Do you know what today is?

Spring and Summer 2014 was a rough time for me (you can go back through the archives here to see allusions to back me up) – I was being pushed out of a job, my car died and personal/family issues set me back so far I’m still trying to recover from them to this very day. Two things I always had though – my laptop and the desire to write. I had played around with writing a novel before, but the anger, depression and overall hopelessness 2014 had given me so far was enough fuel that I wrote 11 short stories in literally six days.

That was the beginning of my self-publishing journey, my short story collection I’m Feelin’ That, and the encouraging feedback I got from the e-book version inspired me to keep going. As I begin work on Book Number Six (and a short story submission which I’m super excited about), I’m celebrating my 3-year indie author anniversary by making I’m Feelin’ That and my first novel Brothers Lunchin’ FREE on Amazon Kindle all weekend long.

Click on the books tab of this site to find the Amazon link to each book, then just hit that 1-Click and you’re in there.

Also, reviews are very important to us indie authors, so when you read and Amazon e-mails you asking you do you want to review – please do. Rate it as many stars between 1 and 5 as you like and write a small review.

If you thought it was great? Write about it.

If you thought it sucked? Write about it.

If you thought it was aiiiiiight? Write about it.

In the three years I’ve written and self-published books, I’ve learned a lot, made some friends in words and fulfilled some smaller dreams. I’m still hopeful that my work will find a wide audience because hey, I’d be lying if I said I was doing this just for the hell of it. I love writing with all my heart, but at the same time…kinda want the perks that come with it. It’s the sneaky Libra ego at work.

For right now though, I’m very happy with seeing my name on a book cover, seeing family and close acquaintances supporting my work and the sense of completion and accomplishment having books out there provides. Not to mention I have stories to tell. So no matter how stressful the process is, I keep writing, because trusting the process is more important sometimes than the actual process itself.

And three years really isn’t that long of a time, so the process is just beginning.

Video killed the radio star – my new book announcement

I probably picked the wrong holiday weekend to do my first Facebook Live video accompanied by a major announcement, but if you missed it, I revealed the next short story compilation I’ll be publishing and I also took some questions about writing, so if you’re interested, check out the video here.

If the video doesn’t interest you, I’ll just go ahead and tell you now – “When Innocence Becomes Experience – A Revealing Compilation” will be coming out Friday July 28 in paperback and on Amazon Kindle.

It’s my first time publishing straight-ahead romance and erotica, so I’m a little nervous, but I’m looking forward to it. Finishing up edits this week and I should have cover art by the end of the week as well, which will be debuted either here or on Twitter.

I’m still open to having beta readers and folks who want advanced copies reading through it and telling me what they think, so if you’re interested, e-mail me at chris.stevens2007@gmail.com.

The Facebook Live video is me trying to explore new ways to raise my visibility and profile as an author, and hopefully finding new readers and supporters. I decided to go live on Friday night and I thought it’d do well and the fact it didn’t is a slight disappointment, but I still think it’s a relevant tool for anyone trying to create their own way professionally, so I’ll probably be doing it again.

How to focus when sh*t gets stressful…

I’d be lying if I said the state of the world right now doesn’t have me shook. We don’t know what world we’re going to be in tomorrow, the next hour, the next minute, the next second and it’s terrifyingly stressful. Hard to say life goes on when one segment of the population is bent on destruction to get their money.

That makes it REALLY hard to focus on your daily responsibilities and makes it almost impossible to pursue hobbies, side hustles and goals. I haven’t recorded either of my podcasts in months. That’s how stressful things are right now.

All that said, we still owe it to ourselves to do what we can for ourselves and those around us. It’s a trying process, but you don’t want to leave here with any regrets. This is something I’ve learned as I try to complete much of what is on my vision board, much of which is still in progress and a few things nearing completion. This post is a quick checklist of what I’ve learned and hopefully it’ll help someone else trying to get things done during hard times.

Breathe. That’s Rule “Nombre” Uno, as the Notorious B.I.G. once said (of course it’s numero, but I’m not correcting the greatest rapper of all time, rest his soul). You can’t get anything done if you’re tense. So try to give yourself a few minutes a day and a few seconds at a time to just breathe in, breathe out. You’ll feel a lot less stressed and slightly refreshed.

