Instagram is evil (maybe) and other things

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December 10, 2018

I have been away from this blog for too long. Feeling guilty about it. Because this is my space and I should be taking better care of it. Instead, I have been posting a lot on Instagram. Which is not my space. It belongs to Facebook. I don’t like that. And yet.

Instagram is easy. One picture, a few words and you’re done. Exposure is wide and varied, depending on the hashtags used. Dialogue is open and frequent and interesting. I’m visual, I like beautiful images, they connect with a part of my brain that apparently needs this connectivity, so there you have it.

Of course, there are bad things about Instagram. I’ve seen many people suffer from severe Instagram fatigue. Because it seems to turn into a very competitive place: who posts most often, who gets most likes, views, follows, who has the best visually organized feed and I don’t know what else. Evidently, most of us don’t get the big followings that others seem to acquire at lightning speed.

I’ve read my share of articles about making Instagram work best for you–post at certain times of the day, post frequently, comment a lot, that sort of exhausting thing, but I don’t have the energy or time to use any of the tactics. While I see my account there as a public interface for my writing, not necessarily a personal space, I do post personal images (outfit pictures, hello!) and I enjoy that part a lot. I am torn between how much exposure I want for that kind of thing, but I keep doing it, even though it seems like not a very serious preoccupation for a serious writer, which I definitely am. It is my thing, I’m going to own it.

But I don’t want to feel like I am tied down to the platform. I don’t want to start feeling like it’s another kind of work. It’s not. I don’t monetize any of my social platforms, besides possible readers who might want to buy publications where I’ve written. So I post whenever I want, whatever I feel like. Mostly outfit pictures, as I said, because … for a good reason, I’m sure, let’s not get into that right now).

So, what was I trying to say here? Wow, this new WordPress update is messing with my head. I mean, it is good and all, but change is difficult to adjust to.

I’ve been having a huge pain in my neck for the past week. It appears that most neck pains are psychosomatic. They are caused by depression and anxiety and deficits in social support (Depression and anxiety as major determinants of neck pain). Interesting, right?

I am reading a lot about consciousness and brain function and I am feeling a renewed faith in the so-called “irrational”, superstitious, symbolic, etc. Science leaves space for it. We don’t need to be fully aware and rational 24/7. Which is a relief. For me at least.

Back to Instagram? Well, there is not much more to say. I have no strong feelings against it. I am not in competition with anyone and don’t have any ambitions related to that platform. I do  wish there was a simple way to transfer all the content I have published up there to this website of mine. I’ll have to figure something out. Because my biggest gripe is that I don’t want my content at the whim of some nefarious tech company out there. I have started a page on this website where I am trying to upload old outfit pictures. I hope I can keep that up, although I feel bad that all the captions being lost, not to mention the comments that are often more interesting that what I ever write.

In writing news, I started a new novel during Nanowrimo this year and I am feeling positive about it. It’s about life, death, resurrection,  consciousness, and séances. All the good stuff. I will probably take January to finish the first draft, after which I will give it a time of rest and return to Dragaica, the second book, the one that is almost there, and I’ll finish those last edits on it and start submitting it again, while also submitting short stories. It’s going to be busy. And that is good.

Twilight Madhouse Volume 4, Dark Rooms Edition

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September 26, 2018

Look at me! It appears that I will have not one (the much anticipated Deadsteam, edited by Bryce Raffle — I already received my author’s copy and it is a beauty!) but two publications coming out on October 1.

Another one of my short stories, “Ink Bodies” has been published in Twilight Madhouse Vol. 4, Dark Rooms Edition, by Schreyer Ink Publishing. The volume is ready for preorder now and will be available in both digital and paper format on October 1.

The scariest secrets are kept in the furthest rooms, and our deepest fears reside in the darkest corners. Venture deeper into the madhouse than you have before with eight new stories that explore dark changes, darker desires, and the places where the light never quite reaches.

Sounds good right?

Nooo! This is not happening!

by , on
September 24, 2018
Doctors Regularly Give Anesthesized Patients Non-Consensual Pelvic Exams

It cannot be a legal practice! It cannot be ethically justified! It cannot be happening! But it is. Because women and their bodies and their consent are worth exactly nothing. Sure, let’s treat women like they’re subhuman, only for the advancement of medicine, of course. Higher purposes and all, said the men in charge. Sure. Women’s bodies always were and continue to be worth nothing. In case we had any illusions that feminism was making real strides.

