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IWSG – New Years Resolutions

  • Posted on January 6, 2016 at 5:05 pm

It’s January, and that’s the time to make new goals and to give yourself new resolution. Not only that, it’s the time of the year when people rest after lots of stressful holiday planning, and lots of gift-giving, and lots and lots of family interaction. It’s a time to retrace out steps, refresh ourselves with our successes and failures of the last year, and to plan out a new strategy.

Which, of course, means it’s time to break out all those old snacks and eat them already!

All joking aside, January, and new years in specific, are a very stressful time for me. I often find myself falling prey to my anxiety. In fact, I spent the entirety of the day of new years eve plagued by anxiety so intense that I literally couldn’t do anything other than  surf the internet. I had to fight myself for two hours to get out of bed. I was litereally paralyzed with fear at the thought of making plans and preparing for the new year. I couldn’t think of anything else.

Of course, it was silly, but when one lives with depression and anxiety, silly things tend to make your day worse. So, I ended up spending new years cowering, rather than partying. It was the lowest point I’ve ever experienced in my life. Okay, well, maybe not THE lowest. But it sure felt like it at the time.

Fully recovered now, I feel as though I have to work harder, to try and set up plans, so that if I feel like that again, at least I’ll have time to recover without also neglecting everything I’ve set up. Plus, with my medicaid now, I can afford the medicine that’ll help manage it. That will be nice too.

Basically, Finding ways to fill in for the gaps in my motivation and mental illnesses is first and foremost in my mind. I’m going to be attempting a lot this year, what with going back to school, and trying to save up, and I have to make sure that I don’t slack on anything. Which can be very difficult. Holding myself to a higher level is hard.

For anyone else who suffers through this, I wish I could tell you everything turns out okay. I wish I could take over for you when your illnesses kick in. I wish I could say that there was something to look forward to, a day when all of it would end and you’re capable of doing what needs to be done. For anyone else who suffers through this, I can only say, you’re amazing. I know you are, because I am, and I’m stronger than I think I am. I know you’re strong too.

If you want to see other posts like this, other posts from writers struggling with these sorts of feelings, go to the Insecure Writers Support Group. We’re all friends there, and I know we’ll welcome you too!

We're here for you.

Breaking Down Nemesis: Part One

  • Posted on August 13, 2014 at 12:05 pm

Welcome to a new series of articles centered around breaking down, and understanding Nemesis, a Miss Marple Mystery, by Agatha Christie. If you’re curious, and wish to follow along, you can purchase the book here! (or make use of your public library, of course! <3) We’ll be breaking down several things, focusing on the Tension, the Characterization, and the Plot Threads, while searching out this mysterious Agatha Christie Code that I’ve heard so much about!

Nemesis is a story in the middle of the Miss Marple Mysteries, a series about an old woman, Miss Jane Marple, who happens to solve mysteries in between gardening, knitting, and enjoying her golden years. At twenty two chapters, we’re going to be breaking down each chapter and looking over it. At the end, I’ll give a final post about what I’ve learned from the intrepid Miss Agatha.

In the afternoons it was custom of Miss Jane Marple to unfold her second newspaper.

The cover for the copy I am reading. Clicking will take you to Miss Christie’s Wikipage.

This is the first line of the novel. Odd choice, honestly, but it works, because it shows off a certain oddness about Miss Marple in the first place. Then, odder still, Miss Marple goes off on a tangent about how often her paper is late because the boy delivering it is either late, or has handed off his route for a little while, or has been sacked.

Strangely enough, this drew me in immediately, if only because I really felt like I was listening to the mental ramblings of an old lady. But another part of it shows just how very AWARE Miss Marple is about EVERYTHING. She knows more than just ‘oh the paper’s late, I can’t read it with early morning tea.’ She knows WHY her paper is late, which is something few people even bother paying attention to.

