By the Power of Greyskull!

“My heart, the garbage disposal of my soul, should it ever demand any less of me, I’d cease to exist. Still, there are times when the damn thing just stinks of decaying waste. Let us hope this is not one of those times …” ~Breanne Braddy

Does it freak you out that I just quoted myself? I hate it when people do that … but this one time I’ve made an exception. I mean … I am technically writing under my pen name here.

So why now? Because today, my friends and fellow authors/readers/bloggers … I turn 30. Bear with me, I promise this will relate to writing.

That quote was something I said in a status update on my wall, nearly a full year ago. It was attached to a post entitled, “No Small Measure,” originally written here April 11, 2010. The post was about depression and madness, and all of those things that seem to dog our heels as creative souls. That isn’t meant to sound melodramatic or self-absorbed, rather, bluntly realistic. Our world isn’t like everyone else’s. It will never be. And I think, personally, it’s taken me 30 years to get used to that idea.

We’re often asked where our ideas come from. Books have been written on how to conjure the muse (mine is a bitch, but generally complies with promises of chocolate or vodka). But … where do our ideas come from?

Really?

What leads us to chose a certain character’s name in particular, out of the multitude of reasonable options? What causes us to take note of the brownish grime on our mother’s friend’s stove, or the yellow hue of the doily on the nearby coffee table? Why do we notice the patterns and lyricism in the actions of our family and friends? Are we born this way?

We’re old souls who have lived, if but for a moment, some part of each tale we pen. This is no less a feat than those composures who begun their toiling work at the tender age of 5—still a youth—or those who recount great battles and lives from times they’re far too young to have been educated on. Somehow … we know these things like a mother knows the sound of her child’s cry, like a sailor knows the temperament of the sea. They are, and we cannot ever recall a time when they were not.

Think back on your childhood … despite any traumas or upsets … was there ever a time when you weren’t creating something?

You could perhaps say simply that we just never stopped playing make-believe. But, it wasn’t quite that … simple, was it? We saw, experienced, something altogether different from our peers. We told stories even then, with every available method, at every opportune time.

And some really inopportune times (say, retelling dad’s dirty joke in the middle of children’s church at First Methodist).

But, we’re not normal. And … I’m OK with that. Really. If I weren’t neurotic, and believe me I am, then I wouldn’t be able to write the way that I do. And despite how anyone else sees my work, I’m happy with that too. Maybe that’s what growing up is all about—coming to terms with one’s self and making peace with the demons. Who knows.

SO, why is there a picture of She-Ra in this post? Because I lived, ate, breathed and slept Masters of the Universe when I was a kid. And turning old has me thinking back on all things retro. That artistic rendition is as grown-up a version of my childhood favorite as I could find (that wasn’t ridiculous). My deepest apologies if you’re not familiar with who She-Ra is.

But, the question of the day is this: What word/name in Guardians of Legend pays tribute to Masters of the Universe? Winner gets a free signed paperback of Son of Ereubus. No, I’m not kidding. I’m feeling generous. Leave your answer in the comments. And this isn’t a marketing ploy, I’m morbidly curious to see if anyone caught it.

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Natural Selection: Writers Edition

“Whenever a man does a thoroughly stupid thing, it is always from the noblest motives.”
-Oscar Wilde

Oscar, I love you, but for once … I don’t agree with you. Not after reading about an author’s book review meltdown on Best Damn Creative Writing Blog. I took a good, lengthy read, and couldn’t get over how simple a discussion this could have been had Ms. Howett kept her cool. If you go and look at Amazon, that book has gotten (as of 9pm my time) nine 1 star reviews TODAY. Ouch. {Update: 4:20am. There are now 20 1 star reviews} {{second update 4/28 9:55pm 46 1 star reviews}} {{Third update 4/29 7:23pm 64 1 star reviews}}

And what’s worse, is that the review wasn’t particularly scathing. In fact, there were places in the review where the reviewer pointed out what he liked about the novel (I think it’s a he).

At this point I don’t read reviews. I try my damnedest not to go over to Amazon or Goodreads at all. I am aware of a handful of not-so-awesome reviews for Son of Ereubus, and that’s totally normal and to be expected. It isn’t my place to whine or complain. In fact, if you don’t have any negative ratings or reviews, I would wonder if you’re getting enough exposure. Meaning, is your novel getting reviews beyond friends/family members and FB friends?

I shouldn’t have to remind you that every author who makes it will have readers who will loathe them. Period. Almost every major author who has become vastly successful has been sued—for something or other—so go ahead and get used to the dark side of this industry. None of this is changing anytime soon. If you can’t handle a couple negative reviews with dignity, then there’s no way in hell you’ll make it in the long haul. Natural Selection will throw you out of the game before you’ve had a chance to score a single point.

Don’t ever do what Ms. Howett did. REALLY. It isn’t worth it. Not even a little bit. Controversy sells, but not nearly as well as a well-written novel will sell. In my not-so-humble opinion, this was a career-killing move. If I were an agent or publisher, I wouldn’t touch her with a ten foot pole. And yes, I know she is an indie author. But, considering how she responded to anyone who commented, I’d gather she’s this fiery with readers. Who wants to deal with that?

Further, who wants to support that kind of nastiness? Reviews are important to writers. Even though I don’t read most of them, that doesn’t mean that I don’t deeply appreciate each and every one of them. I will occasionally comment—if a friend or my publisher sends me the individual link. I did so just a few days ago when a reader who’d downloaded the book from our free ebook event gave it a fantastic five star review. But, I will ONLY say something, if that something is positive.

SO, writing tip #327: Don’t tank your writing career by biting the hand that feeds you. Say unto others, as you would have them say unto you.

In the In-between

“Sometimes when I think how good my book can be, I can hardly breathe.” ~Truman Capote

Authors have love affairs. Some of them are lasting, life-long affairs that wax and wane like the cycles of the moon. Others are short bursts of passion whose fires fizzle out as quickly as they were lit. We don’t … however, marry.

I’m talking about our writing, of course. I’ve been happily married in real life for nearly 10 years.

And I’m not talking in general terms about our storytelling either. I’m speaking literally of how we feel about our ability to write. We crush on it at times, especially when we get a particularly glowing review from a blogger or critic, or better yet from an agent, our editor, or our publisher.

But we don’t love it.

We love the act. We love the stories, the characters … the worlds we create. We even think we love our writing at times. But, like all affairs, the truth comes out in the end and we, being the fickle lovers that we are, we change and look for other mistresses. Other mistresses, being however you chose to interpret this analogy. It’s different for each of us.

I’ve never read a single blog post where the author raved about their talent with words. Storytelling, sure. But don’t think for a minute that we don’t all feel that deep-in-your-gut dread that says none too quietly, “Wow, I’m absolutely horrible at this. I’m that girl in the church chorus whom they’ve doled out solos to because they pity her.”

Even the great Capote, who knew damn well that he had a firm hold on the English language (as evidenced by his many self-indulgent quips), had his darker moments. Note that in the quote above, he didn’t say how good his writing could be—how skillful his prose could be. He said my book. Big, big difference.

There are moments, however rare they may be, when we read a paragraph or a chapter (or if we’re really blessed, a whole book that we’ve penned), and we think to ourselves, “That was incredible.” But, it just doesn’t last—that feeling. It fades as quickly as oak furniture in direct sunlight.

So what do we do?

We love like hell in those passionate moments—in the in-between. And we learn. My God, do we learn. And we wait. We wait for the next breathtaking moment.

I promise you … if you are patient, it will come. Remember, feelings are fickle and are apt to betray. Promises however, if you mean them, can last lifetimes. And I promise to stay faithful to my writing, for better or worse.

Do you?

Shit My Muse Says Pt.1

Shit my muse LOVES: Morior by Tom Barczak

“Drawing on my fine command of the English language, I said nothing.”
Robert Benchley

What is that thing in the picture?

That, my dear friends/family members/random passer-byers, is a Morior. This particular Morior has a name, Eralos, and he’s a quite a nasty, boorish sort of Morior. He also happens to be a fallen immortal. This is, of course, from my Guardians trilogy. A fellow author, Thomas Barczak did this sketch last week and I’ve stared at it ever since. I fully intend to have Thomas do a series of drawings for me for future use either on the Guardians blog or perhaps additional publications for Guardians (such as an E-encyclopdia). Why am I showing it to you?

Because I can…

No, really it’s because I think there is something to be said for indulging yourself a little as an author—your muse likes it and will behave when you do.  Which per usual got me thinking about what ELSE my muse, specifically, likes. So I thought now would be a good time to start a series about all the shit my muse says. Everyone in the blogosphere is doing “series” these days, so for once in my life I caved to the peer pressure and I’m now doing what all the popular kids are doing. This is my lame attempt at going with the flow. So, without further ado: Shit my muse says…

* You know, when you drink that much coffee, you’re only writing faster—not smarter. There is a difference. The more caffeine you consume in one writing session, the more of a dumbass you make me out to be. I’m not overly fond of this.

* I like split-infinitves. You can sort it out with your editor later. Yes, I know they’re bad. That’s your problem, MRS. Fancy Pants Author, not mine.

* For Christ’s sake will you PLEASE Stop reading reviews on Goodreads and Amazon? Or anywhere else for that matter? Every single time you ‘glance’ at your stats or a group of reviews, you’re effectively clamping your hand over my mouth. Then, you have the nerve to get mad at me for not saying anything?!

* There is a CAA meeting at the local Y next Wednesday. I’m signing you up. What do you mean you don’t know what CAA is? Comma Abusers Anonymous. It’s like AA without the occasional boozing and with, ridiculous, unnecessary, pausing….and a worse hangover.

* Do you realize how often you nod? Your husband nods. Your mother nods. The dude chewing gum at the DMV nodded when you lied and told him you only weighed 110 pounds. Do you have some perverse need to voice aloud every single instance you perform or see someone commit this act of normalcy? No? Then why the hell do you insist on typing it ALL. THE. TIME. (My muse shakes her head, frowning)

*Ahem….same goes with the whole shaking-of-the-head bit. Knock it off already!

* It’s perfectly reasonable to tell you all about other works while you’re trying to write to a deadline. My name is not Motivation, it’s Muse. I’m much better looking, I come around more often and technically I don’t require you to *do* anything. You should be grateful that I feel so inclined as to whisper, ever-so-gently, into your ear.

* I like adjectives and adverbs. So, either learn to use them effectively or fill out an application to flip burgers ’cause I have NO intention of losing my affinity for them. Yes, I know what a word search is and I don’t appreciate the tone you’re taking with me.

* Hot wings … all flappers … with extra hot sauce, extra ranch dressing and extra celery, are all totally necessary to write this next scene. No, seriously, you’re not typing a single word until these items are procured. I don’t care that it’s Sunday or that Willy T’s is closed.

* Still no hot wings? Such a shame. It’d be a PERFECT day to write, don’t you think?

* Readers, some of them, don’t think writers ever make mistakes. The well-read ones will realize that, while ideal, this ridiculous concept is not true. AT. ALL. So do the best you can and learn from your errors. You have an editor at Rhemalda who will catch 99% of the things you miss while drafting your fiction. Learn from that instruction. But, DON’T let your fear of the public’s perception hinder you from blogging as honestly as you always have. You will make mistakes. You are only human. Whoever has an issue with it can come take it up with me in private. It won’t be pretty.

* 3am is a perfectly reasonable time to send you inspiration. Perfectly. Reasonable. Why are you asking?

* I know I’m getting on your nerves, but that major info dump you just dropped into chapter five isn’t going to make me go away.

* YES?!? You have to write down the verbal picture I’m painting rightdamnow! I’m only giving you this idea once, and then that’s it. Your time with that idea will have passed and I’ll hand it off to someone else’s muse who will listen to them.

* OK, I lied about the too much coffee thing. WE NEED COFFEE NOW!

Part II coming next week. Meanwhile, what kind of shit does your muse say?

Paper Crowns and Battle Cries

 

“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 playing make-believe. Do they do it halfway? Do they adjust their creations to fit with what is likely or plausible? I sure as hell didn’t. Not only did I not account for reality, I’m pretty convinced that I lived life until I was in my mid-twenties under the assumption that magic was, in some way, real. I don’t mean literally, per say. More like that vague feeling that all young people have where they are under the impression that *they* can live forever. That sort of thing. Maybe there really is another world out there. Maybe this isn’t it. Maybe my lost socks are on to something.

There is a point where you lose that blissful ignorance though. For some of us, this moment comes earlier in life than for others. I’m always the last one to know. I was eleven when I found my Easter basket in my mother’s bedroom closet, and I’ll never forget the hit to my gut when I realized that this meant that Santa Clause wasn’t real either. It was a very dark day in my household.

Some of us have that same sort of, innocence, when it comes to being authors. Some of us go on to live eternally through our words. Others, give up and let go of the dream and move on to “adult” things—rational and likely things. As usual, I’m still holding on here. I have no misgivings about reality, don’t mistake me. But, I believe in more than what is probably going to happen. I have to. What good is life without goals, or destinations, or a future to spend time imagining?

Planning and being wise, aren’t bad things. I don’t mean that either. You’ve got to have your head on straight and a game plan. But, if we spend SO much of our efforts working towards specific objectives (uber fame, being J.K. Rowling, etc), then we will lose the magic that makes those things possible in the first place. There are no magic formulas, only magic. This goes back to a comment Anthony made on my ‘Sex and the Art of Author Marketing’ post a week ago or so…all of your extra-writerly stuff has to be done for the right reasons, or else it is purely for naught. I couldn’t agree more with him. This might all sound like common sense, at least it does to me as I type it out, but damn, it certainly doesn’t enter my mind when I start to worry about the pace of my career, or how my books are selling, or how the media/public perceives me.

It’s like the lyrics to the song I posted above…it’s a battle cry that we’ve got to keep on our hearts. This dream, of living our lives as authors, is larger than any set of rules, or fenced perimeter, or glass ceiling. There is marketing to be done. There are details to attend to. But don’t ever, ever lose track of the bigger picture of what you want. Be that child in the yard who is building a castle of sticks and stones, living life as a king or queen…even if your crown is only paper for now.

The gold will come later, I promise…

Unless you give up on it, and file that dream away with other lost things. Socks, for example. Or discarded ideas. Or ambitions.

Where is all of this talk of battle cries coming from? My time on Facebook this past week. That’s where. I hear so many writers talking about absolutes and how “things are,” and “conforming to the industry” and so on. God, it’s like hearing two children in the yard discussing the weight bearing properties of a cardboard box.

