Tag Archives: #virginia carraway stark

Gossip, shame and power.

“Shame is the lie someone told you about yourself.”

Anais Nin (attributed)

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I’d like to talk about gas lighting and shaming, in particular about victim shaming. Gas lighting is defined as rewriting someone else’s reality. The phrase is from a movie about a man who plays tricks with the lighting to make his wife think she’s going crazy so that he can take her money from her (my rough understanding, I’ve never seen the movie but I probably should). The lights in the movie are gas lights and so the phrase, ‘gas lighting’ was born.

Gas lighting is a technique usually used by abusers to keep their victims on the defensive, to keep them worried and off their footing so that the victim can’t regroup and come up with an escape plan. It makes the victim question every last thing in their reality right down to the tiniest of things like: did I leave the door unlocked? Did I leave the window closed? Did I put the cap on the juice?

It’s enough to drive you mad, and that’s the point of it. The abuser wants to drive you mad. They want to have complete power over you. It’s the true mark of a sociopath to take this route with a victim. If you suspect you’re a victim of gas lighting you need to seek help immediately. You need to call a helpline if you don’t have friends or family that will support you because along with gas lighting comes isolating you from everyone else.

This isolation can be done in such an insidious manner that it seems impossible, paranoid even to trace it back to your abuser. And yet, when you look at where all the roads lead: they all lead right back to the person who has you in their sights.

Usually this sort of thing occurs in an intimate and usually sexual relationship. Usually one party has considerable power over the other either financially or physically etc. These sorts of tells make victims of gas lighting hyper aware of new gas lighting efforts and most victims will run away when they see the first signs of the same cycle repeating once more.

 

I’m someone who was raised by a violent sociopath. He was intelligent and calculating and not the sort of man who threw me into a wall and punched me, he was manipulative. He was scheming. He made me feel like everything I did was of my own volition and not doing it was weak. He made me want to protect him and to feel like I was doing a good thing to protect his secrets.

It took a massive amount of will to come forward about the sexual aspects of abuse and how deeply I’d been manipulated. It was deeply shameful to admit how badly I had been taken in. But it was okay because I had a good support network.

I had my husband, I had my friends online, I had my online friends, I had my local community, I had my therapist and perhaps one of the most valued anchor points of all was my childhood best friend who was one of the very few who I told the most intimate of my details to.

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But it wasn’t okay. It wasn’t okay because someone in my system was gas lighting me. Normally it would be most likely to have been one of my therapists or my husband since authority and/or sexual behavior are the two big things that allow someone to be in the position to gas light another person. It wasn’t them. My husband has never kept me in a position of subservience in any way and my therapists have been carefully weeded through to find ones who listen to me and who don’t ever push me outside of my comfort zone.

false alarm

There was something wrong with someone who I least suspected: my best friend.

They say that you should always trust your dog. Well, my dogs hated her. The longer they knew her the more they hated her. They started acting out around her in ways that I had only seen them act around people who had admitted to having violent thoughts towards me or who had acted aggressively. That’s weird.

Then one day around Christmas, out of nowhere, she just called me and my husband stupid. She just said, ‘I was looking at getting a new game but I didn’t think you guys were smart enough to get them so I have to look for games for stupid people.’ Then she laughed. Hahahahah. That’s funny?

It’s not the way I talk to my friends and I’m not used to my friends talking to me that way. In fact, the only ones that have ever really talked to me like that are my abusive family. I started to have success in the local community and my friend C got mad. I could see it made her mad. I didn’t let it bother me because I could see that it was the sort of anger that comes with jealousy. I understand jealousy and I started the typical victim cycle of making excuses for an abuser.

But I had no idea that my friend would do this to me! Why would she? Was it all jealousy all along?

Then it got worse. Little bits of private information started to surface around town. At first it was little things that I keep to myself because I had to change so much to get away from my abusive family. They aren’t exactly secrets; but they aren’t things that I want told far and wide either.

The details that were getting out got more and more detailed and personal. People started to turn on me and my husband. And then, people started to let me know where the source of the rumors was: C.

I couldn’t believe it! With my typical loyalty I stood up for C while she smugly dispersed vivid images of my dad raping me around the small community where I live. All the while, not saying a word to me about it.

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She would come by almost every weekend and sometimes she seemed exceedingly eager to hear about any misfortunes that my husband or I had had that week and seemed disappointed when I was happy and upbeat. My suspicions grew. My dogs continued to growl at her.

Every Sunday we’d play games with her and my husband and we’d either make dinner or order pizza, most often our treat. There was something else that was weird too. While to my face she would say that she liked my husband, as soon as I left the room she would treat him like he didn’t even exist. As soon as I walked back in she turned back on like a light switch. She was gas lighting us. She wanted me to think Tony was crazy or for me to say something to her and then to accuse us both of being oversensitive and crazy. It became rude to the point of insanity. How could I have her in my home if she was going to treat my husband this way? And what was she playing at by acting this way anyhow?

