Category Archives: Uncategorized

To the Darklings

Tonight, I found myself unexpectedly diving back into 90s punk, industrial, and the general dark scene I loved as a kid. I was about ten years old as I recorded Type O Negative and Marilyn Manson onto a taped cassette from the radio, and I remember slipping the thin headphones onto my ears from my off-brand Walkman as I rode in the back seat of the car. It was grocery shopping eve, and rain was pattering against the window as I looked out across the road. Type O Negative’s ‘Love You To Death’ soothed me into an early moment of awe. I was forming an early taste for the darkly romantic before I even knew what romance was.

If my parents knew I was listening to the band Orgy and obsessing over Poe, the musician, they would have been concerned. I wasn’t allowed to watch MTV for the longest time, and they kept a pretty tight grip on the movies and media I was allowed to consume. Keep it G or PG, basically. Nickelodeon dot com. Sonic the Hedgehog on Sega Genesis. Disney movies. All of that stuff.

My mom did get me the Garbage 2.0 album though. I think it was because she’d heard one of the songs on the Now 2 compilation — the second Now That’s What I Call Music album. Shirley Manson, the lead singer of Garbage, wasn’t really vulgar, but her music delved into some pretty dark stuff that I shouldn’t have understood as a kid, but I was already struggling with depression, anxiety, thoughts of suicide from being bullied, and I was taking Zoloft and coping with disabling agoraphobia.

I remember being very young when I fell in love with horror as well. Goosebumps were my introduction, and I knew my dad loved Stephen King, who is considered a modern horror master. I stumbled upon the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark trilogy, and that was one of my first tastes of truly being afraid of literature. Granted, the reason they were so alarming to me was because of the Bloody Mary legend, which was really popular then. It was used to traumatize me at a birthday party, and I was forever afraid of the dark.

While I didn’t have access to a lot of media due to a strict rule on what I was allowed to consume, I regularly discovered things in secret. My love for vampires was sparked when I snuck the Interview With A Vampire VHS from the video cabinet in my parent’s room, and I remember how entrancing it was to see for the first time. I didn’t yet know what love or warm and mushy feelings felt like or meant, but when I saw the vampire Lestat and how bratty and brilliant he was, I think that’s what sparked some kind of sexual awakening.

I guess I should take the time to say, too, that I stumbled upon all sorts of ‘forbidden’ things like that as a kid, and I turned out alright where having morals and being a good person is concerned. And a lot of the media I enjoyed and consumed was very dark.

Something inside me was yearning for… something from a very young age. I never truly felt a connection to the Christian religion I went to church for. I always felt very weird compared to other kids, and listening to Marilyn Manson in daycare definitely didn’t win me any friends. I didn’t go out of my way to be strange or stand out just to be cool. Even as a teenager who wore Tripp NYC pants with chains, spiked collars, and hoodies year-round to hide my self-harm injuries, nothing I did was to make a point or stand out.

I’d been naturally drawn to darker things for as long as I’ve been able to have any sense of self. I’ve always understood the dark because it understood me. And then I wonder if some people are just born with a darker aura. Some of us just belong in the dark, and it’s not a bad or negative thing.

Those in the dark tend to think deeply, feel intensely, and most have an urge to express themselves artistically in some way. Speaking for myself, I’ve been writing stories since I was seven. Even then, I remember a few darker things I wrote that I couldn’t have possibly understood. I don’t even know how my mind was able to concoct a story about a woman who was escaping an abuser only to stumble upon multiple horrors like a badly written horror film. I was probably about nine or ten with that one.

I’m no stranger to trauma, and I have enough mental health diagnoses to get tongue-tied. But before the life-altering trauma that gave me PTSD, way back to my earliest memories of Kindergarten, I experienced intense fear. I’ve had an anxiety disorder for as long as my memories exist, and even before that, I had chronic nightmares and night terrors that followed me into adulthood and the present day. I started keeping a dream journal that’s been scattered in many places over the years. More recently, I’ve started turning my nightmares — including the most traumatic ones — as well as my sleep paralysis experiences with the entity I call the Intruder, into short stories.

My most recent complete book explores all of this. All of my childhood memories that were traumatic, all of the frightening thoughts I had as a kid that I’ve rarely uttered to anyone else, and my journey through nightmares and trauma as I grew into a teen. The book ends with my adult years as I face down my sleep paralysis entity — the Intruder — and confront fear itself through a series of horrific dreams. And the dreams in the story are real — taken directly from my dream journals. All of this is, of course, weaved into a bit of a side plot with angels and demons to make things interesting. But there is more truth than fiction in the book.

