Posted in [poetry]

this is witchcraft [poem]

the incense smoke bathes the room in magic
while I surf through Pinterest for dinner ideas
this is witchcraft
I reblog a self-care post
after seeing that several of my followers seem a bit down
I pray they see it and listen to the suggestions and feel better
this is witchcraft
I swallow down my frustration when a friend
once again tries to get back with her ex
I remind her that her happiness is key
and that I mean it when I say I’m there for her
even if it means finding the good in a bad situation
I will keep my word
this is witchcraft

Posted in [miscellaneous experiments]

To My Northern Friends

If you’re one of my friends in the North that considers themselves progressive or liberal, please take a moment to read this. Buddies in the South, you can keep scrolling.

Living in the not-South can feel like you’re above the kinds of racism, sexism, and homophobia of those uneducated Southerners. You might feel like you’re part of a better side of America, a side that’s safe and fair and honest.

I hate to be the one to tell you this, but you’re wrong.

Believing that the North is safe from being discriminatory is privilege.

In the South, you might see people sneer at Black folks for existing in the same places their ancestors were forced to labor. Here, I see people sneer at Native folks for existing in the same places their ancestors have always lived. I hear jokes about stereotypes that go unquestioned, because our neighborhoods are conspicuously white; even my most progressive friends slip here, telling jokes no one has ever called them out on.

Just because no one points out your racism doesn’t mean it’s not there.

In the South, sexism is direct. They make women’s healthcare difficult to receive outside of a set bubble (i.e. childbearing). They are proud to tell you that they have five centers in a town dedicated to helping a woman through her pregnancy from conception to birth, while they’ve managed to push the closest birth control, cancer screening, and abortion coverage 2-3 hours away. Up here in the North, sexism is subtle. Men’s jobs just don’t recruit women, and they don’t often interview women who do apply – after all, they’re just not built to do all this hard labor. Women’s jobs are clearly delineated by the tasks involved (i.e. social rather than physical). Having a baby while employed is no easier or better supported up here; we all know someone who’s had to return from maternity leave too early or has left the job rather than do so. Gender norms are still enforced, meaning my shaved head was questioned while wearing a skirt is praised (even though neither affects my ability to do my job).

Just because no one questions your sexism doesn’t mean it’s not there.

In the South, being noticeably Queer means snide looks or comments like “you know that’s a sin” or “I’ll pray for you”. Again, homophobia is often direct and obvious. Yet in the South, there are organizations in almost every town for Queer folks to find support and a community. In the North, ignorance was my first experience as a Queer woman. On my first anniversary, almost a year to the day after SCOTUS made it legal for my wife and me to get married, I had people asking how I got married in Texas. And was I really married, like with the certificate any everything? YES! Imagine the privilege of not even noticing when America finally legalized love everywhere in 2015. Being noticeably Queer up here means people feel comfortable having entire conversations about you and your appearance within hearing range, and sometimes it makes me miss being told “I’ll pray for you” instead.

Just because no one calls you out on your homophobia doesn’t mean it’s not there.

In the South, there’s a thriving community of pagans and witches. The network is well woven, and everyone knows someone who knows someone. Texas pagans fought for the right to have a pentagram on pagan soldiers’ graves in federal cemeteries, and they won. In the North, you have just as many churches on every corner, door-to-door proselytizing, and presumptions of Christianity. Actually, the biggest frustration I’ve had is in trying to be “out” as a witch. In the South, if I mentioned being non-Christian or celebrating Yule, the natural progression of our conversation would be a polite inquiry as to what I was (if I didn’t mind sharing). Southern people take subtle hints very well! Meanwhile, I’ve been trying to come out to my coworkers for 3 years, and the majority are still so unwilling to discuss religion that they don’t know anything about me. Willful avoidance doesn’t help with diversity and inclusion!

Just because no one voices the need for conformity doesn’t mean it’s not there.

The problem with believing that the North is a liberal utopia is that you stop paying attention. You think it’s not a big deal when stuff happens. You get annoyed at protesters marching down the streets, because you don’t feel like they have anything to complain about up here. You roll your eyes at pride posts online and can’t wait for June to end so you can stop seeing rainbows everywhere. You shrug off the election of an anti-choice politician, because it’s not like it affects the women you know. You ask your friend to stop bringing up rape culture, because they’re being a downer. You think none of this is an “us” problem. It’s all a “them” problem.

