A Drive by the Lake

I’ve not been around much the past few months. Some of you read what was effectively my “goodbye, at least for now” post and commented very nice things. I read and cherished every comment.

One of the most prescient statements was made by Elizabeth Merry:

Take your time and get to know yourself better. I think that’s what you are doing.

— Elizabeth Merry, as seen in her comment

You’re pretty much right on the money, Elizabeth.

Though much of what I’ve thought about these past few months is personal, I want to share a few things with you. This post doesn’t represent a “return” to full blast blogging, but I hope it’ll at least explain a bit of what I’m doing instead. As a warning, some parts of this post may get darker than you may be interested in right now and all parts will be more political than you probably want. (Heck, it’s more political than I’d want!) I’ll mark the section that is dark, but suffice to say much of this will be distasteful to some readers.

Also, I apologize for two years of bold faced lying to everyone (and years before that of halfhearted lying), but I hope you will soon understand that I’d lied to myself for much, much longer.

A pond-ish, beautiful section of The Lake. The lake is actually pretty good sized, and this is just a little water treatment swamp spot.

My Conservative Upbringing

I know what you’re thinking: H.R.R. Gorman had Reagan Republican parents who were part of the moral majority.

Lol.

No, I am the descendant of Dixiecrats (yes, they’re still real) who believe Jefferson Davis was a legitimate president. I grew up in a church that taught listening to your secular school teachers talk about evolution or Greek mythology would lead you to communism and Hell. THAT’S the level of conservative I’m talking about.

Only one small step from Satan.

Because of just how far down the one-sided-thinking train my world existed, there are many things that I wouldn’t – possibly even couldn’t – question. We were far enough into the backwoods that there wasn’t anywhere to go if we weren’t safe at home. You either struggled to make it work, or… well, what happened to those other people wasn’t good either. Usually some combination of teenage pregnancy, death, jail, and/or drugs.

As a goody-two-shoes, I did what I thought I was supposed to. I shut up and didn’t question anything lest I be sent away somewhere. Perhaps because my mom was/is extraordinarily prudish, or perhaps because it was so very, very much a taboo subject, I was not allowed to ask my parents or any adult anything about sex or remotely related subjects. I knew that gay kids went to conversion therapy, but I didn’t really know what that was beyond “where bad kids go.”

I just knew something bad would happen to me if I ever told anyone about crying in the bathroom and praying that God turn me into a boy. That was, of course, assuming he didn’t answer me.

(He did answer – it just took a longer time than I’d planned, and it’s going to demand a lot more work from me than I’d expected at the time).

I have battled with the fear that God doesn’t want me for a very long time. Before I knew I was transgender (or, at least, before I knew the term and how to deal with the fact), I feared God had cursed me in such a way that I’d never make it to heaven. I supposed that I needed to be feminine because everyone told me to, because everyone told me it was my body and not my soul that mattered, but I resolved to be as masculine as I could get away with. When I left for college, for instance, I resolved not to date or get married because that would drag me down and I’d just be a problem.

While that last resolution lasted, oh, about one week into college as I began dating the man I’m now married to, that fear continued. Through pre-marriage counseling, in which my husband’s then-priest tried to convince me that I was deontologically doomed by the circumstances of my birth, and through a fight with my own church on the ability of deacons to be born female, I continued to fear that God didn’t want me. I’ve had spurts of intense devotion, and I’ve had spurts in which I felt so unwanted by the deity that I couldn’t stand to look at His book. I sometimes had this fear that I didn’t even have a soul, or this fear that women didn’t have souls and I was an unlucky man who was “born wrong.” From when I was 16 to when I was 26, I refused to sign up as an organ donor on my driver’s license because I was convinced God wanted to kill me for my organs. At 26 I gave in and became a donor because I was very depressed and tired of waiting for Him to pull the trigger. That fear ended only after The Lake.

At this point, I’ve reached a new view on myself, God, and our relationship. Somehow, coming out to myself allowed me to see that God had more of a plan for me, and that I’m not just here for my organs. My body became less of a horrible place, and God made more sense. I was here not because of a mistake, but because I was who He wanted me to be. I’m not “a man’s soul in a woman’s body”, but instead am a whole package that would not be me without being transgender. I feel more complete than I ever have in the past.

If you, dear reader, now think that I’m going to Hell, that’s your prerogative. It’s ok. I completely understand the belief and the concern.

NC House Bill 2

It was March 2016. I was slated to graduate with my master’s in May, then come back to North Carolina and seek my PhD.

And North Carolina’s General Assembly, gerrymandered as hell and as they are wont to do, passed a dumb bill that month. It shouldn’t have really come as a surprise to anyone, and I personally suspect that several – but I doubt it was all – proponents of the bill genuinely believed in their cause.

It was, as you may already suspect, the greatest of all North Carolina law-writing blunders (unless you count the gerrymandering): the infamous Bathroom Bill.

Before the Bathroom Bill was passed, I actually didn’t know what the term transgender meant. Banned from knowing a lot of information growing up and uninterested in learning during college, I had somehow made it to that point believing that people who got gender-confirming surgery were thrill seekers and short-sighted. I somehow was unaware you could go from female to male at all. When North Carolina’s House Bill 2 came out, I looked up more about this “transgender” thing and what it really meant.

