Almost done, and scared

I’m close to finishing book three in my Witch’s Trilogy. This has taken me almost a year and a half to complete. What started as a simple 80,000 word stand alone novel has become a 230,000 word trilogy, something I never thought I could write. I mean the first novel I wrote (which was terrible) took five years. This took 18 months for all three! That’s crazy.

And yet as I get closer to the end I find myself getting scared. Scared to finish. Scared to succeed. But mostly terrified that it will fail. It makes it difficult to write sometimes, but I do it anyway. A few words here, a few sentences there, trying to get to the end even though a big part of me is afraid of doing so. And I know it’s stupid to be afraid.

For the last couple of years I’ve made some great friends, watched them write novels and make a small (or sometimes big) following for themselves. And they’ve done well. I’m happy for them, and I’ve tried to learn from their examples but it all seems to come back to “write more good books. Eventually something will get through.”

Oh, they do other things like ads on facebook and book bub, but mostly they just write good books and keep putting them out there. No wonder they have lots of readers.

So I’ve been telling myself that with the third book I can finally have a trilogy out, three complete novels, and I might be able to do a bit of advertising. But as the time gets closer I realize that… it doesn’t work like that. Oh sure, I could do some advertising (and I will) but really, in the end it might not even matter. Sometimes getting people to pay attention to what you made is just a matter of the right time at the right place.

So I’m afraid that I’ll put up the third book and I won’t sell a single copy. I shouldn’t be afraid of that, not if I really just want to write. But there it is. That gnawing fear.

Here’s the truth: whether I sell a thousand books, or one, or even zero…I’m going to keep writing. I love telling stories, and building worlds. I love seeing what happens to my characters. So I know I shouldn’t care if this book sells anything since I’m going to keep doing it anyway.

But I also know it’s nice to have some validation that what I say matters to someone. And I don’t know where to get that validation. I suppose I should figure that out soon, because it probably won’t come from sales any time soon.

After this last book in the trilogy I’m going to go back to making my own covers, and probably shorter works because editing can get expensive, but I will continue to write. And I won’t feel the pressure to finish them like I do with this one because I won’t have invested so much money into them… just time, and me. I think I’d rather invest myself in my books then money anyway.

Anyway, time to get back to the writing. Fear or not, I want to finish it. Even if no one ever reads it I need to say that I finished it.


Creativity and Depression

I was listening to the recent Author Strong Podcast where Nancy talks about her battle with getting the words out now that she quit her day job. She took a leap of faith, and now she has to deal with her depression trying to assert itself.

I listened as she stumbled, trying to explain to Matt (a very cheerful and go for it type of person) why it was easier to say “do this to work around it” then it was to actually do it. And I saw myself reflecting back at me.

I’ve dealt with depression for as long as I can remember. As a teen I had school, and sisters to help pull me from it. When I got married I had the children to help. In the last six years I’ve been happier then I’ve ever been with a new life, a great boyfriend, a supportive family, and an outlet for my creativity. And yet for the last month I’ve had that old beast, depression, rearing it’s ugly head.

I know what’s causing it. I know what I need to do to make it shut up and stop all the self doubt and whispers in my head that I’m not worthwhile. But that doesn’t make it easy.

For creativity, this is horrible. Every time I sit down to write I have to talk myself into it. Not just the act of writing, but the act of sitting at the computer for anything other than playing a game or checking email. Just opening the files so that I can read through them is a huge stress when depression starts whispering to me, and it’s not always easy. When I do start to clunk away at the keys sometimes I can write, other times I will put down a few words before the whispers in my head telling me I’m not good enough, I’ll never get anywhere with this, I’ll never finish, get too loud for me to write anymore. I’ll get up, do something else, change perspective, but I simply can’t continue on with that work…yet.

I sent a tweet out yesterday that said “Depression is a lying bastard.” It’s a common refrain now, a reminder that all the whispers in my head are wrong. I am worth it, I will finish, I am stronger than I seem. All those things and more.

Someone replied “I don’t believe in depression.” I don’t know if he meant it as a joke, or he honestly doesn’t believe in it. It really didn’t matter why he said it. I looked at the tweet and all I could think was: “Man, I’d love to have the luxury of being able to dismiss depression as nonexistent.”

