Posted in Book Reviews (updating), psychology, writing

Never Fear Chalk, Only Playground Bullies and Staircases.

I’ve talked on here before about my own manuscript: there’s stalking, there’s jealousy, there’s pain, pleasure, basically every ingredient you need to create a believable but obviously fictional life. There’s also crime, a smidgeon of it (not including the stalking), and so I’ve taken to reading a lot of crime novels lately. I’m halfway through two books in particular and much like Hollow Kingdom, I plan on reviewing them as I read them. So let’s get started with that today.

The Chalk Man by C.J Tudor

Not going to lie, I found this book in Goodwill for $2.99. It was published in 2018, so it’s considered contemporary fiction and the inside jacket revealed there’s a dismembered body of a teenage girl, so there was definitely crime; the book met my two requirements of myself at the moment.

We jump between 2016 and 1986, so far, from a time where our protagonist, Eddie, is a middle-aged adult and back to the time when he was a budding teenager. All of his friends have nicknames and thank God they’re nothing like the ones in Hollow Kingdom. Although they are a bit gimmicky, they’re believable for children: Metal Mickey, Fat Gav, Hoppo and Eddie is called Eddie Munster because his surname is Adams, such as in The Addams Family. Apparently “Eddie Munster was out of The Munsters, but it made sense at the time . . .”

Nicky is another one of their friends, a girl who loves hanging with the boys, and her father is the local Vicar. This only becomes a problem at Fat Gav’s birthday party because Eddie’s mother works at an abortion clinic; at some point an argument erupts and Eddie’s father punches Nicky’s father. A few days later, Eddie’s family receives a pig fetus in the mail; I’m hoping this is set up for some further plot development.

Right off the bat, we get a terrifying incident: a girl is severely injured by a rogue piece of fair equipment and Eddie is right in the thick of it, inches from being impaled. He sees the jacked up face of the girl victim but is urged to help her by a strange man, Mr. Halloran. The two, so far, have a decent relationship, although things did get a little weird when Mr. Halloran saved Eddie from some serious sexual assault from some bullies who seem more like budding rapists. He brought Eddie back to his house and Mr. Halloran has a bunch of paintings of some girls from the town, including the jacked up face girl. I think he’s being set up to be the crazed murderer of the town: he’s a teacher, he’s quiet, he’s got a bunch of paintings of girls, and he’s forming a close connection with a student. Yep. Checks all the boxes for fictional murderers.

In 2016, as a middle-aged adult, Eddie lives with a much younger roommate, a young woman he fancies but will never tell her really because he’s “too old.” Fat Gav owns a pub, and he and Hoppo are angry that Eddie didn’t tell them Metal Mickey was back in town. Metal Mickey, we learn, has returned because he wants to write a book on “the incident” and I’m assuming that means the dismembered girl, although I haven’t gotten that far yet. He says he knows who the real murderer is. Spooky.

What I find annoying so far with Tudor’s writing is the constant cliff hangers at the end of each chapter. I get that it’s meant to keep you reading and is a staple of crime fiction, it just turns me off. I want the story to flow some places and hang other places, kind of like how life does. There’s also nothing special about the writing style; Tudor’s voice is average: not quite bland but not quite unique. I’m interested in the plot line, but that’s the only reason I’m continuing to read it.

Fear Nothing by Lisa Gardner

Having a degree in psychology and living with schizophrenia and going back to school for cognitive science means I know a thing or two about disorders, including the personalities along the Dark Triad, and despite what people think, psychopathy itself is not a mental disorder. It’s a personality TRAIT, alongside Narcissism (which is different from narcissistic personality disorder) and Machiavellianism. So, when I started reading this book and realized it was about serial killers, I was waiting for the diagnosis Antisocial Personality Disorder, and sure enough, as cliche as aways, it came.

D.D. Warren is a detective called to a crime scene of a woman having been skinned (in some places) and killed, a bottle of champagne and a rose left on her nightstand. The detective went back to the crime scene, encountered what I’ve learned so far was the murderer, and got shoved down the stairs, enduring an injury that’s left her shoulder and arm completely useless during its healing process.

Doctor Adeline Day (although she goes by a different last name) is the daughter of infamous serial killer Harry Day and sister of infamous serial killer (and youngest to be tried for murderer in their area) Shana Day. Adeline is a psychiatrist and cannot feel pain due to a rare genetic disorder, but she does understand her sister’s troupe of “blood means love”, something their father taught her. Shana cut people to show them how much she loves them and is diagnosed, by her sister, with antisocial personality disorder.

I would like to point out that while the book mentions it’s quite unconventional for a family member to diagnose another family member, it’s something that wouldn’t happen. I’d also like to point out the majority of people diagnosed with and living with antisocial personality disorder are not serial killers. In fact, they live relatively normal lives. They simply don’t care for your feelings and will manipulate the hell out of you to get what they want. They are driven by their own desire and could care less what you think about that. That being said, aggression and violence come easy for them. It just doesn’t mean they’ll use it to harm people; it’s more like they could and would feel nothing if they did.

I’m tired of mental disorders being the reason for crime. Why can’t Shana just be a serial killer? Why does she need a label? Why does blood need to equal love? That’s more delusional than antisocial.

