Posted in Book Review, Life Adventures, Reading Adventures, Writing Adventures

Poetry, feelings, and the NINSAABO scale

I may have mentioned this before. I tend to follow the shiny bouncy ball of life, but only once it’s smacked me in the face a few times. My stubbornness gets in my way, and even when it’s a decision I already teetered on the edge of, I demand the push before I fall up.

Only three days into the new year and I’ve been smacked left right and up the back of the head. Poetry and feelings. Two things I have love/hate and decidedly complicated relationships with.

I used to cry a lot. But after years of being told to suck it up, years of learning to school the icy shards of emotions from my face and reactions. And while the tears have been easy to tame, I have never stopped apologising for my excitement over what others deem insignificant. I still get ‘overly’ enthusiastic about the things I love, only to ruminate about them later and worry I expresses TOO much emotion. But when it comes to crying, I don’t. Or at least I hadn’t for a very long time. Not only had I come to think of tears as distasteful in myself (I love people who can cry) but almost impossible to reach.

Enter last year and my introduction to some of the most amazing authors and human beings I have ever been lucky enough to know. The LGBTQIA writing community I have found have been ridiculously supportive and boosting.

Last year, 5 books made me cry. I almost fell over the first time it happened. I remember it clearly. I was stirring a pot of pasta, ensuring it didn’t stick to the bottom of the pot, I’m not a terribly good or attentive kitchen person. But I was reading, holding the book in one hand while the other hand half mindedly stirred the pasta and water. I didn’t realise I was crying. I was reading and my chest grew hot and tight. Being constricted as though wrapped up by a boa. My cheek tickled. My brows furrowed and I lifted the hand stirring up to my cheeks. Before I could really take in the tears I yelped as hot water splashed on me and my book. Saving me from investigating the phenomenon. 4 more times it happened. And by the end of the year I felt a fear and an excitement over being able to. More than that, I felt indebted to these amazing authors who plucked at the chains wrapped around my emotions and let them be expressed.

Three days into the new year and the first book I’ve read has made me cry. The second book is a poetry book and I’ve felt winded as it talked about societies pressure to not feel. To not admit we are human with all the ranges of emotions. Bring on my burgeoning relationship with poetry.

As if these weren’t enough, just this morning I had a conversation with a fellow author whom I am beta reading for, below is what happened when she asked me for some specific details and feedback for the book.

My first reaction was horror. How can I be associated with sobbing? But that lasted a mere micro second because now I can’t take the smile off my face.

So here is to a new year of poetry and feelings. A year of rating books on the NINSAABO scale.

Here’s to not apologising for my emotions, the sadness, the fullness, the fear, and the excitement.

Be Safe
Be Brave
Be Kind

Neen

Posted in Life Adventures, Writing Adventures

Conversations this-week-Neen needed

I had two conversations this week that really effected me, and I wanted to note them down. Neither topic is new for me, neither conversation lit a lightbulb but both made a big impact on this-week-Neen.

The first conversation gave me warm fuzzy feelings. It was online, with a fellow author. I won’t go verbatim but in the end I felt so seen and acknowledged. I write sapphic fiction, but not sapphic romance. One day I might but this presumption that sapphic (or lesbian) fiction is assumed to be romance is so prevalent and can be really frustrating and disheartening. Especially for an author starting out. Having a fellow author agree that it shouldn’t automatically be assumed as romance made me so happy. Perhaps with more voices I won’t always have to feel insignificant and irrelevant and often unable to promote my writing.

The second conversation happened this morning. My health has been semi-craptacular of late so off I went to get several vials of blood taken. The pathologist was so lovely and managed to get my introverted self happily talking. She asked what I do, as verbatim as I can remember:
*clears throat*
Me: I’m a writer, that’s what I go gooey about
Pathologist: oh what do you write?
M
: horror and dark fantasy
*insert wide eyes and slightly opened mouth*
P: you don’t look like you write dark things, you’re so happy.
M: and that’s how I stay happy, putting all the darkness into the words.
P: That makes sense. I love that. Stay lovely and happy.

Since then I’ve wondered, what does a horror writer look like? What does any writer look like? Was she shocked I was a writer or the genre which I write? What does each specific genre author look like? I don’t have the answers, but I feel like a meme might be in my future.

Be safe
Be Brave
Be Kind

Neen xo

Posted in Life Adventures

Pumpkin 🎃 time

When our son was younger I struggled with everyday things let alone the daunting idea of decorating and cooking all just for one night.

So it’s been years since I’ve fully embraced the Halloween energy. Before I had my son it was a full party; themed and decorated and special food galore. In the beginning it was all hard made decorations and improvisations, because Australia has only recently begun embracing the commercialisation of this holiday.

