Of course I heard from everyone with an ounce of experience that becoming a mother would change my life. I was prepared for this in most of the big, important ways, but one of the things that’s surprised me is how being a mom has changed my life as a nerd.
First, I obviously don’t have 8+ hours a day to spend writing. That just ain’t gonna fly anymore. I was also never a writer who carried around a notebook – I took notes here and there, but never actually WROTE in a notebook. Now, that’s the easiest and/or only option I have. When you’ve got one arm pinned under a sleeping monster, straining to reach a nearby notebook is a lot easier than trying to escape and get your laptop. (In fact, as I write this – on my laptop – I have to keep distracting little hands from pulling out my power cord. And this post will take me approximately 8 times longer to write because I have to keep tossing her over my shoulder to look out the window at the dog, who I’ve just noticed is eating his poop… BRB.)
I also was never a huge phone app person. I’ve added at least 5 now, all related to being a mom or using baby gear, so in that little way I’m becoming a little more of a techie.
And you better believe I plan to pass along love of my fandoms to the little squirt. We’ve already binged the new She-Ra, and she at least stared at the transformation hair, so that’s a good start. I look forward to first viewings of Star Wars and Dr. Who, first readings of The Chronicles of Narnia, and teaching her to side with me over her dad about Hogwarts houses.
Something I didn’t expect was that, for the first time in my life, I’d be able to easily relate to other women. I grew up on a hunting preserve, writing science fiction – I’m just not wired to connect with most women. But with the shared experiences of childbirth, babies that just will not sleep, the inevitable poop explosions – suddenly I feel LESS like an outsider and more like one of the tribe. By creating a tiny human, I too have a non-nerdy thing to talk about that’s actually relatable.
BUT, at the same time, I’ve found that being a nerd AS a mom is a pretty common thing too. I stumbled upon a couple Facebook groups for nerdy parents, and that’s my new favorite use of any free minutes the mini-tyrant allows me. Nerdy memes related to parenting, nerdy discussions about our favorite nerdy things, and of course occasional parenting questions – it’s all great.
That’s not to say that I don’t miss being a more active part of my other favorite community, my author peeps. To those of you who’ve put up with my endless social media posts of baby pictures, please forgive, as it’s the only way to keep our friends and family up to date who live 2+ hours away. I promise I am reading your books and watching videos and generally lurking as a fan/friend even when I’m too exhausted to comment.
So, until the next time I have a minute free of screamed, nonsensical demands, here’s AI taking in Star Wars the only way she knows how…so far.
What do you get when you put 2 musicians, a writer, a recording device, and a few beers together? The best bar conversation you’re ever going to eavesdrop.
Many thanks to Justin Stover of Blue Collar Songwriting for the rare opportunity to be interviewed alongside my brother, Christian Somerville, who co-created The Kota Series worlds with me. This was tons of fun.
May or may not contain:
Stories of how The Kota originated
The influences of family on creativity
My writing history
Why I love indie publishing
Connections between indie writing and indie music
Taylor Swift shout-outs
One of the reasons I love reviewing books is that every once in a while I take a chance on something I never would’ve picked up on my own. Memoirs aren’t my usual thing. But, I’m so glad I agreed to read this one, not only because most of it is set in my native Michigan.
This book tells the story of Blaire’s “growing up” years and thoroughly looks at how she was affected by her severely-less-than-perfect family. There are so many psychological issues intelligently discussed – alcoholism, abuse, neglect, addiction, rape, suicide, etc. The book isn’t necessarily chronological, but rather it feels like she strings situations together that fall under the same personal struggle.
At the same time, during all of these struggles, Blaire holds to the point that her Grandma was her rock, her conscience, her savior. When other people hurt her, when she hurt herself, when she was confused and a mess and spiralling out of control – her Grandma clearly was the one true love of her life. By the time Blaire grew up enough to handle her own life, her Grandma needed her to become that rock in return. I spent the last quarter of the book crying, but it was all a beautifully honest tribute to the reality of losing a loved one.
