Stand and Be Still

Image

Image by Daybreak Studios (Dawn & Brad Wallace); Courtesy of Red Dress Boutique (Lookbook Winter 2012). And yes, that’s me.

I read once that writer’s block doesn’t exist. The author eloquently insisted that it’s merely a myth, perpetuated by those lazy souls whose inner worlds are content enough to stay put where they are, or simply that those creations don’t exist. The make-believe writers, as it were, would rather watch television, play with their phones, goof off on Facebook, or brood over their latest Comment War on Goodreads. According to some, it’s all a matter of will.

That’s a nice safe thought isn’t it? If we just want it badly enough then we’ll never have to worry about coming to the keyboard with empty stores. We will never be one of those writers who piss and moan about being unable to unleash the tension that builds like a sore pimple, or be unable to soothe the ache that rivals even the rottenest tooth. No, not us … because we love writing, and life can never come between a human being and something they love. That’s never happened. How do we know that writer’s block is nonsense for the unmotivated? Because we’re in a fast food, my-way-right-away world that has taught us that we can become whatever we want, whenever and however we feel fit. We can do anything. We can overcome anything. If we gather enough courage, we can defeat even the darkest night, or the most malevolent monsters.

But what if those demons … those dark places … are part of a much larger story than the one we’re penning? What if that sneaking suspicion, that inkling, that we are all far more important than merely the sum totals of our goals, ambitions, and talents, is not just true, but deeply, startlingly real? And the point of everything?

Have you never encountered such change in your world that it leaves you fighting for breath? Have your dreams never failed you? Has your gut instinct never been desperately wrong? Have you never felt the sting of true disappointment? Do you know so little of love, death, loss, and a thoroughly lived life, that you cannot imagine it taking every second of your time just to continue to inhale and exhale? If not, then from where are you penning your work? What well of strength exists if you’ve never felt nearly tapped dry? How shallow must your existence be if you’ve never had to look deeper for the answers than merely your strength of will; if you’ve never had to search farther than your level of desire?

Writer’s block is nothing more than a prolonged pause. It’s the silence between the end of one paragraph, and the beginning of another. It’s the breath between the last page of book one, and the prologue of book two. It is not the end. It is not forever. But it is, what it is. It cannot be rushed, anymore than the flow of effective narrative should be rushed. We’re writers, authors, storytellers … we are not machines.

Truth is, sometimes life steps in to make us better people, and that takes an awful lot of effort and skill to survive. Some days, merely making it to dinner is enough. Those days are not the stuff of idleness … not really … they are full of moments so heavily laden with existing, that to add one more ounce of life to them would be enough to break the bough and bring it crashing into the ether.

I couldn’t have imagined two years ago, in 2011, how drastically my own soul could transform. Nor was I aware of how deeply rooted my faith in humanity really was. I would have told you that when it came down to it, I was capable of utter cruelty if betrayed. I know better now. After the moment came and went, I can tell you without any hint of irony that it is beyond my capacity. I apparently bark far louder than I bite. Go figure.

Two years ago, I thought I knew where life was taking me. I could easily spout out the next twenty years of my life, and what all it would entail. I couldn’t have been farther from the truth. The extraordinary life that always taunted the edge of my desire was closer than I could have dreamed. I was more like the woman I’d always wanted to become, than I have ever given myself credit for.

I never do anything halfway. I am not afraid of trying new things, or experiencing new aspects of this incredible journey we call living. I’ve been criticized for never remaining the same, for latching on to an idea, and then just as quickly latching on to another one. I’m no less a writer than when I had the privilege of writing full time. But now I’ve broadened my horizons enough to encompass massage therapy, photography and freelance fashion writing. Bottom line, I refuse to stay static. That’s how I deal with this … pause … between books. I write as a paid freelancer, and brainstorm ideas for new work, and jot down scenes for the unfinished works when I can, all waiting for the moment when I can again focus on crafting worlds more often than not.

But this time, it will be from the standpoint of a full time mother. That will never change. Once that shift has occurred, you cannot go back. Becoming pregnant has formed a meridian line that will forever mark my life as a before and after. And it isn’t the first. Since August of 2011, I can count at least five of them. Every one of them has been a huge, life-altering kind of change. I haven’t blogged about all of them because some of them are too private, and the others involve people who likely wouldn’t appreciate the mention. Does that make me less a writer? Of course not. But, writer’s block doesn’t exist.

Right … and neither do critics.

Live so that you have no other choice but to write, even through the imaginary tales of another world, your own story of love, loss, and life. Let the ebb and flow of holistic writing take over and forget about the modern world of “everything within reach.”

Because frankly, I don’t want what’s in reach. Been there, lost that. I don’t want what’s easiest to obtain. And I doubt you do either. Don’t buy into the lies. This calling in life is not easy. You were never promised a rose garden; I don’t care what that agent’s blog told you. Don’t settle for lab-created writing … you are capable of nothing less than authentic diamonds, and those take time. Valuable things take pressure, and heat and patience for the best possible outcome. There are no quick fixes here.

Does this mean there is nothing to be done?

No, not at all. You must merely show up, daily, and if nothing is there, return home and prepare to show up again. For as long as it takes, you must only be present. Eventually, when the breath comes, so too will the words. Until then, stand and be still.  

Into The Fray

Obsidian“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.” ~Hellen Keller

I wonder, some days, if people even remember who J.S. Chancellor is … if in the past 19 months of upheavals even I have forgotten her gumption, and impossible spirit? Then, I’ll get a FB message, or email, from a reader who has stumbled across my work and read it, and it touched something in them in a way, that as writers, we often forget we have the power to do. When you’re running a business that has thousands of tangible products, it’s easier to see your influence and how you’re doing overall in your endeavor. Authors, however, don’t really have that sort of ruler with which to keep track of our success and failure. I don’t know that I would want one, if one were miraculously offered to me. What we do is too personal, too intimate, for that sort of measurement.

What on earth am I rambling about?

On April 1st, other than the audiobooks for A Thief of Nightshade, and Icarus, all of my work will be taken down from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc. Why? Because I have been granted back the rights to my work, by my more-than-generous publisher. I requested them, and instead of kicking up a fuss, they appreciate and support my want to venture out there on my own—to form my own company, and sell my own products. Am I going with just books? Nope, probably not. I’m nothing if not ambitious. What all will this new company take on? That remains to be seen … it’s still in the formative stages. But, I wanted to let you know what was going on, and where my stuff was going for now. You’ve got a few more days to purchase the books traditionally, or you can wait and purchase them from me directly. I still have a handful of the original releases, that I’ll be more than happy to sign and sell off. Everything is being re-released this coming December, along with a few new titles and YES, the final book in the Guardians of Legend Trilogy. About time on that last one.

Truth is, everything in our industry is changing. While I’ve been ‘absent’ to some extent online, I’ve still kept abreast of what’s going on in the world of publishing and while my personal life has quite literally turned upside down a few times since August of 2011, I’m reshaping some foundational things. I’m reminded of some dear friends who came to visit me a few years back—they stayed with us at our lake cabin for a week in January of 2011. Vin, having a plethora of skills, was able to do a handwriting analysis on me that has stuck all this time. At some point he noted, correctly, that I was holding myself back to some level. And he was more than right … righter than I anticipated. And it’s hit me over the past year JUST how right he really was, and how much more I’m capable of than what I’ve accepted from myself. I’m not content in my writing career. I’ve had some highs, some lows, and a whole lot of middle ground. Rhemalda Publishing provided me with the foundation, and platform, that I needed to get my act together. They have been awesome, and they will remain close friends in the industry (I have the pleasure of knowing Rhett and Emmaline personally). Without them, there is no way I’d have the guts to do what I’m about to do. And it goes far beyond self-publishing …

It’s taking everything in me not to spill the beans. But there is a lot of hard work to do. There is a lot of market research still to be done. But, the possibilities are literally endless. There are so many tools available to us, via the web, that an online company can do just about anything you set your heart’s desire to have it do. Want to cater to other writers? Done. Just readers? Done. It depends only on your imagination’s limitations and your own ability to think outside of the box. We’re on the precipice of a publishing revolution, and I’m stoked to hopefully be one of the first to get past the current “boundaries” of what all a ‘publisher’ can do.

What I’ll say for now, is that if you carefully look at the groundbreakers in every industry out there, they’ve been bold, confident, risk-takers. Every company starts with a vision, then a mission statement, and finally ventures forth into the fray. We’re there … in the mission statement phase, molding something that if we work hard enough, could potentially be much bigger than I’m giving it credit for.

It may be kindling now … but give it time. Obsidian Publishing (obsidianbooks.com & obsidianpublishing.com) plans on a tentative launch of December 1st, 2013. With any luck, you’ll be able to look back on this post and smile, knowing that this is where it started. This is where I leapt. This was the moment I decided that no price was too high for freedom. Even security. My best friend Diana Harbour, now sister-in-law, said that to me once, and I’ve never forgotten it. It’s fueled her own uber successful business (reddressboutique.com) and it’s been just the right spark for my own life. In more ways than one. I mean … I am married to her brother.

Like I said, in the meantime, if you want a copy of anything listed here, just shoot an email to jschancellor@obsidianbooks.com.  You can still purchase the audiobooks from Audible.com.

Meanwhile … enjoy Reis (pictured). This is the OFFICIAL cover image, via the incredibly talented Eve Ventrue, for the novel ‘Obsidian,’ coming also in December 2013. And yes, I know there are other books with the name. I couldn’t care less. I’ve been sitting on this, with this title, too long to not keep it as such. I owe these characters that much at least.

