On Querying, Revision, and Writing

Ever since Beth Phelan’s #DVPit pitching event on Twitter in April, I’ve had a lot of interest for my Firebird retelling (remember that thing I started when I was 20 then took off my blog because I got writer’s block?), and have gotten so much great feedback from a few dozen agents on what worked and what didn’t with that novel.  I’ve gotten several full requests and a lot of partials, and based on collective responses am revising it to be an adult fantasy novel in hopes an agent will love it enough to take it on.

I faced a lot of rejection with my first novel (apparently romances where Samael is the character don’t fare very well) and the full request I got on it offered no feedback, which crushed me when I was but a baby novelist (Oh 21 year olds don’t open with a dream sequence and craptastic writing).  I just got another full request (after two years of heavy revising) for it from a publisher I love so we’ll see if that works out.  If not I’m happy to shelve it as something I wrote and was a good learning experience.  I’ll still finish the trilogy though for friends because I’ve been writing the same damn story since I was 12.

I feel the same way about Firebird.  I’m hoping beyond hope my revisions work out but if they don’t, that will be okay.  I still have my MG Darn Precious Messiah story and my Bowie space rock opera, which I think are my best works yet.  DPM is very dear to my heart – the oldest work I’ve continuously worked on, as I started it at 18 on a whim because I wanted to write a story about Raphael – and I’m 1/4th of the way done with a goal of 40,000 words.  Growing up, I loved Zora Neale Hurston’s stories about the South (her short stories, Their Eyes Were Watching God, and Of Mules and Men) and resonated with Marie Laveau’s epic life and the way she balanced leading New Orlean’s Voodoo community and being a political leader.  Both were strong women that wouldn’t take no for an answer and I’m trying to capture that in May’s character.  I’m planning to go to New Orleans in January to research my novel some more and have been doing a lot of reading on the lwa.

As for Space Oddity, I’m planning on finishing that after DPM.  I’ll post more of it on my blog soon just because I think it is one of my strongest works and I think my readers would enjoy it.  Who doesn’t like Bowie cover bands in space?  I really love Laura and don’t really know where she came from, and I’m still not quite sure what a crust punk is.  Did I mention I use Wikipedia for all my novels?

Anyways, so if Firebird doesn’t take flight (sorry for the pun), all is not lost.  I have to keep telling myself that.  As someone with severe manic depression, severe anxiety, and intrusive thoughts caused by OCD, querying and rejections can be a nightmare.  I’m the kind of girl who cries at cat food commercials so when I got my first full rejection two years ago I was devastated!  But I wouldn’t want an agent who doesn’t love my characters and stories just as much as I do.

Publishing takes work.  I’ve been writing stories since the first grade.  I was a shit writer at 18.  I was a shit writer at 21.  I’m less of a shit writer at 23 (I hope!) and I’m sure by the time I’m thirty and ancient I’ll be less shitty.  At least I won’t open my manuscripts with dream sequences.  Throughout my life, the constant star on my horizon has been the dreams of being an author.  I would stay up past midnight scribbling in my notebooks, ink on my fingers and face, write my novels in Calculus and draw demons with six packs on my homework.  Somehow I still aced the AP exam even though I didn’t do my homework, was constantly revising, and sat at the back with my best bud the drug dealer?

If I’ve learned anything, writing takes persistence.  Writing takes perseverance.  Writing takes patience.  Everyone has the potential to be a great writer if that is their dream.  They just have to try.   I’m still finding my voice and finding my way, but I know someday, I’ll get there!

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Asilos Magdalena

A very personal semi-autobiographical piece about my time in a mental ward and my struggles with bipolar disorder.  I think it’s very important to share mental health stories and end stigma.   Names changed for privacy.

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The bathroom lights buzzed.  He spoke in flickering words:

God’s love is a burning thing.

 

The ward was cracked linoleum, antiseptic stench, peeling paint on cinderblock walls.  I arrived in the dead of the night, strapped to a gurney with sedatives pumped through my loop-de-loop veins.

The nurses had shot me up with two drugs.  The first made me see people’s sins, with forked tongues and brimstone eyes.  The second turned the hospital into a comedy show, complete with a laugh track, like I was the Lucille Ball of the fucknuts.

I shared a room with a woman from the streets who pissed with the door wide open, her hospital gown stained with urine.  She gaped her broken-tooth smile and went on about how her man had dumped her in the gutter for dead.  All I could do was sit on my thin bed and reel as the drugs wore off.

I started picking at my skin, waiting for dawn, when the orderlies would wake us up and lead us to breakfast like lemmings off a cliff.  My flesh flaked in bits because winter around here is dry as fuck.  By the time the sun rose, my knuckles were bleeding.  The holes on my hands were stigmata.

I thought of them growing, growling, like the cuts on the girl with cheesecloth-bandaged wounds, three red slashes on her left wrist, two on her right.  She picked at the scabby crusts and they fell into her cornflakes.  She ate her cereal dried blood and all.

