The Dark Side

Contrary to sporadic outbreaks of facebook kitsche, the Dark side does not in fact have cookies.

Let me be clear. Hell is hell. It is a real place full of real monsters and it has a real presence in reality.

Bear with me, I’m not tying bottle rockets to my makeshift pulpit. I just want to give you something that transcends the chaos, dear artist. Because you, by your desire and gift to illuminate and magnify all that is what ever it is about the human condition—you are susceptible to joining the dark side and never coming back to the light.

What am I getting at? Well I’m gonna make you think for yourself here about your influences, your inspirations—musicians, artists, writers who resonate with you and even those things which you yourself pen or draw or choreograph.

There is a mindset that beauty born from pain is relevant, lasting, and deep. And those things which are lighthearted, bouncy, are perhaps vapid and destined to disappear like so much happy unicorn glitter. Ephemera evaporates. Blood congeals. And most humans are more prone to slow down and ogle a car accident than they are to contemplate a rainbow.

Unfortunately, for the artist, there is real danger in that.

You see, many of us with a creative bent actually lived the whole “beauty from pain” bit. We can and do write books about it. We lived with demons in parent skin or sibling skin or the skin of someone who should have nurtured us but instead destroyed parts of our lives with whatever horror available to them to mete out on us. And in order to purge what we couldn’t digest, we wrote the pain. We danced the anger, the loss. We drew the blood in dark ink. And we lived it again, and relived it. And it became a part of us until we too lived in the darkness. Absorbing the abuse, the neglect, until it became us. And we perpetuated the chaos we so desperately wanted to escape.

Why? Because in the very act of validation we so desperately crave we allow it to become our muse, and then our identity.

Dear artist, your gift is there so you can heal.

Your talent to write exists so you can purge the monster and move on. Your story should help others perhaps not so eloquent to understand that not only are they not alone, but that there is beauty and light and joy beyond the pain of broken, of abuse, of neglect, of addiction, of slavery. Expose the darkness—and then kill it. Allow your gift to heal you, and then use it to heal others.

This is where the real power of “artist” lies. When we dance in the light, when we pen the victory, when the palette reveals the rich tones of life, when we offer hope…

When I pass from this place, sure, there are a few things I’ve written that may make my family cringe a little. I’m a faulted human. But after generations of creative souls lost to the dark side, not only did I step into the light with my gift, but my grown children are taking their creativity further. That’s a win. That is what you deserve.

Peace.
Tammy Boehm, Associate Editor

Don't be me

On the cusp of losing an hour of precious sleep due to some compendium of elected officials assuming they are smarter than the God who invented circadian rhythms and an unholy upwelling of snot from my lungs, I was a bit loopy this morning in the shower.

As I stood contemplating the condition of my razor and whether or not it was worth scraping errant bits of fuzz from my person with what looked like a prime delivery system for lockjaw, I found myself considering that which makes the gender specific me, a specific identifiable gender. Someone somewhere at some point in time determined that females should not sport lush growths of hair in certain places. Keeping it family friendly, this societal bent is causing my demented, aging mother-in-law significant frustration exacerbated by, well, dementia. Not only does she struggle with the concept of which personal hygiene items are hers and what regimen the hygiene product is for, when she does take a whack at scraping the lichen off the barn, she only succeeds in removing several layers of skin whilst the walrus whiskers on her chin remain stubbornly fixed. My exhortation of “Mom, no one is going to feel the stubble on your chin,” is of little solace.

Somewhere in her malaise an alarm is sounding, and those whiskers are the flashpoint in her quest for normality. And while in her case, she struggles with any level of cognition, her distress is not entirely foreign.

We humans love to label a thing and then hold the thing to the standards of the label—even if the label is inaccurate, irrelevant, or just plain stupid.

Just like my mother-in-law is innately female, no matter how swarthy her visage, something at her core eats at her, compelling her to acts of what are now self-destructive, because at that core she is insecure in who she is. And we writers, and creative types are prone to this behavior as well.

In our competitive, hyper-focused world of me me now now me me now identity isn’t just who you are, what you believe and what you do, there’s that viscous goo glommed on everything …. How successful are you at what you do?

The convo goes a little like this: “So what do you do?” “I’m a writer.” “Oh really? I wrote a novel. I should give it to you to read. Are you published?” “Yes but I’ve only sold a few books.” “So what do you do?”

Like we walk up to surgeons and say “What do you do?” “Oh I’m a surgeon.” “Really? I cut up a frog once. I should bring it in…” NO.

For all the bazillion of us who are creative, who identify ourselves as writer, artist, musician, dancer—just because we also hold down a soul-gutting day job and in our itty bitty hearts know we may never win a grammy or an emmy or any other meme, we are still who we are. It is society that has determined that in order to say you ARE something you have to put a dollar-per-hour tag on it.

