Homework: The Soundtrack of My Life

Chrono Trigger of Life by davidgoh

This year we are trying something new in the Ivins’ household. As soon as the boys get home from school they have a snack then jump right into homework. No one is allowed to play video games until everyone finishes.

There are two reasons for this approach. The first is because the kids’ AD/D-AD/HD meds run out by about 4:30pm. In the past if we let them wind down from school first, we basically had to staple them to their chairs to get them to do anything.

The second reason is one of the big reasons I never finished my homework as a kid. If you are stuck doing boring worksheets while your siblings are off in the next room having fun, there is a lot less motivation to finish whatever you’re doing well, or at all. Instead I would rush through everything so I could join them. My kids were having the same problem.

We instituted a new rule where the only things you can do after you finish your work are reading, writing, or drawing. Then when everyone is done, everyone gets to go play as a group. This strategy was working well, until they figured out I was surfing the internet while they were working. Needless to say they were a bit put out.

So, now I have a block of time every weekday were I have to (by my own rule) be either reading, writing, or drawing. Which would be great if I didn’t get interrupted every two minutes to answer a homework question. I know reading is right out, as I need quiet to read. I could draw, and I might some days, but that’s not overly productive. Also I like drawing to de-stress which is not a thing that homework time is conducive to. Sneaking so extra writing time in sounded amazing! But, yeah that didn’t work. I need to be immersed in that as well.

Instead I decided a half hour to an hour block of time would be perfect for a different kind of writing: I could do blog posts!

And now, here I am. Writing my first post in months, to the accompaniment of the Chrono Trigger soundtrack, because the kids like music when they work and it can’t have words.* I will admit unless you have kids, today’s post might not be that entertaining, but hopefully tomorrow’s will.

Happy Writing! 🙂

*Side Note: Any good video game soundtracks you can recommend? I have a few random songs plus Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy IV & VI, and Knights in the Nightmare: Symphony of Souls. While they are good, I’m sure we will be tired of listening to the same ones over and over, by about mid-December. Any suggestions for new ones would be appreciated!

Title image by davidgoh.


My Boys and Bayonetta

Today through the magic of their highly restricted internet, my three boys managed learned that there were new Amiibos coming out soon (thank you very much Nintendo in-console advertising). Amiibos, for those who don’t know, are little figures that can interact with Wii U games, in this case, the latest Super Smash Brothers. All the characters are from Nintendo franchises and so far my kids have procured quite a collection. Aside from their small plastic faces staring up at me from various places they aren’t supposed to be in the house, I haven’t had a problem with them, until today.

The newest DLC and accompanying Amiibos are Corrin from Fire Emblem Fates, a game Kid #2 is in love with, and…Bayonetta from Bayonetta and Bayonetta 2. Again, for those of you unfamiliar, Bayonetta is a gun toting witch whose outfit is made of her own hair. She is, how shall I say? Provocative. Her games are rated M for mature, for some rather obvious reasons.

Bayonetta (covers)

The gaming community is still split on her character and whether she embodies a kickass woman freely embracing her sexuality or simply eye candy for the straight white male set. I don’t know enough about the games to have an opinion either way, though from my image search and few articles I’ve read I’m leaning towards the latter. But I’m not here to discuss who she is or is not. I’m here to discuss having to talk about men treating women as sex objects to kids young enough to not know what sex is yet.

This is not something that should need to happen. I shouldn’t have to explain to my boys that some grown-up men treat women badly and only like them because they are beautiful and not because they are nice people or smart or can do cool things. I shouldn’t have to tell them that some men are mean to women and think they aren’t as good as other men are. I certainly shouldn’t have to tell them that some men hurt women because they think they are lesser, or worse, just objects. Luckily that last bit didn’t come up, yet. But it will someday.

Today the conversation consisted of me explaining that some men were rude to women who dressed like Bayonetta and that I didn’t want them to be a part of that, even if the Smash Brothers version was toned down. After their why questions that I answered as best as I could, they insisted that they would never treat someone like that. Their sincerity made me smile, but the fact that I had to have this discussion at all made my stomach sick.

Someday I’m going to have to talk to my kids about sexism and catcalling and rape and violence against women. That makes me angry. It makes me angry that other moms and dads will have to do the same thing. And Heaven help the parents of girls!

This is not a society I want my children to exist in. This is not the reality I want them to grow up in. But all I can do about it is talk to them and help them grow up to be good people. I hope that is enough.

