It’s been a while since I updated the blog. I’ve gotten lost in a swamp of work and life changes. But now an even bigger one is happening to our country and I keep rotating between anxiety and shock. I don’t know how long it’s going to take for me to process this, sort of hoping that creating this post will help.

A lot of the time, when I’ve gotten angry about something lately, it’s been pretty much just me and pretty much just in a day to day way. Like the Ilvermony crap, or the pisspoor representation of bisexuals, or the white-washing in Doctor Strange. All that anger’s pointed at bigger issues, but people tend to do the one-shoulder shrug or the ‘yeah that sucks.’ Any group of friends will tell you–within very little time of knowing me–that I’m “the angry one.”

Half of America  (honestly, probably a little more than that) has lost its fucking mind from grief, fear, rage, anger, anxiety. My Facebook feed is covered in people who can’t believe this happened to our country–or who can and are deeply upset about it. For once, I’m not the only angry one and I don’t have to go far to find someone else feeling the same shitty way I do.

Alone, I’m a voice screaming into a void and hoping to hear the echoing rage. Together, we can be a fucking chorus that won’t be ignored, that refuses to be trampled. That’s the only tiny embers I have left for my fire right now–that consolation and hope that we can get better because there IS a loud MAJORITY who did not want want this. Thousands of people have already begun protesting. We’ve got the brilliant thinkers on our side. We’ve got passionate people on our side. We’ve got compassion on our side. We’ve got rage and fury on our side. Fuck any silent nights. I can’t sleep? Okay. I’m going to do something with the anxious energy I can’t get rid of. I’m going to post. I’m going to protest. I’m going to create because they can’t convince me that what I am is wrong. I’ve had someone try before. Didn’t work then.

I’ll get through the shock and find the anger, fuel those embers back into a blaze. Because my friends are right. I am one of the angry ones. And a chunk of our nation just decided to give me some ugly-ass big ol’ dragons to fight. Fucking bring it.

Where are the Muses

So, sort of ironically here, I was lacking inspiration on my blog post for this week and saw the The Daily Post’s word of the day. Writers, and other artists, like to talk about the mythical muses quite a bit. Anymore, we tend to use the word as a manifestation of our creative side. Oftentimes, when we can’t manage to find the right words or the motivation to create, we blame the muse for not showing up or for not talking. We impress upon others and ourselves that working on our project would be so much simpler if inspiration would just talk to us!

Unfortunately, the best way to find the muses is to stop waiting for them to show up. There’s a couple of ways to go with that idea. First, you could toss out the need to be inspired all together, but let’s face a fact. It feels great when you have a muse perched on your shoulder. Inspiration makes your mind fly with ideas and for a brief, happy time, your creative work feels completely golden. Those moments in the zone are the moments creatives truly enjoy. The world and its worries are left behind for the glorious joy of making something.

So consider a different mental approach if you’re having trouble finding the muses. The best way to find anything is to lure it out into the open. If muses love creativity, then start up your project and do some work. Draw a line, write a sentence, find a prompt, whatever you need to just begin. Don’t worry about the muse showing up or whether or not inspiration will strike you. The practice of creating will bring them out. You’ll have tiny whispers that blossom into full blown muse-irific tangents if you simply keep working.

That’s not easy advice, especially when you’re struggling. And it’s something you hear a lot–“Just write every day and it’ll happen!” how many of us have read that over and over? Thing is, sometimes that’s all you can do. Butt in the seat, words on the page, pencil marks on the paper, chords on the instrument–somedays that’s all you’re going to have. Keep at it though. My own ability to knit stories together is growing, and I’ve watched friends go from struggling to write a few hundred words to writing a couple thousand in the same amount of time. Practice has made all the difference. Sometimes those muses still elude us, but showing up and getting to work makes it much more likely we’ll find them. Don’t worry. Lay out the bait of some creative thoughts and those muses won’t be able to resist showing up.

