How to Help Your Indie Writer Friends

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This topic spills buckets and buckets of online ink. But it provides an excellent place for writers to communicate important needs to their unique audiences. Let’s face it, the average indie writer starts with a base of family and friends. Of course that is okay. The fact that anyone buys a book at all is a major accomplishment considering the near infinite choices of reading material on the web. If you want your burgeoning writer buddies find a wider group, there are some very important things you can do to provide a wider megaphone.

 

  1. Write a review

 

I can’t state this enough. Even BAD reviews are good because it provides evidence that people have purchased and read the book. Reviews on amazon or any other online retail space lend an important legitimacy to a work. It is a grand compliment to take time out of a busy day to sit and respond to writing. As you consider writing a review, don’t include personal information or discussion of your relationship with the author. The appearance that a reader came to the book blind lends even more credence to the book’s value outside of the friend/family connections, and make it’s that much more enticing.

 

  1. Discuss the book with friends, especially those who may have interest in the topic

 

Readers have more power than ever to influence the market. Each one of you is a walking ad agency that can influence the decisions of others. So many people have already made great use of this with Social Media like instagram and facebook, but even casual conversations are a great place to bring up a friend’s work. Every sale is cherished, and the likelihood of that new reader sharing the book with others is worth more than its weight in gold. Think about who in your friend circle may enjoy the book or has a vested interest in the topic it discusses.

 

  1. Bring up the work to book clubs, request at libraries and local bookstores

 

These can be tricky as you certainly don’t want to make yourself into a nuisance. Book clubs, library requests and local bookstores are chance to give your indie writer buddies a huge boost in sales. Taking time to make one simple suggestion or request won’t take up too much of your time and certainly don’t feel bad if the suggestion doesn’t result in a sale. Think instead that your discussion has spread word of the writing. Hopefully another will follow up on this request and organizations will soon take notice.

 

  1. Create a post on social media and tag anyone who may be interested

 

This is another item to put into the “nuisance” category. But one quick post on social media has so much potential. If the author has a website consider posting a link with a few comments about their work. Consider friends who do not live in the author’s area as a way to spread their audience geographically. Post a favorite quote, or even a short review. One post is certainly enough. No author wants to be treated like Amway or a MLM marketing scam. Sincere, concise posts take an author farther than most people realize.

 

At the end of the day, being a reader is more than enough, as being read is the single greatest gift we can give to our burgeoning authors! These suggestions are just a way to go the extra mile in a world where viral marketing is beast so few will ever tame.

 

Thanks for reading!

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Prufrock in the Age of Incels

 

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I have avoided The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock like the plague. There was always something about the poem that made me feel completely and utterly hopeless, which I believe is by design. But it goes further than that; there lurked something personal. I felt so deeply similar to Prufrock that I feared I would share his fate, wandering wraith like on the beach listening for mermaids. I was a loser. A disconnected, weirdly emotional loser that always stood out and never felt connected to anyone or anything.

We are going through many transitions at the school where I teach, and one of the most frustrating things for me is the switch to a new textbook. Textbooks bring with them heavy -handed, pedagogical umph. The choices as to what poems are included can force a literature class down a narrow choice of predetermined paths and I usually balk at them. Within this textbook, I made the decision to focus on Prufrock as a sort of challenge to myself. One of the only joys I find in aging is the constant reassessment of texts as I visit them in new stages of life. Different things stand out to me and I find the more complicated works unveiling themselves to me more readily as the years pile on.

Prufrock aged in some very peculiar ways that have much more to do with our current sociological climate. I felt my jaw hit the floor as I watched Prufrock bumble his way through the lives of women, coming up short and drifting away in a haze of lonely self obsession. And it hit me like an Emu rampaging down a dirt road while I jog and listen to Bon Jovi on those weird new Air Pod things.

J. Alfred Prufrock is an incel.

In a lot of ways I always knew this, but now I have a word for his predicament that brings his harsh and bitter reality in crystal clear focus. Prufrock wants nothing more than to have a connection with another. To reach out with his complex (if silly) soul and to have someone appreciate his inner self. But every attempt to connect goes hopelessly awry. Each mis-step crushes his fragile self-esteem even more to the point that his neuroticism has taken possession of him. He is a creature DEFINED by idiosyncrasies and built entirely upon the pain of his failures.

