Writing Challenges, Ideas, and Being Realistic

As a writer, have you ever gotten in your own damn way? Maybe even not as a writer, but as a creative person? Over the past few years I have written four novels. Three are fully-fleshed out, while one was a side project I wanted to keep in development since I wrote it in pieces. I decided from the get-go that I would piece it together as the bulk of the story came to me; I wasn’t going to go from A to Z, I was just going to write the best scenes as they came to me.

I approach each project with different ideas and methods, so there is no magical potion involved for writing perfection. Perfection is mythology; of this I assure you. I wait to write something because a story has to haunt me for a while and live inside my head first. If it’s the kind that whispers, “Write this.”, then I will. If it goes out like a candle flame, I file it away somewhere inside my creative mind. Sometimes it will resurface, and it’ll be ten times better. That’s always the goal, but not all ideas work like that.

Have you ever become obsessed with a character you’ve created? They become a part of you; you are now living, breathing, and sleeping this character. Your thoughts are their thoughts. Maybe you subconsciously ARE this character. Who knows? It comes to the point where, when you begin writing another female character, you find yourself annoyed by her voice. You’ll catch yourself becoming frustrated. This new female is not as intense, not as strong, maybe not as fierce, or as passionate, but you feel like she could be, if you just pushed her hard enough. If you unleashed her. Except, when you go back to your completed work, you find you’ve named the character the same damn thing you named your previous female lead. Three. Separate. Times. How is that even possible? You’re dumbfounded, because you’ve got a long list of names you could be using, and somehow, you are using the one with all the power.

I’ve found that I love two very specific names for women. I don’t feel like sharing what those names are (I’m many things, but I try not to be an idiot!), outside of saying they’re short, sweet, elegant, classical, and direct, and so are these characters. These names are truly beautiful. Every time I so much as variate from the top two, it’s as if I’m possessed by some kind of naming demon. Each time, I am truly clueless as to how or when the name changed. It’s rough.

These women I’ve created are interesting characters. The kind of women you’d want to be friends with, and the kind of women you’d go to bat for. You automatically like them. Until I was 56,000 words in to a new book and realized I was writing the lead female character differently. She started off fierce and ferocious, and some idiot softened her up. I can’t decide if it was ME or if the lead male character was trying to dominate the damn story, but it stressed me out so badly. I decided I needed to get some reading and research done before revisiting the story. Ultimately, I took time to gain some perspective.

After a few days, I came at this new book with fresh eyes, and wondered how I could change things up to maybe ONE story, as opposed to two. I had considered this particular story a one and done, but when pieced together with the story that felt stalled, it’s a superior body of work. It requires a ton of time and work to achieve this.

So here I am, faced with rewrites because I have to change locations, jobs, names, and re-work things until it’s a smooth transition of combining these two stories into one; albeit one that is better, and eliminates potential cliches and comparisons which have bothered me from day one, but that I’d also worked on heavily to eliminate, which I have managed to do. All of this is to keep the main female character’s strong, intense, fierce voice. I feel pulled towards her voice because it is reasonable, emotionally intelligent, strong, smart, snarky, knowledgeable, without coming off snobby, or sounding like a know-it-all, and because she’s fiercely honest and direct; she does not play games to fill a page with wasted words. She’s got a very serious set of rules and boundaries, and she commands respect. The other female character was coming off weaker, despite similar attributes. I had to come to the realization, on my own, that I cannot write a weak female character.

I have come across this issue before. I could write a weak female, but it nauseates me, and goes against the core of who I am, so nope, not gonna do it. I can’t even tolerate weakness in myself or in others, so it would come off fake on the page. Don’t force yourself to write someone you don’t believe in. I feel that’s a great rule for all writers; if you don’t believe it, neither will anyone else.

I can, and will, do the hard work of putting together a better story. It likely means cutting things out that no longer work, which could be thirty chapters worth of work, or more. It requires me to remain focused on how much better this will be when it is truly completed. It also means, thanks to other opportunities, that it might take another year or two before it is officially done. I have to be realistic about my time, health, and also remember to factor sleep into the equation. This is a real problem for me. Every time I’m on a better path, something interrupts my sleep again! It’s awful, but I am aware of this issue beginning every three months. I am trying to stay on top of it.

The upside of insomnia is that I write between two to seven thousand words almost every night I can’t sleep, and none of it is crap (I instinctively know when I am writing filler, and will immediately delete it.). The downside is being sick and in a lot of pain, and not being able to write for sixteen hours straight. There are days I do, but they are few and far between at the moment, as I recover from a bad allergic reaction to flowers, which ultimately turned into flu-like symptoms with NO Covid symptoms. My allergies stopped responding to allergy medicine, so it was scary to suddenly become so sick from a flower arrangement. It’s never been so bad, but once the larger flowers bloomed, my skin burned, my eyes itched and burned, and my breathing was affected. I misplaced my Epi-Pen, so I was paranoid as hell while it was happening.

This whole situation where medication was useless recently turned into me making homemade cough syrup. Laugh, if you will, but it is probably the best thing for me. Every ingredient is healthy and helpful. My very first dose stopped me from coughing longer than any over-the-counter crap I’ve ever taken, and it also worked better than the codeine syrup I was prescribed, probably since the prescription no longer contains alcohol. Mine does contain a dash of two different types of alcohol I had on hand, as well as two different types of honey, but when you taste it, you are mostly getting a blast of ginger, cayenne, honey, and lemon. I didn’t follow any particular recipe for this, I just grabbed the honey and started mixing it up like a potion before pouring it into a larger container and sticking it in the fridge to give it a longer shelf life. 😉 I didn’t make a lot, so it’ll likely be gone in a day or two, but yes, it’s helped greatly. I no longer have a sore throat, and it’s breaking down congestion I didn’t even know I had. I take it, I rest, and I feel better slowly, but surely. When synthetic shit doesn’t work, go back to basics. I’ve become more dependent on homeopathic medicine than ever before. Hyland’s is helping me considerably to manage my pain levels, though I know it is a temporary fix. If it works, I’ll stick with it, because so much has not. I’d love to get back every cent I wasted trying to get CBD oil to help me. I am embarrassed I kept upping the dose to try and find some relief. 😦 I consider how much work I will have to do to recoup those funds and put them to better use.

