writing

The Mourning Song

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This is a fictional essay inspired by current events. If you are concerned about my mental state, I promise I am doing well. Inspiration strikes in weird ways, and I felt I needed to write this.

TRIGGER WARNING: This essay mentions depression and suicide. If these things have negative impacts on your mental state, please do not continue reading.

The Mourning Song 

© Joana F. Simoes 2017

In Honor and in memory of all those that gave us something to hold onto in our darkest moments, but could no longer fight for themselves. We miss you.

 

 It is not poetic this morning that the rain is coming down harder than it has all year. It is not romantic or cozy today that even with all the windows wide open, the clouds and the pouring rain aren’t allowing much light to shine through. I imagine this is what my head looks like right now. I want to let all the light and brightness to come in, but something just does not allow it. I would turn to my favorite singer’s voice and lyrics, but it’s too hard.

Last night as I scrolled through my phone, as one does to pass the time these days, I started to see little trickles of news that were less than appealing to me. Also not exactly a shocker at the moment, but it was something harder to believe. This had to be some kind of hoax. He could not be dead. As time passed it was harder to ignore. News agencies all around the world were reporting it now. He died. My heart turned to stone and instantly dropped out of my body.

People take a lot away from teens, and their emotions. They chalk it up to hormones, and body changes, but for some it’s deeper than that and their feelings still go ignored. This is why as a teen I turned to his music. His voice, his melodies, and his powerful words were the stable ground I had to walk on when everything else seemed to be crumbling underneath my feet. As an adult it was still a coping mechanism and the most powerful tool I had in my arsenal.

He died, because he lost his fight with depression. I don’t like to say he committed suicide. The only thing he committed was a life of putting forth strong and powerful music that somehow saved so many lives without him realizing it. The battle with depression is a hard and treacherous one. It deceives even the most pure souls into believing they have nothing left to give to this world. It will make a great day turn to dust in a split second, and you cannot reason with it, you cannot negotiate with it.

I am having a hard time this morning. I am ignoring my medication, which I should never do. I am ignoring all the things I have learned from my therapist about what I should be doing to get myself out of bed and into the day. He has left this big black hole in my soul, and I don’t know how to fill it. Am I worthy to be here if he was not? How many people in the world are feeling the exact same way?

People have been writing online that mourning a rockstar’s death when there are other important things happening in the world is a waste of time. I don’t accept that at all. If people knew or felt a quarter of what some of us feel when we hear a certain song or watch a movie that makes us laugh deeper than we have laughed in ages, they would get it. They would understand that not only do these people deserve to be mourned; they deserve respect, our love, and attention.

That was the moment that it hit me. Maybe he would no longer create music that could bring meaning to my dark days, but all the music he’s already created will always be a part of me. I am doing myself and his memory a disservice by ignoring all the steps forward I have taken, that his music had helped me make in the past.

I get up take my medicine. Give my depression the care and love that any other illness requires and demands.

I put on one of his records and let the words and music roll over me, blanket me in comfort. This is a song like no other, but today it is the mourning song.

 

 

writing

4am Anxiety

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It’s hard to put into words what it feels like when I can’t get my mind to just quiet down. To pace around our apartment at 3am like the ghost of Christmas past.

I move from the bed, to the desk chair, to the couch, and back to the bed. On heavy rotation, and more like a broken record I can’t seem to throw away. I close my eyes and the visions behind them play over and over like a silent film. Visions of things I have done or said long ago or things I have yet to do or say.

My eyes fly open and I decide I need some water. I drink and think that maybe it’s better if I just stay awake. If I am awake I am prepared for whatever the world has to throw at me. Asleep I’m vulnerable.

Then come the tears. I cry for no reason at all and sometimes for a million reasons all at the same time. It’s exhausting and exhilarating, it’s depressing and motivating. It’s something different every time.

My body is tired of course. My brain is well aware that I need sleep, but it’s too aware of everything else that I struggle with on a daily basis. I could list things that bother me. Things that trigger me to panic but some days that list will be empty and I will still feel it all building up deep within my bones. It’s a messed up spidey sense I never asked for.

