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Every life has its challenges. Most challenges here in the First World are fairly inconsequential. I don’t have to worry about where my next meal is coming from, where I will sleep tonight, or my physical safety when trundling to the bathroom (floor-flopping cuddle cats aside…). There are millions of people in the world whose lives are far more difficult than mine. And yet, I spend my days crippled by my own mind, fighting to get out of bed and then wondering why I bothered.

My depression tends to be worse this time of year. Summers in SoCal are always hard on me. From that great, searing microwave in the sky over the course of the longest days of the year, to temperatures that would make the devil himself wish for air conditioning. The last weeks of August gave us more humidity than usual in addition to eight days straight with temperatures over 100F. Have I mentioned that I don’t do heat? I look out a window too hot to touch only to see parched, dead yards in between pale suburban cookie cutter houses lining asphalt streets blurred by roiling waves of temperature refraction. And people wonder why I don’t want to leave the house.

I miss my Sequoias and my fog and the smell of the ocean. I feel energized and at peace when I’m in that environment. A daily walk in that would go a long way to helping me feel better. But home is 700 miles away, which makes dropping by for a walk a little inconvenient. Yeah, I’ve lived in SoCal over thirty years, and been in this house with my husband for over fifteen, but none of it has ever truly been “home.” Maybe that’s just a manifestation of the bad chemistry in my head, never truly being satisfied with anything, despite there being nothing wrong.

Or maybe I’m not really home…

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SIjjh_PRmU8

 

Usually when I get like this I hide in one of my computer games. Nothing like killing zombies to avoid the real problems of the world. But these last few weeks have found me spiraling down the rabbit hole that is YouTube. After the usual fare of stupid human tricks and cute cats doing silly things, I wandered into the music halls of my youth: Queen, The Police, Def Leppard, Phil Collins, David Bowie, Van Halen, and – of course – Journey. These musicians helped sustain me through some of my toughest college years. Years when migraines lasting for days would visit me every two or three weeks, when the medication prescribed for those migraines had annoying side affects but no actual effect, and when my chronic depression was undiagnosed and out of control.

If I was down, I’d listen to Phil Collins’ “In The Air Tonight,” or Queen’s “Who Wants To Live Forever,” over and over and cry my eyes out. If I needed a pick-me-up, it was Van Halen’s “Panama,” or Def Leppard’s “Photograph.” Everything was done according to my mood, which could languish in darkness for days, then change in an instant. Music was my greatest love and my greatest comfort, and those musicians all have special places in my heart, for without them I’m not sure I would have survived. And it gives me great comfort to know that most of them are still out there performing, in one form or another, and still selling out venues. Just goes to show you what it means to have real talent instead of just computerized backing tracks and autotune.

Yeah, there were a lot of bad days, but, ironically enough, those years were also some of my best creatively. I was immersed fully in fields that I loved. First there was music for my undergrad, where I was playing and composing daily, surrounded by talented people who loved what they were doing just as much as me. Then there was graduate work in film, in the heart of the industry – Los Angeles – spending every waking hour in some aspect of production, from writing to directing to editing, and meeting the giants of the field – John Huston, Oliver Stone, Roddy McDowell. Long days, short nights, lots of hard work and frustration and disappointment, and I loved every minute of it.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KNIZofPB8ZM

 

Listening to the soundtrack of my life from then has made me finally realize what I’m missing now, what I’ve been missing for nearly thirty years – that creative environment. My fear and insecurities forced a detour into corporate America, where I had all the things that people said would make me happy: regular paycheck, house, car, etc. And yet I wasn’t happy. What I really need to be happy is music and writing. And to get back to doing both on a regular basis, I need immersion. I need interaction with other musicians and writers to keep me on track because otherwise I’m just an amoeba, formless and directionless, swimming along in basic survival mode and not accomplishing much more.

I know I have the ability to be successful. Despite the additional roadblocks put up by my gender and my weight and my grey hair, there’s something inside me that will not give up, no matter how depressed and hopeless I feel. I have great family and friends who are supportive, and a husband who is convinced of my future status as a best selling author. But isn’t that what those people are supposed to do, asks the depression. Aren’t those people closest to you required to love and support you no matter what?

