Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New beginnings

Years are made of days, which tick by like the minutes on a clock. Seasons pass as our planet completes its trek around the sun. And then, it starts all over again. Our world is constantly being reborn.

A year can bring great joy and deep sadness. We affect these matters by how we choose to spend our days, hours, and minutes. Time is too precious to be wasted.

Humans have the ability to decide what they will do. There are always opportunities, and the successful make their own luck. The wise will learn from the past, look to the future, but live in the present.

To give up, is to stop the clock. The will fails when the heart falters. It is easier to keep going, than to start again.

But sometimes the direction is wrong, though the goal is the same. At times like these, it is necessary to change course. Rather than plow through the wall, you could just go around.

These decisions are never easy, and it takes determination to see progress. The world can knock you flat on your back. But take courage, for you have but to rise and begin anew. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A day like no other

There is no day like Christmas. It is that one time of year where there are tidings of peace and good will. And these feelings persist even beyond the chaos that ensues.

It is a time for family: the one day left to be enjoyed by nearly everyone. Is it really the gifts which bring us together? Or is it something much deeper?

Lights glowing on a decorated tree draw the eye like few other things. Objects in colored wrapping paper adorned with bows gather like fascinated onlookers. They have come to see the glorious spectacle and to wonder at what it means.

Music is made especially for this celebration. And some of these songs have been sung for a very long time. While they can be overplayed, we wish to hear them when the season comes again.

And nothing brings the light to a child’s eyes like seeing an assortment of gifts just waiting to be opened. The image lasts for but a moment, before colored paper is rent asunder to reveal what had been concealed. And children’s faces are painted with joy, while there is a look of contentment in the eyes of the parents.

It is a day for giving and receiving; for loving and being loved.  It is a time to think of others and be grateful for what you have.  Rejoice with me in this merriest of days, and treasure the chance to come together if only for the briefest of moments.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The gift and the thought

What does it mean to give of yourself? Do you give money or time? Perhaps you impart knowledge or just provide support. Whatever a person gives, their dearest wish is that it be appreciated.

It is not the gift, but the thought that counts. But how often do we really think about what we give? Conversely, how often do we really ponder what we have received? Human beings tend to love the praise garnered from giving, but tend not to appreciate what they have been given.

A penny may seem like a cheap gift, but if that is all a person has it becomes precious indeed. Any decent person would refuse it, or seek to reward the one who gave it. The price tag does not matter: true giving comes from the heart.

It is not good to be overly generous. Either that person will be taken advantage of, or they are trying to gain advantage with their contributions. If you are posing for the camera, chances are your real gift is to yourself.

If no one knows, your motives are more likely to be genuine. If someone discovers what you have done, a simple ‘thank you’ should suffice. It is too easy to succumb to vainglory. Guard against it at all costs.

When the gift is unappreciated, it is best to move on. Not everyone will be grateful, and few will return a favor. But there are those jewels among humanity who will think about what they have received and seek to give back in full measure. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Overcoming obstacles

What do you do when the words will not come? Or even if they do, your heart is not in it. When engaged in a creative activity, your mood can seriously affect the outcome. If it is miserable to write, it could be miserable to read.

‘Writer’s block’ is just an obstacle. And such things exist to be overcome. You have written before and you will write again. Right now, you just need something to get the juices flowing.

When this happens, I usually attempt to finish what I am working on. If it cannot be completed, then it must be put aside for its own good. I sit down and start writing something purely for enjoyment.

The subject matter may be lurid, and the work overly dramatic. The action could be gratuitous, and the plot as thin as a piece of paper. It matters not. What is important is to relax and have fun.

It has been said that when you write a first draft, it is just to get everything on the page. You can always go back later and smooth things out. But first, there must be something worth the toil that will be necessary to make the silk purse out of the sow’s ear.

There is that magical moment when your eyes are wide and you are typing as fast as your fingers will go. You remember how much you really love to write. The barrier has been broken and the words once more flow freely.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Heart of the matter

Good art touches the heart. It stirs up the passions and fills one with wonder. Ideas are dead of themselves. It is the depth of feeling conveyed which makes all the difference.

Whether it is a painting, poem, story or movie; we have all witnessed art that is lifeless. Often it is because the artist’s head was full while their heart was empty. People can sense where there is a void, and will avoid such a place.

However, there are instances where the idea is weak but the heart is strong. It does not matter if the concept is overused, or ill-used or abused to the point one can barely even recognize it. With heart, anything can become something.

Inspiration cannot be forced. People try to impress with their ideas. No matter how well preserved, a corpse is still a corpse. And it should be buried, before the stench becomes overwhelming.

Pride is belief in a false concept. And once light shines upon it, the truth is known. It is the same with a work based merely on ideas. A slight nudge will topple the whole thing.

Thinking does not make the blood flow... that requires a heart. Feelings go deeper than notions, and art is the expression of what is within. Always strive to make the work so full of life that you can almost hear it beat. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The one constant

There is one constant in life: everything changes. Those who cannot adapt shall perish, and the world will move on as if they never were. Therefore, it is essential for survival to roll with the punches.

Human beings seek to control everything, but are often reminded of how insignificant they are. The world turns without their consent, planets orbit without their permission, and the entire galaxy moves without asking if they wish it to. The arrogance of man is as nothing to the immensity of the cosmos.

Since we cannot control the world, we must learn to move with it. Reality can crush us, but a wise man merely steps aside when a huge boulder is plummeting towards him. The fool will try to catch it…

It is important to remain steadfast on the inside, but the outside should be as water: taking the path of least resistance. When it is time to act, the heart leads. The mind analyzes the situation and suggests the best course of action. The body moves forward, following its orders.

The heart is the only thing not bound by reality. If it leads to destruction, then the problem is within. One must be honest to overcome their failings. And part of being honest is to recognize the weakness of flesh.

There is the changing of the seasons, night turns into day, the tide advances and then it recedes. The more things change, the more they stay the same. One must learn the ebb and flow, and how best to ride the currents. The world is vast, but it is harder to hit a moving target.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Giving your all

What does it mean to give your all? People often talk about doing their best, but have no idea what that is. To do your best, you must pour every last bit of energy into the accomplishment of a goal. Blood, sweat and tears may actually be required.

