Saturday, January 12, 2019

Books to Help You Deal With Your Money and Your Future

We've recently gotten out of all debt aside from our mortgage and car payment (I really wish we could have nixed that car payment, and we will keep trying for that). You'd think that would mean we could breathe a little.

But it's actually the opposite. Now, I find myself scared of ever having debt again. Especially because I'm chronically ill and I'm not bringing in what I thought I'd one day be able to. All this doesn't even bring into account how precarious doing okay actually is in our country right now- most of us are one serious illness or injury away from financial disaster because of our high cost of healthcare. 

Climbing a mountain is scary, but it's worse when you've started that climb and look back down at how freaking far you will fall if you mess the hell up. So 2019 is my year of figuring how the fuck I can avoid ever being back in that spot and find more secure footing for my family. 

Enter some cool money books...

I'm not a big financial guru person. I'm glad they exist, and glad there are people standing up out there screaming that it's not okay to work your life away to pay for things you thought you deserved on credit, but I found many of them didn't resonate with me. 

But these people did, so when I felt like I could use some guidance, these are the first books I went for.

We love Gail at our house. We found her first on the show streaming on Amazon Prime called "Till Debt Do Us Part" where she helps families get their spending and credit habits into shape.

This book contains all of that knowledge, but in a more straightforward package and I feel like that's actually pretty useful. The best part is the budgeting portion-take some notes because you'll be going over your spending and keeping track of every penny going out with each paycheck. 

If you are confused on where to even start changing your relationship to your money, you need some Gail Vaz-Oxlade in your life, and "Easy Money" is one of the best starting places I can think of. 

This next book I came across not from the author's blog, but from the man who wrote the foreward, and he's mostly just known as Mr. Money Mustache-the guy who retired at 30 and made not giving into consumerism the badass thing to do. 

This book right here is a little bit different.

You'll find the same message in "The Simple Path to Wealth" by JL Collins as in Gail's stuff (DEBT IS A FUCKING TERRIBLE MISTAKE and you need to be saving what you are earning by having a frugal lifestyle) but the bulk of this deals with making your savings money work for you in the passive spread of index funds. 

It's not an unfamiliar message for me, having read some of Ben Stein's books, but this broke it down in a way that not only I could understand, but it gives you the names of where to go and what to ask for to begin investing. That felt like moving mountains because as someone who grew up poor and is only slightly less poor now, investing always seemed like some crazy thing rich people did. Who had time for imaginary money? Not us. But we should have been doing this in more than just our 401k. You can't out-guess the stock market. You can buy a safe spread of index funds and ride out the bumps and drops to overall growth, though, and this is the first and foremost book I recommend to you to learn how to do that. The author's blog is here, and he has links to several other blogs like MMM that are really helpful too. 

Learning about money and how you can attempt to get out of our blind spending in a world screaming "BUY IT RIGHT NOW!" is about the best damn way to start the first month of this new year; these are the best resources for that I've ever seen. 

**credit to the photographer for the background image for my artwork unsplash-logoMadison Kaminski

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

A Review of Agatha Christie: A Mysterious Life, by Laura Thompson

I can't recommend a ton of author biographies. I'm not enticed enough to pick up a lot of them.

Even this one, love her works as I do, intimidated me and I passed it over countless times in my busy Summer. The book is a honker, as it should be, but it's a giant and not a light read in any way. 

But that's fine because the book is just as fascinating as I imagined it was. 

It takes snippets of Christie's works and aligns them with her life experiences to show you where it came from, which is pretty amazing. You do have to get used to the pacing of that, though, so give yourself time to adjust if at first that's disorienting. 

I really enjoyed reading about her young life, especially because I have three children (Agatha was the youngest of three) and how her family interacted with her and how she perceived the world and people around her from an early age was really interesting to think about. Obviously, her older life as she became more prolific is fascinating. And I love that she came back from her disappearance and from a terrible marriage to continue to create and go on to marry a better person. It's a mysterious comeback. It's wonderful to read the curves that the track of her life ran all the way to the end. 

While I don't have a long list of author biographies to recommend, I can fully recommend this one to fans of Agatha Christie's work and to other authors. We need to read books like this, even if it might be out of our genre range.

There is something magic about connecting with a writer who is long gone and feeling less alone for it. 

Monday, January 7, 2019

Death is such a motherfucker

I try not to do a ton of personal posts in a row because ultimately this is a creative blog (I think, probably, I mean I'm trying for that) but things happen and I also use this platform to talk about the things in my head. 

Without going into a lot of detail, one of our families lost someone recently. A mother who was barely a year older than me. It was sudden. And she's just gone now. 

I struggle every time we lose someone, some I've never stopped grappling with because they were so damn needed here and their absence is felt right to our core. 