Why the name Obsidian? Because of the book really. Reis lives in a post-apocalyptic world, full of chaos and devoid of real sunlight. Until he meets Ember. And it’s *this* concept … of breaching the norm, of going far beyond your comfort zone, and finding real, authentic happiness, no matter the cost, that fuels our business endeavor. So, we chose to stick with the name, despite a multitude of reasons to come up with something different. Also … because we can, and that’s just how we roll.

New Eyes and Extra Colors

Yes, that’s actually me. Photo by Matthew R. Best

“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”  ― Terry Pratchett

Sorry it’s been so long. Coming back here, at times, feels almost like peering into someone else’s window. I see the curtains drawn, and so much light within … I can smell things baking in the oven, all full of gooey, sugary goodness. I know pleasant things await me here. But, at the same time, it’s not my home anymore. Everything is different. The curtains are the same, the glass, the sill. I know these things like the back of my hand. I recognize the weathering on the wood and can still vividly recall each storm that made it so. I remember sitting here, looking out at the world, and wondering what it would be like to be on the other side. Wild, and free and changed. And while it feels incredible … this changed state of being … there is a sense of sadness too that I can no longer ignore.

I miss home.

Familiarity was always a good thing. It was safe. I couldn’t be hurt, or so I thought, from the inside. But, I was shut-off from so many wonderful, exhilarating experiences. Unchecked beauty. And aren’t those the deepest longings of our hearts? Those dangerous wishes for a life unfettered by fear and hurt and regret? Luckily for me, the decision to leave was taken out of my hands. I didn’t have much choice in the matter. It was leave or cease to live. I didn’t have the luxury of that slowly swelling need to set off on my own course. My path was set before me, then just as swiftly, it was sealed off and I had to forge a new one out of what I’d spent a lifetime cultivating, collecting, depending on. All I can say with any certainty is that I didn’t hesitate. I didn’t stall and beg and plead like some do, asking for the impossible. I simply … let go, when the time came. It was a shockingly simple thing, really. And not an action that I did in my own strength.

So much has happened this year, to the point where August 21st marked a permanent meridian line in my life. Everything is lumped into a categorical ‘before and after,’ my time neatly divided into what was, and what will be. I am not alone in this. Many, many lives were affected by the actions of that night. Well, technically, the actions that preceded also, but for the sake of conversation, we’ll draw the line there. My mind certainly did. My ex-husband’s infidelity didn’t ‘exist’ until he confessed it. Not in my mind, and certainly not in my heart. So why am I talking about it here? On a blog that was originally intended for writing talk only?

Because as I have said before, I am a holisitic writer and that means, whether I like it or not, that I am deeply, deeply affected by everything that goes on in my life. We all are. We can say that we’re nicely compartmentalized … that these parts of our lives are separate and contained, but the truth is that they aren’t. Not even close. My writing, and my ability to dive in and out of these make-believe worlds, is hinged upon the peace or lack there of, in my real life. These last twelve months have been the best and worst of my entire life. I have crafted new worlds, and composed some solid narrative, but the worlds I used to frequent so freely have been more than a little difficult. I have had a rewrite hanging over my head for months now, with a new deadline of January 1st. And it amazes me how much writing on what was once such a beloved work, is now akin to drawing blood from a vein that has little left to give.

At some point down the road, this will all make sense. I have to keep telling myself that. I have to believe that I will one day be able to eloquently pen all of my emotions and hem up the damage done to my soul with beautiful words and perhaps even a story that will bring salve to that which seems unfixable. Today, however, is not that day. I will always grow (God willing), and while I will never be ‘done’ with that upward mobility, I will at least have found some semblance of normality. I can say, that things I put on the back burner years ago … things I turned my back on, are beginning to come back into focus. My faith, is chief among them. I cringe at some of the things that have come out of my mouth, or rather, my pen. I have not been publicly living in any way whatsoever that would even hint at the fact that I am a Christian. Some of you knew, those who have known me in real life or had intimate contact with me at some point (phone, etc). For my lack of being a proper witness, I owe all of you an apology.

I used to sympathize with those suffering writer’s block, and thought my infrequent affairs with it were meaningful. At times I thought it a crafty excuse not to create (even for myself). I’ve now come to the painful conclusion that it’s not, in fact, something made up. It’s not that I don’t long with everything in me, to write as often as I did before. I simply … can’t … find the words. I journal like a madwoman. I journal all day, every day. My classmates laugh at it because frankly, it’s hilarious. I’m forever scribbling in my notebooks. But, WRITE? Rarely these days. Yes, school for the last nine months has had something to do with that, seeing as it is a full time job. I did have a writing trip a couple of months back where I was able to crank out a good 8,000 words … and believe me, it might sound like a tiny tiny bit, but it was a landmark amount of writing for me this year. I used to write 11,000 on a good weekend. Now I’m lucky to crank out 2,000, and those weekends (where nothing else comes between me and my peace of mind) are so few and far between. I miss Adoria and Avalar, and Michael and Ariana. I miss Jacelynd and Jessica (though her foul mouth needs some reconsideration). I miss everything about living a life meant for writing. I miss home. And that has, and always will be, home for me.

 

A Thief of Nightshade is slated to be converted to an audiobook by Christmas. I have my first signing at our local Barnes and Noble on October 20th. BIG things are still happening for me career-wise. In the past twelve months, three of my books were released, including my first hardback. And yet, this dream of writing for a living has never felt more distant. Maybe that is where some of the heartache is coming from. That, and all of the ways that my life has irrevocably changed this year … ways I didn’t anticipate. Friendships have changed, familial relationships have changed. Everything. Some of it WONDERFUL. Some of it, confusing and heartbreaking. I’m still reeling, twelve months later; trying my damnedest to understand and safeguard against things that are totally out of my control. I realize I’m being vague, and you might wonder why I’m bothering to write about this if I’m not going to be detailed. I suppose just to let you know that I’m still here, still plodding along, and to ask that you keep faith in me.

 

Don’t give up on me. I haven’t gone away for good.

I’m merely learning how to see through new eyes and how to process extra colors … and that’s not entirely a bad thing.

 

 

Hug Often, Handle With Care

“A little talent is a good thing to have if you want to be a writer. But the only real requirement is the ability to remember every scar.”  ~ Stephen King

I should have been born with a label that read something closely akin to, ‘Will grow up to become a writer, won’t play well with others, will eventually drink too much, will need far too much verbal reassurance, and will never be normal.’ Ideally, I should (as an adult) come with care instructions based on that label: Hug often, handle with care.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t and don’t.

Writers aren’t normal. We don’t think like normal people think. We don’t process information the same way. Hell, we don’t even heal, eat, shit or screw the same way as everyday folk. We over analyze everything. We have a recorder constantly running in our minds that picks up EVPs, inner-monologues of the dog(s)/cat(s), that thing you wish we’d forget about, and everything any of us will ever say drunk. Whether serious or hilarious, our wit is unutterably inconvenient to the general public (just ask the woman who was behind me at Target the other day). We don’t give anyone a break, because, we don’t give ourselves a break either. Have you ever heard someone talk about how being your own boss is the toughest job you can have? Well, they’re sort of right. Being an author means that we’re our own boss, and worst critic to boot … and yup, definitely not the perfect situation for most of us. What we need is a better, less snide, version of ourselves who just hangs around and gives us positive reenforcement (or cookies) on a regular basis.

Sad news is, this is reality and reality doesn’t work that way. This particular universe brings us lost socks, cold sores, bad days, frizzy hair and wedgies. And we have the audacity to ask for lenience? *insert evil laughter for effect*

This all brings me back around to the Stephen King quote. These, ahem, differences … make us more prone to inspect our souls a little more often than sane people. We pick at scabs and everyone wonders what the hell for, and those same people will never truly understand how impossible it would be for us to be any way other than the way we were born. We don’t revel in the sensitivity or the strangeness any more than my lab revels in being obnoxious (OK, he does kind of love being an asshole). While we worship the act of creating, the drive itself can be a double-edged sword. There are times when it defends us, times when it serves as protection against the world, and times when it flat-out wounds.

So, where is the handbook on how to live with and love a writer? That’s easy … I haven’t written it yet. But this blog in general, being the massive collection of essays that it is, will essentially fit the bill. I studied psychology for years, and now I’m fully immersed in becoming a licensed Massage Therapist—needless to say, my focus is on holistic wellness and this extends to my theories on the creative individual and how we get along in life. I almost feel like it’s my duty to educate those unfortunate (or disgustingly lucky, depending on the creative) folks who have the pleasure of being with us on a daily basis. Because, let’s face it, unless you are married to another creative … it can get interesting at times (especially trying to explain why you’re up at 2am talking to the peanut butter).

Obviously, these are generalizations and each individual author will have his or her own set of quirks, but as a whole writers are: moody, sensitive, passionate, dangerously verbal, needy at times, eccentric, broody (only slightly correlated to the moodiness), visual, either snarky or ridiculously serious, neurotic (don’t deny it), capricious, arrogant (don’t deny that one either), and the best kind of people on the planet. After all, who doesn’t want a writer at their dinner party? Wait … what? Writers aren’t social creatures? Who knew …

That’s my last point. We’re also fiercely loyal. Kind of like a brat pack at the insane asylum. We’re all in this together. So, if there is any question on how to handle one of us, just look for the tag on the back of the straight jacket. It’ll read: Hug often, handle with care.

A Really Big Stick

“Don’t ever mistake my silence for ignorance, my calmness for acceptance, or my kindness for weakness.”  ~Anon

Life isn’t fair. You probably already know this. People will do and say things to you that you don’t deserve. At least once in your life, you will be misjudged and kept from the opportunity to defend yourself against harsh untruths. As writers, as human beings, we have no choice but to accept this. How you choose to do so will determine the outcome of any number of situations you’ll encounter in your life and it will say more than a little about your character. The question isn’t ‘What can I endure?’ because … we will always endure. So long as there is breath still in our lungs, we are enduring. The question, is ‘How can I endure better?’