I turned my spoon through oatmeal as my feet froze.  We weren’t allowed to have shoes because of some bullshit about laces being dangerous – just these oversized socks that they handed out like Halloween candy.  Sad?  Have a sock.  The Gestapo’s after you?  Have a sock.  Stuff your delusions with socks and choke the bastards dead.

The girl next to me had on two pairs.  She was rail-thin, Middle Eastern, with fuzz over her legs.

She asked me what I was in for, and I told her about the beast in the walls.  How I’d had to burn my room to kill him.  Only when the flames started licking the paint, the beast wasn’t in the wood, he was in my head.  My mom caught me throwing buckets of water onto the fire, trying to put it out.

What the hell, mom had said.  Maggie, you dumb fuck.  Like shit did I raise you to set fire to your room.

Mom extinguished the fire and then slapped me, hard – I still had a bruise-blossom, ripe as a plum.  She dragged me to the living room crying, not again, not again, then called dad. Dad cursed at me through the phone.  My parents were always helpful.

I felt hollow, like a banana peel, one of those rotting ones you see on the sidewalk, with bits of gum on its spots.  I went to the bathroom and put my hands under burning water until my skin itched, itched with the beast inside.  I tried to get him out.  But he leapt into the lights, and the lights spoke with his voice – See what pain you cause, Maggie?  You’re better off dead.

Mom caught me trying to throw myself out the window.  She hauled me screaming to the van and drove to the emergency room.  So that’s why I’m here.  Because there’s a scaly, black beast inside me: shit like me attracts shit like him.

The girl nodded, compassion in her eyes.  We were in the waiting room, inside the walled-off smoking section.  She lit up and took a drag.  I coughed, unused to smoke.  The homeless woman I roomed with begged for a cig, and my acquaintance obliged.

My name’s Noor, the Middle Eastern girl said, and I’ve been here two months.  I was depressed, and my dad didn’t want to deal with me – he’s an ambassador, see?  Real busy – so he shipped me off here.  He visits on the weekends and brings McDonald’s, so it’s not too bad, and I’ve got books to pass the time.  I see a lot of people come and go.  I don’t think you’ll be here long.

Noor reached into her purse and pulled out a beaten paperback.  She smiled like a rose in a winter garden and handed it to me.  Keep this, she said.  It will help.

What is it?

The Secret Life of Bees.

I imagined bee’s hidden lives.  Their flower dances.  Honey stored in darkness.

Can I have another smoke? my roommate said.

Noor handed her one.

Group session started.  We sat in a circle, overmedicated zombies, and talked about our feelings, but mostly, our lack of them.  The bipolar kid with facial tics from too much Lithium said he’d had a good week.  The slit wrist girl said nothing, just licked the blood from her wounds.  The schizophrenic talked about how reptilians, whatever they were, were pulling the strings.  I asked if he meant guitar strings or shoelaces, or the strings you pick loose from elastic, and he said shut up, that the reptilians were real, and we were all their pawns.

I said screw that, people are people, and you can’t blame their fuckups on mind control.  The guidance counselor told me to be quiet so I zipped it.

When it was my turn, I talked about the beast.  His eyes like glaciers.  His hair like a rope set to strangle.  I told everyone how he came to me in dreams, then if I was unlucky, when I was awake.  He said he was death and holy fire, and that he wanted me, wanted me badly, so badly he’d rather I take my life to be with him than live a moment more.  I didn’t realize I was shaking until Noor put her hand on my shoulder.

I haven’t slept in three days, I said.  The doctors say it’s mania, that my mind’s racing, but even if I could sleep, I wouldn’t, because I know he’ll be there, waiting.

What would you say to the beast if he were here now? the counselor said in her honey voice, trying to be soothing, but coming off like Splenda – so sweet it was sickening.

He’s here in my shadow, I said.  He follows me everywhere, even if I can’t see him.  He’s sleeping now, but if he were awake, I would ask him why.  Why me.

Why what? the counselor repeated.

Why do you make my life hell.

I met with my psychiatrist next.  He upped my Depakote dosage and put me on something new – Abilify – to stabilize my mood.  I’m sorry this happened, Maggie, he kept saying.  I’m sure you’ll feel better soon.

That afternoon was art.  They always gave us activities on the ward, to keep us busy or something.  Can’t have the loonies running around trying to attack the nurses.  I sat next to a man that looked like a skinhead, complete with neck tattoos.  He painted these gorgeous cherry blossoms in some kind of Japanese style.

Those are beautiful, I said, in the middle of gluing a button onto a mask.

The skinhead smiled.  Thanks.  I learned it from my master at the monastery.

Monastery?

He nodded.  I’m Buddhist, he explained.  I teach meditation at the gym.  I don’t look peaceful now – I’m just getting off crack – but when I’m stable, I cultivate serenity.  Build an inner temple of the mind, like my master says.

That’s great.

His smile was dreamlike.  I’m becoming a monk after I get out of here.  Hey, you should meditate with me.  A whole group of us does it – Noor too.