I’ve tripped into one thing after another in this, and I’m not sure where I meant to end it. Tonight was filled with a lot of introspective moments, and it was inspired by some music from the 90s I’d missed out on. When I hear something unique like I did tonight — something that makes everything in my constantly buzzing brain come to a halt the moment it hits — I am overwhelmed again with a love for art. For all forms of artistic expression that humans use to show the world something that can’t otherwise be perceived. And when it’s done authentically, and when the artist truly means what they are saying and showing and they can capture that in their work, that’s a rarity that makes life beautiful. It’s like magic.

There is beauty to be had in the dark that way. And some of us are just meant to make friends with our demons.

©2021 Shane Blackheart

Disabled People in America Deserve Dignity – The Alarming Gap

Being disabled and poor at any time during a normal year is difficult. Most things people take for granted, like clean laundry, access to food, and simple pleasures like a coffee at a cafe’ or getting a take out meal without much stress. Buying a book here or there. Being able to afford new shoes that won’t fall apart in a month. And especially, access to the internet.

Basic needs are a luxury

During a normal year, despite being disabled and poor, I can usually scrape the bottom of the barrel and make a lot of these things work. I don’t have Netflix. My shoes fall apart quickly from walking everywhere. I can usually do a couple loads of laundry a month if I’m frugal. I can get Taco Bell or a pizza a few times. I can get a coffee or two. I can buy a new book. And my internet bill keeps rising, but I can cover it. Often, I sacrifice groceries or food to have these things, and I just fast off and on for a week at the end of the month because I don’t get any more than $16 in food stamps, so my cupboards go bare.

Then the pandemic hit. I already knew a lot of things I struggled with were a given for others but a luxury for me, but now, I realize just how much basic necessities are a luxury for disabled and poor people in America.

I can’t drive, so I order delivery for groceries, which at the cheapest is $7.95 for delivery plus a $10 tip. I can only afford this twice a month, but often must make due with a shortage of online stock, and I have to either ration or ask for help at the end of the month to make up. Thankfully, I have extra food stamps through the pandemic otherwise I’d be starving. I get about $195 a month now in EBT — temporary to the pandemic until the aid runs out.

Stores are also making it hard to access things for delivery, like WalMart, when they have ‘pick up only’ or ‘in store deals only’ stipulations for many necessary household items, limiting me to whatever happens to be in stock for delivery I can grab, which has been a more expensive brand than I normally afford.

My internet bill has risen $10 since 2020, making my internet access alone $80 for decent speeds. I don’t even have cable TV. My phone is about $38 a month for the phone cards I buy.

I am lucky that my rent is based off of my income, and then I have to cover all non-food necessities with my own bank account. That means trying to find paper towels and toilet paper, dish soap, and other necessities that keep going out of stock or are limited to higher priced items I don’t normally buy. Basically, I grab whatever I can find at the lowest price, but it’s a toss up.

Add in laundry. I haven’t done it in months, save for washing things in my sink because the nearest laundromat is a joint bar, and people aren’t wearing masks and are drinking there. The smaller places are self-serve and unsanitary. Our washer downstairs, the only one, is wrecked because someone is destroying the laundry room. So by hand it is, as I’ve been doing. I wash a few things as I need them, so everything I own is dirty and it just has to stay that way for now.

I do find room for enjoyment. And again, it’s at the cost of food. If I didn’t make room for something to make myself smile, I don’t think I’d even be here right now. I might buy a few books or a new game. I might buy a much needed new pair of pants. And I feel anxiety any time I buy anything at all. It takes me forever to check out due to nerves.

The stimulus checks allowed me a bit of comfort. I got to see what it was like to not worry about food. I got to see what it was like to not struggle for a month. I remember feeling euphoria. “This is what people who live well feel like? This is great! I won’t run out of food!”

And that was just from my usual $785 disability check plus the first stimulus which was $1,200. I was euphoric over having $1,985 for a month. It was unreal.

Being disabled is a poverty trap

This is the America many of us live in. Disabled people who are on SSI like me who get the bare minimum struggle even when there isn’t a pandemic. It’s often a choice between sanity or food. ‘My pants have holes, but I need groceries at the end of the month’ is a real thought process. Get food or go hungry making yourself smile. There is even an entire blog out there dedicated to helping people on SSI and SSDI survive.

We can’t work. And it isn’t our fault. We didn’t choose to be disabled. We didn’t choose chronic illness, severe mental illness, or physical disabilities. We did not want this, yet, we have it and it’s out of our control.

