Reflections on Writing and The Past Year

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* Note: Slightly Rambling Blog Post *

Hello Readers,

I’ve not written a personal blog post in quite some time, but thought I’d write one to share some thoughts I’ve had with writing/publishing/blogging and my other interests.

2014 was the first year I spent more time reading and writing non-fiction. This happened as I continued noticing a gradual (and sometimes, not-so-gradual) decline in eBook sales.

My heart has never been in commercial fiction, and it probably never will be. For that reason, I am unlikely to continue eBooks publishing as a business (because as a business, it’s commercial forces one has to consistently observe and adapt to). I have some other personal reasons for no longer having the drive for writing fiction as I used to several years ago when I first ventured into digital publishing.

Towards the end of last year, I had a very strong need to switch directions entirely in terms of profession. I’ve listed some of the things I’ve been / am involved with on my about.me page. It’s a refreshing change and I’m grateful for the new work experiences. I like doing things that have some level of originality/innovation/analysis, and I felt indie publishing was not the right place for me anymore.

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‘Reflection’ photo by Arthur Davison, used under a CC License.

I should add that I almost gave up my interest in socio-political blogging for the sake of a close friendship/relationship (let’s just say that my views were “very divergent” from the other person’s). Regardless of the topic, my personal belief is that people who respect each other would be able to sort out their differences. At the end of the day, I concur with activist Brooke Axtell, who said during the 2015 Grammys:

“Authentic love does not devalue another human being.”
(– activist Brooke Axtell)

To me, a friendship/relationship isn’t worth it if either person feels no guilt/shame/remorse in belittling or disparaging the other person, because they disagree with the other’s views and sentiments. (Perhaps this is partly due to the “Venus Scorpio” in me that highly values self-respect and mutual respect.)

I guess quitting self-publishing (or “turning my professional attention elsewhere” for the time-being) gave me an additional sense of closure to that whole chapter in my life. It just felt like everything had reached a dead-end and that it was time for me to try something new, on both the personal and professional level.

That being said, I’ll always like writing, so you’ll see some of my copyediting material online this year along with socio-political blogging book reviews when I can get down to it (once my current schedule has settled in a little bit more). Writing socio-political blog posts helped me access an “analytical” side of my mind I hadn’t really accessed before, which is why I’m keen to continue those independent/unsponsored blog posts.

I’m thankful for the readers/customers I’ve had and heard from over the years, particularly the readers of my earlier erotic material. I guess that’s a part of my life I’m leaving behind too, in a way (since my early erotic fiction was largely due to my own sexual neuroses!).

I appreciate others’ appreciation of my writing — somehow it feels like that will be something which will inspire me with future projects I get up to. It gives me a sense of comfort/satisfaction to know that my efforts were not completely wasted on meaningless things, since I like to focus on one thing at a time and give my all to it if I’m passionate about something.

I guess my main website (jessINK) may “morph” over the next few years, to reflect my personal interests and projects I’m involved with along the way. I initially branded myself as an “author/artist/non-conformist,” a label I’ve since updated to “writer/blogger/analyst” (the practical Virgo in me loves anything of an “analytical” nature…).

Side Note: It is also this practical Virgo in me that keeps me from enjoying the label/lifestyle of “starving artist” (a label my artistic Pisces moon doesn’t quite mind)…I guess I have a rough idea re: career path (I do best with something that combines creative and analytical skills).

Have you had a similar experience where you just felt you needed to drop (almost) everything and try/do something new? Send me a note via email! (I’m keeping the comments ‘off’ on this post in the spirit of intimacy/privacy.)

Stay happy and healthy in the meantime.

— Jess.

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Social Media Psychology

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By Guest Blogger Marcela De Vivo, from Los Angeles

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Social Media Psychology

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Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

With various social media outlets constantly vying for our attention and requiring increasingly more time to maintain, our digital lives are taking over our real ones. Recent studies have shown that we now spend an average of 6.9 hours each month using social networks—double the amount of time since 2006. With smartphones, tablets and increasingly more apps and platforms through which to share your life digitally, it’s undeniable: social media is here to stay.

