Friday, May 6, 2016

When you decide to help someone who will never get better...

I wanted to make a post about this in hopes it may help others in similar situations. I will put trigger and cw/ct warnings right here: Alcoholism, abuse, hoarding, sexual abuse, suicidal ideation, animal abuse. Please don't read on if these things trigger you.

My mother is an alcoholic. She has been a heavy drinker since I was about 11-12 years old. Before that, she was sexually abusive to both myself and my little brother.

I am now almost 37. For most of my mother's life, she was a high functioning alcoholic. She had a very good job with Astra Merck as a pharmaceutical sales representative. I grew up in affluence, though that didn't stop the abuse. I often went hungry because she'd be too drunk to cook. If she did cook, she would make the food so spicy that it was not edible. She would pass out at the dinner table.

My parents fought constantly. I remember praying that they'd get divorced. I don't blame my dad for all the chaos of the time. Living with and having a relationship with an alcoholic bleeds into every corner of your life.

When my father and mother divorced 14 years ago, she began a relationship with a woman named Candice. Candice was a recovering alcoholic. You can already tell this isn't going to end well.

About three years into that relationship, Candice took up drinking again. They were very violent and abusive to each other. My mother would regularly call me late at night, very intoxicated. She would scream at me, call me names and tell me she hated me and what a disappointment I was. At the time, I was struggling very hard with depression and suicidal ideation. I felt very abandoned and alone. My anger and resentment towards my mother grew.

Five years into her relationship with Candice saw them frequently beating each other up. It also began the hoarding problem. My mother is a hoarder. She doesn't hoard junk nor does she collect things. No, my mother hoards cats and garbage.

Two years ago, Candice passed away. The autopsy said pulmonary embolism, but there was still some suspicion regarding her passing. I spoke to a Sheriff when it happened. They made it clear they thought domestic violence might have been a contributing factor to her death. I was not, sadly, surprised. At the time, I was not on speaking terms with my mother.

Candice dying didn't change that. But I'll tell you what did: My husband and I went to her house when she wasn't home and we looked into the windows. What I saw horrified me. Piles of feces. Dead animals. Piles of garbage. The smell from just outside the house was absolutely staggering.

Now, my mother has MRSA on her breast that is tunneling into her body. Her eye is constantly infected. She fights off frequent UTI's. She is very ill and in my opinion, doesn't have long. The DT's are violent tremors by about 3 o'clock in the afternoon. She smells like cat piss, rotten meat and feces. She hasn't bathed in two years. Her clothes are frequently stained with feces and blood.

People have asked me why I'm bothering.

I get their question and it's something I've asked myself more than once. I don't want her around my children. I don't want to be around her. She isn't abusive when sober, but she can't remember things well and I have to disinfect my house every time she comes over. I don't love my mother and haven't for a very long time.

My brother wanted to have her declared incompetent and take guardianship of her, force her into rehab and then take her house and her pension. Had I thought his motivation was purely to help, I would've been all for it. But I didn't think that. I was certain it was to steal her money. I've learned things since that have convinced me of this.

Regardless of what she's done: She is a human being. And no human being deserves to live in filth and garbage. I want to teach my children that while you can't keep toxic people close (and addicts are toxic), you don't turn away a human being in need of aid. I cannot get her to stop drinking. I can't fix her. I can't erase the decades of abuse. That's not why I'm doing this.

I am giving her a clean, safe place to die. She has alienated everyone she knows. She has no friends. Her partner is dead. Does she deserve all that? Yes. She does. But I wouldn't let a dog die in that place. And it's a selfish motivation. The idea of my mother's dead body being pulled from that house is so horrifying to me that it was giving me nightmares and panic attacks. For whatever reason, it's not something I can deal with.

What I can deal with: Putting up with her for a few weeks in order to get her into this apartment. After that, I'm done. People will tell you that you have to let an alcoholic hit rock bottom. You have to withdraw. Hope from afar. I don't have any hope and I am not even sad about that anymore. But she's been at rock bottom for three years. There isn't anywhere lower to go. That isn't going to change her or help her.

It's complicated for me. It's hard on my husband who doesn't like seeing me upset. I see this as the last good turn she'll get from me. It will let me relax and accept. Grieve. Move on.

