Hello, dear readers, and welcome!
This is my second time blogging on Monday, and I must say that I'm enjoying it quite a bit. Thank you to everyone who stopped by last week to read the post and say hello.
Today I wanted to write concerning difficult subjects, and the tackling of them. I find that it's sometimes difficult to be brave enough to tackle a difficult subject -- be it a societal issue, a personal belief that stands out from the crowd, a flavor of character that you are not familiar with writing -- but when we tackle challenges, I believe that we become all the better for it: better writers, but perhaps more importantly better storytellers and better dreamers.
Once you've decided to try and tackle a large issue, a new flavor of character, or even a different writing style, it still takes courage -- courage to write, to not edit your new ideas out, to put your book out into the world. Last week, I published a new short story entitled Descent To Darkness (which can be found on the Short Story and Novellas page), and I was very nervous at first because the short talks about suicide, and a bit of how I look at it after having dealt with that particular beast personally. At the same time, however, this story was (and is) important to me, and I felt like I had something that needed to be written and released, to hopefully help someone else.
We can never avoid all of the toes that are under fire from our steps, but I believe that taking a few key things into consideration can help us write the best story that we can, and reach the most people in the friendliest possible way.
#1: Do Research ~ This is the beginning of every writing project that I have, and when in doubt, it will always be the first thing I turn to. I'm the type of person who can't have too many "voices" (other's ideas) in my thoughts at one time, or I feel overwhelmed, but for those of us who are like this, researching the known facts can be helpful, rather than researching other's opinions on a subject. Research gives you more knowledge about your topic, and can often help you to write your material in a more understanding way by seeing what others consider red flags.
#2: Look Through Another's Eyes ~ Everyone has a different opinion, and they all deserve to at least be heard. That means you have an opinion, too, and it deserves to be heard, as well. But when we are considerate of how others' may possibly view our work, and what we are saying -- how it will/might look from their angle -- we can fine-tune it not to better suit someone else's opinion, but so that our message rings as clearly as it can through our wording. Looking for possible misunderstanding beforehand can allow us to better get our point across.
#3: Be Considerate ~ Not everyone is going to love your work, that is simply the way of the writing world (and the world in general). Be prepared for someone to disagree when you write concerning difficult subjects (or write at all), and be prepared for someone to become angry, too. However, a good writer will take the two tips above and apply them here. If you know who your audience will be, be considerate of them while writing, to a healthy degree -- be considerate of their background, age, cultural differences. Don't soften the blow if it needs to be harsh, but at the same time let the reader know that you are trying your best to understand not only their possible point of view, but also the issue at large. Be kind as you can, even if that means being stern; kindness goes a long way.
If you have something important to share, then don't be afraid to do it, but as with everything, do your best. It's never going to be perfect, foolproof, someone is going to dislike it, but do your best, and know that that is enough. It takes bravery to tackle difficult subjects, and even more bravery to keep in mind that you did your best, and said what you must, when other's disagree, or you are having doubts.
Don't be afraid to write, dear writer. Tackle that challenge with everything you have, and create something beautiful! Words speak to the heart, so put your heart into your work.
Hello, dear readers, and welcome!
Today I'm writing a short post to let you all know about my new release, Descent To Darkness.
As I explain in the author's note for the short story, I wrote this story amidst a time when I was struggling with recurring depression. About a year or so previous to writing this short, I was having an even more difficult time with depression, and suicidal thoughts as an extension, and I penned this story to not only help me sort out my feelings, but also to put down my thoughts about where I had been, and where I was headed. This short helped me realize that, yes, I had been in a very dark place, but that I didn't have to stay there, and that with every decision I was moving forward instead of back, to somewhere brighter.
It has been months since I wrote this short, and I am glad to say that I am in a much better place now, and, though I still battle (don't we all?), things are certainly looking up. My birthday is right around the corner, and so I see the release of this short as a celebration, rather than a dark reminder -- I may have been in darkness, but now I'm moving forward, away from it, and I truly have something to celebrate.
The official synopsis:
Her life is in shambles, nightmares abound, and the permanent way out seems the best option -- but a midnight visit from a dangerous stranger changes everything.
An unexpected look at suicide, its aftermath, and how a change in thinking can help lead us to the light.
