Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Writer Wednesday: Christie Stratos

In life, we're all allowed to pick our favorites and from what I've read up to this moment, Christie Stratos is the author of my favorite indie book, Anatomy of a Darkened Heart. If it were just down to writing, that'd be more than enough, because that is one hell of a story. But apart from that, she is extremely engaging in her social media accounts, hosts a writer podcast with panels with a variety of authors, and is in all estimations a wonderful definition of the term good people. That said, she's also my friend and someone whom I appreciate for her commitment to excellence as well as for having a wonderful heart that is capable of amazing levels of kindness as much as it is capable of pumping dark psychological thrillers for your reading enjoyment. So I had some questions and she was kind enough to give some answers.


1. My thanks for taking some time to answer a nice slice of random questions, Christie. So let’s get to the first Q, who is Christie Stratos and what can you tell us about your writer journey?


According to Oxford Dictionaries, Christie (n) is “a sudden turn in which the skis are kept parallel, used for changing direction fast or stopping short.” That’s pretty much how I write, but not on skis.

I’ve been a writer my whole life, ever since I was capable of writing. I started out with poetry when I was very young, then moved on to novels in middle school and high school, and finally wrote short stories in college and afterwards. Now I write everything. I’ve never felt 100% happy unless I was writing. There was a period of my life after college when I didn’t think there was a point to writing – where would I go with it? And in that time, I felt a lack of direction, even a lack of worth. My job back then wasn’t fulfilling either, so altogether I was pretty unhappy. Until I started writing again. It came back to me easily even after a couple of years without it, and I’ve written consistently, setting my own goals, ever since.



2. Your work, Anatomy of a Darkened Heart, is honestly a wonderfully dark piece of historical fiction; what influences do you have and how did it feel to bring to life such a beautifully dark work?



Thank you! I didn’t actually foresee my debut novel as being quite as dark as it turned out. I’m heavily influenced by Shakespeare, specifically Hamlet, Julius Caesar, and Henry IV parts 1 and 2 as well as Henry V. Those plays had a huge impact on my writing and on figuring out what I like to read the most. I’ve been reading Poe for a very long time too, and that darkness is something I love and appreciate as a reader. If you combine the two authors, you can see their influences in my books.

There was something defining about writing Anatomy of a Darkened Heart, as if it needed to come out and tell me, “This is the way, this is the direction you need to head.” And I loved every second of it.



3. You do seem to have a lively fixation with the Victorian Era, what draws you to this era and what topics do you explore and would like to explore further in your work?


The Victorian Era is most often portrayed as gorgeous and wealthy and dramatic, but if you research it, it wasn’t so glamorous – at least not for everyone. Bringing some darkness into something that’s known for its visual appeal is a very nice contrast in my opinion. On the outside it’s one thing, on the inside it’s the opposite. I find that fascinating.

One thing you’ll find in Anatomy of a Darkened Heart and in Locke and Keye that will also continue into future Dark Victoriana Collection works is the concept of a gray area. Who’s right and who’s wrong? It’s hard to tell when everyone has contributed to a situation. And is a crime so wrong if it saves a life? The theme of gray areas is an absorbing one that I will continue to explore.



4. The Dark Victoriana Collection is set to be a collection of 5 stories, but they’re not connected in the usual lineal manner. What can you tell us about this concept and how did you develop the idea behind such a rich world?


It’s turning out to be longer than I thought! It started out with the intention of two novels and three novelettes. One of the novelettes already turned into a novel, a main character from Locke and Keye wants his own book (that’s definitely happening), and I have a couple of additional short stories I want to add. So it’s going to be quite the collection in the end!

The original idea was to have Anatomy of a Darkened Heart as a standalone book, but then I started thinking about how much I would love to write a book based on each shop mentioned in my first novel: Locke and Keye (locksmith shop), Love’s Bloom (florist), and one not mentioned by name, Mrs. Dodd’s Doll Shop. Then the final book would be from the perspective of the Whitestone’s maid, Ashton, harkening back to Anatomy, giving us a totally different view and brand new, never before released scenes in the same house and the same time frame. All of those books are still happening, but now with more in between. The Dark Victoriana Collection has become far more in-depth with more distinct perspectives, and I’m even more excited now than when I first decided on making it a collection.



