My Horror First

Growing up, I never would have called myself a horror fan. I liked creepy, gothy things, but horror? No, thanks. I was never into the blood and guts and just avoided it for the most part, even as I loved every second of all things creepy. For me there was a line between creepy and horror, and that line was gore.

The moment that the character is stabbed is not the moment horror is born. Horror walks the line of suspense, keeping the entire world of the story contained within a tightly coiled spring. The moment the monster appears, attacks, maims, etc — that’s the moment the spring comes undone, and then (if it’s not the climax) the spring begins to coil back down, ready to leap again.

The scare doesn’t come from violence. The scare comes from a delicate rhythm of tension and release, of the unknown threat or unseen danger finally being realized. In horror, sometimes the most powerful jolts are based on the things you don’t see or don’t expect. It’s jarring.

But that jolt alone does not a horror story make. The best analogy I heard is that one spark does not start a fire unless there’s something surrounding it to catch flame. A single moment won’t set the way for a horror story unless you’ve done the work and set the rest of the scene.

The moment I realized horror was something I loved came from a video game, Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly.

You can read the rest of this post on Speculative Chic

Find focus, not time

There never seems to be enough time, does there? It's something that I hear (and say) all the time. 'If only there were more hours in the day! I just don't have enough time!' And a lot of the time, it's true. But, since adding hours to the day isn't really a possibility... let's look at other ways to get some time back. 

The number one thing that can make a big difference is focusing on one thing at a time. Don't try and do multiple projects at once. For me, this means that when it's time to write a blog post that means I can't also be... 

  • watching a youtube video (just for background noise I swear!)
  • check Facebook real quick (I'm just looking out for a message about an interview!)
  • have my email open (what if something important shows up?)
  • carry on a conversation with my roommates (It'll just be a second!)

If I want to get anything accomplished and not have the task be a terrible mess then I need to focus on that one task and that one thing alone. I'm not great at. I like having background noise but I'm learning that my default of youtube isn't a great idea. Even listening to songs with lyrics can distract me. 

So to help with that whole background noise thing, I turn on some binaural focus music on spotify. No lyrics and sounds that are supposed to help with focus. 

Now, in the interest of honesty... I have done none of that for this blog post. I have Facebook open and am actively messaging me people. There's a funny youtube video playing on the TV in front of me. My roommates are hanging out in the same room with me and I have my email open where every ding pulls me from my work. 

It means this blog post has taken an hour when it could have been done in twenty minutes if I'd taken my own advice.

So, do as I say, not as I do? 

Maybe next time, we'll both do a little better. 

Source: Photo by Stefan Cosma on Unsplash

The Productivity Ninja Lied To You

Sharing time! I'm obsessed with productivity tips and blogs. Articles like '7 Habits Only Happy People Have' and '12 Ways You Waste Time Every Day' devour my morning and leave me feeling productive even when I have literally just spent 3 hours on LifeHacker and have nothing to show for it but chapped lips, dry eyes and a lingering sense of guilt. 

While I love reading about these tips, it's just because it feels productive without me having to actually do anything hard. Reading an article? Psssha, that's easy work and a total time waster, but this article will teach me how to optimize my morning so I get everything done and become a productivity ninja! 

That's not to say that these articles don't share good advice or fun tidbits of information that make you feel great about yourself. (I mean, did you know that millionaires tend to smile a lot. I smile a lot, I'm totally on the way to being a millionaire since we have so much in common.) However, at some point, it's time to stop with the fun articles and buckle up for a ride. 

Accomplishing things sucks sometimes. Even things you're excited about can be hard to motivate yourself for. I love the novel I'm working on but some days the last thing in the world I want to do is park my cute, little butt in a chair and sit (or stand) at my desk to write. I love the story, the characters, everything, but UGH WHY CANNOT I TELEPATH MY STORY INTO PEOPLE'S HEADS?

But the work is necessary. There are some ways that might make it easier. For example, setting a timer and racing to see how many words I can type in 25 minutes (My best record was 2,003 whoo!) gets me typing and having fun. Some days though, that just doesn't work. I sit at my computer for an hour and type three words and ignore the timer. 

It's a matter of working with myself and knowing that sitting down to work is the only way this project will get done. So yeah, I might pop on Facebook or Twitter or Tumblr or the whole of the Interwebs, but eventually, I fall back into my work because I know I have to or it won't happen. A simple motivation? Maybe, but it's the one that stays constant. 

