Welcome to the WordCrafter “Will Write for Wine” & “Stories I Stole From Lord Byron’s Bastard” Book Blog TourPosted: June 27, 2022
Stories I Stole from Lord Byron’s Bastard is a collection inspired by Venetian history. The fictional character, Alexis Lynn, wrote these stories in the novel Will Write for Wine by Sara W. McBride, but they are fun stand-alone adventures to be enjoyed with an excellent glass of Italian wine.
Welcome to the WordCrafter Will Write for Wine & Stories I Stole From Lord Byron’s Bastard Book Blog Tour. This is going to be a fun tour because we have two fabulous books to celebrate by a wonderful new author Sara W. McBride. Will Write for Wine is her debut novel about a writer, Alexis Lynn, and her funny and romantic escapades when she moves to Venice to start a new life. Stories I Stole From Lord Byron’s Bastard is the recently released short story collection and companion to the novel. Her fiction is well researched and presented with a witty flare which I find refreshing and I think you will too. I hope you’ll follow the tour and join us at each blog stop. You’ll find the schedule and links below.
Blog Tour Schedule
Monday, June 27 – Opening Day Post – Writing to be Read – Guest Post: Inspiration for the Devil’s Bridge” & Review of Stories I Stole From Lord Byron’s Bastard
Tuesday, June 28 – Showers of Blessings – Guest Post: Inspiration for “Stealing Georgione’s Mistress”
Wednesday June 29 – Carla Loves to Read – Guest Post: Inspiration for “The Masked Kiss”
Thursday, June 30 – Writing to be Read – Guest Post: Inspiration for “A Dowry for Safron” & Interview with Sara W. McBride
Friday, July 1 – Zigler’s News – Guest Post: Inspiration for “The Pregnant Man” & Review of Stories I Stole From Lord Byron’s Bastard
Saturday, July 2 – Annette Rochelle Aben– – Guest Post: Inspiration for “The Haunted Palazzo”
Sunday, July 3 – Roberta Writes – Guest Post: Inspiration for “The Secret Vault”
Monday, July 4 – Wrap-Up Post – Writing to be Read – Guest Post: Inspiration for Will Write for Wine & Review of Will Write for Wine
In addidtion, to the awesome guests posts, interview, and reviews at each tour stop, Sara is offerin a chance to win a digital copy of each book, Will Write For Wine & Stories I Stole From Lord Byron’s Bastard. Leave a comment and click on the link below to enter for a chance to win:
I must begin by giving kudos to Sara W. McBride for the clever way that she has braided these seven short stories in this collection in with her debut novel, (and I’m told that she is currently working on a companion wine tasting journal). While both of these books stand alone easily, they really should be consumed together. In the novel, Will Write for Wine, we see the story of how Alexis Lynn comes to write these stories, but we don’t get to actually see the stories. For that, you must read Stories I Stole From Lord Byron’s Bastard, which offers not only the stories, but the true inspiration behind them. After reading her delightful novel, and seeing Alexis’ digging up the background for the stories and seeing Manu’s reaction to reading them, one can’t help but be curious about the actual stories and want to read the collection. It’s brilliant!
Now let me turn things over to the author, Sara W. McBride, so she can share her inspiration for the story.
Inspiration for “Devil’s Bridge”
Guest Post by author Sara W. McBride
What inspired the story, “The Devil’s Bridge?”
The moment I saw the sign “Ponte del Diavolo,” I knew I had to write a story. At the edge of the bridge sits Palazzo Priuli, home to several Doge Priulis and is now an elegant hotel (www.hotelpriuli.com) in the Castello area of Venice. I had already been researching the tragic death of Antonio Foscarini, and then I discovered that the doge—Basically the president of Venice—who had him executed lived in the palazzo at the edge of Devil’s Bridge. It’s not often that history simply hands me a story, but there it was, burning bright in the Lancet windows of a 14th century palazzo. Here’s the real history behind the Devil-possessed Doge Priuli and his most famous victim:
Antonio Foscarini, executed on April 22, 1622, was a Venetian ambassador to London (1611-1615) and is rumored to have had an affair with King James’ Queen, Anne of Denmark. He returned to Venice during a “Spy War” with Spain and was suspected of betraying Venetian secrets to Spanish officials. Someone who knew about his affair with the Queen of England might have seeded this rumor. Upon his arrival in Venice in December 1615, he was arrested and held prisoner for three years under Doge Bembo, who uncovered the Bedmar plot which would have permitted Spanish mercenaries to march on Venice. In the midst of the crisis, Bembo died—or was possibly assassinated by the Spanish—and Doge Nicolo Donato reigned for a mere 35 days before he died. I believe he was assassinated by the Spanish, but have found no clear evidence for such a claim.