America is both “us” and “them”. Only your privilege lets you ignore discrimination in favor of comfort.

As your Queer female witch friend from Texas, I’m asking you to check your privilege. When you want to ignore or brush off news because it’s uncomfortable (or scary… or rage-inducing…), I want you to sit with that discomfort and work through it. There are good people in this country who need your support.

Support is a verb.

Being non-racist isn’t the same as being anti-racist. Being non-homophobic isn’t the same as being anti-homophobia. I need you to be willing to be anti-oppression, with your thoughts and your words and your vote. I need you to notice your own biases and question them when they come up, even if you don’t want to consider that you might have them. We all do. I need you to point out offensive jokes instead of faking a laugh, even if it means some people stop joking around you. I need you to have the hard conversations with friends and family, even if they lead to disagreements or hurt feelings. I need you to vote like you have skin in the game, like a politician’s decisions will alter your life they way they alter the lives of people like me. I need you to support people you’ve never met when they take a stand against oppression, because someone close to you might be watching and waiting to see if you’re a safe harbor.

I need you to do the work.

Posted in [writer resources]

[Resource Review] “Create Your Writer Platform” by Chuck Sambuchino

Full Title: Create Your Writer Platform: The Key to Building an Audience, Selling More Books, and Finding Success as an Author
Author: Chuck Sambuchino
Published: November 2012 by Writer’s Digest Books
Genres: Nonfiction, Web Development & Design, Social Media, Business Technology
Edition Details: 248 pages, trade paperback
Source: {Purchased – Used}
Rating: {4/5 stars}

First Glance

It’s going to sound silly as I write out a blog post that will be shared across various social media channels, but… this book had me both intrigued and a bit leery. I’m not into the Influencer culture, the idea of success being measured by social media reach. However, I recognize that I follow people I like online; they’ve built the kind of communities and online interactions that leave you feeling good when they’re done. So clearly, a writer can benefit from using social media to interact with their readers, other writers, and the bookdragons of the world at large.

Positive Bits

Sambuchino made a lot of sense in his instructions. He gave concrete measures for recognizing successful social media platform creation, rather than generalizing. I like numbers and goals; it’s part of why I like NaNoWriMo’s 50K in 30 days, because it’s a concrete goal and timeline. This book has many examples of ways to track your platform growth.

My favorite suggestion (with tangible focus) was to Google yourself. If you’re the majority of the first page results, then you’re doing it right when it comes to social media and building a platform. I’ve done it, and my years of blogging and sharing poems have led to a large number of my posts coming up in Google Images in particular. It’s kind of neat!

I also appreciated the recognition of how important community can be. You don’t have to be a writer all alone; in fact, online writing groups can be ridiculously helpful in giving you inspiration, constructive criticism, and opportunities to give back.

Less Enjoyable Bits

A large portion of the advice in this book focused on the kinds of writers who want to run in certain circles. The authors who give paid speeches in various conventions and college events. The writers who become a household name in their field.

The focus made on networking made sense, but sometimes it pushed the boundaries of realistic choices for a person to make. For example, Sambuchino mentions working in your desired field (in relation to nonfiction writers) even if it means accepting a pay cut. That’s not terrible advice… except people who are already scraping by paycheck to paycheck can’t just switch jobs for fun. No one needs to actually choose to become a starving artist to succeed.

I felt like the section on Facebook usage was oddly out-of-date for such a recently published book. I’ve had pages for various groups and topics over the past decade, and you don’t have to friend people to interact with them on a page you manage. So the entire description of how to use Facebook effectively was out of sync with the reality of Facebook.

Tidbits Worth Repeating

You don’t have to go it alone.

