Friday, November 18, 2011

An Author Interview by Mandi Casey

Hi all, I am still busy with the NaNoWriMo and am doing very well with it. I should have a very entertaining and thought provoking science fiction novel to show for it afterward. In the meantime, please check out the latest interview author Mandi Casey did with me on her blog:

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Lighter Side of NaNoWriMo

Thought I would celebrate the end of the first week of the NaNoWriMo by giving my fellow writers a much deserved break with a little humor we can all relate to. Enjoy, and also take a look at the video "So You Want to Write a Novel" on the side bar of this blog. Go ahead and treat yourself to a couple of minutes of good humor then get back to work, there's only 3 weeks left till deadline!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Our Many Different Voices

I was thinking today how my writing voice sounds different than my talking voice. We have many different voices. For example, have you ever heard one of your favorite musicians or actors talk for the first time and you were surprised to hear how completely different it is from their performing voice? It is very eerie how one's writing, talking, and singing voices can all sound so different. In fact, brain imaging has proven that we use different regions of our brain when we use these other mediums of communication.

Personally I feel I communicate best through my writing voice, perhaps because I have more time to consider the perfect words to use to convey my thoughts. That is not to say that I can't also communicate well in a conversation, just that I feel I can get my point across more efficaciously when writing. I have a vast vocabulary that I can draw upon when I am relaxed and writing, but often when I'm speaking I find that I will pause as I mentally search for the right word. As far as singing, well you won't catch me doing much of that, but I can carry a tune.

I bring this topic up as a reminder to writers that the sound of your writing voice will set the tone for your entire story and is just as important as other aspects such as plot, setting and character development. Obviously the qualities of a writing voice are not measured in the same physical qualities of the spoken voice, such as timbre, pitch, volume and tone. Although they can convey these qualities by the subtle nuances of the words we chose.
The narrator and characters in our stories speak to our readers through our writing voice. We can make the reader hear the deep resonating voice of a wise old man, the rich and sultry whispers of a temptress, or the giggles and high pitched voices of children all by the choice of words we use-- our writing voice. Pay attention to this when you write and see if you can hear how your readers will hear the voices of your characters.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Jack of All Trades, Master of None

Many of us have a number of interests going on at once. It is understandable since there are so many things to learn and enjoy in life. We continually add to our "to do" list: learn a new language, to play a musical instrument, to paint, etc. We may even actually accomplish a number of them to some degree, but mostly what we come to find is that we only really have enough time to devote to a few of them.

 I noticed my son was starting to get involved in a new hobby every 3 months, spending a few hundred dollars to finish a couple of projects and then moving on to the next hobby. As parents we should encourage our children and support them in their interests. I would think well he is young and still trying to figure out what he really wants to do, but then I  thought, well actually I am 40 and I still have changing interests. There are a few that always stay with me (weightlifting, chess, and writing) but I too will find something new almost every few months that I would like to try my hand at.

I had a boss once pull me aside and tell me, "You try to do too many things at once, you should find one thing and concentrate on being very good at that." Likewise, I have had chess masters suggest that I study just a couple of main openings and understand them as best I could. I can see the wisdom in these philosophies, but I just can't get myself to stay with only a few things. I will read about something or see an interesting documentary and I am off again, learning as much as I can until the next topic or hobby grabs my attention. I don't think it is necessarily a bad thing to be a Jack of all trades master of none, but I do wonder from time to time how good could I really be in one thing if I just devoted all my time to it....

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Unchosen Ones

     I wonder how many other writers will be able to relate to this...You're sitting at your laptop working on your story and ideas are flowing; you almost can't type as fast as the words are coming to you. But then it happens ....It is something that is so maddeningly simple, yet it is enough to bring your flow to a screeching halt.  You have two different phrases or sentences in mind that will both work perfectly in a line of your story and you just can't decide which one to use. I have spent many hours deciding over this, knowing that the reader would more than likely skim right over the sentence and would not be affected any differently had I chose the other sentence instead. Yet you are so proud of both of these well-phrased sentences that you don't want to let one of them go, but you have to because you can only choose one. I almost mourn for the sentence that will not be chosen, and I will even go so far as to keep it at the bottom of my working manuscript in hopes that I will be able to find a place for it somewhere else in the story.