I’m considering writing a novel on the Venice/Spain Spy War of 1615-1622 because it’s super fascinating and an interesting statement on what fear does to a governing body.
Antonio Priuli (1548-1623) was elected doge in 1618 and released Foscarini in order to monitor him and his activities. Priuli was a brutal doge who arrested hundreds of innocent Venetians suspected of plotting against Venice. Was he possessed by the devil? Probably not, but how Devil’s Bridge earned its name is a mystery, so I took license and speculated that the devil enjoyed his residence at the bridge’s end.
On April 8, 1622, Foscarini, then a Senator of Venice, was arrested and accused by the Council of Ten—basically the governing body of Venice, particularly over state security matters—of meeting with ministers of foreign powers and communicating the most intimate secrets of the Venetian Republic. The evidence was weak and Foscarini denied all charges, yet he was still condemned to a public execution for high treason. Why? The answer will never be known, so I had fun speculating that perhaps a guest of his, under her own volition or persuaded by a demonically possessed doge, provided false evidence to seal his fate.
By the end of 1622, Doge Priuli showed signs of illness. In January, 1623, the same Council of Ten revoked Foscarini’s guilty verdict—Whoops, they were wrong—and reinstated the family’s honor with a posthumous exoneration. His bust and tomb can be found in the Church of San Stae in Venice. There’s more on Foscarini’s final resting place in “The Masked Kiss,” another story in this collection.
Doge Antonio Priuli died on August 12, 1623, but oddly, I am unable to locate his tomb. It’s usually pretty easy to find a doge’s tomb. I would have thought him to be buried in Santi Giovanni e Paolo (aka San Zanipolo), which houses tombs of 25 doges, but I haven’t found him there. The art and sculpture in this basilica-sized ediface is amazing! This behemoth church manages to hide on the North side of the Castello and is off the beaten tourist path, but you should definitely seek it out.
Two other Priuli doges, brothers Girolamo Priuli, 1486-1567, and Lorenzo Priuli, 1489-1559, are buried in San Salvador, but apparently there was no space remaining for their Priuli descendent, or perhaps the family just didn’t like Antonio.
Another source claims that the spy-hunting doge is buried alongside Marco Polo in the Church of San Lorenzo in the Castello district, but San Lorenzo has been closed for over a hundred years, only recently reopened, and I have not seen or read any evidence of the doge’s tomb being contained within. They couldn’t find Marco Polo either.
If you find the tomb of Venice’s 94th Doge, Antonio Priuli, please write to me at email@example.com. Otherwise, I’ll just have to assume he’s buried in the depths of the canal under Ponte del Diavolo.
Stories I Stole From Lord Byron’s Bastard
Stories I Stole From Lord Byron’s Bastard is a short story collection by Sara W. McBride which will tickle your sense of adventure and discovery, and perhaps, your funny bone. A companion to her debut novel, Will Write for Wine, these stories bring Venetian history to life with a personal touch of humor, adding in the missing details which historical archives and family histories only elude to. Each story is accompanied with the history and inspiration behind it, and it’s fun to see how McBride crafted in characters to transform legend to story.
Included are tales of an unsuspecting hero who gets the girl, in “The Masked Kiss”; an apprentice who betrays his master in the name of love in “Stealing Giorgione’s Mistress”; a bridge occupied by a demon, in “The Devil’s Bridge”; a nun who chooses life on a plague island over marriage in “Lazzaretto Vecchio: A Dowry for Saffron”; a smuggling operation gone awry in “The Secret Vault”; and a delightful tale of a young artist forced to masquerade as a male in order to ply her trade in “A Gentleman’s Portrait by a Pregnant Man”. But, I’d have to say my favorite story in this collection is “The Haunted Palazzo”, because I’ve always been a sucker for a good ghost story, and the mysterious specter and wet windowsill are certainly prime food for ghostly fodder.
Stories I Stole From Lord Byron’s Bastard is a collection of short historically inspired stories which are light and entertaining reads. Fun and enjoyable. I give it five quills.
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I started watching the birds which visited my yard about fifteen years ago. My property is densely forested and the early morning chatter in the trees was difficult to ignore, so my gaze would naturally go up to the trees around me, and I was amazed at the number of different types of birds that were dropping by. So, I began to sit out in the yard to write on summer days, and that first summer, I kept a journal of the different birds that I saw,
When winter came around, I bought a bird feeder and some seed. I wasn’t sure how many birds were stick around during the cold months of Colorado winter, but I was pleased to learn that, although many birds migrated south for the winter, birds such as Chickadees, Nuthatches, and Blue Jays were year round residents and the Juncos appeared. When summer roles around, the winter birds clear out and various other species of birds take up summer residence or stop by on their way through.
I even have a group of resident Ravens, originally two pairs until one was taken out by a BB gun by a neighboring child. Now there are only three, but they are always around, and we talk back and forth to each other. (I don’t really speak Raven, but I fake it well.) Watching birds has brought me inspiration, and I have a whole children’s book series, in which the characters are birds and there is a moral lesson to each one, but I haven’t yet been able to publish it for lack of an illustrator. If you’re interested, you can read the story of how I had and lost both illustrator and publisher for the first book in the series, “Heather Hummingbird Makes a New Friend” here.
Little by little, I’ve added feeders and water features, provided habitat conducive to birds and wildlife. I now put out several types of seed feeders as well as suet feeders in the winter, and in the summer I add Hummingbird Feeders, as well as planting a variety of flowers, water features and bird baths in order to create a bird sanctuary. Over the years, I have viewed bird species in the double digit numbers: American Robins, Red Crossbills, Western Bluebirds, Western Tanangers, at least three different types of Hummingbirds, Juncos, Evening Grosbeaks, Cowbirds, Owls, Mountain Doves, Hairy Woodpeckers, Red-Shafted Flickers, I don’t know how many types of Sparrows and Finches, Gray-breasted Blue Jays, Red-tailed Hawks, and even Turkey Vultures. No matter what time of year, the birds who dip into my feeders always appreciate the plentiful bird seed and suet feeders that I put out, and they line up on the tree branches for their turn at the morning baths in the summer.
By this winter, word had gotten out and the bird sanctuary has become a busy place. I put out my Moultrie Digital Game Camera, which is motion activated, for a day and got thousands of photos of birds at one of the feeders. The feeder they are using is a birdbath in warm weather, but I filled it with Sunflower seeds during the cold spell we had recently, and it is obviously quite popular. Among the birds in the photos below are Evening Grosbeaks, Casin’s Finch and several small Sparrows at the feeder.
I get a lot of joy from watching the birds that visit my bird sanctuary. They are so much fun to watch as they wait their turn to grab a bite. Of course, at times they don’t wait. They just jump right in squawking and pecking to get their share whether it’s their turn or not, and mid-air skirmishes are not uncommon. Just the other day I watched as a Gray-breasted Blue Jay swooped in a broke off a very large piece of suet, then he turned to take off with it, making a quick get-away. The piece that he had in beak was so large that it weighed him down and he took an unexpected dive, almost to the ground, before catching himself and swooping off into the trees with his bounty. Blue Jays are known around here to be big bullies, so it was really kind of comical to watch as he struggled due to his own gluttony.
It is true that birds of a feather flock together, as Evening Grosbeaks swarm in on the feeders as a yellow and black mob, temporarily chasing off any little guys and interrupting their meal. The Blue Jays flock in too, but the Grosbeaks are the only ones who won’t back down from them. Juncos gang up on the ground, catching the seed others knock down from above. Birds like Mountain Chickadees, Nuthatches and American Robins, usually visit in smaller family groups, and the bird sanctuary has seen a lot of families raised, but even the Hairy Woodpeckers usually visit in pairs.
It’s been a busy place this winter, but I’m looking forward to the coming of spring and the arrival of a new batch of birds, especially the Hummingbirds, which never fail to keep things buzzing around the bird sanctuary. I always look forward to their spring greetings, as they actually come and say hello, hovering right in front of my face upon arrival as the weather warms. But Hummingbirds are a whole other post. If you’d like to hear about them, comment to let me know, and maybe I’ll write about them later in the year.
Kaye Lynne Booth lives, works, and plays in the mountains of Colorado. With a dual emphasis M.F.A. in Creative Writing, writing is more than a passion. It’s a way of life. She’s a multi-genre author, who finds inspiration from the nature around her, and her love of the old west, and other odd and quirky things which might surprise you. She has short stories featured in the following anthologies: The Collapsar Directive (“If You’re Happy and You Know It”); Relationship Add Vice (“The Devil Made Her Do It”); Nightmareland (“The Haunting in Carol’s Woods”); Whispers of the Past (“The Woman in the Water”); and Spirits of the West (“Don’t Eat the Pickled Eggs”). Her western, Delilah, her paranormal mystery novella and her short story collection, Last Call, are all available in both digital and print editions.
In her spare time, she keeps up her author’s blog, Writing to be Read, where she posts reflections on her own writing, author interviews and book reviews, along with writing tips and inspirational posts from fellow writers. She’s also the founder of WordCrafter. In addition to creating her own imprint in WordCrafter Press, she offers quality author services, such as editing, social media & book promotion, and online writing courses through WordCrafter Quality Writing & Author Services. When not writing or editing, she is bird watching, or hiking, or just soaking up some of that Colorado sunshine.
Sign up for the Kaye Lynne Booth & WordCrafter Press Newsletter for and book event news for WordCrafter Press books, including the awesome releases of author Kaye Lynne Booth. Get a free digital copy of Kaye Lynne Booth’s paranormal mystery novella, Hidden Secrets, just for subscribing.
Living in a rural area in the Colorado mountains provides a unique set of obstacles to be dealt with, including a forty-five mile commute, one way, on winding mountain roads which can be treacherous in winter weather conditions and clogged with tourist traffic in the summer that can turn a forty-five minute drive into and hour and a half. It can be nerve wrecking and even hair raising at times. And the wear and tear on my vehicles – proper maintenence and tires, etc… – due to all the mileage I put on them gets downright expensive!
I hate that commute and for several years now I’ve been asking myself why I do this live in this remote place. Three years ago, I hit black ice and rolled my car over on its side, totaling the car and raising my insurance, even though I had broken no traffic laws or violated the rules of the road. I hadn’t been driving too fast or being reckless. It was simply the road conditions that caused me to wreck. The cop almost landed on his derierre when he approached to issue me the ticket because the road was a sheer sheet of ice.
But it’s not just the commute. There are other unique difficulties that come with living off-grid, like hauling water and keeping generators and solar systems functioning, and chopping wood for winter fuel. Only in such remote locations does one have an internet outage during the writing conference that your hosting, causing you to have to stay at a hotel and miss one full day of events, as it happened during this year’s WordCrafter virtual writing conference. It can be tough when you don’t have the simple ammenities that many people take for granted.
Yesterday, as I was driving home from work, I saw something that reminded me of why I live where I live, in spite of the need to do that often treacherous and all too frustrating commute. As I turned off the highway and headed up the dirt road that I live off of, I came around a corner and saw a patch of brown, almost hidden in the meadow grasses below a heavily forested hill. At first I thought it might be a cow or perhaps a horse, as the folks who live just over the hill keep livestock, but it didn’t stand tall enough above the grasses to be of the equine or bovine persuasions. I slowed down to get a better look, and the sound of my car must have drawn the as yet unidentified animal’s attention, causing it to look up and allowing me a good look, as well.
I hit my brakes and then threw my car into reverse, backing to a spot off the road, where I had a fairly decent view of a large brown bear which was now watching me to see what I was up to. The bear watched me for a couple of minutes, as I dug in my computer case for my Kindle, the only device with a camera that I had available. Then, he must have decided I didn’t pose much of a threat and went back to whatever he had been doing in the grass before I came along. The grass still hid him partially, but I was able to snap several photos of him before he lost interest and decided to head back over the hill. I had a much better view as he ambled away, so I slid out of my car and walked to the back of the car to snap a few more shots. He looked back to see what I was doing, but didn’t seem to concerned, as he turned and continued on his way.
That’s why I do it. That is why I make the commute, and why I make lists and keep things stocked up, so I don’t end up making extra trips, and do all of the other things that are kind of a pain, but are necessary to accomodate my chosen lifestyle. That’s why I work so hard to grow a following and make money from my writing and publishing skills, so I won’t have to make that commute anymore.
Because living where I live, I get to see things like that big brown bear and many other kinds of wildlife that city dwellers miss out on. The bear I saw yesterday was only one of many wildlife sightings that living here has offered me. Many are just glimpses, such as the two foxes playing in a drainage pipe at the side of the road, or the bobcat running through the trees, but on a few occasions, I’ve even been afforded the opportunity to capture them in photos and created the wonderful images I’m sharing here today.
The flora and fauna surrounding my Colorado mountain home are what makes it all worth it. Beside road side wildlife, my mountain home offers opportunities to view and often, photograph many species of birds and plant life. Beautiful wild flowers and and magnificent bird photos inhabit my photo library, where the images of a small fraction of all the magnificent species to which I have been witness to, have been captured. Many encounters that I wasn’t able to capture through the lens have instead inspired poetry or found their way into stories that I’ve written, or other writings.
All of this serves to remind me of the reasons why I do what I do, and live where I live, strengthening my resolve to keep doing what I’m doing. My motto has always been “Endeavor to Perservere”, or keep on keeping on, and that’s just what I’m going to do, but now I remember why I’m doing it.
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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!
Check out Jeff Bowles Central on YouTube – Movies – Video Games – Music – So Much More!
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.
BE HERE NOW (Sanity for the Modern Writer)
What does a successful writing career look like to you? Have you ever thought about it? Do you believe you need one in order to call yourself a real writer? It may seem like a foreign notion to you, but many burgeoning authors won’t even acknowledge their favorite creative pastime in a serious way until they’ve sold a few short stories, picked up that dream book contract, or collected enough poems to turn into a collection.
I was like that when I was just starting out. I never gave myself credit for doing the work. In general I have this problem, as I understand it. People are always mystified by my apparent inability to cut myself slack. I refused to call myself a real writer until I’d made my first professional-level short story sale. That took seven years, and the funny thing is, it didn’t make me as happy as I thought it would. Oh sure, I was ecstatic for about an afternoon. But then things went back to normal, and a feeling of unease crept over me, the subtle realization that although I’d finally arrived at my destination, I hadn’t moved an inch.
In the last few years, I’ve experienced something of a paradigm shift when it comes to these things. You see, I finally had to admit to myself that no matter how many accolades I could garner, no matter how many times I saw my name in print, the writing itself often made me feel miserable, worn-out, and sometimes, just plain fed-up.
Do you have this same issue? Never give yourself credit for a job well done? Do you feel like a bit of a failure because you haven’t managed to reach your major writing goals yet? Trust me, you aren’t alone. You know the grass is always greener, don’t you? Imagine wandering into that other pasture, that creative promised land you cherish so dearly, only to find weeds and impassable thicket. Yes, you should make and maintain goals, because of course, you might not accomplish anything at all otherwise. And yes, each of us should dare to dream. I can’t stress that enough. Dreaming isn’t the problem. It takes a great beaten child of an adult to believe dreams are for fools.
But why dream if you’re only going to use it as a benchmark for your future happiness? Let’s say you’ve been writing off and on for twenty-five years, and you’ve yet to publish anything important. From the outside looking in, it may appear as though you wasted all that time. Your friends and family may not take your dreams seriously, or even worse, they may openly mock or criticize you for them. First off, if this is the case, you really owe it to yourself to find some new friends. Secondly, how do they know you didn’t enjoy every last second of those “wasted” twenty-five years? How do they know you didn’t have the time of your life, and in fact, wouldn’t trade a second of it for all the gold in Fort Knox?
The truth of the matter is if you can’t be happy with your work now, odds are you won’t be happy later. I mean that. Seeing your name in print will give you fleeting pleasure, but the more you see it, the less it’ll impress. You’ll have to trust me on this, and I’d like you to read this next part very closely, nothing you do in this life will make you happy if happiness eludes you here and now. Signing copies of your latest book or being able to share a cool story with the world via a very impressive and illustrious magazine or anthology, all of that is super cool. But after the proverbial new car smell wears off, you may feel a startling sense of anxiety and emptiness. Especially once you realize, aw hell, now I have to do it all over again.
Like I said, dreaming isn’t the problem. Expectations, however, will kill you every time. Because human beings often believe they cannot be happy until and unless something specific comes their way. I can’t be happy until I’ve found the love of my life. I can’t be happy until I buy my family a new house. I can’t be happy until I’m a bestseller. It’s always the destination that drives us. We so very rarely seem interested in the journey to get there.
Do me a favor the next time you sit down to write. Take your seat, open up your laptop (or grab your pen and paper, if you’re old school) and just sit there. Close your eyes if you’re so inclined. Be present in the moment, don’t think about the work ahead as a chore or a means to an end. Think of the work as the end itself. You are alive right now. Miracle enough for anyone with their priorities straight and their sanity intact. From the infinitesimal outer regions of statistically impossible microspace, you have arrived in all your glory. You’re breathing right now. Your butt is firmly planted in that chair, and you, my friend, are about to lay down some of the best writing of your life.
You can approach this moment as the incredible phenomenon it is. You can set your fingers to the keyboard and put one word after another, and you can experience an act of personal, almost spiritual fulfillment. Not because you expect this piece of writing to set the world on fire, but because for you, this passion, this instant, it’s all there is.
Be here now, as they say. The future will take care of itself, and as for the past, let’s just say ruminating on it too much is a recipe for disaster. No, now is all you have, and now is all you need. Dance like no one’s watching. Remember that many successful authors suffer from what we call impostor syndrome, which is a real shame if you ask me. What is a writing impostor? I mean really, what is one? A writer, set in terms even a chimpanzee could understand, is someone who writes. It’s as simple as that, isn’t it?
You’re not an impostor. You’re not anything more or less than the writer doing the thing, writing, and writing, and writing some more. And that truly is enough, no matter where you find yourself in terms of success or recognition or even money. Great pleasure and joy can be found in the simplest things, and though I’d never call writing a simple activity, profession, pastime, hobby, loving and fond nuisance, or obsession, the truth is—and you know this deep down in your heart of hearts—no outside thing, no future goal, no perfect outcome will give you the satisfaction you’re looking for.
If not now, when? If not now, when? If not now, when?
Slow down for a moment. Consider how lucky you are, how fortunate, how present and aware and full of life, and then go ahead and rock it out, lay down those beautiful words. I won’t keep you. You’ve got important and timely truths to express, new worlds to birth and share with us, and if you don’t do it, who will?
Until next month, everyone. I hope you can see the value of letting the present be, just be. You may never accomplish your goals, live your dreams, be anything more subjectively impressive than you are right now. But should it matter? Or should you simply learn to love yourself, your work, your creativity, now, now, now?
Peace! Joy! And don’t forget to proofread!
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The third Wednesday of each month, writer Jeff Bowles offers practical tips for improving, sharpening, and selling your writing. Welcome to your monthly discussion on Craft and Practice.
Writing for Catharsis
Writing is a hard enough gig without the existence of one persistent, unceasing fact: things change, nothing lasts, and all things pass away. You could make a decent mantra out of that, couldn’t you? I mean it’s true enough I don’t even really have to repeat it. I will though. Several times, in fact, because I’d like to impress upon you the urgency of a world in desperate need of good, personal, dare I say it, emotional storytellers.
This month’s Craft and Practice will be a little different. We’re going to talk about our feelings. Wait! Don’t click off! You can’t run from them any more than I can. Things change, nothing lasts, all things pass away. And if you and your incredible writing superpowers are needed anywhere in the world, it’s quite possible they’re needed at home most of all.
You see, people can recognize the transience of life without too much effort, but they’re either too locked into their own experiential tangents to do anything about it, or they simply keep their stories to themselves. Writers don’t have that luxury, and nor should we be afforded it. It’s our job to comment, profile, report, extol, condemn, codify, decode. If not for everyone living today and for a hundred generations beyond, then at least for ourselves, right here and now. What does this all boil down to? We can write about all the crazy stuff that happens to us and call it catharsis. Neat, huh?
I recently released a novel called Love/Madness/Demon. It deals, in part, with a psychotic episode I experienced four or five years ago. Now at that time I didn’t know or understand what was happening to me. If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health issues, I urge you seek qualified help, because once I was able to do so, once a true diagnosis came my way, things slowly began to turn around for me. But I knew as I started recovering that what I’d gone through—what I’d put my loved ones through—it constituted serious traumatic territory, and I also knew that it might make me feel better to write about it someday.
It did. That’s the long and short of it. Moreover, spending sufficient time with my story as a finished manuscript tended to help even more. I had to tread, retread, and re-retread the same ground again and again. The worst moments of the ordeal tended to lose their hold on me. Now writing as catharsis implies you’ve repressed or buried something. Some people haven’t done anything of the sort, though I’d wager that to one degree or another, the vast majority of us have. This is life, after all, the greatest bare-knuckled, knock-down cage match of them all. If you’ve taken a few lumps in recent years, you aren’t alone.
I think it’s best to approach cathartic writing from a place of complete honesty. What are you doing it for otherwise? And realistically, you’ve got endless literary modes available to you. I chose fiction because it’s what I’m most comfortable with, but maybe you prefer poetry or nonfiction.
Nonfiction may be the best way to approach the craft for the sake of healing because you can just write the truth as it seemed to you. Now, you may have to wrestle with legalities, ditto with fiction, but I tend to believe most of the advice given to writers about these things are of the overblown, cover-one’s-own-ass variety. Can you write about things that really happened to you? Of course you can. Who says you can’t? What you can’t do is drag someone’s name through the mud in the process, but I’ve got a good feeling about you. You’re not interested in hurting others with your writing. You’re a paragon of humility and moral excellence. I mean, I can just tell by looking at you. What a punim.
