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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.

To read the rest, click here

 

 

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Stuff I’m doing

Published August 22, 2017 by admin

A short one this week, since the other link of what I’m up to isn’t live yet. There will be a new flash piece from me for the Ladies in Horror project soon – I’ll likely have that to post next week. I’m also back working with I Smell Sheep to do regular manga reviews geared to non-manga readers. Ie, I read it and spell it out for you so you know if you like it or not. So be on the lookout for that, soon.

In the meantime, I’m back at Books by Violet to bring you my weekly YA graphic novel reviews. This week is a series near and dear to my heart – The Adventures of Superhero Girl. This is one of those that I read when I’m down, and I’ve been getting a lot of mileage from it lately. To the point where I may have tweeted Faith Erin Hicks asking if Superhero Girl would let me move to Canada and be her roommate. I was fast reminded of SG’s tendency to not pay rent, but I’d just like to point out that that wasn’t a complete no…

Fangirling aside, this is a super-cute (ha, see what I did there) series, and one that’s great for all ages. Check out my full review here!

#TBT Influences: 10th Kingdom

Published April 14, 2016 by admin

One of the things I love about fairy tales is that they’re general narratives, so a lot can be done with them. They’re easy to read into, easy to put yourself into. I hadn’t really thought a lot about the possibilities, though, until I was well into college. I was still at home and basic networks were still airing original movies on the weekends to try to up viewer interest. I don’t remember it having a lot of fanfare, but I also don’t recall it being something I just clicked onto. Doesn’t matter.

10th Kingdom changed me.

The basic story is that the fairy tale world is divided up into 9 kingdoms. When the evil queen from Snow White’s story jailbreaks, her minions bleed over into the real world (the 10th kingdom) and cause havoc. When Virginia and her father are sucked into the fairy tale world, they’re thrown into a world of adventure, quests, romance, and danger.

It’s amazing. Virginia is a fantastic character, anyway, but there’s also a lot of unique characters. Wolf starts as an antagonist and ends up as a redeemed love interest. Virginia’s dad is a greedy never do well through much of the series, but ends up standing up for himself and the greater good…kinda. An arrogant prince learns what it truly means to be a ruler. Even miniscule characters like the huntsman and the three troll siblings are intriguing. And then there’s the queen…played by the amazing Diane Wiest, that was a villain that got my attention after years of assuming anything fairy tale would be the same old same old. You see old, familiar friends reinvented and re-invigorated. There’s a sense of danger and real risk that at that point in time had been removed by Disney and others, and many fairy tales beside the old standards are referenced or expanded upon.

And it’s hilarious. Innuendo abounds, and while it has its serious moments, it doesn’t take itself that serious. It’s really like walking through a fantasy world that has this sort of past history and knows to reference it with a wink and a nudge. There are shepherdess competitions, jailbreaks, curses gone awry, misunderstandings – all turned on their heads.

Obviously this affected me. While I was careful to not base Kingdom City off 10th Kingdom, I definitely knew I wanted that blend of humor and danger, and that irreverence. The phrase ‘Bluebeard’s balls’ may be my attempt to outdo the 10th Kingdom phrase ‘Suck an elf.’ I wanted to create a world that other people would want to get lost in, though, that had that blend of familiar and unfamiliar.

Very few people seem to have heard of 10th Kingdom these days, but those who have immediately get excited about it. My friend Susan and I can still do dialogue back and forth and I haven’t seen the thing in years. It’s always like revisiting an old friend when it comes up in conversation, and I can’t help that it opened some doors when it aired. People looked at fairy tales in a certain, sanitized fashion. Now,everyone’s putting their own spin on things, gritting them up, filling in the blanks. The difference is 10th Kingdom obviously did it with love and in loving tribute to those stories, which was an important lesson, too. It wasn’t a product placement, it wasn’t a way to jam a bunch of free characters into a dark setting. It was and still is an amazing, inspiring story.

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.

Prose: Thoughts of a Girl with Mousy Hair

Published March 26, 2016 by admin

I don’t journal like a normal person. I’ll do a few entries in a book, but a lot is on random sheets of paper, random thoughts on random things, nothing that really provides a decent, day-by-day narrative of my life, because who needs that. Consequentially, there are sheaths of paper in my files that would probably paint me as a crazy person if someone didn’t know the circumstances or if it was some sort of exercise or automatic writing or something.

Case in point, I have no idea why I wrote this or when, other than it was pre-2011, most likely. I go through my files every now and again, and this one has special meaning for me lately. Not only does it obviously speak to my Bowie fixation, but I’ve got to work on a piece that let’s just say takes inspiration from a certain song. So yeah, these are the things that ramble through my head at two am sometimes.

Lord, I talk way more formally in my ramblings than I do in daily life. Just sayin’, never expect me to be this insightful in real time in real life.

***

           Is there life on Mars? It’s something I’ve randomly discussed with everyone from my best friends to my grandmother. It’s fun to think about, or it was for a long time. Maybe that’s why the song first appealed to me.

