Open Letter – To My Mother

I still remember when, back in high school, back in those days when the darkness was heavy like tar that stuck to our bones, we spent so many nights driving home from his office building. I still wonder how many other teens sat in waiting rooms, staring at walls and half-reading gossip magazines, before trading places with their mother on a therapist’s couch. I don’t begrudge you for that. You know I never will, right? It was your journey as much as it was mine. And in some ways I loved those car rides. Delilah on 101.9, the city closing up shop for the night, stars coming out through the haze of the city lights, constellations whose stories I had yet to learn by heart. I had, in those days, never felt closer to you than I did on those nights as we talked our way down the highway.

I still remember how upset you were when our shared therapist told you in confidence not to talk to me about conspiracies and religion, crystals and tarot readings. He believed such new age talks would screw me up and confuse me somehow, keep me from believing in anything, keep me from growing up to be a proper god-fearing individual. Thank you for telling me what he said and not chastising me when I responded by calling him an idiot, though I wanted to call him worse. Thank you for ignoring him and your initial fears that he may be right. Thank you for continuing to discuss the universe with me, to take me to new age shops filled with crystals and tarot cards, to nurture this curiosity that had no outlets other than restless nights on the internet, researching all the questions a southern, cradle catholic couldn’t ask out loud, books on witchcraft bought in secret, and late night car rides consumed with discussions about Hitler and the occult, Atlantis, and past lives.

Thank you for accepting with such outstanding grace and understanding when, as an adult, I proved him right and failed to grow up to be a proper god-fearing individual. Thank you for listening as I transitioned over the years from agnostic, to deist, to pagan. And thank you most of all for the day, once again in your car, you asked me what I was believing in these days. For adding, “No judgment” when you sensed my hesitation. For listening as I explained my beliefs in the nature, in the universe, in energies and karma, that the gods are nothing more than a way for us mortals to explain those energies, that the only word I felt summed up my beliefs was witch. Thank you especially for calling me a tree-hugger with pride and excitement when I explained to you how touching a tree alone in the middle of the woods filled me with all the unexplainable feelings everyone expected of me as I was, at thirteen and already doubting my beliefs in a Catholic god, being primed for confirmation.

But more than that, thank you for teaching me how to question the world around me and how to not take anything at face value, and at the same time not to take anything too seriously. The words you taught me, “even if it’s not true, it’s still fun to think about,” have become a mantra I find myself repeating when met with naysayers, a mantra I reconfigured as a teen to ward off accusations that my tastes weren’t “cool” enough, a mantra that has fueled my writing for all these years. Because what fun is fiction if all we write about is the truth, and what is the point of this gift if we can’t use it to dream up impossible possibilities? You taught me that. And no thanks to that therapist who, in some alternate reality, convinced you not to speak to me of such things, leaving me to be half the person I have become in this reality.

For that, I will thank you every chance I get.

With gratitude and love,

Your tree-hugging, ghost chasing, tarot reading, conspiracy theorist

Places to Find Inspiration – Conspiracy Theories & Mysteries

Finding inspiration can be the easiest yet hardest part of writing fiction. Easiest, because inspiration can be found everywhere. Hardest, because knowing where to start can be a daunting task.

Personally, I find conspiracy theories and unsolved mysteries get my creative juices flowing the fastest. My writing notebook is honestly filled with just about every conspiracy or mystery known to the internet (And I totally may or may not have recently spent actual money on a tabloid magazine that was entirely about Marilyn Monroe’s death…don’t judge me). These are great sources for inspiration because no one really knows the whole truth. Everything you read or hear is mostly just conjecture. And if you like puzzles (which I do), researching these theories can actually be pretty thrilling. Plus, like I already said, there is no actual answer. So, unlike working with the rest of history and true events, with conspiracies and mysteries, the truth is only limited to your imagination. You don’t have to tell the actual story and you don’t have to know every little detail of a case, all you need to know is that something happened and no one knows why. Your job as a writer is to figure out a possible solution, no matter how implausible it might be.

Below is a list of youtube channels that are great for both conspiracy theories and mysteries. Most work with the simple list format, but some go a little bit deeper into various theories. At the very least, these are awesome places to start. I tend to just watch them a handful at a time with my notebook open and scribble down which ones catch my interest before doing more research on my own later.

So, use the weird, dark recesses of the internet to your advantage and get inspired.