The more I read, the more I thought to myself that these stories described much of my feelings for as long as I could remember. The more I read, the more I realized that “being female” doesn’t equal “suffering” as I had been taught. I learned that the type of suffering I endured, the suffering of not feeling like my body is me, of feeling like being female is the worst thing that could have ever happened, probably wasn’t even the same kind of suffering that my parents told me would be my lot.

I realized then that I was transgender. I realized that I wanted to have testosterone, and that there were good reasons I’d tried to push my hips inward during puberty with efforts to prevent their widening. There’s a reason I cried when I realized my voice wouldn’t drop, and there’s a reason I’ve tried to make my tits look as small as possible for as long as I can remember.

But I didn’t believe it, mostly because I was afraid. I now thought I knew why God hated me, and I worried that no one would want me anymore. I remained in denial and hid behind the specters of “statistics” and “trans isn’t real” for three more years.

I just couldn’t bring my lips to say it aloud, couldn’t bring my fingers to type it straightforwardly. It’s why, when I first got online with the blog, I hid my biological sex until I published my first short:

And it’s why, even then, I chose to lie to you. By the time I published the January News post linked above, I had decided to announce to my husband that I was trans and wanted to transition. I failed to do that, so I gave my bio to the Dark Divinations team with feminine pronouns and announced myself as female in the Late May Newsletter, also linked above.

But yes, by the time I wrote both of the above posts: I knew. I was sure. And I was a fucking liar.

A Drive By the Lake (it gets dark and a wee bit sexy)

One day in 2019, I was driving home from my job as a research assistant – a job which paid for my graduate studies. In and of itself, grad school was very stressful and horribly depressing.

But it wasn’t the only – or even core – thing that kept me down.

Many times on the drive home, I’d gotten horribly sad and had to pull over at the Food Lion grocery store or a church while I just thought about how much I hated myself. Most of the time it would be about how dumb I’d been at work, but sometimes it’d be about how I felt uncomfortable in my body. Those old prayers in middle school and high school would pop into my head, and I’d wonder and pray, “Why did God curse me?”

Those were the good days.

There were much, much worse days.

As I was driving by the lake on the way home, my long-term fear and belief that God had purposefully cursed me by placing me in a body with internal genitalia and horrifying weakness became too intense. I’d considered it before, but on this day the sadness was overwhelming: I decided to drive into the lake and die.

“God doesn’t want me – He just wants my organs. He wants me to die so someone better might live,” I thought. “I hate myself – I’m cursed. I don’t want to be a woman, and I can’t believe he did this to me!”

I screamed at this point, my hands stuck to the wheel and knuckles whitening. A calmer side of me thought, “Maybe you don’t have to be a woman. Just believe you are a man, when it comes to it. Let it happen.”

“No!” another part of me screeched. “That’s just the devil tempting me!”

“Is the devil tempting you to be a man, or is he tempting you to run your car into the lake and die?”

I realized there that I had a real choice: accept that I am a man or die. One of those options seemed a lot easier to back out of if it turned out to be a mistake. I’d been considering that I was trans for a while, and accepting it to myself and telling no one seemed a reasonable course of action.

The two posts below were borne of that decision, even though I was still lying to you. To my husband. To everyone.

Telling the Husband

It was January 9th, 2021.

We’d just finished a Google call and session of D&D with my husband’s brothers. The session was good; we’d had a wild ride against a disease (too on the nose for January 2021, but whatever). Despite this, there was one, mere seconds-long set of frames during the chat that destroyed me.

My sister-in-law walked into view of the camera, and it reminded me she was pregnant.

That I could become pregnant, which I didn’t and don’t want, without my permission.

That I had these parts that could lead to this horrible fate.

That I was weak.

That I hated myself and feared the consequences of living in a female body. I didn’t want this fate, and being trapped in this fleshy, hormonal prison was almost more than I could bear. I managed to get myself to our bedroom, but all I could do was bury myself in dirty laundry. I paradoxically hoped to be ignored until my demise while still desiring comfort I could not achieve alone.

My husband came up and pulled me out of the dirty laundry. He calmed me as he could, but words poured from my lips that I couldn’t take back. I babbled out strong hints that I had decided on a drive about a year and a half ago that I was a man. I suggested that I couldn’t take this lying any longer. Yet, I had this conviction that as long as I didn’t say it aloud, as long as I could maintain the lie, the longer I could be with him.

I was worried that he wouldn’t love me. No, not “stop loving” as in no longer want to be my friend, but “stop loving” as in no longer share all of my life, my soul, and my bed. It’s a selfish fear, really, but my heart was breaking as he pulled me from the dirty laundry that night.

How do you tell your husband, “Hey, I think you accidentally married a man”? How do you say, “Hello, beloved, we’ve been married 8 1/2 years and boy do I have a surprise for you”? Until I’d started asking myself those questions, I didn’t understand how bad a slur “trap” was. When you start worrying that you trapped someone you loved, even if you didn’t mean it, it feels bad.

And yet here I was, crying in a bed with my husband after just being helped from the laundry and into the covers. I held him tight because I knew he needed to be told. I had been trying to tell him for so long, but I couldn’t figure out how. At last he asked, “Do you want me to tell you what I think this is about?”

“Sure,” I answered. I’m pretty sure we were both crying by then.

“I think you… I think your, uh,your gender identity is, uh… is…”

“Mega fucked,” I filled in during his hesitancy.

He laughed.

I cried harder, because I was being serious.

