Why I Do What I Do

~ And maybe why you should care…

Ran across a blog post today by Kimberly Grabas on Your Writer Platform. The article is about marketing your book and building your writer platform.


I read it through, and was all set to comment when I tripped over my own response from back in 2013! <blush> Didn’t recognize the article, didn’t remember it at all ’til I saw my own icon…

I was just as impressed on this read-through as I had been on the last, but this time I went farther than before. This time, I had the time to form some answers to the questions Kimberly had posed.

Her questions were based on Simon Sinek’s book, Start With Why – specifically, his concept of the Golden Circle. Here are her questions and notes:

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”. ~Simon Sinek, Start With Why
For the average writer, this is their Golden Circle:
What you do: write fiction, non-fiction, novellas, articles, poetry, web copy and so on.
How you do it: your difference from your competitors; in marketing speak, it’s your unique selling proposition, or what makes your work distinct from other writers in your field.
Why you do it:
o A purpose or belief. It’s why you get up at 5am to squeeze in your daily word count; why you write around your day job, family and other obligations; why you write, despite the pitying looks from new acquaintances when you reveal “I am a writer”.
o It is the meaning and message behind your work.
o The piece to the puzzle that you need to solve, that, once determined, eliminates the need to continually try to differentiate yourself.
Will your ‘why’ resonate with all possible audiences?
No. But those it does meld with will be your rabid fans, your community, your tribe.
Without clearly expressing why you are doing what you do, you are left with trying to prove your advantage or significance based on marketing tactics alone.

I thought about this for a while, as well as reviewing the comment I’d originally responded to, and came up with this:

What I do: I write stories involving people facing seemingly impossible odds.
How I do it: I do it by writing stories of people who find within themselves the strength to persevere, even if they see no hope of winning.
Why I do it: I do this because my stories show that G. K. Chesterton is right – that monsters exist, but also that monsters can be killed. That if one person can make it through, then someone else can make it through. My message is that of empowerment.

My best stories have started from dreams I’ve had. Dreams from which I’ve woken with a feeling that did not let me go – not that day, nor for days afterward. Dreams that gave me a character and a situation, but no other information other than the knowledge that I wouldn’t be able to leave it alone until I started writing and found out the rest of the story.

I guess I might call them “stress dreams,” because they seem to come in my life when I am under a great deal of stress. Perhaps it is the Universe – or my Muse – telling me “It’s going to be alright. Just hang in there and keep on the way you’re going, you’ll make it through.” And usually I do. Maybe because I stop obsessing about my stressful situation and start focusing on the story I’m discovering? Who can say?

But the point remains ~ my characters are battered and brutalized by the villain and by the life around them. They face horrible situations and impossible odds. They often cannot see their way through – but they absolutely refuse to stop, because they know that if they do, worse will happen. They know, deep in their bones, in the core of their soul, the truth of the quote attributed to Edmund Burke: “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” And so they stand up, one more time, bloody but unbowed, and they stand between. They stand between evil and the innocent, because they cannot do anything else. They stand between, knowing that it may be “over my dead body” – but promising that they will by God take an honor guard.

And because they do, others come to join them. To help them. To empower them – and thus, to empower themselves as well. Because that kind of courage sets an example, and draws others to their cause. And soon, my characters find that they’re no longer alone, that they’re not Sisyphus, pushing a boulder up hill. Soon, there are others adding their strength to theirs. And that is how they win.

I write, because as Stephen King says, I can’t not write. But what I write, and why I write – that comes from a quote by Kim McManus.

Tell Your Story

If this resonates with you, I hope you will check out what I’ve written on this blog under the header “my words.” And I hope you’ll let me know what you think.

‘Cause okay, yes – I admit I could use the encouragement…  😉


Month 3, Day 32 – 112 days on Thanah ~ House Kel Arain, the atrium

I figured it was time to post another snippet from my magnum opus, House of the Black Dog. Can you tell that, even though Ari Dillon is my protagonist, Deimo Agisiou is my favorite character?

* * *

The Master was agitated, that was evident. Deimo could hear him prowling back and forth in the atrium; a wonder in itself, when as a rule he could appear from anywhere and no-one hear him coming. Prowling, and muttering—never a good sign. Deimo would be on his guard now every moment until well after his Master was in for the night; one never knew what might set him off when he was like this, it could so easily turn ugly…

“Deimo!” His Master’s voice crackled with vexation, and Deimo moved quickly to respond, presenting himself in the atrium. It didn’t look good; Khamasur’s hair was in disarray, as though he had thrust his fingers through it and tugged every which way, and his robe hung askew.