1. Danger Dolan
2. Rob Dyke’s Seriously Strange
3. Dark 5
4. Alltime 10s
4a. Alltime Conspiracies
5. The Rishest
6. Hybrid Librarian

Top 10 (Tuesday) Favorite Book Cover Trends/Elements


Follow along with this meme over at The Broke and the Bookish

I LOVE book cover design and have been totally guilty of buying a book purely due to the loveliness of a cover. I’ve been known to stand at tables at yard sales and flea style markets that are piled with boxes upon boxes of books, digging through each one with excruciating fervor and walking away with a stack of books that I can’t really tell you the plot of but that each has a gorgeous cover so screw it! Take my money! Sadly, despite this fact I could only come up with five styles that I really love. Well, six but I couldn’t find a good example for the sixth. Either way, here they are:

1. Embroidered designs
When I was younger than elementary school age my grandmother, who is an exquisite crafter herself, gave me an embroidery hoop and my first pack of iron on embroidery patterns and taught me how to embroider as a way to keep me busy on the nights she babysat. I fell in love and still find the art so amazingly relaxing. I absolutely admire the intricate designs people come up with and all the clever ideas floating around the internet. So, needless to say, when Penguin came out with their embroidered cover designs, I was floored with the amazingly, gorgeous designs that came out of the series. I would love to see this become a standard in cover design (even if it is economically unrealistic).

2. Typographic designs
Being a writer, reader, lover of words, and descendant of a long line of artsy people, I adore typography in all forms and when the title of a book is made into art work itself I get extremely excited!

3. Underwater photography
Little known fact about myself, I originally started college as a Photography major. My father is a photography hobbyist and I grew up playing with his cameras and learning by watching. In high school I carried around an old film camera and I can still hear my mother fussing at me, saying, “a dollar per picture” reminding me how much it cost to develop film and to be mindful of what I was wasting each frame on. One of the photography styles I have always admired is underwater photography and have always wanted to have a go at it myself, so when I first saw the cover for Michelle Hodkin’s The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer I was excited (and not just because my favorite Photography professor’s name was Dyer). Though (and thankfully) underwater photography has yet to take cover design by storm, I still get excited when I happen upon one.

4. Illustration/Watercolor
I love love love illustration and especially watercolor! The two are such fun art forms to explore and experiment with. Some of my favorite artists are more technically illustrators (though, I hate that art snobs insist so hardheadedly on separating the two) and the ones I admire the most utilize watercolors. There’s just a sense of other-worldliness and innocence with watercolor that you can’t really get with other mediums, which is why I really love it when it is incorporated with more adult themes such as the Lolita example above.

5. Paper cutting
Paper cutting is pretty much a dead art but the results are so beautiful it makes me sad that more people don’t try to preserve it. Hans Christian Andersen was known for sometimes creating paper cuttings while telling his stories. Though Kara Walker has described her art to be more closely related to “cut-paper silhouette”, I like to see it more as paper cuttings seeing as her silhouettes are utilized to tell a story much like Hans Christian Andersen. Sadly, most of the paper cuttings you see in book designs are typically done using computer software and not actually scissors to paper, but either way I still love the look the designs create.

And because I really do love this style, even if I can’t come up with any good examples, I’ll include it anyways:

6. Designs that continue to the back of the book
I really love when a cover designer doesn’t limit themselves to the front of a book and wraps the image around the spine and onto the back. I especially love when an image is cut off the front and wrapped around to the back to reveal the full image and sometimes even the full story the image is trying to create. It’s like a hidden secret that only those curious enough to pick up the book are privy to.

That’s my list! Hope you enjoyed it. If you wish to follow along with Top Ten Thursdays you can keep up with the weekly themes at The Broke and The Bookish.

Now it’s your turn, are there any particular designs that are absolutely snatch worthy for you? Or are you a better reader than I am and actually practice the saying “don’t judge a book by its cover”?

On Feminisim

I am a feminist because decades before I was born women took a stand to better my future, not just as an American, but as a woman; because women throughout the world still think of themselves according to a man’s wants &”needs”; because I want my daughters to grow up with their heads held high knowing that their gender does not define them.

I am a feminist because I believe in a human race united by our shared makeup of bones, blood, & heart rather than our skin, gender, or culture. I believe that every human is created equal with the same human right to be happy, loved, & respected. I believe that their is no such thing as “gender binary”. Only people living their lives.

I am a feminist because, even though men & women are equal in vote, property, & money, the two are not equal in their right to live their own lives according to their own hearts & their own passions. Until we as a society can look at a man who is not “masculine” and a woman who is not “feminine” and see who they are rather than what they are not, a feminist’s work is not done. Until an act of sexual violence is seen not as the fault of the victim but the perpetrator, what ever the gender, a feminist’s work is not done. Until a woman’s sexuality is her own to be flaunted or hidden as she sees fit, a feminist’s work is not done. Until a man can stand up & take action against the abuse of his significant other without having to fear ridicule or questioning of his “masculinity”, a feminist’s work is not done.

