ideas take life in Words
A blog following the works (and shenanigans) of J.E. Klimov
Title: "The Truthseeker"
Author: Eric Stockwell
Genre: Dark Fantasy
Rating: 5 stars
Chilling, mystifying- with a blend of the macabre and snarky humor. Yes, all of that can be in one novel.
"Although you're safe here, your time is limited; you'll either meet your destiny, or greet your final death."
Fair warning, this book is not for the boring, traditional novel seeking person who nit-picks anything beyond the accepted "norm" of writing.
It's written in second person. The formatting contains bolded, italicized, and capitalized font with intention. Along with the dark themes, there is dark humor. So, if you're a stickler for the BORING, get out of here.
Oh, still reading? Great because this is an extremely rare gem of a find!
This story is about "you" in an alternate plane, and it opens with a lot of unknowns: about what happened to yourself, where you are, and who you are now. The beginning starts with a bang when a 'goddess' sees something within you...and tries to kill you.
A mysterious creature saves you, a Truthseeker, and beseeches you to seek out his sister, Noir, Empress of Nightmares. To do so, you are faced with various "glass": portals or interceptor glass. Your character travels to many places through mirror portals, meeting a few key allies including a talking bucket named Timur (who isn't always a bucket during the entire novel, just to be clear) and a traveling minstrel, Melody.
[Editorial: Timur is my favorite character, hands down.]
The vast lands you visit are incredibly set up. Some are haunting: with a beach and people staring aimlessly at the horizon. Another place is Hamsterdam, perhaps my favorite place. The quirky settings remind of of "Alice Through the Looking Glass" in some ways, but take it with a grain of salt, as the author has his own powerful way of establishing incredible worlds and creatures.
Your character goes through trials and tribulations, revelations, and hardship. All done in short, well-named chapters. There is a final battle in the end with an incredible twist that will have you question your own reality.
I personally love the characters, the witty banter, and places to discover. There were a few action scenes not to be underestimated, but I feel the author has a way of stringing words together that makes every word, sentence, and chapter engaging.
I recommend this book...to anyone really. Anyone who is open to dark fantasy, but to also the adventurer.
"You've overcome insurmountable odds just to reach me here. This trial is no different. Again, you must overcome."
Authors Supporting... Artisans! #11. Special Edition: Maker of Soaps that Keep You Clean on Your Quest!
I support creativity in all spaces, not just novels. Over the last few years, I've run into some amazing young, independent artisans who had the courage to sell their creations. Today, I want to special feature Erica Stockwell, founder of Critically Clean.
Through a chance encounter at Barnes and Nobles, I met Erica who gave me business advice without hesitation. She was supportive and very pleasant. When I discovered she had a business of her own, I HAD to ask. I'm already a fan of creative soaps and bath bombs, but ones that have gaming themes brings it up a notch of awesomeness.
If you like soaps and bath salts OR want to garner some wisdom about starting your own small business/product, read this interview!
Why did you start this business and why these particular products?
Erica: You’re probably going to think I’m crazy when I tell you this story, and honestly you aren’t wrong. I was driving to work one day headed from Franklin to Waltham, so I had quite a bit of time to kill. While stopped at a red light I had a thought, “There aren’t any soaps shaped like dice-- I should do that thing”. When I got to work, I started looking at molds and the rest is history. After I finished the soap, my friend asked about bath bombs so I looked up how to do that, then another friend asked about salt scrubs.
[Julian's comment; It's amazing- you never know when ideas strike you! Nice!]
How did you learn to make such wonderful soaps and other amazing products?
Erica: Google searches and Youtube tutorials got me started. I learned pretty quickly that the actual process of making the stuff wasn’t very hard. The hard part was deciding which ingredients and scents I wanted since my whole thing was making sure every product had a gaming feel to it.
[Julian's comment: Even the hard part sounds wicked fun....]
What was it like setting up your own business?
Erica: Setting up the business was scary, exciting, frustrating, and boring all at the same time. Scary because I was sinking in money and putting myself out there with no idea if my stuff would even sell. Frustrating because in the beginning we weren’t selling at all online and when we went to craft shows our reception was lukewarm at best. Boring because of all the research and paperwork involved. Exciting when we started getting sales consistently and people were posting positive reviews. After we took the plunge and did Market of the Moons for the first time, I was overwhelmed with how much people loved our stuff. I took everything I had made that weekend and left with almost nothing.