A lot of pain patients stop speaking to me whenever I suggest they seek out alternatives which might help them. Ultimately, I believe there is an answer for every single illness humans and animals experience. I believe it is found on Earth, not necessarily inside a lab working with synthetic ingredients. Your answer might not be what works for my body, and vice versa, but I don’t roll my eyes at you and give you attitude, so I have no idea why anyone thinks that’s a workable method with me.

At this point, I feel insurance should fully cover medical marijuana and CBD products as medicine. It helps a large number of people and it has medical oversight. If the cure for something is low or high dose Scorpion venom, as an example, then I feel it should be fully covered by everyone’s health insurance provider no matter what. I already know for a fact that it is being tested on various forms of cancer and for many other things, as well. It has been successful in it’s progress of treatment with zero side effects. It is the most expensive substance on this planet. That ink well you’re looking at on my logo? It’s Scorpion venom.

It may be Thursday, but I am ready to close out this first week of 2022. I have already referred to this month twice as October. Yeah, I know. I need a vacation. Yet, here we are, with Covid stopping everything for the umpteenth time. Indoor mask mandates have come down and in many areas, they begin today. I had not stopped wearing a mask in stores (I’ve also limited my time indoors to the pharmacy, grocery shopping, and only a few others places. I do NOT look forward to returning to a medical building in twelve days. I am, however, grateful that the hospital has reduced the amount of people that can be in the building at one time, and that nine people can NOT accompany one person!), and after hearing how many people got sick before, during, or after Christmas/NYE, and seeing the 6+ hour lines at testing sites, I am glad I didn’t drop my guard. Unfortunately, a lot of people are very sick and in the hospital, or they are sick and have to quarantine, so I keep a few extra masks with me and I remember that this is temporary. But damn does cold air feel good on your skin when a mask makes you feel like you can’t breathe, or like your skin is being smothered to death! I’m sure we’ve all had those moments.

Cough syrup, a simple breakfast, and I’ll see where the day takes me. I am actually considering hitting the kitchen and whipping up some tabouleh, especially since I have the time, believe I have all the necessary ingredients, and it’s so easy to throw together. 🙂 Last night I made homemade ramen, and while very good and a great way to get vegetables and protein into my system, I was slightly frustrated by the fact that a thirty minute meal felt like it had taken hours. Chronic fatigue is a constant reminder that I am not one hundred percent. That’s okay. I’ll settle for fifty percent, if that’s the way I can get multiple things done in a day.

Ever forward, peeps. Ever forward.

copyright © 2022 by Lisa Marino & Poison In Lethal Doses, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Poison In Lethal Doses®™ is a registered trademark.

Out of Time Blues

I blinked and it’s Thanksgiving week. How the hell did that happen?! The past two years have truly been a blur, and I definitely wasn’t having any fun. Yesterday was the most Friday-feeling a Monday could be. I spent the entire afternoon confused about what day it was and what the damn time was. Genuinely sad. We’ll add it to the list of things that make me feel completely fucking pathetic. 😦

I’m chalking a lot of this confusion up to burnout. Nine to ten hours of sleep most nights doesn’t really fix anything for me, either. The body needs constant rest and calm, two things I find extremely difficult to achieve long-term. I was born stressed (that’s not a joke, but an actual fact.). I’ve struggled with insomnia for so long, I don’t think about it much any more. Not until it interrupts my life and screws with my ability to be a functioning human-being. It’s doing that now; interrupting my life, and it has been for a long time. I’ve worked so hard to regulate it and get it under control. As soon as I do, and I think I’m on to something, something else happens which completely interrupts the new cycle, and then I am back at square one. I will address that with my doctor next year (In truth, I am looking for a new doctor because this one makes me contemplate evil things.).

I have been experiencing bone-deep, soul-deep exhaustion. A misdiagnosis for chronic fatigue is evident, and I’m going to confront it. The last time I made the statement about how exhausted and drained I feel, my doctor found my Vitamin D levels were almost non-existent. It has never happened to me in my entire life (Especially as someone who avoids the sun.), so he blew it off as a New England thing. Yeah, I rolled my eyes at that ridiculous explanation, only to find out it IS quite common here. He put me on a two month prescription to replenish my stores and then ordered me to take 2000 mgs every single day afterwards. Not a single change in how I feel as happened by supplementing Vitamin D, and I’m not going to keep taking them if they’re unnecessary. My other tests were normal, but the few that were questionable were also blown off. I have major organs I need to be concerned about, and a doctor who doesn’t give a shit because his agenda doesn’t involve actually helping me. The previous doctors who treated me were big on recommending Tylenol and Aleve any time my chronic pain came up. They didn’t care if I was taking a bottle a month, so long as I wasn’t talking to them about my physical pain levels, because G-d forbid a pain patient should want quality of life! This doctor had a low-key meltdown over the mere mention of Tylenol, and when we spoke, I had stopped taking it entirely. His thought process was that it was killing my organs. Gee, ya think?! Stop pushing it at pain patients like it’s 1982! We aren’t amused, and gastrointestinal bleeds are at an all-time high right now where pain sufferers are concerned. It ISN’T overdose, it’s neglect. We aren’t being given options, unless it’s to be treated like hardcore addicts at pain clinics, with monthly pill counts and drug testing. If you come up negative for the prescribed drug, you don’t even get to say, “Maybe I metabolize it faster than other people do.”, which is a real thing, because you’ll immediately be accused of selling your pills. Don’t believe me? Ask anyone who regularly goes to a pain clinic. They’ve seen it all, and it scares them. A friend of mine was shamed by the doctor at a clinic because one pill a day is not helping her. She’s suffering, but was given the riot act on how she should feel like a failure if one pill a day isn’t enough. I was OUTRAGED when I heard what happened. I find the language used towards pain patients pretty despicable to begin with, so this was a new low.

I decided to set a few of my writing projects aside in order to focus on something more important, for now. I’m not going to walk away from solid opportunities, even if that means moving out of my comfort zone a little, or in this case, a lot. I caught myself being pulled in too many directions and at the end of the day, there’s only one me. Telling my brain is harder than telling myself what I am doing on any given day. The brain is slower on the uptake. If you ever assume I’m being hard on myself, it’s because I am. Harder than I care to admit.

