A Long Overdue Book Review

This time last year I was in the grips of some extraordinarily difficult subjects. Human trafficking, child soldiers, the prospect of accepting a less than stellar grade in forensic anthropology (I don’t know how I managed a B). The 2016 spring semester, now a distant memory, loomed large with its 15 credit hours including another round of statistics. So, when the holiday break rolled around I decided to enjoy a little “lite reading,” and treated myself to Carrie Rubin’s medical thriller, Eating Bull.

eatingbull

Carrie is fearless in her use of fiction to drive home the very real epidemic of obesity in America. Her characters are ordinary people, doing ordinary things, but forget slice of life; Eating Bull is a big ol’ slab of reality. Jeremy, the teen aged protagonist’s struggle tugs at your heartstrings, but the circumstances that contribute to his family’s dysfunction are only part of the story. Murder most foul and its sadistic motivations pierce theme after difficult theme and provoke the reader to examine the medical establishment, bigotry, and a society poisoned by consumerism. Eating Bull is available here. Find out for yourself what happens in this award winning novel chock-full of suspense!

 

 

 

I’ll Write ‘Til The Coffee Runs Out

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The deals I make with myself occasionally cause me to achieve a desired result. For the most part though, I am a surprise achiever. Meaning that accomplishing a goal rarely happens the way I expect. Sometimes it isn’t even the goal I expect, but for whatever reason – clean living, appeasing the gods of suburbia, unredeemed karma from a previous lifetime of self-sacrifice – favorable winds eventually blow the tumbleweeds out of my mind and I get something done.

My loyal follower reminds me each morning not to stay hold up inside all day and that is usually when the mental “let’s make a deal” begins. I’ll write ‘til the coffee runs out. Until it runs out of what, I don’t say. Until it runs out my ears perhaps. Before I know it, it’s early afternoon. This signals three things: It’s time to check in with my legs that have been asleep since I poured my last cup of coffee, I’m hungry, and the dialing for dinner dilemma ensues. This is what happened during my last mad dash toward the finish line. Only this doesn’t feel like a mad dash. It feels more like staggering blind-folded out of a mud pit, balancing a birdcage on my head.

So, here’s the deal. I’ll write ‘til the coffee runs out or I’m ready to pick off my characters one by one with an elephant rifle, whichever comes first. Mine is not a tortured soul, destined for disaster. Nor humors seeking discharge from their greedy master. This is no existence so desperately fated. The wing-ed beast inside my breast is merely caffeinated. 

Woolf, Plath and Hemingway never had it so good.

Madder Than A March Hare

http://thought-full-art.com/abouttheartist.htm
Gothic Hare by CJ Bradford @Thought-Full Art

Since the idea to write first became a squatter in a neglected corner of my mind, there has been an unraveling and reweaving happening in my life. The writing of my first book, Summoning the Strength, was fueled by the emotion known for its ability purge demons. (metaphorical ones) Anger. Anger at the loss of my friend to cancer and anger at the lack of progress humanity has made toward ending violence against women. Recent events making that reality even more maddening, have set me on fire.

Well, if you’re reading this, I am grateful to you. The truth is I am humbled by the honesty of those who share their private battles for the benefit of others who may be trying to figure out who they are. The premise for my second book is another unraveling and reweaving of sorts, in the life of a young woman named Emily Branch. She is a fictional character, but her experiences are far from imaginary. She encounters the same highs and lows each of us experience as we figure where we belong in a world constantly struggling for control of our hearts and minds.

The Bunnies Don't Lie
The Bunnies Don’t Lie

Both women and men are tormented with egocentric anxiety, avaricious impulses, and despair. There are those who would have us believe depression is a consequence of disobedience, or worse, that humans are pawns in some ancient feud between a jealous deity and rouge angel. I am no theologian, but even I know a belief system rife with inconsistencies begs to be challenged.

What a way to set us up for failure! The phrase, we’re mad as hell and we’re not gonna take it anymore, never seemed more appropriate.

Unlike sibling rivalry or adolescent rebellion, the adversary, once spoken of in hushed tones if spoken of at all, holds a family secret. Euphemisms for the volatile phantom abound, but madness has lost its distinction among modern maladies. By degrees, delusional by chance or choice, now everyone is a little crazy. It’s the new norm.