What do you love best about CriticallyClean?
Erica: Two things, I love putting together high quality products, and I love talking with people who use them. In December, I was working a craft fair in Worcester called Craftershock and a couple was looking at the salt scrubs I had on display. A young woman came up behind them and said, “You know those awesome scrubs of mine you like using? This is where I got them”. That put the biggest smile on my face.
You clearly have a creative side- what is your "one-liner" advice for those that are too afraid to take that leap?
Erica: Start off slow and find your niche. I’m not going to lie and say everything is going to be sunshine and rainbows. In the beginning, it’s hard. Just take pride in what you do and don’t give up. Also, you are your biggest source of advertisement. Post about what you’re doing, blog about it, tweet about it, tell people about it. Folks can’t enjoy what you’re doing if they don’t know you’re doing it.
Where can my readers find more information about your wonderful products?
Finally, I have to ask. What is your favorite book?
Erica: Oh wow this is a hard one. I guess it depends on how you define favorite. If by favorite you mean the book I’ve read the most that would be "Polgara the Sorceress" by David Eddings. However, if you define favorite as the book that left the most profound impact on me I’d say "The Jungle" by Upton Sinclair.
"I believe an author’s vision should grow organically from each writer’s own beliefs and perceptions for each and every work."
It’s not every day when you cozy in a Barnes and Noble nook when you meet a fellow author. An author of fantasy no less! I’m pleased to bring back “Authors Supporting Authors”, featuring Eric Stockwell, who not only published his first novel but also is a procreator of other mind-stimulating rhetoric on Goodreads. He has graciously accepted stop by my blog and answer a few questions. I’m honored to have him.
Public service announcement: This is living proof you can find like-minded writers anywhere (although a reading establishment increases your odds greatly). I’ve already learned much from him and am looking forward to reading his dark fantasy, “The Truthseeker”. [Amazon link at end of interview]
PS: Find him on Goodreads and check out his blog. I’ve glanced at it and love what he has to say:
Do tell us a little bit about yourself and what is your vision as an author!
-It wasn’t until my formative, teenage years that I turned my creative explorations into writing; poetry and lyrics were my first loves and served as building blocks into short stories and, eventually novel writing. I also spent my time learning various martial arts into my early twenties; from those experiences, I’m able to describe the ebb and flow of physical combat with a measure of success. I’m ashamed to admit this but, in my teens I’d also gotten mixed up with a bad crowd; you guessed it… table-top role players. D&D, Pathfinder, Shadowrun, L5R and others were our drugs of choice, and I also enjoy pulling inspiration from those settings into my written works.
As for the second part of your question, I could hammer out some mission statement that, at the time of writing, sounds half-way reasonable; unfortunately, the honesty of it would be on a precariously short time table. I believe an author’s vision should grow organically from each writer’s own beliefs and perceptions for each and every work. It would be unrealistic to believe authors don’t grow and evolve much like we can hope their characters do, after all. As for my current vision, I’d probably describe it as Hope desperately trying to claw out of an ever-deepening pit of despair and adversity. I know that sounds bleak, but there’s beauty here; Hope’s natural tendency to keep trying is what keeps all of us invested and serves to inspire us.
[Julian's comment: I totally agree with your statement about author growth. It's funny though I didn't conceptualize it until you brought it up.]
What was the inspiration behind “The Truthseeker”?
-My eyes glazed over with the potential length of my answer to this one. I’ll handle this with a list of inspirations in no particular order.
1.Song by EDITORS – An End Has a Start
2.Movie – Never Ending Story
3.Book by Charles Dickens – A Christmas Carol
4.Short stories by Nathaniel Hawthorne – ANY, ALL
5.Table-top fantasy games – D&D, etc.
6.Anime though no particular one comes to mind.
7.Religion, albeit loosely, no bible-thumping hardline here.
"The Truthseeker" is your first novel. What were your greatest challenges?
-My single, ongoing greatest challenge is that of being an Unknown Author, not only in its state of being but the stigma attached to it. There’s a widely accepted fallacy that unknown authors are OBVIOUSLY no-talent-hacks or they would be known. Any of you, reading this Q&A, know that this just isn’t the case. There are countless new authors out there, myself included, consisting of both talent and passion for the craft of storytelling. Regrettably, I’ve not yet mastered the art of marketing myself, nor transformed myself into some youtube personality. What writers like myself need are readers that are willing to write reviews, willing to tell family, friends, coworkers about the amazing book they have enjoyed. Until I can find a fan base of such readers, I’m simply an unknown author.
