Frustration is part of the game, and I’ve had a lot of it, but I’ve kept that advice with me for years. I’ve given it on panels about writing and creating and gotten the same irritable look I tried to cover up when it was given to me. Circle of life, yo.

Although I wasn’t thankful for the words at the time, they’re a good reminder these days, and I’m so glad I got to meet Billy and have that conversation with him. Hell, even his good intentions were so far beyond what I was used to at that point, it was a definite wake-up call to start searching out people who would actually be interested and invested in what I was doing and not waste personal energy with those who were there to play games or drag others down.

If you take a look at this blog, there’s a giant series of holes. I’ve taken steps back over the past year and a half until recently, and part of that was that I just really had to look at where my writing was, where other things were, and how I want to proceed. I’m not sure that it’s another crossroads, but I’ve had to get honest with myself whether the path I’m on is working, and how to realign things to where I want them to be. It’s pretty obvious that I couldn’t stop creating stuff if I tried (and I did. It sucked), but restarting has been intimidating as hell. It’s hard not to put the cart before the horse and worry about all the ins and outs and how to play every situation or let other aspects and things I can’t control get to me. It’s all part of it, like it or not. At the end of the day, though, I’m deciding to get back to it and see what else there is to do. It’s not easy, it’s not always fun, but the only way I can ever find out just what all I can do is by keeping with it.

Or, as I’ve been told, just keep working.

 

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and seriously, every one of the lost boys crew look like walking headshots and it took me 97 hours to get to this point.

 

Influences: The Lost Boys

Published August 31, 2017 by admin

Alright, back to vampires. Warning: long post, but I think breaking it up would just make the flow uneven.

I’ve had variations of this post in my head for a long time. I think it’s hard to put what things mean to you into words that actually convey those feelings.  I personally also have a bit of a hard time with the “pop culture saved me narrative.”I get it – I think everyone has defining moments that are connected to art and culture (I certainly do), I don’t know that I love giving them that kind of total power, because it neglects how much work the person involved and those around them puts in. I think situations can be complicated and putting it down to one specific thing can be somewhat trite. I don’t say that to take away from things that are important to people, and I’m not insinuating anything about fandom, but I think situations are just way more complicated than we tend to realize and remember.

That being said, I admittedly get my bigger influences from things that have affected me during times when I really needed something to identify with. Star Wars came about when I needed something to plug into when I was 11, Labyrinth opened up new worlds in my head at 16 or 17, Bowie made me feel like I wasn’t alone and helped me discover my creative soul at around the same time. I will always have vivid memories of hiding out in a bookshop reading Bradbury during the summer of allergic bronchitis and theater that kicked my butt constantly in my early 20s.

 

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The Lost Boys is tricky because it feels like it was always around but in different forms. I remember my dad being super excited when it came out. If you’re new to Selahville, it’s important to note that I was a complete gullible chicken as a kid (but also snuck off in video stores to read the backs of horror movie boxes. Figure that one out). I couldn’t even watch commercials for horror movies (but was fine with demonic possession in Care Bear movies. I don’t know, it was the 80s and they were sparkly and cute.) Somehow, I got it in my head that vampires could be a real thing and the vampires in the movie lived right down the road. I’m not sure if that idea was put into my head by a mischevious relative or if that was an overactive brain on my part, but for a long while I had this instant, Pavlovian terror response to Kiefer Sutherland’s face, which is probably a somewhat different reaction than he’s used to getting.

 

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The stuff of nightmares. Until adolescence hit.

 

Anywho. My memories from that time frame are vivid but fleeting, so I don’t think I even saw the movie all the way through until college. By that time I was reading Bradbury and Anne Rice and others, and I could look at Sutherland without screaming. I still have two conflicting timelines in my head – either I rented the movie on a weekend when all my roommates went home and I had to stick around for rehearsals, or I was working at a summer regional theater type gig. I do remember being painfully lonely – I’d had some heavy life changes. The first real, rough moments of my adult life happen a few months prior.  Everything was affecting me: I was oversleeping, I wasn’t eating well or taking care of myself, I had this sense that I had to prove myself right now or else, and being a natural introvert, I just plain wasn’t great at reaching out to even hang out with people or open up about what was going on. I can’t remember if at that point I’d not succeeded into securing grad school auditions (I’d opted to try the acting route instead of tech or design), but I suspect that this was that time period. I was also coming to grips with this feeling that I just created things differently than other people in my major.