The boom of social media is endless and it has brought about many benefits to our everyday life, which include:

  • Networking
  • Finding like-minded people
  • Reconnecting with old friends
  • Sharing ideas and information quickly

Despite the fact that these benefits seem positive, they have also increased our dependence on social media as the primary form of interaction, possibly leading to some psychological issues. In fact, preliminary research has shown some disturbing mental health problems that arise from people who choose to connect mainly in the online world and fail to balance time spent on social sites with face-to-face interaction.

Communication can often become misrepresented or misconstrued as tone and facial expressions, cues that help the communicator convey the message, are often missing in online interactions. These unintended insults, miscommunications and slights can lead to poorer quality relationships and stress from the unintentional consequences of posting a comment, picture, etc. online.

Below are some of the major problems that come from prolonged exposure to social media and not enough real time interaction.

Virtual Relationships

Relationships, whether online or in person, can be difficult to manage; however, virtual relationships can often seem easier to maintain compared to relationships offline. A glib post or funny picture can generate masses of replies; all you have to do to reciprocate is to simply click a “like” button or “retweet” the message and your social obligation has been fulfilled. The time spent cultivating these superficial relationships takes so little effort, that it becomes increasingly easier to amass a large group of online friends. In fact, it has become so simple that some people will completely forgo making the effort of meeting people outside of the online world and immerse themselves in their virtual relationships.

The practice of focusing solely on virtual relationships pushes the limits on the depth of the connection. While this does not necessarily mean that validation through “likes” does not strengthen bonds between people, it hardly replaces an in-person conversation about a shared interest. The elements that have been previously relied on to add depth to a story or conversation, such as facial expressions, physical contact, gestures, etc., are now replaced with a 140-character limit that fails to convey the depths to the interaction.

In addition, without these cues, it is more difficult to discern the intentions or emotions of others when communicating, meaning that you are more susceptible to be misled, intentionally or otherwise. Communicating online is a completely different ability from speaking with a person in the physical world—a skill that, without use, can become rusty.

This is not to say that online relationships are all false or not worth instigating. Social networks were created to bring people with like-minded interests together, especially people who would not have, due to geographic or other constraints; however, the problem arises when online relationships supplant real life relationships.

Social and Self Esteem Issues

People are naturally competitive. Social networks, like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, allow us to see how others are doing—how they look, what activities they’ve participated in, where they have traveled—and naturally, we compare them to our own lives. While healthy competition is necessary for growth and development, some social media users forget that these online postings are merely snippets of a life being lived. Rarely is someone going to post about doing the laundry—and would likely be de-followed for posting something so mundane.

The competition created from a reliance on social networking is three fold:

Firstly, relying on the group mentality to determine which events in your life are or are not considered to be newsworthy can lead to self-censorship, insecurity and second-guessing oneself.

Secondly, constant comparison can create decreased feelings of self-worth and personal success. For example, studies have found that daily use of Facebook can make some people more prone to depression, anxiety and other psychological disorders.

And thirdly, an overuse of social media outlets can lead to an increase in narcissistic and antisocial behavior in teenagers and young adults.

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Image courtesy of Life Mental Health / Flickr.com

Addiction

A recent University of Chicago study found that social media outlets can be more addictive than known addictive substances such as cigarettes and alcohol. “Likes,” “retweets,” “repins,” and so on, cause a chemical release of endorphins in the brain, triggering a positive reinforcement between that activity and feeling good.

It is easy to see why addicts gravitate towards social media.The need of an addict is to calm any anxiety, perpetuating a particular behavior helps create a sense of control over their environment, or serve as a means of escaping the less than pleasant reality. Social media websites provide constant distraction, with never-ceasing updates in which a person can easily lose himself or herself. The constant reward and validation system only strengthen the neural pathways between social media activity and positive feelings.

