Friday, September 15, 2017

First Draft Friday: Consumption Divine, Chapter 3

First Draft Friday is a more or less regular series where I share my parts of my first draft, usually whatever I am working on at the time. General writing advice tells us to keep our first drafts for ourselves, they are always horrible. I want to share my first draft and so I do. Maybe it can inspire other writers who think their drafts are too horrible to ever see the light of day but mostly I think it keeps me writing.

 Consumption Divine is the story I've been writing since the very beginning. Before that I was thinking about it. More than 25 years. I've written so many first draft versions, it's ridiculous. Currently, there are over 100,000 words written in this project. None of it is cohesive, complete, or very much usable. A lot of it is repetitive. I've given up on it many times but I literally feel haunted by it. I can't stop trying to write it but I also can't seem to write it right. I'm trying again. I'm trying for the last time. If I can't write it now, I have to give up. I can't keep writing something if it is impossible. So, this is the last first draft of Consumption Divine.

Read past posts: Chapter One. Chapter Two.

Consumption Divine
first draft, incomplete,  1,850 words
Stephanie Thompson

Chapter Three
15 years later

“The work of Specialist Voss has been commendable but her main knowledge as an asset was meant to be for capturing our primary target, William Lapointe, who remains at large. His network, the cults and supporters, have been hunted to point of irrelevance and yet, somehow he remains free.”

 “After 25 years, it’s questionable if she has any actionable intel left.” “And without capturing Lapointe, her allegiance is still questionable.”

Chrystal was in the room, she was in the meeting, but she wasn’t an active participant. Nothing she said would make a difference. Gareth, High Councilman Petran, Major Simmons, and Sergeant Major West were talking about the operation and she was an inanimate part of it. Was it viable still? Was the task force necessary? Should it be scraped for a more on the ground, intelligence gathering effort? She was the it. Even her assigned rank was meaningless.

“As the targets decrease, the pressure on Lapointe increases and our efforts are more focused. He has killed every intelligence agent before they can get close enough to be useful. Specialist Voss is the best option not only for tracking him from HQ but also if we were to send a double agent after him, she’d be the best choice then too,” West said.

“Absolutely not.”

“That’s out of the question.”

“Under no circumstances should those two be anywhere near each other.”

The other three spoke simultaneously and definitively.

Chrystal stifled a laugh.

“Something to add, Specialist Voss?” Gareth’s digitized image asked.

“Will wouldn’t trust me either. He would kill me on sight.” She didn’t bother stopping her laughter this time. “Then nothing would stand in his way of coming after all of you.”

“That sounds like a threat, Ms. Voss,” said High Councilman Petran, also present in digital form, only a voice in his case.

“It’s the truth. He had one mission in life, then I left. Now he only wants vengeance. Vengeance against the entire world. Only I know where he might be, no matter how slim the chance. Without me, he’d slit your throat before you even knew he was behind you.”

Simmons rolled his eyes, West hid a smile from the conferencing cameras.

“We are exactly aware of how dangerous Mr. Lapointe is and your failure to capture him keeps him a threat to us. You leveraged your ability to find him against your freedom but perhaps it’s time to try extraction again.” Petran was worse than Gareth in his obvious disgust, distrust, and hate of her.

“I don’t think this meeting is progressing any more. Let’s go away, make some concrete deadlines and achievable goals and action plans to meet those and schedule another meeting for the next month,” West said.

“Good point, Sergeant Major, we will stay the course for now and reconvene with actionable ideas for next time,” said Simmons.

“Fine,” Gareth said.

After a long pause, Petran added “One month, gentlemen.”

The call finished. The lights came on.

Col. Simmons stood up. West followed suit.

“Results you two. Something big. Or you’ll get reassigned, West, and . . . who knows where you’ll go, Voss,” he said.

He left.

“What do you want to do next, partner?” West said, sitting back in his seat.

Chrystal didn’t look at him. She stared at the table. She was very, very tired.

“We’re not partners,” she said. “And we’re going to find him.”

She left the conference room. West was a few steps behind her. “We’ve been trying to catch him. Do you have a new approach? New intel?”

They walked through grey carpeted halls, around other soldiers having their own walk and talks., around corner after corner, like a low-bid indoor maze.

“There’s no new intel to have. He hasn’t been in contact with anyone for years. Even the sightings have stopped.”

“Then you have a plan?”

Chrystal typed the entrance code on the touchpad, provided her thumbprint, and her retina scan for entrance to the task force’s HQ.

“My plan is to burn his havens to the ground, then salt the ground before I leave it. Give him no place to go but where I want him to be”

The office was empty, the three walls of screens and smaller banks of screens throughout the room were dark. Everyone had gone home for the day, she and West were staying late for the meeting.

“We’ve staked out every one of his hiding spots.”

“Then we’ll do it again.”

She put a map of Europe on one wall, South America on the other, and North America in the center. She remembered the cross-country and around the world trips, for pleasure, for business, for running, for hiding. The hotels, the first-class tickets, the luxury apartments, the train rides, the buses, the caves. There were so many places. His favorites. Her favorites. Could she have forgotten one?

“I know I haven’t worked this case as long as you, or even Simmons, but we are partners.” West watched her, not the maps.

“No. I’m an asset, you’re one of my handlers. I don’t get promoted, I don’t get commendations, I don’t get credit, I don’t get status. My name is not on any reports, only in them. There’s nothing you can do to protect me or have my back. We’re not partners.”

“You’ve worked with Simmons for a long time, right?”

She zoomed the European map to France. William loved France the best, when was the last time they looked for him there?

“He gave me the same speech, when I started here. That you were an asset, you could only be trusted to do the work, and not have my back like a human would, like a real partner . . . and more that I won’t repeat.”

“That sounds about right. I don’t trust myself. You’d be a fool to trust me. We work together, that’s it.”

“You might be stubborn about this but so am I. I don’t work the way Simmons does, I don’t think the way Simmons does. I trust you with my life, I have to, we’re both. I would go into the field with you and support you anyway I could.”

She started to say something, then shook her head and said something else. “We’re starting from the beginning, in France at sunset tonight. We’ll have to have an earlier start." She pulled the international clocks and sunset times to the center screens. “Have everyone back here in five hours. I’ll prep packages from home.”

“No problem, partner,” he said.

We’re not partners, she thought as she left. She walked through the building maze again, this time heading to the locker rooms for her personal effects. She still had images of the past in her mind. How many agents had she and William killed together? How many of them had partners they trusted? How many of those had they killed too? How many gave each other up to make it end?

She and Will had been partners in that endeavour, dispatching their enemies with glee. Eventually, she betrayed him. She was still betraying him. Gareth betrayed her when he negotiated her surrender. Simmons betrayed her behind her back.

She didn’t need partnership, she needed William Lapointe in shackles.

At home, Chrystal didn’t sleep. She didn’t sleep much these days at all. Her nightmares were unbearable. Even if she could get a few hours, they would be restless and futile.

Instead she worked.

Since she didn’t entertain, her combined dining and living room was her taskforce office at home. It wasn’t as high-tech as the military base, it wasn’t high-tech at all. She had her old diaries in paper, the Council records of William’s exploits, of their combined exploits, and their allies information all on paper, bound in portfolios, filling two bookcases.