Sometimes I don’t think other people realize how blessed they are to be in good health. They will mention minor issues to me and I’ll find myself utterly dispassionate and disinterested in such things which can easily be corrected. I openly admit to lacking empathy and compassion about a LOT of things these days. Most people don’t know me well enough to know that’s how I’m reacting, but I’m being honest about it. What bothers me day in and day out doesn’t seem to affect other people, and I slowly catch on to their behavioral changes (I love when people think I don’t notice how they’re behaving towards me. They’re underestimating my intuition.), and then make adjustments to my response system in accordance. It’s a psychological survival technique, and for some of us, it’s every day life.

Getting out of bed each day without pain is something people should be grateful for. Little things you go through with no issue or suffering… Please consider how it sounds to people who are suffering so much that they have stopped communicating how bad it is to you because they are met with disinterest. We’re glad it’s easy for you, but we’d like to be considered, too. I’ve become dispassionate as a result of the lack of support. I am not alone in my emotional responses, either. I talk to people who are experiencing the same damn thing. We’re fed up, and we only feel supported in our own communities.

This year, I’m ditching Thanksgiving entirely. I am grateful for what I have every single day of my life, and Chanukah begins on the 28th. I decided to embrace that above all else. I had the best time finding unique, handmade items for my close family members. I’m not entirely done, but I paid attention to the things that bothered them last year, and tried to find happier things for this holiday, which is my absolute FAVORITE. I boxed up a bunch of treats for my brother, which he’ll likely get in time. He’ll also be receiving some cool things from a company I found on Etsy. I did almost all of my holiday shopping by supporting small businesses on Etsy’s website. Not only were they happy to help, but they were also timely in getting things shipped out. I had to hide things in some ridiculously uncreative ways, but I’m so excited to see the joy on people’s faces when they open up something that not everyone will own. Anyone who is receiving a surprise in the mail will hopefully be delighted, as well. I tried to be thoughtful and unique in all of my choices, and it stems from years of cringing every time someone would ignore me, and give me something I’d never in a million years look at.

Is it odd that after all these years, I’d be happier with a Harry Potter memento, as opposed to a book I probably won’t read (If you follow me on Goodreads, you probably have an idea of who my top ten favorite authors might be.)? I’m only slightly furious that Pandora created all these amazing Harry Potter charms, yet made them overpriced as hell. That’s okay, though, as I don’t buy their items anyway, but if you were looking at these charms, I will say the detail is incredible. They’re beautiful. I’ve had my own Harry Potter charm bracelet since 2003. I had it custom made in Arlington, Texas and while I do have to polish it, it still means a lot to me, as does my original which is so jam-packed you can hear me coming if I wear both of them together.

Is it terrible that I don’t think Ulta gift cards EVER go out of style (They don’t, and you can tell by how I used my birthday gift cards from the brands I work with throughout the year. Asian skincare is THE BEST, but have you tried The Ordinary? Excellent product line. It’s affordable, but they don’t skimp out on quality. Their most expensive item is under $30. Since I also use 111 Skin, which is not cheap, it is very easy for you to do the math between the companies.)? If I want something badly enough, I will get it for myself or save up for it. I am the person who expects nothing from others, but gets a kick out of being the giver of gifts.

I will be staying out of big box stores this year for holiday items. I want small businesses to get the support. I plan to book an appointment at a local New Age/crystal shop, as well. I’ve become friendly with a local reader. I like her so much (You rarely hear me say I like anyone, so when I do, it’s a big deal for me.), and I’d rather support her as opposed to a total stranger who might not have the accuracy she does. That’s a gift to myself. I’ve found it’s wise to reward myself this time of year, too, especially since December is difficult as I move towards the anniversary of my Great-Uncle and father’s passing. It doesn’t get easier. Every year, the memories are so vivid for me and if I were a lesser being (As in, less emotionally intuitive and less emotionally intelligent.), it probably wouldn’t bother me, but it does. Honoring loved ones, even if the relationships weren’t what you may have hoped for, is still important. It’s my responsibility to do it as the leader for my generation. I could eschew it, but that feels wrong.

Next year, I will likely make a pilgrimage to all of the cemeteries involved since it’s important to make sure everything is cared for. My parents are low maintenance because it was their express request, but I haven’t been back to most graves in at least ten years, and I know it’s time. Especially when I consider how long it’s probably been since I’ve visited my Great-Grandparents’ graves. My Grandmother was still alive when I did it, so I know it’s been way too long. It’s depressing, but I feel a strong sense of responsibility for these things, even though they’re unpleasant parts of life, they’re also reality.

I’m sorry this is not an upbeat piece of work, but at least it’s honest. I look forward to sharing as we head toward a brand new year. 🙂

Wishing you all a good week,

copyright © 2021 by Lisa Marino & Poison In Lethal Doses, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Poison In Lethal Doses©®™ is a copyrighted, registered trademark.

Crickets, Dark Depression, Change, & Investment Power

I haven’t written anything here in a while, and I have my reasons. No, I wasn’t too busy. I was stuck in my own head, with my own thoughts, and then I had work in front of me which I was so determined to get done. Most of it went great, but now I’ve got some things I hadn’t anticipated sitting on me. I am handling it. Begrudgingly. The more prevalent issue which has kept me quiet is the fact that my depression has been so bad, I haven’t been myself for a really long time. Most people didn’t pick up on this, though I am certain I’ve mentioned it before.

Despite being under the care of a physician, I’ve had to fight for almost two years to be prescribed new medication. I pick it up this weekend, and there simply aren’t any guarantees it will make me feel more like myself. Honestly, I have no expectations. I’ve been on this hamster wheel a long time and I no longer place any hope on what medication will or will not do for me.

I’ve never taken this medication before, which is surprising because I’ve been on over thirty-five different drugs in various medication classes. It can take up to four weeks for this one to work, and I am starting out on a really low dose because I am chemically sensitive to anything which messes with my brain chemistry.

