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Group Therapy

Group Therapy

Truth One: Writing groups are amazing, IMO. I freely admit my writing was…raw, to be kind, before I attended my first writing group. I did so without any real knowledge of the group, and was nervous it wouldn’t be a good fit, until the first person walked in and had a bunch of fantasy books. Now I not only attend, but I run the group! Except, there IS no group right now, because ‘Rona. I’d be lost without my many writing friends, and their awesome input, critique, and overall support. Not having this group hurts, true, although I still attend an online writing group to this day. Woo technology!

Truth Two: Group therapy is a powerful recovery tool for people suffering addiction issues–folks, please don’t call them addicts. While a person may know in their head that there are others going through the same or similar things as they are, it may not make an impact without hearing from others, or learning from the group’s collective wisdom. Listening to “war stories,” swapping coping mechanisms, and just getting things out in the open can help a lot. That’s above and beyond what the group therapist has to offer, too. Group therapy can be useful for everything from addiction issues to trauma, but it isn’t for everyone. The same goes for self-help groups like NA and AA, although they can be a powerful recovery tool as well.

TEN THINGS (about the past week):

1–I just wrapped watching Netflix’s Trotsky, which was fantastic.

2–Finished up writing a Roman-era fantasy story, which is off to critters.

3–Still kind of reading Lovecraft Country, but to be honest, the DIS-honest characterization of it as a novel has put me off. It ISN’T a novel; it’s a collection of novellas/novelettes/short stories. The publisher just slapped the novel label on it, without even offering a table of contents. Pish!

4–I’m researching more for the day job recently than for writing.

5–Waiting SUCKS!

6–Re-connecting with old friends ROCKS!

7–Hearing bad things about former friends who suck, whom you had to cull from your life, can cause some guilt. I try not to wish bad things on anyone, but…yeah, if you suck, then karma.

8–Hope is mighty.

9–Even the most conservative of family members can shock you in a good way

10–Getting off to a start of your car not starting on Monday morning doesn’t have to destroy your day and/or week, although it does stink. I’m just thankful it just needed a jump–so far.

Because I’m feeling good despite some stressors in my life, let’s go with something goofy fun from Garfunkel and Oates:

Can’t Always Compartmentalize

Can’t Always Compartmentalize

Truth One: A writer’s personal life definitely affects their writing. Whether it be such a hectic schedule that the writer has no time or energy to write, or negatives bringing them down and making all the free writing time seem too intimidating to even start. Like writer’s block, often we need to work through it, to press on to conquer the problem. What I like to do is channel negative energy into productivity. Maybe it means I write something darker than I intended, or I start a side project instead of pressing on with my current one. Sometimes it fails. Compartmentalizing can work, too, but you can’t always compartmentalize.

Truth Two: A therapist’s personal life definitely affects their professional life. Countertransference is something for a therapist to be aware of. Don’t want to project your own issues onto a client/patient/individual. Don’t want to see them as someone there to help YOU. There are costs to be in a helping profession. Usually it’s obvious what your ethical responsibilities are. Sometimes the lines get blurry. While no human can completely compartmentalize their life, therapist have to do their utmost to avoid countertransference.

TEN THINGS (about the past week):

1–What I’m reading: Lovecraft Country. They say it’s a novel, though it isn’t. It’s a series of stories/novellas/novelettes in a shared literary world. It’s intriguing.

2–I’m watching Lovecraft Country–some changes from the book, but I’m tentatively hopeful–and Designated Survivor. Way too predictable at times, but definitely fun.

3–There’s a wild hunt story in the works–I’m focused on writing the first draft.

4–Not much research happening right now, because I’m up to speed for my current projects.

5–Bureaucracy can be…frustrating.

6–Deciding to ride out the rest of the summer without working AC in my van is seeming like a dumber proposition by the day, but I’m kind of all in by now.

7–Friendly fire isn’t lol

8–I’ve got to lay off the late-night snacking.