I wondered for awhile if she knew what she was doing. I wondered if it was just because she was awkward. Maybe she didn’t know what to say? But no, it was too extreme for that! And the escalation convinced me that she knew damn well what she was doing.

Meanwhile she was pumping us for information. One week she was elated. She told me that her mother had spent an hour and a half talking to her on the phone and was so happy for her mother’s attention. But she had been talking all about me and the pottery guild and how they had treated me. I felt sick to my stomach. Why was she talking to her mom for so long on the phone about me? Why did it make her so happy?

I realized with growing sorrow that she was trading in my struggles and tragedies as little gossip tokens to make herself the center of attention at her coffee shop. I realized that she was not my friend at all. This was affirmed when she told me that she wouldn’t stand up for me because she wouldn’t put her business at risk for me. She would, however, be more than happy to tell people about my childhood rapes it turned out!

Thanks, friend!

I told her I didn’t want to have our Sundays anymore. Having her leak everything we  said to her friends who hate me wasn’t cool. Having her be friends with people against whom I have a Human Rights Tribunal case made it too conflicted to have her over any more. Her response was to inform me that I was unappreciative of her efforts to ‘stand up’ for me by telling people about my abuse.

WHAAAAAAAT????

So, C, now you’re going to write my story for me? You who barely noticed my broken arms throughout childhood? You, who said you didn’t remember the times I broke down and said I had to do better, lose more weight (at 90 lb) so daddy would be happy with me? You who turned your back on me? You and your mother both. Your mother who was a goddamn school teacher and should have been on the phone with social services when this emaciated kid with broken bones was at her house… but was happy to let me come and stay for a few days but never to really help?

I would have been happy to let the betrayal go. To let it go that when people who know my name look at me and imagine my dad raping me when they see me. I was okay with you getting the facts wrong, C. I could have walked away without setting the record straight. But I’m  not okay with you telling me that I should be grateful to you for gossiping about my life and my pain. For making it impossible to know if the person next to me in public will say something about your version of the abuse I’ve suffered.  I’m not okay with you using my story as your currency. I’m not okay at all.

A lot of the comments you made and the friends of yours and your mother’s made make a lot more sense now. I wondered about them, like how I wondered about the things my family said before I found out my dad had told them all that I was crazy and that’s why I ran away from home. The two groups’ reactions were SO similar.

Congratulations. You’re almost as good as Leonard and Frank. One day maybe you’ll get smug enough and deluded enough and evil enough to rank right up there with them. But for now you can pat yourself on your back and tell yourself how much better you are than me because you have such a normal family, and how you ‘helped’ support me by taking my voice and telling your version of my stories to the world. Behind my back.

And maybe, just maybe, I won’t tell everyone all the horrible things you had to say about them. I can’t think of very many people that you had anything nice to say about. You listen in on your customers and judge them for what they read, what they eat, how they raise their children. You spill their private lives, rebirths and changes of name. You gossip about it to everyone else. You are a big pitcher with very big ears and a mouth meaner than nearly anyone I know.

You’re quick to talk about how important it is to be liberal but you won’t even admit openly that you’re bisexual. You’ll brag about it and talk about how proud you are of it, but only in front of the ‘right’ people. When it comes to time to put up or shut up, you shut up. You’d rather delete your FB page than put that up (and no one but you prompted you to insist on doing that, I wouldn’t mention it but you’ve assured me many times that you’re incredibly open about how liberal and bisexual you are that I don’t see why you’d mind me talking about it)… and deal with having to be connected to the real me. Not the little structure of me that you made up to use to put yourself in the spotlight, but the bag of pus you extracted to spread like poison over the city of Dawson Creek.

You aren’t just Faking Sanity. You’re faking everything. You’re lying. I know how you REALLY feel about a lot of people, maybe you’d like me to repay the favor you’ve done for me? ‘Warn’ people about what you’ve been through having to work serving them while hating them so very much? Despising them and their beliefs, their children, their ‘fruity’ or ‘nutty’ ways? Or maybe it wasn’t a favor at all and some things aren’t meant to leave a room. Maybe you wouldn’t want those people to hear the cruel things you had to say about them at all. Just a thought: you might value your privacy a bit higher than you value my privacy or in fact the privacy of anyone else around you including your business partner/roommate and your family… not to mention your much maligned customers.

Tell your own damn story and quit talking about my story. Quit talking about everyone else’s story. You don’t own any of that. You don’t do anything except sit in bed eating dollar store junk food and watching Will Wheaton play role playing games. You haven’t earned any of the stories you smear all over yourself and you don’t have a right to steal them. You’re worse than Gollum- at least he only wanted one ‘Precious’, you want anything dramatic, shiny or sordid to claim for your own and you don’t care who you hurt.