There were two corkboards and one whiteboard, tacked with paper and post-it notes. On her desk, which was once a dining room table, were stacks of map references, the one used for their last failed operation was opened to Brazil.

She pulled down the files on Will’s early life, carefully chose the diaries where she wrote about their times in France and when Will talked about his life. She closed the map of Brazil and opened the one for France. She set her secure tablet in a dock and the keyboard was projected onto the tabletop.

The first thing she had to do was set the new security protocols for the French government. She and William were classified as terrorists, therefore they had to raise border and travel security and scrutinize the network activities and communications. Facial recognition software would be scanning every inch of CCTV and DNA scans for every traveler. They needed special op teams briefed and at the ready for targeted location searches and geographical sweeps. All suspicious activity and gathered data would be tagged and sent back to the task force for their analysis.

Then she needed to warn surrounding countries to be on heightened alert. They would be next in her search, for now their borders too would need to be more secure.

Next she would need to prepare the materials for her team. Most of them didn’t know the details of William’s past, only his physical description, aliases, and what he was wanted for. They needed to be as informed as she was on the details. Maybe they would see something she’d missed, though she doubted it.

She knew William as well as she knew herself, better than she knew anyone, better than anyone else could know him. But maybe that was why she couldn’t find him because he knew her too and despite the time and infidelity she was still too close to him. Maybe the team had to know what she knew because their objective view may offer something she didn’t have.

Finally she typed out her strategy. Every place that was happy for William was in France and so too was the stronghold of his enemy, the Council, so most likely he would be there. He had been born --someplace--, his mother’s people were from --someplace else--, and though he hated his father his people had some connection to --anotherplace--. He, his wife, and his son had lived in --somedistrict-- of Paris and the wife and child were buried --here-- then moved --there--, both places were sacred to him. The Council had many buildings, schools, and manors throughout Paris as well.

These would be her main focus.The most likely places he would go to lick his wounds or launch his next attack. Her two secondary focuses would be --wherever that temple is-- and her immediate surrounding area because these seemed like the least likely places he would be but Will was nothing if not audacious in his self-confidence, consistent in underestimating her, and predictably blinded by rage and revenge. She wouldn’t be surprised at all if they caught him because he was too busy ripping her throat out to hear the approach of a special operations team.

That would be a satisfying too. At least then it would be over for one of them.

Thanks for Reading!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

What the hell am I Doing with my Life?

Lately, I've been staring at a lot of this . . .

Just looking.

Staring only, not much writing. Trying to write. Struggling to write. But hating everything I do write and creating barely nothing at all.

It's been a very tough week or so.

I've been asking a lot "What the hell am I doing with my life?"

A large part of my current struggle and questions has come from a recent change in medication. Switching from amitryptiline to sertraline. I was reluctant to make the switch but I have already seen a lot of results from the change, so it is promising. At the same time, adjusting to the change hasn't been easy. As chemicals rebalance in my brain, I've experienced a lot of highs and a lot of lows.

The highs come with laughing and silliness that on the outside seem like a good fun time but on the inside feel like a loss of control and hysteria. The lows come with dark violent thoughts that make me feel like I'm not safe with my self. I'm scared to write about this part because I haven't said it out loud to anyone yet. I've hinted at it, I've joked about it but I haven't made it clear how strange this all feels. How scary it is. How insane it feels. I feel like my brain is unraveling.

I've been adjusting for a month. According to . . . everything, there's another month left before I can know for sure if sertraline is right for me. In the meantime, I'm trying not lose whatever grip I have on a sort of normal and put together life. I keep asking myself "What the fuck am I doing with my life?"

Two weeks ago I was writing. I was writing constantly. I couldn't stop writing. Well, I couldn't stop writing my novel. Thing is, I don't get paid to write my novel. I get paid to write articles and I wasn't doing that. I couldn't do that. When I tried to write an article, I instead ended up doing everything else that came into my mind after staring at a blank screen for an hour.

Suddenly have to get damn serious about Instagram photo challenges? Let's take a million photos and disarrange the house for photo shoots. Need to rethink my social media presence on every single platform? Let's fuck around on Twitter until one in the morning. Urgently have to investigate a possible yeast allergy? Let's try to make sense of conflicting medical advice on the internet.

Don't worry that writing articles for money is precarious at the best of times. Don't worry that this is such a perfect opportunity and you're completely fucking it up. Don't worry that if you keep burning bridges you're going to end up on this sinking island alone with no way out when you start drowning.

What the fucking hell am I doing with my life?

Predictably, repeatedly asking yourself this question leads to an existential crisis. And it's really difficult to write when you're having an existential crisis. Unless, of course, you're writing about the crisis.

But it's not helpful when you're trying to write anything else. Not helpful for articles. Especially not helpful for novels. When you tell yourself that writing the novel will mean I don't have to write the articles because the novel will get me a lot of money or at least some money one day in the future so just write the novel because the novel is all meaning and all life and everything will make sense if you just write the fucking novel right fucking now.

So that's my problem.

Here's my solution.

Well, not my solution. V. E. Schwab's solution. Because fucking around on Twitter miraculously paid off when she recently retweeted something she tweeted the very day I made the switch to sertraline:

I'm not writing a novel. I'm writing a line. One line. Barring that, a word. Just a single word at a time. Not the perfect word, just word. Then another word. Then a few more.

While we're at it, the articles are just one word at a time too.

And life. Life is the same way. I'm not doing something with my whole life right now. I'm doing something with this day, with this hour, with this minute.

In this minute, I'm writing.

Friday, September 8, 2017

First Draft Friday: Consumption Divine, Chapter 2

First Draft Friday is a more or less regular series where I share my parts of my first draft, usually whatever I am working on at the time. General writing advice tells us to keep our first drafts for ourselves, they are always horrible. I want to share my first draft and so I do. Maybe it can inspire other writers who think their drafts are too horrible to ever see the light of day but mostly I think it keeps me writing.

 Consumption Divine is the story I've been writing since the very beginning. Before that I was thinking about it. More than 25 years. I've written so many first draft versions, it's ridiculous. Currently, there are over 100,000 words written in this project. None of it is cohesive, complete, or very much usable. A lot of it is repetitive. I've given up on it many times but I literally feel haunted by it. I can't stop trying to write it but I also can't seem to write it right. I'm trying again. I'm trying for the last time. If I can't write it now, I have to give up. I can't keep writing something if it is impossible. So, this is the last first draft of Consumption Divine.

Consumption Divine
first draft, incomplete, 1,318 words
By Stephanie Thompson

Chapter Two

The meeting time didn’t come soon enough for Chrystal, who’d only gotten a little sleep, made useless by recurring nightmares. To get out of the house she went to the cafe early, ordered a coffee, and spent over an hour letting it get cold while she ripped apart beverage napkins.

There was no relief when Vik arrived. He looked happy to see her, a smile across his face, a bright spark in his chocolate eyes. She resolved that she was doing the right thing, to save this happy, decent man from pain by gently breaking his heart now.

“I’m sorry if I . . .”

“Vik, you have nothing to apologize for. You did nothing wrong, we simply want different things.”

“Oh.” It sounded like an accidental sound, like the air escaped his lungs when he realized what she was saying.