The pacing so far is unbearably slow. I haven’t figured out anything other than what this old woman is doing with her afternoon. Which appears to be reading a newspaper she’s nicknamed “The Daily All-Sorts”. Then, we are treated to another rant, this time about being unable to find anything in the Times. This rant seems devoted to her lamenting how things have changed from when she was young.

A wonderful way to show us her age, and also an intriguingly clear indication that perhaps the so-called Agatha Christie Code is correct. She seems very intent on describing Miss Marple’s thought process in larger-than-life detail.  Here, we find out another odd detail about Miss Marple.

“It’s sad really, but nowadays one is only interested in the deaths!” – Miss Marple

Miss Marple discovers the Internet

She seems to be looking to see if anyone she knows has died, or perhaps given birth, or gotten married. An odd passtime, but when one has all the time on her hands that Miss Marple seems to, I can see why it would become interesting. Everything about Miss Marple at this point seems to be just this side of odd for an old woman. Miss Christie is leaving us hints as to just how odd Old Miss Marple is underneath. This is wonderful examples of characterization. But still, nothing has happened yet.

Finally, Miss Marple comes across a name that stirs some familiarity. Jason Rafiel, listed in the obituaries. She can’t seem to remember who it is, but she has no doubt it will come to her. In fact, we are treated to a long process of her figuring it out. She begins by looking out the window, lamenting that the doctors refuse to allow her to garden. Another hobby we find she enjoyed that now she is restricted. Poor Miss Marple, her old age is catching up to her. Turning away from the window, she picks up her knitting, which appears to be a pink jacket, just missing the sleeves.

Now pink wool, this triggers something of her memory. As we can see:

Pink wool. Now wait a minute, where did that fit in? Yes- yes- it fitted in with the name she’d just read in the paper. Pink wool. A blue sea. A Carribean sea. A sandy beach. Sunshine. Herself knitting and- why of course, Mr. Rafiel. That trip she had made to the caribbean. The Island of St. Honore. A treat from her nephew Raymond. And she remembered Joan, her niece-in-law, Raymond’s wife, saying: “Don’t get mixed up in any more murders, Aunt Jane. It isn’t good for you.”

Do you see what she did there? Miss Agatha Christie just took us through a perfect example of how the mind ACTUALLY works! After scent, touch is the closest sense to memory, followed by sight! Now, Miss Marple didn’t just remember this up, as if it were a scene, no, it’s broken down into actual recollections, actual thoughts. Instead of a flashback, we get a disjointed connection through various memories.

And like any of us, Miss Marple doesn’t just remember everything about that trip at once. No, she has to tease it together, starting with the names. She remembered the elderly Major, whose name continued escaping her. Then she remembers the kind of man Mr. Rafiel had been. Not perfectly, as some people are want to do. She remembers him being an obstinate man, as well as strong, as well as rich. Difficult, irritable and shockingly rude, she remembers. Clearly he made an impression on Miss Marple. And, not only has she remembered Mr. Rafiel, but others too.

Mrs. Walters, a widow and Mr. Rafiel’s secretary. Mr Rafiel’s Masseur-Attendant, Arthur Jackson, who she thought was a rather doubtful character. But instead of being sure of Jackson’s name, she continues to question it. This is a very organic process of tracking down what the thoughts and memories of this time were. And clearly she is remembering the people specifically, not the events. I assume this was Miss Christie’s way of not rehashing the entire events of the previous book, but instead teasing us along into remembering it as well.

Then comes Miss Knight, who was once Miss Marple’s own companion, a young woman she’s rather happy to get rid of. But for some reason, she keeps messing up her name, thinking of her as Miss Bishop. She even quips about it:

“Oh dear,” said Miss Marple again, “I always get all the names wrong. And of course, it was Miss Knight I was thinking of. Not Miss Bishop. Why do I think of her as Miss Bishop?” The answer came to her. Chess, of course. A Chess piece. A knight. A bishop.