If anything is held back, by definition you have not given your all. While it is not always necessary to utterly exhaust oneself in the completion of a task, it makes a big difference when examining the quality of the outcome. Those who do their best will naturally outpace those who put forth an effort.

Good is not good enough. There are plenty of people who are good. To succeed you must be better, and one should always strive to be the best. Those who do not fully intend to win a race should never start one.

It is easy to give up, when the road is long and the dust is in your teeth. Even those with a great deal of stamina will begin to flag as they are gasping for air and sweating profusely. The superhuman few will press on, determined to just finish. But only one or two will dedicate themselves entirely to attaining the goal, and only one can win.

So, what separates first and second place? The winner will tap into reserves they did not even know they had. They cannot falter, they cannot fail and they shall succeed.

Approaching the finish line, anything can happen. Life is not fair and never will be. To do your best means just that: to give every last bit of energy, to use every resource at your disposal, all of your faculties, heart and soul, mind and strength. It will exhaust one's very spirit, but you will know deep in your soul that you held nothing back, not content to just finish but actually, literally determined to win. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Inspired ideas

Ideas seem better while they are in one’s head. But once written down, their worth can be seen. The fantasy is peeled away, and the harsh reality stares you in the face.

No story can be written without an idea, but this does not make the notion a good one. If it has never been done before, there may be a reason. And if you were to create something new, would anyone want to read it?

Certain things just work, but there is a great deal of variety possible. There are a finite number of elements in the universe, a few basic colors, and a limited number of shapes. Yet, these are the building blocks of reality, the hues of the rainbow and the form of all things.

Inspiration can come from anywhere, and the only real limit is your imagination. The world is the same, but everyone sees it through different eyes. So, a familiar idea can be imagined anew.

Hackneyed notions have one thing in common: a lack of inspiration. If the concept was fresh, it would not feel so tired and overused. But writers have the power to re-imagine, and thus breathe life into that which was dead.

But will it shamble about like a corpse, seeking the flesh of the living? Or can it truly live and breathe once more? Blood is the life of the body, but it will stagnate and congeal without the heart spreading it far and wide.  Concepts whither and fade, but an inspired idea has a life all its own.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

To elude the astute and confound the jaded

How do you maintain the element of surprise? People expect things to go a certain way. These expectations you can play on, secure in the knowledge of how things will actually go.

Do not reveal your secrets until the proper time. Plot twists are woven into the very fabric of a story, but it is important to hold back a few. When a reader thinks they know what you will do, it is the opportune time to shake things up.

The movements of a story are not arbitrary. If something happens, there is a rhyme and reason to it. On some level, the author must be aware of this. However, reveal as little as possible to keep the anticipation strong.

Fear not the savvy reader, who picks out the pattern before the work is complete. There is also an excitement in discovery, so long as a certain amount of effort was required to descry your design. And that which is clever cannot fail to impress.

Be willing to take risks. Modern readers have seen just about every trick in the book. An author must be cagey to elude the astute and confound the jaded. The genius is not in the gimmick, but in the timing.

Subtlety is key: it unlocks many doors. The tried and true will always outdo the desperate and new. Surprise is not in the idea, but in the execution. And it always sneaks up on you…

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Halloween Challenge

Our traditions remind us of who we are and how far we have come. For the last decade, a group of friends have come together every year for a Halloween Challenge. We all write stories and read them to one another before Allhallows Eve.

In order to encourage creativity, the rules are simple: write a story suitable for Halloween. The themes are varied, and the feelings evoked range from laughter to uneasiness to outright terror. There is no maximum length, but with the number of participants shorter is always better.

It is not required for the event to take place on Halloween. This is due to the difficulties of coordinating schedules and the desire to enjoy that particular night in a more relaxed fashion. So, we usually get together the weekend before, and it lasts for a whole day.

The number of writers has changed. Some years there have been more participants and others less. But the trend is moving upward, with offerings even from those who cannot physically attend.

Stories can be written throughout the year, so long as they are ready by Halloween. Individuals are encouraged to read their own stories, but they can have someone else read for them. There is a certain performance aspect in the reading, since it can enhance the qualities already present in the work.

A good time is had by all, and there have been some truly exceptional offerings. We discuss a tale after it has been read, and extol the qualities of each at the end of the night. It is not a competition, but there is a desire to surpass what you wrote last year. Through the hardest of times and the most grievous of losses, the tradition has endured and it is hoped that it will continue indefinitely.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The waiting game

Patience is a virtue, but it is a hard one to practice. We are accustomed in our society to expect immediate gratification with minimal exertion. And thus, such an essential trait gets rushed out the door.

It is not easy to wait. As time goes by, anxiety sets in: will the waiting be for naught? After all, deeds are accomplished by action, not by sitting around.

But most people have the wrong idea about patience. It does not mean to be idle, but to do what you can now and deal with the rest later. Sometimes swift action is required, and other times a great deal of effort will be necessary in order to bear fruit.

After one has planted seeds, they must be cared for to produce a satisfactory crop. And these things require constant care. The enjoyment comes only after much labor, when you reap what has been sown.

Impatience leads to recklessness, and what is planted will have no root and wither away. It takes time to craft perfection. Many hours can go into what will be experienced for only a few short moments.

But the final results will speak for themselves. The quality will be evident, and those who experience it will not be able to deny the workmanship. For the highest achievement comes through perspicacity, patience and perseverance.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

My love of monsters

The time of monsters draws nigh and I am reminded of my appreciation for such things. How can creatures that fill us with terror also fill us with delight? Perhaps, it is because they are a reflection of us.

Monsters elicit the deepest of emotions, and the feelings that go deepest touch us the most. We are afraid, and yet mesmerized. Though desiring to run, we pause and reflect.

The best monsters are those that evoke sympathy: the hapless product of a mad scientist; the man cursed to become a beast under the light of the full moon; the restless spirit who is unable to leave this world and go on to the next. We feel for them, even though they frighten us. And maybe what we really fear is man’s propensity to become a monster.

