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A web of rope-like fibers twirl and twist together to form a close up picture of a person’s face. Their skin is a medium brown, their features are somewhat feminine, and their eyes are closed. This is intended to be suggestive of both the complexity of experience and of perception.

A web of rope-like fibers twirl and twist together to form a close up picture of a person’s face. Their skin is a medium brown, their features are somewhat feminine, and their eyes are closed. This is intended to be suggestive of both the complexity of experience and of perception.

I’m super excited to announce that after a long delay caused by a nasty virus that Writing Alchemy Podcast Episode 13 is finally up!

This interlude episode is all about intersections, with a focus on fatness, disability, gender, and queer identity. Guest Kristina Gibbs-Ruby reads a powerful spoken word piece about bullying and fatphobia while Fay reads hir popular article, “Why Having Conditional Privilege Is Not the Same as Simply Being Privileged,” which delves into the complexity of invisible identities, privilege, oppression, gatekeeping, and the struggle to be recognized as real through hir personal experiences.

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This image is meant to capture the feeling of an exciting adventure. A road traverses a rocky, mountainous landscape that is dramatically lit by the setting sun.

This image is meant to capture the feeling of an exciting adventure. A road traverses a rocky, mountainous landscape that is dramatically lit by the setting sun.

I’m very excited to announce that Part 1 of “The Wishing Dildo” is complete and ready for you to enjoy!

Summary: It is said that the Wishing Dildo can grant any wish relating to sexuality or fertility, as long as that wish is consensual. Prince Hart sure hopes that is true as he and his friend, trickster Tala, embark on a quest for it. As they travel, they soon discover that sometimes the greatest adventure is the people you meet along the way.

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Why We Need Fairy Tales

The image is intended to be symbolic of the magic of fairy tales. An old book and old bell sit on a rough wooden surface. Perched on the book is a yellow and brown butterfly and perched on the bell is a brown and white butterfly.

The image is intended to be symbolic of the magic of fairy tales. An old book and old bell sit on a rough wooden surface. Perched on the book is a yellow and brown butterfly and perched on the bell is a brown and white butterfly.

As a person with high anxiety, I have long loved fairy tales. So I guess it is not so surprising that I started writing them. In college I analyzed fairy tale symbolism in women’s studies classes, but once I was writing my very own intersectional feminist fairy tales, I needed to think about fairy tales and their many, many layers in a whole new way.

In the USA fairy tales have been largely discounted as a form of literature. They are considered children’s stories and thus are treated as less deep and meaningful. In addition, fairy tales are often romances, another genre that is looked down on as less meaningful. And yet, fairy tales are rich with symbolism and meaning. All of the things about fairy tales that on the surface seem simple, like their formulaic structure and happy endings, actually can serve to create a container for the exploration of intense topics like death, abuse, and injustice. And, as I learned from writing them, their symbolism can contain endless layers.

Well, not too long ago, I was listening to the podcast Why Are People Into That? and I suddenly asked myself, “What is it about fairy tales that appeals to me?” and “Why do I write fairy tales?” Then a rush of thoughts about all of the unique things fairy tales have to offer came pouring out.

So here it is. My list of the things that fairy tales do which make them amazing works of literature and why I find them so compelling:

 

  • Happy endings: Many fairy tales contain a promise of justice and happiness at the end. This is something that I love because we live in a complex, uncertain world, and the kind of certainty that fairy tales offer is reassuring. That in itself is valuable, but the happy ending plays another role in the story; it creates the feeling of safety that is necessary for many readers to be willing to dive into intense themes such as violence and abuse.
  • Deep symbolism: This is such a rich area that I will give just a few examples. Deliberately murderous family members can be symbolic of toxic family dynamics that threaten to harm the essence of who we are. The monster who takes off their animal skin to turn back into a human reminds us all that the most important parts of who we are lie under the surface. And love’s magic power to break curses shows us the power of love to help us all heal and connect to each other. This wealth of symbolism is also a big responsibility for writers, because, as is clear from many historical fairy tales, this potent symbolism can also reinforce sexist, racist, ableist, and anti-Semitic messages if we aren’t careful.

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I have just posted a preview of Part 1 of “Tala, Prince Hart, and the Wishing Dildo” for all of you to enjoy!

This story is being edited right now and the final version will be up in late December with the podcasts of this story due to begin in mid-January of 2017.

Summary: It is said that the Wishing Dildo can grant any wish relating to sexuality or fertility, as long as that wish is consensual. Prince Hart sure hopes that’s true as he and his friend, trickster Tala, embark on their quest for it. And, as they travel, they soon discover that sometimes the greatest adventure is the people you meet along the way.

This image is meant to capture the feeling of an exciting adventure. A road traverses a rocky, mountainous landscape that is dramatically lit by the setting sun.

This image is meant to capture the feeling of an exciting adventure. A road traverses a rocky, mountainous landscape that is dramatically lit by the setting sun.

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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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loves-captive-image-600x314

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?

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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!

Dangerous Company website photo 600x314

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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