Guest Post by Author Joel R Dennstedt

This month’s guest post comes from my good friend and indie author Joel R. Dennstedt. When I asked Joel if he would like to write a guest post for my blog, I told him it could be anything from fiction, to an opinion piece, as long as it was somewhat along the lines of my glorious outsiders theme. If you don’t already know what a glorious outsider is, think about the kind of person who doesn’t fit in and never tried to. Someone who turns their back on the mainstream in order to think for themselves. Someone who speaks their mind and stands up for what they believe in, even if this makes them unpopular or ignored. Joel wrote me this fantastic and emotive piece, and with the US election about to take place, this seemed the perfect time to post it. Note, these are Joel’s opinions from his own experiences in life. I admire him greatly as an author and as a person. Thank you, Joel.

As I write this from my hostel in Rancagua, Chile, the United States is but a fading memory.

I grew up in the States. I was born there. I was an American.

Although my passport says differently, I am no longer a U.S. Citizen.

I claim the world as my place to be; I claim to be a man-at-large within the world.

I have no home.

Everything I own I carry with me in a backpack and a duffel.

How did this situation come to be? Why did it come to be? Why am I to die while traveling across this vast and awesome globe called Earth? Why am I – at sixty-seven – finally a contented man?

In the fall of 2011, my older brother came to me and said, “I am leaving the United States to live in Merida, Mexico.” He was recently retired and not-so-coincidentally divorced. He is a traveler at heart, with the soul of a 19th Century explorer. He was off to see the world. “After Merida,” he said, “I am going everywhere.”

Take me with you,” I said.

We both worked for a bank. The worst of banks. The one perhaps most responsible for the huge financial meltdown of 2008. The one resulting from the most egregious and criminal corruption I had witnessed in a lifetime.

In the spring of 2012, we left.

More than 4 years later here we sit in Chile, waiting to make our next move – a foray into Argentina. He has made himself into a superb photographer; I have made myself into a writer. We have no intention of returning to the States to live. Ever. That is not a country to make me proud. That is not a country where I can afford to live. That is not a country for an old writer. If you read the news, you know that ignorance and corporate power now rule a country once proud to be most free and democratic. You know that an entire generation is mind-locked to its phones. You know that a national philosophy rests on pre-emptive war-making and virulent anti-immigration. Self-indulgence, self-assertion, and selfies rule the day. My oldest friends have become monsters. Not one person in a thousand could tell you where Merida, Mexico is located; I did not know, until we left to go there. Americans – as they arrogantly call themselves – do not know much about other cultures. They do not know the histories of the world, much less their own. They do not believe they come from genocidal forebears. They live in a fantasy of someone else’s making, which very few resist. Simply, I cannot be with them anymore.

That does not make me a better man than they.

That does, however, make of me a most contented one.

When I was a young child, almost in prophetic foresight of the man I would become, I refused to say the obligatory pledge of allegiance to our flag. I like to believe I felt the country had to earn my allegiance, not demand it. And if I ever had it, I left it far behind. The country has certainly not earned such blind allegiance, if ever it had the right to claim it. And those who now claim to be patriots disguise their lack of insight and discrimination (not the kind they act out) with shallow phrases, mindless affirmations, and aggression as a virtue in itself.

That is not a country meant for me.

And so, tetherless in a world defined by rampant nationalistic pride, where every unit of humanity defines itself by origin and would hope to rid the world of every other, I move about with conscious non-allegiance to anyone but myself – a severely selfish act of vanity and pride; no better than the rest.

Except … the country I am looking for is nowhere special.

A world as witnessed by early humans – the indigenous people.

And maybe by long-term travelers.

And especially by those who read a lot.

Author-Journalist-World Traveler

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Thank you Joel! Don’t forget, The Glorious Outsiders is open to submissions for guest posts! I am looking for anything to do with writing or reading, or opinion/blog style pieces as well as stories/poems etc on the theme of being an outsider!

Indies!! What The Hell Are We Doing?

Indie writers, if you’re anything like me, you ask yourself the same question on a regular basis. It looks a bit like this;

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I’m sure my family think I am mad. None of this really pays off, let’s be honest. My husband chuckles when I declare I am going onto the laptop to ‘work’. He thinks I am crazy for giving myself so much stress.After all, it’s not like I have a boss breathing down my neck! I don’t actually have to do any of this, do I?

