Can Engineers Write?

Of course they can. Engineers are creative! Let’s dispel that myth right now. Engineers aren’t given a set of instructions to follow; they are given problems to solve or prevent. For me, creative writing has been a fun and challenging expansion of what I already do.

I had the privilege to attend the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE) Great Lakes Region annual conference in Chicago this fall. Being around such passionate Systems Engineers got me thinking about how much my engineering training helps my writing. As some of you know, I’m a Certified Systems Engineering Professional (CSEP) – not a standard qualification for a fantasy writer. SE application may be a dry topic to many, but this unconventional training is central to defining who I am as a writer. I’ve found that the more I get used to writing, the more I am able to leverage my engineering skills.

Following are a few examples of how my SE training helps me write:

Listening: Systems Engineers are the bad guys! They tell their management when a plan isn’t likely to work and offer ways to resolve it. Those corrections usually involve a short term cost – either additional resources, a time delay, or just the embarrassment of changing course. I know very well what it’s like to be right, but still be ignored because the news is unpopular. That in mind, I listen carefully to everything an editor has to say, because I understand their job is to make the story better, not to say things I want to hear.

Architecture: Systems Engineers are charged with the big picture. Many SE professionals lament that western training “trains out” the Systems perspective from bright young minds: driving them toward specialized expertise, but losing our instinct to take in the whole world with curiosity. Being trained to see everything at once, it’s easier for me to design the story’s architecture, and slice that into different “viewpoints” – who are the characters, what are the places, what are the plotlines, how does everything connect? This is crucial to identifying and correcting gaps.

Process: Yes, the Systems Engineering “V” model works for novels! In non-technical terms, this says: 1) Plan time in the schedule for all the steps 2) Do things in the right order. (Worldbuilding before writing, for example.) 3) Check readiness before moving to the next phase. 4) Don’t be afraid to go back to earlier phases. 5) Keep all the steps in mind throughout the process. (When you’re worldbuilding, remember you’ll need to write this, and when you’re writing don’t forget how it fits into your world.) Knowing the V-model is especially critical as an independent publisher, where you’re planning from concept through reviews. That process is second-nature to an SE, allowing the focus to be on the writing.

Iteration: Systems Engineers are driven by the idea of feedback. Feedback within the V, but also to the next delivery, the next increment, the next project. We thrive on the concept of the “Lessons Learned.” Instead of negative feedback stopping us, it fuels us to do better. It’s the whole challenge of an SE project – take a need and turn it into a functional system. And then do it better the next time.

Think this is boring? If so, 1) Thank your local Systems Engineer – they are the ones we need to save our world from the crises it faces. I mean that. 2) In fairness I’m also writing about dragons and wizards.

Cheers – E.D.E. Bell, 1 November 2014

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What’s with the Vegan thing?

Veganism isn’t a widely accepted lifestyle, at least not in the Midwest, at least not yet. I get it. If you don’t, just be grateful your beliefs aren’t judged as harshly. (And if they are, then maybe you understand.)

But I’ll tell you something – I have been very happy about converting to full veganism after about seventeen years of moving that direction anyway. It was time. I’m not apologizing for it or downplaying it anymore. This is who I am. I don’t wear leather, I don’t use animal fat on my skin, I don’t eat meat, eggs, cheese, or dairy – and I’ve never felt better about myself.

So here’s the deal. I’m not going to make the case for it. If you want to learn more about the reasons people live a vegan lifestyle, go to or search the wide number of blogs or websites. You’ll read that people become vegans to decrease suffering to animals, to promote non-violence amongst humankind, because they don’t want to support the practices employed by factory farming, because they don’t want to kill intelligent life without cause, because of the health benefits, because it’s more environmentally friendly and sustainable, or maybe just because it makes them happy. Do your own research and make your own decisions.

For fun, check these people out:

Or, more substantively, listen to this guy: Dr. Kim Williams

So maybe I’ll just answer a few questions people have had for me. Since we’re chatting.