Despite these potentially harmful mental health effects, social media is not the enemy. Used wisely, and in moderation, it can be an excellent tool to enhance your life and social networks. The key is balance. Contrary to spending all your time interacting online through social media with your “friends,” set up time to meet with them face-to-face and discuss current events in your lives. Begin to integrate real life socializing with online interactions, ensuring that you will be able to avoid the pitfalls of social media.

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Author Bio:

marcela

Marcela De Vivo is a freelance writer from Los Angeles. Her background is in online marketing but she writes on a variety of topics, from technology and medicine to travel, music, gaming, and real estate. Social networking is one of her strong points so the emerging social media psychology field is something she finds fascinating.

For samples of her writing, visit her website http://marcela.co

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Happify

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1. Interview

I did an interview for Open Brief on “Erotica in Singapore” — click on the link to check it out!

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2. Happify

I had an email from one of the co-founders of Happify to take part in their beta-testing. The description of the website piqued my interest (“Happify is a NYC based company with a vision to bring the science of happiness to mass market in an entirely new way”).

The quizzes can be quite addictive (I took a lot of the personality quizzes back when www.emode.com was still around).

I was clicking around the “social gratitude” section.

These were the instructions for a quick exercise titled “Savor the Small Stuff”:

Are you savoring an incredible meal, a hike through the woods, or a gorgeous sunset? Whatever it is, focus on the details, let yourself get totally immersed, and use all of your senses to intensify and prolong your positive experience.

Here’s a screenshot of my response.

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The Plan: A great intimate encounter (physical, mental, spiritual).

How it went: The ultimate bliss in life ;)

P.S. If you’re on Happify, say hi (here’s a link to my profile).

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3. Quotes for each book of Wilde Trilogy (my first psych thriller project)

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I was looking for three different quotes for the start of each Wilde book (my psych thriller series featuring evil twin serial killers — the trilogy follows them through their lives as kids, teens, adults).

The three books in upcoming series are titled: Playmates, Bedmates, Soulmates.

I might go with these quotes for the opening pages (in order for the 3 books, respectively).

1) “All things truly wicked start from innocence.”
~ Ernest Hemingway

2) “We live in a world where we have to hide to make love, while violence is practiced in broad daylight.”
~ John Lennon

3) “The older I get, the more I realize how rare it is to meet a kindred spirit.”
~ Ethan Hawke

I selected the quotes based on how closely they summarized/represented the main storyline of each book.

Now to continue with Book02 and Book03 of the series (first drafts).

Astrology 101

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Astrology Chart image from LifeMusicFun.com

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It was mid-2006 when I discovered my Moon sign.

I was born in September, under the Sun sign of Virgo. While I did (and do) identify with several traits associated with this sign, I couldn’t help but feel that I identified with many of the other Zodiac signs too when I read about them. Signs like Pisces and Scorpio, for instance.

I was intrigued when I found out my Moon sign was in Pisces. That was the beginning of my enthusiastic interest in the subject of astrology (beyond the Sun sign).

Our Sun sign represents what our ego/personality aspires to be. Our Moon sign represents our emotional nature. This made perfect sense to me — Virgo and Pisces are opposite signs too. That was the first thing which explained to me why I felt like a nutcase most of the time throughout my teenage years (I’d always be seeking a “balance amidst extremities”). Additionally, I found out that my Venus (love sign) was in Scorpio, which adds an extra layer of depth/intensity to my experiences.

I’ve found astrology to be exceptionally helpful in terms of understanding myself and “organizing” my own personality. While it’s best not to reach the extent where you allow astrology to control you (right down to what you’re going to think/say/do EVERY single minute of the day), it can be a big help in helping enhance self-knowledge, which will also tend to have a positive influence on the other human relationships in your life.

I’ve listed a few websites below where a beginner can get more information on basic astrology.

For greater accuracy, you will need your exact birth time (hour, minute, birth location).

1. Lunarium | Moon Sign Calculator (it all starts from here!)

2. Cafe Astrology (free birth chart and lots of information)

3. Astrodienst (excellent website)

I’ve also included a quick run-down on what each planet in our chart represents (referenced from Cafe Astrology).