Hello, it’s a cardboard box. Chances are, you won’t have it forever.

I won’t be in this place in my career for the rest of my life. So why stress out about what is expected of me right this moment by an ambiguous, man-behind-the-curtain, kind of “Industry”? That’s useless. And for all my day dreaming, I’m still fairly pragmatic at the end of the day. The dreaming makes these things happen, therefore, that’s what I do. A query has never once in the history of the “Industry” sold a book. Period. No, hear me…THE BOOK sold itself once the full was requested, signed, pimped out, or sold directly to the publisher from the writer. I’ve seen stellar queries, that receive one request for novels after another, and yet…the books never get picked up. Know why? Because it was never the query that they were looking for in the first place.  You can argue semantics till you are blue in the face, that the book would never have been picked up had it not been for the query, but you’re missing the forest for the trees. THE BOOK, the story, the make-believe, the magic, is what was signed in the end.

So, that’s where our focus should be. Everything else, will work itself out. How can I say that? Easily, because I still suck at queries. I’ve got five novels under contract, and I can’t write a query letter to save my damn life. I can write them for other people (at gunpoint), but never for my own work. I doubt I’ll ever have that skill.

All I am capable of, is dreaming—of wearing paper crowns and carrying that battle cry like it’s burned onto my heart. That’ll just have to be enough.

Own Your Story

“No man but feels more of a man in the world if he have a bit of ground that he can call his own.  However small it is on the surface, it is four thousand miles deep; and that is a very handsome property.”  ~Charles Dudley Warner

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!

Just Breathe…

Nothing that is complete breathes.  ~Antonio Porchia,Voces, 1943, translated from Spanish by W.S. Merwin

I have to keep reminding myself of this. I’m not “done” until I’m dead…and neither is my story—the most important one I’ll ever be a part of. Due to the nature of time, we never quite know where we’re at in the plot of our own lives (though some have a better idea than others). But, I know this much is true—there is conflict. And like any good story, there will also be set backs, red herrings, lost time and disappointment. I don’t know what kind of story this is and I’d love to be in the mood to make a witty joke or two about it having something to do with satan wearing designer duds.

But, I’m not in the mood. I’m breathless.

My first novel, as most of you know, debuts in a few months and I’m experiencing what all new authors (and seasoned) go through: cold sweats, tears, laughter, woe, etc. I’m learning to develop, as Ien called it, a filter. It’s tough. I don’t know how to avoid the media and yet maintain a presence in it all the same. In but not of, I suppose.

It will always be Fable to me. And now, as I feel the heat inherent in public viewing, I resort back to that title in my mind. Guardians, is what has been picked up and published. Guardians is what will be reviewed and pulled apart and critiqued—for better or worse. Guardians is what will either sell or not sell and what will ultimately bring in royalty checks—or not.

Fable is the story I fell in love with long ago—the characters who rest as much in me, as beside me on the page.

The decision to step out in faith and welcome a career as an author, instead of living that calling without the professional validation, feels a little like dying inside. And perhaps that is also what Porchia was referring to. In an effort to move closer to completion, you lose a little of who you once were. You die a little. But, so long as you’re still breathing, you’re not done yet.

Your first crush took your breath away. Your first real, deep, chest rattling cry, took your breath away. Your first love took your breath away. Your first loss threatened to take it away permanently. Your first rejection did the same. Your first job interview, your last day on the job, the birth of your children…all the important stuff, whether good or bad, mimics death in part because it is a birth of sorts. A new beginning. And don’t newborns cry? Perhaps my response to this isn’t so unusual after all. Maybe no one talks about this internal struggle because they feel obligated to express only sheer elation over being published.

Allow me, if you will, to once again be transparent. Yes, there is a wonderful, magical sense about all of this. But, like cracks in glass, I feel the cold seeping in. It keeps me real and makes me who I am. I’m not complaining. But, if anyone else is feeling this and thinks they’re alone…rest assured…you aren’t.

So I guess this isn’t it. I’ve still some story left in me. And there’s only one thing to do…

Guest Blogger: Ien Nivens

Falsetto   ~by Ien Nivens

Play nice with the other toys!

Every so often, I come across an old piece of advice that writers like to pass on like a bad gene. It usually goes something like this: “Has someone done you dirt? Get even! Use the anger you experience to fuel your writing! Maybe you were rendered speechless at the time, but you thought of the perfect retort an hour later or the next morning. Get it out of your system! Give yourself permission to retaliate in writing by casting the offensive person as the villain who gets his or her comeuppance in a story!” It is this last bit, the idea of disguising the bully-victim of your wrath in fictional clothing, that makes me cringe. The temptation to dehumanize, to humiliate an enemy in effigy because we can’t do it for real is, to my way of thinking, not something to encourage. Not in group therapy. Not in private. Certainly not in writing.

I know. I know. We like getting special indulgences for acting out, for being “bad”. It seems edgy, this kind of advice. It’s not, though. In fact, it only gives a writer permission to act like a coward, to snivel, not to confront an issue and to process it but to whitewash pain with a weaselly form of vindictiveness. If you need to stand up for yourself, why are you sitting at your desk? No, I’m sorry, but it’s just bad advice. Let me say why I else think so.

It is true that retaliation can release some pent-up energy. So can drilling through the sea floor and tapping into a deep reservoir of fossil fuel. The problem with it is two-fold. Not only does it tap a limited supply of energy, but the potential for creating a personal and professional disaster is always going to be with you. There are cleaner, more durable sources of energy that can be easily replenished without picking fights or prospecting for old injuries, figuring out who was to blame for them and working yourself into a lather, or even a fit of impish glee over a clever revenge.

It is OK to experience pain, envy, disdain, hatred, despair, dependency, despondency, anger and any other honest emotion triggered by living in a human body among others in a human society. It is also OK to practice self-defense, to stand up for what you believe in–in or out of writing–including your own right to respectful treatment. What is not OK, in my opinion, is to willfully provoke those emotions, to savor them, to provide occasions for them in your own life by doing unto others under the cover of fiction. It is not OK, I say, to use your art to serve a petty, personal vendetta. I have no respect for back-biting and sucker punching, and even less for ineffectual writing that does nothing whatsoever to heal a wound or to prevent further injury, since the original offender is not likely to recognize himself or herself in your fiction anyway–not if you follow the standard advice and camouflage the stand-in character well enough. If the original offender does see what you’re up to, you lose everywhichway. You can be called out. You can be sued, even. But worse than that, you will have given evidence of your own cowardice.

In any event, you will know.

Instead, tell the truth. Say what happened, if you need to write about it. Play witness, not victim. Name names if you want to (if it’s both safe and legal to do so) or write it as fiction. Change whatever superficial thing you feel like changing, but resist the urge to get even, to turn an inglorious and painful situation into a moment of choreographed triumph. Resist the urge to give your character the perfect, off-the-cuff rebuttal, because readers aren’t stupid; it will only give your roar of righteous indignation a lingering falsetto whine.

The Living

“At first sight experience seems to bury us under a flood of external objects, pressing upon us with a sharp and importunate reality, calling us out of ourselves in a thousand forms of action.”  ~Walter Pater

There is a moment in every woman’s life, where she’ll realize that she isn’t the young woman that she once was. There is a face that she’ll always expect when she looks in the mirror, regardless of what is there in reality. This might hold true for men as well, but since I’m not a man, I can’t very well assume. That moment, for me, came this past saturday. I was dressed up in a fur bikini for a photo shoot, traipsing around Flat Rock park on crutches, when it hit me: I’m too old to be doing this. It  might have been the shot where I was told to lie down on the rocks that did it. Whatever it was, I suddenly felt less like a contestant on America’s Next Top Model and more like Janice Dickinson:  Waaaaay past my prime.

