Category Archives: Guest bloggers

Guest Blogger, Phillip S. Benson

Me, My Ant Farm, and How My Six-Legged Buddies Have Healed My Inner Child

First, I want to sincerely thank Lisa Di Dio for inviting me to contribute to Black Ink, White Paper. Second, I should probably level with everyone right off the bat—I do not own an ant farm. Third, although men have feelings too, I am hesitant to discuss my inner child, since doing so would conflict with my macho image. However, with that said, I do believe that life itself — not to mention writing —has both a practical side (the busy ants completing tasks step by step) and an inspirational side (the inner child longing to be enthralled with wonder).

Some philosophers argue that rational analysis and a sense of wonder are at odds. They imply that one can either be a brilliant yet melancholy intellectual who is grounded in reality or a naïve yet joyous mystic with his or her head in the clouds. However, I contend that there is no inherent conflict between rationality and wonder.

Apart from our ability to think rationally, we would have no true ability to appreciate wonder in the first place, since we would be nothing more than objects — incapable of genuine free thought. On the other hand, if we were capable of rational thought but there was no deeper purpose to our existence, then our logic would be empty. As such, I firmly hold that rational thought and wondrous inspiration are not only compatible but are in fact both necessary.

And speaking of my personal sources of inspiration, breathtaking landscapes have always, well … taken my breath. Whether walking along the Northern California coast or hiking in mountain ranges across the Western United States, I have always felt drawn to the wilderness. This becomes readily apparent in my recently published novel, Defiant, Book One of the Northstar Series.

Although Defiant is a fantasy novel, it is intended to directly explore real-world joys and sorrows—to echo the difficult questions with which we all wrestle. Defiant focuses on a warrior’s quest to discover the purpose of his existence, if such a thing exists, and though he comes to strong conclusions by the end of the story, he is still left to grapple with many doubts. Despite those doubts, he is convinced that there are things in life about which he can be certain.

Every day, regardless of what we pursue in life, we need a reason to get up in the morning. This purpose ought to be grounded in both rational thought (day-to-day realities) and a deep sense of wonder (the hope of our dreams being realized). Those of us who lean towards science and heady intellectual pursuits do not need to reject our sense of awe, and those of us who lean towards mystical inspiration need not shelve our critical thinking abilities. The mind and the heart can complement each other perfectly.

–Phillip S. Benson

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DEFIANT, by Phillip S. Benson is available at Amazon.com

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Guest Blogger, LJ Cohen

I introduced myself to LJ Cohen when I realized we share the same agent and are both writing YA. I’ve since discovered we have a number of things in common, including our first name and decade of birth. (Lisa was quite popular in the sixties. Of course, we could just as easily have been named Moonbeam or Rainbow.)

Her debut novel, THE BETWEEN, released last week, and it’s as delightful as she is. Please join me in welcoming her to Black Ink, White Paper.

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Thank you for inviting me to pen a guest post for Black Ink, White Paper. One of the absolute blessings of the rise of social media over the past few years has been the chance to meet fellow travelers on the writing road. The life of a writer can be so utterly solitary. We spend a lot of time living in our heads while story ideas, characters, and intriguing turns of phrase chase one another around and around. Even if we have supportive significant others in our lives (and I am quite fortunate, indeed, to have an utterly devoted spouse), they don’t really understand how the writer’s brain works.

My husband will often tease me and ask what my characters have whispered in my ear lately. That’s not exactly how it works and when I try to explain it to him, his eyes glaze over in the same way mine do when he’s showing me video of himself on the race track and he tries to explain the physics of the apex of a turn. (His midlife crisis was to start high-performance driving and he is now an instructor. Mine was to write novels.) In reality, my characters don’t so much as talk to me as talk to one another while I get to eavesdrop. On good days, they’ll give me much needed clues. On bad days, I have to blunder my way through scenes with the liberal application of the backspace button.

Conventional wisdom talks about two kinds of writers: plotters and pantsers. I’m not sure I’m either. Or maybe I’m a weird hybrid of both. It’s a balancing act for me: too much pre-planning and the story feels stale once I sit down to write. Either that, or the narrative line veers away from my orderly outline and I’m off the map again. Yet, sitting down to write without any pre-planning feels too much like dancing on the high-wire without a net. It’s too easy for me to write myself into dead ends and lose whatever control I have over the process.

Maybe this messy method of mine has its roots in my truly awful sense of direction. I may be one of the few people on this lovely planet who can still get lost using a GPS device. (Or as I call it, ‘the nice lady who tells me where to go.’) Before GPS became an essential three-letter-acronym in my life, I would often sit in my car and try to visualize where I wanted to go, only to completely draw a blank. I knew where I was and I knew the destination, but I couldn’t connect the dots between the two. So I would call my husband and ask him for help. At first, he would be incredulous that I couldn’t find my way somewhere I had been hundreds of times. His brain, I am certain, has a GPS implant. Either that, or he has homing pigeon genes spliced into his DNA. It did take some time, but he finally came to understand that I needed him to help me lay a breadcrumb trail. Sometimes all it took was for him to give me a single landmark between points A and B. Then the proverbial lightbulb would go off and I could see the whole trip.

I think my writing is very much like that. I have a starting point. I have a finish line. Sometimes I can draw a line between the two and have a story unfolding in front of me like the waypoints on my GPS. Other times, the breadcrumb trail is missing too many crumbs and I need help finding a crucial landmark.

Having other writer friends with whom I can brainstorm and who respect my process has made the difference between my head exploding and finished novels.

I used to worry that the way I wrote wasn’t right. I have a shelf full of craft books that tell me so. They tell me that I shouldn’t edit while I write. (I do.) Or I need to create a complete outline. (I don’t.) Or I need to get the first draft down in a red hot fury of writing. (I don’t.) That I should never go back to revise earlier chapters until the story is finished. (I do.) All that advice is likely well-intentioned, but perhaps a bit limiting. After completing 6 novels, a dozen short stories, and hundreds of poems in 7 years, I think I have made peace with my writing process. Just don’t take away my GPS.


LJ Cohen is the writing persona of Lisa Janice Cohen, poet, novelist, blogger, local food enthusiast, Doctor Who fan, and relentless optimist. Lisa lives just outside of Boston with her family, two dogs (only one of which actually ever listens to her) and the occasional international student. In love with words since early childhood, Lisa filled dozens of notebooks with her scribbles long before there were such a thing as word processors.

After a 25 year hiatus writing professional articles, text book chapters, assessments and progress notes for her physical therapy practice, Lisa returned to fiction seven years ago. Her first novel was written to answer her husband’s challenge to write something better than the book he had thrown across the room in disgust. Six novels later, she is still writing. She also writes the occasional op/ed piece for her local paper and has maintained the Once in a Blue Muse blog for many years.

Lisa is represented by Nephele Tempest of The Knight Agency. When not doing battle with a stubborn Jack Russell Terrier mix, Lisa is hard at work on her seventh novel, a ghost story. THE BETWEEN is her publishing debut.

Homepage: http://www.ljcohen.net/
Blog: http://ljcbluemuse.blogspot.com/
Mailing List: http://www.ljcohen.net/mailinglist/mail.cgi/list/bluemusings
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ljcohen
Twitter: @lisajanicecohen
Tumblr: http://www.ljcohen.tumblr.com
Google+: http://gplus.to/ljcohen
email LJ: lisa@ljcohen.net

Guest blogger – Nancy Hundal

Please join us in welcoming our guest this week – Nancy Hundal. I got to meet Nancy through a mutual friend (who also happens to be one of my beta readers) and I knew that any friend of Ardella’s would be a whole lot of fun to be around. And I was right.

We asked Nancy a whole bunch of questions and her answers are below. I’m sure you’ll laugh out loud at some places – I did.

Kate

What is your day like? On a good working day? On a bad working day? And how do you cope with the bad ones?

Most of my days consist of momming and teaching; a few days are singing, and even fewer are writing. I need to work on that; not a great pattern for a writer. But there’s only so much of me to go around….check that, I just looked down. There’s plenty of me to go around, but I still don’t get to writing as often as I’d like…

On those writing days where things are not going smoothly, I either just keep going, bludgeoning my way through the block, or give up in disgust and reward myself for said behaviour by eating something I shouldn’t.

Tell us a little bit about your workspace.

I work in the basement…dark and quiet. Until now I have shared a computer with my teenaged son, which required much arm-wrestling to determine whose turn it was on the computer. But!! I was given a laptop for Christmas, so my wrestling days are over. Complete computer control, 24/7…will I write more? That remains to be seen.

If you had a perfect day, what would it be?

Getting up really late, but then having the clock magically flip backwards so it was actually very early. Some reading, some writing, some singing, out for dinner with my family. Maybe someone would go shopping for me and find me a great new outfit, and my cat would definitely NOT bring me a dead mouse or bird as a gift.

What turns you on creatively?

Reading other peoples’ great writing. When I’m reading a novel that I admire, I continually flip to the author’s photo on the back jacket to look at the face of the person who can do such wonderful things with words.

Who do you most admire in your field (or in general) and why?

Sharon Creech and  Kate DiCamillo, both fabulous kids’ writers. I admire them because their books are filled with meaty ideas and interesting characters, with plots that pull you along effortlessly. I just read a new book, “Because of Mr. Terupt”, by Ron Buyea, and he can do the same thing!

If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?

I’m also a teacher-librarian. My two jobs complement each other beautifully. I’m always reading new books to introduce to kids at school, and this helps so much with my writing life.  If I were to be something completely different? I think that would be studying the brain and how it works…or how it sometimes doesn’t, in my case.

Tell us a little about your working process.

Turn on computer, reread story since I’ve usually left it so long that I need to figure out what the heck the book is actually about, write a little, check my email, write a little, check Facebook, write a little, get some tea, write a little…you’re getting the picture?

What is one thing you want to do before you die?

See more of the world.

What is your favorite saying?  

Pardon me? (I have a hearing loss).

What’s the one thing that drives you crazy? At work? At home? In general?

When the computer asks me if I want to save the change in a file I’m closing and I don’t think I made any changes to it…so should I save it and risk possible horrendous loss of writing, or not save it, and risk possible horrendous loss of writing?

What’s your favorite book? Movie? Painting? Musician? Album?

I can never decide on an absolute favourite; too restrictive. But amongst my favourites are Water for Elephants (book), Rod Stewart, paintings that are crazy-colourful and cheery. I’m feeling quite cheered right now, actually, as I notice the word ‘album” has been used in this question, and that makes me think that I’m not the only one who remembers what an album actually is. I’d be feeling even better if the word had been ‘record’.

 Where’s your favorite place in the world? Why? 

I thought about that for a while, but I guess I don’t have one. Picking favourites is too hard for me; I keep thinking and rethinking, making sure it’s my absolute favourite. One of my favourites is the Oregon Coast, because it’s so wild and thunderous and windy and lonely.

