The Battle Within – Which Wolf Will You Feed?

On this Sunday after that irrational holiday, Pi Day, here’s a short film to think about as you begin the new week.

As we ate pie yesterday and today I thought about that old proverb that states there are two wolves we can feed in our lives; one wolf is good, one wolf is evil. The story ends with the question, “Which wolf will you feed?”

I know I struggle with this everyday. In the spirit of transparency, this film stars the five-year-old I talk so much about here and on my Twitter feed. The film was shot in New York City’s Bryant Park. Meir Kalmanson of AMK Productions (aka The High Five New York Guy) shot the film.

Let me know what you do to keep the wolves fed in the comments below.

Have a great writing week!

Five Things I Learned About Writing from Being an IT Cable Tech

IMG_4942

I’m covered in drywall dust. It’s in my hair, my eyes, the creases of my skin. My blue jeans are cloudy white from all the dust covering them.

As I walk, little puffs of drywall dust, fall from my shoulders. I spent most of the day as a cable tech for a small IT Telephone Installation company doing the telephone and computer cables for a methadone clinic that is moving into a new building.

I worked 10-and-a-half hours today, never sitting, always thinking about what to do next, trying to figure out how to accomplish the tasks that needed to be done. As I stood on that ladder all day, my head in the ceiling, I realized that what I was doing was a lot like trying to get a first draft completed.

One of the main jobs of a cable tech is doing cable runs. The boxes of CAT 5 or CAT 6 ethernet cable start in the telephone closet. From there I have to run the cables up into the ceiling and then out to each of the rooms that needs a voice and data connection. I gather as many cables as I need for each run and use electrical tape to attach them to a long, flexible fiberglass rod of about 10-30 feet, that are called “the sticks.”

Then I open the drop ceiling and push the sticks with the cables attached in the direction I want them to go. There’s a beginning, the telephone closet, and the end, the office that needs the voice and data connections. But what happens in the middle and how I actually get to the end, is the journey that changes with every new location.

As I was drilling holes in the wall all day, this seemed like such an apt metaphor for how I was working on my current first draft I wanted to share it with you.

Five Things I Learned About Writing from Being an IT Cable Tech

1. It starts out as a MESS.

When we show up for a new job, the telephone closet (if it IS even a closet, sometimes it’s a flooded, moldy basement) is usually a tangled mess. There are cables going everywhere. Some are punched down (or connected) on the patch panel where they’re supposed to be. Some are cut and stuck in a hole in the wall and we have no idea where they are going. Some are just wrapped in tight knots around each other in a pasta-like configuration we call “spaghetti.” The great news is that by the end of the day, that mess will be a neatly coiled, fully functioning phone and computer system.

The first draft I’m working on right now is just like this. I have some great beats that I know will work, they connect. The characters know what they want and how they are going to try to get it. Those are the cables that are working.

But for the most part, this first draft is filled with all of these crazy ideas and tangents and random characters that are kind of stuck in that hole in that wall with no idea where they are going.

The 30,000 words I now have (on my way to probably triple that) are nothing but a giant mess of spaghetti. But I know that as I keep working on the story, teasing it out, stretching out the story lines, just like with the cables, my first draft mess will eventually be a fully functioning story.

2. We make a PLAN and stick to it, until something BAD happens, then we make ANOTHER plan.

Before we start untangling and doing cable runs, we go from room to room and figure out how many cables we need for each room, where they have to go and how we’re going to get there. I have to pop ceiling tiles, climb ladders and see what’s up in the ceiling. If it’s open and it’s a straight shot to the telephone closet, the runs are easy.

But if it’s all closed up tight, we’re in for a long day, because we have to figure where we’re going to cut holes in the walls to run the cables.

Often we think we’re going to cut holes in one place, but when we cut into a wall, there can be some not-so-fun surprises. I’ve cut into cement, hidden brick walls, old iron staircases, desiccated squirrels, electrical lines, wooden beams, water pipes, nails, screws, even an old Yankee’s baseball cap. If you can name it, I’ve probably found it stuck in a wall.

This is like sitting down to figure out the beats of the story – this happens, and then this happens and that leads to this, and so forth, until I get to the end.

