Growth. Joy. Writing.

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I feel like I’ve been fairly transparent – especially recently – about my writing journey. My goals, my hopes, my truth. While my mindset may not be shared by many, I find the longer I stay over here on my own little quiet dirt road, the happier I am with my writing and where it is going.

As I’ve said, a while back I made the decision to write for myself. I removed myself from the idea of competition, of writing toward any “trends”, and of doing things other people tell me I “must” do in order to succeed at this art. I will not stick to writing one genre. I will not change my vision for my books to fit whatever is popular in the moment.

This decision was made, in part, by the losses of my siblings. Losing beloved family members at such young ages really drives home the notion of mortality. Life is so extraordinarily brief. Why would I take the thing that brings me such joy – writing books – and make myself miserable with it, just because that’s what I feel pressured to do?

So I quit. Quit attempting to meet anyone else’s expectations. I have to say, it’s turning out pretty well for me so far.

In the last fifteen months, I’ve put out four books – three novels, one collection of short stories. I’ve an e-book releasing shortly and two new books in the works, one very close to completion. I’ve sought and received my author rights regarding Slither and my super chick short stories that were in an anthology. Slither has been re-released as my own indie book, and the super chick stories will be re-released on their own soon enough.

I’ve been hawking my books at Ren Faire for five years now. This year was by far the best season, ever. Honestly, I sold so many books I had to emergency-order another box of them for the last weekend. I met so many new readers! It was amazing. One young woman even came up from Ohio just to meet me (ME!) and have her copy of Consumption signed.

I’ve spoken recently with someone who has interest in turning one of my short horror stories into an indie film. Opportunities have been turning up around every corner, it seems like. One of the things I’ve been doing over the last year is writing down my nightmares, just to sort of get them out of my head. After a particularly odd one a couple of months ago, I posted it on Facebook as a weird little story. The publisher of the Halloween Machine magazine noticed it and asked if I would be interested in publishing it in the summer edition of their magazine, which is pretty damn cool. It released this week. You can find my creepy nightmare under Auntie Val’s Story Time.

Learning to manage my anxiety has been a struggle since my brother died, and I’ve really been focusing on ways to remove extra stressors from my life. One of the things I decided to change is how many book events I’m going to do each year. I’m invited to several, and even though I have fun with them, they are exhausting and sometimes stressful. I intended this year to only do April Ghoul’s Day and then Ren Faire; however, I’ve decided to do one more this fall. I’ll be at the Flint Film Fright Fest in Flint, MI on October 27th. It really does look fun, and it’s only one day. I think I can handle it. I’ve ordered new business cards – I actually ran out of them at Ren Faire! – and a new banner for the occasion.

I guess what I wanted to convey with this post is this: it isn’t wrong to do things your own way. We don’t all need to fit into the prescribed size and shape of what others perceive as “successful.”

Figure out what success means to you, and adjust accordingly.

Life is too brief to live it for anyone else. Follow your own arrow, wherever it points.

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Blocked.

 

 

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Writers block isn’t real.

It’s just an excuse to be lazy.

Real writers write. Every day.

If you’re a writer, you’ve probably heard some version of these statements. I’m not sure what the people offering this non-advice hope to achieve, but personally, I think such words are extraordinarily detrimental.

For one thing, nobody gets to tell an artist how to do their art. Some people naturally create more in certain seasons. Some artists work a day job (or two, or three) and only get to be creative on weekends. Or every third Thursday. Some artists are single parents, and the idea of creating on a daily basis is so laughable as to be fiction.

Beyond these things, though, is the harmful notion that a struggling person just isn’t trying hard enough. There are all sorts of reasons a creator might be blocked. Maybe they’ve been ill. Maybe there’s been a death in their family. A divorce. Maybe the season of life they are in has them caring for elderly parents around the clock. Depression. Anxiety. Insomnia. Maybe there’s no reason other than that they need a break, and their brain is trying to get that message through to them.

