Insert Witty Joke About Writers and Alcohol Here

Sometimes my writing brings me to strange places. This time it has lead to me making my own liqueur.

Sweet Summer Ingredients

When life hands you lemons…

If you’ve read volume 2, then you remember a scene with someone sipping Sweet Summer out of a glass on a balcony while attempting to wax nostalgic as they drank. The Tirtessian alcohol makes a few appearances in the first half of volume 3 as well, and I got to thinking… would it be possible to actually make this?

With that thought fresh in my mind, I purchased ingredients and began to experiment. I don’t want to spoil anything too much, but I will say that trying to construct a foolproof recipe has been a test of my patience. I read up on how to make liqueur, made tweaks based off recipes similar to what I was looking for, and waited. The minimum waiting period of each batch is two weeks, and the first one failed spectacularly. I mean it was completely, utterly undrinkable–like turpentine and furniture polish had a nasty baby in my cupboard.

I started on a second batch and made some adjustments after more research. The results were much better than the first go, but it was watery somehow, and not what I wanted. I ended up trying to boil it to get it to condense, and I think that messed it up. That one was discarded as well.

So I started the third batch and held my breath, going for broke. After the two week wait I was apprehensive, and spent a long time carefully straining the cloudy, pale yellow liquid. At this stage it did not look appetizing in the least! It began to take on a brighter hue and cleaner appearance as I removed the byproducts, and my hopes began to rise.

Finally, I had strained it as far as I could and it had magically turned into something close to the bright, yellow liqueur I wrote about. Success!

Well, visual success, anyway. I mean, it looked and smelt like what I wanted, but how did it taste?

I drank a sip of it hesitantly from a small glass. It. Was. Amazing.

The final recipe feels so wasteful because after all is said and done you discard about one-half to two-thirds of the batch in order to clarify it–but what is left is a brilliant, semi-opaque, syrup-like liqueur that coats your mouth in the most wonderful way. I made it in a mason jar, and when you pop the lid off the smell of citrus perfumes the air around you. It’s not sour, like I expected. In fact it’s incredibly sweet, and that makes it feel like you aren’t drinking alcohol at all. My only regret is that I could not strain it well enough, so it’s a bit cloudier than I feel it should be. I may try to pick up a paper filter and see if that helps. [Multiple runs through a fine mesh sieve and a tea sock is how I got the result I have, so we’ll see if I waste money on that or not.]

The final result!

It’s a surreal kind of indulgence to drink an alcohol that I made up, while writing the story I concocted it for–in some parts, as my characters are drinking it.

To keep it accessible to everyone, I still need to develop a non-alcoholic version. I’m not exactly sure how I am going to manage that, as the alcohol is a key component that drives the chemical change; but I have a feeling that despite my misgivings the non-alcoholic version will be the easiest to make. There will be little to no wait period–failure can happen faster than ever!


The recipe will be released close to the publication date of volume 3. It will be included in the bonus content of the book itself, and here on my blog.

Note: I wrote this over the summer, as I write some posts months in advance but don’t publish them until later. I’m clarifying since it follows my last post. The only thing I am drinking right now that would raise eyebrows is iced coffee, ha ha. [Though according to ACOG, you can drink up to 200 mg of caffeine safely. Let’s put that old wives’ tale to bed for good!]

Though… this would be a great time to work on my non-alcoholic version of Sweet Summer.

You May Have Noticed…

…a strange silence that isn’t quite like me. I usually try to put a post up every three weeks or so, but as I said on Twitter back in September, life has delivered me some pretty impressive hiatus-forcing moments these past three months.

But like any good story, some of them were positive things! At the beginning of August I started medication for my HS, and it works. The difference was like night and day–even with the first set of shots! I cannot begin to tell you what it feels like to go from being in constant, excruciating pain to feeling something like a normal human. In fact, the medicine even helped to improve other things I had long term issues with, like my chronic back pain from a car accident almost 10 years ago. [Herniated L5/S1. Boo.]

But then it helped with an issue I never in a million years thought it would help with: my unexplained infertility. I became pregnant after the first set of shots.

Now as you know, we already have a daughter. We have no idea how we had her. Seriously–we were undergoing all kinds of exams, tests, and procedures when I became pregnant with her. It took three years to get her, and that was after we started with interventions and had several miscarriages. We still have no idea what combinations of treatment worked. [We were about to move onto IUI/IVF.] After she was born we tried for a second kid almost right away, afraid that we would miss our chance due to how long it took to end up with our first.

If you’re good at math, daughter is four now, so we were even more unsuccessful this time than the last. In fact, by the time we received a diagnosis for my HS we had put our plan of a second kid on the back burner until after we figured out how to stop my immune system from trying to kill me.

This new baby is unexpected, but desperately wanted. I’ve never even imagined having a “surprise” pregnancy because of how difficult it was to conceive our first! We are over-the-moon excited about this, though I have not had an easy time so far. [Unexplained bleeding, lots of emergency ultrasounds, etc.] I’ve been a basket-case because I’m always scared that the Universe will swoop in and destroy our happiness. [I have some anxiety issues, yes…]

I’m almost in the second trimester now, and once that hits, I hope to get back to writing. I’ve been poking at it, but between feeling sick, tired, and nervous, I’ve been preoccupied and unable to focus on it. My goal is to get Atlantis: TVC volume #3 finished before next March so that I can take time off to spend with the new baby. [And maybe write some short stories. Who knows?] There is a lot of stuff we have to think about now too, like whether or not we should move to a larger place. [Do I even want to move while pregnant? Ugh. No.]

At any rate, I thank you all for your patience during this time! I have had a few people message me privately wondering if something happened to me. I’m not dead, I promise! Just getting to a point where I feel better, and focused enough to start writing again. rainbow

The Glottal Stop [AKA: The Weird Apostrophe in That Word]

What do you call the apostrophe that appears in the middle of a word? Not one indicating possession, but one that is stuck in something for a reason that only seems discernible to the person who did it.

They’re called glottal stops, and not only do they appear in the names of real people, but they are common enough in fantasy writing to be considered a trope.

Now, full disclosure here–I use them in my writing. Specifically in my Atlantis: The Visionary Continent series. Why? To separate Native Atlantian [what the original Atlantians spoke] from Modern Atlantian, which is infused with all kinds of junk from other languages. [Notably Latin; to which I say… big surprise.] If you come across a glottal stop in my series then you know it’s an old word.

In American English they’re pronounced like a brief, stuttered pause–which is your vocal cords momentarily closing. This elongates the sound of the letter before the pause, often enough to overtake the letter after it. [As in “Mountain” {mount’in} or “Button” {butt’n}.] Most works of fantasy or sci-fi use them this way, though sometimes the rules of a specific series [or author] treat them as if they have their own sound–which is valid and happens in other real world languages as well. I treat them accordingly for Atlantian, which makes the name “I’nass” sound like ee-nass rather than eh-nass. Contrasting that is the other “I” name in my books, Idane, which has no glottal stop and is pronounced eh-dah-nay. [Allophones are fun, right?]

Not many people know what they’re called, and that they serve a purpose in language. More often than not they are filed under “Made-Up Fantasy and Sci-Fi BS“, or “Trying Too Hard to Be Creative” and left there to fester. Unfortunately this leads to the glottal stop getting a bad rap. I’ve heard everything from “lazy writers use them as a crutch to make names sound ‘exotic’,” to “If I see them in anything I’m reading, I will literally throw the book across the room and stop reading it.” Ouch, right? Why the visceral reaction? [Also, do those people throw their e-readers, or do they just delete the book in a rage? I imagine that is as anti-climatic as pressing the “End Call” button really hard on your phone’s screen.]

Though better than a broken e-reader every few books.