Feel free to comment or share your own thoughts about muses!

Opening Moments

Dozens of books, posts, websites, and whatnot will tell you what to do with those opening moments of a work. You’ve got to make sure those precious words are leaving an impression, introducing your character, getting the plot going and a hundred other little things. The task is daunting, and can produce existential terror if you sit and think too hard about it. That would have been my problem this last week and when the fear of never producing constructed a writer’s block, I decided to look for outside inspiration to break it down.

I started by thinking about what media I’m liking at the moment. Now, Hamilton‘s a fantastic musical, but a book can’t really start with a long exposition of a character’s history these days. (Okay, yes, there is the idea that in writing ‘If you do it well enough you can do anything,’ but I certainly don’t have the expertise for that kind of opening). Knowing that Hamilton‘s writer Miranda is a huge West Wing fan and being one myself, I put the pilot episode on for the upteenth repeat to see how they handled their beginning. And, quite frankly, a lot of that writing advice finally clicked into place in my brain.

West Wing is available via Netflix, so if you’ve got a moment and a subscription, watch through the first few minutes. I’m going to break down some of the scenes here, so if you don’t want to be spoiled on the story, here’s your warning.

Okay, still with me? West Wing starts in a bar with a reporter pressing for information from another man, who we quickly learn is Sam. Their conversation reveals a staggering amount of information in just a few lines. We learn that Josh might lose his job, that Sam isn’t the kind of guy to blab to the press, that he’s friends with Josh, and that Sam’s not incredibly great at figuring out clues from women (“I think she’s looking at me. I can never tell when they’re looking at me.”)

From there, we’re introduced to other characters in quick succession and there’s two obvious commonalities. The characters are starting their mornings, and everyone is interrupted by POTUS–leading to the conclusion that everyone in this story works for the White House. In every one of these tiny scenes, we see character quirks, strengths, and flaws. Leo is ready for work, but he’s obsessed about the crossword getting an answer wrong. CJ is obviously dedicated to taking care of herself, but she’s crappy at trying to flirt. Josh has slept on his desk (probably worried about his job), but he still answers the pager’s beeping right away. Toby is surly with the air flight attendant, but his frustration is understandable even if his behavior’s not polite.

Those few brief scenes give us everything that the plethora of writing books advise. Each character is in mid-action, no one’s waking up to greet the dawn (well, except for Josh, but he’s not exactly greeting anything), there’s movement, minor tensions, and the bigger tensions (Will Josh keep his job? What’s the President like?) The show follows up with all those questions and continues to explore the characterization and the world setting.

Basically, West Wing is a fun ride, and if you’re looking closely, there’s a lot you can pick up on writing. Are there other shows/books/media that do that for you? Feel free to share in the comments 🙂

For Whom the Bell Tolls — Supernatural’s END

So the news broke a couple of weeks ago, but I only found out last night. Looks like the CW will no longer be hosting their shows on Hulu this fall. Sure, you’ll be able to find their programming over on the CW site and the CW’s app, and okay, you’ll get the finished seasons much sooner on Netflix (as it stands, you have to wait until about a week before the new season starts to get last season. With the new program you’ll get them 8 days after the season ends). And yes, there is that traditional way of watching television, but how many people actually watch shows when they’re on these days? I don’t even have cable anymore–the basic package just isn’t cost effective for me. Why pay so much for digital only channels when I can stream via Hulu and Netflix and get it in HD for about the same as it would cost to get the most basic of channels?

I watch a lot of CW’s shows and I do so through the Hulu app because it’s the most convenient for me. I don’t want to download yet another app to watch a handful of programming and I watch from my PS4, so I don’t even think CW has an app for that. I write, which means I spend many hours a day with my computer. The last thing I want for my down time is to stare at the screen only a foot away any longer. So definitely not going to bother putting the app on my phone or tablet either. That means, at the end of summer, my access to CW’s network is going to poof. While I could wait around until the end of season to binge-watch what I missed, I doubt I’ll bother. What would be the point? My interaction with these fandoms is strictly online these days, and if I’m watching long after everyone else, the conversation will have already moved past any thoughts I might have. It’s not going to be fun.