Write it down. For someone who makes whatever living he can with his words, I’m awful at making lists and journaling. That’s something I’ve been changing in recent months as I prepare to run my first official 5K in September. I’ve had to chart my endurance and distance since I started running again in May and right now I could run a 5K today with minimal stress. All because I’ve kept a chart of my progress.

Self-Care. This is the wave. Please take time out of your day to do something for yourself. Whether it’s something as small a trip to your favorite coffee shop or corner store or something as big as date night (and if you’re anything like me, a night cap!), you have to take some time out for you and you only. If that includes someone else, fine. But for me, watching ESPN 30 for 30s and TVOne Unsung episodes OnDemand makes my life just a little less stressful.

Do what you can. You can’t finish something all in one day. Lord knows it took me almost two years to complete my fourth novella after publishing three in 15 months. So whatever it is you’re working on, you don’t have to finish it all in one day, but it is important to keep plugging away at it until it’s done. If it matters to you and it’s important, find a way.

Be kind to yourself. Last, but certainly not least. We are our harshest critics, as anyone who knows me can attest. It’s not helpful when you’re beating yourself up because you didn’t finish something when you wanted, or you compare yourself to someone else’s progress and life. Run your race in your own lane and pump yourself up while you’re doing it. You have to be your own cheering section first before other people jump on the bandwagon. So write down what you like about yourself, good things you’ve done and that you think you can do and go from there.

I’ve been searchin…

For so long…nobody like you…is nowhere to be found…

(Bonus points to anyone who can name that tune!)

Seriously, as I’ve gotten more serious about and focused on my creative writing career, I’ve learned in my Twitter travels and rubbing elbows with other enterprising scribes (thanks Eliza, Tamara and Tish) that you need more sets of eyes aside from your own before you put something out for potentially the entire world to see.

That’s been something I’ve been slow to act on because I’m very guarded about things I hold dear, and that includes whatever novel or short story I might be working on at the time. However, as 2017 is proving to be a year of “you better do it before you can’t do it anymore,” consider this my personal ad looking for beta readers. It reads as follows:

Bashful, shy, socially introverted novelist type seeks willing beta readers for various literary projects. Must be open-minded, detail-oriented and brutally honest. Apply within.

So yes, I’m putting myself and my work out there. I’m ready for beta readers because I crave honest opinions and I want to be a better writer. So if you have the eyes, the time and the honesty, shoot me an e-mail at chris.stevens2007@gmail.com or you can find me cutting up on Twitter @CJWritesNThangs. Hopefully we become a match!

…Or you can just tell me what you think about my writing. Yeah. Awkward Mamba Out.

 

Pantsin’ on the ground…

For the better part of the last 10-15 years, rarely anything I’ve written has needed or required an outline.

As a sports writer, it’s a simple process for me – watch a game, talk to coaches and players afterwards, describe the game and sprinkle quotes in the story, bam. Done.

Not that easy when writing a novel and that’s been my biggest lessons in my three years of Indie Writing – pantsing, the act of writing without an outline, feels like a pure process, but as I sit here with a true outline for a potential work in progress, I can feel the difference and I haven’t even started a rough draft yet.

Each of my first 4 self-published works were products of pantsing and I’ll be able to get away with it for my 5th novel (coming later this year) because it’s a sequel for Brothers Lunchin’ – the story of the Four Amigos just rolls on. But going forward, I’ll probably be outlining because structure is not always a bad thing, no matter how much I resist.

I decided last night that I was going to go forward with my plans to keep pantsin’ the Brothers Lunchin’ sequel, but my Christmas season erotica/romance work was definitely going to require some outlining.

A while back, I bookmarked a column by Robbie Blair over at LitReactor.com, highlighting 8 ways to outline a novel and after digging through all of my other bookmarks, I was able to find it.

Then I turned on one of my favorite writing songs, “Moon Over Carolina” by Najee and Gary Taylor and I got started by using a little bit from the first three way listed – The Expanding Snowflake, Pure Summary and the Skeletal Outline, which of course brought back high school and college memories.

It was exciting to see the way the outline and the ideas came together because it forced me to think about everything – the plot, the names and personalities of the characters, the setting – EVERYTHING. So when I do start writing it later this year (or maybe tomorrow, who knows? Moods change), I have a good outline/template to work with and that will probably make the story flow better.

Moral of the story? Don’t be afraid of a little structure. Then you won’t look like a fool with your pants(ing) on the ground.  Remember that?

