A Bit of Fiction for Friday!

In July my fiancé Frankie showed me a contest that a local magazine, Motif, was having as part of the upcoming NecronomiCON celebration.

Here in Rhode Island we have wicked love for all things weird, as well as all things HP Lovecraft.

(In case you didn’t know, Lovecraft was born in Providence, hence our love for the writer.)

The contest asked local writers and artists to submit works in the vein of Lovecraft, but with their own spin (brownie points given if you somehow include Rhode Island into the tale).

I did not win the contest, but I did get one of four runner up spots – something that made me quite happy. To get runner up out of 50 something entrants isn’t shabby at all folks!

I had a lot of fun writing this story. I have read some Lovecraft (every school kid has, right?) but I wasn’t extremely well-versed in his style. But I know enough about what scares me, and I also know that some of my favorite writers, Stephen King included, take some of their inspiration from Lovecraft.

Well, without further ado – Check out my entry, It Won’t Be Ignored, and I please click the link after the story to check out the other awesome entries!

It Won’t Be Ignored by JL Metcalf

She sat at the desk, tapping her keyboard, liking the click of the keys but not typing anything of worth. With a sigh she peered out her window at 

(her prison?)

Providence, her home. The buildings rose up, thrusting their cement edifices into the gray skies. Rain fell onto the city, cleaning it, making it pure. But purity was not what was needed. What was needed was something unspeakable, something she couldn’t quite believe she was a part of. 

She looked at her keyboard, “Shub-Niggarath” she murmured. 

MONTH ONE:

Scratch scuttle. Scratch scuttle.

The sound again. That infernal noise. She sat up in bed and looked around her. The bedroom was dark, and would be quiet if not for that damn scratching in her walls. 

Her landlord, a man large of belly and small of mind, had chuckled at her over the phone the last time she called him regarding the noise. She could tell he thought she was a hysterical female desperately in need of a man. In fact, he had uttered “Don’t you lesbeens know how to, you know, do stuff?” She had clenched her fist angrily, it wasn’t the first, and wouldn’t be the last time he called her a lesbeen. In his barely understandable Rhode Island patois he told her he would “Take care of it.” When she asked when that would be he coughed a deep, phlegmy cough and hung up the phone without responding.

Scratch scuttle. Scratch scuttle.

That was weeks ago. Weeks and weeks of the noise. It sounded like little feet and claws in her walls. Of a busy critter making a nest, destroying insulation, doing damage. Making her insane. Weeks of it waking her up at night, of it disturbing her work. Weeks of it echoing in her brain like some kind of soundtrack for her life. 

Truth be told, she loved her apartment. She lived on Union Street in a loft that had views of the skyline that took her breath away every day. If not for the scratching, it would be the perfect apartment.  She often told friends that it was a place she could live in until she died. 

Which might be today, she thought unhappily as the scratching intensified, if that damn noise doesn’t stop! 

Scratch scuttle. Scratch scuttle.

As a freelance writer, she spent most of her time in her apartment. When the sound had started she had hoped it would fade away on its own. When it got really bad, or what she then considered really bad, she played music to cover up the noise, but lately even that didn’t seem to be working. The noise permeated every moment of her life in the apartment.

Scratch scuttle. Scratch scuttle.

You’re being stupid, she thought as she lay back down and put her pillow over her head, it can’t get louder. You’re just tired from lack of sleep. Unless, her tired mind retorted, there are more of them in your walls. What if it’s an infestation. The thought made her heart race and her stomach clench. The thought of hundreds, no thousands of critters in her walls

Scratch scuttle. Scratch scuttle.

made her feel sick. Infestation. Vermin. Disease. Impurity. The words swirled and danced through her head like some kind of sadistic, twisted mantra. Infestation. Vermin. Disease. Impurity. Over and over again.  She moaned. 

“Go to sleep crazy,” she said out loud to stop the racing, swirling thoughts, “Go to sleep.” 

She closed her eyes. She knew what to do, she had learned it in therapy. Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe

Scratch scuttle. Scratch scuttle.

in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out. Rinse and repeat.

Impure. Impure. Impure. 

“No,” she moaned and shifted in her bed, the sheets tangled between her legs, her body coated in sticky, smelly sweat. 

She tried to count sheep, but the fluffy bastards wouldn’t cooperate. They started out all cute, like the Serta sheep in the old commercials. Then the clouds above formed the word Impure and the sheep began to transform. They became hairless, emaciated beasts, their mouths dripping with blood and some weird green goo. Their eyes rolled back and sunk into their skulls with a wet plop. Their flesh hung in ropey strands over bright white bone. They turned, opened their gaping, rotted mouths, and the sound

Scratch scuttle. Scratch scuttle.