Still we have a fascination for fantastic creatures. I have written about orcs, goblins and ogres. Each one strikes me differently: the ferocity of the orc, the power of the ogre, and the silent threat of the goblin.

I became obsessed with learning more about these beings: what would they really be like? If they were wholly evil, the interest would have abated. But we are drawn to them, and so the knife cuts much deeper…

Human beings are often afraid of what they like. Perhaps, it is because they are ashamed to like it. But evil is born in the heart and only manifests itself in the thoughts of the mind carried out by the hands. There is no shame in loving monsters, so long as you do not become one.  

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

What I am

What I do is not what I am. As is the case with many authors, writing does not pay the bills. And so, I must toil during the day and write my heart out at night.

What a person is, so seldom is reflected in their vocation. This is because it is rare to secure gainful employment making use of one’s actual talents. It is much more likely to find a job doing, not what you love, but what you are good at.

Would I leave the daily grind to devote myself entirely to my literary passion? It would not be advisable. After all, as the saying goes, ‘don’t quit your day job.’

So, I lead this double life… which keeps my perceptions clear. Being a working man, I can sympathize with those of my ilk. Having not lost touch, I can still be moved.

There are those who write for a living, and I hope one day to be among their number. But for now, I do what I must. I learned the importance of responsibilities at an early age, and I shall not shirk them merely to do what I like.

What I am, is an author. And what I do is that which is necessary to support myself and continue my real work. Perhaps the day will come when there is no distinction between the two.    

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Ups and downs

Life is a struggle up mountains and through valleys. There are good times and bad. Unfortunately, the latter tend to be predominant, so one must learn to savor the former.

In imitation of life, stories have an ebb and flow. Sometimes it will seem as if there is no end to trouble. But the reader perseveres in the hope of good to come.

It is this yearning which motivates one to soldier on. And a good author will reward them in some fashion. For along with pain, must be the possibility of pleasure.

People will sacrifice a great deal for the sake of happiness. If they have done so in vain, they will search out greener pastures.  Give them something or they shall leave you with nothing.

There will be sadness, but never plunge your readers into the depths of despair. Help them to reach the surface and they will be grateful. For to drown in one’s tears, is a terrible fate indeed.

When a person is down, they desperately desire to look up. Give them hope and they will have the strength to rise. And then, each step brings the goal that much closer: they need only make the climb.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

All that is true

It is fairly easy to know where to begin a work. However, the ending comes after a long, hard journey to get there. During that time, the destination itself can change.

Ideas do not remain stagnant: they move like living things. What seemed to be the perfect ending can falter under scrutiny. The foundation is unsure, and thus it collapses.

Characters change throughout the course of a story: for the better or for the worse. This can have a tremendous impact on the outcome. And thus, it is best not determine the conclusion, until they have had their say.

There are determinations to be made: how should the ending be accomplished, who will affect the outcome, and what does it all mean? The entire work will be judged by the way it ended, so this cannot be arbitrary. All that came before must lead up to it.

A bad ending can ruin a story, while a good ending can save it. That which the audience sees last, they will remember first. To stubbornly ignore the wishes of the reader is to consign your work to a neglected shelf where the dust will collect.

But if you craft a satisfying ending, the story shall always be remembered for it. People will talk about the ending long after they have read the book. For the destination has changed: to one that is better for you and better for those who enjoy your work.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The essence of clarity

They say brevity is the soul of wit. Long, drawn-out descriptions can rob a scene of its strength. What needs to be said can usually be communicated with surprisingly few words. And they will have more meaning, because none are wasted.

Complexity is often a means to deceive. Keep talking around the subject, so that people will not see the truth staring right at them.  Depth is not gained through volume of words, but rather through the meaning of those that are chosen.

It is easy to think yourself into a corner. I have done this many times. The way out is to determine the easiest and best course of action.

One should never be so determined to communicate an idea, that they stumble all over the place and provide little or no elucidation in the end. Simplify your concept: break it down into its component parts. And then, cut away the excess.

Buildings are made from basic materials. Machines are built from a collection of parts. Even living creatures are essentially a combination of flesh, bone and internal organs: each with a simple purpose.

The goal of communication is to achieve understanding. The essence of clarity is simplicity. If you spend too much time explaining something, it is likely your audience will come away having gained nothing.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Comedy and tragedy

Comedy tends to make light of other’s misfortunes. Tragedy focuses on adversity for dramatic effect. What is it about man that he finds misery to be both humorous and heartbreaking?

The distinction between comedy and tragedy has a lot to do with who is suffering. If it is someone you know and are close to, the effect of the comedy is blunted. It is much easier to mock someone you do not know; and a bit harder to truly feel for them in their difficulties.

To the credit of many, things tend to be funnier when nobody gets hurt. If the person falling down the stairs shatters their leg in the process, the humor dissipates rather quickly. The mood swiftly changes from mirth, to genuine concern for another’s well-being.

However, the foolish get little sympathy. Since they brought the misery on themselves, a great deal of enjoyment can be had at their expense. And it is without the regret that would come from ridiculing the merely unfortunate.

Also, there is a human empathy for those who truly suffer. Even a stranger can provoke a great deal of pity when they have experienced a grievous loss. If children or the elderly are involved, the heartfelt concern is greatly amplified.

Laughter is a means of relieving stress. It is healthy and therapeutic. Conversely, through the shedding of tears the soul is cleansed. We live in a world full of suffering. Without this release, we would all go mad.    

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Traveler

A poem I wrote about the meeting of two worlds:

The Traveler

I dreamed a waking dream
as I rode into the night.
I dreamed that I saw faery folk
in the fading of the light.
Their eyes did seem as those of cats
whose gaze did pierce my own.
Were my stare to meet with theirs
my secrets would be shown.

"Silly man" I told myself
"such notions that you hold.
For there is but my steed and I
moving down this road."
With that, I gave a chuckle
but my heart was not at ease.
For I could swear, I had just seen
movement in the trees.

