Friday, July 3, 2015

The Neurosis of Writing

I was scrolling through my Facebook feed this morning and came across a post by Anne Rice referring to an article from The Writing Life, Writing and Mental Health. Now I've seen this type of study before, some scientific whatever claiming that creative people--in particular, writers--are often prone to various forms of mental illness (depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, etc.). I've never been one to lump people into convenient categories, but in this case I feel there is some merit to the idea. I can't speak for the masses, but I know for as long as I can remember, I have felt out of step with the rest of the world.

They say you don't know you're crazy if you are, so who's to say what I'm feeling is normal or some form of actual neurosis? And for that matter, what is normal? I have no idea. I know what's normal for me. I know that I often walk around with a narrator in my head, as if I'm a third party to my own life. I have conversations, both mental and verbal, with people who aren't there, and while I can say they're simply characters from my creations, the truth is, that's not always the case. I have alter egos living inside, personalities far more interesting than anything I could hope to assume in real life. Most never make it into any of my literary creations; they were never meant to. Does the fact that they haven't yet manifested in reality mean I'm not, clinically speaking, schizo? Who's to say? Maybe everyone has them.

Maybe not.

I've suffered from some form of depression most of my life. Not that I would readily call it that. Sometimes it's like a quiet hum in the background, a comforting whisper telling me that all of this doesn't really matter. Sometimes, like now, it's a hand reaching out from the ether, stripping back and exposing the raw pain of reality, forcing me to retreat to the warm safety of my apathetic cocoon. Those who have never suffered from depression can't identify with that sentiment. Those who have...well, you know who you are. I'd save you a seat, but I prefer to suffer alone. I'd say it's the writer in me, but really, how would I know since I've never known anything else?

As I said, I can't speak for other writers, but the fact that someone has deemed it important enough to study must mean there's some kind of common trait we all share. And when I say writers, I mean creators of fiction--those who breathe life into the demons of their imagination. For one, like any form of exploration, we have to be able to navigate and chronicle what lies beneath the surface of said imagination. It's not all sunshine and happy endings. There are dark corners and flashes of brilliance there, fragments of nightmares, heartache, suffering, true joy, and angst so deep it makes your teeth hurt just to think of it. And you have to be brave enough to wade in and tap that well to bring forth something that rings authentic. Something that speaks to that subconscious bullshit meter we all possess and tells it: this is the real deal. This person knows. This person has gone there so I don't have to. Has dipped a toe in the crazy pool and shaken the words onto the page where everyone else can experience them from the safety of their own reality.

Oh yeah, it's that. And it's more than that. Most would never consider that this person who dropped these words onto the page actually lives there, has given it an address, maybe even keeps a post office box in the neighborhood. Like a cop who, of necessity, becomes numb to the atrocities of human life, the writer has to find a way to function in the face of that core knowledge. The neurosis of playing empathy against omnipotence, of being both creator and destroyer, wears on a soul. It separates you from the herd, tosses you back on the fringes, outside looking in, because that's the only way you can truly observe.

If all this sounds slightly manic, that's because it is. Writers know this. We live with it. Are we crazy? Neurotic? Depressed? Schizophrenic? Bi-polar? I honestly couldn't say. I don't have a convenient label for what I am other than Writer. Take it for what you will.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Simplifying the Website Conundrum

Like anyone else trying to get their name out there for fun and profit, websites are a necessary evil for writers. It was a fact I used to enjoy because I was one of the people paying the bills by creating them. Now, however, that time is past. Part of the problem, you see, is that, like any technology-based enterprise, web design requires a lot of time. Not so much in coding and designing--though that is a concern--as in keeping up with the latest advancements in coding and designing. The swell folks over at the W3C, which is the governing body for all things web-related, are in a constant state of flux, scrambling about to ensure design standards keep pace with the ever-evolving technology at our command.

