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SJ Reads: Coming Alive

Published July 16, 2018 by admin

So not a writing book, but still something that I think will speak to all types of creative people, and people in general. I’ve recently been working my way through this book, and I have to admit, I’m impressed.

coming alive

 

We hold ourselves back a lot, whether by attitude toward ourselves or behavior toward others. I think, sometimes, we…maybe not make excuses, but view these as permanent conditions and self-blame. Note: I’m not talking about mental illness and other issues, which are a whole other thing.

But with how much people are going through these days and the constant conversation being had about self care and similar topics, every little bit helps. Basically, these are practical exercises to use for certain types of behavior you notice in yourself. For me, I picked this up as something to help with procrastination, self-enabling, anxiety, talking down to myself, you know the deal.

I really like that there are specific exercises used for specific emotional circumstances. The authors do a great job of explaining their backgrounds and how they came to develop the tools in this book, and why this differs a little from other schools of thought. It’s simple, it’s fast-moving, it’s doable, and it helps with self-sabatoge. I’m enjoying what I’ve read and tried out so far, and have a lot of hope that these ideas and practices are doable long term.

Get it here

The Lost Manuscripts: The Tooth Who Didn’t Want to be Cleaned

Published July 12, 2018 by admin

Eh, it’s summer, let’s have some fun. I haven’t done a lost manuscripts post in forever (you’re heartbroken, I know). Thankully I found a giant box of stuff to go through during The Culling last year, so I’ll have material for a long time. For those not in the loop, this is where I dig up stuff I wrote as a kid, transcribe it, and put my spin on it now. It’s every bit as terrible and horrific as you’d want. So, without delay, let’s take a look at the classic story of learning responsibility, a story longform enough that I actually bound it as a kid (with staples! So classy!) I present to you: The Tooth Who didn’t Want to Be Cleaned. (note, I’m also correcting most of my spelling/grammar errors, because I wouldn’t even do that to myself. The last page is really weirdly phrased, so I’ll leave that mostly as is).

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It’s important to note that NOWHERE else in the main book does this tooth have hair, so obviously she’s wearing a wig to escape a sordid past and this is actually a coded espionage title. Clearly, she wants to be a bond girl and her bad attitude can be fixed by love and understanding. Or something. I’ve slept through a lot of Bond films.

Obviously there’s also a reason I didn’t grow up to be an illustrator. Anywho, let’s begin. (No worries, I didn’t take pics of every illustration in this thing, because no one needs to go through that).

Once upon a time there lived a tooth named Julie. She didn’t like to get cleaned. Every time the flouride rinse, the toothbrush, and the floss would come, she would hide. 

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Obviously, my handwriting hasn’t improved much since I was 9. Also, I included this just because I have no clue how she’s even hiding. Is that a tongue? The mouth? Gums? Dental tools, guys, SHE’S RIGHT THERE! DO YOUR JOB BETTER! Maybe she figured out a way to be invisible. Sneaky Bond girl Julie. I also like how I had no idea what to do for flouride so it turned out looking lke a cup of punch or blood or something just being flung toward the general area of the mouth. Which is pretty much what I thought of mouthwash back then, so it checks out.

All the other teeth tried to get Julie to stop hiding, but it never worked. One day, Julie found a hole in her. “Oh great,” she said. “Now I have to go to the dentist!”

Julie’s like 90% more chill than I am when I have to go to the dentist, but Julie also only has to worry about herself and not the strange hellscape her entire mouth can be, unlike, uh, some people.

When the dentist tried to fix the hole, Julie hid. “Julie,” the dentist said, “please stop hiding or else you will rot and fall out!” Then Julie came out and let the dentist fix the hole.

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Ok, is the dentist fencing? Why is that drill SO HUGE? I’d had cavities by that point and wasn’t really freaked out, so WHERE did this come from? Was it too dangerous to get close? Was the dentist afraid Julie would kill her? I mean I’d be freaked if a sentient tooth took herself to the dentist, too, but the lady doesn’t seem to be that ruffled. Is she giving her a sci fi spy implant while she’s fixing the cavity!? SO MANY QUESTIONS.

Now Julie has never hid again. As for all I know, now she has never had another hole in her again.

Well, that’s a relief, but I’m still left with questions. Was she a baby tooth? Did she fall out anyway, making her whole life futile and this title more of an existential thing? Did the dentist give her cool spy gadgets? What did she do with her invisibility power? What about the espionage? COME ON, JULIE, YOU HAD SO MUCH PROMISE. Sigh. Some things I guess are too powerful for us mere mortals to know.

So yeah, 9-year-old me’s take on dental care. Brush your damn teeth or else an anthropomorphic tooth will take it into their own hands to drag you to the dentist and become a spy. Or something.

I’ll let Julie sign off from here (Seriously, she’s a supervillain! She’s back with the wig again – WHAT IS GOING ON WITH YOU, JULIE!?).

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SJ Reads: Growing Gills by Jessica Abel

Published July 9, 2018 by admin

It’s Camp Nano time, so I figured I’d look at some writing/creative books for those who are of the mind. I fell into this title last year, read through it once, and really want to go through again step by step. I’ve sat in a few things Jessica Abel has done, and her mindset to cutting through the excess to help you figure out how to balance and schedule your creative work is one of the best I’ve seen.

We all know we have a lot on our plates. I think sometimes we think that’s a necessary thing, especially when we’re just starting out or trying to rebrand ourselves, or whatever. Sometimes, clinging to all of that at once, though, just isn’t going to help. That’s where Growing Gills comes in.

growing gills

 

What I love about this is that it’s motivating, but realistic. Abel also really makes the reader get into what’s going on with them internally that could be affecting how they work and how they perceive things. You definitely have to participate in this book and keep an open mind that the way you’ve always done things…the comfortable, good ol’ way you know how, just may not be the best thing for you.

Look, the glow of Nano is going to wear off. Don’t you want to know what to do with your work and how to move toward doing more of that and doing something with it?

This isn’t one of those things that promises that you’ll be completely fixed and all you need to do is believe and do a couple of visualization exercises. This is asking things of you, and asking you to be honest to yourself. But, it also isn’t judgmental and is very much the type of conversation a lot of us really needed to have way before whatever brought us to reading this book. This makes you put in some work, physical and emotional, but, it’s very much a real-world guide to improving your creative situation and making things better than where you’re at now. This will help you chart a path, and that’s something not a lot of us have either done for whatever reason, or completely know how to do.

Her blog is also awesome, and pretty much you just need to look up all of her media and advice, because you will find something between all the various forms it comes in to help you out.

Seriously, though, start by Getting this Book

People may not support you – and that’s okay (Things I’d Wished I’d known)

Published July 5, 2018 by admin

One of the things that has really been brought home for me lately is support. In any sort of artistic endeavor, it’s important. There are a lot of thoughts on the subject, and these are just mine, born from my personal experience – ymmv.

So one of the things that inevitably comes up with people who have creative careers is family and close friend support: how they do, how they don’t, whatever. Stories tend to either favor “oh they’re SO amazing they helped me get through all this, they sold their house to help me move cross country and we have soul connection time every night to lift me up…” or “They never believed in me, here are my receipts from the past 45 years…”etc etc.

Which kind of neglects the in between stuff, or actual reasons.

Here’s the thing: We all want to be the heroes of our own story. We want to be the protagonist and everyone to fall in line and be there no matter what, tell us we’re wonderful, help us finance things, etc. Sometimes those realities just aren’t there.

If you have friends or family who emotionally don’t get what you’re trying to do and aren’t supportive – it’s okay. That has nothing to do with you. I’m gonna say it again for the people in the back: HOW PEOPLE REACT TO YOUR GOALS AND TALENTS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU. 