Creating a large and effective platform from scratch is, to say the least, a daunting task. But you don’t have to swim out in the ocean alone. You can – and are encouraged to – work with others. {page 40}

You can only best understand and help members of your niche/community if you’re heavily involved with them. Your goal is to join and participate in any kind of community that links you with those who share your interests – and by participate I’m talking meaningful interaction, not status updates on Facebook that tell people to buy your book. {page 66}

Create content with passion and gusto, and build a community around yourself. The goal is simply to create a huge readership and to help that some of that visibility translates to book sales. No double it will, though exact numbers will be difficult to come by. {page 84}

Is it worth the coin?

Yes – if you don’t know where to start with social media and all the online mumbo jumbo associated with marketing yourself and your writing. Be warned, though, that this book is largely focused on how a nonfiction writer gets attention. The tips and tricks can crossover, but they don’t always translate into fiction work.

Posted in [writer resources]

[Resource Review] “The Kick-Ass Writer” by Chuck Wendig

Full Title: The Kick-Ass Writer: 1001 Ways to Write Great Fiction, Get Published, & Earn Your Audience
Author: Chuck Wendig
Published: November 2014 by Writer’s Digest Books
Genres: Nonfiction, Writing Skills, Authorship, Creative Writing & Composition
Edition Details: 282 pages, trade paperback
Source: {Purchased – Used}
Rating: {3.5/5 stars}

First Glance

I’d seen Pinterest pins of various quotes from this book, particularly during the NaNoWriMo season. Considering his mouth (foul words and verbal slaps in the face), I knew I’d likely be both amused and annoyed with Wendig’s style.

Positive Bits

I love lists! A list forces a writer to be concise and to really make sense of their thoughts. Listmaking is one of my favorite writing tools, both for vague story outlines and for stretching my creative writing muscles.

Between the jokes and silly metaphors, Wendig built a legitimate collection of writing tips I think any author could benefit from. Actually, I love the fact that the book’s lists make quoting Wendig’s points so easy! After all, every statement is numbered.

Wendig’s voice is approachable. There is no master-student dynamic in this book. Instead, he gives you that smartass friend who’s telling you all about his opinions. If nonfiction usually bores you to tears, it’s likely due to a teacher’s tone being used throughout the text. Some people just learn better from peers.

Less Enjoyable Bits

One list is fun. A dozen lists can still be entertaining. But 282 pages of lists? I’m sure it made writing the book itself much easier, but lists with the exact same format can get a bit mind-numbing.

Wendig ended up with a lot of repetition and contradiction between his lists. For example, he discussed how a plot generally needs a beginning, middle, and end on a list only to repeat that point again on another list a few pages later (maybe with a new joke). At the same time, he’d mention how you have to know how the story ends, except that you don’t have to know until you get there, but be sure to write the ending first, unless you don’t. It was a little frustrating.

I think that Wendig’s humor is best ingested in small amounts, like rich chocolate cake. Too much, and you just get sick of it. To be fair, though, I expected to end up feeling this way by the end of the book; I follow his blog, so I’m well aware of his voice and how I react to it.

Tidbits Worth Repeating

Stop Running Away: Right here is your story. Your manuscript. Your career. So why are you running in the other direction? Your writing will never chase you – you need to chase your writing. If it’s what you want, pursue it. {page 53}

Stories Have Power: Outside the air we breathe and the blood in our bodies, the one thing that connects us modern humans today with the shamans and emperors and serfs and alien astronauts of our past is a heritage – a lineage – of stories. Stories move the world at the same time they explain our place in it. They help us understand ourselves and those near to us. Never treat a story as a shallow, wan little thing. A good story is as powerful as the bullet fired from an assassin’s gun. {page 21}

[On why you write] You do it because you love it. You do it because you want to be read. You tell stories because you’re a storyteller. And because stories matter. {page 277}

Is it worth the coin?

Yes – but check out his blog terribleminds first to get a taste of his style. I’m not sure I’d purchase this book full price, but seeing it on a used shelf for a few bucks? Sure. To each their own preferences.

Posted in [business projects], [miscellaneous experiments]

Your Digital Footprint

There’s something cathartic about deleting yourself online.

I just spent two days this weekend deleting various profiles and accounts across the internet, distilling my online presence to the bare necessities.

Some people create accounts and email addresses the same way a grasshopper leaps through a field, with lots of movement and little focus on the bigger picture. Others cultivate an elaborate and tightknit persona online, maintaining their data and accounts with as much focus as a lioness stalking her prey.