9–The thought of having to leave good people behind, no matter how necessary, is daunting.

10–Waking up, putting on TV in the background during the morning routine, and finding it tuned to the start of Shatner’s famous Twilight Zone episode is WINNING!

And, for all my fellow Army vets out there, I’ll leave you in training:

You Get the Idea

No need to beat a dead horse on this blog’s topic. You get the idea 🙂


Truth One: Querying is icky. It sucks. Unless you’re self-publishing, it’s necessary. Writing the query letter is hard. Cold emailing agents is hard. Waiting is hard. Writing synopses is hard. Folks, querying is HARD. Don’t worry; you’re not alone. Many of us are struggling with it, and many more will in the future. Together, we writers can support each other and be there for the community, through the good times and bad.

Truth Two: Mental health disorders are hard to diagnose, and difficult to treat. Even in a perfect world, with providers who are constantly on the ball with your best interests at heart, and with insurance systems designed only to help people, this would be the case. In an imperfect field, it’s incalculably harder. Patience is key, as in so many things. Patience with providers, your own body, your family, yourself. And patience, too is hard. I won’t offer useless platitudes like “hang in there” or “knuckle down.” I will, now and always, offer empathy, my services as a professional, and my help as a friend.

TEN THINGS (about the past week):

1–I’ve been reading We Are Legion (We are Bob) [audiobook], which is a delightfully twisted tale, with a great narrator, and Lovecraft Country, which is hot in media and in literary criticism right now. So far so good, but a little too light on the supernatural for me so far.

2–I’m working on tightening up some parts of Collateral Healing.

3–Research-wise, I’ve gone into a deep dive into Caesar’s actions late in the Gallic Wars.

4–Tacoma FD. Because I didn’t realize there was more to the second season out, and yay!

5–Umbrella Academy did NOT end with the lousy ending I expected, but rather ended on a cool twist. Sadly, the finale was otherwise awful, IMO. Bad writers. You should be chained to your typewriters (or computer desks) until you learn the basics of avoiding gaping plot holes.

6–A friend mentioned the idea of Caesar as Vader marching through Gaul murdering millions. It…wasn’t far-fetched.

7–So much board game therapy!

8–With friends in need, just being there and hanging out with them can be massive.

9–C’mon, USPS. C’mon, Mr. President. You can, and should, do better.

10–Squirrels are so cute–that’s for you, Mom. Squirrels can be tasty, too–that’s for you, wild game eaters. Mm, squirrel gravy!

Settling In

This week marks the second of what will be many TWO TRUTHS TUESDAYS. I think it’s time we settled in to a nice, familiar format. Two truths, followed by TEN THINGS. Short, sweet, simple. So, without further eloquence…

Truth One: Setting. It’s an important part of fiction writing. Whether your story needs a short, pithy jest about the color of the floor tile in the asylum, or your doorstopper novel demands paragraph upon paragraph and scene upon scene of setting, measuring how much to expand or how little to dribble out is key. That’s why you must know your audience. If you’re playing to Tolkien lovers, the more the merrier. Writing YA romance? Three pages of exhaustive setting infodumps is probably not going to work out.

Truth Two: Therapists sometimes need the same help as the people they’re helping. Whether you’re like me, and you experience empathy drain, or like other therapists who experience secondary trauma, you might need therapy yourself. There’s nothing wrong with that. Whether it’s having someone to spew life’s burdens to, or a mental health professional to delve deep into personal issues, the helpers are allowed to need help, and not be stigmatized for it.

TEN THINGS (about the past week):

1–What have I been reading? A lot of articles, blogs, and web content. I want to read Lovecraft Country before I see the show, and I don’t want to start-stop another book, so I’m waiting for that to arrive.