Speaking of hurt, I have one final thing to say on the subject. My dad hurt me, a lot. But I never trusted him, and I trusted you. I let my guard down around you and I thought you were safe. You were abusive in a way that stung more than what my dad did to me because there were good times with my dad. They were separate from the bad times but with you… everything I respected and treasured about you turned out to be a vicious and manipulative lie. You hurt me so much and for so little return, just a moment of attention and of being in the spotlight, a moment of putting a bit of tarnish on someone else. I should have known when I saw how cruel you had become to everyone in our past and in your present. The way you talked about your roommate and your family should have told me what to expect from you. The cruel lines around your mouth and the way people remarked that they had never seen you laugh before… the signs were there. I should have seen, but I loved you and so I didn’t let myself see.

I know that I’m not the only one you’ve done this to because I’ve heard the things you’ve said about other people. I’ve seen your cruelty in action. I wondered what they had done to you to make you so bitter and hurtful but now I see that you ARE bitter and hurtful. What people do in your radius is independent of how you treat them.

You need help. You know that. I’ve decided to post my response to you in public because I’ve learned that anything I say to you in private you’ll just twist. At least this way I get to keep my own words. You don’t get to steal those from me anymore. I’m reclaiming them and I hope all the people who listened to you realize that you committed a crime against my person, against my very soul by trying to steal my story for your own petty purposes. Go to the doctor, talk to a therapist, but whatever you decide, for once talk about yourself and not about everyone else. Get yourself sorted out and stop stealing from everyone and cutting everyone down to make yourself feel taller.

I hope that one day I can clear the debris of scum that you’ve covered our entire relationship in. Maybe I can enshrine what I thought of as our relationship in a hallowed place in my heart and mind then. That day is not today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Watt I’ve Learned About Wattpad

I have a lot of writer friends and I like to read and give feedback to them because… well, that’s what you do if you’re a writer and have writer friends!

i am a writer

It’s the ‘polite’ thing to do, but I enjoy reading what my friends have been writing as well as thinking it’s an important part of writerly etiquette to contribute to the writing community. Most of my friends have books on GoodReads or Amazon etc. but some of my friends live in the realm of Wattpad.

For people who use Wattpad as a tool you’re probably already going over the many good things that Wattpad has done for you and your friends.
Let me start by saying: I am not opposed to Wattpad, I simply don’t completely understand it. I think I’m starting to get it now, but I have my reasons for feeling like a fish out of water on Wattpad.

Let me go over some of the good points I’ve noticed and heard about Wattpad before I talk about my own take on this increasingly vibrant platform for writers.

The first good thing is that it attracts young authors. Teenagers are encouraged to write and by getting feedback they’re encouraged to keep writing. The same point is true for new writers or writers who for various reasons need extra feedback to build their confidence and/or writing stamina.

It’s not a pointless endeavor to post on Wattpad either. I sort of thought it was. This one has an upside and a downside. The upside is that more and more people including large publishers are farming Wattpad for talent. Margaret Atwood has been involved in an award called the ‘Watty’ since 2012. There are poetry contests and all sorts of things that people can get involved in.

writing love

I only found out those things after doing some research into Wattpad. Before I looked into it the last word I’d heard on Wattpad was that publishers considered anything put on Wattpad as ‘previously published’. A stigma that once attached to a story/poem/novel is very difficult to remove. Yes, most publishers only want fresh and virgin stories!

That part is still true and something that I don’t think a lot of people who post on Wattpad know about. That isn’t why I’m still a little anxious about getting into the waters of Wattpad, my reasons are my own uncertainties and my style of writing and reading.

When someone asks me to read their story on Wattpad or chapter by chapter it has the same affect on me: I don’t know how to give feedback.

From my limited exposure to Wattpad I’ve found most of the stories are in progress, this causes me to regard reading them as seeking ‘alpha feedback’. Alpha feedback is pretty basic because of the very obvious reason that the writer isn’t finished writing yet. Concepts and characters may be undeveloped because again… the writer isn’t finished yet.

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I’ve noticed that a lot of alpha feedback consists of nit-picky grammar edits that are, in my opinion, undermining and discouraging when you’re just getting going on a story.  This also negates the benefits of bolstering and encouraging writers to write more!

So, I’m not the only one who has a hard time giving alpha feedback. What is alpha feedback? Alpha feedback is feedback is, as stated previously, feedback given on works in progress (WIPS) and is usually done a bit at a time as the writer progresses through their story. Beta feedback is given on a finished work that may or may not have been edited.

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One of the best tips for beta reading your own work or the work of someone else. Beta reading can be where much needed texture is added to the entire story. 

Beta feedback is something that I’m good at and that I value deeply in the excellent beta readers who read for me. Beta feedback focuses on things like: umm, did you just teleport out of the shower into the living room? Or: I can’t understand this sentence at all, did you mean to say that they ‘ate China’? I’m thinking maybe you meant ‘chicken’??

