Tag Archives: life challenges

For a Better Future

So I’m sure some of you noticed that there was no update for Eikasia again this past Sunday. That makes two weeks in a row. I remember when I posted on January 11th how excited I was. I thought, Finally! After a year of waiting, I can get back to it! But life! Ah, life. How it loves to crush my delusions.

Now before you all start getting alarmed (and you really shouldn’t be) this isn’t some dreary announcement that Eikasia is “ending” or something. Of course not! I’m not even shutting the site down. But I can’t lie that some of you will be disappointed. Thankfully, that’s not too many of you, but still.

Eikasia’s going back to irregular updates again so that I can focus on publishing the books. And this time, I just want to warn everybody that this doesn’t mean updates every other week, or even once a month. I mean there really could be long stretches between one update to the next–months we’re talking here.

Why? Why did this happen again? She had the baby didn’t she? She graduated from college, didn’t she!? Well yes, imaginary reader. Yes, I did all of those things.

But little did I know, that just because school is done and the baby is born, that doesn’t mean things get “easier.” Oh no! Far from that. The family problems still persist, and there’s still that nagging little problem of trying to get enough work experience to really start my career going that’s keeping me from smooth sailing. I’ve started a paid internship that pays little, but is much needed for my resume. It takes a lot of work, though. Almost like a part time job. So apart from playing housewife and taking care of my baby son 24/7, a lot of my energy goes towards that.

So there’s the time aspect. Now about the money: I don’t get many donations at all from the site. I’m lucky if I get five bucks from someone in a year. The ads? Because I’m having trouble keeping a steady schedule up, I can’t improve my SEO to get more visitors to the site, so ad sales aren’t much. The addition of a child in my life, plus a dramatic cut back in income in the last year, plus the new cost of student loan bills, makes money more imperative for me. To be honest, Eikasia’s web site is a money drain. So how do I justify keeping it still active? (And I swear I will!) It got to a point where I thought, Why am I killing myself, trying to write new material for Eikasia, when I already have at least 3-4 finished manuscripts that I just need to edit and publish? My original plan had been to have Book 2 of Eikasia out by the end of the year, but this feels unlikely. The first book was supposed to release a lot sooner than it did, but there were set backs that resulted in that not happening. What could happen this time around with Book 2? And the cost for editing will be much more, but my family has promised to help, and I’m trying to save what I can from sales for Book 1 (but hey I have to deal with my family’s needs right now sometimes.)

So I hope you guys understand. Just because updates aren’t going to be steady anymore doesn’t mean Eikasia is dead. If anything, I’m trying to insure its future! If you want to know when the site actually updates, just join the new mailing list by clicking here.

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I Need Diverse Games – Because seriously, I just do.

If you’re not on Twitter, then you are missing out on a growing movement called #INeedDiverseGames. You can search for the hashtag on Twitter, or see my Storify tweet highlights here.

Writing about this topic feels tiring for me. It’s tiring because I feel so weary of the insensitivity that those who oppose the call for diversity in games exhibit. I can’t deny that our side has some holier-than-thou members who get a tad unfair in their quest for equal representation. But the arguments against are just willfully ignorant much of the time. When close-minded jerks like Youtuber TheInternetAristocrat snidely tell me that I should quit whining and make my own games…well, first of all, many of us (including myself) already TRY to make our own content across all kinds of media, including games. We just get rejected by executives and publishers because they’re too afraid to support us. And when we go indie? We struggle to be seen at all, and even get accused by fundamentalist gamers as not “producing real games” like Gone Home was so unfairly told.

We aren’t trying to hijack the gaming industry. Do you want your cishet white guy protagonist, and your tired misogynist plot-lines? Sure! Go ahead! But many of us want games we can relate to as well, and we shouldn’t be mocked or threatened by individuals who refuse to see things from our perspective. And by “our”, I mean women, people of color, LGBT, people of various faiths, and so so much more. I don’t hate white people. I don’t hate video games. I love video games. That’s why I want to see them excel. Video games have shown that they can and are an art form, and studies have shown a growing diversity among its consumers. Game developers should be encouraging that growth, not ignoring it.

As a hispanic bisexual woman, I would like to see more games produced that show positive examples of women in central roles, LGBT characters who aren’t vilified or caricatured, and PoCs that achieve more than speaking like stereotypes and engaging in acts of crime.

As I said on Twitter, I want the video game industry to be something that broadens my son’s view of the world, not narrows it.

If you feel the same way, please check out this hashtag stream on Twitter. Talk about it on your blogs. Hell, reblog this post. Because we need a change. And soon.

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Let’s Get Together! – The Unfortunate Disconnection in the LGBT Fiction World

Since opening up my fantasy novel, Tributaries, to pre-orders, I’ve noticed something that both surprises me and disheartens me at the same time. When I made the decision to write for the LGBT community and its allies, I realized that I would have to face the challenge of connecting with a very niche and (at times) remote audience. In the super-abundant world we live in now, where getting your voice heard is hard enough in a cishet market, I’ve learned that LGBT fiction just plain has it rough. Marketers still have no idea what to do with these kinds of stories. Do you lump them all together under romance? But then what about those stories that are more fantasy/adventure/thriller/sci-fi/etc? Do you list those under the specific genres without mentioning the LGBT aspects? Ah, but the reviewers! What if they complain on their blogs and customer reviews that they felt tricked when the protagonist fell in love with someone of the same sex? Well what about just attaching ‘romance’ to the primary genre, and hoping for the best?

It’s all just one hot mess.

It isn’t unusual for brick-and-mortar stores to lack any self-identifying LGBT work, either. A sad fact, as I’ve read a number of LGBT books that are every bit as good as some of the nonsense that gets on the best seller lists.

But this isn’t the disheartening surprise I alluded to earlier. I’ve known the reality of scarce LGBT outlets for years. No, what surprised me was specifically the lack of support and structure for lesbian fiction. Over the last few weeks, I’ve tried hunting down LGBT blogs who I hope could connect me with my target audience, only to find myself disappointed when the site clarifies that they are actually only interested in m/m fiction. Uh, say what? Why the heck would you use the full acronym if you’re only interested in a single aspect of it?? You see, the fact is that m/m fiction has a much bigger community of support than f/f. (Don’t even get me started on bi and trans…)

It’s not that I haven’t found lesbian sites dedicated to writing or reviewing lesbian fiction. I have. But half of the sites I found were defunct. Then the remaining active sites were sadly narrow in scope (i.e. erotica only, print books only, fan fiction only, paranormal romance only, books with positive reviews of 2 or more only, etc…) And on social networks? I primarily use Twitter for my social marketing (it’s about all I have energy for–though I dabble in Tumblr) and I can’t seem to find any of the les fic authors anywhere. A quick google search also proved that there doesn’t seem to be an LGBT group of writers out there interested in supporting and signal boosting each other. You’d think the LGBT community of readers would have come up with a hashtag or a retweet group to help promote what is already a neglected corner of the market. Something like #LGBTrds or #LGBTbks. Something! Anything! Erotica, paranormal romance, dark fantasy, and horror fiction are doing it, why the hell can’t we? I even tried searching blog hops (which are basically author events on blogs featuring interviews, free books, cover reveals, etc.) and the last LGBT blog hops were last summer! That was over a year ago now! The one LGBT fiction blog hop that I could find that was held this year was actually ended prematurely and shut down for good. Yeah. It apparently went down for lack of participation. Not encouraging.

Now I know what you might be thinking: But Illise, if you hate it so much, why don’t you do something to change it? MarkTheShaw did it with #IndieBooksBeSeen on Twitter and Tumblr, didn’t he?

Simply put, no one gives a fuck about me. I don’t have the status or the connections to set something like this in motion. I suppose I could try to contact someone who DOES have these things to help me, but let’s just all refer back to my first point regarding the lack of fucks people give me, then infer what the result would be.

Okay. I had my little tantrum. I can’t have been the first LGBT writer to have thought along these lines, and I bet those who came before just learned to deal with it. You find a way to make it work, or you don’t. I’ve been promoting my work on a number of Indie Author hashtag communities, and it’s not like I’m not getting some help. The people on #IAN1, #IARTG, #IndieBooksBeSeen, #IndieAuthor, and #ASMSG are wonderful folks! But the point isn’t just to blast your work out to a random audience. It’s to target your efforts so that the people most likely to want to read your work hear about it at all. That’s really the major issue. LGBT fiction feels like a grain of sand lost in an indifferent ocean when marketing to a general audience. You can’t use #LGBT on Twitter either, because dear god, that stream moves waaaay too fast and is inundated with LGBT political and entertainment news.

