Month: July 2018

Coming Attractions

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Starting August 1st, 2018 I am going to try a little something new with the blog section of my website. A few years ago, I did the A to Z blog challenge which was a blog post each day that related to a letter in the alphabet. Well, I am going to take that a bit further and for the next 26 months.  I will be exploring a new theme each month corresponding with a theme that will cover 26 posts each month associated with a letter of the alphabet.

So in August I will start with the letter A, September will be B, then October will be C…you get the idea. Archangel

The theme for August 2018 will be Angels and Demons. I write about these often seen but seldom recognized ethereal beings, and lots of my characters find themselves saddled with angelic or demonic inspired names.

My obsession goes back to childhood where my “invisible” friend was an angel I called Jethro after the band, Jethro Tull with its electrifying flute playing. I was all about “Bungle in the Jungle” by age eight. I have written about Jethro before in my post, The Angel and My First Guitar although I did not name him there. I never thought of Jethro as being “made up”. To me, he is real and still with me although weary of my constant flirtations with the damned.

Libraries vs Pirates

PiracyI write. I love doing it. I also work full-time. Most writers must. Even writers that have multiple books published. Yes, there are writers who make quite a nice living from their craft. They are the exception. Most of us don’t.

I follow the publishing industry quite closely. The other day, on social media, I stumbled upon a book pirate, a thief, trying to justify illegally downloading a novel to the author from whom he was stealing. The pirate was confused at the author’s irritation with him. He seemed to think the writer should be flattered that he wanted to read his book at all. I found this quite disturbing as a writer. I know how much effort goes into getting your book from conception to publication.

I work at a local school system and pretty much live pay check to pay check. I work nights writing my books and blogs. Not much sleep happens. This is the way most writers live. And stealing their work is so damn disrespectful.

Please, don’t support piracy sites. A reader with nothing but lint in their pockets can go to their community library.  If the library does not have the book a reader is jonesing to read, most of libraries will order it for the reader free of charge.  This saves the cost of the book and supports writers and communities. Win. Win.

Stealing by downloading from piracy sites hurts the writer whether that writer is self-published or with a big  publisher. It’s stealing and it can tank the writer’s career.  The first book is a test for a writer. The publisher will look at sales to decide if the writer gets to keep his or her career. Pirating books can tank those sales numbers because those downloads do not register.

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Furthermore, stop thinking of big publishers as big, mean cooperations that deserve to get screwed. Publishers are made up of lots of hard-working people – editors, assistants, interns – people who need their jobs.

Pirate a book, that thief is also stealing from that new graduate working her way up through the first rungs of her career, living on ramen, barely making rent in an 8 x 5 room a forty-five minute train ride from the office. That’s who loses their job when the publisher starts to have to cut back because of selfish asshats stealing their product.

Then there’s the agent. For the most part, agents are super-heroes who work way over forty hours a week and only ever get paid if the author gets paid. They are the shepherds of the writer’s career, allowing the artist to concentrate on their craft, while taking care of all the business end of things. The pirate is stealing from the agent too and all the staff at the literary agency. Once more, it’s the bottom of the rung that finds themselves without work.

Piracy is illegal. Stealing is wrong. Going to the library, however, is always the right thing to do. And if a reader must own the book, there are contests, discounts, give aways they can participate in. There is also book sharing. Try that. Why be an asshat if there are so many better alternatives?

Thank you for not pirating art by download.

Lost Connections by Johann Hari

img_1067Last week, my daughter called me. She had been feeling ill for several days. After discussing the symptoms, and her finding that she could not get through the work day, she visited an Urgent Care center.  After a couple of quick tests, antibiotics were given,  and two days later, she was fully on the mend.

 Modern medicine is truly a  marvel.  An infection that would have been quite serious a hundred years ago is now easily cured with a pill. Too bad deadly diseases like depression, addiction, and mental illness do not enjoy such a simple cure.

Doctors often prescribe pills to quiet the more serious demons that plague us, the ones that have us setting off to destroy ourselves and others. Often, the pill does little put turn us into walking zombies, but without the lust for eating brains. At least, that was my experience with pills. Johann Hari found this same sad truth in his own journey, and made it his mission to find out how we might better help those who suffer from depression and related mental illness in his book Lost Connections. 

