Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Burn Your Book

I'm not surprised that my more personal blogs get less views. (A lot less.) Other people might take it personally; I don't. When I blog about personal things, I do it for myself, because I want to get it out.

I'm a writer, and I write because it's my personal escape. I write because I love it. But let's face it, I'm not the best writer in the world. My stories won't end wars or start rebellions. I share what I write because I want people to escape with me. Maybe somewhere along the road, I can show them courage or integrity through my characters.

If I want to do that, I have to have readers to read them. And that gets me back to my first point. When I blog about personal stuff, I get less readers. I get less shares.

This is where you choose to continue reading or not. If you feel that you should write exactly what you feel and forget the business aspect of it, thanks for stopping by, but stop reading... because this will only infuriate you.

But, if you believe there is a business, i.e. a selling point to writing please continue...

We pick out our book covers and our style very carefully. We think about what title will catch the readers eye. We think about marketing, venues, themes, etc... But I don't think we stop to think about what makes our story itself sellable. Yes, I said it. Sellable.

There is a genre for almost every type of book, and if there's not, nowadays, we can just make one up. But for those of us who actually want to make a good living writing, we need to write books that can either cross genres or will captivate a large audience in a specific genre.

For those of you who blog, look at your numbers, are the more personal blogs the most popular? Or are the ones that talk about writing or "drama" more popular? Take my article Self Pub Suicide for example. What a stir that caused! Why? Because, for one, I had spelling and grammar errors that people wanted to roast me for (yes, it's true, I'm human). The second reason it was popular was because it's a hot topic, and I was on a rant. People came from all over to either stand behind me or stand against me. Truth is, I didn't even realize that I'd drawn a line in the sand.

That's my point. I drew a line in the sand. I stood up and yelled. People want to see the heart, the fire. When I write my "self realization" blogs, they seem sad. Sad is not fire. There are a number of things that are not fire.... lust, depression, violence. Those are more like matches. They burn for a moment, and then are gone into oblivion the next.

I say all this to point out that most of you have the evidence of what it takes to get people's attention. It's in your blog post numbers. Is what you're writing making people remember what it feels like to be on fire? Is what you're writing going to stir something in them? (Ex: Harry Potter's courage.) Or is it going to burn so violently that what you wrote will scar them? (Ex: American Psycho.)

Write fire into your book. Fire burns, blazes, and catches anything that's around it. Write the stuff that matters to you... and the rest of the world. Find a way to really put that in there. Then write it so that people see it... and I mean really see it. Then, you will have numbers that also burn and grow like fire.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Heaven is Hell and Hell is Heaven: Running Blind Edition

I'm a writer.

I am a writer.

I. Am. A. Writer.

No matter how I say it, sometimes it doesn't feel real. But, it is constantly reverberating and humming away inside of me. I am a writer. There it is. I can hear it now, like the gentle, yet powerful, whir of an engine. It's telling me I am right to write.

My intuition is the same way. You could call it clairvoyance but that sounds stupid to me (too many stigmas). I know everyone has felt eyes on their back or just knew things before. It's like that. It always tells me when something bad is about to happen. I'd be willing to bet most mothers have felt the feeling. It stops your breath in your chest.

They seem so very different, but I believe my intuition and my desire to write come from the same place. This same churning engine hums hymns of sanctity into my ear, that tells me when something is wrong, is also telling me when something is right.

It's extremely difficult to discern between the two, as uneasiness seem to accompany both. I think a lot of people give up trying. I have without even noticing it. I tend to listen to everyone around me instead of to that quiet song that is my inner engine. I give up trying to answer my own questions, and instead I go searching for the answers elsewhere. Then, I wonder where I went wrong, why I'm unhappy. It's like ignoring my best friend... of course I'm not going to be happy! I don't like being ignored, especially when the person that's ignoring me is myself.

Truth is, I'm not sure anyone really knows what their song sounds like any more... it's been too convoluted and twisted into sounding like a conglomeration of everyone else's utopia (read distopia). We're running blind. We can't even see that heaven is hell and hell is really heaven. Maybe if we stopped running and just stood still for a moment, we could hear it again. The song of the engine. Maybe if I just stood still for a while, I could hear it again... that quiet song that guides my steps.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Enigma of Time

They say time heal all wounds.

"They" say.

I'm not saying that I disbelieve this... at least not entirely.

The past few weeks have been a waking nightmare. When you are sick for any extended length of time, you tend to be brought down to some state of desperation. For me, it's a mixture of wanting to feel better, to feel capable of getting out of bed, and to feel progress again. No, it's not life threatening. It makes my days a struggle. It's hard to fight.

It's made me think about my time and my wounds. I wonder if they will ever go away. I wonder if they will constantly be sitting on my shoulders like a dead weight sent to whisper horrible, evil things into my ear.

My monitor blew out.
My laptop isn't recognizing my wifi.
My father had a pulmonary embolism.
A good friend of mine is really sick.
A person hell bent on causing me pain started harrassing me again.
My therapist decided to take the whole month of December off.
Then, there's the typical family holiday issues. I would be worried about mentioning it here, but they'll never read this. My siblings and parents aren't bothered to read my blog.

My family is dishonest. You know those families that get together and talk about the weather? That's my family. Do we have deep dark secrets that we never talk about? Sure. Most of it rotates around not wanting to talk about what happened to me. I've cried my tears about my family. I'm not sorry any more. I just don't like being forced to sit in a room and be mute. I can't stand the tension. I can't stand pretending that things aren't the way that they are. I hate the judgment.

I know fighting for life is important. It's an idea that's been burned into my head. But, sometimes I wonder. On any typical day, I'd fight through this pain. Migraines, back pain, cysts rupturing, nausea, and black out spells would never stand a chance against my drive to live. If I had to be stuck in bed because of my back, I'd be working on my laptop... but not these past two weeks.

