Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The world is filled with endless wonder

The laughter of children. The tears of those in love. A brother's embrace. A teacher's smile. A random act of kindness. A cat's purr. The serendipitous swish of a fish's tail.

All of these things make up the wonder of the world around us. Actions and reactions, movement and stillness, sound and silence—they all build upon themselves a place of magic and mystery. One kind word can set one's path ablaze with inspiration. The grazing of a hand on a cheek can instill within someone the hope to pursue anything.

A well told story or a gentle lullaby have the same effect. The metamorphosis of clouds in the heavens from one shape to another to no discernible shape at all...  these all mean something. There is undoubtedly amazement and goosebumps in a single breath.

If you truly look around, with all your senses wide open, you cannot but help to experience the moments in life that rival the flavor of nectar or the immortality of ambrosia. To experience life's briefest seconds to minutes to hours to infinity means to touch and be touched, speak and be heard, share and be loved.

Don't know where this came from, but it just came out right now. Appreciate the world that is filled with endless wonder because if you do not, you lose everything.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Two Interviews in One Week!

Ladies and gents, this week, I am lucky enough to be the guest on TWO radio programs.

1st Interview:

Back in January 2014, I attended DitterCon, a convention established by my friend and USA TODAY endorsed author, Ditter Kellen. A small gathering, I had the chance to chat with a few people from Loose Id, a publisher of erotic romance, as well as some others who write in that genre. Mind you, I don't write in that genre. I was attending to support Ditter. For a large part of the evening, I chatted with Dellani Oakes, author of futuristic romance novels, contemporary romances and short stories. We hit it off like we'd been friends forever, and since she used to be an English teacher, that just cemented the bond.

She mentioned that she did a radio show called What's Write for Me on BlogTalkRadio and wanted to have me as a guest. So, I am, along with authors Sheldon Townsend and Roxe Anne Peacock!

On Wednesday, May 28, at 4 p.m. EST, you can go to here to listen. Feel free to call in and chat with me as well.

2nd Interview:

I met Brian Wenzloff a few months ago on Facebook when we were chatting on a post from Heroes Haven Comics. He was going to MegaCon in Orlando with his son Shane where Shane was interviewing celebs about bullying, and when I mentioned I was going as an author, he asked if Shane could interview me.

Fast forward a few weeks from then... Brian introduced me to his friend Fringe Zilla who does a podcast about sports, movies, wrestling, TV, and comics, and they asked if I wanted to be on their show, The CAC Show.

On Thursday, May 29, at 7 p.m. EST, you can go here to listen. Call in!

On this show, composer/producer Ron Wasserman, will be a guest as well.

I hope you can tune in to at least one of the shows!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Tapping into the Hippocrene

In Greek mythology, the Hippocrene was the fountain on Mt. Parnassus, the hangout of Apollo and the Muses. According to myth, Pegasus stomped his hooves on the mountain and a spring came forth, eventually becoming the Hippocrene, a fountain from which those who need inspiration can drink.

Claude Lorrain, Apollo and the Muses on Mount Helicon—1680.
If you're careful, you can see Pegasus on the upper right, having just struck the earth with his hooves.

Being a writer of mythic fantasy, I would like to think I've taken a few swigs from this fountain over the decades. My inspiration comes from many places:
  • Comic books, namely Wonder Woman, but others as well.
  • Television, mostly comic book-themed shows, but also those that show earthbound heroes.
  • Movies, see television.
  • Novels, fantasy and science fiction mostly, but mainstream novels that show humans acting for the better of others. Edith Hamilton's Mythology has inspired much!
  • People watching, especially at places like Barnes & Noble or Starbucks. It's not as creepy as it sounds. I don't leer. Don't judge me. ;)
  • Authors I know, specifically those who write in my genre, but not always. I look at people whose writing style I love. That motivates me.
Leave me a comment on what inspires YOU. I'd love to know!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Why I Write... A Ticket to Anywhere

Why, indeed. I could say that I do it because I'm an a English teacher, but that would be waaaaaay too easy (although why I write is certainly tied to my broader appreciation of reading and the written word).

I tend to write mythic fantasy. It's what I've been drawn to my whole literary life, ever since I can recall opening a book. I used to read the entire collection of Junior Encyclopedias I had (usually under the blanket with a flashlight), and I'd reread the sections that had anything to do with mythology, folklore, magic, mysticism, science fiction, or anything else that fit. I write THIS because it speaks to me, to my soul, to my sensibilities, to my raison d'ĂȘtre.

Why does it resonate with me? Escape. In a nutshell, I grew up a child of divorce, and when I wanted to leave the tumultuous world of parental drama, emotional upheaval, and being burdened by confusion, I would escape into a book. The furthest thing from my world was a fantasy one. Learning about mythology led me to comic books (endless joy can be found in a stack of comics!). Who needed Narnia? I had my own world to which I could go whenever I wanted to. I yearned for power: power over my self, power over my parents, power over the umbrella of shame and stomach-twisting nausea I'd experience. Being the eldest of three kids, two of whom came from the same father (the one my mother divorced), put a lot of pressure on me to be better. To be the best. A lot. In Gotham City, or Metropolis, or Paradise Island, I could be with my heroes. In Ancient Greece, I could adventure with Perseus or Heracles. They didn't judge me. They didn't preach. They didn't manipulate. They let me be me.