Which brings me to the point of this post. As I get older, I find that I would rather use the time I spend in front of a computer working on my writing. Truth is, I'm liking that computer time less and less these days. Life is going on out there, and while I can view it safely from my trusty office chair, I'm realizing I'd prefer not to. Maybe it's all those years of working in a corporate cubicle farm, but I'm getting a little PC LOAD LETTER on the whole sitting-at-a-desk-staring-at-a-screen thing. Which means I'm looking to streamline my web presence. A little convenience store, one stop shopping mentality, if you will.

We have evolved into a world of immediate gratification, and in that world, a static website is like art on a wall: pretty, but irrelevant. People want their content to be current and ever-changing, which means things like blogs and social media rule the web waves now. So I've decide to forego the time and expense to maintain my site in favor of migrating everything to this blog and my Random Sh!t Nobody Cares About blog, which is basically my repository of novel excerpts and short stories.

Judging by my traffic numbers, this decision won't create any massive waves of concern among either the writing or web community, but I thought making an announcement would be prudent. You know, just in case.

So, from now on, any writing related news in my world will be conducted here at Short, sweet, and free.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Bringing Magic into a Creative Life

Recently I was digging through some old articles and blog posts I had written to use as samples for some freelance opportunities, and while some were quite dated, a few I found to be candidates for recycling. The following is one such article I originally posted in 2007 for my Nido-Zine blog.

Like many people of the post-World War generations, I have been on somewhat of a spiritual quest my entire life. I've studied the major desert religions and those of the Far East, Native Americans, and Celtics, dabbled in the occult, astrology, and numerology, and come away with a belief structure melded of all. I've seen too many unexplainable things in this life not to believe there's something else out there, but at the same time, I live in an age where science and technology have provided rational answers to many things once believed to be magic. Still, who can argue with the blending of science fiction and fantasy in quantum physics?

What is Magic?

Since the beginning of time, man has looked to the heavens and asked, “Why?” Why does the sun rise and set? Why do the seasons change? Why are we here and where are we going? Religion through the ages has attempted to answer these questions, but for many of us, the answers have fallen far short because they all try to impose a rigid set of rules upon the arbitrarily ordered chaos of the universe. You can no more harness all the wonders of Life in a structured doctrine than you can control the weather.

Personally, I believe in magic. Magic is all around us. I'm not speaking merely of the wonder of a baby's birth or the opening of a spring blossom. I'm referring to Magic with a capital "M." The force that creates and controls the UN's, as I like to call them. The Unknown, the Unseen, and the Unexplained.

I've seen ghosts and witnessed phenomena than can't be explained with rational arguments. I've experienced past lives and precognitive dreams and the telepathic bond between mother and child. I've cast astrological charts and saw the relationship between the stars, the planets, and the choices we encounter in our lives. I've worked with people who have a true connection to the world beyond our five senses. In short, I've seen too much NOT to believe.

It's obvious I'm not the only one interested in the subject, as witnessed by the overwhelming popularity of books and movies on the subject. Most of us are attracted by the prospect that there is something out there beyond our known reality, something mystical and divine. Something that perhaps we can learn to use to find that same quality in our own lives.

We can get into all kinds of pros and cons about the use of magic, the kinds of magic (both positive and negative), and so on and so on, but for the purpose of this discussion, we're concentrating on magic as it pertains to our own creativity.

Magic and the Creative Life

Magic is simply transformation, creating and bringing into being. We are all capable of it. With practice, we can all direct and control the forces in our lives, using them to accomplish our goals. Whether we do this by altering our physical world or our spiritual self, it is this act of transformation that allows us to grow and create.

In times past, transformation was the realm of the alchemist, who, on the surface, concerned himself with the transformation of physical matter, in this case, base metal into gold. But the true magic of alchemy came not in changing the useless into the precious, but in the transformation of the alchemist himself--the accession to a higher state of consciousness. Whether we realize it or not, it is this same form of transformation we strive for whenever we direct our energies creatively.

The act of creating, of harnessing the inspiration that turns on that light bulb in your head, is a form of transforming the physical into the spiritual. Creativity comes from the soul, that most wondrous and misunderstood aspect of life. It resides in all of us, but few have learned to tap into the well that makes them truly great at their craft. For some it comes naturally, but for most of us, it takes work. Hard work. We must learn to reach inside to touch that spark of the divine in each of us and transform it into a physical representation of our innate creativity.

Meditation and the Magic of Transformation

The easiest way to get in touch with that inner source of the divine is also one of the oldest: meditation. Meditation is nothing more than clearing and quieting the conscious mind so that it will be receptive to the subconscious. Now that sounds easy, right? Not always. In fact, unless you've been shown how to do it right and have practiced it regularly, it can seem more like an exercise in futility. No matter how hard we may try to clear our minds, everyday problems and random thoughts seem to creep in, distracting our best efforts. The trick is not to fight them, but rather to let go of them.

In the early 1970s I was fortunate to be living in Madrid near a Transcendental Meditation (TM) retreat. At that time, thanks to high-profile followers such as the Beatles, the Maharishi Mahesh Yoga was the icon of the New Age movement, before there even was a New Age movement. When I heard that he was going to be conducting classes at the Madrid center himself, I immediately enrolled.

I have to admit to being skeptical at first. After all, TM was being touted as the answer to everything from getting ahead in your job to better health to finding spiritual enlightenment. How could anything be that good? But I went with an open mind, which I have since learned is the greatest tool we possess for success at any new endeavor we undertake.

The biggest mystery of TM revolves around the mantra, the series of syllables given to the novice to help him/her focus and clear the mind. It is said that each individual's mantra is selected specifically for them and that they are not to reveal it to anyone. Now, whether or not this is true, I have no idea, since I've never revealed mine nor had anyone else's revealed to me. But just the thought that I had a secret word all my own lent the entire process an air of mystery.

The thing is, you can choose any word or series of syllables you want for your mantra, providing you believe in their ability to focus your thoughts (and actually, in magic of any kind, belief is the most important component). The process of meditation will be the same regardless of method or mantra because it is, in its simplest form, self-hypnosis. There are plenty of self-help books and classes around if you feel you need more hands-on help, but the basic process is this:

Find a quiet place where you can relax without fear of being disturbed. Sit down with your back supported and your feet on the floor. Laying your hands in your lap palms up is said to be the best position for drawing in the energies around you, but I suppose it's all a matter of preference. Close your eyes and start to relax your body, starting with your feet and working your way up your body. Visualize the tension leaving your muscles. When you feel you are physically relaxed, start repeating your mantra or chosen word. If it helps, you can say it out loud at first. The important thing is that you focus on it, the sound of it, the feel of it. Let your mind encircle it until it becomes the only sound you hear.

Now this is the point where the novice gets discouraged, because no matter how hard you try, you can't keep those random thoughts from popping into your mind. The answer to that is simple: don't fight them. Let them come up, then picture them as bubbles rising to the surface and floating away. It may take you three or four sessions to accomplish this, but like anything else, practice will make it easier. Eventually you'll get to the point where your mind has been cleared of everything but the sound of your mantra. At this point, you should be repeating it only in your mind.

When you have reached this point (and as I said, it may take you several sessions to get there), your breathing and heartbeat will start to slow as your body becomes more relaxed. And here's another trap for the novice, because your first reaction is going to be fear of suffocating. You may even start to concentrate on your breathing. Like those random thoughts, don't fight it, just let it go. It's a natural part of the process. One of the benefits of meditation is that it slows your bodily functions, giving you the benefit of a deep, relaxing sleep.

Eventually, after several sessions, you will attain the goal of all practitioners of regular meditation: pure consciousness. You'll know you're there when you experience a sensation of floating, that your mind has suddenly expanded to encompass the universal whole. It's a difficult thing to describe, but you'll know it once you experience it. And once you experience it, you'll want to do it again and again, because each time you do, it gets easier and more effective.

