I have always dreamed of living a life similar to my favorite authors and artists. Like that of Virginia Woolf’s Bloomsbury Group, an intimate society of intellectuals, writers, artists who lived their lives together, forming deep friendships and above all, creating. Creating ideas, art, books, conversations.
I have always craved a life like Gertrude Stein’s, having a big house where artists from around the world gather to talk creations, to create, paint, love, write, laugh. Being a writer, an artist, it’s lonely work. Immersed within your own soul, facing the turmoils of your past, breathing in the moment and wondering about the future.
I no longer have to crave or dream. Moving out of California to Pennsylvania, building an artist sanctuary became possible. You would be surprised what can happen when you meet like-minded people, ones who are motivated, genuinely compassionate and true to who they are. Now I spend multiple days a week creating with intellectuals and creatives who I call my friends. I no longer need to try to be like Virginia or Gertrude, I just need to be me. It takes some vulnerability, some risk. It takes courage.
As Virginia Woolf said, “Masterpieces are not single and solitary births; they are the outcome of many years of thinking in common, of thinking by the body of the people, so that the experience of the mass is behind the single voice.”
Said in another way, masterpieces manifest from the sum of experiences, perspectives and feelings invoked by those you surround yourself with. So surround yourself wisely and a masterpiece might just arise.
My artist sanctuary with my artist friends
I frequent the local Goodwill store. The journey of the thrift hunt brings joy. And sometimes, another person’s junk becomes a small treasure. One of those small treasures landed in my hands, a book titled A Year of Positive Thinking. There is an excerpt for every day of the year.
Today’s reads: Nurture Relationships of Integrity
“You do not need to have the same interests or personalities as those you surround yourself with. What matters is that you connect from your heart and that you value the integrity of your connection equally. Sustain relationships that take you outside your comfort zone; they will support your growth. Foster these friendships and they will bring you more joy, love, and connection than you ever knew possible. Relationships built of integrity will carry you through both the best and the worst of times. Always create space for them.”
It wasn’t until I moved across the country, born and raised in the west coast and then packing up and moving to the east coast in 2020, that this concept of nurturing relationships of integrity really began to matter. I guess loneliness will do that. I am grateful for the new friendships that have been planted in my life and continue to grow. The people I choose to surround myself with on a weekly basis all inspire me to be the best version of myself. The people I choose to surround myself with, continue to teach me other perspectives, motivate me to be the artist that I am, and look to the future of what we are to become.
As you reflect on today’s positive thinking excerpt above, written by Cyndie Spiegel, ask yourself, who do you choose to surround yourself with? Why are you grateful for those relationships and what do they continue to teach you?
On a last note, never discount the joy of thrifting.
Have you ever imagined leaving your home? What is home? Is it a physical location? I always thought my home was in the Bay Area. Home is where we are born and raised, right?
It’s where I had my first kiss, in the driveway across the street from my house, behind our neighbor’s truck with a boy named Jesse. He had a bowl cut. It’s where I slammed pogs onto the concrete sidewalk while kids rode by on their BMX bikes hauling friends on their pegs. Home was mom and dad. Until it wasn’t.
Home was the place I ran away from as a teenager, trying to discover who I was but only to find myself more lost than before. It was where I broke hearts and where I endured the most heartache. It’s where my family and I made ourselves, only to become the place where it all fell apart. Home was mom and dad, and then it wasn’t. Then it became just me. Just mom. Just dad.
Home was where I started using. It’s where I battled me and only me over and over, and when I thought the battle was done…
It’s where I was rushed to emergency. Twice. It’s where I had to save myself because no one else was going to do it for me. Home was where I met the person who would be my forever. It’s where I learned it’s not always all about me. It’s where I learned compassion and forgiveness. It’s where I learned to receive it back. Home was where my daughter was born.
Home was where I began to think, where is home?
In 2020, my family and I moved from the west coast to the east coast. We moved away from family and friends. We left to build a comfortable life for ourselves. We left “home” for a new home. I have come to realize that home resides deep within and I’m reminded by Ernest Hemingway, “You can’t get away from yourself by moving from one place to another.”
