Poe’s Isolation

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Beyond my small prison of old, creaking wood and flickering candlelight, the world falls silent. There is no raven at my chamber door, nor is there the meow of a mischievous black cat. Yet, hark! I can hear the distant cries of Annabelle Lee and the bells in the tower off the beaten cobblestone path. The gentle thrum beneath my floorboards is surely no heart but a gathering below — of people who are none the wiser.

Or perhaps, they tempt the red death slowly closing in on all of us — crushing our lungs and burning us alive.

A growing wind toys with the flame dancing in my vision. There is a storm on the horizon. Its gust spares not my journal’s pages nor my pen — but what is that? Valdemar’s cries that drift through my room. They’re from…

I turn to look toward my bookshelf, noting their emanating from that very spot. My eyes grow wide and I return to the flickering flame and my journal, my hand squeezing the fountain pen much too tight. These voices I’ve created and come to know haunt me in this silence, but they are scattered.

The raven finally makes his appearance known by tapping gently at my window, but when I look up to see the first drops of rain — the pecking of tears on the pane — nothing is there. I run my hands through my thin hair and take a deep breath. While isolation is my dearest friend, it is also my cruelest enemy.

There it is. The cat’s wailing near the–

I look hard through the dusty windows to see a shutter creaking in the wind.

Perhaps the red death has claimed me and my life is flitting before me. My creations and my ghosts, as well as the skeletons I hold dear, are the last and most important memories to guide me into nothingness.

Before my story is finished, I have but one last request.

Please, I beg you. Don’t bury me alive.

©2020 Shane Blackheart

Dissecting Abel

I don’t often dissect an artist and make a greater observation of their music — well, nowhere besides in my own head. Few care to listen to my gushing over a rare talent or my deeper musings about what makes an artist so endearing to me. I then remembered I have a blog that won’t judge me (but you might, hah).

Abel Tesfaye, or as he’s better known, The Weeknd, has been around for a little while. His hit, I Can’t Feel My Face came out in 2013, and it sparked many jokes from people who didn’t understand it’s meaning — I included. I wrote it off like everyone else as another silly pop song, but the years passed and he released new music that caught my ear. It was accompanied by dark, dreamy music videos with a strange style that spoke to my equally strange tastes, and I began to listen deeper.

I started listening to him regularly this year, although I’d had a few of his songs starred in Spotify for a while. Starboy and Secrets were fresh and addicting additions to my playlist, and I became obsessed. I watched more of his videos, which ranged from erotic to hazy and abstract. Party Monster stuck out to me because of the classic Goosebumps font used in the title.

I was into vaporwave/retrowave at the time and always have been, which is a nostalgic and often depressing aesthetic focusing on 90s and 80s themes, imagery, and cassette tape or VHS effects. Abel Tesfaye has a retrowave vibe in his later videos, and with his new album, After Hours, there’s more of that same retro vibe in the instrumentals. It’s been a comfort to me during the rough start of 2020.

Today, I watched what I’m assuming was the last video in his After Hours series. It sparked a lot of thoughts and admiration for him as an artist.

As a whole, the videos follow the journey of Abel’s new character who is a total train wreck. Although dapper and with (assumed) riches, he’s fueled by highs and strange drugs — even going as far as to lick a poisonous toad in Heartless. He proceeds to go on a reckless drive in Blinding Lights, speeding until time itself warps, although we’re pretty sure it’s just the drug’s influence at this point. It’s great cinematography to show just how gone Abel’s character is while providing an awesome, surreal visual effect.

He’s beaten by body guards at a club, but not before reflecting on a beautiful woman who beckons to him, her magic lifting his body through the air to draw them close. Again, the cinematography here is very dreamy and odd, and it adds to my love for the vibe of the series. Abel is dancing among the cars on a highway after all of this, his face bloodied with an unstable look of humor twisting his expression into something more akin to emotional pain.

In my personal order of viewing the series, he then makes his way into a party (Until I Bleed Out), although the drugs still have a strong hold on him. He’s barely bandaged and a colossal mess, crawling around on the floor as the room spins like a merry go round. Nothing is as it seems, and he doesn’t seem to know what’s real or what’s influenced by substances anymore.