End your session by slowly allowing awareness of your physical body to return. Keep your eyes closed until you feel you have completely returned to your physical body. That may sound crazy, but anyone who has ever experienced astral-tripping (where the consciousness leaves the physical body, either during sleep or a meditative state) realizes how dangerous awakening too soon can be for keeping the psyche and physical body in sync.

Twenty minutes is the recommended time for a single session. Many practitioners encourage two sessions a day, morning and late afternoon or early evening. Right before bed is not recommended because the process of meditation stimulates as well as relaxes the mind and may make it difficult to sleep. Also, to take full advantage of the benefits of meditation, you should channel that newfound energy and clarity into some form of creative endeavor.

Our Inherent Magic

We've all experienced moments of extreme clarity in our daily lives. Athletes call it "being in the zone," and that's a perfect metaphor for it. And like an athlete, when we can teach ourselves to quiet the distractions of the conscious world and listen to the voice of the divine within us, we can then visualize what we want to accomplish–whether that be creating a work of art, writing a symphony, or winning a race–and make it happen. The power is ours to claim, we have only to believe in ourselves to develop it.

"To embark upon the uncharted seas of selfhood, to reach out creatively to the potentials of life, and to select of these as our own reason permits requires that one be able to bear the anxieties intrinsic to a creative approach ... we find that a creative approach to life -- be it in the arts, sciences, or any other life context -- can evolve only when there is sufficient esteem for the self." 
-- Lyall Watson, Supernatural

Suggested Reading

Interested in expanding your understanding of the magic around you? Check out some of the following books I've found to be inspirational.

I Ching, The Book of Change, translated and edited by John Blofeld
The Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell
The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell
The Golden Bough by J.G. Frazer
The Way of the Shaman by Michael Harner
Man and His Symbols by Carl G. Jung
Memories, Dreams, Reflections by Carl G. Jung
Saint Germain on Alchemy recorded by Mark L. Prophet and Elizabeth Clare Prophet
Chakra Therapy by Keith Sherwood
Positive Magic, Occult Self-Help by Marion Weinstein

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Moments of Clarity

"People say that what we are all seeking is a meaning for life. I don't think that's what we're really seeking. I think that what we're seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive."
Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth

Anyone who writes should read Campbell, and anyone who has read Campbell will agree that writers are the chroniclers of the sentiment in that statement. As writers, we have the ability to look outside ourselves, to pull from our own experiences and values and worldviews, and incorporate them into myths of our own making. The subject matter of these myths is irrelevant, for when you drill down in every tale, you eventually arrive at the same foundation: the hero myth.

This is the basis of every morality tale, of every myth, of every religion in human history. It is constant and everlasting because at its base is the true nature of the human experience. We are born reluctantly, thrown into a life rife with challenges, and must either rise to the occasion to triumph or refuse and condemn ourselves to failure, all with the knowledge that the reward for our sacrifice is certain death. The point here is, it's the not the reward we care about, it's the actual experience of living itself, that is important. Or to put it more simply, it's not the destination, it's the journey that matters.

I recall a conversation I recently had with my sister-in-law. We were in an antique shop, of all things, looking at some Chinese tea sets, and I made a comment about the ritual of tea and how we, as humans, need our rituals. This lead to a discussion on different forms of ritual, which eventually brought us around to religious rituals.

Now anyone who knows me knows I'm not a religious person in the traditional sense. I'm not a joiner. So when I said, "I recall, when I was younger, going to midnight mass on Christmas Eve, and while I didn't consider myself a Christian, I still couldn't deny that I was moved by the experience," my sister-in-law responded with "I thought you were an atheist."

