Shine On

This was supposed to be a post about the magical weirdness that is Allerton Park, but plans change.

I woke up to the sort of news I hate. Stephen Hawking has died, which everyone knows already unless they live under a rock. The fact that he outlived all expectations is small comfort; this man was one of my heroes. He was a genius, but this is not why I loved him and will miss hearing news about him or catching some cameo of him on random TV shows. My love for Stephen Hawking is that he proved over and over again what is possible. If you have the will. And it is that love which is made me look a little deeper and ask what I really want to write about. The answer went in a direction I hadn’t considered much before.

Last week, after an unpleasant encounter with a family member, I wrote out why I was so angry. I wasn’t irritated with her so much as her attempt to limit me to her version of who I am. The post got a wonderful response. I felt like I really reached people and helped them to understand that what others think about us does not have to become our reality. It was something I learned the hard way and wanted help others with. I like to think I convinced a few people to embrace their writing and not worry about what others say while they’re doing it. When I woke up to discover the world had lost Hawking, it put me in an introspective type mood, as death so often does. I took a long look at myself and my writing and asked why I write posts like last week’s rant – this is far and away not the first post I’ve written like that. Usually I write Facebook novels on whatever issue is twisting my hair curly. Sometimes they are funny, sometimes they are angry, but they are always, always aimed at trying to convince people that all this blanket hate is unnecessary, they are worthwhile, and that they have every right to be happy. It is something I love to do. Which is weird because cheerleader has never been my style. At least, not unless the squad leader is Daria and Emily the Strange is her sidekick. But, odd or not, I’ve realized I want to start writing more in the direction of cheering people on and helping them dispel negativity.

No, I’m not giving up fiction. Breathe, CB. The end of The War for Inisfail will still be written and I’ve got short stories pouring out faster than I can write which will be shared here for free. I write so much my hand is always sore because I handwrite everything first. Anyone that knows a handwriting to text app or tool, please, for the love of all that is holy, help me. I’ve got several full sized gorilla cases full of notebooks. I’m going to have to start making furniture out of notebooks or make origami my newest hobby. Insert the Home Alone scream here. So, yeah, I’m still writing fiction and will continue to do so until death do us part. I did, however, start thinking about what I want out of my writing life and why it is so hard for me to keep a blog going when I am so darned passionate. About everything. The answer was simple. Because I want to help people and I’m not doing that with just my fiction. I try to put it in there, but a story isn’t the place for personal soap boxes unless it adds to it. People read fiction to escape from that sort of thing. At least, I do.

I haven’t had a perfect life. Name one person who has. I was born with a heart defect. I suck at relationships and I was bullied so much in high school it was easier to pretend I was dying of malaria than leave the house. That’s just a tiny tip of what’s happened to me, but I don’t let anything knock me down for real. If life wants to keep me down, it’s going to have to kill me. And I make no promises that will work. I bounce up like a Tigger with a double Ga-ur. And I like to grab other people by the collar and drag them back up with me. Because I can. Just like misery, joy loves company.

I’m a lifter. I am not going to spout off about two, three, or fifty kinds of people in the world because I believe shoving people into boxes and giving them any sort of title is a huge issue. Let me put it this way. If I put you in the ‘selfish melodramatic, bitter, and judgmental box, how hard would it be for me to notice when you do something positive? A lot of people do that to me. They think that I’m one way based on outdated information and never stop to think why I’m acting one way or another. Putting someone in a box makes it nearly impossible for them to change for the better because it is human nature to want to keep people and things where we put them. Because it is super hard to redirect our ideas about them. Don’t worry, I’ve done it too, despite my best efforts, which is why I try not to shove people under titles; when they do change, I can be happy for them instead of angry that they refuse to quietly sit in their container, forcing me to build all sorts of new beliefs about who they are.

Just because you might be a troll on the internet does not mean you’ve never stopped to help someone change a tire or saved a child from drowning. So you don’t get a box when you’re with me. Not that I’ll tolerate trolls, fyi. I will block you faster than a hunk of good cheddar because dragging people down is just wrong, and there is far too much of that. Try to get beyond your need to hurt others or get out. My rules are uber simple and non-negotiable. My site, my rules. But. If you want to be different, I will give you the chance to change and happily help you become the best you can be. I’m always going to cheer when you decide to make a positive change. And, on the other side of this, putting someone in the cheerful and helpful box is just as limiting. Ever noticed how nobody seems to know how to comfort someone like that when their smile dies? It’s because they are the one everyone else would send them to. Labeling takes an external moment in time and makes it an eternal name tag. You know. The sort that only peels off in tiny bits and pieces and leaves a patch of sticky glue that cannot be gotten rid of with a blow torch. This labeling bullshit causes way more pain than necessary.

Anyway, what I’m saying is that I like to help people love themselves and their life. So I am going to start chasing that aspect of my personality. I’m not Pollyanna. Quite the opposite. I am someone who has spent their life suffering in one way or another – just like everyone else. Being empathic means that I am always looking at people from their shoes, or trying to. I shrink from cruelty because I know exactly how much words can hurt a person where it really counts. On the inside. I know how easy it is to fall down the Rabbit Hole of Despair and I know everyone has redeeming qualities. I believe that the universe runs on knowing it will get better. Suicide does not come from being sad. It comes from losing hope in finding the light and escaping the black hole. I’ve always thought that, if there were more people lighting candles instead of putting them out, then we’d have a significant drop in suicides.

It’s like this. Nobody can help you if you are determined not to see a solution. The business of getting out of the hole is on you. Happiness is inside you and is dependent on nothing – food, money, possessions, friends, or love – to be found and brought to the surface. Momentary happiness can be linked to these things, sure. This is usually caused by the release of dopamine into your brain and it is triggered by doing something that excites you. Like buying shoes or having sex. This kind of happiness is fleeting and, once it is gone, you are right back where you started, if not in a worse place. But there is another sort of happiness. It is wholly independent of emotion exists within you and it is always there, waiting for you to find it. So why aren’t more people happy? Because they live an external life and the spitballs life shoots at them cut deep, deep, deep. Which is why, sometimes, they need someone to come find them in the oubliette, light a candle, and show them the door was there all along. All they have to do is open it. I really, really want to be one of those people pointing to the door.

I’m good at holding up a mirror to people and saying ‘just look at how wonderful you are.’ I try to find the best in people and I enjoy it when I can turn hate to love. I am passionate about it. Does that mean I am always happy, helpful, or positive? No. Sometimes I fake smile and I wish someone would ask me what’s wrong instead of hurling insults because they’ve misread my actions. Sometimes I get angry and say really mean things and God help you in those cases because I am, truly, an angry redhead. But I try very hard to lift people up rather than kicking them down. I believe that everyone has something good to offer. And if you don’t know what your talent is, my idea of friendship is knowing it and pointing it out to you. If you are down on yourself and can’t remember anything worthwhile you’ve done, I’m going to remind you. Not because I want you to be grateful. But because I want you to see yourself as I see you. I am, for all my gothic darkness, someone who looks for the light in others. I want you to thrive. Which is where this whole post is going to (eventually) end up.

I created Darkwood to share my writing. However, I’ve been feeling there has to be more if it is going to remain active. I love ghost stories. I love fantasy and dragons and swords (no, really, I like sharp things). I am always going to write about them and I am going to share all the things I’ve promised. But I think I need to add something a little more. Something that allows me to shine a light for those who are lost in the dark. When I read about Stephen Hawking’s death and got to thinking about the remarkable life he’s led and the victories he’s won, I realized why I was feeling like I was falling a bit short on my blog. The cold medication might have helped me make that jump; I’m still a little sick, lol, but I realized I want more of this. I want more of helping people realize their worth and showing them the way to chase dreams. I want to light fires in others and watch them rise. It was something of a triumph for me to discover this; I’ve been wandering around rudderless for a long time, knowing I was missing some tiny little puzzle piece which would solve my inner dissatisfaction.

I call these moments rants because, well, it is usually negative thinking that sets me off. Or mean behavior. Or any number of things that are just morally wrong and turn me into an M80 looking for a trashcan to blow up. Today, it was the death of a man who contributed in so many ways, not just in science, but in inspiration. In reality, this is me trying to tell the world that it doesn’t have to be a dark and stormy night all the time… and that there is nothing weak about being kind. There is nothing wrong with trying to help people. And, yeah, sometimes it will come off as me shaking a fist at injustice and going into Hulk mode. But, hopefully, these posts will also help others. Be it realizing what is possible or changing a negative thought process, I want to give something to the world that is all about making it a better place for everyone. I want to help everyone else shine.

Remember to look up at the stars, not down at your feet.

-Stephen Hawking. RIP Sir. You will be missed.

The Land of Far, Far Away

I am so sorry, guys, I’ve been extremely ill. Part one of my three part novella, The Land of Far, Far Away is finally up on Wattpad. Yes this does fit the forest theme, no you cannot find it elsewhere as this is an original work of fiction written strictly for my blog and wattpad. Remember. Copyright, blah, blah, blah, dragon, blah, blah, I eat thieves, blah. https://my.w.tt/FvFd8acWgL

Book Suggestion – The Hazel Wood

So I’ve been too sick to post the last couple days. I’m still a bit out of it, but I wanted to give you all something.

I’m a reader above all else, even writing. I’ve been doing it long enough and read enough books to know how tragically difficult it is to find that perfect balance between writing, plot, and story. Which is why I’m suggesting The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert.

If you are like me and like modern fairytales that manage to capture our world while retaining the magic of once upon a time, this is your book.

This is a tale that recalls the original versions of the fairytales we know, the ones that were not whitewashed of violence, blood, or tragedy. But the author uses these things sparingly, and only where they add to the story. The main character is lovable, the language lyrical, and the story is an engine racing forward along its rails. If I have a complaint, it’s that the story spends too little time inside the wood of its namesake. I would love to see the author return, at some point, to the Hazel Wood and give us another book within this enchanting setting.

There are books I read and like enough to mention. But it is a rare and beautiful thing to find one that I will read to tatters. So rare that, outside my childhood classics, I can count them on two hands. I am thrilled to say that this is one of them. Go pick up your copy and let me know what you think!

Let No Man Define You

Okay, look. I’m not doing a class on how to be a writer – as established at the beginning of this blog – and this has nothing at all to do with this month’s forest theme. But, sometimes, certain people need to hear the truth. Namely, people who want to write, and the people who declare they can’t. Screw them, btw.

I don’t care if it’s your mom, your dad, your sister, your lover, or your reflection. If they are telling you that being a writer is for other people, people who are magically special, somehow, they are wrong. W.R.O.N.G. You want the horrible – and beautiful – truth? There is only one criteria for being a writer. You write. Like WOW, right? No, we aren’t special just because we write. But that’s the beautiful thing. We are ordinary. We live next door, on the bottom floor, in ordinary houses, and under the stairs… wait… sorry, that last one is stalker, not writer. Our abilities are quiet and not very remarkable to watch. But we have this determination to capture the world by placing words in a particular order. Writers aren’t special in the way of being better than anyone. Just in the way they relate to words. Accountants like numbers. Computer programmers can understand the language of computers. And writers tell stories. It is beautiful and it is work. If writers were, somehow, different from everyone else on earth, then how could they ever write about ordinary people? And who wants to read something they can’t see themselves in?

Someone tonight tried to hint that I’m going around trying to impress people by pretending to be a writer. Which shows exactly how little they know about me. My single biggest talent is having an intense imagination. Think Walter Mitty level intense. It is, in almost every other area of my life, a burden and a disability. Because connecting fully with reality is hard for me and I’m extremely distracted on my best days. In school this translated to abysmal grades. I suffer from insomnia because my head refuses to turn off. During conversations, I sometimes go bye bye and that means people think I don’t care what they have to say. Of course, it’s just that brain of mine getting away from me. But my writing allows me to use that annoying quirk.

What I’m saying here is that 1, a flaw is just something you haven’t figured out how to use to your advantage and 2, you want to write? WRITE. We need more books; the movie reboots are getting really old. And I need more stories to read. But, when someone looks down their nose at you and suggests that writing isn’t *real* work, ask them to sit down and write you a short story. One that’s good. Hell. One that just makes sense. Yeah. That makes them give the haughty ‘I could if I wanted’. And maybe they could. But they are too busy trampling all over you, spending their time trying hard to kick the legs out from under your chair and never asking themselves why they feel like they need to. So, there’s that. I don’t lift anything. I don’t break a sweat every day. I’m not saving the world. I am using what the universe gave me to give other people something that might make them smile. Or cry. Or check under the bed at night. And you know what? I am darn happy with that. Is it easy? Not always. It’s work. But it is work I love. As far as I’m concerned, if the definition of work means everyone has to hate their job and always be struggling just to make themselves do it in the name of money, count me out. I’d rather live under a bridge and pan handle on the street than spend eight hours a day and 60 years doing something that murders my soul in the name of gaining whatever pale, pathetic sliver of respect this would earn me from people who would then proceed to jump on all my other faults – and there are plenty. I’m not a fairy princess. Duh. But I’m good with that; I’m a collector of weird and a lover of words. That is so much better in my book. Life is too short for you to go around hating it. Too. God. Damned. Short.

So. You want to write? Go write. And, whenever someone tells you that it isn’t work and you aren’t smart/special enough, remember. Screw them. Define who you are and what you’re capable of and remember that bitter, angry people only want one thing. Company at their table of misery. Live to inspire. Live to lift other ordinary people into their happy place. Because running around telling people they are not good enough is a sad, unhealthy way to spend your life. Poison the well and you will only have poison to drink. Fill it with goodness and watch yourself thrive.

Tomorrow I’ll be bringing you part one of a short fantasy novella that is set in a very special forest AND an introduction to my favorite place on earth. Allerton Park. If you love forests, don’t miss it 😁😁😁 peace out!!!

Getting Thin Chapter Three

The link for the final free chapter! The book is available from Amazon.com, obviously. Go to my links page if you want to know the rest of the story! Or join my email list. I just *might* be doing a giveaway before Bone Deep releases in may 😉

Free Chapters of Getting Thin on Wattpad