20k in 10 days

It’s been ten days since I started writing Saints.  This novel is–weird, for lack of a better word.  I don’t really understand it.  The story came together so nicely in those first few days.  I had almost Landon’s entire character when I woke up that Monday.  The other characters just fell together.  I didn’t really have to think about it.  They were just there.  The Saints.  The Ash family.  The cathedral.  All of it.  The plot came together fairly easy, too.  To be fair, I’m pulling influence from a lot of different places, so I’m sure that helped.  But I think it was also that I’m finally writing about religion.

I was going to say quick backstory, but things with me are never quick, and my religious journey certainly isn’t, so buckle in.

I was raised Christian.  Specifically, Episcopalian.  My mother was Catholic, my father Episcopalian.  After they were married, and the three of us were born, my mom was received into the Episcopal church in 2000.  (I’m not that great, I texted her to ask.)  She’d been going to the church for some time before then, but this was like making it “official” that she was a practicing Christian, and no longer a Catholic.

I was baptized and confirmed as a Christian.  I went to Sunday school, I attended church pretty regularly, and I had faith.  When I was thirteen, someone I knew, someone my age, died.  I really only knew him in passing, but we were friendly whenever we saw each other.  At the time, I was dating one of his friends, so I’d been spending more time with him.  The last memory I have is of walking through the halls of the old Higgins Middle School with the pair of them on the last day of school.  That summer, he passed away.  My world, my faith, was tipped upside down.

I asked for a meeting with my priest, and when I sat down, I couldn’t hold it in.  “How could God do that?” I asked.  “How could He be so cruel?”  I can’t remember what her answer was, but whatever it was, it wasn’t enough for me.  I started to question why I was here, what my purpose was, if God really existed, and if He did, what His plan could possibly be for me.  All of it felt hollow.  I continued going to service, but I started to lose focus in the sermons.  The readings weren’t speaking to me anymore.  My faith was slipping, and I didn’t know how to hold onto it.

For the next five and a half years, I felt blind.  Stranded in the dark.  My spirit was loose, wandering in nothingness.  I had nothing to believe in, no one to believe in.  I was constantly struggling in church to reconnect, but it just didn’t feel right.  I was on an island.  Everyone else had faith around me, but I was miles and miles from safety.  I couldn’t catch my breath.

When I first went to college, I had been dating my then-boyfriend for about half a year.  We decided that we were definitely cut out for the long distance life, and really, I think we did pretty good.  We lasted that entire first year, though there were some ups and downs.  When I got home for the summer, I was ecstatic to be back with him.  I planned this amazing trip for us to take to a cabin in the woods in New Hampshire, and spent all summer saving for it.  We went in July, and I found out a month later that he’d been thinking about breaking up with me the whole drive up.  When I found this out, it was because he was breaking up with me.  I did what every girl probably does when it looks like her first real, serious relationship is falling apart.  I sobbed.  I begged him not to go.  I promised things would get better.  He believed me, or he tried to, and we kept dating for another month.  Girls: please don’t do this to yourself.  Let him go.  He’s not worth it.  That last month was awful.  When he broke up with me the second time, I handed him the necklace he’d given me and told him to leave.  I didn’t cry.  I was done.

I went back to college for my sophomore year feeling more lost than ever.  I was alone.  My writing felt stagnant.  I wasn’t reading.  I didn’t want to be around my friends.  I didn’t have the boyfriend I’d spent a year and a half with.  I was hours away from my mom and dad.  I felt like I was slipping away.

In December of 2011, someone told me I should check out yoga.  When you Google the word “yoga”, this is what comes up in Wikipedia:

Yoga (/ˈjɡə/;[1] Sanskrit, योगः Listen) is a group of physicalmental, and spiritual practices or disciplines which originated in ancient India. There is a broad variety of yoga schools, practices, and goals[2] in HinduismBuddhism, and Jainism.[3][4][5] Among the most well-known types of yoga are Hatha yoga and Rāja yoga.[6]

This was the beginning of the rest of my life.

For any of you that don’t know, I’ve been practicing Tibetan Buddhism and yoga since that December in 2011.  It started as pictures of sun salutations on my phone that I did every morning.  It started as tacking on five minutes to a very small meditation practice every week.  It continued as following YouTube videos on a $20 Gaiam mat.  It continued as hour-long meditation, a slowly growing altar, and prayers in the morning.  Right now, I am currently certified as a yoga instructor, I teach three times a week at Barefoot Yoga Shala in Middleton, and I recently opened my very old goals bookmark folder from 2012 to find that I could do at least half of the asanas.  Right now, I am still practicing Tibetan Buddhism.  My altar now spreads throughout my entire room, I read Dalai Lama teachings for fun, and I’ve never felt more at peace in my spiritual practice.  I feel grounded, rooted into the earth.  I’ve found something for me, something that leaves me feeling strong and like there’s something out there in the world for everyone.

I don’t believe in God for me.  I do believe in Him for my mom and for Amy and for anyone else that needs Him.  I believe that there is something for everyone, and that all it takes is a little faith (and maybe some pixie dust) to find it.

But what does all this mean for the Saints?  Well, I went into this novel knowing that a cathedral would be a focal point for it without quite realizing what exactly that meant.  As it turns out, Landon is me.  He believes in his god, in his religion, in his faith very strongly.  He is a devout man, but he’s starting to struggle.  He doesn’t agree with some of the things his church is representing, and is starting to wonder what that means for his own faith.

Obviously, if you read my post on the National Day of Writing, you know Landon isn’t a great person.  (Duh, he kills someone.)  But he’s trying to be.  He’s trying to serve his god as best as he can while also kind of trying to save the world a little.  Yes, the murdering part is bad, but he’s got a lot on his plate.  I’m kidding, calm down.  Trust me, while I can rationalize literally anything any of my characters need to do, I usually don’t agree with them.  But what I’m writing is fiction, and a good story always has some darkness in it.  This one just happens to have all the darkness.

This really has been a strange novel to write.  Not that I’m anywhere near done, but–well, I just crossed 20k words.  Is that crazy?  That’s crazy.  It’s been 10 days.  Yesterday, I was at 10k.  I don’t know what’s going on.  Because when I was writing Pen boys like this, in an absolute fever, I felt ecstatic.  I felt like I was floating.  I felt full of magic and light and energy.  Right now, I’m just content.  I feel good, but not over the top.  I feel settled.  These chapters are taking a while to write, and instead of just moving on after I write them, I immediately go back and edit them.  Already, I want everything to be finely tuned.  I want the words to be as perfect as possible.  I want the story to be right.  Today, I was in the middle of a scene when I had to drive home, and for the first time ever, I had to continue.  I downloaded an audio recording app in the parking lot, put my headphones in, and spent the next 22 minutes writing.  I’ve never felt the urge to write so strongly that I had to find a way to keep writing.  When I got home, I made dinner, watched some TV, and sat down in front of my laptop to transcribe.  It wasn’t enough, though.  Right away, I had to edit what I’d written to make it right.  I had to reshape it, give it roots.

When it was done, I checked my word count, and was astounded to find I was at 20k.  How did that happen?  Really, I think it’s because I’m finally writing about religion.  It’s there, in little bits and pieces, in all of my novels, but it’s never been a focal point.  This time, not only am I including it, I’m embracing it.  That calm that finally found me in Tibetan Buddhism has found me in this novel.  I wanted to just type, I have arrived.  It’s not quite that, but it’s close.  I have a kinship with these characters that is so different from anyone else I’ve ever written.  These are some of the most complex, well-developed, and interesting characters I’ve ever created, and I am damn proud of them.  It feels a little like I’ve been writing their story for years, but am only just now putting the words on paper.

Now, before you start to shrink back into the shadows like, oh a book about religion no thanks, hear me out.  Because it’s not what you’re thinking.  Whatever you are thinking, flip it on its head and give it horns.

Because the Saints are going to destroy the world, and laugh while it burns.


I swear I’m sane

So, I did a thing.

Call me crazy if you want, but I think I’m really going to enjoy having this.

What is this?  My entire library in a spreadsheet.  It’s been made public, and linked there, so if you’re curious about what I own, if I’ve read it or not, and if it’s going to come off my shelves soon (IE: give it away), it’s all there.  Maybe someday I’ll add ratings, genre, and other fun stuff.

Ha, this is my Saturday night.  It’s lit.

Happy National Day of Writing!

Today is the best day.  In honor of this wonderful holiday, I thought it might be fun to share a piece of my writing.  So, without my usual rambling, here is the opening chapter for Saints.

transylmania: “ The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception of the Holy Virgin Mary is a neo-Gothic church that serves as the cathedral of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Moscow.  It is one of only...

The cathedral was where it began.  It would, incidentally, be where it ended, as well.  Before the end of all things, though, there was only this: a Saint had come in the guise of the devil.

The priest heard the devil before he saw him, though he was acutely aware that he was being allowed this mercy.  It was the still dark of dying night, of not yet morning, and the priest had come to the altar after a dream that left his bones trembling, left them cold.  It was time, he realized, for the devil to come, to take the price he saw as retribution.

Whispered words fell across sinning lips, and the lit wicks of the candles at the altar withered away.  There were so many unlit one, carefully arranged in rising levels.  Ioth, in His Holiness, stood with an iron head bowed.  A small turret of smoke twisted up toward the high, vaulted ceiling.

“Forgive me for my sins, Ioth,” the Saint said before the tip of a knife settled between the fourth and fifth rib on the priest’s left side.  The priest exhaled slowly, felt the point of the knife wedge itself a little closer to danger.

“I wonder,” the priest said softly, “if praying for forgiveness before the sin makes any difference.”

“Forethought,” the Saint said.  He had a deep, unyielding voice.  It promised to echo in the cavernous room around them, though the priest had never heard the Saint raise his voice.  His voice never betrayed the dark war that inevitably raged within, a war the priest had never seen, only sensed.

It was the kind of voice that hid in the shadows, and lurked just around corners.  It was the kind of voice children woke screaming from nightmares about, the kind of voice that tiptoed down the priest’s spine now and unleashed a slow, blistering cold through his veins.  His bones trembled with the added frost.

“Forethought,” the priest echoed now, “Rather than an appeal afterward?”

The knife turned just so, and the priest swallowed a sharp inhale, instead allowing only an easy breath.  Warmth bled from between his ribs, but he would not bow so easily to a devil, would not show his fear.  “Often,” the priest continued, “Ioth is kind in His forgiveness.  Even now, He sees you as a wayward son.  He will forgive you, if only you turn from this path.”  The priest wondered if the Saint could hear the lie on his breath, if he could taste the way it slithered out through the cracks and sunk into the pristine, marble floor beneath them.

No one would forgive this man for his sins, not even Ioth, not with his blood-heavy hands.

There was a pause, a moment for breath, and then the knife slid away from his side.  Blood welled in its wake.  The priest took a quick step forward, turned, and faced the devil with hands open, a simple surrender.  “It is not too late, my son,” the priest said quickly.  Too quickly, it seemed, for the shape of the Saint’s crooked grin was wicked, serrated like the knife that twirled through his fingers before he fell back on his heels.  The knife disappeared up one of his sleeves, and he crossed his arms over his chest.  The priest let out a careful breath, shoulders inching down away from his ears.  He could yet sway him, and would do everything in his power to do so, even if that meant pretending he was at ease, even if it meant lying.

