Category Archives: Personal Life

An 8.5

Today, I had an awesome day. Today, I worked at the Career Carnival at one of the universities I teach at, representing the creative writing side of our English program and as an author. I loved every minute of talking to students about something we both love. What surprised me were how many non-English majors came to me and said that they love to write and are interested in taking a creative writing class. Writing helps them decompress, especially since most of the majors were STEM related. I completely understood, coming from a biology background initially.

Today, I had an anxiety attack that had nothing to do with my old fear of public speaking and crowds. The Career Carnival went great and I even got to chat with one of my favorite professors afterwards, but everything went to hell at home over something really stupid.

My dog had loose poop.

Yup, that’s it. That’s the thing that sent me careening over the edge into a 8.5 out of 10 panic attack.

From the moment I realized I would have to hose him down and that his could happen again, my body has been on high alert. My heartbeat is so obvious that I’m trying hard not to fixate on it which only causes more palpitations and more panic because it feels like it could stop at any moment. I’ve been still the whole evening, but no one seems to notice. I have my laptop open next to me with Scrivener open to the story I’m working on and Facebook, but I can’t bear to put it in my lap.

What if he has to go outside and in the time it takes to set it aside, he has an accident?

So I sit there playing on my phone when I could be reading The House of Many Ways, which I want to finish by tomorrow night. I text my boyfriend about my anxiety level. Somehow seeing it in numbers and words makes it easier to set aside for a moment.

8.5

An hour and a half later, it’s a 7.5. At least it’s an improvement.

It’s finally settling in at a solid 6 where it now sits like a lump in my throat. Even as I write, I can feel it ebbing and flowing like breath, a heavy helter skelter shroud engulfing me until I fear I will suffocate. As I sit staring at my phone, I picture myself hiccup sobbing. That’s where I’d be if it hit a 10/10, and I’m scared of sliding past the point of reason.

Mostly, I’m frustrated. I’m frustrated that dog shit is what has sent me over the edge after a really good day. I’m frustrated that I will be on the edge of sleep all night for fear that he will need to go out. I’m frustrated that people in my house tell me not to obsess or fixate as if I can shut it off or that I voluntarily surrender myself to sudden panic.

More than anything, I want to feel like this evening wasn’t a total waste, so I’m writing this post in hopes that someone might read it and understand that all-consuming visceral panic. Or maybe someone who has been in the grips of it will feel a little less alone.

Writing about panic and anxiety can be cathartic in my fiction, but not today, not in this. Today it just feels like I’m trying to swim to the surface on a dwindling breath.

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Author Q&A about Dead Magic

So I was tagged on Tumblr by fellow author, Caitlin E. Jones, to do an author Q&A. I liked it so much that I decided to post it here as well.

What is your new book about?

My current WIP is called Dead Magic, which is the fourth book in my historical-fantasy series, The Ingenious Mechanical Devices. Dead Magic is about Emmeline and Immanuel’s lives six months after escaping Lord Rose’s clutches. Both are struggling to find where they belong and establish a new life. Soon, their lives are complicated by magic books, a device that can track souls called a vivalabe, and corpses coming back to life. If you’d like to read a more detailed blurb, you can do so here.If you’d like to read a more detailed blurb, you can do so here.

What or who inspired it?

The Victorian era was a huge inspiration behind Dead Magic. It’s a very weird time due to the combination of superstition, science, and pseudoscience. At the time, Spiritualism (a Christianity-based religion that involved talking to the dead) grew in popularity during the Victorian era, and it inspired Emmeline’s character. She’s a Spiritualist medium who works at the Spiritualist Society but is often overlooked in favor of the theatrical frauds. Immanuel is the opposite side of society. He’s an evolutionist with a specialty in animal anatomy. Together they form a duality between life and death.

What was the biggest challenge while writing it?

