Controversy and Change

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Normally, I don’t like discussing religion and politics. I keep to mine and let others keep to theirs, mostly because of the controversy and vitriol the diversity tends to create. However, when it comes to writing, I don’t think writers should shy away from professing their beliefs. Not if the message is hopeful and encouraging. Not if lessons are learned or gained. Not if growth will be the result. If any of those reasons is the result of a controversial or important opinion or viewpoint, then you, the writer, are obligated to make a presentation, take a stand, and share your vision.

Why? Change is rarely if ever easy. Oh sure, we’ve all heard that before, but it is true. Let’s just look at the issue of the Confederate Flag. Now for me, I’ve never been a supporter. Mostly because I have actually read the history of the flag and know how it evolved and why (most people have not read anything about it but assume a great deal). For over a hundred years many towns have had flags flying and moments built and there has not been this kind of outcry as seen recently. No one has been standing on any courthouse steps screaming at the top of their lungs to remove the statues, down the flag, or take it off the license plates. Only when a crazed killer waves a Confederate flag (he didn’t even espouse the Confederate beliefs, not the real ones), and kills nine people that the world goes nuts and begins a kind of banishment and censorship that has risen to eyebrow breaking heights. And suddenly the pain of change begins. Whatever the reason, no matter how odd or rational or whatever, the painful transmutation begins where the world seeks betterment and plastic surgery.

Change hurts. Change shocks. Change excites. Change inspires. Change is new. Change is scary. Change is….life. Change is THE PLOT, writers.

Writers are instruments of change. We can move mountains when our words bring truth. Our truth can bring change and when used for positive reasons, we can do wondrous things. We can motivate and inspire, enliven and create. We can also scare, threaten, intimidate, command, demand, manipulate, and destroy. We, as writers, have this power too.

We have power and we have obligation. Our stories, even our small ones, can contain instruments of change. Our lessons and our messages might be small or they may be blimpy, but you should exercise your power as a writer.

Don’t be one of those people who rise up only from opportunity. Make change a force that works always. Make change because it is right, has always been right, will continue to be right because it is a universal truth and must be repeated and shared. Make change a part of your life, one by which you can live every day. Be the power, the force, and the idea that is something better and more important than a bullet or a knife, or a flag, or an acerbic word.

As writers, we have a chance to do special things. With everything you write, every thought you present, it is your moment for lessons, for change, for enlightenment, for magic.

Will you be like the Confederate Flag, a token of bygone values, of dead mores, of antipathy? Or will you be like the sun, rising glorious and steady, regular and necessary, honest and blunt, lighting the way?

Write. Chose wisely the way you cut your words and change the world for the better.

Book Review – Wicked Embers by Keri Arthur

Wicked Embers (Souls of Fire, #2)Wicked Embers by Keri Arthur

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book 2 in the Souls of Fire series picks up right after our initial foray leaves off. The Crimson Death is being used by a tool, vampires and red cloaks (sindicati) alike are spreading fear and terror and slowly gaining ground. Emberly Pearson, our heroine and phoenix, is trying to recover lost research that will lead to a vaccination or hopefully a cure.

Wow. I mean I love Keri Arthur’s writing. Her previous series (The Dark Angels novels) hooked me and that’s why I dove into this new offering (that, and there’s a phoenix. Hello!). And Keri never disappoints. You have action, passion, dynamic action and intricate characters. Even our villains are rich and deep. You have to love a book that is so fulfilling!

This particular book deals with a mysterious killer, one whose form shifts and changes and yet can disappear like smoke. Not a shapeshifter. Not a vampire. And it getting more daring and more lethal…and Emberly’s dreams are not giving her much notice for stopping it.

All the characters from the first book are back – Emberly, Rory (her spiritual phoenix mate), Jackson (fire Fae), and her ex-lover Sam who is part of the undercover, unmentionable police force that works the non-humans. And then there are the vampires. And oh boy are there plenty of those!

This is a can’t-put-down-book and I finished it off in three big gulps. Can not wait for the next volume because this one leaves me hanging! Do give Keri Arthur a try — she’s top drawer in fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal and gothic fantasy.

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New and Future Happenings

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Hello out there! Long time no share. I do apologize but have been busy. Let me share some recent events.