5. I’ve seen that like many of us, you and chocolate get along brilliantly. So tell us, what would a Dark Victoriana candy/chocolate bar have and what would it taste like? (here you can even include a wrapper like the wall paper if you think that’s cool lol. As you can see, I’m enthusiastic lol)

CHOCOLATE ENTHUSIASTS UNITE! If the Dark Victoriana Collection was a chocolate, you would unwrap its black-and-white damask wrapper and bite into its very dark chocolatey-ness, but as you chew it, it bites back with a lot of spice. Obviously I’ve included some Scotch bonnet peppers in there, some of the hottest. So you think, “Oh, a lovely, smooth chocolate”, but then your taste buds burn away.

I wouldn’t eat the chocolate version if I were you, but reading the slow burn, crescendo books is definitely in good taste. ;) 



6. Anatomy of a Darkened Heart is rather dark, pardon the redundancy; will you be working on lighter fare in the future?


NEVER! Sometimes I’ll write a short story for an anthology, and those can be (sometimes) lighter. “Intent”, a short story I wrote for Gems of Gratitude, is the story of an Amazonian tribe going through a difficult transition. One of the Amazonians has to make a major decision that will impact her whole tribe, but instead of choosing one thing or another, she makes up her own path. That one is considerably lighter, in my opinion. That’s probably as light as it will get for my writing. Even works planned for the future that are completely unrelated to the Dark Victoriana Collection are dark and intense, regardless of the time period (and I have many planned!). The darkness is where I like to flicker a light just enough to see the demons hiding there.


7. You also offer editing services, what can you tell us about your experience as an editor and where people can get more information?


My editing business is called Proof Positive (http://proofpositivepro.com), and it is wonderful to be able to use my extremely picky, overly analytical brain for something helpful to fellow writers. From word choice to character development (two things that are especially important to me) to those pesky plot holes, it’s a pleasure to find those things and help authors better their amazing works. We also do pre- and post-release publicity for books as part of any package.


8. You have an absolute love of journals; please tell us about that. When did it begin? How many journals do you have?




I have always loved notebooks and journals, how very different they all look and feel. Some call for medieval works, some need poems, and others want a completely unique work to be created on their pages. I feel the notebook itself can be just as inspirational as images or reading. The ambiance of the notebook has to be right, and I have a notebook for each thing I work on. Some notebooks can be dedicated to multiple works, while others really need their own space. I have a Dark Victoriana-dedicated one that I’m using for the whole collection; there’s a pink one with silver gilt page edges that I use for any Alice in Wonderland-related works; one of my favorites is a bejeweled notebook that I’m going to use for a visually stunning fantasy piece in the future.

As for how many I have, here’s a video of notebook love I once made, and here’s one that shows three I bought from Etsy stores last year. I have all those and bunch more. They’re worth every penny for the inspiration and motivation they give me just by being there, ready to carry new ideas.


9. You also enjoy writing haikus. What can you tell us of this and are there any plans for the future to explore haikus or poetry more in depth?


I do love haikus. My first writing award was actually for a poem I wrote called “Words Can Form”. I won the Poetry Society of Virginia’s Steven Barza Collegiate Prize in my sophomore year of college, which shocked me. At the time I wasn’t writing much, and I came across that contest, wrote a poem for it, and submitted it knowing I wouldn’t come close to winning. Then I won. It was the first hint to keep writing since I’d given it up after high school. And the poem was about writing haikus and poetry.

Nowadays I write haikus that I put on Instagram to go with an image, and I’m able to express a lot through them. There’s something about having to choose my words so carefully and in such an exacting way in order to express my thoughts and emotions that makes writing haikus and microfiction in general such a good release for me. I do plan on putting a book of haikus together in the not-too-distant future, so keep your eye out for it!



10. You do a wonderful job of keeping it varied on social media. Where can people connect with you and find more information on you and what you’re up to?

I have a lot of social media where you can keep up with me! On my general writer Instagram I post haikus and writing advice; I also have an Instagram dedicated to the Dark Victoriana Collection, which has (mostly) Victorian quotes, my own thoughts and writings, images that relate to my collection or the era, Victorian dresses as my story every day, etc.

I do writing advice YouTube videos along with tags and other writerly things. I’m also the host of The Writer’s Edge, where we have a livestream panel discussion the 4th Thursday of each month to talk about writing, publishing, marketing, and more.

You can also find me on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads,
Pinterest, and of course on my own website. I also send out a newsletter to announce new releases and giveaways, so be sure to sign up!


As for my books, here are the links:

Locke and Keye
Amazon

Smashwords


Anatomy of a Darkened Heart
Amazon

Smashwords

Barnes & Noble

Kobo

* * *

Cheers to Miss Stratos from taking some time from her busy schedule to answer some questions. If you’d like to read my full review of her first novel, click here. As for Christie, she
 is an award-winning writer who holds a degree in English Literature. As we mentioned above, she is the author of Anatomy of a Darkened Heart and Locke and Keye, the first two books in the Dark Victoriana Collection. In addition, she has had short stories and poetry published in Ginosko Literary Journal, Andromedae Review, 99Fiction, and various anthologies. An avid reader of all genres and world literature, Christie reads everything from bestsellers to classics to indies. She's also good people and I highly recommend you check out her social media as well as her work. And if you do, tell her JD sent ya. 

As usual, below will be a prompt I’m sharing with Christie in which we'll see if we can collaborate or she can run with it as she sees fit. For now though, thanks for reading, dear frands.

Peace, love, and maki rolls.


PROMPT:  Two time-traveling friends meet for tea and chocolate. You are a time traveler from the Victorian era who uses a brooch as your means of travel. I am a pirate vampire. The idea is to show and share the sights and sounds of where we are and catch up.


Wednesday, August 30, 2017

"Gracias es…

… una palabra muy corta para expresar todo mi agradecimiento"

Mi abuela decía esa frase y a mí y a mi madre siempre nos ha dado mucha gracia. Era una manera tan lindamente rebuscada para tratar de acaparar ese sentimiento de agradecimiento profundo que a veces se siente. Me resulta cómico que a cada rato me venga a la mente dicha frase con todo lo que vivo con lo de mis libros y los inventos que hago.

Desde el 2013 llevo conectando con personas, compartiendo mi trabajo y dando lo mejor que puedo dar en son de expresarme como autor independiente. Es un camino que no es para todo el mundo, pero para mí ha sido inmensamente gratificante. He podido publicar 10 libros utilizando mi criterio como el único norte de la trayectoria. He escrito 8 libros en inglés, uno en español y uno bilingüe. Confío que aún le tengo un poquito de pavor a mi lengua materna, pero poco a poco se me quita. O eso o es que me pica la vena de escribir cuentos netamente en español para no tener que depender de traducciones para disfrutar del tipo de magia que me llama y encanta como lector.

Si de lecciones se trata, puedo hablar de un sinnúmero y aprendo a diario porque a diario me arriesgo, me tiro al vacío, digo que se joda porque prefiero enterarme qué tal me irá en vez de quedarme preguntando los “y si hubiese hecho…” La vida se nos puede ir en potencial y en vez de sucumbir a tal miedo, me tiro por la borda. Sigo escribiendo y creando y aventurándome porque dentro de cada uno de nosotros hay cuentos y sé que dentro de mí hay una plétora de mundos y relatos y no tengo ganas de quedármelos.


Este año marcó mi cuarta visita al Puerto Rico Comic Con y se siente como ir a casa, aparte de que ahora se trata literalmente de ir a casa. Ahora viviendo en el exterior y siendo parte de la diáspora que vive el país, ir al Puerto Rico Comic Con sirve para recordarme lo mucho que amo mi Isla y la gente que tengo la dicha de llamar familia y amigos. También sirve de recordatorio de todo el talento que produce nuestra Isla.

Me fue muy bien en el Comic Con como exhibidor y cuando digo esto, más que nada es que conocí gente nueva a la vez que amigos de hace años pasaron a visitar y decir hola. Es un evento en donde confieso que me emociona mucho porque se espera que yo hable hasta más no poder sobre mis libros y lo que llevo haciendo y creando durante el último año. Muchas veces trato de no hablar en la vida real tanto de mis libros porque no quiero que se harten de escuchar de cuentos, técnicas, nuevos proyectos y sueños cumplidos o por cumplir. Aquí vienen a preguntarte y con entusiasmo cosas como: “¿De qué se trata tu libro?” “¿Con qué me lo puedes comparar?” “¿Puedo leer un poco?” “¿Me lo firmas?”

Le he contado a tanta gente sobre mis libros y nunca me aburro ni me canso. Incluso, por lo general la gente pregunta de mis novelas, pero confieso que cuando alguien me pregunta de la poesía, los Blanc Comics o las colecciones de cuentos cortos, me alegra el día. Se espera que las novelas acaparen la mayor atención, pero que quede claro, cada libro es un hijo mío y lo amo. Puse el apellido de mi madre (mi apellido de autor) y lo hice con orgullo así que al saber que alguien leyó un Daydream y pudo dormir mejor, saber que un poema les tocó o que les ayudó a expresar algo que sintieron… ¿eso?... eso es magia y de la buena.

Estar caminando por el piso del Comic Con y que alguien me pregunte que si soy autor de Only Human está súper cool. Pero que me abran los ojos como dos biombos y digan “¡Pero si eres el de Between the TIDES! ¡¡¡Me encanta esa colección!!!” Eso llena el alma. No es que no le tenga cariño a mis novelas. Para nada. Pasamos MUCHO tiempo juntos y entre mis primeras novelas se han invertido casi diez años en la creación de ambos. Pero que llame la atención algo que se supone que no tenga lugar en un Comic Con, como una colección de poesía, da gusto y ganas de seguir escribiendo.

Lo que si me he dado cuenta es que mientras más libros publico, MENOS puedo predecir qué se mueve. Lo que sí sé es que la gente compra, lee, disfruta y muchos vuelven. Así que algo ando haciendo bien. Más importante que eso, la paso súper bien y se me nota porque no voy a disimularlo. Me encanta poder estar en un entorno en donde me expreso como un autor y no sólo como un autor, sino como un tipo que le gusta poner palabras sobre el papel y compartirlas con el mundo. Me encanta conocer y conectar con personas de todas las edades, de todo nivel socio económico y confía que me SÚPER encanta cuando alguien con algún cosplay pasa por mi exhibidor. Es un entorno feliz, creativo y de comunidad y lo hago con todo el gusto en el alma… y no pudiera hacerlo sin el apoyo de toda la gente bonita que me visita.

Por segundo año consecutivo hice mi anuario del comic con en donde llevo una libreta con función de que sirva para que: 1. Me escriban su nombre en letra de molde para no meter las patas al firmar, 2. Me dejen un contacto por si quieren que les escriba (nunca con ofertas, para eso está el social media) y 3. Para que me dejen un mensaje como si fuese un anuario. Y por segundo año consecutivo, me han sorprendido con palabras de apoyo, de motivación, de agradecimiento. Palabras no exigidas pero regaladas… y para mí, ambas libretas son un tesoro. 

Abajo quiero decirle las gracias a las personas que me dejaron mensaje y que les escribí (o al menos traté de escribir, algunas direcciones de email no las pude entender, perdonen). Pero quería abierta y claramente darle las gracias a cada persona que me dejó una nota, que me apoya, que me escribe por correo electrónico, en YouTube, en Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, o Google+. Se les quiere mucho y se les agradecen sus palabras, las cuales me motivan a escribir más. Nos vemos en la próxima y espero sorprenderles con hasta más libros.

JD







Beatriz M

Nancy M

Alberto F. Mendez Morales

Angélica C Romero Vega

Rahiza De Thomas

Raúl R. Ruiz

Antonio Nieves

Dianavette

Jessica M Torres

Rafael E. Ocasio Martínez

Geraldy, Carla, & Nicole

Jonathan Serrano Mercado

Tatiana Morales Ortiz

Marisol Martínez Laureano

Elandra Ruiz Orsini

Syndey M. Ramírez

Gabriel Dávila

Valeria Montes

Samantha Martínez

Luis Alberto Rivera

Wayne Cedeño De León

Kimberly Ruiz

Laura Donato

Katherine Rosa

Tomás Burgos

Deborah Cabán

Rosana Mejía León.

Félix O. Díaz López.

Mariela A. Rivera

Luis A. Cordero

Vivian Crespo

Gabriella

Marillys

Pablo Tirado

Génesis González

Emily Irizarry

Stacy Rosario 

Aneudy Irizarry

Stephanie J. Brady

Carlos A. Maestre Betancourt

Jairee Pérez Pérez

Carlos J. Báez

Carlos Y. Flores Pérez

Hendrick Álvarez Martínez

Ariana Quiñones Febres

Luis Leguillow

Alexandra C. García Aponte

Jyann Torres

Rafa Tamayo

Gypsie Gullberg (drawing of Lilly)

Ale Beale

Arlene M. Cardona Vázquez

Alexander Hernández

Ashley Cianchini

Andrea M. Rivera

Noelia Torres

Nory Malugin

Alexander Jiménez

Mike Adorno Díaz

Ruthy

Monserrate

Adriana Borrego

Javier T González Rivera

Sagilys De Jesús

Javier A. González Hernández

Grace Morales

Michael Mojica Brito



Tuesday, August 29, 2017

A tribute to Chris Cornell

Missing someone you don’t know may be weird, but it’s a daily occurrence for me. I listen to Chris’s music as much for comfort as I do as a tribute and to prove that he lives on fiercely in the hearts of everyone who was touched by his music. As a writer I have a lot of influences, though in addition to stories and other authors, music is pivotal to who I am and what I do. I can’t begin to think of how many hours of music I listen to in a day, a week, or have listened to in my life for that matter.

Hours upon hours I’ve spent in the company of Chris… his voice, his lyrics, and his music. People often focus on the voice but man, what a musician. What a song writer. His lyrics can be dark and cryptic poetry, they can be visceral and cathartic, or they can open as many wounds as they mend. He was as tender as he was powerful and could switch gears anyway he wanted to.

I’ve found a lot of comfort during these past months by having conversations with one of my 3 best friends. I share special bonds with each of them, but Antonio is my musical brother and we’ve cried a lot during these past months. We’ve been there for each other and we’ve talked about always being there for one another. The only other artist that begins to hurt me this much with his passing is David Bowie but Chris was something different. Bowie was like in another stratosphere, down to Earth, sure, but still, you could believe he was from Mars if they said so. Chris was different. He was human. Flawed, broken, resilient, inspiring, beautiful in so many ways.

His music came into my life between ’91 and ’92. I was 11 or 12… a kid. A child in the cusp of beginning to become a man… and I switched from listening to Hip Hop to listening to Temple of the Dog, which led me to Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Nirvana, Nine Inch Nails, Pink Floyd, Blind Melon, and beyond… his music changed my life. It changed me. And for the better I might add.

People are sometimes on the fence when it comes to saying if Soundgarden is metal or not. It’s heavy as it gets and the loudest band I’ve seen live. But this wasn’t speed metal. This wasn’t thrash. This wasn’t knuckle dragging guitars. It was heavier. Odd time signatures, weird lyrics, soaring vocals, and quite simply a band NO one could cover. Although each musician is impressive in their own right, the chemistry between Chris, Kim, Matt, and Ben was is not something you can emulate without embarrassing yourself. Sure, people can try and cover Black Hole Sun… but that’s one of the few songs they can even begin to approach. Beyond being that good, they shall always be that unique, which is way heavier than being metal.

With Audioslave, Chris’s voice reached a new audience and they were quite the band even if I prefer their original bands more. That said, Cochise inspires me to break stuff, Shadow of the Sun haunts me, Be Yourself is worthy of being anyone’s anthem, and my brother always calls me when he hears It Doesn’t Remind Me.

So that’s one epic band and two super groups to his name. Then he has his solo work. People will overlook Scream but I don’t want to. Sure it’s not my cup of tea and made me miss his other work more… but you know what? He went for it. And he didn’t just do a halfass effort, he REALLY went for it. So it’s not my cup of tea or the cup of tea of many people, do you know the courage it took to do that? The balls? He wanted to give it a go and he did. How many people do you know who always do something to please others or who are afraid of putting out what they believe in? He never held back.

Then he put out Songbook. Him and a guitar. And it’s a beautiful album. It made us yearn for more. Then King Animal slapped us silly, rocking harder than pretty much anything you could think of. That album is 4 guys reinvigorated and playing as if they want to destroy a world with a four-piece band. Then he released his best solo work, with so many beautiful songs.

So much music. So much talent. But it wasn’t just about music with Chris. He gave so much. That’s why it hurts that he’s parted. Because even with all those successes and so many milestones, he was so wonderfully human and incredibly giving. I miss Chris because more than one of my favorite musicians, he was a friend in my life through his music as well as through his example. He is someone I can look up to and that will always be the case, because in many ways, he showed us how to live.

In love and music
JD 

****

I left this piece as a tribute to Chris on a tribute section on his website. If you'd like to leave some words, by all means. Click here

Monday, August 28, 2017

Monday Reviews - View from the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman

I think we're all allowed one favorite in each categories of things that mark our lives. Pearl Jam is my favorite band. IPA is my favorite beer. I'm too moody to only pick one type of red wine as my favorite though. That said, Big Trouble in Little China is my favorite movie. Sometimes we choose our favorites and sometimes our favorites choose us. Neil Gaiman is my favorite author.

More than being the most talented author I read, I insist on saying he's my favorite... because the more I read him, the more I understand that what I do as a writer is the right thing. He doesn't pander or preach, he doesn't expect worship or shy away from giving praise... he's a nice guy. A nice guy with a wicked imagination and a writer voice that speeks to so many parts of me, that sometimes it's scary. Even those parts that I keep hidden. He speaks to them. Not many people get to know those parts. Those broken mosaics within. But he somehow connects. So he became my favorite... and I know I'm not alone.

But that's okay, because we all have the right as well as the opportunity to enjoy him and his words. This is a lovely collection of non-fiction pieces, read by Neil himself. They're real, honest, and make no attempt to cover. Quite the opposite actually. He reveals who he is and somehow in that act, we find a bit of ourselves.

I was debating whether to give this book 4 stars or 5. It is a collection of intros, essays, articles, and liner notes. The reason is that I don't want to seem skewed or influenced or as if I drank the "Gaiman" Kool-Aid as some people say... but influence he does, and influenced I am... because I am able to choose favorites... and Neil is mine.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Much ado about to do’s

We want to do more. It seems as if we always do and that’s fine. But we have to know when to push and when to ease off the gas pedal.

Burn out is a reality and it often happens because of pride or guilt. Pride because we go all Tony Montana and pretend that even if we get shot dozens of times we can still keep going and take on the world. I know the feeling and I’ve done this. It’s pretty stupid, but I get it. On the other hand, Guilt refers to those moments where you keep going because “you should be doing more”. A sentiment that is just as stupid.

Some people might be taken aback by the use of the word stupid, but it’s being used intentionally. I know you’ve done these things. I have too. And we need to call a spade a spade. It’s stupid behavior because if we had been just a little smarter, we could have done more.

Know when to ease off. Learn when and where your breaking point is and never tempt fate twice. I’m not speaking out of logic or concern for you, by the way. I try to be logical and I do care immensely for the wellbeing of people, but alas I offer the above advice based on personal experience.

I’ve experienced burnout multiple times and  your body is much smarter at knowing what’s good for you even if you don’t and it will make you pay the price for thinking you're smarter than it. Muscle spasms, migraines, stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea, lower back pain, eyeball pain… seriously, we endure EYEBALL pain because we need to do more… and again, that’s just stupid.

But we still want to be productive.

We still want to do more.

There’s still so much to do.

And I agree.

I agree because I see my to-do lists and I wonder how the hell I’m going to do it all… until I do it all.

“But how?” you ask.

Simple. By knowing what you can do. And I mean REALLY knowing what you can do and by not forcing things to get done.

Most every day I make a to-do list. I write down all that I can feasibly do in the allotted time and I write it down. Sometimes I make annotations next to the task of how much time I’m going to dedicate to the task.

And you know what? I don’t always get the list done.

And you know what else? I don’t always take the time I said I would.

That’s because a to-do list is a guesstimate and it NEEDS to be treated as such. It’s what you know you can do if ALL factors (you included) align to have the perfect day.

Want to know something else? That “perfect day” never happens. And that’s OK. If you watch Groundhog day, it takes Bill Murray’s character lord knows how many attempts of the SAME day and SAME conditions to have what amounts to a perfect day.


I am not perfect. You are not perfect. None of us are perfect. And that in itself, is perfect. It means we can cross out a couple of items and feel good that we progressed.

Is there a task that you just can’t get around to? Then get around to it by whatever means it takes. Coerce yourself. Bribe yourself. Deprive yourself of the things you really want until you do that task. The fact is that often times once you start doing the thing you want to do, you hit your groove and it’s not as bad as you thought... but starting is the pain.

Some people have kids or need to take care of someone or some task and time is scant. That happens. If it’s something you have to do several times, try to decipher what is the quickest way to get it done. If there’s something you can do ahead of time and save time, do it. Be like a squirrel with your time and get a good stock pile for the winters of life.

“But that doesn’t work,” some people may say and it’s very possible. So what other options do you have? I ask because there’s always options to do the things we want to do and it’s all a question of how creative you can get. How resourceful are you when it comes to your goals and dreams? Excuses won’t win you any brownie points or medals (mind you, it’s amazing how creative we can be when it comes to excuses, but that’s another post for some other day.)

Treat your goals like a high score you need to beat. Is there a way to get a higher score? Is there a short cut? Is there a warp station or anything that helps put you in the driver seat to take the exits you want to take?

That’s the thing, a lot of people want to do a lot of things, but they either shy away from accountability or they treat it as if they’re trying out for the part of Jesus carrying the cross.

I’m not saying it’s easy. I’ll never say that. Ever. But I will say it’s doable. I’ve known to translate two text books, proofread three others, have a full time job, be there for friends, and still finish  several books in one year. I’m not saying my scenario is the hardest, not by a long shot. But I found the way to get there. Hell, in the process I even had a physical burnout and learned some lessons, but odds are there are untapped opportunities we aren’t making the most out of.

I’ve had lunch alone, learned to get up early, taken a notebook to the bathroom stall, and all in the name of achieving my goals. I’ve taken my notebooks to doctor appointments, bank lines, car repair appointments, and more. I’ve known to be exhausted but write for 5 minutes because 5 minutes is progress. I’ve also known to rest. It’s helped me to have more energy at a later time to hit my tasks harder and get more done.