Per usual, this got me thinking about how I’ve changed as an author, how experience and time affect my abilities and my confidence. We reach a stage where we question everything about ourselves…and this stage often brings fear with it, which in turn erects a writers’ block. We see black balloons and feel like the luster of our youth is forever behind us. We’re sort of bitter, sort of experienced, sort of terrified. We’re bombarded with everything from everywhere—blogs, news articles, commentary, societal pressure, internal pressure…a thousand voices all at once.

That’s when we’ve got to step back, take a breath, and regroup. We have to shut our eyes and our ears to everything going on around us and listen to the writing—to that ever present being inside of us that will still be able to channel a 20 year old even when we’re 97 because it’s what the story has asked of us. That being, our voice is immune to the effects of time. I don’t mean that it doesn’t change as we mark the years off of our proverbial calendar. But, it changes like we do…we’re still us. I will always be me, no matter what I go through…I will never be anyone else. No matter how hard I try…

Your voice will always be yours and yours alone.

I came home and washed the make-up off, sat on my couch and had a good laugh at myself. I have been thinking a lot about age lately, and family and what it all means in the grand scheme of things. Everyone likes to ask me when I’m going to have children, when I’m going to “start a family.” I have a family and we’re complete just as we are. I’m not saying that I’ll never raise children—it’s in the cards, I’m sure. But until that moment comes, we’re still a family. Nothing is missing. Our writing is no different. If you’re unpublished, the question is always, when are you going to get published? Once you’ve accomplished that, the next question is, when are you going to make a movie? As if writers whose books are sold as movie rights actually make the movies. Still, you get the drift. Aging, life, writing, it’s all the same. Everything is in stages and the world will forever be on your case about what you’re doing next and how. You’ve got to ignore this and learn to listen to yourself again. Remember that post from awhile back, Evergreen? This is what I was talking about. No matter where you are in the process, nothing is missing. It’s the being—the living–that matters, not your surroundings. You are a writer. Period. Nothing else about your ‘career’ matters at the end of the day. Not fame. Not fortune. Not accomplishments. You don’t need any of the things that society has told you that you need in order to “succeed” as an author.

Live…write…because what you do need, what we all need, is truly limited: time. And there will never be enough to say it all, so say what you can…pen the worlds that you can…and pray you’ve time enough to get onto paper all the important bits. At the end of the day, fame, fortune and accomplishments won’t have gained you one more second to write. Isn’t that why we’re doing this to begin with? Because we love it? Yes. It is. And our living is the proof of it.

So live already…

It’s Around Here Somewhere…

“It turns out that an eerie type of chaos can lurk just behind a façade of order—and yet, deep inside the chaos lurks an even eerier type of order.” ~Douglas Hostadter

It’s 3:30am. Again. And here I sit at my kitchen table, wrestling with a hundred thousand voices, every one of which is screaming for my sole attention. This schizophrenic existence that is every writer’s life has its benefits (you’re never lonely–ever), you’re very rarely bored (and if you are, it won’t be for long), and you certainly have the ‘get out of jail free’ card for being the eccentric one in the family.

But there are moments like this one, where my heart and head and hands are on such different wave lengths that it feels like I’m a fractured spirit, drifting through a single-souled world. Would I want to change even if I could? You already know the answer to that.

There are plenty of authors who have everything down to a science, when it comes to order and organization. I am not among them. Ideas come to me at all sorts of weird, inconvenient  and usually unwieldy moments—including when my body is supposed to be resting. I don’t even know the meaning of the word anymore. Neither do my stories, apparently.

And, per usual, this got me thinking about chaos as it relates to us as artists. Think about a painter’s studio. What do you see in that mental image? The first thing that comes to mind for me, aside from the large loft windows and high ceilings, is the staggering amount of ‘stuff’ that’s hanging around on tables, chairs—the floor. Paint is everywhere, canvases are in places they probably shouldn’t be. There is a blanket half tossed, along with a pillow, onto the couch (and a bit on the floor) because the artist slept/tossed/fretted there the night before.

As authors, our lives aren’t any different—not really. You just can’t walk into our studios because we carry them with us, but rest assured they’re just as messy and chaotic. This isn’t the same thing as my waiting room analogy. This is more like the fragments of what will be, the tools we use to create our worlds and that internal space in which we do so. The muck and mire of possibility; the thread and fabric of imagination; the cords that bind a reader’s disbelief; veils to mask the twist at the end of novel #35; a helmet from a slain warrior; a pool of dark water complete with a smidgen of enchantment and a scrying spell; the unraveled ends of our sanity; a broken spinning wheel for yarns that have taken on a life of their own…you get the idea.

So where the hell is my ability to go to sleep at a decent hour? I had it—I know I did. It’s around here somewhere…

Evergreen

“If in my youth I had realized that the sustaining splendour of beauty of with which I was in love would one day flood back into my heart, there to ignite a flame that would torture me without end, how gladly would I have put out the light in my eyes.”  ~Michelangelo

I hear, from time to time, other authors speak of their old work in hushed tones, often in embarrassment or disdain or both. I’ve grown considerably since I first began to try my hand at this particular art of storytelling, but I realized something tonight that I’d known, yet forgotten all the same; youth is exempt from the fear of mortality and therefore has no concept of future misgivings. For most children there is always the promise of tomorrow and with it, the possibility of everything they long for. The fear of failure, when it comes to their dreams, is as foreign as the reality of income tax and termites.

After sending out a submission and getting unrealistically (and unnecessarily) wrapped up in all the ‘grown-up’ stuff we authors have to deal with, I sat down in my oversized chair and randomly went through a few old files—stuff I hadn’t so much as glanced at in a decade. I flipped absentmindedly through the papers and before long, I found myself stunned by my own past, in awe of a love affair with worlds I’d long since forgotten. I knew I’d written five ‘books’ when I was fourteen or so, in collaboration with my best friend at the time. I’ve read over them now and again for old times’ sake, but what I’d apparently put out of mind was a staggering amount of work—prologues, story sketches, scenes, character and plot maps; pages upon pages of what probably amounts to over 500,000 words or so. This is just prose, not journal entries (which exceed that number by far).

You’re probably asking yourself why you’re still reading this post by now, but give me a second here. My point in bringing this up, is that I want to remind you what it meant to write with such abandon. I clearly, clearly couldn’t have cared less if those words ever saw daylight, let alone publication. As adults, we still write with ourselves in mind (mostly—then editors, our readers, etc), but there is such a tremendous difference. It isn’t merely the lack of experience or lack of quality that would accompany any childhood ramblings that makes these penned worlds what they are. There is something else, something evergreen that literally jumps off of the pages. This girl, who worked free of boundaries, is why I started writing again three years ago. I didn’t merely love to write: I wrote with no concept of what it meant to be an author. I walked through the divide between what is, and what can never be, with no consideration of how it affected me personally.

