Fifteen years later…


I wrote my first short story at eight years old. We had a small flock of Muscovy ducks– remarkably ugly and graceless animals. The drakes engaged in an odd behavior where they gathered in a circle, heads facing in, and hissed and bobbed their heads at each other. In my short story, these drakes were members of a secret cabal which absorbed all the news of the world every morning and ruled the world with their combined knowledge.

Enchanted with my idea but disappointed with its poor execution, I laid writing aside until thirteen years old. At that point, I realized no profession drew me like becoming an author. I drafted novel plots galore but could not figure out, again, how to satisfyingly execute my visions. Through my twenties I continued to dream of being an author. Life kept intervening–distracting me with incidentals like college, marriage, children, drama, poverty…

On the occasion of my twenty-eighth birthday, two things happened to change my perspective on writing. The first was that I turned twenty-eight. “Two years until I’m thirty,” I thought, “and I haven’t written a thing.” In concert with that realization, my brother gave me a birthday present. Stephen King’s book On Writing inspired me as no other writing guide before or since has. His gentle, wise, direct advice showed me the way into producing a novel.

Two of the things he said stay with me to this day. “Writers write,” he wrote. “If you write, you’re a writer.” And to paraphrase his corollary: Don’t set out to write the Great American Novel. Set out to write a certain number of bad words every day.

At twenty-eight years old, armed with the knowledge of my impending thirties and Stephen King’s kind advice, I wrote my first novel.

Fifteen years later, I’ve published Sage Courage, available on Amazon as we speak. Give it a browse and let me know what you think.

Marketing for the terrified

Last month I wrote a post about my paralyzing fear of marketing. Since that post, two things have happened. First, my novel Sage Courage was published and second, I began spending up to an hour a day on marketing.

Confronting a dire fear of marketing proved invaluable and liberating. But how did I do it? This meditation (blog) is an attempt to share what I’ve learned in the last few weeks about overcoming unreasonable fear as I suspect I’m not the only person who is faced with it.

A lot of fear is focused on the future. We imagine a negative outcome and then we obsess about it until it feels real. It isn’t real.

When I recognized this, I decided to employ my creativity in a playful way in the present and to avoid thinking about or hoping for a particular outcome. After all, this is something writers excel at. Writing a novel is an extended exercise in being creative without any promise of all that work/play paying off.

Love has also become an important tool for fighting off my fear of marketing. What wouldn’t we do for what we love? And, as a famous quote in the New Testament tells us, “Perfect love casts out fear.” I have chosen to dwell in my love of life, my love of writing, my love of my subject matter. Selling this novel is not a commercial enterprise but rather a labor of love–a gift intended for the world of readers.

Just now I am sitting in a coffee shop with a stack of novels and a sign announcing their availability. It is still a little nerve-wracking, but I’m out here in a spirit of playful love with a gift for the world.

The haunted house – Part III

For reasons I still don’t fully comprehend, I never spoke of these things to anyone else. The battle remained with me and me alone.My siblings and I were born into a very religious family. Throughout our childhood we memorized long passages of the Bible in exchange for gifts.

One night, in the midst of my terror, I began reciting Psalms to myself as I lay there sweating. I focused my mind on their meaning, on my nascent connection with the Divine. I filled my mind with their beauty and praise with iron determination to think of nothing else.

The fear eased. I lay in bliss and freedom, able to rest by turning away from darkness and focusing only on light.

The evil in my bedroom never left. But from that night forward I had a powerful weapon to use against it. Even in my dreams I could call up favorite verses and shield myself with them. When I awoke I glared into the darkness and told it: Every time you come for me, I will praise God.

Eventually we moved away from the farm house. My nightmares evaporated with the change in location. Years later, my family and I got to talking about times we had felt afraid. I shared for the first time my experiences in the attic and said I even knew where the foulness was centered.

“Stop,” Steve told me. Without speaking further, he drew a floor plan of the attic and circled a small area beyond the western curtain wall. Every hair on my body stood up and I couldn’t warm up for a long time that evening.

My novel Sage Courage is an absorbing bit of writing inspired by my early experiences and is available in print and ebook at Amazon.

The haunted house – Part II

One of the small doors which led from my bedroom into the storage space beyond the curtain wall had been left hanging open about three inches. Again, a foreboding presence pressed fear into me, imprinting it on my brain like a brand on a calf’s skin. I could never decide whether to stare at that blank line of darkness or to look away, pretending it wasn’t there, so I alternated techniques. Staring at the space invited more fear. Looking away simply moved the fear into my imagination.

The fear and dread never abated over the years I slept in the attic. They grew worse with time until they seeped into my dreams, leaving me with nightmares I couldn’t distinguish after a while from the reality of living in that dark room.

Possessed things–animals and humans both–entered my dreams and stalked me relentlessly with their slack jaws and empty eyes. There were times I got so tired of fighting that I longed to just lie down and let them take me. Dreams of haunted buildings became fixtures of my sleep.

Many times I woke up only to see clumps of clothes on my floor and illuminated by moonlight or starlight transformed into dead animals slowing being reanimated. Sometimes I dreamed I woke up and, relieved, would begin to get out of bed only to find my nightmares being reiterated in what otherwise looked like “normal” life. I fought to wake up. I failed.

Meanwhile, Sunny developed night terrors. At unpredictable intervals she would sit bolt upright in bed and emit prolonged, blood-curdling screams.

Without understanding how, I knew the terror emanated from behind one of the curtained-off walls–the western one. I even knew in what portion of that dark area the evil dwelled. I dreamed of it–saw foul power oozing from that area and attacking me and my family.

For a suspenseful read, you can purchase my novel Sage Courage in print or ebook at Amazon.com.

Dementia

Laughter cannot stop it
Love does not slow it
We tried grief, a sense of betrayal–
We raged.

Still, everything we held precious grew porous
The edges slipped away
Scrabbling for purchase, we forgot

Memory, the ephemeral of which we are composed
That beloved dog’s name

The dog herself
Our fifties–never before remarkable
Retreating through the past

Erasing as the marker moved back
Identity disintegrates

Spouse and children ghosts
No names

Pull away
Apart
Where is
No


Photo copyright Hold Fast Photography 2016