Featured

Glimpses of Freedom

Six months. For six months, Clare sat in the Council Tower penthouse, in a secret room with scant amenities, a prison cell with a four-poster canopy bed. Her only connection to the outside world was the pseudoglass window, which overlooked the city she had once called home.

The Tower was a thing of beauty when viewed from below. Sleek lines of TrueSteel and pseudoglass rose from the ground to disappear into the low-hanging smog that permeated the skies of the city. From above, on clear days, she could see out for miles.

Throngs of people crowded the streets below. People of every size, every shape, every color hustled by. Some stopped to take holophotos of the famed Tower, but she knew they’d never see her in those images. The window, like all in the Tower, was mirrored on the outside.

Her breath left steamy clouds on the pane as she leaned against her window. Sometimes she wrote the names of her lost lovers in the steam and watched as they disappeared from her life again. Breathe. Write. Watch. Cry.

Other times, she allowed herself the luxury of letting her imagination run wild, of picturing herself among the throngs, free from confinement and free to do as she pleased. She traversed the streets with strangers from all walks of life, mingled at parties in the building across the way, perused the shops on the far corner of the only intersection in her line of sight.

She’d never lived in this area of the city. Her upbringing had been humble, quiet, a life lived under the radar because of what she was. Even after the deaths of her mother and stepfather, she tried to adhere to her mother’s teachings, to keep a low profile. Her life was lived in small bars and block parties in the seedy part of town, in places where a single young woman would go unnoticed. She’d never been to the kind of lavish soiree she now watched from her window, but she could imagine.

In her mind, she glided through the crowd of upper-crust Somebodies with a glass of champagne in one hand and a small plate of hors d’oeuvres in the other. She mingled and laughed and conversed, and Eli and Harper were there as well, one on each side, a consort and a courtesan, the two who always ended the evening in her bed, whose warmth kept her safe.

She missed that warmth now. Though the temperature in her room was regulated with the best in thermostatic technology, without Harper and Eli it remained ever cold, always frigid. Goosebumps trailed up and down her arms in the chill.

With a hand on her rigid stomach, she sat in the lone chair and pressed her forehead against the pane. Now she was in the clothier on the corner; she tested the feel of the fabrics: the plush authentic cotton, the sleek NeoSkin, the softest of Truesilk. She tried on pants and corsets and gowns, and her lovers gushed over each outfit.

A glance downward brought her back to reality and reminded her that she wouldn’t fit into a corset again for a while. The baby inside slept while her mother lamented her imprisonment.

Six months without a communique. Six months without word, without knowing if she was remembered fondly or not at all.

In a few months, the baby would be born. Then her captor’s plan would be put into motion. Ezekiel would use her as a brood mare, an incubator, and egg donor for his future child–or children. His grand designs changed from day to day, dependent on how cooperative and compliant Clare behaved. Clare knew she had at least a year before Ezekiel disposed of her–long enough for his heir to be born. If she behaved, maybe a few more.

Until then, Clare had her glimpses of freedom, her gazes out into the city, her imaginary adventures with her lovers.

Featured

Every cloud

This weekend has been nice. Low-key, home alone, and best of all: not sick as fuck.

I made myself retrospect a little too much, though. I was cruising Netflix, looking for something to watch, when I found a good movie. Silver Linings Playbook. Excellent flick, great acting….and maybe a little too real.

Being bipolar, I feel this movie on a visceral level. No, I’m not quite like Pat. Or Tiffany. Not really. I’ve never been hospitalized for my emotional state, never been that far off. But yeah, I’ve missed work over my mental state before. I’ve obsessed over failed relationships, I’ve written nutball letters/texts/emails to my exes, I’ve been the “backup.” I’ve slept around because my depression had me down, or because my mania had me horny. I’ve quit taking my meds more than once. So maybe I’m bits of Pat and Tiffany. I’m Piffany.

I’ve been doing okay for a while now. Well, mostly okay. I mean, I get depressed sometimes. I get manic. I’ve been on an embroidery kick this weekend, and I’m pretty sure it’s not completely deadline-induced. I’m probably manic. I mean, I’m tearing through these embroidery projects, stopping briefly to eat or go to the bathroom or take a catnap. But mainly I’ve been embroidering. To the point of dry skin and calluses on my fingertips.

The whole Pat thing happened to my brother a few years ago. Not the beating-a-man-almost-to-death thing, but the bad ending to a bad relationship that ultimately resulted in him being committed. I won’t go into it too much here, because it’s his story not mine, but it was scary to watch.

