(Mostly) Analytical Ramblings

How One Weekend At #SPNPHX Con Changed My Life (Like, Literally) 

So I’m simply sitting here, lounging on my couch, and I’m just extremely overwhelmed and so damn grateful. So many amazing things have happened the past three days. I witnessed happenings I can’t put into words. And I saw something far more important than anything I’ve ever seen in my entire life.

Let’s start from the beginning. And this is a long post, so be prepared. <3

SUPERNATRUAL…*dreamy sigh* Simply saying the word makes me happy. As many of you know, or if you follow me at all on social media, you know how crazily obsessed I am with the show. It’s everything to me. My bread and butter. If you ask me to recommend a show, Supernatural is always, one-hundred percent, without a doubt, my answer. It’s not because there’s hot guys, though there is. Dean (Jensen Ackles) and Sam (Jared Padelecki) are beyond gorgeous – I mean, look at their faces. Hubba-freaking-hubba. I mean it, inside and out. But we will get to that later. It’s not because there’s monsters and good vs. evil. There’s plenty of that.

It’s so much more.

About a year ago, one of my (at the time – I’ll elaborate more in a few) good friends asked me about the show. The conversation went a little something like this…

“So I started watching Supernatural the other day,” Erin had told on Facebook Messenger, the uncertainty already coming through the screen already.

I chewed on my nails.

And as I watched the three little dots, indicating her continuous typing, my heart thumped at crazy speeds in my chest. It was finally happening. I was so close to pulling her in.

“I don’t think I can get into it,” she said and my heart sank.

SHE COULDN’T GET INTO IT?! WAS SHE NUTS? Did she not watch the same show I did?

With manic fingers, I quickly typed back, “No! You can’t say that. You have to give it a shot. I know season one is rough.” Because we all know that’s true. Bugs, anyone?! Yikes. LOL. “Keep going. Keep watching. It gets so good.”

It took her a few minutes to write back. “Is there any romance?”

I bit my lip. Being a romance author and her being a romance reader, I was hesitant to write back. “Well…no.”

“Oh,” she typed back sadly and I could practically see her furrowed brow and disappointment.

“But you don’t need it!” I replied quickly, hitting the SEND button like a fiend. “It’s so much more than that. Other shows need romance to keep your interest. They need that pull. Supernatural is different, they don’t need romance. It’s about the love these two brothers have and the trials and tribulations they go through together. It’s about finding your way with the family you love.” I stopped typing, realizing that it’s not even really about what the storyline. Sure, we all love Sam and Dean – we secretly want to live their messy lives. We love their hearts, as flawed as they are. We feel the guilt Dean is burdened by and we feel the struggles like Sam. We all want a Cas to keep us on our toes and more times than not, make us scratch our heads. We all wish we had a crazy uncle like Bobby, who really is just concerned for us. We’d really love a best friend like Charlie with her infinite wisdom in technology and gaming. We all sort of wish Kevin would walk into our lives or Sheriff Mills would come in and take care of us because she’s the best mom out there.

It’s bigger than that.

Thoughts of this fandom flew through my mind as I was anxiously trying to get Erin to see how much her world would change if she just kept watching. So I began typing, “Supernatural is important.”

“How so?”

I gulped. “Supernatural fills this void you didn’t know you had. You’re immersed into this world of characters and stories. But even more so, you’re thrown into this group of fellow-watchers who feel the same way we do. You’re going to gain a family.”

And I think as Erin read this, she didn’t really understand. How could you at first? The outside is so different than being inside a home. Gaining a family by watching a show? Mmmm, sounds sketchy. It’s not. Some people will just watch the show to watch the show. They’ll move on after each episode and go on with their lives. They’ll love the characters but never truly get inside the world. But others, like myself, and eventually Erin too, they’ll gain something so much more important. A family. One who doesn’t judge. One that will welcome you with open arms.

