First Friday Update, and it’s a Long One

From the Kickstarter fundraising campaign for Trajelon: The Way of the Falling Star Book 2 on Kickstarter, Friday February 21st 2020:

It took most of the day to kick in, for some reason, but the price of the Mornnovin eBook on Amazon has finally adjusted to 99¢. It will remain at that deeply discounted price at least until February 26th. I may or may not be persuadable on the subject of extending the sale for an additional week.

So now that the stress of that unexpected snafu has lifted, I can do a proper update.

It’s Friday, five days in, and as of posting this the fundraiser is sitting pretty at $821 or 22% funded. We’re nicely on track. The next big goal, obviously, is getting to 25% ($925) and I’m confident we can hit that mark easy-peasy before the end of the weekend. Please, keep talking up this series and sharing the link with your friends, family, and followers.

Trajelon is a special book not just because it’s mine and I have to say that, but because it explores issues and themes that I don’t think we see often enough in fiction – especially not in the sparkly elf magic genre.

I’m going to get real with you for a minute.

I’ve talked before about how the version of Mornnovin that is now published is the culmination of thirty years and four versions of telling that particular story. What people may not know is that I’d also written Trajelon once before.

In late 1997, I was 18 years old and I’d made some terrible decisions that I was locked into living with for the foreseeable future, both because of the nature of responsibility but also because of pride. People had tried to warn me, and of course being the age I was, I knew everything. I’d been downright insolent about my conviction that I knew what I was doing.

So there I was, miserable, bridges burned, everything to prove, struggling under the load of several massive responsibilities all taken on at once, knowing that I’d made the bed I now had to lie in. I was also trying to pass my first semester of college as an English major. I can’t remember now precisely which combination of events led me to come to this conclusion, but I started to feel that although I was reasonably good at academic writing, my creative writing was a clear waste of my time. I actually went as far as deciding to give it up.

I think, now, that I might have been trying to punish myself.

That take makes sense in hindsight because as soon as I’d grounded myself from the sort of writing I actually enjoy doing, two things happened.

One, at odd moments I started doodling scenes that weren’t supposed to be part of anything, so I was free from the feeling that they had to be any good or make any kind of sense or fit within a larger narrative. This would come to be important later.

And two, the scenes I was scribbling down without any commitment to story or quality were all about bad things happening to Loríen.

Because writers have to write, even if they’ve made bullshit nonsense declarations about how they’ve given it up, a story idea did eventually coalesce out of all of these snippets. And because of where I was, the story was dark. The finished product was horrible, but it was genuine – a savage cry of pain from someone who believed she had no right to it.

Fast forward ten years. Now it’s 2007. I’m still living in that hell of my own making, but it’s different because I’m ten years older and time does change things, for better or worse. Now I’m working a crappy retail job and it’s killing me. To save my sanity, one day, I pull some blank receipt paper out of the cash register and in tiny, cramped letters I start scribbling some scenes that aren’t supposed to be part of anything. They’re just junk for my brain, something to keep me alive. Because they’re not for anything real, I don’t worry about them being any good or fitting within whatever other arbitrary writing rules I have for myself. At night, while the household is asleep, I transfer the cramped letters from cash register paper to computer file.

smallscrap

One of the receipt paper scraps miraculously survived to be found during a deep clean of my writing space in 2013.

After a while, I realize they are actually starting to make a coherent story, but it’s not canon, I tell myself. It’s just some cracky Asrellion fanfiction. Just some mindless entertainment. I keep giving myself permission to tell a different kind of story from whatever I imagine canon to be.

By the time I leave that crappy retail job, I find that in my time there I’ve managed to scribble onto bits and pieces of receipt paper what amounts to roughly twenty typed pages of… something.

Then I realize that what I have on my hands isn’t just something, it’s the seed of a new version of Book 2. One that actually has something to say besides screaming in wordless agony. The only problem is, this new book that I can see laid out before me is far too good for the terrible most-recent draft of Book 1 that would precede it.

Then I realize that I’m going to have to write this book, which means that I’m also going to have to rewrite the first book in the series in order to lay the necessary groundwork.

