Why Books are Living Things

Pixabay image - Arthur Rackham

Pixabay image – Arthur Rackham

In contemplating what to write about today, I’ve decided to go a little off the deep end for the bewilderment of my readers. We writers can be a touch eccentric, and in order to perpetuate the characterization, I thought I’d chat about stuff I don’t know. That’s the fun of fantasy after all.

Those who’ve browsed my website know I love the idea of myths. To me, they’re the stories that define who we are and form the narratives of our lives. In my experience, perceptions alter our reality. We use perceptual narratives to filter our experiences, to guide our decisions, and create meaning in our lives. In essence, who we are, beyond our physical presence, is created based on our values and choices, how we perceive ourselves and how others perceive us. In a way, we are the embodiment of stories; our lifetimes expressed in epic myth.

So, where am I going with this? Hang on, I’m getting there. One more piece of information and you’ll see.

While studying for a degree in a pastoral counselor, I took this great class called “The Spirituality of Relationship.” In essence, it described a relationship as a new entity, a created presence with a life of its own that requires nurturing and an investment of time to thrive. The discussion provided a new way of looking at loss posed by divorce. For, although children may retain healthy connections with both parents individually, they grieve the loss of this third presence, the un-tangible creation, the relationship.

Now my point comes together…

I believe, on an energetic level, that books are more than paper and ink or digital symbols. On some level, our creations are new entities with the ability to enter into relationship with others on a personal and emotional level, just as we do. Books and the people who inhabit them can open eyes, stir the heart, elicit a deep sense of longing or grief, outrage or fear. I’ve fallen madly in love with protagonists, profoundly altered the path of my life, made new choices, expanded my understanding of the world, all through my relationships with books. Some have stayed with me since the day I read them, hovering like spirits over my head.

What if, when we create worlds and characters, we create something that exists? How do we know that the myths we fashion in our heads don’t coalesce into something real and measurable? Simply because we lack the brain capacity and technology to perceive and quantify, doesn’t mean something can’t be. History chuckles at the folly of those shortsighted assumptions.

I’m intrigued by paradigms, the perceptual boundaries we cobble together to rationalize our experience. I love the idea of not knowing. I bask in the notion that we scarcely use a fraction of our brains and possess only the tiniest inkling of how the universe works. Our perceptions are so small, so limited, that to me anything is possible.

Other than a photo and a bio (based entirely on my myth of myself) you have no idea whether I’m a real person, right? In a way, I’m a manifestation of our combined imaginations. It’s possible that my characters are just as present in the fiber of creation as I am. I think so. I know them better than I know most people; I’ve interacted with them, lived with them, learned from them, laughed and wept with them. They will likely outlive me too. Cool, huh?

Well, I’m a fantasy writer after all. I can imagine you nodding your head sagely at this bit of information or muttering under your breath, “This woman is three tines short of a fork.”

All I can say is, “Welcome to my world.”

*** This post originally appeared on Chris Graham’s blog: The Story Reading Ape. ❤ ***

Thirty Years a Junkie

Young Andrew Joyce

Young Andrew Joyce

Writing deadlines are looming, and a death in my extended family put Tornado Boy in my care for the weekend. I didn’t have time to pull together a halfway coherent post for today. Yet, somehow the serendipitous universe understood. Andrew Joyce, author of The Swamp, which I posted about 10 days ago, asked me to share this story from his youth. It’s gritty – a story of a man’s life spiraling out of control, and the bravery and determination necessary to fight his way back.

***

Compared to some, I’ve lived an exciting life. At least parts of it were. However, compared to others, my life has been humdrum. The only thing I’m satisfied about is that all the drama took place when I was young and able to handle it. That would not be the reality today for I have grown old.

It’s confession time. I’m not looking for absolution. My only intent is to show some of you out there that there is hope. Nothing is forever. Perhaps my story might help you get to the next stage of your life. Maybe not, but I had help getting there, and I’ll tell you about it in a minute. First, a little background. And please, feel free to judge me. You cannot condemn me any more than I have already condemned myself.

When I was kid, I always had a wanderlust. I would see a freight train sitting on a siding, waiting to go on its way, and I would try to imagine its ultimate destination. Those open boxcars called to me. If I could only get into one of those cars, then I would be transported into a new life. Finally, I would see where the rails ended—that magical place. Then, and only then, would I know the secrets of the road. The secrets of the universe…

Source: Thirty Years a Junkie

A Writer goes to the Dump

images (1)From the Archives:

I’m a proponent of the belief that every experience contributes priceless raw material to a writer’s treasure chest. I’m a hoarder, cramming the niches of my brain with sensory inputs, emotional extremes, and reams of interesting and often useless information. No detail is too small, especially if it is painful or gross.

My husband’s back is on the fritz, so this morning I made my first solo trek to the town dump. Not a chore I anticipated with delight, I adjusted my mindset and used it as an experience-gathering expedition, adding several disgusting sensory inputs to my writing stockpile.

There are a few things you should know in order to fully appreciate this literary endeavor:

  1. It’s January in Oregon. That means it’s raining.
  2. Due to a series of unplanned mix-ups and timing obstacles, my husband hasn’t been to the dump in six months.
  3. Our trashcans are missing lids, having blown away during his previous dump trips (no comment).
  4. The back of our pick-up truck is full of logs.

After two cups of coffee, I don my wool hat, an old pair of mittens, a ratty coat, and my sneakers (a mistake). I clamber into the back of the pick-up, and start pitching logs over the side. My mittens are soaked within thirty seconds, and though I try to lift with my legs, my back is now whining like a teenager. Despite my freezing fingers, I’ve worked up a sweat and my wool hat is itchy on my forehead. As I kick a forty-pound log off the tailgate, I contemplate all the miserable discomfort I’ll subject my characters to and conjure up a few choice words for husbands that I stash away for future literary reference.

With the truck empty, I skirt the log pile and slog over to the trashcans. They’re lined up against a tall retaining wall with a mountain of trash bags piled on top of them. This was hubby’s solution to critters, which was not entirely effective, I might add. The top bags aren’t overly nasty, and half of them are bulging with stuff for recycling. I sling the lighter recycling into the truck bed and then lug the rest like a yoked peasant with no hope for a better life. Such is the back-breaking toil my villagers will endure for their cruel masters.  The conditions will be dismal—wet, filthy, and cold.

Now, I’ve unearthed the cans and, of course, the bags of rotted garbage are submerged (no lids, remember). They’ve been stewing in a fetid swill for months. I tip the cans over and the brown water pours out with a ripe stench that makes my head spin. It’s swamp water with half-decomposed bodies, the reek of a medieval midden heap. Thank goodness, it’s not summer or everything would be crawling with maggots and swarming with flies. I gag and breathe through my mouth.

The water-logged bags are bloated pigs and weigh a ton. I stab them with a pointed stick. Putrid water bursts out, drenching my sneakers. Lacking a choice, I heave them up with my soaked mittens.  They leak and dribble on my jeans. Not caring anymore, my brain numb to the horror, I grunt as I heft them to the tailgate. I’m a slave in the dank sewers outside the castle walls. I reek of death and drowning. Foul water splatters and pools in the truck bed. My poor characters are going to despise me.

The F350 is our chore truck, driven far less than our cars. I climb in and the distinctive odor of mouse shit assaults my nose.  Somewhere—in the seat cushion probably—a comfy little mouse family is waiting out the winter. To my core, I know the turds are lethal, but I make the ultimate sacrifice for the king of the castle and head to the dump. The truck smells so gross I roll down the windows for the ten-mile ride to town. Rain blows in with a stinging wind, but I bravely endure it over the stink. And I’ll remember this for when my protagonists hunker down in an old lean-to, thankful to suffer the icy drafts over the reek of vermin as they labor to rid the realm of evil.

Then, I arrive at the dump…

Happy Holidays

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I looked everywhere for a comprehensive list of holidays celebrated at this time of year. I wanted to list them all in their languages, but the task proved beyond my skill. So, in my own words, I wish everyone wherever you are in the world a heartfelt season of joy and love, and a new year brimming with kindness, compassion, and peace.

we are each authors
of the world’s love and kindness
be the words of peace

I’ll be taking a short break to spend time with Tornado Boy, family and friends. See you 2017!

Love, Diana ❤

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250 Words per Hour

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pixabay

Not long ago, my muse gave me an ultimatum (here) – Write or Else!

So I’ve been writing, keeping up my end of the bargain and then some, writing 6-10 hours a day, 5 days a week. I start at 5 a.m. and write until about 3. Then 3-4 hours of blogging. It’s been a challenge especially when the holidays started revving up.

For me, writing that many hours means letting other things slide like getting dressed, showering, brushing teeth, eating, cooking, laundry, holiday shopping, dishes, and vacuuming. Coffee is about all that gets accomplished with religious fervency.

This morning, a couple of people stopped by unexpectedly to have me sign some paperwork (our area is getting high-speed internet in 2017!). We stood outside in the sleet because I just couldn’t bear to usher them into my disaster area. When I went back inside, I walked by a mirror and noticed that my clothes were on backwards and inside out. Seams showing and the tag of my shirt flapping at my throat like a teeny white necktie. Ha ha. Yeesh.

But I also finished the first draft of the fourth book in my next series. I write about 250 words per hour. A first draft takes me about 400 hours. Subsequent drafts, maybe another 400 for a total of 800 hours per book. Four books? That’s about 3,200 hours.

Now really? Tell me. What writer has time to worry about whether her clothes are on front forward and right-side out? What do you let slide?

Copyright Infringement, 403 pirated book offers blasted.

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“It only takes one click to copy and republish a creator’s original content without his permission.” – Blasty

Back in July, Debby of dgkayewriter and Damyanti of Damyanti-writes both mentioned a new online service called Blasty.