I am a lioness.

I’ve only had six email accounts in my life (excluding work). I know what sites I have/had memberships on, largely based on the registration emails I’ve kept since I entered digital space in 2001.

Email #1 (2001 to 2005) – This was my first email account, created in a freshman Spanish class (2001) for a pen pal in Mexico that never wrote back. I used this account to dump questionable websites into, allowing my main email address to remain safe from spam. This account was closed after over a year of disuse.

Email #2 (2001 to 2014) – This was my second email account, created very closely after the first and more in my own image. I groomed this account from 2001 to 2014, filtering out spam religiously and only handing out the email to trusted sites and persons. However, in 2013 Yahoo itself was hacked and my account was compromised; several months (and passwords, security questions, etc.) later, I gave up on the account and consolidated everything to a different service. This account was deleted over the weekend.

Email #3 (2001 to 2003) – This was an email account I created for fun. I used it for a specific messenger, joining a friend on weekends to chat with other geeky kids and roleplay as dragon riders. The account closed itself long ago, after years of disuse.

Email #4 (2004 to 2014) – This was an email account I created to replace #3. I needed access to the same messenger again, this time for certain friends and family after moving overseas. The hope was that my friends would stay in touch, pre-Facebook. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case; this email account became the new dumping ground for spam. The account was deleted this weekend, having last been checked a few months ago.

Email #5 & #6 (2012 to current) – These two are both locked with elaborate passwords, 2-step verifications, and coded security questions. In addition, I’ve filtered out all registration emails and other personal credential information, just in case these email accounts get hacked; no one will get my other logins via email hacking.

I’ve deleted various accounts over the past few years, many deactivated this weekend during my digital purge. I don’t let accounts fade away, because that doesn’t always work; not all websites have a use-it-or-lose-it clause in their terms. One of my friends just discovered this issue, as his personal photos from his teen years (explicit or not) were publicly visible online. He’s now struggling to remember email accounts, let alone login credentials.

Oh, by the way… I’m one of those weirdos who actually reads (or at least skims) the terms and conditions of new websites before accepting them.

Yes, seriously.

I mostly skim for parts about use and storage of my information, as well as what grounds can get my account locked (especially for storage services like Dropbox and Photobucket). I like to know who can access my stuff, how much control I have over it, and how likely it is that I’ll lose my stuff.

I’m also cautious enough to research storage sites before using them. I google their history, looking for previous hacking events and lawsuits; I also check how often they change privacy settings (*cough*Facebook*cough*) and how that affects individual use.

I love the internet and digital life! However, I’m still careful about what I put out there. You can never unshare something online, and you have to be willing to accept the consequences of your choices.

The lioness in my is ever-vigilant. I have a coded password book, and I’ve ensured that important accounts (banking, email, financials) are all locked down with 2-step verification and complicated logins that aren’t listed in my book. I know where I am online and why, and no amount of googling my name will bring up anything I’m ashamed of creating.

What does your digital footprint look like?

Posted in [business projects], [miscellaneous experiments]

Goodbye, Yahoo! (or Breaking Up With Bad Services)

Goodbye, Yahoo!, and good luck
Goodbye, Yahoo!, and good luck.

I’m closing my Yahoo! email account this weekend. Why?

I created my account in 2001 as part of a computer class assignment. I didn’t have internet at home, so I followed the basic instructions our teacher gave. In other words, I didn’t choose Yahoo! so much as I followed those directions to the letter.

Since then, I’ve used the account for various online logins. Some of my social media, bills, and store accounts are linked to my Yahoo! email address. It’s been convenient to use one account; after all, that means less passwords to memorize, as well as less variety in my login credentials to remember (many websites use your email address as the login username, very helpful).

I had a decent, private password and security questions I updated once every few years. Most updates were done after a move, since I’d change my location (city, state) each time. My questions are always the “create a question” option, because I feel more secure making up complicated questions or coded phrases that make sense only to me. My passwords are number-word combos that have personal significance without including personal data (birthdates, names of family, etc.).

My account never got hacked… until the end of 2013.