Echoed around her. “Dammit!” She groaned and got out of bed to watch TV, “I give up, you win!” She yelled at the walls as she brewed coffee and sat on the couch, watching endless episodes of The Office as she waited for dawn. 

Scratch scuttle. Scratch scuttle. 

MONTH THREE:

Bleary eyed, a massive coffee clutched in one hand, her laptop under her arm, she sat down in the Dunkin on Dorrance Street, and sorted out her stuff. By this point the noise had been ongoing 24/7 for months. She no longer felt like herself. Her dreams, when she slept a few hours each night, were filled with monsters with sharp, glistening teeth calling her name. With dark rituals she didn’t understand, but that felt familiar and ancient. That felt purifying. 

She sipped her hot coffee,

Impure.

not caring that each sip burned her tongue. She relished the feel of the caffeine working its way into her system, the warmth it created in her belly, “Ah, that’s the stuff,” she murmured and laughed to herself. 

A man in a suit and tie looked over at her curiously, but said nothing. “That’s right douchebag, I’m talking to myself,” she mumbled and chuckled again, “I’m a loony tunes lesbeen,” she cackled. Now more people were looking at her, their eyes shifting to her laughing face and quickly away when they saw something in her face that scared them. If they accidentally met her eyes they felt a chill run down their spine, an awareness of something…evil in their midst. In fear they fled the shop, praying that distance would cause the fear to fade.

Scratch scuttle. Scratch scuttle.

She looked around her, “No,” she said, her posture hunched, like a scared animal, “No,” she repeated. The sounds of the coffee shop dimmed, all she heard was

Scratch scuttle. Scratch scuttle.

The sound. It was everywhere.

“No,” she said again, louder. Around her the crowd in line shifted away from her, faces buried in phones or looking outside, looking anywhere but at the dirty, disheveled woman talking to herself and getting more and more agitated. 

She jumped when a hand touched her arm, “NO!” She growled in a voice she didn’t recognize, looking at, but not seeing the worker. 

The Dunkin employee jumped away, her young face stricken, “Ma’am?” She asked, her voice shaking.

“NO!” She snarled again, “Not here! Not here!” She screamed.

Scratch scuttle. Scratch scuttle. 

“Ma’am, are you all right?” The girl stepped away as the woman fell to her knees, her hands in her hair, a groan emanating from her in one long wail that sent many of the remaining customers out the door.

She looked up at the worker suddenly and smiled. The young girl gasped and stepped back so fast she tripped and landed with a plop on the floor. Her coworkers were gazing at the woman in fear, too afraid to do anything, and the manager, a tidy man in his 20s, stepped forward. He cleared his throat, but when he opened his mouth to speak

Scratch scuttle. Scratch scuttle.

was all that came out. She looked at him, tears in her eyes. She looked around the Dunkin, and shook her head, “No, no, no, no, no, no, no.” She mumbled, “I can’t hear you. I can’t hear you.” 

Scratch scuttle. Scratch scuttle. 

It was all she couldhear now. Then a voice sounded, it was her voice, but not her voice. It was a dead voice.  An ancient voice.

Impure. The blood is the way. Shub-Niggurath

Confused, she screamed and ran from the coffee shop, she had to get back to her apartment she thought insanely. She would be safe there. The sound would keep her safe.

As she made her way through the streets of Providence, she swore she was being followed, she felt eyes on her, hunting her. A grunting hot wave of breath washed over the back of her neck and she shuddered, “No,” she moaned, “Please,” she begged, not knowing who she was begging exactly.

Impure. The blood is the way. Shub-Niggurath.

The voice was insistent. It wouldn’t be ignored. Sobbing, She turned to see the beast she knew was hunting her, knowing if she saw its eyes it would be the last thing she saw, but her legs got tangled and she crashed to the ground in a sobbing heap. Snot ran from her nose and dripped to the pavement. She pressed her forehead into the ground.

Scratch scuttle. Scratch scuttle. 

She screamed and banged her head on the cement sidewalk. Once. Twice. Again and again, until blood stained the pavement. 

The blood is the way Morrigan. Shub-Niggurath.

Suddenly she smiled, yes, the blood, the blood would make it stop. It would make the sound stop. She was sure of it. It would cleanse her, for she was impure. 

You need more.

A hand gripped her shoulder, she flinched and scuttled away, growling. The police officer sighed, but he stepped way, holding his hands up. She gazed at him and watched his lips move, but

Scratch scuttle. Scratch scuttle.

was all she could hear. It lived in her brain now, that sound. But she had been given the answer, the way to make it stop. She knew now what to do.

Blood. The blood. It needs the blood to make the sound go. Get the blood. Bathe in the blood. Feed us the blood. 