Adeline has a secret of her own, though. She goes on dates, sleeps with her dates, and cuts little strips of their skin and puts them in jars as keepsakes. I’m on page 209 right now so I don’t yet know the significance, but it better be something good. I swear to God.

So far the book has been mostly dialogue and I mean this. We get a paragraph or two of set up and story and then we get pages of dialogue, which is fine because most of the time it’s written well, but there are instances where I think the character of Adeline is much too “Hollywood psychiatrist” and a lot less “average psychiatrist,” meaning she talks like she was written for low budget movie. She has great explanations for everything and constantly knows what people are thinking without them saying more than a few words. She also talks kind of like a type-writer: old-fashioned and stiff.

That being said, I want to know who the murderer is and if he is conspiring with Shana Day, as some detectives are starting to think. I want to know if Adeline will get caught with her creepy skin obsession and lose her license (hopefully) and I want to know whether detective D.D. Warren’s shoulder will ever get better. I mean, that’s the real plot line here.

Would you guys read either of these books? What’s your chosen genre these days?

Until Next Time

Don’t forget to hit that follow button and join me on Instagram @alilivesagain or on Twitter @happyschizobs

Posted in Book Reviews (updating), writing

Surfing in Forever Land

I’m back with a new book.

Where did I go, you ask?

Into the Ocean at the End of the Lane. And I Fear(ed) Nothing. I did come across The Chalk Man, though, and he was an interesting fellow. He asked me a lot of questions, including the ever daunting What Is Life.

If you haven’t guessed already, those are all books I’ve been reading and finishing while I took a little break from writing. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman has been by far the easiest and quickest to finish, so today we’ll be reviewing (with spoilers) that book in its entirety. Next time we’ll be talking a little bit about the crime novel Fear Nothing that I picked up from Thriftbooks.com.

If you still buy your books at full price, I feel bad for you son, I got 99 problems but cheap books ain’t one.

Okay, enough jokes. Let’s get into it.

The Ocean at The End of the Lane.

Firstly, Neil Gaiman is not an indie author. He is a seasoned, accomplished one, with quite the knack for what we call Magical Realism over here in America. His imagination is impeccable. That’s not to say there aren’t a few things I wish were different in his book.

We start off meeting a man attending a funeral. He decides to re-visit the farm at the end of the lane of his childhood house where he met a girl aptly named Lettie Hempstock, an eleven-year-old mystery. We flash back to his childhood when he first met Lettie, after a man had stolen his father’s Mini Cooper and ended his life in it. The scene too gruesome for a seven year old, our protagonist is granted the opportunity to spend some time with Lettie, Lettie’s mother (Mrs. Hempstock) and Lettie’s grandmother (Old Mrs. Hempstock).

To right a wrong, Lettie takes our protagonist to this Forever land where the sky is orange. She tells him “do not let go of my hand” no matter what happens, or what he sees. They come across this thing made of canvas with “deep holes in the fabric” and Lettie demanded she name herself. Of course this doesn’t happen and through the course of the terrifying conversation, our protagonist lets go of Lettie’s hand.

Oh how the young doom themselves.

When he returns home, there is something burrowed in his foot. With tweezers and warm water, he pulls half of the worm out (only half because it broke off inside of him) and the next thing we know, a new babysitter arrives named Ursula Monkton.

Ursula, as you may have guessed, is not an Ursula at all, in fact, she’s not even human. She’s the worm.

Before I lose you, I promise this book flows way better than I’m making it sound.

Our protagonist knows this is no ordinary babysitter, but she seems to have everyone wrapped around in little finger. His sister loves Ursula, their mother, who took a new job (hence the need for the babysitter) loves Ursula, and their father really, really loves Ursula, and gets caught having some passionate relations with her in his study. Don’t ask me how that works if she’s a worm.

This forces our protagonist to tell Lettie he let go of her hand in the forest. This creates some problems, but nothing the three Hempstocks can’t fix. They have spells and magic and creative thought to get rid of Ursula Monkton.

But Ursula has some magic of her own. She knows how to manipulate, and gets the father to choke and nearly drown his son in the bathtub. Our protagonist runs to Lettie Hempstock’s farm where magic is used to erase that event from reality; when his parents come looking for him, they believe he is just staying the night and brought his toothbrush for him–since he forgot it and all.

The next day, Lettie and our protagonist set off with “dolls’ eyes and heads and hands, [toy] cars with no wheels, and chipped cat’s eye glass marbles” to get rid of Ursula Monkton. We don’t necessarily learn what these toys are for, but it’s implied they are needed for the magic to work. They confront Monkton, who is now unashamed of her form, and highly overconfident; she’s managed to take over our protagonists’ house and turn everyone against him. Monkton levitates throughout their conversation, and she is the canvas monster for sure, but Lettie threatens her with “the varmints.”

They’re “mean, and they’re hard to get rid of. And they’re always hungry.”

Ursula runs.

We learn that Monkton has buried herself within our protagonists’ heart, and his life keeps her alive. She’s using him for energy, I assume, and we get this kind of awkward explanation of: “It is inside him. it is not a tunnel. Not any longer. It does not end. I fastened the path inside him too well when I made it and the last of it is still inside him. No matter. All I need to do to get away from here is to reach into his chest and pul out his beating heart and finish the path and open the door.”