“What is she doing?” Even his Master’s voice was off; a rasping growl where normally it was smooth, effortlessly controlled, showing nothing save what he chose to put there. “I don’t know what she’s doing!”

“Who, Master?” Deimo asked, quietly cautious—though he had a fair idea who.

Khamasur spun on him, half into a fighter’s crouch, and Deimo was hard put not to flinch at the sudden savagery. “That—that—woman, that laika, that—red-headed witch!” Khamasur spat, fighting to get the words out, enraged because they wouldn’t come. “That—Ari! Ari Dillon!” Khamasur visibly relaxed, having finally trapped the elusive words, and some of Deimo’s tension eased back as well. Sometimes, when his Master fought with words like that, his anger went to rage and beyond; this time it seemed he’d fought and won, and was content. Deimo relaxed more as Khamasur looked at him, and he saw his Master’s eyes were clearing again, the irises rimmed with smoky gray and the pupils normal. “Why are you here?”

Deimo bowed, careful and precise. “You called for me, Master.”

Khamasur stared at him for a long moment, eyes glittering; his body remembering rage while his mind had already forgotten it. “I called you.” He still breathed harshly, nostrils and lips tight and face gone to sharp planes and angles. Abruptly he turned and flung away across the atrium, shrugging his robes straight as he went. At the desk he snatched up his wine cup, took the pitcher and splashed some inside, and then took it down in one long swallow, his motions still sharp with agitation. He filled the cup again and set the pitcher down with a hard thump and froze for an instant, then picked it up and set it down again with precisely moderated care. “What is she doing?” he asked again, his words sharp-edged as glass. He turned in place as he spoke, eyes narrowed and fixed on Deimo’s, making it a demand for his response.

Deimo chose his words with care. “Master, you know I haven’t the breadth of knowledge you do. I couldn’t speculate, and I wouldn’t dare advise you.” He shook his head, watching his Master’s eyes. “I can only speak from my own experience.”

Khamasur gestured with his wine cup, the motion controlled and smooth. “Go on.”

“You will have taken steps to verify what the woman has told you.” Deimo’s tone made it clear it was not a question, and Khamasur’s cold expression confirmed it. Again he gestured for Deimo to continue. The Armsman gave a half shrug, and went on diffidently. “If what the woman told you is confirmed, but the results are still not what you expect, then there must be something missing, something we don’t know, that is affecting the outcome.”

“Something she’s not telling me…” Khamasur’s voice was dark with suspicion, and his eyes began to pale. He stalked slowly across the atrium, pacing, and Deimo could see he was working his way up again to a real rage, a rage that could spell trouble for the House now, or for Ari Dillon later. He had to head it off.

“It’s possible…” he murmured, his tone thoughtful, and Khamasur rounded on him.

What’s possible?”

“It may not necessarily be a deliberate omission, Master. It may be something she doesn’t know herself.” Deimo raised his head and met Khamasur’s eyes, face impassive. ‘Gods bless, steer him away from her, make him think it through!’ He could no more stop Khamasur in his wrath than a karoukha, but sometimes a diversion… “If she only has limited access to his business affairs, then there will be aspects that are not available to her—and thus not to you.” Once again, the half shrug. “Perhaps the question should not be, ‘What is she doing,’ but ‘What is he?‘ ”

Khamasur stopped pacing, arrested, his agile mind racing. Deimo waited; passive, calm. Abruptly, Khamasur swept into motion, going back to his desk and seating himself. “You may be right,” he said, and Deimo drew a cautious breath. Khamasur’s words were cool and precise once more, his movements smooth and controlled. “A different perspective is always valuable. I may have been looking at it too closely; I shall have to look at all the Black Dog’s actions, not only those she’s told me of.” His voice went pensive as he bent his head and scribbled notes on his slate. “See if something suggests itself…” He flicked his fingers, not looking up, and Deimo bowed and left the atrium.

* * *

Deimo felt a shiver deep inside as he took up his post in the side hall. His Master was back on balance, calm and thinking again, but for how long? Such respites were chancy at best. And who knew where he would take the suggestion Deimo had offered?