Attitude is everything. This you know as well. But, how often do you really apply that knowledge to your daily life? To your writing? A great many failures were people who were mere moments away from success when they gave up. So what if you just got back your 47th rejection letter? What if the 48th reply contains the ‘yes’ you’ve been looking for all along? Knowing that in advance, would you get that far only to toss in the towel? Of course not. Problem is … we don’t know for sure, so we must assume, always, that success is achievable. We must always believe that if we are doing the right thing, the very best that we are capable of, that we will accomplish what we most desire.

Truth is … hardship never ends. It takes on different forms, but some years will simply be tougher than others. Shit happens, as the saying goes. Do you stop living? Do you sink into a depression? You could. I could have. But, you know what? I haven’t come this far just to quit now. Life is still unfair. It never stopped being what it is. As soon as I think I’ve gotten a reprieve, a moment to take a breath, I feel another blow. Know what else though? Blessings come in bizarre packages sometimes. And all we can do is our damnedest to seek out the positive in every situation, however unfair, however untrue to the goodness that we’ve sent out into the universe, however undeserving we are of the circumstances we’re currently in. Because the reality is, if we change how we see our circumstances, then the circumstances will change.

No, I didn’t start working for Hallmark. I’m just tasting the dust in my mouth from having fallen enough times to know how to get up again … to know that the ‘getting up’ will never really end. It may get easier at times. But it will never truly end, and the fire fueling greatness doesn’t come from waiting idly by while others blaze trails all around me. Know who you are … know where you stand … that way, when others question you, in whatever form they do so, the only response necessary will be to exist. Let your life, in and of itself, be the answer they’re looking for.

Live in such a way that even your silence leaves an echo.

Dare to be your best. Dare to do whatever you do, with skills you can’t even imagine having. Breathe like you know how to hold your breath forever. Walk like you’re an olympic runner. Speak as if your words will be the last they ever hear, and be kind accordingly. Listen as if what you’re hearing is the most important thing you’ll ever hear. Hug like it’s a final goodbye. Love others like they’ve never known love before. Forgive them as if it’s your last day on earth. Give without remembering and take without forgetting. Feel gratitude for even the slightest of things. Dream like the world is limitless.

Because it is …

Your dreams won’t come true overnight. They manifest through small changes that all add up to becoming greater than yourself. Dare to see the world as it really is … wide open. We too often place limitations on ourselves because if we allow the oh-so-small thought, ‘What if I could …’ to take hold, then we’re responsible for our own failures and successes, and it’s far easier to leave it up to fate, or the actions of others.

Oh … I believe in fate. I believe in karma. They’re in my employment, and I assure you they’ll have an end of the year bonus after all the overtime they’re putting in. But, for now, there are no limitations and I won’t, for another moment, sit back and wait on others to make this life any easier. It’s already in my ballpark. And if all else fails … you can always fall back on the West African proverb that Teddy Roosevelt loved to quote: “Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.”

Is this soft enough?

I Dare You

“When love first happens, the individuals are giving each other energy unconsciously and both people feel buoyant and elated. That’s the incredible high we call being ‘in love.’ Unfortunately, once they expect this feeling to come from another person, they cut themselves off from the energy in the universe and begin to rely even more on the energy from each other–only now there doesn’t seem to be enough and so they stop giving each other energy and fall back into their dramas in an attempt to control each other and force the other’s energy their way.”  ― James Redfield, The Celestine Prophecy

Being an author isn’t about obtaining a certificate,  reaching a certain status, or achieving a coveted literary/genre award. Some will tell you that it is. I will tell you otherwise. I will also tell you, not only why it isn’t so, but why it is of utmost importance that you don’t think of yourself or your calling in this way.

First of all, the grass is always always always greener. It’s easier than a two dollar whore to fall into the mindset of, ‘When I am published I’ll be happy … when that critic in my online group finally gives me his or her approval, I’ll be happy … when I finish THIS novel in particular, this project in particular, I’ll be happy.’ But, being a creative individual and an author doesn’t work that way. We aren’t static individuals with a linear path. Our existence is all over the map. We wander, we peruse, we journey. What we don’t do … ever … is sit still. We are forged of only the strongest kind of energy, that borne of sweat, blood, tears, body, soul and sorrow. This creative energy can, and needs to be harnessed or else it can either drive you mad, sap your somatic energy, or block your daily functional flow. Sound like yah-yah kind of nonsense to you? Give me a second and let’s see if I can’t clarify this a little more.

Have you ever thought to yourself, ‘If I don’t write, right-damn-now, I’ll explode’? I have. Loved ones have expressed similar thoughts. That’s the build-up of your creative energy. Most people will see that feeling as merely the byproduct of needing to find an outlet through which to express the tension.

I propose a slightly different view on the matter … (shocker, huh?)

What if this energy doesn’t build so much like water building pressure behind a damn, but flows like a river? Yes, writer’s block could be explained as the damn and would therefore cause the tension, right? Too easy … way too damn easy. I see it like this—most damns are not natural, they are man-made. As holistic authors, we’re not the structured type. We see our world as one fluid, cohesive plane of existence. So, why would this energy be any different? In other words, you’re not channeling energy like one would try to force water to go a certain way with a damn. We are building our creative lives around the water source and reveling in its existence every hour of every day, whether we are actively wading in it or not.

Why is this slight distinction important? Isn’t energy just energy?

No. Not at all. The difference is labor and the wasting of precious moments spent trying to steer something powerful enough to steer itself. When we first realize, or come to find, that we are authors … that we can craft worlds from the use of language … we feed off of that natural energy much like two lovers feed off each other’s energy. After awhile, we become accustomed to that energy and we rely on it alone to feed us. Eventually, if we aren’t careful, we’ll come to ‘fall out of love’ because of how little energy our simply ‘being an author’ now gives us on a daily basis and, though we don’t so much as give credence to the thought, we come to resent it somewhat. It is a ‘need’ that builds like water behind a damn, and unless handled, will tear us apart from the inside out.

That’s when the manipulation begins. We set ourselves up for failure by leveling goals at our creative selves, under the guise of aspirations, and somehow along the line we forget why we fell in love with writing in the first place. It becomes less about the story, and more about the act of writing itself. It’s not the life that the water brings, but the frequency of flow, the perceived quality of the water, the efficacy of its mineral content.

In other words, relax. The water will flow. Allow it to do so naturally, and you’ll find a rhythm that follows you throughout your days and nights, no matter how many different hats you wear, no matter how many worlds you step in and out of on a daily basis. How does one go about accomplishing this? Depends on your river. It can also be compared to prayer. The mindset differences there are either setting aside only specific times to be with the divine (whatever that may be for you, or whomever that may be), or being in constant commune with the spiritual no matter what you are physically doing.

You’re writing, even when you’re doing the dishes. You’re writing, even when you can’t write a damn thing and are moping about the house. You’re writing at that big marketing meeting that you’ve been dreading for weeks. Don’t think so? Haven’t you ever heard a name out of the blue, and thought, ‘Perfect name for a novel.’? And that’s just one ridiculously small example. Open your mind up to the possibility of always being “one” with your inner author, and you may find that pressure lessening, and your productivity at an all-time high. Don’t let that scare you. You aren’t letting go of writing. You aren’t accepting any less energy from writing, or falling out of love with it. In fact, it’s just the opposite. You’re freeing yourself to truly love who you are as an author, and the works you create, because none of it is forced or fabricated. It becomes, at that point, truly and utterly authentic.

And isn’t that the whole point of being a holistic author? To just … be?

I might have lost a few of you on this one, and I gather there will be a handful more who flat-out disagree with me. This is merely my input on it, and how I teach others to channel their creative flow. You don’t have to take my word on. But, before you go disagreeing with me, I challenge you to put into place this new mindset for just one week. See where it takes you. If going with the natural rhythm of things messes with your productivity, then perhaps this post wasn’t meant for you.

I’m betting though that you’ll find yourself quite surprised at how relaxed you feel … how easy the words will come once you’ve opened the floodgates and invited that energy to do as it pleases.

Go on … open those gates and stop fretting so much over the specificity of it all … I dare you …

jschancellor:

Yup, because again, some things are totally worth repeating. I’m feeling a little nostalgic this weekend.

Originally posted on Welcome to the Asylum:

Every man has his own courage, and is betrayed because he seeks in himself the courage of other persons.  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Whoever told you that courage wasn’t necessary to write was either lying, or…well—no, they were simply lying. In an author’s life, just as in the life of any sentient being, he will come against a multitude of personal demons, none of which are merciful and all of which try his soul just as much as anything tangible would, provided he is any artist at all.

Every word we write, every world we craft, every essay we conjure the courage to post, everything that we allow to cross over from that tenuous, indescribable place and into the real world, leaves us vulnerable. It’s no secret that many authors have struggled against anxiety, depression, a plethora of unmentionables, and at times even madness itself. But why?

Because we see what…

View original 569 more words

Originally posted on Welcome to the Asylum:

 

“It started out as a feeling

Which then grew into a hope

Which then turned into a quiet thought

Which then turned into a quiet word

And then that word grew louder and louder

Until it was a battle cry

I’ll come back

When you call me

No need to say goodbye

Just because everything’s changing

Doesn’t mean it’s never been this way before

All you can do is try to know who your friends are

As you head off to the war

Pick a star on the dark horizon

And follow the light

You’ll come back when it’s over

No need to say goodbye”

~Regina Specktor (from ‘The Call’)

If you’re going to dream, dream big. If not, don’t waste your time. You’d be better off painting your house, or doing your taxes, or trying to nail jello to the wall.