When I told her no, she asked me what I was, religiously speaking. I had to think about that for a minute. I hate labels. Each of us is a unique collection of experiences, beliefs, and interpretations that makes us different from every other person on the planet. Why should we be pigeon-holed into a rigid spiritual doctrine? I have studied all the major religions of the world, as well as the so-called pagan beliefs of nomadic tribes, agricultural societies, and Native Americans, and when you get past the differences in names and locations, it's all the same story. A way to imply morality on the human experience.

So my answer would have to be, just because I don't believe in religion doesn't mean I'm an atheist. I believe in something, if not a creative spirit, then a creative spark. Science can explain the mechanics of evolution, but something had to light the match to all that kindling. Something had to create the soul. Whether you believe that something is a bearded man sitting on a throne in the sky or a force of nature personified is irrelevant. Like the old saying says, just because you don't believe in it, doesn't mean it isn't real. The important thing isn't what you believe, but how your life reflects that belief. I see too many religious hypocrites forgetting that one golden rule: To thine own self be true.

As I said, I've studied the religions, myths, and folktales of the world and absorbed the truths that fit with my life's experiences, which is, in the end, all any of us can do. These have become my doctrine. My religion, if you will. And the most important thing that has come from this is the belief that we are all here in this particular life for a purpose, and while the purpose may be different for each of us, we are born with the necessary tools to succeed in that purpose. It's up to us whether or not we use them.

A writer has the unique ability to recognize the story and to use his or her imagination to tell it. That may not seem so important in the grand scheme of things, compared to say a police officer or soldier who lays down his life every day, or a doctor who saves lives, but think about this: without the writer--the chronicler--where would we get the myths that define our cultures? Where would we get our religions? Someone had to interpret their experiences into a tale that would resonate with the mass consciousness. Someone had to put to paper the words that inspire faith and define history.

Which beings me to my point. It doesn't matter if what you're writing is considered a timeless literary masterpiece. What matters is that you are using the talents and abilities given to you in this life to create something from nothing. To bring to life a world and a story built from your own experience and honed by the fires of your own imagination. It's a part of you, a story no one can else can tell because no one else has walked in your shoes.

So tell your story. And when you're done...tell the next one.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Non-Linear Noveling

Although I've been writing for what seems like my entire life, I didn't attempt my first novel until I was in my late twenties. Since that time, the process has been pretty much the same. Jot down some general notes on plot and theme, create background sketches for the main characters, and jump in on Chapter 1, writing the whole thing in a linear fashion (sorry, I'm not an outliner). Naturally, as most newbie novelists are wont to do, that lead to more than a few wasted hours as I fixated on getting that first scene or chapter perfect instead of just getting it written.

Over the years I've refined the process, adopting the attitude of charging full speed ahead with the first draft, adding notes in places where the scene wasn't fully developed in my head in the interest of keeping the project moving

The problem is, I don't always think linearly, especially when it comes to series novels. Maybe it's because I know the endgame, but I tend to start looking at the whole project at once and certain parts just become more appealing to write. Sort of like having a buffet in front of you and heading for the desserts first.

When I first started doing web design, I would keep a pad by my computer to write down the font names and sizes and the hex codes of colors I used on the site. Unfortunately, you can't actually see a color code. It's just a series of characters. That's when I began creating palette images. At the beginning of every project, I would create an image with actual color swatches labeled with both the hex and RGB codes, as well as font samples and names. It was an invaluable resource, because instead of combing back through the code to find the color I used on this font or that background, all I had to do was open the image.

And that gave me an idea. I've been working on books 2 and 3 of the 'Ru Lexicon series (yes, both of them at once), mostly collecting scenes and putting them in a Scenes folder under the book title. I also keep a copy of Book 1 on my desk for easy historical reference (honestly, I have never been able to figure out how authors of multi-book series keeps everything straight). Normally, I pull the entire book together in a single draft copy, but that gets to be a pain when you're working on a scene halfway through the book and you have to go back and look up a minor character's name or where you first introduced a thread. Plus, because I write a lot of scenes out of sequence and throw them all in a single folder, I have to go back and find the point where I meant to insert it, and after a while it all turns into a big jumbled mess.

