NaBlogWriMo 12: Turning “Now” Into A Place Worth Being (Overcoming Perfectionism and Getting Published)

(One of the coolest things about running a shared universe like Ash Falls is that you are forced to interact with other authors. You know…” sharing.” And what is especially exciting is when you discover a new author hiding in plain sight.

Our compatriot, K. Edwin Fritz, did just that in a coffee shop in New Jersey when he struck up a conversation with Jeanette Koczwara. That conversation led, eventually, to the creation of Ash Falls’ immortal biker gang from ancient Persia.

When I needed someone to put together some thoughts on moving from thinking about writing to becoming a published writer, she seemed like a pretty obvious choice. 

Take it away, Jeanette!)

Notebooks, Gremlins, and Tea

Now that we got past the overly inspiring title, a little introduction is in order.

Some of you may know me as the author of A Dead Sun Rises, one of the latest series to be added to the Ash Falls Storyverse. Some of you might not know me at all (but now you do, and it’s too late to change that). And some of you actually know the truth; that I am actually five (5) gremlins loosely held together by knitwear, empty notebooks, and cheese wrappers, and kept running with unhealthy quantities of tea.

You might be wondering how five gremlins were able to pull together something remotely publishable. Here’s the secret: I said “good enough” and hit send.

(It may have been more colorful than that)

Until a year ago I had always envisioned publishing as something far off in my future. That it wouldn’t happen until I finished one of the many stories I’ve started. And even if I found the time to finish something I would need to edit it and write a second draft and edit that and write a third draft and…

You get the picture.

Declaring something “done” couldn’t happen unless it was perfect. And it couldn’t be perfect unless I had the time to perfect it. And I didn’t have that time right now.

I didn’t have that time because there were other things I needed to do first. I needed to find a “real” job. I needed to have my own place. I needed to put on all the trappings of a fully functional adult before I could stop feeling guilty about the time I spent on my unimportant hobbies.

So I never finished anything, because that was for future me. I never took up an instrument like I always wanted, because that was for future me. I neglected reading, because, you guessed it, only future self-sufficient me deserved to spend her time like that.

And I was miserable.

Arriving At The Future

I was pushing myself through jobs I hated. I wasted my free time never quite doing what I enjoyed. I became an anxious mess about everything I did.

Then, I came to a self-discovery. If I keep putting aside all of the things I loved about life, waiting for everything to be perfect, I would never get around to doing them. Future Me didn’t exist yet and Now Me needed to be happy.

I started by finding a local writers’ group. I dedicated myself to writing that one book I always wanted to finish (it’s not finished yet but we have 70k+ words in act 1). I picked up the doorstop I wanted to read and took it everywhere I went. Even if none of it was going to advance my status as a “productive unit in the economy” it made me happy.

During one writers’ meetup, I met K. Edwin Fritz (author of The Perpetuals) and he introduced Fiction Vortex to me. The concept immediately struck me as new, creative, and above all fun. But I still wasn’t considering it as an opportunity for myself (see above).

Then Khurshid came roaring through one of my dreams, a sword of star iron blazing, and I had a story to tell. Then I wrote it. And prepared the email. And proceeded to sit on it for nearly two months.

Because it wasn’t perfect.

Finally, in a caffeine-deprived haze, I mentioned I had this email sitting there and considered aloud whether I should just send it. Myself responded, with outside support, that I should just say “good enough” and hit send.

And now here we are. Episodes 1-4 are available on the StoryShop app!

In a proverbial nutshell, don’t feel guilty for doing what makes Now You happy because Future You doesn’t exist and Now You will only be happier if Past You was happy too.

P.S. I did buy that instrument, too. It’s a GuQin (Chinese zither), and, boy, does it make me happy to bumble along teaching myself with no outside or inside expectations.  

(Follow Jeanette and the continuing adventures of Khurshid in “A Dead Sun Rises” on the Storyshop app.)

NaNoBlogMo 11: National Epilepsy Awareness Month

https://endepilepsy.org/

It seems like you can hardly turn around on the internet these days without bumping into a “Month of” of some kind.

We have months for Obesity Awareness (September), Pet Adoption (October), and Home Ownership (June.) Cancer is especially popular in the “month” category, with Cancer Prevention (February), Brain Cancer (May), and Cancer Survivors (June) all getting months of their own. These, of course, are all dwarfed by the 800-pound gorilla in the “cancer month” room, Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, where you can’t open your eyes without seeing a pink ribbon.

But I normally sort of keep myself out of the whole “month of” thing. There are just too many causes to keep track of, too many things I could be paying attention to, to feel like any one of them deserves more attention than the others. Pick a cause you care about, I tend to think. Work diligently on behalf of that cause all the time. Pay no attention to what month it is.

Then November rolls around, and all my logic flies out the window. There are two BIG barn-burners of causes that I care about that take place during the month of Turkey Day. And I would be remiss if I didn’t chat a bit about them.

The Epilepsy Imbalance

So, how many people do you think will suffer from breast cancer in the upcoming year? (Stick with me, there is a point coming.)

In the United States, over a quarter of a million women suffer from breast cancer annually. Of that 250,000+, more than 40,000 will die from the condition. Over 3.1 million women total have a history of breast cancer in the United States. (All statistics courtesy of www.breastcancer.org)

Now, off the top of your head, how many people do you think suffer from Epilepsy in the U.S.?

About 3.4 million.

It is tough to track deaths from epilepsy since it so easy to have a seizure that then results in death from a secondary cause. But about 50,000 people will die from status epilepticus alone this year. (Status epilepticus is the medical term for “prolonged seizures” – seizures that last longer than 5 minutes.)

The federal government spends roughly five times as much money on the fight against breast cancer than on epilepsy research.

Now, don’t think for a minute that I am upset about the amount of money spent on breast cancer research. God bless the Susan G. Komen Foundation and the millions of women (and men as well) who worked tirelessly to get breast cancer awareness to where it is today.

Breast Cancer used to be a “hidden disease”, see – something that those suffering from it were ashamed to talk about. Over the decades its advocacy groups have dragged it from a hidden disease all the way to pink ribbons and “Save The Ta-Tas” t-shirts.

No, what I am saying is Epilepsy needs its own Susan Komen Foundation. Specifically, we need our own Nancy Brinker. (Susan Komen’s younger sister, who created the Foundation.)

November is National Epilepsy Awareness Month

So, this month is Epilepsy Awareness Month and, as usual, the epilepsy community is trying hard to get the word out about our condition. But, somehow, it just doesn’t seem to resonate outside of those immediately affected by epilepsy.

Part of that is straight-up bad press. Our country still believes, after all these centuries, that epilepsy and conditions like it need to be kept in the shadows. We still live in a world where one of the most popular sportswriters in our country feels comfortable saying that a college coach shouldn’t be allowed to coach due to his seizure disorder. (This represents the final time I ever read anything by Peter King or gave a penny in revenue to Sports Illustrated, btw.) And Peter King is not alone.

Also, the disability is, frankly, unattractive and disconcerting to those who have to watch it in action. Nothing sexy here, folks. For most of human history, seizures were mischaracterized as demonic possession, and for good reason: it really looks (and feels) like the controls to the body have been handed off to an extra-dimensional entity. Honestly, it is scary as hell. Scary to watch, scary to live through.

Lastly comes the problem of advocacy. The great majority of us with the condition are under some kind of pharmacological treatment. The drugs prescribed almost always impair our brain function in some way: seizures are, after all, hyper-active brain function. This means that it is tremendously difficult for those of us suffering from the condition to communicate intelligently about the condition. I can write about it fairly coherently, but put me up in front of a crowd of people to talk about it, and it all goes to hell: I turn into a stuttering, stammering mess who can’t remember what points I covered 30 seconds before. The wonders of life with a seizure disorder.

Add these things together and you have a soup that tastes like “no funding here, thanks.”

Extinguishing The House Fire

It all comes down to the old concept: it is very difficult to put out the house on fire while you’re inside the house.

The majority of us know so little about seizure disorders to begin with. Quick: name the one thing you remember from grade school about what to do with someone who is having a seizure.

More than half of you just said some variation of “Put something in their mouth so they won’t swallow their tongue.”

I sincerely hope that whoever came up with this wisdom never had to deal with someone having a seizure. If you ever come across a person having a seizure, do NOT, under any circumstances, try to put something in their mouth. They will merely damage the inside of their mouth even worse. My cheeks and tongue look like war zones after a seizure.

(Let me take this moment to tell you what to do: give the person some space. If you don’t know them well enough to know their seizure frequency, call 911. When their seizure ends, tell them what happened, and be prepared for them to be completely disoriented. Done.)

Down at the grade school level we need to change the narrative pertaining to seizure disorders.

We need the same thing on a local and federal level. People need to be willing to talk to politicians. We need individuals who are willing to donate to charities like the Epilepsy Foundation.

And, more than anything else, we need people who are willing to talk about epilepsy. Not to shrug and pretend it doesn’t exist.

Seriously, look at the numbers: if you know 100 people, you know someone with epilepsy. Just like if you know 100 people, you know someone who has survived or is going through breast cancer.

The great majority of women with breast cancer are now understood to be the warriors and heroines that they are. I can only hope that, someday soon, those of us with epilepsy are recognized in the same way.

Though I must admit I doubt anyone will ever come up with a slogan for epilepsy that has the punch of “Save the Tatas.” Brilliant.

But, ultimately, it is ok if we don’t get our own snappy marketing slogan and pink ribbon equivalent.

At this point, we will take whatever help we can get.

Talk To Someone About Epilepsy. Today.

  • Jeremy

 

 

NaBlogWriMo 10: The Ash Falls Update

Ha! Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water. Nope, NaBlogWriMo is still going strong. We’ve got the back half of November to get through, and lots of content still to come.

Who’da thunk it?

It seemed like as good a time as any to chat a little about my other writing project. As the Storyverse Head for the Ash Falls setting at Fiction Vortex, I am not only responsible for creating episodic fiction every month, but also for editing, reviewing, coordinating, and cat-herding eight other authors.

So, if you’ve been wondering why I never have time to do things like write blog posts, now you know.

As we near the end of 2018, we are coming up on some exciting new developments in Ash Falls. Let me bring you up to speed on where everyone is at…

Inheritance

The original story in Ash Falls, Inheritance follows Private Investigator Brian Drake as he investigates the assassination of one of the prime figures in Ash Fall’s supernatural underworld. If you have any interest in noir, an introduction to the Ash Falls setting, and seriously fragmented protagonists, this is the story for you. The first few episodes are available on the StoryShop app.

And, hey, the whole novel is already available at Amazon, in both print and ebook form. You could even email me and I can make arrangements to get you a signed copy! After all, Christmas is coming…

The Perpetuals

So, have you ever put any thought into what happens into what happens to those who have only been bitten by a vampire once or twice?

If you haven’t, no problem. K. Edwin Fritz has a whole book dedicated to exactly that concept in The Perpetuals. His colorful cast of “dhampir” characters takes you on a twisting tale from the back streets of Ash Falls through the Egyptian Underworld.

The first eight episodes of The Perpetuals are currently available on StoryShop.

Fallen

From the darkest recesses of Steve Cotterill’s mind comes Fallen – a book with so many twists and turns you may need to keep notes to keep track of plot developments. Fallen takes place mostly in the spaces outside of Ash Falls – the nether realm where those spirits that can’t move on exist, forever trapped.

Fallen episodes 1 through 9 are currently available, and we breathlessly await the series conclusion in episode 10.

Reborn

What if you were given a power beyond all imagining? And what if that power took everything you ever loved from you?

Corrine Kunz’ Reborn follows a protagonist who has had supernatural power thrust upon him, against his will. He must reach inside himself for strengths he did not know he possessed, and search for allies in the darkest reaches of Ash Falls to recover that which has been taken from him.

Reborn is currently being prepared for publication and should be available in print and ebook formats before the end of 2018.

As I said, Christmas is coming…

Holly

The madman steering us into to Season 2 of the Ash Falls Storyverse, William Aime, brings us Holly. Because what Ash Falls really needed was a police procedural involving a supernatural serial killer from the depths of British history.

Holly is drawing near its conclusion, with the first 7 episodes currently available on StoryShop! Get on board now!

A Dead Sun Rises

Imagine, if you will, an immortal band of ancient cavalry, doomed to eternally pursue their divine foe across the world. Now imagine what that cavalry unit would look like today

When 10,000 motorcycle-riding warriors ride into Ash Falls, things get really interesting. With an equal focus on ancient history and modern-day action, J.M. Koczwara’s A Dead Sun Rises opens Ash Falls to the wider world.

Coven Ascending

And, our most recent addition to Ash Falls, Joe Mankowski tells the tale of a boy, a girl, and a coven bent on domination of the Underworld. The first three episodes are currently available on StoryShop.

StoryShop 2.0

So, you may be asking, what is this “StoryShop” I keep mentioning?

StoryShop is our replacement for the former “Fictionite” reader app. If you ever downloaded Fictionite, relax – you are now the proud owner of the StoryShop client. Your library is intact.