I’ll admit, at this point, Miss Christie had me hooked as a writer, although perhaps not as a reader. Such an organic transition, and a clear definition of this character’s mind. Already I am aware that she notices things others don’t care about, and she puts together odd connections, forming them in her mind to remind herself of things. I haven’t even had to read the rest of the series, and I find myself feeling like Miss Marple is an old friend.

She gives us a rundown of how she and Mr. Rafiel had been partners, for a time, but she never gets around to explaining in what. This makes me want to track down the book previous and read it. Well played, Miss Christie. We find out that Miss Marple was quite excited about these events, and it makes us excited too. Already, we’ve found ourselves enthralled by the way Jane Marple sees the world.

Then, we get to meet Cherry, who is now Miss Marple’s Companion. It seems that Miss Marple uses Cherry as a bit of a sounding board. Also, the voices between Miss Marple and Cherry are quite different. I find myself seeing Cherry as perhaps african american, if only because of the vernacular she chooses.

“You did have it in for little Gary Hopkins I must say,” said Cherry. “When you caught him torturing his cat that day. Never knew you had it in you to go for anyone like that! Scared him stiff, you did. He’s never forgotten it.”

“I hope he hasn’t tortured anymore cats.”

“Well, he’s made sure you weren’t about if he did,” said Cherry. “In fact I’m not at all sure as there isn’t other boys as got scared. Seeing you with your wool and the pretty things you knits and all that- anyone would think you were gentle as a lamb. But there’s times I could say you’d behave like a lion if you was goaded into it.”

Also, a wonderful choice there, to show us Miss Marple’s sense of rough justice through the eyes of Cherry, her companion. At this point, I’m also hoping to see more of Cherry. Their interaction seems quite natural, that of a companion and someone of an age beyond adulthood.

Let’s pause for a moment and talk about the syntax of Miss Christie’s work. So far, I’m seeing quite a large number of ‘said’s, and very little added description. She was clearly a follower of the ‘no adjectives’ rule, as well as a detractor from the ‘said is dead’ forum of discussion. However, I don’t feel it takes away from her work. The dialogue itself is well written, as well as showing us little glimpses of what we need to know about Miss Marple. There isn’t a word wasted here. I can see why Agatha Christie is said to be the single best-selling author in the world.

There’s a small break away from the heavy thinking to have a conversation with Miss Bartlett, a companion-gardener to one Miss Hastings. Then, her mind turns back to Mr. Rafiel, and gives us a wonderful description of their relationship. Ships that pass in the night. After that, she resolves that she will probably never think of him again. She’d look out for an obituary, out of what seems an honor for his passing, but she isn’t very hopeful about it. As a final thought, she notes that he hadn’t been anyone of major importance in any industry.

He had just all his life made enormous amounts of money…

All the money. Obsene amounts of money.

What I wouldn’t give to make enormous amounts of money. But on another note, clearly, the foreshadowing here is pretty thick. On the second read through, I found things I hadn’t noticed, such as the Mrs. Hastings reference. Already we have so many characters to follow, and Miss Marple at the center of it all. Red herrings everywhere for a mystery that hasn’t even been introduced, and I’m excited about this book that literally NOTHING HAS HAPPENED IN. All Miss Marple has done is read her newspaper, think about old memories, and talk to two women for five minutes each!

Breaking it down, just a bit, we see already how Miss Christie built up the character for us, showing through thought and action just what sort of woman Miss Marple is. We know she has just a little lion inside her, and is the kind to beat a child senseless for torturing an innocent creature. We know that she has an impeccable memory for detail, although sometimes it takes her a minute and some odd associations to get there.

This entire first chapter was spent introducing the main character. But it wasn’t wasted at all. We weren’t bored to tears by a flashback of what happened in the Caribbean. We weren’t shown her beating the boy, we weren’t even shown her doing anything other than normal things. THIS is an introduction chapter. This is the type of first chapter that will get you published.

Here’s a challenge, then. Take the first chapter of your book, or first paragraph of your short story, or any beginning at all. And have the main character do nothing, but think. Explain who this character is, show it, by their thoughts and actions. Give us a snippet of your results in the comments! And don’t be afraid to tell me what you think about the article either!

