Words to Live By – Where Lie Your Roots!?

Jeff Version_Words to Live By 2

The first Wednesday of every month, writer Jeff Bowles muses on life, creativity, and our collective destinies as makers of cool stuff. You’re a writer, but have you ever thought about how or why? Here are some words to live by.

Where Lie Your Roots?

It’s been a slow week for me out here on the Colorado prairie. Not planning to announce any upcoming book or music releases, no urge to get out of the house and see the world again. I assume it’s right where I left it. Such a long time ago! Do they still have fast food out there? Do children still laugh? Asking for a friend.

I did finish the rough draft of a new book the other day. I’ve been working on it for three and a half months, so it was gratifying to finally type THE END. About 70,000 words in total, and guess what else? I wrote it without any preparation, no outline or notes or character sheets or research conducted the hard way. And I like how it’s turned out. Kind of proud of myself, actually. I think it would’ve been a very different book if I’d had no clue how good stories are put together. My family gave that to me, the freedom to ponder and learn and express, regardless of whether or not they figured it would, quote unquote, “Get me somewhere”.

This is at the heart of Words to Live By for this month. Where lie your creative roots? Reaching deep into the nutrient-rich soil, I hope. Have you been making time for inspiration? Have you lately nurtured those people and circumstances essential to your own creative growth? I believe every one of us has common mythic imaginations. Joseph Campbell spoke about it all the time, and so for that matter did Carl Jung. If not for that thick, tangled, extra-nerdy root system of mine, I doubt I’d have had the confidence to improvise a whole book. Think I’m going to call it Emily Greer’s Resurrection Mixtape, which sounds dumb until you realize what it’s about. I’ve documented my writing habits elsewhere on Writing to be Read, but because I developed Schizoaffective Disorder about five or six years ago, I’ve had to lighten my daily workload considerably. For me there’s a fine line between healthy production and the kind of overproduction that only exhausts and triggers me.

Have you ever met a writer who’s lost his or her ability to be a fan of stuff? Like they broke that button a long time ago and never bothered to have it repaired? I’d hate always feeling that way. As long as they keep making movies for nerds, I’ll doubtless keep paying to see them. It was something we always did together, my family and I, the magic of a darkened movie theater, popcorn, candy, soda; complete and total escape into stories bigger than the side of our house! I started borrowing amazing science fiction novels from my brother, started singing for the other kids on the playground, developing that taste for performance. By the time I got to college, I was hooked. My biggest leap forward at that time was to write a full screenplay for one of my theater classes.

“This isn’t bad, Jeff,” my instructor told me near the end of the semester. “You’ve got a knack for writing. You ought to continue developing it.”

So I did. I worked hard, studied hard, and yes, that did include watching movies and TV shows many people at the time considered junk. I knew this stuff was cool then and I’m certain of it now. There are a lot of cultural touchstones to keep track of when you work in genre fiction. I’m a nerd, which means I’m already full of useless trivia. But what about you? In what ways have your experiences with storytelling shaped what you do and the way you do it?

I get much of my writing style from comics. Big surprise there. Comic books are dynamic, bombastic, colorful. They’re also short, which is perfect for a mind like mine. From the likes of Marvel and DC, I learned the value of punch-you-in-the-gut storytelling. Can’t say I took personal instruction at the feet of masters, but just read some of my work and tell me you don’t see far more super than man.

Heh, that’s a good one, more super than man. Going to have to remember that.

Because I write relatively little each morning, I end up with a lot of free time on my hands. I’m also a bit of a homebody, which has only become more pronounced in the days of COVID. What do I do all day long if not to write? Because honestly, ten years ago I’d work for hours on end and never bat an eye. I read comics, of course, and I watch movies I’ve seen a million times before. I’m a huge fan who also writes and occasionally gets paid for what I create. The point is not to elevate my tastes above anyone else’s. I do like some pretty awesome stuff, but that’s subjective. I’d rather you elevate yours over mine. What catches your imagination most? What gets you excited to be creative? Watch Captain America or Batman for the umpteenth time and pretend you’re immune to feeling bored, frustrated, disagreeable. How deep do your roots go?

The things I love charge me up and make my work possible. Do you feel the same about the stuff you love? If there were no Avengers, no Justice League, no Star Wars, I might not have ever become a writer. Thank god I did. It’s been one hell of a fun life so far. 😊

I’ll be back next month with another Words to Live By. Until then, everybody!


Jeff Bowles is a science fiction and horror writer from the mountains of Colorado. The best of his outrageous and imaginative work can be found in God’s Body: Book One – The Fall, Godling and Other Paint Stories, Fear and Loathing in Las Cruces, and Brave New Multiverse. He has published work in magazines and anthologies like PodCastle, Tales from the Canyons of the Damned, the Threepenny Review, and Dark Moon Digest. Jeff earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing at Western State Colorado University. He currently lives in the high-altitude Pikes Peak region, where he dreams strange dreams and spends far too much time under the stars. Jeff’s new novel, Love/Madness/Demon, is available on Amazon now!

Love Madness Demon Cover Final

Check out Jeff Bowles Central on YouTube – Movies – Video Games – Music – So Much More!


Feral Tenderness – Just My Opinion

Feral Tenderness Book Blog Tour

Feral Tenderness, by Arthur Rosch, is a poetry and photography collection like no other I’ve ever encountered. I can say this with confidence, because I am the editor and compiler for this book, however it exempts me from posting my opinions of this collection on Amazon. But Writing to be Read is my blog, so I’d like to tell you about this interesting and unique collection of creativity here, taking into account that the author is a friend of mine, so the opinions expressed are likely to be biased. Be that as it may, I’m proud to associate myself with this work of creativity, a collection of poetry and photography worth more than just a casual glance. Arthur’s works need to be savored, like a fine wine, simmered over, like a sweet glaze, and appreciated for their unique and delectable flavors.

