Music as my Muse

Let me attempt to paint a picture and some sound with words here for a moment.

The venue was sold out. I got there fifteen minutes after the doors had opened and stood in line around the entire block for a half hour before getting in. The place was packed, the line for the merch table was so long it was getting lost in the crowd eagerly waiting for the show to begin. The first band started and I was at the back of the crowd, waiting in line. I like to get my merch at the beginning of the show because I’m small and my size sells out quickly.

Within thirty seconds of their performance, the floor was shaking from I Prevail telling the crowd to jump. I couldn’t help but bob along while I stood in line and wished I was in the middle of that crowd. I made my purchase and shoved my way into the crush of people just in time to participate in a wall of death at the start of the second song that opened up a pit that spanned half of the floor. It was exhilarating, my blood was rushing, the music shook me.

By the time the band I came to see began to play my throat was nearly raw from screaming support to the first band, I was exhausted from bashing my face on someone else’s head during the second band’s set and my legs were shaking from dancing and jumping. But I summoned the last of my strength and sang my heart out for Hollywood Undead because I’m that fan who knows every word to every song.

I get so much shit for the music I listen to and have for as long as I can remember, from everyone: parents, friends, coworkers, strangers. I’m so used to it that it surprises me to meet new people who understand what I feel. And I feel so much.

Last night, my heart felt like it was falling out of my throat with every word that I sang and my blood was pumping so hard it felt like my veins might burst. Art is meant to make you feel and I felt so strong last night. Music is art.

Music has inspired me for so long that I can hardly separate song from my writing. I listen to music when I write, as I write this, I’m listening to Shinedown’s new album “Threat to Survival.” Last night as I drove home from the show, high off of adrenaline, I listened to my newly purchased copy of I Prevail’s debut EP “Heart Vs. Mind” on repeat for two hours and I drafted this blog entry in my head and in the notes section of my phone. I have a specific playlist built for the first novel I wrote and I still rely on that playlist occasionally when I need support from the past to write something new.

It is a thing that is difficult to put into words because music is only partially words and only that if you listen to music with words, but I write hoping that you will understand, if only just a little.

So much emotion goes into music, you can feel it in every instrument, in every word that is sang and the way it is sung. When I write, I try to encompass the kind of emotion that music does. Obviously with writing, I can only take the single element of words and only mimic the rhythm and voice of instruments, but damn do I try my hardest.

I’ve been told that my prose reads a lot like poetry and not one of my teachers were ever surprised to learn that I write poetry as well. Poems are similar to lyrics in the sense that every word counts a lot more, since there are less of them and often times poetry is read with music accompanying it. You’ll also hear words like rhythm, cadence, and beat used to describe poetry, relating it to music. Music uses words and words can have a sort of musicality to them. This is why I draw so much inspiration from music.

Writing takes a lot of emotion, ask any writer. It sucks a piece of your soul out through your fingertips. The act of creating is very emotional and music both drives me to express that emotion and helps me to control the feelings. It is a very magical thing.

I’m not completely certain I will ever be able to truly explain just how much music has impacted my life, but here I hope that I was able to show you just a little of what it has done for me. My writing would not be where it is now if not for the music that fuels me to continue onward and inspire me with new rhythm in my work.

It is my dearest, most selfish hope that my writing becomes the soundtrack to someone’s life, that my poetry is the music reflected in their eyes. The day my novel becomes the song that saved someone’s life will be the day that I have accomplished my goal.

Writing is my Therapy: A Creative Mind on Depression

I’ve been having a very difficult time coming up with a topic to add to my blog, hence why it has been so long since I posted last.  Part of the reason is due to the mental struggles I have been dealing with in an inflated way in the last few months.  So here I am.

