Favorite Quotes From Reading (1)

From Joan Didion, “On Self-Respect”

“To have that sense of one’s intrinsic worth which constitutes self-respect is potentially to have everything: the ability to discriminate, to love and to remain indifferent. To lack it is to be locked within oneself, paradoxically incapable of either love or indifference. If we do not respect ourselves, we are on the one hand forced to despise those who have so few resources to consort with us, so little perception as to remain blind to our fatal weaknesses. On the other, we are peculiarly in thrall to everyone we see, curiously determined to live out–since our self-image is untenable–their false notions of us. We flatter ourselves by thinking this compulsion to please others is an attractive trait: a gist for imaginative empathy, evidence of our willingness to give. […] At the mercy of those we cannot but hold in contempt, we play roles doomed to failure before they are begun, each defeat generating fresh despair at the urgency of divining and meeting the next demand made upon us.”


I’ve been reading a lot of nonfiction lately, mostly memoirs and snapshots of certain historical moments. I’ve been tearing through Joan Didion’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem and I thought I share a quote that really spoke to me.

I hope you enjoyed.

Things That Help Me Write

(a completely subjective list in no particular order)

  • Rainy Days. In my part of the world, the last few days have been rainy so this list is brought to you by cloudy skies and pitter patter. I can’t tell you what about these kinds of days that put me in a creative mood. Could it be the fresh smell of grass? The patter of rain? The calm of a cloudy day? The creative potential that sounds in my head like a clap of rolling thunder?
  • Something caffeinated to drink. Most days I prefer teas that range from the maltiest of blacks, those with a kiss of citrus, to the refreshing greens.  I savor coffees socially or when I struggle to keep my head up.
  • Musical brainstorming to provide soundtracks to the plot and character reels I produce in my head.
  • Writing nonsense, feelings, and routine things to start off the day. I like giving my brain a running start when it imagines a roadblock.
  • Quiet sounds. The ticking of my desk clock. The chirping of birds and the sound of rustling leaves outside my window. The cars rushing past. The sound of my constant breathing. The slow hum of thought.
  • Staring up and away from the page to my plant shelf and the sepia world.
  • Not writing at all the time. I wouldn’t call myself the most dedicated of writes so this may seem counterintuitive to this list. But sometimes not writing gives me more ideas and more energy when I do decide to write. I bubbling with creative energy when I’m at work shuffling books, when I’m in the kitchen prepping vegetables, and even when I’m vegging out watching TV. Allowing rest times makes me come back more inspired and refreshed.

Mexican Gothic (A Book Review)

True to its name, Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia at its heart is a gothic story.

Like most gothic stories, it centers on an old house and a family with secrets in all its dark, secret passage. The story starts when the protagonist, Noemi Taboada, gets a letter from her cousin Catalina who recently married into the Doyle family and moved to their residence in The High Place. But something is wrong and Noemi goes there in an attempt to figure out what it is—a perfect gothic set up filled with mysterious potential.

I’m not sure what I expected when stepping into the book. I boarded the hype train with this one and thought I would settle into an unsettling tale in an unfamiliar setting. I also grew up on Gothic novels so I had some trope expectations that I was ready to check off. Beyond that, I had no clear expectations.

What I noticed first about the story was the dreamy way it was written. Noemi has a strong voice in the narrative, but the prose lingers on its descriptions. It starts a bit slow as it establishes the setting, making High Place as much a character in the book as the people who occupy it.  It also loves the big words that litter the narrative that the reader can trip over if they’re not used to it. (My favorite is “mandibular prognathism.)

As the story picks up, I became entranced. Its dreaminess is what I ends up hooking me into the story. This book has some excellent horror writing in its dream sequences. They’re filled with flesh like walls and other sorts of grotesque imagery that I won’t spoil here. Most of its horror of this grotesque nature. When night falls in High Place, the house seems to breathe and twist with the monsters that lie beneath.