But I’ve never stopped loving the spooky. And our son, at age 4, has already inherited this love. I mean, the kid’s favourite sea creature is Cthulhu, and he’s already OBSESSED with Xenomorphs and knows the full lifecycle of them *sniffs* so proud.

I’m endeavouring to embark on some Halloween goodness. Even found an old box of decorations (though most of my handmade beauties have vanished over time and breakups). So hopefully at the end of the month I can do an updated post with some pretty pics. Or I’ll ignore this accountability with a shrug and … ooh look shiny other things :-p

Be Safe
Be Brave
Be Kind

Neen

Posted in Life Adventures

Some Hard Truths

For the last few weeks (months if I’m going to being entirely honest) I have been struggling. I have started posts and then trashed them. I’m making this one stick.

This week I was forced to face some hard truths.

1 – I am still in mourning from the passing of my dear friend and Mentor, Aarjaun. Since she passed away at the end of January I threw myself into everything, so long as I didn’t have to feel my own emotions, and so long as I didn’t have to stop and think too much. Anything can be justified if given half a chance.
2 – I’m allowed to mourn and still enjoy the wonderful things in my life. I can appreciate all the good things, all the amazing people I have in my life, both old and new. I can also allow myself to be sad, to miss my friend, and to be overwhelmed by the good as much as overwhelmed when things are bad.
3 – I am not the robot I have tried to be. The wall I’ve put up around my feelings now has fissures and it’s time to let it crumble.
4 – I have worth, whether I am writing and contributing or not. I am enough as me, and I am allowed to say no … to myself as well as to others.

These truths were brutal and hard to face, and while I’ve half faced them for a few weeks, it was with the hopes they would run and hide once again. But coping mechanisms only work in the short term it seems.
I have always been an advocate for prioritising mental health, but I have not always been so good at following my own advice. Sound familiar?
I want to be a better role model of this for my son. Not because I think I’m supposed to, but because I want him not to have to fight the stigma in our home. I want to be transparent because I believe transparency about mental health is one of the key ingredients of destigmatizing it.

Now, I’m working on ways to ensure that I’m actively trying to help myself with these things.

1 – Allow myself to feel the absence of Aarjaun. I miss baths, which I have been avoiding because of that very thing. I think I might go have a bath tonight.
2 – Let those wonderful people in my life know that the good things don’t take away the pain, nor does the pain minimise the good things … did you read that? Look at me telling the wonderful people already 🙂
3 – Instead of taking that deep breath and burying the feelings, adding another brick on the wall, I’m going to (try to) say the words, I am hurting.
4 – I recently made a writing schedule. It was forcing me to be too busy. So no, I will not be following that schedule, I will be amending it to allow for more quiet time, more me time.

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading. If it helps you in anyway, I’m even more excited.

Be Safe
Be Brave
Be Kind

Neen

Posted in Life Adventures, Writing Adventures

Why I Write

I haven’t blogged a lot lately, and mostly because I haven’t felt like I have enough ‘content’. My thoughts have begun with a lot of ‘What am I teaching you wonderful readers? I need to do more learning the craft so I can help.’ and it spiral from there. It’s been a stressful thought pattern.

Yesterday I was talking to a friend and fellow author and I just about burst into tears, As we spoke the conversation came around to story telling and how sometimes we forget that’s why we are doing this in the first place. Not to have all the technicalities right, not to know how to market, not to network. Yes, these things are important, but they are often overshadowing my thoughts and peaking my anxiety.

Then last night I had an interview with a publisher (Eerie River Publishing – go check them out) to highlight me as one of their authors for PRIDE month, and some of the questions were an oomph to the chest.

Ok, world. Yes, I get it. Time to remind myself of the roots and reasons.

I have at times forgotten why I write in the first place, so I’ve decided to make a list of the top reasons I write:

To tell stories
To escape – for me and my readers
To represent and minimise isolation
To create the stories I couldn’t find growing up

While learning about writing will always be important to me, I’m not sure any of that knowledge will mean anything if I forget the reasons for why I write in the first place.

Be Safe
Be Brave
Be Kind

Neen x

Posted in Life Adventures

The Squirm in your Guts

Today I was given another reminder of the importance of following your gut, your instincts, whatever it is that makes you balk or cringe back from something. That thing that you can’t pinpoint a justifiable finger to but you know, you simply know you are not comfortable.

As I’ve gotten older (dubiously wiser) I have found myself over and over again trusting that squirm in my guts.

Throughout my life I’ve been told to ignore my feelings; stop being hysterical, you are paranoid, you can’t even way why … and the list goes on, until I started to believe that these things were all just in my head and everyone else was right.

I think we are not nearly so different, so evolve away from our instincts if only we allow ourselves to listen to them. I’m not saying that following these instincts will have you avoid all the bad you might encounter in this world, but having followed mine more and more over the years, I have seen bad situations avoided.

