Thursday, July 30, 2020

The Fraud Police


By Cheryl Oreglia

As a writer, I have struggled with imposter syndrome ever since I hit the publish button on my first blog. My husband yelled from the office, "you misspelled corral," and I about fainted. They'll know, they'll all know, I have no idea what I'm doing! 

"You don't know how to spell." I lamented.

"Who do you think you are?"

"Nobody wants to read what you're writing."

"You're not an expert."

Even worse.

"You'll look like a fool."

Megan Culter says, "I gave up my agency. I had put power over my passions into the hands of unknown, unseen strangers. I had allowed the fear of failure to bar the way." Our fear of looking like a fool is one of the most powerful gatekeepers to the future we envision. We would rather play it safe than risk looking vacuous?

These are the tapes that play in my head every time I'm ready to publish a new blog. I feel as if I need some sort of validation outside myself to give me permission to put my work out in the world. Why are these thoughts so pervasive?

“I have challenged fate to chess and am now attempting to keep all my confidence from puddling in my boots. What if I’m the only one betting on myself because everyone but me can see I am not suited to play at all?” Mackenzi Lee

I have to ask myself what if no one ever read a word I wrote?

Does it ultimately matter?

I tell myself so what. I would still write because when I stop writing my life doesn't work. I don't know who I am and I struggle to find the significance of living a chaotic and complicated life. It's like "holding my breath forever," says Megan Culter. Life and my search for meaning force me back to the keyboard again and again. I inhale with every note, exhale as words form on the page, and only then do I recognize myself in that which I observe from a distance.

Some writers only feel this sort of insecurity on occasion, but other writers have to live with this sense of inadequacy for their entire career as if an agitated companion who continually scans for the negative, and has no qualms about exploiting your failings at every opportunity. I say divorce that dude and move on.

You would think that after an author had experienced some measure of success as a writer, (published a successful novel, received an acclaimed award, or was hired to write for a prestigious magazine) that they would leave these doubts behind? But the reality for many writers, no matter the endorsements, is that feelings of incompetence stubbornly remain.

So how do we keep imposter syndrome at bay?

I have read that regular exercise can help, along with practices of meditation, or yoga (although I resist all of these when I'm in the middle of an IS episode). I suppose what's most important is for you to recognize when you're being lured away by imposter syndrome that you get back on track as quickly as possible. I make a pot of coffee, call my sister who is my biggest fan, browse through old cookbooks for something new to cook. And for whatever reason that always makes my writing appear more appealing!

Do what works for you, we're all different, one of my writing friends likes to garden when her thoughts are chocked with IS weeds, another goes for a run as if she could distance herself from her thoughts. I eat. Whatever. 

“When you know you're ENOUGH! When you stop focusing on all things that you're not. When you stop fussing over perceived flaws. When you remove all imposed and unbelievable expectations on yourself. When you start celebrating yourself more. When you focus on all that you are. When you start believing that your perceived flaws are just that - perception...” Malebo Sephodi

Where does this come from?

Studies have shown that imposter syndrome can sometimes have its roots in childhood experiences. For example, maybe a teacher once said you were a terrible writer or a parent criticized your early attempts at authoring a short story? Bruce Watson says relentless criticism in childhood can internalize parental scorn that no amount of success will silence. It's possible to get to the core of these issues by seeing a therapist who can help with the tools we need to overcome these early experiences or move beyond their reach.

I remember watching a movie with Robert Redford and Barbara Streisand, they were taking a college course on writing, and both were working on an essay as the final in which the professor would select the best one to read to the class. Robert won the contest and I remember watching Barbara, completely devastated as she ripped up her paper, and threw it in the trash. That's what happens when we allow imposter syndrome to take possession of our thoughts, it's extremely destructive and crippling as a writer.

Is this common to all creative types?

Yes! Actors, painters, dancers, writers, singers all experience "the unshakable conviction that you are getting away with something and that any moment now they will discover you. It's imposter syndrome, something my wife christened the Fraud Police," says Neil Gaiman. Even Emma Watson from the acclaimed Harry Potter films says, "any moment, someone's going to find out I'm a total fraud." But just like Harry Potter, you have the power to overcome these negative forces in your creative life, but it might leave a scar.