I say awkward because when I read it, I don’t really feel threatened like it’s intended to be. It feels like a little kid explaining what Ursula Monkton wants, instead of Ursula explaining herself. In the midst of all that, there is a flapping, and then a whooshing, and then came The Hunger Birds, quite honestly my favorite characters in this whole book. They are the varmints, The Ones Who Eat (throwback to Hollow Kingdom). They devour the creature that is Ursula Monkton. But then they turn to our protagonist who still carries part of her inside of him.

Lettie creates a boundary, a fairy ring, and makes our protagonist sit in it. Nothing can come in the circle, and he should not leave the circle. She leaves.

The Hunger Birds play all sorts of games with our protagonist, impersonating his sister, his parents, anyone to try and get him out of the circle, but he does not budge because of his loyalty to Lettie and his understanding that he will be ripped apart if he does. In the end, Lettie sacrifices her life to save our protagonist.

There are a lot of good things about this book. The dialogue flows, we get a character we can feel scared for and two characters we get to root for. I only wish it was a little longer. I appreciate the mystery that the Hempstock’s unknown background provides, but the story itself almost feels rushed. I really wanted description and explanation of the world with the orange sky that lived in the back of the Hempstock’s farm, and the little pond that was really an ocean. I wanted to get a sense of these magical people, and that depth just isn’t there.

The book is enjoyable though, and a quick read. It’s something that kept my turning pages fiercely.

Next post we’ll talk about Fear Nothing, a crime novel with a very cliche Antisocial Personality.

Posted in Book Reviews (updating), writing

Hollow Kingdom: Final Review

It’s been a long journey from Dennis and S.T.’s house with Big Jim, to Kraai the crow, Migisi the eagle, The One Who Conquers, The Weavers, and The One Who Keeps. The world Kira Jane Buxton creates, at first glance of the back cover, feels magical, grotesque, intriguing. The characters introduced in the first few chapters: Genghis Cat, Winnie the Poodle, and those throughout, like the Humpback whales and a pack of wolves, are filled with personality and never really heard from again. There are so many unsatisfying things about this book, I’m not sure I can fit them in this one post. But I’ll try.

I’ve said before the plot is ingenious: a crow tells the story of how humankind fell. We learn about Aura, the way creatures of the Earth communicate with one another, and we learn how each of them sees humans, from S.T’s fantastical obsession with the resourcefulness of humans (or MoFo’s) to the murder of crow’s less than tasteful view of humans (or Hollows). It’s obvious that Buxton appreciates, loves, and admires animals. It’s a shame she can’t write.

But first, let’s talk about the GOOD things about Hollow Kingdom.

The Good

There are moments Buxton can actually write. The way she describes action–the crows attacking or getting away from danger–is quite realistic. She has a knack for metaphors. Each chapter is riddled with them (we’ll talk about that later), things like “Looking for signs of twisted limbs, hungry vermillion eyes, and neck bones with no rules,” or “Then it flattened its ears to its head and expelled a roar, a roar that tore through the bones of the building . . .” They are great for creating feeling and some are powerful imagery. 

She’s also created a character. I wouldn’t consider S.T likable, but I wouldn’t consider him generic either. He has his own personality, and that personality just happens to harbor extremely cheesy catch phrases and a disturbing sense of loyalty to humanity. He is quite dedicated to first curing humanity and then to keeping Dennis alive and then to carrying out his life as a crow. His big character arc is finally realizing that he is indeed a crow with MoFo mannerisms, not a Mofo in a crow body. What should be a big turning point for S.T. is kind of washed away behind the reason humanity fell. 

Unlike some commenters on Goodreads, I actually enjoyed the toast to nature. The trees, the animals, everything connected and communicating on their own wavelengths (Aura) sounds divine and certainly out of the range of abilities for humans; we’re quite incapable of communicating well, if 2020 has shown us anything. I think where Buxton falls short is the presentation of Aura. 

Which brings us to:

The Bad

Let’s start with how overwritten this book is. The metaphors. They’re great every once in a while, but when every page is riddled with at least ten or fifteen “pendulous trucks” and elephants that “smelled like churned soil and freedom” and an “ancient song of sorrow that the evergreens shook from their leaves” and “calling on the ocean with our breath,” it gets a little tedious. While those are all great descriptions, don’t get me wrong, imagine 304 pages of that, consistently, partnered with lines like “crumble-cheese turd burger” or “yard demolishing fuck trolls” or “pubic badger” or “you could have heard a dust mite queef in there” or “fuck off, you douche flute” or “butt-splosion of information” or “cheese cups, ass clubs” or “scrotum-sanitizing mouth” or any of the other cheesy lines that permeate this book. It reminds me of first-time writer workshop attendees who know that adjectives and metaphors and similes can often carry semi-good writing, so their pieces becomes soggy with figurative language. 

Let’s talk about nictitating membranes, too. I’m fully aware that they are the part of birds that kind of slick across the eyeball in a blinking fashion. I’m also fully aware that Buxton personified a crow who doesn’t really see himself as a crow, so why would he regard his blinking as nictitating membranes licking his eyes or “make [his] nictitating membranes shut out the world momentarily?” Why can’t he just blink? 

