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Gudie

This is Gudie (Gudrun). She did not help me in any way with setting up an email list.

What can I say?

So, because I’m so bad at this, for now, I’m thinking I should probably put most of my effort into putting together an informational and, at least, somewhat entertaining newsletter, and maybe blog once a week or so, depending on my workload.

I have been super busy lately–looking into setting up an LLC, learning about Amazon algorithms, figuring out story/book covers, etc. Lots to do. But I do need to keep in mind that…I need to build up my email list.

Why? Well, there’s lots of reasons, but primarily, I don’t see the point in bombarding a bunch of people who don’t really care about my writing/publishing output (or the Spook Brothers, or my fitness routine, or my mental health, or Nellie Oleson, etc.). I figure, if you’ve actually actively signed up for it, you must want to know about these things. And, when it comes to getting stuff in your email, it’s better that we’re both happy with the arrangement. I really don’t want to spam folks who have enough crap in their inboxes.

Also, if folks like what I’m putting out, I assume they’d want to know when I’ve got something new–and this is really the best, most direct way to do that. Plus, I can do stuff like let these special folks know before I tell anyone else, or give discounts, or any ol’ thing like that. Which I really like the idea of.

So, how about it? Oh, this post is also me still learning how to use Mailchimp, so, I hope…I hope…while you’ve been here reading this, you’ve experienced a pop-up begging you shamelessly to sign up for my newsletter. Sorry about that, but, man…gotta start somewhere. If you were like, nahhhh, but now you’re like, well, maybe...here’s a link. See what I did there? The week before last, I figured out (after an embarrassingly long time) how to put a pop-up here on my blog. Today, I hope I’ve figured out the link thing. Progress! I’m pretty proud, because, really…(I am a technological idiot).

Seriously, if you’ve signed up, thank you. Even seeing just a few added folks here and there is a boost–makes me feel like I’m getting something right, which makes me want to continue moving forward. So, yes, thank you very much. I will try not to disappoint.

scrivpic

What the hell did I just do?

I have no idea what I’m doing. I am attempting to do two things. One, learn how to use and write in Scrivener. I’ve heard so many great things about it. It sounds wonderful. It’s probably really easy to use. But, I’m kind of an idiot when it comes to anything more complicated than your basic email. Okay, I’m a little better than that, but, geez, it’s painful. It takes me forever to get a handle on something. So, this is me entering in what I’ve got written so far for the second Stevenson book, and kind of/sort of using the synopsis cards and comments and whatnot, so I can look at and really verify the rest of my outline works. This I usually do with a pencil and paper, which works fine. But a pencil and paper doesn’t, in the end, give you a supposedly easily-compiled MS to simply turn into whatever e-publishing file you need for whatever platform you want. That was the real selling point for me. Using Scrivener, right now, is less about the writing and more about the end result once it’s ready to go out into the world. I guess I’m hoping it’ll be good for the writing, too. If I can figure out how it works, as I work it. (Yes, I went through the tutorial. My brain, though, is like a sieve.)

The second thing I’m trying to do is set things up in order to build an email list of potential readers, so I can, well, let them know I have stuff for them to read. I just spent a half-hour trying to figure out MailChimp and how to get that going on my WordPress site. I have failed. And I am not a fraction of an inch closer to having any idea as to how to do anything in terms of that particular goal. *sigh* These are the days I really wish I could conceptualize this kind of stuff, you know, easily, in my head, like some folks seem to be able to do. For me, it’s a huge effort that requires going over and over and over something until it eventually clicks in some small way, and then following that way, painstakingly slowly, until I get to the end. It’s like reading instructions in another language I have just a rudimentary understanding of. If you want an idea as to how hard it was for me to earn that goddamn MFA, just imagine what I just described spread over six years, 24-7. No wonder my thyroid exploded.

I’ll get it, though. Goddamn it.

I am, right now, reading through what I have written for a second Robert Louis Stevenson-based book–a sort of sequel to the one (The Beast of Gevaudan) I’ll have out here pretty soon. I’m about 40k words into it. Both books, at their core, are driven by Stevenson’s love for his eventual-wife, Fanny Osbourne. An American, she was eleven years his senior and married, with one adult daughter, a teenaged son, and when they met, she was grieving the death of her youngest son, still a toddler. You would have thought that these two people couldn’t possibly have anything in common, Stevenson, a Scotsman in his twenties, never married, no children, etc. But what they went through fairly early in their relationship, I think, spoke of something pretty amazing that none of us will ever really know anything about.

