On Limits

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Another year, another birthday on the horizon. Sometimes, I need to give myself a swift kick in the bum, because I can be very forgetful on occasion. And by “forgetful,” I mean that I fixate on limitations of what I can and can’t do based on who I am biologically-speaking and not what I want to do.

It is exceptionally easy to obsess about one’s gender, sexuality, appearance, and age. Those cues are everywhere and, in many ways, it’s worse for women. We open magazines to find more pictures of beautiful women who’ve been photoshopped and altered from their original form. We see tabloid magazines that proudly proclaim celebrities are “just like us” then proceed to show them at their absolute worst. And body shapes tend to be “in season.” First, it’s skinny jeans which only look good on a specific body type. Then, it’s bell bottoms which are great for women with curves.

Regardless, ours is a society that is hyper-focused on women between the ages of 18 and 25 — sometimes not even that, for there’s more than a few models out there that aren’t of age yet. Everything seems to originate from the fountain of youth and while most women can get away with wearing younger-looking clothes for a period of time, that tends to change as your body shifts via pregnancy, illness, hormone imbalances, etc.

Mind you, I absolutely love fashion and I will be the first one to say that there is a lot of art to be found there. I don’t think, however, the fashion industry dictates how we feel about ourselves. That is our responsibility.

On top of this, of course, are the comments you hear about someone’s age. Sometimes they’re negative; other times, positive. But it’s always as if the age itself has something to do with whether or not you can do the things you want to do, whether that’s play video games or climb mountains or date or whatever. It’s as if we take to heart what we can do because everyone else is saying — well, you can’t at your age. So, health and safety concerns aside, we put limits on ourselves and we do this because social pressure is overwhelming us. “I’m too old to…” or “Oh, what will people think. Women my age don’t…” or “I can’t wear that!”

I am of the belief that beauty comes from within and is supported by confidence. I feel it’s a tragedy when a woman (or anyone else for that matter) doesn’t believe in themselves enough to take care of their health, appearance, etc. But more than that — as influential as “social pressures” may be — no one can get inside your head and tell you what you can do or be. Well, provided you don’t actively want to cause harm. There is that.

Anyway, the point I’m trying to make, is that in my mind, the minute I start putting limitations on what I can do based on anything about “me” in particular, is the second I begin dying by indecision. When one limitation slams a door shut, what’s to stop other doors from closing? What’s to halt me from closing doors I’ve already opened?

Limitations suck. And, like I said earlier, outside of health concerns? Age really doesn’t matter — unless you let it. It may be harder in some cases, sure, but if you want something bad enough, you will find a way.

    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: A natural boost? Who am I kidding… I need coffee. Needsit.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Effing housework.
    In My Ears: “Bad Blood” by Ministry
    Game Last Played: Sonic and All-Stars Racing Transformed
    Movie Last Viewed: Django Unchained
    Latest Artistic Project: SHINIES. Still need to take pics…
    Latest Release: “The Button” We Are Dust anthology

Using Need to Combat Waiting

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It is bitter cold here; the snow falls gently but steadily. There’s been no sun. The sky is grey. And though it started out mild — Winter has yet to fade from memory. I like Winter and its holidays — though I like to celebrate calmly and quietly, as opposed to getting worked up over the perfect placement of glitter or whether or not there are spots on the silverware, and I look forward to enjoying the days as the light stretches and it’s no longer dark by four p.m. Though, admittedly, I do prefer the stories of old, the idea that there’s a battle between light and dark and, just as one example, the chariot of the sun returns victorious for a time. I am definitely a seasonal creature.

Writing, however, can’t follow a seasonal pattern. It has to be year-round for me, for anyone who runs a business or hones the craft. If you wait for the perfect environment, you’ll be an eternal Virgin, sitting in a chair, wondering when your White Knight (or White Lady Knight) will show up and rescue you from the dream you’ve trapped yourself in.

Waiting, waiting, waiting — the true death knell for any creative. There’s always something to wait for, sure, but it’s a trap that can affect my/your ability to write. You wait for word before taking on anything new. You wait for a client’s payment to come through. You wait to see how the book’ll be received by reviewers, agents, fans. You wait for a big deal to come through because that’ll determine the next “x” months amount in your schedule.