One guess would be overuse, despite the fact that recent negativity has made them uncommon again. I can’t figure out why a very vocal segment of readers respond to them the way they do. My first suspicion is that it’s become trendy to hate it. It happens to a lot of books and writing styles–if anything has ever been popular at one point, it will give rise to a counterculture that hates it simply for the sake of not wanting to follow the trend of enjoying it. [That was a mouthful, wasn’t it?]

Of course, overuse and misuse are both terrible things… but when a large group of people can’t even tolerate the thought of one, it raises questions. And no group is more polarized about it than other writers–you run the gamut of them thinking the glottal stop is whimsical, to acting like wanting to include one in your work constitutes some kind of war crime.

The battles are fierce, and not as verbose as you’d think.

It’s an innocent bit of punctuation! It has its time, and place. It’s like the Oxford Comma’s lesser known cousin; becoming more and more reviled as the years pass. Why all the hate for a tiny little mark between letters?

 

P.S: I am Pro-Oxford Comma.

P.S.S: I will officially declare my love of the super-versatile em dash. It is my favorite bit of punctuation, and has been ever since I can remember. [Even before I knew what it was officially called.] heart

 

End of Summer Sale!

End of Summer Sale

That’s right! Volumes #1 and #2 are on sale this weekend! You can pick up Volume #1The Visionary Continent for FREE, and Volume #2Awakening is only 99¢. Grab them before summer is over! [They’re great for reading by the pool, or so I’m told…]

Simple Words

If you’re looking for a shorter read, my novelette Simple Words is free this weekend as well!

Writing, Tropes, and Losing Yourself in the Details

I was tempted to call this post “Tropey Tropey Trope Tropes”, because this is the state of mind I am in right now.

In one of the writing forums I frequent, tropes in fantasy novels came up for discussion. The main post asked what we writers [as readers] thought the genre was lacking, and what we would like to see in the future. Most writers used the opportunity to list what tropes they felt were tired and worn out, but some of them listed things they would like to see. The interesting part for me was that before this post, I didn’t realize how many tropes my Atlantis: TVC series subverts or deconstructs. Of course, there are many that it plays true to; after all, tropes are tropes because they’re common, and they’re common because they work. [See, this is why I aimed for that title, because the word “trope” is going to come up. A lot. It’s going to look strange on the screen after a while, and by the end of this article it will become a mass of letters that not only will seem spelled wrong, but lack meaning. Also, that’s known as semantic satiation. Or you can be fancy and call it jamais vu.]

Fun and educational!

This post is fun and educational!

Obligatory TV Tropes Warning: I’m totally going to link to TV Tropes beyond this point. You will lose hours, possibly days by following these links. Stay strong!

Okay, now that the disclaimer is out of the way, let me start by saying this–and reinforcing an earlier point–tropes are not inherently bad. Tropes are tools. [See what I did there?] Like I said, I was surprised by how many tropes I unconsciously subverted. I didn’t intend to do this; the story just happened to take me in this direction. I wrote a post a while back and in it I stated how after I began taking my writing seriously, I became disenchanted with all media because I spent so much time dissecting it, trying to predict where the story would go. It became so bad that I stopped enjoying it. I had to take a giant step back and learn to turn my inner writer off.

[Note: At this point in the article, I went to look something up and wasted three hours on TV Tropes without realizing it. Let that be an additional warning for you, in case you were not taking my previous one seriously.]

I ended up having to take a long break from everything to do with writing–writing forums, writing guides, TV Tropes, actual television… and yes, writing. I was taking a trip to visit my parents for a few weeks, so I deliberately left my laptop at home. The only thing I’d have access to would be the tactics, and rhythm games I had on my 3DS, and the games I had on my phone. [Mostly puzzle games, like Sailor Moon Drops.] And of course, Reality TV, because that’s what my parents enjoy. I can easily tune that out though, so that last one wasn’t a big deal.