Blasty allows writers to sign up their books, and then continually monitors Google for infringing copies of content. Each suspect link is flagged to the writer’s dashboard, and the writer is given the opportunity to “blast” (eradicate) the link from Google with a simple click! No paperwork, no cease and desist notifications, no time-consuming and frustrating dealings with pirates.

Intrigued, I signed up. In four months, I’ve blasted 403 copyright infringements on 8 books.

Per Blasty: “Each time you click on “Blast,” a copyright removal procedure under the DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act) is automatically initiated, resulting in the complete elimination of the infringing webpage  from Google on a worldwide basis. Since Blasty has been approved by Google’s Legal Department as a trusted removal partner, your “Blasts” will be approved much faster than regular removal requests submitted through Google’s dedicated webform.”

The site is still in beta-testing and the developers continue to look for new authors. If you join now, there is no fee! Here is an invitation if you’re interested: https://www.blasty.co/invitation/gh5WX8i4. You can also use the link above.

I don’t open most of the links as it’s obvious that the site is pirating my work (offering a “free pdf” or “read online” or “free epub” – none of which I offer). Some of these may be phishing sites, yet I’ve opened a few links and seen lovely comments from readers stating that the free read of my book was great. This is the real thing.

Sadly, I have seen other bloggers’ books show up next to mine. Yes, your books.

A Few Notes

1) Blasty has a FAQ section and short video demonstrating how to use the site correctly and efficiently.

2) You will only be able to load one book at sign up, which Blasty will use to verify that you are the copyright holder. This can take 12 days, though that can be reduced if you share an “invitation” like the one above with 3 other authors. I waited the 12 days as I wanted to try the site before recommending. Once verified, you can add the rest of your books at one sitting.

(Update – please note that one commenter below noted that the wait is now quite a bit longer – about 6 weeks. Still worth it in my opinion).

3) The Blasty Dashboard is easy to navigate. When you sign in, it will show you a list of suspicious Google links, and you will then have the choice to ‘Blast’ them away or ignore them.

4) Be careful not to blast legit blogger sites where your books have been featured or reviewed. Ignore them or add approved sites to a “white list” so they won’t be flagged at all.

5) You can ‘unblast’ if you’ve blasted something in error.

6) Occasionally you will be asked to review a blast as Google suspects it might be a legit site. This has happened about 6 times to me. I’ve reviewed and given a small explanation as to why the site is infringing on my content. For example, “This site is offering my book as a pdf. I do not offer pdf versions of my book.” Easy.

7) Rejected blasts. A rejected blast is where Google determines that there was no copyright infringement, and therefore, they reject your blast. They don’t like this as you are telling them to blast a legitimate site into orbit. I’ve had 1 reject out of 403 blasts, a medical site that mentioned “The Bone Wall.” Oops. That occurred early in my use of the site and hasn’t happened since. Too many of these will impact your account.

8) I check my dashboard every two weeks or so. It takes about 5 minutes at most. This is fast, easy, and painless.

I strongly recommend signing up for this service. 

Happy writing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Featured Blogger: D. Wallace Peach

I had the great honor of being the Featured Blogger for October on Rob Goldstein’s blog: Art by Rob Goldstein. His is a wonderful eclectic blog full of art, photography, poetry, writing, mental health education and awareness, social responsibility, and blogger support and kindness. If you haven’t run across Robert’s blog, here’s your chance. On to the interview….

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My Featured blogger for October is author D. Wallace Peach from Myths of the Mirror. Before we begin, thank you for accepting my invitation.

Thanks so much for inviting me, Robert. I’m honored to be chatting on your blog.

Tell us a little about yourself, where you’re from and how that affects your point of view?

Great question as I do think our roots inform who we are. I come from a family that spent its free time in the forest. My parents used to drop my younger brothers and me off at a trailhead in the Green Mountains and pick us up 4 days later, 25 miles down the road. Sort of “Hansel and Gretel” except we carried maps. The first time we hiked without adults, I was about 11 years old and my youngest brother would have been 7. We were fearless and adventurous kids. Sometimes the raccoons got into our food or we got stuck in a snowstorm, but we survived. Those are some of the best memories of my life, and they had nothing to do with “things.”

I was also raised by left-wing liberals, and though I labored in business for 18 years, I hated the focus on money. After 9/11, I started working as a volunteer with grieving children, quit my job, and returned to school for a counseling degree, which I loved. Today, as an author, my fantasy books reflect an appreciation for a simple life, nature, and the human pathos that arises from choices: fear, greed, power, compassion, sacrifice, and love.

You mention that your profile that as a child you preferred television to reading until you read the Hobbit by Tolkien. What was it about the Hobbit changed your life?

Reading was b..o..r..i..n..g until I turned 13 and…

(Continue Reading: Featured Blogger: D. Wallace Peach)