That’s the story of how I came to begin my ground-up re-imagining of Mornnovin in 2008.

It turns out to be a good thing that I took the time to do that first, because I wouldn’t have been ready then to tell the story that I ultimately had in me in 2016 when I wrote Trajelon over the course of six intense months. By then, I had escaped Hell. By then, I was safe. By then, I had some perspective on what it is not just to live through but to survive trauma and depression.

The first incarnation of Trajelon was what I needed it to be when I screamed it up, all those years ago. It was catharsis. I don’t blame it for its darkness or its ugliness any more than you would blame a post-surgical scar for its raw appearance. This iteration of Trajelon is what it needed to be. Almost Athena-like, it sprang fully-formed from the brain of its creator. And it’s no longer a cry of suffering. It’s… a meditation on living with the suffering that inevitably comes along with the triumphs we experience in life. Living with, enduring, growing from. Learning to discard where possible. Drawing into our identity and building off of where necessary.

No doubt this is scary territory for some readers, but that’s exactly why I think it’s so important to tell these stories. They can’t all be about glorious victories on the field of battle. There are more shades to the spectrum of the human (elven?) experience. I so wish this book had existed at a time when I could have drawn strength from it. Now I no longer need to draw on that kind of strength, but others do. I know they do.

So maybe this was a big old heavy update for a Friday evening, but I hope you don’t mind the candor. This book is very personal for me, as you now understand, and that would have become clear anyway as soon as you read it. Because I think that’s actually its truest and purest strength, I wanted to be up front about it in this fundraiser. I am pitching to you a fantasy novel written by a survivor of abuse, trauma, and depression written for survivors of abuse, trauma, and depression.

If you, like I do, think that’s an important thing to have exist in the world, please help me get the word out and bring it into reality.

And thank you for letting me get real.

Me Too

I wrestled for a while with the decision of whether to post this here. I always intended this space to be more about my writing than about me personally, although I do realize that my life is not disconnected from my writing. In the end, I concluded that this might help explain why this space has been largely neglected for the last couple years as I sorted out some real-life stuff. It has been a transitional period, and not an entirely smooth one.

Here’s why.

CW for graphic discussion of rape and suicidal ideation.

Continue reading

“This gentle and unforc’d accord… sits smiling to my heart”

This summer has been an actual battle.

I say that with a certain amount of willful optimism, implying that summer is approaching something like an end, when in fact in the Valley of the Sun we could easily be looking at another two months of temperatures over 100°F.  That’s just how Phoenix rolls.

When the heat took hold and the dimensions of my world shrank in the name of self-preservation, I thrashed against the captivity like a caged tiger.  My very literal physical confinement quite naturally led to the surfacing of all the other ways in which I’ve been feeling limited.  And, being trapped with myself and my thoughts, there was little I could do but huddle in my hole and stew.  I flailed miserably against my novel all through the month of June, ultimately deleting more than I walked away with by an alarming margin.

July made it worse in some ways, as the heat deepened and the monsoons rolled in with their humidity to make us truly suffer; and with my son off staying with relatives for the entire month, I found myself suddenly without any tangible responsibility. It was mind-boggling how quickly I embraced the nothing I was able to get away with doing.  But it soon became clear that my avoidance of the sun was quite literally making me ill – clinical depression brought on by vitamin D deficiency.

Even as my general ability to anything dwindled, that trapped feeling was brimming over, exploding into something volcanic and destructive.  I needed out, and I needed it any way I could get it.  Dark thoughts in the midst of the sun’s ascendancy.

Now, Depression and I are old friends and I know its knock by heart.  I know not to listen to ideas that aren’t being spoken in my true voice.  But that helplessness, that need to escape, to do something, was real.  Unfortunately, so are all of the familiar limitations that daily hold me where I am.  There were two things, only two, that I could exert any control over in the depth of summer’s hell, and I dove into those as if to save my life.

Because it was.