I hurt after my psychotic break. A lot of people around me did. Because I was delusional, because I didn’t understand what was happening to me, I lashed out frequently and did things it’s taken me a lot of time to try and get over.
But your experience with cathartic writing will be wholly different. I hope and pray you haven’t got any major traumas in your direct experience. But if you have, and if you’re lucky enough to have been given an aptitude for the written word, I highly suggest putting your emotional self on the line and trying to do a little self-evaluation and self-nurturing. Even if you intend on never letting another soul read it, the initial intimacy and privacy of the act are paramount. I’d never suggest a person try to write their pain away rather than seek the help of a licensed professional, but I’ve found that a good therapy program lines up very well with cathartic writing. In fact, there were times in my recovery I didn’t have the ability to engage in counseling, so the writing of Love/Madness/Demon was even more crucial to me.
I feel better now. I don’t feel perfect. In fact, I still have a lot of bad days. But it was worth it to me to at least try to alleviate some of the pressures of everything I’d gone through. Maybe you can do the same for yourself. I hope you can. Things change, nothing lasts, all things pass away. It’s sort of a very painful time for many people out there. Writing about what ails us? There are worse ways to cope.
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Where Does Poetry Come From?
I keep inquiring into the nature of poetry: where does it come from? It’s a question that opens a lot of introspection into the nature of literature itself. Poetry is the ultimate ancestor of literature. There was the spoken word, the saga, told around fires surrounded by rapt listeners. Poetry came from the telling of heroic stories. Beowulf, the Eddas, the Greek epics, the Chaldean cycles. We’ve come a long way from the spoken word, the recitals that spawned the invention of text itself. People cared enough about the preservation of their cultural history that they made the effort to write it down. Ancient stories survived the eons, so that we still have them, we still can read The Odyssey or learn about the trials of Gilgamesh. In truth these long recitals are almost unbearable in the real world but they are like artifacts in museums. We have them. We can reach into their labyrinths and return with answers to questions that we must always ask. Why are we here? What are we doing?
Poetry is the literary equivalent of cave drawing. Mankind, many thousands of years ago, felt the impulse to make an artistic statement, whether it be for a ritual gathering of game animals or to praise the gods for their benevolence. We are still, when we write poetry, drawing on cave walls. We are traveling backward in time to re-enact the original creative impulse. What came first, I wonder? Did poetic recitation pre-date the drawing on cave walls. Or did they come at the same time? I wonder what anthropologist will research that question and tell us about the history of art. All of this speculation is to invoke the origin of Art itself. Poetry has changed with the human race. We are not the same people who told and re-told The Odyssey. We are modern people with a modern poetry, a poetry that has become more free as we re-invent the structures of literature.
We must ask another important question, one that I will address in a later essay. What does poetry do? We must break this down into two parts. What does it do for the poet? What does it do for its audience?
The poet writes to express his or her state of being. It may be emotional, intellectual or both. A poet, however, usually needs fire to lure an audience, so poetry begins in the emotions, where the fire lives. There are three things that literature needs to provide in order to attract an audience: information, inspiration, and entertainment. Who will listen to poetry if it’s not entertaining? Many are the yawns I’ve seen at poetry readings, glances at the wristwatch, restless fidgeting. Entertain us, poet! Or go home, get off the stage.
I’m rushed this month. We’re moving into a house, a beautiful house!
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.
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The Long-Term Effects of Rejection – No is Never the Final Answer
By Jeff Bowles
Every month, science fiction and horror writer Jeff Bowles offers advice to new and aspiring authors. Nobody ever said this writing thing would be easy. This is your pep talk.
To begin with, this article is written with the upstart in mind. The midnight worker, the weekend toiler, the writer who’s still slaving away in obscurity, penning story after story, unpublished novel after unpublished novel, and for whom the word ‘rejection’ has become a special kind of poison.
When I seriously started writing almost fifteen years ago–and by “seriously” I mean “cared enough to finish a single story and try to publish it”–I discovered pretty quickly that receiving rejections was almost as common as losing at a rigged carnival game. I couldn’t figure out why my writing wasn’t good enough, in what areas it was deficient, and to tell you the truth, it would be several years until such things were even remotely clear to me. Regardless, the absolute worst part of it all was receiving the rejections themselves, because I’m kind of a sensitive guy, and damn, they really tended to bruise the old ego.
