Friday, December 14, 2012

Hope - "I'm Living on Such Sweet Nothing"

There are about a million things that can get me in hardcore writing mode. Usually, it's tragedy or triumph. So with the Sandy Hook shooting and a combination of Calvin Harris' Sweet Nothing Song, I'm feeling more than a little driven at the moment.

I guess since I'm a writer and editor and whatnot, I'm supposed to be building a platform with this blog. Pish posh. That's not who I am. I've never been a platform builder. I'm a very extremely, bluntly, unnervingly honest person. You ready? Here I go...

The main chorus in that song I'm listening to is, "I'm living on such sweet nothing." That's how I feel. I am living on something that feels wonderfully empty. I mean, I'm pulling from something that's not even there. And I realize I am what most people are, or at least should be: hopeful.

I live from day to day hoping in something that isn't brought to the forefront of our lives. In the news, children are being murdered in their classrooms and movie theaters. We blow up buildings for our religions. We condemn who people love. We hate others because they are not what we want them to be. What in recent news has given me reason to have this hope? NOTHING. But... it's still there....

I'm living on such sweet nothing.

It's that hope that wakes me up every day. It's my hope for my friends and family to see them prosper. But, almost every day my heart is breaking when things continue to go wrong. The miracle (and I really do believe it's a miracle) is that I still have hope. I still have faith in people. I will always write about people like that.

I'm not talking about that blind happy hope. I certainly don't have that. I have that quiet little hope that reminds me what it felt like when things were easy. How a daisy was an apology or when a bandaid fixed those cuts. Something in me tells me that this hope is far stronger than the other kind. That other kind can be stolen, robbed, and stripped from us. This hope is one that no one can take.

So, I'll end with my the usual writer tip. Don't let your characters have this false fleeting hope. It's fake and everyone will hate your character for not understanding what pain feels like. No one likes those bright chipper people who have no pain. If that's what your character portrays to the world, that's fine. We all do that in one way or another. But, I better see a freaking break down behind closed doors. And I need the hope too. Give me a reason to care. Show me they are just like me.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Behind Closed Doors: The Good from the Bad

Hello my lovelies. I will tell you, this was an EXTREMELY difficult article for me to write and post. So leaving me some kind words or just a smiley face will help me know you don't think the worst of me.

Remember that post about going behind the closed doors of writers? I promised to look behind closed doors and address things that would typically ruin a writer's platform. You know, air the dirty laundry. Until now I have not been really moved to write about it. But something happened to me yesterday that really knocked me off balance.

What could wound me so badly? Well... a letter from my maternal grandmother. If at any point this becomes uncomfortable for you to read, I encourage you to skip down to the "Here's what's important" section.

You see, I was abused as a child. I've suffered all the typical symptoms and signs that most who are abused do. I blamed myself, loathed myself, and all those nasty little things. For the past four years, I decided to face this issue head on. I decided it was time for me to learn how to deal with it. Considering where I was at when I started on this journey and where I am now is quite phenomenal. The fact that I'm sharing the tragedy that was my grandmother's letter is even more shocking.

Last night, I sat down to read a letter from my grandmother completely unprepared... a letter saying that the abuse was my fault. She said that I had provoked the abuse by seducing my abuser. I was probably 4-5 when this abuse happened the first time. I know, after much coaching and understanding that I've garnished from getting older, that I was not at fault. Children do not seduce. I logically know that. While that knowledge filled my head, in my heart, I felt all those rotten feelings come back.

My breath was caught in my chest and I struggled between anger and simply shattering while I fought for peace. Her words resonated with all the fears of those negative beliefs I'd held my entire life.

I believe when something horrible happens to someone, no matter how big or small, that a piece of darkness is in a way transplanted into them. I believe this because I believe that we were created to love and be happy. It's what we all seek. For me, I can't understand someone doing something so destructive to another person, so I rationalized that I brought it on myself.

While I understand this isn't true, that I didn't do anything to justify someone abusing me, I have had to find another way to understand that dark voice inside me that tells me it's my fault. It's a part of me, after all. And we all have it. I hate my abuser. My family says I should forgive, after all the abuser was relatively "young" as well. I've tried. I've tried for years, and I cannot do it. And when I have a flashback or (in this case) receive an antagonistic letter from my grandmother, I hear that dark voice wishing my abuser was no longer on planet earth, or a voice telling me that I deserved it, all the more spurring my hate for him. I hate him for having infected me with this darkness.

Here's what's important:
We all have a darkness inside us. It is not who we are. When we go through hard times or when darkness finds it's way into our lives it's like we get infected by it. Sometimes it's something small, like someone being rude. Sometimes it's bigger things like being bullied or excluded. No matter what it is, we've been faced with it, and it is our jobs to overcome it and choose not to pass it along.

As a writer, I've learned a few things from this experience. For one, I realized that the darkest and most painful villains are the ones that don't see evil as evil. They revel in what they see as justified or righteous morals. Take Hitler or Dolores Umbridge, for example.

I also have found myself asking myself questions that I can then apply to my writing to deepen the characters' development:
  1. What deep seeded evil resides in my own characters?
    • Where did this evil come from?
    • What have they done to try to eradicate it?
    • Where they able to eradicate it?
    • How does it physically manifest in their behavior?
    • What horrible thing happened to them and how would/does it twist their personality or view point on the world?
  2. Are my villains really as horrible as they could be?
    • Are they just power hungry?
    • What is a fitting "righteous blindness" that they could have?
    • How does this evil physically manifest itself in these characters?
  3. How do my protagonists handle the evil that is thrust upon them?
    • Is it an example that I stand behind?
    • Is it an accurate account of how a person really reacts? (I know I haven't written a scene that mirrors my meltdown last night.)
  4. And this is a big question, how do my characters handle the evil in others?
    • I come across as a very hard person. For those I've edited for, they know my standards. I'm a tough cookie to please because I'm always searching for the best. But, I also have a lot of compassion, and that is trait I don't think I really project quite so well. I know others who would read the same letter I read last night and go into a fit of rage. This is a normal reaction. It took me a while to fully understand how everyone has their own pain. There is no pain meter when it comes to emotion. (←I like that line, I might insert it in my MS.) 
    • Is it believable?
      • Have I developed the character so that their reaction to this evil person is believable and not some regular knee jerk reaction?
I have had a lot of time to come to terms with the way I am treated within my family. I am no martyr, and I'm not a victim. Maybe I was once. I like to think it was just something that happened in my own story arc. When anyone comes into your life to attack you, it's just a side effect of their own story arc. You have to figure out how you (or your characters) really feel about what happened. I don't believe what my grandmother wrote in that letter is true. I can, however, take the experience of last night and transpose it into my characters and how they feel and experience their hardships. I just have to stay true to what I have discovered about myself. And in doing that, I can more precisely make sure my characters are staying true to what they have discovered about themselves.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

What's Wrong with Your Writer?: A Non-Writer's Guide

I am soundly convinced that people who don't write don't understand what it's like to be a writer. As I writer, I have a few confessions to make. You non-writers sometimes really don't understand me. I'm going to explain why. (After re-reading this article, I realized it came with a good bit of snark. Please, this is all said in love and adoration for my non-writer cohorts as some of them are my readers, too. ;) )