It came back to the woman, Ari Dillon. The offer he’d made her a day ago—that was a shock. What had he intended? An alliance, a liaison, even a marriage? How could he think she would accept such a thing, after what had gone before?

If his Master thought it was a way to control her, he had no idea what he was doing. The woman was stronger than Khamasur knew; the fact that she kept coming back should have told him that. To deliberately choose to come back to his hands, to the abuse and the degradation he put her through, all to protect a child not even of her House? That spoke a strength of will and purpose the equal of his own—something he might possibly recognize in another, but never understand.

Deimo shook his head, thinking. He had to admire the woman’s strength—her will, her character, and yes, physically as well. His Master was wrong about her, though. The scars he’d seen on her body were not from fights; no fight put such regular scars on someone’s arms. They were not defensive scars, either; those were deliberately inflicted. Someone had held her arms, and cut, and cut, and cut. Nor had she flinched or pulled away—the scars were not ragged or tailed off; they were drawcuts, equally deep and evenly spaced. The other scars, as well. Bite marks, burns… all deliberate. No, those were not from fights, they were torture. Someone had held her, done those things to her, where she could not fight back.

Once again, Deimo shook his head, lips pressed thin. Almost he asked what kind of person could do such a thing—but he already knew the answer. Knew it, because he lived with it every day of his life…

The last scar he recognized as well; a surgical scar on her abdomen, straight and deliberate, bracketed on either side with small scars from sutures. That was where she had been neutered. He wondered if that had come before or after the others, but he wagered it was after. What had she been through? Another wager—that whatever it was, it was that which had given her the strength to endure all this.

To what end, though?

The question his Master had posed was key—what was she doing? Not for the first time, Deimo considered this. It was more than just to protect the girl, Shanyse; of that he was certain. But what other goal motivated her, he hadn’t a clue. There was something about her, though. Something that crawled under the skin and gripped hard, something that made him want to—what? To help? To protect her? To fight for her? He had too much to protect already, and even if he dared, what could he do?

She’d gotten under the Master’s skin in a big way as well; he couldn’t let her go. Whatever scheme he was pursuing now, he wouldn’t turn her loose when it was over, that was not in the stars. He would make use of her until he had what he wanted, and when her usefulness was at an end he would break her, body, mind, and soul, until she was no use to anyone, not even herself.

He had seen it before. Watched it happen just as helplessly then as now, and he felt something inside him die just a little more each time he brought her back.

The stylus in his hand snapped with the sound of dry bones breaking, and he stared down at the pieces with hopeless eyes.

* * *

Hi, Honey, I’m HOME!

Well, I’m back. Back online again at home, and though I don’t quite know how I’m going to do it, I’m by god gonna stay here!

I’m still desperately unemployed, still scared I’ll lose my house, but I’m digging in my feet and saying NO!

I haven’t given up on finding a job, but I decided to bite the bullet and go on Social Security. It’s not much because it’s an early retirement, and quite a bit shy of what I need, but it’s a start.

I also do have a job, of sorts. I am now a copyeditor for Caliburn Press, a small, multi-imprint press now based out of Madison, WI, owned by my soul-brother Alan, his wife, and my soul-sister Kendra, and her soon-to-be husband Scott. I’m learning lots, scrambling to learn more, and turning around what I learn to apply to what I’m writing myself.

What’s been going on?

Well, I have two more cats, bringing the total up to six. I inherited the two new cats from my friend Cynthia, who died in January of this year–very unexpectedly, and while I was present. To be honest, I still don’t know what to think or how to feel about that… But the cats are doing well.

The big boy cat, Trjegul (named after one of the cats that draw Freya’s chariot) has settled in nicely and has lost a significant amount of his timidity. He even plays with the “kitten” (in quotes because she’s a Big Girl now, just that she’s still less than a year old)! The other, a mid-sized girl named Eowyn, is not timid per se, but she is VERY intimidated by my two girl cats, Roxy and Leili. She and the kitten, Pandora (Dori) seem to get along reasonably well; Eowyn doesn’t freak out when Dory pounces on her, whereas she goes into full-on psycho screaming escalation mode with Leili. For some reason, Ziggy, the roomie-and-ex-roomie’s indoor/outdoor cat, does not excite any issues with her, despite how ill-tempered he can be. Go figure…

