We’re finally getting some proper crisp fall weather here in the greater DC area. I remember autumn
being satisfyingly long in other places I’ve lived, like Ohio, Pittsburgh, and New York. I’m not sure if it’s the region I live in now, or the result of climate change in recent years, but it seems like fall takes a long time to come these days, and too swiftly turns to winter. I’ll hold on to it as long as I can.
At the behest of my editor, agent, and publicist, I’ve been trying to go to more conventions lately. Recently I went to the Baltimore Book Festival, and Capclave, both more or less local to me. I’ve put in bids to go to ConFusion in Michigan, ComicCon Phoenix, and ReaderCon in Massachusetts, but none are confirmed yet. I'll let you know as I do.
I also managed to screw up my back royally, so most of my writing over the last three weeks has been done on my stomach on the floor with a heating pad and a dose of prescription-strength anti-inflammatory drugs. It is possible that I have extended my own suffering by doing some home improvement projects when I thought I was on the mend, only to regret that a day later. But now I’m starting to wonder how long I can be on these meds before they start eating a hole in the lining of my stomach…
My usual method for coping with anxiety is daily intense physical exercise. Since that’s not possible right now, I’ve started meditating again. Much like going to the gym, I’m always pleasantly surprised at how nice it feels when I actually set aside time to do it. If you’ve always thought about getting into meditation, I recommend ZenCast to get you started. Or if that’s too “woo-woo hippy dippy” for you, there’s the excellent book Sit Down and Shut Up: Punk Rock Commentaries on Buddha, God, Truth, Sex, Death, and Dogen's Treasury of the Right Dharma Eye by Brad Warner.
But that’s not the official book recommendation for this newsletter. Because I really want everyone to read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo. Not just for the cleaning and organizing tips (which are great), but also for the fascinating palpable sense of animism that pervades the entire book. I found it a little odd at first, how she talks to inanimate objects, and treats them as if they have feelings. But at one point, she mentions that as a girl she worked as a shrine maiden in Japan, and I understood that this wasn't a hokey gimmick, but something coming from a deeply felt place for her. Sure, it's magical thinking. But much like Elizabeth Gilbert’s “muse” idea, that doesn’t mean it’s not useful.
I don’t actually think that muses descend from the heavens to inspire me in my writing, but it can sometimes be a helpful tool to externalize my creative process in a way that allows me to look at it more objectively. Similarly, I don’t think my ratty old CBGB’s t-shirt felt comforted when I thanked it for its many years of loyal service and said fairwell. But by imbuing it with my own sentimentality and nostalgia for what it reminds me of—a time and place that no longer exists—I felt a lovely sense of closure. So why not use this particular technique of abstract thinking as a way to address lingering regrets or lost dreams?
To compliment the theme of both Halloween and “Endless Pain”, I’ve got two great “goth” artists for you to listen to, both of whom I feel reached a new level in their work.
Okovi is the new album from Zola Jesus, and I’m so thrilled that she’s returned to form. Her last album, Taiga was a clear attempt to reach a wider “pop” audience. And while I don’t begrudge an artist wider circulation, and I don’t have anything against pop in general, I felt it didn’t succeed as either a pop album or a Zola Jesus album. But this new album returns to her dark and brooding roots and it is nothing less than sublime:
The other new release I’m excited about is Hiss Spun, the latest from Chelsea Wolfe. Her sound has always been something like “gloom folk”. Quiet, melodic, but as brooding as any doom metal record. There’s always been hints of more grit, but this is the album where she really indulges her inner metalhead. It’s raw and fierce, but still somehow manages to hold on to some semblance of melody.
And that’s it for me. Have a happy Halloween, and hopefully the next time I write to you, it will be from my desk, rather than the shag rug on my living room floor!