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.
Below is an excerpt from my second book in the Sophia Rey series: The Coven of Retribution. Book 2 is not out yet but will be in 2020. This is just a sneak peek. I hope you enjoy.
In 1692, Lenore, Odette, and Rose witnessed the hangings of their mothers at Gallows Hill in Salem, Massachusetts. In carriages with their heads down, tied up at their waists, their ruffled mob caps with blue ribbon covered their silent cries that yearned for help. But they knew; everyone knew their fate.
It was the Amur Cork Tree that took their mothers’ last breaths. The rope that constrained them at the waist on one end was tied into a noose at the other and thrown over the thick tendril branches of the Amur Cork. They didn’t have a chance. Lenore was thirteen years old. A wicker basket full of bread hung on her arm in the crevice of her elbow as she watched and tried to see her mother’s face hiding under that white mob cap.
“Mama, mama. Let her go,” Lenore said.
No one acknowledged her adolescent pleas. The only acknowledgment was that of the arms of men holding her back. The bread spilled out of the basket and onto the ground and Lenore fell with it. Gripping it in her fists, the bread broke into crumbs and mixed into the dirt. Sprawled on the ground, Lenore tucked her head down into her arm, hoping this madness of terror could be blindfolded. If she couldn’t see it maybe it wouldn’t happen but as she lay on the ground, the sounds of her mother fighting for her life pierced her ears. The wooden carriage wheels creaked as they slipped away and the heavy weight of her mother’s body dropped down; a small thud and the rope twisting from her jerking body. Lenore heard the gasps from all directions.
Next was Odette’s mother then Rose’s. Odette was ten years old and Rose was seven. Standing side by side, all three girls stared at the Amur Cork at the tangled branches that were weighed down by the women who brought them into the world. A world that separated them within seconds. Rose clenched a brown, ragged teddy bear and brought it to her face.
Looking at her mother hanging from the Amur Cork, Lenore said, “They can’t get away with this.”
“But they did, they did get away with it. They’re gone and we’re never getting them back,” said Odette.
Odette ran to her mother, now just a limp body and shoulders hanging like a weeping willow. Wrapping her arms around her mother’s legs, Odette’s tears soaked her mother’s long cotton skirt and lifeless fingers brushed against her shoulders. Death tickling and mocking her.
“I want my mama, I want my mama,” Rose said.
Odette hugged her mother’s hanging legs, turning them left and right, left and right.
“I want mama, I want mama,” Rose said.
Watching the rhythm of Odette’s movement and listening to Rose’s repeating plea against the breeze of the wind, Lenore stood with her hands at her side as everything around her spun into a dance of death.
“I want mama.”
The hanging bodies turned left and right.
“I want mama.”
Limp heads pulled tight by the ropes watched over the young girls with shocked, lifeless eyes. Lenore looked at her mother’s bloated face and bruised neck. Her almond eyes bulged with broken, popped blood vessels. Then, for a quick moment, everything around her fell silent like an empty house without a living soul. Odette was still there, rocking her mother’s legs. Rose was still saying she wanted mama but there was no sound.
Hanging from the rope, Lenore’s mother lifted her head and with a red stained sorrowful stare, she said, “Lenore, you must get retribution.”
“But how?” Lenore said.
“You know how Lenore. You’ve always known how.”
Thanks for reading,
Check out the first book in the Sophia Rey series The Cult Called Freedom House here.
It was a red, white, and blue day and the leaves waved in the wind, mimicking those stripes and stars, mimicking anything and everything that would set it free. Blasts of light and sounds that boomed, it was all for red, white, and blue.
I looked to the sky and the stars were no longer there. They left without a word, without a single goodbye but that was okay because it wasn’t the first time I was abandoned by stardust. Dust that settles, builds up, hits your nose and makes you sneeze, then spreads away to never return. It was once love until it was lost. Lost to the wind and blown away into a red, white, and blue day.