He just hugged me and said, “Oh, I love you!” in part because he knew I needed it and in part because he neither expected any response from me nor ever “mega fucked”. After a later conversation, I discovered he was afraid I didn’t know I was trans and that I would be insulted by his conclusion. He’d decided a long time ago that he would quietly help me no matter what, and he would help me figure it out if it ever came to it. He’d known for a while before I told him. We’re going to work through this as we can and take it at a pace both of us can handle.

There were many tears that night. Since then, I’ve told a few people in real life, and a few other people in online life. And now, my wide array of internet friends, I tell you.

Where I’m Going With This

Well, for now this post is about as comprehensive as I can get in any sort of compact space. There’s additional details, plans, and GENUINE MOTHER-OF-GOD-FEARS about having to tell mine and/or my husband’s blood relatives. Everyone so far has been pretty accepting and kind, though, so maybe (hopefully?) my terror is unwarranted.

As far as you people here on the internet go? Honestly, the reason I’m telling you at all is because I made that stupid decision to lie a long time ago. I wanted to get a nice, long article out concerning my transition, then shove it away to a corner. This is still a writing blog, not a blog about my personal life. Though, I suppose, I’d be willing to forsake that if the article miraculously goes viral and a strange demand for this sort of content surfaces. It won’t, though – look at how long this article is.

Last, I’m willing to talk with you about transitioning in the comments, though I probably won’t go into much (if any?) detail regarding physical metamorphosis or sexual activities. I understand some, or maybe many, of you don’t agree with my conclusion or “lifestyle decisions”, and you know what? That’s ok. That’s up to you entirely. I am not here to convince you to give up those ideals. I am just here telling you why I’ve been absent and, in a long-winded fashion, try to explain why transition wasn’t just “the best” choice for me: it was the only choice.

5 Sneaky Tips for Using the Gutenberg Editor

Yes, WordPress users are all in the boat now: use the Gutenberg block editor, move to a different blog host, or leave the blogosphere forever. With those sorts of options, it makes sense to at least try the new system before gutting all your work.

I’ve seen tutorials around and about, but there’s some neat tricks and hints the Gutenberg process lets you do that you couldn’t on the old version. If you want a good, basic intro on using the Gutenberg Editor, visit Colleen Chesebro’s site.

5. Quick Way to Start a Block You Want

Something I didn’t like when initially starting the editor (and, if I’m being honest, still don’t like) is how pressing “enter” starts a new block. At least it assumes you’ll be using a text block!

But what if you don’t want to use the text block? You have to click the stupid plus, find what you want – aaagh!

– OR – you can use the handy dandy backslash button.

When you start a new paragraph/block, type a / as the first thing. A dropdown menu will appear as so:

You can then click the block you want, or you can finish typing. Typing /twitter, for instance, will let you embed a twitter post. You couldn’t do that shiz with the old editor very easily!

Also, follow me on Twitter. And Instagram, because apparently those are things I’m supposed to tell you to do.

4. Figure Out Which Shortcuts Work

I’m the kind of person who likes keyboard shortcuts. The Gutenberg editor has a lot of shortcuts, but they’re not the same as the old editor. Depending on your OS and your browser, you may find difficulties in using CTRL+U (underline). Underline, for example, often doesn’t work on Chrome and opens the source code page on Firefox. Because of this, I’d suggest trying your usual shortcuts almost immediately when you start using Gutenberg.

If (or when) a shortcut doesn’t work, you may also need to look for the button. On the classic editor, most things a typical blogger would need were available in the toolbar. With the text toolbar much abbreviated in the new editor, you may need to expand the menu more often than you used to.

To get to the underline function (which I use because my theme doesn’t easily show the difference between link text and normal text), I do:

This is also where you’ll find justify (because apparently that doesn’t count as an alignment under the alignments part of the toolbar).

Issues with shortcuts or some functionalities may be caused by one of a host of issues, including OS incompatibility, browser incompatibility, browser plugin inability, or WordPress plugin incompatibility (I’ve seen on the forums that a plugin called TinyMCE causes issues). My assumption is the WordPress team will eventually fix a lot of these issues, but as of this posting, just be aware and figure out what you need to do.

3. FINALLY COPY PASTE IMAGES WITHOUT SUCKAGE

For the love of all that is holy and just, you can now copy an image and paste it directly into your post without having to insert it into your media library first. Sure, you can still do that, and it’s a good idea to curate your images in such a way that you can re-use them (remember, your storage space hasn’t changed).

Those images I added above? I took snips of my work, then copied it and pasted them directly to the document. Without any extra effort, they’re ready and available for me. This year, when I do a book review, I’m not going to have to do the process of adding the covers with care and pain. All I’ll do is paste the image, and its ready for me to edit and change the name.

2. Add .gifs Without Destroying Your Storage Space

That’s right – animated gifs. When you used the old editor, you’d have to download them from Giphy or Tenor or something of the sort. Then you’d have to upload them from your computer into your gallery. Out of my 7.7% of memory space taken by images on my blog, I’d have to say most of that space is probably taken by .gifs – despite them being a tiny fraction of the number of images I’ve uploaded. They’re just enormous files.

Now, you can use the /gif block, search for your animated trash, and plug n’ chug.

Problems with that:

  • No size control. Your theme determines the size.
  • If you try to delete the block with backspace, weird crap happens.
  • CTRL-Z or Undo won’t work right on it.
  • It’s huge in the editor, so you may have to move it before you can see the “remove block” clicky bit (because, like I said, the backspace thing can be screwy).