Oracle Reading – 08/01/14

  • Posted on August 1, 2014 at 1:28 am

When I was fourteen years old, my dad got me a deck of oracle/tarot cards. For those of you who don’t know, Tarot cards refer usually to 78 cards, the four suits (Cups, Swords, Wands, and Pentacles), and the major and minor Arcana. You might be used to seeing them like this:

Wheel of Fortune as well as others.

The deck my dad got me, however, was an oracle deck. Brian Froud’s Faery Oracle, to be specific. A deck devoted entirely to the Fae and everything about them. It quite literally called to me, then and now. This deck has been with me my entire adult life, and has never once mislead me. In fact, it has, on occasion, saved my life. In a more general sense then say, the Death appearing just as someone was about to murder me.

My deck

Brian Froud’s Faery Oracle, with Text by Jessica Macbeth

When I was homeless, my cards told my mother, and brothers and I, which direction would be most fortuitous. Now, since I find myself lacking in direction, I intend to consult them again. But since I hadn’t planned a good blog-post for tonight, I decided to explain how it’s done, and basically go over the reading right here, in this blog post!

To explain the situation, just a little, I’ve just broken up with my boyfriend, with whom I had eleven months of psuedo-happiness. Now, I seek wisdom from my cards so that I might determine which direction would be right to go in my life.

Instead of asking a question, however, I’m going to just let the faeries choose the layout, and read it from there. Now, to explain the shuffling process. I literally hold the cards in my hands and shuffle side to side, instead of bridging the cards. That way they don’t wear out as quickly. These cards lasted me eleven years. They can survive a little longer.

Once I feel that the side-to-side shuffling is done, I lay them down and shuffle them face down, so that cards turn sideways, upside down, all over, and mix up real well. Sometimes I don’t have room, so I have to do this in my hands. That’s alright too, and the Fae tell me when to stop, that way I can deal the cards they ask me to deal.

Celtic Cross Spread

To specify which card is in which slot, we’ll be using the numbers. That way, you don’t have to worry about getting too confused, and you can follow along.

1) The Fee Lion

The Fee Lion is in the first spot, which, usually, indicates the querents present state of mind. Me, at this moment, in card form. Since the Fee Lion represents promises unkept, things undone, and duties unfulfilled, it seems to indicate I’m feeling guilty over the split up. That I feel there is much unfinished business, that needs tending to. He looks at me with the same eyes as a kitty that hasn’t been fed today. He might represent the worry I have of missing out on things in my life by not finishing the things I set out to finish. Who even knows?

2) Himself (reversed)

Representing Influences or events in the very near future, Himself is reversed, currently. Which means, he could mean blockage, twisting of meaning, or destruction. In this case, the meaning that resonates most with me is blocked. When the energy of Himself is blocked, one can feel limp, depressed, hurting. Energy is locked into obsessions and out of control behavior.  This seems to refer, to me, of the severe depression I suffer from, as well as the overwhelming hurt that came from the (amicable) split up between myself and my ex. While still amicable, it was a large period of time in my life, and I feel almost bogged down with the leftover feelings and thoughts.

3) Geeeeeooo the Slooow

This position represents the best course of action, and the consequences of ignoring it. Geo, one of the slowest, and calmest faeries in existence, represents here, sitting back. Taking time, and pausing, to begin  to experience the world properly. Allowing yourself to calm down saves on a lot of stress. This card seems to recommend taking a while to get back on my feet, and consider what I need to do from here. Instead of trying to push the river, settle back and enjoy the ride. If I don’t, I’ll only further confuse myself, and cause even bigger issues. My best bet at the moment? Relax, get back in touch with myself, and learn from what has happened.