I’d like that.

I tried to read The Secret Life of Bees later.  I couldn’t get past the third page.  My mind was racing, racing, like a gerbil in a wheel, going nowhere, trying to keep its shadow at bay.

I brushed my teeth for thirty minutes after dinner, staring into the mirror, looking at my pores.  I thought of college, how there was no way in hell I was returning.  Not like this, swollen from antipsychotics, a walking ghost.

I remembered how I’d woken my freshman roommate with my night terrors, screaming bloody murder like a broken alarm.  She’d taken to sleeping in the kitchen for a week, then reported me to the hall supervisor.

I’d had to talk with the counseling center because they thought I was disturbed.  I was, I just didn’t tell them.  I didn’t want college to be a repeat of high school – depression, mania, depression, mania, like a roller coaster ride you didn’t pay for, with no way off but to jump.

My college sent you to the hospital if you were suicidal, and students would vanish, never to return.  At least, that’s what the seniors said.  So I never got help, and it built up to this, this crescendo of too little sleep and too many delusions.  Waking dreams of my beast, lulling me off cliffs with sweet words.

I joined the Buddhist and Noor for meditation.  We were on mats by the radiator below the window, at the end of the hall.  All the windows were barred.  How fitting.  Still, I tried to relax, and an olive-skinned woman read aloud from an Orthodox Bible.  Her voice was soothing, like water on rocks.

Noor did yoga and stretched her body like a cat.  She called it moving meditation and said it was good for grounding.  What’s grounding, I said, and she said it was being in tune with the earth.  I liked the sound of that, so I tried it, but all I got was an almost-twisted ankle, no inner nirvana for me.

My homeless roommate – Judy, she told me over the toilet – pissed for a really long time, a dopey smile on her face, like it was the best thing in the world.  I didn’t have many achievements, but at least my greatest accomplishment wasn’t urinating for a solid hour.  I swear she peed forever.  Then it was lights out and Trazodone dreams.

I was in a library with rusty cages.  The beast was perusing the stacks, too tall, flipping through his books with talons.  There were chains on my feet.

He turned to an illuminated page.  Let me show you something.

No thanks

Darling, a little drawing won’t hurt you.

I tried to look away, but he was by my side like a lightning strike, offering me the vellum page.  It was made of the same material as the Nazi’s human skin lampshades.  On the page was the two of us, except I was dead, a corpse in a wedding gown, and the beast was kissing me.

Death doesn’t hurt.  It’s like making love.

That’s fucked up.  Leave me alone.

The beast laughed.  Even if I could, I wouldn’t.  I take what belongs to me.

 

The days stretched out like molasses.  Meds in the morning, meds at night, double check twice to make sure you swallowed.  We passed the hours in group therapy and activities like sports in a dingy basketball court, or this weird class where you had to dance sitting in a chair.  I hated that goddamn class.

The beast wove in and out of my mind, possessing me, possessing the walls, and I swam in and out of lucidity.  Sometimes I believed in him, sometimes I didn’t.  My parents visited on the weekend, angry as ever, blaming me for an illness I couldn’t control.  They brought a cold ham sandwich that tasted like tar.  I wanted to leave the ward, but I didn’t want to go home, not with them, back to my charred room.

I never did read The Secret Life of Bees.  I liked the title more than anything, liked to imagine what it was about.  Pollination?  Long summer days?  Insect wings under the stars?

I made a mask with a honeycomb pattern in art class.  The Buddhist painted a cherry tree for me and I taped it by my bed.  Judy used it for toilet paper when we ran out.  I got so pissed that I reported her, but the orderlies just shrugged – what can we do?  You’re all crazy.

I told Noor not to give Judy anymore cigarettes.

The weeks stretched into a month, and the Buddhist left, set free like a petal on the wind.  He might crash, but hell, at least he had a chance.  Me, I was stuck in the branches, staring up at the sun.

We’re worried about you, my parents said, on the fifth weekend they visited.

I didn’t say anything.

Damn it, what’s wrong with you?  You nearly burned our house down, and you still haven’t apologized.

I’m sorry.  I suck.  I know that.

We’re taking the repairs out of your college fund.  We’re not paying for school anymore.  You’re on your own, kiddo.

Don’t call me that, Dad.

Well you’re not an adult, running around, talking about demons, torching everything in sight.

I bit my lip.  I didn’t mean to, mom.  I’m trying to find inner peace.  I’m meditating, you know.  I think it’s working.  I haven’t dreamed of him in a week.

There’s no monster, Maggie.

Yes there is.

They left without saying goodbye.

The beast came back with a vengeance.  He locked me in a cage and force-fed me his gore.  It tasted like stale chocolate.  You’re my flesh now.  Blood doesn’t let blood go.

I told my therapist about the dream and her eyes grew wide as plates.

It was just a nightmare, Maggie.  You’re mind is sick, like it has the flu.  The medicine will make it better.  It will make the dreams go away.