1. Just Wait and Let It Improve

Honestly, the biggest problem with the editor is that it’s now less similar to MS Word, which is still the absolute gold-standard for what people learn to use as a word processor. Even if Gutenberg will be better (which I am not holding my breath for), it’s not part of our typical mindsets yet. That makes it hard to wrap around. That being said, I think it’s not just in our heads and genuinely needs improvement.

People are out there lobbying on forums to get the Gutenberg team to change things to a more understandable and useful format. The easily broken shortcuts, shortened text editing bar, changes to the coding method, and compression of Classic posts in the mobile app are real issues among a thousand real issues. As of this post, the Gutenberg editor has over 2,000 1-star reviews, an overall rating of 2 stars, and a slew of vitriol in the written comments. Things will probably change because WordPress is, ultimately, a product. You have to keep your product competitive, and time will tell if these new changes actually help or hurt the site.

Personally, I find the new editor just enough of a pain that I don’t spend nearly as much time on the blogosphere as I used to. I can feel myself drifting off because making a post is just no longer fun. User engagement is one of those statistics WordPress will be measuring – so don’t feel bad if you’re slower now, either.

Only time will tell what happens next.

Do you have any quick tips? Any complaints about the new editor? We can have a secret pow-wow in the comments where we spew all sorts of polluted words concerning this monster! Bring it!

Time’s Running Out! “If I Only Had No Heart” is Going Away SOON

If I Only had No Heart is Heading to The Vault!

If I Only Had No Heart_Small

The 2016 If I Only Had No Heart was written for a National Novel Writing Month and follows one of the most unique ideas I’ve ever had. It’s a bloody sword-and-sorcery fantasy focused on an awakened machine main character. And, what’s more, it’s currently available for free on the blog.

Quick summary to tease them tastebuds:

Spirit, an acolyte of the machine goddess, performs her duties well and still yet absorbs much torment from her superiors. Thought to be a viral creation, the android is banned from speaking with the goddess until, one day, her friend Klavdiya hands her a prayer card. Spirit hopes that the prayer card will bring her peace, but the goddess has other ideas…

However, this book won’t be free for long! Next week, the Free, Downloadable PDF of If I Only Had No Heart is going away for an unspecified amount of time (maybe even forever), so you’ll need to get it NOW if you want to read it.

Why Am I Doing This?

Though I can attest that the story itself is extremely unique and follows an intriguing plot, it hasn’t been edited quite as well as something I would like to have self or traditionally published for money. In an effort to either show only my best work, I’m taking down all serially posted novels on my website. Evolution of the Predator is already a couple months into the removal process, so get into this one while you have the chance!

Don’t Let the Vault Swallow This Quietly!

Go to the If I Only Had No Heart home page and either read each post (removal dates posted on each chapter) or download the PDF while they last.

Are there any online serials you’ve enjoyed reading? Let me know in the comments!

Cheers and happy reading!

Time’s Running Out! “Evolution of the Predator” is Going Away SOON

UPDATE 30 May 2020: This has been updated to account for the takedown of the book.

Evolution of the Predator is Heading to The Vault!

The Evolution of the Predator

The 2015 Evolution of the Predator was written during a National Novel Writing Month and follows an idea I’d had for quite some time. It’s a quaint survival science fiction currently available for free on the blog.

Antoinette crash lands on the planet Osmina, home to a xenophobic species still in an early, tribal phase of development. In order to uphold Earth’s directive to remain as uninvolved as possible with alien life, she tries to remain hidden and survive for the two years before a rescue party will arrive. A curious elder cast out of its nomadic tribe throws a wrench in her plans and efforts, pitting Antoinette’s conscience against her duty.

However, this book won’t be free for long! Next week, the Free, Downloadable PDF of Evolution of the Predator is going away for an unspecified amount of time (maybe even forever), so you’ll need to get it NOW if you want to read it.

Why Am I Doing This?

Though I can attest that the story itself is pretty interesting, especially if you’re into heady, quiet sci-fi, it hasn’t been edited quite as well as something I would like to have self or traditionally published. In an effort to either show only my best work or participate with the community, I’m taking down all serially posted novels on my website, starting with Evolution of the Predator.

Don’t Let the Vault Swallow This Quietly!

Go to the Evolution of the Predator home page and either read each post (removal dates posted on each chapter) or download the PDF while they last.

Have you posted any work serially? Leave a comment below so that I or other readers can check out the story! I understand from experience how hard it is to do a serial because readers who don’t start when you post part one are rarely going to head to the beginning and churn through the rest. How did you keep your serial going?

Cheers and happy reading!

May 2020 Author Newsletter

Hello there, Friends and Stuff! I’m excited to enter a new month and bring you some new and brilliant updates!

Dark Divinations – A Victorian Horror Anthology

DarkDivBanner Dark Divinations Horror Addicts

First, Dark Divinations debuted on May 1st. You can order it now in paperback on Amazon. If you want to get the party pack, you can still get that here! Later this month, I’ll be posting updates about some special videos going up on Facebook… you’ll want to get in on that for sure!

Open Novella Contest

Whaaaat!? I made it through Round 2 of the contest? I couldn’t believe it. My novella, a 25,000-word story about a gay WWII pilot who crashes and washes up on an island reminiscent of Dante’s Inferno, actually had enough score to make it through. You can find the novella here if you’re interested.