Nava Atlas adds, “you'll be amazed how much you have in common with Edith Wharton (who struggled to feel worthy of success), Louisa May Alcott (who badly needed money), Madaleine L'Engle (who could have papered an entire house with her rejection letters) and many other writers.”

What if it's true?

The only truth is that creative types have fluctuating careers, ups and downs, successes and failures. This is the reality in which we exist and it's like cat-nip for imposter syndrome. When you're up you think it's a fluke and when you're down you blame yourself. This is IS's main talent, they have us chasing after some unattainable ideal, resulting in disappointment and defeat. As Elsa says in Frozen, "let it go."

What can I do to fight this affliction?

I use every distraction in my arsenal. When I sense these feelings creeping in through the window of my mind, I open it wide, stick my head out and yell, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore." Try it. It works.

Sometimes I stop and ask myself how my work can benefit others? Usually, that's enough to chase the boogeyman away. Basically, it's getting out of my own head, my own thoughts, and considering the needs of others. It's amazing how fast that clarifies and validates my work.

Try doing something completely new. I tried painting and immediately felt the icy claws of IS take hold of my thoughts. I believe I even said out loud, "I hate painting, I'm horrible at this, why am I doing this?" What a whinner! My sister-in-law had set up this perfect evening, where five of us sat around the dining room table, sipping wine, and painting our vision of Mt. Konocti on blank canvases.  I felt so insecure it was almost ludicrous. But I kept at it, and by the end of the evening, I had a decent painting of this majestic mountain and a new appreciation for the strength of IS especially when we're trying something new or outside our comfort zone.

The better you get at recognizing the destructive powers of imposter syndrome the better you'll be at chasing it away, or at the very least diminishing its effect.

What do you do when you feel insecure about your writing? Share a few thoughts in the comments, sort of like introducing your insecurities to mine.

When I'm not writing for Across the Board, I'm Living in the Gap, drop by anytime.

An aside:

“Some years ago, I was lucky enough invited to a gathering of great and good people: artists and scientists, writers and discoverers of things. And I felt that at any moment they would realize that I didn’t qualify to be there, among these people who had really done things.

On my second or third night there, I was standing at the back of the hall, while a musical entertainment happened, and I started talking to a very nice, polite, elderly gentleman about several things, including our shared first name. And then he pointed to the hall of people, and said words to the effect of, “I just look at all these people, and I think, what the heck am I doing here? They’ve made amazing things. I just went where I was sent.”

And I said, “Yes. But you were the first man on the moon. I think that counts for something.”

And I felt a bit better. Because if Neil Armstrong felt like an imposter, maybe everyone did. Maybe there weren’t any grown-ups, only people who had worked hard and also got lucky and were slightly out of their depth, all of us doing the best job we could, which is all we can really hope for.” Neil Gaiman

Monday, July 27, 2020

INTERVIEW: Renee Miller

Happy fuckin' Monday, ya'll. I'm writing this on a Thursday, so you can imagine how upset I am to have to already be thinking about the M-word. 

But I have good news! Renee Miller, of the Tweed, Ontario Millers, devourer of chiseled men, puncher of noses, first of her name, has agreed to answer some questions. Read on!

You’ve written in damn-near every genre under the sun. Lately, though, you’ve been hovering in the black hole of horror. What draws you to that?

I was drawn toward darker themes all along, and when I settled into horror, it was because it allows me to continue to dabble in almost every genre. I mean, everything can be horrific. A love story can go dark. Science, no matter how amazing, can spiral into a nightmare. History, comedy, fantasy… you get the idea. There are also endless ways to unnerve or scare a reader. I like to have those options available.

Given, well, *gestures widely* it seems especially strange that horror and horror-crossover seems to be having a moment. Why do you think people want books to scare them when all they need to do is go to the grocery store?

Nothing makes us feel more alive than when we’re afraid. It’s one of the most intense emotions a person can feel. In horror fiction, you can be scared, but in a safe way. No one’s going to actually kill you or feed you your own testicles (well, almost no one). I think that’s what draws people in. Well, that and the fact that nothing is more terrifying than our reality right now, so maybe people who previously didn’t enjoy horror see it as a nice escape.

You have a new book that just came out, BLOOD LAKE MONSTER. The cover is EXCELLENT, by the way. Tell us a little about it.

I’m so in love with Unnerving’s covers. I don’t think I’ve ever been disappointed. For this book, when Eddie put out a call for the Rewind or Die series. When I saw “80’s/90’s slasher horror,” I knew I had to get in on it.

Blood Lake Monster is set in Tweed, where I live. It’s about a girl named Maribel, who is from a poor family in a very small town. She’s bullied right until her last breath but doesn’t let that stop her from getting revenge.

Also, I'm not great at the "tell me what your book is about" questions. 

If you wade through the blood lake that is Twitter, it seems a lot of writers are having a hard time making any creative headway in this pandemic environment. How has your writing routine changed, if at all?

Oh my god, my writing routine is shredded. I’ve been working as an assistant manager at our grocery store through it all, and it hasn’t been a good ride. Between the mental exhaustion caused by idiots who think they can act like assholes and get away with it, and the physical exhaustion caused by working more hours than I’m used to, it’s hard to find the motivation or the inspiration to write when I’m at home. I manage to get a bit in each day, but nothing like I used to. Before Covid, I could write a novella in two days. Now it takes a couple of weeks at least. I’m hoping that once things settle down, I’ll find my groove again. Until then, I’ll keep plugging away a few hundred words at a time.

What is the last great book you read? Do you find it harder or easier to fall into a story lately?

I just started reading THE ONLY GOOD INDIANS by Stephen Graham Jones, and I think it has the potential to be the last great book at this point. He is an amazing writer. I’m jealous.

For me it’s harder to fall into a story lately for the same reasons I’m struggling with writing. I have several unfinished books laying around. What I pick up to read and how much of it I get through depends on where my head is at. I find the days where I’ve been screamed at or threatened enough that I want to cut a bitch are the days I just turn on Netflix and let my brain recharge.

You write pretty regularly for Unnerving, an indie publisher. What do you like about the indie publishing world that the Big-5 and “traditional” publishing might not offer?

I like that it’s more personal. My success truly is their success, so we’re more of a team than I think I’d be in a larger publishing house. And indie publishers (or at least many of them) work their asses off. I know Eddie Generous (Unnerving) works harder than most authors I know, so when he takes on a project of mine (or anyone’s), I know he’s going to make sure it’s the best it can be or kill me in the process. (Just kidding. He’s really great and probably wouldn’t kill me.)

I’ve also worked with indie publishers like Aphotic Realm, Broadswords and Blasters, DarkFuse, Serial Magazine, and a few more. Next year, I have a novel coming out with Bloodshot Books. All these publishers are indie, and they’ve worked extremely hard on every book they put out. Sure, I’d love a big fat contract. Who wouldn’t? At the end of the day, though, if this is as high up the food chain as I get, I’m proud of what I have achieved and to have worked with these people.

If you could give one piece of advice to our readers, be they writers or not, what would it be?

I hate giving advice because we’ve all got something to learn. No one has all the answers. If you think you do, then you definitely don’t.  I guess the best advice I could give right now is less talking, more listening.

Renee Miller lives in Tweed, Ontario. She writes in multiple genres, but prefers dark fiction with strong elements of horror, erotica and/or comedy.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Google Search - How to Republish a Book

First of all, I got a new author logo, courtesy of Opium House Creatives. Pretty right???

Second, I'm up with a Google search today that's definitely relative to my interests and may be relative to yours, as well - how to republish a book.

I got my rights back to my only traditionally published book a few months ago and am self publishing it with a new cover, new title, and slightly edited story next week. But I suspect it's not that simple, so that's where my trusty Google search comes in.

I'm obviously not the only person to wonder this. But, a quick click through these links and none of them actually give me the info I need/want - e.g., HOW to republish my book. So, thenI tried this:

That looks more like the information I need.'s not. Not really. It's about how to get your rights back from a publisher, which is super useful - including this from Author's Alliance about how to write a letter requesting your rights back.

To be honest, the information is harder to come by than you'd think. This article by Jane Friedman is the best one I found, and even she recommends contacting an Amazon representative to discuss whether your republished work can be connected to your existing listing so you don't lose your reviews.

You probably will have to use a new ISBN - and a new ASIN - which means it's important to take screen shots of your traditionally published book listing BEFORE it disappears. This wasn't in any article I read, but an author friend told me and I'm obligated to tell you, right??

I'm uploading my new book to Amazon tomorrow and then hitting that little call button on the Amazon help page, so wish me luck. And if you have any insight on whether it's useful to link to the existing book, I'm all ears because that's another thing that's not really in a Google search!

