Toast and Toxic Masculinity

Last night I was thinking about some of my hair triggers—the little annoyances that can make me completely lose my shit and go absolutely psycho. For example, when my son startled me the other night, I lost it a little, yelling at him. But I calmed down fairly quickly. But yesterday, while I was making dinner, I almost went nuclear. Over some toast.

I was making a meal delivery service recipe—mushroom and pepper hoagies with potatoes. Everything was going smoothly, dare I say well, until I had to toast the rolls. When I went to take them out of the toaster oven, one side of a roll fell through the rack. I tried to use a knife to get it out and just managed to push it farther under the rack. I tried using two knives and burned my hand multiple times. This was the point where I felt my inner Hulk coming out. However, because I have grown and evolved, I stopped at growling, just shy of throwing the knives or stabbing the bread into breadcrumbs.

I took a breath.

And I saw that I could just take the rack out (with a potholder!) and get the roll out. Dinner was saved.

One of the patterns I see in myself is that when I am trying to figure something out or make something work, I get very determined. And then that determination turns to stubbornness, which then slips into the territory of madwoman. And I really have not been able to identify why that is.

I would like to blame being born under a moon in Scorpio. But that’s probably not the whole of it.

So what else is it? There’s an element of not wanting to let people down—like my son the time I couldn’t help him figure out how to change one of his passwords. Or my family by not being able to deliver someone’s dinner intact. But I could have just toasted another roll, so that can’t be it either.

Perhaps it is a fear of being wrong or lacking because of failing to do some “thing.” The word defeat comes to mind. There is a sense of unworthiness or worthlessness attached to allowing myself to be defeated by whatever task or problem I’m trying to tackle.

I just felt a wave of emotion wash over me, so I must be on the right track.

This is where my masculine energy veers into toxic territory. I can be very competitive, but to the point of meanness, being an incredibly sore loser, pushing beyond limits to “win.” And I’m using the term “win” loosely. Succeed?

Last year I limped my way to finishing a half marathon, and a week later ran a five-mile race I intended to walk (should have walked). The friend I was supposed to walk with changed her mind at the last minute and wanted to run. I could have stuck to my original plan, but that felt like giving up, and forfeiting is an automatic loss. I ended up out of commission for six weeks with a stress fracture in my foot.

The hyper-competitiveness extends beyond myself. My kids are both Cross Country and Track runners. Remember the scene from The Breakfast Club? “’Andrew! You’ve got to be number one! I won’t tolerate any losers in this family! Your intensity is for shit! Win! Win! Win!’” I’ve never been nearly as bad as the father in the movie towards my kids, but I can’t say I’ve never talked crap about rival runners in a less-than-sportsmanlike way, especially the ones that were nasty to my own. That aggression comes from the same place as not wanting to be defeated by tasks or problems. It’s about victory. Triumph. Conquest. Our patriarchal culture puts a very high value on succeeding at any cost.

While this is toxic masculine energy, it’s not reserved only for those who are male gendered. Plenty of women as well as those of all gender identities can fall into this energy.

I see this in the fandom space I currently participate in, which happens to be primarily occupied by females. But that toxic competitiveness is overwhelming and even dangerous. Picture millions of people who are unhealthily invested in “being right.” Once they’ve been burned a few times and are angry, their knives start flying in the form of death threats, encouraging suicide, and doxing their perceived enemy.

The fandom is a microcosm of society. The January 6th attack on the US Capitol are a prime example of this energy in a larger context. The riot didn’t sprout from a vacuum. It came from a toxic lack of grace when things don’t go someone’s way.

And I recognize that I am a tiny microcosm of it all.

It would have been simpler to blame my moon sign and be done with it. I can’t do anything about my birth chart, but knowing how this energy is playing out through me and how I effect the collective, I have a responsibility to do better.

One thing I noticed is that once I stopped, even for just a second, to take a breath, I very quickly was able to see a solution. Sometimes a pause to think is all it takes to stop oneself from taking a regrettable action. But in the moment, it can be hard to see when to hit the brakes before the situation is spinning out of control. A support system outside of the situation helps. If that’s not available, knowing one’s signs is useful. My hands and jaw clench up, I literally start growling, and I find myself in a loop, repeating the same ineffective behavior time after time.

