Me, You, and They

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I drink the sound of you — begging
In the darkness.
Begging for what I’ve given,
And for what you’ve taken — from me.
I pray now for the silence
To overtake
Your blackened heart.

Nightmares | N G | Flickr

Nightmares. | N G | Flickr CC BY-ND 2.0

You didn’t know that’s what I was writing on that piece of parchment stained with your blood. Things have been a blur lately, all emotions, anger, and don’t touch me because I’ll scream. It wasn’t the first piece of parchment I’d burned and buried under the light of the full moon, but it would be the last. The last words I would never speak to you.

“You clumsy fucking worthless piece of shit!” wasn’t the only peevish and pedantic phrase you used to scream into my face after a long night of booze and pills and dangling your cock at every skanky twat working the freeway. Your dinner was cold. You didn’t like the way I vacuumed the carpet or cooked your special meat. I might have forgotten to record your favorite program, or maybe I’d simply bought the wrong kind of beer. You liked to call your fits of rage an intervention, when you humbled me with your fist. Said it would make me a better lady, wife, and someday — mother. Said the discipline would save my soul from the voodoo spirits that had borne me out of some trailer trash womb, but it wasn’t an intervention, and it wouldn’t save me. It was simply your way of justifying the use of all the angry words you had become addicted to.

I didn’t have to listen, though.

I had this place I liked to hide whenever you got in one of your moods and decided to kick-start a marital uprising. I liked to go there when it was dark and snow-covered. I prayed there, sobbed there, and bled there. In the dirt on the floor, I would scratch things down in inches of minutia and then straightaway cross them out. I would leave pieces of myself in the corners — dissected thoughts and bits of hair and fingernails mixed with mud and saliva. I’ve piled up the worry stones over the years, on the stoop and up in the eves. I’d even written and re-written your obituary and passed the judgments I wasn’t entitled to pass, but nothing ever happened.

Nothing good, anyway.

Just dark, and cold, and quiet.

Maybe it was like they said, when the shadows came to me hollow-eyed in the misty dawn. Maybe I wasn’t soulful enough, hungry enough, willful enough … to leave the memories well enough alone, but I wouldn’t stop trying.

Praying of them.

Begging mercy of them.

I took your hair and fingernails while you slept. Scraped your semen from my bludgeoned cunt when you finally said you’d had enough of me. I’d even collected your fallen eyelashes when I pretended I loved you and kissed you softly, and your spit when, in anger, it hit my face. I’ve stood in the circle, called the watchtowers, and drew down the moon a thousand times since we took our vows. Since then I vowed to put you in your grave. I thought I might try arsenic and old lace. It grew wild and beautiful in the abandoned field behind our house. That’s when they first came to me, when I was barefoot, gathering weeds in the wood. They said they wanted the meat, but I didn’t know what they meant by that. Just the meat — no hair, no bone, no gristle — only meat. So I made offerings: rats, chickens, even your dog. Gutted it with my bare hands in the mid-day sun, but I got nothing in return, except a beating — from you.

Until now.

I went to the shed, you see. Even though you told me not to, ever. I found your “things,” wondered how many you’d tortured before me. I couldn’t remember you ever being that quiet, when I put the claw hammer in your skull. Couldn’t remember you being this heavy when you lay on top of me, or that your skin was this tough. I was clumsy, like you always said I was, hacking away at you until the sun was set and the crickets had started chirping in the field. I lit a candle with my bloodied hands and just stared at your meat in the flickering light. You looked different to me then. I could finally see a softness in your glistening sinews.

They came for you that night. After all the years and all my tears, they came, clicking and clawing their way out of the shadows to gnaw upon your rotted meat. They were hungry and waiting … for me.

I would never starve them like you did.

Previously Published (2011, August 6). The Carnage Conservatory

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Revisiting the Process…

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Of writing, that is.

Since my manuscript is out with the beta readers, I be twiddling ’til the feedback comes in, so I thought I would revisit my process via an interview I did with The Lone Writer: Shannon Yarbrough back in January 2015.