“You are so kind, and sweet, and I’m . . . not. I’m not who you think I am and I can’t give you what you want. I’m sorry that I let you think I could. It was just nice to feel like I might, for a little while.” God, she sounded like an asshole. A sad asshole but still an asshole.

He watched her intently. She didn’t know what he was looking for or what to do or say next.

“I don’t care about your past. I care about your dreams, your goals, your future,” he said in a low voice.

“It can’t be separated. I’m not completely divorced from the things that have happened to me, the things that I’ve done, nobody can be. My future is linked inextricably to my past, forever. And you could never know it and love me.”

“You don’t know that.”

“No reasonable person could.”

She didn’t know what was left to say. She wasn’t going to convince him. She didn't know if she was trying to. Maybe she just wanted understanding. Maybe it would be easier to leave if he would agree. For now she felt stuck there like she was made marble, too heavy to move.

“Simmons showed me your file.”


“Before our first date.”

“That’s classified.”

“It was redacted but I got the . . . general idea.”

She closed her eyes and shook her head yet again. “I don’t . . . I don’t understand.”

She’d worked with Simmons for almost 10 years now. They had a good working relationship. They were partners. She thought he saw them as partners. Equals fighting the good fight. She thought she had a fresh start with him. He had said as much.

That was part of her disbelief.

“He warned me that you had a shady past. That you were once considered very dangerous. And I told him then that it didn’t matter.”

“Why would he even talk to you? Warn you at all?”

“We trained together. We’ve worked together off and on over the years. He’s my buddy, he’s looking out for me. Just like you.”

“You shouldn’t have seen that file. He shouldn’t have shown you.”

Her thoughts were stuck in that groove repeating it over and over. Vikter should not have seen that file, no one but Simmon needed to see it. Definitely not Vik. Even if it wasn’t true, she liked that he had clean image of her. That was part of what had been so nice. But that was just another fantasy apparently. A facade. He knew what she was the whole time.

“Chrys,” he took her hands in his. She’d started tearing up napkins again without realizing it. “You are worried that I couldn’t love you if I knew what you did but I do know and I do love you. All I’m asking is that you give yourself a chance to forgive yourself and maybe love me back.”

Those hands tried to tell her everything would be ok again but it wouldn’t be. She pulled her hands from his and put them in her lap.

“No, Vikter. I don’t deserve your love or forgiveness. No matter what you think you know, I’m far worse and. . . I have no goals, no future, and only nightmare for dreams. Live your life and forget about me.”

Then her feet remembered how to move and she left him in the cafe.

In her car, she didn’t drive this time. She was too angry. She prefered anger over the heartache, a mixture of sadness for Vik and for herself. Anger was an old friend she was happy to reconnect with. They got on like a house on fire. And right now the fire was blazing. She let the car drive, she would be too busy on the phone.

Simmons answered on the third ring. “This is unexpected. Is there a development?”

“Today is a day of unexpected information, like finding out you shared my classified file with Vikter.”

She waited through his pause for a response.

“He had clearance enough to see what was in it.”

“Really, Darryl? Really?! You think I’m this pissed over security clearance?”

“He could have looked it up himself.”

“I have earned the right to privacy, I have earned the right to a private life. You have no right to interfere with either of those things.”

“And I thought my good friend had the right to know that he was trying to date a dangerous. . . person. I’ve seen the full file, you know. You may be more valuable free than imprisoned but that doesn’t change that you’re a traitor, a murderer, and not to be trusted around . . .unsupecting humans.”

If there was something she could destroy in the car right now she would. Instead she took over manual controls and pulled over to the side of the road. It was dim outside already between the sun starting to set, and the grey clouds threatening to rain.

“One wonders how you can even trust me as a partner then,” she spoke through clenched teeth. Her skin itched for something to lash out at, to rip apart.

“You are an informant, a decent soldier, and a co-worker. We are not partners.”

She didn’t even get the satisfaction of hanging up on him as he ended the call first. She screamed. Then exited the car on the side of the road and slammed the door. She screamed again. There were no other cars on the road. She was surrounded by woods. Her voice echoed off the pavement and into the trees. A bird took to the sky.

Gareth was right. She apparently did value her self too highly. She wasn’t a partner, she couldn’t be a girlfriend, she was an informant. A traitor. A murderer. Outside of operations, she couldn’t remember the last time she killed something, someone.

Rain fell from the sky in heavy cold drops. Slowly, then quickly. Then more like streams and buckets than drops. She stood in it. Froze in it. Shivered. But it didn’t ease the heat in her rage and disappointment, the sadness. The itch beneath her skin that she could scratch only one way. She was going to kill something.

She stalked into the trees. She’d hunted there before. Will had taught her. Years and years ago. Before her current job, before the interrogations, before everything else. She hunted deer, goat, rabbit, wolves, transients, hikers.

She didn’t know now if she still had the skill. Dried leaves crunched underfoot, she was too loud already. Even with the rain, everything else was quieter than she.

It was always more difficult to hunt in the rain but he’d made sure she could. Hours of standing in the cold to get it right. Every other living creature had the decency to stay undercover rather than get soaked to the bone like she. But she wasn’t decent. That was the problem. She wasn’t decent and no matter how much rain washed over her, she would never been clean of the blood she’d bathed in. The blood she wished she’d let herself drown in.

Thanks for Reading!!

Friday, September 1, 2017

First Draft Friday: Consumption Divine (version 10010)

First Draft Friday is a more or less regular series where I share my parts of my first draft, usually whatever I am working on at the time. General writing advice tells us to keep our first drafts for ourselves, they are always horrible. I want to share my first draft and so I do. Maybe it can inspire other writers who think their drafts are too horrible to ever see the light of day but mostly I think it keeps me writing.

Consumption Divine is the story I've been writing since the very beginning. Before that I was thinking about it. More than 25 years. I've written so many first draft versions, it's ridiculous. Currently, there are over 100,000 words written in this project. None of it is cohesive, complete, or very much usable. A lot of it is repetitive. I've given up on it many times but I literally feel haunted by it. I can't stop trying to write it but I also can't seem to write it right. I'm trying again. I'm trying for the last time. If I can't write it now, I have to give up. I can't keep writing something if it is impossible. So, this is the last first draft of Consumption Divine.

Consumption Divine
first draft, incomplete, 1766 words
By Stephanie Thompson

She lingered outside his apartment, her hand in his. It had a heft and warmth that was comforting. Strengthening. Encouraging. Otherwise she wouldn’t be here. Otherwise she’d listen to her better judgement. But that hand made everything seem simple. Straight forward. And she didn’t want to let go. So she lingered.

“When can we do this again?” Port said.

“You’re sweet,” She said. “I had a nice time.”

 “You’re avoiding the question, again.”

“I don’t like making plans,” she said.

“I want to be sure I’ll get to see you again.”

“You’re sweet,” she said again.

She leaned in to kiss him on the cheek, what had become her standard good-bye, but he turned his head at the last moment, meeting his lips to hers. She closed her eyes and lingered.

With the second kiss, he moved closer to her. And her body awoke with a desire she hadn’t felt in a very long time.

By the fourth kiss, she had him pushed against the door, her body melting into his. His arms around her hips, her hands in his hair.

“Open it,” she said.

He fumbled with lockpad until his thumbprint unlocked the door but they never broke the kiss and feverish embrace.