Writing is rarely done all at one sitting and it’s also rare that there are no interruptions or distractions. If your writing environment is like that you are a lucky writer indeed! For the rest of us we have phone calls, knocks on the door, family and friends that talk just at the minute you were writing a key sentence… and you write down what they said instead of what you were intending to write.

writing process

When you read your own writing over you’ll likely catch a lot of these errors. If you read your story out loud you’ll catch even more of them. The mind is an amazing machine capable of glossing over the same thing even on multiple reads. This is especially true when we read our own work but I’ve seen as many as five readers miss the same mistake in a story! This is why beta readers are like gold because the sixth beta reader who catches the mistake is the one who saves it.

This isn’t exactly the same as editing although they are closely related. Beta readers aren’t there to catch grammar mistakes, spelling mistakes, formatting errors etc. If they see something obvious they might make a note of it to save the writer some time but it isn’t their mission. That’s what final edits are for and that’s a whole different blog!

writing editor

Anyway, in case you didn’t know, now you’re caught up on the different stages of readings and writing. This brings us back to our original topic: Alpha reading and Wattpad.

I don’t know what sort of feedback any one author is looking for when they ask for alpha reading of a story. It’s hard to go into detail because we don’t know if the writer is keeping the suspense tight or if they’ve missed an important aspect of the story. When you’re asked to read a story some sort of response is required or the writer will likely assume that you hated the whole thing and don’t want to tell them how much they suck. So, you’ve got to say SOMETHING or you run the risk of your efforts to be helpful hurting the writer.

How can you do that when you don’t know anything about where the writer is going? The writer may be highly organized and know where they are going for their plot, or they might be like me, someone who is a ‘pantser’ (flies by the seat of my pants rather than outlining). If they are a pantser, then they probably don’t know where they are going anymore than the alpha reader does.

Feedback is like fuel for writers. They NEED it to know if they’re doing their job and their job is effective communication. If no one replies to what they have to say it is the writer’s natural inclination to determine that they are doing something wrong. If they know they’re reaching their audience it gives them more fuel to keep on.

Which brings us to the conundrum of Wattpad. Giving someone grammar tips is one of those gray zones if you aren’t their editor. It’s especially bad if it’s all someone has to say about your writing. First of all, it’s a negative observation and second of all it isn’t about what you said, it’s about how you said it in a strictly modern context of what is stylistically ‘correct’. Notice that nothing in grammar/spelling/formatting is going to help someone to understand how well they are communicating their story. Not encouraging.

Understanding that alpha and beta reading are the writer seeking feedback on how well they’re communicating gave me some insights into how to be a better alpha reader. First of all, I’m going on the assumption that anything that seems like a hole in the plot or that I don’t understand is likely going to be cleaned up in the beta reading. Unless it’s a continuity error (Bob is wearing blue pants and five minutes later spills coffee on his red pants), it’s better to ignore those things.

Someone in who is alpha reading for you is really only their for the most part as a positive influence. Unlike a beta reader who looks around for structural integrity, holes in the plot etc, the alpha reader is there to feed into the story.

How can an alpha reader do this?

First of all, I’ve learned to underline and comment on particularly striking turns of phrase or patterns of style that the writer uses. For example, I recently did some alpha reading on a story where the writer used vivid colors to effectively key in important aspects of their story.

Alpha reading is also disrupted reading. It’s hard to come back into a story and try to recall everything that happened in detail especially if you’re reading multiple alpha stories. Here’s where my personal, stylistic issue with Wattpad comes into play.

I am not a fan of chapter plays. I like to read deeply and intensely. I want to sink into the world. I don’t want to be just driving through yet another landscape. I want to know characters and places and experience them. I can’t do that if the sections are doled out a little at a time.

Another very personal issue I have with Wattpad is obvious: It’s all digital.

I don’t enjoy reading books electronically nearly as much as I enjoy reading a bound book. I enjoy the tactile sense of the fibers that make the paper, the sensation of physically turning pages… I like to read in the bathtub and my laptop doesn’t share my love of the water!

So, to all my friends on Wattpad who I haven’t had a chance to give feedback to… I’m sorry. I have started a Wattpad account (although I’m not sure if I finalized it, there may be some hanging step I neglected) and I have intentions to read your work. Intentions aren’t the feedback you’re looking for but I can assure you that it isn’t your writing that has driven me away.

The final thing I will say about Wattpad, again it is both positive and negative, is that it is a community. That means that it should be reciprocal. If I’m going to comment there, I should also be posting my own writing and getting to know people. The intricacies of the communal aspects of Wattpad are still mysteries to me.

writing at work

I don’t usually get anyone to alpha read for me unless I know and trust them very much. I don’t want to get the feedback of, ‘yeah, it was interesting… you had a run on sentence in the second paragraph… but otherwise, yeah, it was interesting.’

I will continue to contemplate the world of Wattpad and try to take the plunge. I hear that there is a vibrant poetry community as well as other writing and that may be a good place to start.

I think Wattpad fills a valiant function in the writing world. Alpha reading is important and I know that people do move on to beta reading and final editing. People have even started to have television shows made of their Wattpad stories!