No, seriously, think about your average kid…

View original 912 more words

There Most Pure

“Love withers under constraints: its very essence is liberty: it is compatible neither with obedience, jealousy, nor fear: it is there most pure, perfect, and unlimited where its votaries live in confidence, equality and unreserve.”  ~Percy Bysshe Shelley

It’s interesting to me, how obvious the disruptions in my life are when I read back over the last 24 months of this blog. I went from only writing about writing, to getting far more personal than I’d ever, EVER intended to get here. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing. I know for sure that my existence has undergone such a dramatic transformation this year—with my father’s cancer, my grandmother’s death and the divorce (which is finalized, by the way)—that I had no choice but to put the brakes on a lot of things, and focus on my life as a whole instead of just the writing aspect in and of itself. And yes, I’ve said in the past that being a holistic writer means acknowledging that everything in your day-to-day affects who you are as an author … but I’ve begun to see that reality in a whole new way lately. The application of it feels different than it once did. Was I compartmentalizing? I didn’t think so at the time, but maybe I was. Who knows.

Long story short … I retreated from the internet to a large extent some time back to focus on family and recovery. This has changed me, just as much as the events that necessitated it did. Because of the immediate nature of marketing, and the vigilance necessary to keep up an ‘in-the-now’ career as a writer, this act of pulling back for a time has hurt me career-wise. I doubt it’s permanent, and I’m banking on the long term benefits of both my sanity and the bettering of my writing through listening to my spiritual and emotional needs before my ego’s needs. Still, it strikes me on a regular basis that I’ve momentarily stepped out of the game. It’s an uncomfortable feeling until I see that my world hasn’t quite stopped spinning yet. My father went back into surgery on Monday (one of two more surgeries). I started school three weeks ago, full-time, for massage therapy (I graduate in August). I have two books due very soon, that both need a significant amount of work.

And there are things going on that I can’t blog about yet … and those are the biggest things. It’s killing me to not be able to share with you guys what all is really going on behind the scenes. But there are very good reasons for me to remain tight-lipped for now. All I can tell you, is that my heart is in a place I never thought it could be. Especially not given the events of the last five months. Well, I can tell you that and I can assure you that I’m learning how to trust again … how to open my heart again on a personal level. It’s easier than I expected, and yet in other ways, it’s the toughest thing I’ve ever done. Naturally, I have moments where wounds I’d like to ignore open anew and freshly bleed. It’s no one’s fault except my ex-husband’s because he’s the one who chose to betray my trust and our ten-year marriage by having an affair.

I want to be immune to the aftershock. I want to be naive and innocent … but I can’t be that girl again. Period. I wrote the first drafts of that entire trilogy while I was in a particularly tough place in my marriage, working on what would eventually convince me that the weakest and most painful parts of that particular relationship were strengthened and ever better for the strain. That was obviously not the case, so I find working on that series, right now, too overwhelming to give it the dedication it deserves. I couldn’t have seen this coming. And I suppose, in some ways, that’s why I’m blogging about it now. I hope you never encounter anything even remotely close to the reasons behind my having to place Eternal Requiem on the back burner for a little while, but I can’t promise you that you won’t experience something, at some point, that may affect your ability to work on a certain novel or project. I figured the least I could do was prepare you. I mean … I knew this sort of thing could happen. I’d seen it. But, knowing it … and knowing it … are two different things.

It ferments my thoughts on what being a holistic writer means. And in a way, it ties into my studies in massage therapy, which are also quite holistic in nature. We are whole human beings … and as authors, we are tied to our spiritual and emotional selves in ways that perhaps non-artistic people aren’t. We feel and experience things differently than other people. I’m sure you’ve figured that one out by now. Maybe you already knew all of this and I’m rambling on for nothing. Well, not for nothing … it’s giving me some peace of mind. If even one writer out there needed to hear this, then it was worth the time. Be prepared … and know that it’s all right to take a moment to protect your heart and your soul. They are all you really have in this world. Little else can be depended upon, I’ve found. Like the quote I posted above, about love, your love of writing has to be treated the same way you would treat your love of another human being. That love will wither under constraints. Let it free to do what must be done, however uncomfortable … however painful. Don’t let it become burdened by jealousy or fear.

See … I always have a point for writers … sometimes it just takes me a minute to get there.

There are still moments when self-consciousness strikes me like a hot poker. I mean this on a personal level. I suspect, naturally, it will take me longer than I care to think about, to stop feeling insecure. Which … is a really new feeling for me. I mean, hell, you guys read this blog. Would you describe me as being anything even remotely close to the words, ‘shy, reserved or uncertain’?

*Insert laughter for effect*

It’s not arrogance. I’m just used to being solid in where I stand. And despite the ground being pulled from beneath me, I’m damn determined to stand tall—sorry for the cliche. But man, when those moments hit, it reminds me that I’m indeed human and not immune to needing others. I am always careful not to be a burden to anyone, not be intrusive or clingy or more trouble than I’m worth. So … asking for an extra hug now and then, or opening up emotionally, has never come easy for me. Giving those things, encouraging that behavior from others is what I do best. Hence the reason I have focused in the past, here at the asylum, mainly in helping other writers by sharing my own mistakes and missteps. So when those moments hit … I find myself sort of frozen, unsure of what to do or say to back out of the corner that I’ve invariably put myself into. I feel the same way with writing. I’m SO used to knowing that no matter what goes on in my day, I can hit the keyboard running. Yet … here again … I’ve discovered that unfortunately I’m not immune to needing more than I know how to ask for or receive, and I’m having to consciously watch my actions to make sure I’m not overcompensating somewhere or ignoring something that I shouldn’t be.

Speaking of which, all of my recent personal drama can be applied to writing and that symbiotic relationship. You have to do whatever is necessary to foster faith in yourself and your love of writing. I’ve come to the conclusion that most major decisions in my life, the ones that are really worth making, are almost always met with serious negativity from those who love me and mean well. In fact, if I don’t get crap from someone … I start to wonder if I’m indeed making the right decision.

I SO wish I was kidding about that.

Bottom line: Listen to your heart when it comes to your writing. You know what’s right and what’s wrong, and there may be tough choices for you in the future. Be prepared for that reality. Know who you are as an author ahead of time … know who you are as a human being ahead of time …  know what the essence of your writing soul consists of ahead of time … and it will make those decisions much, much easier.

Winter’s Depth

“In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.”  ~Albert Camus, Lyrical and Critical Essays

This post is a little bit reflective … a little bit writerly … but mostly, it’s about what it means to be human and to love and laugh and cry. So, read it anyway and just maybe you’ll come away with something you needed to hear today.

Life is so painfully short.

You already know this. Even in reading those words, your eyes probably scanned over them in the same way you glance at the date on your calendar—just long enough to register what they are. But, per usual, I want you to stop and think about that for a moment.

Life is so painfully short.

We are so often inconvenienced by the small things. The chill in the air. The discomfort in your rear end during the extra five minutes spent by the side of a sick friend with whom you’ve already kept company for far too long. The destination that’s out of the way and then some. Throwing that tennis ball for the dog one more time. Writing that love letter. We have ‘things’ to do. We have agendas to keep, people to please and scenes to pen. We are busy … so so busy. Consumed even.

We are also speeding through a life that’s only being halfway lived.

I’ve been accused of saying “I love you” too often. Hugging too much. But, a very long time ago I learned that if we will only look closer, there is a gift in each and every moment we are given in this world. And more often than not, that gift is easily overlooked as we search and pine for bigger things. We set lofty goals, but forget that along the way, are all of the things that make reaching our goal so wonderful. Yeah, you’ve heard that it’s the journey … we all have. Yet, there is a huge difference in knowing that and applying it to your everyday life. It’s the same sort of warm and fuzzy moment after a good Sunday sermon or a tear-jerking movie. You know, that hour and a half where everything is suddenly more meaningful. It fades because, like most things in our fast food world, it isn’t truly absorbed.

When it comes to your writing, however, and your life, let me assure you that if you don’t slow down and savor these small things … there will come a time when you regret that choice. A moment will slip past you that you didn’t even know to hope for. A detail. A kiss. A hug. A sigh. A whispered declaration of something seemingly simple. In that lost moment, could very well be the beginning of a much larger dream you’ve been pining over for years. Had you only stopped to breathe it in, you might have caught it and hung on.

We are all so richly blessed. I say this in the midst of a parent fighting cancer, and the tail end of a painful divorce. So, don’t think this a trite bit of pithy advice. Through this years’ trials, I’ve come to further appreciate the unbelievable gifts in my life—the people who have made that life worth living. Worth continuing. I’ve never been more grateful to have resisted some of the darker thoughts that I courted these last few years. Sure, I could have avoided the pain and the lessons learned the hard way. But, my God, what I would be missing out on now.

My mistakes are countless. I’ve hurt others and then sacrificed my pride in owning those actions and the pain they caused. For that reason also, I am ‘aware’ of every day I get to live. I have more than I deserve. More than I could ever rightfully ask for. And I want nothing more than for everyone else who I have the pleasure of knowing, even virtually speaking, to be given the same kind of gratitude for the trivial. It will change your writing. It will change your life and those who have the honor of living it alongside you. Don’t let the day end without telling those you love, that you love them. Be inconvenienced. Be uncomfortable. Be silent. Touch. Whisper. Breathe.

Allow the depth of winter to show you all that it has to offer … and be everything you were intended to become in this life.