As LGBT authors, our little slice of the literary world is tough and challenging in a market that already has plenty of obstacles to overcome. But it could be so much better if we could pool our readers together and support one another, especially since most LGBT authors are signed with small press or are self-publishers. It isn’t as if anyone is looking out for us little guys.

If, after reading this post, you feel that I am in error, then please enlighten me! I want to be proven wrong, even a tiny bit. But if you’re in agreement, why not share your thoughts on why the LGBT author community is so disconnected. Do you agree that lesbian fiction is not as well off as gay fiction? Just to be clear, a lack of readers is not the issue. That’s more a marketing challenge, anyway. But why do LGBT authors seem so disinterested in connecting with each other?

Oh, and if you ARE a LGBT author, please please please connect with me. I love RTing LGBT fiction on Twitter! I’m @cajeck. Send me a DM and I’ll add you to the LGBT author list I’m trying to form. 🙂

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The Beautiful Perseverance

(My 200th post!)

Today I posted the latest update for Eikasia (Chapter 41.3) and it made me think of something.

The beauty of perseverance.

I was down almost a thousand words until meeting my word count goal and I was in a funky mood this morning. I considered saying, “No, I won’t write today. I’ll do it some other day.” The lethargy pressed down on me hard, to the point that even sitting up and looking at my computer screen seemed to take great effort. Negative thoughts ran rampant through my head. “You can’t do this. Your story’s quality is declining–not that it was that high to begin with. This update is boring.” What loomed over me was a big thick wall, and spray painted across it was the phrase: YOU CAN’T DO IT.

Then I just started typing. I ignored it all as best I could and just started typing. Did the feelings go away? No, actually. I felt like crap the entire time I typed. Almost unto the point of tears, even. But the point is, I got it done. After I read it to my husband and heard his input, I realized afterwards that this really WAS all just in my head, and there was nothing wrong with my update as a whole.

I’ve been very open on this blog about my struggles with depression-anxiety, and I’m proud to say that I’ve handled my pregnancy just fine, and haven’t had the need to resort to medications again since I kicked them to the curb October 2012. The thing is, while perhaps the degree of my sudden funk is not what most experience, to have a funk AT ALL is something I think everyone can relate to, especially with writing. I guess the point of this little post was to just say…if I can do it, so can you. Sometimes you just have to chew through it. Yes, even when it is really bad. What perpetuates depression is not depression, it’s our willingness to allow for it.

My husband’s been watching The Ultimate Fighter on DVD, and while I recognize that many of you aren’t into MMA fighting (or even despise it) I wanted to share this insightful bit of advice from fighter, Chael Sonnen. I think it can be applied in any person’s career, hobby, or lifestyle, including writing.

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Abuela, te quiero.

My grandmother passed away today. It wasn’t an unexpected thing. She was 82 years old and severely depressed after her partner in life, my aunt, passed away last December. She was very strong and very brave to have lasted as long as she did. I’ve quickly learned that the thing about death is that it’s more about the living—because the dead are dead, no matter how they got there. My grandmother lived a good life, and she was at peace in her final moments. It’s the living I find myself crying for—my mother, my brothers, my uncle, myself… But I want to believe that this time I can do right by her memory and not fall apart.

Watch me not fall apart.

Seriously.

