|Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Sitka the Nose Biter, a kitty who had her own story in Poison Tongue Tales and a kitty who had a special place in everyone's hearts.|
***WHY I LOVE THE AUTHOR COMMUNITY***
I saw so many indie authors online from Jenna Moreci to Hannah Lee Kidder discussing this topic and I thought I should throw my name into the hat. I have a lot to be grateful for when it comes to my writing career and one of those things is the company I keep. The first thing people will tell you is that the author community is like one big family and the stigma about competitiveness is just that: a stigma that needs to be erased. Or as Red Green always says, “I’m pulling for you. We’re all in this together.” I agree with this philosophy one hundred percent. It takes a village to write a novel, whether your villagers are beta readers, editors, audience members, or otherwise.
I must confess that it took a long time for me to allow the author community into my life. When I first started creative writing as a sixteen year old, I had a massive ego and a chip on my shoulder the size of Texas. My filter for constructive or hurtful criticism was so strong that anybody who gave it to me was met with derision. I remember one night in Spokane, Washington in the fall of 2001 where I attended INCON, a sci-fi, fantasy, and anime convention. One of the feature attractions was having a piece of writing critiqued by five different professional authors. After the second one had her turn, I stormed out of the room and spent the rest of my evening crying my fucking eyeballs out. Were the authors using kid gloves? Not at all. But did that mean I had nothing to learn from them? Also a resounding no.
I took this egotistical attitude with me everywhere I went whether it was online or in college. I took my first creative writing class in 2004, though big ego or not, that class was deeply flawed judging from how much leniency was shown towards nasty critics. It got so bad that I wrote a poem about one of my classmates and told him that he looked like Frodo Baggins and that I wanted to impregnate his mother. I will admit that this gave me the confidence I needed to write poetry, but still, all that rage over a “You suck” comment? Ugh…
I would go on to take many more creative writing classes at Western Washington University and just like before, my ego got in the way of a true education. I remember one teacher I had who labeled my use of swear words as “hate speech” and told me I also wasn’t allowed to have gratuitous violence in my stories. What set me off wasn’t that alone, but the fact that I still got a C in her class despite adhering to her rules. My ego got bigger and my walls got higher. It would take a bloody miracle for me to let people in.
Fast forward to the year 2013, where I wanted to embark on an indie author career, but didn’t have anybody to critique my writing. I must have driven all of those people away, but it’s true, if you go long enough without criticism, you’ll be desperate for it when the gatekeepers lock you out. I caved and went to a group on Good Reads affectionately called the WSS (Weekly Short Stories Contest and Company). I’m still a member of that group today. I would enter a short story or novel chapter into the weekly contests, just like the name suggested…and the critiques I received were a complete one-eighty from a lifetime of seething anger.
Everybody was so nice to me that little by little, my walls started to strip away and it was easier to let people in. I got more of an education in this group than I did in school. You can teach people how to show instead of tell, how to keep one narrator, how to use colorful descriptions, how to not pull the trigger too soon when it comes to the climax, and how to make your characters overcome great adversity. People with massive egos never learn these things because they believe in their hearts they’re already good enough. The more you realize how imperfect you are, the more likely you are to improve. Thank you, WSS, for stripping away my oversized ego with your kindness and love.
From that moment, I would go on to meet many wonderful indie authors whom I can learn from and depend on when things get rough. I can’t say enough positive things about Ashley Uzzell/Marie Krepps. She’s honest, she’s funny as hell, she’s wise beyond her years, and she backs it all up with her kick-ass stories. Aurora Styles is every bit as wonderful as her Hollow Hills cohort with her own sense of humor, her own literary wisdom, and her own terrifically-written prose. Jenna Moreci uploads You Tube videos every so often dishing out sagely wisdom of her own whether the topic is writing or marketing. Hannah Lee Kidder is also a You Tuber who’s fun to watch when it comes to giving the world thoughtful advice. Patrick Doran’s cheerful Deviant Art comments give me the fuel I need to carry on during moments of exhaustion. If I’ve left anybody out, I swear it’s an accident. Thank you, writing community, for being my rock and not letting my head over-inflate.
I’m Garrison Kelly! Even when you feel like dying, keep climbing the mountain!
***LYRICS OF THE DAY***
“I’ve been alone. Felt abandoned at times. Given into the fall. I can’t forget what it’s like. When I felt numb and so hollow inside, you carried me through it all across the divide. I’ve been lost. Felt ruined inside. Watched it all crumble in the blink of an eye. You were strong and so hopeful inside. Saved this fallen one when I wanted to die. And when I went through it all, you gave me your heart. I learned to forgive. And when I come through it all, I know you’re the one I’ll never forget.”