I’m a plotter, so I like to know where my story is going. I write the beats out and make a nice plan. But I often find when I “cut into the wall” of the writing, that my plan isn’t as solid as I thought it was.

This can sometimes be frustrating and makes me want to stop writing the story. But in cable tech work, I can’t just quit, I have to find a new way around the problem or risk the client’s wrath.

Sometimes when I’m writing and get stuck, I take a break from that part of the story and see if I can work on another part of the story.

I often resist this because I think I have to keep a beginning to end progression as if I was telling the story, not writing it. It’s funny, because I also make films and we almost never shoot a film in sequence. We might shoot the ending where the couple is breaking up many days before we shoot the scene where the lovers first meet. But when I’m writing, I resist working this way.

Another thing I’ll do is make flow charts to see if I can figure out a solution that way. It’s a kind of IF/THEN chart from back in my days as a computer programming student. IF this happens, THEN this must happen. Sometimes it helps.

I also like to record myself telling the story to myself. I find that talking about it out loud to myself is a great way to get out of my head and think about the story kind of like an actor would. I start to ask questions like, “What else could the character do at this point besides this?” “What if the character wants this instead?” “If this character meets this person and does this, what are the consequences?” I find myself answering myself and arguing with myself and it’s usually pretty hilarious.

3. We take ACTION until we’re done.

A lot of the businesses we do cable runs for need their telephone and data cables up and running in their offices yesterday. We have deadlines to meet that, if we don’t meet them, the business doesn’t open and we don’t get paid as much. We often quote the clients how long we think the runs will take and if we estimate that we can get it done in a certain amount of time and bill them for that time, then we don’t make our deadlines, we start losing money.

With writing my first drafts, I often let myself off the hook on this one. I justify my low word counts and inability to get past sticking points. But if I were running my writing business like we have to run the cable tech business, I’d be hitting those word counts because my boss wouldn’t pay me otherwise. That’s where an accountability partner can be really useful. Since I’m my own boss as a writer, it’s easy to give myself the afternoon off. But when I have someone I have to check in with, those words counts really soar. It really helps!

4. We expect to get DIRTY.

I don’t show up for a cable job in khakis, dress shirt and a tie. I’m usually wearing work boots, grubby jeans, an old t-shirt and a flannel shirt as a layer if I have to go outside. Being a cable tech is a dirty job. I’ve had to crawl through fiberglass in an attic when it was 102 Farenheit outside. I’ve waded through flooded basements with I-don’t-know-what floating by to get to the telephone punchdowns. I’ve been in a two-foot high, dirt floored, sub-basement, lying on my back with endless spider webs 2 inches from my face. My hands and fingers get cut, my head gets gouged and my clothes get dirty. I don’t expect it to be any different.

Why, then, do I think writing a novel should be different than it actually is? If I’m honest with myself, I think I have this idea that the novels I’m writing should just spring from my head full-blown and enter themselves into Scrivener without me having to do much else but think about it. Laughable, right? But with cable tech, a skilled trade, I wouldn’t even consider the notion that the cables will get themselves run just by thinking about them. I read other

To get a first draft done, I have to get dirty. I have to be ready for the struggle. Appreciate when things flow, but work through the knots when they don’t. I have to go deep into character. I have to be as specific as I can with my words so the story can live and breathe. Why do I think that’s easy? Why do I think that shouldn’t take just as much effort as doing twenty cable runs a day?

One of the things that stops a lot of us are our expectations. If we can figure out what it is we are expecting, we can get past the disappointment of not meeting those expectations. Our expectations have to be realistic. As a cable tech, I expect to get dirty. As a writer, I have to expect that there is going to be some hard work ahead.

5. It’s HARD WORK, but endlessly FASCINATING.

When we get to a site, we have to unload the heavy collapsible ladders, the boxes full of cable, the server racks, buckets, vacuum, tools and everything else we need to get the job done. I usually sweat through my clothing by the end of the day. I spend most of the 8-10 hours on the job with my arms raised above my head, constantly moving. Standing on ladders all day, especially portable ladders, is painful to the bottoms of the feet and usually leaves bruises on my thighs.

But I love the challenges of the job, finding the ways to get the cables run and make sure the wall plates and jacks look tidy and are easily accessible for the end-user. At the end of the day, if we hook up the computer and it accesses the internet, or plug in a phone and it works, we know our job is done. We’ve worked hard and created access to communication for hundreds of people. There is satisfaction in that.