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Fred

In my most recent podcast, I mentioned that I was going through a lot and learning a lot about myself as a person. I know I must’ve said this a thousand times before, but I think it is even more true now. I’m making serious decisions about my health, my lifestyle, and dealing with a lot of emotional wounds, both old and new. As some of you may remember, Halloween is my favorite month, and I have a particularly high interest in the macabre. I don’t have co-morbid idealizations mind you, I just think zombies and werewolves are fucking awesome. Sometimes I feel like a little monster myself. My friend, Aprilfish, will probably scold me later for saying that (check out her awesome hug in my Return to Cali post!) but I gotta say it. At the least, I feel like a ghost in my old life, and a shambling undead in my new life. Where do I go? Where do I fit? Yeah, yeah, yeah, roll your eyes. I’m young and going through THAT phase. Meanwhile, I’m still just a spirit haunting old haunts:


That, however, was not why I wanted a zombie tattoo on my right shoulder, nor was this some sort of plot to piss off my family or my husband (though I still managed the latter by accident). The above tattoo was originally artwork from Bernie Wrightson, an EC Horror veteran who is perhaps best known for his late ’80s comic adaptation of the classic tale of Frankenstein.

The concept for the tattoo didn’t come to immediately. My good ol’ buddy Aprilfish helped me figure out what it was I really wanted. I had all sorts of ideas…another X-men tattoo, a tattoo of my astrological signs (Sagittarius and Dragon), or maybe even a silly tattoo of my favorite game of all time, Team Fortress 2. But among these ideas was one for a sort of old school horror inspired tattoo—something comic book styled that would work well in black and white, something with the supernatural: zombies, werewolves, witches, even vampires (which I’m not a fan of). I wanted something inspired from the 40’s and 50’s EC Horror comics. Given that this is Halloween month, the direction seemed clear, especially given the almost visceral emotions I’d been feeling since returning home. That was when Aprilfish pulled up this little gem:

Not to sound cheesy, but this piece immediately spoke to me. It was beautiful to me. Many people would not use that word to attribute to this artwork, but that’s how I felt. The way the undead rises from the ground, head thrown back, palms up toward the sky, free of the burden of both life and society. This is a beauty based in a grisly fantasy…or maybe it’s the reality. Since coming to California I’ve been struggling with my identity as everyone around me talks about the “real” Illise Montoya. It made me feel alienated and angry. What image was I failing to satisfy? What role was I neglecting? As far as I was concerned, who I was–an open bisexual with liberal political views and a love for horror and fantasy–that was IT. That was the reality! But some people here at home didn’t respond in very nice ways, and it got me thinking…FUCK other people’s “image” of me. Maybe the “ugly beauty” was the reality they needed to deal with.

But to be fair, I’m in a transitory phase. Today’s me could be tomorrow’s Casper. And that very well could be the case. After much drama and debate, I have decided to stop taking my anti-depression and anti-anxiety pills. They are just messing with my mind and my life too much. I want to find a better way to live. Surely some of you have been through this, or have an idea of what this is like?

The last meaning this artwork held for me was obvious. As you all know, my Aunt died last December, and I’ve been struggling to deal with it ever since. I haven’t mentioned it yet, but my grandmother, my abuela, has been having severe health problems after her recent surgery. My family is essentially waiting for her to die. My mother hides her pain well, but it leaks through her “image” like blood through a mask. In the end, what the above image made me feel was relief. A sort of acceptance of death. That despite a person’s demise their “true beauty” lives on in the memories of those that loved them. That’s why I had the tattoo artist, Adam from Creative Visions, put in Latin beneath the tattoo, Venustas Immortalis, which means, “Eternal Beauty.”

Anyway…I hope you guys have a better idea of what it is I’m going through down here. It was also just a nice opportunity to brag about my new tattoo. Oh yeah. My husband…he didn’t like it. I sort’ve forgot to tell him that I was getting it (I’m sorry honey!) But we talked about it, and things have been smoothed over. He’s decided to name my zombie ‘Fred’. I think I can deal with this.

It’s the other stuff I’m worried about!

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Cat Naps

Okay guys. Yes. I KNOW. I didn’t update Eikasia yesterday. I have ALP! to update today. So why the hell am I doing posts about documentaries at 7 in the morning? WELL…

Yesterday, I had my usual Sunday shift, which was absolutely KILLER. After discovering that I had a busy schedule this week right up onto the moment I fly back to California for a month (updates will resume during that time, don’t worry) I was practically dead on my feet. I lifted I don’t know how many pounds of food and dishware to the kitchens, and it felt like a damn marathon. My entire left side ached, my right wrist ached, my right ankle was all fucky, and everything throbbed. This wasn’t me being soft from days of not working. This was just the after effects of a lot of suck.