But it never mattered. Because when that day came, the air knew. It breathed it in and exhaled without forgiveness. It only brought celebration, it only brought pride. If it one day died, it would return from the dead to shoot off red, white, and blue stars of zombie pat, trying, on, this, mess. Or it could be patriotic, ness with a mess of brain and blood.
Red blood, white eyes, blue dreams that are so close you can touch them, live in them, but so false that real dreams cannot break through the surface. An atmosphere of fabrication so strong, so long followed, so long nurtured. Are there thanks to be given? Always. Are there tragedies to be forgotten? To be buried? Never. If we always give thanks and always remember the tragedies, then we always revisit our blessings with grace and our shortcomings with the pretense to shine brighter the next time. If we do not do this, then we fail.
Extinction will come. It always does. And when it does, what will you be remembered for? What will I be remembered for? And what will humanity be remembered for? There are far more important things than just the things we claim as our own. There are far away places that stretch off this planet with red, yellow, white, blue, and other spectrums that we cannot calculate upon simple vision. Simple. Vision. Yet, we make things complex, we complicate matters until nothing matters and we celebrate.
Red,dy. Why,te. Blew, away all that we fight for or win for or die for or pray for or stay for or leave for or wish for or cry for or love for. It was that kind of day. And, I was happy and sad and hopeful and mad and at bliss and at war. This was the day of our Independence.
Written by Sterp
It finally happened. I have been taking the light rail to work for the last few months and its been life changing. No traffic, no silly drivers, I get lots of reading done, and have been very productive with work. Then one day it just happened. My phone was on the seat under my leg a bit and when it was my stop, I got up and walked off. While the light rail doors closed, I paused to get my phone out and then realized I had left it...when I turned around to face the light rail it was off to the next stop.
I stayed calm, realizing there was not much I could do in that current moment. I walked down the street to the office and when arriving immediately went to my colleague in Operations (the guy who everyone goes to when they have something to fix or figure out.)
I walked right up to him, "I left my phone on the light rail and I don't know what to do." (BTW, before I even finished this statement, Anthony had the VTA light rail website pulled up and was already dialing their customer service number.)
And this began our 2 hour journey to find my phone...
What happened next I will never forget.
We are now on hold with customer service. I then go to another colleague and use her phone to call my phone in the hopes that someone will answer my phone. No answer. It rang and went to my voicemail but no answer. I continued to call it but no luck. Anthony got VTA customer service on the line. I explain to them all details of what happened and they assure me that they will contact the light rail driver to try to locate the device. I give them my contact info and they said they would call me back either way.
Another colleague steps in (a technical guy) and tells me to log into Find my iPhone. I do this and now we can see my phone making its way through San Jose on the light rail, riding along beating the Silicon Valley commute.
I continue to call my phone from my colleague's phone...and low and behold someone finally answers! The conversation went like this:
"Hello, I left my phone on the light rail. I am a good person, a mom of a 3 year old. Please meet up with me so I can pick up my phone. I will go where ever you are."
"Why hello, I do have your phone. Don't you worry, your phone is safe with me. I will be at the Homeless Clinic in about 20 minutes next to the Lexington Brothers hospital. I have a blue bike. You'll see my blue bike out front. Don't you worry."
"So you will be at the homeless clinic. I will meet you there. What's your name?"
"I will have a blue bike. My name is Michael Brennie. B-R-E-N-N-I-E. I'll be at the homeless clinic. I have your phone."
"Alright I will see you soon. Thank you so much."
And we were off! My colleague Anthony and I were on our way to the homeless clinic to meet up with Michael Brennie, B-R-E-N-N-I-E. On the way, I stopped at the bank and took out $40 to give him for being such a grand citizen.
As we drove to the homeless clinic, I was praying that this man was telling the truth about everything. We parked the car. As we walked toward the homeless clinic, I spotted something that reassured me, a blue bike right out front. We walked into the homeless clinic, passed folks who were definitely struggling with just living. We asked the reception where we might find Michael Brennie and she pointed us toward the waiting room.
