Brand Confusion and Writing Fears

This looks overwhelming! We're supposed to, apparently, choose ALL.

This looks overwhelming! We’re supposed to, apparently, choose ALL.

The world must be full of potential writers that are overwhelmed by the daunting task of how to brand themselves. How do I Twitter, WordPress, Facebook, GoodReads, AND Pinterest my way into having readership? Is it even necessary to have readership if the goal is to simply write? Monetarily, no. Spiritually, yes.  In today’s world it seems that not only is self branding a requirement, you must be good enough at it to develop a fan base.  Communicating and entertaining one’s own family is not lofty enough of a goal.

At my writing group yesterday, one PNWA conference attendee had news of what the real writers are up to. Thirty farkin’ thousand twitterers?!? Yes, that’s right. Apparently, one must have 30,000 twitter followers to even be considered by an agent for a non-fiction book.  Okay, I get it. Life just isn’t that interesting and if it is, you will have piqued people’s interest enough to have a following. Should I let this leave me deflated? No.  Maybe there’s a built in protection in that rule of thumb.

Truth told, I’d probably be quite lost if I had anything more than occasional encouragement right now. The real fear isn’t not having readership. It’s a fear of letting go of the words.  Just mustering up the courage to write in the first place is enough for me without having to market myself too. So what to do? Is there a write way?

Start with some library books about the craft of writing.  Buy some books about the art of writing. More importantly, read them and follow the instructions.  Join a writing group and be persistent until you find one meets regularly and feels right to you. Check. Check. Check again. Now what?

What now is to stop circling the subject around the way I have here and actually write about something besides the fear of writing.  Scratch that.  The fear surrounding writing may actually be a rich vein of material.  What is it that scares you? Scares me?  Truth? Consequences? Consequences for truth?  Grappling with google and trying to uncover people with similar thoughts is no help. If you don’t find them, your writing won’t be relevant. If you do, your writing won’t be fresh.

It seems overwhelming. I say just lay all of that stuff down the best you can and let the pen fly and give yourself a chance. Me. Give myself. A chance. Not one. As many as it takes. On napkins, matchbooks, keyboards, in journals, smartphones.  When the words come, be at the ready to gather them up and gently and truly put them down.

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Review: God Speaks Navajo

God Speaks Navajo
God Speaks Navajo by Ethel Emily Wallis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was very insightful about linguistics and culture and the dedication required to accurately translate any important work, especially something as important as faith. Faye Edgerton  became dedicated to translating the bible to Navajo early in life and remained faithful to that until the time of her death. With the help of a blind Navajo Indian man, Geronimo Martin, some ground breaking work was done.

It became clear in a very short order that it wouldn’t be a simple translation, but would require interpretation. I recall one story about how it became critical to find out what kind of rod Moses’ brother Aaron was carrying when it budded, as the Navajo had no word for “bud”. To me, this was very revealing about the close relationship they had with the land. That may sound overly simplified or it may sound like it got unnecessarily complicated. However, if a person is a cattle rancher they don’t really just have a word for “cow”. Alaskan Indians had upwards of 200 words to describe weather. When life is deeply affected by the weather, there is no simple word for “snow” or “rain”.

As much as I liked the book and respect the dedication to the work, it still saddens me on some level to know that as well intentioned as Christians are, there is also an encroachment on indigenous and aboriginal peoples. I also find it interesting that their language was certainly lent to us in WWII with the Wind Talkers, but that is an entirely different subject.

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Review: Swan Song

Swan Song
Swan Song by Robert R. McCammon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This disturbing dystopian story focuses on many characters that often get overlooked in post-apocolyptic tales and McCammon crafts them each perfectly. As much as I loved the lovable characters and wanted to know what was happening, I couldn’t read fast enough to get back to the ones I hated. As is true with mankind in general, when thrown into hot water, you find out what they’re really made of. Several sub-plots with their own story lines moving inextricably towards the overall story keep you guessing and promising yourself “just one more chapter” and then…

