Archive for January 2013

Writing For Myself, Now and Tomorrow

I am writing for myself, for today.

But in a way I am writing for my future self.

When I am 40 years old I will have written a dozen or more novels, numerous short stories and novellas, blogs—my byline will be plastered to the internet.

Today I have published one short novel and two short stories. I am 26.

This is the problem I have. A question: What is more important right now, marketing or writing?

I can spend hours today marketing one novel and two short stories, or I can wait, I can write, I can publish, and in five or six or more years have many more stories in circulation, many more opportunities to make sales.

The more stories I publish, the more effective marketing will be. It is in my better interest to publish than to sell.

Putting a product out there is the best thing I can do for myself, and every minute I spend marketing instead of writing is time wasted. That doesn't mean I won't be discussing my stories, or selling a few here and there, but it means that marketing isn't my priority.

It's impossible to market something when you don't have anything to sell in the first place, and if I don't write right now, I never will have anything to sell. I must spend years getting stuff out there. It's a slow process. I do not believe I'll sell many stories as a young man, or be able to spend my youth writing for a living. But I can spend my later years doing so if, and only if, I can spend my youth writing in spite of everything else.

There's also something else: I know where all the writers are. Most of the people I know on social network sites, who follow my blog, and who have bought my book, are writers.. Readers don't run in the same circles. Readers are the ones finding your books on Amazon, not the one you're talking to about plots and characters. Readers have no idea that there's a flourishing community on the internet...of writers.

It's a catch-22. I can market myself, but unless I can afford TV commercials and print ads for my books, I'll likely have to settle for selling to other writers, because they're the ones paying attention. They're paying attention because they want to sell their books. Though some writers buy books, most don't, and won't, but readers can and will. The only way I can get to readers is by trickling into their lives through word of mouth. One person at a time, one story at a time.

Relying on word of mouth is a leap of faith. It's assuming that a writer can write a story that will move the first person who reads it enough to tell a friend, who then will tell a friend, and so on until ten thousand people have read the same book.

Having a blog won't bring people to me. When I'm already rich and famous a blog will be perfect to let my fans know about my next book, but I don't have fans now. I'm on such a small scale that my readers are still my family and friends.

Social networking won't work because in order to get people to pay attention to me in the first place, I have to be friends with them, and being a friend has nothing to do with selling a book, and everything to do with being myself (which I am) and having an interest in what others are doing (which I do). In that situation it's embarrassing to plug my books to people I've come to appreciate and respect.

I don't have the money to pay for advertising, not that that would work anyway. I wouldn't dare get on the radio or television, not that I would have the chance. Even if I had a physical book, I would be too nervous to do a book signing, not that that would help me (most book signings are complete failures anyway, just busy work to cast the illusion of success).

At the end of a long day the only thing that will work is a well-written story. Ten, twenty, thirty well-written stories. Everything else is a gimmick, a ploy. I have no intention of tricking anyone, and I cannot hope that they'll remember me from an ad when so many other authors are vying for the same buck.

So here's to the next story, and the next one, and the one after that.

And no letting up. In twenty years I can look back at my young self and thank me, and keep writing.

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Tao of Anxiety: Continued Change

My recovery from anxiety continues.

I've gotten over three phobias since arriving in Louisiana.

I drive now, I use public restrooms, and I talk on the phone. All three were restrictive in their own way, and now that they are gone I am capable of doing much more in life.

I'm not working yet, but I take risks each day and with each risk I take I feel more confident and open to the world around me. It's like being freed from a prison cell.


I've overcome the above phobias through in vivo exposure therapy, and there are four reasons exposure therapy is working better now than a few months ago.

First, I'm out of a bad environment. Last spring/summer I was motivated to work on my anxiety. I was making progress, but as the weather began to cool in autumn, so did my attitude. I suffer from Seasonal Effective Disorder. When it gets cold or cloudy, my mood bottoms out and I often get depressed. I stopped taking risks and growing, becoming a hermit as August gave way to September. My life spiraled out of control, and by October I could no longer cope.