Home is where you cannot and will not escape yourself. It’s deep within and therefore can be anywhere and nowhere. It’s where we choose to love, to make peace. So the next time you miss home, look within yourself because you’ve been there all along.
Thanks for tuning in dear reader,
I am writing this seconds after finishing the short story If God Were a Wound by Eric LaRocca, recently published in the horror anthology Shattered and Splintered.
There aren’t many short story first liners that grab you by the face demanding your attention. They’re few and far between. Sometimes, I feel terrible when I attempt to read a short story and just can’t get past the first few lines because if that’s the case, I am throwing in the towel and moving on. If God Were a Wound didn’t just grab my face, it punched me in the gut and forced me to read on with pleasure.
And the first line is, “If God were a wound, I think more people might be inclined to believe in Him.”
Whether or not you believe in God is besides the point. This short story doesn’t just have something to say, it needs the world to hear it and makes the world want to hear it. As a writer myself, the crafting of a short story is as difficult to formulate as a full blown novel. I was mesmerized by LaRocca’s poetic prose, story arc (yes, there are arcs in shorts,) twists, build up, and ultimately an end that makes the reader ponder afterward for quite some time. I could feel LaRocca’s vulnerability and when a writer accomplishes that, well I’d say they have accomplished as a writer.
This story is the type that should be read in classrooms, analyzed and discussed. So, dear reader, I will leave you with this excerpt from If God Were a Wound:
“Bad news?” he asks.
I don’t know how to answer. It’s not necessarily bad news. At least, not in the way most people might consider bad news, or take it for that matter. Instead, it seems more appropriate to classify it as “strange news.”
Believe me, you’ll want to find out what this “strange news” is, so help me God.
Do you love 1970s and 80s horror cinema? Or maybe you enjoy soft porn horror films (yes, it’s totally a thing!) Hear me out for a minute, as a horror fanatic myself, I was shocked that I had never heard of the Final Guys YouTube channel, a podcast dedicated to all things horror (reviewing horror cinema, games, books, etc.) But here’s the thing, this isn’t just any podcast, these guys and gals are our fellow indie horror authors! Your amazing hosts are Hunter Shea, Jack Campisi, and Jason Brant with guests like Chad Lutzke, Laurel Hightower-Wells, and more! If you’re hearing the faint calling of crickets right now, do yourself a favor and go read some of these authors’ books. ASAP. Here’s the good news, Final Guys is LIVE on YT every Tuesday at 8pm ET.
I’m going to do you a favor and highlight some of the best moments from last night’s Final Guys YT Live, which was my first, popping my cherry with horror soft porn (we’ll get to that in a bit.) Be prepared for drinking games, horror reviews, they got jokes, and amazing attendee chat! I’m going to break out of this paragraph format and dive into a list of highlights. Enjoy!
Best Moments from The Innocents Review - Final Guys Horror Show #272
Watch on-demand here.
Check out all the movie posters below because you know we all judge a movie by its cover!
I slept well last night and I don’t know why. I trace back what my day looked like so I can replicate it again just to get some good sleep. The one thing that stood out was writing. I finally started writing again. I guess when I don’t write, memories and untrue narratives crowd my mind until there’s no more space in there. Then I can’t sleep. Knock knock. Who’s there? I don’t know, but get them out.
I started writing my third book yesterday, what I’m calling an autobiographical horror. I’d like to think of it as Stephen King meets Hunter S. Thompson with Sylvia Plath overtones, minus the latter two’s terrible demise.
I slept well last night and I don’t know why but I hope it’s from writing. Painting helps me but not in the same way that writing does. There is no other way to expose thoughts, to slap them around a little and put them in their place. There’s no other way to remove cancerous memories and untrue narratives from your brain except to trap them onto paper for all to read. They almost lose enough of their power.
I fell asleep with ease last night and at 5:30 this morning my eyes opened in a flash. I was wide awake with no questions asked so I got up and started my day with writing. Since I met the day with writing, I hope I sleep well tonight too.
Until we meet again dear reader,
I have secrets like each of you. But do you share your secrets?
I have been getting quite depressed lately. Yes, the “D” word, the one we are not supposed to talk about. The one that our world shuns even though many of our loved ones are lying in its puddle day after day. Not quite drowning, just lying there in angst.
