A Glimpse of the Divine

A little more than seven years ago I created a world. It happened without a bang, came without a word, and anchored itself into my mind with nary a concern for what it would do to my life. A forest evolved from darkness, mountains rose into view, the starry sky embraced a full moon that blanketed the lush terrain in a bath of iridescent light. I flew above it, gliding effortlessly, chilled slightly by the cool embrace of the night. Euphoria, giddiness, a certain boyish delight: they tempted me with recognition. I knew this place, though I had never before seen it.

The flight carried me beyond the forest, skimming the surface of a swiftly moving river, where I spread my fingers and trailed them through the water, gazing gleefully at the wake left as I zoomed forward. The forest returned beyond the approaching bank and I lifted once more toward the heavens. Though the sky invited me wholly, I chose instead to zag along the treetops, cutting in between gaps in the branches. I watched the forest floor, spotting life rustling below, my path all but forgotten, my trust in the guiding force complete and unwavering. I knew my destination. I knew what I would find.

When the forest thinned, the trees parting like open palms, the lush green turf broadened, expanded, and welcomed me into an open field. In the center of that field sat a solitary white crypt, tendrils of ivy coating one side of the gleaming marble surface, a faded iron door sealing the interior. I stood before the crypt, the weight of the moment abolishing my fears. I had journeyed to be here. Something magical awaited me. As if answering my call, the door opened, echoing through the field as metal ground against metal, as the hinges issued a squeal of protest.

The light from within overwhelmed my vision, yet filled me with warmth. It invited me forward. And so I walked, stepping into the light and through the doorway. My feet, which only now I realized were bare, waded across the sandy floor. I paused, the certainty that what I saw, what lay before me, held the answer to my quest, the essence of my journey. Risen upon a slab, I gazed upon the white tomb with a sense of awe and wonderment, lost in the artistic swirls along the pristine surface, mesmerized by the depth of life I sensed despite the reminder of death it endowed. Only then did I notice the angle of the lid and the revealing glimpse it offered to the interior of the tomb. I wanted to know. I had to see.

I stepped onto the concrete slab, my eyes meeting the length of the tomb, then the smooth edge at the lip. Hesitantly, I forced myself over the edge, my heart racing, and peered within and saw nothing.

That would have been about the time the music slowed, the cadence of the choir drifting to an easy completion. I opened my eyes and stared at the ceiling. I may have continued that stare for close to an hour, watching the images wash over me in a continuous loop. When I finally roused myself enough to gather my thoughts, I detailed the scene in a notebook. It would be the first account, in the first of many notebooks, regarding a world called Elysium. A world inhabited, created, and saved by a character known only as The Storyteller. Only recently did I compile the five notebooks of story into a massive file. By then I had already written Book One in The Storyteller series: The Heart of Darkness.

A five-book young adult series–drawn from five notebooks full of research, character bios, locations, magical items, magical creatures, political landscapes, actual landscapes, and so much more. All drawn from countless hours of daydreaming. Daydreams drawn from a single flight above a single forest toward a single destination. A single flight drawn from one piece of music.

One song created a world.

It still haunts me.  Granted, I want it to. Give it a listen. Fly a while. You’ll never be the same.

Mysterium

by Libera 

Tweeting the Quack

This is actually a post from the Southern Authors Blog, A Good Blog is Hard to Find, but I would be doing it a great disservice if I didn’t post it everywhere, so, here it is.  May your day be filled with the glory of my brilliance.

And stuff.

——-

This is a duck.  His name is Ducky Thomas.  He is a duck named Thomas.

He’s stuffed full of cute, loves adventures, and is quite convinced that the world is the most fantastic thing a duck could ever hope for.  He also loves the cat who loves him most.

This is a video about a bookstore.  It has nothing to do with ducks–not yet anyway I guess I must admit–but does indeed have a lot to do with the point.

They both have something in common.  They have nothing directly to do with the books I write, but have everything to do with me as a writer.  They are independent of what is published, but a vital cog in the publicity of who I am.  And they aren’t the end or the beginning.  They are the journey.

There.  I’ve waxed poetic.  Now I can get on with the point.

We all know about Twitter.  If you have the time and patience, you can gather a following, make a name for yourself, your opinions, and your work.  The same can be said for Facebook, albeit in a more centralized, and long-term kind of way.  You’re going to make your friends, have your followers, talk about anything from The Simpsons and their obvious lack of relevance to Obama and his quest for health care.  You’ll be “liked”, have the “@” symbol thrown your way, tagged, or even re-posted/re-tweeted.  People will laugh with you, at you, talk about why your opinion is pointless and not at all as potent as what they have to say, and send messages to one another about whatever it is you posted last.  Above all, they will know you as a writer, and understand you as a person in ways readers never could before, and they will look forward to what you have to post next.

But they are merely one step toward lifting you, as a writer, into the conversations of the world.

We live in a digital age.  One in which communication is almost entirely of the written word.  We view Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Foursquare, Plancast, Tumbler, and so on as pure facets of publicity, meant to broaden our audience and stamp a nice, fancy, little brand upon our heads.  All of which is most certainly true.  But it’s not the mere existence of our digital selves on these sites that makes full embrace of what they offer us.  It’s what we write.  It’s how we use them.  It’s taking the blank slate and filling it with content that both evolves who we are as writers, and demonstrates fully what we can do with the words we are blessed with.  True, starting a blog and writing about anything–anything at all–is exactly the right approach.  But it isn’t the endpoint.