Monday, July 20, 2020

Back Jacket Hack Job: The Stories of Bad Ass Moms

A post by Mary Fan
Hey everyone! Mary here, and it's once again my turn to do a Back Jacket Hack Job! Basically, this is a recurring series where one of us rewrites a book's back jacket terribly. For the most part, I pick on my own books because I'd feel a little bad messing with someone else's.

Today, I'm gonna do something in between. I just released my latest anthology, BAD ASS MOMS, so of course my first thought for this post was to mess with its description. Then I decided to take it a little further - I'm going to write terrible teasers for the 22 stories in the collection.
And so, without further ado, behold:

Mama Bear by Danielle Ackley-McPhail - A biker chick just wants to snack on blood but that's frowned upon.

What We Bring With Us by Derek Tyler Attico - A warrior, a fighter pilot, and a space officer walk into a bar... except there's no bar, and the three ladies live generations apart.

Pride Fight by TE Bakutis - Kind of like Rocky if Rocky were a woman and Philadelphia were an alien planet... actually, it's nothing like Rocky.

The Hardwicke Files: The Case of the Full Moon by Russ Colchamiro - Everyone knows day cares are up to no good.

Mr. EB’s Organic Sideshow by Paige Daniels - A little kid gets lost in the desert with a mom bot.

She’s a Real Cougar by Kathleen O’Shea David - A groupie for a European band attends an epic party in a castle.

Krysta, Warrior President by Peter David - Xena wasn't available for this anthology.

Materfamilias by Keith RA DeCandido - Basically, NYC is full of creeps, and a mom has to deal with them.

On Moonlit Wings by Mary Fan - In 1910, a mom lets circus freaks babysit her 2-year-old while she works out.

Ruth by Michael Jan Friedman - It's about an old woman named Ruth. And Ruth can be... wait for it... ruth-less.

Shoot Center by Robert Greenberger - If you shoot to the left or the right, Coach will be mad.

The Devil You Knew: A Scoubidou Mystery by Glenn Hauman - Scooby Doo wasn't available for this anthology either.

Shape Up, or Ship Out by Heather E Hutsell - MOTHER won't wash your mouth out if you curse, but she'll try to bury you in computer chips.

Jupiter Justice by Kris Katzen - Bad guys go to Jupiter to get more stupider.

"Come in, Sit Down, Have a Bite!" by Paul Kupperberg - Like I said, NYC is full of creeps. This time, the mom dealing with them is also really old.

The Art of Crafting Resistance by Karissa Laurel - A grandma uses knitting to swing an election.

Perfect Insanity by TJ Perkins - A witch nearly gets choked by her own garden but she hasn't got time for this cuz the kids are late for school.

DuckBob in: Running Hot and Cold by Aaron Rosenberg - A mom visits her grown son's house and cleans the stuff he didn't.

Hellbeans by Jenifer Purcell Rosenberg - Thought you hated lima beans? You'll really hate hellbeans.

The Songbird and Her Cage by Joanna Schnurman - An opera diva tricks her husband into buying her daughter a new dress.

Raising the Dead by Hildy Silverman - And you thought YOUR teenaged daughter was a zombie.

Did THEY Do That? by Denise Sutton - Babies are nightmares and destroy everything.

In case you're wondering what those stories are actually about, here's a thread of teasers (click the embedded Tweet to open it up):

Thursday, July 16, 2020

How I Got My Agent

Hellooooo, readers. I hope you are all doing well in these--I don't even have the adjectives anymore--times. At least 2020 is half over. Of course, it can also get worse. We haven't hit November yet.

My daughter just dressed up her American Girl doll in a cute cheerleader outfit and said her doll has practice. "We're doing it online," she said. Via Zoom. Because this hell is our new reality.

Anyway, that's not why you're here. You're here to read about my agent story because perhaps you're seeking representation or considering it. Or you want hope that you, too, will one day land an agent. I used to read these kind of posts all the time for that same reason.

So I am currently an indie author. I have five YA novels to my name, all self-published. I had shopped my first novel to agents in 2013 with little luck, but wound up signing a contract with a small, independent press (a good one where I met the majority of ATB bloggers). When my rights were up, I took ownership of my book and republished it on all the major book retailers. I self-published its sequel, and then decided to embrace the indie track. I had no trouble hiring my own editor and cover artist. I bought Vellum for formatting. I had figured out how to make a good product, just not how to market one.