  1. When I enter into the world where my characters live and you try to engage me in any sort of conversation, you are interrupting me. You are literally interrupting me mid-sentence. I don't care if you can hear me talking or not. You've interrupted me. It's like waking someone up from the middle of a dream; it's not like I can just close my eyes and go straight back to what I've spent hours building myself up emotionally to be able to write. Thank you, you've just destroyed half a days work. 
  2. When you enter my zone... This is just wrong. My ideas sometimes escape my head and float all around me for me to admire and toy with. When you walk in, you scare them off. Sometimes you scare them off so horribly I get writer's block. This is a serious disorder. It can last for ages. Once again, you've just destroyed a days work and possibly put me out of work for several more days, and there is no unemployment check issued for writer's block.
  3. When you disregard when I'm getting "called back to the office". You may not get this, but my characters are one of my bosses. They are the story. If they decide I need to get back to the office then I have to get back to the office. Your attempts to derail this are not appreciated. Also, I am not crazy just because I answer the call of my ideas. I don't look at you weird when you take a work call in the middle of our luncheon, do I?
  4. When you treat my character discussions (whether they are to myself or to you non-writers) like I am being an insane housewife arguing over whether a certain throw pillow will tie my whole room together. It's not the same. Picking and choosing character traits is quintessential. It defines the plot, which is either engine or machine of the whole book. It's like using the wrong materials to build a bridge; if one thing is wrong, the whole thing will collapse.
  5. When you add anything to my mess. I don't care if my desk is a disaster, it's a mark of how I've moved forward in my work. If that mess is moved forward by someone else, it's all I can see. Sometimes I mark by progress by how many cups of coffee or Mountain Dew cans have accumulated around me. Screwing up that equilibrium is like screwing around with my alarm clock.
  6. When you assume my house should be clean because I work from home. What's wrong with you? I work full-time. In fact, because I work for myself I usually work more than the normal 40 you put in. It's actually statistical. Go ahead, check the facts. I'm pretty sure that's it's more like 60 hours that self employed people put into their work.
  7. When you enter my zone... this deserves more analogies. What if I just showed up at your office just to ask you a "quick question?" Wouldn't you be a bit embarrassed if I did this a lot? It depends entirely on my mood whether "I knocked" is a good enough excuse to bother me.
  8. When you think that my modes of inspiration seem like I'm procrastinating, wasting my time, or being lazy. If I watch a movie and you see tears, trust me, it's work. If I'm searching tirelessly for a certain version of a song just so I can listen to it a million times while I write a certain scene, it's work. It's like trying to drill in a tough screw with a screwdriver instead of a drill; without the proper tool to drive the screw home, it'll end up messy. Worst case scenario being that the screw is stripped entirely and everything is ruined. Everything ruined.
  9. When you think writing and all the parts of it aren't work. Just because I enjoy my work doesn't mean you get to treat me like it's not work. If you lived with me and actually saw how it torments me at times, you'd know, it's work. Also, just because I enjoy my work doesn't mean I don't get angry with it. Just because you love your kids doesn't mean that they can't annoy the living hell out of you sometimes and make you flippantly say, "What made me think I ever wanted to have kids?" You don't mean it, and when I say, "why would anyone want to be a writer?" I don't mean it either.
  10. When I scream or grumble or look utterly frustrated for no given reason and you think I'm angry with you. Like I've mentioned before, a lot of work for a writer happens in their heads long before it comes out on page. So if I feel like having a hissy fit and I'm just sitting there looking unprovoked, don't assume it's about you. You've once again entered in on a moment that does not involve you.
  11. When you cannot possibly understand that writers "take their work home" with them probably more than any professional out there, with the exception of health care professionals perhaps. We live and breath emotion. That's our job. Sometimes I get sunk so deep in my characters that if they just experienced heartbreak, I too am feeling heartbroken. If they are angry and ready to murder someone, I am seething as well. And if they feel like going out on an adventure, don't get irritated because all of a sudden I want to go have one myself.
  12. When you disregard "works been tough", "I've been having a lot of late nights in the office", or "I've been having long days at the office." This means the same to me as it does to you. Writing doesn't just mean make-believe. It means make-believe and then reconstruction. It is engineering something new and the process is just like a real world engineer. You start off with an idea and sketch it out. Then, you go back and figure out the components that it would take to build up this idea. You test it out, and when it comes back failing tons of tests, you have to figure out how to fix it so it passes. If you change one component, six others may need to then be readjusted. There are times when you want to pull your hair out. Remember how in math class your teacher told you that these precise calculations mattered because if you started building a bridge and was only one inch/centimeter off on one side that you could be several feet/meters off on the other side, resulting in a collapsed bridge? Yeah. So when I'm telling you that I just found a huge scene that was played off a scene that I ended up deleting in the redraft and I just now realized it, I'm telling you I've collapsed the bridge.
  13. When you think that chatting to my writing friends is the same as hanging out with my regular friends. It is not. Sure, we cut up and sometimes we don't talk about writing at all. But, last time I checked, when you're on your lunch break with your co-workers you aren't always talking about work. It's nice to just take a breather from writing with people who know what you're struggling through. These people are important to have good relationships with because when it comes time to have beta readers, they are the front line. It's basically like asking someone to pile hours onto their already encumbered workload. It's like asking your friends to volunteer to be crash dummies for a new car you've designed. This car just happens to be going on an intense outdoor test course, and you might have not put in the right shocks to prepare them for the ride. It could be painful for them, possibly excruciating. What's worse is I have to like them enough so that when they get off that ride and the hell fury comes from their lips and it hits my ears, I know that they say it all because they love me.
  14. When you don't get how blogging, formatting, and social media are part of my job. Hello, I'm trying to make sure my other "boss" knows I'm working. I'm smiling and giving progress reports to my boss. See, whereas most people have one boss and the upper management above them, I have thousands of bosses. They are called readers. They are who pay me. Don't get angry because I go out of my way to make sure they are happy. If you think this isn't the same, be absent from work for a few days without any good explanation and see if you still have a job tomorrow. You won't. If I don't put myself out there, I lose readers. Sure, I can get new ones, but you could get a new job, too, couldn't you? And see, when I get new readers, it's like getting a raise. So be happy when I'm happy about my progress.

 Thanks to all the non-writers in my life who tolerate what you assume is odd behavior. But, just so you know, in writer world I'm entirely normal.

Share this if you know some non-writers who need to see this or if you want proof that you are not the only writer who does these things.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Why Do We Romanticize Tragedy?

So I know this is probably gonna rub a lot of people the wrong way... but have you ever noticed how we romanticize tragedy? Don't get me wrong, I love good stories, but seeing a pin recently on Pinterest made me wonder if in 100 years or so someone will write a romanticized story of 9/11. Subsequently, will a group of people create fake accounts for the people in that story?

Think about Vietnam War movies or World War II movies. My generation loves those highly played out and generally inaccurate accounts.  And maybe it is just because Titanic had such a romantic plotline that people have latched onto those characters. I haven’t gone searching for any memes or fake role playing accounts for other movies, but let’s think about this for a minute.

I wasn't around to hear of friends or family members dying in those wars. I didn’t deal with economic crises in those times or worry about the draft. Or, I didn’t hear about a tragedy killing 1,502 people.

