On Definitions and Expectations

The manner in which we operate our lives can be based on two functions: Definitions and expectations. This may be putting it simply, rationalizing the world in such a way as to seemingly ignore its complexities. However, to view the ways in which we function can, essentially, be boiled down to these two points.

First, we must observe definitions. Without understanding exactly why what we’re doing is what it is, we have no way of understanding its credibility or its value. By providing a labelled understanding of our words and our actions, we’re not only able to provide limitations, but we’re able to justify everything we do–the everyday of life that we continue to live. The fact that we’re able to provide compensation for our work is possible because of both definitions and expectations. The very definition of work itself provides a basis on which we can determine that we need compensation. Compensation therefore adds to the definition of work, but must also be defined in that we must be able to know the appropriate amount. These very definitions provide the checks and balances and continue to run our very social and economic ecosystem.

Additionally, these definitions in turn create expectations by which we create another layer of complexity. After we complete the definition of what we’re worth–our time, our energy, and presence–we must continue to observe the implications of what’s expected of us. This, of course, plays into the definitions of work and compensation because the expectation of work is that we’ll function well enough to deserve the agreed upon compensation.

This, perhaps, may be incredibly dry and boring. But consider what exactly the definitions of everything we do really mean. What it means to define being awake, or defining to eat or sleep. Think about the very definition of what it means to live, beyond the scope of a dictionary. To live, perhaps, can be defined as reaching a certain expectation of accomplishments, either societal or personal, so as to achieve a sense of worth. But how do we define worth? This could, again, return to our personal sense of achievement. How do we define personal achievement? It seems as if only we can define that for ourselves, whether it’s good or bad, positive or negative. Once you’ve established the very foundation–the definition–of how you want to define yourself, consider the expectations that will arise as a result of it. Consider how every move you make toward that personal sense of achievement progresses you toward another expectation to be better.

On the End

“…we cannot exclude the possibility that there might be some other form of matter, distributed almost uniformly throughout the universe, that we have not yet detected and that might still raise the average density of the universe up to the critical value needed to halt the expansion… This should not unduly worry us: by that time, unless we have colonized beyond the Solar System, mankind will long since have died out, extinguished along with our sun!”

– A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking

Someday all of this will end. Everything we have created, forged out of necessity or love or hate will be diminished to nothing. Someday everything we have learned, taught, become aware of, or done will be a distant speck on a timeline that, depending upon your viewpoint of time, will come to an end. That leaves more questions than answers.

Does what we do really matter? In the big picture, do our actions really have as big of an impact on the world as we think they do? Is any of this worth saving or fighting for?

Certainly, with a shift in perception it can seem that way. We can make ourselves believe that our actions have an impact on the day-to-day of our lives. That our actions, fueled by our views, will create something better not just for ourselves, but for everyone. But at what point do we recognize the inevitability that this isn’t forever?

Perhaps it stems from a fear of death. Or maybe we can’t come to recognize that we’re a brief flash in history, ticking away a second at a time. We can believe that our actions are worth doing, but in the big picture, what are we really? How can we define a race of people lurching toward an end, struggling to come to terms with what exactly it is we’re supposed to be doing in the few short years we’re alive?

It could be that definitions don’t matter. Life exists just as it is. Our deeper purpose isn’t to be understood, but instead to be considered lightly as we reflect upon our own lives. Our collective actions, gathered throughout history until this present moment, created everything we have and, to some degree, what we are. Maybe we aren’t meant to come to terms with what’s in the future?

But what kind of people would we be if we didn’t try?

Grasping at the Infinite

Hello, it’s been a while. It’s interesting how quickly time flashes by in the individual instances of our lives. While one moment seems to drag on, collectively they slip away. Days mold into weeks and into months.

However, what I find to be more interesting are the ideas of what mold us into a population–a collective being of thoughts, emotions, and beliefs. When history is made, people come alive in such varied ways. Love and hate clash into what appears to be a battle between good and evil. And reason seems to get lost somewhere in the middle. We become so attached to our emotions and to what is ingrained in us that, when it becomes fueled by the massive power of a group, it turns into a powerful mass that we flood into the world, unaware of the consequences of our actions and words. I believe it was Freud who theorized that when people enter into a group, the individuals within lose their ability to use reason and logic, so perhaps there is nothing we can do about it.