4) The Singer of Initiation (Reversed)

This card represents an event or situation in the past that has an effect on the current event. The Singer of Initiation is the gateway we pass through when we make a decision, one that affects our entire life. As I have apparently been standing in this gateway for quite a while, it turns out that I have now passed through it. However, I was quite stuck there for a little bit, and that worried them. Perhaps that’s why I’m finding myself so distressed about a decision that I made for myself. Now, I just have to take Geo’s advice, and sit back to see where the choice I’ve made puts me.

5)UnDressing of a Salad

An Event in the more recent past. This most likely means the last few days or so. Things have been in motion, and they commend me for having a clear head here. I needed to use discretion and delicacy with my words and power, and this has in fact yielded the result I wanted. A genial split between myself and someone with whom I do still want to have a friendship with. I care for my ex greatly, and while we will have sore feelings for a little while, it is worth it in this instance.

UnDressing Of A Salad. Look at all of those balls in the air!

6) The Rarr (Reversed)

The Rarr is a Faery of incredible energy. It adds energy to all of the cards around it, making it clear that this was a very, very important event in my life. This card also represents the immediate future of my life, within the next six months or so. It seems to indicate, when reversed, a severe lack of control. A thrashing around of energy and intent. In this case, it represents a cool shower, meditation, and grounding exercises. So it looks as if I’m in for a really wild time soon. One can only hope to keep a clear head during all of this.

7) The Gaurdian at the Gate (reversed)

This position reflects the possible influences, or events, within my own work. Now this could mean my novel, my housekeeping, my job as a jewelry consultant, just about anything. In this case, the Guardian seems to indicate that I’m stepping into things I’m truly not ready for. I feel that this is an admonition against attempting to publish too soon. Which honestly, after doing a bunch of research, I feel might be correct. The Guardian also asks me to prioritize my moves, because otherwise, I’ll find myself flailing, like the Rarr says.

8) The Oak Men (reversed)

The Oak Men are an interesting card, as they do not have a reversed interpretation via Jessica Macbeth’s starter information! Instead, they ask you to interpret their expressions. To me, they look approving. Which is interesting, since in this case, they represent influences or events within my home life, or social life. So, most likely, my home life is going to become very important soon. Those that I care for and wish to spend time with will be important in maintaining the clear head I need to overcome this situation.

9) The Bodacious Bodach

This particular brownie tends towards trouble really quickly, which would explain why he’s in the slot that represents my belief of how the situation will turn out. I am expecting sabotage, and happiness to be short-lived, due to someone’s interference. Perhaps my own, perhaps someone close to the situation. This is completely at odds with the rest of the reading, however, which gives me hope, that perhaps my belief here is completely unfounded.

As any good card-reader knows, sometimes you need additional clarification, and it looks like this one might need it. So, I’m pulling the tenth card anyway, to see if perhaps they’d be willing to give me a bit more insight.  And the tenth card certainly does surprise me! I’ve never drawn this card before, even in readings for other people!

10) Ekstasis (reversed)

Pulling the final card, to get clarification on the final outcome of the situation turns out to be enough to almost make me cry.

You may be feeling sorrowful or grieving. Remember that these feelings, too, are a part of the great song. They are a part of love. Don’t try to block them, don’t try to deny them. Let them flow… There is a saying, ‘This too shall pass.” It is true about everything, all of our joys, and all of our sorrows.

-Jessica Macbeth

The outcome is pretty clear. Letting go, learning the lessons needed, and moving on. Which is just what I needed to hear from this reading, really. It’s refreshing to know they still don’t let me down.

Putting it all together reveals a really important story. With the Rarr and Himself there, along with Ekstasis, it turns out that this was more important than I believed it to be. Leaving my relationships is never easy, but this one, it turns out, I made the right choice. Geo gives good advice, that is backed up by the presence of the reversed Rarr. Rest, learning, and calm is what I need right now.

So, definitely no jumping into new relationships, or new jobs for me. I might, however, jump into a new book, or maybe a nice bubble bath. However, Dear reader, please leave me a message, telling me how you interpreted this, if you saw anything I missed. Or maybe you’d like to share your experiences with a tarot/oracle reading?

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