There’s Sister Creep, the old homeless woman who goes under a street/sewer grill to escape the nuclear blast and ends up getting almost boiled alive. She starts out as a contemptible character and ends up shining and really coming to life. There are several sub-plots that are happening and pulling them all inexticably together. Then Roland, the poor adolescent boy who’s parents are into extravagant underground shelters. They happen to be an underground “Nuclear Blast Boot Camp Prep” with their fully paid membership when the whole thing crumples like a pop can under a waffle stomper. His little ugly grows real big real fast and you end up hating but can’t wait to get back to what the hell weirdness he’ll do next. The gentle giant, Josh who’s been exploited by the wrestling industry crosses paths by fate with a little girl named Sue Wanda. Of all the possible twists of fate, this was perfect. Whoo hoo!! Wait till you get to the part where the insane asylum residents with their various deformities and unmedicated issues take over an abandoned K-Mart and play “shopping games” with anyone unfortunate enough to totter towards that “blue-light special”.
There’s some young boys who do what they need to do to stay alive and a few of them develop some true integrity that may not have flourished outside of this disaster that pulls the best from the worst and vice versa. There’s more! The president, a prostitute, some evil thing pulling himself around in a child’s wagon…you just gotta read it.

It’s like Stephen King multiplied by Justin Cronan. Loved this book!! I’ve read it 3 times over the last 25 years or so. I thought it was one of McCammon’s best!!

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Review: Port Mortuary

Port Mortuary
Port Mortuary by Patricia Cornwell
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

It is hard to commit a review to print on this book because all I can think of is “How am I going to think of something different to say for the last several Patricia Cornwell novels?” They are all the same and not in a good way. Perhaps I’ll just copy and paste this one for the last several Scarpetta books.

Scooby-Doo characters had more brains than these people. How can all this weirdness camp right on their front doors, in their cars, houses, helicopters and they don’t know? Because they’re too busy arguing about bulimia and sexual behavior and “you told me you were dead!” and “I know there’s a killer out there, but I just bought plucked fresh basil and bought high end mozerella and plan on demasculating Marino under the new imported chandelier.” Sheesh!! Her books used to be good, but really? It’s almost disrespectful to her own characters to make them this stupid. Kay can have somebody right under her nose showing all the signs and symptoms of being a weirdo, but all she can think about is “Benton and I had our last argument of the brown Italian sofa while I was wearing this scarf. If we’re going to argue, perhaps I should make lasagna and serve it in the sitting room with the Danish furniture.” Just weird BS like that.

And Lucy: She used to be a cool character too. Almost a fictional but symbolic embassador for real struggles with sexuality and eating disorders/obsession/dysmorphia. But now she doesn’t have those things so much as those things have her to the point she’s a train wreck. Kay and the whole pack have such dysfunction and weirdness that Lucy has to finance her own way into flying around and racing around in high end machines. And her other hobby: Seducing anybody of any importance or “flipping” them. We get it. She’s gay and it’s okay with us. Benton Wesley or is it Bentley Wesson? I don’t know because he’s dead or hiding half the time.

All the characters seem to exist for the sole purpose of screwing around with each other’s heads and playing out these big dramas with each other that totally detract from the story. No, they become the story and the “crime fiction” becomes secondary to all the BS going on. It’s really sad. The characters devolved and deteriorated to the point the next logical move is a big brain fart. Scarpetta should go read a Melody Beattie book and get back to being the swanky character she once was.

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Review: Archaeological Study Bible-NIV: An Illustrated Walk Through Biblical History and Culture

Archaeological Study Bible-NIV: An Illustrated Walk Through Biblical History and Culture
Archaeological Study Bible-NIV: An Illustrated Walk Through Biblical History and Culture by Anonymous
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Chock full of cultural and historical notes, gorgeous photography, maps and tables, this bible is an excellent way to gain understanding of scripture that may otherwise entirely escape one’s notice. It also adds insight to common misperceptions about many scriptures. One way this is done is put put things in perspective and remind the reader not to measure actions against today’s standards, but the standards of the time it was written. Weights, measurements, monetary values are all explained in a way that allows the reader to translate and compare it to todays standards.