     Assuming that other writers in the past have dealt with this same situation, imagine if we could read some of the great works of literature with all the sentences that weren't chosen put in place of those that were. It is very likely that they would be equally great works, but just told with different words. Almost like if someone were to ask you which of your children do you love the most, and you respond that you love them all the same but for their own unique reasons.

     It has been said that, "God dwells in the details," and so if there is a creator of the universe, he/she undoubtedly has run into this problem too. "Do I make a flamingo pink or yellow? "Should a mouse be this big or a little bigger? What if I put the colors in the rainbow in a different order? It would still be beautiful, just in a different way." As writers, we create new worlds and beings with our words, and it is understandable that we may labor over which words to use to best describe and convey our creations to our readers. And so I write this blog in honor of those words, phrases and sentences that were not chosen, but are worthy and may someday be called upon in another story at another time.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Searching every "Nook" and cranny to find "Kindle" for a "Fire"

If you haven't already purchased an e-reader you are probably just trying to decide between the ever increasing  models available. Should you get the Nook Color or the Kindle Fire? There are pros and cons to each, and you're more than likely to be happy with either one, so just get one already and start enjoying all the features you're missing! Some of the obvious useful features available to both are the ability to touch a word you are not familiar with and see it defined instantly, and the ability to access the internet as a wireless device. Throw away your reading light as they are back-lit and you can adjust the screen for reading at anytime of the day. Plug in headphones and enjoy your music to block out the noisy TV that others around you waste their brain on while you enlighten yourself reading. Books are cheaper to purchase with e-readers and you literally have hundreds available to you for free! And if you travel you don't have to decide between which books you'll take, you can take them all with you in the palm of your hand!

But perhaps the most exciting thing to talk about e-readers is what is to come. Think of the possibilities, the many different ways that technology can make the reading experience both more efficient and more enjoyable. If you didn't know already, Kindle has recently introduced Kindlegraph in which you can request an author to digitally sign your book and have it appear instantly on your e-reader! (I can sign a copy of my book for you here

Let's take this a step further, as we consider how e-readers have the potential to connect authors with their readers. It's ironic that digital electronic communication, a medium most feel is impersonal, will actual allow us to interact with our favorite authors in a way that wasn't possible before. With more efficient communication available, authors will be better able to understand what their readers enjoy about their books, and readers will feel a stronger connection to their favorite authors. For example, authors could insert interactive links in their books that take them to websites that have bios on characters, or side-stories, if they are interested in learning more about the world and characters the author has created. You obviously can't do that with paper books. This mutual beneficial scenario may lead to authors writing books that speak even stronger to the minds of their readers, and this may in turn influence more people to be interested in reading. Ultimately e-readers may be the beginning of a more enlightened world!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Guest Post--Dawn Torrens on Amelia's Story

I am honored to be able to feature Dawn Torrens, the author of one of the most captivating true stories of a traumatic childhood I have ever read. After reading her story you will gain a new respect for the strength of the human will to overcome adversity. And now I introduce to you Dawn:

Firstly I would like to thank Dax Tucker for inviting me to guest post for him today, this is such an honor for me as I am such a fan of his book, "The Leaf Catcher".


I am from Birmingham in England, where I live with my husband and beautiful daughter. Birmingham is the central city for the UK! This is a very multicultural city, vibrant and full of optimism for the people which live
there! I am a very proud mother who believes in the motto, "The child first and foremost." My daughter always comes first in my life, she is my heart, my soul and my world. I could not imagine a life without her in it. I am a passionate writer, and this has been so since the age of 9 years old when I started writing poems, this was my way of expressing myself during my times of despair as a child.

Amelia's Story (my first book)

Amelia's Story is a true story (my story) I have written this book for my daughter, so when she is much older she can read this in her own time, and better understand the long hard road I had to travel before I got to where I am today. This is a harrowing account of a young girl's struggle to survive each and everyday in the state care system during the 70's and 80's. These were hard and lonely times. Amelia (me) was so determined not to become a statistic that she made a promise to herself that she will one day amount to something, having heard the opposite all of her life only fueled her determination. The obstacles placed in Amelia's way proved so hard at times that she almost gives up and wonders about the peace and finality of her own death.

