Warning: Cannot modify header information - headers already sent by (output started at /home/booklifenow/booklifenow.com/wp-content/themes/booklife2012/functions.php:315) in /home/booklifenow/booklifenow.com/wp-includes/feed-rss2.php on line 8
BookLife http://www.booklifenow.com Booklife gave you the platform. Booklife Now is your expansion kit. Thu, 01 May 2014 12:10:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 On Typos and Professionalism http://www.booklifenow.com/2014/05/on-typos-and-professionalism/ http://www.booklifenow.com/2014/05/on-typos-and-professionalism/#comments Thu, 01 May 2014 12:10:14 +0000 http://www.booklifenow.com/?p=3884 This afternoon, I checked out a pretty sweet Kickstarter for a graphic novel. The story seemed interesting, the art was gorgeous, and the buy-in was pretty decent. I really liked the project.

I almost backed it, but one thing stopped me.

The Kickstarter page was riddled with typos and poor punctuation.

When I’m backing a project, I want to know that the quality will be the best it can be. When I’m creating one of those projects, I want to make sure that my backers get the best possible thing. Anything less is a problem.

We all make errors, sometimes in highly-visible, embarrassing places. Everyone has a story or ten about typos. Lord knows that a recent project has two errors that I’m mortified about. But I do my best to prevent them, because, as a writer, editor, and publicist, I make my living with words, and that means that I am judged by my words.

We’ve moved out of the exciting, fresh days of Kickstarter. Most of us have backed more than a few projects, and many of us have gotten burned, somehow. Backers typically also have limited budgets, and Kickstarters aren’t usually cheap. It’s more of an uphill battle for pledges than ever, and everything has to be just right.

There are several hurdles to overcome in the quest to earn pledges. When I put together a Kickstarter page for a publishing project, my words literally make the difference between success and failure.

Step 1: First look: Is it pretty? Does it immediately capture their interest? Do they want to look at more? This is a combination of the visual elements and the first hooks.

Step 2: The overview. They think it looks cool, but now they want to find out if it’s something they really want.

Step 3: The critical judgment (sometimes overpowered by the shiny). The visual and informative elements are now combining to give your project a total sum. There’s a tipping point between ‘yes’, and ‘no’, and from there, it’s a matter of how much they’ll be pledging, which is also complicated algebra dependent on your page.

All of the steps are complicated and important, but they can all be undone by one little element: poor execution. Bad spelling, poor punctuation, clunky language, or inconsistent formatting can completely ruin all the other amazing things you’ve done with your project. It introduces an element of doubt: “If they don’t care about proofreading this important, public-facing thing, will they care about the project once I’ve given them money?”

There are so many battles to fight on the road to create a successful project. Don’t sabotage yourself by neglecting the most important details.

]]>
http://www.booklifenow.com/2014/05/on-typos-and-professionalism/feed/ 0
The SFWA Bulletin http://www.booklifenow.com/2014/03/the-sfwa-bulletin/ http://www.booklifenow.com/2014/03/the-sfwa-bulletin/#comments Fri, 21 Mar 2014 16:04:55 +0000 http://www.booklifenow.com/?p=3879 In late November, I found out that I’d be acting as Production Editor for a special issue of the SFWA Bulletin, edited by Tansy Rayner Roberts. A little over three months later, the issue is beginning to land in mailboxes, and we have a new editor! But we’re already hard at work on the next issue, a special for the Nebulas. But for anyone who missed out on the news via the SFWA outlets, here’s a little on the new editor, the table of contents for the special edition, and how to obtain a copy of said special edition.

John Klima previously worked at Asimov’s, Analog, and Tor Books before returning to school to earn his Master’s in Library and Information Science. He now works full time as the assistant director of a large public library. John edited and published the Hugo Award-winning genre zine Electric Velocipede from 2001 to 2013. The magazine was also a four-time nominee for the World Fantasy Award and recipient of the Tiptree Honor List for one of its stories. In 2007 Klima edited an anthology of science fiction and fantasy stories based on spelling-bee winning words called Logorrhea: Good Words Make Good Stories. In 2011, Klima edited a reprint anthology of fairytale retellings titled Happily Ever After. He co-edited Glitter & Mayhem with Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas—a 2013 Kickstarter-funded anthology of speculative nightclub stories. He and his family live in the Midwest.

