Diving into the Deep

ocean waves - Thierry Meier - Unsplash
(Photo: Thierry Meier.)

I recently rediscovered the joys of swimming in the ocean. In Northern California, this means plunging into the Pacific, which is bitingly cold. The water when it first hits your feet is almost unbearable, and it takes patience to go deeper—skin tingling as the salty waves reach your belly and then your chest and your shoulders.

On my most recent trip to the seashore, I waded into the dark blue waters until I was neck deep. In the distance the line of the horizon was broken by undulating water, which swelled in front of me—rising up, up, up higher than my head, leaving me no choice but to dive into and through the water.

I had delved past the line of breaking waves. Nevertheless, with every swell of water I wondered, Is this the one that will curve into a wave too big for me to handle? Is this the one that will crush me?

Entering the ocean is always a risky business. The ocean is immense. It obeys its own laws, rhythms, and tides. At any moment, it can push you under and sweep you away.

Many times as a child, I’ve braved the shallow water along the shore, leaping through the waves. Many times, I’ve been surprised by a wave larger than I expected and tumbled, caught in a seemingly never-ending spiral of water, buffeted against the sand and rocks below, bubbling foam swirling all around with no sign of which way is up. Anyone who’s been submerged by a wave has experience a moment of terror, a moment when you realize you might not surface at all.

As I returned to the shore after my most recent ocean swim, I began to think about how the risks faced by writers and artists seem to parallel the risks of the ocean. The act of creating prose, poetry, or other forms of art can sometimes feel fraught with danger. Yet, we continue writing, continue creating, continue delving into the depths.

Continue reading the article on Medium.


What I’ve Been Working On

  1. My work adapting “How Bluebeard Ends” into an interactive fiction game continues to progress. Learning to incorporate interactive elements and story branching (allowing the player to make decisions that effect the outcome of the game) is an interesting process. Although my original story presents a series of alternate endings, the adaptation is not simple or straightforward — as I have to connect those endings in a way that allows the player to feel as though they are experiencing a cohesive world.
  2. Some of my efforts on the game were derailed when in a reassessment of Once Upon the Weird, my blog and newsletter focused on horror and weird movies, TV, games, and lore. The short version is: I’ve been migrating the blog from the WordPress blogging platform to Medium (for reasons), a time consuming process that I’ve finished as of this weekend. I’m not opening it up widely yet, but if you’re on Medium and would like to contribute to Once Weird, send me a message.
  3. I’ve been editing and submitting a few poems, something I pretty much stopped doing over the course of 2020. I enjoy working on large projects (like my novel), but there’s also a pleasure in finishing and accomplishing smaller pieces. And I’m already seeing a reward for my efforts, as two of my poems have been accepted for publication by Yes, Poetry.

Good Reads

The Poet and the Spider,” a short story by Cynthia So (Anathema Magazine) —

You saw the Empress once, when you were still a pillow-cheeked and blossom-mouthed child. She was tall and severe, and the train of her yellow dress flowed behind her for miles and miles, a river of pure gold. You stood behind your mother and wanted to bathe yourself in that river, and the Empress turned, her crown twinkling like a cosmos of cold stars, and she looked at you.

Make Believe,” a poem by Navya Dasari (Liminality) —

as a kid I made believe I was Morgana
born whispering curses over smoke
and I know you would have been
Guinevere, the one who wanders

More of the books, stories, and games I loved recently can be found in January’s Culture Consumption.

TWELVE is Available & Other Goings On

Twelve: Poems Inspired by the Brothers Grimm - poetry book

Twelve: Poems Inspired by the Brother’s Grimm Fairy Tale is officially available from Interstellar Flight Press. 

I mean . . ., okay, technically, it’s been out in the world since September. I just haven’t got around to saying it until now.

You may as well as me, Why? Aren’t you excited?

And the answer is yes, I’m very excited. Yet, somehow I’m having a hard time sharing that excitement with people.

Maybe it’s just the general 2020 vibes and all the anxiety and weirdness that comes with it. I’m sure that’s at least a part of it — however, another part is some strange block I have about promoting and celebrating my own work.

Example One. Sitting around a campfire with my aunt, cousins, and sister, we were taking turns saying the things we felt most proud off this year. When it was my turn, I rattled off a few things (of which I don’t remember). When I finished, my sister was flabbergasted. “I thought you were going talk about your book coming out. How could you not talk about your book coming out?”

“Oh, yeaaaah,” I said. “Yes, yeah, of course, I’m super proud of that, too.”

Continue reading “TWELVE is Available & Other Goings On”

Hitting Different: NaNoWriMo 2020

Isolation - The Monsters I Keep
Photo by Francois Hoang on Unsplash.

Last year, I jumped into National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in the hopes of washing myself of self doubt and depression resulting from years of struggling through a novel that just wasn’t working. The challenge of writing 50,000 words on a new project — something fun and exciting — was meant to help me shift away from a need to achieve the perfect novel (or perfect for me, anyway).

It worked.

Writing last year’s brought the joy of writing back. The Monsters I Keep is apocalyptic YA horror novel about a teenage girl trying to survive in a world full of monsters. The way the novel was shaped allowed me to tell the story in shorter snippets (more aligned with how I write as a poet). The story presented it’s own challenges, but it was also a pleasure to write, providing a world I was eager to dive into.

It was also a story that I didn’t finish. Last year during NaNo, I managed to write some 40,000 words. Over the course of the following year, I added several thousand more. The first two parts are fairly well drafted, but the third part, the conclusion needs to come together.