I still dream of being a productivity ninja who talks about how I rise at 5 am to go on a 6-mile run before having a kale smoothie and meditating for twenty minutes, but I don't think I ever will be. And I'm totally okay with that. But what I can do is work with what I am, which is a procrastinating over-achiever who wants to live in a Real Simple magazine but would only break everything I touched there. 

And that's okay because who wants a kale smoothie anyways?

Source: Photo by Michał Kubalczyk on Unsplash

Stressed Out about Overworrying about being Anxious

I’m an incredibly anxious person. I over worry about everything. For example, I once panicked about what I was going to wear on a flight to interview for a job in Oregon… BEFORE I had even submitted my job application for the position. I’m always thinking 15 steps ahead, and at least 13 of those steps are worst case scenarios and what could go wrong.

I live with the constant thought that people always hate it when I text or email them because I’m bothering them. I worry that I responded too quickly to a message; I worry that I responded too slowly to a message and that either option means I’m a lost cause and this person will no longer respect or like me. I wake up some mornings with a sense of doom that wraps around my neck like a wool scarf suffocating me in the middle of July.

I stress out about what’s going to happen today, tomorrow, in a month, a year, ten years, twenty years. I panic about the imaginary things I haven’t done yet, and I worry that the things I have done, I’ve done all wrong somehow. I worry that every time I mess up even in the slightest, that I’ve doomed myself forever and should just go shove my head in the ground and hide.

It’s an exhausting way to live, and sometimes it flares up in wickeder than usual ways that leave me ill, depressed, and a general mess who just wants to lock myself in my room so I don’t have to interact with anyone.

Sometimes I can write my way through it, and other times I’m so worried that what I’m writing is awful, and therefore I’m awful that I can barely write a sentence. One of the things I struggle with as a writer is building high enough conflicts because tension worries me (yes even fictional tension) and I just want things to go smoothly which doesn’t make for compelling stories exactly.

I write this not because I want coddling or anything like that (and I worry immensely that’s what this post will be taken as), but because I know it’s a problem, and I’m not going to continue to hide from it, instead I’m working on ways to manage it.

·       I run, walk, or just jump in circles in my room.

·       I send a message to someone I admire and tell them why they’re amazing.

·       I look through a folder of all of the things I have accomplished.

·       I keep track of what I do every day, and praise myself for finishing things.

·       I do yoga or just lay on the floor and listen to the sounds of a thunderstorm.

Sometimes these work, some days it’s like trying to run from a swarm of killer bees that I can already feel digging into my skin. No day is perfect, and I’ve come to accept that and to try to not (hahahaha) worry about it.

I know I spend most of my time on this blog talking about writing, but this is a part of my writing (and every day life) that I don’t mention much, and I feel like it’s time to own it. Writing on some days is like trying to wade through a locust swarm in my gut that’s constantly trying to devour me from the inside out. But the things I want to write help me make it through the storm and to the other side where I can see the non-bug-infested light again.

I wish there were some piece of advice, some great tip from a self-help book that I could pass along, but the truth is, I just sort of throw a dart towards where I want to go and blindly push forward through locust swarms and all. Some days I lay down and let the bugs crawl all over me, and some days I walk through beautiful sunlight. But at the end of the day I try to do the best I can with what I’ve got going on, and to just keep pushing forward. You’re not alone.

Source: Photo by Jeremy Thomas on Unsplash

Happy Birthday 2017 Me!

If 2016 was any guide, then 2017 has probably one helluva ride already. Hopefully it's gone better than the dumpster that was 2016 but... who knows, right? Maybe this year has been amazing and magical and all that good stuff. 

I hope you've finished Death is a School Girl and are actually querying it by now. If not, what's up with that? We've been working on it for like 2 years, it's time to send it out into the world and stop fiddling with it. Seriously. Stop it. 

Is Mass Effect Andromeda as neat as it looks? I hope you've gotten to play it and find a space husband and/or wife to romance. There are so many exciting movies and tv shows coming out that you better be getting on that future self! American Gods is going to be real and I can't wait to watch it! 

Anyways, enough about pop culture things. I hope that you are continuing to write, dream and adventure. Every inch out of your comfort zone teaches you so much so please keep being brave, keep writing things that scare you and going to places on your own. I know it's intimidating but you can have adventures on your own.

I hope 2017 is awesome and that you're wildly succusful beyond our wildest dreams, but more than anything I hope you're feeling happier and more like yourself. Depression is a sucky thing and I'm super proud of you for being strong even when things got dark. 