Keeping track of the story lines and balancing where to switch between Immanuel and Emmeline. They are equally important characters, so I don’t want either of them to have more screen time than the other. The book also has several plot lines going at once, which can be hard to keep track of off the top of my head. I made a doc to keep as an outline of what I’ve written, but I tend to forget to update it. My procrastination regarding doing things that help me are a pretty big challenge by itself.

What do you want to achieve with this book?

That I’ll create a book that I’m proud of and that I would enjoy to read. All of my books were created because I wanted to read something that didn’t exist. If I enjoy it, hopefully others will too.

What do you hope for this book?

That someone besides me will enjoy it. I’m also hoping that through Immanuel’s struggles, people with PTSD and depression will see themselves. Mostly, I hope that it helps build my audience and bring new people into the Ingenious Mechanical Devices universe.

Are there any parts that have special personal significance to you?

There’s a scene where Immanuel has an emotional breakdown following an attempt on his life. That scene was taken from real life and my experiences watching the ones I love suffer with depression. It’s a scene where I play Adam, Immanuel’s lover, watching his companion spiral into a breakdown while he can do nothing to stop it. It’s the most helpless position to be in–wanting so badly to help but knowing you can do nothing but support them until it passes for a time.

Do you have a favorite character or one you really enjoyed writing?

Immanuel is probably my favorite character out of all of my children (don’t tell the others). He’s very close to me in terms of my personality, and it’s his quiet intensity that I love. He feels so deeply compared to other characters, and it allows me to explore trauma, injustice, and love in ways that I couldn’t with anyone else.

What do you see as the major themes in your book?

Do binaries exist in good and evil or life and death?, different kinds of love, facing darkness, recovery.

What made you set it in__________?

I chose the 1890s because what I wanted to include in my first book fit within that decade. A lot of the anachronistic steampunk elements didn’t exist yet, but it was the closet time period for what I wanted. The perks of the 1890s is the freedom. It was the Naughty Nineties and things could have changed for the better. It’s a diversion point I want to explore. What if Oscar Wilde hadn’t been sent to jail? What if England’s colonies gained steam technology and electricity early?

Did the title come instantly, or did you labour over it?

I hate making titles. It’s one of my least favorite parts of writing, but for Dead Magic, the title came while I was writing chapter one. I had hoped for an early title because I was so tired of calling it IMD #4. How boring. Dead Magic was short, to the point, and a bit mysterious, so it’s stuck.

Who do you think will enjoy your book?

My ideal readers are people who like period dramas but also enjoy Doctor Who. You have to love history and fantasy to enjoy my work because the two intermingle in most stories. Also, if you’re into Penny Dreadful or would like it if there was with less sex and violence, then my books are probably your thing. Dark Victorian fantasies is my flavor of choice.

Do you have a special spot for writing at home?

Usually I just sit on the couch and write. I like to sit folded up like a pretzel, so a desk doesn’t work too well unless I’m forcing myself to write something.

Do you like silence or music playing while you’re writing?

Neither. I like background noise, but usually I have on rain sounds or the tv on something I won’t find too interesting. I need noise, but music sometimes distracts me to the point that I find myself singing instead of writing.

When did you start writing?

I can remember pecking sentences on my nanny’s electric typewriter about puppies and kittens going on adventures. I started trying to write actual stories when I was nine or ten and never stopped.

Did you always want to become an author?

Oh, boy. I’ve had a lot of career dreams over the years. My more serious ambitions have been science teacher, doctor, and English professor. The latter allows me to be an author while still having a stable, or at least decent, income. I absolutely loved medicine, and while I was working on my BA in biology, I loved my classes but felt my mind constantly being drawn back to literature. The more lucrative but soul-draining career in medicine went out the window and was replaced with literature and writing in my junior year of college.

Tell us a bit about your childhood?

I was the oldest of my cousins and was an only child, so I came out as a miniature adult. My childhood was mostly spent hanging out with my grandma, my dogs, reading books before bed with my mom, and watching a lot of Disney movies. Strangely, I had fascinations with dinosaurs, mummies, and Abbott and Costello. As I grew up, I started getting into Sherlock Holmes and mysteries, which led to my love of the Victorian era.