I live with depression and social anxiety on a daily basis.  I have chosen not to medicate myself and have struggled with different coping mechanisms throughout my life.  The anxiety is something I tend to by being aware of my social limits and balancing that with work, family time, friend time and a plethora of alone time.  The depression is a little more tricky.  It is something that is difficult to describe to anyone who has never experienced it and even harder to describe to those who have, but have moved on from it.  My depression is not a seasonal thing, though it gets worse in the winter months, and it is not a temporary thing.  I have dealt with it all of my life and operate based on the assumption that it is never going away.  To say that depression hits you like a wave is true, yet also untrue.  Sometimes it does and I wake up with a migraine, unable to get out of bed.  Other days I wake up feeling 100% happy and normal, but as the day wears on, the smile fades and my texts become shorter and less vibrant and by two in the morning I am in tears, psychoanalyzing myself in the shower.

Writing has always been one of the things that helps pull me away from the all-consuming mire of depression.  Once again, however, there is an unfortunate flip side as depression also makes it extremely difficult for me to write.

That cycle is what I have been struggling with for the past few months.  I am desperately working on a novel that I would love to have a rough draft of completed by November, but each day that I stare at my computer screen and compose line after line of poetry about the shaking in my hands and the aching for a razor blade on my skin, I feel like I am further and further from that goal.

On one hand, I’m writing some pretty interesting poetry that is helping me to come to terms with the mental illness I am constantly at war with.  On the other hand, I have a story inside of me that is screaming to be let out and my overwhelming lack of motivation and self loathing has me locked up in such a way that only certain words will come out, but not the ones I’m looking for.

Countless studies have been done on the correlation between depression and artists of any type, I knew I was doomed the moment I picked up a pen and the sleepless nights started.  It is the curse of the intelligent to suffer from insomnia, and in turn, depression, which also causes sleeplessness and therein the cycle begins.

Which brings me here to why I am writing this post about my specific brand of mental illness, for there are many, but I am only plagued with a few and it seems that my anxiety and depression feed off of one another.  My writing is the reason why I choose not to medicate.  The creative part of me is, most days, the one thing that keeps me going, whether I have writer’s block or not.  I know I have stories in my head that need to be written down, need to be told and they won’t be if I end my life because I can’t take the pain anymore.  Taking medication to calm the storm in my head could affect my writing in a huge way and I am not willing to risk that.  I’ve made it 23 years without medicine to keep me from killing myself, I can only hope that my writing can keep me afloat another 23 more.

My illness and my experiences are the things that drive me to write.  I know I mentioned it in my first blog post, but it bears repeating.  I write for the ones who feel alone, who don’t have anywhere else to go so they eat their lunch in the library among the books and end up picking one up that changes their life.  I know those people exist because that happened to me.  I have so many books on my list now that have helped me discover what I am and kept me going through things that would have killed a lot of people.  I am here because of those worlds I was able to escape to and I am here to carry on that torch.  I write stories about broken people and magic that heals them, stories about lost boys and girls who find their place in the world in the last places they expect, stories of young love and old love, shattered dreams and dead end roads that find new life, because if I haven’t found a reason good enough to end it yet, then you can continue on too.

They say it gets better and I hope to hell that it does, but for now I’ll keep on writing because no matter how much it hurts, I’m too stubborn to give up.

Poetry is not my strong point

It has been a while since my last post and there are many excuses I could share, but none would do me any favors.  So I will tell you what I HAVE been doing:  writing poetry, a LOT of poetry.

Now, fiction is definitely my form of choice and absolutely my stronger medium, but I have always written poetry.  Every since I was seven and wanted so badly to grow up and be a singer, I have written terrible, horrifying lyrics and poems.  In the eighth grade we had to write a few poems for class so I was reading a lot of poetry and picking up books from the public library.  One of those books was a collection focused towards young adults and suggested that aspiring poets keep a journal of all of their poetry.  So I began a poetry journal.

Since I was 13 years old, I have filled four composition books full of crap and the occasional not-so-crap poems, (along with two notebooks of “songs” a friend and I wrote together in middle school).  I’m working on my fifth and I am now 23 years old.  Ten years later and I’m a fiction writer who has all of this random poetry floating around up my sleeve.  In the last three years I have not written nearly as much poetry as the years previously and I believe that is because I have been focusing more seriously on my fiction as a product of going to school for writing.