[Julian's comment: Also true. You are bursting at the seams with wisdom. It's quite the frustrating challenge]
What did you enjoy the most about the writing process?
-Playing God, naturally; it’s the single, purest form of escapism that I can think of. I haven’t met a single person that’s entirely content with their lives, nor confident in the control they try to exert in the world immediately around them. Mercifully, we writers have an out; we get to play God.
What’s your top advice for aspiring authors?
-There are going to be people that tell you, you’re not good enough, that you have no business trying to write anything. Sadly, I’m not even referring to random strangers; I’m talking family, friends, loved ones… people you generally count on for support. Know this, writing is the ultimate expression of individualism; you’ll have to tap into an inner strength that most can’t imagine, and at times that seem most impossible. An example of most impossible being when you are literally the ONLY ONE that believes in you. You may need to walk away from “friends” you’ve known, in search of ones that appreciate you and your ambitions. Make every effort to surround yourself with people willing to help you instead of tear you down. Always remember, those accustomed to saying you can’t do something, often lack the talent and conviction to do it themselves; dispose of them immediately.
What are you working on now?
-From a literary standpoint, there’s a project I’ve been tinkering with off and on. It’s another dark fantasy novel that kicks off with a recently resurrected soldier, a half-breed cleric that failed Succubus School, and a wise-cracking hell-hound guardian. What could POSSIBLY GO WRONG? All kidding aside though, when I do find opportunity to work on it, I do enjoy myself.
“The Truthseeker” is a dark fantasy. Is fantasy your “specialty” or do you work in other genres as well?
-I’d suggest fantasy is my specialty in so much as that genre affords me the most freedom. I’ve found that many of the other genres have very specific guidelines that authors are expected to adhere to. That’s not to say I haven’t explored word-play in other genres. Some examples can be seen in my Goodreads blog.
In your Goodread’s profile, you say that your ultimate aim is to create thought-provoking content. This is refreshing to hear since there are a lot of junk cranked out for the sake of existence. What complexities can we expect in “The Truthseeker”.
-Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, the main character is literally the reader him or herself. Many books provide some bland alter ego for the reader to comfortably hide behind, but that’s not the animal I birthed here. No, this is far bloodier, uncomfortable and important; these events involve things you’ve done and endured before the you, you currently know.
-Secondly, there’s a point that I start addressing the time honored question of why do bad things happen? I’m not going to suggest that the reasons put forth, in my tale, are entirely accurate, but I DID have a lot of fun with this one.
-The last thing I’ll hint toward is, yes, you’ve obviously succeeded in your efforts to attain the life you currently enjoy but, did you do it without any strings attached? For THAT answer, you’ll have to read the book.
I can’t wait to read this novel! Although I’ve read a few reviews (non-spoiler ones) and saw that this is written in the second person. Why did you choose this POV?
-This POV was essential because the narrator, having used yours truly as an unwitting conduit, considered it of vital importance that you be reminded of everything you had experienced in that other place. This narrator reveals itself at the end of the book, both larger than life and a mere fraction of its former self all at once.
“The Truthseeker” is your first published novel; however, I noticed you have some thought provoking reads of all sorts on your Goodreads blog. How do your experiences writing your novel differ from other pieces?
-In a word, intent. The Truthseeker is my idealistic, fever-dream attempt to save the reader’s very soul. Let’s be honest, this day and age, someone has to do it. Might as well be me. That stated, if you require a more heroic sentiment, hopefully the following serves; I had nothing better to do.
To further illustrate intent, a short story in my blog, titled: Fun and Hijinks in the Land of Sheol has an interesting back story. I don’t recall the specific date, but there was a specific terrorist attack in France, during a major holiday. The terrorist in question drove a box truck down a long, crowded street of civilians during the height of festivities. My sincere belief was that there was a special place in Hell for such a person and yet, that wasn’t quite good enough. No, I needed to take it upon myself to meticulously craft this terrorist’s specific corner of hell, as well as his most dutiful hostess. I considered it a moral imperative, and I enjoyed every last, delicious moment of it.
I was nominated by the great Heather Hayden, author of Augment, for the Liebster Award. I'm not only honored by the nomination but by being nominated by Heather. Please check out her blog! She's an exceptional author and person that I'm lucky to know. :)
Here are my answers to her questions, as well as my nominees and the questions I came up with for them!
Question #1: You are awarded a month-long stay in a gorgeous castle by the sea. The only catch is that there are no computers allowed. When you enter the castle’s study, you find reams and reams of beautiful papers and rows upon rows of pens. What kind of paper do you choose to write on, and what kind of pen do you pick?
This is a lovely question, and I'm sure I'm one of the few people who'd actually be happy to take a break from technology! After arousing from my fainting episode, I would select traditional parchment paper and quill/ink (can a quill count as a "pen"?). I can write on any 8x11 white piece of paper any day. I think the experience of staying at a castle would be complete with the pleasant scratching of quill against parchment. I would sit for days in front of a fire place, writing... Ahhh....
Question #2: You are given the opportunity to visit one of the seven following places: Stonehenge, the North Pole, the Cliffs of Moher, Yggdrasil, the Faerie Realm, Olympus, and the Black Forest. Where would you go, and what would you do there?
If we're talking Mount Olympus as in Greek mythology, I choose that! Of my many ethnicities, I'm part Greek and I've always been a huge fan of Greek heroes & gods, and the epics stories about them. I'm not sure what else to say as the other places would be nice; however, I think Olympus would be grand, beautiful, fun, and vibrant. (I keep a book on Greek mythology in my library for references when I write!)
Question #3: Your favorite literary character has asked you to attend a tea party with them. Who is it, what do you wear, and how would you arrive?
I'm going to epically fail this question, but to be honest, I can't think of my favorite literary character to attend a tea party with. I've been sitting here for a half hour trying to make up my mind. So, I'll say: I'll go with any character as long as I get to dress fancy and arrive via boat. (Yes, I'm picturing said party on the shoreline along any body of water.)
MORE ABOUT THE LIEBSTER AWARD:
The rules for the Liebster Award also require a small post about why I love blogging.
I think this is a wonderful opportunity for reflection because, to be honest, I initially started a blog because I thought I "had to" as an author...
I've been blogging a little over a year and my emotions and investments in this have developed at a rapid pace. I never was into reading blogs nor interested in starting my own; however, when I received a publishing contract, I had to think fast. What makes a successful author? While I conducted my research, I've learned that starting a blog was one way.
There was one gigantic lesson I learned immediately. You can't start a blog just to start one. You need a voice, a reason, and a passion. During the first month, I fished for topics to post. I struggled for content. As I struggled, I continued to network with fellow authors in my writing group and on Twitter. When I started reading their blogs, I sensed their passion.
That's when I realized I was terrified. What if I wrote a post that pissed people off? What if people leave nasty and rude comments? (I don't have thick skin). What if no one likes, or even cares, what I have to say? Now that I'm on "the other side", I realize this is a common fear. But, lesson learned, and I care about my blog immensely. It's transformed from just one platform to showcase my work to a wide open stage to share with readers and help other authors. That's why my motto is "Dream.Write.Share." Nothing has gave me more joy than hosting author interviews or posting book reviews. In fact, I don't even remember the last time I self-promoted on this site :)
After realizing my blog exists to promote other voices, and not my own, I will continue to maintain this blog for the reader and for the writer, and I'll continue to enjoy it.
NOMINEES & QUESTIONS
My nominees: Mae Baum, Sean Frazier, Cassandra Fear (I would nominate more but a lot of people I had in mind are already nominated :) ) They are all amazing authors. Check them out!
Question #1: You're given a challenge: Thriller fiction or Paranormal Fantasy. You must live in one genre for a month and write a complete novel of the other genre in one month. Which do YOU chose?
Question #2: Would you rather land a publishing deal with one of the big five but be forced to make major plot changes OR self-publish/with an independent publisher and be able to retain your plot as is (but must front a lot of money, effort, and advertising)?
Question #3: Where would your favorite retreat be: in a cottage on the Cape, a shack on an island in the Caribbean, camping in the Grand Canyon (I will accept "glamping""), a wood lodge in the Swiss Alps, or at a temple in Kyoto with a zen garden?