I am so glad I have consciously followed my instincts this year, even when it might have been considered socially uncomfortable or harder to go against the stream.

I am so grateful for the trust I’ve given myself.

Be Safe
Be Brave
Be Kind

Neen xo

Posted in Life Adventures, Writing Adventures

OK to be bad

This has been a huge mindset shift for me. It’s taken a lot of years but once I embraced it, the world opened up.

I didn’t know what it is exactly that has changed, I just know that in the last few months, my fear became the annoying buzz of a mosquito in a dark room instead of the roaring dinosaur it used to be. I found I was taking chances, putting more of my work out there and really embracing the learning of this wonderful writer’s craft.

Turns out, all these blocks I had in place came down to one thing … the misconception of perfectionism.

Fear of not being perfect at something stopped be from trying at all. I didn’t want to attempt something and realise I was BAD at it, worst of all let other people know that I was BAD at new things, any things. But like everything, to get good you have to start by being bad.

This isn’t an easy thing. If you struggle with the fear of criticism for your less than perfect wonderful self, this is a HUGE hill to climb.

I am sure there will be times where it rears its ugly head again. I’d like to think I have overcoming it once and for all, but that’s not usually how these things work. And that too is OK.

At the start of April a friend reached out, a friend who always signs up for NaNoWriMo with me most years and bails within the first week, and told me about escapril. A poetry daily challenge for April. I know as little as six months ago I would have balked at considering this challenge. Putting my writing out there every single day for a whole month … writing a poem every day to a prompt? No thanks. It’s one thing to do NaNoWriMo and input the word count you’ve done that day … but it’s an entirely different thing to put the actual words you’ve written out there.

Turns out, I’ve gotten a lot better at being bad.

And it turns out some of the poems aren’t too shabby. And each day that I manage to do the goal, I feel a little more confident in trying. A little more OK to be bad.

If you’re interested in checking out the prompted poetry of Escapril you can find them on my instagram account neenauthor.

The daily prompts for Escapril 2021

Do you struggle with perfectionism?
Have you pushed yourself and found a way to accept being bad at something?
I’d love to know

Be Safe
Be Brave
Be Kind

Neen

Posted in Life Adventures

Attacked from the Inside (Living with Endometriosis)

I had a recent reminder that March is Endometriosis awareness month. So here is a blog I wrote back in 2019.

It’s hard to describe with any kind of accuracy.

I want to say it’s like a stone, strapped on to your back. That every month I feel as though I am Atlas struggling to hold up the Earth, but instead of it being strapped on my shoulders, it is inside me pushing against my blood and bones trying to force it’s way back to its intended/original size. But even that is not entirely accurate.
Below is what some months feel like (Almost all months now):

Even that can’t truly explain the pain that often seizes my body. What no image or gif can ever explain or convey is the fear of breathing. With every single breath, this world of pain throbs and beats itself against me. So I take shallow breaths. I try not to move, HA! explain that to a toddler (now energized 4 year old). It presses against my back in alternating sporadic rhythms of sharp and ache, making my body jerk and shudder.
I force myself to live as though the pain isn’t there. And at times I can fool onlookers. I can even start to fool myself with enough distraction … some minutes.
But then there I am, curled up on the nearest surface, be it bed, couch, floor, anything will do. My fists clench around and twist any material, stuffed animal, my sons sicky rag, all to try and wade through the latest burst of agony.

This is just a glimpse of my life with Endometriosis.

Since the age of eleven when I ‘became a woman’ – what a stupid fucking expression that is – I have suffered this debilitating pain. I was not allowed to wallow in it. Three sisters before me managed to tough it out, there was no getting out of school or work. So, I drugged myself up every single month, feeling less like myself, feeling like an alien inside my own body, and lying when asked if the pain killers helped.

When I had my son, I had that beautiful blossom of hope, that I would be cured of this diabolic demon, and the first few months I was lulled into a false sense of promise. It was bliss and I thought … ‘oh yes, thank you Gaia.’. Turns out she doesn’t have all that much to do with it and those months of bliss weren’t just a tease but a cruel trick, to show me what my body should have been able to do.
Since then the pain grows worse each month (yep, still getting worse) and I am loaded up on drugs, feel detached from everything and hug wheat bags as though they hold the miracle of life itself.

To anyone who suffers from endometriosis – I believe you, and I’m sorry you are suffering through this.
To anyone who hears someone say they suffer from endometriosis – believe them when they say it hurts. Help them when they have tears in their eyes and are trying desperately to continue as though it doesn’t. If you don’t know how to help, ask them what they need, because what works for one may not work for another. Don’t tell them they ‘need’ or ‘should’ do anything you know has worked for someone else. They may have already tried with different degrees of success and failure.