I've had too much on my shoulders, and I've given up. In a way, I've let myself just lay down and let my soul die. Sometimes perky, happy, optimistic people break.

Happiness is a choice. It's an uphill battle for me. Once the ball is rolling, it's generally easier. With all the stuff that's happened to me, it's all come to a screeching stop.

I'm on a break.

It'll pass. In the meantime, I'm going to let myself feel this pain, to wallow in it, ... to experience it. I think that sometimes you need to feel the pain in order to grow. If anyone else is feeling miserable this winter, please, don't feel that you are alone. There's light at the end of the tunnel. I can see it. I'm just tired of running to get to it. I'll get there when I get there.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Robbing The World

I entered a contest yesterday, at the last minute. I'd been thinking about it for weeks, but I didn't sit down and write my entry until a few hours before it was due.

It was the first time I've put myself up to be judged in a while. A long... long... long while.

I was probably using something like this the last time I entered a contest.
Of course, you could say that by blogging I open myself to be judged, but this is different. I'm talking about being judged on my creativity. This raw feeling had me revisiting an old lifetime query...

Why do I procrastinate? Why don't I ever give it my all?
But, the answer is simple.

I procrastinate because I fear that if I ever really tried, I could really fail.

Well, doesn't that just make me a clever one?
Of course, it doesn't.

But, what puts me on another level is that I think about it. If I never really push myself to work harder and stop procrastinating (which would inevitably result in better work) what would happen?

My response: Who cares what would happen?
It's not happening.

And a thought came to me...

I am robbing myself of my potential. Each little failure doesn't hurt when I know I just rushed "my best effort" in a last minute rally. But, years and years built up of little failures due to half-tries make me think I am setting myself up for ultimate failure.

"My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure." Abraham Lincoln

This contest, while I have no idea how I will fare, was something I wanted to win. I wasn't content with my submission. If I lose, I will not be "content" with my loss. So, I sit here, tapping my foot nervously because I have no confidence in my work... because deep down, I know I should have been working on it so much more. When I find out the results, I'll think, "Okay, that's that. Now, let's move forward to something else."

On a whole, little failures don't bother me. I will move forward in some way or another. But, the idea of all the failures characterizing my life blows my mind. I don't want my life to be characterized by little failures.

So, I guess I better board the train and get on with trying. Give myself a real shot with all the potential I have inside of me. My guess is there are plenty of you out there who are in the same boat. Skip the boat and board the train with me.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Suicide is Painless: A Retort

My last blog certainly drew some blood. My own. 

I could say that it ripped out my heart and hurt my feelings, but that would be a lie. I'm a writer; I'm used to getting ripped to shreds.

There are a million reasons why self-pubs, indies, and even traditional wayfarers hate traditional publishing and/or the Big 6.
  • Gatekeeper's prerequisites, i.e. queries and synopses (who doesn't hate writing those?)
  •  The long waits, even after you get picked up by an agent and/or publisher (What? It'll be two years before my book is on the shelves?)
  • The snobbish tomfoolery.
Yeah, yeah... the list could keep going, but I'm going to stop there. I want to talk about the last one. That last blog, "Self Pub Suicide", was about humility and getting along. Unfortunately, sometimes I come across as mean when I am trying to make a point. It can't be helped. (If you have something to say about this, save your breath and read the tirade in Abrasive.)

Point: As writers, we need to unite to help each other. If my goal was to please just the writers, then I wouldn't have a job. My goal is to please the reader... I'm pretty sure that is everyone's goal.

I don't believe in the mentality behind the "it's just not what we're looking for" comments (read "you're just not good enough"). So, instead of acting like a snobby gatekeeper,  leave the asinine comments at home and be constructive. Be as offhanded as you want. Throw in some sarcasm for good measure. Stab my work till it's bloody. Tell me I've made typos. Ask honest questions and post your perceptions that will breed healthy debate and growth. That's the only thing that will benefit any writer.

But, DO NOT come into my house and play the "I'm better than you" game. Writing is a level playing field. Suck it up, learn the game, and play it with some integrity.

This is what I'm thinking when I listen to other people, (especially when they are being derogatory or spiteful):

"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle." Plato

...Try it some time.  

Monday, October 31, 2011

Self Pub Suicide

The Indie vs. Trad debate is starting to annoy me. Generally speaking, I really could care less. I mean, everyone is going to have their own opinion, and that is just fine. Really, it is just fine by me.

But there are some sneaky issues that seem to have made their way into this new self-pub world. And it has been infecting my Twitter feed with the diehards on either side.

I didn't need to say anything until someone I respect started to get a little carried away. Now, she is pretty tied up in the traditional way of things, and much like me, has standards. **Note I did not say "high" standards, which most seem to think means unachievable.

No, much like me, she thinks that sentences need to flow well and have some sense of structure. We believe in proper grammar and spelling, plausible plot lines, proper transitions, and of course, showing and not telling. Unlike me, she wants to go traditional. So, you'd think that I would be at her throat when she makes her comments about the idiocy of self-pubbers. Nope. Because most of the time, she's right.

Now, she was getting a slight bit negative to me, so I dropped her a line to mention it. In the conversation something dawned on me. There are people who are directly going at her jugular because she sounds just like trad pub. It was a "whoa" moment when I realized how their anger is misdirected...
Hear me out. Yeah, she sounds just like 'em. But she is not them. She does not represent the Big 6. So why are we even having this debate amongst ourselves?

Why are we tearing down other authors out there because they believe in another system? I know people are tearing her down because she sounds like trad pub. Why does she sound like trad pub? Simply because she has (completely normal) standards and doesn't pat anyone else on the back.

Dear Self Pubbers:

Face it. Your work probably sucks.

I'll give you a minute to contemplate that.

