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If You Want To Become An Acolyte Of Ursinetha, Goddess-Hunter And Queen Of Skulls, Eat The Still Beating Heart Of A Bear Every Day Or Quit Now

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Tomorrow, I will sit down and spend hours writing my current work in progress. I’m not sure right now if it’s going to be a hit, if my readers will love it or loathe it, or if it’s the best thing I’ve ever written. I don’t know if it will be a nail in the coffin of my writing career or if it will shoot me to the very heights of critical acclaim.

What I do know is that day, that very day, one thousand other people will also be writing their books. In order to make sure mine stands out from the crowd, my mind must be clear so I can write better than them. So, forgive me–I have to kill a bear.

Look, I’m not going to mince words here: Of the thousand other writers, 800 won’t have been blessed by Ursinetha, Goddess-Hunter and Queen of Skulls (may she reign in blood). Ursinetha love them, Ursinetha, be with them, Ursinetha, show them the mercy of a quick death beneath your dripping claws, they just are not as talented and dedicated to her glorious worship as I am. And that’s why they’re not going to be able to write a book. Because the Forest Spirits are in them, and once they’re in there, there’s no getting the out. Not without the appropriate sacrifices. For that same reason, I will never know a night’s sleep undisturbed by vivid memories of tearing hide and the steaming, fetid stench of an animal already decaying between my frenzied jaws, not matter how much I may want to.

So, that only leaves 200 other writers to compete with me. Sure, they may be smarter or more photogenic. They may have never taken the life of a man dressed as a bear in ceremonial combat. If they were writing this piece instead of me, you would like it a lot more, because it wouldn’t have so many parts about mysterious bear cults. They probably don’t have mystic runes tattooed on their back that ward them from the attacks of the Wolf Mages. You wouldn’t be embarrassed to bring them to parties.

I will conquer them all, however, and I will do it because I am willing to do what it takes to please the Forest Gods.

I will eat the still beating heart of a bear, and they will not.

 

The two most important tools at your disposal as a writer are your natural love of the written word and the dedication required to wrestle, subdue, and kill a bear. Somewhere along the line, all those people competing with me just lose their drive. I’m in too deep to stop now. They might lack the faith necessary to put their lives on the line for Ursinetha’s blessing, but I don’t. Maybe they’ll make some new friends; mine are all dead now, perished between the crushing teeth of an angry bear or smote to ashes by a Wolf Mage. Their books will wither like so much bear meat left to rot in the undergrowth.

I know about bear meat. And books. And I know that without one, the other cannot survive.

I get it. You’re working hard on your book, doing your thing day in and day out until your brain gets tired and you think, “Man, I have to quit before I burn out.” Maybe you start taking a weekend off here and there. And that’s when the call of the wilderness touches you, draws you from your computer and into the night. You strip naked, you run on all fours. When you wake up, you don’t know where you are, but the rows of sturdy RVs and screaming campers give you an indication. Somehow, you’ve wound up in the KOA, wrapped in a black bear’s hide. And there’s blood. Oh god, there’s so much blood. But you didn’t finish the ritual.

I’m not a quitter. I don’t quit. When I start a mystical journey to conquer the raging forest spirits that haunt my dreams, I finish. So, let me give you some advice in your own quest.

The most important thing is to eat the heart.

If you don’t have the will to bring that steaming, still pumping organ to your lips, you are in the wrong business. Once you’ve broken the covenant with Ursinetha, she will offer you no protection. You have to make daily bear sacrifices a part of your routine. It has to become second nature, like making coffee or burning the appropriate herbs at a crossroads. It’s not a triumph of the muse. There’s nothing noble or dramatic about it. You do it because you have to, and because the moon has reached the zenith of its darkness. If you’re having to force yourself to take that first bite, you’re doing something wrong. Ever consider just not being a writer? We have plenty of those. Ones who don’t balk at consuming a bear’s heart.

Easy enough, right? Here’s how you do it: you murder a bear every day. Obviously, I don’t mean every day. Words don’t magically start meaning the things everyone understands them to mean just because I’m a writer telling you to murder a bear every day. Not knowing what words mean is an integral part of authorship. What I meant was: devour the heart of a bear every day.

