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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.

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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.

Disconnected

It used to be so easy. A quick web search, some clicking and verifying, and BAM!–tweets auto-posted to my Facebook profile or page, and these blog posts auto-posted to my Facebook page.

I guess it’s not so easy anymore. For one thing, Facebook’s gotten a tad full of itself and won’t allow cross-posting with Twitter now. A year ago I could, and I turned off the function a while back because I wasn’t getting much traction with it. I’d like to try it again, but……no go. Looks like I’ll just have to deal with manually copy/pasting the links for the blog posts, and I’ll just have to figure out how I want to post excerpts from my works-in-progress and finished works to my Facebook page.

Competition is great for some things, but sometimes it sucks.

Revisions have been stalled as I’ve kinda been foggy lately, but I have the whole afternoon off today–plus tomorrow morning–so I think I should be able to knock them out soon. I’m over halfway done, so it’s just a matter of sitting down at the laptop and focusing. I’ve actually got roughly thirty pages left to revise, so I’m closer than I thought I was. Cool.

Then, of course, it’s back to the publisher for the next round of edits. I’m a little disappointed in how long the first round of edits took to come back, but my publisher is growing, and with that growth comes an influx of manuscripts that need work. I can’t expect them to be as speedy as they were when they only had a handful of books to edit. As soon as I’m done with these revisions (and with the multitude of embroidery projects I have) I’ll have to reread Book 3’s draft and remind myself of where I was at and what changes I wanted to make. I know, I know, most people say to knock out the first draft in its entirety first before revising, but I’ve had an epiphany of where the story needs to go, and it’s not where it was going before.

I’ll also have to do a bit of research for Book 3’s new direction. There’s a plot thread I want to use that I have no experience with. I want to make it as authentic as I can–for a sci-fi novel, that is.

Every day I’m shuffling…

So, let’s do a rundown of the projects I currently am in the “in progress” stage of:
1- Super Secret Project #1: A project that I can’t go into just yet, but one that I hope will make the person very happy when they see it. Due before September 7. About 1/4 of the way finished….roughly.
2- Also Secret Project #2: An embroidery project. Also due before September 7. Roughly half finished with the three-part project.
3- Not a Secret Because It’s a Paid Commission: You guessed it! Embroidery. Due in September. Started but need to work more on it.
4- REVISIONS!!!! Due soonest. Can’t focus this morning to save my life.
5- Yet Another Secret Project #3: Not yet begun, but there’s only a self-imposed deadline of October. Maybe. Maybe December.
6- Not as Secret Commission for an Elevation: Due roughly mid September. No clue on size/design yet.
7- Thing that I’m Sure I’m Forgetting: I dunno. I just feel like the above list isn’t complete.

Now, that sounds like a lot of stuff–especially given that most of them are due in a little over a month (less for the revisions). But I think I can do it. Maybe. Possibly.

How am I doing all this? Well, it’s time to compartmentalize. Mornings (pre-husband-waking-up) are for revisions and maybe #1. Evenings are for #s 2 & 3. As soon as one of 1, 2, & 3 are done, evenings will be for #6. #5 will get smushed in once 1, 2, 3, & 4 are done, most likely during the morning hours…or at work on my lunch break, as #1 has been.

I’m pretty sure I have it all handled–so far. We’ll see what else I can possibly get involved in for the coming months.

Oh wait! #7: Revising/reworking my A&S paper for the hood I embroidered for the Kingdom-level competition, as well as (maybe?) making and researching another item. Maybe. Due end of September.

So yeah. Full plate on my table. Multiple plates. I’ve got a seven-course dinner ahead of me, and though I’m not sure my stomach has room for it all, I think I can do it. Because I’m stubborn like that. (And because I want to build a reputation for my art in our Kingdom, and the best way is to keep doing the art.)

Book 2 will be done soon. I’m more than halfway through revisions, and I might add that to the evening schedule so I can finish on time, then put #2 on the docket for after work.

Busy busy busy…but I’ve got two half days this week, which will help immensely with #s 2 & 4, and a whole week off for my birthday, which will help with all the things.

Shit. My birthday week….when we start taping for Muses and Murderers. There’s a whole slew of things to add to my to-dos. Crap.

Guess I’d better get to it!

All eyes on me?

It’s Marketing Time again in my publisher’s writing group, so I spent this morning tweaking and posting some graphics on various social media sites to try to generate sales/interest for Abnormal. I need to screenshot my current insights, I suppose, to have a comparison to make.