As I’ve mentioned on several occassions, Arthur Rosch sees the world in a unique way. Through his creative endeavors, those who care to look are allowed a glimpse of things through his eyes. His photography is amazing. The images that he captures with his lense say so much in a single moment. His poetry, on the other hand, is often a lengthy, social commentary on higher powers, human behavior, or the world at large. Yet, even his short poems seem to have a lot to say.

To illustrate my meaning, the following poem is minimal, yet it speaks volumes. It is my favorite of Arthur’s short snippits of poetry and the only one for which a true companion photo was also available from his photo library for inclusion in the collection.

Dewdrops
Dewdrops on spiderwebs:
sit lightly with life

Little Web

Another of Arthur’s profound poems, “Stars“, declares, in part, (I did mention that some of his poems are rather lengthy, too much so to be reprinted here in full),

” …Stars know what they are.
Stars are alive and individual,
quirky with personality,
often pulsing and drawing
gravity blood, gas and heat,
combining with other stars
combining and mating with other
stars and forming unions of
higher imaginations
in order to serve the Master of Stars… “

Another poem is an expression of nature, as seen through Arthur’s eyes. This one is one of my personal favorites.

Hunted By The Hawk

Make joy from stones.
Make wit from mud,
make humor from blood.
The tiny finch flies crazily,
for the sheer fun of it,
though it knows, each morning,
that it’s hunted by the hawk.
We too, each morning,
are hunted by the hawk.

The cover image for Feral Tenderness also came from Arthur’s photo library. With this photo, I was able to create an awesome cover design, if I do say so myself. We created cover images using several of Arthur’s photos, but in the end, this one grabbed both author’s and publisher’s hearts.

Feral Tenderness Cover

The poetry and photos featured in this collection are so varied in subject matter and tone, that several book promotions with very different appeals seemed applicable to me. I used one of Arthur’s photographs for the background of one of them. Can you guess which one? Let me know in the comments which you like better.

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Mind Fields – My Pandemic Peace

Mind Fields

I am a janitor. I have worked at the same medium sized commercial property for thirty years. It is a job made in heaven! The pay is good, and I set my own hours. I never see my boss. We exchange emails and a check arrives monthly. The pandemic has done little to change my lifestyle. Properties tend to fall apart without the basic services supplied by cleaners and contractors. I work part time as a janitor and the other part time I stay home and practice the piano and write. My janitorial work includes maintaining two public restrooms. This requires a maximum of personal protection gear. Mask and gloves combined with frequent washing are keeping me (I hope) safe from infection. 

My spouse is disabled and spends most of her day in bed. I care for her and keep supplies flowing. She suffers from COPD and Rheumatoid Arthritis. My life is not much different from the time before Covid-19. I go out less and I buy at least a week’s supplies so that I don’t have to return to the store and its dangers of exposure. Judging by the basket loads being checked out by my fellow shoppers, we are feeling much the same.

The adaptations to Covid-19 quickly normalize. I see my therapist via Skype or Doxy.me.com.  I would rather see her in person, but seeing her on my computer screen offers a strange and intangible compensation. I can only call it “looseness”, i.e. I am more likely to say something awkward, which, as you may know, is the good stuff when it comes to psychotherapy.  I must speak the uncomfortable truth. In this way, Covid has presented a weird therapeutic gain.

I communicate via computer and attend my weekly Senior Peer Counseling groups via Zoom.  I don’t have to drive! No gasoline, no oil changes, no flat tires. No traffic! I acknowledge the vast suffering that attends this pandemic. I can’t allow my compassion to be blunted by my relative comfort. The plain truth is that Covid-19 has made my life easier.

I have been a Certified Senior Peer Counselor for three years. This effort offers support to those who are over 55 years of age. I now see my clients via all means possible, be they phone, computer, tablet, holograph, astral projection, quantum entanglement, ubiquitous electron transfer, psychic channeling or yelling out the window. Somehow, the process seems to be effective.

A couple of times a week I make my way up and down Highway 101. It’s a fifty mile round trip and sometimes the highways are virtually deserted. It’s kinda spooky! So far, my personal pandemic has been more of a windfall.

I’m 73 years old. Officially, that makes me a senior citizen. I’m active, creative, mobile, flexible, and in good health. If I tell you that this is due to my excellent personal hygiene, I would be gaslighting you with a heavy frosting of irony. I’ve been addicted to heroin, cocaine, alcohol, tobacco and other bad behaviors. I am a paradox. I have faithfully practiced yoga since the age of eighteen. There have been times when I would inject myself with a speedball, smoke several cigarettes and do a sequence of yoga postures within the same hour. I’m not like that anymore. I’ve worn out my addictions through a steady incremental process, aided by psychotherapy. There was no sudden cure, no breakthrough, just years of steady work. I AM, at last, closer to where I want to be. All I have to do is avoid suddenly dropping dead. 

Count to three. I haven’t dropped dead. This means that I have a responsibility to continue writing. My mentor, the incredible KL Booth, urges me to supply essays, poems, and other material to the ongoing work of the web platform Writing To Be Read. This site is a forum for writers and provides essential exposure for those of us who don’t have the proper connections to achieve big time literary fame. 

