Category: Reading and Writing

What I’m reading and what I’m writing.

2018-Happy New Year-Tumultuous Dragons and Affectionate Minnows

Well, hello there, 2018! You really snuck up on me.

I just sat down and re-read last year’s New Year’s blog post and had a hearty chuckle. I might have grimaced and winced a couple times, probably wiped away a few tears. There I was sure that the previous year (2016) was so insanely tumultuous and difficult that the coming year (this past one) could only get better. I jumped in ready to batten down the proverbial hatches and wait until some some much needed (dare I say, deserved?) calm seas appeared. Yeah. That didn’t happen. And I kid you not when I say the cray-cray that went down this past year to me personally was completely separate from all political news and state-of-the-world absurdness going on.

So, 2017 wasn’t all bad, actually. Some truly amazing things happened and I’ll get to those in a second. But first…

A super quick rundown: It’s January first and I’m sitting here in a two-room apartment in front of a nice monitor (finally!), a mechanical keyboard (never knew such magic existed!) and staring at a small tank full of minnows (They love me and I’m training them. Shut up.) and I’m thinking I’m doing okay, despite it all, I’m a *special* kind of happy. Last year, I had to make what was probably the toughest decision of my life. I can’t really get into the details here,  just know it was many, many years brewing and all that time while I was turning over my options, there was never any this-is-the-right-choice moments. Or there were and I just kept missing them. Think: boiling frog analogy, I guess. It’s hard to listen to your heart when you’re sure you’re going mad and nothing sounds or feels sane.

For a very long time, it was easy *not* to make a choice. But I realized that ‘not making a choice’ *is* making a choice (someone very wise told me that *nods at C.M.*). And that ‘not making a choice’ (in my case) was lazy, dangerous, and just plain weak.

So I made the decision. There were consequences. Big ones. Payoffs. I lost (for the time being) virtually all of my writing time, for one. I’m in a two-bedroom apartment, for two. There are other things, but let’s skip all the dramatic and gory details and let me tell you about what good occurred because I did the difficult thing.

1) Sanity is returning, slowly albeit. It feels like I’m learning how to be a real person all over again. And that’s a positive thing.

2) I am no longer dependent on anyone financially. This is a deep down feel-good that I never expected would, well, feel so good. Yay, me!

3) I have monitor, keyboard, and also affectionate minnows(*), my own space, and that *special* kind of happy.

In April I did a reading from my new book in Kobe. 

A few other biggies that happened as a result of me taking action when so long I’d remained paralyzed and wishy-washy and afraid:

In February my second collection of stories was published by Independent Legions Press. It’s called The Carp-Faced Boy and Other Tales, and this time I went complete horror, which was fun and challenging and something I want to explore more.

Paperbacksandpugs Tweeted the most adorable Tweet about The Carp-Faced Boy.

I also started a monthly podcast that has just celebrated its one-year anniversary. This was an entirely new endeavor and scary in its own right. Take into consideration that up until very recently I didn’t speak English, except maybe once a week to my parents, for years and years, like almost twenty. I could feel my synapses fizzling out and my brain shrinking. I was able to write, but my verbal story-telling ability was fast disappearing. It’s still not back, but I think I’m getting better. The podcast was a way to try and nip that cerebral decline in the bud as well as a way to introduce people to the Japan I love via a different medium. There are people who read books. There are people who listen to podcasts. Sometimes they’re the same people. Sometimes, they’re not. So I did a bit of hustling and with the help of a friend who knows a whole lot more than I do, I started Uncanny Japan. I even trended for awhile on an app for Trending Podcasts. Which basically means I got a heap of subscribers and answer lots of emails. 

I made myself a home studio.

Around that time, I discovered Patreon and made a page there where, again, I could possibly reach like-minded people and tell them a story and teach them something odd and/or creepy about Japan that they didn’t know before. Over the past year, 26 people have become Patrons of mine, and I adore each and every one of them. I want to have a house party and invite them all over, feed them exotic Japanese foods, ply them with expensive sake and introduce them to my minnows…only a I’m a little short on room right now. One of these days! For the time being, these wonderful people make me want to work harder. Do better. 

One super tough thing that happened in 2017 was that I needed to procure a full-time job. I don’t know about stars aligning and the Magic 8-Ball declaring ‘Signs point to yes!’, but dagnubbit (!) I was taken on at an adorable and wonderful English school where I couldn’t be happier. Think Totoro and magical cabin in the woods. The time thing I gotta work out myself. But the atmosphere, the students, and my bosses are all fantastic. I really couldn’t have landed in a better place.

In some ways it feels like I survived 2017 by the skin of my teeth, that I’m clumsily juggling too many things, and that I’m always not doing enough. In other ways, it feels like I hustled my ass off and got busy and stayed creative and hopeful when I could easily have shut down and turned off.

Life is by no means perfect. There are still dragons in dem 2018 waters (Oh, how I love mixing my metaphors!).