Compare this to the modern incel. A creature of the web, an incel is a man (and in some cases a woman) who is unable to function in the world of sexuality. They struggle to find partners for a variety of reasons. Some claim to not have the looks required of men for sexual competition. Others blame their height, anxiety, or weight for their problems in the romantic field. Incels have formed online communities devoted to the discussion of sexuality, and while many seek to rectify their difficulties, other have sunk into a similar despair to Prufrock, feeling lost and fragmented like the famous ragged claws crawling across the bottom of the sea.

But where Prufrock focuses his attention inward, blaming himself as much as the sickening modern world that has cut him off, incels often turn their rage to women themselves in a vile misogyny,  Labeling attractive women as “Stacy’s” and “Roasties” in an attempt to dehumanize them. “Stacies” chase attractive men referred to as “Chads,” and other complex coded language fills these forums to describe what they perceive to be unfair aspects of their world. In essence, these self identified “incels” shape the world to fit a warped and painful vision built of their own suffering. It dominates their view of themselves and becomes a cult like dysfunction.

It’s possible Prufrock himself may be on the verge of his own violent rampage, or at least an increasingly bitter attitude to the women who refuse to acknowledge him. The image of Elliot Rodger filming his manifesto stands in a stark contrast to the shy and otherwise harmless image of Prufrock bemoaning his isolation. The forces are very much the same. Men often struggle to live in a world that takes issue with seemingly arbitrary facets of their character. Women surely struggle with this as well, but for the moment my interest rests with the men, who have taken obsession with sexual fulfillment to toxic highs. This may have always been with us, but the losers of our society have never found it so easy to form a community, to navel gaze and obsess with the myriad ways society has harmed them.

What is to be done with these men? What is to be done with Prufrock strolling the beaches and maybe taking solace with sexworkers in the seedy parts of town? What is to be done with them men crumbling under the primary desire of their being driving them to acts of violence even as their bitter tears flow?

The only authority I have to speak on this issue is the very little known fact that I myself was once an incel. I was very much of the Prufrock nature, immersed in depression and self loathing. I begged my dad for advice in my teenage years. The rules of the game, even the most basic parts of social interaction with others my age were just completely lost to me. I did not understand how to operate in the world. Looking back, I no longer blame my peers for rejecting me in a variety of situations. In short, I was a really weird kid. I was immature and just lost in the realm of how to act in groups. I would describe myself as a mix of being a doofus and just being lost in my own interests to the point that my relationships with others (especially girls) was strained.

My dad had no advice. All he could say was “I never had a problem. People just liked me. You mother just liked me and that was it.” It isn’t dad’s fault. He never struggled with this the way I did. How could he know some magical path to just “be normal” without also sacrificing who I was? How does one keep the dreamy, somewhat annoying charm of a Prufrock without being disingenuous? There was literally no answers. I had to just keep putting one foot in front the other, bungling relationship after relationship and looking like an idiot. I did not really begin to date until I was 22. Even then I sometimes ask my wife why the hell she overlooked some of my more bizarre behaviors. I still have an incredibly Prufrock like sensibility at times and I am not sure I ever truly understood my problems until I was treated for depression and ADHD. I am not exactly an attractive person. I can only credit my persistence (and careful attention to not being a creep) for ever winning the affection of another.

I lurk on incel boards and have such mixed emotions about these men. Sure there is a sense of morbid curiosity and freak show like effect, but ultimately I FEEL for these men. I want to help them get past their psychotic love for their own suffering that I once shared. I want to reduce their pain and help them find some measure of normalcy for themselves, but for the love of Christ I just don’t know how it could be done.

We need to find a way to teach boys and young men how to maintain their psychological well being. We need social exercises so that men can discuss their difficulties without collapsing into a conspiratorial blame game. Incels need to confront their own delusions about what the world owes them, to build a respect for women not as women but as fellow humans that are often as confused and trapped as they are. There is never any guarantee that a man will find some dream girl living in their spaced out fantasies. But there is the potential to find something completely unexpected. That hope never dies, but the darker aspects of inceldom kill it slowly with misogyny, bitterness, and even violence.  

At the end of the day, Prufrock listens out upon the waves though no one sings. The human voices drown our hopes, but as long as we live we can continue to look out upon a grey horizon and keep walking toward some future. At some point, it’s better to turn away from the ghostly voices of the sea and look inward. There you may find some song with which to build a life filled with a strange, and worthwhile joy. 

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Illustrations by Julian Peters, found on Google Search

For more musings on the complexities of mental health, check out the author’s Non-fiction writing.