Which is how I came up with this new process. I actually got the idea from the way most movies are filmed. The director doesn't shoot the scenes in the order of the script. That comes later when the movie is edited together. So why not write a book that way? Instead of one big file of THE BOOK, have individual files of the chapters in that book, and "shoot" or, in this case, write them as the inspiration strikes. To keep all of this straight, I created a chapter summary document like my old web design palette, listing all the chapters with a summary of each scene in it, as well as the characters that are in that scene and the location of the action, sort of like a director's script.

Since I've started doing this, the book is coming together faster than ever before. I have files for each chapter in the book, and I populate them as I write the scenes, leaving notes in the places where I want to add other scenes. I admit, it's not for everyone, but it's a great tool for beating writer's block, since one of the biggest reasons a writer gets stuck in a book is because they don't know how to write the next scene or even what that scene should be. This way, you can just write other scenes and piece them together then fill out the transitions.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Most Profound Document Ever Written

I have waited with anticipation for the airing of the History Channel's three-part mini-series, The Sons of Liberty, because the story of the American Revolution is, to me, the greatest underdog story the world has ever known. Since I was a kid in the third grade and had to read Johnny Tremain, I've loved everything to do with the Revolutionary War. It pains me that schools in the U.S. today don't devote more time to teaching students how their country came to be, because, despite all its problems--and there are many--it is still, in its ideal, the greatest experiment in government the world has ever known.

The History Channel admits The Sons of Liberty is a fictionalized accounting of the events that lead to the Revolutionary War, but even for those who know the facts, it is still an enjoyable six hour reminder of our history. Growing up, we always had a framed copy of two documents on the wall: The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. My father read both to us in their entirety several times and made sure we knew how important they were to both our country and the world. As the son of Italian immigrants and a World War II veteran, he was fervent in his love for this country, and he wanted to make sure we appreciated the freedoms those brave men and women fought for in our names.

I have never been able to read the Declaration of Independence without choking up. It is, to me, the most profoundly stirring statement of human rights that has ever been written. When one considers the age of the men who penned it and the state of the world in which they lived, one can't help but be in awe of their vision. While most people are familiar with the introduction and preamble to the Declaration, unless you've read the entire thing, you may not know that it is actually a 27-count indictment of King George III.

Fifty-six men from twelve colonies (Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Delaware) signed the document, which was, in effect, a declaration of treason in the eyes of the British Crown. They could have been put to death for that alone. Thomas Jefferson (at age 36) wrote the original draft, with help from John Adams and Benjamin Franklin, and the entire assembly then made minor changes and tweaks before it was approved and signed.

In case you've never read the entire document, or you want to refresh your memory, here is the final transcript of the Declaration of Independence with the 27 indictments numbered:

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

1. He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
2. He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
3. He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
4. He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
5. He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
6. He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
7. He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
8. He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
9. He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
10. He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
11. He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
12. He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
13. He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
14. For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
15. For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
16. For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
17. For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
18. For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
19. For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
20. For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
21. For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
22. For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
23. He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
24. He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
25. He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
26. He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
27. He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Friday, January 2, 2015

My Writing Process

Happy New Year, all. As I look around at what has become unfamiliar surroundings (my last post having been written nearly three and a half months ago), my first instinct is to apologize. But then I ask myself, for what? I never promised to post in any regular manner, and in truth, really had nothing worthwhile to say, so why waste my time or yours?

Over the years, I've read a lot of so-called advice for writers from writers (and others) who consider themselves experts, and I've come to realize something. Just like with everything else in life, all writers work differently. The popular school of thought is that to be a successful writer, you must write every day.