In some ways knowing what’s wrong, and why my creativity is floundering, helps me get through it. I can write a blog post, or tell Gregg about the things going through my head, and things tend to die down for a little bit. Sometimes. Other times I can’t seem to break free from the cycle. Even while writing this blog post I had a moment where I could not pull myself from the destructive thoughts.

If you think of the brain like millions of chemical reactions going off all over the curves of your cerebellum then it is easier to see how one miss fire could trigger a cascade effect that can run out of control sometimes. Thoughts that keep repeating themselves, destructive thoughts that keep cycling over and over, a lack of will because it is simply easier to avoid new things than deal with that destructiveness.

We do have some control over the chemical processes in our minds. There are techniques and medications we can use to lower certain hormones which cause the more harmful problems. But not all of us have access to medications, and the techniques aren’t effective 100% of the time.

How do you explain depression to someone who doesn’t have it, or someone who thinks it’s “all in your head”? I don’t know. I have trouble describing it to myself some days.

But I will continue to sit down at the keyboard and try to write, even when the chemicals in my brain don’t want me to, because this is important to me.

I tried

Today I ran home for lunch thinking I would do a short video review of the novel I just finished listening to. I was so excited. The house was empty and I could just turn on the camera and talk for a bit.

But the house wasn’t empty. My daughter was home, in between classes and work, and taking a nap in her room. Okay, I thought, she’s napping I can still record. Right?


Staring at the camera, ready to speak, I froze. This isn’t unusual for me. I almost always freeze in front of a camera unless I’m talking to friends. I’ve managed to do a couple of videos on my own, but they are rare, and they always make me feel self conscious. Sometimes, like today, worse then others.

As I left to drive back to my office I wondered why. Why is it so difficult to just talk to the camera. Is it the big eye starting at me? Is it the fact someone might see my face and hear my voice and judge me because of it?

I do hate my voice. I think it sounds high and squeaky, like a little girls voice, and I hate it. I hate seeing my face on the computer. I can’t even watch my podcast because it makes me so uncomfortable. But I don’t think it was any of those things.

Honestly, driving away from my home and thinking really hard about it, I was embarrassed. Embarrassed that my daughter, in the next room, would hear me. Embarrassed that someone I knew face to face would see me stumbling over my words. Embarrassed that I would even think someone would want to hear what I had to say.

Writing and publishing is easy. I put my work up and if someone wants to read it they will. I don’t have to worry about it. I don’t have to feel embarrassed because they are choosing to seek it out and view it. Some part of me knows it’s the same with videos and at the same time… I don’t believe that.

Worse, I know where this comes from.

I never learned the art of making friends. It’s even harder to keep them. A huge part of this was my marriage. My boyfriend calls me Rapunzel as  I was kept in a tower, away from everyone for most of my life.

Before marriage we lived in a little plot of land far from anyone else. My parents were usually away and the only company had were my three sisters who I did not get along with. So I spent most of my time reading. Even at school.

After my marriage I started having children. I tried to make friends, but I didn’t know how. I was shy, and scared. Honestly I don’t even know how I got married except that after several women cheated on him he finally picked me because I couldn’t cheat on him. I didn’t have friends.

One day, many years into my marriage, I told my husband how frustrated I was with it. I was loanly, and he was gone a lot. Why couldn’t I come hang out with him and his friends?

“They think you’re a bitch,” he said.
“But why?”
“Because you left the room to go watch cartoons with the children and never said a word.”
“But they were smoking. You know I can’t breath smoke, I just start coughing and can’t breath. I thought it says more polite to quietly excuse myself than make a fuss. Why didn’t you explain?”

He never explained. He never encouraged me to make friends. In fact it was just the opposite. There were excuses of why I couldn’t go out. Accusations of the few friends I had saying and doing things behind my back. Lack of transportation. Lack of phone. Lack of money.

So I spent my time, locked in the tower with my books.

When you’ve been locked in the tower for so long the outside starts to look scary. You are told people are out to get you, steal your man, use you and throw you away. You’re afraid. But the tower is safe. The books are good. And everything is okay.