It’s just a diet, right? – Some people eat a vegan diet. I’m a vegan. There’s a difference. That means my shoes, my purse, and the stuff in my bathroom are vegan, and I live a life that looks for opportunity to reduce suffering to intelligent life. I’m not perfect or even that great; I’m just trying.

Ok, but why do you have to talk about it so much? – It seems like we talk about it a lot because it’s different. But I assure you, there are plenty of posts about pig roasts, grilled steaks, and meats wrapped in other meats in my news feed. Plenty. Not to mention jokes about vegetarians. Which, yes, even my friends post.

Everything is cooked in butter. – Yeah, you’re telling me. But it doesn’t have to be. Even if you don’t prefer oils like olive or sesame, try Earth Balance vegan butter sometime. I bet they sell it at your grocery store (though it may be called Smart Balance Light).

How can you not eat cheese? – Actually, I just don’t. It was never good for me anyway, nor was I ever really comfortable with it. Then I learned about spiked nose rings for calves. So I’m good.

How can you not eat pizza? – Yes, pizza is delicious. Vegan pizza is delicious. The fact that most pizza places don’t offer it bothers me much more than it does you. Maybe someday they will. In the meantime, I add my own toppings at home, or buy frozen varieties at the store. (Bold Organics, Amy’s, Tofurky, among others sell delicious vegan pizzas.)

What about protein and vitamins? – My, what a personal question. I have medical care, and they test me for these things. I’m fine.

But B12 only comes from animals. That proves you should eat animals. – First, are you aware that meat and dairy are fortified? Does that prove that a meat-focused diet is inadequate? Second, B12 comes from poop. If anything, this proves we should eat poop. If that appeals to you as much as it does to me, then you have two more choices: eat animals who ate poop, or eat lab-grown bacteria.

But vegan food tastes awful. – No, it actually doesn’t. If you’ve had bad vegan food, I’m sorry. Eat at my house sometime. My husband cooks vegan for our family and it’s all delicious. Also, remember that centuries of research and decades of technology have gone into refining animal-based foods. Once society puts as much effort into plant-based options, the options will accelerate rapidly. The advancements in cashew cheese and other vegan products over even the last couple of years are astounding.

I try to live with respect and tolerance for other people’s views and beliefs. It’s liberating. Negativity will only drag you down. So if you’re still reading, let me challenge you to something. No, not a vegan meal. Something else. For the next week, read your own social media posts, and listen to your comments. Before you write or speak, ask yourself: am I saying something positive about what I think, or am I saying something negative about someone else or what they think?

Don’t want to try it? Then don’t. It was just a thought. Meanwhile, I’ve got an order of Japanese Pan Fried Noodles on order with tofu and extra shiitake on the way. Thanks, Noodles and Company!

With love and respect and only a pinch of snark –
E.D.E. Bell
07 September 2014

The Last Two Weeks

Ha! The title means two things! Words are hilarious that way.

What have I been doing over the last two weeks:

Working and Living: Job. Management. Hug kids. Pet cats. Hope for thunderstorms. Same same.

Writing: I am 85% done with the first draft as of today. This is only the beginning, though. I have tons of notes, and foresee many more rounds of editing before I even think of putting this novel into your hands. I want it to be awesome! Whether you backed the project because you’re a friend, a fantasy fan, a vegan, or just like to read – I’m working hard to have something you’ll love about this story.

Reading: I snuck in reading a book I received via a Kickstarter project – it’s called The Book by Roger Jarman. It was filled with indie love, was exceedingly British, and had some very exciting moments. I am always so proud to be a part of fellow indie writer’s creative endeavors.

Lumberjacking: Ok, not really, as I adore trees, but I did go to the Farwell Lumberjack Festival in mid-Michigan with a pocket full of vegan jerky and a heart full of lumberjack street cred. And I did watch people throw axes at each other (really) and log roll. And I got an eagle carved out of white pine with a chainsaw. So that’s one more life goal achieved.