Initiatives to demystify mental illness, or at least profit from it, have created a heightened sensitivity to euphemisms we use to minimize our uneasiness when talking about emotional disturbances that lead to domestic violence, even suicide. Fears once quelled by expressions such as nuts, loony bin, funny farm are socially unacceptable in today’s climate of political correctness that does less to educate and more to dictate insecurities and fears be suppressed until they ignite. Global warming in action.

Photo Cred: Mick Green
Photo Cred: Mick Green

Mental illness, whether acknowledged or kept secret, eventually spills into all our lives. Sure, there are coping mechanisms that work to keep most of us from going all kinds of Jerry Springer, but there is no such thing as a perfect family. Crazies are a not new phenomenon. After all, the nut doesn’t fall far from the tree, but the poor misguided youth defense is right up there with the Twinkie junkie claiming mental defect as an excuse to not be held accountable for their actions. The million dollar question of the day is how to address the escalating violent behavior in our society. Shouting Stop! You’re breaking the law, doesn’t seem an effective way to solve the problem. Neither does medicating everyone into a dysfunctional stupor.

To understand how mental illness becomes woven into the fabric of one’s own life, some search for a single point of reference – defective nature, flawed nurture, demonic forces, fluoride in drinking water. Sometimes that single point of reference is a lie. Sometimes we haven’t gone crazy at all. Sometimes the truth is Beyond Belief.

“Many draw the “seen” while I choose to portray the perceived – the meaning the mind gives to the objects – not what the eye sees.”~~CJ Bradford

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Augmentation

Firenze

If I wrote the first thing that came into my head most days, it would be an unintelligible jumble of half-baked ideas. Useless knowledge such as, a convergent channel intensifies energy to augment forward thrust and a constant speed drive maintains AC power regardless of engine RPM, combined with the news of the day and classic rock lyrics swirls around my brain until sufficiently whipped into froth such as this:

She did not come to this life by choice. Certainly not by any choice she’d made. Nevertheless, she…a placeholder, like a middle child who makes one superior and the other precious, unnoticed upon arrival or departure, a woman of reasonable ability, desiring to stand in contrast to pride and arrogance…freeze scumbag! It isn’t about guns, gun owners, gun control or fringe wackadoos. It’s about the vast expanse between law makers and law breakers. Who stands in the gap?

See what I mean? It’s enough to drive a person into a bag of Doritos!

In December, I proclaimed (meaning claimed with proactive enthusiasm) 2013 as The Year of Something Better. My intent? To move forward with purpose and meaningful action. To do this, I concluded that I need to augment my education with an ambitious three-pronged approach.

1) Become a certified government liaison with the American Red Cross

2) Complete a fourteen week course offered through our local law enforcement

3) Work toward a degree in emergency administration and planning with a focus on alternative dispute resolution

One month into 2013 I’ve managed to do little more than remain inside the dream that guides me. One certification class was cancelled, which sent me into a snit and I drafted an email that I thankfully didn’t send. I begin one class next week, but still haven’t made a decision on the third prong. I’ll do it! Give me a minute. (talking back to my self talk)

Plus, there’s the writing. As I have alluded to, it isn’t exactly leaping onto the page, and while I know if there was ever a moment to switch to afterburner, this is it. Yet, I stall. There was no choice in the matter of writing Summoning The Strength, that story forced its way onto the page. It had to be told and it has been encouraging to receive feedback asking if there will be a second story about what happens next. At first I thought, of course, something always happens next and there is plenty more to tell. Also, as a friend pointed out, there is a brief window to gain momentum from the first book.

So, where does that leave me? Working. Every day. To make it all to come together.

What? You thought this post was going to be about boobs? Get Serious!

***Soundtrack for this post***A Victim of Stars, David Sylvian

Self-Publishing: One Year and Counting

Nobody NoseThis is a retread of several posts I’ve written about my self-publishing experience so far. Those new to my blog have gotten the best of my blogging endeavor. When I first began, I sucked at it. Really. Frustration got the better of me. It’s evident now as I read my early posts, they were unfocused. Unless readers possessed extraordinary powers of perception it was unlikely they would know what point I was trying to make. This could have been avoided if I’d taken time to set my intention. But nooo, I had a lot to say and none of it could wait.

