Stop Hurting People

TKAR_RoseSome of the time, people have no idea what they’re doing to each other. A lot of the time, however, people know exactly what they’re doing. I’m talking about relationships. They’re some of the hardest things to do, even the simplest relationships can be tough. Why must we make it tougher by putting other people through hard times?

Getting into a relationship isn’t always easy. You can be the boldest most daring person in the world, and still find yourself lost for words at the beginning, before you even say hello. Even when that initial contact is made, you’ll still doubt every word that comes out of your mouth because you’re analyzing every word that comes out of their mouth.

Things can be amazing in relationships for a time, but it you’re not true, the relationship will never take hold. They’ll never flourish. Now, I’m not talking about both people. You see, just because one person isn’t connecting because they’re lost somewhere in someone else’s eyes, does not mean the other person isn’t falling in love with them. This causes a huge problem because now someone is suddenly investing their heart into something that will never work without the other person’s investment into the relationship.

Love is a powerful thing. It will make people do some incredible things. Sometimes those things are incredibly endearing and sometimes incredibly wonderful. Love makes us who we are because without it, we would be an even more dangerous and destructive race of people.

However, love can also dangerous in that it can destroy you and make you destructive. All of that incredible stuff you did, is now no longer fueled by desire to make the person you love feel wonderful. Now, your desire is either self-destruction or the destruction of others, which is where you start to do incredibly stupid things.

By leading someone down a path where they might fall for you and you aren’t fully invested (for instance you’re still in love with your ex), then you’re setting them up for destruction. How dare you do that to someone? How dare you get into a relationship where you cannot love that person back because you are currently broken?

You can’t, and you shouldn’t. You should always wait a length of time—it’s different for everyone—before jumping into something new because you need to be sure you are available for that person. Available for the love and commitment they are seeking from you. You can’t be this broken thing, and expect everything to work out, and you can’t expect them to be okay if you’re using them to unfuck yourself. You just can’t do that to people, and yet people do it all the time.

Why? Why do people do this? Are people so self-centered that they can’t think about other people when getting into something emotional? Relationships aren’t one-sided. They’re not one-sided. There are two sides to a relationship. I’ve said that three times now because people don’t seem to get it. You might be trying to unfuck your heart, but in the meantime, you’re fucking someone else’s heart. Is that fair? Is that right?

The last thing I want to talk about is how you approach exiting this broken thing you started. You don’t do it by blaming the other person for you exiting. No, you were broken to begin with, so own up to it. You don’t tell them the reason it won’t work by comparing them to the person you were originally trying to unfuck yourself from, and you sure as hell don’t do it right before you go back to that person. The truth is, you were broken from the get, and unless they were seriously fucking up, it probably isn’t their fault it didn’t work. It’s your fault. Don’t forget that, and don’t blame them, because all you’re going to do is break the fuck out of them some more. So, don’t be that asshole.

Love to love. Love to be loved. Don’t love to unfuck yourself, because that’s not love, that’s abuse.

Listen to the audio version of Your Broken Heart here:

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On Self-Publishing: What NOT To Do

I think self-publishing is a fantastic thing because it allows unknown authors the chance to get their work out there. It’s always existed, but with the emersion of Amazon’s CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing, it’s easier (and somewhat cheaper) than ever before.

No doubt, you’ve seen or heard this quote before:

“With great power comes great responsibility.”

Often attributed to Spider-Man or, according to some, FDR. Whoever said it first, the statement is powerful for a number of reasons because it isn’t just about having great strength to accomplish something and needing to ensure you don’t blow up an entire city trying to do it. There are companies, like Amazon, that empower people to do something using the means they’ve provided. That’s the kind of power we’ll talk about here.

Amazon gives anyone with basic computer skills the ability to publish their own work. They’re making it easier and easier every day, and with that power comes the responsibility to use it… well… responsibly. Do people? God no. I once read an article detailing which Kindle conversion software did it best, and in the comment section, there was a woman who apparently uploaded 15 of her books in one week. 15. One. Five. Ten plus Five. Thirty divided by two. Seven plus eight. That’s a lot, and that might be a big problem.

Okay, let’s get one thing out of the way. There are a number of authors who shit books as if they take a daily dose of laxative before sitting on their printer… er, something like that. They aren’t extraordinary books, and they probably aren’t even great books, but mostly probably good books (since someone out there is still publishing them). The difference is that at least someone is looking at them before putting them up, and I think that’s what separates the traditional publishing platforms from self-publishing platforms.

First of all, NO author can edit their own book and catch all the mistakes. It’s just not going to happen. You can catch some of the mistakes some of the time, but never all of the mistakes all of the time. Even editors require a few passes before it’s even close to 100%. Don’t believe me? I just finished reading Stephen King’s Cell, and in one scene, Clay sits down next to Alice in one paragraph and then miraculously is standing again and sits next to her again two paragraphs down without first getting up. (MAGIC!) I’ll bet King’s books go through several passes before it even comes close to published.

Here’s an excerpt from a book on Amazon self-published by an English teacher:

“This book is a philosophical discourse that the author fathomed discussing and explaining the truth that it was entirely, impossible for his life to have turned out any different than it did, no matter how much he wanted it to or how hard, he tried to change it.”

  • HSBK, “What’s sooner to you is later for me”

That mess is just from the FORWARD, and the very first sentence. Can you imagine what the rest of the book smells like after just a whiff of that? Had an editor even glanced at that, he’d offer to fix it and the rest of the book for probably double his usual fee.

Coming from the same example above, let’s look at the blurb. I’m not trying to pick on him specifically, but he has a lot of good examples of what not to do:

“TO BE standard curriculum for ALL high school and university classrooms; a true literary classic! written with irresistible, poetic prose-a true philosophic discourse

(unique and inspiring) a spiritual fictional/autobiography about the meaning of life, the existence of God, and our place in this modern-day predicament called ‘Life’ 104,000+ words written in the 3rd/1st person omniscient”

The author didn’t even bother to try to be a little bit reasonable with the blurb. He might as well have just told everyone that it was a best-seller and that it can make julienne fries if you buy three copies and hop on one leg while reading them simultaneously.

Anyway, now that you have a good idea of what to not to do, here’s an easy list of things you NEED to do before self-publishing your work:

  1. The story must be good! (Do we really need to say this?)
  2. Edit, reedit, have someone else edit, and edit again! This does not mean your friends and family. Unless they’re either beta readers or know what they’re doing.
  3. Don’t lie in your blurb.
  4. Did I mention editing? ‘Cause you should totally edit.
  5. Take your time to do it right. You do not need to get your book out today or even tomorrow. Eventually, yes, but do it right before you dish it out.

The overall problem is the saturation of crap books that are diluting all the good books available in the Kindle store. Do it well. Do it right. Self-pubbers need to put the trust back into the readers that they aren’t just a bunch of fools vomiting onto paper and then uploading it hoping someone will buy it. You need to love your craft and give the readers something they DESERVE.

Have an opinion on self-publishing? Comment below or find me on Facebook or Twitter to tell me about it!

On Writing Horror

A serious misconception about horror suggests that it needs to be disgusting. No, not just disgusting, that it needs to be “splatterporn”. Now, I won’t lie to you. I’ve written my fair share of disgusting shit since I started writing. In 9th grade, I wrote a story for my free write assignment about a deranged serial killer student who tortures, mutilates, and eats a cheerleader. In 2013, I wrote a horror that takes place in Hell, where torturous things and disgusting visuals (might be) is commonplace. I never really went over the line just to disgust people, though. I’m talking about authors who go straight for the nasty stuff without regard to their plot or story. In the first story of mine that I mentioned, I explored the inner workings of a serial killer from the first person perspective, and in the second, well, I can’t say because it would ruin the story.

Anyway, I’ll avoid naming names, but I’ll point out that self-published authors are the worst offenders because they can pretty much publish whatever they want regardless if it’s good or not. I love reading new books by fresh writers and giving them honest feedback, and it always blows my mind when an author writes a horror novel like they just stepped out of a Saw movie.

So, how exactly are you supposed to write horror if you don’t go all James Wan on your book? Well, you approach it as you approach any horror. To scare the shit out of your reader.

First, let’s look at the definition of horror as Merriam-Webster defines it:

\ˈhȯr-ər, ˈhär-\: the quality of something that causes feelings of fear, dread, and shock : the horrible or shocking quality or character of something.

I know, I know. Some of you are shaking your heads and saying that disgusting stuff is shocking and dreadful! I know it is, but that’s not all horror is, either. There are many elements to it.

The first element you need is fear. In my opinion, without fear, you don’t have horror. If your main character is feeling fear, you need your reader to feel that fear, too. Maybe not to the point that they, too, are afraid (though big bonus points if you can scare the bajeezus out of them for realsies), but at least make them uncomfortable. Get them to a point where what’s happening in the story is so emotionally intense that if the reader were sitting in a dark room (presumably on their kindle or with a book light), then they’d start to sweat a little wondering what’s skulking around near them in the darkness.

The next element listed is dread. Have you ever thought about what dread is? It’s a fear that something may or may not happen. Dread should be normal business for most authors since you’ll always dread something in a story. Will the main character’s husband find out if she’s been cheating on his with Mr. Hunk? Will that monster smell the MC hiding inside the closet? Will the world collapse if the World-Destructor-Inator goes off before the Perry can stop it? Your reader should always be dreading that something will happen; it just depends on the situation that makes it horror.

The final element is shock. The closest definition of shock isn’t to electrify someone with high voltages but rather to disturb someone. What? Okay, okay, I know… I hear some of those marbles rolling around your heads as you shake them at me again. Yes, gross disgusting things disturb people, but they don’t disturb people on an intellectual level. There’s a huge difference.

When you write about character ‘A’ doing (insert nasty shit here) to character ‘B’, then you’re only scratching the surface of disturbing the reader. Yeah, it might be incredible disgusting, but to really disturb your reader and get under their skin, you have to really mess with their mind. You have to stick your hand right into their skull and start beating their brains around until they’re whimpering in the corner screaming for you to stop.

How do you do this? By carefully writing your horror to

  • make the reader feel uneasy about how things should progress,
  • take what they think they know and twist the hell out of it,
  • take the world of things that they know and twist them so they question their own reality, and
  • use all of that as a catalyst to reveal something they’ll be thinking about long after they close your book.

Once you’ve done those things, you can write about all the nastiness you want, assuming you have a plot that really requires it, that is. Never throw nasty in just to shock people, because although some people might like it, the vast majority of readers will see right through it as weak writing.

Do you write horror? How do you handle it differently? Let me know in the comments below or find me on Twitter or Facebook to scream at me about it!

On How to Survive @nycmidnight – Short Story Challenge Edition

Every year, hundreds of people come together to battle each other in a challenge of skill for the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge (among other contests they host). The challenge isn’t easy (for some) because it forces fresh writers or writers who aren’t yet comfortable with the craft to write outside what they normally write.

If you’re not familiar with it, you can visit the official website, but I’ll give you a quick rundown for those that aren’t. Once you’ve paid your entrance fee (around $40-$55) and joined the contest, you wait until the challenge begins (usually January). When the first round (of three) begins, NYC breaks the writers up into several groups of about 30 per group, and gives each group a set of rules they must play by. Here’s an example from 2015:

Group 19:

  • Genre: Action / Adventure
  • Subject: An Invention
  • Character: A Flight Attendant

What this means is that each writer in group #19 (I was included in this group) must write a short story that adheres to these rules. The story must be action/adventure, the subject of the story must include an invention of some kind, and one of the characters in the story must be a flight attendant (or once was a flight attendant). It must be 2500 words or less, and stick to the formatting (or risk 10% penalty to your score, the other 90% is on style, how close you stuck to your subject, genre, etc).

The biggest complaint from writers I hear is that people are writing outside their “comfort zone” apparently. I don’t often agree with this terminology since what they really mean is they never wrote that subject before and don’t know how to do it (for some reason). In my opinion, all writers should be able to write all subjects. You don’t hear a long jumper complaining when he has to do triple or short jumps? Do you? Well, I don’t really know if you would… I didn’t when I was in Track & Field because jumping is jumping—you can do it, you just need to master the different style. Similarly, writers can write anything, they just need to master it. Remember, just because one hasn’t mastered a subject doesn’t mean they can’t write something that passes for that subject.

Your head is the biggest obstacle to completing a story.

If any of you are familiar with my books or stories, you know that I typically write horror or suspense. So, I could have said that getting Action/Adventure as my genre was “out of my comfort zone” as people like to say, but really, writing is well within my comfort zone and I set out to tackle it with that exact attitude.

Read my winning entry here.

My advice to anyone that joins this challenge is to think of all of it within your means as a writer, and tackle it as the long jumper will tackle triple jumping. It’s all the same thing. Go that way, and you can’t go wrong.

The next two rules aren’t a problem once you get passed that ugly three-headed genre. Now, all you have to do is think up a subject that involves an invention with a character who is a flight attendant. Even if you’ve only just started writing, you should still be able to come up with something. It’s all about imagination and making it work for you. If you don’t have an imagination, then you have no business writing creatively. That said, I’ll bet all of you reading this have an imagination, and therefore, you have the means to spend 2.5 minutes dreaming up a solid idea involving an invention and a flight attendant.

These are my ideas for my group:

  • Action/Adventure: Set in a pyramid, Indiana Jones style (What can I say? I’m nostalgic like that heh-heh-heh)
  • An Invention: The story centers around a stolen artifact that the ancient Egyptians invented called the Sun of Ra, which was a power source similar to a battery (which has a real world counterpart without the fancy name)
  • A Flight Attendant: My main character was a flight attendant, one that wanted to see the world, but like her father, couldn’t stay away from a more adventurous lifestyle.

That’s it! The rest is just filling the blanks up to a maximum of 2500 words, which is probably the hardest part for some writers. Sometime later, I’ll go over ways you can trim your story so you can come in under 2500 words and fit more of the necessary stuff into it to ensure you have everything fleshed out properly (like plot stuff).

Remember, the biggest thing that gets in the way of you completing your story is your head. If you’ll notice, I took elements of action and adventure and incorporated it into my typical style: horror. You can do that, too, as long as the judges feel like you hit the mark on your given genre.

What else can you do? Well, here are some DOs and DON’Ts:

DO use the forums and get some input from beta readers. Listen to them, and let them help you. Generally, you’ll find a nice group of people willing to give you honest feedback. You don’t have to listen, but it’s worth it to at least get a feeling of how your judges may receive your story.

DON’T spend all day worrying about what the judges tell you about your story. If for some reason you don’t pas one of the rounds (or even if you do) and you receive negative feedback that you don’t agree with, that’s okay. They’re judges. They aren’t Gods. Take what you want from them. Just remember, all feedback, whether good and agreeable or bad and disagreeable, it’s all going to lead you to becoming a better writer. In addition, learning to take good criticism turns you into a better person. You win more than you lose.

DO make sure you also help others as a beta reader. If you would like help, it isn’t necessary to beta read for other people, but it’s courtesy. It’s like that whole scratching someone’s back thing… (before the 20th century and they banned touching).

DON’T get angry if a beta reader doesn’t like your story. Like Stephen King said: you can’t please all readers all the time. You can’t even please some of the readers some of the time. You can however please at least a few readers once in a while. (Or something like that, don’t quote me.)

DO go easy on yourself. Relax. Enjoy the contest. Even if you don’t win, it doesn’t matter. If you use the beta readers and be a part of the community with an open mind, you’re guaranteed to come out a better writer. Maybe a fraction better… maybe you’ll come out a whole new person. Either way, you’ll come out all right.

DON’T cheat. Be original. The judges are readers, too. If you write a derivative story that so obviously stole from someone else’s work, you’re going to have a bad time with them. (Of course, there are exceptions, but generally, don’t do it.)

DO your research. If you’re going to write historical fiction, then learn about your subject. If you’re going to write horror, then by God take an hour to learn what makes a horror story so scary. It can only make you better. Just remember, stick to trusted sources. There’s tons of good information on the interwebs, but there’s also just as much shit out there. Be wary. :)

That’s all folks! Have fun, and feel free to head on over to my Facebook page or Twitter to yell at my face if you have other ways of doing it!