Sun: Represents our ego, personality, basic identity.

Moon: Represents our deepest personal needs, basic habits and reactions, and our unconscious.

Mercury: Represents how we think and how we communicate.

Venus: Represents our love style, and pleasure/what makes us happy.

Mars: Represents energy, drive, action, desire, self-assertion.

Jupiter: Represents luck, opportunity, expansiveness. Optimism and spiritual growth come under its rule.

Saturn: Represents restriction, limitations, responsibilities, commitments, and tough lessons to be learned (lessons which make/help us grow).

Uranus: Represents originality, individuality, technology, innovation, discovery.

Neptune: Represents inspiration, dreams, imagination, illusion, and confusion.

Pluto: Represents subconscious forces, ruling all that is “below the surface.”

Knowing your planetary placements (other than your Sun sign) is a great way to start off with basic extended astrology. That’s how it worked for me at least :)

In my own astrological chart, I have a Virgo Sun, Pisces Moon, Libra Mercury, Scorpio Venus, and Capricorn Mars. You can have a rough idea as to how these would make me quite different from a typical strongly Virgo type.

In a future post, I’ll write about how houses and aspects come into the picture re: reading an astrological chart.

That’ll help you understand what phrases like “Venus conjunct Pluto in Scorpio 8th House” mean (that is one of my “very intense” placements).

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By: Jess C Scott
www.jessINK.com

Originally posted at:
www.broodsugar.com/astrology

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Depression and Relationships

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By Guest Blogger Valerie Johnston from Healthline.com

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Depression and Relationships

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“Depression’s downward spiral of negative thinking”
[Image from iStockPhoto]

Depression can be a challenging situation for any person struggling through it, but it can be even more difficult for couples trying to stop the effects of depression on their relationship.

Depression can be caused by a lot of factors, and it is a psychological condition that can last for long periods of time, much more extreme than the normal blues that everybody feels once in a while. Grappling with depression can be a draining experience, and treating it successfully can take time. It’s important to understand the effects of depression — both on the individual and on relationships — so that you can effectively work through it.

Effects of Depression on a Relationship

Depression can be a serious issue for couples in relationships because it makes the basic components of building and maintaining a strong relationship even more difficult.

Depression starts with feelings of hopelessness and pessimism, and it can spread to affect all parts of a person’s life. Those feelings expand to excessive guilt and worthlessness, and these emotions can be very draining both mentally and physically. A loss of interest in previously pleasurable activities usually follows, along with unhealthy changes in sleep patterns (such as insomnia or excessive sleeping) and eating patterns. People suffering from depression feel less motivated to engage in everyday life, from getting out of bed to getting out of the house and doing social activities. In extreme cases, thoughts of suicide can arise.

Because communication and mutual support are the foundations of a healthy relationship, depression can be a serious problem for couples. The effects may begin when one partner’s depression leads the other to feel frustration with the negative mood in their relationship.

The effects of depression are such that people are no longer themselves: They no longer have the same interests or passions that they may previously have had, a change that manifests itself in the changes in the person’s physical activities each day. Whereas couples may have previously enjoyed doing certain activities together — such as going on dates together or going out with friends — depression can leave one partner without the energy or drive to do these things anymore, which may cause the other partner to feel unloved and frustrated with the changes.

Working Through Depression Together

Overcoming the effects of depression is a task in which both members of the relationship have to actively engage in order to be successful. Because depression is a chronic condition, it can take long periods of time to overcome and address, so patience and commitment are key parts to handling depression and improving the relationship in the face of depression.

The first step is for both partners to understand what depression is, including its causes, its symptoms, and the best ways to decrease its impact in the short term. Realizing that depression is more than a made-up condition is important for accepting it and working through it.

While the partner with depression must work through the feelings of fatigue and lack of motivation to actively engage the condition, the other partner must also be supportive. This includes actively increasing one’s patience and understanding and working to understand the other partner’s feelings. It can be a major help for couples to work together to identify the causes of depression and the triggers of extreme depressive episodes so that they can support each other through the process.

