Why I LOVE Microcosm Publishing!

Hey Readers!

I wanted to talk about the print publishing company I chose (and who thankfully accepted my pitch!) and why I have come to adore them.

First off, the name caught my attention – many authors might not go for something that has the word ‘micro’ in it – as it gives the impression of smallness. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth with these guys.

The definition of microcosm is basically a community that encapsulates huge ideas in a small way. This relates to how small a book might seem in your hand, but the ideas that are contained within that little book are SO much larger.

And I gotta say – I love that. It’s a great reference to the whole idea of publishing books and sharing the ideas and information that we hold dear to our personal interests.

Second, have you seen the stuff they carry? If not – you seriously need to check them out. Not only do they carry my first ever finished book (Guide to Life After a Felony), but they offer a TON of awesome books. Just check out this screenshot of their homepage:

00 a Microcosm screen snip

And this is just a teeny tiny sample!

In addition to this, as I generally self-publish online through the typical indie routes, I had to ask – would they let me keep my stuff out there? To my genuine surprise – they were willing to work with me and let me continue to have my own version out there – and from what I had read in some of the writer forums – this doesn’t seem to happen often – but I’m extremely grateful for it either way. (Feel free to share if your experience with a publisher was different, I’d love to hear it!)

My final reason to adore this company is that in all honesty – this was the ONLY publisher I applied (pitched?) my manuscript to – and somehow I impressed them enough to earn a chance to publish with them. I personally think their site just spoke to me once I found them in my research phase, and not a single other company seemed to hold similar values or perspectives. As a felon, I’m basically part of the sub-cultures that aren’t often appreciated or given a chance to speak – and Microcosm provides a beautiful avenue on which to share your ideas with those that are on a similar wave-length. Of course, they might not be for everyone – perspectives are widely varied so I get it if you’re not diggin’ it.

(Additional note: No, I wasn’t paid for this in any way by them – I honestly just want to give them this shout-out because they’ve been so amazing to work with! Everything I am posting here is my own authentic opinion and I probably should say that my views shouldn’t be taken as a direct reflection of their views – just to be on the safe side ya know?)

So, can you see why I think these guys are so wonderful yet? If not, go ahead and take a look for yourself – I’m pretty sure you’ll be just as impressed as I was. Microcosm Publishing might be just what you need in your life!

That’s all I got for today guys, hope you like it and find something nifty and useful from it!

Love and peace,
Aza

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A Day in My Life…

Hey Again Readers!

I’ve been thinking that it might be time to share a bit more about myself. I have a hard time with that, but I’m working on it. This post is proof, and you can’t tell me otherwise. LOL

Anyway, I thought I’d start by sharing a day in my life.

Often, I’m up between 4:15 and 6 am every day. Sleeping in has become a thing I dream about, rather than do – mostly because my son trained me well when he was an infant – but also because the local farmers wait for no one when it comes to their breakfast…
No matter what time I drag my legs over the edge of my bed, I make sure to take my Thrive capsule with a chug of water. After trudging to the bathroom, phone in hand of course, I scroll and get the daily, boring hygienic stuff out of the way.

Once cleaned up and ready for public interaction, I make my way to the kitchen. Now, instead of coffee (which literally hates my guts), I make my morning Thrive shake. I use only half the full dose for this – as it both serves my need of helping me gain weight rather than lose it AND it saves me money (I don’t get my supplement for free yet – because I don’t like pushing products – even when they work for me).

Once I mix the half cup of ‘awesome’ powder into my cup of milk, I sit down at my desk and check over all of my projects. These projects range from the events at my work that I manage, my freelance sites (Fiverr and People Per Hour), my publishing sites (Smashwords, Amazon, and Microcosm), social media (Friendly Felon Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, and Reddit), and check on my marketing ideas for that week. If I’m feeling really froggy, I might do a post on here, or even add to one of the books in progress.

I spend between 15 minutes to 2 hours on this ‘first things first’ process. I call it ‘first things first’ because these things are dedicated to the work I really care about. I don’t mind my current payroll job, but it isn’t my true passion. I also have the most energy and focus in the morning (most of the time anyway) and I like to take advantage of that early burst of ‘Get It’ energy.

