My outline for making a living with what you love:


I did a panel sharing what I’ve learned with the DragonCon crowd a few years back, and used the following list to extemporaneously discourse on each point as I remembered stuff. I’m convinced that everyone would be happier if we all earned our keep doing what we were born to do.

Marrus’ Nine Suggestions (there are no rules) For Turning the Pictures in Your Head into a Roof Over It

1. Know what you want to do. 
Start with one thing. It’s the clearest thing in your head. It keeps you up at night, working. Too many projects is a great way to distract yourself from earning a living with one.

2. Have a plan.
Who needs this thing that you want to do? You’re gonna have to hit the road to find the people who are looking for YOU.

3. Learn what you need to get there.
A lot of success comes from being in the right place at the right time. Everything can be an opportunity. Even that job you hate. Keep in mind what it is you want to do, and keep at, keep learning, keep pushing. 

4. Stay true to your vision.
It’s fine to take a job off-center of ideal, but keep working on the thing for YOU. We lose our artistic integrity when we only cater to an established audience. Choose your allies and your addictions wisely.

5. Give back.
Teach the things you learn along the way. Sacred knowledge should be shared, not hoarded.

6. Use every tool you can find.
Barter. Use libraries, social networking sites. Blog. Question people more knowledgeable than you in your field – they started somewhere, too. Don’t overlook the guy who runs the bar down the street. Network everywhere, but be nice about it. And if an opportunity comes along that’s not right for you, pass it along to a friend.

7. Stay hungry.
That means keep learning. Keep looking. Get out of your comfort zone.

8. Be professional.
People will believe you are how you present yourself. Value your work and the time & knowledge that went into it. You’re gonna be a small business owner, so market yourself as well as your art. Remember, if it’s on the web, assume everyone you never wanted to see it WILL see it.

9. Never give up.
You won’t get the life you want if you quit fighting for it.

A final word: If you can see ANY other way to make a living, do that instead. This path can be long & hard, and unless it’s your entire world, the effort it’ll take probably won’t be worth it to you. You may realign your forces dozens of times, but each time, you’ll learn something new, make a new connection, and get that much closer to making a living with your passion.

(And if you want to hear more about this stuff, have I mentioned lately that I wrote a book? No really – I did. It’s good. (Other people have told me.)

This is not a dress rehearsal…

Out with a friend the other night to see a band. We were having a grand time, dancing our fool heads off and laughing. He’s a much better dancer than I am, and I had a hard time keeping up. (That little up-on-your-toes-glide thing in the waltz eludes me, but it didn’t stop me from trying.)

He sported his trademark waxed, curly que ‘stache, I was in some combo of sparkly-fringy-pig-tailed-cowboy-booted fabulousness. (Well, to me, anyway, and I’m the only one who counts.)

But no one else in the room moved. Here was this 7 piece band, swinging away, a clarinet, bongos, a sousaphone, a banjo, a cute chick belting out campy 40s songs, and everyone sat there, polite smiles on their faces, proof that all this marvelous sound was going into their ears evinced only in tiny toe-tappings.

A man confided quietly, pointing at my frolicking friend, “Wow, I wish I could be that free.”

He broke my heart, right then. Cuz the only thing stopping him, was him.

There’s this huge looming specter over so many people I’ve met. It’s name is What-Other-People-Think.

“Oh, I love it, but I could never wear that hat.”
“I wish I could say that to him.”
“I’d look stupid.”
“Well, YOU can pull it off, but I couldn’t.”

Here’s the dark secret: Other people don’t care. They’re too wrapped up in themselves, their own worries, potentially looking foolish. And if they DO say something, why should YOU give a damn? It’s so much easier to be a critic than a creator. There are six billion people on the planet, and they’re breeding at an outlandish pace – go talk to one of them.

This is YOUR life. In the off chance there’s no reincarnation, live NOW. What the hell are you waiting for? If you always wanted to learn Italian – TAKE A CLASS. If you love those shoes because they make you feel like Marilyn Monroe, WEAR THEM. If you think of something nice to say to that stranger just because, SAY IT.

Really, what’s the worst that will happen? You’ll fall off a cliff? You’ll break out in hives? You’ll die of shame? Some person you’ve never met & don’t care about won’t like you anymore?

How many more years will you sit there, wishing you’d gotten up & danced?

On public spaces & photography…

(originally published June 23, 2007)

I attended a voodoo hurricane protection ceremony this evening.

Having never witnessed this religion in action, and being a firm believer in people coming together to effect positive change, I donned all white for the day, constructed an offering for Madame Laveau, cut out of the Square early, and Jay, Shara (my new, lovely, short-term tenant) and I headed over to Bayou St. John to add our well wishes.

It was lovely to see the crowd gather at dusk at the center of the bridge, resplendent in white, each cradling their offerings: liquor, hair ribbons, gourds, candles, jeweled clips, cakes, even a watermelon. The hypnotic drumming, Marie’s veve carefully drawn in yellow powder on the slats of the bridge, the call & response singing in french, the ritualistic dance. I dropped my shoulders, loosened my hips, watched with enthusiasm & respect, for while the religion is not my own, I appreciate honest, beautiful worship with my whole heart.


Until, all the wanna-be documentarians, with their cameras and their flashes & their camcorders and their cel-phones began flashing away, despite the priestess’ request at the beginning of the ritual that they not. One bastard with a shoulder cam the size of my torso pushed me our of his way and actually leaned in between the drummers, impeding them so HE could get a better shot of the alter.

These dipshits seemed to think that a recording device gives them carte blanche, and I was disgusted. Imagine me coming into a church or a synagogue during a memorial service, running around behind the rabbi with my camera, pushing my mike into his face, or darting around the congregation to zoom in on the poignant expression of a bereft husband.

Yeah. Disgusted doesn’t begin to cover it.

SO disgusted that I left early, because I could feel my energy becoming increasingly negative, and I did NOT want to add that flavor to the ritual. I wanted to stay throughout, thank the folks who put it together, relay a message for an acquaintance to the priestess.

I used to think that the 3rd world folks who dislike having their pictures taken were foolish, backwards. I have seen the error of my ways, and apologize silently in the face of their wisdom. My life has been inundated with fucktards with cameras. In the Square, I have been forced to put up a sign: “Taking pictures of artwork is the same as stealing it.” Yes – I have had cameras aimed right at my paintings, and when I’ve asked them to stop have been attacked with “It’s a public place!”

At shows, I have had jerks in elevators snap multiple pictures of me 5 inches from my face, even when I’ve screamed “NO! NO!” On the rare occasion when someone ASKS to take my picture and I politely decline, I’ve gotten the response – “Well, if you didn’t want your picture taken, why would you dress like that?”

Yes officer, I deserved to be raped. My skirt was too short.

I don’t play in public the way I once did because I’ve seen those pix splattered across the net. I hate curtailing my lifestyle, but my moments of pain or delight or ecstasy are not for your family album, they’re for ME.

People, PUT AWAY THE DAMNED CAMERAS. Your owning a piece of equipment does not make you an artist or a photojournalist or a documentarian. Live your lives, experience the moment, and please, please, stop forcing the rest of us to be the unwilling victims of your two-bit reality shows.

Fauxtographers and Indians

I was blown away by the rude, unthinking, entitled fauxtographers at the Mardi Gras Indian parade yesterday. The tribes couldn’t even WALK DOWN THE STREET because of all the camera-happy-jackasses.

These people were actually standing in front of the parade, in the center of the street, barring the Indians’ paths, bumping into them, blocking those of us on the sidelines. No respect, no understanding, just mindless culture vampires. 