Biographers of Stevenson can’t seem to decide exactly how they feel about Fanny, which is understandable, as she was somewhat elusive emotionally and, at many points, erratic. They met in France, and from then on they’d spent about two years together, and by “together,” I mean that, too, was erratic. Then, a final summer during which they lived together–and she picked up rather abruptly and returned to the States, to her husband (who kept his own mistress). We can suppose she had her reasons, and they range from the impropriety of divorce in the mid-to-late 1800s to her own emotional instability. It was likely both, but it all must have been largely informed by who she was at her core, and the life that brought her to that sense of self, unstable though it may have been. Mostly, history doesn’t shed much of a kind light on her, Stevenson being so outgoing and his literary output so engaging and so well-loved. I, myself, have a hard time thinking of her as detached from what must have been going on inside, which few know much about. She kept quiet about a lot of that.

My assumption–and I think it’s a safe assumption, based on how people work–is that she was less restrained about how she truly felt about things with Stevenson. And whoever she was in those moments must have been rather amazing. I don’t know if anyone can paint a perfectly accurate picture of what their conversations and intimacy must have been like during those first two years, particularly during that final summer in France, when she nursed him as he lay dangerously ill. But what Stevenson had clearly come away with was a deep and indefatigable love. Fanny’s leaving nearly flattened him, though he kept moving, kept writing, kept falling into bouts of illness and eventually coming out. What’s clear, though, is that his dedication to her–regardless of the pain he was experiencing–didn’t waver for at least a year. During that year, he made his journey through the French highlands (the setting and backbone of The Beast of Gevaudan). In his Travels with a Donkey, on which my book is based, he included this passage:

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He was undoutbedly thinking of Fanny, who must have consumed most of his waking thoughts. This was a few months after she’d left. Yes, still pretty fresh at the time, and so understandable. But it was a year to the month she left that he’d received a letter from her, the contents of which no one knows for sure, that drove him into what was, at the time, a rather rash and unthinkable action, particularly in the eyes of his family and friends: He set off to America, and not just America, to California. It took him a month of hard ship and rail travel to reach her, and when he arrived, she received him coldly. He’d spent the entire journey terribly ill and near starving (as anxiety and his impoverished conditioned left him frequently unable to eat), and yet he took a horse and, in despair, disappeared into the desert (had he not been found and nursed back to health by a couple of ranchers, he likely would have died much earlier than the equally-tragic age of 44).

What on earth is wrong with this woman? Well, probably a lot of things. Her adult life on the frontier with a philandering husband who disappeared for lengthy periods was rather traumatic (at one point, he’d left his family to selfishly go prospecting, was rumored “killed by indians,” but returned no worse for the wear almost two years later–and she took him back, for the umpteenth time). Overall, she thought very little of herself and was fairly mistreated. She was prone to fits of “madness,” not in her right mind–which could have been emotional dysregulation brought on by so much unresolved trauma and disappointment. If she was difficult to deal with from another’s point of view, her garbage sense of self likely made it much more difficult to deal with herself.

This, I think, is the key to their relationship and obvious dedication to one another.

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Hold tight. These words make my heart ache.

Whatever her issues were–whatever made her do the things she did, however irrational and potentially hurtful–Stevenson knew better, because he knew her better than anyone. For me, that is the only truly rational explanation for their relationship, which sustained itself through years of turmoil and thousands of miles. The time they’d spent together in the beginning must have been absolutely bonding. There must have been something bigger and deeper than merely having things in common, or relating somehow, through all the various human experiences, or things comparable. It must have been, despite their differences in how they functioned in life, some indelible identifying as two individuals–it had to have been something that transcended the average give and take between two people. There had to have been such a monumentally deep level of understanding that forgiveness and affection came as naturally as a heartbeat. And this sounds lovely, doesn’t it? I would hazard to guess, though, that it’s not as common as we’d like to think.

