Check it Out, a Planner Friday! Favorite Themes of 2017

A bit late, true, but it took a bit of time to get all of the pics I’d taken of my planner last year and somewhat-organize them.  

I made SO MANY STICKERS last year!  I absolutely loved some of my themes – especially, it seems, the color-palette ones, which account for a large percentage of my favorites.  By the end of the year, however, I’d gotten pretty burnt out on sticker-making; I had been doing it almost every week for two years, after all.  I decided 2018 was time to try something different, which I’ll talk about in a later post; but it’s entirely likely I’ll end up back to my old habits in a few months, as those lovely colorful spreads are tough to beat.

It’s really interesting to me, going back through all my spreads for the year, seeing the evolution of what I tried, what worked, what didn’t, and what came back.  I tried out meal planning for a couple of months and various forms of mood tracking, but eventually what stayed was a sidebar tracker for daily habits and the “this week” sticker above it for items that needed doing but weren’t dependent on a particular day.  Also in September my work week shifted from the typical M-F to Sunday-Thurs, so I had to adjust how I looked at the week.

At any rate, here are my ten favorite weekly spreads of 2017, in chronological order, I think.   I’m putting a “read more” here in case all the images clog up your reader or browser.

Read more

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Sylvan Points at Stuff – 10 Things That Weren’t Absolute Crap in 2017

Let’s be honest here:  2017 sucked.  If your year was awesome, well, chances are you’re either a millionaire, you are oblivious to the outside world, or you are Taylor Swift (which means you are a millionaire and oblivious to the outside world).  

This is not to say nothing good happened.  Of course it did!  Through the smoke of the gigantic dumpster fire of 2017 you could catch glimpses of beauty and truth.  I hope that your personal life involved at least a few lovely things, and that here at the tail end of the year you’re able to look back and see those lovely things no matter how much of the world’s bullshit wound up burning in a bag on your porch.  Let those be the things that warm you as we head into what is likely to be another difficult year for those of us with a social conscience and a lot to lose.

As for me, I feel an immense relief that the year is over even though I have no real reason to imagine 2018 will be less of a turd souffl√©.  And rather than analyze it all to death, I’m just going to bury it in the litter box and try to be done with it – I need my strength for the year ahead.  

But here are ten small-to-medium things about 2017 that I did love, in no particular order.

1 – I did kind of publish another book.  That’s pretty cool.  

Incidentally it’d be really awesome if you read Shadow Rising and would be kind enough to leave a review or rating on Amazon.  I don’t read reviews (no, not even good ones) because they’re bad for my mental health, but every writer needs them to help encourage people to try out their work.  

2 – Wonder Woman. 

Even though DC has misfired dreadfully on 90% of its superhero movies, this one was like a breath of fresh air and optimism in an unrelentingly dreary year.  At long last a movie with a female superhero character who wasn’t constantly framed for the male gaze – no long shots down her cleavage, no posing with her butt positioned toward the camera in defiance of anatomy and logic.  Was it a perfect movie?  Oh gods no.  It turned into a giant CGI brainless brawl at the end, and I still can’t get past Ares’ porn stache, but if you didn’t see a bit of yourself – of our collective soul and sanity – in the No Man’s Land scene, standing up and resisting, refusing to be moved – well, you should probably watch it again:

3 – Hamilton.

Late to the party as usual, but listening to the soundtrack on a whim one night led to my falling head over heels in love with this weird hip-hop retelling of the founding of America and, by extension, its creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, who I think might be an actual unicorn.  If you want someone on your Twitter feed who’s positive, hilarious, and full of heart (and who writes sonnets on a whim just to say good morning), follow him, you won’t regret it.  I think when the purge of horrible men in Hollywood is done it’ll be just him, Chris Evans, and Patrick Stewart left standing.  I’m totally okay with that.

Enjoy, here, the Tony Awards performance of Hamilton’s original cast, introduced by the Obamas.  Notice that the “battle” involves no guns – the props were removed for the performance because that was the day of the mass shooting in Orlando.  

4 – Lucifer.