That’s pretty much it: Watt I’ve Learned About Wattpad 🙂

 

Liane Carter Writes: The Land of Virginia

Written and Illustrated by Liane Carter,

A tiny tale of a little of the land of Virginia

The path is red like her hair. Beware.

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She has a heart so big it makes her beauty – and she is a sculpture made by angels – seem small in comparison. You may feel overwhelmed in the wonder of the wildness and wilderness of all she is. Her depth, anguish, pain and intelligence swim on the river surface of her eyes. There is no disguise. She has allowed herself free to be and opens her hand to ask you to too. If you are willing to. Take another step into the unknown back to the birth of all that is known.

liane carter virginia pic 1

A goddess who guides you and hides you if you need a retreat because she has been there, and even if she hasn’t, her empathy nourishes your lands to live in. A lover of the living, animals flock to feed on her love so you may meet a few chickens, dogs and a gorgeous bird on the way.

picture by Liane Carter

You can stop. You can stay. I promise you a beautiful journey on the way.

liane carter virginia pic 3

http://www.scoutmediabooksmusic.com/a-haunting-of-words

haunting of words final cover

 

My short story, Widower’s Choice was selected from over 300 submissions for this wonderful anthology bursting with talented authors! I was further honored to make the cut for the cover but most of all I am so happy that Widower’s Choice will be available to be read soon!
Click on the link to pre-order and get your copy soon!

Black Heart Magazine is presenting ‘Disarm, A Gun Sense Anthology’. It has my short story in it along with many others. Please keep reading before reacting 🙂

 

I am sensitive to the fact that not all guns are created equally and that this is a hot button issue that is something that makes people on both sides of the fence bristle up with emotion almost instantly.

I recently had a conversation about gun control in a post I made that was a quote from Eisenhower. I have a wide range of friends from right to left and I enjoy them all, so long as we can keep dialogue open I’m happy to talk about nearly anything. I don’t make a lot of political posts or statements, not because I don’t have beliefs, but because I respect that everyone has beliefs. Sometimes, especially on social media anything even vaguely controversial can blow up out of all proportion and I think there’s enough in the world without me adding to that powder keg without good reason.

It was with good reason that I posted this quote by Eisenhower: I wanted to point out the cost of weaponry. This quote comes from the man who made it his mission to arm America and then realized the price it cost to buy and maintain the unnecessarily huge amounts of munitions that he had acquired.

eisenhower quote

There are so many better things we could be focused on than weapons. We could do so many things as a species. We’ve come far in our understanding and knowledge in a short period of time. Instead of our learning bringing us peace, it’s brought it more fear and a need to buy and create more and more weapons.

When I posted this quote a friend of mine said, ‘now, Virginia, remember your pioneering roots. You wouldn’t have had food in the freezer if it hadn’t been for your parents and grandparents having guns’.

I agreed wholeheartedly with my friend and I continue to agree with him. I’ve shot a rifle before, I’ve hunted before. I’m not afraid of guns and I grew up eating venison and moose more than I ate beef or pork. I’m from Northern Canada and up here, it’s still pretty wild. We have long, cold winters and a short growing season. Lets say, it’s not an easy place for aspiring vegetarians (although I’m sure people manage it somehow now).

But my parents, grandparents and great grandparents settled the land here and it was a dangerous job. There were big, scary animals out there. In fact one time when my dad went out he got treed by a moose! One of the only times he left the house without a gun and he spent the whole night up a tree with the moose trying to knock him down from his perch in the branches.

But even though the guns in my house were necessary they still ended a life. One of my best friends was killed by one of my Dad’s shotguns.

After Philip died, my dad couldn’t fire a gun again.

Not too long ago half of a family was murdered, a woman and her thirteen year old daughter by a man they had invited into their house who then shot himself. Again, they had guns in their house for all the right reasons but it still ended in tragedy. I spoke to one of the relatives who said, ‘at 9 his wife and daughter were just fine and by 9:30 he got a call that they were both dead’. The other daughter found out about it when she saw an RIP for her own mother on social media.

I don’t think guns are inherently evil or bad. I’m not afraid of them, I know how to use them.

The problem with guns is that it’s only a split second of the evil side of human nature to make a gun a fatal weapon. To a person who is in a pit of despair, a gun is a way out that is quick and easy. Too quick and too easy. It doesn’t allow the human mind time to repair, time to make better choices and time to move on.

In a moment of rage someone who could never bring themselves to attack someone in a way that would put actual blood on their actual hands can pull the trigger from across the room without looking their victim in the eye. The danger of guns is that they are split second evil machines and once the trigger has been pulled there is no undoing of that crime.

They are such simple devices. So clean, so easy to use. Even a child can learn how to safely use a gun and even a child who knows gun safety can make a mistake. Bravado and guns often go hand in hand. I’ve seen people who’ve rested their rifles on their foot while out hunting and shot their own foot off. It happens.

In Canada, gun control keeps anything but rifles as a difficult commodity to acquire. Everyone who operates a rifle must take an exam and course that stringently explain gun laws. Guns and ammunition must never be stored together and both must be kept under lock and key. Even with these precautions stupid accidents happen and public shootings happen as well.