We popped into the wait room where 4 characters sat, dazed, exhausted from sleepless strung out nights, and in need of something.
My colleague shouts "Is there a Michael Brennie here? Michael Brennie?"
We turn to our right and there sitting, slouched down with a green worn t-shirt, baggy pants, and white shoes that have seen better days, is Mr. Michael Brennie. He says "I'm Michael."
"Are you Michael Brennie?"
"Michael Brennie. B-R-E-N-N-I-E."
"Hi Michael, oh my goodness, you have my phone, thank you so much!"
"Well, actually, I don't have your phone."
"What?! What happened?"
"The VTA light rail security guard confiscated it from me."
"Oh, well that's okay. I really appreciate you helping me out. I got this for you." I hand him the $40.
Brennie says, "Oh wow, I really need this. Thank you so much." He looks over at the spaced out woman to his right. "See what happens when you do right and do good things."
My colleague then steps into the hallway and gives me a whisper. We huddle in the hall and he has me log into Find my iPhone so we can corroborate Mr. Brennie's story. I crossed my fingers and the app GPS'd to my phone...and what do you know - my phone was traveling again along the San Jose light rail line. God Bless Michael Brennie.
I walked back to thank Michael and he then asks, "Can I get a hug?"
"Of course you can!"
Brennie asks, "What's your name?"
"My name is Stephanie."
"Oh, I used to date a girl named Stephanie." (He breaks into song.) "Myyyy babyyy Stephanie, darrrrlin Stephy. Oh you smell like roses."
"Thanks again Michael, God Bless."
And that was it. I met Michael Brennie. We were now off again and this time chasing the light rail. My colleague stops at an intersection and we see a light rail stopped. He puts his car in park, hops out of the driver's seat before I notice, and shouts to me to drive his car. I quickly hop into the driver's seat and can't reach the pedals. Of course the light turns green and I have to quickly adjust the seat while driving and wearing heels.
I park his car and run over to where he is. Now he's on hold again with customer service and is talking to the VTA security guards. They inform us that my phone is now headed to Milpitas - really getting the most out of its trip.
We rush back to the car and get a VTA person on the phone. They know exactly where my phone is and we schedule a time to meet the VTA driver who has my phone in downtown San Jose.
We then head downtown to catch the 10:53 light rail driver on his route.
When the light rail comes to the downtown stop, I knock on the driver's window.
I immediately say, "You have my phone, I'm Stephanie."
The light rail driver, "Well, good morning to you," with a big friendly smile.
And that was it, my phone was returned to me and I got to encounter good ol' Michael Brennie.
Tune in next time for my wild shenanigans,
It finally happened...I fell from the top of the stairs in my house. It's actually a hilarious story, especially since I didn't get badly hurt, my right pointer finger just swelled up and is bruised (reference photo above.)
So what actually happened?
It was 7:33 am and I was on a conference call with my boss and my boss's boss. Thank God for the mute button otherwise it would've been even more disastrous. I was holding my iPhone in my left hand, muted and on speaker phone. Had my computer bag over my right shoulder, was wearing 3 inch heels and wasn't holding onto the railing. I went racing down as usual, forgetting about the 3 inchers, and BAM!
I didn't slip down. I fell to my side and rolled over and over. Definitely tried to catch myself and failed horribly...apparently.
The loud thud of my epic 7:33am roll woke my husband. He ran down the stairs and immediately helped me out of concern. I was a bit in shock and almost on the verge of tears. My right pointer finger was the only place on my body that instantly hurt, pretty bad might I add.
Of course my phone which made a landing on my kitchen floor, unharmed, was still running the conference call, myself muted. After sitting for a few minutes, I just started laughing my ass off. While commuting to work, I couldn't stop laughing by myself, full on tears laughing. The laughter got so bad, I had to stop at the local Safeway to pick up emergency eyeliner.