I am a feminist not because I hate men or because I enjoy yelling into the wind, but because I believe a person is a person regardless of their gender and I believe every person deserves to be happy, loved, & respected, and until these things are no longer defined by gender, sexuality, or the ability to fit into some preconceived binary, my work is not done.

Flashfiction – Prompt 9


Tell me about an adventure you would love to have – Prompt 9 from 365 Journal Writing Ideas

I am running down an alley way in the streets of London. I am chasing a man who is not far ahead of me. His black jacket whips in the air behind him as he runs. He shoves a stack of boxes to fall behind him as he continues down the alley. I leap over the obstruction without hesitation. He turns a corner and I follow to find myself face to face with a brick wall and the man no where in sight. I curse and study my surroundings.

Above me is an open window. I climb a nearby stack of crates and lower myself through the window. I jump down and land on a concrete floor in a relatively dark room. I hear a noise from the dark. I take a stun grenade from the small, leather satchel on my hip. The cobalt blue glass orb is the size of my palm and when I activate the trigger on the top it begins to glow. Slowly, I make my way toward the sound. I move step by step only slightly afraid of what might meet me in the dark.

I hear a loud crash somewhere to my left.

I turn and yell, “WHO’S THERE?”

Lights all around me flicker on loudly to reveal a room filled with Tesla coils and strange machines. A loud slow clapping rings through the air. I turn toward the sound to see a woman emerge from the shadows.

Photo by LahmatTea

Top 10 (Tuesday) Summer TBR

Follow along with this meme over at The Broke and the Bookish

Since I’m stuck in Shakespeare over the summer the required reading for the class is top of my list, unfortunately. We’ve already read As You Like It, which I really enjoyed, and Hamlet I skipped for now because Hamlet bores the ever loving hell out of me. I started Fellowship of the Ring back when I was at Easter Seals (which was a year ago already) and I had to hold off finishing it when I started classes. I’m hoping to get a chance to pick them back up when I start Tech. Writing in July. Anyways, here’s my Summer to be read list.

1. As You Like It

2. Hamlet

3. Troilus & Cressida

4. Othello

5. All’s Well That Ends Well

6. The Winter’s Tale

7. Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkein

8. The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkein

9. The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkein

P.S. I want to dye my hair so bad! I’ve been on a purple kick for a while, but this photo is starting to make me lean more towards blue. I’ve also started toying with the idea on an undercut. Though, I’m not entirely sure where the urge came from. I’ll most likely wait till Fall to decide on the undercut, it’s too hot to wear my hair down right now.

Top 10 (Tuesday) Books I’ve Read So Far This Year

Follow along with this meme over at The Broke and the Bookish

One of the mixed blessings that comes with studying Literature is that you are introduced to books you would have otherwise never have even picked up. While I don’t have a whole lot of time to read books that are on my own personal to read list, I do get to read books that most likely never would have made it to my list. Over the Spring semester I took Modern Fiction (because I haven’t said that enough times) and I loved just about every book that we read. My point is, nearly every book on this list was read for a class and not really because I was wandering through Half Price, picked up a book, and thought ‘hm this looks good’, but I am so glad I read each one. For once these are actually going to be in order, so I’m going to start with ten.

10. “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
I’ve been assigned this story for six different courses, one even in high school, but I still really enjoy it. I may complain about having to read it one more time, but I still love it. It’s a great psychological (quasi) thriller with tons of feminist subtext to it that I never really saw until this past semester in American Lit.

9. “The Gilded Six-Bits” by Zora Neale Hurston
Another story that was assigned in my American Lit course. It’s actually a really sweet story at its core even though the middle is pretty sad, but the level of sadness is what makes it such a beautifully written story.

8. Dubliners by James Joyce
Dubliners is a collection of short stories written by James Joyce that are a bit strange because none of them really have much of an ending, but the crux of each is a character having some sort of epiphany. Joyce has a really interesting writing style which is a mix of stream of consciousness and character study. Each story is just as interesting as the last. Absolutely worth a read.

7. Passing by Nella Larsen
Passing is not only really well written but also about a really interesting subject that isn’t really talked about. During the late 20’s/early 30’s in the States, as long as you had a single ancestor who was of color you were considered “negro” and were therefore held at a lower status. Because of this some people of mixed race would “pass” as white so they could intermingle within white society without dealing with any racism. As you can imagine, this did not go over well with either side of society and caused a lot of problems. Now you know (and knowing is half the battle) and now that you have the back story you have no excuse not read this novella ;).