I learned I could tell stories. Well, I liked to lie as a child, that helped. If I couldn't handle my reality, I'd change it. But, as I matured, I found I had a desire to put words on the page, words that could evoke emotion from those who read my stories. I loved vocabulary, so I used new words whenever I could! Man, talk about power! I could entertain people.

Fictional characters influenced me, and I felt magnetized by the text. Comics held the largest sway for a while, and Wonder Woman became a role model. Why not? She was strong, capable, wise, compassionate... things I needed to see. My mother embodies those things as well, and I had much more of an affinity for her company than that of my paternal figures. A strong woman in my life translated to a strong woman in my books. (Ironically enough, my desire for this powerful feminine figure didn't amount to anything more than platonic relationships--I'm gay, after all).

While I don't need escape as much or for the same reasons anymore, it's certainly comforting to know that I can lose myself in literature. My proverbial passport is always stamped and ready to go. I'm a traveler. I write to travel, and I can take you anywhere you want to go.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Character Interview: Dan Fairmont aka Aegis

This was posted at Fated Dimensions as part of a blog tour, but I liked it so much I wanted to repost it here.

1. How do you feel about your role in the book?
Being in two novels is pretty exciting, actually. I'm an archaeology professor by trade, but my role as an operative in a United Nations task force affords me a pretty sweet opportunity to travel the world, whether it be by TF-18 helicopter or by sword portal. I guess by default I’m the leader, although we all play a pretty equal role. I think the others sometimes defer to me because I’m Apollo’s son, but I’d rather just be a regular guy. Well, a regular guy who just happens to be a demigod.
2. Did you have fun during the writing of your tale?

Most times, yeah. Not everything has been fun, but it’s part of being a superhero of a sort, I suppose. Having superhuman strength and a healing factor does make some of the adventures better knowing I’m pretty invulnerable, but I’ve never really been brought to my limit, not yet anyway. What really makes the story enjoyable is the people. I get to go up against some of the ancient world’s most menacing monsters knowing my best friends have my back. Aleta’s sarcasm keeps me smiling, and it’s Sarah’s generosity that grounds me, especially when I’m at my wit’s end. But, the one person who seems to know me inside and out is my best buddy, Brandon. We're like brothers. Without these people in my life, I don’t think I could do what I’m doing.

3. What would you do with your own happy ending?

I used to think I knew what a happy ending would look like for my story, but the more I do, the more I think that I’ll just be happy knowing that, whatever happens, I’ve done my best. I’m not really interested in money or fame. Sort of odd coming from a semi-Olympeian, eh? I look at my dad and how he grew from being a self-serving, impetuous son-of-a-gorgon into one of the most compassionate individuals I know. I guess my happy ending would be just knowing that those I care about are happy.

4. If you could have any animal for a pet, what would it be?

Wow, that’s easy—one of my father’s horses. You know, the ones who drive the sun chariot? I got to meet them once, and I tell you, there’s nothing that gets your adrenaline pumping than being around a flaming stallion who breathes fire.

5. If you could be anyone else, would you? If so, who?

Not really. I’m pretty happy being me. I do have some things to sort out. I mean, who doesn’t? But, I’ve had a good life, and I have the things that make me smile: friends, family, and a sword that can open dimensions. Knowing who I am has always been something I’ve had to struggle with, especially in book 1, and working through all of my existential stuff has taught me a few important lessons, one of which being, it’s not who you are, but it’s what you do with your life.

6. What was the saddest moment of your life?

I can’t really give details since that’ll spoil book 2, but I can say that one of the saddest moments in my life is being without someone I love. That pain rips me to the core more than any Hadean monster ever could. I’d rather have my heart literally ripped out by a Stymphalian bird or brass-clawed Gorgon than lose that which I love beyond all things. Like I said, I can’t elaborate, but you’ll see.

7. If you could tell the author anything, what would you say?

Just keeping listening to all of us, and let us guide your storytelling. So far, we’re pretty pleased with how our lives are going, even with the obstacles. We’re growing into a formidable force for good in the world, and knowing there are more adventures planned over the course of five books in total, we’re ready to handle whatever you have for us. Just keep them coming. We’re good to go.

8. What is the one goal you hope to achieve in life before you die?

Tough question. But, the one goal I have is twofold: love and be loved. As long as I have those around me who love me—my team, my family, and my beloved—I can also love them back. Without that, life has no real meaning. I don’t seek glory or fame. I’ve led a complicated life, if you haven’t already seen in both books, and the one thing that provides an anchor is the love people have for one another. That bond is stronger than any sorcery.

