Thursday, February 24, 2011


I'd like to introduce you to J.S. Chancellor. If you  haven't already met her, you've been missing out! J.S. Chancellor is a good friend of mine. I met her through a review she did of my novella, Cinders, after which I discovered Rhemalda Publishing - now my current publisher.

J.S. is the author of the Guardians of Legend series. The first book of the series, Son of Ereubus, is currently availalble. The second book of the series, Blood of Adoria, will be released this fall. Also, don't miss out! In a few days J.S. will be giving away Son of Ereubus for free for the entire month of March! No strings attached. Keep your eye out. I've included J.S.'s blog information down below.

Special thanks to J.S. for guest posting here today on the Lab!

"In the cold, shivering twilight, preceding the daybreak of civilization, the dominating emotion of man was fear." ~Paul Harris

Ah, fear. Perhaps this would have been a better post for October, but we are...halfway through February.

If you've never seen the M. Night movie, "The Sixth Sense," then I'd suggest you skip this next paragraph because I'm about to ruin it for you (if you haven’t, where have you been all these years? I lurve that movie).

Bruce Willis is dead. Dead, dead. Not glittery vampire dead. Really dead. And the whole way through the movie, he's none the wiser. I happened to see this work of genius on opening night, and was blessed to gasp along with the other 400 people in the theatre with me, when the truth was revealed. As always, I relate such an experience to being an author (and a few other professions, but we'll let those folks blog about that).

I've learned valuable lessons lately; some concern the politics of the publishing industry---others involve fear---and through this, I can only come to one conclusion: I've been fearing the wrong thing.

I'm like Bruce Willis, trapsing through the story of my life, believing one thing (or another) while some larger, scarier, truth exists beyond my comprehension. It's ironic really. I read about a man in Chicago who spent his whole life avoiding planes because he feared a catastrophic crash and wound up dying in an ordinary traffic accident while on vacation with his family. Had they flown that day, instead of making the 300-some-odd mile trip, he'd still be alive (the rest of the family lived, just fyi).

As writers, we fear even admitting that we have fears. Once those fears are tapped, we fear not being able to contain them. We wrestle with how our characters explore such emotions all the time, but when it comes to our own lives...well, that's another matter. All paths are different, so I won't even try to address this topic on a specific basis...but overall, writing and fear are no more strangers than love and writing. In fact, writing is kind of a hussy 'cause she gets around quite a bit. Occasional flings with jealousy and a closet bondage kind of relationship with rage. It's a wonder she can keep track of everyone's whereabouts.

All kidding aside...I really have been fearing all the wrong things. I thought I'd feel one way about reader reviews, and I've found that my feelings differ drastically from my expectations. I thought I'd flourish under deadlines, and I don't...I flounder. At least I had the first four letters right. I also spent an inordinate amount of time wrapped up in non-writerly writing things that at the end of the day just stress me out. Why do I do this? Again...fear. Out of sight, out of mind. In a small way, it makes me want to travel back in time to the days when the internet didn't exist and writers could in silence. The net is wonderful and necessary for networking and building relationships (so long as you are aware of all of your actions and their consequences), but it's tiring.

Tiring to the point where my muse starts to go on the hunt for mistresses. And I can't be having that...

So...the real question here is: What do you fear?

Now that you’ve answered that, let me ask: What do you really fear?

You can find J.S. Chancellor on her blog, Welcome to the Asylum. You can also follow her on Facebook.


  1. You know, I fear so many things, it's hard to pick out what I REALLY fear, if that makes sense. I've been doing a lot of soul searching lately, though, and I've discovered that what I most fear is being alone. I fear that nobody will notice me, acknowledge me, or care about me. I fear of disappearing, if that makes sense.

    It must be deep inside me, too, because I often dream about being in the cold, often naked, screaming for help. This might all go back to the whole writing thing - of putting so much of myself into something that nobody will care about in the end.

    Of course, this isn't true so far. I am surrounded by amazing people who DO care. I think the real fear is that I will one day wake up and find that I've been forgotten if I don't keep up my networking or something. A lot of negativity stems from that. I'm still trying to work through it.

    Thank you for this honest post! I hope some others respond here today, as well. Where is everyone?

  2. I fear never being able to make a living off my writing and being trapped for the rest of my life.

    I fear not writing down every story that pops in my head before I die.

  3. (Sorry, the tweet was delayed until now. Might have impacted traffic.)

  4. Nah, Nevets, I advertised it on facebook and twitter, as well. Hmmm. I think it's just a slow day, honestly.

  5. Also, Nevets, I second your fear. I think that's a valid one, for sure. Feeling trapped is terrible. Do you really feel that trapped by your job?

  6. Great thought-provoking post, JS - as per usual, I might add! My awe of you grows daily.
    Ok, what do I fear? I thought I feared never getting published. That all my work would go to waste, would never get further than my family and a few friends. That all the passion, sweat, heartache, joy, release, spirit and creativity I'd somehow managed to channel and infuse into my books would be forever consigned to some dusty bottom drawer.
    But no - thanks to Rhemalda, who I discovered through YOU, JS,that fear has been laid to rest.
    So what do I fear now? That people won't like the book? That I'll get bad reviews? That the rest of the series never gets published?
    No. At least, not as much as I fear this. That I will prove unequal to the task of self-publicity, that I will let my creation down by being too ignorant of the processes, too self-conscious, not confident enough.
    That's what stalks my sleeptime these days - that's my current nightmare.
    Anyone else?

  7. When I was younger, I used to hide my fears a lot. Nowadays, I'm much more open about them, particularly to friends. In a strange way, I feel stronger being able to talk about my fears than when I kept them hidden.

    With writing, like Michelle, I have a lot of fears, but none of them seem that big or that unique. I guess my biggest fear is a universal one. I fear that writing (and all art) is pointless, that I'm spending all of my time doing something that doesn't amount to anything.

  8. I don't fear a damn thing about writing.

    Fear is relative. Fear can make you lose perspective.

    Embrace your literary fears and let them go.

  9. Writing Fears: None. Jumped that last hurdle when my Rush Limbaugh-loving mother embraced my novel which featured two men in a romantic relationship. I was afraid she would hate it. She loved it. But hey, she is my mother.

    Other Fears: Airplanes, elevators, high bridges.

    What I Really Fear: Oblivion.

    -Alex MacKenzie

  10. @Michelle - Short: yes.

    Medium answer: heck yeah.

    Long answer: I'll get back to you on that.

  11. Spiders. I'm not so fond of snakes, either.

    All the fears about writing are just kid stuff, I think. Really, what's the absolute worst thing that can happen? Someone won't like a made up story I wrote down? Nobody will want to publish the made up stories I write? I'll never get a book deal and die in obscurity? Worse things have already happend to me.

    Alex: Oblivion sounds restful. I look forward to an eternity of nothing, the universe going its own way without me forever.

  12. Scott: Though I've never been able to find a citation to verify this, a friend once quoted a line from Byron which I've never forgotten:

    I would not, if I could, be blessed -
    I want no paradise but rest.


  13. Self-realization and self-actualization are never kid's stuff.

  14. Nevets: If you require external acceptance as a measure of self-realization, you're not exactly self-actualizing, are you? You're just part of a marketplace.

    I just don't get all this desperation I see about being published. WFT? Mankind wasn't created so that some of us can write novels for money. We're back into the whole "what's it take to be happy" conversation, where we all agree that true happiness comes from within.

    Alex: It's from The Giaour: A Fragment of a Turkish Tale

  15. Scott, none of us are truly independent, and there are some interdependencies with others which are inherent as part of being socio-cultural animals.

    I'm glad you don't have the same fears. Your relationship with your writing is quite different from mine. That's fine and good.

    But neither of us is childish. We're just different.

  16. Oh, Nevets, I hope we're not going to have a fight about this. But here's the thing: if you read any number of writing blogs for any length of time at all, you see the same sort of "ohmygodwhatifInevergetpublishedmylifeisover" frenzy with waving hands and shortness of breath all over the place. And it's just a foolish way to live. What if there were no such things as novels? For the great majority of human history, professional novelists didn't exist. So my point is that making this into a zero-sum game and pinning my self-esteem onto this one activity is probably a bad idea and artificially and willfully limits my chances for happiness. Which doesn't look so much like an advanced metaphysic from where I stand. But basically you're still saying that if you don't get this one job, it's a tragedy. You can write without getting paid for it. I stand by my statement that if you're only fully self-actualized when your passion gets a paycheck, you've got a messed up worldview. YMMV, but if so, you need to get a different vehicle, bro.