I'm struggling with this on several levels of loss because this is right about the end of my 1.8 year life expectancy they gave me for my original misdiagnosis. I felt dead the second they said it and yet somehow my brain was like it just can't happen because I'd miss my husband, my children so much that it would rip a hole in the fucking universe-it cannot happen. 

It was heartbreaking on a level I can't describe with words. A parent's worst fear is losing their child but close second is leaving them suddenly like this. 

Death is such a motherfucker. And just a while ago, we were planning for this to be me.

 And now her children are unprotected by their mother's arms for the rest of their lives.

Just. Like. That. 

My experiences and the lingering illness I feel like never puts me 100% out of the world of the "half-dead while still living" club. It's always in my mind how CLOSE the end is. For me, for the people I love, for everyone. We are not but steps from the grave and the funeral fires. 

While not at all uncommon as far as fears go, that's a tough reality. 

In the unknown, the insurmountable face of it there is overwhelming sadness. I've read that death is almost unforgivable because it's the end of a totally unique human being, now lost to the physical world forever. 

I find I'm having to go back to the thoughts I used to get through that time of constant medical testing and procedures and wondering to fight off the crippling parts of dealing with things like this. 

In particular, the Gladiator reference in one of my stoicism readings. 

You will die. You just will. 

The crowd lives for and through the warrior who fights with abandon without extreme caution for his own life. 

You can't get caught up in the fact that this will end, but you DO NEED to live as well and as bravely as you can because you know this fact. 

I'm still devastated by the people we lose. 

But this helps me try not to get lost in my fear that we have no certainty. 

**"Seneca on the Shortness of Life: Life is Long if you Know how to use it" is a great starting book to processing all of this and the Order of the Good Death is a helpful website with a collection of resources for not being as death-phobic and making plans. 

**credit to the photographer whose image was used in my artwork unsplash-logoYoal Desurmont

Saturday, January 5, 2019

The Best I Can for 2019

In true me fashion, I always seem to forget how bad Winter is for my SVT and my health in general. 

When it got cold in Fall and I was doing okay, I sort of mistakenly thought GREAT, not this TIME. And that was stupid because I haven't been this sick or debilitated for a...well, like a year. Because it happens every year.

It's always kind of soul destroying, too. In and out of rapid heart rates and fighting a respiratory infection that won't leave us alone has left me kind of too drained to do a lot of blogging here. 

And that, along with a list of other things, is something I'm just going to go easy on myself for. 

That by itself is hard because our society devalues anything imperfect, anything not pushing the limits. 

But I've found it to be necessary for my survival. So that's where my head is right now.

No New Year's resolution other than I'm going to always do the best I can. I can't afford to pay the fallout of overdoing it when daily life with chronic illness has a high enough toll. 

Only wrote a page, good. I did something. That's the best I can do.

I only reviewed one book in the past three months. Well, that's at least one. It's the best I can do with the time I have right now.

We could only save a little bit of money. Good. I did something, that's probably the best I can do with my resources at this time.

I can only work a part-time job. Well, that's not insignificant, and it's the best I can do. 

I only got exercise by walking the dog (slowly). That's fine. It's the best I can do right now. 

The good news is I'm still writing. 

I teamed up with Literary Dust for a project coming soon. She's a good friend, and a good fit for a teammate because she's a writing dynamo. I'm not one of those, but I find being around people who are that accomplished absolutely helps get things done-and working alongside them helps even more. And this project, while no small feat, is a great body of work to tackle at a time in my life where novel-ing is not going to work out in a positive way. 

The best I can do is enough because I intend to keep going. 


Monday, December 10, 2018


I don't write a whole lot about movies or televisions shows because, well, you're already getting bombarded with a lot of marketing and reviews for that. Books reviews are a thing more than ever, but you still need to dig for the right fit usually. But I felt like I needed to talk about this here, and like all the best movies, this one was based on a book. 

Dumplin' is out on Netflix now. It's a game-changer for fat positive television and how we relate to each other as human beings. There's nothing bigger than that. And this deserves a lot of attention. 

I watched it with my tween daughter and husband, and we all loved it. The humor is genuine and the characters are lovable and it portrays a lot of real-life struggles you have with a body larger than average size. The main characters first encounter with a love interest- and the freakout you get when someone actually loves you and your body- is real. The courage it takes just to be the center of attention in a culture that really wants to hammer into you that you don't belong is real. The way this show tackles this and shows that these are struggles not just fatter people have is the most positive way I have ever seen it dealt with. Ever. 

Also, more of a side-note, but being from Texas all my life, I loved the atmosphere of the film. It's comforting and sweet and everything you'd need in a coming-of-age story because Texas is like that. 

