Call to Arms

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I posted this on my facebook.  Thought it would be a great read here.

Enjoy.

JP

At the party I was at last night I was asked. “Don’t you feel alone?” I was asked that because we were talking about self worth and the choices I made. We went down other avenues, but she got me thinking.

I’m a storyteller who loves stories. If you understand that, you can understand everything I do.

I have expectations and attachments. I care. I’m passionate. I’m driven. I seek to try to create something from my dreams and imagination. Sometimes it’s a lot of fun. I’m by myself scribbling madly at a scene involving a nineteen year old prodigy about to fly again for the first time in ten years. Awesome scene.

Sometimes it’s a struggle. I still am figuring out how to make this a living. I have to find readers, listeners, and I have to do all this while promoting myself and putting in the late nights and work while others of my friends are starting families, living in nice places. If we go by material goods, a lot of people might see me a failure.

Lots of friends are starting families and settling down. I’m still beating down this path.

But this is who I am. I’m a storyteller who loves stories, trying to get to the point where I can just do this all the time.

There’s no clear path today. More than ever everything is in flux. The future has to be created and there is no clear way to a happy ending. On top of that, people don’t believe their worth. One friend always loves to tell me that when we talk that they were taught to shoot for the moon and they can make anything happen. What he and a lot of people don’t mention is the clause that was instituted. You can have what you want…IF you’re good enough.

That good enough clause is why a lot of people don’t pursue their passions. What is good enough? Do you need permission from someone to say you can do this? I’ve never let not knowing what I’m doing stop me. You have to go for it. Otherwise you get nothing in this life.

More than ever, today is a world of ideas. Technology combined with imagination has given us all the ability to build a world we wish. At the end of the day, we all do what we want to. All of us have the power to create a life we choose.

But that’s work. You have to be willing to put yourself out there. You will be rejected. Chasing your dreams, going for big stuff, requires a thick skin. It doesn’t require permission. It just requires you going out on a limb.

And it’s lonely sometimes too. Not enough of us do this.

So this Monday morning as you read this, I hope you’re motivated. I want to see caring, moving forward human beings doing the best they can to express that higher calling they have inside them. There will be lows, but there will also be incredible highs.

Be creative, unconventional, exceptional and motivational. Have a great week and kick some ass.

The Copycat Method – Five Months Later

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For backstory, read here: https://jpantalleresco.wordpress.com/2018/03/27/what-my-teeth-has-taught-me-about-people/ .  Don’t worry. I’ll be here when you get back.

Finish reading? Cool. Let’s begin shall we?

Copycat

So with the exception of two promises I made prior to this, I’ve followed this pretty close to the letter. One individual I promised to trade journal entries with. The other I know just needs support right now.  With everyone else, I’ve maintained this.  So I thought I’d talk about what I lost, what I learned and what I gained.

What I lost

So a few people shortly thereafter I did this disappeared.  Most of these people were not surprising at all. I’ve gotten too old for the “I’m not good at this” excuse when it comes to connecting with people. So if they haven’t been good at this traditionally, I’ve tended to let them continue that path.

People do what they want to do. This is always the case.  If people want you in their life, in no uncertain terms do they disclose this. If they don’t, nothing can make you come in there, unless you drag them down your path kicking and screaming.  No one has fun with that and I am far too old to try it.

I look at the journal case in particular and saw me attempting to keep my promise, made me observe things that I didn’t see when I was busy trying to chase them down. When I exchanged the journal, they still didn’t really make an effort to engage, allowing other people to kind of serve the talking part of the communication and interaction. I realized that they really weren’t in the position to engage me. Whether it was anxiety, a lack of desire, it didn’t matter – the result was the same.

People are going to do what they want to do. That is the whole of things. If they want to make an effort they will.  As is, the journal was my last promise to them. With one small exception, I haven’t heard from them, and chances are I probably won’t anytime soon.  I’m okay with this.

The other thing I’ve learned about this is to be careful of the promises you make. Sometimes they are corrosive, as the people you give them to don’t always appreciate just what kind of commitment to them in terms of time. I kept my word, but that’s as far as I go.

Some of the people that have disappeared have surprised me. Friendships I didn’t expect to fade from this have faded. Some of them have been tempting to try and chase down, but I’ve refused to do so. I can’t control what people want to do for one, and two, I recognize that maybe they have their own reasons.  Maybe I’ve been a terrible friend to them. Maybe as I’ve done my own pruning they in turn needed to do their own.

I relearned that some people come into your life for a short time. Others can be there a life time. Friendship that endures is truly a rare thing.  We all have our own roads to walk in life. We have different dreams, goals, and paths diverge. All you can do is wish the people that choose to walk away well.

Some do return in unexpected ways too.

What I’ve Gained

The other end of this spectrum is like I’ve turned a key to a door. By being willing to let go of the people that didn’t want to have a connection, I’ve opened the door to all kinds of people. Part of this has been me adapting what I do with the podcast, being open to the kind of people that walk into my life.

I’ve noticed that a lot of the people I’m meeting now have more of a similar mindset to what I do have at this moment in time. Some are more successful, some less, but all are hungry to do amazing things, and are.

When you meet a photographer/manager and find a secret recording studio in the last place you’d ever expect, I mean it’s literally like I stepped into another world. Or a historian who is talking about travelling the world in order to connect with the past.  Or when you plan to make a splash at San Diego with a fellow media personality who you made fast friends with at a conference.  All of these people are awesome.  I’m talking to people who want to change their worlds.  And that is so cool.