I've been around for our "War on Terrorism", and I was devastated when I saw that the Pentagon had been hit. I remember bawling when I saw the side that had been hit was in my dad's department. But, as we all know, that side had been evacuated for remodeling. I certainly didn't know that then. These are tragedies of my country alone. In my generation, Hurricane Katrina took the lives of over 1,800 people. Compare that to the 1,502 that drowned, froze, or died in some other horrible way on the Titanic.

  •  85 years following the sinking of the RMS Titanic, the Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio movie was released.
  • 54 years following World War II, Saving Private Ryan was released.
  • 29 years following the first troops setting foot in Vietnam, Forrest Gump was released.  
  • 19 years from the supposed time period of the movie (1968), Full Metal Jacket was released.

 So, I’m asking myself how long will it take for me to find Hurricane Katrina as a “moving” or an “emotionally intense” movie? Or what about 9/11? I know there were movies made about it, but I didn’t see them. I certainly wasn’t ready to relive it.

Is 85 years how long it takes for it to be okay to make fake accounts and joke around about people dying? They aren't alone, I mean there are plenty of fake Hitler accounts.
Have you given it much thought? I'd love to hear you guys weigh in. Seriously, I would like your input. Anonymous is cool as long as it's not hateful.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Another Epic AE Rant

So there are some general rules when it comes to blogging. Learn them now. And, as I say that, I'm going to break them utterly and without losing any sleep.

The United States recently had a presidential election. I, however, could care less. Because, in all honesty, it's one man. My FB feed has been completely blasted with political posts for a while now, and the aftermath of the ballots rolling in has people unfriending folks left and right. I just want to scream some very loud obscenities right now. No, I wasn't unfriended by anyone (because I'm not a politically involved person).

However, I have a much bigger point. And let's go ahead and bring Hurricane Sandy into the mix. Or maybe we should talk about 9/11 and Katrina, too?

During moments of crisis, I become very proud of my country. We seem to all want to rally together to help. Granted, I hate that it's that we all "text to donate." That's just a way to show what our country is; we all have smartphones and our way of helping involves 30 seconds of composing a text. But, it is still help, and I still am impressed by how people give...

But what about every other time?

No seriously.

Plenty of people have approached me for editing work and get a small package or even just a sample edit. They "love" my work and can attest to how I'm willing to work with them even after they can't afford it. Now, I have my business colleagues who are also self employed, and they tell me I'm crazy. My work is worth something, they tell me. My work is worth a lot actually. I spend a lot of time trying to make sure I understand what the author is aiming for. Practically every edit I do is a substantive. I work for the industry, but truth is, I don't make much money doing it.

I'm the haggler, and I'm the bargain hunter. I'm the price matcher. I don't have time to be a full-on couponer, but if I did, I would.

I saw someone's post today saying that he didn't know if he'd be able to pay his rent. And my first reaction was, "I wonder if he has a Paypal and we could do a small campaign to catch him up?" I know the stress that not having the money to pay bills causes.

So, back to the times of crisis. Most people at any given time are in some sort of crisis. I've been running for so hard and for so long just to make ends meet, but I'm still giving away free edits. There are plenty of good people who could use a leg up. Those are the people who need help. You know, your average everyday Joe who really is doing the best they can.

I give what I can when I can give it, and sometimes even more often than that. With my family, they know that whenever they need something, I will be there to deliver. I can't always guarantee a good mood, but I can guarantee I'll deliver. Namely, right now it's rides to work etc, but sometimes it's food out of my freezer or letting them come over to use my laundry machine.

I'm not in the middle of a hurricane, but that doesn't mean I couldn't use a break (haven't taken a vacation, even a small one, in over 3 years). Or how about that guy I mentioned earlier who doesn't know if he'll make rent?

While I am a bargain hunter, I don't try to haggle with people who are just trying to get by. The big auto chain price-matched the distributor I put in my car and got I $80 off. But, I try to buy locally, and I send every bit of business I can their way.

Here's my theory, everyone is in a crisis.

  1. I don't care if their crisis is worse than mine or menial compared to mine. There is a human being in stress.
  2. I don't care if they brought it on themselves; you live you learn. I'm not error free, and I've made bad choices, too. The idea is not to repeat them. But, getting bailed out of poor decisions you've made helps you realize how wonderful people are.
  3. I don't care if they are hateful people. They are that way for a reason. Something happened to them at some time to make them bitter, which means they've suffered plenty.
  4. I don't care if they have more money than me. Sometimes, this does irk me. But, I do my best to understand their problems anyway.
  5.  I do care if this is something ongoing that they refuse to face. Meaning, they know what the problem is and do nothing to attempt to rectify it. If you're dirty, take a shower. This concept works for the mind, body, and soul. We all backslide, the point is to keep moving forward.
  6. I do care if it's at the expense of someone else. Plain and simple: don't hurt others.
  7. I do care if all they're doing is sitting there with their hands out. Help yourself the best you can.
I give homeless folks money because they are usually sitting out in the heat or cold. I give street musicians money because they are working hard, and I almost always enjoy their music. Sometimes it's only fifty cents. Most of the time, fifty cents is all I have. Seriously. But, what if out of the 500 people that passed him by 100 of them gave him fifty cents? He'd have fifty bucks.

Or, if I hook you up with an edit, how about putting $5 in my Donate section? Or even asking for my Paypal email so they don't get a "cut" for giving me the button. Maybe that $5 would go to me treating myself to a Starbucks, which is quite uplifting for my spirits. One time I was donated $6, and that went into my gas tank. You never know. But, those donations made a huge difference to me, not just financially but to my mood and stress levels.

When I see Americans rallying around a crisis, I wonder how often those same people look or even see the crises that are happening everyday all around them?

I watch those video ads on small blogs because some of them get paid only when someone has watched the entire video. Chances are I'm not actually watching the whole video, but if it's playing on my computer the ad agency paying them doesn't know the difference. Sometimes, I just click on their ads.

Here's the deal, you help others get a leg up, chances are later on down the road, they will be in a better position to give someone else a leg up.

Isn't it Gandhi who said be the change you wish to see in the world? Why is everyone so concerned about the change of one man? (Do not in any way try to argue the merits or downfalls of the 2012 Presidential candidates, that's not the point. Your comment will be deleted if you do.)

Don't wait for the next disaster to happen to help, get plugged in to those around you, or do something nice. Sometimes a few cents goes a long, long way. I should know.

Friday, October 12, 2012

WIP Blog Hop

I should announce this, I don't do blog hops. I don't talk about my book very often... at all as a matter of fact. But, when one of my two best friends (Heather Jacobs, her website is here) tags me, I really had to. Plus, she made me want to do it. This will be a good year for the both of us. I won't make you read a long drawn out thing so let's get to it.

The rules are:
  1. Answer the 10 questions below about your WIP on your blog/website.
  2. Tag 5 other writers/authors/bloggers.
  3. Add their links so we can “hop” over and meet them.

1. What is the working title of your book?
Shadow Awakening

Where did the idea for the book come from?
I really hesitate to tell the truth because of this:
I did dream of my main character. But, the dream only lasted long enough for what would be Chapter 1 of my book. From there, I made everything up from living in my imagination. In my edits, Chapter 1 got completely cut. So, in essence, my book came completely from my imagination. It only started in a dream.