People talk a lot about change. What needs to change and who needs to change it. The past week has given way to a lot of hate, and one monumental good that will undoubtedly be loved and contested, as is the way of the world. We’ve created change, both good and bad, and deal with the consequences as such. We have surprisingly little control over the everyday of our lives. Big changes affect us in miniscule ways, but we treasure the everyday. And sometimes when something seems to threaten that, we do and say what we can to hold onto what we know and what’s familiar. We’re beings of habit resistant to change who don’t want to lose control because that control is what gives us a sense of purpose. It makes us feel like we have a reason for being here amidst the massive scope of how far life stretches, beyond what’s contained in our atmosphere. Life is a wide expanse of unmanageable calamity disguised as small events, which will eventually lead to a collective end.

But, until then, we’ll do what we can to maintain control. Whether it’s by love or hate, remember that we’re all finite in an infinite expanse, and while it may seem like what we do doesn’t matter on a large scale, the recent decision shows we have limitless power.

It’s Not How Much, But What

When I started writing some years ago–writing seriously, that is–I was, admittedly and not surprisingly, naively curious about, well, everything related to writing. I gravitated to bigger writing blogs and came upon one in particular full of budding writers thirsty for advice on how to be a successful author. The blog’s owner, who was plenty experienced, sure, preached with utmost certainty that if we wanted to be successful writers that we absolutely needed to have a blog as a platform to reach out to the voracious readers ready to devour our books. Certainly not bad advice at all, so I logged a new blog post just about every day. Full of new experiences to share with the world, the words flowed in my books as well as on the blogosphere.

And yet, over time, the blog posts slowed, but the writing did not. It seemed that, perhaps, I had learned a sufficient amount to continue without regurgitating what I had already said before–something I noticed the blog mentioned above seemed to do, just in different words–I published a few more books, and the blog posts essentially came to a halt. Book sales continued to trickle, seemingly with no change whether I blogged or not.

Flash forward to a few days ago when a blog post from Chuck Wendig soared into my inbox all about how, really, writer’s don’t need to blog. Blogging should be something you want to do, not something you should feel badly about not doing. It detailed about how if you’re told agents will only take writers who blog and have massive blogging platforms, then you’ve been lied to, and that publishers should, and will, work with writers to combine their marketing efforts. I’ve also seen, and posted, my fair share of posts apologizing for not posting followed by empty promises to blog more, only to have my blog fall a bit stagnant again. That’s when I realized what needed to happen. I needed to rediscover that bit of enjoyment I received from blogging. At first, I was learning so much about writing all the time that I always had something new to talk about.

Mr. Wendig also touched upon this gem: Writers don’t need to blog about writing. As consumed as we are by the craft, blogging should be an outlet, an outpouring, even, of things we find interesting. Of things we love and enjoy. Certainly that includes writing, but us creative beasts have more interests that just writing, so I’m aiming to really explore deeper into the things that interest me and what I have to say about them. A few things I plan to talk about (and would love to discuss with you):

Philosophy – A few months ago I discovered a hidden love for philosophy. Searching ourselves to find out who we are beyond the basic ideals is something I find really interesting. Discovering, discussing, and debating the implications of our actions, the inevitable aspects of our life–death, love, to be human–is something that I’ve been implementing in my own writing, and it’s something I’d like to explore more.

Being a father – My son, Harvey, recently turned three months old, and I find it more difficult every day to remember what it was like before he arrived. So much happened that surged my life forward in the past 12 months, and he is certainly the biggest part of it.

Speaking of life surging forward, I finally landed a full-time job using my college degree. A couple of weeks ago I accepted a position as the communications specialist at a company called CDS Monarch, which is a not-for-profit organization that provides services for intellectually and developmentally disabled individuals, veterans suffering from PTSD, traumatic brain injury, and/or military sexual trauma, and seniors. It’s a lot of great work, and an organization that helps a lot of people. So, if you’ll excuse this shameless plug, check us out on Facebook and Twitter. I will certainly be talking about this some, too, as well as some of the great new marketing and public relations skills I learn.

So, I’ll leave you with that. I’m sure I’ll stumble upon other things to talk about, but I’m looking forward to the future of this blog.

Also, make sure you scroll down and read the great guest posts from Wednesday. There’s some awesome content from some awesome people.

Take care, and to those who celebrate: Happy Easter.

GUEST POST: Britt Skrabanek: I’ll Be Happy When…

Happiness. We put so much pressure on that single word, don’t we?

