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I’m happy to announce my 12th episode of Writing Alchemy. I’ve been podcasting for over a year now! This is my first interlude episode and I’m excited to bring you the work of another intersectional writer while I work on finishing “The Wishing Dildo” which is planned for publication and podcasting early 2017.

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In this romance-themed interlude episode, Yolanda Wallace reads from her contemporary lesbian romance 21 Questions, in which Kenya Davis meets bartender Simone Bailey for the first time. Then we delve into themes, representation, and inspiration in Yolanda’s writing.

21 Questions: Kenya Davis’s ability to find the perfect employee is unparalleled. Her ability to find the perfect mate? Not so much. After she takes a chance on speed dating, she finds herself with not one but two chances to find true love. But with her spotty romantic track record, how can she be sure which woman is Miss Right and which is only Miss Right Now?

Simone Bailey works as a bartender at one of the hottest nightclubs in South Beach, has more female attention than she knows what to do with, and spends her spare time following her musical ambitions. Then she meets Kenya Davis. After her initial attempt to charm her way into Kenya’s heart fails, she resolves to reach her ultimate destination one question at a time.

Listen now!

 

[Image description: Black and white side on view of a large old book with pages bent up to form a heart.]

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Image description: An angular black mug of hot chocolate dusted with chocolate powder sits on a white table cloth with blurry white napkins and silverware in the background

I love hot chocolate, but the amount of sugar in most hot chocolates makes me dizzy. So, on one stormy day I created this recipe for hot chocolate based on techniques I learned from my mother (who makes absolutely amazing chocolate sauce). It has a really rich chocolate taste that feels a bit like drinking melted chocolate.

In it I used multiple techniques to enhance the sweetness to make the sugar in it go as far as possible, including adding vanilla and spices like cinnamon and adding a small (should be imperceptible) amount of salt. The vanilla, coconut sugar, and spices also make for a rich, multilayered, full chocolate flavor. Personally, I like adding the spices in very small amounts so that their flavors blend in, but some people really enjoy a stronger spiced flavor.

 

Serves: two people 1 average-sized mug of hot chocolate each

Cooking time: should be about 20min, but a perfectionist cook may take more time

 

Ingredients

  • 2 Cups milk (I prefer whole milk)
  • 2 Tablespoons cocoa powder (I prefer Dutch processed cocoa)
  • 1 Tablespoon coconut sugar (or brown sugar)
  • Small pinch of salt (optional)
  • Smidgen of cinnamon
  • ½ smidgen of allspice
  • ½ smidgen of cardamom
  • 3 Tablespoons solid dark chocolate (I usually use several different brands of dark and ultra-dark chocolate to make the flavor more complex)
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla
  • ¼ teaspoon chocolate extract (optional)

 

Directions

  1. Put the milk in a saucepan and add all of the dry ingredients (cocoa, sugar, salt, and spices). Set the burner to medium and whisk in the dry ingredients before it has finished warming up. (Adding the dry ingredients before it is hot reduces lumps and creates a lovely texture).
  2. Once the dry ingredients are fully mixed in, add the remaining ingredients (chocolate solids, vanilla, and chocolate extract), stirring often.
  3. Continue to heat on medium, stirring frequently, until the mixture comes to a boil. Immediately stir and remove from heat to prevent it from boiling over. Serve and enjoy!

Tips: Milk can boil over very suddenly. This recipe is best made at a time when you can be continuously present to watch over it. Also, technically boiling isn’t necessary and will produce more of a skin, but it does take a lot of heat to fully integrate the chocolate solids into the mixture, so a near boiling temperature is necessary for best flavor.

 

[Image description: An angular black mug of hot chocolate dusted with chocolate powder sits on a white table cloth with blurry white napkins and silverware in the background]

Image source: Nauticaa on pixabay https://pixabay.com/en/coffee-cappuccino-cup-drink-cafe-799516/

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Real Depression

Against a sunny blue sky with wispy clouds is a weathered wooden sign post with a large sign pointing to the right reading “Hope” and a smaller sign underneath it pointing to the left reading “Despair.”

Against a sunny blue sky with wispy clouds is a weathered wooden sign post with a large sign pointing to the right reading “Hope” and a smaller sign underneath it pointing to the left reading “Despair.”

So, sometimes I get this feeling that is really heavy, where even super basic things feel like they take massive amounts of effort to do, but it only lasts an hour or two. To myself I’ve always called this a moment of depression, but part of me always felt like this wasn’t really depression, because “real depression” isn’t something that only lasts for an hour or two. Therefore I decided that my moments of depression must be that feeling which not-depressed people feel and identify as being down, maybe they even call it feeling depressed, but it isn’t “real depression.”

However, if I really think about it I realize that sometimes I do struggle with these depression-like-feelings for several days, maybe even as long as a week. But this always happens at times when I’m drained or burnt-out from some big event, so I’ve always told myself that this is simply what burn-out feels like. Burn-out can make it harder to function, so the fact that I’m struggling with super basic things is to be expected. After all, it is triggered by obvious causes and I recover in a relatively short amount of time, so it isn’t “real depression,” it just that burn-out feels really heavy, drains my energy, and makes it take a lot of effort to ordinary daily activities.

Then there is the fact that I have to do art. HAVE TO. Because if I don’t, these depressed feelings come back. For me, art is an amazing flow of energy, excitement, and drive. And if I don’t do art for even a few days I am frustrated and unhappy because this amazing energy doesn’t have an outlet. If this continues and I’m not able to do art for more than a week, then the energy stops flowing and everything is heavy and hard and takes so much more effort to accomplish. And if there isn’t any art to look forward to in the near future, then I feel hopeless.

This is the biggest reason I can’t have kids. Yes, children bore me, and that is definitely part of it. And another part if it is that art means so much more to me and I want to devote my life to doing art. But the biggest reason is that being with children doesn’t make creative energy flow through me. And if my creative energy isn’t flowing, then everything collapses. I need creative energy to function. And that energy, that flow, takes a lot of time to maintain. A lot of time. I’m talking an hour or more a day plus longer sessions on weekends.

When I am doing creative things regularly and I’m doing lots of art, I’m fine. I have really even moods and I get a lot done and things are going well. Most of the time it’s not quite that good, but close enough. I’m still doing a lot of art, I have creative projects to look forward to, and I’m getting a lot of other stuff done. I don’t feel depressed. But depression is there, lurking. And its presence has shaped my life as much as my anxiety, my back problem, and my unstable blood sugar.

So, maybe I can say that I have struggles with depression. Maybe it is time to stop worrying about whether it is real enough to be called depression and just call it depression, a struggle that takes a unique form in my life. Something doesn’t have to be the most extreme it could possibly be in order to be real.

 

[Image description: Against a sunny blue sky with wispy clouds is a weathered wooden sign post with a large sign pointing to the right reading “Hope” and a smaller sign underneath it pointing to the left reading “Despair.”]

Image from: geralt on pixabay https://pixabay.com/en/directory-signposts-hope-466935/

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This is a fictional book series I made up for my Pathfinder group (a tabletop role playing game based on Dungeons and Dragons). In our fictional world, romance novels seem to always include stories of epic adventure. This series is very popular within our world and the author is a mystery.

I created this using as many over-the-top tropes from both fantasy and romance genres (my two favorite genres) as I could. While this is intended to be humorous, it is the exaggerated tropes that are intended to be funny, not the genres themselves. Fantasy and romance genres are often looked down on or considered less valuable, and that is not my intent here. If this series was real, I bet these six books would be a great read, and I would totally read them.