Writing poetry has always been something that I have taken less seriously because for me it has always been about getting my emotions out.  My poetry is very egocentric and the majority of it is feeling ripped directly from my chest.  Every once in a while I will take on characters and write something, but take a peek into my poetry journals and you will learn very much about Tara at many points in her teenage years.

Once I started going to school for writing, oh, about four years ago now, I learned to appreciate really good poetry.  And I learned what really good poetry actually was.  I came to the realization that the drivel I had written for all of my teenage life was complete trash.  So my poetry writing slowed down and I focused on the writing that I felt I was truly good at:  fiction.

Now when I pen a poem, I judge myself very harshly and my writing process is immensely different from when I first began.  As a teenager, I would break out my journal every time I had an idea and start letting stuff appear on paper.  I have meticulously named and dated everything and kept a table of contents at the front of every journal so I could reference previous works because I am organized after a fashion.  Now I rarely break out my journal to write something into it unless it has gone through several drafts.

My poetry has evolved into a different monster than what it used to be.  Rather than puking emotion, it is more controlled and systematic.  I still very much use my poems as an inner outlet that isn’t through another character’s lens, but I have very much developed a character of myself.  The voice behind the poems is still me, but I have changed much and like I said, I actually edit things now.  I will randomly get a few lines of an idea, or an emotion I describe perfectly to myself in my head, often while I am driving, and punch it into the notes in my phone.  Once I find some time, I revisit the lines and either write more or combine them with another few lines floating around in my notes.  Once I have something that I think is near complete, I break out my notebook that I jot down things too long to write on my phone.  I prefer handwriting to anything typed above all else so I write it all out by hand, edit and change words as I go, add more in, take some out, rearrange verses.

Art is supposed to make you feel something.  My poetry is meant for me and perhaps a select few people that I write things for.  I don’t really write for an audience other than myself, mostly because my poetry is still about me trying to figure out and put a name to emotions.  But I’ve been working on a lot of this last month and am vain enough that I feel alright posting a bit of it here today. Forgive me for not being able to read it aloud to you, as poetry is meant to be enjoyed.

This poem is something I wrote for someone who was and is still very dear to me, one of my absolute closest friends.

Part II:  The Return

To everyone, it’s complicated, strange.
To us, it is the only thing simple in our entire lives,
The easiest to describe,
The only part that we can put words to.

In the darkness we find each other
Because the shadows are where we belong.
We don’t need light to see one another;
Our gazes reach places that can’t be described in color.

If you breathe in, I breathe out:
The two of us make one machine,
One intellect, one mimic of a soul.

Others will come between us
So we have evolved to survive at half capacity,
But the silver chain that binds us,
It drags us, pulls us back to each other.
No matter the distance between
Or the time that has passed.

Our existence is one blasphemous non tradition after another;
Twins in separate bodies, born too far apart in time for acceptance.
Yet we found one another in the blackness
And instead of pulling each other out, we have stayed.

We have our ebon castle
Crawling with vines and thorns.
A single throne to overlook it all
For we are both King of this land.

And when one leaves, the other awaits their return;
For inevitability is the link that has us bound.
Willing victims in a world where all we have always had is each other.
How we see us is the only thing that truly matters.

 

Idolatry and writing: Laurell K. Hamilton

Being a writer, I read, a lot.  I always have.  So in an attempt to bring everyone full circle to where I am at as a writer now, I will share with you one of my biggest inspirations and why.

Laurell K. Hamilton is a writer that spans multiple genres in one series.  She is currently writing two different series and releases one book a year for each one.  She is apparently working on something completely new and separate from both so her schedule may change.  One series is about Faerie and her take on the Sidhe Fae, called Merry Gentry.  The other series is Anita Blake:  Vampire Hunter.