Sometimes it's not about the fucking abusive alcoholic. Sometimes it is about -you- and what you need to move on. This is what I need. I won't apologize for it.

Monday, March 21, 2016

How to write a novel in 30 days, part two.

This is coming a little later than I intended, and for that I apologize. I had some family issues to work through. I'm sure if you follow me on facebook, you already know all about it. And I do encourage anyone who wants to, to go ahead and follow me! Don't be shy. I may not friend you if we don't have mutual friends, but if you follow me, you can interact and comment. My facebook is public.

Now, on to the good stuff!

In part two of my video, linked below, I talk about how to outline, how to break writers' block and time management. I will get more into each of these things here.

Video in question:

I try to keep these videos short-ish. No one wants to hear me ramble on forever! So, let's address the topics in the video in a little more detail.

1. How to outline: As mentioned, I think keeping it to one to two sentences (no more than four) per chapter works just fine. And yes, I do mean outline chapter by chapter until you reach 'the end'. I will provide an example as I think this is the most effective way of getting my point across. 

Chapter One: Ron meets with Sue. They talk about their mutual pasts.

Chapter Two: Ron has a run in with his ex girlfriend.

Chapter Three: Ron asks Sue out on a date. Sue turns him down. 

Really, keep it that simple. It's just a skeleton. You need it to be loose like this so you have room to deviate. This process of writing a book really quickly is to promote pure creativity. And to shut down your inner editor so you can make real progress, really quickly!  If anyone has any questions about the outlining process? Just ask me! Either on FB, on the video in the comments section, or on here! 

2. Time management: This is really important. You're going to want to use what writing time you have. Every second of it! Make sure you have a quiet place to write. Barring that, get some noise canceling headphones. I know they're expensive, but check out app's like Wish. You can get some kick ass headphones for a few bucks! 

Set up ahead of time: What do I mean? Most writers I know have little rituals that help them get comfortable to write. I encourage these up until the point that it actually interferes with their ability to get to work. Out of coffee...can't write. Wrong time of day, can't write. Don't have my comfy blanket. Can't write. STOP MAKING EXCUSES. You know that's what you're doing. I've done it, too! It's bullshit, so cut it out. Treat writing like a job. YOUR DREAM JOB. 

Divide your time if you must: Don't have three hours to dedicate to writing? Work long days? That's fine. Split that shit up. Write for an hour in the morning, a couple in the evening. Write on your lunch break. Yes, it's hard. Yes, some days you won't want to. But DO IT. You will thank me later. 

Make notes: Are you writing an epic fantasy? Good! Awesome! Write some fucking notes! You don't have time for tons and tons of world building because you're going to do this as you draft. So, when ideas pop up at work, at the store, on a date...etc, take a little notepad with you and write down -everything-. 

Last:  NO EXCUSES. Write the book. Finish it. Gain confidence in your ability and talent. It's your heart and soul, I know it is. Treat it as such. Make some sacrifices. You can do it. I believe in you! If you ever need a pep talk? Hit me up!

3. OH NO WRITERS' BLOCK HEEEELP MEEEE! First? Take a breath. It's probably NOT writers' block. Unpopular opinion? I don't believe it actually exists. I believe it's OTHER things. Depression. Lack of time management. Physical exhaustion. Mental exhaustion. Getting stuck. Writing a character you can't identify with. Etc. So, let's figure out some things we can do to to break the block.

Blank page freak you out? Yeah, me too. Fill that shit up. With anything. Blah blah blah I don't know what to write blah blah, is better than nothing. Start in the middle of a scene if the start isn't coming to you. Skip ahead a chapter if you have to. Just. Start.

Help, I'm stuck!  Been there! I can't with transitions sometimes. I want to condense action and move the character forward without a lot of exposition. But sometimes? A transition isn't coming to me. What do I do? Skip that shit! Make a note in the manuscript and on a separate document. Scrolling through an entire manuscript looking for your notes and things you skipped will get old real fast. Save yourself the headache! Skip whatever is halting the drafting process. You'll get there and you will fix it. Just do it later!

SELF CARE: This one is vital. Eat meals. Good ones if you can. Drink water. Take vitamins. Get some sunshine. Take a walk. Call a friend. Writing is so solitary. You are going to need breaks. Make them as healthy for you as possible! Take a bubble bath. Listen to music. Go for a drive. Whatever helps you relax. 