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My Writing process, i.e. word-smithing. We call it that, but it’s more word-smashing, word-fumbling, and word-nervous-breakdowning, so I guess I’ll start with what I don’t do. I don’t write on a schedule. I don’t have a daily word count. I don’t have a set writing space or way I prefer to write, and my muse is a douche. I suppose this is because I am very anti-rule. I like art for its anarchy, and so my process is very fluid and flexible and free from constraints, self-imposed or otherwise. This is probably why I can’t seem to crank it out like some authors. If I try to stuff myself into an official process, I freeze up creatively. I’ve tried, and since I don’t need to write for a living, I don’t worry about it too much. Maybe hobby writers, like me, have more freedom to take risks. We don’t have to worry about marketability, or deadlines, or royalty payments. We write and publish because we love it, and just so I’m clear here, hobby doesn’t mean unprofessional. Most of us are professional writers; we just don’t do it for a living and we are ok with that.

As far as my process goes, I can say that I’ll write anywhere about anything. I used to have notepads and a flashlight by the bed, but now I use a note app on my phone and my tablet. Whenever something sticks in my head, I always have some way to jot it down, even if it’s post-it notes and gas station receipts. I used to use a digital voice recorder, but transcribing my voice is about as painful as transcribing my incoherent late night scribbling.

When I write in the long-form, I do use a bit more structure. When an idea hits me, I scribble that down somewhere and then start thinking about the characters and the overall story arch. I research locations, tack up pictures to look at for focus and inspiration, and I do use an outline. Nothing too detailed: I write a paragraph about each character’s particular eccentricities, what they look like etc., and then I create the chapter titles and write a paragraph describing the plotline for each chapter. This is how I rough out the flow of the story. After that, I sit and write. And write. And write. Until I have a rough draft. Since I self-publish my novellas, I actually write in book format versus standard manuscript format. It’s easier getting it print ready and eBook ready that way. There is less screeching-expletive-hair-pulling that way. After that, I put the WIP away for a while. I need at least a month to clear my head, sometimes longer. With Death Dreamt Us All, I put that manuscript away for a year. The subject matter took me to a very dark place, and I needed a lot of time to detach from it before I could even start editing. My current manuscript was put on hold for two years so that I could do some feral cat work. Letting the words sit for a while allows you to come back at the story with a clear head.

As for editing, I do on average ten rounds. The first five really just fill out the story and move chapters around if need be. At that point, I send it out to my trusty beta readers. When their comments come back, I start editing again. Once I am finished with my final edit and I am satisfied with the story, I send it to my official editor/proofreader. It’s a long process for me. A 20-30k word novella can take me the better part of a year.

When I am writing flash fiction for publication, the process is complete and utter chaos. Most of my flash fiction averages 500 words give or take a 100 or so. I might write a story in a day, edit the next day, and send it out on submission the day after that, or it might take me a good week or more before I feel ready to submit anywhere. It really depends. If a story gets rejected, I never let it sit idle. I give it another round of rewriting and then send it somewhere else. When editors are kind enough to reply with a personal rejection, I take their suggestions to heart. As an example: on occasion, I’ve written the porn and discovered that the story worked much better when rewritten into horror. Weird, I know. I just keep an open mind. Stories are changeable and every reader will interpret a story differently, so write what matters to you, and write it how you want to write it, but stay flexible. That’s my motto.

Lastly on editing, I do use a style guide. My favorite is Words Into Type, but most use the Chicago Manual of Style, which is what I use editing and proofreading at my day job. That said, I try not to rely too much on the style guides. Language is fluid and needs to fit the story. I feel a writer should have some artistic freedom with the language. If everyone wrote a sentence the same way, literature would be pretty boring, IMO.

As for inspiration, I get it from all over the place. I read widely across many genres. I am a huge indie and foreign film fan. I’m a lousy painter, but love the fine arts in a geeky sort of way. I listen to music when I write and when I don’t write, and I pay very close attention to the world and how I feel about it. Even so, when things click in the ole brainspace, sometimes it’s simply a trivial connection that’s made. Logos was inspired by an African mask I purchased at a local dealer. Death Dreamt was inspired by the controversial argument as to whether or not exposure to violence desensitizes us. Antiquity came about when I was watching a program on archeology, and Thin Wall was based on a de Sadien idea involving sexual freedom. You can read my reflection about that book here. My current manuscript was inspired by a book I picked up at a used bookshop.

 

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My Muse Be Chillin’

As for the flash fiction, most of my inspiration comes from the news. I also love to use word and picture prompts. Word strings are my favorite because it works like word association automatic writing. Writing flash fiction has allowed me to unwind and flex my narrative voice. It allows me to move effortlessly from character to character and topic to topic based on our ever-changing socio-political climate. I don’t feel confined like I do when I have to spend years with a particular character or a specific plotline. I can write to current events, which, as an artist, makes me feel in the moment versus outside of it, voyeuristically interpreting it from afar. It allows me to experiment with points of view, with time and space, and with style. In flash, I’ll write about anything, including farm animal castration. Yeah, you heard that right. Super short fiction like flash defies all the rules of writing and yet embraces them at the same time in a way that doesn’t constrain the artist. I wrote flash exclusively for a few years and had enough published stories for two short fiction volumes.

As I said before, I don’t make my living as a writer, but that doesn’t mean that I have an easier time of it. Writing is wonderful and uber stressful no matter what kind of writer you are. We tend to aim for perfection, that perfectly fluid sentence that when read, blows a reader’s mind. We all want our writing to have impact, and sometimes that means we have to do battle with the words. It’s an elegant process at one turn and greased-pig wrangling at another. Some writers work better with a regiment and others like me do not.

Do what works for you. Do what works for the story.

Got Horror Movies

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Since is Halloween Month, I’ve been catching up on my horror movies, and the last couple of selections have coincidentally been fem positive films. I don’t have many critical comments, since they all had equally brilliant moments and metaphors worth the exploration, which each film did in its own unique way.

Bad Batch was wonderfully surreal, though for a film about bad choices, survival, and redemption, it seemed to get lost in itself by trying too hard to be avant-garde, fixating on the scenery versus the characters, who seemed like transient bits of underbrush dragged through the dust for hours. The end choice was interesting though. Which would you choose: comfort in the form of a drug-fueled illusion with a septic system and a fake prophet or an accidental cannibal who loved his child? A cannibal whose people already ate your arm and leg.

Raw was one of the most brutal explorations I’ve seen of a young girl’s coming of age. College, boys, raging hormones, and a scramble of sexual desire and moral conundrums. The title implies everything when it comes to being a girl at that age. Not sure I cared for the clumsy shock and awe ending though. I thought the revelation could have been handled with a bit more tact. You’ll probably figure it all out before the end, which just made the actual ending seem even more awkward.

Finally, It Stains the Sand Red. For a zombie movie, this was astoundingly well played. It is another redemption story. Another woman’s life shaped by bad choices, but here we explore that through regret in the form of a zombie who follows her relentlessly through the desert as she relives the journey through her own personal badlands. There are quite a few ‘shine a fucking light’ moments, tackling female stereotypes, misogyny, and rape culture among other things, so like the other two films, it’s not for viewers who need trigger warnings. My only nitpick here is the end. They should have just left it on the lost highway as she’s driving off on her quest, the hopefulness intact, but no, they had to ruin it with one of the most cliché zombie endings I’ve ever seen. Sigh.

Garden Visitors Update

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In the last post I talked about the Monarch caterpillars that had somehow found my pot of tropical milkweed. Since then, we have witnessed both miracles and tragedy.

Three of the caterpillars made chrysalis under the lip of the pot. Quite ingenious really as they are hidden and protected from the rain. Here is a picture of one emerging and one in chrysalis stage. The last one is set to emerge probably today or tomorrow depending on the temperature.