Guns aren’t nearly as common here as they are in America, but they still take a toll. The planet is getting more crowded and tempers and differences in race, religion and creed augment our differences in a way that makes some people lose all restraint. In a case like that it’s too easy for the snick of a trigger to make the difference in the lives of the person pulling the trigger as well as the victims.

We’ve all heard the mantra a thousand times, Guns don’t kill people, people kill people. Yes. That’s true, but guns make it possible for cowards to kill without fear. Guns let people hide their humanity behind a scope and without so much as a splatter of blood end a human’s life at their whim. Rage is out of control. We need to give people more time to consider their actions, not less time as a gun gives.

People aren’t nearly as easy to kill if you have to struggle with them physically. It gives people a chance to fight back and guns don’t. That is why I contributed to this anthology and suggest that you give it a read. Whatever your stance is on guns know this, for however well armed you are, there’s always someone who can sneak up on you from behind. There is no way to make yourself completely safe from other people with guns by the use of guns. The folk who collect entire arsenals of guns are the ones who particularly alarm me.

Each gun must be maintained and cared for or it will be useless in a crisis. How many guns can you shoot at once? How much of these needs are driven by fear rather than a sense of empowerment?

I’m not asking you to agree with me on all these points, but I am asking that you take a moment to think about it.

Thank you,

Virginia Carraway Stark

Where I Live: The City of Dawson Creek

Three Major Districts of Import

Dawson Creek, British Columbia, Canada
Virginia Stark

 

The Health Care and Hospital District

Dawson Creek Hospital has a complex of buildings around it that show the regions need for an increase of medical resources in a hurry. The complex consists of a three story hospital with three wings that house a variety of patients and facilities including an X-ray, Laboratory, Ultrasound and recently and MRI. Although it has a lot of space and facilities, it is often lacking in doctors for the Emergency Room. Patients are frequently flown out of Dawson Creek to Vancouver or Edmonton for emergency procedures that outstrip the areas technology or the availability of qualified medical personnel.

The entire facility encompasses a large park-like area that allows patients some easily accessed green space. Dawson Creek is a city that is known for its boom and bust economy and the set up of buildings shows how the municipal government utilizes bursts of money to build smaller, but well outfitted buildings. These buildings include a walk-in clinic for transient workers with no local doctor. It also has a health unit complex that treats the elderly and other patients who need help with physical care but may not need or qualify for in-home care workers. It also administers vaccinations and narcanone kits.

The Mental Health and Addictions Centre is housed in the same building as the Health Care Unit and offers help for anyone seeking assistance in dealing with any drug or addiction problems, group therapy and both psychologists and psychiatrists who are available through a General Practitioners recommendations. This is a sizeable amount of permanent resources available for a population whose permanent residence level is fairly small.

There are many people involved in the construction of these buildings including oil and gas companies who make financial contributions to offset the burden that transient workers they bring in put on the health care system. The workers at these places seem content and although they are less likely to stay in Dawson Creek permanently due to the remoteness of the location and the hostile weather conditions. The buildings themselves are slightly awkward because workers often have to go from one building to

The Walk-In Clinic offers the service of doctors for non-emergency services for patients who do not have access to a General Practitioner. It is pictured across the road from the hospital. There is a bus stop between the hospital and the clinic for increased access.

 

another in inclement weather to access the array of resources.

Shown here is the entry to the hospital. Now covered in snow, this expanse is covered in grass in the summer months. There is also a large parking lot that offers free parking for easy access to the many resources offered.

The Health Unit and Hospital are ringed with easy access to bus stops to further facilitate accessibility.

 

 

 

The Parks and Recreation Public Use District

The Rotary Park is a large park that is vital to the city in all seasons. It is utilized for walking, snow shoeing, cross-country skiing and for various other games and sports as well as a training ground for emergency workers who must learn to move through the woods and snow in all conditions. Pictured here is the tennis courts. They are of little use in the winter but are utilized heavily in the summer. There is also a baseball diamond on the far side of a parking lot. All parking and usage of the park are free. It is maintained by park workers and the land was donated to the city by the Rotary Club of Dawson Creek.

The park offers greenspace and protects the creek, Dawson’s Creek, that the city was named for as a protected watershed. The Arts Society has contributed interesting markers with poetry and historical markers along the extensive walking trails to enhance its interest and encourage people to visit the park.

Part of Rotary Park, an outdoor gym sits unused in the winter months but offers free access to sophisticated gym equipment for anyone to use day or night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Railroad District

 

The railroad is another vital piece of infrastructure. The city was brought into existence by the railroad and is one of the oldest parts of the city. The grain silos pictured are now abandoned but they are likely to be utilized in the future. There are more active grain, feed and other agricultural as well as other natural resource transportation that relies on the railroad to this day as its artery to the outside world.

