Forbidden Ebook CoverWell, I can say that I was anxious but excited to release “Forbidden“, as with any novel I publish. “Forbidden” is an allegory, it’s dark. Don’t expect to like the characters; don’t expect to even “get to know” the characters too well.

What I enjoyed most about writing this piece was the challenge of creating a story that a reader can take at face value or that he/she can choose to read into. “Forbidden” has the ability to be as dimensional as one might want to make it. Every word, every stylistic choice, even down to the back cover is a commentary.

With that said, I am excited to announce that I will be trying something new on my blog by releasing character interviews. I think this experiment will be entertaining and rewarding, overall positive.

Monday I will be publishing an interview by Reverend Elijah Colstock. So, feel free to drop questions for him in the comment section of this post. You can also leave a website or social media in the comment and I will link your name to it; that is optional, however.

Reverend Colstock will be selecting one person who asks a question to win a $5 Amazon E-gift card.

I hope everyone has as much fun reading the interview as Colstock will have answering the questions.

Until Monday,

Cheers!

MentalIllness

Yesterday someone in one of my writing groups presented a question about creativity and its connection to mental illness. I read through some of the comments and was a little taken aback by the idea that being a brilliant artist while suffering mental illness equates to a certain level of beauty.

I’ll say before I write anything more that I am one person. I am a writer. I suffer from chronic migraines and mental illness. I’m not a psychologist and the following is just my opinion and personal observation:

Mental illness is a shit show, a mess hotter than asphalt in mid-July. There is nothing “beautiful” about pulling into a grocery store parking lot and nearly vomiting while experiencing the simultaneous sensation of being smothered by plastic wrap.

No one in the world says, “Wow! Look at the girl standing in the corner counting to steady her breathing before she has a complete breakdown because she feels as if the walls are going to close in on her and her vision is beginning to tunnel. Give me some of that with a side of the guy fidgeting in the long line because there’s too many people around him and he feels like they’re all staring at him, judging him because that’s what the voices in his head are whispering to him, so it must be true. That sounds mysterious and beautiful and I want to be a part of it!”

Nobody says that! Ever!!

This mindset that artists need to suffer in order to create “brilliant” or “beautiful” art as though it’s a first class yacht club that one can only be a part of if they find themselves in near-constant mental, emotional, or physical turmoil needs to stop. Mental illness is not a trend; it’s not an itinerary. It is a result of real situations that a person has experienced.

Those of us who have endured trauma and survived it or have these illnesses for other reasons are not exhibits for show on society’s gallery. We’re human beings who have turned to artistic expression and use our abilities and talents to heal, cope, process what we are going through, or to reach others and communicate our truths about how we suffer and how we process, heal, and move forward from those circumstances.

I can’t and will not speak for everyone, but I will say that if I could trade artistic talent for great mental health, I would do so without batting an eye. I don’t believe that artistic talent and trauma/mental illness are mutually inclusive. In other words, I believe that many artists such as myself are born with talents. For example, I play various instruments by ear, vocally I have perfect pitch, and I compose by ear. I can’t read music. The child/adulthood trauma I endured has nothing to do with those abilities other than I was able to turn to them when I needed to.
MentalIllness2

Throughout childhood, I looked to music, theatre arts, and reading as a mechanism for survival. I learned to appreciate art because it is healing. Even my group When She Walked Away, advocates healing from domestic violence through artistic expression.

I’ve never considered the process of healing to be “beautiful”. Even as a physical wound is healing it itches, burns, throbs, sometimes there’s puss or even blood. It scabs over and sometimes even the scab is irritating. This is the same for emotional and mental wounds; they’re worse because no one can see them. Healing requires tremendous bravery and willpower.

I won’t argue that many great works of literature, art, and music have not stemmed from talented artists who have suffered greatly from physical/mental illness and trauma. But, I believe that we can recognize that perhaps there is some connection (and perhaps not) without romanticizing what they’ve been through.

We can appreciate the works without believing that hardship or distress is required to produce them or that the end product warranted the trauma that the artist experienced. We can look to these paintings, illustrations, poems, books, and compositions for insight into mental health and we can certainly stop referring to the very real and daily battle that others struggle through as “beautiful”.

