Emily

You often don’t get to witness inspiration and transcendent talent in real life. We can live our whole existence seeing things of beauty from a far, and being touched by the works and abilities of others while never having a personal connection. This beautiful world that surrounds us is full of people who create beautiful things and have amazing talents, but those truly brilliant souls in our world are few and far between.

This weekend has been the culmination of a long road for a woman of pure, unadulterated, and boundless musical genius. Her path to where she is now wasn’t the easy one. Despite everything that was in her way, she overcame the obstacles and persevered to follow her dreams. She never gave up despite the fears that she faced and the desire that would often strike her. Doubt would eat at her confidence, but she would not give up. She fought against all odds, and now she is an Magna Cum Laude Honor Graduate with a Bachelors Degree in Music Performance.

She did all of this over the past several years while being a mother and a wife. She did it while moving to an unknown future, with only the barest of ideas and plans for where to go forward. She has blossomed from a girl with a viola to a professional musician. Watching her growth as a person, a musician, an academician, a wife, and a mother over the past several years has been like watching an artist craft a masterpiece. It has been like hearing a composer create their quintessential work. The best part is that I know this is only the beginning.

I feel so blessed to have her in my life, and to be able witness her talent and beauty firsthand. When she plays viola, it is so beautiful and so passionate. When she studies music, she is so thorough and so eager to learn. When I watch her with our daughter, she is so loving and fun. Some days, I wonder how she has the strength to make it through, but then I would remember the fire I would see in her eyes. Her eyes are always alight with a beautiful flame when she is playing viola, learning or sharing about music, or spending time with Madelyn. Her heart and soul are always in every thing she does, and I love seeing the results.

Emily, I am blown away by you. I stand here proud to be your husband, partner, and best friend. You have been my rock in troubled times, and I am so proud to have been yours. I know that the days of doubt and turbulent times we faced were meant to make us stronger, and they would pay off in the end. You made it! Despite everything I have said here, words still could not express the admiration, love, pride, and awe that I feel for you. You are such a beautiful and talented woman, and I cannot imagine my life without you. I am so very proud of you, and everything you have done. You have inspired me in so many ways, and you continue to amaze me on a daily basis. I love you to the ends of the earth, and I will always be your biggest supporter, your writing partner, your listening ear, and anything and everything you need me to be.

Emily, you truly are a one of a kind beauty and talent. There is no one else in the world like you. Never forget that, my love.

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Author Q&A Series: KM Weiland

Today, I am pleased to continue my Author Q&A Series with an amazing writer and mentor, KM Weiland.

K.M. Weiland

K.M. Weiland lives in make-believe worlds, talks to imaginary friends, and survives primarily on chocolate truffles and espresso. She is the IPPY and NIEA Award-winning and internationally published author of the Amazon bestsellers Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel, as well as Jane Eyre: The Writer’s Digest Annotated Classic. She writes historical and speculative fiction from her home in western Nebraska and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.

KM has been a heavy influence on my return to writing, and her role as mentor has helped my abilities as an aspiring author blossom. Getting the chance to interview her was truly a blessing, and I am excited to share it with you.

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  1. When did you begin writing professionally? What guided you to that career choice?

I started writing when I was twelve and published a small newsletter throughout high school. I independently published my first novel, the western A Man Called Outlaw when I was twenty. But I didn’t really take it seriously as a business until my next book, the medieval historical Behold the Dawn, came out three years later.

Stories are like breathing. Life without a story in my head is one-dimensional, stagnant, vapid. I love the life God has given me, but I think I love it better because I’m able to live out so many other lives on the page. I’m more content to be who I am because I’m not trapped in that identity. When I sit down at my computer and put my fingers on the keys, I can be anyone or anything, at any time in history. I write because it’s freedom.

  1. Which authors or works were inspirational to your growth as a writer?

As a novelist, I am inspired by countless excellent authors and filmmakers. Specifically, Brent Weeks’s epicness, Margaret Atwood’s prose, and Patrick O’Brian’s sheer genius speak to me and urge me on. As a blogger, I’m inspired by the professionalism and creativity of people such as Joanna Penn, Porter Anderson, and Jody Hedlund.

  1. What drew you to the genres you write in? 

First answer is: blood and thunder stories. I’m kind of all over the board on genres (although everything I write does stay confined under the giant umbrellas of either historical or fantasy), but all of my stories are what I like to call “blood and thunder.” They’re usually action-packed, a little bit on the adventurous side, but also gritty.

  1. How and where did you learn your vast repertoire or knowledge on writing? 

Writing books, magazines, blogs—and lots and lots of study and practice of real stories!