I want you to know that if you're suffering, there is always hope. It may not be where you expect it to be, and moving forward may not be easy, but it is worth it. Each of us has a beautiful destiny, and it is worth fighting for and chasing after.
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Descent To Darkness is available at:
Amazon: US -- UK -- Australia -- Canada -- Germany -- France -- Italy -- India -- Japan -- Mexico -- Netherlands -- Spain
Coming soon to: Nook, iBooks, and more.
Thank you for your support!
Hello, dear readers, and welcome!
Today I wanted to write about some of the books from my childhood, and how they have influenced me -- and yes, say thank you to one in particular, without which I don't believe I would have ever decided to become a writer at all, despite my love for the written word and storytelling.
As I was reading a new issue of a writing magazine (I believe it was The Writer, but don't quote me on it!) at my beloved local Barnes and Noble, I came across an article speaking about just this, and decided to do one of my own.
I'll start off by saying that I don't think that children (or adults, for that matter) can ever read too much, or that it isn't important for them to read. I loved reading as a child, and I couldn't imagine not having read as a kid, though I know some people who used to hate reading and now love it. Books were a big part of my childhood, and they taught me many things; I learned early on that books are our conduits into other peoples' lives, into other times and dimensions, where we can learn new things. Books make people better, and I believe more understanding.
But, speaking from a writing perspective, here are some things that I believe my childhood favorites taught me.
When I was young, I absolutely loved the Junie B. Jones series by Barbara Park. Junie B. is a little bit of a weird girl (okay, she can quite a bit weird), she has an awesome best friend, and she's very funny, and I liked that about her.
But the thing I liked most is that she wasn't perfect. She often opened her big mouth way too wide, and said things she shouldn't. She could be mean, though she meant well. She didn't always do things the "right" way because she was different.
If I learned anything about writing from this series, early on, it's that it's okay for your characters not to be perfect -- actually, it's much better if they aren't. A character with flaws and fears is relatable, and even endearing.
I actually still have a copy of this book!
Dean Marney wrote an entire series of stories like this -- where the main character's family, generally, was eaten by different things, often during the holidays. The Christmas Tree That Ate My Mother was the first book in the series that I read, picking it up from the library, and to this day it is my favorite.
These stories were strange -- really strange, out of the box, odd with some odd on top. And of course, I loved them (a foreshadowing of my love for weird, dark tales).
From a writing perspective I believe that these books taught me that, one, it's okay to write "weird stories", and to like weird stories, something the strict private school I attended as a child often shunned. But I also learned that it's good to surprise your readers, to keep them guessing, and to think outside of the box. No matter how odd the story, in fantasy you can do anything, and often the odder and more beautiful the story, the more it stays with the reader.
I don't remember when exactly in my childhood I read The Hobbit, but I had to add it to the list, because it meant (and means) so much to me.
Not only was this book the first book that I remember my older brother picking out for me specifically (and yes, I still have that copy he picked from the shelf), it was the first story, that I recall, that opened up the world of fantasy for me, and took me on a journey. I had read other classics, of course, quite a few of them fantasy (The Princess and the Goblin, by George MacDonald, is another favorite), but none hit me quite like The Hobbit did.
There are a lot of writing lessons learned from this book, but the best ones for me to take away were that we can, as authors, create new worlds, so big and large that we want to explore them, so intricate that we feel as though we are being shipped off-planet. Not only that, but often the least likely hero is the one who ends up being most heroic, and making the most difference.
Plus, I can't leave out the fact that sometimes a song is the best idea, after all.
I put these books together because they are, in ways, similar, at least in what they taught me about writing.
Both are wonderful stories, and feature characters you might not expect them to feature -- people who are different, not the "typical"...and that's where my lesson began. These stories taught me, not only as a child but as a writer, to be more understanding of others, to try and see the best in them, to be open to new things and new ideas, even if at first they might scare you.
As a writer, I am always trying to be aware of what I may tell my reader. Of course, you are never going to be able to control what the reader might take away from your story, what they might gain from reading it, but I believe that it's important to go into a story with something to say, because books can speak in ways that we, when we speak words, can not.
And The (Anti)Hero Of The Hour Is...
There are many reasons that Artemis Fowl takes the cake when it comes to not only favorite childhood books (teen books, actually), favorite book series, and book that helped me most to become an author, but I'll start at the beginning.