They may have their own views of what things are, it may not particularly interest them – do you know how many dinners I’ve sat through where people ask me what I’m working on out of politeness, and then they’re eyes glaze over? Do you know how many passive aggressive emails or comments I’ve gotten about how what I’m doing isn’t *real*? Or maybe someday I’ll be a real whatever, like I’m pinnochio and all it takes is the blue fairy to update my bravery forms so I can stop being a wooden costume person or writer or whatever. Or I’ve been compared to whatever property is hot right now.

It happens. I’ve learned to laugh it off and move on, or look at their advice and take or leave it as I see fit, because I get that’s them trying to connect with me the best they know how, and that’s awesome.

Also, if you do have family or friends who know what they’re doing and are critiquing you, that’s totally different. I would hope you’d at least give them an ear.

People like to get their digs in. Or they try to understand, but for whatever reason, they just aren’t as emotionally invested as you are. Or they worry about the pragmatic/logistical sides, which is understandable. Realizing where people are coming from have softened my reactions somewhat, and I try to at least be able to answer some business questions for those who are truly concerned. Also, maybe these people are artists themselves and are working through their own personal path and issues.

I hate to tell you this, because it is a reality that is hard to accept, but hear me out. Some people just aren’t going to be as supportive as you like. And that’s okay.

Before you growl at me in the comments, give me a minute. I’m not talking outright derision or abuse here, those are situations no one needs to tolerate. What I’m talking about is perception and practicality. I know artists who see people as traitorous if they’re not replying to EVERY post and complimenting EVERY last thing they do – and that’s just not reality. No one can keep that up all the time, and you shouldn’t expect them to. You have to find a balance on what kind of emotional and practical support and work you expect from people.

The point of all of this is, people aren’t necessarily enemies coming to get you. BUT, you also don’t have to prove yourself to them. Your path is your path, and you don’t need their permission or to hit certain goals to become real to them. You are real, your work is real. Maybe it varies on the scale from hobbyist to professional, maybe you’re in a bit of a plateau, maybe you’re still in planning stages. You don’t owe them proof of anything to be personally validated. If you feel better not going to dinner with them or just making a rule to not discuss that kind of work with them, that’s fine. Totally understandable. Because when you go in with expectations of what support really is, you’re going to potentially end up disappointed and hurt or wonder why whomever has this big giant fan club and their family goes with them to everything or whatever and you don’t have that.

This is why seeking out your tribe and people who can help you when you’re down and support you and give you real world advice is so important, because so often a lot of us come from backgrounds or friend groups where people may have concerns, but don’t get enough of the ins and outs to really give substantial advice. This is why finding people who are into what you like and have firm guidelines on what advice or critique or input you want from them are awesome. You don’t go to dinner parties or family dinners or see old friends expecting them to fall all over you because you have a book out. You just don’t. You go to engage with them and if it comes up and they like it, awesome.

It’s the same with teachers or others who told us we couldn’t do something five thousand years ago and we cling to that as vengeance material every night before we close our eyes. I get it, it’s motivation, but guys, you gotta let that go. Drop that weight and your journey will be loads easier. I’m not saying ignore it, but resentment over lack of support will eat you.

Everyone wishes more people like them or their work than reality can furnish. Everyone wants validation. Artistic work doesn’t give you that validation to that degree, I can guarantee you that. And, like family, you can always go looking for that outside support system.As I’ve said nine million times: IF YOU ARE GETTING INTO ACTING, FILM, THEATER, ART, WRITING ETC FOR PERSONAL VALIDATION, SIT DOWN AND FIGURE OUT HOW ELSE YOU CAN GET THAT BECAUSE THESE CAREERS ARE NOT BUILT TO GIVE THAT TO YOU. 

Sometimes, too, family and friends can be supportive emotionally to a point without being as fulfilling as we’d like. It’s usually practical. I didn’t have the money to do a couple theatre internships that I *really* wanted to do, and at the time we just didn’t have the resources to fund it. The people I knew who did go to things like that had grandparents or whomever who could help them pay for an apartment for a set amount of time. Sometimes the dice roll in your favor, sometimes you can work around it, sometimes you can’t. I’ve had to let that go and realize that that doesn’t necessarily directly mean it caused me to miss out on anything. Sometimes friends just aren’t going to support your kickstarter or buy your stuff or whatever. It can hurt, but it may just not be in the realm of feasibility for people. And yeah, sometimes that means other artists have more of a leg up. Them’s the breaks. But the thing that will hold you back even more is holding onto that resentment or frustration instead of looking for another path or way in.

By the way – I know the family members that are supportive of me ARE extremely supportive. They’re their for me within their means and within their understanding. Hell, one person bought copies of Olde School for everyone they knew for Christmas gifts one year, and has perpetually lifted me up when I get frustrated, while remaining in the real world enough to suggest other directions and options I need to look at as a whole. I know people have my back. That doesn’t magically make it their job to throw me to the next point in my career – that’s still my own responsibility.

I’m not saying to let people walk all over you – absolutely not. Your goals are worth the effort and the work and the love. Sometimes, though, I think we get hung up on how we’re being perceived and how many people around us are holding us up and throwing parties or helping us out and talking us up, and it’s just not great to measure success by that or hold that against people. You can be mindful of it, and certainly don’t stay around them if they’re taking a chunk out of you because of it, but don’t let that fester things inside yourself, because it’s only making things more difficult in the long run.

People may not support you, and that’s okay. You don’t need to give your whole soul to prove yourself to people – that’s completely okay, too. Their opinion doesn’t reflect on all the amazing stuff you’re doing and want to do, so you keep doing you and the rest will come in time.

 

 

 

 

 

SJ Reads: Save the Cat

Published July 2, 2018 by admin

I’ve also been trying to read more about writing, so today’s SJ Reads goes with that line of thought. I try to be aware of anything that will help me out, and I’ve noticed a lot of my writerly friends mentioning this title. I was skeptical at first, and then I paged through it at the library, and then I bought it, and then I obsessively read it and bought gigantic board to stick on my wall and five million index cards.

Of course, I’m talking about Save the Cat.

save the cat

 

You may be confused, because it’s a book on screenwriting. Here’s the deal – I will take any help I can get, and this book breaks down story development in really nice, specific ways. Some of it was not always the easiest to hear because we all know I like to be a little too clever-clever at times. The thing is, you can be that way, but also plan and follow a structure that will make things easier for you in the long run.

What I like about this is how it discusses ways to plan your overall basic story/theme in a pitch that I can definitely see helping not just in writing, but when shopping a project. Then, the discussion of beats and how limiting the amount and planning how energy flows ahead of time…this would have made some of my early writing so much easier, let’s put it that way. I also like the concept of using index cards vs trying to sit down at a computer and write out a giant outline or synopsis…or even to just start writing. This makes things feel more manageable, and I will take all of that I can get in my life. While the examples given aren’t always the most current, they’re still good examples and things are explained specifically and well. This is the kind of advice book that feels like the author actually has done this technique and used it, and it isn’t just something thought up to pitch an advice book. It does make you think and consider parts of your story or idea and how they’re working. It does make you do homework before you sit down to write. You know what, if it means I’m not trying to correct multiple points in time and aspects of a structure simultaneously, sure, I’ll try it.

Quick read, easy to understand, doesn’t talk down to the reader, enjoyable and feels doable. If you’re into any sort of writing, definitely check it out.

I do have the sequel, but haven’t gotten there yet, so I’ll update accordingly when I do.

Read for Where You Wanna Be (Practical Advice)

Published June 29, 2018 by admin

So, we’ve gone over the importance of reading before – you can’t appreciate the genres you write in, can’t know what’s out there, unless you’re surrounding yourself with stuff. Alright? Alright.