Also, let’s talk about the last two weeks of my pre-order campaign:

The End is Near: The campaign runs through 11 August so if you’re interested, don’t wait! Signed hardcovers are fun to have, and fun to give as gifts. Know someone for whom it’s impossible to shop? Well, I promise they won’t already have this.

Be a Bro: Please spread the word. I’m nowhere near what I’ll actually need to spend on editing, so every pre-order is a tremendous help to me. Remind your friends that it’s worth the entertainment value alone of watching me write about dragons, for only the cost of a fancy coffee. And besides that, you’ll get a cool book! I’m hitting refresh looking for you right now!

Artwork: Anna Rettberg has been working on the cover and I’m in love with it so far. I’m hoping to get you the early artwork soon – who knows maybe even the finished cover reveal. And the $4000 stretch goal introduces chapter title illustrations, eek – I hope we can get there!

Excitement: I’ve been working really hard on this story, and I’m determined to make it the best that I can. There is world-building, dragons, wizards, art, drama, fighting, sex (oh my!), totally dysfunctional people, and even a touch of mathematical fiction. It’s like getting invited to a fantasy potluck. I can’t be sure to what extent you’ll like it, but I sure hope it’ll be worth giving it a try.

Pre-order The Banished Craft – and thank you!!!

E.D.E. Bell

30 July 2014

Getting By with a Little Help

I’ve spent a lot of time talking about the people with whom I collaborate, including other writers, illustrators, editors, reviewers, bloggers, printers, and retailers. I also talk about my cats, probably since they are at my side for every nearly word I write. But I would not still be pushing forward without the support of the people around me who keep urging me to continue. So, you wonderful people who won’t let me give up, here is my brief but heartfelt tribute. To you:

My Husband: I couldn’t do any of this without Chris’s constant support and encouragement. Period. It probably seems like I don’t give him much credit, but that’s because there just aren’t enough hours in the day. If I started to tell you about it, I’d never have time to get back to Chapter 17 today. In Spireseeker I thanked him for “everything.” While I giggled at the understated nature of the remark, I meant it.

My Friend, Meghan: You may not know this, but I have an amazing friend in Virginia, Meghan, who reads everything I write before it’s released – often multiple times – and gives me wonderfully insightful feedback. She also points out additional opportunities to honor cats in my work. I don’t know what I would do anymore without her.

My Mom: My totally amazing Mom was one of the first people to encourage me to actually publish what I had written. She told me, “What’s the worst thing that can happen? Everyone will hate it and you’ll be completely embarrassed. So?” My Mom tells me to believe in myself, work hard, do what I love, and not to worry so much what other people think. I couldn’t ask for more. I feel comfortable being myself because I have a mom who taught me how to do it.

My Kids: My kids sacrifice the most for my evening career. I know it. They know it. But when I ask if they want me to stop they all insist that I can’t, because they want me to be happy, and they know that I love doing this. It’s all a little Cats in the Cradle, but we make it work.

My Mother-In-Law: Nancy has sold more copies of my books than anyone except maybe me. At a recent signing in Kansas, a gentleman bought a hardcover of Spireseeker. Nancy handed him a copy of Stonecrop and said, “You want the companion novella too, right?” Of course he did. Sorry, Mom B, about the unicorns. Want to know a secret? I think they’re ok.

My Father-In-Law: Tom earns the distinction of being the only person outside of my house to have read Spireseeker three times. He claims he likes it better each time.

My Brother: Art, despite his busy job, has been one of the first people to read both of my books and provide feedback. He even invented an amusing name under which to post a review. He’s always had my back as long as I can remember, and this is no different.

My Friend, Barry: I just happened to mention to Barry once that I was writing fantasy. Not only did he jump in with a generous backing pledge on the Spireseeker Kickstarter project (I’m still trying to make your #01 print worth a million dollars someday), he’s offered to beta read everything I write. Not to mention that I credit him with saving the ending of Stonecrop.