Your work is most likely unreadable and a waste of money... I don't care how low you sell it for. You are bordering on the edge of being a junk car salesman. (See my comment below before you get angry.)

I remind myself of these facts everyday when I sit down to my WIP. I haven't pubbed yet. But, I know I could pub right now, and it would be a lot better than a lot of the crap out there. But that's not saying much.

 So why are people doing it? See above picture... because they think it's the only way out. And it's career suicide. I like what Bill Maher said, "[Career] Suicide is man's way of telling God, 'You can't fire me- I quit.'" It's like all these new self-pubbers out there are trying to send traditional publishing some great message. I look at what Maher said, and I see a parallel quote there, something along the lines of, "Traditional publishing can't reject me, I'll self pub!" Yeah, but in reality, most of the time the big guys get the last laugh.

Granted, you can harass people's feeds and pay for ads, etc. That may get you some sales. But as of right now, there are probably only 3 self-pubbers that I would buy based on their name alone, and one of them is NOT Amanda Hocking. 

There are, however, at least 10 people I am waiting to see their book published, some are self-pubs and some are trad pubs. And  I will buy them as soon as they come out because I support them as writers. And trust me, if you alpha, beta, and edit the crap out of your work, it will eventually get there. It will get to the point where me and my fellow writer friends will not be wanting to scratch our eyes out.

This is a picture of Self-Pub Avenue

 In fact, I'm sure a lot of self pubbers have a case against this blog in some way or another. Instead of going off on a tirade, I'll host a challenge. If you have self-pubbed a book that you think is just ace, send me the title and your name. If it's in paperback, kudos to you for not just going ebook, but you'll need to send me a copy. I will do a free line crit. A free PUBLIC line crit. I'm not sure how long it would be, but generally I stop when my eyes are rolling every other line. I am not nice in my crits. As a matter of fact, I'll open it up to be critiqued by my little piece of the writer world, too. Just to be nice.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Space Gives Perspective

Last week, things came crumbling in around me. No matter how hard I tried, the walls kept rushing towards me, trapping and holding me. My mind screamed at me, yelling, tormenting me... telling me to get away, far, far away from these walls. So I decided to run.
It seemed like the right thing to do.
I was down, dejected, and tired of complaining about the same things.
I also had a good excuse.

My family has been experiencing some personal problems that I have no right to share here. But, I had been promising to come up for a visit. So, it seemed like a good solution. Two birds, one stone sort of thing.

Here's where I teach my readers a lesson. Some may be familiar with this concept, others may not be. You are all familiar with the saying the grass is always greener on the other side. It's true. I knew this before I even left. There is a term I use with everyone who has similar issues: geographical baggage.

Geographical baggage refers to the baggage that travels with you no matter where you go. If you "just want to get out of this town" or "need to get away" in order to "solve" your problems, you are foolishly ignorant.

Distance will not solve any of your problems because the problems you have will travel along with you no matter where on earth you go.
I knew this before I left, but a change of scenery can help you hone into what issues follow you. That's what I wanted to know and see. I wanted to see what these walls (that were closing in on me) were made of. My lack of control of my situation, lack of enough income, and/or lack of happiness in my relationship. These were all potential issues.

It didn't take me 6 hours to realize that there wasn't another person in the world that I wanted there with me, my guy. So relationship was not it.

It took me less than 12 hours to realize that I had plenty of control in my life. This became apparent when my dad took my control away by toting me around in his truck running errands for six hours following my 11 hour train ride. I have plenty of control on my life, I only needed to be reminded of what it felt like to be out of control.

It took less than 24 hours to realize that I didn't need more money, I had everything I really  NEEDED. I also saw people who had plenty of money and were miserable. Money is only a problem if I let myself get caught up in it.  

The truth is, I kinda walked into a hornet's nest without much warning. If this was my dirty laundry to air, I would certainly share, but it's not. Spending time with the individuals in my family was great. I love... LOVE... my siblings, my dad and stepmom. Together, however, it's a bit of a constant power struggle and battle of wits.

And this tension forced me to analyze my own situation even more. If all the potential causes of my trapped feelings were not, in fact, the causes... then what was?

When the tension got to be a bit too much, I retreated into my Nook to read. I'd been reading a book by Andy Christofferson called Peace Corpse. I chose that book to read out of my many others because I knew it'd make me laugh.

He's honest, which is something I needed. The book is pretty much his take on life in the Peace Corps. But, it's filled with what really goes on there. As well as all his musings on life. Some of the things that he shares makes me feel really guilty, ya know, that guilty pleasure you get from sneaking into someone's personal thoughts. Kinda like reading a diary. But better. Much better.

Anyway, I read this book when the tension was getting too much, and I found myself asking all kinds of questions about my life that I don't think I would have had time to ask otherwise. The more I think about it, I felt like he had taken the much longer road I had wanted to. I wanted to get away and gain some ground on my own life. He'd taken two years in the Peace Corps in Africa. I only had a week in DC with my family. All I had to do was read along, and I felt I got all the experience I needed without having to live through them.

Which is a good thing. And I think Christofferson really summed up the idea for me. I didn't have to leave home to get my answers. I just needed perspective. And I did something that he couldn't. I came home early.

I felt a lack of control not because I actually lack the control. It's because I was not utilizing the control I had. I think a lot of people have this problem. The solution is to become more organized and focused. I need to TAKE control of the things I want to have control over.

Relationship problems are wherever you go with whomever you're with. But, when it came to it, there was no one else I wanted beside me on my journey. There was no one else I could think about sharing it with. Boredom and monotony are commonplace when you've been with someone as long as we've been together. And "spicing it up" is ridiculously cliche and really is, most times, forced and equally boring. But, sharing the daily moments is something I had forgotten. I thought about sharing the moments of traveling with him, and I'd forgotten about sharing the daily journey of our lives. And when I say journey, I do not mean the mundane tasks of our days. I mean the real journey.

