Retiring “Strip me Back to the Bone” blog

Yeah, yeah, I know. I’ve done this before, and I went back on it. In the interest of full disclosure (hahahaha), I made that decision while in a really rough patch, it was more reaction than action, and, I wasn’t ready.

I’m ready now.

I’ve been blogging about my spiritual practices, explorations, and (mis)adventures, in one place or another, for public or damned-near-public consumption, for something like 17 years at this point, and, frankly: I don’t want to do it anymore.

If there’s anything on here that you want to save, I suggest you do so in the upcoming week. The blog will be set to private after that.

Thanks for your support, understanding, and fellowship all these many years!

 

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April Check In (now edited to fix spacing issues, holy crap!)

 Or: The month wherein I remember to stop and smell the *&^%ing lilacs.
Because, they’re blooming, and they’re my favorite flower of all time. There are three bushes in the neighborhood that I watch, that bloom at different times thanks to differences in sun exposure. The early blooming one is already full; the latest blooming one is still just putting out its buds. I was hoping to share my love of these flowers with Molly, who loves to shove her face into various flowers, but she was disappointingly unimpressed. That’s fine; they can be all mine. I love that we have such a comparative long lilac season here in Lane County. Where I grew up, lilac season is a blink-and-it’s-over affair, so having a month, a whole month, to enjoy these flowers, is wonderful.
Made even more wonderful by granting me a title that has yet to attract a story, but I have no doubt that in the next year, Lilac and Deadnettle will be a thing.
That’s how it happens, right? Some random thing, and bam, there’s a story concept, or a plot kernal, simmering on the back burner and waiting for its moment.
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Sometimes thing don’t go the way you think they might. I had not one but two stories out to the editor. I didn’t expect to have two, because the second one wasn’t going the way I wanted, and instead, I dove into a story I began during my #birthdaywritingchallenge. Wrapping that up was unexpected but wonderful, so naturally it was sent along for general feed-back. General feed-back was great! And also, unexpected. End result? The planned story needs more work (in truth, more space and better pacing. Not a re-write so much as a “needs more content,” so while it’s not shelved, it’s also not part of the subscription plans any longer. However, I except the story for May to be back on my desk by mid-week, and the rough content for June will be shipping out for edits after that. I’m still ahead, and in the beginning of the following story, and meanwhile, Stace is whispering about a Secrets of Night story.
On top of that, I’ve re-acquainted myself with Brittany and Thistle’s sequel, and am considering picking that back up, because I rather adore them. Things are moving forward, in any event, and have I mentioned how much I enjoy the ‘write by hand the first few drafts, then type up’ approach? I have so many things in various stages of completion, and instead of being overwhelmed, I’m invigorated.
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Speaking of overwhelm, more on that at a later time, but for now: depression and anxiety are things, mental health is a thing, and keeping boundaries firm are important. I’m an introvert. I need to allow myself the down time to recharge. I’ve been abusing having long weekends to work and work and work and work on my projects, because I love said projects, but like it or not, I need that down time, and I need to take it for myself. I’ve done poorly this week in particular, and am not using the days off the ways I should. Next week, I’m granting myself a read-a-thon for my days off.
I also need to point out to myself that I read a fuck-ton last month. This month it’s been mostly just the audio books I’m listening to, and they’ve all been ‘rereads’. So, maybe not enough escapism to be had.
That’s where things are at, though. May and June at various points of editing, and July’s story already started, with a plan for August, to boot. I like it. Scrabbling by the seat of my pants is a thing I’m not missing.
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How’s your month going?

Spirit Taken: an excerpt

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[shameless plug within a shameless plug: patrons and story subscribers receive early access to all my written material. See this page for details]


The creature ran a tongue along pointed teeth, then flicked her tongue out to touch my cheek.  “Mmm. Do you know, your kind tastes the best. Sweet from your power, soft from your special treatment, rich from your borrowed magic. We could glut ourselves upon your flesh, your blood, until we wiped you from the world.”

Her tongue left a trail of warm, sticky something that made my skin tingle slightly. I did not shudder away from her, did not cringe away from the mouth full of teeth that looked more like needles, did not imagine them digging into my flesh. The tendril around my leg squeezed, but did not cut deeper into my skin.

It still hurt like a bitch.

“I offer you a choice, Caleyna of the Summoners. Come with me now. Promise me your aid, and no one will die this night. Come with me, and I hold my daughters still. Aid me, and never again will we taste upon your blood, upon your flesh. Or,” and a dozen  sharp, sucking needles punctured my calf, digging in to the bone, drawing my blood into the body of the plant, “refuse me. Refuse me, and we will  eat our fill of your siblings. We will devour you, every last drop, and profane this sacred isle.”

The needles in my skin did not retract fully, though they eased off the bone. Eagerness thrummed through the creature, and I couldn’t tell which answer she desired the most. Perhaps she couldn’t, either.

She couldn’t be here, yet she was. I couldn’t destroy the swarm on my own, not when it was this big, this strong, this close. Not at night. Not with its teeth already in me. I didn’t dare reach out for my shadow, didn’t dare attempt to cross the barrier between us. She couldn’t be here.

The creature knew my name. Curious.

The plant spirit offered me her hand, her twig-thin fingers curling open in front of my face.

I didn’t have any choice, really. Even if I died drying to do . . . Whatever it was she would ask of me. It was my only option, the only fight I had to give.

I placed my palm in hers.  The twiggy fingers surged around my hand as they closed, expanding in size, winding around one another, rushing up my arm, around my back, pulling  me closer. The tendril released its bite on my leg to slither around both my feet, then around my captor. The gleam in her eyes was pure malice. “Hold on, Summoner. This will hurt.”

And then she shoved me into her body.

March Book Recap

Is I mentioned in the previous post in this series, this is a self-serving post. I want to know what I’ve read, when, and what I thought of it. I toy around with doing this in a journal, but I’m not going to have the patience to print the covers out on a regularly basis, plus if I do it here, it’ll be tag-able.

Without Further Ado:

vampNibbled by the Vamp — Celia Kyle. This is a novella in her shifter world, and it was a fun, quick read. Her material is something I have to be in the mood for, as her narratives tend to be lighter than my preferred style. (I don’t want to call these books light exactly, as they deal with potentially heavy topics, but they’re not quite the angst I seem to prefer as my go-to). I don’t know that I would have liked this as an introduction to her fiction, but I did enjoy it.

Burn Bright — Patricia Briggs. This is the newest release in her Alpha and Omega series, which is my favorite of the two she’s got going concurrently. I love, love, love Anna and Charles, and this did not disappoint. Fast paced and

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somewhat suspenseful, I have to say that I did not figure out the who-dun-it right away, though I was pretty sure who it was once the first suspect was named. I was a bit out of touch in the grand scheme of things, as this takes place after the previous Mercy book (they’re not dependent upon one another, but they are connected by being in the same world with the same Uber-boss of the wolves), so one I was finished with this one, I read . . .

Silence Fallen — Patricia Briggs. This is her most recent silence_fallen_layout.inddMercy Thompson book. I have such a weird relationship with these books. I love them. I know I love them. I reread them eagerly every time a new one comes out, and sometimes even without a new one coming out, and yet, when I’m not reading them I think I’m all ‘meh’ about Mercy. It’s a lie, a total lie. Briggs is a master at relationships and inter-character banter, and these are a joy to read. Even if Mercy drives me crazy from time to time.

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Dragon Bond is next up, a stand alone romance/fantasy novella by Ruby Lionsdrake. This is a prime example as to why I want to write these up: I’d already read this story. I don’t know if it was a newsletter freebie or what, because Amazon didn’t catch that I already owned it, and I was able to buy it again. Not a big deal. I was halfway through it before I thought, wow, this seems familiar, and I really didn’t remember the outcome, so maybe I was ill when I read it last time? Ruby Lionsdrake is Lindsay Buroker’s more explicit romance pen name (she writes SF and F, though more SF under that name), and I enjoyed this one a lot. But then I would, because, you know. Dragons.