We’re also introduced to side characters like Genghis cat, Winnie the Poodle, A fairy Pitta, a polar bear, a spruce tree, an armadillo, a highland cow, a camel, an elephant, a humpback whale and a pack of wolves. We get a conclusion, sort of, on Genghis cat and Winnie the Poodle and the polar bear who is the last bear on the ice. In the beginning of the book it was whimsical, and I looked forward to hearing the view of the world through just a few side characters continuously, but that never happened and they sort of came out of nowhere throughout the book, breaking up the flow of the story. We get short bursts of personalities, but it doesn’t really add much to the plot, other than Genghis cat joining up with the Orangutan(aka The One Who Opens Doors). Winnie the Poodle dying only symbolizes there’s no humans left to help the domestic animals, and we already knew that. 

What happened to the humans, after all? Well, we get some insight on that from Ghubari. He says, and prepare yourself, “it was a virus.” Not like AIDS or Ebola, but “mans creation” from “the internet.” He continues with, “. . . it started with the addiction. Technology was an intangible seductress, a siren calling for ships to meet her jagged rocks. It was a virus that spread through the systems, through the network, chips, watches, phones, tablets. Through eyes, skin, and synapses.” 

So something within the technology seeped into the skin and changed everyone into Cassowaries and giant spiders. 

I’m not kidding. 

Buxton doesn’t refer to The Hideous Ones as Cassowaries, but they’re described as humans who now scream in “the language of a raptor.” They have “hideous skin and jet black holes where there must have been eyes” with “colossal legs propelling them to great heights, and they snapped and shrieked with breaks the color of death.” The weavers have mandibles and eight legs and some weird stuff is going on with them, they silk up other humans and animals and suck them dry, so I’m not sure what kind of computer virus can turn you into a spider, but that’s what we get, folks. The Weavers and The Hideous Ones are the result, according to Ghubari, of humans evolving, their “last-ditch effort at survival.”

To sum it up, S.T says, “addiction to an electronic world caused the downfall of the Mofos. They’d forgotten to connect with each other, to connect with the creatures who missed them and to Nature as She called for them to come home.” 

Preachy, but we get it. 

The Ugly

There’s nothing really ugly about this book, but because I started with “The Good” and “The Bad” it felt wrong not to put “The Ugly.”

Conclusion

I don’t believe any of the reviews on the front of this book. It wasn’t “hilarious” or “exuberant” or “movingly written.” It was “eh.” 

I’ll be reading the sequel simply to bring you guys more Kira Jane Buxton. At the end of Hollow Kingdom, S.T is lead to a human baby in a house, abandoned obviously, and untouched by the technology-spider-cassowary virus. We obviously have to find out together whether there are other babies around the world, whether the human race survives, or whether the animals reclaim the world. I don’t really care which it is, I just have to know one or the other. 

My next full review will be on The Morality Play. I’m almost finished with it. 

What are you all reading this month?

Until Next Time

Don’t forget to hit that follow button and join me on Instagram @alilivesagain or on twitter @thephilopsychotic. 

Posted in Book Reviews (updating), Uncategorized

Book Review from The Psych Ward

The following blog post was written on paper with an ink tube of a pen from within a psychiatric hospital.

Knowing I’d be here for at least a week, I decided I’d bring a book. The book I decided to bring was Hollow Kingdom. Do I regret it? Not entirely. I figured without a cell phone or laptop or any real, meaningful connection to the outside world besides a wistful gaze out a barred window, I could finally immerse myself in the world Kira Jane Buxton wished to create.

I still couldn’t do that of course because the world Kira Jane Buxton wished to create didn’t come out in a way that interests me, as least as far as syntax goes. Her lengthy descriptions and seemingly extraneous scenes only slow the progress of the book.

If I read nictitating membrane one more time, I’m going to explode. I know that’s what birds have, but Christ, the phrase itself feels overused.

If you’re wondering, S.T. (affectionately named “Shit Turd”) and Dennis the dog have somehow managed to do a lot a little all at once. They rescued a domestic dog named Cinnamon from a house by attracting some sick MoFos (humans) with an iPhone, throwing it through the window and breaking the glass for Cinnamon to escape. What we learn is that the sick MoFos are desperate for power and we learn this while S.T. rides Ghubari, an eagle. We get a contrived lecture on the greediness of humans and the beauty that resides in transitions and new beginnings.

I physically yawned, but to each his own.

We get some more repetitive type language. For example, “Dark water near the rock pool started to stir–the sea stars were screaming at this point–and an arm, long and rust-red, lifted from its depths and into the air. The elongated arm suctioned itself to a rock and was followed by several more lissome limbs, which danced together to life an enormous bulbous head from the depths.”

I would have rewritten something like: “Sea stars screamed as dark water near the rock pool stirred. A long, rust-red arm pierced the air and suctioned itself to a rock. Several more limbs followed, dragging with them a shiny, bulbous head.”

Simple, but effective. If you want to add some descriptors in there, go ahead, just keep it short, sweet, and to the point.

