My Music and Me

Someone said to me recently, “I would love to just sit and listen to you talk about music for hours.”

While this person was meaning to compliment me, saying that my passion for and love of music was something they appreciated in me, it was a bittersweet statement. Because music is such a huge part of the fabric of my being—despite not actively being a musician, in any way, any more—it is something that I love to share with other people.

But so often I find that other people are, if not completely disinterested from the start, easily bored by my musings and gushings and overall zeal when it comes to the topic of music.

One of the easiest parts of my Patreon to maintain is my music Monday posts, where I share a video (or occasionally a playlist) of some song. Sometimes it’s a song with a deep, important meaning to me; other times it’s just a cool song that I want other people to hear. I’ve even decided to dedicate one music Monday per month to artists I discover on TikTok, for the sole sake of sharing.

Because it is easy for me, it is free to the world. But even free, I can’t get anyone to be interested.

In the same vein, I used to “work” for a small—now defunct—independent record label called Tranquilizer Records, based out of Toronto. It was started by the person who helped to form the band promotions team I was part of and I don’t think it ever made any profit. But my “job” (which I have put in quotations because it was strictly on a volunteer basis but it was still work and a job because I put A LOT of time into it) was as a podcast host. I had a weekly show, one hour per, where I talked about music and played music.

In retrospect, there was probably some royalties issues in that but they were technically not my royalties issues and I was told I could do whatever I wanted (within reason).

So I played a lot of whatever I wanted to play. I had only just embarked on a indie label showcase series where I picked an independent record label each week and talked about their bands and played some of my favorite songs from those bands. It was a good time.

For me.

I’m not sure anyone else ever got in on that good time or if I was talking exclusively to my cat the entire time.

So, while I would love to have an audience for the ravings of a musically inclined lunatic, I just don’t have the track record to suggest that that is actually something people want from me.

More evidence for the gremlins in my brain who occasionally like to wander through, scoff at whatever I’m doing, and tell me I’m boring, before shuffling off again.

If, in fact, you are interested in learning more about my music Monday posts or anything else I’m working on, join me on Patreon.

New Normal?

One thing I hear a lot is this *gestures vaguely at everything* is our “new normal,” that things like concerts and movie theaters, festivals, sporting events, free-range travel, are a thing of the past.

I refuse to believe that.

Not because I am not sure how I will survive in a world without real concerts (don’t talk to me about virtual concerts) or where I can’t go to all of the places I want to go, do all of the things I want to do.

I am not prepared for this to be anything but a glitch. I refuse to accept that this is anything but a glitch.

For several years, one of my favorite bands hosted a Christmas festival, for lack of a better term. They would play a Christmas-themed concert in their hometown of Chicago, and as the years went on, it expanded until the final year included two concerts, two tapings of a local music showcase, and after parties for the 21+ crowd. There were Q&A sessions, meet and greets, tattoo shops got in on the fun, offering special flash designs for that weekend only.

And one–unplanned–aspect of the whole thing was something that was deemed the New Heart plague.

It was the result of a couple hundred people converging on the frozen tundra from all around the world then effectively hotboxing their collective germs for three and four hours at a time before returning to the cold winter air outside. It wasn’t just one ailment, it was some mutated conglomeration of flu, cold, and whatever other weird germs people brought to the party.

We all knew it was going to happen, but we went anyway.

We mainlined Emergen-C for weeks ahead of time. We came prepared with cough drops, Pepto, Tylenol. We prepared and then it was all for naught in the end anyway.

Once in Chicago, we became the raccoons we had adopted as our mascot. Slept anywhere and whenever we could. Ate our weight in garbage. And rained general mayhem and chaos upon an unsuspecting city for a week.

I want to go back to that.

Not the festival, though that too, but the idea that living for the moment was more important than the consequences.

Please don’t assume I mean this to diminish the consequences. I am fully cognizant that people are dying. I am fully cognizant that people are suffering long term effects after their treatments are finished. I want to safely return to living for the moment with treatments and vaccines in place, but make no mistake that I want to return to that unencumbered zeal and zest.

My mental health requires it.

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If you enjoy what I’m doing here, please visit my Patreon.

More on the Subject of Wanderlust

I was called a rambler today. I think I like that.

The thing is…

I thirst for adventure. Which is probably a good thing considering I am also the type of person who can turn a trip to the post office into a full-blown adventure. I’m kind of a magnet for mishaps. Most of them end up being so outrageous they extend to the realm of absurd.