Exhibit A: Rookie Blogging Mistake

I recognized I was a rookie when it came to social media. There’s nothing wrong with my honest assessment in that post, but I didn’t make it clear that the mundane minutia widget was actually the Facebook widget and that I didn’t misplace it, I gave it the boot because it wasn’t the proper tool for marketing my book. But then I skipped right to a list of books and authors I enjoy. What kind of writing was that for someone who is trying to market a self-published book? Crap writing, that’s what. I’m only just now realizing this is a common occurrence among self-publishers who, as stated in a comment on Sweet Mother, […fail to wear the hats of the business behind the scenes of publisher, proofer, editor, cover artist, promoter etc.]

Other posts I’ve written about self-publishing have yielded these profound nuggets.

From The Set Up:

Smashwords Edition

It takes courage, strength and lots of patients to bring any book to market no matter how it is published. Creating the story, characters, plot, and dialog is the easy part. New authors, who choose to self-publish, face challenges from without and within. Once the editing is finished and a publishing platform is chosen, that’s when the action adventure really begins. Publishing elitist opinions notwithstanding, quantity over quality is a valid issue. There are as many opinions as there are books.

Frustration and doubt are relentless saboteurs.

It is important to seek writers groups in your local area and online. Professional and social media is there to provide information, resources, and tools to get the job done. It is wise to explore your options. It’s also wise not to believe everything you hear/read. Another author’s timeline, budget and methods may not be right for you. The mission, should you decide to accept it is to find what works best for you and run with it.

Be aware it can be brutal.

Print on demand and eBook formats are not an either/or proposition. Self-published authors can deliver the best of both. Choosing distribution and marketing methods can seem overwhelming.  Asking for help may not be easy. Trying to follow all of the advice doesn’t make it any easier. You may even feel like you’ve been set up for failure.

Just as you begin to experience exhaustion and you think you can’t wait any longer for validation that self-publishing was the right decision, that’s the time to be fearless. Someone has been where you are and is waiting with a flashlight at the other end of the tunnel. They don’t have a secret decoder ring, but they may be someone who can help set you up for success. There is an emerging network of Indie Authors to provide support for those trying to build momentum for their self-published work.

From The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, an attempt to address the turbulence in the publishing world and share the lovely allegory about book lovers.

If publishers and purveyors of the written word are the high rollers, then self-publishing insiders are holding their own at the penny slots. Whether trading on NASDAQ or trading on word of mouth, the book biz is a gamble. When the dust settles after the brick & mortar moguls finish their demolition and reconstruction, the structure that emerges will make the Bellagio look like a Dave & Busters.

The word on the street is that books in print may go the way of the dinosaur and readers everywhere will be retro fitted with a digital implant capable of holding every word ever written by man or machine. Who knows who will be first in line to get that hip and trendy device. It makes no difference. Books are treasures and someone somewhere will keep them safe. Hopefully.

Then there was the sweltering heat, boredom induced summertime blues post entitled What Self-Publishing Means To Me in which I tried to convince myself convey to readers that I am in this thing for the long haul.

After a year of learning as I go, today my book became available for Kindle on Amazon. I tried my best with Smashwords, but it just doesn’t seem that readers, who aren’t medical professionals, are willing to risk catching something go there to purchase my book. So, for anyone who writes and has a desire to be published, I have this to say:

Do it. Get an agent. If you can’t afford an agent, get your cousin Gerard to wheel and deal to make you the next literary sensation. If Gerard is still incarcerated unavailable, try email blasts to Oprah’s Book Club. After the County Sheriff serves you with a cease and desist, consider self-publishing.

It beats having your guts ripped out by a wheat thresher.

There is a community of supportive Indie Authors. For people willing to invest the time it can be a great way to network, but everyone has a book to promote and it can be tough to filter out good opportunities from complete wastes of time. Also, only time will tell if a connection you make will yield the results you’re looking for. If you want to make self-publishing friends, find out what works and what sucks join a group. If you don’t like people that much and you just want to sell books…good luck.

There are a bazillion opinions out there on writing, marketing and the business of publishing. If you have a concept that sets you on fire and you can’t sleep, eat or shower until you share it with the world, great, get it out there. If you have a story that must be told, tell it. Read everything you can get your hands on in your genre of choice, write, edit, talk to people, go to book stores. Ask your peeps what they like to read. If they don’t read, you need new peeps. Ask strangers what they like to read. Stare at people in libraries. See if you can read their minds. Edit some more. Read Summoning the Strength by Stephanie Briggs. If you enjoy it, tell everyone you know. If you think it sucks, tell no one. Peace.