If you’ve had other jobs outside of writing, what were they?

The farthest thing I’ve done from writing is working as a customer service temp, which I’ve done on and off for about seven years now. I’ve also worked as a writing tutor at two different universities and a graduate assistant while I was getting my MFA. In the fall, I’ll be teaching college freshman writing.

Describe yourself in three words.

Academic, quiet, dog-person.

What Sign are you and are you typical of it?

Cancer, and not really. They always seem to be portrayed as emotional. I much prefer my MTBI, which is an INTJ. It’s much closer to my personality.

What three things do you dislike?

Prejudice, ignorance, and sauerkraut.

What three things do you like?

Books with great stories and characters, dogs, and anything related to stationary. I pretty much hoard books and stationary. I’d have even more dogs, but good dog food is hella expensive.

Do you have a family and partner, or are you single?

My boyfriend and I have been together for eleven years (as of next week). He’s my best friend and an artist as well. I don’t have any kids and don’t plan to have any in the future. That’s just not my thing.

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Graduation

As of last Wednesday, I have officially graduated from graduate school with my MFA in Creative and Professional Writing.

It seems strange to say that I’m done with school since I’ve been in it one way or another for nearly 20 years. I still may go back for a MA in literature, but for now, I’m done.

It still hasn’t sunk in yet. I feel like in the fall I should be ordering texts for class and preparing my backpack with supplies.

I guess I’ll be doing much of the same thing because in the fall I’ll be an adjunct professor at two universities, teaching freshman writing. An adjunct professor is basically a part-time professor who teaches the underclassmen. An entry level professor. It’s the bottom of ladder, but at least I’m on a rung. I’ll be one step closer to becoming a full-time English professor. It may take years to get there, but I’m willing to stick it out.

For most of my life, I had no idea what I wanted to be when I “grew up.” I went from wanting to be an archaeologist to a doctor to an English professor. What I really want to be is a writer, but I think I can balance that with working as a professor. I’ll be teaching students about writing and literature while actively engaging in that community. I’ve seen the publishing industry change over the last five years, and I’ve been self-publishing for the last two. I’m someone who loves reading and writing, and I hope I can impart that to my future students. My life was changed drastically by the influence of a few key professors, and maybe one day, I’ll be that professor for someone.

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The Dog Mom

Kate

I don’t like children.

It’s one of those phrases that come to my lips the moment someone asks if my boyfriend and I will ever have kids, but it’s rarely uttered. The reactions are nearly always negative and range from a strange look between disbelief and disgust to a twenty minute rant on why children are the best thing since sliced bread and that I’m totally missing out if I don’t sacrifice my life for 18+ years to support a creature with half my DNA.

It’s always been this way.

I was never a child that lugged around a baby doll. My cousin had a little bald, plastic baby named Gracie that she kept swaddled against her and dressed daily. Instead of a stroller or papoose, my room was loaded with stuffed animals. While my cousin had Gracie, I had Whiskers, a progressively piebald stuffed cat who wore a bed skirt-like dress to hide his bald spots. I talked to my stuffed animals as if they were people. I fed them, hugged them, tucked them in at night.

History has repeated itself night after night.

Every night before I go to bed, I take my hair out of its clips and pins, but as I walk through the darkened house, I make note of where my babies are. Edgar is sleeping under my chair in the kitchen, Finny is laying against the backdoor, and Katie right where I left her on the sofa or curled up on my bed waiting for me. Before I go to sleep, I pet each of them and tell them that I love them. A little part of me fears not carrying out the ritual, not reminding them of my love before they close their eyes. As I peel back the covers, Katie with her stubby dachshund legs dives onto me full force before settling at my feet or near my head. Most nights I wake up with at least Edgar and Katie curled up around me, protecting my flank as if I was one of the pack.

Respecting the autonomy of others means no guilt.