Marketing has been by far the biggest challenge to my writing career. I just don’t understand it. Some posts I make have a huge impact with a lot of interactions, and some (that I personally think are more interesting or entertaining) get zip. It’s just something I can’t wrap my head around.

It scares me a bit. I mean, I’m the one most responsible for getting my book out there and seen/read by more people. So why can’t I seem to get the hang of it?

Who knows. I tried contacting bookstores in the state–almost no response. I tried contacting libraries–zip. I tried several blogs/podcasts/book review sites–crickets. I just don’t know what I’m doing/not doing that’s so wrong.

In person I can sell the book just fine. I can talk it up and get people interested and even get them to buy it. Granted, it’s mostly friends/family/coworkers that are buying when I do this, but I have managed to convince several strangers to give it a shot, too. So it’s not that I’m not capable of selling my book. I just can’t seem to translate the in-person pitch to a post or tweet. Which is weird, given that I have severe social anxiety and tend to stammer when I get nervous–which is just about any time someone asks me about my book. You’d think that I’d do better from behind a phone or computer screen.

So I posted a few graphics today, and I’ll keep an eye on the analytics/insights to see what-all worked and what didn’t. Here are the things I posted today, minus any hashtags and the like:

This was my Facebook page post
This one went on Twitter
My Instagram feed post
And finally, my Instagram story

Apparently there’s a way to put up a story on Instagram and allow comments, but I couldn’t figure it out. Oh, well. They’re out on the Web now, so time and analytics will tell if these graphics help me out or not.

I’m trying. I really am. I just get so overwhelmed with all there is to do to market a book. It’s not just throwing it out into the ether and waiting for the income. It doesn’t work that way. But hopefully, with the help of my publisher, I’ll get some traction.

Of Arts and Sciences, Part 2

Well, the local Arts and Sciences competition is over, and I didn’t win anything. I’m not overly surprised, but it’s still a little disappointing.

It’s not so much the fact that I didn’t win anything. Sometimes you don’t win, and that’s okay. What bothers me more is how unprepared I was for some of the questions I got from my judges. They asked about specifics about the history of the type of art I chose to enter, if there were any extant examples I knew of, and a little more stuff that, honestly, I couldn’t answer. It got me thinking…

…I know I’m not going to become a Laurel overnight. It usually takes years and years and years of hard work, research, and determination. Decades, sometimes. And I’m okay with that. I’m okay with the possibility of being the 50-something vigilant who has to be helped to kneel before the Crown because of her arthritis. That’s fine.

What bugs me, though, is the research part. I can do research. I know how. But what I never learned is how to retain it. I had people rattling off grave site names and examples of digs where certain things could have been found and dates and time periods and…I can’t get that stuff to stick. In school, I would retain facts long enough to pass the test and then they’d flutter away on the breeze the second the test was over. My brain doesn’t hold on to stuff the way it does for most others I see who are heavily active in the SCA. I can remember that the serial killer Albert Fish liked to shove rose stems, thorns and all, in his urethra, but I can’t remember what time period my favorite style of Norse art is from. I could read it a thousand times, but it won’t stick. Why? Who knows. All I know is that this little idiosyncracy might have a negative impact on my potential future as a Laurel.

You see, Laurels are supposed to not only be experts in doing the art and/or science they’re known for, they’re supposed to be experts in the history of the art and/or science as well. How can I become that level of expert if my brain won’t hold on to the data?

I worry. I hesitate. And I wonder if it’s imposter syndrome rearing its ugly head or if this is a serious concern. Am I just doubting for no reason, or should I reconsider my path? I mean, maybe I’m not meant to be knowledgeable about the pretty things I make. Maybe I’m just meant to make them and that’s it.

Or maybe I’m just tired. It’s been a long day, so long that I’ve had entirely too much time to think. That’s always a dangerous thing for me.

Of Art and Science

Last weekend’s Arts and Sciences competition in a neighboring Barony went well, and tomorrow is the A&S competition for my own Barony. I have mixed feelings about it.

Last year was a disaster. A fiasco. A veritable shit show. I entered two pieces and was supposed to be judged by three people for each piece. This did not happen, largely because not enough judges were acquired for the event. For one item they press-ganged a judge at the last minute, because I complained to our Seneschal about the lack of judging (and because one of the judges who was supposed to judge it, who specifically told me she would be back to judge it, wandered off to judge something else and never came back). It was a miserable day spent at a table waiting to discuss my pieces with the judges, and I was so upset at having a terrible experience with A&S competition–my first experience entering in A&S–that I got stupid drunk that night and ended up vomiting Cheetos all over the side of the car and my Italian Renaissance dress. (Many, many thanks to my wonderful husband who cleaned all that mess up while I took a cold shower to sober up a bit.) I even sent a politely-worded but still quite blunt email to our Baron and Baroness about how awful the whole experience was, and how as a novice entering for the first time I hoped this experience wouldn’t sour me to A&S as a whole.