It must be tricky writing about personal issues that are so ugly, and I highly respect the author’s bravery. She doesn’t sugarcoat anything and probably upset some people with her side of their story, but she’s at least equally hard on herself, and that adds to the believability of her life story. The writing is personal, honest, self-deprecating, accessible, and often quite beautiful in its openness.
Definitely worth a read if you’re looking for an inspirational recovery story, or just a story about the power of love.
Every Friday, I’m posting something about how the real life “The Four” overlap with the fictional four Kota Warriors.
As some of you know, The Kota Series is based on what “The Four” (myself, my brother, and our childhood best friends Kaly and Luke) played as kids. Each of us is represented by one of the four Kota Warriors (Bullseye, Rave, Tigris, Whitewolf). So, I’ll be sharing personal quirks that carried over into fiction, fun/weird stories we played as kids, our childhood drawings, pictures related to The Four and The Kota, etc.
Should be fun, and it’ll give you an idea of how weird or little minds were as we created this story that, years later, turned into my book series. 🙂
This week, Christian’s role in creating the worlds of The Kota Series. My brother is at least as creative as I am, and his role in the creation of The Kota Series was pretty substantial. Whenever someone asks, “How did you come up with all these different characters and worlds?” I should probably give him more credit than I do.
For example, the worlds/planets of Books 2-4 were his idea. We really only played the story of Book 1 as kids, and when we got a little older and real life took over we wanted some quick explanation for what happened to the Warriors after [insert major spoiler about end of Book 1].
So, Christian drew/created a few worlds, and we threw together a story for where the Warriors went next. As it turns out, of course, THOSE worlds are where the majority of the series ended up taking place — Ebon, Phantasya, and Zenith. I tried to stay as true to his original ideas as possible, and a lot of Christian’s original quirks about those worlds are still very much there. And even a few of his characters made it into the books…
It’s that time of year when I typically have had it with winter anyway, but today I’ve spent most of my time eagerly anticipating the moment when the wind is going to finish tearing off my neighbor’s screen door so that it joins the blowing snow, which just doesn’t seem to want to fly down.
I miss the color green. I can’t even remember what dirt smells like. I remember what birds sound like only because of TV. I’m sick of being cooped up and having way too much time to think and consequently freaking out about every life decision I’ve ever made.
But here’s the thing: Despite the weather, despite hating being cooped up (yes, I could do things outside, but I’m not a crazy winter person), I really don’t mind this winter causing me to spend so much time alone. I would like to be out, at the park, at the beach, among the living, etc. But I’ve gotten pretty good at doing these things by myself. Maybe it’s part of being a writer, but I like to be out in the world and just observe. I like having great stretches of time where I can think without having to entertain anyone else. Selfishly, I like doing things my way. Less selfishly, I like not making other people accommodate me into their plans.
Of course I like spending time with my family and my friends. Most of them. Many of them. Some of them. Sometimes. It would be absolutely detrimental to my mental wellbeing if I didn’t interact with people regularly. I genuinely love meeting new people. I’ve had a job in the past which required me to be more social than any of you probably will ever be in your life, so forgive me if I smirk a bit when you get all judge-y like I can’t be social. (Okay, that started to get specific…) Anyway, yes, I like people. I’d say I need people. I may be an introvert, but people feed me creatively, spiritually, etc. in ways that neither I nor Netflix can.
But my usual, comfortable state involves a table for one.
The natural question most people ask is, “Don’t you wish you were in a relationship so that you’re not alone all the time?” My first reaction is usually to find this insulting. My second reaction is to take a deep breath and try to make the person understand that I’m quite happy being single. Well-meaning relatives and friends of course try to “help.” My usual response echoes Liz Lemons’s “No, thank you, please!” Okay, being in a relationship wouldn’t be a bad idea, but having some guy in my life usually just exhausts me. If someone wants to see me more than once a week, I start to feel claustrophobic. Maybe at some point someone will surprise me, but I don’t NEED someone to make me feel content. I think that’s a much healthier space to be in – hoping to be surprised – than dating anyone/everyone in the hope that I won’t have to be alone.
