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Farewell Peter, From Wendy

A comedian has died.

The death of Robin Williams has gripped the American conscience, if not the entire world.  No one can deny that Robin’s death is devastating. I am still in shock, and I’m finding it hard to describe. He was, by far, the funniest man in show business. This sentiment has been expressed countless times by his fans, his peers and contemporaries. With a career spanning 40 years, it seems that there’s nothing that man couldn’t do to entertain the world. Whether it was as a stand-up comic, an actor, a dramatist, or a humanitarian, Robin Williams did it all and gladly did so. But as we look back over the last 4 days, we, the world, have come to realize it came at a heart-breaking price. And his death is giving the world a wakeup call about the true face of depression.

hook-1991-01-gRobin Williams was a man who brought joy to people all over the world through his shows and movies. Being a child of the late 70s and 80s, a treasured childhood memory of mine is the show “Mork & Mindy”. Although I can’t recall every episode, the few scenes that stand out in my mind are, of course, “nanu nanu”, Mork sitting on his head, his suspenders, the egg he came from and his child, played by Jonathan Winters. At 4 years old, it was comedic gold. When I heard of the news of his passing the other day, one of the first things I remembered was a Mork from Ork sticker that graced the back of my bedroom door when I was 5. I can now look back and see how children adored Mork. He was loveable, laughable and carried so many childlike qualities. Freshly hatched on the planet earth, he was a child navigating through the world of the late 70’s, reporting back to his superior about the oddities of earthlings. What child didn’t experience the same wonderment and confusion of the world around them? And what child didn’t secretly wish to simply go back from where they came from? I know I did.

From the moment Mork entered our lives, nothing Robin Williams touched ever turned sour. It’s hard to pinpoint his greatest movies. My personal favorites are Mrs. Doubtfire, The Birdcage and of course, Hook. He played a grown up Peter Pan who had forgotten his life in Neverland. Perhaps I have a particular fondness for that story, because after all, Peter Pan is the first piece of published literature to feature my name. I can’t help but think that without that book, the popularity of Wendy would never exist – and surely the legend of Wendy, whose affection for the boy who never grows up never wanes, although she leaves him and all childhood things behind. I can identify with this in so many different ways.

The key theme in Hook is that Peter, having decided to grow up, as an adult lost his one happy thought. And that’s the kicker right there. One happy thought. Anyone who’s ever suffered depression understands the struggle of finding that one happy thought, in a world where everyone is so apt to tell you what your one happy thought should be. We can’t escape it. Everyone seems to believe they hold the answer: find your happy thought in God, find it in your family, find it with your friends, find it in your career, or find it in your hobby. Just find it. But demanding someone to “just find it” is sometimes as detrimental as not being able to find it. Because at the end of the day, you’re filled with everyone’s opinions about how to find happiness, and none of them are close to the real solution. That is depression as I personally know it. And although Peter Pan found his one happy thought at the end of the film, there are countless numbers of people out in the world still struggling to find that happy thought. And unfortunately, the struggle never ends until the day you have to say “no more.” Sadly enough, no more really means no more.

It is really hard to describe depression to someone who has never suffered it. And I mean truly suffered it. And even worse, it’s hard to describe depression that accompanies suicidal thoughts. Right now, I’m seeing the internet flooded with explanations, theories and toll-free help numbers for those who are depressed. Without a doubt, it needs to be out there. But at the same rate, I’m afraid it will be at the risk of a fad-like celebrity cause, something that’s taking the limelight right now, but after the initial shock wears off, it will quietly go into the night never to be taken seriously again. Or worse, it will turn into a catch-all diagnosis for everything that ails the world. I am frightened of what this will become, I am frightened for those who this condition truly affects and I’m frightened for those who will be objectified, while ignored. Robin Williams’ death might bring about some good, but all I can see is the bad.

If I had to pinpoint the first moment I recognized myself as suffering depression, it was when I was eight years old. It was definitely the first time I contemplated suicide. I can’t remember what prompted the thought. It could have been a number of things, from my brothers not wanting to play with me, to my parents getting a divorce, to whatever third grade drama was happening at school, to a variety of different other things. I just remember sitting in my bedroom, crying and thinking, “I wish I had never been born. Why can’t I just die?” Yes, harrowing and frightful thoughts coming from an 8-year old. It’s no secret I believe in reincarnation. I’ve been a believer since I was about three years old and the topic of all my dreams were about drowning. I never viewed death a final, but more of a do-over. I suppose then I didn’t view death as a greatly scary thing. But whatever it was that made me feel that way that day, I overcame it. However, those thoughts and the depression that accompanied it returned. It came back as a teenager several times and cumulated into something I finally recognized as dangerous when my oldest brother was killed in a car accident. For the next three years after that I tethered from periods of manic depression to thoughts of suicide and back again. I found comfort in friends. And truly, it’s the comfort of friends that get you through some of the darkest hours. And to this day I still find comfort in friends that share a like-mindedness with me. However, it’s not the end-all cure. At the end of the day, I was still just coping from one manic bout to the next.

I was finally diagnosed with depression and put on medication about 6 years ago.  I found myself struggling with the outside world, compounded by struggles with work and a few toxic relationships I had at the time. I couldn’t get out of bed, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t move. After three days a coworker finally convinced me to go the doctor. It was on that day that I finally stopped pretending and told my doctor the truth about how I was really feeling. My doctor officially diagnosed me with depression and put me on medication. However, it came with a price. All the horrible side effects you’ve heard about antidepressants are true. I was a zombie, I slept more than when I was depressed and don’t get me started on the sexual side effects. Yet, I could concentrate a little better and my mind didn’t obsess about things I had no control over. After a year of the medication and with the help of my boyfriend (who is now my husband) I took myself off the medication. It rates up there as the worst 4 days of our relationship. Taking yourself off antidepressants without a doctors help is not recommended, but we made it through it. I wanted to find my happy thought without being medicated. I wanted to be sure the happiness I felt wasn’t just an act of self-medicating.

Depression is hard to describe to others. It’s almost as hard to describe art to someone who has never created. At any given time, I exist in two different worlds. The first I was born into. It’s the reality I share with the other six billion inhabitants of this planet. The second is of my own making. My second world is filled with the past, present and future. It’s filled with people who are my best friends, my children, my creations, my words, my dreams, my actions, music, laughter, hardships and rewards. It’s thoughts I can never verbalize in world #1. Existing in two different worlds is a phenomenal gift and ability. And I credit God for this gift. If you ask any artist about this, I’m sure they can tell you the same. Yet, at the same time, existing in two worlds is sometimes the loneliest existence given to the holders of this gift. It’s solitary at times, it’s maddening at others, and more often than not, it’s depressing. Extremely depressing. Whenever I want to escape (which is sometimes several times a day) I can transport myself to this world of my creation. I can live in it, breathe it, and thrive in it. The depression comes in when I have to come back to reality and witness the hopelessness of the real world, the devastation humans put each other through, and the heartache of loss and regret. It’s hard to find your happy thought in all the madness. But as humans, we struggle to find it. Some do, some do not. And in the end, those who have struggled with it for years and years finally say “enough!” They seek out their do-over. They resign themselves to the one thing that will remove the pain. The unfortunate aftermath is that it brings to light the pain and doubt of those who are left to wonder what made life so bad that they couldn’t endure it anymore. And it’s a question that will never have an answer.

Personally, I’m not sure if there will ever be a cure for depression. I sometimes think it’s hardwired into the brain, or a deficiency your body is not capable of producing. When I was first placed on medication for my depression, I was talking with a cousin about how scared I was about taking pills. She explained it in a way I was able to understand at the time: “it’s about a chemical your brain isn’t producing that levels out your moods. It’s the same as a child who is unable to produce insulin to level out their blood sugar. It’s not something to be ashamed of; it’s just that your body needs a little help with this chemical.” It was the greatest piece of advice I had ever received.

Today, I am on antidepressants again. I went back on them about a year and a half ago when I was struggling with my job again (the one I quit six weeks later to focus on writing). I was given a much milder dose and one without the side effects. I’m happy with the medication for now. I still struggle though. Even three weeks ago after an argument with my husband, I went into a strange downward spiral and those thoughts I hate to name at the moment suffaced again, and I ended up having a very bad three days. Getting my family, and now my husband, to understand depression is still a struggle. One that I am afraid they will never understand. But I still seek out my happy thought. Sometimes it’s in writing, sometimes it’s in the anticipation of our upcoming anniversary trip, sometimes it’s when I close my eyes and spend time with my characters in my latest WIP. I do know where my happy thoughts are. Having the ability to spend time with them is what I need more than anything. And if it means me shutting the door to the outside world until I am finally centered, until I can breathe unaided and until I can look at the faces of other humans in World #1, it’s what I need and require to survive. Just don’t make it hard on me when I have to hang the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door.

I am truly scared right now, and not for myself. Robin Williams’ death has touched everyone. And I’m not quite sure if it’s a good thing or bad thing. If anything good comes from it, it will be depression and suicide awareness. It’s the bad that scares me: the media claiming to know what depression is, news sources trying to convince sufferers of a one-step cure-all; theorists claiming to know what truly prompted Robin to kill himself, and the blame game that will come of it makes my personal darkness dim even further. Already I’m seeing things on Facebook that are trying to profit off of Robin’s death. His family has had to go into social media hiding (it’s the only way I know how to describe it). I cry and it pisses me off. He was a tortured soul who needed the pain to go away. How can I not identify with that and take it personally?

The only way I know how to end these thoughts are this: don’t get swept up, don’t get swept away. Happy thoughts are real, it just takes a little time to find them. Happy thoughts do exist, but sometimes it means leaving others behind to find them.

Goodnight Peter. Goodnight Robin. You truly brought me happy thoughts. May Neverland embrace you and bring to you the happy thoughts you struggled a lifetime to find.

Wendy

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Get Time Out of Darkness on iTunes today!

Time Out of Darkness contributors: Sheila English, Amanda Jayde, Jocie McKade, and Wendy C. Williford

Time Out of Darkness contributors: Sheila English, Amanda Jayde, Jocie McKade, and Wendy C. Williford

I’ve been a horrible blogger over the past 6 weeks. Believe me, there’s been good cause, and there is much I want to share with everyone from business ventures, wedding planning, my secret crush on “Weird Al” Yankovic, to a recent lifelong dream fulfilled in the form of a Queen concert.

But alas, that will wait just a few more days. Today I wish to share two bits of news about our anthology, Time Out of Darkness. First, the anthology is now available in printed format. Yes, you can hold it in your hands, and if you’re anything like my mother and can’t figure out the Kindle (I’ve tried sending her a Kindle copy several times with no luck), then you can buy it! Secondly, for the iTunes cult, I mean family, our anthology is available today (July 23rd, 2014) for free! Check out Time Out of Darkness, and as always, we love feedback. Leave a review or a rating. This anthology was, first and foremost, written for charity, so your contributions are already making a difference. But, some writers live on feedback alone. When there is no proof of literary success in the form of a residual check, hearing what our readers think of our work is worth its weight in gold. So please, read it for free today and leave some feedback.

In the meantime, Slan and Sláinte!

Wendy

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Musings From a One-Year Old

Vermillion Literary ProjectI am a year old. At least by WordPress standards. I am now a poet. Or, at least according to my latest publication. I am also insane. But that’s always been a given.