And it’s not just us. The viewers. It’s about the stars of the show. Jensen and Jared. Misha and Mark. Matt and Kim. Osric and Ruth. Rob and all of Louden Swain. If you’re lucky enough, you’ll get to spend time with these incredible people. You’ll get to see how they are in real life. Not behind cameras portraying some character or on a news special. You don’t see them behind a camera of some paparazzi. You get to see them. Raw. Real. And though you don’t get to spend hours with each person, they find a way to touch each and every single life they come into contact with.

Erin did eventually finish all the seasons. We lived these seasons together. Our friendship grew and we became something closer than friends…we became family.

Which brings us full circle to #SPNPHX convention this weekend.

If you don’t know, Erin and I were brought together by the love of books. Myself an author and Erin a blogger and event planner. She promo’s my books and through that connection, we found our way to each other. A beautiful friendship was built.

It’s funny. You think you’re good friends, but then Supernatural works its way into your life and connections strengthen. She flew down to AZ from Oklahoma and attended the con with me.

Friday began with us being a bundle of nerves. We woke up (way too early), both of us not being able to eat because our stomach’s were in knots. We squeed the entire way to the hotel as we talked about what could happen over the weekend and what he hoped to say to these people who suddenly became such a huge part of our lives. We met my beautiful sister, Rene, there, who is also a HUGE Supernatural lover. We anxiously waited in the hall to go inside the ballroom, all starry-eyed for what was to come.

After long hours of doing pretty much nothing and spending way too much money on souvenirs, we were let into the massive hall where the magic would begin. It was our first glimpse at our new family.

You sit down in your seat and look around at the people around you. You introduce yourself and talk about where you’re from.

I remember one specific time, I had to go pick up a photo op and my sister and niece were out doing their own thing and I didn’t want to take my purse (the sucker was heavy). So I tapped the shoulder of the lady in front of me and asked her to watch it for me while I ran outside and got my picture. She graciously said, “Go for it,” and I ran off. It, of course, took me a lot longer than I expected, Jensen photo ops are extremely popular and there was a long line, so I sprinted back to my seat. I didn’t want her to have to wait around for me. She heard me huff as I sat back down and I thanked her profusely. I felt so bad asking her to watch my stuff while she could be out doing other things, and do you know what she said? She shook her head with a kind smile and replied, “We’re family.”

My mouth dropped open and I looked to Erin and we both stared at her in awe.

That’s what Supernatural is about. While the show is super important and brought us together, those are the people you meet because of your shared love. And that is beautiful beyond words.

Where else can you go where you feel completely comfortable? In all of my years searching for acceptance, I’ve never felt so at home in a place so foreign.

Each star of the show came out and each one had such impactful things to say. Kim Rhodes in particular really nailed it on the head for me. She was energetic and spunky. She flipped people off and made us crack up. But more than anything, she showed us a real side to her. She was honest and raw. In so many words, she pushed us to cheer on the people we love the most. To not compete with each other. And in a world like my book world, that’s easier said than done. But what she said really hit home. We are all our own people. My story is different than someone else’s. And while I may not be doing as well as s0-and-so, I’m living my life. I’m going to support all of my family and friends and be happy for them when they succeed. They’re success IS my success.

Osric was also another kind soul to really affect me. His wisdom and kindness overwhelmed me. And while I was able to spend the most time with him and Kim, I don’t think I’ll ever forget the kindness they both showed me in particular.

While we were there, the Orlando massacre occurred, and I think by Sunday, we were all affected pretty harshly. There was a sort of melancholy lingering above our heads in the ballroom. Rich was the one to lift us all up and bring things into perspective.

And though Jensen, Jared, Misha and Mark weren’t able to give us all a lot of time, they all made it a point to make each and every one of us feel special. And those things, I think are something we all need to learn from. They could just sign our stuff and move on. But instead, they all made it a point to really listen to what we had to say and look us in the eye. They took mental inventory of each and every one of us. I don’t know another show that does that. But it proves that even a few seconds can change lives.