Too many people throw away good people because of hurt or angry feelings, and many of us have been on the receiving end of that. Not every relationship could, or should, work out, but when you can see someone’s worth through their hurtful behavior–because perhaps that behavior stems from something beyond their control–and you refuse to let go because you know they are, in reality, much better than that, that’s probably something worth holding onto or holding out for. Stevenson held out and held on. He told Fanny, in what was very likely one of her “fits of madness” to hold tight. He’d be there. In the end, I think, whatever Fanny’s misgivings might have been about hitching herself to Stevenson in the long run (and she did have them), it surely was this that swayed her to his favor. That, for once, all she’d have to do is hold tight, and he’d be there.

casco

Fanny and Stevenson, with Fanny’s son, Lloyd (floor), King Kalakaua of Hawaii, and Stevenson’s mother.

My books are somewhat lighthearted, and involve the supernatural, which is always fun to write. But, the driving force, really, is the bond between these two people who, regardless of how things looked to others (and often even to themselves), refused to give up on one another. Stevenson experts will say this is too romantic a take, but I disagree. I think it’s a human way to think about all that missing information–those gaps of correspondence. He might have written to friends to say he was truly low, but considering he was half-starving, near-deathly ill and on a crowded, stinking train en route to a woman he didn’t even know would take him, “truly low” is a bit of an understatement. And Fanny didn’t talk. Rather than fill in those gaps with the views of his friends and family, gleaned from copious letters between themselves, which absolutely eviscerated this woman they barely knew, I’d rather fill them with an idea of true love, true caring, true understanding that can withstand the worst of what life hits you with, even when it comes from each other. This is the only way I can understand what Stevenson put himself through to be with “the woman a man loves.”

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AnnihilationChodron

This picture makes me think of Dokken’s Just Got Lucky video. Click through to find out why.

So, as it turns out, right now–where I am with things–conventional therapy isn’t going to cut it. I go twice a week, an hour each session. I have a lot of stuff that needs to be addressed, but as things get addressed, what happens is that the depressive states tend to get lower and become more persistent. This is normal and I expected it. And frankly, I’ve been going through it since the end of February, which is why I’m so absolutely raw and exhausted now. It’s been a constant struggle. Constant. And every week or so, I nosedive into an emotional abyss, like I did last weekend.

When this happens, my mind gets stuck on an uncontrollable loop of complete self-loathing and the refrain “I just want to die” gets played over and over. You’d think you could just stop thinking that, but it’s not that easy. It really is uncontrollable. If I let my guard down for even a second, up comes the refrain. It not conscious thought; it’s just there, like a stuck record in a locked room you can’t get into to get the needle off. As you can imagine, it’s pretty dispiriting. That’s an understatement, really.

So, I have a little technique in my pocket to hopefully combat the self-loathing to at least mitigate the experience overall, but what about that involuntary suicidal ideation? That’s tougher. It wired into me. It’s basically what happens when you’re a little kid and everything around you is falling apart, or worse, when everything inside you is falling apart and you have no experience by which to process it. You have no way out because the authority figures–the folks in charge of your well-being and very survival–are the ones causing it. You can’t run away; you can’t talk back. You can’t express your pain in any way (which is also where the self-loathing comes from…well, one place). So, your child brain truly thinks the only why out of it is to die.

How the hell do you combat something so ingrained, something that rooted itself into your psyche during the time when you’re forming your sense of self and your image of how the world works? It’s hard.

Here’s what I’ve come up with, and we’ll see how well it works over the next month or so.

The above quote sounds pretty brutal, but obviously, it’s not talking about bodily annihilation. It’s talking about the annihilation of the things in you that, frankly, don’t work when dealing with how terrible and cruel and unfair the world can be. It’s talking about your pre-existing ideas about how the world should work–the ideas that cause you the most suffering. Or even ideas about yourself, like your self-loathing or toxic shame.

What I am going to try to do is, when I get into that cycle of suicidal ideation, I will accept that I want to die. “Die” not being bodily death, and “I” being the unhealthy, inaccurate ideas I have about myself and who I am. If I want so badly to die to be free of this shit, I will learn to retrain that thought loop onto the ideas I want to be transformed into a more healthy, accurate representation of myself. In that way, I should be able to, rather than constantly trying to run away from this shit, walk right into it and embrace it. I just need to redirect that terrible, self-murdering thought into the ugly areas that, frankly, deserve a good, violent, horrible death.