If you have a chance to write to your government officials, please pester them about this. Disabled Americans deserve dignity. We shouldn’t have to be scared to accept cash gifts on a birthday or we’ll lose some of our benefits. We shouldn’t have to hide the fact that someone in our family bought us food, otherwise it will count against our benefits. We are not allowed to have any help on SSI, nor are we allowed to own any more than $2,000 at any given time, and that includes assets like a car (i.e; you can’t own a car worth more than $2k). If you save money for too long and it stays in your bank account, it starts counting against you. It’s a poverty trap.

This is my experience being disabled on SSI (Social Security Insurance). SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) is different and only available to those who have worked enough to qualify, so I can’t speak for that. But SSDI has its limits as well, and every disabled American on SSI or SSDI deserves dignity and enough to afford basic necessities. As SSI went up this year, $795 a month is not enough to have a home and all your necessities paid for unless you go through a subsidized housing plan, which there are often huge waiting lists for.

Getting help is difficult and convoluted

Help is complicated, convoluted, and often nearly impossible for some to access. Add in having to qualify for Medicaid or Medicare to afford medication and medical treatment, which thankfully SSI and SSDI recipients mostly qualify for, and then there is a general lack of accessible community resources to get help. There is a lack of mental health care. All of this is buckling under a system that under funds it.

Before I arrived to where I am now, I was homeless as many end up due to a lack of resources or available shelter space. It’s disappointing how few studies have been done about homelessness and mental illness or disabilities together, and it was difficult to find anything as of 2019, but I found some data from the BBR Foundation that was extremely concerning, and that’s an understatement.

As posted on the BBR Foundation’s website:

According to a 2015 assessment by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 564,708 people were homeless on a given night in the United States. At a minimum, 140,000 or 25 percent of these people were seriously mentally ill, and 250,000 or 45 percent had any mental illness. By comparison, a 2016 study found that 4.2 percent of U.S. adults have been diagnosed with a serious mental illness.

Brain and Behavior Research Foundation

That paints a grim picture. Not only because studies like these are not done often enough, but nothing is done with them. As it goes in America, the rich get richer, and the poor are looked down on like leeches. But how much of our taxes are actually used for food stamps and other programs for disabled people and those in poverty?

From the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

Safety net programs: About 8 percent of the federal budget in 2019, or $361 billion, supported programs that provide aid (other than health insurance or Social Security benefits) to individuals and families facing hardship. Safety net programs include: the refundable portions of the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit, which assist low- and moderate-income working families; programs that provide cash payments to eligible individuals or households, including Supplemental Security Income for the elderly or disabled poor and unemployment insurance; various forms of in-kind assistance for low-income people, including SNAP (food stamps), school meals, low-income housing assistance, child care assistance, and help meeting home energy bills; and various other programs such as those that aid abused or neglected children.

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

A measly 8%. Eight. Percent.

The real problem: Greed

The problem in America has nothing to do with those who are disabled, in poverty, or otherwise those who use safety net programs. The problem is greed and hoarding wealth, and it starts at the core of our government. Just within the last month alone, lawmakers on Capitol Hill are arguing over whether Americans should get $1,000 or $1,400 for one month. Meanwhile, they make leaps and bounds more than your average person, and they return to their lavish homes and make plans for cocktail parties.

As mentioned in Business Insider recently about further stimulus checks:

Biden and other senior White House officials have said they are open to negotiating the income thresholds for direct payments. “Further targeting means not the size of the check, it means the income level of people who receive the check,” the White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, said Wednesday. “That’s something that is under discussion.”

Business Insider

Our lawmakers have been sitting at the table and negotiating when it’s convenient for them, and the negotiations are stretching too long. They duke it out to allow everyone an opinion on what they think poverty is and what they feel we deserve or can live on at the minimum. And help has been at a minimum — if that.

It’s time to stop negotiating and pull up statistics. Pull up the research. Face the actual data. Americans cannot keep living like this. Even long after the pandemic is over.

To put this huge gap in perspective, according to the House of Representatives Press Gallery;

Source: House of Representatives Press Gallery

That’s roughly $14,000 a month at the lowest tier of salary. And when it comes time to negotiate the well-being of Americans who are starving, dying, and living on the streets and in their cars, lawmakers aren’t seeing the reality. They aren’t driving around to these poor communities or testing for themselves if what little they give is livable. And with figures like the above, you can see how out of touch they are.

They are living in nice homes with good healthcare, and they have access to groceries and don’t have to worry about going hungry. They can sip a martini on their back deck and take in the sun after negotiating on a $600 stimulus that was the last poor excuse for aid.