I’ve been humping my computer back and forth to the library for the past couple of months so I can get online and find a job. See, what happened is this: When I lost my job back in May of 2010, I took two years off and did a two-year curriculum online for Health Information Management and Technology so that I could get a job back in the healthcare field. I liked working in that field because I feel it is very important. Has to do with helping people, don’tcha know. Even though I’m not the kind to get all hands-on and healy with people, I feel that being in the support system for those who do is important. The Doctors and Nurses and EMTs and all the rest can’t do the appointment scheduling and paperwork and records management as well, so we who do are freeing them up to do the important stuff. Anyway, that’s my take on it.

Problem is, the jobs I was hoping to have access to after I graduated just aren’t there. For every position that’s offered, there are LITERALLY 50 or more applicants. So I’m $20k in debt and sinking fast… and there’s the house, and the health care, and the… you get the picture.

After that, I was living on my retirement funds. Those are long gone. Then I was living on my father’s retirement funds, while he was in a nursing home and after he died in 2013. After he died, the funds were administered by my brother. I never really had much of an idea how much money was there. And what with his health problems, one thing and another, we never really communicated about things. So this year when I got new eyeglasses, and it was going to make the month really tight, I asked if I could get some extra money. His response was, do you want me to just transfer what’s left?

That was one of those frozen-in-time moments, you know? That was the end of April. There was enough for the May transfer, and about half that left over. And my mind is going — but I don’t want to say it to him, because I don’t want to fight and I don’t want to get upset but I AM upset — I don’t want to say it, but I’m hurt, and I’m thinking, When were you going to tell me that there was no more money? In June when I call to find out why the transfer didn’t come?

I love my brother, I have a great deal of respect for him, for his knowledge and his ability and all that, but just like with my mother and father, I just don’t measure up for him. I get no respect in return, like I’m not worth thinking about.

Sometimes I’m so frustrated I could cry.

So here I am going to the library looking for any data entry, receptionist, medical or other office position, or maybe copy editing or proofreading.  I actually had a job — for a whole 9 1/2 days. Learning to be an emergency roadside assistance dispatcher for Allstate. Helping people, all I’ve ever wanted to do. But I ran into one of my ghosty health problems and was let go while still in training. I fall asleep. At first, I thought it was because I was on benedryl for a sinus/allergy problem, but then I stopped taking it. And there was the sleep schedule change — I’m a night owl, and had to change back to a day schedule. But no, that wasn’t it either. Then I thought it was sugar crash. I’m diabetic, and they were passing out Jolly Rancher candies like crazy, and I can’t resist flavored sugar. But no, I quit doing that, and still was falling asleep in class. I finally realized what was happening — but too late, they’d already made the decision. See, what happens is this: When I focus hard on something (like in a class!), well, it’s really IMPORTANT that I learn this, because I NEED this job, so I’m REALLY paying attention. Which means I am focusing all my energy into what I’m doing, what I’m trying to learn. And when I’m doing that, I’m sitting really still. I’m sitting forward in my chair, arms folded, watching the video or the teacher or whatever — and I stop breathing. I’m SO focused that my breathing gets shallower and shallower and shallower. I’m paying attention, I’m paying attention, I’m paying attention — I’m gone.


It took me YEARS to figure that out! I’d done it before, more times than I could count, at more than one job. It just wasn’t as frequent, because it was at those stupid monthly or quarterly meetings where some talking suit is droning on and on about something that has NO-FUCKING-THING to do with what I do for the company. It never happened when I worked at the Eye Clinic, it never happened when I worked at the Retina Institute, because I was always MOVING. Even if it was a desk job, I was getting up for this, bending over for that, reaching for something else… but when I sat still, just typing or moving a mouse? Z-ville.

The real pity of it was, if I’d made it through that last day I’d have been fine. Because the next week we were going to be on the phones, jacked in with another worker. I’d have been doing the data entry part while the other worker did the phone stuff, and I’d have been moving and breathing and talking in between.

Well, water under the bridge. Looking at other options now, and hoping for the best. I WILL NOT let this all stop me. I WILL keep trying. I’m writing again, and I’m nearly finished with my first draft of Book One. I’ve got a line on an online data-entry job that I hope will work out, and I am STUBBORN AS HELL. Wish me luck!