But all that time spent waiting? Occurs simultaneously or in conjunction with other creative efforts. The media bills “comebacks” — that’s a marketing term — but in the mean time: the bills still come, meals still have to be made, and life still happens. It still happens, every day, regardless of what news comes down the pipe.

And so must the written word.

I’ve entered a few bad business arrangements and, after a while, I realized that those red flags forced me to question what I was working on and who I was spending my time with. That caused a different kind of waiting, the type that occurs when you enter into your own form of decision paralysis. I’ve worked with AMAZING people, mind you, and have been invisible on a number of projects, but I’ve also had some experiences, in particular where my work was supposed to be the focus, that fell through. It happens, you get over it, and you move on. But the bills still come, I still need to eat, and I still have to have a life, regardless of the ups and downs I encounter in my career.

Where I spend my creative time is as important as who I work with. However, the where’s and how’s and when’s are all fine well and good — but the words still have to flow in spite of everything else that’s going on. And, what I’m realizing, is that emotions can affect creativity moreso than stalled news. When I feel anxious or stressed, I need to either channel that emotion into my work, or write through that either in journal entries or blog posts that get deleted, so I have a blank slate. Tabula rasa. When I’m experiencing bad emotions, I need to write MORE, not less. And that’s how I move forward.

Even outside of personal news or baggage, there’s a lot to get pissy about. Gun control. Gerrymandering. Gay rights. Cohabitation rights. Women’s rights. War. Climate change. Artist’s rights and payment. Nerd rage (or lack thereof). Misogyny. Etc. Etc. Etc. But, like getting addicted to television or games, spending hours upon hours consuming media instead of creating it, these are “junk food” emotions that you don’t really feel, because it’s not really happening to you, but the media is geared to make you feel that way so you respond by commenting or clicking through or paying attention. You feel like you’re personally affected, like your buttons are all being pushed at the same time, because the reporters have a job to do, and that’s to GRAB YOUR ATTENTION ZOMG RIGHT NOW YOU HAVE TO PAY ATTENTION TO MEEEEEEEEEEE!

They’re trying to get readers, much like you or I might, and they have. It’s infuriating, but these sensationalist tactics work right now. (I hold to my prediction they won’t always work and this, too, shall pass eventually.) Contemporary journalists have created a need. Even though you don’t “need” to know, you really do. They have done a tremendous job, and it affects anyone who’s online even a fraction of the time.

I feel there’s a lesson to be learned here. That this “need to know” can translate to a “need to write.” I don’t care how many words I write in a day anymore as long as I’m writing them. I have to balance the projects I’m working on and have made smarter decisions about which projects I choose — but I need to write. I have to write.

It begins with free-writing out my emotional kerfluffles, all of it, shamelessly and guilt-free, on a fresh piece of paper. (A tip I picked up from The Artist’s Way.) I do this to discharge everything that’s in my head and heart, so I can valiantly approach my stories and game narratives with a clear perspective. I replace meditation (waiting) with writing (doing) and then I’ve written something before the real work begins. I do this, because all this shit builds up, all my reactions to the “need to know” that surrounds me, because this is how I respond to the sensationalists — I can’t “do” anything about what’s happening other than voting in my own state or participating in a community event in my own backyard. If I’m not “doing” — I’m “waiting.”

And that is the death to any creative.

Then, after I “do” for myself, I get to work — more doing. After work and meetings, I make the most out of my free time. I cook, I read, often for research or work, I design and create jewelry on my own or with my friends, I game, I work out, travel, and enjoy the full breadth of what the seasons have to offer me here. Obviously, more activities are planned around conventions and the warmer weather, but the point of this, is that I’m still doing.

So, to sum up?


    Mood: The sun will come out… SOMEDAY.
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Had to kick brain cell-killing diet soda, so feeling sluggish.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Up and down and all around.
    In My Ears: “You Don’t Dream In Cryo,” Avatar soundtrack. (Hey, don’t judge. The soundtrack is good.)
    Game Last Played: Sonic and All-Stars Racing Transformed
    Movie Last Viewed: Lorax
    Latest Artistic Project: Holiday gifts. Man, I should mail those out…
    Latest Release: “The Button” We Are Dust anthology

When You Can’t Get No Satisfaction


John Adamus wrote a post today about The Writer and Fairness, in which he mentions how a lot of writers aren’t content because they’re not treated fairly, and why that shouldn’t be an issue.

I agree for the most part but, in my experiences, the issue of being treated fairly is often made complicated whenever finances or marketing of oneself, others, or a product (e.g. books) is involved. Additionally, it is absolutely true that sexism, racism, and all those other -isms exist. Sometimes, an author gets slighted (or receives unjust praise) not because the work is (or is not of) superior quality, but because the publishing industry, self-published or not, is run by people. Not robots, not hamsters on a wheel, or cultists — but mercurial human beings with all manner of beliefs and personalities.

Though it will increase your chances, I do not believe your success solely relies on writing the best story possible. Success is not achievable unless you define what “success” means. I feel you absolutely need to determine its parameters in order to be truly happy, manage expectations, and achieve your goals. Not everyone wants the same things. Again, this is another reason why people get extraordinarily nutty on occasion — peer at your creative works through the eyes of anyone else, and you will see a distorted image. We do this (I’ve done it once or twice) because honest feedback is rare even in an internet age. Occasionally, we seek guidance to know we’re headed in the right direction, even when you’re the only person who understands where you’re going and how you’re going to get there.

When you hear something positive about the work you’re doing, it can be very encouraging. But when it’s not? Or when it’s fake or what have you? I think you know what happens when negativity hurts, because you’ve seen the result of that. You’ve seen “author bad behavior” where they go off on fans. You’ve heard about writers attacking other writers. This has happened before and it will happen again. Either way, positive or negative, those comments shouldn’t stop you from the act of creation. That, my readers, all circles back to you. This is where I feel the test of a truly contented artist lies: that you will go on, in spite of all the bullshit, because you are an artist, painter, sculptor, writer, etc. and you will not let anyone or anything get between you and your creative works.

Whenever I’m dealing with major dissatisfaction, I ask myself a few questions to hone in on the real problem. For smaller annoyances, I either rant or make a sarcastic comment or play a game or dive into a new project or whatever — and then I move forward as quickly as possible. Sometimes, I get stuck and I have to work through a tough decision about cutting personnel or severing ties with a publisher, etc. Other times, I require focus. e.g. Not be online. In the end, the work has to come first for me – which is where these queries come from.

1) What did I expect to get out of the situation in the first place? – If the answer is: I did this as a favor, took a lower rate, or let a lot of mistreatment go without saying anything, etc. etc. etc. Then, clearly, I should not expect to be treated well in return, because I did not put my own considerations first in a reasonable and healthy way. By taking too many shortcuts and one too many niceties, I’m basically sending out an unconscious message that I’m too accommodating or that I don’t care about myself or my work. Ergo: I’m supporting an illusion that I’m a doormat. Instead, the solution here is to remind myself of two things: one) I am self-employed and two) I have every right to take my career seriously. Because if I don’t — no one else will, either. That L’Oreal advertising phrase “I’m worth it!” from years back? Applies.

2) Is the company/person professional? – There are a lot of different types of authors out there. There are, also, a variety of publishers. Some run a business, full-time, and earn their income off what they do. Others? Well, you’ve seen market listings 4theluv. Some publishers don’t expect to make any money. Toss finances aside, for a second, and focus on the word “professional.” Size of publisher matters not. Volume and quality of publications matters not. People, on the other hand, are everything and it’s quite possible that no, they aren’t going to be professional. I’ve found that most don’t care where you’ve been or what direction you’re heading for; they deal with you as you are now according to their own objectives. Unprofessionalism explains a lot of industry-related treatment; while inexcusable from my perspective, even bullies get book deals. Knowing that, there’s really only one thing I have every right to be worried about: the words on my screen. Sometimes, though, certain comments and remarks are taken out of context and that can cause hurt feelings on both sides. Publishing is a people business. And people don’t always say or do the right thing. The majority of times, I believe mistakes are unintentional; sometimes, though, they are.

