Finding Your Creative Magic

I don’t know how I came to own my first diary, but however that happened, it changed my world.

Part of my day job involves doing transcription work for the recorded lectures and various talks given at Cornell University since the late 1950s through the 1990s. There are nearly eight thousand of these recordings. In the past three years, we’ve managed to get through a couple hundred. Some I struggle with. Others are so enjoyable it doesn’t feel like work at all. They’re all educational, which is wonderful. And on a few rare occasions, I’ve been blessed with not just learning about the speaker and their work, but I’ve learned things about myself. I’ve even sat at my desk crying because suddenly something about who I am makes so much sense and I don’t feel so alone in the way I think and the things I do and believe.

This is the portion of a transcription project that got my tears flowing.

“My mom, noticing that I would not speak, gave me a diary when I was about 12 or 13 years old, one of those cheap, you know, white plastic diaries that say, “My One Year Diary,” on it. And she said to me, “Gloria, I know there are probably things in your home that trouble you. And they’re probably things at school that trouble you and since you can’t seem to talk about them, why don’t you write about them in here.” And it was from that moment that I began to connect in my mind, the un-verbal, the nonverbal chaos within me, with the ability to put down words. What I could not say, I begin to say with words, I began to say on the written page, and to this day I do not differentiate between that little cheap diary I started to keep when I was 12 years old and the last novel that I completed. All of it, to me, is a way of trying to make sense out of the senseless. It’s a way of letting my voice be heard. Because even to this day, I cannot talk about those things which indeed matter the most, which hurt the most. And I will normally write them out, you know? Woe be tied to my enemies because it’s all written down.” – Gloria Naylor

The Evolution of a Writer’s Voice; Gloria Naylor reads and reflects on her own work.

Cornell University Lecture Tape Series, recorded Nov. 21, 1988

Yes, indeed, nearly everything of significance that has happened in my life since that first diary began in January 1977 when I was 11 years old is written down. Being able to write when I was unable to talk has, without a doubt in my mind, literally saved my life more times than I can say. Some people swear by therapy, talking to someone, but that has never worked for me. When your throat literally tightens at the very idea of speaking about those things that matter most to you, writing has gotten those things out. It’s unclogged, unwound, relaxed, soothed, comforted, and released those pent-up thoughts. I would rather write a ten-page letter that may take over an hour to create, than speak for ten minutes about certain subjects. I am not a talker. I am a writer.

That isn’t to say I can’t speak. Those who know me know very well otherwise, but it takes a long time for me to be comfortable enough to share who I am deep inside and some things I never share other than in my diary. I still keep one to this day. Small talk annoys me. I’d rather listen. I’d rather learn before I speak. I’d rather get to know someone else before revealing myself. But never, ever have I revealed everything to anyone. But, that’s okay. It comes out in bits and pieces in my art be that writing stories or poetry, drawing, painting, or even in the songs I love to listen to.

Introvert? Definitely. ADHD? Quite possibly. Family genetics? Ever more likely. Whatever the reason, which frankly I don’t feel really matters, I am grateful for it as it’s made me the writer I am today.

As mentioned in my January Blog, Dracula, The Wild West, & Me several of my ancestors on my mother’s side are known for their love of writing and storytelling. My great-great-great grandmother, Eudora Boughton Legg and her daughter Velma Legg Meddaugh both kept diaries that still exist to this day. My great uncle, Frank Legg Meddaugh was the author of at least one short story that I know of. Joe Bing was written in 1959 for his fourteen grandchildren. It would later be published by his daughter, Catherine M. Deming and illustrated by Mary M. Pond, one of his granddaughters, in 1976. Catherine was an author and researcher extraordinaire in her own right as she who would compile the family history book Grandma’s & Grandpa’s of Yesteryear, an ancestry of the Meddaugh-Deming Family in 1982, long before Ancestry dot com came along!

All that being said, My Journey West, The 1871 travel diary of Eudora Boughton Legg is now available to the public over on Amazon for all of $5 + shipping! It’s no family genealogy tome, but it does add a small chapter to the story of who I am, and where part of my writing voice came from.

I finished reading Big Magic, Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert recently. Incredible book. I first heard of it while watching Ear Biscuits, a podcast put out by Rhett & Link of Good Mythical Morning fame. It was Rhett’s Rec of the week and as it sounded interesting so I added it to my Amazon Wish List and happily received it in December as a gift. It’s all about being creative without holding up any expectations of what you are going to do or be with that creativity other than it making you a more joyful, fulfilled person! It’s a lesson I’ve slowly been learning when it comes to my writing. Monthly royalties have paid a few bills here and there, or given us a nice dinner out, usually they’ll only cover a cup of fancy coffee! Big Magic assures me that what I’ve slowly been learning on my own with this Creative Writing Gig, is okay. As long as I’m having fun and enjoying the stories and the challenges that come with writing novels, that’s a perfectly good, wonderful, and joyous way to live my life.

I want to share this brief quote from Big Magic.

“Your own reasons to create are reason enough. Merely by pursuing what you love, you may inadvertently end up helping us plenty. (“There is no love which does not become help,” taught the theologian Paul Tillich). Do whatever brings you to life, then. Follow your own fascinations, obsessions, and compulsions. Trust them. Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart.”

Big Magic, Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert : Riverhead Books; Reprint edition (September 27, 2016)

That isn’t to say I still don’t hope to hit it big one day, but it’s okay if I don’t, too. If nothing else, maybe somewhere down the family line I’ll be known as the great-great grandmother or great aunt who kept a string of diaries covering 70+ years and wrote Horror novels for fun. – And that, my friends, is a very awesome legacy indeed.

Finding freedom in your creativity doesn’t seem like it would be that difficult, but it can be. The secret is to drop ALL pretenses of fame and fortune, the notion that your painting, your song, your book, your sculpture, your movie, your creation is going to change the world and make you a millionaire. You need to create for YOU and YOU ALONE. Pour your heart and soul into that creation without regard to what anyone else thinks. Fill it with all your secrets, loves, hates, desires, fears, tears, and longings. Make it a physical manifestation of whatever you are going through at the time.

Years ago, when I first got interested in magic and all things witchy, one of the first lessons I learned was that the more emotion you can put into a spell, the better. That’s what charges and sends out the manifestation you are conjuring for the Powers That Be to then act upon. That’s where the Big Magic is. That’s the kind of power and passion you should be putting into your creations, your art – not worrying about what others will think or how much money you’ll make from it. The best part of all this is you never HAVE to tell a single person a darn thing about what inspired you. It can be your secret diary forever and ever and it’s none of anyone’s business.

What I’ve Been Reading:

To The Devil, A Cryptid by Hunter Shea

From Twisted Roots by S.H. Cooper

Author Interview – Xtina Marie

This month we switch it up and instead of a novelist, I’ve coerced a writer of dark poetry to answer a few questions. Read on as we catch up with Xtina Marie, the Dark Poet Princess.

Xtina, thank you for agreeing to answer a few questions.

  1. Though I’ve written a lot of poetry, I haven’t shared it with many people. For me, it’s a lot more personal than working with fiction. How long have you been writing poetry and what inspired you to share it so publicly with the rest of the world?

28191326_2035996173351588_1643383694_n Poetry is a lot more personal! While I’ve been sharing my stories since I was in middle school, it took a lot longer to share my poetry. I remember my first poem, when I was about 17. I was sitting in a dark room, candles lit, and heartbroken over some boy. I wrote often, after that. It seemed a good way for me to purge my demons. A few years ago, I had this author buddy. While we were chatting one day, she mentioned that she was proofreading a poetry book. I decided to share my work with her. And she loved my words. Encouraged me to publish.

 

 

  1. You’re known as the Dark Poet Princess. There’s got to be a story behind that. Could you share the origins of that title with us?

Man, that’s a tough one. I remember who I got the name from, but not necessarily how. Let’s see. My first book of poetry, Dark Musings, was published with a new small publishing house. The founder of the company was a guest on a podcast, and it was on the air where he made mention of The Dark Poet Princess, Xtina Marie. And it just kinda stuck.

  1. You co-host a weekly podcast with the owner of Hellbound Books Publishing, James H. Longmore called The New Panic Room Radio Show. How did you and James meet and what inspired the two of you to do the show? And, where on earth did that name come from?

30180295_2067340520217153_1936629352_nThese are some good questions! The Panic Room was the idea of the former publisher I mentioned in the previous answer. We were all in a group chat on Facebook minutes before the first episode, when the boss says, “You ready, Xtina?” I about had a heart attack. Ready for what?? And no, I most certainly was not ready! But, I am a trooper. I called in and co-hosted that first episode. It was a train wreck, and I think we had 8 listeners. It was filled with embarrassing dead air, and my co-host would occasionally burst into song. We did a two hour show for a few weeks, and James Longmore was a guest on one of them. I was a tiny bit familiar with his work but had never spoken to him before. That show was great! After, the former publisher asked James if he wanted to co-host the show with the other woman and I. That company fell apart and James and I changed the name to The New Panic Room Radio Show, and we are now almost 100 episodes in.

  1. You’ve already released a few books of poetry. What’s next for Xtina? Have you ever considered writing short stories or maybe even a novel?

30180602_2067340550217150_1628519275_n I have a book of poetry set to release in the fall, I am very excited about it. In my opinion, it’s my best poetry to date. And I am in the early stages of both a horror novel and a erotic romance.

  1. Where can people get your books and find out all there is to know about the Dark Poet Princess? My website has links to my books, as well as the HellBound website, and Amazon.

Website: The World of Xtina Marie

Publisher Author Page: HellBound Books Publishing

Amazon Author Page: Author – Xtina Marie

 

 

Into The Mansion

Somewhere, once upon a time, I learned an interesting theory about dreams. That theory stated that certain rooms represented certain aspects of the dreamer’s psyche. If you dream of a bedroom, for instance, that’s believed to have something to do with sexuality and intimacy. If you dream of a kitchen, that’s your domestic side, a living room was considered your social, public self … and so on. That, in part is what Into The Mansion is about.

Not long ago in Facebook Land, I shared that I was working on something somewhat different than my usual Horror novel fare. Oh, it’s still about a big, creepy, old house, but instead of prose – it’s poetry. It’s not a new poem. It was written in 1995, though parts of it existed long before that in the world of my dreams.

Instead of just posting it here and forcing you all to read, I’ve created a 7-minute video of the poem that I narrate. It took more times than I care to mention to get a recording I was happy with and though it’s still not perfection – it will do.

And so, without further delay – I extend a hand and say, “Come with me …

INTO THE MANSION

 

Author Interview – Jon Frankel

As part of my New Year’s Resolution to reach out to more of my fellow authors and stop being such a hermit, I will be presenting you with a monthly author interview. The majority are of the horror genre, but I’ll slip in at least one YA and one Sci-Fi author just to mix it up a little bit.

For the month of February, I bring you an interview with Science Fiction-Noir author and poet, Jon Frankel. I’ve known Jon for a number of years, but never made the time to get to know more about him as a writer until now. So, without any further delay, let’s get to it!

Pamela: Tell me a little bit about how you became interested in writing. Have you known since an early age or is this something new you’ve recently started to get involved in?

JonFrankelJon: I guess for as long as I can remember I’ve been a writer. I didn’t think of myself as a writer until my senior year of high school, when my poetry teacher, John Perlman, said I was a poet. But long before that I was writing stories and poems and planning novels that I never wrote. I collaborated on comic books, co-authored a play, stuff like that. I started as a poet, but was also writing short stories that I hoped to turn into novels. When I was 28 I decided to write an experimental literary novel based on a story and utterly failed. I was reading Charles Willeford’s Pick Up, a hard boiled noir novel of the early 60s, and realized I could write one of those. I turned to another short story and banged out a 140 page near future noir. That became Specimen Tank, my first novel, after years of revision.

Pamela: I know you work in a library so you must be a fan of the reading as well as writing. Do you read the same sorts of things that you write about and who are some of your favorite authors?

Jon: My reading and writing are intimately related of course, but I read much different stuff than I write. I love nothing more than novels of the late 19th and early 20th century, especially from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. I really read pretty indiscriminately though, lots of non-fiction, history and philosophy, and novels of all types and all periods, as well as poetry of course. A list of my favorite authors would be so long! Djuna Barnes, James Joyce, Joseph Conrad, Thomas Hardy, Ralph Ellison, Mark Twain, Herman Melville, Emily Bronte, George Eliot, Bohumil Hrabal, Jaroslav Hasek, Robert Musil, Charles Willeford, Elizabeth Hand, Raymond Chandler, Edmund Spenser, William Blake, William Shakespeare, China Mieville, Philip K. Dick, Marianne Hauser, DH Lawrence, Thomas Mann, Joseph Roth, Anna Kavan…..

Pamela: Like you, for a while I wrote under a pen-name. Why did you choose to use a pen-name in your earlier works and what made you decide to start using your real name instead?

Jon: My first book was a really violent, nihilistic near future noir. I guess I was embarrassed my family would see that all my talk about being a poet and writer had resulted in that. Sort of like if you were studying to compose symphonies and joined a thrash metal band. It was so long between the publication of my first book and my next (20 years!) that I had in the interim established a tiny, but searchable, online presence as Jon Frankel. It was a tough decision to retire Buzz Callaway, especially since GAHA: Babes of the Abyss, is a really violent, nihilistic far future noir. With literary stuff.

Pamela: Tell me a little bit more about your poetry. What inspires you and do your poems share a common theme or are they pretty much all over the place genre-wise depending your mood and the inspiration?