I didn’t think I could hate cameras any more than I already did, but this took it to a whole new level. An adorable two-year old, dressed in his Indian finery, being pushed down the route in his stroller, the wheels of which repeatedly rolled over the toes of an aggressive fauxtographer, walking backwards in front of it to get his oh-so-important shots. Frustrated demands to “make a hole” by the Big Chiefs had little to no effect. Instead of paying homage to a magnificent cultural art-form, I got to see the backs of a bunch of assholes in the middle of the street pissing off the creators who’d spent the last year making these spectacular costumes.

Infuriating. I don’t know where this behavior will end – it’s all me, Me, ME – my shot, what I want, who gives a fuck about you?!

New Orleans Royalty

I had one of my too-rare, up-close brushes with New Orleans jazz royalty last night.

 You can sense them coming before they arrive, because crowds part for these women. Oh, these women.

 They move with the timeless majesty of African elephants, slowly, decisively, owning the ground on which they walk. These were voluptuous, made-up beautifully, with wide, bright smiles, perfect pedicures, expensive, draping dresses, sparkling headwraps, bling dripping from ears & throats and wrists and ankles.

 Accepting accolades from the locals, gracious with the uncomprehending stares from the tourists, they answered questions about the most recent gig, who played what, where they were next.

 Then they stopped, and fell into my work. One peppered me with questions tinted through the lens of the music industry: Where you from, sugar? Who’s managing you? Where you showing? Who’s your agent?

 And I deflected with, “All me, for now, but I’m so ready for the next step…”

 She said, “oh, yes, baby, you are…” And she and her friends moved on.

 No, they didn’t buy anything. That doesn’t matter, because they will be back, bringing more royalty. Quality flocks. The top-level music makers here run things as surely as the politicians, just from the other, funkier end. I want more of these people in my life – the ones secure in their own greatness, with quiet, fearless grace.

 I never know what mystery the night will bring, but a bit of magic always happens. I’ll be out there again this weekend:)

Because being topped by an eight week pussy ain’t pretty.

Kitten-Raising 101

Often, when I go to play with a friend’s cat, the human associate of said kitty sez, “Oh, she doesn’t like to be touched.” Or “Careful, she bites.” Or “He doesn’t come out when we have company.”

And you know what? It’s not the cat’s fault that it’s that way, it’s the OWNER’S.

We get kittens because they’re oh-so-cute. We fall for the sweet image of kitty purring in our laps while we read, or because they’re so entertaining when they stalk our toes under the covers. We fall for the hype.

The truth is that kittens are lies wrapped in fuzzy adorableness.  People who drowned the tiny monsters by the sackful had the right idea. Kittens are feral, evil, spiky demons who must be beaten into submission. Kittens are disgusting, egotistical, vicious beasts who terrorize with claws, fangs, and fickleness, and which, if left unchecked, will grow up to be aloof, nasty, chow-gobblers that leech off you for 20 years. And who wants that?

I have two cats. They come (most of the time) when called. I can trim their claws without a fight. I can give them meds. I can hold them upside-down, pull their tails (gently of course), and play with their toes & paws & lips even when I’m not cutting claws or giving them meds. They’ve learned that lots of weird things might happen, but they’re NEVER gonna be hurt, so they never have to be afraid.

My sofas aren’t clawed, they don’t get on counters, and they’re social when company comes over. People comment on how nice they are.

They didn’t get that way by accident. They got that way cuz I WORK with them. I interact with them, talk to them, encourage good behaviour, swiftly correct bad. They know to come to the sound of tapping on a window or floor – extrapolated from my tapping on a can of cat food. When the Doomsicle was a biting, evil hellkitten, his head was in my mouth every day to prove I was the larger predator and COULD EAT HIM. He no longer bites. Kinkwink sits & lays down on command. No, really.

They sleep with me, love on me, listen to me. I’ve trained THEM, not the other way around.

Here’s some secret cat knowledge that isn’t really secret:
There’s a difference between clawing the sofa and kneading it. Clawing is aggressive & marks territory. It also destroys furniture. Give your kitty a post to scratch and train them to that. Kneading is gentle, relaxed, and is accompanied by purring and half lidded eyes. If you smack your cat for this, you’ll make her crazy, confused & neurotic.

A cat slowly lowering his lids while maintaining eye contact with you has just given you the equivalent of a cat kiss. Do it first to a relaxed animal, and smile at the response. A tail held high is a the tail of a happy cat. If they lift it up when coming towards you, that’s a hello! Good to see you! A lowered tail shows fear or discomfort.

New parents of young cats tell me all the things that kitteh doesn’t want to do, and my response is “Really? REALLY? You’re being topped by an eight week kitten??”

YOU are the alpha.  They WILL get in line. Or else that cat will OWN you for the next 15+ years, and nothing’s more pathetic than an adult human who’s some pussy’s bitch.  I’ve seen it happen.  It’s not pretty.

This PSA has been brought to you by the letter “M”. If any of you have Secret Kitteh Knowledge to add, feel free:)

(If you want more stuff like this, my Facebook page is the clearing house for it. Thanks for following me at Marrus!”

Rethink your upbringing…


Whatever it is you think you can’t do, somebody else put that thought in your head. Someone you respected, somebody who was in a position of authority before you were old enough to know what that meant. We are created fearless, blazing balls of intent. It isn’t until a germ of fear is insinuated into us that we doubt our true greatness.

Has the color of your skin dictated the type of clothing you wear? Does your family’s wealth or poverty ensure that same path is your destiny? Is your parent’s profession your own? Do your cultural mores limit your desires as an individual? Does your inherited religion tell you who you love or how many? Have the fences of your physical gender ensured that you can’t be as strong or as soft as you’d like?

How much of your life has been curtailed by others? A healthy mind questions all things. Are you who you want to be, or who someone else wants you to be? 

This is all you have. This body. This mind. This moment. Claim it – it’s YOURS. And go out & do marvelous things with it.


(Updated from a piece I wrote in May of 2008)

I’ve had a weight problem all my life. That I’m chesty & hippy and short waisted & not tall doesn’t help matters. Lousy eyes & knocky knees & wheezy cough & flat feet ensured that sports weren’t much fun for me when I was a kid, and I wanted to be reading or drawing or writing, anyway.

I grew up on simple meals: pork chops & apple sauce, French cut string beans (yucky!!), spaghetti, roasted chicken. We had cookies & licorice in the house, but we didn’t live on chips & fried foods. But, the plate had to be clean, and meals were often emotionally loaded, and the amounts of what I ate got bigger and bigger, and this coupled with the low levels of exercise ensured that I was always kinda round.

When I got older, I joined a gym, and lifted weights, and ran, and rowed, and sweated like a broken refrigerator, and MAYBE got down ten pounds. I couldn’t understand it. I was working out five days a week, busting my ass, and NOTHING was happening.

I grew despondent, frustrated. Clothes never fit well. The summertime Thigh Chafe Plague. The self-loathing. Wondering why inside, I was agile, elegant, my mind a lean rip of sinew and lightening, but outside, I was a dumpy earth mother, good for making goulash and plowing the fields.

My dad died of a diabetes-tinged heart attack when he was 51. He’d had the disease since he’d been 17, but never took very good care of himself. When we hugged, his belly was that hard, round press against me that pointed to layers of constricting fat around his internal organs. I mourned the absence of him, I still do, every day, but the shape of his body etched harder in my brain than the expression on his face or the shape of his hands.

And I’m seeing that shape more and more among Fandom. Kink, sci-fi fantasy worlds & renfaires are so inclusive of everybody that no one ever wants to tell anyone, “No, this thing you’re doing is not alright.”

I think it’s because we live so much in our heads. Fandom is packed with REALLY smart people, many of whom, like me, didn’t have the best time of it when it came to sports or thinking about our physicality. I could spend hours in a book, mindlessly popping sour cream & onion potato chip after sour cream & onion potato chip into my maw, light years away from third grade bullies and the Presidential Fitness Test.

But now, people are dying.