To make a long story short, he makes his way into the underground after a performance, clearly in great emotional pain and trying his damndest to control it. It’s clear at this point that while the lyrics paint him as a horrible human being, a womanizer, and a heartless asshole, there is a lot more to the picture than that.

He ends up in an elevator with a couple, and as the last video in the series begins, he produces a knife that shines with malice. The man in the elevator is soon dead and the woman runs from Abel, who follows her throughout a club. They end up in a boiler room below, but the woman eventually overpowers him and cuts his head off with an axe. She proceeds to dance with his head in various environments through the rest of the video — oddly happy to do so and unnoticed by anyone else.

As I read through the comments, curious about what others thought, I began to form my own theories. These are solely my own speculations that may or may not be far off.

Abel has painted us a portrait of an awful person, a man who is on his last breath by his own choice through self-destruction. He’s been hurt by someone dear to him and is doing everything in his power to fight the melancholy inside him, and in doing so, he has become the very thing his ex-lover(s) implied he was. A womanizer. A heartless asshole. He’s completely broken and is having one last crazy night to erase the pain.

Finally succumbing to everything tearing him apart inside, he snaps and goes after the first couple he sees, rather it be the person who hurt him or a reminder of the situation itself. When the woman finally cuts his head off at the end, we see a different side to the story. It seems that, metaphorically speaking, the woman celebrated his pain and made the deepest cut. She toyed with him and killed him inside. Cheating is heavily implied in more than a few of Abel’s songs, so it could be assumed that was the message here as well.

Throughout a lot of The Weeknd’s videos and music, we see a similar theme of sex and drugs among different characters — or rather, the evolution of one character. It would be extremely interesting if that were the case. If it was one guy going down a steep slope into self-destructive territory because of heartbreak and substance abuse. It could also be three separate caricatures that connect with a central set of themes.

With a creative soul and a unique style such as Abel’s, he’s an amazing artist with a beautiful voice who deserves the fame he’s earned. His lyrics may be unsettling for some and even a bit offensive, but underneath it all there is a story that means so much more than what’s on the surface. I learned this years ago when I joined in on the jokes about I Can’t Feel My Face. Sometimes you have to look deeper and not judge a book by it’s cover.

Check out The Weeknd’s new album:
Buy a copy
Listen on Spotify

 

Featured image and videos belong to The Weeknd
Article ©2020 Shane Blackheart, a hopeless Abel fanboy

The irony of my quarantine life

A few years ago, I spent an entire year in isolation due to fear.

Back then, there was nothing to fear but what anxiety was doing to my body. My stomach was in knots and twisting and squeezing to send me into bouts of pain, and acid reflux scarred my esophagus on a daily basis, sometimes all day every day. Coping with anorexia added to this struggle, and I spent a lot of time speaking with my alters and spirit guides — we wrote down almost all of our conversations at the time. They were my only company some days.

Now that I’ve overcome all of it, I’m in isolation again, but not by choice. This time there is a real fear I don’t have any control over, and my anxiety is just on the precipice of falling back into old patterns. My alters and spirit guides are with me and support me as they always have, but Depression is blocking them out due to a lack of mental energy. This is not good for me or them.

I’m introspecting on all of it; the irony that I’ve been through this song and dance when there wasn’t a real threat, and here I’m reliving those awful years again as they come back to haunt me. My stomach problems are coming back and my energy levels are low, and my agoraphobia is back. I’d overcome all of this just to be challenged by it again due to the pandemic keeping everyone inside.

When all of this is over, I will once again have to relearn how to be a person as I did those few years ago. I’ll have to teach myself, again, that it’s okay to leave my apartment. Most importantly, I’ll have to remind myself that I still carry some of the progress I’ve made. While this quarantine has set me back quite a few steps and undone what I’ve accomplished with my agoraphobia and anxiety, I have knowledge I didn’t have before.

I worry for those who have mental health challenges right now. I hurt knowing that people with problems like mine will be affected by this quarantine long after it’s over. Nightmares. Anxiety attacks. Fear of the outside. Fear of people. Trying to regain a sense of positivity again. It’s going to stick and we’ll have to go through exposure therapy all over again.

But we can do this. It will be safe again and we’ll conquer these beasts that we’ve had to face down before. I may not feel that sentiment while typing it, but I have to think it, say it, and look forward to a day when it will be true again. One day I will be able to grab my backpack and leave my apartment to go to the coffee shop downtown I love so much, and I’ll continue where I left off.