They’re not dreams, they’re real.  If they weren’t real, the medicine would work, but it hasn’t, and the nightmares haven’t gone anywhere.

Your medication just needs fine-tuning.  Rome wasn’t built in a day.

I’m not an ancient empire and medicine can’t be tuned like a car.

Maggie, be patient.  Things will turn out, you’ll see.

All I saw were bees.  Bees behind my eyes, glazed in pollen, buzzing away like cellos.  The beast stung me with them that night, raising welts in the shape of a heart.  I expected their stingers to be lodged in my throat come morning.

My parents stopped coming.  Noor’s dad hadn’t visited in a month.  She gave a weak smile and said it would be okay.  That our parents were keeping us here to recover, only until we were stable.

Stable?  What a joke.  We were fading every day, into the cinderblock walls, reaching nirvana – nothing.

The hospital finally let me go because there was nothing else they could do.  My insurance said I’d reached the maximum stay limit, and my parents said their pockets weren’t lined with gold.  Mom and dad picked me up that afternoon, faces strained, like they were trying to take a dump but couldn’t.

You should be better now.

You’re a goddamn pain.  How much money we gotta spend on you?

I’m sorry, dad, I’m sorry.

Born broken, kiddo.  You were born broken.

We got home and mom fixed spaghetti.  Dad tinkered away in the garage on his new project, some kind of kit to make a boat.  The constant banging of his hammer dug into my brain.  I poked at a meatball and stared, stared at the impaled food, feeling like Vlad Tepes’ victim on a pike.

Dad stomped upstairs and gave me a look that would freeze a desert.  You haven’t touched your food.  Just played with it.  You don’t appreciate a damn thing we do.

I’m just not hungry.

Dad closed the distance between us and breathed down my neck.  Your mom slaves day in and out in the kitchen to feed you, cleans up your crap, and I work my ass off to pay your medical bills.  The least you could do is say thank you.

I cried.

Dad sighed.  Stop bawling, kiddo.  You’re too old to manipulate us.  We’ve given you a good life, sent you to a great college, but you’re not going back.  You can’t handle it.  You have a week to find a new place.  To get a job.  Mom and I decided that last night.  We love you, but we have to let you go.  Maybe the real world will set you straight.

I dropped my fork.

You’re kicking me out?

Mom entered the room.  There were grimy tears in her eyes.  Shit, Maggie, we can’t deal with this anymore.  It’s tearing us apart.  You can visit, of course, but you can’t live here.  We’re too old to deal with you acting out all the time.  Too tired.

I rose from the empty table.  There was a black hole in my stomach.  Fine.  I’ll go.  Just give me a few days to figure something out.

The night dragged on.  I didn’t speak to my parents again.  My room had been painted over in a deceptively cheery pink, and my sheets smelled like that stuff mom put in the laundry, some kind of lavender scent.  I collapsed into bed and fell asleep.

The beast was waiting for me, wings spread, glass of wine in hand.

Tonight, Maggie.  You have nothing left to lose.

Go to hell, you freak.

I’m already in it, love.

I knocked his wine glass to the floor.  The Merlot spread like blood on the ground.

You’ve taken everything from me.

Only to give you freedom.  All it takes is a knife to the heart.  Your mother’s sleeping pills.  A little fall from the roof.

I don’t want to die.

Then why am I here?  Here where I’ve always been.  You crave death.

No.  I love bees.  How they dance across flowers.  How they move.  I love trees in bloom – their petals – the ones that smell like spring.  I love being able to finally wear shoelaces, and I love freedom.  Places without barred windows.  Hell is just another prison, just another mental ward, and you won’t take my life away from me.

And then, all that was, was not.  Merlot, on my wrists.  Washing down the drain like prayers.

The demon was swallowed by light, and I was in a meadow, with blue china skies above.  Bees waltzed at my ankles, and a tree shed flowers like snow.

I knew I was broken, but to be broken was a beautiful thing, an immaculate imperfection that was holy.  My fears gave way to a promise, a promise insects buzzed at my feet.

Things will be okay, okay.

I saw God’s fire and laughed.

Evil Albinos, Spiders, or Beelzebob

Beelzeboob

Drawn crappily by mouse.  Is it lip injections or good genetics?

Beelzebub?  Beelzebob?  Beelzeboob?  Let’s just call him Beel.

Since I was in middle school, I have dreamt of an evil albino.

He stalks the halls of infernal palaces in my dreams, too tall, all edges, dressed in armor, black capes, and gauntlets that are so last-last-last century.  White hair, red eyes, skin so porcelain that he makes Samael look like he’s covered in motorcycle grease.

For years I only knew him as “that scary demon that drinks with Samael” or “that severe guy that hosts all those creepy parties” or “the only one who ever seems to do any work in Pandemonium.”  I would watch him lead military formations and he appeared to be Samael’s right hand man and most trusted, top general in both archdemon councils and in small private events after-hours in various shady underworld bars, probably all owned by Asmodeus.