You know this to be true even as that stomach acid inducing “So when are you gonna go get a real job” sentence rings in the ears of those of you who have actually stepped out in your chosen passion, and are on food stamps or living in your parents basement because of it.

Let me tell you something. I have a day job. And a family. And a mortgage and all those identifiers that deem me “normal” and inside, curled fetal, is a banshee.

Today, after a week of phlegm and obligations, the banshee is silent. But she won’t stay that way. She is my penance for attempting to conform. The only “day job” that will ever satisfy my inner screaming she-beast would be “novelist” or “editor” or “poet laureate of the known realm.” Accountant? That is a necessary evil in my life. Writer is who I am.

So here is my horrific warning. Don’t be me.

Don’t sell out. Don’t conform. And above all, don’t develop the myopia that tells you you are not successful if you’re not making money at the thing you love to do more than you love breathing. If you allow the world at large to define you, you may find yourself bitter, old, and crusty. Which is cool I suppose if you are a crouton. But if you are a creator of images and words and worlds, crusty won’t suffice.

I didn’t use that razor this morning, and guess what. No one questioned my girliness. My identity as a writer though? For now, it’s not common knowledge, even among those who think they know me. Don’t be me dear artist.

To thine own self….you know the rest.

Peace.
Tammy Boehm, Associate Editor

And... Action

Here I am again, the bane of your existence, oh Indie author extraordinaire.

I know it seems like I’m picking on the very souls who frequent the publishing entity to whom I am enslaved, but it’s not true. I only vilify your horrific habits because I love you and want nice things for you. Oh, and because everything I share with you isn’t fabricated whilst I’m hunched over a converted PC desk in the corner of a spider infested, cat haunted, frigid basement. It’s just me, gnawing on the bones of my very existence and sharing the marrow of my experiences with you.

I get it. You’ve spent at least ninety days developing this complicated shmuck, flawed but lovable, and you’re parading him—we’ll call him Jaxton for effect—through the vast and lofty verbal cornucopia that is your novel. Page after page of pitfall, tension, and ego-crunching experience. Perhaps he suffers from a skin condition that stifles his abilities to socialize so he’s lonely but brilliant due to a lifetime of ego-bruising—enough to squeeze some wine (or whine) out.

You’ve done your homework.

Dialogue, rounded characters, excerpts on your website, and you’ve built your fan base.

Your book should be leaping off your virtual shelves. But it isn’t.

All this work—a lifetime of trial for your protag, and no one cares enough to spend the $12.50 to see what happens next.

Why? Well, because you’re not Dickens and this isn’t the 1800’s.

In a world where your potential readers are bombarded by information and overwhelmed with choices, you and your book have to stand out amidst the chaos. And you, dear writer, only have seconds to set your book hook and land that new fan.

Pay attention: you have to grab your reader within the first page of your novel if you want them to read the second and subsequent.

That means, get to the action and get to it quickly. Jax loosed his white knuckled grip on the steering wheel as he fixed his gaze on the front door of Cheryl’s Chic Boutique. A manicured hand adorned with chunky rings appeared in the window. There it was. Cheryl flipped the “Closed” sign, finally. She’d be alone in the store now. A bead of sweat dripped from his temple, stinging his freshly treated cheek severely enough that his eyes watered. His foot hovered over the gas pedal. All the years of injections, painful chemical treatments, were nothing compared to the pain that constricted his chest every time he thought of Cheryl. He just wanted an end to the pain. Taking a deep breath, he slid the car into drive… BANG.

I know. You’re thinking—okay, but that was my climactic scene! On page 244! Don’t worry. Unless you’ve never watched CSI, or Bones, or pretty much any dramatic anything lately, you should recognize the thing I did just now. Yup. It’s called getting the action on the first page.

Now, you can continue with your story in “how did he get to this place” fashion and your reader will eagerly follow your twists and turns for 243 more pages because you gave him, her, it, something to be curious about. Your climactic moment is still safe because you’ve actually revealed nothing about the outcome—that car has not moved, yet. So you, writer, are free to build to the inevitable—does he kill himself? Does he kill her? Does a pug run across the road, foiling his endeavors again? I must now buy your book because I have to know.

And that is how you hook a reader.

Well, okay, my example was purposely kitschy, but give it a try if your plot is slow to simmer and your readers are comatose before the good stuff happens.

Doesn’t have to be a life and death scene, but it does have to be integral to your character’s story and it does have to pop off that page. That very first page.