It’s not all bad. I did laugh when she wrote, “I’m not sure why everyone hates opossums so much; they may look like someone shaved the buttocks of a poodle and taught it to talk through its asshole, but they are generally pretty likable creatures.”

I just didn’t know how to react other than laugh.

And “Seattle spring has more moods than Tiffany S. from Tinder.”

But we continue with the cheesy phrases like “yard demolishing fuck trolls” and “pubic badger” and “crumble-cheese turd burgers.”

That’s just not funny to me. It’s trying too hard is what it is.

So Dennis and S.T. have joined a murder of crows who are helping S.T. accept his truth as a crow and getting help from him to break windows. They plan to start breaking out domestics (pets) when they find 6th crows slaughtered and picked clean to the bone. We learn the sick MoFos have started evolving (for survival reasons) into these gigantic birds that are described like Cassowaries but are likened to raptors. At this point, I don’t know what the hell is going on. All I know is I am 263 pages deep into this book and I’m looking forward to the end because then it will be over.

So far, I’d rate this book a solid 2/5. What saves Buxton is her occasional insertion of beautiful writing. Sometimes her descriptions are flawless. Sometimes her dialogue flows. But for the most part, it’s painfully amateur, or at the very least, painfully cheesy. Will I be reading the sequel?

Of course.

Until next time.

Don’t forget to hit that follow button and join me on Instagram @alilivesagain or twitter @thephilopsychotic.

Posted in Book Reviews (updating), Uncategorized, writing

Happiness 2.0

Last night I couldn’t sleep, so I picked up Modern Ethics in 77 Arguments because I just couldn’t handle Hollow Kingdom at midnight. Not because it’s scary, but because I didn’t feel like raising my blood pressure.

If you click through some of my older posts, you’ll see I’ve talked a lot about happiness. One post entitled Happiness I wrote when I was taking pain pills for my injured back. I noticed the stark difference between my baseline happiness and this new, inorganic happiness. I struggled with accepting that our brain runs on limitations: we get a finite amount of dopamine, endorphins, and other stimulating neurotransmitters, unless we bring in an outside source. In this case, my outside source was Percocet. It pained me to think the contentment I felt was initiated and could never be natural.

So when I came across the essay The Dangers of Happiness by Carl Cedarstrom, I was inclined to absorb every word.

He talks first about Aristole. If you recall from your undergraduate philosophy days, Aristotle insisted happiness came from being a “good person” and that meant living an ethical life, guided by reason and cultivated virtues. The Stoics, Cedarstrom says, decided no matter how daunting life became, no matter the circumstances, people could be happy. Christians took that and 360’d it: pain was more desirable, as it lead to a “divine union in the afterlife.” Happiness, after all, couldn’t ever be met on Earth, only in the Crystal City with God.

Today in the west, where capitalism rules, we are more inclined to pursue that unobtainable happiness within ourselves. Cedarstrom says “to be happy in a time when we price authenticity and narcissism, we need to express our true inner self, get in touch with our deeper feelings, and follow the path set by ourselves. . . we are assumed to find happiness through work and by being productive. We are required to curate our market value, manage ourselves as corporations, and live according to an entrepreneurial ethos.”

This means if you’re unemployed, you’re worthless.

Okay, not worthless. It means you can’t truly be happy. You must never rely on other people for help, you must “struggle for self-improvement” and your fate is in your own hands. ONLY in your hands.

This is why people beat up homeless people.

This is why money, particularly in my county, is shoveled away from community organizations that are set up to help lessen the circumstances that can cause homelessness. This increases drug use and relapses in mental illness which in turn increases homelessness. Do you see the problem, yet?

Cedarstorm says, “If we may all be equally happy, irrespective of our circumstances, then that would equip politicians like Mr. Bush with convenient excuse[s] to stop looking at structural issues like class, social and economic inequality, or poverty.”

What Cedarstorm is getting at is quite disturbing: we’re using this message of the American Dream, of this deluded individualism, to distract ourselves from the actual problems we face in society. This is why people go hungry, it’s why crime rates soar and people think “thoughts and prayers” on twitter means something. We’ve created an illusion of happiness.

That’s not to say we can’t be happy, something Cedarstorm doesn’t get into. It’s true we use our self-righteousness as a way to shun those we think aren’t “trying hard enough”, but there is truth to the message that if we want to get somewhere in this society, we have to push ourselves–not because that’s the formula for happiness, but because that’s the formula society has created. It’s an unfortunate creation; rather than help each other, we trample over each other and call it helping.

When I took Percocet, the happiness was distracting. I didn’t worry, I didn’t think, and I nodded out in class. My notes look like someone with Parkinson’s wrote them. But I was happy.

We’ve basically drugged ourselves.

I’m not bashing people who work hard, and I’m not bashing people who don’t work at all. I’m encouraging us to look at things from a different perspective. I’m personally someone who strives for progression in the self and beyond myself; I don’t consider it progress if I’m not lifting others up while I do it. I’ve been lucky enough to have groups of encouraging people surround me. Were it not for them, I wouldn’t have continued to progress.

My stubbornness helps.

But the point is, this idea that we have to do everything by ourselves is complete and utter bullshit. That thought process is designed to keep those who are already down further down; when we see them as lazy, as not working hard enough, we don’t feel the need to expend our precious energy on helping them. But in reality, who has helped you get to where you are today?