Jon: I think I’ve written the same poem over and over in some ways, but my methods have evolved a lot over the years. I used to write highly improvisational, stream of consciousness poems with strong rhythms and a lot of assonance, but no regular meter or rhyme. I read deeply and wide in the poetic tradition, and always have, but my work was very much New York School if not Beat. Language poetry and the various experimental, avant-garde schools of the 60s-the present really left me cold. I’m a romantic, if not a Romantic, at heart. A number of years ago, as I ran out of gas as a poet, I started to wonder why I didn’t write in meter and rhyme. Slowly I began to experiment with that (and I’m really not great at regular meter, rhyme I can manage) and found I was getting inspired to write, using methods opposite to those I was accustomed to. This essentially meant I could re-explore everything. Which is really exciting. I’m 56, and feel like I have a new sports car, the formal poem. I love to write short, cryptic, intricate rhymed pieces. I think my most basic concern is alchemical, sublimation and metamorphosis, and my methods are playful. The biggest pitfall for me is pompous, pretentious, glaring big statements. But I really hate timidity in poetry. No one reads it, so why not go for the big kahuna?

Pamela: I know you just had a new release back in September 2016. Tell us a little bit about “The Man Who Can’t Die”.  Can you give me the quick, elevator pitch for it?

MANcover Jon: The elevator pitch has always defeated me! Maybe if we were riding to the top of Sears Tower or something, with a stop for a second elevator of the 50th floor. MAN is a really complicated story, about a scientist who invents a drug that cures unhappiness, but kills 10% of everyone who takes it, and a man who wants more than anything to die, but can’t. It takes place 180 years in the future, and the world has been utterly transformed by global warming, and America is a corporate dictatorship. The characters are searching for freedom, but lack the vocabulary and concepts to articulate it. It has beautiful cars, fast women, ray guns, hovercraft and a sexual paradise. It’s a bulging valise of noir and sci fi romance. Sex, drugs and rock and roll as they say.

Pamela: Where can people find out more about you and keep up-to-date your writing?

Jon: I have a website, lastbender.com. My publisher, Whiskey Tit Press, also has a website. I’m on Facebook, too. My poetry is on lastbender.com, as well as essays, reviews and articles about cooking and food. One thing everyone notices in my fiction is the abundance of food, cooking and restaurants. On my website, the most searched thing I’ve written is on how to roast a wild boar ham!

Thank you, Jon. It was great getting to know more about you and your work as a novelist and poet.

Folks, if you want to learn even more about Jon, check out these websites.

Jon Frankel’s WEBSITE
Jon’s Publisher Whiskey Tit Press

I Think I’m Haunted

Haunted / Murder-Mystery / Poetry / Writer's Life

Last year was an incredibly active year for me as far as writing poetry is concerned. Oh, I jotted down a wee bit of fiction here and there but poetry was off the chart. With poetry I am able to convey more intense emotions and the whole business of falling in love swept me away. It was also about getting over the crap in the past that I still struggle with now and then. The stories and poems I write often help me get through those struggles in a safe and legal way.  What with all these new gun debates, rules and regulations, I get the feeling society might frown a wee bit on me shooting someone that has done me wrong. And besides, I really am a peaceful person.

However, I can have one of my characters kidnap, tortures, shoot, stab, dismember or what have you another character who might – kinda sorta – resemble either physically or personality-wise folks I’ve developed a certain dislike for, shall we say? On the other hand, there are also characters based on the people in my life I am very fond of. Thank God there are more of those than the other.

The aspect of all this that surprises me the most are the characters that appear like a ghost out of thin air. How they approach me varies. One may give me its name first. Another might tell me what it looks like. Others are more emotional. There was one who told me its occupation long before it ever had any of the other things. The real tough ones are those that don’t let me know much of anything about themselves and just leap at me with a story to tell. If I’m lucky I’ll at least have a first initial to work with. It’s a little like ghost hunting.

In the past couple weeks a new character has started to get brave enough to present herself to me. She was actually introduced to me by my boyfriend while I was visiting him out in Texas. In passing he mentioned that the name “Liberty Hill” would be great for a character in a book. It’s the name of a very small, central Texas town we passed through on one of our jaunts. I agreed and didn’t give it too much thought after; back burner stuff. I already had two novels in progress and didn’t really want to put any energy into thinking about who this Liberty woman might be. Recently, Liberty has had other ideas about that.

I bumped into her in a book store about six days ago. I think she did it on purpose. At any rate, we’d not been in the place five minutes before this phrase flashed before me – as if I was looking at a book title. Liberty was quick to inform me that that’s the title I needed to use when telling her story. As I always carry a small note pad and pen with me, I immediately got both out and wrote the title down. It was rather hard to concentrate on browsing after that. My first thought about the title was that it wasn’t very good for a murder-mystery.

Come to find out, Liberty’s story isn’t a murder mystery. It’s a ghost story. I was only told that yesterday.

I don’t think I’ll be writing much poetry this year. Liberty & Choice, Nell & Lydia, Clint & Bea and Grace & Eric all have other ideas about how I should be spending my time in 2013. Each one is going to nag at me ruthlessly like the ghosts that some of them are, until I tell the world about them and put them to rest – hopefully between the covers of a published novel.