Mental Health Awareness Month: It Was All In My Head

Big grey world by GordanaPhoto

Since this is mental health awareness month. I figured I should share a story, I have not always been aware of my own mental health.

For those of you who are new here, I have anxiety, depression, and ADD/ADHD. Those of you who know me also know that was always blatantly obvious, to everyone but me.

I didn’t know having worst case scenario thoughts weren’t normal. I didn’t know being sad with no real cause wasn’t something people just did. I talk about my journey to get help in these two posts, but today I thought I’d share my ‘Ah Ha!’ moment with you. The moment I realized something was wrong with how my brain put thoughts together and why I was always so stressed.

It was after I’d been going to the psychologist for a couple weeks. As one of my exercises, the doctor told me to try and notice when I was having doom thoughts and making up worst case scenarios. Then I was supposed to write down the thoughts, whether they made sense, and what might be another less drastic thought that could be closer to what was really happening. I didn’t think my thoughts were that big a deal, but I was wrong.

One night, Pat stopped at his mom’s house on the way home from work, but he was there a lot longer than I thought he would be. So I called his cell. No answer. Then his mom’s house. No answer.

A normal person would think: oh they are busy talking or maybe they are outside and didn’t hear the phone ring.

My first thought? There was a gas leak and they are all dead.

My next thought (and I’m guessing your next thought) was: What? That’s crazy! Why would I think that?

That’s when I realized that every time there was a problem and I was stressed my mind came up with the worst case scenario first. And every time it did, I agreed with it right away, without giving any of the other thoughts a chance to even appear.

The most eye opening thing about the phantom gas leak thoughts were not that I was having them, but if I hadn’t been paying attention the way I was, I would have worried about it being true till Pat eventually came home. AND even though I did notice that it was a tad on the crazy side, the thought didn’t leave my brain or lose all its credence. Something was definitely not right and I needed to get it fixed.

That’s when the doctor and I decided to try medication. And it worked! Which proved two things: a) It was not my fault I was anxious, it was my brain being chemically unbalanced. b) Those doom thoughts were usually so far off base, after I was on meds, my mind wouldn’t even consider them.

Two days ago I got my meds adjusted again and I am feeling great. It was a long road to get to this point, but I made it.

If you are having problems with anxiety, depression, or anything else please consider getting help. Sometimes counseling is enough. Sometimes you need meds. There is nothing shameful in getting help. And you have nothing to gain but peace of mind.

Trust me I know.

Title image by GordanaPhoto.

ConFusion and Clarity

Sunrise in the snowy woods by Roberto Melotti

As I posted on Twitter Monday afternoon, my seemingly endless stores of energy have finally been depleated. Last weekend at ConFusion was amazing. I met so many cool people – some for the first time, some for the first time in person. The hotel was nice, the con staff were great, and the panels were awesome! Kudos to everyone who helped put this convention together because you guys did an outstanding job. The con even got complimented by the hotel staff for being one of the best groups they’ve ever hosted!

On top of the obvious coolness of ConFusion and the ease at which it unfolded there was something more nebulous about this weekend that didn’t strike me full on until Sunday night when mostly everyone had departed for their various home bases. It was a sense of knowing that I was where I was supposed to be. And not just at the con, but surrounded by people who understood exactly what it meant to love writing and reading and genre in general.

I’ve been involved in SFF fandom since 2010, when I started writing my first book and joined Fantasy-Faction. It was fun to be around people that loved the same things I did and understood me. As the years went by I met more authors and fans, improved my craft, and felt more and more welcome than I had anywhere else, almost my whole life.

But for whatever reason, part of me always felt like a fake. Like I was just playing at being a writer, and later an editor. It wasn’t anything anyone said. The SFF community that I know and love is nothing if not supportive of fans as well as newbie writers just beginning to stretch their wings.

The feeling originated inside myself. The part of me that hides in the back of my head and whispers lies and slander about me, that wants me to fail and live my life cowering in a dark place with no voice or hope to be rescued.

That voice is an asshole. And thank God with meds and therapy it has gone from a booming giant to a hoarse whisper. But until this weekend it was still loud enough to keep me from being comfortable at cons and comfortable with my place in this genre (even though that place isn’t very big).

Then at ConFusion something clicked. It might have been meeting so many people in person for the first time that knew who I was and were happy to see me. It might have been my mind finally curb stomping the last bit of the crap voice that had haunted me for so long. But I think the biggest reason was other people voicing the same fears as me. In fact Kameron Hurley wrote a great post about conventions and kindness, that if you haven’t read yet you should go read now. There is nothing more comforting than knowing others feel the same as you. And nothing more incredible than a community saying, “No, please don’t feel that way. Join us, we want you here too.”