And that got me thinking. I’m likely not the only one who will be giving up their program because of the inconvenience. Others aren’t going to wrangle each episode and CW’s shows don’t always compete with whatever else is on during their programming. Like Supernatural, this last year they were in direct competition with Fox’s Empire.

Talk to most people and they’d be surprised that Supernatural is going on its 12th season this fall. Rightfully so, not a lot of programs last that long and certainly not monster-of-the-week paranormal based fantasy. But I’m going to call it now. This one’s going down this season. Why? Well, besides the limited character growth over the last few seasons and the dwindling fandom, the removal of easy access will reduce the show’s visibility. For a show already bleeding Nielsen ratings the last few years, the inability to draw in new audience from the cross-network platform of Hulu will likely stagnate an already decaying fandom. At this point, without an influx of new viewers, the show doesn’t stand a chance of pulling up out of its tanking ratings.

So, enjoy this show–if you can that is–this fall, because this new deal will likely mean the end of Supernatural.

A US Magic School History

Oftentimes, when I go to criticize something, I do so because I was really hoping that the product would be better. Why did GoT have to have more rape than the books? Why can’t a woman-loving-woman survive this season? When I get truly disgruntled, I begin thinking of ways to fix the problems. Last time, I ranted about J.K. Rowling’s Ilvermoarnuy (okay, I still haven’t learned how to type that). And since I have such issues with it, my imagination is determined to spin up a ‘what could have been’ for a US-centric wizarding school system that brings its history into play. (US-centric because they didn’t really teach Canadian or Mexican histories in my schools and this subject alone is so massive that I worry about tackling it in one post).

Okay, ahem—

Let’s start with, there were no magic schools before Europeans came over because they weren’t needed. Native tribes taught magic to their children in the fashion their culture dictated and that worked for them. Oh, and since I’m changing stuff up, we’re going to implement this rule–Magic does not need a fucking wand. A wand is a tool to strengthen your magic. Native tribes had (and have) their own instruments to assist their magic users.

Colonization begins. Seeking a place safe from the scrutiny and persecution of their homeland, a group of young British wizards settled deep in the Massachusetts forests around 1637. As time goes on, young magical students who need them managed to stumble their way into town and in 1654, the town establishes the first magic school in the colonies. (This town’s name, btw, shall be Arkham. Yes, Lovecraft’s Arkham. He came across it one day, stayed a while, saw a bunch of weird shit, and a wizard incorrectly modified his memory–unable to get it all. It left Lovecraft a little messed up).

The Massachusetts school grows as the nation does, sending letters to students who live all throughout British American colonies. Problems in the wizarding community arose when the slave trade brought so many people to America that there was a substantial amount of magical children born to owned parents. Abolitionist and equal rights wizards argued that the children deserved to be taught at the Massachusetts school, but slave-owning wizards and their supporters argue that those children shouldn’t be taught at all. In 1817, the southern wizards establish a school in Georgia (in the woods somewhere between Atlanta and Athens). They claim it’s because the northern school is overcrowded and just too far away to send their children. Only a fool considers that the only reasons and tensions in the wizarding community mirror growing tensions in the US Congress.

In 1819, another school is founded outside New Orleans with the sole purpose of training young black wizards. The founders of this school chose a secluded spot in Louisiana’s swamps and to this day, the school has a reputation of having the best protective wards. No one has ever stumbled across this school on accident and the students have always felt safe here. Two years after the Civil War ended, this school announced itself at a meeting of the Americas High Council and demanded the same rights and privileges as the other schools. Only ignorant textbooks will claim that the school began in 1867 (though that misinformation was spread in the wizarding community for a long time).