How exactly to do that? Well, I’ll need to be aware of what I’m doing, so I have little reminder notes with which I can instruct myself when I am, to put it bluntly, out of my fucking mind. When I enjoyed the occasional recreational acid trip in art school–a long, long time ago–just to keep myself somewhat grounded, when I dropped, I wrote on my hands “You are tripping.” And when things got a little crazy or too intense, I’d see that and everything would generally mellow out. These are little notes and I know where to find them, and I’ll know when I have to look at them. Then, I just have to have some discipline, which, when you’re faced with suicidal thoughts, that sort of strength isn’t too hard to find because, let’s face it: No one wants to die. And if I can find the strength to not kill myself, I can find the strength to follow some simple instructions on a piece of paper. And the instruction is simply to remind myself to redirect those thoughts and really let those shitty ideas have it. And to keep at it until the whole mess passes.

That’s the plan. It’s as good a plan as any. It’s the only plan I have.

thrilled

This is how excited I am about intensive outpatient programs.

That said, we’ve been in contact with the local psyche ward here so that I can enter into an intensive outpatient program, which is basically as close as you can get to committing yourself without actually having to give up having a somewhat functional life. Three days a week, three hours a day. The purpose of this is to rework and rebuild some healthy coping mechanisms. Right now, I really don’t have any, except what I’ve just come up with above. This should help move that along. And I can’t really address the shit that’s behind all of this without having a way to pull myself out of the deep, dark holes it inevitably pushes me into. Once I get to a point where I can get myself out, I can go back to regular twice-a-week normal therapy. None of this thrills me, but it looks like it’s the only choice. And it’s better than living in the psych ward, which would be the next/last option.

On an Internets article about subjects which writers can blog about (because my mind is too much of a burned-out wasteland to think on my own), it suggested talking about books that inspired me. I’mma start with this one:

MN1

This cover is amazing.

Bernhardt J. Hurwood’s Monsters and Nightmares, 1967.

There’s not a ton written about Bernhardt J. Hurwood–I kinda, almost want to write a biography of him myself, that would rule.(I think the best bio I’ve seen of him so far is actually in The Vampire Book: The Encyclopedia of the Undead, 2nd ed.) Here’s his obit from 1987. I have a handful of his other books, but I’m always on the lookout for more. What is it about this book? I dunno, but I think I’ve read it about 80 times. Seriously. It was my father’s, which he probably bought around the time it came out. Sometime in the 80s, he tried giving it to my brother. I understand my brother started reading it, but it gave him nightmares (werewolf-related nightmares, to be exact), and so he returned it to my father, who then turned it over to me. Sloppy seconds, I know. But whatever. This book is awesome. I mean, just look at this TOC:

MN2

Wut, wut? Yasssss…

The Monstrous Maggot of Death? The Horrible Legacy of the Cannibal Chef? The Holy Prepuce and the Miracles? (That one actually sounds like a band name, which…hmm.) I think I was 10 or 11 when I was handed this bad boy, and I read it until my eyeballs bled. It’s one of those collections of ghastly, true (or “true”) tales. It’s creepy and gruesome and everything anyone who loves horror wants, especially at such a young and accident-rubbernecking age.

I read a lot of stuff, but when I’d run out of books, or maybe I got bored with this or that, Monsters and Nightmares was my go-to book. So much so that the one pictured here isn’t even the original copy. No, that one is falling apart and tucked away in a safe place. This one I had to order from Amazon because, well, yeah, it’s 30 or so years later and I needed another readable copy.

I’ll be reading this on my deathbed, I’m pretty sure.

gorguts-5

I know, it looks like he’s singing right now. Possibly recording. But he’s clearly reading a book by a writer he admires.

I have so much admiration for people that choose to be a writer as a profession, to sit down with a sheet of paper and ideas, and tell stories and write down ideas. That’s an amazing choice in life to devote yourself to, and I have a lot of admiration for that.
I was reading this awesome interview with Luc Lemay of Gorguts yesterday, and came across this lovely thing he had to say about writers. Je t’aime aussi, Luc LeMay…je t’aaaaaime…❤
Seriously, great interview.