And the monsters all around. I won’t say much on this point other than the characters in this book are really well written. Even as you detest them and they transform in every which way, I appreciated how they added to the horror.  There is some commentary on sexism, racism, and colonialism woven into this book’s themes. There’s discussions of control especially as it relates to the story’s female characters. This story does take place in 1950s Mexico. I’ll let that speak for itself.

If you like gothic or horror, I really think you should give this book a read. It’s admittingly slow for the first 30-50 pages, but if you’re patient you’ll be treated to something really special. This is one of my favorite books from last year and upon reflecting on the story and it’s themes, I feel that way more and more.

So Currently…(6)

Reading….

I’ve been doing this more than anything this year. I’m challenging myself to read more genres and more widely.

To this end, I recently finished Rebel by Beverly Jenkins. It’s the first book in her Women Who Dare series and my first ever adult romance book. And…I kind of loved it. The book is seeped in the intricate world of Reconstruction era New Orleans with all its racial turbulence and hope for the future all the while showing a love story that I wholeheartedly rooted for. I loved Drake LeVeq with his passionate pirate blood and the hellion of a schoolteacher, Valinda Lacy. They have undeniable chemistry and I was also intrigued how their loved fit in with the historical setting.

Another little chapbook I finished recently was Elizabeth Acevedo’s Beastgirl & Other Origin Myths. I loved every book I’ve touched by this author and this one is no exception. The poetry and verse in this explore Latin American myths and history and gives them a modern resonance especially as it touches on topics of racism, sexism, and the wider diaspora.

As of the current moment, I am reading The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar. It was easy immersing myself in the voice of the main character, Nishat as the book starts out with her coming out as a lesbian to her Bangladeshi parents and their not-so-great reaction to it. I can’t wait to see where this book takes me.

Watching….

A lot of Community. A coworker turned me on to it a few months back but I only recently got really into it. It’s a comedy show that messes with its form with every episode and I’m absolutely here for it.

Listening…

I’m rededicating time to my old passion of just sitting and listening to music. I’ve discovered a few artist and albums that I absolutely fell for. I finished the Hadestown Musical soundtrack and loved how it reimagined the Orpheus and Eurydice myth. Imagining the underworld as an industrial wasteland was a pretty interesting take.

Julien Baker released an album called Little Oblivions. I love the album as a whole but my favorite singles are “Faith Healer” and “Heatwave.”

Japanese Breakfast also released the single, Be Sweet, that I’ve been listening to a lot lately. I can’t wait for the album!

Writing…

This among other things. I’m trying to get my thoughts together and put some organization into them. Hopefully, the fruits of that labor will show itself.

Happy Friday!

Writing Update: Art through the Chaos

Last week has been a chaotic one. Putting aside world events (like that whole mess at the Capitol) there’s been a lot of things that hit a lot closer to home. Things like Covid, paranoia, and living in the world.

Due to that, I freely admit that this hasn’t been the most productive week. How could I? How could any of us honestly?

Regardless, I did manage to make some progress. I made it a bit farther in my revision. My characters are coming along nicely and they’re also getting snarkier. The most surprising is my character Tanner Williams. When I reintroduced him in the revision, he had a lot more to say and couldn’t care less about anyone, especially his boss.

As things settle, I plan on setting up routines and quarterly goals. I hope to share those this time next week.

Happy Monday Everyone!

Writing Update: What am I working on exactly…?

So in my quest to be more “literature-ly” accountable, I offer myself to the eyes before me and recount my writing deeds for this past week.

I’m tackling the revision of my Hunger & The Hanging Tree arc of my Grim Lore of Hollow Grove story. What do I mean by arc and what is this story I’ve been hinting at for the last, oh, two maybe three years?

First off, Grim & Hollow is very tentative title for the overall story. To make a very long story short, the main gist is that my man, Sebastian Calderon, in the alternative year of our Lord 185X, decides to take up a job in a small town called Hollow Grove where he meets interesting characters and learns about the darkness that haunts the place there. I’m taking more of a serial format for the story. I plan to have five arcs that tell their own interlocking story. The first has to do with Hunger and Hanging Trees.