-Device singing “Through It All”-
***SPOOKY SCARY WRITING TAG: BEAUTIFUL MONSTER***
This is a tag stolen from Jenna Moreci, which was in turn stolen from Emma Fink, both of which are author-tubers. Because Halloween is upon us, it’s only right that I answer these questions about Beautiful Monster with creature themes attached to each question. And just for the sake of keeping things updated, I will not be referring to the first draft version of Beautiful Monster that’s already online. To put it as nicely as I possibly can, the first draft of my baby is a drive-by abortion. Windham comes off as a whiny emo teenager, Tarja is manipulative as hell, and the evil characters have no reason for being evil. I have a much better version of Beautiful Monster all planned out and I will be referring to that as well as Savage Beatings, the prequel exclusive to the Still Standing anti-bullying anthology. So…here goes nothing!
1. Ghost: Have you ever originally put a character/scene/theme in the book and then later taken it out?
I’ll eventually have to do that with the mushroom scene in the original. After some deliberation with the lovely Marie Krepps, it turns out people who eat psychedelic mushrooms don’t act anywhere near as crazy as Windham did. To put it as gently as I can, Windham was a fucking fruitcake with the way he flapped his arms, laughed like a maniac, and danced around like a ballerina, all while hallucinating. This time around, he’ll have to resort to medicinal leaves designed to relax his mind. Maybe he’ll have a conversation with Mageta the lion god, but he definitely won’t turn into a basket case.
2. Bat: Most misunderstood character in your WIP?
I’d have to go with Windham Xavier. Even though he was raised in a liberal environment where emotions are openly celebrated, he keeps a lot of his troubles on the inside. He’ll keep even more to himself after he eventually flees from Shelly’s castle. Bringing up torturous memories is a death sentence for anybody with PTSD, especially if that mental condition was caused by being repeatedly raped for a week straight. I’ve even flirted with the idea of giving Windham Stockholm Syndrome once I write out the third draft, but nothing is set in stone yet.
3. Jack-O-Lantern: What’s your most common source of inspiration to write?
For Beautiful Monster specifically, I have three different sources of inspiration. The first is an episode of the 1990’s horror TV show Millennium entitled “A Room with No View”. That episode explores the idea of beautiful women kidnapping men and seducing them into danger. That woman was the demonic shape-shifter Lucy Butler and my character Shelly Atwood is basically a bootleg of her. As for the title of my story, that came from an Otherwise song called “Beautiful Monster”, which talks about being in an abusive relationship and not having the courage to leave. The third source of inspiration came to me during a Pop Evil concert back in February of 2018. Black Map opened for them and during their set, a cute stocky black woman tried dancing with me and I was too nervous to engage her. I eventually walked away from her when she shoved another concertgoer with her elbow. Needless to say, she embarrassed the shit out of me and I was angry about it for the next two days. Three sources of inspiration for one novel. There you have it!
4. Zombie: Preferred form of writerly fuel? Coffee, tea, etc.
Since I can’t have caffeine due to my schizophrenia and coffee tastes like shit, I’m going with Well-Rested Herbal Tea from Trader Joe’s. I like my tea ice cold and unsweetened. Plus, this particular brand of tea is peppermint-flavored. I can’t say I’ve ever fallen asleep because of drinking this tea, but I like it nonetheless. It’s satisfying to drink and it’s good for me.
5. Vampire: Cheesiest trope that made it into your novel?
The romance between Windham and Tarja would qualify, although in the third draft, they’re going to take things slowly. Windham was just raped for a whole week, so romance is not on his list of top priorities. He also doesn’t want to be touched by anybody. This time around, I’m going to have Tarja respect his boundaries instead of being nosy and manipulative. They can bond over other things aside from sexual attraction. They both love animals. They both love art. They’re both politically liberal. They both want to retire from Shadow Asylum someday. And best of all, they both are good enough fighters to have each other’s backs during the worst of times.
6. Spider: What’s a character in your WIP that’s fine from afar, but you would NOT want to interact with if they ever got close?
This one’s a no-brainer: Shelly Atwood. She constantly looks like sex on a stick and that’s part of the reason she’s so successful at luring slaves into captivity. But make no mistake about it: she’s a businesswoman and a politician above all else. She doesn’t love you. She wants to make money off of you and she does that by selling you to horny clients. Sex slavery is her queendom’s national product. Some countries have tourism. Others have crops. She has fuckery.