If you’ve been to more than one SPN Con or watch them online, you’ll know Rich usually does a Rules and Regulations at the beginning of the weekend. Being too busy, I think he forgot. So on Sunday, Rich, Rob and Louden Swain came out onto stage and Rich felt the need to give us some rules. It was by far the most moving speech we heard all weekend. He spoke of acceptance and love. Kindness and forgiveness. Guys…it really does start with us. Whether you’re just a viewer of the show or you’re able to really get into the fandom, we really can change this world. We are the start to a revolution of kindness. The feeling we all have walking into that ballroom every day is something we can project out into the world. We are the originals. We can be on the front lines of this fight.

This weekend changed my life. For the better. It opened my eyes. A light was shined so bright. No matter what, from now on, I’ll always choose to be kind. Even when I don’t particularly want to be. I refuse to be the dark. Ever. I’ll fight with every ounce I have to be the light in this world. And when I struggle, I’ll lean on my family and friends. But I refuse to project it out anymore. I can’t want change and not be THE change.

We can all be the change. It starts today and Supernatural taught me that.

So to everyone I talked to and everyone in Phoenix at the convention this weekend, I virtually hug all of you and thank you so much for showing me a world I didn’t know existed. Thank you for giving this odd ball author a place to feel welcome. I wish there was more I could do.

With that, if you haven’t, dive head first into this show. Give it a shot because I promise you, you’ll find something so much better than you could have ever imagined.

xo

With all my love,

deanandcas

Cassie Graham

 


There’s been articles surfacing lately downplaying indie writers. Degrading us. Calling us—for lack of a better word—fools for choosing to self-publish. That we spend too much time marketing ourselves when we should be writing. That we’re basically ruining our careers by connecting with people. Because here’s the thing, marketing now-a-days isn’t “real” marketing. I’m not going to people’s houses pitching my books. I’m not begging stores to take a look at what I’ve written. I’m not sending out hundreds of queries. Marketing in this modern day book world is talking to my friends, bloggers, readers, and other authors. 90% of my time is spent marketing? Hell-to-the-no. Sure, I answer emails and Facebook messages. I’ll comment on posts I’m tagged in. I’ll post a few sponsored ads on Facebook. But mostly? I’m just spending time with the people who love the same thing I do. Reading. Which makes writing easier. They lift you up in times of need. You bounce ideas off of each other. Those pivotal people are all part of the writing process. When you market the way us indie’s have adapted to, it’s not work. It’s fun. It’s connecting on a deeper level. It’s not about talking to a faceless person to get a review. Indies—we’re making life long friendships as we market. We’re building our tribe. That, in my opinion, is so much more important than getting a publicist to do it for me. Investing in yourself and your books is half the battle. I invest in not only my marketing, but also my relationships within this world. I invest in my ability to write stories. If I didn’t have bloggers, readers, and fellow authors on my side, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do.

Also, I do not, under any circumstances, write to make money. “Did she just say that?!” Yes, I did. I do it because I love to write. Plain and simple. Every author I know…every single one will tell you the same thing. This sentiment might bring out sassy head tilts and rolling eyes from people, but it is what it is. Do I want people to read my book? Of course. I love to share my story with others. I love that readers come to me and want to talk about books. Readers are what makes this entire world worth living. They’re the most important part of the writing a book.

It’s not profound, but I write what I like to read and I hope when I hit publish, people will like it too. And if they don’t, that’s also totally okay. But that’s for another article. Let’s get back on track. These “traditionally published authors” are forcing the money making aspect down our throats. Sure, being indie, do I get advances or make oodles of money? Nope. But I didn’t put my first book–or my second or third–out to make insane amounts of money.

That’s not to say I haven’t been blessed with what I consider success. For a teeny tiny indie, I’ve done pretty well for myself. I told my husband the day I published my first book, I only wanted a paperback for my library and I didn’t need people to read my book. I was proud of myself and that was all that mattered. At at the time, that was silly. My world grew tenfold the moment I put my book out there. Had I sat back and done nothing, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I wouldn’t have a squad full of incredible friends supporting my dream, pimping my books, and shouting to the world that readers should take a chance on an indie like me. Had I gone with my original inclination, I wouldn’t be beyond lucky to be emerged in the world I am today. Which comes back to marketing…funny how that happens.