TOC for Issue 204 of the SFWA Bulletin
2 SFWA at Its Core – Susan Forest
3 Editorial
4 Science Fiction on the Front Line – Richard Dansky
7 Social Media & the Solitary Writer – Cat Rambo
10 The SFWA Forum – Susan Forest
10 Volunteering – Dave Klecha
11 Writer Beware – Victoria Strauss
13 Estates Project – Brenda W. Clough & Bud Webster
17 SFWA Operations Manager – Kate Baker
18 Everything Old Is New Again – MCA Hogarth
21 From the Ombudsman – Cynthia Felice
22 Website Redesign & Featured Book – Jeremiah Tolbert
23 Anti-Harassment & Diversity – Jaym Gates
27 Moving to California: The SFWA Bylaws Overhaul & Reincorporation Process – Russell Davis
32 Of Myth & Memory – Sheila Finch
36 SFWA’s MG/YA Group – Jenn Reese
37 50,000 Words Under the Sea – Ari Asercion
40 Copyright Battles & SFWA – Michael Capobianco
43 SFWA Standards for Pay – Jim Fiscus
45 Picking the Right Convention For You – Nancy Holder & Erin Underwood
53 Better Teachers, Better Writers – James Patrick Kelly
59 SFWA Annual Events – Steven H Silver
60 The SFWA NY Reception – Steven H Silver
61 SFWA Reading Series – Merrie Haskell
62 About the Nebulas
64 Interview: E.C. Myers – Tansy Rayner Roberts
Norton Award – Merrie Haskell
67 FROM THE BOARD
President/Vice President/Secretary
From the Treasurer
The Board Members Called “Directors”
74 Apres SFWA, The Deluge – Lynne M Thomas
75 Keep New Friends: Interview Rakunas & Gunn – Rachel Swirsky
78 SFWA Discussion Boards – Cat Rambo
80 Communications – Jaym Gates
IBC About the Cover Artist

For information on subscribing, contributing, or advertising in the Bulletin, please email bulletin@sfwa.org. For information on the Nebula Awards Weekend, May 15-18, in San Jose, CA, please see http://www.sfwa.org/nebula-awards/nebula-weekend/. (Non-SFWA members welcome!)

]]>
http://www.booklifenow.com/2014/03/the-sfwa-bulletin/feed/ 0
Flashy Fiction http://www.booklifenow.com/2014/03/3875/ http://www.booklifenow.com/2014/03/3875/#comments Tue, 18 Mar 2014 15:08:30 +0000 http://www.booklifenow.com/?p=3875 (I do beg pardon for the short, flashy post. (Haha, get it?) I’m on deadline for 4 nonfiction pieces, and I’m running out of words!)

Flash fiction is hard work. It isn’t for the faint of heart, either. While it seems to be to short stories what speculative-fiction is to literary snobs, flash fiction takes at least as much work as a short story, and far more care.

So why write it?

Aside from its literary value, it is an excellent training tool. Every single word must count, without becoming overblown.

Proper flash isn’t a scene, or a snippet, it’s a micro-story. Beginning, middle and end. Conflict and resolution. Tension and release. Think of it as that twenty-minute snooze on lunch break: you have to go to sleep, sleep, and wake up. None of those things can be missing for a proper nap. (Bonus nap-points for a nice blanket and good dreams.)

Seeing the entire story on one page tightens up plotting, and allows the writer to judge flow and coherency better. It is a good chance to play with style, endings and surprises.

Flash needs depth, as well as beginning, middle and end.

Flash also allows for a higher output. When I started seriously trying to hone my storytelling, I wrote almost nothing but flash. Piece after piece of it, trying to learn how to put words together more clearly, how to raise the stakes and tension. I was able to keep a short turn-around between writing and editing, so I could also see how the drafts changed. (We won’t discuss the fact that I over-corrected and started writing way too lean.)

Besides that? It’s fun. Setting a challenge of a new piece a day stretches muscles. It’s a good warm-up if you’re working on longer pieces, or a way to get out of the all-consuming novel.

So go for it. Have fun. Write mini-myths for your novel, or an event from a character’s past, or the birth of a new species. Push a boundary, take a few minutes to explore the shadows.

Think of it as a tasting menu of fiction: a dozen stories, each with different ingredients, expanding the palate and mind.