So maybe I need a rule—after the third time, if a solution doesn’t work, pause. If I see myself all balled up and not breathing, pause. Take a breath. Maybe walk away and get some water. Or walk away and ask for help. It takes a bit of self-awareness, but it’s not impossible. Imagine how it would look and feel if every person started to loosen up a bit in this way. The effect on the energy of our collective society would be astounding and beautiful.

Nightlight Podcast: Niobe Doesn’t Listen

My story Niobe Doesn’t Listen was performed on episode 515 of the Nightlight Horror Fiction Podcast. This was honestly one of the coolest experiences of my writing career to date! The production and voice acting are so well done! Give a listen, and if you can, please support the team’s Patreon so they can keep producing these stories!

Queer Sci Fi Annual Flash Fiction Anthology: Clarity

Clarity (noun)
Four definitions to inspire writers around the world and an unlimited number of possible stories
to tell:
1) Coherent and intelligible
2) Transparent or pure
3) Attaining certainty about something
4) Easy to see or hear

Clarity features 300-word speculative flash fiction stories from across the rainbow spectrum,
from the minds of the writers of Queer Sci Fi.

Every year, Queer Sci Fi runs a one-word theme contest for 300 word flash fiction stories, and
then chooses 120 of the best for the annual anthology.

This year, my story, “Bathtub Gin” was selected. Please check it out!

Process and Routine

Thinking about process right now. And what is becoming clear to me as I try to get myself into some routines is that trying to be that writer who sits down and writes for X hours per day and churns out X000 words per day isn’t going to work for me. Discipline isn’t really the issue. I can do that. I did NaNoWriMo for many years—I lost count—and always hit my target. So it’s possible for me to do that, but it’s not sustainable for me. And even though I’m putting words on the page, they might be pure, directionless crap. So I feel like I need to find a different process that is more in line with my personality, lifestyle, and other responsibilities.

I did some research recently about the habits of some of the greatest writers, and I certainly found some solid advice that resonates with me. The idea of ending before you’re done so that you know exactly where you’re starting when you get to the next session is brilliant. And I also saw a lot about getting exercise and having a dedicated space. I can check those boxes.

But what I realize is that trying to do anything for extended periods makes me restless and my mind wanders and then I procrastinate or engage in some other distraction. I’m fairly sure that if I were growing up now, I’d be classified as ADHD. But in my day, I was just really smart and eccentric. I can focus on things in short bursts, like 20-25 minutes before I need to move, unless I am super engaged and the words are flowing. Then I can sit for hours. But that’s not an everyday thing.

Maybe it would be a more efficient use of my time to make a list of what I want to accomplish for the day and then just tick off boxes in whatever way they get done. I already have my routine of doing yoga every morning, except when I had Covid—I had to take a couple of days off because I literally couldn’t move. And then I make my tea or hot lemon water and I do my tarot readings for the day. I can make my list after my readings. That way whatever else comes up can be fit in around what I know I have to get done. And on those days when the words just flow, I can stay in my little cave as long as I want. How beautiful is that?

One of the reasons I started freelance writing years ago was because aside from loving to write, I wanted flexibility—in what I wrote, who I wrote for, and how I did it. So why should writing fiction work any differently? There needs to be structure, but it needs to be my structure. I’ve never fit into anyone else’s mold, and I don’t think I can start now.

Doing Away with Roles and Limitations

I was thinking about roles earlier—how we identify ourselves according to the roles that we perform. We live in a culture that has a tendency to be obsessed with categorizing and putting things into little boxes, which is annoying. But we all tend to have these roles that we fit into, like I might have the role of mother, or I might identify with the role of writer. We identify multiple roles simultaneously, all the time, so people are constantly wearing different hats. You don’t necessarily take off one hat when you operate in the space of another hat. For instance, I might be acting in the role of Mom when I drive my daughter to work, but I’m also wearing a driver hat, and I’m also wearing black woman hat. All these things overlap and intersect constantly.