What I’m saying, is that I didn’t care about voice, or style, or genre; I didn’t have any notion of royalties or advances or contracts. I didn’t fear rejections because frankly, even had I known what they were, I still wouldn’t have given a damn. Put simply, the story was all that mattered. We say this all the time as adults, but do we mean it utterly?

And really, when the day ends, what differentiates good prose from great? What distinguishes one work and discards another? That single quality, that crucial element that will, without fail, lend validity to your work is its ability to be evergreen. The irony of it, is that it isn’t something that can be forced. It either is, or is not. The choice is up to you and how willing you are to let go of your boundaries. As youth, we gather our materials and ready ourselves to construct mythical kingdoms, great and lofty palaces. Yet somewhere along the way our adulthood steals our confidence, tells us that all we have collected is of no consequence, convinces us that degrees and titles and awards are the only things that will build a future.

To hell with adulthood.

It’s in my blood. Perhaps I am romanticizing this time, but you didn’t spend the last three hours reading what I read. I’m ashamed of how much fear I’ve let slip in over the last year or so. But, the good thing about writing youthfully; there is always tomorrow. And tomorrow, I start fresh…no more fear or doubt (or Dragons if you’ve been reading this blog), only evergreen.

Dance with the Devil

Hell's Belles--Deviant Art

I don’t leave lights on. I don’t double check locks or closets. I suppose this could be my serious stomach for frightening things—and hot food since we’re on the subject (never met a hot sauce or a zombie I couldn’t handle). So, while brainstorming this horror novel—the one that won’t be touched until sometime early fall (draft wise), I have stumbled across the age old question: What do you fear?

I asked this in a post on facebook and received a handful of good answers. Overall, one thing was clear: The most elemental fear is the fear of the unknown. We have some very fundamental ways of dealing with this, which is why I chose to be a psychology major instead of an English major. I may have a harder time structuring sentences than most, but by God, my characters will be solid as stone. We deal with fear by trying to organize, and thus gain control, of what we don’t understand. We’ll make it understandable. Be it through religion, science or a 9mm, we’re going to make sure that whatever we fear is under our ‘not to be worried about’ category. Why do people make the comment, “You aren’t near a hospital” to those living in the country? Because there is a reasonable assumption that the hospital will spare you death or dismemberment or both.

We use religion in the form of ritual; faith by believing in an ‘all good’ higher power; justice by assuming that only the guilty suffer; science by assuming everything has an explanation and even survival of the fittest with an assumed understanding of the human body and its inherent weaknesses. We assume the efficacy of weapons or illness on all sentient beings. Thus, as an author, if we are to psychologically affect our readers, we must systematically take it all away.

I’ve never read a book that made me want to leave the light on. Rarely does a movie really strike me as truly frightening. I want to write a story that not only causes you to leave your light on for a month—I’d love for you to double check every lock in your house, start attending mass again and maybe even memorize a prayer to the patron saint of  please for the love of God save my sorry ass. lost causes. My homework: Study the anatomy of fear. Sounds fun, huh?

I don’t like blood and gore—it has its place, but I prefer otherworldly. Consider the barbed wire man in Silent Hill—the dude in the bathroom, for those of you who forgot. The sheer inconceivability of his predicament is what is utterly frightening. How would any sentient being wind up like that? Those things frighten us because if the outcome is so awful, how much moreso must the doer of such an unfathomable act be? Also consider the drawings by Stephen Gammell, for the Scary Stories series. Haven’t seen them? If you call yourself a horror fan and you haven’t, you’d best be googeling. The man’s got talent in spades. I mention him because all of his drawings have roots…I mean this literally. The edges of the objects, even stationary insentient ones, have root-like things growing from them. Ah, hell—I’ll include a thumbnail to save you the google (you’re gonna google it anyway). See what I mean? I grew up reading ghost stories, seeing illustrations like the one below and hearing my mother’s awesome
rendition of Little Orphan Annie and the Goblins. I had no choice in the matter—I was born and bred to love the supernatural and horrific. So, you tell me—what makes your skin shiver and your bones shake?

Sam's New Pet

You might be my dog if…

Are you serious??

Most authors I know have pets. If you’ve been following my blog you know that I have two dogs (Aubie & Ella). Ella is the golden/shepard mix to the left and Aubie is the handsome fella in the title picture above. Now, I’m at home full time which leaves them little time to talk about me behind my back, but I’m sure they sneak it in somewhere. And believe me nothing has changed as far as their opinion of me goes. Take for example this morning: I have a third of my coffee left on the end table when I take a brief (like, 2 min) break from writing and leave the room. I return. No coffee. Aubie, who is snuggled next to my laptop (he weighs 89 pounds) is looking mighty guilty.

“Are you serious?” I ask.

“I didn’t do it.”

“Ella is in her crate, are you gonna blame her?”

“Can I?”

“NO!”

This got me thinking about us as authors and our pets and the very special relationship we have with them—perhaps one that is unique to us. I discussed this with both of my beloved children and found out a good deal about how they view this little life of ours. Here is a typical day for them.

“Is she ever going to get up and let me out of here?” Ella asks from her crate.

*Smirk* Aubie, curled up on the bed. “Nope. You’ll be in there forever. She told me so.”

“You’re such a big jerk.”

Later…

“Pssst.” Ella whispers. “Hey! She’s doing that thing again.”

“It’s called writing, twerp.”

“Are you sure? She’s just staring at the wall. Her soup is unmanned.”

“Yeah kid, go stick your nose in it and see how ‘unmanned’ that soup is.” *Laughing* “I bet I could get away with it.”

“But you just said…”

“I’ve got skills. Bark like you have to go out really, really bad.”

*Ella nudges me and leads me to the back door where I wait patiently for a minute. Then we both return to the den.*

*Me staring at my ‘untouched’ bowl of tomato soup* “I could swear I had more of that left.” *Looks at Aubie who is snoring* “Oh well.”

Later still…

“Is she talking to you?” Ella asks, bone halfway sticking out of her mouth.

“Nope.”

“Is dad home?” *chomp chomp chomp*

“Nope.”

“Then who is she yelling at?” *chomp chomp, cough, chomp chomp*

*sighs* “I told you earlier, she’s writing. Don’t you ever listen?”

*chomp* “So…she’s not talking to you??”

Latest, or perhaps really, really early tomorrow…

“Are you hungry?” Aubie asks.  *Paces in front of the hall closet where the food is*

“Nope.” *Ella smiles, laying upside down with her head hanging off of the couch*

“Really? I am. How are you not hungry?”

“Did you know that there is a huge swirly thing on the ceiling and that if you look at it like this, it moves?”

“It’s called a fan dumb ass, and it moves even if you’re not looking at it.” *Barks like he hasn’t eaten in days*

*Sneezes from being upside down* “Wow. Sure goes fast.”

*More barking* “She’s got those things on her head again. Fall of the couch and maybe she’ll see you and take them off.”

*Another sneeze followed by a roll and subsequent tumble onto the floor*

*Me, taking my noise reduction headphones off* “The rescue could have told me you were brain damaged.”

Later still…

“Aubie, come here!” *Me from the floor, lying on my stomach*

“K, coming!” *Trots down hallway with Ella in tow*

“Walk on my back”

“I got in trouble for that last time.”

“I’ve changed my mind. Let’s try it again.”

“I don’t know…”

*Ella backs up two spaces, wags butt, then takes a running leap onto my back excitedly* “Ha ha! Attack!”

“ELLA!!!!”