I over think and underestimate just how much I can do. Some days I do nothing. I sleep and think and then sleep some more because it’s the only way I can keep the thoughts silenced.

I can conquer the world one day and barely lift a finger the next.

People don’t understand and people judge what they don’t understand.

Anxiety is not just a little feeling in the pit of your stomach. Depression is not just feeling sad.

It’s all consuming and tremendously frustrating. Your mind is a tangled mess and you spend all day trying to untangle it and you spend all night trying to think of why the tangles happen in the first place.

I write this as the clock strikes 4:00am and I can’t sleep because I wonder will the new day bring me more to worry about or will I be able to function properly?

And that generally sums up these feelings. I worry about worrying and it’s never ending.

But never say never.

Geek Stuff, life, Uncategorized

Goals for 2017

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Most people have been busy making new years resolutions, but this isn’t about that. There are things I have been working on in the past few months that I want to continue. There are things I want to better and things I just want to move past. I think as humans we can choose to make a change at any point during the year, but there’s something about a new year that feels like life is handing us a clean slate.

Reading Goals

In 2016 I read a total of 102 books. It’s a nice number. My goal was to read 100 and I surpassed it by 2. It’s fine for me. This year I have a similar goal, and while I marked my goodreads reading challenge at 100 books once again, I am aiming towards 80-100. I keep the goodreads goal because it keeps track of other statistics, not because I want to read more than someone else. Reading has always been a passion for me, and I am not here to compete with anyone. Also I want to read different genres than what I typically read–my main love is fantasy novels. I also want to read more diversely. Two of my favorite books of 2016 The Hate U Give and American Street(which will release next month) are diverse and wonderful reads, so I want to continue on that path. I also want to read more history and nonfiction novels this year.

Writing Goals

I am still revising and adding to my first manuscript. I am okay with that. I don’t want to write crap into my second draft just to say I am writing. I am constantly making notes of what I want to add, and this year I want to officially finish it, and begin to seriously shop it around. I also have a short story contest I am entering, and I am prepared to do some wonderful research for my second book. Writing for me is a long term goal, something I want to spend my life doing, and as such I want to put in a lot more hours into it. I want my stories out there, not for fame, but because I think there are plenty of others who may actually connect with them.

Life Goals

There is a lesson I have learned through the years that not everyone is going to like you. You can be as sweet as a summer’s peach and someone will still try to find some kind of flaw within you. As such, I will continue to speak my mind whether people find it endearing or find that I am a massive bitch makes no difference to me. I was raised to speak up when I find that something is wrong, and how people take it and react to it says more about them than it does about me. I don’t need to be loved by all. I know very well who matters in my life.

2016 marked the year I broke down and got the real help I needed for my mental health. It has been making a world of difference in my life, and I will continue on this journey to bettering myself. Mental Illness is not a joke, a punch line, or something to be ashamed about. If you are struggling, take care of yourself properly. As frustrating as it may seem at times, good mental health requires medication many times, and THAT IS OKAY! It also requires a push from within, and sometimes that’s the hardest part to find. Just do it for yourself, and you will see a world of difference.

Work wise, I want to find a place that respects me and gives me a real chance to prove myself. The most frustrating thing in the world is knowing you can work well at something and not being given a chance to show it. I have plans…and I will see them through this year.

I hope 2017 brings all of you love, health, and some hope. I feel like we all need a little dose of hope after 2016. Put family and friends first. One day you will regret it if you push everyone aside. Life is short and should be spent giving love an comfort, Not Hate.

Hugs and Peace for all.

Books, writing

Why I Write

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I don’t think I need to tell you that books mean the world to me. This is an obvious fact about me, and doesn’t need much of an explanation.