“Who is us?” She asked out loud. The police officer rubbed his face and spoke into the walkie on his shoulder, “I’m going to need an ambulance at the corner of Dorrance and-“

“SHUB-NIGGURATH!!!!!!” The woman screamed the sacred name, the word coming from an ancient and unknown place within her. She suddenly, in a burst of knowledge handed down from generations of her ancestors, she knew what had to happen. What was happening. 

Her shriek had started the police officer and he stepped back, away from her madness, away from the fear that jumped into his throat at the sound of the name.

He stepped back, off the curb, and directly into the path of an oncoming bus.

She felt warmth wrap around her. For the first time in months, she felt happiness as the police officer seemed to explode as the bus driver slammed on brakes that screeched and squealed. As bystanders screamed in unison. As the blood sacrifice was made.

YessssssWell done Priestess.

All she heard was silence. Blessed silence.

Exhausted, she pushed herself off the sidewalk and shook her head, blood drops from her wounded forehead flying around her in a gruesome halo. People had run to where the officer had been killed. Others stood nearby, wailing in surprise and fear.

No one noticed as she slowly walked away, the silence around her a welcome and comforting cocoon. 

MONTH FIVE:

Morrigan sat at her desk, tapping the keys happily. She felt so refreshed, so creative. Things had been good. Even the dreams didn’t bother her. She knew it was the beasts way of honoring her. She knew now what she had to do to keep the noise at bay. She knew how to serve the beast and keep the noise quiet. 

Scratch scuttle. Scratch scuttle. 

Sniffing the air, she raised her head. It couldn’t be, it was so soon.

Scratch scuttle. Scratch scuttle. 

She stood and gathered her things, “Shub-Niggurath,” she said solemnly, Reverently. 

She got it done efficiently for the beast, for that was her sacred duty as priestess. 

The blood. It needs the blood to keep the quiet. To purify.

Scratch scuttle. Scratch scuttle. 

The End

For more stories, including the winning story, Click Here

Note: All photographs are by JL Metcalf and are her sole property.

Flash Fiction and Booksie

I am always on the hunt for writing contests and fun ways to stretch myself with my writing.

Last month I found this fun writing prompt on Booksie, along with a flash fiction contest I could enter into for free.

Image credit: Frankie B. Washington

What’s fun is that I can see how many people have viewed my little story – 325! – and I am appreciative of every one of you who have read and shivered over my horror tale.

If you haven’t read it yet, go here and check it out, feel free to share the story far and wide!

5 Questions For a Creator: Penny Dreadful

This week I got to chat with Penny Dreadful, the host of a horror show called Shilling Shockers that airs on television channels throughout the country. If you haven’t checked out her show, do so immediately, it’s loads of fun!

Penny, aka, Danielle Gelehrter is an actress, writer, and comedian from Massachusetts. In the persona of witch horror hostess Penny Dreadful, she introduces horror, sci-fi, and fantasy movies on the local TV horror movie show ‘Shilling Shockers.’ The series ran from 2006-2016, and continues on in the form of annual Halloween specials and DVD releases.

In addition, Gelehrter along with Eric Marshall, have been the co-writers of the official Masters of the Universe Classics toy bios from 2016-present. Gelehrter has also been a writer on several He-Man books from Dark Horse publishing. She is currently working on a book about the werewolf folklore and legends of New England. 

JL Metcalf: What is your number one tip to creators (new and old) on how to best market themselves in today’s world?

Penny Dreadful: Thanks to the internet, it’s easier than ever to get the word out via social media platforms and websites. Things like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are great tools for getting the word out. However, because it’s such a great place to showcase your work and advertise, there are a lot of people using the internet to promote what they do. Because of this, it’s easy to get drowned out in the overwhelming ocean of posts and websites.

It’s important to present material in such a way that’ll help you stand out. It’s a balancing act too, because you want to keep putting updates out there, but you also don’t want to “overload” your audience with constant posts about your work either. 

The internet isn’t all though. At least as far as being a horror host, doing appearances at horror conventions and local events is key. That way, you get to go out there and meet folks in person, which is great. It’s more fun to connect that way, both with existing fans and with potential new fans. A lot of people got turned onto ‘Shilling Shockers’ after they randomly stopped at our table during a convention.

JLM: Why is marketing yourself, aka the business of creating, so important for creators to learn and embrace?

PD: Putting in the work to market yourself is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of and, in fact, is usually pretty essential to your success as a creator.

It can be challenging to “embrace” it because of the stigma which is sometimes associated with this kind of self-marketing. For example, you may get the occasional person who will throw out the disparaging “shameless self promotion” comment. I even sometimes say it about myself in a joking manner. However, unless you have some paid representative to do it for you, you need to promote your own work to get the word out about it, and there is nothing wrong with that.

Otherwise, how are people going to find out about what you do? Nobody else will magically do it for you, and your audience isn’t going to materialize out of thin air. Creator + Audience – it’s a two part equation, and that’s the truth.

That said, it takes time and effort, and some level of nuance to do it. You don’t want to shove it down people’s throats, but you don’t want to quietly sit back and hope that people will automatically find you. It takes some practice to get it just right, I think, and there’s a something of an art to advertising your creativity without turning people off by bombarding them.

Photo Credit: Rebecca Paiva

JLM: What do you like best about being a creator?

PD: The joy of making something that didn’t exist before, bringing it into the world, and watching the reaction. I think that’s why I love improv comedy so much. The spontaneity and energy of improv is creation in its purest form – “creating without a net,” if you will. That’s a pretty great feeling.  

JLM: What do you like least about being a creator?

PD: Trolls. Not fantasy, fairy tale, and folklore trolls – those are totally awesome and I love them. I’m talking about trolls of the “keyboard warrior” internet variety. I haven’t had a ton of run ins with them, fortunately, but it happens on occasion.

JLM: Who (or what type of art) inspires you most and why?

PD: Inspirations include many classic actors, writers, and comedians. To name just a few: Mary Shelley, Boris Karloff, Lucille Ball, Shirley Jackson, Agnes Moorehead, Weird Al, Vincent Price, Vampira, Joan Jett, Basil Gogos, Mozart, the Marx Brothers, Jonathan Frid, the Ramones, Zacherley, Carol Burnett, the Sex Pistols, Margaret Hamilton, Charles Addams, the Monkees, Caspar Friedrich, and Bugs Bunny.

All art and creativity inspires me if it comes from the heart. That’s kind of a cop-out answer, but it’s true. Acting, writing, visual art, and music are all forms of art that inspire me.

Photo Credit: Eric Parks

It’s Okay To Be Seen

Don’t Be Ashamed…

I’ve read a couple different things recently that have really made me think about something women face their entire lives, something that we don’t even maybe realize we are doing to ourselves: This idea about women being ashamed to take up space. To be loud. To make themselves seen, heard, and known.

How many of us hide in the background, afraid to be seen because when we are seen, we are called some pretty nasty things. They call us bitches, whores, and much worse. 

Why?

At 40, I am more confident than I have ever been, but even with that confidence I know that I am still afraid to truly be seen all the time. I don’t like being the center of attention and I figure that’s normal and just me being humble and appreciative for the little sliver of stuff I have.

But it’s more than that. It’s something that’s been engrained in me by society my entire life. Not on purpose, please understand that none of this is me saying “Men are bad, women are great.” No, nothing like that at all. This is me calling attention to something that really bothers me, something that I fight against every single day, and I wonder: Who else feels this way?

I have wonderful parents that never treated me less than my brother, but at the same time I grew up in a world that says women should be quiet. They should be on the sidelines. They shouldn’t take up too much space because when they do, they are taking space that belongs to a man.

I feel angry even typing that, but it’s true and I have to say it.

When the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team won and celebrated that win, Piers Morgan Tweeted: 

Moment of Clarity

We are pushed down and pushed down and pushed down, and when we want to leap up and scream our victory, or our rage, we are told that we need to be silent. That by screaming our truth we are somehow egotistical and rude and bitchy

This Tweet is a good example of how if and when a women “gets loud” she becomes “shrill”

“Don’t Be Such a Bitch”

Good god how I hate that word, bitch

It has been used against women for so long that it’s no longer anything but a massive insult. It’s a way to push women down, to push me down back into “my place” where I am supposed to be quiet and not need anything. Where I’m supposed to do as I’m told, take care of others (ideally men) and not make any kind of noise. 

Because when a woman makes noise, she is uncouth, she is rude, she is ugly. 

Well, I’m saying now, screw that nonsense. It’s bullshit. 

We are all human beings and as such, we should treat one another the same. I’m going to use a word that’s thrown around and has therefore lost some of its power, equality. We need to start treating each other with equality.

In meditation practice the word equanimity is used a lot. If you’ve never heard this term before, “Equanimity is a perfect, unshakable balance of mind, rooted in insight” (Buddhanet).

Now you may be shaking your head even more confused. The idea of equanimity is balance. Balance between love and hate, anger and happiness, male and female. It is when states such as these are out of balance that distress happens, disease happens, war happens. 

We all, as a collective human, need to find our way to equanimity. 

I won’t even say that this sounds easier than it is, because honestly, it sounds just as hard as it is. How do we get everyone (Trump lovers and Sanders lovers and everyone else) to come together in equality? In equanimity? 

I have no freaking clue. 

I’m not going to spout affirmations and words of strength because I don’t know how I change an entire lifetime of programming. I honestly am not. I can say, however, that I have friends and family and my soon to be husband who support and love me — whether I make noise or not. My fiancé especially encourages me to be loud, to be seen, and sometimes he makes sure I am seen when he sees me hiding. 

This is a video of me being seen at a book reading in 2014 – It was REALLY hard for me to do this, but I am glad I did.

The thing is, we can’t just suddenly change how we behave, but what I think will change things is by being aware of the issue and by actively trying to make changes to our behavior. We need to look to the women who have decided that they are going to be seen and heard, and aren’t going to be ashamed of either. We need to look to them and see them as proud warrior women who can show us the way, we shouldn’t judge them because we fear them, we should embrace them and ask them to help us be better at being seen. 

The Phantom Queen, Morrigan.
A bad ass warrior deity.
Image Courtesy of AstralCollective

It’s perfectly okay to be seen, and honestly, it’s okay to hide sometimes too, we can’t expect change to happen overnight. The important thing here is don’t be afraid to be seen, as hard as it can be. Don’t be afraid to need love and kindness and strength from those you care about, don’t be afraid to need others to help you. It’s okay to need people.

That’s another thing I have trouble with — I suppress my pain. I hide it inside myself so others don’t know about it because I don’t want to be a burden, because I don’t want to need anything from them. I don’t want to ask for help because it seems like weakness. Again, I don’t want to be truly seen. 

I suppress good news and try to minimize it. Recently I was accepted in an anthology that comes out over Halloween 2019, and while I was very excited to get that acceptance email, I also had one of those moments of, “Well they picked me because there must not have been a lot of applicants.” *Sigh* I have no idea of knowing if that’s true or not, and it doesn’t matter, because I was chosen and I am allowed to feel good, to be happy, to be seen.

Once again, me being seen in an upcoming Halloween Anthology

But I won’t beat myself up about this. I have made huge strides. I do ask for help, even when that voice inside says, “No! Don’t do that! They’re busy. They’re hurting. They don’t have time for you!” Because that little voice is wrong. When I ask for help, help is given readily and without judgement. I am seen, and it feels good sometimes, even when it’s hard.

We have to be the change if we ever hope for change. 

5 Questions For a Creator: Robert Geronimo

This week I had the pleasure of chatting with writer and artist Robert Geronimo. Robert is a published illustrator, writer, and comic creator, known for his dark fantasy series, Blood Realm.

JL Metcalf: What is your number one tip to creators (new and old) on how to best market themselves in today’s world? 

Robert Geronimo: The hustle never stops. Lot’s of up and coming creators often think they can sit back once they’re published. That is not the case. You still have to generate excitement around your book every time there’s a new release. Never take your readers and fans for granted.

JLM: Why is marketing yourself, aka the business of creating, so important for creators to learn and embrace? 

RG: We live in an age where we’re inundated with media. It’s non-stop. Especially with social media platforms like Instagram. Creators have to get people behind their product and let everyone know about it. On the plus side, there’s an audience for everything. 

JLM: What do you like best about being a creator?

RG: Seeing readers get excited about a new release is incredibly rewarding. It’s the ultimate pay-off. Especially when they’re discussing it after they’ve read it. 

JLM: What do you like least about being a creator?

RG: Things won’t get done unless you motivate yourself. Particularly when it’s a one-man-show like Blood Realm. I write, draw, color, and letter the series, and I don’t have anyone else to blame but myself if something isn’t finished.

JLM: Who (or what type of art) inspires you most and why? 

RG: Artists and writers that take risks inspire me. There are many titles that have the same aesthetic and story beats. I admire creators that go against the grain but can still tell deep and compelling stories.

Thanks Robert for taking the time to answer my questions! You can find out more about his work on his website.

Storytelling and Communication

This week I wanted to touch  on something that’s been bouncing around in my brain for a while: How we communicate.

It comes up on a regular basis, and maybe I am becoming older and more ornery, or else what’s actually happening is that in this world of connectivity we are communicating less authentically. 

I look around a restaurant, or a movie theater before the movie starts, or anywhere really and I see people staring at screens, I would say maybe 90% of the time. And I admit, I do it too. I love playing games and checking in on social media. I like having a reason to not make eye contact with strangers that may or may not turn out to be creepy. 

But this is all to our detriment don’t you think? I remember the days when I had nothing to do when away from my home except smile at people, make eye contact, maybe start a conversation. I didn’t stare at a screen. 

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t say any of this to say that I don’t enjoy the advances that technology has made. I love having easy access to my documents and information right at my fingertips 24/7, but I also kind of dislike it as well. 