2–What have I been watching? Sadly, no more playoff hockey, but more Madam Secretary (no spoilers!), which I’m quite enjoying, and Umbrella Academy (no spoilers!), which I’ve slowly been getting into. (Spoiler warning! Read at your own risk or skip to #3) I have to admit, season 2 has some tropes I truly despise. The whole stuck in an asylum trope ended fairly quickly, but the HIDEOUS (not just in this show) “how we got here” trope almost made me stop watching. It’s been done to death, and I can’t stand it. I also don’t like that every season will be the team all scattered to start out and then dysfunctionally coming together. Still, I’m enjoying large parts of Umbrella Academy, and alternating between it and Madame Secretary.

3–What have I been researching? Fun internet finds like web comics and short reads, blogs and whatnot. Also, more fairy tale stuff.

4–What have I been writing? Not enough! I got down a few rough scenes in Collateral Healing, but simply haven’t had the time or energy to devote to making large progress. This must change!

5–Farmer’s markets are so crucial to my getting enough fruits and veggies.

6–Family is everything. Given a choice between all-day gaming and catching up with a cousin and his family, I chose the latter on Saturday. Got to see a lot of other family, too, including the kiddoes, and, hey, a swimming pool doesn’t hurt either!

7–Then again, gaming is important therapy for me, and a friend whose wife is out of town has some extra time, so card-driven war gaming was a welcome use of Sunday afternoon and into the evening.

8–I miss Mom. I usually get to see her every week, so a sucky side effect of a busy weekend is not getting to visit with her.

9–Fast food = not a good dinner strategy. On occasion, it won’t hurt you, but on multiple evenings, it’s a real killer. As if I didn’t already know that, but…

10–…if you can’t be smart, you gotta be tough 🙂

Talk about tough, this guy’s supposedly bad to the bone. I mean, his band is the Destroyers.

Opening Week

Welcome to the opening week of my new blog entry, TWO TRUTHS TUESDAY. Bet you can’t guess how often I’m going to be sending these out! Just remember, you can’t stop the signal. You’ll be getting a new blog post every week, rain or shine, come hell or high water. Okay, let’s not make you wait, as I’m sure you’re dying with anticipation.

Truth One: In publishing, writers fail more than they succeed. Unless you’re one of those big-name writers that gets solicited for anthologies or contracted for future books, you’re going to strike out more often than not. Like in baseball, where you’re considered a rock star for failing to hit the ball more than a third of the time, you’re going to strike out a lot. That’s okay. It comes with the job description 🙂 You just have to keep on swinging (submitting).

Truth Two: Depression is real. A lot of folks will tell you that depressed people just need to get motivated, put themselves out there, or–and this one’s the worst–“pick themselves up by their bootstraps.” Um, no. As a mental health professional, I can definitively say that that’s not how it works, That’s not how ANY of this works. If you know someone who suffers from depression, help them; lend them an ear or a shoulder or your time; be a positive in their life. Don’t stigmatize them; empathize with them.

And now (drum roll please)…

TEN THINGS (about the past week):

1–What have I been reading? The House of Shattered Wings (Dominion of the Fallen #1)

by Aliette de Bodard. Started slow for me, but is picking up steam.

2–What have I been I watching? Madam Secretary (no spoilers) and Umbrella Academy Season 2 (no spoilers), which I hope is better than season 1. Also, playoff hockey!

3–What have I been working on? Collateral Healing, my work-in-progress about an Army vet with PTSD with dissociation who gets infested with, rid of, and fights a body-possessing demon. Sure, her mental health might have opened a door for the demon to get in, but it also gives her the necessary weapons to take that demon down!

4–What have I been researching? Background for two short stories: a fairy tale mashup and a wild hunt story I want to submit later this year.

5–I’ve had empathy drain, through my work as a behavioral health therapist. My clients are from the mental health and drug and alcohol domains, so I expend a LOT of energy at work.

6–I discovered that blueberries and grapes go great together, then realized it isn’t a groundbreaking discovery, because fruit salad.

7–I’ve been upsetting my mother even though I was trying to be helpful. That’s a whole “road to hell/good intentions” thing right there. Sorry Mom!

8–Dungeons and dragons to de-stress!