Lots of them. Wonderful, bright people. Organized, driven people. Amazing people that leave a hole in my heart by their absence.

And because telling someone you love, “You’re fat, and I want to help you” is somehow so much scarier than “You’re an alcoholic, and I want to help you”, we go about our day, and ignore the signs in ourselves, in our friends, in our lovers. The wheezing. The bad joints. The lack of energy. The mottled skin. I see more & more folks taking pills for medical conditions, when just stepping away from the computer would be enough.

The end of 2007, I got on a scale, and was stunned by the number. 178 pounds. I’m 5’4”. Almost. This was me:

If I didn’t get a handle on it fast, 180, 200, 250 were waiting with moist, pudgy faces and labored breathing, just over the next hill.

I looked at my diet like I had a thousand times before. I couldn’t see what was wrong with it – salads, chicken, turkey burgers, fruit, some ice cream here & there. I watered down juices. I didn’t drink sugary sodas. I rode my bike & even worked out on occasion.

I decided to go outside of myself, and tried Nutrisystem. The food’s palatable, and it’s easy to prepare, but it was the AMOUNT of food that confirmed my suspicion:

WHAT I’d been eating was just fine. THE AMOUNT I’d been eating was about 3 times more food than I needed.

A bowl of cereal will fit, dry, in a cupped hand, NOT a big, double tiered bowl with a whole banana chopped into it that you eat in front of your favorite TV show, and then when your show’s over, but the thing on afterwards isn’t THAT bad, and you have milk left, so you pour in some more cereal, but oops, that’s too much, better add a bit more milk…

A piece of meat is NOT pound of burger, dripping with two pieces of cheese & mayo & ketchup on a big whole wheat bun. It’s a piece the size of your hand if you cut your fingers off.

It doesn’t matter if you eat a big bowl of steamed broccoli if it’s layered in butter & three kinds of cheeses.

I learned that if I want a big varied dinner, that’s fine, but I need to adjust the amount I eat for lunch & breakfast. And, if I’ve overdone it the day before, I need to watch my ass (and my intake) the next day.

I’ve learned that I overeat to procrastinate, or because I’m lonely, or because I “have to finish what’s in front of me”.

I’ve learned to put my food on smaller plates. American marketing insists that we have HUGE plates of food, which OVERFLOW the borders of those plates, and we are MISSING OUT if we see the slightest bit of negative space buried within the vast cornucopia we’re about to force down our gullets.

I’m a visual girl. I fell for the trap. Hell, just look at a toothpaste commercial. See the way the toothpaste is layered on, all along the toothbrush, and then squeezed out just a bit more, so it backtracks on itself? That’s so you get visually conditioned to go through toothpaste faster, and yup – buy MORE toothpaste.

They’ve been doing this to us with food as well, and we’re killing ourselves as a result.

I want to be around a long time. Hell, I want to be around FOREVER, until I’m ready to move to the next level. I want you around, too.

If you’re a guy, and your belly is hard and round, and projects like a bowling ball, it’s not a cute party keg. It’s an indicator that you’ve got fat packed around your heart, and it’s having a harder & harder time beating. And you’re killing yourself.

If you’re a girl, and the girth of your belly exceeds your chest or hips, or you’ve got huge rolls above & below your bra strap, you might call yourself a Rubinesque goddess. You’re also killing yourself.

Before I get jumped on, this post is not about buying into a thin-freak culture. I have no desire to be a size zero. But there’s a difference between loving our bodies the way they are, and slowly killing ourselves because we don’t take a hard look at our actions & emotions & the reasons we’re overweight.

I’m down about 25 pounds from that picture up there. I’m stunned. I actually had to go out & buy new pants cuz my stuff was starting to look like a punchline on me. And, this is my husband, Jay, who just returned from deployment a few months ago. He runs ten miles a day.

Try living with THAT, and see what it does for your self-esteem:)

But I think I’m figuring out how to do this. I hope this time it sticks. And I hope that by baring my struggle here, I can help someone out there with their own.