My boyfriend and I have never wanted children. I never dreamed of having a family. Hell, I never thought I’d have a life partner until I met mine, but children have never been in the picture. Never did the image of school pictures, birthdays, or trips to Disney with brood in tow come to mind. I’m still at the age where I don’t know whether to reply yay or oh no when someone says they’re pregnant. My reaction is obvious, but I’m quickly realizing that most at least feign joy. It’s expected. It’s the norm. The norm rarely feels like it fits me anymore. In the future, I see myself writing books, going to a gallery opening or event that’s centered around my partner’s art, and doing some traveling. I want a small house with enough room for us and the dogs. Somewhere there will be a house where dogs lounge on the sofa, locking eyes with me from across the room as I read and pet one of their siblings. The floors will be littered with half-chewed dog bones and tumbleweeds of fur.

“To love another person is to see the face of god.”

My babies won’t live as long as yours. At most, they’ll live into their teens and because I’ve rescued them from the shelter, our time may be shorter than I anticipated. Yet their lives aren’t tragic. Their short time on earth puts my life into perspective and makes me grateful for the years I have with them. For all the wet kisses and the adoring gazes that make a shitty day better because somehow they know what I need. Dogs are strange. Part wolf, part toddler, they’re at once all-knowing and innocent. Animals give their love without caveat and present the only true form of unconditional love on earth, and it’s this I crave. I want to love and be loved without judgment. Someday I’d like to be person my dog loves so wholly and able to love as they do.

 

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Author Update

dead magic

I feel like I’ve been a very negligent author. While I have been writing (Dead Magic is at 15k words or so), I haven’t blogged much.

Part of that is because I’ve been feeling under the weather lately. I had the flu early in the month, and while I feel better, I still don’t feel 100%. It’s made me very tired, and some nights I come home completely wiped out when usually I would stay up and work on a new blog post or write more.

It’s frustrating to say the least. I usually make to-do lists for myself in my bullet journal, but recently, those lists have gotten smaller or have taken longer to get done. I’m hoping that over the next few weeks, I’ll finally shake off this illness once and for all and actually get back to blogging.

I’m really excited about Dead Magic, so I’ll be sharing updates and bits of the story with you soon. All of our old friends are back from The Winter Garden: Adam Fenice, Immanuel Winter, Emmeline Jardine. Dark forces are moving toward London. They want to tap into the cosmos and speak with higher beings, but to do so, they need a certain book. That book has fallen into Emmeline Jardine’s hands and she isn’t giving it up without a fight. All Immanuel wants is a normal life, but he finds that he is in possession of new powers he never asked for and that his life is threatened by an unseen enemy. Soon, Emmeline and Immanuel find themselves in a race against time and the dark magic that threatens to bring the country to its knees. The balance of life and death hinges on their actions. Can they follow the right path or will the temptation of power be too strong?

In a few days, I’ll publish a little sniplet of a new scene from Dead Magic (Ingenious Mechanical Devices #4). Stay tuned.

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Dead Computers and Deadlines

My laptop is dead.

We had been through a lot, like the time I spilled half a cup of coffee across the keyboard after only having him for about a month. My uncle had to rebuild him practically from scratch because apparently French vanilla coffee creamer cannot be completely scrubbed off computer part. Well, after that trauma, he survived through the rest of college and two years of grad school, so I really can’t complain about his performance.

The downside is he died before I could download all of my files. As I watched my computer slow down, then freak out, I could feel myself internally screaming, MY FILES! MY SUPER IMPORTANT AUTHOR FILES!

Then, I remembered that I’m paranoid and a bit OCD, so I constantly send myself files as a way of backing them up. The bad news is I didn’t organize them in any form, so I need to comb through my email and flashdrive. The good news is I found most of them and have backed them up… again. The other semi-bad news is they’re a little old, so I need to go back and update them with fixed typos and new links. Overall, the outcome isn’t too bad for suddenly losing my computer and everything in it.

In the meantime, I’m using my mom’s laptop until my new one arrives, and I WILL be meeting the deadline for The Earl and the Artificer, which is coming out January 30th. Take that, entropy!