I look outside and I want so badly to be happy and healthy and have friends. I want to call someone up and say “let’s go to the movies” or get coffee or just go to the zoo. I want that so much, and every time I try I… I want to cry.

It’s easy to stay in the tower. And so hard at the same time.

The camera, staring at me with its unblinking eye, is a window to the outside. A path out of my tower.

But I will keep trying. Keep pushing that button. Keep crying. Eventually, someday, maybe I can break free of this tower.

What is ‘Evil’?

Last night on “The Story Telling Podcast” we were talking about what makes a good villain, and making them less cliche. So I started to think; What does ‘evil’ really mean?

The idea of something being inherently evil isn’t new. Man started walking upright and venturing out of their caves and into open land where more food was available, but so was more danger. I am sure the various monsters of the time trying to eat them seemed ‘evil’.  As they developed into societies they also had to worry about rival bands of early hominids. Wolves, bears, and lone people out in the deep forests. That is why most of the villains in old fairy tales are woodland creatures and witches in the woods.

But society has changed. We now have scientific understanding of how ecologies work, and how to avoid danger in the deep dark woods. We know how to light up the night so they aren’t as dark anymore. Those old fairy tales that use to scare our children into avoiding “the evil places” aren’t relevant to our modern age. The idea of ‘evil’ has changed, just as we have.

Now our biggest fears are natural disasters that we can not anticipate or stop, and other people.

If you watch the news it is clear that the world is polarized as to who they think is really ‘evil’. Extremist religious groups blame other religious groups. One country blames another nation. Politicians blame social media and ban twitter or Youtube. Corporations blame taxes. Poor blame corporations.

So who, or what, is really evil? Who is capable of really deciding?

Religious folks will point at god, and say god decides. But which god? There are so many to choose from, many of which teach similar things, but none of which are in full agreement. Then you add in the fact that interpretations of religious text has shifted over the centuries as culture has shifted. That is as evident as the multiple branches of EVERY religion now seen. It doesn’t matter which religion you look at, Christian, Islam, Buddhism, pagan… they all have sub sects that have differences in their belief structure.

The scientific minded among us might look to culture, but culture shifts and turns. Culture depends on so many facets of human development. Just ten years ago we still taught our children “being gay is wrong”, now several states have gay marriage, and the number is growing. And while I admit that it seems like the spread of some religions is part of the reason being gay was deemed  “wrong”, it isn’t the entirety of it, and it will take a lot of work to fix the damage done.

What is evil? I think the simplest answer is “that which threatens a persons livelihood.” Be that a wolf trying to eat you in the dark forest, a rabid st bernard named Cujo, a wall street tycoon sucking up every last dime he can at the expense of real jobs, or someone taking over a plane and flying it into a building.

Evil is in the moment. It is dependent on a myriad of circumstances in our lives, and while one finds it evil another will hail them a hero. The tycoon doesn’t think he’s evil, he thinks he’s doing a fantastic job and won at life. The man in the plane thought he was striking a vicious blow at the capitalist pigs. Cujo was only doing what the virus told him to do.

Or ideas of evil change as we change. So do the creatures in the dark. Of all the creatures that haunted our dreams (vampires, werewolves, and witches) only zombies seemed untouched. Movies sprang up and they were just as scary as before. No zombie with sexy eyes, or illicit love affairs. No zombies trying to make peace with the humans. Just masses of rabid creatures that once looked human.

Until “Warm Bodies”.

So many of our dark creatures have been changed into something that was just misunderstood, and now we can be friends. Or if not friends, grudging allies. Now all we have left to fear is each other, and maybe the technology we create.

If evil is “that which threatens a persons livelihood” then the only thing more evil then humanity is time itself.

Of Gods and Goddesses

I once wrote an article about the origins of fantasy, namely mythology. It was many years ago, under a different name, still existing in cyber space somewhere, and it makes me cringe a little if I think about it. Not because my ideas were wrong, but because I, as a writer, have increased my skills so much in the last ten years or so that the old article just looks bad.

It’s a good reminder of where I was, and were I am, and hopefully a prelude of where I am going.

I loved mythology as a child. I couldn’t get enough of Greek and Roman gods causing wars, cheating, turning people to stone, and wrecking the world around them, or saving it at a whim.

