What I was told…

When I was ten years old, I discovered that the books I loved were written by real people. I was told that people made a living writing books and telling stories. So, when Career Day came around, I did my report on writing. I got all dolled up in my prettiest dress and my shiniest shoes, only to be told that writers had a tendency to “go to work” in their pajamas.

When I was twelve years old, I announced that I wanted to be a full-time writer, a full-time marine biologist, and a full-time mother. I was encouraged to pursue the science bit as the full-time passion, and to leave writing as a hobby. I ignored such people for being pessimists. By the time I was fifteen, I realized my dream was unrealistic and not just for lack of time. Scientists needed to be able to measure things and come up with the same number every time they measured the same thing. This was something of a problem since I couldn’t even write a straight line with a ruler, let alone measure with it. Sure, I could get close, but close wasn’t good enough for science. And when it came to measuring liquids in beakers, I couldn’t even get close because the liquids would inevitably wobble when I picked up the beaker to measure them and I’d always measure the wrong wobble.

When I was fifteen years old, I was told that I should shoot for something practical, like secretarial work. It pays decent and “there’ll always be work for a good secretary.” For my first minimum wage job (I delivered papers before that) I was called a receptionist, which meant I had to have a good, steady phone voice for speaking to customers needing service calls. I also did some filing, some sales, and some other things. I worked with great people and it was a good job, but it was not very challenging or mentally engaging. A girl could go mad doing that kind of thing for the rest of her life.

When I was seventeen years old, I was told that I should write screenplays because my stories were so vivid. I would meticulously create scenes using very detailed language and people would tell me that they could see it in their mind. I assumed this was metaphoric. It was years later that I learned that most people really do see images in their mind and that some people actually think so much better in images than they do in words that words are actually difficult for them to use; then, I realized that I’m the reverse of this. I can create scenes using words, but I do not recreate them from visual images that are in my mind’s eye. Upon realizing this, I finally figured out why writing screenplays never worked for me.

When I was twenty seven years old, I was told that I shouldn’t bother going “back” to college because I would never graduate and I’d still have to pay back whatever student loans I used. I had three children with special needs. I’d been out of school since I graduated high school (never mind that I’d taken college classes exclusively for the last two years of my high school education, thus it would be going “back” to college). I was, in the eyes of others, poor white trash and “there’s nothing you can do about that.” My fate was supposedly sealed when I married young and started having babies—I would never accomplish anything else.

When I was thirty years old, despite the fact that I had just graduated Summa Cum Laude with a 3.99 GPA (the only reason it wasn’t a 4.0 was because my psychology teacher didn’t like me), I was told that I most certainly should NOT go to graduate school. Once again, I ignored the naysayers and applied. I was accepted into the most eclectic graduate writing program I could find and started that summer with a course in women’s writing. That teacher liked me!

I have since graduated with a 4.0 from that graduate program and I’ve started a second graduate program. All this time, I’ve never gotten any good at living by the limits other people set for me. I’ve faced what others have called extraordinary odds and I’ve come out on the other side of my adversities more successful than I went in. To me, this is just about me living my life. To others, this is said to be some kind of remarkable achievement.

As the mother of three children with autism, I’ve told my story. I’m in the process of preparing that story for print. It has been suggested that, perhaps, it’s time to tell my other story. Hm? The successful business woman against all odds story! What? You know, your story—not you as a mother—but your story! What are you talking about?

So, let me ask you, fair readers, is my life really that interesting?

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Trailer Time: Let the Music Ring!

I just had to watch this one…

If you’ve been around here a while, then you’d have picked up on the fact that I love epic fantasy novels. The more books in the series, the better I like it. The grander the arc, the more I get swept up into it. But if you’ve ever tried to write one, then you’d know why the truly great, ground-breaking epics are rare.

I don’t know if S. F. Cunningham’s series is a truly great, ground-breaking epic, but an original soundtrack seems like a good place to break some ground to me. Personally, I’m not that into music. I enjoy it, but some of the special came off when I lost the ability to distinguish tones properly. Knowing there’s more to the music than I can hear leaves me feeling, well, like I’d rather stick to songs with great lyrics.

Whether I ever listen to the music or not, I think this is a story worth reading. It gives the promise of a great epic and the writer is confident enough (or wise enough, which is even better) not to try to borrow some of the acclaim from great epics of the past.