There is truth to the maxim that “You have to know someone.” There was a time when I did indeed know someone. I knew the fiction editor at Playboy Magazine. Her name was Vicki Chung. I got to know her through a series of flukes that led to my winning Playboy’s award for Best Story Of The Year. After winning that award, I was invited to Playboy’s 25th anniversary banquet in New York City, all expenses paid. A room at the Waldorf was booked for me. The banquet guest list was loaded with influential writers, editors, agents and publishers. I had gone to Nirvana. They had a wall-sized poster illustration of my award winning short story. I was courted by everyone. I returned from New York City with my pockets full of business cards. “Call me when your manuscript is ready.” They all said that. 

A few months later there was a plane crash near Chicago’s Ohare airport. Most of Playboy Magazine’s literary staff was on that plane. My friend Vicki was gone. My connections were gone.

Later that year my manuscript was stolen. It was the only copy because I was making corrections. At the time I was devastated, but I now know that it was a shit novel, that it was juvenile, pretentious and hopeless. The thief saved me from gruesome embarrassment.

Pandemic? Are we in a pandemic? I think it’s more like a correction, the way the theft of my manuscript was a correction. That sounds cold, but nature doesn’t consider the will of individuals as it operates our planet. Nature does what is best for itself. Covid-19 may be nature’s response to massive overpopulation and utterly depraved management of this stately orb. 

That’s my theory, anyway.

___________________________________________________________________________________________

Feral Tenderness

A Midwesterner by birth, Arthur Rosch migrated to the West Coast just in time to be a hippie but discovered that he was more connected to the Beatnik generation. He harkened back to an Old School world of jazz, poetry, painting and photography. In the Eighties he received Playboy Magazine’s Best Short Story Award for a comic view of a planet where there are six genders. The timing was not good.  His life was falling apart as he struggled with addiction and depression. He experienced the reality of the streets for more than a decade. Putting himself back together was the defining experience of his life. It wasn’t easy. It did, however, nurture his literary soul. He has a passion for astronomy, photography, history, psychology and the weird puzzle of human experience. He is currently a certified Seniors Peer Counselor in Sonoma County, California. Come visit his blogs and photo sites. www.artrosch.com and http://bit.ly/2uyxZbv

Arthur’s books include The Road Has Eyes, The Gods of the Gift, and Confessions of an Honest Man. His lifetime collection of poetry and photography, Feral Tenderness, is soon to be released by WordCrafter Press.

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Words to Live By – Losing My Mind (in Real Life)

Jeff Version_Words to Live By 2

The first Wednesday of every month, writer Jeff Bowles muses on life, creativity, and our collective destinies as makers of cool stuff. You’re a writer, but have you ever thought about how or why? Here are some words to live by.

Losing My Mind (in Real Life)

At three-thirty in the morning, I’m screaming at demons. There’s something inside me, something over which I have very little control, and it’s been at my throat for months. Somehow I’ve convinced myself the voice in my head belongs to a friend from graduate school, that she’s speaking to me telepathically over a great distance. She’s crueler than the person I remember, always mocking and deceiving me, but I don’t do the simple mental math. The voice tells me all sorts of things, and this is the first time I’ve ever been crazy, so I don’t necessarily understand I’m not supposed to listen.

Though I sleep dismally, I call her the very next morning. The real person I mean. I say crazy things, most of which I don’t remember now. A few days later, something even worse happens. An incident with the car in our driveway. My wife, she gets hurt. The voice told me she was trying to kill me, and I believed every word, so I attempted to flee the house and she ended up with six fractured ribs. God, some days are made in Hell. If I close my eyes, even five years later, it’s an easy vision to conjure, and it lays me low every time. This happened, it was real, and I was crazy, crazy, crazy, an animal, a lunatic, someone completely undeserving of justice or fairness or something simple and clean like compassion.

I made a mess of my life, ended up in jail, in court, on a psychiatric ward, and I have had to cope with a version of myself from that time I cannot excuse, someone vulgar and unhinged, someone barely hanging on. I won’t go into details that are still too painful to write in blunt, unadulterated language. The pressures of life had gotten to me, an unexpected barrage of one thing after another, as life is known to dish out. Unexpected health issues, loss of a job, unable to pay the mortgage. No, I’d never heard voices before, but that doesn’t mean I’m worthy of forgiveness. My loved ones keep telling me I should finally let go, be kind to myself on this front, realize people make mistakes, that these things can and do happen and that none of it makes me a bad or dangerous person. I find it difficult to believe what they say. Scratch that, I find it impossible. It’s a miracle no one was killed.

Many prominent creative voices throughout history have commented on the clear and seemingly causal link between mental illness and creative genius, but not every dork with a science fiction and fantasy fetish and a couple of short story sales goes full tilt into lunacy. It’s not in my nature to describe myself in lofty terms. It’s not in my nature to think of myself very fondly at all, and that’s perhaps where dark things like this take root. Whatever creative abilities I’ve been granted and have spent years honing seem to have come at a cost. I knew I had depression at a very young age, but schizophrenia, I didn’t even know what that was.

It’s like this: you can’t trust your thoughts, your senses, your worldly experience. You will hear voices and smell phantom aromas and see things that aren’t there. You’ll think delusional thoughts every once in a while, strange ruminations and lines of logic that make perfect sense at the time they occur. If you’re lucky, medication will help, and counseling will teach you skills you can lean on that boil down to keeping it real, keeping it present, leaning on others if you’re having a truly difficult time distinguishing fantasy from reality. Don’t listen when you think you hear your friend from school. Don’t listen when you think you hear your friend from school. Don’t listen when you think you hear your friend from school.

There were nights I was so terrified I couldn’t imagine surviving till morning. These voices, they torture you in all sorts of creative and intimate ways. They make fun of you in the toilet, in the shower, when you’re dressing in the morning. They con you into driving recklessly in city traffic, convince you your counseling appointment has been canceled, and that in fact, you don’t really need counseling anyway. At some point, the ruse couldn’t sustain, and I finally realized I wasn’t speaking with my friend. Sensibly, tardy as usual, I asked to whom or what I was in fact speaking, in my head, in the room, just out of sight.