I still don't understand how to utilize Amazon ads.

Then in 2017, I decided to try for representation with a new YA novel because it's hard to get books into the hands of teens as an indie author. I queried five agents and snagged my "dream agent" only to find out that he was all smoke and mirrors, and that he dicked over more clients than he had helped (I should've known something was up when he didn't follow me back on Twitter). He sent my book to several publishers in a slap-dash, Jackson Pollack style of submission and nothing ever came of it. So I dropped his ass and self-published the book myself.

Fast forward to 2019 (ah, the good old year): I wrote an adult mystery and decided to see if I could, again, get representation. I submitted the manuscript to roughly 75 agents and got interest--more requests for full reads than I had ever secured before, but alas, no takers. Then through a referral, I submitted the book to an editor at Thomas & Mercer. And while that was being considered, I got a request from an agent--Liza Fleissig. I told her that the book was under consideration at Amazon and she said that was "not a bad problem to have."

Ultimately, while the book made it to the acquisitions meeting at T&M, it didn't make the final cut. And Liza felt that the manuscript would need another round of content edits before she could offer on it. But at that point, I was 40K words into a new story, a PI novel that I felt had great potential for Liza and crime fiction imprints. And both Liza and the editor at T&M had welcomed me to submit again. Let me tell you, a girl can survive solely on that.

The pandemic really put a damper on my ability to write, but in May, I finally finished the revisions on my PI novel. I submitted the manuscript to Liza who--because of our previous communication--was eager to read it. She got back to me within four weeks and offered rep. This book, she said, was ready to go.

Liza is amazing. She is responsive and smart and on the ball. And she follows me on Twitter and Instagram.

I'm not going to lie--when I thought I might have a deal with T&M, I spoke to two of Liza's clients and asked for references. If I had sold my book, I wanted to make sure that the agent I signed with was honest and ethical. [If you take away anything from this post let it be: check an agent's references. Not just from the clients who sell, but from the ones who don't.] Spoiler alert: Liza is both those things.

And that, folks, is how I got my agent. You'll notice that I could not have done this without the referrals. Or maybe I could have but not as easily. Writers have to help each other out. Hopefully, I'll be in a position to help someone else one day.

I like self-publishing, but I also like having an agent in my corner to advocate for my work. I like feeling like I'm part of a team.

The path-to-an-agent is different for every writer. It's not linear or complete. I know writers who have had multiple agents over the course of their careers.

That said, I don't know what my career path will look like. It could be jagged and uphill. It could stall out. I might make a return to indie publishing, I might not. I just don't know. Because if 2020 has taught me anything it's that plans are for suckers.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Advice from the Middle: The Fallacy of Listening to Successful People

P.T. Phronk
A post by P.T. Phronk,
of Forest City Pulp fame
There are two types of people you hear advice from:

  • People who have been very successful—they'll tell you what to do.
  • People who have failed spectacularly—they'll tell you what to avoid.

You hear less from those of us who are succeeding at some times, failing at other times, and coming out somewhere in the middle most of the time.

Take book marketing as an example. If an author strikes it big, they’ll sometimes share what they think helped, including their marketing efforts. It’s very generous of them, as long as they’re not charging too much for books or courses, and often there is some good advice in there. But it may not be good advice for everyone, both because there is a big element of luck to success, and because what works for an author who has already had some success and wants more success may not work for an author who has had no success and just wants to reach some, someday.

On the other side, you hear about the big failures, often following the big successes. If someone is caught reaching the New York Times bestseller list by buying 10,000 copies of their own book, taking out a full-page ad prominently featuring the n-word, and acting creepy at conferences*, well, you’ll probably hear about that. Maybe not from the authors themselves, but you'll hear about what not to do. That, too, is not much use for those of us in the middle, mostly because we were already pretty sure those things are bad ideas—only success and power can rot the brain enough for certain bad decisions.

Listening to these people is actually a kind of logical error. Survivorship bias is often explained with the idea of analyzing where airplanes coming back from a war were shot:

It's tempting to look at the places with the most damage, and add more armour to those areas. But these are the planes that survived and came back, so they're giving you some biased advice. It would actually make more sense to beef up the areas without damage, because that's where there were shots to planes that got destroyed and never made it back.