I found out my account was hacked thanks to my work email. I’d added myself as a contact after my mom’s account from another service was hacked and used for spam; the idea was to track any possibility of my account sending out spam by receiving it directly from myself. It turned out to be a good idea, as I received a weird email with a link from myself and immediately updated all of my password information.

Unfortunately, Yahoo! seems to have a hacking problem.

It’s only been a few months since I updated my information, but I’ve already been hacked again. Seriously, new passwords AND new security questions AND 2-step login verification should be enough to keep out a standard hacker on my end; the rest is back-end issues with the servers themselves being hacked. I can’t fix that!

In addition, my email account has amassed an army of spam in the decade(+) that it’s existed. That can’t be helped. I’ve blocked and filtered 99.9% of it into my spam folder, but that folder contains 100+ emails at the end of any given day; the time it takes to review them for accidentally mislabeled emails is ridiculous.

It’s time to go our separate ways, Yahoo!.

I’m going to go through all of my old and new emails, print/copy anything important, and transfer all user accounts to my other email address. Spring break will be a time for digital spring cleaning, and it will end with the deletion of my account.

Actually, I’m not even sure if deletion is possible. If not, it’ll be made void: I’ll remove all information, the name will be John Doe, all emails and contacts will be gone, and it’ll stand unused for the 12 months needed until Yahoo! deactivates it to make the handle available for others.

After all is said and done, I won’t miss it.

This whole thing makes me wonder: How long do we hold onto bad digital services out of habit? When do we decide the inconvenience of switching and canceling accounts is outweighed by the inconvenience of service issues, hacking, or outdated systems? When is enough enough?

Posted in [witchcraft & wonder], [writer stuff]

Greek research

It’s that time of year again, when the CMA festival is on it’s way. The Council of Magickal Arts is a non-profit religious organization, and they have two huge festivals each year to celebrate the Pagan wheel of the year (Beltaine and Samhain). I’m looking forward to the visit, again, because it’s a vacation from the mundane world and its stresses. On top of that, I’ve convinced a friend to come along, so we’ll have a rockin’ awesome time.

It’s been a tough year. I was keeping a blog on Myspace, but I’ve deleted mine and gotten a Facebook instead. Work has been up and down, just as most things in life. The muses haven’t whispered to me much, but then again, I may not have been listening very well. Stress and frustration had actually caught up to me so badly this past month that I’m on hiatus from my coven studies. I found myself acting completely horrid (i.e. bitchy, not witchy) and needed to take time to fix that.

My recent research has been into Greek mythology and worship. I found this amazing book called “Mysteries of Demeter”, found here. While I’m not a reconstructionist, I find myself inspired by the book and it’s in-depth look at ancient pagan practices. Recently, I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a workbook on Greek (modern) paganism. There are workbooks for runes, tarot cards, goddesses, and self-discovery in the New Age section of our store, but you don’t find any books on Greek mythology and practice. There are books on Celtic paganism (because, let’s face it… Wicca started in Europe and was based more on the Celtic practices than anything else). The book above was in a local pagan store, Gaia’s Garden in Copperas Cove, TX. I’d like to see more books on modern pagan practices using the ancient Greek gods; if the Celtic gods are so popular, why can’t the Greeks be so too? I mean, we learn about the Greek gods in grade school, long before we hear about the Celtic gods (if at all, as far as school goes).

There’s an upside to this inspiration. To write such a book, I have to do research and experiment with some practices and minor rituals. I will have to take time to focus on them. I’ve always loved the idea, but I’ve never had any reason beyond a personal interest to look at any pantheon. Now, though, I feel like the muses are kicking me in the rear, trying to get me to write it out. And during this hiatus, I have a focus to keep myself from getting lazy. I’ve been so tired and stressed from work (our store just moved, and there’s lots of drama to go with that) that I just haven’t been able to get the energy to clean my house, let alone worship anyone for anything.

I’m going to try and blog here more than once a year… being a writer, that shouldn’t be a problem.

Next time I’ll share a few of the ideas (and possibly some test-it-out results) that I’ve gotten together for Demeter, Dionysus, and Gaia (just to name the first few I’ve brainstormed). Blessings!!