Miscommunication and frustration can seriously undermine efforts to get over depression and maintain a strong relationship, so it’s important for both parties to be considerate and thoughtful in expressing their emotions. It’s also important that although the relationship is important, caring for the individual is also important and each person should spend time doing things that they enjoy, even if it’s away from the other partner.

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Author Bio:

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Valerie Johnston is a health and fitness writer located in East Texas. With ambitions of one day running a marathon, writing for Healthline.com ensures she keeps up-to-date on all of the latest health and fitness news.

Teen Guide: Blog Tour

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teen sex relationships

The Teen Guide blog tour kicks off today!

I will add the blogs Matt and I have been interviewed/reviewed/hosted at, along the way.

If you’d like to interview me / have me contribute a blog post and/or article, just contact me at missfey[@]gmail.com

* Teen Guide to Sex and Relationships (info + author bios) @ jessINK *

* Submit  a question at the Teen Guide: Q&A blog (2013 +)

===Teen Guide: Blog Tour (2012)===

Jess’s Blog Tour

April 30 — Interview at Unwritten
May 1 — Official PR Release (PR Log)
May 8 — Guest Post at Maria Savva’s Blog (on the word “fag” + the mixed messages young people are receiving)
May 9 — Feature at The e-reader House
May 10 — Interview with Junying Kirk (“Let’s Talk About Sex”)
May 12 — Mention at Joseph Grinton’s Blog (“Eternal Youth…”)
May 13 — Guest Post at Katherine Mayfield’s Blog (“Rediscovering the Authentic Self”)
May 14 — Sex and Writing: Author Feature with Juliana Sliema (18+)
May 28 — Guest Post at The Fear Girls (“The Need for Self-Publishing”)
June 10 — Book Spotlight at Bookingly Yours
July 12 — Interview at The LL Book Review
Aug 14 — Interview at Blkosiner’s Book Blog
Dec 20 — Radio Interview with CK
Mar 26 — Interview at The Indie Spotlight
Aug 13 — Joint Interview at STOMP

Matt’s Blog Tour

Feb/May— Official Announcement + Excerpt (“Love vs. Lust”)
May 7 — Guest Post with Ey Wade
May 7 — Guest Post with Simon Palmer
May 9 — Interview with Katy Sozaeva (SotA series + Teen Guide mention)
May 10 — Interview with Osier Publishing (“Are You Shy On These Topics?”)
May 10 — Interview with Mande Matthews (“What’s controversial in Teen Guide?”)
June 11 — Feature with Revital
June 3 — Interview with Laurie Laliberte
Dec 20 — Radio Interview with CK
Mar 26 — Interview at The Indie Spotlight
Aug 13 — Review at Indybay (CA)

Incubus, Succubus Sex

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[Incubus Image from Gaia Online]

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I’m tackling three different projects at the moment — they are going OK, though I’ll probably take “longer than intended” with editing Kylie (I’d like the writing to be tight and unified).

Naked Heat will be my first collection of incubus/succubus-themed stories (the first story was written back in late 2008!). While I’ve kept the focus on the storyline > graphic eroticism, all the stories still center around sex (which is the way it should be, following the definition of the word incubus).

The 740-word article below was originally written in 2011 for Bards and Sages Publishing (for a newsletter issue). The participating authors were given a “subject” to write about (which I’ve included also).

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Author Subject:

Remember your first date? Maybe you have fond memories about that night. Maybe you have been trying for ten years to block it out of your head. Well, now imagine if your date had been a paranormal creature (werewolf, vampire, etc). How might it have gone differently? Have fun with the tropes of paranormal romance and recall that date if he or she had been supernatural.

The article should be between 500-2500 words long, [written in] a quirky, lighthearted approach to engage readers and give them a chance to get to know you a little.