He can’t understand when I announce that ‘I have a lot to do tonight’. To explain, it usually goes a bit like this; ‘I’ve got to finalise the short story for the newsletter and I’ve got to fiddle with the template, plus I’ve got to share the newsletter link to my page before it goes out, so I can try to pick up a few more subscribers, then I’ve got to go over this week’s blog, because that goes out tomorrow and I haven’t added images yet, and I’ve really got to start hitting some book review blogs and I’ve really got to start submitting to some competitions, but I’ve got to finish this book too, and plan this other one…’

And I’m sure he’s thinking; um no, you don’t actually have to do any of that. You could have a night off and watch TV or something.

Indies, I’m sure you can relate to how I feel when I regularly ask myself; what the hell am I doing? Why am I doing this? Why am I writing another short story to add to another newsletter than only 19 out of 34 people will even open, and out of those 19, only 2 will go on to open the file and hopefully read the story? Why am I sharing my thoughts, my progress and my blog posts to Facebook so that it can show them to only 23 people out of 1027? Why am I asking for reviews when I might as well be banging my head against a brick wall? Why am I writing a book when the ones I have released already barely sell? Why do I constantly feel like I am fighting a losing battle? Why am I forever looking for the holy grail of ‘making it’ as writer? Will I even know it when I find it? Why the hell am I doing this to myself?

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I think it’s common to feel thwarted, frustrated and downhearted as an indie writer. You constantly swing between feeling like an outsider, and feeling proud to be doing it your own way. You feel like you have something to prove, when surely having a nice, fat traditional publishing contract, would be all the proof you’d need? As an indie, you keep one eye on the sales, you pester and beg for reviews, you enter competitions, and do all you can to promote without becoming an annoying spammer. You lose yourself in social media, and it is all for your books. Sharing interesting writer advice to Twitter, pinning funny writing quotes and making storyboards for your books on Pinterest, running events and giveaways on your Facebook page, and starting an email newsletter to try to gain a decent, loyal following. You do it all, don’t you? And wonder when on earth it’s going to pay off…

How do you know when you have succeeded? How do you measure achievement when you’ve chosen the indie path?

Maybe it’s enough money to live on, or to at least pay a few bills. Maybe it’s some level of fame, recognition or critical acclaim? Maybe it’s wonderful reviews, or just a nice, steady trickle of sales? Maybe it’s just becoming a better writer.

Sometimes I have to stand back and force myself to ask some awkward questions. What if I never sell lots of books? What if I never get the amount of reviews they say you need to get Amazon on side? What if I never win an award? What if I never get any recognition or any level of success?

Would I stop doing it?

No.

Never. And when I remember this, I think, fuck it, and keep going.

And what is success anyway? Yes, more reviews, more sales, an award or too etc, would all be lovely. Of course they would. They would make it all worthwhile. They would help justify the hours, the blood sweat and tears and sanity invested in all this. They would help alleviate the crippling self doubt and the gloomy, why am I bothering days.

But you can measure success in other, smaller ways too.

Such as, where was I a year ago? Or two? How about six?

Well, six years ago I was still working on the early drafts of The Boy With The Thorn In His Side, having dragged it out from the dusty suitcase under my bed where it had been living since I last worked on it aged 16. With my then youngest child starting school, I’d felt the strongest urge ever to get writing again, as that book had just never stopped talking to me.

In the years that followed that decision, I’ve published four novels and one short story collection. I’ve finished two more novels and am working on getting them released soon. I’ve started a Facebook author page and slowly but surely reached over 1,000 likes. I started this blog which also has over 1000 lovely followers. I’ve had many articles about writing published by Author’s Publish. I’ve fallen back in love with writing short stories. I’ve started my own writing business, Chasing Driftwood, running adult writing group and children’s creative writing workshops. I’ve been asked to run several workshops for children and adults by the Dorset Writer’s Network. I’ve become a reviewer for Underground Book Reviews, where I actually get paid to read books! There is so much more I want to do too, such as working regularly with schools, running workshops for aspiring authors and after school writing clubs. I want to write all of the books in my head! And if that’s not the main motivation for all of this craziness, then I don’t know what is!

Plus, I have a confession. I do moan, I do lose heart, I do get frustrated and I do have ‘I’m just gonna’ give up’ days, but do you know what? The truth is I actually enjoy all the craziness that goes with being an indie. I’m proud to be doing it my way, I’m proud to be learning from my mistakes, I’m proud to be getting stronger and more confident, I’m proud of the sales and reviews that I have, and the messages from readers. And as for all the other stuff; Pinterest, tweeting, author page, email newsletter…yeah, I have to admit it is all quite fun. Admit it!! It is fun!! Plus, writing blog posts, learning how to master social media, attempting articles and short stories, will all help make you a better writer. You may be doing them for promotional reasons, but the process is going to help your writing in the end, so that’s a win-win!

