S is for Story, My Story

Chances are, if you’ve wondered around my page at all, you’ve seen my bio on my About page. You may have also read about my Year on the Road, and how much it influenced me as a person. But today, I’m going to go way back, and add a bunch more to the beginnings mentioned in my bio.

Today is S, for My Story.

I was born in a deep, swampy suburb of New Orleans, across Lake Pontchartrain, the fifth child and first daughter of my biological mother. My father was the creative in the house, with a unique, ‘old-world’ view on how art should be, and because of it, there was meaning in everything––from the clothes we wore, to the things on the wall, the books on the shelves.

I grew up in a home with high, cathedral windows that overlooked an old-growth pine forest, next to a golden river bordered in by white sand banks and magnolia trees. Thunder storms ravaged the property at least once a year, striking old timber dead and uprooting mammoths, until they would collapse with cracks in the night––only to become jungle gyms in the morning. I think I am one of the few people in the U.S. who can fully claim to have swung from three-inch thick vines on trees like Tarzan, hollering before a plummet into a deep umber pool of river water. Shoes were a hindrance to my dress code.

When I was three, the woman who birthed me and my father grew distant and separate––and his new love, my mother-in-heart, had my baby sister. A year later, my baby brother. Then, my youngest. In this way, I have became the middle child of eight children, though I’ve never met my oldest brother, and the second in line died of a brain tumor when I was only six or seven. So, really, in my head, it’s always been six. Four, on days where I prefer to not think of harder times.

We were the tribe, the country mice, my sister and younger brothers and I, and we ruled the forest. Lego parties of pirates and castles, explorers and astronauts were built up from single bricks every day in our outdoor screen room. My favorite memory of the place was finding a hummingbird inside the room one day.

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Have you ever held a hummingbird? It was so small, so frail, glistening in emerald and ruby as its small chest thrummed against the pad of my fingers. A little pink tongue, like a lily’s stamen, licked at my hand as it got over its shock. And then the birdly-bee took off, and you could say I’ve been obsessed with animals ever since. I’ve held wild bats, snakes, turtles, perch, and songbirds in my hands, and owned a wide spectrum of pets, as well.

But our lives in Louisiana were not meant to last, like the flicker of a candle on its last vestiges of wick, and eventually, the magic of the forest faded to the mundanity of small town existence. It wasn’t enough. Not for any of us. And so we packed up our things, through a few I Ching coins, and decided California was our next destination. This portion of the story I’ve already covered in my Year on the Road, but something else happened in California that altered, and continues to alter, my life profoundly. I met N J.

In one more month, we will have been together for five years. I’ve also mentioned how we met in another post, so I’ll keep it short here. Against remarkable odds, I met my Canadian girlfriend online, on a fiction site where basically everyone pretended to be men, because we were teenagers, and OMG, web predators are everywhere! (Not really, but that was what was on the news all the time back then.)

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Against all odds of crossing paths, we did, and it changed both of us in irrevocable ways––meeting N J was the first step towards leaving America, for me. Coming to Japan. Living in the heart of Kyoto. We are as close now as we were when I first started staying up until 4 a.m. to get one more line of text in before bedtime ten years ago. It is hard to know one of us without knowing the other. We are always together, and we love it that way. We work together, read the same books, write in the same genres. We write together, even. It is a wonderful existence and not one I am ever going to get tired of. She’s my rock, my light, my inspiration, and everything that makes me happy all balled up into one super intelligent, witty, and (admittedly) weird ball of kick-ass woman.

So, yeah… a bit mushy. But, that’s part of how I got to Japan, and how I’m still here. My story isn’t over yet. I’m only twenty eight years old––and I’ve got a million other things that I want to be able to add to my stories when I’m old and too brittle to write or read anymore, but so far?

Yeah, it’s been a great ride.

What’s your story? Share your links! I don’t mind!

Tomorrow: T is for Tapestry!

A is for Author

I think I have wanted to author books since about the time I learned how to communicate with people. Besides for the epics I constructed with an imaginary wolf pack that lived in the woods around my house (they eventually left me for the colder north, where there would be more meat and snow), from a very young age, I collaborated with my siblings to have ongoing story arcs involving our Lego adventurers (who time-traveled in an ever-changing RV, complete with rocket ship) and Safari Ltd. animals (Spinosaurus had a star-crossed love affair with Hammerhead that was never meant to be).

What really put me in the “chair”, so to speak, though, was when my father put a Macintosh SE in our playroom. The computer was such an endless fascination to me, and between the only two options of either SimpleText or Chess (which I always lost), SimpleText became my window to a whole new world. I was around six or seven then, I suppose.

It turns out that the very first stories I ever created in my life, my parents kept carefully boxed away in storage, so basically twenty years later, I can actually share them with you here.

First up is my story about a “horse” (read: fire pegacorn) that gets captured. I think I wrote this while I was in the conference room of my dad’s workplace. He used to take me when there wasn’t a babysitter around, so I’d just have a bunch of thin paper and some coloring utensils around. I was probably around six.

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“The horse. It helps people.”
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Why Little Me thought rabbits lived in trees, I will never know. Probably came from one of those David the Gnome‘s episodes.
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Early Influences: Watership Down. Keep this in mind for later.
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Easter Egg Detected! The swan was drawn from a pastry my mom used to buy once a week when we were good, from a fabulous French bakery called Zoe’s.
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“People have got the horses.” Dinosaurs and pegacorns being stolen for human amusement! Smells suspiciously like The Last Unicorn
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“The horse is now in a parade.” Animals being forced to perform cheap tricks? I have a feeling Dumbo may have scarred me a little…
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I’d be too, if I were being forced to live as a living fountain ornament.
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No words needed. Black Beauty made me cringe every time I thought of a bit in a horse’s mouth.
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Watership Down‘s most terrifying experience was definitely the wire snare that Bigwig got stuck in. I probably watched that movie too much (I now have a tendency to kill my favorite characters in the most violent way possible).
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But, somehow, happy ending! Yay! Pegacorn turned into a real horse?
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Silly dinosaur, cards are for people.

The second story was written on the SE, with two of my siblings as a collaborative effort. I’m guessing this was when I was seven or so.

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Like a typical 80s child, I was overly impressed by clip art.
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Note to future Alex: If your story only has one chapter, it is not a chapter at all. Also, learn to follow through with your plots. Sheesh.
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Note: Sabertooth and Mountain Lion are the same toy, a female African lion that changed species depending on the time period we were setting the story in. Clearly I didn’t know how to keep things consistent. Also, I still own these toys (and play with them every week with my students).

And the final story I’ll be sharing here is Zebord and Drake, a story that, I think, best shows the sort of writer I would later mature into. I even tried to make a faux cover by gluing my illustration to a cardboard sheet. Covers are important, yo!

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Cover: Heavily influenced by 90s Lego horse armor.
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This one even got a title page!
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Holy smokes, Batman! Exclamations!
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Admittedly, I still enjoy sweet-sounding chapter titles that have nothing to do with the content of said-chapter…
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You go Zebord. I was rooting for you from the beginning! Villains rock! ….but seriously, what was in your golden basket? (Actually, I still remember. It was his heart.)

And so ends my first post for A-Z! Check back tomorrow, for a much shorter post to make up for this very long one today.

Tomorrow: B is for Books!