This trailer comes out a bit long and it starts seemingly slow, but it’s got flair and it has a rhythm that feels epic. If you’ve ever read an epic, then you know the truly great ones require quite a lot of set up. Done well, all this set up is woven seamlessly into a great story scape. You don’t realize how slow the pace has been until the lattice work of knots the writer has been weaving starts pulling on each other. Then, the pace picks up. Then, you find yourself staying up way past your bedtime, reading until your eyes are blurry, thinking you’ll just get to a good place to stop…and then the book is over. You walk away satisfied, but still hungry for more.

Will S.F. Cunningham’s Elysara be that good? There’s only one way to find out!

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Marketing is Cumulative

I was recently contacted by a client who is in a jam. This client wanted my help because sales weren’t going the way they were supposed to. This client didn’t want to pay for my help before and really couldn’t afford to do so now, but wanted to see a boost in sales. Time was running out.

I couldn’t help my client. It wasn’t the risk of not getting paid that held me back. It wasn’t the fact that I’m still running on a half-tank of energy each day. It’s because it was too late.

Marketing is cumulative. It takes time, planning, and a strategic approach. The goal is to work in multiple impressions over time, which produces an effect that is greater than the sum of the individual parts. You can’t really do it on the fly. You can’t rev things up and make up for lost time. You can’t force it. Marketing is cumulative.

Sales are a different matter. You can badger, cajole, and bully your way into a sale. You might not get a lot of repeat business, but the process works if you want just the one sale from a lot of different customers. It’s the hard sell, the hard push that makes this possible. But this isn’t something I can do. More importantly, it’s something I’m not willing to do. I hate when people do it to me and I won’t do it to other people.

That’s why I like marketing. If you follow the marketing process and do it right, then you won’t need to sell anything. You’ll have a good product or service at a reasonable price and you’ll have the communications materials that will attract the customers who want what you have. You don’t need to sell anything, because the marketing does it for you.

Of course, sales in and of itself is not a bad thing. There are plenty of good ways to sell a product or service. You don’t have to be a bully about it. If you have a good product at a good price, then you don’t need to be a bully to be a sales professional.

But marketing…marketing takes time, it takes cultivation, it takes strategy. It’s like a puzzle, with people as one of the components. It’s kind of like a story that hasn’t been told yet. So, I like marketing, but to make it work you have to think ahead and make the investment, because marketing is cumulative.

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The Story In My Dreams

I keep having this dream that spills over into my waking life. It involves the power inherent in the number 3, which is a very important number for me and has been since I was 7, but that’s another story.

In this dream, there are three basic kinds of supernatural beings. On the one hand, there are werewolves, which are intemperate, unpredictable, and able to change their shape—though not always able to control this ability. They think in erratic, conceptual, and experiential ways. They age more slowly than humans, but they do age. They can assume the appearance of any age they have actually been. They heal quickly. They’re very strong and they’re faster than humans. They have no overt magic, but they do have sense magic. They also have pack magic. They can be born or infected.

There are also vampires in this dream. They are very fast, both mentally and physically, and they are stronger than humans. Their thinks is analytical, precise. They’re always several steps ahead, but they are less aware of their own experiences and emotions. They do not age. They can drink blood, which makes them feel stronger, but they do not have to, nor were they ever really “intended” to do so. Human blood is like a drug to them. They are hard to damage, but hard to heal. Their wounds rarely kill them, because they are very difficult to kill. They have some overt magic, but no sense magic. They also have clan magic. They can be born or infected.

There are also sorcerers and sorceresses. They are very much like humans. They have no super strength and no super speed. They have no super physical abilities; they can’t heal (without magic) and they’re definitely not invincible. They age more slowly than humans, but not as slowly as werewolves. After a few hundred years, they’ll die of old age—if they live that long. They have a lot of overt magic and a lot of sense magic. They can combine their powers, but there is no specific social order they must adhere to for the sake of their survival. They are born.

If a human is infected by a werewolf there is approximately a 1 in 6 chance the human will survive to become a werewolf. If a human is infected by a vampire there is approximately a 1 in 8 chance the human will survive to become a vampire. If a werewolf is infected by a vampire there is approximately a 1 in 150 chance that the werewolf will survive to become a hybrid. If a vampire is infected by a werewolf there is approximately a 1 in 250 chance that the vampire will survive to become a hybrid. If a sorcerer or sorceress is infected by either a werewolf or a vampire, then the sorcerer or sorceress dies—there is no transformation and there is no cure. If there is interbreeding, a child may or may not have the power of one or the other parent, but never both. A fetus that is a werewolf will transform in the womb, so a mother must be a werewolf and must stay in wolf form throughout the pregnancy or her insides might be shredded by the transformation of her fetus.