9–…And fog of war block war games to de-stress!

10–I’m the only one allowed to complain about this oppressive heat, because I never complain about how cold it gets in the winter. Low temps FTW!!!

With that, I will leave you with a song that reminds me of better days, when the words did flow, the queries wrote themselves, and we lemonade-ed life with pure ease.

Yep, I rickrolled all yinz right out of the gates 😊


To anyone who reads this blog, and who can hear (read) over the sound of the (imaginary) crickets, I have a fun announcement. Tomorrow I am beginning a weekly blog entry entitled TWO TRUTHS TUESDAY. Each week, I will share one truth about my occupation as a social worker and behavioral health therapist, and one truth about writing.

As a bonus, each TWO TRUTHS TUESDAY will feature TEN THINGS (not all the things, sadly), or, to be specific, ten things about the past week in my oh so interesting life.

So, here’s hoping you tune in to hear (read) the good word and pass it along on whatever social networking platforms you deem necessary. And, you know, hopefully you get something out of it for yourself 🙂

Promotional Giveaway

I’m pleased to announce that my story, Phaethon’s Grace, will be appearing in the upcoming Of Gods and Globes II anthology. The anthology won’t be out for a while, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t cool stuff for you in the meantime. The publisher is holding a mega giveaway in the leadup to the book release. Check it out here for the chance to win some neat (and even autographed) stuff: Mega Giveaway

Getting Back

A while ago, I wrote about the frustrations of writing and artistic output during the global Coronavirus pandemic. How the quarantine, while it gave many of us more free time and opportunity to write, also led to increased depression, anxiety, and other mental health distress for a lot of creative types. Creative output often went down when others assumed it would increase.

The good news is, I personally managed to push through to a point where I was getting words down on the page. Not as many as before the ‘Rona took over, but still. (Note: As a mental health professional, I am not advocating merely “pushing through” as any kind of treatment.) An older problem then reared its ugly head: I wasn’t meeting my overall writing goals even before social distancing became a thing. So, double whammy.

Well, this week, I returned to work at my actual work site. Thankfully, as an essential employee, I worked throughout the quarantine. Not only did I earn my wage, but I was able to do so from my recliner, with extra sleep. Which only reinforces how much I was affected by depression issues early on, stuck at home.

I’m happy to report that my writing is back to pre-Coronavirus levels, and have slowly, incrementally, begun to exceed them. Is getting back to my normal “work at work and write at home” routine the cause? Partly, although I was getting better before Monday. I think what helped a lot was knowing I was returning to work.

Still not nearly where I need to be as far as meeting my goals; at least I’m chipping away at those goals. I fervently wish at least the same level of progress for everyone else out there seeking to create. The more awesome we create, the better the world is.

Quarantine Ups and Downs

By now most creatives are familiar with the “But Shakespeare wrote King Lear in quarantine!” argument that being stuck at home should increase creative output. And by now most creatives have gotten fed up with non-creatives expecting them to compartmentalize emotions during social distancing.  Well, we know it isn’t that simple.

What about when you get the chance to work from home? For many, doing so has resulted in a creative malaise, or too many distractions, from having their kids home 24/7 to having their work life creep into their creative space. Honestly, working from home has been a godsend for me. I have physical disabilities, and working from home has alleviated many of the distractions caused by them. No longer am I coming home in pain, with eye strain, struggling to get any word count. I mean, my home office is an easy chair, after all. I’m even giving the business side of things the proper attention, which I so rarely do. Damn querying!