Before I read Artemis Fowl, I was at that point in my reading life where I was getting bored. Kids books were great, but I was getting older, and wanted something a bit different, but I couldn't read adult books yet, and at this point the YA section was just beginning to grow, and I wasn't into the supposedly drool-worthy love triangles with guys who worked on cars and went to the gym (ugh). So, I was literally on the precipice of not reading anymore, because I couldn't seem to find anything that sparked my interest (now I've learned that maybe I just wasn't looking in the right place). I've always been a picky reader, and I sometimes have trouble even now (and I had yet to discover Mrs. L'Engle at this point), but here I was willing to give up because finding something interesting was proving futile.
It sounds ludicrous, right? But that is how I felt. And then I went to the bookstore with my beloved sister-in-law. We were browsing the clearance isle, and I happened to see a box with strange looking lettering, and shiny books nestled inside (literally, they were shiny, like metal). I was drawn to the box like a moth to a flame, and what do you know, inside of it there was the first three books in a series I hadn't read, but that sounded really interesting. My sister-in-law and I went back to the kids section and checked out the books while they were outside of the box, and I was originally going to buy just the first one, but she encouraged me to get the set.
I'm so glad she did, because I went home and read the first book in one sitting, and the second two shortly afterwards. I fell madly in love with this book series, and its terrible yet wonderful main character. I was inconsolable when I finished reading the last book.
But I wouldn't want to change it, because this story made me into a writer. I remember it clearly: halfway through Artemis Fowl, sitting in a car while my mother ran into the store (because I refused to stop reading), I decided that I wanted to become a writer, so that I could write things as wonderful as this. And the rest is history.
But I'm getting a bit off track, aren't I? What I learned about writing from Artemis encompasses a bit of what I learned from the books above. Write the unexpected, weird story you want to write. Try and see through another person's eyes, because what we look like on the outside, and what we are on the inside are often quite different. Make your character have flaws. Open up an entirely new world for your readers to explore (even if it happens to be part of the world they already know). And my favorite: your hero doesn't have to be the cookie-cutter, overly virtuous hero, but can exist in the grey area, or have thinking outside of popular belief.
I loved this book series because Artemis isn't your typical hero, and Holly really isn't your typical heroine. They learn a lot from each other, and neither is perfect. In fact, in the first book Artemis is a pretty terrible person...and he slowly but surely gets better, and even then he's never perfect, and definitely doesn't see things the way that "most" people do; life works the same way, slowly, and it's the people who have alternate views who I think make the world interesting. It was wonderful, for me as a kid, to see a character who was neither good nor bad specifically, but who was human -- and wickedly intelligent, which is always a major bonus for me.
I'm really grateful to this series, not only for giving me great books to read, but for helping me to decide to become a writer in the first place. Thank you, Artemis, and thank you, Mr. Colfer.
What are some of your favorite stories from childhood,
and how have they influenced you?
Hello, dear readers, and welcome!
While we are still in the beginning of the New Year, I thought that I would write another post concerning "new beginnings" (not that we can't have those the rest of the year, too). I hope you enjoy the post!
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You may have looked at the title of this particular post and thought "living and writing without what exactly, Alexandra?"
Well, the truth is: I can't answer that. Not for you, at least.
In my journey through climbing out of the hole I had fallen into regarding writing (or jumped into, really, without realizing it; the hole was covered over, and looked like a nice swimming pool), I have had to overcome a lot of things, and get "rid of" a lot of things, as well. It's very difficult to begin thinking of writing creatively once more, when you have begun to think of it monetarily, as a commodity -- not healthy for any writer, I don't believe. As I delved deeper and deeper into the world of publishing, where books can be thought of as nothing more than goods to sell, completely ignoring their artistic value, or they can be thought of the beautiful pieces of art that I like to think of them as, I all but forgot what it meant to be creative.
I'm not happy about this, though I'm not ashamed, either. It is a pit that many writers fall into, and it can happen to anyone. But the day I woke up and thought first how my story would sell, before I ever thought of what creative twist I could put upon it, what I wanted to get to know about the characters and world that day, I knew that I had a problem.
I have written about this before, but every time I write about it, I discover something different. It was a painful time for me, and it took over two years to pull myself out of that hole, trying and failing to re-connect myself with my work, and my love for writing; I have only just now come out of that hole completely, and can once more visit the world. Losing your creative spark and love for your work is like suddenly losing your magic -- or perhaps suddenly losing your heart itself, leaving you nothing but an empty skeleton with no life in you.
I can't remember when this ideal first began to take root in my mind, but I can bet it was within the first year to year and a half of publishing. I'm a perfectionist, though it doesn't always show, and I like to do everything right, though over time I have come to realize that sometimes my right is not always everyone else's. A very young writer, in a world where the market and business are changing rapidly, and business is pretty much a foreign concept, can have a difficult time; I did. It's not to say that I didn't learn, or that I didn't persevere and do my best, and do well in the market, but it was difficult starting out -- and even more difficult continuing.
I love that now there are many more opportunities for young writers now, arguably, and that more young writers are being "taken seriously", but that doesn't make the job any less difficult or taxing. It certainly isn't easy to be a writer later in life, either, because writing is a difficult job despite it all, but I believe that having experience can certainly help, especially if you're used to the business realm. However, I have to take a moment to applaud all of the writers out there, who are giving it their best, and working towards artistic expression with open eyes and open hearts. We encounter new things from writing and publishing, and though they can be difficult (your first bad review, your first book return, your first signing where only a few show, rejection letters), we overcome and learn from each of them, and they make us stronger in the end, and we move on.
But I'm getting a bit off-track....
The point is: somewhere within that first year or two, I developed the thinking that books are things to be sold and profited from rather than things to be written for artistic expression, and joy both on the writer and readers' parts. This might sound like fuel for the argument that many writers write for money (which, trust me, they don't), but exactly the opposite is true. I wasn't writing to sell books for money, though of course it's nice to get paid, I was writing to sell books because I felt like that was what I needed to do to become a "real writer". It wasn't about making millions, or even having millions of readers -- for me, it was about doing things "right".
I wanted to know that I was doing things correctly, and giving my work the best chance it could have in a marketplace that was quickly becoming overloaded and overcrowded both. I didn't want to give my books the best chance because then they would be read by the millions, I only wanted to do this "writing thing" right -- or, more accurately, this "publishing thing" right; I wanted to put my best foot forward and be successful in being a good self-publisher who did her job correctly. I loved my stories so much, I wanted to be as professional and "correct" as I could -- for them. I knew how to write, though of course I had much to learn still (don't we all), but writing and publishing are closely connected no matter what route you choose to take in publishing, and so I knew that if I wanted to make any sort of long-term career out of my work, then I needed to learn how to do everything "correctly".
There are, of course, things that you should and should not do in publishing, certainly -- and in writing, and in life. That is a given. But in trying to be perfect, I went far overboard and lost track of the reason I had begun writing in the first place: fun and discovery.
So, what does this have to do with writing and living without?
Sit back for a moment and take an account of your life and writing life as they currently are. Do an extra end-of-the-year (or beginning-of-the-year) reflection. Think about what is holding you back -- and, more than that, what you don't need.
Rules exist for a reason, and sometimes they are meant to be broken. When it comes to art and business both, sometimes all of the rules don't work for everyone, especially in art. That doesn't, I have learned, make you a worse artist, it merely means that you are paying attention to your needs, which means you will produce better work. If you need to be a little unconventional, then do so. If you can't be happy with your work, then it is very difficult for someone else to be happy with it, and in the end you will only end up frustrated, depressed, and you will in turn block yourself from becoming all that you could be.
There are several fears and worries that I have come to realize I can live and write without. These fears and worries had a purpose at one time, and taught me things along my journey, but I don't need them anymore; I have outgrown them. I feel that those days of trying to do everything "right" have not only taught me that, hey, we are all imperfect, but that yes, there is a way to do things, and we need to learn and research and pay attention, so that we will know when that time is...and when we can take the creative reins and do things differently.
Take what you don't need, what you can live and write without, and let it go.
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So, I have been debating whether or not I should move my blogging day to Monday, and participate in #MondayBlogs on Twitter. It's difficult for me to wedge out time during the rest of the week to visit others' blogs, and I really enjoy reading other writers' posts, so for now I am going to at least try blogging on Monday instead, and make that my blog-hopping, blog-reading day, as well. So, next week, expect a post on Monday, instead!
Have a wonderful week/weekend!
Hello, and welcome, dear readers!
I know I posted just yesterday, but this happened to be on my mind, and with the new year started, I wanted to get back in the habit of blogging on Tuesdays, which seems to work really well for me.
So, please enjoy my first Tuesday post of the year!
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I have seen several blog posts and ads of sorts concerning diverse books lately, and I thought I would add to them. Personally, I do think that we should have diverse books -- diverse characters, settings, ideas; diverse abilities, races, sexualities, and more. While I don't think there is anything wrong with the books we have, depending on the reader what what they're interested in, I think that having a greater variety is certainly not a bad thing, though I also don't think that means we should throw away the stories or formulas we are currently using, either. A truly diverse marketplace will have a perfect book for everyone, building off of new tropes and old, and though that's probably not entirely possible (at least in a small number of years), we can hope for it.
All of these matters are important, but there are a few that are particularly close to my heart, and characters with disabilities or disorders is one of them.
I first thought of writing this post when I began reading a book the other day which features a disabled protagonist, a teenage girl. I will admit that I was a bit skeptical, because I wasn't sure if the character would be good, or if the book would turn into one of those "we've magically erased your disability, and now you're amazing" books; for the record, I didn't finish the book, so I have no idea how it ended, though I might pick it back up. I'll admit I was a bit angered at the beginning of the book: the typical scene was set, with the protagonist being the "weird" kid in school because of her disability, a family member who is crazy, and a guy she likes who is a terrible person (which she somehow can't come to terms with; sigh). Pretty typical YA book, unfortunately. But I can say that it was accurate to some degree, at least; in school, I was never considered normal, and kids were mean, often more so than they should have been. That doesn't stop it from being frustrating to read, or unfortunate, however.
But I digress...
So, I continued reading, and was happy to find that the author turned this situation on its head to some degree: loser boy is kicked to the curb when she finds out just how awful he is. I still can't say what the character comes to think of her disability, but I hope that she comes to embrace who she is, because no matter what difficulties we may have, we are all wonderful individuals, and must come to terms with our true selves.
I think this is, whatever flaws there may be (and make no mistake, there will always be flaws, and that is okay, because we can never be perfect), a step in the right direction, however. I hope that we can see more characters with disabilities and disorders -- and not disabilities that make them "weird" or disorders that make them "crazy", but that make them people. People who inspire. People who do their best. People who have something to say, and things to bring to society.
I honestly don't know anyone who is "normal", and so it frustrates me that so many characters are portrayed as "normal". I'm not saying this is a bad thing entirely, because part of the enjoyment of reading can be escapism, and in escapism we often want things to be "perfect" because reality isn't; this is a legitimate desire for said escapism, and plenty of good books have played on this. There isn't anything wrong with that type of story -- but that doesn't mean it's the only type of story. But real people, at least the people I know, are not perfect. They all have something "wrong" with them, be it emotionally, physically, mentally, or spiritually. There are plenty of books that deal with the emotional and spiritual, but not as many the physical or mental.
The people I know would make good characters, and are very diverse. These are the people we see on the street, at work, in the cinema, in our everyday lives. These people are: OCD, ADHD, too fat, too thin, have an eating disorder, have depression, limp, can't sleep at night, are struggling with a breakup, are struggling with a death, can't run, can't walk, have suffered abuse, have a wheelchair, are blind, are autistic, have bad knees, have chronic migraines, have seizures. Everyone has something in one of the categories above that they deal with -- physical, mental, spiritual, emotional -- and that makes them human, and worth writing about.
Being different doesn't make you bad, it merely makes you different. We should embrace who we are to ourselves, who we are to each other. We should try and see from others' perspectives -- not because we have to, but because then we can learn and grow; everyone has something to teach us.
As a person with disabilities, I can say what I would like to see in fiction. It might not be what everyone else wants to see, but it's a start. As I write more, I try to incorporate these things into my writing, because if I want to see it, I know that someone else does, too.