It said it wanted to be called Dave. Just Dave. And the more my wife and I used the name as shorthand, the more it seemed appropriate. Dave, like some faceless person who could be anyone or anything at any time. Dave, a personality that might be normal or might be abnormal, just depended on the day. And now when I write, even a simple essay like this one, I feel as though Dave is guiding my fingers over my laptop keyboard.

I can feel him looking out my eyes sometimes. He wiggles my toes and fidgets when I’m barely paying attention. He’s in me, he is me, yet they say he’s not the conscious, aware me. If my id expresses itself thusly, what the hell is wrong with me? Is it any wonder the book I wrote about that insane, scary time depicts Dave as a full-stop demon? Not a biproduct of janky biochemistry or a brain or emotional disorder, but rather something separate and inhuman? Took me two years to write that book. I still can’t stand to read a single word of it.

I wasn’t myself. It must be a constant reminder, or the truth is the person I am today, the person I’ve always believed myself to be, he’s a lie. And this is something I can’t accept. You must take action when your own wounding wounds others. It’s a teaching moment, a failing you can catch like a falling aspen leaf. It was a shot across the bow, an opportunity to reorient myself, look at my life and everything I’ve created and done not as the end-all-be-all, but as a small component of who I am in full. Each and every time Dave speaks to me, I can silently rebuke or ignore him and remind myself what real humility and humanity look like.

They look like the patients at the psych hospital who’d just survived suicide attempts and psychotic episodes. How gentle and caring they seemed. Not like me, strapped to a hospital bed, screaming my head off, trying to cut my wrists in a pretty useless fashion, thinking the Velcro ties would do the trick. Humility and humanity look like the caregivers—yes, even the guards at the county jail—who could’ve condemned me but instead took pity on me, tried to protect and treat me.

Even five years later, I awake sometimes from nightmares. He’s always there, but thankfully, so am I. Watchful, careful, repentant. Honestly, not at all interested in returning to that place ever again. I could’ve lost so much. It all could’ve ended so much worse. My blessings, I do my best to count them, but I know I could do far more. Recovery is a long process, or at least it can be, and it’s a bumpier ride than most people give it credit for being. But I have to go through it. It’s an imperative. Being better to people, hoping one day to learn to be better to myself. Leave the creative stuff aside. In fact, leave everything aside that is surface-level and cheap. Maybe it’s what I came here to do. Maybe it’s what we all came here to do.

If you or anyone you know is suffering severe mental health issues right now, I urge you to seek help. Especially in the middle of this pandemic, it’s a huge issue for many, and we owe it to ourselves, our friends, and our family to treat it with respect. There’s hope, there’s survival, and there is recovery. I’m proof of that. We all deserve to be the best versions of ourselves. All of us. I pray and hope for the best life has to offer, and I pray and hope the same for you as well. Safety, happiness, generosity, and love. Sanity most of all, my friends. Until next month.


Jeff Bowles is a science fiction and horror writer from the mountains of Colorado. The best of his outrageous and imaginative work can be found in God’s Body: Book One – The Fall, Godling and Other Paint Stories, Fear and Loathing in Las Cruces, and Brave New Multiverse. He has published work in magazines and anthologies like PodCastle, Tales from the Canyons of the Damned, the Threepenny Review, and Dark Moon Digest. Jeff earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing at Western State Colorado University. He currently lives in the high-altitude Pikes Peak region, where he dreams strange dreams and spends far too much time under the stars. Jeff’s new novel, Love/Madness/Demon, is available on Amazon now!

Love Madness Demon Cover Final

Check out Jeff Bowles Central on YouTube – Movies – Video Games – Music – So Much More!


Want to be sure not to miss any of Jeff’s “Words to Live By” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress. If you found this useful or just entertaining, please share.


Craft and Practice with Jeff Bowles – A Matter of Time

Each month, writer Jeff Bowles offers practical tips for improving, sharpening, and selling your writing. Welcome to your monthly discussion on Craft and Practice.

I’d like to tell you there’s a magic bullet for the writer’s life, that one tip or trick or another will make you successful, skilled, well-known, or whatever else you’re looking for on your individual journey. If that were the case, we’d all be bestsellers and poet laureates, and yet somewhat mystifyingly so…

Why do some people strike out while others hit it big? Why does it seem like so many have to struggle more, or fail more, or publish less? I wish I knew. Then again, I wish it weren’t such a big deal. After all, personal dreams are a wonderful thing, but they don’t often hold up against cold hard reality. That the two sometimes become the same thing is an obvious miracle, but let’s not belabor the point. If you were here for mysticism instead of writing advice, I’d tell you to buy a good quartz crystal and an all-seeing eye pendant. The trick this month, the tip I’m offering, is simply to say that in most scenarios you’ll encounter in your creative career, patience will be a virtue. Because time is always the overriding factor. Always. And time can be a fickle thing.

Sometimes it looks like the long wait from a submission to an acceptance. Or even a rejection to a rewrite. It can also appear as years of struggle to produce a single wonderful piece of writing. If you’ve ever read an advice column that promised the moon, you know how disappointing and damaging unrealistic expectations can be. No matter what your goals are, sometimes accomplishment boils down to luck. That’s simply the nature of the beast. And luck doesn’t often spread evenly, as I’m sure you’ve discovered in your own life.