And lastly, money. In our society, we have a "I want it now" mentality. Okay, I'll give in to that a little. But, as much as I realized there were some things I really wanted, I also realized there were less tangible things that had become more important. Instead of focusing on the material things, I began focusing on what I wanted them for. I want a new phone because I want to be more in touch with people (yes, that means you, the readers!). I want a new(er) car so that I can see more of my countryside and visit family more.

If I focus on those things, I am more determined to do what it takes to get them, while still being at peace with myself for not having them.

All in all, I feel enlightened. Those walls are still there, and I find myself eying them even now. But, I have a plan. I'm going to write down my goals, and I'm going to figure out how to make the changes I want in my life. And all those changes, I intend to share with you.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Zombie Walk 2011

I found out my city was having a Zombie Walk. In the spirit of Yes Man, I decided, "Sure, why not." So, it was sometime in the early AM when I stumbled across this news. But, seeing as I am a 3rd shifter, it was nearing my bedtime. This was my plan, catch a few hours of Zz's and then head to the Halloween store, stock up, and then harass my friends until they either join me or help me in my endeavor.

Don't worry, no friends were harmed in the making of Zombie AE. Though, they were rushed. Makeup was accomplished in less than 30 minutes. Complete with liquid latex scabs and mouth that had eaten brains.

Anyway, I got a friend to do my makeup and called a friend who I thought would be doing it, too. That's right, I have friends who do these things without my urging...

People brought canned food as a donation. No idea how much we raised. Hopefully something. I know we raised at least 5 cans cause that's how much I brought.

This is the result of a bunch of people getting together to celebrate stuff.... (Please, keep in my mind that this is all in good fun. It is sometimes a good idea to do something that is out of your norm. In this case, I had a lot of fun.)

Part of the queue. Only part of it.

Hey, you know you gotta have an Elvis Zombie in his PJ's

Bride Zombie. Only one of these actually.

Clown and her boyfriend zombie

Voodoo Zombie, which I thought was really clever

Flapper Zombie

This isn't a zombie. This is what you feel like when you get off from work.

Just kidding, he's definitely a zombie.

They killed him. Or so they thought...

...cause you can't kill Zombies. Forget that double tap rule.

Most colorful zombie

Yeah, we had zombie hunters and survivors. Of course.
Fresh flesh is how zombies live.
Zombie out.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Selling Out vs. Selling Out

I try to relate "what inspires me" (I hate that cliche) to write my blog posts. Sometimes, I just can't do them justice. And, I am afraid, this may be one of those times.

Today, I witnessed my landlady, a very kindly lady, getting verbally harassed by her husband for not putting air in her tire. She'd just gotten in a wreck on her moped. She wrecked due to this faulty moped tire, and he was yelling at her for it. Then the conversation turned to that of the house my guy and I rent. Perhaps you remember me saying we were going to buy it. We're not, at least not anytime soon. Our landlady's husband decided to revoke one of the "ideal" conditions she had given us. That, in and of itself, got me pretty emotional.

I can't really go into all the details, but the conversation left me want to save her. To help my landlady. To do something! But what could I do?

And this is not uncommon for me. I am frequently in a position where I cannot afford to help someone out. Sometimes the person I can't afford to help is myself. So, I bring you to the meat of this article: selling out.

I do not doubt my ability to write a fantastically literary piece. It may take 10 years or more, but I know I could do it. It. Would. Be. Great. But, what about in the meantime? I cannot sit and watch others around me go through life barely making it through because I'm too proud to write anything but "literature".

So, my choices are to sell out or... to sell out.

That's how I see it. I can either write divine literary fiction, complete trash (and then pimp it out like a spambot)or I can write the best fiction I can that will sell. I've ruled out the first option. Let's be honest with ourselves. Most of us have some "great" in our minds that we aspire to. Edgar Allen Poe, Jane Austen, J.R.R. Tolkien, J. K. Rowling, Emily Dickinson. These are some of my favorites. But, I'm not them. So, either way, what are my other two options? It's selling out.

Some people say writing for money is garbage. I say that those people obviously must be selfish and blind (unless you are financially able to help everyone in your current state). I know too many people that I want to help. Some would argue that I am "not true to my craft" or that "it's not about money". Well, guess what, as a writer, I study people. I see their pain. I feel their pain. It is what makes my writing better. I refuse to see that pain and to use it strictly for literary gain. I see their pain and I'm not too self involved or blind to realize I can do something to change it.

On the other hand, I refuse to write complete and utter trash. Well, that's not true... most of my first drafts were complete and utter trash. Trust me, I'm not being modest. I could write trashy smut novels to earn my dime. (And no offense to erotica writers; there's no correlation here.) I'm talking about the writing that is strictly nothing but an inconsistent series of well-penned heightened emotional moments of swoons or gasps. Bad writing. Playing to the major plot points that sell, and then ignoring the quality of writing.

Ya know, Twilight caught a lot of crap for the content matter. I give it hell because she used the same repetitive adjectives (not to mention the adverbs galore). That is what I detest. If my content has to have swoon moments and gasps to sell, then I will make sure I do my absolute best to make the quality of writing between those moments worth reading. I will make sure that the characters are built in a way that swoon moments really are swoon moments... and not just because some chick and a hot guy are hooking up.

