Plans are a lot like first drafts. We think we have them pretty well figured out, and they still manage to go off the rails. Whether it’s rogue characters, unexpected plot holes, or global pandemics, all too often we’re at the mercy of fate. Turns out, fate doesn’t much care about your carefully crafted plans.

At the beginning of this year, I set out to donate to one fundraiser a month, each one catered to a single character featured in the Panagea Tales series. January, February, and March went off without a hitch (and you can find the organizations I donated to in my previous blog posts) but then April came along, and tattoo shops across the United States were shut down to prevent the spread of coronavirus. (For those of you who don’t know, tattooing is my career; for as much as I love writing, I’ve never made ‘life changing’ money.)

With no end in sight as to when I could return to work, our budget got a lot tighter. Tighter budgets meant donations had to take a sad backseat to things like mortgage payments and groceries. In April, I saw my promise of ‘an inspired year of giving’ fall to bits and pieces. To say it was a disappointment is an understatement. Follow-through is a sentiment I hold dear, and abandoning my plans broke my heart.

Fortunately, things don’t stay bad forever.

I returned to work on May 26. I built up lost income. I’ve never been a rich woman; I live simply, so things weren’t as detrimental for me as they have been for some. In September, an opportunity arose to participate in a fundraiser. It ticked a lot of my favorite boxes (the proceeds went to the Oshkosh Humane Society and Kiwanis Club, hooray for animals and children!) and the individual fundraisers got to campaign a pet to see who could raise the most (while the top ten lucky winners would be featured on a beer can by Fifth Ward Brewing company).

It made the most sense to campaign my bestest boy: Cade. He passed away three years ago from lymphoma, but I loved that dog with every piece of my soul.

Unfortunately, in hard times, people don’t just donate money all willy-nilly. The solution? Art! ‘Thank you for donating’ pet portraits offered to anyone who donated a minimum of $25!

I’m going to make a long story short … things took off. I blinked and had 260 pet portraits waiting for me to paint. Glossing over how time-consuming that would be, I rolled up my sleeves, poured out my paint, and got to it. Two months later, I crossed the finish line.

Raising funds for the New Top Dog fundraiser began in mid-September for me, and even though the fundraiser ended in mid-October, it ended for me mid-November. Two months, 260 pet portraits, and $10,000 for the Oshkosh Humane Society and Kiwanis Club … with that, my big hurrah to raise money in Cade’s memory has come to an end.

I remember sitting at the kitchen counter wondering if I should take as many portraits as I could get. I remember thinking, “This is going to take months of my life. Hours away from my family, and the cost of supplies. This is going to be HARD …” And then I thought, “So what?”

I have been moved by people who donated FAR more than I asked. People gave money for supplies, and a lovely young woman donated heaps of the watercolor paper I used for this project. I may have been the one doing the paintings, but this was a group effort if ever there was one, and I’m glad it happened in 2020. We needed it this year. From the bottom of my heart, thank you to everyone who donated.

In the end, my inspired year of giving may not have gone exactly as I planned … but I gave far more than I intended when it first began. For that, I’m going to call this one a success.

Have a wonderful holiday season, friends! Stay safe out there!

-McK.

There’s something intrinsically exciting about peering into the thoughts of others, isn’t there? Something about experiencing their feelings and adventures through the words they write and share that just makes your spirit tingle?

I know I’m not alone. Journals of soldiers and slaves and history’s most influential citizens would not grace our many museums if that were the case. It is a quirk shared by one of the characters in my series.

old-books-436498_1280Bermuda can be a hardass in her role as quartermaster, but she appreciates a good journal entry when one falls into her lap. (In fact, the very first scene in The Tree That Grew Through Iron, we’re introduced to her penchant for aging diaries … so long as the topic of love doesn’t surface on those tattered pages.)

I struggled for a while with what organization Bermuda would make a donation to if she were an actual human being, and not a fictitious blunderbuss-wielding wench from a world on the edge of environmental collapse. When I saw the UntitledTown Book and Author Festival was seeking donations, I knew I had found it.

This year especially, with stories ranging from domestic violence survivors to immigrant experiences, I felt in my heart Bermuda would be drawn to supporting this organization. As a woman surrounded by countless underdogs, each with his or her own tale to tell, she understands the importance of stories. Stories are what propel her and the others along in their endless quest to dig up the legends of Panagea. Without the documented tales of those long gone, all evidence of the mythological beasts of Panagea’s past would’ve been lost forever.

So … what is UntitledTown, you ask?

UntitledTown is a nonprofit cultural organization dedicated to celebrating the human act of storytelling. Since 2017, UntitledTown Co. has fostered a community of readers and writers of all ages and experiences, culminating in an April UntitledTown Book and Author Festival.

Pretty amazing, right? It’s not just the predilection for keeping stories alive that made me choose this as Bermuda’s organization. UntitledTown’s official statement of inclusion reminded me so much of the temperament coursing through the entire ship. Captain Kazuaki Hidataka makes it perfectly clear that his crew is accepted blindly, no questions asked. Murderers, thieves, orphans and deserters … there’s no short supply of misfits aboard the ship. One rule stands far and above any others: it doesn’t matter who you were, what you’ve done, or what you believe. All that matters is that you stand with your comrades in the present, no questions asked.

UntitledTown reflects a similar inclusion. From their website:

UntitledTown seeks to lift and enrich by celebrating all forms and expressions of the human condition. We welcome all races, religions, gender expressions, sexual orientations, ages, national origins and abilities with open arms. In doing so, UntitledTown creates an inclusive and invigorating environment for all—staff, volunteers, donors, sponsors, attendees, featured speakers and vendors.

How can you not support that?

For these reasons, I have picked UntitledTown as Bermuda’s choice for my year-long endeavor to donate to one charity a month, based on the preferences of the characters in my Panagea Tales series. Bermuda has donated $200 to keep stories alive for everyone.

If you’d like to donate to UntitledTown and help them reach their goal, please visit their website! It’s an incredible organization and so, so important for future generations to enjoy the free workshops, readings, and experience a moment in time of someone else’s life.

I believe in fate. I believe in little slices of magic that guide people to certain places from time to time. Gentle nudges from the universe, I suppose. Something like that.

Sure, it sounds a bit crazy. Even a little … romanticized, doesn’t it? That’s fine. ‘Quirky’ is a characteristic I’m not afraid to own.

As time ticked down in January between my last ‘Year of Inspired Giving’ post and this one, I had no certain clues as to what February’s act was going to be about, or who it was going to involve. I knew I didn’t want to give to big charities that I hadn’t researched (because how much of that money actually goes to the cause you want to help?). So, I waited.

That was when Troy Blackford’s fundraiser for his son, Adrian, fell into my lap.

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It was solely by happenstance, but after reading everything the family endured in regard to their three-year-old son’s whirlwind diagnosis, to say I was both moved and gutted by the end of their story would be an understatement. It’s a cliche to say, but that’s only because most cliches have a large bulk of truth in them: they have literally endured every parent’s worst nightmare.

It feels wrong to draw any attention away from the Blackford family’s pain during a time like this, so I will only mention briefly why I chose this fundraiser: it reminded me of the moment that set Nicholai’s adventure into motion. A father’s love for his child is immeasurable, and they would do anything for their progeny. Even though things ultimately didn’t end well for Nicholai, his resentment took a backseat to Rodgie’s love for his daughter. He would have absolutely donated to this cause if there was any chance at all that it would ease the family’s burden during this tragic time.

To learn more about Adrian’s brave battle, and to make your own donation to the Blackford family, please click here to visit their GoFundMe. And, at the risk of spouting two overused cliches in a single blog post, hug your children a little longer tonight. We are promised nothing.

(A special thanks goes out to Loretto Bergamot (@BergamotLoretto) without whom I would not have stumbled across this deserving family’s story. His efforts to raise money for this family have been incredibly moving.)

Several months ago, one of my tattoo clients (the dear Paula Kolpien) approached me and asked if I’d be interested in doing a fundraiser for some organizations she’s a part of. Generally, I try to do one fundraiser a year by donating the proceeds from a day’s worth of tattooing, so this wasn’t particularly out of my normal realm of practice, but I’d been considering something … special … for a while. Let’s just say a few metaphorical marbles were rolling around in the ol’ brain hole.

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I wanted to try connecting my two passions (tattooing and writing) in a positive way for a while, and when the lovely Paula said the money would go toward White Paws German Shepherd Rescue and Mit Leibe German Shepherd Dog Rescue respectively, I thought, “Those sound like organizations Granite would donate to if he weren’t a figment of my imagination.”

