Friday, December 18, 2015

Triggers and Loyalty

Walking out of that doctor's office and receiving those diagnoses back in July made me rethink everything about myself.  And I was expected to start up the semester only a few weeks later, with an officer position in two fraternities, an internship, 18 credit hours, AND managing a writing career?

All aboard the Nope Train to Screw-that-ville.

I had first pitched ALPHA--and was offered a contract for it--in the fall of 2014, the same time I received a contract for Gears.  I got the idea from watching documentaries on YouTube and Netflix about MKULTRA and the Cold War.  I knew there were plenty of books and movies that dealt with the victims of these experiments, like Manchurian Candidate and the Bourne saga (okay, so that wasn't MKULTRA, but it was still in the same vein).  But what about the agents who were a part of it, the ones who actually committed the atrocities?  Did they have even a shred of remorse?  I was eager to explore that side of history.

What I didn't know was the can of worms it would open.

Obviously, if you're going to write a political novel, you're going to have to immerse yourself in political culture.  Not being so far along in my recovery, I had no idea that this would serve as a trigger for my mania.  I found that the more I talked about politics, and the closer the issue was to my heart, the angrier I got.  I was--I am--a political Hulk, ready to smash at the drop of a hat the second I heard racial slurs, the second I saw maltreatment of people who were underdogs.  Not only were they the victims of MKULTRA's experiments, but they are victims even today: racial profiling, abuse.  Hell, Donald Trump recently called for a ban on all Muslims.  And then the people in power, the ones who receive untold amounts of power and privilege, want to complain that they are being lashed out against?  Hell no.

My thoughts, my feelings began to stew inside me, turning into bile.  And living in the Bible Belt with a conservative family (and attending a college in the home county of a certain county clerk), there aren't many people I can really vent to.  So I turn to the page to release my anger.  In a way, ALPHA has become much more than a spy novel.  It's a story about the underdog, a cry on behalf of those who cannot cry out for themselves for fear of judgment.

I like to say that ALPHA is a story of loyalty.  What does it mean to be loyal to your country, your family, yourself?  Howard must make choices that test his loyalty to America, to his family, and ultimately, to himself.  But I believe that ALPHA is a test of loyalty for me as well.  With the way that ALPHA is going, it's going to test and stress almost every relationship I've ever had.  It's going to flip the idea of the "American Dream" on its head--if it even exists to begin with.  That's what makes writing it so hard.  The issues, while close to my heart, are triggers for my disabilities.  And I'm excited yet terrified of the effects that it's going to have on my relationships with my family, my friends, and even you, my beautiful readers.

There is one thing I do know: I am not giving up on this project.  But all I can do is keep trucking along, and hope and pray that people are patient enough until I can learn to control the monsters inside me.

Thank you all for your support.  I love each and every one of you.

Love and Coffee cups,

Saturday, July 25, 2015

In The Pit

You ever feel dead?  You ever feel like that the things that once made you happy can't even give you joy anymore?  I've felt like that.  Multiple times.  And part of me is still there right now.

Here's the thing about Bipolar Disorder: you go up and down.  Imagine riding a drop tower at an amusement park, only it doesn't stop.  You're always going up and down, up and down, even past the point of nausea.  But that's only part of it.  Sometimes the seats get stuck at the bottom, and you want to get out of the seat, but you're strapped in.  You're stuck, and nothing you can do can bring you out.

I've felt stuck lately, especially in my writing.  Sure, I've worked on ideas, and did some writing exercises, but little to no progress was made on my novels.  I've been going to the doctor for my meds, and taking them properly.  I've even started seeing a therapist.  But it's hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel if you're in the blackest pits of depression.

When I went to the therapist, I learned a few things about myself that relieved me and terrified me at the same time.  They gave me a lot of answers, but also raised a lot of questions, too.

Instead of Bipolar II Disorder, I actually have Bipolar I Disorder, which means that my episodes can last up to two weeks at a time.

There's also Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, triggered by a sexual assault which occurred a year ago.  I'd have nightmares where I'd see their faces, or that same fear would creep up on me when I'm out in public, hiding, praying that they weren't there, that they wouldn't see me.  And when the episodes from PTSD hit, they can also trigger Bipolar Disorder episodes.