Building networks and being cordial toward everyone will go a lot farther than bashing what you don’t fully understand.

Let’s be honest, unless you’re a huge selling author, you aren’t going to make multiple figures. That’s just a huge plus most won’t get. It’s the truth. But for someone like me, someone with a small following, I’ve made a huge profit. More than what some of my traditionally published author friends. And I guarantee, if you were to ask any author, most will say that they don’t need that money. Artists, and I mean, real artists, don’t write to “get rich quick.” And if they are, they shouldn’t be writing in the first place.

Insinuating because I’m self-published, I write bad books is unbelievably offensive. Not just to me, but to readers who love my work as well. Which I am not okay with. My readers are family and putting them down isn’t something I can tolerate. It’s not okay. Stop it, please.

Anything worth doing, takes work. Am I going to knock it out of the park right away? Probably not. I didn’t. I’m probably going to fall on my face a few more times in my career. I might write one massively huge book and then write a dud. It’s the business. That’s what makes this journey so incredible.

Also, people don’t give readers enough credit. Most are open-minded and willing to give unknowns a shot, even if they don’t like their first book. Yes! It’s true. Did I write an amazing first book? Ha! Was the story good? Definitely. Did it need work? Definitely. Does that mean I’m ashamed? Does that mean I feel “amateurish” because I decided to publish it? Does it mean I’m going to tear my book down from Amazon? No. That book is part of my journey. It’s who I am. I have to tell you, people came back. They read my first book and came back for my second and third. They’re forgiving and wonderful, and almost always want to see authors succeed. Publish your first book, not your first draft. 😉

Your career is what you want it to be. Winning awards and critically acclaimed honors doesn’t make an author. I’m sorry—but it doesn’t. It’s the drive and bravery to publish a book. It’s the time and effort put into it. Not all people have the guts to do it. You cannot tell me only a literary award winning novel can become a bestseller. You can’t. Go and look at the New York Times Bestselling list right now, I’ll wait. Do you see fiction on the list? Romance? Fantasy? Horror? Did you look it up? Did it win a Pulitzer? Probably not. Anyone has the ability to become a bestseller. Those awards are coveted and wonderful, but a book without that stamp doesn’t make a bad book.

I do have to say, I don’t know any traditionally published authors who agree with the articles being posted all over the internet. In fact, they’re seeing red. They’re defending us. And that just shows how wonderful this world is.

But being a traditionally published author is fleeting–they’ll tell you that. It’s not a forever thing. Encouraging people to not self-publish because it brings out “less than mediocre” writing, only helps us indies who are putting our heart, soul, blood, tears, and money into books that much more likely to make a bestselling list. I’ll keep self-publishing my books, only to make a profit, while you’re sitting at your desk, hoping and praying for the go-ahead from a huge publishing house.

I feel like there’s some sort of sick correlation between bad writing and self-publishing. One does not go with the other. This, one apple ruined the entire bunch, type-of-thinking. What?! There are bad books in stores right now. Publishing houses buy the rights to awful story lines daily. There are poorly edited books sitting on shelves as we speak. That’s life. But putting us in this one, rotten smelling category isn’t fair. We work hard. Do we work harder? I truly don’t think so. We all have our obstacles and problems. Each and every one of us put in incalculable amounts of time into making great, world changing books. We have to work and claw and climb our way to wherever we want to go. We all struggle. Every person’s destination is different, so why not support everyone?

This disgusting notion that indies are destroying real author’s incomes is just in poor taste. You don’t like that you aren’t making money? Change your outlook. Get with the times. Don’t look down on others because you don’t understand how I make a living writing full time. Put in the effort.

There’s no secret to becoming a bestseller. If you want to self-publish? Do it. If you want to send out queries to publishing houses. Do it. Don’t be afraid.

Just quit, for the love of God, quit talking down to people for living out their dreams. No one defines us. We’re all writers hoping to make an impact on people’s lives. It’s about being that one shining light in the dismal darkness. Be the good.

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