  17. It's not the paycheck that matters, it's the freedom from being trapped.

    You're fortunate enough to not be trapped.

    I won't deny envying you.

    And if it didn't suck and wasn't a losing proposition, it probably wouldn't be as strong a fear as it is.

  18. Nevets: Oh, the number of dead-end jobs I've had where I felt my soul draining from me minute by minute, and wondered how my life had come to this, and wondered how I was ever going to escape the hell that was every day of my life. Sometimes I still feel that way. I spend most of my waking life doing things that have nothing to do with who I am, things that bring no meaning to my life at all, things that take time away from being a real person, etc. That's got nothing whatsoever to do with writing, and the odds are very good indeed that writing won't fix any of that for either me or you, so we'd be well-advised to look elsewhere for solutions to the existential problem of boring jobs that drain of us our humanity. And now I have to go scan 150 expense reports and then move them into the proper online folders. Then I'll match the reports up with sheaves of receipts and put them into campus mail to my colleague. I will attempt to think about other things while I'm doing that.

  19. I don't think publishing is the be-all end-all to writing. For heaven's sake, why did I start writing in the first place?

    Nevets, I also don't think getting published will un-trap you. I think you'll find different traps have surrounded you. What is freedom, anyway? Getting published puts you into all sorts of new boxes, and some of them are not pleasant, just like any job.

  20. I think the real fear for me here is that I will always be trapped by something. How I deal with that is the most important thing.

  21. Maybe it won't.

    But I guess I'm just not ready to give up on trying to be myself and be able to be satisfied even during the crappy times.

    Maybe someday I'll get over that and resign myself to whatever and just admit that most of life is a drag and I need to find my identity and fulfillment by looking outside of what I'm actually doing and being.

    But I'm not there yet.

  22. Michelle: Yes, that's it! The trick is to realize that they aren't even traps. They're just temporary (mostly) things we don't like about reality.

  23. Nevets, I'm confused. I think we should pick that up in an email... :)

    Scott, yes, most of them are temporary. That's a great way to deal with it - to realize that. Most of them are a lot smaller than we realize, too.

  24. There must be a difference between BEING YOURSELF and being a PROFESSIONAL AUTHOR. Otherwise, who the hell are you right now? Who's this pod-creature that's taken over Nevets' body? Okay, now I really do have to go scan a fuckload of paperwork.

  25. C.N. I’m sure you must know that the vast majority of published, paid authors do not make enough money to quit their day jobs. Heck, I’m one of them. I have never, ever envisioned writing fiction as a way to escape the rat race. I am fortunate in having a job that is not taxing yet pays well enough to let me do fun stuff. I’ve had much worse jobs. When I had much worse jobs, I did whatever I could to get out of them, but the very last thing I would have tried would have been “write a novel and get paid for it” because that surely would have driven me round the ruddy twist.

    That being said, I certainly went through a couple of decades of believing that if I didn’t get professionally published, I would be utterly miserable and a failure and nobody would ever like me etc etc until one day it dawned on me that other people don’t spend much time thinking about me and my writing “career” at all, if ever. No more than I thought about theirs, anyway. The second realization came a few years ago when I discovered a passion which fulfilled me in ways that writing never had (see my icon – it has to do with watching birds). Nobody cares if I watch birds. Nobody cares how many different species I see. More important, nobody needs to validate it, admire it, praise me for it, or pay me money for it. This passion became the most freeing experience of my life, because it showed me a world beyond social-cultural human expectations. I could engage it without needs, without hopes, without demands or dreams or fears. Nature does not operate on my schedule, nor does it give or take according to my whims and desires. It is simply there.

    And when I am fully there, everything about the petty, pedestrian, mundane, commercialized world of human beings utterly vanishes.

    As some of you know, I actually gave up writing after becoming a birder. It just wasn’t that important to me anymore. Though I did have one last novel MS under consideration at that point, and ironically enough, after I gave it up, that novel got bought and published.

    I highly recommend spending lots of time outdoors in non-urban habitats.

    -Alex MacKenzie

  26. @Michelle - Yeah, sorry for getting this derailed.

    @Scott - I wish I knew who the pod creature was, brother. But that's what I feel like every flipping day. But anyway. I've caused enough commotion for today.

  27. Alex: That is one of the most brilliant things I have seen written in a very long time. Thank you for sharing that.

  28. @Alex - I definitely know that most authors can't quit their jobs, but I know some do and personally know a handful who have, and I can't bring myself to lower my goals just because the odds are against it. I just can't operate that way.

    As far as the outdoors, I go camping every chance I get. Or I did, when I had a job that allowed sufficient time off for camping, at least. I definitely love it out there. I have my own life-list and stack of wildlife photograps.

  29. Actually, one last thing: since when do fears need to be rational?

  30. CN: not about lowering goals, more about realistic expectations. I do know a couple of writers who have managed to quit their day jobs. Well, rather, they were able to have writing become their full-time job. It can happen. It's just not something to count on.

    Re: rational/fears - I met a woman who was afraid of grapes. 'nuff said.

    -Alex MacKenzie

  31. @Alex - Yeah, this conversation has zero to do with my expectations. This is about my hopes, my dreams, and my goals. Not reaching those is a fear of mine. None of this is something I'm expecting.

    I try not to expect anything that's beyond my immediate control.

    And, grapes, yeah, that's what I'm sayin'. I expressed a fear. I never said it was rational... :)

  32. I fear rejection (still, even after receiving it), I fear always writing below my own expectations, but mostly I fear failing to achieve my dreams. (And the fact everyone will know it if I do.)

    Great post. :)

  33. True story: I was on a business trip, sharing a hotel room with a coworked, and I pulled up The Sixth Sense on pay-per-view. My coworker turned to me and said, "I'll let you in on a little secret, man. That guy's dead."

    My reaction was something along the lines of, "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!" Followed by, "WTF?"

    Still a great flick, though.

    And I fear being eaten alive slowly by pestilence-ridden rats.

    I *really* fear showing up at a writers' conference session without my pants.

  34. Such great commentary, my presence isn't really even necessary. What do I fear? I used to fear dying before I've gotten the huge cauldron of stories that are stewing in my head, onto the page. But, in all truth, I will die before all of the stories are gone....because they'll never be gone.

    I no longer fear "not being published" because, well, I am published now. I don't fear reader reactions as much, because they'll either like my work or they won't and neither opinion has any bearing on how I'll write my next piece, so why care?

    I suppose, what I really fear, are things that have so very little to do with writing itself. But, all fears affect our writing, because *we* affect our writing. Just like mind and body are connected, so are writing and being. We are, in a sense, what we write. As we change, our writing changes. So, reading our own work, tells us things about ourselves that we may or may not be ready to deal with. In some small way, I fear that as well.

  35. Well it was excellent post, J.S., thank you! It's good to think about our fears and how we're going to deal with them in the future. I can't ever pretend I don't have any at all, but I can learn how to handle them so they don't hinder me.

  36. I take it back I do have a literary fear.

    I fear I will read Michelle's next masterpiece, look at my work-in-progress, and know that my prose is the geeky date with tape on his glass going "Buh" while standing next to the Prom Queen at the punch bowl.

    Yeah, that's real. That's what I'm talking about. Everyone should have a healthy fear of having their asses kicked.

  37. Anthony, that just made my generally dull day much brighter, thank you. I'll have you know that the few things I have read of yours could kick some butt. I need a book of yours or something.

    I think you might be waiting for a long time to read a masterpiece from me. I have yet to see one. ;)

    Oh, have some punch. I promise it's not spiked. :)

  38. @Anthony - Now, see, for me Michelle's kicking my literary butt is an expectation...

  39. I can accept never being published or bad reader reviews (the latter would hit my ego hard but I don't fear it). What I fear is not being able to express what I'm trying to express. Struggling hard with a novel that just never quite reaches *that* mark where it actually explores what I intended to explore. I guess I fear artistic frustration.

  40. Actually, I believe I fear all of the same things Michelle does. After reading her reply, I don't feel the need to explain my fears. That feeling of being trapped, of always feeling the need to not wake up totally alone and forgotten, has always been one of my biggest flaws. That, and my issue to think myself into sickness. I don't think it's a healthy idea to seek self-validation throuh writing, yet I always fall back to that.

  41. lol. I've gotta stop being the last to comment on these things!

  42. I fear wandering around aimlessly for the rest of my life.

    Luckily I had a brush with the bigger danger, so I fear that more:

    Being stuck in the wrong direction for the rest of my life.



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