One thing that I’m trying to be mindful of these days is that because one can have multiple roles, they don’t have to define one’s self-view. All those functions can be true simultaneously. Even being many things at once doesn’t equal the sum total of anyone’s identity. Leaning too much into or identifying too much with designations is very limiting because they don’t account for so many other things that one could do or be that maybe hasn’t been revealed yet. So it’s not necessary to be so tied into or wedded to the roles that are put on us, sometimes without our consent. Gender is usually (not always) assigned to someone based on their genitals. But we now know that gender identity can differ from gender assignments.

I’m thinking about this topic in part because I have this online space, this website, that’s usually just sitting here. I haven’t used the blog or put anything much in there because I felt like this is a writing space and my author page, and so I should only put stuff there that pertains to my writing, or writing in general. I limited the content of this page. And further I limited it to specific kinds of writing like—primarily fantasy and horror. But that’s not the only kind of writing I want to do. Sometimes I want to just write about my thoughts. So this space stagnated because of the role that I assigned to the site. The beauty is that I can choose to expand it.

What I want to do now is use this blog space to write whatever I’m thinking about at any given time, unlimited. And further, I don’t want to limit my writing anymore. Maybe sometime I will write a romance or maybe I’ll write a children’s book (unlikely but you never know). Perhaps a memoir or a self-help book, who knows. I want to start using this space more than I have. In terms of looking at the roles that identify me, I personally am trying to lean away from any specific designations because even in a particular job, you don’t do just one thing, right?

I used to work in accounting. I had multiple tasks and responsibilities—sometimes I had to do payroll. Sometimes I had to do travel reimbursement. Sometimes I had to do escrow accounting. Within a role, there can be multiple branches and there needs to be fluidity in moving between them. So being wedded into one way of identifying oneself or what an identity looks like at one point doesn’t necessarily allow for growth and expansion. If one’s goal is to keep growing and expanding, they have to release the idea of being this thing because it might go through many iterations and manifestations. So I think this space is going to evolve, and I am going to evolve with it.

On Weirdness, Diversity, and Moving Out of Boxes

I’ve come to the conclusion that my work is always going to be a little weird. A little quirky. Not a nice neat fit into any genre. And I’ve made my peace with that. I can try to fit better into boxes, but I find these days that I just don’t want to.

A few years ago I wrote a novella about zombie dragons. It was kind of fantasy but set in a post-apocalyptic, steam-punky world. I had such a blast writing it. I submitted it at a conference for feedback, and while the editor loved the pages, she said it would be a nightmare to publish—not in a discouraging way, but just letting me in on the reality of the industry at that time. Perhaps I’ll self publish it one day.

It feels like the world is in a place–with this vibe–where people are starting to just embrace who they are and retooling their environs to fit them as opposed to squeezing themselves into imperfect containers. It feels like as a collective we’re moving away from the cookie-cutter traditional everything: education, jobs, marriage, families. Overcrowded as it is, the world is so big with so much room for diversity, and the pandemic seems to have given people time and space to envision how to make that work for real and not just lip service and workshops.

I’m rambling a bit. I’m okay with that.

Yesterday on Twitter I saw a question posted by an author who was being told to lean her writing into what was more commercially certain instead of what she wanted to create. The responses telling her to do what she loved were so gratifying to see. I think I will take the advice that was given to her.

And on that happy note, Merc and I have been chatting and she’s requested some changes to her narrative. So we’re getting back to work now.

Have a beautiful day!

What I’m Reading These Days

The Four Agreements (+Companion Book) by Don Miguel Ruiz

A book of Toltec wisdom that changes your perspectives and perceptions in order to lead a happier life. Some tough self examination but well worth it.

Vicious by V.E. Schwab

An experiment gives two best friends super powers and then pits one against the other as the author examines what really defines a hero or villain. Loving it so far!

Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado

Anthology of short horror fiction – weird and beautiful. I also recently read her memoir, In the Dream House, which I highly recommend.