The most difficult part of an author’s life isn’t the hours spent meticulously plotting a story or improving their craft, but their ability to constantly be thinking about ways to please Ursinetha and prove your devotion to her coven. You have to get into the mind of the bear. You have to make yourself become the bear. It will help you find the bear you’re meant to kill, until it becomes second nature to you. But if you stop, if you don’t do this every day (despite the fact that I’ve already said “Obviously, I don’t mean every day.”) eventually, you won’t remember how to take a life at all. Then you’ll have to go back to the Cave Of Waking Dreams and start your training all over!

The sad reality is that in the end, no matter how many hearts you’ve sacrificed to Ursinetha in shared feast, you may never fully defeat the Forest Spirits. You may be eaten by a bear. But you’ll never know what you can do until you’re free from the call of the still woodland night. So you get out there, and YOU EAT THE GODDAMNED BEAR HEART.

This piece was inspired by an insipid and self-congratulatory piece of nonsense by Pulitzer Prize winning critic Stephen Hunter, titled, “If You Want to Write a Book, Write Every Day or Quit Now” for The Daily Beast. It is only slightly more nonsensical than the above satire.

Do not fret over the advice Hunter dispensed in his piece. You can finish a book without writing every day. Almost every writer does. And other writers aren’t your competition (though they’ve apparently been unknowingly competing with Mr. Hunter for years). You do you, and fuck anyone who tells you that you should quit. Especially if they’ve just admitted to wanting you to fail in the very essay in which they claim to want to help you succeed.

 

True Blood Wednesday S04E04 “I’m Alive And On Fire” and S04E05 “Me And The Devil”

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That second episode is about my headset and my internet connection. But at long last, I’m back! I’ve used a different set up, so there will probably be more ambient noise. Just consider that a bonus.

Here’s the file for episode 4. Content warnings for rape, incest, and abuse. This show is getting dark. Also, the sound quality might suck because I was recording with the wrong mic. So there will probably be ambient noise that wouldn’t normally be there.

Here’s the file for episode 5. Content warning for the aftermath of all that other shit.

I so needed a night of absolutely incomprehensible vampire nonsense. Glad we’re back on track!

State Of The Trout: “Just Thinkin’ About Tomorrow”

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Hey there, everybody! First of all, the biggest and most heartfelt thank you to everyone who left comments or contacted me via email or social media after my recent post about my mental health. I don’t respond to stuff like 97.4% of the time because I’m seriously overwhelmed by the idea of anyone caring about me, but know that I appreciate you guys and the little community we’ve made here. And I’m on the upswing again. I hope it’s catching, and you all can be, as well.

Second, if you follow me on social media, you know that last week, my daughter and I had a great time auditioning for Annie at Center Stage Theater in Comstock, MI. I’m pleased to report that both of us are in the show! My daughter is in the orphan chorus, and while I got called back for Miss Hannigan, I ultimately didn’t get the part and am playing…

Sophie.

I thought you guys would all get a kick out of that. I’m playing a character named Sophie.

So, if you’re in the southwest Michigan area in July-ish, come see us singing and dancing (the latter of which is a lot harder to do than I remember, but I also weighed approximately one hundred pounds less the last time I had to do it). I’ll put the performance dates, times, and ticket buy links on the “Meet Me!” page as we get closer.

When I was younger, I thought my destiny was to be a singer/actress who dazzled on the Broadway stage. Even though that never came to be, I’m psyched to be involved in community theater again, and with my daughter, who’s doing her first show the same place I did mine way back in 1996! Expect to see some musical theater related posts in the next few weeks.

Onto other news, I think I figured out what was wong with my headsetso True Blood Tuesday will be back this week with a double installment.

That’s all the news that’s fit to post. Have a Troutstanding Monday!

 

Dear MAGA: We’re Not Your Weapon

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I’ve largely kept my mouth shut about Stephen Colbert’s remark about Trump’s mouth being Putin’s dick holster. Mostly because I expect allies to fuck up every so often. And I say that without malice; even with the best of intentions, we all fuck up sometimes over something. It happens. I do it literally all the time. But I just don’t have the energy to be outraged at Colbert. I’ve learned the limits of my stamina since November, and every day those limits are tested again and again. I’m not going to ride into the fire to defend Colbert, and I’m pretty pissed that the left is now embracing “free speech” as a defense against making a homophobic joke just because it’s one of ours who’s come under fire. But no, I can’t be shocked and furious over the joke itself. I just don’t have it in me.

Good thing the conservatives are there to be outraged for me! They want Colbert fired for his intolerance. They want him investigated. They want his show fined. They want us to boycott CBS. They want justice for the gays because this kind of homophobia will not stand!