Yesterday I received a WordPress notification that it’s my 1 year anniversary as a blogger. That in itself seems very surreal, since I’ve been at this short story publishing game for about two years already. It was actually in June of 2012 that I sat down and sent out my first short story submission. At that point I decided to keep sending out submissions until I got published. It was a promise to myself that I had failed at before. Numerous times in the past, in fact. After I wrote a manuscript in highschool, I sent out query letters during that summer and pretty much gave up on it after 3 months and a dozen rejections. It’s not that the rejections got to me, but it was the pre-internet age and letters were hand typed, folded and stuck in an envelope with a SASE. It took a lot of effort, and a lot of patience to await those replies. To an 18 year-old during the summer, that’s a lot of work and I didn’t have the patience to keep it up. And these were simple queries explaining that I wrote a book and would so-n-so be interested in reading it. But much has changed in the last 20 years. Now, everything is email or, my personal favorite, Submittable. Not only can you submit an inquiry, but you do so with your completed work. This goes for both short stories and novel manuscripts. I can whip up several query letters in an hour. That made my goal more productive and much easier. Two years ago I decided that every Sunday I would make at least 3 short story submissions to various journals and magazines. Once I got a reject, I would immediately make 3 more submissions. Eventually I had 100 submissions. (today the tally is 221, and that’s where the insanity part comes in.) But my persistence paid off. It took about four months before I got my first acceptance letter, informing me my story would be published in eight months. Yep, eight months. I was freaking excited, of course. But I felt that the wait of eight months was going to drive me crazy. But I waited, and continued submitting. And submitting. And submitting.

One year to the month that I had decided to start publishing my short stories, I had my first publication in the ezine Ascent Aspirations Magazine. As well as two other acceptance letters, about 50 rejections, and about probably about 50 or so still pending. To celebrate my small accomplishment, and at the encouraging advice of one of my best friends, Raydeen, I opened my blog. After all, if there was one thing I learned by sitting through agent and publishing panels is that writers who want to go far have a blog and “web presence”.

So, here I am, one year later, with 15 publications and a book for sale that I co-authored, spreading my author goo all over the internet like Slimer from Ghostbusters. Happy birthday to me!

And as if the year hasn’t been exciting enough as a full-fledged author, I am now able to add poet to my list of creative abilities. Last month I received an acceptance letter from The University of South Dakota’s Vermillion Literary Project accepting a poem I wrote entitled, “Umbrella”. I was literally shocked. You see, I’ve been sending out a few of my poems here and there if I came across a call for submission that looked promising. Sometimes, I sent out the poems just to do something different. Really, I did it for shits-n-giggles. I’m not a poet. And as a writer, I’ll be the first to admit I don’t understand poetry – not in the sense of how a true poet understands poetry. I started out writing poetry as a depressed pre-Goth era teen after my brother died and I was trying to get the emotions and thoughts of suicide out of my head. It was typical teenage “woe is me, nobody understands me, life is so dark, look at my collection of black clothing, I’m smarter than everyone, look how artsy I am” drivel. And I say that with an extreme amount of affection to my old teenage self. It was poetry that rhymed. And it was poetry sometimes written to the tune of my favorite song at the time. It was as if I was rewriting lyrics to my favorite songs about what I perceived was my shitty life at the time. It wasn’t brilliant, it wasn’t cutting edge; it didn’t make the angels weep. But it did win me the Poet Laureate award of my high school’s graduating class. And it was printed in my high school’s monthly newsletter. So, I supposed that was my first publication.

But despite that, I still didn’t understand poetry. Flash to 10 years later when I was back in college and I had to take a poetry class to fulfill my degree requirement. It was still a mystery, and even more so that, with the exception of sonnets, we read a lot of poems that didn’t rhyme, didn’t have an understandable flow, that, while beautifully written in language I’m still envious of, didn’t make sense in my head as to what made this particular poet a National Poet Laureate over the next. Prose is easy for me. I see patterns in prose, I see methods and craft. It’s a language I understand. Now, while poetry has its own patterns, methods and craft, it’s a language I don’t understand. But I did the assignments, I did the readings, I tried to understand poetry and I made my A’s in class.

Flash to another 10 years later, I submit some poems along with my short stories and here we are – not only has one of my poems been picked up, but picked up by the Vermillion Literary Project, a yearly publication that has a 1% acceptance rating. Maybe I am a poet after all.

Wordcount6-11-2014And after all that, poetry is still not where I want to leave my mark. My calling is prose. It always has been. Exceptionally long prose, if we have to get down to the bottom of it. This is where the insanity comes in again. Yesterday I hit another benchmark with the novel. I’m currently at 150,000 words. And if I’m lucky, I might be 2/3 of the way through. Only if I’m lucky. Chances are I’m barley at the halfway mark. I use the 7-point story structure, so there are more than a few critical pinches and plot turns. As it stands right now, I still haven’t’ reached the novel’s critical climax, but it will happen in the next two chapters. Then after that, most of the mystery surrounding my heroine will be resolved just in time for the final buildup, climax and resolution. I hope I can get that done in the next 100,000 words. Which will put it at what I initially imagined it to be as a 250,000 words. Here’s where the insanity truly comes in. Most publishers only want books between 90,000-120,000 words. So how the hell am I going to sell this when it’s finished? A couple of people have brought up the idea of splitting the book in two, or even three. But I’m not a series type of person. If it can be split, it will be done so at about 175,000 words, leaving the last 75,000 or so to be book two. Not the “Book 1” and “Book 2” dynamic publishers want.  All I can really do at this moment is keep writing, keep building my name and reputation and by the time it’s finished (hopefully in the next 16 months) I can convince a publisher to take a chance on me and my Game of Thrones length “first-time” novel. It’s a gamble, but in the end it’s really about the creation and keeping the story true to itself. I feel it only works as a 1-book story. I pray others do as well.

20140612_135225In the meantime, I go on being me: writer, author, poet, still-to-be novelist. And planter of very slow tomatoes. Yes, this moment of randomness is brought to you by our sponsor, ADD, as I look out my window and wonder why after two months my tomato plants only have a few small buds so far. I was told tomatoes grow in abundance, but one must be patient. I’m patient with writing. Not so much with tomatoes.