So after sitting at home with my husband Eric for an hour, I tell him I’m going to “lie down” for a little while. My intention was to continue reading Sharp Objects, then perhaps get started on Eikasia, which I was woefully behind on. But then my eyes started to burn and felt harder to keep them open, so I decided for quick cat nap.

Quick…ha! Yeah, right.

I ended up sleeping from 6PM to 2AM guys. Not lying. When I got up, I discovered my husband, who had stayed up nearly twenty four hours, had fallen asleep on the couch. This was part of the reason I never got up, because he was technically supposed to come in and hang out with me on the bed. Read that however you like that. The basic point is: I fell asleep, and nothing woke me up—not my phone, not my husband, and certainly not my everlasting guilt over how behind on writing I am.

I’m being a little facetious here.

Anyway, I once again have my gaming group coming in tonight at 8PM. But hey! Since my ass is up so early, I suppose I can knock out ALP! and Eikasia in one day! Right?

…Right?

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The Monkey Pen: Because Not All of Us Use Wrenches

Wearing different colors in a uniformed workplace can feel like being the only white person at a black barbecue. Forgive the racial analogy, but currently, that’s how I feel.

This morning was certainly not a good morning. I slept a rocky 5 hours, and after just an hour awake, I realized, to my horror, I was scheduled for a double shift from 10AM to 2PM, and 4:30PM to 12AM. Not the worst hours, many people would say. My husband works 13-16 hour shifts regularly after all. And it’s certainly good for us financially. It was just that I wasn’t prepared for it–literally. I had to wash my work clothes in a hurry and get back to sleep for a hopeful 30 minute power nap. When I woke up and checked my laundry (my husband having put my clothes in the dryer), I discovered pen ink stains on both of the shirts I needed for today. I don’t know if you’ve ever had pen ink stains on your clothes before, but once that dries on, it STAYS on. I had less than 10 minutes before I had to leave the house because I have a 30 minute drive to my work, so there was nothing I could do to remedy the situation. I just put on my cleanest of my two work shirts and ran out the door. Needless to say I was already in a shitty mood, but as I was driving, I find even more cause to become upset.

I had missed my counselor appointment.

Every two weeks I go in to see a counselor to talk about my life and how I’ve been feeling on my medication. If I miss an appointment, I have to pay $70 out of pocket. At the moment? Both me and my husband have some $60 between us. Remember in my podcast how I mentioned we were battling back our credit cards and trying to save money? This shit certainly doesn’t help, and I literally screamed in my car.

Tonight I’m working with a co-worker who is notorious for shirking work whenever possible. This day? This day is filled with craptastic fun. Never mind that I have a meaty assignment due tomorrow and I have to be at work again from 8AM-4PM, and that I still have to finish the ALP! update. Now for some meta-shit that doesn’t quite apply to today but is still on my mind: BILLS BILLS BILLS. Trying to help my husband de-stress from his crazy to-do list, which now towers over him after weeks of procrastinating and not talking to me. We got a court-order because our lawn had literally grown three feet tall, and our lawn mower is broken. They also included in the court order our broken fence, which allows you to see right through our backyard because the shitty people who built our fence did a shitty job so the shitty thing blew over in one of Georgia’s notoriously shitty thunder storms. Yeah. And the cherry on top?

My grandmother is in the hospital.

After my aunt’s death in December, my grandma, my abuela, has been withering away. When I went to visit her in Panama this August, she was literally skin and bones and lacking in that pep she once had. She had surgery shortly after I returned to the states, to remove a benign tumor in her intestines. She’s 85 years old and not recovering so well. She’s vomiting. She can’t stand. She can barely eat. Her intestines are swollen. My mother has told me to prepare myself for her passing away. To pray. But like my aunt’s hospitalization last year, I just…can’t. I don’t want to call my mother because of how sad she sounds, but I keep trying to check in because I don’t want to come across as callous.

And all today and tomorrow, I have to bus tables and serve drinks with a smile.

…Do you guys still wonder why I miss updates sometimes?

 

EDIT: Just got an update from my mama via text. Grandma is doing better. Hopefully this continues. Cross your fingers!

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