Real writers write. That’s true. You’ve got to write something. You don’t need to write every day, unless that’s the way you work. Pressing unrealistic expectations on someone already barely keeping their head above water isn’t helpful. Despite the overwhelming amount of advice suggesting writers are machines, meant to work every day, all day, without regard to physical or mental health or other difficult outside factors –

You know what? We’re not.

We’re just people. And sometimes being a person is hard. Sometimes the difficulties in life kill our creativity. That doesn’t mean it’s gone forever. That doesn’t mean we’re no longer writers. It means we’re human beings who need a break. And that’s okay.

Take it. Rest. Go outside. Deal with the things you need to deal with. Read. Learn something new. Spend time with your family. Your friends. Laugh. Cry. Heal.

And come back to it. Your story isn’t going to run away because you left it alone for a little while.

If you aren’t a writer but you know one, and they’ve shared with you that they are blocked, telling them they are making up excuses or being lazy isn’t helpful. Instead, encourage them. Remind them they deserve rest like anyone else.

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Making Strange Art

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One of the coolest things about indie art is the variety. The art I tend to love best is the kind that doesn’t fit into any neat category. It’s the work that colors outside the lines, the brave ideas that forge a new path that catches my eye.

Maybe those artists don’t have a huge following, but that doesn’t mean their style of art isn’t worth making. Creating art for public viewing is scary enough as it is, even when you make it “to market”, when it’s the trendiest and likely the most accepted sort. Creating art for public consumption that is weird and likely to be scoffed at…

Man, that’s pretty terrifying.

When you pour your heart and soul into a piece of work, shine it up the best you can, and let it fly – it’s like sharing a piece of what makes you tick inside. It’s sharing a bit of the part that makes you, well, you. 

And regardless what sort of art you make, there will always be people to tear it down. Always.

But there will also be the people who have just been waiting for the sort of art you create, and when they find it, it will speak to their soul in a way that connects you to them. They’ll recognize it as something they’ve always needed. They’ll love it. They’ll share it. They’ll tell people about it.

I read a comment about my work where a person who has never met me stated, “She just hasn’t found her voice yet, that’s all.”

Oh, honey. I’ve found my voice.

My voice is multi genre. My voice is weird. My voice may be different, but it’s mine, and I intend to continue writing my strange books to the best of my ability for the foreseeable future.

People will like them. Or they won’t. That’s not my problem.

My burden lies in writing my books as well as I can, and putting them out for other fringe souls to find.

Make your weird art, and know the people who need it will find it. Don’t conform for the sake of an audience. There is a crowd out there waiting for the art only you can create.

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The Spaghetti Principle

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The truth about mistakes is, I make a lot of them.

Especially when it comes to this writing gig. I can look back over the last few years since I’ve been writing seriously and want to just kick myself in the face, but I can’t because I’m forty and my hips don’t swivel the way they used to.

The truth is, I often feel as though I’m just flinging spaghetti at a wall and seeing what sticks.

Sometimes, the pasta that stuck stays there a couple of weeks, and sometimes it doesn’t, and sometimes I think the way it stuck there at first was nothing but pure luck, and I should just scrub the wall and start all over again, new pot, new spaghetti, new wall.

Looking back, one of the biggest mistakes I probably made was working backward.

I started this blog, and then I went forward from there. So I’ve got this blog with a decent amount of followers and I love that you guys stop in and read and leave me comments and all, but I should have started with a website.

I started the blog, and then I wrote books, and then I made a website which I later deleted, because it was frustrating to have it separate from the blog. And the blog name is not my name, so it doesn’t always come up in searches. Now I seriously need a website, and I’d like to set it up so that this blog is attached to it, and eventually since I’ve got more books out now, start a mailing list. But I suck at techy type stuff, and I can’t even seem to get my gravatar on the blog to change, even though I’ve changed it six million times, so the thought of starting a website on my own is intimidating. (side note: anyone willing to help me do this, I would love you forever and gift you ecopies of all three of my books).

I wish that I had saved every interview I’ve ever done about writing, but I didn’t, because organizational skills are a thing that I’ve always lacked. I wish I had been more organized about the things I did save, instead of saving things randomly in weird places, because now when I try to find them sometimes I cry a little.