I hate my main character!  Don't worry. This happens to the best of us. Sometimes, a POV isn't meshing. We can't identify and it makes writing like pulling teeth. BE HONEST with yourself. Can you keep it up? If you're not interested, then how will the reader be interested? You may need to scrap that POV or tweak that character until they have something you can relate to. 

MY PLOT IS SWISS CHEESE. MANY HOLES! Yup. I've been there too. And just like getting stuck in a scene? Skip places you can't connect. I can almost guarantee you the missing pieces will just fall into place. If you can't bear to do that, realize that nothing is precious. Not the plot. Not the characters. Not the setting. Cut what you have to so you can move on. Change what you must. Don't you marry yourself to a plot and stubbornly hold onto it until it completely kills your ability to write. Stop that. 

I can't write today because I'm (fill in a negative emotion here) I understand, darlings, I really do. I've suffered from clinical depression for nearly my entire life. Sometimes? I don't want to get out of bed. But sometimes? Pushing through it will help. But sometimes? It won't. Take a day off. Practice self care. Talk to a friend. If this goes on and on? Get some help. I mean that. I had to. Sometimes we all need a hand up. If it's just the blah's? Well, sometimes I don't want to work! I want to play video games and eat pizza all day. But, writing is my job. Social media is my job. Graphic art is my job. I work seven days a week. Even when I'd rather not. Treat writing like a job. And it WILL be your job. 

Some exercises to help writers' block fuck right off:

Sometimes, we don't know why the words aren't coming. In those cases? Here's some fun shit to do that helps.

1. Write an interview with your main character. Interview them! Ask them stuff!

2. Have a word war with a friend. If you have a friend whose a writer, challenge them to a word war! Time it for fifteen minutes and whoever writes the most words wins!

3. Take a scene you've already written and write it from a different character's POV. 

4. Write a scene in the antagonist's POV.

5. Role play. Be your character and go about your day. Sounds ridiculous but it's legit how Meriweather and I write our novels. 

6. If it's your current WIP that's blocking you, write a setting. A new one. Describe every detail. Save it. It may come in handy!

If you have any suggestions, questions, tips, comments, etc, please leave them for me!

That's all for today, folks. I will post another video about this process in the next few days. Next time? I will talk more in depth on how to structure your chapters and how to make your inner editor stfu. <3 

Sunday, March 13, 2016

How to Write a Novel in 30 Days! Part One!

This blog post is going to follow along with my youtube series under the same name. In the first part, I talked about the process a little, but really, it was more of an intro to the system I used to teach.

I will be a little more long winded here and go into a little more detail.  This will serve as a companion to the web series.

So, what I talked about in the first episode was how to come up with ideas. I glossed over it a bit, so I will go into more detail on this here.

The question I get asked a LOT by other writers/aspiring writers, is how I get my ideas. Now, the dynamic for ideas for Belshalara is way different than the way I come up with ideas on my own. Collaboration is just not the same as doing it solo. I will do a blog post about -that-, but it doesn't really apply here.

If you're having trouble getting ideas, here are some tips to try:

Headlines in the news:

Sounds silly, but go through the papers online. Look at the headlines and let yourself ask questions without actually reading the news story. This can work for any genre.


Go for a long drive. Take a bath. Go on a walk. Anything. And bring music with you. I find that music inspires me. Sometimes it's just a feeling. Sometimes it's a whole scene. I find I think cinematically.


Looking at pictures also helps me. Pinterest, as mentioned in the video, is a great way to find inspirational pictures. Make a board for your book/idea and search up images. Start broad if you don't have an idea yet, but you have a mood, theme or genre you want to write in.

Ask what if questions:

What if zombies could think but couldn't communicate? What if aliens were kidnapping children, not to experiment on them, but to save them from the end of Earth? You can go on and on, and this too works for any genre.

Think of what's lacking in the genre you love:

This is kind of what started the Belshalara series. I was complaining to Merris that there were TOO MANY medieval inspired fantasy fiction books. I was tired of dragons and castles and knights. Not there is anything wrong with those things, I just wanted something else. And boom, Belsahlara was born after Merris suggested we write a fantasy with a Victorian Gothic Romance feel to it.