And it doesn't help that on top of that, I'm also on the Autism Spectrum.  It may not seem like it, but it's actually hard for me to talk to people; the way I act at book signings comes from a lot of coaching, both personal and from others.  I can't read people or understand sarcasm; you have to tell me explicitly what you're trying to say, especially if you're joking or flirting.  I could tell you everything about animation in film and as an art form; I've been called a walking encyclopedia.  Hell, just last week, my boyfriend and my sisters and I were watching my favorite movie, The Hunchback of Notre Dame.  I was listing off facts left and right, quoting the movie from memory.  I was even saying the names of the specific pieces from the score whenever they would begin playing, and singing along with the Latin choirs, and then going on to translating the Latin.  Yeah, you might want to take a personal note not to let me watch animated films with you.  Although I think if any of my books were turned into an animated film, I'd have a FIELD DAY with the commentary. XD

But sometimes sensory overloads can trigger an episode of Bipolar Disorder, which can cause me to work myself up to having a PTSD breakdown.  And sometimes when I start talking about my interests, I'll work myself up to a slight hypomania.  It's like a dangerous chain reaction, a triple threat, if you will.

I know I usually don't write stuff like this on this blog.  I guess the main reason for this post is to just get all of this off of my chest.  To be honest, I feel pretty raw right now, and a little shocked.  That's probably what's thrown me off.  Whatever you believe in or don't believe in, whether you pray or just send positive thoughts, I could really use those right now.  You all have done so much for me, and I'm thankful that you all are there for me.

Love and Coffee cups,

Saturday, June 13, 2015

A Reason for Writing

Everyone has a reason for writing.  And if they say they don't, then they're lying.  Whether it's for the creation of new worlds, analyzing characters and their motivations, or just the pure enjoyment of the craft in general, there's always a reason for someone to pick up the pen, myself included.

I consider myself a philosopher of sorts.  But that may be because of the kinds of books I read as a child.  1984, The Giver, Brave New World, Animal Farm... The classics were always my favorites.  They always seemed so profound, always speaking to the reader in more ways than one.  They always had a message, whether it was a warning about possible dark futures of society, an allegory of past events, or a commentary on important issues.  They were able to share a vision of a brighter future.

I grew up in a conservative part of the southern US.  My family was your average southern US family: husband and wife, kids, pets, a farm, the whole nine yards.  Of course, I always knew I was different from my more conservative immediate family.  In fact, as I grew older, I found myself sympathizing more and more with my more liberal grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins (on my father's side, anyway).  For the longest time, the smallest of statements could spark a fiery debate ending with harsh words, cracked voices, and tears.  I had no outlet to release my pent up anger.  It didn't help that it was at this point when the symptoms of Bipolar Disorder had first begun to manifest themselves, making the episodes of raging mania even worse.  I felt alone in the universe without someone who could truly understand what I was going through.

Fast forward to my junior year of high school.  While my short story Chapparelle's World in seventh grade was what had catapulted me into the world of writing and made me realize how much I enjoyed it, looking back, I never realized how much of an outlet the creative arts could be.  I didn't think about how I could use writing to communicate; I always thought that it was just a source of entertainment.  But the summer before my junior year, I was asked to read The Lords of Discipline by Pat Conroy for a summer assignment for my AP English Language and Composition course.  At first, I thought I'd hate it.  I don't like being told what to read or what to write; to me, the arts should be a source of freedom.  But the more I read it, the more I grew fond of it.  The assignment asked me to find the thesis of the story, to ask "What's the point?"  I remember raising my eyebrow at this.  "But it's a fictional novel; theses are for nonfiction pieces and essays."  But I shrugged, not wanting to risk my grade, and read the novel, looking for "the point."  I have fond memories of this book (the accompanying assignment, not so much haha), and I learned a lot from that class (even though my complaints throughout the year may have said otherwise).  I learned that writing was so much more than words on a page; it's about telling a story, conveying a message.  And even if you can't see it, the point is still there, whether you're reading Edgar Allen Poe or John Green.  

Sometimes even a writer can't tell what the point is until after completing the story and looking back on it.  Our experiences shape who we are as writers.  For example, Gears of Golgotha was about so much more than a steampunk dystopian world; it was about an inner journey to finally accept myself for who I really am, and I couldn't tell until after I finished it and read it again.  The more I write, the more I realize that my stories always have a reason for being, and there is a reason for everything that happens.

I guess that's why I consider myself a philosopher: because I always have something to say.  I not only want to tell an entertaining story, but I want to convey how I feel.  Although part of me finds it hilarious that I'm completely comfortable talking to complete strangers about what I'm terrified of talking to my own parents about for fear of starting an argument.  It's just as well.  Maybe that's what writing's about: being able to be fearless.  The sky's the limit.  The only boundary that's there is your own fear.  Take chances.  Dream big.  Be not afraid.

Love and Coffee cups,