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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SHADOW RISING: Official Playlist

We’re just five days from the official release of SHADOW RISING, and as is my custom, I wanted to share a playlist of songs that inspired me while I was writing it.

Usually I choose at least a few tracks that would, in my mind, play in the background as a “soundtrack” to particular scenes, but this time the whole playlist is mostly atmospheric, capturing the overall feel of the story.  Some songs have the quiet intimacy of bedroom scenes and quiet conversation, and others are the sort of thing you’d hear while our vampires are in town taking care of business.  I invite you to listen to the playlist as you read and figure out where each song might go.  

A reminder:  You can pre-order the Kindle version of SHADOW RISING here on Amazon, and I’ve been told that the paperback is already available for purchase?  Not sure how that happened, but I decided not to fret over it.  If you’re reading this, lucky you, you get a sort-of pre-sale!  The Nook version will be available on the 14th; Barnes & Noble didn’t offer me a pre-sale for that one.  On the 14th I’ll have more comprehensive links.

Track Listing

1 – Tori Amos, “Reindeer King”

2 – Young the Giant, “Something to Believe In”

3 – Lamb, “Wise Enough”

4 – Marian Hill, “Breathe Into Me”

5 – Mary Lambert, feat. Angel Haze & K.Flay, “Ribcage”

6 – Lana Del Rey, “Change”

7 – Widowspeak, “Harvest Moon”

This is the only song whose lyrics appear in the book, so I thought was important to include a version of it even though the original (by Neil Young) doesn’t really fit with the musical style of most of the playlist.  (Not a lot of harmonica in the Haven, I’m afraid.) Since Miranda’s performing it in the book, in a quiet setting with her loved ones as the audience, I think this cover is a bit more thematic.

8 – Kaleo, “Way Down We Go”

9 – Natalie Taylor, “In the Air Tonight”

10 – Zeds Dead x Charlotte OC, “Symphony”

11 – Valerie Broussard, “A Little Wicked”

 

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Oh, My Word

Note: This isn’t me asking for life advice.  It’s a state-of-the-author sort of thing, and I was hesitant to post it because I’m sure my long-suffering readers grow weary of hearing me talk about my issues.  But I used to be far more confessional and far braver, so, the least I can do is be honest about where I’m at.  Or not at.  Whatever.

Also I realize there are more pressing things going on in the world right now than my state of mind, but if you think I stand anywhere but against racism and bigotry in all its pernicious forms you must not have read anything I’ve ever written ever.  I feel like other people have much better things to say than I could come up with…partially because of my state of mind.  Hence:

“Disenchantment” is the word I’m looking for.

I keep a timeline of events in my life – a Word file tucked away where I make note of significant happenings each year.  New jobs, new friends, new meds, relationships ending, even a few world events.  Anything that will help me place that year in context later when my long-term memory, damaged by years of Ambien use and mental illness, fails to put things in order. 

Not remotely related to anything, but it’s hot as hell and I thought we could all use a laugh.

I’m turning 40 in November, and it’s already got me in something of a state – not so much at the whole “middle age” concept, as at the realization of everything that has happened in my 30s and how much I seem to have lost or forgotten along the way.

In my early 30s things weren’t perfect.  Depression has always been a traveling companion, sometimes in the back seat and sometimes at the wheel.  My 30s started only a few years after the sudden death of my brother sent everything I knew into a tailspin, but at least by 2007 I felt like I was starting to get a few things right.

The first three years or so of the decade so much happened.  I started it in a coven of amazing women, where I got to work with my best friend to create rituals – as a group we were powerful, devoted, and hilarious.  We had so much fun…until we didn’t. 

I started the decade in a relationship.  It was never perfect either, and over time I realized I just didn’t feel the kind of love I felt he deserved.  I might not be capable of that kind of devotion to a human being; I’ll probably never know.  But I ended it with all the skill of a toddler with nuclear codes, as is apparently my MO.   

But all of that loss was tempered, at least somewhat, by what was beginning:  my career as a novelist.  It was the only dream I ever really had; everything else was just an idle half-assed notion.  When I began writing Queen of Shadows I knew it was good.   And when I sold it, and its sequel, without an agent, I thought, This is it, I’m doing it, I’m on my way, this is gonna be so huge.  I can feel it.  It’s happening.  My life is happening.

I was naïve, of course, and I’m sure any other writers out there are sighing and shaking their heads thinking, “Boy were you in for a rude awakening.” 

Yeah, no shit.