The lights of his home turned on with an automatic hum as they stumbled across the threshold. She’d never been past the door before but she didn’t care to look around now. She let him lead the way again though she wanted to tear his clothes from him and have him on the floor of the entryway and comparatively he took his time. He took his jacket off and draped it on the dining table, then did the same with hers without breaking physical contact.

But they didn’t move from the spot near the door. His hands didn’t pull at her clothes or touch her bare skin. And his kisses never moved from her mouth. She didn’t know how much longer she could control her lust burning like a wildfire through her. Then he pulled away.

He took her hand again, guided her to the couch, and asked if she wanted anything to drink.

“No, Port, I don’t want anything to drink, I didn’t come in here for a drink.” She laughed. “I can go home for a drink.”

 He said nothing as he got himself a glass and filled it with water. She watched in barely hidden disbelief.

Chrystal didn’t know what to say next. What to do next. Her brain was burned out from unquenched desire.

 “Portland, I don’t. . .” “It’s just a few moments ago, you were ready to leave, didn’t even want to set a next date, then I steal a kiss and suddenly. . .”

He took a long drink from his glass. Emptying half of it and staying in the kitchen.

“I still don’t understand.”

“I mean, one minute you’re tepid, lukewarm towards me, next you’re scalding hot.”

“So you didn’t invite me back to your apartment for sex?”

 “I’ve invited you to my apartment every night since our first date. I invited you because I didn’t want our dates to end.”

“But you don’t want to have sex?”

“Chrys, I want a relationship, not casual sex.”

 She closed her eyes and shook her head. She shouldn’t have come to his door. She should’ve gotten into her car and driven home. She shouldn’t have agreed to a first date, much less a third or fifth. She opened her eyes.

“You’re right. I’m sorry. I just. . .I got carried away, I guess.”

“You don’t have to apologize. It was . . .”

“I should go. I need to go,” she said standing up.

“No, Chrys, don’t go. We can . . .”

 She had her coat back on. Her hand on the lock pad.

“No, you’re right. You want . . . and I . . .” She couldn’t say the words she needed to say. They were too final. “I can walk myself to my car,” she said instead.

 “Wait. . .”

 She was out the door and down the stairs before he could catch her. She was in the car and pulling out of the parking spot when he reached the lot. She ignored a text message from him when she was halfway home. She’d come to her senses. Stupid senses that vanished with one simple kiss. She couldn’t see Portland Kapsak any more. No matter how nice, how simple, how sweet, how reassuringly normal dating him was, it had to be over now. She would do the courtesy of telling him this in person, soon, and that would be the end of it.

Her heart was heavy when she reached her own door and used her thumb to unlock it. Her lights weren’t automatic, she preferred a light switch instead, just like she preferred driving her own car. Port liked that she was old fashioned.

She shook her head like her brain was an etch-a-sketch and she could erase her thoughts that way. She would have to stop thinking about what Port liked or didn’t like. What he had said or would say. The sooner the better.

She went to her fridge and pulled out a tall glass bottle of a red liquid. Then changed her mind and returned it to the fridge. The synthesized stuff didn’t satisfy the way the real thing did so there was no point. She was destined to remain frustrated, wanting nothing she could have.

 A lighted panel in the kitchen wall flashed on in a bright blue brilliance an instant before the digital ring of a phone filled the house. She checked the caller id and answered it with a sigh.

“You’re home late,” Gareth said. His thin face filled the screen with disapproving sternness. “I’m not on probation anymore, it shouldn’t matter to you what time I come home.”

“I know but I can’t seem to turn off this notification and since I was just about to head out for lunch, I thought I should check in so my mind could be at ease during my break. How was your date?”

 “Again, my personal life doesn’t concern you anymore. Get IT or something to turn off the notifications or whatever the hell monitoring you have and only contact me for work related reasons, please.”

 “I will take that under advisement, Ms. Voss, but in the meantime, your cooperation and compliance with any of my requests are a requirement to your continued freedoms. Your restrictive probation is over but your general probation remains in effect until the end of your sentence.”

She couldn’t look at his dark satisfaction as he scolded her anymore. She looked her hands on the counter and resisted the urge to dig her nails into the fleshy part of her palm.

“So, I’ll ask again. How was the date.”

“It was fine, Gareth.”

“And you will see him again?”

“Yes,” she answered truthfully but she didn’t give details, he wouldn’t get any more than bare minimum from her.

“Do you think that’s a good idea?”

“I don’t know, Gareth. It is what it is.”

 “You should really be putting all of you efforts into the task force. This young man of yours seems to be a distraction or there are at least a few councilors who don’t think you are putting forth your full effort, who expected greater results.”

“If it weren’t for me, there would be no progress on this task force whatsoever.”

 “Do not value yourself too highly. There are other means to extract the information we need.” She suppressed a shiver by giving into the urge to dig into her hand. She would not go back the interrogations.

“I assure you Gareth, I am giving 110 percent and whatever distraction you might think Port is, he won’t be for much longer. You can enjoy your lunch worry free.”

 “Glad to hear that,” he said with genuine cheer. He was always happiest when she was most miserable. “I will look forward to your reports later in the week then.”

Chrystal ended the call without a greeting. She took her frustration out on the faucet, hitting it hard and knocking it loose. The kitchen panel lit up again. A problem has been detected with the kitchen plumbing. Would you like a message to be sent to a plumber? She selected no and left the kitchen, turning the light off on her way out.

She got ready for bed early even though she didn't’ feel like going to bed. But she didn’t feel like doing anything else either. Plus, there was also nothing else for her to do.

Gareth had been right about one thing, Port was a distraction. A distraction from the boring, mind numbing repetitiveness of her life. She worked, she came home. She did nothing else. She saw no one else. She went nowhere else. Port was a dalliance. A game almost. How close could she get without getting too close? How far could she court disaster before pulling back from real danger?

It was an unfair game. She realized that now. Port had been nothing but straightforward and honest about what he wanted from the beginning. She had been full of vagaries and avoidances. She went on that first date out of morbid curiosity and with that satiated she should have politely refused the second date. But it didn’t matter now. In all fairness, she couldn’t continue. If she valued their lives, his life, she couldn’t not allow herself to go any further with Port.

In bed, she looked at the message she ignored earlier. Please, let’s talk about this. You don’t need to be embarrassed.

She responded. I’m not embarrassed. 

His response was so quick it was obvious he’d been waiting by the phone (nope this is dumb) I don’t understand why you had to rush away. 

She didn’t respond right away because she couldn’t think of something to say that didn’t sound like she was breaking up with him through text and she didn’t want to do that.

I want you too, you know? But I want emotional intimacy first. 

Again, she had no response.

This isn’t easy for me either.

Finally she wrote back. Can we meet again tomorrow? To talk in person?

Of course.

They set a time and said good night. But Chrystal lay in bed with her eyes wide open unable to fall asleep for hours afterwards. Thinking of the future. Thinking of the rest of her life. How it would be nothing but the same thing every day, every week, every month, every year, for decades, for centuries, until she died ancient and frail or killed herself from desperate boredom.

Thank you for reading!

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Subscribe to Horror

 I love horror. The end. I honestly don't know what to say about that. I always have, I always will. I don't know why. It's dark, slimy, creepy, and scary but it's always calling my name and I can't ignore. Beneath the fairies and unicorns, pink lipstick and high heels, flowers and perfumes, lurks a deep appreciation for blood, guts, screams, and demons.