“Your son?” the Saint asked.  “I ask forgiveness from my god, priest, not you.”

“Ioth works through His servants,” the priest said.  He forced his gaze to remain on the gaping holes in the skull mask the Saint wore as he silently prayed.

After his last visit from the Saint, the priest had sat at his desk, hands trembling, and allowed himself several long moments to breathe before he took up a pen and wrote out a list of the things he knew about the Saint in an effort to devise his identity.

Beneath the skull mask, which the priest was convinced the Saint had tirelessly cleaned the flesh and blood from himself, he was fair-skinned.  There was always kohl smudged around his eyes, making the unnaturally steady gaze of his pale, grey eyes haunting.  The kohl also made the freckles dashed across his skin less noticeable, though, and the priest had marked this as important.  To hide them must mean they were a family trait.

He had a sheaf of dark hair that was always tousled from the wind, and had once been wearing a black cloth wrapped around his neck with the etchings of the lower half of the skull on it.  These two things had told the priest that the Saint traveled a great distance to reach the cathedral, and that he had enough money to own a hellcat.

When the priest had sat back to observe his list, he’d found it lacking.  There were many rich boys that this Saint could be, but none that he could think of that would threaten a holy man on hallowed ground.  The cathedral was sacred.  The city of Oberá worshipped here, cleansed their sins here, begged for mercy here, loved here.  There were very few people who would dare stain these white walls with crimson.  He’d vowed to discover the Saint’s identity before the next time—he was certain there would be a next time, and was determined to be prepared.  It hadn’t occurred to the priest until now, as he held the unwavering grey eyes of the devil, that the Saint had never called himself that—a saint.  Why did the priest think of him as one?

“Have you solved the riddle yet, priest?” the Saint asked.

The priest dropped his eyes, and bowed his head.  He knew where this devil was from, knew what shadows he crawled out of, knew now why he was here.  “He was not natural,” the priest said to the Saint’s black booted feet.

He could still hear the awful silence that had seeped into their bones and made them fearful of the boy they’d captured.  It was that, the silence, that had made them release the boy back into the world.  Doubt leeched up their throats like poison, and set them seeking the dark corners of their hearts.  It wasn’t until the priest had thrown open the door to his cell, dragged him through the cathedral, and reeled away from him at the front door, his bare hand smoking as it burned, that the darkness left them.  The boy, bruised and bleeding and still silent, had stared at him, unflinching.  The priest began to back up as the boy’s mouth started to curve, a smile so full of shadows that the cathedral sighed around them.

Three months ago, one of the deacons brought the boy back to the cathedral, and they locked him in a cell.  They stripped him of his dark clothes, whispering to Ioth as they uncovered pale skin littered with scars.  They dunked his head beneath cool, blessed water, his grey hair fanning out like something living, and stumbled away from him when he opened his mouth, swallowing it down.  They pressed iron to his skin, murmuring prayers when he closed his vacant grey eyes as though in relief.

Three days later, in the dead of night, they released him, their experiments incomplete.  The sun was a feeble thing that morning when the Saint visited them for the first time.

“May Ioth have mercy on your dark soul,” the Saint said.

The priest lifted his gaze to the heavens, and prayed.

He died before the words left his soul.

He fell, his limbs tangling together, his blood spilling across the marble ground beneath him.  His throat was carved into an ugly smile, his open eyes still searching for his god as the Saint wiped his knife on the priest’s white sleeve, sheathed the blade, and turned away.  His footsteps made no noise, but a small, stubborn green bud sprouted in the pooling blood as he walked away.

In an hour, the bells of Widald Cathedral would ring in mourning, and the city would flood its halls, vultures drawn to tragedy.  But it was not yet morning, and the Highlands of Oberá were still doused in a quiet, sleepy darkness.  They did not see the Saint slip out through a side door in the cathedral, did not see the bone mask carefully stowed in a pocket of his jacket, did not see the moment the Saint disappeared, and Landon arrived.

Auto-Buy Authors

I know it’s only been three days since my last post, but I had some time off yesterday, and I realized a thing.  I’ve read 68 books this year.  68!  That’s crazy.  Just bonkers.  It took me years to work up to reading 50 books a year.  It always seemed so impossible, like–how the hell does someone even read 50 books in one year?  And then, last year, I did it.  A few over 50, actually.  I was so proud of myself that I decided to up the count to 75 this year.  I thought, ha, that’s unlikely.  I’m going to come in at 60 or something.  No way will I actually make it to 75.

But.  But!  I’m at 68, and it’s only October.  Not only that, but I’ve already read 6 books this month.  My average has been about 6 books per month this year, and I’ve already reached that only halfway through the month.  What.

Okay, I know this doesn’t seem all that cool, and maybe it isn’t, but I’m really impressed with myself.  Reading has always been a great love of mine, but also not something I avidly did.  Which always annoyed me, and which I always wanted to improve upon.  Also, come on, when was the last time you read 68 books in one year?  I’m happy about this.

In light of this achievement, I thought it might be fun to look at my auto-buy authors.  Now, I’ve talked about this a few times, but for those of you who are new to this term, I just heard it recently on the web.  (I’m rolling my eyes, too, it’s okay.)  I was watching jessethereader, my absolute favorite booktuber, when he just dropped the term, casual as you like, and it occurred to me that, well, I have a lot of those.

What is an auto-buy author?  It’s someone who you buy their books no matter what they’re about, sometimes without even knowing what they’re about, simply because said author wrote them.

So, without further ado, here are my top seven auto-buy authors.  This will be broken down by who, how many books I own and have read, why they’re an auto-buy, how I got into them, and what you should read first if you’re interested in diving in.

Who: Maggie Stiefvater
How Many Books–Read/Own: 17/17
Why/How: Literally no one is surprised that Maggie is at the top of my list.  I first discovered Maggie’s writing in high school.  It was 2009, my junior year, and I was in Barnes & Noble.  Confession: I really hadn’t read a lot of YA up to that point, and still wouldn’t read a lot until about a year ago.  However, I was browsing around and stumbled across this book with this beautiful cover.  It was all blue, tree branches circling around the word Shiver with a little red dot hovering over the i and a wolf in the corner.  I’m a sucker for pretty covers, so I picked it up, found out there were werewolves in it, and immediately bought it.  The rest, as they say, is ancient history.  I was hooked.  Like, I’m taking I gave it to every single friend within reach.  I was adamant that people needed to read this woman’s writing because she was going to take over the world.  I wasn’t wrong.  A year later, she published Linger, the sequel, and I went to her signing in Natick.  I was starstruck.  All I managed to do was stare at her, mouth agape, just stunned by the fact that Maggie Stiefvater (pronounced Steve-otter) was sitting in front of me.

Life went on.  Forever came out, I wept at the end of a truly wonderful series, and eagerly awaited her next novel.  The Scorpio Races came out in 2011, I gobbled that up, and then  it was a waiting game.  Not that long, really, but I was in college when the first Raven Cycle novel came out, so it felt like a lifetime in between The Scorpio Races and The Raven Boys.  Up to that point, I hadn’t yet read the Books of Faerie because I thought faeries were dumb.  I’m still mad at myself for that.  Faeries are terrifying, first of all, and often homicidal, second of all.  Lament and Ballad were a welcome relief during the year before The Raven Boys.  And then–well, magic.  The Raven Cycle is perhaps some of my favorite writing from any author in the world.  Shiver still remains my favorite novel by Maggie, and I honestly do reread it every winter, but TRC is just–there aren’t even really words for what it is.  A gateway, for me, and a brand new look into the world.  TRC is the reason I finally put down Ronan and started writing YA.  It is also the reason I finally started reading YA again.

So yes, I have read every single thing Maggie has ever published, and I’m not even ashamed.  She’s an amazing writer.  Her command of language is masterful.  Her story-telling is out of this world.  Her characters will stay with me forever.  Not only do I own more books of hers than I do anything else on my shelf, but she is also my favorite author.  If you think I’m lying, here is me pouring out my soul, not oncenot twice, but three times, about how much I love her words.
What to Read First: The Scorpio Races.  It’s a standalone, and it really showcases the beauty of Maggie’s language.  It’s about horses that are born of the water, which makes them incredibly difficult to tame and prone to violence.  There’s a race every year on the beach with these horses.  This is the story of one horse, and the two people who loved him.  I reread it every November.

Who: Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman
How Many Books–Read/Own: 10/17
Why/How: These books.  These books, guys.  Okay, so what I own is all DragonLance.  Have they written anything else?  I read Lord of the Rings before DragonLance, but DL is what got me into fantasy and reading.  Yes, Harry Potter was a huge part of my life, and is definitely the reason I’m a writer and reader today, but DL was the start of it all.  I read LOTR when I was too young the first time, and didn’t really absorb anything, but DragonLance–oh man.  These books.  These goddamn books.

Okay, so DL is the worst of the worst guilty pleasure fantasy.  You know how sometimes people go, ugh, trashy romance paperbacks.  Well, hi.  This is trashy fantasy paperbacks, and I freaking love it.  Not only did I want to be Raistlin Majere when I was younger, I wanted to be with him.  He was my first real fictional crush.  I was so in love with him, it wasn’t even funny.  I used to spend all my time on DragonLance forums, reread the first three books numerous times, and just generally made my dad roll his eyes constantly over my babbling about them.

What is DragonLance?  It is, get this, a story inspired by a game of D&D.  I’m not even lying to you.  There’s elves, halflings, kender, dwarves, mages, dragons, and a million other things.  There’s so much.  Noble knights, fainting ladies, evil half-sisters, different robe colors for different mage levels, a legendary lance–my goodness, these books.
What to Read First: Honestly, maybe don’t?  These books are really awesome, but like–also not.  They’re good, they really are, but you have to go into them knowing what they are.  If you do want to read them, I’d suggest starting at the beginning.  Dragons of Autumn Twilight.  I can’t recommend much past that trilogy and the Legends trilogy, though.

Who: Lemony Snicket
How Many Books–Read/Own: 9/13
Why/How: Alright, the only reason Snicket is in here is because I bought all of A Series of Unfortunate Events, and I really don’t have any other authors that have written that many books.  However, he’s probably not even in my top 50 favorite authors, and it’s taking me this long to get through the series because good grief, it’s obnoxious.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I do really enjoy ASOUE, but I definitely would have enjoyed it more as a child.  The repetitive plot has gotten to the point where it’s often difficult to read a book in less than a week because I just want to be doing literally anything else than watching predictable Count Olaf scheme something predictable and predictably get caught by the Baudelaire’s while everyone predictably doesn’t believe them.  Yawn.  They’re good, just better when you’re not 25.  Someday, I’ll finish reading these.
What to Read First: The Bad Beginning.  Ha, that’s because it’s the first one.