I’ve found more success too. I’m not saying anyone is in the way exactly, but it’s as though I’ve traded people who don’t want to be there, and opportunities have been finding me in their place.

I’m happier, more motivated, and feel a lot more unstuck. I feel like water, assuming the shape of a different cup than I had before.  I’m curious where this is all going.

I’m not the same guy anymore and I”m okay with that. I’ve been enjoying the people I’ve been encountering down this path, and am keeping my doors open.

Some friends come back, and they let you into important moments in their lives, which is awesome.  But in any case, new or old friend alike, I wish you well. Life is too short for any real animosity. (He tries to tell himself this with his own flaws.)

I recommend this to people, for a few reasons.  You do lose people, but in return you find more people like you at this moment in time. And you’ll be happier for it.

Alright, I’m off to finish a novel in a week and a half.  See you guys when I finish.

 

My When Words Collide Experience

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I wasn’t sure what to expect with this years When Words Collide.  A few familiar faces I tend to hang around with were not there, and I have to admit that I was nervous about a couple of the panels I was doing. IMG_20180810_150122_889

Friday

I spent a decent chunk of my Friday prior to arriving at the event hunting this book down.  After a couple book stores I was rewarded for my diligence and added this to my collection.  I was going to tongue tie anyone who attended my panel.

But I wasn’t sure about the Seuss off. Vanessa Cardui and myself had a contest last year that sparked this idea but I had no expectations.  Various people began to find me and tell me they were attending.

Cool, I thought to myself. Looks like this may be more than I bargained for.

My first panel was with Joe Compton as a guest on his Go Indie Youtube special.  I thought I handled myself okay.  It was a thrill to share the panel with Konn Lavery and Marc Watson.  It was fun.

Speaking of fun, I got to do a panel with Fonda Lee, Del Suelo, Adam Dreece and Jim Jackson.  It was a fun panel and it was great meeting Fonda and Del.

The rest of the night was plotting to do San Diego with Joe Compton.

Saturday

My day opened up with my podcasting panel.  It was more packed than last year and was very fun to engage so many people.  I am curious to see if new podcasts come about as a result.  Thanks to all that came out.

My boardgame live podcast was not as successful in terms of turnout.  Being in the backroom and not on the pamphlet hurt.  That all said those who did thank you.  I learned a lot.

And then it was time for the Seuss off.  I had one other concern.  Who would play?  It turns out, everyone.

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The tongue twisting schenanigans were fun by themselves.  Seeing Faye Arcande, Naomi Davis, Rissa Johnson and Elaine Lee read Fox and Socks in many different accents was a hoot.  I lost full control at the Valley Girl voice off between Rissa and Naomi, but they were all amazing. I am surprised I didn’t need a change of underwear after this panel, I was laughing so hard.  This panel is the greatest thing I have done at any convention.  Thanks to both Naomi and Randy Mccharles for encouraging me to try this.  Rest assured it will be back.

Saturday night was fun.  Got to meet Winston Pei, hang out with Stacey M. Miller and everyone else while forts were constructed and ghost stories told.  A good time was had by all.

Sunday 

I was at eighty percent when I walked in and met my first total stranger who loved my podcast.  It is very surreal when people approach you and say they like your work.  My imposter tarnished this a bit, but it was still a very cool feeling.

I got to moderate my first panel ever with the women of stampede. It was a small but engaging panel.  Thanks to Kate O’Conner, Shelley Kassian and Alyssa Linn Palmer for putting up with me for my first time.  It was fun.

Of course I conducted some fantastic podcast interviews.  Chris Carolan, Kai Kiriyama, Del Suelo, Konn Lavery, Joe Compton and Mark Leslie.  All in all, a busy conference.

This show for me is always a measurement of my growth.  My very first time here, I started a podcast.  That door has led me to meet amazing, magical people.  One person here told me I think everyone is awesome.  That isn’t true but I do think everyone that attends is.

At the end of the day we are all dreamers desiring to make something of the stories we live.  I cannot help but admire that, wherever anyone is on that walk.  It is easy to root for those that walk the walk of those dreams.  I know not all of us will end up where we thought we would, but that is not always a terrible thing.

I never thought I would be a successful podcaster.  I never considered this road to lead to being called brilliant, an expert.  I never expected this road at all and I am grateful.

Still, if I focused on my writing and created a similar consistency, would I ge as successful there as well? Thoughts to consider for the future.

It was a pleasure to see all of you.  I look forward to doing so again.  Until then…

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My Imposter

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So, I made a promise to Stacey M. Miller and Jim Jackson a personal story.  Wondering what to talk about, I realize that perhaps I should reflect on my feelings and some of the changes I’ve noticed in the past few months.  Not to mention that over the weekend, I realized an imposter had snuck inside me.  Once again, much like when I did my podcast with Adam Dreece the first time, my own words had come back to haunt me.

 

In this particular talk up here, the words that came back to me are the ones when we get to Adam talking about his earrings.  I found myself two years later eating those words with my own cares.   At Creative Ink I gave some advice for another author getting started that seems to need to be said to myself now.  (Irony you are evil.)   And I figure Stacey in particular will appreciate this.  So guys, this blog is dedicated to you.