Last year, when I started The Monsters I Keep, the world was a different place. I wrote the first two parts of this novel before COVID and all the chaos that 2020 has wrought.

Now, looking back on the themes of isolation and facing off against a world full of monsters hits a bit different. Turns out, I have new levels of personal emotional experience to draw from.

As I start in on part three of my character is coming back to people. It seems strange somehow — after experiencing everything this year has had to deliver —  to be writing the section of the novel that’s about coming back to hope.

Then again, maybe it’s the perfect time to be writing about hope.

Good or bad, I’d like to finish The Monsters I Keep. It will still be only a draft, one that will need significant amount of work to make fully readable. But if I can pull this off, then it will be first full novel draft I’ve completed. That would be an amazing accomplishment.

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year? How is it hitting different for you? 


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On Reading and the Writing Life

Apparently, there’s communities of folks making Book and Authortube videos, in which they essentially talk about books, writing, and publishing. Since I’ve been wanting to get back into making videos, these community topics seemed a good way to focus my ideas around.

One of the things that a lot of folks in this community do is the Newbie Tag  — which is essentially a list of questions about you and your interests as a means of introduction. It sounded like fun, so I thought I’d go for it — although with my own flare.

Booktube and Authortube each have their own unique set of questions (listed below), created by Brenda C. and Jenna Streety, respectively. Rather than making them as two separate videos, I decided to incorporate them together, editing to avoid repeated questions and (hopefully) making things flow.

I hope you enjoy the video, and if you decide to do your own newbie tag, please let me know. I’d be happy to check it out.

Continue reading “On Reading and the Writing Life”

Dealing with Mental Exhaustion

and breathe
Photo by Victor Garcia on Unsplash

Over the previous two weeks, my day job has been eating my brain. During this time, our leader was out for medical reasons — and so, faced with an an oppressive and immovable deadline, I was working 10-11 hours days in order to complete a total of nine articles (each 3,000 words or more) over the course of eight days, as well as keeping the website updated with new articles. This was in addition to two hours of daily commute.

The exhaustion during this time was intense. I could measure how tired my brain was by the level of pressure inside my skull. I started developing headaches and back pain. I had trouble concentrating. My emotions were chaotic.

One night, I came home so tired that I felt drunk. I was dizzy, couldn’t keep my balance, and when I flopped down onto the bed to sleep, the room began spinning.

I don’t recommend this.

If it had been possible, I would have pushed the deadline back a few days or even a week — a more reasonable timeframe that would have enabled me to work at a pace more conducive to my physical and mental health. Since, that wasn’t an option, I had to find ways to provide self care that would help to keep me going and finish the work.

Here’s how I made it through the stress.

Find a Calming Anchor – On my desk, I a small stone that I collected from a beach in Homer, Alaska. In times of stress, I’ll hold this stone in my palm and picture standing on that beach, breathing in and out in rhythm with the waves. It calmed and refocused me for moment before jumping back into the work. An anchor can be anything that resonates with you — an object, a place, or even just breathing itself.

Get Moving – Whether it was just standing up to stretch or taking a walk around the office building, I tried to make sure to move regularly throughout the day. The movement was essential, helping to give my brain a rest and ease some of the back pain I was experiencing.

Use the Brain in Different Ways – Because I was working with words at my day job, it was out of the question for me to come home and read a book — let alone write my own things. However, I did find enjoyment in switching my brain power to other processes, including simple puzzle games, such as Two Dots, and video editing.

You wouldn’t think that the detail orientated aspects of video editing would actually be relaxing — but it was different enough from writing to energize my brain and provide relief. It also had the bonus of feeding my need for a creative outlet.

Sleep – On the night of dizziness, I could not concentrate enough to even zone out watching television. The only solution was to crash into bed and give in to the sleep. When your brain just can’t anymore, sleep is healing.

What methods do you use to help keep you going through mental exhaustion and stressful periods?

(Photo by Victor Garcia on Unsplash.)


Announcements

I’ve returned to the YouTube life. If you never knew that I once made vlogs and shared them publicly, that’s fine. Not many people watched them, and itt was around seven years ago since I made the last one.

I’ve missed it though, and I’ve never stopped thinking of new video ideas. Instead of waiting for the perfect moment or technology or time, I decided to just go for it and jump back in. So, I made a video discussing my ten favorite things from 2019 — books movies, games, travel, writing stuff, and more. This is acts as a companion to My Ten Favorite Fiction Reads and My Ten Favorite Poetry Books.


Book of the Month

My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite was my favorite read of the month. Set in Nigeria, the story focuses on two sisters — one is who alluringly beautiful and has a tendency to kill her boyfriends, and the other who is a nurse and is often left with cleaning up the mess. At the heart of this novel and what makes it so compelling — is how it addresses the complexities of sisterhood, with its blend of frustration, jealousy, anger, compassion, and love. Sisters, I just want you to know, I’d help you clean up your messes, too.

Check out the rest of my Culture Consumption for the month of January, with all the books, movies, TV, games, and podcasts that I’ve enjoyed.


More Good Stuff

It’s Women in Horror Month, so here’s a guide to literary women in horror. It’s fantastic list of books, which increases my TBR exponentially.

Kevin Dickinson discusses the value of owning more books than you can read.

“What does it mean that a whole style of writing is going out of style?” asks Holly Lynn Walwrath on the loss of cursive.

Maggie Smith keeps moving, writing powerful daily thoughts of optimism and hope, even when faced with loss. For example, “Do not be stilled by anger or grief. Burn them both and use that fuel to keep moving. Look up at the clouds and tip your head way back so the roofs of the houses disappear. Keep moving.”