Amelia's story has taken me on a very emotional journey, and an extremely hard one too. I had to revisit places I never thought I could again, I had to come face to face with some very hard truths which I discovered during my research. Before I started writing my book I had to gain permission from the state social services records department, there was so many gaps I needed to fill, so many case reviews about myself that I was not privy to at the time. I wanted to know how they determined the choices they made for me, what was discussed about me in those case reviews before I was shipped from one place to another. I was given access to all my records for the duration of my time spent under the care system. I traveled to a town called Shrewsbury to the head office of the records department, I spent a whole day wading through boxes and boxes of reports, case review records, NSPCC reports and so on. I discovered so much more. I asked if I was able to take a copy of everything and I was granted this important request. I set about photocopying everything so I could write my story fully informed.

My story is not for the faint hearted, however, this is a story of personal strength, of determination, and the will to survive. My story is already inspiring people from all walks of life. My ultimate dream is to set up my own children's charity eventually and make as much of a difference as I possibly can. In the meantime Amelia's story is making a small difference as a percentage of all my sales each and every month goes to:

I have two more books coming out in 2012, Amelia's Story part 2, and a thriller based novel, which I started writing a couple of years ago and I am third of the way in.

My hopes and dreams for the future, well this is easy, I want my daughter to look back on her own childhood when she is a woman with fond memories. I want her to grow up a happy and well balanced person, with a kind heart full of love and respect for life. I hope to write many more books, and make a huge difference to many children across the world. I hope to inspire those children who are currently living through a hard and emotional childhood as I once did, giving them hope for the future, that they can go on to be anything they want to be with will and determination.

Thank you all so much for taking the time out of your day to join us today.

Authors links:

My website -
My charity -
Buy book -
Buy book
My charity -
Authors making a difference -

Thank you Dawn, I know many will be touched after reading your story, and your goals and dreams are truly an indication of a person that wants to make a positive difference in the world. I wish you, your book, and your family much success!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Surgeon General's Warning: Negative Perception is Hazardous to Your Health

Have you ever seen a one year old toddler dragging a chair bigger than they are across the floor? Pound for pound they are stronger than the average adult. If we were to keep this relative strength into our adulthood it would be very impressive to say the least. Now what does this have to do with perception you might ask? In my book, The Leaf Catcher, the father brings up this analogy to his son and explains that as that child grows up and hears everyone around them talk about their limitations they grow to believe them as well. Our perception as a toddler is that everything is new and everything is possible, we just need to keep trying until we get what we want. But over time our perception becomes adulterated with negativity and accepted beliefs of limitations that we hear and see around us, and this can keep us from reaching our full potential.

Let's take another look at an example of perception and then we will return to tie it in with the above example. We have all experienced the very real sensation that time can seem to move unnaturally slow when we are bored or in pain, and unbelievably fast when we are having a good time and don't wan't something to end. The fact is that time never changes it properties, a minute is the same length of time no matter what you are doing, but sometimes it can feel like 10 minutes or 10 seconds depending on how we perceive it.

So we see that perception is so strong it can change both our physical capabilities and our mental experience of time. Perception then is the most powerful performance enhancing drug available to us that is both free and without unwanted side effects. A positive perception will have you high on life. However, a negative perception has been associated with the following: depression, insomnia, nausea, blindness to potential, stroke of seemingly bad luck, heart and life failure.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Building an Arsenal of Influential Power One Word at a Time

Words are powerful, whether they are written or spoken. In this sentence I can write just one word that would offend you and cause you to stop reading and never look at my blog again, or I could choose a word or phrase that would set of a chain of mental events that cause you to experience a sense of curiosity, nostalgia, or pleasure that will have you eager to read more. That is the power of words, and we all recognize when we hear a good speaker or read a skillful writer because we feel that anticipation, "Oh, this is gonna be good ...."

Conversely, we also recognize right away when we are in for a cringing session of empathy: The comedian on stage who is bombing, a story your friend wrote that is fraught with spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors, and asks you for your "honest" opinion. These experiences are dramatically different and we look forward to hearing that inspirational speaker who's words are enunciated and articulated with confidence, and to being whisked away by the writer whose power of words creates entire worlds that we can escape to.