My Boss: My boss at what I like to call my “paying” job is basically the opposite of anyone who would ever like my writing. Culturally and otherwise, it would be safe to call it not his thing. Yet, he has continuously told me he is proud of me. He submitted the publication of the book to the newsletter, when others I work with were just plain uncomfortable about it. And he even bought a copy, just to show support. It’s hard to express how I feel about this.

My Fans: Thanks to those of you who have generously backed my Kickstarter project, including people I’ve never met who simply say that they believe in me. Thanks to those of you who have taken the time to write a review. Thanks to the amazingly supportive vegan community. Thanks, Ann and Aimee. To those who’ve attended my attempted signings. Thanks Gregory (aka Tul). Thanks, Scout. Thanks, Waywards. Thanks to the man who backed at the “Emperor” level and then upped it so I’d pass my base goal. Thanks to all of you. You humble me and make me work harder.

If you’re interested in pre-ordering a copy of The Banished Craft, the campaign runs for three more weeks. Thanks again for your support. And as you can see, I have a lot of it.

Link to Preorder Campaign:

Link to Chapter 2:

E.D.E. Bell
20 July 2014

Ode to June

This has been a busy month! I’ve had two book signings, was featured on reddit, and we launched our Kickstarter for Shkode Book 1: The Banished Craft:

Please consider pre-ordering a copy of the book through the link above. An e-book is only $5, and by backing the Kickstarter project, 1) you’ll get a great book 2) it’s just a small way of saying you believe in me.

I sometimes don’t appreciate June enough. Sometimes it gets lost between the renewal of Spring, and the festivities of Summer. It’s that month where one day you think Summer is just starting and another day you realize it’s rushing by. And so, for just a quick little moment, I would like to celebrate June.

Ode to June

In June, I harvest twirling, swirling garlic scapes. I chop them into little pieces and use them all month in stir-fries and soups. I try not to be smug to people who don’t know what garlic scapes are.

Thunder crashes and I rush to open the window so I can watch the rain and see the lightning. Sometimes the neighbor is there. Our windows are much too close together.

I celebrate my dad in June, and think not just about everything he’s given to his family, but how much we like him, even when he makes that stop it face.

The pool is open, and finches visit during adult swim time Sunday morning. Stay at home, kids. This is our time to swim. Hello, finches.

The tomato plants grow strong and pop through the top of those metal cages that seemed way too huge. In May.

Fireflies twinkle in evening’s dusk, flying back up into the sky again to become the night stars.

My husband turns another year older, and I’m glad that we are best friends.

Concerts are outside, and the base player gets a funky riff.

I’m barefoot and it’s not too cold or scratchy.

Oops it went by too quickly.

I love to live life.

In June.

E.D.E. Bell

26 June 2014


I am hard at work on Book 1 of the Shkode trilogy, and have a Kickstarter campaign in the works. More to come on that, including a title reveal. In the meanwhile, let’s start talking about it. Since, you know, I think about it daily. Time to bring you in on that.

Five Things I Love About Shkode

1) It’s better than Spireseeker. This is no knock on Spireseeker – I am so proud of that story, and have actually been disappointed how many people don’t get what I was trying to do there. (And even more thrilled by so many of you who love it!) But I wrote Spireseeker with no editor (initially), no writing training, no experience, no beta readers — you get the picture. I’ve heard your feedback loud and clear, and know what to work on this time. And I’m a fast learner, which you’ll see when this series starts to come out.

2) It’s about wizards and dragons. Breathing and conjuring fire, and making cool stuff happen! Even I was astute enough not to burn this subject on the first try. But now I’m ready to give it a shot, and you know I would do everything I am able to give it justice. Wizards. And. Dragons. I’m even inventing dragon slang, like get out of the way before you get wingslapped.