But I am also an obsessive planner. If you adventure with me there are things you can rest assured I will have taken care of, well ahead of time, and triple checked.

That doesn’t mean I’ve never made hotel reservations for Thursday, Friday, Saturday when I needed Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, but for me that’s considered diet adventure.

But I will triangulate the primary goals of the adventure and find the most centrally-located hotel. I will scour travel sites to find the cheapest room at the most centrally-located hotel. I will find restaurants nearby. I even know the closest drugstore and Target or Walmart, just in case.

Maybe all of my obsessive planning is why the mishaps are so often hilarious.

The problem is that while I live in a place apparently chock full of adventure, it’s not my style. My idea of a great hike with great views is climbing the stairs to the top of an extra tall parking garage to look out over that particular city.

But I’ve grown weary of having these adventures alone. A common but of advice is “learn to enjoy your own company.” I’ve had no choice but to learn this lesson. I’m ready to try adventures with other people.

It sounds silly but I want to have hushed but excited conversations in airport terminals and on trains. I want to have someone to watch our carry-on luggage while I get snacks. I want someone to bring me unsolicited snacks.

There are definite advantages to adventuring alone. Go anywhere you want, stay as long as you want, eat when and what you want… But I’d like to try it not alone.

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If you enjoy what you read here, consider joining my Patreon community.

Venting Frustrations

I want to be completely honest and transparent here for a moment.

Motivation is becoming more and more difficult for me to find. For anything. Lack of reviews on my book make it hard to want to finish the trilogy. Lack of participation in my Facebook group makes me not want to post there. Lack of participation on my Patreon makes me not want to post anything there.

And dealing with negative conversations and attitudes in my day job makes me dread going there every day.

I am normally a positive, people-person but I just want to tuck myself away and not see or talk to anyone. Because seeing people and talking to people, right now, makes me frustrated and angry.

I saw a conversation a few days ago between an author and a reader (who were also friends). The reader wanted to know when the author would be releasing the next book in one of her series. She called him to the mat and said sales on the first one were dismal and it had literally ZERO reviews so she was focusing on the series that had been successful. His response was to tell her he didn’t understand why no one reviewed it; it was soooo gooooood.

He didn’t even see the irony of his statement.

If it has literally zero reviews, that includes you, pal.

And part of the reason this conversation caught my attention is this same reader has told me the same thing about my series. It’s so good!

Okay? So? Don’t tell me, tell other people.

Sign up for (and read and share) newsletters.

Get involved with Patreon campaigns.

Buy books for friends.

Join reader groups and tell people there.

And for the love of everything good and green on this Earth, LEAVE A REVIEW!

Building Something Unique

I have set a goal for myself to promote my work to readers. I understand that writers are also readers but readers who are not writers, I feel, are less likely to be interested in things like editing tips and tips for developing characters or writing good dialog.

Not to mention, it seems like every other writer thinks this is the way to go with their platform building. Cater to other writers. Share your tips with other writers. So doing that makes me feel like just another bark in the kennel.

But I don’t know what to do—outside of sharing stories—to cater to readers instead of writers, or to cater to the reader side of other writers.

Obviously, sharing stories is important but I also don’t feel like I have the mojo to do that consistently.

I’ve been mining my old work, finding anything I think is worth sharing again. But I’m also quickly running out of old work to share.

Ideally, I would just write, all the time. But I need the connection of being around other human beings in order to keep my creativity flowing. And lately, that connection has been a source of nothing but frustration and irritation. Which is not nurturing. Not at all.

I don’t know the answer. I just want to stand out, be different and original, not blend in with what all the other writers are doing, while still doing things that will resonate with the people I need them to resonate with.

If you are interested in finding out more about what I AM working on, find me on Patreon, Instagram, and TikTok.

A Yearly Bout of Wanderlust

Every year, around this time, I get a serious wave of wanderlust. I don’t know if it’s the weather or the fact that for several years, I, either by myself or with family, have gone somewhere for Thanksgiving or Christmas.

When I was in college, we would travel to Mesquite to see my dad’s family for Thanksgiving.

I also visited my then-boyfriend’s family in Corpus Christi the week before Christmas my senior year of college.

After college, my mom and I would travel to Tucson to see her family for Christmas.

And the annual sojourn to Chicago for the New Heart for Christmas festival (yes, festival…three days of concerts, five days with basically no sleep, good friends, good memories, it was a festival).

And I was making a habit of traveling to Denver for my birthday.