It worked. I came back fully reset and not only able to enjoy the things I used to love, but having a better idea of how not to fall into that cynical mindset again. Surprisingly, it helped me to see my own book in a new light, and I ended up tearing down a lot of the future events I had planned and reconstructing them from the ground up. I am really pleased with the direction I’m moving in now, and I feel my writing is stronger for it.

Oddly enough, this is what is allowing me to self-analyze my own work and see what I have done. Here are some of the tropes I have identified in Atlantis: TVC:

Note: I tried to not spoil anything crucial to the plot.

  • A Birthday, Not a Break – Achine. [I feel bad for her. It just makes everything happening at the time worse.]
  • Calling Your Attacks – This was one of my favorites. Subverted by Eruni in volume #2, then deconstructed by Varanis in the same scene.
  • Mana Drain – Played mostly straight.
  • Mythopoeia – True to trope. Atlantian gods, goddesses, and mythos are all figments of my own imagination and not based on anything in reality. [Excepting Atlantis itself, which was a myth in its own right, but nothing about my version and the common version match.]
  • Offered the Crown – Lampshaded, then subverted.
  • The Lancer – Played Straight. Eruni.
  • Urban Fantasy – Slightly subverted, and partially deconstructed. Though in the story Atlantis exists in its own bubble in our times, Davidian’s explorations into “modern” society have inspired advancements in Atlantian science and technology–the most notable of those being the mana potion, which was already mentioned as being something he drove development of in volume #2. [Later in the series his exact inspiration will be revealed, but you can probably guess what it was if you think about it.]
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting – Played straight. 100% straight. But it’s fun.

There were more I wanted to mention, but I would be spoiling major plot points from the current and future volumes.

When I originally created the Atlantis: TVC series eighteen years ago, I had no idea what a trope was. When I was re-tooling it two years ago [By the way, today marks the two-year anniversary of when I started writing volume #1! Time sure flies, huh?] I knew of tropes, but didn’t really know what they were in detail. I can’t imagine what it would have been like trying to write with a negative view of tropes stuck in my head! If I listened to everything I read, I may have never gotten past my notes…

At some point you’re going to have someone criticize your work. You’re going to read somewhere that writers who don’t go out of their way to subvert tropes shouldn’t be writing at all because everything has been done already. When you do come across this, put it out of your mind. Just because a formula is the same doesn’t mean it’s going to be written the exact same way. Every story is different, despite sharing tropes. That’s why people have favorite types of stories–because usually they share tropes! So when you encounter that, remember: only you can write your story.

P.S: Some of my personal favorite tropes are: Freaky Friday, Relationship Upgrade, Babies Ever After, Rescue Reversal, Firting Under Fire, Heroic B.S.O.D., Let’s Get Dangerous, Battle Couple, and Hope Springs Eternal. What are some of yours?

The Fragile, Fallible Writing Ego

Have you ever hit a block–one that isn’t exactly a writer’s block, but more of a confidence block? That’s where I’m sitting right now. I’ve been binging on media lately, which means I’m watching a lot of TV.

One of my favorite shows [with the worst airing schedule in the universe–pun status is: “unintended, but not unwelcome”] is premiering a new episode daily until mid-August, and it is consuming my brain currently. I just came out of season 3 of Sailor Moon Crystal, binged all of Gravity Falls, and ReLIFE; but this show destroying what is left of me. There are so few well-written shows nowadays, and the ones that are done right are just… explosively right. And despite the fact that a novel is a completely different medium from a TV show, I still sit here and think, “I will never be that good. I will never write anything remotely that good. Dammit.

After that, moving my cursor across the blank page becomes the most arduous task in the world. Even if I want to write–even if I’ve been excited to work on a scene–it’s beyond me. I don’t know if all authors have this issue, or if they just push through it until it’s gone. If I try to work through it, all that comes out is drivel. Letting Future Me “clean it up in editing” results in Future Me having to rewrite all of Past Me’s crap.

Meanwhile, my chronic illness is getting worse and some days I can’t even think well enough to handle staring at a wall much less write. So when I have a good day, and I want to write but can’t, I just make it worse by berating myself for not being able to take the opportunity. Thus, I watch TV, and… it’s a horrible cycle that just keeps going.

What stops it? A perfect storm–a good day health-wise where something within a show, book, or game stands out and sets off a spark of creativity inside of me; something that whispers that maybe everything I write isn’t trash, and that I can do this because I am the only one who can tell my story the way it needs to be told.

 

Life Imitating Art

Have you heard about YInMn pigment in the news recently? It was discovered back in 2009, but a company is going to start producing a paint based on it so it’s recently become a hot story. Look at it–it’s beautiful, isn’t it?

Well, the Atlantians think so too, because it’s the royal color there. It’s on tapestries, banners, tabards–even the shingles on the roof of Castle Atlantis are painted in this color! [Which is funny because the pigment can be used to help with energy efficiency, especially when used on roofing.]

L'Anagin Varanis

Based on the science behind it, it’s feasible that Atlantian alchemists could have come up with the same pigment. I wasn’t thinking of that when I was worldbuilding though. It just happens to be a nice coincidence. It also happens to be topical to volume 3, as that is where we get a closer look at alchemy in Atlantis. Prior to this volume, any references to alchemy have been rooted in medicine–potions, elixirs, topical remedies–that kind of thing. Soon, we get to see alchemy used in a functional sense, and as a weapon. This is especially fun [for me] because I get to write about an item I’ve thought about for years, and now it’s finally being used in the story!

Despite being at a point in my story I’m excited for, I’m finding it a bit difficult to write due to my illness, so I’m not writing as much as I would like. I keep hoping this particular flare will pass, and I won’t feel like a dirty sock lying in a gutter because it’s difficult to write when all you want to do is drag yourself toward the nearest soft object and lay there quietly. This unfortunately never happens because: three year-old. If I take my eye off her for a second, I am fishing a whole roll of toilet paper slurry out of the sink, or removing toys from the garbage disposal because she sits there and throws them at that side of the sink like she’s shooting hoops. I didn’t get a child that sits quietly and colors, or plays with toys–that’s for sure! [She gets that from her dad; I was the sit quietly child and he was… not, ha ha!] So most of my free energy is spent watching/interacting with her. By the time my husband gets home and I’ve cooked dinner, then washed the dishes, I feel like this clock:

Don’t get me wrong–I adore her. I just wish this disease didn’t rob me of so much energy. Sometimes my husband brings home take out, which is expensive but worth the sanity it provides me. Because I didn’t have to cook/do dishes tonight, I was able to catch up on laundry and write this post. How awful is that? I never imagined I’d be at a point in my life where I’d have to choose between cooking and doing laundry because I’d be too exhausted physically and mentally to do both in the same day.

I compromise by trying to be active on social media when I don’t feel up to writing. This way I at least feel like I’m doing something productive while waiting to feel better. So if this blog is quiet for too long, you can catch up with me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. I don’t bite–I swear!

Simple Words

I’m excited to announce that my newest work is now available for pre-order on Amazon.com!

It’s a dark story, but one of my personal favorites. I’ve had it in my head in various incarnations since probably around 2002 or so. I am glad I waited and let it percolate, because I don’t think I could have done it justice until now.

Simple Words debuts on June 17th, 2016. Pick up a copy today!

Simple Words

Hidradenitis Suppurativa

Imagine that you’re going about your life one day, and you notice that you have been scratching at the same dime-sized spot of skin for the past few hours now–let’s say it’s on your underarm. Or maybe it’s tender, so you keep rubbing it. Either way you notice it, but in passing annoyance.

You continue about your day.

Later you start to feel a bit run down. “Am I coming down with something?” you wonder. You feel rather achy, and that spot on your underarm–whether it be itchy, tender, or both–is starting to firm up beneath the skin. Maybe you were bit by a spider while you slept last night.