There was the bittersweet love story of Psych and Eros. A woman who’s curiosity, and distrust, deprived her of the wonderful love given to her by a god.

There was the Trojan horse, and a war fought all in the name of love (or ownership) of the beautiful Helen of Troy.

There were the heroes, like Hercules, and Perseus, who braved mythical beasts and crossed entire continents to fulfill their quests.

In each of these stories we see the first structures of modern day tales. Romance, quests, revenge, war, suffering. Each an intrinsic part of the human narrative. Each a part of what has made our history.

When I wrote Forgotten Ones I attempted to pull on subtle hints of these gods, to capture their struggle with each other, and with the humanity which myth said they created.

That battle, in many ways, is real. Created from primordial pools of DNA, evolving into thinking, feeling, creative individuals, we still struggle against the world, the universe, that created us, and against one another. Massive natural disasters. Fires. Floods. Wars. Famines. The list goes on…

Struggle is what makes a book interesting. Overcoming adversity, and beating the odds. Whether it is a god, a goddess, or a human being.

And why shouldn’t the ancient myths reflect a very real struggle between man and the environment? Ancient men labored closer to, and had greater fear of, the wild places then we do in this day. They did not have guns to protect them, or metal sky scrapers to take them up above the wilds. They didn’t have planes, and satellites to tell them when the waters would rise, or crops fail.

But it’s a new age. The weather seems to be changing drastically with every turn of the clock. Tsunamis, fires, sinkholes, and even meteors pose real threats to people. So now we’re creating our own mythology in movies like “Dante’s Peak” and “Armageddon”. And it makes sense. Our myths are based on science, instead of gods, even if the science is faulty.

I think one of the reasons the old myths are so interesting is the human quality of a god or goddess. Maybe they are more powerful, invincible, and immortal, but they still love, and hate, and fight. They still have emotions. Something an equation, or a volcano can not do. You can reason with a god, or trick them. A volcano will blow no matter what you do, or what you promise.

So, yes, fantasy and story telling started with those great myths from the past. They started with fears, hopes, and dreams of men who came long before us. But we are continuing on in their fashion, fighting against the shadows in the night with words, and hope in the form of new stories, and new myths.

Brains are weird

Imagine a person standing against a board. On the other side of the board is another person. As long as they both push against that board it doesn’t move.

The one on the nearside is just trying to hold the wall up. All they care about is keeping the normality at a steady level. Keep the wall strait. Hold on. Steady.

The guy on the other side of the wall… he’s an asshole. He keeps pushing on that wall. Pressing in, trying to demolish the house the first person made.

Sometime the ass gets tired, and he wanders away. Bored. Other times he pushes harder, or enlists help. Some days…. some days he has a tractor and he manages to knock the wall down.

The girl inside… she just wants to build her house. So she picks up the pieces and puts it back together, and guards the wall. Hoping to keep it up. Hoping to keep it steady the next time he attacks.

After a while she doesn’t leave the wall anymore. And when he stops pounding on the walls she gets nervous. Constantly waiting for the next blow.

The blows become normal. They become natural. They become her world.

So when you take down the wall and set her free… it’s so hard to just be normal.

And then something good happens. Someone actually pays attention, or god forbid, helps her build that wall. It’s shocking, even terrifying, because it isn’t normal. Not to her. Not to the life she’s lived for so many years, trapped inside those walls.

I realize these things. I know my brain is lying to me when a good thing happens and I start waiting for something horrible to happen. Nothing horrible has really happened in the last four years…

Like the Blogess says… Depression is a lying bastard.

What if someone steals my stuff?

This is a really common question of new writers. They want feedback from other writers, but they are afraid some other writer will steal their idea.

The truth is there is a chance someone can take your idea, or use that name for their book, or have a similar protagonist. All of these can happen.
But it isn’t as important as some seem to think.

The truth is:

1. Someone already did it.
Think about the plot pieces that make up your story. Lost soul? Broken heart? Artifact? Magic stone?
Now think of all the movies, TV shows, music pieces, paintings, games, books, comics, and other media out there with the same theme, plot, story, or character type in it. A lot of them, right?