I chided myself once again,
and bade such fear depart.
A form stepped from among the trees
and I fought to still my heart.
"Who does skulk among the wood?"
I tried my best to say.
But with panic in my voice
it came out a different way.

The hooded figure moved with grace
that never I did see.
So delicate, in form and face.
A maiden, she must be.
She then began to speak
in a melody soft and light.
As if a bird attempted speech
to me that very night.

She said "I travel, just like you,
though I must walk along.
I have no steed to carry me.
The journey home is long."
She drew up close beside me.
I shook to end the dream.
Her features sharp and beautiful.
So very strange they seemed.

At first, I did not speak.
What words had I to say?
She gave a nod and simply said
"Peace" and walked away.
My tongue did swiftly find release.
I called to her to wait.
"How far must you travel on?
Ride with me, for it is late."

Her gaze did fall upon me,
so eerie did it seem.
Slanted eyes did pierce my soul.
This had to be a dream.
She said "I travel to a land,
that you have never seen.
A place of life and beauty.
The realm of endless green."

"I will take you to this land"
I proudly did proclaim.
"I just need you to show the way.
Does this land have a name?"
I did wonder at myself
and at my brave reply.
For never had I uttered such
to a stranger passing by.

"Take heed" she said. "Oh traveler,
I journey far away.
But I am weak and weary
from walking all this way.
If you wish to carry me
a little farther on.
I will go with you this night
but I must leave at dawn."

I wondered at her words,
and then I did assure
"You will be safer here with me.
Dear maid, with eyes so pure.
You do not need to hasten on
when the sun does rise.
Ride with me back to your land,
I speak to you no lies."

"Nay, oh man" she said to me
"at dawn I will depart."
Her words were filled with certainty
that cut into my heart.
"Very well, dear maiden"
I reached down with one hand.
"Come ride with me into the night.
At dawn, the ride will end."

She stretched forth a hand
so long and soft and white.
I pulled her up behind me.
And rode on through the night.
She wrapped her long and slender arms
secure around my waist.
Her head was on my shoulder,
my heart did beat in haste.

I wondered at the features
hid beneath her hood.
That now did rest upon me.
Within, I felt so good.
I gazed at hands so delicate
that still did hold me fast.
Before I even knew of it,
the night had hurried past.

I did not want to stop,
but my word is what I gave.
"The day begins, fair maiden."
My voice was sad and grave.
She slipped down from the steed
and said "My thanks to you.
I am rested now, and must go on.
But once more, peace to you."

My heart did faint to hear her words
and I cried out "Wait!
Why do you really have to leave?
Is this will, or fate?"
She said "Oh man, to understand
you must walk the path I tread.
It is not you, it is your kind
who fill me with such dread.

"I see it even in your eyes.
The fear, and warm desire.
Your heart is stronger than you know
it can contain your fire.
And that is why I rode with you
until the sun did rise.
There is love, a glowing jewel
shining in your eyes.

"But man is known to reach and take
whatever that he can.
And thus, his feet may never tread
our green and wondrous land.
But peace to you, and to your kin.
Your kindness do I see.
It is a treasure that I love
and will keep close to me."

With that, she stepped into the trees.
I wondered at the sight.
For such a dream could not be true
in the early morning light.
I rode on still much amazed,
at what my eyes had seen.
Could there be this land of life?
A realm of endless green?

Were my eyes so heavy,
that a vision they did see?
Was she just imagined?
Did I wish her to be?
But the dream was far too perfect
to come from within me.
Somewhere, she still walks all alone
so pure, so light and free.


Making people

Real people do not fit into convenient little boxes. They quite often do things that would be deemed to be out of character. Each person has their own opinions, which they vigorously defend regardless of any factual basis to their claims.

Friendship does not hinge on agreement. Good friends can disagree on many things, and yet still retain their bond. If you find a friend who agrees with you on everything, check to see if they have a slot in the back to put batteries in.

Since real people are not so accommodating, we must be mindful when creating characters. They will not always agree with the author, and that is good. I might be breaking every rule in the book, but I will still say it: the author is not always right.

After all, they are flawed human beings. But there is much to be learned, if one is honest. Through our characters, we are able to view life from the outside. We can distinguish what is genuine from that which is feigned.

Characters need not have all the failings of real people. It depends on what the story requires. Writing is a chance to imitate life, but still make a few improvements. Comedy and tragedy each have their place, and a good story will tend to have elements of both.

But above all, a character must be a person: one that you know and can sympathize with. You are there with them in good times and bad. For they are not just an enigma rolled up in an agenda. With the proper infusion of energy, characters can become very much alive…

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Artistic Expression

Writing is the ultimate form of expression. You can write about anything. The stifling rules of reality need not apply, for the only limits are those of your imagination.

It is an incredible release. All those pent-up frustrations can be loosed upon the page. You can be yourself for a change, rather than acting the part one is forced to play in real life.

Evil in literature serves a purpose: usually to be overcome. So, the destruction it wreaks in the real world is contained in the fictional one. The wickedness which vexes our daily existence can be dealt with entirely and to satisfaction.

One can write realistically, without poisoning the work with the failings of the real world. We have a sense about how things should be. In fiction, this state can be achieved.

Characters tend to be flawed, just like real people. But in a story, these things are meant to be recognized and struggled against. If they remain, somehow it is to prove a point or they are to prove fatal for the villain.

No art form has more freedom of expression than writing. Dull stories are born of dull minds. And thus, they will attract few readers. But to really live, one need only pour themselves onto the page.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

"Real life"

“Real life” is a misnomer, for in the real world human beings cannot truly be themselves. This is a blessing, because it protects us from the wicked. It is a curse, because even the good must live in constant restraint.

For the sake of our society, people speak and act with great care. There are rules that everyone must abide by, further restricting behavior. And this is necessary, but let it never be said that it is true.

There are always the rebels, who will flaunt themselves in the face of authority. The powers that be are content to let them act out, until it becomes bothersome. Then, the crushing force of civilization comes crashing down...

Peer pressure does not end with puberty. It is ever present, though rarely acknowledged. There is an unspoken rule that others must be judged. But the ones pointing the fingers, so rarely see the ones pointing back at them.

And so, the “real world” is a fictional place full of secrets and lies. People tend to be real only when they are alone, with no one around to disapprove. Unlike a story, you can never truly know these characters.

The restrictions of “real life” are necessary. If you give an inch, they will take a mile. Human beings have made a world where they cannot be themselves. It is a sad fact, and one of the few things in life that is real.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Pursuit of the dream

Dreams: everyone has them, but few actually pursue them. A dream is very much a hope, and most do not seriously believe it will become a reality. As for myself, I consider it useless to chase a dream without the actual intention of catching it.

People fervently wish for things, believing the wish itself is magic. But if you wish in one hand and relieve yourself in the other, one will clearly fill up first. A wish has no more substance than a hope. Whereas, dreams are motivational: they push you to action.

It is easy to be full of words; they flow so easily. But it is in deeds that goals are accomplished. Speech merely communicates intention, but actions are concerned with the achieving of results.

It is not enough to want something, no matter how strong the desire. To realize a dream, you must determine what is necessary to achieve it. Set smaller goals for yourself, each designed to get you one step closer to the prize.

Do not become discouraged when the journey takes unexpected twists and turns. If the bridge is out, you find a way around. One must constantly adapt to survive, and it takes even more flexibility to thrive.

I do not follow my dreams… I pursue them. Using all the resources at my disposal, I hunt them down. These fugitive hopes have no place to run and nowhere to hide. I will catch them... it is only a matter of time.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The unknown author

What is fame? And why do so many people crave it? It is not enough for people to know of you, they must hold you in esteem or else it has no meaning. For an author, to be unknown is for your work to be unread.

When I moved out here a few years ago, I didn’t know anyone. And I learned a hard lesson: when people don’t know you, they don’t want to know you. Such is also the case with the work of an unknown author.  The quality of the work is irrelevant if no one reads it.

And that is the great challenge. There are hundreds of books out there. Why would they want to read yours? This is a question every author should ask themselves. And that is why it is important to have a strategy for promoting your work.

Put yourself into the mind of a reader. What would a writer have to do to get your attention? From the cover art, to the presentation, to the quality of the work itself; one must cover all bases in order to be successful. It is important to be honest with yourself: would you buy this?

You don’t have to be something you're not. Readers will see through such pretense. Rather, take your own qualities and learn to market them. You would be surprised at how much attention can be gotten by just being yourself.

Eventually, I made a few friends here… and I cherish them all. Sometimes, it just takes time; but don’t let that be an excuse to rest on your laurels. To be successful, you must be ready for the opportunities when they come. Or else, they might just pass you by.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Mental exercise

Discipline is doing what you are supposed to do, not doing what you are not supposed to do and pushing yourself to make real progress. As writers we must discipline ourselves to write, and write well. It can be difficult to chain yourself to your work, but the rewards are inestimable.

It is hard to create prose: to sit in one place, staring at a screen, struggling to make sense of all the thoughts in your head. Exercise is exhausting, whether physical or mental. Writers must read to keep their perspectives fresh. They need a strong vocabulary to articulate ideas. And they should constantly be struggling for improvement: to make this story even better than the last.

In the gym, one struggles against seemingly insurmountable obstacles… and overcomes them. It can take days to see progress. And it can be so easily undone. So, writing is contending with words and must be approached with the determination that you will succeed.

I will not go as far as to say that lesser forms of entertainment are akin to junk food for the brain. However, to improve in writing, it is best to read. And the best things to read are those that have stood the test of time: the classics.

To be strong, one must follow those who are. There is a reason we still read certain authors’ works sometimes many years after they have died. The language may have changed, but that which compels, that which reaches the human heart remains constant.

Mental muscles, too, can atrophy from disuse. And it is not enough for a writer to be mentally strong.  Nor is cerebral fitness sufficient. Their minds must be in top condition, to write the tales which will be told for ages to come. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Monster excerpt

Here is an excerpt from my fantasy novella "The Monster":

A few times, the humans had turned to look in his direction. Had they seen him? Did they know he was there? He had turned around and fled into the darkness.

A few men searched the immediate area and found nothing. He moved farther away from the structure and even the pond, far enough that they would be unlikely to seek him there. The orc grunted. They are not sure of what they saw. If they were, then they would have hunted me down.

He snarled. “I do not like to be hunted.” He smote his chest. “Man would slay me like a beast.” The orc gave a growl. “Let them try.”
The cover for my ebook novella "The Monster." Now available on Amazon and Smashwords.

There is a monster in Eldenborough. And a young girl is endangered… Karg is an orc and he has stumbled into the land of men. A grisly murder sets the humans on his trail. And he, in turn, hunts them. Blood will be spilled, and more lives lost. Dark secrets will be revealed. A young noble is forced to make a difficult choice. And all the while, a warrior fights against overwhelming odds. There is a monster in Eldenborough. Survive if you can…

Cover art by Robert Elrod

http://www.amazon.com/The-Monster-ebook/dp/B00E55ILGG

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/340439

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

An oft-hoarded gift

Joy: many people want it, but few delight in giving it. In and amongst the pages of my works, the enjoyment of writing is evident. Although my plots have become more serious and textured over the years, I still have the same fun creating a tale as I did as a teenager.

When writing, it is important to remember that the reader’s experience must be an enjoyable one. This is not to say bad things will not happen. They most certainly will. But in the end, the audience must come away satisfied with the experience. If the work is a misery to read, they tend to eschew it for the sake of a story that does not tax their patience.

Readers delight in being trifled with. They will frown upon a work that is too obvious and even safe. There is a love of danger in reading: the desire to be imperiled while ensconced in the perusal. The excitement is in not knowing what will happen next.

Still, if you trifle with them too much, they become annoyed. The ending must be worth the arduous journey to get there. They will suffer much to get to their destination. And if it is not worth the trip, they will consult their travel agent and try somewhere else next time.

Fun is infectious. The audience can sense whether or not the author enjoyed what they wrote. Whether comedy, tragedy, or something in between; the enjoyment of the writing is evident in the reading. And the audience soaks it all in.

Writing is hard work, but there is a thrill to be found in the fashioning of worlds. One grows fond of the people who live in these places. And you long to tell their stories, watch them grow and realize their dreams. For joy is a gift often hoarded, but a writer is a giver of smiles.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The thing about time

The thing about time is there is never enough. There is so much I want to write, to read, and review. So many moments are spent doing what I would rather not. Still, time is a precious commodity and one must use it wisely if they are to accomplish their goals.

Stories do not write themselves. That is to say, one must place the words on each page. And like everything else, this takes time and effort. And there is no guarantee of a return on your investment.

If it is important, you make time. Everyone on this planet has twenty-four hours a day. It is what we do with these hours and even minutes that makes the difference. Boredom cannot take root if you are busy.

There is a time to relax and regain your energy. The days will grind one down to tiny fragments. But rest helps to gather yourself once more. And it doesn't take much to get you back in the fight.

For time is neither an enemy, nor a friend. It is a resource that can be used for good or for ill. It can be utilized or wasted. Most often it is merely consumed.

But a productive person uses it wisely and to the fullest. Books will be written, read and reviewed. People will not go neglected. Responsibilities will be fulfilled and there will still be time to play. For the enrichment of a life is to savor every hour, every minute and every second.  

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Fuel to the fire

How do you climb the world’s tallest mountain? You do it through determination. Man dreamed of flying, and accomplished it through sheer determination. We wished to walk on the moon, and determination set the very prints upon its surface. To succeed, set a goal and utterly refuse to be deterred from reaching it.

I decided to write a story and completed it. Then, I set out to be published and became an author. My works are now available in print and electronic format. All because I set a goal for myself, and achieved it.

There were many obstacles along the way. But if this were easy, then everyone would be doing it. If you have not put your blood, sweat and tears into the task, you are not trying hard enough.

When it gets difficult, most people get discouraged. I become frustrated, and my frustration grows into a surge of energy. The adversity has fueled my determination to succeed. I do not tire… I become stronger.

Sometimes, the strain is too great and fatigue sets in. Having given my all, it was not good enough. It would be so easy to just lie down and set my burdens aside. But I catch my breath, and raise my head; eyes trained once more upon the goal.

This is what it means to do your best. You must give every last ounce of energy you have. Run until you cannot take another step. Crawl until you have regained your breath. And then you stand, forging onward once more.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The allure of birdsong

It is hard to ignore that which is right in front of you. As long as there is distance, things are out of sight and out of mind. It is essential for an author to gain notice and keep it. Thus, they must promote themselves constantly.

The quality of the work is not enough. The greatest writers languished in obscurity until they were able to get the right kind of attention. And then, people took notice and these individuals became household names. It was not that they were not producing great material, but that no one knew how great it was.

Rare are the individuals who recognize quality when they see it. What a person likes is subjective, and they tend to be opinionated in their interests and not open to fresh perspectives. A new author is a different person, and thus, presents a new perspective.

Promotion is all about being seen, and the desire is for your work to be seen by that one person who will appreciate it. And then, they will tell others. Inevitably, those who saw nothing in it before will become enlightened and join the chorus singing the author’s praises.

To attract readers, one must offer them a tale that is truly desirable. I liken this to a bird chirping outside your window. If the sound is pleasant, it will draw you in. However, if the creature is noisy and obnoxious, they will not be singing there for very long…

The quality of your work is the sweetness of the tone.  If you stay outside long enough, those inside cannot help but hear. And there will be that one, who approaches the better to hear it. They will open the window and lean out to take it all in. And then, the nameless bird becomes the song of the morning: something looked for, hoped for and anxiously awaited.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Visions of Sandy Brown excerpt

Here is an excerpt from my novella "The Visions of Sandy Brown":

She could not focus on the lecture at all, for fear that the thing would return to possess her teacher once again. What was it? Whatever it was, it was cold. Just thinking about it gave her a chill. Calm down, Sandy. Just calm down. She tried to concentrate.  Overcome the distractions. Focus, girl.

And suddenly, she was face-to-face with the girl in front of her!

“Becky?!”

The other girl had turned around in her seat and was staring right at her.

Sandy had always thought of Becky as cute: she had dark, curly hair and soft childlike features. She had a willowy frame and spoke in a high pitch. But looking into her eyes, Sandy knew this was not Becky.

The petite girl bore down on her, with an uncharacteristic intensity. Almost as if something else inhabited her body. Her lips parted, and the voice that came out was not high-pitched, but deep, guttural and unnatural. “You have the sight.”
The cover for my ebook novella "The Visions of Sandy Brown." Now available on Amazon and Smashwords.

Sixteen year old Sandy Brown is seeing things: her history class flooding; rows of desks that go on and on; a mysterious being who threatens her in various forms. She is about to learn the awful reality: that she and her friends are all in danger. Who is this entity that pursues her, wearing the face of the people she knows? Where does it come from? What does it want? When did high school become a fight for survival? Innocence will be lost, trust betrayed, and friendship put to the ultimate test. For when your soul is at stake, can you really believe the things you see?

Cover art by April M. Reign

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00DPN2BZG

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/331384


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Serious fun

Writing is fun. Writing is hard work. These two statements are not contradictory. That which is worth doing is not easy and that which is easy is probably not worth doing. There is a satisfaction in accomplishment that can only be found when one has poured out both heart and soul.

Sometimes a story can vex you. Art is all about attention to detail and these things take great care to render correctly. However, it is only through painstaking efforts that one can reap the rewards of the finished product. Sloppiness leads to disappointment.

The enjoyment is in the achievement. Long periods of time spent focusing on all the many elements it takes to tell a tale, bear fruit when the work is finished and ready for the world to see. At this point, a true artist can relax. For they know, regardless of the response, they held nothing back.

It is fun to create worlds and to people them. Art imitates life, but tends to smooth the rough edges so that what is seen is less real than ideal. In such a place, the imagination can soar. The only limits are the boundaries of the page…

But mere enjoyment is not the artist’s goal: it is fulfillment. The desire is to bring the work to life! The satisfaction comes from making a living, breathing world. And then, you see what chaos the characters can stir up.

I love to write, and everything I love is treated with great care. One must toil to reach the lofty heights. There are times when the task seems insurmountable. But eventually, you claw your way to the top and stand in awe of where you stand.  

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Buried treasure

A friend of mine posted on this subject recently, and a wave of nostalgia came over me. Some stories are like buried treasure, just waiting to be unearthed. You may have set it aside a long time ago. Dust has accumulated and the work is lost to time. But the tale still holds a place in your heart.

I actually rediscovered my first major work many years later. I was a teenager when I wrote it, and was immediately struck by the youthful perspective. When I found it again, I was in my early thirties, so there had been a lot of changes in my writing since then.

Some might have considered the tale as juvenile: it was a horror story about a teenage boy who comes back from the dead to exact revenge. But there was a lot of heart in it, and I was determined to bring it to light. All the particulars would be the same, but I intended to infuse it with the depth characteristic of my later work.

I decided the story would need to be rewritten from the ground up. In pursuit of this goal, I took every scene and worked on it separately. In a sense, I had deemed that each one would be treated as its own story. I developed different feels and expanded some things while trimming others.

Even the characters got an overhaul. Each needed to be distinct and have their own story to tell in the brief time they had.  I made them deeper and more sympathetic than my younger self would have had patience for. But the energy was maintained.

And things started to click. I had exhumed the story and breathed life into it once more! It had become something altogether new: a hybrid tale born of youthful enthusiasm and adult introspection. I had found that which was lost. And when the printed copy was in my hands, I knew what I held was a precious treasure indeed.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Finishing strong

Wrapping up a story is difficult. You have so many threads and they all must come together in the end. There are so many characters, and they all need an acceptable outcome. Everything has been working towards the climax and it is finally here.

There is a level of sadness to finishing a work. The characters you have come to know and love will not be seen again… or at least not for some time. When written well, they become people you know, and there is a feeling of loss when you realize they will take their place on the shelf.

Also, there is anxiety, because the story will be judged by its ending. No matter what came before, if the reader is unsatisfied with the end, it sours them concerning the entire book. But you have been building to this point all along. So, hopefully, you are prepared.

In the completion of a work, there is a balance which must be achieved between expectations and reality. What the audience wants may not be best for the story. But be mindful to give them what they need.

It is a good idea to tie up the loose ends, as well. Not to do so, leaves too many questions in the reader’s mind.  Just as in a garment, people will tolerate a loose thread here or there. But if there are too many, they think about returning the merchandise.

In the end, it comes down to exceeding the expectations the audience was not even aware they had. This is your chance to impress, and you may get only one. Pull out the stops, spare no expense, hold nothing back. For now that you have come so far, it is important to finish strong.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Hallowed excerpt

An excerpt from my story "The Golden City," part of the Hallowed collection:

And a voice spoke, “Senses for the senseless, Joey.”
Joe felt a chill go up his spine and the short hairs on the back of his neck prickled. That voice, rich but not deep. The tone was that of an announcer, but it was snarling in the background. Joe stared ahead, and gasped.
There was someone standing in the path!
All at once, Joe Thompson knew the voice had been no dream hallucination. The gnawing sensation in the pit of his stomach told him that.
Shining even in the shimmering mist, the chalk whiteness of the face contrasted with the darkness around the eyes and covering the mouth. And the sharp points of blackness extended beyond the lips like a smile. An ever-widening smile… “Come into my playroom, said the spider to the fly…”
Joe’s eyes went wide. “I want to go to another realm. Please?”
And the snarling sound grew louder. “Pleas? Do I hear pleas, Joey? Pleas of fear? Fear from the fearful? Oh, how sweet a sound… Ahh… Don’t you hear it? It’s the sound of pain…”
“You’re not real.”
“I’m as real as you, Joey. As real as the playroom.” The thing bowed its head. “You remember the playroom, don’t you?”
The cover for my e-book short story collection "Hallowed," now available on Amazon.com
and Smashwords.com.

Cloaked figures gather around a stone table, perusing ancient parchments. It is All Hallows’ Eve, and they have come to hear tales of great terror. How a ghostly seduction drives a man to madness. Another walks the world of dreams and must come to face his nightmares. A child braves the dark of night, seeking out the place of friendship lost. There is the tale of foul murder, frustrated by forces beyond the mortal ken. Finally, they will hear the story of a wicked man, who faces monstrous vengeance. What is sacred? And to what purpose do we dedicate our lives? For only through the shedding of blood, can we be truly clean…

Cover art by Paul Chapman





http://www.amazon.com/Hallowed-ebook/dp/B00D538BVE

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/321986

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Calm before the storm

People think the best part of the story is the climax. While that should be the place where everything culminates, it is in the calmer scenes leading up to this that the energy is built. If every scene was as exciting as that one, then the audience would be exhausted far before reaching it.

Quieter moments are great times for characterization. You learn about the people you are dealing with, what their thoughts and feelings are, and the wheels start turning. A tale takes time to build up speed, but once it does, it is like a freight train barreling through the night.

The shorter the story, the briefer these interludes will be. A longer work is more conducive to deeper characters, so there is a great deal of calm before the storm. And just like the interval between the thunder and lightning, these moments when properly spaced can steadily build the excitement to a fever pitch.

These are also good opportunities to subtly advance the plot. A myriad of things can creep about unnoticed until they are ready to strike. And when they do, there will be more impact, due to the element of surprise.

Works tend to be predictable when everything is loud and all the scenes are big. However, a reader will take on an expression of shock, if they realize that the monster has been sneaking up behind them the whole time. Or they find the plot which seemed so clear was just a diversion and the story takes unexpected twists and turns that have them clutching the arms of their chair to keep from falling out.

That is when the terror is greatest and the drama most intense. The reader has no idea where you are taking them, but the enticement is just too great to stop. They must know what happens next. They must reach the ending, bewildered though they may be. For after the calm, one experiences the true fury of the tempest.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A dream of your making

Natural forces will halt any progress eventually. In literature, it is up to the author to keep the story interesting, and thus counteract that which would bring it to a grinding halt. Just as in a romantic relationship, when the eyes start to wander, the desire is lost.

A good tale will seduce the reader, encouraging them to indulge in every word. As a work progresses, the excitement should build.  Or at least the interest should deepen. Either way, the reader becomes engrossed in the proceedings.

There are many ways to build momentum in a story: flesh out the characters, expand their world, add a little mystery, or sharpen the terror. All of these things come down to increasing interest. Once the story becomes predictable, the reader will predictably seek out more bountiful fields.

The author has the advantage of holding all the cards. They know what is behind the locked door. A character’s hidden agenda is clearly seen to them. But the trick is in the sleight of hand, drawing the attention away from what you are really doing.

And thus, the tension builds; since the reader has no idea what will happen. As they continue along, more secrets are revealed.  One must be attentive, or a significant detail will go unnoticed.

Now you have them where you want them. They are trapped in a dream of your making. Though they could turn around and go home at any time, they step forward into the unknown; fully expecting the way to be perilous. For the destination beckons, with a promise of wishes granted and desires fulfilled.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The persistence of hope

They say it is always darkest before the dawn. No matter how bleak things look, people cling to a faint hope they will get better. Writers test the limits of despair, but there should always be the possibility of a light at the end of the tunnel.

In the case of darker works, this light may be ephemeral. But the chance must be there for the girl to escape the knife-wielding psycho. Even if there is no way out, the audience must think there is. Only then, can the true fear take root.

Once the slaughter becomes monotonous, the most desperate victim will throw up their hands and submit to the axe. It is the persistence of hope gnawing away at the reader, which will ensure the terror is maintained until the final cut. The true moment of fright is not when the killer has someone in his clutches, but just before the grasping hand snatches its prize.

With other types of stories, hope also plays an invaluable role. In drama, a tragedy will typically engender sympathies and a desire for the suffering to have some sort of end. Readers can be sadistic though, and often demand a great deal of pain before their emotional limit is reached.

The more you like the characters, the stronger your yearnings will be for their eventual happiness. Hope approaches unawares, and readers weep for those they have come to hold dear. At that point, a nudge in any direction will have a profound effect on the emotions.

Stories are a journey into the unknown. A satisfying ending is not always a happy one. But there must be hope: lurking in a corner somewhere, perhaps just out of reach as the trembling victim hides behind a flimsy door. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Taking the audience for a ride

Though writing is all about the conveying of emotion, there is a fine line before you fall off the precipice into melodrama. There is nothing mellow about it: the intensification of sentiment becomes overbearing and the warmth turns into a searing rage at the audacity of the author. One can only pull the heartstrings so far before they snap, and anything in the way is cut to pieces.

Drama is intense by its nature, often dealing with a character’s inner conflict and how it begins to affect others. In literature, drama is very much an elastic thing and you can stretch it quite far. But this only makes the backlash that much worse when it reaches the breaking point.

Readers love a tragedy, even when it brings them to tears. But the emotional roller coaster must be a well-timed and enjoyable experience. When the sadness becomes oppressive, the most ardent of drama seekers will demand to be let off.

Lovers of literature have a desire to suffer the hardships inherent in the reading of a tale. They want the author to take them on a ride. The ups and downs are all part of the fun. But they don’t want to be run into the ground.

There is that moment of anticipation, when the story begins to unfold. The momentum builds and the reader plummets through all of the twists and turns, leading to the climax. Sometimes they are taken for a loop, but they always want to be right-side up when the car coasts to a stop.

For there comes a time when the ride is over; was it fun or frustrating? Did they lose their inhibitions or just their lunch? Did they scream with excitement, or wail in despair? And the most important question to ask is this: would they want to ride again?   

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The patience of a craftsman

A great deal of patience is required for the crafting of a fine tale. Just as in the construction of a building, each layer of a literary work must be carefully fashioned, starting with a strong foundation. If the premise is flimsy, then the entire story will topple from its lofty heights.

The interweaving of plot and character can be a daunting task indeed. The audience must come to know both protagonist and antagonist and understand the forces that are working toward a conclusion. These are delicate matters and must be handled cleanly and smoothly.

There are the obvious elements of plot, and there are the devious subplots swimming about in the murky waters. Add to this the many levels of characterization, and you have a mixture which needs but a little stirring to become a tasty stew. Every now and then, even the writer is surprised by the subtle flavors hiding amongst the brew.

Building takes time, and a great deal of preparation. A firm foundation needs sturdy walls and a solid roof to become a suitable habitation. So, the elements of a story are fastened together in such a way that the gaps are filled and the nails are covered.

And eventually the work stands in all its glory, just waiting for the reader to come make themselves at home in its roomy interior. The genius is in the details and the attentive will discover each one, ever searching for more. They will marvel at the craftsmanship, and speak highly of the humble scribe who took in hand to fashion a house of ideas, reared by desire and reinforced with great care. 

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Darkness and light

Stories are strange concoctions, where disparate ingredients are combined to make a satisfying brew. There are opposing forces: good and evil; pleasure and pain; light and dark. In the balance which is essential to a fine tale, one must be careful not to go to extremes.

A story which is too serious tends to be too heavy. That which is too light tends toward frivolity. An enjoyable work will juxtapose the two, carefully weighing one against the other until all is in equilibrium.

Characters must have moments of joy, in order to appreciate the loss when they are suffering. If all is misery, there is nothing to fight for. Such an existence is subsistence and nothing more.

Readers hope the best for the characters they love. They will watch that person descend into darkness, but wish fervently they be not consumed. As events conspire to drive a character to madness, the literary spectator cheers them on to overcome and retain their mental faculties.

Moments of levity inevitably sharpen the eventual times of despair. If you like that person, you will laugh with them and weep for them. And the more contact you have, the deeper your enjoyment will be.

Even the individuals that are not likable can be understood. And thus, it behooves the author not to drown their reader with too much emotional turmoil. You must keep the pressure up, without crushing the enthusiasm.  For it is through excitement and enticement that a reader can be happily drawn into a literary trap.