So, guess what. I'm a sellout. But, at least I'm not a sellout. The guys in my book are attractive, it sells. The girls in my book aren't bad either. There are quasi love triangles, that sells. Truth is, I enjoy what I'm writing. It's not putting all of my bleeding heart on my page (as the literary masterpiece would be), but it will sell. Selling results in being able to help out more people more affectively, and it is more important than my pride. If I'm gonna sell out, and if you're gonna sell out too, at least do it with some dignity.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Let Freedom Ring

Recently, a few folks on Twitter and I got into a conversation about what "true freedom" is. It quickly became apparent that we all differed greatly on our thoughts and opinions on what this ubiquitous term meant. So when suggested, we decided to do a joint blog on the subject. You will find it posted on each of our blogs. This project is neat because we had one word and each came up with different POV. We all handled the subject with our own flare and finesse.

If you like these writers, I encourage you to follow their blogs as well, or at least run over to their blogs and check 'em out. You can typically eavesdrop on us on Twitter under #StabbyLove. Don't lie, I know you guys eavesdrop. Without further ado, let freedom ring...

Ashley Elizabeth's (mine, duh!)
Freedom is a pretty open topic. I mean, it's well open to interpretation. Freedom is defined as being free of confinement, regulation, or restraint.  I, however, think most people interpret this wrong. It seems when freedom is brought up, people talk about what they are freed from; people spend more time listing what they are tied to.

(It is imperative that I note that this viewpoint of freedom stands from a fairly liberated and democratic point of view.)

Someone may say that responsibilities act as the hindrance to freedom. Some people may fault responsibilities such as bills, debt, family, or significant others. But in reality, those are all choices. The responsibilities we have are ones we choose to live with. For example, I choose to have a computer, and therefore, I choose to pay for the electricity to power it.

I say I have true freedom because I suffer from no constraint, regulation, or confinement. Sure, there are things in my life (such as bills) that I have to bend to. But, I choose to. Freedom lies more in the mind. It is most likely why people feel they lack the freedom.

It is with purpose that I stand behind my decisions. I do not accept the "norms". In fact, I have a tendency to challenge them. I have stopped thinking about what I'm supposed to do, and I make choices that I am happy to stand behind.

Make a choice, stand behind it, and be present in your situation.

 Make the choice that you are going to be truly happy with. The choice that is solid to your core, moral beliefs, and your willingness to follow through. Then, instead of trying to pick it apart and looking for the strings that hold you back, look at the shackles you shed by making that choice.

Freedom is as intangible as your state of mind. It is a mental cage or a mental playground. It is a choice.

Ciara Ballintyne's
Freedom. What is it? Like many idealistic concepts it’s hard to pin down.

When I looked up freedom I got these definitions:

1.      the state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical restraint: He won his freedom after a retrial.

2.      exemption from external control, interference, regulation, etc. 

3.      the power to determine action without restraint.

4.      political or national independence.

5.      personal liberty, as opposed to bondage or slavery: a slave who bought his freedom.
You’ll notice there is a lot of talk about freedom from external control, regulation or interference, or lack of restraint. We certainly don’t have that kind of freedom in Australia or many other countries. Every time our government legislates to restrict guns, or ban smoking, we are subject to interference or regulation.

 In my opinion, there is no such thing as the power to determine action without restraint. Some people restrain themselves by their own consciences. The rest will take what they want by force if something else (the law or a stronger person) does not restrain them. Action without restraint is nothing but the rule of strength. The law of the jungle. That’s not freedom at all, in my opinion.

 My conscience restrains me. I’m happy for the law to restrain the people who don’t have one. And I regret there are places in the world that are not lucky enough to have the freedom we do.

About Ciara Ballintyne:
Opinionated lawyer and writer of high fantasy. Born not made argumentative. Caution: contents explosive in the presence of idiocy. You can find more about me at or follow me on Twitter @CiaraBallintyne

 Imran Siddiq's
Freedom deserves as many interpretations as the word itself implies. My take is a rather solemn one of caution. Most will state that they have the freedom to do whatever they wish to do, and that the hindrance against such would be a travesty against mankind. I agree to an extent, but then that does mean on what are they expressing that freedom to.

 I happily use my freedom to purchase, listen, read, eat, and drink as I wish. The ‘halt’ comes if I intended to use that freedom to harm, scold, tease, or damage something/someone. Just because I own a hammer, it does not mean I can smash a wall. No -  that is where the privilege part of freedom kicks in. I have the freedom to own a hammer, but I do not have the privilege to destroy.

 Freedom also comes with social barriers that can decrease the level you can apply. If someone heckles me in a conversation, I have the freedom to feel anger, pain, suffering, the dark side, but my social role might strangle my freedom to shout back. That is I being cautious. If I utilised my freedom, I could start an argument which would end up with someone being hurt. And as stated above, I do not want to use my freedom to hurt.

 So, I will sing and dance that freedom makes us unique to be someone/something without become a dystopian drone, but we have to curb that freedom when a situation requires sensibility and morale to prevail.

 About Imran Siddiq:
Not yet published, but I have a museum of tales I hope to extract and tell. Details of my progression can be found on, and you can follow me on Twitter: @Flickimp

Mark Brassington's
“I'm free to be whatever I, Whatever I choose, And I'll sing the blues if I want, I'm free to say whatever I, Whatever I like, If it's wrong or right it's alright.” – Oasis, Whatever.

 Lyrics by Noel Gallagher and Neil Innes which sum my thoughts on Freedom.

It is my belief that God gave us all freewill, and therefore, the ability to make our own choices; and as I grew up I learnt the difference between making the right or wrong decision.

There have been plenty of times in my life that I have not felt free of a situation and completely trapped; being bullied at school, being in a job I hated, and under extreme pressure from the role itself and my then boss, even in previous relationships and of course bills; and as much as anyone of these things has brought me down and made me feel trapped I have pushed through them and come to move past them and accept them.

Probably the hardest thing for me from the age of about twelve onwards way for me to feel free to be myself, this ties in with me being bullied from around that time from at least another five(ish) years. You learn to not speak for fear of your own words being used against you, so that other do not learn who you are and what you like as this will become that latest in their line of ammunition during school life.

