F@%#!*$ S*!#: Why I Don’t Censor my Writing (And You Shouldn’t Either)

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Photo credit: Rebecca Barray via WANA Commons

Censorship has played a large role in every part of the media we consume for some time now. Between banning books and the creation of the FCC, what we’re exposed to and how is constantly regulated. I believe that there are certain audiences requiring censorship and others that are capable of comprehending and processing these things–i.e. violence, sex, vulgar language.

When I began writing in middle school, I really had no concept of censorship in books or on television. I just knew what I liked and that’s what I read and watched. Some of that transferred into my writing, but at such a young age I wasn’t really exposed to vulgar language or violence that much. However, it wasn’t until recently–the past year, or even couple of months–I’ve really stepped up my game when it comes to content. I’ve stopped holding back when it comes to violence and language and how characters act, and I believe I have good reasons for doing so:

The things most worth understanding sometimes aren’t pleasant

The world is full of a lot of bad things, as much as many of us don’t want to believe that. There is violence, terror, and hate in abundance anywhere you go. This isn’t to say there isn’t plenty of good out there, because there is. But we live in a culture that often focuses on the negative, and it’s good to understand and explore those negatives. One of the best ways to explore them is to view those actions through the eyes of the characters performing them or being subjected to them. How can we really understand hate until we see it from these points of views? How can we understand violence and intolerance if we don’t look at it head on and question it? There are reasons these things happen. There are motivations and emotions that are worth exploring to understand why people feel the way they do, and possibly a way to combat all the negatives.

That’s mainly why I don’t censor my writing anymore. My characters are just as likely to tell someone to “fuck off” as they are give them a bouquet of flowers. My characters give and take hate and live in hate-filled, intolerant worlds because that’s the kind of world we live in, and if I’m going to live in it I want to explore it. I want to understand it. I want to know why people steal and kill and are so intolerant.

That being said, I try to write with meaning. I try to ensure that the violence, the vulgar language, and the hate aren’t senseless. They have to have meaning, and there has to be a logical reason for the hate, otherwise what is there to gain from it? What is there to learn from? And why do we read and write if not to explore and learn?

Censoring writing deprives us from knowledge. It deprives us from watching chaos from a safe environment, and doesn’t allow us to gain other perspectives. And how can we become tolerant and accepting if we can’t see where other people come from, how they got to where they are, and what resulted from it? How can we expect to learn and grow by shoving away everything that has foul language and violence in it? That’s the place we live in right now, every single day. And if we’re going to combat it; if we’re going to try and fight the things that make the world as negative as it is, we need to let the people see the world as it is.

I Write to…

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“I write to give myself strength. I write to be the characters that I am not. I write to explore all the things I’m afraid of. ”
― Joss Whedon


I write to create.
I write to expand my knowledge of people, of culture, and of existence.
I write to study emotions.
I write to revisit past lives and feelings.
I write to be someone else.
I write to strengthen myself.
I write to attempt to strengthen others.
I write to reveal the flaws of life.
I write to learn the problems of the world.
I write to portray horror, terror, greed, and failure.
I write to teach.
I write to gain perspective.
I write to show the outcome of our hatred.
I write because I don’t know what will happen if I stop.

All it Takes is the Right Story (Oh, and a Ton of Hard Work)

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I’ve been told on several occasions that all it takes to “hit it big” is to tell the right story.

“All you need is the right story and you’ll be famous,” they tell me.

“All you need is the right story and they’ll make it into a movie,” they said. “Then you’ll be rich and famous.”

As if it’s just that easy. Bang out the “right” story and you’re golden. No, literally. You could have a gold statue of yourself made because you’re rolling in book and movie money.

That has me wondering: what is the “right” story? I mean, I’ve published several novels and no one has offered me butt loads of money or a movie deal, so does that mean I’m writing the wrong stories? Does that mean my stories aren’t good? My characters are weak? My themes are rotten?