The Utility of Tangents

Monster in the Tub--Roadio Arts

I like to think that there is a place in my mind—a waiting room of sorts, where all of the stories that I’ll pen, are mulling around, interacting with one another—perhaps arguing about whose turn it is and why it shouldn’t be so. Some are allowed out in pairs, some are solitary. Oh, I know that there are a multitude of things that I (as an author—and occasionally a human being), will encounter that will inspire me.

You see, that’s what decides the order in which these stories are imagined. It’s like the number they assign you at the DMV. You wait your turn until you see your number, in little red lights, pop up on the box. If you miss your turn, they’ll continue to call you for a set amount of time, and then that chance will be given to someone new. My stories all have numbers—I don’t know what they are. But, I’ve learned a valuable lesson this week: I have no say in their distribution.

That’s not to say that I don’t sometimes believe that I do. I argue with myself quite a bit, on one story’s progression or another. But in the end, they all have turns and it’s of no consequence how hard I might try to force one in another’s place. They don’t stand in single file lines, as I’d like them to. They stand like five year olds, perpetually asking absurd questions or fighting with whoever happens to be in front of them (and in some rare instances whoever is behind them). What brought all of this to mind, is the apparent story that I was accusing quite literally of being in the wrong room. It appeared with number in hand, excited, and all I could say was:

“I’m very sorry for the inconvenience, but I’m afraid you’re mistaken. I don’t write romance novels that don’t have some element of the supernatural in them.”

“But, I have a number.”

“Yes, I can see that. But as I said, I’m simply not who you are looking for. And I can’t imagine how you wound up here. I’ll have to get with the frontal lobe about that. What time did you arrive here yesterday?”

“I didn’t. I’ve been here. And I have a number.”

“You couldn’t have been here long, I would have at least suspected you might be approaching the front of the line. Now, let’s talk about the last place you were before you were here and maybe that will help me figure out where to send you.”

“I’ve already told you…I’ve been here. And how do you know that there isn’t anything supernatural involved? I’ll tell you what, lets just sit for a moment. I won’t take up much of your time—I swear. I have a story to tell you.”

So, 38,000 words later—I have a very conceited romance novel in the works (There’s nothing worse than a story running around saying, ‘I told you so’). Perhaps there is utility in tangents—in those wayward stories that wind up somehow wandering into our brains and picking up a number somebody else dropped. I’ve discussed this in depth with several portions of my left brain and that’s the only logical conclusion we can come up with. Either that or someone’s getting fired. Not to mention how loudly Nightshade and Icarus are complaining that it’s still their turn. There isn’t much you can say to soothe stories like those. They’re impatient to begin with, being single volumes and all.

I suspect there is a slight element of the supernatural—though it appears arguably as my main character’s brain and not the ghost of his dead sister, who is whispering cryptic hints in his dreams about the killer’s identity. The story is also refusing to identify itself with a title, so for now I’ve lovingly dubbed it, ‘Not a Novel.’ It doesn’t appear to appreciate this much, but that’s what it gets for being so damn close-lipped.

Oh, and just to add insult to injury, the story let it slip that there are more than a couple horror stories hanging out in the billiards room (of course my brain has a billiards room).

“Oops, did I say that out loud? I meant to say that there are some stories of ‘undetermined genre’, wrecking the pool table.”

“Self-righteous son of a…”

Mad World

Organic

Being a writer is an interesting thing. Some people are awed by it, others are mystified at our persistence. Either way, there is a reason for the stereotypical, ‘misunderstood’ author who wears all black and mopes about. It isn’t a matter of depression or apathy…it’s something deeper than that—more fundamental. There is a well of emotion that accompanies the feeling of ‘creation’ in the way an author feels it. It isn’t the same as painting a picture or writing a song: We mold worlds and out of that mire, we sculpt sentient beings to populate those worlds. Yet, at the end of the day, the paragraph, the page, the story, our characters are still there. It seems perhaps a flighty emotional thing to say, but truly listen for a moment. We fall in love, we fight for truth or justice, or just another day’s breath—we hate, struggle against poverty, injustice, cruelty or we struggle with the inability to come to grips with the guilt of a character’s actions. As an author, we experience in a way—even if it be slight, everything our characters experience. We joke about it, we make light of the journey—mostly to make the path a little less jagged and the rocks a tad smoother.

Often, in the early hours of day—when the mind isn’t aware of things like ‘time’ or ‘place’, these things take on a power of their own. I will never touch Tabor’s face, or trace the lines of his scarred, dragon, skin. I will never hear Ariana or Aubrey sing. I will never taste Bronach’s tears or hold Jullian’s hand. I will never yell at Trinity to stop being so damned self-righteous. I will never walk through the ruins of the Garden of Dedication in Adoria, or brave the Goblin Keep of Koldavere in Avalar. I will never see the suns set in Sedel. I will never tuck Lucan into bed, or read him a bedtime story, or wash his worn, pilled, snoopy pajamas. I will never know the name of Bronach’s lost love because he cannot bear to bring her to mind—so neither can I. There is at least one moment, in every author’s life, where the depth of their grief is profound, and it won’t have anything to do with tangible circumstances. Those events certainly affect writers, as they would most people, but this isn’t what I mean. How do you mourn imaginary things? Places you’ll never tread, landscapes you’ll never truly feel and characters you’ll never touch. It may not have come for you yet—rest easy, friend, for it will. If not now, later. It will come and I want you to be prepared for it. I wasn’t.

It was sometime between dusk and dawn, the night air was cold—I could feel it coming from the open flue of the fireplace. I was working on ‘A Thief of Nightshade’. It was one of those sessions where all the effort is in your head and your hands move fluidly over the keyboard and you fight to keep up with your story. And suddenly, as the song I was listening to stopped, I felt it—utter stillness. The scene played on; Jullian woke from his nightmarish captivity to feel the weight of the Fae crown on his head and the overwhelming guilt of realizing that his precious love—the shy girl he’d fallen in love with and married, from our world—had somehow crossed over into Avalar and found him despite all odds. But it had cost her dearly and at that moment, that cost appeared to be her life. And as I watched him pull her into his arms, touch her face, breathe her name, I suddenly understood, in a bizarrely authentic way, what it meant to experience that particular loss. He didn’t believe that she would ever see his world. When she does, he bitterly regrets the price. As authors, we create worlds that are hard for some to even imagine, but it comes at a cost.

I’ve read that most authors experience grief at the end of a story, that a depression ensues that isn’t too unlike mourning a death. But, even that is different. This is the stark realization that our hearts believe in these worlds more than we think. Rationally speaking, we know that what we pen is false—we spend countless hours weaving things in such a way as to convince the reader to buy the lies. And yet, in doing so, somewhere along the way, we bought them too. I suppose that in all good stories, the author has bought them first. How else would we weep at fictional scenes? You could explain the empathy by using the idea of universal humanity, and this may be the case for some readers, but not for us. We are different beings in our own worlds. Changed. And once we emerge, we are never the same.

I’ve said before that writing a novel is like a relationship. If this is true, then the relationship we have with the worlds we create may be likened to a lifetime. And authors have often mused that they have perhaps lived a multitude of lives, and ultimately—those lives are lost to us all the same. Because when that moment comes, the one I am now formally warning you of, it feels like a life has been untimely taken. Most of us have experienced death, the physical feeling that sweeps over you when you remember that you’ll never see that person again—you pick up the phone to dial their number, only to realize with jarring pain, that they aren’t there on the other end. I closed my laptop that night, and whispered into the dark—cold breathed and numb, ‘were it only so.’