I had a much better time of it at the neighboring Barony’s A&S the following weekend (last year the events were on back to back weekends as well, but in reverse order compared to this year). Enough that I was willing to consider entering in an A&S again, but not so much that I was willing to enter into the Kingdom-level competition. No way.

This year? This year I’m entering just one piece for the local A&S, but I’m confident enough to try to enter it in Kingdom later in the year–possibly even multiple entries, depending on how quickly I can make it through my current backlog of projects.

I’m still apprehensive about tomorrow though. I mean, I know different people are running the competition, and knowing who’s running it makes me feel a tad bit more at ease about my likelihood of being judged appropriately, but last year’s competition still has left a vile taste in my mouth. (And no, it’s not the memories of the regurgitated Cheetos.)

I need to get cracking on the paper for it tonight or tomorrow morning (in true AJ style, I’ll be cramming at the last minute lol I hate writing papers), though I think this year they’re not being sticklers for full documentation. I think they’re taking a page from our neighboring Barony and letting entrants that aren’t going for Champion do minimal documentation. If that’s the case, I should be good to go for the most part, just some minor tweaks.

Here’s hoping I don’t get gypped again this year. I don’t think I will, but that doubt still lingers….

Jumping through hoops

Sorry for the silence lately. I have been overloaded with embroidery commissions, and it’s getting to be time to get cracking on them.

There was *secret project one,* which is still in progress and due in September. It’ll be a relatively quick one to finish, but it’s complicated. So I have to be careful.

Then, *secret project two* fell into my lap, a larger piece that is also due in September. But I can do it. No biggie.

Next up came another *secret project* that, thankfully, took only a day. So that one’s done.

Then….not-so-secret project, uh, four I think the count is now. A commission. A *paid* commission. Due when, you ask? You guessed it: September.

Am I crazy? Well yes, but that’s beside the point. I have this handled. I’ve got early mornings for the quick one. Lunchtime for project number two. Evenings and weekends for four. And I’ve got a weekend to myself during that time, plus a full week off from work. So I’m golden.

I’m incredibly proud of how far I’ve come in the year and a half I’ve been embroidering. I’ve gone from zero to semi-decent to sought-after in that time, and I hope I can continue to live up to the reputation I’ve developed… and beyond.

Gotta remember to keep learning. Keep improving. Keep stitching.

Tinkering away

So I was messing around with settings on this site the other day when I noticed something: There’s a freaking way to add Kindle links to the site!!!

Yeah, I’m late to the party, but you can now buy either of my novels on Kindle through this website. Pretty snazzy, eh? While I was doing that, I updated some of the graphics I had on there to make them more eye-catching (and to take off the bit about fencing in my brief bio at the bottom–Until I lose some of this weight, I don’t feel right claiming I fence when I haven’t in months).

Once the webcast gets underway, I’ll add links to the episodes on the Muses and Murderers page on this site. As of right now, my co-host Angelique Jordonna and I have a brief “intro” episode planned to give viewers an idea of what to expect from the show–and to give me a chance to get used to editing and such after we record. Lol Seeing as how I have zero experience with that, I felt it was a necessity.

Basically, keep your eyes peeled, ladies and gents and nonbinaries. I plan on keeping my site as up-to-date as possible, and my hope is that I’ll have a new Kindle link to add by early next year. Speaking of which, I’d better get cracking on those revisions! They’re not going to do themselves. Lol

A new killer webcast from a familiar face

Hey, all! If you follow this blog regularly, you may have heard of the new webcast I’m planning with fellow author Angelique Jordonna called Muses and Murderers Webcast. We’re looking for guests for our upcoming show, slated to start at the end of August or early September (we’re working full-time in addition to the writing and show-running, so we’ve still gotta figure out schedules lol), and Muses and Murderers has a blog site up and semi-running. (See previous parenthetical about work lol) The email address for Muses and Murderers–yes, we’ve got one of those, too–is musesandmurderers@mail.com and yes, I get notifications on those emails, so send us your info if you want to appear!