 

The original railroad station brought in many people anxious to get in on the Klondike Gold Rush. Later it was instrumental in bringing in American soldiers to build the famous Alaska Highway that protected the entire west coast of North America from invasion through the Pacific Ocean. The railroad station is now a Museum and popular tourist attraction but the original railroad line is still active behind it.

Immediately beside the former railroad station is the last standing grain elevator in Dawson Creek. It has been transformed into a magnificent art gallery that supports local artists, potters and crafts persons of all sorts. Classes are offered for young or accomplished artists and it is a hub of culture in the city.

Marketing and Writing: How NOT to Promote

Yay! You wrote a book! Now what?

There is a steady cacophony of voices that are constantly spamming everyone to read their book. It doesn’t matter if it’s one of the ‘Big Boy’ publishers or if it’s someone who is self published. There are just too many people demanding to be read and no cohesive thought put into why someone should read your book.

Think of it this way: you’re the new kid at school. You walk into the classroom, nobody knows anything about you or what you will bring to the class. The first words that leave your mouth will set the tone for your trajectory in the dynamics of this world of strangers. Is that first sentence a demand? Would you ever walk into a room of people you don’t know and without invitation order them to do something that is time consuming and will likely cost them money?

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Seriously, why should anyone do anything for you? They’ve already got what you want or are trying to get the same thing. You’ve got to work hard to be the one who turns heads. Is it what you’re really looking for? 

Now put yourself into the position of someone walking down the street. Without warning someone comes running up to you, flailing, holding a book and gibbering incoherently about how they’ve got the next bestseller and you totally have to read it right now. My response? RUN AWAY!!! And if I see that book… RUN AWAY!!! It might look harmless but my experience has taught me that it was written my an aggressive lunatic.

Because lets be realistic, chances are you haven’t written the newest best seller. If you have, there is a likelihood that it will take years of steadfast dedication on your part of calm and steady promotional work to make it a best seller. It took George R.R. Martin twenty years of going to conventions, going unnoticed, being ignored, having few sales before anyone started to take him seriously as a writer.

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Do you know who is rated as the fifth richest dead celebrity? J.R.R. Tolkien. The man who changed the way the world would view fantasy novels. If you’re writing for the money you might have to realize that it could take years or even past your lifetime for you to become noticed, if you become noticed at all.

I’m sorry to sound like a downer on all this, but it is time for a reality check and after that I’ll give you the good news about promotion and writing, if you can handle it.

I’ve heard too many new writers (or even established writers) say that they were done with writing. It just wasn’t worth the time they put into it and it was too depressing. This usually is preceded by a storm of advertising and then silence and then… the pronouncement.

For brand new writers first quarter sales are nearly always disheartening. A few friends or family pick up the book and you’re lucky if you make fifty sales. Most people bottom out around twenty, especially for independent publishing. This is even more depressing because the first quarter is when, if you have a publisher, you will get the most publicity (unless something remarkable happens with your book).

For most people however, this is the pattern:

  1. Yay!!!! SO excited, finished my first book.
  2. I made my first sale!!
  3. Why aren’t more people buying my book?
  4. Buy my book dammit!
  5. Seriously, buy my book. Let me show you the cover art and an excerpt from it again.
  6. I did a book signing. No one showed up. I took a picture with some people I know to make it look less depressing.
  7. Buy my book! Why aren’t you listening to me? Spam, spam, spam…

8. I give up. Writing is stupid. People are stupid. I hate you all.

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Don’t feel this way. If you do feel this way, don’t say it online or even to yourself. Expect to have more failures than successes. At the same time, never give up on the idea that your next attempt might be the one that succeeds. 

I’ve been watching and this is what I see repeated over and over and over again. There is also anger is some cases, people lashing out at other authors that they may perceive as being more successful than them. None of this is going to help you promote your writing.

Lets get some more misconceptions out of the way:

My publisher does my promoting for me.

WRONG. In fact, it’s fairly standard for most publishers to include a hefty amount of work in publicizing as part of your contract. This has dissuaded a lot of writers from going with large publishers who take most of the money earned and leave the author with often only pennies per a sale.

Publishers aren’t all bad. Even though they have expectations of you doing more than just handing them a manuscript and then letting you sit back while the money rolls in, they also have something that you, as a new writer may lack: Presence.

Lets go back to the school metaphor. You walk into a classroom but this time you aren’t alone. Someone that most of the people in the class respect walks in with you. This person is your publisher. They say, ‘Hello everyone, this is John Doe. I know you’re all meeting him for the first time, but he’s actually a really cool guy and here’s why…”

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Public Relations lead to Branding. Advertising and marketing CAN work but they can also irritate people and make them decide to vacate the area. This is why it’s good in any business to have someone who can speak for you. It’s reassuring to know that it’s more than your own opinion of yourself or your product that makes it special. 