Who: JK Rowling
How Many Books–Read/Own: 11/12
Why/How: Oh, Harry.  I actually have a picture for this one:
I’ve been waiting for the right time to share this picture.  It’s from 1999, which means, as pictured, only the first three had been published.  This is Christmas, and that’s little ole me running over to my dad, who’s holding the beginning of my reader/writer life.  Wow.  While Maggie is my favorite author, these are my favorite books.  There’s really no way for me to put into words how I feel about them.  It’s this all-encompassing warmth that makes literally everything else fall away.  It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve read them.  Every time I start again, it feels like coming home.  There is nothing in the world as great as Harry.

So, at age 7, I was first introduced to Rowling via Harry Potter.  My dad, over the next few years, read the first three to me.  By the time I got to the fourth grade, I read the fourth one on my own, and then it was just a few short months before Order of the Phoenix came out.  I currently have four HP tattoos–the Marauders pawprints (also my first), Sirius’s signature from his letters and his Azkaban numbers, the three stars at the top of the pages, and Harry’s glasses with the lightning bolt.  If that doesn’t tell you just how much these words mean to me, I don’t know what will.

Admittedly, I have not read anything else by Rowling.  Outside of Harry, I mean.  I have read the Fantastic Beasts screenplay and, ughCursed Child (I know she didn’t write it, but still), and what have you, but I haven’t read anything by Robert Galbraith, or her adult novel.  This is purely because I can’t separate her from Harry, and that’s my own fault.  Hopefully, someday.
What to Read First: Duh, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

Who: Ellen Hopkins
How Many Books–Read/Own: 10/12
Why/How: I first started reading these books in high school, as I’m sure most people my age did, but I continued reading them long after.  There are two (maybe three, whoops) of the ones I own that I haven’t read, but that’s just because I started to forget which stories were which, and which ones I’d read.  Now that they’re all out, I’d like to someday go back and read them again, but we’ll see if that ever happens.

These are great books for when you’re in high school.  It’s the perfect kind of angst, and it’s everything you need at that time.  They’re all, with the exception of Collateral and Triangles, written as poetry, and it’s both a really interesting format and a really fitting one.  While I was creating this list, there was some authors I didn’t want to put on here (hence why it’s seven instead of ten) because I just don’t read them anymore or consider them someone I would auto-buy, but I auto-bought Hopkins for a long time, and still really enjoy the stories she told.
What to Read First: Crank.  Not even because it’s the first, but because it’s the best.

Who: David Mitchell
How Many Books–Read/Own: 7/7
Why/How: College, sophomore year, 2012.  I was in screenwriting class, and my professor showed us the trailer for an upcoming film, Cloud Atlas.  He said it was going to blow our minds.  Spoiler: it did.  The trailer is just wild.  I’ve linked it here so you can experience what I did.  Watch the whole thing.  I mean it.

So, we watch this totally bizarre trailer, and fangirl me sees that it has Ben Whishaw in it (The Hour & Q from the James Bond films, though the reason I first fell in love with him was when he played Keats in Bright Star).  This is how I watch movies and TV shows.  I find an actor/actress I like, and I watch everything they’ve ever been in.  Or, at least, I try to.  The only one that’s successfully happened with is Chris Evans.  However, I like to read books before I watch their film adaptations, so I bought Cloud Atlas, forgot about it, the movie came out, and time went out.  Probably half a year later, I decided it was high time I watched this movie, so I dug up the book, and dug in.


The first time you ever read this novel, I hope you do the same thing I did.  I got to the end of the first chapter, yelled something probably profane, and immediately flipped to the end of the book.  That never happens, but it certainly did this time.  Why?  Because chapter one ends in the middle of a sentence.  A riveting sentence, too.  In the middle of a story.  Every chapter, the same thing happens, though in different ways.

And that was that.  I read Cloud Atlas, mostly enjoyed it (that sixth life is a tough one to get through), and didn’t think twice about it.  Two years later, in 2014, I finally purchased Black Swan Green, and spent months reading it.  I just found my old review of it, which reads, “The thing that continues to amaze me is that almost nothing happens in this novel, and yet, it is incredibly written, and the story it tells is beautiful.”  At that point, I knew I wanted to read more, so two years later, in 2016, I purchased The Bone Clocks, thought I was going to be reading another nothing happens for most of the book, got to about page 60, and went, “Wait, what just happened?  Did someone just steal someone’s soul?  Wait, what.”  Probably another 100 pages, and I stumbled across the name Hugo Lamb, and–wait.  Hugo Lamb was in BSG.  What is going on here?  You would think I would just Google it, but nah.  That’s not fun.  So, I read the whole thing, it’s my favorite book out of all of his, I decided I should definitely give A Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet a read, and is that Marinus from Bone Clocks?  David Mitchell, you scoundrel, what in the world are you up to?  I’m also linking a review of Mitchell that finally explained what was going on.  No, his books are not in a series, but yes, they are connected.

Holy hell on high water, this is exhausting.  All of this is dandy, but the question remains, are the words good?  Hell yes.  They’re some of the best words I’ve ever read in the adult fiction world, and I cannot wait for his next one.
What to Read First: This is a tough one.  Probably Cloud Atlas.  That way, you’re in the world without actually diving into the craziness of it.  Cloud Atlas follows the same soul through six different lifetimes, and talks about how those different lifetimes are actually connected.

Who: Cassandra Clare
How Many Books–Read/Own: 6/8
Why/How: Here is a story about a reader who judged a book by its cover.  In high school, I’m not sure what year, my current critique partner, Patrick, and then good friend, gave me this book.  City of Bones.  It had a half-naked man on the cover.  I put it on my shelf, and promptly forgot about it.  No thanks.  I am a classy reader.  I don’t read books with half-naked men on the covers.  Who do you think I am, someone who reads trashy paperwork romances?  Oh god, I hate myself, it’s okay if you do, too.  But that was seriously my thought process back then.  EVEN WHILE READING TWILIGHT.  I have no words.  I’m sorry.

Fast forward to 2012, and Jamie Campbell Bower is starring in a new film, City of Bones.  Let’s remember that I follow actors/actresses into everything they do.  I love Jamie in his role as King Arthur, so I researched what this City of Bones nonsense was, realized it was the book Patrick gave me and I then threw to the wolves, cringed a bit, and started reading.  Started, in about December of 2012, and was done with City of Lost Souls by the end of January 2013.  That’s the fifth book in the series.  And let me tell you, these things are not small.  That’s 788k words in a month and a half.  I’m sorry, what?  Yeah, so, I had a new favorite series, apparently.  In the end, the movie was not that great, but the Freeform TV show, Shadowhunters, is amazing, so definitely go check that out if you’re a fan of the books.

Now, I only own TMI and two books of the Infernal Devices trilogy, and that is an actual tragedy.  I desperately want to own and read The Dark Artifices trilogy and the other companion books, I just haven’t gotten around to it.  Someday, I swear.  I also desperately want to reread all of TMI, and just immerse myself in the world forever.  It’s so complex, and so fun.  It’s got werewolves, vampires, faeries, demons, angels, demon hunters, and the best romance in the world.
What to Read First: City of Bones.  Not only because it’s the first, but because I think it’s a really good jumping point for the Shadowhunter world.  Truthfully, I’ve only read a bit of Clockwork Angel and nothing else, but I put that down because it was quite dry, so COB feels like a good place to start.

Extras!  So, this was originally going to be my top ten auto-buy authors, but the last three authors in this list were not authors that I read anymore, and not ones that still stand out in my current reading life, or even the past decade.  Thus, I’ve decided to add three authors to this list that will be auto-buy authors.  For one of them, she just doesn’t have enough books to make this list, but I will definitely continue to purchase everything she writes.  For the other two, I don’t have the means to buy all their books, but I’m working on it.

Who: Victoria/VE Schwab
How Many Books–Read/Own: 3/4
Why/How: I first bought A Darker Shade of Magic and This Savage Song on a book haul this year in February.  I try not to buy more than one book by an author at the same time if I haven’t read them before, but I ended up with both of these purely by accident.  They both sounded so good, and I just ended up buying them both that day.  It took me a long ass time to finally read ADSOM.  Really, it wasn’t until I got in touch with Patrick again that I read it.  He raved about it, and he’d already led me down one rabbit hole with TMI, so I put my trust in him and started reading.  Maybe two weeks later, I was done reading the series?  Heck yeah.

Kell Maresh for life.

Seriously, I love the Shades of Magic trilogy so much, and I can’t wait for the new series to come out in that same universe.  I can’t wait for all of her things.  I just started reading This Savage Song, and it’s freaking amazing.  I put Vicious on my Christmas list, and I just want to read everything by her.  Someday, when I have enough money, I’ll just do an entirely Schwab book haul, and it will be glorious.

SOM is about four Londons in four different universes, and how magic affects each one.  It’s absolutely beautiful, and the angst–oh, the angst.  If there’s one thing Schwab is good at it, it’s the darkness inside.  She will ruin you, and you’ll thank her for it.
What to Read First: I’ve only read SOM so far, so I’m a bad judge of character, but I think A Darker Shade of Magic is a great way to begin.

Who: Leigh Bardugo
How Many Books–Read/Own: 1/2
Why/How: Okay, let’s just think about this for a minute.  I’ve read one (ONE) book by this author, and she’s already on my auto-buy list.  I put the entire Grisha trilogy and Language of Thorns on my Christmas list because wow.  WOW.  I absolutely devoured Six of Crows, and I want so much more of all of it.  Bardugo’s characters, her incredible and well-developed plot, her intense language, all of it.  I want more.  So much more.  I want to read all the things, all the times.  I was sick this week, and, honest to goodness, I didn’t read Crooked Kingdom because I wanted to be at full capacity when I finally dug back into that universe.  Yeah.  It’s that good.
What to Read First: I’ve literally only read Six of Crows, so that’s all I can recommend as a starting point.

Who: Alwyn Hamilton
How Many Books–Read/Own: 2/2
Why/How: if Alwyn had more books published, I would already own and have read them.  So far, she’s only written and published Rebel of the Sands and its sequel, Traitor to the Throne.  Hero at the Fall, the final book in the trilogy, is due out March 2018, and I might already have it preordered, whoops.  Jen has also told me that she wants to buy it when it comes out because she can’t bear the idea of waiting until I’m done reading so she can read.

Alwyn writes about magic and fierce women, and is a lot of both of those things herself.
What to Read First: Rebel of the Sands, obviously.

And that’s that.  I hope you enjoyed, and for more book fun, follow me on Goodreads!


the Saints

I’m still not really ready to talk about this novel.

It’s not like it’s some big secret that I can’t talk about, either, so I’m not sure why I don’t want to talk about it.  I mean, honestly, if you go on their Pinterest, it’s pretty damn obvious what this is about.

“Guns and murder and evil grinning.”  That’s what I told Patrick it was about.  And it is.  This will be the darkest novel I’ve written yet, full of killing people (seriously, someone dies in the first chapter), more guns than you thought possible, horrific backstories for each of the characters, and a cliffhanger that will make you hate me.  Which, I guess, still doesn’t really tell you what it’s about.  Okay.

Religion and magic.