Yeah, depression sucks like that. Always finding a way to bring you down. But even at my worst, I still want to live off my writing. Every time I’ve convinced myself that I should just give up such pipe dreams, that little voice in the dark, cobwebbed corners of my mind protests. Not loudly, not angrily, but just enough to not be ignored. One thing being at AFI taught me was that success would come if you work hard, have the talent, and are given a chance. I just need a little help on that chance thing, for I am not as brave as some may think. Certainly not when it comes to promoting myself and networking. That requires people skills that I am sorely lacking. And a confidence I’m not allowed by that damn demon clouding my brain.

What I need is a mentor. Someone who will be equal parts cheerleader and advocate. Someone who will challenge me, but can also be a friend. A musician or writer already in the business who wants to get some extra karma points by taking on this old rehab project. I’m trying to find ways to make those kinds of connections. AFI has a mentor program, and supports independent writing groups, both of which I’ve signed up for despite the logistics of getting into LA at any given time. I have long been a lapsed member of the musicians union, but maybe it’s time to get those chops back, too. I did manage to rescue the Casio from the spare bedroom a few days ago. Combine that with the MIDI connection to GarageBand on my iPad, and I can doodle some compositions – something I haven’t done in what seems like forever.

I don’t just want to be creative, I NEED to be creative. I MUST write, I MUST play music, or I die, little by little, like I have been these last three decades. And if you’re someone in the business who’s managed to stumble through this blathering, and thinks you might be able to help despite me, I promise to be a good student.

Bonus fan girl swoon if you’re Steve Perry.

 

 

https://vimeo.com/61213949

 

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(Here’s a little trip into the Way Back Machine for you. I was digging through some old notes and came across this little gem. Written by my 14-year-old self many, many, many moons ago, I present it here, transcribed verbatim – bad punctuation and all – from the original freshman-in-high-school scrawl… – Cheri)

 

 

“This is Eggberthead Snuffington Worthless on location in Ireland. I am about to talk with one of the great megaliths here,” said the reporter, turning to a huge chuck of rock behind him, “Mr. Megalith…”

“Are you blind!?” screeched the rock, “I’m a Mrs.”

“Oh, I’m terribly sorry. Please excuse my mistake,” stammered the reporter, “Mrs. Megalith, I hear you are the oldest megalith to be found. Is this true?”

“No, it ain’t. My husband is 3,000 years older than I am.”

“Oh? Where is he?”

“Sent to some place by the name of Stonehenge. Prob’bly some singles place.”

“Stonehenge? It seems that by the time he was drug there he’d be worn away to nothing.”

“Good heavens, man! He went air-mail!”

“Air-mail?” asked the confused reporter.

“Carrier pterodactyl.”

“But pterodatyls are extinct.”

“Thank heavens for that! Those things damaged us megaliths worse than the elements.”

“They attacked you?”

“No, you ninny! We were the closest things they had to statues.”

“Oh,” the reporter paused. “What do you think of the ancient Celts?”

“Those freaky nuts with the long stringy hair streaking around for no good reason at all, drawing squiggly lines all over the place? The dummies should have put some clothes on; they were so cold they were blue!”

“But they painted themselves blue.”

“They didn’t need to paint themselves blue! They were blue as ice anyway. You know why they’re referred to as ‘ancient’?”

“Because there aren’t any more?”

“Right! They all died of pnemonia because they ran around without any clothes on!”

“Uh…, I hope you don’t mind if I change the subject, but what was your impression of the Vikings?”

“They played a good game Sunday. Zipped right past the Packers.”

“I don’t mean the football team, I mean the ancient Vikings.”

“Oh, those beasts. They were the rudest, most domineering, uncultered creeps I’ve ever met!” the megalith hissed. “They ran around ransacking everything, guzzling Coors beer as if it were going out of style and grabbing all the good-looking girls they could get their grubby paws on!”

“You had Coors beer back then?”

“Of course! We had Coors, Budweiser, Schlitz; all the biggies. You know, that may be why they were so mean. Half had hangovers and were mad at the other half for making all the noise.”

“Well, yes, that could be true,” said the reporter. “Uh… one final question. Did you have Halloween a million years ago?”