My love for reading very quickly bred a love of writing. I always enjoyed writing. I wrote ridiculous amounts of poetry as a teen and young adult that should never be published unless it’s going to be done in a comedic sense. Writing though, is not about perfection. Books on every level are a very subjective form of art. There are so many popular titles out in the world that I just did not enjoy. Just like there are many that I love, that others dislike as well. To be a writer you must first realize that not everyone is going to love your work, and the second thing to realize is that there will always be someone better than you. Seems daunting doesn’t it? It’s okay. We are all in this together. While these things may turn many people off from ever writing a single word of a story, it makes me want to tell my stories even more. So Why do I write?

To be a writer you must only do ONE thing, and that is to write. YOU HAVE TO WRITE. I consider myself a writer. I have spent countless hours writing thousands upon thousands of words. I am in the process of editing one book, while also throwing myself head first into research for another one. I have ideas written on notecards, notebooks, iPhone notes, and even a sandwich bag because my mind is constantly telling me stories. No this is not my way of admitting that I am crazy, although, I think to be a writer you need to have at least some dose of insanity somewhere within you.

What Inspires me?

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I get asked this sometimes by friends or family. I think what originally inspired me was stories like Harry Potter. That series specifically burst open my imagination. The detailing, and just unique story made me realize I had characters and stories of my own running around in my head. Characters with loud personalities matching those of the people who I have crossed paths with. Characters with personalities matching my own. Quiet, shy, and ready to kick ass if necessary.

I have always had notebooks scattered about the house. Piles of them telling different stories of my own reality. It was only in the past 5-6 years that I realized that I wanted to write about the other characters my imagination decided to introduce into my daily life.

Possibly the biggest inspiration behind my writing, really the biggest of them all is Portugal. I was born there you see. In a beautiful city called Viseu, where at the age of 30 I have only set foot on its streets a handful of times. rua-direitaI was raised so far away from it, far from it’s cobble stoned sidewalks, it’s gorgeous parks, and beautiful architecture, that for most of my adult life I’ve had a hunger–no, an unstoppable desire to become better acquainted with a land that I barely know, and yet love unconditionally.

A place where family has grown, aged, and lived without me within their immediate bubble. I am inspired to create worlds around that longing, and the history of Portugal. I can’t explain it any further here. One day, with a little bit of luck and a whole lot of hard work, I will be able to share the stories this feeling has inspired.

Till then, I leave you with these words:

Telling a story isn’t about perfection. It’s about expression, emotion, and that feeling that you’re making something bigger than yourself.
I write almost every day. None of it perfect. Never let that stop you because it will never stop me.
 
Uncategorized

Writing Update

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Many people know this about me, but some may not. For a long time I wanted to be a writer. I have always been an avid reader, devouring book after book to keep my imagination running, and kept thinking to myself “I can do this too.” I wrote in journals and I have a huge folder filled with angsty poetry from my teen years.(That should be locked in a vault somewhere to be honest) It wasn’t until last year that I started writing my first book.

What many people don’t tell you about heading down this path, is the ridiculous amount of self doubt and insecurities you will begin to feel. On top of that there are going to be other people who will doubt you and be complete assholes about it. When you tell someone “Yes, I am writing a book.” Not many people will take you seriously. I can see it in people’s eyes where they say in that fake ass sing song voice “That’s nice.”

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SIDE EYE 

Well I decided that this was something I wanted to do, and so I did. I had notes everywhere, and one evening I just sat down and started typing. It was so freeing to finally get those ideas, characters, and words down. Entire scenes popped up in my head at all hours of the day, I was so excited to be writing this story. It took me a few months to get 50,000 words down. May not sound like a lot for most writers, but for me it felt great. Suddenly though I was hit with an overwhelming amount of self doubt. It was crippling. My head was filled with thoughts like “What if NO ONE reads this?!”, “What if this is shit?!”, and “What if people hate it?!”

My mind became so wrapped up in those thoughts that at some point, I left my book hanging. It was like this fat ghost just hanging over my head throwing things and trying to get my attention. Then I realized that I spent so much time thinking those horribly negative thoughts that I didn’t stop to think “Well what if people think it’s funny?” or “What if people love it?”

The truth is not everyone is going to love what you do. Even the most popular writers have random strangers on the internet telling them they’re shit. That is why I am here to tell you that it really doesn’t matter what they think. If writing makes you happy, then do it. I took that message from Jenna Moreci.

So I am reworking some scenes, and actually rewrote the entire first chapter of my book. The excitement is back, and I moved my word count up to 56,000 words and I plan to bring it up even more. Mind you this isn’t the only story in my head. I am currently made up of so many fictional characters waiting for their chance to get placed down on a page, and I am looking forward to doing just that.

Remember, it’s okay to dream, and it’s okay to work hard to make those dreams a reality, no matter what people fucking think. THIS IS YOUR LIFE! Do what you love!!

I really hope to share my book with you one day. Till then you can read these two parts of a short story series I started and didn’t continue because of that asshole self doubt! I think I will try to continue this one again as well. GET SHIT DONE JOANA!!

Part One

Part Two

Books

Harry Potter and the Portuguese Influence

There’s a certain kind of feeling that comes from reading Harry Potter, especially if you have been a fan for a long time and are jumping back into the world of Magic and Hogwarts. When you read that first line, in the very first book, there’s this wonderful sense of peace and joy that comes over you. Almost like you drank a little elixir you brewed up in Potions class. When the final book in the series was released, Potterheads the world over, thought that was the end and we cried for all the characters we’d miss, and the world that we loved. But suddenly, there’s MORE to the story, and So many of us are just sitting here impatiently waiting. Personally I am a little upset that I live in Germany, and ALL SHOPS ARE CLOSED ON SUNDAYS, so I have to wait until Monday to grab my copy of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Yes I am well aware that this is meant to be seen more than read, but I cannot make it to London anytime soon, so reading the script is the best I can do. On this wonderful weekend of Magic, I thought I would write about the rumored influence that my beautiful country Portugal had on Ms.Rowling very early in her writing process about a magical boy, who was about to change the world.

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Lello Bookstore in Porto & Harry Potter

Back in June when I went to visit my family in Portugal, my brother asked me if I would like to visit Porto and more importantly visit Livraria Lello, which is the beautiful bookstore that first opened its doors in 1906. I automatically said, “FUCK YEA!!!” because I am a booknerd and child at heart first, but a sailor when speaking. When we arrived there, we were first making sure we were in the right location for this wonderful shop, and unfortunately the outside of it was covered in scaffolding and a tarp as they were doing some renovating and restoration to the front of the shop. Possibly in preparation for the fact that Levraria Lello is the Official site for the International Release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. The shop ordered more than 5,000 copies of the book, and from the looks of their Facebook page, people are already lined up outside the shop ready for all the magical festivities they have in store for the midnight release. They say the shop itself heavily inspired Rowling. When I walked in for the first time, my breath literally caught in my throat and my heart rate sped up. It is just THAT beautiful. The red staircase, the shelves, and just the atmosphere of the entire shop. It would be hard to walk into that place as a writer and not feel some form of inspiration.

 

J.K. Rowling lived and taught English in Porto between 1991 and 1993. It is said that it was at one of the tables in a cafe in Porto that Rowling wrote a very early draft of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. In fact, I found a quote where she supposedly states: “In those first weeks in Portugal, I wrote what has become my favorite chapter in The Philosopher’s Stone, ‘The Mirror of Erised’ — and had hoped that, when I returned from Portugal, I would have a finished book under my arm. In fact, I had something even better: my daughter, Jessica.” I could no longer find the source of this quote, so I am not sure how accurate and true it is, though the timing of when she began plotting the stories and writing sort of fits. The bookstore had to have some kind of influence on her, but I would say the entire city of Porto would be a great influence to anyone who visits the city.