This is a pause. Life will resume again. It has to.

©2020 Shane Blackheart

Something calming for anyone who may need it:

Book Review: Taken Hard At The Magical Time Travel Sex Resort

Taken Hard At The Magical Time Travel Sex ResortTaken Hard At The Magical Time Travel Sex Resort by Madeleine Swann

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the first book I’ve read from Madeleine, and it whets my appetite for more.

The book is a short series of stories involving various women of various timelines, and they find themselves wishing for better sexual experiences or sexual liberation, as they’re unsatisfied in their life. This brings forth a card that leads them down a rabbit hole into a strange world. It’s bathed in hues of blues and pinks and scattered about, some creatures exist comprised mostly of sex organs.

And they need tending.

Among everything, a curious, winged, rainbow character named Rex seems to be in charge, and although we don’t really get to learn much about him, there’s something devious about him that runs with the imagination, making him likable. He leads each woman to what they need the most, rather that be her first orgasm or the fantasies no one could fulfill. In this way, the book has empowering feminist themes with women reclaiming their sexuality to be their own.

It’s best described as a psychedelic trip into a XXX Alice in Wonderland. Each story connects despite the different time periods and the diversity of the characters from around the world. They all reach a certain focal point in this world, and they all exist among each other — at least, those who chose to stay or had no choice but to remain. There’s a devilishly erotic circus, a marketplace selling items of aphrodisia, and a slew of creatures that exist for the sake of pleasure, even if a few may look slightly horrific.

At least one of the stories was very poetic in nature which I loved, and some of the descriptions of such simple things, such as, “Her breathing slowed like the sea,” stuck out to me. Definitely very unique.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to experience something different, or abstract in nature, when it comes to erotica. It’s wickedly fun to read.

View all my reviews

Excerpt from a work in progress: Daniel

This is an excerpt from a work in progress. I couldn’t wait to share some of it, but first, a content warning: language and mild violence.


Daniel’s fist ached from hitting the demon repeatedly, but he swung one last time for effect. Alastair had fallen silent, except for the little taunts that would cause Daniel to flare up and swing once more. Thankfully his dominant arm wasn’t the one that had been injured, although his knuckles were bruising. The demon felt as if he were made of stone.

“Your petty outlets of human rage are hardly enough to do any real damage.” Alastair squeezed his fists where they hung above his head. “Although I’ll give you credit. You’re quite hefty for a mortal.”

“A lot of years of football does that to you.” Daniel slipped back into his room, everything still in darkness save for the setting sun through the curtains.

“You do realize this isn’t going to accomplish anything for you, right?” The demon breathed, his boredom growing. “You can’t kill me. That’s already happened once.” Alastair chuckled, ignoring the man shuffling around in his drawers.

“I can make you hurt enough. Besides, I’m pissed off and I needed a new punching bag anyway.” Daniel came back with a knife that he flicked free from its safety handle. “Guess I’ll just have to dig deeper.”

The demon finally took in the man before him, observing the way the human’s eyes glistened with malice. There was no kindness there to be seen, not for anyone. “I can see why your partner left you. You’re a ticking time bomb.” Alastair smiled. “Ah, yes. Someone’s hurt you, haven’t they? You’re certainly capable of compassion — that much is obvious. You feel too much and you act on impulse. You’ve driven away many, haven’t you—”

“Shut the fuck up.” Daniel swiped at the demon’s face, leaving a blood trail that bled for only a moment before closing. “You have no idea what I did for her. How much I love her.”

“I know more than you realize. You’re a stereotypical case of obsessive love — the locker room boy who practically bleeds testosterone and fights just to look tougher than he really is. But you cry at night, don’t you?”

Daniel paused as his chest clenched. “I don’t cry.”

“Not even over your lost love?”

“I haven’t lost anything.” The knife teased along bare skin where Daniel pulled the demon’s shirt open, leaving a trail of glistening red flesh that started to close before the knife dug deeper. That finally gained a hiss from the demon. “You’re going to make her realize that.”

Alistair growled low in his chest. “Not only are you petty and vile, you’re an idiot. Haven’t you read a damn thing in the books you referenced? Or have you chosen to ignore everything but the shortcuts you foolishly thought you found?”

