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?