Let’s Get Serious About Creative Slumps

I think all bloggers, artists, writers and creators of any kind know what I’m talking about. And I’m lying at the very bottom of that nasty slump.

It’s something that happens for creatives when they stop creating. That voice in the back of their mind tells them that they just can’t do it anymore, that they were never very good at it anyway. We fall into this irritable depression that slaps a lot of gray over the world around you.

kiki

You know what the cure is. You know what could make everything better, even a little.

But you just can’t bring yourself to do it.

You can’t bring yourself to create.

My excuse is that I don’t have enough time. It’s an hour to work and an hour back and after driving on top of my shift, I’m beat. I don’t want to do what my mind is telling me is more work. I let myself get away with it by telling myself I’m not good enough anyway. It isn’t going to be the best seller that I want it to be.

I’m letting it affect other areas of my life, too.

And it has to end. In someways, writing this post is the first step back. I’m making something. I’m stringing together words in a way that no one else would. I can tell myself I’m not that awful at writing. I can tell myself that every first draft is shit.

The next step for me, I think, is painting. I truly, deeply love watercolor painting. I always wanted to be able to paint as a teen and if I’d discovered it then I might have gone to art school like I wanted. So, perhaps when this next paycheck rolls through I’ll go nuts at the craft store. I’ll pick up all the things I’ve seen the artists use in their tutorials.

And use them.

Just for the fun of it.

Eventually I need to get back on track with the book rolling around my head. I’m almost thinking that meditating on the setting and characters might bring each of them more fully to life for me so that writing them flows so much easier. Also, finding the right playlist helps bring emotions to the tips of my fingers while writing.

Moral of the story is when that creative slump hits you and tells you that you’re worthless or that you can’t do what you want, flip it the bird. Then, don’t do your art for profit (or dreams of making it big).

Do it for fun. Do it for you.

Then the beauty of it will come back, bit by bit. I know that any kind of creation can be tasking, but we all know that it’s worth it. That our souls we meant for it.

Even Superheroes were Teenagers

While browsing instagram, the social media site boasted a photo of one of my fave authors in the new stories feature. I kind of fell into a rabbit hole after clicking the profile link and found out something that I may or may not have already known:

Leigh Bardugo is working on a Wonder Woman young adult novel.

WW

Are you kidding me? I am a a screaming mess of excitement rolling on the floor right now. At least I am on the inside. I’m sure my husband might think differently of me if I did do that.

Or he might not. He’s seen a lot from me.

How cool is it that the author of the Grishaverse is working on  my homegirl’s teen years? Bardugo has a well grounded foundation in fantasy, having created a russian steampunk fantasy world for her novels. This leads me to believe that perhaps her novel will be set in Thymescira, Diana’s Amazonian home island.

Upon further research I found out that Bardugo isn’t the only one penning a superhero YA novel. The list gets even better, including Superman, Batman, and Catwoman. And the author line up? Just as kick ass.

Matt De La Pena is working on Superman while Marie Lu, author of The Young Elites (which we listened to on tape), will be working on the young Bat. I don’t know much about Pena, but I already know Lu might have what it takes.

Finally, another favorite of mine is heading Catwoman. I’m not the biggest fan of the illustrious jewel thief, but for Sarah J. Maas, a girl might be tempted to get to know her. Maas is the author of the wildly popular Throne of Glass series as well as my all time faves, A Court of Thorns and Roses as well as A Court of Mist and Fury.

These book are slated to be released sometime in 2017, Bardugo’s listed as August.

Modernly Magical, Part 3

Click HERE for part One, and HERE for part Two.

…..

A knock came from my door, pulling me from the conversation. I had few, if any, friends in this town. Who would be on the other side of that door?

“Just answer it, Margaret,” Grandmother said, the roll of her eyes obvious in her voice.

I stuck my tongue out at the phone before hanging up. Setting my half eaten takeout container on the nightstand, I scooted myself off of the daybed. My mind was still trying to figure out who could be on the other side. After the lying mystery student from this morning, I really wasn’t in the mood for visitors.