I have no problem with people being paid large amounts of money to do an important job. I have no issue with anyone who built up their career and have earned a large salary through hard work. What I do take issue with is their skewed thinking that comes from an entitled life. They give us breadcrumbs while they take a few fresh loaves out of the oven for themselves.

The argument for universal basic income

To close this, I fear this problem will never be addressed properly. Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour is a start, but again, it’s the bare minimum. Even considering a universal basic income like Andrew Yang proposed, which would ensure all Americans at least $1,000 a month, would solve a slew of issues. Redirect the money flowing into food stamps, SSI, SSDI, unemployment, TANF, and other monetary aids into one universal basic income, and America would start to thrive. It would not only help the economy, but take away one major cause of depression that causes people to not want to work. That causes people to ultimately destroy themselves because they have nothing and can’t get their head above water, and there is often no safety net if they fail.

With a basic safety net, not only would disabled people have what they need to thrive, those who are able to work will still work to make even more money. When people are happy and safe, they can do amazing things, and our economy would be booming again. But that’s my utopia dream. I’m not a businessman, mathematician, or even good with numbers. I’ve never been in government work. I just know what I’ve heard from Andrew Yang and what I’ve seen in the studies from Finland, which did a test run of UBI distributed to 2,000 citizens while having a larger control group of 5,000 others on unemployment benefits:

There was no difference between the two groups in terms of the number of days in employment in 2017 – both groups worked on average 49 days. The UBI trial group only earned €21 less on average than the control group during 2017. The surveys also showed that the UBI group perceived their health and stress levels to be significantly better than in the control group.

New Scientist

America is in a scary place right now, but there are ideas and wonderful theories that could pull us out of this dangerous road we’re going down. Equity, equality, and basic dignity are not too much to ask for. When it comes to money in America, there’s a lot of redistributing and shuffling around of papers that needs to be done.

Now, we just need our government to care as much about us as they do themselves.

©2021 Shane Blackheart

Why I write

I often lose sight of my future. I always have. The thoughts take many forms that cause me to pause for too long at times, and at others, the thoughts have nearly made me stop existing all together. Although those thoughts are far and few in between now, I still have those hopeless moments that cause me to stop everything. Except for writing.

I’ve written so many pages of dark emotion that are painful to read back. I’ve written so much fiction that at times it seems so real, and there are some things in my life that may seem like fiction to others on the page, but it’s very real. And through all of this, no matter how hopeless I feel, no matter how much I feel like no one will ever care but me, I can’t stop my fingers reaching for the keyboard. Just like they’re doing now.

When I started writing stories for fun as a kid at seven — shortly after learning to read and fall in love with books — I didn’t think too much about why I wrote. I just knew that it made me feel happy and it took me away from the real world for a while. So many amazing things could happen on paper that couldn’t in real life. I could spend time with my friend who’d moved away again. I could continue the stories of my favorite cartoon characters when the episodes were over for the afternoon. I’d forget there was even a reality around me at all.

I wrote during the lunch block in elementary school as the other kids stared at me and laughed, and to give myself something to do so I didn’t have to know that I was being bullied. I was the quiet kid everyone avoided because I was strange. I wrote all the time and had too much anxiety, and I was perfectly content being left in the corner of a room with my notebook and pen. None of the other kids understood it. They were busy sharing HitClips of Britney Spears and N*Sync and playing with Sky Dancers. Sharing Beanie Baby collections and making plans to hang out for the weekend. I liked that stuff too, but never really had anyone to share those things with.

As I got older, I learned that the reason I didn’t have any friends and I was bullied so much was because I was quiet, and that made me creepy. I’d given up at some point, I think. I didn’t try to make friends anymore because the ones I had were mean, and the kids who bullied me just caused me physical pain.

I had a Windows 95 Packard Bell in my bedroom at this time, and although I didn’t have access to AOL on it like the family computer did, I had a small collection of floppy disks and Word Pad. I can’t remember most of what I wrote about back then, but I stored more than a few stories on those floppy disks. And when I wasn’t writing the stories down, I was living them through my toys as I acted out so many different plot lines.

As an adult now, I’ve recently finished an urban fantasy book exploring that part of my life. It brought back the fears I grew to have over the years, as I was often overlooked for writing prizes in school or was the last minute replacement for someone who couldn’t make an event, like Young Author’s club. The spelling bee. My father told me often that I needed to grow up and stop writing stories and drawing. No one else was going to care and I was going to end up penniless on a street corner with no support, eating peanut butter sandwiches to survive.