 

 

CafeBlog1

Mud-water splashes against my pant legs. In no time they’ll dry, leaving spots of dirt trailing up the material. I despise going anywhere when it rains. Fog beats against storefront windows. The air is humid, melancholy whispers that reduce themselves to leaves as they tap the top of a park bench. It’s nothing special, an ordinary bench in a line of benches.

The coffee shop, with its scattered tables, struggles to mimic some endearing quaintness found in larger cities. The atmosphere falls short of the cliché setting in which a girl I used to date in high-school phones to say she’s driving through town that afternoon.

The atmosphere, where, a couple quivering cups of coffee, a bit of small talk, and a handful of tense gestures later, we find ourselves reminiscing between three-hundred-count bedsheets in a hotel a few miles down the road where I realize exactly what it is we’ve both done after thirty-minutes of irreverent silence and a couple attempts at ‘footsie’.

This is the café where baristas forget to properly mix the milk with coffee. The light swirls around dark, and there’s an ease by which my tongue separates the flavors. Nagging, really, like trying to recall where it is I’m supposed to remember her from or how she obtained my number.

From school? Decades have passed since I attended school…never went to reunions. She wants to ‘catch up’, the voicemail says. It dictates to meet her downtown at 2:00 P.M. and to not be late.

Catch up to what? I never realized we’re behind. It’s true, though…as true as the way stagnant water lurks on small town sidewalks and waits for some guy…some guy with a receding hairline and proof that sitting behind desk twelve hours a day utilizes more mental endurance than physical–then, now, here, gone; and all leads to the eventual absorption in pavement or dirt.

She’s in a blue dress, periwinkle if I’m being specific. I’m not, so I’ll go with blue. The back of her head resembles a helmet. Is that a bob? I still can’t recount who she is. I know who I am–the recluse–the stereotypical nerd whose Saturday evenings were best spent programming in VCC++ 6.0, learning the song of FORTRAN, and LINUX–were? Who am I fooling? They still are.

I turn. The bookstore’s having a sale–twenty-five percent off this weekend only. When it rains, I crave an adventure with Herman Melville, to ride along on the Pequod. Will they have a copy?

A tragic journey on the high-seas or a by-the-hour hotel encounter with a chic I don’t recall?

Chanting along with the infamous quarter-deck scene or waiting in a café incapable of mixing caffeinated beverages?

Pages of winding plot, or hours of wondering why anyone would be wearing such a hideous shade of my favorite color?

The bell clanks as I enter. The clerk glances up. “Can I help you?”

“Certainly, you don’t happen to have Melville, do you?”

 

cocky tails TO CURVES

As I wrap up the final touches on “Cocky-Tales” anthology, I can’t help but be grateful–not for the situation of #cockygate and the inane need to monopolize words–but for the experience. I am thankful that life challenged me with a project that I never thought I would be a part of.

In the end, it wasn’t actually me. It was all of the wonderful authors and poets from a gamut of writing backgrounds coming together and sharing their talents that made “Cocky-Tales” possible.

A few observations–I have a sincere appreciation for publishers who piece together anthologies. People, this is not an easy feat. There’s advertising for submissions, reading those submissions, writing acceptances–and sadly, rejections…I’ll pause…rejections were difficult, because having received many myself…I know the let-down, contracts, edits, the cover–Created by Leslie Safford who doesn’t have any social media links–…and gosh darn-it (!!) making sure the author bios and links were correct with no spaces (spaces within links was a thing…I don’t get it).

Anyhow, kudos to people who compile anthologies on the regular…and that formatting tho…I could write a blog post about nothing but formatting. *Deep sigh*

The feeling of completing “Cocky-Tales” is awesome! I’m not sure if enough celebratory cakes exist in the world to honor the release tomorrow.

The majority of the excitement comes from the opportunity to not only learn but to give back. I think that #cockygate is a situation that could have impacted any genre; it just happened to take place in the romance community. But more so than looking at creative writing as an art that contains the genre-centric borders, the writing community is just that: community, and it is imperative that we view it from that lens.

Talk to any two authors and we will not have the same process when it comes to creative expression, and that’s what makes art so interesting–the ability that artists have to impact a variety of individuals, to express just how each person perceives the experience of life in a different way!

