The one where I FINALLY share good news!

Okay, yeah-here is the good news people-Tales of the Lost Volume 2 (a Bram Stoker Award nominated anthology) is now for sale on Amazon. It’s in an ebook format for only 3.99. That’s like not even a full coffee at Starbucks. And the money all goes to charity.

Also, I dig it. Maybe horror isn’t your thing…maybe you want some Speculative Fiction? Check me out in the new anthology from Midnight and Indigo. Available October 31st!

Support Black Women Writers and COVID for about $20.

Winner Winner…I Got A Grant

This is the part where I’m supposed to put on a top hat and say something like, “In conjunction with Locus Magazine, I was a recipient of a grant from the Ladies of Horror Fiction.”

Instead, I’m a dork so it’s more like, “OH MY GOD!! I GOT A GRANT! LOOK AT ME GO!!”

Hey, it’s the fact that I got it that counts. And I got it at a particularly low time-be careful with “agents” y’all-and it was a pleasant surprise. I did my dance and I’ll probably dye my hair something (non permanent) blonde or white because why not?

Anyway, bask in my glory. Enjoy my victory. And I wish you all well.

Yo, I’m totes legit, y’all!!

Everything About You Matters

Affirmations are everywhere in this Pandemic.

Everyone talks about self care and self love, but let’s talk about you and me. Recently, I signed up for a workshop. I get work back from the workshop and it was a critique and then, they wanted money for me to attend the workshop.

Now I know my shit was tight. My work was finely tuned. I’ve made all the changes and I filed it under the “done” folder. As I’m reading this letter, ripping my work apart, I’m thinking, “Well, I’ve had critiques from several other people and they didn’t have this problem.”

I’m a Pisces. I’m paranoid as hell and I get offended easily.

So, I’m wavering and thinking. I’m also about to go finish schoolwork with my kid and make lunch. But hey…I’m thinking that I’m reading a story and I think that the author uses the word “said” too much. Everyone said. Then, she said. No adverbs or descriptions of how they said what they did. Just said. I don’t think anyone said anything to this author during the editing process. Or maybe they said to tone it down on the adverbs. You know what, just change it all to said. I mean the rest of the book is good. (YA is always a hard read because at some point the protagonist commits a series of wtf’s and you wanna put the book down, but you need to finish.)

What’s the point of all this. Man, I gotta stop taking shit personal. If Person A reads it and says it’s perfect. Person B said to add a few details blah blah. Person C says this and that. You go over three or drafts done and finally they all agree. Yay! Then, anyone else that reads it has an opinion as well. At this point, I can only take so much.

Self care and why you matter starts here…do I change this story for the 890th time or let it go. I’m open to critique, mind you. I know a person is trying to make it so they understand it. If I change it for you, I’d have to change it for every reader. And I don’t have the time to do that. In other words, I’m gonna pass on your word.

Am I cocky? Nah. It’s like so many people write the great American novel and never get published. Some people are afraid to get their work out there. I’ve had stuff published and am working on a novel. I’m not afraid of getting my stuff out there. But unless this helps me to clarify something or improve the story, nah, son. This is like my 890th pass on this one work. I ain’t got time.

Basically, know when to say no. Know when your ideas and your truth matters. Know when to say, “Thanks, I’ll take it into consideration.” You matter. Take care of you.

Time to Shine

This is probably the umpteenth blog about this stupid pandemic and working, but here goes:

This is your time to shine.

Last week (or week before), my mom came to town. One thing led to another and as we were talking she said, “So, I asked her-is this all you’ve done in three months?” I stopped to think for a sec. Is this all you’ve done in three months? (which means) Why haven’t you done shit in three months?! (I know my mom, it’s what she was thinking)

Why haven’t you done shit in three months?

This time has flown by in a blink. I have made it a point to put all my short stories into a book and keep working. I should have the epic to end all epics after this is over, but that’s beside the point.

I was reading Vogue-the September issue-and the theme is “hope”. And they got it right, for the first time ever. Normally, it’s full of ads of shit I can’t afford and have to wait for the Target version to come out. However, this month, it’s filled with kids not from my generation, but from several generations talking about hope and change and the future.

These generations are serious. They are sick and tired of my generation and our parents telling them about what we endured and they got out and did (are doing) something. Minnesota-black guy killed then protests. Wherever there was a useless killing of a black man, there were protests. Then, the bring back the ones no one will talk about-Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland…you know the names by now.

I have never seen a generation about it. We are not going home. We are not going to stand down. We will fight until they hear us and then we will keep fighting when they come for us. We will fight for each other, but we all will fight because black lives matter to all of us.

And what happened? Like a ripple in a pond, this is causing protests worldwide. Where there are black people, there are protests. Ugly indignities in the treatment of blacks are being exposed. I mean, England and as far as Japan! I never thought I’d see the day when so many brown and black brothers and sisters raise their fists and join the fight we have been fighting all along…for over 300 fucking years.

So, I’ve got my shit together. I made an accountability squad of sorts (you know who you are) and we hold each other accountable for stuff that we need to do. Why? Because when you have to answer to someone, you make sure the work gets fucking done. If you need help, you ask for help. Have an idea? Bounce it off one of your squad and get it done.

The most important thing, I guess, is to leave something behind. When 2021 comes, they will look back at 2020 and see the deaths and COVID and no school but they will also see the ones that fought. The ones that raised their voices and said, “NO FUCKING MORE OF THIS SHIT!” I’d like to also leave something behind. What I’m working on is something about my family so we don’t forget the past and carry that shit forward into the future. I am working on it. (Dude, check my squad. We hold meetings every three weeks. You wanna be squad? Hit me up.) This way, my niece, nephews, kids, grandkids will have something after I’m gone that says, “This is what she left behind. And it is awesome!”

And now, I ask you, what are you going to do? It’s your time to shine!

Here We Are…at home

When all this pandemic madness started, I was excited. (I’m not gonna lie) I thought that I could write everyday and that I would have soooo much free time. I could read books I checked out of the library, watch movies I’d been meaning to watch and generally catch up on my life.

Instead, I ended up looking like this for most of the time:

the fetal position of helplessness
little did I know my hair would really look like this in august, but grey

By the grace of God, somehow, I pulled myself together. It took several months but I did it. It helps if you have a support system. My sister is a bit of my support system. She’s a scorpio and “very foot in the ass get it going”. Referrals to conferences and whatnot to attend online.

I discovered more horror writers and it was nice to see horror writers of color because you do feel alone sometimes. These all took place online via Zoom and they couldn’t see me. I also don’t have a particularly ethnic name, so I’m just another whisper on the wind to them.

Either way, 1455 Literary Arts had the best seminar in July. One of the sessions was called Writing Through a Pandemic. It was led by Robert Anthony Siegel. (He has the most soothing voice and way of speaking. I wanted to call him up afterwards and pay him to call me daily and give me a boost.)

He made several suggestions which include:

  1. Schedule for daily increments. Even if it’s 5 minutes (which is unrealistic) or 30 minutes, be sure to schedule it daily. Mark it on your calendar. I have a planner where I highlight across by the row and time everyday.
  2. Have a dedicated place to write. It could be the kitchen table or wherever, but your butt needs to be in that chair at the time you scheduled.
  3. Have a ritual to start the writing and it needs to be the same. (My ritual is making myself a cup of oolong tea. That’s it. No lighting incense, no namaste…I put water in a pot-because I’m crazy old school and don’t own a teapot-and boil it. Let it steep for 4 minutes and ta-dow!) Now, Robert, suggested to light a scented candle to place you in the memory.
  4. I’m going to add this one-that is have a check in buddy. I have started a “Tracy Responsibility Club” where I am one on one with a person, every three weeks and we go over lists of things we want to have accomplished by the next meeting. Since I do this one on one-for emotional support as well-I can’t handle more than three people. Even then, I’m biting off more than I can chew (typical Pisces-learn to say no!!) And so far, the club has helped me be even more responsible-hence writing this update.

Some other suggestions he made were to think about what happens when the pandemic ends. At this rate, I’m guessing 2021 because people are doing some dumb stuff right now and here we got with a surge.