 

Dragon Storm; Revelations; Origins Unraveled,–Heritage of Power book 1-4 — Lindsay Buroker. These novels returns us to Iskandia, where her Dragon Blood series is set, and there are some returning characters even though the main characters are new faces. After centuries of dragons being gone from their world, the dragons are returning and causing heck for the humans. Iskandia is a magic-fearing society, so when those with dragon blood do show up, no matter how diluted through time, they generally keep their abilities quiet. Trip does, but then he would, because his mother was a bit off, and she died for it. This series follows Trip and his comrades in adventures filled with magic, self-discover, treasure hunting, and a decent amount of blowing things up.

 

Orion and Treyjon, Star Guardians book 1-2 — Ruby Lionsdrake. Yes, I’m a glom-reader. Once I find an author I like, in a series I like, I tend to nom-nom all the available books, as I can afford them. One thing I appreciate about Buroker’s/Lionsdrake’s books is that the first of the series’ tend to be loss-leaders, and the rest range between $3-$5, so, you know, paperback prices of yesteryear. It allows for glom-reading. Nom-nom. Enjoyable reads, though the kidnapped from earth trope isn’t my favorite. I’m actually on the fence about threats-of-sexual-abuse as a plot device, because on the one hand, can there not be other things that happen instead, but on the other hand, it’s a thing that happens, as in it’s a thing that happens a fucking LOT, and is wanting that subject out of our stories as a thing that happens akin to shush-let’s-not-talk about it? People come down on both sides of that fence, and all the way in between, and sexual assault and rape survivors run that gamut. It doesn’t make me happy as a plot device, but then, the subject SHOULD be one that makes everyone unhappy, and yeah, showing those opposed to sexual abuse is important. One can be an alpha male character AND staunchly repelled by the idea of using force or coercion to have his way with anyone. So there.

March Progress Report

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Or: The Month Wherein I learn (hopefully once and for all) how much planning can help me deal with going forward, and how much planning is too much planning;

Or: Don’t Hem Me In, I’m an Artist, Damn It!

Behind the scenes (unless you follow me on IG), I’ve been playing around with planning. For me, this is taking list-making to the next step, and it’s entirely possible that for others this is a task mastered as a young adult. I think I’ve proven at this point that I’ll do things my way, right? And, sometimes [read: often] that means learning simple tasks far later than others around me. I use a weekly spread, though most of my non-day job tasks are clustered around my days off. I write out each day of the week specifically as a reminder to my brain that I’m getting shit done on those days too, and also because I like having them there. I can take notes in the spaces I set aside, even if I’m not filling them up with tasks.

During March, I’ve used the space to write up a posting schedule for myself, and I’m trying to be realistic about what I can handle (that is, I can’t realistically expect myself to have the schedule of a full time professional author, because that’s not what I am) while at the same time, challenging myself to keep working forward toward my goals (that is, get the shit written, released, and keep trying to expand my audience, because my material does not suck, and stories are good things to discover.)  It’s a pretty basic schedule, and it gives me enough structure that I’m not spinning my wheels trying to decide where to start.

Week One story subscription installment, which goes out to patrons at that level, as well as to folks subscribing outside of Patreon;

Week Two: Spiritual Blathering and/or Mental Health Diaries — because I want to keep examining shit, even if its uncomfortable, and writing about it helps me form thoughts, and feedback is valuable;

Week Three: Monthly check in on projects and progress — what this post started out as, though I’ve already digressed;

Week Four: Snippets of upcoming work to my patrons, snippets of work about to be released publicly, cover reveals, other assorted misc., which is maybe what this post should really be considered.

Pulling this back on track: this month I’ve written three drafts of May’s story, and am about to start the first of the typed up drafts. (It’s return to the world of Igraine’s Flight, though  the central characters are different, and it’s a shorter work). I’m hoping to have that draft wrapped up by the end of tonight, though I have some wiggle room. Ride or die date for it to land on my editor’s desk is the 29th.

I’m expecting Spirit Taken, April’s story, back at about the same time, so I can get the final edits in and prep that for release to my subscribers. (Woohoo subscribers, you guys rock my world!) I’m looking at an August release date for mass consumption, but that’s penciled in as of right now.

