Writing in the Chaos Timeline

Morning Pages at the Magical HouseI had a list of personal writing, dietary, and fitness goals I wanted to accomplish when I left for Florida on March 1st. The original plan was to celebrate my birthday here (my friends were going to surprise me with a trip to Disney World), then go to a conference, then home. My next six months were already set—I knew what I’d be working on, what gigs I’d need to look for, and which personal projects I wanted to finish. I had already decided my summer would be taken up with household stuff I’d long put off, because I needed room for growth. Back in January, I had opened myself up to change on a lot of fronts for many different reasons. I just didn’t know COVID-19 would escalate to global and deadly proportions.

Everyone I know is affected by COVID-19 in some fashion. Gigs evaporating, contracts uncertain, convention-centric vendors going out of business, the inspiration to make art evaporating because what’s the point when a catastrophe is going on. I’ve also been affected by COVID-19. Wonder Stories was supposed to debut at SXSW; I’ve also experienced a few lifestyle changes due to my friends and family who are immunocompromised.

I’m not home yet. I travel back this week from Florida where, to be perfectly blunt, a whole lot of people are not taking this seriously despite the panic buying that’s happening right now. I hope/pray/etc. that my trip will be uneventful. I had planned to return earlier, but unfortunately I came down with something that took me out for a week and a half. I wanted to be well (which I am now, thankfully) because I didn’t want to travel being immunocompromised or putting others at risk. Once I do get home, I’m on strict quarantine for two weeks and then for the rest of April.

Despite all the chaos, my “plans” evaporating, and lost gigs, I’m still writing. The words are trickling slowly. My first drafts, which I normally write in my head, are shitty. I don’t feel guilty about it. I put pen to paper, write morning pages, and scribble a few poems. But I am writing, organizing my concepts, and identifying where I want to grow.

Pre-outbreak, I had a plan. Now? It’s far less determinate. Rapid change is simply guaranteed and, unfortunately, that means the only way I can keep writing is to accept the unknown, make the best use out of the time I have now, and remember to have fun. Because without that? It’s going to be a long quarantine and an even longer summer.

I hope you’re doing well. I know this isn’t a fun situation, by any means, for anyone. If you want to connect I’ll be checking into Twitter periodically and am posting pictures on Instagram @booksofm. Other than that? I’ll be blogging again. I miss LiveJournal, and I suppose the only way to tap into that nostalgia is to simply journal.

‘Til next time!

[Notification] COVID-19, Hiring Me, Outreach, and Cancelled Appearances

Hello everyone!

I wanted to reach out and let you know I am cancelling all public appearances for the time being. I had planned to attend Mo*Con on May 1st and WisCon on May 31st which have both been cancelled. I am taking this a step further and cancelling all in person appearances through June 30th. I plan to reassess all of my public appearances (attending a convention, visiting schools/libraries, or being featured as a guest) in the July/August 2020 timeframe.

At present, I am planning to appear as a guest of GameHole Con in November 2020. As of March 20, 2020, no plans are confirmed for next year.

I am fully aware COVID-19 is deadly disease that impacts all of us and am monitoring the situation. Already, COVID-19 having a dramatic impact on the creative industries I traffic in—and I know these changes are not exclusive to any one business or industry. The longer the pandemic continues, the harder it will be to resume normality and make up lost revenue.

If You are a Creator

If you are a creator, first of all—welcome! I am happy to host guest posts here on my blog should you need a space to promote your works. I will post a list of guidelines sometime next week and send out another update.

Additionally, I am also an editor for genre magazine FlamesRising.com and we can host guest blogs to help as well. Visit that site for details.

You can also connect with me at @booksofm on Twitter. That will be my primary method of social media communication for a while. I will be posting pictures @booksofm on Instagram as well.

If you already have a website or a recent project you wish to promote, feel free to add links in the comments.

If You Want to Hire Me

Yes, I am seeking new paid opportunities. I would love to teach more online classes, write short stories, novelettes, and novellas, and/or dive into pop culture pieces to offset my lost revenue. I am currently teaching an Intro to Game Writing class via The Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers. With the cancellation of SXSW, my future as a middle grade author is also unclear for the foreseeable future; if you enjoy magic and wonder, I’m more than happy to write for this audience.

With respect to additional class topics: I have over 15 years experience as a game writer, which is what I am currently known for. I have also worked as a marketing consultant and have a ton of experience framing messaging during an unforeseen crisis. Additionally, I am an experienced beadweaver and jewelry designer.

Should you poke around my site and find something you think I would be great for, I am happy to discuss other ideas than the ones listed. We can negotiate rates or, for media/tie-in and long form works, I can put you in touch with my agent, Jennie Goloboy at the Donald Maass Literary Agency. Unfortunately, I cannot accept any free-to-low rate opportunities at this time. My plate for work on spec is very full.

Thank you for your time and understanding. I know this is a difficult time for all of us. Words cannot express how devastated I am by this pandemic and its long-term effects.

Moderated comments are open. Should you wish to personally connect, please use the Contact Monica page.

[New Release] Haunting Shadows Anthology for Wraith: The Oblivion

Haunting Shadows | Anthology | Wraith The Oblivion

Now available for your spooky reading pleasure! Haunting Shadows is an anthology for Wraith The Oblivion 20th Anniversary Edition. I’m pleased to mention I have a haunted tale called “Scritch, Scratch” told from a wraith’s perspective about a group of ghost hunters investigating House on the Rock.

Remember those nice stories they told you about what’d happen after you died? They were wrong. There is no Heaven and there is no Hell. There’s only the Underworld, with the ravening maw of Oblivion at the bottom and the impossible dream of Transcendence at the top. And, somewhere in between, are scores of Restless Dead. Are you ready to join them?

This collection of short stories is inspired by Wraith: the Oblivion 20th Anniversary Edition. You’ll explore the Underworld, roam the streets of Stygia, the eternal city, visit a haunted museum, and walk new and exciting locales. This anthology includes tales by classic and new Wraith authors such as Richard Lee Byers, Jackie Cassada, Rich Dansky, Monica Valentinelli, Catherine Lundoff, Joe Nassise, and more!

The anthology is now available to purchase online through DriveThruFiction.com, Amazon.com, and BarnesandNoble.com.



5 Coping Mechanisms to Help you Deal

Ibis Eating Sweet Lemons

Ibis Eating Sweet Lemons

Most people I know are living in a state of uncertainty right now caused by the coronavirus and a downturn in economic indicators. I honestly don’t know how I feel about all of this, because yesterday I felt all the emotions—anger, fear, anxiety-until I accepted that this is the new “normal”.

I recently wrote a nonfiction essay reviewing all that’d happened within the past five years. I reminded myself that the chaos we’ve all been experiencing in gigantic and tiny ways is nowhere near what we’ve dealt with before—at least in my lifetime. We’ve acclimated to every abrupt change, every dogwhistle to attack the Other, and every shitty leader who doesn’t know how to bring people together. The coronavirus is an escalation and many of us worry what’ll happen next. Except, you can’t tell people not to be anxious. Ever try that? They only become more so.

With that in mind, I’d like to share five coping mechanisms that have worked for me in the past.

1. Mental Health Check-Ins

It’s hard to “see” progress you’re making, because unlike physical health there’s no bandage for depression. A mental health check-in is a way of mitigating that, because you “check in” on a semi-regular basis. There’s a lot of different ways to do this. You could use mood journalling and bullet journal graphs so you watch your progress over time. You could decide that you need therapy right now, and go the professional check-in route. Or, you could touch base with friends/lovers/family on a semi-regular basis to share how you’re faring. I’ve used a combination of tactics over the years, and I’ve often found that knowing I am not alone (and not the ONLY person who’s feeling what I’m feeling) is what works for me. Sometimes, that means I check up on people I haven’t heard from in a while, too.

2. Reduce Noise

I’ve mentioned this before, but as a former musician everything translates into a song for me. Every word as a tone, every Tweet is a tiny refrain that carries emotional weight. My head quickly gets “noisy” if I fall into a rabbit hole where I’m constantly watching for updates and I can’t create. There’s too much noise and not enough silence.

I’ve had a love-hate relationship with social media, because I’m never quite sure if I can continue on platforms where people’s mental health and safety is not taken personally. Yes, Twitter (less Facebook these days) is a frenzy of breaking news and unverified facts, but there’s so much misinformation mixed in with personal connections it’s often hard to know if I’m stepping into a minefield or not.

I know now I need to mitigate my usage for my mental health. Being online has its benefits and drawbacks because the websites and platforms we use are tools. Multiple studies have shown these tools have an affect on mental health, and as part of a plan to cope with the Chaos Timeline? It’s really a good idea to figure out your relationship to that.

The other thing I’d mention is that white noise and noise-cancelling headphones have been invaluable to reduce external influences. RainyMood.com and FocusMusic.fm are two, great free sites you can use.

Lastly, the opposite is also true. Sometimes, if you’re feeling stuck exploring YouTube! to find new songs or instrumentals is pretty awesome.

3. Drink More Water than Caffeine

Pretty self-explanatory, right? When you’re stressed or anxious hydration can be the first thing to go, which only exacerbates the potential for terrible mood swings or depression. If you’re like me and you’re also addicted to caffeine (I am never giving this up don’t bother trying), this can also mean you’ll dehydrate more quickly.

With body/diet your mileage will vary, of course, it is easy to forget the basics when you’re stressed out. As I’m sure your doctor/nutritionist will remind you, food does contribute to your overall health and well-being. My situation is going to be ten times different because of my physiology, so I don’t have advice to give here. I do favor citrus—especially lemon—when I’m feeling down, though, and I always feel better when I limit sugar.

4. Reframe Self-Care

Sometimes, chaos and unpredictability exacerbate my feelings of anxiety because I enjoy having a certain amount of stability to manage my expectations and workload. Ah-hah! Who doesn’t?

When life’s great, self-care is something I do once in a while. When I’m super stressed out, I add self-care to my To Do list. If I’m on “lock down” and recognize I’m being overwhelmed by the random and frenetic—I add a touch of whimsy so I don’t feel guilty about engaging in self-care. Sometimes I’ll assign numbers to the list of things I could do and then roll dice. Other times, I’ll write ten things on different notecards, shuffle, and then pick.

If self-care is stressful, here’s an easy art project you can do when you’re not at your limit. Grab a shoebox, use old wrapping paper to decorate the bottom and the top, and label it “My Happy Place”. Then, find some sticky notes or post cards and write down things you can do that you associate with feeling happy. These might include: watching a movie, re-reading a book, listening to your favorite band, baking bread, doing your nails, exercising, etc. After you’ve written these activities down, stick them inside the box. The next time you’re feeling like crap, go to your Happy Place, and pick a random card.

I know there’s a certain amount of guilt associated with self-care, and I can empathize with that. Self-care is part of stress management for me. I hope if you find yourself in a similar position you’ll get the help you need. It’s hard to earnestly focus on your health if you don’t think it’s important.

5. Learn a New Skill

To close this short list of coping mechanisms, I wanted to mention how beneficial learning something new can be for your mental health. When you’re in that terrible headspace, it can be challenging to find your way out of the shadows. Learning a new skill benefits me in a couple of ways. First, it helps me refocus my mental energy on something that’s not related to the source of my anxiety. Second, learning often includes progress-tracking, so I can see how I’m doing over time. That slows me down and helps me focus on the moment. And lastly, the act of learning is also a really good way for me to remember life goes on—even in darkness.

If this doesn’t work for you due to financial or time constraints, the other thing I do is read well-researched non-fiction. The voice is usually very calming and filed under sleep aids for me.

I hope you’re faring better than okay. It’s been an interesting past couple of years, and I’m sure there’s more changes to come. Hopefully, there’ll be good news on the horizon.

On Dragons in Spaaaaaaaaaace

Heya!

I’m on sabbatical from social media right now, because I’m at a writer’s retreat at Little High Hallack in sunny Florida with Alethea Kontis. One of the things I was hoping to do while I’m here is attend a rocket launch. Last night, I was thrilled to watch the SpaceX Dragon rocket lift off in all its glory and also see a return as well. It was chilly but the skies were clear. We saw a colorful nebula when the booster detached; up, up, up it went.

I don’t have the right equipment to take dead of night photos, so here’s a snapshot from NASA along with a description for you. If you click on the picture you’ll see the full-sized version.

SpaceX Dragon

A SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft launches on a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 11:50 p.m. EST March 6, 2020. Dragon will deliver more than 4,300 pounds of NASA cargo and science investigations to the International Space Station, including a new science facility scheduled to be installed to the outside of the station during a spacewalk this spring. Credit: NASA

I couldn’t help but marvel at the scientific discoveries that led to that moment, and wonder what will happen in the next fifty years given Jeff Bezos is also working on rockets at Blue Origin. Who knows? I’m not sure Mars will be colonized in my lifetime, but at the rate we’re going it is possible there’ll be more groundbreaking discoveries and events that will light the way. Exciting!



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