My parents have helped me, even through all the pain we’ve suffered together.

My former coworkers have given me more emotional support than I’ve ever received, and they are the sole reason I’m continuing my education.

My friends.

Professors who ran after me in the rain and pleaded with me to never stop writing, never stop learning. Professors who walked me through a calculus problem step by step because I learn differently. Professors who just inspire.

Random strangers who have smiled at me on the street, who have engaged in conversation not knowing I was feeling terrified, scared, sad.

The nurse at the last hospital I was in who told me my so-called illness is actually a gift.

The doctors who have been patient with me through all my worries.

And so many more. Without them, I wouldn’t be me, and the same goes for you. You haven’t done anything by yourself.

It’s an illusion.

Until next time.

Don’t forget to hit that follow button and catch me on instagram @alilivesagain or twitter @thephilopsychotic.

Posted in Community, Uncategorized, writing

World Book Day Lies

Serious question: is World Book Day today, March 4th, or Friday, April 23rd? Google and social media are conflicting sources of information right now. I guess they kind of always are.

Whatever day it may be, we’re going to talk more about Hollow Kingdom. I read another chapter. I’m really going chapter at a time here, guys, it’s hard. I’m stuck somewhere between absolutely despising every single word that comes from the narrator and absolutely loving some–SOME–of Butxon’s descriptions. This certainly is a book that showcases today’s type of modern fiction. A lot of contemporary authors who I’ve read, like Carmiel Banasky (The Suicide of Claire Bishop) and Dan Vyleta (Smoke) have intriguing plots with lackluster storytelling. What bothered me about The Suicide of Claire Bishop was the severe lack of understanding how delusions break. What bothered me in smoke is Vyleta could have went in so many different directions yet he went in the one he chose.

Ugh.

I’m a fan of Toni Morrison, John Steinbeck, John Irving, Tom Robbins, Louise Erdrich. I look for writing patterns, for dialogue development, for Easter eggs in the plot, for motifs, for meaning. I don’t much care for stories that just tell a story. I’m along for the ride, yes, but I’m also here for the art.

Back to Hollow Kingdom. I love some of her descriptions. For example, a crane fly with its “gangly legs and drunken flight” is simple but beautiful imagery. We all know how creepy those things look when they fly. In my house, we call them “Mosquito Eaters.” I have no idea if they eat mosquitos.

Some of S.T’s narration is entertaining. Take, for example, “I was in the basement, spitting pills down Big Jim’s gullet. How long did this go on for? Can’t say for sure–I’ve never fully grasped the concept of time–but I can tell you that I tried to follow Big Jim’s Big Boobs Hot German Girls calendar and that we got through one month (two whole German boobs).”

The problem I find with the narration is that a lot of the description is too often convoluted with the urge to sound deep. Sometimes simple is better. This line irks me in particular: “Dennis [the dog] even chased off taunting college crows and the malicious squirrels intent on tea-bagging the garden gnome.”

When the fuck have you ever seen a squirrel tea-bag a garden gnome? I’ve seen them crawl on the head and subsequently its balls might hang in the gnome’s face, but it’s not humping or squatting over the gnome, laughing like frat boys or ten year old children in Call of Duty.

Those kinds of descriptions are too rampant, and the only reason I criticize it is that they sound like they’re trying too hard to be humorous or stand out. You don’t need to push things like that on your readers. Let them get lost in your story and the way you write, not what you say. I’m damn near so focused on the weird narration that I forget a story is taking place.

For world book day, or fake world book day, whatever today is, I am intent on working more on editing my friends’ memoir, on editing my own manuscript, on submitting my short story to two potential publishers, and reading yet another chapter or two of Hollow Kingdom.

We WILL make it through this book, ya’ll.

We will.

Until next time.

Shiver me Timbers! You’re not following ThePhilosophicalPsychotic? Follow now! And join me over on Instagram @alilivesagain for post updates or on Twitter @Thephilopsychotic for whatever!

Posted in Community, Emotions, Questions for you, Uncategorized, writing

The Qualms of Writing

Update: I still haven’t read more than another page of that book.

You guys.

It’s hard.

I’m so invested in the plot line, that’s why I keep picking it up, but the writing style boils my tears and subsequently scorches my irises. Nothing against the author, but I hope she never writers another book like this as long as she lives. That being said, I’d still choose this work over anything ever written by Stephanie Meyer(s?) or E.L James. Stephanie reminds me of that one girl in seventh grade with popular friends, but who isn’t actually popular herself, and all her popular friends read a fanfic she’s written and hype up her skills just to fuck with her. And then it blows up in Wattpad and she considers herself a “writer.”

It’s not that internet clout or self-publishing is bad, it’s that people with little or no understanding of how language actually works keep getting these life-changing deals, and it’s quite frustrating for the rest of us.

I haven’t actually fully read E.L James’ anything (fifty shades, The Mister, etc.), just snippets, but she can also take a middle finger for the team. And if you’ve never read Stephanie Meyer(s?) blogs on her website: DEAR LORD. I feel like I’m reading the style of my own angsty teenage rants.

