Change, Perfection, Positivity

Change happens all the time. As someone who suffers from Asperger syndrome, I can tell you that change to routines and patterns, stepping outside of my comfort zone, has never been easy. Change, especially when it occurs outside of my control, sends my mind spiraling, and I feel trepidation.

But change can lead to benefits. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been making efforts to cut back on social media time, but I’m also seeking to change my online habits, too. During the COVID shutdown I spent more time online, especially Twitter. I did get the word out about my work more and made some new connections, but now the hashtags I followed haven’t helped with book sales. The same’s been happening with tweets asking for book recommendations. These habits and the time spent on them and other sites feel more like a hindrance. To counter them, I’ve tried walking more, and for that, I’m glad.

With most sites, I’ve gotten down to generally 1-2 logins per day. Nevertheless, that is also something that could change in the future. Sometimes, I’ve found myself going up again if I need to do something specific, like website maintenance. I’ve felt if I can limit myself with those moments, I’m fine.

Nevertheless, the temptation is still there, and it can eat time. Plus, I’m aware these efforts could turn into new patterns that could become just as constrictive and worrisome. I need to curb the scrolling, searching, and that addictive, time-eating cycle that can result, but simultaneously, I also shouldn’t try to control everything, because anxiety always comes from not being perfect. It’s been said that with reviews, quantity over quality. With online time and content, it’s the opposite. Now I need to put it into practice.

Likewise, I’ve tried getting back into the writing routine I’ve mentioned before. Sometimes it doesn’t happen, and other times I do not get the word count I’d like, but I need to remind myself that progress is progress, no matter how small. I need to see the fun in writing again, as author Nour Zikra put it. This year, I hope to be more positive about my writing, my online/social media time, my habits, and, most of all, myself.

I realized through prayer that I need to think more positively. Then, at the beginning of Advent, when I was feeling low and anxious again, after an earnest prayer to God, I opened my copy of the Bible without any specific section in mind. It opened to Psalm 77, and as I read it, I knew my prayer had been answered. Even if you’re not Christian or religious, I hope you too will remember all the good that’s been in your life when distressed. If I need to make changes to meet new circumstances, I will have to do so.

P.S. Enjoy these videos of my readings from last year’s open mics!

Reading Fantasy and Science Fiction

Many thanks to author Jamie Adams for this opportunity to discuss the appeal of reading fantasy and science fiction stories. I enjoyed his work The Fathers, The Sons, and The Anxious Ghost.

Reading Fantasy and Science Fiction – Guest Post

Happy Holidays, everyone! Don’t forget that books make great gifts!

Spotlight

When a writer’s work is published, it not only goes out into the spotlight, but so does the writer. People who read books are pretty much guaranteed to be interested in learning more about the people who wrote the words, to find out more about the mind behind the stories they become devoted fans of. But the spotlight can be a double-edged sword.

Writers need to use public appearances and speaking in order to help spread the word about their work and build a network with other writers. It’s part of the marketing process. The nice thing about these events and conferences is that a writer can plan ahead to prepare for these events.

On the other hand, sometimes the spotlight can bring about negative feelings. The simple fact is not all people crave or seek the spotlight, especially introverted people like me. It’s especially negative when one hasn’t had the time to prepare, and it feels that everyone’s converging on them. That’s why I haven’t liked it when people unexpectedly start singing on my birthday.

There have certainly been a number of famous writers who haven’t craved the spotlight, such as Harper Lee and Emily Brontë. With the latter, it was her sister Charlotte who got herself, Emily, and Anne on their publishing ventures; had Emily been left to herself, she may not have published anything in her lifetime. J. D. Salinger went so far as to become a recluse and gradually cease publishing (though in his case, it may have also been due to unresolved PTSD from his service in World War II as well as fans of his magnum opus).

And, of course, the spotlight can have negative effects in another way. If people start scrutinizing your life, it can lead to mental trauma and even scandal. Throughout the news there have been numerous headlines about rough patches and downward spirals that many celebrities have gotten into, with gossip about what they are doing, especially in their personal lives. I definitely don’t want that.

It’s good to get away from the spotlight and the Internet sometimes. That’s why I’m taking my efforts to balance scales further by cutting back more on the number of logins per social media site per day, with reassessments of my social media activity.

When publishing, especially these days, it’s no longer possible to avoid the spotlight, but privacy is still something worth guarding. Therefore, it’s a good idea to prepare for public events such as reading, and it may be possible to satisfy the public’s curiosity without giving away too much, regulating what can be shared and what isn’t. They don’t need to know everything. One’s privacy is one’s own and no others.

To my fellow Americans, I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving. Be thankful for home, family, and privacy.

Great Ideas: Search and Find

It is a question every writer is asked at some point in their careers: “Where do you get your ideas from?” It’s become a cliché, really. Still, there are others out there suffering from writer’s block who feel their well has gone dry, so to speak. Or perhaps you’re in the middle of an ocean of ideas and don’t know which fish to bait for. Well, I’ll elaborate on some familiar answers, which in my opinion aren’t always suited for every situation.

Write about what you know.

This has been said a lot of times, and it is logical. You’re pretty much guaranteed to do well with ideas you are knowledgeable about. The situations and experiences from your own life can help provide a far more solid base upon which to build a story. Such examples can include professional experiences (Jeremy Lloyd drew on his experiences working in a department store for Are You Being Served?) or places you have visited or lived (Stephen King’s stories are often set in his home state of Maine or in Colorado, where he went on vacation once he was financially able to do so). Then there are personal hobbies and interests, which leads to the next point.

Write about what interests you.

Writing about what you know won’t be enough if passion isn’t in it. It will show in your writing if passion was absent. Interests and hobbies are a great source of ideas because the writer can share those passions through stories and perhaps spark interest in readers. Plus, your passion can compensate because you will compel yourself to drive and learn more about your passions/interests in order to write a better story. Bram Stoker spent seven years writing and developing Dracula, and he never visited Romania, where a good portion of his book his set. He drew on research and his own imagination.

So perhaps in the end, perhaps you need to draw on a combination in order to make a blend. And in my case, certainly, I need to remind myself to not stress over it, which I admit is still hard to do. I must keep hope that ideas will come, especially when I’m not looking for them.

Further Reading
  1. Adams, Jamie. Where Can You Get Story Ideas From?
  2. Aldridge, Alison. Where to find great story ideas.
  3. Elliott, Anna. Summoning the Muse at Writer Unboxed.
  4. Rodriguez, Asa. Great ideas.
  5. Zikra, Nour. How To Have Fun Writing Again | Writing Advice.
  6. Zikra, Nour. How To Brainstorm Story Ideas + Where To Get Started.

Inscribed #4

The collection continues to grow:

I was able to get my copy of Lewis F. McIntyre‘s The Eagle and the Dragon inscribed at the 2019 Maryland Writers’ Conference. It was at a meeting of the Annapolis chapter of the MWA that I had my copy of Lucia St. Clair Robson‘s Mary’s Land inscribed.

Michele Chynoweth and I exchanged books during the pandemic, which is how I got The Jealous Son. I purchased A. L. Kaplan‘s Star Touched at the 2021 Maryland Writers’ Conference.

I don’t remember where exactly I got Damn the Rejections, Full Speed Ahead, but I think it was a gift from one of my relatives years ago.

Be sure to check out the previous post of books in my inscribed collection:

Coming Later this Week!

It’s almost here! Yes, I’m talking about the new edition of Mystical Greenwood from Fae Corps! Don’t forget! There is a launch party on August 26th on Facebook in the Fae Corps Inc Party Room group.

You can still pre-order eBooks! The paperback through Barnes & Noble can be pre-ordered now, too! It seems that B&N and Amazon issue separate ISBNs now (paperback via Amazon should be ready around the release day).

Amazon | Amazon UKAmazon CA | Amazon AU
Goodreads | Barnes & Noble | Books2Read

It’s hard to believe that it’s happening. This book has been on quite a journey, and with this new edition I took the opportunity to make many grammatical corrections.

In fact, I learned this month that in a contest I submitted the original edition to in Top Shelf Magazine, which I’d forgotten about, the book was an honorable mention. It was a nice little surprise, and it can only make me wonder what’s in store for the new edition!

Over the past several weeks, I’ve been trying to reestablish a morning writing routine, as I’d mentioned previously. I have found that two things have contributed to making it successful:

  1. Sitting at a table as opposed to on the couch. When it comes to writing rather than editing, posture matters, it seems.
  2. Not logging onto the internet until after I’m done.

Basically, the writing time (as of now) lasts as long as my two morning cups of coffee with Coffee Mate French Vanilla cream, so I guess I now have a writing beverage. But more than anything else, the discipline of doing it, even when barely a few words barely make it out (which has happened a few times), is what is making it work. Here’s hoping it continues and gets more productive. Maybe it’ll progress to a weekly word count, like I had to do in a novella class taught by Professor Jerry Gabriel back at St. Mary’s College. We’ll see.

Release Party Next Month!

For those who haven’t seen last month’s post, my fantasy novel Mystical Greenwood is having a new edition coming out next month courtesy of Fae Corps, with whom I have been in four anthologies (you can find these on my poetry and short stories pages).

Looking back on when it was first published and the road towards getting the new one ready, some of it was familiar territory, while in other cases, things have changed when it comes to technology, which has been more helpful in proofreading and correcting grammatical errors, which is definitely not an opportunity to pass up when releasing a new edition.

But through all of it, I am reminded perhaps more so than before that I need to be patient (one of those four P’s of getting published) and trust that everything will be okay.

I’m very grateful to Fae Corps for taking my book on, and they have done a fantastic job with promotional images:

And don’t forget that you can preorder eBook editions! Print copies will be available on or around the release date.

Amazon | Amazon UKAmazon CA | Amazon AU
Goodreads | Barnes & Noble | Books2Read

And there is going to be a launch party on August 26th on Facebook in the Fae Corps Inc Party Room group. I hope to see you there!

In the meantime, I hope to continue to try to find a better balance between writing and marketing, which I’ve started on by trying to cut back on social media promotion that I got heavily into during the COVID pandemic and focus a little more on quality rather than quantity.

I also want to try to reestablish a writing routine again, perhaps at a different time of day so that I can make headway on the sequel. Fingers crossed.

Second Edition of Mystical Greenwood Pre-Order!

Many thanks to Fae Corps for publishing a second edition of Mystical Greenwood! For those who didn’t see last month’s post, the original publisher had to shut down as a result of COVID. Release date is set for August 26th! They did an excellent job on the new cover art!

The Kindle version is available for preorder!

So are the Nook and other eBook editions via Books2Read!

And you can mark the Kindle edition to-read on Goodreads (or switch over if you’d intended to read the original Kindle and hadn’t bought it)!

Print copies, unfortunately, will have to wait until the release date.

I know there are many of you will be asking when Book II will be available. I’m afraid I still don’t have a definitive answer, as I’ve had a lot going on in my life, and I haven’t been able to get those creative juices going. But I am not giving up. I will let you know when I have updates on it. Believe me, I want to get it done.

Tempus Fugit

Time is a curious thing. I’ve found when we focus on time, it seems to drag on at a snail’s pace. Yet when we do not pay attention to it, it flies right past. When it comes to fiction, time can play an interesting function. Stories and novels can take place from anywhere to the course of a single day (or less) with a few characters, to several years, decades even, covering generations of people. At other times, a story can seem to go by slower or faster than it really does. Simply put, in stories, as in life, time and how much we pay attention to it can affect how things play out.

A story that takes place in a short amount of time by drawing it out, such as chapters and sections being either specified by time (like a subtitle) or within the text (such as a character mentioning the time). The constant mention of time helps to make the shorter time feel longer. With a story set out over a long period of time, I usually have found there isn’t as many references to the time, which can make the time go faster. Interesting paradox, isn’t it?

I also want to talk about time in a different sense. Perhaps all writers think about what shall become of their work as time goes on. This became more apparent to me because I recently learned that my novel’s publisher, Mockingbird Lane Press, has sadly had to close. No doubt writers want their work to outlive them, to still be read and assessed long after they’re gone. It does seem that any work defined as a literary classic these days is one that has withstood the test of time, to still be printed and sold years, centuries, after it was first published. There are many writers who are remembered for a single thing out of their entire literary output.

Sometimes I think writers wish they could see where their work goes in the future, similar to how in an episode of the Spanish TV drama El Ministerio del Tiempo (The Ministry of Time), a cynical and suicidal Miguel de Cervantes was shown by the protagonists the impact Don Quixote would have on Spain and the world in the centuries after his time (their goal was to ensure its publication, as they’d faced a threat it might not be, thus changing the course of history and literature). Their efforts gave Cervantes the courage and drive to finish Don Quixote (specifically the first half, as the book was actually in two parts with more than a decade in between being published), and go on with his life, thus ensuring he and his magnum opus would make history. In the end, I suppose, what matters is hope: hope that something creative will someday reach that level.

Time is indeed a curious thing. But it keeps going on, as must we. And don’t worry, I do intend to republish my novel.

Marie Sinadjan Interview

Many thanks to singer, songwriter, and fellow fantasy author Marie Sinadjan for the opportunity to be interviewed on her blog:

Author Spotlight: Andrew McDowell

P.S. I’ll be giving my Importance of Names presentation once more, at the Cumberland Chapter of the Maryland Writers’ Association on the 20th at 7:00 PM EST via Zoom. If you haven’t seen it yet and still want to, register online! It’s on Facebook, too! It will also be a hybrid meeting for those who want to be at the chapter in person (my Events page has the address). Though I will be on Zoom, I hope to see you all there either way!