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.

 
 
 

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.

Winter and Writing


I have a pretty significant dislike for the cold. The bracing chill accompanied with freezing wind makes for a less-than-pleasant outdoor experience. Not to mention the time it takes to bundle up in scarves and hats and gloves and coats and whatever other layers are required to ensure I don’t lose a finger to frostbite (I know, I know, I live in New York, I should be used to it by now).

But, all complaining aside, I still have an appreciation for the aesthetics of  the cold season. I appreciate the blanket of snow shimmering in the sunlight. The dark trees beneath a cold, gray sky, once resembling life, then vibrant color, now are bare to show the final cycle of life. A dim farewell to the season. However, when the snow does eventually fall and cover those empty tree limbs, it almost disguises them with a sort of beauty that makes the idea of death–of and ending–okay. Like a thin, glinting veil over our eyes to ease the despair that may come with such finality. It creates the idea that an absolute, crushing end might be a little less final if we can see past the bare emptiness of it. A preservation of life that will eventually return if we can find something to help us hold on.

As a writer, it’s my responsibility to not only tell a good story, but to show one was well. Example: the idea of winter symbolizing death, but showing that we are capable of moving on from it and finding ways to cope with it (Hopefully I did that well). It’s my job to try to make you see something in a way you hadn’t before, or to feel a certain way about a point of view, an experience, a lifestyle that maybe you hadn’t considered. It’s my job to evoke emotions and feelings about fictional characters and trick you into thinking these are real people with real problems who, if they don’t deal with them, will suffer from catastrophic repercussions.

A key aspect of accomplishing my job successfully is descriptive writing. Unfortunately, it’s also something I’ve been a bit lacking in. Not that I struggle to get my point across, but I’ve never been one to go into the deep, minute details of each scene, every minuscule point of a character’s face, or every minutia of a person’s feelings. I’ve been told my writing somewhat resembles Hemingway. To the point. No messing around. Nothing unneeded. It’s just the story and the reader. No fluff. And while that’s well and good, and, well, a bit of an honor, really, it’s not entirely what I want my writing to be. Certainly we don’t have much control over our voice. It develops into what it is, and I don’t think there’s too much we can do to change it. However, I think we’re capable of altering it to some degree.

Our voice is kind of like the roots of our writing. We see what other writers do, how they describe something, tell a story, and why it’s working, and then we try to blend it with our own. Like little word thieves, if you will. Of course you could argue that those influences are the roots of our voice, and with practice our voice then becomes fully grown. But, stick with me here. If our voice is indeed the root of our writing, then those influences, paired with the grueling practice of writing, can then develop our voice into something great.

But once we find our voice (again, a counterargument could be that we never actually find our voice, but instead we just hone it to the best polished product it can become), are we able to change it? I think so. I think we can never lose that essence–the roots–of our voice, but it’s certainly able to be altered. We’re always getting better at writing, no? Every time I look back at an old piece of work I can’t help but cringe a bit because I see all the ways I could’ve written that scene better or told that person’s story in a more dynamic way. In order to do that, in some cases, I need to write more descriptively, which is something I have been working on.

My next work, Wasteland Gods, is currently in the beta reading stage. It also took me close to nine months to write. Taking that long to write something, to me, is both good and bad. It’s good because, well, that was nine months of me gradually becoming a better writer, meaning I can put out a better finished product. It’s bad because taking nine months to write a book means the beginning is almost inevitably far worse than the end, strictly from a technical standpoint. Eventually, however, when I did finally reach the end I was able to go back and read through the draft, adding in all sort of cool details and writing tricks that I had developed over those months, making the work stronger. Of  course it involved some chapter rewriting and extensive edits–all part of the revision process, of course–but in the end I was quite pleased with how it all turned out.

All of this is to say that our voice is important to constantly develop as writers, and this happens without us knowing. But if we actively work to get better, noticing our actions and how our writing develops, then we are absolutely on the right path to really doing something immense and meaningful with our writing.

If you’re still here, you’re a trooper. And thank you for reading.

Classics Kick


Since my declaration of decreased social media, I’ve decided that I need to read some more classics. The only real exposure I’ve had to them is what we were required to read in high school, and most of the time I didn’t do the required reading. I think there comes a certain level of reading maturity that we have to hit before we can appreciate certain books, and I just hadn’t hit it then. But now I’m more eager than ever to read them.