I used to think I was an amazing writer. When I was 11 and homeless, I started writing a novel I thought would go viral. My characters were actually very well developed, as my teenaged-beta-readers pointed out, but as I got older and learned more about language and how stories proceed and went to workshops and fiction classes and the likes, I realized what I wrote wasn’t any better than that shit on the bottom of your shoe right now. What that writing did for me was get out feelings, pains, and provide a save haven for my convoluted mind that was already descending into madness.

I pulled a side-character from that jumbled mess and that’s my protagonist in my current WIP. It’s much better than when I was 11, I promise that. Is it publisher worthy? Well, after I finish this edit, get some more beta readers, ask an editor, and find an agent, I’ll let you know.

I write short stories as well. I’ve got one written in the form of a letter by a woman in jail. She’s writing her sister to inform her of what REALLY happened. It’s just under 3000 words, so about 4 Word doc pages. So far my beta-readers have come back with positive feedback and have pointed out typos and grammar I’ve somehow missed in my two months worth of re-readings. I’ll be submitting it before the end of March to a small magazine, which is why I’m not sharing it online.

It’s true you don’t need a reputation to eventually publish a novel, but let me tell you–like for everything else in life, reputation helps.

I’m always looking for beta-readers for my work and I’m always open to being a beta-reader for others. I am reading a friends’ memoir currently and doing some editing. I’ve always been the editor for people, and I’m realizing how much I enjoy it, more-so when I get to work with them one-on-one to figure out their voice with them. I don’t always make the edits for them because I’m not a professional editor trying to get people’s work published, but sometimes I do.

What about you guys? Do you plan to self-publish? Do you have any works on display on your site? Have you won any contests? The last one I won was local and I was 17 years old. Do you consider yourself a writer?

I’m going to go mull over my thoughts on a bike ride. Until next time.

Don’t forget to hit that follow button and join me on Instagram @alilivesagain or on twitter @philopsychotic.

Posted in Community, Emotions, Questions for you, writing

Passion for Passion

I didn’t read last night. I’ve disappointed all 1.5 of you.

What keeps you motivated to do what you love? I’ve noticed sometimes it’s not enough just to like something or have passion for something. For example, I love my job, but I’m leaving this week. I still have passion for the field, but there’s something tugging on me, telling me that there’s something beyond it I must strive for. There’s also the fact that mentally I can’t handle it anymore, not with the same strength I had five years ago. I’m also craving something new, something shiny or something sooty, something rough or smooth, anything, really, that’s different. I’m very fortunate that although my finances suck at the moment, I will have enough to keep my bills paid for a few months before I need to look for another job.

I’m also a college student, if that makes things any better. It took me 7 years to get my associates degree because of medical problems, and now at 25 I’m not sure I want to keep the major I’ve persisted through hell to complete.

Another passion that I’m still fairly passionate about, lost.

I relate this to reading; I’ve read plenty of poor books that held my interest stronger than the exceptional ones. It’s almost as if when the analytic side of me isn’t challenged, I’m not interested.

My current job works with people. People often have problems, but not problems that are necessarily better helped with concrete solutions. I realize I need a position that challenges me logically, philosophically, and analytically. I also think I work better by myself. Do you ever feel that way about certain things? As if you’re not living up to your potential because you just haven’t found where you belong yet?

I feel like that’s angsty teen shit. Turns out it’s angsty adult shit, too.

What keeps you motivated to read a book is just as fair of a question. I’m reading another book called The Morality Play which I love every time I pick it up, but I’m having trouble staying consistent with reading it overt his last month. It’s a small book, about 188 pages. In contrast, I read The World According to Garp in just over five hours once. That’s about 609 pages.

Is it really just as simple as “it’s an off day” or “it’s a good day?”

Is it really that simple?

I’m both exhausted and mystified by the complexity of life. Maybe I should go read.

Don’t forget to hit that follow button and come join me on Instagram @Alilivesagain or Twitter @thephilopsychotic.

Posted in Questions for you, Uncategorized, writing

Beta Readers? Beta Reading?

Sometimes this is fruitless, but I’ve decided to put it out in the ether anyway: anyone out there in need of a beta reader? I love reading others’ works. I’m editing a friends’ memoir currently. I’m also looking for beta readers of my own for a short story I’m submitting to a competition in March. I’m looking for feedback and/or constructive criticism, as well as a fresh perspective for the content and/or any typos. I’ve had a few anonymous eyes read it already. It’s about 3.5 printer pages (word document) and is written in the form of a letter. It’s quite amusing if you ask me, but I’m the writer.

Although, I will say that not all of my writing amuses me. Most of the time I find it grotesque.

Maddening.

Irreparable.

I could go on and on.

Does any one else stay up late into the night contemplating their works’ successes and then wake the next morning only to realize it will inherently fail?

I’m being morbid. In reality, most of our writing will never be read by anyone.

Is that still too morbid?

A lot of people say that it doesn’t matter, that you just write for you, and that’s great for them and all, but I’ve never written something that I wouldn’t want read by someone else. I write as a form of communication, as a way to delve into the hearts and minds and souls of people I’ll never meet.