There it is.  Think Peaky Blinders meets Six of Crows meets the Angelus trilogy.  Don’t know what those are?  Peaky Blinders is a truly amazing Netflix show about Birmingham in the 1920s.  The main characters are all post-WW1 men returning to their life with the Peaky Blinders, a gang who sometimes just does booking, but also sometimes plays with fire.  If you’re curious what kind of character Landon will be, just watch the first 5 minutes of season one episode one, the scene with the horse and the red dust.  Oh, and did I mention it’s got Cillian Murphy?  Mhm.

Six of Crows is a novel by Leigh Bardugo that rocked my freaking world.  It’s about a gang known as the Dregs who basically run the town.  They’re all thieves, have questionable motives, and just want to make some money.  They’re presented with an impossible-to-resist heist that will land them with some serious money, and somehow find themselves in the midst of a war between humans and those with magic, or Grishas.

The Angelus trilogy is a set of novels by Jon Steele.  It’s about Christianity, really, but set in modern times.  The archangel Michael is in there, though I’m not saying who because it was a pretty cool twist.  This is not the story of Christianity that you’re thinking, either.  It’s dark and gritty, and it only just barely has a happy ending.  I was really inspired by the world Steele created, though, and knew, upon starting Saints, that I wanted religion to play a large piece of this story.  Particularly, I wanted a cathedral as the focal point of my world.

So, what is Saints novel about?  The Saints are a gang of do-gooders.  They try not to be, but, deep down, that’s what they are.  They were given the name the Saints because that’s what they do–they save people.  They turned their home, the Lowlands of Obera, into somewhere that wasn’t dying, but rather, was learning how to survive.  They help those with magic escape the deadly gaze of the Ash family.  They give homes to refugees, help those that have lost their way, and generally just try to protect their city.

That doesn’t stop them from occasionally killing people, whoops.  They’re all very violent, and won’t back down from a fight.  They’ve had the worst sort of upbringings you can imagine, and it shows.  They’re hell bent on a world that accepts everyone, and they’ll use any means necessary to achieve that, even if those means include spilling a little a lot of blood.

The novel, then, is about the Saints fighting back against the Ash family.  The Ash family is like the Black family.  They’re the oldest of the old, and are basically the kings and queens of Obera.  They’ve got this manor (think Malfoy manor, but bigger) that sits against the Black Mountains, the highest point in the city, dead center so you can see it no matter where you are in the city.  Papa Isaiah Ash’s goal in life is to either exterminate all those with magic, or to somehow figure out how to separate the magic from them.  Fortunately, the city doesn’t support him.  Unfortunately, the church does.  Now, the thing you have to understand is that religion rules Obera.  Even if the city doesn’t support the senseless annihilation of many of their citizens, they kind of turn a blind eye when it comes to the church’s support.

The church is actually where this story starts.  In Widald Cathedral, which rivals the Ash family manor in size, and is in the literal heart of the Highlands of Obera, we meet a priest and the Saint for the first time.  The Saint?  Landon, our main character.  Spoiler alert: he kills the priest in this first chapter. Whoops.

Listen, he’s angry.  They kidnapped one of his Saints and tortured him.  The priest had it coming.  But who are these Saints?

Meet the Saints. Madison. Amethyst. Six of coins. Generous mother. Vivian. Sodalite. Wheel of fortune. Faith in Something More. Landon. 💀 Citrine. Ace of cups. Beginnings. Ezra. Lepidolite. The Magician. Power comes from Something More. Miles....

Meet the Saints.

Madison. Amethyst. Six of coins. Generous mother.
Vivian. Sodalite. Wheel of fortune. Faith in Something More.
Landon. 💀 Citrine. Ace of cups. Beginnings.
Ezra. Lepidolite. The Magician. Power comes from Something More.
Miles. Hematite. Knight of coins. Steady and unflinching.

They are the tall, dark strangers those warnings prepared you for.

That was my exact post yesterday, which is pretty cryptic, but again, I’m feeling weird about sharing this story.  I’m wondering if it’s because I didn’t have a lot of help when creating it.  Usually, as we’ve seen in the past, Erin is involved in a big way.  Even recently, Patrick has been helping a lot.  And while both of them were involved in the creating part of this, most of it happened overnight.  I’m not even lying.  Here’s how it happened.

Last Saturday, I received a surprise crystal from Jenny in the mail.  She’d bought it for herself, but when she got home, she realized it wasn’t for her.  She sent it to me with a note that said it was for a story or a character.

The next day, last Sunday, I finished reading Six of Crows.

That Monday, I woke up with a character, most of a plot, and some basic world ideas.

Uh, what?

Fast forward to the end of the day last Monday, and I had Landon’s name, the characters surrounding them, and most of the world-building done.  Throughout that week, I worked on the rest of the world, figured out the finer details of the plot, and pinned everything in sight.

On Sunday, yesterday, I started writing.  (And rewatching Peaky Blinders.)

The thing is, I think I need to move forward with my novels instead of looking back.  I’m sure that, eventually, Mason and I will get along again.  But, for right now, I need to stop trying to live in the past and just start creating new stories.  Thus, the Saints.

Landon is their king.  Some people call him the devil.  He wears a bone mask when he’s getting his hands dirty, will gut you like a fish if you even look at his Saints wrong, and has a terrible secret that I’m not telling.  This novel is, truly, the beginning of his life, which means the end has to happen somewhere in there.

Madison is his right-hand woman.  She and Landon are very close, and would do anything to protect one another.  She’s a literal genius, and has a special love for things that go boom.  She’s the Saints’s explosions expert, and listens to crap music.

Vivian is an escape artist.  She’s quiet on her feet, and loud in her conviction.  She wields a katana, thinks Landon’s aesthetic is the most annoying thing in the world, and just wants everyone to leave her alone so she can finally find peace and a sense of belonging.  Little does she know that her home, something’s she been searching for years, is right in front of her.

Ezra is my personal favorite.  I know you’re not supposed to have favorites, but here we are.  He is shy and quiet, often lingers in the shadows, and wears all black in an effort to disappear.  He is gifted with fire, and will likely blow someone up on accident at some point.  He’s like a little brother to all of them, though is also the most deadly out of all of them.

And then there’s Miles.  Not only did I give him hematite, but I pulled the knight of coins for him.  Steady and unflinching.  He is their rock.  He is the most sensible Saint, adores any and all guns (as well as knife fights in the dark), and will always be the one to keep them alive.

The Saints.

I’ve got two chapters written already, and damn.  It feels good to be back.


I have a secret, and I don’t want to tell.

It’s a writing secret.

It’s not really a secret since I’ve already told four people about it, but it feels like if I send it out into the universe via this blog, then something will happen, and that something might not be good, so instead, I’m not going to put it out there yet.  Soon, but not yet.

I don’t know why I feel like something bad will happen.  Maybe I’m just overly cautious because I’ve been so–there’s not a right word for it.  A bunch of squiggly lines all on top of each other.  Static noise given shape.  I hate the word limbo.  I don’t want to say I’ve been in limbo.  I’ve been hanging out in purgatory?  Sure, what the hell, whatever.

Nothing’s working.  Pen boys summer novella felt right, and then it didn’t.  Mason still feels right, but it also doesn’t.  I’m ready for Mason, and I’m not.  I don’t know.  I do know.  I don’t have a plot, but I want to play with his character, and that’s stopping me from doing so.  Rightfully; I mean, if I don’t have a plot, I don’t have a story.

I’m so aggravated.

But I have a secret.

A writing secret.

It’s two days old.  You won’t find it listed in my current projects.  It wasn’t a thing until I started dreaming Sunday night.  It’s–a lot of things combined.

I’ll give you two hints.  What inspired it, and the Pinterest board.

Inspirations include: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke, and Peaky Blinders (Netflix).

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

Who are the Saints?

Writing is HARD; Or: the art of letting go

Writing is hard.

I wrote a little about this last night, but only vaguely.  I’ve been in limbo for a while.  After I finished the Pen boys, I spent some time reading, and then jumped back into Alex the Destroyer.  I only had about six chapters left to write for him, and still have a few left to add into the overall story when I work on the second draft, but the last few chapters didn’t take long.  And once his story was complete, I was left feeling uprooted.  I’m nowhere near ready to go back to Ronan.  I think it’s very possible that won’t happen for several years.  I didn’t even think of him as a possibility.  The next step was supposed to be Mason, but nothing I did for that felt right, not that I honestly actually did anything, but even just thinking about it felt wrong.  I tried to work on Andrew, the vampire detective.  I figured out all of my characters and their backstories, worked on the overall plot, started organizing the Pinterest board, and prepared to plot out the first novel.  Alas, that wasn’t right, either.

I tried, for a brief second, to set my sights on a brand new novel idea, the witch sisters, that has a loose plot and full characters already worked out, but, let’s be honest, it’s probably going to take several books about boys before I’m ever going to be able to write a book about a girl.  I wasn’t frustrated with this idea not working, though, because I was starting to feel Oliver and James all around me.  James crept up during a yoga class, and Oliver started haunting my dreams again.  They were whispering to me from the shadows, what about us?  It had never occurred to me that I might just keep writing the Pen boys, that I might write the summer novella next.

This blog is important, not just because it’s me rambling about why writing is hard, but because writing is hard.  In yoga, something that consistently bothers me is how happy everyone is.  Now, I know this sounds terrible.  Joy is a good thing.  It is, truly, but without darkness, there is no balance.  For a while, I was only following yoga people on Instagram that were always doing handstands and writing inspiring posts.  That’s not real life.  I started to reevaluate how I wanted to live my yoga, and started following people instead that showed the trial and error of poses, that talked about the crappy day they’d been having and how yoga helped them out of that mindset, that were not sunshine and kittens all the time.  You need balance.  You need light as much as you need darkness.  I talk about self-love almost every class.  I understand the need to give love to others, to the world, but how are you going to give love if your well is empty?  Practice self-love so that you can love the world.  Maintain balance.  Show the world how you fell over in wheel pose, and got right back up to try again.

With authors, I don’t see a lot of this.  I’m sure that there are some authors out there who think writing is easy, and they just toss out novels like it’s nobody’s business, but I haven’t witnessed that yet.  Every single author I follow on social media is always flailing about deadlines, wants to scrap everything they’ve written, hurts their characters just because they’re stuck and need a temporary way out, or is just going batshit crazy.

Writing is hard.

It is.  It’s the hardest thing you’re ever going to try to do.  And sometimes, when it’s the hardest is when you’re not even doing it.  Lately, I’ve felt like I don’t know how to write anymore.  The first Pen boys novel is good.  I’m really pleased with the place it’s in right now, with the waves it’s made.  I’ve got a lot of work to do on it (mostly trimming, A LOT of trimming), but I’m really, really happy with it.  Alex the Destroyer is better than I ever imagined it could possibly be.  It’s everything I always wanted to write for him, and more.  I’m so proud of myself.

But now?

Eh.  I’m not so sure.

