Sunday, September 25, 2016

Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you! ~ Dr. Seuss

I love celebrating birthdays!

     One of my favorite things in the world is making people happy, and I get SO excited when I find out it's someones birthday. I love finding a gift for someone I know will make them plotz, and seeing the look on their face when they say, "Oh, my god! I can't believe you remembered I wanted this!" That look is pure fucking happiness. And it makes my heart feel full. 

     Please, don't misunderstand me. I don't celebrate birthdays in the "I-love-you-more-today-than-any-other-day" sort of way, because we all know that's not true, nor is that how birthdays are supposed to be. You love a person the same amount as you always did, but everyone deserves to be celebrated sometimes. Once a year seems like a good time to do it! And if you are in my life, and I love the shit out of you, you're damn straight that I am going to celebrate the day you were brought onto this planet; the day you literally came alive, so that years later, we could meet and have a relationship, whether it be a romantic one or a friendship or familial.

     When I love a person, and I know their birthday is approaching, I want to jump up and down, throw glitter confetti at them, and give them something that really shows them how much I, not only, pay attention, but also shows how much I care about them, and love them. I want to make them feel that they are special, and so, so, SO, important to the world, and to my world.

     I guess it's probably silly of me to think that other people will do the same for me. Sometimes, it makes me feel like my birth wasn't that important. That me coming into this world doesn't matter that much and maybe I don't need to be here, in your life, or my own. And I know that's not fair, because it's pretty simple...

"You'll end up really disappointed if you think people will do for you as you do for them. Not everyone has the same heart as you."

     I am sure you've probably deduced that my birthday is soon. Like, three days away soon. And I am going to be 32 years old. I've had enough birthday's, I've had enough people tell me they love me and I matter.  Only, it never seems to stick...

     I know, logically, my family loves me. I know my parents love me, in their own bizarre way, and I know that 32 years ago when I was born, people threw a party! My mom had a baby shower, and everyone waited at the hospital for my dad or the doctor to come out and say, "Congratulations! It's a girl!" And everyone was so excited to meet me! Babies are the coolest because no one knows them! They are brand spanking new to the world, and we all know after a few years, the ... excitement and visits and people saying "OMG she is so cute!" dies down. Once babies aren't babies anymore, people tend to pull back. You're a person now. With a personality and characteristics and likes and dislikes and beliefs and opinions. I think it's safe to say that people stop being "so cute" once they become an actual person.

     Maybe I try too hard. Maybe I go a bit over the top for some people because birthday's aren't as important to them as they are to me. But I still get joy celebrating other people. My son's birthday is my favorite day of the year. Then my husbands birthday, then my best friends birthday, and her daughters birthday... Mine is pretty far down on the list, but, I'm not going to lie, it would be nice to be celebrated as hard as I celebrate them.
     Maybe this year, I'll celebrate myself... not in a cocky sort of way but in a "this is your life, and it's the only one you're gonna get, so you better stop being all depressive emo goth chick, and start being grateful. Be a badass, and start living it."

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

It's been a while -- so, 20 Questions?

What’s something that scares you about the future? Getting a "real" job, if the writing thing isn't enough to pay the bills, figuring out how to pay back my student loans, getting married, the machines taking over, aliens invading, global warming, the blood clot in my leg coming back and giving me a stroke, 

Five things you cannot live without: coffee, my medicine (it's unsafe for everyone if I stop taking my meds, trust me), my car, hugs from my son, and my phone or laptop. Some way to be connected. 

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character? Yes... one I created, Azra from Aubrey Nightingale, and Trent from Daria.  

Who is your celebrity crush? Matt Davis, Drew Fuller, and I have a girl crushes on Emilia Clarke and Amy Manson.

Are there any unusual genetic traits that run in your family? Oh, just mental illness, and pretending they don't have a mental illness... on both sides, too.

List your top 5 favorite Girls Names (for Characters): Aubrey, Storm, Fiona, Lydia, Sydney

List your top 5 favorite BOYS names (for Characters): Azra, Declan, Dominic, Vincent, Weston, 

Top 5 favorite GIRLS Names (for potential children): Skyelar Violet, Lorelai, Natalie, Autumn, Sunny (Sunshine Skye).

