Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Living a Slow Life

On occasion, I consider where I'm "at" in life. I think about what I've accomplished and what I wish I had already completed at this point. When I get really negative about stuff my brain tries to say that my life is "bad" but I logically know that's incorrect. The more I've been pondering this idea of what a "bad" life is the more I understand that my life isn't "bad" (for a multitude of reasons) but it feels bad sometimes because frankly, it's slow.

I haven't achieved nearly any of the things I thought I would by this point. As a kid I thought by now I'd be married, I'd own my own home, I'd have a profitable career as a writer, and I'd have multiple books published. I seriously thought those things would be easy and doable by 30.

Clearly, I didn't have the life experience, nor did I know myself well enough to understand my own limitations to ultimately make a better prediction of when and how my life goals would be reached. Also, those goals have shifted a bit over the years from the ones I had as a child which clearly child me could not have accounted for.

Adult me should be disappointed that child me wasn't the greatest predictor of adult me's successes and failures. 

But some days I really am disappointed. So I try to remind myself that being behind on some sort of life plan doesn't make my life "bad," waiting a few more years to achieve goals doesn't make my life "bad," being a different person than who I expected to be still doesn't make my life "bad."

My path is a slow path, I live a slow life. I will eventually get the things I'm aiming for but it will be a lot slower than I expected and I have to accept that or go crazy trying.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Cat Sweaters and Captain America Hoodies

Sometimes you buy or are gifted a piece of clothing that you can only wear occasionally, like Halloween sweaters, Christmas sweaters, or even cat sweaters (because if you wore cat sweaters every day you'd morph into a cat). 
 Some people are ballsy, they will wear whatever whenever. I'm a bit more shy with some of my clothing choices and therefore limit myself to wearing costumes at only costume appropriate events like Halloween, Dragoncon, Wild Rumpus, and the occasional trivia night where costumes are welcomed.

So last Tuesday was one such night. I was invited to trivia and I heard I could get a percentage off of my meal if I wore a costume. Being the cheap...er cost conscious person I am, I decided to wear a costume. So the Captain America hoodie I've only been able to wear to a couple of "appropriate" events (mind you I have worn it occasionally just to look cool), was able to be dusted off and brought out for a "special" occasion.
(This photo is terribly creepy but it's better than any picture I could have taken of my own hoodie.)
So I busted out my hoodie and my handmade shield. Yeah, I spent way too long making a backpack that slightly resembles the design of Cap's shield.

Only three other people that night wore a costume, and I was surprised and a little embarrassed to find out that there was going to be a competition between costumes. I don't mind sitting in a dark booth in my costume but being front and center is a little wearisome. But as luck would have it, the "person that never wins anything" (don't so many of us say that about ourselves?) won the best costume contest. Unfortunately the prize wasn't more money off my bill. :/ At the end of the day I do love Captain America, but I love saving money more. :p

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

It's The Little Things

Sometimes we get so caught up in what we don't have, what we have yet to achieve, what big goals are still waiting for us in the distance... Many spiritual beliefs tell us to be in the moment, to live day to day, to not worry of the future or regret the past but it's hard to look at the little things. We think happiness arrives in the form of a romantic relationship, a career achieved, loads of money, etc. But every small smile, every short second of kindness, every quick laugh, those things compile into a lifetime of happiness - we just have to be looking for them.

A few years ago I got a small beanie baby unicorn from a store called Five Below. I got the unicorn because it's cute and I love unicorns. Recently, I found out that a certain fast food chain was carrying several tiny beanie babies, one of which was a pink unicorn. I went to one and they did not have it and I promptly forgot about it. Last night though, while in the drive-thru of this fast food chain I remembered and my sister asked the woman working the speaker system if they had the unicorns in stock. She assured us that they did and so we asked for one. When we received our food we found that instead of a unicorn there was a dumb video game toy in our bag.