If you have a physical or mental condition, these are just obstacles... unpleasant ones, yes, but try and look at them objectively as something you need to take into account for your progress. I'm not saying it's easy, I'm just saying it is not insurmountable unless you phrase it as such. Is one thing on the list the most you can do. Then cheers to progress. Can you push more? Then do. Are you not feeling well? Would you be better off resting? Are you eating right? Are you drinking enough water? Are you exercising? Are you meditating? Have you given thanks for all the potential of any given day?

You know why I pose all those questions? Because they all offer things that can help you. Because you have more control than you think. Because progress isn’t dependent solely on a list or what you do in a given day.

Goals and dreams are reached often by slow and steady progress.

Don’t beat yourself up.

Dispense with guilt.

Take care of yourself and always be honest.

You can look for excuses, you can push yourself to breaking point and past it, or you can know what you can give and how to give it and focus on the word progress and that the glass is slowly filling until completion. One drop. One step. One task. One goal.

If the list is too big. Adjust it. If the tasks are too hard. Break them down into smaller tasks or ask for help. Set pride to the side. Forget guilt. Eliminate excuses. These things will not serve you. Focus on what matters and adjust accordingly. If you do it, you’ll look back one day and ask yourself how you got so much done… and then you’ll do some more.

Peace, love, and maki rolls

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Writer Wednesday: Anaïs Chartschenko



The world needs more poetry. That’s a personal assessment but a very true one, if you ask me. Some people might agree, stating that we need more beautiful words, or more pretty things… but if anything has become clear as I continue to read and write poetry, it is that poetry is much more than flowery words. It’s truth in verse form, life experience distilled through words that help us express and understand the unexpressable and the un-understandable. That’s part of the poetry I think we need, and Anaïs Chartschenko has every intention of writing the most brutally raw, honest, and beautiful poetry that she can. Hers are not “roses are red” poems. It’s not that she is not capable, it’s that she is driven by the pursuit of truth of essence through her words. She has three poetry collections, all intense, all meant for people who would rather face their fears than veil them in fluffy metaphors. She is also my friend and she was generous enough to answer a couple of questions so that you can also get to know her. 

1. So who is Anaïs Chartschenko and how does she embrace art? Btw, no need to speak in the third person, that was me being silly, which happens on this blog from time to time.

Who is this girl? Hmm. Good question. I think that is where art comes in, creating to figure out who, what, why, and what to do about it. Silliness I find incredibly valuable, because I enjoy making art that can get rather dark. If you can’t find a place where all the pain is absurd, keep looking. Someone wiser than me taught me you can’t live in darkness all the time, but when you go there be prepared to laugh in its face.


2. You have three poetry collections out that are pretty intense, can you tell us a bit about each title and the concept behind each?
 

Bright Needles is the first book I published. I wrote some of the poems when I was a teenager! When you are young, a lot of times others tell you how you should feel or respond to events. Bright Needles is my choosing to take control of my own narrative and reject the parts of other’s worldviews that were abhorrent to me. 



The Whisper Collector began as a project for NaNo Wrimo one year. I remember I won that year! 50,000 glorious words in one month… I hadn’t challenged myself that way much before, and it was a month of little sleep. TWC explores relationships-romantic, friendship, those weird in between gray relationships. Trust and lack of trust, and all the ways we can sabotage ourselves.



The Weightless One is a narrative poetry collection- a story told in poetry. It follows a teenage girl from the time she is admitted to an inpatient treatment facility for anorexia until she is released. Although the story is fiction, I based much of the book on my own experience. I utilized the meal plans and therapy charts from my own recovery. I wanted a story that felt real about anorexia, that focused on why more than the superficial desire to have a certain body. I read a lot of books that focused on the surface- thigh gaps and magazines- and what I want to convey with The Weightless One is that eating disorders are coping mechanisms. They aren’t good coping mechanisms, but once you understand that piece, I feel that it is easier to start building new ways of coping. I wrote the story I wanted to read.





3. As someone who also loves to read and write poetry, I’m always amazed at how deeply intense and raw your poetry is, how would you describe your creative process and what is your mindset to capture these true verses?

I usually have a phrase drift through my head and then I start writing. The phrase or scene might come from a dream, or just haunt me until I make sense of it. I made a decision pretty early on that I was not going to hold back- I want to live as honestly as possible. Life is too short to waste wearing masks.


4. When I listen to your music I think of Kate Bush, Diamanda Galas, and Tori Amos. Have any of these artists had an influence on you? How do you go about composing music and lyrics? What are some of your favorite songs to play? 