First, I am pleased to announce that I was included in a wonderful anthology entitled Mirrored Voices: Best Contemporary Poetry, compiled by poet/author Paul Morabito. The anthology was ranked #1 on Amazon’s best new poetry anthologies. I’m pleased to be included with some of these quite extraordinary poets. If you are looking for a small compilation of current poets, you might consider this one. I do not get anything for this anthology (it all goes to the editor) but it is a good kindle present! Click here.

In case you missed it on Facebook, I’m delighted to announce that By Light Betrayed received a 5 Star Review from Readers’ Favorite International Book Awards AND I was named a Finalist in the National Indie Excellence Awards. So, my vampires are happy.

Next, I’m delighted to announce that I have finished Midnight Assassin, the novella that was promised in the back of By Light Betrayed. Expect a release in 60 days or less! I’ll keep you posted.

While I work the publishing (and promotions and all that good stuff), I’m busy finishing some other works (a memoir, a fairy story, a vampire novel/series).

And of course, a part of me is thinking ahead to National Novel Writing Month because I am one of two Municipal Liaisons for the Charlotte region in North Carolina and it’s time to start planning for this month of hell. Seriously. Month of HELL. What to write? What novel can I get 75% finished in November? Oh the pain.

Finally, looking forward, I am going to appear on The Ron Shaw radio show on Oct 26 (more on that as we get closer) and then next year I am already planning on two author signings (on in NC and one in FL).

Whew!

Lots to keep up with and I promise you’ll be in the know going forward! Also, I’ll be publicizing some of my friends’ releases and I hope you’ll join me in helping them launch some terrific books.

If we haven’t connected on Facebook or Twitter, please lets do. I’m more often there than here for personal stuff but this is where the key events are happening.

Thank you for hanging in there. I’ll be back in a day or so to talk about more serious things.
Now, go back to your writing!

Yours Between the Lines,
Sherry

Copyright and Icons, tricky biz*

Paper Bones Cover

As part of my poetry book (Paper Bones), I decided to include some photography. The idea is that poetry is enlivened with images, breaks up the pattern of the poems, and adds dimension to the book (not to mention allows me to show a second form of creativity by using my photographs).  I have photos of a butterfly I took at the Butterfly Farm in St Martin, the Apollo Monument in Titusville, Fl, a real Medieval bible just to name a few. And then there were some photos I “staged” with models or still life. There were also a couple collages I created. One photo showcased pictures of me when I was a little girl in my dancing costumes, along with my toe shoes and the cover of a book that inspired me. One showcased records and comic books and my Girl Scout sash.

And that’s where the problem arose. I worried about the cover of the ballet book and asked advice of a lawyer,  ensuring that I wasn’t infringing on toes by using the cover in my picture (it wasn’t the focus of the picture, just an item in it). No, I was told, you’re okay, just give a nod to the author out of respect. So I did.

But that isn’t where the problem came. There was only one photo that caused a problem — the one with the images of Superman and Batman peeking through 45rpms, platform shoes and a Girl Scout sash.  Ah, grasshopper, said my consultant (Not really, but it sounds better and it felt this way), you may not use ICONIC images that are clearly TRADEMARKED and LICENSED without incurring copyright infringement and potential lawsuits.

Gulp.

Puzzling, isn’t it? We wear ball caps and t-shirts, get signs for our cars and put magnets on our fridges, buy stationary, even toothbrushes with their faces on them. Batman this and Superman that. And for goodness sake, this was a photograph of a very old comics (actually it is of those oversized comics, you know the DC Treasury size, limited collector editions 14″ x 20″. Yeah, they were BIG). Anyway, the oversized comics are part of a collage photo.

And because they are iconic, trademarked images – unlike the ballet book’s drawn cover – I cannot use them without permission, said the Justice League. Whodathunkit??

So I’ve asked, but I’m not certain to hear from anyone anytime soon (tho I do hope). Meanwhile, I am off trying to create another photo to take its place. Something with the same feel…like old fashioned popcorn bags and pop corn, 45rpms, some glass beads, old magazines (out of print) and the old platforms shoes. Maybe I’ll hit on a cool look. It won’t be iconic but it will be legal.

Though honestly, nothing will ever beat out the old stack of 45’s covering a hint of an old comic book with a hero on the cover. Ah well.

The point for you? Writer’s beware. There’s a lesson in this tale. Even mentioning icons in your writing may need appropriate trademarks or copyrights (you can wear a Batman costume but to have Batman show up is a whole ‘nutter issue!)  Know your stuff.