Eventually I left school but only to keep those same walls and as much as I became more confident as time went on the walls of trust still stayed up and I would say that only in the three or four years have I become free to be myself and tell people about me – “I read comics” “I am aspiring author” “I like sci-fi” – these were big things to admit but now I freely tell people and I would say that tough life lesson only gave me thicker skin.

So whatever makes you hold yourself back try to push these things aside as they are what makes you, you. Be free to be yourself.

About Mark Brassington:
In my day job, I work in Commercial Banking but I am unpublished aspiring author with hopes to one day tell my tales of fantasy and sci-fi. I blog about my progress and other things at

You can follow me on twitter: @markbrassington  

Friday, September 23, 2011

Follow Friday #4

I have been out of touch with Twitter this week. But here's what I got from the little time I was online.

Here's the deal with my #FF. If you've been to my #FF blog before, just skip down, you don't have to read this twice.

There are plenty of people who didn't make this list that deserve to be on it. I make my list throughout the week, and while I may post a #FF because someone has shown how wonderful they are, I will not repeat the same #FF just because they continue to be wonderful. They have to have shown how wonderful they are to me in that given week. If I've forgotten someone, I'm sorry, chances are I'll put it in the next #FF post. I do not give #FF just because someone gave them to me. That's not how this works. If you want to be one this list, write something cool or show me how awesome you are by interacting with me on Twitter.

My Follow Friday's/#FF

@ciaraballintyne She does not comment on every blog post I make. However, when she does comment, it really shows that she puts thought into what she has to say. She seems to take a moment and consider the post. Then, she either gives good advice or uplifting motivation...sometimes both.

@sirra_girl She's thoughtful and cares about her flock... and therefore, good to follow.

@vizprod He's hilarious. He has a pleasant mix of disdain, sarcasm, and apathy that I find quite funny. While he does display all these traits, he does not whine or complain. That and he's cool.

@LornaSuzuki So she's a published author who has returned DM's. She's also got her books in production. So that's cool. Did I mention she's interacts with people on Twitter? Yeah, she's got success and took time to answer my questions. Double thumbs up.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Bad, Bad Writer

I should have learned my lesson by now.

You can't be a writer if you don't write. This is what I've been telling myself for the last several days. I haven't really sat down with the intention of really getting anything done. Sure, my new project has been open and added to, and my finished book is opened for editing.

But I haven't accomplished anything worth boasting about. In fact, it's the complete opposite. It's my own fault. And I wonder what happened to my love of writing. It doesn't make much sense.

I look at my finished (it's written) MS and I try to remember where my love for the characters went. When I go back to read it, I just see all of my errors.

But, today something happened. My landlord decided to give me the ideal scenario. She wants my guy and I to buy her house. No down payment, no increase in monthly payments, and depending on the circumstances, she'd even grant us an allowance for our home owner's taxes. This was just too good to be true.

But I realized that it would require I get a job that pays something decent so that my guy and I could afford to fix it up the way we want. Due to my "ailment" I can't really afford to be under too much stress or have too many projects going at once. This means one of two things. I must finish my book and get it published so I can get a well-paying job or I figure out how to earn a decent income from my writing.

Either way, I need to finish editing my MS.

End of story.

I'd lost sight of the bigger picture. And I think that's the problem. I spend so much time trying to make sure I'm not dreaming too big that I forget to actually take time to dream at all.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Follow Friday #3

Here's the deal with my #FF. If you've been to my #FF blog before, just skip down, you don't have to read this twice.

There are plenty of people who didn't make this list that deserve to be on it. I make my list throughout the week, and while I may post a #FF because someone has shown how wonderful they are, I will not repeat the same #FF just because they continue to be wonderful. They have to have shown how wonderful they are to me in that given week. If I've forgotten someone, I'm sorry, chances are I'll put it in the next #FF post. I do not give #FF just because someone gave them to me. That's not how this works. If you want to be one this list, write something cool or show me how awesome you are by interacting with me on Twitter.

MY #FF on September 15, 2011
After some rather unsavory and personal comments were left on my blog (which were deleted, no room for negativity here) a group, known as #stabbylove, came to my rescue. So the #stabbylove crew deserves a #FF.

@Safireblade She and I got to meet this week, which was very, very cool. She also exploded on the angry commenters. She took up for me hardcore, which was also very cool. She and I have very similar editing styles, and in her comment she left for the "angry commenters" I was able to learn that she can articulate things I've only ever thought of.
@FlickImp He's been on my #FF blog before. Very sweet and extremely devoted to his work. Wrote a great blog about synopsis, which is what earned him his place this week, totally read it:

@Sirra_girl She's an editor and translator. She's very supportive of writers as general rule and has a blog to help:

@Ericaluckedean She's also been on here before. She's good with her words in her blog posts and in her comments.

@scooterchicken For his random recipe awesomeness. His pictures usually inspire my dinner recipes, which seeing as I hate coming up with what to cook, makes him a godsend. Check 'em out here: Pi R Round, Cake R Squared & here too: Time For Dinner

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Windham Hill and Writing

I'm sitting listening to one of my favorite albums. Don't laugh, but it's a Windham Hill Piano Sampler.

When I started listening to this CD, I was a kid and didn't own many. I usually got whatever my dad didn't mind parting with. One of those was the Windham Hill Piano Sampler. I couldn't have been more than 11 years old the first time I listened to it.  But tonight, over a decade and half later, I realized that I was predicting the music before it even reached the speakers. I knew what notes came next... how the wordless story unfolded. And it made me feel like I was home.

That is saying a lot. I was an army brat and my parents were divorced. I didn't really have a "home". Over the years, however, this CD traveled with me and was the calm in the turbulent times of my life. (Despite the fact that the music itself is not quite calm itself.)