Like Michael, the Albino was reserved.  He spoke little to me and seemed to regard me with disdain, or either disinterest.  I didn’t like him very much at all.  I eventually connected the dots and learned the leader of Hell’s military forces with ruby red fly eyes was called Beelzebub, which endeared him even less to me.  Aym was a barrel of monkeys worth of fun, Samael, though a maudlin drunk, at least didn’t look at me like I was a beer stain on very expensive upholstery, and the other demons were various shades of horrifying.  But Beelzebub?  He took terror and ate it for lunch.  There was an air of do-not-fuck-with-me-or-I-will-rip-your-intestines-out about him.  I can also probably count the number of times he’s smiled on one hand.

I was glad to stay far far away from him.

Enter my 23rd year, and I started dreaming about Beel more frequently.  We would hang out with Samael and commiserate over Sam’s sloppiness and antics.  We became friendly, and Beel, though still a hardass, revealed a softer side.  He still dressed like he was Sauron or whatever but at least the guy could hold a conversation.  A lot of fashion sins are committed in Hell.  He would save me from Lilith who for some reason is always trying to kill me or save me from Samael when he got crazy due to existing as an eternally thirteen year old edgelord’s wet dream.  In one very strange dream, Beelzebub took me bowling in one of Pandemonium’s malls (yeah, I don’t know either) with one of his humans (was he Damned? a devotee? god only knows) that turned out to be one of Beelzebub’s boyfriends.  That was weird: Beel was dressed in jeans for like the first time since dinosaurs peaced out and I concluded that Beel was gay.  That was cool, I was happy he had found love with a guy that looked like Channing Tatum mixed with a teddy bear.

Then things got weirder.  I started dreaming of one of my very early first OCs, a spider demon named Elric that looked… a lot like Beelzebub.  Elric came from a fantastical dream I had when younger and also had the same name of a certain Michael Moorcock prince that looked exactly like Beel.

I kinda reeled at the coincidence.  I’ve always viewed Beel as the spider that traps souls like flies, hence his title Lord of the Flies and his Order of the Fly that he heads.  I started dreaming of summoning Beelzebub and him having multiple eyes like a spider, or appearing in this fly-spider hybrid body and scaring away my enemies.  Y’know, typical creepy dream demon stuff.  It all came to a head when Beelzebub made it very clear that he was not asexual, not gay, but pansexual as fuck when we were shooting the shit at a bar and talking about relationships.  I started visiting his mansion, which was all white inside, save for little mayflies hopping about the furniture, and I wondered if despite the cleanliness Beel was really just as messy as Samael.  Even Samael doesn’t let bugs live in his bed, just inside his ribcage.

Beelzebub now pops up occasionally, most notably once when I dreamed he was my sensei in this Japanese-style schoolgirl dream.  I’m still not quite sure what that is about.  What I have gathered is that beneath the “I will not hesitate to murder you if you stand in my way” demeanor he is a big old softie with a taste for interior design.  Also bowling, apparently.  He has been gentle and kind throughout the process of me getting to know him, and while I could do without all the spiders that keep making themselves at home in my hair or flies that seem to pop out of nowhere via spontaneous generation, I’ve learned that maybe this certain Albino isn’t all evil.

On Pasty Evil Overlords, or Please Don’t Let Me Be Nagini

I am one of the few lucky gals in the world plagued by dreams of Bonebutt.  My friends and I must have won the celestial lottery.

Samael and I have this Voldemort-Harry Potter like connection minus the ego-stroking wand duels.  I can feel his emotions when, for example, he’s a chocolate whore and wants a brownie/chocolate raspberry cake/hot cocoa, gets emo while I’m listening to Hunchback of Notre Dame or the Phantom of the Opera because he thinks he’s a monster (I still don’t know why he likes Frollo), or those periodic episodes where I read about the latest atrocity committed in the Middle East, particularly in areas where his cultus as Nergal/Shemal emerged in Mesopotamia and Assyria or as the Adversary among Jewish tribes, and he gets all angry about terrorists and the merciless slaughter of cultures that were or are associated with him.

If there’s something I’ve learned about the Angel of Death, it’s that he hates death.  Not the natural process, but injustice, atrocities, mass slaughter, honor killings, and suicides.  Of all things he values, he values life above all.  I can’t count the number of times Sam has lectured me on living life to the fullest and not sitting around on the couch eating potato chips while the world passes by.  In his cult at Harran in Assyria, his priests literally sniffed roses (they also shot fiery arrows and ate Tammuz-shaped cookies, but whatever).  He is all about rich details, reveling in existence, helping the disenfranchised and serving others, life at the bone being sweetest, blah blah blah.  Sometimes I just want to veg out and go on Tumblr and look at memes and videos of little dogs paddling in water (especially that chihuahua that looks like it’s stoned in that one Vine).  I used to be a procrastinator (still am) and Sam would lecture me even more about wasting time and digging holes for myself I’d have to spelunk out of.  When I was suicidal, he scared me into being alive.  Assholish?  Yes.  Effective?  Also yes.