Make a character:

Seems back asswards, but I swear, it's not! Make a character. Pick her traits, how she looks, what she wears. Everything about him or her. Think outside of the box with race and gender. Make someone you want to get to know better. Sometimes. when a character is 'real' to you, they tell the story themselves.

Just some tips I've used. I hope they help you! On today's video, I will be talking about how to organize that idea, break down word count day by day and prepare to start drafting.

Have any questions? Thoughts? Want me to talk about something in particular? Post questions here or on my youtube channel! I look forward to hearing from you all.


Link to our youtube channel: Asterios Family Youtube Channel
Link to our facebook page: Lillian and Meriweather's FB fan page
Link to our Belshalara page: Books of Belshalara FB page

Friday, March 11, 2016

Merris and Lillian Review The Witch

Spoilers ahead! NSFW. Merris and I review the Witch which we saw on our date night. I talk about the Devil's wang and titties. Like I do in every video, apparently!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Today is hard. And yesterday was also hard.

*BIG BREATH* Okay. I'm a big proponent of body positivity. Not just for me, but for every person. I do not feel positive about my body today. And I didn't yesterday. Last week was a bust and next week isn't looking good either.

My husband Meriweather and I, along with our roommate, have decided to start a youtube channel to talk about various things in our life. Share our nonsense with the world. For various reasons. But largely because we just want to.

Maddy and Merris look GREAT on camera. Me? Not so much.

At least, I don't think so. And it depresses me. It makes it hard for me to upload my own vlogs. I know I should. And I want to help out my family. But I'm just scared. I don't like my voice. I don't like my face. I don't like my fat.

I don't know how to push past bad feelings like this sometimes. I try to be positive all the time. But sometimes? That doesn't work. And I don't want to come across as fishing for compliments. I just needed to get this out. I'm sure everyone has times where they don't like how they look. I just wish that I could have a day...JUST ONE...where I felt okay to be me.

Monday, June 29, 2015

A story my husband wrote

I haven't updated in a while.  Sorry about that!  I've been busy, as per usual.  Updates will be more frequent as certain projects reach completion.  We're nearly done with book three and our live action book trailer only needs a few more shots and we're done with that too.  Whew!

I wanted, though, to share something someone else wrote.  My husband, Meriweather, wrote this story about himself, his transition, our meeting and how we fell in love.  It really moved me and it's so honest. I'm very proud of him.

So, I wanted to share it with you all.

How We Became Us by Meriweather A. Asterios

When I was little, I was pretty sure there was no god.

Which was strange, because I grew up with god as close as if he was my crazy uncle that lived in the rickety addition on an old house. He bumped around, disapproving of the things I did in private. He made up weird stories about pillars of salt and towers attempting to reach the heavens. God didn't trust your faith and unconditional love and randomly tested you just to keep you on your toes.

I grew up Roman Catholic, number six of seven children. My dad was a Polish immigrant with a bushy black mustache not unlike the stereotype of an Eastern European. Most of the time, I lived in my own head. My mother said that I had been drawing since I could hold a pencil. And then as soon as I knew how to make words, I had been adding stories to those pictures.

By all accounts, I was a pretty strange child. I told my sister I was gay at seventeen. I shaved my head and asked for a man's motorcycle jacket for my eighteenth birthday. But, you know, there were never signs that I was transgender. Wearing a fake beard to the coffee house probably didn't count. It was just a phase. We all experiment with things.

I was a little bitter in my twenties. I spent two or three years breaking off from my family and trying to trudge through the quagmire of college. I got accepted on scholarship to a school that was far away, but close enough that we weren't too close. There was a little secret inside of me that was something I knew I had to crush. I smashed it into a ball and locked it into the basement of my brain. 

It would be one thing to be gay. But, that didn't feel right. The corruption went a little deeper. I wasn't gay. It was actually a little worse.

The truth was, it was crazy. It was impossible. I didn't know the word 'transgender,' except in passing. I watched reality TV and Discovery Health. Transgender and gender identity disorder was so out of the realm of my reality, that it floated out of my head like a soap bubble. It was right up there with schizophrenia, the Black Death, and multiple personality disorder. Transgender was an abstract idea. 