Don’t get me wrong–I believe in marketing and creating a unique brand. I also believe that it can be accomplished without attempting to own common use words. Words such as “cocky”, “forever”, “quantum”…are building blocks with which we create our worlds, and it’s a scary thing to believe that one person would strive to “buy” those building blocks to eliminate competition.

It happened. I hope that it won’t happen again. But I would also hope for an apology from “she who shall not be named”. (I also hope for a million dollar check, a Caribbean cruise, and a beach home–all of the above might be more likely than a simple “I’m sorry”.)

I hope that “Cocky-Tales” encourages those who have taken part in it and those who read it to continue to create and to support all forms of art.

My biggest wish is that through this anthology we illustrate the definition of coming together as a community for an important cause.

To snag your copy of “Cocky-Tales, click here! And Many Thank You’s for supporting our project!!!

 

Nature Blog 3

Now, after decades spent trying to figure out why aspects of my life have not made sense, do I understand the need for Transcendentalism. I can truly appreciate why Thoreau and Emerson spent their time surrounded by nature and in the most truest sense, were protected by it.

The earth doesn’t judge our individuality, doesn’t require us to follow along in our texts and highlight important parts of social ideas. When I allow Nature to be my teacher, she doesn’t hold a societal mirror in front of me, and she does not require me to reflect on how I fit into a mold or a box. Rather, she raises that mirror and requests that I simply reflect on my truest self–an exercise that has proved to have deep healing powers.

Can one create a sense of individuality from anywhere?

NatureBlog
“Every spirit builds itself a house; and beyond its house a world; and beyond its world, a heaven. Know then, that the world exists for you. For you is the phenomenon perfect. What we are, that only can we see. All that Adam had, all that Caesar could, you have and can do. Adam called his house, heaven and earth; Caesar called his house, Rome; you perhaps call yours, a cobler’s trade; a hundred acres of ploughed land; or a scholar’s garret. Yet line for line and point for point, your dominion is as great as theirs, though without fine names. Build, therefore, your own world.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature

I believe it is possible to be unique wherever you live. Indeed, you can be ‘weird’ or refreshingly ‘odd’. Beyond a doubt, it is not a simplistic path to follow. To deviate from the norm is a personal challenge to reflect on the dichotomy between how a person should live according to the “color in the lines” world we live in and how that person does live–essentially, it is a challenge to live without fear. This is particularly evident if, like me, you hail from the forest highlighted reverse bobs, Bunko nights, and hedges of Escalades also known as “the suburban dream”.

I’m going to contend that it was only when I isolated myself and cut off energetic chords from certain people and their judgements, whether good or bad, that I truly began to learn who I truly was.

I would go so far to say that even good judgements work to write a script, so to speak, for a person.

What was my process?

A lot of wandering through Nature.

Observing.

Embracing moments.

Stopping.

I began to study individual blades of grass, to observe the way each thin line on each piece differed from the other, to take note of the way all of these differences were clear of judgement from any other strand of grass. The individual uniqueness of every single leaf of that grass worked together to paint a portrait. That’s a beautiful thing.

I studied leaves, the way they, even in their uniqueness, work together to herald in much-needed rain or cool wind. And how, even in the fall, as they sway and pirouette to the ground on their final journey, they do this in the most content of ways. They lived their lives; no regrets. They completed their significant journey, made their contributions. In that, rested a plethora of lessons about my own personal path.

Nature helped me learn to slow down. She taught me how to pause earth and time–to take a walk and stop to look at pieces of gravel on the road, or the colors in the sky. When normally I would appreciate the beauty of something and move along, I  took three more minutes to study it, or sometimes I took an hour, or I took all day and nestled in those tranquil moments, I learned to take deep breaths–Nature is a deep breath–she is the deepest, most caring, nurturing deep breath.

And from all of this, I learned who I was and who I can become.

I recall school, how the system seemed to press that socialization is crucial. I would negate this.

NatureBlog2
“Build therefore your own world.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature

 

While being around others does work to acclimate a person to the handling of social situations and pressures, it becomes a detriment by implementing expectations that require them to fit molds: from standing in lines to standardized testing– which I realize is not the choice of the individual school but more so a reflection of a system that our society no longer translates into.

School is not the end all, be all. Academia is not the key to ‘finding yourself’.