Once upon a time there was a writer/podcaster who was used to being unnoticed. He had quietly gone about his business for what seems like forever. He was hoping for a touch of recognition.  What artist doesn’t want to have a little bit of audience after all?

Then one day, he gets an email that changes everything.  Suddenly, he wasn’t unnoticed anymore.  Words like successful and expert now were attached to said podcaster/author. Strangers approached him and told him they liked his show.  He never had experienced anything like this for anything he had done before.

Now what was he supposed to do with it?

This is my first ever convention that strangers have come up to me and talked about how much they love my podcast.  People I never have met have come to me and talked about my podcast in great detail.

I remember walking into the convention on Sunday, still kind of asleep when I heard my name said in a positive light.  I barely registered it when a friend pointed me out. A young man came to me with a smile on his face.  He showed me his podcast subscription list. I was on it.

I should have enjoyed it. Instead, I was on the outside looking at myself looking at this dude, the reality of the moment not hitting home like it should have. It was awkward and uncomfortable. I mean, I just do my thing you know?

I remember first coming to When Words Collide and not many people noticing me.  I was a face in the crowd who wanted more.  Who doesn’t want that right?

I started the podcast at When Words Collide three years ago. Since then I have had the pleasure of interviewing an incredible amount of amazing people.  And all the building up I have been doing with everyone else seems to be coming back to me.  And now, I understand what I do to others when I receive praise.

I was frozen. Doubt walked in and spoiled this moment.  It was all my fault.

I kind of feel like an egomaniac even typing this stuff.  I don’t have that much success you know?  One day once upon a time I was noticed for this.  I wasn’t doing anything special.  I just did my thing.  And this weekend words like expert, successful and brilliant were thrown at me by far more impressive people than I.

I blushed a lot. I never considered myself special.  At first it was nice, but hearing a lot of praise from a lot of places actually froze me in place.  What did I do to even come here to hear this?

I had gotten annoyed at listening to myself. In my podcast interviews  I talked about the Aurora so much that weekend with the podcasts I got sick of it.  Hearing anything nice about myself in anyway positive sounded so hollow and pretentious.

I was an Imposter.

I imagined success and recognition would make me like a rock star.  I would show up to thunderous applause and it would all play out like a beer commercial.  Babes, automobiles, and money.  Isn’t that the big dream of it all?

That’s the image of success.  The reality is much different.

Success is building yourself.  Success is setting expectations for yourself.  Success is having the imagination, passion and faith to keep going.  To believe in yourself that what you are doing matters, and that it’s getting out there bit by bit.

I worked hard to get this far.  Every night I’m staring at the screen doing some work, and not caring a whit about who notices.  Is it wrong that people notice and care?  Is it so terrible that I’ve created these expectations for myself?  That I’ve earned this reputation?

Is it so terrible that people do believe in me?

Yet I feel like a hollow, shallow, pretentious shit.  Who the hell wants to hear me talk about me?  Yet if I don’t voice my own virtues with conviction, who will take me seriously?

It’d be so easy to get an ego. I think it can’t be helped. An ego is a bit of a buffer in one sense. It’s a shield so that successful people can keep going and protect themselves from shrinking against the structures they’ve built for themselves.  As long as it doesn’t blind them completely, a little ego is healthy.

It’s okay if I’m proud of what I’ve done.  I should be.

It’d be so easy to just enjoy it at all cost.  I’ve done great things.  So simple to demand just a little entitlement.  I understand that angle too.  I wouldn’t have to work so hard with these expectations.  Be demanding enough, and those expectations would turn into disappointment. I’d be free.  I’d be a “could have been”.

All this over a little recognition.  All this over words like expert and successful.  And this is nothing.  There is so much more I want to do and accomplish. I’ve done nothing yet.  Not a thing.  With only a little pat on the back I feel like a fake, a fraud, an egomaniac and a pretentious prick in one go.  How can I doubt so much at this precipice?

Because I want this so badly.  This is what I’ve dreamed of.

Alright Imposter.  Alright Doubt.  I’m not going to let you betray me. I’m not going to beat myself. I don’t know where this all leads or goes. I’m riding this wave to wherever beach it may land me on.  I don’t know what the end result is going to be. I will not let you take it away with these needles of dread and doubt. I will do what I did to get me here.

I will be okay with expectations. I crave them. Expectations force me to rise to try and meet them.  I have done what I’ve done. I can do more. I will do more.

I will try to avoid being a pretentious asshole that has all the answers. I will stay humble and hungry no matter what I do. I will not change what got me here.

I still have so far to go. So go away dear Imposter. I understand you now. You exist only to betray me and try to destroy me.  But your power only comes when I listen to you. So I  will not listen to you anymore.  This is already hard enough. So here I leave you.

Once upon a time a writer/podcaster finally got recognition for his podcast.  Instead of shrinking at the praise, he acknowledged it and just for a moment, enjoyed it.

Then he got back to work.  For he knows that the pursuit of success never stops.  Success must be wooed, chased down and courted with the toils of labor and expectations.  He vows to himself whatever comes his way, good or bad, he would not get in his way. He will be ready for the blessing of praise and success. He will keep himself open for opportunities.

He will not be afraid to take them when they do come his way.

I don’t know what I’m doing, and That’s Okay

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I have a bunch of projects upcoming here.  This one started a little differently.

