Guest Post – Writing Without Fear

Ashley Holzmann is a horror author by trade and a generally cool person overall. The irony of a horror author writing a post on writing without fear isn’t lost on me, but he makes some excellent points and it’s always great to hear someone tell you to not be afraid of your writing. There are some links at the bottom of the post if you want to find out more about Ash, but without further ado, I’d like to turn the stage over to the amazing Ashley Holzmann.

Hello, my name is Ashley and I will be your guest blogger this evening.

This post is for the writers out there, but will also hopefully interest the readers and other creators alike.

Why is that? Because some of the biggest hindrances to creativity are the self-imposed fears we carry with us.

I’m normally a horror writer, though I dabble in various genres, and I’m going to be putting on my writer hat to tackle this from what I believe to be some interesting perspectives. My goal is to discuss the fears that hold creators back and methods to get beyond those fears.

Creation For The Sake Of Creation

The pure artist, as can be found discussed in great detail in Leo Tolstoy’s What Is Art?, would state that the purer forms of art and creation are performed for the sake of the creation itself.

On some level, they are performed for the sake of the creator, but the more any single creator decides to push their art into the world and display it for others, the less pure it becomes.

I struggle with the purity of this idea.

On many levels, I love the romanticism of it.

The unfortunate counter argument is that it’s terribly convenient to have such an opinion of art for art’s sake, but what of us who were not the creators of War and Peace?

Tolstoy formed many of his important ideas and wrote many of his important essays concerning art after he was already an established personality. This is unfair of me, I know, as the argument is supposed to be separated from the man making the argument, but it’s hard to. Purists are not often in a position of vulnerability

Purists are often not in a position of vulnerability.

What of the artist who is only able to work on their art once a month because of the costs associated with it or the time constraints?

While art may very well be more pure when done for the sake of the creation of it, I would argue that a free artist is one who has enough support to function as an average member of society and concentrate wholly on their creations.

This, too, adds complications to the argument. As famous artists such as Michelangelo were given such freedoms, but were also constrained by the Medici family who paid his bills growing up, and then his commissions throughout his life often being from churches.

Who knows how great Michelangelo’s art could have been if he was given the financial freedom, but also the political and creative freedom to experience his art simply for the sake of it—allowing his mind and hands to take the work where it would go.

Tumbling around these arguments, I find myself settling into a middle ground as an artist, myself.

I create for the sake of creating. Most of my drawings are shared only briefly with family, and sometimes never. My writing is shared as widely as I can get it to be shared, though, and I am actively pursuing that lifestyle.

Maybe it is selfish of me to desire to make enough money off of my creative work to finance my lifestyle and allow me the freedom to leave my day job.

But if the result is more art, then is the world a lesser place?

The interesting aspect of modern times is the self-financed artist. Self-publishing for books, websites like Fiverr that allow for creative people to directly be sourced: the freedoms given to creative people are amazing these days. I sometimes wonder how modern platforms would inform Tolstoy’s opinions, if at all.

All of this brings be back to the title of this section: creation for the sake of creation.

Any artist must start somewhere, and in practicing the craft there will be many works that are never shared. That honing of skill is important, but also something I would argue is so important that it must always be returned to. While I personally believe that artists should strive for freedom in order to actively pursue their art as a career, I also recognize that some art should be kept to ourselves.

That art is both pure, but also important because it teaches us to discern between what we place of ourselves into the world and what we place of ourselves only in those closest to us. Because, at its core, most art is in some way a reflection of ourselves.

Because, at its core, most art is in some way a reflection of ourselves.

When You Are Afraid, Your Art Suffers

The freedom to create anything is not often give to artists. This is not always the choice of an artist, either. I already referenced one of the Renaissance masters. While the great awakening of artistic value occurred during that period, most of the people financing those efforts were the elite. It was not easy to be completely free and still tailor one’s work to the holder of the money purse.

These days we are in may ways more free, but if we are pursuing careers in creation we still have to play to an audience somewhere. This holds back a lot of creators, who feel like they must create to appease the people.

Stroll to the local movie theater and you’ll be given plenty of examples of the fear of creators. Held by by either themselves or by the financiers in order to appeal to as many people with wallets as possible. Being a creator isn’t an easy experience.

Being a creator isn’t an easy experience.

I would argue, however, that it is the artists who fall for this fear that create the lesser versions of the art they hold within them. And while it is financially safer to sometimes tackle the easy victory, the mass market appeal, many artists may surprise themselves when they take the risk to be themselves.

There is a happy medium between the artist who pursues their art in order to achieve financial stability and the artist who wishes to have the funding to be free to express themselves.

The Lack Of Fear

The irony of the fearful artist is that the un-fearful artist is often the one who stampedes through the cliche and lands themselves in the record books.

Every actor who has taken a performance and turned it up to eleven is hailed for their bravery. It is not easy to go through a fight scene completely naked like Viggo Mortensen in Eastern Promises. Or Michael Fassbender in Shame.

Stanley Kurbrick defined most of his career by his lack of fear. He often took so many risks with his work that a large part of his filmmaking experience was ensuring that he had the financing and creating his amazing work on as low a budget as possible. He found a way, though, and he stuck to his artistic guns and remained as pure as he could.

Lolita is another excellent example of a lack of fear. Like Catcher in the Rye, both star a likable, yet unlikeable, unreliable narrator tackling subjects that the writers themselves have stated are not pure to them as creators, but they had a vision and executed it masterfully.

When you work without fear, you are able to work in that middle ground between the extreme of the hermit creator and the opposing side of the sellout.

Pure Art Creation

We can all identify beautiful art. Many of us agree on certain aesthetics, but we will also disagree on many things as well. That’s understandable. What matters when it comes to any form of creation is for the creator to express themselves fully. If an artist is unafraid, then this is the next step they must take: being true to themselves.