Quick update

I haven’t posted here in a minute! Mainly because my last publications were in 2018 – The Magical CSI anthology stories. Umbra’s Shadow was in publication for a while, but the publisher, Roane, shut down and so Merc is now waiting for me to decide her future. Back in 2020 I had signed a contract for another anthology, but before it could be published, it was scrapped due to Covid ruining everyone’s plans over and over and over.

I can’t lie. I lost all inspiration to write as the pandemic dragged on and only brushed off my keyboard recently. So hopefully I’ll be able to get some work out again soon.

Hope all is well with you!

Cover Reveal!

umbrasshadow_cover

Umbra’s Shadow
Contemporary Fantasy
By AndreaStanet
Publisher: Roane Publishing
Release Date: March 13, 2017

Keywords: Contemporary, Paranormal, Fantasy, Shapeshifter, Mercenary
Got a problem that needs a kick-ass mercenary to fix it? Merc’s your shapeshifter.
It’s been open season on changelings—human/faery hybrids—until word gets around: someone’s got their backs.
Merc relies on her unique shapeshifting talents to defend the poor and disenfranchised hybrids living on the fringes of a modern-day Hudson valley city. Perhaps her past spurs her to help—orphaned, unable to remember her parents or her original form, forced to survive alone until a kindly Changeling couple takes her in. But Merc also dreams of escaping the poverty and rescuing her boyfriend from the environment that feeds his addictions.
Dúl, a mysterious and seductive full-blooded fey, seems to offer Merc the way out. But the job he proposes will plunge her into the political wasp nest of the Dreaming World and its fey courts. Dúl hires her to rescue the female lieutenant of the Shadow Court’s king. But Morgan isn’t the only full-blood that’s disappeared.
Nothing is what it seems. A hidden player is capitalizing on the animosities within the four courts, and Merc must solve the puzzle before anyone else falls victim. Her investigation exposes the web of betrayals and lies ambushing the courts from without, or maybe from within.
No one could defeat this conspiracy alone. Merc must suppress her solitary nature and learn to work with a team, while Dúl enters into a bitter alliance with his most hated enemy. Amid this treachery, the magnetic attraction between Merc and Dúl deepens into a forbidden bond they are powerless to deny.
Even if she unravels the chaos plaguing the Dreaming, can she handle the truth about the full-blood she’s fallen for?

 

About Andrea Stanet:

A dream stalker, shadow man, vengeful steampunk siren, ghost, and now fey court intrigue—while Andrea Stanet doesn’t shy away from any genre, her passion is writing fantasy and horror fiction for various age groups. Her short stories have appeared in several anthologies and an online literary magazine. Her most recent releases are “The Tradition,” a middle grade horror about were-crows, and “Song of Vengeance,” about a young performer whose father traps her dying spirit in a mechanical bird.
When not fixating on dragons and zombies, Andrea’s hobbies include running (clearly displaying masochistic tendencies), cycling (hills are only fun when going down), reading (anything and everything), and gaming (Cthulhu themed board games are favorites). Andrea lives in New York with her husband, two kids, a cat that thinks she’s a dog, and another cat that thinks he’s a mountain lion.

Links:

Fright Before Christmas Anthology

It’s the most wonderful time of year…or is it?

Christmas Eve is a night of mystery and magic, but not always in ways we expect. Things lurk in the shadows and they’re not the least bit jolly or merry. Let’s just say some presents are better left unopened.

‘Tis the season to be screaming along with our thirteen tales of holiday horrors. Ghosts. Monsters. Demons. And more!

This Christmas, be careful what you wish for…

Author List:
Richard Ankers
Jackie Horsfall
Boyd Reynolds
Lea Storry
Ally Mathews
Laura Pauling
Ty Drago
Jessica Bayliss
Judith Graves
Andrea Stanet
Patrick Hueller
Dax Varley
Medeia Sharif

Pre-Order Sale and Book Links:
Goodreads

Pre-Order ebook sale for $1.99 – regular price $3.99
Amazon
B&N
iBooks
I’m very excited to be a part of this anthology. It promises to be lots of fun!