7. Frankenstein’s Monster: Ever combined two characters into one/split one character into two?
The closest example I can come up with is the mercenary twin brothers Christian and Kody Savage. Aside from their facial tattoos, there’s not a whole lot of distinction between them. They’re both silent. They’re both brutal in combat. They drool and groan like wild animals. Basically, they’re not the kind of people you want to fuck with. In fact, if they do come up to you, run as fast as you fucking can!
8. Skeleton: Best tips for adding in character baggage without info-dumping?
Although I’m not an expert in this particular topic, what I like to do is use flashbacks. The original version of Beautiful Monster utilizes this technique for the first ten chapters as the story bounces between Windham’s captivity and him traveling with Tarja back to Shadow Asylum headquarters. I’m not so sure I can get away with that in the new version of the story, but for what it’s worth, I’d do it if the opportunity presented itself again.
9. Cat: What’s a polarizing writing/bookish opinion that you have?
Head-hopping is perfectly acceptable. I know it’s considered a literary sin, but if movies and TV shows can get away with it, authors should too. I didn’t hear any complaints during that episode of Seinfeld where Elaine and Keith Hernandez were having inner thoughts together after their date. In fact, the two of them kiss and Elaine thinks, “Who does this guy think he is?” and Keith thinks, “I’m Keith Hernandez.” Then again, Seinfeld might not be the best example due to its status as a sitcom. I know Carl Hiaasen head-hops and he’s one of my strongest influences.
10. Demon: Most frequent writing distraction?
Sleepiness brought on by a combination of mental illness, being overweight, and having sleep apnea. When I’m feeling too sleepy, I can’t concentrate and therefore will put out a shitty product. You guys deserve better than a shitty product despite the fact that all first drafts are shitty by their very nature. Imagine if I wrote Beautiful Monster with a constantly tired mind. It would go from being a drive-by abortion to a…uh…what’s worse than a drive-by abortion? Anybody? Help me out here.
That’s all I’ve got for you today. I’m Garrison Kelly! Even when you feel like dying, keep climbing the mountain!
***LYRICS OF THE DAY***
“Something about the way that she makes me hate myself. I could run away, but I don’t want no one else. Something about the way that she tears me up inside. Is it wrong that I love it when I know she’ll bleed me dry? So say what you want. It’s already done. It’s Russian Roulette and love is the gun. You don’t know her, you don’t know her like I do. Looking like an angel so divine, but you can see the devil in those eyes. She’s a monster by my side, baby. She’s taking me six feet down tonight, ‘cause dancing with the devil gets me high. She’s a monster. My beautiful monster. I don’t want to be saved.”
-Otherwise singing “Beautiful Monster”-
***WRITTEN IMPLICATIONS: OCCUPY WRESTLING***
An authortube meme stolen from Kelly Damon a.k.a. Rainbow Skychild: www.youtube.com/watch?v=CK1AVa…
As Kelly (no relation to me) says in the video, this meme is geared towards writers of fantasy and sci-fi since the boundaries for real world scenarios are already set. Well, Occupy Wrestling is an urban fantasy, but it still operates on its own implications, much like pro-wrestling does in the real world.
Occupy Wrestling tells the story of a heated rivalry between blue-collar underdog Mitch McLeod and his bitter billionaire boss Keegan Day. It takes Mitch forever to get a World Championship opportunity and when he finally does, he accidentally kills his opponent. And yet it’s Keegan who ends up behind bars because of his shady dealings with bookies and even the IRS. Everything should be happy in the world of pro-wrestling, right? Wrong! Keegan rolls out a brand new wrestling roster filled with magical monsters and vicious creatures. They’ve got claws, muscles, fangs, fur, and nasty attitudes. They all want what Mitch has: the KDW World Championship. Maybe they want even more than that: his life!
First implication: much like in the real world, the top one-percent is never held accountable. Oh sure, Keegan gets put in a minimum security prison, but what does that really solve? Nothing. He’s still all powerful. He still has demons and monsters at his disposal. He can still make Mitch McLeod’s life a living hell. Keegan could walk down Fifth Avenue, shoot somebody, and not a goddamn thing would happen to him. Sound familiar?
Second implication: Mitch McLeod is a Gary-Stu for a reason and it has nothing to do with me babying him. It has everything to do with him being overprotective of his girlfriend Debra Winter. Debra wants to be a badass wrestler just like her boyfriend, but Mitch refuses to train her out of fear that she’ll be put in sexually exploitative matches. This novella was written before the Women’s Evolution in WWE, so Mitch has a least a little bit of truth in his argument.
Third Implication: Debra Winter will always be in danger as long as she doesn’t know how to fight. It doesn’t matter if she’s with Mitch or in a safe house somewhere: Keegan’s forces of evil will always find her, probably because their animal instincts. For fuck’s sake, Mitch, just train her already! Quit being a goddamn superhero and swallow your fucking pride!
