No More Facebook Page (Yay!)

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So, I had a Facebook author page this year . . . It was a short-lived experiment.

Before I go into how I ended up caving into the pressure of creating an author page on Facebook, I’ll give you some background on why I try to avoid Facebook at all costs. For the longest time I resisted getting a Facebook. In fact, even though Facebook was very popular when I was in college, I didn’t even know what it was or why I “needed it” (according to others), but I kept getting asked, “Do you have a Facebook?” “No,” I said, “What is that?” The typical reply I’d get was something like: “It’s a social network, like MySpace.” I had seen MySpace before but I had never joined it. Maybe it’s because I’m mostly an introvert, but there was nothing about MySpace or other social media that appealed to me. I figured that if I wanted to talk to friends or family, I’d pick up the phone or meet them face-to-face. Needless to say, I was unpopular, but that was normal.

The first time I had (reluctantly) signed up for Facebook was after I had joined a writers’ group in town. On Facebook, the group had information such as when they would be holding meetings and whether those meetings had been cancelled. The group leader said that I needed to get a Facebook and join the group page for her own informational purposes on group members and so I could stay up-to-date with the schedule. I was annoyed with this, but at the time I wanted to be in the writers’ group, so I complied.

Soon after joining, I invited friends and family, and I shared things I thought were interesting or important. I looked up old friends and tried connecting with them again (they didn’t seem all that interested in chatting with me, which filled me with disappointment). Not too long after I had joined Facebook, however, I had to leave due to stalking and harassment from someone I had met online years ago who tried to make my life a living hell. This person reported me (and my partner) as “fake” so we were locked out of our Facebook pages. I reluctantly and angrily scanned my ID and sent the pic to Facebook to get back in. My partner didn’t even bother trying to get back in because he hates Facebook and how “creepy and stalkery” it is anyway. I don’t blame him.

So I got in, deleted everything, and told everyone I was leaving Facebook for good. The next time I went to the writers’ group meeting I told them the story of why I no longer wished to be a part of Facebook and the group leader allowed me to continue going to meetings even though I was no longer joining them online.

I was happier being away from Facebook and finally started getting more things done. Some of my friends were sad that I was no longer on the social networking site, but I was perfectly okay with having other things to do with my life besides Facebooking. Then, perhaps a year or two later, one friend convinced me to go back Facebook to see some videos and pictures she had posted of her guineas. I didn’t know much about them or what they looked like, so I was curious. Looking back, basing the decision to go back on Facebook because of this seems rather silly, but there you have it. So, I was back and I joined some groups and liked some pages and shared more stuff. Then, I started having problems with the Facebook groups I had joined. I got banned from groups for all kinds of strange reasons that to this day make me question my own goodness and sanity. I started wondering, “Am I really such a bad person? But that’s not what I meant at all! Why do people always interpret my words in the strangest ways and assume the worst? Is it really me? What’s wrong with me? Am I somehow incapable of making my words clear enough so that others can understand their meaning?” There were many sleepless nights where I questioned my sanity, my judgement, and whether or not people saw in me a kind of horrible monster and I was somehow blind to it. Once again, I deleted everything and gave up on Facebook; feeling defeated; feeling like the most unsociable, unlikable monster that ever walked the earth. I felt as if I had hurt too many people and let them down.

That was enough. I had quit forever . . . or so I thought.

Then, after having published Transmogrified, I realized I wasn’t getting many sales. So I started reading up on how to market my books and all the advice I had been reading kept telling me: “You need to have a Facebook author page or else you are depriving your fans of a fan club!” (or something like that). Not wanting to disappoint my potential book fans, I decided to create an author page on Facebook. I was dismayed to find that in order to create an author page, I needed to have a personal page as well. Facebook has a way of sucking me in and draining my time, energy, and happiness all at once. After a while on Facebook, the familiar depression and guilt from those times before came trickling in, little by little. That voice in the back of my mind kept telling me things like, “This is depressing. This is stressful. This constant barrage of bad news is making you sick — literally! Look at how many fevers and sinus infections and stomachaches you’ve gotten this year! You’re wasting your time. You could be doing so many other things! Why did you spend so many hours/the whole day staring at Facebook?! Why do you keep coming back to this place if it’s making you so profoundly unhappy? I think this is some kind of addiction. You’re not getting anything creative done. You haven’t finished playing Persona 5. Look at all these books you have yet to read; don’t you want to get on that? What about typing up those 14 journals you have? What about working on your second novel? What about practicing art? What about spending time with your guinea pigs? Why don’t you call your friends? The chores are piling up. Your parents are going to start yelling at you. You haven’t gotten any exercise lately,” and on and on.