I feel like a lot of authors put their efforts into beefing up the areas recommended by the most successful survivors, ignoring the areas where the countless silent failures and middling successes have run into trouble. As a practical example, a successful author may be building a nice home office from which they can launch a multimedia marketing campaign, while the regular authors around them have weak points in their basic sentence structure and vocabulary, and as a result are getting shot down by editors left and right. Pew pew! Should've put armour on your starboard grammar hole, now you're diving into an ocean of rejection letters, dumbass.

Author David McRaney has said that the "advice business is a monopoly run by survivors." I'd just add that in business, you sometimes get advice by the most spectacular train wrecks too, but that is just as biased.

Fortunately, there's a solution to this biased thinking that leads to bad advice. We need to hear diverse voices representing the full spectrum of experience and success. Even non-exceptional people can speak up with "here's what I'm doing, and here are the results so far." We can all choose diversity in who we follow on social media, and be bold enough to share our experiences even if we're not exceptional. I guess that's sort of what I'm doing on this blog. Hi!

* Actually, maybe this one is more of an effect of success, and the near inevitability of successful authors (mostly male) acting creepy kinda makes me want to stay in the middle for a while.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Paranormal Bollywood
When I first joined this blog, it was mainly with the intent of talking about the fantasy genre because that is what, as an author, I prefer to write. I didn't mean to turn myself into ATB's de facto Bollywood representative. But here I am again, unapologetically fan-girling. This time, though, I'll at least try to maneuver this post into my usual wheelhouse by talking about fantasy in Bollywood movies.

As a genre, particularly in the way US consumers define it, fantasy and/or science-fiction in Bollywood isn't common. There have been a few attempts at super-hero films that have achieved mixed results and mixed reviews (see Krrish and Ra One as examples). One of my most favorite Shah Rukh Khan films is Peheli, where Shah Rukh plays a romantic and mischievous spirit very similar to a djinn. He uses his magic to help win the heart of the girl with whom he is smitten. However, compared to Krrish and Ra One, it's a simpler, quieter film that relies more on Shah Rukh's particular charm and less on special effects and big action sequences.

English-language fantasy/sci-fi movies sometimes do really well in India (such as the Avengers franchise), so it's not entirely true that there isn't an audience for the subject matter. There are many social and economic reasons why big-budget fantasy and sci-fi movies aren't being made in India at the same rate as in other parts of the world, and there's a great article on it here: Bollywood Fantasy Films Still a Distant Reality? I won't spend my time rephrasing what The Asian Age has to say. Instead, I want to focus on one place where the paranormal genre is blooming and flourishing in Bollywood, and that's in the horror movie industry.

We have several horror authors here at ATB who can talk about the genre with more understanding, nuance, and expertise than me. But just because I don't write it doesn't mean I don't consume it. I love horror and have since I was a kid. Ask my mom how many times I made her read me The Berenstain Bears and the Spooky Old Tree (Do they Dare?!?!).

As much as I love Bollywood for its unabashed appetite for romance and happy endings, I also love it for how enthusiastically it embraces the opposite of all that.  I was inspired to write this post after recently participating in a Netflix watch party. Several friends and I watched and critiqued Betaal, a new Hindi-language release on Netflix (There are 4 episodes but it's easily binge-able in a single afternoon). I was particularly excited to see it when the trailer revealed that it appeared to deal with zombie-like creatures, and zombies have always been one of my favorite horror tropes.
Hired to displace tribal villagers, several highway officials unearth an old curse and an army of British soldier-zombies. The movie is set in a remote village that serves as the battleground between East India Company Army officer Lt. Col John Lynedoch, his battalion of zombie redcoats from the Indian Rebellion of 1857, and the fictional CIPD, a modern para-military/police force.

The story explores obvious anti-colonialist sentiments, but also military corruption, mistreatment of
indigenous people, complicity, and Indian mythology. It employs a lot of practical effects, particularly with the make-up, which I love, since I'm not a huge fan of CGI. Although it never set out to be funny, there were some fantastic unexpected moments of humor that literally had everyone in the watch party howling. We all want T-shirts that say, “Hard Brexit, Matachod!”  But I guess you'll have to watch the movie to get that joke.
We also loved the music score and the atmospheric cinematography.