What genre does your book fall under?
Oh, well, this is where it gets tricky. I've used the general blanket of fantasy. I've also said paranormal romance. But this is not Twilight.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I can't pick the female lead. It's downright impossible. But, I do have a story board of random photos found on the internet. Only three famous people have made it. I have particular looks, not people that fit my characters.

For my male lead we've got two canidates, James McAvoy (there are several moments that fit for him) and Jamie Bell (it's only the last picture that fits for Jamie Bell):

It's the harshness in the looks. It's the way they look like they hold a secret, in a way trapped within themselves. The counter male lead has been stolen by one picture:

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
I don't like this question. To find herself, Lani must transcend who she is and leave her present and visit the past.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I queried around a while ago. I got some bites. But, after discovering and exploring the indie world, I decided this was the place for me.

How long did it take to write your first draft of your manuscript?
I'm really not sure. The years tend to blend together for me. Things start and then get set aside. I believe I started it in one year and finished it two years later. But in days spent writing? I probably, in all, spent about three months.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
It fully encompasses pretty much all the fantastical creatures, and of course, I'd like to say it's unlike any story in it's genre, but I am sure there is a book out there that is close to it. I just haven't found it yet.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I'm really not sure. I just like writing. I enjoy creating worlds and characters. In all honesty, I think it was Twilight that did it. I read the romance and I did get caught up in it. But, when it was all done I thought that I could create something more real.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
It's odd, I don't like really talking about it. It's not like I don't want to share it... because I do. I just don't think it's quite ready. I refused a while ago to write love triangles, but there is some semblance of one in my book. Rarely anything is at it seems, and everyone has their own secrets. The rules of time are bent, and the rules of love are broken.

Now... who to "tag"? (I've added links once they've done their Blog hop posts!)
I guess if I wanted to asked anyone about their stuff, it'd be Stephen Moran, Mark Brassington, Melody Kaufmann, Imran Siddiq, and finally Rayne Hall. (I know some of your have pubbed, so therefore, maybe your first book.)

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The World on Pause

We all know I'm ridiculously honest sometimes. What I may not always mention is how emotionally unstable I can be.

I look at it as a kind of glitch in the system. Somebody broke into the warehouse of my wiring and put more power to one circuitry.... in essence highlighting something that doesn't need highlighting. Some things that never got the attention they deserved (when they needed it) become clear and in focus. This is hard because it's like walking into a room and the lights are out. Then, when someone flips the switch, you realize you're in a crime scene. All you can do is look around in horror... everything is laid in front of you and you wonder how it ever escaped your notice.

Then, I can feel it. It's like I'm falling into myself... somehow operating my body from the inside, watching the world from a distance. People talk to me, and I hear them... and I reply. It's in the program. But, somewhere there's still a glitch. A glitch where I should be smiling, I'm not showing anything. Just numb on the outside. It's the inside that needs fixing.

To return to the crime scene metaphor, I've basically sat myself down in that room, staring at the horrible things before me, trying to make sense of why they happened. I can hear the voices telling me that it wasn't my fault. I can hear people telling me to put it out of my mind. But, have you ever accidentally come across a horrifying or scary picture on the internet then tried to forget it? Imagine if you were there when that picture was taken... would you be able to forget it then?


I like to think of myself as a strong person. But, how can I? I can't predict these turns in the tide. I am a strong person. Though, sometimes, I have to put the world on pause.

If you need me, send me an email, otherwise, I'm evaluating a crime scene.


Thursday, August 30, 2012

What to Do When Your Characters Stop Talking

I've been trying to wrap my head around one of my characters lately. It's not just any character. It's the character... ya know, the main character of my book. It seems the more I edit, the more I feel like I just know this character externally. With all my other protagonists, I can feel them at my core. I can feel their motivations for why they make the decisions they make. But with this protagonist, I just can't quite get there. I'm not sure if I even did when I was writing her.

So, it dawned on my today that maybe I should get to know her through others. I've got a pretty firm grasp on the other characters' voices, so I decided to sit down and hone in on what they had to say about her.

I asked her mother figure, her best friend (female), her other best friend (male), the guy who's crushing on her, and some of the other people who know her. I was somewhat surprised by their answers. When I asked one of her tutors, I was downright surprised at the answer.

Then, I went and took these answers to my MC (main character) to find out what she had to say... to see how these answers resonated with her. And there it was, like a pulsing beacon deep inside me, I found out why I couldn't connect with her before... more on why I couldn't connect with her later.

In any case, the truth is we all have that moment where we start panicking over the fact that a character has stopped talking to us.

1. You've done something to upset your character.
  • Example/Problem: I did this once. And when I tried to continue the story from this one point I'd written to keep the plot going in the direction I wanted, but I found I couldn't hear my character anymore.
  • The Fix: Rewind and delete. Ask your character what you did wrong. Chances are you made a decision for your character that your character would not make. What would your character do? Close your eyes and let your character envelope you. Play out the scene in your head up to that moment... then wait. Wait for your character's action and/or response. You might be surprised by what happens. It's probably better than what you'd planned originally.
2. You've fallen out of contact with your character.
  • Example/Problem: You've brought your story to a certain point or maybe even completed it, and your characters have gone all mute on you... as if they don't even exist except on paper anymore.
  • The Fix: Try rereading your favorite or most climatic scenes... the ones that should be wrought with emotion. If this doesn't work, talk to your other characters. A lot of us are only let the MCs in our head. Try talking to some of the smaller parts.
3. You've gotten bored with your character and they have ceased to exist in your world.
  • Example/Problem: How many times has this happened? You've come up with some other idea or character that has completely ransacked your world, dominating your thoughts and screen time.
  • The Fix: One option is to let that WIP (work in progress) go cold for a while. If it's something you've finished, it helps to have a cooling off period before edits. If this is not the case then: Lists. Yes, no writer likes extra work, but it helps. They do this in therapy to help people learn who they are. Write a list of character traits, thoughts, expressions, etc.
4. None of the above fit?
  • Well, chances are your characters are fine and you are self doubting.
  • The Fix: Stop self doubting. It gets you no where. If something is bothering you about your WIP, go and fix it. Whatever it takes. The old "it's just not good enough" isn't reason to give it up. Write a list of what's not good enough, then read articles, research, and find out how to fix it. Chances are you are better than you realize.
Sample Questions I asked my characters:
Insert your character names into the parenthesis, and come up with your own! These were all directed towards particular characters that fit their relationship with my MC.
  1. Why do you like (the protag)?
  2. Why is she different to you than (insert other character name here)?
  3. What makes you worry about (MC)?
  4. Why are you so flirtatious with (MC) when you know you don't like her like that?
  5. Why do you look up to (MC)?
  6. Why have you taken care of (MC) so long?
  7. Why are you so certain (MC) is who you say she is?
  8. Can you tell that (MC) is nervous?
  9. Do you feel that (MC) resents you for bringing her into this world?
  10. How could you abandon (MC) knowing what she had been through?
  11. Why is (MC) so important to this cause? Why does it have to be her?
  12. Would you still like (MC) if (MC) gave up?
Just something you guys to mull over. Please add any questions you've used to open your characters up in the comments below or email them to me at Ashley dot AE dot Elizabeth at gmail dot com. I'll be compiling them into a much larger post.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Corrupt Indie Downfall

Just read something online, and of course, my feathers are more than a little ruffled.