Then, depending on the day, I’m either off to work, or off to finish some sort errand for the house. Currently, I tend bar, serve food, and manage the front of house staff and assist with rental event details in a local bar and grill. It’s not a bad fit for me really, as bartenders often act as amatuer psychologists – my bachelor’s degree actually comes in handy for some of my regulars and has opened some wonderful interactions with customers. This helps both of us, as they find helpful advice and new information, and I’m reaching out and opening up to people about my past and changing perspectives about felons in person.

After work or errands, I like to hang out with my family. We homeschool our son, often using Time4Learning during the months that I’m earning enough, or Kahn Academy for the times that it’s just out of reach. He loves both programs, especially in combination because they each offer different aspects of education. He’s only ten and he’s already learning coding and basic animation, as well as his fundamental subjects. When he’s finished for the day, sometimes we’ll play games, or just relax and watch some comic related movies. We’re big comic geeks in my house – Harley Quinn, Thor, and the Turtles are all huge hits around here.

We love to cook together, and we like experimenting with food combinations. Last Thanksgiving, we made a Cordon Blue Stuffed Turkey Breast meal, so we could combine the things that we each wanted from the meal. My son’s favorite meal to help with is fried chicken. I think it’s only because he can get really messy with it – between the eggs, milk, and seasoned dry batter  – it’s a dream come true for him.

We have a good time, and make the best of what we have.

After the work, play, and relaxation, it’s time for bed. Often, I have the most ideas for blog posts, plot points in stories, and business schemes while I’m in that nearly asleep phase. I have yet to actually get around to writing more of those down (part of why I don’t post as often as I’d really like to), even though I have pens, pencils, and paper tucked away in just about every corner of the house. I think it’s mostly because I don’t want to risk waking myself up all the way again by reaching out and actually writing them down – because I like to keep my early schedule going and I know it can be rough to lose sleep the older I get.

Well, that’s a day in my life, and I hope you enjoy the peek into my world as it is right now. Who knows what the next ‘Day in My Life’ will bring! Keep Moving Forward, you’ll find your goals!

Love and Peace – Aza

The Early Morning Struggle

Good Morning Readers, it’s approximately 5:16 am, and I’ve been up for nearly an hour already.

It’s breakfast shift day at my payroll job.

Partly my own fault for volunteering, but I also have inventory to deal with today. Either way, thanks to the lovely cold in the Midwest right now, my car loves to not start immediately.

As I was cursing my volunteering spirit, and the poor, cold battery that has been struggling for its life for the last month or so, I realized that the sort of determination I was showing was part of why I’ve moved so far forward.

Are you the person who lets those moments of frustration overwhelm them? Or are you the one that pushes through the frustration and makes things happen?

No matter how many times my car has refused to start in this weather, I don’t let it quit, because I know I CAN’T QUIT either. It doesn’t matter if it’s just while I’m facing off with a loose battery post in 0 degree Fahrenheit for the eighteenth time in a morning – or going to that millionth interview where my background is going to get brought up again (even after an entire decade of good behavior) – I make the best of those situations, and push through them – because I have a goal.

And I’m determined to reach it.

Keep pushing forward guys! Even on those cold, dark mornings, where it seems the sun will never light your day.

Love and Peace – (a very cold and sleepy) Aza

Going the Extra Mile …It’s good for felons too!

Hey Readers! Welcome to my blog and thanks for stopping by! Today, I’m talking about going the extra mile and how it can impact your chances of gaining the life you want.

If you didn’t know already, I’m a fellow felon with a Class 2 Theft, and I typically have a day job along with numerous freelance things (that I wish I could focus on, but we all have bills to pay, right?). Just over 4 months ago, I changed jobs again (my own choice for once, lol) and started working in a local restaurant that features a bar.

I made sure that the interviewing manager knew about my background from day one. The secondary owner didn’t find out until a couple months later when I began suggesting improvements and helped write a brochure for an upcoming event the bar would be a part of. After seeing my work and loving it, he asked about what I’d written before and I told him about the Guide to Life After a Felony ebook – which of course led to – What do I know about felonies?

Heh. Quite a bit actually, personal experience is sucky – but I’ve done some great things because of it. This impressed him, a lot.