For readers, some worlds never die…for authors, those worlds die a thousand deaths. This is just one of many, and I pay the price gladly…but every now and then, I grieve.

The Etiology and Treatment of ‘Authoritis’

Authoritis is an unfortunate syndrome, which has only recently begun to receive attention from mental health professionals. It has, however, been in existence for ages and was only considered to be more than merely an ‘inconvenience’, with the invention of the Gutenberg press in 1440. With the dawn of the information age, it is now a recognized syndrome (Gore, 1983).

Those suffering the condition in years gone by were told to “take two aspirin and see if the urge passes (source anon).” Despite a history of clinical neglect, it is estimated that more than half of all books found in brick and mortar stores, were penned by someone suffering some form of Authoritis, also called an ‘author’. According to the DSM V-TR (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), American Psychiatric Association (2009), there are five characteristics required to warrant a proper diagnosis of Authoritis.

  1. Adolescent onset
  2. Cyclic anti-social behavior
  3. Cyclic psychosis; to include hallucinations (auditory and visual)
  4. Obsessive behavior; to include insistence of imaginary creatures called, ‘agents’ and ‘publishers’
  5. God complex; consisting of claims that one has ‘created whole worlds,’ and ‘characters’.

Clinical Features of Authoritis

ADOLESCENT ONSET

Clinicians aren’t certain why the syndrome begins in adolescence. It has been recorded in some children, as early as the age of six—though it is usually a less severe form of the syndrome and studies have shown that 78% of children, who demonstrated three or more characteristics of the disorder, would later develop full blown Authoritis (R.L. Stine, 1990). Typically, adolescents will begin by writing in what is called a ‘diary’: Recent research has shown that diaries are ‘gateway’ perpetuators and may serve by their use as an early indicator of the syndrome. Curiously, some adolescents may throw the term around loosely in reference to their identity, though it has been proven that while children showing signs are more likely to develop the syndrome, only 35% of adolescents claiming the diagnosis, ever go on to develop more than the characteristic God complex.

CYCLIC ANTI-SOCIAL BEHAVIOR

This aspect of Authoritis, despite the hallucinations and psychosis, is the single most prevalent symptom reported by the friends and family of those with the syndrome and is typically what prompts interventions and eventual medical treatment. The author will be perfectly social one moment, only to sink into a depressive anti-social trance. This trance will often find the author sitting in one place for extended periods of time, often more than five or six hours straight, sometimes staring at nothing but a blank sheet of paper or computer screen. Phone calls, visits from friends and family, personal hygiene and health are all abandoned in favor of engaging in a trance or a trance-like state. Any attempt to break the author of this behavior has proven to be detrimental to the concerned friend or relative, and in some cases, fatal.

In the most critical cases, this anti-social behavior becomes what is known as a ‘writer’s block’. Hygiene is said to be at a critical low and will typically be accompanied by crying, cussing and screaming fits.

CYCLIC PSYCHOSIS

For those living with an author this may be the most unsettling characteristic of the syndrome. The author is often seen speaking to themselves, sometimes repeating the same sentence in a variety of tones or voices (King, On Writing, 2001). At times, particularly after a lengthy trance-like state, the author will even use more than one voice and appears to be conducting entire conversations between multiple personalities. Any attempt to question the sanity of this action results in a blank look, followed by aggression or the abrupt closure of the psychosis—which will only resume later with greater intensity. Clinicians recommend, in order to minimize the severity of the episode, that the author be left alone.

OBSESSIVE BEHAVIOR

This is reportedly the most curious behavior of authors. Despite habitual assurance that ‘agents’ and ‘publishers’ do not in fact exist and even if they did, they wouldn’t have any desire to see the author’s penned psychotic episodes; those suffering Authoritis press on and insist that their delusions will prove true by the achievement of ‘publication’ or representation by an ‘agent’ or some other ephemeral creature (Critique Circle, 2006). While half of all books are rumored to have been penned by an author, this is believed to be a classic situation of correlation not equaling causation (Miss Snark, 2005). This shared delusion among authors has even held its own against the adversity of being shown without doubt that books are indeed created and placed in brick and mortar stores by monkeys.

*As a side note, the CLC, or Coalition of Literary Chimps, is outraged by the publication of this article and is threatening libel, claiming that this will project their members into the spotlight and out of obscurity where they have remained since leaving NASA (CLC, 2009).

GOD COMPLEX

This is the easiest symptom to identify, merely by the author’s own need to habitually tell others about the worlds they have created (Facebook, 2006-2009). It manifests very early in the syndrome, and is seen by medical professionals as progressive in nature, sometimes leading to multiple worlds, characters and volumes of written or printed material to validate the author’s creative and God-like abilities. It is said, with no uncertainty, that this characteristic is directly related to the psychotic episodes, though some authors have been found to record words amounting to nothing more interesting or ‘creative’ than the phone book (Left Behind Series, Jenkins & LaHaye, 1999).

Causes of Authoritis

With the official, medical, recognition of Authoritis, there has been a concerted effort at identifying its cause. So far, there are several models to consider:

Sociological Model

Most authors are woefully bereft of gainful employment. Some individuals who were discovered by the monkeys and had their books created, make the incorrect assumption that it was because they are authors and thus subsequently they report that this is their livelihood. This has been shown as unfounded time and time again with little or no impact on author’s claims (Harlequin, 1994). Other authors may be so incapacitated by the syndrome as to be unable to do anything else but write, which leads to poverty, eventual hermitism and in the most severe cases, suicide (Hemingway, 1961).

Biological Model

So far, cross-culture and regional studies have shown that while creativity may run in families, there is thus far no evidence that parents suffering the syndrome pass it on to their children (Tolkien Jr., 2007).

Psychological Model

There are a significant number of psycho-social and psychiatric based theories explaining Authoritis, the most notably being: Organized Schizophrenia. There are several more that claim the syndrome is not of any biological origin at all, but due to a lack of attention in early childhood; evidenced by the presence of imaginary friends and need to color on inappropriate things (Sesame Street, 1987).

Treatment of Authoritis

Treatment of Authoritis has proven most elusive. There have been centers created for the practice of group therapy (Also called MFA’s), and many institutions are offering classes in an attempt to help those suffering the syndrome cope with it .They are usually referenced as ‘English’ degrees, though very little evidence may be found relating their existence to effective management and in some cases may even cause the frequency of the psychotic and anti-social behaviors to increase significantly. They have however gone on to serve as more proof that being an author is not actually required to write books, as many non-author students have gone on to be discovered by the monkeys (Harlequin, 2005).

Prognosis

Prognosis of Authoritis is bleak. Medication has shown absolutely no effect whatsoever on the lessening of the syndrome’s most cumbersome manifestations. Authors can expect, however, a normal life-span. Despite this positive revelation, most authors will write for years or even decades before Alzheimer’s sets in or the syndrome mysteriously disappears. There is said to be some correlation between the loss of ‘agent/publication’ delusions and the remission of Authoritis.

