The actual sounds of silence

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I made a bold decision a couple of months ago. I contacted my satellite provider, cancelled my subscription and sealed the deal by sending back my receiver. I had only suspended my service in the past, which resulted in my first finished novel, but I have never gone that extra step to fully end my relationship with my television. If I could catalogue the number of hours I spent mindlessly watching shows that held no interest for me, I would be mortified.

I am a true product of my father. My habitual pattern was to come home from work and immediately turn on the television, as he would do. Perhaps the background noise soothed him from his busy day, but eventually those mindless distractions would lure him from whatever room he was in and he would settle into his chair, randomly flipping through the available channels but never settling on one particular program. I didn’t want to follow in those distinct footsteps.

I am not saying that I do not get lost in the vortex of Netflix or online sporting events from time to time on my computer, but lately my life has revolved much more around the sounds of silence than the overwhelming din of gratuitous television. My post-work hours are spent more on reading and writing than channel surfing through the overwhelming number of anesthetizing broadcasts.

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My Kindle is loaded with new novels. My second book is in the works, my third is more than a promise and my brain is firing on all cylinders. And the moments between reading and writing are destined for the continued quest to become a published author. Those sounds of silence have been loud and clear and have been leading me in a direction I should have been following for a while. And the more I listen, the louder those sounds of silence become.

I wouldn’t change a thing

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It’s been a busy season for me. I love my job and I love the people I interact with, but the thing I love the most in my life is curiously absent. From May to October, my writing takes a backseat to my real world. Characters are hushed, story lines are left in the wings and my creativity is quieted to a faint whisper. All the important pieces of my imagination are sent into the recesses of my brain and that skill and those creative endeavors are limited to the moments when my dream sequences become aware of their true potential.

Writing is a funny thing. The artistry behind the words knows how to take advantage of the calmness in our lives. It feeds on the still moments in our brain and it dapples the blank pages in our minds with stunning and eclectic representations of stories we had never even thought possible. When the mind is idle, inspiration transports us to places we never imagined. It creates a spectral portrait of a life we had only, until now, dreamed was possible and it lets our fantasy become a reality on the pages we create.

I needed this day to get back to me. I yearned for those voices to speak to me again in a volume that rose above the din of my daily life. I wanted those characters to tap me on the shoulder and remind me their story was in a holding pattern, waiting for the chance to take off and tell their tale. And, more than anything, I wanted those voices to convince me that I was the only one who could truly convey their angst and their emotion on the pages I constructed.

Writing is a long journey. Most writers takes their queues from the voices who guide them, who wake them in the wee hours and who demand they spend every minute of their free time composing the opus of their lives while they, the writers, give up small pieces of their own existence to tell those stories.  Knowing what I know now about the creative process, and if I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing.

 

Will the real magician please stand up?

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There is something about magic that forever binds us to our childhood. We recall birthday parties with the guy who retrieved the quarter from our ear, had a continuous cloth of many colors that he miraculously pulled out of his mouth and live animals he made disappear and reappear. These are the tricks we talked about incessantly when we were young and kids today are still engaged by those people who have the gift of magic and who can keep the illusions alive.

Every Thursday, we have a magician come to the lodge to entertain our guests. He has been a staple at the lodge for many years and the kids are always wowed by his pre-show antics during dinner. He hooks them with his sleight of hand, rewards them with a token of his wizardry and has them lining up to see his full performance when dinner has ended.

One particular night a few weeks ago, I received a text message from a co-worker. It was a message I never thought I would read and it simply said, “Frank forgot his rabbit”. The finale of his performance, the only live part of his show, was in a travel carrier and left at the lodge with nowhere to spend the night. I asked my co-worker to drop the bunny off at the staff house and we would deal with him in the morning.

The next morning came and the only place safe enough for the bunny to be harbored, until Frank could return, was my office. As cute as the bunny was, I was quickly pulled back to my childhood when I learned I was allergic to rabbits and the rest of my day was not so magical. Frank could not pick up the bunny until after his shows had ended and the bunny and I spent the day acclimating while he adjusted to being stuck in his travel cage and I adjusted to itchy, swelling eyes and sneezing.

Regardless of my allergic reaction and my utter disdain for the smell of his travel cage, that bunny became my hero. The more time he and I spent together, the more I laughed, because the more I laughed, the more I realized he held powers far beyond the cuteness of his twitching nose and his soft fur. That bunny, after years of being the victim of a disappearing act, had finally fulfilled his lifelong wish and made himself the star of the show by making the magician disappear!

Where is it written?

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Writing is a portal into the deepest reaches of our imagination.  There are no rules, apart from grammar and sentence structure, so a writer is free to craft a story about anything that tickles our fancy.