Well, welcome to my TED Talk 2.0. One of the things I’ve learned this year (hey, I’m still learning, too), is another one of those obvious but correct things. Read where you want to be.

For me, that means sorting through my giant TBR pile and putting some happy comfort reading on the back burner while I look at what popular genre titles are out this year or recently. I’ve burned through a lot lately: The Cruel Prince, Robots vs. Fairies, The Ritual, Borne, Space Opera, etc, and have things like Children of Blood and Bone, The Last Days of Magic, American Hippo, and Dread Nation on my stack.

I’m upping my game, as it were. And I’m not reading these to copy, but to see how people are doing things, what plot elements are working for me, how they’re using language, how they’re using genre. And I’ve discovered some amazing stuff.

Yeah, to anyone who says there’s nothing good being published by traditional publishing anymore, you’re kidding yourself. Completely. Please divest your ego and go use your library card.

I’ve also been binge reading a lot of magazines like Uncanny, Apex, Lightspeed, The Dark, Shimmer, etc, as well. You know how in every guidelines ever there’s that piece of info that says to read some issues before submitting?

Yeah, I’ve ignored that, too. To my detriment. At the very least, I’m finding so much fantastic stuff to enjoy as a reader. As a writer, I’m really seeing what people are looking for, looking for similarities in pieces, learning how to up my game. And with Kindle, it does admittedly make things a lot easier.

I think sometimes there’s a fear of breaking out of our comfort zones, or reading things by the places that have turned us down in the past. It’s like watching an ex be out with someone else, but honestly, in reality, we’re only hurting ourselves. As writers, we need to know what’s going on now, not to try to write to market, but to keep up and improve ourselves.

There’s always room to improve ourselves. Always.

I’m not saying everything by trad publishing is golden, or not to read indie titles – but like everything else, read to find what you like about things and what you don’t. Don’t *just* read in your comfort zone or where you are now or to promote those around you or whatever. I get it, I do, I’ve been there. This has been something I’ve had to swallow and accept – I need to improve, and to do that, I need to read stuff that makes me examine what I’m doing. It’s how I read as a writer. I’m not doing this to game the system. I’m doing this to improve myself.

What I don’t do is entirely cut off an avenue that’s an eventual dream of mine, or that houses writers who I admire and are doing the things I want to do. It’s so easy to say ‘oh that could be me if life was fair’ or ‘people just don’t get my work’ or ‘everyone knows such and such circumstances screw you over anyway.’

It’s life. You’re going to get screwed over. That’s a whole other post.

If you back away from an entire road, though, you may end up hiking through the mountains when you could have had a much easier time if you’d have bought a map.

So read. Read everything, but read what’s new and current, read where you want to be, read where you want to submit. You might be surprised where that map will get you.

Plus, you’ll find some really amazing stories.

If You Can’t Get Enough of Me (Updates)

Published June 27, 2018 by admin

So yeah, I’m behind. A lot of my around the web and free read pages are updated, so feel free to waste a lot of time there.

I’ve had some new stuff recently, though, that I haven’t had time to add on yet (and I’ll be mean and not do it until after this post goes live, because that’s how I live my life). So in no particular order..

 

Manga Reviews:

Idol Dreams – the most recent. If you like Big and Thirteen Going on Thirty, you might like this. I had mixed feelings.

Kiss of the Rose Princess – I love this title more than life and if I ever get to write for a show, it needs to be a version of this. I will never not love this, as psychotic and oddly paced as it is.

YA Graphic Novel Reviews:

Real Friends: a fantastic look at the dynamics and difficulties of middle school friendships. Wish I’d had this as a kid.

Invisible Emmie: Great story about middle school friendship, finding yourself, and surviving drama. Awesome ending.

Flash Fiction:

Misstep – yeah, I blame every giant story I’ve ever read as a kid for this. And I’ve been working through some stress. What happens when a village and a giant square off and things don’t go to plan.

 

Enjoy!