So, 2017 me, here's to a year of adventure, wonder and bubble tea.

I'll see you in a year.



Fear of Success

Who in the world is scared of success, right? Everyone wants the gold medal, wants to finish first, cross that big, audacious goal off the list and bask in the feeling of being awesome. It’s the dream, right? That’s what I always thought for me anyways. I want to make my goals, reach the finish line, be a badass boss lady.


But recently at JordanCon, I got the chance to spend a lot of time chatting with some great people, including John Hartness, a writer I’ve always admired and looked up to. While we were talking about what projects I’ve been working on, he asked what I’d done with all the things I’d finished. My answer: “They’re hanging out on my hard drive.”


And saying that out loud made me wonder what in the world I was doing. If I wanted to be a writer, to be someone who one day made a living (or at least a side income) from my writing, someone who put out stories and books all the time… why were my finished projects hanging out on my hard drive and not out in the hands of readers?


I thought I knew about what I wanted but the things I was doing didn’t match what I said my goals were. What in the world self? If I could take myself out for a drink and ask what the hell, I’d have given myself a real talking to. Instead, I went home and looked through my hard drive to see what all was there.


One novel that I still believed in, three novels that were shelved for good reasons, and close to 10 short stories that I’d sent out to one place and then never touched again. Why? Why had I just put them away and never touch them again?


I couldn’t find the answer at first, but then it came to me slowly then all at once. I was afraid to take the step towards my goal. Afraid of my own goals…minds are really strange places.


So… why am I afraid of the things that I say that I want? Well, after a lot of thought, I’ve hit on it. I’m afraid to take that first step because what if I screw it all up? I can’t screw it up if I never take the leap. If I never make the attempt, I can keep dreaming about the goal and not about the scary path that leads to the goal.


Basically I view my goal as the top of the mountain. While I’m on the ground, I can see the top quite clearly and I can even see the path that leads though a forest and to the top. But the second that I take the first step onto the path, I enter the forest where it’s harder to see the magical top of the mountain. Instead, I can see all the tree branches, stones and rough patches of trail. The work, the reality becomes more pronounced and I start doubting I can even do it.


I retreat out of the forest and back to the clearing to look at that beautiful goal and decide ‘Hm… better wait to give that a go.’ and I never make the trip.


I totally psych myself out before I’ve even given it a proper go.


So yeah, I’m afraid of it. I’m afraid that I haven’t got what it takes, that somewhere in the forest is a glen of people who will hate everything I do, that there will be the pond of people I’ve disappointed, that I will never be good enough to climb up the path.


So to protect myself, I never walk into the forest. I avoid trying and instead talk about this goal, dream about it in the safety of the clearing where none of the pain from going after a goal can get me.


Even knowing that, I am hesitant to begin. I’m still afraid of trying and failing, but now that I’m aware of what’s going on, I feel like maybe I can take that first baby step onto the path.


I can start the climb to the peak and I’m sure I’ll screw it up, fall down, hit the pond of disappointment and the glen of disapproval but I’m tired of hanging out in the clearing. My neck hurts from constantly looking up but never ahead.


So, here we go. Let’s get to climbing and wear our scraped knees and dirty clothes as a badge of honor.


Let’s go kick some ass. 

Don't Forget The Hows

I'm a hardcore goal setter. I love planners, my bullet journal, and the feel of the perfect pen in my hand. I can write out every task I have, check them off and keep on rolling. I see what I want and I mark it out on my calendar of when I want to accomplish it by. There's just one problem... I don't make myself a road map on getting there. 

See I'm great at the what and the when. I know what I want and know when I want it by but I don't put together the how. So, I want to submit a short story for an anthology and their deadline is Feb. 28. I want to send in a story. I know that I need to have it finished early enough to get edited so I plan to have a draft done by the end of Jan. to give me time to get a beta reader (or two) and get edits in.

I plan to submit my story by Feb. 20 so I have some wiggle room in my timeline if something gets thrown out of whack or a beta reader takes a little long to get back to me. That's awesome. It's great to have that laid out on my color coordinated planner. But what that plan doesn't take into account is how am I going to get that story written? 

Clearly I'm going to write it one word at a time but when? 

What I've found is that as my life gets busier, I keep making goals but take less time to worry about the steps between me and achievement. I want to skip to the good stuff and leave out all that pesky middle nonsense. But the middle nonsense is where the work happens and what really matters. The middle is the day-to-day that builds everything about our future. 
So now that I'm not ignoring that or magically hoping it all just kind of sorts itself out. Instead I've started figuring out the steps. What does that look like? 