Then again, sometimes it’s all about the hard work, the sleepless nights. There are very, very few overnight sensations. I’ve seen individual writing dreams come true, up close and personal, and it only ever seems to occur after years and years of battling it out in the trenches. You can look at it in terms of struggle and strife, or you can adopt a more holistic point of view. What I’m suggesting here today is that the prime factor of your eventual success is a matter of time. That’s all.

Time.

Because no amount of talent, drive, dedication, or luck will ever disqualify or surmount one very important point: you have to get from here to there, from A to B. I think it’s important to have goals, especially when you’re just starting out, but you may realize at some point you don’t have as much control of the universe as you thought you did.

There will be periods of droughts and downpours, of veritable writing gluts and creative starvation. And what can you do about it? If you make enough professional allies and friends, you’ll most likely notice that some of them succeed more readily than others. Most people don’t have such fragile egos they can’t stand to see contemporaries and comrades doing better than them. Then again, we writers can be a sensitive and touchy bunch, and truly, it can hurt to watch other people get the things we want. I guess the real question is how much pleasure can we derive from work that doesn’t seem to be getting us anywhere. Placing no focus whatsoever on its perceived relative quality. How much do we enjoy doing what we do?

Because I urge you to enjoy it more. Perhaps easier said than done, but there’s great pleasure to be found in the moment-to-moment, the day-to-day. I want you to write like only you can write because only you can write that way. Make sense? I want to hear your individual voice, and I want you to recognize it deserves to be heard.

Time can be your friend as easily as it can be your enemy. I suppose what I’d really like to do is walk up to the next struggling, frustrated writer I see and tap them on the head, ask her or him what the big deal is. Don’t you know your success is only a matter of time? Because that’s the truth, isn’t it? Don’t worry so much about what will or won’t happen. Worry about this scene you’re writing, that sentence you’re tweaking. In other words, focus on what you can control and disregard the rest. Don’t sweat it, because honestly, what’s there to sweat?

The simplicity of my message might offend this writer, because how can I say their success is a matter of time when nothing good or great has happened for them yet? How can I be so casual about the fact they haven’t proved themselves? Writers love to prove themselves. I might direct them to the precepts of Quantum Law, which stipulate that while there is only one you in the here and now, the future holds limitless possibilities for who you’ll become and what you’ll do next. Playing with pretty big odds, actually. Forces quite beyond your ken. Keep your nose to the grindstone, work when you can work, play when it feels right to play, and try to develop a little bit of trust, a little faith in the process and in your ability to do what’s right for you, to be at the right place when and only when it’s the right time.

Cliché and sound advice seem like the same thing sometimes, so don’t fret when I indulge in a certain truism: it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. Fact is fact, my friends. It’s all just a matter of time. I’ll see you next month in Craft and Practice.


Jeff Bowles is a science fiction and horror writer from the mountains of Colorado. The best of his outrageous and imaginative work can be found in God’s Body: Book One – The Fall, Godling and Other Paint Stories, Fear and Loathing in Las Cruces, and Brave New Multiverse. He has published work in magazines and anthologies like PodCastle, Tales from the Canyons of the Damned, the Threepenny Review, and Dark Moon Digest. Jeff earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing at Western State Colorado University. He currently lives in the high-altitude Pikes Peak region, where he dreams strange dreams and spends far too much time under the stars. Jeff’s new novel, Love/Madness/Demon, is available on Amazon now!

Love Madness Demon Cover Final

Check out Jeff Bowles Central on YouTube – Movies – Video Games – Music – So Much More!


Want to be sure not to miss any of Craft and Practice with Jeff Bowles segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress


Mind Fields – My Suicide Note

December 15, 2020

I was a mess. I could smile, say hello, pretend to be okay. I wasn’t okay. I was being squeezed by a depression so ferocious that I seriously began to consider ending my life. However… I had a problem. Every time I tried to compose a suicide note I ran into a wall when I asked myself: What if my suicide note sucks?

This is a daunting challenge for a writer. First I have to ask the question: why the note? Why are suicide notes such an institution? They seem de rigeur in the traditions of suicide. Gotta have a note. You can’t leave people wondering what happened to you. This colossal egotism is rampant: we all think we’re so important. The truth is that hardly anyone cares what happens to you. I suppose the note is for loved ones; but often enough in the case of suicide, there ARE no loved ones. Or there are loved ones who didn’t behave in the desired way.

We get attached to our lives. They’re like the suits in which we live and sometimes they get threadbare. Still, they’re OUR lives. It’s no easy thing to toss aside an entire life, the whole story of how you got to this point. A note is the least one can do to summarize the effort of living for X number of years. Of surviving. It takes toughness to survive. Clearly I wasn’t tough enough to make the grade. So, it’s goodbye to friends and relatives. Such as they are.

The effort of being conscious can be arduous. The problem is that Consciousness is hard to escape.  The suicide is taking an awful chance. What if things don’t end with the bang of a gun or the sting of a razor? There might be something else in the market/bazaar of consciousness waiting on the other side of that decision. Wouldn’t that be ironic?

I spend many hours each day in a state of oblivion called sleep. Isn’t death much like sleep? Isn’t it just….oblivion? I have a hard time believing in oblivion as a paradigm. It is clearly not one of the dominant features of the universe. And, if it IS: who knows or cares? That was a sly joke. I hope someone gets it. Consciousness, on the other hand, is bound to pop up again. I will experience “I-ness” or “selfness” or some form of individual awareness. I might be reborn as a sea slug. Who knows what sea slugs think and feel? It would be boorish to dismiss them as unthinking automata. Life isn’t really like that. Consciousness is all over the place. This is why I refrained from killing myself. I’m pretty sure I’ll pop up somewhere else.