The point of this post is to ask for Beta Readers. So I’ll ask again: anyone want to swap writings or read mine or want me to read theirs? If so, you can comment down below, email me at alishia.dauterive@icloud.com OR reach out to me on Instagram @alilivesagain. That’s probably the fastest way. I had to erase my contact page on here to make space for other things. I’ve also forgotten how to work WordPress.

Thanks guys.

Posted in advocacy, Community, psychology

Friends, Let’s read

Hello friends, it has been some time.

Writing has been difficult. I hope everyone is staying healthy, safe, and inside their homes.

For those of us with mental health issues, all the panic, the uncertain information and unpredictable future can exacerbate our mind-states. If you are feeling effects from the global death, the misinformation and poor leadership (in some places), know that you are not alone. Many of us are feeling this. We are experiencing a collective trauma. Think of this as beautiful: we are stuck getting through this together as the economy flip-flops, healthcare becomes a war zone, and our sick family members and friends fight for their lives.

It’s obvious we lack some scientific understanding, as I mentioned in my last post, and that becomes scarily evident with the orange, diseased walrus in office (here in the U.S) barking empty threats to pull U.S funding from the WHO, lying about the amount of PPE and testing kits available, and tossing around ideas of re-opening public spaces against medical advice.

In the mean time, though, I browse mental health support pages on Instagram because they are recommended in my feed or I find them through other mental health connections I have on the app. It still baffles me that those of us who advocate for each other aren’t educated in the science of the brain. It’s great that we are experts in our own experience. It’s great that we leave space for others to be experts in their own, and don’t push drugs or not-drugs as an agenda. But how can we do that if we aren’t pulling from both sides?

Science and personal experience are how we exist in the world: our brains react to biology and environment, and both influence each other. Genes play an almost negligible role when it comes to the deciding factors of someone developing mental health symptoms, and yet we still push this idea that things like schizophrenia are inherited. They are not: schizophrenia in particular has a high level of heritability, meaning it swims around in the general population’s gene pool, and you are more likely to develop symptoms as a result of genetic chance than you are receiving it from your parents.

Now, before you say “well, I know that my mom. . .” or “well, my friend’s dad had schizophrenia and he does too . . .”, remember that your personal experience, or your friends’, are not common enough to generalize. Please stop.

As for environment, genes turn on and off in reaction to what the body experiences in this physical world. Brain structure changes. Trauma reroutes cells, wilts some, builds some in different, non-beneficial places. At the end of this pandemic, we will see noticeable changes in society and in the people living in areas hit the hardest. In the United States, New York healthcare works in particular may not be the same. In Italy, those who have been quarantined with the dead bodies of their relatives will not be the same. Trauma will change how they see the world, politics, life, friendship, and in their healing process they will learn new things, understand new things. Some will be okay. Others will not. And this variety of reaction is a testament to the way environment shapes us.

When we, as advocates, focus on spreading this disingenuous positivity, this overly positive positivity, as I call it, and we forfeit spreading facts, we are only harming our own cause. So, in light of that, I’ve been reading some research. Sleep is one thing I struggle with, and in my three-am database search for an interesting read, I came across this article here.

I had had access to a full text version, but right now can only link the abstract. If you have access to pubmed, or found it somewhere else, let me know.

But this article states they’ve found a consistent decrease in melatonin across those diagnosed with schizophrenia. Their participants had already been diagnosed and were not on antipsychotic medication (YES that is a possibility for some). Antipsychotics did not increase melatonin levels when introduced.

Nine people is a poor amount, and not very indicative of the population of us, but I assume a bulk of participants were just not available: how many do you know diagnosed with schizophrenia have the ability to take on their journey without meds? Not many.

This study however, has implications for how sleeplessness could be treated in patients with schizophrenia. What this also reveals is that the sleep you get from your antipsychotics (and I remember mine fondly, because I got LOTS of sleep, and I hadn’t had much in a very long time) is not restful. It’s more like a heroin knock-out, and less of your body’s choice.

Assessing those who were not on antipsychotics allowed these researchers to see a natural reduction in melatonin, not linked to the psych-drug usage, and although we could never say for certain that schizophrenia is the cause, the implication is there. What could be other reasons for the melatonin decrease? Perhaps large doses of antipsychotics when hospitalized had rerouted these patient’s melatonin years before, although unlikely considering doses of these antipsychotics int he experiment did not decrease levels of melatonin further. Perhaps their bodies adapted over the years as they got less and less restful sleep because of their symptoms. Perhaps their pineal glands had always secreted a low level of melatonin and THAT contributed to the development of their symptoms. We could hypothesize for years. We have been.

If you have something on the spectrum of schizophrenia, how would you rate your sleep? I rate mine poorly, particularly in times of stress. It takes me longer to fall asleep and it’s harder to wake up. I also attribute some of this to screens and my incessant need to play video games.

That study was from 1997: there may be updated research on this, or conflicting research. If you’re feeling lazy during quarantine, sad, anxious, scared, whatever your emotion, maybe some good old boring, informational research on schizophrenia could pull you out of your funk. It’d help your advocacy, too.

Also, welcome to the load of new followers I’ve received over the last few weeks. I promise I am much more consistent with my writing than I have been these last two months. Feel free to browse the blog for great past posts like this one about positive thinking and this one about supporting your loved one.

Be healthy, be safe, be mindful.

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