My novel: I’ve vowed to finish it by the end of the year, and I mean it.  I’m tired of being vaguely embarrassed to tell people I’m a writer just because it hasn’t been monetarily rewarding.  I’m also tired of being too poor to handle my daily life, and having no recourse to do anything about that because no one will hire a thirty-three-year-old autistic woman with limited work experience.  Well, if I can’t get hired, then I just need to earn money at the thing I’m good at.  I don’t want this book to feel like it has to save my life, but it kind of does.  (Don’t tell the novel.  It’s under enough pressure as it is. /whisper) So I’ve spent the summer hacking away at this word count, some days with a feverish urgency because the more trapped I felt, the more I needed my writing to save me.  Every time I hit a snag, I begged the novel to behave because we don’t have time for that.  I need out now.  The poor novel has done the best it could.

The only other aspect of my life I had the power to effect any change over was my attention to my health.  I dove into that too, because it was all I could do.  Knowing I needed some sun, but obviously unable to get it healthily in the middle of the day, I made a choice.  I’ve always struggled with insomnia, and I mean that struggled quite dynamically.  I fight it, trying to force my clock to conform to social norms, only ever ending up the worse (and more sleep-deprived) for it.  But this summer, with no spawn in the house and no one to make demands upon my daylight hours, I made a decision to go full vampire.  Completely flipped my schedule.  I didn’t want to be up and moving around and trying to do things during the hottest part of the day anyway. I did this ostensibly so that I could get out for a brisk walk in the mornings at dawn, before the worst of the heat set in, but there have been other benefits as well.

I’m getting my 6-8 hours of sleep every day for the first time in a decade and a half, now that I’m not fighting my body’s natural rhythm and trying to take them at night when my mind is most alert and active.  I would say it’s miraculous, except it’s more like I should have thought of this years ago.  My family isn’t exactly on board with this, but you know.  They have their struggles and I have mine and we all have to deal.  And this is me, dealing.

But the other unintended side-effect has been that the surrender, the laying down of arms against my body’s sleep cycle, has led somewhat organically to a more cooperative approach to my writing.  Instead of seeing my own creativity as an adversary needing to be conquered by the forces of productivity, I’ve been able to accept the flow of ideas as helpful even when they don’t ultimately lead me where I want to go.

Part of this has been a direct result of the hour-long walks I’ve been taking before the world has awoken, because in the silence and solitude I am naturally inclined to explore dialogue and creative concepts.  Sometimes it’s hard to get it all down on paper when I get home, and not everything I write ends up being useful, but surplus is the opposite of the problem I’ve been having until now and I’ll take it.  Mainly, though, I really think this sudden relative ease in my writing is just the lack of struggle.  I’ve stopped fighting myself, at least in this.

And, strangely, I’ve even found things to love about my little corner of Hell since I started venturing out with the sun:

The clouds at dawn. The stillness of the world in that hour before morning shakes off night’s silence.  The utter freedom of being out beneath the sky at an hour that belongs to no one.  The inexplicable colony of lovebirds living in the neighbors’ Royal Palm.  The dog that still barks at me every morning as I pass his chain-link fence, even though he started recognizing me weeks ago; he wags his tail now while he makes his usual ruckus.  The baby cock that thinks he can crow like a man, and tells us so every sunrise in his reedy little voice.  The dawn-light on those ageing blue crackle-painted louvers.  The contrast of the fuzzy black carpenter bees against the wall of glossy white lilies.  The scent of ripe figs telling me I’m coming close to the crumbling old brick building at the end of the neighborhood.  The cats who watch me pass from their comedic safe spot, wedged in beneath the eaves.  Familiar faces whose names I’ll never know greeting me with a nod and a smile as we pass, we alone moving through a world not yet awake.

As the approaching equinox chases dawn deeper into the morning, I know I’ll be sharing my quiet hour with more of my neighbors, so the solitude has been a gift that only summer could give. And for that I must thank it.

This remains a place I know I can’t go on calling home forever.  If there’s one thing I took away from the depth of my desperation, it’s that Phoenix cannot be all there ever is to my life.  We are not and never will be friends.  But for as long as we are forced to deal with each other, we may as well accept a wary truce.