Tempt, by Jess C Scott (written in Sept 2011)

My first date tried to impress me by clearing all the levels of an arcade game on a couple of quarters for one play (the individual succeeded on both counts!).

This occurred almost exactly ten years ago. The guy was the same age as I, and most of the evening went pretty well.

I often think of incubi and succubi when I think of paranormal creatures. The subject of sex and sexuality (outside the realm of commercial pornography) has always intrigued me, and the incubus and succubus are creatures that blend the aspect of sex with something that is supernatural.

The function and purpose of this paranormal creature gives my imagination lots to ponder over, since (according to lore and tradition) the creature has to feed off the sexual energy of mortals as they sleep. Sex is more than intercourse, and for me, seduction of the mind is always as appealing as physical seduction.

Had my first date been an incubus, I think he’d have capitalized on my preference for being seduced via conversation and the mind first (before any form of physical action).

I remember checking out some CDs at a HMV outlet with my first date. We spent quite a long time looking at the Top 40 albums at the time (I remember a “Britney Spears” album somewhere, along with one of Michael Jackson’s albums).

My incubus-date would have corrupted me via music: he’d have introduced me to old-school classic rock that’s characterized by an almost mystical power to evoke primal passions. Many songs by the greatest rock bands are infused with that exact type of vibe and energy (“Get Down Make Love” by Queen; “Whole Lotta Love” by Led Zeppelin; “Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns n’ Roses). I’d discovered some of those bands by my mid-teens, though I wasn’t really attuned to the “groove” yet of music that, basically, had a purely sexual element to it.

I think my incubus-date might have brought me to the classical department of the CD store also (I’ve always listened to and equally enjoyed rock and classical, along with many other genres).

We’d have checked out Vivaldi (Four Seasons – Summer), Mozart (Turkish March, Piano Sonata), Bach (Cello Suite No.1 – PreludeConcertos No.3 – Allegro Moderato) , Chopin [Vladimir Horowitz, Yundi Li #1 (Nocturne Op. 9 No. 2), Yundi Li #2 (“Fantasie” Impromptu, Op. 66)!!] — music which requires one to possess some level of culture and taste and openness to genuinely appreciate. I think the dichotomy would have shown the “two sides” of my date. Someone hard to pin down piques my interest and keeps me on my toes.

The incubi I write about in paranormal stories are hard to fool (until they get entangled in “complicated” situations) because I’ve always sensed that the creature would be sensitive to a person’s inner needs and desires.

With regards to my first date in real life, I guess the incubus-date may have picked up on both my underlying intensity and relative innocence at the time.

He probably would have worn something sharp/stylish, to appeal to the budding woman in me (what another date did do — but not the first one). He might not have tried to have done too much on the first date (it would have depended on my “responses” at the time). I think he might have picked up on some hesitancy on my part if he got physically too close, too quickly (from what I remember of how I felt about dating and sexual activity at that point in my life).

Most of what my incubus-date might have done would’ve been understated — he’d understand the power of a whisper, the thrill of a light touch, the allure of quiet confidence, the animal magnetism of sensuality and sex appeal. A propensity for seeing to the details would have both captured my attention and awoken an insatiable curiosity in me, which probably would have had me hooked on the individual (as an astrological saying goes: “A hooked Virgo is a curious Virgo”). The incubus would simply have kept seducing till he had the target (me) willingly eating out of the palm of his hand, begging for more.

To this day, I experience my fair share of long, vivid dreams at night, where I remember every word and gesture, down to the details as to what a voice sounded like and how much pressure there was in a touch. Occasionally I wake up exhausted, but wanting to meet the dudes I dream of during the night.

I sometimes wonder if I’ve ever been paid a visit by an incubus. I can’t say with any certainty that I haven’t.

* Originally written for Bards and Sages Publishing [February Theme: “If you love me, you’ll let me eat your brain”].

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Sidenote: I had a pleasant email from writer/attorney, David W. Cowles, who “seems to be in agreement” with my views re: erotica vs. pornography. Here’s his article, and my article — good stuff!

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