The Kitchen Sink

“The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing… not healing, not curing… that is a friend who cares.”  ~Henri Nouwen

As idealistic as I may come across from time to time … in reality, frankly, I’m pragmatic to my core. I’ve never been a huge believer in fate–not in real life, in the world we literally live in. I’ve always loved the idea and the ideals that go along with it, but never really believed in it literally.

I’ve changed my mind …

I can’t go into all of the reasons why just yet (patience grasshopper), but on a writing level I’ll elaborate: The recent trials that I’ve been through have given me a whole new understanding of the grief that book three in the Guardians of Legend trilogy opens with. I merely thought I understood what it meant to see your whole world fall away. I now know beyond a shadow of a doubt, that feeling of utter hopelessness and the absolute definition of the word ‘hollow.’ I have to turn in Eternal Requiem sooner rather than later, and after months of being unable to pen a single meaningful word, I’m suddenly able to see clearly through the fog and the wall that was blocking the rewrite even before my life took a turn for the catastrophic.

Everything happens for a reason?

Perhaps. Seems too coincidental that right when I need to have a solid grasp on life and love and death, that life would take this route with me. Too convenient. Well, okay, there wasn’t anything convenient about it. Still, you get the drift. I’m not the same person who penned all the posts before August. Perhaps this was always so, each day brought a new person, but I certainly feel as though my personal evolution is far more pronounced now than it’s ever been before. Yes, we all change and grow—especially through trauma and crisis. But, for a writer, there is a special type of growth that we alone are privy to. Allow me the pleasure of sharing my thoughts on this.

I wrote this morning for the first time in a while. The music played in the background, epic and somber, and I got chills as I reached the pinnacle of the scene. I could feel the draft in the room where Garren stood. I could feel the weight of the blade in his hand, and the gravity of his coming actions. It wasn’t like it felt before—this was something entirely different for me. And I don’t know that I can totally give it justice here.  If anything … I think I’ve been freed of a great many things, and that has allowed me to enter unforced into a whole new world.

The most unimaginable event, for me, happened. Thus, everything else paled suddenly and fear no longer became a contender for my time. In the past three months, I’ve done things I never thought I’d have the guts to do. Ever. Even if bribed. And that mentality is apparently shifting over to my writing as well. I used to get eight shades of bent out of shape over bad reviews or drama with fellow writers, industry kerfuffles and the like. Ask me if I give a rat’s bald ass now …

A couple of friends from Boston came down to spend time here in the good ol south, last January. One of our many wonderful conversations dealt with meeting “your full potential.” I think it spawned from a handwriting analysis, where Vin said my Bs and Ds clearly show that I don’t, in fact, give a damn about what other people think. Funny enough, my pen was telling the truth of the matter … stuff that my actions and behavior hadn’t figured out just yet. In other words, I barked louder than I bit.

This is no longer the case.

I was fearful of flying because it had been years since I’d been on a plane. Back in September, I flew in a helicopter without the doors on. It was AWESOME. I used to fear Atlanta traffic and could never have imagined driving through it on my own, but a couple of months ago I drove through Atlanta and up to Athens, GA to visit two of my closest friends. I feared stress and heartache with an ill family member, but spent two weeks by my father’s bedside after his surgery and instead of being a basket case, I found that I was calm and useful and had some of the most meaningful moments that I’ve ever had with him.

Things I wrote about in my novels, that I have always longed for, had long since been put away because they simply weren’t realistic to me. Things I’d wanted in life had been put aside because I refused to reach for that full potential.

You may now consider me awake, and I wonder at times, if I ever really lived before now.

I’ve been terrible at answering emails and taking care of personal stuff and for that I’m quite sorry. Just know that I’m doing my best to get around to being productive on a personal level. Right now, I’m so focused on getting this rewrite done before my publisher kills me for missing a deadline, that I don’t even have time to market my current stuff. So, if you’ve emailed me or called me or Skyped me and haven’t received a reply, at least know that there is a damn good reason for it.

Bottom line: Everything can be applied to your writing. Everything. Even the kitchen sink. And heartache. Perhaps especially heartache.

Into The Shallow End

“She plucked from my lapel the invisible strand of lint (the universal act of woman to proclaim ownership).” ~O. Henry

Sitting down to a new story, is like opening your vehicle to that, oh—so—wonderful, new car smell. You know what I’m talking about. It permeates everything—the seats, the trunk, and if you have a leather interior you get that old spice suave smell in addition to it. And like cars, stories need gas. What sort of gas am I hypothetically talking about? Well, that depends on you. Fuel is fuel. So what fuels your story? Some require premium, others you can get by with the cheapest stuff available. But there is a larger question at hand here:

Are you leasing, or buying?

You might not think there is a difference, but there is, and that difference determines how you’ll treat that story. Renters tend to ignore all of the little things because they aren’t fully invested in their acquired merchandise, or where they live, or what car they drive. When you first see that story, when you open the door and smell that delicious smell, you’re making a choice right then, whether or not you’re going to be with this thing for the long haul. You might not know that, but you are. Please trust me on this, you are.

If you’re buying, your maintenance will be more regular (usually), the grade oil you use will be higher (let’s assume for the sake of conversation that the oil here is the level of time you spend invested into your craft to make it all run smoothly), and you’ll take better care of it. Why? Because you envision a future with it. You make a commitment to it.

Is it your first work? Are you afraid those bloggers might be right? You know the ones—the guys and gals who emphatically state that all novels are total shit up until your fifth or sixth (or whatever the trend is at the time)? Whether or not you are a beginner, pro, or indeed a writer of total shit, you’re still making a call when you sign up for a fresh work. If you go at it with half your heart because deep down you’re letting your insecurities and fears make your decisions for you, then you’re leasing. If you go at it with all your heart, even if you’re scared to death of the commitment, then you’ve purchased.

Sounds too simplistic doesn’t it? It isn’t really, not when you look at it carefully. Contracts are sticky, complex things. And after all, any agreement between two parties is nothing more than a contract. You’re laying out your terms, and so is the story.

So what are the story’s terms?

Well, here’s some insider information—stories don’t like to be leased. They’ll offer you all sorts of incentives NOT to lease, but if you aren’t paying any attention, you’ll look right over them. Reminds me of rebates on cars—if you don’t ask, they don’t have to give them to you.

Stories don’t want you to bail after a certain number of rejections. That’s leasing. That’s turning it all back in, after a certain number of months (form letters from agents, or publishers, or both). Less the damages of course. And whatever damage you’ve done will cost you if you invest in another story at the same dealership. You’ll carry the cost over, just like you’ll carry the wounds of rejection letters over. And the thing is, if you’ve purchased, you don’t have to deal with that—not in the same way.

When you buy, you have the right to do whatever you want to with it after the title is in your name (that would be finishing the story). You can sell it if you’d like, pocket the profit, or keep it till it has to be retired. Bottom line is that the choices here are all yours.

When you lease, you don’t own anything. You aren’t investing in anything. Sure, there are perks. It’s cheaper, for starters, to lease than to own. Maintenance is taken care of (those are all of those classes and online critique groups you’ve spent years in). The second something is “wrong” and deemed beyond repair, it’s covered and you get to turn the thing back in, whether time is up on the lease or not.

When you buy, anything beyond the warranty is your responsibility. Yet, here’s the thing: Despite all the upkeep and the hassle, once it’s paid off, then it is truly YOURS. Forever. No take backs.

For better or worse, it belongs to you. And there isn’t anything better in this world than ownership. I saw a bumper sticker once that read, “Quit laughing jackass, it’s paid for!” You might not get published right away. You might never get published. You might get published, but not make a huge career out of being an author. But, it’s PAID for! You wrote the novel(s) that most of the world merely wishes to write. Don’t ever, ever forget this. It’s the only thing that matters.

So, you tell me: Are you leasing or buying? Really look at this question and answer it for yourself as honestly as you can. It’s really easy to say, “Yes I am buying.” But are you? Do you have one foot out the door, just waiting for something better to come along so you can slide out of one lease and move onto another one? When you get a form letter, or personalized rejection in your inbox, do you console yourself by saying inwardly, “Well, it’s not my best work anyway. I can do better. Maybe they’ll like the next thing I write?” Nothing wrong with hoping for better luck next time, but my point here is this: Are you giving your story less credit than it deserves because you really don’t plan on being with it for the long run?

The new car smell fades, yes. And it’s exciting to jump into a new car every couple of years. But nothing smells as good as a title, (pun intended) fresh off the press and I can guarantee you that with a lease, you’ll never see a title. You’re only borrowing it from someone else who will one day own it.

Which I suppose brings up the final question: Are you prepared to give it up to someone else? If not, then might I suggest you renegotiate your terms before your time is up?

It’s been long enough. You’ve waded into the shallow end. Take the plunge and OWN your story!

The Burning Days

“The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire.”  ~Ferdinand Foch

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us most. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and famous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that people won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in all of us. And when we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” ~Maryanne Williamson

**Bear with me: This starts out personal, but it does have a point for writers in general**

I’m a hell of a lot of woman.

I’m not loud and I’m not always the center of attention. But I’m strong-willed, decisive, independent, absolutely certain when it comes to what I want and going for it, and I’m usually all or nothing. In other words, I don’t do luke warm … I don’t have a working definition of halfway … and I couldn’t hit mediocre if I aimed for it. If I grant you a promise or my heart, you can take both of them to the bank.

It’s what makes my writing and my characters, and the worlds they populate, what they are. It’s what centers the Adorian culture and what pivots against Ereubinian slavery and repression. It’s the center and soul of my drive career-wise and what founds every friendship I have. If I love you, then I love you for life. I simply don’t know any other way to be.

This is not the easiest thing in the world to handle if you are in any way involved with me. Just ask my publisher. They’ve had more than a few candid conversations with me about this very issue. And I’ve learned a lot through professional growth this past year and a half … how to take that energy and tone it down enough to accomplish what I want. Still … on a personal level … there’s only so much dampening you can do. And after the events of the past two months … after walking on coals and mending the broken parts of my spirit … my soul is on fire.

I mean this in the best possible way.

Part of this is because I’ve recently been focused on rediscovering who I am—altering those parts of myself that I’d slowly changed to suit someone else’s wants and needs. There is tremendous empowerment in this. There is a sense of self unlike anything I’ve ever known. And every bit of it is coming out in my prose. My voice is sure and solid, without a hint of reservation or fear or hesitation. I was speaking with a fellow author not too long ago and I was trying to explain to her this whole process and how drastically my views on public scrutiny and critical reception had shifted, and it’s tough to really understand until you’ve been where I am. I had my foundations tested and they proved solid. But, until I knew that for sure, there were always those questions in the back of my mind … What am I made of? Am I worthy? Will I make it as an author?

Even if you don’t consciously entertain these thoughts, more than likely your subconscious is or has on some level. If you’ve ever read a review with trepidation or feared a critic, then you’ve absolutely asked yourself those things … even if you didn’t realize you were doing it. And while I can’t assure you of much else, I can unequivocally tell you that at the end of the day NOTHING else matters in your writing life outside of knowing who you are. Know that … and everything else … EVERYTHING else will fall into place just like it should.

Yeah … I know. You’ve heard this before. And nothing I tell you can show you or force you into this experience. It’s hard. It involves a lot of tears and heartache and pain. And solitude. This is not an endeavor you go through with others. While they’re there for comfort and support, the quiet, silent hours are the ones in which you feel the burn. It’s steel being forged in the fire. It shapes you into your true purpose as a writer … as a human being … as a creative, bright creature who refuses to sit idly by while your future is left in someone else’s hands.

Don’t think you’re leaving your future in someone else’s hands? OK … what do you want to happen in the next five years? Where do you want to be emotionally … physically … in your career? If you don’t know where you’re going, then you can’t complain about where you wind up. Aim for greatness and you’ll reach it. Aim for the very best and you’ll most likely get it. Don’t say, “if I make it as an author.” Don’t doubt yourself.

Because you are made of awesome. You are more than worthy. You’ve already made it as an author … the world’s perception of it in the future is merely icing on the cake.

Own it.

Like I already stated … I’m a hell of a lot of woman. More so now that I’ve entered into these burning days. You’re a hell of a lot of writer. Whether you know it yet or not. And like Marilyn Monroe said, “If you can’t handle me at my worst, you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.” I don’t care if you have to tape that quote onto your computer screen … or bathroom mirror or wherever … just don’t forget it when you start to think negatively about your life, your gifts and your calling as an author. Don’t be afraid to burn brightly … hotly … and for the world to see.

Because if they can’t stand the heat … they should get out of the kitchen.

Prodigal

“Here is the world.  Beautiful and terrible things will happen.  Don’t be afraid.”  ~Frederick Buechner

When I was a little girl, I played make-believe, like so many young girls do. I made up my own characters to accompany my favorite television shows (She-Ra and He-man if you must know), not content to just accept someone else’s creations. I flitted around the yard fighting dragons and the darkness and the forces of evil. I was fortuitous, full of fire and spirit and life. I was a leader, a comforter and a friend. Through the years, I used those daydreams to cultivate a picture of the kind of woman who I wanted to be once I grew up. I would be bold and wouldn’t take less than I deserved. I wouldn’t back down in a fight. I would hold onto the goodness in others and ferret out the shadows to expose them for what they really are. I would continue to create characters and worlds and stories.

But, somewhere along the way, I lost track of that girl. She faded against the backdrop of what I thought was my “reality” and the inevitable. Bitterness crept in, and I allowed myself to live only half a life.

I said once, a year or so ago, that I wanted to be the sort of person who did those brave things—who traveled and experienced life and had no regrets. This was said in the context of my being “unable” to do much of anything out of reservation, or anxiety, or lifestyle or preconceived notions, or whatever. Fear and monotony had me by the soul and it was eating away at my heart day by day. I wondered how I could be coming so close to achieving and having what I most desired, yet still be so far away.

It’s amazing what can change in a little over a month’s time.

The truth was there all along. In my writing hid little bits and pieces of the life that I’d always longed for. The girl I’d known so well, so long ago. The sort of affection and warmth and passion that I’d always given and never wholly received. But, I segregated that part of my life away and refused to look down deep enough into that fictitious world to see what my unconscious mind was trying so desperately to tell me. What Ariana, and Jessica Slate, and Garren were trying to show me. Things about myself that these characters, in their own ways, were displaying so boldly.

Like the act of murder, once the deed is done, your world is irrevocably changed. Nothing will ever be the same. Once the truth was revealed in my personal life, and I was set free, it was like a veil being lifted. Everything is different. And not in a bad way. Not anymore. Because there were things that I needed that I wasn’t getting that I didn’t even realize I was lacking. I was a full color girl living a black and white existence full of “you can’t” and “you’ll never.”

More than merely living that half of a life, I was accepting less than I deserve. I had long since given up on things that I now insist upon in my future: I want to feel pursued, adored and cherished. Nothing less will do.

I thought I was weak, and it turns out that I’m forged of stronger steel than most. I thought I was dependent and it turns out that I’m quite fond of blazing my own trails and creating my own destinies. I used to lay awake at night, dreaming of a world where my options were limitless—figuring that the closest I would ever come would be in my writing–and it turns out that the world ahead of me can be anything I want it to be.

After all, I said I would “grow up” to be a writer and I have six books under contract with a publisher. If I can accomplish this … then setting my eyes on the future of my dreams is within reach. All I have to do is keep on going until I get there … and not settle on the way for “almost” or “good enough.”

I have several paths ahead of me. I can sit back in fear and wait on time or fate or experience to usher me to the right one, or I can step out bravely on my own and take a chance on life again. I can swallow the fear as one would a breath of fresh air, and take it as a sign that I’m still alive. I can accept that my life and what happens to me, what becomes of me, is completely up to my attitude and how I approach the things that are set before me, be they obstacles or blessings.

The doors are wide open. The paths are begging to be traveled. Dragons slain. Darkness found and set alight. Worlds are bare clay, ready to be created. My happiness is in my own hands. My ability to love and be loved is ever stronger for the strain. My insecurities and fears, like those moments as a child when I wasn’t sure which way to go in the firefly-lit night, will serve as fuel for a greater internal fire than I’ve ever set ablaze before. This life of mine is only beginning. My dreams have only begun to take shape. My future is limitless.

The prodigal daughter has returned.

All That Glitters

All that glitters isn’t gold … my old den

“Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words for they become actions. Watch your actions , for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become character. Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”   ~Unknown

It pains me to write this. But, since it directly affects my writing, I felt it had weight here as well.

Obviously, you can tell by my last post (this is J.S.), there are some tough things going on in my life. When I wrote that post, my father had just been diagnosed with what is likely colon cancer (we still don’t know) and my grandmother was at hospice. She passed away saturday August 21st (date unsure).

But, I had no idea how drastically my life was about to change when we received the news that Saturday afternoon.

Late that night (technically Sunday morning) my husband of ten years (together eleven) … confessed that he’d been having an affair since at least April and that he was leaving me for her.

Let me state for the record that I had absolutely no idea at all that this was coming. At. All. And to be honest, I’ve never been in a darker place than right at this moment. I’ve never felt more lost, abandoned or rejected. The sound of his voice on the other end of the line is distant and cold–bizarre when you’ve been living with someone for that long and they change overnight. Or rather, you realize that you were living with a complete stranger.

We never fought about anything. We talked for hours about all sorts of things … turns out he was only telling me what he thought I wanted to hear. Sad when you consider that there wasn’t anything I wouldn’t have done for him.

I write about love because it means more to me than breath. I never saw myself in this position. I could never have imagined the kind of pain that I’ve been feeling since that Saturday a few weeks ago. It’s compounded by everything else that was already going on, but I sincerely would rather have lost a limb than have lost who I thought was my soul mate.

I would have tattooed his name on my arm that morning had you asked me to.

Why am I blogging about it? For several reasons. For starters, I need you guys to know where the hell I’ve gone. I haven’t been on FB lately, I haven’t blogged and I don’t want you to think I’ve fallen off the map entirely. The other reason is that this is going to affect the rest of my life and therefore my writing.

Right now, most of my stuff is in storage and I’ve moved back into my old bedroom. The dogs are with me. And stuck I’m in this weird state between feeling numb and being in agony. It’s an odd kind of waffling back and forth. One moment I’m shouting power ballads and feeling like I’m ready to kick someone’s ass—the next, I’m curled into a little ball wondering how I’m going to get to tomorrow in one piece. I’ve been told that this will get easier with time. My psychology background tells me this as well, but all of that goes out the window when it comes to my own life, which turns out I’d thought was some sort of exception to the rules of pain and suffering. That’ll teach me. I’m  done with the whole fortune-telling business. I don’t know shit anymore.

The only consolation–and there’s absolutely no fear whatsoever of him reading this blog post because he never reads anything I write, here or the published stuff–is that no one else saw this coming either. This shocked everyone who knew him. My parents are crushed because they loved him like a son. Our mutual friends are angry and hurt because it was an offense against more than just me, but against our tight-knit little crew. You royally screw one of us, you’ve screwed all of us. We’re a loyal lot. Needless to say, this did not go over well. Especially when you consider his timing and how little effort he put into trying to make good on his vows. He didn’t fail this marriage because failing indicates that you’ve tried. He didn’t even dignify what we had with fractional effort.