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Now, over to you, fellow Outsiders. How often do you feel like quitting? How do you really feel about being an indie? How do you measure your own success? Do you enjoy all the promotional activities that go with being an indie, or are they a curse? Please feel free to comment and share! 🙂

 

 

Guest Post: Shalaena Medford on why your blog is not about YOU!

Last Friday I introduced you to my new look blog and explained why I had renamed it and focused it on a theme that connects my writing and reading habits. I promised you a guest post from the indie author Shalaena Medford who inspired and helped me with these changes, so here it is! Over to you, Shalaena…

Hello readers and fans of Chantelle Atkins! Thank you so much for taking the time out of your day to read my guest post to this very lovely author’s blog.

You read in her previous blog post about changes she has been making to her website. I also have been making changes to mine according to the things I’ve learned in my New Media course at Southern New Hampshire University. (Yep, you read that right, I’m a darned Yank from the States! Don’t worry, I will not be tossing any tea. I love tea.)

Right off the bat we learned one major thing, which is that this is not about us. Yes, our selfish little scribbler’s hearts, with its ego-centric blinders focused on arguing “But it’s MY book, and MY website about ME!!” Yes, this is true. But when we treat it that way it’s like sitting down with that one friend we all have that somehow makes everything about them.

“Oh, I just bought this lovely book and—”

“Well I saw the movie twice and I don’t think the book is worth picking up.”

I don’t know about you, but I’d like to hit speaker number two for three reasons. One: don’t interrupt, you egocentric prat! Two: Who cares that you’ve seen it twice? No one asked for your opinion, anyway. Now sit down and let the other person finish telling you about this book! Three: You’re not going to read the book because you saw the movie? That’s the point where I (in the words of Ryan Reynolds) “have trouble listening to the rest of our relationship.” Seriously, you’re going to judge the book by what you saw in the movie? Excuse me. I have to go do…something else.

So reading that MY website isn’t about me was jarring. Then I realized, it’s not that it isn’t about the author, it’s that it isn’t FOR the author. My website isn’t for me. It’s for my fans. It’s for you guys! You fabulous readers who pick up bound sheaves of tree skin with tattoos on them (most wonderfully colorful description of a book I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading) and get lost in the worlds that we, the authors, have created for you. So why wouldn’t our sites be for you? A place where you can sit down and explore all the nooks and crannies and feel right at home.

So then I had to stop and think about not just my steampunk series, but all of my works. What they’re about, who the main characters are and who they speak to. Who are my readers? Chantelle writes about outsiders. I realized my main characters, and my readers, are misfits, or what I call the “socially abstract.” But my characters are at that point where they’re looking for the place where they fit in, or at least still trying to accept that they will always be on the outskirts of most social circles. My characters, like my readers, are still growing and learning to become comfortable in their own skin.

Once the reader type had been established, it was only a matter of finding out what they would like to see and what would engage them. I’ve set up a “share your story” page for those who have triumphed in their own small way (i.e. coming out, standing up to a bully, etc.), and I share their stories in my blog. In their own words. Because we all deserve a voice, no matter how insignificant we feel.

When I had a good grasp on what I was doing for my website, I decided to pass along the information to Chantelle. I’d been reading her articles for ages, which led me to follow her on Facebook, and eventually message her (mostly to ask who does her fantastic covers! I’ve since hired the same artist for one of my upcoming novels) and try to connect. It’s only recently we began talking more, and I am so glad we have. Chantelle is a genuinely wonderful person. While I haven’t had the pleasure of reading more than a page of her works, I think her writing is absolutely wonderful. But I’m sure you already know that!

So, here’s to Chantelle, for gracing us with her words.

And here’s to you, the readers of the world, who give authors like us a purpose. Enjoy Chantelle’s page (or mine if you really want to pop in and see what sort of crazy is going on in there). Because it was made for you.

Thank you for reading!

Remember to always stay abstract!

~Shalaena Medford: Author, Editor, Designer, Weirdo~

(Blushing! Thank you so much to Shalaena for writing this guest post for my blog and for helping me so much lately! I know she would love to connect with you also on her blog Socially Abstract. You can also follow her page on Facebook and link up on Twitter. And if you’d like to check out her work, here is her page on Pronoun.