So, for the better part of twenty years, I was going SOMEWHERE in November and December. So I start to get the wanderlust around this time.

This year it’s even worse because I can’t go anywhere. There’s just too much garbage in the way. The flights are going to be miserable, then getting somewhere there isn’t anything to do because everything is shut down or restricted. There are no concerts, no conventions. I’m just stuck here wishing I could be anywhere else. 

I am changing my milestone goals on my Patreon. Where, right now, I have a goal of adding a new “subscription box” tier when I reach $50 in monthly contributions, I will be changing that to a trip.

One thing about writing urban fantasy is it’s hard to write about a city you don’t know. With something like contemporary fiction or romance, you can focus your setting on the high points. Writing a contemporary romance about Chicago? Send your characters to Giordano’s or the Sky Deck and you’ve accomplished the goal. With urban fantasy, the city is just as much a character as the breathing creatures and you need to explore the side streets. You need to explore the nuances, eat where the locals do, go off the “beaten path” for entertainment. What places are only frequented by tourists? Where would your character live if they were in a bungalow versus a condo? Which side streets are one way and which way is that way? Do locals skirt around the city and drive on the Interstate/Freeway or do they wind in and out? Grab a Lyft or a cab and watch how the driver gets where they’re going. Talk to the driver and find out what is important to know about the city.

So I’m going to take my two week vacation from work and go somewhere and do all of that and document my adventures. I’m going to spend a lot of money on food and Lyft rides but I’m going to explore and learn. It’s a long way off but so is the freedom to do it so it seems like a good time to implement it.

If you would like to help me reach this goal, join me on Patreon.

Come to the Creepy Side

First, I want to make it clear that I am not comparing myself to others. That is toxic and unhelpful. I am, however, looking at what others accomplish as a means for setting goals.

For years, I was a horror writer. Until a vampire story I wrote in college turned into what I had called at the time dark fantasy. Now, it’s urban fantasy.

Urban fantasy is when you take elements of horror stories like vampires, ghouls, ghosts, and instead of monsters, you make them characters in a modern setting. The name of the genre is new but the concept is not. The concept goes back decades. Stories like A Christmas Carol are now included, retroactively, in the genre.

And it’s a fun genre to write in. So many possibilities. I’m not complaining about that.

It’s just frustrating to know the kinds of things I used to write that I can’t seem to find the ideas for any longer. And then to come across these Tumblr threads and Twitter threads where people are making up these creepy AF stories on the fly . . . That used to be me.

I used to make those kinds of stories up quickly and easily. Maybe not completely “on the fly” but I did a lot of flash fiction when I was writing what I still consider to be really good, and I’d churn out a 1000 word story in a couple of hours. Good, creepy stories.

I read one from Tumblr the other day about why humans are the only species to experience the Uncanny Valley effect. It got weird. Then it got historically feasible, but also still weird. I miss writing things like that.

I keep thinking I need examples of my creative work to share in various places—here, Vocal Media, Instagram, Patreon—so that people can get an idea of the kind of writer I am. But I also need that to be consistent so people can start to expect it and look for it.

Because that is ultimately what I want; people to actively seek me out.

The Anxiety of Unplanned Creativity

I was invited to a creative Zoom meeting tonight. The idea was creating a new creative calendar that is “more aligned with our lives *in this moment.*”

I was interested in the event until I heard the word markers. And then something in my brain went into a weird panic mode and then shut down. I don’t know what it was about all of the things put together, the “new calendar,” the markers, but I was suddenly very uncomfortable and disinterested.

And I feel like that’s pretty standard.

I don’t know if that’s a normal thing among creatives but it’s definitely something I experience. I’m not fully sure how to explain it but I get really anxious and uncomfortable when presented with unexpected creativity.

There is also the issue of my life doesn’t fit a schedule. It is different from week to week and day to day and I don’t always get advanced warning before people change my plans for me. So creating a calendar that’s more aligned to my life—that sets off all kinds of “this will be frustrating!” alarms and I don’t like those alarms either.

The point is I don’t know what causes this panic response to the idea of being creative without advanced warning or preparation time, but it is very real.

If you would like to see more of what I do when I’m not stressing over unplanned creative time, please visit my Patreon and consider becoming a patron.

On the Subject of NaNoWriMo. . .

I guess I’m participating by default? The third book of my trilogy is due to the editor in January but I reached a point where I hated everything but the beginning and end so I binned almost 40k words to rewrite the whole thing.

Publishing this trilogy has worked out very different to how I planned.