It’s all too easy to get stuck in this mental cycle of thinking happiness will magically arrive once we get something we thought we wanted more than anything else—when we accomplish something we worked our asses off to get.

I’ll be happy when I get that promotion.

I’ll be happy when I buy that house.

I’ll be happy when I write that book.

Do we feel happy after obtaining or accomplishing any of these things? Not for very long. Like coming down from a high, we crash and we wonder where it all went wrong.

Hey, what happened to my happiness I deserve? I worked so hard for it, and now it’s gone.

The build-up we attach to thinking happiness comes after a certain thing causes this self-destructive roller coaster of emotions.

As a writer, I know this feeling well. And I see it all the time in other writers.

I hear many aspiring novelists say that they’ll be happy when they finally finish writing their first book, so they can share it with the world. They envy others who have published their novel, thinking they have won the key to happiness.

I know this, because I used to be an aspiring novelist. I used to feel these things.

I used to think that if I published books, I would be able to become a full-time writer. I pictured myself looking out the window, typing away with a cat in my lap, creating meaningful art to share.

Since then, I’ve written and self-published three books. And I still have my full-time job.

After each book release, I felt disappointed. Yes, I was proud of myself for my hard work. I was. But what kept holding me back was the pressure I put on my own happiness.

Because I said…

I’ll be happy when I publish my first book.

I’ll be happy when I publish my second book.

I’ll be happy when I publish my third book.

Here’s the really interesting thing about finding happiness. It’s not hard to find. It’s actually right there in front of us.

Recently I ran a free Amazon promotion on my first book, Beneath the Satin Gloves, for a re-release I did after reediting the whole damn thing.

The promotion was a smashing success, with hundreds of downloads. My goal was to get more reviews. Then, I got my first Goodreads review…and it was one star, no comment.

I blamed the review for stealing my happiness. I wanted to quit writing—not for the first time—and I began second-guessing my path and purpose in life. Just like that.

Sure, it sounds ridiculous as I reveal this vulnerability to you guys, but it’s true. And, we all do it.

Again, I put too much pressure on my happiness, because I said I would be happy when I got reviews for my book. Well, I got one didn’t I? Shouldn’t that have made me happy?

Finding Happiness

The picture of me you’re seeing is a selfie I took right after this happened. It was a beautiful sunny day here in Portland and I took a walking break at work.

There’s a lovely urban park not far away. It’s surrounded by tall buildings and a busy freeway, but the park is spacious and peaceful, a sanctuary inside of the chaos.

It was here that I snapped out of my unhappiness. It was here, on a Wednesday afternoon, that happiness washed over me.

Nothing happened. There was no five star review for the same book to make me “feel better,” or some other grand revelation. I was simply happy.

And when I look back at some of the happiest moments in my life, they happen when I least expect them.

I think this is something we should all keep in mind. I’ll be happy when I live.

Britt is the spirited indie novelist of Nola Fran Evie, Everything’s Not Bigger, and Beneath the Satin Gloves. Her blog, a physical perspective, is a whimsical snapshot of life, musings, and the glory of the written word. Britt is blissfully married, has two delightfully incorrigible cats and loves to experience the world—all of its quirky beauty inspires her endlessly. When she’s not writing, she’s a bike riding Yogi who loves to dance.


GUEST POST: Michael Hallisey: Writing is an Act of Intimacy Between the Author and the Reader

Writing is an act of intimacy between the author and the reader. A disingenuous word stands out and credibility is lost. Too many people aspire to write for the wrong reasons. Often times a person wishes to write as a means of sharing a different passion entirely; being a love for music, the need to share one’s own story, or to satisfy the wish for fame and fortune. The love to write should satisfy the need to tell a story, regardless of the subject; and, to do so in the cadence of a dance where the words supply the music.

Writers are at their best when they are at their most vulnerable. When they allow themselves to be honest, and strip themselves naked, welcoming others to judge. Perhaps those who aspire to write are begging for acceptance, and fail to see the dangers to such exposure. While those who do write, are able to peer back into the reader and see the truth that lies within.

Nearly twenty years ago, I traded in my journalism career for one in the corporate world, because it provided a stable lifestyle to support a family. Just a few short years ago, I obsessed over the stories of others who overcame obstacles in pursuit of their passion, and I picked my pen back up. Today, I’m out of the corporate world. I’ve followed my passion and I surround myself with people who do the same. I write their stories so that others can be inspired as I have become. When you follow your passion, opportunities present themselves. You just have to be patient enough to look, strong enough to work towards, and to be brave enough to go after them.