It was even scarier knowing that our great-grandfather died of psychosis. “Exhaustion in the progression of psychosis”–that was the CoD on his death certificate. He was so fucking crazy it killed him.

Since I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder before my brother was, I always assumed that was my eventual fate. Then my brother got diagnosed, and combined with his substance abuse issues he’s way worse off than me. He had his psychotic break in his mid-40s….the same age good ol’ Great-Granddad was when he died.

My brother didn’t die. We’ve got better meds now, better tech, better treatments. But guess what? This year I turn 40. Now, like I said, I’m not as bad off as my brother. So I’m not necessarily on a timeline here. The past doesn’t have to repeat itself. Maybe my brother’s incident was the repetition, and I’ll be passed over. Like the Christian thing. I dunno–I’m not the religious type. But maybe I don’t have to dread my mid-40s. Maybe I don’t have to go go go, to push myself so much, to worry about whether or not I’ll make it long enough to do the things I want to get done.

I want to finish my sci-fi series. I want to finish the collaboration I’m working on. I want to learn more about making garb and clothes and embroidery and get good enough at researching it all to become a Laurel. I want to learn more rapier techniques and practice enough to be good at them. And I want to lose this weight I’ve gained. I want so many things, and I think the back of my brain is telling me “You’ve got a few years left. Five, six max. You need to hurry up. You need to get your shit together while you have the mental capacity to do it.”

I gotta get that out of the back of my head. I gotta tell myself that there’s no deadline to insanity, that it’s not written. It’s not predestined. I don’t have to go crazy. I can stay sane, stay mostly stable, stay me.

I also have a secret weapon: my husband. Even if I do go crazy, I have him to keep me alive, to keep me from going so far down the hole that I can’t crawl back up.

That’s it. That’s my silver lining. That’s my ace in the hole.

Five or six years. I pass that, and I win. I beat history.

Inked again

Yep, it’s that time again! I decided to get a writerly tattoo, and after searching for months on Pinterest I found a design I loved. The catch? I didn’t want to use “household” funds to pay for it, so I funded this by selling autographed copies of Abnormal. Yep, a writing tattoo funded by my writing. (Plus, it helped shorten the stack of leftover books from Tucson Comic Con. Lol)

It’s not huge, it’s not elaborate, but it’s what I wanted and it’s great. The artist (Amanda Jimenez at Battleship Tattoo in Sierra Vista, AZ) had an amazingly light hand, so I almost fell asleep lying there…but I had a friend with me recording live for Twitter, so I stayed awake just to avoid snoring. Lol

This has really been a huge pick-me-up. I missed getting new tattoos (it’s been over a year since my last one), and just knowing that my writing was enough to cover a tattoo feels great.

The next tattoo isn’t that far off; hubby wants to get coordinating Gallifreyan tattoos done for our anniversary. He wants his name in Gallifreyan; I’ll get my name. I’m still trying to decide where to get mine; with 40+ tattoos of varying sizes compared to his one small one, I have considerably less available real estate for it. Because of the detail associated with the tattoo (lots of fine lines and circles) I need to get it relatively large, so I have to decide where I have left that’s large enough for it.

Author and Editor Relationship: Adversarial or Advantageous?

Some authors describe their stories as their “babies” or their “creations”…so what happens when the editor gets hold of said creation and decides it needs sweeping changes?

For many authors, the relationship with an editor can be a love-hate thing. They love getting feedback and learning new things about their writing, but they hate the need to make changes. There are authors who accept the changes with open arms, ready to polish their story to a gleaming shine. Other authors, however, see it as someone trying to gut their story–and who wants their baby gutted?

I’ve had my own experiences with editors, good and bad. The bad experiences were mostly my fault in that I wasn’t willing to make the changes necessary to make my work the best it could be. Do I have regrets about not making those changes? Yes, at times. There are times when I think, “Hmm, should I have done X like the editor wanted, or am I happy with how my original decision worked?” I have doubts to this day about not listening when maybe I should have.

Editors aren’t here to kill our babies. (Okay, so maybe some of them are–I don’t know all the editors out there, obviously.) They’re there to make our stories shine, to give them the best chance they have. They’re there to catch the mistakes that we’re too close to see, to look past the original vision to see where the story needs to go to grow and succeed. Editors are a good thing.

Some authors might disagree with me. They might have had some bad past experiences with editors, or they might think that they’re doing just fine as their own editor. Well, I’ve got some advice for those authors: You remember the adage about “A man who represents himself has a fool for a client” (credit to Abraham Lincoln, via the Internet)–well, the same could be said about the man who edits himself. Yes, we all need to do our due diligence in editing our stories as best we can before submitting to a publisher, but we also should do our best to find an editor who can give our stories the once-over (or twice- or thrice-over, if necessary) that they need. If an author chooses not to find an editor for their story, well, I have little sympathy.

Granted, there are those who simply can’t afford an editor. I was lucky to have a built-in editor in the form of my mom (who has had her own professional editing business in the past), who wouldn’t take payment from me for Whispers of Death. I was lucky to have a critique swap group on Facebook where I could send a few chapters at a time for critique, review, and yes, edits where necessary. But not everyone has these resources. Professional editing services can be expensive, and for the struggling writer it just might not be feasible to hire someone. And that’s okay, but be warned that your story might also not be as successful without that neutral pair of eyes to look over it and see what you’re too close to see.

As I await the first round of edits for Escape the Light, I try to keep this in the forefront of my mind. I don’t have to butt heads with my editors (although I love the editors at RhetAskew, so I don’t think I will). I don’t have to dig in my heels and refuse to budge on something they suggest changing. What I have to do is keep an open mind and try to learn from the experience. I have to be receptive to change and utilize those changes in the manner that best helps the story.

A Rare Lazy Weekend

River (pictured above) pretty much embodies my spirit animal last weekend in this picture. I slept quite a lot, and accomplished not much of anything.

Okay, so I got the last of the handwriting from Estrella transcribed. That’s something I accomplished. And I got the laundry done (but not put away). I was basically the noodle-cat in the picture, limp and lifeless.

I know that I kind of earned it, but I still feel a bit rotten for not getting more done. I hope to remedy that next weekend with more embroidery work finished. My timeline on that is ticking down, so I need to focus. Thankfully, I have only two halves of a hem to do to be totally finished. Just a little more…

Book 3 is, as all first drafts are, crap, but it’s got potential. I need to clean and beef it up, but that’s for later, when I have the draft finished. I’m still waiting on the edits from RhetAskew before I get too invested in the story I’m starting to tell there, because if they decide I need to change the ending of Escape the Light I’ll have some rewriting to do for Book 3…best not to get too committed to any one story right now, when I might have to make sweeping changes (learned my lesson the hard way on that one).

I need to bug my mom for the edits on my short story. Time’s ticking on that deadline, too, though I have a couple weeks still. I want to get it submitted ASAP though, because I am anxious to get it in the bag. I know, I know, “patience young Padawan”….I don’t wanna be patient. I wanna get as many coals in the fire as possible. (I’m pretty sure I’m mixing metaphors there, but you get my drift.)

My pen nib tattoo is scheduled for Wednesday after work. I’m really excited about it, especially since I’m funding it with autographed books that I’ve sold. It’s the perfect way to pay for a writing-themed tattoo, right? In case you need a reminder, here’s the image I’m going to get inked:

It’s going to go horizontally along my collar bone (and I’m not getting the little crown or whatever that is put on it).

The surgeon is back at work this week after nearly a week off, so I’m back to work as normal. I’m hoping that the new med continues to work well. I haven’t felt nearly as stressed since starting it, and I hope it’s not a fluke.

I suppose I should get to work on something right now. I have a few hours until I have to get ready for work, so I’ve got some play time, but better to jump into the next project so I can keep momentum going for the week.

What’s in a name?

I finally hit a minor Twitter milestone today: over 2k followers. It’s not huge, but it’s a start. Most of my followers are writers and authors, but it’s good to network. That, and I have a wealth of creativity to harvest when it comes to a little naming issue.

There’s a character in Book 3 whose name I’m not satisfied with. Usually I pick a name and that’s that, but with his name it’s like eh, not feeling it. So I’m asking my 2k+ followers to help me pick a name. Their clues to the character’s identity? “Disabled evil telepathic superbaby.” Oh, and I mentioned that it’s a male. I’m interested to see what they come up with–if anyone responds. It’s only been maybe a half hour since I posted the request for names, but I’m impatient. I wanna see that perfect name come across the screen.

Edit: I wrote this early in the morning, and forgot to finish the post. I’ve since asked both Facebook and Instagram for name ideas as well and have found what I think is the perfect name. It’s simple yet meaningful, and it adds a little something to the story that I hadn’t considered. What’s the name?

Guess you’ll have to wait for Book 3’s release to find out 😉

Hemming and hawing

One hem for Their Royal Majesties is almost done, and one hem left to go!

This has been a much longer project than I anticipated, but now that I have a clear direction and seem to have found the most efficient order of stitching for the design I’m doing, I think it’ll go a little quicker now. I’m so grateful that Her Majesty has been so patient with me during this project, but I’m definitely going to slow my roll on the projects until I find a better groove.

I still have my IKEA (Intra-Kingdom Exchange for the Arts) project to do (which shouldn’t take too much time once I get started), and of course the belt ends for my apprentice belt. (That’s right, I’ll finally have my own Laurel to advise and teach me things!)

I’m going to take some time off from SCA embroidery projects for a little while at least, so I can make some stuff for me. Y’know, like the dozens (probably hundreds by now) of embroidery things I want to make for myself. Because I gotta take care of me from time to time.

I tell myself this, but I have no idea if I’ll stick to it. By the time I’m done with what I have to do, I’ll probably end up picking up more projects. That’s just the way it goes, I guess. I should be grateful that people want stuff that I’ve embroidered.

Just a few more days of work, then I have pretty much a free weekend or two coming up. The hubby has some cheesemaking workshops the next two weekends, but since I’m not terribly interested in making cheese, I’m going to finish my project and relax. Sounds contradictory, but now that I’ve got a good flow on the project it’s actually, well, relaxing.

Almost to 2k followers on Twitter now, which is a little more than 3k less than what I need to be considered to have a “presence” on Twitter. I can do 5k, but it’ll take some time, that’s for sure. I’m starting to download Kindle Unlimited books to my phone to read during downtime (ha! what downtime??) in the hopes that those authors will download and read and review my book. I hope the ones I’ve selected so far are interesting, because if I don’t review, they won’t review. Tit for tat, and all that.

Gotta get ready for work soon. It was nice not having work yesterday, but I need to get back in the work mindset.

And I need to figure out how to get that damn “follow” button back on my Home page. It disappeared a few updates ago, and now I can’t find how to get it back. I’m sure it’s something I’m doing wrong, but damned if I won’t figure it out somehow.

The treatment is a success…or is it?

So it’s been almost a week since I started the new bipolar med, and it’s got mixed results. I mean, I’m not feeling the sky-high levels of stress and anxiety that I was feeling before, but at the same time…I’m not feeling as much of anything.

Stress levels are down–which is great–but my give-a-shit-o-meter has crashed. I just don’t care. Ten-hour day on my feet with a fifteen minute lunch? Eh. Forgot to get my lab work done before my appointment today? Whatever. Probably going to get yelled at by my rheumatologist for not taking the $2k-a-month medicine she prescribed? Shit, she yells at me all the time anyway. Like it’s my fault the RA isn’t under control–try prescribing something that doesn’t cost more than my mortgage, lady.

I even didn’t get that upset when I threw up my breakfast yesterday. It was like “Okay, this is happening. I’ll just hold off on eating anything else until I’m sure my stomach is settled.”

Don’t get me wrong; I’m extremely grateful that the stress and anxiety are almost completely gone. That part’s great. But I gotta admit, it concerns me a bit that I’m not, well, concerned. I’m just rolling through life, doing what I need to do. I’m pretty sure there’s going to be backlash on that at some point. Things can’t be this smooth without some bumps along the way.

Oh well. I’ll take the bumps as they come. I’m handling things much better now. I don’t get the all-consuming sense of being overwhelmed by what I have to do. My interest in my interests hasn’t 100% come back yet, but I’m getting there. Got a new short story in the works, got Book 3 moving along–at a snail’s pace, but it is moving–and I’ve got the embroidery that I’m slowly getting knocked out.

Speaking of which, I should probably work on that while it’s nice and quiet. I’ve got most of today to work on it, but there will be that 3-4 hour period where I’m off to my appointment where I can’t embroider. (I feel weird embroidering in the doctor’s office).

Very shortly

It’s funny how the little things can get you more anxious than the big things.

I’m talking about short stories versus novels. With my novels, I usually take more time to fine-tune them and make sure they’re publishing-ready. Short stories, though? Most of the time I just type ’em out, give ’em a once-over for typos and flow, then throw ’em up on this blog.

This time, though, I’m going to be submitting to my publisher for a place in their next anthology. The theme (legends) fits with a new set of characters in Escape the Light, so it’s the perfect opportunity to get the world of Abnormal out to a wider audience.

I’ve never submitted a short story for publication before. I’ve never gone through the editing and beta reading process, never spent more than a couple of hours on a short piece. Not that I don’t care how my short stories turn out, but it’s a different feeling when it’s for publication. I feel more pressure to do it “right.”