Writers vary pretty wildly in how we respond to rejection. Some of us never seem fazed by it. Regardless of how often, how impersonal, and how heavy a solid “no” is, these guys seem to take it all in stride. I’ve never been able to tell if the impressive shrug of their shoulders is a put-on, but I do know one thing for certain: I cannot count myself amongst them. When I got rejections, I’d mope and whine and pout for hours or even days. Just ask my wife, who was my new girlfriend at the time. I’d turn into a real bear, and it was because it hurt so much. Like I said, sensitive guy. Plus, no one could get through to me about one very crucial thing: this is the way it’s supposed to be.
If you’re like me, and you tend to take rejection hard—or even if you’re not like me, and moving on to the next story submission is the easiest thing in the world—might I recommend a little tried and true advice. Accept your rejection phase as a given, and if you can go just one more country mile with me, learn to welcome it as a friend. Your rejection phase is helping to make you the writer you’ve always wanted to be. Your rejection phase is purifying your desire to write, and in so doing, allowing you to really decide if a writing career is what you want.
Because if it is, no amount of rejection will ever dissuade you. I thought I’d quit a million times. Now I realize there is no quit. No is never the final answer. And anyone who’s been publishing work for years and years will tell you rejection doesn’t end. Sure, you’re likely to receive less and less of it as you progress, but it’s not the kind of thing that disappears entirely. I know it hurts. Trust me, I’m with you on that one. But unless you plan on going all-indie, it really is a necessary part of your growth as a writer. Kind of a raw deal, I suppose. But then again, nobody ever climbs Mount Everest because it’s easy.
Now a brief word on indie publishing. A lot of older writers—and I don’t necessarily mean older in years, but rather older in experience level or maybe in their stance on traditional publishing—tend to believe that self-publishing inherently makes for worse writers. The idea being, of course, that without the resistance provided by steady rejection, a writer can never become all he or she is meant to become. I came up this way. I’d published dozens of times before I ever self-published on Amazon. The thing is, I don’t necessarily find it to be the case.
Sure, there is a lot of disposable material indie-published on the internet. And yes, I also believe adversity makes us better. But a writer can pick up all sorts of lessons and professional techniques in all sorts of different ways. Every time an indie author publishes something online and gets a few bad reviews, it’s not entirely unlike receiving a standard form rejection. In other words, the negative reinforcement can still become a positive.
All of this might lead someone to ask, what are the long-term effects of rejection? Well, this can go one of two ways. The majority of people who try their hand at writing will never even finish a single manuscript. Statistically, that is absolutely the case. Of those who finish, few will ever submit their work for publication. Now, those who do submit their work (or as the case may be, self-publish it) are likely to meet up with a little adversity. I’d say 90% of them will cut and run as soon as rejection gets too much to bear. But that remaining 10% will soldier on, and they’ll likely receive quite a bit more rejection in the months and years ahead. Is there a long-term legacy of rejection? Yes, there is, but it’s seldom a negative one. I think you’ll find one day that you treasure all those formal beat-downs you received.
Here’s what I would say. No matter how you ply your craft, regardless of whether you choose the path of the traditional publisher or the indie upstart, continuous work, practice, blood, sweat, and tears, are the only things that will make you better. Rejection is at times the name of the game, true enough, but it never has to be the final word on anything. Right?
Until next time, everybody!
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My mom and uncle are obsessed with Westerns. They grew up watching Westerns and still make time for them every weekend. While watching a Western with my mom, I had the idea of writing a young adult Western…with a steampunk twist. I brainstormed a ranch with a family secret. Along came TREASURE DARKLY.
After the first draft, it was recommended I add in a romantic theme. Thus, Clark and Amethyst fell in love. It worked. I didn’t have to force them together. They were already best friends, and it flowed that they should develop romantic feelings for each other.
Then came the challenging part. My first editor for the story wanted more romance. I wasn’t a romance writer. Sure, my main characters each had a love interest, but I wouldn’t call my early works romances.
I set out to read romance novels to get a feel for the genre. I read some young adult romances, some Harlequins, and then I discovered a love of paranormal romance. I devoured those and wanted more. Eventually, I felt ready to write my own romance.
Young adult romances are tricky. Some people don’t want any sex in YA novels; some people say its okay. I struggled with that fine line before firmly stepping onto the “no sex” side. Yes, the book does get a bit steamy, but there is never explicit sex.
“But teens already know everything about sex,” I’ve been told.
Okay, that might be the case, but it doesn’t mean every young adult book has to contain graphic sex scenes. I want my books to be more about the adventure and setting than erotica.
Jordan Elizabeth is a young adult fantasy author who dapples in the steampunk realm. You can connect with Jordan via her website, JordanElizabethBooks.com.
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