Anita Blake is the series that has lead me down the path of writing I am on today.  I have always written fantasy fiction, but have never seen a mix of genres woven together so wonderfully as Hamilton does.  Anita Blake is a fascinating mix of urban fantasy, horror, dark fantasy, romance, mystery and reality.  These books embody the reason why I love fantasy so much, there are no limitations.  Reality has limitations, our imaginations do not.  Hamilton takes her imagination and blends it with countless hours of research to make her world mesh with ours perfectly.

Zombies that shamble, vampires that are both beautiful and selfish, savage creatures, wereanimals of every type that reflect a true blending of human and animal instincts, demons that are far more evil than we imagine them to be, and multitudes of other magical creatures that will hunt you down in the dark take the stage in the Anita Blake novels.

What draws me so much to Hamilton’s work, which is also reflected in the Merry Gentry series, is the new level she takes dark fantasy to; more of a true blending of horror and fantasy.  To me it makes so much more sense than “traditional fantasy” or whatever that is.  Because when I imagine a world with magic and monsters made or magic or able to use magic, I imagine a world a whole hell of a lot scarier than the one we live in.  So many people in reality already have evil intentions, imagine if they actually had abilities that made it easier for them to meet their goals.  Mass mind control, command over armies of undead, clairvoyance, or telekinesis?  Magic has no limit, for good or evil.

Hamilton takes that and runs with it.  Over the course of the series, we get to watch Anita grow from a fledgling animator that can raise a few zombies a night from the grave to a necromancer that can control all types of undead, including vampires.  Anita uses her abilities to hunt rogue vampires and lycanthropes in a world where vampires have legal citizenship, but are now tied by human law.  She works with the police to solve magical murders and mysteries that they can’t see all sides to, she executes monsters that are too quick for a mere human to hunt down, and raises zombies at night.  In Anita’s world, people pay large amounts of money to have people raised from the dead for a night, to testify in court because they died before they could, to settle life insurance disputes,  to help rewrite history books more accurately.

The magic system in Hamilton’s universes is complex and well planned out.  Like I said, she blends real world research, like the weapons that Anita uses to hunt monsters, with the powers she has made up for her characters so that the world seems not only plausible, but like it would actually exist, if only we had magic in our world.  So many urban fantasy systems are cut-and-paste, the magical world is hidden from the human one so humans know nothing of magic.  This makes it easy for the author, they don’t have to painstakingly blend the two worlds together.  Hamilton refuses to be so lazy.  She makes her faerie princess a public figure in the human media, basically a celebrity that people scramble for glimpses of.  Anita is a federal marshal that travels across states to help the FBI hunt creatures it doesn’t know enough about.  She gives lectures across the country on zombies and advocates in court against their use for slave labor.

I’m sure you can google Hamilton and find tons of critics who will say bad things and I have plenty of critique for her work as well.  No writer is perfect, especially one that has deadlines to meet in order to keep publishers happy.  This blog post is about the things she writes that inspire me.

I write dark fantasy.  I write dark fantasy because our world is not bright, it is dark.  Awful things happen to good people every day.  Weak people are thrown into situations that might break them or change them, through no fault of their own.  Fantasy is an escape, but by no means does it have to be meaningless.  Throughout Hamilton’s series, Anita struggles time and time again with her faith, her love life, her sexuality, the emotional abuse she suffered as a child, the loss of a parent as a child, the fear of not being accepted, what it truly means to be a “living” being, fear of death, what immortality means for the soul and the list goes on.

The heroes and heroines of our fantasy worlds struggle with the same things that real human beings deal with everyday, the setting is just different and often times more dangerous.  If my readers can see their heroes struggle with their eating disorders, their self harm, their abuse, all while facing dangers greater than what the average human faces, why can’t they defeat their very real inner and outer demons as well?

I began reading the Anita Blake series when I was 14 years old, but Hamilton definitely writes for adults.  There is graphic sexual tones and scenes in her work, and while I have no problem with it, I want to write strictly for Young Adults.  Mostly because I wish that there had been more age appropriate options for me as a teenager.  I have always been drawn to dark fantasy and horror and the only places you can find the good stuff is in the adult section of the library (although I will admit that the YA genre has grown a lot since I was a teen).  I don’t want my readers to have to go to the adult section.  I don’t want their parents picking up a book they borrowed from the library and reading a sex scene and freaking out on their teenage son or daughter.

I want to write something for kids that I wish that I had had at their age.  Something real and not full of fluff, writing that isn’t afraid to reach down into the darkest part of our beings and rip out the parts of ourselves that we are scared to look at.  Books are a safe places for self reflection, mostly because we have our heroes right alongside us.  Many people think that a thirteen year old girl or boy isn’t capable of harboring those beasts and emotions, but I know otherwise.  Armed with the knowledge that it can be done, and that Hamilton is a leading example of it in the adult fantasy world, I want to use fantasy to crack us all wide open.  I acknowledge that it is just as important for young adults and teens to peer into the innermost parts of their being as it is for adults to do so.  It is important that they get the clear message that is okay for them to feel the things that they do and that they are not alone.

On fantasy fiction and healing magic

Fantasy comes in many mediums, books, movies, video games, paintings, poetry and many more.  It provides an escape for artists and consumers alike and unleashes the imagination; challenges our comfort zones.  Even in far off worlds, we can find kinship with characters that make difficult moral, social, and life changing decisions, whilst escaping the often mundane circumstances of our own lives.

Don’t get me wrong, reality is important, but fantasy is not so far off from reality as many make it out to be.  The stereotype of the nerd or the geek is always laughed at.  People look at me like I’m a freak when I mention I play Dungeons and Dragons, even more so for being unashamed and proud of it.  Mainstream society paints fantasy and fiction as a guilty pleasure to be indulged in where no one else can see.

I believe that fantasy is a relevant genre, no matter what medium it is portrayed in.  As a child, books were my escape from a world I often had no wish to be in, away from a life at school and home that I sometimes hated.  As I grew older, books still held my interest, but I discovered video games and found some of the same things that I loved about books were also in games, except I could BE the heroine, instead of just identify with the hero or heroine.  The escape was important, but also the trials characters had to go through was important.  I was not alone.  Even if others did not see the hero’s problem, he still had to struggle through it.

My philosophy on writing has evolved from the books I love to read and the things I have experienced in my own life.  Video games influence my writing heavily as well as Dungeons and Dragons campaigns I have played with friends.  I look for inspiration wherever I go and when I bring it back to my writing, I keep coming back to fantasy.

I was told once in high school by a creative writing teacher that I should write something other than fantasy.  I was told as an undergraduate creative writing student that I would never get accepted into a Master’s program writing “genre fiction”.  I was told that I was a great writer, but that basically because I had chosen a genre that wasn’t considered “literary” I would never make it far.  I am here today to challenge that.

Art is meant to make us feel something.  Whether it is writing, painting, a video game (yes I consider games a medium of art, just look at those things!), or a doodle in a sketchbook, art is emotion.  Books and games helped me through some of the toughest times of my life and continue to help me through difficult days.

That is why I write.  I write for the hurt ones.  The lost ones.  The boys and girls who have gone through unspeakable horrors and cannot find words to come to terms with what has happened to them.  The ones who pick up a book to be swept away into another world to escape the one that they are in.  The ones who desperately need to read about someone who has gone through something that they can relate to, whether the situation is the same or just the emotions are the same.  Writing heals and fantasy is a way to bring together escapism and healing and bring our young people back into reality feeling whole.

This blog is about my journey as a writer.  I want to share with you what I believe writing should be, what I am doing with my writing and to just share some of the things I love.  I have a love for fantasy in all mediums, and if it hasn’t been made clear by this point in the entry, I write fantasy fiction.  I hope to share reviews of books I love and give recommendations for anyone looking for an escape or healing.  I play a lot of video games and would love to talk about them here, especially video games as an art form and how they contribute to the fantasy genre.  Music is also a huge influence to my writing and I plan to talk about how that medium has shaped me.

Here I am starting a journey.  Come with me and let us get lost in a place that will blur the lines between reality and fantasy until we walk as if both worlds are one.