Dabbing my finger in the bowl of black chalk that sat on the TV stand, I drew a simple sigil on the door and whispered the spell into it. A one way portal opened up, just a hazy porthole really. I didn’t expect to find who was really standing on the other side.

He sighed and shifted feet before pounding on the door again. I jumped. I couldn’t help it. Finally, I yanked the door open. Adam shoved past me into my apartment. It seemed that his friendly demeanor hadn’t changed at all. That was indeed sarcasm.

“Can I help you?” I asked, crossing my arms.

“You very well better,” He growled. My arms fell away. Adam was only ever mad about one thing. One of his creatures was in trouble.

“Alright, sit down and I’ll make a cup of coffee. Obviously you have time if you travelled all the way here instead of calling me. You do know that’s what they make phones for, right? They even make portable ones now called cell phones. No magic required.”

He rubbed his hand over the stubble that had grown across his chin. His eyes looked out the window, not distant. I paused a moment. No, his eyes were searching. They jumped from tree to tree outside while his shoulders fell further and further.

“What is it?” I asked, truly concerned this time.

“Ember is missing,” the words seemed to fall from his mouth and hit the floor heavily, despite their whispered tone.

Everything in me froze. The only dragon to have ever been born in this century was missing. My mind went back to the road trip we had endured, chasing Ember’s mother across the country. We had no idea why the older dragon had left the reserve back then. We didn’t know that she was nesting.

“Ember is barely eight,” Adam said as if reading my mind. “She’s nothing more than a wyrmling at this point. There’s no way she’d be laying an egg.”

I shrugged.

“Why did you come to me?”

“The last time her tracker was live was near here. Ember was in your town at one point and I was just hoping beyond all hope that she decided to visit you. Everyone knows how strong willed dragons can be, especially us.”

Shit.

Blackcraft? Stolen grimoires? Missing dragons? This was not adding up to anything good at all. I prayed that Ember’s disappearance had nothing to do with the events at school today, but the chances of that weren’t looking great.

I shuffled into the small kitchen, my hands working from muscle memory as I made a pot of coffee. This was a life that I had worked hard to put together, one where no one knew who I really was. My grandmother had carefully laid the groundwork and I’d walked fine lines all the way through that. I thought that I’d taken every step so carefully, so quietly. Why was it falling apart now?

What had I done wrong?

You were born, Maggie. Plain and simple.

I brought two mugs back to the living room, handing a cauldron shaped one to Adam. He raised an eyebrow, but accepted it nonetheless. To be fair, it was one that I’d pilfered from the Academy. Leaning against the wall, I sipped my creamy coffee and studied the man that sat on the edge of my day bed. He wasn’t really sitting on it, actually. It was more like leaning. I could see that he knew it was the only piece of furniture in the studio, the place where I slept.

He was uncomfortable sitting where I slept. It kind of made me smile, seeing him off guard like that. The man always wore anger and contempt wrapped around him like bubble wrap against the world. When I first met him he’d barked orders at me, menial tasks at best because he was convinced that he was the only one that could handle the dragons.

I didn’t even want to be there, either, so my own anger rose at him in defense. I’d thought I’d be studying unicorns or willow-wisps, not flame throwing monsters. All of that anger had burned hot during the course of our trip, so hot that a few things happened that neither of us planned.

Of course, he immediately regretted it. Which made me regret it as well. I turned my head away, not ready to relive those moments. When I yanked myself from those thoughts I heard a sharp sound at my window.

Tink. Tink. Tink.

“The hell?” I set my coffee mug aside and moved to the window. Of course, there was nothing on the other side, but the sound persisted.

Tink. Tink. Tink.

Adam rushed over and threw open the window, not once thinking of the consequences. I rushed forward, shoving him aside. He crashed into my nightstand just as I felt the magic surround me. Air was forced from my lungs as the pressure gripped me. I fell to all fours on the floor, struggling to breath.