3) I’m already in love with the characters. Even the misbehaving ones. The one consistently positive feedback I get on Spireseeker is that people love the characters. Great. Well, I’m determined to make sure you’ll really love these ones. I want you to know them, cry with them, and celebrate with them.

4) It’s crazy and quirky. My mind is a strange place, and I really hope I’ve come up with at least a few scenes, a few ideas, that you haven’t heard before. And that you enjoy! Sometimes, I just forget to follow the rules. And I hope you’ll join me for the experience.

5) It’s about hope, passion, and perseverance. Shkode means “fire” in the Michigan dialect of Anishinaabemowin, and this story, in the end, is really about the Shkode that burns inside each one of us. And to write with such a goal in mind—it’s a fulfillment all its own.

I look forward to the journey. Hope to see you there.

E.D.E. Bell
04 June 2014

What’s The Buzz

Happy April everyone! I’ve got a lot of irons in the fire, and wanted to let you know the latest:

Thank you: First, thanks to everyone who has read, shared, or reviewed Spireseeker or The Taking of Stonecrop. Art can only exist through experience, and there are few things that bring me greater joy than hearing that someone read and enjoyed my words and stories. So, in the words of Beryl, “Thank you for your friendship. I promise I will not forget it. You have my loyalty and that of the Spire.”

Underground Book Reviews: I’d really like your help. I want to win this pitch contest, which would earn a review and interview for Spireseeker. It only takes two clicks: Click this link, then “like” the post that pops up on Facebook. No strings attached – you are just liking the post. Thank you! (Votes only count until the end of April, so please vote today.)

Reviews and Awards: I am thrilled about this glowing five-star review of The Taking of Stonecrop written by Bil Howard of Readers’ Favorite. Also, Spireseeker has been announced as a finalist for the MIPA Midwest Book Awards in Fantasy/SciFi/Horror/Paranormal! This puts it in the top three, and we will find out who won in May. (How exciting!) In addition, at least two super-cool bloggers are currently reading Spireseeker. We’ll let you know via social media when their reviews are posted.

Book Clubs: A couple of book clubs have said they are going to read this, including an LDS book club in Nevada (shout out!) and some guys that are way cooler than I am in Dayton (sorry that my book doesn’t have enough bazoongas, guys, but thanks for being bros anyway). I hope both groups enjoy it. If your book club is interested, just drop us a note at We offer discounts on group purchases as well.

Wichita: I am honored to be featured at Watermark Books & Cafe in Wichita Kansas, during the Local Literary Festival on Saturday, June 14th, signing copies of Spireseeker. I will post more updates to my Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads pages as they become available. If you’re in the area, we really hope to see you there!

Ionia: Spireseeker is also available at Second Beginnings in Ionia, Michigan. Stop by if you’re in the area. We are looking at opportunities to get up there for a signing.

Reddit: Now that I am hip enough to grasp what Reddit is, I am entirely excited to be the /r/Fantasy Writer of the Day June 18th. This is just like an AMA (that’s “Ask Me Anything”) which means, well, just what it sounds like. So be sure to hop onto on June 18th (beginning around noon Eastern) and ask me a question! Not sure what to ask? How about stuff like: fantasy, writing, independent publishing, Spireseeker, parenting, being an engineer-turned-writer, veg and gender themes in my writing, on and on. Show up and ask away!

Kickstarter: We are gearing up for a June/July Kickstarter run to fund illustration, editing, and printing for the first book of the Shkode trilogy. Dragons and Wizards! No that doesn’t mean the book is done; it means I’m broke and if you want to ever read this thing, I’m going to either need some fan support via Kickstarter, or a magic wizard to buy all the copies of Spireseeker stacked in my basement. Pending the latter, we’ll plan for the Kickstarter. I really want to make this worth your while, though, so we are working some ideas for really cool Kickstarter rewards.