I would have left so much sooner if I hadn’t started that author page. I was worried that if I left, no one would ever see or read my books. I didn’t want to disappoint my fans (and potential fans). But I had to leave. I had to leave for the sake of my mental health.

Maybe my books will never catch on with readers. Maybe readers will never find my stories, and I will go out of this life in poverty and obscurity. That’s a sad thought for a writer and an artist, but I just can’t do Facebook anymore. I don’t care if “everyone else is doing it.” I can’t do it. Not if I want to preserve whatever fragile sanity and life I have left.

Leaving on a happier note, here is how I feel right now: I am finally FREE! Free from the tyranny of creepy, stalkery, “Big Brother” Facebook! Hooray!!!

Yes. There is more to life than “social networking.” Peace!

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Long, Dark Days (thoughts from your troubled author)

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Sorry, this is a downer. If you don’t want to read my depressed ramblings, please stop reading here.

It seems as if every day this year has been nothing but a struggle to find some reason to live. I wanted to be an author and an artist ever since I was a child, but after self-publishing I found it not the victory I had hoped for. I don’t know if people just don’t read anymore, or if science fiction is a dying genre, or if there’s just too much competition and I don’t know how to market properly, but people won’t read my books even when I give them out for free. Even people I know will say they are interested in buying and reading my book but then they simply don’t. Whatever it is, I feel like a complete failure. Do people think creative work isn’t “real work”? My dad tells me that my art and writing “doesn’t pay the bills” whenever he wants me to do chores instead of working on things that require imagination. Maybe he’s right. It seems that the only thing of “value” in this society is money and the only “real work” is hard labor and nothing that requires thought and creativity.

Money is not the reason why I wrote Transmogrified, but the desperation to save myself from this endless nightmarish life has pushed me to publish it. I knew I was gambling but I had hoped for a major success so that I could make the life-saving decision to move away from where I am living now (in one of the least progressive parts of the country) and get back to my native California.

I am disabled and the resources I need for both my mental and physical health are not available where I live presently. My chronic depression has only gotten worse over the years since my parents forced me to move here right after I graduated high school. Every day it gets harder and harder to do anything: write, draw, read, do chores, interact with others, get out of bed, and not think of giving up on life.

My partner in California is trying to save up so we can both live together someday, but I can see that this will be a long road and I’m not getting younger or healthier. I didn’t want to have to rely on my partner to rescue me. Going ahead and publishing this novel — even though I was afraid to because it wasn’t “perfect” — was an attempt to rescue myself . . . but it’s not working. I wasted my precious resources on advertising that didn’t work and now I have to pay over $50 for it, plus a new $160 medical bill for a blood test to see if my liver could handle another antidepressant (after I just paid off the last one last month!). The antidepressant just made my symptoms worse (as they always do), so the blood test was pointless in the end. Nothing I do ever amounts to anything. Maybe I should stop trying to “do things.” It’s just making me poorer and more disappointed in life.

Perhaps you think I’m whining, but you don’t know my situation. I have not revealed everything because some things are too private and too dangerous to discuss in a blog. This is a bad time and place. Every day I feel the dread of living in my bones. I feel chained to this inconvenient body, my deformed heart constricted in my chest, my soul not free to express its true self, forced to conform or be harmed by others who may look upon me and see nothing but a “freak” and not a human being. I constantly have my eyes to the future as if that is where I came from, while everyone surrounding me lives in some terrible past I would never want to visit even if I had a time machine. Everywhere I turn to look for an exit, I sense that I am trapped, unable to move forward. I don’t want to live but I don’t want to die either.

We can’t choose when or where we are born, or who or what we are born as . . . but I sure wish I had had that choice. I would have chosen a much better life than this.

Transmogrified – Audiobook Sample Chapter (Chapter 1)

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No, I’m not making an entire audiobook . . . yet. Here is a sample chapter of Transmogrified. It is ‘Chapter 1: The Genetic Experiments’ read in its entirety.

I couldn’t get a professional voice actor, so this will just have to do for now.

Please buy my book if you want to find out what happens next!