Horror. Horror. Horror.

Over the past few years, however, I've often felt that the genre, in all mediums, is not alive as it once was. That it was harder and harder to find something I hadn't seen or read already. Which is crazy in this heyday of independent, self-publishing, blogs, forums, and multiple platforms for stories and video sharing platforms. Not to mention that this is the day and age of content curation and on-demand streaming services I should able to dive deep into horror anything and never have to come up for air.

I used to find horror books to read at bookstores and libraries, while I found the movies at Blockbuster or from friends. <Did I just age myself? Because I feel old now> 

Unfortunately, my town only had one bookstore now, in the mall, and they lost their coffee in store coffee shop. Going to the bookstore used to be fun, pretty cheap Friday or Saturday night. Now I use that time to lament the loss of bookstores in a town of just outside a major metropolitan area. On top of that, the old Blockbuster is a mattress store finally <<This literally has only changed in the last few year, I think we had the last standing Blockbuster in America>>

 For a short time FearNet filled a gap, but then it disappeared. Chiller is trying but it is not as good as FearNet was.

Once all those avenues dried up I sort of gave up trying and just watched whatever was on Netflix, which was overall .... lacking.

However, I found that I was wrong, I just wasn't looking hard enough in the right places. In reality, horror is just as strong as ever. Thanks to three different subscription services, I'm never more than click away from my favorite genre.

Turn on the Dark

From Chilling Tales for Dark Nights

I've been a subscriber to Chilling Tales since I first learned of them, which happened to be when they turned one of my short stories into a video.  Chilling Tales has multiple platforms, series, voice actors, and fantastic production value.  The stories are genuinely creepy and updated regularly. I absolutely love the podcasts because they have an old timey radio show feel and I have a thing for old timey radio shows.

The podcast and YouTube channel are free but they do have exclusive stories and products for subscribers. They have a variety of plans from $1 and up. You can subscribe on their page directly or through their recently launched Patreon page.

Screams On Demand

From Shudder
I discovered Shudder last Halloween when I was trying to track down a whole bunch of horror movies I hadn't seen yet.

They have a huge selection of movies, shorts, and tv shorts from all across the world you can stream into your living room. Their catalog can be browsed entirely or through curated collections like Animal Planet, Socko Spoofs, and Zombie Jamboree. I highly suggest Murder Party, Monster Brawl, Frankenstein's Army, Deathgasm, Shutter, and I could go on and on.

There's an app, the service is available on Roku, it used to be an add-on service to Amazon Prime Video (I do not know if it still is), and there is the stand alone website. In the U.S., the monthly price is $4.99 or pay a year in advance for $47.88.

Full disclosure: Sometimes the streaming can be slightly glitchy but not that bad and not that often. Also, it's one of the few streaming/digital content services available in both the U.S. and the U.K., a big plus when you travel often between the two countries like I do.

The Nocturnal Reader's Box

I discovered The Nocturnal's Reader Box on Instagram a month ago and subscribed as soon as I possibly could. Imagine horror fiction sent right to your door every month, as well as some pretty awesome horror related exclusive products. Count me in and instantly in love.

The Infected & Infested August Theme box (my first)

Finished: Mapping the Interior.  Signed copy of The Grip of It.
Patient Zero lapel pin.
The Woman who Never Killed bugs, print by Ally Burke  
I love, love, LOVE this box. I received mine earlier this week and I've already finished reading one of the books, the lapel pin is in my collection, the art print is on my wall (plus I've ordered other art from the artist), and everyone is jealous of my mug (which can be got nowhere else).

The only parts I'm not in love with is the hat and the bath bomb but that's likely to happen with in subscription box, not loving all the items. On the other hand, my dad, a fan of The Stand, was really excited about getting the Captain Trip's baseball cap I didn't want, so I got to make my dad happy (yay!). I haven't found a new home for the bath bomb. It's a shame that I like the smell but I don't take baths, I take showers. Baths....gross me out. 

In related news, I'm not letting the mug out of my sight.

I (and everyone else) love this mug!

The box is a great value at $35 + shipping and I'm already excited for the next one. Unfortunately, after the next box, which has a monster theme, the company is doing away with the themes, it's not a big deal but I really love themes, so I kind of liked that feature about the service. But otherwise, I cannot stop talking about this box.

If you're interested in learning more about the products in an unboxing video, leave a comment below.  I recorded one but I'm not sure I'm a ...skilled... presenter. It's definitely shorter than my scrapbook haul video but pretty much the same fumbling.

Until next time, Thanks for Stopping by and . . .

Friday, August 11, 2017

First Draft Friday: Even More Romance

First Draft Friday

Trying out a new idea for a post series where every Friday I post a rough draft. In my mind, this will something similar to my NaNoWriMo post but maybe less intense and only one day a week. The purpose is the same though: to encourage other writers. More often than not, we only get to see a finished polished version of fiction writing and it's very easy to get discouraged by their quality, even though we know, logically, whatever we're reading has a horrible first draft too. In my first draft posts, I want to share my first drafts as they are written more or less out of my brain. I say more or less because if I wrote the first draft longhand, then I'm usually going to clean it up a little bit or make all new mistakes or bad decisions as I type it up.

I very rarely write a story in order, from beginning to end straight through. The closest I get to doing so is when I write short stories. However, I rarely finish short stories anymore because I get stuck half way through and there isn't much space to jump around in these plot lines. "Romance" is a little different. A lot of my short stories start with an idea I have for an opening, I don't know much else beyond the beginning. I simply travel through the rest of the story like I'm looking for a light switch in the dark. For Romance, I knew the opening and the climax. I've written the opening, I'm stuck in the middle action, and so I've decided to skip ahead to the climax of the main conflict, not long before the end.

Apparently, I'm really focused on this story right now. Every time I have a second to write, I end up adding more. At the same time, I don't know what will become of it, if it has a middle, if any of it makes sense. I'm just exploring a lot of things, a recurring theme. So, I guess I'm just gonna keep writing to see how it goes.

Please enjoy another first draft extract from "Romance". If you'd like to read the opening, click here. If you'd to read the previous extract, click here.

first draft, incomplete,  680 words
By Stephanie Thompson

"I'm so glad you texted," Heather started.

Misty's resolve softened when she saw her splotchy, reddened features but there was nothing else to be done. She had to be firm, clear, and resolute.

"Come in," she said. "Have a seat. Would you like some tea or something?"

Resolute didn't mean rude.

"Tea? Tea would be nice," Heather answered while trying to tamp her rising hope. She's only being kind she reminded her heart because reasonably she knew there would be no reconciliation. Mysti hadn't hugged her, couldn't even look her in the eye. Mysti hadn't hugged her, couldn't even look her in the eye. She hadn't invited her over to get back together. This was sympathy tea, goodbye tea.

Mysti came back to the living room with tea cups clattering in their saucers. The scent of hot black, sweet tea nested comfortably with musky spice scent of Mysti's perfume. Heather wanted to nest there too, bury her nose in it, let the comfort warmth there overwhelm her. Instead the imagined rain followed her in, permeated her bones with a chill the hot tea cup couldn't touch.