You know what? It’s beginning to sound like this writing thing has a bit more to it than just telling the “right” story. It sounds a bit like it takes time and effort to carefully craft brilliant characters, a perfect story line, suspense, action, adventure, romance, danger. And, in the end, you may only end up selling ten copies. It’s perfectly plausible that you may write the “right” story and still end up on your ass with no money.

In fact, sometimes–and I really do mean sometimes–it seems like you will inevitably end up on your ass with no money, no matter how hard you worked on that book.

Before I became a writer, I would read a book and have no idea how much work went into it. How many months–sometimes years–went into the writing, editing, revision, publishing, and marketing process. I just read the words, enjoyed the book, or not, and went on my way. Granted, I’d done my fair share of writing. But I’d never completed a book, nor had I looked into what sort of process it took to create a finished product and distribute it to the masses. As far as I knew, the author just hammered it out, gave it a once over, and off it went to the world.

I was one of those people who believed you just wrote it, and if it was good you were set for life. I understand where people are coming from when they think all it takes is the “right” story to be the next J.K. Rowling or Stephen King. And yet that still doesn’t make it any easier when people say it to me now. Maybe it’s just the human condition to get aggravated when someone makes light of the writing process–of my dream career–or maybe it makes perfect sense. Whatever the reason, I understand that it takes really getting into the craft of something to fully understand how it works, and the complexity of every part of it.

People are so quick to generalize something or write it off because people are successful at it. As if it’s the easiest thing in the world. When in reality it takes much more hard work than people think, and even after all that hard work it seems as if luck plays the biggest role out of all of it. Sometimes it takes the right person seeing it, the right cover, or the right description. But I believe that “right” stories are written all the time. Just as “right” covers, descriptions, and people play roles in the book process and even then sometimes nothing, or very little, may come of it. But it’s become clear over the years that writers don’t write for the fame or the money, they write because they have to. Because they don’t want to stop, no matter how many terrible reviews they get or how famous it makes them. Writing is fun. It’s exciting. It’s exhausting. It makes me want to scream. But I love looking at my bookshelf and seeing my name in print next to so many others, and it just further reminds me why I keep at it.

Clemens’ Quotes: Truth-Seekers

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Recently I’ve been reading a lot of Mark Twain. Specifically, I just finished reading his essay/story What is Man? which is a conversation between a young man and an old man. Based upon the description on Goodreads, apparently this was Twain’s prized essay. His own bible of sorts that he kept hidden away for some time. I can only imagine he did this because of the things about which he wrote, touching upon how a person’s mind functions. Ideas such as free will and religion. Things that people, especially during that time, were likely to take as an insult, or as a mockery of people’s way of life.

As I read this, I began highlighting (on my Kindle, of course) some excellent quotes within What is Man? and I thought it might be fun to explore these quotes and perhaps see how much they relate to contemporary society. I’m planning for this to be a weekly piece as I continue to explore more of Twain’s writing.

The quote I’d like to take a look at comes from the section where the Old Man and the Young Man are discussing “Truth-Seekers.” The Old Man says:

“I told you that there are none but temporary Truth-Seekers; that a permanent one is a human impossibility; that as soon as the Seeker finds what he is thoroughly convinced is the Truth, he seeks no further, but gives the rest of his days to hunting junk to patch it and caulk it and prop it with, and make it weather-proof and keep it from caving in on him.”

This concept couldn’t be any more relevant to contemporary culture. The idea that there is no such thing as a permanent Truth-Seeker is absolutely true. In my experiences I’ve found that we spend our time searching for what we believe to be the truth, and when we find that answer–an answer we believe to be absolutely, 100% fault proof–we stop searching. We store that answer as confirmation that the truth has been located, and continue to use our time to find ways to solidify the truth we discovered. We search for ways to shut out contradictions and prove them wrong.

This can be seen in significant force on social media. Social media allows us to completely submerge ourselves in our own points of view. We’re able to see what we want from whatever viewpoint we want, and we have the power to make anything we want to be true, or at least seem that way. We can create graphics and upload them without having to provide source material or defend our way of thinking. We can add to any argument without validating our points of view, and it can be assumed that others take it at face value and then find truth themselves, using that particular graphic or comment as their defense for the truth.