*Illustration by Frankie B. Washington

It’s odd because according to communication theory, we as humans love telling and hearing stories — so what has happened that we seem to enjoy it more on a screen than face-to-face?

Stories and the Narrative Paradigm

Everyone loves a good story.

As humans we are hardwired to want to tell and hear stories. Stories about the mail person delivering the wrong mail to our front door, stories about our trip to the grocery store, to the gas station, to another country. Stories about sex, about life, about everything.

There is a communication theory called The Narrative Paradigm that was developed by Walter Fisher. 

The narrative paradigm basically, in the most simple way states that, “All meaningful communication is in the form of storytelling. Peoples past experiences influence our need for communication and also base our behaviour.”

As a storyteller, I love making up worlds and sharing them with others. Just recently I was at Plastic City Comic Con, and I still, even after all these years, get ridiculously excited when people buy my books and are about to engage with and enter my worlds. 

But storytelling isn’t reserved to just reading and writing. It’s oral traditions, when I listen to my fiancé tell a story about his childhood it always makes me smile, even if it’s the millionth time I’ve heard it, why? Because it’s a good story, and we as humans love a good story. 

But stories are more than just entertainment. They are a way for us to share experiences, to foster community and collaboration, to make connections. It’s a way for us to relate to one another on different levels. 

We all love stories – how many of us have taken shelfies to share on social media of our libraries?

One of the biggest revelations of my life was realizing that I was not alone in feeling depressed or anxious. That people who seemed to have it all were just as confused, scared, or worried about their lives and their futures. 

Stories make us feel less alone because they can often create a shared experience. We can get out of our heads and instead engage with another person who has or is living through a similar experience to ourselves. 

That is extremely powerful. I cannot state that emphatically enough. 

Are our stories being lost in social media? I worry about that. 

Our Need For Connection

As humans, or at least, in my experience as a human woman, connection has always been my goal in any relationship I’ve had.  It doesn’t matter if it was a friendship, romantic relationship, or work relationship. I wanted to connect with people, to feel accepted in some way.

Side Note: It’s funny how weird I feel when I type the above sentence. When I was a teenager I tried to put up this facade of not caring if I was accepted or not. I would dress weird or act weird, and hope that other weirdos found me and accepted me — they did of course.

Now as an adult (sort of anyway) I realize that it’s perfectly okay to want to be accepted by others. It’s normal and it’s human. It’s also why we tell stories. 

I might tell a story to a friend about getting the marriage license with my fiancé, and she, having done that already, understands how excited I am, how big of a deal that is. We have shared a moment that many people may have already shared, but for us, it’s a sharing that leads to a deeper understanding between us. A closer bond. 

The simplest stories can lead to the biggest bonds. 

The End Result

So what does this all mean?

It means that we like to tell stories because they help us connect, and connection is something that most of us crave. Loneliness is a powerful tool of fear. Don’t ever underestimate the decisions you make and their power when you are making those decisions based in loneliness or fear. As hard as it may be, seek out others who you trust who can help you. 

Honestly, I am hopeful that by writing this blog I can connect with people I haven’t met yet, that we can join our like (or even unlike) minds and have a fun discourse about storytelling, about connection and about life in general.

Tell me your stories. 

Storytelling is about connection, something most of us are striving for.

(Photo by JL Metcalf)

5 Questions For a Creator: Keith Gleason

This week I had the honor of asking my 5 questions to Keith Gleason. Keith runs the upcoming (July 13th!) Plastic City Comic Con in Fitchburg, MA, along with working in comics such as his own creation Mighty Mascots among other exciting projects!

JL Metcalf: What is your number one tip to creators (new and old) on how to best market themselves in today’s world?

Keith Gleason: In addition to all the social media platforms you need to be on, I would say to make sure all your marketing has a strong presence and eye catching artwork.

Once you have a solid foundation with your brand you should also hit conventions and make appearances at local comic stores, etc.

You have to try and be in peoples faces as much as their phones are, but in a friendly positive way.

JLM: Why is marketing yourself, aka the business of creating, so important for creators to learn and embrace?

KG: It’s important if you want to share your creation with others. I find that being an indie creator we have to work harder for peoples attention. People know Batman and Spider-man but they do not know your character or brand. A lot of this is overcoming your own personal demons and fears.

JLM: What do you like best about being a creator?

KG: Creating fictional characters and worlds is amazing stuff. I love diving into the characters and world building. the ultimate thrill is sharing it with a reader who will enjoy it and talk it up to others.

JLM: What do you like least about being a creator?

KG: The sad feeling you get when you are at a convention and absolutely no one is interested in this comic book that you poured your heart and soul into. It’s a devastating feeling.

JLM: Who (or what type of art) inspires you most and why?