I mentioned yesterday that I didn’t really know what to blog about. So, like I did to find out how to blog at all, I Googled it. Hahaa…oh, Internets.

There are, apparently, a bunch of things I could blog about. Many of those things require more thought than I have the energy for right this second. So, today, the Internets asked me (sort of) what it is I’m researching at the moment. Okay, Internets. I’ll tell you.

HORTON-FAMILY-CREST----HORTON-COAT-OF-ARMS

The ol’ Horton coat of arms. A white stag and a dead fish. =/

I am always researching something on some level. If you’re a writer, you get that. Everything’s up for grabs. There are a bunch of things I’ve got going on for WIPs, but today, I started looking back into my family genealogy. It’s something I had been doing a while ago (and this is something I’ll probably get into on Mondays, because, frankly, while a lot of people are interested in their lineage, my interest stems from a real, deep-seated need for some kind of familial identity. I’ve never known, nor was I ever around, anyone from my biological father’s side. I had hit-and-miss contact with my Canadian mother’s side until I was nine, when it was essentially cut off completely when we moved to where my step-father grew up. And then I didn’t have much contact with his family because they didn’t like my mother. So…not a lot of familial connections for me. The concept of aunts and uncles and cousins are as alien to me as 13th-Great- Grandfathers from several centuries ago and an ocean away. That said, it is apparently easier for me to connect with a bunch of long-dead people than it is to forge bonds with more immediate relatives still living.

Staff of Life

Apparently, the Hortons of Mowsley owned this house/inn, The Staff of Life, from the early 1700s until the 20th century, I think.

So, here are some things that I know (as far as internet research has been able to tell me thus far, and this stuff is always up in the air): My grandfather, Lloyd Wellington Horton, can be traced back to the first Horton of our line to come to America from England (1638), Barnabas Horton. That’s pretty neat. Even neater, elsewhere, his ancestry has been recorded back to somewhere between the 1290s and 1345, in Mowsley, Leicestershire, England. Also very cool. That’s a surprisingly long way back and of particular interest to someone like me. The further back it goes, the more grounded I feel.

mowsley

Here’s a reversed (?) watercolor of The Staff of Life.

But what’s the research for, other than my own person shit? Well, I want to write a series of perhaps somewhat silly historical novellas. Maybe about that length. I thought of starting it with Barnabas, but it seems like a lot of been written about him, including, apparently, a few Christian romance-type novels (what?). Yeah. And honestly, he’s neat and all, but he’s not that interesting to me. I mean, not for making up some fiction. He is historically important, yes. He was a very prominent founder of Southold, Long Island, where, so I understand, there still stands his house (first frame house erected on the east of the island) and a lighthouse named after him.

What’s interesting to me is that, at some point, maybe in the run-up to the American revolution, my ancestors (perhaps Barnabas’s great-grandkids), Loyalists, were like, “Fuck this,” and they hot-footed it up to Canada. And there they stayed, as far as my personal line goes, literally until my mother hooked up with my biological father–an American from Alabama–and moved to the States. Aside from two years during my third and fourth grade years, she’s lived here in the States since about 1972.

Other Hortons–other kids of Barnabas–stayed in America, presumably fought for independence. There are a bunch of American Hortons. But, it’s interesting to me that, somewhere in my bloodline, my family stood for both sides. I imagine, with a little research, I’d find some American Horton “patriots,” and I do already know of a father and son North of the border who actively fought during the War of 1812. In a way, it makes perfect sense.

This is capturing my imagination more than the Puritan baker who hauled his own tombstone across the Atlantic (he did, seriously) to settle east Long Island. Though, really, he’s neat.

barnabas horton grave

Dude seriously carried this slab with him when he came over in his 30s. He didn’t kick it until he was in his 80s. Wut?

I’m not thinking of anything too serious, because I feel like if I got into anything serious regarding my family stuff, it would end up getting too serious and be too difficult to write. And I’ve already got some pretty heavy shit in the WIP pile. So, I’m thinking something light, funny, historical, maybe a little weird. That’s what I’m researching right now.

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