6. “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” by Joyce Carol Oates
Joyce Carol Oates is one of my absolute favorites (even if she was frustratingly prolific). Her prose is absolutely poetic and her characters are so real in their pain and misplacement in the world. This particular story is actually based loosely on Bob Dylan and the sixties, as well as the more universal ideas of young girls trying to grow up before they’re actually ready to.

5. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolfe
This was my first time reading Virginia Woolfe and I loved it! Her writing is wonderful. Mrs. Dalloway is a stream of consciousness story which takes place over the span of a single day, and was actually written in response to James Joyce’s Ulysses which is written in the same style.

4. “The Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka
“The Metamorphosis” is one of those classics that you can’t really get away with not reading if you decide to study Literature. The story is quite surrealistic and more questions are raised than they are answered, but it really is a good story. And even if it goes right over your head, at least you will be able to say that you’ve read it.

3. Sula by Toni Morrison
I have included Sula so many times on these lists already I am surprised you haven’t picked up a copy yet =P

2. The Sound & The Fury by William Faulkner
The Sound & the Fury is not a book for the faint of heart, the casual reader, or anyone without some kind of passion for Faulkner. Faulkner utilizes stream of consciousness to write this novel and it is told from four separate points of view, which doesn’t help the confusion. BUT if you do happen to get through it and understand what you just read, it is completely worth it. I cried. Multiple times.

1. The Stranger by Albert Camus
The Stranger is such an amazing book, I think I can honestly say it changed some part of my life. When I finished reading it I was so absolutely frustrated because the meaning was right there on the brink of my brain. I was so close to that “ah!” moment of understanding but I couldn’t get it pinned down just right for the moment to happen. Finally, after working on it for a final paper I figured it all out! But if I told you then that would be spoilers 😉

A Call for Betterment

As a student of literature I have learned many things. I have learned that literature and the act of writing is more than just telling a story, it is more than entertainment, it is more than words upon a page, it is the recording of the fluidity of human nature, human psychology, humanity in its entirety. I have learned that literature goes beyond race, nationality, gender, sexuality, because to create literature is to create a record of a human being and how that human being functions within the world they find themselves in. I have learned that to study literature is more than reading a work created by a human living in a realm since past, it is to study, capture, and further understand what it is to be human. I have learned that we are a strange, complicated, and tightly wound group of individuals who yearn and search for something, anything greater than ourselves, because as humans we are all missing something small and entirely significant within the labyrinth that is our inner selves and all we want in our short, fragile lives is to fill that missing space and that, my dear, is why literature exists; because not a single on of us has the answer and though some may come close, it will only fill the space until we find it riddled with holes, holes which will never be filled quickly enough for our insatiable need for fulfillment to be satisfied. Writers write not as a solution but as a path that maybe, someday might just lead to some sort of semblance to the solution for someone else’s empty spaces. Writers write to fill in the gaps of silence between spaces. Gaps that will never seem to be filled.

What gap am I attempting to fill with these words, scribbled frantically across a page when there are books to be read and assignments to be finished? I am trying to fill in the gaps that it seems we have, in our contemporary collapse of advancement, allowed to fall by the way side. Where is the beauty writers once strived for? Where are the perfect combinations of perfect syllables and perfect images that once left a reader perfectly breathless, unable to continue without first catching her breath, allowing the dizzying spin of life to sink in and calm enough before moving on along the page? Where are the final words that leave her clawing for air, questioning her existence and everything which surrounds it? Don’t just tell her a story to pass the time, tell her an epic tale which will lead her down the path to something more, something greater, something that will force her to search her soul for that missing piece. For numb is not an answer but the fingers you hide your eyes behind and just because you cannot see them does not mean that your gaps and your holes and your empty spaces are not still growing. And one of these days, while you are busy hiding, your empty spaces will swallow you whole and numb is all you will be capable of being because numb will be all that is left.

This is a call for betterment. Betterment of the literature we place into the hands of our daughters and our sons. We must learn not to settle for less than or for numb, but for beauty and fear, for something more, something that rattles us to the core and sets us back down upon that path to find pieces that will some how fill these spaces within. For even if we are unsuccessful, at least we tried and at least we have begun the path for another to continue. For I do not have the answers and neither do you, but maybe, if every one of us puts all of our terrified, fragile, collapsing cards out on the table we can piece together some sort of path, with all its twists and turns and traps and digressions, that just might, maybe, someday fill someone else’s spaces.