Other Possible Portuguese Influences on Harry Potter

One that comes to mind instantly is where the name for Salazar Slytherin comes from. Here I am just playing some guessing games, but it’s a possibility that there was some influence that stems from Portuguese history. Quick little history lesson here: Antonio de Oliveira Salazar was the Prime minister of Portugal from 1932 until 1968. He started what was called the Estado Novo (New State) which was essentially an authoritarian form of government. There was heavy censorship and even a secret police to quiet down the opposition to the government. This form of government was in power until 1974. It is likely though not proven that Salazar Slytherin’s name was influenced by this less than likable figure of Portuguese History.

Another thing that might be of interest are the cloaks and outfits that the students of Hogwarts wear, could have been influenced by the outfits that the University of Porto students wear. They have traditional outfits that are made of black cloaks and once again while there is no sure fire proof that this was the inspiration, it can be seen in the photo I found below that these could be Hogwarts students.

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There is a chance I am reaching for details and influences, but I write my own stories and living in Germany I have been heavily influenced by architecture and history here as well. I would go as far as saying that it would be impossible to live in a city as beautiful and as rich in history as Porto, Portugal and not have it influence your writing. This was just fun to research and look into on the eve of a the long awaited release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Cheers, Happy Birthday, and Congrats on the Magic you have let loose upon the world J.K. Rowling.

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Books, Fandom

Defending Snape

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The Harry Potter Fandom, is a massive one, that knows no boundaries. People from all over the world and of varying ages love this series, and will defend it like their lives depend on it. I for one, am one of those fans. I find when people call Harry Potter childish, that they have never cracked open any of the books, and have never really paid attention to the underlying themes of the story. But that is another rant for another day. I am here to write about Severus Snape. One of fictions most loved and also hated characters of all time. Before you head to the comments section to tell me how wrong I am for defending a bully, I would ask that you read my entry till the end, and then comment. Also please NOTE: If you haven’t read the books, you may not want to continue on. If you have only seen the movies, you will NOT be able to understand Snape as a character. The books contain a lot more details.

You are right, Snape, is a bully. Through out the series he holds a grudge like a petulant child. He not only bullies Harry because of that bitter grudge that he holds for the child’s deceased father, but he treats every student like trash.

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He is arrogant, condescending, and mean spirited. Really he’s all the things he projects on to Harry. The thing is, I am defending Snape as a fictional character. I defend Snape, and how J.K. Rowling chose to write him. He’s severely complex, and as I’ve grown up, he has taken hold as one of my favorite characters of all time. While he has all of the shit qualities you wouldn’t want in an enemy let alone a friend, he was the ONLY one that was able to truly fool Voldemort until his very last breath. The entire series really hangs on the fact that Snape was able to play his role of death eater so convincingly well. When someone gets angry that people defend Snape, they usually bring up the bullying, and they bring up the fact that it was he who made Remus Lupin’s life a little bit more miserable by letting out his secret that Lupin was a werewolf. But it was ALSO Snape, on the night they moved Harry in the last book, that threw a curse at A death eater’s wand arm, a wand arm aiming a curse at Lupin. Sadly, it missed the death eater and hit George’s ear instead, but still he tried to Save Lupin.

I write this as an example because it shows the complexities of the character. I love how deeply and unapologetically flawed he was written. Rowling knew what she was doing. That is where my defense truly lives. I defend the way Rowling chose to make Snape, I defend her choice in having Harry name his child after Snape, I defend every single detail she wrote about this character. When the deathly hallows was released, I was having a crisis about whether or not I believed Snape to be a bad guy or not, and that is where the brilliance truly lies. She created this image of Snape: the bully, the asshole, the coward, and then created the other side where he was brave, selfless, and a fighter. Tearing the fandom straight down the middle.

You know if he were someone I had to deal with as a student, yea, I would hate his guts. As a reader and a writer, I think he’s brilliant. I will always defend Snape. I understand that character, and gain an even better understanding each time I decide to read through the entire series again.

So you may not agree with me, but I am never apologizing for my views. J.K. Rowling is my absolute favorite writer. She’s created some of the greatest fictional characters I have ever seen, and Snape is absolutely on that list of characters.

SnapeHaters