Go outdoors; for once, don’t run through a rainstorm– stand in the middle of it. Watch the clouds dance for you and appreciate the cadence of raindrops drumming against leaves.

Nature is surely a powerful element, infinitely wise– with the ability to destroy and rebuild. The earth is our teacher and only when we listen, are we able to learn truth.

 

Submissions

 

Nah! I haven’t lost my mind–I mean, truly, who can lose what they’ve never had?

I never, ever thought I would be publishing an anthology, but I also never, ever thought I would hear of such a thing as an author trying to bully her peers by “owning” words.

Is this truly what the creative arts have come to?

I don’t think so, and because I don’t think so, I am putting out a call for submissions from other brave authors/writers who have read about this and want to say, “enough is enough”.

If that’s you, click here for more submission guidelines for “Cocky-Tales”.

PTSD Post

 

This morning I was up at four. I’m always up around three or four in the morning. Needless to say I’m guilty of scrolling through Facebook.

One of the aspects I enjoy the most is looking at my “On This Day” section and realizing just how much I have healed and how far I’ve come.

Today, I found a poster from a couple years ago about PTSD. I saved it, but the original link was from a Facebook Page named: PTSD Break the Silence , and I linked them because I don’t want to try to take any credit for this poster. Also, people should check them out because they share some great information!

Rereading this poster now, I have a few thoughts on this that I will share.

Note: I fear sounding harsh. It’s not my intention, but I have a great passion about PTSD and Domestic Violence.

I am probably going to be writing about domestic violence often this month, because May is my personal ‘Domestic Violence Awareness Month’. It’s the month I escaped seven years of domestic violence. It also marks the beginning of my lesson in establishing self-respect and boundaries with others in my life who had abused me either mentally, emotionally, or physically in the past.

Needless to say, I was an extremely damaged human–damaged to the point that I would stay up all night staring at the door and just waiting for my abuser to carry out each and every threat he had made all the times I had mentioned leaving, and damaged to the point that I couldn’t even sit through an entire statistics class without getting up to “use the restroom”– my excuse to try out the exit in the room so that if I were attacked in class, I would know where to go.

I plan on writing more about my healing journey in later posts, so I won’t go into too much detail on this one.

But, the one thing that wore me out more than my own mental and emotional anguish was that everyone around me was suddenly becoming an expert on mental illness. It was as though they went to bed and woke up with a doctorate in how to handle one’s own thoughts and healing processes.

Now, as the poster states, I believe it was all well-intended. Even so, there’s a lot of stigma that I feel necessitates erasure.

For example, “stop being a victim”. After my mother passed away, I felt frightened constantly. I felt as though my only protector had left me. In my mind, I was all alone. I felt belittled because I was constantly being called a “burden”, and I felt as though any emotions I had were worthless because anytime anyone would tell me how sorry they were for my loss, the comment was met with, “She’s too young to understand”.

I assure all three people who will read this post of one thing: I understood the loss of my own mother perfectly well.

Being raised as a victim, continuing victimhood into the teen years, and knowing no other way of life, it is extremely difficult to simply “stop being” one.

The first step for me was realizing that I was a victim. Being abused in marriage seemed, to me, like a continuation of childhood. It wasn’t until I began seeking outside sources that I even realized that, “hey, I might actually be in an abusive relationship and this is not right”.

Once I realized it, I had to process it and that took a while because I ended up reassessing my entire life to understand that the things people said to me and some of the ways I was treated ended up reshaping my entire life-script to something I never intended.

Then and only then could I get help from other sources. The most important thing was that I helped myself.

I left, and not only did I leave, later, after years of healing, I decided to flip that script. I chose to allow my experiences to empower me to bring my story to anyone who feel led to listen to it.

This sense of personal power didn’t come overnight. It wasn’t a switch I made a choice to flip.

It came from hard work, persistence, and great inner-courage.

I wish that the same people who make the comment, “Stop being a victim”. Would offer advice on how. Have you ever asked someone who said that to you how to simply “stop”? Try it sometime. Not one of them can give you a comprehensive answer.

I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in 2012. I believe that I’ve managed to heal it well. However, there are certain places I continue to avoid. I ask myself this, “is it absolutely necessary that I go here”?