The whole Horcrux thing continues when he does Vulcan mind-melds in dreams.  He’ll touch my forehead and I’ll see souls through his eyes, the soul-rot that accumulates from sin which I call sklerokardia, or “hardness of heart.”  In one particular dream he was judging the Damned with the other archdemons and their sins manifested as cancers.  I pitied them, but he touched my forehead and I saw through his eyes and I saw the entire life of one penitent soul, all the atrocities he had committed in his life, and the process by which Samael and the others passed Judgment on him.  It was horrific.  Other times I’ll have dreams of his memories or we’ll fuse, and once the weirdo Crystal Gem Fusion happens he’ll be like “Hello boys” to the angels, “Time to see if blondes have more fun” and once it ends he’ll be like “Did I wear you out, Allie?”  One particular memory I saw was him fighting Lucifer and he thought “I hope he doesn’t head-stomp me like Michael.  I hate being head-stomped.”  For as eloquent as he is, his internal monologue is dumb.  His poetry also sucks.

Sometimes I feel like his lap dog, except instead of being a dog I’m Nagini.  “I see myself in you.  We’re the same,” he’ll say and I’ll side-eye the fuck out of him.  I’ll become the Emperor of Prussia before I have anything in common with Samael.  He is mercurial, brooding, often crazy, severe in his professional dealings, and utterly lame at parties.  Even if he drinks he’s lame.  He’ll get tipsy and puke in a bush and pass out and Deus and Beel won’t find him until the morning.  He is so uncool he once wore Chuck Taylor’s with pentagrams on them, a black Ramones t-shirt, and distressed skinny jeans.  Nothing against the Ramones, but really?  He looks like a Middle Eastern Pete Steele, cries if you call him heartless or a monster, and dresses like Danzig and Alucard from Hellsing.  Once he dressed up in a fucking black velvet cape, a cravat, and red pantaloons and I laughed him off the face of the Earth.  Samael is always trying to be Cool and Hip but fails miserably, so that’s probably why he sticks to his black death robes and jeans.  His favorite colors are red and black and chains if chains were a color.  His favorite store is probably Hot Topic and his favorite venue is one of Beel’s parties or a piano bar.  He is a walking trope of what evil thinks it should be but the evil can’t hold it’s alcohol and is also awful with women.

As you can surmise, my dreams, where I mainly interact with Samael and the divine brosquad, are fucking weird.  It’s where I get all my UPG from, like Samael’s secondary form as the Leviathan or his penchant for “aqua vitae” (someone pls tell me wtf this alcohol is, I don’t drink).  He started out as an imaginary friend and creepy dream figure and remained my muse until present times.  A really annoying muse that would try to impress 13-year-old Bleach-watching Allie by appearing in his Grim Reaper form, scaring the crap out of her because I hate skeletons, and declaring “You like shinigami?  I’M THE KING OF SHINIGAMI.”  He also likes to give me sharp pointy objects and train me with his goddamn stupid scythe, which I am pretty sure he is married to.  He’s also obsessed with his dumb Pale Horse, which I call Pallor because I’m unimaginative.

Like Voldemort, Samael is a parasite.  He attaches himself to you in uncomfortable positions and then drains your blood supply and patience.  Also like the Dark Lord, he has several forms, (all black and red, surprise surprise) and is a shapeshifter.  He likes to troll me and appear to me as various horror characters, from the Crypt Keeper to Pinhead to Alucard to Reaper from Overwatch to the Mummy and most recently, Kylo Ren.  I was at one of Beel’s parties and Beel was drinking with this guy that looked like a Middle Eastern Adam Driver.  I sidled up to Beelzebub and asked:

Me: “Who’s the new guy?”

New guy: (snorts)

Beel: “Oh, you know him, Allie.”

Me: “No I really don’t.   You guys are wasted.”

New guy: “I’m an old friend Allie.  A very old friend.”

Me: “I don’t recall.  Why are you dressed like a Sith Lord.”

Beel: (bursts out laughing)

New guy: (brushes back Adam Driver hair) “I heard you liked Star Wars, Allie.  I heard you liked Kylo Ren.”

Beel: (choking with laughter) “Sam, stop, she doesn’t recognize you.”

Me: “I hate you.” (throws drink at Samael and leaves)

Samael, now covered in wine: “Thanks for the drink!”

A few weeks later he was passed out in one of his poorly ventilated leaky dungeon (probably from alcohol poisoning) and I was trying to get him to stand up, only to have his faces slip off like the Faceless Men in Game of Thrones.  I went through several pop culture characters he trolls me with (including Kylo Ren) until I got to a skull filled with maggots,  millipedes, and worms.  He then laughed and said “Psych.”  I swear he is five years old.