I also finally downloaded and have started playing around with Audacity, and will start offering audio versions of the stories to subscribers also in the upcoming months. I may stagger the release of those until I get caught up (I won’t have the audio Spirit Taken ready to release along with the book files, for example), but I’m also considering releasing them by sections rather than by whole story length, maybe over the course of the first week of each month, to make them more manageable, listening wise.

I’m recording them myself, and they’re going to suck at first, but they’re also going to be better than not having them at all? And I’m only going to get better by the doing. And I have feelings about audio versions of books costing so much. I mean, hooray if you can afford them, but maybe you want to listen to the story without necessarily wanting actors? I mean, maybe there can be a step between awful mechanical text-to-speech audio and in a studio by professionals audio?  Mostly, it’s something I want to play around with, and so I am.

 

Reading Recap for Jan/Feb

This is a completely selfish series of posts I plan on doing — I’m trying to keep a log of books I’ve read, in part so I can remember that I’ve read them, in part so I remember to make reading a priority, and in part to satisfy my word-of-mouth impulse that is no longer satisfied by people seeing me reading something and saying, “oh, is that any good?” We don’t see the covers to the books others are reading on their devices, and the reader in me always on the lookout for an interesting book hates that. (I do end up trying to read over peoples’ shoulders, especially on the bus, which is a terrible habit.) (It’s as bad as peeping in windows to look for cats)(not that I do that)(I swear).
Anywho: the books for I read in February — hell, let’s make that Jan/Feb — are:
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Champagne, Misfits, and Other Shady Magic — book 7 in Meghan Ciana Doidge’s Dowser series. If you haven’t checked out her work yet, do yourself a favor and do so, post haste. Vampires. Witches. Werewolves. Other assorted things. Fans of Kelley Armstrong’s Otherworld series, Patricia Brigg’s contemporary fantasies, C.E. Murphy’s, etc., will enjoy these books. She’s got some of my favorite characters to date, and some of the best interactions going. She also shares her world with a Luna look-a-like, so I’m admittedly biased.
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Treasure of the Abyss — book 1 in Tiffany Roberts’ Kraken series. This is a husband and wife writing team, and I’m typically not a huge fan of co-authored books. If I had known this was co-authored, I wouldn’t have read it, so I’m glad I didn’t know. I enjoyed this book, and will read more in the series as they’re published.
wildbloodWild Blood — book 1 in Noami Lucas’s Cyborg Shifters series. I am a sucker for the human/humanoid interactions, and while I prefer paranormal creatures, I’ll settle for scientifically enhanced or manufactured sentient beings easily enough. I went on to get book two and three, so obviously I did not hate this series.

 

storm_surge_v3Storm Surge, book 2; and Shark Bite, book 3 of the aforementioned series. Of the three I’ve read so far, Shark Bite has been my least favorite, and Storm Surge my most favorite. Something about a flooded planet filled with hard to pin down monsters that screw with the mind, I think. It was suspenseful, and there was water everywhere. So, you know. Good times.sharkbite_v3-1

After that, I took a break to reread through some Patricia Brigg’s books. I discovered that I don’t own as many of the Mercy books as I thought (hooray for having a great library system, though!) so I reread what I had: Moon Called, Blood Bound and Iron Kissed, then Alpha and Omega, Dead Heat, and the rest of the Shifter Stories antho. These almost don’t count, because I’ve read them so much they were fast rereads. And I’m tired of linking now. Here’s her Amazon author page.
StarNomadWebSmallLastly, I read Star Nomad — book 1 in Lindsay Buroker’s Fallen Empire series. It’s free, and her stuff is great, so if you’re interested in adventure-y space opera stuff, go and get yourself a copy. Gobbled that up, remembered how much I loved her writing, and switched over to the newest fantasy series of hers, because I have that first book already, and I have to wait until payday later on in the month to get my hands on the next few Fallen Empire books.
Those are my reads. I’m still working away on Ghosts of Evolution, but I need to be in a particular mood for non-fiction, and this one is rambly for a science book, alas. I almost wish it was more technical. I also have to admit that it being in hard copy makes it slower reading, too. I dislike carrying them around if I don’t have to.
What have you been reading?

Mid (ish) month check in.