And now for something completely different.  I don’t quite remember what made me start watching Lucifer, or what inspired me to slog past the first few ridiculous episodes, but by the time the first season was halfway over I was HOOKED.  Aside from the gorgeous and talented cast, the show is way better than it has any right to be – the characters, especially Lucifer, Amenadiel, Mazikeen, Doctor Linda, Chloe, and the Goddess of Creation, are so emotionally compelling.  Based on the characters from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series of graphic novels, basically the idea is that the devil leaves hell to live in Los Angeles, run a night club, and eventually fight crime.  Yeah, it’s as dumb as it sounds, but it’s also amazing, due in no small part to Tom Ellis’s performance as Luci.  

I tried to find a clip to show you, but the really good stuff depends on context, so just take my word for it and go watch the show.  

5 –  My new Tarot deck.

After a long, long dry spell in the mystical department, I’ve gotten back into Tarot.  Rather than trying to work with oracles that aren’t really talking to me anymore, I decided to try something brand new, and have embarked on learning actual Tarot (my preferred oracles have been, as you may know, the Runes of the Elder Futhark and the Brian Froud Faeries Oracle).  Inspired by YouTubers like Katey Flowers, and the fact that I’ve always been a sucker for a beautiful deck, I re-bought the Tarot of the Hidden Realm, and am currently studying it along with a more traditional Rider-Waite-Smith deck and my Shadowscapes deck by Stephanie Law.  

And lord, does the Hidden Realm deck talk to me!  For the moment I’m concentrating on using the cards for myself, but I’ll probably start reading for other people once I’m more comfortable with them.  I have something of a divinatory spark, and it always wants to catch others on fire.

I’ll have a full post about my Tarot explorations soon.

6 – My Funko Pops! collection.

My desk at my day job is like a toy store at this point, and my Funko Pops! are the stars.  My favorites so far are General Leia and Bob Ross, who are front and center (along with a vastly amused black cat figurine):

My other favorite, of course, is Dorothy Zbornak, a gift from m’bestie; here she is having none of Stephen Strange’s nonsense, while Patty from Ghostbusters stands guard nearby.

7 – Ed Sheeran’s “Galway Girl”

I wasn’t as thrilled with Ed’s newest album as I was with the last one, but it does have some great songs, and the two that are Irish-inspired are probably my favorites.  This one for some reason just always makes me smile and bounce.  Smiles and bounces are important.

8 – Contouring 101.

If you haven’t seen this video…I don’t even know how to describe it to you.  It’s…a parody?  It’s bizarre and hilarious and I’m STILL laughing about it.  My roommate and I quote it constantly, specifically “…NOSTRILS” and “IF THE MEN FIND OUT WE CAN SHAPESHIFT, THEY’RE GOING TO TELL THE CHURCH.”

9 – Coffee.

Life continues to bamboozle and explode.  Coffee is always there for us.  Coffee understands.  My drink of 2017 was a raspberry soy mocha.  Trust me, the combination of flavors is exquisite.  I even had my birthday cake, which was DELICIOUS and gorgeous and made by local vegan bakery Capital City Bakery, made in mocha and raspberry.  

Actually my 40th birthday party should be on this list anyway, as it was a fabulous time with some of my favorite people, and I got delightfully squiffy on Moscow Mules (my favorite form of squiff-ening beverage).

10 –  My new pendant.

Speaking of my birthday, I had my eye on this piece for an entire year before I finally ordered it.  I’ve long worn a pewter compass that says “Trust Your Journey,” but as my 40th loomed I felt it was time for a new “me” necklace.  The pendant below bears the calligraphy of Thich Nhat Hanh, one of my all-time favorite spiritual writers and a true inspiration; it’s one of several pieces in the series, and is a sentiment I try to be mindful of every day:  No mud, no lotus.

 

11 – (Special Bonus Round!)  All of you.