One year ago Colleen Anderson asked me to submit an epic poem into her anthology called Alice Unbound.  Initially, I had no idea what I was going to say about Wonderland.  I mean, everyone has done a Wonderland story right? What could I possibly say about Wonderland that hasn’t been said?

It turns out, quite a lot. Around this time I met a very pretty woman with a gorgon tattoo on her arm she designed herself. I was captivated by her, and we became friends. With her as an inspiration I had an angle on Alice in Wonderland that I thought was unique and fresh.

It turns out, I had a ton of fun writing it. And it was good. Colleen said it was good.  Unfortunately, it didn’t make the final cut for the anthology. It happens.

Alice Unbound

That said, this is a pretty cool anthology and you can check it out here. Colleen is everything an editor can ask for. She is encouraging and wanted me to do something with this piece.

What to do with it though? I liked it, and didn’t really want to cut this down.  I wasn’t sure that this poem could be lengthened up.  It was a prologue to a larger story in my head.  With the Watcher series concluded, I needed to do another poetry epic. I believe that this has legs.  (And it turns out, I’m right.)

But I didn’t want to just rehash the Watcher. I wanted to create a different experience, not just with the story, but with the presentation.

Snakes and Ladder Board Template

I thought that Snakes and Ladders was an appropriate metaphor for the story I was telling. Alice and games, particularly this one, fits not only her narrative, but also the nature of the story itself.

Yeah, that’s right. I’d do a board game fantasy world map.  That would be cool, right? Right, I told myself.  So I found this and imagined all the worlds in my Wonderland saga and smiled.  Yes, this fits.  I know this is going to work.

Then I asked myself the question that doomed me to the nth degree.

How do you play this game?

The moment I asked that, the basic rules of the game came into my brain.  Honestly, it felt like they were beamed into my brain. Strangely enough, after thinking about it, I thought that maybe there was legs to this game.

That my friends is how you accidentally invent a board game.  I don’t feel bad admitting it.  The best things I’ve ever done has been done by just doing things.  One door leading to another and another.

So yeah, I’m constructing a board game with a snakes and ladders motif.

Or was I?

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When I started designing the board, I obviously considered homaging the Snakes and Ladders concept, but thought about trying something different. I liked the circular motion of this idea. But after looking at it carefully, I nixed this idea.  It was too eyeball like for starters.  Also, it just didn’t have the feel I wanted.  The only way to make a board like this work would be if I was using star constellations.  But with the nature of the story that seemed very blah.

Okay.  Let’s try something else then.

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Eeek.

First off, this looks way to much like the letter E.  And while a labyrinth does play a role in the story, it shouldn’t be the whole board. I had other, more inventive ways to travel in this game.

Still, I threw this in here because it’s always good to experiment and try different things.  Even though I’m not going to go this way, it did give me some thoughts about secret pathways and other neat things that could go on the board in the future.  In the end though, this concept would just not do.

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But this was definitely the right track.

I went with the one hundred square board.  It fits the whole snake and ladders homage, which I think is going to be a necessity to the game, but it also with the way I positioned it, it gave me context not only to the shape of the board, but also the shape of the story.  I know now the number of books, and how many worlds are going to be featured in my saga.

All because of this little weird number grid.  Cool huh?

I still got a lot of work to go.  The bristol board and board game design is going to be tricky. I’m buying a few pieces to get the whole concept nailed down in rough.  It’s going to look very hodge podge as I get into testing the basic concepts of the game and the story down in the next couple of weeks.

And really, I have no idea if this is the right way to do it. That’s part of the fun to be honest. I’ve never let not knowing what the heck I was doing get int the way of trying something different. You may be able to follow along with the basic ideas I’m working on here. Maybe not. I’ve tried to be clear, but not too clear.

That said, this is going to be a very ambitious way to do this project. I don’t know a lot of variables. The basic idea may change as I move forward with the concept. Then again, it may just be perfect. Who knows?

I don’t know.

A lot of people get afraid of I don’t know for some reason. Truth is, there’s a lot of things I don’t know. I don’t know how much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood.  I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow and I barely know what’s going to happen today. All I know for sure is that I can try.

Really, that’s all any of us can do. I may be an imposter and this might fail

So what though? In my experience, failure leads to more unexpected doors being open. I encourage you all to go off the beaten path and try something a little different. Maybe designing a board game isn’t for you. But I bet there are other things in your life that are worth exploring and doing.

You never know until you try right?

To Be Continued…

Perfection is my enemy…and yours too.

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So I just finished a draft of my comic. Keep in mind it’s a draft, and not a final product yet. I’m waiting to hear about some thing from both my artist and my editor. I’m really, really excited about this. I’ve had this draft in the back of my mind for over a year. I’m looking forward to working with the people who I am working with. If nothing else, this will be a testament to seeing a vision come through.

But I must make a confession. This was one of the hardest things I’ve had to write. Yeah, sure, the standards and goals I set out for doing this script played a part in it. Unusual circumstances forced me to stretch and become uncomfortable in the process of creating this work.

But most of it was me getting in the way.

Yup. I got in the way of this. Not because I doubted that I could do it.

Because I wanted the perfect moment.

Big mistake.

Perfection is a lofty ideal. We all have this idea of capturing this perfect moment in our craft. That perfect line, that perfect sentence, sometimes even the perfect word. Perfect is an ideal.

The key word is ideal.

I’m not perfect. The older I get, the more I realize that I do have some limitations. Sometimes I’m an asshole. I want to help people, and want them to overcome what obstacles are in their way. I’m also pushy as fuck. People aren’t always comfortable with moving forward, and unless life gives them no choice (which it does upon occasion) it is not my place to tell them where they should go.

It’s an inner megalomania, and one I’m working on. There are things I need to let go, and there are things that I’m still not quite past, that I should be. I’m not sure why exactly, but I’m working on it.

That’s the beauty of life, is that change is the great constant. I can evolve and I can keep changing and growing. My cement hasn’t dried up in this life and my final form hasn’t been produced. The clay is still being molded.

That said, I have limitations, flaws and things I can always work to improve on. I can progress. I can evolve. I can change.

But I’ll never be perfect.

I’m okay with that.

You should be too.

The idea of the story in your head is perfect. It is without flaw and without shape or form. It is endless possibility, until you write down that first line. Once the lines on the page are formed, the perfection dies. There is no flawless piece of work. Every writer I know looks back at older works and cringes. All the flaws are crystallized. The temptation to change the work is always there.

I can just go back and fix that word, or phrase. I can always rework that line to make this picture better.

What we forget sometimes is that those flaws give our work shape. It’s part of the charm of it. All those flaws are unique to the work and for all the polish and things we can change, the product we present in that moment is often our best.

Also, our flaws give us shape. Limitations give us form. They are the cup in which we are shaped. Once we recognize it, we have the ability to surpass those limits. And then our shapes change.

Each work of art is our best self expression in that moment in time. One of the biggest challenges Terry Pratchett had when he worked on the Carpet People
was the fact that his younger teenage self had written the first drafts of it. Even though Terry was a better writer much older, the voice of the work was younger Terry’s and that had to be respected.
The Carpet People

There is nothing quite as authentic as the person you were when you created something.  Stick figures drawn by someone who is doing their best do not feel the same as someone with great skill drawing stick figures.  Technically the latter may have more skill and talent, but the heart and intention isn’t as pure.  The technique is all in the head, and not in the heart.

When we let ourselves open up, that is when we are at our best. We are bold when we step out into the world and express ourselves in the best form possible. Because that very feat is one of the bravest things we can do. No matter how much polish, technique and skill I have acquired as a writer, some of my earliest works will never be touched.  I no longer have the heart to tell those stories. That belongs to another me from a long time ago. It was his shape, his form that constructed these stories. It is nearly impossible for me to even attempt to try.

The fact that I cringe so much now compared to then tells me that I have come a long way from where I was. That’s a good thing.  If I didn’t get better, perhaps I shouldn’t be writing like this for anything other than pleasure.

My final point that ties this altogether comes from salt. Yup, salt. See, there are differences in the qualities of salt out there. You can see it when you put salt under a microscope. Iodized salt looks perfect. The crystals are all the same shape, without flaw, without any visible imperfections. Sea salt in contrast has these little black spots all in it. The shapes of the crystals are all different and there are somethings that just seem wrong to look at.

Yet, sea salt is far healthier for us. Precisely because of the flaws in them. Those black spots, those different shapes allow us to absorb sea salt better than we can iodized salt. Cool huh?

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Striving for an ideal greater than you in writing and in ourselves is fantastic. We all can improve, as stated above. And we should always be striving too. We can quit smoking, or do the things that make us uncomfortable. We can became greater and nobler and more vexing with each day.’

But if we focus on our imperfections and what we are missing, we ignore what we already have and we rob ourselves often of the opportunities to become more. The important thing is that we do the things inside us. Perfection is often a barrier for such things.

Instead, we should be focusing on progression. We can always get better. We can become better artists, better people, better in our relationships, better in our life choices.  We have to work at those things. I try to let things go better. Most of the time I succeed. Sometimes I fall short. And that’s okay too. I’m allowed to make mistakes. I just hope I have the wisdom to learn from them.

And sometimes, it allows me to take chances. Right this minute I have a novel I’m about to experiment with. (I hope that announcement comes soon) along with a comic that is going to be a homage to a literary genius. I really don’t know if I’m up to the task. That said, I’m not afraid to try and in both cases I have great people I’ll be working with the whole way.

And every day I try to do my best. Some days I fail, but I think more often than not, I get better.

“Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things.”

Ray Bradbury

Just go for it.

Eliminating the Need to Judge Others

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Once upon a time I knew how the world worked.  I had ideas of right and wrong.  Marijuana was bad.  Alcohol was bad.  There was a right way of doing things and a wrong way of doing things.  This Josh had all of life’s answers.

We all I think have a little of this in us.  We are all raised the way we are and that teaches us things.  A lot of it is generally pretty good.   But like everything else in life, all things change, and life has its own way of telling you how things really are.

I had a lot of advantages moving around. I get to see the trends and tides of cities rising and falling as I move to towns.  I got to see Windsor Ontario at one of its peaks.  I got to see London Ontario’s Downtown decline.  So I can see the ebbs and flows of a city.  Living in Calgary right now, I can see some of the same mistakes that the city is making that Ontario made.

But I also miss stuff.  Shielded.  Overnight I got to see things like Marijauna creep into the culture, and a lot of other things just seemed to happen overnight.  Suddenly, I have no idea how the world works.