This (of course) has a correlation to writing... several as a matter of fact.

  • No one could ever tell me what my home was. No one would ever be able to define it or recreate it for me. It was something I claimed for myself. The same goes with writing. No one can tell you how to write. As many classes as there are, they can only help you if you let them help you. Your voice can't be recreated or defined. Of course you can try, but you'll never succeed. When a great writer is born, people compare others to them. Think of J.R.R. Tolkein, J.K. Rowling, or Jane Austen (3 of my favorite writers, by the way).

  • I can predict something that doesn't have words. I'm connecting with the intangible. I can feel the way the music is going to move; I'm in sync with it. It's like the notes are being played from inside my chest. So it goes with writing. Most people hear the lyrics but forget that the instruments make up over half the song. Unless you connect with your writing and create a strong core, all you'll have is a few catchy ditties and rhymes.

  • I also know how this music goes because I've listened to it so many times. The rises and falls are predictable, and in music, I believe that's fine. (I'd be kind of worried if I couldn't predict a song I'd listened to hundreds of times.) However, in the writing world, a good solid reader has seen it all and will be able to predict just about anything. If you don't think they have, then you don't read enough in your genre. Truth is, someone somewhere along the way has dropped the same "oh my gosh" moment or created the same relationship symantics that you have. Make us fall in love with your writing, be it your characters or your particular story, and it won't matter that we've seen it done before... because we will never have seen it done by you.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

What Was I Thinking?

About six months ago, I decided I was bored with my life. Like most people, I saw things that I wanted to do, but never did them. I was either too embarrassed or didn't want to go it alone. At the end of the day, I saw more missed oppurtunities. Now, I am a fan of accepting the choices we make. Those choices, however, seemed to define me as someone who had an adventuresome spirit, but lacked the courageous heart to back it up.

So, to correct this, I took my first leap and auditioned for a role (I didn't get it). I had to drive 2 hours to the audition and wait in a huge line. I was terrified the whole time and mostly considered backing out. The traffice jam on the way there was no fun either. My car almost over heated several times. But, I did it.

And I realized something about the "adventurous" people. They get the courage and motivation from the realization that comes afterwards. It's like a rush, a high when you see that you can accomplish something that is beyond your scope, beyond your level of comfort, and beyond what you are capable of. I'll explain.

So, last night was the official onset of the college football season in my house. There were four very loud and boisterous men in my living room, who were either shouting obsenities or cheering. Needless to say, the call to enjoy the fall weather was much louder because of this. Usually, I'd buzz a friend and see if they wanted to get coffee, but instead, I decided I'd take drive into the mountains. I'd just go, and hopefully I'd find a nice place to stop and write or sketch or take pictures. Well, it turns out I did. Here are some of the pictures I took yesterday:

Historical Bridge

View from where I was laying

There are woods and creeks everywhere

These landscapes are everywhere, so are the long, countryside fences.
However, in the midst of my personal mountain retreat, a friend of mine invited me to join her at a local festival. She said her mother was helping out and that she had to go. So I contemplated it for a moment... and then said yes.

It was at least an hour from where I was, and I didn't really have any money anyway. But I said yes. That little word created the evening as follows.

I went to this festival, it turned out her mother was not helping out, but on some sort of council that afforded us some extras. When I got there, I was immediately swooped up in their golf cart, where we road to the annual doggy parade. This was simply too cute for words. From there, my friend (L) and I went to look at the vendors. There were not many but it was still fun to walk and listen to the live band.

L's phone rang, and how she heard it through all the noise still baffles me. It was her mom, she had ride tickets that she was not going to use. So, we scurried over to her mother to collect these tickets. We were both wondering how many tickets there would be, when her mother produced two singular tickets. Apparently, these tickets would get us each wristband to ride as much as we wanted. Oh, the joy.

Our first ride looked something like this:

And that's where the life experiences started to kick in. If you carefully notice in this picture, there are white bars that look like wagon wheel spokes coming out from the center. Well, midway though the ride, one of these started to quite obviously shake loose. So, because I was stupid enough to watch Final Destination, I was picturing all the horrible ways this could go wrong. However, it did not. I told the man operating the ride about it, and he thanked me, quite enthusiastically. The ride didn't run for another 30 minutes.

From there, L got some fresh squeezed strawberry lemonade, which was free because the vendor couldn't make change for a $20. Then, we got some tasty street vendor food (mexican). I tried grilled cactus for the first time.

And then... I did something that was certainly not in my realm of comfort. Meet my foe:

The electric bull. Yes. I had never ridden one before. There was a whole throng of onlookers. They laughed loudly at everyone as they fell off, which didn't take but a few seconds to do. All the while, I'm trying to convince myself that I have the nerve to do this... ya know, to willingly absolutely humiliate myself.

The little girl in front of me was trying to put it off. We giggled a little together. "If you can do it, I can do it," I told her as she made her way up to the beast. And when it was finally my turn, people were already waiting to see which way I would meet my end. But, there's one thing I forgot to mention, I am strong. I used to ride horse when I was a little girl, and learned how to move with a bucking horse or beast. I was doing so well (according to the crowd who had started to cheer for me) that they suggested I only hold on with one hand. Uh, no. I was brave, but not stupid.

So, I eventually let go... it was going to come soon anyway, so I figured, I'd just end it in the best way possible, and I casually let myself fall off the bull into a blown up cactus.

So, I have pictures to prove, "Yeah, I did it."

I have the feeling inside me that tells me I am capable of more than I think I am.

I have a whole experience that would have be lost if I'd said no.