I talked (read: ranted) to my husband for close to an hour Sunday night about how amazing it was to feel like I belonged. Like I wasn’t a fake. Like I was meant to be there. It was as if a weight had been lifted from my soul.

I am a writer. Someday, come Hell or high water, I am going to be published.

I am an editor. I love my job, even though I don’t get paid for it. And I want to continue to help share my love of fantasy with others as well as helping polishing people’s work so it shines.

I belong in SFF. I always did. Even before I started writing. Even before I joined the online fan circles. Since the first day I picked up a fantasy book and fell head over heels for the worlds of the purely imagined, I belonged.

But now I know for sure. Now I know this is where I was meant to be.

Fantasy is in my blood and my future is full of spaceships.

And I have all the amazing people in the SFF community to thank for that. So thanks guys, you are the best!

Title image by Roberto Melotti.

A Day to Remember

NYC Skyline 2000

Fourteen years ago a great many people lost their lives. Those that lived lost their loves, families, friends, and coworkers. We as a country lost our innocence and sat for days with hearts broken staring at scenes no one could ever have imagined.

It was a day of massive loss and personal loss. A day they closed the mall early but not the schools. They kept the kids late because no one was sure if there would be anyone to pick them up. A day spent trying to find the words to explain to ourselves what happened, and failing. A day of heroes who lived and died trying their best to save as many as they could.

It was a day that needs remembering in the hopes that it will never be repeated. A day to weep and stand proud. A day to hug your kids and kiss your lovers, and pray for those who can’t. A day to remember what really matters and the day we will never forget.

Title image by autumn2may.

Writing Lost and Found

lost in a daydream by mkendall (detail)

It’s been almost a year since I posted last. I blame…um…aliens? I don’t know. I guess I’m not the best blogger in the world. C’est la vie.

I could post about how I’m going to try to be better in the future, but I think me posting anything at all says that better than I could write on purpose. Anyway, enough about me not writing, let’s move on to more important things:

Did I ever tell you I’m writing a book series? If you’ve been following me forever or know me outside this website the answer is probably yes. In fact I created this website specifically to be about writing, hence the title. How am I progressing? Well let me give you an update:

Last month I finished editing the millionth draft of my first book. This month I finished a read-through/edit of the bits of book two that are already written. Yesterday I finished the sub-plot timeline so I know what I need to add to book two to finish it. Today I started writing new scenes for the first time in well over a year.

I am so happy that I’m writing again! I mean I write and edit all the time. But these are new scenes in book two. With each scene I’m that much closer to finishing it and moving on to book three and completing the series!

It felt so good to get those words on paper, or I guess, into the computer. It feels so good to be moving forward. Don’t get me wrong I love editing, but creating something new is one of my favorite things about being a writer.

I’ve also put up an excerpt from book one, Mark of the Essence, which you can read here.

And while I love my book series I have also spent some time here and there writing short stories. Okay they are very short stories, probably more like flash fiction. And I thought maybe since right now they are just sitting in my writing folder I should put them up on here. So starting today I’ll post a new story once a week or so until I run out. At which point maybe I’ll write a new story every week? I guess we’ll see.

I already have two stories posted on the site: “First Light” and “The First Mark”. Both of those were written as part of the Fantasy-Faction monthly writing contest. Today’s story is much shorter and rather than talk about it, I’ll let you read it for yourself. Enjoy!

– – –

“The Scent of Spring”
by Jennie Ivins

The first thing she noticed upon waking wasn’t the songbirds singing in the trees above, or the way the tall green grass tickled the exposed skin of her neck and face. Even the unevenness of the ground and the way her dew covered clothes clung to her body weren’t the obvious senses that roused her tired mind. It was the smell of damp earth, rich and full of promise, mixed with the copper of fresh blood that finally shook her from her sleep.

Her eyes shot open but her body remained still. How long had she been asleep?

The sky through the spring green leaves above her was spotted with puffy white clouds rolling lazily along in a breeze too high up to rustle the grass she lay in. The sun was behind her, making its way up to the center of the sky, taking its time as it shifted the shadows of the forest off patch of clover to her left and onto the dead man at her feet.

She sat up and backed quickly into a tree trunk. She hit her already tender head and cursed under her breath as she got a better look at her surroundings.