This is how I started my 2018! Killing it and rollin in style. Below are some other awesome ways I have started the New Year:
1. Still eating anything that gets in my way
2. Sleeping in whenever possible
3. Staying up way too late on week days
On a more serious note, here are some real ways I have started off my year:
1. Meditating more
2. Playing electric guitar again after stopping for 3 years
3. Continuing to give most of my free time to my children and husband
4. Working out, when I feel like it
5. Every day, taking time to focus on the present moment by breathing
I should probably try to not do too much, especially when stairs are nearby.
Hope your New Year is starting off great! Beware of stairs, slow down, and remember to breathe.
My Christmas season has been superb and it really makes up for our Thanksgiving experience (here's the Thanksgiving blog if you haven't read it.)
We have been quite busy with some great festivities. We started off with the Los Gatos Holiday Train in Vasona Park. There are 2 ways to view the Vasona Park holiday lights, self-drive or hop on the train. We beat about an hour of traffic by using the train. Fun times! Check out what a great time we had, except for Raven in the first photo :)
My husband and I went to The Nutcracker for the first time at the Center for Performing Arts in San Jose. It was so pleasant and as an artist, I truly appreciated every component: the music, costume design, back drops, and dancing. We were in the third row and boy, can you see things you'd normally not. You can see every breath the dancers take, when they're out of breath, and each of them using every ounce of energy and acting to keep a smile on their face the ENTIRE time. EPIC!
Today, I visited my mother. She is recovering from reconstruction surgery due to her battle with breast cancer over the last 8 years. She is doing great and I helped her put her tree up and decorate. On my way to her house, I saw the largest homeless shanty town ever. There were about 100 people and around 30 tents. It was shocking and I thought about it for a long time afterward. I've been thinking about these camp outs for a while. I've had a strong urge to make a short documentary about one of these homeless communes. I just haven't fully strategized my safety net for walking into one and asking to film (of course bearing valuable items to give, just need a security crew...)
Last topic: the chronic pain in my upper back. It's unbearable at times and causing me to be quasi-depressed. It has made me kick my ass into gear and do yoga every day. Below are two amazing yoga videos I have been focusing on and it's been working great! I am considering chiropractic care, physical therapy, or acupuncture, but don't really have time for it all.
Happy holidays and thanks for tuning in to my Digital Diary.
The holidays are here and with that comes the joy of magical festivities, the sweet sound of Christmas carols, beautiful lit streets with the wet reflections of bright lights, and...oh yes, I almost forgot...spending time with family.
I'm going to be frank here, because that's what I do best. It isn't always blossoms and butterflies during the holidays especially when you have multitudes of diverse personalities in a cramped room, sipping on egg nog, and attempting to make small talk. Come on folks, they don't make those ridiculous family holiday movies every year for nothing.
Where am I going with this?
My 2017 holiday season didn't started out the way I hoped however I have had some time to think about it and the older I get the more I realize what my very wise Aunt has been trying to teach me since I was young:
(Yoda Aunt Becky, wise she is.)
The most important thing that crossed my mind while experiencing this less than ideal beginning of the holiday season: so many people in the world have way worse situations than me. Although it may not always be blossoms and butterflies, I definitely live a Life full of them. I personally know people who've lost loved ones a week before Thanksgiving so now they're forced to experience their 2017 holiday season never seeing the people they love and care for again.
So in the grand scheme of things, who cares that something didn't work out the way I hoped. I am breathing, living, happy, painting, dancing, and damn excited for a magical Christmas morning.
Happy Holidays and when the holidays get you down, drink some egg nog and sing your heart out to Christmas carols and just remember, there are some people sleeping outdoors with nothing left. (But you can be that person to make them smile.)
