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

Advertisements

Twitter Interview #1 – Jess T.

I’ve finally been using my Twitter account instead of ignoring it and I made an awesome new friend on it this week. It feels pretty awesome to know that there are people in the same situation that want to help others who are still struggling with their recovery in life. She’s decided to share a little of her story about her conviction and her progress with her recovery from those darker days.

Are you ready to read her interview? I know it touched my heart and reminded me of how amazing each and every one of us is. Here we go:

Aza -When were you convicted and what were you convicted for?

Jess – Let’s see. The last time I was arrested was July 2007 for possession of methamphetamine. I was already on first offender felony probation, so I ended up staying in the county jail for a little over 5 months.

Aza – What helped you push through the obstacles that your convictions put in place?

Jess- I found out about two weeks in that I was pregnant. It was one of the scariest 5 months of my life. I called my mom to bail me out like I always did… only, this time she called my existing probation office to make sure they put a probation violation hold on me so that I couldn’t get out. Of course, at the time she had no idea how long I would be stuck in there; she just wanted me to get clean. For so long, she didn’t even know if I was still alive; so, knowing I was somewhere safe was a relief. As far as pushing through the obstacles that stem from my convictions, of course, my faith and my family were a huge driving source. I honestly believe that God saved me. That putting my life in His hands is the only reason I still have one. And, I couldn’t have made it through the drug court program and rehab program and the stress of being a single mom and recovering addict without my parents. But, also, there was no choice but to push through. I remember being paraded through doctors offices (because a pregnant inmate still has rights to prenatal care) in cuffs and leg shackles, people pulling their kids closer to them as if I was going to attack, and thinking, “I’m not this person. I never hurt anyone other than myself.” The shame was unbearable. I remember standing in front of the judge for the last time, facing 10 years in prison, and feeling completely hopeless. And, I remember the world around me stopping as I heard her say she saw something in me that she can’t explain, and that she was going to give me another chance on the condition that she never sees me in her courtroom again. And, at that moment, I knew I had no choice. I wanted to be better, for myself and for my baby. I was going to prove to everyone that I was better than what they saw.

Aza – What advice would you give to other struggling felons and recovering addicts across the globe?

Jess – For advice, I would say this: You are not your mistakes. BUT don’t disown your past. Own every single part of who you are. One thing that always bothers me is when people say, “well, that’s your past. That’s not who you are.” Wrong. My past is every bit a part of who I am. And, I wear it with pride. I have been through the pits of hell and I have come out, no matter how battered or bruised, on the other side. I encourage you to not let anyone make you feel ashamed of your past. You’re a survivora fighter… and the world has so much in store for you!


Thank you, Jess, for sharing your story of struggle and how you pushed through the obstacles that life throws at us.

 

Interesting Reads – List of the Week

Hey Readers! I’ve been browsing the catalog again!

There’s a lot of nifty books in this list, check them out below:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/503385?ref=AzaEnigma (Strong Brains, Sharp Minds)

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/23934?ref=AzaEnigma (Digital Media Skills)

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/398936?ref=AzaEnigma (Job Guide for Nurses)

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/578517?ref=AzaEnigma (Doctor Who Stuff)

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/252936?ref=AzaEnigma (Learning on the Go)

And that’s my collection of interesting reads this week!

If you dig this list, why not check out my previous posts for more links (here and here)

That’s all for now folks

Love and Peace – Aza

Smashwords Profile

Hey Readers!

I’ve updated my profile page at Smashwords – one of my online publishing sources. Just click the link there, and you can check it out. Maybe take a look around the site and see what all the awesome indie authors out there have to offer.
There’s a lot of interesting things always being uploaded every day!

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

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

Building a Local Marketing Pack

Hey Readers!

As always, I’m staying productive and busy, and I’ve been working on a few different projects recently.

While I am pursuing an online marketing plan (we’re in the very early stages of this – more on it later) , I also wanted to try to get the book out to my local felons.

So, I’ve been playing with Canva non-stop, and trying out different templates in Microsoft Word and Publisher.

These are the ones I’ve settled on for my local marketing plan. The packs will be sent to over ten local probation offices for the first run, and will be expanded to halfway homes, shelters, and other community organizations that tend to cater to those with background problems.