You try to keep to some of your principals, and even now, I don’t think that’s a terrible thing. Some things always work.  Integrity, follow through, honesty are all things that work.  It makes things difficult sometimes, but I don’t see this stuff ever not working.  Or at the very least, I know I will not last long when it is required for me to do otherwise.

But you have to be wise to see that some things are different.  I’ve mentioned marijauna.  I’ve never subscribed to some of the arguments I’ve heard.  Some of those arguments that are commonly said do not do the plant any favors.  That said, I cannot deny what I read on medical reports.  I cannot deny what I’ve seen in terms of it being a pain killer or a cancer fighter.  I’m not even against it completely as an anti depressant, although here I acknowledge some caution.   I personally believe the goal with depression should be to do it in as minimal amount of any kind of drugs as possible.  I’ve seen it help people, but I’ve also seen it as a crutch for people with depression as well.  So if it helps you, sure.  Just be careful.

This was not an overnight approach.  This was a process, and this was me checking and rechecking my facts, and my biases.  This has applied to a lot of views in my life.  How I view religion, sexuality, different approaches to lifestyle not my own.  I started in a very ordinary place.

These things really got to change for me when I got to spend two years living in a mormon community.  I’m not going to bash the religion; rather, I think this would apply to purely any one religion or one mentality in any community.  I saw how unhealthy that is.  It’s one thing to see small towns have their share of sex and alcohol.  That I have learned is the norm in this life when it comes to small towns.  It’s another when it goes to the extreme.  On a small scale, trying to make people conform to one ideal or one way of life, just doesn’t work.  People don’t fit any one particular mold.  Much like new wine, the old skin of these ideals just doesn’t apply or fit and it makes people revolt.  The dichotomy was quite different.  I know a lot of people that were ostracized for no other reason than being themselves.

“This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.”

William Shakespeare, Hamlet

 

That’s my all time favorite Shakespeare quote.  For all his wondrous writing, that is maybe the most profound thing he ever said.  During my time in Arizona, an individual called me the weirdest person they ever met.  I’ve been called weird, and crazy and been ostracized because I just can’t help but be me.  I realized after being called that, that maybe I was doing the same thing to everyone else.

I changed one thing.  I no longer cared where you came from, or who you sleep with, or what you believe in.  I care about what you do.  Who you are when you face your own obstacles and when you try to do great things.  That seemed to be a better approach than the one I had before.

I have been awarded for this.  Look at the variety of people that have come on my podcast.  I’ve been blessed to meet so many amazing people.  Each of them trying to do great things in their own right.  It’s easy for me to be a fan of people like the ones I chat with.  I see them fight and struggle and go for it.  How can I not admire that?

They are true to themselves.  And that, more than anything, is something we should admire in people.  No one wants to be judged.  We all want to be heard.  And the real secret to eliminating judgment is not to compromise our standards, rather to accept that everyone’s standards are different.  We are all divided on how we scale the mountain of life.  There is an infinite amount of ways to do so.  Some of them I don’t understand, but I don’t have to understand.  That’s not my job.  My job is to encourage, and build and let people reach for whatever happiness they can find.

I still make mistakes.  Even now I’m not perfect.  I have biases, I make assumptions.  I’m as flawed as everyone else, maybe more so in some things.  Life is always changing, new questions are being asked, new possibilities come to life all the time.  Sometimes I’m still playing catch up to things.

But I try to be open.  I try to understand.  I may be ignorant, but not out of hatred, but of a lack of knowledge.  I am trying to fill the gaps I can.  Really, I think that is all we can do in the end.

“Judge not, less ye be judged”  Matthew 7:1

 

 

My Sultry Summer Experience

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So last Sunday was my third ever Live Podcast.

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M. Jane Colette contacted me about two months ago and asked me if I would be able to do something with this.  I have to admit there was a little part of me that felt like a fish out of water.  I’m not a romance guy.  Science Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult, comics, are all my wheelhouse.  Erotica, Romance, naked girls, burlesque dancers – well, I’ve seen a burlesque dancer or two in my time – but you get the idea.

I feel I should celebrate the Emcee of the event a bit here.  I met M. Jane Colette at When Words Collide last year.  She tells most of the story here.   The long and short of it, I was very impressed by her after the podcast.  Not only is M. Jane Colette an amazing writer, but she’s an amazing person.  She is driven, passionate, bold, knows who she is as a writer and I admire her ambition.  (She’s sexy as hell too, but she knows that.) If anything, I need more people like her in my life.  She’s driven to excel, and therefore, it makes me want to as well.

And I didn’t know this community very well, besides Jilly Jax and Tammy Lyn Carbol.   That I feel even now was an error on my part.  One of the hardest things that every artist fights for with their work is the respect and validation of their peers.  I never looked down on the genre, but I feel I should have paid more attention to it sooner.

Sidenote: Jilly Jax played a big role in me getting the ball rolling in fixing my teeth.  I never have thanked her publicly for that.  I do so here.  Thanks Jill.  You really helped.

But I digress…

So this was an opportunity for me.  What better way to get to know a community I didn’t know than by doing something like this?  And I had a lot of fun, even if I was in the murder room.

I wish I had a good picture of it.  For the purposes of doing a live podcast, it was thought (wisely I may add) that a quiet space would serve the podcast well.  However the setting was a very quiet room filled with ice cream.  The door was creepy and silent.  Mel Vee was the first to call it the murder room, and it’s in my mind as just that.  In fact, I’m using it in a noir story…

So even before I met any guests this was already worth my visit.

