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Books have an uncanny way of becoming more than just a story. The right story, at the right time, you don’t just read it, you live it. It becomes a part of you, its words echo inside you at pivotal moments, it changes how you view the world, or view yourself.  Words are important, if you hear them enough you start to repeat them. As a writer, what we say in them matters.

When I was in the middle of writing Bestial I suffered the worst events of my life. Many of us find it hard to open up about our mental health, we have a biologically driven desire to hide weakness, but what that does is perpetuate a culture of shame, repression, and ultimately desperation. Let me be open, and honest: I was depressed, I was suicidal.

I honestly believe that writing saved my life.

Through Yvaine I was able to express my darkest thoughts. She personified all my worst depressive traits: the self-loathing, the isolation (mostly of her/my own making), the despair, loneliness, hopelessness, and the utterly selfish and wrong notion that to remove ourselves from this mortal coil would be the best solution. I let her feel for me while I was in a state of unfeeling shock, and I let her take me on her journey of self-discovery while I was still unable to trust myself.  She showed me her strength, and I learned through her how to make my own.

My hope is that by writing a flawed, depressed character who suffers through heartbreak and loss that if anyone who reads it happens to relate to Yvaine and her struggle, my struggle, that they will also learn their own strength by following her journey.

Don’t be ashamed if you suffer, it’s what makes you stronger. Talk about it, be open and honest, because to hide it is to say that it’s not appropriate for discussion, that it’s wrong somehow to tell other people if you hurt because mental pain is harder to see than physical pain, and therefore less. It is not less. You are not less for going through it.

I’m still recovering from everything I went through, I may never fully recover, but when I wrote the ending of Yvaine’s story I also wrote the ending of my own story, and maybe that of others:

I am not so weak as that, reminded the beast inside the girl, who would not let her forget herself again.


I woke up this morning at 7am, checking my phone in a state of dread.  Information I saw there confirmed my deepest fears.

I dressed in silence, in somber tones, like dressing for a funeral.  The demise of common sense, common decency, perhaps?  I gathered my hair aside but I did not linger in the mirror long, unsettled by my own expression.

I woke my child and his naive chattering lifted my spirits enough to see me through the rest of the hour.  I took him to preschool and returned to find the quiet of the neighborhood shattered by a team of tree-cutters next door.

I sat in my room to write and found myself unable to concentrate on the project I was supposed to be working on.  The noise from next door pierced my brain, filled my ears.  I felt deafened, just as the nation had apparently deafened itself to the plight of everyone this man sought to marginalize.  They had elected him, anyway.

From this thought I was then provoked to pen the following short story.  I will likely develop a novel out of it in time.

It is titled:


The Call


Part One: The Noise


It started with the noise.  The entire country was so busy making its walls that no one thought about the effect the noise would have on the people, but the effect was as devastating as it was complete.

At first it didn’t matter much, the world had moved beyond verbal communication and into text.  No one minded if they couldn’t hear their companions speak, they had other ways to talk.  The constant ringing in their ears was a nuisance but soon became just another facet of life, like taxes, which was annoying but unstoppable.  People stopped noticing it altogether.

Then came the children.  Congenital deafness had always been present already, but the rates skyrocketed beyond all expectation.  From an original rate of 2 or 3 children in 1,000 born with hearing loss grew to 1 in 100 within ten years.

Within twenty years that figure grew to 1 in 10.

After thirty years of noise, the anomaly was no longer the deafness but the hearing.  Around 1 in 1,000 children were now born with the ability to hear.

It no longer mattered, because no one was listening.


Part Two: The Walls


It had been a project started by one man in a position of power, and in an attempt to make good on one promise he broke faith with countless others.

In order to rid the country of its Undesireables, its illegals, its malcontents, he would have sent them all away but there was nowhere for them to go.  No countries would absorb the influx, and arguments were had between powerful people behind closed doors.  Bargains were made, and trade agreements bartered, morals bought and sold.

It was decided; walls would be built.  In every state, in every county, dispersed evenly to prevent unnecessary strain on one location’s individual infrastructure and provisions.  They would be everywhere.

The walls were white erections blighting every vista.  They penetrated into the turbulent skies and could not be ignored.  Especially not by the individuals who lived there.

Before the walls were even built its occupants were moved in.  They were rounded up like cattle, removed from their homes by force.  Some fought but were restrained, some cried but were not heard even before the era of deafness struck the country.  A willful refusal to listen to the pain of those not like themselves had been ingrained in the people long before their physical senses were altered.

They saw their freedoms eroding brick by brick, year after year, as their incarceration became ever surer and the walls grew ever higher.

Lives were lived inside those walls, the elderly dying and children being born.  There were schools, shops and places of worship, all run by the states which oversaw them.  In return, there were jobs that the occupants were given in exchange for those kindnesses, those morsels of humanity that were dropped like crumbs at their feet and called charity.

And so went the modern era of man.


Part Three: The Areas


The walls encircled land which had once been wasteland, or forest, or otherwise not yet occupied by the sprawl of an ever-spreading populace.  Each piece of walled land was called an Area, and was given the designation of its telephone area code, and in places where area codes spread over too-far a distance there were multiple Areas, given further alphanumeric designations.  Some Areas were small, only housing a few families, like the 701-F in Kindred, North Dakota, whereas others were thousands of people strong, like the 347 in New York City or the 323-A in Los Angeles.

Every Area was fully encircled by its wall, and every wall had one opening guarded by the new military force, the Local Area Police, or LAP.  It took no time at all for those few occupants who sought favor with the LAP by being overly obsequious to be branded “LAP dogs.”

Before the Local Area Police had Areas to police, their first job was to locate and collect the Undesireables who would be their occupants.  Every citizen was quickly issued new unforgeable ID cards with which to prove themselves to be natural-born citizens.  Anyone who did not have this ID card, either by being present in the country on a visa or through being suspected of illegal residency, was summarily rounded up or held in containment zones until their legitimacy in the country could be either confirmed or denied.

Those who were confirmed were given temporary ID cards of a different color and subject to regular checks.

Those who were found to be in the country illegally, or whose legitimacy could be neither confirmed nor denied, were moved to the Areas.

That was how it began, but after the initial round up covered illegal immigration problems, the government soon began to address its population based on other Undesireable traits.

Political protestors were Undesireable, and moved into the Areas.

People of questionable religious affiliation were Undesireable and moved into the Areas.

People of suspect sexual deviancy, deviant on the basis of a conservative vision, were Undesireable and moved into the Areas.

People who did not fit into clearly demarcated labels were Undesireable and moved into the Areas.

Soon, any people who were remotely suspicious in race, ethnic background, language, religion, culture or beliefs were Undesireable and moved into the Areas.

The white walls which encircled the areas removed all that was problematic and Undesireable from the sight of the rest of the white-washed nation which carried on unchecked.

The man who ordered these walls be built had promised economic growth, new jobs and that no citizen would be touched by raised taxes in order to accomplish them.  The jobs were created by the industries needed for building the walls, policing them, and the money taken from those initiatives which did not serve that man’s interests.  Funding was taken from alternative fuel initiatives, science and research.

America no longer looked up at the stars with ambition, or at science for answers to global problems, or at the world as a place to improve for their children.  Americans as a whole were too busy looking at each other with suspicion, segregating each other into “us” versus “them,” deafening themselves with their own ignorance and hate.

And that’s how they missed it.


Part Four: The Call


Before the noise started there had been concerns about a global catastrophe, fears that unless action was taken promptly that the fate of Earth and its inhabitants would pass a point of no return and doom themselves to a terrible fate.

No action was taken.

Thirty years, a generation, passed in which scientists with zero funding, and even less respect, fought to be heard.  But their papers were not read, their finding ignored, and no one had ears to hear the desperate pounding of fists on closed doors.

At this point other nations had followed suit, had begun building their own walls and creating their own noise.  Other countries were deafening themselves, choosing the level the playing field at the lowest common denominator.  America and her allies shook hands and congratulated themselves on their progress.

The refuges of the hearing were small and far between, but they watched and listened.  They saw the coming crisis and prepared.  When it was incipient and incoming they could not stand by and do nothing, so they sounded the call of alarm across the world.

The call went out to take action.

The call went out to find shelter.

The call went out across America, over its walls and throughout the Areas where the Undesireables were kept in pens like animals.

A few small children looked up, tugged on the sleeves of their parents but were quieted.

No one heard, no one was listening.



This past week I have spent a considerable amount of time staring at three versions of the book cover art which are exactly the same except for slight changes to color balance.  I have also been spending a lot of time making a red radio flyer wagon into a ride-on Thomas the Tank Engine, but that’s a whole other story.  One which involves a small person’s strong opinions, Halloween and quite possibly selling my soul to Pinterest.


Decision, decisions…

I will admit to being a perfectionist so there was a lot of time spent trying to choose between the options.  The first printing (left in the above image) appeared lost a lot of the sharpness of the digital image and dulled a lot of the colors.  The second print (right), in an attempt to correct the colors, went too far the other way and all the colors became too bright.  So in the third attempt (middle) something I did, which I’m entirely sure how I did it nor if I could ever replicate it, managed to be a good compromise between the two.  The image resolution, however, remained stubbornly the same much to my frustration.  This appears to be the limitations in using Createspace, which is designed for the sort of stock photo covers flooding the market in self-publishing today and perhaps not able to handle the demands of rendering high-quality artwork.

But a decision was made, and now my print book is back up for sale.  Now I can attempt to get it into bookshops if at all possible, or carry around a few dozen copies in the trunk of my car to try to sell on street corners.  Whatever works.

Tonight is Halloween, as previously mentioned in light of my Pinterest exploits, but what that also means for me and many other writers is that at midnight tonight the clock will start on NaNoWriMo and a typing frenzy will begin as idealistic hopefuls try to reach, or surpass, writing 50,000 words in 30 days.  I’ve taken part nearly every year since 2009.  I honestly think that this is one of the best ways to try to get out a first draft, when all that matters is words on the page and the realistic expectation that it’ll be at least 88% drivel.  Finding and developing the other 12% is something you can worry about in December.  For me the use of its convenient and accusing chart, visualizing your pitiful progress in graphic form, is one of its key features.

This was not a great year for me.

This was not a great year for me.

The addition of forums to peruse during moments of procrastination is also helpful because there’s always one asshat out there who’s decided to set their goal at 100,000 words instead of 50,000 and wants to make sure you know how well he’s doing.  When you really need to wallow, however, there’s also the boards specifically aimed towards those in need of encouragement, so you could go there for some words of wisdom, or see if anyone else got any good advice or just plain celebrate the fact that you’re not doing quite as badly as those poor bastards, at least.

So, in conclusion, NaNoWriMo is helpful.  Maybe you should try it.

It has been a long, hot summer of idealism.  I sat outside as much as I could bear, sweating and writing and editing and formatting and plotting my vision of unprecedented overnight success under the canopy of oak trees shedding their acorns like grenades to explode on the decking beside me.  I relearned the refrain of cicada-song during the daytime and lay awake at night, uncovered and smoldering, listened to the yip-howl of coyotes.  I played with my son in the park or in his sandbox or played trains or built “sheds” out of sticks and leaves, drinking in the sight of his face, so much like mine, big-eyed and round-cheeked in delight, or scrunched-up and desolate with turbulent toddler frustration.

I’m not sure I’m supposed to admit this, but I haven’t sold a copy of Bestial in weeks, practically since October began.  The success which I dreamed and hoped for has not been forthcoming, but then I always knew this would be the case.  I spent the month after Bestial‘s release chasing reviews, approaching bloggers, inserting myself into online communities where I could self-promote.  It was a full-time job, exhausting and unrewarding.  My reviews are still paltry in number but highly-prized and hard-won, and every new sale felt like a victory.  I’ve come to realize what I already knew, however, that success as a self-published writer is in no way guaranteed, regardless of how hard you work, and owes more to blind luck than any deliberate planning.  The summer of idealism has ended, and now with the falling leaves comes the autumn of pragmatism.


Pragmatism never looked so pretty.

I’ll still take advantage of opportunities to self-promote, and I even have a speaking engagement at a local library planned for January.  I’m intending to go visit a local independent bookshop to discuss whether they’ll stock Bestial and if they’ll be interested in hosting a talk/signing event.  If I see blogs or review websites which seem targeted to my audience I’ll approach them.  But I’m also fervently pursuing full-time work for predictable, reliable income and general adulting.

At the same time, however, I’m also planning my next book.  Books I should say, because I’m planning a series and it’s a really exciting project which I can’t wait to get started on.  I’m a writer because I love to write, and I’d rather generate new work than be constantly flogging my last book.  If success is down to luck then surely publishing as many works as possible increases my statistical probability of reaching that success.

One benefit of my stalled sales of Bestial is that I can now fix that one typo which I found (typically) immediately after it was released, and I can also try to improve the resolution of the cover image to fully do justice to Amelia’s beautiful artwork.  This requires making the print book unavailable for sale while I await the new print proof, so this is the perfect time to do this.  There’s a silver lining to every cloud, yep.

I remain positive, my idealism isn’t completely gone but it’s tempered by a more practical view of my long-term goals.  Which, among them, include one day moving out of my parents’ house.

This has been an exciting week, and it’s only Tuesday!

Yesterday the interview I did with Unsettling Wonder went online.  I’ll be honest, I was a little bit nervous about it.  The reason I love the written word is that I have time to think about what I’m trying to say, go back and amend things, polish it exactly right and then release it into the world after I’m satisfied.  I’m so thankful that Rebecca not only gave me her questions in advance, but let me review the transcript and edit it.  The day I have to do a purely video/audio interview is the day I’ll be a gibbering mess hiding in a corner, most likely.

I’d been lately toying with the idea of releasing a short story I’d written in early 2013, The Adventurous Time Adventures of Doctor When.  I have a very silly side, a part of me which seeks to be witty and hilarious, so sometimes my writing goes in that direction.  I couldn’t entirely keep that part of myself hidden while writing Bestial, and there are scenes in that novel which I honestly cracked myself up while writing them.  TATAoDW was a constant delight to compose, and I got to channel my inner ridiculousness throughout.

So as a way to encourage, and then celebrate, reaching over 100 likes on my Facebook author page, I published The Adventurous Time Adventures of Doctor When for free on Smashwords.


I had intended to release via Kindle Direct publishing again, but they don’t give you an option to make your works permanently free when publishing with them.  Instead I found advice online which suggested to publish for free on another platform, then in a week contact KDP that the title is available for free and they would have to price match as a result!  Unfortunately this means that Kindle has my short story for $.99 at the moment, which I personally don’t believe its mere 6,000 word jaunt will give readers a feeling of value for money.  Oh well.

Some writers don’t believe in offering any of their work fo.r free, believing it will devalue their work in the eyes of readers, but I have a more positive opinion on the effect a short freebie offering may have on gaining readership, and encouraging readers to take a chance on a longer, paid title.