That is essentially what your publisher does for you. They introduce you to venues, bookstores, conventions and other places so that you become familiar to everyone in ‘the class’. They try to make you look good, they provide editing, cover art, formatting and I’ll tell you one thing about this: they’re the ones who make the choices about those things, not you. If you sign on with a publisher your baby is theirs to do with as they see fit. You are relying on their experience with the markets and what sells and what doesn’t to make the decisions in editing and appearance. This can be an upsetting and painful experience if you aren’t ready for it.  The rest is up to you. The publisher has opened the door for you but what you do once you’re through that door is up to you.

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Ready for your makeover? If you want to make it big, you’re going to have to make changes in every department. This is part of the ‘branding’ process’. Suck it up, buttercup. 

If you aren’t willing to go the extra mile and to get out with your fellow ‘classmates’ why do you expect people to buy/promote/read/review your work? What makes you above all the rest that you are exempt from the hard work of getting to know your audience and your fellow writers and doing things for them as well as for yourself?

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If you think you’re above all this then go back to the classroom metaphor again. You want to be an author that people read, right? Well, that’s the same thing as wanting to be the popular kid at school. You want to be someone everyone wants to get to know better, everyone wants to be around you and have you come to their parties: guess what, popular kids have to work hard for their popularity and you have to work for your popularity.

If you have what it takes in the charisma department to walk into the room and make your own introductions and have people respond favorably to you then the self-publishing market could work for you. There has been an increase in authors who have already been on the best seller list multiple times and won awards to become their own agent. They know that they already do their own work in the publicity department and they know the right people. They have the popularity to do their own thing and pull it off. If you wear your clothes in a new way do people mock you or imitate you? It takes a lot of leadership and charisma to make you a trendsetter.

Before you answer, think carefully: Is this what I REALLY think of myself or just what I wish I thought of myself?

But there’s more to this and I hope that you give this a good think before you get upset the next time something doesn’t sell as well you you hoped: Is this what you really want?

Now that you understand how being a best-selling author is the same as being popular or famous, is that where you want to go? First of all, there are a lot of sacrifices that will be demanded of you. Your time, your energy and your personal life will all suffer. Even how much time you have to write will suffer!

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Being popular means that people like you for what you do for them. They aren’t really your friends, they’re your fans. They want to bask in your success and get a bit of its smear on them in the hopes that they can be popular too. Being popular is a far different thing from being moral or honest. Ask yourself what’s in it for you? Is it worth the sacrifices? Is it worth the pain? WHY are you writing? WHY do you care about sales?

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I’ve asked a lot of people these last two questions in particular. The answer to the second one is usually: So I can quit my day job. Bad news. Your popularity becomes your new day job. The six months writing, six months publicizing rules comes into effect (which will be discussed in more detail in the next article) and you have constant interruptions. Don’t want to go to a party? Tough luck, it’ll look bad if you don’t go. Don’t want to go to a book signing? Too bad, it’s in your contract. Don’t think that your responsibility as a writer ends with your book, it only does that if you’re writing for the sheer joy of it and even then, there is still a certain responsibility to others who read your book that is polite to maintain.

The answer to the first question: Why do you write is usually answered by varying degrees of honesty. I know that I write out of a compulsion. I have to write. I write whether I send my work to a publisher or whether I leave it in a drawer to rot. I write because it’s a huge part of how I express myself. I’ve learned that even though I am verbally loquacious I am even more expressive in my writing. I’ve had so many people who are close to me react with surprise at the things that I write because, often to my surprise, I haven’t actually physically told them those things. My heart is wide open on the page whether it’s a love letter or a novel. It’s also an exploration of different ways of being, different types of people, an exercise in empathy.

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Since I write it all anyway, I might as well do something with it. People tend to enjoy my writing and I enjoy writing it. I don’t need to win a popularity prize to know my self worth, I know enough about myself to know that I’m rocking it and having a good time. That’s more important to me than ‘popularity’.

Another daunting issue is classroom size. A hundred years ago, two hundred years ago… there were fewer writers. Now EVERYONE wants to be a writer. I’ve met very few people who hear I’m a writer and DON’T respond with, ‘I’ve always wanted to write a novel…’. The competition has become fierce and if you are perceived as being competitive it’s likely that you’ll make people want to remove themselves from you. It’s something of an irony with fewer people reading that there are more people writing.

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I’m not sure I believe those statistics, I think that there are more people in the world and that there are more people in countries where attending school is mandatory. There are more people with an education so by extension there are more readers and writers. Be both. Don’t expect to dictate your worlds without taking in the worlds of other people. Be generous in your reading. Even if you don’t do it for popularity, do it because you will learn more about writing through reading a huge range of works than you ever will from sitting down in solitary meditation.

I’m done shaking my finger at you and reminding you that being popular might not be all you dream. Chances are you are looking for success at any cost and nothing I’ve said about that cost has changed your perspective. That’s okay, popularity is a valid life choice. The next question is: How do you get popular in a competitive environment where everyone is shooting for the same goal as you?

Read Writing and Promoting: Doing it the RIGHT Way for my thoughts and observations on what successful writers do to overcome these hurdles.

-VCS