“Maggie!” Adam shouted. He moved to help me, but I raised a hand for him to stop.

The blackcraft magic was still swirling around me, angry that it couldn’t finish it’s job. While I sucked in shallow breaths the force began to lose power. It pushed and pushed until there was nothing left to do the pushing.

I pushed myself back, finally sucking in large breaths. That had been a strong spell. I glanced over at my friend. He could be dead right now. Had I been anyone else, I would have died. His eyes met mine and he seemed to understand the gravity of the situation. But, more than that, I saw the questions begin to arise.

Slowly, I pushed myself up. Poking my head outside, I looked for the source of the blackcraft spell. There on the window sill was a collection of tiny pebbles and beside it was a small, burlap satchel.

The culprit.

I snatched it up, angry now that the thief/murderer would come to my own home. I yanked the tie from the satchel and dumped its contents onto my night table. Crushed herbs and a variety of bones came tumbling out. The bones looked so thin and fragile that I assumed they were bird bones. Raven bones, more likely. No. Vulture bones. Something that eats the flesh of the dead and carries an even nastier omen in its flesh.

“Son of a Cerberus!” I resisted the urge to kick my nightstand. I didn’t need all of these bones running around my apartment.

“What just happened?”

My gaze snapped over to Adam. He still sat on the floor beside me, his wide eyes moving from the pile on my nightstand to me. There was fear in them. I felt guilt like a blow to the stomach.

It isn’t your fault. No one died.

But he could have. This had just become very personal. I extended a hand down to Adam. He paused, a long and pregnant pause. Fear faded from his eyes and gears began turning.

“What. Was. That?”

“The best way to end the shittiest day I’ve ever had,” I said, sarcasm sharpened to a point. “It was a blackcraft spell meant to kill me. It’s not the first blackcraft spell I’ve come across today, either.”

“But, you’re alive.”

I nodded as I swept the bones and herbs into a small, decorative trashcan.

“Welcome to my life.”

“And to think I ever wanted to be a part of that,” Adam said as he pulled himself up.

I froze. What had he just said? What was I supposed to say to that? For a moment, I just stood there, bird bones half swept off my nightstand as I looked at Adam. I did what I knew best. I ignored it.

“Why didn’t that kill you?” He asked suddenly.

“I don’t want to talk about it. How about we just go out and try to find your missing wyrmling? Can we do that?”

“No! I almost died opening your window. I think I deserve some answers.”

I pulled my coat from the rack near the door. Adam would run if he knew the truth. He wouldn’t look back and he certainly wouldn’t want to be a part of my life ever again. So, I told him some of the truth. I told him about what had happened at the school today, ignoring how I tripped another blackcraft spell today and still wasn’t dead.

He watched me through narrowed eyes.

Why My Future Children Will Watch More Ghibli than Disney

Kiki

I think we all know that I am a die hard Studio Ghibli lover. Anything that Hayao Miyazaki puts his hands on turns to gold in my eyes. He created the ubiquitous Totoro, a forest spirit that became the friendly face of the company, and took many other pieces of work and brought them to life.

What I love best about Studio Ghibli movies, aside from the wonderful watercolor landscapes and simplistic animation, are the lessons told in each story. So many of them are about respect for nature and life in general. They teach us that life can be fragile, such as with My Neighbor Totoro or Arrietty. They teach us that anyone can be loved and love in return, as with Howl’s Moving Castle. Princess Mononoke and Nausicaa show us that humanity is too harsh on nature, too selfish.

Stories, lessons, like these are what help to build children with respect and love. But Miyazaki went one step further. In just about any Ghibli film there has been a female and a male protagonist. The female was never wholly a damsel in distress. Same as the male was never wholly the hero figure. Instead, the two found that working together made them stronger than before. They saved one another anytime the world turned against them, being both the hero and distresser (so not a word, but it works).

howl

The older Disney movies were about retelling fairy tales in a way that squarely put the damsel in distress and the hero without much personality needed to ride in and save her. While that has changed recently with movies such as Big Hero Six, Lilo and Stitch, and Brave they still don’t pack the oomph that I think Ghibli movies do. Only recently has one touched a subject as pressing as depression.