M_HalliseyMichael Hallisey
Managing Editor
Spotlight Newspapers


I’ve called myself a writer for 6 years. It took me about 3 years to realize that “writer” is synonymous with “crazy.” Back before I donned the “writer” label, I wrote a mystery about a girl who marries a guy with split personalities. I don’t remember much about writing this manuscript, except that I did it in my parents’ basement on an ancient computer that was eventually fried by lightning. That book is still around on one of my flash drives. Sometimes I open it and read a few pages—and maybe it’s not brilliant or a work of art, but it is special. I also completely forgot that I wrote it…until I stumbled upon it one day.

A few years later, I completed a young adult manuscript. It took me 4 weeks to write it during a college break. I remember spending all my free time glued to my laptop. I wore the finish off chairs at Border’s, I woke up early and stayed up late because, just one more chapter. It wasn’t brilliant or a work of art, or truthfully, special, but it was so rewarding. Writing became my release, my place to hide and unwind, and feel safe.

I allowed a few close friends into my circle of trust, printing pages for them to read because I was terrified of having my work hijacked online. (I know, I know, crazy, right?) I remember sneaking into a lab at school with one of my classmates so I could print the pages for free. It was like Christmas when they returned the story with comments and thoughts and feedback written in pink or purple ink. I wasn’t the only one connecting with my characters. My friends were instant fans.

I lost myself in the wonder of creating a new world. One book became two, then three. I had an entire series, and then a spin‐off book. These characters became like real people. Even now, I can tell you their favorite foods, where they went on vacation as a child, their likes and dislikes. Everything felt so possible in those days. Sometimes I wish they’d never ended.

There is an inevitable point in every writer’s life where they cross from the “honeymoon stage” into the “reality stage.” This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, more of a wakeup call. Eventually, every writer needs to let someone more experienced look at their work. Every writer (who is serious about being a writer) needs to learn and grow. Oftentimes this means taking off the rose‐colored glasses and seeing our work for what it really is: In Progress. What follows is a lot of editing, frustration, tears, and heartbreak. But that’s not what this post is about.

Writing, like any art, should make us feel. So when I’m pressured to live up to everything I’ve learned, I go back to that safe place, those early days of pure joy. Writing isn’t about getting it perfect the first time, it’s about the feeling you get creating something wonderful. It’s so easy to get lost, especially when we raise our standards to nearly unreachable heights. We can literally edit our work to death.

So whether you’re a new writer, an intermediate writer, or someone who’s been around the block a time or two, take some time and return to that safe place. Write for the happiness it brings you, not because you want to be the next best seller or impress an agent or because you have to. Put the world on the back burner. Tune out those nagging voices and let a blank page fill you with possibility. Let the words fall from excited hands. The manuscript may change with time, but the way it made you feel will stick around forever.

Author photoKACEY VANDERKARR is a young adult author. She dabbles in fantasy, romance, and sci‐fi, complete with faeries, alternate realities, and the occasional plasma gun. She’s known to be annoyingly optimistic and listen to music at the highest decibel. Kacey is president of the Flint Area Writers and the Social Media Director for Sucker Literary. When she’s not writing, she coaches winterguard and works as a sonographer. Kacey lives in Michigan, with her husband, son, and crazy cats. In addition to her novels, Antithesis, Reflection Pond, and Poison Tree, Kacey’s short fiction is featured in Sucker Literary Vol III, Out of the Green: Tales from Fairyland, Ember: A Journal of Luminous Things, and will appear in the forthcoming Spark Vol VII.


OFFICIAL WEBSITE LAUNCH: Christopherstocking.om

You may notice a couple new things around here.

1) A brand new, dark theme to fit my style of writing that has emerged over the past few months. Things are getting darker with each word, friends. But what lies beyond that darkness, deep within the story, are themes that I love to show. Power. Struggle. The consequences of intolerance and, perhaps most importantly of all, personal introspection to try and become something better than we are. There is light in every darkness, although it may often appear as a shadow. No one ever said light has to shine brightly.

2) A brand new name. Christopherstocking.com. Christopher Stocking is who I am. This is my space. My slice of the interwebs for me to share and explore, and I hope, if you’re a returning friend, you’ll continue to return; and, if you’re new, I hope you’ll stick around, sign up for email updates, and share your thoughts with me.