His following comment was one thing that really drove home to me the fact that ‘FELON’ isn’t stamped on my forehead (after so many unsavory interactions with the public over the years, it really feels that way sometimes I think).

Anyway, after the brochure thing, I also noticed that the company didn’t have an employee handbook yet – so I made one. I detailed the expectations of the waitresses and bartenders, as well as various opening and closing procedures that needed to be followed to improve the efficiency of the business.
This caught his attention again. No one had asked me to do this, or even suggested it as a thing that we needed. I simply took an idea I had and ran with it. #ExtraMile

Fast forward another month later, and I get called into the boss’s office. I’m freaking out, I’m thinking all sorts of negative stuff, just assuming that I’m going to get fired for either taking too much initiative or for having some random customer throw a fit over my background (it’s happened before – someone I had never met hated me (and my record) and refused to offer business to that facility while I was employed).

After a short discussion about how I had taken a step too far with a bar special (I didn’t charge enough for a certain product that is classified as premium and hadn’t asked permission to run a special – it was a hit though!) [the disapproval didn’t help my initial mindset though]; the interviewing manager looked over at the co-owner, and said, “Should we tell her? Or give her another day?”

My heart dropped again, I’m thinking ‘Yup, back to Craigslist…’

The next words out of the owner’s mouth were, “We’ve noticed that you’ve put in a lot of extra work here, and I’d like to promote you. How would you feel about that?”

-Jaw drop-

“I’d love that! Thank you for appreciating everything I’ve done here. I never expected this!”

So… moral of the story is

When you do land a job (even if it isn’t your ‘goal’ job), always find a way to go the extra mile. Even if it doesn’t land you a promotion (I’ve been putting in the extra mile at every job and this is only the second job where I’ve been offered management level work) it does get you noticed. And getting noticed for good things is the best weapon against that stigma that we all experience as felons.

It won’t necessarily have an immediate effect on your life, and you probably won’t get immediate notice for going the extra mile. For instance, at another place of employment, I created new signage for us to use when advertising our services, and re-organized the inventory to make it easier to count. Nothing happened there – other than the store manager saying thanks. When I transferred into another auto shop, I re-organized the entire filing system and got the files completely up to date – once finished – I was laid off (but did have good references from them). Not exactly a great reward for going the extra mile right?

But I never let the lack of a reward stop me from putting extra work in. Heck, for me, the knowledge that I made even a small positive impact – even if just for a co-worker- is enough for me – and I don’t even have to like the business I’m at to enjoy that part. It certainly helps to like your job, it can be difficult to find motivation to do extra stuff when you dislike the place or the people, but you aren’t doing it for them really, you’re doing it for yourself and your future.

Every single positive interaction will begin to build upon the other, and will eventually pull you out of the black hole that a bad background can become for us felons. So, keep pushing forward through all the bullcrap, stay strong, and build up for your future.

We got this fellow felons, stay strong and remember, we are MORE than our past.

Love and Peace,
Aza

Resources / Reading List

I’ve compiled another list of newly released reading materials, some are helpful for a variety of reasons, others are simply fun (make note that some may have strong language – if you’re against that sort of thing – you’ll want to double check the ratings)!  These are all on Smashwords (they have every format you need too!) – as it’s not only one of my own publishing platforms, but it’s an amazing supporter of indie publishing and they offer a wonderful affiliate program so that we authors can help each other out. Check them out and I hope you enjoy!

For fellow aspiring authors:

Author Secrets

For those who need to find some quiet in their mind:

How to Meditate

The Happiness Paragraph

For those who want to manage time better:

Time Management

For those self improvement types like me:

Motivation and Personality

Grit – I Can and I Will

For entertainment:

Trigger Warning

 

 

 

I never think ‘I can’t’ …

Hey Readers! Hope all is well for you, and if not, that it gets better soon!

I was meditating on the various topics to post about on here, and one thing I realized I hadn’t talked about yet – is how I’ve changed my perspective in relation to my background and to life in general.

There are a couple experiences I’ve had over the years that really made me realize just how much I’ve begun to apply my determination to succeed in all aspects of my life.  Strangely enough, they are the experiences where I was denied. Let’s delve in, so I can explain how it hit me last night.