I am also very sore.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Follow Friday

Almost immediately after I finished my #FF last week, I thought of a blog that I'd read and connected with by Erica Lucke Dean . It was lighthearted and well written. It was also something I connected to... in so many ways. Thinking about the "eye rolling" immediately elicits a laughing "I know, right?" response from me. Plus, this blog she wrote had an intelligent and clever title: This is All Your Fault Gloria Steinman . #FF @ericaluckedean

@dbowenauthor A few weeks ago, I posted a tweet of desperation clearly stating my desire to quite possibly burn my book. This guy replied to my tweet, then we started DMing. Since then, we've been emailing me. He has been my personal source for all my writer questions. He handles them smoothly and with tact, something I certainly lack. So, when I am confronted with someone who can handle my abrasiveness I am forced to give mad props.

@Safireblade This crazy lady did line crits for me. And she's good at finding the places that need smoothing over.... keep tabs on her.  (Website:

@CiaraBallintyne I can't really explain this one. Her bio is impressive... kind of one of those people who are so impressive you are almost driven to jealousy. But, then when you talk to her, you realize how wonderful she is and then you can't be jealous because she's just too fantastic.... she just got her website off the ground... you can find it here:

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


So, today, funny thing happened. Actually, it wasn't funny. It was far from funny. It was more like watching a psychotic person finally explode.

And that psychotic person... well... was me.

I suppose that could be funny. Back to the point--

I've been doing a lot of critiquing lately. A lot. There have been several people that I've been helping out. Luckily, one of them happens to be a friend (let's call him B) that lives near me. We got together at Starbucks today because nothing goes better with a red pen than coffee. After 3 hours on his (I think) 5 pages of work, someone I once knew came up to say "hello".

They were pleasant, and when this person left B remarked, "Oh, what a nice person." But then he paused. "Oh, I guess they're not a nice person?" he asked, raising an eyebrow and evaluating my expression.

What B didn't know was all the subtle exchanges that had gone on while this person and I were talking. They hadn't talked to me in months. It was one of those quiet separations of a friendship, where one person slowly bows out of the the picture never really explaining why.

I knew why it happened. I didn't need any explanation. And here they were, interrupting my time, to point out that they still knew that I existed... as if things were fine. They weren't. I don't need niceties. What this exchange elicited from me was a final explosion of my restraint. And my friend, oh my poor friend, got to witness me in all my abrasive glory.

My explosion went something like this...

     "I'm tired of it B. I'm so tired of all of it," I growled, my eyes rolling dangerously back into my head. That still didn't seem to quelch his curiousity over what had just transposed.                       
     "That person is the representation everything I hate about myself," I continued. "I can't do it anymore, seriously. It's not like I've been nice today or anything, but I'm done holding back. I'm tired of people thinking that I'm stupid or that I need to apologize or excuse myself for the way that I am."
 "You don't have to apologize to me," B said.
     While my brain acknowledged his kindness, my mouth would not pause long enough to say so. The verbal tirade had been unleashed, and there was certainly no stopping it now. 
     "I know, B, but you are one out of a million. I'm tired of feeling like no matter how hard I try I can't ever say the right thing. I used to blame it on my (insert ailment here) but I don't think it has anything to do with that anymore." I started to drum my fingers on the arm of my chair. I lit another cigarette. B still didn't say anything, he knew I had some greater explanation to get out. I'd surely not expressed enough sarcasm at this point.
     "I think I must have a version of savantism. I can't socially interact well with others. I have zero tact, no matter how hard I try!" I considered this last statement for a moment, thinking about how much I'd actually poured into trying to have deccent conversations. The gears turned fairly quickly though, and I offered a quick guesstimation, "Seriously, it takes three times as much effort just to be 25% less abrasive." I raised my hands over my head, admitting defeat.
     "And, guess what, it's not worth it to me anymore. There are people like that in the world (I thumb over my shoulder to where this person had gone to) that are just too tired of dealing with someone who is as socially inept as I am. I don't need them to pat me on the back or tell me that it's okay. I never needed that. I only ever needed people to be upfront with me... to just say that I'm being a b**** and have a laugh with me about it."
     "I come across as a b****. I know I do. But I have a good heart, and I know that too. I'm tired of trying to show people how much I care or that I just want to help. I'm done. I'm done being nice. And you know what, while I'm ranting I might as well get this out. And I hate to say it, and I know I'm going to sound arrogant.... but, I'm right. I know I'm right about certain things. It's like a piece in a puzzle, I can scour the board for the right piece, and when I see it, I know I've got the right one. It's true about writing. I mean, there is a reason why my red pen is almost out of ink. I don't say it to be mean, or to be cruel... I just need the right pieces. I'm smart. I get things. I'm not going to sit down and explain something to someone if I didn't think they were worth it. I don't think anyone is worthless! I'm a big dreamer and would do anything to help someone get there. That's why I'm so abrasive. It's not like I think I'm better than anyone else. Obviously, I think my writing is mediocre... but I will work to make it better. I won't stop. I just don't know how else to be, and I'm tired of covering it up, trying to make excuses, and change this part of me. I'm abrasive and a social moron. I don't care anymore."

 B held up a hand to give me a high five. He took a deep breath, "Does that feel better?"

I started laughing, "Yes." This guy gets me. Even if he doesn't, he pretends to very well. And at the very least, he'll never stop humoring me. 
My fear is that people will hate me. I don't need to be petted or treated delicately or handled with kid gloves. I just want people to be upfront with me. I'm not mean because I hate anyone or I think I'm any better than anyone else. I simply can't help it. My perception of what comes out of my mouth is different from what most people have. My verbal filter was set off and skewed a very long time ago... by means out of my control. I've been trying (and failing) for years to set it right. I just think I deserve to be told the truth. I deserve to be surrounded by people who sincerely appreciate me and have a thick enough skin to laugh with me when I'm on a tirade.

I'm guessing this whole post may seem a bit weird coming from the girl who wrote Speechless and Insight Into Sight. Well, those were about what is in my heart. This is just about my ability to communicate.