I had one more caterpillar feeding, and when I went to the wildflower preserve over the weekend for the member’s plant sale, I brought another caterpillar home on some extra milkweed I purchased. Sadly, they both perished, probably of NPV or another bacterial infection. It happens. I’d been finding silk moth caterpillars all over my neighborhood that had fallen to the ground sick, probably from the same virus.

Even still, that monarchs found my lonely little plant and that I had 3 out of 4 caterpillars get to butterfly stage is pretty amazing. 75% success rate in nature is damn good.

I did buy more plants and also more seed to sow in October, so hopefully I can boost the numbers next year.

Until then, here is this years’ crop of baby deer. The pic isn’t that great since I had to take it through the screen so I wouldn’t spook them.

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Garden Visitors

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I’m not doing too much these days except editing, and that’s pretty boring, so I won’t be talking about it. Both the kittens are doing well, so there isn’t really anything new on that front either. The garden, however, does get interesting in the fall while everyone is scrambling to prepare for winter.

This year, I purchased a tropical milkweed at the local nursery. I had a large empty pot on my patio, and the flowers were just gorgeous.

I have heard the rumors about Monarch butterflies and milkweed, but I seriously didn’t think they could find my lone little plant over miles and miles of nothing to eat. Milkweed grows in the park and in pastures and fields, but I haven’t seen any even remotely close to my house. We have wild parsley, which attracts the Swallowtails, so we see them more abundantly than Monarchs.

Imagine my surprise at seeing this. I’ve got 3 Monarch caterpillars on this plant, and I fear it’s not enough to get them to the chrysalis stage, so a relocation to a more plentiful food source may be in order.

 

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Yes, that brown ball is caterpillar poop. Just sayin.

 

Starting the Home Stretch

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I finally finished the rough first draft of my novella, so that means at least 6 months of rewriting and editing before it will be ready for my lovely and dedicated proofreader to have a crack at, then, hopefully, it will be off to the beta readers in January.

It’s been almost 2 years since I put it away so that I could focus on Rupert’s rehab, so it’s time to clear the cobwebs outta mah think-hole and get back to it.

I’ll be going back to my roots on this one. Like Kissing Room, the storyline has a simple trajectory and a brief timeline. No murder. No mayhem. No sex, and No psychosis. Well, maybe a little crazy, but it is a comedy. My first intentional bit of comedic writing, so

If my cat posts are sporadic, it’s because I am here:

1ttqzr

 

Major Frustration…

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ifalltheworldwereapplepie_brooke

If all the world were apple pie, and all the sea were ink, and all the trees were bread  and cheese, what would we have to drink?

I am sure at this point, Moon feels this way about cat food. I certainly do and am frustrated beyond belief.

I was thwarted again. I thought, finally, I found a rabbit cat food that he likes and one that is low carb and doesn’t have peas in it. I’ve always liked Instinct as a brand, but every single one of their foods had some sort of issue. I thought this one was the ticket to a little more variety in his diet. Variety that wouldn’t set off a shit storm of atopic reactions.

61E0QP+M7JL._SL1000_Sadly, no more of this for Moon. I bought a case last month and switched our feeding regime to this on weekdays and the kangaroo at weekends. It took just 3 weeks before the dandruff and manic itching returned. The poor thing is so uncomfortable. Now don’t get me wrong, this is a good food with a limited ingredient list, and the shitty peas are at the bottom of the list and it doesn’t have a fuck ton of potatoes, either. So what’s the problem? Apparently for a cat with food sensitivities and seasonal allergies, FLAXSEED can be a serious problem. This food has a lot of it.

So we are back to the boring old Hydrolyzed Pork diet from Young Again and the Rayne Kangaroo maintenance. I’d like more variety for him, but every single thing we try gives him issues, that is, if he will even eat it at all.

It’s been suggested that I go raw, but I do not have the freezer capacity for that and with Moon’s stone issues, I do not feel comfortable getting the calcium/phos ratios right for him. This list is becoming a tall order:

  1. No beef, fish, lamb, or poultry
  2. No unidentified meat by-products that may be one of the above
  3. No carrageenan
  4. Low Carb
  5. Low Mineral ratios
  6. No Grains
  7. No Peas
  8. No Pumpkin
  9. No Flaxseed

The Rayne isn’t perfect. It has a really high carb load from the potatoes, but it doesn’t make him itch himself to death. We just got all his bald patches filled in, so I guess we’ll just stop trying.