The first experience where I didn’t let a denial stop me, was when I had to have dental work done. My addiction to energy drinks had taken its toll on my teeth, and it was time to pay the piper with partial dentures so I could keep smiling. I was assured I’d be covered for what I wanted done, and well, only after the extraction did my dentist realize my insurance wouldn’t cover the partials I’d need to smile fully again.
Total bummer right? Not exactly. Instead of hiding out in my house and never leaving or working with people again, I began to research how to make my own.
And guess what… I have had fully functional, perfectly fitting partial dentures ever since then, that I make in my own home.  For anyone that is interested – I get my kits from Monster Makers – adapting a novelty dental kit to my needs. No, I don’t get commission from them, they’re just the most efficient place for me to buy the kit from because everything I need is included. You’ll screw up a few times if you try it out, but as with all things, you get better with practice. I also like to make special Halloween teeth just to freak people out around the holidays – It’s pretty awesome in it’s own way – which is yet another silver lining to that whole experience.

Another time where it really sank home that I’d changed my perspective is when I finally applied for college courses in 2012. I was getting fed up with working over time and still not being able to pay all my bills because I couldn’t get a decent paying job. I reached out to a few colleges, and got accepted by the ones I wanted. Did I ever stop to think that my background would stop me? Not really. I did make a point to bring it up in every interview, just to give the advisors a heads up, but because it had been over 5 years, none of the advisors I spoke with gave a damn about my theft record.  I didn’t let the idea of it overwhelm me, like it would have in the past – when I was still freshly released and in a different mindset.

Did I ever think that I wouldn’t find a way to provide for my needs in these examples? Nope. Not once I realized that where there is a will – there is a way.

I remember years before this, I would have never even tried to do anything because I would have figured right away that I’d be denied anything and everything because I was a worthless exconvict. (Totally not true by the way – for any of us – don’t let that mindset take you!)

I have to give my second father credit for helping this sort of mindset be possible though. He was an aviator (if I haven’t told you before), and he was a curious fellow. He gained a bit of notoriety in our community because he didn’t let inconveniences stop him. Here’s the story on that:

Dad began building a section of a wing for an airplane that he was building (and it wasn’t the first or last one…..). The fun part—-He began it in an upper bedroom of his house and forgot to move it as the wing became bigger and bigger. ….So.. as the wing grew in size, it couldn’t join the rest of the project downstairs in one of the large sheds he used for hangars.
Instead of stopping, giving up, or taking the thing apart to move it…. he decided to keep on, and just use a chainsaw to open the exterior wall of the room when it was done – so that he and his family could bring it out.

Yes.. there are photos somewhere… and I’ll try to update this eventually to share them once I find them and get permission from the family to do so. It’s quite epic to imagine – let alone see the proof.

That’s all for today guys! Love and Peace

Aza

The Importance of Research

Welcome Readers!
Our topic today is the importance of research and continuing personal curiosity and learning. Now, I know I’ve touched on this before, and I thought it might be helpful to share some more of the personal experiences that have came up for me over the last decade to help cement the idea of how productive it really can be.

The first time I realized that my curiosity about my situation could be actually helpful to building a life back up was when I stumbled upon a list of updated laws for my state, sometime around 2014. Mostly, it was a lot of stuff that was irrelevant to the lifestyle I lived, but it included a note about an updated law directed toward the sealing of records and their various requirements. Now, when I talk about requirements for these things, I mean things like length of time since conviction and release of sentence, type of arrest/charge/conviction, and having various forms of supporting evidence of character change – these are the most common characteristics that you’ll see on these updates in my experience.

This one mentioned expanding to various types of theft, and it immediately caught my interest. I went through the process over that spring at tax time just to take a shot at it – not even believing I’d really get anywhere – I was just desperate at a shot toward something positive. I finally reached the day where I took my place in front of the judge and plead my case to get a chance at life again. He took a moment to peek at the petition in front of him in that pale, stark folder…flipped through his handy-dandy lawbook… and looked quite puzzled for a moment… before he finally explained his total befuddlement to me.
The judge hadn’t even been updated on the new law yet!