There is a legend, a very, very old legend that few believe, in which a sorceress is somehow made into a vessel carrying the blood of all three supernatural races and that this sorceress will bear a child that will change the world, for good or for evil.

My character is a teenage girl on the verge of adulthood who doesn’t know she’s a sorceress. She doesn’t know her teacher, who is a bit too interested in her, is a vampire. She doesn’t know that boy she broke up with when she moved here was really a werewolf who is eighty years older than her. She finds out the truth when her teacher assaults her and her ex-boyfriend saves her—and slobbers on her—only to discover that she’d already been bitten. Maybe it’s because she is a sorceress with 6 of the 12 lines of sorcery running through her veins—a rarity in itself. Maybe it’s because she was infected with both species simultaneously. Maybe it’s because of divine intervention or good medical care or something else.

She survives.

Her life, everything she knew about her reality, does not.

One scene that keeps playing through my head is this young woman with a man she comes to love—a hybrid—being surrounded by enemies. In this scene, he doesn’t yet know what she is, because she’s hidden the “senses” she emits. All he knows is that even he can’t save them from so many. She tries to tell them to back off. She warns them that they don’t know what they’re dealing with. She tells him, “No matter what happens, stay right next to me. Do not run. Trust me.” She tries again to tell them to just leave her alone. She begs them and then as they start closing in more closely around them…a magical force shoots out in a circle from around her, and the man she loves, and washes over their enemies. It’s like a very bright light, but afterwards there’s nothing left behind but scorched and scarred earth. The earth is damaged for miles. It’s like an atomic bomb, but the “radiation” is pure magic. He figures out what she must be. A force like that hasn’t existed for thousands of years and has never before come from one single person.

I imagine what it would be like to be this girl, to never know about magic until becoming a being with more power than any single human being should ever have. I imagine that she’d try to deny the legend, because, if the legend is true, she’s destined to carry a child that will be even more powerful than she is and who may turn out to be good or evil depending on what she does. I imagine how terrifying that thought would be. I imagine just how many beings and groups—who’ve had hundreds of years or more to prepare themselves—would be after her, because they wanted to be the ones to rock the cradle that would truly rule the world. Some of them are “good,” though not in terms she would agree with considering they basically intend to enslave her for her womb and her child for his or her power. Some of them are obviously evil. I imagine how difficult it would be for those who truly want to help her, knowing that she could destroy them without even meaning it.

I want to tell this story. But it’s not ready and I don’t have the energy to do it. I have bits and pieces—a place to start if I had the time. I close my eyes and it comes so easily. This roguish hybrid who is only a hybrid because his vampire bride tried to kill him. He’s the father of her first child, which is a very powerful hybrid (even though that’s not supposed to happen), but he’s not a tri-bred like her, so he’s not the destined child. He’s the big brother, kind of like John the Baptist. I close my eyes and I see the young man who is destined to father her legendary child. He’s got the other 6 lines of sorcery running through his veins, which is why her child is so much more powerful than she is; but, that would make it a love triangle and I really don’t like the idea of the sorcerer lover and the hybrid lover fighting over her. I close my eyes and see the man who is kind enough and brave enough to be her mentor. He’s a sorcerer, but he has to find others to teach her the other skills. He sees quickly that she got all the strengths of each supernatural species, but few of the weaknesses. He also sees that her abilities are synergistic; they’re exponents of each other, they don’t simply multiply each other. He also sees what so few do—that she’s really just a young girl who is very afraid and who has good reason to be.

I want to know more. Do you?


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Trailer Time: I’ve said this before…

…I’ll probably say it again, but copyright infringement is bad business when your business thrives on your right to copyright. See why:

Maybe it’s just me, but seeing text and seeing scenes stolen from other fantasy movies does the following things:

  • It confuses me about what the trailer is supposed to be telling me, because those scenes already mean something to me and they should have absolutely nothing to do with this book.
  • It makes me suspect that the author isn’t very creative if he or she feels the need to steal other people’s work to market his or her own.
  • It puts me in the mood to look for other possible thefts.

For example, when five children (I’m assuming they’re children, because it’s a book for “young people”) go to another world with one traitor, I think about The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe where four siblings went to another world and one of them was a traitor. On the other hand, I don’t think C.S. Lewis lacked creativity because he was inspired by the Bible. Of course, I’ve never caught him stealing anything before either.