His time in a psychiatric center

 
And meditations on religiosity.

So You Are Going to a Psych Ward. Four Things to Expect

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

There are few things that form a definitive milestone in one’s life quite like an extended stay in a Mental Hospital. So much pop-culture has explored this mecca of self discovery, but you may not realize that many of the Girl Interrupted/Cuckoo Nest films depict a world a little more idyllic than what actually awaits the mentally wayward. Besides the lack of attractive Hollywood talent, here are some of the more shocking truths that await you.

  1. You will most definitely get fat.

Any effort you have put into fitness leading up to your vacation from sanity is about to get blown straight to hell. The quality of the food varies from one facility to another, but considering they are serving cafeteria style fair to a likely unruly bunch, its gonna be full of carbs and all sorts of fatty, buttery, butt busters. I can’t say with 100% certainty that their goal is to constipate you, but prepare to not poop for at least a week. Add in the fact that a great deal of comfort will come from vending machine sodas and candies and you have a perfect storm of bad health decisions within reach in a confined space you cannot escape.

And for added punch, your medication is gonna fluctuate, which opens the door for all sorts of metabolic shenanigans. Which leads us to…

2. You will be pulled off your meds, only to be over medicated like a member of Pink Floyd.

This sounds awful, but from a medical stand point it makes sense. Most of the people in there with you are simply struggling with a meds issue. People grow resistant to their medication and eventually spiral out of control. The best way to make adjustments to one’s chemistry is to detox and start from a blank state. Add on to the emotional damage an extended period of faulty meds can wreck on the brain, and the best way to bring a person down from such lofty heights of delusion is to flood their brains with artificial calm.

People are often very belligerent and in a menagerie of irrational thoughts. The first goal of treatment is getting patients to ATTEND treatment. Sedated patients are typically much more passive and cooperative. It can be a recipe for relaxation and involuntary acceptance of one’s surroundings which is great if the thing that sent you to the loony bin was anxiety. But for others there is also the possibility of uncontrollable gas and dry body parts that are otherwise supposed to remain moist.

Regardless of the side affects, you are going to need this period of “I don’t give a f*%ck,” because despite what you might believe.

3. This is not a damn vacation.

I was under the impression that the mental hospital would be a place of isolation and calm. I needed some quiet to put myself back together with the aid of constant therapy and a feeling of security. Nothing could have been further from the truth. You are jammed in there with a throng of people just as, and likely even more messed up then you. You will share your living space with bi-polar depressives,  paranoid schizophrenics, panicky Alzheimer patients, and even sufferers of alcohol and heroin withdrawal.

The last one threw me for a loop. There were two halves to my hospital. One ward handled mental illness on it’s own and the other was devoted to drug rehab. Modern medicine typically looks at drug addiction as a MENTAL health problem, so after detox, addicts will filter into the mental only ward to explore the root of their problem.

Every single person you meet in this facility will trigger the ever living shit out of every single mental hangup you ever nurtured. You will flow with hate and break like glass on an almost hourly basis. It is unrelentingly awful. And you know what? That’s the whole point.

Those breaking points are your opportunity to actually explore and identify the irrational parts of your psyche. You won’t get better in a sheltered and peaceful environment. You must be led to the source of your dysfunction, or in this case constantly bombarded with it like a soldier storming the beach at Normandy. Once you realize this, you can begin to engage with your therapy and take an honest look at yourself. You may even leave with a few new, interesting phobias. To this day I get horrified at the very sight of balloons due to an exercise  involving a volleyball style exercise where a fellow patient thought the balloon was his father and constantly slammed it into my face.

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The Terror…

 

You need to come to this realization quickly as well because…

4. Your time is short.

Before I went on my “mental vacation,” my father told me it would be the biggest mistake of my life because they would never let me out.

Good God he couldn’t have been more wrong.

Mental health treatment costs money. The olden days where people would just lock up the feeble minded and relegate them to the “ward of the state” status is over. Your stay is often dictated by the whims of your insurance. Better insurance means a longer stay. The need of care isn’t really the true barometer for the amount of treatment you receive. The average stay in my facility was one week, so it was important to come to Jesus quick if you wanted to get true benefit.

Lastly, the duration of your stay has a positive benefit. My dad also thought my reputation and life would be ruined with the label of mental illness following me around forever. That is also thankfully false. I kept my job and suffered no consequences due to my care. If anything, my workplace was more than happy to keep up the slack while and went and glued the broken pieces of my mind back together.

To close out this piece, if you need psychiatric care GO! Regardless of the specifics to your facility, or the insurance qualms, or the comfort of your bowel movements, the benefits of treatment are real. I can attest firsthand that nothing gets better without some form of treatment. Don’t hesitate, get the help you need.

For more check out my memoir detailing the experience and learn of the circumstances that landed me in psychiatric care in the first place!

Cyclops: A Memoir of Mental Health Crisis

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This is a short exert of my upcoming memoir exploring my time in a psychiatric center. Can’t wait to share more. My hope is to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health facilities and start a bold new conversation about mental illness and wellness.

Sanctum by the Sea

 

There is a jarring snap when the staff sit you down in front of that blank white wall and snap the picture. Before this moment, the reflection has lived. The eyes move in panic and sweat beads just below the wrinkles of the forehead. The image itself couldn’t be described as “pretty,” but it is alive. The perpetual state of panic nursed over weeks in some ways creates a nightmarish “hyper life” and leads the oppressed to react to all manner of stimuli the way a dog does after multiple surgeries at the same vet. It’s easy to grow accustomed to the image of oneself as broken, afraid and failing at the laborious task of masking all of those things.

But the picture depicts something shocking in it’s unfamiliarity. The figure looks dead. Eyes locked forward, the mouth hanging open with chapped lips cracked and slightly swollen. The hair parts down the middle, but the line revealing the scalp shivers it’s way up from the widow’s peak. The man doesn’t look into the camera, but rather stares straight past it. It’s not quite a mugshot as there is no sense of guilt or defiance. The face is empty, frozen in a moment where all the emotions simply failed.

I am in triage at a psychiatric institution. I will never again be a person who has not been in this place. The photo is the bottom, a memorialized testament to the -single worst moment of my life. I realize the doors have shut and there is no leaving the now collapsing beige walls. The hospital itself is in the process of remodeling. Exposed silver, red, and copper wires dangle from missing ceiling tiles and piss yellow insulation lies piled on the floor of intake. The lady helps me fill out the last bits of paper work. She isn’t as nice as the younger girl who broke the news earlier.

“There is someone coming to pick up your wife right?” She chews gum as she types in furious bursts. “She was pretty upset.”

“I don’t know.” The sound of my voice is faint. I feel like an actor in a terrible made for TV movie. “I shouldn’t have…”

“It’s not like it matters now. You should have known better than to pack razors.” She rifles through my things as she speaks. She separates out my toothbrush, looks through the pockets of my pants and opens a long box that once held trading cards. Now it contains deodorant and a pen. She flicks the pen into a wastebasket.

“Take off your shoes.” She spits out her gum and begins to unwrap another piece.

My arms extend and my fingers work the laces. I am not processing these things. It is as if I can see my own sluggish limbs from within the collapsing ceiling. They call this dissociation and it can drive you crazy. I don’t need any extra help with that.

“Take out the laces.”

I imagine how awful it must be to hang oneself with shoelaces. They are thin. The skin of my neck burns as I imagine them cutting not only through my skin, but straight into the muscle. I could honestly see this decapitating a person, especially one as fat and tall as me. My mind has been a gruesome place for a long time.

She takes the shoes and returns to the computer. I am left to bask in this thick and monstrous moment once again. My shoes feel wrong without the laces. The chair is wooden, and my ass has begun to go numb. I begin to register the sounds of my new home for the first time. We aren’t alone. Triage is apparently within the structure of the facility. Patients in bathrobes walk up and down the halls aimlessly. An occasional shout floats from somewhere deeper within. Laughs haunt the air, but the sound of an older woman weeping also rises and falls amongst the mirth. Fox News blares its typical cacophony and an old man screams for his mother. He just wants to know where his mother is.      

I had hoped Sanctum by the Sea would offer refuge or at least a quiet place to think. I lie to myself so often that my brain actually believes all it needs is silence to put the pieces back into their lost positions. Now as the the mix of cream tiles and broken hardwood floors shine the harsh brightness of flickering fluorescent bulbs into my already bloodshot eyes, I see that silence will be an even rarer commodity here. I have no energy left to feel despair. I simply am. The commotion includes me regardless of how little of myself remains.

A man about my age walks up. His beard scraggles like unkempt pubes and his brown eyes dart back and forth with speed. He chews the inside of his cheek and asks when the next smoke break is.

“If you ask again, there won’t be a smoke break at all.”

