Tag Archives: writing

What Writing Is Not!

what writing is not pic

Question: What are a writer’s obligations to a reader?

Other than to provide them with a story, not much. Although from scrolling through various posts on Facebook and Twitter you would think it was a hell of a lot more. Over time since I’ve started self-publishing I’ve seen readers say things like (paraphrasing here):

-Writers need to know that cliff-hangers are only acceptable if the next book in the series is already available.

-Cliff-hangers are not acceptable AT ALL!

-It is not acceptable to kill off a main character. Ever!

-Books that don’t contain a HEA (that’s, ‘happily ever after’ for those of you not familiar with the term) are not acceptable.

-It’s not acceptable for the protagonist to be a jerk, or be flawed in any way.

I could go on and on. This is just a small sampling of what I come across on a daily basis while scrolling. I think we’ve, sadly, gotten to a point where a lot of readers feel that a book is a ‘product.’ Although a book is something you buy and pay money for, it is NOT a product, it is a piece of ART! It may or may not be art that you personally enjoy, but it is art nonetheless and as such you have no right to bark at the artist as to what is ‘acceptable’ and what is not. If we were to take dictation from people as to what to write and how to write it there would hardly be any point to sitting down and doing it in the first place. A piece of writing is a piece of that individual’s soul. A lot of writers, myself included, use this art as a method of catharsis. If I sat down and wrote simply to follow a bunch of rules people think I should follow to make my book more enjoyable to them I may as well just sit on my ass and eat ice cream, and I do that plenty enough already!

Honestly if you feel that passionately about writers following all these god forsaken ‘rules’, perhaps you should be plotting a novel yourself! Write it following these directives you hold so dear, but be warned, someone is waiting around the corner to point out any and all rules YOU would be breaking. There would also be some who would say your book is ‘boring’ or ‘predictable’ as it doesn’t take any chances at all.

There are very few TV shows that actually inspire me to be a better writer, but The Walking Dead is one of them. The reason? They routinely break all of the rules I’ve listed above, and then some. Both the show and the comic have little to no regard for avoiding cliff-hangers or killing main characters. My god, that’s what makes the show so exciting. You never know who is going to bite the dust from week to week. Quite often it’s someone I’ve grown fond of. The writers are absolutely fearless and I am always in awe of how thing play out. It’s popular in part, I believe, because very few shows right now are taking the kind of chances they are. I salute them.

Of course you are welcome to like what you like. If you want the things listed above there is nothing wrong with that, but if you read a book that didn’t give you any of those things it just means you didn’t like it, not that the writer did it ‘wrong’. Writers are very appreciative of anyone who likes their work, but most of us don’t want to write a certain way just to placate people. It feels like selling out. That’s the beauty of building your own world. There’s no way to do it wrong because there is no ‘wrong’. And like I said, if you’re that passionate, Nanowrimo is coming up. Try creating your own.

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Pit of Procrastination

davecook

Ah, the art of procrastination. If you follow this blog at all you’ll notice it’s been well over a month since I posted. My apologies. I have no excuses. I seem to have fallen into the same pit all writers do from time to time: The Pit of Procrastination.

The Pit of Procrastination is a dark and scary place sometimes. It’s filled with weird habits and hobbies. Things you haven’t done in years that you suddenly have the urge to do…right now! I have tons of writing to do, but it seems that since my dad passed away I can’t find it in me to sit down and do it. I’ve had about three writing sessions that I’d actually call sessions. The others were false starts. I’d sit down, go at it for twenty minutes to half an hour and then start to feel overwhelmed. Before I knew it I’d be watching cooking videos or full length Foo Fighters concerts on YouTube.

Recently I’ve started making all of my family’s bread. The price of bread has skyrocketed and so making it from scratch has proven to be both economical and a wonderful procrastination tool. But it hasn’t stopped there. I’ve recently rediscovered my fascination with cooking. Years ago I was accepted into cooking school, and would have gone, but my student loan hit a snag and although I did get it, it didn’t arrive in time for me to begin the class. I had a love affair with Saturday morning cooking shows on PBS. This was the late 90s,  before I had access to YouTube, and so my love of watching people put together fabulous food things was relegated to once a week. Now… Oh my god! All you have to do is get on the internet and there are multiple videos showing you how to make anything you can dream up. It’s a bit like crack. It’s hard to stop watching.

It’s not that I don’t want to write, but for some reason, I’ve fallen down into the pit. I’m trying to get out but there’s so much bread dough down here that Dave Grohl and I are drowning in it. Oh, and I’ve also read 36 books in the last few months. While that’s a necessary (and fun) part of being a writer I have gone way overboard with it. I’ve spent a lot of time on Amazon ordering paperbacks. So much so that I’m starting to consider having someone supervise me when I go on that site. Lately if someone recommends a book to me that sounds good I HAVE to go read it. A guy at a bus stop told me about The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet and I went out the next day to purchase it. I’m about three hundred pages into the sequel too (which I highly recommend!)

It’s ok though. It’s quiet down here. I enjoy my solitude and always have. Some people close to me are starting to think I’m ignoring them. Not true, I’m just trapped in the pit. Once you’re in it’s hard to get out and if someone comes along and wants you to come up for some air you even get hostile. When someone comes to the opening and shouts over the edge you just spit at them and growl. It’s not like I haven’t come up at all, but the more time I spend down there the more time I want to.

I’ve made up my mind to come out though. I have a rewrite to do for a book that’s coming out in July, and of course, the next book in the vampire series will be out in October. Thank god the bulk of the work on both of those things is done. I feel like I’m just rambling here. Hopefully it makes some sense.

By the way, if you order a book from me it may arrive covered in flour and smelling like homemade bread.

Cheers!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Lynn Shepherd, Give Your Head A Shake!

Grumpypost

We have a saying in the Maritimes when someone does something stupid or doesn’t appear to be thinking clearly in some way. Whenever we see someone on self-destruct mode we feel the need, out of love, or concern, and sometimes quite frankly, confusion to say, “Give your head a shake!”

This week a piece was published in the Huffington Post by a writer named Lynn Shepherd entitled: If JK Rowling Cares About Writing, She Should Stop Doing It.

Now, if this post had been written by a reader or a critic I would have just given my own head a shake and moved on. Largely people who don’t write novels have no idea what the process entails and as such can be forgiven for making ignorant statements. But Lynn Shepherd is a novelist herself. Never mind the fact that she clearly states she hasn’t read any of J.K Rowling’s books but goes on to demean not just the writer but the author’s readers as well. Never mind that she makes the ridiculous argument that Rowling has ‘had her turn’ and ‘sucks the air’ out of the market so that nobody else can have a chance to sell anything (as if people can only read one writer).

Those things are bad enough, but honestly, that’s not what disturbs me about the piece. Really, Lynn Shepherd’s words are indicative of a bigger problem. Snobbery. Writers are absolutely disgusting to one another at times. If you don’t like what someone is doing it seems totally normal to not just tear them down, but their audience as well. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people discussing a book they enjoyed only to have someone else come along and make judgements on their intelligence based on the fact that they liked a particular book or writer. Nowhere else in the arts is this as big a problem as it is among the writing community, and frankly, it makes me sick.

Writers get up on their high horses, forgetting that their work is out there to be criticized as well. Shepherd is finding this out the hard way as people have begun giving her books one star reviews on Amazon, stating openly that they haven’t read them. They feel that turnabout is fair play. After all she did the same to J.K Rowling without cracking a page, why shouldn’t they do the same to her? I totally disagree as I’d never review or rate a book I haven’t read, but you have to realize, if you’re going to be a snob and drive a stake through someone’s heart, be prepared to have it driven through your own at some point.

I really believe that instead of focusing on what another writer is doing, a good writer is writing. A true artist is working all the time with their head down and largely not noticing what others are up to. If J.K Rowling sells millions of books and makes millions of people happy, why and how does that have a negative impact on me? You shouldn’t begrudge someone their rewards. As Stephen Pressfield said, “The professional has learned that success, like happiness, comes as a by-product of work. The professional concentrates on the work and allows rewards to come or not come, whatever they like.”

None of us really have any control over how our books will be received, but we do have control over our actions. We can choose to behave toward each other with some class or we can belittle someone else’s success by telling ourselves that their stuff is no good and they don’t deserve it anyway because the public is ‘stupid’.

Perhaps if you’re going to do that you need to question why you became a writer in the first place. In other words, give your head a shake!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Writing to Quiet Voices? I Don’t Think So.

So, here’s a question for my writer friends. Not that I’m excluding those of you who are strictly readers because you can certainly wade in on this as well. Here it is:

I see a lot of writers saying things like, ‘I write to quiet the voices’ or ‘The voices won’t shut up.’ Any and all variances you can imagine are put forth by writers on Facebook and Twitter daily. Now, I get what they’re trying to say, really I do. I know what it’s like to be overwhelmed by ideas and dialogue, but do you ever stop to consider what people who ACTUALLY hear voices might think when you say this?

Well, let me tell you. As someone who is both a writer and has a mental illness which causes me to have auditory hallucinations (voices) I get pretty pissed off. I know you don’t mean to piss me or anyone with mental illness off, but really, think about it. You hear voices? Really? No, you most likely don’t. I’m sure you hear the thoughts rumbling around in your head and they can play out pretty intensely to the point where, like I said, you are overwhelmed by ideas. But you hear voices? Pardon my language but…bitch please! NO you DON’T!

If you were to really hear voices you’d be on a drug for that. Hearing voices is not fun. It’s TORMENT!

And let me tell you, auditory hallucinations would probably make you the opposite of creative. I’ve known lots of other people with the same problem and the voices don’t whisper brilliant ideas. They don’t help with your writing in any way. In fact they are distracting and disturbing and mine at least, are severe assholes. It’s extremely hard to write when I’m hearing voices. It’s hard to do anything at all. When I see anyone referring to this as a kind of creative spark I think it both diminishes your faith in your own personal creative flow, and insults me.

I’m not under any kind of false impression that people are going to stop saying this anytime soon, but please, if you read this and you’re a writer please consider talking about your creativeness in another way. It’s not romantic or artistic to ‘hear voices’.  It’s a suffering that can only be understood by someone who has actually experienced it.  It’s a kind of mental torture the likes of which I hope you never know. If you’re actually hearing voices – and I say this in all seriousness – please see a doctor!

If you’d like to know what it’s REALLY like to hear voices you can read a post I wrote a few months back called, A Day with Psychosis. If you read that you’ll see what ‘hearing voices’ does to a writer. I hope that if you’re a writer that next time you catch yourself talking about the voices, you’ll stop and think first. It starts there.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The War of Art

“The professional learns to recognize envy-driven criticism and to take it for what it is: the supreme compliment. The critic hates most that which he would have done himself if he had had the guts.”
Steven Pressfield, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles

 

“If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), “Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?” chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.”
Steven Pressfield, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles

 

“The most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying.”
Steven Pressfield, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles

 

“We must do our work for its own sake, not for fortune or attention or applause.”
Steven Pressfield, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles

 

“It’s better to be in the arena, getting stomped by the bull, than to be up in the stands or out in the parking lot.”
Steven Pressfield, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles

“To labor in the arts for any reason other than love is prostitution.”
Steven Pressfield, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles

“The professional has learned that success, like happiness, comes as a by-product of work. The professional concentrates on the work and allows rewards to come or not come, whatever they like.”
Steven Pressfield, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles

“The artist cannot look to others to validate his efforts or his calling. If you don’t believe me, ask Van Gogh, who produced masterpiece after masterpiece and never found a buyer in his whole life.”
Steven Pressfield, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles

 

If you’ve read all of those quotes you should have no problem figuring out what they all have in common. They’re all from the same book. A book called, (obviously) The War of Art.  It’s a book that I’ve recommended time after time to other writers and artists, although I have yet to hear back from any of them as to whether or not they’ve read it. While I can’t be certain, if I had to wager money on it I’d bet they haven’t because they’ve not talked about it. Here’s the thing about this book. Once you read it you are filled with a burning NEED to talk about it. Those who have read it, if the message has touched them, actively seek out other people who’ve read it or enthusiastically recommend it.

Perhaps I am putting too much on this book, but I don’t think so. It’s no understatement that this book changed my life when it comes to writing and creating.  A few years ago I was in a place where I was unable to finish anything. I would start, stop, reread, tell myself it was all garbage and go back to either start something new, or not try at all. I was filled with fear of showing my work to anyone. I’d make excuses as to why I wasn’t doing it but when it came down to it, really, I was just plain scared. I would say things like, ‘my work is just for me’.  Translation: I’m too frightened of being judged.  I’m certainly no Shakespeare but I produce. I finish. I do my work and ‘let the rewards come or not come, whatever they like’.  

I don’t know Stephen Pressfield, although I’m obviously an enthusiastic recommender of his books, so nobody is coercing me to say this of course. But I see my fellow Indies struggling and I know that if a lot of them read this book they’d at least have clarity. An artist never stops struggling, but what you are struggling for can make all the difference. I know we Indies also have a thing about not paying more than $2.99 for an eBook for some reason. This eBook is $7.75 and worth every red cent of it. Honestly, you’ll read it and shake your head at what a steal that price even is. Don’t believe me? Go read all the five star reviews!

If you consider yourself an artist at all, please, go read it. If you don’t want to pay for it at least see if your local library has a copy. When you do read it, I’ll be here. Come find me and we’ll talk.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

As another year comes to a close it’s normal to look back and reflect on what the past year has held, and what the goals or hopes might be for next year. I know some people poo poo this type of thing, but for me it’s always been something I’ve done. There are good years and bad years of course. As the saying goes, ‘you can’t win ‘em all.’ In 2013, while I certainly didn’t win ‘big’, I feel I had a lot of victories and a lot to be grateful for.

Around last January I started to think about music again. I had been dedicated to the idea of becoming a singer in my earlier years and had spent some time in my late teens/early twenties singing in rock bands. I lived for it. I decided I’d try again, this time with only the hope of finding people to play music with. The feeling of standing in a room making music with other people is not quite like anything else and unless you’ve done it, it’s hard to describe.

Terrified, I auditioned for a band. I hadn’t auditioned in years and wasn’t sure what was going to happen. What did happen was that I shocked myself. Sometimes a person does that.  I didn’t expect to get hired but I did, pretty much on the spot too. I can’t even tell you how good that felt. But as good as that feeling was, it didn’t last. I realized over the course of the six or eight weeks I was in the band that I simply don’t feel the way I used to feel about music. I once had a fire and passion for singing and would have done anything and put up with whatever I had to just to be able to get onstage, but as events began to transpire between band members (as they do with all bands, this was not unique to this band at all. All have disagreements and personally I think the biggest thing successful bands have is a group of people who gel. From there you can work with whatever challenges come along) it was evident it wasn’t a happy situation, or at least, I wasn’t happy with the situation.

I bowed out, which I think was the best decision for both me and the band, but became a little depressed. Music, while it’s something I love and can’t live without, is probably not something I’m going to be a participant in, and that’s ok. I came to the conclusion that what I was missing in my life was the act of being creative and so I turned to my other creative passion, which is of course, writing.

I threw myself into it and on March 23rd, The Vampires of Soldiers Cove went up for sale. I didn’t know if anyone would read it or even care. Since that day it’s been downloaded thousands of times and I’ve sold a respectable number of paperbacks, the book’s paperback edition even landing on Amazon’s top 100 in Fantasy books, ranking it’s highest at #74. The kindle version was #94 in the UK paid store as well. During one freebie weekend promo event the book went all the way to #1 in the free kindle store.

People, I’m sure, think, ‘big deal your free book was #1’.  I can understand that but if you knew how many kindle books are free on a daily basis, well, let’s say I was really proud that day.

I also had my first book signing, which was an epic hit! Followed by my second book signing, which was an epic failure.  I’ve also published three other books and had a setback with my illness. With every year there’s some good and bad. All you can do is appreciate the good, and cope with the bad.

Many, many people have contacted me both publicly and privately to say how much they love Rachel and Gavin. I love hearing that of course, but it’s still a little weird when people talk to me about the books. I lived alone with this story in my own head for so long that it’s still a little surreal to hear other people discuss it, but I love that they love it. As a writer that‘s really what I value. Not the praise, but the knowledge that other people get it. Not everyone has of course and some people are obviously not fans, but that can’t be helped. Nothing is universally loved, but it’s liked enough to spur me on.

As I look ahead to 2014 and the release of (hopefully, if all goes well) three more books and a brand new movie blog that I’ll be launching with my friend Tiffany, I want to say a special thank you to those of you who’ve supported me this year. I may not have won the publishing lottery but I’ve made lots of new friends and accomplished things I never thought were possible for me. All I want is to keep writing and entertaining. At heart that’s really what I am. The biggest thrill I get is being able to take people away from their lives, even if only for a little while. We all need that break from the mundane routine of life, and things like music, books and movies provide that.

So here’s to you, the readers. Thank you for reading and sharing and prodding me forward. Also here’s to the indie community. A year ago I didn’t even realize it existed but it’s proven to be a vast and supportive network from which I draw strength daily.

And here’s to 2014! It’s onward and upward from here.

I wish you the happiest of new years!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Unborn (first teaser)

Hello minions! Book three comes out in March/April. Here is a snippet. The Unborn is written a little differently in that it’s divided into three sections. Section one: Rachel. Section two: Gavin. Section three: Rachel. Here is a little sneak peak from Gavin’s section of the book. Merry Christmas!

Snow had begun to fall on the journey home and with wet wings it was harder to fly. It took more effort but the thought of facing the intense pain that awaited him upon shifting back kept him in his crow form all the way home. Normally he would stop and rest at least once, but not this day. Finally, scoping out the backyard from the air and realizing he was home gave him no choice. He glided smoothly to the ground landing safely in front of the door of the small rebuilt toolshed and quickly slipped inside.

            Gavin dressed quickly with the extra set of clothes he always kept inside and was halfway across the yard to the backdoor when the weight of his conversation with Rachel started to sink in. The grief and anger consumed him and he decided to go for a walk in the woods instead. Alexander was inside and he knew he was going to disappoint him. He had promised to bring Rachel back but he didn’t know exactly how to break the news to his brother.

            Alexander still wasn’t speaking but in every other way seemed perfectly fine. He pined for Rachel, however. Almost as much as Gavin did. He missed her, probably because she was the only person who could truly communicate with him. He could of course write notes, but he seemed to very much dislike that and seemed lonely for her company. Alexander longed for the company of someone who could converse without being verbal.

            Gavin turned away from the house and made tracks toward the woods in the five or six inches of snow that had fallen in the last couple of hours. The familiar emerald of the woods with its tall pines and evergreens had been transformed to white by the snow that was still falling in large flakes, blanketing the ground and adding to the silence. Out here he could find peace.

            The sun was beginning its early winter descent and Gavin walked on, looking for his usual spot. He was soaked from snow but didn’t care. There was someone out here who needed him anyway, and if it could ease his own pain to ease that of his friend’s at least there was that. Sharpening his vision he crouched low and listened until he heard what he was after. There was a rabbit about twenty yards off, scurrying along, probably trying to make its way back to its burrow when he stopped, detecting Gavin.

            The two stared at each other for a moment, and then in a flash Gavin pounced, grabbing the small creature and snapping its neck. It was important to him that the creature didn’t suffer. He hated killing any living animal, but was wise enough to know nature’s way and so tucked the kill under his arm and headed to see his friend.

            Arriving at his usual spot he leaned up against the tree observing his friend sleep. He called out to him with his mind, waking the creature from its slumber and watched as the big cat stretched and yawned. The bobcat rolled over, locked eyes with Gavin and twisted his nose up, smelling the fresh meat. Gavin held the offering up and spoke slowly. “It’s for you. Come on now. You have to eat. You’re getting weaker.”

            The cat stood and limped its way over to Gavin, pain radiating through his old body with every step. Gavin could feel it and moved a little closer, meeting him halfway and sparing him any further discomfort. When the cat got close enough Gavin put the rabbit down and sat with his friend while he chewed on his dinner. He stretched out his hand scratching him behind the ears as he began to purr and chew at the same time. At one time Gavin knew he must have been a magnificent animal. His paws were the largest he’d ever seen on a bobcat and his coat, once beautiful and thick was now thinning. He ran his hand down the cat’s side, feeling ribs as he did.

            “At least someone listens to me,” he said, scratching him under the chin like a housecat when he’d finished his meal. “I’m afraid you’re not long for this world, my friend. I’ll miss you when you go. You’ve lived a long time though. As much as death is to be feared, you should fear a life without end even more, especially if you have to spend it alone.”

          

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized