The Storytime Jukebox

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***UPDATE***

My goal has been reached!

My undying thanks to those that contributed to the Storytime Jukebox, whether you put money in it or shared the link or sent me positive vibes. You are all wonderful, your generosity is overwhelming, and my appreciation is eternal. The bills will be paid and the writing lights will stay on! Hallelujah!

I’m going to keep the Storytime Jukebox going. The immediate need for it has passed, but it turns out that it’s a nice little niche to stick the odd story that has no home in and give it a chance to be read if someone is willing to pay a nickle or a dime or a quarter. Another crucifix against the Count Income Interruptus.

Once again, I can’t thank everyone who supported me enough because just saying “thank you” doesn’t seem sufficient. But know that those two little words come directly from my heart.

***

***UPDATE***

I’m about half-way to my goal. Thanks to everyone who has helped me out so far!

To celebrate the milestone, I’ve added two novellas to the Storytime Jukebox: The Haunting of the Woodlow Boys from Ghostly and The Monster in the Woods from People Are Terrible. Both contain an author’s note that’s exclusive to the Storytime Jukebox.

So, if you haven’t got either of these short story collections or if you have and you’re dying to know where I got the ideas for these novellas, shine up your nickles and drop them in the machine!

***

Let’s be honest about the nickels and dimes here: 2016 has not been a prosperous one for me. I’ve experienced a lot of income interruptus with both of my day jobs. Considering that they’re not exactly high-paying to begin with, any kind of money-flow hiccup is felt (and the biggest of all is coming very soon). The repeated hiccups this year have me feeling like I did during that one softball game as a kid when I got drilled in the same spot on my hip three at-bats in a row. That bruise didn’t heal until school started.

Well, to carry the analogy as far as I can before it gets ridiculous, my money bruise has barely even begun to heal and I’m facing another pitcher that wouldn’t mind dinging me.

In an attempt to earn the money I’m needing, I’ve set up this Storytime Jukebox. It works on the same basic principle as a regular jukebox: You pay what you want and I send you a story (or stories) of your choice from the list.

The goal is to raise $150 by the end of August. I know it doesn’t sound like a lot, but right now to me, it’s an incredible sum. I’m hoping this is the way to do it, or at the very least, help. The money is to keep the lights of my writing career on, so to speak (blog renewal, Microsoft Office renewal, etc.).

This is a new venture for me and I’m sure there’s lots of room for improvement. Any constructive feedback is welcomed.

So, if you’d like to help this broke writer in exchange for some pretty good stories to read, I’d very much appreciate it.

And as always, sharing is caring. The more people know, the better the chances of me reaching my goal.

The Generosity of the Universe

coinsI’ve not gotten much in the way of creative work done this month. I’ve got several different ideas for projects. I’m working on several different projects. I’ve written or started writing a couple of blog posts that I never got around to posting. But I haven’t had much energy to really put into it. Most of my brain has been wrapped up in trying to come up with the money to pay some bills.

When it comes to the generosity of the universe, I believe in it, but with an asterisk. As in, I believe in it for everyone else, but not for myself.

As a rule, I don’t think I should ever ask for help. Period. End of. Never. I believe that if I want something, then I should work harder and if I need something and I’m not getting it, well, it’s my fault because I’m not working hard enough. I don’t think these things about other people. They ask for help, they get help, sometimes I’m the helper if I can, and it’s all groovy. But me? No.

And on the rare occasions that I do ask for help, I’m usually turned down. I’m either ignored or given an excuse or worse, told that they’ll help, but then they don’t. It’s hard for people to help someone that never asks for it because they don’t know how to respond to it. It’s foreign territory.

Anyway, with the bills looming, I knew that I was going to have to come up with something to at least cover part of them. I’d had the idea for the Storytime Jukebox, but I knew that if I did it, it would probably be ignored. But it got to the point that I had no other option. So, I said “fuck it” and got it going. I decided that whatever I got from it, I would be grateful for it. Any little bit helps.

I did my best to maintain that attitude towards it. Gratitude. Be grateful for every retweet, every like, every link share, and every penny I got. And I did think I would get a few pennies. I knew some people would be game and give me a couple of dollars for my stories and I would be happy with that. I chose to approach this with gratitude.

Maybe the Universe appreciated this. Maybe I just underestimated the current people occupying my bit of world. Maybe my gratitude brought out the generosity. Whatever it was, the response to my request for help was overwhelming. It was more than I had expected by a long shot. At one point I thought if I raised enough money to just cover the cost of renewing the blog, that would be a huge achievement. In the end, in only a matter of a few weeks, the entire amount I needed was covered.

In addition to getting the money I needed from some pretty spectacular folks, I also learned a valuable lesson that I was long overdue for learning.

The generosity of the universe is a real thing and since I am part of the Universe, that generosity applies to me, too. I’m not exempt from it.

And my gratitude is endless.

August Writing Projects

sunIt’s August and I’m thinking I’ve hit the dog days of summer. Or maybe it’s just a bit of floundering on my own part because I’m not sure what I want to do this month.

I finished the revisions on Open Christmas Eve so, while not spectacular, the script is long enough to not be considered bullshit and I’m good with that. I no longer feel like a fraud, just a hack, and that’s my default, so it’s fine.

I also got the Storytime Jukebox up and running, which was a thing that I wasn’t sure I could or should do, but in the end I felt like I didn’t have a choice. The response I’ve had in the few days it’s been up is more than I actually hoped for and I hope it continues. I so appreciate the help.

It’s times like these, when the malaise and scatterbrainedness hits me, that I’m glad I have an epic To Do List of Doom. I may not know exactly what I want to work on, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have plenty of options.

So at some point during this month I will probably-

-Revise a couple of more stories for the jukebox and/or

-Write the first drafts of some short stories for the next anthology and/or

-Finish the first draft of one of my other test scripts for practice and/or

-Something else I can’t remember even though I just looked at the To Do List of Doom like four minutes ago.

Yeah. The scatterbrained malaise is that bad.

But August won’t be. I will be productive.

I will get at least one thing done.

I wonder what it will be.

July Writing Projects

FireworksSo, the novel fell apart spectacularly, but I can strip it for parts. And I did finish the 99 novella. I have no idea what I’m going to do with it. It may end up being one of those personal writing projects, something I needed to do just for me. And that’s cool. I do not mind those sorts of projects because they free up brain space. June wasn’t a total waste.

This month I’ll revise Open Christmas Eve. And by revise I mean make it longer because it is really short for a script. All part of me feeling less like a fraud about my contest entry that will probably not win anything.

Speaking of contests, the short story I entered into a contest earlier this year did not win, so I’m going to put that loser to the side and do something else with it later. But still, buy my stuff and tell me I’m pretty because my ego hurts.

And speaking of short stories, that’s going to be my main objective this month. I have an idea for a new short story collection, so I’ll be writing and revising with the aim of starting that. I’ve also go another idea for a different short story project that I’m not sure I’ll be able to pull off, but hey, I gotta try. That will be mostly revising short stories that I’ve never been able to find a home for.

July looks to have a whole lot going on.

Who needs summer vacation?

Self-Care When You’re Lousy at Self-Care

peaceSelf-care is important. It’s how one can maintain a happy existence even when life turns into a pressure cooker and your juices are threatening to boil. For some people, self-care comes so naturally that they don’t even have to think about it. They take time out to recharge their batteries, make time to do it. They take care of themselves with no problems. They relax without guilt. They don’t even think about not doing it. It just happens.

I am not one of those people.

Hell, I’m not even exactly sure what self-care really means. I know for some people it’s a reminder to take care of the basics because they get so wrapped up in stress that things like eating and drinking and sleeping and such get neglected. For me, self-care is more of a reminder to just take a break. To leave whatever stress or turmoil or work or whatever where it sits and walk away. Leave it alone, let it rest, and go soothe my soul with some kind of peace.

And I am garbage at that.

I’m one of those people who never works hard enough, is never good enough, and could always have done more. I’m one of those people who never deserves a break, never earns one, and I feel guilty if I even consider taking one.

For me, self-care is a struggle. Not only do I battle the inner narrative that I’m being lazy if I’m not being productive, but I also live in a world in which my attention is demanded. Alone time is hard to come by. I’ve learned to work through interruptions for the most part. Now I’m learning to self-care through them, too.

I’m learning to self-care, period.

As much as I long for a day (or a week, sometimes) of peace, I’ve learned to take it where I can get it. When I’m actively practicing self-care, like I did this past weekend, I accept that out of a day, I might get a broken hour or two of peace. Asking to be left alone for a while is not an option. The request either isn’t respected or if it is honored, it comes with hurt feelings because opting out of being someone’s personal audience for a day is considered a personal affront. So, I’ve found that it’s in my best interest to make the most of the time I can get. Little sips of peace. Not exactly full-on refreshing, but still nourishing.

As for the actual method of self-care, I relax best by doing something I really want to do that isn’t related to work. This past weekend, I did marker art. Sometimes it could be finishing a book. Other times I’ll dedicate my peace pursuits to studying some subject I’m interested in for an hour. It could just be a twenty minute dance party. For me, doing nothing is hard. There’s too much guilt and anxiety that comes with me doing absolutely nothing. If I do a little something amidst the nothing, then that lazy narrative has nothing to say. A gentle mix of productivity and rest.