Our Lady of Perdition

Do I think it will win? Hell no. It’s the most artsy-fartsy thing I’ve written in my entire life, and it seems like Wattpad is more interested in YA-focused romantic fantasies or something a bit more… commercial. But the fact I’ve made it through round 2 is really pleasing, because it means the story’s well written enough to make it through despite sounding like it was written by a person totally not in Wattpad’s primary audience.

Changes on the Blog

You’ll notice a few (somewhat unfortunate) changes on the blog. Let’s start with the good and move our way to the bad!

Home Page Updates

My home page has been updated – now it’s easier to find the How-To articles by clicking on the Witty Nib Writing Club. There’s also a new blog-roll going where you can access recent posts more easily.

Expect New Graphics in June

I’m preparing for a few big changes that will go up in June and will reflect some of the things associated with the Dark Divinations anthology. If you stick around and watch the video watch party on Facebook, you may be surprised to see an interesting face and hear a terrible voice! To go along with these revelations, my avatar and a few other pieces of the website will be changing.

Witty Nib Writing Club Changes

06092019 Writing Club witty nibSadly, the prompts and attempts at collaboration with the Club didn’t quite turn out. I’m ever grateful to Robbie Cheadle for her response to the research prompt, but I think among the corner of blogs I survey, there’s a plentitude of prompts. As a result, the Witty Nib Writing Club will change from a monthly prompt and informative post to a monthly informative post alone. You can still join in the club using the comments, but I thought it’s time to retire the club. Maybe I’ll start something easier up in the future!

More Professional Foci

Something I’ve realized in the past few months – while I’ve not had a real job – is that blogging, sadly, doesn’t further professional writing credentials. It does help me meet new people who I love to follow, obtain new info about upcoming releases, and fulfill a long-term audience goal, but it takes up so much time. So much. I’ve decided to reduce the time spent on my blog in order to attempt more short story submissions, perhaps consider doing a poetry submission, and finish my newest novel.

Sadly, I’m probably not going to be reading as many blogs or be quite as responsive. I’ll give it my best shot, but that’s all I can promise!

I’ll also be (at least temporarily) closed to beta reading requests, and any book review requests (while still open) will not be completed for quite some time.

Speaking of Novels…

I’ve got several novels up on the blog: American Chimera, If I Only Had No Heart, and Evolution of the Predator. You can click on each of these links to see their representative pages. However, these links aren’t going to work forever. No – I’m going to be taking my novels down, one at a time, starting at the end of the month with Evolution of the Predator. I was pretty torn when making this decision, but ultimately I think it needs to happen.

The reason for this decision is because they’re second drafts, beta read only by my partner, and they’re not representative of my best work. Because I seek to present a higher level of professionalism, I’m taking the oldest work – Evolution of the Predator – down first because it represents that which was written at my least mature point. That will start at the end of this month, May 2020.

It’s Not Too Late to Catch These Novels!

Nope! Until May 30th, all novels will be available for download. You should head to their pages and download the PDF files if you want to save them for later reading.

Evolution of the Predator

On May 23rd, 2020, I’ll have a reminder post telling about the imminent takedown of the novel. On May 30th, 2020, the downloadable PDF of Evolution of the Predator will be taken down from the Evolution of the Predator page. Starting on June 6th, I will take the post containing the first chapter down. Following that, one chapter will be taken down per week (as long as I don’t forget – but I’ll handle it as soon as I can). They’ll be removed in order from first chapter to last with the hopes that potential readers will be able to read one chapter per week without losing access (though I will probably email you chapters if you ask nicely). The page already lists the dates I plan to take down each chapter. The page and entire story will be gone on November 14th, 2020. All links to it on the site will be broken, though I will attempt to remove links by hand as I can.

If I Only Had No Heart

On July 18th, 2020, I will post a reminder that If I Only Had No Heart will be ending soon. On July 25th, 2020, the PDF will be removed from the If I Only Had No Heart page. On August 8th, the first chapter will be removed. One chapter will removed per week after, starting with the first chapter and ending with the last chapter. The page and entire story will be gone on November 14th, 2020. All links to it on the site will be broken, though I will attempt to remove links by hand as I can.

American Chimera

Don’t worry about this baby for now! I’m still posting this one serially, and she won’t be finished posting until December 2020. It’s also a pretty good little book, just needs some editing. However, I will be taking it down sometime in 2021 (not yet planned fully), so catch it while you can!

What About You?

Do you have any cool new things going on in May? Any excellent accomplishments in April? I’d love to hear about them to celebrate and/or commiserate with you! Cheers!

Video Game Review: Disco Elysium

I don’t do many video game reviews, just reviews of games that I think have a great story and might be relevant to a story-writing, book-reading blog.

And this one. This one.

Disco Elysium is a miracle of an indie game produced by ZA/UM.  It’s usually $39.99 on Steam, and it’s worth every single penny. It’s unlikely to go on sale anytime soon, as it came out in 2019 and is racking up award after award.

You don’t need to read further if you don’t want. This game is amazing. But it needs more disco.

disco elysium 2020 reviews video game

Non-Spoiler Review

Traditional gamers who are into shooters or platformers exclusively probably won’t give a crap about this game. There’s absolutely no mechanics to it that require skill of any sort. The game is almost exclusively dialogue choices, interacting with objects, a lot of running, and feelings.

So what’s this game about? Well, let me show you a screen shot of how it opens.

disco elysium start image

You wake up naked in a busted hostel room, still drunk but with a hangover. You have no memories of who you are, where you are, or what you’re doing. There are voices in your head telling you what to do (each of them clearly a part of yourself).