“That’s the point of summoning a demon, isn’t it? A shortcut.” Of course, he’d read all he was able to comprehend. He wasn’t the uneducated moron everyone made him out to be. He did realize, however, outside of referencing a book that had already translated the language he needed and provided the symbols to make, there was a lot this demon could tell him that no book would cover. He stuttered, losing his composure. “But — but tell me anyway. Not that I don’t already know it, but I want to confirm it for myself. What do you think I’m missing?”

“Oh, ready to listen now, are you?” A sharp smile returned across Alastair’s pale face. “I’m not certain you’ve earned the right to hear anything from me.”

“You’ll tell me or I’ll start here.” Daniel raised the knife to the demon’s neck and pressed it against flesh. A sigh from above was enough to distract him, and he looked up to see the demon’s eyes lowered with a dusting of red across sharp cheekbones. An awkward feeling settled in the young man’s stomach and he drew the knife back. His face twisted in disgust. “Fuck, you’re getting off on this?”

Alastair hummed in agreement. “When you were looking to summon a demon, tell me, how much research did you do, exactly? What were the qualifications?”

Daniel paused and squeezed the knife tight in his hand, looking anywhere but at the tall form before him. “I needed a demon who knew what it was like to be human — who would know what it felt like.”

“So you thought anyone would do? That any ex-mortal would have some sort of sympathy and understand what it was like to love?”

Daniel huffed, annoyed that he was even humoring the demon with conversation. It would bring the answers he sought, at least. Although, now that he thought about it, he really had been a bit careless and rushed in his decision-making. Demons were demons, and they were all alike. Or so he thought. “That had something to do with it, yeah,” he ground out.

Alastair laughed again, this time with honest humor. “Do you know what becoming a demon does to someone? Over time, being human is an afterthought. It no longer plagues you — the disease of the human condition and petty morals are beneath you. You’re something greater and much more powerful despite the one curse you take on from your shallow existence as a mortal.” Alastair’s eyes lowered, causing Daniel’s skin to crawl. “Do you know what my curse is to bear, silly boy?”

“Besides being sick in the head?”

“Lust. And a love for the good old ultraviolence,” Alastair drawled. “So hit me. Penetrate my flesh like the sadistic artist you are. See where it gets you.”

Daniel’s words were robbed from him as he turned to search through his desk. The books he’d borrowed for longer than he should have were beneath papers and notes he’d taken, and he flipped to the back. He’d been an idiot to turn to the internet to search for keywords, but no matter how many times he went through the appendix of the books in his grasp, Alastair’s name was nowhere to be found. He finally turned to face the demon before him, the exposed flesh healed over already. There wasn’t an injury to be seen, but he would find a way to dig deep enough to leave a mark for good. Surely that wouldn’t be pleasant even to a masochistic freak.

It seemed the seals only did one thing, and that was to remove the demon’s power to overcome him. He had indeed become the demon’s master, but not in a way he’d intended.

 ©2020 Shane Blackheart

[M+]Excerpt from Gabriel – original writing

I haven’t posted anything in a while, so I figured I could post this bit of inspiration I got today. This is an excerpt from a longer story I have in progress. I had horrible writer’s block with it until today when this moment hit me out of nowhere. It was deviously fun to write and will be part of the book, but a warning: It’s rated as mature content for a reason. Byleth is pretty liberal with his language most times, and this scene is kind of spicy, but more so in an emotional aspect. It could also be considered a bit offensive. The book itself is an LGBTQ+ erotic fantasy, although this scene does not contain anything explicit other than language.


Gabriel stormed into Byleth’s flat and crossed his arms once he reached the bar, refusing to look at the fallen king behind him. He couldn’t allow himself to fall into any more depravity because of the deviant, and he would put a stop to everything right now. “Byleth, no more.”

“Oh, so your high wore off. Great. Killed my buzz.” Byleth huffed as he fell onto the bed. Gabriel had been more than jovial on their walk home from the concert, the weed that had been passed around to them potent enough, especially for a first-timer like the angel. When Gabriel’s wings had come out after his high kicked in, everything had come to a stop as Byleth snapped his fingers to rush them out of the theater. The Doors would be around again soon, no doubt, but Byleth was more eager to play with the angel’s tolerance for certain things. Acid had been potent as well as grass, but now that it was wearing off, as with the acid before, Gabriel was coming to his senses. That wouldn’t do.