 

Love’s Captive Book 1: Valiant Seduction

The kind-hearted thief, Lissa, gets captured by Tevaga, the valiant captain of the guard. Lissa escapes, but her heart will forever be captive. As Lissa sets about courting Tevaga with good deeds, a mysterious occultist comes to the city. Can Lissa unravel the web of secrets in time to save the noble Tevaga from a fate worse that death?

 

Love’s Captive Book 2: Ardent Fall

Lissa has left her life of crime behind, but, because her role in defeating the fiendish occultist has had to remain secret, she has no protection from the harsh edicts of the new seneschal. As her past catches up to her, she is forced to leave her home and Captain Tevaga behind. Now, on the road through the Eastern Desert, Lissa is captured by Harsk, the handsome bandit king, who is captivated by her beauty. Using her wits, Lissa quickly wins a place his band. The roguish Harsk is used to getting what he wants, but Lissa teaches him a lesson as she resists his advances. However, Lissa is surprised to find herself tempted by Harks’s rough charm. Tensions soon rise between different factions within the band and Lissa is pressured to take sides. As Dolgrim, Harsk’s treacherous second in command, offers Lissa her freedom in exchange for joining his side, Harsk confesses his love for her. Is his love real, or merely lust? Can Lissa find out the truth before it is too late?

 

Love’s Captive Book 3: Burning Redemption

In the wake of the bandit civil war, the noble Tevaga returns, leading the soldiers tasked with restoring order to the Eastern Desert. Even worse, the treacherous Dolgrim has returned as an agent of the kingdom to the south. Lissa desperately tries to keep Harsk and Tevaga separate, but when battle breaks out between Tevaga’s soldiers and Dolgrim’s forces, Harsk takes the opportunity to capture Tevaga. Now Lissa must make a choice between the roguish Harsk and her rekindled passion for the noble Tevaga. Can Lissa find a way to save Tevaga without betraying Harsk?

Continue Reading »

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I’ve just released Writing Alchemy Episode 11! This is the conclusion of “Dangerous Company” and I have to say that I’m quite proud of my voice acting in the erotic scene for this one. It seems like all of those years of acting classes have actually paid off!

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Monsters is the theme as sci-fi writer and monster enthusiast Bex Shea joins Fay for the conclusion of “Dangerous Company,” in which Kalla finally discovers that the dragon she has been sent to kill has been disguised as her guide the whole time. The following discussion delves into the question of what monstrousness is, the ways that depictions of monsters can be used to otherize or to empathize, fear, compassion, unknowability, the association of gendered traits with power, gender exploration, and the blurring of the lines between human and monster.

Dangerous Company: The last five dragon slayers died. Kalla is good at solving problems, but her skills will be tested as she embarks on her journey with the very dragon she is expected to kill disguised as her guide. Some interesting surprises are just around the corner…

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New Podcast Episode!

I’ve just released Writing Alchemy Episode 10! This is a fun nerdy one for all of you gamers out there, and, of course, the story reading is brought alive with sound effects and music.

Editor and collaborative storyteller Lara Milton joins Fay for the reading of part 2 of “Dangerous Company,” which follows the growing romance between Kalla and the dragon, Har. This section of the story delves into both eroticism as Kalla and Har get closer with each other and into conflict as Har struggles with her own draconic territorialism. The following, delightfully nerdy, discussion focuses on tabletop role playing games as writing inspiration and delves into the some of nitty-gritty details of writing, comparing and contrasting first person and third person perspectives in fiction.

Dangerous Company: The last five dragon slayers died. Kalla is good at solving problems, but her skills will be tested as she embarks on her journey with the very dragon she is expected to kill disguised as her guide. Some interesting surprises are just around the corner…

Dangerous Company website photo 600x314

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Neurodiverse people have brains that operate differently from the norm. I’ve noticed that it is common for the traits that come from these operation differences to be split into two categories: beneficial traits and traits that cause struggle. In many cases it is only the traits that cause struggle that are identified as a part of a person’s neurodiversity. I will use myself as an example. The way my mind operates allows me to be capable of finding the connections between things, keeping track of lots of things at once, anticipating many possible outcomes, and analyzing things in depth. These are all awesome skills that are useful anywhere from science to art and writing. At the same time, the way my mind works also means that I am easily overwhelmed (because I am aware of so many things at once), get anxious about minor things (because I think about all of the bad things that can happen), and obsess over small things (because I am so good at analyzing things deeply). These traits can be hard to live with.