It's a movie about learning to be who you are, cherishing the goodness in the people around you, and about loving Dolly Parton. And the world needs to pay attention to this right now.

I'm also adding the book to my Christmas list. Julie Murphy deserves all the awards for making this story. 

Saturday, November 24, 2018

You Really Should Read Children's Books About Video Games.

If you play games like FNAF or Hello Neighbor, and plenty of adults do (even if just to be able to game with your kids) then you owe it to yourself to check out some of the pretty stellar reads that are coming out to accompany these games. I first found my inspiration to write anything after reading Resident Evil novelizations, so I'm not joking when I say this stuff is sometimes just wonderful gold. 

FNAF has been my favorite, these books will creep you out and fill you in on even more lore within the rather complex universe. 

I didn't expect to like the Hello Neighbor universe as much as my older kids did, but it's actually really interesting. And a surprisingly workable amount of comedy horror that I've never seen pulled off so well. It makes for a great book for any child or adult who is a fan of the game. We were lucky enough to get a look at the Secret Neighbor game and just FYI, it's a great deal of fun. If you or your kids aren't already into this franchise, you probably will be soon. And you're going to need a book to go with it.

My only complaint is that the second book won't be out until after Christmas so it can't be my son's wrapped gift, but he'll be getting a copy of it as an everyday surprise. Can you give kids books as presents on New Year's Eve? Is that a thing? It needs to be a thing. Beats the crap out of resolutions. 

At any rate, don't let the fact that these and other titles started out as games first stop you from reading them. We could argue about how games are artforms all day, but the truth is that these games are successful in part because of the amazing stories behind them. Don't miss out on that. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

All Hallow's Read Free Story- Maybe It Will Be Enough

I always try to put up free stories for Halloween as a way to honor Neil Gaiman's tradition of All Hallow's Read.  I hadn't done a dragon story in the past and this felt like the right mood for this year, so here is "Maybe It Will Be Enough" along with an ink illustration. If you're looking for more disturbing, gory, and scary, check out Literary Dust's "Bride of Glass" on Amazon here for free today, and you can get the first book in the series for 1.99 here

Enjoy your Halloween,  and don't forget to share your scary stories, and your candy, and your zombie teeth. 

Maybe It Will Be Enough

      To be chosen by a dragon, you had to give up part of your soul.
      They had to be fed. Fed a still bleeding, fresh human body. Dragons ate all meat they could, but only an offering of the highest sacrifice could make you a companion.
      And Tahann had cheated.
      She brought her friend. And some of his blood had to be drained from the pieces. She could not risk it soaking through the bag and touching her. Coming to the mountain wearing blood meant you were food. Every footstep and handhold was careful. An open scrape marked you as an offering in this place.
      For added insurance, her body had been dusted in the soft purple lavender powder, so much that a heavy breath made it visibly float off into the cold air. It masked the scent of carrying the dead, and the color was meant to show the dragon something calming. Tahann had never seen a dragon up close and had no idea if any of this mattered or if any of it was true.
     Her friend, Dahy, had died peacefully. More of poverty than the illness itself, which could have been cured with three expensive bottles of little round pills. The plan had always been this, but Tahann felt guilty still. Many had probably done this, or far worse, for the chance to befriend the creatures that snaked on the edge of the world’s darkness. Everyone wanted this. Dahy, too. It made her feel worse that fortune had ended his life and given her the chance. But this was always the plan.
She hoped it would be enough.
     It was almost midnight before she found one sleeping. Young, a male probably, as the horns were longer than she’d expected. He was coiled up, and even in the dark, what light her torch carried picked up his brilliant blue scales. His eyes opened. Tahann put down the torch to the ground and she could still see his gaze on her, gleaming in the shadows.
     Slowly, very slowly, she took the bag off of her shoulders. She put her friend down to the ground. Barely breathing, she pulled the string, one inch at a second, until he was in the open air again; a mess of limp and red wet pieces. His face no longer resembled what he was in life. It no longer resembled anything she’d ever seen.
     It was the arm the dragon moved to first and sat down with it, like a dog with a bone, and began chewing, sometimes stripped the skin and fat and muscle off to swallow. Tahann just watched. She had known this part, this gap between the sacrifice and the reward, would be torture. But it hurt so badly that she stopped caring if she was eaten tonight as well.
     Unable to stand it anymore, she reached out and touched the top of the blue dragon’s wide head. He was warm, unbelievably warm, just like the books said he would be. He paused for a second.
He went back to finishing off Dahy’s arm.
     Tahann touched his head with both hands. He did not shake her off but moved to caress his horns on her palms.
     It was enough. 
     They had done it.
     Tahann hoped Dahy could see, not from the dead closed eyes he’d been limited to, but from somewhere and something else.