Summer’s End

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August 28, 2018

School is starting tomorrow and summer is going out with a bang (heat advisory). I don’t know how to feel about it. All year, all winter long I dream up such high expectations of summer and then somehow it just ends and looking back at it, there were so many missed opportunities, so much good weather wasted on work or other non-summery activities. It all feels like such a big portion of once-potentially wonderful, lost time.

It has been a good summer. A full one. A productive time. A time of being with loved ones who live far away. Regardless. It still feels like it could have been dramatically different, infinitely better. But it was only what it was. And we are healthy and full and our house is so much cleaner (seriously, it feels like it’s a different house, because of incredible grandparents who came in to help us with a ton of home improvements).

Anyway.

 

 

Send Us Your Best Work

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August 15, 2018

Demoralizing, exasperating, demotivating, patronizing, simply soul crushing calls for submissions:

Please send us your best work. Do not sent us stories that have been rejected by other publications.

Edit thoroughly and send us only your cleanest work.

Format according to these particular requirements: (a list of ten seemingly arbitrary rules follows).

Write a good, clean and well-formatted cover letter. Your story will automatically be rejected if the cover letter does not look professional. We appreciate seeing that you’ve put in some effort.

Address the letter to the right editor even if we don’t list the names of our editorial staff on our web page. Make it look like you are taking this job seriously.

Write a short summary of the story. Hard word limit: 250 words.

Also, write a long summary of the story. Not more that 350 words.

Include a bio for us. List all your publication credits.

Include a third person bio for publication. Leave out the credits but write something that is interesting about yourself.

We do not accept simultaneous submissions: please to not send us stories that you have submitted to other publications.

Our response time is six months. We try our hardest to respond within this period of time, but editing a magazine/anthology is a lot of work, and our staff is limited, so please allow some delay.

We cannot extend our regrets to all the writers who have not been accepted, due to very large submission volume. If you don’t receive any communication from us in six months, you can consider that your work has been rejected.

Do not write to us to ask about the status of your submission. We do not have the manpower to answer.

We’ll pay $0.01 per word, if our campaign gets funded. The authors will also receive an electronic copy of the publication. (The publication will also come in print, but the authors will have to buy a print copy for themselves if they want one.)

Thank you for reading the submission guidelines carefully. You have a better chance of having your story accepted if you read our past three issues, the editor’s interview about the theme of this anthology, and this eight-page essay about the vision of our magazine. Happy writing!

Sure, uh-huh.

Style Inspiration: Julianne Moore

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July 20, 2018

I could look at pictures of Julianne Moore all day for style inspiration. There is something about the clothes and the way she wears them, like they are hers and she is herself in them, that is very powerful and attractive.

But the clothes themselves! When she wears loose and somewhat edgy outfits, which she does a lot, they are amazing! And she is into black and white quite a bit, so you know, I’m in love.

I mean, lots of black, harem pants, Birks and clogs, baggy and oversized! So much to love. She is only 5’3″ but of course exceptionally beautiful, as Hollywood people tend to be, so no chance for most of us to look like her as hard as we tried. Still. “Would Julianne Moore wear that,” is now my clothes shopping mantra.

Punctuated by horror movies

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June 27, 2018

Dracula, 1958, with Christopher Lee.

I hail from Romania. so o, course. I remember watching this particular Dracula with my little sister, my cousin O (lifelong partner in horror-appreciation), and my aunt, O’s mother, at home. My parents were away for a wedding, probably. We all got so frightened during that movie that my aunt got us all off to her own place after the movie, in the middle of the night. Because none of us could sit for one more minute in the house where we had watched the film and where now obviously evil resided.

A more recent Dracula retelling that I really enjoyed was Dracula Untold. A beautiful, moving movie, I thought.