As much as I love unicorns I really don't like confrontations so I was willing to resign myself to going home without a new unicorn (because really who needs more crap anyways?) but my sister decided she would march into the restaurant and tell them that "her daughter (yes she told them daughter because we were asking for a kid's toy) loves unicorns and she specifically requested the unicorn" to which the counter person responded that they did not have any unicorns but she was free to look through what they did have. Upon a quick glance of the beanies that were there, she easily spotted the pink unicorn (which looks a bit more like a horse but whatever).

So in the end I got my unicorn and it's little things like that which really make a person happy in life. Yes, it's awesome to make lots of money and to achieve your career dreams, and to have kids, and a marriage, and a beautiful home and all the other things people dream about, but it's the little things that sustain you when those bigger things are far off, or didn't work out as you planned. Little things like a tiny unicorn buddy for your already tiny unicorn, and a sister going out of her way to make sure that your unicorn has a new friend. :)

Tiny Unicorn.

Tiny Unicorn and Big Sister Unicorn.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

2014 in Movies (So Far)

There are few things in life that I get excited about. For whatever reason, movies are one of them. But the list of movies I'm really excited about is pretty small (I guess I'm quite persnickety). This year there have been several films I've been excited to see and recently I got to watch two of them.

"The Rover" starring Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson looked exactly like something I need to see (since I'm always interested in the artistic portrayals of post apocalyptic societies). Set in a world after an economic collapse, it explores what's really important when you've lost so much. It also touches on how we lose our humanity and what things can bring it back (or destroy any trace of it). The film is slow and very much a character study (not so much an action film as the trailer might suggest), but interesting none-the-less.

"Snowpiercer" starring Chris Evans and Song Kang-ho also depicts a world after the society we know collapses. While more action based than The Rover, this film explores personal freedom, the decision to be a hero or not, and the strange concepts our society holds about the haves and the have-nots. This film is quite graphic at times, but the ideas it presents are interesting to discuss and mull over.

Neither film was exactly what I was expecting, but neither was a complete let down so I walked away satisfied. The acting was wonderful in each, and the questions they both bring up about our society and human struggles are very insightful and leave you thinking long after the credits roll. If you don't mind violence, and like movies that make you think (not just entertain) then you might want to check these two out.

Other films I'm looking forward to this year? Well there's too many to mention but a few highlights that stand out include:

"The Retrieval" starring Tishuan Scott:

"The Congress" starring Robin Wright:

"Birdman" starring Michael Keaton:

"The Zero Theorem" starring Christoph Waltz:

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


If you're not familiar with Pinterest, you need to get familiar! j/k I think Pinterest can be a great tool for writers who are visually inspired and who like to organize their work visually (at least on occasion). Pinterest allows you to share and store images along with text that you can come back to again and again even if those images have been removed from the internet. The site allows you to make several boards for different interests or, for writers, different projects. 

I currently have a board for several of my books. I like being able to explore what the characters, scenery, and specific objects in the book look like. I also like sharing quotes that relate to the content of the book when possible. For my "No Rest" board [http://www.pinterest.com/innesjen/no-rest/]I have several images for each character, I have a lot of images for the scenery in the book and I've shared lots of quotes that set the mood of the world these characters live in. 

I'm also able to use Pinterest to drop hints about the story with seemingly random images such as the one below from my "No Rest" board:

Pinterest also gives you the opportunity to save images for books you haven't written yet but are in the back of your mind and you want to remember key things about. Or to potentially even explore the story through images prior to setting a specific plot. I have a few boards for books that I intend to write and I use the boards to keep myself excited about the project.

Pinterest is also a great way to engage with readers. By sharing your Pinterest boards with readers you can help them get excited about your books, the world they are set in and the characters that you've created. Below I've attached an image from my board for my book "Two Heads Are Better Than One" that represents a key object from the story. [http://www.pinterest.com/innesjen/two-heads-are-better-than-one/]

There is an added feature of creating hidden boards. These boards can be used for images you want to be able to see but you don't want others to see on your site. These boards can help you get excited about a project before sharing it with everyone else. They also can be used to only allow a select few people to see the images you've saved there. 

