Friday, March 25, 2011

Social Networks and ME!

I think social networks can be extremely helpful especially for writers. I like Facebook actually more than Twitter. Twitter makes me feel silly sometimes. I mean I like other people's tweets, but rarely my own. I feel foolish saying things like 'I'm going to sleep now, beddy byes' or quoting something that sounds as if it's come out of a fortune cookie.

I'll tell you what I don't like, particularly about Twitter. I hate when someone starts to follow me, I usually follow them back unless they tweet every five minutes about something they are pushing--too spammy.

What I positively detest is getting a direct message which says: CHECK OUT MY WEBSITE. DON'T MISS MY BLOG THIS WEEK, IT'S ABOUT WRITERS!

Well hello! I'm a writer too, a very hard working one and, please give me the courtesy of not hard selling yourself. I'll get there, on my own time in my own way. I love to re-tweet things too. Just Mr. and Mrs. Followers, please don't come on like gangbusters.

Facebook I love, it's a great diversion. I have made friends there that I genuinely like. I have a profile and an official author page. The author page permits me to promote my writing. I never like sending a message out to a zillion people to get them to buy something I've written, too hard sell for my taste. I like people to join my page on their own and to read my blog posts if it interests them.

Privacy issues got way out of hand when Ning was free. A lot of spammers used it for their purposes. Personally, I would gladly shoot to kill any and all spammers from 'why doncha see me on web cam' to 'buy canadian meds!' 'To my name is Gunga Bunga and I have been reading your profile. I think we can be great friends...'

I always think the next breath would be 'my father works in the bank of Whatta Lotta Noiyve' but he had a heart attack and cannot withdraw the 900 billion dollars he saved--so could you, (yada yada)...!

Privacy issues can be issues! You can make your profile private but when you're like me, trying to interest the entire planet in your novel, you don't and will run into annoying people.

So that's it really, yes I do think social networks work. I think though we should be discerning about them, exerting caution as in all things.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A short review: Part II - the story continues...

To recap on Part I...

I had dozed off, again. It was becoming a habit – power napping, so someone had told me once. Still, when it happened, this time, I was ready. The onslaught of flashing lights appeared before me. Yet, despite my readiness, the psychedelic, whirling, swirling bustle of colour still challenged my senses. Each time it seemed the same, yet different; different enough to enthral me.

Was I becoming addicted?

Whatever “it” was, “it” drew me forward. I had no power to resist this inescapable fall though the rushing, gushing river of light. Addiction! “It” carried over the rock-strewn precipice of a white-water rapid. Only there was no river; no rapid…

And when I landed I still found need to pause for breath.

I waited.

I was not waiting long. The gatekeeper had clearly seen my approach. Again, through the darkness that erupted before me, I sensed the movement. I knew that the blackness would only fade to a dark, impenetrable grey.

‘Hello,’ said the voice; the same squeaky, inquisitive voice as before; ‘…you again.’

You recognised me? I replied.

‘Not difficult, really… if you think about it.’

‘I don’t,’ I said.

‘Most visit here late at night – or in their lunch times at work. We don’t have too many like you.’

‘Like me? You mean my ability to stumble upon you during the middle of the evening.’

‘Yes. When others are either watching peak-time television – all that crap programming…’

‘Tell me about it.’

‘…or messing with their friends on Facebook, or whatever.’

‘Whatever. Those social networks… I’ve tried them.’

‘That’s why you’re here, isn’t it? said my squeaky voiced inquisitor.

‘I mean, they’re OK…’

‘I sense a but…’


‘I was right!’

‘But can anyone really have over a thousand friends? How does that work?’ I said. Then, when my inquisitor didn’t respond right away, ‘…it doesn’t for me.’

‘They can’t… work, I mean. Think about it. It’s a matter of control. And to be a little cynical about it… it’s no more than outsourced market segmentation. He or she who controls a network of contacts has the capacity to influence them. Or to sell that control. The internet is no more than a mesh of outsourced market segments sold on to the highest bidder. Have you ever thought about what you are doing when you sign up to a social network?’

‘Yes… giving away my privacy.’

‘Too damn right, my friend… your privacy and your rights. You have something of value. You lot have your ability to influence others. And you just give it away. Philanthropists… that’s what you all are.’

‘Hypocrite,’ I announced. ‘… and I told you before, you are not my friend.’

‘And I told you, you are talking to me – and here, in this space, that gives me the right to call you a friend.’

I wasn’t going to win that one. A change of tack… ‘Are you smiling?’ I asked.

‘Cool,’ said squeaky, ‘you got that… here in the dark? I am impressed. Maybe you are not like the others.’

‘So, you hypocrite of a squeaky gatekeeper, what are you hiding down here? You still wanting me to join in? I tell you, social networks don’t work for me.’

‘We’re not a social network, they promise nothing in return for your soul… What are you? A writer? Yes, you are, aren’t you?’

‘What if I am?’

‘See, you think these networks are the answer to your dreams… You sell your soul to them… and what do you get? Bombarded by the uninterested and the uninteresting. It’s all “you scratch my back I’ll scratch yours”. And there are a lot of back scratchers out there looking for an itch.’


‘Never suggested otherwise,’ said Squeaky.

I decided on attack. A challenge. ‘Go on,’ I started, ‘what’s different about this place? Aren’t you just after my details? You just want me to register somewhere… so you can sell them on? How do you handle privacy issues here?

‘No issue. And no, we just want your soul, David!’

“David”. I rocked back. The sound of hearing my own name squeaked by the unseen hypocritical cynic of a gatekeeper to – well, to God knows what – shook me. I’d been struck dumb. But, gradually, the power of speech returned.

‘How…,’ I was unsure how to respond. ‘How…,’ I stumbled with my words.

‘How did I know who you are?

‘Y y yyes,’ I stammered.

‘You don’t think you found this site by accident do you?

I reeled…

Go on, you want to know what’s here, don’t you? Whether we can help you or not? You’re hooked! I can tell.

‘I still can’t see anything at all here, it’s too dark’

And suddenly, there it was again. The window opened in front of my eyes. The flash almost blinded me. The same loud unwelcome tune struck up, its discordant notes filling the air. The window beckoned me. It called me forward as the deafening music dulled my senses.

Déjà vu.

‘Go on,’ said squeaky ‘enter, you know you want to.’

But all I could think of was how the hell had they got my name. I stared in disbelief as my hand reached out. My fingers seemed to hover over the window. Then it was gone. The discordant tones silenced. Relief.

‘Still chicken!’

‘Then you’re no friend of mine.’