This often means that artists true to themselves are exposing some of their inner-most demons to the world. They are allowing themselves to be vulnerable in front of the masses. This is almost always difficult. Crying in front of thousands of people is something that takes training.

Writing about secret childhood experiences can bring back horrible hurtful memories. Exposing one’s character flaws leaves us open to criticism that we may not be fully emotionally prepared for.

Exposing one’s character flaws leaves us open to criticism that we may not be fully emotionally prepared for.

Let Go

The reason we do allow ourselves the freedom of pure expression is because while we do expose ourselves to the voices of critics, we also expose ourselves to inclusion and acceptance.

I’ve often told myself that my friends and family will never read my work. This is not true, but the thought of showing my stuff only to strangers has a freeing quality to the creation.

Another simple tactic to use is to create things you would only want yourself to see. Then leave those things for a time. Come back to them. Refine them. Then either force yourself to release it out into the world, or have a trusted friend or loved one do it for you.

Tell yourself that you have not created such a work. Or use a pseudonym to hide your true identity. Create the double life that is necessary to spread your work. Justify your work to yourself any way that you can.

It is not easy to be true to one’s self, but the more often you are, the more often you open yourself up to surprising revelations. More people may fall in love with your work than you think. More opportunities may open the door for you as an artist because you are known to not have fear.

More people may fall in love with your work than you think.

You may also be surprised to find out that many artists will also look up to you. They may reach out to ask how you were able to be so honest or brave with your work. You may be surprised to find that being true to yourself opens yourself to just as much awe as it does to judgement.

It has been my experience in both creating and in enjoying art that the awe of admiration is more often gifted toward artists than judgement.

-Ashley Franz Holzmann

About The Author

Visit asforclass.com for more from Ashley.

His new book is available on Amazon. Get your copy here.

Ashley Franz Holzmann bio:

A Boy Named Sue, named Ashley, who goes by Ash around his friends. Ashley grew up overseas on Air Force bases. He once bought a 70s VW bus so he could drive it across the country. He married his first love—they were long distance for seven years. He reads poetry constantly; believes experiences define a life, and pursuing art is the purpose behind his existence. Ashley kept all of his Legos growing up and plays with them with his three kids. He’s in the Army. He likes big dogs.

Visit asforclass.com to learn more about Ashley, or to sign up for his mailing list to receive an exclusive and free novella.

His mailing list is also the best way to learn about upcoming projects, exclusive deals, and opportunities for free advanced versions of his work.

You can find out more about Ashley at his various social media sites. Drop by and say hello. Or howdy, if that’s more your speed.

Facebook

Twitter

Web

As a side note, if you’re ever interested in doing a guest post, drop me an email and we’ll figure it out all out. Questions or comments for Ashley? Drop ’em in the comments section.

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WATWB – Your Monthly Shot of News That Doesn’t Suck

I’ve been a proponent of space travel ever since I was young and discovered Star Trek. One on level, this was due to the excitement of travelling the galaxy and seeing new and exciting new things, reaching out to find civilizations, boldly going, and all that fun stuff. It wouldn’t be until I was older and Kirk’s many green-skinned dates started to look more interesting and when I was much older that I started to look at space exploration as a species survival mechanism.

Whoops. Wrong picture.
Ah, there we go.

Now, I’m not trying to be alarmist, but if our species stays in one place – namely this planet – we’re toast in the long run. If we don’t manage to destroy ourselves through war or flat-out wrecking the environment in the name of profit, something is going to get us eventually. Most people know about the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event, that hunk of space debris that whacked the dinosaurs along with most life on the planet, but that was just one of many times the Earth teetered on the brink of becoming yet another lifeless hunk of space rock. The bottom line, folks, is we need to get off this rock and scatter to the stars so we don’t have all our bread in one basket.

Fortunately, science is on our side. With all the rhetoric and kerfuffle surrounding the current U.S. leader and the Russians, it’s easy to forget that wars are started by politicians, not normal people. Normal people usually don’t care about countries unless they’re prompted to, scientists even less so. Science doesn’t care about politics or religion or elections, it cares about science and what it can do for us.

I recently read a story that reminded of two things: science is still working and not everyone is completely batshit insane these days. In order to get off planet, we need to take baby steps. Among other things, that’s going to require getting back to the moon and establishing a permanent presence there. That’s no small feat and one that’s going to require cooperation – something sorely lacking in the world these days. Science has our back, though; US and Russian scientists are working together to get us into space.

Because we can either have this as a future.

Swim up pinball machine? Hell, yeah!
Not actually New Mexico. Yet.

Or this.

Read about it here

As always, drop a comment in the comments file. I love comments.

If you’d like to get hold of more news that doesn’t suck, go check out this month’s hosts:

Michelle Wallace, Peter Nena, Emerald Barnes, Andrea Michaels and Shilpa Garg

If you’d like to join up with We Are The World Blogfest, I have good news for you: it’s free. Go check it out here.

~~~GUIDELINES~~~

1. Keep your post to below 500 words, as much as possible.

2. All we ask is you link to a human news story on your blog on the last Friday of each month, one that shows love, humanity and brotherhood.

3. Join us on the last Friday of each month in sharing news that warms the cockles of our heart. No story is too big or small, as long as it goes beyond religion and politics, into the core of humanity.

4. Place the WE ARE THE WORLD Badge on your sidebar, and help us spread the word on social media. Tweets, Facebook shares, G+ shares using the #WATWB hashtag through the month most welcome. More Blogfest signups mean more friends, love and light for all of us.

5. We’ll read and comment on each others’ posts, get to know each other better, and hopefully, make or renew some friendships with everyone who signs on as participants in the coming months.

6. To signup, add your link in WE ARE THE WORLD Linky List below.

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And now, your moment of Zen

Nazi Swine

I learned something interesting a few days. There’s an old phrase that anyone who ever watched Bugs Bunny cartoons has probably heard: “Them’s fightin’ words.” It was one of the irascible Yosemite Sam’s lines, if I recall correctly.

fightinwords
Don’t criticize the quality. That would be fightin’ words.

Over the years, the phrase has been attributed to and used by many a rapscallion, roughneck, and tough guy, usually as an excuse to kick someone’s ass and over time it’s become more and more of a joke.

“I don’t like the beer in this joint.”

“Stranger, them’s fightin’ words.”

Yes, there are people who will get into a fight over beer. There are also people who will get into a fight over almost anything and using the adage “Them’s fightin’ words” gives them a flimsy moral excuse. After all, I just warned you of a fight and gave you a chance to back down gracefully after you told me canned salsa was better than homemade or Alien’s Imperial Stout was better than Marble‘s Imperial Stout. (They’re actually both pretty good.)

What I learned today was “Them’s fightin’ words” is actually a thing from a quasi-legal perspective.

Let’s back up for a moment, though. I can’t speak to the laws of other countries, but in the United States we hold Freedom of Speech as sacrosanct, even if most people don’t completely understand that the 1st Amendment to the Constitution only refers to freedom of speech in terms of what laws Congress can make. In other words, if you get kicked out of a Target for screeching Bible verses at other patrons, it’s not a 1st Amendment issue since Target is a private entity and not Congress. Target has every right to kick you out of the store if you’re being an offensive jackass.

That said, there are still laws on the books that are designed to protect freedom of speech and we in the States tend to take it pretty seriously. There are certainly people out there looking to block people from saying things they don’t like (Evangelicals and hippies come to mind), but most of us hear something we don’t like and, if it’s harmless, just roll our eyes and move on.

As a for instance, this truck is protected speech. Also, ladies, I’m pretty sure this guy is available.

odge-you-ll-get-the-d-later-720x752
Class act.

The kicker here is the idea of harmless. A big black truck promising to give you the D later is tacky, but pretty harmless in the global scheme of things. It’s the kind of thing that might make you roll your eyes, but won’t cause any long term damage. It may be offensive, but being offended never killed anyone.

Now, to get to the point and explain the headline. Earlier today a group of people tracked down a guy wearing a swastika armband. Words were exchanged and the Nazi wound up getting knocked out with a single punch. Had the guy just been strutting around with a Nazi armband and leaving everyone alone, I’d be less inclined to agree with decking him, but apparently he’d also been tossing racist epithets, harassing, and threatening people, too.

And that is where “Them’s fightin’ words” comes into play. Wearing a swastika armband is offensive, but ultimately harmless. As soon as threats come into play – immediate ones, not “in the future, maybe” kinds of vague speech – that’s a whole new ballgame and now you’ve gone well beyond protected speech.

And that, friends, means when you get knocked out, you pretty much brought it on yourself.

If you’re wandering around town in a Nazi armband, you’re offending the millions that died at their hands or died trying to wipe Nazi filth off the planet, but you’re not technically breaking any laws. Don’t expect people to love you for it, but you should be safe. If, however, you’re wearing a swastika armband and causing an immediate threat, don’t be surprised when someone busts your ass.

If you’re into Nazis getting knocked out, check out the YouTube video.

Further reading on Fighting Words

Wikipedia

First Amendment Center

Cornell Law School (just a definition)

Neweum

Another Week, Another Whiner

rant

My grandfather was an engineer in the defense industry back in the day. Like most engineers, he had all kinds of corny jokes like pointing at water tanks and asking, “What are those?” When I’d answer, “Tanks,” he’d reply, “You’re welcome, but what are those.”

And so it went.

But his favorite joke still makes me chuckle every now and then. It seems the when Japanese auto industry was starting up, they wanted some expertise to help kick start their processes and designs, so they went to the source and hired a German guy. He worked tirelessly, creating their process flows and initial engineering designs of what would eventually become some of the most iconic cars on the road. After he finished and was about to go back to Germany, flush with the knowledge of a job well done, he met with the company owners in the boardroom.

“You have done an excellent job,” the CEO said, “but we have more request. It shouldn’t take much of your time. It would seem we need to change the name of the company and would like your input on what to call it.”

“Can I take a few days to think about things?” the German engineer asked.

“Unfortunately, no. We must have the required paperwork ready to go today, so we need a new name in the next ten minutes.”

“Dat soon?”

If you get that joke, congrats, you’re a car geek. If you don’t, well, don’t worry about it. But here’s a hint:

datsun240z
Fun fact: my dad loved these cars.

Back in the 70s and 80s, the Japanese auto manufacturers were making great inroads into the American market. American cars of the time used a lot of gas and had all kinds of reliability issues, so the cheaper, more efficient, more reliable Japanese cars started to look attractive to American consumers. Sure, early Hondas and Toyotas lacked the luxury of some of the American brands, but they were almost maintenance-free and didn’t use much fuel. Those things, coupled with the low cost price points, put a huge amount of Japanese cars on American roads in short order.

American manufactures, stung by their dwindling markets, did the logical thing and slammed the Japanese manufacturers and anyone who drove one of their cars as un-American and referred to those early Japanese vehicles as rice-burners, Jap scrap, and a variety of other less-than-pleasant epithets. Not to mention pointing fingers at people buying Japanese cars and complaining about how they were giving their money to Japan. I’m sure those insults and slurs were small comfort to the people standing on the side of the road because their Chevy just spontaneously dumped all its oil or standing over the charred remains of the AMC that exploded after a minor rear-end accident. Especially as a Honda CVCC buzzed by with the windows down and the stock AM radio blaring.

Still, for the US auto industry, sales were dropping and every little dip took away more jobs and more money. Ultimately, it took years for the American auto manufacturers to get their collective shit back together and ask what the hell happened. Surprise! It turned out the people buying Japanese cars weren’t un-American assholes, they just wanted cheap, reliable, efficient cars, something the American companies seemed to have forgotten how to make.

The American auto manufacturers are getting back on track and have learned to make cheaper, more reliable, more efficient vehicles of their own, just like the Japanese companies figured out how to add amenities and make some truly luxurious vehicles. Entire lines of vehicles from both sides of the ocean have vanished to the dustbin of history because they weren’t profitable and what’s left over comes and goes as the sales ebb and flow. But, both Japanese and American auto industries are still running strong.

Oddly, now the US cars are often cheaper than the Japanese cars and the Koreans are about to do to the Japanese auto companies what the Japanese did to the American companies. A lot of Japanese cars are now made in American and a lot of American cars are made in Mexico. And Mexico has developed its own kick-ass supercar: the 1400bhp Inferno.

Inferno
Slicker than snot on a greased doorknob. I want one.

So, what does all this have to do with writing and whiners? Funny you should ask.

Late last week, a friend of mine posted a link on her Facebook page to a diatribe some traditionally-published author had written about how horrible the indie authors were. It was cleverly titled “We Live In A Literary World of Terrible Self-Published Authors”. Launching from that subtle point, Koz continued a nuanced discussion of how every indie author everywhere was just … terrible. From the covers to the writing it was all bad.

All bad. And he continued to whittle away at the indie author world with the tell-tale restraint you only get from traditionally published authors who are watching their sales plummet:

“Normally, traditionally published books have an expectation of quality. This includes great editing, cover art, formatting, and foreign translations. I am not saying all traditionally published books are good, but the average indie title is utter trash.”

As indies, we’re apparently cutting into sales and, gasp, probably won’t join any respectable writing organizations because we’re not professionals. He even statistics to prove his case and used big words to back it up.

“This bias is attributed to a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their ineptitude.”

But the funny thing is, once you strip away the bullshit, you’ll see Koz isn’t ranting from the window ledge for the good of all mankind. He may be advocating better quality control in the indie world (which, admittedly, it can use), but the reason why he’s so hopped up comes down to the one thing that’s repeated over and over in the article: sales of traditionally published books are down.

In other words, money.

So, here’s something to ponder: If sales of traditionally published books are down and people are buying up what Koz calls “utter trash”, why would that be? It seems to me to be counter-intuitive. Why buy crap when you can get the best books out there with great editing, cover art, formatting, and foreign translations?

13486232
Shut up, Zoidberg.

If you ever want to find out why something is happening, follow the money. From car manufacturers, to politicians, to publishing houses, and beyond, money will always tell you the truth about reasons, because almost all reasons come down to money. You can chuckle all you want, you can say it’s not true, you can even stick your fingers in your ears and yell, “La la la, I’m not listening to you! Fake news! Fake news!”, but the truth is money is the root of most decisions.

I think I’ve pointed out on this blog multiple times that publishers are in the business of doing exactly one thing: making money. The fact that they publish books is just the means to the end of making money. Sure, in order to make the most money, they have to produce a good product or they’re gonna go the way of the AMC Pacer in short order, but there’s a bit more to it than that.

Part of marketing your product is finding the appropriate audience. Or creating one. In any given group you’re likely to find a large percentage of people who will buy product X, but you’re never going to get everyone to buy it. Certainly, that’s part of the reason there are so many genres and sub-genres – to cover as much ground as possible. But, if we accept it as an axiom that publishers want to make money, we have to accept they’re going to publish the titles that will give them the best bang for their buck. Publishing traditional paper books is hugely expensive and there’s probably an algorithm the publishers use to determine whether or not a book will be profitable.

In case you’re wondering, yes, that could well be part of the reason you got that rejection letter. It’s not that your book sucked, it’s that might not make enough money to be profitable. If that’s the case, try self-publishing it. If it’s good enough, it’ll sell. If it’s not, go back to the drawing board and figure out how to make it better. Or write another one and another one and another one.

idiocracymoney
Make money, money. Make money, money.

So, money isn’t flowing to the big publishers in the same quantities anymore and people like Koz are screaming at all of us for buying and writing indie books. I get it, they’re losing money and that’s no fun, but just like the American auto manufacturers in the 70s and 80s, Koz and crew are asking the wrong questions and pointing fingers in the wrong directions.

The problem, obviously, isn’t the quality of the work out there. If all Indie works were truly trash, no one would be buying them. Covers and editing are probably holding some people back, but those people are still selling books. So, then, what’s causing readers to flock to Indie books?

Remember, in any large group of people, you’re going to find a subset that will not accept the mainstream ideals and will seek out their own interests. That subset may not be large enough for a traditional publisher to cater to, but it doesn’t mean it’s not a tappable market. Witness the huge amount of money Christie Sims made of dinosaur erotica. If there’s a niche market out there, it’s got to be fans of dinosaur erotica. Note to those fans: I’m not dissing you, I’m just saying you’re an, uh, elite group. Carry on and read whatever makes you happy. But I wouldn’t expect any of the major publishing houses to read a manuscript based on dinosaur erotica and decide to publish it.

And that right there might have more to do with declining sales in traditional publishing than anything Koz can come up with. Some people are still amazed at his great editing, covers, and foreign translations, but a lot of people are just bored with his shit and want to read something else.

So, all you traditionally published authors out there might want to take a step back just like the American auto manufacturers had to all those decades ago and find out just what’s really going on. Pointing fingers and flinging shit is all fun, but it’s not solving your problem. Rather than writing hit pieces, why don’t you take a gander at what your problem really is.

As for the rest of you, keep writing. Remember, a pro is an amateur that didn’t quit. Keep moving forward and getting better at what you do.

tumblr_o7omrbtpIn1urmckio1_540

Even though I’m loath to give Koz and crew more clicks, I believe in fairness. If you want to read the article I’ve been referring to, check it out here.

Final Covers & Blurb

There’s an old image of an iceberg that’s been floating around for a while that likens writing to ‘bergs. Of course, as everyone knows, most of the iceberg is underwater; hence the saying “tip of the iceberg”. The gist of the image is what people finally read is only a small portion of the whole process of writing the book, editing it, rewriting, more editing, beta reads, more editing, formatting, cover design, the hated blurb work, blah, blah, blah, blah. Blah.

My take on it is, sure, the final product is only the tip of the iceberg, but each part can be fun in its own way. Except writing blurbs; that just sucks.

Writing can be a slog sometimes, but I generally enjoy creating and telling stories. Editing can really be a slog, but it’s nice to go back and read what you’ve written and make it shinier. Formatting and cover design have always thrilled me, too. But, maybe I’m just weird that way.

Greetings From Sunny Aluna – the book I’ve been Tweeting snippets from for the better part of a year now – is almost done. It’s been written, re-written, edited, read, re-written, designed, and blurbed. All that’s left is to add my thank yous to all the people that helped out and do the formatting. Then it’s out the door and onto the marketing phase while I restart work on dysRupt.

It’s never easy to say goodbye to a book. I’ve heard people talk about how hard it can be when a book is over and they really got into it. Lord knows I’ve been there many a time, myself. Now, imagine being neck deep in that book for months and being done with it. It’s both terrifying and a relief. But it’s also sad to see it end because it’s almost like losing friends to moves or dropping your kid off at college – you know it has to happen and it’s for the best, but it still hurts.

That said, Greetings will likely be available sometime this week, depending on when I get off my ass and hit publish. For those of who’ve been wondering what the heck the book is about (other than badassery; that’s a given), here are the final print and digital covers, as well as the blurb.

Keep your eyes peeled for the buy link, which should be along soon.

Blurb:

Alunans say The Beast is a myth, a tale told by criminals to their kids about what can happen if they get too far out of line. Almost no one knows who The Beast is and the few who do refuse to talk for fear of repercussions.
Now The Beast has upped the ante and is seeking out a young boy from Earth with magic unlike anything else on Aluna.
In The Beast’s way is an alcoholic ex-cop, a famed Wushu master, and a young woman sent by a dragon. Together, they’ll navigate a city run by crime to find out who The Beast is and put a stop to him.
Unfortunately, they’re about to find out the war never ended.

Print Cover:

Digital Cover:

New Release Sunday

I’ll apologize ahead of time to R.L. for not getting this post up last week. I’d like to make up some story involving monkeys, time travel, and a fried egg, but the truth is, I just didn’t see it come through Facebook.

Thanks Facebook.

Anyway, allow me to present the new work by writer and all around good person, R.L. Andrew, A Lunatic’s Guide to Interplanetary Relationships. She was kind enough to provide a sample of her work, so read on and make sure to follow the buy link at the bottom of the post.

“When perpetual screw-up Shayne James is transported from Earth to another planet, she has no idea she’s the key to saving the universe. When Annu discovers this puny human on his planet, little does he know that she’s the key to the two of them defeating the enemy. He finds her irritating, annoying, and somewhat attractive! If they don’t kill each other, or get killed by an unknown force attempting to take over the universe, they might live happily ever after.”

_______SAMPLE (Enjoy!)________

Chapter 1: Crazy Like a Falling Coconut

Ardrossan, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia, Earth

How did I, Shayne James, a Demi-Goddess and daughter of the Great God Ki, end up in a nut house? It’s God damned ridiculous. Literally. Ive got to get out of here. I cant do another night in this stupid place.

Shayne shook the gate; her fingers ached and rust embedded beneath her nails. “What kind of screwed up torture is this? Haven’t I suffered enough?”

She surveyed the yard for Geoffrey from Ward 3, her one true fan, believer and stalker. Where he went, hospital staff followed. Yard all clear, Shayne counted on her fingers. “How many weeks have I spent in this shit hole?”

2 or 3? Fuck. I don’t know.

The medication they’d thrust into her made time a slippery worm difficult to grasp. The morning’s pills jiggled next to her phone in Shayne’s pocket. She’d hide them with the others. The few missed days cleared her brain and the memories returned. The instant their effects wore off, Shayne realised the governmental nightmare with its hard beds, terrible food, and bad TV, interfered with her true destiny on another planet.

Shayne kicked the metal lock. Pain shot through her foot. “Shit. Crap.”

She hopped in a circle and cursed dodgy hips connected to short legs. The bastards prevented her climb up the Wistingera hedge beside the gate without assistance, and she couldn’t find anyone to hold her steady without grabbing her arse.

Cant get out the gate, cant break the fence, cant climb the hedge. I’ve tried all the doors. Which leaves what exactly?

Shayne breathed in crazy free air and ran through other options. “Oh fuck it. I can’t think of any. What to do, what to do?”

Her shoulders drooped; Shayne’s freedom remained as distant as Orion.

Even if I did escape, what then? How do I get home and back to Orion? Why can’t a wormhole just appear right here? Huh?

Frustrated with her lack of control, Shayne grabbed the top fence rail and shook. Each rattle represented wasted minutes spent there and the time taken from her future with Annu. The strive for freedom pulsed through her, it interrupted her thoughts and shoved her out of bed each morning. All to face a day filled with half baked escape concepts and pleas to release her Godly self.

Shayne moved her anger down a rung. “That nobody fucking listens to.”

Her arms ached; she relent her hold on the fence. Shayne shifted from the gate across to the hedge filling the fence and smushed into the middle of it. The faint scent of rosemary comforted her, a fresh wave of memories flooded Shayne’s mind.

Shayne wriggled her middle finger, not a scar or mark indicated its former separation.

I can’t believe I got a finger chopped off and it grew back, let alone all the other stuff.

Before being found on the pantry floor by her son and taken to the hospital, Annu held Shayne in his arms inside a stone room. Both Demi-Gods fresh from ascension, and filled with universal power. All they’d been through to get there seemed like a dream, and she’d fucked it up.

Shayne in the ultimate moment of stupidity mentioned Earth one too many times, and in a flash a wormhole ripped Shayne back to her home planet and away from love.

True fucking love and shit too.

Annu’s shocked expression tormented her. “Damn you medication for making me forget it even for one second.”

A branch stuck into her back, Shayne wriggled further onto the hospital’s back lawn, a large pile of dried bird poop on her right fared better than her. “We did everything right and in return we weren’t given time to soak in our success; the greatest moment of existence. Let alone kiss and enjoy things. No, not me. I got cosmically shafted. As usual.”

Shayne yanked out a wad of grass and tossed it to the side. “I remember when, I remember, I remember when I lost my mind, there’s something pleasant about that place, even your emotions had a gecko, and so much pace. Mmm. Does that make me crazyyyy? Does that make me–oh wait apparently it does.”

Neighbourhood dogs howled, a flock of magpies a few metres ahead shot into the air.

Bastards don’t appreciate a good voice. Oh what does it matter? My new life waits on the other side of the Galaxy, through the stupid wormhole–an hour and a half, several security guards, and several door alarms from here.

Shayne resigned herself to no Knight in shining armour arriving to rescue her from the current dilemma.

Rather, a retard in tin foil waited on this one planet, on the hospital lawn, deep in thought and determined. “It’s not the first time I’ve saved myself. It’s probably like the third. Surely I can do it again?”

I miss my chocolate hulk.

Shayne shook her head, Annu lingered in her mind. Her belly gurgled, doubt poked into her thoughts.

Is he still waiting for me? No, he probably gave up, and I cant blame him. He’s probably relishing in glory–alone.

Shayne tried to twirl her jade ring, its absence on her naked finger shot another wave of panic through Shayne. She’d grown accustomed to the odd piece of jewellery despite its catalytic nature.

Where did it go? I must have lost it when I burst through the wall. Its got to be under the pantry shelf.

Shayne massaged a lump in her shoulder and sighed. “Another thing that doesn’t matter because I’m not getting out right now, so fuck it and fuck them.”

She scanned again for any sign of staff; all clear. Eyes squinted; she pulled out a smoke and lit it. Shayne inhaled to her lung’s capacity, held the breath and fought coughing.

Hold it in, don’t waste it. Any second now it will be worth it. You’ve got to cough to get off don’t you?

The scratch in her lungs eased, a warm rush numbed her senses and removed life’s edges. While it didn’t remove the body pain, it made not caring about it easier.

Another toke and the sweet smoke filled her chest. The reason Shayne sat next to the gate drifted away with the breeze.

Three quarters of her mind mushed, the remaining quarter niggled at her.

Focus. Don’t waste more time. Don’t fall back into old habits. Oh yeah – escape plan, future leader, blah blah blah. Wait, focus on what? What else can I do? Ive got no powers, no ring, no wormhole. A big fat nothing. Protesting gets me nowhere and all my other attempts are well–unrealistic.

Shayne blew smoke rings into the sky. “Where are you when I need you Ghost Dad? Huh?”

He hasn’t answered to that name yet. Maybe I should call him Ki unless he tells me otherwise?

Eyes closed, mid puff–she attempted telepathy again.

‘Ah Ki, can you help me, please? Or am I too far away for you to hear?

A bird on the lawn squawked, no one else answered her. “Okay so that’s a no then. Fine. Whatever.”

Shayne pushed off the grass and levered up her legs to stand. She pulled the phone from her pocket and re-read Erin’s last text message.

‘I don’t know if I’m coming for a visit tomorrow. It’s hard for me to visit you in there, Mum.

The words buried Shayne in guilt and mocked her efforts at becoming a better parent, let alone have kids proud of her. “Hah. Another epic fail dickhead.”

Once they know the truth everything will change. I’ve got to make them believe me, show them somehow. Any ideas rolling around in my brain feel free to pop up.

Birds chirped, bees buzzed, and her mind remained empty.  

None–really? Oh why is everything so fucking hard? All this thinking is stressing me the fuck out.

Shayne raised the smoke to her lips and killed all negative thoughts. Mid drag, the joint flew in one direction, the lighter in another. Her mouth dropped, Shayne’s last piece of sanity disappeared. A flick on the arm drew her attention to reality and away from herbal oblivion.

Hand to her chest, Shayne faced the buzz-killer culprit.

Nurse Rye. Fuck, crap. Of all the people to catch me. Shit, shit, shit.

A thick plume of smoke exploded in the nurse’s face, she coughed in response.

Shayne swished the smoke away. “Oh fu–u–er, flip. Nurse Rye–what a surprise. Damn woman, are you a ninja in your off time?”

Her bowel clenched, the nurse’s presence scared the crap back up into her intestines. A number of excuses ran through Shayne’s mind, all with better things to do than come out her mouth.

Geoffrey’s head poked around Nurse Rye’s middle and pointed at Shayne. “Found you, your highness. See, you can’t escape me. Ha. I win.”

Since arriving at the hospital Shayne followed a Forrest Gump’s reasoning; if crazy is what crazy does, Geoffrey fell into the bat-shit category. “Geoffrey for the twentieth time it’s goddess not highness. And I know–I can’t escape a damned thing.”

A deep growl erupted against Shayne’s ear; she flinched. Geoffrey bolted from the nurse’s side and out of sight.

The nurse’s shadow blocked Shayne’s sun. “Right this is the last time I deal with you. All you do is spout nonsense, smoke drugs and try to escape. If that wasn’t bad enough, and worse still, you refuse to accept the help you desperately need. You make my job impossible. One way or another you will follow the rules.”

The nurse’s grip tightened; she glared at the lighter on the ground. Her crinkled face resembled a prune. “And, you have contraband. Where did you get it from?”

Quick, dick-head make something up.

“Off a visitor. I hid it in my sock.”

I reiterate, dick head.

Nurse prune grunted, a vein pulsed in her forehead. “You’re forbidden from the common room and confined to your bed aside from meal times. Now, I’m taking you straight to the doctor where I’ll give her a full report. Move it.”

Shayne shuffled at the nurse’s side, the nurse’s death grip prevented playing dead. Breasts considered unnatural wonders smushed against her cheeks, with the consistency of tennis balls in wet socks, they swung in hypnotic rhythm. Shayne stifled the urge to poke them to see if they acted like memory foam.

Headed toward the main building, the unlikely duo caught the immediate attention of both patients and medical staff. Crazy and sane eyes followed their path through the main doors and down the hall.

Great, an audience. Like I need another one of those.

Shayne mumbled into inflated flesh. “Couldn’t you have taken me around the side way and maybe made less of a scene?” Her arm throbbed under the nurses grasp. “Ouch, when I’ve got my powers back you bitch, you’re done for. This is totally unfair.”

Heat burned the top of Shayne’s head, the nurse’s voice bored through her soul. “Oh, yes, that’s right, your amazing magic powers. They haven’t done you much good so far have they? And I bet they didn’t remind you about your doctor’s appointment this morning either?”

The small buzz from the half joint went stone-cold dead. Bam, a wet fish smacked Shayne in the face. “No and no. Crap.”

Escape plan escalated to top priority, finding real chocolate can wait.

******

On a mission, Nurse Rye barged into the doctor’s office. Doctor Unders poked her head above a sea of paperwork. Eyebrows thick enough to hide in covered the middle of her face.

Geez I wish you’d pluck those. Maybe she’ll let me do it one day.

A pen fell from Doctor Unders mouth and landed with a plop on the table. “Nurse Rye, what the hell are you thinking? Remove your hands from this patient immediately.”

The ground rumbled, Shayne suspected steam might erupt out the nurse’s ears.

“If I let her go, she’ll run off again. I caught her out the back alone and smoking drugs–again. She somehow manages to evade the staff and sneak off. How I do not know. And there’s no doubt she’s probably plotting another futile escape as we speak. I have a great deal of work already to do, and not enough people to spend time chasing around after her. She should be medicated adequately so she can’t get out of bed and cause trouble.”

Shayne imagined kicking the nurse’s shin.

If it didn’t get me put in solitary I’d relocate your nose for you.

To her credit, the Doctor didn’t appear intimidated. “You’ll leave the patient’s diagnosis to me, thanks. Perhaps if you supervised your staff better, this wouldn’t happen. How about you go investigate how Mr. Berris is able to swap his lithium for viagra any time he likes and leave me to my job.”

Saggy old balls dangled for a moment in Shayne’s mind, a cold chill followed.

Nurse Rye released her grip on Shayne’s arm and slapped her own thigh. “Fine. I expect you’ll put her on report.”

Shayne remained wedged between the nurse and the door frame without care. Even if she could move, she’d stay put and witness this show down. “Ding dong, the wicked witch is dead.”

“Stop telling me what to do. If you don’t leave my office now, you’ll have staples to remove from your forehead in thirty seconds.” The doctor grabbed the stapler. “Twenty.”

The tension in the room intensified, Nurse Angry prune transformed into the Furious Tomato.

Despite the nurse’s fury, Doctor Unders didn’t waver her glare. “Ten.”

With a huff, Nurse Rye wedged backwards out of the room.

Once she’d reached a safe distance away, Shayne pushed off the doorframe, past shelves filled with physiology text books, towards the one un-cracked plastic chair. She sat adjacent to a deconstructed torso, and hung pictures drawn by patients.

The childlike art broke up nausea inducing yellow, but nothing hid the aged furniture and pea green stained carpet. Shayne recited by memory the names of each text book on each shelf and artist on the wall.

Dr. Overs used her motherly voice. “Shayne, you forgot your appointment and got caught smoking, again. What are we going to do about this?”

Several of Geoffrey’s pieces took up the middle section. None of hers, she hated art. It ate into her TV watching time.

Maybe I could try being invisible. Eyes closed and focus.

“Shayne? Are you with me?”

Shit. She can still see me. Suck it up. “No, I’m not with you at all. I want to go home.”