The note satisfied an urge to continue being myself in spite of the intention to stop being myself. I was so depressed that I thought I couldn’t endure it. Deep down, I didn’t believe I was capable of going through with suicide. I have too much ingrained optimism. I’ve always felt that problems might have solutions, if I just wait long enough.

Every time I began to write a note in my head I would say to myself, “You’re writing a suicide note in your head. Stop it!” I would stop. The urge would arise again during the day, and again, I would tell myself to stop. I had a problem, i.e. every suicide note that I authored was utterly terrible as literature. My notes were awful! They were filled with self pity, which I have never found to be attractive. Instead of murdering myself I decided to try an anti-depressant, Lexapro. Within a week my depression had lifted. It was amazing! The horrors simply vanished. Quickly. 

I’m glad I didn’t commit suicide. Life has greatly improved. I dabble with the idea of stopping the Lexapro. But….  I don’t think so. I don’t EVER want to be visited by such black depression. I’m not naïve. These thoughts and feelings are still inside me, somewhere. There is TRUTH in depression.  Living is complex and the world we are given is often intolerable. It’s possible that when I hide from things, they wind up at the top of my emotional in-basket. Do I need to test the limits of my courage? I’m not brave. I shrink from the worst case. I will let these sleeping dogs stay asleep.

In spite of my Inner Wuss I have survived and even come to thrive, lo, these many years. I’m just beginning to have fun. It’s about time. If my depression is like a hibernating bear I will squirt it with some drugs to keep it asleep.

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Feral Tenderness

A Midwesterner by birth, Arthur Rosch migrated to the West Coast just in time to be a hippie but discovered that he was more connected to the Beatnik generation. He harkened back to an Old School world of jazz, poetry, painting and photography. In the Eighties he received Playboy Magazine’s Best Short Story Award for a comic view of a planet where there are six genders. The timing was not good.  His life was falling apart as he struggled with addiction and depression. He experienced the reality of the streets for more than a decade. Putting himself back together was the defining experience of his life. It wasn’t easy. It did, however, nurture his literary soul. He has a passion for astronomy, photography, history, psychology and the weird puzzle of human experience. He is currently a certified Seniors Peer Counselor in Sonoma County, California. Come visit his blogs and photo sites. www.artrosch.com and http://bit.ly/2uyxZbv

Arthur’s books include The Road Has Eyes, The Gods of the Gift, and Confessions of an Honest Man. His lifetime collection of poetry and photography, Feral Tenderness, is soon to be released by WordCrafter Press

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5 Positive Benefits of the Pandemic

Positive Effects of the Pandemic

We’ve all been limited by the pandemic and the resulting restrictions. The restrictions vary for different areas of the globe, but we’ve all been affected to some degree. I was out of work at my day job as a caregiver for a little under a month, so the financial hardships were minimal, but I’ve had to follow mask and social distancing guidelines to protect myself and others. I live in a very rural mountain area, so I’ve tried to combine tasks and order what I can online, in order to limit my trips into town. I carry hand sanitizer and disinfect anything I bring in. I use my card at the pump when available, and I disinfect my credit card or driver’s liscense, if I have to hand them to a clerk or secretary. But honestly, I count myself lucky, because my life hasn’t changed in many ways which I hear others claiming.

It seems I’ve become an introvert in my old age. I’d rather stay home and write, than go shopping or attend a party. I prefer to watch movies in my living room, where I can pause to take a bathroom break when needed, or even pick up where I left off the next day, instead of going to a theater. But overall, for me, adjusting to the ‘new normal’ didn’t involve any major changes, just small ones. I like to look at things from a positive perspective, so I’ve listed the advantages I see as the world changes around me.

  1. Big Savings: The thing I think I miss most is eating out, not because it’s not available, but because it’s an unnecessary chance of exposure that I don’t need. (Truth be told, I have broken down a few times and picked up a carry-out order when I have to be in town anyway). On the positive side, I’ve saved a lot of money and calories by eating in. Less driving also means less gas going into the tank, and for me that adds up to quite a chunk of change.
  2. Don’t Have to Smile: I don’t know about all of you, but I’ve always hated it when I see someone I know in the store when I’m in a hurry, concentrating on what ever I need to get with the look of a woman on a mission, and they say, “Where’s your smile?” or something to that effect. Sometimes I just don’t feel like smiling, and the mask lends me the freedom to not have to. Now, when donning my mask in public, no one can tell what kind of mood I’m in. I can even stick out my tongue without their knowing, but I don’t recommend this, especially with disposable masks.
  3. Stay Home Guilt Free: As mentioned above, I’m an introvert, so this pandemic has given me an excuse to do what I want to do anyway, without anyone telling me that I need to get out more, or that staying couped up isn’t healthy. Now, folks just write it up to being cautious or doing my civic duty by complying with Covid restrictions.
  4. Increased Productivity: All this time at home allows for increased productivity in writing endeavors. Looking back, as we do this time of year 2020 was a very productive year for WordCrafter Press and for myself, with two of my own books republished, along with two anthologies and a devotional book for WordCrafter Press‘ first official client. And, all of these books are now available in print, which is no small accomplishment. Add to that WordCrafter‘s first virtual writing conference coming off with minimal glitches, and you’ll see what I mean.
  5. Families Brought Together: Although this one doesn’t really apply to me, (I’ve gone without seeing my son for months at a time), I believe this may be one of the most important benefit that this blasted pandemic has brought us. Hopefully, keeping us all at home together has renewed and strengthened the nuclear family, reawakening lost family values and appreciation for the many blessings that we have, including our children and other loved ones.

Well, that’s the top five benefits I see from this pandemic, but I’m sure there are others if you look for them. What positive effects do you see?

