The End of Bookstores?

Do you think bookstores will become a thing of the past?  There has been much speculation that eBooks and online retailers like Amazon will make them a thing of the past.  Do you think that is true?  I’m not so certain.  Yes, retail is suffering a significant decline, but a decline doesn’t equal completely phasing retail out.

Barnes and Noble might meet their end or only stay in the largest cities.  There are still many people who prefer physical books over digital ones, I am one of them.  Independent bookstores are a novelty that attract a certain audience who want the atmosphere and are willing to pay higher prices for their books.  Yet, the naysayers do not relent.  Predictions of bookstore doom pop up continually.

I enjoy bookstores, and that includes Barnes and Nobel.  Then again my wife and I are odd Millennials, she still buys CDs. I occasionally get an eBook, but I like having a small library of books.  Not to mention reading comprehension goes down while reading on a screen.  When I buy digital media I also feel like I’m not buying anything.  A digital book on a digital bookshelf is underwhelming for me.  It is easy for me to forget about them as references too.

What do you think?  Do you believe bookstores will become extinct?  Would you mourn them if the predictions of their doom become reality?

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The Unexplained: The Cursed Forest of Massachusetts

*The Unexplained is a weekly series documenting strange and unusual phenomenon that inspire my writing.

You decide to go for a hike in the Freetown State Forest of Massachusetts, knowing nothing of the legends and rumors that surround it.  If you did know, being a rational person, you wouldn’t believe them anyway.  You love to hike in the late afternoon to evening hours.  There is something magical about seeing the sun set, however this day as you walk along the forest’s paths you start to feel off.  Out of the corner of your eye you see balls of light, after dismissing them at first more appear.  Nearby a large branch breaks, so large it sounds like an entire tree was felled.  You don’t know what’s going on, but you know you need to get out of there soon.  Running as fast as you can you eventually get back to your vehicle and race away, swearing to never go back to that forest again.

freetown pic

The Freetown State Forest of Massachusetts is a fascinating place supposedly filled with every time of paranormal/supernatural activity and then some.  Apparently, cultists and Satanists have done various rituals in the forest too.  Murders have also taken place in the Freetown State Forest too.  If all the paranormal stories are untrue, we know that human evil has been drawn there, nonetheless.  On top of all this craziness there are even reports of diminutive creature sightings from Native American folklore, the Pukwedgies.

This forest has become synonymous with the idea of a cursed forest, hence its name.  I find it so fascinating it was inspiration for my book The Cursed Forest.  Why all this strange activity in one place?  That is a question worth asking but one in which none have the answer to.  As with the other topics explored on this blog there are stories that seem more credible than others, but one thing is certain it is a strange place.

It can appear that one place containing nearly all paranormal activities in one place screams fictional.  Skinwalker Ranch would like to have a few words with those who feel this way.  Personally, I find this forest interesting, but I’m not sure what to make of it.  There are so many wild tales with innumerable variants it is difficult to get to the bottom of what really is going on.  The reality is if I were to go into all the details and stories of what supposedly goes on at this forest your eyes would glaze over long before I got half-way through writing this.  It’s difficult to dismiss everything, but again it is hard to know what if anything is true in these stories.

What do you think about the Cursed Forest of Massachusetts?  Have you heard the stories?  Do you think it is really an evil place or simply filled with folklore?

References:

https://mysteriousuniverse.org/2015/06/the-cursed-forest-of-massachusetts/

http://definition.org/massachusetts-most-haunted-spots/

https://www.onlyinyourstate.com/massachusetts/haunted-forest-freetown-ma/

Blogging Mindset

I once thought blogging to be a necessity since I became a writer, and that was my only motivation for doing it.  In the beginning I found little joy in blogging but approached it from a marketing standpoint.  I believe in some of my first blogs I might have stated as much.  I knew someone who blogged regularly and let’s say I didn’t appreciate his approach and leave it at that.  I didn’t want to do that and ended up holding back a great deal.  Since then my views have evolved drastically.

Blogging now is an outlet for me to attempt to share a level-headed observation on cultural issues, parenting, writing, and unexplained mysteries that inspire my writing.  The more I’ve discovered a passion for blogging, the more readers/followers I’ve obtained. (Shocking!)

If you blog, know why you blog.  If it doesn’t bring you joy, maybe it isn’t for you, or maybe you need to take a step back.  Blogging because you were told it is a good marketing strategy is a terrible reason.  Why?  Because blogging for that reason won’t work for marketing either.  I know, I’ve been there.  This is particularly true if you are blogging only to self-promote.

If you are going to write, you must enjoy it.  If you enjoy it success will still be slow, but it will eventually come.  This is true if expectations remain realistic.  I know before I have said that the only time you fail as a writer is if you give up, that is true if you don’t enjoy what you are doing too.  The reader can feel the passion in your words.  If you’ve been trying this writing thing for a couple years, there is nothing wrong with moving on.  Many of us go through periods when we think something is our calling and later in life, we realize we were wrong.

If you enjoy writing, stick with it.  You will find your audience.  Readers may only trickle in, but a trickle is better than none.  Learn from my mistakes, blog because you are called to it, not because you think you must.