I started writing the Pen boys summer novella, and then stopped about halfway into the first chapter and just frowned at it for a few days.  Ultimately, I deleted everything, and started over again.  I got about 10k in, frowned at it some more, and deleted the fourth chapter.  I meant to go back and keep going, but I was starting to ask a very dangerous questions–what’s the point?  In yoga, in forward folds, I always say the point is not the toes.  Don’t reach for those toes.  They’re not important.  Fold naturally.  Do what feels good to you, not what the ego wants you to do.

Practice what you preach, right?

So, I stopped fighting.  I stopped letting my insane brain tell me that if I wasn’t writing, I wasn’t a writer.  Ever had that problem?  Don’t lie, you have.  Every writer has.  If you’re not actively writing a novel, then can you even call yourself a writer?  Yes, of course.  Even if you’re not actually writing something, you are a writer because writing is not always about words.  Sometimes, writing looks like creating Pinterest boards to organize ideas and find inspiration.  Sometimes, writing looks like reading for research, or traveling for research.  Sometimes, writing looks like staring off into the distance while you’re stuck in traffic, arguing with a character in your head or trying to figure out the puzzle pieces of your plot.  And sometimes, it’s none of these things, because sometimes, it’s just reading for fun, it’s going out to take your mind off things, it’s binge watching on Netflix, it’s anything that isn’t writing because sometimes, you just need to sit back and let it happen.

Okay.  Okay.  Practice what you preach.

The past few weeks, I’ve binged Shameless.  I’d watched all the way through season five, and then threw in the towel when I heard that Mickey wasn’t going to be in season six.  He’s my favorite character, and I was angry with his departure.  Come season seven, there were rumors, and then confirmations, that he was back, so I decided to rewatch the first five and then finally watch six and seven.  I’ve read a crap ton of books.  Mostly YA, and mostly with magic, but really, just anything I could get my hands on.  I’m talking six books in a month, which is just ridiculous.  Who has that kind of time?  I watched movies whenever I felt like it, I went to a few yoga classes that I wasn’t teaching, I went apple picking, hung out at my parents, adventured around Ipswich, and just lived life.  I stopped fighting.  If nothing was right, then why push it?  Instead, I decided to try waiting for it.

It?  I don’t know.  The urge to write?  Nah, because I have that.  A muse?  Not even really that, because I know which stories I want to write, and I want to write something.  What is it, then?  I think it’s the meat.  My bones are that I want to write, but I’ve got no meat to work with.

Now, I know I sometimes get a little, as we call it, hippie dippie woo woo.  Go ahead, laugh.  I know that sometimes people roll their eyes at me when I start seeing signs, or when I post my tarot readings, or even when I talk about breathing light and space in yoga.  I get it.  I know I sound crazy sometimes.  Or, consider this, I just sound like a witch.  Let’s get something straight.  I am a witch.  I’m not saying that I ride a broom and can do actual honest to goodness magic.  But I sleep with lavender and eucalyptus next to my bed, I burn sage and palo santo when I need to cleanse, I hoard crystals, I believe in reincarnation, I have sandalwood for protection, lemongrass to repel negativity, and heather flowers to pay homage to faeries bottled on my bookshelves.  I drink teas for specific things, I worship the moon (and not Satan, calm down), I research different folk lores and believe in faeries and dragons, I carry certain crystals when I need help with something, anything, I burn my intentions and set them free on the wind.  And I accept that some people are going to call me a sinner, or a heretic, or what have you.  I accept that my way of life is not for everyone.  I accept that my mother believes in God, and for her, I believe in Him, too.  (For me, I believe in the Buddha.)  I accept that there are thousands of different ways to live life, and I ask that, for right now, you indulge me.  Why?  Because Mason has never been loud.  He is not Alex, who whispers in my ear and ignites fire in my veins.  He is not Ronan, who shouts at the sky and demands attention.  He is not my Pen boys, who are all-consuming.  He is quiet.  He comes when I’m least expecting him, and I only ever realize he’s arrived well after the fact.  Mason is all of these things, and his story is about witchcraft.  He is, as my old friend once said, Ronan and Alex combined.  He is all the strangest parts of me put on display.

Recently, my roommate, Jen, needed some good luck.  She asked for a crystal, which was very exciting for me.  Not a lot of people actually buy into crystals or tarot or even burning things, so it’s always fun when someone shows a little interest.  I gave her a raw piece of carnelian.  I have three of them, but I gave her Mason’s.  I have four stones, one for each element, on top of the Wild Unknown tarot deck.  Mason’s is my favorite of the three raw pieces I have, and so I gave it to Jen.  She carried it in her purse for a couple weeks, and when all was said and done, she came home, and said, “Please don’t hate me.  I’m so sorry.  I lost the crystal.”

I shrugged.  No big deal.  She said she wanted to buy me another one, and I couldn’t remember what exactly I’d given her, so I went back into my room to look, and oh.  It was Mason’s.  I put on a brave face, went back to her room, and said not to worry about it.  Really, it was fine.  Maybe this was a sign.  Maybe I was supposed to start letting go of him.  Maybe, after everything, his story wasn’t something I should be working on.  Maybe I had lost it when I lost Jack.  Maybe it was over.

I asked if I could look in her bag, just in case, not really expecting to find it.  We chatted about her day as I looked in the main pockets.  I started taking out pens from one of the smaller pockets, laughed at her because she carries around a mini lint roller, and then pulled out the crystal.  It was there the whole time.  She yelled at the unfairness of the world, and I just stared at it, unbelieving.

It was time to let go.  I’ve been carrying around so much anger and hurt, and this novel is drenched in it.  I’ve let Jack creep into every corner of my life, let him make me feel inadequate as a writer, and let the darkness outbalance the light.  I’m done.  They say it takes half the time you were with someone to get over them–so, for a twelve-year-friendship, I should be good in about six years.  Pardon my French, but fuck that.  There is no way in hell that I’m going to let this sit inside me for six years.  I don’t want it.  I want all of that darkness, all of that hate, all of that poison gone.  I want to let go, and I’ve been trying to for months without success.  I’ve gone to reiki circles, I’ve had private lessons with Jenny, I’ve cried until my head hurt, I’ve talked and talked and talked, and I am so fucking done.

Staring down at this crystal that I thought was lost, and that had now been found again, I didn’t feel this big rush of relief.  The world wasn’t suddenly full of sunshine.  Nothing changed.  I just smiled, closed my fingers around it, and held it to my heart.  And something inside of me shook off a few cobwebs, dusted away the darkness clutching at my soul, and took a deep breath.

That was Friday.  On Sunday, I decided, like an idiot, I was going to go to Salem.  I’ve been craving Life Alive something fierce, and I haven’t been able to go in the past few weekends for various reasons.  I didn’t have anything to do on Sunday, though, and I was already going to be in the area since I was subbing at Barefoot, so my plan was to teach class, go to Life Alive for lunch, loiter in Coven’s Cottage for a bit and try not to spend all my money, and then hang out in Jolie Tea for a few hours.  That didn’t happen.  Der, Mary, it’s the first day of Halloween, of course there’s going to be no parking in Salem.  But, back up a little, as I was leaving Barefoot, I made a rash decision and decided to go to Barnes & Noble.  Rash because I usually spend no less than $100 every time I go in, and also because I haven’t been in the Peabody B&N since Jack told me he never wanted to speak to me again.  This hasn’t been all that hard because I live so close to the Burlington B&N now, which is far superior anyway with its two floors, but still.  Books are my home, and I’m done.

I walked in, went right to the fiction section, grabbed a copy of Alice in Wonderland, and left.  (I paid, obviously, calm down.)  I don’t know why I don’t own a copy of it, but here we are.  On the way to Salem, my plans started to change.  I’d brought a different book to read, but I decided I was going to leave that in the car, and read Alice while I had lunch, and then start reading A Witch’s Guide to Faery Folk in Jolie.  I didn’t even remember putting that in my bag the night before, but it was there, so okay, sounds like a good idea.

Salem didn’t work out.  I guess it’ll have to wait until November, or I’ll just convince someone to drive me in, drop me off, and come back later to pick me up.  Instead, I went to my parents for lunch, and made tea when I got home.  While the water was boiling, I went to pick up the Wild Unknown deck to find that Mason’s crystal was missing.  I’d completely forgotten that I put it in my pocket that morning.  I let out a little laugh as I started shuffling.  We’d worked with fire and high energy during class, too.  Interesting.  I finished shuffling, knocked on the deck, breathed with it at my heart, split it in threes, and drew a single card from the deck in the middle.

We’re all mad here. #masonnovel #marywrites #themadhouseadventures

The son of cups is about the artistic side.  Not just drawing, but being alive, and living life fully.  Embracing the world around you, and finding beauty.  It’s sometimes specific to musicians.  To others, you might seem secretive, but very peaceful.  Deep inside, you are dark and intense.  Sounds like a faery, doesn’t it?

Let’s review.  I’ve been craving Life Alive, which heavily inspired Madhouse, Mason’s tea shop.  For no reason I could understand, I wanted to read Alice in Wonderland, and decided to shake off all my insecurities and just go into the Peabody B&N to buy it.  Even from the name Madhouse alone, you can tell the story has Alice inspiration.  Spoiler: in the short story, he once communicated that he was in trouble with Lukas by using 10/6.  Their white cat’s name is Dinah.  Mason quotes it all the time.  Tea.  I wanted to spend a few hours in Jolie, also a heavy inspiration for Madhouse.  His crystal was lost and found.

Okay, I’m listening.

On Monday, I went home after work because I was tired and hadn’t slept well the night before.  I started and finished Alice that day, and went to bed dreaming of dark eyes scattered with gold, fire sparking from ash dark fingertips, and a smile full of doubt and darkness.  I woke up refreshed, and ready to face the day.  I made tea, actually planned my class for that night, and started Through the Looking Glass.  My vinyasa class that night left a lot to be desired.  For some reason, when I plan ahead of time now, it comes out kind of clunky, and not quite what I was expecting.  I’ve started to teach better when it just comes from the heart.  So, for my beginner’s, I switched up the music, tossed the plan, and let go.

We talked about music and love, about the bond between those two.  We opened the hips and the shoulders so that we could work on the heart.  We paid homage to Tom Petty, we sent love out to those in need, and our savasana was done in almost complete darkness.  I lit a candle, grabbed the Animal Spirit deck, a piece of black bone, a quartz point, and sat down on my mat.  While my students were in savasana, I shuffled, knocked, breathed split, and drew one card.

Writing is hard. Sometimes, I’m doing nothing but writing, dashing out 10k a day, and absolutely killing it. Sometimes, I’m on a break, reading every book in sight, working on fanfiction, and doing a heck ton of yoga. Sometimes, I haven’t written in...

The Lion.  The master of the fire element.

For 400 years, every single fire elemental faery has died.  They have not survived the fire inside them, and have instead let it consume them.  Thus, the world has been out of balance.  Mason is the first.  He is the first in 400 years to master his element, to not only survive it, but live with it, to coexist.  It comes as no surprise to me that not only am I an Aries, but all of my inner planets are fire signs.

This is not me saying that I’m writing again.  This is not me saying that I’ve figured my shit out, and that I know what I’m writing next.  This is not even me saying that I’ve figured out how to let go of the ego that says I’m not a writer if I’m not writing.