It was something that didn't apply to me, it was something that happened to somebody else. It was rare, like an endangered species.

It was also really, super fucking expensive.

So, back in the dark it went. It couldn't happen to me. (It would be like winning the lotto-- whispered the little dark secret inside my mind.)
I just knew that I could never be a guy. Better luck next life. Game over. I'll try to make the best of what I have.

It didn't go so well.

I attended Kendall College of Art and Design. But, I never graduated. I was intimidated by the word, 'thesis.' At first, I didn't know what the word, 'thesis,' meant. This embarrassed me. I Googled the word and learned that it was supposed to be the culmination of our work. It was supposed to be the sound of our artistic voice. But, I didn't have a voice. The little dark secret was still silenced and I had absolutely nothing to say. I prayed to god and was still at a blank. His absence only affirmed that he was not there. There is no god therefor there is no point to a thesis. There was no point to anything. I just went to school to learn to be a better artist to make money. Money was the only thing I could think of-- I just wanted to get by. “What can I paint that would be -good?-” ...So I can sell it.

With that attitude, I was empty. I dropped out of college and worked for a call center. I wasn't good enough to be an artist. At best, I was a hobbyist. I became quietly numb and gained a lot of weight. It was easier to hide my secret under layers and layers. The secret seeded deep in the soil, smothered from sunlight and sky.

In art college, I learned the term, 'negative space.' It is the empty space between subjects or objects in the painting. Negative space helps direct the eye on a subconscious level. God isn't usually an active force, it is a passive force. God is in the negative spaces. It is not what it does, but what it doesn't do at times that directs our path.

World of Warcraft was like that; a quiet act of god. I played the game from 2006 to approx~ 2013. I started with a female night elf priest. Then, as I got into roleplaying, I played male characters. Kiaphus Sin'del was my favorite character. He was a Blood Elf with grit. I was a twenty two year old married straight woman that pulled the strings to an elvish marionette. My puppet became my costume I could slip into comfortably at night. Under the warm glow of my computer, I was living another life. Somewhere far away. I'd been a man for centuries in this life. I knew what it was like to fuck a woman and drink a beer. I knew what it was like to walk into a room and command respect. I had privilege. I had strength. I had confidence.

Then, I met her.

She was an elf, too. Normally, roleplay characters were fairly cookie-cutter. They were reminiscent of nerd pop culture's idea of femininity. Large breasts, waify, impossible waistlines. Angelic voices and flowing hair. They were perfect. They were what the player's dreamed to be. But, Rachel's characters were interesting. They were flawed and realistic. She created real people that you could feel. Rachel also knew how to write and carefully craft a story like an architect could build an innovative skyscraper. One that was efficient, yet beautiful. Her words even had classical flair. She had style and skill in her writing. She was an artist.

Celestial bodies clashed together. Galactic arms intertwined, wrapping and weaving together in a splatter of stars. Our words wrapped around each other. It wasn't a direct meeting of two people running into each other. It was something that had always been. It was just history repeating. Of course we found each other again. It was something that had been before. So, the words kept multiplying. In a matter of months, we had written over a million words together. Day and night, we roleplayed our characters. It was as if the stars were expanding and reproducing in a heated nebula. It was just the womb of what was to come.

In that time, I had created a character. She named him and had a basic idea. I was told he was needed for a story line and was allowed to take creative control. Merris was my new marionette and I liked him very much. But, Kiaphus was still my go-to doll when I wanted to be a guy. The stories were fun games--but they were still just games. World of Warcraft was mostly a place where I could have friends and socialize without the stigma of being a woman. It was a place that could also be real life, and not a game. I had tons of friends that referred to me as 'he' outside Kiaphus the character. I was myself as a man.

The secret inside of me festered and grew. It was a dark spot. It was a vortex, it expanded and spiraled the more I fed it. Then, there was actual life. I was depressed and lonely. At 5'4, I was 351 lbs. I had no emotions. I didn't like anything. I didn't feel, I just pretended I felt. I was a failed artist and never even gave my writing a chance. I was attracted to women, but only if I could be a man. There were some things that weren't meant to be-- and to me, that was to be happy.