Upon putting on clothes and exiting your room, you quickly find out that you’re a cop who was sent to investigate a lynching in the hotel’s back yard three days ago. Your primary duties were to get the body out of the tree, question important subjects, not lose your gun, and not lose your badge.

You did none of those things.

The game lets you be weird, spontaneous, and political (I went with the full-on-Ayn-Rand boner because it gave you more money).

You’ll laugh. You’ll certainly feel like an existential crisis.

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Hints and Tips

I’m not doing spoilers, per se, because that’s lame crap. This game is too good and new to spoil.

Decide Up Front about Save Scumming

This game is really easy to save scum (which means to save, try an option that is random chance, then re-load if you fail to roll well enough). The game does not punish you too much for failing rolls, so don’t be afraid if you would rather not save scum.

I did some save scumming. If I felt like it was important enough, I would save scum. A lot of people can make it through without cheating, but I had to get what I wanted, and I don’t feel bad about it.

Beg Money off of EVERYONE

You’re poor in this game. Egregiously poor. I suggest asking literally everyone for money.

Use the Phone on the Third Day

On the third day, you get access to a new area. On that new area, you’ll find an active payphone.

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Despite it being so hard to get money, USE IT ON THE PHONE. IT IS YOUR ONE TRUEST QUEST DO IT.

Make van Eyck’s Jam Harder Core

First, of course, you need to find the ravers in a tent and do their quest, but then you need to find a magnetic tape in a tree and give it to Egg Head. Just type in “Make van Eyck’s Jam Harder Core walkthrough” into Google and follow a let’s play, honestly. I didn’t, but I got lucky.

Put Some Points in Authority

Trust me, there’s one place in the game where you’ll want authority. It doesn’t need to be your primary stat, but you should have a few – it gets clutch…

Prepare for Existential Crisis

Yes. Prepare.

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Blogger Recognition Award

I would like to thank Colleen Chesebro of Word Craft for nominating me for this award/game. If you’d like to read her very sweet and awesome responses, you can do so here! I really do enjoy these sorts of games, so anyone who wants to tag me in this sort of thing can do so.

If I nominate/tag you and you want to participate in the game, here’s the rules:

  • Thank the blogger(s) who nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  • Write a post to show your award.
  • Give a brief story of how your blog started.
  • Give two pieces of advice to new bloggers.
  • Select up to fifteen bloggers you want to give this award to. (No response required).
  • Comment (or pingback) on each blog to let them know that you’ve nominated them and provide a link to the post you’ve created.

It won’t hurt my feelings if you don’t want to participate! If you’re here reading, though, it’d be great if you could choose one or two blog posts tagged at the end of this.

How Did I Start My Blog?

I actually started the blog in 2013 with the short story Waiting for Company. It was a Southern Gothic horror based strongly on my grandmother, and it’s so bad. So, so bad. You can read it if you want to know how far I’ve come. I then published several more shorts, then the short novels Evolution of the Predator and If I Only Had No Heart, both of which you can download as a PDF by clicking on the links. All during this time, though, I wasn’t very serious; the blog was mostly a place where I could leave stories, have a link, and email that link to my mom so she could read them.

Then, in January 2018, she told me she’d never clicked on a single link I’d sent. She’d never read a single story and didn’t have plans to, no matter how many I sent.

That was about the time If I Only Had No Heart went up. I was pretty depressed after my mom said that, so I decided to see what blogging was really about and start connecting with other people.

Speaking of Connecting…

My first piece of advice to new bloggers is to connect with other bloggers. You never know who is going to come up with something so creative and helpful that you must love it.

What’s hard about getting into that mode is the time it takes to build these connections. Yes, it will entail reading and commenting on other blogs. Yes, it will mean paying attention to other people. But the payoff in friendship and camaraderie was worth it for me.

Decide What is “Worth It”

So it was worth it for me.

But it might not be worth it for you.

You can only do so much social media before your ability to function explodes. Blogging, while my favorite social media, does take up quite a bit of time. So, if you decide to blog, come up with a goal for it. Is it to have 5,000 followers in a month (lol, good luck)? Is it to sell your books? Is it to meet other people and learn about your craft? It doesn’t matter what you want out of it so much as understanding what is possible and understanding if the effort you need to put in is worth the reward.

If it’s not worth it? Don’t be afraid to quit. Your blog will be here if you want to come back later.

Some Excellent Posts to Read

I’m behind on my reading, but here’s a few posts you’ll want to see by authors you’ll want to follow. Technically, this is the “nomination/tag” section, but once again I’d like to say that no one I’ve tagged has to continue this, no do they have to like or comment or any of that jazz.