Maybe my future children won’t see Princess Mononoke for a while (that might cause some creepy ass nightmares in a toddler), but you can bet that they’ll be starting off with Totoro and Kiki’s Delivery Service. Then we can add Ponyo and Arrietty. We’ll save Spirited Away to go with Princess Mononoke.

This is one of the things that makes me look forward to becoming a mom. Now, if only hubs will let me get away with a Ghibli nursery. He likes the idea of the LOTR nursery.

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Modernly Magical, part two

Click HERE for part one.

It swung open as my knuckles came down. My hand hovered in the air as a very tired looking Dean turned away from me. He made his way back to his desk and fell into the chair behind it. There were dark circles under his eyes and his tie was pulled loose.

It was too early in the morning to look this ragged.

“What can I help you with, Miss…?”

“It’s Ms. Hawthorne,” I reminded him. Not that he would remember later. It was a big school, lots of employees. I understood.

“Ms. Hawthorne,” he duly repeated. “What is it that you need from me on this wonderful day?”

The sarcasm dripped from the word wonderful, thick as syrup. Did it have anything to do with the reason Vera had been called to a meeting this morning? The look she’d given her phone this morning hadn’t boded well and I was beginning to think that perhaps it had something to do with my predicament.

“Someone laid a blackcraft spell inside the school today,” I began. “I think that it was a kind of distraction set up so that I would be away from my duties. It… well, someone took a book from the library.”

“What does a blackcraft spell have to do with a library book?” He ran his hand through his black hair, mussing it so badly that it stood on end.

“It wasn’t a library book. At least, not yet. It was one of the books that the Head Librarian was transcribing for the database. A student came to me about sprites in the library basement and when I went to clear them out there were no sprites. Instead, I tripped a blackcraft sigil.”

“You tripped it?” He stood up so fast that his chair fell backwards. It made an awful racket when it hit the floor. I couldn’t help but flinch. “How are you standing before me if you tripped a blackcraft sigil?”

“Umm,” I stalled, cursing myself. That was kind of beside the point. He didn’t need to know about my bloodline. No one did. “Sir, you’re forgetting the obvious. Someone stole a very old, very powerful book from your library. They thought it so valuable that they dared to lay such a spell inside the school.”

He sighed, his eyes dropping away from me. Slowly, as if he were an old man, which he wasn’t, he bent to pick up his fallen chair. He dropped into it once more, planting his elbows on the desk and his face in his hands.

“This is not the first blackcraft spell tripped on school grounds today alone. Another teacher was coaxed into a similar situation very early this morning,” His eyes came up to mine. “His family is preparing for his funeral.”

I felt my stomach drop. Had it been the same sigil I’d found on the basement wall? How lucky had I been, for once, that there was a dark stain in my bloodline? I pulled my phone from my pocket and opened it to the photo of the sigil before passing it to the dean.

He nodded. “That’s what we found near his body. It was placed in the lab storage room, behind some of the singed tables. We have no idea what he was doing in there or why the sigil was planted there, but it sounds suspiciously close to your story.”

I felt my stomach drop once more. He thought that I was the one that planted the sigil. Theoretically, if I had tripped the same sigil, I should be dead. It would be a clever ruse to claim to have found the sigil and that the book had gone missing if I was the one behind it. That very well could have taken blame off of me for a while.

But that wasn’t what happened. I couldn’t tell him the real reason that I’d survived the sigil. It would cost me my job. No one wants the granddaughter of the Warlock around their children. My grandmother had done as much as she could to help me overcome my bloodline and get ahead in life. But if cat got out of the bag she’d worked so hard to seal, everything would crumble.