Are Fellow Writers Competition?

If you are a blogger, author, or both you know there are millions of other people who are doing the same.  Gone are the days where someone’s dreams are beholden to the whims of traditional publishers.  Anyone can become a writer now.  Are your fellow bloggers and authors competition?

If other writers are competition that appears to imply that only one blog/book can be enjoyed by someone at a time.  Many people read multiple blogs, and anyone who considers themselves a reader reads more than one book.  People are hungry for content.  There are several books and blogs I read, and I consume the written word rather slowly.

Quality of content is what will set you apart from everyone else.  Even though many people read more than one book or blog, there are still millions of others all vying for eyes.  So, to answer the question if fellow writers are competition is no, they are not directly at least.  People can and will read your content as well as another’s.  Not all writers target the same audience either, that is something to keep in mind.  Not all blogs contain the same topics yours does, and the same goes for books.  Not all books are of the same genre (obviously).

What I’ve slowly learned is that I need to make connections with fellow writers.  Along with that I must produce regular content on my blog.  When I posted weekly a few years ago I got few followers and only the occasional reader.  Once I started blogging every weekday, things drastically improved.

I have a long way before I reach my personal goals, but I am learning and honing my skills.  Other writers are not my competition, that is not why I’ve struggled in the past.  I’ve struggled because I didn’t know what was required of me.  That is the job of every writer, to learn, grow, and do better.

Spring Skeptic

Unexplained entities such as Bigfoot, ghosts, and UFOs are explored, but what about the mythical MN Spring? Where are the investigators on this topic? In light of overwhelming evidence, I’ve had a de-conversion experience, I no longer believe in MN Spring.  This is a painful realization I had to come to.  However, I need to follow where the evidence leads.  The burden of proof lies on those who claim this legendary season exists.  Unfortunately,  all their attempts have been in vain.  One week there is snow and ice, the next it’s 80.  Do you think you are safe from cold, snow, and ice in May?  Ah you poor brainwashed fool!  You are simply buying into the propaganda of those who accept the delusion of Spring’s existence.

Personal Beliefs in Writing

How much of our beliefs should we put in the books we write?  Like most things when it comes to creative writing it depends largely on the intent.  Sometimes being rather blunt with a message is effective.  However, subtlety is largely more effective.  People don’t like to be beaten over the head with ideology, even if they agree with it.

In television and movies, politically correct ideas tend to be far less subtle recently.  Political correctness is taken for granted as something everyone agrees with for the most part. Thus, such messages are bolder and often at best thinly veiled.

What about unpopular ideas or ideas a lot of people hold but are fearful to say?  These tend to fall in the category of subtlety.  This is especially true in our age of outrage.

When it comes to handling real-world religion, there is an unspoken rule that the author must be careful not to come across as preachy.  Which to be fair is not a bad way to deal with religion.  How many Atheists or Anti-theists do the same with their own novels?  Some do absolutely.  Others do little to hide their contempt for religious folks.  Many fantasy novels I have read display this contempt.  Not all of course.

Maybe the best thing is to be cautious with implementing our own beliefs into our fiction.  Certainly, it’s unavoidable to completely leave our personal beliefs at the door when we write, nor should we, but what I’m saying is that we need to take care.  Example: If a Liberal is reading your fiction they are reading it for the story, not to be lectured.

Therefore, subtlety is so important.  One can show their beliefs without being obnoxious.  This is true of religious, Atheist, conservative, and liberal writers.  Yes, sometimes the point of a plot is to convey our views and that’s fine, but subtlety is still possible.

The Perils of Writing

Writing isn’t an easy path to choose in life.  I’ve spoken of this before, but I wish to focus on the fact that expectations need to be reined in when you are starting out.  Failure will happen, more than you will likely anticipate.  Yet, failure is one of the best teachers and it is something we can overcome.

Something I’ve written about before needs to be mentioned again.  Beware the self-promotion on the internet.  A little bit can go a long way and be healthy.  When in doubt whether you should self-promote or not, it would be best to err on the side of caution.  It is tempting to blast our newly-published books on Facebook and Twitter.  Doing so will ultimately turn new readers off to you.  Patience will do more for your marketing than going all-out on social media.

If you self-publish, sometimes no amount of marketing is going to move books, at least significantly.  If you are a no-name author people tend to be hesitant to spend their time and money on you, even if you give your book away for free.  This can lead to despair and feelings like there is no point in continuing since no one will read your book anyway. (Wow, this is getting dark but stick with me, things will get brighter, I promise.)

Rushing the cover and editing is also a common mistake, especially amongst self-published books.  Even if you do that correctly, there may be plot-holes you missed or pieces of the plot that don’t make sense.  However, through all this you can learn from it and hone not only your writing abilities but your marketing skills as well.  Patience is key in writing, it may take ten years for you to reach your goals but if you persevere you won’t fail.  I say this to myself too.  It can be a long lonely road being a writer but keep at it and you will find your success.

What mistakes have you made while writing?  What challenges have you faced?