KG: I’m inspired by a lot of comic book artists, cartoonists, and writers. Some of my favorites include Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Charles Schultz, Alex Ross, Jeff Lemire, Duncan Fegredo, etc.

*Art by Alex Ross

5 Questions For a Creator: Peter Simeti

This week I had the opportunity to ask Alterna Comics mastermind, Peter Simeti, my 5 questions. Peter Simeti is the founder and publisher of Alterna Comics. To learn more about Alterna Comics, please visit alternacomics.com.

JL Metcalf: What is your number one tip to creators (new and old) on how to best market themselves in today’s world?

Peter Simeti: I find a lot of people find it difficult to promote or sell their own work. Don’t look at it as “selling,” look at it as “sharing.”

If you fashion yourself as a living billboard, it becomes easy to ignore you. You become an advertisement, not a person.  But if you show that you aim to share your creations, knowledge, and experiences with people, then you communicate that you’re not only the face of a brand or product but that you’re also at the heart and mind of it. 

People purchase products but they support people. Connecting with your audience in a meaningful way is so important.

JLM: Why is marketing yourself, aka the business of creating, so important for creators to learn and embrace?

PS: Marketing is as critical as it is simple. You can have the greatest product in the world but if no one knows about it, then it doesn’t exist. It’s important to understand that marketing is not selling. The goal of marketing is to obtain awareness. Hopefully that awareness translates to sales. If done right, it often does.

JLM: What do you like best about being a creator?

PS: Every day is a new task and a new challenge. Never a dull moment!

JLM: What do you like least about being a creator?

PS: Same as the above: every day is a new task and a new challenge. Never a dull moment! Haha!

JLM: Who (or what type of art) inspires you most and why?

PS: I regularly find inspiration from people that accomplish their goals. Some people equate success with wealth and while that’s one way to measure success, it’s not always a true indicator of achievement.

I find accomplishments to be more inspirational. It’s great to see people achieve something that they’ve worked hard at, something they’ve fought for.

Nothing in life is easy and the things that are truly worth doing and fighting for are often the most difficult. It’s really inspirational to learn about the resolve that some people have and the hardships they endured to get to that place of achievement.

If you’d like to check out the full catalog for Alterna Comics check out their website!

If you are a creator, email me at jessicaleemet@gmail.com to be a part of this experience! Share your wisdom with the world!

I love “America’s Got Talent” So What?

I admit it, I am hooked America’s Got Talent (AGT).  When my fiancé Frankie suggested we watch the show I scoffed, thinking it would be dull and stupid.

And it is sometimes, but beyond all that is a real hope.

A hope that America and beyond isn’t hopeless, that we can be strong and creative and open-minded. That there is good, and a lot of it, in the world when many of us feel hopeless. 

Does this sound ridiculous? That I can get all of the above from a reality TV show that is basically a really bad, really overdone talent show. Yeah, it sounds ridiculous, but if you have ever watched the show (even a clip here and there on social media – or seen Susan Boyle for Pete’s sake!) Then you know that the show has these bizarre moments of utter goodness that makes people weep.

The Golden Buzzer

During the first few episodes they show various auditions as they narrow the field down for later shows. On each show, a judge gets the “Golden Buzzer” where the act that gets this buzzer gets to skip all the semi-finals and land right in the Live Las Vegas episodes that make up the finale rounds. It’s a huge win for those that get it, it means more time spent focusing in their act for the live, real shows and not having to worry if they make it through round after round of cuts. 

Often these golden buzzer moments are heartfelt, and they usually go to an act that you feel truly deserves the opportunity to shine in the live shows.

They have given it to singers who are deaf, like Mandy Harvey in 2017, or people who have fought through years of crippling anxiety and fear and rejection to make it onto that stage, like this years Kevin Schwartz.

But they don’t always pick the person with the hardest luck, sometimes they just pick someone whose talent shines through the darkness and who makes you feel lucky to have heard it. A man by the name of Mackenzie personifies that with his beautiful rendition of Nothing Compares To You originally by Prince.

But it’s more than just the magical buzzer. It’s about people getting up on stage when they have been bullied or told they weren’t good enough. The young Tyler Butler-Figueroa is a good example of this. This little man came on stage and he was so small, so meek, but so full of brightness that you wanted whatever he was about to do (play the violin) to be truly amazing. 

He was. 

And yes, he got the golden buzzer of course, but man he was one of those times where you were so glad he got it, because he deserved it. That kid deserved a win. 

Why I Relate to AGT

The reason why I relate to so many of the contestants on AGT is because they are me. They are all of us. So many of us have our own stories of heartache, of being bullied. We know what it feels like to be kicked after we’ve fallen down. To be told we aren’t good enough or to be convinced that we have nothing to offer the world.