I’ve always had the fear that I’ll end up on my death bed having written a plethora of books, but never accomplished my goals. I want to be published. I want to have others read my stories and appreciate them, as all authors do. More importantly, I want to tell my own story. I want to change minds and make people think — to understand that even the weirdest kids — and adults — can be someone amazing if they’d only gotten to know them. That sometimes the quietest people have the most to say. That sometimes, our preconceived notions about things we fear, like religions and beliefs different than our own, are simply another person’s unique life experience and nothing to fear at all.

I want parents to see that kids and teenagers get hurt in ways they don’t always talk about — that not many will explore with unabashed honesty in writing. I want to help the world be a better and more understanding place with my books. And sometimes I write about things that I know will make people uncomfortable, but that’s the point. That discomfort is the start of change. And I’m not shy in the way I deliver things bluntly, because sugar-coating things isn’t going to accomplish anything worthy.

And there lies my fear. The fear that I’ll die and never accomplish anything like that. That I’ll never have touched anyone or helped anyone, or made a dent in changing the world for the better. And I’m not so full of myself — in fact my self-esteem doesn’t even exist — to think my books will be popular or change the world. On the contrary, I often worry my books really aren’t as good as I feel they are. That I’m the only one who’s ever going to get so damn excited and passionate over the content in them.

And even if that were the case, I’d keep writing anyway. I have to. It’s an addiction I can’t stop, even when I want to stop. During the three times I attempted suicide, I wrote something before or after the attempt. I wrote during the days that were my worst, and I’ve written while being heavily symptomatic with PTSD. I recently finished my current work in progress while having psychotic depression symptoms. And that’s because I just simply can’t stop no matter who cares or doesn’t care.

Maybe one day I’ll be able to breathe. I’ll get to hold at least one of my books in my hands and know that I accomplished my dream. Even though I’m disabled with severe mental illness and am often in that same quiet corner as I was when I was a kid, maybe I’ll be able to do something that can help someone or change something for the better.

©2020 Shane Blackheart

June 2020 updates

It’s been a while since I’ve written about what’s going on in my life. The pandemic is still all around us and nothing is easing up, and my mental health has been awful for a few months at least. I’ve rarely left my apartment in ninety days and have mostly focused on self-care, coping with mental illness, and surviving to see a day when everything will get better. And everything has to get better eventually. I know that statement annoys a lot of people when I say it, but we have to hold onto some kind of hope.

In May, I finally got a laptop I’ve been after. Ironically, it was so I could take my writing with me to the coffee shop and get out of the apartment. I was doing so well and I felt the best I ever had before all of this, and my mental health was improving. I couldn’t stay home. Life was starting to go so well and so right.

Now, the laptop has found use in relocating to my bedroom to work on projects. Being stuck at home in an apartment building full of people who make a ton of noise, party, get drunk, or in the case of the person next to me, are even a bit dangerous, has been damaging to my creative drive. Usually, I would leave to my favorite coffee shop to escape all of this, but my bedroom and an open window on the cooler days will have to do.

Changing my writing environment at home did bring back my creativity. I managed to write a novella, a 26k-word memoir about my childhood with a small fantasy element added in. I finished it in about three days and edited it in one more day. I truly feel it’s one of my better stories I’ve written in a while, and every time I go back to it to do another self-conscious sweep, I fall in love with it a bit more. It’s with my editor now, so we’ll see what comes of it!

I’m also in the process of (finally) querying my first complete novel, STIGMA, after sitting on it since January. I was so intimidated by how difficult everyone said writing a query was that I put it off. I kept telling myself it wasn’t a good time because I needed to take care of my mental health. I found that once I actually started the damn letter, it wasn’t so bad after all. A wonderful agent on Twitter offered to help critique my letter once my first draft was done, and by the second draft, she said it was so much better! I also got recommended an agent to submit to from a pretty nice agency, so… yeah. This is happening.

The one thing hindering me now from actually submitting is the dreaded synopsis. I knew I’d hit another roadblock because synopses are hard as hell to write. I decided to just dive in like I did with the query. At least I have something now, and even if it’s bad or totally wrong, I’ve got more than a blank page staring at me with the threat of stopping my future writing career in its tracks.

Making myself get back to work was the best thing I could do. It gave my life meaning again and a hope for some kind of future, whatever that may be now. I’m dreaming again of things I most certainly will never see, but at least my head’s in a more dreamy, happy state, and it’s going to help me survive all this madness.