I have found that, with continued practice, I’m getting better at this whole self-care business. I’m recognizing when I need to take these breaks and then I’m taking them. Before, I’d run myself into the ground and then run myself into the ground a little further before making the very slow climb out of the hole and feeling like a lazy fuck every inch of the way. Now I’m refusing to let myself get to that point.

Slowly but surely, I am getting the hang of this whole self-care business. I can’t say that it’s becoming more natural for me.

But I can say that I’m doing a much better job of including it in my world.

When We Talk About Orlando

pulseI went on two Twitter rants about the Orlando mass shooting since it occurred and what I’m going to do now is reiterate the three points I made in those Twitter rants for posterity (and with fewer “fuck you’s”, but they’re still implied).

When we talk about Orlando, we have to talk about the politicians that offer their thoughts and prayers while they continue to take money from the gun lobby. We have to talk about how they value their nickels and dimes more than common sense that could save lives. We have to talk about how they are so thirsty for votes that they will sacrifice whatever morality they might have on that altar made from spent shells and innocent blood. We have to talk about how they are so keen to protect the status quo, to protect their status in the hierarchy, that they will let people die so they can remain at the the top.  When we talk about Orlando, we have to talk about the price that has been put on our lives.

When we talk about Orlando, we have to talk about the breeding ground for hate. This was a hate crime. Nobody muttered the word “terrorist” until it was found that the shooter identified as Muslim. If this shooting had been perpetrated by a white Christian male (and when the news broke in the early morning hours, that’s exactly who I first thought the killer would be), he would be a “lone wolf” shooter. He would have been another Dylan Roof, but for the LGBTQ crowd. We have to talk about how so many “good Christians” are remaining silent about Orlando because they want to blame the victims (“I’m sorry it happened, but God says that homosexuality…”), but they can’t because that would align them with the shooter and more importantly with a religion they abhor. We have to talk about how many politicians have lobbied for bathroom laws, for sodomy laws, against marriage equality, against gay adoption. We have to talk about the preachers that use the pulpit to spread the message that being gay is an abomination, that we should “love the sinner, hate the sin”, that God can cure them of their homosexuality. We have to talk about how this shooting will be used to fuel Islamaphobia by both the politicians in their pursuit for votes and by the “good Christians” in their pursuit for conversion. We have to talk about how this fuckhead will be held up as an example of an entire religion, a lie that will be repeatedly told and with fervor. We have to talk about how millions of people are called upon to denounce this one fuckstick’s actions, but are still demonized. When we talk about Orlando, we have to talk about the casual way our society makes us less than.

When we talk about Orlando, we have to talk about the fact that the victims were gay. The media is glossing over this fact. People are taking to social media to ram home the terrorism part of the rhetoric, to ram home the fact that these were AMERICANS killed and that is more important than the victims being gay. No, it isn’t. We have to talk about the fact that before they were dead AMERICANS they were living GAYS, living with restrictions, being denied rights. We have to talk about how when they were living gays, YOU put the gay first, well before you even considered them being American. We have to talk about how you want to obliterate the victims’ sexual identity so you can condemn one religion without betraying your own. When we talk about Orlando, we have to talk about the fact that these people were targeted because they were gay and this sort of “terrorism” is something those of us identifying as LGBTQ have been living with and experiencing for decades.

Love winsWhen we talk about Orlando, we have to talk about caring, about support, about empathy, about tolerance, about understanding, about hope, about revolution, about worth, about humanity, about equality, about justice, about freedom, about help, and most of all, about love.

Love is love.

Love wins.

 

Ways to help.

Writing–When It All Goes to Concrete

Rainbow paperI wanted to write a novel this summer. I had the idea all ready to go. I was going to do it the same way I wrote an impromptu novel last summer, just a thousand words a day, a very loose outline. I even mentioned it in my writing projects post, that’s how sure I was that Suicide Paris Green was going to be a thing.

Forty pages in and I realized, that no, it’s not going to be a thing. Well, not a novel thing, anyway.

I’ve written first drafts before in which I could easily look at it and say, “This is fucking garbage”, but then I’d say, “It’s okay. I can rewrite it.” I looked at this first draft and went, “Nope.”

I can’t say how I know that something I’m writing is just not going to work. It’s actually very rare that it happens. I usually finish the first draft of most things and it may be after I’m done that I look back and go, “No, it’s not worth the effort to fix”. And that’s fine. I don’t think everything I write is meant to be finished to ultimate completion. Sometimes I just need to get the idea out of my head and once it’s out, I’m done. I’m cool with that. I don’t consider that in any way to be a waste of time or effort because in the end, I’m practicing my craft.

