Archive for April, 2010

Idaho Librarians

Posted in News - updates on books, events, appearances, etc.  by John Brown on April 30th, 2010
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Just got back from the Idaho Librarian conference in Soda Springs.

  • Had a wonderful time. Got to meet a lot of great people. I just love librarians.
  • Organizer Cindy Erickson was so very gracious. She even promised to take my wife and girls huckleberry hunting. Not only does she reference books, she references the sweet harvest spots!!
  • Drank my first bottle of Hooper Springs sparkling water–naturally carbonated mineral water. It wasn’t too bad at first, but I can still taste the minerals seven hours later :)
  • Borders from Logan came up and sold a whole bunch of my books. The sales manager was very positive about the new corporate management. I hope things go well for the bookstore.
  • Locked myself out of my car. But I have a solution now, thanks to one of the librarians (how do they know so much?), that will never ever ever ever fail. I will never be in that situation again. No, I’m not talking about a magnet key box somewhere.
  • Told myself I am getting a camera to take to these things next week. That’s it. I want pictures of all these fine folks.
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Tomorrow’s ILA keynote speech time and location update

Posted in News - updates on books, events, appearances, etc.  by John Brown on April 29th, 2010
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Just wanted to update anyone planning on attending my keynote at the Idaho Library Association conference in Soda Springs–I had the wrong location and time. The correct location and time are below. See you there.

Keynote Speech
Southeast & Eastern Idaho Library Association Conference

DATE AND TIME
Friday, April 30th, 10 AM

LOCATION
Tigert Middle School
250 E 200 S
Soda Springs, ID 83276-1412
(208) 547-4922

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Yea! SERVANT wins Whitney Award

Posted in News - updates on books, events, appearances, etc.  by John Brown on April 24th, 2010

I’m totally blown away. No way. NO FREAKING WAY. No way.

Servant of a Dark God just won the Whitney award for speculative fiction. Look who the others were in the category–three New York Times best sellers and a book that had something like 11 or 12 printings in Europe before coming to the US. Holy crap. I’m thrilled the academy voters liked it so much.  

Servant of a Dark God
by John Brown
The Maze Runner
by James Dashner
Wings
by Aprilynne Pike
Warbreaker
by Brandon Sanderson
I Am Not A Serial Killer
by Dan Wells

When I informed the academy president, Robinson Wells, I couldn’t come, he asked if I had a speech should I win. There was no way I was winning. So I was like, yeah, whatever. So I wrote him this:

Yeah, like that’s going to happen (grin). But should something go wrong with the chads, you can simply say that “John told me if he won, that would mean the events in Revelations were probably upon us, and he’d be headed to his father-in-law’s underground bunker with his wife who was the brains behind the whole operation. He’s thrilled so many of you liked his story enough to vote for it. Thank you, thank you, thank you. But he’s also sad that you’ll all be toast before Fox News airs at 9 PM.”

Holy, heck. I’d better get to that bunker.

Here are the other categories and winners:

  • Best Romance: Counting the Cost by Liz Adair 
  • Best Mystery/Suspense: Methods of Madness by Stephanie Black (absolutely love the cover)
  • Best Youth Fiction:  The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams
  • Best Speculative Fiction: Servant of a Dark God by John Brown
  • Best Historical: The Last Waltz by G.G. Vandagriff
  • Best General Fiction: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
  • Best Novel by a New Author: I Am Not A Serial Killer by Dan Wells and Gravity vs. The Girl by Riley Noehren (it was a tie, obviously)
  • Best Novel of the Year: In The Company of Angels by David Farland

Of course, you had to have read all the books in a category to vote on them. You can see the finalists in each category here. So while Farland’s book didn’t win in his category (I”m assuming with the hard core historical fans), it did win with those who read every finalist.  Same with Dan Wells. So what this tells me is that depending on the cross-section of voters a lot of us could have been winners. I’m just happy I got the cross-section I did–ye speculative nut jobs :) Hooray for the Whitneys!!

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John’s appearance at American Fork writing conference cancelled

Posted in News - updates on books, events, appearances, etc.  by John Brown on April 22nd, 2010

Folks, just wanted to update any who might be planning on attending my sessions at the American Fork Arts Council writing conference. I’ve had to cancel. There’s been a death in the family. My brother-in-law’s three week old son died yesterday. His name was Landry. I’ll be at the funeral up in Cokeville, Wyoming on Saturday. What a very, very hard thing for them. I was so looking forward to participating in the conference, but these folks need solace and support. I’m sure you understand. I hope to attend next year. And I will be presenting at CONduit in May, although the organizers haven’t gotten back yet with details. I’m sure you’ll still have a great time–there are so many other interesting presenters coming. Happiness.

Brain Nazis and Feeling Good by David D. Burns, M.D.

Posted in John's Reviews - books, movies, whatever, On Writing  by John Brown on April 17th, 2010
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Have You Got a Brain Nazi?

If you’re conscious, you’re monitoring your environment. You have to. It’s how you survive. This is not something you can turn off. It’s just one of those systems that runs automatically, like your liver. You’re always appraising the situation.  

And as soon as you encounter something that’s likely to be of importance to you or yours, your monitor kicks off a physical response to prepare you to deal with or take advantage of it.    

The problem is that sometimes a Nazi propagandist worms his way into the monitoring station. And like any good Nazi, he distorts reality.    

Sometimes those distortions lead to burning resentment, sometimes to unwarranted shame or anxiety, sometimes to eating disorders, sometimes to grave depression. When I heard of the tragic suicide that occurred in our community a few months ago, my heart went out in sympathy to the girl, her family, and friends.  I’m not a doctor. I don’t know the situation. But I’m positive she was dealing with one of these villains.  

I wished I’d been able to share something that’s been a literal life saver to me. Now, it might not have changed anything. But hopefully it can change things in the future for you and others you know who may have to deal with a Nazi in the brain.    

And you will have to deal with a brain Nazi at some time.  

This is not something that affects a miniscule portion of the population. In any given year you can expect more than 15% of a population to experience some form of this [1]. That’s roughly 238 of the estimated 1,592 people 18 years and older in the little county where I live [2]. Rates for teens are similar [3]. Besides, you don’t have to have a full-blown case of a depression for distortions to affect you. How many of us haven’t made faulty comparisons with others? “Oh, she’s so thin and has such great hair; I’m so dumpy.” “Oh, he’s doing so well, and I’m not. I’ll never be a success.”   

The question is not whether you or someone important to you will have to deal with it. The question is how prepared you’ll be when you do. Everyone deals with distortions now and again.  Which means everyone can find a little more enjoyment in life by showing their brain Nazis the door.    

So how does it all work? How do you show the villain out?    

I’m going to summarize it below, but I’ll tell you right now that the book that saved my life was Feeling Good by David D. Burns, MD. This isn’t positive mental attitude. It’s not neuro-linguistic programming. It’s not the mumbo jumbo of Freud and Jung. This is practical and proven. It is the most prescribed intervention for dealing with these issues in the current medical community. It’s prescribed because it works.    

Your Brilliant Appraisal-Emotion System

To understand this, you have to understand how emotions work. As I said before, you’re always monitoring your situation. You hear a buzz and see a rattlesnake on the path two feet away. Your monitor immediately responds. Alarm, adrenaline, increased blood flow–all of that to get you ready to deal with the situation. Your monitor writes “alarm” on your face to communicate it to those around you–to warn and ask for help. This happens in less than a blink of an eye.    

But this doesn’t just happen with danger. It happens when we encounter unfamiliar things. When we encounter positive things. You see a great friend who makes you laugh all the time. Boom, your monitor responds. You smile. Feel. Focus. You do so because you not only want to avoid dangers, you also want to seek out the things that make you happy.    

Our emotions prepare us to fight, flee, seek, and pitch woo. Our little monitoring and physical response system is brilliant.    

But there’s more. We don’t rely on just the automatic subconscious monitoring. We also have a cognitive (conscious thinking) part. Let’s go back to the rattlesnake. You walk out into the garden, step on a slither, and immediately go into alarm mode. Then you look, consciously see the slithery thing is not a snake, but the garden hose. You relax. Laugh.    

The quick subconscious appraisals keep us alive, because with snakes and other things, if you’re slow, you’re dead. We don’t have time for thought. If you touch a hot stove, you want an immediate reflex. You don’t want to ponder it for a second or two. On the other hand, the cognitive appraisals help us further appraise a situation. They bring more of our resources to bear on the situation.    

How Does the Nazi Get In?

So there are three parts of the appraisal-emotion system: the subconscious appraisal of the situation, the physical response, and the cognitive appraisal. Each of the three parts affects the other two. And when things are running smoothly, we don’t have problems. But sometimes we get a distortion mucking up the works. We make a faulty appraisal of the situation. And therefore have a faulty physical response.    

For example, you’re a mother. You’ve had a hard day. The kids make a huge mess with flour in the kitchen. You yell, freak out. When they’re cowering in their rooms and you’re cleaning up the flour, you think, “There I go again. I’m a total failure. I can’t stand it! I never do anything right! I’m a terrible mother.” These thoughts make you even sadder.    

And that’s the propaganda. That’s your brain Nazi with his all-or-nothing thinking, telling you that you either perform perfectly or you’re a failure.    

But is that true? No, it’s not. You might be a B+ mother, filling the lives of your kids with all sorts of goodness. You might have just had a great time reading with the kids not thirty minutes before. But the brain Nazi tells you to forget that. “Vatch dis film,” he says, “und see de horrors of vut you are!”    

And the all-or-nothing thinking gambit is just one of ten common weapons he uses. Furthermore, this happens so quick that we often don’t notice it. In fact, we’ve often repeated some of these distortions so often than they’ve become almost automatic.    