The benefit of knowing my body really well is that any time a drug starts to screw with me, I mentally shut down the ability for it to change me. I don’t want to be a mindless zombie, nor do I want to take something which shuts off the intelligent creativity I feel is a gift.

For example, I was put on a new (to me) drug a little over three years ago. One of my first reactions to it was, “Okay, I see why this is a controlled substance. If I had an addictive personality, I’d be in trouble.” Early on in my journey with this medication, I was out in public one day and had to take a mid-day dose. I felt it immediately try to give me what I refer to as a, “head high”. It shuts off your thoughts and then you’re basically left thinking, “Oh, this is what normal people’s brains are probably like. I could hang curtains in here. But wait… It’s not normal to have nothing going on inside your mind.” I fought against it. It would shut up my thoughts, but it would also distract me until it wore off. There were times when I didn’t mind the quiet, except that I needed to still be a high performance kind of writer.

My doctor was shocked and impressed that I had the ability to say, “Yeah, you’re medication, but you’re not going to screw with me or turn me into someone who is obsessively dependent on a tiny pill 2-3 times a day, every single day, for the rest of my life.” In all his years as a physician, no one had ever said to him, “I can see why this is addictive, but I’m NOT letting it reach me in that way. I’m only going to take it as needed.” Most people would never have caught the tiny change to their brain, which I did, and that’s because I am realistic about how science works within the body. I could physically feel it try to tickle my brain, and I rejected it. Bear in mind, this drug was one of the most successful I’ve ever been on and I still take it on occasion. It does help, but it’s brief and because I am careful with it, I don’t worry about taking it. I know that taking it every single day is unrealistic for me from a health and mental health perspective. The less synthetic crap in my system, the better off I am.

My doctor and I later talked about the mind and will power it takes to fight off the addictive qualities of something that is supposed to help you feel better. To this day, that drug still makes me feel better temporarily. I can focus in a sharper way and get more done in a day, because it often provides me with a false sense of energy. I’d recommend it to anyone with my ability to fight off addictive qualities, but because it is so often abused, I never talked about it publicly. In fact, the reason I didn’t speak about it is because I had a former friend tell me it was poison when I was suicidal (Which, to this day, still pisses me off. That is medication shaming, and I’m not here for it.), and another friend recently told me, “You don’t need it.” I’ll be the judge of that, thank you very much. She did not present her medical license after the fact, so I set her straight very quickly. Here’s a little known fact I want to be clear about; when I talk about a prescription and you feel the need to be a disrespectful twat, I will NEVER confide in you again. I have boundaries and if you cross them, I am okay with you no longer having access to me.

When someone says, “I take this so I don’t hurt myself.”, please respect that. Do a little research before you say something hurtful, cruel, asinine, or go straight to, D) all of the above. You don’t know what others might be fighting when all you see is a smile or someone who is put together, or all you know is the person who always has your back, so please judge less and educate yourself more.

I remember when someone told me they’d been diagnosed with a specific disease. I didn’t know much about it at the time. In order to not offend or say the wrong thing, and to be supportive, I researched it. It takes five to ten minutes of reading about something so you don’t come off like an asshole. Never once did I want to make this person feel bad about themselves, about medication, doctor’s appointments, etc. I came from a judgment-free place because it could easily be diagnosed for someone closer to me tomorrow. Those are simple enough facts to put me into research mode, as opposed to, “Let me hurt this person’s feelings.” and show how ignorant I am. Yup, I just rolled my eyes. Basically, no matter what you suffer from, I probably understand far more than you realize and I’m NOT going to judge you. Especially if it’s something someone is confiding in me. My brother always says, “My sister is like a Mossad agent on steroids. She will never tell you a fucking thing. She magically knows things before you even say a word. It’s fucking creepy.” Yet, when I do speak about something or someone, I don’t name names. I’ll discuss a situation, but I keep names out of it.

A few days ago, someone I’ve known for about six years took offense to something I said about a newer migraine medication. Her comment was directed at both myself and a close friend. I replied by saying it ISN’T recommended for chronic migraine. It isn’t, and anyone who suffers and does their homework knows this. It’s on the damn packaging and they make it clear in all of their commercials, as well. She said she suffered from chronic migraine and hadn’t had one in about six months. Okay, that’s great, but be honest about how often you get migraines and how it is prescribed. The new injectable CGRP drugs are not for people who have over thirteen migraine days a month. That’s not considered chronic migraine, either. I’ve had migraines which have lasted for months on end, so I am coming from a place of knowledge and experience. I keep track of every new drug being researched or tested within the pipeline, and everything that’s in the final approval stages. I do this on a global scale for everything involving mental health care, migraines, chronic pain, etc. I can’t afford to be a stupid patient. Nothing I said in response was even remotely offensive, so when she decided it bothered her, I almost laughed. Mostly because she said nothing, but acted like a child. I will never force someone to remain friends with me, but I also know I didn’t come from a cruel place or say anything insulting. That’s not who I am. Her being offended is not going to magically change anything about me. In fact, I am good with being unfriended, especially when I didn’t do or say anything wrong. People who are uncomfortable or who somehow feel inferior with me being myself aren’t my real friends, and I know this. I’m not taking it personally because I do find it amusing when a person can’t admit that another person makes them uncomfortable. Those aren’t my issues to carry, so as far as I’m concerned, it’s all good. I also know I didn’t offend the person I am actually closer to, and that’s more important to me. I don’t go out of my way to offend people.

This year I have felt especially protective of my real friends, and far less protective of anyone who merely wants a surface level relationship with me. I am not the kind of person who will do surface level bullshit with you. I realized this about myself during lockdown. There was a serious shift in priorities. There still is, because we’re not out of the woods yet.

For starters, I stopped wearing makeup entirely. That sounds vain, but for me, it took away the creativity I channel when I do put makeup on (Eye makeup is my art project. It still is.), and pared me down to the most basic of self. My skin was probably thrilled for the break, even though I never wore heavy foundation or anything like that because I didn’t need it. I still don’t. The downside was that I developed a lifelong skin issue because of a chemical used on all of the paper based masks we were all wearing. Even after switching to cloth, my skin still hates being confined. My doctor said I’m allergic, so I have to be careful with everything more than I used to be. The bonus was (finally!) meeting with my dermatologist who said, “Whatever you’ve been doing, just keep doing it. You don’t have a single sign of aging, you have zero sun damage, and it’s obvious you’ve always taken really good care of your skin. Trust me, this doesn’t happen every day. Most people are coming in with things they want lasered off because they have never worn sunscreen in their lives, and you wear SPF 100 anytime you’re going to be in the sun for more than five minutes.” At my most recent appointment, we talked about the treatment regimen I use to help the skin issue I developed. The treatment I am using is both life-changing and skin-changing, and I’ve recommended it to so many people who’ve talked to me about being embarrassed that they don’t have flawless skin. Neither do I, but on a good day, and skin deep, I appear to. I remember sending a new photo to a family member and the first thing she said was, “What foundation are you wearing? Your skin is flawless.” The truth was, I only had concealer on in that photo and a very basic neutral eye look, which I’d matched with a lip gloss I’ve had for way too long (Seriously, I should replace it immediately. I’m not even sure the company is still in business!).

People actually thought my wearing makeup was a mask, and it never was. Now, people are seeing my skin and asking me more about skincare. There’s a reason I still consult with brands on their skincare lines. When they send me boxes of products to try and give an honest opinion on, I am working with a blank canvas. As a result, I no longer feel the need to do a full face of makeup. Unfortunately, I should at least use the eyeshadow because a company sent me five palettes recently and I just had to turn down nine more. Five years ago I would have been ecstatic over this opportunity. Now, I am trying to be more minimalist than ever before. You’ll hear me say, “I don’t have to put makeup on. No one is looking at me.” I have days when I do grab a palette and do something a bit dramatic with my eyes, but I also wear sunglasses wherever I go, even in the dark, so sometimes that defeats the purpose.

I chose not to be a freelance makeup artist, and decided to invest in something more valuable; myself. I pared down the one slightly dramatic thing about me, and now, people listen more. I noticed pretty quickly that people were more inspired by what I have to say. That’s fantastic, and a lovely compliment, but I’m not going to stop washing my face. 😉

I appear to have been quiet for many months, but the truth is, I’ve been working and working through shit. Writing has been good to me this year. I will have success, and potentially the occasional failure, like any other human-being, and I know there’s nothing wrong with not being “normal”. There’s nothing wrong with being transparent about the imperfections of life, health, etc., and still managing to remain authentic.

I don’t buy followers or readers. I will never do that on social media or on my website, because I’m not desperate for attention. The right attention finds you when you’re putting out the right vibe and the right material. Period. This is nonnegotiable, and I hope people realize I practice what I preach.

Back to work I go, at 5:30 a.m., on a Saturday. What will I do next? You’ll have to keep an eye out for all of it. I am already incredibly proud of the work, and hopefully you will like it, as well. 🙂

Wishing you all a healing, restful weekend,

copyright © 2021 by Lisa Marino & Poison In Lethal Doses, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Poison In Lethal Doses, and all involved logos, are registered trademarks ®™ owned by the author. Information about the designer is available via written request.

Work, Work, Work, Work, Work

Lately, my every day expression is the side eye emoji most people use. Especially when it comes to hiring people to assist me in any way. Opportunities are opportunities and the door doesn’t always remain wide open.

Much like me, some artists are perfectionists. From a realistic standpoint, I know nothing is ever, “perfect”, but can you come close enough so that you are pleased? Absolutely, and if not, you can wait a while and revisit it. You can always revise something up the road. You can always make a radical change.

I am lucky to have amazingly talented friends who I can turn to (Friendship aside, I chose them because I would much rather pay a friend, and support them by doing so, as opposed to dealing with a stranger who might not understand my vision. Especially friends with small businesses. They need all the help and promotion they can get.), but sometimes trying to agree on something is exhausting. Because ultimately, we are all seeking the same thing, in different ways. (If you know a freelance graphic designer who isn’t terrified of women with strong opinions, please message me.)

This week is already stressing me out and it’s only Monday! 😦 Lots of work to get done, but I know I can do all of it. I keep telling myself I can do anything, but I have days when getting out of bed is the worst kind of difficult (Today was one of those days.). I could hardly stay awake at my appointment, but I did and it’s behind me. Small victories are still victories.

Yes, I most certainly do.

Writing, Reading, and Trying To Stay Focused

It was a bizarre first week of January, to say the least. I’m going to try not to talk about what happened at the Capitol Building because my brain is still trying to process the remnants of the act. I didn’t know how much it would trigger my PTSD. Especially as someone I am familiar with shared his experience of being in lockdown in the building while this was happening. I remember immediately thinking of him and worrying, but he stayed in touch and I respect how honest he was about the entire ordeal. People like to say nasty shit to him, for no real reason other than trolling someone because their politics don’t line up with yours, but he’s been a good connection for me to make since moving to Massachusetts.

What have I been up to since January 1st? I’ve been reading like a madwoman, studying hard, and was also able to write over eight thousand words on a psychological thriller I’ve been trying to grasp for maybe six months, or so. The story is progressing nicely. 🙂 When I look back upon the beginning of the month, it seems like I had a steady, and successful week. I suppose I did. I’d consider it small steps, in truth.

This week is already different. I am determined to truly break open my new laptop (She’s beautiful and I shall name her Poison 8.0. I won’t lie; all of my laptops have names. Why else do they give me the option? 😉 It’s not for shits and giggles. I might not name a car, but I’m sure as hell going to name the laptop that keeps me creative and working.). The computer arrived much earlier than I expected, and after initially logging in, I put it back in its original box and set it aside. I had looked at it, from day one, as a matter for 2021. My brain, unfortunately, is still confused whenever I write the new year down or see it on anything. I have the same reaction to the calendar; it startles me a bit. I feel discombobulated, for lack of a better word. I feel like I blinked and there was a ton of change I haven’t quite caught up with just yet. I’ll get there, because obviously, work is taking off in a new direction and I have to be prepared for every moment of it. I am also going to take it to Best Buy and have all of my files transferred over as soon as I can. But only if it means getting them both back within the same day. I don’t want to miss a moment of this creative drive. It’s a nice ride to be on, and any good writer will tell you the same thing.