Let's put in this way.... I am starting to think that there should be laws implemented to regulate the behavior of indie authors. If I see any more coddling or "down with the system" indies on their soapbox, I'm going to go on strike. Which means, I will no longer speak to any new indies that don't first sign some contract stating that they are not idiots.

One of my main issues right now is that there are A LOT of indie writers out there who are preaching wrong practices to newbie writers. This whole "down with the system" is complete crap. I'm serious. The system is falling apart at the seams and people are looting in the streets. That's not how it works folks. It's simply not.

If your book doesn't get accepted because the market is bad or publishing houses don't think it will sell, then fine. Self-pub away. But, usually those are NOT the reason books aren't getting accepted. All writers, indie and trad alike, should follow a process. Don't even bother trying to preach to me about the chinks in the armor. I know that bad books get trad published just as much as I know that good books get passed over.

Have you guys not seen the movie He's Just Not That Into? The whole point of that movie is, "You are not the exception, you are the rule." I'm tired of people operating on the basis that their book is fantastic, it's probably not. Have some humility. Do what writers have been doing forever.... write, edit, beta, re-write, edit, beta, rinse and repeat. This system has only just started to really fail with the crap they're putting out now. But, in the past, it worked and put out great novels.

The system teaches you hard lessons... like rejection. It happens. All the time. I can't imagine Edgar Allen Poe getting coddled by anyone else but his cousin/wife. Stephen King, while some hate him and some love him, has given us some great stories... IE Carrie, the Shining... and in the beginning he worked for scraps and only had his wife rooting for him. It happens. They didn't beg their readers for great reviews (or pay them as we can now do), they sat down and honed their craft.

I'm so sick of indies right now. Granted, I'm hoping that it's the minority of indies out there that are shouting, "Hey, look at me! Love me! Give me money for a bad book!" But, they are the ones that are getting all the attention, and they are the ones giving us a bad rep.

On top of all of that, I think a lot of indies do not realize that they are representing the industry and giving BAD, HORRIBLE, DISGUSTING advice to newbie writers. What comes out of your mouth as a writer is looked at by other writers, keep that in mind as you post your blogs, tweet, or otherwise.

Maybe, if enough Respectable Indies stand up and stop being afraid of what these mobs of angry indies have to say we can regain some respect in the community. Hell, there are reviewers who are getting tired of dealing with us. I don't know about you, but when I publish I don't want to have to go knocking on doors of reviewers only to be met with shotguns and warning signs that say "no indies allowed". Because if we don't start shaping up this community ourselves, that's exactly what's going to happen.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Critical Review of Melpomene's Tears by Jonas Hyde

Please note that this is more in the style of a critical analysis as opposed to your typical reader review.

I finished this book in a few hours. Then, I went back and read it again. Hyde’s style completely baffles me. I feel that I should really write two reviews for this collection. Throughout this review, I go back and forth. With almost every noteworthy good, there’s also a “yeah, but” or vice versa. On one hand, I found myself boasting about a few of the poems. On the other hand, I felt like I was reading someone’s journal.

Melpomene’s Tears definitely has a medieval feel to it, as you will often find words like “nous”, “ain”, and some apostrophe words like “ne’er”, “’twas”, and “tho’”.

Okay, truth is, I’m struggling to write this review. I will say it’s worth the buy. Yes, go ahead and download it. Now onwards to my thoughts…

His content was great. His narrative poem (poems that tell a story) Lament for Lady Beth was one of my favorites. It was twisted, and I really enjoyed the story. Hyde went to great lengths to make sure the rhyming scheme (ABABCBCDCDD) was kept intact throughout all twenty-five stanzas. That is very impressive. However, his meter was all over the place. His stanzas went something like this:
Stanza 1: 11, 6, 10, 7, 6, 6, 7, 9, 8, 8, 21/
Stanza 2: 9, 9, 15, 12, 10, 12, 12, 11, 8, 10, 19/
Stanza 3: 8, 13, 8, 9, 8, 9, 8, 7, 16/
Stanza 4: 10, 5, 11, 9, 8, 19, 11, 12, 9, 14, 12

Yes, I went through and counted out every syllable (aka the meter) for the first 15 stanzas. There was no meter. In a lot of cases, I’m okay with not having any meter, except as you can see from the stanzas above, the general flow of the work was all over the place. If you tried to read it out loud, which I did, you’d fall all over yourself because his scattered meter won’t let you fall into any steady pace in this particular piece.

That being said, the story stuck with me. It stuck with me in a way a Grimm’s fairytale would. I just had that sort of feel to it.

My favorite story was probably The Bounty. This was also a narrative poem, and it also stuck to a rigid rhyme scheme (ABBA). This time the meter, though not really definitive, was regular… meaning it had a “beat” to it. As in most of the poems in this collection, The Bounty had a narrator. As it was only a few pages long, I can’t say much about the actual story without giving it away, but I loved the emotional joys and tragedy of it all.

The reason I am so conflicted about this review is there were definitely some moments that were getting under my skin. There were several overused words. By the end, I felt if I’d read the words “ain” and “nous” one more time, I’d have to buy this guy a medieval thesaurus and give it to him. It was also relatively depressing. However, it was very personal, and you could definitely feel that. This seemed like it should have been very cathartic for Hyde. Having said that, I don’t think Hyde played to his strengths throughout the collection. I would have been much happier getting a collection of just his narrative works. While I could totally get on board with what style he was going for, sometimes it seemed like he couldn’t make up his mind, his words were often unnecessarily inverted, and thoughts were left incomplete. Though, I think a lot of that was fixed in his narrative poetry.

Overall, I have to give this 3-stars. There were some great lines in it, like “for words further/ would only waste a moment and a breath”. I found myself really falling for some of his phrases. But, on the same hand, I think that “for further words” would have flowed a lot better without losing his style or meaning. This was the case in a lot of places. But, the content itself connected me to the author’s innermost grief. The content of the narratives could very well be likened to Grimm’s Fairytales.  

The main reason I give this 3-stars is because I feel that this is not the height of Hyde’s skill and talent. I would happily give this a 5-star review just so others would buy it, but this is not Hyde’s 5-star work. I would be very anxious to see more… much more… from Jonas Hyde.

Friday, August 17, 2012

How To Write a Bad Review

It just so happens that reviews are a very touchy subject lately. Duh, there are indie vs. reviewer wars, author's giving fake good reviews to friends, and glib smack talk akin to what you'd find in high school. Then, there's also that 5 star system that just makes me want to gag.

It's about time I address what I feel needs to be in a review that is written by a regular book reviewer or a writer. For those part time readers who just do the, "Hey, this was good," you can probably ignore this post.

I've seen some very long winded reviews and some very short reviews. Abe Lincoln said it best, and I agree... you cannot please all of the people all of the time. But, here's some tips worth noting.

1. Define your Taste Profile
  • I prefer happy endings, so I don't like martyr scenarios. I just don't. That's my preference. I'm likely to knock off a star for that. 
  • How about the pace? I can read a slow book. For example, Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus. The book was pretty slow. It was too slow for one of my favorite reviewers, Kara Malinczak. She couldn't even finish it! I, however, loved the book. I felt it was something to be savored.
Most reviewers feel their audience knows what they like, but I still think it's important to point out that something might not have been suited for your tastes. I will always point out if a book lost a star due to my personal preference and not because of the author's skill level.