So, where do I go from here? What does this mean overall for my life? I don’t know. My father has major surgery in the coming weeks and I will be around the house to help my mother care for him, all while searching for a regular job with benefits. So much for writing full time … I will need to find my own health insurance. That doesn’t mean that I won’t be writing though … I have two books to write in the next 12 months. One is a total reboot of a book that’s already been finished and one is from scratch.

In other words, I can’t let this paralyze me.

So, if you’ve sent me messages and I haven’t responded, forgive me. I’m still learning how to breathe again. I’m working on it though. One breath at a time. One exhalation at a time.

Cinéma Vérité

It's all in the details ...

By Vanessa Cavendish

“It takes 500 small details to add up to one favorable impression.”  – Cary Grant

I remember everything, even the dates. But I don`t want others to remember the details, just the image.”  – Gloria Grahame

In her July 7 post, “Holistic Writing, Part 2,” Breanne posed a slew of questions to get us thinking about our own writing. I personally think each of those questions deserves a post unto itself. I’m working my way through them as best I can.

Question #4: Do you give lots of detail? Or do you leave it up to the reader?

All I do—and I mean, all I ever try to do when I write fiction, may God strike me dead—is to tell a story to the keyboard of my Dell Inspiron 1420 as near as I can to the way I’d tell it to you if you were riding shotgun with me in my beat-up, used-to-be-sky-blue 1949 GMC pickup truck with the ignition switch on the floorboard and no brakes to speak of, your fingers clawing for a non-existent seat belt as you try simultaneously to make sense of my eye-rolling, two-fisted, elbow-out-the-window way of talking a blue streak at you while I shift metaphors to point out whose curb that was we just rode up on. We got a concert to get to and we ain’t got time to smell the hibiscus. If the pedal don’t kiss the metal, we’re gonna be too late to tailgate!

What makes hard driving hard is what makes writing, writing.

I do wish you were here so I could see your face in my side view. Because if you yawn, if you scratch your nose or check your text messages, if you look bewildered by what I last said, or if the rumble strip gives you the jitters, I’m going to miss it.

I hate to break it to you, but writers are not rock stars. Guitar Hero doesn’t teach the chords you need to know. There’s no real-time feedback loop, no instant gratification when you nail it and none when your rhythm sucks ass. You (and if you have one, your crit group or your editor or your online beta-reader1) will have to anticipate from within your studio isolation booth whether the reader is more likely to get up and walk out versus get up and dance.

I used to dread it, in Mr. Faulkner’s2 class in tenth grade, when he pulled out his half dozen slide carousels to show us one or another of his family vacations—to Walla Walla, Washington (I shit you not), the Bavarian Alps, the Grand Canyon, the Alamo… The other kids encouraged him for no other reason than it wasn’t math. To me, you couldn’t get more irrational than the number of pictures that man took while he supposedly was having a good time.

Now, I dearly love the photographs in my own collection, but I do try to be selective about which ones I show you and which ones either didn’t develop or don’t relate or require too much in the way of an explanation. Because no, not every picture is worth a thousand words. Don’t keep showing me the same point-of-I-lost-interest from a different angle and, for godsakes, don’t get so fancy with your lenses and filters that you lose track of what’s important that for me to see and remember.

Here’s the kicker. If he had used just three of his seventeen views of the Matterhorn3  to illustrate a principle of geometry, as boring as that sounds, I might have paid attention. Done right, the visual might have made something abstract concrete. I might have learned something in spite of myself and not skipped his class so often to get high and to try to find a set of wheels to get to the city and rock out.

Let my truancy be a lesson to you. Your competition is so much more than other writers. Your competition is everything in the entire world that is not your novel.

If I don’t see a purpose unfolding in front of me—if I have to keep track, on my own, of my priorities, I’ll meet you in the parking lot with a full tank of gas. I’ll blow off the next chapter and the next and I will blame you for my lousy attitude.

Are we there yet?

As a passenger, I don’t think you want me under the hood in the middle of a major intersection, messing with your timing belt.

As an unlicensed driver under the influence of Melville and Hawthorne, with Gardner and King and Mary Shelley coursing through me, I’m one of those people, I think everybody else on this joyride needs an adrenaline drip just like me, and I mean to plump up that beautiful blue-green vein snaking up the inside of your elbow. Why else did you stick your thumb out when I rolled up on you with my door hanging open? Thing is, we’ll get there. But we’ll get there my way. Get in. I ain’t asking twice.

My way is the scenic route over rough terrain with a shaky camera. You can get out and walk if you want to, but don’t ask me to slow down.

1I’m mad about my own cohort. She rocks!

2Not his real name. What gave it away?

3I know, I know, the Matterhorn is between Switzerland and Italy, not in Bavaria. Work with me!

Stop! … Trailer Time

OK … bad 90s reference, I know. I’m just excited over these two teaser trailers. Watch them first, then we’ll talk about them.

 


Pretty awesome, huh? I thought so too. Of course, I might be a tad bias … I did have them made and they are for my books. Still, the music is righteous and the timing rocks. Best of all, it didn’t cost me much. But, that’s a secret for another day entirely.

What’s more important here is … I don’t hate trailers anymore. And I didn’t think it was possible to convert me. Ever. I loathed the very idea. But, these are short and sweet and to the point. No messing around. No funky crap. So, my question … or rather, what I’d like to discuss, is: what do you think works in a trailer and why? What do you hate in a trailer?

 

This Great Love

“I would hurl words into this darkness and wait for an echo, and if an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight, to create a sense of hunger for life that gnaws in us all.”  ~Richard Wright

There is an eerie feeling that follows reading about our favorite authors and the hardships they endured while writing our beloved favorites. It’s a piercing of that veil between our secret hope and the violent realization that all we have created cannot save us from the darkness and the pain of being such fragile, finite, ephemeral creatures.

It’s in times of trouble and hardship that our writing returns to us. It’s no longer just a passion, or a thing to be spoken of enthusiastically, but to be done in quiet and in the solitude of our own hearts, because nothing is what it once was. Public reception means nothing. Critics, editorial quirks and publishing woes are struck like weeds from the garden—uprooted and tossed aside. They have been seen for what they really are. Details. Nothing more and nothing less.

I spoke of writing evergreen once, in this post. In a way, this relates, though it’s a far deeper kind of purity that I’ve now come to know in my own writing process. It isn’t merely writing for the self—it’s writing with no concept of self. When my fingers touch the keyboard, nothing else in that moment exists beyond the story. It’s a sad kind of desperation really. A longing to find some solid ground to plant my feet on. And, amazingly, the world goes on around me like nothing has changed. And I suppose, for everyone else, it hasn’t. But, for me, nothing will ever be the same.

I’ve often mused through the years, ‘Is my life really a literary novel—stark and cold and brutal, full of vividly described scenes of crisp realism and tragic endings?’ In the early hours of the morning, awake in my bed and staring at the ceiling, I’ve secretly feared it was so. I’ve feared that a life spent dreaming of fantasy (and even romantic comedy) is in actuality like some sterile work of fiction where the sounds of nasal wheezing have taken center stage in chapter one because it represents the running down of the human body and the steady erosion of the human spirit over a lifetime of religious doubting and questioning.

I hear it … the dripping in the kitchen, the splash of water as it hits the cheap metal pot and chipped coffee cup in the sink. I feel the ache of joints and bones in ways that could only be described using words that no one uses in regular conversation. Words like, ineluctable and eructation.

It’s moments like this one … crickets chirping outside of my window, stars winking at me from the swath of velvety night sky … that I think perhaps it’s a bit of both. Perhaps even a little choice. Mostly perception. And as long as I’m still breathing, I’ll always believe a little in the impossible.

Certainly explains why I consider myself a holistic writer, doesn’t it?

We’ve walked the paths of sickness and health, death and dying, love and loss, with countless characters. We’ve loved with them. We’ve laughed with them. We’ve found and lost the meaning of life with them. We’ve grieved and feared and screamed and wept with them.

But there comes a time, in every author’s life, where they take our hand and hold our hearts. They breathe for us because we cannot breathe on our own. They love with us because we suddenly fear to and forget how. They laugh with us because we can no longer see the light or dream of the coming dawn. They find and lose the meaning of life with us because the life we knew no longer exists. They grieve and fear and scream and weep with us … because we created them, and they are the very best of who we are, who we have been and who we will become.

They walk through this present darkness with us, because of all paths, it’s the single one we cannot tread alone.

When there’s nothing left to grasp, when there are no more assurances left to ease our fears, when the dawn feels too far away to see, they are there. And how blessed are we, because it is in a way that no flesh and blood being ever could be. I dare say more so than any god because unlike faith, this great love, can never be lost.

The Wishing

“One writes such a story [The Lord of the Rings] not out of the leaves of trees still to be observed, nor by means of botany and soil-science; but it grows like a seed in the dark out of the leaf-mold of the mind: out of all that has been seen or thought or read, that has long ago been forgotten, descending into the deeps. No doubt there is much personal selection, as with a gardener: what one throws on one’s personal compost-heap; and my mold is evidently made largely of linguistic matter.”  – J. R. R. Tolkien

To put it simply, the question at hand is: What influences you, and what are you doing with the product of that influence?

We can’t know all of it, there’s too much to take in. But, in our fiction there are a great many references to our lives, intentional or otherwise, because we can only write what we know. I laugh a little, quietly of course, every time I hear someone say, instructionally, ‘Write what you know.’ I laugh because that’s as ridiculous as saying, ‘Speak using words you’ve learned.’ Kind of unavoidable really … if I don’t know the word, how can I know to use it? Similarly, if I don’t vaguely, in some form or fashion, know what I’m writing about, then how would I be aware enough to write it down at all?