But, but–I did read Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.  I am currently reading A Witch’s Guide to Faery Folk.  I started rereading Mason’s novel yesterday.  It won’t be what I’m writing if I do write him, but it’s nice to read about his character again.  And there’s something like relief settling in my bones, something like light filling me up.

It’s time to let go.  It’s time to let go of Jack and the awful words he said to me.  It’s time to let go of the anger and hurt I’ve been carrying around because of that.  It’s time to let go of our friendship.  It’s time to let go of who Mason was, and start unraveling who he is.  It’s time to let go of it all, and start fresh.

I always tell my students that if they’re ever feeling unsure of their place in the world, to go outside, dig your toes into the dirt or the sand, and just breathe.  You’re home.

Everything’s going to be okay.

I am letting go, and I am full of fire.

September Reads

Happy October!  Like an idiot, I went into Salem yesterday because I’ve been craving Life Alive for a few weeks now, but yesterday was the first day of Halloween, so I spent an hour driving around Salem trying to find a parking spot before ultimately giving up and going home to drink my weight in tea.  This weekend was a big ole lazy nothing.  I suspect I might have caught what my roommate and parents had, and so was feeling very lethargic, and thus was trying to just nip it in the bud real quick by drinking copious amounts of tea and orange juice and binge watching Shameless all weekend.  I’m on season seven (finally), but I was so lazy that I didn’t even write September’s book review blog.  So hello!  Here we are, and let’s dive right in.

As a quick note, I’m also going to be linking the titles to their corresponding Goodreads page from here on out so that you can easily find them.

The Amulet of Samarkand (Bartimaeus, #1)

What: The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud
When: 8/30-9/7
Rating: ★★★★
Review: Funny story about this book.  Erin gave this to me for Christmas or my birthday about two years ago (?), and I’m the worst, so I didn’t read it until right now.  I always feel so pressured when people lend me books, which should mean that I read them right away, but that turns into waiting months (or years, whoops) to read them.  And boy, I’m mad I didn’t read this sooner!  This story follows two protagonists–Nathaniel, a budding magician, and Bartimaeus, a demon.  After a rather embarrassing spectacle with a grown magician, Nathaniel summons Bartimaeus to help him wreak havoc on Simon Lovelace’s life.

It’s as funny as it sounds.  Bartimaeus is hilarious.  I really always appreciate when demons are just ridiculous and do/say whatever they want because come on, if you’d been alive for several centuries, you’d have it up to here with the human race, too.  My favorite chapters were Bartimaeus’s, though I do have to note that, at the beginning, I kind of rolled my eyes at his footnotes until about the sixth one, and then it became quickly apparent that they should be footnotes, and were much funnier because they were.  It took some time empathizing with Nathaniel, but by the end, I wanted him to win just as much as he did.  It was a story of adventure and magic that requires hard work, and it was really very enjoyable.


What: Sparks of Light by Janet B Taylor
When: 9/8-9/13
Rating: ★★★★
Review: Oh man, let me tell you about THIS BOOK.  I’ve been waiting for this book to come out forever.  It’s the second in a series (the first is Into the Dim), and I was so excited when this finally came out.  Instead of pre-ordering like a smart person, I kept looking online to see if it was out yet, and totally forgot about it until I was at B&N with Erin on a book haul, and there it was.  Sparks of Light is about time travelers in 21st century Scotland.  Into the Dim sees them in 12th century England, and Sparks of Light finds our heroes in 19th century New York, featuring the one and only Nikola Tesla.  Via science provided by Tesla, the characters are able to travel into the Dim, though only at certain times and for three days at a time.  Of course, the Timeslippers (antagonists) are going against all time traveling rules, and must be stopped at all costs.

I gave this four stars because of my own faults.  I didn’t remember a lot of the end of Into the Dim romantically.  I remembered the plot easy enough, but couldn’t really remember where we left off with Hope and Bran because I was shipping Hope and Collum so heavily in the beginning of Sparks of Light.  This left me confused intermittently throughout the book since the romantic subplot is pretty prominent, and I kept pausing to wonder if I’d missed something.  Otherwise, though, this book was stunning.  The descriptions are beautiful, the plot is so well done, and the characters are really, truly wonderful.  I love each and every one of them for different reasons, and I feel like they’re actual friends of mine.  It’s so interesting to see Taylor play with time, and the things she adds to whatever time period they’re in.  The details surrounding the time traveling are so finely honed, too, that I absolutely believe everything she’s selling.  It’s just a really well-crafted story, and I can’t wait to see what she does next.


What: Moondust: In Search of the Men Who Fell to Earth by Andrew Smith
When: 9/14-9/24
Rating: ★★★★★
Review: Look at that, our first nonfiction for the blog.  I don’t often read nonfiction, and when I do, it’s normally related to space.  I’ve only read a few astronaut memoirs, and while this one is not my favorite (that would be An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield, and I’m linking it here because everyone should read this regardless of whether or not you have an interest in space), it was excellent.  Smith takes on the daunting task of interviewing the surviving nine men who went to the moon, though he takes on a different approach than most.  Rather than asking what it felt like to walk on the moon, his interest lies in the question we’re always wondering–what next?

This was not only well written, but engaging.  I find that, often times, nonfiction can be a bit dry, and while there were some parts in here (Ed Mitchell) that I was nodding off during, there were others (John Young) that I couldn’t put down.  Smith is not only having a conversation with these astronauts, but with himself, and sometimes with the reader.  You feel like you’re part of the journey.  I really appreciated how much time he spent with each astronaut, as well, and how he described them, both his initial meetings and the sort of pre-meetings he obtained through colleagues’ and friends’ descriptions.  I was a bit bummed that the bathroom in space topic came up because I’m sick to death of reading about it, but it was short enough (not a whole chapter–I’m looking at you, Mike Mullane) that I only rolled my eyes once.  The hunt for Neil Armstrong was nicely woven throughout the story, too, and I really like how it happened when it finally did.  This is certainly a book for those interested in astronauts and the space program, but overall, a very lovely read.


What: Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley
When: 9/20-9/25
Rating: ★★★★★
Review: I don’t often read two books at the same time anymore, but whenever I’m reading nonfiction, I just need something else to balance it out.  And this book.  How I managed to stretch reading it over the course of five days, I have no idea.  It follows the story of Rachel Sweetie after the death of her brother, Cal.  She’s moving back to her old hometown, and is forced to work in close quarters with Henry Jones, the boy she loved and who broke her heart.

This is a book for readers.  Rachel and Henry work in an independent bookstore, and there’s this thing called the Letter Library.  People are encouraged to leave books in the Letter Library with notes or highlighted lines, or even with letters in between the pages.  Strangers write to one another in different books, or sometimes leave letters to the ones they’ve loved and lost.  There is a plethora of good book referenced (Cloud Atlas, yay!), and I had to keep jumping to Goodreads every other chapter to check out a handful of new titles that had been dropped between the pages.  The romance in here is very subtle, and really isn’t what the story is about.  It’s not even really about Henry or Rachel, though they’re the main characters.  It’s about the love between siblings, and how deeply that runs, and how books can be intertwined endlessly with that love, and it’s beautiful.


What: The Suffering Tree by Elle Cosimano
When: 9/26-9/27
Rating: ★★★★★
Review: Oh, I loved this book!  Clearly.  This was another one of those books that I picked up because it had a gorgeous cover and an interesting title, and then, voilà, an intriguing summary.  The Suffering Tree is about a broken girl and a dead boy.  Tori has recently moved to Chaptico, Maryland following the death of her father, a suicide attempt, and being evicted from their old home in DC.  When she arrives in the small town, it’s made abundantly clear that her family isn’t welcomed.  She finds peace in the woods surrounding her house, and stumbles upon an old tree one night when the world is too big and too loud.  She accidentally awakens an old curse, wakes Nathaniel from the dead, and incites a war all in that one night.  What follows is like nothing you’ll ever expect.

I couldn’t put this down.  I read it in two days, and even then, given the time, I would have read it in one.  Right from the beginning, things are wild.  Tori wakes Nathaniel in chapter two, I think?  Very close to the beginning, if not.  And it just doesn’t stop from there.  There’s definitely a stereotype at work here with the old curse and family name that’s been around forever (Slaughter), but there’s also very grounded, spooky dark magic going on, and more twists and turns that I was ready for.  This was one wild, wicked ride, and I loved every second of it.


What: Lucky Few by Kathryn Ormsbee
When: 9/28-9/29
Rating: ★★★★
Review: This was just such a feel good story.  Following three friends–Stevie, Sanger, and Max–during the spring, it’s your typical three unlikely people coming together in a very atypical fashion.  I think this is possibly the first time I’ve ever read a book with a homeschooled protagonist, and it was really interesting to dive into that culture and see how it differed from standard high school.  This is about Stevie and Sanger, who are homeschooled, their friendship with Max, who has recently moved to Austin, and the list of 23 Ways to Fake My Death.  Max, who had two near-death experiences, is trying to overcome his fear of death by faking it.  Stevie, who is also the first diabetic protagonist I’ve read, is hell bent on making these last couple months extraordinary because Stevie, her best friend since eight, is moving to Pennsylvania.

No magic, no frills, just friends defying death.  It’s a weird, but intriguing plot, and it had me hooked.  It was easy to read, and easy to like.  The characters are very well-rounded, are flawed in very noticeable ways that they’re forced to acknowledge, and work really well together.  Each individual story is interesting enough on its own, so putting them all together made for a fun, exciting story.  I gave this four stars because of little things that all piled together to make a bigger thing.  Dialogue tags were a thing to be desired.  I was constantly having to look back and count dialogue to figure out who was talking.  There wasn’t a ton of description, and when there was, it was a sudden big block of text after lots of conversation.  I also didn’t really know what Stevie or Sanger looked like other than one was definitely super pale and the other was a POC.  (I think?  Or just really tan?  It wasn’t clear.)  The plot, and the little added subplots, were really great, though, and definitely stood out over these small things.

And that’s that!  Another six books read in the month of September, which I’m considering a pretty high number still.  I haven’t been writing a lot lately, which may explain why I’m reading so much, so that might go down in the future.  As always, I’m on Goodreads if you’re curious what I’m currently reading or interested in, and thank you for checking this out!


I’ve been thinking a lot about comet novel lately.  This comes as no surprise to anyone because my interest in space has been reinvigorated.  I don’t know if it was the solar eclipse or Cassini’s descent into Saturn that did it, but without warning, really, I was diving back into space.

Briefly: a history of Mary’s space adventures!