Top 5 favorite BOYS Names (for potential children): Cosmo, Orion, Connor, Cole, Roman

List Top 5 Favorite Old Fashioned Names (Girls & Boys): Violet, Astrid, Wyatt, Lucien, Sebastian

List Top LEAST Favorite Names (Girls & Boys):  Angus, Bertha, Blanche, Dolores, Gertrude, Helga, Margo, Mort, Prudence, Richard (don't name your kid Dick), Ursula, Wilma,  any name that ends in "een" 

Why are you so obsessed with names? I don't know. It's like... some girls like shoes, or purses, I like names. I like words. A name has power. Meaning. It's something you give someone and they keep it forever (unless they have it legally changed...) But to me a name is the one thing you give you kid forever. Besides love. I mean, you know... 

What is your full name? Why did your parents give you that name?  Jessica Lynn ... my  name was originally going to be Aubrey Jean, but my mom heard the name Jessica on a TV show and changed it 2 weeks before I was born. I guess she really liked it and didn't realize it was the 2nd most popular name that year. My parents were so basic, and they didn't even know it... 

What were your favorite subjects in school? Why? Music, Psychology, Creative Writing, and any class that allowed me to write papers/essays. I loved writing, even if it was a boring subject. 

What subjects did you like the least? Why? History because ... *snores* It was the same stuff over and over again, just learning it in a different grade. So boring.

How did you meet your spouse? Through mutual friends. My friend from high school was dating his best friend at the time.

List 5 interesting things you’ve experienced in your lifetime. Child birth; visiting NYC, Niagara Falls, Disney World, and Nashville; being a Mom/trying to be a step mom; the world changing really quickly from no internet to all the sudden, everyone is connected and there's information literally at your fingertips; the transition from landlines to cellphones to smart phones... that was huge, just the past 16 years has been one giant experience. 

If you could spend a day with any famous person in the world, who would it be, and what would you do during your day with him or her? Ellen DeGeneres. I'd be a guest on her show... and have to block out the audience and cameras. Just focus on Ellen. And talk about all my books, and how funny I am. 

What scares you? Large crowds, traffic, driving in bad weather, talking to new people...

What advice would you pass on about raising children that you learned by raising your own children? Give them freedom, but not so much they walk all over you. Love them. Make sure they know they're loved, unconditionally. Let them be themselves. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Linger: Seven Tales of Why Spirits Stay

Featuring "Calliope" by Jess Russell (me!).  

Here's a snippet to get you hooked: 

Go on a journey with a man named Jimmy, who has recently suffered the loss if his wife.
Except maybe he hasn't.
Jimmy can see what no one else can, what his sister and friends and strangers on the streets walk by without a second glance - his wife's soul.  Follow Jimmy on his desperate search to be reunited with his one true love - Calliope. 

Available Now on in Paperback and Kindle editions!

Monday, November 18, 2013

“Don’t be offended if you encounter some good-natured ribbing; the idea of writing a novel in a month deserves to be laughed at.”

Oh, November.  The one month a year when I, and writers everywhere, actually panic over how much writing we actually get done, and if we will ever be able to hit that 50k word mark by midnight on the 30th.

And after 5 years of participating in the month long ordeal, I've come to the conclusion that I, like so many others, cannot.

The most I have ever written in one month, for NaNoWriMo, is approximately 25k give or take a few.  However, there have been days when I have written 5-6k words without even realizing it, because I'm not keeping track!  I don't check every hour what my word count is, and there's no pressure to write so many words in such a small amount of time.  And I have to be honest with you, the pressure of NaNoWriMo is more stressful than any other writing experience I've ever had.

So why do I put myself through this every year?!

I'm starting to believe that doing NaNoWriMo is purely egotistical.  I have this undying need to prove to myself that I can write 50 thousand words in 30 days, and have it be something worthy of possibility.  Being a writer, there is a lot of competition, especially self competition.  You always want to top your last project, write something better than all your previous work.  But sometimes, it's not.  Sometimes it's worse, or just the same as the rest of your work.

But every year, I sign up for NaNoWriMo, and by the end, I normally end up with a range between 15-20k words, and I feel like a failure.  Which is stupid because it's not like you actually win anything for finishing NaNoWriMo, except for the satisfaction that you were able to write 50k words in 30 days.  Even if the story make no sense because you're not supposed to go back and edit (even though I do because it drives me insane not to edit blatant typos and misspelled words.)

I love writing, and I like the idea of a bunch of writers getting together and writing.  But after 5 years of pressure, stress, and constant word count checking, I can officially say that writing a good, solid book in 30 days is nearly impossible.  The majority of published books are 80k words or more.  Publishing companies won't even look at a book unless it's at least that, so why do we push for 50k when it's 30k less than what a book should be?