I wrote a short story today about it all and submitted it to a publication, probably only to get rejected but that’s another story for another day.
This morning I sat out on my porch and read a book I got from the library, Secret Window: Essays and Fiction on the Craft of Writing by Stephen King. It’s inspiring to say the least. I want to go to his home in Maine and stare between the bars of his steel black fence. I want to haunt him the way his stories haunt me. Is that creepy?
The really great news is I have been creating more than all the years added together. Whatever that means. I also received my first portrait commission ever. An achievement in the art world similar to getting an interview for a job. It makes me happy and that’s really all I could ask for.
Let’s see, what else? I am writing again after burn out. I often feel burn out. I don’t know if it’s an artist thing, a creator thing, but I get into fits of creativity and it just pours out of him uncontrollably then it’s like I’ve been hit by a truck and I am laid out for days, sometimes weeks, and even months. It’s as if everything was sucked out of me and the only way to recharge is to sleep.
I cycle. I write, paint, read, all obsessively until I break. I repair and continue. I do this all while working a day job, being a mom, a wife and trying to live healthily. Everyone and no one is doing the same thing. Or doing nothing.
Sometimes I get headaches that last days.
Sometimes I feel on top of the world.
I want to keep these short for you, in the midst of your busy life. I need to go work on this commission piece. I will share progress photos along the way. Happy Sunday (to you and your Sunday secrets...)
By the way, tell me one secret.
Warning: This blog has spoilers throughout and is meant for an audience who has either seen Scream 5 or does not mind spoilers.
As you’re reading this, what if there was a masked killer on the loose, sneaking around your neighborhood, killing, peering through your window, and watching you as you sit in the single place that provides you the most comfort and protection.
Timing is inevitable in a slasher world where the victims have zero control of when and where the killer will strike next. To honor this, I am going to save you a lengthy memoir of my life story and how Scream has impacted my life, blah blah blah, before the masked killer calls you or knocks at your door.
Scream 5, one of the best in the series and my second favorite, my first favorite being Scream 1.
I loved Scream 5. I think it did everything right, it represented under-represented groups without being forced or disingenuous. It kicked ass and for us die hard fans, it perfectly connected to the first Scream.
“Hello Sydney, it’s an honor.” And an honor it was indeed.
Thanks for reading,
I edited my second book the other night for seven hours straight. In the end, I was nauseous and at that point only sleep would help.
No one said writing books would be easy.
I guess this is part of it. The writer takes on the suffering, hardships, and victories of their characters. It’s emotionally and physically exhausting, but for a writer, it’s an absolute necessity to live. Like breathing.
The irony here: for many of us, writing can be therapeutic, but as we shed our skin of our own experiences we take on the new ones of our characters, all imagined by us from the beginning.
It’s like being cleansed but using the exact thing we want to be cleansed of to cleanse ourselves.
I felt nauseous the other night. I wrote about death, dark corners that exist in evil minds, sorrow and yet I never felt more proud and motivated after those seven hours. I feel my craft pumping through my veins and getting stronger every minute, every hour that I spend with it.
Like any art, like any craft, it stretches at your heart. It can drive you insane.
But who wants to live any other way?
So there I lay ready to sleep, queasy, with a smile on my face.
Title: Lipstick Red Neon
Red, red neon
Those dark tunnel hallways
Those psychedelic dreamscapes
Breathing breath takers
Give me goosebumps as I sweat
Walk by whispers wisp past my hair
Red, red neon
Barely lit street corners
Those inside pockets pass
Those worlds of rhythm dance out of car windows
Dirty street corners that rot and laugh
But there I stand
Red, red neon
A forever night that will not see sunlight
That moonlit sky speaks in another tongue
Those lights are different inside the dark
Lipstick cheeks behind windows
This world of one and only nights
Written by Stephanie Evelyn aka Sterp
I am Sterp. I write dark fiction and have a very unhealthy obsession with disturbing narratives. I am the author of The Cult Called Freedom House: Sophia Rey Book One. My short story The Lost Tea Cup is in Issue 26 of The Literary Hatchet. I am also a painter.
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