Very little comes out that is completely new and original. Many of the best movies are re-imaginings of past ideas, or franchises. Even “Avatar”, a block buster, was criticized for being a rip off of “Dances with Wolves”. “Titanic” drew from the sinking of a real ship, and the old “boy meets girl of a different class, can’t have girl cause someone else is in the way” story line. They just tweaked the stories, gave them beautiful backdrops, and let them go.

2. Writers already have their own ideas.
I have 7 novels, and 12 short stories planned for this year. That doesn’t include the others that are waiting for next year. I don’t need yet another idea to stack on top of all the others. And I bet most, if not all authors that bother with publishing, have a drawer full of ideas just like me. Why, then, do they need your idea?

3. Your stuff isn’t worth stealing… yet.
Okay, there is a chance that your prose are amazing, awesome, inspiring, and will bring readers to tears, encouraging them to shoot you to the top of the charts. But more then likely you need to hone your craft. Find all the glitches. Clean up the prose, spelling and grammar. And then, MAYBE, after all of that is done, then you might be ready for the big time.

If you are one of those rare people who have uber-amazing stories that are worth stealing, then why aren’t you publishing right now?

Lets be honest. It takes time to learn to write well, and not only technically speaking, but also to write stories worth reading. Worth stealing? That is a whole new level of greatness.

4. Art is Stealing
Romeo and Juliet has been remade, rewritten, and re-conceptualized, so many hundreds of times that each of us knows the story without ever actually reading the original work. Most of the adaptations don’t even bother to say “this is a rip off of Romeo and Juliet” anymore. We just know.

Why is this a good thing? Because it means you can do the same thing. Remake red riding hood, or some Greek myths. Re-imagine Aesop’s fables, or a 100 year old opera. Go to museums and make up stories to go with pictures you see. Write to music, art, etc. Etc.

For more on this go read Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative

5. Ideas are a dime a dozen.
Here, have some:

  • Girl goes to mars and finds life that tries to eat her.
  • Guy meets girl, pisses her off, and has to win her back.
  • Group of friends are going off to college and make a last ditch effort to have the best summer ever.
  • Ancient god from Norse myth turns out to be an alien, and he’s back.
  • We are actually in a communal dream.
  • Kid finds out his parents are really wizards/aliens/superheros/etc and so is he.
  • Artist makes a beautiful piece of art and falls in love with it.

Seven ideas. All of which have been featured in several movies/books/poems/songs/etc.
Ideas are a dime a dozen, and you can’t copyright ideas. In fact you can go watch a movie, write down the key points, and create your own story out of it.

Basic story: Guy finds out he’s actually meant to save the world. Doesn’t believe it, but when he finally does amazing/horrible things start happening. This is the plot to “The Matrix”, “LOTR”, and “WoT” books, as well as several other franchises.
Now redefine a few things. Who is “the guy”? How will he save, or destroy the world? Why doesn’t he believe? What makes him believe? What can he do once he believes? Now you have a story all your own.

What does this all mean?
Stop worrying about your stuff getting stolen and go on with your life. Get on with making art.

Here is a real world example. Fashion designers can not copyright their designs because clothing is a utilitarian item. Here is a great article on how lack of copyright has actually made fashion design better.

And here is EASimCity, a great game. Suffering under 2800 one star reviews because they are so paranoid about copyright that they are killing their own game.

Here is what matters:
Make good art.
Make a lot of it.
Make it available.
Give it a fair priced.
Engage your readers.

If they like you, and your writing, then they will want to give you money so that you will keep making more stuff.

If you are so afraid someone will steal your stuff, then you’re not going to meet the fans who will love your work, either.

Progress and Setbacks

I’ve made a huge leap forward. I am in the habit of writing again, and I honestly feel uncomfortable, and distracted if I haven’t written for a day. I skipped two days of writing last week because family life got in the way and I went to bed kind of upset with myself. Ended up writing even more the next project day and still felt like it wasn’t enough. I still wanted to write, and wanted my body and my schedule let me.

So, on the plus side, I have my neurosis back… the inability to put down a pen, and an insatiable desire to tell a story. In my case a computer and phone. I am now almost always thinking of things I can write. “Osiren’s Tears” is coming along nicely, and the next project, “Star Crossed” is a really interesting SF/romance that I am actually looking forward to writing (and refusing to let myself till ‘Osiren’ is done.)