2014’s Letter Or “The end of the beginning”

Dear Chris,

2014 is just about finished, so as per the custom, let’s take a look back at the year that was.

You started the year with a job that looked promising but turned out to be a dead end. It happens. But a couple of good things DID come from that job.

1. You heard a former news correspondent’s keynote speech that helped you understand your road is yours alone to take.

2. You learned some marketing and PR stuff which could help with one of your side hustles.

3. The anger of your contract not being renewed inspired you to do something you always wanted to do – write a book.

The book, yes. Two months of writing and editing and learning what it would take to publish an e-book and you did it. It’s a start, a great start, but now you have to continue to push yourself and your art to the next level, so in 2015, you have to write. No excuses.

Write something every day. Force yourself to write and let the imagination come in when necessary. You’ve proven you’ve still got it when it comes to creative writing, so it’s time to pursue this avenue with all the focus and passion you can muster up. It could be the start of something special.

Personally, you’re still fighting for your personal space and some peace of mind. It’s hard work, but at least you’re fighting. You owe it to yourself to create the life that you want. Even if it means cutting some dead weight out of your life, it’s always necessary. You haven’t been afraid to do so before, but just be mindful of who really does have your best interest at heart – there are people out there who care and are willing to help.

You’re still exercising daily, which is great, but your food choices leave a LOT to be desired. You need to fix that. Keep experimenting in the kitchen and at some point, you gotta realize having 32 sweet teeth is NOT healthy.

So here’s what we need to do in 2015:

WRITE WRITE WRITE – Create your stories and see what you can flesh out into your next literary project. Knowing you, it’s gonna be something great, but it only happens if you make it happen.

Cut down on the sweets – sounds easy, but it’s gonna take some time and some willpower.

Open yourself up to new experiences – you were supposed to go to concerts and sporting events last year solo and you did none of that. Time to change that. Also, try to work in some travel – there’s more to the world than Wilmington, Delaware.

Hobbies – you still want to start working on a project car, so find a VW Beetle body shell, buy a keyboard and teach yourself to play, SOMETHING. Figure it out. You’ve got to have something else to entertain you and keep you busy when writing isn’t enough.

Lastly – Let’s work on being kinder to Chris in 2015. You’ve been hard on yourself forever. You’ve always said that you’re beating people to the punch when you criticize yourself, but maybe that’s why people don’t get as close to you and your dating life is, let’s be honest, non-existent. You have to be good to yourself before you even think about being good to someone else, so let’s start affirming Chris. Be your biggest fan and everything else should fall into place.

So enjoy New Year’s Eve. Reflect, put together your vision board and kill those bottles of Sparkling Cider you have in the fridge. Because come January 1, 2015, it’s time to work, play, live and enjoy life.

Love,

Chris

The National Guard Comes To Dinner – A Local Perspective

So in light of the tragic execution of 18 year old Mike Brown by a Ferguson, Missouri police officer and the civil unrest that has occurred since, the National Guard has been deployed to the St. Louis County township in hopes of keeping the peace. The opposite will prove to be true and I’ll explain why.

In my hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, there were days of rioting following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in April of 1968 and Wilmington Mayor John G. Babiarz BEGGED then-governor Charles Terry for any kind of assistance to calm the fears of Wilmington, which had always been a mixed-raced city, but white residents owned most businesses then. Terry then sent in the National Guard, who was only supposed to stay in Wilmington for a few days. The last day the Guard was in Wilmington was January 21, 1969 – NINE months later, still the longest military occupation of any American city. Of course the Guard did more significant physical damage in Detroit and Newark, NJ in 1967, but the lasting effects in Wilmington are still felt to this day, mostly of an economic and racial nature.

My mother, then a junior high student, relayed the stories to me of an extended curfew, the Guard riding around neighborhoods in their Jeeps, even poking residents with their bayonets to force them back in their homes close to curfew. It sounded like Hell then and it will probably be as such for the Ferguson residents. When you talk about agitating an already-pissed off community (and rightfully so), bringing in the National Guard to collaborate with an already abusive, rogue and corrupt police force, it’s just adding fuel to the fire.

And unless the officer who executed Mike Brown in cold blood has his day in court, the flames will continue to be fanned and rise until it becomes a towering inferno that no one can ignore.