  • Kevin Parish’s Daddy – An absolutely heartbreaking poem. I’ve long had a terrible relationship with my dad, and this one got to me because of the goodness and strength of the titular father.
  • Chelsea Owens’s A Starving Writing Muse – A clever piece about writing, recent motherhood, and toilet humor, I enjoyed reading this piece quite a lot. Chelsea’s hilarious and fun to follow.
  • Joanne Fisher’s Gnome Help – Cute as fuck flash fiction that made me feel cozy to read. She often has great poetry and flash, and many of her love stories are lesbian, which can offer you a fresh perspective to read about.
  • Charli Mills’s Carrot Ranch Writing Prompts – In addition to Colleen’s Tanka Tuesday prompts (Colleen nominated me), the Carrot Ranch is a great community to join. Check out the most recent prompt and consider joining yourself!
  • Aak Fictionspawn’s Crystal Clear – Honestly you guys, I need more people to read this and solve the riddle. I think I was close.
  • Crispina Kemp’s Raised Against Us – This was such a poignant story. I thought the twist was really good. As well, check out her Crimson’s Creative Challenge writing prompt!
  • Lorraine Ambers’s Blogging, Social Media, and Marketing Tips – Lorraine is one of those great bloggers who gives out good advice articles. I always look forward to her tips and tricks.
  • Alexander Eliot’s Dragon Series – A long ongoing series with a great Mid-Grade or YA feel. Tackles some more difficult subjects along the way and has great monster building.
  • Violet Lentz’s Stories of the Forgotten – Violet’s stories always have an intensity to them that you just don’t get with other blogs. This one will hit you in the feels like a bus.
  • Ari Meghlen’s Should You Plan Out Your Whole Year? – Ari Meghlen’s blog is great because she makes her life story and brand so exciting. I love watching how she chooses to do things and trying to figure out how she makes it look so cool.
  • Jules’s Gnawing Chills – A great poem about squirrels that I think will give you some good feelings.
  • Hannah Russell’s Reading Games – I love following this blog because it keeps me inspired to read more. I think it’s done more to make me want to read than any other set of reviews.
  • tnkerr’s Midriff Culture – I thought this one was pretty funny, if a bit risque and a wee bit old-school. A great blog to follow for occasional flashes and fun times!
  • D. Wallace Peach’s blog – I can’t pick out a post, but I love Peach’s work. Everything she writes is fantastic, and you should follow her. Also has great indie book reviews. Didn’t link to a post because they’ve probably been nominated.
  • Sue Vincent’s blog – another blog with a ton of great posts. I especially like her Midnight Haiku series. Didn’t link to a post because they’ve probably been nominated before.
  • Roberta Cheadle’s blog – Fantastic reviews and responses to prompts. I know for certain they’ve been tagged in this game, so I didn’t link to a post.

So, there you have it! Please check out some of the suggested content and start conversations with someone new!

Also, sorry for forgetting the title, for those of you who get the email updates… 😦

H.R.R. Gorman’s Author Newsletter – July 2019

I took things a little slower in July. Even so, I got a few things accomplished that I’m really proud of, and I wanted to talk about them here and hint to things coming.

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Short Story Submissions

I hate this part of author life. God knows I do. I did three (maybe four) last month, and my goal was to get three this month. Well, I wrote three stories, but I only got two submitted because I have no idea where to submit the third one. If you know of a place to submit weird alien stories, let me know.

Still no “yes” from anyone. Hopeful about some of the June ones, but not really expecting anything at this point.

Dark Divinations

I submitted a story to Dark Divinations. The prompt was a Victorian era horror about divining the future. Since my cultural background was highly influenced by events in the Victorian era, I took an Appalachian approach to it – and I hope they like it!

Mysterion

This magazine publishes Christian stories in interesting contexts. I decided to try a sci-fi story because I bet they get way more fantasy. I hope to stand out, and perhaps that will give me an edge! I also think religiously inspired sci fi is WAY too rare, so this is right up my alley.

An Unexpected Success!

Last year at about this time, I decided that I needed to discover what people liked about poetry. I needed to know what someone meant when they said a passage was “poetic.” I believed that the understanding of poetry would improve my prose if nothing else, and I looked for ways to learn it.

One of my favorite poetry teachers is Colleen Chesebro. Her weekly micropoetry prompt/contest is chock full of excellent hints, tips, and – most importantly – feedback. Even if she must leave a quiet comment one week, I can still look at who she chose as the winner and try to divine why it was considered the best. I can’t imagine how much work she must do to curate such a fantastic contest.

Anyway, I was stunned to find out I’d been chosen as Poet of the Week on July 22nd! My poem, The Woman at 106, was written for Colleen’s first ever photo prompt. What an honor! I am very pleased that my dedication to learning a new craft is showing fruit.

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Camp NaNoWriMo

This was my first month of Camp, and I… succeeded?

Basically, what I learned was that I should have dedicated a number of hours to writing rather than a number of words written/edited. Because I tend to go backwards on word count when I edit, I could NEVER reach my goal. However, I think I reached my goal in spirit, so I think that counts a lot.

Will I do Camp again? I’m not sure. I didn’t find it all that much different from a normal month, save for an additional obligation and a few extra cheerleaders. I’ll think about it!

Blog Recap

I stayed pretty on par this month with my June month, and for right now this feels more sustainable than my “post every day” schedule. Sadly, there wasn’t a late-July Carrot Ranch prompt, but hopefully y’all didn’t hate that blank spot! I did a lot of prep for later months, though, and I think I’ve come up with some great surprises for the beginning of 2020 (no promises, though! I need to make sure I have enough material to actually do it justice). I’ve also nearly gotten all my 2019 reading done (1.75 books away)!

Here’s a few of my favorite blog posts from the month:

Some Things from Real Life

This month has been full of IRL things. I went on vacation (day trip one weekend to Battleship North Carolina), worked a LOT (good Lord), and had to go help my mom when she came down with gout.