Lastly, Pinterest also allows you to explore your brand online and to share things that associate with your online persona, or at least to share some of your other interests with the public at large. For me, that means lots of cat photos [http://www.pinterest.com/innesjen/gabby-and-chewie/]:

Monday, June 2, 2014

Those Books Are For Kids!

After going through an old box of CDs, I pulled out a few and gave them a listen. Revisiting music I loved when I was between the ages of 10 and 15 brought back a lot of memories. I also came to the realization that, as a kid, I did not have the worldly experience that I would need to be able understand most of the lyrics. Clearly, I understand English and so I know what words mean, but I didn't understand the feelings behind them. I didn't have comparative experiences to what the singers were singing about and with adult ears, these lyrics and this music took on new meaning for me. Revisiting this music gave me a kind of "Ah-ha!" moment.

(Back in the day when I was listening to music it would take me years to truly understand.)
(I'm the one with the aversion to sunlight.)

At work I had to go through some lists of summer reading suggestions from area schools. Reading the titles of many of these books reminded me of ones I had read as a child or ones I never had the chance to read. Just like the music that had new meaning when revisiting it as an adult, I think the same can be said for children's literature. I'm not talking about the Adventures of Captain Underpants series, I mean classics like Tuck Everlasting, and The Diary of Anne Frank. Books that I read as a kid but had no context in which to put them in; books that left my memory almost as soon as I finished reading them because I didn't have personal experiences which allowed me to connect with the events in the stories on a more emotional level; books that were easily wasted on my youthful self.

As a student of literature, I've spent the last several years honing my ability to dig through a book and see the deeper meanings within a text. As a child I never had this ability - another way these books were wasted on me. But now I can fix that. I can go back and read those books again, take an afternoon and see what they were really about, compare them to my life now, make a connection to the deeper intentions of the story, find what makes these books classics and what makes them the kind of literature that schools want kids to read even if kids can't truly comprehend them or even remember them past childhood.

So that's what I'm going to try to do this summer. I'm cultivating a list and I'm planning on sitting down and really giving these books the focus they deserve and that my childhood self couldn't provide. And who knows, maybe by the end of this summer I'll have learned a few new things about writing that I wouldn't have learned otherwise. :)

Thursday, May 29, 2014

X-Men: Days of Future Past

So on Monday I went and saw the new X-men film and I think it's probably my favorite film of the year so far (yes, I liked it better than Captain America BUT there are a few contenders that might give it a run for its money like Rover starring Guy Pearce). This is saying a lot because I don't tend to walk into a film excited about it and walk out satisfied with it. Typically my expectations ruin films, or rather when films don't meet my expectations I'm disappointed and don't enjoy the movie. But Days of Future Past did not disappoint (at least it didn't disappoint me). And I'm pretty geeked about seeing it a second time in theaters (which, if you know me, is a rare occurrence indeed). Why did I like it so much? Let me tell you...

WARNING: There be spoilers ahead!

After X-Men: The Last Stand, I walked out of the theater angry and I said the only way to fix this crap is to send Bishop back in time to change it. I repeated that to anyone that would listen and a few who wouldn't. Mind you, I'm not terribly familiar with the comics (only read a few) but I'm familiar with the 90s TV show, so I was aware of the story line where Bishop travels through time. So I just figured he'd have to do it. I didn't mind that it was Wolverine instead. I like Wolverine (he's maybe my favorite X-men character), and I didn't care that it followed a comic book story line that originally featured Shadowcat in the time traveler role. I'm just glad someone went back and fixed the crap that happened in Last Stand. Even if we want to get all science-y and discuss the fact that the world Logan wakes up in at the end of the film is probably an alternate universe where the events of Last Stand didn't occur but the universe where they did still exists, and the universe where the Sentinels are destroying all the mutants we love still exists, and Logan is just one lucky S.O.B., or is he because maybe the new universe/timeline he's found himself in is the one where Apocalypse exists, and if he had stayed in one of the other timelines/universes he would have avoided Apocalypse and the death and destruction he will bring altogether...Anyways, I'm still happy with the ending of this film and I can finally let my anger about Last Stand go. Good times.

It's also awesome that Bishop did make it into the film, even if he only had a small role.

Another reason I enjoyed the film because it gave you several scenes of intense drama but also scenes of humor that made characters more endearing. Like most people, I felt like one of the best scenes of the film is when Quicksilver goes around the kitchen and cleans up the mess, so-to-speak. That scene alone is worth seeing the film twice just so you can catch every aspect of what he's doing. It's so well thought out, but happens surprisingly fast. ;) Another humorous bit that made me laugh out loud is when Magneto gets angry and the plane starts to fall out of the sky and stuff is falling everywhere and everyone is worried that they're all going to die in this tin can. Then Magneto controls himself, the plane rights itself, and Wolverine looks at the dishes and crap that now are all over the floor and says to Magneto, "Are you going to pick that crap up?" Classic Wolverine - pretending he's not scared by being a wise guy.

One more reason I liked the film was because Wolverine wasn't really the main character. While I love me some Hugh Jackman, and was glad he was in this film, I was even more glad that he was kind of sidelined and let other characters shine. I can't explain it well, I guess, but the fact that he was present but wasn't the focus of the film made it better. He could be there with his side comments and his support but it was about other characters getting their crap together and their challenges which gave the film its emotional depth and meaningful conclusion. Wolverine was just along for the ride and that suited me fine.

A final reason I thought the film was so so so so good, was because of how layered it was (also why I think it deserves a second viewing). I've been so disheartened by superhero movies lately, the ones that are so basic you don't need to think while watching you just applaud explosions and whatnot. I really didn't know what to expect from this film and I didn't give it the preparation it deserved. Yes, this movie deserves some forethought before sitting down and watching it. You should watch X-Men First Class again, before viewing because so many elements from that film come to play. Little details you'd miss if you didn't have that film in the forefront of your memory when sitting down in the theater. Details that I wanted to know but had to rack my brain to remember since I had seen the film so long ago. So I definitely want to see First Class ASAP before I head back to the theater. I think the film is made that much better by being able to spot the slight nods to the previous film and by understanding maybe a little clearer the relationships between characters (or rather being reminded of their intensity).

So yes, I really, really, really liked this movie. In case you were wondering.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Lasting Legacy of Gabriel García Márquez

I've been thinking about Columbian writer Gabriel García Márquez quite a bit since hearing about his passing on April 17th.

My first exposure to Márquez's work was when I read his short story "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings." It's a beautiful story about religion, greed, and humanity (or lack thereof). The story establishes a wonderful social commentary while also utilizing one key element: magical realism. Márquez often utilized magical realism which meant his stories contained magical elements but these components were treated as normal parts of the world we live in. He is not alone in this genre (Rudolfo Anaya is another great author who utilizes this), but his work is eye opening for those willing to take the time to experience it. As a writer of fantasy, exploring magical realism is an interesting and educational way to look at utilizing fantastical elements within a story.  

With his passing, Márquez leaves behind many famous novels such as "Love in the Time of Cholera," and "One Hundred Years of Solitude." Unfortunately, as time fills up with other things, we don't always sit down and spend the time enjoying great literature. It's sad that only when someone has passed on that we consider reading their work. Well, maybe it's more bittersweet than sad; his passing is a reminder that his legacy remains, that his books are still here to show us interesting ways to explore magic in our lives and our own stories. 

If you've got 15 minutes that you can dedicate to reading something by this wonderful author, perhaps a way to commemorate the man, check out his short story "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" at the link below:

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

My Experience With Memoirs And Creative Non-fiction

During my undergrad degree I had to take a range of English courses. One class I took was titled “creative non-fiction.” The professor of this course ran us through a series of exercises, gave us examples to read, and gave us assignments for writing. I continually failed miserably at the assignments. I just couldn’t wrap my head around what she was asking for. I got my lowest grade in an English course in that class because it just didn’t click.

Years later, while pursuing my Master’s degree, I had to take another creative non-fiction class. This time things started to make a bit more sense, and I wrote at least one piece that I can say I’m proud of. So what happened between one class and the other? Was it a different teacher, a different approach, personal growth? Looking back, I think it had a lot to do with where I was at as a writer and as a person.

Growing up I was shy, I was reserved, and I didn’t really want to tell people about my life and the troubles I had endured. When I was 20, sitting in that first creative non-fiction class, I was still shy and reserved and was not ready to share my personal story with the world. I was still writing childish things, and my creative non-fiction felt extremely childish. It also felt fake because I wasn’t truly opening up. I wasn’t imbuing my thoughts and feelings into the work. I was hiding behind poorly written prose and silly attempts to make my creative non-fiction funny instead of honest.

By the time I was pursuing my second degree, I was more open and more honest. I wrote a short piece about my relationship with my father and it actually touched some people. I gave it the emotion it deserved and didn’t hide the truth behind humor.

Recently, I’ve been writing more and more non-fiction from my own life. It feels like this is the right time to finally open up. The beauty of non-fiction is that it can be relatable to readers, and it can touch them through a variety of emotions.

I think creative non-fiction is a wonderful genre that every writer should explore. Just remember though, that if you’re going to start telling your own story you have to be ready to be honest, and to be open. If you’re not ready to tell your own story with all the truth and emotion it requires, give it a few years until it feels right.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Year of Yes

I’m sure most of you are familiar with this sort of “experiment.” Taking a certain amount of time and dedicating it to being open, to turning away from automatic “no’s,” and saying “yes” as often as possible. It’s not a new concept but it’s still a good one if you, like me, shy away from opportunities out of fear.

Now I’m not knocking fear, it has its purposes, but it can also easily take over your life. As writers, we can become very exclusionary. We spend time alone, we don’t like to break our habits, and we will take small guaranteed successes over risking any success at the chance of an epic win. There’s also a lot of fear or rejection that runs deep in writers. That fear keeps us from sharing work, from putting our stuff out there, and from putting ourselves out there.

You, like me, might get to a point where you say “enough is enough you stupid fear monster, leave me alone!”(Or something to that effect.) And you want to change things about yourself, and your feelings, and your life. But where do you start? How do you get out of the fear cycle? You start by saying “yes.”

Don’t let those what-ifs trip you up. Think about the end game. You want to live a fuller life; you don’t want the fear monster eating your dreams. You want to seize the day and find greater success in all aspects of your life including your writing. While you still need a level of consideration when offered opportunities (don’t go jumping off bridges), you also need to say yes to as many things you say no to, if not more.

While this idea can be applied to all facets of our lives, when considering the writing experience think about the things you’ve said no to. Are there publications you’ve avoided submitting to? Is there a story you want to write but keeping yourself you can’t do it? Are there readings you’ve considered participating in but are afraid to get up on the stage? Don’t let the fear monster take these experiences away from you. While fear is always a formidable foe, finding success in the ways you want to is always worth fighting your demons. You are in charge of your destiny, of your success, of your writing. Look at the things you’ve been saying no to. Consider if that pesky no is holding you back and keeping you from attaining your dreams. Then go out, brave the world, and start saying yes.  

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Being Healthy as a Writer

Many writers know how important it is to sit down and get those words on the page (or computer). That is the single most important thing you can do as a writer (probably). But how to stay healthy while pursuing a pretty sedentary profession, that's not so easy to figure out. I've been struggling with this myself over the past few years, and I thought I'd share what I've come to know.

Get up from the computer!
Your body needs circulation, your muscles need to move. Make a point to get up and walk around at least once an hour. Obviously if you are in the midst of an amazing scene and don't want to interrupt your "flow" you might delay standing and walking, but don't go days of little to no movement while doing a several hour stretch of writing.

Reach for healthier snacks.
I grew up with a computer in the house, and with lots of boredom snacking. It's hard not to sit at the computer and not reach for a snack, and typically an unhealthy one. If you associate the computer with snacking, consider 1) are you really hungry? and 2) can you grab something healthy to eat instead of cheetos and mt. dew? Don't let your love of writing help you to unconsciously feed into mindless eating.

Opt for healthier coffee shop drinks.
If you happen to work weekly (or even daily) in a coffee shop and you order the largest sugary-est most caloric drink they have on the menu, you are doing yourself no favors. Try something with skim milk, no added sugars, or even order a water with your drink so that you can cut your sugary drink intake in half.

Hit the streets.
Consider taking a weekly or daily stroll. This will help get you active, and offset some of the time you spend sitting at the computer. It will also help fuel creative thoughts as our brains are often wired to produce new ideas or mull over old ones when our bodies are doing something else (i.e. sitting in the car, showering, trying to sleep). Walk your own street, or find local parks that will offer you different surroundings to fuel creative thinking. Taking a walk and making it a weekly habit can also re-energize your body and your mind and help you be more focused and excited about your project when you return to the computer.

I've also heard good things about standing desks, and about treadmills that sit under a desk, but I've tried neither of those and so I cannot personally recommend them. Just as writing is a personal journey, your own health and well-being is also a personal journey and you have to try out different changes and see what works best for you.

We all have excuses as to why we let our health slide but just as you wouldn't let excuses keep you from writing, don't let them keep you from staying healthy. In the end, you want to have many years on this planet writing a million books for your adoring fans even if it means taking a walk around the house once an hour for every hour spent in front of the computer.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Guest Post: Author Rob White On Faking It ‘Till You Make It.

I’m an introvert. If you’re a writer – or any kind of artist, really – I bet you dollars to donuts you’re an introvert too, or at least have some ingrained introvert tendencies. Can’t speak for everyone but growing up I found my mental and creative stimulation through fantasy rather than through social interaction. I was the kid swinging the wooden sword in the woods at invisible goblins. I was the kid drawing monsters in the back of class instead of passing notes to cute girls. I was also the kid who had more than one epic fantasy tale mapped out in my brain before the age of 18. As an adult who allowed himself to believe that he could be a “real writer” (I’m one of those guys who says that being a real writer is about intention rather than measurable results) I finally began to share those fantasies with the world. If another lonely kid can gain the same thrill from my stories as I gained from Tolkien or Stephen King or Final Fantasy then I’d say all these hours in front of a keyboard or notepad covered in chicken scratch have been worth it.

Buuuut - and it’s a big but and I cannot lie – being a writer who releases his/her work to the public means that an introvert suddenly has to develop skills usually associated with that mysterious and alien race known as extroverts. We have to smile and greet passersby in hopes that they’ll buy our book (and therefore buy us lunch). We have to say hey, hi and how are you to dozens of names and faces online and in bookstores in hopes that they’ll carry or review our book. And if we’re really bold and really lucky – or persistent – we’ll get to sit at a table in front of a microphone and tell prospective authors about our experiences and how to get ahead in the business.

If you can’t guess, that’s what I’ll be doing soon as a panelist at Timegate, a Doctor Who and Stargate convention held in Atlanta in May.

I am horrified at the idea of not only being on stage in front of who knows how many people, but being up there in a position of supposed authority about a subject many of my audience members may actually be more experienced than myself at. I could look like a phony. I could look like a fraud. I probably will look like an idiot.

Yet I’m going to do it anyway. Why? Because I’m learning in this tricky, sticky business of being an artist that the only way to get up there, over there, out there and beyond is to carry yourself as if you’re already there. One year at DragonCon I decided to cosplay as the successful writer I wanted to be. I felt damn good that day. Better than the day I wore a Space Cowboy outfit. Better than the day I dressed as the protagonist of ThePull  and got mistaken for Snake Eyes. Better than the time someone thought I was Neil Gaiman. In a way, I’ve been wearing that costume ever since.

So my plan for Timegate is this: load up on caffeine, climb up on that stage and sit down at that table and be my own wise-ass self. The self who makes jokes to empty rooms while he writes alone in his office. The self who yells at the screen when Carl walks backwards away from a zombie and then falls on his ass on The Walking Dead. The self who posts ridiculous non-sequiters on Facebook and then comments on his own post. You know, that guy.

I hope I’ll be entertaining. I hope I won’t appear like I’m talking out of my ass. I’ll either be funny or I’ll be the quiet guy on the panel who says one helpful thing and then lets the experts talk. Or – worst case scenario – I’ll be the guy who says something inaccurate about Season 7 Episode 4 of Doctor Who and gets lynched by a mob of angry Whovians. This is the risk we take in putting ourselves out there, be we introvert or extrovert; and let’s be honest, it’s the extroverts who more often end up with their feet planted firmly in their mouth.

So I’ll fake it and believe that I’ll make it until one day – just maybe – I won’t be faking anymore. With each risk I take, public reading I participate in, story I submit and festival I sell books at I find that I’m faking it just a little bit less. One day, perhaps that guy you see at DragonCon will not be a wanna-be-writer in the costume of a real one, but will in fact just be me.

Maybe it already is.

Rob White is a novelist, a comic book author and a professional dreamer. He makes his home in Athens, Georgia where he revels in the chaos and magic of living in a town full of artists. He is the author of the Pull Series  and a local writing hero as he inspires and assists members of the Athens Writers Association to follow their writing and publication dreams.

You can find Rob on twitter: @robwhitethepull 
on The Pull's Facebook page 
and on his website: followthepull.com

Both book one and book two of The Pull series are on amazon.com: 
The Pull - Book One 
Home is Where the Monsters Are 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Reading In Public - Eek!

So the Athens Writers Association had their second Writers Read event, and as a good member of the organization, and as a writer who wants to learn how to be comfortable in front of a crowd, I stood up and read some of my writing.

The fear of the stage, while prevalent across people of all backgrounds, professions, and experiences, is pretty common among writers. I guess this makes sense. A lot of writers write to avoid the spotlight, letting their characters be center stage while they work in dark rooms away from the public eye. But to be a "professional" writer, one has to step out of the writing dungeon and in front of crowds - at least occasionally.

So how does one do that? Find an opportunity and throw yourself to the wolves. Okay, so it's not really that bad, although your brain and body might make you feel like it's that bad or worse. Even though I had practiced the hell out of my story (okay, I hadn't memorized it or anything) once I got on that stage the nerves set in and I almost collapsed like a derailed train before I even got the first word out. But I held it together, stumbled a little, and read my piece to the very last painful line before allowing my jiggly legs lead me off the stage and straight to the bathroom were I could shake out my jitters in peace.

One thing that helped was having the writing in hand. To see the words on the page meant I could focus on the paper and not the crowd. Some people will argue that the paper gets in the way and that you should be ballsy enough to face the people who are listening, but I'm not that ballsy - at least not yet. So I hold the paper and even though my eyes are mainly just skimming the print, (since I know the piece almost by heart), it's still gives me a false sense of comfort and helps me make my way through the reading.