“I’m not even supposed to be doing this sort of thing!” The angel finally turned around, his arms wrapped around himself. He couldn’t meet Byleth’s eyes. It would only remind him of the forbidden things he’d done with the fallen king the night before. “All of this is new to me, but I see now that it’s only a way for you to manipulate me.” He braved a glance at Byleth’s red eyes that were staring right at him. “That’s been your plan, hasn’t it? Our discussion this morning meant nothing to you?”

“I’m getting a fucking headache, which isn’t something I have to deal with. Congratulations.” Byleth pushed up off the bed and approached the bar beside Gabriel to pour a drink. It was a metaphorical headache, of course. “I know what we discussed. I don’t hate you like I do the others, Gabriel. I’m just trying to show you a good time while you’re here — which, by the way, you never elaborated on. Care to?”

Gabriel fell silent and stared at the floor. When he didn’t speak up for some time, Byleth turned to face him with a strong drink in his hand. It was an awkward moment before the angel figured he should say something. “May we agree to enjoy our time here without mind-altering substances?”

“You mean to tell me you didn’t like feeling human for a minute?” Byleth smiled and shoved the drink in Gabriel’s direction. There were many tricks he could play to loosen the angel up that he wouldn’t expect, a good glass of gin and tonic a great place to start. Byleth took his own glass as Gabriel sipped his.

The angel grimaced and swallowed hard. “What in Heaven’s name is this awful concoction?”

“Something to tame your tensions, turtle dove.” Byleth took a large drink from his own and returned to the edge of the bed. He snapped his fingers and a record player kicked on across the room to play ‘Get Ready’ by the Temptations.

Gabriel stared suspiciously at the glass as he leaned back against the bar, sniffing it before taking another drink. “It burns.”

“It’s supposed to. You’ll be feeling warm and fuzzy in no time.” Byleth chuckled. The angel would be a lightweight for certain, which he was all too happy to witness.

“This isn’t another of your strange substances, is it?” Gabriel took another drink despite his concerns.

“Most humans enjoy this sort of thing. It isn’t taboo if that’s what you’ve got your feathers in a bunch over.”

“Oh, I see.” Gabriel took a bigger drink that time, the warmth spreading down into his stomach where it lingered. He had to admit that it felt very nice, and it wasn’t messing with his perception of reality like the other two things. He was also aware, as the minutes ticked by and after a second glass, that he was feeling particularly fuzzy and happy, and his skin was warm.

“Feeling good now, are you?” Byleth bit his lip to keep from laughing at the angel, his tolerance much higher. It took more than three glasses of the stuff to affect him, and Gabriel was already practically swooning over the sensations from two small glasses. ‘Come and Get Your Love’ by Redbone came over the speaker, which was enough to get Byleth in the mood. He leaned back on the bed on his elbows, drink still in hand. “Get over here, pigeon.”

“Oh, no. No, see, I see what you’re doing, Byleth, and it won’t work this time. No, sir.” Gabriel was speaking much more freely now, although he was still very aware of the king’s deviousness. No amount of muscle peeking through a half-buttoned shirt, nor a pair of bellbottoms that were much too tight would distract him. “Oh, dear.”

Byleth arched an eyebrow. “Get your angelic ass over here.”

Gabriel was already reaching behind the bar for the bottle of gin, not realizing that what he’d been consuming before was a mixed drink. Byleth smirked and let it happen, laughing quietly as the angel groaned and made a face of extreme displeasure. “I must purge these wicked thoughts.” Gabriel turned to Byleth, glaring. “The only drink I can trust is one made by my own hand. You shan’t trick me again.”

“Oh yeah? Go for it.” Byleth watched as Gabriel downed the gin in his glass. “But do it over here.”

Gabriel rounded the bar and grabbed onto the edge of it, dizziness hitting him. He nearly dropped the half-full glass in his hand. “You can’t make me this time.”

Byleth lowered his eyes. “Come. Here.”

The tone in the king’s voice sent a shiver up Gabriel’s spine, and it alarmed him. He wasn’t sure exactly what possessed him, but he met Byleth’s gaze and answered with a breathy, “No.”