Yes, people have received relief from pills. This book can make proponents of the “it’s just an imbalance in your brain” theory furious. After all, simple answers are always easier to deal with.

Until they don’t work.

This book hit me where I live. I have suffered from severe depression with manic episodes since my early teen years. Undiagnosed until my early twenties when I was given my first pill. When I was growing up three things were believed and presented to me in this order:

  1. Just get over it. You’re being hysterical, you stupid girl.
  2. Ok, maybe you have a hormonal imbalance. Take a pill. Get over it. Stupid girl.
  3. Don’t tell anyone you are having such self-pitying thoughts. It’s shameful, stupid girl.

Damn, I wish this book had been done 30 years ago. However, it made me understand the broken road I traveled. I instinctively knew that a pill could not “fix” me.  Depression does not go away.

The issues that cause it are real, and this is a severely malfunctioning society we are asked to make peace with. Perhaps, the crazy ones are the ones that do not have issues dealing with their lives. There is that.

But when you can’t pull yourself out of bed, when you feel physical pain because the stress of your life is so harsh, when you self-medicate with drugs and alcohol to the point of addiction, you need help. Just like someone who has an infection needs help to get better.

Depression and its various cohorts are always waiting to strike you down at weak moments. My last episode was less than two weeks ago. Only when I have these episodes in the last few years, I know they will pass. I know I am not alone.  I have friends, do what I love, look forward to the future, and have a job I adore working for at my local school system. The broken things …well, we all have broken things in our lives.

img_1068This book has helped people I love dearly who are younger and battling similar forces that I have grappled with all my life. I believe this book will make their road less rocky.

If you or anyone you know suffers from mental illness and addiction, please read this book. It does not offer a magical cure. No, it offers hope that attitudes are changing, research is expanding, and perhaps, an urgent care center with a low co-pay fully covered by insurance will eventually be readily available for those in crisis with more than a pill to offer.

The book will not give solace to everyone. I have an older relative suffering from crippling depression and addiction who came from a generation where there was such a huge stigma attached to mental illness, she refuses to seek help. She is too ashamed and that is a tragedy.

She is doing the opposite of what is shown to help. So many fall into this trap, making their depression louder and louder until it consumes them into despair. She is isolating herself from friends and family. She has stopped doing all the things she used to love. She does not feel purpose or belonging. Those are two of the many things that any human psyche, even that of the writer type human, needs to function in a healthy manner.

So please, if you feel lost, if you feel like there is no one you can reach out to, you are really not alone. Especially now days. Please, read Lost Connections by Johann Hari. You will find hope here. Truly.

 

 

My Library – Random Thoughts

One day I would like to live in a library.  Or more correctly, I would like to convert my home into a library. I don’t have room for all my books in my small city apartment. But one day.  And not just some little cozy room with a few built in bookshelves, but something grand. Like the citadel in Game of Thrones. Only no chains on the books. Like below- grand architecture, perfect book preserving climate, that goes on and on.

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img_1054For now, I have a few shelves, some over-stuffed with my lovely books. Inside these books are some of the loveliest and nastiest people I have ever met. Some human, some dragons, some of various origins. It is here in these pages where I see possibility, where I find hope when I can’t find any in the “real” world.

img_1059There is a section in the classic, Lord of the Rings, where Frodo Baggins laments that he has thought an attack of dragons would do his fellow hobbits a world of good. Only, when it comes down to it, he only wishes to save them. I suspect we all feel this same conflict at some level about our fellow humans with whom we share this tiny pile of space rubble.

img_1056In Brandon Sanderson’s trilogy, The Stormlight Archives, there is a character, a king by the name of Taravangian. This king appears to all the world as a feeble, old man albeit kindly. And on most days, that is true because Taravangian often wakes up as an idiot. He doesn’t have the strength or intelligence to be duplicitous.  On other days, he is a genius. On those days, he is, well, scary. I won’t give away any spoilers. But I do suspect there have been a few Taravangian type kings to visit their wrathful genius in this world. It’s so much better if the villains can be kept on pages in black and white.

Well, tonight I am an idiot so I am going to do some grammatical edits and read one of my glorious books for a spell before sleep takes me.