I wish, I wish, I wish…

I wish I was a more linear thinker, but I’m not. I’m a creative thinker, and my thoughts are usually everywhere at once, and this doesn’t seem to be anything I can change. I cannot force myself to write only in one genre, though that’s what all the marketing articles stress I should do. My brain is impulsive and always has been, and science has come pretty far in recent years but not far enough that I can swap my mind out for another. I cannot go backward and undo this blog, though even if I could, I probably wouldn’t, because I’ve met so many cool people through it.

I wish I could get back every article I’ve given away my rights to, especially the ones I didn’t get paid for. What was I thinking?

That’s just life, I guess. You try things and learn and cringe about your ignorance, and try more things and learn.

I’m not certain what forward looks like from here. I don’t think I’ll delete this blog. I do want to get a website up and running. I am going to delete my ello account, because it does nothing but make me feel stressed that I’m not paying enough attention to it.

I will eventually set up a mailing list. In the interim, I’ve started a reader’s group on Facebook. You are welcome to come on in and join Valarie’s Voracious Readers. https://www.facebook.com/groups/931457066949510/

I wish, I wish, I wish…

That all the spaghetti would stick.

When writing is like prom dress shopping.

Maybe this has been on my mind because my youngest daughter is a senior in high school this year, and we have started discussing what style prom dress she wants.

Maybe it’s because I just released a new book. Probably both, I guess.

But I’ve been thinking about when I was in high school, and the way it felt to find that perfect dress. And I’ve been thinking about writing, because I’m always thinking about writing. Eventually these two ideas have mashed together, so let me see if I can be clear about what I’m thinking.

My First Book:

Just Hold On is something I wrote just to write it. The work of it kept me going in the midst of deep grief, and I found a lot of joy in learning I could do this thing, I could write an entire novel. I know I’ve said this before, but I published my first book after my sister died and I was caught up in this terrible thought of “what if I die before I do it?”

So I did it. And I’m proud of it. It’s a good book, and it gets good reviews, mostly. It seems to touch a chord with people. I’m happy about that.

When you are prom dress shopping, and you find a dress that’s a good price and it’s pretty, and you try it on and look in the mirror and you think, “Man. This dress is so pretty.” But in your heart you think the style of it might look a little better on someone else, someone with less curves or more curves or longer legs or different hair. Still, you can find no fault with the dress, and if you buy it and take it home, you’ll likely be happy with it. Just Hold On is like that dress, to me. It’s a good book, though I’m not certain I will ever write anything like it again.

My Second Book:

Slither was great fun to write. So gross. And the snakes! Absolutely delightful. I mean that. It started out as a short story that just kept growing, and I kept writing it because it was so much fun. I had no idea how much fun writing horror could be until I delved into the misery of Slither. Some days I had to quit writing because my fingers had gone numb, but my brain wouldn’t shut up with ideas for it.

It’s a great dress, really. Slither hugs the curves where it should, and has some nice ruching to cover up those weird areas. It’s not on sale, but it’s in the budget. The size is right, the color is right, and you know you’ll look fine on the dance floor if this is what you wear to the big night. You start to fantasize about which shoes and hair style you want to go with this dress. I love this book. I worked hard on it and was so proud when it came out. It’s also a creepy book, and not everyone likes snakes, so not everyone loves it. But that’s okay. It’s still pretty killer. (<<haha. A killer horror book. See what I did there.)

My Third Book:

Heckled just came out, but I wrote it early last year. It’s different from anything else I’ve ever done, and it’s hard to explain how I felt when I was writing this book. Fevered, maybe. I could not write fast enough. Like lightning from my brain to my fingers. I felt fearless, strong, and…somehow, as if I’d just come home. This book feels like it is MINE, like it is truth, at least, my truth, the way I saw the story unfolding in my head. It’s my heart, raw on the page, ready for criticism but knowing I could not have written it any other way.