When I was little, I was afraid of flying things.  I used to hide in my bedroom with the covers over my head because there were birds outside.  I ran screaming from bugs with wings (realistically, I still do this with butterflies, moths, beetles, and ladybugs).  I once saw an ad for the Butterfly Place on TV, and absolutely begged my mom to take me.  When we finally got there, I just started screaming.  No thanks.  Nope.  Not happening.  (I tried again a few years ago in a zoo, and wow, yup, still terrified of butterflies.)  I still don’t really like planes, though I think that’s because I’ve only been in one once.  The fear got better and worse in college.  By college, I’d started to really enjoy birds.  Falcons were among my favorite animals, and I started incorporating them into Ronan’s story.  However, I also started to develop a fear of space.  And by fear, I mean that if I was walking outside at night and thought too much about it, I had to run inside and keep my head down.  During the day, it made me nauseous to think about how space was right there if I looked up at the sky.  Planets were the worst part.  I had dreams about flying underneath a planet and it falling through space to kill me.  I know that we’re all always falling, but nightmares aren’t logical.  I had dreams of other planets crashing into Earth and destroying us all.  Google Earth was the literal worst.  Just nope.

Now, if you know me now, you know this sounds like absolute nonsense.  And really, I don’t know what did it.  I used to torture myself with Google Earth when they released the Moon and Mars simulations, so maybe it was that.  Toward the end of college, my fascination with the moon began, and after, I started cautiously researching moon magic, so maybe it was that.  I do know that at least a large portion of it was due to the release of The Martian.  But I can’t really pinpoint the day it stopped becoming only about the fear and started becoming about fear and awe in equal respect.  I can remember constantly wanting to like space, though, because it’s so vast and unexplainable, and it’s always sounded so interesting to me.  So, maybe I just tricked myself into liking it.  Who knows.

Space is my jam.  Sometimes, I plan whole yoga classes around celestial events, or in homage to them.  I once created a workshop dedicated specifically to the nine (shut up) planets.  One of my favorite musical albums in the world is Atlas: Space by Sleeping at Last.  I have galaxy pants and star pajamas and NASA shirts.  I read astronaut biographies like they’re going out of style.  I’m in love with the universe.

The first time I read Cloud Atlas, I was dumbstruck.  This–this was a novel, man.  This was something else entirely.  Later, while I was reading The Bone Clocks, I texted Jack to tell him that I wanted to write a story like this someday, a story that traveled the universe in wild ways.  A couple years ago, Sense8 was released on Netflix, and again, that desire surged through me.  I wanted to create a story with multiple people in multiple countries possibly in multiple timelines, and somehow connect them all.  I wanted to take the idea of Cloud Atlas, of a single soul traveling through centuries, merge it with The Bone Clocks, a story which discusses the ancient war between basically the right and wrong ways to steal or inhabit souls, and sprinkle a little Sense8 (eight souls connected in the most intimate, beautiful way possible) magic in there, and come out on the other side with something that was starting to hashtag itself as #cometnovel.

To be fair, the hashtag is 100% inspired by Cloud Atlas.  Each of the characters in the novel have a comet-shaped birthmark.  But, as I started thinking more about my own characters, the comet idea started to reshape itself, and I may just be able to keep it around.

But how does comet novel relate to space?  In two ways.  One: one of the characters is an astronaut.  Two: they are born of the galaxy, souls that have traveled across universes to be together, and will someday return to stardust.  Which is all well and good, but what is comet novel?

Comet novel is the story of seven different individuals.  Each of them lives in a different country, and all of them are living in different timelines.  A looooong time ago, seven souls inhabited seven bodies.  These bodies were part of an ancient tribal people, who were enraged that their brothers and sisters had been taken from them.  Furious, they tried to kill these new souls and release their brothers and sisters from this terrible fate.  Two of the seven died, and the other five went into hiding.  Over time, the other five died of natural causes, and the cycle began again.  The only way to destroy these seven souls were to kill them all at the same time.  Thus, they began reincarnating.  Weakened as they were, they were unable to reincarnate all at the same time, and have been popping up in different timelines for years and years and years.  It isn’t until now that they’ve finally managed to all reincarnate within the same lifeline, which of course means that the descendants of the ancient tribal people are determined to end this long battle once and for all.

I know, it’s a lot.  It’s even more once you meet our seven souls.  Thankfully, it will be a multi-part novel, and each soul will be given due time.  And I think it’s high time that I introduced them properly.  If you’d like, you can follow along on their Pinterest board to see who I’ve imagined for their actor/actress counterparts.

Tonight’s reading is for #cometnovel.
This story has been a long time coming. I keep saying that I want to write something like David Mitchell, Sense8, and The OA. Something mysterious. Something grand. Something WILD.
These days, I feel like every...

First up, we have Emma, the wanderer, whose story takes place in the mountains of North America.  Born and raised in Massachusetts, Emma is running away.  Pressured by her parents to do more and be more, she has left all worldly possessions behind, filled her backpack with only the necessities, and set off on a journey to hike from the East to the West coast.  When we meet her, she’s in the Midwest, working her way through the Rocky’s.  Her end goal is to get up to Washington and hike Rainier.  She is linked closely with Henry, who is living about a year behind her.

Next, we have Henry, the free spirit, whose story takes place in the seas surrounding Australia.  Born and raised in a city I haven’t figured out yet, Henry is trying to live life to its fullest.  After a tragic childhood, he left behind what little was left of his family, and lived off the land.  He is an avid surfer and hiker, and wants to travel the world, though he’s never gone farther than New Zealand.  He will, ultimately, travel to Rainier to meet Emma, who he has fast fallen in love with.

Next, we have Hugo, the astronaut, whose story takes place on Mars.  Hugo is the reason I’ve been thinking more about this story lately, obviously.  Born and raised in Africa, he eventually immigrated to North America with his mother, where they have been thriving.  It had always been his dream to visit the stars, and is overwhelmed with the opportunity to travel to Mars.  While there, he receives a transmission in the middle of the night that doesn’t look like anything he’s ever received from NASA before, and this is how he meets Eloise.

Eloise, the witch, whose story takes place in Venice, Italy, is trying to summon a demon, about two decades behind Hugo, to kill her stepfather when Hugo receives her transmission.  It’s unknown to either of them how Hugo managed to hear this, but it becomes quickly obvious that Eloise is going to be the one that saves all of them.  She’s not in a great place when we meet her, and is on the brink of becoming suicidal.  She’s bullied relentlessly at her school, abused by her stepfather, and feels like no one would care if she wasn’t here.  She is, ultimately, the one that figures out what they are, and how to travel to each other.

Next, we have Arjun, the monk, whose story takes place in a temple in Thailand.  Arjun is the only one of the seven who has met the aware, Nina, before our story begins.  As a Buddhist, he is also aware that his soul has been reincarnated before, though he doesn’t know the history of his soul.  He is, obviously, very removed from even the possibility of coming into contact with the others.  However, he dreams of Nathan often, and is starting to question who this person is, and if he’s supposed to leave the temple to find and help them.  The morning after he’s finally made the decision to discuss his dreams with the elder monks, he wakes up to find Nathan unconscious on his floor.

And then there’s Nathan, the soldier, whose story takes place first in the Middle East, and then specifically in Egypt, before arriving in Thailand.  Like Eloise, Nathan plays a pivotal role in the overall story.  While Eloise is capable of actual, real magic, and is working to discover the truth of them, Nathan has the ability to travel.  He’s in the middle of a mission somewhere in the Middle East when he’s rendered unconscious by an IED and wakes up in the middle of the desert outside Egypt.  He’s only there for a few weeks before another event causes him to wake up in Thailand on the floor of Arjun’s room.  Born in Greece, and raised on different army bases throughout North America, Nathan enlisted as soon as he was old enough.  He’s spent much of his life traveling the world with a gun strapped to his hip, and thus, when he wakes up in Thailand with the knowledge that he’s traveled thousands of miles in his sleep, his world is rightfully turned upside down.

Lastly, we have Nina, the aware, whose story takes place in Antarctica.  Nina was the first soul to inhabit a body, and the only one that has remembered her history each time she is reincarnated.  Born in Africa, she was raised in several different countries.  I can’t remember her exact route through life, but she’s traveled far and wide trying to find the other souls.  The descendants of the ancient tribal people eventually find and capture her, and she’s been their prisoner in Antarctica for a few decades now.  She is farther ahead in the timeline than the rest of them, but also has the ability to speak to them once they are made aware of what they are.

I know I said we have seven souls, and we do, but we also have Camila, the reporter, whose story takes place in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  Somehow, Camila knows what they are, and is hell bent on finding out who they are.  She’s been studying patterns throughout history, and is prepared to report her findings when her old partner comes back into her life and convinces her not to.  Camila will be our eyes into the world, discovering and explaining all of the secrets, and eventually, the one who will help Eloise and Nathan figure out how to bring everyone together.

Phew.  It’s a lot, but I feel like I know these characters, like once I finally figure out the plot in its entirety, the writing will just happen because they’re already so real to me.  I’ve dreamt whole conversations with Hugo and Eloise, caught myself smiling just at the thought of Emma and Henry finally meeting, and been stupidly excited to watch Arjun and Nathan interact.  This story is going to be one heck of a ride, and I really can’t wait to start pulling it apart someday.

the summer boys

I’ve been telling myself that I had to wait until I’d written 10k words of the new Pen boys novel before I wrote this blog.  That seems asinine, I know, but I just realized why I was doing it.  Whenever I was writing a new fanfic, I made myself wait until the 10k mark before I started posting it.  That way, if I lost interest in it, I’d still have a fair amount of story to share; or, if I got behind in writing it, I’d have stuff saved up to post.  And, if I never got to the 10k mark, then I wasn’t one of those people that just wrote one chapter and ran away.  So, here I am today, writing away, finished chapter four, checked my word count, and got all excited that I’d hit 10k because that meant that now I could talk about it.

I’m facepalming right now.  I always make up these insane rules for myself, and it’s so stupid.  Last year, I made up the rule that I wasn’t allowed to buy any new books until I’d read the 100 unread books on my shelves.  Logical, I know, because holy mother, I shouldn’t own 100 unread books.  But what.  How am I supposed to survive as a writer if I’m not allowed to buy books?  How am I just supposed to survive in general?  I kept adding exceptions to the rule–I could buy a new book if it was for book club, or if it was by Maggie, or if it was for research.  Eventually, I just nixed the rule and made a new one.  When I went book shopping, I had to finish most of the books I bought before buying more.  That seems fair.  And it’s working so far, too.  I’ve still got a few leftover from Christmas of last year, but I’ve been finishing at least 80% of my book stacks before I buy new ones.

I digress.

Hi, I’m writing again!  That was a rough few weeks.  That’s a lie.  Okay, so the first couple of weeks were really good.  I spent all of my free time reading books and fanfiction, watching Shameless, and just enjoying life.  My brain wasn’t consumed with the overwhelming need to write.  I’d just spent a straight year doing nothing but writing, and it felt really nice to take a breather.

As expected, that lasted only about two weeks before I was starting to crave words.  But what was next?  I posted recently about how I was frustrated, and circling three different stories.  It’s kind of funny how the Pen boys sequel wasn’t even on my radar.  I was thinking about my vampire detective (Andrew), the Madhouse Adventures (Mason), or a new idea, witch sisters.  I really tried with Andrew, too.  I started plotting, I did character sketches, I figured out his extensive backstory, and I did two tarot readings for him.  It wasn’t enough.  Or, it was, but I’m still not ready to write him.  Mason, I knew right away that I wasn’t going to be able to dive back into.  So, I spent a week or two being frustrated.  Where was I going?  What was I doing?  What’s next?