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Words to Live By – Creativity, Mourning, and the Year 2021

Jeff Version_Words to Live By 2

The first Wednesday of every month, writer Jeff Bowles muses on life, creativity, and our collective destinies as makers of cool stuff. You’re a writer, but have you ever thought about how or why? Here are some words to live by.

Creativity, Mourning, and the Year 2021

2020 was a rough year for all of us. To varying degrees, it was tense, stressful, tragic, contentious, and perhaps most surprisingly of all, dangerous. I had been hoping the new year would bring better tidings, but my 2021 thus far has been a doozy as well.

On January 2nd, one of my poor kitties passed away. It was very sudden, very sad. He was only two years old, and a sweeter animal you’ve never met. Then, just a couple days later, my father called to tell me a relative had died from complications related to Coronavirus and a recent injury. Needless to say, it feels like tragedy and sadness are still everywhere I look.

I’m not a pessimist or a cynic, and I almost always believe the future can be better. This month’s Words to Live By is about creative struggle. What do you do as a writer or a musician, an artist or photographer, when it seems like you’re surrounded by tragedy? How do you stay productive when you’re feeling down or scared or just plain fed up with life? Should you stay productive at all, or is it more appropriate to take some time for yourself?

As I’ve mentioned in other articles, my method of writing fiction is minimalist. I only write 400 words per day, and I typically don’t do it every day of the year. It’s low-commitment, and it keeps me on the ball over the weeks and months it takes to generate a new novel. Having a low workload has been enormously helpful over the past few days. By the same token, there’s been a lot of grief in my household, and I don’t mind admitting that having some kind of daily work process—any kind of process—has helped get my mind off things when it’s all become just a bit too much.

I’m also a musician, an independent singer songwriter, and I’ve got an entertainment channel on YouTube. This is a solution some people choose, work through the pain. It isn’t for everyone. Sometimes it can even develop into something we modern people have termed workaholism. And let’s be honest, there are times in life working through the pain isn’t an option. I’m a creator, and if I’m not creating, I tend to struggle. But we all know how grief goes. Yes, sometimes it can be a good idea to distract yourself, stay busy, keep your chin up, but then again, when we deny our own turbulent emotions too long, they can fester and become something much, much worse.

If you’re going through tough times at the moment, or if you’re just a bit shell-shocked from the surprises and pitfalls of 2020, you may want to take extra care of yourself and the people closest to you. Yes, most of us have become very good at looking after the health of our bodies, but what about the health of our hearts and minds?

About five years ago, my life was in shambles. Mental health issues, stress, and exhaustion got the better of me. At that time, I was forced to place all my creative drives and impulses on the backburner. Things were so chaotic for a while, I couldn’t possibly have written a single word, and the thought of picking up a guitar only filled me with dread. It was appropriate for me to quit at that time. Just up and quit. And what’s more, I wasn’t sure I’d ever pick any of it up again. I should’ve known I could trust myself to do what was right for me. In general, I should’ve known it was better to trust, to have faith, and to give myself the time and space I needed to recover. No guilt, just allow and help myself get well again.

Sometimes when we feel like giving up, it isn’t because we’re weak or because we lack longevity. Sometimes it’s because we do in fact have the right to give up. At least for a while. I’m here to tell you, when the deluge of life begins, and it doesn’t show any sign of stopping, it’s incredibly important to lay down what you need to lay down, take with you only what you require, and face the storm with all the confidence you can muster. The real question is whether or not you can recognize, as I failed to, that the work of life resides in the heart, in the soul, and that patience and self-compassion are incredibly important, crucial in fact.

Having modified my schedule some time ago has been beneficial. I can weather fiercer storms, but I’m always conscious of the fact that I don’t have to do it if it gets too challenging. I won’t work myself to the bone just because I think I have to, not anymore. I miss my dear relative, and truth be told, I miss my poor kitty. I suppose, like many of you, I’m also grieving the world as I once knew it.

Nothing lasts forever. All things pass away in time. That’s especially true of people, places, and eras. Like I said, I’m not a pessimist or a cynic. I believe the future can and will be better. If you’re experiencing similar thoughts and feelings, I urge you to consider your own needs. You may feel better working through it. Then again, you may not. Look at yourself, your strengths, and while you’re at it, look at your weaknesses in equal measure. And don’t be afraid to ask for help. I believe you’ll know what to do; as with most everything else we encounter, it’s all a matter of instinct and timing.

There’s no use denying it: sometimes life can be hard. But that doesn’t mean you have to suffer alone, suffer in silence, suffer instead of choosing to do what’s right for you and for the people you care about most. Take care of yourselves out there, everybody. I’ll talk to you again next month in Words to Live By.


Jeff Bowles is a science fiction and horror writer from the mountains of Colorado. The best of his outrageous and imaginative work can be found in God’s Body: Book One – The Fall, Godling and Other Paint Stories, Fear and Loathing in Las Cruces, and Brave New Multiverse. He has published work in magazines and anthologies like PodCastle, Tales from the Canyons of the Damned, the Threepenny Review, and Dark Moon Digest. Jeff earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing at Western State Colorado University. He currently lives in the high-altitude Pikes Peak region, where he dreams strange dreams and spends far too much time under the stars. Jeff’s new novel, Love/Madness/Demon, is available on Amazon now!

Love Madness Demon Cover Final

Check out Jeff Bowles Central on YouTube – Movies – Video Games – Music – So Much More!


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Wow! You Must Really “Like” Me

As authors and bloggers, we hear that we need to grow a following, or an author platform, and this is the digital measure of success. So, we write blog posts and posts promos in the hopes that readers will be drawn to our blogs and fall in love with them, and subscribe to them. Then we start counting “like” or other reactions on all of our social media sites, and when they start accruing, we tell ourselves, “Look! It’s working! Lots of people “like” my promos. My following is growing!”