It’s a horrible invisible pain to go through and the lack of definitive knowledge and not being believed can be just as debilitating as the pain itself.


Be Safe
Be Brave
Be Kind

Posted in Life Adventures, Writing Adventures

Queer Imposter Syndrome: Some Candid Openness

I recently read an article/blog about Impostor Syndrome relating directly to being queer, and OOMPH how it hit right in the feels. You can find the article here.

I have written a few blogs in my past life (a.k.a. pre this blog and my website) about the struggles I have had at feeling like I belong in the LGBTQIA+ community. But reading this article I thought hey, why not go a little into the human side of this writer (me, just to clarify) and maybe it might help some of you wonderful readers.

I came out pretty early, considering I was from a small country town and dragged up Mormon. But my mum is just the best. She came into my room when I was sixteen while I was singing along to Melissa Etheridge’s ‘Mama I’m strange’ and she took the hint. Once she told me her love was unconditional and though she might struggle at times, that love is love *paraphrasing, but you get the point* it was as though the world had been opened. My mum had accepted me, so how could anyone else hurt me if they were to reject who I was?

Hmmm … well the world changes and shifts … and mine certainly did.

My partner of several years (whom I married before gay marriage was legal – we should do the legal thing one of these days) realized he was not female, despite the limits of his birth. I have been reviled as either ‘not a real lesbian’ and ‘transphobic’ for either not having left my partner and/or not changing my sexuality because of my partner’s transition.

For a long time, I pulled away from the community as a whole. Every attack or snide comment would make me shrivel more and more inside myself. I even stopped writing characters I love and adore. I ignored the characters that kept knocking and begging to have their stories told. One of the main reasons I started writing was to give those characters a voice, to create the stories I could never find when I was growing up. All for fear of rejection, for fear of crumpling against the rage people have toward those that don’t fit into the categories as they define them.

And then I began to find incredible people, incredible authors and wonderful friends both in the writing community and LGBTQIA community. It’s revived my strength to be brave and to get that tougher skin. That doesn’t mean that I don’t worry, or have the dreaded Queer Impostor Syndrome raise it’s head and sneer at me. But I solidify myself in knowing, not everyone is so rigid in their definitions.

I remember, only a year or two ago listening to the very first episode of Lesbians Who Write and bursting into tears. In an overwhelmingly good way. Clare Lydon and T.B. Markinson both talked about how ANYONE can write lesbian fiction. No matter how one defines themselves. I braved up and wrote in, and several episodes later they discussed my email and again, the tears. Because their support was vocal and absolute. So, whenever I start to worry, I re-listen to that episode. Since then I have also had wonderful support (knowingly and unknowingly) from people in the community who stand up for my rights to define myself by MY sexuality, not the gender of my partner or a definition that I do not ascribe to.

So, if you are reading this and feeling like you aren’t ‘Queer Enough’ or enough in any terms that define yourself I’m here to tell you, you are! If you feel you need that clarification, that permission from an outsider that you are enough to be allowed to define who you are anyway you choose … you have permission.

Be Safe
Be Kind
Be Brave

Posted in Life Adventures

Women I admire – the list is endless

There are so many women I admire. So many that have offered me strength and shown me ways to navigate this world. The list grows each and every year as I meet incredible women. I wish I could list them all, but really it’s an endless list. Of friends, family, and strangers.

Here are just a few of the many women I’d love to give a shout out to, they have been vital and influential in my life:

My sister – Sue. She is my best friend, my first reader, my strength, and my role model. Without my sister I would not in any way be the person I am now, and I can honestly say I am proud of who I am, and who I continue to grow and learn to be.

Pamela Jeffs – An incredible friend whom I met after fangirling over her work and then having her show up to out local writing group … I feel so privileged and honoured to call her a friend and mentor. Check out her incredible talent here.

Pamela Jeffs

Sarah Vogler – I met Sarah before the world went crazy. We were both volunteers at Oz Comicon and I met this incredible person, who turned out to be an even more incredible author … and a great friend. Her Middle grade series Poseidon’s Academy is one of the best series I’ve read. It’s so fun and exciting. I can’t wait for the fifth book. Check out all about Sarah here.

Sarah Vogler

I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention Aiki Flinthart. The world lost an incredible human being in her passing in January. But, she continues to inspire and motivate. Her light continues to shine, and her kindness and talent will never be forgotten.

Myself with the wonderful and much missed Aiki Flinthart

Thank you to all the wonderful friends I have found in the women I am so lucky to be surrounded by. Thank you to all of those who have reached out, who have laughed, who have listened, who have led the way in order to help me become strong, to become someone I can be proud of.

Be Safe
Be Kind
Be Brave