So, I have a question for the MAGA crowd: Just how fucking stupid do you think we are?

You supported a candidate who endorses electrocuting queer kids in order to fix them. You don’t get to be mad about a homophobic joke.

You believed that your precious marital vows would be sullied if your gay neighbors tied the knot. You don’t get to be mad about a homophobic joke.

You’re cheering whenever some white trash wedding planner in Christislordsville, India won’t work with a gay couple.

You’re silent about the mass genocide being committed against gay and bisexual men in Chechnya, because you’re secretly cheering it on and fantasizing about the day it will happen here.

You don’t get to be mad about a homophobic joke.

You don’t care about us. You want us dead. Your churches preach love for your fellow man, so long as that man is straight. You try to take our children from our homes. You drive us out of your communities. Some of you murder us or rape us to teach us a lesson. You shun your own children, send them to abusive “therapy,” turn them onto the streets, then accuse us of being sexual predators when we take them in.

You’ve called us fags, dykes, and queers so often that we’ve had to wrench those words away from you. “Well, I’ve never used those words!” you insist. Yes, you have. You have used those words as slurs, you have made homophobic jokes that were a thousand times crueler than anything Colbert said on his show. Hatred for us has flowed over your lips, through your keyboards like flash floods of human waste.

“But if Hannity said–” Hannity has said worse.

“But if that was on Fox News–” Fox News has said worse.

“Why is it okay if–” It’s not okay. It’s never okay to imply that same-gender relations are degrading.

It’s those questions that give you away. You want to know why you can’t be openly homophobic in the most graphic language possible without anyone objecting to it. You’re fighting for the right to say whatever you want about us without consequence. You’re telling us that if we’re not joining you in your transparently disingenuous social conscientiousness, we have to lie down and let you stomp over our rights, our liberty, our lives until there’s nothing left of us. You don’t want Stephen Colbert fired. You want us to give you permission to dehumanize and destroy us.

Should Colbert have said what he said? No. It was tasteless and contributed to that deep-seated fear of sexual intimacy between partners of the same gender. But is it as damaging as anything your side has done? Is it as damaging as the harm you’re all so proud of causing?

Now you want to use us as a weapon against a man who has offended your tangerine demigod? No. No, we are not here for you. We see you working every single day to destroy us, and we see what you’re really mad about: someone implied that your object of mindless adoration could ever possibly be like us. That offends you more than Colbert’s homophobic statement or “profanity” ever could.

I won’t call this virtue signaling, because the term is asinine and you can’t virtue signal if you have no virtues, anyway. Stow your faux outrage, keep your hands off of us.

Our lives are not for you. We don’t want your fake concern.

We are not your weapon.

Normal

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Warning: This is a post about my experience of mental illness. There will be references to self-harm and suicide. This is my experience, and should not be taken as a comment on or explanation of anyone else’s.

With every high comes a low.

For a few precious days, I felt almost normal. It came to me in flashes: realizing that I’d made a phone call. Finding myself in public. Keeping promises I’d made and making new ones. Yes, I’ll be there. I’d love to come. There was even an instant, riding in the passenger seat of the car, my forehead leaned against the window, that I saw the headlights of cars on a perpendicular road and thought, where are they going?

I never have thoughts like that anymore. I don’t wonder. Productive wonder is a kind of optimism that my brain chemistry has killed. On a bad day, I would wonder if those cars were racing to the hospital, driving home from a breakup, speeding toward the life-changing moment of finding a loved one hanging in the garage. But in those precious few seconds, I remembered what it was like when I could daydream without some morose “What if?” lurking in my mind.

I tried to hold onto it. I hadn’t felt that way since I was a teenager, riding in the backseat of my mom’s car, listening to R.E.M. on my headphones and letting my mind wander. That was before my brain betrayed me, before a still-changing body took a wrong turn somewhere and made too much of one thing and not enough of others. I’m not sure how brain chemistry works. That’s my only understanding of it.

I was normal, and then I was not.

Now, twenty or so years on, I’m still lying to myself. Every time the poisonous tendrils of mental illness recede, I stupidly let myself think, this is it. You’re free for good this time. And that makes the crash harder.

It came in the middle of the day. A late dose, a change in routine, that’s all it took. What’s wrong with me? Other people can handle a badly timed phone call. Other people can do two simple tasks at once. Other people are better. Worth more.

Normal.