NaNoWriMo 2019: A difficult win

I participated in NaNoWriMo for the first time last year, and I found it to be a very rewarding, exciting, and emotional event. I still have the images I snapped of my progress on the website, and I remember fondly the writing friends I made that seemed to fade off and do their own thing into this year.

NaNoWriMo 2019, however, was not the same experience.

Back in October, the new website was launched and there were multitudes of bugs — many that are still prevailing near the end of November. At first, I was disheartened to see that all of my progress on my Camp NaNo projects were at 0 despite finishing them, and nothing seemed to be operating properly with my stats. That wasn’t a big deal, though. Numbers on trackers are just that and in no way a determination of my successes with writing books, but it does tend to put a damper on your spirit.

I was still excited despite all of that. I planned the project that I ended up changing a week later due to my writer brain steering in another direction all of its own accord, and I found myself energized for writing again, my mood was boosted, and everything was falling into place like it had last year.

And then, I screwed up my stats page. Awfully so. I accidentally deleted all of my word counts and progress on my 2019 project due to being half awake and confused at the new stats page layout. There was no way to retroactively date progress either, so I just input my total word count from that day, and I pushed on. Soon, my stats page was looking pretty nice again despite my mess up.

Some friends didn’t take me seriously. A few even became very rude because I chose to dedicate my time to my project. I was yelled at in my own home, and I was spoken to as if I were boosting myself on a pedestal and considered nothing important but my own pursuits, and that I cast everyone and everything aside because I didn’t consider them important. This was furthest from the truth, merely just a judgment placed on me by some who were angry that I finally set boundaries, but it was difficult to deal with mentally. It’s very hard when you’re trying to accomplish something great — writing an entire book that you hope will help in your future writing career. It’s your work. Yet, for some reason, in my case, I was not allowed to do this work without being chastised, being judged, or generally being met with negativity from a select few.  This was in between other interruptions and important appointments I usually have.

It got lonely as much as it got too busy in my life. I tried in vain to post to Twitter to connect with NaNoWriMo writers, and I posted on social media everywhere to try to gather writer and NaNoWriMo friends so we could cheer each other on. I tried to message a friend on the site as a cheerleader for them, but I received no response. To this day, after finishing my feat of ending my first draft of a new novel at just over 52k words, everything is so silent. I don’t have anyone to celebrate with, but I didn’t have anyone to go through the journey with, either.

NaNoWriMo is for ourselves, as writers, to get better at what we do. It doesn’t matter if we have one, several, or no friends cheering us on. In my case, I write because it makes my life complete and it is the best kind of therapy to keep my head out of dark places. It has also, in my experience, been a lonely feat. Even outside of NaNo, my writer friends I’ve made have all slowly drifted off or stopped responding to my messages, or disappeared altogether.

I don’t know how algorithms work to find support. I don’t even know how to properly human to make friends half the time, but even though I may be doing a lot of lamenting, I am happy I finished my book. Even if I am sitting here just watching Youtube all night until my life resumes once more, I accomplished another feat I can wave my little happy flag at.

After all of November, I am left feeling like I just angered people who I care about or came off as a jerk for setting boundaries — for just wanting to work on and finish writing my book. I struggled through all of the challenges this month while trying to keep my friends happy. By talking to them even though I wanted to write, and finally dropping everything to do things for them when they just didn’t want to listen to me. When I wanted to talk about my book, they faded off or just didn’t really respond to it. Although, I have two friends who listened and even helped a few times, and I am grateful for them.

I’m more exhausted this year than I was the last, and yes, I’m happy I finished, but I’m left feeling as if I irritated people this month for simply wanting to do what makes me happy and is important to me.

NaNo 2018: Great.

NaNo 2019: We’ll just sweep this one under the rug.

NaNo 2020: Let’s hope for the best.

Digging up old interests

Click above to go on over to my Facebook page to read the entire post. Within are some recommendations for darkly interesting books, a few teasers as to what I’m writing or have planned to write eventually, as well as a fun fact about me I’ve never really mentioned out loud to many.

While you’re there, feel free to like my page and hang around. The page is slowly growing, and I try to keep things writing-related. I’m less formal with my wording on my page as it’s more of a down-to-earth-I’m-human-too-and-not-all-flowery-words type of space. I also share posts there from my author Instagram page when I remember to post on it. I also share posts from here, so it’s kind of an interesting little hub for all of my updates in one place.

Progress and writing advice

As I’m getting closer to being done with my first personal edits on my project, I’m noticing a great change in my writing, as well as the quality. It just goes to show how important criticism is as well as another eye, and I’m very thankful for my editor for being that experienced and fantastic eye. There are just certain things you can’t possibly pick out or see in your own work.