Now I can see where that’s not a bad thing, but at the time I took it as a personal shortcoming. I liked what I was doing, but the department was really focused on straight plays that either didn’t have a lot of parts that I could play or didn’t speak to me from a design or build sense. Now, that’s just part of the job, but at the time it really made me wonder if I’d made a huge misstep. Everything began to bleed together for me, and I didn’t feel like I clicked with anything that was out there (the Internet was still developing and when you’re still pretty young and searching for connection with something, it’s hard to know what to even look for). I didn’t really have an outlet to paint with all the colors in the palette, or if I did, I didn’t know the words to ask for the opportunity.

I was pretty much holed up in my apartment, feeling like I’d completely failed at what I’d wanted to do most, failed at interpersonal relationships, failed at just even doing the day to day well. I can’t even describe the embarrassment I felt showing up to classes everyday, feeling like more and more like I was letting everyone and myself down. I went through the motions, but when I wasn’t required to be somewhere it was easier to hole up, beat myself up and blame myself than to go talk to someone or even ask for a neutral opinion or advice (at least on the art front). I was a swirl of negative emotions that festered and ate away at me as I hid out, trying to numb myself to it all.  It, admittedly, was not a great point in the Selahville timeline.

I honestly don’t know where things would have led if they had progressed on their own – I’d like to think I’d have come out of it because I’m generally stubborn and there were people around me in my classes and labs and rehearsals, even if I was beginning to wall myself off emotionally. I had rented some movies for lack of anything better to do, and for whatever weird reason (maybe I just wanted to prove to seven-year-old me that I could watch it), The Lost Boys was in that stack.

There are some things where you can admit that you like them or talk about why they’re good in an analytical sense, and there are things that just strike like a thunderbolt. Maybe the humor got me to pay attention, maybe it reminded me of my childhood in a weird way, but for whatever reason, I was entranced.

And then the tape broke right before the ending. I literally drove up the street to another video store right that second so I could watch the rest of it. I don’t know how many times I watched it that weekend (and beyond), but I was just really intrigued and began to look up what meager information there was online at the time.

It should be said that by that point I had just started getting cable and my theatre major schedule never had time for Buffy, so a lot of the concepts that became the sleek, cool urban fantasy vampire were brand new to me. Up to that point, all I’d really known was Anne Rice. The music fit perfectly, the performances were spot on, the story was tight. I was happy that it used folklore, and the production design just drew me in like none other. Since costumes were in my wheelhouse, I drank in everything. I think what also really struck me is that it felt feasible on a lot of levels, from performance to story to design. I

I could do that. That phrase kept going round my head, and I clung to it and refused to let go. It was an odd sense of validation (however slight), that maybe I could belong somewhere and there was a place for me. It was the mantra I needed, and if that’s the moment or the thing that saved me, then great, awesome, it tells a good story.

Granted, in my daily life where Chekov and Everyman and Tennessee Williams and A.R. Gurney reigned (nothing wrong with those, love ’em), I didn’t really get an opportunity to play with that sort of thing in a design or construction sense right out of the gate (this was further proven when movies like Hedwig and the Angry Inch came out  and my mind was blown again and I was left frustrated that I had nothing like that in my everyday). Still, I knew there were other avenues to explore and that I just had to keep looking to find where I fit. I definitely think the film gave me the courage to keep true to myself, and it opened up a ton of possibilities that got me reading and experimenting with different concepts. It got me to take a breath and go looking for what else was out there.

Costume-wise, it’s taken me a long time to grow into myself. I think we all go through that lean on influences phase until we absolutely can’t anymore. Theatre work turned into event and various seasonal work, I slowly got more confident and began being open to making stuff that was outside the norm. I had already been working on Halloween events and shoved into the role of coming up with walkabout scary characters. I think every so often when you’re working on things consistently, you suddenly have a level-up time period, where things really start to click and the synapses really fire up. For me, it was being brought in to create a gang of steampunk fairy tale characters. The interesting kicker was, though, that the images I was shown as reference of tone and concept were much closer to gothic rocker with some sci-fi thrown in.