All of these weirds, losers, and talented as holy heck performers are so very brave. 

They are powerful, and they remind me that I too am powerful. That even though my books don’t make millions of dollars (or even tens of dollars) it doesn’t mean I’m a bad writer. It means I have to keep pushing for more readers. That I have to believe that I can be and do better every day. 

So can you. 

Dreams 

The thing about dreams is that often they get squashed. They get tossed aside like our childhood toys, and treated as frivolous and unimportant. 

They are not.

Dreams are vital to keeping us getting up and out of bed each morning. If we don’t have dreams about what we want to accomplish then what’s the point? Even if your dream is silly or seems unreachable, why not give it a try anyway? 

What I’ve learned in my recent foray into writing is that the worst that can happen is that someone says no. 

That’s it, N-O.

And it’s not nearly as bad as you think it is. Sure, it hurts the first few times. Sure, watching others succeed is tough other days, I admit it, but ultimately each no strengthens the resolve, and makes me want to push “higher, further, faster” in order to see how high I can go. 

Each no makes us, me, better than we were the day before. 

So yeah, that’s why I love AGT – because it reminds me that these folks performing on TV in front of millions may not be quite as talented as they think they are, but they sure are some of the bravest people I have ever seen. 

That’s what makes this show so good. Witnessing the bravery, the failure, the sadness, the heartache, as well as the joy and triumph. Witnessing people of different cultures coming together to create art.

Watching people learn about one another, to understand one another, and to see that the world is a vast place full of amazing people, amazing creators.

AMERICA’S GOT TALENT — “Auditions” — Pictured: (l-r) Howie Mandel, Terry Crews, Gabrielle Union, Simon Cowell, Julianne Hough — (Photo by: Trae Patton/NBC)

That’s why I love AGT and why even when it annoys the holy hell out of me (those judges make me nuts sometimes), it is still a show that makes me feel hopeful about the world, that there is good here still, and that there will be good here still long after I’m gone. 

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5 Questions for a Creator: Amy Short

Welcome to 5 Questions for Creators! This is going to be a regular feature on the blog where I ask the same 5 questions to different types of creators to get their tips and ideas on the business part of being creative. The stuff that maybe we don’t want to talk about, but we need too.

This week we will look into the mind of Photographer Amy Short. Amy is the owner of Charlestown, RI-based Amy Kristin Photography, a full-service photography studio specializing in child and family portraiture.  Amy enjoys surfing when she’s not taking photos and has two furry critters:  Lionel the cat and Lemmy the dog.  

You can find her at www.amykristin.com, facebook.com/AmyKristinPhotography or on Instagram at @amykristinphoto.

5 Questions for Creators: Amy Short

JL Metcalf: What is your number one tip to creators (new and old) on how to best market themselves in today’s world?   

Amy Short: KNOW. YOUR. TARGET. MARKET.  You have to know WHO your target client/dream client is or else you’re essentially throwing spaghetti at a wall and hoping it sticks.  This is something I’m super passionate about from the photograph side of things and always coach other photographers on.  

JLM: Why is marketing yourself, aka the business of creating, so important for creators to learn and embrace?  

AS: Because if you do not, nobody will know you exist.  You can have a website or a book or even a storefront or whatever but if people don’t know it is there, that you exist, they cannot partake of your creations.  Creating is not an “if you build it, they will come” thing.  People won’t know you’re there if you don’t TELL them.

JLM: What do you like best about being a creator?  

AS: The high of creating images that make me and other people happy and also the calmness that comes with it at the same time; it’s one of the only times my mind is still.

JLM: What do you like least about being a creator?  

AS: People who don’t value my work (or any other type of creator).  People who you have to explain your value too.  Not your client…but still frustrating.  And I do hate the whole administrative side of things a lot of the time but it comes with the territory, at least until I can get Lionel to be my personal assistant.

JLM: Who (or what type of art) inspires you most and why?  

AS: Claude Monet for his colors across his whole lifetime, from the pastels of his early/middle work to the reds when he was losing his vision, as well as the impressionism that gave everything a blurred and surrealistic look.  This has played so much into my choices of colors, backgrounds, and locations. 

Many Dutch old masters painters like Rembrandt and Vermeer because their use of light is wonderful and amazing and inspirational especially in my studio work and the fact that they could PAINT that is mind blowing.  I also have an appreciation for movies in general and pay attention to the lighting and colors and so much else because I know it’s hard enough to do from a photography standpoint; to do that with movies is amazing.

Thank you Amy for answering my questions and I hope to have MANY more of these 5 Questions for Creators in the upcoming weeks!

Make sure to follow my blog for more fun Q&A’s and MORE!