Am I worried? A little. But I’m taking the necessary steps to make my story as perfect as it can be. I’ve got a few more beta readers’ feedback to go through, and I want to get someone to do a proper edit on it.

I think it’ll do well. I think it’ll get published. But I’m still nervous about it.

I’m not saying it was aliens, but…


So I’ve gone two days now with the new med from my psychiatrist on board (which sounds like an alien species–Vraylar), and either I have had a relaxing, less-than-stressful couple of days or it works fast. I find myself not overly concerned with things that lately have been sending my stress levels skyrocketing. Long day at work? Okay. Surgeries running behind? Fine. Everything’s fine.

I wonder, though, if that’s necessarily a good thing. Yeah, I am feeling much less stressed, but will I end up like this:

I mean, I don’t want to be chilling when the building’s on fire, but I don’t want to be screaming when it’s not. Overall, though, the numbness is kind of refreshing. It’s like okay, I’m not in overdrive, I’m not burning the high-octane fuel, I’m surviving and even feeling a bit better. Okay, so I did have a blank stare several times yesterday that concerned a nurse friend of mine. Kinda was zoning a bit. But I was not overly stressed, and that was my key motivation for going to the doctor the other day, so there’s that.

It’s all about balance. I’ll be fine. Just have to adjust to the new med and keep on trucking.

Try, try again

On the advice of many, many people, I went to my psychiatrist yesterday (a month earlier than scheduled) and talked to him about all the stress I’m under. New medicine acquired, old medicine discarded, and now we play the waiting game.

Basically I have a month to adjust to the low dosage of the new med (which totally sounds like an alien species) before I get the full dose filled. There are a few bonuses to this new med:

  • No known weight gain side effects
  • Long half-life, so once I’m on the higher dose I’ll only have to take it Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays
  • Teeny little capsule, so not a huge gag issue

The med is soon-to-be-approved for bipolar depression, so that’ll help with that side of things, but I am dubious as to the anxiety/stress benefits of the med. If it’s supposed to help with depression, will it also help these other things? We shall see, I guess.

Speaking of bipolar disorder, I’m slated to appear on a podcast called Speak Your Mind, which is a mental health podcast. I know, I know, it’s not my usual book/writing podcast venue, but the host is excited to talk about Abnormal and my writing in addition to discussing mental health issues in my life and in society as a whole. More info to come on that once I’ve gotten a date scheduled. We had a good, long chat the other night, so I’m hopeful that someone listening in gets some benefit out of hearing my story and my struggles.

I try not to get too political about mental health, but let’s face it: mental health is widely ignored by insurance companies and even more widely stigmatized in society as a whole. I think back on the work that Carrie Fisher did to try to destigmatize mental illness, and I think this is one cause I can get behind, not only because it directly affects me but also because it affects such a wide range of people, and not enough people talk about it. Maybe one day, when I’ve hit the NYT bestseller list, I can have the kind of influence where my experiences make a difference.

Yes, I have a mental illness. Yes, I have bipolar disorder. Yes, I take medicines to be “normal.” No, I’m not crazy.

Rusted blade, broken heart

It’s my own fault, I suppose. I stopped practicing and fighting rapier because depression got the better of me, and now the rapier community in my Kingdom has all but forgotten me.

My husband gave up on rapier long before I did. He quit bringing his gear long before I did. But I’m a nonentity, a no one, so while he gets people asking him what gives, I get silence (save for a few steadfast friends who always ask where I’m at).

I don’t know. Maybe I’m not approachable. Maybe I hide off to the side too often, and people assume it’s where I want to be. Maybe they don’t know how much it hurts to think that almost no one cares if I’m out there or not.

Do I put on too good of a show? Have I hidden the pain that well? So few people seem to acknowledge my existence beyond a smile and a nod. I get a rare hug from someone outside my circle. I don’t get invited to stuff (except tangientially, as an extension of my husband or friends), and I often wonder if I ever cross people’s minds when I’m not there.

The worst part is he doesn’t realize how much it hurts me when he goes on and on about it. About how so many people talk to him and chat with him and I’m over here like “Hey, I exist too. I’m a person. I’m a rapier fighter.”

Have I lost that part of my identity? Am I perhaps no longer a rapier fighter? If not, then what am I? I’m not an artist until my husband shows off my work. I’m not a leader, not a helper, not anything. I just float along on my husband’s coattails, clinging to the hope that one of his friends will think I’m worth talking to.

I think I need to go to bed now. I’m clearly not thinking right. I’m getting emotional over something silly. Maybe these people do give a shit. Maybe they just think I don’t need conversation or comraderie or anything other than a smile and a nod.