The only logical conclusion is that the words are flowing and everything’s peaches and cream for me at the moment. Not so fast. My creative output IS up, as a direct result of social distancing, the quarantine, and working from home. No denying that. What IS suffering while my writing thrives is ME. After I close the computer, what is there? I make connections online, talk to friends and family, and…sit around and do nothing. Watch TV. Surf the ‘Net. Read. Get things done around the apartment. Watch TV, surf the ‘Net, watch TV, surf the ‘Net, become more of a hermit, forget the positive things I can do at home, watch TV, surf the ‘Net…

I’m falling into a vicious cycle because of this quarantine. For now, the writing is good. I don’t have the problem many creatives have, of finding it harder to create. For how long, though? There will come a breaking point, and if it is reached, I have no doubt I’ll be in a deeper rut than before. So I have to guard against that. Try to lift myself in these trying times. Work on coping strategies to deal with the difficulties. You know, the hard stuff.

We talk about the obvious problems, that it can be difficult for many to create in these circumstances. We also need to worry and take precautions when things are going WELL in these trying times. We need to recognize our own fragile mental states and balance our creative output against our mental needs. I’ve written this rambling post as a cathartic tool, not so much to find answers to my dilemma–because there are no easy answers here–but to process what I’m thinking and how I’m feeling. Hopefully, in reading this, it will help a few other creatives do the same.

Chasing Your Tail in Traditional Publishing

If you’re like me, self-publishing your novels isn’t even remotely possible. At the very least, it isn’t a good idea. To be a successful self-publishing novelist–and, let’s face it, who doesn’t want to be successful?–you have to be able to promote yourself and promote your book. For someone who considers three likes and one reply on Facebook an enormous victory, I’ll never be able to sufficiently self-promote.

So, what do you do when you think you’ve finished what you consider a successful novel? Sign with an agent that will champion said novel, get it into the right hands, and land you a publishing deal. I won’t even get into the nuts and bolts of how difficult it is to succeed at that, as most of you already know. And most of you already know how brutal it is trying to write and assemble all the materials, especially the query letter, you’ll need along the way. That’s fine. If it were easy, everyone would do it. No, let’s talk a little about how, unless your first finished, polished manuscript is an instant success, you’ll be chasing your tail.

One of the truths I hear spoken by countless amazing and successful authors is that it’s rarely your first book that gets published. Often, it’s the second, third, fourth, fifth…you get my drift. The more you write, and the more books you write, the better you get at it. Simple logic. So, what do you do after getting all your querying materials together and get to querying? Start another book!

Here’s where the seemingly impossible gets even more difficult. You’re itching to move on to your next project, eager to put those writer muscles back to work. Writing takes a lot of time as well as effort, and, with an assumed day job, time is at a premium. Well, you have to give yourself copious amounts of that precious commodity to query your finished manuscript. Querying is a volume task, too, meaning you don’t just want to query one or two agents. If you limit yourself like this, even a great manuscript may take years to land you an agent.

How long does it take to query each agent? Mileage varies here. Some agents use sites like Query Tracker that make the process quicker and easier. Some have easy-to-read sites with concise lists of what they want emailed to them. And some…don’t. Just figuring out who wants what sent how is a chore. Then there’s personalizing your query, inputting the agent’s data into your files, changing formats, copying chunks of your manuscript into files of four chapters instead of three, never mind finding the agent in the first place…you get the gist. Personally, I lay out half an hour minimum for each one, because I’m slow and prefer to be thorough.

Half an hour each? Submitting to as many as you can? When will I write? It’s an excellent question, and it leads many writers, myself prominent amongst them, to vacillate. I tried to split time for a while, querying a few agents a week while writing my current WIP. But, time being short, I ended up super behind on my WIP. I’ve previously finished three books that were polished enough for me to query with. The first I have since shelved, but I feel the other two have potential. I’m trying to query two novels and write a third one. Ai!

Take heart. It’s frustrating, it’s a lot of tail chasing, but if it leads to an agent, and that agent lands you a book deal, it’ll all be worth it. And while, yes, being a published and agented author working on future projects comes with its own challenges, guess what you won’t have to do from that point on? Query agents. It’s a ginormous, intimidating prospect, but one you only have to conquer once. Unless you have to change agents for one reason or another. Hey now, let’s not borrow trouble! And, who knows? At that point, you may be like Kameron Hurley, who had an agent solicit her for work 🙂