9. What do you wish to be remembered for?

After I’m gone, I want people to remember that I cared. Having been tested by some of the most powerful beings in the cosmos, creature and god alike, I’m hoping that when people speak of Danelos Fairmont, son of Apollo, they will say that my compassion for those around me was one of my most memorable qualities. I don’t believe it’s hubris to say that.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Those who can do more, teach!

I'm of the mindset that you have to LOVE being a teacher. The moment you tolerate it, regret getting up early, grading papers, dealing with parents and administrators, facing teens (or whatever age group you have), you should just retire from the profession and find something else. There was an expression I used to hear a lot when I was in college:
"Those who can, do; those who can't, teach."
For reasons passing understanding, people felt (and still do feel) that that expression is acceptable. I don't want to spend valuable blog space refuting it. It's just not true for me and my colleagues. If you don't believe me, be a substitute teacher in a classroom (elementary is preferred for this: try working with 20 - 30 little ones all day long and see if you think it's an easy thing to do). I ascribe to something a bit more realistic:
"Those who can, do; those can do more, teach."
Now that's something I can agree with. And, it doesn't have to be teaching in a traditional academic environment, either. Teaching anyone anything applies. If you have a particular skill or area of expertise, then share it with others. It's not enough to DO a job. It's better to share what you know so that others can benefit, too.

If you're a good cook, teaching someone who doesn't know how. If you're a good writer, offer to work with a budding one. People also improve their own skills when they share them with other people, especially when it forces the teacher to learn more about his or her area. Being a role model is rewarding, and knowing you've helped improve someone's life or given him or her something that will be beneficial is "good karma."

Having the patience to work with someone else in any capacity is not everyone's strength; however, it makes what you do more pleasant when you know you have to stay on top of your game, just in case someone asks you for help.

Academic teachers train for many years, put in countless hours at work, deal with obstacles beyond comprehension, and are most assuredly underpaid for the work they do. And, here's a little secret... most teachers I know would gladly work through the summer and get paid regularly (with time off spread out throughout the year). So, while we go have vacation time and three day weekends (not to mention summers off), we oftentimes don't get compensated for that extra time we put in.

I know I can do more, and that's why I teach.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Just start already!

"Ideas seem easy to come by," some of my friends and students who would like to write have told me, "but when it comes to writing things down, I just don't think I could do it" or "I don't think anyone would want to read what I have to say." Then, they ask me the inevitable questions, "How do YOU do it?"

Well, people seem to be under the impression that those who write (or publish) seem to have some special power or gift, or perhaps something that drives them to put their stories into the world for public consumption. I've given a few pieces of advice that I think should help anyone who has even the remotest interest in putting words to the page. Mind you, these aren't the be-all-and-end-all of words to listen to, but it might help some of you "on the fence" writers.

STEP ONE: If you have ideas, write them down somewhere. Having an idea or a story you love doesn't mean you have to publish it. Writing should ideally come from the enjoyment of it, so if you just like telling stories, keep a file of them on your computer. Maybe, share a few with friends, people you don't mind seeing into your mind a little. Don't just dismiss the idea because it won't matter. You never know where your story concept might go. Fire up Microsoft Word or pull out a legal pad. It's a win/win situation, I promise.

STEP TWO: Not every idea you have will be good, so don't be afraid to delete something. There, I said it. Just because you like to write doesn't mean your ideas are any good. Raw ideas rarely are "gold." Anything worth writing down needs time to become the best it can be. You have to play with the language, tease the meaning from the words, and sometimes (you know what I'm about to say, and it frightens you)... sometimes, you have to delete what you've written. Every single author you know or know of (yes, including Stephen King or JK Rowling) has had backspace over what he or she thought was so good when it first came out.

STEP THREE: While #2 seems counterintuitive to writing, it actually helps clear out your mind a bit. So,  the next little tidbit is: just keep writing. Once you start, you'll find you want to carve out a few niches in your schedule (or, if you're like me, you'll want to take the whole day off) to write. It's addictive. If you get stuck, just write what you're thinking. Eventually, that clog will clear itself.

STEP FOUR: All right, so you've broken the barrier and started writing. You've deleted some things, kept some things, and you've managed to make some semblance of a schedule. Now... are you sitting? If you feel the least bit apoplectic after what I'm about to say, then just breathe into a paper bag. The next step is to let someone you trust read your work. Yes, yes, I know. It scares the HELL out you to do that, especially since you've probably just started writing. However, sharing your work with someone you trust (I said it twice for a reason) helps to find the spots that need some tweaking. And, for heaven's sake, pleeeeeease ask someone who knows a thing or two about grammar, spelling, and general English.

You've gone from being "the idea guy/gal" to "someone who writes." It's not that hard to do. Make it a goal. An hour a day? A few hours a week? Weekends? Just make it part of your routine. I promise you that you won't regret it. If nothing else, you can just write that novel or collection of short stories just for yourself. Talk about an accomplishment!
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