“Excuse me?” Byleth stood to approach the angel and observed him. Oh. It was happening again, it seemed. The fallen king smiled, two small canines poking over his lip. “Are you defying me?”

Gabriel licked his lips nervously and avoided Byleth’s gaze, his cheeks growing red. Why did everything feel so good right now? Surely it wasn’t from the drink. “Y-yes. My answer is no.”

Bullshit. Byleth circled around the angel and trailed a finger up Gabriel’s arm. He could smell the gin on the angel’s breath as he breathed heavily. “What’s the matter, pigeon? Can’t handle your gin?”

“I am not a pigeon.” Gabriel tensed as he felt hot breath drift across his neck as Byleth came close only to draw back again, chuckling.

“You’re a fucking pigeon. A messenger pigeon, more like it. God’s little bitch.”

Byleth’s baritone laughter went straight south, and Gabriel was quickly downing the rest of his drink for something less awkward to do. “Your language…”

“Am I offending you?” Byleth mocked a sound of sympathy and set his glass on the bar, coming up behind Gabriel to run his hands up the angel’s back where wings would otherwise be present.

Gabriel twitched more from pleasure than annoyance. “It is inappro — inappopiate…” Gabriel trailed off, his buzz strengthening. He had no doubt he’d consumed something else that was causing that debauched feeling to come back, although this time he was aware of every second. He was also very aware of how much the sober Gabriel very much liked this sort of thing deep inside, and this strange drink only brought it out of him. He shivered.

“Oh? Inappropriate, huh? What if I said I didn’t give a fuck about your sensibilities?” Byleth was sure to moan out the ‘fuck’ to torture the angel further.

“Please, Byleth.” Gabriel teared up as he fought his true desires. They were eating him alive, and he was frightened by them.

Byleth paused and watched the angel’s eyes become red around the edges as tears threatened to spill forth. A smile tugged at his lips. “Are you going to cry?” A sadistic pleasure rushed up inside him and he came close to Gabriel, grabbing the angel’s jaw and forcing it to look up at him. “You gonna cry, baby?”

“Why are you so cruel? Why — why do you…” The drunkenness robbed further speech from Gabriel as Byleth’s touch sent a wave of arousal through him.

“Pigeons are supposed to coo, sweetie, not whine.” Byleth reached down and slid a hand along the bulge that had formed in the angel’s corduroy pants. It brought a breathy moan from the form in his grasp. “Much better.”

The tears finally spilled over, but not from misery. Everything felt so wonderful and Gabriel knew he was powerless to deny himself what he had come to enjoy. He was already surely damned for what they’d done together the other night, so what was once more? But that was how it started. Soon, Gabriel was sure, if he ever came across God again in his shame, he would end up in the flames with this devil. “I’m debauched,” he slurred. “Indecent.”

Byleth hummed in approval, grabbing a fist full of the angel’s shirt to drag him over to the bed. “Beautiful words. Are you getting it now?” Byleth’s own buzz had set in and he was more than eager to give the angel another test drive.

“Unfortunately.” Gabriel fell on top of Byleth as they stumbled backward onto the bed. He lifted himself up onto his hands and stared down at the being that would surely be his undoing on a grand scale. “Why have you done this to me? Why me?”

“Because I like it.” Byleth untucked the angel’s shirt and pulled the buttons open, teasing his claws up quivering sides. “And so do you.”

“Do I? Oh God, do I?” Gabriel was close to tears again as a pulse below nearly pulled another moan from him. He felt Byleth’s arousal just as strong against his own as the fallen king gently bucked up against him.

Byleth lifted his head to lick away a tear trail and whispered against the angel’s face. “You love it.” He pulled back and rocked his hips into Gabriel’s once more while staring into a pair of glazed blue eyes. “This beautiful cock of yours isn’t so angelic right now, is it?”

“That’s so… dirty.” Gabriel’s eyes fell shut and he met Byleth’s rhythm with his own. “It burns and it aches, and it’s so, so, so miserable. But why do I like it?” He stopped and stared down at Byleth, his tears drying. “Why?”

The fallen king chuckled. “We need to get you drunk more often, sugar.” He beckoned for the angel to close the distance between them, and he was pleased when Gabriel fell into a kiss that had them both breathless.