“We didn’t have Halloween perse. We had a night called the Night out of Time on the eve of the new year. A bunch of freakies ran around in sheets and weird-o masks screaming and moaning, and stealing food. If the people wouldn’t let them steal the food they would cast a spell on them. Usually scared them to death. It got to where I became so annoyed I finally just took it up to myself to do something about it.”

“What’d you do?”

“I fell over on a bunch of them when they came running by. Squished them all over the place.”

“And that stopped the Night out of Time?” the reporter questioned.

“Sure it did. The ones that were left were scared out of their guords and died of fright. The only reason we’ve got Halloween now is because they came back to haunt me. Everybody thought running around in sheets and masks was cool so they joined in,” the megalith answered. The reporter paused, gave a look of utter hopelessness and turned to the camera.

“You heard it folks. This has been Eggberthead Snuffington Worthless on location in Ireland.”

 

 

Megalith

http://www.megalithic.co.uk/shop/irish_genius.htm

Protesting 101

This is how you peacefully protest:

 

Peaceful Protest montage

 

This is not:

 

Armed protesters

 

STOP THE HATE

 

 

Most of us, at some point in our lives, have dreamed of working for ourselves. We sit in our office cubicle, or other equally dismal assigned work space, and wonder what it would be like to not have to answer to that asshole of a boss anymore, or sit next to that whining hypochondriac, or deal with the petty power plays of the supply clerk over the next set of copy paper requests. We imagine how nice it would be to set our own schedule as we tool away at our dream job training unicorns to tap dance. Or maybe something equally a fantasy, like being a writer.
I certainly entertained those thoughts. And when the day came that my husband agreed I could give up the (fruitless two year, hundreds of resumes sent) job hunt and stay at home to give my writing a full-time chance, I was giddy with joy. FINALLY, I could live the life I wanted. All those stories that had been dancing around my head, all those characters demanding to be released, could actually see the light of day. No more alarms, no more power suits, no more office bullshit, and no more disorganized bosses. I stopped being a Certified Administrative Professional, and became a WRITER.
Yeah, you can stop laughing now…

 

lol-cat

I love the smell of folly first thing in the morning…

 

My grand plan was to get up every day when I felt like it, write for a few hours, have lunch, piddle around the housework, fix dinner for the hubby, and finish off the day with a few more hours of writing. I went and bought myself some spiffy writing software (Scrivener is awesome!)*, a cool electronic pad that captures hand-writing (Wacom is awesome!)*, and smooth heavy-bond paper for my fountain pens (Levenger is awesome!)*. I fussed over how my desk should be laid out, whether I should go for time or word count, listen to music or not, have the TV on or not, and about a bazillion other silly things that really didn’t matter but did because I’m a little obsessive/compulsive that way.

In the beginning, I actually did get some stuff accomplished. I (slowly) finished a novel and some short stories, made pretty regular entries here at this old dump of a blog, and did at least two articles a week for an on-line “news” site called Examiner.com, now defunct. I did that gig mainly to get myself back into writing shape, knowing I wouldn’t make a living off it, and left well before their fall. I have made queries and submissions for both the novel and stories, essentially to a large field of crickets, it seems, given the non-responses I’ve received. And I started a second novel. So, in the grand scheme of things, maybe it doesn’t seem all that bad.

Appearances are definitely deceiving.

That early enthusiasm soon fell victim to my own lack of urgency. When I don’t HAVE to get up at a certain time, I don’t. In fact, I’m very cat-like in that regard. I’ll take a nap just about anytime. And when I say nap, I mean at least four hours of unconsciousness cuddled with the actual cats in a cool, dark room. And being naturally a night person, night was when I was awake. I’d see my husband off to work in the morning and promptly head off to the vault for my day’s snooze.

And not being responsible to anyone else’s agenda, when I was awake I wasn’t nearly as productive as I could have been. Hey, look! There’s a game I haven’t played in a long time. Maybe I should make something out of this fabric I’ve had for the last twenty years. Wow, I sure do have a lot of books I need to read – better get started. It’s amazing how fast time disappears when you’re not accountable.