I’ve been fortunate to be granted a three day weekend for my job due to New Years. Somehow between watching movies, compulsive cleaning, and experimenting with breakfast recipes, I made some headway with the revision. The best way I know to tackle this is to write the whole thing over again on a blank document and retyping past drafts. My main sticking point with this former draft is that it read really stale with my characters doing one thing then another until they have to do something else. I’m attempting to make my characters less agents of plot and more people with thoughts and feelings. It’s a bit tedious but it’s the only way I know how to tackle this project at the moment.

At this very moment which is Sunday at 3:24pm with Natalia Lafourcade singing in the background, I’ve written 2,474 words for the current draft. A most noticeable improvement from the 150-word presses I did maybe two or three times a week in week’s past.

In related news, I have managed to write some really rough drafts of short stories that I’ll be tackling when I can’t look at the former project anymore.

That’s all I have to report. Thanks for reading.

So Currently…”Don’t Be Afraid to Be Seen Trying”

Let us try an experiment.

The following blog will have no pressure. It’s just you, me, and the thoughts that sit with us.

In years past, I’ve always set up “expectations.” I’ll write more, talk more, save more, go out more. Be less myself and more this fantastic super adult that’s got things figured out. Because adults have figured this out. Right?

If I can take no other lesson from 2020, it’s that very few of us know exactly what we’re doing. Especially since most of us had very little to do. The journey to adulthood is more about figuring out what you don’t know and trying to discover more. You may have bills, jobs, and currently unrealized aspirations but you see more truth in “The journey is more important than the destination.”

Tis the season of reflection, yes, but I have to admit (and past posts will tell you) that I have an obsession with reflection. Talking as me will lead to that or the bemoaning of the creative process in all its fickleness. (Please imagine me saying that last line swooning over an expensive chaise lounge. Gives it the voice I imagine).

So currently, I want no “expectations.” I want to be happy about the things I do and happy about the effort I put into things even if no one else can see it.

My motto for this year, courtesy of Youtuber Evelyn of the Internets, is “Don’t Be Afraid to Be Seen Trying.” I scribbled this line in my journal, notecards, a piece of paper I pinned to the corkboard above my desk. I’m a big believer in writing things into reality. At this point, I hope it’s etched into my brain matter and carved into my bones. You know, as you do.

I really hope you all had a Happy New Year and giving you some good vibes to help fuel your dreams and ambitions. I will not make any predictions for 2021 (Been there, done that, let’s not discuss it again) but I hope that we can meet the challenges it throws our way and that we come out better for it.

So Currently…(5)

Salutations Everyone!

I know it’s been a hot minute since I last posted. Between moving out of my parents’ house, work, the general election, and a whole host of other busy miscellany, I’ve been kept quite busy.

This is just a quick post to let you guys know that I’m not dead. I also wanted to post something to get back in the general habit.

So hello! Good day! And did you have a wonderous American food day on Thursday?

Until next time!

So Currently…4

Reassessing

What does productivity even mean in a time a COVID?

Whatever it is, it’s hardly applicable to my head space. It’s not welcome because it brings its dour cousins guilt and regret every time I settle into YouTube drama hole. They shake their heads and judge me silently. It’s easier to ignore them when caught up in the messiness of other’s lives.

My creativity, on the other hand, has been engaged in other pursuits. Mostly dusting off those old skeletons in my closet and dealing with the practical matter of clutter.

Clutter’s been my dirty little secret for the last few years. I keep a clean looking appearance but if you investigate the nooks and crannies you’ll find piles and piles of things stuffed everywhere.

My mind’s been consumed by it. What to donate, what to throw away, what to do with…? My every free waking moment spinning some variant of these questions.

I feel like a new person as I cast off old perceptions of myself. So my clothes I thought I’d rock with their frills, long sleeves, and melon necks. Paper bits I thought would mean something ten years out. Books kept on sentimental currency over genuine enjoyment.

Reassessing.

This is a journey that I don’t anticipate will end any time soon.