The meadow rolled along down a short hill and ended in a brook that was close enough to see, but too far away to hear. The forest behind her was light and airy with deer paths leading through budding underbrush. Most likely it lined a road or a farmer’s field. The edge closest to the clearing was littered with broken braches and scraps of cloth and hair. It was rather obvious which direction the pair had come from.

Her eyes again came to rest on the corpse. Flies were already circling its gore stained clothes, which the song birds in turn were swooping down to snap in their hungry beaks. What would she do with the body?

A short gust of wind blew a blood caked curl in front of her eyes. It brought with it the not unpleasant smell of a farm freshly tilled and animals at pasture. She didn’t remember passing a farm, but it had been dark the night before. Dark and cold and quiet.

The sound of birds and insects buzzing all around her hurt her head. It was too beautiful, too perfect. There was too much life in this place, too much spring in the air for the death that surrounded her.

She stood, using the tree to keep her balance. Her leg hurt. Her head hurt. The smell of blood and whatever else pooled around the man was making her sick.

She hobbled down the soft hill towards the babbling brook. Everything about this place made her angry. All she could feel was pain and fear. But all around here was nothing but warmth and new life. She fell on her knees in the sand by rivers edge and washed herself of all the stickiness she could. She cupped her hands and poured the cold waters on her face and head.

The cold felt better. She closed her eyes surrendering to the chill and darkness. The sound of the water was preferable to the sound of singing. When she’d washed as much as she could, she lay back on the bank, hidden from the sun by the canopy above. Where would she go now?

The wet seeped into her bones and her body started to shake. It longed for the warmth of the hillside and the softness of the grass. She didn’t deserve it. She never had.

Maybe she should stay there by the brook and let the cold take her. She could become one with the leafy shadows and lend her song to the water against the rocks. Bones and rocks were very similar. Hard and smooth. One held up the earth, the other men. But all men’s bones returned to the earth eventually. Maybe it was her time now.

A pit in her stomach bubbled to the surface. She couldn’t stay there. She didn’t want to die. If she had wanted death it could have been hers the night before. Maybe not quick or painless, but hers none the less.

She sat up, sand sticking to her clothes and arms. The farm then. They would help her. They would give her hot food and new clothes. They would shower her with pity and freshen up the guest room. While they weren’t looking she would nick supplies. They would tell her to stay as long as she wanted, but she would only stay the night and be gone before anyone could miss her.

Before the farmer’s wife picked through the holes in her story. Before the famer’s children noticed all the scars on her arms and legs. Before the farmer found the body in the tall grass, where the songbirds sang, under sunny spring skies.

– – –

You can find my other stories by clicking on the drop down menu at the top of the page marked Short Stories or you can click the links below. If you’d like more information on my stories or book series you can find my contact information on my About Me page. Happy Writing! 🙂

“First Light”
“The First Mark”

Title image by mkendall.

The Last September Morning

That's Fine by Eric Flexyourhead

The sky this morning was incredible. In the north it was azure – the color of a Caribbean sea. In the south thick heavy clouds were pasted above the trees. They looked disapprovingly at the clear patches as if they were considering engulfing them in one smooth sweep. But in the end the clouds relented and blew off to the south to drop their rain on a more worthy area.

The sky, so pleased with its victory turned an even deeper blue, so pure it almost hurt to look at. Around its edges the remnants of the impotent storm framed the last September morning with feathery white lace.

“The last September morning.” Sounds like an old folk song doesn’t it? You know what else it sounds like? Panic. Because if today is the last day of September, that means it’s only one month until NaNoWriMo starts!

For those of you not familiar with NaNo, here’s a bit about it. The summary is you have 30 days to write 50,000 words. Yes 50K. 5 with four 0s after it. It’s hard, don’t get me wrong, but it’s actually what got me started writing as more than a thing I did sometimes and never finished. I wrote 80,000 in my first NaNo, which turned into about 1-1/4 books of my series. Even if you don’t win NaNo, it’s a great way to get in the habit of writing every day.

Now technically you’re supposed to start something brand new, and only work on it for the whole month. I’ve not done that since the first year. Usually what I do is work on something I’ve started instead. I’m not sure what I’m working on this year, but I’m going to do my best to win. I’ll update you all once I figure it out. At the moment it will either be rewrites of my first book or continuing a YA story about a boy that finds dragons.

Anyone else doing NaNo this year? What will you be working on? Whatever it is, I wish you good luck and happy writing!

Title image by Eric Flexyourhead.