A new website for a new brand of writer, and I’m really excited to show you guys what’s new, what’s up, and what’s to come.

It’s going to be fun, friends.

SO! To honor this exciting new website launch, I will be featuring three awesome blog posts from three exceptional writers who I’ve had the honor of knowing and following. They’ll be talking about some great topics, so you’ll definitely want to watch this space to see what they have to say.

So, allow me to be the first to welcome you to the new Christopherstocking.com. More news and excitement will be rolling out over the next couple of weeks, so I hope you’ll hang out and bring some discussion.

Until next time, friends.

Everything is Just Terrible: A Look at Pessimism

In what little wisdom and intellect I have managed to obtain in my 24 years alive, I believe I have discovered that I am somewhat of a pessimist. By dwelling on the darker side of the world I find I am able to uncover the deep contrasts of various aspects of society and culture. I’m able to learn and explore on a deeper level, which I can then apply to my writing.

Now, as I searched for a suitable image for this post–of which I really couldn’t find any–I happened upon several quotes relating to pessimism. Many of them briefly detailed the negative side of pessimism, stating how pessimists are weak, or perhaps missing opportunities that optimists are reveling in. Looking past the oxymoron of criticizing a pessimist in such a way, without the pessimist there would be no optimist, just as there would be no optimist without an pessimist. The two negatively compliment each other. Without knowing the bad, the negative, or the terrible of every situation, how do we measure what is good about it? And if we can’t see the positive in something, how do we know just how negative it can be? Without the other, the optimist and the pessimist are both operating under a delusional state of ignorance.

But, for purposes of this post, I’d like to focus on pessimism. After all, it is the concept with which I have the most experience. While I am capable of seeing the upside in many things, I believe the negatives have slightly more to offer. People live with the belief of utopias and candy-coated goodness in the world when there is plenty to learn from the lingering darkness underneath it. The negatives of every good event leave such a drastic, stark contrast.

In terms of storytelling, what can we learn from the soldier serving in the name of good, but being subjected to the terrors of the world that lead to alcoholism, divorce, and suicide? What horrors stare them in the face? More importantly, perhaps, what can be done to help ease those horrors? By observing the darkness, the pessimistic side of the world, we can locate the roots of pain and horror and potentially find a way to fix it. That is what, as of late, I’ve been attempting to do with my writing. By telling stories that highlight darkness, I want to show the world the consequences of its wrongdoings. Of course, defining what is wrong is certainly a subjective concept as it can vary in both degree and perception.

But without living the pessimistic life–to some degree–I would be unable to explore these things. And as I further learn about philosophy and psychology as it pertains to media and the way people act, I find that I dig deeper into the world of pessimism not out of personal enjoyment–although I do enjoy writing–but instead out of personal intellectual exploration. To examine and identify what makes the world what it is, why, and what the hell is going to happen to it if we keep it up.

Stating that pessimists are weak, as I found in some quotes, I believe comes from a lack of wanting to face the world as it is. The pessimist is the individual who stares into the terrors of the world and emerges with understanding, perspective, and a desire to eradicate it.


CoverI’m excited to announce that my YA book, His Only Star, is being relaunched! The book has been combed through and given a stylish new cover to really highlight this tragic story.

His Only Star is one of my personal favorite books of mine because it really has the most of me in it. When this book was initially published, I recall saying how I’m convinced I was a different person when I wrote that. Something about this story really flowed and resonated with me, and, while I’ve loved everything I’ve written, I really have a certain appreciation for this book. Creating it was a unique experience unlike anything else I’ve written, and that’s why I’m so excited to share this new edition with you.

His Only Star isn’t your traditional boy-meets-girl story. You won’t find pages of swooning internalization and longing for love. What you will find is a dark edginess to a tragic love story. You’ll find a love of books, music, and a character’s loyalty to someone he loves, who he fears may never love him in return.

Praise for His Only Star

Release_0“The story was simple, engaging, exciting and tragically human. Definitely worth a read.”

– J.S. Collyer, Author of Zero

 “The story is poignant and emotional, and it’s one of those texts that stay with you long after you read it.”

– Karen Rought, blogger

 “The physical and emotional struggles encountered by the characters are tragic, yet real-life.”

– Fille Guillaume, blogger

“Well-written & great story-telling.”

– Deb E., author of Healer’s Touch

His Only Star is set to be re-released March 1, 2015. Don’t miss out on a great story, and be sure to add it on Goodreads!