Your day continues. As you go about your business you notice your underarm becoming more sensitive by the hour. As you move your arm you feel a burning pain radiating from the spot. The itching intensifies. What on earth bit you? You may duck into a bathroom to check it out. The skin is red, tense, and raised. There may even be a bit of a bump on the surface. You touch it and discover that beneath the skin, there is a firm lump the size of a quail egg. The pain is an excruciating, stabbing burn that radiates down your arm.

You finish your day and are getting ready for bed. You may be turning in a bit early due to fatigue or you may have toughed it out until your regular bedtime. You take some over the counter pain meds, and climb into bed gingerly, trying to not disturb the boil–which is quite swollen by now and may be anywhere from red to purple in color. Your underarm aches, and you drift off into a fitful slumber.

A day or two passes. The boil has swelled into a monster–half-above and half-beneath your skin–somewhere between golf ball and baseball-sized. You make an appointment with your doctor, who looks at it, only sees what is on the surface, then tells you to take some acetaminophen and to clean better when you shower [and take more showers]. If you’re overweight, they also tell you to lose weight. You go home. You feel like you’re going to come down with a cold any minute–achy, sweaty, tired, cranky. The boil throbs even when you’re not moving your arm, and makes doing anything difficult.

That night you go to sleep, and wake up a few hours later. You notice that your arm isn’t as tender, but there is an awful smell, and that the underarm area of your T-shirt is damp. You turn on the light in the bathroom to find that the boil is now oozing a milky, bloody mixture that smells absolutely terrible! You try squeezing it but not much more comes out, despite how much there is on your shirt. You put a topical ointment on it, a bandage, change your shirt [and maybe bedding] and head back to bed.

The next morning your underarm throbs. Every movement of your arm causes a radiating, burning pain. It feels raw and bruised despite it opening up. And it’s still oozing that fluid.

This continues. It might continue for a few days, or it might continue indefinitely. Over time, more of the boils appear. If they heal, they leave behind horrible white or purple scars. If they don’t heal, they will constantly bleed, and/or ooze a clear to milky fluid that smells like something died. New boils will appear inside of the scars, and old, healed lesions will open up again. Multiple boils will form close together and create a tract of tight, inflamed skin over a large area. You see your doctor over and over again with the same results–they tell you to clean yourself better and/or to lose weight. Sometimes you receive antibiotics if it looks like you may also have an infection, but that is rare.

Over time you become self-conscious. You change your routine, trying to not irritate the affected area. You stay home on days where the smell from the open sores are too bad, or when the pain from moving is too great. Over the counter pain medicine does nothing to alleviate the deep-seated throbbing, stabbing, and/or burning pain that comes from these boils. Any kind of pressure is agony, and they tend to form in the worst possible places. You’ll distance your friends. You may lose your job. You constantly feel rundown and achy. Your sleep suffers. You gain weight from inactivity. Each day becomes a chore to complete.

This continues for years, unchecked. You cycle through periods of flare ups and remissions where it’s not so bad, but as time goes on, the “good days” become few and far-between. You begin having “not-as-bad-as-normal days” instead. The aching, pain, and tenderness is constant. You may begin to get boils in other areas as well.

Some day you might get lucky. You may find yourself in the emergency room, at the end of your rope due to a massive softball-sized boil, and luck into a doctor who not only wants to lance it so you can get some relief, but knows that you have a legitimate disease–and that it has nothing to do with poor hygiene like your doctor has been saying. Others won’t be so lucky, and might go through life thinking that they are prone to getting boils, that they somehow aren’t washing properly, or that it has to do with weight. But if you do get a diagnosis, just knowing these things can be so freeing!

This disease is called Hidradenitis Suppurativa, often abbreviated simply as HS. It is a rare, extremely painful, debilitating autoimmune disease with everyday pain rated between 4-10 out of 10, and an average DLQI rating of 10-18; that’s more painful and debilitating than most well-known chronic, disabling medical conditions, and on par with the pain experienced by cancer patients. 1-4% of the world’s population is affected by it, and those are only the people who have overcome the shame and embarrassment of the condition to get a diagnosis. In fact, it is an invisible illness; the people affected by it hide it for as long as possible, and it’s usually in areas covered by clothing. It is also shown to be hereditary and often runs in families. There is no cure. It can be semi-managed, but that is all.