2. Don't Be Rude
Francois Rude (He's seriously Mr. Rude)
  • You can absolutely be snarky without being disrespectful. There are certain adjectives that reviewers should not use. You know what they are. I don't need to list them. Try to stay away from negative hyperboles, metaphors, and analogies.
3. Find Some Nice to Say
  •  I can already hear the naysayers on this tip. But, I stand firmly behind it. Sometimes the only nice thing you can say is that it did not suit your taste.  I once read a book that had obviously not been edited. I was only out $0.99 so I wasn't too bummed. In the review, I stated the fact that it had obviously not been edited (and seriously it hadn't and it was obvious). Then, I went on to give the book compliments. The story itself was really cool, and I ended up giving it 3 stars just because of the plotline and dialogue. The grammar and some of the pacing should have made it 1 star.
4. Stick to the facts
  • You'd think this was a no brainer. If you want to write a good review, stick to the facts. There are things that different reviewers look for. Plotline, character development, pacing, and general quality of writing. Some people are just in it for the romance or how romantic a certain character is. That's fine. Stick to that.
5. Try and Be Polite... for the Author
  • Okay, while I realize this is not the job of any reviewer, I think it should still be said. If you have never written something for the public before, you have no idea how devastating it can be to get a bad review. While authors are taught to try and take it in stride (some have obviously missed this lesson), this is still their creation you are talking about. Be respectful of the time and effort they have put into it. If you are an author who thinks that other authors should develop the thick skin you have, get off your high horse. Some people are more sensitive. I'm not expecting coddling here, just some level of respect.

See the "Polite Literature" part? Ha, it does exist.
With all this being said, no one is perfect. And lately, I've been a pretty bad offender myself... especially when it comes to my rants about the poor prose of Fifty Shades of Grey.

So, after reading this blog and Indie Authors: Your Sales Are Your Fault, you probably think I'm taking the reviewers' side. I'm not. I'm a writer and an editor. I'm taking the writers' side. I expect good quality to come from writers... after all, in a way, we all represent each other.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Forgetting Main Ingredients in YA

I think there are a lot of experiences that get missed in books.

I read a lot of YA, and lately, I feel like the storyline is quite flat. It usually is all some version of boy meets girl. And for the most part, I'm okay with that.

But there are times when my mind is dark that I realize or at least feel that something is missing in those tales. When we write, we are supposed to draw from experiences. Most of us have experienced loss or bullying or parental frustrations. So those I don't have a problem with. But what about the real darkness?

I don't see many monsters in YA. Not real ones. Maybe that's why I liked Maze Runner so much (books 2 & 3 were not the same). I felt that James Dashner had brought some of my nightmares to the page. He had brought some despair to reality, and for once it had nothing to do with a girl. Sure, there were romance issues, but it was hardly the focus. As a side note, I love it when authors say that their YA has romance but it is not the focus... cause most of the time, that's not true. What they mean to say is that their book's plotline is not derived from the romance itself. The romance is still in focus...

Anyway, back to my point. I've not read much YA lately that has really evoked a strong emotional response. Honestly, I've set down my Nook. I've been up to my elbows in work and trying to reap the remaining benefits of the summer's harvest.

Well good readers, without spelling it out detail by detail, all I'm saying is... I hope you don't forget to put the stuff in your books that has made you question life. Or the things that really catch you off guard. For me it's when I'm faced with something I have a hard time putting into words. Like the feeling that some absolute trust has been betrayed... by someone who you've been entirely vulnerable to. There a lot of raw moments in life that teens encounter outside of high school and who they are crushing on. They have a lot more phenomenal and extraordinary questions and emotions than that.

Monday, August 6, 2012

All These Confessions Make Me Nervous

I've tried not to hate on writers who spam their books constantly because I knew I might find myself in that same position one day. I knew very well that I could find myself with a greater understanding than I had when I was getting annoyed with the "look how great my book is, go buy it" tweets that would fill my feed. Well, that day has arrived. Sort of. But don't worry, I haven't started spamming...

I have been down on my luck as of late. Due to my health issues, I can't get a "normal" job. So I work from my home editing and writing. As a hobby, I do crafts and furniture refinishing. (There's something to be said for using power tools to relieve stress.) These all help pay my bills. But lately, they have been falling short, and I've felt the pressure of not having enough work coming in and not selling enough of my other pieces.

There are a million things I could do to rectify the gaps in my finances, and trust me, those are in the works. One, I could be more open about the fact that I edit. As of right now, it's barely a mention in my bio on Twitter. (The one reason I haven't said much about my editing services is because my website isn't up yet, and it sounds a bit amateur to shout, "Hey, I edit! Email me!). Most of my clients were born from writing friendships that I've acquired and those they have recommended to me. And this is enough to get me by. But, that is all it has been doing, getting me by. I drive a beat up old Honda that's recently broken down, and in my panicked "Oh my God, I don't have a car" state, I added a Donate button to my blog. (Top left corner of the blog, right above all your shining, following faces. In the meantime, here's a picture of my car.)

Hey, it looked like this when I bought it. If it has AC/Heat, good gas mileage, and runs I couldn't care less how it looks.
I can't tell you how tragic that day was. It was rather painful. What was more painful was tweeting about adding the donate button. I hung my head in shame. Even in the one tweet that said I had added a donate button, I felt like I had fallen into the "spammer" category. That I had lost my integrity in the field.

But since that first tweet, I've been checking my numbers, seeing if anyone has donated. Only an act of good faith. And it's killing me, I want to tweet, "Hey look, I've got a Donate button!" but I haven't. All the while I'm screaming in my head, "Please, pay it forward, be kind. I need this." I want to boast about how I've supported indie projects and donated to many kickstarters, even if it's just a dollar. Even typing that for the world to see, I feel like I'm throwing away the good spirit in which I gave it. I didn't do it to win some sort of "good person" campaign. I did it because I wanted to support others. Because I believe we all have a chance. We all deserve a chance. And the projects I donated to were people who had talent and were trying to create something, but just didn't have the financial backing.

Now, I look at my feed and I see people spamming their books and I find myself praying that they are not in the same position as I am.
Reading back through this post, I can't help but think I sound pathetic. I've probably rolled my eyes at myself at least six times. And that's a lot for a single post. My point is not that you should go donate to me. I have two far more important things for you to see.
Here's what you should get from this:
  1. You never know what people are going through. If you hate the spamming, just think about what they might be struggling with. Maybe they are posting about their books because they really need to pay the water bill or buy some diapers or as it is in my case, buy parts to fix a car. You never know.
  2. Pay it forward. We all support each other in RT's and FB posts etc. But honestly, the money has to come from someone somewhere. So donating or buying a book helps. And yes, spending less than a cup of coffee to support a fellow human being is worth it, and I hope for all that's good in humanity, that you feel the same way too.
Basically, a lot of us tend to glaze over when people ask for money. I've come to believe that people are either givers or non-givers. We approach the world with a biased view. We either see the world as just a bunch of hacks and scammers or lazy people unwilling to work for their money, or we see them as people who have suffered and could use a hand up. (While I realize this is an extremely polarizing statement, I say it in good faith that you will realize I'm not an idiot and I know there's gray area to this.) When you see a post for a Kickstarter or Indiegogo do you just glaze over? Or how about that book reviewer who spends most of their days reading just so they can save you the time of having to weed out the good books from the bad? Do you donate? A dollar? Five? Ten?