I will now make a list of ways in which Samael is Like Voldemort:

  • Wears the same black robe over and over again (have you heard of the laundromat?)
  • Has pet snakes (or is a snake)
  • Gives people markings/scars
  • Dark Lord/Prince of Darkness/Other Lame Monikers
  • Paler than the palest pasty white bitch of a man
  • Mostly hairless
  • Kind of looks like a drowned rat
  • Evil, or mostly evil
  • Doesn’t understand women (or humans)
  • Doesn’t understand boundaries
  • Attaches themselves to small children
  • Hides pieces of themselves in gems (Hello Lapis Exillis)
  • Is easily defeated by the Chosen One (Harry Potter or Jesus, take your pick)
  • Has apocalyptic children (Hello Cain and Delphi)
  • Makes lackeys dress in masks
  • Is a bitter, lonely old man
  • Likes to rant
  • Probably smells like grave dirt
  • Is attached to a crazy bitch with Medusa black hair (Hello Lilith and Bellatrix)

I could go on, but I’ll stop there.

 

My Polytheism

As you may or may not know, I am a lurker.  Especially on Beth and Jo’s blogs.  I have been since I started my WordPress and used to be more active in the Pagan community, and as I’m trying to blog more, I decided to write a bit about my spirituality and stop posting so many angsty poems.

As those who have followed my blog since the tender age of 18 (I’m now 23), you may remember my Pagan phase, which despite my protestations, I never quite left (Sorry for dragging you to full moon rituals on Imbolc, D and L).  In fact, I have been Pagan since I was 7 and read D’aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths.  I was smitten with Athena, and would pray to her for help on homework, then crushed on Hermes majorly.  I read the end of D’aulaire’s, the part where the gods are dead, and cried, like, a lot.  I then decided I would single-handedly revive the old faiths and thought I was the only Pagan in the world for a good five years until I discovered Pagans online.  I went through an Egyptian phase and dressed up as Sekhmet for a school event, devoured all the mythology books I could find at the library, and while the gods were great, there was another piece of the puzzle I was figuring out.

Enter angels and demons.

My first memory, at two, is of Samael, coming to my cradle in a night terror with red eyes, ringing me with mangled ghost children, singing me a lullabye in a voice like Tom Waits and saying “I LOVE YOU ALLIE.”  I woke up clutching my pacifier right before he hugged me.  Come four and I would dream my father was ripped to pieces by a hellhound, one I would see many times afterward, with red eyes, black fur, and a wolfish mien.  I later learned through experience, after many years, it was one of Samael’s forms, besides the stupid black serpent and dragon.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Throughout my childhood, from year zero to today, I have struggled with horrible nightmares, sleep paralysis, and vivid dreams of angels, gods, and demons.  I have always been drawn to the otherworldly and my imaginary friend was an angel of the Morning Star, destruction, death, lions and serpents.  I was about eight.  He was my first OC that I wrote about at 11, and I described him in that spectacularly crappy space opera as “a Grim Reaper with attitude.”    Metatron was also in there as a tea-drinking angel.  It was weird.

Before I even read Madeliene L’Engel, I gravitated to stories about angels.  I forced my parents to buy me a children’s Bible in kindergarten because it had angels on the cover. Demons scared the crap out of me, but angels felt like home.  I saw sparks of light flying around churches, priests, and children, in particular a cobalt blue spark that was always by my side who I later learned was Michael.  Raphael is green.  Samael is red.  When I look up to the sky, to this day, I see millions of sparks of light flying through the sky.

In first grade I built a tin foil hat because I thought aliens were contacting me through energy.  Later I learned I was feeling the presence of spirits, but when you’re young and feel like your chakras are being plugged into an electric socket, you worry.  I would sing to my morning star angel and pray and feel the energy, be moved by music, pray to the gods, there it was.  So from a young age, I felt and saw spirits, but didn’t understand what was going on.

Enter puberty.

My first vision came when I was 12, December 21, on a cold winter’s night.  I was lying in bed, my eyes shut closed, and I had an out-of-body experience.  I was thrust from my preteen child’s form into the sky above heaven, and below me, angels in armor with brilliant scintillating wings were battling demonic black shadows, guts spilling onto the ground, blood, blood everywhere.  I screamed for someone to save me and fell to the ground, but no one could see me.  A demon was about to plunge its talons through me to get to an angel when a force like the whole weight of the world pulled my spirit back, zooming through ranks of angels to their stronghold.  There in a clearing stood a tall, imposing angel in golden armor, with a flaming sword, saffron hair and eyes that could pull souls out of their bodies.  He saved me, frowned, then thrust my spirit back into my body, bellowing a name in Hebrew he continues to call me to this day.  His voice was like thunder as my body rocketed up in bed.  I was wracked with shivers and sobs, wondering who the general of Heaven’s forces was and what my experience could possibly mean.  Much later on, I learned his name was Michael.

A few weeks later in seventh grade, inspired by Twilight, I invented the name Samael as a punk version of Samuel and wrote a story about a middle school over a hellmouth.  A few weeks later, I googled Samael and learned that despite being the name of a crappy metal band, he was also the Jewish angel of death and Satan.  Cue screaming and not touching that story for a month.  My computer started acting weird, shutting down randomly and claiming I’d edited the Wikipedia page of Lucifer.  I cried.  I cried a lot at that time.  Three nights after my discovery of Samael actually being a Jewish angel/demon/annoying snake, I had my first dream of him.  He was very snarky and offered me an apple, then told me I read too much.  He still continues to be an asshole and terrible, terrible cook.