But…if you weren’t an early adopter, and you just can’t wait to get your hands on all this juicy Ash Falls fiction, all is not lost! Just open up the device of your choice (Apple or Android) and look for the StoryShop app in your App Store. Install it, and get to all that fabulous reading that awaits you!

Now…what’s the catch, you may ask? Good question. As an early adopter, you’ll have access to all our episodic fiction, not just the Ash Falls Storyverse. And, while we get the wrinkles ironed out of StoryShop, you’ll have access for free.

StoryShop will eventually (Real Soon Now) be converting over to a micro-transactional model for access to all our glorious content. But, until that day arrives…well, why not take advantage now? Check it out, kick the tires…and when we flip the switch, you’ll be ready to jump on board and buy a subscription so that you can keep on receiving high-class fiction every week.

Only the cool kids recognize the trends that are about to change the world and jump on board before everyone else.

You want to be one of the cool kids, don’tcha?

Catch You All Tomorrow,

  • Jeremy

 

Tomorrow is Election Day – You Know What To Do

(Warning: politics ahead.)

Stop what you are doing right now and ask yourself: Have I voted?

If not, make preparations to do so right now.

Really, I understand that tomorrow, not today, is The Big Day.

But, by then, this post would be a little too late, wouldn’t it?

Seriously, if you live in the U.S., and you don’t vote, I don’t want to hear a peep out of you about the status of our country from here on out. Got it?

We Know Who We Are

It was one thing, back in 2016, to emerge the morning after election day and think the whole thing must have been a really odd dream.

But, nope, there it was – a reality TV show was now the President of the United States. His only qualification was his lack of qualifications. Seriously. He campaigned on that platform – it isn’t like I am insulting the dude by making that remark. He was an outsider who was going to change everything.

So, here we are, two years later. We have no excuses now. The novelty has worn off. We know exactly what we got when we elected him into office. And that forces us to ask a fundamental question: who are we, as a nation?

Are we a country filled with xenophobic nationalists? Or are we a country filled with people who realize a grave error has been made, at the highest levels of our country?

Only we can decide that now. And tomorrow’s elections will serve either as the turning point where America changed their collective mind about the benefits of MAGA, or the day we confirmed to the world that, yup, we’re serious about this shit.

In my “conversations” about politics with friends and family, I have always said the same thing. I am not afraid of Donald Trump. I am, however, terrified of the 60+ million people who thought voting for him was a great idea.

The Wrong Road

I’ve made no secret that I think we have made a serious error with the Trump presidency. The changes he has made in two years will take untold amounts of effort on our part to undo. (Should we collectively choose to undo them, that is.)

So, please understand this: a”blue wave” tomorrow will not magically solve our issues as a country. So much upheaval has taken place, so many decisions made that can’t be unmade by a change in a legislative body or bodies. We can’t just wave our ballots in the air and undo the enacted policies and cultural changes of the last two years. So many things that we thought were safely behind us as a country turned out to only be waiting for a little fertilizer to spring back to life.

We will not be “overthrowing” the current political order by a repudiation of Trump’s America tomorrow at the polls. At best we will slow the bleeding. But, when you are gravely injured, you have to stop the bleeding first. Then you can worry about things like organ transplants and broken bones.

It may seem that we are only heading backward, trying to get back to a point before things changed. Please understand that this is not necessarily a bad thing. C.S. Lewis, who am I so fond of quoting, said it best:

“We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.”

Sign me up for “progressive.”

The Heart of a Nation

My brother and I are fond of asking one another the question: “What kind of a world are we leaving behind for Keith Richards to live in?”

The Immortal Rolling Stone aside, the question still pertains – what will our legacy be? Tomorrow’s election will be an excellent bellwether for our ongoing development as a nation.

Do we, as a country, believe that we have gone completely off the rails? Are we setting up, as many fear, the foundations for a nation built on xenophobia and religious intolerance?

Or, will the “other half” of the country speak and maintain their belief that only by rewarding the rich and powerful while punishing the poor and helpless can we “return to greatness?’

Either way, the worst thing you can do is to think your vote doesn’t matter. A few hundred people in Wisconsin and Michigan decided matters for us in 2016. This is no time to sit on the sidelines, no matter where your loyalties lie.

I already voted.

Now it’s up to the rest of you to decide.

Catch You All Tomorrow,

  • Jeremy