Fourth Implication: the police are largely useless in this novella for a number of reasons. One, they’re being paid off by Keegan Day. Two, some of them just don’t care enough. Three, those that do care are vastly outnumbered. And four, nobody believes that Keegan is unleashing monsters upon his roster. Having a useless police force is necessary in pretty much all of my novels, because if they can solve everything, there’s no point in the main character going through a journey of any kind.
Fifth Implication: training for wrestling in Japan is considerably worse than training anywhere else. And yet in the real world, there are wrestlers who would rather train in a brutal Japanese dojo than get anywhere near former WWE trainer Bill DeMott. You know you suck as a trainer when your students would rather get humiliated and beaten by Japanese wrestlers than learn anything from you. That’s like saying, “I’d rather have my dick sawed off than train with Bill DeMott.” Not quite, but close enough.
Final Implication: Pro-wrestling is treated as a legitimate sport in this novella, no different from football, MMA, or basketball. And yet, the same dumb-ass logic still applies and wrestlers can get away with just about anything. And before you pipe up and say that Keegan went to jail, I must remind you that he still controls everything from his comfy cell. He’s about as powerful as a mafia kingpin. Why wouldn’t he be? He’s got monsters and money, two things you need to succeed as a wrestling promoter.
Well, I had lots of fun doing this! And guess what? If you’re an author of fantasy or sci-fi, you can do this too! I won’t tag anybody, but if you want to tag yourself, you’re more than welcome to do so. Let’s have some fun together! Oh, and don’t forget to purchase a copy of Occupy Wrestling at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online retailers (but only if you’re a wrestling fan, which I can’t stress enough, because you might not enjoy or understand it otherwise). I’m Garrison Kelly! Even when you feel like dying, keep climbing the mountain!
***TELEVISION DIALOGUE OF THE DAY***
GIRLFRIEND: I’m sorry, Jerry, but I can’t date a man if I don’t respect what he does for a living.
JERRY: You’re a cashier!
***MIDDLE GROUND BETWEEN PERFECT AND DESPICABLE***
The year 2014 was an…interesting one for me in terms of my writing career, but what it all boiled down to was two characters I created, both from separate stories. And now I feel like Agent Smith from The Matrix when he tells the main character that there’s a difference between Thomas Anderson and Neo. But instead of taking your mouths away, I actually want some input from my readership to see if I’m not alone in this. Being stuck on an island is no fun at all.
One of these two characters was Sitka the Nose Biter, the titular witch kitty from Poison Tongue Tales. Her positive traits were her cuteness and magical powers while her negative ones were her grumpiness and inability to trust even the kindest souls. She ended up becoming one of my most popular characters.
The other character could not be less relatable. Her name was Danielle Keyes and she was Terrance Coffey’s roommate in the American Darkness short story Wishes in the Night. Danielle’s gimmick was that of a Nightwish fan-girl who had a shrine of their merchandise and photographs in her bedroom while their music was playing too loudly for Terrance’s comfort. Danielle’s characterization went over like a fart in church, meaning none of my audience members cared about her.
To channel Agent Smith once again, “One of these lives has a future, the other does not.”
It was during 2014 that I struggled the most with creating relatable and believable characters and to some extent I still do struggle in today’s world. This whole time I’ve been rolling the dice with my characters and hoping I didn’t roll snake eyes. In other words, I had no idea what the fuck I was doing. My characters were either too perfect or too despicable with very little middle ground between the two extremes.
I recently got some advice on this topic from my lovely beta reader Ashley Uzzell and she said that good characters should have a mixture of positive and negative traits just like any other human being in the real world. Fair enough. But then the question becomes, what positive and negative traits will keep my readers’ attention and which ones will turn them away?
Let’s say I had a character who was generous with his charity donations, but also ate with his mouth open during banquets. Let’s say I had another character who was a good teacher, but also hated furry animals. Or another character who was a top-notch athlete in school, but had a constant case of flatulence. Do any of these characteristics sound appealing right now? Not to me, they don’t.
And then I figured, maybe the traits themselves should be relatable. Okay, I can do that. How about a student who is good at math, but suffers from depression? Or a politician who is good with words, but has panic attacks during heated debates? Or a dancer who is athletic as hell, but can’t reach her full potential because she smokes cigarettes? I like these characters a lot more! Maybe I’ve answered my own questions after all.