When I was going to DIY, I intended to have everything finished so everything could be edited together. Because it’s one story from start to finish, a loose three-act structure over three books. Editing it in pieces has brought up some interesting hurdles.

Not that that is why I scrapped all of book three. It just got weird. I needed to bring it back to the reality of the story universe.

I also cut out the torture scenes.

There. Chew on that for a minute while you decide if this series is for you.

I’ll release them, eventually, because they’re important, I think. They might end up in a book, they might end up on Patreon, I have yet to decide. I think it will depends on what the next year brings.

So, I won’t be on the NaNoWriMo site logging my progress. But I don’t have much choice other than finish 50k words this month.

And speaking of Patreon, if you like my content here, please join me there.

Soup Weather

To begin. . . I have no intention of ever becoming a food blogger.

BUT

Sometimes I realize I make some pretty good food stuffs and it is selfish of me not to share.

The weather is disgusting today in the high desert. It’s all rainy and dark and gloomy . . .

It’s a soup day.

I prefer thick, rustic soups with lots of bits and pieces. I don’t hate a good bowl of Campbell’s creamy tomato but it’s definitely better with a cheese sandwich to dunk in it (coincidentally, tomato soup and a toasted cheese is just deconstructed pizza—think about it for a minute; I’ll wait) but I like soup better with it has texture. To that end, one of my favorites is loaded baked potato soup.

I grew up on potato soup made with ham and milk so when I had a broth based potato soup in my mid 20s, I was severely disappointed. Like, I KNEW that was a thing but I had grown so accustomed to what is probably potato chowder, technically, this thin, watery business wasn’t cutting it.

Over the years, I have developed my own sort of recipe for this baked potato chowder whatsit. It’s incredibly simple and I make it even simpler by employing the microwave but you can make it all on the stove if you prefer.

Ingredients:
one medium potato (per person/serving)
pre-cooked ham or bacon (real ham, not “lunch meat” slices)
2 tablespoons butter (divided)
1 cup milk (more as needed)
½ cup heavy cream
½ cup mixture of shredded cheddar and Swiss cheeses, and grated Parmesan
Salt, pepper, garlic, paprika to taste

Start with one medium potato per person.

What is a medium potato, you ask? Well, it’s a little arbitrary but my measurement is a medium potato is roughly the size of my hand. I can hold two small potatoes in one hand, one medium potato, and a “large” potato is larger than what I can contain completely in my hand. See? Arbitrary.

One medium potato per person.

Peel the potato, or don’t, it’s your choice. I prefer to peel them. Either way, give them a good rub and rinse to get the dirt and bacteria off the outside before you peel or cut.

Give the potatoes a rough dice. Half inch cubes work nicely.

Now, this is where I cheat a little.

I throw the little cubes into a microwave safe bowl (usually the one I’ll be eating from later). I add a little water, cover the whole works with a damp paper towel, and give it about two minutes in the microwave. I want them soft but not “cooked.” You can also par boil the potatoes to just before “fork tender.”

In your choice of medium pot, melt a tablespoon of butter. When the butter is fully melted, toss in your potatoes. “Fry” the potatoes in the butter over medium to high heat until they start to get a little brown and crispy on the outside, about 3-5 minutes. Add a “pinch” each salt, pepper, dried minced onions, garlic powder or paste, and smoked paprika* (you can always add more later but it’s very hard to take it away if you over salt or something) and a teaspoon of chicken base (this stuff) or concentrated stock (this stuff).

Rough chop cooked ham or bacon** (or both!) into the pan with the potatoes and remaining butter. Stir to coat, reduce to heat to low, and cover for 3-5 minutes to marry the flavors.

Uncover and add another tablespoon butter, one cup milk, and one half cup heavy cream. Simmer to melt butter and bring liquids up to temperature. Add half cup mixture of shredded cheddar, grated Parmesan, and shredded Swiss cheese. Stir cheese into warm milk and cover to simmer 5-10 minutes (until cheese is thoroughly melted). Taste it while still cooking and add more seasoning if needed.

Serve hot. 😊 Obviously.

* Any variety of red pepper powder, depending on your taste. Smoked paprika will add a mild amount of heat to the end product. Chili powder, cayenne, and chipotle powder can be used for different end results.

** While I still recommend using regular, crisply cooked bacon, the soft bacon bits (not the crunchy ones) have a more concentrated bacon flavor. Try throwing a tablespoon or so in with the butter and potatoes in the beginning of the cooking process.

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