The show is looking to be a lot of fun, with authors, actors, producers, and cosplayers. A diverse group for sure, but all with one thing in common: Stories. (Yes, even cosplayers have stories to share.) And, as with all stories, one must at times kill one’s darlings, and thus you have our show name.

More info will be forthcoming once we get more details hammered down. We’re looking to record first, edit, then air on IGTV (Instagram TV), with the links to appear here and on the Muses and Murderers blog after. We’ll be posting requests for questions to ask the guests prior to each episode, and I think we’re looking to air weekly. Questions? Email the above address for Muses and Murderers.

Time to head for the dreaded day job! See y’all soon!

Of life and laptops

Life. It’s tough sometimes. You get crazy days at work, hard choices at home, and sometimes even sleep throws you a curve ball.

Take the above laptop image. I try to be as careful as possible with my laptop. I’m gentle with it when I open and close it, I don’t drop it off the couch, I watch the case like a hawk when I’ve got it out away from home–and yet, the casing of the laptop has cracked to the point of requiring tape intervention measures to keep it together.

It’s kinda like life, I guess. You do whatever you can to make sure life’s going well, but still things crack and fall apart and then what do you do? Well, just like with the laptop, you grab something to hold it together and then pray it works.

I wonder what would be the painter’s tape of life in this metaphor… Possibly the meds I take for the bipolar disorder? Who knows. Regardless, when I look at this poor, sad little laptop all I can think is “Yeah, life’s just like that.”

The tape’s only been there a day, but it’s holding its own so far. When the tape gives out, I guess I’ll have to get, well, more tape. Is that a good thing to do in life though? Keep putting more “tape” on the hinge to keep yourself from coming, well, unhinged? That’s probably where the metaphor ends–or does it?

I mean, if push comes to shove I can always order a new laptop casing–or a new laptop–but I can’t order a new life. That’s not really feasible with today’s technology. Maybe in a couple decades when we are able to sync our thoughts with AI or robotics or something. For now, though, we get what we get and that’s it. No do-overs. No shiny new casings. One life. So get the tape while it still works and tape that sucker together, because you’re not getting a new cover any time soon.

Revising my point of view on revisions

With my edits back and me back home, my early-morning, pre-work writing/revising time is back on track.

Except “back” is a word I shouldn’t be using, according to these edits. It’s “staging.” Except when it’s not.

Yeah. It’s like that. You see, “was” is not always passive–except when it is. So don’t use “was” in the passive form of the verb. But when it’s active it’s okay? I think that’s how it goes.

The first round of edits is always frustrating for me, because things like “back” and “was” are highlighted regardless of use or context, so I find myself second-guessing on whether the use of these words is correct or if it’s “wrong.” I either go overboard rewording my manuscript in strange ways to avoid the use of these highlighted words and phrases or I go underboard by skipping the highlights as erroneous. Neither is a great way to go about it, but I have to get things done somehow.

I might make use of my publisher’s offer for a consultation, but I don’t know if I’m getting it finally or if I’m getting fed up with it. On the one hand, if I’m getting it that means I used the highlighted words correctly in the first place, but if not that means I’m skipping over a lot of work that I’ll just have to go back and do in the future.

I get that you want to avoid using “had” when there are other options, but what if that’s the word you wanted??

So much to do…I’ll get it done, but I’m concerned that I’m not getting it done “right.” Or am I?

Who knows. I suppose once I get done (I’m only about six chapters in on my revisions) I’ll go back and see how much of what is still “wrong.” If I seem to be lacking in the amount of actual revising I did, I guess it’s consult time. If not, maybe I’m okay. I wish there was an easy way to tell if you’re getting better or not. As it is, I see all these words so neatly color-coded for my review and I start to doubt.

Oh, wait…”neatly” is an adverb. So scratch that. Those are bad. But I guess, according to the color codes, “now” and “then” are considered adverbs. Google confirms this. (Give me a break, it’s been a hot minute since I’ve taken a course on grammar.) So…what if I meant “now,” though? Do I still cut it? Because cutting it in some places is fine, but in others it changes the meaning or emphasis of what I was saying. Ugh.

I guess the above paragraph says it all. I still need the consult. Grr. So much time waiting on these edits to get back, and now I have to push things back even further so I can get remedial up in here.

Don’t get me wrong–there’s a lot of good in this document. It just needs the same polishing that every manuscript needs before being published. A little spit and shine, as it were.

I suppose I’ve digressed long enough. Time to get back to it before I have to get ready for the day job.