©2020 Shane Blackheart

March 18, 2020 update: Byleth and I did a reading of this here:

Book Review: Butchers

ButchersButchers by Todd Sullivan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I dived into this book with certain expectations, as I’m a huge fan of vampire fiction, and I was pleasantly surprised at the unique take the author had on them. This was a wild ride full of gore, grossness, and vampires who are truly immortal and equally immoral. (This review will not be completely spoiler-free.)

The story begins with an intense fight between vampire members of an organization called Gwanlyo. The rules are strict for them and meant to keep vampires in place — existing among humans without alerting them to the presence of beings much more frightening than they could imagine. They may tear at each other, slice off limbs, gouge out eyes, and pry an entire torso open, but unless one is beheaded or a heart is crushed, they will continue to exist. This fight opens the book to show just how much of a beating these vampires can take before one keels over for good.

The reason for the fight? Gwanlyo member Cheol Yu has broken one of their strict rules. His engaging with a potential member, who is still human, was out of line, and he is to be tortured. He happens to be extremely powerful, however, and makes it to safety with his head mostly attached.

After, we are introduced to more of the vampires. Hyeri, a wicked and destructive woman who can’t help but laugh over others’ misfortunes and craves destruction, Sey-Mi, an unfortunate high school girl who is pulled into a world she wants nothing to do with, and Dae Lo, a sadistic, evil monster who is all too happy to cause the greatest misery to those who betray the organization. We also get to meet Min Gun, who is not as foreboding as he initially seems.

What unfolds is a plan to take down the Gwanlyo by a vampire who wants nothing more than to destroy humanity, a betrayer on the run, and a young girl who is to decide where her loyalty lies.

The book definitely began with a bang, and I was unapologetically pulled into the gore that would follow throughout the book. Usually, the vampire stories I read are of the more classic variety, but I found that I actually liked this sort of vampire for a change. While they are known to be beautiful and seductive, they’re equally as awful and scary and every bit of what a horror book would entail. It was so different to me, personally, that I didn’t even think about them being vampires while reading. Although the word ‘vampire’ isn’t even used, or if it was, it was easily missed.

One of the few hang-ups I had about the book was during the chapter where Sey-Mi is being introduced to the organization. Her fear was absolutely warranted, although I felt her reaction built into a crescendo and kept going far past it, and she began tearing at her skin in her fear after punching herself. I had a hard time believing a teenager would mutilate herself like that just to see if she was dreaming.

At times the cruel nature of these vampires seemed to be all there was to them. It does change as the story progresses, however, and the characters that seemed flat, like Min Gun, eventually show that there is more depth to them. On the same note, other characters were wonderfully unique and fleshed out. Hyeri was personally my favorite because of how wickedly fun she was, and we get quite a bit of time with her. Min Gun, however, I don’t feel we get to know very well at all, and I can only begin to speculate who he is and how he feels about everything. At the end, it seems he grows attached to Sey-Mi, but we truly don’t get as much time with him like the others.

One specific little detail I found really interesting about the vampires feeding on each other in unison, was the connection created. They shared memories and feelings, and it was a very intimate experience. The same was true for a vampire feeding from a human. They saw memories and took in sensations, which is a really cool ability and added some emotion to the otherwise cold and cruel creatures.

Overall, I had few nitpicks about this novella and I enjoyed reading it, and I am glad I got the chance to review it. Todd Sullivan definitely got me into the atmosphere and the location, which takes place in Korea, which he knows quite a bit about. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who hungers for a different kind of vampire story, although I would warn that it is not for those who are squeamish.

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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.

STIGMA – book trailer

I don’t have publishing details or anything yet for my book, but I wanted to make something for fun since I love this project so much. It’s extremely close to my heart in many ways, and I wanted to share the excitement in a more creative way than just typing about it.

So, here is a book trailer I spent a few days creating. My editor and I are working on the final touches to the book, and we’re discussing possible publishing avenues. Traditional or Indie is my highest hope! Either way, no matter which type of publishing I pursue, the book will be published as soon as everything is worked out. When that time comes, I’ll be sure to update this video with any relevant information.

Until then, hopefully you enjoy the little trailer I put together and it sparks some interest in you.

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.