Friday, February 10, 2017

My First Tattoo

Something happened on Tuesday, something I've been thinking about for about 15 years (no lie). I got my first tattoo. I've been tossing the idea of getting a tattoo around for a long time (half of my life, since the beginning of The Amuli Chronicles, actually), and I decided I finally knew a design I could never regret. One that would mean something to me every single time I looked at it.

I sent this design to an artist named Sarah recommended to me by a friend. She and I discussed briefly what I was looking for, and she tossed a price out. I skimmed her art and did a little more research on her work and on other local artists and studios before deciding, heck yeah, I want to get my first tattoo from this amazing, burgeoning artist. Supporting emerging artists is important to me, and it's an awesome feeling knowing I will get to walk around with her art on my body forever. Pretty sure I chose right!

The design is important to me for a few reasons. First, it's a character's name from one of my book series (the Soulbound series); next, it's the name of the second character I developed for this series: Marik. The two glyphs (yes, two, not three) are split into mar and ik, meaning literally firstborn blood. I like to joke about how my imaginary friends get angry with me if I work on another series or think about other stories, but it's actually true. I wrote a book outside of The Amuli Chronicles last November for NaNoWriMo, and Marik and the others of my Chronicles were so angry, they are only just now speaking with me again. I understand why they were mad; the new book is fairly far removed from my normal work, and it derailed me emotionally and artistically, but I'm glad I gave it a go.

Back to Marik. In the past, when I've considered giving up and walking away from writing, he has always been the one to pull me back. Clae and Eti, too, and they will eventually get their own marks, but for me, Marik represents more than a character or a good friend. He is the person who repeatedly sees me at my worst; he reflects a lot of who I am when I'm at my worst. Hopeless. Angry. Self-loathing. Wrathful. Self-destructive. All of these things sort of combined into this man (Nicholas is the opposite; he's my manic self, but that's another story), and this man is the reason I continue to write. Because in truth, the story I want to tell belongs to him as much as it does me.

So, I messaged Sarah Tuesday morning and asked if she had a slot open that day. Fate, I figured, would be the one to ultimately decide if I got ink or not. She did! I had to rush a hair appointment (have to go back next week to get the rest done; long story there...), but I made it a little early.

After filling in the disclaimer form (including checking a box noting where I understood that tattoos are *gasp* perminant!), she took me back to her cubicle and we chatted a little about the design I wanted. I tossed out the idea of adding watercolor, and she rolled with it. She explained everything to me--from opening the needle and instrument before me to what the pain might be like (of course, this is what I was the most nervous about!). She offered to do a tiny tester, and I was ultimately surprised at how little it hurt (until the needle hit the middle of my wrist--ouch!).

As she worked on the glyphs, she asked what I was thinking of for the watercolor. She and I had already chosen colors, but not really a design. Sarah suggested something organic, and the idea struck me as perfect. I'm a big lover of things being unique. I love to buy items a little scratched up or worn (my angel from the Thai bazaar in Bangkok is a good example; I have the one they used for display instead of one wrapped in a plastic bag... mine has way more character!).

Some of the black ink smudged, as is wont with tattoos, and I mentioned I liked how the smudges looked. She went with it, and lo and behold, after a few adjustments, this was the design!

I went with bright colors because of my depression. I wanted something I could look at for years and years and still see as bright, as impacting, as a brilliant memory and something to inspire me when I'm at my lowest. The positioning of the tattoo, even, was thoroughly thought through. I wanted to be able to almost accidentally look at the tattoo and be able to smile.

That light, that memory, and the meaning of the tattoo as a whole is very important to me. Beyond firstborn blood, this tattoo stands for so much more. It stands for hope. It stands for my dreams. The ink swimming through my skin is a reminder to never give in. A reminder to fight, to believe in what I want in life, and to keep pushing forward no matter the obstacles.

And it certainly won't be my last.

I think a Gundam tattoo might be in order next (but not for a while! I need to save up and really work on the design until it's perfect; it'll be a bit bigger than this one, but just as meaningful).

Do you have any tattoos? What do they mean to you? If not, have you ever thought about getting one and why? Tell me about your body art/dream body art! This is a dialogue, after all. ;)

Thank you for reading!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Fresh Air

Last year was difficult for me, personally, on many levels. I discovered an old friend passed away and suffered, as a result, a depressive episode lasting months. I struggled with personal identity and personal happiness. I lost a job and some dear friends (not by death, but other things); I then found the most amazing job I've ever held.

I stopped writing for a while.

I then wrote a book (65,000 words, written, edited, and sent to beta readers) in exactly a month. I'm still floored.

The voices of my characters vanished during that time. Not the characters from the new book, but the ones from my life-long series. They just... went away. I became lonelier than I've ever been. I never want them to leave me again.

I stopped writing... again.

I seriously questioned my art (for the millionth time).