Same thing can be said for writing a first draft. I might be banging my head on the desk trying to figure out a scene, but when it finally clicks, there is that buzz of recognition, that “knowing it works” feeling, that can’t be beat.

I might set myself a word count goal for the day and struggle for an hour or so and then the story-teller in me suddenly takes off and, before you know it, I’m surpassing your goal by many words.

I might even stare at the blank page or screen and then give up, returning to some other task, only to be inspired a few hours later to start again.

Like being a skilled tradesperson, writing is hard work, but endlessly fascinating. By looking at it as a skilled trade and not something that should happen easily, I’m able to really put it into perspective.

Here’s a summary of what I learned:

  • Even though your first draft starts out as a mess you can work through the mess and refine it by untangling the knots. Sometimes you have to work out of sequence to do though
  • When you write out the beats of your story, be prepared to run into some problems as you write. If that happens, work through it until you come up with a new plan. Sometimes you have to drill a hole in a desiccated squirrel to get to the other side of the wall.
  • Giving up halfway through is just as bad as not starting at all. Take action and keep going! Get that first draft finished. If you’re stuck, find an accountability partner.
  • When you find yourself wishing that you were writing, faster, better, more like someone else, remember that false expectations can get in your way. It’s your journey, expect it to be just the way it is.
  • While you’re doing all that hard work, think about how rewarding and endlessly fascinating it is to create something from nothing. In the end, you’ll have something that communicates with people in a way that only you can communicate. That makes it all worthwhile.

I always love to hear your comments. Let me know about how your writing is going and any other ways you find to keep getting those first drafts out of your head and onto the page.

If you’re a fan of Sterling & Stone and looking for something to read, you can get a FREE copy of the steampunk anthology Beyond the Gate by clicking this link. My story, My Strength Will Ease Your Sorrow, is in there. The first draft I keep referring to is the novel length story based on this short.

Have a great writing day!

Be a Straight Shooter – Use Straightforward Dialogue Tags

SONY DSC

(Credit: Morguefile photo by lightfoot)

“You’re in big trouble, Dastardly Dan. You stole my prize bull,” Cowboy Carl blurted.

“I did not,” Dastardly Dan babbled.

“You did, too,” Cowboy Carl objected.

“Prove it!” Dastardly Dan bellowed.

“He’s standing right behind you,” Cowboy Carl barked.

“Save me!” Dastardly Dan squealed.

The prize bull stomped his front hooves in the dirt and snorted. Then, he lowered his horns, snorted again, and charged. Carl and Dan grabbed hold of their ten gallon hats and ran. They both wanted to get as far away as they could from the prize bull and these terrible dialogue tags.

***

There’s a chart going around the internet that pops up from time-to-time on Pinterest, Twitter (and other writerly hangouts) called, 100 Colorful Words to Use in Place of Said. It looks like this:

Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 2.40.25 PMThe poster was apparently created for the classroom by WeAreTeachers.com to help young writers use words other than “said” when writing dialogue tags. As you can see from the poorly written dialogue above, young writers might benefit more from using straightforward dialogue tags and saving the colorful language for the rest of their prose.

Teaching student writers about synonyms and how to look for the most powerful word is useful. But when it comes to dialogue tags, I think it’s best to stick with “said” when someone is speaking and “asked” if someone is asking a question.

If we use a lot of colorful words for dialogue tags, the reader’s brain has to stop and translate each tag. It’s better to find a way to write dialogue that is “snappy, stormy, nagging, sputtering, gushing, etc.” than to add a tag to let us know the way the dialogue should sound.

The next time you read a colorful dialogue tag, try saying the dialogue as the tag indicates. I can almost guarantee you that the tag will affect the way the words come out of your mouth. Then, get rid of the tag, write it the way you “said” it and use “said” for the tag. It will come across as much more truthful and the reader won’t have to stop and think about how someone might “snort” or “sneeze” your dialogue.

Another way to be a straight shooter with your dialogue is to put the dialogue tag within quoted material when you can and use an action to show us what state of mind the speaker is in.