I'm sorry if you came here thinking you'd get a pep talk. I am all about encouraging each other to write and keep writing, and to believe in yourself and your story.  But to me, NaNoWriMo seems to be more about quantity over quality, when we all know real books are about quality.   And it takes more than thirty days and fifty thousand words to get there.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

"I wonder what would happen if you say what you want to say, and let the words fall out. Honestly, I want to see you be brave."

      When I was 15, my mother took me to this country bar/restaurant in Rochester where Country Music Artist Keith Urban was playing, before he was famous. He was brand new to the country music scene and I had no idea who he was, and I don't remember much of the event (notethis was pre-camera phones).

     The part that stands out in my memory was after the concert was over, when he was signing autographs. Everyone lined up in front of the little stage and he had his black sharpie out and was signing anything anyone handed him.  I do remember him being a very nice guy because my mom asked if she could have his water bottle and if he'd sign it for her, and he did. (She later sold it on eBay.)

      She also told me to bring my writing binder with me.  The one filled with all of my song lyrics and poetry that I had written over the last year, and give it to him.  And I did, bring it with me, that is.

     I had my thick black binder in my hand and was holding onto it during the entire concert.  But when it was time for us to approach him for an autograph, my mom asked me, "Are you going to give it to him?" and I'm standing there, surrounded by all these people (some of whom were not very nice, I remember there being a lot of budging in line and this one girl being really nasty to me) and I was terrified.  I'm thinking "What is he going to do with it?"  He wasn't going to have time to read it, and I wasn't about to just GIVE all my emo, depressing, really personal poetry/lyrics away to some guy I didn't even know and had no idea of just how famous he would end up being.  So, I didn't give it to him.  I panicked and just took the water bottle and said thanks and walked away.

      My anxiety issues had started around then and I was in a room full of people I didn't want to be in, listening to music I didn't know and didn't really like (not a big country music fan...) and I got scared.

      Did I lose out on an opportunity by doing this?  If by some chance, he did read my lyrics and did think they were good enough and give them to someone he knew, or maybe he himself could have composed music for them and sang them, would I be living a very different life right now?

      Or would he have given me advice and moved on? Or said, sorry kid, I can't read them right now?

     My point is, I was young and scared, but I allowed that fear to take over my life and not take that chance of something happening.  There is a very big chance nothing would have come of it, because I am sure a lot of people have given him stuff like that before, but then again, he was just starting out himself and maybe would have given me a chance.  I don't know what would have happened.  All I know is that I learned a lesson.  Looking back on that day and the choice I made, I learned to never give up an opportunity purely because you're scared.

     Change is scary.  Taking a risk is scary.  But sometimes, the risk is worth it in the end because the outcome will be so much more than you could have ever dreamed of.

     About a month ago, I took a risk.  I reached out to another writer I know who also runs a small publishing company and asked if they were accepting new submissions.  They weren't, but she still wanted to read my story.  A week later, she replied with, "I want this story."

     Now, a short story I wrote back in 2009 is being published in a short story anthology.  Now, I have my foot in the door.  Being published, even by a small company, is STILL BEING PUBLISHED!  This will get my name and my work out there and people will read it!  Does this scare me? Of course it does, because I know that not everyone out there will like me or my stories ... but everything you want in life is just one step outside of your comfort zone.  And I want this more than anything.

     So I'm taking a leap forward and seeing where I land.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

"Creating is terrifying. It's actually not, it's the sharing of the creation, or even *the thought* of sharing the creation that's terrifying."

I have been writing the Aubrey Nightingale Series (originally entitled 'The Grand Awakening', and before that, I believe it was called something along the lines of, "Get me the fuck out of this town before I kill someone with my magic" because I could not think of a name that did the story justice) for so long now, that I feel like it will never be finished.  If you aren't familiar with this story, I will give you the gist of where the idea came from and the process of where it has come to today.

It started in 2006, when I was living in the Southern Tier of New York state, the cesspool that is the tiny, dismal, depressing city of Binghamton.  I don't mean to offend anyone by saying that, but in all honesty, I don't think it's possible to offend anyone because everyone who lives there, has ever lived there or has even visited there, knows that it is nothing more than a pile of decrepit corpses with a mixture of snooty SUNY kids, most of which are from NYC, whose parents are too cheap to send them to a school in NYC.  (BU is actually a really hard school to get into. It is the SUNY equivalent of Harvard or Yale, but it doesn't change the fact that the majority of the students are still stuck up, arrogant, inconsiderate, butt-faced miscreants.)