Check them out and let me know what you think!

Marketing Letter 2 Probation Offices 

Marketing Flyer Probation Offices 1      

Marketing Sample Content Page Pack

I’ll admit that I really hate marketing, but since I need to reach out to people that don’t know I’m here offering help, I know I have to do it, even if it feels kinda gross. All I can keep thinking about is how I react to marketing and having things basically shoved in my face – examples: hanging up on cold callers (although its more scam things these days), throwing out mail that I don’t recognize, etc, etc. I mean, who wants to be on the sending/calling side of that? However, there aren’t really any other ways to get out there locally.

I’ll also be starting to offer motivational speeches on how I overcame my own obstacles and how it is possible for you to do the same. This will begin on a local scale as well, and might expand if I have enough of a positive impact.

That’s all for now guys! Peace and Love

-Aza

What am I doing? (Find Out Here)

Happy Friday Readers!

It’s been a long week, but things have picked back up again after  a tiny rough spot. Over the week, I’ve been going nuts with the survey that I created which can be found here.

Some of you might be wondering just what the heck I am up to.

Well, I’m trying to create an after felony life coaching program. I know that I was crazy lost after my conviction. I felt that I was boxed up, stamped with a defunct label, and tucked into a forgotten corner of society.

Familiar sensation? I know, right? Super suck-tacular.

In my situation, I didn’t find out about relief or figure out how to get my life back on track until a considerable amount of time had passed and I was on the verge of giving up and letting go of what little progress I had made. The only thing that helped stop me from doing that was my son. Now, not all of us have that sort of situation, where we have a little one that needs our love and protection, but even without that sort of inspiration to keep going, we on our own as individuals are worth the immense amount of stress and struggle that we will have to endure to get on our feet and feel worthy again.

What I want to do is make sure that we don’t HAVE to feel alone or hopeless anymore. While the program would have some limitations, as relief is so varied between states and our situations are even more varied, I still feel that with guidance that many of us could push through our obstacles and make our lives a little bit more live-able. If we can adjust our mindsets toward growth, resilience, and determination – we can overcome just about anything that we face.

I’m also trying to address how society perceives us. If we focus on our positive aspects instead of our negative aspects, we can improve how society sees us and improve our chances for a better life. But we have to interact with society in positive ways to help that happen. For instance, I recently moved to a smaller town that is still close to where I was convicted. As I’ve socialized over that time with the residents of this area, I try to ensure that there are more positive interactions than negative. Once a few people got to know me better, I dropped the social bomb of having a record. Every single one of them were surprised, but none of them stopped interacting with me because I had created a positive association by being helpful and kind. The good character that I’ve built up over the years is helping improve how these people view some of the felons around here.

So far, I’ve written a basic guide book for those that prefer to do things on their own (like myself) (available here), and I’ve begun developing the one on one after felony coaching program that will help those that need more guidance. I can’t promise that it will be a fix all for everyone, but I can promise that my intentions are to help as many as I can and to inspire others to do the same.

That’s all for now guys, thanks for stopping by and I hope you rock your day and smash your goals!

Aza

Finding Freedom (Full Release)

Hey Readers!

It feels like it has been a long time since I uploaded my work into Smashwords, but the book is finally fully released! (Original cover art featured above – Courtesy Paulann Egelhoff- see links below)

 (Smashwords Link)

It contains helpful tips and hints that I found useful over my own years of struggle, as well as a state by state breakdown of what we can do to get our records off of our backs. I’m not saying getting through it is gonna be easy, but I know from experience that it’s worth it.

Also, if you love the original cover art shown above, please go here to see more of the artists work. She’s a wonderful photographer and digital artist, as well as a close friend of mine. (See, positive networking helps out everyone involved!)

Anywho, thank you so much for stopping by, I hope you’ve found something helpful here, and if you’d like to connect, find my Facebook page The Friendly Felon

If you want the exclusive print edition – find it HERE, and show Microcosm Publishing some love – they’re amazing!

Or if you’re into eBooks – just look to the right of your screen for links to popular retailers or search The Guide to Life After a Felony at your favorite ebook retailer.

Stay strong fellow felons, we got this!

Graduating College with a Felony!

Guess what, I’m now a felon that has a Bachelors of Science degree in Psychology!

It’s been a long five years (had to take a break after family losses for mental health), but I made it!

I am living proof that our pasts don’t have to stop us from becoming better people. What’s even crazier, is that the background you have can even help you depending on the career you choose to study for.

In my case, I wanted to apply my experiences as a felon in a program that will help other felons (and non-felons too!). Because I have managed to get my life back on track (messy as it might be, its what I have and what I LOVE), I want every felon to know that it isn’t the end of their normal life to have a conviction. You can move forward and you can be successful. You just have to want it, and be willing to figure out how to get it the right way!

I have a theft record, so I had to work around what I knew I couldn’t work in. I have had to avoid corporate retail positions, because it’s often a waste of my time and printed resumes (precious, expensive printer ink and paper) often because corporate or state policy simply doesn’t allow a felon with theft to work for them (state seems to be picky about lottery too, so no gas stations either for theft records around here). So, I had to find something that I COULD work in, that I actually LIKED.

I chose psychology partly because I love the intricacy of the human mind and how our emotions drive us to behave in different situations. I also love helping people with their problems and have been the go-to for my friends – both online and in real life – for advice and guidance.

Then I realized that with my background and my new expertise in psychology and life coaching, I could actually create my own coaching career built on my experiences. Plus I get to write about stuff that matters to me – it’s seriously a dream come true.

I also realized that there isn’t anything in my area that is directed to helping felons get back on their feet (the halfway houses around here don’t offer coaching, counseling, or any other actual support other than housing), and I recognized that there is a need for more support services for struggling individuals.

All in all, I wouldn’t change a thing that I’ve been through. My felony might have made me stumble, but it can’t keep me down in the dirt. If I can pick myself up, time and time again, holding my head high and continuing to move forward in life, I know you can too.

If you need guidance finding your passion and need someone to hold you accountable (it helps to have someone rooting for you and keeping you on task, it really does),  I’d love to help you. I offer books, workbooks, and one on one digital coaching. Find the links to the books in the sidebar to the right, or scroll up to the top to find a link to the exclusive print edition from Microcosm. I even created a couple of workbooks to help walk you through the process of getting back on track and these are available on Shopify for only $3 USD each. If you need one on one help, click on Hire Aza and take a look at what I offer. There’s something for everyone who is looking for a little guidance and I’ve made it as affordable as possible – so check it out and let’s support each other!

Love and peace,
Aza @aza_enigma (Twitter)

 

Writing Your Story

Sorry for the lack of posts guys, as usual, things are crazy on the home and business fronts. I’ve been hard at work researching and writing first drafts of my other writing projects (more information on these coming soon). And while writing is on my mind, I wanted to talk about how writing your story (how you became a felon) can help you put things into perspective. The insight that you might find through the practice of writing the story of your life might help you find your path to freedom again.

Shortly after my own incarceration, I found myself writing non-stop in my diary, talking about how I had got myself into the position I was currently in, how the people I thought were friends were just dragging me into unknown depths, and how insane my experience seemed to be in general.

I started to realize that it wasn’t just my friends that had beguiled me into the situation and that I had to take control of myself for myself. I had to start being accountable for my actions and lack of actions. This realization helped guide me to where I am now. I have raised a child to double digits (the little one isn’t so little these days), I have supported my family, and I have taken control of my life and I won’t let anything stop me from being successful. Felon or not, I am going to find or forge (create forcibly, not write bad checks, just FYI) my path to freedom and acceptance in society. And I know you can do it too!

Point is, writing it out can help you get outside of your head and might take a bit of the depression off your shoulders. It helped me learn more about myself and find out what I needed to change about myself – you never know until you authentically give it a shot.

Til next time,

Love and peace,
Aza @aza_enigma (Twitter)

Learning to be Flexible about Work

Hello, dear Readers!

I want to talk to you about being a felon and finding work. If I’ve learned anything over the past ten years of having a record tied to my name, it’s that being flexible about the kind of work I’m available for, is the best way to keep the income coming in.

With my conviction, I was pushed to gain my GED by a given date in the probation papers, and this helped fill in the first -good- part of my resume. In some cases, your own convictions and the following supervision period (probation/parole/etc) may have included similar pushes to become an active member of society again.