Nancy Hundal
www.nancyhundal.com

Guest blogger, Barb Drozdowich aka Sugarbeat’s Books

I’d like to thank Eden for inviting me to guest post on this wonderful blog! My name is Barb Drozdowich, but I’m known in the blogging world as Sugarbeat’s Books. Sugarbeat’s Books is a blog that I started about a year and a half ago for two main reasons. One, I wanted to express my thoughts on the books that I read. I read romance. My husband rolls his eyes at the sight of the cover of most of the books I read – he certainly doesn’t want me to talk about them! Second, I wanted the technological challenge. I’m a stay at home mom that runs a bookstore from the house. I left a challenging job running the technical training department of a financial institution to have a child. Although I’m happy with that decision, I decided I need something to challenge my mind.

I found a student willing to set up my blog for me, as I didn’t think I was capable of that part. I just wanted to run the blog. After the blog was mostly operational, and after spending a huge amount of money, this student increased his prices ten fold. I was stuck with the blog that didn’t do what I wanted it to do, and no money to go any further. After wallowing for a bit, I decided that I should be able to figure this out myself, and set out to learn what I needed to learn.

At the same time, I was discovering what a wonderful world of authors there was “out there”. I was one of those people who went to Chapters/Target/Walmart and bought a book – based on the cover – always printed by a big publishing house. I certainly didn’t have an e-reader, and I didn’t read anything that I couldn’t buy in a store. Through my blog I have discovered the world of self-pubbed and small pubbed authors. I have read some absolutely outstanding books by new and nearly new authors that don’t have their books for sale at Walmart. I also discovered that I love telling everyone who will listen about these outstanding authors. My blog, twitter, and facebook are the vehicles I use to do this promotion.

Early last spring I “ran into” Amber Scott on-line. I had the opportunity to review her book “Play Fling” which was being featured in an on-line promotional day. This promotion was so much fun. I learned more about marketing books in that one day that I’d learned in the previous 9 months! Amber and a group of her friends have taken their careers in hand and are publishing and selling their books. They are an incredibly motivating group! Around this time, I took my blog and my bookstore in hand – both of which didn’t really work all that well, and started teaching myself how to fix them! I found out about on-line courses that I could take from home, I read books, and I took charge of my sites. I stopped paying outrageous amounts of money and did the work myself. I figured out how to get people to follow my blog and figured out how to set up the various social media accounts that allow following. I taught myself some SEO principles so that I would be picked up on google searches. Finally, I taught myself how to do blog design. Because I have background in teaching, I’ve found myself back in my element, helping other bloggers and authors with what I’ve learned. The blogging world, like the writing community is a incredible world to immerse oneself in. I had the opportunity to go to the RWA book fair in Bellevue, WA, a month ago and enjoyed meeting authors in person that have appeared on my blog. In this online world, we rarely meet face-to-face. It’s neat to see the look on an author’s face when I walk up and say “Hi! I’m Sugarbeat’s Books and I’d like to thank you for appearing on my blog”! I was like a kid in a candy store. So many romance authors in one big room!

I’ve learned a lot in the last year and a half! I’ve met some amazing authors and some amazing bloggers. I’ve learned so much about the technology used in blogging and today’s version of promoting books that some days I feel like my head will explode! It’s an exciting and ever changing world and I’m here to stay!

I’d like to thank Eden and all the authors of this blog for inviting me today! I can be found at my blog, Sugarbeat’s Books, my consulting business Bakerview Consulting, my bookstore, The Beat’s Book Nook or contacted at sugarbeatsbooks@gmail.com or bakerviewconsulting@gmail.com

Thanks,
Barb

Welcome our guest, Larry Enright

Tell us a little about yourself. Where you live now, and where you grew up?

I was born in Pittsburgh four years after World War II ended and am the middle child in an Irish Catholic family of five children. My father and mother were married during the war and started their family after Dad came home in 1945. I have their wedding photo. He was in uniform and my Mom was in a beautiful dress – her mother’s wedding dress. Things were very different then. People were happy to be at peace again and struggling to rebuild their lives, always hoping for things to get better. There were no personal computers, no Internet, we shared a phone line with the neighbors, TV – if you were lucky enough to have one – was black and white. And if you were a writer, you used a pencil and paper.

Today, I live on a small farm on which things grow despite my best efforts. I have been married since 1980 and have two sons in their twenties. We are still all together on the farm, though I suspect my younger son will be moving out soon. I love my family and I love my writing space at the house – an enclosed sun porch that gathers the morning light and graciously provides me my best spurts of creativity.

Do you feel that the environment you were raised in has any effect on your choice of genre?

I grew up loving stories and apparently I was fairly adept at spinning yarns and tall tales when the need arose, not that I got in any trouble when I was young! Not me. Mystery, science fiction and fantasy were my favorites. I don’t know that my environment had an impact on the genre of “Four Years from Home,” but it certainly had an impact on the setting, the plot points, and the need for a message within the story. “A King in a Court of Fools,” my latest novel, was definitely affected by my strong sense of family.

When and why did you begin writing?

I began writing novels around 1980 and have written four. “Four Years from Home” and “A King in a Court of Fools have been published. I started writing because of the need to express what was rattling around in my head.

What inspired your first book?

The first was a fantasy called the Windshaper Chronicles. The premise was – what if you could change things but had to go to such extreme lengths to do so, that you could lose it all? Would you do it? Some people, who would probably disavow knowledge of it at this point, liked it. When I submitted it to a literary agent, the primary criticism was that it was printed on a dot matrix printer. I’m sure someone out there remembers what they were. My second novel, from 2003 was called ForestWalker. It was a fantasy-reality mix piece, in the guise of a mystery, in which the protagonist and the story moved back and forth between the reality of an online game world and the real world. It was an interesting concept that I didn’t pull off. Someday I may go back to it when online games are obsolete and see if it can be salvaged. “Four Years from Home” was inspired directly by my Irish Catholic upbringing, as was “A King in a Court of Fools.”