Time management is a must. Now that I don’t have big blocks of time to write, I need to be able to switch on and off from project to project at will. This has been proving extremely difficult for me. This is one of my top three dragons that must be slayed. Or caged. Or tamed. Or, crap, just get him to organize my hours and days and weeks for me.

Second dragon is health and fitness. I lost a good deal of weight and was walking an hour or more a day two years ago. This year with my new schedule and (again) my less-than-capable skills of planning spiffy routines, I’ve put a good deal of weight back on, and no walking. That beast needs to go down this year. Down, I tell you. And maybe I’ll burn some calories while I wrestle him. With time as valuable as it is and me really wanting to start (again) and finish (for real) my novel, I need to figure this one out.

Dragon Three is writing. Gotta ride this puppy. I’ve got a novel started, and an agent asking where they hell is it? To the depths of my very soul I want to finish this novel. 2018, I’m looking at you.

So that’s me. I’m not about New Year’s resolutions so much. I’m more about winged monsters with scales and fiery breath trying to take me out (Or help me out. Seriously. I’m all over the place up here.) and what I can do to overcome them or work with them, or…you get the picture.

How about you? What are your goals, dreams, thoughts for/about 2018?

Whatever they are, I hope the dreams come true, the goals are achieved, and the thoughts are, well, thunk.

 

This is me wishing you all a wonderful and Happy New Year!

(*) Affectionate Minnows is the name of my new band.

What I’ve Been Up To With Bullet Points

Ever since I got back from the States in early September, it seems like I’ve refashioned myself into a kind of plate spinner, albeit a somewhat neurotic plate spinner. So as a reminder to myself and a heads up to anyone interested in what’s going on in my life, here is a bullet point list of the larger saucers currently twirling precariously above my head.

*My Podcast

Uncanny Japan is my very own — and still very green — podcast. It’s short at 10-15 minutes and comes out on the 15th-ish of every month. You can find it on the website (Uncanny Japan) and on iTunes. I’ve even heard it’s up in other places for Android. I don’t know how all that works, if they picked it up or what. Seriously. I told you I’m green. But the content is fun and weird and dare I say, uncanny. I’m enjoying it so much I figure I’m bound to get better. And, hey, if you listen now, you can later say, “I knew her when…”.

Here’s the elevator pitch:

“Uncanny Japan explores all that is weird from old Japan. Strange superstitions, and old wives tales, cultural oddities, and interesting language quirks. These are little treasures I dig up while doing research for my writing.”

It’s 100% free. Give it a listen and tell your friends. Also, if you have any thoughts, opinions, or ideas for the podcast, let me know. This is very much a wok in progress.

*My Patreon page 

Next, I have spent the past year mustering up the gumption to start up my own Patreon page (For those who aren’t familiar, Patreon is a place where you can support artists and get a little bit back, too).  After months of epic wishy washy-ness, I finally pulled the trigger and launched my page.

The monthly support I get from Patreon will go toward both my podcasts and my writing. I think I have some neat rewards available, especially for anyone interested in Japan and its culture.

One example is that for only $5.00/month and up I will send you a recording of a Bedtime Story. This is me retelling and very often reimagining an old Japanese folktale. I’m searching out the more obscure ones, so it will more than likely be a story you’ve never heard before. There are also some other neat rewards at the higher levels, too. So if you’re curious about that sort of thing, give that a gander right here.

And my last (but certainly not least) spinning plate, is my new book!

*My Collection of Short Stories: The Carp-Face Boy and Other Tales. 

This is a bundle of ten dark (some say horror) stories, published just recently by Independent Legions Publishing. There is both a print and ebook edition. The last time I checked the Kindle version was going for less than four bucks. 

Here you will find stories about a carp-faced boy, a dancing monkey with magical powers, and a creepy theremin player with a secret, just to name a few.

I’m going to write a post very soon as a kind of companion to the book. A little insider information, if you will. I’m also going to podcast about some of the stranger things I discovered while researching the stories. So if you’re interested in my freaky, Japanese-themed tales, please look here. 

Wew! So there you have it. Those are my biggies. While there are quite a few other plates in various stages of rotation, I’ll keep this post short and limit it three. I’ll get to those other saucers later.

Everyone take care. Stay sane. Do something nice for yourself today.

The Worst Part of Being a Writer

I’m a writer. It’s what I do. It’s who I am.

I’ve had stories published, and I’ve had people from all over the world read them. I’ve had people love them, hate them, and be absolutely indifferent to them. Sometimes, when I’m lucky, I even have people take valuable time out of their days to look up my address, sit down, and send me an email just to let me know how much a certain story meant to them.

See that last sentence? That’s the opposite of the title of this blog post. That’s the best part of being a writer. Having someone (not your mom) write you to tell you how a story moved them? That’s like Heisenberg-brand Sky Blue right there. (All the benefits of crystal meth, but you get to keep your teeth.)

Everything in my life is filtered through the lens of me, Terrie, the writer.

Not that I go into situations mining them for story. I don’t. Not usually.

Okay, I sometimes do. I admit to taking more than my fair share of stupid risks just to know how something was done or what it felt like to do it.

