Playing with your fears!

I don’t believe anyone can conquer their own fears. Don’t believe me? Go back and re-read your favorite horror story or watch a beloved horror movie. Tell me you don’t feel a slight twinge of panic before the maniac chops his way through the door or saws one of the characters in half. Go ahead … tell me that. You can’t; can you?

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That’s me about 45′ down!

As a child, I feared the water and the dark. Recently I was reminded of both fears when I was peering into a pitch black, twenty-foot hole where I was already about thirty feet under water. We were going to the bottom, fifty-two feet below the surface. It was dark … it was watery. Deep in my heart I felt a flutter as the child inside of me thought about the range of sea (in this case fresh-water spring) monsters could be living down there. With excitement, I pushed over the edge and made my way to the bottom.

The truth is that I never got over my fear of the water or the dark. However, I did learn to live with them. That’s right, I learned to grab them by the hands and skip off with them to play in the fields of my imagination. No one ever learns to really conquer their fears.

It took me a while to learn to deal with my fear of water. I did eventually learn to swim and because I was so terrified I learned to swim very well. Today, I’m proud to say that I’m a very strong swimmer. I became so comfortable in the water I became a certified SCUBA diver and have around one-hundred dives under my belt. Not too shabby for a scaredy-cat like me.

This week I took my son to a place called, Devil’s Den Spring. I was there last in 1992 and it was a cherished memory. This week, I took my son to the same spring and we went diving. It was a cinch my son would become not only a strong swimmer, but also fall in love with SCUBA diving.

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Just like his daddy!

As I got older I found my fears changing to center more on my children. Will they be alright? Did I raise them well? Are they on the right course for them? Compared to my fear of water and the dark seem miniscule.

I suppose life is full of fears and there are no ways around them. Maybe you just have to grab them by the hands and lead them off to the playground for a while. Maybe you won’t conquer them, maybe you can learn to play well with them at least.

Happy New Year Everyone!

-Your Humble Servant

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Merry Christmas from Bryan the Writer

2016 has been a fascinating year. I would argue, at least from my perspective, it has been a great one. In addition to going to a bunch of book fairs, I also met some wonderful people. I love meeting readers, other authors, editors, and publishers. They are great to get to know. Not only does it make me a better author, but the tales that people tell are fascinating. Meeting other people in the business is always fun and educational.

I am greatly looking forward to 2017 which will see my new book being launched and who knows how many other things will happen. I certainly look forward to finding out! Stay tuned.

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Best part about an artificial tree … no wildlife!

As for me and my family, we are spending Christmas at home. My children and I are taking a road trip to Florida. My wife must stay home to work, but hopefully we can make another trip south to do some SCUBA diving this spring. I think we want to get away for a week at some point. At the very least, to spend some time laying on the beach.

From my family to yours, I want to wish you the Merriest of Christmas and the Happiest of New Years. May 2017 shine blessings onto all of you. And once again, thank you so much for participating on the journey of Bryan the Writer!

-Your Humble (and Merriest) of Servant,

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BTK is a Great Read

Bind, Torture, Kill: The Inside Story of BTK, the Serial Killer Next DoorBind, Torture, Kill: The Inside Story of BTK, the Serial Killer Next Door by Roy Wenzl

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The odds of being killed by a serial killer are impossibly small. You are more likely to be killed in an airplane crash than be killed by a serial killer. However, that doesn’t stop it from being a subject of fascination with American society.

Dennis Rader is a serial killer. Granted, he didn’t wrack up the numbers of other serial killers, but that doesn’t change what he did. It’s also of little consequence to the families of his victims whether that number is one or a thousand. Like other serial killers, there is a sick element to the story that can be hard to conceptualize for most of us. There are other parts of the story which will make you want to turn away, but it is all handled masterfully in this work. Bind, Torture, Kill: The Inside Story of BTK, the Serial Killer Next Door does an excellent job of chronicling the story behind a dark episode in Wichita history.

Well written, and well researched, this book holds a rare glimpse into the life of Dennis Rader. It really does mesh both the perspective of Dennis Rader and what the victims likely saw that day. It was easy for me to visualize what was happening while reading the book and I think it does a nice job trying to help understand the events.

I’m an author myself and I write horror so I do appreciate the element of psychoanalysis included in this work. It is almost impossible to really understand someone like this, but I like the inclusion of some theory provided within the framework of the book. It offers some theories which could be applied, in part or in whole, to other serial killers out there.

I also really enjoyed the fact that when I came to the conclusion I was able to go to YouTube and look up the confessions and statement Dennis Rader made at sentencing. It was really helpful to read the book and then go back to the videos to see them.

There is no way to understand a man like Dennis Rader. Those who believe in religion of any sort might explain it as a demon. He is pure egocentric psycho in a way few people have ever been. One of those people who simply cannot be let out of prison, he has nonetheless left an indelible mark on the world.

I highly recommend this work to anyone interested in knowing more about BTK and how he was finally captured.

-Your Humble Servant

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Accepting the Unacceptable

I love this time of the year. Every year there is a verse from the Gospel read that I completely love. It is Matthew 3:1-12. Now, I am not going to get all Christian on you here, but it has a lot to do with how you deal with editorial comments. So, stick with me!

That passage introduces us to John the Baptist. I love him. He comes out of the mountains, a wild man, wearing camel hair, and leather belt. He lived on locusts and honey. Picture this guy for a second. I see a man who has honey and locusts stuck to his beard and comes down from the hills screaming about someone who is coming after him who he’s not fit to tie the sandals of. Pretty cool.

He’s talking of all those things that make us Christians feel squeamish. “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath and come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance.” So, what John was doing here was telling the truth of the coming of Christ. Whether you believe or not is irrelevant. Within the context of the Bible, that is what he was doing. And you know what? People hated to hear it. Just as the Christians today hate to hear these words because they remind us we all need to do a far sight better than we do.

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Look, an editor coming down the mountain with ‘suggestions’.

So, what does this have to do with writers and writing in general. We can take a lesson from this if we look at our editors this way. They come down from the mountains (okay, maybe apartment buildings) and tell us things we really don’t want to hear. Some of it is easy to hear … but a lot of it is hard to listen to.

No one wants to hear from another person that the thing you poured your blood sweat and tears into for the last year has a gaping plot hole or, in my case, I totally overused pronouns and really need to go back and think about their usage a little more.

Worse yet, it’s hard to accept that magic didn’t fly from your fingertips and every paragraph is as beautiful as spun silk.

And sometimes, even if you are completely in love with the work you have put down on the paper, you hear from people that what you wrote is just complete garbage. Your beta readers and your editor will be the ones to tell you that. And it will sting!

It is going to hurt and you are going to want to kick things. But, such is life.

What do you do when it all looks dire? Simple really. Get up, dust off your chaps, and get back on that horse. You may not like it, but the work won’t get done unless you do it. I recently heard a holocaust survivor talk about what things were like in his time at a concentration camp. He really had an amazing story to share. But what was fascinating is that he reminded the children in our congregation that they had to take control of their lives and make it their own. Make yourself into who you want to be, because you have that chance. As a teen, he never got that chance.

I want to be a full-time author. So, as much as feedback can hurt, I’m going to do it. Ultimately, it’ll make me a better writer. As John the Baptist came down from the mountains to try and make us all better Christians, my editor comes down from a one bedroom apartment wearing a terrycloth bathrobe to speak the truth to me. At least, that is how I envision it.

-Your Humble Servant,

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The Role of Social Media in the Life of a Writer

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with social media. To be fair, it’s mainly a hate relationship. As most of the full-time writers will point out, you must have a presence in social media if you have any hope of being successful. So, why do I dislike social media? Mostly because it detracts from my own desire to lock myself in a small room, turn off the lights, and live exclusively in my own head.

There are other reasons. As the 2016 Presidential cycle demonstrated, social media seems to be a world filled with children who love to shout their own ill-informed opinions from the highest towers as loudly as possible. Lots of people talking but no one listens.

Building a social media following is difficult. Finding followers is like finding a needle in a haystack that is perpetually doubling in size and the needle shrinks every morning. Still, it is possible. Last time I looked, Stephen King had around 4,800,000 followers on Facebook. Dean Koontz has about 1,300,000. A few of the authors I personally know have followers ranging from 3,000-28,000.

Facebook and Twitter are like standing on the top of a proverbial mountain, shouting out to anyone who’ll listen while being constantly interrupted by the latest scandal or impossibly cute cat video. How does a guy who writes stories about serial killers and malevolent spirits compete with that?

The situation on Twitter is almost worse when you consider the word count limitations. When you write novels, the idea of putting all your thoughts into the space of a paragraph is hard. I think it’s akin to asking a chef who is used to cooking for eight hundred a night to cook one meal for a picky seven-year-old and ensuring there are no leftovers.

Social media can be a great tool to get your message out to the world. But it can also be a hindrance. I have a list of everything I need to do. It is constantly changing and morphing as tasks get done or become irrelevant so I take them off the list. Not once on that list has, “Reply to the vitriolic rant of a former professor” shown up on my to-do list. Facebook and the internet, in general, is a huge time-suck when you think about it. Sure, you have to be involved in social media, but participation in the actual fray is detrimental to success as a writer in some ways.

Responding to things on the internet can be toxic. I see tons of other writers who thought nothing about posting rants about their least favorite candidate. I have to wonder how those rants might have drowned out their intended message to the audience trying to decide if they wanted to read their books or not. While it is great to have an opinion, opinions are like buttholes, everyone has one. If you feel the need to try and shout over the din that is Facebook, I wish you the best of luck. You’re likely not going to be able to shout loud enough or long enough to make any kind of difference.

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Just one my Facebook post and I’ll get back to editing.

I don’t have a good answer to the question of how to achieve success on social media. I wish I knew what the secret was. I guess I’ll just sit back and keep doing what I’m doing and pick up followers as I go. Who knows, maybe I’ll break the 1,000 followers mark by the end of 2017. Maybe that is the goal for Bryan the Writer. Let’s break the 1,000 followers on Facebook by the end of 2017.

-Your Humble Servant

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This is why I think Hillary lost

Bleary eyed and coffee driven, I wanted to take a moment to try and bring some clarity, from my perspective, to what happened last night. Before Facebook, Twitter, and other outlets lose their collective minds over this election and all of Hollywood picks up and moves to Canada, let’s have a moment of reality here. From Bryan the Writer, here’s how I think Hillary Clinton lost the election last night.

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  • From the very beginning, the Clinton campaign ignored rural America and the blue-collar workers who depend on big business, mining operations, steel jobs, and other industries to feed their families. For better or worse, she doubled down on the urbanites, figuring they would be alright with promises of more secure welfare when what they really want is a good paying job. The Latin American gentleman, who takes his oath of US Citizenship, is also worried about what everyone else is worried about; feeding his family. Trump talked to those minority groups and preached the right words and that brought enough people out to vote for him. It swayed things. Look at the wins in those traditionally blue collar states and you’ll see what I am talking about. He won by the slimmest of margins, but he won in places you never see a Republican win.

 

  • America wants answers. We just do, it’s in our nature. When Former Secretary Clinton figured we would all accept her explanations of the e-mail mess with her assurances that ‘it was behind them and they didn’t want to talk about it anymore’, she left a ton of people scratching their heads. Throw on top of that the dismal job numbers as of late and the pronouncement of double digit increases for Obamacare next year … well that makes people skittish.

 

  • The way Hillary Clinton left her audience last night tells me everything I need to know to answer the question of why she lost. When it was time to make that phone call to Donald Trump, she, and her staff, walked away and hid. They should have taken the time to walk out on stage and thanked all of their supporters, even if they were going to contest the election results or were flat-out admitting defeat. But, she didn’t. In my humble opinion, that was less than a classy move and shows an elitist attitude. This elitist attitude is what people saw from her the entire campaign. It bled through those awful pant-suits and the American population reacted to it.

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What you saw last night was not a vote for President-elect Trump. It was a vote against the last four years. People are willing to give a President four years to see if things improve, but after a second four years, the likelihood of that party staying in power is greatly diminished if they can’t make it all work.

Finally, America, do me a quick solid and take a deep breath. America isn’t going to vanish off the face of the earth because President Trump will be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States. The likelihood is that either he’s going to be able to fix a few things that need fixing, or he’ll be ineffectual as a president. He is more of a liberal than many people take him for. But relax America, take a deep breath, and maybe fix a cup of your favorite hot beverage. Things will be alright.

-Your Humble Servant,

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Bryan the Writer’s Only Political Post

You have heard me say that I believe the job of the artist is to hold a mirror up to the rest of the world. I’ve been thinking a lot about this election and what reflection it would cast on the American people. As I thought through this little mind exercise I realized that in this election we are so far removed from anything we have seen before that I don’t really know what the mirror image would show.

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Mirror … mirror … on the desk

To give you some insight into the political life of Bryan the Writer I’ll tell you that on fiscal and foreign policy issues I trend towards the conservative, on social issues I trend left of center. Not too dissimilar to most of you, if the political analysts are reporting their findings accurately. To make it easier, I am basically an average American politically. Where I differ from my more liberal leaning friends is on the question of the size of the government. I am for a smaller federal government and think the states should have as much or as little federal involvement as they want or don’t want. Before anyone jumps down my throat, I am just providing this as background to the following.

Northern Virginia is a microcosm of the world. When things are going well, it’s like a party around here. When things aren’t going so great, buildings are shuttered and the For Sale/For Lease signs show up everywhere. But you are just as likely to find left leaning conservatives and right leaning liberals everywhere.

I remember the Romney/Obama campaign. I was a Romney supporter. Yes, I had a sign in my yard. Think about that … a sign in my yard. Literally there were thousands of signs spread across my neighborhood. Some yards had three or four signs. I actually saw one yard that had both a Romney and an Obama sign. Who knows … maybe a mixed marriage? I can just imagine the dinner conversations now.

Harry said, “Can you pass the ranch my sweet little socialist, bleeding heart, liberal freak.”

Sally smiled, “Of course you pig headed, war mongering, capitalist, jack-booted thug.”

“Thanks sweetie, good luck in the election. When you enslave the nation with your socialist ideologies, think well of me.”

She patted her husband’s hand. “Of course dear, and if you win, please remember to keep some fresh water set aside for me before you let your large corporations pollute the precious clean water we have.”

I tried to count the number of political signs in my neighborhood. It was easy … there are none. Literally you can drive the length of our neighborhood and you’ll see no signs at all. You see a few around town for the local congressional race, but even that election people seem to have had enough of.

I don’t think it’s that no one is interested in yard signs anymore. I think we are reaching a breaking point in the American political life where we are having a Clinton/Trump hangover. We thought it was a great idea when they were partying in the primaries, but when we woke up the next morning to them being actual candidates, we now have to do the walk of shame. Maybe our political underwear is hanging out of our back pockets, hair stuck to one side of our heads, only one left shoe because we can’t find the other one. We keep saying to ourselves, “What the hell happened?”

A lot has been made of what our allies across the world think of our election. I have to be honest, I don’t give a rats arse what they think. While we are wallowing in our own misery, we still have a modern and capable military, our country is awash in natural resources, and we have one of the world’s largest industrial capabilities. So screw em’, we’ll sort this out eventually and this isn’t prom where we need to worry about if the rest of the girls like our dress or not. This is America, and if we want to show up naked to the party with a bow hanging off our thingy, you’d better compliment us on our bow!

Back to us now. Yes, we are in a bit of a rough patch. But we kind of did it to ourselves and we came by it honestly. Yes, I’ll vote. And No, I won’t say who will get my vote. Just know that when I walk out of that voting booth I’ll feel sad for our nation and maybe a little ashamed of myself for having to settle on either a candidate who should be in prison for breaking the laws I took an oath to uphold, or for a misogynist pig who I am not sure I want anywhere near my daughter. *sigh*

-Your Humble Servant

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