I know, it’s cheesy, but all my readers and Patrons and friends and Twitter followers and Facebook peeps helped immeasurably to keep 2017 from being a total misery-orgy.  I’ve never been good at communicating with actual people – I’m awful at returning emails and comments, not because I don’t read them or want to reply, but because…I don’t know, exactly.  It might be the same thing that makes it so impossible for me to make phone calls.  I absolutely blow at reaching out.  But I know you’re there, and i adore every one of you.  I hope that my infrequent blog posts, occasional novels, and sporadic attendance at my own social media are at least worth sticking around for.  I hope to have a new book for you this year – probably not Book 8 (although who knows?), but something new (I hope I hope I hope), and I really want to offer more Shadow World Extras and, gods willing, more of the Agency.  But none of this would be possible without all of you staying with me through my silly seasons and sad storms, so thank you, thank you, thank you.

Let’s all have a solidly good 2018.  It seems a bit laughable to ask for awesome, given the state of the world, but let’s all do what we can to make it better – for ourselves, for each other, for everyone.

Everyone hold hands…take a breath…and…jump!

I’ll be back soon with posts on my new bullet journal/planner situation, a wrap-up of last year’s favorite planner spreads, some musings on divination, and my goals for 2018.

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A Painfully Honest Post in Which I Use the F-Word Like a Comma

…and you’ve all seen how I use commas.

CONTENT WARNING: Discussion of suicidal thoughts.  A good deal of cursing.

A message to 2017:

This year is, in my opinion, welcome to take a flying fuck at a rolling donut off a cliff into a Sarlacc pit.

I had a great birthday, by the way.  That’s not sarcasm.  I got to spend time with my favorite people, drank a lot of Mexican Mules, ate an enormous vegan raspberry mocha birthday cake (that I didn’t even have to bake myself!), and put out a new book that week, so, yay me!  I don’t want to downplay the loveliness of all of that, especially since it came in a week that I was a) on my fucking period and b) having some really unpleasant emotional crap.

As soon as the 19th passed, however, my mind immediately went into “OKAY TIME FOR 2018 TO GET HERE BRING ON THE WORKBOOKS AND NEW PLANNERS BECAUSE SERIOUSLY, FUCK THIS YEAR.”  

I have zero reason to believe that 2018 will be any better for the world or myself, but at this point, I’m still anxious to get there, because 2018 has one obvious advantage:  It isn’t motherfucking 2017.

I’ve been trying to figure out why 2017 was so much worse for me mentally than 2016 (I’m not talking globally – I think we can identify a large, tantrum-throwing, tangerine-tinted reason it’s been bad for the world) even though 2016 was a trip to the special hell for a lot of people (can we please agree to stop holding beers for anybody?), and I think I’ve hit upon at least one thing, a phrase that I feel applies to most of the last 11 months:

Passive suicidal ideation.

Important Clarification: I am not now, nor have I been, planning to kill myself.  I swore years ago I would never do that, and my brother’s decision to put a gun to his head in 2004 only solidified that resolve.  You’re probably thinking of active ideation, which is what we typically think of when the topic of suicide comes up:  Someone wants to die, and that someone has a plan, or is trying to decide on a plan.  They intend to take steps – or they’re at least coming up with steps.  

Passive ideation is more of a “…what if I just let it happen?”  What if I don’t lock the doors?  What if I don’t look both ways?  What if I don’t get that lump checked out?  What if I keep drinking?  What if…

What if I just stop trying to take care of my body at all, and keep eating horrible, dairy-and-fat-and-sugar laden food for every meal and not exercising until at some point I have a heart attack or become diabetic and my body gives out on me?  How long would that take, I wonder?  Would I be able to stop myself in time to avoid permanent damage?  Would I even care by the time I got genuinely sick?  Or by then would I feel so awful every hour of every day that I’d be looking forward to that MI or stroke?  

It’s the ultimate in societally-assisted suicide, isn’t it?  The whole world WANTS you to eat shit, and moreover wants you to hate yourself for it.  One commercial sells you the 2 pound bacon burger, the next sells you the gym membership.  Being “healthy” is considered being morally upright, being fat (regardless of circumstance) and being sick (regardless of circumstance) are considered the just fruits of a slovenly lifestyle.  People know what your body karma is just by looking at you, right?  Why not just go with it?  If you’ve dealt with hate and sneering because of your body your whole life, isn’t there a certain macabre satisfaction in proving them “right?”  