My best friend's life fell apart, and all I wanted to do was pull her close and tell her the world is not as hateful as it seems. I'm beyond lucky she's in my life. She helped me turn everything around. She helped me see the light and breathe anew.

Then, I clicked back into action. I started focusing on things important to me: my marriage, my art, my BFF, myself. These aren't listed in order of importance. They're all important to me. All equally part of my life--the best parts of my life.

A few days ago, I drew something (and someone) I love dearly for the first time in months. I drew Yaranda Aneys (nee Yassla) from The Soulbound Curse and The Soulless King: Part One.

Nothing fancy. A sketch. A doodle. A moment to reflect on last year--on what I want and why. On why life isn't futile and why things are worth doing. Why this story--and my other--is worth writing.

Yaranda is one of those characters who digs into people. She digs in and won't let go. In a word, she's tenacious. She's passionate. She's pissed off, and she has every reason to be. Her rage helped propel me forward, and I cannot be more thankful. Hers is not a story of love and life. Hers is a story of loss and survival, of struggling to maintain what little she has. In the past, I connected with her least of my characters (and I have a lot of them), but when my heart was heaviest, when my soul darkest, when the world lost its luster, she was the one who took me by the heart and squeezed.

"Do you like to live?"

"Most days."

"Then do something worth living for; or else, your flesh is a waste of life. A waste of generations and time. Do something, or forget us all and become mindless--become nothing."

She went quiet after that, but I could feel her seething at the back of my mind, and with her my other characters: Marik, Clae, Eti, Janine... countless, countless others whose lives will be lost if I do not keep going.

So tonight, I stepped back and colored a little. This is a work in progress; I still have a long way to go, but at last, I feel fresh. I feel like things will be okay again. And I can't wait to wake up early tomorrow and really dig into my projects. I can't wait to launch back to Inrugia and her peoples. I can't wait to try something new and exciting and continue this story.

I can't wait.

One day at a time. I'll get there. This picture, this character, is a reminder that when life is terrible to us, we can make it through. We can survive. We can pull out of our darkest moments and breathe anew.

So I will. I will push forward. And this time, I will not stop.

Monday, October 31, 2016

The Crushing Truth of Hating Myself to the Core

Every morning, I wake up, and it's the same internal mantra, I hate you. You're terrible. Look at you. Not even worth breathing. Everything about you is scum. You're scum. Nothing would change if you weren't here. The world wouldn't miss you one bit. And that's not me thinking about someone else. That's me thinking about myself. Every morning, every day, and every night, this is what rolls through my mind on repeat. My only relief is when I'm either working or trying to distract myself with an on-going story inside of my head. I used my characters often as an escape from these words. Still, somehow, they come back. They always come back. And I always, always believe them.

Over the past few months, things have become progressively worse. My self-loathing has devolved to a point where I suffer in constant despair. I often find myself romanticizing how my friends wouldn't even notice me missing if I simply stopped talking to them, or if I simply vanished from social media. About how they despise me and how I'm an absolutely horrid person. How I'm just the worst to be around, and how much they hate me for everything I am--and everything I'm not.

It's a pretty crushing feeling to think to yourself repeatedly, Your friends don't even like you. No one likes you. You're a burden. And to know, somewhere deep inside, you believe every single word. Every one. There's a point where it goes beyond me just believing those words, too. There was a point where those words become so ingrained that they're just about burned into my bones. That's how much I believe that little voice. I feel it, deep inside of me, that I'm worthless.

I hit that point about eight years ago. Now, the burns are more like giant gouges, dug so deep that my marrow leaks out from the wounds. No matter how much I try to plaster those gouges shut, they simply crack open again, breaking wider and longer than before.

The more I think about what's going on inside of my head, this tremendous self-loathing, this hatred for everything I am, everything I've done in my life, that I can't help wondering, Am I alone? I doubt it. Self-hatred isn't uncommon. It should be, but it isn't. I bet I throw a virtual stone and at least ten of my Facebook friends have the same self-hatred and deep-down despair that cripples you to the core. That's why I'm writing this. Because, you, my friends, aren't alone, and yes, someone would miss you. I would miss you; I would miss you terribly and deeply and without any way to describe in words the sorrow I'd feel at your loss.

Don't let the self-loathing win. Don't listen to that voice inside of your head, no matter how convincing it is. Please--just remind yourself that you would be passionately missed. That's what keeps me going. I have to remind myself how selfish of me it is to hate myself so much when so many people have put such enormous love into my life. When so many people have shown me their devotion and love for me... and it helps to know that I am loved. Even when the whispers are darkest and the most tempting, I try so hard to remind myself of that outpouring of love.

Because if I don't remember it, if the whispers start telling me that all of that love isn't real and, worse, if I start to believe them... I'm not sure what will happen.

For now, I'm fighting. Please, fight with me.