Monthly Archives: June 2013

One Crow Sorrow – Teaser 3

Alright, as promised. Teaser #3. Enjoy!

 

He turned and picked up the bowl of red stained water Holly had been using to clean Maggie and headed through the living room to dump it in the sink in the bathroom.  I turned back toward the window to think.  My thoughts were interrupted a few seconds later by a crash and the sound of water sloshing everywhere.

Turning around I saw Gavin on his knees in the living room in front of the TV, his hands covering his mouth.  I ran to him, almost slipping on the wet floor as I did, and kneeled down to see if he was ok.  He looked like he’d seen a ghost.
 
“Gavin?”

“I didn’t know she had a son,” was all he said.

“What?”

He pointed at the TV, staring in silence.  A picture of a beautiful young woman who would have been about eighteen or nineteen filled the screen.  The picture was old, probably taken in the mid-eighties. When the photograph faded away a young man took its place.

“It’s been twenty five years since my mother disappeared.  We are hoping by putting her picture out there that someone who may have seen something will come forward.  She left her job at the coffee shop at about eleven pm and was never seen again.  I grew up not knowing if my mother was alive or dead.  If she’s alive I want to find her. If not…I’d like to give her the proper burial she deserves.”  The rims of his eyes turned red and the camera cut back to the anchor.  Gavin’s eyes were red now also.

“Gavin, do you know that woman?”  For a long moment he didn’t say anything.

“I did.”

“How?”

“I’m the reason she never came home.  I didn’t know she had a son.  She never told me that.”  He turned to me with tears spilling out of his eyes.  His hands shook and he wrung them together as he relived the event in his mind.  “I’ve done horrible things, Rachel.”

I took his face in my hands and tried to wipe away his tears but they just kept coming.

“I’m sure it was an accident,” I said.  I knew firsthand what it was like to have your vampire instinct take over.  I had completely drained the first victim I fed from before I even knew what I was doing.

“You don’t know what I’m capable of,” he choked out, his voice breaking under the weight of his newly exhumed grief.  “I’m a monster.”

“Don’t say that.  You’re not.”

“I ruined so many lives.”

“Gavin that was a long time ago.”

“What does it matter how long ago it was?  That kid grew up without a mother.  So many people have suffered because of me.”  Suddenly he sprang up from the floor and ran for the door. “I have to get out of here,” he said.

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What Do People With Mental Illness Really Look Like?

So, for anyone who doesn’t know, one of the things you do when putting a book up for sale is go around to different bloggers and provide them with free copies of your book in exchange for an honest review. I’m a big believer in not getting angry with people when they are honest, especially if you have asked for that honesty. In short, you can’t ask someone to tell you what they honestly think of your work and then be angry if you don’t like what they have to say.

However, one of those reviews came in today. While the reviewer did have some nice things to say, there one was thing I read that I feel needs to be addressed. I want to make it clear though that I have no ill will toward this person. I’m not angry and I don’t hate them. I don’t wish for ‘karma’ (whatever that really is) to do anything to them. I believe it’s just a sad commentary on the attitude we have toward people with mental illness.

It wasn’t an easy decision for me to write this blog post. It could have very negative consequences for me, as well as my family. It could prevent me from getting a job, or a place to live. I may even lose likes on my page or followers of this blog, or even real world personal friends. I’m moved to do it however, and not just on behalf of my character, but on behalf of myself and anyone else who’s ever suffered from a mental illness.

When I first started blogging the second post I made was called, “How The Vampires of Soldiers Cove Came To Be.”  If you read that post you know that in it I disclosed the fact that I have depression. What I didn’t say (although if you read between the lines you might have picked up on it) is that I don’t just have run of the mill depression, I have Psychotic Depression. For those of you who’ve read the book you know that this is the same illness that the main character, Rachel, is suffering from.  What does that have to do with the book review, and why did I feel the need to say something about it?  Well, here’s what it said:

“I wanted to love this book, it had some of my favourite things; Vampires, peril, swords and a relationship. But there was just something off about Rachel, her character development just felt unnatural for me. For someone who has spent half her life hiding and trying to not hear the voices in her head, she adjusts awfully quickly to being around people.”

 

I was very saddened to read this…but not at all surprised. This is the attitude that society has fostered about people with mental illness.  When you have something like this, it’s presumed you are a certain way. I was also 17 (like Rachel) when I began to hear voices. From the age of 17 to 24 is not ‘half your life’.  I was pretty much a recluse during that time period (with some brief reprieves in between) but when I became well again I didn’t need to ‘adjust’ to being around people. Before I got sick I had been very outgoing. I was by no means popular, but I had a lot of friends and was always on the go. I was active in music, and drama, and my school newspaper. I was well socialized, loved people, and knew how to be around them.

When I became well I wanted to be around people again. By that time I had moved to Halifax and was the mother to a baby. I used to go out and seek people’s company on purpose because I missed being social. I would dress up my baby and go sit in the public gardens with her just so I could talk to them. My daughter was perfect for this because she was a show stopper. A beautiful kid with long dark curly hair, blue eyes and the sweetest disposition a little one could have. She’s 14 now and still all of those things, pardon me for taking a proud mommy moment but I can’t help myself.

Aaanyhoo… I kind of used her to talk to people because, well, I just wanted to talk to people again. I was hungry for that social interaction. Adjustment? What adjustment? It felt like a weight had been lifted and I wanted to enjoy it. I was free of the torment for the first time in many years, I felt free.

People still seem to be unable to grasp the fact that those of us with mental illness are just like everyone else when we’re well.  Granted there are still certain limitations on me, but mostly I’m a normal person. I am certainly a socialized person (when I feel well and am able to be) and didn’t have any problems going back out into the world when the storm had passed. I had problems with other people’s perception of me, but that’s about it.

Saying, “for someone who spent half her life hiding and trying not to hear the voices in her head, she adjusts awfully quickly to being around people” is akin to hearing people say things like:

“You don’t look sick.”

“It’s all in your head.”

“If you can go out with your friends and laugh once a week you must be perfectly fine.”

“You’re just lazy.”

All of these are used under different circumstances with those of us who have experienced mental illness, but what it comes down to is believability. We watch movies and read books that portray people with these problems in a certain way, but when one comes along that’s a little more realistic, people think of it as unrealistic because they don’t know any better. It doesn’t follow the template and so people don’t know what to think.

I could have portrayed Rachel in a more stereotypical way so that she’d be more ‘developed’, but that would have been disingenuous. People with mental illness are like everyone else and run the gambit personality wise. Rachel is who she is and if people feel she’s undeveloped in some way that’s fine, but if the reason is because she’s had a mental illness and now is unapologetically flourishing I don’t feel that’s a good, or realistic reason. That may not be the fault of the reader though, but perhaps it’s the fault of a society that refuses to let us be seen as anything other than abnormal.

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Introducing Penelope!

Today I’d like to introduce you to someone. I’ve never mentioned her before, not by name anyway, but she’s an important part of my creative life and the force by which all my ideas come. This person has been with me since I was a child as I began to write stories, songs, and poems. She’s been there whispering in my ear for many years and she gets none of the credit. You see it’s not really me doing all of this creative stuff. It’s Penelope.

Say, “Hi!” to everyone in blogger land Penelope!  No? Just going to keep sitting in the corner texting on your phone? Ok then honey, you do whatever makes you happy. She’s not talking right now (I think she might be hung over. She smells like vodka today) but let me tell you about her.

Our dear Penelope is eighteen years old. She smokes, drinks, is very slutty and swears like a sailor. She hates me. She hates almost everyone and has a terrible attitude.  She is also stunningly beautiful, incredibly smart and has an amazing sense of humor. Penelope is the girl that all the girls love to hate in high school, but secretly wish they were like. Penelope doesn’t give a fuck! She’s free.

She also demands attention, and when she talks to me and I ignore her things do not go well. She has been known to storm off, leaving me alone for days, weeks or even months. When she tries to tell me what to write and I’ve ignored her she’s just stopped gifting me those things all together. For instance, she doesn’t whisper her poetry to me anymore. She knows I won’t write it down and so she probably wanders around looking for other people to whisper it to.

Are you wondering if I’m off my meds? Well, I am, but that has nothing to do with Penelope. Penelope is my muse. I believe all creative people have one, some of us are just better at seeing them than others. I believe creativity in general works like this: All the books, all the movies, all the music and art in the world is floating around out there somewhere. On some undetectable level it’s there, just existing. Some people (artists) are born with a receptor. This receptor allows us to access it. This is why it’s so frustrating for a lot of artists when they get asked where their ideas come from. We don’t fully know. I know the access can be fleeting and the receptor’s signal can be fuzzy or lost at times.  Penelope can be a little bitch and wander off to do god knows what with god knows who but I love her, and she always comes back to me.

I take her in and sober her up. I do this willingly and gratefully. That she’s decided to land on my doorstep once more is always a gift. When she talks I listen. When your muse talks to you, you should listen too. If you have ideas for stories, songs, poetry, paintings or art of any kind don’t sit and ask yourself, ‘should I write this?’  A: YOU aren’t really writing it so get over yourself.  And B: DON’T piss off the muse!! They don’t have to sit with you, they can go find somebody else who’s way more fun, and probably more talented.

Like I said, Penelope is smart and beautiful and could whisper in the ear of lots of people. Most of whom would be far more brilliant than I am to bring life to her stories. But she picks me and so I sit and listen as she goes on and on. Penelope, like any typical teenager, is a night owl and she really only picks up steam after dark. She has been keeping me up for years! This was ok when we were the same age, but I need to get up in the morning now. I have kids and things to do. Does she care? Not even a little. Do I complain and ignore her? No freakin’ way! I learned the hard way that when you ignore her she fucks off. She wants attention and she’s going where ever she can get it.

So folks, spend some time with your muse today. A little TLC can go a long way in helping you reach your creative goals. They are the gatekeeper after all.

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Just Be Badass!

This morning as I was trolling through Facebook I saw this quote

“Writing is like sex. You don’t have to wait until you’re an expert to begin doing it.” – Anonymous

I laughed of course. I giggle at most sexual references though which is probably unusual for someone who writes erotica. I continued scrolling through my newsfeed but I kept thinking about that quote. And that quote led me to think about another quote I heard recently.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a rabid fan of the Foo Fighters. So much so that I can’t listen to them before going to bed. If they touch my ears within an hour or two of bedtime I become so wired I can’t sleep. There’s something about that music that just flips the crazy switch in my brain (although god knows it’s not a hard switch to trip!) and I lay there staring at the ceiling continuing to vibrate. I wish I was joking or being overdramatic but I’m not. I love…love…LOVE the Foo Fighters!

Aside from the music I love Dave Grohl’s attitude. He gave the keynote speech this year at the SXSW music festival and for anyone who hasn’t seen it, you really should. He is speaking about music, but really a lot of what he said there could be applied to writers, or any artist really. It runs almost an hour but is so worth the watch and I promise you, you will walk away from listening to that wanting to go create something just for the pure enjoyment that creativity brings. I saw an interview with him recently where he said, “I don’t want to be perfect. I just want to be badass!” 

I heard him say that and I remember thinking, “Wow!”  Here is someone who most people would look at and deem a legend. Nirvana, Foo Fighters, Them Crooked Vultures. He’s worked with every legendary musician out there from the generation before him, his own, and the ones after. Despite all that the man doesn’t seem to have a snobbish bone in his body when it comes to looking at his profession. At the end of the day what Dave Grohl seems to want is simply to make music. He has no desire to look at other people and tell them how they’re doing it wrong (although with a resume like his he certainly could make a whole separate career out of doing that), he doesn’t want to put himself above the up and comers, he doesn’t want to look at and compare himself to anyone else…he just wants to be a badass.

When it comes to doing anything there are varying levels of skill and talent of course. If writing were music my work would more so be Johnny Rotten than Bach. Is one better than the other? I’m sure fans of classical music would drone on forever about the nuances of Bach and the ins and outs of why it deserves more attention and respect than anything Johnny Rotten ever did. But you know what? Johnny Rotten had some pretty interesting things to say and certainly was good at moving people and evoking an emotion. He may not have been classically trained, but man, he certainly kicked some ass making music didn’t he? People loved him for it and are still loving him today. (Side Note: I am not comparing myself to Johnny Rotten! I am the dirt that coats the scum on his shoes. Rock on Johnny!)

What does this have to do with writing? A lot actually. We could take a page out of the book of music here. For a long time I wrote but didn’t show anyone or take it very seriously because being a voracious reader I would always flip to the back of the book and scan the, ‘About the Author’ page. The vast majority of author bios went something like this: “Joe Blow graduated from Fancy Pants University, Suma Cum Laude, with a degree in Being Better Than You. After than he went on and received his masters in Perfection, and won an award for being born a writing genus.”

Ok I’m exaggerating…sort of. Every author bio was usually nothing more than a list of where the writer had gone to school, years they’d graduated and letters they’d earned to put behind their name.

Please don’t get me wrong. I don’t begrudge anyone their formal education. It’s a huge achievement that’s accomplished with much hard work and dedication, but the impression I was getting from all the bios I was reading was that only people who have a massive amount of education are permitted to be writers. I never saw a bio that said, “Joe Blow is a high school dropout and a garbage man with a talent for telling stories.”  Not once!  That’s starting to change now with the advancements in self-publishing though, and thank god for that because, being a Joe Blow myself, I bet his stories are badass.

Should you try to make your work the best it can be? Absolutely! Although the opinion of what that is will vary from person to person. I sent a sample of my book off to an editor about a year ago who emailed me back and basically told me I was a terrible writer. I was crushed at the time. I stayed in bed for the better part of three days and didn’t write again for months! Fast forward to June of 2013. The book is for sale on Amazon and I have received lots of great reviews, and have heard from many, many people about how much they love the book.  I am so grateful for the rejection of that editor. I think she would have turned it into something I would not have liked under the guise of making it ‘better’.

Is it perfect? Hell no!  Is it badass? In my opinion, yes!

Writing belongs to us all. It’s not just for the academics and editors and grammar Nazis and snobbish large publication reviewers. It’s for all of us! READ the stories you want to read, and WRITE the stories you want to write, and SCREW anyone who tells you that you can’t or shouldn’t because you don’t have this or that degree. Or that you’re too young, or too old. Or any other meaningless, empty excuse they use to talk you out of it. 

As Mr. Grohl said in his speech, “Who determines the value of a voice?”  Everyone does, and yet, no one does.  When I start to feel like I don’t have the right to be writing I try to look at it this way. One day the sun will expand consuming the earth and all the books, all the music, all the art that we humans spent hours and hours discussing will be gone. We will have spent so much time talking in circles trying to determine (in vain!) which piece is more important or ‘better’ and guess what? It doesn’t even matter. It will all be vaporized, along with whatever is left of you (wherever they decided to stick you when you dropped dead) and all your descendants.

Write! Paint! Make music! Create! And if someone loves it, you should love them back in return. Appreciate the hell out of those people. And if someone doesn’t get it? Oh well! As the Foo Fighters say, “Done! Done! On to the next one!”

 

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Featured Author: Jessica Macintyre

Featured Author: Jessica Macintyre.

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Writer or Author?

 

 

Are you a writer or an author? Are they the same thing? Does it even matter? I’ve noticed that a few people tend to get hung up on the words that describe those of us who make up stuff, write it down, put a cover on it and sell it in hopes that people will like it.

I told someone recently that I was a writer, and they replied that no I wasn’t. My book was so good that it made me an ‘author’ not a writer, as if ‘writer’ was somehow a dirty word. I guess for some people if they see you as being very good at what you do (not that I’m saying I’m Shakespeare) it deserves a fancier sounding word.

You see, to me, the truth is we’re all just writers. All of us who do this no matter what title we hang on it are left alone facing the blank page at some point. When I’m there in front of a blank word document, especially if it’s a first draft, I’m not thinking about whether I’m a ‘writer’ or an ‘author’. I’m just hoping the words come. When they do I don’t say to myself, ‘way to go author’. I’m more like, “You finally thought of something you awesome word monkey you! You go you bad ass keyboard abusing Mofo!” 

Yes this is really how I talk to myself when I feel I’ve done well.  Personally I think the word ‘author’ is much to highbrow to apply to me. I prefer to think of myself as a writer. The hired gun by which the muse talks to the world. After all, those of us who do creative things know the truth don’t we? That it really isn’t us doing them at all. It’s the muse and we’re at her mercy. If we get too full of ourselves we risk pissing her off and never writing again.

If you’re creative at all you know this chick is fickle! She can come and stay for days and weeks, or leave you high and dry for months and years without so much as a phone call or a note scrawled in lipstick on the bathroom mirror. “Sorry writer. I have an idea that’s not worthy of you. It’s more J.K Rowling’s thing. Gone off to hang with her for a bit. I’ll see ya when I see ya!”

I don’t want anything, especially a title, to discourage her from coming and staying with me. I’m afraid if I get too fancy she’ll take off and go be with someone who’s not so serious. 

So whether you’re a writer, an author, a word monkey or a keyboard abuser it doesn’t matter. We’re all at the mercy of the blank page and a fickle little bitch who probably likes some other creative soul more than she likes you. I don’t know about you guys but I don’t plan to get too cocky!

 

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Swearing, Sex and Violence (these are a few of my favorite things)

Any writer writes for themselves first and foremost. That doesn’t mean we don’t take the readers into account, quite the opposite, but when hard creative decisions have to be made I always go with what I want over what I think would be safe and more comfortable for the readers. For example in my book, The Vampires of Soldiers Cove, something happens to Rachel that is very violent (if you’ve read the book you know what it is but I’m not going to tell you here. That would be a spoiler!).  I went back and forth for a few days before doing a rewrite of the book that I knew people would read on whether or not I’d actually include it. I knew it would make people uncomfortable, or potentially shock them. This is really the only kind of writer’s block I experience. The kind where I know what I want to write, but I hold back out of fear of what other people will think of me if I do.

In the end I decided that it had to be included, as the incident is really a defining moment for that character and creates a domino effect that will be seen over the next three books. I have been accused of including that, and other things such as violence, sex and swearing, ‘just to shock people’. Trust me folks if I wanted to shock you, there are easier much less time consuming ways to do it. A book is something that takes months, if not years of a writer’s life. And the writer is not going to be with you in the room as you read it to experience your shock. If I wanted to shock people and experience their reactions I’d dye my hair a strange color, or get a huge tattoo, or get a million piercings etc. (nothing wrong with any of those things! I Love seeing people who do that).

If you read my books and my character is swearing and destroying things, it’s because that’s who they are, and honestly, don’t we all know people who are like that? We might not enjoying hanging around with them, but there they are and if you know them at all you probably couldn’t picture them being any other way.

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