You can find the rules for/ learn more about the Liebster Award here.
Since the new year, I've journeyed to the perfect marketing elixir. I've already started this blog, participated in various social media platforms, submitted works in contests, and attended live events. However, book sales remain stagnant, so I decided to take a risk and try a handful of book promotion services, most of which I found on Twitter.
For most authors on Twitter, I'm sure you've seen a plethora of services boasting their social media prowess, promising exposure of your novel. As a new author, I had questions: How effective is it? What is the quality? Will this actually result in sales?
After participating in a handful of promotion sites/services, some free and some paid, I wanted to share my experiences because I firmly believe writers should support one another. Most of us don't know what we're walking into when a marketing opportunity arises.
If you want to check it out, please sign up for my newsletter before the April release! (At the top of the landing page)
Disclaimer: I address the specific of service I selected, as some of these sites offer more than one service. Also, I'm sharing factual information regarding my experience only. I scored them on responsiveness (if I needed to reach out), execution (did they do what I paid/opted in for), and quality. I will *not* include subjective comments as each person may have a different experience with the vendors. My scorecard is *not* intended to promote or discourage any service, but rather provide facts of what happened.
Today I focus on MDD: major depressive disorder. Aka. depression. We all love statistics: it affects approximately 16.1 million American adults (3.3 million American adults with "PDD"/Persistent depressive disorder). However, I believe the real number is higher because many go undiagnosed. Treatment guidelines are individualized, but therapy is generally recommended first (whether it's speaking with a counselor, psychologist, CBT) then pharmacotherapy or alternative therapy . As a pharmacist, I'm well aware of the hundreds of pharmaceuticals for treating depression, but many people are misled that it's a "miracle pill". Poof! No longer sad! More energy! An article "Depression: How effective are antidepressants?" found antidepressants improved symptoms in about 20 more people out of 100 over placebo. Verdict?: not bad, not perfect either  . But that's enough on that. I'm here to discuss the role of creative expression, primarily in writing.
*Disclaimer* This article is NOT meant to diagnose or treat depression or any other medical condition. If you feel you need help, please contact your provider, or 911 if you are having thoughts of suicide. This article is for discussion purposes only**
Those with depression, or simply having one depressive episode, can reap benefits from writing. This comes in many forms: keeping a journal or creating a story from scratch. Writing allows people to escape the confines of their mind and focus on something else or communicate their feelings on paper when they cannot be verbalized .
Writing can empower the individual and give him/her a sense of order. To someone with depression, everything is out of his/her control . People with depression can feel hopeless and useless, but when they write: they can write whatever they want. It gives the chance for the brain to re-organize its thoughts on the person's own terms. This feeling of control can bring about a sense of stabilization. When one begins to write, there is great potential to unlocking the chest of pent up thoughts and emotions, and it can be quite cathartic. Feelings comes to life. The art of writing is very personal- it can be burned without being seen by anyone else or be published so it can help others that are suffering.
But alas, there is one symptom of depression that some (not all) have that can pose a major road block to seeking any form of help: lack of motivation. I recall many days lying in bed or sitting down, knowing that going on a run or writing my book would boost my mood, but I just wasn't willing to move. The desire had been extinguished. While there's no solution, don't give up. Do something else that you can manage. Watch something inspiring or funny. My go-to was "The Office". It made me laugh and want to write my funny work experiences, and off I went. I also would bargain with myself: walk to the mailbox just for the fresh air. Once I inhaled the scent of pine in the crisp breeze, my body didn't mind taking a little walk.
Writing can be a tiny piece in the puzzle for people living with depression. It's a worthy tool worth trying. There's no commitment; you can start and stop any time you want. If you want to write out a memory or fly into space, it's your call. Something to think about.
I know that I use multiple tactics to battle my depression. I run. I listen to music. I watch "The Office". I draw.... And I write. I write like crazy. Multiple people told me that writing won't help me get over heart break, that it won't "solve my problems" and to face reality. I never said it would cure me. It was one of many coping mechanisms, and yes, it DID get me through heart breaks and other deeper cuts...
Feel free to share your thoughts or experiences about writing to get you through a bad moment. If interested, I may continue this series with anxiety, OCD, and ADHD. Any suggestions, let me know.
Also, here are some resources for depression:
"Change is seldom easy. But the ripples from a single stone can cross the sea."