That first dream opened up the door for endless dreams of demons, tricksters, and archangels.  I developed an especial fondness for Raphael and wrote two stories about Freyr without realizing who he was.  Aym popped into my dreams, Beelzebub grumped around, and Michael continued to step in when Samael decided it was okay to let the minor drink.  Loki and Samael were the broiest of bros, Manannan, Coyote, Tezcatlipoca, and Odin all made appearances, and I continued to write stories based on my dreams.  Enter high school and I believed in the gods but was still pretty skeptical of the whole angel/demon thing, as I hated the patriarchy and thought it was sexist that priests and the Messiah couldn’t be women.  I was also terrified of Hell, even though Pandemonium is basically an endless party and the only one who really seems to work are Rofocale and Beelzebub.  Lilith terrified me and I still hate her.  She’s a bitch.

I’m agnostic as fuck, so being godbothered and having all these dreams of angels, demons, and deities was confusing.  I went to the top science and tech high school in the world for godsake then was a bio major in college.  12-19 was me barely keeping my head above water as I challenged myself in academics, burned the candle at both hands, and dealed with shamanic death-rebirth crap and Sam being a right arse.  I finally figured out that Freyr was the character I kept writing about after googling “blond god of the north and nature” and other such things.  Michael kept stepping in when Sam was too drunk to function.  I made rounds with the archangels and chilled with Asmodeus at his atrociously gaudy casino bar.  Then I had to wake up each morning and try to ignore the fact that Samael got drunk off holy water the night before.

There was so much shadow work.  Too much.  When Samael basically raises you your dreams are full of the Adversary, Hell, war, and purifying fires.  He always told me to “Grow a spine, worm.” and “Stop being a doormat.  Stand up for yourself.  Don’t kneel, don’t bow, stand strong.”  He also likes to go off on tangents about decomposition, the Apocalypse, alcohol, alchemy, and the dreaded metaphysics, all of which I ignore.

The shadowork didn’t scare me so much as when Samael cried.  Seeing the Grim Reaper cry kind of makes you doubt your existence.  We fight a lot, and he has no respect for boundaries, and sometimes I don’t know why the universe made me his babysitter.  I’m on much better terms with the Archangel Michael, who I consider my guardian angel, and Freyr, my patron god.  Beelzebub is actually, despite being anal and cold, a sweetheart, and Deus is just dumb.  All Aym does is do drugs and hang out with prostitutes.  There are a lot of succubi in Hell.

So I probably sound crazy, but I’ve met about 25 people with the same exact experiences and same UPG about Samael, down to his weird fascination with squirrels.  I’ve actually made several of my best friends because Samael brought us together.  So thanks, I guess, Bonebutt.

My polytheism is this weird mess of Paganism and Christianity.  My polytheism is constantly evolving.  I believe in God, which angels and demons are manifestations of, this abstract Source that sends out servants who all embody its characteristics, hence names like “Gall of God,” “Strength of God,” or “Image of God.”  I hold the kind of strange view that Michael is Jesus, or maybe I’m totally wrong, but when you see the tenderness with which Michael gardens souls and answers prayers, and how his love and suffering and sacrifice hold all Heaven together, it seems as Christlike as Christ can get.  I think Sophia/the Shekinah manifest in personal heroes like Eve and Mary Magdalene, and the Divine Feminine is manifest in Mother Mary.  I don’t believe in Hell as a place of suffering, but a place of purification where difficult souls go to recover and then move on.  I believe demons and angels aren’t at war, per se, more in a Cold War of sorts, and I believe demons are servants of the harsher parts of God, for what is God but everything?

As for the god gods, I view them as individual pieces of the Source, in charge of different things.  Freyr is my Green Man, Manannan and Njord are my sea, Loki is my fire, Coyote is my whimsy.  And Thunderbird, glorious Thunderbird, is the majestic storm.  All I know is that Thor gives great hugs and that Freyr is an aficionado of Mexican food.

My spirituality is organic, based on lore and experience.  I would never ascribe to a strict form of worship.  I go on what I have personally experienced in dreams and then do a shitton of research, finding out that Beelzebub is in fact the General of Hell as in that one dream or that book I read in Samael’s library that he threw in my head actually exists.  My spirituality is odd, based on community, and I could give a rat’s ass about who others worship.  I believe gods are adapting, communicating with us through means like pop culture or, in my case, memes.  I’m trash, I know.

So yeah, my polytheism is this strange mix of everything I have experienced as someone drawn to the mystic path, a clairsentient, raging environmentalist treehugger, and avid, avid poet and writer.  I write stories based on my experiences with the gods and spirits and continually draw on them for inspiration.

Sometimes I wonder if they just want their stories told.