But most of the time, no, I’m not living with my eye on writing a story about whatever experience I might be having. Instead, I try to live as close to the heart and gut as possible. I want to live honestly. Some experiences are pure joy while others are utter hell. And of course, there is everything in between.

The stories that seem to resonate with the most people are the ones where I’ve really dug deep and dredged up some emotional shit, tried to make sense of it even.

Okay, here’s where I get to the worst part of being a writer.

When I’m writing – especially when I’m writing full-on (up to eight hours a day, recently) – I can’t turn off the tap, so to speak. When I’m cutting as deep as I can go to get to feelings and emotions that I want to express as authentically as I can, I’m there, and I just can’t stand up, stretch my back and walk away from the page and be “okay”, and in some even-keeled mindset again.

Does that make sense?

I’m emotional and drained and weepy and maybe, if it’s a happy tale, I’m elated and weepy in a better way. Basically, I’m wrecked. I haven’t moved in eight hours and I’m exhausted.

The worst part of being a writer is not the horribly aching back, stiff shoulders, blurry eyes, oatmeal brain, no money, and no social life. The worst part of being a writer is the part when I unintentionally hurt my friends.

I hurt them because I can’t pull out of the story or the emotions that I’m exploring while writing it. I do step away from the computer to email, Skype, and chat with them, but I’m afraid I’m an emotional mess.

Sometimes I need the solace of a good friend to comfort me. Sometimes I’m so beaten up inside my head and my heart that all I want to do (in lieu of a hug) is curl up in a fetal position at a friend’s feet and ask them to please pet me on the head, to please kneel down and whisper in my ear, “It’ll be okay. I’m here. It’ll be okay.”

But right here in the grind of it, I can’t help feeling that this “asking” is asking too much. Over and over again, that I am draining those closest to me, and that is horribly unfair to them. That right there, that last sentence, that is something I just can’t bear.

But the thing is, when I’m done, when I’m in a stronger place, I hope that I’m also a stronger person for having made that little emotional journey, having created a story that never existed before, that only exists because of me. And I hope that because of that, I can give something back to those friends who were there for me. Because I want to give back. I want to give back more than they gave me even.

At the moment it doesn’t seem fair. And I’m finding it very hard not to beat myself up about it.

Paraphrasing Epictetus:

The inferior man blames others.

The regular man blames himself.

The superior man knows there is no one to blame. He looks at life with clearer, more objective eyes.

Until very recently I blamed myself for everything that went wrong around me, whether it was my fault or not. Hell, whether it involved me or not. Recently, though, I’m trying to look with clearer eyes, more objective eyes.

I’m a writer. It’s what I do. It’s who I am.

I don’t want to apologize for that. I don’t want to change that. It’s important to me that I do this. Flaying yourself and examining your emotions is a part of being human, no? Don’t we all do it? Or is it just my warped understanding of life? I think it’s okay to hurt, to despair, to be jealous, to seethe, to desire, to know these emotions, but figure out a way not to be ruled by them.

In the end, it’s even more important to love, be kind, help others, and nurture. This is what I want to do. It’s the goal. I love my friends and my family with every fiber of my being.

The worst part of being a writer is when the balance is off. When I hurt my friends, the people I love. It’s when I need too much from them, expect too much from them, and hurt them because I’m reeling from emotions I’ve been wrestling with all day. All those times when it feels like I have nothing to bring to the table.

But this is who I am.

I can’t say enough how thankful and grateful I am for the friends who understand and accept this ‘me’, as difficult and draining as I know I am at times. When I’m this much of a mess, it’s you who gets me through the day, you who are there, leaning over and patting me on the head and scratching behind my ears and whispering down: “It’ll be okay. I’m here. It’ll be okay.”

What I really want them all to know is that I will give back again, I will love, and be kind, and support, and nurture again. But for now, while I’m in the heat of it and can’t step away from this emotional tempest,  I just want to say this: I appreciate you. I respect you. I admire you. I’d take a freaking bullet for you. Please know if it wasn’t for you I couldn’t bear any of this. I love you.

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The Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley Scholarship

I am tickled pink to announce that I have won this year’s Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley Scholarship.  I would like to give a world of thanks to The Horror Writers Association for providing female horror writers with such a wonderful opportunity to invest in and hone their craft.  And thanks and appreciation also to the HWA Scholarship Committee: Ellen Datlow, Vince Liaguno, and Marge Simon.

I plan to study hard and make them proud!

“The Spider Sweeper”

Several years ago I wrote a short story I was incredibly smitten with but  knew in my heart might never find a home.  It’s called “The Spider Sweeper” and it just felt very odd. It’s a horror story. It’s a love story. It’s set in Japan during the late 1800s.

I sent it out and collected a few rejections, then decided to sit on it for awhile. A year passed. Longer.  A couple of months ago I stumbled upon it again and re-read it. Lo and behold, I still loved it. So I thought what-the-hell and decided to send it out again.

Now I’m here today to say I’m tickled pink to announce “The Spider Sweeper” was picked up by a gorgeous magazine I hugely admire, Black Static.

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