Then came a couple scary events involving hospitals, bill collectors, and mortgage companies. The depression seemed to envelope me whole and what little productivity I’d managed rapidly fell off into nothing. Soon it was mostly sleeping and computer games, because nothing really matters, least of all me. Hiding is what I seem to do best. It’s so easy to put things off when there are no hard deadlines, no people to be responsible to, and no requirements beyond feeding the cats and the husband. And that little dark cave in my mind that began as a refuge, slowly transformed into a prison…

 

Wearing all black

But only until they come up with something darker…

 

I follow several other writers – a couple best-selling/award winners, and a few crawling up the ranks – all of whom are further along their journeys than I. Somewhere along the line, I began dissecting their schedules (if they didn’t outright tell their readers). They all blog more frequently than I, and post on Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram numerous times a week. They usually write, or are at least engaged in some aspect surrounding writing, like editing or marketing, everyday. The up-and-comers send out dozens of queries and/or submissions a month, while the established pen mavens have to figure out how to balance all those offers with their already tight schedules. They talk about having to pay the mortgage, dealing with children interrupting their writing time, and imposter syndrome. They are going through all the same issues I am, but they have managed to keep the keystrokes active. They press through even on those days when it seems that writing is more a chore and less the passion they thought it would be.

They do it because they HAVE to, not just because they want to. They are beholding to their families, their editors, their readers, and any number of others involved in the chain of production from inception to publication. Don’t get me wrong: they still love what they do. But like with any career, once it starts rolling, there are other people to think of, and you’d best not let them down.

And that’s what I finally realized I’ve done. This writing thing isn’t just about me. My husband is carrying the household expenses on his shoulders while I piss away my day killing zombies. My family and friends support me and offer encouragement, despite me sleeping curled up with the cats all afternoon. There are even people who aren’t any of the above that read this blog regularly – or at least as regularly as my erratic entries allow – and still follow me regardless.

And that’s why self-motivation is an oxymoron. It doesn’t exist for me. I don’t give a crap for myself, so it doesn’t matter if things get done or not. You can’t motivate someone who doesn’t care. But I’m not operating in a bubble. I know that now. And I just can’t stand to let others down.

So things are going to change. Even if it means using that damn alarm again…

 

 

*   Disclaimer: I have received no monetary sponsorship for these claims. I really do think they’re awesome and use them often!

In Hate We Trust

There has been lots of talk over the last few years about cognitive dissonance, confirmation bias, echo chambers, and the general tendency of humans to hear what they want to hear, not what is actually being said. While this is a problem as old as humans, these last few years has seen it grow to an unprecedented volume. Largely thanks to social media, the fires of misogyny, bigotry, racism, and religious fervor have flared to global conflagrations. If it’s one thing humans really love to do, it’s hate.

The recent kerfluffle over the new female Doctor Who is but a small example of the hate parade out there. Pick just about anything on the Internet, and you’ll find scathing comments below. Pink posts a perfectly innocent family picture, and is slammed for being a terrible mom who’s endangering her children. The Afghani all female robotics team makes history for their country, and they receive death threats. Even cute little kittens aren’t exempt. Kittens!?! Come on, people!

 

i-hate-everything-cat

Even that adorable fluff face…

 

I have to admit experiencing my own moments of “You’re stupid! Fuck you!” but I try to keep them to myself as much as possible. I was brought up with the if-you-can’t-say-anything-nice-don’t-say-anything-at-all philosophy. Though in later years I did learn how to offer constructive criticisms. You can’t be a decent artisan without that. But there’s nothing constructive about the vast majority of what goes flying over the interwebs. It’s just a vomit of anger for no apparent reason.

But there is a reason. The anger isn’t really about Dr. Who or Pink or kittens, it’s about change. The world is going through a maelstrom of change. Again, largely due to the inter-connectedness social media and the Internet offers. And most humans don’t do change all that well. We like our nice little comfortable bubbles of sameness. As long as we keep to the well-worn rut of routine, we can deal. We know what to expect and how to plan for it. Screw with that routine and we all fall apart.