There was one unexpected snag to the whole event.  Most malls have a wifi hotspot or a better connection that’s accessible.  It turns out, that this mall is the one mall in the city without a stable wifi connection.  So my plan to stream the event went to hell.  Next time I’ll have my own plan to stream the event with my own wireless should some kind of situation like this occur again.

Still, I got a lot of amazing interviews from this event.  Keely Kamikaze and I talked about the Naked Readers of Alberta and the whole idea of fighting against body shaming and why such a thing exists.  It was really fascinating, and Keely is someone I want to talk to again for a longer chat sometime.

Katie O’Conner and Shelley Kassian talked to me about the Women of Stampede series they are doing.  It’s cool to see an independent series get traction and talk about their love of farm life.  Not exactly what you expect from a steamy romance series.  They were great to talk to.

Danielle French is just awesome.  Talented musician.  We talked love, music, marijuana, and Jung.  She’s an amazing singer, intelligent, well spoken, articulate and someone I think I could have a drink with and talk about anything for hours.

Win Day was a hoot.  Ms. President and I talked about purpose, growth, her tenure on CARWA, and having fun.

Mel Vee has one of the most infectious laughs I have ever heard.  She’s also incredibly striking.  We talked her pursuit of greatness, and racism and where people go to protest that are of different colour.  Racism is not talked about as much in Canada.  The fact that Mel is willing to fight and express her feelings and experiences to the public is very brave.  She’s awesome.

Rayanne Haines and I talked about straddling the literary and genre lines.  An accomplished poet and novelist, it’s interesting to hear her take on this line and how she balances it, and uses one to help with the other.

Finally of course I talked to Sasha White and Elizabeth Kelly about talking dirty.  Sex is supposed to be fun above all things and those two made me blush quite a bit.  It was a blast.  Also, I now have a safe word.

This was a wonderful, diverse, engaging, intelligent, talented group of women that came together and did this event.  I feel that romance and erotica do not get the respect they deserve in literature.  Erotica especially should be mentioned in this category as while everyone I know has some imagination at least in this topic, it is very hard to write well.  Good writing is good writing.  It doesn’t matter the genre, the style, or the presentation, quality more than anything else should be respected.

So check out a book by any of the others here I mentioned.  Or check out others like Tina Griffith or Jenna Howard.  Or any of the other writers I haven’t mentioned here.  Check out the naked readers if you want to have a different take on nudity.  Check out Danielle French for her dark love songs and her amazing mad men behind her.

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These interviews will air soon, and hopefully another event like this will come up.  I for one will go.  You should too.

I want to thank M. Jane Colette for the opportunity, the hard work.  It was fantastic to see and a great experience for me.

Now I’m closing up with a little bonus.  Sasha White filmed me for your VLOG, so here’s me making an ass out of myself pitching my books.

Thanks Sasha!

You miss Nothing.

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There has been a ton of validation the last few weeks.  And really I have to go back to my childhood.  Dad, if you’re reading this, I blame you for this brainwashing.

Over and over again I had Dad’s lectures when I screwed up and did stupid things he would say verbatim “How many times do I have to tell you?  Focus.  Focus.  Focus.”

Focus.  Oh how that word has haunted me.

I thought it was hilarious that I got that when I took the picture.

It’s what I’ve been doing.

We all have a to-do list right?  Sometimes it is the mundane crap like

1. Take out trash

2.  Find my pants

3.  Get out of bed

Normal crap.  No one wants to adult enough to deal with this stuff, but we all accept that on some days at least you have to do it.  If you figure out how to make those things exciting let me know alright?  (Note to self: worry about impending demise if i wake up excited about said things.)

But we all possess a bigger to do list inside as well.  It’s what we’re called to do.  It can be something like “I gotta colour this comic page” or “I got so many k words to write” or “I got to run twenty miles today”.  It’s the bigger things, the things that make this life worth living.   Or as the bible would say:

“For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matt. 22:14)

Many things are always happening around you.  Distractions are like cockroaches – they are everywhere.  Instead of writing this blog for instance, I was watching a twitch stream with my buddy.  I could go on facebook and see my status for the ten millionth time today.  I could go on twitter and cause chaos and mayhem there.

In fact, I do sometimes.  But I digress.

The point is there are a zillion things that you could always do.  There always a zillion things you can do.

Focusing on things that matter at some point makes you realize a very simple truth.

Very few things really matter.

Let that sink in for a second.

If very few things really matter, then it stands to reason that in all of our lives there is a ton of clutter.  A pigpen of sorts gets in the way of the things we should do or want to do in favor of accomplishing nothing.

Distractions can be many things.  They can be stress related (harder to deal with), drugs, comic books, video games; really, the items in question can be any assorted thing.  Anything that takes your eye away from what you want or what you need to do is something you don’t need by and large.

Not that distractions are a bad thing from time to time.  We all need time to unplug from what we are doing.  If anything, I probably should do it more often.  Or at the very least, diversify what I’m doing.  Unplugging is great.

But let’s be honest with ourselves.  A lot of us get caught up in not doing stuff right?  You know you probably could write at least a thousand words.  But…well, I could list anything here, but the key word here is the word “but.”  While the specific things are all different for all of us, the but is linked to one key question.

But what about all the things I’m missing going down this path?

Life is a million open doors and when you narrow down your choices of what you really want to do, you only have a certain set number of doors you can walk through if you’re serious.

Of course, if you’re serious about this, you’re going to walk through one of those doors.  And if you’re not serious, you don’t.  Deeds are truer than any words.

Right now, I’m doing a lot of different things out there.  I’m writing a noir story, (slowly), working on a Dr. Seuss style comic book I have no idea I’m good enough to even attempt.  I got a novel nearly finished.  I need to get that into the last phase.  I got a board game to start testing in a month. I got a tour to plan for October.  My podcast has to regularly come out.  I just posted a new episode today.  I need another one by the weekend.

All the things that really matter are in that last paragraph.  Not much else does right now.

That’s focus.

If I focus on the things I need to do, and go forward doing my best to do all the things on my plate, I’m not missing anything.  There is nothing else out there for me.  And there isn’t anything else out there for you either.

The truth is, if you are serious about doing anything in this world, you have to set yourself the expectation that you are going to do it.  It’s how you build yourself and go towards the things that are important to you.  You have to focus.

I now feel like my dad.  I need to go.  Figure out what you want and go for it.  You miss nothing if you do this.

Matters of Faith

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The hardest thing to do in this life is believe.  This isn’t just about God (although that in itself is a blog post and a half) but faith is in everything you do and don’t do.

It takes guts to believe in anything.  The greatest irony in this world is that in order to go for something more than what you already have, whether that be a relationship, a career choice, or any other kind of goal you can imagine, it takes faith to begin it.

You have to believe that you can do it.   And that’s hard sometimes.  My goals are to write and make a living at doing my creative pursuits, whether it be writing, or podcasting or something else.

No matter what, there are times you are questioning what you are doing with your life.

I remember wanting to finish a comic book.  I had been working on it since I had been apprenticed in Taylor, AZ.  Circumstances had come to the point that my production had been ground to a halt.  I could not pay the artist I wanted to work for.  Rent was high for my wage, and it was a very, very slow crawl to save money.   And right when I was about to start being able to pay my artist to move forward, I was fired due to some very interesting circumstances.

I had to hitchhike to another city just to work, and make it on time as there is no buses out there, and this kept getting pushed back farther and farther away.  I wondered whether or not I’d ever leave Snowflake Arizona, let alone finish that comic book I was working on.

When I came back to Calgary I had to rebuild and recover for about a year.  Finally, I was able to finish the book.

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Veritas is the book by the way.  Credit to my sister for taking this picture.

I always am impressed when someone finishes something with this kind of magnitude.  It took me so long to get so far on this book that every time I see anybody do something I appreciate the sacrifices it took to see that idea go to print.  It’s awesome.  Kudos to anyone who follows it through.

That was my goal and I did it.  There were times I thought I’d never do it.  I just kept on and on and on.  It was all I could do.  I did it, and I’m not ashamed to admit I cried.  I had wanted to do something, show something from that time and I could look at myself proudly.  I had seen this through.

At that point, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

Of course, after some time passed, I wanted more.  I wanted to get back into books.  My plan was to do poetry again.  I had this grand idea of publishing an ebook version of a new poetry collection and sell some at cons.

That plan went out the door immediately as this longer poetry pieces morphed into this entire story told in poem form.  I got an amazing illustrator, and we made something I’m very proud of this day.

One of my first customers bought the book, liked it and asked what the heck I was going to do with it and my plans.  When I told her my master plan she told me she was opening up a publishing house and wanted to publish my books.

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So this became a thing.

I learned a very important lesson that I still apply to this day.  Nothing ever works out how you imagine it to.  There are ups and downs that just are never quite planned for.  But that sometimes leads to a greater truth, and that’s that sometimes things work out even better than you ever planned.

Even the podcast was an accident.  I had the opportunity to interview Robert J. Sawyer about three years ago for his book Quantum Night.  It was a random word from him that pointed me in the direction of the podcast.  I never thought about doing one, and decided ultimately to try.

Why not?

Which leads me to right now.  I never set out to do this for awards.  I love meeting people who do amazing things all the time.  This podcast has given me the opportunity to meet some incredible individuals.  Just to listen and talk to them about what they are trying to accomplish is inspiring.

Last week I had an email in my inbox I never expected to get doing the podcast.  The Aurora awards are given out from the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association (CSFFA) for work in excellence in science fiction and fantasy.

I was shocked that I was a finalist.  I never sent in a nomination for myself.  Someone else did and people agreed with them.

That, truly, is amazing to me.

Thank you all very much for this very cool honour.  I never thought I’d get an Aurora for this podcast.  I’m fine with it.  It is an honour to be nominated with people like Clare C. Marshall, S.M. Beiko, Mike Bryant, and Steve Swanson.  That’s a cool list of people to go against and root for.

Not to mention everyone else going into their own rewards.  Good luck to each and every one of you.

Which leads to my last point on faith.  You can’t be guaranteed of anything, but as often happens, when you work on something and put the dedication and time, somewhere along the way, you get others to believe in you too.  And that, truly is the most amazing thing of all. I’ve already won.  I mean sure, I would love to get that award, but this is something I never asked for, and to be able to get this chance…wow.  More than I could have hoped.

I already have a goal for next year however, and that’s to get an aurora for something I am writing.  Right this minute, it feels pretty good.

 

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