  1. Write a letter to your future self. Maybe something you’ve accomplished during the pandemic. (Don’t look at me like that. You have been home as long as I have and you know you should have done something other than get fat. I’ve taken my online writing class and a Shakespeare class, certified in Google docs, Anxiety Therapy, Writing Basics 101, Novel writing 101 and yoga. I’ve done 100 points a day on Duolingo to improve my Spanish skills. I’ve written three stories, edited a lot, cleaned out several rooms filled with paper and done yoga every day. This does not include the things I’ve done with my kid that’s at home, which would blow your mind. How can she do all that? Dude, there are 24 hours in a day. Make. It. Fucking. Happen.)
  2. Write 10 things that give you joy-because after all this shit happens, people are gonna go nuts.
  3. Write 10 things you can do to give someone else joy.

And one of the more important things is to reward yourself for writing today-I get one bonus episode of some show I’m watching or a longer, sexier nap. Because naps are my life now.

Until the next time…

This is for YOU

I hear phrases like “write what you know” or “write what you want to read”…what happens when you feel like you don’t know much about what you want to write?

One example, I love to read short stories but a book has got to start off with a huge BANG or I’m not interested. I’ve gone through so many books and short stories that when I write what I want-well, I’ve been told that it seems a bit too speedy. (slow it down…describe what’s going on…give me some scenery….) That could be me trying to get all the ideas out of my head as fast as I can because if I don’t, some other random thing or random assignment for my kid will pop in. (Like I just remembered I forgot to send a copy of my driver’s license to her school to get her reregistered for fall. #parentingfail)

Now, I’m a person that likes to cross genres and boundaries. Maybe I’ll read a little cyberpunk here, a little exorcism there and try to make it work for me in a short story.

But I’m gonna tell you, the best ideas come from my dreams (and other dream like states). When I wake up, it’s like a mad house trying to find paper or something to write what happened down OR figuring out how to record my dreams on my iPhone at 3:30 in the morning, in the dark. Those are the funnier ones.

One story I wrote-from a dream-was sooooo good and scary that it made people very uncomfortable. (Note-I’m not here giving you a trigger warning. If you don’t understand horror, then that’s on you. If I pick up a book labeled horror, I will be ready to be scared. Like if I pick up a George RR Martin book, I’m expecting maps, very small font and lots of history. Get used to it.) I liked the short story because it took place in one of two worlds I write in-the near future or further out into the dystopian future mixed with cyberpunk.

Okay, so now you’ve read my ramblings. Let’s get down to the grits and gravy. If you are running short on an idea or something-I like to read a story and think, “How would I retell this story?” Like if the story was mine. That’s always a start, then you can add other extraneous stuff in there to take it off the original path. 

Another thing is using (the never use in college or academic research) wikipedia. That’s right. If you dig deep enough, you will get trapped in a k-hole of absolute terror. I was watching a movie about Sada Abe and ran across the word “ero guro“. Let me check wiki…oh dear god. What the fu– hold on…let me click that other link in this definition and get lost. Trust me, sometimes you get stuck down there and you need a cartoon or something to snatch you out.

Okay folks, so that’s my thing for now. I did listen to a podcast (Write Minded) where Veronica Roth said something to the effect of not feeling like you have to stay within the boundaries of your genre. Explore, look around! I mean, when I was 7, I was impressed that we had a digital clock where the numbers flipped. Then we got the Zenith tv and let me tell you, not having to hold the channel with a book of matches was giving me new life!

Another place I like to look is Pinterest. Yup. Pinterest. The gift of inspiration. If you are trying to think of a way to write a psychological horror story about a sexy ghost-type it into the Pinterest search bar. I guarantee you will pop back with an idea. OR you could like for prompts. I have found some interesting prompts. Even setting up a page with sub pages (I’m telling you, Pinterest is the ish. And I was an Evernote junkie!)

Another thing is podcasts. There are so many podcasts out there about cults, murders and horror. There’s a really good Mythology podcast on the Parcast Network (I listen to them the most). They have a crew of actors that act out parts of it, which is cool. I am thankful, however, that the cult podcasts do NOT have actors. (Once I listened to a podcast where the hosts were discussing a murder and making fun of it and laughing about it. I hate that.) Anyway, you can find out some really great crime details or even investigation details-which is better than CSI and incorporate them into your work.

If you aren’t feeling inspired-check out Digital Underground and Doowhatchulike

Or you can “Do What You Feel” like the Simpsons

Either way, I hope this inspired someone a little because I hot linked the shit out of this and it’s only 2 in the morning.