I suppose the problem stems from people misinterpreting that advice to mean that one should write about things one is familiar with, or well-versed on.

That’s not the point.

Oh, I’m sure some who say it mean it that way, but that’s a narrow way of thinking and we don’t encourage that sort of thing here at the asylum. When you hear ‘average’ advice, we want you to think about what’s being said. Really think about it. Don’t just shrug and accept it at face value or immediately jump to the easiest explanation. In other words, spend time and interpret the words yourself. What does that guidance mean to you personally?

This brings me back around to why writing is so deeply connected to our personal lives … this compost pile, this mold that Tolkien referred to, is part of our whole being, not just our writerly selves. We are more than authors, you know. In a sense, we are the truest kind of human beings because we take all of our experiences and we catalog the liveliest, loveliest, darkest and most beautiful pieces and then file them away to be examined and picked apart and appreciated later. I suppose artists are the same, but still there remains something visceral in the sheer monotony of words. I say monotony because they all use the same letters (OK, not if you’re comparing Japanese to say, English, but you get the drift). The stark sameness of our materials, those letters and words, forces us to get our hands dirty in the muck and mire of our past and of our imagined future. Usually, if we write fiction, this is through the exploration of someone else’s past and future, an imaginary someone, but someone else nonetheless.

As fantasists, we are not exempt from writing what we know, even if we’ve made a great majority of it up. It’s still patchwork pieces of the life we’ve lived. Things we create are kind-of-like-but-not, everything we’ve ever touched or tasted or screwed or slapped or kissed. Sensory tools are all we have in gathering our materials from the compost heap in order to form them into a deliverable story.

The story is there, to us, from the very beginning … from the moment we pull the little scraps and clippings from the pile, the leaves from the mold, but our task as authors is to weave enough of a foundation around those things to give the story a reference point and to make it understandable to others. We’re, in a sense, telling the onlookers what all the pictures in our scrapbooks are of; where the tuft of fur is from, what the golden thread means, what the feathers are for.

Our novels, even the most outrageous ones, are like giant scrapbooks of our lives. Sometimes we lie about what’s on the pages and why … but those things are still ours. They belong, utterly, to us in ways that can only be explained through emotional and physical attachments.

And they say it isn’t personal.

The author, clutching her book of scraps, those bits of bone and shreds of soul all bound up, laughs at this too. She laughs because she knows better. The only things that aren’t personal are the blank pages of the book, the glue in the binding and the leather of the cover. But, the contents … oh the contents are the very definition of personal. Pity those who cannot see it this way, for they truly cannot understand the deeper meaning of art and I wonder, since they cannot see the reasons, are they capable of seeing life as a personal experience at all?

I suspect not. They’re the sort of people who take things at face value … they laugh at jokes they don’t get, comment on medical reports that they haven’t read, news stories that they don’t understand and they hate and love with equally blind devotion. They are not capable of making up their own mind on anything. And so, they bristle to hear that you’ve done so, to hear that you’ve claimed something not only for yourself, but as something that is uniquely and irrevocably yours. It is simply beyond their comprehension.

But … as authors, storytellers, it is also our task to keep that pile cultivated. We have to do more than just exist. We have to live … really live. I know it’s been said a hundred times before, to breathe deeply, love unconditionally, laugh hard, but don’t take this bit of advice at face value either. There is more to just living than reveling in the experience of it. Yes, laugh hard. Yes, love deeply. But, more than anything, don’t waste your time. You only have a limited amount of it, and unfortunately most of us aren’t aware of just how much time that is. So, spend every moment you can of that time you’ve been given either cultivating things to go into your scrapbook later, or weaving what you’ve already saved up into whatever tales you plan on telling.

You’re the only one with that particular compost heap … that forest mold … those leaves … so, that story, the one that’s been placed in your hands and in your pile, can only be told by you. No one else on this earth has your exact set of experiences. You are, despite however much you might have in common with others, unique. So, if you don’t tell that story … if you don’t gather up your scraps and bravely set forth to show them to others, then no one ever will.

No one ever will.

Every moment you waste in fear is a sentence that will never be crafted. Every afternoon you fritter away by worrying about whether or not your writing will be read and loved by others, is a scene that dies an untimely death. Every week that you don’t grab hold of, is a character or plot arc that will never get a chance to breathe. Every month you spend not writing, is a story that fades into nothingness. Every year you allow to pass by, is a world you’ll never create. Every decade is a career milestone that you’ll never reach. Eventually, you’ll run out of things to forego and there will be nothing left but the wishing.

You will not get better by thinking about it. You won’t progress by stalling and crying and hoping or pleading with others to share their secrets. There are no secrets, there is only the act of putting words onto a page, one letter at a time. Your ideas won’t come to life just by remaining in your head unseen and unheard. Fads will come and go, trends will wax and wane. Your style won’t improve just because you get older and mature. You won’t suddenly wake up one day, miraculously inspired, and find that you’ve finally become a writer. It doesn’t work that way, but you’d think it did judging by the sheer volume of ‘writers’ who are … well … not writing. They’re wishers, not writers. And they’re excellent at it. They’ve hoarded an absurd amount of materials in their compost pile, their mold is fermented and ready for use. They are some of the most talented people I know, if only they would brave that first step. There’s nothing there but the dirt to step on … no hot coals (those don’t come till later) … just moss and leaves.

So, what are you waiting on?

Step out. Stop wishing. Start breathing. Start living. Start writing.

Harvesting Engineered Fiction

Harvesting Engineered Fiction: By Vanessa Cavendish

“When we blindly adopt a religion, a political system, a literary dogma, we become automatons. We cease to grow.” –Anais Nin

In her July 7 post, “Wholistic Writing, Part 2,” Breanne posed a slew of questions to get us thinking about our own writing. I personally think each of those questions deserves a post unto itself. I’m working my way through them as best I can.

Question #: What genre do you prefer and why? Would you ever try a different genre on for size?

It’s hard to know, these days, what kind of hybrid vegetable you might find at the grocery store unless you shop organic. Same thing at the fiction store. One hellofalotta genre-splicing going on. Dubya Tee Eff, as they say. What don’t kill you only makes you stranger. A genre is a label, like the sticker you can’t peel off a piece of fruit. We got some engineering yet to do before that bar code is embedded in the double helix of a watermelon, but you can write your elevator speech and start marketing your novel before it’s written, provided you know how to pick a genre and stick to it.

We don’t grow a lot of elevator speeches locally. They are a big city variety of conversating. Out where I live, the only elevator in town has CO-OP painted on the side of it in big blue letters. Red winter wheat might talk a good game as it thrashes to and fro in the wind, but once the custom cutters roll through, it don’t have a whole lot more to say. I’m kind of the same way, being a flatlander. Twister might take you by surprise, but people ought not to. Them you can see coming for miles. Gives you time to size a person up.

We are a reticent people until we get to know you, which might take all of five minutes or five years, but we don’t speak blurb, and what we’re interested in about you has got diddly to do with your unique selling proposition. We might ask who your momma and daddy is and if they’re still living and whether there’s a chance we might be remotely related. Pretty quick after that, we’ll get down to which church you belong to. If you’re me and you see that one coming, you can sometimes head it off with a comment on the weather and then, quick, pretend you got your cell phone on vibrate and you can not afford to miss this call.

Genres are the denominations of fiction. You can talk all you like about how we all serve the same Lord, but the minute you start in like that, we’ve got you pegged as a Universalist Unitarian, which means three things:

  1. Not from here.
  2. Don’t have a clue about Jesus
  3. Fair game for proselytizing

So you better come up with something quick, Vanessa, and quit your stalling.

I write American Gothic. I might could say Country Horror or Rural Fantasy or Farm Punk, but what I like about “American Gothic” is right away you get that image of the couple with the pitchfork that everyone knows is brother and sister but is too polite to come right out and speculate on what the Keerist is going on out there in the wilds of Indiana or Iowa or wherever the hell that is. The other thing is, is I like to think it sounds a little bit less like something I made up. I can point to my “American Gothic” antecedents, which is a fancy way of answering where your folks come from.

Children of the Corn, I might say. Or Frailty or Cape Fear. Because, look here. If you say Flannery O’Connor and Joyce Carol Oates, you risk sounding like a poor relation putting on airs.

So what is my point, exactly?

If I identify with an established fictional religion—let’s say horror, for the sake of argument and imagery—then I begin to feel like I have to toe the line, adhere to the doctrines, the esthetics, the rules of that particular genre. I even get to feeling like if I don’t dress a certain way I won’t fit in, and somebody sooner or later is going to say something to me about my target audience and reader expectations. I’m not going to let it get to that point because, deep down, I can’t bring myself to believe that the only way to get to Writer Heaven is to scrub-a-dub-dub in the blood.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not opposed to human sacrifice, I just think we can leave room for the Romantic Comedites and even the adherants to certain forms of Literary Fictionism, if they will but give up their excesses and repent their moral torpitude.

I am more goat than lamb, is all I’m saying. Still sacrificial but a touch less complacent about it. A herd animal that likes to butt heads with the fencing. The meek will always feed low to the ground and where the shepherd lets them, figuring that’s where their inheritance lies. They’ll graze a field down to the stubble, and that’s fine by me. There’s a certain resourcefulness about it that, in a more generous mood, I might admire. Being goatish, I’ll give most anything a try, but I do like to rear up on my hind legs every now and then and, you know…reach?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,330 other followers