Peace and Joy,
Dear Digital Diary,
I have always been the type of person to think about the things I'm grateful for but with Thanksgiving approaching, I find myself thinking about it even more.
In a world where attention is shorter than ever and everyone thinks they are King of the freeway so they would rather ride's someone ass to get to their throne, it's easy to lose sight of what matters most: living Life in the present.
Here are random things I'm grateful for in no particular order:
1. Freedom: I get to choose my destiny and that's a beautiful thing
2. Family: They drive me nuts sometimes but they are by far my favorite people
3. My husband: Treats me like a Queen, that is all
4. My career: Not a job, a career, one that I love and I am passionate about
5. My talents: Talents are learned but some people are simply born with the gene, I can paint like no one's business and it's a therapy for me and for that I am grateful
6. Comforts: The car I drive, the clothes I have, the cozy home with a California King, and too many shoes...(remember to always give back)
7. The Digital Age: I am a fan, I see the benefits, so many people forget how is was just 15 years ago...GAME RECOGNIZE GAME!
8. Q-tips: Because what else would satisfy such an itch
I would love to hear what you are grateful for?
Don't forget to follow me on Facebook, INSTA, YouTube, and Twitter if you want to kill some time!
Be back soon,
While I was stuck in Bay Area traffic, I had an idea for my blog. Most of my content ideas for my YouTube channel and my blog happen in traffic. I guess if I ever get writer's block I know exactly what to do.
My blog is quite deprived of my attention. I work full-time as a corporate marketing manager for an IT security company, have a 2 year old and an 11 year old, I'm married, and have 2 pets. Not to mention a hobby for creating art and slap OCD on top of it all, and well, you get a person moving a million miles an hour.
I got to thinking, in order to consistently write content, why does it always have to be some epic life changing story? My "I don't give a F*ck" attitude chimed in and made me realize it doesn't need to be. So here I am and here it is: my first Digital Diary entry. I plan to create these entries frequently, and although most of them will be random rants and useless information, maybe just one person in the world will gain insight, value, or simply a good laugh.
Recently my husband and I took the leap and started saving for a house. For those of you who live in the Bay Area (we live in San Jose, CA), you understand how laughable it sounds to save for a home here. Our loose plan: use an FHA loan to own here but no matter what happens, we plan to move out of state within the next 7 years. Bye-bye Cali, your over congestion, rude and ridiculous drivers, and over-priced housing has been fun but...
Holidays are Here
Amongst saving for a home, the holidays are here! The best part: family and food. We aren't buying gifts this year except for the kids. It's funny though, I have seen first hand how many "things" are wasted due to excessive buying during the holidays by people overall. Remember folks, cater to the trend of everyone getting offended by everything and don't dare express a "Merry Christmas." (Or just be you and stop caring what others think)
It's here and I love how everyone and their mother have an opinion. The one piece of advice I have taken from everyone and their mother is "to cherish every moment because it goes too fast." I actually took this literally and will just sit and engage in playtime with my daughter, putting everything else aside. I think that is the secret to it all, to raising a good human being, is to just spend time with them.
I know what you are all thinking, "he whose name must not be spoken." I have nothing to say here about politics, however, I recently heard a YouTuber say "overall, it's a great time for humans to be living." I cannot agree with this more. There will always exist a monster in your life in some way, you can be negative about it and let it rule over you or you can be positive and transcend it.
7 Year Anniversary
I have been with my husband for 7 years and, no joke, we are extremely happy, have a healthy relationship, and see nothing but success in our future. Was it always like this? Absolutely not. What's the secret? Not sure, but what I do know is that we continue to grow together even with our faults and always believe in one another. You can have different opinions on Life and you should. Learn to talk about money, how to raise kids, and about religion and politics.
Ask yourself, if you were locked in a 5x5 room with this person for 1 week, would you last?
Well, that's all I got for today (and if you haven't started Stranger Things on Netflix, get on that now!)
Thanks for reading,
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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