Unless you’re Dickens. Then write on….and on….and on…

Peace

Tammy Boehm
Associate Editor

The Smut Card

So awhile back, I was reading this great little sci-fant bit with monsters and magic and a whole fantastical world. It was a real page turner by an indie author, fast paced and full of characters about whom I was incredibly curious.

There I was, halfway into the journey and boom. There it was, like fresh roadkill on an idyllic autumn drive and I didn’t have time enough to swerve out of the obstructed lane: a great steamy pile of porn complete with guttural noises, graphic descriptions of intimate parts and functions and lots and lots of body fluids.

We aren’t talking a pulse quickening smooch and squeeze or even a seductive slow dance and lingering touch. This was straight up pornographic writing so in your face that it made me—a married mom with two grown male children—incredibly squirmy while reading. And not in a good way, either.

The smut card had been played

Suffice it to say, I felt awkward with the storyline after the intrusive sex scene. And unfortunately for me, the writer dropped in another X rated escapade a few chapters later. Not only did the jarringly explicit dual scenes disturb me, but also the fact that the author made no attempt to warn readers regarding the lengthy narratives of mature content halfway through the book. Until the two scenes were dropped on my eyes like they were hot, the book itself would have been a prime read for adult or YA sci-fant fans. Unfortunately, the needless inclusion of gratuitous and over-the-top pornography garnered this otherwise solid story a brown paper cover and a spot in the naughty section of the bookstore. In the back. Where all the creepers hang out.

Seriously now. I’m a grown woman, and I like a little spice every now and then, but dumping the entire bottle of cayenne in the dish will not only ruin the flavor but it may scorch a body’s innards as well.

We owe our readers the integrity as writers to protect them from ingesting that which might damage them.

I get it. People meet, fall in love, and intimacy is a real part of life. In fact it is to be enjoyed. But there is a huge difference between creating a connection between characters who demonstrate intimacy and physical affection and/or attraction for one another and straight up smut.

If you as a writer choose with eyes open and conscience unmarred to write pornographic material, rest assured you will have an audience who hopefully will be as adult as you are. But if you are just wrapping your characters personal parts around each other and throwing in some blue language for effect to grab your reader, don’t.

Check your skill set as a writer first.

If you have to prostitute your characters to keep the attention of your reader, something is wrong with your characters, your storyline, or your writing itself.

Reread your work up to the point of your characters defrocking, and correct your story. Create some tension, add some danger, take a writing class, but don’t add an explicit sex scene just for shock and awe.

Here’s the deal:

That book I mentioned would have read stunningly without the sweaty, sticky, contortive side bar. It was obvious the protags were passionate about one another. And while a moment of procreative endeavors could have been alluded to or given a few sentences, the pages of porn did not advance the story one iota. In fact, they detracted from it, because they pulled the reader out of the amazing world the writer had so painstakingly created.

The two potentially offensive scenes took the characters from otherworldly to disappointingly boorish and, even more damaging, the scenes put constraints on the book in total: an otherwise stellar story now really requires a graphic content warning.

So, when gambling for your readers attention, don’t play the smut card. It’s constrictive to your reach as a writer, it cheapens your characters, and ultimately it’s a cop out—a cheat for a writer. If you need drama or tension, add a teenage girl or a mother-in-law. But don’t write something that makes your reader want to gouge his or her eyes out and soak them in disinfectant.

Peace.

Tammy Boehm
Associate Editor

Release Day is Coming!

Hi guys! Rani here, sneaking in a little post on the side to remind you that Anialych releases on TUESDAY! And it’s not too late to get your preorders in. Order them today, and you might even get it before the book actually hits shelves.

Oh yeah, and if you preorder, I’ll be sure to sign your copy before it leaves the warehouse.

To whet your appetite a bit, how about an excerpt? I think that sounds like fun. ;-)

Are you ready to experience the beginning? To witness how it all began?

Excerpt from Anialych: People of Sand

by Rani Divine

©Copyright RAD Writing, 2019


“Go,” Sheyvu breathed as she released the hands of her sisters, sending them off to their own lands. The choice had been made during the night, with the death of the witch. Though not Sheia’s eldest daughter, Sheyvu was chosen by the Vartes to take charge of the people—and they had looked to her in more than slight confusion when she’d made her decision known. The Dewin could not be localized to the desert, not when humanity could very well have spread out in any direction from the plains. The Vartes had left pieces of Paradise here on this world, and they needed to be protected. The tree of souls within the forest, the pure lake and seeing stones in the mountains, resting rock in the Anialych lands, and the spirits of the Diafol and Esforos himself locked away within the islands and in the deep. Sheyvu’s people could not leave them alone, for humanity to find at every corner.