]]>
http://www.booklifenow.com/2014/03/3875/feed/ 0
Networking Doesn’t Mean Being An A**hole http://www.booklifenow.com/2014/03/networking-doesnt-mean-being-an-ahole/ http://www.booklifenow.com/2014/03/networking-doesnt-mean-being-an-ahole/#comments Fri, 07 Mar 2014 16:30:01 +0000 http://www.booklifenow.com/?p=3866 Jonathan Wood is an Englishman in New York. His debut novel, No Hero was described by Publisher’s Weekly as “a funny, dark, rip-roaring adventure with a lot of heart, highly recommended for urban fantasy and light science fiction readers alike.” Barnesandnoble.com listed it has one of the 20 best paranormal fantasies of the past decade, and Charlaine Harris, author of the Sookie Stackhouse novels described it as, “so funny I laughed out loud.” His short fiction has appeared in Weird Tales, Chizine, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies, as well as anthologies such as The Book of Cthulhu 2 and The Best of Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Year One. He can be found online at www.jonathanwoodauthor.com


It is slightly embarrassing to admit, but starting out as an author, I didn’t really know what networking was. I knew I had to do it. But the actual “it” of it was never really explained to me.

I’d assume this was just my own failing, except I’ve been on Twitter. So I thought maybe some pointers might be in order.

1) It’s not about followers

You have 1 bajillion followers on Twitter. And an extra bajillion friends on Facebook. Congratulations. Well done. However, if you have also followed a bajillion people on Twitter, if you have friended a bajillion people on Facebook, then this is essentially a meaningless statistic.

I count myself as mildly discerning on Twitter because I take a full 8 nanoseconds to make sure that the person who followed me isn’t a pornbot, spambot, or a self-proclaimed marketing professional before I follow them back. Following someone back is the done thing. It is etiquette. People follow you back because it takes slightly less effort than scratching their arse.

If you have a bajillion followers and have only followed eight, then there is the chance people are following you for a reason. In order to hear what you have to say. Otherwise they’re just being nice. This is the law of social media.

2) It’s not about shouting the loudest

The way I like to think about Twitter and Facebook is to imagine it as if it is one giant crowded room. There are about a billion people in it. Screaming as loud as you can, “This person loved my book! This person gave me a 5 star review! Read my book! Read my book! LOVE ME!!!!” is not going to win you any friends in this room. Just like in a real room.

Imagine it. In a room full of a billion people there are at least billion things to pay attention to. That means there’s an awful lot of stuff to filter out. The first thing that has to go is the annoying, jumping, shouting people. The louder you yell, the less people pay attention.

3) Seriously with the auto-DMs

Sometimes I follow someone back on twitter and, just so I can regret it instantly, they automatically message me.

I assume they want me to think that they really care that I spastically clicked a small blue box to comply with social niceties. But they don’t. They care about appearing to care. A care which is completely undercut by the generic message to visit their facebook page, or webpage, or whatever the crap they want to sell me. It is the electronic equivalent of a used-car salesman’s greasy, desperately insincere handshake, given while he glances over your shoulder to see if anyone more attractive has walked in behind you. It does not work.

4) So what the hell is it?

Networking is a misleading word. It may even be a damaging word. Because what networking really is, is the thing we’d be doing if we weren’t so concerned about networking. It is simply going out and making friends.

Networking shouldn’t have an agenda. It shouldn’t be manipulative. It should just be hanging out in a social space and being a decent person, and enjoying actual genuine human contact. And then, if you need a favor, then you ask. Just like you would with a real friend. And if they need a favor, you help them out too. Just like with a real friend.

That’s all it is. That’s the whole secret. Friendship.

So go on Twitter. Go on Facebook. Go there and network. Go crazy with it. Just make sure you do what Bill and Ted would do. Be excellent to each other.

]]>
http://www.booklifenow.com/2014/03/networking-doesnt-mean-being-an-ahole/feed/ 0
Something Worth Doing is Worth Doing Well http://www.booklifenow.com/2014/02/something-worth-doing-is-worth-doing-well/ http://www.booklifenow.com/2014/02/something-worth-doing-is-worth-doing-well/#comments Thu, 27 Feb 2014 16:00:02 +0000 http://www.booklifenow.com/?p=3861 This refrain comes up again and again when talking to my writer friends (and not always initiated by me): something worth doing is worth doing well. It’s certainly not a controversial idea, though talking about it is not without its risks (as writer myself, I will not be providing examples of poor work to avoid shooting myself in the foot).

Put another way: we as an industry are going cheap, and it shows.

Usually it starts with the cover—bad art, or weak stock photos, with poor typography. If the cover is bad, the inside is often worse—poor layout, weak font choices, text that’s too small to read, or so big you could read it from across the room. The interior art looks fuzzy, or way too dark. Maybe there’s nothing in particular you can put your finger on, but something just isn’t right—very possibly the paper itself is poorly chosen (or left unconsidered).

Overall, you’re left with a feeling of cheapness—and it’s probably true: not enough money and attention has been put into this product.