Sister Authors: Had the pleasure of meeting Anne Weisgarber, author of The Promise – a lovely historical fiction novel set in Galveston, Texas during the deadly hurricane of 1900. Also, if you have tween kids, you won’t want to miss the Jack O’Rourke Series, by my high school classmate Kristi M. Washbourn.

Mothers’ Day: Look, I don’t know how else to break this to you, but your mom wants a signed copy of Spireseeker for Mothers’ Day. It’s my job to tell you these sort of things.

Newsletter: If you like these sort of updates, they will mostly be posted to our newsletter. Want in? Subscribe on our new Atthis Arts website.

And please do follow me on: Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads. I’ll see you there.

And hey, isn’t this about writing? Let’s end with an excerpt from The Taking of Stonecrop:

Klev looked at her thoughtfully. “Rarely are those who clamor for power unblemished. It is a delicate game that enables people of motivation to stay in power, yet finds those motivated for the best reasons. There is never a perfect solution, only a never-ending struggle for balance. The night’s events will inflame great passion, and move that point of balance even further out of reach. Nobody even knows which side they are on anymore.”

Byrn stared at the torches burning on the walls of the spacious underground room. “I wish we didn’t have to pick a side, that we could just work together.” Klev did not respond. Around her children sniffled, and their parents as well, perhaps imaging what it would be like to see your family killed before you. For no worthwhile reason. “We can’t let them go to war. These are my people.”

“If war could be prevented by will alone, then there would never be a battle fought.” Klev stood a little straighter, and now spoke in a whisper for Byrn’s ears alone. “And, your Highness, despite our unyielding loyalty, you will lead us best when you learn we are our own people.” Byrn’s cheeks flushed, and Klev softened his tone. “But, still, Byrn—we’ll try. Together.”

Cheers, and enjoy a well-deserved Spring!

E.D.E. Bell

16 April 2014

Bella Novella

My first novella, The Taking of Stonecrop, was released this week. I wanted to answer some of your questions about the project:

Q: Why should I read The Taking of Stonecrop?

A: It wields intrigue, humor, and a sarcastic pronghorn. And you’ll support my mid-life reinvention.

Q: What’s the relationship between Spireseeker and The Taking of Stonecrop?

A: They are in the same world with the same characters, but are two mostly independent stories. The Taking of Stonecrop happens three hundred years prior to the events in Spireseeker.

Q: Which should I read first?

A: It’s fun either way. If you read Spireseeker first, you’ll enjoy reading more about some of your favorite characters when you read the novella. If you read The Taking of Stonecrop first, then you’ll have a little more background on the world before starting the novel—and you’ll recognize a few historical references.

Q: If Spireseeker is a stand-alone story, then why release a novella in the same setting?

A: I’ve recognized that asking readers to start with a fifty-chapter novel written by an unknown author was a bit unrealistic. But, hey, I’m an optimist. So I’m hoping people are willing to give the novella a try. And if they enjoy it, maybe they’ll follow some of my other projects, including Spireseeker.

Q: Will your next novel be in the land of Fayen, like Spireseeker?

A: No, it will be separate. I won’t preclude releasing additional short stories (or even another novella) here or there to add depth to the Spireseeker story, but my next major project is the Shkode trilogy: my personal twist on wizards and dragons. I’m so set on making it a great story that I’ve already been working for more than four months on the outline alone.

Q: What’s your favorite aspect of The Taking of Stonecrop?

A: I enjoy that it explores the personalities of some of the male-form elves. The female-form elves dominated Spireseeker, and though no disrespect was intended, I wondered whether the male-form elves didn’t quite get their due. So I’m happy to be able to highlight them a bit more.

If you have any additional questions about the novella, please let me know. In the meantime, I’d be honored if you’d give The Taking of Stonecrop a try.

E.D.E. Bell, 26 February 2014

Don’t Take No Snow

I should probably start by clarifying that I have no problem with winter, including this winter. It’s a great season to spend time with family, and a great setting to reflect on life. I loved the snowy Christmas, and I thought the snowy January flew by all too quickly. I am enjoying the snowy Valentine’s Day, driving past monumental snowplow-peaks, and watching big snowflakes weave through the air before falling dramatically onto my windshield. I am feeling no rush to move into Spring. Life is short enough without rushing.

It’s days like today that remind me of one of my most memorable moments. It was 2003, and I was sitting on a steep hill in my new car with a newborn baby in the back seat. I was good and stuck, and there was at least a half mile of traffic waiting behind me, all the way back to the main road. I couldn’t drive forward, I couldn’t pull off to the side (the residential street was lined with cars), and I couldn’t even go in reverse due to the traffic behind—all waiting on me. I was hesitant to leave the car, because it was really cold and I had a very tiny baby with me, who I would have to take out into the frigid wind if I left, and not to mention it was now dark. So I was at a loss regarding what to do.

I grew up in Michigan, and knew very well how to drive in snow. But when I bought a new car in 2003, I was in Virginia and didn’t much worry about getting a rear-wheel drive. I mean, it never really snows anyway beyond a dusting. Except sometimes it does. And being a few years desensitized to the concept, I thought nothing of driving my Cadillac up a steep hill which was, after all, the shortest way home. After all, it’s just snow.

So there I was. What happened next fell somewhere between a Christmas special and racist joke. And it’s entirely true. Three men came out of their houses (each a different house) all pulling their hats and gloves on. One was white, one black, and one latino. They waved at me to stay in the car, and told me to hit the gas. They each started pushing. The wheels spun, and I didn’t get much traction. The white gentleman yelled things like, “g’on and get on” in a classic Virginia accent. The latino gentleman yelled things like, “¡Ay ay!” and other things that I won’t repeat but sounded religious in nature. And finally, the black gentleman audibly strained (errrr), and as he pushed he bellowed across the neighborhood, “Ninety thousand dolla’s and you don’t TAKE NO SNOW? Com’ON Cadillac!” Then, as if it had heard the challenge, the car started to move.

I was torn between the gut reaction to stop and thank the men, or to let them know I had paid nothing close to $90K for the car. But as I leaned out to thank them, they waved an arm at me and shouted, “We’re thanked! We know – just GO!” And so I did. They kept pushing the car as I zoomed up over the hill, and the trail of headlights started to move behind me.

I’m still driving that car today. In fact, it did a couple of mean fishtails coming into my neighborhood this evening. And there isn’t a day I don’t drive my car on a snowy day that 1) I remind myself to avoid hills and 2) I think, “Ninety thousand dolla’s and you don’t take no snow? Com’ON Cadillac!”

To date it makes me laugh. And I always think with gratitude about the kind men who went outside in the cold to help keep people moving. No, I’m sure it wasn’t their first time nor their last, even that night. Which makes what they did even more admirable, in my mind. And so, I’m looking forward to a lovely snowy weekend. Just me, my family (including that baby who is now in fifth grade), and my car that still don’t take no snow.

So, while we’re talking, there’s some news on the writing front. I’ll be releasing a novella shortly, titled (wait for it), “The Taking of Stonecrop.” It’s set in the Spireseeker world, three hundred years before the story begins. If you’ve read Spireseeker, it should be a fun backstory. If you haven’t, maybe it’ll convince you to give it a shot. I’ll keep you posted.

Be well, and stay warm.

E.D.E. Bell, 14 February 2014

Walking Naked

I don’t plan to blog only about my experiences as an aspiring author; that’s only one facet of my life. But I’ve had a lot of questions about what the experience has been like. And I’m not sure if people want me to answer them honestly. But here it is.

My best analogy to what it’s been like writing and independently publishing a novel is that it’s been like walking naked. Slowly. All around town. Some people call your name enthusiastically, then once they see that you are naked they whisk away, not to be heard from again. Others avert their eyes from the start. And some people shout as you walk by, “Your butt is huge.” As if I didn’t already know. You keep waiting for someone to join you, unashamed to walk with you for a while, to say, “I see how you really are, and it’s ok with me.” But instead, you remind yourself to keep smiling, and just keep walking.