Well it looks like me reviewing my commitments and building in time to work on these goals. If I want to finish this 7000 word story by the end of Jan. that's about 500 words a day. Now I have a measurable goal. Next, I figure out the times I have to write. Well, my days are pretty booked but I do get up early so I'll write first thing in the morning. 

Just by adding those two little bits of information already my goal feels a lot closer than it did before. Now I have a timeframe and a better idea of when I can get everything done. It sounds a little anal and type-A but I really have found that creating a plan helps keep me on track without getting so overwhelmed by all the things on my list. 

So, here's your task for the day, find a task you've been 'meaning to do' and set an exact time you're going to deal with it. It's even more fun if you give a ridiculous time like 7:13 and promise to work for at least 25 minutes. See what you can finally get knocked off your list and then celebrate that rush of  success. 

Banned Books Week

The first time the idea of a book being banned really hit home for me was my senior year of high school. For a big project we had to choose from a selection of books and create one of many different options (book trailer, report, presentation, etc.). Many students picked The DaVinci Code at the beginning of the semester and then procrastinated the entire time.

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The Waltz of the Imposter Syndrome

I know this blog has been bare bones and sadly neglected since July. Sorry about that, but 2016 has kicked my butt (has anyone had a good 2016, seriously?) but I'm getting back on my feet at the moment. At the start of this month, I attended DragonCon, one of the largest conventions around. It's filled with people, costumes, food, and crowds as far as the eye can see. My favorite part of the convention is getting the chance to sit around with friends, and with writers I admire. We usually all end up in the bar at the Westin (insert some cliche about writers and drinking here) and a good time is had by all. Except when it isn't. 

This year, no matter how excited or happy I was to be there, I didn't feel like I belonged at this table with incredibly talented writers and editors. What the hell was I doing trying to have a conversation with someone with awards and dozens of books published? I had nothing to add to this conversation and no one wanted me to be there. Every doubt I'd ever had flared to life and buried me in silence and misery through most of the convention. I isolated myself, limited my time with people and generally flew under the radar with only the occasional reaching out to a few people. 

And all of this, all the doubts, panic, worry, and isolation are a song and dance I've rehearsed a thousand times. The waltz of the Imposter Syndrome plays in one, two, threes and I dance to the tune led by my own insecurities. This year it was amplified by the fact that I have written almost nothing this entire summer. I've barely edited and I've struggled to even finish projects I owed other people. Because of that, my worries of not being enough, of just being a bother no one actually likes, turned all the way to 11 and I almost didn't go back to DragonCon on Saturday or Sunday. 

Imposter Syndrome hits almost everyone I know, and it manifests itself in a myriad of ways, from the humble 'oh, that's no big deal. I just got lucky.' to the 'I can't do that. I'm not good enough." everyone has their own spot that causes the most pain. And the worst part of it is that no one else can save you from the dance you're trapped in. It doesn't matter if you hear 'Your work is amazing' or 'I'm so glad to see you!' a thousand times, your brain can rationalize those away as pleasantries expected from anyone, not sincere words. Instead, your brain latches on to the fact that everyone is talking among themselves and no one is speaking to you (because you are caught in your own mind and not joining a conversation). 

For me, I'm learning how to dance this terrible waltz and occasionally throwing in an extra step, an extra beat to throw off the rhythm of the all-consuming doubt. It may be something little, editing one page, reading an essay that makes me feel empowered, watching a pep talk (JUST DO IT) or sometimes it's as simple as going to bed early to make sure I have the energy to get up and try again. 

Creative work is hard because it is subjective, it's both private and public and forces you to examine yourself closely. When you see those dark, uncomfortable parts of yourself it's easy to start to doubt yourself, your work, and even your friends. The trick is to take the steps that you can and to not let guilt add onto the weight already slowing you down. Missing a day of writing does not mean you don't want it enough; it means you're tired and sometimes you need to be kind to yourself and rest. Writing is not the same for everyone. While I used to think you had to write every day (and that still works well for me most of the time), other people write best in short bursts. The important thing is not to constantly berate and doubt yourself because you're not doing what you "should be doing" to be a writer. 

This post may be a little rambling but it's something I needed to type out, to get my fingers back in the habit of moving, to remind myself that I can write, that I love telling stories whether anyone reads them or not. 

I'm still waltzing but now, I'm writing again too and damn that feels good even for an imposter.