I got married to my friend. I tried very, very hard. I knew if I could be a pretty girl, then I could be happy. So, I spent several thousand dollars to have my stomach stapled closed. I wanted to lose weight. I purchased a lot of pink clothes. I dyed my hair yellow. I had my scalp yanked hard and burned and scalded. I had hair extensions and high heeled shoes. I thought that I needed them to walk in on the road to happiness.

Things got real bad and then things got worse. God wasn't negative space this time. I felt like I was a fish suffocating on oxygen. For weeks and weeks, it was building up inside of me. I was tested for pneumonia, but it game up negative. Then, I collapsed and blacked out. My head hit the linoleum floor with a wet crack. My co-workers circled around me, but I didn't hear a word they said. 

Everything went black. And then I was floating, like a warm dream. I thought I saw a cartoon character on the screen of an old TV set from the eighties. I just thought I was asleep. They never found where the blood clot started, but it wound up in my lungs. I was in the hospital for months. The first night, they gave me a fifty-fifty chance that I would live. I was put on drugs and a breathing machine. It was probably due to my obesity in combination with birth control pills.

I knew I wasn't going to die like I knew that the sun would rise. I didn't know until years later that it was so bad. I was more concerned with the piled unpaid bills. I didn't get a paycheck for the time that I was laying around, struggling to live. I lost the house and the car.

In World of Warcraft, I didn't have much to worry about. I had people to talk to. I had a community of weirdos to take shelter in. I had my new toy, Merris, who I became more and more fond of. I had Rachel, a best friend. Our friendship was founded on a lie-- but she was funny and charming and our stories were blooming like a field of wildflowers in the spring.

Then, things got better. My husband got a good job and we moved out of the cardboard box. I was able to quit my job at the bank and dedicate my time to myself. I lost some weight, but was still on the chubby side. No matter what I did-- I was a steady 250 lbs. I was trying to be happy. I was trying to focus on me.

And the more I did the bigger my secret grew. It was a massive black hole. Merris was my Mary-Sue. He was my ideal me. He dressed like I would dress myself in my head. He was goth, and I had always wanted to be goth but couldn't pull off the fashions. But, oh—if I were only male! I knew how to be cool. I was never cool but I knew how to do it, if I only had the chance! But, fate is a fucking bastard and life was a joke set out to make fun of me.

Merris loved art and classical music. He loved science and things that were weird and creepy. He had a dry sense of humor. He decorated in skulls and bats. He wore a top hat and had long black hair. I grew up on classical music. I also sang in our church choir. I didn't sing in it because I had a love for god. I just liked Gothic architecture and loved the organ music.

When I lived as a woman, I mostly kept my hair short. I gave up. I knew I would never be pretty. But, if I were male, I knew I'd have long hair. I'd dye it black. I loved the Victorian goth look. I'd have a beard and wear tail coats. I love fashion and makeup, but I saw it as an art form.

Merris had a laboratory. Rachel and I had so much fun with our marionette puppets. We played with our little cut-out dollies and made them kiss (now keeth!) Our stories were about the same things, over and over again. They met, and fell in love, and lived happily ever after.

But, some shit happened along the way. When Merris met Lillandyr-- they met, they fell in love, and the universe imploded. Does life imitate art, or the other way around? Rachel said she was in love with me. I told her I loved her, too. But, I was married. And straight. So, the universes collided and some shit happened along the way.

I had a choice. I could stay and live in Michigan as Rose. Things wouldn't be so bad. I had financial stability and my friend. I knew what life would be like the next day. Or, I could move to Oklahoma and be a step-parent with a woman I had never met before. I'd have no job and not a dime in my bank account. I'd have no car and no family. I had no friends. I had never spoken to her children. I'd be a lesbian in the buckle of the bible belt-- even though I had never kissed a woman before.

I got on the plane and didn't look back.

I packed up the things that were important. My clothes and my watercolor paints. When it came down to it, the only things that mattered to me in life were my stories and illustrations. I left the photo albums and the memories behind. I only had two hundred dollars to live on for the rest of my life.

In my mind, we were sitting side by side in a convertible, driving through the desert on our way to chase the full moon. 