 One by one, her sisters left her sides. Corinne to the islands, Yeshu to the waters, Tzet to the jungles, Hythdor to the mountains, and Meena to the plains. They each had their own following of seven Dewin, Dewin who would be used to form their own species within their designated lands.

 As soon as they left the desert, they would no longer be the concern of Sheyvu, nor even her own kind. The Vartes would give them means to speak to one another, as had always been. No matter the distance between them, they would always be as they were now—sisters, to the very last—but their realms would be their own. Coetir, Dŵr, Cedwig, Mynidd, and Cayau they would be called. 

 None looked back as they started upon their way, leaving Sheyvu and her hundred remaining Anialych to watch them leave. She was glad that they did not turn back to her. It meant they were prepared, that they agreed in her decision. Truthfully, the sisters had instigated the idea together. They’d worked as they always had in mother’s absence, voting on what would be the best way to proceed, and they’d known this was the path the Vartes had chosen for them. Humanity was restless within the plains, and the Dewin needed to hold the world in stewardship until humanity was ready to receive it. Even the plains themselves needed to be cared for, and to them Sheyvu sent the strongest of sisters. Meena would not be broken down, even under so great a charge.

 “What are we to do now?” Aedan asked as he came up beside her, the highest among the wanderers—those most connected to the Vartes, second only to the witches.

 “Delilah holds the key,” she replied, still staring after her sisters as they disappeared into the vast mirage before them.

 In her heart, Sheyvu believed she was not yet prepared for what the Vartes asked her to do. Her mother had meant everything to her in years past, and now Sheyvu would live the rest of her days as witch in her own right. Though she’d known since childhood that she would be named witch if the time came for her mother to be taken back into the heavens, though she’d borne the triquetra mark upon her wrist from the day of her birth, she did not yet feel readiness for the task at hand. Humanity had rejected them outright. Sheia had gone to them in the form of the humans, a right granted only to the high witch, and still they’d mistrusted her. Sheyvu didn’t even know what been done to her mother in the hours leading up to her demise. All she knew was that Mother was gone, and that now she was one of only two of her daughters to remain in the desert.

 Still she held her head up high, knowing the Vartes would bring her through this. She would not be asked to do anything that she did not have the strength or will to complete. The Vartes was by her side, even now. All she needed was to go to the humans, to make them understand, to show them the fault in their ways. But thus far, Delilah had been the only one willing to speak to any of them. And Sheia was the only one the girl had ever spoken with.

 “I cannot go there,” she whispered under her breath as she turned to look Aedan in the eye. “Do you understand?”

 “You wish for me to go to her, my witch?” His brow furrowed, and Sheyvu imagined what it would be like if he were allowed to turn human, how beautiful he would become if he could’ve taken on their form. Instead, the gift was given now to her and her sisters, to bridge the gap between human and Dewin. Sheia had called it a gift.

 “Watch her,” she answered. “Delilah will be alone now. She will be afraid.” She turned and looked back out at the red rocks and sand-filled plains beyond. “Give her time.”

 Silently, Aedan reached out and took hold of her hand. Now that Sheia was gone, her father was the only one who well knew the burden she bore. But without her mother beside her, Aedan seemed less of a father and more of a man who’d simply worked beside her mother all these years. In the lives of the Dewin, it was not necessary that Sheyvu’s father remain a part of her life. For the rest of her people, fathers and mothers were not even known. The trees surrounding resting rock were the ones who chose what pairs to join in the making of young. The high witch was the only woman required to bear children of her own body, with whatever man she saw best suited.

 Sheia had chosen Aedan.

 For his part, he had done his best to remain in their lives. But he was a wanderer, and it was not possible for him to remain in one place for very long. Every fiber of his being desired to be out there, to go and walk their land and pray to the Vartes. That was his charge. To go out into the deserts and speak to the land, to pray to the Vartes for Paradise to be returned to them all.

 And yet, Sheyvu could think of none better to see to his mate’s final mission. Her father was the best option available to go to Delilah and to bring her deep into the desert, to resting rock. The girl would be the first human to lay eyes upon it, to see the whole of the Anialych with her own gaze. For now, Sheyvu could only hope that Delilah would be prepared for the things of the future. Already, Sheyvu felt as though she’d seen far too much.

 “Go,” she urged, releasing Aedan’s hand. “Please.”

 He nodded and turned toward those who stood behind them, toward resting rock. “Return to your duties,” he said to the crowd. “The witch has made her choice.”

 Sheyvu’s eyes drifted down to the mark upon her wrist, the symbol that would forever tell her people of the family to which she belonged. She was the daughter of Sheia, the first witch to ever be born upon this world. Even in her wildest of imaginations, she did not know if she would be as successful as her mother.