The first time I heard ‘Life on Mars?’ was when I was a freshman in college and no more than a baby in the scheme of life. It was on a reissue of David Bowie’s hits, and being the new fan I was it seemed reasonable to run into Wal-Mart at six in the morning before my first class of the day. I still have the CD somewhere, still remember the blue and purple coolness of the Ziggy-era face that graced the icy cream cover. I had no motive other than to learn what I was missing, to add to my growing collection.

I have absolutely no idea what drew me to that song. My guesses were endless. It was by my favorite artist, an artist I wanted to imagine I could grow up to be in a female form. It was a ballad of extraordinary depth and skill, which appealed to my classically- trained elitist nature that was yet to be stomped on by my growing love of rock. Every note from the intro on coalesced with the imagery of the lyrics to provide a certain, elusive something that I couldn’t quite catch no matter how many times I hit the repeat button on my stereo. I went for years falling in and out of love with it, hearing it on soundtracks, comparing the original to cover versions that ranged from decent to atrocious. When I finally saw Bowie perform live I nearly lost my mind when he opened with that song. He somehow put life back into  a song that I almost had shoved away with the equally elitist thought that it was something everyone liked but wasn’t up to par with the Berlin-era songs, every stupid excuse that kept me from simply enjoying the music.

It was only after years of triumphs that were really small little victories that got me no closer to my grandiose dreams than when I started, of speed bumps and tooth and nail fights for what I wanted, of time spent in and out of the abyss and then nursing myself back with what-if’s, if-only’s, and fantasies that numbed instead of nurtured, that I realized why I felt so deeply during the opening chords. I suddenly knew why I’d always felt a pang of soul-sickness in the first verse, knew too well why it was all too easy to picture the scenes in the chorus.

All those years I’d been listening to a song somehow inadvertently written about me and I hadn’t even realized it.

I don’t like to think or harp on the times in my personal life the melody conjures in my head. The association and cold realization at the time was almost too easy to ignore. My hair has been many colors over the years: red, auburn, blonde, green, but somehow it kept returning to an unassuming mousy brown. Sure there were tensions at home, but nothing worse than most middle-America families. Sure, at times the folks didn’t understand and had their own opinions about me, but that was how parents were, wasn’t it? Sure I had bouts of loneliness, trouble explaining my inner workings. I’d been accused of escapism and pop-culture referencing and association, but I’d been out in the world! I was living life. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t “there” yet, that I couldn’t rub my prowess in the face of those I went to high school with. That really didn’t bother me.

I wasn’t ashamed of myself. It wasn’t like I was hiding. It wasn’t my fault the economy made it hard. Not my fault if I kept trying to climb the ladder to no avail. Not any big deal that I had ideas but couldn’t get anyone to listen because they were so different. Not a huge issue if I was shy beyond what I liked to admit and covered it up with bravado and a cultured crassness. And besides, didn’t everyone find it easier to sit in front of a DVD and proclaim “I could do that!” instead of being kicked down repeatedly for not having the right connections, for not knowing how to get C from A plus B no matter what their schooling and experience?

Then why was I so scared? Why so dejected? Why couldn’t I ease up on myself even when making progress? Why, despite compliments and sincere good intentions did I feel so completely tired of it all, a burned-up match stick of creative fire, mousy inside and out?

Oh, God, it was about me. It didn’t matter if it was more archetype than exact, didn’t matter if it was written before I was born.  Didn’t matter at all.  The lyrics were my entire life being belt out in time to a piano that seemed to display everything I felt but couldn’t express.

So then what? How does one convince the lawman he’s got the wrong guy? How do you stop the sailors from wrecking the dance hall or put the cavemen back into their proper times? Is it a matter of something drastic? Should I go to another country, secede from the shouting? Should I do the reverse, admit defeat and cram everything back within the confines of myself? Could I even do that?

No. As suddenly as I recognized myself and was horrified at the recognition, the solution hit and hit was much, much more difficult in the scheme of things — for my personality, anyway.

There would be no spitting in fool’s eyes or even the foolishly well-meaning, no waiting around for those that won’t show, and no sticking around hypnotized by the flashing colors on the silver screen until the end credits. I had to wipe away the tears, the frustration, everything that gained me only perverse sympathy that was well-meant but not useful.  I had to sit up, get up, and walk a step at time out of the cinema to untangle myself from the enchanting what-ifs and start  to discover the magic in the is, the unpredictable, the real.

It’s not easy, especially when the whole world seems to be fixated on the Mouse selling out and Lennon is for sale everywhere there’s a Wal-Mart. A step at a time. A word at a time. I don’t pretend like I won’t find myself back there at times; it’s bound to be writ again and again and again.

But it helps to know that that fear isn’t all I am. I can leave the dark cinema of frozen, bewitching dreams at any time and go see what’s hidden in the street, the sun, the dirt, and other people.

And I’ve also realized that if I look close enough, my hair’s not mousy at all, but a plethora of little colors making up the whole. Life is far more complex than a bold assumption or a lofty statement. Is there life on Mars? Who knows?  All I know is that mine is right here and right now, wherever I’m at.