I am not a sword-weilding, gun-slaying, leather-sporting woman. I am more like Fluttershy from My Little Pony than I am like Xena. That doesn't mean I can't do physical activity, because I can, but this type of woman will never ring true for me, because I could never be that person, physically. I want to see more women who use their minds to fight, and more men, too -- the Sherlocks of the world, maybe some of them immobile, maybe some of them needing to move more slowly or examine evidence differently, but people fighting with their intelligence, and not just to solve crimes. I would also like to see more people fighting with their hearts, too. The heart doesn't make a person weak -- in fact, anatomically, at least, we need our hearts in order to live (I know they aren't the same thing, but pretend for a moment, please). Sometimes the heart can do what nothing else can.
I also want to see more characters who embrace their disorders and disabilities in a healthy way. Sometimes we need medication, and sometimes there is nothing we can do, but we all have to be able to embrace who we are. And I want that. I want to see other characters, "normal people" whose stories I still love and need, embrace these characters for everything they are, too.
I would really like to see more characters with mental disorders not being portrayed as "crazy" or "harmful". Anyone can be crazy or harmful, disorder or not. A really good example of this, I think, is the film "Phoebe In Wonderland", where the main character has an emerging disorder, and she has to learn how to deal with it, and her parents have to learn to accept it, and to accept her, too.
One of my favorite heroines, though not necessarily disabled, is Meg Murry from A Wrinkle In Time. Meg is very human, and I love that about her; there are so many wonderful characters already, I can't wait to see what other great characters appear. Meg wears big glasses, isn't pretty, and feels like the perpetual loser in her family. She thinks she's stupid, though she isn't, with scientist parents, an otherworldly little brother, and "normal" twin brothers. She spends quite a bit of the book feeling inadequate, and yet doing what she knows she must anyway. And in the end, when she's facing the seemingly perfect antagonist "IT", which even her special little brother couldn't defeat, she discovers that she has what perfection doesn't have: love.
We can love other people. We can love our characters. We can love imperfection, because perfection, though it can be good, is usually overrated, and in the end we are all imperfect. We shouldn't seek diversified books because we have to, but because we want to; there are amazing stories yet to be told, from every type of person.
Diverse books are good. "Normal" books are good. Every story has something to teach us, and every character does, too -- just like every living person.
Hello, dear readers, and welcome! I hope you all had a lovely New Year. I am writing this from a few days into the new year, delayed by my recent oral surgery, which put me out for a few days (you may have noticed my absence on Twitter, too), but I love writing this post every year, and so I certainly didn't want to forego or forget it. I hope you enjoy!
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I love the beginning of a new year for many reasons. It's a great time to reflect, to plan, to put life into perspective; I am never bored with the thought of starting something new, especially a new year. It isn't so much "out with the old" as it is "in with the new".
But I am a reflective creature, and so I like to remember what has come before, and what I have overcome, and to see how I can learn from it. Every struggle appears much easier after it is over, but that doesn't mean the memories fade.
As you may know, if you're a frequenter of this blog, 2013 was a very rough year for me...and I can say that, though 2014 was much, much better, it was still rough in different ways. 2014 was certainly a year of change for me, and looking back it almost feels like it was four years combined, instead of one. Needless to say, I'm excited for something new, and to put all that I've learned to good use.
2014 began on a distinct note of change, after I survived (and I write this quite literally) 2013. You may remember last year's new years post, where I talked about my struggle with depression, among other things. I can happily say that I've come very far since then, though there have been several medical issues to deal with this year, too.
At the end of 2013, I had decided to split my work under two names: Alexandra Lanc and Crimson Sterling, one for my YA fiction, and one for my Adult fiction. I like to experiment in this field, and see what works and what doesn't, and this was a new experiment for me. I wanted to see what it would be like to write under a new name, and if it would work in my favor. It turns out that it, in fact, did not, something that surprised me. And so, after a time, I went back to being Alexandra Lanc, sometimes adding the "C.S." between for my adult fiction, the writer of both YA and Adult stories. The transition was difficult both ways, but I think I needed to try it in order to break some of my personal stigma over what I could and could not write.
Around May, I believe, I discovered a "new" form of crowd funding called Patreon, where creators can upload content, and be supported through the "tips" of fans. This was a low point in the year for me, and again, I decided to try something new, and see how it worked. I wrote a post about why I was leaving "traditional" self-publishing, to find my own way of doing things. Instead of offering free ebooks, I offered my books as free-to-read on my website, posting the patron button up, and offering ebook versions of my stories for a normal ebook charge, if the reader wanted a personal copy. I posted the results of this experiment on my blog back in September, but obviously, this format didn't quite work for me, personally, either. Looking back, I can see that this method didn't fit with my slow work schedule, but again, I had to try, and I learned some new things from the experience, as we learn from everything.