As pioneers expanded westward, the wizarding communities followed. Several villages were founded on the principles of ‘utopia,’ but most of these failed. One that worked was not too far from St. Louis. Since the crowding of the east coast and the hunt for opportunities drove so many westward, these wizards realized that both the Massachusetts and Georgia schools were too far away and too likely to be overcrowded quickly. They began a new school in 1854.

With continued population growth and the migration westward, even the St. Louis and New Orleans school quickly became overcrowded. In 1871, a new school was founded outside San Fransisco. For the first time, the school’s students were not predominantly one color or another. Not even one culture dominated this school, creating a mixture of Chinese, Irish, Black, Southern, and Northern cultures. (Causing the seniors of 1899 to declare the Year of Celebration, having at least one day a week where they skipped class to celebrate one of the many holidays.)

And yet still there were students who needs weren’t being met. With the dramatic changes to the Native tribes’ populations, there was a fear that their way of magic would be lost entirely. At the same time, many Hispanic wizards believed that the other schools weren’t providing their children with the education they wanted. Two prominent wizards met at one of the Americas High Council meetings and after an all-night discussion, came to the conclusion that they could help each other out. They co-founded a school in northern New Mexico in 1896.

–so that’s one idea for the founding of six major magic schools (meaning that they have more than 100 students per year taught) of the US. (I did see a post on tumblr that suggested four or five schools, but it only went into locations (the only specific one they mentioned was New Orleans I think) so that was one of the seeds for this history as well (and sorry I can’t remember where I saw it)). There ought to be several smaller schools as well, due to philosophical differences if nothing else. Maybe sometime in the future, I’ll go into how the 20th century changed the wizarding schools and what they ought to look like today.

The Anti-Ilvermoarnyey Rant

Okay, so I can’t help it. Everyone’s all excited about the new Pottermore reveals and honestly, each one has been pissing me off more and more. Chatter would have you believe that Potter-universe is a deep, wonderfully magical place, but there are giant holes and gaps that increase each time that Rowling posts a new bit.

All of my problems with the recent additions have to deal with J.K. Rowling’s blatant ignorance of American cultural history and present (something pointed out since the first posting). Sure, she wrote up a new magic school and you can get sorted into one of Ilvormony’s (is that misspelled? Not sure. Don’t care) houses! It ought to be cool as an American to have a piece of Potter-verse on our doorstep instead of being completely ignored (I mean, did the US, Canada, or Mexico get even one mention? What about the rest of the world?). Unfortunately, the new houses are stolen from indigenous tribes’ religions! As that second link points out, the ‘history’ that Rowling was setting up for North American wizarding world’s relations to indigenous tribes was bad enough in the first place, but this reinforcement is terrible.

Perhaps as bad as the Ilvermoney’s (Did I get it that time?) houses is the ‘histories.’ First, there’s no distinction made between Canada, US, and Mexico. We’re all lumped together as ‘North America.’ Time frames where incredible amounts of change happened are lumped together and glossed over that the lack of details makes the fiction meaningless. Harry Potter’s wizarding world has always been removed from the ‘Muggle’ or ‘No-Maj’ world (which, okay, what the hell? How does ‘No magic’ become ‘No-Maj’ and why is North America using a different name anyway? A multitude of languages has always been spoken on this continent, but if we’re predominately English, French, and Spanish speakers, why aren’t we using Muggle or another language’s word? No one would reinvent the wheel. If Muggle’s the Brit word since forever, then our word should be at least related to it.) Ahem, anyway, magic history and muggle history often seem divided, which honestly makes the wizards seem rather stupid. Why doesn’t Mr. Weasley know how to work the damn Tube station? People manage initial contact with the concept without having a teenager describe it to them. But particularly in the case of US history, divorcing the magic and muggle worlds is a huge slap in the face. Consider, for a second, coming from Virginia in the Civil War and getting a letter telling you to go north to learn how to deal with this weird crap you’ve been doing. Or being a slave-child or coming from a reservation and going to school that tells you ‘Never share your power with your (filthy) Muggle parents!’ Those examples are from over a hundred years ago, sure, but recent considerations aren’t much better. Conflicts were numerous (and ongoing) when America began desegregation, didn’t this affect the magic school as well? Everyone just, got along?

Oh, yeah, and despite the population of an entire continent, we only have one wizarding school? Where does that begin to make sense? My imagination has been running away with me on what America’s wizarding history ought to look like, and I can come up with six schools and one university just for the US. I will admit too much ignorance in Mexican and Canadian histories to write up schools for them as well.

I just find it completely ironic that Rowling’s twitter has been exploding with Brexit texts this week, even ones calling out racism, and she (and whoever’s beta-ing this shit) has completely participated in cultural erasure. As an anthropologist, I’m angry at the disregard for myth structures. As a writer, I’m angry at the lazy world-building. As a reasonable human being, I’m freaking pissed at the mistreatment of non-white culture. Stay as excited as you want to about the new products being unveiled this year, but this has firmly placed Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them in my “Do Not Watch” list.

Preacher: Take Me to Church

I’m sure in recent weeks the pun on Hozier’s song and AMC’s new show Preacher has been made more than a few times, but I couldn’t resist the urge. There’s something about the slow, steady rhythm and blasphemous nature of ‘Take Me to Church’ that fits right in line with the attitude and delivery of Preacher.

That delivery is amazing so far. I’ve enjoyed the show so much that I’m having hard time finding a place to start talking about it. The episodes are tense, character-driven, cinematic beauties with a dark humor and a flair for violence. What could wind up being ridiculously unbelievable characters are acted (and directed and written) with just enough down-to-Earthness to make the ludicrous things that happen sympathetic. Cassidy is just a fun loving guy (well, vampire) that just happens to wind up in these terribly bloody fights. Tulip is smart, clever, and completely capable of getting whatever she wants in a scene (respect, a map, surviving) except for Jesse. And Jesse wants a quiet no-hassle life but people won’t stop pushing for him to do his new job and he feels compelled to protect innocents.

I’ve only seen the first three episodes so far, but there’s some great dynamics happening with the main three characters and the other lead supporting cast. The relationship between Tulip and Jesse is the hardest to figure out so far, but that’s half the point of the presentation. The audience meets Tulip in the middle of a fight, who then goes on to prepare for the next wave of attack, protect a couple of kids by getting them out of harm’s way before the fight even starts, and then she’s off. While she gives a small speech about love during all of this, she never brings up Jesse’s name or any details about this ex of her. That part becomes clear later on. Without this early scene, she’d likely come off as the psych-exgirlfriend. She still does in some of her scenes with Jesse, but bits and pieces of their past are coming to light through the show and it’s obvious that something deeply traumatic and wrong happened–something that pushed Jesse away from their old lives and made Tulip cling to it and her mental image of Jesse even harder. There’s unfinished business and Tulip seems to need Jesse to complete, not because she needs her man, but because he was there when the business started. All parties need to be there to see it through–including Jesse if she has to drag him back kicking and screaming (which she just might at this point…) So, really, the greatest part of Tulip and Jesse’s relationship is the fact that it pulls double duty as a plot.

One of the other fantastic aspects of the show is the sets and cinematography. Like other AMC shows (Walking Dead and Hell on Wheels come to mind), Preacher‘s not afraid to use longer, wider shots. Instead of bouncing from face to face, as most shows do during conversations, Jesse and Cassidy lounge on pews, furniture, whatever’s handy. The show loves to feature the long, dusty road up to church. You get to see Jesse’s truck sitting in the background when he goes into a place. Basically, there’s a strong sense of world in this show that helps envelop you in its reality.

I’m really liking this show so far and hopefully we’ll get many more seasons of Preacher (and hopefully it doesn’t eventually disappoint like some things). Definitely go check out the first few episodes on amc.com or double check your On Demand for access.