Until next time, check out VLP Magazine 2014. Check me out on Goodreads. And if you’re one of the lucky ones who bought our anthology, Time Out of Darkness, you can get it autograhed on Authorgraph. Yes, I’ve had a busy week spreading my slime through the interwebs. Enjoy!

Cheers and Slainte!

Wendy

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Happy Friday!

I was hoping to have some updates for this week, but alas, there’s been nothing much to speak of. So in lieu of a long, thought provoking, wit-filled blog post, I will keep it short and sweet this week and post the Circle of Seven Productions’ book trailer for Time Out of Darkness. Of course, the eBook version is still available on several bookseller websites, so I encourage everyone to purchase a copy. The profits from the book are being donated to New Orleans’ “Save Our Cemeteries” charity for cemetery restoration in the very spooky “City of The Dead”.

Secondly, I now have an author page at Goodreads.com. I’m still learning the ins and outs of it and it’s very modest at the moment, but feel free to add me or send me a friend request.

Have a great weekend to all and see you on the flipside!

Cheers and Sláinte!

Wendy

 

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Artistic Death at A Funeral

As I wrapped up my stay at the RT Booklovers’ Convention in New Orleans a couple of weeks ago, I was given a great piece of advice by fellow author, Sheila English, in regards to my efforts in marketing myself as a writer. “Get your own domain name,” she said as we walked toward our meeting spot for the St. Louis #1 Cemetery Tour. “What you have now is okay, but you need something with your name on it. You can keep the paperback one, but have it direct to your name. That’s what publishers want to see.”

So, here we are. If you look at your address bar you will notice you are now visiting http://WendyCWilliford.com. I’m a dot com! Celebrate with a glass of wine. So what if it’s barely mid-morning. I’m sure you’ve done something to deserve it already.

A few days after I came back from New Orleans, some bad news made its way to my mother. One of her cousins had passed away from cancer. Unfortunately I didn’t know this particular cousin very well, had maybe only met her once or twice as a child, but I knew her from several of the stories my mom had told me over the years. Being that the funeral was only about a 45 minute drive from me, I offered to go with my mom. She declined me attending the funeral with her, knowing that I didn’t remember this cousin very well, but asked me to meet her at her cousin’s house afterward for the after funeral lunch. I’m not sure if this is the thing in the north or even in other countries, but here in the south, after a funeral we have a potluck at the house of the deceased. And it’s not this catered nonsense either (unless you count the 50 count box of chicken from Church’s Chicken catering). Nope, everyone brings a covered dish and enough of it so that the grieving widower doesn’t have to cook for himself for the next month. I weighed the implications of just showing up for the lunch. You can call me many things, but never call me tacky. I asked my mom if it would look rude for someone just to show up for lunch and she assured me I would be okay. Afterall, several of my other aunts would be there and a couple of same-age cousins that I hadn’t seen in a long time. You can call me many things, but never call me late for dinner. So I agreed. I made sure I had something other than blue jeans to wear and drove the 45 minutes to Cleveland, TX for after-funeral (which I didn’t attend) lunch with my mom.

I get there just as everyone is arriving, many faces I’ve never laid eyes on in my life. Sometimes I’m horrible in unknown crowds. Even worse when it’s family. Being in a crowd of complete strangers I can always fake it pretty good. I can read a book, write something, listen to music, play candy crush and keep myself generally amused. When it comes to family, you actually have to make an effort to get to know people. Blood ties won’t let you sit back and be a wall flower. I’m an introvert in a family of southern Baptists extroverts. Sometimes it’s very hard to breathe in situations like this, but I do my best. As I said, a few of my aunts were there that could fall back on and sit by that don’t necessarily force me to talk.

After a few rounds of food, I’m walking through the living room with my mom and she starts introducing me to some important members of the family, (mainly the preachers) and I would like to add these are the relatives I’ve known all my life. For whatever reason my mom was convinced I didn’t know any of them. I assured her I did, especially the preacher-cousin who conducted the service at my dad’s funeral. I have a great memory, which my mom routinely forgets. Anyway, she begins to introduce me and says, “This is my daughter, Wendy. She’s trying to be a writer.”

I’m not sure what look flashed across my face at that moment: sarcastic, sardonic, odd eyebrow-furled disbelief, but the words “Et tu, Brute” definitely flashed across my mind. I’ve had great accomplishments over the last year – fifteen publications and a book in the top 100 of its genre on Amazon. I’m not trying to be anything. I am. But I played it cool. After all, she’s my mother. We’re at a funeral. One does not make a scene.
“I AM a writer, mom,” I say.

She laughs. Not a “forgive my blunder” laugh, but the “oh, yes, whatever you say” laugh. “Yes, sorry, this is my daughter, the writer,” she corrects herself.

And that’s pretty much where I want to leave the scene. I’m not here to bash my mom. My mom is one of the three most import people in my life; my husband and my brother being the other two. I get it that she doesn’t get it. She doesn’t understand the writing thing. I don’t think she ever has. I’ve only been doing it since I was 8 years old, but she doesn’t get it that it’s who I am. She views talent in a different way. She views talent on a person’s ability to pick up a musical instrument or sing a church song. Visual and literary art, she has trouble seeing on the same scale. I’m reminded when I told her about my first magazine publication of a short story, she asked if the mag was something like “Better Homes & Gardens” magazine. Er, not quite. My mom rarely reads my stuff. And I get that too. I write very differently than what she reads. She’s a true crime/biography type of reader. I’m a very wordy lit-fic short story writer. If she goes for fiction, she goes for non-threatening, non-graphic stories. I question religious dogma and kill babies in my stories. Several years ago I tried to get her to read my screenplay. I don’t think she made it past the 5th page when all of a sudden “blowjob” appeared in the dialogue. Literary style wise, I’m not my mother’s cup of tea. And I don’t hold a grudge against her for that. My brother plays guitar and I don’t go out of my way to listen to his stuff. He plays death metal and his vocals are nothing but screaming, to put it kindly. I’m more of a classic rock type of girl. I am supportive, nonetheless.