The Unexplained: Ghosts

*The Unexplained is a weekly series documenting strange and unusual phenomenon that inspire my writing.

It starts as bumps in the middle of the night then graduates to doors opening and closing on their own.  You ignore it, passing it off as age or knowing that the human mind is frail.  Eventually you get nightmares of a shadowy person, on top of that you wake up to find your bed hovering a foot above the floor and a few seconds after you realize what’s happening it slams down onto the floor.  As time passes, things fly off the shelf, you hear voices, and start to see apparitions daily.

scary night

This topic is broad and difficult to narrow down.  There are tales of repeat hauntings where ghosts appear to be trapped in a loop, there are tales of full apparitions, claims of catching disembodied voices on recording devices (EVPs) and even pictures.

Some ghost stories seem very credible while others appear to be nothing more than someone’s brain child.  What claims are or are not credible I leave to the reader.  It is indisputable that there are many ghost encounters and they go all the way back to the dawn of humanity.

If you’ve been following this series, you know that I find consistency and volume of stories to be criteria for weeding out unexplained phenomenon.  Ghosts stories are all over the place though.  In some situations, there are multiple witnesses in others not so much.  Consistency within individual encounters is discernible but not when it comes to the phenomenon of ghosts as a whole.

ghost

One problem with ghosts that I don’t see many people mention is that we have no idea what is communicating with us.  Something can claim to be a long lost relative and impersonate him/her perfectly, but we have no way of knowing for sure.  The spiritual realm is full of mystery, perhaps for a reason, and there have been documented cases of evil beings impersonating dead loved ones.

Ghosts as a topic are difficult to dismiss entirely.  Certain individual cases may not pass the smell test, but there is enough evidence to at least strongly suggest SOMETHING is going on.  Blaming all ghost sightings on delusions, hallucinations, drugs, and alcohol is an overly simplistic explanation, one that ignores many difficult stories in order to fit into a certain worldview.

As with other topics, I find it hard to believe so many people are mistaken.  Any amount of research into ghost sightings will uncover more than a few that aren’t easily explained away.  Of course, we can never know for sure how much truth is in these claims but if there is an entire family for example who start off as skeptics/Atheists and rationalize every experience away until they have no other choice what then?  What are we to do with those same families who all have strikingly similar recants of what went on?  Shall we dismiss them outright?  To me that is an intellectual cop-out.

Part of the difficulty in discussing ghosts is trying to decide what they are.  Some of it is undoubtedly natural, others are trickier to explain away.  Popular culture tells us that ghosts are disembodied souls of deceased people.  Some parapsychologists say ghosts are residual energies from deceased people, not necessarily their souls.  Others believe they are evil spirits trying to trick people.  There are also views that ghosts are people accidentally peering into another time.  As I stated, from our point of view we have little evidence to know what the answers are.  There may be evidence to suggest something is going on, but what I mean is whatever it is, there is a lot of difficulty discerning who/what these things are and what that something is.

What are your thoughts on ghosts?  Have you encountered one?  Have you lived in a haunted home?  Feel free to share your stories or email them to me at rmichaelbooks@outlook.com

References:

https://strangeoccurrencesparanormal.weebly.com/thoughts-on-ghosts.html

https://www.deseretnews.com/article/700062783/Are-ghosts-among-us-Many-believe-in-spirits-but-churches-offer-stern-warnings.html

https://www.express.co.uk/life-style/top10facts/475524/Top-10-facts-about-ghosts

Forgiving Ourselves

We often hear on television a character say “If____ would ever happen I would never forgive myself!” What does it look like to forgive ourselves?  If you are a person you have done things that you wished, you hadn’t.  Meaning, we all have regrets.  This is because we aren’t perfect.  I have done things that I ended up hating myself for.  I am my own harshest critic in all areas of life.  Forgiving myself has sometimes been harder than forgiving others.

It sounds cliché, but oftentimes clichés have truth, if we are to forgive ourselves, we must understand that what is in the past is in the past.  The past cannot be changed.  Did you yell at your child?  Did you say something regrettable to your spouse?  It cannot be taken back or changed.  What’s done is done.  What can be done is learning from the mistake.  Unfortunately, when it comes to ingrained behaviors learning doesn’t often happen after one mistake or even two, thus making forgiving ourselves even more difficult.  Sometimes we feel like we cannot change.

The feeling of inability to change our bad behaviors/habits can lead to hopelessness which fuels the toxic behavior even more.  It is easy to say but hard to put into practice, we need to realize the past is the past and nothing can be done to change it.  That is the first step in forgiving ourselves.  We need to know that we cannot make-up for what we did, not really because actions are permeant.  We CAN change the future, we can step up to be better parents, spouses, friends, and coworkers.  Sometimes we simply do not have the strength on our own to change, that is a time to seek help.  It doesn’t have to be a professional counselor, it can be a friend or your spouse, but external help can sometimes be necessary.

We all make mistakes, we all need to forgive ourselves in order to move on and truly solve the problem at hand.  That is the irony.  If we want to be better, we need to forgive ourselves.

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