If I’m being honest, most of the time it’s probably better that I’m not around people. Usually in public my verbal edit switch IS clicked to on, but I apparently have lost all ability to control my facial expressions. While I might really, really want to spend time out with friends, after a few hours that enthusiasm is likely to wane and I’d rather be back enjoying Sammy (my TV) or else writing. However, this time of year, I think everyone has had it with being stuck inside and so we’re a bit more likely to enjoy each other’s company just for the sake of being in each other’s company. I can be okay in public, and this time of year even I am willing to give it a go.
On that note, I have to go get ready to leave my apartment. Good luck to everyone dealing with me tonight.
[This Thanksgiving, my mom and I sat at the kitchen table listening to the cassette tape she’d recorded between 1985-1988 of my brother and me saying our ABC’s, singing “Jesus Loves Me,” etc. It’s amazing to me how early our creative loves developed – I take every opportunity to tell stories; my brother wants to sing. I took the tape home with me and uploaded it, and so here we are.]
As promised (or threatened, depending on who you are) earlier in the week, here is the recording of my brother’s first recorded performances.
He’s come along nicely in 20+ years, so feel free to check out his music at: ChrstnSmrvllMsc
This Thanksgiving, my mom and I sat at the kitchen table listening to the cassette tape she’d recorded between 1985-1988 of my brother and me saying our ABC’s, singing “Jesus Loves Me,” etc. It’s amazing to me how early our creative loves developed – I take every opportunity to tell stories; my brother wants to sing. I took the tape home with me and uploaded it, and so here we are.
My first story, which I have henceforth titled “MYSTERY” for reasons that will soon become obvious, was recorded when I was 4. It’s full of twists and turns and beloved childhood characters, and it is a confusing gem, if I do say so myself.
The second story I guess should be called “Snowball and the B-B-B-B-Big Bad Wolf” and is from when I was 6 and had clearly developed my storytelling skills.
Enjoy. And yes, my brother Christian is in the background and will later this week be embarrassed with a YouTube upload of HIS first performance.
On Inside the Actors Studio, James Lipton asks the question, “If Heaven exists, what do you hope God will say when you come to the pearly gates?” Not that Lipton will ever interview me, but if he did I have my answer all prepped – I’ve always hoped God will smirk and be like, “That was interesting.”
Of all the things I don’t take seriously, death should probably not be one of them. But here we are.
I think about death probably a little too often. I’m not sure when this started. It may have something to do with wanting to be an assassin when I was little. I also know that my “storylines” when we played as children often ended in my death(s). Then there’s that recurring drowning dream I used to have where I would wake up choking. I like mythologies about the undead and have enjoyed playing with the weight of immortality in my own fiction. I really don’t know what the appeal (if that’s the right word) is, but I know that I’ve never been afraid of being dead. This may be overconfidence that, when I wake up in whatever life is to come, God’s going to be happy with me and/or I’m not going to be reincarnated as a cow. It may be that I have an unnatural detachment problem and am a little too curious about whatever comes when I’m gone from here. But whatever the reason, I’m not afraid of Death.
Don’t get me wrong – I think dying is terrible and agony is terrible and the pain it causes everyone involved is terrible. I hate loss, grief, sorrow, sickness, despair. When I see people cry, I cry (a reaction recently developed, as apparently my soul grew back or something, har, har). Funerals, saying a final goodbye – all of that is awful. It is the most painful thing to release someone from their life, our lives, and everything Known. Suffering comes in some way with every death, and that, if nothing else, is a curse that touches us all. I DO absolutely hate other people’s deaths. I become semi-dysfunctional whenever someone I love dies. I even have an odd reaction of anxiety whenever someone has an accident or goes ill or something – I become incredibly creative. I don’t know why. When I am anxious about someone else’s life or death, I go to a place in my head where I can’t stop myself from painting, or writing, or whatever. It’s odd, I know, but for some reason that is my coping mechanism.