If the answer is ‘no’, I decide it’s not a fight that serves my higher interest. Maybe I’m wrong, but I, like every survivor, am doing the best I can with the tools I have.

I also disagree that being abused in any way is a choice a person consciously makes.

Maybe you’re an atheist, or maybe you believe in entities like angels. That’s fine–not that you need my approval. But I believe angels exist. I think they come to earth–sometimes in human form; each time I give a few dollars to someone who’s homeless and they thank me. I thank them right back for that light in their eyes when they meet my own–it’s that spark that seems to warm my heart the rest of the day.

I also think that if angels can be here, on earth, in human form, so can demons. the Dalai Lama once said, “Nothing is as it seems”. One hundred percent truth, right there.

I remember when my abuser was going into a rage, his eyes would turn into these black, almost button-like disks. I could see deep red and black all around him. I truly wonder if he was human. Could it be that demons masquerade as people?

I would answer a resounding “yes”. If angels can, why can’t the demonic?

Scary thing. Right?

Maybe I’m wrong for “demonizing”. Perhaps that is “over the top”, but I just don’t believe that actions that are highly abusive should be qualified as human. I think that the word can be as literal or as metaphorical as one would like it to be.

So, this is all that this poster prompted me to ponder today.

I don’t believe that there’s a timeframe on personal healing. I also don’t think that those who are trying to heal are “negative people”. I see them as genuine–real life human beings having genuine, hurtful experiences and coping and moving forward the best they can.

And I would say to the people who think otherwise–those who continue to perpetuate misunderstandings no matter how well-intended, the ones who say “Why don’t you just get over it”?

I’d ask those people the same thing: Why don’t you?

Stop judging. If you can’t care about that situation–move on. Don’t speak on personal experiences you have not had.

If you are working to heal just know it is possible. You are so very allowed to work on yourself at your pace and in your own time–realize that for yourself…again, you certainly don’t need mine or anyone else’s permission.

You can do this! I promise!

Peace and Love,

Erin   patch stars

 

 

Suburban Dream Blog

Suburbia is a nap.

Not an early evening nap that fades to night and eases into the next morning,

but one of those thirty minute cat naps after which the sleeper jolts awake

in a state of confusion and spends the remainder of the slow,

technicolor day disoriented

like ordering a plate of chicken fingers at a five-star steakhouse.

Chicken fingers–no spicy mustard. Suburbia is not spicy mustard; rather,

an afternoon montage of reminiscing over a full sink of dishes and a screaming toddler–

hold that thought, the housekeeper took care of that and the preschooler’s in daycare

is a trend. The summation of which is best juxtaposed to a chain store…

at the mall…

the morning the store dispenses the twenty percent off coupon…

after all, Gucci is expensive.

Welcome to the suburbs, where cliquing it is a sure bet to a ticket to Bunko night,

with clouds, but no rain–

there’s water sprinklers that turn on right after the recycling is sat on the curb

painted in eggshell–an eggshell colored curb to match redundant, cardboard houses…

bored is the right word,

gray-colored boredom behind

house after house,

row after row,

cul-de-sac after cul-de-sac,

week after week,

day after day,

hour after hour,

minute after minute,

second after

Loser Blog.jpg

To me, contests used to be near ulcer inducing. A nuclear war so explosive that even a simple raffle could knot my stomach worse than the old box of costume jewelry I pulled out of the garage during my plight to simplify my life through the disposal of things that were no longer serving me.

Over time, I resigned myself to watching contests from afar, hesitant to enter because of the fear of losing. I already allowed other people in my life to make me believe I was loser enough, I didn’t need an incorrect ticket number or an erroneous answer during trivia to cause me to feel worse–Just a portion of my power I have taken back throughout the years.

When I started writing a few years ago, I had a friend who was just a bit more than persistent about me entering some work into online creative writing contests. Okay, fine, to be honest, she could be best juxtaposed to a mall kiosk worker selling overpriced hand lotion.

But she wasn’t selling anything. She believed in me enough to send gentle “reminders” several times a day…consistently…for a week, maybe two…about entering certain writing contests.

Eventually, I caved. No, I didn’t purchase supposedly imported hand creams guaranteed to change my life in two minutes flat. With a shaky hand and elevated blood pressure, I hit “send” on the first submission of many to a writing contest.