So, what is my point? you ask, as I have merely pointed out the obvious. My point is precisely this, there are many ways in which one can obtain and exercise power, however, while there are only a few who can achieve power through means of wealth, most of us have the ability to speak or write, and as words cost virtually nothing we can call upon them at anytime and anyplace to do our bidding. All that is required to fully realize their power and make it ours is to take the time learn and appreciate them. Try and learn a new word each day and add to your arsenal of influential power.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

"Cannot" vs. "can not"

Recently a reader emailed me the following inquiry:

I shared "The Leaf Catcher" with some colleagues yesterday. One thing we found interesting is your use of "can not" instead of the compound form "cannot." I interpreted your choice as a means of emphasis on the "not," but now I am just curious, Why did you choose to write it this way?

This is an often debated topic, but after much research I found that the quick and dirty answer is that "cannot" and "can not" can be used interchangeably, and it doesn't matter which form you use. But the reader was correct in their interpretation in that I choose to use "can not" to emphasize the "not."

As a side note, when I did a word search on the manuscript for "The Leaf Catcher" to find the occurrences of "not" I was amazed at how many times the word shows up throughout the story! Then I thought about it, and it made perfect sense. Of course the word "not" should be seen throughout a story that deals with negativity. The challenge in the beginning of the book is, "Can you go just one day without thinking a negative thought?" The sad truth is that you "can not," but you also "can not" let that stop you from noticing when you are letting negative thoughts get the better of you and trying to counter them with a positive attitude. Therefore, "not" can be used in a negative or positive sense depending on the context. And it is our perception and attitude that will determine which context we choose to use "not" in our affirmations.

Monday, September 26, 2011

A Truly Noble Profession

     Authors are unique in that they are not competing in the market to put other authors out of business as other professionals do in most industries to maintain a competitive advantage and capture more market share. To the contrary, as authors we are inspired by each other as we share in the passion for the written word's ability to entertain and enrich our lives. As rich and diversified as there are different cultures and languages, so too are the diversity of stories and the style in which they can be told. It is the one industry in which we hope for more entries.

     True, if someone walks into a bookstore with only enough money to buy one book, we hope that our cover art and the description of what lies within will grab their attention; we need to make a living like everyone else. But we don't wish for the exclusion of other authors' success. Furthermore, as authors, we do not purchase our own books, but often buy, read, and recommend works of many other different authors. How many other professions would do this with their competitor's products?

     Therefore, we can be proud, my fellow authors, for ours is a noble profession in which all benefit from the success of one another. How might you benefit from the recent bestselling status of another author? We can all learn from each other and be inspired by a good story. And even if your work never attains a bestseller status,  writing has it's own intrinsic reward, not the least of which is a degree of immortality, as each book we put in print leaves a piece of ourselves for posterity.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Putting Things in Perspective

     If you have been following my blogs so far you know that my posts usually consists of thought provoking topics that invite or challenge you to consider ideas you may not have before. In keeping with this theme I would like to bring up the concept of infinity, both within and without.

      Most people are familiar with the idea that the universe goes on forever. But have you also considered the opposite side of this concept--the infinite within.  Think of the smallest thing you can imagine--an atom. But as you know an atom is composed of even smaller parts--electrons, protons, and neutrons. And these parts are composed of even smaller parts still, ad infinitum.

     And so here we stand, somewhere in the middle of an infinitely expanding universe made up of infinitely smaller parts. Just think about that for a minute....Of course it is like asking an ant to solve a calculus equation, it does not have the necessary mental faculties to do so. Likewise, we are missing the faculties necessary to comprehend this concept of an infinitely small and infinitely large universe. We can only think in terms of a beginning and an end. However, what we can do to benefit from this concept is put our lives in perspective. Sometimes we can think too highly of ourselves and we would do well to consider we are only but a speck of matter in an infinite universe. Conversely, if we think too low of ourselves, we can be encouraged by realizing that no matter how insignificant we feel, the universe could not be the universe it is without us.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Emperor's New Book

Many are familiar with the fable, The Emperor's New Clothes, in which an emperor and his royal subjects are taught the ignorance of blindly following other's just because an "Authority" has deemed something as worthy of distinction and admiration. Yet it took the innocence of a young child, who had not yet been corrupted by such conditioning, to point out the obvious fact that the emperor was not wearing the best and latest in fashion, and that he was indeed naked!