 

Failure is An Option: A Confession

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I was a bad ferret mom, and sometimes the regret over that breaks my heart.

But let me start at the beginning. My first ferret was a rescue from a lonely deplorable state at a pet store. This was back in 1992 when ferrets were not common pets as they are today. They were mainly raised for laboratory use here in the states. Not much was mainstream knowledge about their care and feeding other than that they use a litter box and eat cat food. Cat food at that time was pretty much the worst of the worst because pet nutrition wasn’t like it is today. It’s getting better, but we still have a long long way to go.

Couple the lack of knowledge with my OCD and a bad marriage, and well, you get bad pet mom. The foundation of my pet care knowledge came from childhood:

  1. You fed the dog whatever crap you could get at the grocery store.
  2. You disciplined it with an iron fist when it was bad, i.e. keeping it in the cellar or the garage when you weren’t at home, or worse, keeping it in a crate; hitting it with newspaper; screaming at it, etc. All the things my parents did to discipline us back then.

My OCD presents as an obsessive, albeit unattainable, need for perfection, coupled with the rigid control of my schedule and environment, then slathered in a constant dripping anxiety due to persistent thoughts of being inadequate. Grocery shopping had to be done on Fridays. House cleaning on Saturdays. Nothing could ever be out of place. I could never be late to anything.

Add to that, seven ferrets (over twenty years.)

Ferrets are unadulterated chaos, which was basically me throwing jet fuel on a house fire. The bad marriage didn’t help. I cried. I screamed at their little faces. I crated them for time-outs. I punished them with hysterical meanness. I’m probably over exaggerating, but that’s what it feels like when I look back on it.

There is an upside though. Many OCD people have a relentless need for knowledge. When we tackle a project or a hobby, we apply all that learning and skillage into a meticulous work ethic. We keep doing it, and we keep learning until we get it right, knowing full well that right doesn’t mean perfect. If you channel the Obsessive part of the OCD into something constructive, you can learn how to mitigate the anxiety and you can do some pretty awesome things. Once you understand what perfect really means, it doesn’t have to cripple you, and Divorce was the first step in the process of gaining real control of my life. Not the illusory control I thought I had. Once I got that churning pile of shit out of the picture, I could refocus my energies on something else. I could focus on the truest joy in my life: animals and nature. I’ve been a tree-hugger since I was a very small child who could stare at a duck until it got dark, causing her parents an undue amount of anger and worry.

So I joined ferret clubs. I read every scientific paper on nutrition that was published. I read a ferret veterinary manual cover to cover, several times. I talked to behaviorists and naturalists who understood how these creatures lived in the wild, and I focused all my energy on how to live with them versus being just a pet owner. There is a difference, and it worked: For me, and for the ferrets. I was even interviewed for Ferrets USA magazine for a “Living with Free Range” article. My ferrets were not caged or sequestered. My last ferret, Baldrick, lived to be almost 9 years old. Never sick a day in his life, aside from being deaf from birth.

My ferrets were loved and pampered and adored beyond measure. I eventually learned to live in chaos. I learned to let things go in order to stay calm through parvo, through various cancers, and eventually, through Baldrick’s old age.

 

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Lightly Orchestrated Chaos

 

I applied that same obsessive knowledge seeking into my garden, which has become a twenty-year compromise with Mother Nature. Failure is an option because it’s an opportunity to learn and to try something else. Even if it’s cat litter, or in this picture, some new Rudbeckia.

I also wrote five novellas and hundreds of published flash fiction stories with that same obsessive delight. Probably because writers control their fictional worlds, though it never seems like it when we are actually in the throes of the writing. It always seems like more chaos and obsessive thoughts, but in a good way, I guess.

And lastly, for twenty years I have had the privilege of living alongside a myriad of wild creatures, including feral cats.