If it sounds absurd, well, it isIt’s utter fucking madness.  But apparently at some point this year it’s what I decided my fate would be.  Years of slowly encroaching body hate that have eaten away at my self-worth like a cancer just sort of took over, and I stopped giving a shit about much of anything.  I just sort of…gave up on myself.  I was going through the motions of what I thought my life should be, but aside from finishing SHADOW RISING, I didn’t give a damn about life.  I was just waiting for something to kill me.

Even better:  To me being vegan isn’t just an ethical choice, it’s a spiritual one.  It means embracing compassion and kindness; it means honoring what I consider holy, and one of those things is body autonomy.  I don’t feel like I have the right to claim ownership over the body of another creature – certainly not to the point to pay someone to torment and kill them just for my own appetites.  But the consequence of that is, if I didn’t believe I myself deserved that compassion and kindness, I could never overcome the cognitive dissonance that kept me from being able to stick with my ethical choices.  Either my beliefs apply to all animals, including this one, or they are incomplete at best and hypocritical at worst. 

So I embraced another kind of hypocrisy:  Say one thing but do another.  Fuck the consequences.  It’s practically the goddamn American Way.

Actually I think the appropriate term is “passive-aggressive suicidal ideation.”

This is all especially galling when you consider I LITERALLY WROTE THE BOOK ON THIS SHIT.  

But it just goes to show you that the messages and beliefs we receive don’t just go away because we do the work of self-acceptance; they can sneak back in, chip away at all that effort, until you’re back where you started.  Loving yourself is both a practical and spiritual practice that you have to continually adapt and renew to reflect who you are and where you are.  The world is constantly battering at your defenses looking for weak spots.  If you want to protect your heart without walling yourself off from the good stuff, you have to be fucking relentless at gatekeeping.

Do as I say, not as I do.  

I can’t say for sure what brought me to the realization of what I was doing to myself; I haven’t taken any real steps to change course, but I’ve become aware of my behavior and am paying attention now, studying myself like both an autoanthropologist and a shaman, trying to read my own bones.  If I am nothing else, I am excellent at uncovering a character’s inner workings, and what protagonist better to delve into than the one of my own life?

A number of Large Realizations have hit me since my birth-week and I think they’re good ones; I’ve decided to bring some things back into my life that have been sorely missed, which I’ll talk about more later, but overall I’m taking things slowly, as the energy of the year’s end dictates.  You can’t spend months and months fucking something up and then instantly un-fuck it.

The waning months of the year have definitely lived up to their symbolism.  I have a huge pile of figurative crap I’ve been carrying around all year, so heavy it literally makes me go to bed and sleep and sleep.  I have years of disappointments, sadness, anger, fear, past accomplishments and failures, judgments, triumphs, tragedies, and those obnoxious little hopes I can’t seem to shake clinging to my back.    

This time of year we decide what’s worth holding onto.

I am worth holding onto, goddamn it.  

This time of year is the time to decide what lives and what dies.  

There are a lot of things I want to let die. 

But I am not one of them.

It’s time I started fucking acting like it.

 

NOTE:  I’m turning of comments here because this sort of post usually attracts lots of diet talk and wellness-evangelizing, and I’m not in the mood for either.  I’m glad giving up gluten revolutionized your whatever and that ketogenic bone broth vagina steaming changed your life, but the internet is full of places for that kind of discussion and this is not one of them. 

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SHADOW RISING: Ten Questions (Spoilers!)

Beware! Below are some questions I’ve gotten about Book 7 and the series as a whole.  Here there be spoilers!  So many!

How many more books will there be in the series?

Only one more.  The plan was always eight, even though I wasn’t sure how the story would work out over that many books.  As usual my subconscious had it handled.

When will the next book be out?

I have no idea.  I have a plan for it, sort of, but I haven’t started writing it yet.  Right now I’m taking a break and hopefully working on something new for a while – although chances are I’ll end up working on bits of it here and there anyway.  There will likely be a slew of Extras that take place before 8, for reasons including:

You mentioned there would be a time jump after SHADOW RISING. How much of a jump are we talking about here?

Book 8 will begin about 20 years after the end of Book 7.  

Why on earth would you do that?