Aaand because of the gout, my mom is now convinced it’s time to retire, and I could be looking at her showing up at my door any day now ready to move in. She doesn’t really plan things out sometimes, so she could come unannounced. I love my mom, and I do think she should come live at our house at least until she sells her own house (which is 3 hours away), but I also don’t really want to share it long-term right yet. Am I selfish? I feel like I am. I’m also worried that she hasn’t saved up enough for retirement, and I’m not old enough to have that much savings built up (I’m not 30 yet – I have old parents, in case you’re wondering about that).

Anyway, I hope I’ve done right by my mom, but I worry I’ve not.

H.R.R. Gorman’s Author Newsletter – June 2019

June was a big month for me.  I wanted to share with y’all a few things that I’ve done and maybe get out some hints as to what’s coming next.

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Short Story Submissions

If you remember back in May, I decided to submit a short story somewhere in order to start feeling better about getting rejections.  I sent a story to a quick turnaround journal and, of course, got rejection #1, just like almost everyone.

This month, I wanted to do a few more submissions, so here’s what I did:giphy-2

Chew On This Anthology*

I submitted a short story to a horror anthology about eating scary things.  It’s southern gothic and all kinds of weird.  I hope the editor for this anthology likes the more psychological, Twilight-Zone style of horror.

*Also, this was submitted in May but I’m not sure if I told everyone here.

Three-Lobed Burning Eye Magazine

A weird looking magazine seeking weird-sounding fiction.  I submitted my short story “Disco Demolition Night” because I think it’s basically gold but, unfortunately, is in a really weird genre.  If you have ideas for what to do with historical fantasy, let me know!  I write too much of it for my own good.

Across the Universe Beatles Spec Fic

Like I said above, I write too much alternate history or historical fantasy for my own good.  This anthology specifically wanted a story about the Beatles, and I had an idea that I hoped they’d like.  Well, it was rejected fairly quickly, so you’ll be seeing it on the blog soon because I genuinely don’t think a Beatles themed fanfic will see much success elsewhere!

Jolly Horror

Jolly Horror is making a horror-comedy anthology about cursed items. I wrote a story  and submitted that.  I really enjoyed the little tale, so we’ll see what the editors think.  It’s still historical fantasy, le sigh.

Blog Recap

This month on the blog, I slowed things down.  This will probably be the pace here for a while, because it’s more manageable.  Hopefully the reduced post-load will give me time to develop more professional outlets like publishing short stories or finishing new long works.

Here’s a few of my most popular posts from the month you can check out!

Some Things from Real Life

Well, I’ve kept writing things other than the blog – and, since I decided to do fewer posts this month, I used my time well!  I finished the novel I’ve had in my wheelhouse for quite some time.  It’s not ready for alpha readers (I want to have a swing at editing it myself first), but hopefully at the end of July I’ll put it out there for people to take a peek at.  It may be the craziest thing I’ve ever written.

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As well, I finished what I believe are the last edits of The Mercury Dimension.  When I feel confident enough and have a short story credit or two to my name, I plan on querying with it.

What are some things you’ve done this month?  Let me know in the comments!  Maybe we can commiserate about the writing life or trade an alpha read! I’ll tell you about the story I finished, American Chimera, if you’re interested.

Changing Things Up for June

Hello everyone!

I’m making some blog changes that I hope you’ll enjoy. If you check any of them out, feel free to tell me what you think!

Better Home Page

I’ve been thinking about my home page.  Sometimes people visit it, but from the stats I gather people don’t think it’s useful.

So look forward to a new home page with better links that will get you into the community quicker.  It should be friendlier to new visitors, and it should give some handy links to experienced users!

New Schedule

I’ve followed my schedule pretty well since January when I invented it.  The blog has also continued to grow since then, and I’m excited to see people joining in the conversation!

However, as more people follow and comment on the blog, I’ve realized it takes more time to respond to comments and seek out other people’s work. In fact, I haven’t found a new blogger (and I mean brand spanking new blogger, not just new to me) in months!  That’s got to be remedied.

In order to better look at other blogs, I’m cutting out my Wednesday ‘Random Prompt’ response.  I’ll continue to do Monday Book Reviews, Tanka Tuesday, Friday Carrot Ranch, and Saturday Weekend Writing Prompt. #CountVlad will show up on some Sundays, and on Thursdays I will do some of the monthly prompts. Hopefully this will cut back on my spam, help me make better articles for you, and leave me more time to focus on community building.

New Branding

One of my favorite looking blog websites is Ari Meghlen’s.  She has consistent logos, branding, and styles.  As I venture out into more professional writing types and styles, I hope to convey that through my blog/website’s appearance.

In order to do this myself, I’ve created my own logo – you’ll be seeing that around!

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(And, one day, I might get a paid blog which won’t have the ads! That will help with ‘branding’ and seeming professional.)

New Theme

I’ve used the Lovecraftian theme on WordPress up to now.  Starting today, I will be moving to the Sela theme.  This will allow me to have a better static front page, show my logo more prominently, and have streamlined posts.

New Widgets

I’m finally at a point on Twitter where I don’t feel like a complete loser (just mostly a loser!).  You’ll see Twitter widgets, revamped community widgets, and a few other interesting do-hickeys!

Look for these whimmijigs:

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Link straight to my prompts page, which I intermittently update.  Jump into a fun corner of the writing community to get started, or find a new way to participate.

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This will link to my writing page, where you can look at short stories, poems, and flash fiction.

20190529 Hone Your Skills

I have tons of writing resources that I think are pretty good, especially that list of helpful websites and software.  As I venture into a more publishing mindset and learn how to navigate that space, I hope to add information and sites that you might find useful.