But there are those rare occasions when I’m writing something that I just know it’s a lost cause, that it isn’t worth pursuing. It’s definitely an intuitive thing. The only way I can describe it is that the idea, once fresh and new and liquid, now feels like old, set, scarred concrete in my head. There’s just no life to it anymore, no movement.

That’s what happened to Suicide Paris Green. I was working on it yesterday morning, typing away, and I realized that it was concrete in my head. I know what I wanted from it, but in the act of actually writing it I realized that I wasn’t going to get what I wanted. I was going to end up with an unreadable mess that I’d never want to look at again.

It just killed my mojo.

I hate it when that happens to my ideas and I’m happy that it happens rarely.

But all is not lost, at least not in my world. Not long after I called TOD on this draft and decided not to write another word, my eyes lit up at the prospect of stripping the draft and the ideas I had for the story for parts. What might not work as a novel may just work as some short stories with a similar theme. And maybe I’ll write enough of them to put together another collection.

And I’ll save the title for a living manuscript, too.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

So, maybe instead of a writing a novel this summer, I’ll just write some short stories instead.

June Writing Projects

Yellow flowersLast month I finished the first draft of Open Christmas Eve, which makes me less of a cheat in terms of the script contest. It’s really short (too short), so I’m thinking a revision will definitely be happening at some point to reduce my feelings of being a cheat even more. But that probably won’t happen until later this summer.

More importantly, I finished the last revision and polish on The Haunting of the Woodlow Boys and, after days of agonizing, finally put together the ghost story collection lamely titled Ghostly. It was the best I could do which is probably why I’ll never make a living doing this. But, so long as self-publishing can be done, I’ll at least be making some change. So this is all a round about way of saying that Ghostly will be out at the end of the month.

For June, I’m going through with my plan on writing a short novel for the summer. It’s called (for now) Suicide Paris Green and it’s quite a bit different from the stuff I’ve been writing (read: not horror, not paranormal, no fantastical elements). It’s kind of dark, so to counteract it, I’m going to be writing a fun story at the same time as a kind of palette cleanser. I have no idea how long this story is going to be, but it’s also VERY different from what I’ve ever written in terms of original fiction. Right now it’s called 99 because even my fun stories aren’t immune from my shitty titles.

At any rate, June should be a good month for some laid back writing in terms of deadlines and demands and bottom lines and I sort of need that kind of thing right now.

Let’s do this, summer.

Sew Many Bits and Pieces

sugergirl skirtLast month I went through my sewing drawer and bin, trying to figure out what I could get rid of because I have a plethora of fabrics and remnants and clothes that I thought I’d be sewing with and so far haven’t yet. I really can’t keep hanging on to these things if I’m not going to do anything with them. And it’s been far too long since I’ve actually sat down and stitched on a project.

So, while going through things, I found a couple of panels that I could try to sell on eBay and maybe later I could try selling some of the remnants I probably won’t use, but I also came up with two projects I could work on that would use up several bits and pieces and shirts. My dumbass thought I could get both of these things done in a day. In reality, it took me about two and a half weeks, give or take me not paying much attention to days of the week.

supergirl skirt 2I made the skirt from a pair of jeans that lost their life to the curse of friction, an old t-shirt, and the leg of a pair of pajama pants. Probably the easiest thing about this pieces was cutting the legs off of the jeans and ripping the seams out of the shirt and the pants. The actual piecing and sewing (remember, I sew by hand) turned out to be much trickier than I anticipated. In fact, I ended up having to do one of the cheetah print panels twice because I screwed it up the first time and had a weird bulge in it.

The skirt turned out pretty well, I think. It’s light enough to wear in the summer, but long enough to wear in the fall and spring. Versatile. Also pretty damn unique.

handkerchief tankThe other piece I ended up doing is a handkerchief style tank. I sewed together to different ribbed tanks to get the color block effect. I then split the lower tank up the side and added in the plaid panels. Turns out that was the hardest part, trying to get the angles just right. That and all of the sewing because of the angles and the hems I needed to create.

And in the end, it doesn’t work for me. I don’t like the way it looks on me. However, I do think it will look quite fetching on my middle niece who likes this sort of style. She’s shorter and smaller than me (obviously), so I think it will hang better on her than on me. In the end, it won’t go to waste.

So, I’ve made some progress in cleaning out my sewing stuff and got some cute things in the process.

I have to remember that’s how it works when I actually sew.