We were running away together. I wore a headscarf, sunglasses, pearls, and fire engine red lipstick. She had a pink Mohawk and fishnets. We met in person and exchanged gifts. She gave me a compass. “No matter what happens,” was engraved inside. She told me a charming story about how getting it engraved was a colossal disaster. In the end, it all worked out and cost her only thirty dollars. The compass is why I have my tattoo.

We fucked and we made love. We cried and I decided I indeed—was, very, very gay. I met her sweet children and fell in love three more times. I realized that I had made a good decision, despite the risk. I had a new life ahead of me. I wanted symbol to celebrate the change in taking control of my life again. So, I dyed my hair and hair extensions black. I had always wanted black hair. It was the first step to becoming me.

God shined in the negative spaces. The Books of Belshalara began as love letters written in code between Rachel and I. The passion from pen to person carried over exponentially. Immediately, we began to fight.

The fights were daily. When I was married to my friend, we never fought. I had never had an argument in any relationships I had been in. Merris the character was a deeply, deeply flawed man. 

He had social anxiety and wasn't good at talking to girls. While he excelled in such eccentric topics such as taxidermy and the occult, he wasn't at all the Casanova type.

Merris avoided conflict and arguments, and so did I. I didn't even meet eye-contact in conversation, actually. So, these fights flustered and baffled me. I felt frozen, a deer about to get smeared onto the pavement by a semi-truck. I was in love and I was drowning.

My new and only friend, a transgender woman by the name of Maddy, told me of her friend that had Aspberger's.

“It is a mild form of autism,” she said matter-of-factly.

“People with Aspberger's suck at arguments,” my fiance said. “And you really, really suck at arguing. You're doing everything wrong.”

And that was something I actually wasn't going to argue about.

It was a godsend. I found out people with Asperger's are obsessive and like weird things. They thrive in routine and sound exactly like me. Down to the letter. It almost seemed like my entire personality was a diagnosis. It just sort of meant that I was an uber nerd. It all made sense.

Halloween is my favorite holiday. I was goth in high school, but gave it up when I thought I could never, ever pull it off right. I mean, I knew that if I were a guy, I dreamed of wearing tail-coats and spats. I'd embellish it with polished, silver skulls. I'd be the most dapper gentleman in the world.

Meanwhile, the closest I could fly to the sun was written in the pages of fantasy. I tortured my gothic self to death appropriately. It was beautiful, dark, and dramatic. He almost gets the girl in the end. It was a tragedy Poe would be proud of. Ravens, gravestones and skeletons flew out of his butt. It was the gothiest thing in the world. And it was fun. It made me happy, which I knew I could never be.

So, on my first Halloween with Rachel, I thought I'd dress up as Merris.

“You look handsome.” She smiled.

I was handsome, and I just glowed like a little star.

We went out dressed as our book characters. She was so cute in her outfit. We were in love and the kids were happy. We never knew where we would get our next meal, but we didn't care. Then, we started arguing again.

She later told me that she was scared of the conversation.

“How do you tell your girlfriend that you think she's a man?”

“She left her husband for a woman, she wanted to be more feminine and be happy. Telling her she's a man won't make her feel more feminine.”

I could understand her fear. She worried about crushing my esteem. No woman wants to be told they are 'manly.'

Well, that's the crux.

She told me I looked handsome, and a feeling of relief washed over me. She could see a light in my eyes. I was handsome for once. Not pretty. I never wanted to be pretty. Not like that, anyway. I loved makeup, but I'm not a woman. I'm a pretty man. I'm a goth man.

Weirdly--I have a photo of 'Merris' six years before I met Rachel. God is found in weird places. I took a photography class in college. The assignment was to take a self-portrait. I took a picture of myself in a top hat and tailcoat. I angled my head in such a way to look androgynous. I wore a black and white striped scarf to give it a carnival feel. In the second photo, I wore my top hat and ducked behind an umbrella like a little sprite. I put a sepia filter over it, giving the picture an otherwordly look, like I was a ringmaster for a carnival of freaks. I think it was just the dark, black secret peeking out to say hello.

We talked for days and days. I worried about the children. I worried about things like losing custody. I worried her family would shun her. Then, we would be alone and no one would ever help us when we were starving. It would be my fault, our family's livelihood would be ruined because I wanted to be selfish and transition.

How would we afford it?