I’d also become something of a budget-whisperer by that time, and was content on raiding storage and existing fabric (and slicing apart the pleather on like fifteen purses) to make other ends of the budget meet. While I didn’t necessarily go in with Lost Boys in mind, I kept that kind of rocker/put together/street rat bohemian look in the front of my brain. I’d  also developed the habit of taking whatever characters other people didn’t want to do, so I got mostly the male, non-prince ones. And I had a blast. I’m still really proud of how those turned out, because for once it felt like I’d formed a cohesive look, that all of the things I did could exist in the same dysfunctional world. It was also the first time in a while where I went on pure instinct and didn’t sketch anything out, but just built onto the dress forms with an estimation of people’s measurements. It shouldn’t have worked, but it did.

Writing-wise, I’ve probably done at least ten or fifteen blog and guest posts about the movie by now: themes of family, why the vampires work, my irritation at the missed ball with the lady characters, and on and on. If anything, that movie’ll keep me in article writing forever. Back when I first really watched it, I was drawn not only to the whole modern vampire concept but the open-endedness. You didn’t need to know their backstories to form an opinion of them. You didn’t need a huge amount of details, and it was better that way because it was really interesting to think on things and fill in the blanks for yourself. In a way, we’ve lost that trait as storytellers since the 80s, and I wish we’d get back to it because I think it makes an audience work more and appreciate things in a different way.

I also like that okay, yes, all the cues are there for you to paint the vampires as the bad boy antagonists, but honestly, they aren’t actually made the antagonists until the last act. Until that point you really just see them chilling out and being teens. If anything, it was bold to show both them and the humans in their home environments. I still will argue that they aren’t really the villains, because essentially they’re just reacting to an outside threat and were just doing what they were supposed to do (be vampires, make more vampires). To put a moral angle or the whole you’re a vampire so you’re damned angle on it actually robs the story of its more interesting possibilities. I’ll be thrilled when we can get away from the whole vampire must equal antagonist or sexy love interest thing we’ve got going on. Just have your characters be vampires and explore what that’s like for the characters. It ain’t hard.

Those kinds of thoughts circulated through my head a lot. I’d been writing in my spare time, but now I toyed with the genre and began to play with different types of characters and what it would really mean for any random person to become a vampire.  I began to read up on folklore, and I’m sure people thought I was losing my mind, but those sorts of explorations really balanced me out in a lot of ways as I worked to get back to myself. And then life caught up and I put it all away to get other stuff done.

And yes, in the meantime there are times when shared love of the movie has become awesome conversation starters (earned me cred in a Shakespeare class because I was the only person who had heard of Edward Herrmann), and yes, I’ve made friends through love of the film and that’s been amazing. In a bizarre twist of fate, I grew to be friends with Brooke McCarter at one point, and he definitely helped encourage me in ways that I will forever be grateful for. I’m not downgrading those experiences, but for me, personally, it tends to come back to something a little more personal than just being part of some fandom. It’s about the ideas that began to germinate in me and this bizarre notion that maybe I really could have an artistic career.

Ten million years later, I was starting to get published and had already put out a weird little ebook about vampires and lumberjacks and historical life challenges, when I was almost challenged to submit a vampire story that I had floated for The Big Bad anthology. John Hartness has told the anecdote about my failings on the whole submission process many times (in my defense I was writing the story mid-tech week), but I still blame him because I never would have submitted if I hadn’t pitched the basic idea of playing the vampire and human girl relationship straight without romantic cliches and ripping on vampire fangirls and been told that there was no story in it.

Never dare me with a story, dude.