What if the judges laughed at it? What if no one understands it–as many often don’t quite understand my writing style? 

The possibilities that spun through my head were as relentless as traffic on 95 south at five ‘o clock on Friday evening.

BUT…But, there was hope.

I’m grateful for this experience because it led me to develop an completely new mindset of what failure is and what failure is not.

I was able to shift my mindset. Not placing in a contest isn’t losing if I’m putting everything I have into that piece.

In other words, when I am creating, I give all the energy, life, and creativity to that specific work. I have it edited and beta read. I adhere to ALL of the submission guidelines and check for easily-missed typos and errors.

The best pieces of my energy go into each and every piece of writing I submit–created, polished, and edited, to the absolute best of my ability so that when I push the “submit” button, I know, without a doubt, that I gave everything within my current skill set to that writing.

In the end, if the judges, if the world does not believe it suits them, I can shrug and say, “well, I gave all I possibly could.”

I started applying this to every part of my life. This, “give the very best that I can in the status quo of life.”

Admittedly, some days, that’s not very much, but it’s everything I have, and that’s good enough.

I wish we judged everything like that, especially during times like test taking. Is it really the “A” we’re so concerned about? The “coveted” Holy Grail known as the “honor roll”?

What if instead of pressing for specific grades we simply instilled into children that when the pencil goes down and that test paper is turned in, there was someone standing by the door and asking if there was anything they could’ve done better. If they say no with one hundred percent honesty, then no grade they could ever get would be a failure.

A lot of people, myself once included, need to change perceptions and ideas of what failure and losing is.

I believe we lose if we fail to give a project our all. And if that is the case, then maybe we should question whether we truly valued that or not. Maybe that’s an area in which reevaluation would serve us well.

By the way, I placed second in that contest…

Until Next Time,

Peace and Love,

Erin

 

 

Whos Life Anyway Blog

 

Sometimes—oh, who am I kidding—most of the time, when you you make life choices that are fulfilling to you, there will be people in your life who feel “hurt” or “angry”.

See, it’s like before you are born or even while you’re still a baby, those individuals orchestrate their own idea of what your life path should be. Then, throughout your life, they do everything to support you as long as you emulate their projected version of you.

Now, sometimes this works out, and in rare instances once you embrace your true life path, those same people will be “gracious” about bending their projections of you to assist you in becoming the best version of yourself and embracing your life’s purpose.

More often than not, this is not the case. And when you find yourself unsupported by those in your life that should be there for you most, the primary thing you must realize is that their feelings have absolutely nothing to do with your actions and everything to do with places those people must heal within themselves.

People who truly care for and love you will make a choice to heal and also move forward in their lives. They will be happy for you.

However, when a person continues to live in a bitter headspace, that negativity remains stagnant—like a swamp riddled with mosquitos.

Does it ever make you stand around and wonder, “who’s life is it, anyway?”

Realize, a lot of things a person might say to you in that moment of toxicity come from your “failure” to meet the “criteria” that they have projected upon you—failing to fulfill in them what they have never been able to fulfill within themselves.

Those people can see their shortcomings in life, but rather than change them or find a way to heal or to become whole within themselves, they have to steal pieces of you. Yes, steal…at least, I consider it stealing because they are robbing from your life to piece together their own perception of failures in life.

Of course, failure in and of itself is all perspective…can you guess what tomorrow’s post will be about?

And second, revenge—if that person feels as though you have “wronged” them by acting out in your highest good and sense of purpose—they will retaliate with below the belt comments that are unfounded and can be hurtful.

This can come to a point of downright emotional, verbal, and sometimes physical abuse. Take note: Endure none of this! I know, easier said than done. Realize that their act of lashing out at you has absolutely nothing to do with you or your actions. They are simply expressing their own fear of aspects of themselves.

This is why it is so important to take a personal inventory when you feel threatened about a quality that you dislike in someone else.

At any rate, if someone is demeaning you don’t stand there and digest the negative energy they throw at you just because somehow they’ve made you feel that you deserve it. You don’t. You never did.

Never allow another person’s choice to remain bitter, full of fear, and unfulfilled hold you back from embracing the truest, most honest and rewarding version of yourself.

Just my two cents.

Until Next Time,

Peace and Love