I have mixed feelings about the classics from a writing standpoint, one of which being that in order for us to keep up as much as possible with current writing trends, reading something as old as the classics won’t really keep our writing current. However, there is so much to be learned from reading the classics.

Classics teach us the tricks of the trade. They show us such exemplary fundamentals of writing, themes, and characters, and they often touch on such important topics that I think are often overlooked in today’s fiction of vampire romances. (On a side note, it’s interesting that, for me at least, comparing something to vampire romance books seems to be becoming a cliche.)

So, to start off my classics kick, I read Of Mice and Men, which was one of the books I think I read most of in high school, in its entirety Monday. One of the things I especially enjoy about classic books is that many of them have interesting introductions by professors and people of literature who briefly analyze and provide some insights into the book, which are fun to look for while reading.

Along the Erie Canal.

Along the Erie Canal.

That leaves me with yesterday’s read. It was unusually warm, and the wind had been especially strong, but I couldn’t just sit in my apartment. Across the street, over a narrow trail line by two rows of trees, is the Erie Canal. Since my wife and I moved here in February, I’ve taken many walks alongside the Canal, weather permitting. There are paths on either side of it with benches and picnic tables and grills, so it’s really a nice spot that doesn’t get a ridiculous amount of traffic. I enjoy sitting and watching the boats, and oftentimes there are ducks passing by, so it’s really a peaceful spot to sit and, most recently, read.

So, yesterday, I went out and began my next classic read, The Scarlet Letter, which I’m enjoying. I’m told, mostly from the back cover, that it reveals a lot about the influence of New England’s past on American attitudes, which is something I recently got into. It’s interesting to see how the past influences the present, and can sometimes show the origins of present behaviors. Also, from what I read in the preface, this book was fueled by the death of Hawthorne’s mother, which apparently gave him a new sort of look at writing, and it launched him into an inspirational sprint unlike any he’d had before, since he’d somewhat unsuccessfully relied on writing short fiction.

Now comes the part where you can help! I’ve got my stack of classics, and I’d like for you guys to either recommend which book I read next and/or tell me which ones I need to get–as I know I’m really lacking good, classic books.

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The book on the very bottom is a biography of Emma Goldman that I had to read for an old college history class but would like to re-read. I just happened to grab it with the rest of the classics collection.

The list includes:

  • Of Mice and Men
  • Pride and Prejudice
  • Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
  • Wuthering Heights
  • A Tale of Two Cities
  • The Wizard of Oz
  • A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
  • To Kill a Mockingbird

Which classics are your favorite? Do you think classic books are still relevant in today’s constantly changing book marketplace?

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


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!

The Crimson Apple CoverThe_Rotten_Apple_Cover

August Update: The Haps


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!

Monday Recap: Rejection, Sales, Expansion


It’s interesting how sometimes, after receiving bad news, a whole lot of good news comes through.

I interviewed for a staff writer job at the newspaper I freelance for, and I found out yesterday that I didn’t get it. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, seeing as how I’ve been writing for them for close to a year now, but I guess the powers-that-be at that newspaper have decided I wasn’t a good fit, but I’ll continue working as a freelance correspondent. So, not terrible news, but not good news, seeing as how I still have this degree and I’m not using it to its full potential.

However, yesterday some pretty cool things happened that seemed to outweigh that bad news, at least for now, anyway.

First, I sold some books, which  always makes my day better. Knowing that someone was interested enough in what I had to say, and knowing that I potentially have the chance to get a new fan, make someone else’s day better, and, who knows, maybe even change a life, is fantastic.

Second, selling books bumped up one of my Amazon sales ranks!

crimsonappletop100Not long after that, I discovered that both The Rotten Apple and Black Powder Brigade are available on the Barnes and Noble Website!

And, finally, this morning I discovered that I sold more books, bumping up my sales rank for The Crimson Apple even further.

crimsonappletop1002

Overall, what started off as a day that promised to be less-than-hopeful turned out to be not so bad after all. So, thank you to all my readers, to everyone who has bought, checked out, glanced at, and given my writing a chance. It’s because of you that I continue to do what I do, and that I will keep at it until I no longer can.

DEADGOD: Understanding the Theme


Progress on my current WIP, DEADGOD, has been pretty slow as of late. I’ve really only been working on it about once or twice a week, maybe contributing 300 – 1,000 words on any of those days. I used to attribute it to my large course load during my final semester of college, which had me writing a lot of pretty big papers and reading a lot of texts. But now I don’t have any of that. I have my degree, but I’m still working on getting a full-time job. I have an abundance of free time, which also means I’m not making much money (Although, if you’re inclined to help me out then click on one of the book covers to your left and pick up a copy of one of my books!)

However, I’ve had what appears to be some sort of revelation the past few days. When I started DEADGOD I wanted to write some kind of book about cultural, religious, and social tolerance. I wanted to make a social commentary on American culture, seeing as how that’s the one I’m most familiar with, and show how intolerance can shape the world into an awful place. In order to do that, I created a religiously intolerant character in a world with one remaining religious man. I had a concept, and I knew how I wanted this religiously intolerant character to arc and learn from his behavior, but there was just something missing on my part. Something wasn’t driving me to tell this story. Part of it was because I really wasn’t pushing myself to sit down and write, which I can only blame on myself. But I think I’ve realized that I had a basic idea of the theme I wanted to convey in this novel, but I hadn’t really figured out how I was going to show it.

Now, as some of you may know, I write a column entitled Maglomediac in which I study and analyze various media. I think this has really helped me to understand the themes I want to tell in this novel and nail them down. When people think of the word media, most often they think of the news, meaning that I’ve been taking a look at it more on a cultural level–why it’s happening, to whom it’s happening, is it a result of some kind of social stigma? pseudo-environment? and things of that nature–which has allowed me to see it on a deeper level and apply it to my writing.

I now have some of the tools to be able to show the ideas and themes I want to portray in this book. By showing religious intolerance, political and religious zeal, and some of the concepts and ideas that are common today, which one could argue are contributing to a sort of devolution and backwards thinking in society, I can show why we need to correct these behaviors. Or, at least, I can show why I think we need to correct these behaviors.

After finally unearthing the deeper ideas about what exactly I want to show with this novel, not only have I been motivated to create the characters and world needed to show the themes I want to convey, but it has definitely made the writing stronger, too. It has given me a further look into the characters motivations and beliefs, and I can see much more clearly now why these character think, act, and speak the ways in which they do, and I think it’s making my novel really strong, and when it’s finished it will certainly

Snapshot Fiction


There’s something really exceptional about flash fiction, specifically those pieces ranging from 100 to 500 words. To be able to setup characters, plot, setting, and make a reader care about what happens is a remarkable talent that I envy. I’ve never dabbled much in flash fiction as I usually end up coming up with an idea that spans much more than a few hundred words. More often than not the idea turns into something novella or novel length.

Many of these ideas also end up coming to mind when I’m in the middle of a longer project. I believe they call those plot bunnies; those shiny ideas that beg you to step away from your current project and take off on a new adventure with exciting new characters and places and conflicts. However, if we succumbed to those plot bunnies all the time we’d never get any work done. So, something I find that helps me out when the plot bunnies come call is to write down what I call snapshot fiction, or a snapshot in time taking place in this new idea. Sometimes it’s a bit of dialogue and sometimes it’s an ending. But this sort of helps to get the idea out of my system so I can focus on my current project.

And now, (hopefully) for your entertainment, I’d like to share a few of my snapshot fiction pieces with you.

The stone tower looked fondly over its handiwork as the bodies of those brave men, void of souls or what once rest within them, lay scattered on the ground. Corruption had been a mere toy with which the tower played, and the sweet taste of blood sustained it until more arrived.


He looked at me with hopeful eyes and a faint smile, weary with fatigue after so many years of adventure and strangeness. A man, once a merchant barely scraping by, had become a man of fortune. A man accustomed to a certain way of life gained only by spilling blood and taking whatever he pleased.

“I’ll always cherish what you did for me,” he said. “Above all else. Gold, alcohol, leisure. The courage and drive you’ve inspired in me these past months are something I’ll treasure. Thank you.”

I dared not share in his smile, though his words reached a deeper part of me that had not been unleashed in some time.

I nodded to him with a grim expression and grasped the wooden handle beside me. The man before me, my friend, swallowed hard, and I pulled the lever, dropping the floor beneath him. He fell hard, reaching a jerking stop as the rope around his neck snapped the bones with a sharp crack. And my friend was dead.


I hope you enjoyed these brief snapshots in time. I plan to post some more of these as they come to me, and perhaps they’ll help you to come up with a story of your own.

As always, let me know what you think in the comments!