How do you come up with your titles?

I don’t recall how the first two titles came about, but “Four Years from Home” was a simple line from the book and it captured the essence of the story in four simple words. ”A King in a Court of Fools” came from a novel created within “Four Years from Home,” a book referred to within the book, as it were.

Is there a specific message in your novels that you’d like the reader to grasp?

Always. For “Four Years from Home” it was — What if someone sacrificed everything for you? What would you do? For “A King in a Court of Fools,” there were a few messages — What is the value of friendship? Is your enemy really your enemy? Why do we think kids have it easy when their lives are just as complex as ours?”

How much of your books are realistic or based on real life issues?

Tom Ryan, the protagonist in both novels, is a hyperbole. That is a given. But messages conveyed by hyperbole can have their own distinct, and in some ways more effective, impact when the truth is finally known. The issues presented, of redemption, of sacrifice, of brotherly love, these are real.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I believe I began my writing career in the 5th grade. Miss Mellucci was the best. I had a minor setback in 6th grade when I got my first “D” in penmanship, but I have overcome that with therapy and coffee.

Do you have a specific writing style?

“Four Years from Home” is written as if spoken by Tom Ryan’s mind, so the style is at times wandering, disconnected, and full of things you and I would never think to say but just might dare to think. “A King in a Court of Fools” is written as a retrospective, so the narration is more direct.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

Agatha Christie – she’s extremely cool.

What book are you reading now?

“Thalo Blue” by Jason McIntyre. I love it, but I am such a slow reader.

Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?

There are so many wonderful authors in the independent community that I am going to refrain from naming any one or two. I might regret this when they are famous and I am trying to get them to push “Four Years from Home the Exercise Video.”

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your first book?

Maybe a word or sentence here or there, but not the heart of the story.

Are you currently working on a new book, and if so, can you share some of it with us?

Yes, I’m so glad you asked. I am working on a new novel. It is a Christmas tale involving the Ryan children. I am hoping to have it out by Thanksgiving, unless the world continues to move Christmas shopping up and I need to finish it next week.

What is the most challenging part of writing your current work in progress?

The timeline. I am a very slow writer (and reader). I started this one in August and it has been way more writing than I am used to doing in a day.

Who are your favorite authors and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

Agatha Christie, the Hercule Poirot books, and their inspirational way of delving into the “little grey cells.”

Jules Verne – I really love the adventure in all of his writing. They seem dated now, but I read and re-read as many of them as I could get my hands on.

Do you have to travel much concerning your books?

This must be a question for an author who is actually popular?
No, I don’t travel. I might have deleted an email from Letterman once, but that was an accident, honest!

Do you design your own covers?

Yes.

Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

I believe I was writing “Four Years from Home” to myself. I believe I am and have been in the throes of a metaphysical debate over the exact issues in “Four Years from Home” for quite some time. The debate is not over, but I am feeling better about it. “A King in a Court of Fools” helped.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Write what you know, picture the scenes, the characters, make it as real for yourself as possible. It won’t seem real to anyone else if it is not real to you. (This applies to fantasy as well, but I am not recommending any weird dress-up thing, just so you know.)

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

To my readers, I say, “Thank you. I write for you. If you liked it, great; if not, I’ll try harder next time.” To those who are not my readers, I say, “You do know that Tom Ryan has your home address and email, right?”

Larry Enright

Links:

My site – http://www.larryenright.net/
Purchase links –
Four Years from Home http://www.larryenright.net/id3.html
A King in a Court of Fools http://www.larryenright.net/id4.html
Facebook http://www.facebook.com/LarryEnrightAuthor
Twitter http://twitter.com/#!/LarryEnright

comic book love

I’ve known Dex for a number of years and most recently she became my husband and I’s kick-ass roommate. I am indebted to her for the stunning piece of artwork she drew for a series of mine that ended up being my favorite tattoo. Not only is she an amazing artist, but she’s a heck of a human being. *grins* Of course, she’ll kick you if you cross her, which is probably why we get along so well. – K.B.

* * *

I love comic books. I mean I really love comic books. It borders on the unhealthy. I can tell you more about comic character origins, who they’ve hooked up with, and their children’s names than I can about American history. And I know my history pretty well. I’ve been known to put on a rubber mask and proclaim myself to be The Goddamn Batbitch, because I’m not quite man enough to be Batman. Besides, I couldn’t be the Dark Knight. I’m way too loud.

People that know me know about my Batman obsession, and actually enable it, for some strange reason. My coworkers bring me Bat-related merchandise all the time, for example. But the true root of my love of comics comes from Captain America. And since I saw the fantastic film version of it recently, I thought I’d share the root of my madness.

My grandfather taught me to read when I was just barely four years old. He did it with the newspaper comic strips. I’d sit on his lap and he’d have me sound out the words until I got the joke. And sometimes even then, I still wouldn’t get it. So by the time I started kindergarten, I was reading the newspaper comics to him every morning. My grandfather had a very sharp mind, for only having about a first grade education. He had taught himself to read about the same way, when he was in the Army during World War II.

There was a drugstore in the little town I grew up in that he would take me to from time to time for lunch. It was one of those Norman Rockwell type lunch counters, and there was the spinning rack of comic books by the window right beside it. One day I was drawn to it, because I realized they were new things to read. I’d burned through my nursery rhymes and Little Golden books pretty quickly once I got to where I could read on my own. And I grabbed an Archie comic and ran over to my grandfather and begged him to buy it for me.

He looked between the rack, the comic in my hand, and the rack a few times before he said no. I was heartbroken for a beat, before he said “Not that one. If you want to read comic books, you’re gonna read a good one.” That’s when he took the book out of my hand, walked over to the rack, plucked off something from the top (where I couldn’t have reached anyway) and handed it to me.

I couldn’t tell you what happened in that particular issue, or even which one it was. I just remember getting lost in it for the next couple of hours. I could see the images in front of me, and I had a soundtrack going in my mind, with the voices of the characters as I imagined them to be, and all the actions as well. Guns, explosions, punches and ricochets. It was so new, yet familiar, since I had watched a lot of old war movies with my grandfather. See, my grandfather never had a son, just two daughters. One of whom had me. So I got to be a little bit of a tomboy, and that was just fine with him.

Throughout my childhood, I read every comic I could get my hands on, which weren’t many. Once I started living with my mother, she wouldn’t buy them for me, but she would for my younger brother, and he made a mess of them before I ever got to read them. But I did anyway. By the time I reached my adolescence, I resigned comics to the realm of childish things that I no longer needed. And after my grandfather passed away right before my fifteenth birthday, I didn’t bother with them for several years.

When I reached my late teens, I was living on my own and I’d gotten a job as an art assistant working on, you guessed it, comic books. It was just one of those crazy random happenstances that I even got the job. I happened to live in the same building, that was pretty much it. The important part of the story is that I rekindled my love of comics. Only this time, I was looking at it from a more mature perspective, and I’d gained a great deal of respect for artists and writers.

I learned that Captain America was created by a writer, Joe Simon, and an artist, Jack Kirby. Kirby is a legend amongst comic artists. He’s also responsible for the look of most of Stan Lee’s characters that have gone on to become films, like Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four, The Hulk, and several others.

But for me, most importantly, he created Captain America. That first comic book I ever owned has meant so much to me, and has shaped my life so profoundly. It became a career, it brought my closer to the man that raised me, it fired up my imagination, and was a means of escape from the utter drudgery of life.

Even now, in my thirties, I still love comics. I have shelves full of graphic novels and action figures, as well as posters on my walls. Just last night I didn’t want to drink my margarita unless I had my Batman glass. Hell, there’s an Iron Man mug on my desk right now holding a bunch of random crap.

And even if all that wasn’t evidence enough of my obsession, I’ll take it just a little further. See, I had twin daughters nearly 12 years ago. I will admit, I kind of wanted a boy, so I could name him after my grandfather. Instead, I got two girls, which was also fine. But it’s a little difficult to find a feminine form of Stanley. So instead, I drew my daughters’ names from something that would have meant something to my grandfather. So I named one Jacqueline (after Jack Kirby) and one Josephine (after Joe Simon). It helps that their father is a far more advanced geek than I am, so he was completely fine with this idea. My girls are aware of the inspiration for their names and proud of it, like the good little geeks I raised them to be.

I’ve seen a lot more girls come out of the “geek closet”, so to speak, in recent years, and I love it. I read to relax, to escape, for entertainment. I’m not really into novels, and non-fiction bores me to death, unless it’s the right subject. So it just kills me to talk to women that have never picked up a comic book, but resign it to something that’s “just for kids”. It’s tempting to throw an issue of Strangers In Paradise or Preacher at them and tell them to get back to me. Both are series definitely intended for adults.

Dextra Hoffman is proof that geeks are sexy. Artist, comic enthusiast, and all around awesome chick. You can find her on Facebook and on Google +.

Guest Blogger Ana Ramsey

(the header photo is the Trifid Nebula. Image Credit: NASA, HST, WFPC2, J. Hester (Arizona St. U) et al. See NASA terms of use)

I met Ana a few months ago through some mutual friends of ours. Quite by accident, though as it turns out our friends had wanted to introduce us for a while. *laughs* For good reason, it seems, because I’ve found her to be a kindred spirit. Not in the least because she’s as crazy as I am! *grins and winks* But in part because she also loves Harry Potter and trust me, she writes some awesome urban fantasy!

***

When K.B. asked if I would be willing to write a guest post for Black Ink, White Paper, I was both overjoyed and extremely nervous. I have my own blog (http://anaquana.blogspot.com/), but I rarely ever post to it because I never know what to write or if people even care about what I’m writing. In light of that, I cheesed out and asked K.B. to simply send me the interview questions. But then, as I was hard at work answering said questions, I realized I was going about it all wrong.

I’ve only just met K.B., but in the short time I’ve known her, I’ve come to see that she is the embodiment of pushing one’s self to the limit and beyond. So, I’m borrowing a bit of her spirit today and pushing past my comfort zone and writing an actual post instead of just answering a few questions.

Two weeks ago, I watched the live-stream of the red carpet premiere of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 and I bawled my eyes out. Partly because I’m a sap and this wonderful franchise which has shaped my life in so many ways for the last decade has reached a grand finale. It’s thanks to the Harry Potter fandom that I’m writing this guest blog. If not for a mutual friend whom I met through the Harry Potter slash-fiction community, I would probably never have met K.B. She is only one of numerous blessings bestowed upon me because of my love of Harry Potter.

The other reason I was so moved to tears was because of my own feelings of inadequacy. I watched as these masses of people screamed and cried and rejoiced in the presence of J.K. Rowling and the actors who portrayed her characters, and I despaired of ever being good enough to write something that has touched the lives of so many people.

I don’t care about the fame and fortune. In all honesty, I’m far too shy to be comfortable with the idea of book signings and being on panels at conventions. No, what I want to do is make a difference in somebody’s life through my writing. Is that the height of hubris? Maybe, but that’s the reason I write and strive so hard to be published.

That is until that Friday. That Friday I thought very long and very hard about giving up. I thought about packing up my pens and notebooks and deleting all of my Word documents. Because really? What was the point of continuing if I was never going to accomplish what I set out to do?

I know all of you who are reading this are probably shaking your heads and tsking at me, but here’s the thing: it was important that I let myself experience those feelings of inadequacy and failure. I needed to internalize them, sort through them, and let my inner-self decide in its own time that those feelings weren’t worthy of me. Because, while my head is smart enough to know that, of course, I’ll never succeed if I give up before the end, my inner-self is like a small, whiny child that knows no sense of reason. And it’s going to throw a tantrum whether it’s the sensible thing to do or not. Once my inner-self was done with its pity-party, I got right back to writing.

Sometimes we just need to give in and have ourselves a good old-fashioned pity-party complete with cake, ice cream, balloons, and most important of all, a piñata. Have yourself a cry. Chuck your notebooks into a (clean) garbage can. Move your writing files to the recycling bin (please, dear reader, do NOT empty it). Let your inner-self live the reality of giving up if even for just a little while. I bet you anything the little brat’ll wise up and shut up real fast. Then you can retrieve your notebooks and restore your files and balance will be restored.

Ana Ramsey* is a crazy cat lady cum author repped by the fabulous Cameron McClure of the Donald Maass Literary Agency. She just recently finished rewrites on her first novel. Where Demons Fear to Tread is the first in an urban fantasy series set in a world populated by all manner of Fey creatures, vampires, shapeshifters, and demons. She can usually be found lurking on Twitter (@anaquana) or gallivanting around the world from the comfort of her chair.

*Name changed to protect the guilty

Guest blogger Chris

I first met Chris at the 2009 Pacific Northwest Writers Association Conference in Seattle. An affable man, generous with praise and encouragement, Chris writes fantasy. Unlike the vast majority I’ve spoken with, however, he is paying his dues. Attending workshops, refining his manuscript, hiring an editor, Chris is doggedly pursuing the road to publication. I invited him to join us because I felt he was someone who would have something to contribute. Raymond

Since this is my first “guest blog” I wanted to take it easy and start with something simple and non-controversial—Oh wait—that’s someone else. I have many fine attributes and a few flaws but playing it safe is not numbered among them.

In the war between the Creationists and the Evolutionists, who argue these concepts ad nauseum, I believe that both sides fail to grasp what is, in my never to be humble opinion, the most obvious and likely answer: Both are correct. (I promise, this really is a blog on writing. Just bear with me a moment or two longer).

Nothing can begin in total void. Something must be there, even something infinitesimally small that we cannot even begin to know. Therefore, Creation must have taken place. Someone created something: somehow, somewhere, somewhen.

Once created however, it was (and is) allowed to evolve on its own. You can choose to argue it is a guided evolution or a huge series of random, chaotic circumstances just bumping up against one another, but, since we do have what comes down to very nearly conclusive proof of evolution, we can accept that it too did (and does) occur.
Writing creates similar and just as vehement arguments. There are writers who map out their entire book before writing a word. They know every character trait and flaw of each individual. There are no surprise guest stars in the midst of their writings. Everything is laid out and each plan is followed to the letter and they are certain that this method is the one which will garner the most professional and successful results. I find that for myself, when this process is adhered to religiously, you achieve very dynamic story structure but often lose the “soul” of the work.

There are other writers who swear by sitting down at the keyboard and starting to write, allowing the characters go and the plot to develop as it will. These writers also swear that this is the most natural and “organic” method of writing. While this can bring forth some absolutely amazing experiences in the written word, if completely left to the “inspiration of the moment” I find myself losing the essence of the authors vision in the chaotic and ever-changing pages of “newer” and “cooler” ideas.

For myself, I again believe that extremists in these two camps have missed the point. Nothing can emerge from a total void so we must create something. Some start with a line of dialogue or a specific scene that springs to mind or even something as simple as the name of a character. We draw upon life as we have experienced or witnessed and thereby begin the process of creation.

Then, once you have “created” this amorphous being called the story, it is essential to ask what he, she or it is going to do. Life does not occur all at a single instance and neither does the story. As fiction writers specifically we cannot simply allow those creative experiences to lie as-is on the page. We color them with our emotions and grow them through our own ideals and desires and sometimes our fears. We must allow this process of evolution to happen and breathe, not just to lie there and exist. Life, the life of our story, must be allowed to evolve to its fullest. And yet, we must oversee this evolution so that our child-as it were-grows up strong, graceful and healthy.

Whether it does this in our head or on the page doesn’t matter. That we do it, that we write, is the entire point for us. (See, I told you it was a blog about writing).

One last comment I wish to leave you with: as this is my first chance to share with all of you who read these blogs, I want to give you something to think about. Many people argue the differences or the not-so-differences between man and the other animals on this planet of ours as a way to prove one system of belief over another. Do animals have souls? Is man the only creature who has a language? This goes on and on and nothing can be proven one way or the other to the exclusion of all other facts.

However, it is my belief that man has something that does indeed set him apart from all other species on our world. In my mind it proves the existence of a divine spark in our existence, ruling out completely the possibility that we are a cosmic series of accidents.
To the best of my knowledge, man is the only creature which tells stories.

Chris Cook-Sussan

Guest blogger – Hedda Armour or this dog made my perfect day

Welcome the second Friday of guest bloggers. You never know who you’re going to meet – it might be another writer, a painter, a musician, a chef or simply an interesting person one of us has run into.

Hedda Armour has been a friend of mine for so many years I can’t (perhaps, more accurately, don’t want to) count them. Suffice it to say that it’s been a lot, a whole lot. She’s an amazingly creative person – singer, writer, photographer, to name just a few. Her first love is photography but I think she could do absolutely anything she puts her mind to. Her knowledge and skills and talen just blow me away.

Please, meet Hedda Armour and her work…

For the past 8 or 9 weeks I’ve started each day by writing three pages of longhand, stream-of-consciousness, for my eyes only – stuff. I won’t call it prose, although some of it may be. Those familiar with The Artist’s Way know that isn’t the point; the exercise is meant to provide a repository for all the small, petty worries and complaints that would otherwise clutter a potentially creative mind. So, no matter what the day brings from then on, I feel I’ve accomplished one important act. Another thing I’m almost fanatical about is having a good healthy breakfast. Then I can face whatever comes my way with equilibrium, or at least a full stomach.

As much as possible I divide my photo shoots between indoors and outdoors, although I don’t like to take my gear out in the rain too often or for too long.  I shoot with film as well as digital and have several “novelty” cameras that inspire me to manipulate my images in different ways.  Most days are good days – I play with my photographic toys, get some images I really like and my equipment works beautifully.  A bad day is a day I show up at a location I’ve staked out only to find I haven’t enough film, the light’s all wrong or I’ve forgotten to bring fresh batteries or didn’t anticipate which lens I’d need.  That’s bad enough, but when my plans are interrupted by housekeeping or bureaucratic tasks that need to be attended to NOW (income tax returns, dental appointments, laundry) I really struggle with impatience.  I cope by listening to music, hitting the couch with a good book, sorting through some photos for inspiration, calling a friend or making soup – something I find very peaceful and grounding.

I dream of having a studio.  In the meantime, I work in my very tiny apartment, so I welcome small jobs.  For those, I mount a large 70s style copy stand (pictured) with hot lights on my little kitchen table. I love working with the copy stand.  I really get lost in the process, and feel a deep love for my equipment, particularly my trusty old Pentax film camera.  Besides having complete control over the subject, I like the ritualistic aspect of working manually and of making the commonplace unique.  I can isolate or enlarge or get really up close and personal with all sorts of images.  This is work that could probably be done much more quickly with Photoshop or some other photographic software; but I enjoy the hands on aspect of the copy stand so much that I don’t imagine I’ll be moving to full techno mode any time soon.

 If I’m doing anything as grand as portraits, I have to move furniture and create backdrops with screens and drapes.  Once the tripod and portrait lights are set up, there isn’t much space to move around.  It’s not a scenario I’d want my insurance provider to see, that’s for sure!!. Outdoor portraits are easier in some ways, as long as the model is flexible; there are so many variables outdoors – lighting, location, weather, other people – yet the options are endless, and there’s so much more space. 

Lately I’ve been getting ready for a course in photo encaustic collage (painting with hot wax).  We’re expected to bring lots of images to enhance the wax creations and I’ve been having lots of fun using my printer and scanner to create different views of the ordinary.   For example, I’ve made colour copies of cut flowers and close up images from family photos and even of my lingerie!

In terms of a perfect day, sometimes I’m pretty easy to please.  The other day I was walking through the neighbourhood – this time prepared with a little point-and-shoot – and a home-bound proprietary dog gave me a perfect portrait, its worried little face posed just so for my camera.  Along with those 3 morning pages I felt I’d had the best day, the Universe was smiling and so was I.  You, dear readers, are the first to see this photograph.

I love jazz.  Probably because my work tends to be very controlled, and (unlike the spontaneity of the dog portrait) usually very structured, I really like what seems improvised and free-form about jazz.  I do recognize there is a structure, but at the same time I see the possibilities, the diversions.  Jazz, to my ears, is like taking chances: let’s try this and see what happens.  There’s a balance, a trust, a fearlessness and rhythm that I would love to experience in my photography.  Sometimes it happens, it’s just something you feel, when you know you got it, what you saw is now captured, stilled, and you can play it over and over again.  If I could be anything other than a photographer I’d really like to be a jazz pianist.

Confession: this could almost be classified as a “dirty little secret” although it’s neither dirty nor small: before I die I’d like to take a workshop with Lynda Barry, one of my favourite cartoonist/writers at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY.  Her courses don’t come cheap but I think a 4-day class with Lynda Barry would influence the way I photograph.  Call me crazy, but call me.  I can take pictures.

I’d like to leave you with three favourite expressions.  The first is from Angels in America by Tony Kushner, and I have it posted where I can see it on my desk: “Respect the delicate ecology of your delusions”.  Our delusions have a delicate ecology, to be sure.  And we don’t respect them often or enough.  The second is credited as an African proverb: “Until lions have historians, tales of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.”  This saying reminds me to think critically.  We are exposed to so much information all the time that it’s easy to accept as truth whatever fits with our particular way of thinking.  It’s good to stop once in a while and ask, “is that really true?”  “how do you know?”  The last expression always makes me smile.  I don’t know its origin yet it’s got a universal ring of truth to it: “The person who says it can’t be done should not interrupt the person doing it”. 

Thanks for this opportunity to unpack what I tend to take for granted.  I hope you enjoyed my take on things.  May you live well and with love.

 

Hedda Armour is a Vancouver photographer who has recently thrown off the shackles of paid employment for a life of free-floating anxiety and endless creative vistas.  She is a graduate of Vancouver Community College’s counselling program, and is studying Spanish in her spare time.  Her work has shown at numerous Main Street coffee houses and businesses and in 2008 partnered with her daughter in a photography exhibit in Toronto.  She is a long standing member and director of The Drift (Main Arts Drift Society).  She has very short hair, a likewise attention span and a big hearty laugh.  You can see more of Hedda’s work at www.thedrift.ca

Guest blogger – Joseph Eliezer

Joseph Eliezer, author of Simply Spirit: A Personal Guide to Spiritual Clarity, One Insight at a Time, has kindly consented to be our very first guest blogger.

I met Joseph a few weeks ago at a library event called Read Dating. Thirty different authors sat at tables and had 8-10 minutes with a score of librarians who moved from table to table to chat with the writers. It was an exhausting but exhilirating event. I hadn’t met Joseph before but I was intrigued by the idea of his book and asked him if he’d like to guest blog with us. And so here he is.

We asked him some questions and his answers truly did inspire me. I hope he’ll do the same for you.

What is your day like?
My day usually begins with either exercise or breakfast. I like to work out before I start my day, and I like to have my morning rituals (shower, food) completed so I can begin the work day by 9.

On a good working day?
On a good working day, I experience myself giving clear and concise messages to others and have a reciprocal experience with them.

On a bad working day?
I experience the opposite of a good day. Bad days are usually filled with miscommunications, misunderstandings and lack of yoga.

And how do you cope with the bad ones?
I allow myself to feel whatever I feel in the moment with the understanding that these feelings will pass. No matter how intense the emotions are at any given moment, I find that giving both them and me space to breathe is paramount to getting into the next day, moment, minute, etc.

Tell us a little bit about your workspace.
I have two workspaces. The one that I do my writing in looks like – well, it is, actually, a bedroom. It’s on the top floor of a two-level home and through my window I can see both the coastal mountains and a sandwich shop….not sure which visual impacts me more deeply. My office, where I practice counselling and psychotherapy, looks a little like a small living room.

If you had a perfect day, what would it be?
The perfect day begins at 5:30 am. I’m awake; I feel vibrant, and I’m ready to hit the yoga studio. I’m showered and back home by 8, fed and am ready to greet the work day by 9. My work hours would be filled with healthy interactions with others, and I help people process their thoughts and emotions until lunch time. Once fed for a second time, I complete emails, meet deadlines and have downtime in the afternoon. The evening is filled with good food and intimacy.

What turns you on creatively?
In order for me to create, I need to feel….something. I find that my emotions can become quite stirred when I hear a good story, or I listen to a good piece of music, especially if it is performed both live and well. Watching a good movie or having an engaging conversation can evoke a strong emotional response from me as well, but my current fixation and source of inspiration is psychoanalytic psychotherapy. Nothing stimulates me more these days than discovering art in the field of mental health.

Who do you most admire in your field (or in general) and why?
I’m a big fan of Wilfred Bion, a soldier who won the medal of Distinguished Service in the British army in WW1. After the war, he became a psychiatrist and developed his own unique approaches for treating war veterans in a group setting. His methods for helping people were not well received by his peers initially. He was ridiculed and ostracized for his originality and was fired from his position as group psychiatrist 16 weeks after he was hired. Eventually, Dr. Bion earned the respect he deserved. His methods and theories are now seen as cutting edge and are widely studied within the scientific community. Today he is considered to be the greatest psychoanalytic thinker since Sigmund Freud.

If you weren’t a psychotherapist/author, what would you be?
I would be an actor, musician or mad scientist.

Tell us a little about your working process.
My working process varies from day to day. When it comes to writing, I have to feel a spark or intuitive flash; otherwise, the words don’t seem to come as easily. I read fervently, and I like to read material that expands my understanding of me and my interests. I lean on my intuition when it comes to working with others and receiving direction as to what projects need my attention at any given moment.

What is one thing you want to do before you die?
I want to live before I die. I want to experience life as authentically as humanly possible. I believe that this is the key to experiencing both external and internal bliss… and I wouldn’t mind going scuba diving in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

What is your favorite saying?
My favorite saying today is: A self is co-created. You can’t achieve your very best without the help, love and support from others. And if you don’t have that in your life now, go find it.

What’s the one thing that drives you crazy? At work? At home? In general?
The one thing that drives me crazy is a person who is unable to accept responsibility for his/her own actions. Next to that is a person who is unable or unwilling to engage in self-reflection. Very little drives me crazy at work. At home, I like to have a lot of quiet. I thrive in quiet environments. TV noise tends to drive me nuts at home.

What’s your favorite book? Movie? Painting? Musician? Album?
My favorite books tend to change as I do. One title that has been on my list for a long time is Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig. I also like The Gift of Therapy by Irvin Yalom.

I dread having to name my favorite movie because I’ve seen so many good ones. I LOVE movies! Some of the ones that come to mind are: Field of Dreams, A Hard Day’s Night, Rocky, Phantom of the Paradise, The Cove, Casablanca and anything directed by David Cronenberg.

My favorite paintings are: Lake and Mountain and Mt. Robson by Lawren Harris and anything by Roz Spivak.

Today, my favorite musician is Leonard Cohen.

Like movies, a lot of titles come to mind when I think of my favorite albums. Here is a list, and it is by no means complete:

Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys
Music from the Elder by KISS
Sgt Pepper by The Beatles
Blood on the Tracks by Bob Dylan
Tea for the Tillerman by Cat Stevens
12 Songs by Neil Diamond
Tales of Mystery and Imagination by the Alan Parsons Project and, of course,
The Rutles – soundtrack.

Where’s your favorite place in the world? Why?
My favorite place in the world is my home because I live, breathe and work there. I also love the drive-in theater because even in the age of 3D technology and IMAX sensations, nothing compares to watching a movie under the stars while sitting in the great wide open.

Joseph Eliezer
www.josepheliezer.com