Another thing that helped was remembering that at the end of the day, I'm up their to entertain. If I stumble on words, if I stutter (as I can be prone to do when anxious), if I have to pause and regain control of my voice, my breathing, my place in the story - all of that is okay, because I do it all with a smile on my face. Perhaps it's an apologetic smile, but I know that what words do flow smoothly are interesting and the ones I fumble will appear more comical or lighthearted if I have a good response to them. If I were to read, stumble, start to swear, and kick my feet, or even apologize each and every time I feel like I've screwed up (and feel is a strong word here because our own perception of how something is going is very different than the listeners/viewers perception) then the reader will be put off, offended, or "over it" long before I'm finished. If I pause and smile and continue on, they will bear with me. Since I am kind to myself when I make mistakes, they will feel compelled to be kind as well. And, frankly, if they even noticed the mistakes I make, then they're going to be kind because they came to hear people read they didn't come to heckle people. If they want to complain they'll do it after the reading is over and hopefully out of my earshot. ;)

Long story short, I taped myself reading my piece (which I'm sharing here) since I was a bit discouraged with how shaky I got on stage. This way I can remember it as something I read well, instead of something I was reading while feeling like I was experiencing one of the levels of hell - you know the one where your legs are jelly, your hands won't stop shaking, your vocal cords won't stop wobbling, you're sure you're either too loud or too quiet, and the certainty that everyone thinks you're the dumbest moron who ever spoke takes over all logical thought.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Character Bodies and Believability

I've been thinking about character descriptions lately. While I often struggle with describing my characters fully, and I often want to make them unique (not just your cookie-cutter thin, white, protagonist), the characteristics a writer gives a character not only shed light on that character, but on the writer and their audience as well. There is a lot of power in how we present heroes and heroines; writers shape the beliefs of readers, and can break down previously held ideas about what makes a person attractive, and what qualities help them succeed. At times, the tried and true forms of body shape, hair color, eye color, skin color, etc., is needed (especially if you are poking fun at a cliche), but most writers should try to break the molds presented to us from previous generations. As readers, we must also challenge what a writer has given us if it no longer rings true. Specifically, the representation of women has been historically skewed into body shapes and levels of attractiveness that do not apply to the average reader (and at times not even to the rare human).

So, recently I started reading a new series that I've had my eye on for a while. The series has been around for a while, it has lots of fans, and I really like the author (although this is the first time reading a book written by this person). I wouldn't say I had terribly high expectations, but for an urban fantasy book with a female main character, I had a few expectations about how the woman should be represented.

The character describes herself like so: "My upper body is slender, petite if you will, muscular and not bad to look at. Unfortunately, my legs are about five inches too short to ever be America's ideal legs. I will never have skinny thighs, nor anything short of muscular calves." Okay, I can picture that. She's short, fit, even muscular. I accept this description, but the page before the character says this: "I could bench press a hundred pounds, not bad, not bad at all. But when you only weigh a hundred and six, it puts you at a disadvantage." WHAT?!?!?!? 106??? Unless she is 4 feet tall, how can she possibly be muscular AND 106. The human body, if closer to 5 feet, would have to lose muscle mass, and a person's legs would be VERY skinny at 106.

Now I'm no doctor, even though I play one on TV, but that's how I see it. If you tell me your character is 106 lbs and not 4 feet tall or shorter, I assume they are wheel chair bound and their muscles have atrophied. Okay, so that's a little extreme. But I don't know any women who weigh that little, and don't have "skinny" thighs, unless this character suffers from body dysmorphia. Why even mention the weight? Why do we even describe women by these terms? None of the men in the book have described themselves by their weight, so why boil women down to a number (unrealistic or NOT) on a scale?

I will say that the book has been entertaining so far, and the series has sold millions of copies, so obviously this description is just a glitch in an otherwise interesting book. It's just something that made me think about characters, descriptions, and believability. I can accept that vampires exist in your world, that your character is awesome enough to kill them, but that she is only 106 lbs? Nope. You lost me. Maybe to some writers and readers it doesn't matter, but just as I hope to embrace characters of all backgrounds/circumstances, I also hope to bring characters to life that are believable in all aspects.