In the UK this is HS Awareness week, and those of us affected by this disease in the US are adopting this week to promote HS awareness as well.

Until this point, I have only told family about having HS. I have it in an embarrassing area that is difficult to manage, and it hinders my ability to walk, stand, and sometimes even sit on a regular basis. It makes it so that I can only leave my house once a week due to the mess and pain. I’ve had to change a lot about my life due to it. After my car accident it was easier to blame my HS flares on my back, and I still do to people who don’t know. I can’t wear certain types of clothing, going to the bathroom is a struggle at best, and I can’t be as active as I would like to be. The consequences are far too great. It has become especially bad since having my daughter. I was officially diagnosed about two years ago, and my current flare up has been three years long. Three years with no relief! This is part of the reason I decided to begin writing in the first place–it’s something that I can do from home, and it distracts me from my pain.

I suffered for fifteen years before I was diagnosed. I had been running a high fever and unable to keep down food or water for twenty-four hours, so my husband made me go to the ER. They couldn’t figure out why my white blood count was so high, but I wasn’t going to mention the oozing, open wounds I had because I was too ashamed. My husband finally suggested it might be from the sores and the ER doctor insisted on having a look. It turned out that one of my boils had become infected. The ER doctor sat me down and walked me through the HS diagnosis, and recommended I go see a dermatologist, as they are the specialists who are trained to handle HS. She also told me that Hidradenitis is NOT contagious. You cannot catch it from anyone. It is not due to poor hygiene. It is not due to being overweight–though sometimes that can exacerbate it. It is not due to anything within an affected person’s control.

Hidradenitis is a vile disease, and I’ve never made pains to hide it from my husband because he’s seen me naked pretty much since the onset of my HS. He has been by my side as it has become progressively worse, and he has seen how debilitating it has become. I am extremely fortunate that he handles the disgusting nature of this well. I am in several support groups for people with HS, and many in them have lost partners due to them not being able to deal with the symptoms of this disease.

I saw the dermatologist again last week, and we discovered that I am now at stage three. In the past when I was stage two, I had been recommended to have surgery to remove most of the skin on the lower half of my torso and replace the skin with a skin graft from my thighs and hips. I didn’t have the support to be able to have a surgery like that, as it will require weeks of recovery and I have a young child at home that needs constant supervision. I still don’t have that kind of support, so surgery is off the table.

A recent discovery has been that the drug Humira helps some people suffering from HS, so after talking with my dermatologist we are going to try that. This has come about due to increased awareness about HS, so I am working through my shame and writing this in the hopes that someone who has it might read it, and get the help they need. [Or that someone who knows a person with these symptoms might encourage them to look into HS further and talk to their doctor about it.]

It is embarrassing, but those of us suffering through this need to put aside our humiliation and speak out in the hopes that maybe some day, there will be a cure, and we can regain some semblance of having normal lives.

If you want to support awareness, please share this post or visit http://www.hs-foundation.org and make a contribution. Also, if you shop at Amazon, [like where my books are sold!] why not go through Amazon Smile and set your charity as Hidradenitis Suppurativa Foundation Inc? When you use Smile, Amazon donates 5% of your purchase price to the charity of your choice! It’s easy and painless–unlike HS.

To find out more about Hidradenitis Suppurativa, please visit No BS About HS.

The Masks We Wear Online

Yep, this again. Another post about social media.

I have three main social media pages I try to keep updated: Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter–mostly in that order. I have found considerable positive traction on Instagram [of all places!] and I am gaining a little ground on Twitter now, which I honestly didn’t expect. It goes to show that if you throw yourself at something long enough, eventually something will stick. Though now all I have in my head after typing that is a mental image of me beating the hell out of Twitter like it’s an old console TV on its last legs.

I also have a Tumblr, but it’s for artwork. And I’ve considered a YouTube channel for a few months now, but that also involves the artistic side of my light novels so it gets backburnered easily. [And we all know what the comments section is like over there…]

Roughly, yes.

 

Social media has been my bugbear for a while now, but you already know this. I’m a private person by nature, and it’s been difficult for me to come out of my shell while lacking that magic confidence anonymity lends people. As Oscar Wilde said, “Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth”. Despite this being stated a century before the internet would even become a thing, it seems to be more true now than when it was originally coined. Human nature doesn’t change much, and with the exception of a few outliers, we all want to be liked and accepted. It gives people a sense of value to feel like others appreciate them and their ideas.

Creators put the intimate workings of their mind on display for people to pick apart and dissect–whether it be music, writing, or artwork. Social media makes two things easy: putting your ideas in front of millions of people the world over all at once, and allowing them to judge it–and you–from behind the safety of their own mask.

 

Sometimes multiple masks at once…

 

I don’t like taking off my mask. It’s not that I am secretly a cruel or unpleasant person, [Though I feel that I am much more amicable online than off…] but that I feel my discomfort and worry bleed through my words. I’m scared. I hesitate. I re-word, erase, and refine: “Will they like this? What if someone thinks it’s awful–what if it goes viral for being terrible?” [Like that last one? I always jump to worst case scenarios.]

But to be a writer–nay, an author–you have to have a thick skin! That means you can’t be afraid to take off your mask. You can’t be afraid to put yourself and your work out there! You need to handle criticism and praise with equal parts grace and aplomb. If you even hint at uncertainty, your peers will repeat this as if it is a magic incantation that will remove your doubt. I even find me telling myself this sometimes, which is awkward.

So what is a writer to do when they need to be honest and real on social media in order to connect with others in an authentic way, but find themselves full of anxiety and fear? They either stop writing, or do the exact opposite of what they are instructed to do: they create a new mask.

But… the goal was to not have a mask, right? Well, we see what happens when famous people use social media without their masks on–it doesn’t work. They alienate people, and quickly; a few of them even lose fans, and access to their own accounts for it. So you end up creating this half-mask, like the Phantom of the Opera, where you are both open and honest, but also guarded. Telling people how they should feel is stealing their agency–if something someone says about you or your work bothers you, you have every right to be upset about it! But the way you wear your own mask when others are watching says more about you than any thinly-veiled rant or tear-stained tweet ever could.

Ultimately, the magic author incantation is a lie. You cannot follow it as written. There is no way you can completely turn off your ability to care what others think about you, even if you try to convince yourself otherwise. We’re only human, and fall easily back into old habits… we trade one mask for another. It’s not a bad thing; this way we can fulfill the spirit of the incantation while being honest to both ourselves and our followers.

I believed in it for too long. I tried to bend my own feelings to fit it, trusting that it was right despite it feeling all wrong. I should know by now to listen to my gut, even when it contradicts what seems like solid advice. I took an impromptu trip to visit family recently, and had a lot of time to think about my online presence while not having much of an outlet through which to curate it. I didn’t pack my laptop, so I had what I could reach with my phone. [It was mostly Instagram, and it was largely pictures of the forest around my parent’s place in Missouri. It was… quaint… and you didn’t miss too much. Just some lousy photography of trees, flowers and my poor, misplaced-but-well-taken-care-of cats.]

Diesel pyra

I worried about leaving it quiet for so long, but it didn’t seem to make a difference. Now that I’m back and updating, having had this revelation about masks, I am seeing a better response to my posts and tweets. It’s kind of magical in its own sense, but I know that it’s because I learned from my past experience, and was willing to go against what I was initially told to do.

The lesson in this is: Don’t be afraid to be yourself online, but don’t forget to protect yourself either. Remember that we’re all wearing masks out here–even when at first glance it may appear that some of us aren’t wearing one at all.