Sidenote: I first noticed this uber-anxiety about others’ deaths when my great grandmother started fading. I was a teenager. Since great grandma lived alone (and there’s a wonderful story about her shooting a gun in her house to get the squirrels in the wall, btw), towards the end each member of the family took turns staying with her at night. This usually meant my mom, my aunt, or my older cousins, but for some reason one night my mom made me do it. Alone, with a person who could potentially die any minute, I don’t think I slept all night. It freaked me out. When I finally got to go home, I remember sequestering myself in my room and writing for hours.
Anyway, while death is bad, I personally am okay with it, if that makes sense. I accept that, at some point, I am going to die. I don’t see the point in being afraid or taking it too seriously, letting it haunt this life. It’s GOING to happen. I don’t want to die of a long drawn out illness, a painful demise, or go screaming in flames or anything. I certainly don’t want to leave behind my loved ones or have my life end before I’ve done and seen all I can. But I find death a little bit fascinating. It is the ultimate Unknown. Death is the one thing that happens to us all that none of us can ever know about until it happens to us personally. It’s the one thing we all have in common. It’s what makes this life all the sweeter, because we know it’s going to end. Death happens, and by searching to understand it as much as possible, I think we take as much of the sting away as we can.
My own faith and belief system obviously comes into play here. That’s probably a big part of why I’m not afraid and have a kind of peaceful relationship with the idea of death. It probably also explains some of my fascination with whatever comes next. But the interesting thing to me of late – in this past season of Halloween especially – is that I’m clearly not alone in this curiosity about the afterlife. I’ve been reading a LOT of zombie fiction lately, and everywhere you look these days there are books, movies, TV shows, etc. about what life would be like in a post-apocalyptic world. (Don’t get me started on vampire fiction.) We seem really fascinated by the idea of The End and what comes after. The thing that keeps standing out to me is that we are oddly drawn to the horror of death and kind of romanticize it. I’m sure this says something about our culture at the moment, and that’s probably enough for a whole other blog post, so I’ll let it go for now.
I’m not saying that we should revel in the idea of death or have a blasé attitude about it. I do think it is important to prepare for whatever you believe happens at death. But I don’t think we should fear death or getting old – THERE’S definitely another possible blog topic – to the point that we let fear of the Unknown infect our daily, walking life. Whatever your belief system, how you live in THIS life matters. There is plenty to fear and worry about now. There is plenty to make sure you get right now. There are other, much more manageable fears to focus on and try to heal.
I know what makes me sad.
I know what makes me hurt.
I know what makes me unhealthy.
I know what makes me guilty.
I know what makes me regret.
THESE are things to fear to the point of doing something about them, if that makes sense. These are things we have a shot of doing something about. We’re all going to die – you can’t control that. What you can control is how you live in this life. The better you manage this life, I think the easier the idea of death becomes.
So, yeah. Death happens. But I guess the point is what we do before it hits us. Suffering happens. But I guess the point is how we react to it. For me, I really do hope I can continue to see death as something that should make me appreciate life and joy all the more, death as the ultimate Unknown that reminds me to instead focus on those things I can control.
I adore History. In grade school, I loved hearing stories from different periods. In college, I once became so engrossed in a lecture about the Roman Empire that I forgot to take notes until halfway through the hour, which I think pleased the professor. Now, I still love losing myself in stories of the past. But there’s a catch with reading or hearing or watching stories of history – you lose some of the tangible. Interpretation creeps in, and distance. It becomes easy to disconnect these stories from reality and make them just like all the fictional stories you encounter.
That’s why, this last summer, I so enjoyed Disneyland for History Nerds – Gettysburg.