Transmogrified – Themes & Interpretations

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Today I was thinking about the wide range of themes my sci-fi novel Transmogrified covers: bioethics, the impact of new technology on the world, disability, prejudice, social anxiety, shame, depression and suicide, child abuse, misunderstandings, empathy and compassion, facing one’s fears, how society progresses far more slowly than its technology advances, and so much more. Also, there are many different ways in which the book could be interpreted. For example, my S.O. recently re-read the book and pointed out that Dr. M’s story (whose problems often stem from how others treat him as a person with dwarfism) could be interpreted as a metaphor for what it’s like to be transgender. That was an interesting insight I had never thought of before, but when I looked at the story closer, that interpretation did make a surprising amount of sense.

Anyway, I hope my readers enjoy the novel and that it resonates with you on some level. Maybe you can relate to some of the characters and their struggles, or maybe you see a reflection of the present world in the “future world” of the book, or maybe you will find a whole new metaphorical interpretation of your own. That’s the fun of books. There are many layers to explore and you can discover new things with each new reading. I look forward to the reviews and conversations sparked by Transmogrified.

Goodreads – T. VanEeckhoutte Answers “Author Questions”

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On Goodreads, I answered some “author questions” and I thought you might enjoy reading them, so I copied and pasted them here (I hope I’m allowed to do that). The questions from Goodreads are in bold text and my answers are in regular text.

What’s your advice for aspiring writers?

It took me at least 15 years to write, edit, and self-publish my first novel, Transmogrified. In that time, I read a lot of fiction, non-fiction, and advice on how to write and edit stories. I wrote short stories for the Kindle as an experiment, just to get my work out there in some form.

Writing, like art, takes many hours of consistent (and persistent) practice over many years. I aspire to improve my writing over time as I gain more experience. I try to practice writing or drawing every day, even when it’s hard to get started. I would say that if this is your dream, keep plugging away at it. Get as much advice as you can on the craft of writing and get constructive feedback from others who have read your work before you publish. Also, do your research and learn to proofread and edit your own work. You may not agree with all the advice you find or get from others, but keep it in mind, think about it, try it out, see if it works for you first before rejecting it right away. I know other people have said this before, but I think it’s best to learn the rules of an art before you decide (carefully and thoughtfully) to break them.

How do you deal with writer’s block?

As a perfectionist, I have to learn not to get hung up on perfection, especially with my first draft. “Just write something,” I tell myself, “Even if you think it sounds stupid.” I know I’m going to end up rewriting and editing a trillion times later anyway.

Sometimes I have to just sit there and write, even if I don’t feel like it at first. Getting started can be incredibly difficult (although it used to be easy as a child, but as an adult I tend to criticize and self-censor a lot). I’ve had to set a timer for 15 minutes or 30 minutes, and just start writing something. Once the time is up, if I think I can go further I’ll set the timer again. I’ll keep going until I run out of ideas, then take a break. I’ll go do something else (art, chores, reading, exercising, etc.) and then start the process again the next day. If an idea comes to me while I’m doing other things, I sometimes write it down on a notepad or speak it into a recording device and save it for later.

Also, if I can remember my dreams, I find it’s best to write them down as soon as I wake up (or I end up forgetting). Sometimes dreams can generate interesting new ideas.

What’s the best thing about being a writer?

I am very introverted and dislike travel, so not having to deal with a lot of people in a noisy, stressful, over-stimulating environment is perfect for me.

What are you currently working on?

I already have written a few chapters of the follow-up to my first science-fiction novel, Transmogrified, but I’m not sure if I want to continue working on that right now, or if I want to work on something different for a while. I have a lot of ideas, so it’s hard to choose. Maybe an art book to accompany Transmogrified? I have contemplated it. Also, I had the idea of gathering up my short stories and possibly some of my poems into a single book, but I’m not sure where to go with that yet.

How do you get inspired to write?

When I was a small child, I started drawing cartoons and created my own characters. Then I moved on to drawing comic books featuring my characters. After that, around 5th grade, I started making little chapter books. The books kept getting longer and longer as my writing improved and I got new ideas. I’ve always had a vivid imagination, and as a child I created artwork and wrote stories for fun. I did it as a way to express my thoughts and feelings and to escape from the boredom or harshness I encountered in the real world. I still need that creative outlet today, perhaps more than ever.

Where did you get the idea for your most recent book?

I got the idea back in high school from teachers saying to the students, “You’re going to be the guinea pigs,” whenever they were testing something new on us. I had the amusing thought, “What if I made a story where someone literally becomes a guinea pig?” The story started off as a comic book about a man who gets turned into a guinea pig by a “mad scientist,” but the story has evolved and matured a lot since then and the novel is quite different from the comic I started with.

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Source (my Author Page on Goodreads):

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13506234.T_VanEeckhoutte?from_search=true