It’s the dress you try on and look in the mirror and suddenly you stand up perfectly straight. Tall. You meet your mom’s eyes and smile. You know it’s a little over budget but you’re confident you can talk her in to paying for it. You’re confident about everything. This dress needs no seamstress, no tucks or hems. You cringe at the thought of taking it off and putting on your street clothes, because you know in this dress, you can do anything. You’re powerful. You know this is the dress you’re going to wear to prom, but you think you might also wear it out for a casual dinner one night, or next time you go to the movies, because damn, you know you look that good.

 

Heckled.

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Heckled released late last night, a bit earlier than I had expected. But we got the cover design perfected, and then the editing went fast, and then Amazon went fast, and so, here we have it.

I am beyond excited.

This book means a lot to me, and I wanted to give you a little bit of insight as to how the idea for Heckled got started.

When the world lost Robin Williams, I cried. That week and the weeks shortly after, we saw a lot of things in the news and on social media referencing the end of the life of a man many of us had grown up knowing as Mork. There was such an outpouring of love and understanding by so many people.

There was also quite an outpouring of…something else.

Something mean-spirited and ugly. People who chose to view those who spend each day fighting mental illness as weak. Those who chose to be vocal about suicide or the contemplation of it being cowardly.

And it is so far from that. Imagine spending each day, knowing your brain is going to lie to you, and fight with you. Imagine going to bed every night, and knowing the next day will probably not be any better, but trying anyway. Imagine the strength and courage it would take to spend ten, twenty, thirty years, fighting a voice in your head that says you are not good enough, that says you never will be; a miserable, poisonous something that harasses you, day in and day out.

That isn’t weakness. That is STRENGTH.

I wanted to write something that would showcase the amount of inner strength it would take to live with such a thing, and how difficult it might be to try to explain it to others. So I wrote Heckled.

This will not be a book that everyone loves, and I’m okay with that. Honestly, I’m expecting mean reviews. But if it makes anyone stop, think, maybe start a conversation about a hard topic, then I’ll be satisfied I did what I set out to do.

If you read Heckled, please come back and tell me what you thought about it.

http://tinyurl.com/hdnrx4h

 

KAPOW!

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I’ve got news for my bibliophile friends!

If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you know that I write more than just on this blog. In fact, I’ve published two novels, Just Hold On and Slither, which you should go and buy now, go ahead, I’ll wait. I got nothin’ to do but chase this wiggly baby, but it’s cool, I’ve got a teenager home on school break who can watch the naughty baby for a mo.

*whistles*

Got ’em? BEANS OF COOLNESS. Now you shall be rewarded with the exciting news, which you may have figured out on account of the picture above, because I know you’re clever like that, which is why you follow me…right?

Earlier this year, I was honored to be asked to join in on two anthologies. Seven stories of super chicks, written by seven super chicks, including me. Girl power at its finest! This is the first time I’ve written a story for an anthology, so I was excited to be a part of the KAPOW! duo of books.

Onomatopoeia! Of course KAPOW! is a great sound to shout whilst waving a finger or sword or bejeweled Scottish dagger at thine mortal enemy, or perhaps at Ren Faire, but for this particular set of anthologies, it has a deeper meaning:

Kick Ass Powerfully Original Women. KAPOW!

And they are, truly. Every super villain in the KAPOW! Bad Girls Edition book is a walking, talking, nightmare of an anti-heroine, and I think you’re going to love to hate them.

My bad girl, Copper, is a six-foot-seven redhead with a chip on her shoulder, and she’s out to make everyone pay. She’s also a member of the ancient super human race Dealanach Anail, and she breathes golden lightning (which creates an unfortunate and electrifying condition for anyone who makes her angry).

Come meet Copper and her cohorts in the KAPOW! Bad Girls Edition book that was recently released, and the cliffhangers will leave you with bated breath, waiting for the KAPOW! Good Girls Edition, which is coming soon.

KAPOW! Because why should super dudes get to have all the fun?

http://www.amazon.com/KAPOW-Bad-Girls-Carlyle-Labuschagne-ebook/dp/B0192FHFXI/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8