3) Has this sort of thing happened before? – In my experiences, problems can either be endemic or specific. When they are endemic, the answer is “YES!” But you don’t know that unless you talk to people or have loads of experience. When they’re specific, well, there’s still a bunch of factors that could have borked the situation. It’s fundamentally true that you will not get along with everyone; sometimes, you have to find the people that you DO get along with, but that requires social skills and/or copious amounts of alcohol. (I jest on that last. And not joking about the social skills.) This industry is pretty small and, if you’ve been around long enough, you’ll probably make a few friends, enemies, and (though I loathe to use this word) frenemies. You’ll hear rumors, conjecture, gossip. You’ll find opportunities, get recommendations, and exchange favors. And, eventually, you’ll start to navigate the industry the same way you do your day job (if you have one) or your social life. Having a support network, whether they’re in the industry or not, really helps ground me.

4) Am I happy with the quality of my work? My ability to produce words? Upcoming projects/contracts? Financial solubility? Where I’m at with my career? – These yes or no questions sum up the crux of any dissatisfaction issue for me. In order, right now, as if 1/21/2013: yes/yes/yes/no/no. Ah! So I’ve just confessed I’m happy with my work, but I’m not satisfied with my overall career.

This little reality check nails what I need to focus on and identifies the possible source — the real epicenter — of my distress. No room for “maybes.” If I say “maybe” for any one of those questions, I count that answer as a “no.” The more yes’s I have, the more content I usually am. Win win, I say. More words on the screen cures all ills.

Or, as they quip here in double digit freezing temperatures… Time for chocolate mint cookies.

    Mood: cold
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Not enough
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Blargh. Housework.
    In My Ears: Nothing.
    Game Last Played: Bears!
    Movie Last Viewed: Lorax
    Latest Artistic Project: Holiday gifts
    Latest Release: “The Button” We Are Dust anthology

A Semi-Obligatory but Sort of Not Really Progress Update

The Tick Weapons Lab Avatar

2013 is off to a fantastic start! I’ve delivered a little over 10,000 words of fiction so far, submitted quite a few other pieces, and circulated a number of pitches plus I’m now diving head first into Kickstarter planning, new stories, scripts, and RPG-related material — and that’s just for my writing and editing plate. That Cortex Plus Hacker’s Guide Kickstarter I mentioned earlier? Funded in less than a week! Now onto the stretch goals! For John, we’re celebrating the upcoming release of his new game ROFL! which will be released through Cryptozoic and working on a few other sekrit projects.

I also just received my schedule for the GenCon Writer’s Symposium. I was invited to work with SFWA publicist Jaym Gates on the Business Track; I have not opted for any panels outside of that. I’ll post a final schedule later on. I also have two time slots in Author’s Alley where I’ll have my books and games to sign and I’ll be doing a reading with author Paul Genesse.

I was so excited about everything that’s been going on, I got a little lax with my social media embargo. I gotta tell you, it feels great to be in smack dab in the middle of a whirlwind and so much fun!

    Mood: Boo-yah
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: I WILL NOT CONFESS MY ADDITION.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: A few, but it’s darn cold!
    In My Ears: Amy’s Choice Doctor Who
    Game Last Played: Bears!
    Movie Last Viewed: Resident Evil: Apocalypse
    Latest Artistic Project: Holiday gifts
    Latest Release: “The Button” We Are Dust anthology

A Kickstarter for Cortex Plus With Yours Truly!

A-hem. I am part of a Kickstarter for a “hack” guide to Cortex Plus. My essay, titled “Roleplay Like You’re On TV” pares down the character concept into basic building blocks so you can play ANY television character from ANY genre and ANY show.

As of this moment, it’s already fifty percent funded — so join us! And please . . . grab those convention spots where one of us will GM a game IN PERSON for you!

The Cortex Plus Hacker’s Guide is a collection of articles and essays for use with either Cortex Plus Drama (as seen in the Smallville Roleplaying Game) or Cortex Plus Action (as seen in the Leverage Roleplaying Game.) In order to best take advantage of the guide, you’ll want to own either or both of these games, though many articles are neutral to whichever Cortex Plus game you favor. — SOURCE: Margaret Weis Productions: Cortex Plus Hacker’s Guide on Kickstarter.

On the Kickstarter page, you’ll find a video and details about the rewards. For more information, read about the Cortex Plus Kickstarter on FlamesRising.com.

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Looking for Monica’s books and games that are still in print? Visit Monica Valentinelli on Amazon’s Author Central or a bookstore near you.


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