 

If you’re interested in picking up a copy of The Earl and the Artificer, you can find it here for 99 cents for a limited time.

eata final cover

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New Year, New Books

Ahhh, another year as an indie author has passed. 2015 has been quite the year for me. I feel like I’ve accomplished so much, yet there’s so much more to do in 2016.

This year I released my second novel, The Winter Garden, along with a short story, “An Oxford Holiday”. While getting through another two semesters of graduate school, I finished writing The Earl and the Artificer and got to meet and hang-out with my best friend who came to visit from the UK. My boyfriend and I celebrated our tenth anniversary. Honestly, this year has been pretty fantastic for me.

I’m a little afraid of 2016. This year I will finish my MFA in Creative Writing and have to look for a real job, which feels incredibly daunting.

Anyway, I have a few solid goals for 2016:

  • Edit, format, and publish The Earl and the Artificer (Ingenious Mechanical Devices #3) by January 30th. You can pre-order it here.
  • Write more books! It’s a fairly obvious goal, but I’d like to write at least two books in 2016.
  • Write every day that I’m not editing. For a while this year, I was really good about writing at least a couple hundred words every day, and that really upped my productivity. I want to start doing that again once I plot out the basics for book 4.
  • Read the books I own. This may sound odd, but I bought a lot of books in 2015, and I haven’t read most of them. In 2016, I’d like to catch up with my reading and try to only buy sequels to what I’m currently reading and not buy twenty for every one I read.

I could go into a bunch of smaller goals I have, but I’m sure those will come up throughout the year. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished in 2015, and I can’t wait to see what 2016 will bring.

Stay tuned for more stories, new characters, and future publications! I know 2016 is going to be a great year!


 

The Earl and the Artificer (IMD#3) is available for pre-order on Amazon for 99 cents.

eata final cover

 

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Apology Freebie

An Oxford Holiday cover

I know I have been totally neglecting this blog for the past few weeks, but it’s for a good reason. My best friend is here visiting from the UK, and I’m trying to spend as much time with her having fun before she goes back.

Anyway, to maybe make up for my absence, I have made “An Oxford Holiday,” which is a romantic Adam and Immanuel short story free today and tomorrow. You can find it by clicking here.

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The Nervous Nelly

So I realized I haven’t written a blog post in over a week. I’m not sure how I managed that, but… sorry. I’ve been feeling mildly overwhelmed this past week. Our house has been torn apart by construction workers, which means my dogs have not shut up every time they come to work. Honestly, it’s been fraying my nerves a little.

This has been manifesting itself as anxiety at school. I try to keep my anxiety under wraps, but it’s like a bag filled with water. If you squeeze it down in one spot, it just pops up somewhere else.

During my thesis seminar class, I have been having a very hard time reading my work aloud. Part of the class is that we bring in a chapter/section of our project, read it aloud, and then our classmates give their feedback. My classmates and professor are great, so they aren’t the issues there. It’s just built-up anxiety.

I have been battling stage-fright for as long as I can remember. In elementary school, I performed in the talent show and realized I was terrified by being on stage. In middle school and high school, I dreaded being called on to read aloud and being the center of attention was a nightmare. Unfortunately, this has stuck with me through college and graduate school. If I signed up for an MFA reading or to speak at a conference, I’m okay because I chose to speak and have prepared (probably over-prepared) for it. When randomly called upon, I feel my anxiety level jump about three notches.

Last Tuesday after dealing with strange people in our house, dogs barking all day, and trying to scarf down a late lunch at my job, my nerves were frayed by the time I got to my thesis class. I sat there with my classmates’ papers in front of me barely saying more than a few words. It seems as the anxiety level rises, so does my muteness. Everyone seemed ten times as chatty as they normally are and speaking seemed absolutely impossible, so I didn’t bother.

I sat for over an hour listening to everyone else read their work and get their feedback, my chest tightening as I watched the pool of potential readers dwindle until there was only me. In an instant, my spit dried up and no matter how much water I drank, it didn’t get any better.