The final book of the series will be a little different; it will start out from the perspective of a “new” character who, at the time Book 7 unfolds, is still a child.  It’s someone you haven’t met yet, but you will know who she is, and actually people have been asking me about her for years now.

What about Inaliel? Is she really Faith reincarnated?  Will everyone find out?

Inaliel will be very important to Book 8; and yes, she really is Faith reborn, though she won’t have any idea.  In fact nobody will except Deven, who won’t want to influence her life path by adding the baggage of another lifetime to it. Inaliel is very much her own person, and though her soul has some unfinished business to work through, Miranda and David in particular don’t need to know where she came from.  It would change how they treat her, and what they expect from her, and that wouldn’t be fair to her or them.  

So twenty years from now David will be over what happened at the end of SHADOW RISING, right?  The Tetrad will be back to normal?

The Tetrad will have a new normal.  Now that they’re able to move freely from Texas to California Nico and Deven will be able to live near their people (the Cloister and New Avilon) but can visit Miranda and David in Austin whenever they want.  However, their collective relationship has changed, and as we rejoin them we’ll find that not all those changes were for the better.  

But I will say that no, David doesn’t just go back to “normal” after nearly losing his entire being to the Firstborn.  His entire sense of self was shattered, and having been someone who was very self-assured and confident in who he was and what his strengths were, he has to find his way back to himself, which takes time.  The sexual assault involved is no small thing either – David was always a very sexual person but now sex is connected traumatically to being destroyed from the soul outward, so he’ll have to learn to be intimate again.  By the time Book 8 begins all of this has gone on for years, and he’s in a pretty good place…except for one particular relationship that never recovered.  You can probably guess which.

Above and beyond that, however, David has learned that he isn’t infallible or invincible, and he’s had his own flaws shoved back in his face pretty hard – hiding his stint as a serial killer from the others has shaken their faith in him as well as his in himself, and that’s a lot of broken hearts and violated trust to rebuild.  Don’t worry – all of that won’t be swept under the rug.

Since a lot of this will have already happened by Book 8, you can look forward to some Extras that will go into depth with those events; I might even start posting those before I start the book itself, just to get my own mind through the process of David’s evolution as a character.  But you won’t be cheated out of seeing what happens – I just didn’t have the space in a novel to cover 20 years of emotional angst.

What ever happened to Kat?  Does Miranda still keep an eye on her?

You will find out in Book 8.  Saying more would give too much away, I think.

Does Miranda go back to performing now that the war is over?

She will for a while, again before Book 8 begins, but as a “farewell tour” sort of thing.  At a certain point being in the public eye is just not compatible with her work as Queen or her life as a vampire, and she understands that now.  But music is in her soul, and it’s part of who she is, so she’ll never abandon it; she just has to get creative with how she manages her public persona.

Will we get to see more of Olivia and Avi in Book 8?

I hope so.  I’m not sure how much room I’ll have, but I’m going to try and make some for them.  I really enjoyed writing Olivia’s character in OF SHADOW BORN and I want to spend more time on her relationship with Avi and her life as the first female Prime.

As a villain Agnilath seems a bit one-dimensional.  Will he be more developed in the final book?

Agnilath doesn’t have terribly complex motivations – he’s like if someone took Prime Hart and boiled him until nothing was left but the nasty gunk at the center.   I mean he’s basically described as 100% evil with no redeeming qualities, and that doesn’t really make for an interesting villain.  That’s part of why I didn’t want him “on camera” all that much.  But here’s the thing:  Agnilath won’t be the villain of Book 8.  Oh, he’ll be there, but I think you’ll find the actual Big Bad much more compelling.  

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NOW AVAILABLE – SHADOW RISING, Book 7 of the Shadow World

Today’s the day!  The seventh and penultimate book of the Shadow World series is finally here!

at Amazon in Kindle format

in Paperback 

in Nook format at Barnes & Noble

If you want to read chapters of Book 8 as they’re written, as well as gain access to all of my work as I create it instead of waiting however many months for me to finish it, come join my Patreon – your handful of dollars can help me pay for things like internet access, food, and the thousands of mochas that go into every book.

 

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