So why did I do it, then? Perhaps only those who have experienced that inner fire of creativity could understand, though I’d venture to say that’s everyone at some point in their lives. There is that moment when you see something else – something different – that you can potentially share with others. And when that moment happens and you say, “I have to try,” then you know that you do. And it has been much different than I expected. In many ways more difficult, and in other ways more rewarding.

First, the disregard for independent publishing is stronger than I expected. I’ve spent a lot of time approaching book stores, small businesses, and reviewers, just to get the, “another of you people” expression, or a hasty response of, “come back when you actually get published.” I do understand, of course. Traditional publishing requires exhaustive effort, and requires an author to pass a series of hurdles that provide more consistent vetting over the end product. But times are changing. Social media is powerful, and I’ve spent my whole life working for the Man. In a superstore kind of world, I’m a boutique kind of girl. I believe in the power of an independent artist; the ability to see a vision and construct it the way in which it speaks to you as an individual. You always pay your dues; it’s just how you pay them. So no thanks, system. My passion for independence is a fire that can’t be doused, despite your tittering.

It’s also challenging working within the “like” culture. Just as it’s easy to like a status about someone’s book without actually intending to read it, I am met every day with congratulations from people telling me they are so happy my dream is coming true, or that they can’t wait to read the book. And then in most cases they don’t. Or they say they are reading it, then never follow up, leaving you to presume they didn’t care for it so much, but don’t want to say anything. Someone recently told me that they didn’t need to read the book to know that it’s great. But people reading it is why I wrote it. To share something with you, something that came from my heart, and something that carries with it a piece of who I am.

You learn quickly that everyone’s a critic. It’s hard to listen to someone make jokes about your story, or calmly list all the deficiencies of your plot, your writing, and your characters, as if you created the art to be critiqued rather than enjoyed. Or as if I didn’t already know the book’s weaknesses much better than they did. Either that or they’re offended. If your characters talk about issues, and explore their own identities, then you have violated something sacred. Talking about issues raises those issues, and people were clearly more comfortable when you left the boat un-rocked.

But I’ll tell you what. There is something else I’ve found through this process, and that is discovering a core of people who really do care about you, about your feelings, and about what you tried to do, whether you succeeded or not. People who are willing to stand by you, and say – you’re not embarrassing. Not to me. You’re my friend. And finding those people—and drawing from their strength—has been better than anything I could have hoped to experience. Like my boss, who submitted the book to the company newsletter because, whether he liked or agreed with it or not, he was proud of my accomplishment. Or like the family and colleagues who showed up to my book signing, despite it being in the middle of a blizzard, just to make sure I wasn’t there alone. Or the friend that let me name a magical creature after her, believing that the dream was magical, whether the final story was or not. Or my mother-in-law, who took it door-to-door at her office. Or my mom, who when people say, “it’s just not my sort of thing,” looks them in the eye and says without qualification, “I liked it.”

By now, I thought I’d have more feedback on the story. I thought someone would want to discuss the characters, think about the issues I raised, or even be inspired to share their own story. But, really, the most frequent positive feedback I’ve had is people telling me they admire my balls. “You have huge balls,” they say. Balls? You mean—? Oh.

See, and that’s the best part about realizing that you are walking naked. It’s that liberating moment when you realize that your self-doubt and apprehension are no longer relevant. You are already naked. Whatever it is that makes people uncomfortable, it’s out there now. So what, then, is left to protect? Yep, I’m here, I’m kind of strange, I write about things you think are weird, and I might even believe differently than you do. But I’m fueled by the fires of creative passion and I’m not ready to give up yet. And maybe—just maybe—some of you will join me along the way.

E.D.E. Bell – 11 January, 2014