If you're interested in dipping your toe into the water with some shorter paranormal Hindi tales, I also recommend Ghost Stories, a four part horror anthology on Netflix with a literal a monster story, a psychological/metaphysical thriller, and two completely different kinds of ghost stories.

I'd be absolutely remiss if I failed to recommend Tumbaad, one of the best horror films (regardless of it being Hindi) that I've seen in a long time.

Set in British India village of Tumbbad, Maharashtra in the 1920s, three generations of a family face horrifying consequences when they build a temple for the first-born of a goddess, named Hastar--he who must not be worshiped.

Hastar is a terrible entity who can curse a person yet also can grant gold coins.  The myth of Hastar is, when the Goddess of Prosperity created the world she gave birth to Hastar followed by 16 Crore Gods and Goddesses. Hastar being her first born was her favorite child, but Hastar was very greedy. When the Goddess of Prosperity offered Hastar the ownership of all the gold in the universe or all the food, he took the gold as well as tried to take over the food in his greed fighting with his brothers and sisters. The 16 crore gods and goddesses overpowered Hastar and when they tried to kill him, the Goddess of Prosperity intervened and begged for his life. The 16 crore gods and goddesses accepted her request on one condition, that Hastar will never be mentioned in the Puranas nor he should be ever worshiped.

Starring Sohum Shah in the lead role as Vinayak Rao, it follows the story of his search for Hastar's hidden treasure, and the consequences of mindless, violent greed. 

Monday, July 6, 2020

Butter Spread Over Too Much Bread

Another quality post brought to you by Steve!

You know it's pretty bad when you get back from a three-day weekend cursing yourself for not working a couple more hours over the holiday.

I know: none of you give a shit.  Nobody wants to hear me complain about my scheduling problems.  You're all dealing with kids trapped in the about-to-be-foreclosed-on house, people you know dying from a modern-day Black Death, the fight for the right to exist without a knee on your neck, and, oh yeah, the cancer of pseudofascism infecting all of our institutions meant to deal with those other problems.  

But for my first blogpost in what feels like forever that's not about some current, existential crisis, all I can think of is how hard it is for me to even write it.

Maybe it's just hitting middle age and realizing I can't do what I did in college anymore.  My God, man.  Twenty years ago I used to wake up at five for physical training, go to three classes a day, work eight hours at my on-campus job, walk home, do three hours of homework, write a few thousand words for pleasure, then drink until three in the morning, and somehow still stay caught up on my favorite TV and read for pleasure.

Now I can barely get up in time to commute to the couch, and then I don't even want to write a fucking blogpost at the end of the day.

I mean, I guess they say you become an adult and then all of the bills start crushing your soul.  At least, that's what my father used to tell me.  I dunno.  I had to pay all the bills in college, too.  Hence my army scholarship and work study jobs.

Maybe nothing's changed and I've just been doing it for so long that it's worn me down to a nub.  Maybe it's the particulars of 2020 and not being able to blow off steam in any meaningful way.  I mean, this past weekend I drove to a parking lot big enough to socially distance in so I could watch a fireworks display a few miles away.  It was the closest to a normal outing I've had in a while, and damn if it wasn't melancholy.

I'm increasingly feeling that we won't be going back.  There won't be Fourth of July celebrations like we had in our childhood, just this weird hybrid thing of the future where you microwave a hot dog at home and everybody just shoots off fireworks every night for some reason anyway.  

Anyway, what was this supposed to be about?  Oh, right.  Time management.  This has been your blogpost for this Monday.  I hope it helped you manage your time better.  Catch you next month, cats and kittens.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Groundhogging it at the Lake

By Cheryl Oreglia

It is almost Independence Day, I'm up at the lake, preparing the house for our annual 4th of July celebrations, listening to Blake belt out your lips taste like sangria (you must click on the song while reading). Just for the hell of it, I lick my lips. Nothing. Nada. They taste a little like chapstick and peanut butter. I won’t be falling into a wild warm kiss any time soon. Story of my life. And then as if I were able to materialize shit right from my thoughts, a tub of sangria walks through the front door and lands on our overly laden counter. Well, the tub didn’t actually walk into the house, it was carried by one of our more creative children, but I’m fairly certain my lips will soon taste like sangria.