FCMSo, we get through the funeral lunch and I bid my mother adieu. As we’re walking back to her car, I give out several book flats to my mom and aunts, with extras to give to the cousins. I wouldn’t have dared do this at the funeral lunch. Like I said, you can call me many things, never call me tacky! I point out to my mother that the book is only available for download. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have an eBook reader. That might be my Christmas present to her. But, that’s another thing she doesn’t “get”: electronic books. It’s not that my mother is that old, it’s just different. And I don’t think she every really knew how to handle a child that was different.

Was this depressing enough for you? It wasn’t intended to be. But that’s the rambling thoughts I had in the bath this morning. Artistic expression and parents not understanding the art you’ve chosen kinda filled my thoughts this morning. It reminds me when Aerosmith were inducted into the Rock-n-Roll Hall of fame about 12 years ago. Tom Hamilton humbly accepted his induction and stated to the crowd: “Mom, I haven’t forgotten my promise. When I get this out of my system, I’ll go back to dental school.” I have a feeling Tom’s mom is still waiting.

In the meantime, I wanted to take a moment to talk about my newest publication. Happily enough, when I came back from New Orleans, I found in my mailbox my contributor’s copy of Floyd County Moonshine, featuring my non-fiction story, “Toward The Light”. This one has appeared online before in Gravel Online Journal, but this is the first time it’s been published in print, so it makes me happy to see it getting out to new readers again. I’m proud of all my work, no matter the format it’s presented in. If you have a chance, look at their website. If you want to experience new writers, poets and some great non-fic, buy a copy and support your struggling artists. When I get this out of my system, maybe I’ll go to dental school.

Cheers and Sláinte!

Wendy

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The Dark Side of The Con (or Observations From a Book Con Squatter)

20140514_170102I’ve been in a strange Pink Floyd mood for the last couple of days. It started while I was driving home from New Orleans, LA from the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention. It’s roughly a 7 hr. drive from NOLA to my home in Houston. A very boring 7 hour drive, mind you. About 2 hours in, and in a struggle to keep alert, I found my Dark Side of the Moon CD and popped it in. What occurred for the next 5 hours was a continuous loop of DSoTM with my loud vocal accompaniment on “Great Gig in The Sky” and “Brain Damage”. There isn’t much to speak of between NOLA and Houston (although the dead alligator on the side of the road provided a little amusement) and yelling at the top of my lungs is the closest I can get to entertainment and caffeine induced alertness. I’m sure it’s entertaining for the drivers who passed me. However, in the confines of my Silverado quad-cab, it was equivalent to the greatest Pink Floyd concert minus the laser lights and acid trip. In other words, it rocked.

I kicked off last week with the announcement of an anthology I appear in, alongside fellow genre writers and friends Amanda Jayde, Sheila English and Jocie McKade. Time Out of Darkness hit Amazon running and by Sunday we were #45 in our subgroup. We’re out of the top 100 now, but it was great for the few days we were there and I’m sure with the exposure we’ll get at ComicCon next month, that number will jump into the top 100 again. I am very hopeful. This is the first project I’m involved in in which I can have a direct hand in the marketing and getting the word out. I’m invested and I’m happy to be so. I’m also happy in the fact that I might get feedback on the stories. I’m still not sure of my place as a writer and I lack the proper litmus tests to know if I’m on the right track. I’m not even certain if I’ll end up falling into a genre category with my writing. I consider it an amalgamation of literary fiction and historical fiction. It’s definitely historical, but my writing style is so dense that it feels more lit fic than anything. Not sure if there’s even a word for my writing style. I’m on the lookout and will be happy for any suggestions.

So, let’s get to the con! And Con! indeed. (I keep hearing Wm. Shatner’s voice in my head in the iconic moment when he shouts out Khan’s name after Spock dies. But this “Con!” has the same meaning in my head and you’ll soon find out why.) A couple of things I will explain starting off. The 2014 Romantic Times Booklovers Convention is not my first. I can say this is the 3rd time I’ve been to one, although I was only registered for the 2011 Los Angeles convention. I spent the last year unemployed. Forking over $500 for the registration was not fiscally responsible on my part, but other writers paid their dues, in more ways than one. Although I was in the hotel (I paid my share on the hotel bill) and participated in the mingling, the schmoozing, promoting and left with my fair share of swag, I was a squatter at best. Lumping myself into group of the writers that paid for the con feels a little overly pretentious on my part. For clarification, regrettably, I can’t call myself a full-fledged participant of the con.

SWAG, or the real reason I go to these cons.

SWAG, or the real reason I go to these cons.

The week started out great. And to be fair, it remained great. I arrived on Wednesday and by Thursday I was already in the thick of things. To me, going to this convention in particular is more about hanging out with my friends that I only get a chance to see every other year or so. A few of the ladies I hung out with I hadn’t seen in 7 years, a couple others I hadn’t seen since 2011 in L.A. So, it’s about friendship for me. The first full day for me ended with hearing about some recognition our little book was getting. The book cover ended up on a cake, which is pretty bad ass. (I’m not going to repost it here since I didn’t take the pic, but it is on my FB Author Page if you want to take a peek). Heading into Friday was another great experience. Although I didn’t participate in any of the workshops and agent/publishing panels, I kept myself busy in the bar (it was definitely the hub of the con) with talking, rubbing elbows, and Amanda and I took some time out signing our book flats. Again, a first, so I was thrilled and felt like a rock star. Aside from that, we did much people watching and sometimes that’s what it’s all about. Watching how other writers interact is great fun. Seriously. Anytime you think your geek flag is shining too bright, just check out other writers and you’ll know you are in the right company. The other highlight is watching how the other writers promote themselves. This is usually done in the form of SWAG! You know, promotional items that every writer hopes will entice you to buy their book or books. Some of the swag is great, others not so much. Some you can tell the writers spent a lot of money on, others you can tell couldn’t (hey, I’m a poor writer as well. I don’t have several hundred dollars for holographic book flats and personalized matchbooks). Those who don’t have a huge marketing budget, they get creative in their promo items, which you gotta commend. Sometimes it’s as simple as a bowl of chocolate (they get my vote) or a crocheted wineglass cozy. I might go for the LED glowlights because you know, shiny, and I get distracted easily, but it’s the personal touches that readers remember. However, my secret obsession is with pens. I do all my writing by hand. Pens are like the crackpipe that fuels my addiction. So it’s no secret I left with a collection of about 40 pens. (I think I left with twice that many in L.A.) Swag is awesome and it’s only a matter of time before I will have my own personalized swag. Hopefully when the time comes I can be just as clever.

The Giant Book Fair

The Giant Book Fair

Saturday is what some consider the reason the con comes together: The Giant Book Fair. And that’s exactly what it is. It’s a humongous book fair. Just about all genres are represented, although its primary audience is romance. Over the last few years, more teen, young adult and new adult has made its way into it, but romance and erotica is what drives it. It’s the bread and butter, so to say.

This is where I feel compelled to stop for a few minutes. Some things did not happen, shall we say, according to plan in regards to the book fair on Saturday. In years past, the con averaged about 700 or so authors. I hear this year was 2000. Big names showed up. Tickets to the book fair were grossly oversold. Authors were relegated to 2 feet of table room to meet and greet fans. The fire marshal threatened to shut it down and delayed the start by about 45 minutes. There’s a lot of talk on different blogs since Sunday about the fuckups that came out of this year’s book fair, more notably the separation of authors from traditionally published to small press/eBook and self pub. When authors registered for the con this year, they were told that all writers would be in the same room for the fair, a break from their previous year’s tradition of having the eBook fair on a different day. This was a major stepping stone on the con’s part and about damn time many felt. But good intentions rarely play out. When the map of the author placements came out, we discovered that there were 2 different rooms for the writers. Lots of feelings were hurt and disappointments arose, but none so much as the biggest scandal that came out of it in which a convention volunteer told readers that the room for small press, e-book and self-pubs was for “aspiring authors”.

All holy hell broke loose.

I will not spend the rest of the blog discussing what other have been discussing. Google it and I’m sure you’ll find a lot authors weighing in on that. I just want to discuss my own personal thoughts on the choice of wording.

I admit, I am still skeptical of self-publishing. I’m not so old that the new technology scares me. Far from it, but seeing that my goal as a writer when I was young was that of being published, it’s hard to determine yet if self-publishing is taking the hard work out of being legitimately published. That’s every writer’s goal. It’s a goal that one works really hard for. It’s years of honing your craft and sometimes years of going through painful rejection letters. Those rejection letters are what make some writers better. Sometimes it’s because it’s not your time to be published, sometimes it’s just you didn’t find the right publishing house, sometimes it just means you need to get better at it. Sometimes it’s just because the douchebag on the other end didn’t understand your work and didn’t want to take a gamble on it. All the big name writers went through that. And rightfully so.

Self-publishing in the past was considered vanity publishing. It was reserved for those who wrote business books, specialty books of local history, church books and for those who couldn’t get a big publishing house to touch their work but had the $10,000 to fork over to see your book in print. Only people who were SERIOUS in their need to have a book published went through vanity publishing.

Fast forward to the new century. Self-publishing is now considered print-on-demand. Anybody can publish now and only be out a few bucks for each physically printed book. ANYBODY. No longer do you have to consider selling your kidney on the black market to see your name in print. You just have to give up your daily latte. If that. This has been a great advancement because the bottom line is that this has allowed writers to take control of their writing and make the money they rightfully deserve. It cuts out the middle man. And these are good writers who are doing this. There are many, many NYT Bestsellers out there that are going the path of self-publishing. Think of it as a popular musical band who decides to open their own record label instead of using RCA or Geffen. It’s about liberation and being the master of your creative fate.

Me signing book flats.  I'm in a bar, by the way :)

Me signing book flats. I’m in a bar, by the way 🙂

On the down side, there are some really BAD writers out there, which is why self-publishing is still suffering a very bad stigma right now. And not only bad stigma, but downright loathing and aggression from those who are still in the traditional publishing camp. I get it, believe me, I do. I’ve seen some very poorly written self-pubs and with very poorly designed covers (some are so horrible I want to gouge my eyes out). Some will say self-pubbing is ruining the art and craft of writing, and I can agree to a certain extent. On the other hand, self-pubbing is finally giving really great authors a voice and a vehicle to get their work out. There are some really deserving writers out there that had to go the route of self-pubbing simply because a man in a suit in a NY publishing house didn’t “get it”. I commend these writers that took this chance in self-pubbing and they are flourishing in the career they were born to be in.

But the crap is still out there. And that is why I’m so on the fence about it.   But regardless of my fence-sitting ways, when I heard that the room that my friend was in, not only promoting her small press paperback and eBook, as well as our anthology, referred to as an “aspiring author”, I rose up with the same sense of outrage at the affront. Again, I was not registered at the convention, but my book, the anthology I share a ¼ writing credit with, was being promoted. I have been published in 15 university literary journals, small press magazines and e-zines over the last 11 months alone. I have had work accepted by literary projects that have as little as a 1% acceptance rate.

And I was called an “aspiring author.” The fuck I am.

The organizers of the con claim that this was a mistake of one volunteer who “misspoke” and was duly corrected. But it was the insult heard around the literary world. The damage was done. And I’m afraid the convention organizers are going to feel the repercussions over the next year as a result. Many writers are vowing never to go back to the con because of this insult. After all, the con rolled out the red carpet for a certain writer whose name I will not mention, but she made her millions on erotic Twilight fan fiction. While the rest of us are only “aspiring authors”. Money drives this convention. All authors, regardless how they publish, are charged the exact same registration fee. (although self-pubs and small press pub author were charged an extra 20% fee on the books they sold at the book fair, but that’s a whole other different bitch fest). I imagine the con organizers have major damage control to get through over the next year. The next convention will be in Dallas, Tx – my homestate. Still a 5 hour drive at best. I’ve told my friends I’ll be there. I will not pass up an opportunity to hang out with some of the best women on this side of the planet. But if I register for the con is another matter. I might return in my squatter glory. It seems to be working so far. After all, if I’m just an “aspiring author”, why should I pay dues for the country club that rejects me and a certain growing demographic of new and highly successful writers?

Me and Lisa, aka Amanda Jayde

Me and Lisa, aka Amanda Jayde

Oh, and you should see the segregation/civil rights rhetoric that is showing up on some of the blogs by people who weren’t even there. It’s sad and amusing. Mainly sad. But that, too, is another bitch fest for another day.

So, see you in 2015. Maybe. Eh. Who knows? Depends on the cake situation. You know I’ll do just about anything for cake.

Cheers and Sláinte!

Wendy

 

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It’s Alive!

Time Out of Darkness contributors: Sheila English, Amanda Jayde, Jocie McKade, and Wendy C. Williford

Time Out of Darkness contributors: Sheila English, Amanda Jayde, Jocie McKade, and Wendy C. Williford

Just a quick update as I pack for my trip to New Orleans in the morning for the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention 2014. Our book is now live on Amazon!

Again, I can’t express how thrilled I am to be a part of this project and see how well it does over the next few months. The book came about as a charity project to benefit cemetery restoration in New Orleans.

I encourage readers to check out these talented writers. Different genres are represented here from horror suspense, steampunk, romance, erotica and literary fiction. There’s a little bit for everyone.

Enjoy and I hope to have a few updates here and there from the convention!

 

Cheers and Sláinte!

 

Wendy

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It’s The Final Countdown!

Every time an exciting event is just around the corner, my brain likes to pick out the oddest songs in its internal jukebox to mark the occasion. One week from now I will be traveling to New Orleans, LA to the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention, and to celebrate the occasion, my brain has been on constant loop of Europe’s “The Final Countdown” all morning long. Seriously. ALL. MORNING. LONG.

Time Out of Darkness contributors: Sheila English, Amanda Jayde, Jocie McKade, and Wendy C. Williford

Time Out of Darkness contributors: Sheila English, Amanda Jayde, Jocie McKade, and Wendy C. Williford

But the excitement is for more than just the convention. Next Tuesday also marks the publication of the anthology I contributed to earlier this year. TIME OUT OF DARKNESS is four stories inspired by The Brompton Cemetery Time Machine, a mausoleum designed and built between 1848 and 1853 in Brompton Cemetery in the Kensington borough of London, England. While the mausoleum was certainly an odd structure in its day, with its imposing size, polished granite and hieroglyphics on all four sides, it’s the only structure in Brompton that doesn’t have its design plans on file. That, along with the fact the structure has a key which no one possesses, has led to its legend over the last 150 years that its designers, Egyptologist Joseph Bonomi and torpedo inventor, Samuel Warner, may perhaps have invented a time machine instead of the mausoleum for which they were commissioned. (Google it for more exciting theories). Commissioned by a mistress to a famous MP and her two unmarried daughters, some theorist believe the builders used them for their money and gullibility, and what we’re left with today is a time machine in plain sight. And thus, we have the inspiration for our stories.

The anthology, co-authored by Sheila English, Amanda Jayde, Jocie McKade and yours truly, Wendy C. Williford, combines all of our talents of writing steampunk, romance and psychological thrillers and paranormal adventure in one nice little package. Not only does the anthology display our talents of our genres, it will also benefit cemetery restoration in New Orleans. I’m super excited to be promoting this next week at the convention and sitting in at the Romantic Times Book Fair!

The book will be initially released on Kindle on May 13th, 2014, with paperback editions soon to follow. My contribution entitled “The Bitter Taste of Time,” is about an elderly woman still mourning the death of a son who died at the Somme who encounters a man with a fascinating tale of time travel. As he weaves a tale over tea, she allows herself to believe the impossible and contemplates giving up everything she has for one last moment with the son she so dearly loved. The ending will surprise you. Hell, it surprised me when I decided to take it the direction that I took it in. It’s definitely horror/thriller and a nice scary note to end the book on, especially considering half the stories take place in New Orleans.

More updates will come next week on its release day as well as at the convention. Thanks to everyone who checks it out and helps to spread the word.

Until next week, cheers and Sláinte!

Wendy

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The Writer’s Sandbox: The Best Place to Work, 2014.

Grandpa Ian and Grandpa Patrick

Grandpa Ian and Grandpa Patrick

I’ve been seeing a lot of pictures lately of Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Patrick Stewart touring around New York City as they end the Broadway tour of NO MAN’S LAND and WAITING FOR GODOT. If you haven’t see them, I dare you to Google them and not come away with a smile. The pictures are a testament to true friendship and a “never too old to have fun” philosophy. The pictures show a campy, comical and simply adorable friendship of two gentlemen as they pal around New York City striking silly poses, holding hands, and being typical goofballs, all while wearing bowler hats. Seeing the memories these man are creating makes me wish I was 8 years old and these good Sirs were my grandpas. I would have my hair in pigtails – naturally Grandpa Ian would be in control of my hair. I would be wearing a bright yellow summer dress with strappy, clacky sandals. We would all three hold hands as we stroll the boardwalk, stopping at every ring toss and ball throw, each grandpa promising to win me the biggest stuffed animal. They would buy me ice cream and cotton candy and argue over the fact if it’s safe for me to ride the pony – Grandpa Patrick approves, Grandpa Ian says no. We would ride the elephants on the carousel, get sick on the Ferris wheel and end the day walking into the sunset with my corndog and balloons. Ah, such a beautiful ending to a perfect day.