Somehow those old characters that I had played around with came roaring back to life in different forms. I don’t really see Rave, Asha, Sin, and the rest as being Lost Boys-ish, but they definitely were inspired by the film and all the questions it brought to mind over the years. Characters like Amanda are probably me playing with Lucy with bad intentions, and the whole concept of Family and The Patriarch is probably what happens when Max’s concept of forming a vampire family is put on steroids. Through The Big Bad and The Big Bad II (and some other projects that never came to publication, but will likely be merged together in the future), I’ve gotten to play with concepts and character types and do them in my sideways way (and I must be doing something right because Hartness hasn’t disowned me yet). And there may very well be more of those characters coming in the future, but that’s a topic for another time.

I get why some people question devotion to the film. I’ve had that conversation a decent amount on social media lately – It’s a somewhat dated cult eighties movie with a lot of strange tone shifts and why can’t we just move on already. Ignoring all the ways that it’s influenced the vampire and urban fantasy genre for the moment, what can I say? Fandom is weird in general, but I think at its core it explores this need to belong that resonates with people. As far as saving me…maybe. It’s hard to say. At the very least, it pushed the snowball down the mountainside and got the ball rolling in multiple facets of my career, which is awesome, but it also really put me on the road to self-acceptance, which is even better.

***

Mooner is the aforementioned vampires and lumberjacks story, which I have an admitted soft spot for.

You can also read up on my take on urban fantasy vampires in The Big Bad anthology and The Big Bad II.

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Feelgood or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Crue

Published March 31, 2016 by admin

So we all know I’m a music fan. I was fortunate enough to get to see Alice Cooper and Mötley Crüe earlier in the summer. In a nutshell: an amazing show. It also apparently unleashed my creative side in terrifying new ways.

It also got me thinking. I live a lot of different types of music. I grew up with a classical vocal background. I did the whole musical theatre thing. I fell head over heels in love with classic rock, glam rock, hard rock, etc. I will never not love David Bowie or Led Zeppelin – in a lot of ways they define my creative tendencies.  I’m still furthering my musical education and hope to until the day I keel over. I have my guilty pleasures, but my core interests are life’s blood to me. They’re pure energy, the things that can get me through a day, readjust my attitude, or make me ponder things that lead to creative ideas of my own. Music is a huge part of my life.

I am also a fairly headstrong, independent person. I don’t like labels and I don’t necessarily qualify this as just a gender thing, though I do think I throw people by being a dichotomy of interests and being a chick, gal, babe,  woman with a questionable sense of humor. So, this is my definition for how I view life and try to conduct myself:  I personally am of the opinion that all people deserve to be safe, to have choices they are allowed to  make, to have options even if they choose not to use them, to be compensated based on their work and talent. Not one aspect of their personage (be it skin color, gender, orientation, disability, genetic conditions, physical alteration, etc) should affect any of that. People are people. ‘Nuff said.

The only reason I bring this up is because in a roundabout way, Mötley Crüe has turned me into a far more empowered and empathetic person than the one I started out as.

I know, right? Hang onto your butts, it’s going to be that kind of post.

It has been brought to my attention off and on that it is a conflict of interests that I like certain bands. This started in my 20s when I really got into Led Zeppelin, but it really gets mentioned when people walk into my work space and see me sewing something while rocking out to a lot of hard rock or metal, but mostly Crüe. I will proclaim it  until the end of time that their music is perfect to sew to, but I’m not sure they’d be thrilled to hear it (Whether or not at least one occasion has involved a giant fan and me playing air guitar on a T-square while on top of a cutting table…I plead the fifth).

On one occasion not involving a fan and air guitar, someone came in, stopped, and proclaimed: “Oh my God…I didn’t know you were THAT kind of girl…”

I had to self-edit through about forty replies to begin with, because I was feeling charitable. The person in question meant that I seemed too nice (ugh, that word), to be a hard rock fan and was a little horrified when I presented them with proof of my music collection. Still…

Okay, seriously? Why, what kind of woman am I? Please tell me, just what kind of person does that make me? A music lover? Someone with good taste? Someone with her own interests? And why should my gender determine what I listen to? Apparently my parts never got that memo.