  1. How did you get involved in helping other writers?

It was all an accident, believe me! I stumbled into blogging about writing because, hey, every writer needs a blog, right? And you’re supposed to blog about what you’re interested in, and that would be…writing. Then one day I woke up, and the blog had just sort of taken off!

Really, I think the site has been as much of a blessing to me as it has been to anyone. Other than the marvelous writer folk I’ve gotten to meet, I’ve also learned so much by writing about writing.

  1. You have published 6 writing craft books, you have a podcast with more than 300 episodes, and your website has a wealth of resources and information. How has sharing this with others helped you grow as a mentor and a writer?

I’m learning right along with everyone I teach. My blog and my books are just an outgrowth of my own writing journey. Forcing myself to put my own thoughts and discoveries into a teachable format has been invaluable to me in strengthening my own conscious knowledge of writing.

  1. When you are mentoring someone, what are some of the most common mistakes you see when they are learning the craft? 

#1: Fail to properly structure the story.

#2: Fail to create an engaging character with an engaging voice.

#3: Fail to show more than is told.

  1. As a writer, what has been the most difficult thing for you to overcome? What about as a mentor?

Every book is its own adventure. Something that’s easy in one book can end up being surprisingly difficult in another. Major rewrites, when they’re necessary, are probably my least favorite part—but they offer their own rewards too. Honestly, I enjoy aspects of every part of the process.

  1. We know that imagination cannot be taught, but what do you think is the single most important thing to writing a successful novel?

Proper structure is vital in creating powerful and memorable fiction. Story structure is instinctual to most people. It’s embedded deep in the human psyche. It’s certainly not an arbitrary set of guidelines, and it’s also not something exclusive to our era. We find the classic three-act structure across centuries and continents.

That being so, we have to ask ourselves, Why? The answer, of course, is that structure creates stories that not only balance the rise and fall of action, but also time the important turning points, so that they have the best chance of impacting and resonating with readers.

What writer doesn’t want to do that? A conscious understanding of structure allows us to understanding the theory behind story, which then allows us to discover why certain stories work and others don’t—and how to make sure our stories land in the former group.

  1. What can your fans and apprentices expect to see from you in the near future?

Within just a few weeks, I have an online writing course coming out called How to Write Amazing Character Arcs That Sell Novels. Before the year is out, I also hope to put out a book and workbook on character arcs. I’m also in the process of editing my latest novel—a historical superhero adventure called Wayfarer.

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A big thank you goes to KM for taking the time to be a part of the Author Q&A Series. I hope that any aspiring authors or writers found some good advice in her answers. Don’t forget that you can find so much more of her incredible insight on her website Helping Writers Become Authors and in her books.

A special thanks also goes out to the Wordplayers. Thank you for the feedback and input for the series.

Thanks for reading!

WTF Is The FDA Smoking?

So… the FDA is “protecting” Americans by throwing the hammer down on e-cigarettes, but never mind the fact that cigarettes are still killing around 480,000 people a year in the US. They want to know exactly what goes in to the vaporizers and e-liquid, but does anyone have a clue what goes in to cigarettes?

Proponents of the new regulations say that this is all about protecting our youth and keeping “tobacco products” out of the hands of minors. I understand and support that. If the regulations stated simply that and they were going to work with the current vaping industry to build guidelines, I would be on board. Unfortunately, they didn’t, and I am disgusted with the draconian way that they have tried to crush the start up industry.

The FDA says it will take $1-2 million for research and testing on EACH product for government approval. So for a company that sells 10 different e-liquids, it could cost them $10-20 million to continue business. AREYOUFUCKINGKIDDINGME?! Let us not forget that our friends over at BIG TOBACCO have gotten in to the vaping market, and are pretty much the only ones who could afford this ludicrous cost. Tell me you see a pattern here. (I’ll give you a hint: the pattern is the FDA is getting money from big tobacco.)

Keeping this stuff out of the hands of minors should have been the biggest concern. Requiring ID checks is a must, but ultimately, we know that people still manage to buy alcohol and cigarettes underage. There are ways to put age verification on websites, and e-cigarette sites are beginning to incorporate them. I absolutely think the checks and balances should be there for this requirement, but to try and shut down an entire industry by bludgeoning it with outrageous regulations is a big steaming pile of bullshit.