And we live in Oklahoma.

This was the second leap of insanity I had to take.

Ohgodohgodohgodohgod—who isn't even there.

We published The Dog and the Serpent and had mild success. I began selling my paintings and we quietly made a big decision. We already made a promise, “no matter what happens,” and had so far been keeping it.

We used all mighty Google again and found out that Tulsa has an Equality Center. Fate is a strange road. We didn't see it at first because it was a flicker in the corner of the eye. Sometimes, it was a shadow moving. Hand in hand, we began padding down an uncertain road. The wind howled and things seemed treacherous. Words like, “syringes,” and “one hundred and twenty dollars,” rattled around our heads. We weren't sure if we should jump. No matter what happens—I said. We knew that testosterone was going to change my body chemistry. It was possible it could change my sexuality, too.

What if I didn't find her attractive anymore? Would we break up? No, she promised me. We would be friends. She never would kick me out. We were too close-- and had come too far. No matter what happens, the compass shifted. No matter what happens, we will make it work. So, we did. We scraped and saved and slaved for money to pay for my appointments. Then, the first shot came.

I was excited. Chest hair. Beard hair. More hair. Hair hair. Hair was everywhere. I was carpeted in it. I have polycystic ovarian syndrome, so I have hirsutism along with it. I dyed my magnificent facial hair black. It was my step-daughter that said it first.

“You should be Merris because you're him.”

The transgender person's first right of passage. Choosing a name. That was easy.

And oh, the wisdom of a child!

She was just very right. Day by day, the drug built up in me. Every day, I looked a little bit more like my self. It was like water dripping against stone, wearing down the mask that was Rose. She began to melt away, and he began to burn for the world to see. Rose chipped away and Merris then emerged.

“But, you don't look like yourself anymore,” they said.

“That's because you've never seen what I looked like happy before,” I answered to the crowd.

I learned a lot about myself when I inadvertently wrote myself into a dark fantasy novel. I was divided in half as two people-- both male and female. And that's what the story of Merris and Lyri is all about in the Books of Belshalara. The struggle of some heroes isn't the battle against an outward force. Some heroes don't fight dragons and monsters. Some heroes are flawed human beings trying to overcome themselves. Even when everything is against you, you need to keep being yourself. Merris had to fall in order to grow. Because he kept following his path, he got the girl. In the end, he learned he needed the wisdom to see he had the love he wanted all along.

Rachel transitioned, too. She hated her name. In Hebrew, Rachel means, 'sheep.' Rachel is not is sheep. She is not a follower.

“Whenever I played games as a little kid, I pretended my name was 'Lillian.'”

“Really?” I asked, shuffling my feet against the November leaves.

“Yup, that's why Lillandyr's name is Lillandyr.”

“Makes sense,” I said.

“Would you care if I changed my name?” she wondered. In the Books of Belshalara, Merris' last name is Osterious. It was a surname Lillian made up. But, we Googled it randomly and found that there is an asterion bone in the skull. 'Asterion' sounded so close to 'Osterious.' The asterion bone is a small fragment right behind your ear. Approximately where someone would lean in and whisper secrets to you. Additionally, Google told us Asterion was a Greek river god. Asterion was one of three Greek river gods, the other two being Inachus and Cephisus. (Cephisus, a name very close to Kiaphus, my first roleplay character. Cephisus, in Greek methology, is the father of Narcissus, and narcisium is the downfall of Kiaphus.)

I thought that was a cool as fuck coincidence! A name we made up is both a Greek god (with weirdly similar ties to names that sound like our characters) and part of a skull! So, I did a little more digging on the god, Asterion and found out that he was a minotaur and a star god associated with Taurus. I am not sure if this is an issue with translations. I am not an expert in this subject. But, it is very beautiful and poetic, none the less.

The best I can find can be read here.

There is also a graphic novel called “Asterios Polyp” by David Mazzucchelli, but I have not read it.

It was the most beautiful name. Gods and stars. Lillian Asterios. She took my old name and, as a tribute, put it as her middle. Lillian Rose Asterios. It all seemed like it was written in an old, dusty book, a long long time ago.

Picture of Merris about four months before transitioning: 

Merris now:

 Edited to add the link to our book(s) and our book's fb page: