How to Support the Independent Writer

I wrote most of this post 4 years ago. Not much has changed. I am still struggling to get the word out there on my books. And of course, I need help. I need your help.
I bug my close friends and family a lot to buy my work. Many of you who know me have been spared somewhat to this point. With three titles out for my sci-fi serial novella Gravity, one novel, one short story and another novel and at least one more short story coming in the next few months, I am really just on the cusp of beginning to build my hobby into a more legitimate career. I’ve asked for help, to have a link shared, to like my fan page, but sometimes I feel that the message gets washed away.
And I fear that many might not know exactly how to help, or they might be hesitating awaiting that next thing. Starting out as an independent writer leaves a lot of disadvantages, not least of which is a complete lack of a marketing team. Indies often have to go-it-alone.
It’s all about getting people to read what I write. And I know that there are people who would love to read my work. There is an audience out there. Us little indie writers often just need the help to wrangle them. Why wouldn’t you be interested in helping that out?
So how can you help? There are 6 essential ways: share, spread the word, review, download, read, and buy. Here is exactly what each means and how they each help.

Share
This is strictly in reference to social networking. I am referring to broad posts, shares, etc. It’s that pesky share button Facebook, RT for Twitter, reblog in Tumblr, that you’ve already pressed (or ignored) for the umpteenth trendy cause or funny thing that passed through your feed.
So why not hit share to something that could have impact for someone you know? Sure it’s trivial in some regards. In contrast, an anti-bullying chain post seems so much more impactful than sharing a post about my website. Or that book I have for sale. Or my blog post that you enjoyed reading or think your friends might like.
But does your sharing the other post really do anything for those causes? It is arguable. At worst, it makes you feel better. Sharing a post from me about my writing really does something though apart from good feelings. It means more exposure. Exposure translates to possible readers. And it costs nothing more than a click.
It’s about getting people to see my work. The more who see, the more feedback I have a chance to get. And more importantly, the more people who see it might come to enjoy it.
And from there, more and more people might see it.
By all means, keep sharing those other posts so you don’t feel guilty about passing them up, but at least take the time to do the same to for that writer friend who’s been posting (ME! ME! ME!). Who knows, we might just reciprocate when you need it too.

Spread the Word
This is much more specific than sharing. Sharing is broad focused; this is narrow focused. I write sci-fi and thrillers. You know that your friends Harold and Jamie love sci-fi. And they are big readers. Sure, they see your news feed on Facebook, but you think that they might really like my book and it is chancy that they see that one post and pay enough attention to. Well… tell them about it… directly.
This is the old-fashioned way of doing things. Talking to people one-on-one. Social networking sites can still be involved, but it’s about directing it towards the right people.
This takes a little more effort than hitting share. It is that opportunity to be the one that introduces someone to something that they end up loving that will make it worth it. It is more personal, more direct, and more often has better results.
I know that I get a lot of what I enjoy from my friend cluing me in onto things I’ve been missing. Had I not had friends to tell me I’d never have found that I like Firefly (Steve), or Farscape (also Steve), or Harry Potter (my wife), or Dead Like Me (my brother), or How to Train Your Dragon (Brad), or the countless things my buddy Marcel has told me about. It is always great sharing passions with others and giving them more of something that they are passionate for as well. This is no different.
If they don’t like it though, then I never told you and this blog post never existed.

Review
Number 3 on the list is increasingly involved. It also presumes that you’d have completed number 5 (read) before you can do this.
Write a review of the book(s). 5-star is awesome… if you genuinely feel that way, but a decent 3 or 4 star review will still go miles. Write a review on whatever outlet the books or stories are sold on. Reviews drive ratings, but they also can build confidence in someone else who is looking to buy, but is unsure. Reviews are so crucial that there are many people that buy and sell 5-star reviews.
That’s right: people can buy reviews. I don’t want to go that route. Self-respecting writers don’t want to go that route either.
Better reviews = more exposure. Amazon.com does some really nice marketing that incorporates ratings into search results. And they add search terms that can be then bunched with other styles and books that had similar reviews.
Above all, be honest too. Gushing 5-star reviews of a book for a friend or family member can back-fire too. Amazon has often yanked people and their books from the store when they found out said reader was buying false reviews. Be specific in there about the good and bad.

Download
This next one is easy, cheap, and still helps tremendously. Does the writer you want to support have free material available? If the answer is “yes” then you need to download every last byte of it. The downloads lead to higher sales rankings (yes they are still there for free books as well. Free books help bridge sales for paid versions.
Downloading something will be seen by websites as a purchase. Purchases lead to higher rankings.
Even borrows count for those with Kindle Unlimited or Prime Memberships. Don’t use your monthly borrow on anything else? Consider getting one of my stories and paging through them. The download still helps the end result of helping gain exposure, even if it remains un-read.
But wait! There’s more!

Read
This section is an add-in from the last time I wrote this. It is due to a change in the rankings and tracking systems. If you have a kindle, or kindle app on phone or tablet, when you download (or buy – see next section) a kindle ebook, it is tracked as a sale. But they also can track page-reads. And page reads have a pretty high weight on book and writer rankings.
Buying a print version can’t be tracked, but this isn’t about them.
In other words: sales are good; reads are better.

Buy
I left this one last because it is the touchier subject in my experience. Asking friends and family to look over a blog gets better (albeit negligible) responses than asking anyone to pull out money.
What I am asking for when I ask for people to buy my books is an investment in me and my work. I am not borrowing money. I am sellng a product for a profit.
Yes! Profit!
Selling the book says that I feel that one should pay to read it. I put work into this and I want to get this out of you reading it.
The truest goal of the writer is always to gain more readers. A higher sales ranking does that. Like downloading, sales rankings can grow a readership by leaps and bounds. Amazon.com also has that wonderful “people who bought this also bought…” feature that is driven by sales.
The more people that have bought it also translates to “this must be good.”
Once the wallet is asked to be opened though, it is a tougher deal to broker. I understand. I don’t want to pay for something I cannot use or enjoy. I feel as though it is a waste. Even at $0.99, not being interested in the material or just not having a use or ability to use it can still deter one from buying.
But it is a HUGE help to the writer. If all of my friends on social networking were to just drop between $0.99 for one story to $9.94 for the full collection of my kindle ebooks in the next hour, my books would soar to near the top spot on amazon.com. $0.99… that is less than some candy. It is less than a cup of coffee.
Sure, there is that issue that the $0.99 price point is only for those with a kindle or a kindle app. Each book in print runs between $6 to $9. Not many of my friends have an ereader. To them, spending $0.99 to buy one of my books is a waste. To a degree, I cannot argue that.
But there are smart phones and tablets and computers which all have the ability for one to read an ebook. Inconvenient? Yes. There is that question though as to just how much you want to help. Spending $0.99 because you know it’ll help a lot and won’t really hurt your wallet isn’t such a bad thing. You’ll still have the product, though it may still be useless to you. It still sends the message of “I SUPPORT YOU AND WANT TO SEE YOU SUCCEED!”

In everything I said above, the biggest drive is to get readers. All of those methods lead directly to that cause. I want people who will enjoy my work as I have done for so many others.
As a burgeoning independent writer, now is the best time to do any and all of these actions. I only really have friends and family and those random strangers that stumble upon these reads. Spending $0.99 (or more), or sharing a link, or sharing a post, or telling a friend, or writing a review greatly increases the chances a stranger will stumble upon the book.
Eventually, if it is done enough, it’ll take care of itself along with the efforts I am making on the side. There are plenty of examples of this working already. But it still needs the kindling and a match to start the burn.
So here’s the questions: do you want to help? And how much time and money are you willing to spend? It doesn’t take much.

You could do it just to shut me up.

PLEASE!!!!!!

Changes Abound

Most of my writing life has been a series of changes and adjustments. Nothing that I do sticks. But that isn’t a bad thing. Considering that I am not making a living off of my writing, finding what works has been a challenge. Finding what works takes experimenting and changing as time goes on.

More than finding what works for success, I have been trying to find what works for me. My writing is at best sporadic. Every so often I pound through thousands upon thousands of words in a short amount of time only to run into a writing drought where I maybe get a few hundred words each day.

The main point is inconsistency.

And I need to drive more consistency.

This past Saturday my best friend and writing buddy Marcel Alexander attended a writer’s event in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin called the Beachside Authorfest. No while the event wasn’t a success for either of us for a multitude of reasons not related to us, it was a huge success in that I learned a lot about myself.

And because of that, I am writing this post speaking of a few things I am doing to become more fluid with my writing. Also to be more competitive. So here’s the list of what is changing over the course of the coming month:

  1. Prices on all 3 Gravity books, The Good Teacher, and my poetry book Change of Seasons will drop today.
    Being that I haven’t been selling them, the price drop isn’t going to affect my profit other than to make the books more appealing to purchase. Let’s face it, I overpriced them in my inexperience and bloated hope that they would do better. Now it is time to fix that.
    The Gravity series will go from $2.99 to $0.99 for the kindle ebooks and $7.99 (book 1) & $8.99 (books 2 and 3) to $5.95/$6.95 respectively for print.
    The Good Teacher will go from $4.99 to $2.99 for kindle ebook and from $10.99 to $9.95 for print.
    Change of Seasons will go from $3.99 to $2.99 for kindle ebook and from $8.99 to $7.95 for print.
    Links are up top in the menu bar for each of the books.
  2. Of Earth and Ice (my sci-fi web-serial) is going bye-bye from Wattpad.
    The move to Wattpad was a rash one not understanding what Wattpad was all about. While it is a free site and free to read, it just wasn’t working out. Too much effort from me was needed to keep up with it. Given my terrible ability to stay consistent, it wasn’t a great choice. And with where I want to go and how I want to handle future writing, Wattpad is not an avenue for my needs and wants. The 9 chapters or episodes I have out at the moment will go out in another form for free, most likely as an ebook through Smashwords and maybe on my site as well. The continuation though will be on hold as I decide what I am going to do with it.
  3. My blogging will indeed remain sporadic. At worst, weekly.
    Let’s face it, the high expectations I set with this post earlier in the year were a little too ambitious. Keeping up with posts is good, but I cannot sacrifice my writing energy to do so. Writing fiction is what I want to do, so blogging has to come 2nd. I will stay on top of updating with a blog post at least once per week though.
  4. A Mailing List will be starting up in August.
    That’s right, I will be starting to email out monthly updates to those who sign up as well as offering exclusives and giveaways. It’s still in the works as to exactly how it’ll be, but suffice to say it will be an enhancement to what’s going on. As soon as I figure it out I will have the sign-up on this site!

The focus will be on writing and learning more to market my books more effectively. It will require more dedication and some more work on my end. Part of it is narrowing the scope of what is going on. As I only have a very limited amount of time each day to spend on what needs to be done, it doesn’t make sense to worry about free stories with regular publishing intervals such as Of Earth and Ice, or to blog every day.

I apologize for what can be described as wishy-washy or flip-flopping, but it is all a learning experience.

Make Lives Matter

Here we go again. I have to get this written down and off of my chest.

 

Everybody! Put your fucking egos down for one goddamned minute and think! Put them down!

 

We have a big problem here. A REALLY big problem. For years the media has been becoming inundated with more and more stories of police officers killing innocent or unarmed people. The people most harmed by this being African Americans or blacks. I would argue that this had been going on for much longer than what we can presume, but thanks to social media, we are learning about it much too late.

Two more victims were just reported the last few days, one killed in front of his girlfriend and 4 year old daughter. These men, no matter their crime, were unarmed and really posed at best laughable threat to the officers. But they were shot DEAD.

And then I wake up to the news that in Dallas 11 officers were shot resulting in 5 officer deaths in what is being marked as revenge killings.

You know what my first thought was?

We deserve it.

As all of these #BlackLivesMatter cries were being uttered, the majority of white America sat down and instead of saying “this is America. These are our brothers and sisters. We need to protect people who feel they are in trouble,” we chose instead to cry #alllivesmatter and talk about how “all police aren’t bad.” Now how fucking useful is that?

We didn’t reprimand and punish the offenders, instead trying to paint the dead victims in some light that would legitimize their deaths as justified. BULL-SHIT!

And then this morning I go to Facebook trying to see who may had responded to a picture of my books that I posted last night. What do I find? All of my white conservative family and friends posting #policelivesmatter and talking about how unjustified the killings were etc etc etc. Cries for retribution abound!

Hypocrisy perhaps? Yes, if you are one of those people I am calling you a hypocrite. Here’s some water to wash down that medicine.

What should have happened is that these police that had killed innocent and unarmed blacks been made examples of. Instead of doubling-down on the (shaky) integrity of police in our country, they should have been making HUGE efforts to rectify the wrongs and show that they can be trusted.

But that wasn’t done… at least not to the communities of people who it should have been done for.

Nope, white communities and people were reassured and comforted. And because of that, many of those I know will say that all the work was done, it’s the blacks who don’t trust us. They might even say something along the lines of “they bring it onto themselves.”

Oh really?

Just like they brought slavery onto themselves?

Hate to say it, but we’re categorically and thoroughly wrong.

The black community has been saying that they’ve been hurt for years. We’ve told them that they are wrong and that the white community isn’t hurting them… but here’s a nice quote by a famous white guy that tells it quite well:

 

“When a person tells you that you hurt them, you don’t get to decide that you didn’t.” -Louis C.K.

 

Exactly.

Here’s the thing, if we want to stop the killing and to make the lives of the officers that died in the Dallas shootings matter, then we MUST also make the lives of all of the innocent and unarmed black victims who have died due to the police matter as well. Can’t remember their names? Ask Beyonce instead of giving her so much shit about standing with her people.

 

And as another famous (white people presume as white) person suggests, turn the other cheek. (Jesus said that – for those who may not recognize the saying).

 

Don’t get swept up in revenge. We brought this on ourselves. We must drop our ego off and admit to it and move forward. Otherwise there will be a lot more people dying on both sides of the issue. And we don’t need that.

GRAVITY 3

Well it’s about fucking time isn’t it?

Almost 3 years after publishing book 2 of my saga, Gravity, I am finally ready to release book 3: The Movement of Pawns.

The official release date will be July 9th (although it will be available before that).

July 9th is the day of the Beachside Authorfest at Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Given that, if you are around Lake Geneva for the fest, then please stop by!

I finished the final touches today and now I am getting the cover locked down.

My hopes and intentions will be to have book 4 by the year end… Certainly not another 3 years from now…

Pullups

Many of us have experienced that dreaded moment: when you step up to the bar in gym class and are asked to do as many of that terrible exercise as possible. Pullups. I have not heard of many exercises that people do not like as much as that one. Yet, I also hear that it is one of the most essential exercises in existence and one that true fitness is measured.

It is an area of the gym I have failed.

I am not by any means a newbie in the gym. I am not a fitness expert either. But being able to bench north of 200 lbs, perform a full squat (all of the way down) with over 250 lbs on my back (knees cracking all the way), and deadlift a set of 340 lbs AFTER 3 full sets of 270 lbs, I am not slack in the gym by any means. What I cannot do however is more than 10 pullups in one shot.

To be in comparison to where I am at in other exercises, I should be able to pound out close to 30 in one shot. So where’d I go wrong?

There’s a lot that can be said as to that: 1) not enough focus on my back and biceps, two areas crucial to pullups. 2) being too heavy (I am over 200 lbs). 3) not doing fucking pullups… in many of my routines they would not exist, and there was seldom a good substitution for it.

Now given that I’ve posted all of these blogs on improving and getting better, one would wonder why I haven’t also applied it to my gym-going. Besides the fact that pullups flat out intimidate me because I was never good at them, there was never a good reason that I didn’t try to do better with pullups. I mean, I used to only be able to deadlift 135 lbs.

Trying to figure out what to do, I turned to youtube channels like Athlean-X, Buff Dudes, and Strength Camp all with various tidbits of advice… but one common theme: if I wanted to do more pullups, I’d have to do more pullups.

So I did.

Last week I added pullups to all 5 days I lift weights. And today I achieved 10 in one shot… the first time in 6 months I was at 10. Then I remembered something my wife told me about where she stood with pullups using the assisted pullup/dip machine, and it hit me, I could use that machine! So right after my 10, I walked over and with an 80 lb assist (not sure how true the 80 lbs was and 60 lbs is the lowest setting) I performed another 5 until I couldn’t do another. Then I went up to 120 lbs and did another 6. Essentially it was like doing a drop set. 10 regular, 11 assisted.

For the first time in my life, I feel like I exhausted my lats. They are sore. Tomorrow, I’ll repeat and go until I pretty much max out the machine.

The point of this is getting better. Even as I talk about getting better in so many things, I often forget that pain and discomfort are partners with improvement. Doing things when I am not good at them, or feel like I am not good at them is something I avoid. But because I avoid it, I never change; I never get better. It’s called practice. Practice isn’t supposed to be pretty, although it can end up being pretty as skills are built up.

Tying this back to my writing, I will not be able to be a better writer without writing. I will not be able to sell more books without publishing more. Like with my pullups, if I don’t accept the discomfort that will come along with putting more of my work out there, that comes along with creating those pieces, I will never get better. And I will have to accept all of the pain and effort that goes along with it. Otherwise, what would even be the point.

Guns

I am going to get the stuff out of the way that will allow those of you reading this to formulate an opinion on me and thusly immediately discount all that I say in this post as bullshit pending it doesn’t agree with your way of thinking.

 

I don’t own a gun. I grew up with guns. I’ve been taught how to shoot one. Were it not for my wife not wanting a gun in the house, I would own a .44 Desert Eagle that my father owns and is “in waiting” for me. My father was a drill instructor at one time in the Army. I am an independent after having been once a republican. And I am an atheist/agnostic.

 

And I believe we need more gun control.

 

And I believe the NRA is a terrorist organization. Don’t believe me? Here’s the definition of terrorist: “a person who uses terrorism in the pursuit of political aims.” Sounds pretty much on point. The NRA blankets gun owners with a ton of propaganda instilling fear (a synonym for terror). I know this as I happened upon some of these documents while cleaning out my parents’ basement where my father stashes all this crap.

It’s the same old stuff:

  • The government is coming for your guns!
  • The government is making sure its citizens can’t defend themselves!
  • Muslims all over the world wish to destroy our way of life!
  • They’re taking away our civil liberties!!
  • Etc etc etc

“Now, Jeremy, they’ve never gone out and killed people like groups like ISIS and other terrorist groups do, how could you call them a terrorist group?”

While the NRA has not directly been involved in any of the mass shootings and terrorist acts here in the US, their stance and use of those incidents to further their political agenda has been very clear. Every time there is a shooting, the NRA runs to boost gun sales by kindly pointing out that we need more protection! “See! They’re all coming for us!!!”

What they fail to ever mention is that by fighting so vehemently for such loose regulations on guns, not only does it pad their wallets, but they make it so much easier for any unstable nutbag who wants to go kill things to get one, as was demonstrated by the latest shooting in Orlando.

And sure enough, all the standard defenses for guns and gun rights are popping up like pimples on a girl before her prom.

  • Guns don’t kill people! People kill people! – Absolutely correct. But guns are a tool, a weapon, that makes killing people (and more people) far more accessible. See the damage these twatholes were easily able to inflict with minimal know-how and training? That’s the guns that made that possible, people!
    We determine people unfit all of the time for things other than guns. Yet, purchasing guns is simple and quick. Even being on an FBI terrorist watch list doesn’t stop you from getting a gun… but shouldn’t it? If the NRA had it’s way, having an FBI record or being on the watch list wouldn’t stop anyone.
    Mentally unstable? No problem!
    Have restraining orders against you? Step right up and try this nice hunting rifle sure to keep you out of range of breaking any unnecessary laws!
    It’s all ridiculous if you really think about it. Now while you may not have any intentions to use guns except for defense and target practice, that doesn’t mean others have that same innocent intention. And wouldn’t you want laws in place to stop them? Or at least slow them down?
  • Gun control means that they are going to come after my guns! – What? I even have this debate with my father who swears by this statement. Are you on the FBI terrorist watch list? No? Then why?
    Have you committed violent crimes in the past and were convicted? No? Then why would they bother with you?
    Have you been diagnosed with a mental ailment that will prevent you from rational judgement? No? Then why should anyone care?
    And just because you stand against the current regime in office, doesn’t immediately make you a target to which the government will just come after you all willy-nilly. Until we actually convert to a totalitarian style government, I don’t imagine our government would even waste the effort. Besides, the NRA should actually protect you from this… if they’d at least help the government protect you more.
  • What if I want to buy a gun? If they put up more gun legislation then I won’t be able to! – Not true. Reference the first bullet point. Basically, if you show no signs of being a threat, then you’ll be ok. Think of it a little like the TSA (don’t worry, I’ll discuss that in a later post after the next event of theirs that pisses me off). If you were a threat to flying, they’d stop you from flying. And here despite all of their efforts, we still fly.
    Now when attempts are made on airplanes to cause harm, we cry out desperately for more checks! More screenings! Keep these people off of the planes! Weird how we suddenly cling to our guns in desperation the second a violent act with a gun is committed when people suggest the same style of scrutiny. Because we are absolutely sure that our overall access to planes and flying won’t be stopped, but we worry the same about our guns… stop worrying about that!
  • See! If we had more good people with guns there then they would’ve been able to stop the gunman! – Really? Do you think so? Have these good people been trained in combat scenarios? I am certain that very few have been.
    When the bullets start flying in a scenario such as the nightclub shooting in Orlando, can you be sure that one of the “good guys” will be able to react in an effective manner without shooting and harming more people? And what if there are several people with guns that all suddenly whip them out in the fray? Would they be trained enough to tell the differences and not shoot each other?
    My major contention with this one is that just because there are guns being held by the “good guys” in these incidents, it does not mean that the “good guys” have any capacity to deal with the situation without causing more mayhem and confusion. More people opening fire during a shooting well… I bet you can figure out where I am going.
    Just because you have a gun and are good at a range, doesn’t mean you have the ability to act appropriately when shots are being fired, people are running and screaming, and the active shooter is out there stirring up more confusion while grabbing hostages.
    And no, just because you’ve watched Die Hard or the Bourne saga or Taken, or whatever, doesn’t mean you can do what they do… those are movies, not reality.
  • But we need guns for protection! – OK, that maybe so. Think to yourself though: how many scenarios have you ACTUALLY ENCOUNTERED where a firearm would have made all of the difference. Fact is that so few of us in the country have had a true need for a gun. Studies show that even incidents of guns being used in defense situations are staggeringly low. (but oh, that’s just from a liberal tank… I hear the excuses calling.) If it’s for the future possibilities, those events likely will never occur anyway.
    Now if you want a gun for target practice and you think that self-defense is a nice aside, then go ahead. At least that’s more logically justifiable.
  • Who will determine who’s fit for a gun?! If they put in enough controls, who’s to say they won’t stop me? – see several of the bullet points above. This is where the NRA should be placing their efforts, because right now it’d be simple. On the FBI terrorist watch list? Yes? Then you can’t own a gun! Anything else that isn’t similar to points already brought up before and the NRA should be there to protect rights of the gun owners or people who are responsible.
  • The 2nd Amendment, duh! – Yes, the second amendment… here’s the thing. It was an entirely different world back then. In fact, here is the actual verbiage of the amendment:

    A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.


    There’s a ton of scholars and lawyers who can figure out what that actually means, but from what I get out of it knowing what history that I do, is that militias made up of average everyday folk like you and me were key to the Revolution. There was an army, but there were also a lot of regular people in militia’s that joined the fight. Not only that, but there wasn’t a well-armed police force or communication systems that could pull in said police forces within minutes of an event. People needed a means to defend themselves, and their country from the real threat of invasion. Back then, it had just happened! Had people not had easy access to guns, had those militias not been around, we would be celebrating the Queen’s whatever it is as well. (See, thanks to our forefathers I have the right to be lazy and not even care what’s going on in the UK.)
    Right now, there are no militias. And more people having guns is not making a damn dent in the security of a free state. The 2nd amendment is doing more to arm people willing to do us harm than it is protecting us from whatever it is we’re afraid of. And that is a bigger threat to our security.

  • Whatever excuse includes the name Jesus… – Go fucking read the New Testament and the stories of Jesus again. He was a PACIFIST! Need I say more? If anything, guns and the results of them would make the man sick. Having grown up Christian, it makes me sick the misuse of those teachings to support any hint of violence. (More on that in another blog post! Aren’t you excited?)
  • Well if they ban guns, then only criminals will have guns! – By default this is a silly argument. Of course, if they ban guns, then anyone who has a gun will be criminal by default. More on the rest later… I have a point to be made then.

There are more that I can cover, sure. Frankly, it would only serve the purpose of hearing myself think. Point is, if you’ve gotten this far in this post, it is more likely that you already agree with me. Or you have been going word for word pinpointed every possible error I typed in order to make me look the fool.

Here’s the thing: there is not enough evidence, hard scientific evidence, to support that more guns = a safer US. What it is showing is that we have far more gun related crimes than any other 1st World country. We’ve had WAY too many mass shootings (1 is too much… but we’ve had HUNDREDS). But despite all of this, there has been NOTHING done about guns! And I don’t give two fucks, flying or not… in fact, I don’t give any fucks the reasons people come up with any more. Either the NRA supports the government in creating effective gun laws that make it difficult for criminals or people who would seek to do others harm, or they are with the terrorists and are TRAITORS to the US and its allies and they should be dealt with accordingly. But think that’ll happen with all of the money they have tied up in congress? Probably not. Just like after Sandy Hook where CHILDREN were massacred, something that scared me as a parent more than any shootings or terrorist attack, the NRA will likely block any attempt at regulation in order to protect their political (their financial) interests. They just use these attacks to serve their bottom line… much like terrorist organizations do.

And that sickens me. It sickens me as someone who would like to own a gun. It sickens me as a citizen of this country. It sickens me as a human being.

Make it tougher for criminals to get guns. Yes, they will circumvent the regulations sometimes. People who seek to do harm will find ways to do so. But let’s just say it was illegal for the shooter in the Orlando case to get guns, would it have happened?

Also think about it this way: we lock our doors at night, but if someone REALLY wanted to get in, could they? Sure. It could easily happen. Locks stop a good deal of people who would then either second guess their actions, or are not intelligent enough to circumvent the obstacles.

And sure, people have done more harm with bombs and other weapons, but for those aren’t the scenarios that gun legislation would be built for. It’s for the people who are frankly too lazy and stupid to formulate thorough long-term sophisticated plans and who go to gun shops or gun expos and pick up a gun and then march down to wherever and open fire.

Just think about it.

How many more lives will it take before we hold the NRA and its political puppets responsible for continuing this? When will we demand some control be had?

Happiness in a Vice

I don’t smoke.

I’ve never tried drugs.

I’ve nearly cut sugar from my diet.

I’ve dramatically cut back on my caffeine intake.

There is a list of things that I have been cutting from my life for various reasons. Some are in the name of being more productive, to lead to happiness elsewhere, such as in the case of things that interfere with my writing. Others (such as smoking and sugar) are for my health.

I am someone who goes to the gym 5 days a week and tries to be moderately active on the weekends. I can deadlift well over 300 lbs and am working greatly to increase that number. It’s a goal of mine to be lifting over well 400 lbs in a set by the end of the year. Eventually I would also like to be the proud owner of a six-pack (pun intended although I really mean toned abs).

Now lifting weights and getting bigger just takes effort and maybe more time. The getting toned abs takes a little more sacrifice and that could be a hurdle I will not be willing to jump.

Today I saw this meme.

abs are cool

How true. I LOVE beer. Like, I REALLY LOVE beer. Generally, I drink 1 to 2 days a week. It’s one of my biggest vices. It’s one that I have refused to give up yet, and well… I may never be willing to. I’d like to drink every day if possible, but I know that is a little out of reach and I do not wish to develop that form of alcoholism (believe it or not it is, although not nearly as bad as what we normally think alcoholism to be). But beer has been sited as a hindrance to toning enough to show abs. What do I do?!

That brings me to the entire point of my writing this post: vices. All of us have them. Many of us struggle to get past them when they hold us back from something we want. I know that it has taken me a LOT of time to wean off of the few I’ve gotten past. There are plenty I haven’t yet. And given my push over the last 2 years to get into shape, I’ve considered killing all of my vices with the only exceptions being for when there are special occasions. What I never considered, was how that would impact my happiness.

Let’s face it, how awesome would abs be if you had to sacrifice all of the things you loved, the vices, (such as beer for me) that bring some enjoyment to life?

My answer: they would suck.

If I couldn’t drink beer when I wanted, it would suck. If I couldn’t get the time to write (because until it is a career, it is also a vice as much as it is a hobby) because I needed extra cardio sessions to trim down, it would suck.

Basically, when you are evaluating the vices you have in life, be careful to look out for the ones that truly make you happy, because deep inside that is what we are all after, isn’t it? Your goals have to be weighed against the vices in the way. If the goal is truly more important, then by all means make the sacrifices that would take you to your goal. But by all means, be happy with whatever decision is made. Vices don’t have to be bad.

Learning to Trust Instinct

Guts are to be listened to!

I am never going to learn that. Even as I continue to be presented with example after example of when I should’ve trusted my guts, my instinct, I still second guess myself. Same is true with my writing.

This manifests itself in two realms:

  1. Completing a project – the list of projects that I have is overwhelming. Dozens upon dozens of unfinished novels, blog posts, and stories litter my notebooks and hard drives. While some are the victims of ‘moving onto something better,’ far too many actually are victim of the traditional writer’s cry of “this is bullshit!” It’s the second guessing of the work, the surrender to self doubt.
    A good deal of these works really weren’t bad at all. A lot of them were just stalling or I was having trouble with the plot. My gut told me to keep going; my self-doubt told me to go grab a drink and throw the story out.
  2. Writing on a topic I want to – too many times my gut tells me to write on a topic. My gut is telling me not to. For instance, it’s that fear that someone might say something negative. It’s the fear that I don’t know what I am talking about, that I lack the authority to speak on something.