My need to know expert-level shit has allowed me to appreciate all of them from the skunks to the snakes, and it has given me the opportunity to care for two of the most beautiful creatures in the world.

It hasn’t been easy with Moon and Rupert, even after seven ferrets. It’s been frustrating and tiring with setback after setback, just to get to this point. And this point is still tenuous, but we’ve come a long way from two scared creatures who had never felt love or comfort. I like to think that the small successes are because I’ve come a long way too in that I have come to appreciate that true perfection lies in the cracks, scratches, chips, nicks, pits, dents, blemishes, stains, spots, and frailties.

A poop on the floor is just an accident.

Sweeping up cat litter 10 times a day is good exercise.

A 4×4 Wood Post in the middle of the living room is modern art.

 

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An Orchestrated and Tenuous Calm

 

It’s not compromise so much as it is understanding the need and nature of a thing. Like Moon in this picture. He still gets very tense over his perception that Rupert is trying to usurp his territory. Moon is very bonded to me, probably because he has a little OCD as well, and he’s lying on one of my sweaty workout shirts. For some reason it pacifies him when I give him something special, especially if it smells of me. This allows him to share the bed with Rupert like there is some sort of invisible safe space boundary in my stinky shirt. Moon will smack or chase Rupert about something else later on today, but this is a start, and a start is better than fussing over one’s own obsessive thoughts and fears. Moon still succumbs to his anxiety now and then, but it’s much better than it was when we first brought him in.

I can’t say that I always have “it” under control either. When things get really tough, like when Moon and Rupert were in the hospital, or when it was time to let each ferret go, I’ll still reach for a cigarette even though I quit smoking full time a long time ago. Those are the really rough times when I can’t control something, can’t get out of my own negative headspace, and I guess a cigarette is no worse than some of the other alternatives, that is, when I can’t hug a kitty.

I’d always prefer to hug a kitty. Or even a possum if the opportunity presented itself. That’s just how I roll.

Note: There is a lot more to OCD than most people think. Not everyone exhibits the same symptoms, and for obvious personal reasons, I did not go into some of the really serious manifestations that can develop during overly stressful situations. If you think you have OCD, you should seek a proper diagnosis and help to mitigate it.  

A Happy Butthole makes for a Happy Feral Cat

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Yes, I said butthole, and I said it because, the morning, afternoon, or evening constitutional is more important in the cat world than we think.

If you’ve ever had the opportunity to watch feral cats for any length of time, then you know that biological functions are also territorial marking functions. Strategic placement of urine and feces does a fascinating number of things, including the delineation of territorial boundaries.

When we first brought Moon inside, we gave him 3 litterboxes strategically placed around the house to form a triangle so that he would feel like he was properly identifying and protecting the “house” territory. This made him happy. Happy butthole, happy cat.

Feral cats outside never ever pee and poop in the same spot at the same time. Moon has been in the house for 5 years now and hasn’t lost the feral desire to separate his business, which is why Rupert’s appearance in the “house” territory has caused so much litterbox chaos.

I’ve said before that it seems like the act of purging has become a competitive event. I’ve even got the recommended number of boxes for a 2 cat household. 1 for each cat, plus a spare, yet I am forever scooping.

Sweep, scoop, wipe down. Walk away for 5 minutes, then do it all over again.

Seriously. I’ve got a pinched nerve in one knee.

So, since I was replacing the old malfunctioning boxes anyway, I purchased an extra extra of the new NVR Miss box. SmartCat

I also switched from the dusty-assed walnut litter to the Smartcat grass litter (mixed with the Okocat softstep wood) and wow! I think the grass litter is my new favorite. The cats approved as well. Moon found the new extra box last night and was so thrilled that  he now has his own 1 box for pee and 1 box for poo so he doesn’t have to compete with Rupert anymore that he thoroughly christened both.

4 litterboxes for 2 cats. Yes, I’m insane. But anyone whose integrated feral cats into the household knows that any time you can eliminate a source of conflict, you do it.

It’s all about happy buttholes.