"Heather, I - I asked you over here because . . . What we have . . . what we share . . . is special."

She stoppedd for a sip though it was too hot to drink and singed her tongue but it deserved the punishment. In her barely stammered out sentences it refused to use the past tense, refused to say what she wanted, needed to say.

She looked at Heather, who was blowing on her tea, both hands clutching the cup, and staring some distant point in the living room table.

Had breaking up with anyone else ever been this difficult?

"I will always care deeply about you, Heather, and treasure our time together," she said.

She wanted to be direct and concise. She didn't want to drag it out or talk around the finality. --It's over Heather-- she wanted to say but didn't.

"Please don't do this."

Her voice was small. Heather wasn't sure she'd spoken at all, she barely heard her voice and Mysti made no reaction - just watched her tea.

"I will . . ." she will what? What could she possibly do? She made every argument she could already. What was the core of the problem? Why can't they be together. "Why can't we just love each other?"

"We can love each other. We do but this isn't what I want. It isn't right for me. I love you but I don't..."

She put her teacup down. Tea splashed on the table. She stood up and walked away, she had to. She needed the space, the physical distance from Heather and the gravitational  pull of her emotions. The tug of the heartache and sympathies. Distance from the hurt Mysti was causing.

It'd be easier if she'd been rude. If she'd done it by text or in a phone call. It would've been better is she'd left it as it was after the argument. Now, she was only torturing them both.

"I love you but I don't want to be with you, Heather. I know it's hard to hear, it's hard enough to say and even more impossible to explain even to myself but . . . I have to say it. I don't want to be with you."

"You said you wanted something different. You said you clicked in a way yo've never experienced before."

"I wish we could've met as friends."

"You wanted to be with me when you thought I was a man."

"I've wanted to be with lots of men before I met them or before a few dates. It doesn't work out every time, regardless of gender."

"Don't say it like you've had a romantic relationship with a woman before. Don't say that like you've got a liberal understanding gender or sexuality."

"I do not want to argue about this again, Heather. I don't want us to end ugly."

"I don't want this to end."

"You can't force me to be ina relationship with you and even if you could . . . there's no scenario where we both end up happy."

I wonder if there are other writers who switch up names and spellings of names sort of randomly as they go. I do it constantly.

Thanks for reading!!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Transformation Tuesday: Passing the test

Recently, I got some results back from blood testing I had done as part of a yearly check up. I wasn't optimistic. I don't follow a recommended diet, I barely have an active lifestyle much less exercise, I don't have a regular sleep cycle, I could be better about taking my pills on the reg, or even drinking water. The list pretty much goes on and on full of the don'ts I do and the do's I don't.

However, my lab results were better than they have been in years. My CBC was almost perfectly average. My metabolic panel was fine. My lipid panel was decent. And most importantly, to me, my A1C was in the normal range. On top of that, I've recently lost 10 pounds for no apparent reason. My mom asked me "What have you been doing?" a few days ago and I, naturally, have been thinking of an answer ever since.

Like everything else in life, getting to this point has been a journey. I've been with my current doctor since 2015, but I think this journey started the year before, and I've made gradual changes as well as dramatic changes along the way.

2 plates is balanced eating, right?

Why did I take so many pictures like this?
One of the first changes I made is the amount of nachos and beer I consume. I don't know what happened in 2014 but I swear for like the first three months I primarily ate chips, cheese, and a beer or three every night for dinner. Not surprisingly I was tired all of the time and felt awful all the time. So, I went on a health kick.

I started exercising, I made diet changes, and I stopped drinking. I started feeling significantly better. I had more energy for a short period of time. Unfortunately, this is also the period of time when my uterus started going haywire and nothing I did affected my energy level because my red blood count and iron levels dropped like crazy.

Jump forward to last year. I had my hysterectomy and a blood transfusion and I felt even better. I asked my doctor how much weight she wanted me to lose by our next follow up, which I had planned to be in six months because I thought that energy alone was what stood in my way of finally being healthier and losing weight. She said she didn't care about weight so much if I increased my activity and my labs and blood pressure were fine. I always pinned those results to weight loss and decided on a pound a week would be good.

Unfortunately, my life got a little crazy after that: I lived in a hotel for three months, NaNoWriMo and the disastrous election followed making me an emotional and stressed wreck, then I was overseas for three months. In all that time my diet was not good. I ate a lot of processed, convenience food because it was easiest. I drank a lot of beer. I didn't go back for a follow-up. 

Sometime during this period, I switched from Splenda to a minimally processed, organic sugar in my coffee. I did not feel comfortable with this choice but I learned that consuming something sweet had the same effect in your body as consuming sugar. That it was the taste of sweetness that sent the signals to your body to store fat. If that was the case, then I would rather have sugar, which tasted better than other sweeteners, in my coffee. I worried about the effects on my blood sugar but I made the switch anyway.

However, when I was in England, my skin, which is plagued with sensitivity and patches of dry flakiness that defy treatment, cleared up. I had fewer cravings for sugar and felt fuller on less.

When I got back, I started thinking about the differences between English and American food. How could I feel better on diet full of sausage rolls and beer than I did on kale, whole grains, and low fat? More importantly, why was my skin better?

While I didn't have studies or research to inform a decision, I used my experience. Food spoiled quicker over there, even milk seemed to last only a few days. Almost everything came from nearby farms or in England, which were small farms and companies, versus industrial agriculture. I think the furthest my food came were the pears I bought which were from Belguim. Much of my food was freshly made in the store rather than pre-made in a factory. Not every single thing had sugar added to it. From these types of observations, I decided to try two things first: avoid preservatives and switch fully to grass milk/pasture raised dairy. 

Apart from the time from living in the hotel, or anytime I traveled really, I didn't feel like I ate a lot of processed foods. Even now I can't say exactly what I cut out besides bread and Tricuits. Oh, and chips. On a recent trip, I spent what felt like a fortune on organic/ healthy snacks with my main goal to avoid sugar laden, preservative filled, over salted gas station food.

Weirdest shopping trip ever.
I tried a lot of new foods. They didn't all work out but this is the first trip I've returned from without feeling like a bloated, over full, constipated wreck. 

I also started replacing my side of fries with a salad or a bowl of fruit.

At home, I switched to Ryvita, for my crackers, I fry my own tortilla chips when I want some, and I no longer by loaves of bread. As a side product, I eat way fewer chips and much less butter, without making an effort or meaning too. 

Another dent in my grocery bill goes to my grass milk dairy products. I've been trying them off and on for the past year, only really committing for the last five months. Previously, aside from the cream I put in my coffee, I used low-fat milk products in an effort to reduce my saturated fats and cholesterol. Now, I'm full-fat everything as long as the cow eats mostly grass.

I also eat a lot more dairy. Once upon a time, it was assumed that I was lactose intolerant. There have been whole years that I avoided dairy because I connected skin flare-ups to milk. Now I eat milk, cheese and yogurt like my life depends on it. It's probably the base of my food pyramid, right next nuts, and coffee.

Despite my full fat dairy choices, my cholesterol stats continue to drop.

Also, since coming back from over seas, I don't eat as much meat as I use to, and what I do eat is mostly pork or some type of sausage. This was not as intentional as anything else but mainly because pork is the cheapest meat available and I love sausage, although it is not cheap.