He winces, pulls up the hood on his baggy, grey sweater and turns his eyes to me. His hands drift to his pockets. The hair around his lips curves around a wide smile as he speaks.

“You seen them titties?” His teeth crawl out from behind his lips. He sways back and forth in anticipation of my answer.

“Um…no…I haven’t seen the titties.” Somewhere even further down the hall a lady screams for her medication. He looks a bit dejected, as if I had told him his cigarette break was cancelled.

“You know how to kill that Cyclops?” Conversations like this are still new to me. I have no answer. “You poke them motherfuckers in the eye.” His smile returns. He is pleased with himself for sharing this information.

The woman handling my paperwork gets up. She moves toward the voice yelling for pills. I am alone with the bearer of monster combat tactics. He suddenly becomes still.

“They gave you a real pen?”

I completely forgot about the pen sitting between my gnarled, callused fingers. There is still a flake of moist flesh slipping in and out of my teeth. I am likely bleeding out the tip of my thumb. Moving my hand is difficult, like reaching through water. I place the pen on the counter, careful to not let it roll off. These actions are slow like cane syrup dripping from a fork.

The man takes the pen with enthusiasm and giggles. He drifts back down the hallway to the center of the noise. I realize what I have done and begin to panic. My breathing tears at my chest and I begin to cry for what feels like the ninth time today. I can’t stop thinking of him taking the pen to someone’s throat. Maybe his own. I can see red ink blots spilling down his throat. They are real to me, dancing and blooming as vile flowers. There is blood on my shirt. I forgot about my thumb. I bite into it more and can feel the red patch of dermis rip as I chew flesh.

The lady returns with a huff. She sees my distress. This is obviously normal for her.

“It seems bad at first, but you will get used to it. Everyone is shocked when they first come in, completely normal.”

It’s not. I have already made another gigantic mistake in a long series of life crippling turns of idiocy. I am a sniffling mess.

“That guy. With the beard.” I stutter as I speak.

“William? Yeah he won’t hurt you.” She smiles. This is the nicest she has been to me. She is going to hate me in approximately three seconds.

I gather my courage. “He…he took my pen. The one…”

I didn’t finish. She acts without thinking, calls to two men not in the cliche white, but blue scrubs. They walk, not run. Their steps are strong and quick with purpose. There is no panic. Only purpose. I envy the distinction between panic and purpose. I have forgotten it.

There is no fight. There are no screams. She returns with the pen. She sits down in her chair and returns to my paperwork. “That boy. I swear to God.”

I am crying. I cannot breathe.

“Oh, oh God you didn’t do anything wrong David. It’s okay. I shouldn’t have left. It’s okay. William is fine. He wouldn’t be walking around if he wasn’t. Oh I’m sorry. That was the last thing you needed right now wasn’t it?” She laughs. A tech nearby laughs. He is a black male: tall, athletic, a smile almost bigger than my father’s. His face is the friendliest I have seen in months. His voice is deep but soft and quiet.

“Did William tell you about the Harpies? Or the Centaurs?”

I have stopped weeping. A sense of normalcy settles on my psyche. “The cyclops,” I say with a small tremor in my hands.

He laughs again. “Oh yeah, that cyclops is a real mother fucker.  

Forsyth: Poem from an upcoming collection

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I decided to write a quick poem about the memories of the confederate memorial in Savannah. We recently had a discussion about these memorial at the Church and the emotions are complicated. It’s so hard to look back without disgust and anger.

Forsyth

 

Azaleas are of course obligatory as well as grey knots of moss.

One can’t wax in verse without including a loving description

Of Savannah’s most iconic symbols. Kitsch wallpaper giggles

At another idiot’s attempt at profundity.

 

And why not? The sleepy, southern hell built a culture upon

Motel art and picturesque Kincadian levels of sap.

Here at the park where all childhood converged upon a fat,

Sloppily decorated tree when the air struggled to feel cold

 

Stood a fortress defended by our desperate need to bury

What never was. Grey stone walls, stairs and obelisks

Lift the soldier into the same mucous stranded oak

Branches so that we may revere him better.

 

My father, reeking of Ozone and rocking a boilermaker cap

That made him resemble a child waiting to play “ball,”

Drove us in and out of quiet, ancient streets. Stairs

Ascend to neverwhere, pavement cracks as ghosts

 

Play mad games of pretend. We honor heroes that never

Earned the honor of birth. “Remember” he says as Dolly

Sings Hard Candy Christmas for the sixth time.

I am still trying.