I moved down there to be with my sons father and was able to finish my A.A.S. degree at BCC (Broome Community College), which wasn't that bad.  A lot of the professors there were adjuncts or fresh out of their Masters program and in the process of getting their PH.D., so they knew what we were dealing with.  (School is hard, even community college, believe it or not.)

The time I spent living there, I did not know anyone outside of my son's father's family.  I was quasi-friends with his cousins, who were our age, but it wasn't easy for me being so isolated.  Once we moved out of his parent house, things got a little easier as far as relationships went, but also got a little harder because I did not drive at the time.  I didn't have my own car and my ex's car was a stick shift, as was his parents.  He tried teaching me to drive it, but I'm going to be completely honest, have no patience for a manual transmission, and every time we'd get in the car and I'd attempt this frustrating  task of switching back and forth between the clutch and the shifter and gas and break and OMG TOO MANY PEDALS.  Even now, seven years later, I still sometimes hit the wrong pedal when I'm driving... (oops...)  Granted I just got my drivers license not even three months ago (March 4th).  I've always had anxiety issues with driving because there are just so many things you have to pay attention too and it was very overwhelming.  It's easier now that I've been doing it more often, but I'm not a pro yet.

So, we'd moved into our own apartment in August of '06, right before the semester started.  The only people I had were my son and his father.  I had no friends, I had no family, I was really isolated.  I remember one day, we'd gone to the store to get groceries and I was standing in the parking lot of Wegmans while he packed the groceries in the trunk, and I looked at the scenery around me, and realized we were surrounded by hills, to me they looked more like mountains because of how I was feeling at the time, and I just thought to myself "Holy shit, I really am trapped in the middle of a fucking valley, with no way out."  It was a moment of sheer panic and claustrophobia that I had never experienced before.

And that is how the Vale got it's name.

The character of Aubrey is partly based on myself (I, unfortunately, do not have real magical powers, BOO), and my time spent living in Binghamton; being "trapped in the Vale" became an inside joke with myself, and soon, the only friend I made down there, my Katie.

I met her at Mom's House; a free daycare for single women who are attending school full time.  It was a program run by a church, but did not overly push their religious beliefs on us (thank the stars because we all know I'm not religious), and the Mom's had to give 3 hours per week service time to help the program, duties that included making breakfast,lunch and snack, cleaning toys, bathrooms and playground equipment, paper work, etc.  It was a lucky break for me, because I had no idea how I was going to pay for daycare, and when I called them, they had one opening available in the room for his age group, and that was the same room Katie's daughter was also in.

We didn't really become friends until the second semester.  We both attended BCC and our "service time" at Mom's House was at the same time on Tuesday's and Thursdays.  I had come into a problem that semester;  my son's father needed the car to find a new job and I didn't have a way to get to Mom's House to do my service time, and since Katie had the same time as I did, I asked her if I could meet her at BCC and ride with her to Mom's house and I would chip in gas money.  Katie, being the nicest person alive, said sure no problem.

It was so nice because we became friends pretty fast.  She was a single mother and didn't have a lot of help so I offered to babysit her daughter anytime she needed, whether it be to study or go shopping or just to take a nap.  That was when our kids became best friends, and they still are to this day.

I told her about my isolation and about the Vale and Aubrey and everything came together in my head.  Slowly, I started writing the story.  The first draft was with paper and pen and it's probably the worst thing I've ever read in my life, looking back on it now.  I had no freaking idea what I was doing.  But it was so exciting and cathartic and healing.  Katie ended up moving into the same apartment complex as us, only a few buildings down the path and that was one of the best things that ever happened to me, having the only person I knew right down the block from me.

Katie became the light at the end of a very dark tunnel.

Not long after I graduated from BCC in May of 07', my son's father and I broke up.  He moved back in with his parents and I was stuck up on the hill, within walking distance to NO WHERE, except for a special needs school that was right across the street from the entrance to the complex, (which is where I got my first job only a month after graduating, only because I could walk there and didn't need a ride from anyone...) I fell into a deep depression.  My anxiety level rose through the roof because I couldn't afford to pay the rent by myself or any of the other bills.  And I had no one. I had no way of going anywhere, I started going grocery shopping with Katie, or asking my son's dad to take me to the store, which I hated having to do.  I had become so dependent on others, I didn't know how to survive on my own .