EDIT: I forgot that another change I made was switching from conventional table salt to coarse salt from the Celtic Sea. I don't grind it, I just sparingly sprinkle full chrystals into my food. It's like salty rock candy or pop rocks! Fun, lol.

Overall, I do not know exactly which choice has made the difference. I still drink beer. I had a piece of cake last week and fries twice over the weekend. I still have wheat at least twice a week but I'm not paleo or low carb as I eat other grains a few times a week too. I barely eat vegetables and when I do it's mostly lettuce, onions, garlic, and celery, some of the most useless veg on the planet. I put six teaspoons of sugar in my several giant cups of coffee that also have so much fat in them I can usually see it floating on top. Most of my daily diet is dependent on cheese, sausage, and numerous handfuls of nuts. I often skip breakfast.

But still my total cholesterol and my LDLs have dropped by 10 points last year and my A1C has fallen from 6.2%, in the danger zone of prediabetes, to 5.4% , within the normal range, in the past two years. 

I've lost weight too but like my only other #transformationTuesday post, it's not much and not really what I'm about. I know weighing over 300 lbs is unhealthy, I know I will have so many more benefits in my health and beyond if I got up and went for a walk but, at the same time, my health is so much more than my weight alone. For a long time, my blood sugar and cholesterol have been health concerns, even when I was 100 lbs lighter and I feel like this is the most under control either have been. As long as my other numbers and indicators keep going down, my weight seems irrelevant, like what my doctor said.

My mental health is the best it's ever been, my blood is too now. I finally feel like I have a diet regime that is right for me and I would be happy to live with for the rest of my life. Now, I can really focus on my activity and make it work for me too.

Despite my past trials and tribulations and the work still ahead, I can see the edge of the forest, I'm almost out of the woods.

Until next time...

Friday, August 4, 2017

First Draft Friday: More Romance

First Draft Friday

Trying out a new idea for a post series where every Friday I post a rough draft. In my mind, this will something similar to my NaNoWriMo post but maybe less intense and only one day a week. The purpose is the same though: to encourage other writers. More often than not, we only get to see a finished polished version of fiction writing and it's very easy to get discouraged by their quality, even though we know, logically, whatever we're reading has a horrible first draft too. In my first draft posts, I want to share my first drafts as they are written more or less out of my brain. I say more or less because if I wrote the first draft longhand, then I'm usually going to clean it up a little bit or make all new mistakes or bad decisions as I type it up.

Today's post is late but better than the lack of posts over the past few weeks. I really enjoy these #firstdraftfriday posts. I'm very encouraged to write again, thanks to the series. But it doesn't make it any easier.

I very rarely write a story in order, from beginning to end straight through. The closest I get to doing so is when I write short stories. However, I rarely finish short stories anymore because I get stuck half way through and there isn't much space to jump around in these plot lines. "Romance" is a little different. A lot of my short stories start with an idea I have for an opening, I don't know much else beyond the beginning. I simply travel through the rest of the story like I'm looking for a light switch in the dark. For Romance, I knew the opening and the climax. I've written the opening, I'm stuck in the middle action, and so I've decided to skip ahead to the climax of the main conflict, not long before the end.

Please enjoy another first draft extract from "Romance". If you'd like to read the opening, click here.

first draft, incomplete,  793 words
By Stephanie Thompson

Can you come over? We need to talk.

Heather took an Uber to get there as quickly as possible. She stared at the text message the entire car ride. Misty wanted to talk, in private, face to face. She stared at the message hoping she wouldn't change her mind. If they were going to break-up, she wouldn't invite her over, right? She could do it through text. Ghost. Let their last argument be the end.

Heather scrolled through the texts since then.

There'd been the week. The whole week of no communication. When Heather had already thought she'd never hear from Misty again. When she cried every night, and every lunch break, and every time someone called her name. When she couldn't eat and only slept because she was emotionally exhausted.

Then the miraculous text. The game changer.

I can't go another day

Like every message before that HEather hadn't known what to say. Me neither? I love you? Please forgive me? I love yhou? Please take me back? I know we can work this out? Please, please, please?

I miss you.

I miss you too but...

A five minute pause. A five minute wait until the next message. Five minutes of hell that somehow felt worse than the week before it, which she hadn't thougth possible.

I don't know what to do.

I don't know either Misty. But I promise we can figure it out together. We only hve to know how we feel about each other.

How I feel doesn't make sense. I'm not gay.

We don't need labels. We can just love each other.

I don't think I can see it that way HEather. Whether I . . .

Then another lng pause. Longer than five minutes. She thought another text wouldn't come. She soaked another handful of kleenex waiting. Then the invitation. HEather couldn't move fast enough.

On my way

 The only pause in the journey was debating about cleaning up. She honestly couldn't remember when she last showered. Last brushed her hair. LAst changed clothes. Her face was red and raw. But she didn't want to wait and she didn't want to appear to be anything than what she was, emotionally devistated. Maybe it was a ploy, maybe it was manipulation, or maybe it wold be perceieved that way but HEather wasn't wired for those kind of mind games that was Misty's influence.

She shook her head. She was what she was, she was who she was, and she was going to be honest about it.

Getting out of the car, onto the street, HEather was struck by the weather. Hadn't it been raining? Wasn't it cold? She'd put on a coat, buttoned to the top, dug her fists deep into the pockets. She thought she was shivering.

Yet the sidewalk was dry. The air was dank with humidity and hot air. She shivered and sweat simaltaneously.

She knocked on the door with a shaking fist and waited.

Like she found herself doing so many times in recent memory, Misty regretted every momnent after she sent the "Can we talk" text to Heather. Every text before that. Every message, afternoon, thought, and tingle that she'd ever spent on HEather. She felt trapped in this web, a web she wanted, helped wove, and now she hated.

Why couldn't she leave things alone? They'd had the fight. The awful fight. The necessary fight. The relationship. . .. friendship . . . whatever ship ending fight.

She could have moved on with her life. Waited out that awful, bottom fo the pit, shattered heart feeling and on a few years have that time she "experimented" story to tell at a drunken bachlorette party or something.

But no. He chest had felt like it was caving in, like her ribs were facturing as the black hole of her heart consumed her from the inside out. She couldn't stand it. She felt like a part of her was missing. And it was stupid when a single text could end the suffering.

 After that was a differnent kind of suffering, when her reason came back and told her it was wrong. She wasn't attracted to women. Never had been and wasn't now. Yes the kiss had felt good, it was nice but that was beside the point. Kitty and puupy kisses were nice too, hugs from toddlers, and cuddling babies too.

The actual point was that this wasn't what she wanted. And no matter what philsophical social justice angle Heather wanted to make, the point was Heather had lied. And. . . it needed to end for real.  Misty needed closure. Something real, finite. An explanation, a nice to know you,  Whatt a weird summer, huh? and a have good life.

Her heart wasn't listenin though. IT soared with HEather's knock on the door.

I apologize for my bad typing but I'm switching between my laptop and my full-size keyboard a lot lately and the different spacing increases my typos exponential. Plus I've been drinking more caffeine than is probably healthy, which I'm sure doesn't help either.