Mr. Nazi, Meet Mr. Bazooka

The good news is that you can pull the lid off the lies. You can open the door, spot the brain Nazi that slipped in, and take him out. You can do this because one of the three parts of the system is our cognitive appraisal. This means you can consciously stop the movie, pin the distortion on the wall, and uncover the truth. Once you do that, it’s like the rattlesnake scenario above—oh, it’s a hose, we realize, not a snake, and the appropriate emotions immediately follow.    

But you need to know how to stop the movie. You need to know how to spot the lies. David D. Burns, MD tells you exactly how to do this in his book Feeling Good. (By the way, DON’T get this book confused with his Feeling Good Handbook–you DON’T want the handbook; you want Feeling Good, the book.)  In the book, Burns talks about the theory, the results, and then gets right down to the practical techniques used to blow the brain Nazi to kingdom come.  

A few years ago I hit a bad patch with a brain Nazi that had taken up residence. A very bad patch. He’d been there for quite some time. This book and a good counselor saved me. I thank the Lord for that. By the time I went to see a medical doctor to assess whether chemical issues might be playing a role, I was stable. I wasn’t out of the woods yet, but I had opened the lid and found the villain at the controls. I used the techniques Burns gave me, and I’m happy to say that while the brain Nazi still comes round every once in a while, I can spot him. And I can take that sucker out.     

Below I’ve included an assessment you’ll find in the book. Fill it out. If you, or someone you know, scores in the mild range, maybe you’ve just experienced a very sad event. But maybe you’ve also got a villain in residence. Get the book. Read it. Be happy. Nobody needs to live with a Nazi at the controls.    

Burns Depression Checklist

Instructions: Put a check to indicate how much you have experienced each symptom during the past week, including today. Please answer all 25 items.

      

  Column Value 0 1 2 3 4
  Symptoms None at All Somewhat Moderately A Lot Extremely
 # Thoughts and Feelings          
1 Feeling sad or down in the dumps          
2 Feeling unhappy or blue          
3 Crying spells or tearfulness          
4 Feeling discouraged          
5 Feeling hopeless          
6 Low self-esteem          
7 Feeling worthless or inadequate          
8 Guilt or shame          
9 Criticizing yourself or blaming yourself          
10 Difficulty making decisions          
  Activities and Personal Relationships          
11 Loss of interest in family, friends or colleagues          
12 Loneliness          
13 Spending less time with family or friends          
14 Loss of motivation          
15 Loss of interest in work or other activities          
16 Avoiding work or other activities          
17 Loss of pleasure or satisfaction in life          
  Physical Symptoms          
18 Feeling tired          
19 Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much          
20 Decreased or increased appetite          
21 Loss of interest in sex          
22 Worrying about your health          
  Suicidal Urges**          
23 Do you have any suicidal thoughts?          
24 Would you like to end your life?          
25 Do you have a plan for harming yourself?          
  Total number of reponses in each column          

* Copyright 1984 David M. Burns, M.D. (Revised, 1996)
** Anyone with suicidal urges should seek help from a mental health professional       

Interpreting the Burns Depression Checklist

To figure out your level of depression:     

  1. Take the total number of responses in each column and multiply it by the column value shown at the top
  2. Sum the values of the columns
  3. Compare your score with the table below

       

Total Score: Level of Depression:
0-5 No depression
6-10 Normal but unhappy
 11-25  Mild Depression
 26-50  Moderate Depression
 51-75  Severe Depression
 76-100  Extreme Depression

For Authors

By the way, fiction authors should pay special attention to this stuff. Not because we’re more susceptible to brain Nazis than others, although we do have to deal with our fair share as we develop and share our stories. No, we should because the emotion process is exactly what we’re trying to tap into. Knowing the principles can be very useful indeed. Let me recommend you read the books on emotion listed on the Learning With Pros page. 

Sources

  1. 1. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/the-numbers-count-mental-disorders-in-america/index.shtml
  2. 2. http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/49/49033.html (find your state and county and see how many folks are likely dealing with a brain Nazi in your area)
  3. 3. http://www.oas.samhsa.gov/2k5/youthDepression/youthDepression.htm

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Join John on K-TALK radio, AM 630 – This Saturday 9 PM MTN

Posted in News - updates on books, events, appearances, etc.  by John Brown on April 14th, 2010
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Sector 5 is a new radio program on K-TALK radio, AM 630. It’s hosted by Dickie Shannon, a long-time DJ, and is all about science fiction, fantasy, aliens, paranormal–the weird, fantastic, and inexplicable. Dickie says it’s Garrison Keillor meets Art Bell. We’re going to talk about my book, writing, and weird crap. He takes callers. So be ready to share your stories and enjoy the fun!

  • Saturday, April 17th, 9 – 10 PM Mountain
  • Sector 5 program
  • K-TALK radio
  • AM 630

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