I owe a lot of my love of horror movies to my cousin O. This was the time of video cassettes, in Romania where there was no Blockbuster, but only tiny neighborhood shops with walls lined in pirated tapes, the name of the movies written by hand on the edge. My cousin lived in a bigger city and had an older brother, which afforded her more access to movies than I could ever have in my provincial little town. But we met on summer vacations and filled our time with stories. Many of them from horror movies. That is how, one of my favorite horrors from middle school I actually got to watch a couple of years ago. At the time I only saw it through O’s detailed retellings of every scene and in-depth interpretations of motifs and symbolism. I loved it. But I couldn’t find it for the longest time because the bootleg VHS that O had watched had the movie’s title translated as The Devil’s Cabin. Never to be found as such again. The movie, I later discovered, was The Evil Dead (1981).

As I said, this was the time of the videocassette renting and watching movies at friends’ houses, and as I remember it, every time my parents were out of town, we’d be in the mood for horror, which my poor kid sister endured stoically and with severe scarring for the rest of her life. She was marked by a particular one: the Omen (1976). The movie dwells heavily on the number of the Devil. My sis is born on June 6th, and we kind of convinced her that her birth time might have been 6 o’clock. 666. She’s still not over it, which makes me aware that I must not have been the loving and compassionate big sister I’ve always considered myself to be.

Time passed. I don’t remember a lot of horror watching during my early adulthood for some reason.

A strong memory, however, is watching Ju-on: The Grudge (2002) the Japanese production. I watched it in Mumbai, with my husband and his brother. Scary. The scariest thing I’ve seen. It took me a long time before I could watch The Ring, which was a Japanese movie remake, because I have made up my mind that I am not strong enough to handle Japanese horror.

I had a long time of being unable to watch horror, actually. During my pregnancies and while my children were small. Not for lack of trying. When my daughter was very little (or maybe I was still pregnant?) I watched The Exorcism of Emily Rose with my husband, in our suburban rental apartment. It was not good. The same night after watching the movie we were woken up by a strange sound in the apartment. It was a sort of deep thumping that reached into your stomach and made it seize. We discovered quickly enough that the DVD player had somehow reloaded the movie and there was a breathing sound on the menu screen, which kept playing in a loop. We turned it off and went back to bed, a little shaken. It was 3 am.

So yeah, that put a hard stop on my horror watching for a few years. But I am back and making up for it now. A couple of more recent movies that I enjoyed quite a bit are The Woman in Black and Crimson Peak. The first one was beautiful and very scary, the second one mainly beautiful.

Gothic horror will always have my heart, what can I say? Speaking of which, I thought Penny Dreadful, the TV series, was breathtaking. What could be better than having all your Gothic horror favorites playing together? Dreamy.

I could think of more but I am going to stop here, on this high note. What movies have been horrifying you?

Feminizing the canon, are we?

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June 14, 2018

The Paris Review has started this new column they call “Feminize Your Canon,” which looks like the best idea I’ve seen lately in support of women’s writing. There is a but, though.

It depressed me like nothing else. If you are an unsuccessful women writer, it will depress you too. I honestly didn’t need help in this direction. My personal desk drawer (just an expression, although I could rename my computer folder where I collect all the finished work) is filled to bursting with little malformed, rejected monsters who do a good enough job of reminding me that I am crap at what I do. So now I don’t know if I need, on top of that, to read these biographies and start identifying with all the unappreciated women who ever dared to follow a literary career.

The first article of this series is on Olivia Manning, written by Emma Garman. Now I don’t recall having read anything of Olivia Manning’s, but this piece makes her sound like a very hopeful, confident writer who never got, and here is the thing, what “she thought she deserved.” Emma Garman doesn’t really make it clear if she personally believes Manning deserves a place in the canon, but only that Manning herself was very confident that she merited recognition. Which obviously never really came.

So, yeah, abandon all hope ye who enter.

The smallness

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June 7, 2018

 

It’s something that the human brain cannot really process: our own smallness.

I have been having to deal with a lot of rejection coming my way lately. Since January I haven’t had any story accepted for publication, although I have been submitting regularly, up to ten stories per month. Every time I open a response e-mail from a publication where I’ve submitted, I feel this crevice opening under my feet and for a few seconds while I read the e-mail I am floating on top of the abyss, completely detached from the rest of the world. And I am so scared. But then I fall back on the ground, barely a bruise or a scratch, as if I was not standing at the edge of the living universe just a few moments before. And I don’t know what to do with myself for a while: who am I again? I find it harder and harder to start writing and submitting again.