What seems like eons ago, these people would have been paid to have their reviews and articles printed in the paper. Now, they are running blogs for free in hopes that the interwebs will see their worth. If we go even farther back, we will see a time when artists and writers had patrons, who paid for their living expenses and gave them a stipend. But those days are long gone. Now, we have donate buttons, and we all have the opportunity to be patrons.

A grease monkey's heart. :)

Amendment to Original Post:
Okay, almost immediately after posting this, some of my clients were a bit upset for a variety of reasons. But, the main reason for discord came from the  fact that I failed to offer any information about my editing services. I didn't mention prices, I didn't mention what I do. I didn't even list my email for people to get in touch with me. Gasp!

The truth is, I didn't want to lose the integrity or message of the post by giving out my information. This post is genuinely about helping people. But, as it was pointed out to me, there are probably people out there who would want to know about what I do. If I was going to announce in a blog that I edit, shouldn't I make it clear how to get in contact with me? That's what they said, and I believe in my clients. So, here you go... all the dirty details.

  • My email is, feel free to contact me with any questions.
  • My prices vary based on the job, but I am willing to work with any budget, because I honestly cannot stand the idea of people not being able to afford getting the most out of their own work.
  • I offer typical editing services, but I personally like to work with the depth and strength of the characters and story. That's why in my Twitter bio I say I'm a great content editor.
  • I also have references available upon request, and I really do encourage you to ask them any questions you like about what I'm like to work with.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Indie Authors: Your Sales are Your Fault

Okay, I had a number of other blogs set to post before this one. But, I just got wind of what appears to be a huge war between select authors and some reviewers. To sum in up, there were probably some snarky reviews written, and there were probably some authors who were not happy about it. The whole thing got ridiculous. I mean, really, it's a mess. As I am not supporting the harassment that has been associated with this reviewer/author war, I am not linking to anything that would drive traffic to further this abuse.

That being said... on to what made me want to write this blog.

There have been a thousand blogs (probably) written about how to take negative reviews. But, this really has little to do with reviews and more to do with what any indie author should expect and their consequential behavior.

I was disgusted when I saw a friend of mine smeared on one of the links I clicked on. I must admit, what she said was a bit snarky... when taken out of context. But, I know her. I've had coffee with her. She is snarky, full of commentary, but completely sane and non-harassing. Her reviews are intelligently written, and she always gives a justified response for why she didn't like a book. And even most of those are accompanied by "it didn't work for me. This doesn't mean it won't work for you." I've put books on my "to-read" shelves that she didn't care for at all. And this is someone who was slandered. I'm a bit baffled.

Let's take this one step further. This reviewer has seen the first couple of chapters of my book. She wasn't impressed. Honestly, I'm thankful for that. Why? Because I know not to dare try publishing it yet!

I can almost guarantee this whole war was started by indie authors. How do I know this? Because the public relations departments at publishing houses aren't going to condone or represent this type of unabashed harassment from their authors.

What You Need To Know:
If you are an indie author, you need to be prepared to not make any money. More likely than not, you will be "in the red" due to all the costs to get a good looking, readable book. This includes money spent on editors, book cover designers, formatting, and whatever else you want to do to make your book beautiful. (Yes, I know it is possible to publish without these expenditures, but let's not get into that.)

So, before you plunge into publishing indie, you need to know that you might lose money on your book.

That's only item #1. Let's continue.

You've heard it before. I'm sure you've had plenty of readers tell you that your book is phenomenal. Then a well-known or well-followed reviewer comes along and gives you a bad review. This makes your sales drop. And for those of us who make money this way, that can be quite a challenging thing to ignore. But, you must. It's called integrity. In today's world of instant access to whomever we want, this is even more important. I have no interest in reading books by authors who have tarnished their own reputation by coarsely disagreeing with reviewers. There are plenty of books out there that are not surrounded by a shroud of sketchiness.

To those of you who only write the "good" reviews, shame on you. In a way, I somewhat appreciate it. But, in a way, you are encouraging crap to continue floating around out there. By posting a bad review, you are not dashing someone's dreams on the rocks. There are ways to post reviews that would be called "bad reviews" but are really critiques on where the author failed to perform.

Did you read that last line thoroughly? It's where authors failed to perform. So the fault is really with the author. Sometimes, this is okay! Really! How can a religious author please an atheist? How can can a YA author please the erotica reader? (Sure... I'm sure you're saying it can be done, but really most authors tend to aim to please their audience.)

I'm not telling you how to take your reviews. You can take them however you want. But, take your complaints and gripes offline and out of sight of other readers. Because, in essence, reviewers are readers and by dashing a reviewer, you are dashing your readers. This is obviously a bad idea. Your sales will surely will drop.

So, to recap point #2: Don't hate on people who took the time to read what you wrote. It comes across as being insecure or entitled. Until you are a household name, don't act that way. Most household names don't act that way, why do you think you can?

Also, authors, if these reviewers wanted to interact with you they would probably go to your blog/website/Facebook/Twitter and make contact that way.

Seriously, folks. Publishing a book does not guarantee sales, and reviewers are not really the reason why your books aren't getting sales. Truth is, most people didn't like your book enough to rave about it. It happens. Get over it. Move on, and get better.

These reviewers may end up being the indie world's version of trad pub's gatekeeper. So, in my experience, getting mad at the gatekeeper doesn't do you any good. If anything, make friends, follow their reviews and figure out what it is that they have to teach you, the author.

As a side note, I really think that this boils down to the fact that indie authors, not all, are getting self-righteous because they have finally figured out a way to say, "screw you!" to the agents and publishing houses that have had control over this industry. Well, guess what, by removing agents and publishing houses, you've only redirected the power from the highly funded marketing super engines into the hands of the readers. Authors will never hold the power... we will always be at the mercy of our readers. Don't forget that.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Considering Behind Closed Doors

I’ve spend a lot of time thinking. I ask a lot of questions, and when I get the answers, I store them in little compartments in my head, all under the title of “someone’s truth”. What people say in any given moment is their reality, at least for that given moment. And to me, these truths (whether they hold any truth to me is irrelevant) are something to be considered.

I think today philosophers would be known as motivational speakers or in some cases as lazy… due to all the time externally doing nothing while mentally running a triathlon. I am a philosopher. It’s one of the things that makes me a great content editor. I spend a lot of time considering. In the time I’ve spend considering, I’ve honed my natural ability to be empathetic.

Empathy is the ability to feel, to experience what someone else is enduring. At times, this can be a heavy cross to bear. Empathy is what makes many people capable of creativity. Think of actors or writers who are able to transplant themselves into some other character for a time. In order to physically portray or to accurately describe this other character, on some level, they must be able to empathize with the character.

 I don’t typically share what goes on in my head or in my personal life, unless it is a matter that really frustrates me or angers me. Because in those moments of heightened emotion, I type out of the words and hit the “post” button before I even calm down long enough to realize what I’ve just said. And afterwards, the words are already out there, and I can’t take them back. And, I think it’s time for a change.