Take, for example, the issue of gun control in America. Those who believe that there should be no restrictions on guns believe that to be the truth and therefor use such things as the second amendment to make that truth, as Twain said, “weather-proof.” They no longer continue searching to see if restrictions on gun control are needed in America. They’ve searched for their truth, found it, and now are set on finding evidence to back up that truth.

The same can be said for the opposite side of the argument. Those who believe that there should be restrictions on guns have found their truth. They’ve completed what research was required to come to the belief that guns should be regulated, and now they’re searching for ways to make their argument stronger.

Both groups have gone through their temporary stage of truth seeking and have moved on to backing up their truth. Twain has, essentially, redefined “truth” within this context. The former definition: “The quality or state of being true” has been altered to a state of “what the individual believes to be true.” In terms of religion, people believe it as truth that he or she will go to Heaven when they die while others believe that he or she may be reincarnated, or some believe it as truth that no one actually knows what will happen when we die.

I believe it to be true that Twain is absolutely correct in this theory. I have no need to further investigate this because I’ve done my searching–my research by examining cultural examples–and have confirmed that I believe it to be something that I am “thoroughly convinced is the Truth.”

What do you think? Do you think there is such a thing as a “permanent Truth-Seeker?” Is there anything you absolutely believe to be true and now search for ways to strengthen your argument for that particular idea?

BIRTHDAY SALE! THE ROTTEN & CRIMSON APPLE FREE FOR THE KINDLE!

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It’s my birthday! Twenty-four years old, and I have to say I’ve accomplished more than I thought I would. I have a college degree, I’m married, I have a little boy on the way, and I’m a published author. Sometimes I get a bit down because I’m not where I want to be regarding my status as an author, but I could certainly be a lot further back than I am.

So, because it’s my birthday, I’ve decided to make both The Rotten Apple and it’s prequel short story, The Crimson Apple, free for the Kindle all day! Click on the cover and get your free book! Don’t forget to leave a review and help spread the word!

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August Update: The Haps

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Things have been pretty quiet on the blog for the past couple months aside from a few announcements here and there. I took a pretty serious break, if you want to call it that, for a few weeks after graduation where I really didn’t get anything done. No writing and barely any reading. However, I think I’m starting to come out of it, so, here’s an update:

 Baby on the way!

Awesome tie and press hat my mother-in-law made.

Awesome tie and press hat my mother-in-law made.

My wife and I recently revealed that we will be having our first child! And we found out two weeks ago that we’ll be having a little boy. We threw a gender reveal party for our friends and family as well, which was a lot of fun. We gave people cans of silly string to spray as my wife and I released a box of blue balloons, and everyone was sufficiently surprised and excited. Now we’re trying to figure out what to name this little boy. We’ve narrowed it down to two or three choices, but we’re keeping it a secret until our little man is born.

New novella estimated for December 2014

I’ve succumbed to the allure of the plot bunnies and have started a small side project in addition to my work on Wasteland Gods. It’s a novella taking place in Chicago in 1950 about a newsboy entitled, you guessed it, The Newsboy. It’s still in the beginning stages, but I’ve got an awesome cover set to go, of which I’ll do an official release at a later date when I get more of the book written, and I’d like to get more details of it nailed down before I do too much with it. 

I’m finding that I rush a bit too much when it comes to launching a new book. I get so excited to share it that I don’t do enough preparation to get the word out so people actually know about it. So, I think I’m going to work up a bit of a schedule when publication day gets closer as well as making up some promotion material before hand. I have a feeling I’ll be pushing the publication date up to February or March, however, which may or may not change again seeing as how the baby is due December 30th, so who knows what kind of time I’ll have for any literary stuff with a little one who needs so much of my attention. Not that I’m complaining by any means. I’m really excited to have a baby on the way. So excited, in fact, that:

I’ve launched a new blog: Missives to You

I’ve started this new blog to write letters to my currently unborn child. Sort of something for him to read when he gets older, and something for me to reflect back upon as the years pass. So far, it seems I’ve gotten a little serious with some of the blog’s content by talking about societal issues, something he won’t really be faced with until he’s much older, so I’m working on pulling it back some and talking about some of the lighter things. Things about which I’m excited, and, when he actually gets here, I look forward to recounting some of his antics to him. So, if you’re interested, pop on over to Missives to You and give it a read/follow.

The job hunt is… difficult

As it turns out, just because you get a college degree doesn’t mean people are waiting to hand out jobs. Not that I really believed that, but I figured that having a degree might certainly up my chances. But I guess all those other people who graduated with me probably had a similar idea as me, and someone had to come up as the victor. And, so far, that someone hasn’t been me. Two interviews have lead to zero jobs. Even at the place where I freelance, which seemed a bit odd to me. I’m good enough to freelance, but not to work there full time? No matter, at least it’s some sort of income.

So, I’m still on the job hunt with my brand new, revamped resume full of experience and skills and what not.

And that, my friends, is what I’ve been up to since this blog has grown somewhat stagnant. However, seeing as how I seem to be getting back into the creative flow of things, I anticipate some new and exciting content for you. So, click those social media share buttons below, drop a comment letting me know what’s up, what you think, and be sure to pick up a book of mine from Amazon!

WASTELAND GODS: COVER REVEAL

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It’s interesting how much things can change when writing. For those of us who don’t plot out our novels–and I’m sure that even for some who do–things can change in a flash as the story unfolds. Character motivations can change. Characters themselves can change. Plot, personalities, history, everything can change so quickly, and sometimes that requires us to change things around.

This realization that something needed to change has been growing for a few days now. I was telling my wife about the recent happenings in my current work in progress, DEADGOD. I told her about some characters’ plans and their roles in the novel, along with what they’re going to eventually come to realize. How they’ll change, or arc, if you will, and what they’ll learn. She then said to me, “I don’t think that title fits anymore.” And me, still enjoying the name DEADGOD, tried to find a way that the title still fit the book. Mostly because I’m so horrible at coming up with names that I didn’t want to go through the pain of trying to think up a new one. However, as I was thinking about my characters and their current situations yesterday, I eventually came to realize that, once again, my wife was right. While DEADGOD fit one of the characters, it didn’t fit the overall theme of the book, nor did it fit the other two main characters’ personalities.

That’s when the struggle began. My characters had morphed into something I didn’t think they would. As their roles in the novel became more apparent, their actions and beliefs changed, and somehow I had to think of a title that encompassed all of it, along with a brand new cover to go with it. I tossed around this name and that name, writing it down on the old cover to see how it looked, trying out various fonts and colors in the editor to see how it blended together. And, finally, with the help of my friend, Karen, I settled on a name that I really enjoy, and I hope you will, too.

So, at long last, feast your eyes on the brand new cover and title of: Wasteland Gods

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There is no hope in the unforgiving wasteland. Only the starved, withering Insurgents. The insane, cannibalistic Roamers. Slavers, Raiders, and death await in the sweltering heat.

The Koval Republic, a utopia filled with clean water and food, shelter, and protection. A land saved by politicians, greed, and ignorance. A republic that looks down upon the Insurgents, offering no help or remorse. Instead, they lay siege to the Insurgent’s meager settlements, hoping to wipe the mongrels from what remains of the planet.

Anton, a religion-hating Insurgent in a world void of faith who only hopes for salvation from the wasteland seeks freedom and fairness.

Claire, a soldier of the Republic, banished to the wastes, struggling to survive. Begging to return to her old life.

Roland, a soldier like Claire, taken in by bloodthirsty slavers who aim to bring democracy and the people’s voice back to the world.

Who will live long enough to see if redemption can be brought to the wasteland, and who will buckle beneath the crushing force of the Koval Republic, and the crippling dangers of the wasteland?

Coming 2015!