That’s a lot of words and too much imagery to say that rejection is soul crushing. I heard someone say somewhere that when encouraged, when praised, people perform much better than they would otherwise. I am assuming the reverse it also true. It’s like our brain putting the brakes at exactly the worst moment. When we should persevere and try harder, we feel so demoralized that we can’t lift a finger to help ourselves. Because we don’t do well feeling small. we need that superiority bias to succeed. But that doesn’t come easily, especially to some of us, especially when so many external factors push you in the opposite direction.

Depression has been negatively correlated with the superiority bias, we need to feel like we’re better than others just to feel okay. I am not feeling okay right now.

Stationery: bullet journaling

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April 4, 2018

Since late last year I fell victim to the bullet journal craze. I am easily swayed by trends, as we all know, but this time I was actively looking for a system that would bring back pens and notebooks into daily use.

Before the bullet journal I used to have a scattered system all centered around the regular journal (a classic hard cover Moleskine) where I wrote very infrequently in the past few years, when I needed to know what I thought and felt about something, or tried to deal with a situation. Besides that, I had a special notebook for each novel (a Moleskine Cahier) where I drew diagrams and explained characters, inspirations, etc.

For several years I’ve also had my Filofax for daily tasks and lists, but it has been a little frustrating with its small size (I think in Filofax terminology it is “personal” size) and the rings making writing a bit cumbersome. I always felt restricted by the Filofax, although enjoyed the feel of its soft leather cover in my hand, its paper bulkiness and the ease of leafing through. I still keep it permanently next to me on my table, even though I rarely touch it. Another, larger ring planner I own (the red one here), gets very little use because those rings are just uncomfortable.

My new system combines the journal and the organizer in one notebook. I started using a Markings by CR Gibson notebook. which is kind of a classic Moleskine dupe, for everything from daily tasks, ideas, story developments, random personal thoughts, dinner party planning, trip packing, everything. At the end I keep lists of books read, thrift store purchases, story ideas, sewing projects and so on. I call this a bullet journal, but I don’t follow any bullet journal notations or anything. I do embellish it by drawing flora and using special lettering for parts of it. I expect it to last me about a year, maybe slightly less. I still keep a separate notebook for the novel I am working on and a separate dream journal.

It is really a joy to have everything in one place, and treat it less seriously than I used to with my regular journal (which I wanted to be the container of only very deep and universal thoughts—I know, I’m rolling my eyes too!). This is just life with everything it carries. It’s a much more relaxed approach and fits my style well.

Because the cover of my inferior notebook was peeling off and looking unsightly, I made a removable leather cover for it. Very excited about that feat! I had actually thrifted this cover some time ago, but it was brown and way too big, so I had to modify it. I cut it down and sewed it back on, dyed it black and in the process I also added two pen loops, which are visible in that first picture. Never want to let it out of my hand now. The thought of being able to use this cover for years, with different notebooks, is particularly comforting too.

Speaking of pen loops, I have discovered that I need at least two pens to use concomitantly: one for writing and one for drawing. For writing I use now 0.4 or even finer point gel pens. My favorites are the capped ones, not the retractable. Most often I’ll pick up the Muji 0.38 gel ink ball point and the Pilot High Tech-C Maica 0.4 point. I can’t express in words the pleasure of writing with these pens: my brain feeds on it like it’s sugar. I now even flesh out stories on paper, and my writing is often better than on the computer, although I sometimes feel the frustration of not being able to write fast enough to keep the pace of my thoughts. In the end, probably a good thing, because by the time it hits the paper, the idea had time to be edited and become more clear.

For doodling right now I am using a Pentel Sign pen, which has a somewhat flexible felt tip that can create variation of line thickness. It works fine. In the future I am planning to get a Tombow Dual Brush Pen so that I have more options in just one pen loop. I know!

I know a lot of people find stationary irresistible. An article I read recently talked about how humans have found ways and tools to extend their brains—maybe this is why pens and paper have such wide appeal, who of us cannot use a few extensions to our brains? I know I can (and badly need it too).