You and I

As we follow the arrow of time, you and I share something.  We write, not only to touch the world with our thoughts, but to feel the spirit of those who read our words.  While Jung called it the Collective Unconscious, some call it Quantum Consciousness; some see it as a spiritual gift.  Regardless of the term, our souls are interconnected.

For you who read my blogs, my curiosity as to your creations motivates me to read your stories.  And the beauty of these stories, and photos, and thoughts, stimulate memories, and emotions, such that I feel I’ve known you before.  In some cases, I have been close to you, though unknowingly at the time, and in other cases, I was near your energy before you were born.  Nonetheless, I sense the verve of your soul as we trade our written word, art, and emotions. 

Yes, it’s true we are not being profiled by Enquirer magazine; we are not on the red carpet, but then, that’s not why we write.   You and I only know about each other; we are the soul seekers. We seek to know the passions of another, we seek to share our depths, and out of our collective unconscious we create new souls in our fiction and express them in our art, and share them in our literature.  We live in a transcendent plane that few understand, and we do not understand why they cannot share our visions as they rush through their lives.

As technology evolves and the internet allows global thought sharing, we become one in the world.  Today I stopped by one of my fellow blogger’s site, Alex Markovich.  I perused his stories, took in his art, and my mind was taken back forty years when I was a high school exchange student in Sweden.  This was the time of the “Cold War”, and The Soviet Union was behind the “Iron Curtain.”  I went on a two week student tour through Finland into what we called “Russia.”  We forfeited our passports at the border and were told not to go outside the city limits of the two cities we visited, Moscow, and St Petersburg, or Leningrad as it was then. 

In those two weeks, at 18 years old, I learned that the people, the smiles, the artists, and the salt of the earth are the same everywhere and it changed my future.  It’s no secret in today’s world that you and I have this curiosity about other cultures, lives, hopes, and dreams, but forty years ago our access to one another was limited.  Today, we blog, we publish, and we share globally.   It’s a beautiful journey, and I am thankful to each of you who share your journey; I am thankful when you take a moment and allow me to share mine. 

In a fiercely political world with upheaval, fighting, and global power plays we must continue to seek one another, and promote the higher plane of existence that the human experience deserves.  It’s we who share the beauty that surrounds us who must fill and spill our cups of energy onto the world to draw the human collective unconscious to our appreciation of this gift of life.  And you and I will share the peace we create.

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The Emoji Literature

This may seem a trivial post, but I don’t believe it is. My vehicle has a Bluetooth operation that allows it to read my texts. I find it verbalizes emojis. An example is if someone texts me with a sentence like “Thank You (smiley face emoji).” I hear an emotionless woman’s voice say: “Thank you, Smiley Face” .

Recently Facebook took a new step in evaluating posts. Where it used to be a thumbs-up or thumbs-down they have now added emojis to the evaluation key. So what does this have to do with literature? I’m not sure yet, but something tells me it will have an effect. Internet chat started, and texts facilitated the odd means of communication that we have now including TU, CU, OMG, LOL, IMHO, LMAHO, TTYL,TMI, SLAP, B3, IDC, BFF, and more than I can count, but now we also have the emoji configured every way imaginable.

Even as an old guy I can accept this, but when my emotionless voice message interpreter in my vehicle says to me “I’m at *$, LOL, Where U, **// 459 4EAE,” it still throws me off. Now that we have an emoji every couple words I’m more confused because the emotionless female voice in my vehicle says things like “I’m at *$, happy face where U frown face, **// 459 blush face 4EAE”.  Then I ask myself why I can’t understand this simple English language.

I recently read that a 12 year old girl faces charges for posting gun, bomb, and knife emojis on Instagram. As text acronyms and emojis filter into our everyday language it will be interesting to see where and how they land in our literature over the next ten or fifteen years.  Perhaps there will be a crime novel such as “The Emoji Killer”.

Confession of a writer

Last year I began attending a writers’ group.  We read what we write and criticize each other.  It’s a healthy experience, but it seems people don’t like to beat up on their peers.  They’re too nice.   I love it when someone beats my writing up.  Not because I’m a masochist, but because that’s the only way I really learn.  Kick my butt, I say, and they say my writing’s pretty good.  No, I say, lay it on me.  But they don’t.  That’s not my confession though.