When the cars are stacked up like dominos in the driveway I think “it’s time to get this party started…Tippin’ n’ spilling that home-made wine.” The house is fully stocked, sangria is flowing, and there is no chance we’ll go hungry, thirsty, or lonely for the next three days. #whoareallthesepeople? The Snapchats are posting, tweets are rolling out, and the weekend hashtags are taking form. Our top three: #frontallobing (I didn’t hear a thing you just said), #slushietime (adult beverage for adults that want to act like children), #wheresthekids (self-evident).

The age range this year is sixty to three. It somehow works. We're hosting my daughter's family of five, my Bostonian daughter who has been staying with us for a few months, and my youngest son who will be MIA all weekend, he's here, but I don’t know actually know where he's landed. The extended family owns three houses in this small lakefront community, and the cousins sort of shuffle from place to place. He does return my texts, so unless he’s being held by a hostel texter, I believe he’s fine. I begrudgingly remind myself we are celebrating our independence from the motherland.

All week there are these incredible pyrotechnics displays hosted by towns and casinos all around the lake, like a dress rehearsal for the big event, and we'll make it to most of them cheering, “Here’s to our lady” and "God Bless America." The script is the same, we boat out at dusk, drop anchor with hundreds of other boats dotting the lake, and sip sangria. It's the perfect social distancing event.

Fourth of July is like Groundhog Day, it repeats every year, even though the cast of characters seems to ebb and flow. We don’t have Tony this year who's stuck in Portugal due to COVID travel regulations, or my inlaws who decided to stay home, protected from the virus. Independence Day. Damn. I hate the reminder, as I plot and plan how to entice my son Tony to ditch Portugal and return to the states permanently. He is not having it. Hiking, camping, working for a startup, living in a swanky apartment on the edge of Lisbon is more enticing then boring Campbell. Can't blame me for trying? I’m proud of him. Livin the dream…

This weekend will undoubtedly include five-mile hikes straight up the face of Mt. Konocti, we'll enjoy some long boat rides, firework displays, we'll follow Kelley's Instastories with fascination, there'll be great meals, good wine, campfires, roasted marshmallows, outdoor movies, and lots of leisurely conversations. We'll watch the decorated golf carts parade around Kono Tayee on the morning of the 4th and play endless games of Mexican Train. I don't usually win but you never know? That's why we play and maybe that's why we return every year? Something about the known mixing with the unknown it's enticing.

Seth Godin says, “All of us have a narrative. It’s the story we tell ourselves about how we got here, what we’re building, what our urgencies are. And within that narrative, we act in a way that seems reasonable. To be clear, the narrative isn’t true. It’s merely our version, our self-talk about what’s going on. It’s the excuses, perceptions, and history we’ve woven together to get through the world. It’s our grievances and our perception of privilege, our grudges, and our loves.”

We celebrate our independence or freedom of thought, as we build our lives we get to decide who fits into our narrative, and who doesn’t. I think that might be our only true freedom. I realize it is difficult to understand each other, mostly because #frontallobing has become a national obsession, and we certainly don’t want to make the difficult journey, one if by land, two if by sea, to empathize with each other. Your thoughts are as foreign to me as mine is to you. But here’s the newsflash. We occupy the same territory in glory or defeat. I am so happy to run through the streets yelling, “the regulars are coming.” The people in my life who show up, brandishing the wine, and are thrilled (or at least reconciled) about ending up in my damn narrative. Life is a privilege, family, and friends a rare blessing, and this year I feel all the more grateful.

Eventually, the cars will pull away, the flags will be retired, and with horns honking the troops will return to Campbell. I usually stay back and finish up the housekeeping, they'll be at least eight loads of laundry, three blessed toilets to scrub (for which we are thankful), miles of sticky floors to mop (sangria much), and a pantry to reorder. I'll listen to pandora as I work, until that magical song comes on, “your lips taste like sangria,” and I'll take that as a sign.

Time to wipe the sweat from my face, put down the toilet brush, and go in search of a fruity beverage. I'll find that pitcher of leftover sangria in the back of the fridge! I'll pour myself a glass and dump my weary ass in a lounge chair on the back deck. Eventually, everything will be quiet and calm, the vacationers will pull out, and I'll embrace the silence like a long lost lover. Until next year...

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When I'm not writing for Across the Board, I'm Living in the Gap, join me anytime! 
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