I have some good news to share for once. I have finally landed an acceptance! My story DRAGON GIRL will be published in the “Fairtyale Dragons” anthology by Dragon Soul Press. Preorders will begin on October 30, and the book release date is November 30. Keep checking back here for updates when it gets closer to the fall.
I am really excited about this particular story. It is a retelling of the fairy tale “Goose Girl,” except instead of a conniving servant girl duping a clueless princess into taking her place to get married to a prince, the princess and the servant fall in love. So there are queer characters, feminism, and dragons, three of my favorite topics. I don’t typically write romances, either, but I may have to explore more romantic subplots – if they are LGBTQ romantic subplots, that is.
This makes the first story I have sold and my second acceptance. I was last accepted for a story in January to an unpaid market. This means I have had 16 total submissions since December, nine rejections, five pending pieces and two acceptances thus far. I have had a lull in writing new work since my last success; I guess I am afraid to wade back into the rejection trenches again. I need to just steel myself for another round of rejections. It is part of the process.
Lately I have been working on a rewrite of THE MEMORY KEEPERS and I am stuck on the climax and the ending. I think this was a problem with my last couple drafts of it, as well. I submitted this story twice and was rejected twice, but my last rejection was personalized and I received some very useful feedback that I am incorporating into my new rewrite. But now the story is entirely different, with a new protagonist, and looking at the same events from a different perspective. I have turned it into a detective murder mystery on a space station that preserves memories after death, instead of looking at events from the perspective of one of the characters who is murdered.
In my reading, I just finished a book called “Empire of Lies” by Raymond Khoury. I liked the idea of it – a time travel thriller in which a time traveller tries to extend the life of the Ottoman Empire – but the execution was not to my taste. Too bluntly commercial genre fiction. Reading it helped me learn about writing better action scenes, though. I am starting on “Everfair” by Nisi Shawl, a steampunk novel about what if the people of the Congo had access to advanced technology. I need to finish up and review an e-ARC I have procrastinated on since April because the pre-orders are starting this month. And I have a couple books to beta read.
In personal news, I have been struggling again. I go through phases with this. It seems like everybody always wants to know if you are okay, even now. Quite frankly, I don’t know how anyone can be okay who lives in the U.S. I extrapolate this question into an existential crisis that is far beyond what the questioner really means, though.
Technically, I suppose you could say I am okay, and I would not really be lying. I am healthy, I am financially stable for the moment and I am somewhat productive in my creative endeavors. I guess when people say “okay” they don’t necessarily mean “happy.” I always thought that was a weird question. People want to know how you’re doing, but they don’t want to know about your emotional health. They don’t want the burden of your true feelings.
But the truth is, since this is a blog and I’m usually lucky if my mom and three other people read it, I am spiritually exhausted. I am experiencing pandemic fatigue. I am angry every day. I am angry that the behavior of others has caused needless deaths. I am angry that people deny the seriousness of the pandemic even now and dismiss it as the flu so they can keep buying milkshakes at the ice cream shop and hang out their friends. I am angry that because of them I have lost a year of my life, or it feels like it anyway. I am isolating except for going on hikes and to the office sometimes; I get non-grocery items delivered; Jim does our shopping; I garden; and I haven’t seen my parents or any of my other friends since January. I am angry at the people who have seen their parents and friends before me. I miss my parents and friends. And don’t tell me I can still see them with a mask on. That is not the point.
As a result it’s turned me into a wad of judgment and I don’t like it. Internet-shaming people often backfires and the person doing the shaming ends up getting angrier and not changing any minds. It’s also exacerbated my natural tendencies toward social anxiety. Whenever I go on walks I jump to assumptions that the people on walks too are out to get me somehow, when quite often they’re doing the right things, socially distancing and masking up. I can’t expect anyone else to stay indoors for a whole year. And what of beyond 2020? It doesn’t seem like we’ll have a vaccine in the fall, or even next year. We won’t have widespread, accurate testing. It just keeps pounding us, onward and onward, until we get numb and immune to the idea of people dying from preventable deaths, and make rationalizations to justify our behavior. “If you’re worried about getting sick, you should stay home.” “Only old and sick people need to worry about getting it.”