But, I would argue that the number of “likes” we get on social is not a true and accurate measure of success, or even popularity, and it certainly isn’t any indication that we are moving any closer to increasing book sales, or blog visits. Think about it. Just because several people “liked” a promo on social media, doesn’t mean that any of those people clicked through to actually read the blog post or buy the book. In fact, I’d venture that the majority of “likes” on social media do not click through. They may be “liking” the promo, but they aren’t reading your work. They are probably a more accurate measure of promotional success, than they are the size of the reader following.

Of course, this isn’t the case with “likes” that appear on the blog site itself. Watching those numbers increase is a big deal, because they are an indication that people are reading your work. When the number of subscribers increase, that’s when you know that those folks who “liked” your posts, are truly finding your content of interest enough to come back and visit again. This is what bloggers strive for when trying to grow a following. (But alas, many of those followers may have subscribed may become inactive over time, letting email notifications go unopened.) Even with a large following, we are still challenged to keep readers engaged and entertained or informed. Growing a reader following is an unending process and you have to keep at it over time with quality content to maintain it.

So, why do we even bother with “likes” on social media? They may make us feel good, but do they have some other value? Are we all just striving to go viral because that’s the current measure of success on social media? The answer is that they do, indeed, have value, because they are a form of engagement with existing and potential readers. And engagement is the key to growing a solid following, with members who enjoy reading your writing and want to hear what you have to say, or the story that you have to tell.

Engagement is one of the major objectives that social media marketing is aimed at. Readers whom you engage with in some manner are more likely to subscribe to your blog or buy a book. Readers who do have engagement of some sort with a book’s author are also more likely to leave a review for that book. Favorable reviews increase the chances that someone else, previously unfamiliar with you or your work, will also buy your book.

So, as an author, don’t totally dismiss all those “likes” as unimportant, thinking that they don’t mean the ‘liker’ really likes you or your work, but instead make use of them as a chance to engage with the ‘liker’, even it is just to say thanks for “liking” my promo post. Encourage readers to click through and actually read the blog post, or buy the book in the promos, and be thankful for any engagement received.

And for heaven’s sake, be sure to reply back. Even giving a quick emoji is a form of response, and considered engagement, so take the time to reply or reach out to those people who “like” promos, engage with them, even if it’s obvious they haven’t clicked through. They will remember the next time they see one of your promos, so you’ve increased recognition and awareness, and maybe, just maybe they’ll subscribe to your blog or even buy a book.

And as readers and social media hounds, please click through and read the actual blog posts and leave a comment to clue the author in to the fact that you did. If you do buy a book, please take the time to leave a brief review to show support for the author. Being an author and getting our work out there is not easy, especially in the trying times we live in, so let’s lift each other up and support one another. Every author can’t be your favorite, but engagement and reviews are easy ways to support the ones who are.

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Curvature: An Essay On Discernment

Mind Fields

Curvature

Discernment is the ability to obtain sharp perceptions or to judge well. That’s from Webster’s dictionary. I bring it to your attention because if this nation is suffering from a widespread psychological disorder it is this: a lack of discernment. It is the inability to judge well from the information that’s available. There are millions of casualties to this disease which is more sinister than Covid 19. It is something that has no name. I call it The Plebny or Recalcitrant Flux. Any force, power or person who spreads this disease is committing crimes against our planet. In this turbulent time we NEED discernment to pick our way through the fields of ignorance and bad information.

Listen to me: bad information. There’s no such thing as bad information. I refer to distorted content, warped propaganda, mendacity in the service of ego and power. We’re afflicted by people in power who lie automatically, without internal scanning or external censorship. Damage is being done! Without discernment we are easily manipulated, like cattle being led by nose rings. 

Further, these people without discernment are unaware of their lack. It is impossible to engage in dialogue with people who can’t perceive with precision and conscience. I am willing to consider other points of view. I’m not stuck. It takes a little effort to discern things. It takes honesty, most of all. 

With whom are we honest? We must be honest with ourselves most of all because human beings have a tendency towards various mental impediments to honesty. These obstacles have names, like Denial, Shame, Depression, Grandiosity, Narcissism, Sociopathy, Psychopathy, Crushed Affect, Sleepwalkers Syndrome, Intentional Psychomyopathy and Heartbane. 

There are so many wacked out people in the world that the earth is saturated with their craziness. It is possible to ask, “What behavior is not crazy and how can I do it?” If you conjure an answer to that question, which is a deeply personal one, you’ve found the first gate to discernment.

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Feral Tenderness

A Midwesterner by birth, Arthur Rosch migrated to the West Coast just in time to be a hippie but discovered that he was more connected to the Beatnik generation. He harkened back to an Old School world of jazz, poetry, painting and photography. In the Eighties he received Playboy Magazine’s Best Short Story Award for a comic view of a planet where there are six genders. The timing was not good.  His life was falling apart as he struggled with addiction and depression. He experienced the reality of the streets for more than a decade. Putting himself back together was the defining experience of his life. It wasn’t easy. It did, however, nurture his literary soul. He has a passion for astronomy, photography, history, psychology and the weird puzzle of human experience. He is currently a certified Seniors Peer Counselor in Sonoma County, California. Come visit his blogs and photo sites. www.artrosch.com and http://bit.ly/2uyxZbv

Arthur’s books include The Road Has Eyes, The Gods of the Gift, and Confessions of an Honest Man. His lifetime collection of poetry and photography, Feral Tenderness, is soon to be released by WordCrafter Press.

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Want to be sure not to miss any of Art’s “Mind Fields” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress. If you find it interesting or just entertaining, please share.