Second, I am now in an environment where I can build on each individual success. In Iowa I only had myself to depend on, and the location was so small that it could be two or three weeks between exposure opportunities. Here my mother is helping me when I need help, there are more people and more opportunities, and the weather is better. Just seeing the sun shine every day and feeling the warm air in January lifts my spirits to the sky. People here in Louisiana are relaxed, calm, helpful. This atmosphere has given me something to stand on to reach for my goals.

Third, I want to do well. These little successes are opening me to a wider world and I'm actually interested in what's going on around me. I haven't felt this fascinated by life since before I was a teenager. When I was that young I wasn't self-conscious and nothing really slowed me down. I'm finding that I again have a very limited self-consciousness, and it's a boon to my recovery. I closed up as a teenager, as I became aware of myself, but as a young boy I remember always wanting to be grown up, and I feel all grown up now.

Fourth, I'm trusting my spiritual evolution. I owe success to the hours of study in Zen and Taoism, and listening and reading Alan Watts and Ram Dass. The study I did throughout the summer of 2012 is paying dividends now, nearly a year later. I've gone so deep into the practice of meditation that I've lost many of my ego-inhibitions. That is vital. It's laid the groundwork for healing my anxiety, and has also provided the fuel for continued growth.


Anxiety can be a very complicated thing to get over. It takes understanding, acceptance, and hard work. But anxiety can also be a very simple thing to get over, as it is now. I take that with a grain of salt because I realize how easy it is to fall off the wagon and start closing myself off from the world again. I've already gone through the difficult task of figuring myself out, understanding what makes me happy, what relaxes me, and what I need to change about my life and myself. That's the growth that an anxiety disorder can induce, and as a catalyst to change, to living a better life, I am very grateful for my fears.

Whether or not my recovery continues depends on my attitude going forward. Each day, can I look at myself, at others, at life, without preconceptions? So much of anxiety is steeped in our judgments about the world and ourselves. So much of the Zen and Taoist lifestyles are about living without judgment, without critiquing the world, but letting it be what it is—not fighting against it.

Understanding why a thing happens isn't necessarily going to fix it, especially when it's something that has been happening all your life and you've only recently realized the source of the problem. Given time and proper conditions, I think I could have done better in Iowa, but I wasn't going to have a chance with the bad weather. I would not have been able to deal with the level of frustration I was experiencing (with family), and the resulting anger, while fending off my annual seasonal depression and my reemerging anxiety symptoms.

It took a lot for me to move on from Iowa. I needed to hit escape velocity and that was very painful, very tumultuous. I had to be so pissed off at myself and with my life that leaving was easier than staying. My comfort zone had to stop being so comfortable. For people who are in a bad situation but have to work full time, have children to take care of, or have nowhere else to go—no family or friends to flee to, as I had—the opportunity simply isn't there.

But for exposure therapy to be successful, it's important that we do seek a better environment, even in the one we're already in. We need better relationships with our loved ones, and to ground ourselves in something concrete. That concreteness for me was meditation. For someone else it may be a group of friends, a career, exercise, or music. It can be anything. I manifested it as a spiritual practice but it can be anything for anyone.

Even if someone cannot pick up and move away, there's still hope. I recognized things that I could have done better in my situation in Iowa. In hindsight I wasn't communicating enough with my family and friends. This may seem difficult for anyone with anxiety, but opening up and communicating can and should be the first step in exposure therapy—for it is itself an exposure.

Stabilizing relationships.
A change of scenery.
Getting grounded in activity.

These changes can work only if we're motivated to change. We have to want something bigger than ourselves, something to grow toward. It may require painful soul searching, but once you've found the sun in your life, growth can come suddenly, overnight.

Further Reading:

Tao of Anxiety: Series

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Thinking About Writing...More

From now on (for the rest of 2013, or at least for the foreseeable future) I'm going to put more effort into marketing my writing. This means I need to put my marketing cap on top of my writing cap and my research and development cap on top of both of them because I'm going to have to dig deep and come up with creative ways to get people interested in what I write.

I know one thing. The best marketing tool I have access to is my own writing, so my focus will be to publish some of my short stories and novellas, the shorter works I have piled up over the years. Can I? Hm...time will tell. Novels are time consuming but easy for me to write. The shorter the work, the more my perfectionism gets in the way, the harder they are to write, edit, and publish.

On top of this, one of the challenges I've had in getting my second novel done (book #2 in the Czar Chronicles) is that I get so easily distracted by other things. I also write in cycles. I sometimes am able to focus on one thing at a time, and at other times I don't necessarily have the focus for one project, but can effectively divide my time on various stories. If I choose to do that, I must make certain that I finish these other projects in a timely fashion, otherwise I risk divorcing myself from my top priority without anything to show for it.

Strangely, last year at almost this time I began to have the same feeling of “do something else for a change.” I've been at my novel since October, about the same time I started writing in 2011. I can give one project a few good months before I get worn out. The creativity isn't gone, but it needs something else to express itself through.

(I wrote heavily on “Rising” from November 2011 until February 2012 before I got sidetracked by something else. I've written on “Sacrifice from October 2012 until January 2013, before I felt it would be good to change gears. I'm seeing a pattern.)

As I near the end of this novel's rough draft, I'm getting antsy about the second draft. I will inevitably need a break between drafts anyway, so I am going to dust off a ghost story I had written last year, and go at it with a new ferocity. It has the potential to be a fantastic novella, and in rewriting it, I will brush the rust off my rewriting skills. It's been a long time since I worked a second draft. Almost a whole year!

Then there's the time I spend writing. I feel like I can do more. I have worked an hour or two almost every day for the last few months, and I feel confident that I can bump this up a bit, maybe even double it. I can use some of this time for my novel, some for shorter works, some for blogging, some for getting my name out there. I feel more confident now than I was at the end of last year, and feel capable of handling the increased workload.

Does it sound like a plan?

I learned a lot last year, about managing my time, about how not to get stressed out. I feel I can apply these lessons going forward and avoid some of the pitfalls I experienced last year. 2012 was productive, despite not having written for most of the Summer. I think I'm ready now to treat writing like a job again.

And in doing that I must remember one important fact:

Work is play.

I must not forget my overall priority, that I enjoy writing, that writing is fun, that I write because I feel good writing...and not get confused by goals, by the future, by publishing a bunch of stories or getting rich, because none of these things can stand up against what is happening right now on the page, and if I focus on the current story I will find satisfaction and fulfillment in writing, but if I start thinking about sales and money and publication, I'm going to get depressed and lost in abstractions. 

I do not want to get stressed out writing stories. If I'm getting stressed out then I won't want to write stories any longer. I need to take risks, take on a little more responsibility, but balance that with a point of view that writing is really still just a hobby of mine, something I enjoy immensely. Somehow I must write more and take the business side of writing seriously, without applying so much pressure on myself that I begin to think I'm a "writer" in the sense that this is now the only thing I can do in life. That's a daunting idea, and one I will try to avoid any way I can. It'll almost seem like magic to do so, but if I can do so, in a few more months readers will have some very interesting and fun stories to read in their spare time.

Sometimes I am the biggest challenge facing my own career. Perhaps I'm always the biggest challenge. But it's a challenge I'm familiar with and know. In that I'm lucky.

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Book Review: Inside Out

“Inside Out: A Personal History of Pink Floyd” by Nick Mason

I thoroughly enjoyed this one. “Inside Out” is a personal look at the evolution of Pink Floyd by drummer Nick Mason. Not only is it interesting and educational, but the writing was flawlessly succinct. (I could really write this on how well edited the book was, and how easy it was to read.)

I have always imagined Pink Floyd using psychedelics to perfect their psychedelic sound. It made sense to conclude that. Listening to them certainly seemed to channel another realm of human experience.

But the musicians in Pink Floyd weren't acid-dropping star gazers, an image I couldn't relate to in the first place because I'm not a drug user. They were hardworking, their music growing out of their constant experiments rather than a fog of chemicals, their ambition and consistency grounded in their middle-class background and college education.

Though none of them actually finished college (Mason, Wright, and Waters had met in architecture school), they used what they learned, mixing technical expertise with free expression: the freedom to create a sound unhindered by technique, with the order of design.

They were self-taught musicians who felt comfortable wandering away from known paths. Mason remarks late in the book that they eventually stopped playing the song “Echoes” live because the younger musicians they played with in the late 80s were too accurate, too inhibited by their professional training.

Though they certainly partook in drugs occasionally—Alcohol mostly, some marijuana, and Richard Wright's cocaine addiction—no one died. No one overdosed. No one was so high that they couldn't perform.

It was refreshing (and ironic) to find that the band most thought of as psychedelic didn't divine their sound from psychedelics, but from a mix of hard work and play.

I appreciated this fact deeply. Pink Floyd was no fluke or accident. A lot of hard work and careful planning—with a heavy dose of free spirit—went into the albums they made. Their songs were borne from consistent effort to find perfection rather than from listless tinkering. Because I am not a drug user, I could not relate to the false image I had of the band, even though I enjoyed their music. But knowing the truth, I now realize that their process is repeatable. I personally can strive for what they strove for. We are on the same field.

Like all bands, fame didn't come easy and keeping it together at the top was more difficult. Their “best musician” as Nick Mason called their first lead guitarist left the band before they really got started, and their second lead guitarist and singer went crazy partly as a consequence of their growing fame, but also as a result of getting caught in the drug culture the others avoided.

They cut their teeth in the mid-60s in London clubs and Freak Outs, but while their fans watched on in starry-eyed wonder, tripping on drugs, high on the music and the light show, Pink Floyd was, according to Mason, too ambitious to pay attention to the lifestyle around them (except for Syd Barrett). They were working class, they were dedicated to making it as musicians, motivated by what they played and the reaction they got from those listening.

Syd Barrett unfortunately and inevitably succumbed to the lifestyle of the people around the band. Once they lost their lead singer and guitarist, they had to regroup, take on a new guitarist (David Gilmour) and point themselves in another direction, slightly away from the psychedelic scene and more toward an instrumental focus. Perhaps into the heart of the sun, as they would, within ten years, find themselves at the top of the world.

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Book Review: Why We Hate

“Why We Hate” by Rush W. Dozier, Jr. was an interesting book. Dozier substantiated many of the ideas I have had about hatred: namely, that hatred is a “normal” human defense mechanism. Racism, for example, would not be possible without the human instinct to regard what is different as dangerous (the opposite of our instinct to be curious, but something that would have protected us from poisonous fruit or venomous snakes in the wild; it serves less purpose in our relatively safe, modern environment).

Dozier makes the case that we hate because of positive evolutionary behaviors. That basically (and to simplify it a great deal, I don't doubt) we are prejudiced and commit violence against each other largely for the same reasons we don't like spiders and wish to step on them. The same processes are happening in each case. We see something that our brain interprets as dangerous and we react to it. The problem of course is that extreme hatred is out of place in society, and the hurtful effects of prejudice and hatred reach far beyond the individuals involved.

Dozier explained his theories in simple, straight-forward language, making the book easy to read as he discussed how the brain processes external stimuli, how it reacts to its own emotions, but lacking in the book is any clear way to use these insights.

He writes that, someday, hate will be treated as a medical disorder, in the realm of psychiatry. But if this book shows the clearest picture of hate that we have to go on, it's obvious to me that we're lacking a sure-footed road to the future.

Or, perhaps, the insights are the solutions we need to live without hate. Understanding the “reptilian” primitive brain structures of the amygdala which cause fight or flight reactions, understanding how children learn violence at a young age—how violent adults were once children who were indoctrinated into a culture of hate—how mental illness and everyday stress can lead to anger, even rage. Chapter 6, “The Primitive Mind” was especially interesting to me.

I was encouraged that Dozier dedicated part of the book to self-hate; depression, eating disorders, and even suicide. The current “gun control” battle in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting is an example of how we ignore suicide in our culture. Around 19,000 people shoot and kill themselves in America each year, yet the media attention remains on mass shootings that take fewer than 100 lives a year on average. Both are tragedies, but the former is more personal to many of us, and it's not enough to discuss hatred without discussing the hatred of self that leads to depression and negative self-images.

That said, the book didn't really say anything I hadn't already heard before or hadn't thought of myself. I didn't get as much out of it as I expected, based on the title, and never having read a book specifically on hatred (it was the book I was most excited about on my first trip to the library). Apparently I've absorbed most of this information by reading psychology books—which this is certainly not. So “Why We Hate” was little more than a boost to my own ego (verifying my ideas), and perhaps something I'll remember to bring up next time I'm debating violence—“Why don't you read...” For someone new to the subject it may be a perfect overview.

There are a few downsides to “Why We Hate.” Because it was written so shortly after 9/11, and by a journalist (instead of a doctor or scientists), the book comes off as opportunism. I would recommend it to someone only because I don't know of a better book, or any other book on hatred specifically. It's a one-stop shop for understanding hate and anger. You'll find the same information on the internet, in documentaries, etc. Because it glossed over as much information as it gave, and because I felt too many “real life” examples of hatred were used (and sometimes reused) to make an emotional point instead of showing statistical or experimental data, “Why We Hate” could have been titled “Hatred for Dummies.”

One interesting note to make on the book is that on each page, at the top where the chapter titles are, is a swastika. I thought that was the most interesting part of the whole book, more so than anything Dozier wrote, because it shows the polarity we have towards symbols (as well as people) better than any word can.

A picture is worth a thousand words, and in the Western world the swastika is a symbol of hatred. In the Eastern world the swastika is often a symbol—representing the sun—of peace and renewal.

I can understand why he used the swastika. There's no better symbolism for how low humans can sink into violence, or be lifted out of our apparent animal instincts.

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The 2012 Fighting Irish

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish had a fantastic football season in 2012 and I'm glad it's over so I can sit back and enjoy it in full. I'm doing just that. You'd think that after getting blown out in their last game of the season I'd be dejected, but I feel as if I've discovered the leprechaun’s gold.

The team won 12 times. The Irish beat three teams that had a legitimate chance at the beginning of the season to be where Notre Dame was last night.

Notre Dame saved three other teams (Oregon, KSU, and Florida) the embarrassment of losing to Alabama, one of the best dynasties in college history. Alabama would have put up even more points against those teams, not just because Notre Dame had the second best defense (only behind Alabama) in college football, but because the Irish didn't have any expectation of winning.

Nick Saban has never lost a big game with a month to prepare his team—he's 4 for 4 in National Title games. There was no expectation for Notre Dame to do anything other than what they did Monday. If Alabama had been playing Oregon, and for five weeks had heard that Oregon was going to win (or KSU or Florida for that matter) Alabama would have played even harder than they did. 42-14 would have been respectable in comparison.

Monday night's National Title game had one of the biggest point spreads in history at 10, but it was far from the biggest title blowout. Far better teams, with far higher expectations, have been blown out by bigger margins and on even brighter stages.

Nebraska beat Florida 62-24 in 1996.
Florida beat Florida State 52-20 in 1997.
Nebraska beat Tennessee 42-17 in 1998.
Florida State only scored 2 points in 2001.
Miami beat Nebraska 37-14 in 2002.
USC beat Oklahoma 55-19 in 2005.
Florida beat Ohio State 41-14 in 2007 (OSU was #1 at the time).
Alabama beat Texas 37-21 in 2010 and LSU 21-0 in 2012.

If Notre Dame was the sacrificial lamb, it was because they were first to the slaughter. They had a great season this year. They won in blowout fashion against rivals like Navy and Miami and against a very good Oklahoma team. They ground out wins against Stanford, Michigan, and USC. They sneaked past non-contenders like BYU, Pitt and Purdue. This season was more memorable than the '05 and '06 seasons, each culminating with losses in BCS bowls. This year Notre Dame won the close games.

This time around in the BCS Notre Dame lost to Alabama and Nick Saban, the best coach in college football since the days of Bryant, Hayes, and Leahy.


Early in the second quarter there was a moment when I thought I'd turn the TV off, but it didn't take long to realize that I would stick it out no matter what. This is Notre Dame football. It's an honor to watch any Fighting Irish team play on any stage, against any opponent, win or lose. I appreciated every second of the game after that point.


I couldn't enjoy the first quarter, and it had nothing to do with how many points Alabama scored or how poorly Notre Dame played defense. As usual, I had a problem with the poor officiating. Thankfully it didn't come close to deciding the outcome of the game, but it took me almost until the half and a few beers to forget about it.

The refs botched a debatable catch along the sidelines which would have been a first down to keep Notre Dame's first drive alive, and then threw a penalty on what was obviously an Alabama fumble. Just because a player calls a fair catch doesn't mean he doesn't have to catch the ball. The refs, God bless their generous souls, even tried to give a fumble to Alabama that was obviously down by contact, though they did review and overturn that call.

All of this killed Notre Dame's offense early in the game, and I'm certain the refs played into the first half blowout (the second half was a much more competitive 14-14 without them), but I have no delusions that Notre Dame would have won—they wouldn't have, not against Alabama. Yet the game could have been more intriguing. Just for pride I'd have liked to see the score 28-21. It's hard to score when you can't keep the ball, and it's hard to stop a team when they have the ball more than they should.

….and many of the college football fans awaiting me on the internet after the game would have been depressing if they weren't so comical. I saw more Irish fans talking about how good Alabama was than I saw Alabama fans talking up their own team, let alone everyone else. Most were flaming Notre Dame for choking or for being overrated (well yeah, duh), and it seemed that watching one of the most dominate football teams in history was lost on them.

I know how angry fans can get (I have to put up with Jets fans after all...just kidding...sort of), but that opened my eyes to how shallow people can be even after a big game that goes in their favor. That it wasn't Irish fans being poor sports after a big loss was fascinating. It's clear a lot of people hate Notre Dame, it's human nature to root against a winner. But it was uncomfortable that despite losing, despite not earning the spotlight, it was still given to us—not by the media, but by the people who complain that the media gives Notre Dame too much attention. Thank you, you're sweet, but we didn't deserve the attention. Alabama did.

How ironic, but fortunately it wasn't the darker side of fanaticism.

It's too bad there are so many college fans that don't understand humility, but at least they're not out sexually assaulting other fans or rioting.

Or doing this...

It's just football, stop trying to vent your primal rage and enjoy the games for what they are, entertainment. Bitter fans can suck the enjoyment out of sports as much as careless officiating can. Thankfully this time that didn't happen, though it's worth noting.


As for Notre Dame, there's a lot to look forward to in years to come. Brian Kelly is no Nick Saban but he's a great coach in his own right, a prolific recruiter and a phenomenal motivator. He was as cool as a pickle when he spoke just after the end of the half, but whatever he said to the team in the locker room fired them up enough to give it their all the rest of the way, giving a competitive showing against a team who clearly wanted to shut us out. It wasn't the Irish players growing frustrated and losing their composure, it was the Alabama players and head coach doing so. That made me smile.

Golson had a decent game for being a freshman in the biggest game of his life. He didn't throw a pick until the last possession and only then because of a circus catch.

I was already a Louis Nix fan, but seeing #9 come back into the game after suffering a leg injury, watching him limp around but continue to make plays—I have a new favorite player. That alone was worth watching the entire game for.

The experience these kids got playing Alabama is going to be put to good use in the coming years. It makes me wonder how Te'o would have performed if he had had that experience going into this game. Or others on the team. That makes a big difference, and it's hard to imagine that they weren't out of their element.


There is gold at the end of the rainbow.

The Irish have a lot of talent coming to school next year. A lot of gifted freshman to replace the few players leaving for the NFL.

Kelly has the top recruiting class in the nation. He knows what to do with talent.

And all I can think is....

Is it September yet?

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Book Review: Jingo by Terry Pratchett

“Jingo” by Terry Pratchett

Note: This isn't going to be a review on a novel so much as a review on an author and myself.

I don't often take, at least immediately, someone's suggestion to read a particular book or author. I usually file these in the back of my mind for when I'm bored or am looking for something new to read. But this time I asked my friend, Daniel Golightly, what he usually reads. He told me, and I went to work finding it.

On my first trip to the library I picked up “Jingo” by Terry Pratchett. It's a novel of Discworld.