You can use your own flaws and perfections when creating a character too, which is why “write what you know” gets thrown around as liberally as it does. Granted, self-inserting isn’t a desirable technique since it makes the author look egotistical, but you can throw some of your own traits in with ones that are already there. Scott George, the lead character from my Floydian high school drama Silent Warrior, is my best example of this. He’s mentally ill, socially awkward, and introverted as hell. I’m sure most of us can relate to these things, and yet the flaws work perfectly within the narrative…or so I’m told. I’m not trying to toot my own horn or anything; I’m just looking for examples, that’s all.
But just because I’ve gotten my shit together with flaws and perfections, it doesn’t mean I don’t still roll the dice whenever I create characters for the public. Not everybody is going to be a winner. But then again, that’s why we have the editing and beta reading processes. It doesn’t have to be perfect the first time around. If it takes forever, edit forever. While I was writing for the Still Standing anthology, I had Aurora Styles (one of the authors) suggest that I give Llewellyn Xavier (formerly known as Michelle) a hobby of some kind to round her out. When Windham asks her how her chess match went, she dangled a king piece in his face and smiled as she said, “How do you think?” Teamwork, people! Teamwork!
It takes a village to write a novel…or a short story…or a poem. Those villagers include your beta readers, editors, and your own characters. You can roll the dice all you want with your characters, but eventually you’ll have to take the sleazy casino route and load those dice with little weights. Only then can you rake in the chips and cash them in for a big payday. Actually, being an indie writer isn’t a lucrative business, but there are other ways in which you will feel satisfied with yourself. If you can make just one person happy with your writing, you’ve done a great job. Even if the story is sad as hell and a major tearjerker, you will have affected that one person on a deep level and that’s the most satisfying part of the job, in my opinion. I’m Garrison Kelly! Even when you feel like dying, keep climbing the mountain!
Our little gray and white sweetheart is doing much better today than he was a few days ago. We still have to keep him isolated and medicated (which is coincidentally the name of a Seether album from 2014), but sure enough, he’s on the road to recovery. His wound doesn’t look as nasty as it once did and medicating him for it has been easy-breezy-lemon-squeezy. He’s going to make it! I know he will!
As someone who was born in the mid-1980’s, I’m chronologically predisposed to sharing details of my life on the internet, especially if they’re going to have even the slightest impact on my creative activities. I don’t expect that this incident will, but it is something to think about for all the times I’ve been too exhausted to work.
Our gray and white kitty Ozzy has a nasty abscess on the side of his face and yesterday it burst open and sprayed blood all over Mom and Dale’s sheets. We don’t know how he got this gash, but we suspect he’s been in a fight with another animal. He loves to go on little adventures outside for long periods of time, so it was bound to happen sooner or later. Mom and Dale are currently vacationing in New Mexico and won’t be back until Thursday night, so it was up to me and James to take care of Ozzy-Pie.
We had the elderly cutie-kitty taken to a 24-hour emergency animal hospital in Silverdale. He cried the entire drive over and we couldn’t blame him. Going to the hospital is no fun for an animal, especially if draining abscesses is on the agenda. The good news is, the doctors were able to clear it out and disinfect it without much incident. The rest is up to me and James.
Ozzy will have to have his wound wiped out regularly, he’ll have to take antibiotic pills covered in Spam, and he’ll have to have liquid painkillers injected into his mouth. So far, so good. He likes the Spam and wasn’t too resistant to the pills or the water that had to be injected afterwards. I haven’t given him his painkillers yet, but I trust that’ll go smoothly too. The treatment will last for a whole week, but I think we’re going to make him a permanent indoor kitty from now on, lest he gets attacked again.
Being a good animal parent to Ozzy and the rest of our fur babies is more important to me right now than getting creative work done. I was frantic the whole time I was preparing to give him his medicine, because I thought it was going to be harder than it needed to be. Turns out it was painless. Just seven more days and he’ll have to go back to the vet for a follow-up. I can do this. Ozzy will get better. I know he will!
If you want to leave your well wishes for our elderly kitty baby, you can do so in the comments section. Even though he’s not capable of checking internet posts, I’m sure he’ll appreciate it. I’m Garrison Kelly! Even when you feel like dying, keep climbing the mountain!
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Sitka: June 19th, 2014 Cat of the Day: catoftheday.com/archive/2014/J…
Piper: March 14th, 2016 Cat of the Day: catoftheday.com/archive/2016/M…
Smokey: April 17th, 2017 Cat of the Day: catoftheday.com/archive/2017/A…
Willem: December 16th, 2017 Dog of the Day: dogoftheday.com/archive/2017/D…
Tori: June 17th, 2018 Cat of the Day: catoftheday.com/archive/2018/J…