Often, you’ll have to complete these either while serving time or while getting probation or parole over with. If not, I suggest getting this generalized diploma as soon as you feel you can pass the test. There are tons of GED classes available in most areas, as well as numerous free sources online that you can use (like Kahn Academy – I use it for homeschooling too!) to get your basics in shape for the test.

After I got the GED out of the way, I marched around town (7 months pregnant at the time on top of it), and put in an application to nearly every business I happened across. Did I get any of the jobs? Absolutely not. My conviction was too recent, my name too recently brought up as the worst name in the books, and I was too far along in my pregnancy for any employers to want to invest their money training me for a job I’d statistically either thieve from or leave from too soon. Did it stop me? Again – absolutely not.

It did take a while for me to finally find a job that would employ me, and that first job (I’ll leave you guessing here) after the conviction had actually left me with some majorly mixed emotions – even to this day- and helped push me into a state of mind where I was very uncomfortable with myself.

Normally, this isn’t a great thing, but it allowed me to realize that in order to get my good (or even just neutralized) name back in the surrounding area, I’d have to find a way to do good things and prove that I wasn’t the person I had been before.

I started applying to the diners and cafes in the area so that I could interact with people and let them get to know me as a person. There’s nothing like a customer service job in a small town. My probation wasn’t quite up at the time, and the incident I had been involved in was still relatively known and discussed, so even a slight misstep was cause enough to get myself fired in these early days. The pay was low, and customers were fairly rude (to which I learned to respond with kindness – that was bloody difficult), and the tips were unreliable.

Once probation was finally over and I passed the age of 21, the option of working in bars opened up as well. This proved rather lucrative, as when the locals came and drank on my shift, they would get drunk and actually begin to give me time to talk to them and they tipped even more than the morning rushes at the diners. I even managed to make a couple of friends. However, thanks to my inability to move from the area, there were still rumors flying around and I managed to irritate a couple people by simply existing and having a job while having a bad record.

This was still only about four years into my felon status, so things were still pretty raw when it came to jobs that actually ran background checks. Now, after ten years, it’s not so much an issue for me – but I still feel the same old hopelessness creep up every single time I bring it up. It’s not easy to overcome, but since I have no option EXCEPT to keep moving forward, I choose to push through it every time the job search is renewed.

Another thing I’ve learned is that you can’t win by lying to your (potential) employer. The background checks now are often not limited to a certain number of years as everything is becoming digital and can be retrieved for a low rate by nearly every company.

The most recent application I made for a part-time independent contract inspection agent position proved this, as I found that even after ten years and one month past my conviction date, my record was readily available and staring me in the face in an (accusatory feeling) email. However, they have given me the chance to discuss the conviction and how I’ve proven that I’m not a naughty person any longer. Not all companies will do this, and even when they do, it’s likely something required by law and they’re just covering the bases to cover their arses.

That’s where the certifications and proof of positive change come in to save the day (in some situations anyway).

That’s all for now, keep checking back!

Love and peace,
Aza @aza_enigma (Twitter)

 

Getting Bonded (Insured at Work)

Hey there, thanks for coming back!

We’re going to cover another topic today, one which can really help you sell yourself (in the best way possible) to the various employers that might be on the fence for hiring you thanks to that pesky background check.

While it’s tempting to cover up your background, it’s better to come out up front about it (more on this later, I promise). There’s a good reason for this:

It’s called the Federal Bonding Program, and it won’t cost you OR your employer a single cent and it lasts for six whole months.

This particular pro-tip isn’t just for felons, it can be used by those who have substance abuse issues, those who are on various forms of welfare, those with poor credit (for those pesky jobs that evaluate every aspect of your personal life), those with little to no work history and those who were discharged from the military without the honorable discharge.

The great thing about this is how easy it is to get started. You can use this link (http://bonds4jobs.com/our-services/job-seekers) to get more information about how to get started or to grab information to take with you to your next interview.

In line with this program, I’ve also heard that many factory jobs receive tax incentives for hiring felons, so if you have a healthy enough body for that kind of work, you may have much better luck finding employment through one of your local factories.

That’s all I’ve got on Federal Bonding, but it’s definitely worth more investigation if you’re having issues with getting past the interviews for work.

Love and peace,
Aza @aza_enigma (Twitter me!)