So what’s the set back?

Since I have decided to make a concerted effort to publish, and be an author, not just a writer, I am having to deal with some other issues of my insecurities.

Writing itself, putting words on the page, was always easy for me. Words came, stories flowed, and I loved it. The reason I stopped writing all those years ago had absolutely nothing to do with the words. The words, and the stories, were still there. It had far more to do with acceptance.

I had several articles, short stories, and poems published in some magazines and e-zines a few years ago, but I never got paid for any of them even though the contract said I would. It was incredibly frustrating, and all the nice words from their fans, and even an award, wasn’t enough to make up for the fact that they never bothered to pay me. Wasn’t I worth the few dollars they promised me for all my hard work?

Couple this with my personal life…

I have found talking about some of the things from my past to be cathartic. Sometimes I’ll hear from others who lived through similar things. Sometimes I’ll just get some kind words. Other times it just feels good to get it off my chest.

So… I was told often, and repeatedly, for years, that I would never amount to anything. That no one would ever love me. That everyone who even talked to me just wanted to use me. They didn’t care about me, didn’t care what I did, what I said, or what I thought. And I was often put in situations that reinforced those ideas.

So now when I look at that brand new shiny microphone I just bought and say to myself “I could just say hello to people”… Some quiet part of my soul screams from the shadows “No! Don’t humiliate yourself like that!”

That voice wins far too often for my comfort.

Here is the gist…
I’m scared.
I’m terrified!

Every time I finish a book I look for reasons not to publish it because then I don’t have to get bad reviews. I don’t have to feel rejected. Or hurt. Or afraid. Worrying that no one will ever buy it, ever read it, or ever care what I have to say.

It is hard to divorce yourself from the work, let it go, and say… do your worst!

The Past Hurts Sometimes

I spent much of my childhood trying to do “the right thing”. How does a child even know what the right thing is?

I knew that if I did certain things at certain times I’d get a little more attention from my parents. But they were so busy with everything in their lives that they really didn’t have all that much time for me.

It seems a silly thing to complain about sometimes. You see children who have no food, or suffer incredible abuse. My parents just didn’t have any time for me.

I spent a great deal of time alone. To clarify, I have two sisters. We didn’t get along very well. I found it easier to just spend my time outside, away from them, and avoid arguments.

I spent so much time trying to make my parents happy, and proud of me that even the small things hurt. Once I made dinner for my family. I usually did because both of my parents worked. I think I was 14 at the time. Steak, mashed potatoes, and some sort of vegetable.

My dad took one bight of it and got very unhappy. You could see the disapproval oozing off him. He was mad at me because I didn’t put any spices on the food. I forgot. I never ate spices on food, and I forgot. And he told me how bad dinner was, how horrible it was.

I learned a long time ago that I was never going to be able to please the people around me. And then I got married.

New mother, new baby, new home, and I cleaned the entire house. Even got on my knees and hands to scrub the kitchen floor because we didn’t have a mop. My husband came home. I thought he’d be so happy with me… No, there were things up on top of the computer case stashed out of the way that I hadn’t gotten too. The rest of the two bedroom apartment was clean, but there was paper up on top of that case. He was so disappointed in me, and I was that little girl trying to get approval. Trying so hard to earn someone’s love.

It took me a long time to learn that you can’t, and shouldn’t EARN someone’s love. Love is a gift you give. Love is free. Love is beautiful. It is full of hope and joy, and all those wonderful things of acceptance.

And even now, at 35 and trying to start something brand new I feel myself shutting down. Hurting. Afraid to try and earn someone’s love and attention. Will they like my books? Will they care? Will it affect anyone?

Who knows. And I shouldn’t care. I should be doing this because I love the writing, not because I’m trying to find that illusive acceptance somewhere.

My parents will never be proud of me. I accepted that years ago. And my life is saner now without them in it.

My husband would never be satisfied with anything I did. So I divorced him. And I have been happier without him.

But you can’t close yourself off from the world. You can’t satisfy the world. You have to satisfy yourself before you can do anything else.

That’s my struggle every day. Somewhere inside I am just that little girl still trying to find approval. And I suppose I always will be.