I really began my writing journey when I was eleven years old.  I loved the fact that words could take me to far away places, places that I had created, and that I could get lost in those words for hours.  It didn’t matter, back then, if the story was silly.  All that mattered is that I was transported into another world by words, captivated by ideas and compelled to chase the feeling of elation I got by writing a story or a poem.

I still get that same feeling of euphoria when I write.  Some days the words don’t flow as easily, but on the days that they do my fingers can’t type the words fast enough.  I love to look back at the beginning of this blog to see just how much the voice of my writing has changed.  I didn’t know that the stages of writing included puberty but I certainly found that stage and my writing voice changed to become the one I have now, the voice that wrote my book.

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I am hopeful that becoming a published author is something that is written in the stars, for me, and not written in the sand.  But if the writing Gods have scribbled my name on the beach, only to see it washed away by the tide, I will always have my words.

 

One step away

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The hopeful feeling that something great is just around the corner sparks in the back of all of our minds.  That fire is fueled by the creative desire that drives us to do what we love.  But more often than not, that spark is quelled by the reality of our day-to-day lives.  Imagination allows us to light that fire again but reality can be a tropical rain storm when we are desperately hoping for the dry Santa Ana winds to turn that spark into a raging creative inferno.

I was tagged in a Facebook post last night by a friend I have known since I was 5 or 6 years old.  Ironically, from his tin boat, he used to deliver words to my dock in the form of the morning newspaper.  Now, forty-plus years later, through a tag on social media, he delivered some words to me that really hit home, words I needed to hear.

Success is a funny thing.  You can dream of it.  You can chase it.  You can feel like you can almost touch it, but never do you imagine it could be a mere one step away.  He sent me this video of Anthony Bourdain describing the life he was living before that one step closed the gap between his reality and his eventual success.

This video is the wooden match for all of us who have dared to set the kindling for that fire but have second-guessed torching the wood to start the spark.  Light it.  Bathe in the light from its embers.  Those Santa Ana winds could be one step away.

 

Gaining a little more confidence

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I don’t know how Dean Koontz, or any author for that matter, felt after they completed their first novel.  Were they elated?  Were they sick to their stomach?  Were they prone in a semi-fetal position rocking back and forth thinking that they would eventually have to deliver this literary child to the public for mass consumption and scrutiny?  I have experienced all of these emotions, and more, in just the past few months.

I have been fortunate to have my first three Beta readers be very supportive and encouraging and give extremely positive feedback to The Waking Hours.  I have just sent a digital copy to reader number four and, in the next few days, will hand deliver a hard copy to reader number five.  In a perfect world, I paint a pretty picture of rainbows and unicorns as I receive their reviews of the book.  But somewhere, in the far recesses of my mind, I know the second shoe eventually has to drop and it may not fall as precisely as I would like.

I am well-aware that with success comes the possibility of epic failure, or at least overtly constructive criticism, and I think I have secured myself behind a wall that is strong enough to allow me to absorb those critiques with a comfortable cushion.  Although I have bled countless times trying to craft a worthy tale, there is still some blood to be shed in the battle of writer vs. reader and I know I will not emerge completely unscathed.   To bastardize a line from one of my favorite movies, The Replacements, “Pain heals.  Readers dig scars.  Glory….lasts forever”.

 

Boys will be boys and then they make you cry – round 2

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He did it to me again.  My now 17-year-old nephew has created a Christmas memory that brought me to tears.  Three years ago, several months after we lost my mother, and his Nana, I wrote this post about his wonderful Christmas gesture that reduced me to a puddle once I was safely in the confines of my home.  This year, he managed to pull at my heart-strings once again, forcing me to swallow my raw emotion until I got home.

Our Christmas Eve tradition has not changed.  We all gather at the end of my brother’s driveway to watch Santa Claus cruise through the streets atop the fire truck, we go to the Christmas service at the church and then we all go home to finish up the last-minute wrapping for the big day.  This year was different.  My nephew insisted that we all go back to my brother’s house after church because he wanted to give us his Christmas gifts when we were all together.  Carefully he placed his gifts in the laps of his family and grinned from ear to ear as we tore off the paper to see what lay underneath.

Each of us received a gift that he had given great thought to and created with his own hands.  Attached to a piece of very sentimental barn-board was a piece of metal that he had carved for each of us with our last name and either our year of birth or our year of marriage.  This is my beautiful sign.

The Christmas spirit is alive and well and now resides in the heart of my nephew.  He truly felt the joy of giving.  His face was animated as he watched each of us run our fingers along the names he had carved into our signs.  He was more excited for us to receive our gifts than he was to think about what lay under the tree for him on Christmas morning.  He gets it.  He now knows that the true gift at Christmas is the one  you give and not the one you receive.

I couldn’t bring myself to tell him how much his gift meant until I had been home and had time to process my emotion.  After I shed a few tears, I texted him and told him how much his gift touched my heart.  He is coming over later today to help me put up the sign that I will look at with great pride and emotion for a very long time.