I ended up losing my job after only six months because it got so bad.  All I wanted to do was be with my kid because he was the only thing keeping me sane at the time.  And, of course, Katie.  I am not one to need a lot of friends, but I am one who needs a few close, trustworthy friends, who understand me, and she was the first person in my entire life who I felt completely understood me.

So much to the point where she inspired the character of Rhea Kenti, which you don't meet until the second book, BEYOND THE VALE, that I am still working to finish...

And here is where my problem comes in.

Writing is an absolutely terrifying experience, and it's not so much the writing part, but as Hank Green said so brilliantly in his YouTube video "We're All Scared", it's the sharing of that creation that scares us.

When you write a book, or poem, or short story, or song, or painting, or ANYTHING IDEA YOU HAVE, you are creating life.  You are, in a way, playing God.  You come up with these characters, these people, who to you are amazing and wonderful and you love them like your own children, but as soon as you share that life with another person, you give them the power to potentially rip your soul apart.  And GIVING SOMEONE ELSE THAT KIND OF POWER OVER YOU IS ABSOLUTELY TERRIFYING.  And it makes you completely vulnerable.

Now, I know that not everything you or I write or create is going to be horrible, but the anticipation of not knowing what they are thinking is just as bad as them telling you "Wow, this is the worst piece of garbage I've ever read."

Even though I am in love with Aubrey and Azra and Rhea and everything that makes up the world of Aubrey Nightingale, I also know that doesn't mean everybody else will be.  It doesn't mean anybody else will be.  And lately, I have been feeling so TERRIFIED of my story being rejected, that I haven't written anything.  Every time I open the document for BEYOND THE VALE, I re-read what I've already written, and edit almost everything, and rephrase it because I think it sounds stupid, even though I've read so many books that write a similar phrase just the way I did (not in a plagiarizing way, but somethings are just said a certain way in the American English language, in books, TV shows and normal everyday dialogue.)  I have to force myself to stop reading what I DON'T NEED TOO, and just scroll down to page 51 and finish where I left off... but the fear takes over me, and the self doubt is floating around in my head, and I have this overwhelming feeling that some invisible being is standing behind me, reading over my shoulder, telling me how much I suck at writing.

Watching Hank's, and a few other's, YouTube videos last night, all of which were about being scared of this, has REALLY helped me to see that, not only am I not the only one who feels this way, but that I need to find a way to get over the fear, and remember that everything I do in my life, I am taking a risk.  Getting in the car and driving to the store, I take the chance of getting into an accident.  I walk outside and take a chance at getting stung by a bee or hit by a bus or exposed to some random toxic chemical that was released into the air by a group of crazy terrorists and dying ...

{Anything could happen.  I'm not saying it's likely, but the possibility is always there.}

I don't want to live my life in fear anymore.  I've been doing it for so long; allowing the anxiety and societal pressure to be what they want me to be to take over my entire life, to the point where I can't even work like a normal person because real people scare the shit out of me.

"... Which is why talking to a stranger is always scary ... because when you talk to a new person, you are making you inside of them, and you don't want to do a bad job!  And that's why we all fear judgment so much, because judgment is just someone creating you inside of their head without your permission, without full knowledge of who you are, they're making you, but they're making you improperly. It's terrifying." (Hank Green)

It works the same with that we create.  Because everything inside your head is only 100% when it's inside your head.  When you give it to another person, they can change it and twist it and form it into how they perceive it from their point of view, and I want to make sure people really see what I'm creating.  I want people to understand that there is a point and a purpose to what I write...  Now, I don't want to tell you what to think, please don't get me wrong, that's a terrible and very wrong thing for anyone to do.  I just want to make sure that I'm doing a good job of creating myself, and my characters, properly.

I apologize for the length of this post. I really needed to get all of this out, and sometimes a lot of word vomit is the only way to do it.  Thank you for reading.

"Don't Forget To Be Awesome." ~The Green Brothers   ;-)

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Four (Five, really) Agreements.“Humans hardly know what they want, how they want it, or when they want it.”

Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering. (“Whatever happens around you, don't take it personally... Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves.” )

Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are tired as opposed to well rested. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.

Don’t believe yourself or anybody else. Use the power of doubt to question everything you hear: Is it really the truth? Listen to the intent behind the words, and you will understand the real message.  (“I will no longer allow anyone to manipulate my mind and control my life in the name of love.”)

~ Miguel Ángel Ruiz