Here’s an example from the Pulitzer prize-winning Western writer, Larry McMurtry. In Lonesome Dove (“the grandest novel ever written about the last defiant wilderness of America”) Augustus finds some of his pigs eating a rattlesnake on his front porch. He kicks a young pig, known as a shoat. He doesn’t begrudge the pigs the snake, he says that having pigs on the porch “just makes things hotter and things were already hot enough.”

Here’s the dialogue with the pigs:

“You pigs git,” Augustus said, kicking the shoat. “Head on down to the creek if you want to eat that snake.”

Notice how the dialogue tag is in the middle of the line and McMurtry adds some action for the character to do. Augustus kicks the little pig, then gives the pigs an order. I can’t imagine Augustus scolding, shrieking or protesting while he says those words. But I can tell just who Augustus is by the way the line reads and what Augustus has to say and what he does. As a reader I just want to hear him saying it, not think about how he might have said it. That part I can make up by myself using the information the writer has given me.

Next time you’re writing dialogue, stick to your guns and just use “said” and “asked”as a dialogue tag. If you need to break things up a bit, try putting the dialogue tag in the middle of some dialogue or, if you’ve already established who is speaking, leave off the dialogue tags completely. I think you’ll find that your writing is stronger and more truthful this way.

***

When they lost sight of the prize bull, Dastardly Dan stopped to catch his breath. “Hold up, Carl,” Dan said, clutching his sides. “I cain’t run no more.”

Carl stopped and turned toward Dan, keeping his hands over his six-guns.

“Dan, did you steal my prize bull?” Carl asked.

“I didn’t,” Dan said, shaking his head. “I only borrowed him to impress my girlfriend, Miss Daisy.”

“Dan, thanks for being such a straight shooter with your honesty and your dialogue tags,” Carl said, pulling out his six-guns and pointing them directly at Dastardly Dan’s chest. “Now I’m going have to take you to jail. Git your hands up.”

Dan raised his hands high. Carl walked him all the way back into town and locked him up in the county hoosegow. Later that night, the prize bull returned. Rumor has it that not long after, Cowboy Carl and Miss Daisy were at the saloon drinking root beer and talking quietly together. I guess that prize bull impressed Miss Daisy after all.

Writing Prompt 10: Dystopian Mall

snowmall

(Credit: ©Seph Lawless)

I’m working from the Hudson Valley Mall in Kingston, NY today. I’m sitting outside Dick’s Sporting Goods (free WiFi!) in one of those massaging chairs that make you look ridiculous when you’re sitting in them because they vibrate you from head to toe. There’s also a disconcerting seat probe that pokes you in the nether regions during the massage. I’ve already paid my dollars to get shaken and poked, but I wanted to do a writing prompt before I continue into the depths of the mall.

Malls are dying. Radio Shack is in Chapter 11. There were a few flashlights and a lot of empty shelves at the one here. Several restaurants are boarded up. A clothing store has big yellow signs that read, “Everything must GO!” There are some lonely looking baby t-s hanging limply from some hangers. When I stumbled across this article on Huffington Post, Abandoned Mall Filled With Snow is an Ice Age Dystopia, I thought, “What a great writing prompt!”

I’m a fan of dystopian fiction. One of my favorites that I read last year was The End of the World Running Club by Adrian J. Walker. It’s a story about a group of misfits including Edgar Hill, an overweight slob of a father and under-performing husband who has to race against time and overcome his own short-comings, not to mention 100 mile canyons and a very strange council estate, to find the people he loves before he loses them forever. It’s a great read and the characters and situations keep you interested right up to the end (of the world). I really enjoyed it and hope you will check it out.

For the writing prompt, there are a few questions we can ask:

How did the mall become abandoned in the first place? Zombie hoards? Aliens? End of the world meteor?

Who lives in the mall now?

Why are our story characters there? Do they need to find the recipe to Auntie Anne’s pretzels? (Why are those pretzels so damn good?)

The photographer, Seph Lawless, is also a great jumping off point and a good model for a lead character. He’s a photographer and political activist who uses a pseudonym because he fights against “injustice and oppression by any medium necessary…a pen, a lens, a brush, a voice …even your body.”

He’s also a published author. His book, Autopsy of America, was written in 2013. According to his website, “The book captures the plight of Americans and the devastating effects that globalization has had on American cities. The book chronicles his journey across the United States with an emphasis on the most abandoned and economic deprived areas of America.” I couldn’t find a link to the book, but I will post it if I find it.

Please send me any links to any stories you create based on this prompt, I’d love to read them!

Have a great writing day. I’m going to go look for an Auntie Anne’s pretzel before they go bankrupt and the zombie hoards take over.

Lu Ji – Writing Quote Wednesday

LuJiQuote

(Credit: Writing Quote created by Paul Jenny with Flickr photo by Trey Ratcliff)

This poem comes from Lu Ji’s famous work, The Art of Writing (Wen Fu, 文賦). According to Wikipedia, it has been called a “hymn of praise for the craft and art of writing and a specific, prescriptive handbook for the writer.” The essay reveals, as the Fu form is set up to do, the kinds of inner processes all writers have to go through to prepare for the creative act of writing.

This philosophical work consists of 21 verses of “rhyme-prose” poems that describe a writer’s mind as wandering through a kind of mini-universe within our own bodies in search of the elements which form the origins of our literary work.

I picked up The Art of Writing, Teachings of the Chinese Masters at a used bookstore in town, but you can get your copy on Amazon.com. This slim, 94 page volume of essays is worth adding to your library of writing books, especially if you are interested in the “whimsy, spontaneity and contradiction” of Taoism and the Taoist writers.

Colporteur – Wildest Word of the Day

colporteur002

(Credit: Flickr photo by Dominique Chappard)

I stumbled across this wild word today on a random search down an internet rabbit hole.

A colporteur is someone who goes from place to place peddling printed material like books, brochures and newspapers. It was mainly used for people who distributed religious tracts and bibles. The act of doing this is known as colportage.

I’m fascinated with the idea that there were (and still are?) colporteurs who go door-to-door selling bibles. Ever since I met Albert Maysles and watched his moving documentary, Salesman, I’ve wondered what their lives must’ve been like off-camera and if there are still some lonely souls out there trying to eke out a living doing this.

According to the website World Wide Words, the work of the colporteur could also be dangerous, especially if one was doing it in Wallachia. The site shows a decree from the Ottoman Governor of Wallachia, in what is now Romania, which stated:

“We order you to tear those writings that are against our Holy Religion. Whoever will seize and deliver up the publishers of those writings, shall receive 300 crowns…The Colporteur, on the contrary, shall be impaled alive upon the very place where he was seized.”

Morning Post (London), 26 Apr. 1788.

colporteurs

(Credit: Flickr photo from the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library)

Impaled, alive, on the very place he was seized. Ouch! I mean, the impaling thing makes sense, though. After all, the Prince of Wallachia was known as Vlad the Impaler, and was the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

The Christian Bible has sold over 6 billion copies (according to website Statistic Brain). That’s enough to make anyone’s Amazon.com sales figures look measly by comparison. The colporteurs of the past helped those numbers climb with their endless knocking on endless doors and selling millions of copies of the book in the process.

My questions of the day:

  • Did you know anyone who was a colporteur?
  • In our digital age, are there still colporteurs out there?

Besides the occasional Jehovah’s Witness who tries to drop off a copy of The Watchtower (the most widely circulated magazine in the world), I think the only colporteurs we might still have are those young men (and some women) who pretend to be of college age and knock on your door at the worst possible moments, trying to sell you shady subscriptions to magazines that you already don’t read. They usually carry a wrinkled up cardboard I.D. and give you a sad story about how they are trying to either pay for college or complete an assignment by selling more subscriptions than their classmates. According to Con$umerMan at NBCnews.com we should all “just say no” to these modern day colporteurs. 

If one of them does show up, perhaps you should show them the announcement from the Ottoman Governor of Wallachia.

The threat of impalement may keep those pesky colporteurs from ever coming back again!

colporteur003

(Credit: Flickr photo from Bibliotheque des Champs Libres)

BONUS: A different kind of “colporteur” – the one who wrote all those great tunes from the 20’s, 30’s, 40’s (and beyond). Enjoy the incomparable Ella Fitzgerald singing Cole Porter.

Harper Lee – Writing Quote Wednesday

Harper Lee Quote

(Credit: Writing Quote created by Paul Jenny using Flickr photo by crowbot)


The recent news that Harper Lee will be publishing a sequel to her 1961 Pulitzer Prize-winning first novel To Kill a Mockingbird has set the literary world a-twitter with gleeful anticipation and dire warnings. I’m fascinated that Lee waited 55 years to do this and is reported to be almost completely deaf and partially blind.
These circumstances leave us with many questions:

Why did she decide to publish Go Set a Watchman now?
What happened all those years ago that stopped her from writing anything else?

Was it perfectionism?
Fear of failure?
Procrastination?
Not enough to say?
Not following her own advice to have real courage to begin anyway and see something through no matter what?

Or is it some other deep, dark reason that she’ll take with her to the grave?
We may never know.

According to the National Endowment for the Arts description of how the book was created, when Harper Lee was writing To Kill a Mockingbird she became so frustrated at one point that she threw the manuscript through a window and into the snow. Apparently her agent made her retrieve it.

Who hasn’t felt like doing that at some point in their writing process? (Paul raises hand timidly, then goes out into the bitter cold in his writing slippers to fetch his current work in progress from the foot-and-a-half of snow outside his apartment balcony.)
To Kill a Mockingbird has never been out of print since it was published and has been placed on numerous “best of” literary lists. Perhaps Lee put everything she needed to say into that one book and then thought about it for 55 years and decided she had just a bit more to contribute. She also proves that you’re never too old for a comeback!

Here are some questions for the rest of us:

What do you do when you find yourself unable to finish a manuscript?
How many unfinished manuscripts do you have lying around and do you think you’ll ever get back to them?
What will it take to finish them?

These are all fascinating questions and I hope everyone reading this finds the answers they are looking for. I’d also absolutely love it if you shared some of those answers with us by leaving a comment in the comments section!

Stories are the Wildest Things – even 55 years later.

Je Suis Charlie – Writing Quote Wednesday

“Today’s effort to silence criticism by murdering the artists and writers who voice it must be met with a far wider movement to defend the right to dissent, which forms the spine of free expression.”

PEN American Center

“Religion, a mediaeval form of unreason, when combined with modern weaponry becomes a real threat to our freedoms. This religious totalitarianism has caused a deadly mutation in the heart of Islam and we see the tragic consequences in Paris today. I stand with Charlie Hebdo, as we all must, to defend the art of satire, which has always been a force for liberty and against tyranny, dishonesty and stupidity. ‘Respect for religion’ has become a code phrase meaning ‘fear of religion.’ Religions, like all other ideas, deserve criticism, satire, and, yes, our fearless disrespect.”

Salman Rushdie

It was with a very heavy heart that I tried to explain to my middle son what happened in France at Charlie Hebdo. He doesn’t live with me and his other family keeps him very sheltered from what is going on in the world.

I told him some extremists wanted to silence the voices of writers who disagreed with what they believed in. He didn’t know what an extremist was, so I asked him to Google it. He couldn’t because his computer was off and it takes his old machine about 10 minutes to boot up.

I read the definition to him.

“Oh, it sounds like we are going to have another war again,” he said. “I haven’t known a time when we weren’t at war.”

He’s thirteen.

“I know. That’s why I want you to know about these things. Maybe you can help make a difference in the way people treat each other by knowing about this.”

As we started to have a conversation about it, his mother came into the room and shut down the conversation. She wanted him to rest. All of us are sick with flu but I think she was more concerned that I was teaching him what was happening. I stopped talking about it and let him get some rest.

But we can’t rest from defending the right to satire and dissent. All ideas must be open to be debated and expressed or only those ideas with the biggest weapons behind them will get heard.

If I draw an unflattering caricature of someone you respect, how does killing me honor that person? The caricature is a reflection of what I see and feel about that person, not what that person actually is. (I’ve always hated those caricature artists at fairs. They always draw everyone with giant heads and twisty bodies. It freaked me out. But it did make me realize that not everyone sees me as I see me. An important lesson to learn.)

No matter how hard you try, you can’t kill all of the feelings that people might feel that might be different from yours. That is inhuman.

I’m no psychologist, but I think killing like this comes from a fear that what the person who is targeted is saying is a truth buried deeply in the psyche of the person doing the killing.

They could be unconsciously thinking, “If I kill this outside source of these thoughts I shouldn’t be having, I won’t have to have them again.”

That’s why it’s so important to protect the rights of people to express themselves. When writers and artists and performers engage in satire it makes most of us poke at our own thoughts and say, “I never thought about it that way before.”

We can laugh at our own thinking or we can decide the artist is wrong, but only a person who lives in fear that their way of thinking might actually be questionable and cannot live with that uncertainty decides they have to kill the artist to silence those questions.

What I write and say is my opinion and as a human being I have the right to say it. The problem is that that right has never been “free” and many people often have to pay, in one way or another, to have their voices heard. The people in Paris paid with their lives.

I stand with Charlie Hebdo and agree with Mr. Rushdie that we must defend the art of satire, which has always been a force for liberty and against tyranny, dishonesty and stupidity.

Our stories must be told and should never be silenced with weapons or frightened out of existence. If you don’t like my story, tell yours better, don’t just shoot me to make me stop talking.

2015 Very Inspiring Blogger Award…Paying it Forward

very-inspiring-blogger-award

I’m delighted to start 2015 off with a big thank you to Joseph at A Cup of Joe for nominating me for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award! One of my resolutions (and you know how I feel about those) is to more actively engage with the online blogging community, so being nominated for the award was the perfect opportunity to do just that.

It was a pleasant surprise to hop on the blog the second day of the New Year and find out a full-fledged Pyro-wizard nominated me for an award! Thank you very much, Joseph.

I’m really enjoying your posts and I’ve followed a few of the other bloggers you’ve nominated as well. Here’s to all of us having a very creative and prosperous 2015! I hope we can ALL have a bottle of wine and share a few stories someday as well.

Here are the three things that inspired me this week:

  1. My Twitter Community. Always good for a laugh, great writing advice, or support in the form of a playful jab and a mocking tweet, these folks really inspired me in many ways this week. Some of them have blogs that I’ll be nominating as well. You should definitely FOLLOW them and say that Paul sent you!
    1. Ksenia Anske @kseniaanske – her acerbic and grumpy tweets are hilarious and always an inspiration. When I was feeling down about my WIP, she asked her Twitter community to show me some support and they did! Her books are like romantic fever dreams that have a dark beauty and poetic beating heart. I’m very grateful to have her in my community.
    2. Laurence Lau @Laurencelau10 – is brand new to Twitter and has quickly become an important part of the online community. He always has inspirational words of wisdom and shares generously of his time with his Twitter followers. We’ve met IRL (in real life) and I love hanging out with him to talk about art, poetry, theatre, film, television and life in general. He’s a great actor, too, and I’m really glad I’ve gotten to know him over the past few months.
    3. Adam Dreece @AdamDreece – is a force to be reckoned with on Twitter! He’s über engaging, plus he’s funny and smart and an overall mensch. His The Yellow Hoods books are adventurous whirlwinds filled with engaging characters that make you care about them. He’s also created a delightful steampunk world for them to inhabit. Book Three is about to be released soon, keep an eye out for it!
    4. Debi Smith @DebiVSmith – says she’s an island girl stuck in the Midwest who tries not to take herself too seriously. I’ve really been enjoying our conversations. She’s upbeat and funny and likes to engage on Twitter. I’ll be looking for more of her writing in the months to come.
  2. Visiting my wife’s mother in the nursing home. It sucks to be old. Spend any amount of time in a nursing home and you’ll learn that in the first five minutes. Your body doesn’t work the way it used to. Strangers are always telling you what to do. You forget things that you’ve said two minutes before. It’s sad, but it’s true. Being in the nursing home was inspiring because it reminded me that I have to live fully now. I can’t put off until tomorrow those things I say I want to do. If I keep putting them off, I may wake up some day in one of those hospital beds saying, “I wish I would have…” I don’t want that to happen. My wife and I are making plans for the coming year filled with adventure, love, creativity, health, prosperity and joy. We’ve also been spending as much time with mom as we can.
  3. Losing my holiday gift. I received a quad-copter as a gift this holiday season. It’s a small plastic drone with four whirring propellers and a prop guard. There’s a remote control that connects to the little flying machine and it takes some effort to learn how to fly the darn thing without crashing it into my face. I try to fly it every chance I get and I LOVE it. (Anything about flying makes me jump up and down with joy!) It zips around in the air like some kind of friendly insect and with the push of a button and the right timing you can make it flip forward, backward or side to side. When I was at my Dad’s for the holidays, I took the little copter out for a spin in the backyard. It was cold, and a bit windy, but where I was standing there wasn’t enough wind to blow the copter off course. Problem was, when I got the copter above the house, the wind was whipping around with such force that the little drone shot up into the air about 100 feet and headed off downtown! I bolted out into the alleyway, struggling to get the copter back under control with the remote, but it wasn’t responding. I watched in despair as it flew off above the treetops, then dropped from site somewhere in the middle of the neighborhood. I searched high and low for the little copter, climbing into bushes, looking through fences, tramping through people’s yards. No luck. I had my middle son come with me. He was no help. He just had wild theories about it being abducted by aliens and taken off to some other corner of the universe. I finally gave up in defeat and went to have some lunch with my family. Fortified, we stepped back into the cold. “I have a feeling we’re going to find it,” I announced. My wife was mad. She bought me the copter and I lost it after only two or three days. My son and I went searching again, this time down a different alleyway. My wife was in the car (it was 14 F, -10 C) and she had the five-year-old and the two older teenagers with her. While my son and I looked in garbage cans, trees, and on rooftops, she was driving around searching for it as well. Just as we were about to give up again, we heard “FOUND IT!” from down the alleyway. We ran as hard as we could and they took off in the car, laughing. When we finally caught up to them, sweating and out of breath, there it was, the little copter, unharmed. It had just been sitting in someone’s yard, untouched for about four or five hours. Needless to say, I was very happy to get my holiday present back. I immediately wrote my phone number and email address on the little copter just in case it took off on its own again. The reason this was such an inspirational moment for me is that it taught me that sometimes you have to stop searching for something and rest. You don’t have to give up for good, just for a little while. If it’s something that matters to you, you’ll get back to it and look in as many different places using as many different methods that you can to find the answer, I mean, the copter, until you succeed in finding it. I hope to remember this lesson throughout 2015.

And now, here are my nominations for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award 2015 (in no particular order). I chose 12 Bloggers to nominate because the number 12 seems to be particularly important to us as humans. There are 12 months in a year, 12 inches to a foot, 12 signs of the Zodiac, 12 Tribes of Israel, 12 Disciples of Jesus, 12 Days of Christmas, 12 grades in school, 12 hours in a day, 12 hours in a night, the human body has 12 cranial nerves, it is the number of Function keys (F1-12) on most keyboards, and so on (to the power of 12).

  1. Adam Dreece – Author of The Yellow Hoods
  2. Reflections of a Book Addict – Kimberly Denny-Ryder tries to read 100 books a year
  3. Bucket List Publications – travel, adventure and new experiences
  4. Diary of a Milkaholic Clown – propofool or milk of magnesia, bizarre shit, writing, astrology
  5. Ramblings of the Chocolate Wasted – Debi Smith’s Blog
  6. The Bee Writes – writing, books, authors & FREE resources
  7. Adora Herveaux – Aspiring women’s fiction author writing about love, life and relationships
  8. Alexandria Ingham – Freelance Writing and Blogging Mentor
  9. Miss Snark’s First Victim – A blog for aspiring authors
  10. Lemon & Raspberry – writer, editor, photographer, encourager
  11. Ben Willoughby’s Blog – writer with an unnatural fear of toilets
  12. Ksenia Anske – Fantasy Writer

I want to thank each of you for your sense of humor, your inspiring writing and for making the internet a really cool place to hang out.

I’d also like to hear from as many of you as I can, so I’ll keep the rules for accepting your award short and simple. Please follow these three guidelines when accepting your award:

  1. Write a blog post thanking the person who nominated you by linking to his/her blog and please display the award logo in the post.
  2. Nominate at least 5-15 other blogs (more or less). Link to their blogs and let them know about the nomination.
  3. Mention three things that inspired you the most this week (you can talk about last week’s inspiration too).

If you don’t accept, no hard feelings, just keep doing what you’re doing to be so inspirational! Thank you for sharing your stories with me. They truly are the wildest things!