But, after two pen names and Patreon (and both of them together) didn't work, I was at a loss as to what to do. I transferred my stories back to their "normal" format of ebooks and paperbacks, and I went through what I suppose could be called a dry spell. This was in October and part of November. Though I did write some great blog posts, I felt lost once more as a writer, something I had been struggling with since mid-2013, or perhaps even earlier. With NaNoWriMo coming up, I was both excited...and then overwhelmed.
I wrote a blog post about my somewhat crazy November, as I do every year, but the long and short of it was: I failed at NaNo last year. And I can say that with pride. I needed to fail in order to set myself back on the track I am now - the track towards myself as a writer, not as everyone wants me to be, not as I have tried to be for so many years. I love NaNo still, and I think it's great for many writers, but last year I think I may have hung up my NaNo towel.
Just past NaNo, I wrote a blog post about jumping into the querying boat, and attempting to break into traditional publishing, what I spent quite a bit of my November and December studying and learning more about, since it had been a few years since I had queried last. This was my first post ever to be posted somewhere else (while not part of a blog tour), and it heralded some discussion. I was excited to be reaching towards this goal, which has never really gone away, though I've enjoyed, and still enjoy self-publishing despite its frustrations. I came full-circle in November and that part of December: back to the beginning, back to my first hopes as a writer. And that was something special, and was, I can now see, another step towards my healing as a writer.
That might sound a bit silly: healing as a writer? But it's true -- I, as a writer, needed healing. As a person I needed healing. I'm still not perfect, I'm still on my way, conquering things, slaying dragons (or something else; I've always liked dragons, after all), but the healing has commenced.
Looking back, I suppose this (past) year has really been in five parts, not four.
The last few weeks of December, I took off from my blog, after releasing a new short story in the Snowflake Triplet (fun fact: I had planned not to release anything in the series until next year, perhaps 2015, but the writing bug bit, and I'm so glad it did). I spent Christmas up north with my family, who I hadn't seen in a while, and relaxed a bit, having some time to just be. And in that vacation I learned something, and the healing continued: everywhere I went, my family members, who can be just as kooky and wonderful as any other family, were very understanding when I explained to them about myself, about what had been going on in my life, what I had been struggling with. I think then is the time I really started to accept myself.
It's a hard thing, to accept one's self, because we all have days where we wish that we weren't -- weren't too tall, or too skinny, or too fat, or didn't have this birth mark, or this defect, or this disability; that we had a different job, that we worked faster, better, smarter, more or less; that we had the ideal marriage, the ideal kids, the ideal life. We are constantly fighting ourselves, are constantly trying to be something else, and though I've preached many a time on being yourself in writing and life, I finally, fully realized -- not just halfway realized, or partially realized -- that I have been trying to fit myself into a box that is not shaped like me, but that is shaped like "supposed to", and that I keep going back to it, both personally and professionally, even when I tell myself that I can't, that I don't want to, that I don't fit, or that I hate it.
2015 is the year to fully lose that box.
I don't know about you, but I'm tired of trying to fit in there -- and I'm tired of going back to that box when things don't work, when I receive opposition, when I feel like I have to. We can never accomplish anything great, or even good, if we try and fit into that box.
I don't know what this year has in store for me, or for my work, but I'm excited. I know what I hope will happen, but I'm taking one day at a time now, while still keeping the future in focus. I want to be myself, outside of the box, with every word that I write.
Here's hoping to a good year. May 2015 be filled with renewal.
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What I need to learn, concerning writing, in 2015...
I have posted this before, but in the first part of her journal from Crosswicks (you can find it here), my ever-teacher, Mrs. L'Engle writes concerning how at a college speaking regarding literature, the speaker broke literature into three categories: majah, minah, and mediocah (I can only guess there was an accent). Mrs. L'Engle writes that when she's thinking properly, she remembers that it doesn't matter which one of these categories her work falls into, because she has to write, no matter what; it's in her being. She then goes on to say:
Majah. Minah. Mediocah: it is not my problem.
Yes. We can only do our best work, be ourselves, and everything else doesn't matter.