After 1 Year and 100 Posts

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A year has passed since I’ve start­ed this web­site in the form in which it now exists. It’s been a good year. I’ve met and con­nect­ed with an awe­some com­mu­ni­ty of indie authors and I’ve man­aged to gain a lit­tle bit of expo­sure for my book and make some sales in the process.  I pro­cured a few inter­views with inter­est­ing and pro­lif­ic indie authors and artists, land­ed mul­ti­ple guests post for this site, and have writ­ten a few for oth­ers as well, learned a bit about self-pro­mo­tion, and wrote mul­ti­ple book reviews.  I am also active on Goodreads.  Star­la Huch­ton did and incred­i­ble job redesign­ing my book cov­er, and I joined Amazon’s KDP Select pro­gram.

I joined two antholo­gies over the past year.  Grim5Next Worlds Undone anthol­o­gy is a spec­tac­u­lar idea con­ceived by Lyn Mid­night where­in 36  writ­ers col­lab­o­rate to cre­ate twelves sto­ries writ­ten in three parts about the apoc­a­lypse. The col­lab­o­ra­tion even­tu­al­ly went on to include artists and musi­cians and even a children’s project. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the project became too large and unwieldy for our love­ly edi­tor and it even­tu­al­ly fiz­zled out.  As of late how­ev­er, it appears that Worlds Undone may be mak­ing a come­back.  I’m hop­ing it will.

The oth­er anthol­o­gy that I am involved with is more per­son­al and dear to me. It start­ed from a com­ment that I left on a fel­low indie author Matt Williams’ site. We dis­cussed the idea of going to space and that dis­cus­sion turned into an anthol­o­gy enti­tled Yuva.

Me: Four nerds verg­ing on geeks live in my house, of which I am one. One of our nerdi­est but fun con­ver­sa­tions cen­tered around the ques­tion “Would you rather go to space or the bot­tom of the ocean?” Hands down the answer was space.I once dreamed that my son, now 21, would one day go to space and walk on Mars. He is no longer a child who dreams of space, although it still intrigues, and space seems a dis­tant child­hood dream of his. But even for myself, at the ripe old age of 41, the idea of going to space is a bright hope, even though I know it is unat­tain­able and unre­al­is­tic. But, giv­en the chance, I would go. This post reminds me of the awe­some­ness of our great uni­verse, of the chaot­ic ran­dom­ness, of the beau­ty of this world and the things we have to be grate­ful for, and of how utter­ly minus­cule we peo­ple real­ly are in the grand scheme of things

Matt: Okay, you need to write this down. I fore­see you doing a sto­ry where a fam­i­ly does go into space. Ho boy, I smell anoth­er anthol­o­gy here!

Me: An anthol­o­gy about space, going to space or any­thing relat­ed sounds awe­some. I vote for you to be the edi­tor. What do we need to do to get start­ed?”

yuva_cover-0Yuva, still in the works, will con­sist of twelve sto­ries of which mine will be first.  We’ve man­aged to fill about eight of the spots, so if any­one out there would like to con­tribute to a space and col­o­niza­tion anthol­o­gy, shoot me a mes­sage.

Over the course of the last few months I real­ized that I had a bit of an unin­ten­tion­al theme going, that of time man­age­ment. I wrote quite a bit about the sub­ject and sev­er­al fel­low indie authors con­tributed some real­ly amaz­ing posts about how they man­age their writ­ing time.  As time is such a dif­fi­cult thing for me to wran­gle I think I was sub­con­scious­ly look­ing for a way to rec­on­cile my lack of time with my desire to be more pro­lif­ic.  I’m still strug­gling with that one but one thing’s for cer­tain, if you want to pro­duce, you just have to do it.

Apart from the issue of time man­age­ment, I didn’t have much of a plan as regards what I’d talk about here, which quite frankly was very much counter to my goal.

Over the past year I’ve read many posts about cre­at­ing a unique author brand. I don’t think that I’ve done that suc­cess­ful­ly as regards this blog.  I blog about the things I like, an eclec­tic mish­mosh of “stuff”, for lack of a bet­ter word.  For many rea­sons I’ve pur­pose­ly stayed away from more chal­leng­ing con­tro­ver­sial top­ics.  I either feel under informed, unqual­i­fied, or quite hon­est­ly afraid to engage in these chal­leng­ing dis­cus­sions out of fear of alien­at­ing read­ers but as I have so few, (haha­ha­ha) it’s pret­ty much a moot point.

Keep­ing with the idea of a theme I’ve decid­ed to choose anoth­er top­ic to give spe­cial focus this com­ing year.  I’ve been giv­ing this con­sid­er­able thought this past month and have decid­ed on crit­i­cal analysis/reviews of SFF books writ­ten by women.  This will cer­tain­ly not be to the exclu­sion of oth­er post ideas and I hope will be inter­est­ing for read­ers as well as a learn­ing expe­ri­ence for me.  I nev­er feel as if I am well read enough.  I plan to read and lis­ten to books.  The first review will be of Bujold’s Free Falling which is already quite inter­est­ing.  I plan to read more by Bujold, in addi­tion to Leguin, But­ler, Zim­mer Bradley, and McCaf­frey among oth­ers.  If any­one has sug­ges­tions of authors I should check out, fire away.

Honor

Hon­or

I’d hoped to have com­plet­ed the out­line of Honor&Truth by June, but that didn’t hap­pen.  Then I got caught up work­ing on my anthol­o­gy sto­ries, hit a writ­ing slump that seems to hap­pen to me every year around Sep­tem­ber, got dis­tract­ed with chil­dren, life, work (which has been a beast!), the inter­net and attempts to pro­mote An Unpro­duc­tive Woman.  So, my efforts are renewed and I’m back at it.

Honor&Truth is a ser­i­al nov­el blog that I worked on for about a year and a half.  I final­ly stopped more than thir­ty chap­ters in.  I didn’t want to but felt com­pelled as I’d nev­er so much as out­lined a sin­gle chap­ter and my sto­ry, writ­ten by the skin of my teeth and post­ed every two weeks, had so many plot holes I couldn’t keep up with them.  I stopped the blog in order to regroup, merge H&T with anoth­er sto­ry that kept spin­ning in my head, and begin a seri­ous rewrite.  Months have passed and on that account, I’ve failed.  For­tu­nate­ly, I love the sto­ry and the char­ac­ters enough to keep press­ing.  And even bet­ter and heart­en­ing, the char­ac­ters Bilqis, Hon­or, Aram­inta (Old Moth­er), Siti and many of the oth­ers talk to me every­day.  Loud­ly.

Honor&Truth has a new name.  As Truth does not exist in the cur­rent out­line, it wouldn’t make much sense.  As it stands the sto­ry of Hon­or exists as the sec­ond tale in the Hin­ter­land Chron­i­cles.  But don’t hold me to it.  As I am still in the out­lin­ing phase, this could still change.

I’ve been nom­i­nat­ed for a few blog awards, the last and most impor­tant of which is the Blog of the Year Award.  This hon­or was con­veyed upon me by Matt Williams, to whom I am grate­ful.  A com­plete post about is soon to come.

My great­est work for this com­ing year will be con­tin­ued sim­pli­fi­ca­tion.  In oth­er words, wean­ing out the unnec­es­sary to replace with what I val­ue.  I val­ue my rela­tion­ship with God, my fam­i­ly, my writ­ing, and my health.  So this com­ing year will include renewed efforts to cre­ate peace and pro­duc­tiv­i­ty with regard to those things I deem as most impor­tant to me.  Why is life such hard work?  For­get I asked that.

What have you accom­plished this past year?  Toot your horn!  Tell me about your suc­cess­es and fail­ures.  Tell me what you have planned for 2013.

 

Alesha Escobar Talks About Time Management

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Time man­age­ment is the issue I spend the most time lament­ing.  There nev­er seems to be enough of it.  I work full-time as a nurse and this is a job I actu­al­ly enjoy and am grate­ful to have, but I am also a writer.  If I don’t make the time to write I feel depressed, deprived, and resent­ful.  If you’re ded­i­cat­ed to an avo­ca­tion that is dis­sim­i­lar to your day job, then I’m sure you know what I mean.  Mak­ing time amidst the oth­er many press­ing real life respon­si­bil­i­ties can be chal­leng­ing to say the least.  

Fel­low indie-author and friend, Ale­sha Esco­bar, author of The Tower’s Alchemist and Dark Rift agreed to share some of her thoughts and advice on the mat­ter.  Join me in wel­com­ing her…

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Gear Work 2

Curi­ous Expe­di­tions via Comp­fight

I remem­ber how I’d grit my teeth dur­ing the last 15 min­utes and urge my Eng­lish stu­dents to wrap up their essay or cre­ative writ­ing assign­ment. Class would be almost over, and despite my repeat­ed warn­ings about time man­age­ment, I’d still get:

Mrs. Esco­bar, can I take this home and bring it in tomor­row?”

No.”

Can I have more time?”

No.”

Can I go to the bath­room?”

I weigh the decision.…“Nope.”

As their writ­ing skills devel­oped, they soon learned that while jour­nal­ing and writ­ing could be relax­ing and a won­der­ful means of expres­sion, in the real world when you have to pro­duce a writ­ten piece at someone’s request (espe­cial­ly if pay­ment or grades are involved), time is a lux­u­ry that must be treat­ed as such. I have to remind myself of this, espe­cial­ly when a dead­line is loom­ing.

I’ll con­fess to you right now–I love surf­ing the net, watch­ing movies, and I am an unabashed shopa­holic. I’m also a busy mom of four, which means I have even less time to write. So how impor­tant is time man­age­ment to me? Extreme­ly. And I’m bet­ting it’s some­thing you want to con­quer and make work for you as well.

The first thing I learned about time man­age­ment for the writer, like my stu­dents did, was to remove some of the major obsta­cles that slow us down or dis­tract us. Here are four tac­tics that helped me man­age my time bet­ter:

  1. Don’t Write Tired. You know, when your eyes are droopy, you keep sway­ing, and you start mis­spelling words and read­ing the same line five times. Not only are you work­ing slow­ly, you’re also not at your full aware­ness and cre­ative poten­tial. Some­times it’s nec­es­sary to write at night when the house is all qui­et and no one’s both­er­ing you, so if this is the case, just give your­self a 15–20 minute time lim­it for writ­ing late at night and then go to bed. Maybe you can wake up a lit­tle ear­li­er the next morn­ing to add on anoth­er quar­ter hour. This will help you pro­duce more writ­ing than try­ing to pull an “all-nighter” or a two-hour stretch at 11 p.m.
  2. Play Pri­or­i­ties. Fill­ing out cal­en­dars isn’t much fun–but they help! Some­times I get onto my laptop’s cal­en­dar and map out a week or two ahead and then pri­or­i­tize my activ­i­ties and com­mit­ments. If you know you’re going to have a busy week, then you can deter­mine the best times when to fit in writ­ing. Also, it helps to have a writ­ten dead­line in red caps star­ing back at you, because then it impress­es on you the desire to fin­ish and meet the dead­line. When I see an activ­i­ty on my cal­en­dar that per­haps isn’t that high of a pri­or­i­ty, then that’s an extra spot where I can insert writ­ing time.
  3. Jump Into It. Have you ever felt lazy about doing some­thing but once you jumped right into it, it was actu­al­ly eas­i­er than you thought? I once read that as human beings, we tend to take the least amount of action nec­es­sary. So, if some­thing seems like it’s going to be dif­fi­cult or bur­den­some, we tend to shy away from it (this is how I feel about that pile of dish­es in my kitchen). If I feel like I have to “do all that writ­ing,” I may be less inclined to actu­al­ly do it, and will waste time doing #4 on the list.
  4. Dis­trac­tions, Dis­trac­tions. They’re all around us, espe­cial­ly since with a sim­ple click of our mouse we can escape our work in progress (WIP) and go vis­it social media land or watch a movie. Beware of dis­trac­tions. That “ten minute break” watch­ing fun­ny YouTube videos will turn into an hour. I promise you. When I taught writ­ing, this was the major down­fall of most stu­dents who hadn’t com­plet­ed their assign­ments and met the dead­line. They were dis­tract­ed by friends, or the cute guy/girl, or that kid that want­ed to go to the bath­room. Some­times dis­trac­tions are thrown at us, some­times we wan­der into them like a day­dream. How do you remove this obsta­cle? Sep­a­rate your writ­ing activ­i­ty from oth­er activ­i­ties. If you’re typ­ing away on your WIP, resist the urge to check your Ama­zon rank­ing or if some­one retweet­ed you. Treat your WIP like a friend that needs your atten­tion, and by giv­ing your writ­ing the com­mit­ment and time it needs, you’ll be reward­ed with a more sat­is­fy­ing ses­sion that didn’t drag on because you were dis­tract­ed.

I’m a big believ­er in the idea that time man­age­ment is more work­able when we remove obsta­cles that slow us down or turn us from our path. Some­times life gets in the way, or we’re tired, or busy, but just remem­ber a small com­mit­ment to your task can go a long way. Don’t pres­sure your­self if you’ve only got­ten in 15 min­utes, or maybe even missed a day. Just start again the next day, and be con­sis­tent with get­ting in some writ­ing at least a few times a week. As you keep writ­ing and keep prac­tic­ing, you’ll find that the process will become eas­i­er and more man­age­able.

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Ale­sha Esco­bar writes fan­ta­sy and urban fan­ta­sy sto­ries to sup­port her choco­late habit. She earned a B.A. in Eng­lish Writ­ing and a Mas­ter of Sci­ence in Edu­ca­tion, and has enjoyed both teach­ing writ­ing and being a writer. Her hob­bies include read­ing, watch­ing movies, and mak­ing crafts. She is cur­rent­ly work­ing on the final install­ment of The Gray Tow­er Tril­o­gy.

Find Ale­sha online at these venues:

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The Responsibility of Self-Discovery

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The pow­er of the self and self dis­cov­ery…

Tehran Sunset

Hamed Saber via Comp­fight

I read a cou­ple of arti­cles over this last week about the (mis)appropriation of cul­ture in writ­ing. This got me think­ing about our respon­si­bil­i­ty as writ­ers and read­ers and also as human beings.

We all have our respec­tive roles in life and we all have many. I am a Mus­lim, moth­er, daugh­ter, nurse, writer, wife… As I grow old­er I will, no doubt, adopt oth­er des­ig­na­tions and still yet slough off oth­ers. What we have here, hope­ful­ly, is the mak­ing of a strong bal­anced evolv­ing human being.

I start­ed to won­der how much of this per­son­al devel­op­ment influ­ences my writ­ing (or vise ver­sa) or anyone’s par­tic­u­lar pre­ferred form of artis­tic expres­sion.

When I wrote An Unpro­duc­tive Woman over a decade and a half ago, my life was under­go­ing a major spir­i­tu­al upheaval. The process of writ­ing AUW was cathar­tic and, believe it or not, I was in many ways buoyed by the strength of my main char­ac­ter Asabe.
Those who know me and have read AUW have told me that they envi­sion me as the main char­ac­ter, Asabe. I take that as a high com­pli­ment but I quick­ly set them straight. Asabe is the kind of woman I’d emu­late and I believe this is what I was going for on the sub­con­scious lev­el when I wrote the sto­ry. Asabe is a deep down good woman who is imper­fect.

These days I find that my main char­ac­ters, usu­al­ly women, reflect less of what I’d like to become and more the pas­sion­ate rebel­lious spir­it that already resides silent­ly with­in me. They are usu­al­ly good but deeply flawed and grow­ing in ways they nev­er antic­i­pat­ed. This would explain also, I sup­pose, why I fre­quent­ly hit char­ac­ter devel­op­ment road­blocks, because I don’t know that silent part of me as well, that alter ego

Whether right or wrong, my writ­ing is informed by me and me by it.

Recent­ly a movie enti­tled The Inno­cence of Mus­lims by Sam Bacile received more pub­lic­i­ty than it deserved. The film is an inten­tion­al­ly inflam­ma­to­ry piece of tripe meant, I would assume, to offend and harm the Mus­lim world com­mu­ni­ty. Most of the Mus­lims I know found it laugh­able and unwor­thy and then of course you know, if you’ve watched the news, that oth­er Mus­lims, to my cha­grin and mor­ti­fi­ca­tion, protest­ed loud­ly and unfor­tu­nate­ly vio­lent­ly. I cer­tain­ly don’t believe that the film was wor­thy of any action or reac­tion bar­ring dis­gust, but it does beg the ques­tion about the filmmaker’s intent.

We could begin by argu­ing about the right to free speech and thought. I believe Bacile had the right to make the film (with will­ing well informed actors), but what about his respon­si­bil­i­ty as an artist, as a per­son with the pow­er, how­ev­er small, to cre­ate change, to enlight­en, to objec­tive­ly protest what he may per­ceive to be wrongs. Obvi­ous­ly he had some griev­ances.

I feel that sense of respon­si­bil­i­ty when I sit in front of my key­board. It weighs so heav­i­ly on me that some­times my writ­ing lit­er­al­ly hits a wall. I am forced by some inter­nal check to eval­u­ate not just the direc­tion of my sto­ry but “why” it took that direc­tion.

I once felt as if my per­son­al mores choked my cre­ativ­i­ty, but now I would say that they have actu­al­ly checked my heart and moti­va­tions. This is a dif­fi­cult bal­ance to main­tain no doubt, if one is so inclined, but not a bal­ance I’m will­ing to forego just to main­tain my right to say any­thing that comes to mind with­out giv­ing thought to the poten­tial con­se­quences. I have a respon­si­bil­i­ty to myself and my craft and to a degree I also feel respon­si­ble for those who may read or be influ­enced by what I’ve said.

I des­per­ate­ly want to give life to char­ac­ters that are human, not per­fect cook­ie cut­ter fairy tale crea­tures (even in the midst of a fairy tale), but true rep­re­sen­ta­tions of, in par­tic­u­lar POC, women, and Mus­lims.  As we all know, no two peo­ple of any group are alike, so that is cer­tain­ly not an easy task. While I wouldn’t say that only a mem­ber of a cer­tain demo­graph­ic can give true life to such char­ac­ters, it cer­tain­ly helps. Also there are peo­ple who man­age to write their own demo­graph­ic wrong. I don’t believe any­one has the monop­oly on get­ting it right or wrong.

I lis­tened to a book a few months ago in which the main char­ac­ter was a woman, a very stu­pid, child­ish, whin­ing, woman, whose only appar­ent worth appeared to be her petite body, her fair skin, and her red hair. Grant­ed the book was poor­ly writ­ten dri­v­el, but this char­ac­ter exist­ed hap­pi­ly as a face and body. I don’t know a sin­gle woman who would wish to be seen in such a shal­low light. I kept scream­ing, “Real­ly? What woman acts like this?”
This brings us to the issue, in a very round about way, of the sub­ject of not just cul­tur­al (mis)appropriation, but gen­der and racial as well.

I can not expound on this sub­ject with the flu­id elo­quence of Nisi Shawl or Aliette de Bodard, but I can say this: Writ­ers have an oblig­a­tion to get the facts right, even in fic­tion, and to tell the truth the very best way they know how even if said truths hurt and ran­kle the author’s own sen­si­bil­i­ties, even if in the end their per­son­al prej­u­dices have been nul­li­fied.

Isn’t that what true art is all about?

This requires, in my opin­ion, the hon­est desire to do jus­tice to the work of art and an hon­est effort to make that hap­pen. Even if the facts are wrong I think most of us can tell the dif­fer­ence between will­ful deviance from truth and human error. I’m will­ing to make allowances for that. That said, none of this can be accom­plished with­out self-explo­ration and the under­stand­ing that must nec­es­sar­i­ly be born of that.

When I was in nurs­ing school, one of my pro­fes­sors spent an entire class dis­cussing the impor­tance of under­stand­ing our per­son­al lim­its. The con­text was this, that every nurse will come across a patient(s) whose cul­tur­al, reli­gious, per­son­al prac­tice may come at odds with their own. Some­times enor­mous odds. Do you ignore your lim­i­ta­tions and fail your­self and even­tu­al­ly the patient as well? Do you admit to those lim­i­ta­tions and seek help, guid­ance and/or a solu­tion? Before doing either, you have to under­stand your­self.

You have to know you.

reflections (B)

Camil Tul­can via Comp­fight

It is because I under­stand my per­son­al lim­i­ta­tions (to a degree…I’m still learn­ing and grow­ing every day) that I step back and eval­u­ate my actions with my most chal­leng­ing patients. I do this so as to ensure that I don’t cheat them of appro­pri­ate care just because I was annoyed or hav­ing a bad day.

Ques­tion: If an author is unable to approach a sub­ject with hon­est objec­tiv­i­ty, should they approach it at all?

We could hold up, as an exam­ple, the deba­cle of Reveal­ing Eden, which I could not fin­ish read­ing. Even today in the midst of near­ly unan­i­mous opin­ion that Foyt  is racist for hav­ing writ­ten some­thing as bla­tant, I still take issue with call­ing her such. I’m more con­vinced that she is instead, woe­ful­ly igno­rant about how to write an intel­li­gent­ly nuanced piece deal­ing with the immense­ly touchy sub­ject of race. I believe Foyt was lazy and that she did not do her research. I think she is guilty of being arro­gant enough to think she didn’t have to and for not fes­s­ing up when called out on her fail­ure. Besides being ter­ri­bly writ­ten, as we all know that there are many ter­ri­bly writ­ten best­sellers, I think she failed because she didn’t do the self-dis­cov­ery required to write a sto­ry with a sub­ject mat­ter so poten­tial­ly charged.

Did she ever ask her­self, “How do I real­ly feel?” Or “Why do I feel this way?” Or “What do I hope to accom­plish?” Had she asked any one of these or oth­er ques­tions requir­ing true self-dis­cov­ery, she might have been able to antic­i­pate the neg­a­tive back­lash that has since ensued.  She might have been able to write a tru­ly enlight­ened and reveal­ing piece of lit­er­a­ture

I think it is just as incum­bent upon read­ers to call out those authors who were too lazy to make the effort at self-dis­cov­ery, let alone fact check­ing.

As for the man who pro­duced the deroga­to­ry film about the prophet of Islam, well that thing (which I could not and would not ever watch) is akin to a tem­per tantrum. And as such, it was, like any oth­er tantrum, emp­ty of sense or worth. It was a lit­er­al mess. I’m not angry that he had the tantrum but I am dis­ap­point­ed that he didn’t try to do bet­ter, or that he couldn’t be both­ered to at least be hon­est with him­self and the verac­i­ty of his obvi­ous anger, which he is enti­tled to, if he wants to live with it.

But what has he ben­e­fit­ed? What have we ben­e­fit­ed? What was the point?

Only I can decide what my per­son­al moti­va­tions are and as much as I may want to, I can’t decide that for any­one else. (Don’t wor­ry, I don’t real­ly want to. That’s too much respon­si­bil­i­ty and work!) In the end the truth of it lays solid­ly in the lap of the artist. In the end the artist has to be at peace with the results, opin­ions be damned.

But isn’t that what the artist is in search of any­way? Opin­ion, prefer­ably the favor­able kind?