Well-makers lead the water (wherever they like) ; fletchers bend the arrow ; carpenters bend a log of wood ; wise people fashion themselves. - Buddha
My mother was, well she still is, one of the most convincing people I know. She attacks her “truths”, no matter how momentary they are, with an admirable amount of conviction. (She should be a motivational speaker… but that is another story for another day.) She got there by listening to cassette tapes of motivational speakers, mostly in the car and lot of the time with me in it. So, despite my pleas to listen to the radio, I listened to people like Og Mandino or Zig Ziglar. And while she was learning how to be a better salesman and motivate her staff, I was learning how to think for myself and to think with compassion and empathy.

 The reason why this is important is because I see so many people struggling with things behind closed doors. I think it’s time to open those doors and look at what is behind them. Namely, I’m going to try to focus on what goes on behind the doors of artists.

 So, for the first time, I will be doing a series of blogs considering all the many possibilities to get us through those tough times, those times of doubt, and methods we are not supposed to share for fear they might ruin our “platform”.

 If you have any questions you want answered you may comment on the blog. If you want to protect your anonymity, feel free to ask me a question on Twitter @AEWrites via DM. (If I’m not following you, just ask, and I will.) If this question requires a personal response, please make sure you say so; otherwise, it could end up as blog fodder.
 I will consider all the options, and hopefully, one of my answers will help you find a way out.

I like this picture, I like how bright it is on the other side.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Should I Bother Coming Out of the Closet?

I don't know when it happened.

As a writer, this is quite embarrassing. I think I'm a hippie. I mean, at least the stereotyped version of it...minus the illegal drugs.

I don't know what it happened, but this is as close to coming out of the closet that I'm probably ever going to get. I'm coming out to say, I think I'm a hippie. I don't know. Keep reading.

But, this has led me also feel like a conspiracy theorist. I'm starting to believe everyone out there has been misled, misdiagnosed, and misunderstood. And because I am currently on the upside of what has seemed like an endless downhill road, I just want to share it with everyone. But, come on, that's just plain scary. I grew up with an evangelical mother in an evangelic church, I'm definitely worn out on the preaching and "do this and you'll get this" operation. So I'm just going to share.

Which leaves me with this blog. This is the quietest way I know how to "come out".

So, while I don't typically list this as public knowledge, I will share it just this once (and perhaps even take this blog down after it's had its chance to run).

I have a number of health issues.

So here's what I face/faced on a daily basis:
Sciatica - This is basically just a set of symptoms. It encompasses lower back pain that at time can run down into the upper thigh. It's got a lot to do with nerves and pinching. It hurts. Some days it really hurts.
PTSD - Post traumatic stress disorder, became more well known after the Vietnam War. I don't like talking about this because I'm still at a point where it makes me feel a bit uncomfortable. But, I will say that it's kind of like having to be forced to relive the most terrifying parts of your life over... and over...and over... and over...
Ovarian Cysts - These are pain. When mine rupture, they bleed all over my stomach.
Undiagnosed - When there's a change in the barometric pressure the insides of my knee caps feel like they are going to explode (I have no idea what this is called, some say it's rheumatoid arthritis).

So, let me paint a picture for you. On good days, my ovaries throbbed with an occasional sharp tinge of pain, and my lower back could be appeased with 800 milligrams of ibuprofen. On bad days.... I'd end up in the ER getting shots of morphine. Granted, the worst days only come 2-4 times a year. But, most of the time, my back is in such bad condition, I can't be in an upright position. You'd find me instead, on the floor with my feet elevated, a heating pad on my gut, and movies playing or reading a book. I was lucky if I could concentrate long enough to read.

And the doctors... OOOOoooohhh, the DOCTORS! They'd look at me like some "little woman" and tell me that I needed to get over these "cramps". Thank God for nurses (female, which the industry is still dominated by). The therapists I'd been to were even worse. Most of them, well all of them except the last one, missed the PTSD. Instead, all my symptoms were divvied out into separate diagnoses... IE borderline personality disorder, depression, and the general anxiety disorder. (Treatments for these didn't work... I wonder why... hmm...) Grr.

In any case, my days were spent generally very angry. I couldn't escape the pain. So, I'd angrily try to get the work that needs doing done. But, still I got behind regularly leaving tons of mess for me to clean up on the occasional "good days". This is a daunting task. This was an unbearable task.

As a result, a few years ago, after a night of crying pathetically in pain, flashbacks streaming incessantly through my head, I stomped into a bookstore and looked at meditation CD's. There is a type of unceasing pain that will drive you to insanity, and I was there. I had reached my breaking point. I didn't care what anyone else thought of me. I'd try anything. Even if I had a preconceived notion that meditation was for crazy people.

I threw myself headfirst into the world of meditation. If nothing else, it was a way to make sure I didn't lose my sanity during a fit of pain. And, so a few years past with that. Then, this last November, I had another cyst rupture. I ended up in the ER, crying and screaming. For almost three months afterwards, I didn't do anything. Then, finally I got tired of laying around and worked a million times harder to control my body despite the pain through meditation. Then, I resumed my typical regime of doing whatever I could until the pain got to be too much. Needless to say, I have a high threshold for pain and it has been ever growing.

But, I still couldn't help but thinking that there had to be something better than just coping! So, in another desperate torrent, much like the one that found me stomping off to buy mediation CD's, I start researching...gasp... alternative healing methods. And suddenly, I find myself where I am now.

I drink various concoctions of apple cider vinegar twice daily, and it is gross. I drink apple cider vinegar. Did you hear me? To me, this is right on par with eating chocolate cake in order to lose weight. It just sounds ridiculous. I can't help it. I think it's nuts. But, it works.

At about the same time, I started trying my hand at yoga. No, not the super impressive circus contortionist kind, nor the kind that is intended to make me look like a goddess in a bikini. I'm talking about the kind that is meditative and focused on helping my back. It's more or less meditation combined with good stretching.

So here I am, meditating, drinking apple cider vinegar, and doing yoga. Oh, and after all my PTSD experience, I try to approach people with patience and kindness. So, yes, I'm all about the love, too.

But, you know what makes this funny... at least to me? I still think it's nuts.

I'm still not sure I want everyone knowing how jaded I am towards average doctors or how jaded I am towards the organized religion that never led me toward a path of alternative solutions.

And I guess that's what happens. As people, we endure something long enough and with enough pain that we become jaded. My problem lies before all this happened, I produced a judgement against the hippie (peace, love, and happiness) cliche. Maybe it was because I never thought it was possible. Maybe it was because I was in a state where those ideals could never exist. But now, I've made them exist.

I'm not perfect. I still get entirely out of whack some days. Some days my PTSD gets the better of me. Sometimes, there's not a yoga class suited for my needs when I need it. Some days, I cannot tolerate the idea of drinking that awful apple cider vinegar.

I wonder, what have I become? Am I now that crazy hippie stereotype I always laughed at and disregarded?

And that is when I return to my keyboard, to my characters, and to my writing. Maybe the answers are there. My books are my escape, and yet are the way I stay grounded. I send this query out to the universe, out to the world... I would love your input, your stories. Should I accept that I am doomed to become a label? Is that something I should learn to accept? And why, why am I so afraid to acknowledge that I'm different? Should I even bother coming out of my closet?