Watchtower out.

DC Comics JL Watchtower

DC Comics JLA Watchtower**

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(*Originally posted Jun 10, 2013, seemed right to recycle. Update: As of this date I have yet to hear back on my request, so good thing I didn’t hold the book up, right? I did create my own, legal, photographs. The book is nearly two years old now.)

(**Disclaimer: Watchtower picture reprinted from web, no copyright infringement is intended, not for monetary profit. Image by DC Comics, Justice League Animated series, the first watchtower)

I Am A Unicorn – A Reason to Write

Yesterday I was tired of all the posturing and prostalitizing by what felt like was everyone on my Facebook timeline. I was tired of the preaching and “flag waving.” Support us! Don’t eat this! Demand X company do this! Sign this petition. I dare you to post this but I know you won’t. (Do you know how much I hate these sorts of emotional blackmail posts?). Rah, rah for this Presidential candidate. Condemn this person for having an opinion. Give! Contribute! Sacrifice! Change! Support! Demand! Deny! Decry! Snub! Petition now! Anti everyone!

AAAAAAAAAAAAARRRG!

As a person, I find this incredibly tiring and off-putting. As a writer, I find affirmation in why I want to write: TO ESCAPE ALL OF IT! Therefore, when I saw this graphic, I knew what I had to do:

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In reality, I’m a Phoenix. You may know me as PoetPhoenix. I am also known as the Dragon Lady (my military past). Occasionally I step out as a vampire (do you know Rhea?). But yesterday I decided I would be a unicorn and escape.

Unicorns are gentle and kind yet can be fierce protectors. They recognize good and rally to fight evil in all forms. They do not care what color your skin is. They have no need for your religion or your politics for they are above such things. They are free and wild. As this unicorn also has wings to fly, I am free of any and all cynosure. As a unicorn, I can look down on all the hypocrisy, and the flag-waving ideologists who are so busy pressing their agendas that they forget to smell the flowers, touch the rainbow or worry about someone other than themselves. As a unicorn, I can reach out to others and not care if they reach out to me. I can be unaffected by their selfishness or self-centeredness. I can step away from everyone’s “Abyss of Misery” and not feel guilty for it. As a unicorn I can feel good about being happy for no reason (because I realize that I can command my own happiness and to embrace life with positivity is to bring good things to my world). Unicorns are social but only with those who are sociable.

As a unicorn, I can excuse a burp by saying it is what gives fairy wings lift. I can stomp in protest and wake trolls. I can dance because I feel like it and spread moonbeams with every twirl. As a unicorn, I can tell truth without worrying about hurt feelings because Unicorns stand for honesty and justice with grace. I cannot be mean and have no desire to be. As a unicorn I can be whatever color I want – including white – without being accused of being racist or bigoted. I can be purple because I feel purple and no one will laugh. I can hug another unicorn and no one will threaten me with damnation for a same species (or sex) hug (because you cannot tell whether or not a unicorn is male or female like you can with horses!). If today I am a male unicorn no one will care if I braid my mane. If female, no one will wonder at my leather tracers.

As a unicorn, I am free of the mundane, the banal, the vitriol (except from goblins). I can kill goblins and no one calls it murder. I can stomp on dark elves and I will be cheered. I can stab daemons in the eye and I will be hailed a hero. I don’t need a religion or a political platform. I need not choose ugliness to bank over female rights or wages, or child care. And I don’t need anyone’s permission to feel as I do. Or Facebook (or Tumblr, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat). Ever.

This is my freedom as a writer.  This is the joy of writing. Escape. Freedom!

I am a unicorn until further notice.

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Are you out of synch? Generational Writing

Last week I read an insightful (and humorous) blog post by Julie Butcher from her personal blog Fire Drill (fabulous writer/author/columnist, if you are wondering, and she also is an Evil Writer and everyone knows I swear by those folks), and it got me thinking. Julie writes that today’s authors need to consider what is current for teens when writing YA. That 30 years ago, teens didn’t do coffee the way they do now (even down to 10-years old though I wouldn’t allow that, still..). Today’s youth truly are more health conscious despite all the overweight people in the world (me included), and they are reading labels and worried about GMOs and being “gluten-free.” Thanks for the reminders, Julie.

After I considered how much I hate intrepidly healthy people (just kidding! Maybe.), I thought about the reverse of what Julie was saying. I’m a boomer and I know many young people who are writing about other generations in their stories. Some are doing biographies while others are doing family histories. The point is, depending on the decade, things were very different when I was a kid, teen, young adult.

For example, I heard on the news that when Affirmed won the Triple Crown, gas was 91 cents. That was 1978. But just ten years earlier, gas was averaging only 34 cents! And a stamp was a nickel. It certainly alters perspective, right?

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I was discussing the new cell phones with a young college woman (20 years old) and she asked me about my first cell phone. I laughed and told her about the “shoe size bricks” that were phones. And then I really floored her when I mentioned the “bag phone” we had in the late ’80s. It sat on the floor, on the “hump” in our car, right where the big plush bench seat separated so each of us could adjust our own. She was still reeling from shock I think because she said, “hump on the floor?” Ah the cars of yesterday! Something else to consider, yes? Those late 80’s don’t seem that far away to me because I remember them, but to her my world might as well be a separate galaxy.

"hump" and split seats

“hump” and split seats

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Much was written of the early rock festivals. Take Woodstock, historical and beloved. There were no cell phones. There were no tablets. There were no Bluetooth devices or iPods.  Woodstock was 1969. The first Walkman – a fabulous portable cassette with foamy headphones, didn’t happen for another decade on July 1, 1979.

original Sony Walkman

original Sony Walkman

In keeping with what Julie mentioned, let’s talk coffee and food. Historians believe the first recorded coffee-house was in Constantinople, Turkey in 1475. So coffee isn’t a new thing. Starbucks, however, is. Coffee houses or coffee shops really didn’t “develop” into a conscious thing in the US until about 1990 (though it was in the more artsy places like Soho, San Fransisco, and New Orleans earlier).  Starbucks opened one shop in 1971 in Seattle (where many think the coffee craze started). I consider the coffee craze a part of the boomer experience, “boomerly” speaking.

1970 coffee shop

1970 coffee shop

But let’s go back a little further. I grew up in the Midwest on corn-fed beef and potatoes. As kids, we ran everywhere, pretty much without fear of anything. My town wasn’t small but it was a town and not a city. Still, we didn’t have gang violence, drive by shootings, drug dealer corners, or worry about being abducted. People got their mail at the house from a mailman who walked, newspapers were delivered to the porch (or the flowers if the aim was bad) by kids on bikes, kids walked to school when they could (because many could!). My first experience with a school bus wasn’t until I hit 8th grade. By then I was in Florida and in a more urban environment. We rode bikes to school in the 6th and 7th grade because that was accepted and gave us freedom.

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But back to food. Sonic drive ins have been around since 1959. I never saw any until I was an adult but there were many “copies” around, perfect hang outs for dates. Drive in’s were big when I was a teen and young adult. Movie theaters had balconies and you could smoke. We did. We didn’t eat wrap sandwiches and yogurt smoothies. We ate soft creamy ice cream or frozen custard, snow cones and Nutty Buddies. We bought hot dogs and hamburgers loaded with everything, the messier the better. And no popcorn was worth eating unless loaded with butter and salt. We ate red meat — meatloaf, sloppy joes, spaghetti with meat, meatballs, hamburger, steak (might be flank or flat-iron but it was steak).

sonic cup 1960

sonic cup 1960

No one read labels because there weren’t labels like there are today. That is an innovation of the last decade. No one really cared. Ever.

And no one I went to school with had a peanut allergy. PB&J sandwiches (peanut butter and jelly) were readily shared! Oh, and no backpacks. We carried all our books (lockers didn’t come until junior high and then we still carried to class), and our wee metal lunch boxes with thermos! Sandwich, box of raisins, apple, milk (no bags of chips, though sometimes I did get a bag of peanuts).

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The point is, as Julie Butcher mentions, “Pay attention to the world.” Stay current with today’s inventions and trends if you are writing YA. If you are writing about young adults 30-40 years ago, understand THAT world. If you want to write historical novels about the last fifty years, then realize how very different the times and people were. Even language can date you if you are writing lots of dialogue (and I know you are). Neato, groovy, cool, hip, man.

Know your world. Mine, theirs, yours. You dig? Jeah (not a misspelling)!

Are You Writing or Stalling?

Before today’s post, I would like to take a quick moment and thank the 323 visitors I had last week. I am humbled as I realize you came to read my tribute poem to Ray Ferrer, a talented friend and artist who died from a cancerous brain tumor. My heart goes out to Rhian, his wife, and his family. Every visit and visitor honored his memory. Thank you.

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Are You Writing or Stalling?

A couple of weeks ago, I asked readers of my author Facebook page (you are following me, right?) what is your favorite procrastination that keeps you from writing?  Answers included:

  • I have research to do….
  • I have to read all these articles about writing then have no time left to write.
  • I need to mow the yard. Or wash the car. Or go grocery shopping. Or do the laundry. Or take the dogs out. Or clean the house. Or…Or…Or…

My last commentary post was about things that “writers” say that irk me, annoy and push my buttons. But newsflash! I’m a HUGE procrastinator. Yup, I can make a reason not to write sound like a world summit event that commands I host it. No lie. I could manage to whip up an excuse not to write a grocery list if I really wanted to say I had no time to write.

Beyond the reasons I mentioned in my Irksome list, we all have moments of “putting off.” Sometimes you just don’t feel like it. Sometimes you feel lazy. Maybe you’re just getting over being ill. Maybe you’ve had a very hard week at work. Maybe the kids have driven you into the ground. Everyone gets slumps. Everyone needs a break. Everyone needs time to rejuvenate.

For some, that means leaving your work in progress by stepping away. Maybe it is time to read that one book you’ve itched to for months. Maybe you need a spa day (or week). Maybe it is time to visit some friends and get some people time. Whatever the reason, recognize why you are doing it. Be honest with yourself.

Maybe you don’t want to work on that piece you’ve written. Maybe it is time to put it away. Shelve it. I have projects that I’ve put away because I didn’t like them, stopped feeling them or just wasn’t into them any longer. That’s okay too. If the passion is gone, try a new project or take that break.

Don’t feel compelled to find reasons to escape. Just escape and allow yourself a little time.

HOWEVER….

If you are running away from writing because you are lazy….well now we have a new problem. Playing solitaire, watching endless re-runs on TV, spending hours with YouTube cat videos? Then maybe you don’t want to be a writer? Time for some soul-searching.

Here’s a thought — maybe you aren’t meant to be a writer. Maybe you are meant to be a reader! Maybe you are one of the beloved reviewers! Maybe what you could be doing is running some writer’s street team or running a blog for reviewers or running event giveaways. You don’t need to feel bad because you don’t really want to write. Maybe what you could do interviews of other writers. Maybe you could blog reviews on books. How about it?

Still not feeling it?

Maybe you should find a new passion. No shame in walking away. Go find your dream. If it isn’t being a writer, that’s okay. Most people have uncompleted manuscripts tucked away somewhere. I have several of those and many others that I’ve written that will never see the light of day (I call those my training wheels).

The truth is over 80% of folks want to be “a writer.” Less than half of those want to do the hard work to get there. Of the 40% remaining, only half of those will actually produce a work in print. That’s 20%, and of those less than one-quarter will make any money. With luck, one half of one percent will make a big profit. Your odds of being a writer are terrible. And worse if you hope to make money!

So if you want to walk away, it’s okay.

I know some folks who used to say “I’m going to be a writer” because it was cool, it was the trend, it sounded adventurous, it seemed to elevate them above the fray. There was a time when saying “I’m a writer” was truly cool. However, very few folks actually went out and did it.

I know some folks who go to writers groups and read technical magazines for the same reason as those who proclaim their intentions to write. Because being a member means something might rub off, there you’ll discover a magic pill that leads to publication. No, sorry. Hard work, study and practice is what it takes. Maybe you should read the paper instead.

Please know that there is no shame in not being a writer. No apology needed.

If you really do want to write, then get to it. No more procrastination. There is always a reason not to write. The real writer will write first and dust tomorrow. Or just before company comes. Or not. Where there is a will, a desire, a passion, there is a way. The will to write overwhelms everything if it is true.

Do figure out where you are. If you are on a break, fine. Enjoy. Hurry back. If you are just being lazy, decide if you are in or out. If out, be proud. I’ll be happy to recommend a few good books for your reading pleasure.

In the meantime, there are no summits for you to host (I’ve got them covered). Therefore, no more excuses, right?