Whereas I am terrified of spreading it unknowingly to others. That is what keeps me home and changes my behavior. I don’t understand how that possibility doesn’t terrify people into wanting to protect their family and friends that they are so desperate to see.
Combined with all the political stuff going on – the racial injustice, the steady climb to fascism, the uncertainty of the elections in the fall – and I am angry all the time. I lose my temper at dumb trolls on the Internet. I walk around with a fury so intense sometimes that it makes my hands shake. I don’t know how to process rage. I can deal with stress. But when it comes to rage, I usually dance with disassociation. But I don’t want numb. I want to do something about our political situation – other than shouting at Internet trolls, that is.
So I’ve decided I need to make some changes. I can’t live like this. I’m not going to control other people’s behaviors, even though their behavior affects me. I can only control myself. I am opening up about my mental health, even though it is risky, because I hope it will help others.
My plan is this: I have decided to quit drinking for a year. Last night was my first night of not drinking. I was doing okay with casual drinking for awhile, but then moderation hasn’t lately been really working out for me. I have tried stints of sobriety in the past; I have gone for a month, and for four months. My mental health and productivity improves when I abstain from alcohol. I will blog about it because I hate tweeting about it and dealing with the inevitable people who either think you are morally judging their alcohol use, or you must be an alcoholic, if you’re abstaining from alcohol. I’m doing it for my mental health. And I think sharing my story will help others. There are many people struggling with an alcohol dependence in silence in this pandemic. Enough with the glorification.
I am going to tweet less, especially rage tweet less. I see Twitter as that toxic friend. You go there when you want validation for your day drinking. “Are White Cheddar Cheetos or Popcorn best for a pairing with whiskey?” is a typical tweet that does well there. Healthy behavior is usually met with snark. Vice behavior is celebrated. I have met some great people on there who are very supportive, and it has kept me company through my loneliness, so I don’t think it’s all bad, and I’m not going to quit or never use it. But I was tweeting excessively, and rage tweeting has not done my emotional health any good. No more controversial subjects, like talking about how I don’t eat bacon. That way I will reduce the troll factor. I am not in a good headspace to deal with the trolls and snark that inevitably come from expressing a strong opinion. I will be more judicious with my strong opinions. Just there for publishers – I am not there to change the world. If you could change the world in a tweet, I am not sure it is worth changing. I know I talk about this a lot, but Twitter and other social media platforms are really an addiction. They are designed to not be used moderately.
I am also going to keep with my original plans of exercising 30 minutes a day, practicing guitar almost every day, and writing every day, even if it is just 200 words. If these things don’t happen, they don’t happen, and I won’t beat myself up if they don’t happen, but you have to set an intention first.
My other plan is to start instituting a routine. Bed by 10. Up by 6 or earlier. And to establish a morning and evening routine. Brushing teeth. Skincare. Guided meditation. Maybe some yoga. Since I work from home, I can have a longer morning and evening routine, instead of just rolling out of bed at 7:30 a.m. and waddling over to my office. Routines help build structure and a sense of normalcy, and help you get more sleep. More sleep is better for your emotional health, too.
I also hope to write in my morning pages every day as part of my morning routine. Telling my journal will help me avoid oversharing in public Internet forums. And I need to talk to my friends more. I do some, but I’ve been bad at keeping in touch. There is value in friendships that exist outside the Internet. Those friendships are the ones that last.
If I take care of my physical health, I hope emotional health will follow.
So I guess I am okay. I’m trying to be okay. I’m trying to be less angry. I am as okay as you can be in a globally traumatic event like a pandemic. What is okay really? Were we ever okay, or just comfortable?