 

 

 

Writing Without Rules by Jeff Somers

The Unabridged Review

img_1004I am a writer. I worry that I am actually too insane for my craft, over the top, off my rocker, a few short of a six pack, should possibly be locked up. Then I stumbled across Jeff Somers and his lovely tome, Writing Without Rules. I had read some of his fiction. I love his books, especially  We Are Not Good People and The Electric Church,.  Jeff is doing something right.

I thought, self, Writing Without Rules will tell me all the secrets to making a life as a writer. After all, Jeff snagged an incredible agent, the Queen of the Known Universe, herself, Janet Reid. He had to know something I didn’t know about being a “successful” writer. Right?

Well, shit. No. He’s crazier than I am and he doesn’t wear pants and he has an entire murder full of cats. Yes, I know, crows. A murder is crows. Have you met Jeff’s cats? They are definitely planning to murder someone. I can tell from the pictures of them he tweets out.

Apparently, the secret to writing is there aren’t any rules. Neil Gaiman managed to point this out in his rule #8 which is the only rule, but like 42 is the answer, Neil named the one rule #8.

Not to be outdone, Jeff wrote an entire book with lots and lots of footnotes to make the same point as rule #8. I am so very glad he did. I LOVE this book.

However, I am not quite certain why his agent didn’t tear him limb from limb after reading the first few chapters. How much whisky did he have to buy my queen to get this past her? He did everything she tells us rodent wheel spinning writers not to do. He submitted a first draft, totally unrevised, riddled with grammatical errors out to publishers. And one offered to buy the damn thing. And that is something we are told to never, ever do. And you shouldn’t unless you’re Jeff Somers and not wearing any pants.

Then there are the footnotes. Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman would be proud – they are so funny…but so wrong.

I read this book in about three hours. I could not put it down. I laughed so hard that the stick that’s been up my ass the last six months came loose. My writing productivity increased 100 fold. I can’t say why. I mean there is nothing brilliant in this book. It’s almost a parody of a writing craft book.

Perhaps, it is because Jeff’s book is so much easier to stomach than something like Stephen King’s On Writing. Don’t get me wrong, Stephen had me slaughtering my darlings and writing a million words before submitting anything for publication, bless his little heart. It is no wonder there are so many monsters living in Maine with all that darling killing going on. I am not taking away from the giants that came before.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Jeff’s book, however, slowed down that proverbial rodent wheel that had me worrying that I was doing everything wrong. Three years ago I queried a book that was not quite ready for submission. And for about a year, I thought I had burned my chances at ever being published. Turns out, these kind of premature ejaculations don’t matter much. It’s simply part of the journey. Is there more whisky?

Jeff does not precisely advise writers to disregard all the guidelines for getting published.  Nah, nothing like that.  Simply put, the path to making it as a writer is different for everyone and there are no set rules as long as you have an ending for whatever bit of writing you wish to publish. Endings are important. Jeff was quite specific on that point. Which is why this review is over. It had to end somewhere. So if you’re writer, buy this book or Jeff will mail you one of his cats.

And nobody wants that. Also, this is hands down, the most fun I have ever had reading a book about writing. And Kill The Cat was a damn party of a book.

Falling Fallow

Sunday July 22, 2018

Yes, the blog has gone dormant and that is bad. If you are a writer, don’t do this. I always do everything the hard way. Anyhow, the blog will be bursting back to life right around July 28th. I will be starting with two book reviews that are especially dear to me. Then there will be posts about things that interest me from angels to demons to beer to castle ruins. Interspersed will be book reviews and then the Library which will simply feature books that I have found most inspirational over the years.

fullsizeoutput_c9I wish to go from underrated nobody to a fully functioning author. Most of the reason this place fell fallow in the first place is because I have been concentrating on writing novels. Also, there has been lots of life (and death) going on around me disturbing my misadventures in the fictional realm.

Current status is between 120-140 days until I am ready to hit the query trenches again. I am hoping to be ready November 1st but would not be overly surprised if it becomes February 1st of 2019. Getting an agent will speed my output up greatly as I have been told that writing on contract is far different than writing for that first bite at the apple. I have vastly over-estimated in the past when I would be ready. I do not wish to jump the gun again with my submissions to agents as that has proved unfortunate in the past.  I have learned that I must let my book sit and ripen for a good well before revisions can be useful so if 2019 comes and I am still baking my masterwork or going with another of the three books I am working on for submission, I will hardly be surprised.

So I am looking forward to better days…