Like it or not, this lack of detail negatively impacts the stories themselves. Fewer people will buy the book, and some people will be so turned off by the experience that they will set it aside for good. All of this, regardless of the quality of the stories themselves.

It would be easy to lay blame at the feet of self-publishers, but it’s not limited to that world. Poor quality runs throughout all levels of publishing, at least sporadically, from indies to the big names.

The blame for this lies in a few areas.

Budget

It’s been said that there’s little money in publishing, and perhaps that’s true. Spending much on something with little chance of seeing it returned doesn’t make too much sense. To create a work of quality, it does take skill (or money to hire that skill). We are at a point where it requires little to no money to produce books, even printed books—from ebooks to print on demand, a publisher does not need to outlay much cash to get a book to a reader and see a return on investment. Unfortunately, this low-budget approach shows all too often.

Too Many Hats

I’m a jack-of-all-trades kind of guy: I have an art background, I work as an illustrator and designer (and animator, and video guy, and…), I’ve done some sound work, I write. I understand there are people (and publishers) out there that can handle the whole shebang and do a fine job of it. The thing is, the vast majority of people can’t, and even those that can generally are not great at everything—I know this, all too intimately. If you’re trying to take it all on, you probably shouldn’t.

Plus, if you are taking on all of the roles, you will generally suffer from tunnel vision, and miss out on glaring problems. As the wearer of all of the hats, you are probably working in a vacuum, and regardless of problems with teams (group think, lowest common denominator results), more people means more eyes on the end result.

Another quick point here: I’m a big believer in using the right tool (or software) for the right job, but just having that tool does not make you a master of it (and mastering it still doesn’t make you a designer).

Quantity vs. Quality

Perhaps this is a flawed perception, but it appears that some go for the shotgun approach: more products offered, more sales. It may be accurate, too—I haven’t looked for research to disprove this notion—but it seems to me that spreading money across fewer books (and thus more per book) would significantly improve the end results, and the financial gains from each. No doubt there’s a tipping point, where a piece goes from appropriately treated to collector’s edition (with a price to match)—but if this is your concern, this article isn’t really aimed at you.

Contrary to what it might sound like, I’m not trying to say “you all suck!” or that I want fewer books around. I love all kinds of books, and I want to see the publishing world do better by delivering better.

There are solutions to these problems, and not all of them require more money spent (though some expectation of investing in a work should be assumed). Educating yourself, spending smarter, hiring the right people, finding others who will give you honest opinions…these are all steps in the right direction.

And these are all planned future posts. Stay tuned.

]]>
http://www.booklifenow.com/2014/02/something-worth-doing-is-worth-doing-well/feed/ 0
On Research http://www.booklifenow.com/2014/02/on-research/ http://www.booklifenow.com/2014/02/on-research/#comments Tue, 11 Feb 2014 18:46:11 +0000 http://www.booklifenow.com/?p=3857 Writing is make-believe, plucking characters and settings from your head and dropping them onto the paper like Rorschach blots, hoping the reader will see a coherent image. But if you want to write something convincing, your story has to be rooted in reality. And if it’s a reality you know nothing about, there’s only one thing to do about it—research.

Oh, hey. I’ve got this, you say. Pull up Wikipedia, copy and paste, and voila.

Not. So. Fast.

The internet is a wonderful thing and it makes research easy, but according to Merriam Webster, the definition of research is: careful study that is done to find and report new knowledge about something.

Careful study.

That implies a little more than copy and paste, doesn’t it?

This isn’t to say that you can’t use the net, but you have to be willing to dig deeper than the first link you find, to pick through the mounds of information and find the good stuff, the right stuff.

(Did you know that the first seven astronauts did their survival training in the Nevada desert? Before I wrote this post, I didn’t. Thanks to some research, I now know that those seven astronauts were left for four days with a spacecraft mockup, a parachute, and a survival scenario. Pretty cool, eh? And yes, I got that information from the net; however, I’m pretty confident I can trust www.nasa.gov.)

If you want to write a story about a cellist and you know nothing more than the music the instrument makes is so beautiful it makes you cry, you better do research because you can bet that at least one person who might read that story will know more and will spot your errors a mile away. That isn’t to say you need to root everything in truth. Maybe your cello is a space cello with magical wormhole properties. In that case, you have a little more leeway, but still, you can research how instruments are played in space and wormhole theory. At least I hope you would.

But research isn’t just to make that one reader smile and nod and say yes, this author got it right. If you’re writing a story about a cello, why wouldn’t you do research? Why wouldn’t you want to know the lowest note a cello can play? (Two octaves below middle C.) Why wouldn’t you want to know that when Yo-Yo Ma plays, his instruments of choice are a 1733 Montagnana cello from Venice and a 1712 Davidoff Stradivarius? Even if you’re not a fan of the cello, you have to admit that a musician using a 300-year old instrument is pretty damn interesting.

You might spend days researching, slipping from one rabbit hole to another, picking up bits and pieces of information along the way. And maybe you won’t use those things in your story. Maybe you won’t even finish your story.

That isn’t the point.

Better to do the research and not need it than leave your story full of holes you should’ve filled. You owe it to yourself; you owe it to your readers; you owe it to your story.

]]>
http://www.booklifenow.com/2014/02/on-research/feed/ 1
Guest Post: The Road to Clarion: Allowing Myself to Say Yes http://www.booklifenow.com/2014/02/guest-post-the-road-to-clarion-allowing-myself-to-say-yes/ http://www.booklifenow.com/2014/02/guest-post-the-road-to-clarion-allowing-myself-to-say-yes/#comments Sat, 08 Feb 2014 16:21:35 +0000 http://www.booklifenow.com/?p=3851 Haralambi Markov is a Bulgarian fiction writer, blogger and reviewer with a background in Marketing and SEO, who currently operates as a freelance writer. Generally off-kilter, but most pleasant, you can find Markov sitting somewhere with fingers on some sort of keyboard. You can find him rambling at his blog The Alternative Typewriter and on his Twitter at @HaralambiMarkov.


This year, I made a promise to myself that I’ll stop denying myself my dreams. I promised I’d do something crazy. Try my hand at a real adventure. Allow myself to shoot for the big bright stars even if I didn’t have all the coordinates figured out; even if I didn’t know how I’d launch myself in space first.

It was a silent promise made on New Year’s Eve, when so many others like it are being born and then soon forgotten. Yet, where other promises faded, this one took root and didn’t let go. I found myself hungry for doing something for myself. Something that would make me happy rather than play to someone else’s satisfaction and I have nothing but time and ability as I’ve said goodbye to higher education (for now) and the freelancer gig isn’t going that bad.

Enter Clarion, the ability to enroll and the possibility to be accepted.

I didn’t put any serious thought into applying until two weeks ago and I’m going to walk you through my thought process, which at one point led to seriously binge watching TV shows to get my brain to shut up:

“Why not? Wasn’t I published in a couple of great places last year? But how am I going to get there? I don’t have any money. It would be such a waste to put so much effort and then not go at all. I shouldn’t. I really shouldn’t. But I know so many people who went there and urge me to go! I should. Yeah, as if anyone is going to accept me. I didn’t write at all last year. I have nothing to show. I have learned no new skills. I can’t even sell my backlog of finished pieces. Nope. Not going to do. I’ll spend this year writing and I’ll apply next year, ya know. God, but I want to. But I will fail. I’ve failed in just about everything I’ve tried. This will be a glorious failure for everyone I know to learn.

“But, but, but… It’s the VanderMeers, Catherynne Valente, Nora Jemisin and Gregory Frost and Geoff Ryman. Holy fuck… I’d get to meet them. I’d get to discuss my writing for once. Learn so many things. But it might not happen. I’m bilingual. I’m fake. They’ll know. These people WILL know. It probably will never happen. So what? Lots of things never happen. I’ll just do it until I get in or I die in the process.”

That’s actually the most difficult part of the application process for me. Allowing myself to say yes and overcome the mentality that limits me with what’s reasonable and what’s viable and what’s most likely to happen. My life has been about doing what’s right, what’s expected and what’s reasonable. Going to a writer’s resort for six weeks halfway across the world is so far removed from my reality it took so much pushing and mustering courage to actually make the first step.

I’ve just gathered all the critiques for both stories I’m submitting and I really can’t thank my friends who have taken their time and put so much effort to show me how I can be better. It’s empowering to hear people I admire like Angela Slatter, David Edison, Jonathan Wood, Jaym Gates, Natania Barron, Jacques Barcia and Theresa Bazelli say so many positive things about my writing and think I can do it, I can get in.

It’s proof I’m not fake, even though I’ve been discriminated against in the past just because I did not grow up in an English speaking country and therefore my writing is subpar. The road to Clarion is hard on my mind as I find myself wrestling with demons I thought I’d won against, but I’m doing the work. I’m editing my stories, gathering information and hoping for the best.

]]>
http://www.booklifenow.com/2014/02/guest-post-the-road-to-clarion-allowing-myself-to-say-yes/feed/ 1
The Future, Man http://www.booklifenow.com/2014/02/the-future-man/ http://www.booklifenow.com/2014/02/the-future-man/#comments Wed, 05 Feb 2014 14:28:02 +0000 http://www.booklifenow.com/?p=3849 I originally posted this as a FB status, but it seemed to hit a note and I wanted to explore and expand on it.

The other day, I read an article about how anything resembling the Enterprise was many years in the future, and for some reason, it’s been bothering me ever since.

History is full of people saying, “Yeah, haha, that can’t happen for another HUNDRED YEARS!”, usually with the result that this impossible tech shows up within the next couple of years. And that was in the beginning of the technological revolution.

For all of our social ills, our scientific problems, and our problematic governments, we’re in an age where we have possibly more potential than ever before. We have people like Elon Musk and even James Cameron, who have big dreams and the money and connections to make it happen. There are pieces of technology that haven’t been utilized to their fullest, and a huge crop, worldwide, of brilliant people looking to build a new piece of the future. The Internet makes it possible for big dreamers to find support networks, resources, and outlets. We have calls for Martian settlers, tests for anti-grav technology, and biotechnology that would make the SF writers of twenty (TWENTY!) years ago green with envy. And they aren’t claims or projects by crackpots, but by leading scientists and entrepreneurs.

Moreover, we have writers–of novels, movies, games, nonfiction–who are positing and contemplating the technical and social aspects of these new developments, creating an incredibly rich environment of possibilities. I believe that one of the biggest aspects of any new development is the understanding of its effect on the world and its users, and with the so-called ‘soft sciences’ like psychology, sociology, and family sciences slowly gaining recognition and respect, there’s a wider outlet for those examinations than ever.

Dr. Michio Kaku’s “Physics of the Future” talks about how futurist predictions are almost always wrong because they look at the trajectory that things are on at the time, and project that into the future, when, in fact, progress happens in leaps and bounds, plateauing for a while and then springing forward with huge strides.

I know I’ve complained in the past that it seemed like SF’s push and imagination had sort of stalled out and gotten left behind, but in the last couple of years, it seems like that is a hurdle that’s been overcome. This is particularly noticeable in short stories, where the industry is seeing an absolute burst of highly-talented authors. (A lot of those award-winners are heading into novel-length fiction now, and I look forward to seeing what they will add to that field.)

It may be that something like the Enterprise is 30 or 50 or 100 years in our future, but I think we have reached a point where we have to be careful in claiming that anything is too impossible, or too far in our future, because announcements are made weekly about new things once only found in SF.

Besides, isn’t it our job to bring the future right to our doorstep?

]]>
http://www.booklifenow.com/2014/02/the-future-man/feed/ 0
Stress, Health, and Self-Monitoring http://www.booklifenow.com/2014/01/stress-health-and-self-monitoring/ http://www.booklifenow.com/2014/01/stress-health-and-self-monitoring/#comments Fri, 24 Jan 2014 16:30:08 +0000 http://www.booklifenow.com/?p=3844 Being a writer is somewhat stressful. Whether it’s word count, editing, contracts, publicity, sales numbers, or reviews, we have so many ways to stress ourselves out. And this is often in addition to the other stressors we have in our lives, such as family, day jobs, and whatever day-to-day maintenance we have to do to keep our lives in order, like feeding the cat and keeping tea in stock.

Considering we all typically have very busy lives, sometimes it’s hard to recognize when we’re stressed, or what stress looks like. We easily fall in the trap of “Once [thing] is done, then I can relax,” often ignoring that once [thing] is done, [another thing] is just going to drop right into our laps, demanding our immediate attention. And so we go from project to project, never taking a breath and checking in with ourselves.

It may seem like a no-brainer to some, but stress has a huge impact on your health. But even those of us who are aware of this fact may not know what the symptoms are, or how to identify them. Difficulty sleeping is obvious, but what else? There are many common symptoms of chronic stress (and elevated cortisol levels, a result of chronic stress) such as lowered immune function and wounds becoming slow to heal.

In my case last year, it was “gastric distress,” which resulted in my eating a primarily-vegan diet. At first I thought it might be H Pylori, or some genetic issue, or age, or any other myriad of reasons for a strange and sudden illness. It wasn’t until recently, when my fourth doctor suggested I examine the stress in my life, that I am even able to eat meat/dairy without sudden and disruptive illness. (Note the use of “sudden” and “disruptive” — I still can’t eat meat or dairy, but at least I won’t lose half a day to migraines if someone sauteed my onions in butter instead of olive oil.) Looking back now, symptoms had been piling up, but I was too distracted to notice.