This is the first guest post I’ve published to my blog and thanks to the wonderful writers I have connected with over the years, there will be many more to come! If you would like to submit something to post on my blog then do get in touch. If writing related, then any topic is fine. If it’s fiction or non fiction then something along the outsiders theme would be brilliantly received. See you on Friday!) Please feel free to comment below! 

New Name, New Blog? Well….

If you follow my blog, you may have noticed I’ve been a bit absent lately. Not that I was ever a rigidly regular poster (although that all may be about to change!) I was always more of a write when I have something to say kind of blogger…

So, questions?

Where have I been and what have I been doing?

Why have I changed the name of this blog? What does it all mean?

Stay with me, and all shall be explained.

Firstly, I’ll blame the absence on two things. One, writing books. Or more to the point, struggling with what feels like the millionth draft of one particular pain the arse book…yes, you’ve guessed it, I’m talking about The Tree Of Rebels. Long story short; it still needs more. It needs more detail, more meat, more clarification, and it also needs the sequel to be finished.  (More on this another day!)

The second thing to blame my absence on, is actually a person. The brilliantly quirky indie author Shalaena Medford. We connected recently on social media, and got talking about selling books and building an audience. Luckily for me, Shalaena is currently studying book marketing as part of her Writing and Publishing course, and she was happy to share some articles and some knowledge with me. She showed me how she was updating and revamping her blog, making it appeal to the type of readers who would enjoy her work. (Don’t worry, I have roped her in to write a guest post explaining how and why authors should build an author platform. She’ll be able to explain much better than me!) There are many strands to this, and lots of advice to take on board, but the one I’ve been concentrating on is re-branding the blog.

Now, I know that all sounds rather cold and corporate, but it’s actually very sensible and even quite fun! So, why have I re-branded my blog and what does that actually mean?

When I started this blog I hadn’t published any books. I simply wanted a way to share my works in progress with my Facebook friends. I called it Life In Words as a temporary name while I tried to think of something better. A few years later, with published books under my belt, I started to put more effort into the blog, listening to the advice of others, and adding pages and blogging more often.

Anyway, after chatting to Shalaena, I realised that another blog overhaul was badly needed. And this time it had to be serious. I needed to think about what my books had in common. Who were they about? Who were they aimed at? Who would like them and why? It slowly dawned on me that they all had a common theme, which was the main characters being outsiders. They are all, in one way or another, rebels and non-conformists, individuals who aren’t bothered about fitting in. I then had a further revelation. The kind of books I like reading are the same! A whole list sprang to mind, and I realised that it’s always the characters I am looking for, and it’s the quirky, the weird and the rebellious that draw me in. So my work and my reading list had a common theme! It was time to think up a new name for the blog and gear it towards that theme. Now this is not a rigid thing. Just an acknowledgement of a theme that runs through my work, and through the books I read, the politics I believe in, life experiences and so on. It was all already there. I just needed help to see it.

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So that’s what I’ve been doing for the past few weeks. Revamping the blog. Re-branding it! Helping to streamline and focus it, with the intention of attracting the kind of people who will genuinely want to read my work and hear what I have to say. I’ve added some new pages! I now have a Recommended Reading page, where you can find my favourite books, old and new. I also have a brand new Character Bios page, where you can find out more about the characters in my books.

And I have goals and intentions!

I aim to blog once a week, every Friday in fact. I’ve been too lazy about this in the past, and of course, it goes without saying, that if you want people to engage with you, you’ve got to show up regularly and put the work in. Every Friday I will post something. It might be about my week, my writing, books I’ve read, thoughts I’ve had, who knows? But I will be here!

There will be guest posts! These will be mostly from writers, but also other people with something to say. There may be extracts from novels, works in progress, and opinions on writing, publishing and marketing.

And I am asking for submissions! I need you too! I need your input. Your book recommendations, your favourite authors, your own thoughts, your own stories. I am open to anything, so just contact me. As long as it is somewhat in keeping with the outsiders theme, OR is generally writing related, then I am interested!

My guest posts will run on Mondays from now on, starting with the wonderful Shalaena explaining how  and why she has been working on her own blog identity.

But for now, it’s over to you. Do you have a blog for your writing and if so, how did you choose the name? Does it have a theme that relates to your own writing or not? If you’re a reader who follows blogs, which ones attract you and why? Please feel free to comment below! See you next time!