This article was written after reading the brilliant ‘Etiology and Treatment of Childhood’ by Jordan W. Smoller, which you can find here: http://www.pshrink.com/humor/Childhood.html

Writer’s Conferences, Ravens and Writing Desks

Our trip was restful and rejuvenating. I am sleeping well and while I am not fully where I’d like to be on my current projects, there is at least a little more hope on the horizon. I found myself looking up writer’s conferences today, along with low residency MFA’a in popular fiction…only to find myself at a loss as far as where I fit into all of this ‘professional’ writing business. See, I don’t write short stories and with great frustration I found that MOST endeavors require them to be in your portfolio–if you are to attain any level of serious respect, as an author, anyway. Hmmm. I simply don’t manage ‘brevity’ well. I write epic level, worlds at war, kind of stuff. It doesn’t occur to me to write in short order.

Oak Mountain 2009

Oak Mountain 2009

So, after flipping through one non-encouraging blog after another, reading all of the necessities to become a successful full time writer, I decided that I should do something wholly non-official and unproductive (professionally speaking, of course)…I signed up for NANOWRIMO (or National Novel Writing Month). Now, before you laugh or condemn me to hell, let me explain why I don’t give a damn about your opinion on this either. See, I’m not doing it for you, I’m doing it for me. And I’m fairly prolific anyway, so 50,000 words in a month doesn’t sound like any big whoop–considering that I can easily crank out 30,000 in a week if I don’t have anything else (much) going on. Yes, dear, I realize that quality is more important than quantity…but talk to Asimov (actually, I think he’s deceased) and King (whose status among the living has been debated since the publication of ‘The Stand’) if you want reasons for why being prolific doesn’t mean you’re a naffin at your craft. But, there are MULTITUDES of bloggers, experienced writers and generally recognized nit-wits out there who loathe this whole idea and spend an absurd amount of time whining about its existence in the universe. That might also be the other reason I have decided to devote November to this endeavor. You say it is ridiculous and a waste of time and will likely produce nothing but drivel…well, ‘swell’ I say. I wasn’t producing much more than that these last few weeks anyway.

So, in November, I will ideally begin work on a novel loosely titled “Ravenwood” and leave all of my other projects on a shelf till I have at least 50,000 words down (which if success is to be mine, will be the end of said month). I’ve drafted the characters and have a general idea of where the novel will go–it deals with warlocks and whatnot, since I’m all vamped out for the time being (what with playing vampire wars on facebook and all…*sigh*). So, wish me luck–or laugh at me, whatever fits your fancy. Why did I title this blog this way? Well, just why is a raven like a writing desk?

Demand Studios, eHow and all things wonderful

So, after my last cathartic post, I am feeling slightly better. Every now and then you just need to blog and get it out of your system before you can move on and be productive. I guess that was my two minutes of crying and pitching a fit…and now for something completely different.

I’ve been doing pretty well on the article writing. I just recently got my internet hooked up, so this coming week will likely be a little more productive. It’s odd with my husband working 6 days on and 3 days off. My ‘weekend’ changes from one week to the next. But, honestly, its nice because my schedule is now totally wide open and flexible. Yesterday, I didn’t feel much like getting dressed and sitting in the office, so I turned on the tube, made breakfast and worked in my jammies. From bed. Sooo awesome. I don’t recommend it for daily use, but it rocked yesterday. Fresh, cold, organic tomatoes and hot corned beef and potato hash…mmmm. Total comfort food. Not to mention the orange juice that tasted like it was freshly squeezed.

I’ve learned that having what you want comes at a price, and the question you need to ask yourself, is ‘what are you willing to give up?’  I was willing to give up security (clearly), tenure, several shards of my self esteem, a steady paycheck and most definitely my ego. Was it worth it? Absolutely. I would give it all up again in a heart beat, even with all the crying and fit pitching associated with it.

So how do you work from home without losing your sanity? I’ve done some research, and of course some short term trial and error, and here are my two cents.

1. Drink Coffee. Still have breakfast like you normally would. If you used to munch at your desk or sip on a latte while getting your morning started, then do it at your home office. Spend a few moments each morning at rest, waking up. Watch the news, the weather channel, or have quiet time with God, whatever your thing is. I have a friend who watches Good Morning America every morning, religiously.

2. Take a shower, brush your teeth and ‘get dressed’ just like you would if you were going to work outside of your home. Now, this being said, I don’t mean wearing ‘dress’ clothes, but if you’re a woman–put on light make-up, wear a bra, etc. The rule of thumb, if someone were to come to your door, would you be embarrassed? I personally prefer comfy pants and fitted t-shirts or sweaters. But, I make a point to ‘get’ ready each morning like normal.

3. Invest in whatever you need to make your office space comfortable and productive. A really good chair, with padding, etc. I have a huge chair and a half that I have in my office so that when my back and knees start hurting, I can stretch out and still write. I also have a plethora of candles that I love to smell. I made sure to position my desk so that I can look out of the window and see the wood line.

4. Set aside days for stuff like housework and laundry. Don’t try to do this while you’re working. Believe me, its the same with novel writing, you’ll suddenly find that those household chores are FAR more interesting and in dire need of your attention.

5. Don’t work 8 hours straight. Or eight hours a day if you can help it. I’ve read that 5 hours a day is more ideal if you are working at home. There are a myriad of reasons for this, and why you can get away with working less. If you were working at a typical office/cubicle job, and if you’re real with yourself then you’ll admit you did an awful lot of staring at your desk. It’s why I love the movie Office Space. (There will likely be a whole separate blog dedicated to this).

So, I will leave you with this thought…

“I thoroughly disapprove of duels. Should a man challenge me, I would take him forgivingly, lovingly, by the hand to a quiet place and kill him.”  —Mark Twain.

Madness ensues…

Nathan Bransford asked a really good question yesterday…What is the worst writing advice you’ve ever been given? A myriad of responses flooded in, and much of it sounded like some of the stuff I’ve been told.  In stead of talking about what shouldn’t be done, I thought I would chat a moment about what should. Consider this quote concerning fads:

Love. Fall in love and stay in love. Write only what you love, and love what you write. The key word is love. You have to get up in the morning and write something you love, something to live for.” 
–Ray Bradbury 

How true. How startlingly, frustratingly true. I lightly considered, as I complained about the current trends, changing my next project…or I should say I considered shelving my next project and replacing it with something that would fit the market. To even contemplate setting aside something that warms my soul to make room for something that fills my wallet, is true defeat.

So, in light of such a humbling revelation, I suspect I will get quite a good ways into book four this weekend. Nothing like stark reality to get the ink flowing again…

The written word and all its worth…

I was reading through one of my favorite blogs this morning, sifting through the archive and found this little gem: http://literaryrejectionsondisplay.blogspot.com/2008/02/one-rejected-writers-manifesto-listen.html

F. Scott Fitzgerald is one of my favorites and I found this brief commentary powerful, heartbreaking and poignant. I also found it mildly entertaining. With my recent feelings about the state of things in the publishing world being so grim, and with consideration of how much crap is being praised as ‘fresh’ and ‘urban’, I smiled, drank more coffee and wondered how we let it get this far? Where did we give up literary value for shock factor, or merit for quick entertainment? Sure, I might get a kick for a day over reading some of the nameless drugstore drivel out there, but does it last? Do I find myself pondering over the characters or the worlds they populate, days later? Sadly, no.

It’s been quite a while since I read something truly fresh. My personal taste is for fantasy work, but literary and fantasy fiction are not mutually exclusive. But, I relent. I fear I am standing on a rotting soapbox here…