‘Too late, David, this is my world. Remember, you do not matter in my world, my friend! Do you have a Favourite?’

This was scary. I had not been prepared for this. More déjà vu. ‘I’m not going anywhere I don’t want to.’

‘You are here now. All friends have favourites,’ squeaky added. ‘Just click there, in that little box. Accept me as a friend and favourite. Forget about Facebook… sell your soul to me, David.’

I had to get out of there. How did I do it before… I struggled to remember. A dim source lit an otherwise meaningless swirling darkness. And, in the shade, there appeared the series of stepping stones again. They suddenly made sense. Buttons. Buttons to click on and explore this site further. No.

Déjà vu. I remembered. I took the step backward. Light replaced dark. I could see again. Gone was the dark impression – the absence of light. My focus returned and I could see my outstretched hand. I squeezed the mouse.


To be continued… ;)

Miss Part I?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Social Networks: A Time and A Place

Recently, while standing in line to sign out after another day filming [ censored ] in the glorious city of [ censored ] in [ censored ], a fellow background actor commented that he thought that Twitter was a waste of time.

I tried vainly to argue in favor of it, from the viewpoint of it being a great marketing tool and a great way to update sports scores. However, he then asked me what could I do on Twitter that I couldn’t do on Facebook? The best thing I could say was that redundancy can be good sometimes.

I should also point out that, at the end of the last big scene of this movie, the director [ censored ] brought up a bunch of the stars, including Diane [ censored ], James [ censored ] and about six others to congratulate them. Their roles in the film were done and we bid them a fond farewell.

It was one of those “Saturday Night Live” bits where everyone is on stage, while the audience applauds and cheers until blood runs down their forearms and their vocal chords snap. There were movie cameras and crew milling about. The only thing missing -- a social networking aspect.

No doubt, you’ve been wondering why the “[ censored ]” has been appearing all over this blog. The producers of this film are adamant that the world’s social networks like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter not let the cat out of the bag, so to speak. To that end, all of us involved in making the picture had to sign confidentiality agreements.

Other than the fact that I’m equating myself with the people who actually do all the hard work in making these movies, one thing was clear. We could not talk openly about this movie. Nor were any pictures allowed to be taken. While this is usually a hard, fast rule on any movie set, on this particular film, it was aggressively enforced, with threats of legal action. And, although I can’t mention the production company that has been kind enough to pay me, the founder of this company deprived a lot of men from seeing Annette Funicello in a bikini. So, his company does have some clout.

Anyway, one of the most rigid rules of the confidentiality agreement was that we not talk about the film on any social networks. We cannot mention particulars on FB or tweet where we are filming. Some of the backgrounders, especially those who live and die by Facebook, may have a hard time keeping to this , but I’ve been in the game long enough (21 years...actually, four years stretched out over 21) to pay heed. In fact, having been described by this film’s director as “one of our most reliable background actors,” I think I’d get no slack for slipping up. Some people might even by "molly-fied" (inside joke, sorry).

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m angling that the confidentiality agreement and ban on pictures was an attempt by the powers that be to circumvent the amazingly quick social networks that can make or break things, whether it’s right or wrong. Social networks like FB, MySpace and Twitter get information out to the general public so fast that, reportedly, people in eastern Libya found out about the NATO air strikes from Twitter before they saw the smoke. 

It can alter even the most ardent routine. Some artists like Public Enemy have taken to only releasing their material online, believing that they’ll get faster responses than by the traditional routes. And, with so many leaks these days, whether its leaked songs or Wikileaks, it's trouble just keeping up sometimes.

Speaking of Wikileaks, there’s a down side, too. Despite the best intentions of the production company of my movie, things still leaked out. The lead female's pics appeared on about a dozen blogs and social nights before I even got home from the set Saturday night. And how can you stop it? The fans and stargazers at the set were exercising their right to freedom of speech after all. 

All this means that social networks do figure into the entertainment world with great prominence. Even I, as anti-social as they come, do use the social networks of the world.

For one thing, I sort of have to. As a professional sports writer, I rely on Facebook, MySpace and, yes, even Twitter to get my stories to the general public.

Perhaps it is this reason why I don’t use the same social networks as much for my science fiction and horror. As anyone in the news biz can tell you, reporters are far more comfortable reporting the news instead of being it.

Plus, I just can’t hang with what’s going on with these social sites anyway.

I often chastise my nieces, nephews et al for getting too personal on social networks. Why the [ bleep ] would I care that you just had your first bowel movement in a week?

Sometimes I think that Twitter should be renamed “TMI!”

Well, that's a blog for another time.

That said, I will mention a dirty word -- censorship. Normally, I hate it, but, with social networks, I actually favor a modicum of it. If only to save us from ourselves. Especially if your last name happens to be Sheen. Or if you happen to be a blonde UCLA student who thinks all of America’s ills can be blamed on Asians. Or if you're a Jersey girl.

Suffice it to say that I don’t regularly use social networks, outside of my professional work. Does it hurt my efforts to get people to notice my ficiton? Probably. I cannot say for certain because I really don’t know if anyone would notice if I posted a story amidst all the rambling posts people put on FB and Twitter.

But, who am I to decide?

They say that any publicity is better than no publicity at all.

Really? Just ask Gilbert Gottfried.

Social networks can vary from useful to completely necessary. Just watch what you say or do.

The Electronic Age of Enlightenment is too often dogged by its insufferable siblings The Age of Stupidity and The Age of Selfishness.

In other words, be social, but not TOO social.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Make it Work, Dammit!

Our topic this week mirrors the one last week at Write in The Shadows, interestingly enough. And no, it's not my fault, it's just a coincidence because I don't do the schedules on either blog anymore.

Do social networks work for you? Yes, without a doubt.

How do you handle privacy issues? For me, it's pretty cut and dry - use a pen name and don't post personal stuff you don't want the world to know. But what if you don't have a pen name? Then things get trickier.

You will actually have to learn how to use all those nifty privacy settings - like who can view which albums you post, who receives your writing related status updates or news on your kid's latest achievement at school. And here is a novel suggestion - stop playing games and allowing apps that steal and/or share your personal information.

Do you have a favorite? Yes, Facebook. Although, I have some friends who rave about Twitter and I know I need to use it more. I just don't have the time to master one more social tool. Sucks time from my writing and/or my general procrastination to write.

Since I mentioned time sucks, I have to say I never use the aforementioned Facebook apps and games. Did a little reading on that one and decided no thanks, I did not want a third party developer to have access to my information... just for a cute game or bling thingy.

"Friends" of C.J. on Facebook will notice several things: 

1) There are almost no pictures of my children posted -- just one. It is the last picture taken of my nephew when he visited with us and it happened to be when he was seated with my kids. I didn't take a ton of pictures when he was here last because I was worried he was getting too old to tolerate his aunt hounding him with a camera, "Oh, you're going bowling with the kids? Here, take this and get some pictures."

2) I almost never mention my children in status updates or anything else. The stuff I do share is usually personal and always true.

3) Rarely do I mention my frustrations with my husband, because (although common) they are quite fleeting and to harp about them on Fb it would sound like we're on the verge of divorce or something. We're not, we're normal and he drives me crazy sometimes.

4) You'll never see me bitch about another writer. Not professional and I won't do it. Ages past, I mentioned a reviewer on Goodreads once who was a close friend of one of my competitors, who slammed my unpublished work during a contest... and later she bitched I sent my fans after her.

Since none of my FB friends ever emailed her or said anything about her, I can't say that anyone went after her. But, I learned that I should keep my mouth shut when I felt unjustly attacked in an biased "review" or blog posting. And yes, it just about killed me to do so. Good lesson to learn and I certainly see enough new writers commenting on reviews who need to learn the same hard truth.

5) Nothing nice to say? Then zip it! Never argue publicly -- whether it's Twitter, Facebook, or a comment on a blog post. It will never work out well. Considering I never shy away from a bully or confrontations, you can bet this one has been a hard one for me to swallow.

And now, I'll tell you something you all probably know about the Internet. Were you ever teased or bullied as a child?

Growing up outside Manhattan during my teenage years, living in the single most competitive metropolitan area I've ever been exposed to, taught me to not back down and to stand up for the underdog. I'd never been picked on or teased so much in my entire life until I moved north. Kids are cruel and it's a harsh reality learning to deal with narrow-minded bigots -- of whom, I found, there are many more north of the Mason-Dixon Line, than south of it.

Those angry hostile people aren't just near Manhattan and they didn't disappear as I grew older. They're online now and in social networks. It's a great tool, but it's also a great weapon for those who are mean-spirited and have an agenda. My advice is to learn how to make these networks work for you and cut yourself off immediately from anyone who may wish you harm.

You'll never change someone's opinion by arguing with them in an open forum and it's best if you don't say anything that can be twisted back on you later. Proceed with caution and wear your game face. But above all, you've got to be in it to win it, and social networking is here to stay. Learn to use it wisely so you can benefit from it.

How about you? What's your favorite social networking tool and why? Anyone have some twitter advice for me?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Notes? What notes?

This week, the Wicked Writers team was given the task of posting on how we go about keeping our novels, notes and ideas organized. Sadly, mine is not the greatest of examples. It is more of “do as I say and not as I do” kind of thing. I learned that from dear old dad, by the way. When he wanted me off of his grass, I was told that it was his grass. When he wanted me to mow the grass, I would hear, “You need to mow the yard, son. It’s your yard too, you know”. While he was teaching me how to drive, that thinking moved to the use of the radio. “Leave the radio alone,” he would say. “It’s distracting.” When he was driving, it suddenly became, “Leave the radio alone. The radio is for the driver.”

With that in mind, please continue reading this post, but treat what is written here as if it were one of those infamous “don’t let this happen to you” Army films.

As many of you may know, it took me twenty years to write the first novel. I went through all sorts of maturation, one aspect of which was learning as I went the importance of note-taking as well as the importance of the organization of said notes. Did I take any notes during this time? Absolutely. I just couldn’t begin to recap all of that after so many years and so many changes.

I wrote two drafts of the second novel in only eight months. I can explain the note taking on that one because it happened so quickly. There was a lot less time to get it wrong. On the other hand, the only type of things that I needed help keeping track of were character traits such as what color eyes someone had or their personality quirks. Since much of my writing is simply allowing the images to appear inside my head – with me only having to write them down -, I have simply had the blessing of not needing to jot down that many notes.

See, I told you. Not the best role model, am I?

I am still a work in progress, however. I suppose that this is true for all of us. Even the established greats would probably admit this. In my case, I have only written two large works. With each one I showed remarkable growth. I moved from not giving outlining too much thought to suddenly penciling down each chapter, blow by blow. Although I marvel at those who have binders and shelves full of notes, outlines and the like, perhaps I may one day find myself there as well. I just don’t know.

Sometime this year I will begin work on the third novel in my vampire series. It is currently little more than a typed three page outline at this point, with the rest of what I foresee simply gestating inside my mind. Perhaps sometime later this year or early next I can begin revealing how much further I have matured.

Since I am in such poor shape and in desperate need of counseling, please enlighten me: How do you folks manage your writing projects? What are the big mistakes that writers make that you might be able to shed some light on? What have you learned from personal experience? I’d love to hear. Perhaps the next pupil that you will correct is me. As you can see from the photos, my notes are piled up on a shelf in my library. Heck! I don't even have a desk.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Organization from the Anal Retentive

Quote: “Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up.” – A. A. Milne

Quote: “One person’s mess is merely another person’s filing system.” – Margo Kaufman

When it comes down to organizing my notes, files and anything writing related (which, by my definition, is most of my home) = I MUST control.

Perhaps that little kink of mine is because most of my life has been out of control – left to the gods-that-be who think large blocks of pain and suffering are good for the soul, it builds character, and all that other rubbish.

So, blame it on my OCD or my manic bouts of bi-polar energy, but I have to have everything organized. A place for everything and everything in it’s place.

The thing is, nobody understands my thoughts on organization. And, even I have to admit, sometimes I have to stop and think. It all boils down to what ‘mood’ I was in when I’m organizing. How I file when I’m in the middle of a manic depressive episode is quite different from my manic energy episodes, which is quite different than my manic bouts with anger. Throw in my compulsive disorder and the way the chemicals in my brain decide to mix and mingle like a bad Molotov cocktail and you’ll see my dilemma.

I’m so well organized, I can’t find things exactly when I want them.

Oxy-moron you say? Well, welcome to my world. Heavy emphasis on the ‘moron.’

But, being the master of my organized writing world would be nothing without the tools that make it so. I would be lost without:

  1. my external hard drive (called J-drive on my computer).
  2. my filing cabinets (two tall, industrial size, one short and squat).
  3. my bookcases.
  4. a 24 hole mail slot case-rack-thing I have no idea the name of.
  5. Rubbermaid containers (various sizes and colors), magazine holders and trays.
  6. file folders – flat and accordion, in an array of colors – some with handles/locks.
  7. hard, three ring notebooks of various sizes.
  8. pocket folders (paper and plastic), report covers, and tabbed indexed dividers.
  9. my trusty Dymo label maker.

WRITING LESSONS: I usually attend three week-long internet writing workshops a year. I also try to take 1-2 writing classes per month on the internet, as well. This information gets placed in files on my external hard drive (that way, my internal drives stay clog-free and I can hook my external hard-drive to any computer I work on and have access to my information). All writing information is found under WRITING. From there I have four sections: all things writing, research, classroom lessons, and MY original works.

Research and classroom lessons are self-explanatory and have LOTS of sub-folders in them.

All things writing is just that: all things pertaining to the craft of writing. Things like plot, beginnings/middles/endings, dialogue, structure, setting, description, scene, conflict, voice, style, atmosphere, tone, pacing, arcs, etc. I also have files on editing, grammar, master worksheets for outlines, characters, and plot, a section pertaining to the rules of certain genres, etc.

My original works consists of all my WIPs, a section of blog ideas, a section of blog ideas already written and published, published shorts, contests entries, etc.

As much as I have embraced the computer world, I have to admit my favorite way to keep everything -- EXCEPT my actual WIP – is on good old-fashioned handwritten hardcopy.

NOTES: Usually found on things like post-it-notes, half torn ‘legal pad’ yellow sheets, colorful lined index cards and bar napkins. These are thrown in a wire mesh tray, and sorted through once every three months. The items get placed in the appropriate file folders, marked by subject, organized by color code and sectioned in the first three drawers of the army green filing cabinet.

OTHER IDEAS: Things like newspaper clippings, torn-out magazine pictures, mini-cassette recordings from interviews or dictation, transcribed notes, computer printouts, souvenirs, post cards, and old photographs found at estate sales and flea markets – are placed in a black, two-tier tray (one tray for flat items, one for bulk) and sorted through once every four months. The items get placed in the appropriate file folders or small rubber maid containers, marked by subject, organized by color code and sectioned in the first three drawers of the steel-grey filing cabinet.

So, whenever I need one of the three “I’s” (inspiration, ideas or information) it is just a drawer and a glance away (unless I’ve placed it in another holding tray – this time, a maple wood tray on the third shelf of my blonde bookcase). This usually happens if I think I’ll be using the item soon, or if I have no idea how to file it. I go through this tray once every six months and if I haven’t used it/filed it/figured out what to do with it, I throw it out.

SPROUTS: These are stories that have gone beyond the note stage, germinated into some fleshed out ideas, have pictures, partial outlines, and brief character sketches. However, they are too small, too immature, to be classified as an ‘official’ WIP. I have placed these gems in very colorful vinyl file folders, marked by an identifying title and placed in the first section, top drawer in my army green filing cabinet.

I try to go through these when ever I have the ‘urge’ to work on something new, but don’t want to take energies away from my current ‘darlings.’

WIPs: All works in progress that have outgrown their ‘Sprout’ file folders are placed in what I call a “bible.”  I do this by going to my stockpile of hard-backed ringed notebook binders (twenty-five cents, used, at Salvation Army and found in my huge cedar rubber maid container), my stockpile of poly indexed tabbed dividers (stored in a bamboo magazine holder on my white bookshelf) and my stockpile of pocket folders (stored in a blue plastic magazine holder on my white bookshelf, as well.)

I assemble the notebook, dividing the sections up by plot, character info sheets, a drawn map of the town, sketches of interiors mentioned, story outline, etc. The pocket folders are added to hold pictures, clippings, and any information pulled from the “notes” files mentioned above. The result is a one-stop ‘bible’ of everything pertinent to what I am working on. When not in use, I place them on my dark wood bookcase.

HOT WIPs: Stories that I am currently ‘hot’ on get special treatment. Not only do they have their own ‘bible’ that sits prominently on my desk, but anything I edit, I print and place in a covered report folder and let it sit. Then, when I have the time, I can go through and read it – make notes, adjustments, what-nots, let it sit some more, and go back through it again. These ‘hot’ things set in my red tray on my writing table, along with the file folder of submissions.

RETIRED WIPs: My retired works in progress (whether because they are done or I no longer have an interest in them) are taken out of the three-ringed notebook. Any information (photos, maps, brochures, clippings) that can be re-used is placed in another tray (painted purple) to await me to re-file them (usually every two months). Anything immediately related to the story (character sheets, outline, sketches, etc) get placed in an accordion file, along with a printout of the story thus far. A CD of the story is burned as well, and placed in a small rubber maid container and stored in my filing cabinet with the rust at the bottom. Another copy of the story is archived on my external hard drive.

So, this is how I do my organization for novels, ideas and notes. I find that, although it sounds like a lot of work, there isn’t much effort once the initial stage is set. This does not include all my other organization of writing supplies, computer programs used for writing, and all the other stuff a writer brings to the office.

In retrospect, for me:

  • An organized office – free from clutter - keeps my distractions down and my OCD at bay.
  • An organized writing life keeps my brain from sweating the small, insignificant stuff and I feel I can focus more on writing than on searching. 
  • The ‘organizing’ and ‘cleaning’ aspects to my writing life are a way for me to take the ‘unbridled’ destructive energy that plagues bi-polar people and twist it into something useful for my career.

Are you organized? Does it make you feel good to control this aspect of your life?  Or do you prefer the organization of clutter?

PS - sorry this was late - I was having trouble with blogger and I kept getting an error for most of the morning.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Musing on Organization.

This week's topic is "How do you keep your novels, notes, and ideas organized."

I may be a hypocrite when it comes to being organized. I always preach about how important it is to outline and plot and research and save copies of everything. But does that mean my desk and filing cabinet are in perfect order? Er... not exactly.

A third of my notes are in a notebook. Most of those are things I had to jot down in a hurry, or lists I made so I don't forget something, or scribbles of brainstorming, or a few nonsense doodles that came out during a mental block. In other words, no one could read my notebook front to back and make sense of it. Not even me.

An other third of my notes are typed up, printed out, and in a three-ring binder or folder. But even those are messy because I have a ton of them. They sit in a stack, all of them unlabeled so I have to open each one and peek inside to find the one I need. Brilliant, I know.

The final third of my notes are typed up and saved on my computer (with a second copy on my flash drive). These are the most organized of my notes. Every three months or so, I take the time to re-organize my saved documents. I delete stuff I don't need, print out stuff that would be easier to reference on a hard copy, and then re-arrange the rest.

As for my ideas - I assume this means ideas for new projects? Because ideas for current projects are scribbled in my notebook somewhere. Ideas for projects I haven't started on yet stay lodged in my brain.

Keeping novels organized is easy. I sketch and outline for those and save copies of everything on a folder on my computer (and flash drive). I have a folder for each book and short story I've ever worked on so I can always go back to it and pick up where I left off if I need to.

Um, okay, this post ended up much shorter and much more pointless than I anticipated. I don't really have a moral or thought-provoking ending for you. My stuff isn't in neat-freak perfect order, but I know where everything is. Is there a better method out there? Probably. Maybe one of the other Wicked Writers will elaborate on that.

As for me, I'm off to work on Dark Heirloom some more. Have a great Monday. :-)

Friday, March 11, 2011

Dear Author, Thank You For Writing This Book!

Sydney Carton climbing the scaffold in 'A Tale of Two Cities.'
The question for me this week was: when you read do you send the author a note? Why or why not?

I'll be honest with you. I don't stay with a book I don't care for. I've heard a writer can learn from reading a poorly written book. My reaction to that truthfully is I'm not interested. I would prefer to read some passages perhaps in order to learn what not to do, but I'm afraid that doesn't include reading the entire book. I mean I'd go off the deep end at some point. I'd not want to pick it up, etc.

With regard to wanting to 'write a note to an author' I'd choose to do this for the most positive of reasons.

A book comes to mind immediately that would warrant such a note. The note would concern one of the most unforgettable characters in the magnificent  A Tale of Two Cities. Now, I'd have very much wanted to dash off a note to Charles Dickens about this book, particulary with regard to the character, Sydney Carton!

To have a man choose to die in another's place for the love of a woman, is profound!
Carton, a careless. bored man who cares about nothing happens to fall deeply in love with a young woman. The only problem is she is deeply in love already with a goodly man who happens to be an aristocrat in 18th Century France!

Written against the backdrop of the French Revolution, this is a tale indeed of two cities: Paris and London. But it is in Paris where our tale ends. It is in this great city that Dickens brings us face to face with Mme. Guillotine and the impending death of Mr. Carton.

I first read this in high school and have re-read it many times over the years. I wish I could have told Dickens how greatly it affected me. How I was never able to forget it.

So you see for me to feel I'd like to type a note (my handwriting is the pits) to an author means I'm reading a very special book. A book that has gripped me and affected me greatly, a book that is indeed talking to me--telling me things, perhaps even changing my values or at the very least if not changing them completely, making me think in ways I never thought before!

When reading Susan Hill, Daphne DuMaurier, Charlotte Bronte, Emily Bronte or Anne Rice to name a few--I have found myself wishing I could tell them how much I was enjoying their stories.

To Anne Rice I'd say, oh Miss Rice! Thank you for writing thought-provoking horror. Horror that depends on a story and finely drawn characters for its power. Thank you for not writing about a giant slug that might have eaten all of Hoboken!

I want to read what I love. I want to savor the prose, feel the setting. I want to experience the story and the characters. I want to feel something. I want it to be worthwhile.

When reading Stephen King's Pet Sematary I fully understood the fear King must have had (in fact I read he was fearful) of one of his children being hit by a truck. I felt that fear and empathized completely.

With regard to that novel, who hasn't wished they could bring back someone they loved from death? Surely it is a fantasy we all share, short of actually plunging into some sort of hideous rite!

I'd say of course I'd love to write to tell the author of a book that has gripped me and affected me how very much I've enoyed it.

I think mainly I would say to each of the authors whose books I have enjoyed: thank you for writing this story, it's enriched my life. It's given me a greater understanding of humanity, of God, of love of all things that are worth thinking about. Yes, dear author! Thank you, indeed!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

An open letter to Stieg...

Dear Stieg,

I hope you do not mind my lack of formality. Having read your writing I feel I have come to know something of you, or at least a little of how you think about certain things. Starting a letter “Dear Mr Larsson” sounds a little to prim for my liking.

I have just finished reading your Millennium Trilogy. I must say, you had me going there… in the past years, since I took to writing myself, I have hardly read three books, let alone a trilogy of three full books! And full they are too. Eighteen hundred and fifty pages altogether – at least in the edition I have read. It is probably just as well you had a publisher – I’d hate to have posted out self-published versions to all my friends and family. Just think of all that postage! If I wasn’t a Luddite, the physical weight of your masterpieces would be enough to tempt me into a acquiring a Kindle! But enough of technology.

I must say, in Lisbeth Salander, you have created one hell of a character – an enigma indeed! If only I had a photographic memory like hers, I could at least remember how to spell the words I use in my own writing without the need for a spell checker on my computer, or an over-large version of the Concise Oxford Dictionary taking up valuable space on my over-full desk. Still… Oh! for the life of a published author… But it must have been a pain for you with drafts of the three manuscripts, presumably on A4 paper, spread all over your desk as you kept track of the various and complex threads of the Millennium story. (Do they have A4 in Sweden?)

Looking back, I think it was your plot that got me hooked. It was not the writing. I am sorry, but it may be a feature of the translation from Swedish to English – I’m not familiar with Reg’s work – but I do find the writing somewhat stilted. However, I do accept that it could, of course, be a function of my northern heritage. Or the fact that it appears to have been a UK edited American translation of your original Swedish… Now, there is potential for mixed messages, if ever there was! But, dear-o-dear, Stieg, did you really have to put a complete page-worth of shopping items from Ikea into the “The Girl Who Played with Fire”? For me – and I know this is wholly subjective – it was painful to read. It is bad enough that the interiors of many UK middle-class homes suffer from identikit Swedish-look decors, fuelled by the propensity of UK TV broadcasters to schedule make-over programmes that lack any sense of creativity and play on the lack of taste and mediocrity that are characteristic of the proletariat. But to have to read the names of items I have purposely avoided purchasing in the past, just did not do it for me.

I do like the idea of rogue departments of the security services being left out in the cold, forgotten and clearly up to no good. The clarity of this idea in the "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest" is superb. Globally, there must be a whole darn mess of them, particularly in both the UK and the US. Your trilogy raises some interesting political and social questions which you clearly had in mind when writing it. Yet I think the conflation of the social and political elements across the series lends a somewhat schizophrenic air to the plot – particularly in the first novel – that I feel is compounded by the titles. I do think that some might wonder if the "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" had an earlier and less feminine title at its first draft. (Quickly Googles for info: Men who hate Women; my question is answered.)

Was the first novel always a part of a trilogy? Or did you find by the end of the manuscript that the girl you had merely introduced to help the hero – Blomkvist – in the first novel, took on a role bigger than initially envisaged and, like a juggernaut, the plot started to take on a significant momentum as it careered down the slope of your narrative arc? Knowing something of the penchant of publishers and editors to change the work of the “artist” writer (and that fact that you were clearly unable, for obvious and wholly unfortunate reasons, to argue any differently), are you happy that the choice of titles for the English language edition do justice to the concept you held for the series? For my part, the first novel would have made more sense to me if the title had been more reflective of your original choice.

If, as I have said, I find the writing a little off for me, why might I agree with the popular voice in congratulating you on the success of your series? Why might I be writing to you, today, to add my voice to the millions of other readers who have enjoyed your work? Well, if I may, I will make an observation drawn on someone you may well have met recently (or if not, you should look him up and have a chat with him!) Oscar Wilde once said that “Anybody can write a three-volumed novel. It merely requires a complete ignorance of both life and literature.” (The Critic as an Artist.) Yet, he also said that “Literature always anticipates life. It does not copy it, but moulds it to its purpose.” (The Decay of Lying.) In the Millennium Trilogy, I feel that you have, indeed, moulded life for a purpose. Not “Anybody” could achieve such purpose and I thank you for demonstrating that. I think it is a shame that that purpose may well be obscured by its popularity – a product not of the artist but of the publishing industry.

My thoughts are with you.


David Sartof

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Thank-you Notes? No Thanks

It seems we have a curious topic at Wicked Writers this week.

It deals with thank-you notes and have we ever sent t hem out.

Going by C.J.’s blog yesterday, it seems that she is referring to sending out thank-you notes to authors after reading their books.

Hey, that might float some people’s boats, but not mine. Honestly, my version of a thank-you note in that case is:

“Hey, I just paid $$$ for your book! THANK YOU!”

By the way, that’s what every book sales receipt implicitly implies.

Think about it if you’re on the other end of this note. You write a book. It gets published and someone buys it at Barnes & Nobles (or Borders if they happen to live close to the one remaining store). You get royalties from the book sales.

That’s all you should expect.

You’re probably not going to get a thank-you note. If you do, you have the makings of a fan club.


You have the makings of a stalker.

It depends. If the note begins “…just wanted to thank you for a superb story,” you’re probably safe.

If it begins, instead with “I’m your biggest fan,” then, you’re probably in a lot of trouble.

Maybe I’m being cynical, though anyone who knows me knows that would hardly ever be the case. Getting a nice thank-you note from a sincere reader might just be icing on the cake for an author, especially a first-time author.

Seriously, though, it has never occurred to me to write any author a thank-you note for a book I’ve read. As I mentioned earlier, if I paid for it, that’s enough. If I read it in the library, it’s public domain material and the public is notoriously fickle, “fickle” meaning “not all there.”

As Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen) once said “Is it just me, Ed or is the whole world crazy?” to which Ed (George Kennedy) replied, “No, it’s just a small percentage of the population.”

Another thing to consider is that most authors don’t get the fan mail directly. With all the kooks and nuts and groupies out there, it’s dangerous to ever list your home or mailing address. Instead, the fan mail usually goes to the publisher, who then has a lackey go through it, looking for threats (and perfume and panties and bras and room keys and Google maps to homes…).

Besides, a lot of authors use pen names anyway, so you’d never be sure of finding the real address anyway.  Depending on your genre, that might not be a bad idea, since we can’t all live in small-town Maine where a stranger who runs down a famous author and never apologizes dies under mysterious circumstances a year to the day, hour and minute.

Which bodes ill for me since I use my full name (what with all the Gregory M. Smiths in the Atlanta area alone).

Memo: When I become famous, get unlisted phone number and listing in phone book. 
P.S.: Provided they even make phone books anymore.

On a lighter note, I do think it is polite and necessary to send thank-you notes for critiques. If someone takes the time to make a critique, however negative (or however positive if you’re reading something from any Wicked Writer with a full first name), you should thank them for taking their valuable time to read your work.

No matter how shocked they might have been by the intensely erotic XXX sex scenes or how bewildered they might have been by the fact that the denizens of the supernatural are now sex symbols, thank them anyway.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Dear Author, I Really Hated...

I thought this week's topic was kind of cute and rather fun. When you read a book do you write to the author afterward? Unless I know the author personally, then no, I don't.

Sometimes, I do pen elaborate ones in my head while reading the book and later when parts of the book still remain in my mind, for whatever reason. Like most consumers, if I enjoyed the book I tell everyone I know. If I didn't, the things I disliked may plague me like a bad taste in the mouth and I will dream of writing the author to tell them my thoughts.

But I don't do it. Why? Well, for starters, who am I to judge them or their vision? Just because I didn't care for it does not mean others won't think it's the bees knees. I read a bestselling erotica ebook author this week and while her writing was well done, I did not care for some of the details she wove in.


You've read my descriptive sex prose and think that's the pot calling the kettle black? 

No, not really. I may write some very racy, sometimes raunchy stuff, but at no point does my work read like a porn movie put into words. And yes, even though my work has been called porn (and smut) by a few, I know the difference because I actually watch porn. Perhaps, those people who called my work porn haven't ;-)

Since picking up the ebook bestseller I mentioned, I can now say I have also read very well written porn. Mistake me not, I thought it was porn and not erotica. But, let's clarify, that is only my opinion.

Would I write to this author? Never, not in a million years. She is making money hand over fist with over a dozen books out, has won numerous awards, and would laugh at me all the way to the bank. I told my husband my impressions today about her work. When I described the scenario he just about coughed up his coffee. "Holy crap, there's a whole genre of porn devoted to that angle. Almost sounds borderline fetish."

Now, before you all spit your coffee out laughing at my hypocrisy, no my husband and I are not heavy purveyors of porn. It's impossible not to know what's out there and what other people like if you happen to be searching for the stuff you like.

Case in point - our very first trip to a Hollywood Hustler (HH) store when we were in New Orleans in November. While completing my overpriced purchase, the cashier asked if I wanted a plain bag or a bag from their store. I laughed out loud. What the hell? I'm on Bourbon Street on a Saturday night at 10:30 and I'm worried what a stranger will think of an HH bag?

"Nah, you can use your bag, it not like you carry midget porn or something and I need to be embarrassed," I said.

"Actually, we do carry midget porn. But it's classic and very well done."

I turned about five shades of red and burst out laughing. Oh! That'll teach me to spout off some quip without thinking!

My point, in a round about way of explaining, is there will always be a market for stuff in erotica I would prefer not to read. Just like the huge market of the adult film industry will have thousands of titles I'd rather never, ever knew existed. Do I intend to write to the author and tell her I would have liked it better if she cut out such and such gross parts? No, I don't.

Perhaps she has a male dominated readership. Perhaps some chicks like the over the top fantasy scenarios that don't have any basis in my reality, and frankly have a bit of an ick factor for me. It's got to be floating someone's boat or it wouldn't be selling.

Back to my original statement from above -- who am I to judge? I can think of no other way to look at writing to an author with any type of criticism of their work. If it's an author I know well, I will point out typos, grammar, and plot inconsistencies if I have the time -- and if I know they would want to know and might fix the mistakes. I've also told them in emails the things I really like about their books.

But mostly, if I have good things to say, I will write a review -- even if I don't know the author. First and foremost I am a reader and if I liked something about a book, I will happily point it out for future readers. If I don't care for it and I don't know the author, I'll keep my damn mouth shut.

As an author, I will not always be able to make every reader happy. There will be those who hate my style, dislike my voice, can't stand my characters, and think my plot sucks. I accept this. But I hope with all my heart, if a reader dislikes my work to the point they'd say "hate", that they choose not to write to me and point out what they hated.

I can't please everyone and I don't plan to rewrite any book to appease an angry reader. I'd tell them to please return the book where they purchased it and get their money back-- and I'd wish them well.

How about you? What would you do if you received hate mail regarding your work? Or have you ever sent a letter to an author that was borderline hostile?

Friday, March 4, 2011


I typically take a peek at the upcoming topic the weekend before. I like to try and stay ahead, but also to allow my thoughts to begin collecting, thus making it easier to write the post. In doing so, the theme of the post reveals itself, sentences begin to form and each paragraph tends to begin lining up, jockeying for position.

This week’s topic was easy and, although I am only beginning to write it, I daresay that it will write itself. (Editor’s note: it did.)

For those of you who have come to know me, I hope you will not find this post to be repetitive. I have spoken about some of this before. For those of you who don’t know me very well, allow me to set it up.

I started writing late in life. That’s not exactly true. What I mean is I started writing when I was a kid, of course. However, it wasn’t until I had approached my forties that I began attempting to resurrect the novel writing that I had been doing before life, family and career began pushing it to the back-burner, as they say. I completed my novel about vampires unleashed in my hometown and then was blessed to find a publisher willing to climb out on a limb with me. Although it took essentially twenty years to write the first novel, I managed to write the first two drafts of the sequel in a mere eight months.

Since then, it has been a blur. A guest post in these hallowed pages soon became an invite to join as a regular. A review in a local magazine soon got me a job writing for another magazine. Add to this the posting I need to do for my own blog, as well as the help I give to another, and suddenly I’m juggling deadlines. Then, for everything that you are doing, you need to keep the gears of the PR machine greased. I do all of that on top of the eleven hours that I do at my day-job. Notice I have yet to say anything about my family or house and yard work.

So, why do I do it? Why do any of us do it? It’s two reasons, isn’t it?
We write because we have it in us. We were born with a talent to put words together in such a way that it compels others to want to read more. We tell stories with words, and not just any words, but grand ones. I don’t think I’m the only one who feels this way, am I? I would love to hear how others feel about it.

Another reason that we write is the potential. Stephen King used to write stories that no one but his immediate circle read. I heard that John Grisham gave his first novel away. That would have been A Time to Kill. Have you read it? It might be his best; certainly one of them. How about J.K. Rowling? Or Stephanie Meyer? Enter any author that you want onto this list. Heck, you can even add the names of newspaper columnists, play-writes, screenwriters and songwriters to that list of people who are now being paid to do what they do. Each and every one of them came from a place where no one was reading them. Who says that you and I are not next to that list?

Having (written) said all of this, one might say that the answer is simple, but it isn’t. I’m approaching forty-two years old now. Before you begin to tell me that I’m not old or anything, and that I have plenty of time yet to make a second career out of writing (and I love you for it, by the way), I have a couple of other numbers for you: 21, 17 and 13. This June will be my 21st wedding anniversary. I married my wife, not my laptop and iPhone. She has gotten scant attention from me these past few years while I attempt to juggle a schedule that is far too demanding. Next is how old my firstborn will be this coming July. He’s driving now and is as accomplished as hell. He performs in plays, sings honor choir and plays in honor band. He was one of only sixteen to make the California All-State Jazz Choir. He’s starting to get a ton of mail from colleges far and wide. The last number is the age of my youngest son. He’s the sports kid. He’s my all-star in baseball and is now doing track, too. If I keep up this pace for another five years, I could potentially look up to find that both of them are grown men.

I’m going to take a hard look at this year and see what I can glean from it. I love to write and have tons more stories that I would like to see in print, even if I’m the only one reading them. People who have read my novel so far come up to me and tell me that they liked it. Just getting more people to hear of the novel is the difficult part, not to mention getting them to buy.

Unfortunately, I fear that I am going to have to schedule down soon. This year the second novel will see publication, but when am I going to find the time to begin writing the third one? As it is now, the only writing I’m doing is for PR – not fiction at all.

What keeps you guys motivated? I really want to know. Perhaps reading your comments will help me more clearly decide what I want to do. Or need to do.

Oh, and one more thing. You’ll notice that I didn’t post any photos this time. I just felt that the words should provide the pictures today.

It’s what we do. Right?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Warning: This weeks topic – what motivates me – was a bitter, dark chapter of self discovery.
Upon preparing for the post, it was revealed that for my whole life, I confused and mixed personal motivation and with illustrious inspiration, and made a delightful cocktail of my own devious imagination.

After I was ever so thoughtfully pointed into the boring, yet proper direction by my beloved friend Thom (whose impressive title of ‘Mr. Know-it-all’ far exceeds that of Bullwinkle J. Moose), I started on the day long journey of discovering if I, indeed, had this elusive motivation gene everyone was clamoring about.

And if I did, what the hell was it.

What I found out both astounded my intelligence yet disgruntled my very soul.

The official definition of motivation is ‘eagerness and willingness to do something without needing to be told or forced to do.’

Motivation is complex since human nature is complex. What kicks you in the arse and gets you going might not thrill me in the slightest and vise-versa.

Yet for me to understand what motivates me to act in certain ways enables me to work peaceably with my muse. It’s also a way for me to give fair warning to those who are intimate in my life; by understanding what motivates me, they are less likely to get in my way and become road kill.

Motivation can be categorized according to whether it is a basic, instinctive drive, common to all people and animals. This type of motivation involves satisfying the needs of the physical body including hunger, thirst, shelter/safety, sexual activity and so on.

Learned motivation (or external motivation) is based on a reward system (think potty training or to cease smoking) and seems to satisfy the desires of the mind and the spirit. It includes achievement of goals, whether they be in terms of gaining knowledge, power, self-development or a loving relationship.  

So, with all this hefty knowledge in hand – did I find out what motivates me?

Ummm, yes. But it’s not pretty.

My sexual drive motivates me to be as passionate with my stories as I am to my lovers in bed. It is my WILL to pleasure all who read.

  • Greed
  • Anger
  • Hunger
  • Fear
  • Power
  • Sexual Drive

Interesting. Scary. Not what I envisioned as a Gay Romantic Suspense writer, and definitely not what I would consider a healthy way of thinking.

Yet, after pondering on this startling self-examination result, some key factors have come into place. I am a melancholy person. I’m in my element during stormy weather. Pain and death and loss have built me into the creature I am today. I tend to gravitate to the dark side of life. I love villains more than heroes and even my favorite heroes are considered anti-heroes.

Should that which motivates me be any different than that which I love?

GREEDas a writer, I don’t lust after money or fame and have a distain for authors who do. My greed stems from the fact I WANT to write. I am greedy with my time, my words, my talent. My greed motivates me to push past fluff and utter nonsense other writers seem caught up in. It if doesn’t involve around my world of writing, I don’t want it. If it does – it WILL be mine.

ANGERmy anger fuels me, pushes me ahead, keeps me from drowning in a sea of pauper pity. I see the injustice in my life, I see how the sins of others have inflicted me and I seethe with a righteous fire. My anger motivates me to prove myself worthy and to cast the peons who doubted my talent into the fiery path of my pen. Vengeance, even in the form of a story, WILL be mine.

HUNGERthe gnawing in my gut drives me to excess. I feast upon words, upon books, ideas, concepts, anything to fill the empty void within. I regurgitate these things, digest them and absorb them into my body. My hunger motivates me to keep on, a driving force to seek out new experiences, new knowledge, and new ideas to write about, thus propelling me even further into my craft. I WILL follow my craving to write.

FEAR is the root of my anger. I fear for my sanity. I fear to be alone in an eternity where there is no stories, no books, no words and in such an arena, my imagination would tear at itself like a starving cannibal. I fear the ever present ring of laughter from my past peers, those who told me I would never amount to anything. Surly, they can’t be right, can they? My fear motivates me to run, not as a coward, but to leave those hurtful taunts that chase me behind. I will show them. I WILL succeed.

POWERthey say the pen is mightier than the sword. I believe it, for I have fought many bloody battles with my words. Some I won, some I lost, some are pending. The ink runs in my veins, flows down onto the paper and breathes life into ALL my campaigns. With my words, I can create life, I can cast death. I rain blessings and curses with a stroke across the keyboard. My characters and my world are at my mere whims. I am a GOD and nobody can hurt me. My power motivates me to go beyond what I thought was possible. My stories WILL bow to me and obey.

SEXUAL DRIVE – some days, my need to write, to create, equals or surpasses my sexual desire. My creative juices teams with squiggling life creating properties. The hormones that course through my body scream for release in the form of words on paper, scene after scene, character within the plot and the orgasmic blow of the black moment. My sexual drive motivates me to be as passionate with my stories as I am to my lovers in bed. It is my WILL to pleasure all who read.

So, coming up to resurface from my frightening sub-conscious, I have decided I am totally mental. However, with that said, no matter how disturbing, how insane my motivations are to others, they work well with me. The sense of motivational control I have over my world is almost heady, and within my spirit house bubbles a thigh clenching “Mwah-ha-ha-ha-ha…..”

Yeah. My motivations. They work for me.

Welcome home to the dark side…

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Motivation from the Dark

Sorry this post is a little late. It was hard for me to write as you will see as you read this post. This weeks topic is about motivation. As a warning, this post is going to get really dark for a moment, which might seem out of character for me as I usually try to stay positive in my posts, but it'll get better toward the end I promise.

So what motivates me to keep writing and not give up? Well, to answer that I have to take you back a few years to a sixteen year old girl trapped by alcohol and drug addiction. I couldn't function without a few vicodins or oxycodones to start the day, a few drinks after school (okay a lot of drinks) and more pills at night. The fact that I didn't stop my heart with this combination of chemicals is beyond me.

I should have died.

I wanted to die.

Yes, it's true. I wanted to die more than anything. I would wake up extremely mad I woke up at all. I tried to years to find the right concoction of drugs that would let me just slip away in my sleep. But I never found it.

I guess maybe I have a purpose to fulfill in this life. Perhaps I am destined for something. Who knows. All I know is that for about ten years, my soul was in total agony because of what I was doing to myself and the fact that I seemed immortal!

I don't want to scare you too much with the horror stories of those ten years. But let me just say I can tell you each moment where rightfully and scientifically I should have died. Besides the lethal drugs I was pumping steadily into my system, there was the fact I ran into traffic - on purpose. I purposefully walked into dangerous situations and fights hoping I would come out the loser (and in my mind, really, the winner...) I have more scars than I can count - one of which from a somewhat serious stab wound to my chest. The rest from doing things like, rock climbing with no safety equipment.

Obviously this story has a happy ending. I didn't die and I don't want to die anymore. I got into a recovery program, AA, and slowly began to put back the pieces of my life. It's been four and a half years since my last drink - four and half years since I last wanted to die.

So what motivates me to keep going and not quit? The fact that every day I have now is a miracle. Sometimes I feel I didn't earn this time because of the person I once was. I hurt people during those ten years I suffered - I hurt a lot of people. Each day is a blessing that I can't take for granted. I wasted ten years of my life because of my own selfishness and pain and I don't intend to waste another moment. I keep improving and learning and moving forward in a positive way.

I should have died long before I reached the age of 20. The first birthday I had after I sobered up I cried for most of the day. I never thought I would see the age of 23.

Like I said. I must have a destiny to fulfill. I have been blessed with friends who truly love and care about me, a husband who has stuck by my side for the last four and a half years, a beautiful son who adores me.

If I was to impart any knowledge to the readers out there it would be this. Don't waste your life. If you have dreams or things you want to do -- go do them NOW. Life is way too short to wait for "someday." And it's way too short to quit when things get tough.

I'll close with one of my favorite quotes:

"Love like you've never been hurt,

Dance like no one is watching,

Sing like no one is listening,

Work like you don't need money,

and Live like there's no tomorrow."