So, I pressed my lips shut and shrugged. He could think all he wanted. I would go back to my work and keep my nose down. If nothing else happened around me, then perhaps I’d be cleared.

The dean looked me up and down for a long moment. I didn’t dare open my mouth. His eyes narrowed, but finally he hung his head.

“Thank you for your news. Go back to work and I’ll have someone clean up the sigil. Later, have the Head Librarian bring up a synopsis on the book that seems to be missing.”

His tone had changed, becoming cold. I opened my mouth, but thought better of anything I could think of and spun around. I clenched my fist at my side, my nails digging into my palm.

What was going on?

I swung the door open to find a surprised girl on the other side. Her brown eyes were wide with surprise. She wore the high school uniform, but her lavender hair was pulled into two small buns on either side of her head.

“I-I-I’ll come back later,” she turned, ready to escape.

“I was just leaving,” I said, pushing past her.

Behind me I heard, “Shut the door, Charlie.”

I’d never seen a student go straight to the dean’s office door before, but there were other, more pressing, matters on my mind.

Blackcraft inside the school? One murder and another attempted murder in one day? What did it have to do with the book that had been stolen? The other professor had died in Lab Storage. Not far from Lab Storage was the supply shop. It was there that all of the supplies needed to cast any spell taught in school could be found. There was a rumor that there were a few other ingredients in that shop that were extremely rare.

Shit.

The book. The supply shop. Someone was preparing to cast something big and probably not good at all. I couldn’t turn around and run back to the dean with my epiphany. He already suspected me of the murder. I stumbled as a thought occurred to me.

Did he already know about my bloodline?

 

That night I saw on my daybed, work clothes already traded in for pajama pants and a really old, worn in AMB sweatshirt. Phone in hand, my grandmother’s number had already been punched in. I’d been debating for the last two hours whether or not to call her. I knew that she had nothing to do with my grandfather anymore, but if anyone knew what that symbol was or why someone would want that book, it’d be her.

Rosalina Marten was a renowned Mage Historian. She spent her life collecting and recording anything and everything about the history of mages and their magic. That meant a lot of travel and adventures searching for artifacts and grimoires. She’s been a reckless, young adventurer when she met my grandfather. A fast and heart pounding love overshadowed the truths about him.

My phone buzzed in my hand, jolting me from my memories. A breathy laugh escaped me. Grandmother’s number flashed across the screen. I pressed the green button and held it up to my ear.

“I’ve felt you at the edges of my senses for two and a half hours now, Margaret. I must say that it was more than a little irritating,” she said without any hellos.

I rubbed my face with my free hand. “It’s been a rough day,” I said before launching into the events of the day, starting with Vera’s emergency text at InBetween and ending with the confrontation I’d had with the dean. All of left an unsettling feeling in the pit of my stomach.

“This does not sound good,” Grandmother said. “Eastern European magic is about as wild as it gets. Vicious, as well. You said that you accidentally ripped it?”

I cringed, thinking she was about to reprimand me. “Uh, maybe.”

I waited while silence hung between us. It took a lot to keep from squirming where I sat even though she wasn’t actually here. Her presence seemed to leak through the phone with her voice.

Finally, she said, “This might actually be a good thing. You can cast a finding spell using the small piece and see where the book might be now. I do not advise you going by your lonesome to claim the book from the thief. I fear that whoever has stolen such a book has the power to use it or the stupidity to think so. Either one is gravely dangerous.”

“Great,” I said, without really feeling it.

Writing is Hard

This was said by one of the best Supernatural characters: Chuck.

chuck

He was the “prophet” that wrote the Supernatural books in that universe, kind of doing this odd Inception shit. I still think that he’s God and has either forgotten or needed to get away from his asshole angels for a while.

Anyway, back on topic. Writing really is hard. Back in the fall of 2012 I wrote a novel for Nanowrimo. That was possibly the easiest part of the job. I sat down every day and wove my story for the first time. It was messy and there were some days I would just write a trash scene to write something. So much of it didn’t make the first cut.