My family originally went to Gettysburg for the 125th anniversary. My brother, who was three at the time, understandably didn’t get much out of it. His memories are fabricated from our stories. (One in particular involves my dad carrying me across a small stream, followed by my mom attempting to do the same with my brother. They didn’t cross without a fall and a soak, and my dad and I were not capable of not laughing hysterically. We have also not been capable of not bringing this up for the past 25 years.) My memory – freakish thing – served me quite a bit better. I remembered climbing rocks, hiking up wooded hills, staring at reenactors as my mom got her birthday picture taken with them, and falling in love with any 7-year-old girl’s favorite – the horse statues.
So, going back this summer for the 150th Battle of Gettysburg Anniversary was like revisiting a bit of our own family history as well. This added, I think, to the overall note of reflection and made it interestingly personal. We made a point of reproducing several of the pictures we’d taken 25 years ago. We tracked down all the Michigan monuments, and we encountered others doing the same, further adding to “bonding-with-nerds time.” There was a wonderful sense of brotherhood, of being connected to this momentous piece of our nation’s history, however tangentially.
There were few things about this trip down memory lane that were not moving. Not only did we interact with this historical place, but we interacted with others doing the same. History nerds united in a common setting, knowledge, and reverence are a wonderful bunch. At Custer’s monument, which is out in a field and you’d never know unless you were looking, we encountered a chap from New Jersey who would have chatted enthusiastically for hours with my dad while my mom and I ate bananas in the car and nursed our sore feet. At the gigantic Pennsylvania monument, I helped a woman scan down the list of the dead to find a relative. Even the park staff drove around and handed out water bottles to us hikers (like THAT would ever happen at the real Disneyland). Everyone was just…happy to be a part of remembering.
The thing I will remember most was reenacting Pickett’s Charge with thousands of other tourists and meticulously dressed reenactors. It was truly one of the most moving experiences of my life, and I sensed the same was true for those around me as we walked in the footsteps of those who’d sweat, stumbled, bled, and mostly died on that deceptively beautiful field.
And that’s another thing – North and South, everyone respected everyone. Not just tourist to tourist, although I saw Union and Confederate reenactors swapping family stories, which was oddly heartwarming. The thing that really struck me was that at the time both sides respected each other. This was a family war. Sometimes literally brother vs. brother. Plaque after plaque held quotes expressing one side’s admiration for the other. Standing on both ends of Pickett’s Charge, you couldn’t help but imagine looking out and feeling the ache of what they were about to do. Both sides were us.
It was interesting talking to tourists who were not “us” and hearing their somewhat objective takes on “our only real war.” We encountered people from England, Japan, Scotland – all places with far more history than our baby country. One English woman I heard saying that it was amazing to her to see how fresh our history was. “You still have the original trees!”
Anyway, this all-around closeness, I think, is what makes it all so powerful to actually be there. You can’t disconnect and consider this just ancient history when you’re actually standing on those fields. It was not that long ago. And what happened in our bloody little war was so rough because it was all us. Everywhere you go in Gettysburg, you read and see and hear stories that make you sympathize with both camps. Looking down from Little Round Top – which has been carefully preserved so that it feels like you’re back in time…but with cameras – I’m sure I was only one of thousands who got choked up imagining the slaughter that took place there. Touching history in this way, with thousands of other co-admirers, it stops being just some story, some dates on a page. This place helped shape our nation. It changed us. United us, eventually. And now, being there, you can’t help feel the weight of it. You can’t help feel close to it, and the dead.
I’m sure there’s some lesson I took away from all this. Something about connecting with and touching bits of history to fully appreciate it, certainly. Something about pulling yourself out of your own head and trying to sympathize with your enemy, certainly. Whatever lessons I came away from Gettysburg with, it was a wonderful opportunity to experience this with my family once again, relive a bit of our own history, and share in the experience with thousands of other history nerds. This time around, I definitely appreciated more than just the horse statues.