Infringing copyright is an immediate loss of credibility in my book. It’s not cool, it’s not “being resourceful,” and it certainly isn’t creative. It’s not a good way to market your work. It sends several messages, none of which are good, including:

  • “I have no respect for other artists.”
  • “I will take what I want to get what I want and I’m willing to be dishonest about it.”
  • “I couldn’t think of anything good to do for this trailer.”
  • “I didn’t have the money to hire someone who could think of something good either.”
  • “My story really isn’t worth telling anyway.”

Why should I buy a book that’s marketed with messages like that?

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Creating Controversy

If you want to get a lot of attention very quickly, piss off loud people who are easily annoyed. Say something for or against homosexuality—the more off-the-wall the better. Say something for or against a particular race—the more stereotypical the better. Say something that is sure to infuriate someone and say it loudly and publicly. Say something against the rich or the poor.

You’ll get attention. Some people will love you. Others will hate you. Still others will be morbidly fascinated by your audacity/stupidity.

There are “personalities” that thrive on this “marketing strategy” in American media. I assume the same is true in other parts of the world, but I don’t know how universal this really is. But, in the U.S., one of the best ways to become an “overnight” success is to piss people off loudly and consistently and keep doing it over and over and over again.

Personally, I would never follow this advice, because I’m not willing to live with the consequences. One of those consequences is that it becomes harder and harder for the general public to take you seriously. They may listen to you. They may buy your book. But that doesn’t mean they’ll take you seriously. You’re merely entertainment.

Then again, I’m not always good at judging who is and who is not going to be taken seriously by the general public. I mean, I keep trying the whole “ignore them and they might just go away” strategy. Um, that governor-turned-reality-star. Yeah, let’s just ignore her. That actress-turned-anti-vaxxer. Yeah, her too. Who considers them credible anyway? And if they’re not credible, why do so many people pay attention to them?

All I know is that controversy works, if you’re willing to live with the consequences. So, go ahead, make an ass out of yourself. People are dying to watch you do it. I’m just not one of them.

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Being Sensitive to Others’ Sensitivities

We produce our work for our own reasons. Sometimes it is necessary to purposefully offend people in the process. Some artists even enjoy rattling other people’s sensibilities by offending them on purpose. They get a kick out of it. Other times artists offend others through their own ignorance.

I know I’ve done it and I’m pretty confident you have, too. One way or the other, we all offend. And I’m not convinced that this is a bad thing. It’s not comfortable, but I do intentionally expose myself to things I know will stretch my own sensibilities, if for no other reason than because I know I shouldn’t rest on my own convictions without testing them.

Even more so, as artists, we have to be true to our work. We can’t please everybody and we shouldn’t feel obligated to try to do so. We take a risk with every work we produce. We’re going to offend someone over something. We deal with it and take the risk anyway. This is part of what makes us artists—we’re willing to be artists.

On the other hand, as fellow human beings, I believe we do have an obligation to be sensitive to others’ sensitivities. Whenever possible, we need to be respectful of other people’s feelings. This doesn’t mean we don’t purposefully offend others if that’s what our work requires. This doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy rattling people. But this does mean we should be honest in our approach. And it does mean we should combat our own ignorance.

I’ll give you an example to explain what I mean. My son, who has diagnoses of autism and epilepsy, was talking about something or other and these words popped out of his mouth: “Man, he was a total spaz!” In a non-confrontational manner, I said, “Do you know what that word means?” He looked at me rather blankly. “Spaz. It’s slang that compares someone who is being ‘uncool’ with someone who has cerebral palsy.” My mom chimed in, “It would be like someone making fun of you when you were having a seizure.” “Does that sound like a good thing,” I asked. He shook his head sadly and said, “I won’t say it ever, ever again.” The fact is that he probably will. It takes time and effort to break these linguistic habits we pick up. But becoming aware is the first step to changing our unsavory behaviors.

I hear people use charged language in complete ignorance all the time and they’re not all children. When words become slang, it’s hard to know the word’s original meaning—unless you happen to be one of the people who are hurt by those words. It takes effort to be informed. It takes even more effort to be aware of the ideas that cause harm, regardless of the words we use: ideas like racial minorities being predisposed to law-breaking or that life isn’t worth living if you have a disability. Words and ideas that hurt others pervade our cultures and most people aren’t even aware of them. But, as artists, we have a responsibility to be aware, to be honest, and to be respectful—even when we’re being purposefully disrespectful. It’s a fine line, but it’s one we all can walk, with a few wobbles and mistakes now and then, if we try.

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