I tried that. While it probably works for most people, and especially if you're a newb who needs the practice, having a one-size-fits-all policy for success in any creative endeavor is just dumb. We're not all the same, and creativity is not like a tap you can turn on or off at will.

At least, not for me. I live with my characters and books inside me all the time, but sometimes they just don't feel like talking. And why should I force them if they have nothing to say?

I look at it this way: In my real life, I have spent years buying and renovating old houses. I do most of the work myself and use salvaged parts whenever necessary. I never have a huge budget for these adventures, but I do usually have some kind of plan or vision for what I want to accomplish. Often I'm so fixated on that vision that I'd rather do nothing at all than compromise on something less than my vision in the name of getting things done.

For instance, in one house, after tearing out the wall between the kitchen and livingroom, I decided I wanted to put a large, solid wood column between the two rooms. I don't know where the desire came from, but nothing else was going to do. And because I couldn't find that mythical column, I lived with a wall of bare studs for nearly two years because I knew if I did something else just to get the job done, I'd never be satisfied with it.

That's how I see my writing. I've rushed to finish books so I could publish, only to later be disappointed with the resulting story, wishing I could go back and rewrite it the way I originally had intended.

Which brings me to now. As I had mentioned in my September post, for the last year I've been busy between the day job and remodeling my latest house, leaving little creative energy to listen to the stories in my head. That was fine for awhile because, as I said, the characters were quiet. And while they flared up a bit a few months back, they just as quickly fell quiet again. However, lately they've started talking more than they have in years, and believe me, with two series and a couple of standalone books running around up there, it can get quite noisy. I revisited each of my in-progress projects (yes, I always have several going at a time), rereading my notes and what I had written so far, in the hopes of pinpointing the one that was making the most noise.

At first I thought it was Laec of the Erebus Files. I even wrote a couple of chapters on Hazard, then put it aside when nothing rang true. Then I read through last year's NaNoWriMo project, Random Trips to Nowhere, and while I enjoyed reading what I had written so far, I had no inspiration on where to take the tale from there.

And that's when the 'Ru started creeping into my subconscious. You'd never know by reading the first book, but the original concept for the series was born from my love of old gothic romantic horror. Since that style of writing has fallen out of favor the past few years in light of newer, shinier vampires, I allowed myself to be swayed by popular opinion. To be honest, by the time the first book was done, I could hardly tell the characters were vampires.

And that makes me sad, because truth be told, I love a good vampire story. The whole reason why I began to write paranormal fiction was because I couldn't find the kind of vampire story I wanted to read. That perfect balance of sexy power, romance, danger, and a reluctant touch of evil. I confess to being smitten even now with Lestat as the greatest hero of the genre.

So I began to revisit my old library of classic vampire paperbacks--Elaine Bergstrom's Austra series, Tanya Huff's Blood series, Fred Saberhagen's Dracula series, and the queen of them all, Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles (books 1 through 3, though the new Prince Lestat awaits on my Kindle). I reread them all, absorbing that familiar, beloved fascination with the vampire legend.

I'm not going to sit here and try to analyze or justify my vampire addiction. It's quite simply, what I like. Frankly I'm worn out by the badass super demon/vampire/werewhatever heroes that populate the urban fantasy/paranormal romance genre these days; the sexless, sword-wielding, tattooed women (and men) in tight leather and looser morals. I miss the romance of the forbidden dark world, and quite frankly, nothing embodies that like a good old-fashioned gothic vampire tale.

That's not saying I'm going to go all Victoria Holt in my next book. Books 2 and 3 of the 'Ru Lexicon trilogy have been plotted out for some time, and while I still want to tell the story I had originally envisioned, I'm just going to add a little old-school flavor to their world. Which means Book 2 will offer a nod to true classic vampirism. The characters have begun to speak to me again, interrupting my dreams and intruding on my sleep. Most of the necessary research  is done, and it's time to start bringing their story to life. If I'm absent for long stretches, know that it's because I'm spending my creative energies there.