2020 was a good year for me financially and professionally, which encouraged me to break out of my shell a bit and look into new options. The “new options” and new projects are on their way, and I am encouraged by the authenticity of them. They are 110% ME from start to finish and I am proud of this fact. If you see me do something, know that I didn’t have help in it. I will only ever credit someone if I had no hand in it, but the work you see with my name on it, know I did it all.

The downside of having this success, on any level, is seeing how hard others have worked to try to one-up me. And it’s not so much, “work”, as it is someone trying to compete against me for no valid reason. It really made me roll my eyes; especially one person in particular who has felt more like a frenemy over the past 4-5 years, as opposed to a real friend. I realize some women don’t understand deep connections, and that’s okay, but I’m not going to get behind people, “just because”. That’s not who I am. My core group of friends know they will always have my support in whatever they do personally and professionally (Unless I am worried for them, in which case I will be honest. I’m known for my honesty because it’s part of who I am. Being direct shouldn’t be considered a bad thing.), and they support and encourage me, as well. They’re happy for me; not competitive. So, I’ve started severing ties here and there with toxic people and the negative energy they bring along. I do that to move forward, and I also do it because it helps my mental health not to see those low vibrations trying to touch me as I ascend.

I will say this now and never again: I don’t buy followers to make my numbers look better. Not here. Not on Twitter. Not on Instagram. Nowhere. When I look at my numbers, I know they are authentic. I don’t have bot followers. I have certainly been approached to pad my numbers, but that’s so disrespectful to my core readers and it detracts from my message, as well. My ego isn’t part of the equation here. I receive offers all the time to pad the numbers by tens to hundreds of thousands, and I refuse to do it. It sickens me. So while social media ebbs and flows, I let it be. I only follow and support people who are part of my circle and/or people I genuinely like. There’s no other reason to click the follow button, and I speak for myself on this level.

Occasionally a friend will have to remind me about their newest blog post, but they will also tell you I DO jump online and read it. I don’t allow people to have a lot of access to me anymore, so generally the people who can reach out instantly have my phone number and can text me whenever they want. Or, they will message me via a different app and we have a relationship based on communication and mutual support. I have seen these extremely talented individuals start from scratch and a few years in, they are, like me, not padding their numbers. I have more respect for that than I do for people who so obviously are buying fake followers. People don’t like to admit it, but I’ve had so many agents and publishers tell me they know it’s going on and they can’t abide by it. If it makes no sense to someone who knows how all of this works, then it should raise questions for others as well.

So, after I make hopefully just one more tedious phone call this week, I will have time to prepare the new laptop. In between reading and writing. If you’re going to be at home, you might as well be productive on as many levels as humanly possible. Because other than grocery shopping and laundry, books and creativity will always be there for me, and I’m grateful for that.

Stay tuned, my friends. Stay tuned. 🙂

I Did It AGAIN

Sorry everyone. 😔 It seems as though I managed to kill the power supply for my laptop AGAIN. 🤦 Granted, the first replacement wasn’t insanely expensive and almost a full two years is relatively reasonable, all things taken into consideration. I just ordered a new one. Fingers crossed it’s here Monday or Tuesday. 🙏🤞 In the meantime, my laptop is on lockdown.

I’ll be posting from my phone until everything is back to “normal”. I’m not sure how fabulous that will be from a reader’s perspective, but until I have enough money for a brand new laptop (Which I’m praying will be VERY soon.), I’m working with all I’ve got and doing my best.

Thank you for your readership, loyalty, patience, but most importantly, the kindness you’ve all shown me.

I’ll be back ASAP.

L

 

Sixth Anniversary

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Today is my sixth anniversary on WordPress. I can’t believe how far I’ve come since sitting down on a particularly benign day, and saying “Why not?” It was a harmless move and thought, and I can say I am BLESSED to have remained friends with several people who first started following me on my original blog. It remains up, but hasn’t been active in a few years because I’ve been here, working, writing, sharing, thinking, and making new friends and better memories.

This is one of my major priorities; writing and sharing things I feel are important to share with all of you. 2018 was an enormous challenge for me, but I am looking ahead and trying to manifest more positivity than ever before. I’m the same person, but I’m growing and I want to be able to share that growth.

I have multiple novels in progress. I am going to be finalizing the final draft for a romance novel soon. I am going to revisit the Dark Urban Fantasy series (eight books, laid out) and see if I can complete the first two in the series. It’s better to be over-prepared as a writer, as opposed to under-prepared, and forced into a 6-8 months completion deadline when you’ve only got 10-15% of book two laid out. Book one is the foundation and every time I read the manuscript, I feel like I’m sitting in a bookstore, immersed in someone else’s characters. When I reach the end and my name is there, it still shocks me. Maybe 2019 will bring me more literature surprises I never imagined possible.

Last Friday, Global Healthy Living Foundation and Fifty State Network called me to do Media Outreach. I returned the call and missed the call back, so I ended up e-mailing my contact there. Let me first say that this position is as a patient advocate. This is still a relatively new field, so not everyone who advocates has gone to law school or has a degree in nursing, etc. Is this something I’d be interested in pursuing from a “Go back to school” perspective? No. I feel like I have an incredibly solid hand on things as a pain patient, and a refreshing perspective. I have a powerful voice I’m not afraid to use, either.

My contact is incredibly impressed with me, but when I received his e-mail reply, I read it twice and was immediately annoyed. It felt like another organization only too happy to take advantage of my contacts, intelligence, knowledge, and business sense. Smart people do NOT like or respect being used, so I haven’t replied. If that’s how it feels, then I am accurate in my assessment. I’m sorry, but if you want to have me consult, assist, or do anything that involves using all of my talents, I expect to be paid for it. I can’t dumb myself down or allow people to take, take, take and leave me unable to grow. In turn, I have decided to reach out to some local advocacy groups, even if I temporarily intern for a while, because I know that all I have to do is impress the right person. I can’t tell you how many times I have impressed someone and gotten into something new, simply by being myself. I wish it were always as simple as that, but it isn’t. I firmly believe the right doors WILL open this time. The ones that don’t might very well be kicked down, but that’s one part of me which often makes an impression on others.