Both sets of traits come out of the same mental patterns, but because of the way that neurodiversity is pathologized, the beneficial traits are often ignored while all of the traits that are hard to live with are lumped together into one mental illness. Well, anxiety is hard to live with, but that isn’t just because of me, it is the world I live in. If everyone in the world had anxiety then things would be radically different. Our human social structures would have more reassurance, less intensity, and more forgiveness. A society built for anxious people would be more polite (but not the excessively structured kind of polite because that would be stressful), all TV programs would be like children’s TV, and there would be cell phone aps that could conclusively tell you, “the oven is off, the windows are closed, and the house definitely not on fire.” Unfortunately for me, the world isn’t like that because the way that my brain works is not the norm, so I struggle with some of the ways that my mind interacts with the world around me.

This is the reason I use the term neurodiverse, because I want to think of my mind as a whole and recognize the beneficial aspects of my brain’s unique structure. This structure is a big part of who I am and I’m tired of feeling that it is broken or diseased. I am tired of all the blame for my suffering being put on me, when it is as much our inflexible, punitive, oppressive culture that is causing my problems. Neurodiverse is a word that acknowledges that my mind works in a way that the world around me might not be prepared for, and it reminds me that, even though that is true, there is nothing wrong with me.

 

[Image description: There is a web of green lines that are suggestive of the network of neurons in the brain. Over top this web is the white outline of a head. The neurons radiate out from the head in a way that suggests their connection to it.]

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After a small delay, Writing Alchemy Episode 9 is up! It has extensive sound effects and music sequences to enhance the story telling. I hope you enjoy!

Media creator and community-organizer Tobi Hill-Meyer joins Fay for the reading of part 1 of “Dangerous Company,” which begins with an angry gender-switching dragon and the woman the townsfolk have hired to kill her. However Kalla the problem-solver is not what either the townsfolk or dragon expect. The following discussion delves deep into ethical ways for artists to address oppression in their work, the changes I made to this story, and the ways marginalized people are often identified with monsters in stories.

Dangerous Company: The last five dragon slayers died. Kalla is good at solving problems, but her skills will be tested as she embarks on her journey with the very dragon she is expected to kill disguised as her guide. Some interesting surprises are just around the corner…

Listen now!

Dangerous Company website photo 600x314

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I’ve just released Episode 8 of my podcast which is the second half of the Writing Alchemy Special on Self-Love. I was smiling so much as I was editing the audio for this, there is a lot of great stuff in this episode! Please check it out!

Summary: This episode is a workshop-style collaboration that explores self-love practices with a focus on the experiences and art of people living at the intersections of oppression. In this episode Jessica Littenburg reads her poem “Healing Is” which is about finding tools for dealing with chronic illness, Ryannah Quigley shares her inspirational experiences as a plus-sized trans woman of color working on the film project hashtag body beautiful, and the band Bicycle Face shares two children’s songs which combine fun and silliness with some important messages about self-love. Discussion also delves into using art to push back against oppression, giving ourselves permission, valuing what we are doing, self-compassion, and using ritual as a tool for change.

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The winner is the score sheet illustration!

“Score Sheet: A depiction of Tala and Death looking quizzically at the score sheet the following morning (they would be fully clothed). The score sheet would start with the numbers in the story and get increasingly chaotic and humorous until it becomes blank at the end.”

I hope to have the references to our artist, Majin Roses, within a week. Then, if we are lucky, the  illustration will be complete within a month (depending on her workflow). Can’t wait to share the final results with you!

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