Even the field of science fiction has experienced the pains of change. You’d think a group that pretty much epitomizes progressive thinking – you know, that whole new worlds, new peoples are cool thing – wouldn’t have such a problem. But there’s been a tiny group of grumpy white men (see Sad/Rabid Puppies) who have been railing against the SJW’s (social justice warriors) that have “taken over” THEIR science fiction. They view the inclusion of women, people of color, and LGBTQ issues in FICTION as a direct threat on them and their reign of control. They even went so far as to game the system for the Hugo awards a couple years ago, managing to get a goodly number of THEIR choices onto the ballots, at the expense of much more deserving writers. Thankfully, and to the credit of the majority of the voters, that year also saw the largest selection of “No Award” tallies ever seen at the Hugo’s.

Okay, guys. For one thing, it’s FICTION. ENTERTAINMENT. Don’t like anything that might threaten your delicate manhood? Don’t read/watch it. It’s not a life requirement. You want to live in a closed little bubble, while the rest of the world passes you by, you go right ahead. Since most of you can’t write worth a damn anyway, you’re not likely to get published beyond your vanity press, and you certainly won’t be missed.

 

Unicorn against idiots

I’m really going to be busy…

 

But what happens when a huge swath of the population at large has basically the same ideals? Change bad. Different wrong. And – even worse – disagreement equals attack, resistance equals persecution. The drama needle has swung off the scale and now even the tiniest difference between two people and their opinions becomes an apocalyptic battle of epic proportions.

Are we really that insecure? Are we so unsure of ourselves that we have to hate someone or something else to feel better about ourselves? We have to consider ourselves superior in ANY WAY just to make it through the day? Let’s think about that for a minute. What is hate? For me, hate is fear plus anger. Something scares us and we get angry and therefore we must hate it, because that’s better than running away. Only cowards run away and I’m certainly not a coward, right? Therefore, we must crush the object of our hate because that’s the only way to be safe.

So if the root cause of hate is fear, what are we afraid of? Or, more importantly, WHY are we afraid? Why is including more women – roughly half the entirety of the human race – both as creators and as characters in fiction so scary? Why are people of color – who actually comprise the majority in the world – too terrifying to be allowed equal representation? Why does it matter that the guy next door is having sex with another guy? Are you mad because you weren’t invited?

 

Fear is the enemy

Living your life in fear is no way to live.

 

We hate not because of a problem outside, but because of a problem inside, in our hearts and souls and minds. If you hate a young Afghani girl who wants to play with robots, then YOU are the problem, not her. But she’s a terrorist, you cry. She’s starting with robots and graduating to bombs! Congratulations. You’ve swallowed the cum of propaganda spewed by the fearful old white men who claim to run our country. Instead of thinking for yourself, you’ve followed the party line of hate, and there’s only one way that ends: in our destruction as a civilization.

And while there are those out there that just want to see the world burn, I’d bet most of us would rather that not happen. A hundred years ago, when it took days to walk to the next village, or months for a letter to wend its way to the New World from the old, it was easy to be isolated. And it made sense for local and state governments to have more autonomy over their territories, because they were right there, when the feds were weeks – even months – of travel away. But we’re not isolated anymore. Communication is virtually instantaneous. We can watch the protests in [obscure third-world country] in real-time from our couch in California. And we’re much more mobile, many of us commuting more in a day than our ancestors did in their lifetimes.

The world is not such a big place anymore. We can no longer be isolationist. We can no longer be separatists. We need more cooperation, not less; more integration, not less; more acceptance, not less.

And that means less hate, not more.

Pre-eminent astrophysicist and wearer of flashy space-themed vests Neil de Grasse Tyson has declared he doesn’t want to be immortal. In an interview with Larry King, Dr. Tyson comments that the sense of urgency to accomplish something comes from knowing time is limited.

 

 

While I understand and appreciate his point, I’m going to vote for immortality. With several caveats, of course. First, my husband needs to be immortal as well. If for no other reason than I’ll have someone to remember everything we do. It certainly won’t be me. I have a hard enough time remembering what I had for breakfast, let alone a thousand lifetimes of existence. Maybe I should keep a journal…

Second, my animals also need to be immortal. My altar already has five boxes of ashes on it because they don’t live nearly long enough already – can you imagine millennia upon millennia of boxes???