Speaking of bullshit, let’s get past the myth that people don’t know what is in e-cigarettes. If you want to talk about a self-policing industry, look to vaping. The e-liquid isn’t some mystery concoction. Websites that sell it list the ingredients. There are more companies that list the ingredients on their bottles than ones that don’t. The liquids have the nicotine content on the bottle. If that wasn’t enough for you, I make my own liquid, so I know what goes in to the flavoring as well. The doors and windows are wide open in this industry because they WANT to be accepted. You go ask a cigarette company to list their ingredients on the boxes, and see what they say. The industry is willing to work with the FDA to get approval, but no small vape company can afford the cost the FDA is charging.

Look, if you are of legal age to purchase “tobacco” products, no matter what your pleasure, then I say that is your choice. I’m not going to tell you that you’re a better person for vaping, or you suck at life for smoking cigarettes. If you’re a non-smoker, that’s your choice too. All I am saying is that the FDA is stomping all over the vaping community to “protect Americans from the dangers of tobacco and nicotine, especially our youth”(Sylvia Burwell, HHS Secretary). Don’t worry about those kids still buying cigarettes underage. Let’s not worry about those annual 480,000 people who might like to have known what cigarette companies were putting in their products. Never mind that research is beginning to show that e-cigarettes are a less unhealthy alternative to smoking cigarettes. (Yes, they aren’t as good as not smoking at all. I’m not going in to that argument.) I could go on, and on, but I digress…

I hope that the bills going through Congress and the Senate right now will curb the FDA’s lunacy on these regulations. I hope that people do come to their senses. I don’t mind that vaping isn’t allowed in the same places that smoking is banned. I’m OK with the fact that vaping gets its fair share of shit for being the new douche bag trend. It is what it is, but what I am not OK with is people being contrary and hypocritical. Don’t feed us a big pile of bullshit and tell us it’s all for the kid’s sake. We know you’re so full of shit it’s coming out of your eyes. Why don’t you guys go do something worthwhile like figure out how to regulate and legalize marijuana so that the draconian agenda surrounding that can go away? Oh right… the kids.

Thanks for reading folks. If you’re a vaper, we have 2 years, folks. Hopefully people come to their senses before then. And, yes… I used draconian twice. Look it up. It has a fun history.

Anxiety!

Hi folks. As you can tell, we will be talking about anxiety. This month is, amongst many other things, Mental Health Awareness Month. There are so many disorders and mental diseases that are out there, but anxiety is one that I am very familiar with. This is my own personal take on the subject, from the life experiences I’ve had. I’m not going to go in to terms and definitions or get scientific on you. I want to give you my real world view.

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Now, let’s debunk some myths I used to believe about anxiety.

MYTH: Anxiety causes people to be nervous wrecks all the time.

REAL LIFE: Anxiety is not defined as someone who suffers from constant worry or fear. It is definitely a part of suffering from anxiety, but you aren’t in constant Chicken Little mode. There are times where the sky is indeed falling. Other times, you are a completely functional human being. Two years ago, if you would have told me that I have an anxiety disorder, I would have told YOU to get your head checked. The effects of anxiety are wide ranging, but most people who suffer from anxiety go through phases of anxiety highs and lows, and will have anxiety or panic attacks.

MYTH: I thought having anxiety meant you were crazy.

REAL LIFE: Well, you are crazy, but everyone is crazy, including me. Anxiety is a normal response to certain situations. Some people suffer from an overabundance of it. It can be mild or severe, but most people with an anxiety disorder fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. Anxiety can also be associated with other disorders such as depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Being “crazy” is subjective. We all go off the rails from time to time. It is important to know when you are going off the rails too much.

MYTH: You can tell when someone has anxiety.

REAL LIFE: The truth is that people are exceedingly good at putting on brave faces for others. I know this because I’ve done it for a long time. I’m not going to go in to details about my life, but it hasn’t been all sunshine and happiness. I began hiding behind a mask of sarcasm and ill temper a long time ago. I have a very short temper. I constantly think about how things aren’t going to work out. I function on a razor’s edge of knowing that my life is fine and I’m an idiot for worrying and complete nuclear meltdown. Hi, I have an anxiety disorder. It took a rather personal situation to put it in perspective for me. The world didn’t end, and I was relieved when I found out that there was a rational answer to my irrationality. The only thing I regret is not seeking out help sooner.

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Anxiety is a tough road to walk if you don’t know where you’re going or if you don’t even know what road you’re on. My personal experiences have taught me that the best thing that you can have is a support system. Get help and talk to someone if you feel like there is something in your life that you can’t control. If you know somebody who you think is suffering from anxiety, reach out and support them. Don’t be a short fused nervous time bomb like me. It’s ok to be a little crazy. We can all be crazy together.

For more detailed information on anxiety and associated disorders, visit the following links:

National Institute of Mental Health

Anxiety and Depression Association of America

National Alliance on Mental Illness