Here it is:  I attend a writers’ group because when I criticize someone’s writing, it causes me to look much deeper into my own.   There’s nothing more humbling then telling someone they shouldn’t use too many adverbs, or whatever, (in front of a group) then realizing that I’ve made the same errors and my writing is up next.  

As corny as it sounds, the real benefit, for me at least, of attending the writer’s group is that it makes me a better self-editor.  It took me a few years of writing before I started this because I tend to be a loner and prefer to live in a cocoon and write in a corner somewhere.  Not to mention, there’s always someone cocky in these groups who believes he or she is God’s gift to the literary world just waiting to be discovered.

I’m wondering if anyone else out there attends writing groups and whether or not they find any benefit.  If so, let me know.

Belief Systems and Literature

I recently wrote a story that required presenting an unbiased view from several different perspectives.  My primary goal was to write a story that would not appear to favor either viewpoint.  This is what I learned.  It is very difficult to present a point of view that you disagree with without somehow belittling it.  The reason is because you see it as inferior and the only arguments you have are inferior arguments.  It will be biased.  Often, we believe we are representing a viewpoint that we don’t necessarily agree with in our writing but it is highly unlikely that we are.

As I read back on my writing I realized that for the most part, I was presenting weak arguments for the perspective that I disagreed with, probably because that was my mindset.  That wasn’t my goal and it required re-educating myself in order to write the story the way I wanted.  That is no small challenge.  In fact, in order to do it, I not only had to come to an understanding of the opposite view, I had to come to an appreciation of it.  It had to make sense to me.  I had to no longer view it as an inferior viewpoint.

The beauty of this was that it turned out to be a very mind expanding opportunity.  Often, we think we understand another’s viewpoint but we remain sure that ours is right.  I suggest that until you are no longer sure your own is view is superior to another, you cannot write a truly engaging story.

The reason is that if you are presenting a story to an audience with multiple viewpoints, it is a very fine art to make people question their own beliefs.  Unless you see the true merits of differing views and have questioned your own beliefs, it is highly unlikely that you will be able to present an argument that will cause others to question their own beliefs.

That being said, I believe that beyond having a command of the written word, the greatest authors tend to be neutral, non-judgmental observers of the world.  If you’ve ever read a book that caused you to question your own belief systems you know what I mean.  In my humble opinion, some of the greatest literature makes readers of several opposing belief systems scratch their heads and question their own beliefs.

I’m not talking about politics, or religion, or any such major issues in particular, though that would be a major coup.  Something as simple as making me wonder why I like the antagonist serial criminal and don’t want to see him go to prison is sufficient for me. If you can offer such a mind expanding opportunity, I want to read your story.

Thriller Survey

This is a quick survey for crime and thriller fans.  I’m very interested in hearing from anyone who enjoys reading the following authors.  Specifically from the authors below, let me know two things.  First:  Which one of these authors is your favorite, Second: List each author for whom you’ve read at least one of his books.  (and just for fun let me know if I used “whom” correctly in the above sentence, and of course, anything else that’s on your mind.  Thanks!

1.) Dave Baldacci  2.) James Patterson  3.) John Grisham  4.) Robert Ludlum  5.) Lee Child  6.) Michael Connelly  7.) Harlan Coben  8.) Richard Price

Have Fun with This!

Have you ever been reading a story when a sentence the author wrote stopped you in your tracks?  Occasionally I come across a book that has great lines, the kind that you remember and other people remember.  I love this type of reading because I get excited to see what the author will come up with next.  Another reason I like them is because they kick me in the rear to step up my own writing.

One of my favorites is “The Last Good Kiss” by James Crumley.  It’s a great piece of writing and full of quotable lines.  Here’s one of them:

“Stories are like snapshots, pictures snatched out of time, with clean hard edges. But this was life, and life always begins and ends in a bloody muddle, womb to tomb, just one big mess, a can of worms left to rot in the sun.”  –James Crumley, The Last Good Kiss

Here’s another Crumley line:

“When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonoma, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon.” –James Crumley, The Last Good Kiss

When I really don’t feel like writing, I sit around and think up sentences that I might use at some time in some story.   I think about people I’ve seen, Situations I’ve been in or observed and try to describe them with one clever sentence.  Mine probably won’t end up on somebody’s notable list but I really enjoy the exercise.

Here’s a few to ponder.  I used some of them in my as yet unpublished novel, but most of them are just waiting for the perfect time and place.  Let me know what you think.  I’d be interested to hear if others do anything like this.

Dale’s Random Brainstrom quotes:  Have fun with these.

“It’s hard to realize that our own actions are just the sum total of the wills of those around us.  They push us one way and pull us another, and eventually the melting pot of wills moves us to action.  I mean, do you really think you know anything that you didn’t learn from someone who came before you?”

“He started all this shit but the problem was he had no balls.  Talk’s great, but if you can’t stand over the turd you laid, you’ve got no business taking a dump.  At least that’s how I see it.”

“It was like every other shield in life, you don’t know what’s on the other side unless you lower it, and if you keep it up you never know.  Funny, he thought, some people don’t even realize they’re living behind one.”

“Her pretty face held her two steps above the town whore.  At one time or another she’d been married to every guy in town that had more than a rag bag, taking a morsel or two with her before moving on until she gradually built up a small fortune.”

“The guy was a dick, you know the type, a high school quarterback who was the town hero at the state tournament and ended up throwing bags in a fruit warehouse.  I don’t know why I liked him.”

“He had small man’s syndrome so he got his black belt in karate.  It seemed every time he took a drink in a bar he’d look for a big guy and coldcock him with one of his moves then brag about kicking some guy’s ass after warning him not to cross him.”

“The situation was starting to remind him of his first fuck.  It was just one of those things he wasn’t ready to let go of for a while.”

“He’d realized that he was only independent in his job, and though he’d considered himself a patriarch, it came to him that he hadn’t a clue how the bills got paid, or even how the garbage went out. It seemed she was running the show.”

“She was one of those nasty girls, the ones you see in health clubs with tattoos clawing their way out of their asses.”

“When he saw her sunken eyes he realized the results of his actions were worse than shooting heroin straight into her veins.”

“Put your tits away mam. They’re not going to put the fire out and I’m afraid someone’s gonna get hurt if you keep swinging ’em around.”

“The winners always pissed him off.  They were the ones with the sixth sense.  The one that tells you what the consequences of your actions will be.”

About Those Mountains

About life and literature―Promise

The pictures on my blog and Instagram are photos I took while climbing mountains.  Climbing a mountain is a bit like writing a novel, possibly more so than running a marathon.  It really is a one step at a time adventure.  Occasionally, one has difficulty finding a route up the mountain and has to take some steps back and redirect.  Mostly though, it’s the mental game of placing one foot in front of the other when one is fatigued, and mentally worn out from the steep and sometimes rough terrain.

A few years ago I went to South America with the singular goal to climb the highest peak in the Western Hemisphere, Mt. Aconcagua.  After climbing local mountains such as Mt Rainier, Mt. Baker, Mt Hood, and the other volcanoes of the cascades I wanted to try high altitude climbing.

It turned out to be the best training I could have asked for in preparation for writing the novel that I have since completed.  Incidentally, my novel is a crime novel not a mountain climbing novel.

In order to climb high altitudes, one must first train, then acclimatize.  This is carried out by spending months of weekend climbing, and running.  Then, once on the high mountain, by climbing a few thousand feet higher daily, returning to a lower altitude for a night, then climbing higher and staying higher, gradually moving up the mountain.  This allows acclimatization so that one will not develop Cerebral Edema and die and requires various amounts of time on the mountain depending on the altitude.

Still, when summit day arrived and we climbed from 19,200 ft to 22,840 ft the altitude played havoc on my mindset, and psyche.  There were times when I felt like quitting but—in the end―it was one foot in front of the other, at a snail’s pace all the way to the summit, and highest point in the Western Hemisphere.

I think mountain climbing sums up the journey of completing a novel through to publication.  There are often route finding difficulties, and always a new challenge of acclimatizing to what one didn’t know before one started the journey.  After the fervor and toil of writing many drafts, and having editors and readers making suggestions, and writing many more drafts there is a moment of perceived completion.  This is the false summit.  It seems this is when the real high altitude acclimatization begins because one realizes that the mountain has not been climbed.  The summit (publication) does not come so easily and there suddenly appear new challenges that were never identified prior to setting out on the journey.   When I climb a mountain, or now as I have completed writing my novel, I don’t look to see how far it is to the summit, I just keep putting one foot in front of the other.