But for the first time in my entire life I felt like I was headed the right way.  Like everything I’d learned and done and been through, even the worst things I was still afraid to write about, was going to be worth it.  The possibilities of the next decade, my 30s, my creative coming of age, spread out before me, gleaming like spires of marble under the moon. 

So I’m about to turn 40 and the only question that comes to mind is, What the fuck happened to me?

I’m not talking about my career.  I’ve got some amazing fans and I’m still writing novels, so, as far as I’m concerned my career is still chugging along, even if it’s not really chugging to anywhere.  It’s not going to be able to move forward until I come up with new stories, which as a matter of fact is part of what I’m talking about here.

Looking back at those early years the one word that keeps coming to mind is magic.  Whether it was Craft-with-a-capital-C or the feeling of life soaring out ahead of me on its very own wings, even the lows of those years felt magical.  There was magic in the world, in my life.  I had power, and I used it, and I reveled in it.

2011 was, I think, when I started to lose it.  Was it related to marrying myself, I wonder?  Did the hate I received over Shadowflame do more than just break my heart?  Did the mistakes I made online, which resulted in a lot of pain involving my family, compound that fracture?

That’s not to say everything after that sucked.  Far from it!  Some really cool stuff has happened since then and I’m grateful for every little bit!  But the last half of my thirties has been…well, kind of awful, to be perfectly honest, and again, not because of bad or good things happening so much as the feeling that none of those things really mattered.  I’ve started 100 new projects, I’ve turned over a thousand new leaves.  I’ve tried to affect my physical health, my mental health, my spirituality, and I’ve even tried doing nothing at all.  Every effort (or lack thereof) I’ve made to figure myself out or move in a more positive direction, or at least to figure out what direction to even try moving in, has met with disappointment. 

I’ve begun to feel like that’s all adulthood is – being tired, disappointed, and in debt until you die.

That’s a shitty way to feel! 

Nothing I hoped for in my tender years has come to pass.  Things I thought were a sure bet turned out to be nothing special.  People I love who should be doing really well are constantly beset with pain and trouble they don’t deserve.  The world is kind of going to shit all around us.

That’s life, right?

Is it?

And above all, there seems to be no magic left in my life.  I still meditate, and it helps me stay on a more even emotional keel (relatively speaking), but I feel no connection to spirit, no sense of the sacred in anything. 

A couple of years ago I opened the floor to any deity who’d have me.  “Hey Anybody,” I said, “Just slap me on the rump and I’m yours, we’ll work it out.”  I wanted to be Someone’s again, to have that relationship, to be inspired.   I was willing to work past the issues I’ve addressed before with mainstream religion if I could just feel something.

Nothing.

Not even at church on Easter.  In fact I found myself fighting tears for the same reason I had so many years ago, at age sixteen:  I wanted so badly to feel something, but there was only emptiness. 

Intellectually I still hold to most of the beliefs I always have about deity and the Earth and what matters in life.  Ethically I’ve become even more of a feminist bunny hugger.  But it’s a matter of justice now, not a matter of holiness. 

That hurts.

Thus, my word of the year is apparently one I didn’t choose, but chose me a long time ago and doesn’t seem willing to let me catch a breath of anything but mud. 

Disenchantment. 

The word came to me, oddly enough, in a Tarot reading.  I’ve kept on doing my monthly readings even though I didn’t really do much with them, and last month I got a new deck out of desperation.  My reading for August brought up four water cards, and the interpretation in the deck’s little white booklet stood out in black all caps:

DISENCHANTMENT

Literally, figuratively.

Utterly.

And until I can find a way to re-enchant my life, what do I do?

I finish Shadow Rising.  I hope it still catches my readers’ hearts.  I go to my day job, I come home from my day job.  I work overtime hoping to eventually have a savings account again so maybe someday I can get the fuck out of Texas.  I listen to the Hamilton soundtrack.  I donate to my causes and pray to Whomever might be listening (or not, how would I even know anymore?) that the world finds its way through its own dark night of the soul.  I take my meds, change my meds, adjust my meds, take my omega-3s and magnesium and rhodiola and B-complex and probiotics.  I check things off in my planner and make more lists in my planner.  I keep trying to be vegan.  I wonder at what point a crisis of faith becomes a permanent loss of faith.   I read.  I meditate.  I talk to birds and trees and don’t expect answers.  I fall in love with TV shows and lose interest ¾ through.  I look at cat videos.  I laugh at bad puns. I make stickers for my planner.  I remember what it felt like to teach, and to have something to teach.  I dust my altar.

And I wonder what it’s all for.

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