I never know how to take commentary like that, and I get irritated when it’s hinted that I should give up something I love because of another part of my personality.  I am definitely equal parts romantic and badass, feminine and tenacious wolverine who will not give up when I have a goal. I don’t like boxes, I don’t cop to labels, I just do not want to be defined by some pre-determined role.  My friend Susan refers to me as Cinderella in motorcycle boots, and that’s probably a fair assessment. I tend to embrace all the things and not feel bad about it.

Admittedly,  the strong woman and music lover once conflicted a lot. Now to preface this, let it be said that although I try to conduct myself fairly appropriately in public as an author and artist, those who know me well know that it takes a lot to offend me. In some ways, Olde School is probably a better gauge for the ten thousand facets of SJ. There are heartfelt parts to me, I’m not afraid to go dark, and admittedly, there’s a reason that I write characters like Ippick and Clyde – my sense of humor can easily go that way.

I have a penchant for certain types of rock folklore and I love reading music bios. So it’s weird that there was a time when I will admit that I found past interviews/stories about Crüe really offensive. I’m not saying I still agree with everything they’ve ever done, but at the time it felt like I was obligated to get mad because I was this strong, independent gal and oh my god how could they say this and all of that at any time in their life ever, no matter the context or situation – HOW DARE THEY.

I don’t know why I didn’t get equally offended about other bands, male or female. It was almost as if things were presented to me like I was supposed to hate this group (ah, media). The thing was, I had actually grown up with a lot of their music. Long story short, parents can’t police everything, and growing up in the eighties, I got a hell of a musical education that I didn’t even know I was getting until many eyebrows were raised when I was a preteen who knew the lyrics to Girls, Girls, Girls (This somehow didn’t get me in nearly as much trouble as teaching The Sibling the words to Rebel Rebel when she was five…).

That was the thing: I loved the music, but I felt like I shouldn’t. I’m not sure where I got this idea, but I have a few guesses. Part of it is probably from growing up as a small town minister’s kid. Whatever your feelings on religion (and I have many diverse ones), it’s one thing to grow up with the shadow of morality waiting to step on you every time you turn a corner. It’s extremely hard to grow up when people who you know and trust are reporting back to a parent any potentially questionable thing you’ve done or said throughout the day, and you’re never quite sure who you can trust. I ended up toeing the line until college because I was terrified of what would happen otherwise.

In some ways, I think as I became an adult, part of me resented people who seemed to get away with doing whatever they wanted. It was easier to feel like I was better or right because I was doing what I was supposed to be doing…even though I had started making my own mistakes and testing my limits by the time I started getting huffy. Plus, admittedly, there’s always going to be a part of me that’s semi-jealous of male vocal ranges. Instead of trying to join a band or experimenting with different vocal coaches, it was easier for me to not appreciate my own skill set, blame my classical background, and gripe about how easy other people had it. Besides, they were saying awful things anyway so why shouldn’t I just roll my eyes and smirk when something went wrong?

Yes, I know that’s dumb and incredibly offensive. I wouldn’t wish that kind of thought process leveled at me on my best day, I wouldn’t dare act like that to anyone I passed on the street, yet I had no problem lobbing that at these guys who I just assumed deserved it. I know, I’m digging myself deeper. Bear with me.

At the end of the day, a lot of my personality is all about not being boxed in by one set of thought or the other. I want the freedom to be who I am, scars and warts and all, and I want to be appreciated because of it. Yet not only would I not give others who hit a nerve that same courtesy, I was willing to let that part of  my behavior be determined by boxes: people should be like this and because they aren’t they must be awful. I would probably have even admitted that I wasn’t being fair or making complete sense, but it was easier to gripe about being stuck in my own situations when there was someone else unrelated to blame.

I told you, I have my jerk side.

And then one day I turned a corner in the library and ran into Nikki Sixx’s This is Gonna Hurt.  Literally. It nearly fell on my head. Curious, but assuming it wouldn’t be worth checking out, I flipped through it in the aisle, then found myself still sitting in the aisle an hour later. His photography drew me in, mesmerized me, and the rest of the book held me captive in the best possible way. That book is all about embracing the uncomfortable, finding beauty in what you might shy away from, finding beauty in all aspects of others and yourself. It’s a very blunt and brutal sort of encouragement, but it was exactly what I needed to be clubbed in the head by at that point. It also gave a huge insight into who he is as a person, at least through what the pages show the reader.