Naturally, as creative minds often do, this thought spiraled wildly out of control.

What organization would Umbriel donate to?
Or Mr. Addihein, the tireless humanitarian whose dream for a better world for all seems like an all-to-utopian impossibility?
Even Kazuaki, with his questionable moral compass, would surely find something he deemed worthy of supporting, right?

I believe they would.

As the general underlying theme of the Panagea Tales is ‘there is no good or evil, only people doing what they think is right’, I intend to do just that. Once a month. For an entire year.

Today, my tattooing career helped me raise $680 (or $340 for each organization) for Mit Liebe and White Paws.

Somewhere in the depths of my head, Granite is genuinely happy to see money going to help animals who really need it.

Here’s something directly from White Paws’ website:

Since 2004, we’ve saved approximately 150-175 dogs a year from being put to sleep in shelters, most stray or abandoned by owners.  We take in dogs found in dumping grounds, owner surrenders, shelters and many other bad circumstances from 22 states in the Continental U.S.  We rescue young, old, and medically needy dogs.

And the mission statement from Mit Liebe? I think that’s something we can all get behind:

We only adopt to those who will love the dog as much, or if possible, more than we do.

If you’d like to make your own donations to these fine organizations, you can find the information on their mission and more on the links provided.

We all know the cast of the Panagea Tales is extensive … so, as stated above, for every month of 2020, I’ll pick an organization I think one character would support today if they were tangible human beings. Since Granite was so late in the month of December, he’s taking place as my official ‘January’. I don’t know who will serve the February slot yet, but I’m sure when the timing strikes, I’ll feel it. (Unless, of course, you all have some suggestions on where you think the characters would like to lend an assist). I’d love to hear them and help however I can.

tattoos
Instagram: @tattoopeasinapod

I’d also love to hear stories of how you made positive changes in your world or someone else’s. Maybe a signed copy of a book will fall into your mailbox from the literature fairy. They say fortune favors the bold, but I think it also favors those who favor others. Good karma and all that.

A happy New Year to you all, thank you to the lovely ladies who came out to get tattooed today, and cheers to eventual salvation for homeless animals everywhere.

-McK.

incinerationAh, guilt. One of many emotions that are as inevitable as they are unpleasant. It makes us human, doesn’t it?

Guilt invades me more often than I care to admit when I think of the Incineration Saga. I’m not sure if you know to what I’m referring, since it never amassed the same following that the Panagea Tales did – but the Incineration Saga was my little slow-burn paranormal romance featuring the witch (Esven Greenbriar), the fire demon (Balvonak), and the priest (Elias Deverell). I worked on the series somewhere between writing The Serpent That Swallowed Its Tail and The Canary That Sang to the World … delaying the inevitable conclusion of the Panagea Tales, you see.

I wrote two books in the series and part of the third. The first two books went under my capable editor’s eyes, and then I hastily threw them up on Amazon thinking, “This will be great! A new series! Woo!”

As it turns out, our dear human/demon/human trio launched to crickets.

Now, I don’t write to make money. (No. Really.) I am fortunate enough to make enough coin with my tattoo artistry that I do not need to rely on funds from the books. I write because I enjoy the characters, and because I want to share their stories with others who may enjoy them as well. It didn’t bother me that Esven, Balvo, and Elias didn’t pay the bills … but I did find myself marinating in guilt that their ending remained up in the air.

Normally, when I write, I have a pretty good idea of when the book(s) will be available to the general public. With Incineration, I cannot see the immediate future. It irks me. Because of this, I’ve decided to temporarily unpublish the first two books in the Incineration Saga (Followed by Fire and Embraced by Embers) until I know precisely when the remaining books in the series (Swallowed by Smoke and Cell of Cinders) will be forthcoming.

For the very few of you (less than sixty, I believe) who started the Incineration Saga and were looking forward to continuing it, I’m very sorry. I do promise that Esven, Balvo, and Elias will return. In the words of Elias Deverell …

There is no path on this land narrow enough that I would not walk beside you … even if I have to step in some poison ivy every now and then.

I still stand by the characters. I will still walk beside them and finish their story, regardless of the pitfalls. I just want to be sure that when they do, you won’t be waiting a year or more in between releases.

As always, thank you for reading!