No one is going to be surprised when I say I found the answer in yoga.  Someday, I should probably write a blog about yoga and writing because (for me, at least) they go hand in hand.  When I’m really struggling, all I need to do is step on my mat and let go, and the answer surfaces.

Last Monday, the same day I posted the blog about being frustrated in my current writing space, I also posted on Instagram.  “There wasn’t this bone deep ache twisting up my soul.  The universe wasn’t humming in sync with my heart.”  That’s how I felt while trying to plot out Andrew’s story.  And really, that’s not necessary to write a novel.  You don’t need to be falling apart to write.  But these boys–oh, these boys.  I honestly don’t even know how to explain them.  They just fill up every silent second in my soul.  They invade my thoughts and make my bones shake and explode across my synapses.

They remind me of Alex, a character who I spent twelve years thinking constantly about, which I guess kind of describes them.

Back to the story, though.  I went to class because why not.  I’d had a long few weeks, I was exhausted, and I was officially on a social hiatus.  I just needed to recharge, to get away from the world and let the light inside build back up to a fire.  What I needed, it turned out, was Oliver and James and Harrison.  At the end of class, Jenny invited us to hold the crystals she’d set at the top of our mats during our savasana.

“I set my chunk of clear quartz on my heart, turned my knuckles toward the earth, and prayed for clarify.  I was lying there, listening to Jenny flip through the pages of a book, and could have sworn she was playing the singing bowl instead.  I could hear, very softly, the sound of its vibrations.  I could feel it starting to hum through the soles of my feet and up my spine.  My whole body started to flare with warmth.  My face, which I hadn’t even realized I’d scrunched tight, relaxed all at once.  My body flooded with relief, every cell melting into the earth.  And there he was–his head tipped down, his jaw a sharp, angry thing, and the shadow of a crown on his summer light hair.  His fingers were curled around a fist-sized smoky quartz.  His mouth was on the edge of a scowl, and he was dressed all in black, from his boots of war to his storm dark eyes.  He was a boy born of a demon, begging to set fire to the world.  His name is James Goddard, and these are soldiers.”

Do you ever step onto your yoga mat unstable and unsure and wondering how the hell to walk straight only to come out absolutely certain of your path? I posted a blog today about how frustrated I was. I thought I was jumping into a new novel, I...

I’m not lying to you, I swear.  This was exactly what happened in my savasana.  I sat up at the end of class dazed, and grinning like a maniac.  What’s next?  Pen boys, book 2.

Alright, let’s take a step back.  We’re still on Monday, 9/11.

After class, I drove home (still grinning like a maniac and probably scaring everyone on the road), yelled on my way in that I’d discovered the secrets of the universe, and ran into my room to draw cards.  If you’ll remember from my last post about tarot and writing, I said I was never going to use the TRP deck for the Pen boys.  Ha, lies.  I didn’t even think about it when I got home.  I just pulled it off my bookshelf, and started shuffling.  I’ve never used this deck for them, but oh man, it was exactly what they needed.

So, what’s going on here?  Nothing good, that’s for sure.  Somehow, every single one of them is going to have a bad year but Oliver.  I said this to Erin, and she said, “That’s because he’s already lost everything.”  Ouch, but true.

In the spirit of my tarot post last week, I’ll break down this reading with the why and what.

Why: I’m a mess.  I think I can get away from these boys, and I just can’t.  This reading isn’t even for the novella I’m writing right now, but for the second novel.  That makes no sense.  I’ll explain in a second.

What: Okay, starting left to right.  James and Oliver are always paired together, Jasper and Jensen are usually near each other, and Harrison stands out.

James: ten of swords.  Ahem.  When I finish this series, I’m going to look back and laugh at how many times I’ve pulled swords for this poor boy.  The ten of swords is rock bottom.  I once pulled this for Alex the Destroyer.  It is ruin.  It is not a good place to be in.  However, it’s also the end of something awful, and it asks a very important question–what’s next?  How can you grow from this?  How can you move on?  James does not have a great year coming for him.  This summer is going to be pretty good, but the year ahead is just dark and bleak and wow.  I feel bad for him.

Oliver: three of cups.  Olly’s in such a good place right now, and I’m so happy for him.  The three of cups talks about bountiful joy.  He’s got truly amazing friends right now that support him and are helping him step out of the darkness.  His upcoming summer is going to be one of the best ones in his life, and even though there’s a lot of terrible things waiting on the horizon, his next year is still going to be great.  He is really, truly flourishing right now.  And god, he deserves to.

Jasper: the chariot.  This is twofold.  The chariot talks about a strong will and the inner warrior.  The task ahead requires a focused mind and sure footing, which Jasper definitely needs.  He’s about to be tested in ways he never has been before, and he needs to remain strong to get through it.  This gives me hope for him that he’ll come out the other end lighter and brighter.

Jensen: queen of swords.  WIthout giving too much away, I was very surprised at this card.  We might not like the direction Jensen’s headed in, but, in a way, this definitely does describe his mindset.  The mother of swords is sharp and perceptive.  It sometimes represents a woman going through a difficult time, which Jensen doesn’t think he is, but the others don’t really agree.  Things are about to get very unsteady in their group, and it’s due in large part to Jensen.

Harrison: death.  Okay, don’t freak out.  Harrison’s not going to die.  The Death card almost never actually means literal death.  Instead, it talks about transformation, about coming out of the dark, about growth.  A chapter in Harrison’s life is ending, and it’s time for him to move onto the next one.  Like the others (except Olly, and really, how the hell did that happen), his upcoming year is less than ideal.  He’s going to change a lot, and we may not like him all that much at times, but oh man, I can’t wait for you to see him after.

Real quick, jumping back to the timeline of this series.  The Pen boys takes place over their sophomore, junior, and senior year at school.  However, one of the things that bothered me the most about the Harry Potter series was that we only ever got to see Harry in school.  We never really saw his summers.  Not only that, I really didn’t want to leave these boys.  I wanted to keep writing them.  So, in addition to the three main novels, there will also be two summer novellas.  These won’t contain any big plot points, will only see the boys through one minor adventure, and will be short.  This is the hardest part for me.  I’m already 10k deep, and I really need to reel it in.

For this novella, they’re going to Harrison’s house in Spain, and they’ll be fighting off a demon they accidentally on purpose summoned, and it’ll mostly be them having fun and goofing off.  If, when these are published, you think this is all just some gimmick and don’t want to read the novellas (that’s dumb), the three main novels can be read without these.

And now jumping back to those cards.  After Jenny’s class, I drew these with the intention to look at their junior year.  I didn’t know yet that I was going to make the novellas an actual part of the series.  Originally, my plan was for them to act as fanfiction for myself and Erin just because I wanted to play, but I think they’ll fit nicely into the overall arc, so I’m writing them as actual potential published things someday.  Thus, I don’t have a reading for this summer novella, but I don’t really need one.  Like I said, it’s mostly just them being boys and having fun.  Their junior year, though?  Oh yeah, that’s the dark novel.  It’s just full of bad things.  All the bad things.  We find out who Ella is and why she’s such a big deal, Harrison’s family starts to fall the heck apart, Jensen starts to SPOILERS, Jasper digs deeper into dark magic, and Oliver just has a good time, okay.  Leave Oliver alone.  He needs a break.

Speaking of Oliver!

Falling asleep with stars on my skin, a lotus blooming in my heart, and Oliver’s name written in ink across my soul. I’ve carried this piece of sunstone around all day, consciously because I needed its energy and subconsciously because Oliver always...

I carry this stone around with me a lot.  It’s sunstone, and, according to Crystal Vaults:

With the radiance of the sun and the fire of the solar ray, Sunstone carries the energy of Ra, the sun god, whose energy brings all potential life from within the Earth. It is a Stone of Leadership – of personal power, freedom, and expanded consciousness. Truly reflecting the qualities of Light, it brings openness, benevolence and warmth, strength, mental clarity, and the willingness and ability to bestow blessings upon others. [Simmons, 388][Ahsian, 388]

Known as a joyful stone, Sunstone inspires the nurturing of self in order to be of service to others. It restores the enjoyment of life, good nature and provides a sense of abundance. [Hall, 283]

During their sophomore year, I carried this because Oliver needed it.  While everyone else was busy having a grand old time, he was the one falling apart.  Our first introduction to Oliver is not a happy one, and continues to be fairly miserable for most of the novel.  He’s been through so much over the last year, and when he starts at Penhallam, he really is at the end of his rope.  Our boys do a lot to help him step back from that ledge, but, truthfully, it’s Oliver that finally takes a deep breath and says enough.

Some days, he needed this stone more than others, and I would carry it in my pocket for him.  During one of their rituals, he absentmindedly picks it up and holds onto it until it’s time for the ritual to start.  Lately, I’ve been carrying it with me almost every day, not because he still needs it, but just to remind him that it’s okay to be in a good place.

The night after that wild Monday with James, I taught for two hours, and I posted this after:

“Falling asleep with stars on my skin, a lotus blooming in my heart, and Oliver’s name written in ink across my soul. I’ve carried this piece of sunstone around all day, consciously because I needed its energy and subconsciously because Oliver always gravitates toward it. During both of my classes tonight, I played his song, Setting Out by Citizen of the World, and while my students were in savasana the second time, I felt him sitting next to me. It wasn’t quite like last night with James, but that’s because Oliver is quieter and kinder. He was just there, his heavy shoulders sloped down, though his heart was a little lighter than the first time we met. He was smiling that small, crooked smile of his, and his glasses were askew. He was so much more alive than he’s ever been, and I couldn’t help but smile at absolutely nothing just thinking of how strong he’d become. Oh, Olly. I’ll see you soon”

James may invoke the biggest emotional reaction out of me, but Oliver is my favorite out of all of them.  He is so sweet and sad, and trying so damn hard to keep on keeping on.  He is, perhaps, one of the strongest characters I’ve ever written, and I’m so proud of him.

That was Tuesday, 9/12.  Last night was the autumn equinox class at Barefoot with Jenny.  Not only did we welcome in the new season, but because it was a new moon, we also set intentions.  Now, you’re supposed to set future intentions in the present tense.  IE: I have a published novel.  Normally, I always do this.  At the beginning of the year, I had very specific goals in mind (all of which were based around Mason, and all of which didn’t happen, and all of which I’m very glad didn’t happen, so thank you, universe), and I wrote them in the present tense.  During any other intention setting ceremonies this year, I’ve written down future goals in the present tense.  This is not what I did last night.  My intention, and my goal, for the upcoming season is simple:

Oliver Hollands
James Goddard
Harrison Eldridge
Jasper Marlow
Jensen Marlow

My intention is the Pen boys.  My goal is to love them and be with them and experience their journey.

So, here I am.  Originally unsure of where I was going next, and now jumping in headfirst.  Maybe I was exactly where I was supposed to be all along.  Maybe I’m supposed to be writing this series from beginning to end.  We’ll see.  Either way, I’m ready.