I feel very good about this rewrite. It’s got me thinking about the other books I’ve written and how I can greatly improve them. The biggest thing was taking the writing advice to ‘only write what’s important to the story and be careful of getting too wordy’ and running with it. I was afraid to write TOO much, and my stories were lacking from that. Backstories need to be told, and the reader must have a reason to fall in love with, or hate, your characters in your book. Don’t shy away from showing who they are, either. (I’ll not get into the ‘show versus tell’ argument.)

To summarize what I’ve learned that has helped me grow as a writer:

  • Don’t be afraid to delve into your characters’ backstories.
  • Begin your book in a way that leaves the reader needing to read more. Leave them shocked, excited, or on the edge of an action.
  • To follow up on the above especially, don’t info dump! (Giving the reader a ton of information all at once.) Scatter information, backstories, and world-building throughout your book to pull your reader back into the world.
  • Learn to take criticism. Constructive, preferably. Another set of eyes is so important, and it has to be from a stranger or a friend who will be completely and unabashedly honest with you. They’ll see glaring errors and mistakes, as well as problems with pace, where you won’t.
  • Your first draft is just getting the idea down. It is far from being complete or ready for other eyes. You have to review your own work first, and then send it off to a trusted beta reader(s) or editor or both. You might rewrite the thing once, twice, or however many times it takes to get it perfect, but as perfect as you can get it is the ultimate goal and your future readers will be happier for it.
  • The #WritingCommunity on Twitter is amazing.

There are other things I’ve learned as well, but these are the main things that have helped my stories improve. They might seem obvious at first glance, but when you actually sit down to write, along with keeping your story together in your head, a lot of this stuff tends to be missed by mistake. That’s what editing, numerous drafts, and rewrites are for.

I feel good about my writing today. I’ll probably make even more improvements once my editor gets back to me about my rewrite. The most important thing is that this writing thing is a constant learning process, and writers are always evolving. It’s really an exciting process for me and I love all of it, which a lot of writers will probably call me crazy for. I never really did understand the martyrdom and the love/hate relationship some writers have with their writing.

No matter your feelings on it or your process, the key is to never give up. Keeping on and being persistent gets the cake.

The Liebster Award

award

I was nominated by the talented writer/editor at therebemonstershere.com. Thank you so much for considering me and my writing worthy of an award of any kind. Their blog is filled with wonderfully chilling stories that are both unnerving and generally dark, as well as a unique take on these themes. I couldn’t possibly do justice right now with words alone, but rest assured that if you enjoy darker writing, give them a visit and be sure to leave some love on their work! http://therebemonstershere.com They really deserve it. I’ve truly enjoyed what I’ve read of their entries.

I accept the award and I will nominate the following blogs, who may accept if they so choose:

ourouterhaven.com/blogs/

reitannaseishin.wordpress.com

thesecretblind.wordpress.com

ayersvillain.wordpress.com

themanicyears.com

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The Liebster Award is an opportunity for bloggers to recognize and support other bloggers for their achievements. It’s available between January 1 – December 31, 2018. All nominations are voluntary and geared towards blogs with 1000 readers or less. The Rules are below if the nominees choose to accept.

IF YOU HAVE BEEN NOMINATED AND YOU CHOOSE TO ACCEPT, WRITE A BLOG ABOUT THE LIEBSTER AWARD, IN WHICH YOU:

*Thank the person who nominated you, and post a link to their blog on your blog.

*Display the award on your blog, by including it in your post and/or displaying it using a “widget” or “gadget.”  (Note that the best way to do this is to save the image to your computer, and then upload it to your blog post.)

*Answer 11 questions about yourself which will be provided by the person who nominated you. Provide eleven random facts about yourself.

*Nominate 5-11 bloggers that you feel deserve the award, and who have less than 1000 followers.  (NOTE: you can always ask the blogger how many followers he or she has, as not all blogs display a widget that lets the readers know this information).

*Create a new list of questions for the blogger to answer.

*List these rules in your post (you can copy and paste from here.) Once you have written and published the blog, you have to:

*Inform the people/blogs that you have nominated for the Liebster Award and provide a link for them to your post, so that they may learn about it.

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The questions given to me:

What was your favourite scary story as a child?

I adored horror as a child and would often read things that scared me too much (I was easily scared), but I practically memorized all three Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark books by Alvin Schwartz, illustrated by Stephen Gammell. I found a hardback copy of all three stories at a mall kiosk years later with the original drawings by Stephen, and it is still a favorite.

