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.

 
 
 
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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.

Rejected


My first attempt at some sort of traditional publication has ended in rejection, sadly. I wrote a post-apocalyptic short story entitled When The Last Soul is Claimed about the Grim Reaper’s fate after she claims the final soul on earth and submitted it to Tor, the short fiction imprint. After about three months of waiting I received a reply yesterday:

Dear Mx. Stocking,

  Thanks so much for submitting to Tor.com, and for your patience while we evaluated your story. Unfortunately, “When The Last Soul is Claimed” is not quite right for us. I wish you the best of luck placing it elsewhere.

Best,
Tor.com Submissions Staff
(AM)

I’m fairly certain the “Mx” was a typo.

Admittedly, I was somewhat confident that my short story was good enough, and due to the volume of submissions they get I’m quite sure they really aren’t able to provide any feedback. That being said, I still kept the idea of rejections as a prevalent outcome of this endeavor, and I’m certain that’s one of the reasons why receiving the email wasn’t soul crushing, nor was it painful. In fact, it provided me with a surprising amount of inspiration to get back to it, to move on, and shop my story around elsewhere. I made significant work on Wasteland Gods yesterday, and even surprised myself when one of my favorite characters met an untimely demise.

I’m ultimately surprised at my reaction to my first rejection, and I’m somewhat excited to hang the letter above my desk where I have no doubt others will join it. Rejection is an inevitable part of this business, and while self-publishing has reduced both the amount and severity of rejection I’ve received–so far, anyway–I’m confident that I’ll be able to land something somewhere as I work on transitioning to more traditional publication attempts.

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?

I Write to…


“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.

WASTELAND GODS: COVER REVEAL


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

Cover_C

Click to view larger

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!

 

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!

GUEST POST: J.S. Collyer


10382262_661343403958476_7130056436231839549_oI have an awesome guest on my blog today. I don’t recall exactly how we connected on this massive blogosphere. I suppose chance is the best explanation for it. Either way, she has grown immensely over the time I’ve known her, and now she’s here to talk about her debut novel, ZERO.


I want to start off by offering my thanks to Chris for giving me the opportunity to do a post for his blog. Chris Stocking is one of the first writers I ever started following on WordPress and his drive and passion really encouraged me to keep on striving toward my own goals.

I’m thrilled that I have reached the first of these goals: my first novel, Zero, a SciFi story of one crew’s fight for freedom and survival in an uncaring universe, is being released by Dagda Publishing 16th August 2014.

The full synopsis can be found on my my WordPress, along with a link to a Crowdfunding campaign that is doing very well raising money for the marketing which also gives readers a chance to pre-order signed copies and more, and the book launch is going ahead at UK’s Fantasticon – a SciFi and gaming convention in Hull.

So it really is all happening. I’m so pleased but also, in my quieter moments, I’m still a little scared and also a little unbelieving. The biggest thing preying on my mind is: what’s next?

I’ve got this far…but there’s so much further to go.

Lots of writers, myself included, when they start out only plan towards writing that first novel. It’s a major challenge, there’s no doubt. It has taken me a long time to get to the point where I had the confidence, the experience and the deadline to write a book. When those three things all came together, the first draft took me a measly 4 months. 4 months of very hard work, and it has since seen upwards of three brutal editing sessions which have taken the same time again and more, but still…I did it. I proved to myself if can be done. But now I just have this feeling that the first novel is just creating more and wider opportunities that need to be taken.

So what now?

Well, the answer is I need to write the next book. And so that’s what’ I’m doing now. My draft of Haven, Zero’s sequel, currently stands at 40,000 words and I want the draft done by the end of this year. It’s taking longer than Zero did, as I’m also juggling marketing & promoting Zero with a full time job and maintaining my blog. But if you want something enough you make the time and you don’t give up.

Zero got a publishing deal simply because I never stopped trying. I wrote other things, started other novel, only to leave them half-finished and half-forgotten in the recesses of various hard drives. But the whole time, I was keeping in touch online with the writing and publishing world, reading posts by people like Chris and many others and their experience with publishing and writing to keep my engaged and keep me going.

That’s how I found Dagda, who at first only released poetry but then branched out to fiction. They accepted first one then another of my short stories for their science fiction anthologies Tuned to a Dead Channel and All Hail the New Flesh. And then they looked to branch out into novels…

I already had an idea for a science fiction story in my head so I knew I had to seize the opportunity and capitalise on their interest in my fiction. I pitched the story and they wanted the draft. They read the draft and wanted the novel. And so it happened.

But this is only the beginning. I’m still networking, still researching, still writing. That last is the most important. Keep writing. Even if you’re tired, even if you’re busy, even if you’ve scrapped three novel drafts already (like me), if you want to get somewhere, just don’t stop.

It may, no, it will take time, effort and commitment, but keep at it and keep enjoying it. You’ll be amazed at how opportunities come together when you leave yourself open to them.


J. S. Collyer is a SciFi and Speculative Fiction Writer from Lancaster, UK.

‘Like’ her at www.facebook.com/jscollyer or follow her on Twitter @JexShinigami.

Fiction and blog found at jcollyer.wordpress.com and the Facebook event for ‘Fantasticon’, SciFi convention which will be Zero’s book launch, can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/events/715235208506964/?fref=ts