 

Cherished Blogfest

Published July 24, 2015 by admin

Today I’m taking part in the Cherished Blogfest – a really excellent way for bloggers to get to know each other and  to share memories and thoughts. We’re supposed to post about a meaningful object, and this couldn’t have come at a better time for me.

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Last year, almost to the day, I lost a very close friend of mine. He was a friend, mentor, and someone who took belief in people just as they are to new levels. We worked together for years as puppeteers, in stage shows, and at events. I learned a lot from him, and he was always talking me up, especially when I found it hard to believe in myself or was self conscious about where I was at in life or about my own abilities.

When I got the contract for The Kingdom City Chronicles, he called me down to his office and gave me this necklace (as well as a corresponding ring, but it’s too big for my hand). He was so proud of his choices, expecting immediately that I’d know what they were from. After he had to tell me that this necklace was from The Vampire Diaries, I had the embarrassing situation of admitting that I’d never seen an episode of the show or read the books.

In typical Mark fashion, he just smiled and said something to the effect of “That’s fine. I’m giving it to you to wear as a trophy, because eventually your work is going to beat that series.”

No matter how I tried to protest that that was incredibly unlikely or explain how the business end of writing worked, he had complete confidence in me. Even in hospice, he was telling people about my books and the shows we’d done together. You know that song about the power of just one person believing in you? That was Mark all over, and he didn’t just do that with me. He did that with everyone he encountered.

It’s not the most expensive necklace in the world, and the color is starting to change along the back of it, but I love it. I wear it to a lot of conventions and events, especially if it’s something I’m nervous about doing. It not only carries his memory with me, but it reminds me that there are people out there that have utter faith in what I’m doing, so it’s worth it for me to keep moving forward, to keep doing all that I can, and to keep believing in myself, as well.

So, that’s my cherished object and the memory that goes with it! To check out other fantastic people, follow the list at the tour page!

Smart-Ass Universe: Let it Be

Published June 15, 2015 by admin

I’ve mentioned it before, but sometimes I get life affirmation in the weirdest ways, usually through music.

I get a lot of this is probably because I’m focused on certain things anyway, and some is probably coincidence. Still, some experiences are just weird, like the universe has had enough and is pointedly clearing it’s throat at me.

Years ago, my immediate family was going through some changes. People were out of work, people were finishing school and moving on, I was the unofficial go between for everyone. I was questioning where I was creatively and in the workplace. Everything was making me anxious and stressing me out. At one point I happened to hear Let it Be on the radio and that gave me a bit of a smile. I have mixed feelings about the Beatles and I’m not a huge McCartney fan, but I love that song.

Which is a good thing, because over the course of the next year-and-a-half or so I heard it ever time I started to stress and overthink something. Every. Single. Time. It would come on the radio, in elevators, in stores. I even walked into a Wal Mart and bumped right into a shirt display with the song title on it. It was as if the universe was sighing at me and telling me to chill out whenever I got particularly ping pong ball-ish.

Admittedly, this amused me and ticked me off a little bit, to the point that I may have growled under my breath and cursed Sir Paul out a little when I heard it for the five thousandth time. Yes, at the time the local classic rock station played a lot of Beatles, but it also showed up in weird, weird places. People didn’t believe me until one day at work it came on the radio and I grumbled about it, and it was pointed out that I couldn’t look at it as a cosmic smart-ass reply because hi, classic rock station. I opened the door to go to another building and the muzak came through the door: Let it Be.

As if this wasn’t enough, a cell phone that had been left in that particular room started going off around the same time. The ringtone? You got it: Let it Be.

I raised an eyebrow at my now-creeped out coworker and went to go do my thing.

It did give me a laugh at times, though, and admittedly it made me rethink my life strategy. It’s not that there wasn’t a lot to worry about per say, but worrying really wasn’t actually accomplishing anything, either. Sometimes, with the bigger stuff, like it or not, all I could really do was Let it Be. Eventually, things did turn around and work themselves out, either because of how life works or because I started working to move the things I could forward.

It also occurs to me now that it wasn’t just about chilling out and letting things sit. If you wanna get downright Dao about it, it’s also about letting things BE. I had to learn to let life live itself through me at times, trusting in something bigger than myself. I don’t like thinking of myself as a cog in the machine, honestly. Maybe it’s ego, maybe it’s fear, but it’s hard for me to realize that in the be-all and end-all, not much I say or do really matters in the history of humanity. I want to feel like I’m in control, but this also has the opposite effect: I take it very hard when things don’t work out and I feel like I should have been able to do more. I’ve gotten better, but sometimes I have to be reminded that it’s okay to take a breath and step back, that things do have a way of working themselves out. Sometimes you have to do what you can do, accept that, then just…let it all be. It is what it is, and it’s all in hands bigger than your own.

I bring all this up because after a long week of relatives, promotion, work, errands, a signing, and so much else, I was driving home last night and clicked on the radio. Three guesses what song was playing and the first two don’t count.

I suppose I still need a reminder to take a step back, sometimes, but at least if I’m going to be told to calm down, it’s done to a beautiful melody.