Who is your favourite book character of all time?

This one is going to be kind of difficult, but in all honestly, Severus Snape stuck out the most to me in the Harry Potter series. I remember thinking as a kid, from the beginning of the series, that he wasn’t the bad guy he was portrayed to be. When the truth came out later in the books, I was really happy and loved him even more. I tend to latch onto anti-heroes or more complicated characters that aren’t exactly all good. I’ve always enjoyed the stories of villains and darker roles much more than heroes because they feel so much more human. Rather they end up being good after all the bad or not, I will always love flawed characters more than the hero of the story.

When did you first begin writing?

As long ago as I can remember. I was the only kid in my first or second-grade class in elementary school scribbling page after page of stories. I remember the paper we used to use with the writing guidelines on it for learning lettering properly – the pink line and the two blues with one being dotted in the middle (I think). I was typing stories on the family computer when Windows 98 came about and when AOL was the first introduction to the World Wide Web that anyone could access. I remember saving my stories on floppy disks, all of which have been lost to time. I wish I still had some of my earliest stories about me and the few friends I managed to make, and the few early stirrings of my love for fanfiction as I wrote stories for the cartoons I watched on Nickelodeon.

Who of your friends have you used as characters in the things you have written?

I haven’t exactly used any friends in my fiction of the mortal sense, although a few characters that I consider fictional have some interesting similarities to people I’ve known in life. In all honestly, and I am quite open about this, the people I write about in my stories are my multiples and spirit guides. There isn’t a lot of information out there about Healthy Multiplicity, but the basic definition is that I’m not the only personality/person inhabiting my body. There are others here that I can switch to voluntarily, or when trauma happens one of them may push to the front to save me the grief. It’s all very consensual and they are like a family to me, so their stories are genuine. (I must note that this is not the same as having imaginary friends or being a creative mind, as has often been suggested. I do not always have control over when they appear or speak to me.) As for answering this question, I suppose I don’t really write about characters, but I write with my multiples’ and guides’ consent and I let them do their own talking. I’m merely the messenger and I do my best to write true to them and their personalities.

Were you a ghost, where and who would you haunt?

I would probably haunt the people in this world who wish to harm the innocent (hate groups and the like). I’d steal their dreams and twist them into nightmares of the karma they should be getting. Every single night.

If you were given the opportunity to live in any era, what and where would it be?

love Victorian England. I know it was a less than desirable time for someone like me, since I am trans, but if I could be reborn as a biological male, then I would have loved to be a writer then. I would love to sit in a large room with friends, just reading books to each other and enjoying good stories while someone plays a piano or harpsichord in the background. It was a time when reading was considered entertainment rather than television or technology in general – the absence of it would be amazing even though I rely on it heavily today. People met face-to-face and put importance on that instead of superficial online profiles and fake, or not fake, selfies. Not to mention letter writing, which would be the sole method of long-distance communication rather than email or instant messenger. More importantly, there would be no Facebook.

What noises can you hear right now?

As always, my neighbors below me playing music and partying as they often do every day in the summer. My apartment is small, so my refrigerator leaves a buzzing in my head while there is too much silence due to its loud motor. My cat is cleaning his fur on top of said refrigerator as well.

If you could make one blog related statement, what would it be?

A statement to summarize my blog, you mean? Or a statement on blogs in general? (Sorry for misunderstanding) As for my own blog: “Flowery words spun around darker subjects that incite emotions not dissimilar to a mild Marquis de Sadean plot.” On blogs in general: “This sort of writing provokes honesty and the best and worst of humankind.”

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My questions to those nominated:

1 – What is your favorite piece of writing you’ve ever done?

2 – Does music inspire your writing? If so, what kind?

3 – What time of day does inspiration usually hit you?

4 – Who is your current favorite author?

5 – If you inherited a fortune tomorrow, what would you do with the money?

6 – What is your opinion on sticking to rules when writing? (Do you write as you please, or is there a set of rules you follow?)

7 – Besides writing or reading, or anything to do with that, what is another hobby you enjoy?

8 – If someone gained access to your private notebooks/journals, on a computer or off, how bad would it be?

9 – If you could choose any fictional character to be in a serious romantic relationship with, who would it be?

10 – When is the last time you performed a random act of kindness?

11 – What is your biggest dream to accomplish in life?

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Thank you so much for offering this to me and including me in this. I hope those who I am passing this on to have as much fun with it as I did. I don’t know a lot of people on WordPress, so I took the opportunity to promote some people I support, as well as a few friends to give them inspiration to start writing again!