And third, I need my basal metabolism adjusted so I can lose the weight I need and then maintain it. I don’t really mind looking middle-aged indefinitely, but it would be nice to not have to carry a third of my body-weight extra for all eternity. It’s been a bitch lugging it around as it is. I don’t want to think of what my hips might feel like after a few thousand more years of walrus butt.

At some point there will likely be the option of downloading my consciousness into an “artificial” body. Whether it be a vat-grown clone of my own cells, a much less prissy version of C3PO, or a manufactured creation that would put the humanoid Cylons of the updated Battlestar Galactica to shame, I’ll probably have a good deal to say about how it looks and works. And contrary to what others may do, I wouldn’t change too much.

 

terminator

 

Maybe a friendlier smile…

 

 

Yeah, that whole fatness thing will definitely go. But I’d keep the height and the silver hair, though I’d round out the former to a clear six feet because that’s just a ton easier to say than five-feet-eleven-and-a-half, and the hair would be much longer. As in dragging on the ground longer. Weird, I know, but it’s been a dream of mine since childhood, and my first view of Crystal Gayle on television. I’ve met several people since (including a guy) who equaled her pileous splendor, and it always sent me into a fit of envy. Yes, my hair is nearly to my waist now, and that’s where it stops, in a cluster of dry, split ends that have to be trimmed off every couple months if I want to actually get a brush through it all. Such is the joy of fine hair.

Being immortal isn’t all fun and games, though. Even if you don’t have to kill all your challengers or drink the blood of humans, you still have to watch the mortals around you age and die by the dozens. It’s bad enough when one of the animals goes, but now I get to watch all my family and friends go with the same relative quickness? I can see how an immortal would quickly become jaded by their own existence and begin to view shorter- lived species, sentient or not, as something less than important.

And I wouldn’t just outlive animals and people, but civilizations, too. Imperial Rome lasted approximately 1,500 years. China came to be around 1500 BCE, and went happily through its dynasties until the early 1900’s CE, a span of nearly 3,500 years. By comparison, the USA is a mere babe of less than 250 years. All of them blips passing by in what seems like seconds, much like the graphs in this video:

 

 

 

But think what I could see over the course of eternity. The Universe is estimated to be nearly fourteen billion years old. The Earth has been around about 4.5 billion years. Modern humans appeared only 200,000 years ago, with recorded history a paltry 6,000 years to its name. In a little over a hundred years we went from looking up into the sky wondering what the Moon was made of, to actually setting foot on it to find out. Just in my lifetime we’ve gone from seeing flip phones only in science fiction shows, to carrying them around in our pockets.

Years ago Carl Sagan developed what he called a cosmic calendar. He took all the events of the Universe and condensed them into one calendar year to try and show the scale of existence. Humans conquered fire just in time for a late dinner on the last day of that year. We are but a blink of the cosmic eye.

 

Andy Warhol Create

 

But what if it takes me forever to do that?

 

 

Living forever would allow me to see all of that in real time, an eternal witness to the rise and fall of worlds. I could watch us colonize Mars and beyond. Maybe I could even be a starship captain. I would see the amazing technological advancements we make, the great artistry of our creative cohorts, maybe even world peace. Now wouldn’t that be worth hanging around for?

Of course, the down side is as Dr. Tyson noted: what’s the motivation to get out of bed today if you have an eternity of tomorrows? I still have things on my to-do list from forty years ago. And let’s not get started on my various writing projects. Okay, yes, they are STARTED, but my procrastination is epic in scale and execution within my single human lifespan. Just think what that would be like if I had forever.

Which is about how long it’s gonna take for our government to get its head out of its butt, and that’s something I would dearly like to witness so I might as well get started on that immortality thing now. Right after I get out of bed tomorrow…

Wha…???

 

 

Alphabet Soup cat

 

I think this every time I see a talking head trying to explain our president’s latest gaff. I really need to stay away from the internet for awhile. Too much stooooopid. I think the asylum has finally been overrun by the inmates. Okay, that actually happened back in November, but I kept holding out hope. Man, am I a sucker.

I’m gonna need a bigger bottle of bourbon…

 

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