Hubs and I moved to California and I used those first few unemployed months to make the first round of cuts and revisions. This is where I weeded out the unnecessary and replaced it with firmer storytelling.

I cannot believe that I’m still doing just that. It’s been four freaking years and I’m still revising. I think I’m on draft six or seven. I haven’t been able to get the whole way through the story lately because it is such a drag to look at. Four years of reading the same paragraphs over and over again makes you kind of wonder why you thought this was great in the first place.

But it has to get done. Hubs commissioned cover art for my Christmas present and while the artist is still working on it, it’s coming. I have got to get this done and put out into the world at some point this year. But, it’s just so hard to find the love and enthusiasm I once felt for writing. I put it off, I blog, I clean the house, I find reasons to leave the house entirely. All just so I don’t have to work on revisions.

Writing is hard. You doubt yourself. You struggle through paragraphs, pages, chapters of words. You struggle to make sure your character grows and isn’t too whiny. You struggle to make sure your story weave is tight, patching up plot holes. You struggle to make sure your villain isn’t just evil for evil’s sake.

This has been the underlying reason for my depression lately. I feel really guilty that I just do not want to work on it anymore. But, I’m trying. Once upon a time I loved this story. I loved my protagonist and the world she belonged to. I want to feel that love once more, to dive deep into her world and begin pulling the strings of story together again.

When my cover art is done, I’m having it blown up into a poster to look at every day. I made this. I made a whole world with multi-faceted characters. I wrote a whole novel and I actually have the sequel (a shitty first draft) sitting on the back burner, waiting for me to give it tough love. I made this thing and it might help pay for my future dreams.

Writing is hard, but it’s worth it.

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In Which I Devour All The Books And Rate Them

So, we all know that I cope with life by picking up a book. Fiction is usually better than reality and a lot of the time I’m telling myself that it’s a learning experience (because my ass isn’t in that chair writing fiction).

I’ve been seeing a lot of people raving about The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer, getting Lunar Chronicles fanart and tumblr snippets all over my pinterest, and thought I’d see what all the hubub was about.  It was a really quick read, taking me all of a day, but that might just be the way that I read books.

All at once.

Cinder

I picked up Cinder. It’s about a young cyborg girl dealing with cyborg racism in a super futuristic Chinese republic. She’s an orphan taken in from Europe, stranded with a resentful stepmother after the husband passes away from a plague-like disease. SO many moments in this book nearly brought me to tears and I do not sad cry. I just don’t.

Much of this book focuses around the Republic’s attempt to cure the plague-like disease. Since cyborgs are seen as inhuman or having lived past their due date, there is a cyborg lottery in which the winner becomes a plague test subject. The winner is involuntarily injected with a freaking horrible disease.

The premise and the setting were kind of cool, but about halfway into the book things just became too much for me to take in. There are magic people living on the moon. That’s where an evil sorceress queen comes from, her heart set on destroying Cinder from the first moment she sees her. I have to say, I saw the plot twist at the beginning of the book.

Still, I might pick up more in this series.

Holly Black

The next day, I opened The Darkest Part of the Forest, by Holly Black. I have already read the Tithe series and Spiderwick by her and really loved both so I knew that I would love this as well.

I wasn’t disappointed. Hazel Evans is a girl that lives in a town surrounded by Faeries. It’s just a fact of life. Just like the Horned Boy in the glass coffin in the forest or the double edged gift a faery bestowed upon her older brother. Hazel wants to save both of them. She wants to save the whole town.

But, she’s just a messed up girl who can’t stop kissing the boys. That is, until the Horned Boy is no longer in his glass coffin. Hazel thinks it is her job to put everything right as the world falls in around her head.

I honestly loved this book so much that I might order my own copy of it to keep. Maybe it’s because I love anything about the fae. Maybe it’s because I love it when girls can be knights, too. Anyway, this makes me want to find The Coldest Girl in Coldtown and the Curse Workers series by Holly Black.

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