Normal people, better people, don’t crumple over an outing they hadn’t planned for. Normal people don’t plunge from happily drinking their coffee and mindlessly enjoying TV to hiding in bed, comforter pulled over their head, imagining all the ways children are abused every day and sobbing because there’s no way to stop it. Normal people don’t see a constant filmstrip of horrible what-ifs that they can’t turn off even when it leaves them incapable of focusing on anything else. What if I get cancer? What if my children see me die? What if I do die, and years from now they don’t remember my face? All of these on an endless loop, as though they’re fated to happen, they’re happening, they’ve already happened.

I want to be normal.

Instead, I stand in front of the stove, cooking dinner, telling myself I should put my hand in the boiling water. At the time, it will seem perfectly rational. Later, I think about that impulse, how it almost overwhelmed me, and I’m horrified. Ashamed. A normal person wouldn’t try to convince herself to severely scald her own hand. What if I had done it? Why did I let myself think it? Why now?

I woke up that morning normal.

I went to bed crazy.

Even though I know that none of this is my fault, I blame myself because the sickness in my brain tells me to. That sickness shadows me every day, seizes my mind with evil and obsessive thoughts I can’t turn off. It hurts my body, sending false alarms of danger until my chest hurts and I can’t breathe. When I remember that there are times that it’s not like this, I crumble. But I would never give up those “normal” moments, even the fleeting ones. Because they keep me from believing that this is normal. They set boundaries that remind me of the villain that lurks in all the wrinkles of my diseased brain. Sometimes they feel mean, like teasing glimpses of a life I could have if I weren’t so fragile. Other times, like now, they are triumphant. Every time I remember that I’m mentally ill and not a failure, not a freak, I win a small battle over the villain in my mind. I remember that underneath, I can be normal. But I still have to be here, I have to be present, to be normal.

I will stay, until the next normal, and the one after that.

No Blood Tuesday

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Hey everybody! No True Blood this week. My headset took a shit, so we’re delayed until I can find something that can withstand the brutal conditions of being used for a full hour like every other headset on the planet is capable of doing. I’ll double up episodes next time!

State Of The Trout: News You (Might) Can Use

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Hey there everybody! I don’t know what it is about the last week, but I’ve been really positive and happy. It’s a nice change! I hope you’re all doing Troutstanding, too.

I have three events I want to fill you in on, and all of them are different. Bear with me.

The first one is going to be of particular interest for people in West Michigan. SW Michigan Rising Up and Women Rising Up are holding a rally this Saturday, May 6th 10 AM to 3 PM in Mahan Park in Allegan, MI. Billed as “a celebration of the collective power of women,” the event will feature live music and speakers including Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Rep. Jon Hoadley, and Michigan gubernatorial candidates Gretchen Whitmer, Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, and Bill Cobbs. Come out and join us!

The event poster, featuring all of the info I just listed, but in jpg form.

 

Item number two is also in Michigan, but I highly encourage anybody who loves cons to try and make it. I’ll be at the Rust City Book Convention in Troy, MI (that’s Detroit Metro area) August 4-6. I know I said I wasn’t traveling or doing any cons in 2017, but this is my home state. I gotta be there, right? Come out for the weekend or just the public book signing. Also, Bronwyn Green and Jessica Jarman will be there, so you could get a full #MerlinClub/#LegionXIII experience!

And finally, number three, I’m headed back to Savannah in 2018! The Literary Love Savannah event runs July 26th to the 29th, 2018, at the Riverfront Marriot, which is a super amazing and haunted hotel. This event is going to be an awesome chance to hang out with authors you love, and includes VIP ticket add-on options*, the proceeds of which will go to the Jasper Animal Rescue MissionSo, what does a VIP ticket get you? You can find out what the other authors are doing at the Literary Love Savannah VIP info event on Facebook tomorrow, but I can tell you what I’m offering right now.

I’ve got FIVE gold level VIP tickets that will get you: A bar hopping night with me! You’ll receive some Trout swag, a t-shirt, and the first round is on me!

I’ve got ONE platinum level VIP ticket that will get you: A ghost tour with me, and a goodie basket with some naughty gifts!

*These tickets must be purchased with registration for the event, and attendees of Literary Love Savannah must stay at the conference hotel, as per conference policy.

 

That’s what’s going on in my neck of the woods. Hope everyone has a great day and a beautiful week, and if anyone is attending any of these events, please feel free to let me know in the comments here or on social media, so I can keep an eye out for you!