[obligatory note: patrons at any tier level get to see my posts first; if you’re interested in supporting me that way, hop on over to my patreon page and check it out. Do I feel sleazy mentioning this? Yes! Am I going to anyway? Yes! Do I hate that artists are indoctrinated in our culture into giving away shit for free and exposure? YES! Do I feel sleazy anyway? Yup! Still gonna mention it.]
(Originally Published Feb 14th)
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I’m currently sitting in an “empty” house (read: empty of other humans), with a dog curled up at my side, various cats scattered in their various napping places, Throwing Copper streaming, and the heaviness of melancholia pressing down all around me. I don’t feel especially sad, per se; it’s that hyper-awareness of impermanence that sometimes seizes me and forces me to see everything in a constant state of flux. I’m still dealing with mourning, with grief, of having the greatest honor to witness the bulk of the highs and lows and in-betweens of Corbie’s life. I’m coming to terms with not being nearly as nice of a person as I thought I was, realizing that much of my “being good” and even-tempered, and being a high functioning depressive person was a badge of pride at my performance, at being able to pull it off. I mean, for fuck’s sake, Jo — if you are patting yourself on the back for being a good person, then, are you? Are you, really?Not that I think I’m not a good person; I just think I’m a person, and I think that I’m utterly done tying myself in knots to avoid displeasing others. Which is weird, and not as liberating as you might think, because — if I’m not that person, then who the fuck am I? Having people who’d been in my life for a long while, even if they weren’t as close as I’d thought, or in the way that I thought, or whatever, is fucking with my mind. Add in the spiritual identity ‘crisis’ . . . It is ultimately good, all of this, and I can see that, but I’m also at a place of, how do I even articulate any of this in a useful way? In a way that helps me move forward? When I’m looking at the one who has been with me the longest, and I’m stuck saying, “but . . .who are you?”, it’s no wonder I feel so adrift.

It’s a weird state of mind, this vigilant impermanence. I feel trapped in time, trapped by time, and removed from it. Memories wash through me, of years ago, of days ago, of conversations ago, and it’s all happening all at once. A song come on the radio, and I’m crying and laughing, with joy and grief. Hope and promise, potential, and loss. So much. There’s so much.

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This was “supposed” to be a project check-in, a progress check-in. Will I ever know better about making anything a “should-be” in my life?

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This month, so far, I’ve released the new cover for Igraine’s Flight; I made a potential placement holder cover for March’s story, Secrets of Blood; I’ve worked on the hopefully second-to-last draft of the next Caleyna story and created that cover; I’ve started the first draft for the next next story. I’m really loving writhing the first drafts by hand. They’re a mess, with a ton of scratching out and false starts and scenes that just stop, and none of them are really completed from page one to the end. I seem to write until I have the scene the way I want it in my head (half the time so far this ends up not looking at all like anything on the page) and then I move on to the next, and when I have enough of them (like Spirit-Taken), I start typing them up.

The Dear Beloved project is becoming a Spirit Letter project, thanks in part to my mother, who suggested that I start writing to my grandmother again, as well. I miss her fierce this time of year, when the flowers are coming out. I used to write to her, when she was alive, detailing all the flowers coming up so early here in Oregon. As the daffodils and crocuses and red currants unfurl, it’s really, really hard. And, there are others I’d like to write to, and so. Letters to the Dis- and Unincarnate. It’s a thing.

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I hatehatehate second guessing what to share. I hate thinking about who might read it and how they might feel. It’s a bit funny, in that I never used to care, and now, now that I’m saying I’m done trying to please people, or at the least avoid displeasing them, I’m more gunshy. And I think a lot of that is having my confidence shaken, in my judgment of people, and my ability to trust others. And I feel like an asshole for it. And I hate it.

It comes to this: if you like what I’m sharing, great. If it helps you, great. If you don’t, there’s the door. I don’t need to be everyone’s cup of tea. I need to be a cup of tea *I* can live with. At the end of the day, I’m the one who has to, right?

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In other news, that girl up there thinks I’m the shit, and while I think she thinks I’m better than I am, I also think I don’t suck. So, whatever. Also? Lookit that face