While I didn’t end up fully qualifying for the sealing procedure that day (thank you journalists who use the thesaurus without a second thought – we still cool tho – I understand the struggle), the judge was impressed by the gumption that I had shown in trying to do something about my life, and he took the time to express exactly that.

It was a really surreal moment. I hadn’t loved the idea of facing the court system again, especially because they had left such a huge and negative impression on my life. I had been terrified and pretty nauseous the entire time I had to be back in the court house at all. But that small moment, those three seconds where my work was positively acknowledged by a person from that system…. WOW.

It sparked my first interest in really digging into the resources available at our fingertips and seeing what I could do with it.

The next experience that really cemented the importance of research to improving life overall, was when I found out about the Certificate of Good Conduct in my state, found the requirement list and discovered that I was REALLY qualified for it. It would have impacts on both my housing and employment prospects, and do you want to know the best part?

Again, no one had any idea that this was a thing that was available for felons in my state!

They heard me out with a new interest sparkling in their eyes as I quoted the statute, the requirements, and how I had fulfilled them, and they promptly sent the assistant to do some additional research in their on-site law books while my case was pushed to the end of the court session so they could give this their full attention.

When my name was called again, the judge was amazed and extremely pleased by my ability to find the certificate, ensure the requirements were met and steel myself again for the petition to the court. (And I did it for free, because I had a low-income, I also qualified for waived court costs)

The most recent experience is detailed in my Raging Against the Ticket series, from April of 2017. Check it out for more details, as it’s a pretty long story with a gleeful ending!

Thank you so much for stopping by again, and don’t forget to amp up your research skills. You never know when they might save you.

Peace and love
Aza

Pushing Boundaries and Developing Skills

Hey Readers! Hope all is well for you!

 

It’s been an interesting month for me, as there have been some suggestions in the works for offering speeches.

Now, not only am I a shy and somewhat anxious person, I’ve also been trained by society in some ways to feel that my opinions are not worthy and that I’m more likely to fail than other people. Simply because I made a mistake and earned a record – over a decade ago.

It is amazing to have that sort of suggestion thrown my way, because of those reasons. And it’s rather validating in a way, even if I still have that nagging voice in the back of my head saying…”Hahahaha – you’re gonna do WHAT? That’s hilarious!!!”.

Now, do I have any idea how to create a speech from scratch? …Not really…

Do I have any experience talking in big groups? …. (falls over laughing)

Do I have any experience with videos, editing, or uploading? …. absolutely not…

Am I gonna dig in, do some research, and create the best experience for my audience as possible?? …. We have a winner!

You know why I’m saying yes? I’m saying yes, because opportunity is knocking at my door. I’m saying yes, because I believe in every felon that wants their life to be better – deserves the right to find a path to that. I’m saying yes, because growth might be painful sometimes, but it’s one of the most beautiful things in life.

It won’t be easy, and I won’t like all of it, but I know I’ll learn some new skills, some new ideas, meet new people, and have more chances to make a positive impact on how felons are viewed in society.

You and me? We’re both worth more than we realize, and we need to remember that. Start looking for opportunities to create positive interactions, and be a part of the change, not only in yourself and your life, but the life of every other struggling felon out there.

Love and Peace,
Aza

 

Who Likes Reading? (raises hand)

Hey Readers! Back again today with a short list of inspiring reads I’ve found on Smashwords while doing a bit of research.

I’ve bookmarked them for myself too, for that rainy day that I have off every now and then. Hopefully, I’ll snag enough time to finish these before the end of the year, so I can use them as stepping stones for my goals next year!

Check them out below:

1. Smashword Reading List Book 1
I’m hoping to get into the interviewer mindset from this, to help build a workshop for local ex-offenders who need interview training.

2.  Smashword Reading List Book 2
Who doesn’t love getting pumped up with inspirational quotes? These are fuel for me, and also give additional perspective on the various situations we can encounter.

3. Smashword Reading List Book 3
This one, well, it seems a lot more blunt from the title, and yes.. you’ll have to click to find out what it is. I have a feeling that I’m going to love it, the reviews are wicked, and I can’t resist that darkly honest and slightly edgy writing style and perspective.

Thanks for stopping by again! Love and Peace
Aza