     I would like to make an analogy of this story with the publishing industry. For the most part we can be assured that well-respected major publishing companies will not publish bad quality books. They will have been scrutinized thoroughly by editors, and corrections and revisions will be made before the final product is released for sale. However, does this mean that every book on the shelf of bookstores is a good quality book? I can tell you that I have seen books on shelves in major bookstores that made me wonder how on earth such nonsense was deemed worthy of publishing. And it is rare if I can read any book, irrespective of publisher, without catching at least one error, whether it is punctuation, grammar, or typo. Granted there are a lot of indie published books that are of low quality and lack the refinement of a professional editing staff, however, there are quite a few that I have read that are of a caliber equal to, if not better than, some of the major published books I have read.

      As an indie author myself it may seem I would be biased against major publishers, however, this is not the case. I would love to have my work picked up by a reputable major publisher and enjoy the marketing influence they have to better distribute my work. My point in writing this article is to combat the stigma that surrounds indie published work, and to keep readers from falling for the fallacy that only books that are distributed by major publishers are worth reading. True, some indie books have very simplistic looking covers, and your first reaction is to think that it is also indicative of the quality of writing within. But I would argue that you should not automatically dismiss a book because it is not found on the shelves of major bookstores. You may be passing up some of the best stories you will ever read that have just not yet had the opportunity to be recognized by major publishers and received the benefit of their professional cover design artists. That being said, I would like to offer this challenge: make your next book purchase that of an unknown author (it doesn't have to be my book) and see if you are not pleasantly surprised.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

1 day is as 1,000 years, and a 1,000 years are as 1 day.

The average life expectancy is approximately 78 years. When you are young that seems like a very long time, but as you get older it seems to go faster and faster. By the time you are half way there you start to take stalk of your life and evaluate your accomplishments. For many these accomplishments are in terms of educational and career success, house and car purchase, marriage and kids. But what if the the average life expectancy were 40 years? 30 or 20 years? How would this affect our priorities and the criteria for which we measure success? As the life expectancy decreases obviously accomplishments that would take relatively longer to achieve, like successful career achievements, would become less and less obtainable, until finally, in the extreme case, if life expectancy reached below reproductive age, the species would become extinct.  Some insects, like the fruit fly, only have a life span of 2 weeks, so they just have enough time to eat, mate, and lay eggs before they die and the cycle is repeated.

Therefore, as life expectancy decreases we come to the most basic achievement--the propagation of the species. However, what if we were to move toward the opposite end of the spectrum? What would become more important as the life expectancy increased? Naturally, if we have more time available to us we could accomplish more things. But what would  be the ultimate accomplishment if we were given a hypothetical life expectancy of 1000 years? 10,000 years? Infinite? If we could live so long that we have seen and done everything there is to be done, what would we consider to be the ultimate achievement? World peace? Given the nature of humanity, and as evidenced by thousands of years, this will never be achieved. But let us be optimistic and say that it is possible and we achieve it, then what? Suppose we discover the answer to "Why are we here?" If that could ever be answered and we have achieved it, then what else is there to work towards? If all is accomplished and we live the rest of eternity forever happy, would that not get boring?

 This brings me to the point of this hypothetical consideration of life expectancy. Without something to look forward to each day, and without obstacles to overcome to obtain them, what is the point of life? Therefor, do not concern yourself over how many years you have to live or the strife you endure during the years you have. Rather, enjoy and be thankful for each day, for each day is an accomplishment in itself and the more strife that is overcome, the greater the accomplishment.

Friday, September 16, 2011

And that is why I ALWAYS CARRY A PEN...

          Yes, the famous last words of an epiphany's demise. It almost never fails, you are driving in your car, or you are walking through the aisles of the supermarket and all of a sudden it comes to you! The subconscious thoughts that continually float in your brain connecting in infinite combinations finally align into an idea that is so profound you think, "That's it!" It is the perfect solution to a problem, or an idea for a great invention, or a line that would work great in your novel. The idea is so wonderful you think, "There is no way I can forget this, I'll just write it down when I get home."

You finish shopping and then stand in the long line at the counter as the cashier is waiting for the manager to void a purchase. The next person in line writes a check and pulls out their coupons. Three more people to go and now you are actually contemplating buying one of the impulse items displayed next to the checkout. Finally, its your turn and you go to pull out your card to demonstrate how easy a purchase can be, when you realize in sudden horror that you left your card at home when you made your last online purchase.

        On the drive home you berate yourself for being so forgetful. You get out of the car and you start you think, "Wasn't there something I was going to..." Just then your child comes running out of the house and frantically relates how his homework paper is due tomorrow and he has just started and needs your help! You warn your child again, "How many times have I told you not procrastinate!" After you help your child with their paper, and tell them next time they better not put things off till the last moment, you start to remember "oh, ya that reminds me I was going to..." Your spouse comes into the room, "Honey, I got a babysitter get dressed I am taking you out to eat at your favorite restaurant!" "That's great dear! Ok I'll start getting ready."

You go to your room and start to get changed. Perhaps only 2 hours have passed since the synapses in your brain revealed to you the idea that was so good that there was no way to forget it and you think, "Oh ya let me write down that idea I had before I...Wait! Oh Noooooo!" And that is why I AlWAYS CARRY A PEN.

Monday, September 12, 2011


As authors we might also compare ourselves to mathematicians.  The analogy can be made in that both writers and mathematicians use symbols to create formulas that will predict or explain an occurrence. Where they differ are the means in which they use to create these formulas. While mathematicians use numbers and symbols to derive formulas to explain natural laws of the universe, writers use words to compose formulas that will elicit emotion.  Both mathematicians and writers must be creative in discovering these formulas, however, the mathematician is governed by objective rules and laws that must be followed, as science is defined in exact measurable units.

Writers too must adhere to a certain degree of accepted spelling, grammatical and punctuation rules, but we have been granted more subjectivity by the issuance of what is termed a “poetic license.”  If a mathematician states that 2+2=5 we can indisputably prove him wrong. However, a writer can purposefully compose a sentence that does not adhere exactly to spelling, grammatical and punctuation rules so as to elicit an emotional response that may not have been possible to do otherwise.  It may not have the desired emotional effect on everyone, but it could not be proven that it was composed incorrectly, only that to some it was not the right combination of words to elicit the desired response that was brought about in others.  With this in mind, my fellow wordematicians, let us not fear to be bold as we exercise our creativity, for we may create worlds in which 2+2 does in fact equal 5, and no one can prove us wrong!  

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Is Altruism just a synonym for Selfishness?

      A relatively unknown but controversial work of Mark Twain's is a short Socratic style book entitled What is Man? Twain struggled with himself for 20 years before publishing it because of its controversial nature. In effect he was making the argument that there is no such thing as an altruistic deed, i.e. a helpful action done for someone else with no expectation for recognition or return favor. Instead Twain believed that whatever good deed we perform it is done with selfish intent whether we are consciously aware of it or not.  "From cradle to the grave a man never does a single thing which has any FIRST AND FOREMOST object but one - to secure peace of mind and spiritual comfort for HIMSELF."

 He gives the following scenario as an example , "A man is waiting at a bus station to reach home in the middle of a storm. A gray-haired ragged old homeless woman approaches him and requests for help. He ponders over for a few seconds and gives her his last dollar. He then walks home in the middle of a storm. On the way home his heart is singing with joy because he did something good. When he reaches home he proudly recounts his tale of charity and earns the respect and affection of his family. He has a hearty dinner and sleeps well that night, knowing how benevolent he has been to the old lady. That is a very good return on an investment of one dollar." Therefore, what Twain concludes is that though it was in fact a good deed the man performed, the real reason the man gave the old lady his fare is because if he didn't he would suffer a guilty conscience and so he did it to spare his peace of mind, not to mention the praise he received from his family. Thus, in fact it was a selfish act.

      The idea that there is no such thing as an altruistic act would seem to cast a dark shadow on humanity as we think of any charitable or friendly act we have done can be attributed not solely to our wish to be a good person and help others, but rather to our innate desire to preserve our own peace of mind and sense of worth in the eyes of others. Does this mean we should not try to be selfless and help others in need? Of course not, but it does give us more insight into human motivations--namely, we are all selfish, greedy bastards at heart:) Yet, if we can help others and it happens to help our peace of mind and feeling of worth then it is a win-win situation and we all go home happy!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Traveling Box (sestina)

     This sestina appears in my book, The Leaf Catcher, and it describes how Corliss came in possession of the Traveling Box:

“I happened upon a minstrel, his health looking poor;
‘twas a stormy night and I took him in when no one else would.
He was very thankful and bestowed upon me a box,
assuring me ‘twas no ordinary container; it was magical.
‘Put into it what you do not possess
and it will be given back to you in kind.’

He said there was no other like it of its kind.
I asked him why he did not sell it since he was so poor.
And he replied that no greater gift may one possess
than the gift one receives when giving; that whosoever would
understand this would benefit most from the box’s magic.
 Otherwise it was nothing more than a mere box.

I graciously accepted, and asked how I was to use the box.
He foretold ‘twould be revealed to me by another who was kind,
and then he disappeared like magic.
Over and over the riddle did I pore,
but try as hard as I would,
the knowledge of how to use it, I could not possess.

I wondered at the mystery it possessed.
It truly seemed like a common box,
nine inches square and made of cedar wood,
no different than any other box of its kind,
except for one thing; whenever I tried to pour
anything into it, it was denied by its magic.

What was the point of this magic?
Why would anyone wish to possess
such a container that you could not pour
anything into? There must be some purpose to this box.
 I’ve been waiting for the prophesied one to tell me what kind
of contents could be placed within its wood.

Years went by and I began to wonder if anyone would
 ever appear to reveal the secret of its magic.
The minstrel had said ‘twould be one who is kind,
yet I have since met with many good people and none possessed
the answer to the secret of the box.
Over many ancient books have I pored,

but nothing of its kind was mentioned, nor would
it seem possible I could ever pour anything past the magic
that possesses the box.”

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

#100blogfest entry: If You Can Feel It, Write It

One of the most feared phrases in childhood, “Come up and read in front of the class.” For some this ranks somewhere between the embarrassing nightmare of finding yourself naked in front of the class and having your mother drop you off at school, waving “Be safe Poopsy!” out the window. However, this was not the case with me. At 9 years old I was writing my own little homemade books, with titles like The Mud Man, and volunteering to read them in front of class. I have always had a desire to write and share my thoughts with others. This same love for writing is what I believed saw me through the tumultuous years of my adolescence. I can still remember sitting alone in my room listening to Jimi Hendrix’s Axis:Bold as Love album, eating Top Ramen and tuna with Pace picante sauce, and writing ardently about how alone and depressed I felt.

I had a loving family and some good friends, but there is just something about that time of your life where you can be surrounded by people and reasons to be happy yet you just can’t get yourself to see it.  Maybe it’s just the biochemical warfare of hormones that are in full scale war within your developing body that causes this depression, even so it feels so real at the time and you just can’t see past it. Luckily for me I could sublimate these feelings with my pen writing as fast as I could think. Sometimes my thoughts would be so deep they didn’t seem to belong to a teenager. I would contemplate the very molecules that made up our existence and why these molecules should make us any more important than anything else living or inanimate. Was it the “soul” that made us special? And if so, what made up this soul? It couldn’t be made up of anything different than the matter that made up the universe and was subject to the laws of physics like any other matter. Yes, I was actually thinking these thoughts at age 17 and even composed the following poem:

On trial is the existence of a soul...

The prosecution opens...
Show me a man with a soul, and I'll show you
a man with a grand illusion. For while we are
given a mind that yearns to know the reason for
its existence, strives to realize its purpose,
it finds it hard to see past the grand illusion.
It denies its ephemeral existence in this eternal
universe, and thereby invents the immortal soul.
The defense objects...
What about the emotions of love, happiness and sorrow,
all those things that make us unique as human beings?
Can these be attributed to anything but a soul?
The prosecution regretfully replies...
Those unique attributes of which you speak are only as
real as the physiochemical reactions that make them up.
It is we who have made them out to be more than they
really are.
The defense abhorrently objects...
Humanity reduced to mere physiochemical reactions!?
I'm afraid it is you my friend who suffers from the grand
The defense and prosecution rest. It is left for us,
the jury of humankind, to decide.

So while some kids my age were deciding which mall they wanted to hang out I was busy pondering our very existence …. Now when I see other kids that age wearing the same far off look and wearing the heavy comportment of adolescent sorrow, I will counsel them with these wise words: If you can feel it, write it. You will see that what flows out from your pen, or types out on the screen, are not just images and symbols of communication arranged in agreed upon grammatical structure …. No, they become more than the sum of their parts as you create a window that enables you to see who you really are, and that undoubtedly is someone special and unique. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Economy of Words

What do a humble village gardener in a medieval European village, a psychopathic serial killer in a futuristic prison, and one of the last remaining humans in a distant future dominated by microbes and artificial intelligence have in common? They are all main characters in The Traveling Box Trilogy, an epic poem that spans from the late 16th century to the distant future as it explores and defines the human mind, body, and soul while speaking in the language of our time. Keeping the interest of the reader is foremost in thought while endeavoring to convey this epic tale in under 400 pages. That is why every line is crafted with the consideration of the economy of words.
            An analogy can be made of the economy of words and the economy of finances. Just as there is of necessity a finite amount of currency, so as to give money its worth for trade and payment of debts, there is also a finite amount of words available to express our thoughts and communicate. However, one can continue to speak or write words without the fear of ever running out. Yet, this is not to say that one should go about carelessly spending this renewable resource, for much can be said in a few well-chosen words, while too many words can sometimes diminish the value of what is said. Therefore, whenever I write I try to keep the following quote in mind: “A paragraph should be like a lady’s skirt: long enough to cover the essentials but short enough to keep it interesting.” – Anonymous
            When one is presented with a book that could replace a baseball bat as home protection, unless each page is rich with one or more of the commodities of intrigue, emotion, humor, knowledge, wisdom etc. … the reader will begin to consider the law of diminishing returns. Time is valuable and a reader will be frugal with it, not wanting to waste this valuable commodity on a frivolous expenditure of words. But we are willing to invest our time in reading words that have been crafted with quality and add value to our lives by enriching or entertaining our intellect. That is what I have hoped to accomplish with this trilogy that should not cause you bodily harm if you should by chance drop it from a modest height onto your foot.
            The spoken word too must be budgeted wisely. For instance, the words “I love you,” when confessed for the first time, can be priceless to the one spoken to, but if one uses this phrase too often it can begin to lose its initial value. The same can be said of the prayers of structured religions, in which the followers all intone as one with the same unaltered words of praise and repentance for centuries. While these prayers undoubtedly originated with good intentions, they must have by now become an incessant, unremitting, torture to the divine’s ears. I can picture the god clasping his ears and pleading, “Please, for the love of me, cease spouting off this repetition of prayers that has now haunted me for centuries! I have created you each independently and as such I yearn to hear your own original thoughts.” And so, in the midst of the myriad of literature to choose from, I offer a story which the reader should find both original in content and style. Now, so that I may be said to practice what I preach, I will end this economized essay before it begins to tax your patience. Enjoy the books!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Power of Perception

If someone were to come up to you and say, “For the next hour do not think of the color green,” guess what just became your one and only thought for the next hour? In fact, not only will you immediately think of the word green, you will be hopelessly engrossed in fighting off wave after wave of unconsciously pulled memories of every different shade of green and those objects and animals imbued with its color. This automatic response is in our nature, and it is our innate drive towards freedom and independence that compels us to think in this manner. Therefore, in my book, The Leaf Catcher, when I issue the challenge: “Can you go just one day without thinking a negative thought?” the sad truth is it is probably next to impossible not to even think a negative thought during the whole course of the day. However, when we become more aware of the amount of time and energy wasted as a result of these unproductive thoughts we put ourselves in a better position to consciously make an effort to turn these negative thoughts into more positive and productive ideas and actions.
The epiphany that the main protagonist, Corliss, has in the story that not only carries him through some of the greatest suffering a person could endure, but also finds him happily embracing his life is that most powerful of all mental concepts—perception. How we perceive, or rather how we choose to perceive, an event, person, place or thing, defines how we will experience our lives. What are some examples in your life where you were confronted with adversity and decided to turn it into something positive?