A woman gives up or donates a bolt of purple fabric. Big deal right? You can get anything from burlap to silk on clearance in any fabric store. In biblical times, spices, fabrics, dyes and many other materials were precious commodities. Aside from purple being associated with royalty (an indication of social standing to even possess it), to give up a large bolt of purple is akin to your average J.C. Penney shopper giving up the one and only piece of Versace or Prada they have.

A camel going through a needle? NOT going to happen. Again, there is information on architecture and mountain passes that will offer a broader insight as to what was meant by that scripture. A cracked jar? So what, toss it in the recycle bin. This bible gives insights to different types of containers, their importance in everyday life and the value of the craftsmen that produced them.

This bible also offers arguments against widely held beliefs and doesn’t insist on being “right” about everything. The Levitical portion demonstrates that very well by offering a history of speculations and educated guesses and calling them just that. When they don’t know for sure, the say so. It cites resources and invites the reader to want to know more.

Some may argue that it’s not a five star bible. This body of work does not claim to be a study of Hebrew and Greek language, and it’s not. It’s a complete biblical text supported by Arcaeological research. I buy a new version of the bible every other year or so unless I see a good deal in a used book store. The next one will be specific to original language and text.

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Review: Hinds’ Feet on High Places

Hinds' Feet on High Places
Hinds’ Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A super duper allegorical story for uplifting the spirit and restoring hope to most anyone struggling with most anything. Hannah Hurnard had a few physical appearance issues as she was growing up that in turn caused emotional and psychological barriers for her. Common enough. What is uncommon is this simple and beautiful story that is appropriate for all ages.

Hinds Feet on High Places takes the most complicated spiritual and emotional problems and gives very simple solutions in a straight forward manner. It may sound overly simple, but it works! She named people and places for what they were. Much Afraid who lived with the Fearing Family in The Valley of Humiliation is the main character. Friends and companions are named for the things people often clothe themselves in such as Sorrow and Suffering. As Much Afraid gives up control and tries new things, her companions begin to change into Joy, Hope, Strenth and that kind of thing.

In a time honored tradition that seems to be in all cultures including the Christian bible, people evolve into new names as they gain life skills. Native Americans have always done this. The Old Testament is full of it. Children worldwide often revert to their formal names and give up nicknames after rites of passage that transform them.

From age 10 to 100, if you know someone who struggles with despair, victimization, defeatism, bullying, this is a book to give to that person and trust that when the time is right, the book will be there to give what is has to give. Buy up any copy you see in thrift shops and yard sales, for you will always need another one.

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Review: Atonement

Atonement
Atonement by Ian McEwan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Could have been a 5 star read and admittedly I’ve changed my rating from 3-5 stars several times. This story outline was complicated and cluttered by the writing style. I wanted to like this book alot more, but the vocabulary gymnastics and stage setting buried the outline of a top notch story. The author displayed a good mastery of language, almost to the point of ostentatious. It diminished rather than augmenting a truly good story.

This is one instance the movie may have out classed the book as far as flow and continuity. I would have loved to see what Carson McCullers writing style could have done for this book. Again, the author has great style, but it didn’t do right by this story.

I loved the story and the premise for it, especially because the atonement happens the way it so often does in real life. The real perpetrators of the crime here were not so obvious. The mother, ignoring her husbands infidelities and letting her life melt into the couch with “headaches” while the kids raise themselves. The police and all the other adults for poor interviewing tactics. An adolescent cousin who was experimenting a bit with her own feminine wiles and possibly becoming precocious as a way to get her needs met in the midst of a divorce where she felt disposed of. A young man that was so “cultured” he would have recognized that in the girl and chose to be an opportunist in a family environment where kids shouldn’t be exploited during adolescence or family crises.

The really beautiful but sad thing for me is that Briony was teetering on the edge of pre and post adolescence. That age kids talk about “if you do it before you’re 12, you get into heaven anyway, and THEN…” But she didn’t give herself permission to tip it back into innocence; she tipped it forward into responsibility, but it was responsibility that should have been more widely shared and she took it all upon herself. Kids do that.

I would recommend this book to be read by any and all.

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