Kate Bush and Tori Amos have influenced me, but I must confess I am not familiar with Diamanda Galas. Coil and Leonard Cohen are two other influences. I could go on and on… Opera is a huge influence. I studied for 10 years with a vocal coach. Learning how to control my voice was huge. It opened new worlds.

I taught myself how to play the piano as a child, and I would use certain notes or patterns as a secret code. Everything I felt I could not talk about I hid in the piano. I played for hours.

Now, when I compose I am inspired by an aria, dreams, birds… I still just sit and play until something forms I like. Sometimes, a song will come out fully formed… I sit down and sing and play it and that’s that. But I think it is because my subconscious was writing it.



5. You have one of the most varied channels I’ve seen on YouTube, what’s some of what you do and why do you do it?


I’m curious about everything, and like most of what I discover.

- Gaming is what I started with. I enjoy wandering through worlds others imagined and built.

- Beauty Tutorials are just fun, and as I worked as a professional makeup artist, it was a natural extension.

- Toys… well… I like to play with Lego. It is relaxing.

- Music is something I do every day, so why not share?

- Tea time is also something I do every day, and tea time is definitely better with friends.

- Booktube is a natural fit, as a writer and reader. I love meeting fellow book lovers through Youtube!

- Author interviews are one of my favourite things! I get to ask the source for the story behind the story. I’ve been ecstatic with the amazing authors I’ve had the opportunity to talk with: Assaph Mehr, Joshua Robertson, Lilian Oake, YOU!



6. You are hired by magic folk to develop a new spell to help the world, what would that spell be and how would you cast it?


The spell would increase empathy. To perform it, one must grind the proper herbs with mortar and pestle, and then mix them into a ratio of ¾ tea to ¼ whiskey.

All of this would take time. The time would increase the magic, because it would cause people to have to think about what they will say, and how others will react to what they say during the tea time that will directly follow.



7. Can people get your books in physical form? Can you describe a bit about that process?



All three of my books are now available in ebook and paperback on Amazon.com and Createspace!

It has been a long journey. I consider formatting to be one of my greatest personal challenges. I’m just not that skilled! My beloved mother in law designed and formatted the ebook versions of my books. My good friend and fellow author, Assaph Mehr, designed the paperback versions. I am incredibly grateful to have such wonderful people help me with my writing journey.



8. If there was an Anaïs tea blend, what would it taste like and what medicinal properties would it have?

 
I would use a black tea base, and mix it with blackberries for antioxidants and sage (I’ve read that there is some evidence of sage improving cognition in Alzheimer's treatment, but I’m not an MD or anything…).
I want anything that improves brain function. THINK BRAIN THINK



9. If you had to share a daily mantra you practice, what would it be?
 
Every morning with my first cup of tea of the day, I do my vocal exercises. Studying opera gave me discipline I was spotty with before. When I skip it, I miss it.

It is very grounding, and completely changed me. I used to have anxiety attacks, and learning how to take deep diaphragmatic breaths was the key to stopping them. Plus, it is hilarious to sing scales until you sound like you inhaled balloons. It’s hard to take yourself serious when you see how silly you look in the mirror during a complicated run.



10. Where can people find you online and what’s next for Anaïs Chartschenko?
 

I am currently at work on my next novel. You can find me in many places:

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCiw1y7_NUCoADdc5Xnn3whg

Twitter: https://twitter.com/anaisbelieve

Website: http://anaischartschenko.weebly.com/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15387157.Anais_Chartschenko

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/anaischartschenko/

Amazon Page: https://www.amazon.com/Anais-Chartschenko/e/B00J4QSO7C/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1


* * * * 


My thanks to Anaïs for her time and her wonderful answers.  I highly recommend checking out her work and her social media channels. She offers wonderful varied videos and writing of all types that are well worth your time. Also, a special shout out to Assaph Mehr for his help in formatting Anaïs's physical books. He's also an author and his book, "Murder in Absentia" is on my TBR (Click here to go to his website). As for Anaïs, she also has a new live album out and you can find it by clicking here. I also want to thank her for accepting my invitation to be a part of Collaboration Nation, where I partner with fellow authors to craft a tale that is all about enjoying the written word and good company. If you're curious as to what we'll work on, read below and also know I have one pending Collaboration Nation to write with another fellow author, plus working on two full blown collabs, so expect much more news on this soon.

Collaboration Nation: this is an optional thing we can do if you’re interested. Daydreams on the Sherbet Shore Volume 10: The Musical Menagerie Mends Malaise. This would be a short story where we enlist the help of some animals that will help us calm the song of the Worry Wolves and grant everyone in the world one peaceful night of sleep.