I was thoroughly pleased with it. Not only was “Jingo” a fun read, but it had the potential to be very influential on me as a writer.

I cannot claim, by any stretch of my imagination (and how far it can stretch!), that I am well read. But in my experience, though stories, plots, and characters can be vastly different from one author to another, writing style is much less flexible. I can spot Ayn Rand from Stephen King and Anne Rice from Michael Crichton, but all of these authors have a very serious, straight-forward tone and voice. You'll find nothing unusual here. And to a degree, many other far less-known authors write similarly.

Then there are authors like Terry Pratchett, who if I were to compare him with anyone it would be to the outright silliness of Piers Anthony's Xanth series.

But you know what? For as much as I like Anthony, I like more, at least after one novel, Terry Pratchett. He retains the silliness, the wit, the humor, as well as the seriousness—which makes his story not only fun, but believable. In Anthony's Xanth series I'm constantly reminded that it's just a story. Not so with Pratchett. I was there.

Pratchett made me think more than I have in years: on writing. I always read with both a reader's and editor's hat on, and I can enjoy a story even as I'm dissecting it (or perhaps because I'm dissecting it), but “Jingo,” a simple story about an island floating up from the bottom of the ocean, and the chaos it creates between two neighboring nations, has me thinking a lot about the writing process itself, specifically my style. I'm often thinking about how to write good characters, good scenes, good settings, good plots and endings, but rarely do I ever think about my style, my voice, my tone, probably because so much of what I read is already like how I write.

I'm obviously not going to start writing like Sir Pratchett. That would be foolish on several levels. But this novel is making me think things like “Hey, I could really loosen up a bit when I write.” or “Why don't I start writing with a little more wit?” “I should go ahead and take those risks that I've always wanted to take.” “I don't have to write so close to the vest.” “I can afford to be creative not just in my story, but in my style.”

To put it simply, “Jingo” is thawing the ice on the continent of my creativity. Pratchett has shown me that there are more ways to write than with a serious tone all the time—and yet still write for adults.

But there's something else about “Jingo” that's got me thinking. This time it's to do with where I fit in genre-wise. I've never really been sure where to place my own writing. I can be very serious, very deadly serious and dramatic, even sinister (think Stephen King). But often times I find myself writing with a softer touch, and my characters almost seem to take on the characteristics of YA fiction (Young Adult). They want to play, without the seriousness. They want to grow up, to face challenges, but not take the world as if it's important.

I always assumed, to write that way, adults wouldn't be interested (I was very self-conscious about this!). But I am not a YA novelist, nor do I want to be because I like the flexibility of having my characters cuss, kill someone in a bloody scene, or even explore their sexuality. I want to be myself, but who I am as a writer doesn't seem to fit into a more specific label than “fantasy.” This may also be because on one hand I see children as free-spirited, carefree, and on the other adults being oh-so-serious and facing everything in life as if it were life or death.

I also incorporate elements of many different genres, from steampunk to gothic to YA to horror to science fiction to romance. But don't go reading my stories because you're looking for one of these, because any one “thing” is drowned out by all the rest. It's like I write with the genre of no genre. Oh, how very Bruce Lee!

But, hey, Pratchett does it, and this Pratchett guy, he's famous! He's written dozens of stories. He's a knight for God's sake! Yeah, that's Sir Terry Pratchett to us peasants. And I have no idea where to place him. And it works, at least for him. So what should I do as an author? My impression after reading “Jingo” is to simply not care, and just write.

What is my overall impression of “Jingo”? Well, when I first started reading it, the story and characters almost seemed to be fit for children. But I was enjoying it, and as I dug deeper I found that “Jingo” obviously wasn't a children's story. There was cussing, sexual innuendos, violence.

I was liking the story a lot by the time I started figuring out where my mind was going on the topic of writing. It's a pretty good book. I'm definitely going to seek out more Terry Pratchett stories.

I think I'm hooked.

And I'm also going to loosen up a bit with my own writing. Pratchett shows me that there is an audience of people who can appreciate the serious mixed with the not so serious. It just has to be a good story, with interesting and likeable characters, that moves readers along.

And that's that, right? Nothin' to it!

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