Stress triggers an adrenal response, that famous “fight or flight mode” we talk about. When you are stressed, your body slows or stops anything it considers non-essential. The problem is, the things we deem essential are not what our body considers essential, not when its overall survival is felt to be at risk. Proper digestion stops, healing stops, various maintenance functions stop, fighting off disease stops. And sure, if we’re being chased by a bear, fighting off a virus seems like small potatoes. But unfortunately your body can’t tell the difference between the stress of a bear chasing you and the stress of being called into your boss’s office to discuss your performance.

We as writers live in our heads a lot, and I suspect many of us also have day jobs that require us to live in our heads as well. As a result of this, we may not notice the signs of building stress until it impacts our health so much that it gets in the way of our daily tasks. So I would encourage all of you to look at the stress in your life, and to research the ill-effects of chronic stress. Stressors, stress symptoms, and stress management vary from person to person, so I don’t really feel comfortable suggesting resources other than “research” and “a trusted physician.”

However, you should periodically step back and do a self-evaluation. Think about your body, your nutrition, your sleep patterns. Are you having difficulty focusing? Do you drop things more than you used to? Are you sore a lot? Mysterious weight gain even though your diet has remained the same? You might be dealing with chronic stress. Your mental and physical health should be a priority. Making this deadline matters, but what matters more is being healthy enough to make the next one as well.

]]>
http://www.booklifenow.com/2014/01/stress-health-and-self-monitoring/feed/ 1
Giving Back http://www.booklifenow.com/2013/12/giving-back/ http://www.booklifenow.com/2013/12/giving-back/#comments Tue, 24 Dec 2013 23:16:00 +0000 http://www.booklifenow.com/?p=3841 The holidays often seem like an endless stream of ‘gimme gimme’, but there’s been an excellent trend, lately, of giving back. Some of the obvious ways are to donate to a local foodbank, shelter, or community outreach program, or, for animal lovers, your local rescue. Religious or not, some churches do have programs that are community-focused and beneficial.

But, if you don’t have a favorite local charity, there are some great, lesser-known charities that can use a little extra holiday cheer. The money you give them goes straight to their cause, not their bureaucracy. Some of them are ones I have personal experience with, others were recommended by BooklifeNow staff and Twitter users.

Veterans and Military Families

My personal ones skew a little toward the side of veteran-support, between working on War Stories, and my personal life. Our veterans come back from war to a life that expects them to immediately transform back to civilians, and many of them find that a difficult transition. The organizations below do some extra-special work for our returning soldiers.

Team Rubicon is a veteran owned-and-run relief organization. Volunteers use their skills and knowledge to provide disaster-relief. Due to the history of their volunteers, those areas include war-torn regions not always accessible to relief. They are 14,000 volunteers strong, and have deployed those volunteers on over 50 missions over the course of barely four years. They have provided relief in the wake of Sandy, Haiyan, this year’s Midwestern tornadoes, and the massive flooding in Pakistan. They have also deployed teams to Thailand/Burma, Haiti, Chili, and multiple African countries.

Besides all of that relief, they offer veterans a sense of purpose and community, saving lives and future. This is, without a doubt, one of my favorite groups.

Ways to help: Team Rubicon’s Box of Awesome is available on Amazon, in sizes from small to super-duper huge. It’s tax-deductible, and your money goes straight to helping them do more good. You can also donate money directly, or, if you’re a veteran, consider volunteering directly for them.

Fisher House

A few months ago, the special operations community reeled under the news of a mass-casualty event in the Middle East. A unit of Army Rangers and their support personnel suffered heavy casualties on a routine operation. Usually, when this happens, the government aids the families in getting to the appropriate place to claim the bodies, handle funeral expenses, and more. But the government was in shut-down, and decided that they weren’t going to pay out, leaving the grieving families hanging.

While powerful voices in the veteran community immediately put pressure on the government to change their stance, another group stepped in to make an immediate difference. Fisher House, a charity devoted to making sure that military families have somewhere to stay while soldiers are undergoing medical treatment and care, donated the $500,000 the government wouldn’t, to make sure that the families could attend to their fallen loved ones.

And while the government held an emergency session to get the money out, Fisher House was there and ready to support the people who needed it.

At-Risk People

Child’s Play Charity -Recommendation and writing by BooklifeNow writer Geardrops.

The focus of Child’s Play Charity is to deliver toys and games to children in need. When it was founded in 2003, the charity’s efforts were focused on Seattle Children’s Hospital. In the following years, it would expand to cover hospitals around the world. Now they are expanding their focus to include bringing games to homes for battered women and children, and have ten pilot locations they are hoping to deliver gaming stations to this year. Child’s Play has one of the lowest overheads of any major charity, and as a result the bulk of the money that is donated to Child’s Play does reach those in need. Only a tiny percentage is required to keep the charity itself running; the rest goes directly to children in need.

People already familiar with Child’s Play might also be familiar with some of the drama concerning former founding members who are better-known as the creators of webcomic empire Penny Arcade. Since they are very publicly affiliated with Child’s Play, many assume they directly profit from it, and considering the problematic things they have said this year and in the past, this has caused some people to feel dissuaded from donating. If you are one of those people, worry not: Penny Arcade and Child’s Play are two separate entities, and they do not profit from it (note: Child’s Play is a non-profit organization). When it was founded, they took care to ensure it was its own independent organization. I recall one of the creators saying this was a deliberate move, that if something should happen to Penny Arcade, it should not impact Child’s Play.

It’s really an incredible charity and well worth your notice and, if possible, donation.

Liberty in North Korea -Recommended by Twitter user @scourger.

“Our work begins by rescuing North Korean refugees hiding in China, who are vulnerable to abuse and capture. It takes $2,500 to fund an individual’s rescue through a 3,000 mile underground railroad through China and Southeast Asia.

Every year, thousands of North Koreans risk their lives to escape political persecution and economic hardship. If caught trying to escape or caught in China and sent back, they are at risk of extremely harsh punishments, including brutal beatings, forced labor, forced abortions, torture, and internment in a political prison camp. To make matters worse, while hiding in China their illegal status forces them to work in invisible industries and leaves them vulnerable to exploitation by unscrupulous employers and sex traffickers, as they have no recourse to any authorities. Although many refugees try to escape, many do not have the resources or connections to get themselves out of China. That’s where we come in.”

The Gathering Place -Recommended by Twitter user @ECthetwit

Every year, the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative conducts a point-in-time study to determine the number of homeless individuals living in Denver. In January 2013, they counted 11,167 people. Of this number, 43.4% were women and 62% were adults living in households with children. Additionally, 25.4% of the individuals surveyed were newly homeless, meaning they have been homeless less than a year and this is their first time to experience homelessness.
As Denver’s only daytime drop-in center for women, their children, and transgender individuals experiencing homelessness and poverty, The Gathering Place provides a variety of programs and services those who enter our doors.

Girls, Inc -Recommended by Twitter user @rakdaddy.

Girls Inc.® of Orange County has been a respected member of the non-profit community for almost 60 years. The mission of Girls Inc. is to inspire all girls to be strong, smart, and bold. We put our mission into practice through the Girls Inc. experience that equips girls to navigate gender, economic, and social barriers and grow into healthy, educated and independent adults.

Girls Inc. of Orange County positively changes the lives of 4,500 girls, ages 4 1/2 to 18, each year, by providing year-round holistic, compensatory, and intentional programming focusing on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math), financial literacy, sound body image, healthy relationships, and college and career readiness.

Extra Life

“On an Autumn Saturday each year since 2008, tens of thousands of gamers have joined together to save the lives of local kids in a celebration of gaming culture that we call Extra Life.  From console games to tabletop RPG’s to even lawn sports, Extra Life gives people that love to play a chance to do what they love to save lives and make a difference.

Originally designed as a 24-hour marathon of gaming, Extra Life has evolved to mean different things to different people (though most of our participants still attempt the marathon).

To participate you need only sign up (free) and gather the support of your friends and family through tax-deductible donations to your local CMN Hospital.  Then on Saturday, November 2nd (or any day that works for you!) play any game(s) you want on any platform(s) that you want with anyone you want for as long as you want.
The proceeds from Extra Life stay where they’re raised to support children’s hospitals. Since 2008, our incredible players have raised more than 4 million dollars.”

Extra Life is a once-yearly event, so you can’t donate now (I don’t think), but I, and many other gamers, will be playing again next year, so mark your calendars!

American Red Cross

This one seems like an obvious choice, but I am including them for a different reason. The Red Cross offers a lot more hands-on opportunities than most places. CPR certification, blood donation, and community-outreach, there’s something for almost everyone.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg, culled from my personal experience and a few recommendations. So what’s your favorite place to give back?

]]>
http://www.booklifenow.com/2013/12/giving-back/feed/ 0