If you search hard enough, opportunities will present themselves. However, I don’t want to advocate full-time. I want to achieve the goals I set for myself. Most of them are centered around writing and the others are centered around breaking out of my comfort zone. Perhaps I’m already halfway there.

I can’t believe this year is near its end. I feel like we were just saying goodbye to 2017. Tempus fugit! Pretty soon, we won’t even be able to talk about cold weather (I’ve been kind of obsessed with the way it has been affecting me.). For me, each year is about hitting goals and making sure I grow as a person. This year I have rid myself of toxic people and energy that was of no service to that growth. Interestingly enough, supportive friends stepped up where flakes were left in the dust, and I’m incredibly grateful and appreciative for the friendships that have been built on true foundations. In friendship, no one wants to be used, either, and I was definitely being used. No more.

Thank you to everyone who reads my work, who clicks LIKE, who clicks FOLLOW, and who shares me with friends, family, etc. Thank you for the comments and e-mails. But most importantly, thank you for taking time out of your day to read my work. The Internet is a vast place, and I feel honored whenever someone new follows me or whenever someone sends me an e-mail and tells me how much something I wrote impacted their life. Those are treasured, precious moments that I keep in my heart each day.

When I sat down to write this, I was already feeling incredibly lost, depressed, overwhelmed, unhappy, and dark. These are normally things I would only discuss with my doctor. He got an earful yesterday, and instead of making me feel bad (Far too many doctors dismiss me and look at me like I’m crazy for being concerned for my own health. That’s a clear sign you need a new doctor!), he told me multiple times “You’re not crazy. You’re not losing your mind. You’re going through a lot of rough things, and we’re going to figure out how to fix that, together.” He was clearly a lion tamer in a past life.). But as the words began to flow tonight, a smile appeared on my face and the negative feelings lifted, even if only temporarily.

There is so much more to my story, to my journey, to my life. More than I probably know. But ultimately, the majority of my gratitude goes out to my readers. You’re all amazing, kind, supportive, and I hope we will continue to laugh together, cry together, and be real for many more years to come.

Thank you all SO much. I’m not much of a hugger, but consider yourselves all hugged tight tonight.

Much love,

li 

copyright 2018 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. All written work may not be re-posted anywhere without express written consent from the author. This authors’ work and personal photos are protected under United States and International copyright laws. Additional protection is covered under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  

 

         

How The Hell Do You Edit The Truth?

I’ve been working on a personal and extremely important mental health piece for nearly two months. As I was writing the end and editing the deeply personal parts, I felt stuck. I’m rarely ever stuck as a writer. I think the problem is, I’m trying to edit out the harshness and the absolute truth to protect someone, but does this person really require my protection? Do they actually deserve it? It’s not like I’m naming names. And yet, I somehow feel the need to show compassion towards someone who has caused so much damage; damage they aren’t even aware of or care about. I suppose that makes me the bigger person. Guess what? I’m not liking this role too much. 😦

People have NO IDEA how often I ponder a situation and think, “Hmm, what would Dexter do?” That’s my first thought at times when people do something unforgivable or something that makes me contemplate strangling them. Note to self: Must get a t-shirt with Michael C. Hall’s face on it. My more recent thought comes after “WWDD”, and is “What would Tommy Shelby do?” Two completely brilliant characters portrayed by incredibly gifted actors, neither of whom have probably ever had to use these references in their daily lives. Interestingly enough, there is not a female character anywhere who I feel embodies any aspect of my thought process, and it makes me a little sad, but there’s no crying over spilled coconut milk.

For me, writing is the ultimate expression of honesty. It is the “public face” of my brand in a myriad of ways, and yet, many readers probably pass me on the street and have no clue who I am. I have always been incredibly content with that knowledge. Do I want strangers approaching me on the street because they read my work? Not particularly, but I wouldn’t be rude to them if they did. However, I’m not about to splash my face all over anything anytime soon because I get judged enough for my face on a regular basis. I remember meeting people at different stages of my writing career and for one reason or another, people were always shocked when they met me for the first time. I don’t think I’ve ever said to someone, “Wow. You’re actually really pretty.” or “You have no idea how other people respond to your beauty.” My best friend at the time, Shay, we were such polar opposites, but in some respects she made me come out of my shell far more than some of my other friends. I’m a much more confident person than I was a year or even ten years ago, but with social media, I am still careful and cautious. Also, I hate when I have an image of someone in my head, and then they send me a picture or they post one, and they look NOTHING like my imagination, which is very image specific. I suspect imagery is often based on how people write or speak, initially, or maybe how you discover their heart.

Getting back on track; I still feel stuck with this piece. I want to be authentic to who I am and post it entirely as is, including the bitchy parts I wrote when I was angry and felt the need to REALLY let loose. I don’t want to edit it. I don’t want to cushion the horrible aspect of what happened and what is happening because that’s taking the truth out of it, and that’s not who I am.

I have never written a single false thing. If you were to skim through the fiction work I have done, you’d find stacks and stacks of truth woven into the two different bodies of work, and yet, only those closest to me will ever know who the characters are in real life.

Writers find inspiration in many different places, but for me, my attention to detail and how I observe others is probably the biggest part of why I do what I do with ease and humility. It drives people crazy that they can’t lie to me or pull one over on me, and I know it’s because they have no idea how I know the truth. They have no grasp of what their tells are, and what it tells me about their character.

The biggest issue for me, in what I am writing, boils down to honesty and having mine placed under question and attacked. Anyone who truly knows me knows I’m a terrible liar, so I don’t even bother. One of my best friends pointed out to me that I have never lied to her once in all the years we have been friends, and she knows this because she trusts me with things many people would not. She’s not a naive person, either. She just happens to be my best friend and someone who has known me a long time. If I was deceitful, dishonest, or a horrible person, these things would have surfaced long ago. She was frank when she said, “That’s not who you are. Don’t let people twist the narrative to make themselves feel better. You KNOW who you are.” That’s where I find comfort; in my friends knowing me for precisely who and what I am. In their knowledge that I’m always the same person, all across the board. They’re right. Being dishonest isn’t part of who I am. If anything, I am probably too honest, but I’m trying to work on my filter where certain people are concerned.