Then, alas, reality kicks in (or the alcohol wears off, take your pick) and I’m a little sad knowing it will never happen. Despite that, these two men are hopefully inspiring future generations of friends to remember even in old age, cherish your friends and the moments your make together, take time for fun, don’t take yourselves too seriously, always allow time for a silly pose, hold hands and love your friends! You might not get the chance to do it again. Oh, and always make time for a silly hat.

Fantasy is a writer’s sand box. It’s the safest place we play, come up with ideas, think without criticism, let our minds wander free without a care, knowing that what we create can be both scary as well as silly. No one can come into your sandbox without permission. That’s the best part about it. Try as they might, outsiders try to get in and they show horrible jealousy when they are denied. It’s unfathomable for those who are lucky enough to have writers in their life that a place exists of complete imagination and writers are actually HAPPY there. I remember as a child listening to my English teacher explaining the meaning of introvert and extrovert. While the general definition of extrovert was outgoing, happy, popular and fun to be around, the next explanation of introvert was horrible by comparison. Introverts don’t like others. Introverts are loners. Introverts aren’t comfortable around others. Introverts aren’t popular. Introverts are losers. Okay, so perhaps the teacher never said “loser” but she might as well have because my interpretation and the others’ in the class pretty much fell in line with that characterization. Thereafter, I came away with the notion that I didn’t want to be an introvert because I would never be popular, despite the fact I secretly hated to be around others, would rather have stayed in the back of the class unnoticed, would rather have a book than the most popular in school award, was content scribbling in my notebook, and was happier with my 5 closest friends than going to a party of John Hughes proportions. It was the 80’s afterall.Ian-and-Patrick-11

But then, it followed me into the 90’s and beyond. Whenever I took personality quizzes in college I faked my answers. When I took personality assessments for jobs interviews, I knew how to answer so that I would seem like an extrovert. Many companies want employees who are outgoing, team players, work well with others and possess those can-do attitudes. Afterall, why else do they want to know what fraternities and organizations you joined while in college? What do you mean you didn’t join clubs? Do you not like others? I’ve had to hide the answer many times simply because I wanted a job. Despite wanting the most creative workforce imaginable, being comfortable enough to work completely alone was not really what they sought for in an applicant. I became pretty good at lying for 15 years about my true personality. Truth is, I hate working with others. Sure, I’ve had some great coworkers in the past, but it’s the others who I couldn’t stand. Every office has them: the mixers, the gossipers, the backstabbers, the ass-kissers, the nosey-Rosys, the liars, the micromanagers, and the ones I really hate – the cheerleaders. You know those, the ones who will promote every initiative that’s handed down from management as the next greatest business and management tactic while everyone can see the pure illegality and unethicalness of it. There is nothing worse than working for a company you hate for lack of morals and ethics. That’s where pretending to be an extrovert finally got to me.

So, I quit. I don’t lie about it anymore. I like being in my space. I like not having 20 co-workers to greet every day. I like having my safe space to work in and be as creative as I want to be. I like texting with my friends in other states than making friends in the office. I like spending my lunch time with writing than going to team lunches, and analyzing business plans and talking about how I plan to make a difference in the company. I like knowing that if my personality clashes with another that it’s not going to end in writing an action plan about how to be a better team player. I quit the bullshit. And if an introvert can tell an extrovert the true meaning to happiness, it’s that we don’t have time for the bullshit.

And I’ve never been happier in my life.

 

Down In The Dirt magazine

Down In The Dirt magazine

How does this lead to the bones of my newest update? It doesn’t really other than it ties to the fact that since quitting my job I’ve been steadily publishing short stories. The offices of Wendy C. Williford are happy to announce the release of my 10th publication! This month I have a short story, Atonement featured in Down in The Dirt magazine. Again, I wrote it several years ago but still another one I’m fond of. I’ll be celebrating in the kitchen with cake and wine. Leftover donuts will be in the break room for the remainder of the day. The management would like to remind you to keep the cheers down, as others are still working. If you wish to take an early celebratory lunch, you have my permission, but it’s on your own dime. Before you leave today, be sure to fill out the survey with expertly worded questions that will prove we are the best place to work in the city. After all, your success makes us successful. We appreciate all you do. Be sure to approve your time clocks at the end of the day.

 

So check it out, or purchase a copy of Down In The Dirt magazine via Createspace. Support the underpaid writers in your life. It takes a lot to fill up the sandbox (and the wine cabinet).

Cheers and Sláinte!

Wendy

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

What else can I say other than cheers and Sláinte on this magical day that marries together all things Irish and all things drinking. Here are a few little facts that you might not know. These are random facts I found on either Facebook or some other obscure place on the interwebs, so forgive that I don’t quote a source. They’re just fun, silly “facts”.

Me in Ireland, 2012.

Me in Ireland, 2012.


• St. Patrick was not Irish.
• There are more Irish-American’s living in the U.S. than there are Irish currently in Ireland.
• St. Patrick died on this day, so we are celebrating the day he was brutally murdered.
• St. Patrick was originally associated with the color blue.
• The odds of finding a four-leaf clover is about 1:10,000.
• The Irish didn’t freely start drinking to celebrate the day until 1970 because it was a day of religious observance, so the pubs were shut down.
• Wendy needs to get back to writing.

So, until then, Sláinte and Erin Go Bragh to all my fellow Irish-Americans out there and have a great day!

Wendy

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