And then it hit me like a giant punch in the face that ripped my heart out through my nostrils: I had never thought of Mötley Crüe as actual people.

I had stopped being angry about their existence years ago – I don’t have the energy to keep up that kind of game, but I’d never gravitated back to the music or tried to see things from the other side, either. Still, do you get how horrifying that realization is, to suddenly acknowledge that you’ve willingly denied that other people have the right to have their own life experiences, that you actually have the capability to think something horrible like that about anyone? That’s so incredibly not fair, and not a concept I would have thought I embraced even a little bit.  It was not my proudest moment and it made me wonder where else I’d carried that assumption in my life.

I had never considered that there were reasons or things that each member was going through or anything else that would have caused anything they were doing or saying, yet suddenly I was identifying and empathizing with a lot of Sixx’s words. I’d seen them as this thing, this one-dimensional thing that said and did things that made me uncomfortable, things that I didn’t agree with at certain times in my life (never mind my own life opinions have changed considerably in the past ten or fifteen years). I realized that while I tried to be open and understanding, I could be closed off in my life, intent on seeing things my way without exploring all possible angles. It was a brutal realization that I was probably causing a lot of my own misery and irritation. I had just gotten through a rough-ish patch where I’d put myself back together physically and felt like I was being overlooked creatively, and now I was being shown in full black and white that I still had a lot of growing to do. Ouch cannot even begin to describe that epiphany.

To this day I always take This is Gonna Hurt with me when I travel. I’ll probably do a post on that book soon, as well, because it continues to be a huge influence in my life. I have photos of certain pages on my phone, I’ve had photocopies of pages hanging in various offices and workshops. That book has gotten me through a lot, it has challenged me to be better, and I always, always recommend it on panels, to creative friends, and anyone who will listen. Unless I run into Sixx (or any member of Crüe, honestly, because I’ve been humbled by their journey in general) one day and actually can work up the nerve to talk to him/them, it’s as close to an apology for being an idiot as I can give, and as close to a thank you as I can probably give, as well.

It’s also a huge testament that you can be influenced and have your life changed by all kinds of people, and everyone’s life experience can mean something to someone else. In interviews I usually say something like every person that passes by you is a story, you shouldn’t take anyone for granted – it’s a view I’ve always had to some extent, but I think this whole revelation helped me realize that I can go beyond wondering to appreciating and empathizing and helping people around me.

At any rate, it was time to rise to the challenge thrown down. I took a deep breath and went back to what I still missed: the music. I don’t think a lot of people accept how truly good their music is. It draws from so many backgrounds and influences, it can be elaborate, and it’s just massive, crushing any imitations from back in the day. I slowly let myself appreciate their work and fall back in love a little at a time. I also started reading a little more here and there, beyond the random interviews in books that were supposed to make you bristle about “outsider” behavior or paint a particular picture of. I think it’s also important to acknowledge that at the end of the day, I don’t know these dudes people, I don’t know why things were done or said, and while it’s very easy to paint a picture as to why you shouldn’t like someone,  you can disagree with people about certain things without holding it over them forever. Who does that really end up affecting, anyway: the people who are successful who don’t know you exist, or the person you’re staring down in the mirror?

 

Because I was working on an urban-fantasy revamp of a Hans Christian Andersen story mixed with demonic deals and rock hijinks at the time, I finally started reading The Dirt,  if only for some weird-misplaced moral support. I’d avoided it for a long time, assuming I wouldn’t have time to get through it. I read it in like two days. And not one dirty story made me even blink. Maybe I was just annihilated by writing my novel. Maybe I was approaching things with new eyes now that I’m older. Although I did start to wonder about myself when I got three-fourths in and found that I saw where a lot of anecdotes were going before they played out.