When I first started blogging, I didn’t intend on writing about the adventures of a stuffed duck, and I had no plans to begin at first a blog, and then a series of videos about life in a bookstore.  But the more I worked through my personal blog, the more I came to see each entry as a script of my life–pages of the mind fluttering from the inner sanctum of thought to the public forum offered to me.  Each entry was another showcase of what I could offer.  In a very real sense, each time I posted a blog, I was adding to my resume.  Obviously, it is every writer’s great hope that each book that is published will further enhance the aura and legacy of who they are (read in: you will become instantly uber-famous, and own two castles in a decade).  But it doesn’t have to end there any more.  In fact, the sheer number of books that are being published by extension of the popularity of a blog speak volumes to the time in which we live.  Used to be that you had to find a press to print your article, or a series of collected works in which to be included in order to broaden the scope of your work.  Now you have the internet, and whatever time you offer it.  Work it all in unison and not only do people start to pay attention–no matter how small your collective–but they start to anticipate what’s to come.  Then that audience can grow as people share what you have to offer–which is far less work than what you will put into creating it, given that the sharing aspect of it is usually accommodated by the gratifying click of a button.

It’s so very cliche, but the truth is, you never know who is watching, who is reading, who will share what you have to say, who is paying attention to as you scream from every corner of the internet you can crawl from, “HEY! PAY ATTENTION TO ME!”  So, go.  Do.  Find your inner duck.  And make every word count.  Your future readers will take note.

Cross Fudginating

My latest post on the Southern Author’s Blog, A Good Blog is Hard to Find:

“My biggest problem is my brother, Farley Drexel Hatcher. He’s two-and-a-half years old. Everybody calls him Fudge.”

That was all it took.  Twenty words.  Three sentences.  And from that point on, I knew I wanted to have books in my life, and that someday I would write books that made people feel the way I felt at that moment.  It wasn’t so much that Judy Blume had launched into the introduction of a character I would fall in love with, nor was it that I knew, right then and there, that no book would ever be as thoroughly awesome as Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing.  Rather, it was that it took less than five seconds to accomplish it.  It was that my life’s path could be so irrevocably altered in the span of a breath.  I might have only been seven, but I knew that was a power I wanted to have.  To have and to master.  Jedi style.

This was my face when I read the line, as it happened.

I began to pour through books, looking for more examples of this power to influence, this directional wind vane of literary might.  I wanted to know if this was a gift that was solitary, handed but to the great mastery of Judy Blume, or if there was a community pool of creation that all authors could simply dip into when they were ready.  When they reached that point in the book, wherever it might have been, where they could lean back in the chair, crack their knuckles, say, “This is about as good a spot as there can be!” and dip into that basin of beautiful phrasing, and monumental simplicity.

Turns out that doesn’t exist, just in case you were wondering.  I looked.  Ponce de Leon had nothing on that search.

Which meant, quite simply, that it was a matter of skill, rather than fortune.  That was good.  After all, I could learn skill.  It’s much harder to learn fortune.  Most often, you’re kind of left standing out in the open, your arms wide, waiting for something pleasant to hit you.  Which is a funny thought, because I’ve never been hit by anything pleasantly.  It usually hurts.  Quite a lot.  So, I snapped out a pencil, grabbed a notepad, threw away the broken bits of the pencil that didn’t care for the “fortunate” hit it took while waiting to be grabbed, gently picked up another pencil, and began writing.  I wrote a story about a young boy, walking his way to a Little League baseball game.  He was nervous, distracted, lost in thought about how the game would play out, and what his ultimate hand in it would be.  He hoped his team won.  It was the championship, after all.  As luck would have it, though, he was so engrossed in thought, that he stepped in a hole, and twisted his ankle.  It was tragic.  It was catastrophic.  It likely meant he would have to sit the game out, if he could even make it to the field.  Somehow, our young hero found the strength to hobble his way, and then the courage to take the field late in the game, when his team needed a hero.  He got the hit that won the game.  All was well.  My pencil, and I, were very happy with what we had created.  I was a writer.

Of course, it didn’t have a Fudg-errific line, or series of lines, but it was mine.  It was breathtaking.  It was, well, it was horrible mostly, but it was the beginning of a great career, I was sure of it.

I discovered, some time later, that not only can this power be utilized in the story, but it can also kick you in the seat of the pants as soon as you open the book.  Kate DiCamillio demonstrated this, as well as any writer can, in her book, Because of Winn Dixie. Behold:

“My name is India Opal Buloni, and last summer, my daddy, the preacher, sent me to the store for a box of macaroni-and-cheese, some white rice, and two tomatoes, and I came back with a dog.”

It was this opening that educated me fully on the power, and importance, of an opening sentence.  In the beginning, just wasn’t going to cut it anymore.  Hence, when the day finally arrived that some crazy person boldly decided to pay actual money to put my work into print, they did so even after I threw everything I had into my first sentence, and managed, in that moment, to completely miss the point.  Instead I re-created the opening line of a rather old joke.

When the Anti-Christ and Satan entered the bar, nobody took notice.”

That was it.  There it was.  My Fudgey Winn Dixie moment.  It wasn’t horrible.  But it wasn’t Judy Blume.  It wasn’t anywhere in the pool of really cool things that authors write when their brains are on fire.  It was…good, but not necessarily great.  So, I kept at it.  I keep at it still, I should say.  And I continue to tell myself that I can do this.  I can write that memorable, life-altering line.  I can change lives with twenty words, and five seconds.

Or I could try stand-up.

You should always keep your options open.  Just don’t stand out in the middle of everything and wait for them to hit you.  That hurts.