I am struggling with a lot right now, but having anyone question or attempt to test me as a person? Sorry, that isn’t up for debate because I absolutely know who I am, and no one gets to question it. Not even me.

And so, I’ll edit some of the harsher points, mostly to be a lady, but I’m not going to pretend. I’m not going to temper my feelings because they might hurt someone else’s feelings; someone who didn’t spare a moment of concern for me during a horrific time in my life. After all, I was NOT the one to attack their honesty or character.

There’s a reason my platform is named “Poison In Lethal Doses”. It’s an analogy for many things, but at the beginning and end of each day, it also covers ALL BASES. Let that be a lesson to those of you who think I’m not venomous. If you’re going to attack me, you’re going to get served. For now, we’ll pretend it’s a game of tennis. If I remember correctly, having been taught to play, you lost the second you attacked me. I will come out the other side; mostly because you don’t think I can achieve anything. That’s where you’re wrong.

copyright 2018 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. All written work may not be re-blogged or posted anywhere without express written consent from the author. This authors’ work and personal photos are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws. Additional protection is covered under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

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Do You Remember?

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Earlier this year, I accepted a new client who had never been edited before. From the start, there were problems. She couldn’t follow the payment plan, which was bi-weekly. I gave her multiple opportunities to “get it right” before she did, but I didn’t start working until she paid in full. Call me crazy, but I wasn’t about to lose money over a person who wasn’t serious and who thought everything was funny. “Oops, I’ll have to pay you in two weeks. I put the money on the wrong prepaid card. Sorry.” I’d get these messages for weeks before I said “You have to pay by this date or I’m not taking the job.”

Her “manuscript”, and I use the term so loosely, rope should be involved, was a fucking MESS. I don’t exaggerate about the written word, ever. Mess, disaster, and “manuscript from hell” are words I’d use, and did, to describe the torment of having to work for this demanding, rude, insensitive, know-it-all who’d never been edited and is going to tell me, after 20 years of experience, how long a “dirty manuscript” on a first edit should take. I know people who have taken five years to write a book they were proud of.  When it was edited a year after completion, so as to be thorough, at least they knew it wasn’t crap.

I’ve given her weekly updates, sometimes bi-weekly. I’ve done everything to be highly communicative, receiving responses like “Okie”, because apparently that’s how she spells “Okay”. Did you just empathize with me? Communicating with this person was like talking to a crash test dummy.

When I contacted her this morning to let her know that I’m moving and would complete her manuscript once I was settled in to my new place of residence, she claimed she’d given me two different deadlines that never existed. I know they didn’t exist because I never committed to a deadline, and she never specified one in the contract, or in conversation. It was 100% never discussed. I have a very sharp memory and yes, she bitched once, but I flat-out explained how much work was involved in her manuscript, and how time-consuming it was as it is not my full-time job.

Today she decided she’d prefer to part ways and “go a different road”. I returned the “dirty manuscript” with all of my notes and for the first time in 20 years, allowed myself to say “Good riddance.” I was the epitome of polite and respectful, but her demands during one of the worst years of my life and her deciding to “part ways” is a blessing. If I told you how much I got paid for this edit, you’d cry. Never again will I allow myself to be demeaned or disrespected by someone who thinks they’re the next Stephen King.

I had a moment where I felt like a failure. I have NEVER, not once, returned incomplete work to someone, but when a person is completely unwilling to work with you, to read their work before submitting it, etc., then I don’t feel it’s my responsibility, once they get vile, to do more than say “Here you go. Good luck.” Clearly she has NO idea how the industry works, what is and is not marketable, and that without a team behind me, yes, editing takes time. She said she wrote this manuscript in a few months and that “everyone who read it loved it”. It was barely a first draft, leave alone a fourth re-write. I can tell when someone is half-assing something. Even if they’re a New York Times Bestselling Author, I can tell when something isn’t properly thought out before submission.

So from here on in, I am only accepting proofreading, beta reads, and critiques. My writing focus now returns to my novels, which are quality. My creative focus will move to my career change because while I will always be a writer, I need more to keep me going. I need something daily that makes me feel like I have purpose.

A word of advice: Editors aren’t your punching bag and they don’t deserve to be shit on. If your editor is having a bad year, it’s okay to suggest moving on so that they can focus on their own life during a crisis, but it’s not okay to be a bitch to them. Treat people the way you’d want to be treated if the roles were reversed. Be respectful. Even more, if you’re barely paying them, you have no right to bitch about time unless you split everything up into chapters and allow them to work and submit chapters back to you as they complete them, because that’s when things can work in a much smoother fashion.

I highly recommend splitting your files up into chunks, perhaps a few chapters at a time, that way you’re communicating properly with the person who will be tending to your “baby”. Also, ask them to do a read-through before they edit, that way they can give you a fair price and an estimated time of delivery. Don’t freak out if the book that took you years to write takes nine months, or longer, to edit. I do a proofread, edit, fact-check, and then I double-check the work, so yes, it’s time-consuming.

The person you’re hiring is a flake only if you never see any results and never hear from them again, but a person who communicates with you regularly is being honest.

If my editor was having a bad year, I would never show them such disrespect. Shit happens, and it’s not the other person’s fault. If you want to hire a trained monkey who will kiss your ass, perhaps you should check out your local zoo.

I’ve never been so happy to delete someone’s work in my entire life. That probably sounds horrible, but at the end of the day, I shouldn’t want to remove my head off my shoulders because I was doing my job. No one should feel that way.

When someone tells me their story is SO good that it will be picked up traditionally and I’m editing it shaking my head “No, not in this lifetime.”, that means it will be 99 cents on Amazon Kindle. Granted, I’ve read some fantastic stuff for $5 or less on Kindle, but I’ve also been mortified by a lot of it.

Anyone who reads this sees my work regularly. They know I don’t eat bullshit politely with a knife and fork, and when you see my writing style, you can see that I edit it thoroughly. I’m human. I have the occasional typo, I’m quick-witted, educated, and willing to admit my faults.

Today, I say “C’est la vie.” Write what you want to write, but disrespecting an experienced, talented editor is unacceptable to me. One migraine less to think about. I’m moving on.

copyright © 2015 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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