Doctor Unders’ sigh ricocheted off the desk. “I get it, we all do. But the fact remains, you are still heavily influenced by your delusions. They haven’t altered in strength one iota since your arrival.”

“Well duh. Because it happened, it’s all true and I’m not nuts. Simple.”

“Do you understand we need actual evidence other than your say so about you being royalty and all? And there’s your physical issues which further complicate things. However, I’m sure we’re close to discovering why you have such high levels of DMT in your blood. That’s one thing at least.”

Why don’t people listen to me?

“For the hundredth time, I’m a goddess not royalty. Different kettle of fish.”

Get it right, you morons.

Shayne picked at a strand on her pants. “Huh? DM what?”

“Aha. DMT is a chemical found in people immediately prior to the moment of death. You have a consistent high level in your blood, which I believe may be linked to this delusional behaviour.”

Shayne tapped her head. It echoed. “You won’t find anything wrong with my brain. What about the –”

Doctor Unders cut Shayne off with a raised hand. “Before you say it, we can’t find any biological evidence of you being immortal or having magic powers, nor of your finger being chopped off and, ah, grown back.”

Stupid narrow-minded people surrounded her. “For the tenth time, you aren’t using the right equipment.”

“Shayne, it’s time you faced facts. This other planet–Orion–with all these people and fantastical events are a creation of your mind. None of it happened. It’s illogical. Do yourself a favour and let it go. Concede you need help. In time, if you respond to treatment, you will be able to go home.”

The strand came loose, Shayne selected another. “No, I won’t change my mind. I can’t, every part of it is real. The good, the bad, the ugly. Somehow, someway, I’ll prove it to you.”

A curl broke free from back of the doctor’s head, it sprung into her face. “Are you still taking your medication?”

“Yes.”

Im still taking vitamins.

The Doctor raised an eyebrow. “If you don’t take the meds, they don’t work. Shayne, I’ve always had a lot of time for you. Yet, it’s a struggle to balance this duality within you. I know there is a healthy person in there. They’re just buried under a mountain of tragic events and bad judgment. When you’re not talking about Orion, and the kitchen hasn’t run out of anything chocolate flavoured, you appear mentally sound. With all this in mind, at this point in time in good medical consciousness, I can’t release you.”

Shayne’s stomach climbed her abdomen, up her throat, and dropped onto the floor. She refused to cry, instead stabbing a pencil at the desk.

Cant someone cut me some slack?

“First of all, the chocolate flavoured shit’s the only thing substituting for lack of actual chocolate because you consider the wrappers a choking hazard. Second, for fuck’s sake. I AM NOT nuts. Yes, long ago I spent some time in a psych ward for a few weeks. This is different.”

Doctor Unders’ tone softened. “I didn’t say nuts but you had nightmares, migraines, and hallucinations then too. Except for a much more elaborate delusion, how is this time unlike the other? This man Annu you’ve created, coincidentally, turned into the love of your life and a perfect match. And, his mother, Irica, is the mother you’ve longed for.”

Shayne shoved Irica out of her mind, and shuddered. “Don’t talk about Irica again.”

“Alright, I’m sorry. I forgot.”

She’d not let defeat claim her; Shayne grabbed inner strength. “Look it’s not the same at all okay. Well, actually it’s kind of a bit the same, but not. Back then, I saw and heard some strange things which didn’t make sense. Myself, boosted by a few others, thought I’d lost it. Until I travelled to Orion recently, I realised those so called hallucinations were visions of my future, and I wasn’t crazy at all. I did get pulled into a wormhole in my pantry and onto Orion. Me and Annu defeated an ancient God, Sham-man, I mean Shamesh, and a few others along the way. It wasn’t easy. Plus I got kidnapped, froze people, got hurt and all sorts of shit–yet ended up back home, where again, no one believes me. And trust me, if I made up a dream world, do you really think there would be so much death and destruction in it? I’d design it so I walked in, got my powers, and life turned into butterflies and fucking rainbows. Not ended with me here powerless in a mental hospital with a chronic illness.”

Shayne stuck her finger in the hole she’d created in her pants. “Which is caused from me being from Orion not Earth. My DNA isn’t meant for here.”

Doctor Unders glasses dropped on the desk beside the pen. “I thought you accepted you’re sick from the autoimmune disease Psoriatic Arthritis. Shayne, your fantastical evidence can’t be validated. Like the magical ring, which you don’t have, wormholes no one else sees, and life on another planet. Which you claim to be a Demi-God of, and none of it can be proven. And yet it won’t sink in that head of yours. Shayne, what about the effect this has on your kids? If it were true, wouldn’t they believe you? Wouldn’t someone have seen something?”

Bam, smacked on the other side of the face with another wet fish. “Leave Erin and Ryan out of it. They don’t understand yet, but they will. As soon as I get out of here. I just need to get back home.”

“Well I’ve got to tell you, it’s going to be a while and you aren’t getting out of this session. I’ve got 20 minutes left Shayne. Can we talk about your ex husband?”

Where were all these fish coming from?

“No. At least that son of a bitch is dead.”

The doctor probed her face. “Each of these wrinkles is your fault.” Another curl on the opposite side broke free; together the curls formed white horns around the doctor’s face. “Fine. Let’s start from when you moved into the other house.”

Do I spend twenty minutes fighting the session, or play nice and use to the time to figure a way out of this crap hole?

“Shayne?”

Shayne spotted the Doc’s handbag next to the desk, no easily accessible keys stuck out the top.

Damn, I better think of another idea.

About R.L.

“R.L Andrew is a former Legal Executive, chronically ill Australian writer and Movie Reviewer. Along with many short stories published in International Anthologies R.L. is also a regular, long term contributor to the CrypticRock.com Website based in New York.

Her first book ‘A Lunatic’s Guide to Interplanetary Relationships’ will soon be published by JaCol Publishing, an American based publisher. The sequel ‘A Demigoddess’s Guide to Intergalactic Parenting’ is currently in revision stage.”

Get your copy of A Lunatic’s Guide To Interplanetary Relationships on Amazon.

You can also find her on Facebook, the Interwebs, and Twitter.