I’m not condoning everything that’s ever been done in Crüe’s history, but I don’t have to. I don’t know that they would take the same course now, but those were things that had to happen for them to get to where they are today, just like I’ve had to go my own path to be me. It isn’t a matter of “oh my god you’re evil, you’re wrong, you should do this, you should do that…” or even about me laughing or rolling my eyes at stuff.  I’ve grown up with some issues, screwed up some, and somehow found a healthy bit of grace and magic. I absolutely cannot point the finger at anyone.

The thing is, after reading The Dirt, it wasn’t the smarmy recollections that stuck with me, but the emotional undercurrents between the lines. There are some incredibly moving bits there and those were the things that really affected me and made me feel. Having lost two siblings early on and seeing what that does to parents, I can only imagine what Vince went through. Having had my own weird year of medical mystery, I know I could never hope to have the inner strength Mick Mars has had with his health problems. If growing up having people report my stupid teen antics drove me nuts, I do not want to think of how hard Tommy has had it with the tabloids. And the sheer amount of crap Sixx has waded through to do all that he’s doing…yeah, I’ve got nothing to complain about, and it’s nice to know that it’s acceptable to have that much of a drive to do creative work. It brought home that that band is composed of four people I only know a little bit about, but it’s enough to appreciate that their journey has not been an easy one.

So somewhere along the line through all of this, a lot of that bitterness or anger at their success or things that they said once upon a time…fell away. I don’t even know why I felt that way in the first place, except that I thought I was supposed to, that I had to blame someone for my own conflicting emotions and struggle to learn to be myself. I could dislike specific instances, but there was no reason for me to dislike them.

And actually, seeing them move on from the drama, seeing how hard they fought with their label and how they figured things out and continue to keep pushing forward really inspired me to take a deep breath and keep going through some difficult times that I was having. I’m not at their level, no, but as a designer, as a writer, as an artist, I fight my own battles daily. I started demanding more respect at production meetings and not backing down when people wanted to dismiss things that came out of my mouth as token crazy whatever, even though I had the experience to back it up. While of course I have to take criticism from editors and others, I will gladly have a conversation about the choices I make. I ask a whole lot of questions now, especially about business. There have been times I’m the token girl on genre panels that people usually associate with males, so you’d better believe I’m going to make sure people know I know what I’m talking about and take pride in and have love for what I do. I’ve always been creatively aggressive, but if anything, Crue gave me permission to be even more.

I’ve learned to stop blaming others and instead shut up, get to work, and take no prisoners. Discovering Bowie’s music when I was sixteen made me feel like I wasn’t alone in having ten million interests and wanting to fuse them all together. If he saved my creative soul, then in a major way Mötley Crüe has taught me how to put aside blame, excuses, and regrets and keep fighting as hard as I can to preserve it.

They also made me realize that I can be an okay person and not take anyone’s crap. There’s nothing wrong with fighting for what you believe in and speaking up for yourself.  Now I’m not saying that I wouldn’t get that lesson from a female artist, but they just happened to be the ones that caught my attention and made me think, and they just happen to be dudes male people. They made me finally understand that I could unashamedly be more than one aspect of myself, make mistakes, and keep on going. I don’t have to be just my ideals or just a writer or just a costume person or just a music fan. I can be all of those, because I’m not one to follow something blindly across the board, whether it’s a line, a creative person I admire, or a way of life. I don’t gravitate to artists who do that, and they most definitely do not.

Our opinions may differ on some things, but that’s fine. You’re not supposed to blindly follow every aspect of everyone. That’s not what life is about. And if you do follow or neglect blindly, you might just find yourself falling off a cliff or missing out on things that may just keep you sane and fill you with love and satisfaction. You might miss the opportunity to fully develop into who you are. That was almost the case for me. If people want to freak out about the fact that I like a lot of different things and I’m a walking dichotomy, fine, be my guest. I don’t need to fight you on it or debate it. I know what I like and I don’t want to fight something that doesn’t need fighting.

All I can say is it was a pleasure and an honor to finally get to see them live. It was an amazing show, a fitting way to start the beginning of the end. I was there with everyone else, dancing and shouting along, singing and gaping with my jaw on the ground.  And I truly am thrilled that I’m able to love the tunes again, appreciate their journey, and I wish them nothing but the very best.