Because I have second guessed myself, I have let more sit and rot than I care to even think about. Even as I type this out, I am second guessing every. damn. word. Even the two line items I listed above, I am calling them into question. Gut told me to write them.

We all have those moments, those moments where we know we should do something but we let our fears and doubts cast a shadow over those decisions. Without experience to give us proper judgement, our guts are the best indicator of success.

I have to learn to trust my instinct with my writing. I have to learn not to let my doubts override anything any more.

Of course that will be a tough sell.

A FESTIVAL!

It’s a party! And you all are invited!

That is, you are invited if you live in the areas near Lake Geneva Wisconsin or are willing to make the trek. Marcel Alexander and myself will be sharing a booth for the Beachside AuthorFest on July 9th from 10am to 4pm.

The event is being sponsored by the Lake Geneva Public Library and Breadload Bookstore and will be featuring writers from Wisconsin and surrounding areas. Marcel and I will be representing the Chicago Illinois burbs

Marcel will be debuting possibly two new stories and I will be debuting Gravity #3. If I can really push it, I will also have The Dangerous Life of Agnes Pyle ready as well, but that will be really pushing it. That means I will be featuring either 5 or 6 books.

So July 9th! Mark your calendars!

How will I teach my son?

This post has been brewing in me the last couple of days. It was something that I wanted to write, but at the same time, I wanted to bury into the recesses of my brain as it was too horrifying to really deal with.

The other day I was finally made aware of the ordeal of the Stanford rape case thanks to stumbling upon an article about the victim’s open letter that she read in court. Here is a link, but I must warn you, it is a hard thing to read. I finished the letter feeling a range of emotions from sadness, outrage, to fear, to disappointment and even shame. Nothing I can say can describe that letter and its message in any way other than to say it is one of the most important statements in our time.

Now I know that my voice is going to be deluded into the mass of thousands, millions, of people who all have similar reactions to it to me. Only one voice in this situation matters anyway: the victim’s. And she spoke beyond volumes.

I’ve been left wondering if I am going to encounter this scenario in my life. Will my son grow up and be the friend of a rapist? Worse, will he know a victim? Even worse, will he be a rapist? How on Earth can I respond to any of this? Even though my son is not even 10 yet, I fear that any of these are real possibilities, particularly in the victim area for the short term.

Reading the father’s statement of the rapist, it astonished me. How does that man go home and talk to his wife and say that it was ok that their son raped a girl? Or that it wasn’t really rape? Does he try to convince his own mother too? Does he have a sister? If something this horrible happened to them would he be able to shrug his shoulders in the same way? Would he tell them: “well, you shouldn’t have been drinking.” Or “you shouldn’t have dressed or acted so provocatively.”

I fear that the answer to those last questions would be yes.

There is a severe disconnect between the actions these men commit and the responsibility that they take for them. When something great happens, they will slather themselves with praise and adoration willing to point out “look what I did!”

Rape, assault a girl, and then it’s “oh well, boys will be boys.” Or it’s “she shouldn’t have been drinking.” Or “you know she enjoyed it. She was basically begging me. Did you see the way she was dressed!”

Say anything to deflect responsibility away from them. There’s always something else to blame if they do something wrong.

Maybe it’s human nature. But again that is an excuse!

I find myself trying to explain away doing something wrong. There’s a myriad of excuses I pull in to excuse my failings. In the end, it is me. I did something wrong. I am in control of how I respond to a situation. Even if I am drunk, I have to understand that it was me all along. It seems that these people just never get that last part. And that is more frightening.

For too long this culture, humanity even, has subsisted on the rule of man over woman. Some cultures and times in our history it was more overt. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t just as prevalent now as it was then. Just because we finally have a presumptive nominee for President doesn’t mean for a fucking second that we’re all good with how we treat women now. Just like because Barrack Obama is President, it didn’t make a shit’s difference in race relations. Maybe we’re a little better than we were before, but nothing really changed. People are not genuinely different.

The Stanford rape case exemplifies how not different, how not better we are.

And I ask myself, what can I do to change that?

The only thing I can do is to try and teach my son to be different. But how do I do that?

How do I teach my son to see past all of this horror and to treat people with respect? How do I teach him that although his mother and father try to give him the world, there is no one else that he should ever expect to be handed anything? How do I teach him to be responsible for everything, that he is in control of the actions he takes, no matter the circumstances? How do I teach him that his actions are what define him?

Maybe if I can teach him better, there’ll at least be one less evil in this society. What if we all strove for that?