“Your turn,” my professor said with a smile as she flipped to my chapter.

I drew in a tight breath, opened my mouth to speak, and faltered.

“Dear, you can have someone else read for you.”

“No, I’m fine. I’m just a nervous nelly, I’m fine.”

And so I droned on for five minutes, stumbling over words and apologizing for every screw-up. The one week I got out of reading my work aloud, I was so thankful, but this week, it was impossible. Yes, I could have said, “Please let someone else read my work,” but I can’t. It’s my story, and if I’m in the class, I will do whatever everyone else does even if it makes me incredibly uncomfortable. I try to not let my anxiety run my life when it gets bad. Sometimes I fail at it, which of course causes another anxiety spike.

Some of you may be wondering why I bothered telling this story of a young woman who gets heart palpitations when she has to do a task as simple as reading aloud. The thing is, I want people who don’t have anxiety to understand how it all builds up. Yes, the task at hand may be simple, but you don’t know what has happened earlier that day or even earlier that week. Instead of telling the person to suck it up or not to worry (totally useless platitude, by the way), try to be supportive. Give them a moment to collect themselves or try to accommodate things that help lessen their anxiety. For example, I do better when I do my reading earlier because it doesn’t allow the anxiety to build over the course of an hour or two.

I also wrote this to remind those who have anxiety that you aren’t alone. Most of us put on a brave face, and while we’re melting into a puddle of anxiety, we barely show our panic on the outside. Just know, it can be managed and it feels worse than it looks most of the time.

If anyone has any tips for managing anxiety that have worked for you, please pass them on! I’m always looking for new ways to deal with stage fright and all of my other anxieties.

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Burn Out and the Grad School Grind

Grad school has begun again. Well, technically it began last week, but today marks my second week of classes. As much as I love my MFA program and the people in it, I hate the stress that comes with going to school. It sets me on edge and raises my anxiety, which means more headaches, stomach problems, and overall fatigue.

Back to school time can be very trying for people with anxiety. New people, new schedules, homework, deadlines, readings. It’s a difficult balancing act without having to add psyching yourself up to deal with people. Usually, I end up listening to music that pumps me up on my way to the university. It helps immensely, especially if you have another playlist that calms you that you can listen to on the way home. That transition time can allow you to decompress and not lash out at relatives when you arrive home. I still do it once in a while when a class has been particularly stressful, but it’s a lot less frequent than when I just went through the motions.

During this time of year, it’s very easy to get lost in the muddle of assignments and readings, but you need to remember to take time out for you. Your body is a reservoir that needs refilling, and if you get too low from stress and work, you will have a meltdown that will take time to recover from. It’s like a car battery. If you run a car for a while, then turn it off, and come back a few hours or a day later, the battery automatically refills itself, but if you leave a car on for three days straight, the battery will die, and it will take multiple jolts from another car to restart it. That’s what happens after a meltdown or if you let it get to low and you burn out.

Take time for you. Finish your assignments, get your readings done, create a schedule, but take time to do the things you enjoy. Don’t get buried in your work, or you will be burnt out by midterms. I know the reaction, I was there as an undergrad, “Take time for me? Are you crazy? Do you see the pile of crap I have to do? When am I supposed to fit that in?”

You can, trust me. When you have a lot of classes and assignments, you would be amazed how much a whiteboard calendar can help in terms of organization. Make lists of what you have to get done for the day or week. As you do them, cross them off, but leave time for you at least a few days a week. Go for a cup of coffee with a friend or take a trip to the mall. Get out of your normal space and do something you love. If you don’t like going out, read something you want to read, watch a few episodes (few- not a whole night’s worth unless you finished your work) of a show you enjoy. Do something that will make you happy and decompress.

It’s much easier to refill a half-full bucket than an empty one. Know your limits, know what you need to accomplish, and know that you matter. You aren’t a machine, despite what others may think.

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