Thanks for Reading :D

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

A Planner Year

Although I've always had a calendar, journal, notebook, or planner of one form or another, in the past year I've been fully immersed in the 'planner trend'. I graduated from a hand-sized weekly planner where I could jot down appointments and plans while easily fitting in my purse to a small DIY binder planner. After a few months in that, I started making handmade monthly journals. Then, due to forces outside of my control (airline weight restrictions prevented me from bringing all the supplies I needed while traveling overseas), I went to planning in my long term Recollections vertical planner. With a brief month in my handmade journal, I moved into a junk journal, and now I'm back to my Recollections planner.

This one picture for all the words above.
Obviously, it's been a very active year and through all of it, this is what I've learned about myself and my preferred planner style.

First off, while I've loved each of these different planner systems at the time I was using them, probably the least effective way to plan for me has been my junk journal.

A planner spread in my floral junk journal
I can't describe what the real difference is, why I can't seem to plan well with it but there are some general things that seem like cons. I feel like monthly planning and tracking is more difficult, there's no easy way to plan long term or even to the end of a month. Also, the weekly spreads are plain. There isn't much room to do weekly planning and daily planning on a single page was too much room and didn't help me feel organized.

On the other hand, I love the junk journal for journaling and memory keeping. It's so much easier and more fun to write down my experiences, add pictures from events, and keep ephemera. I'm definitely going to keep using a junk journal this purpose but I will leave the planning to another device.

Handmade Planners
I absolutely loved making these planners/journals. It was so fun choosing themes, putting together papers, and decorating with stickers and journal cards. I still get some of this fun when I'm making a junk journal but these small ones are different. I think because I decorated more with these as I wasn't trying to leave blank space for journaling at the time. They were too small for real journaling, which I wanted to do or the amount of memory keeping I also wanted. Plus, so much work went into making them, it didn't seem worth the pay off for planning purposes alone, especially when at the end of the month I had to make another one from scratch.

But I love making these so much, I'm considering making them for others to use as mini albums or monthly events like December Daily or NaNoWriMo.

Target DIY Planner
The Target planner inserts were the first things that got me into decorating my planner. At first, I just wanted to use up some old stickers but after a couple of months, it exploded into a full on obsession. And, at the time, I was all about horizontal planning as well as the simple customization and expandability allowed by the binder format.

After a few months, however, I felt like using the Target inserts as a base was sort of a waste of paper when I could simply use scrapbook paper alone or mixed media paper that would stand up better to the mixed media elements I used like Inktense, stamp ink, and watercolor. Plus, I sort of hated the new Target insert releases at the time.

Since I've made the switch, even though I've returned to a similar planning style, I don't miss this planner much. So much of my decorating revolved around trying to cover up the preprinted pages and everything I added, for memory keeping or tiny bits of journaling, seemed to get in the way of my planning, sort of making the customization pointless.

Inside Current Recollection Planner

I've recently relegated my entire planning life to my Recollections planner. I originally purchased this during a Black Friday sale at Michael's last year because I was making my month by month planners but still needed to plan up to six months ahead of time for various reasons. But, since my other experiments in planning have failed to offer an all in one solution, I've  now started using this as my main planner.

It's simple to plan in it since most planner stickers are sized for a similar layout and the vertical planner style just seems more organized some how. The paper is very nice and smooth and it comes with tabs, a pocket folder, stickers, and a zip up pencil case. Plus it has colors I love and have no problem working with. Planning takes no time and I can still decorate it so it's pretty to look at, which makes me want to look at it, which then encourages me to accomplish things.

Overall, I am disappointed that I couldn't find a form that allowed me to do everything I wanted the way I wanted to do it. I am glad that I got to experiment though and that I found a combination that I can live with: a junk journal for some tracking, memory keeping, list making, and journaling; a vertical planner for day to day organization and long-term planning; and a notebook for my creative writing.

In the past year, I've improved many skills from binding, sketching, coordinating, trimming, gluing, and going with the flow. I've learned I'm happier when there's pink in a layout and that it's okay to like something just because it's pretty.

So, how do you do your planning, journaling, or memory keeping? Have tried a bunch of things too or did you fall in love with one system right away? Let me know in the comments below :D

Until Next Time...

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Big Blogging Update: Thinking Edition

I've missed a few #firstdraftFridays, I think, and I haven't made a regular blog post in however long it's been, so I thought I'd stop by my own website make a few notes about what I've doing or thinking about doing.

It may or may not be surprising to learn that I've been doing a lot of thinking. I'm always thinking, especially about what platforms to be active on and how to adhere to habits of all kinds. I definitely will keep up my blog such as it is but I also want to set up a stand alone website. I don't know how much longer I will keep my Facebook page or if I'll ever update my Tweets outside of NaNoWriMo. Thinking about what I want to do with my YouTube channel and whether I should start a Patreon. So I've been thinking a lot but not finding any answers I guess.

I've also been traveling. It has dawned on me, as of late, that I am a constant traveler. But like accidentally. Not that I accidentally travel but that I've never intended to be much of a traveler. For as long as I can remember, I've gotten violently motion sick on every single form of transportation known to man. Not to mention the anxiety caused by going to new places. And yet, this year, I've spent nearly four months sleeping under rented roofs and in strange beds. The only type of transport I haven't been on is a boat. In the last week, I've slept in 4 different states. I visited friends in Maryland over the weekend and last week I was visiting my sister in Alabama while we attended the Stamp and Scrapbook Expo in Georgia. I've had so much fun, met so many new people, and tried loads of different foods, beds, and coffees. I might be adding a lifestyle or travel element to the blog to keep up with all my adventures. Probably just as soon as I figure out how to take better photos from the height of fun.

So many thoughts, so little time

In other news, I've got a regular job with an actual paycheck. I get paid to write internet articles. It's pretty freaking cool actually. But it's, naturally, taking up time. Time where I use to think a lot. Then after the thinking, I would write or art. But now I struggle constantly with my time and trying to find the time for filming, then editing, or writing, then editing, taking pictures, and editing, and posting. But you know, also earn that paycheck, and think and eat and sleep and supposedly work out. Basically, I'm trying to manage life and it's been a long time since I've had to answer to someone else, where any amount of my time wasn't my own. At the same time, I'm psyched to have a job where the hours and location is flexible and pants are optional. I'm figuring it out or I will eventually.

Also, I've reached that part of the year when I want to WRITE ALL THE THINGS. I'm very inspired to not only write current projects like Zombie Zorority, SpiderWeb Door, Romance, Consumption Divine, PB & J, and Sun in October but also NaNoWriMo pieces like The Horrorphiles and Write What You Know, which I wasn't sure I would go back to work on. Not to mention that I'm also thinking ahead to this year's NaNoWriMo and considering what new project I might work on then too.

I'm also thinking about Christmas.

Oh and I'm thinking about my next journal. I was going to make a mermaid journal, mostly because I want to make it, not to use it. I really don't know what I actually want to use next. But I'm getting down to the end of my floral junk journal and I don't know what I want to use for August and September. I guess logic might dictate doing autumn stuff but I don't know if I have enough autumn based supplies to make full-size journal. Maybe I will combine with donuts and coffee because I'm mad excited about PSL season and I keep buying donut stuff, so I need to use it sooner or later.

Anyway, I will get back to posting #firstdraftFridays, and YouTube videos, and Instagram photos, and maybe even more blog posts too. We shall see.