The Time Machine

Tomorrow I will be traveling in a time machine.  No, not the kind you might find in an episode of The Twilight Zone or in the pages of Ray Bradbury or H.G. Wells–but a time machine, nonetheless . . .



For many years now, I have taken the drive from Vermont, where I currently live, “back home” to Rochester, New York, for Labor Day weekend.  It’s always nice to visit family and old friends.  My parents still live in the same house where I grew up.  Sometimes, at night, when they’re asleep, I will walk through the old house, head down into the basement, where I spent a lot of time when I was a kid, keeping cool on hot summer afternoons.  Mostly, though, I’ll pause, listen, listen–until I hear them.  The echoes of the past.  Memories upon memories built within those walls, living things, so near it often feels I could reach out and grab a whisper of 1985, inhale it, and be a boy again.



After I arrive and get settled in tomorrow, some old, old friends will stop by, and we’ll re-create various elements of our childhood.  You probably don’t know these friends of mine “for real,” but you may know them in another way.  You see, the main characters of The Eye-Dancers were modeled after several of the friends I’ll be visiting with.  The characters in the book, of course, took on a life of their own–it’s not a one-for-one match.  But the friends I grew up with definitely were the primary inspirations for the protagonists in the novel.   “Joe” will be there tomorrow, “Mitchell” and “Ryan,” too–even supporting characters like “Tyler” (“Ryan’s” brother in the novel) and “Grronk.”  Our friendship goes way back, to the days before the Internet and email and cell phones.



The Eye-Dancers is, in many ways, a tribute to our childhood, the adventures we shared, the conversations we would have, the things we would wonder about.  Some of our old “in” jokes made their way into the novel.  Some pet phrases and favorite expressions did, as well.  More than anything, I hope, the spirit and curiosity of childhood, the quest to know and learn and discover, made their way into the book, too.

There will be a special quality to our get-together on Friday.  There always is, every year we meet like this.  We reenact some of the old childhood games.  We talk about the past.  We act like kids, even if for only one night out of the year.  For a moment, on an end-of-summer evening, as the days grow shorter and the first subtle hints of autumn manifest themselves in ways so quiet, so soft-spoken, you will miss them if you’re not looking, we are twelve years old again, running, and playing, and laughing like we used to.  The kind of experience that inspires novels, indeed . . .



It strikes me as fitting that this nostalgic weekend falls at the end of August.  Summer’s end in the Northeastern United States has always been one of my favorite times of the year.  The oppressive heat and humidity that sometimes weighs down June and July days is, for the most part, gone now, blown to lands far to the south.  The angle of the sun is noticeably lower, as darkness falls an hour earlier than it did during the height of summer.  Long shadows filter through the trees, lingering, not in any hurry to leave.



There is an easy comfort in the air, the sunshine languorous, the breeze a soft kiss upon your cheeks.  It feels as though Time itself, tired of being perpetually on the go, has decided to take a moment to relax on the back porch, sipping a glass of cold lemonade, and just rest for a while.



Sunflowers dance and bob in the wind.



Fields of goldenrod carpet the land.



Farewell-summers and marigolds and rows upon rows of corn stalks, six feet tall, whisper a fond good-bye to the heat and a subdued hello to the chill of the coming fall.  It is a quiet time, a time for memories and stories and old friends reliving the days of their youth.  For me, it is an especially creative season.  When I began writing The Eye-Dancers, it was evening on a late-summer day, with the light fading, the shadows slowly spreading across the lawn.  A plump woodchuck waddled through the yard.  A hummingbird filled up on sugar-water at our feeder, preparing for the long migration south in just a week or two.



Looking at it all, I felt ready.  I knew I had a story to tell.  I knew I needed to share it.

So, to my friends, my lifelong friends, who I grew up with and  will see tomorrow–thanks, guys.  If it weren’t for you, The Eye-Dancers wouldn’t exist.  And for one weekend each year, you remind me why I wrote the novel . . .

  • The universe is full of questions we often do not even ask, let alone answer.
  • Friendship, especially a friendship forged in childhood, is a special and life-affirming gift.
  • An open mind is a mind able to learn and discover and ask the question, “Why?” and then be receptive to the answer.
  • And if we want it to, if we cultivate it, nurture it, and never stop believing, the magic we knew and wished upon when we were kids still exists, even into adulthood.




And to all of you in the wonderful WordPress community, I thank you so much for reading!


No Story too Small

Have you ever wanted to write something–be it an essay, a short story, a novel, a blog entry, a poem, a song–anything . . . but then never did?  The idea perhaps seemed too small, too trivial, too run-of-the-mill.  “Who’d want to read about that?” you might have said.  I know I have.  There is an expectation sometimes that the things we write need to be big–life-altering masterpieces that ignite universes and give birth to new and exciting ideas.  We want to “wow” our audience.

This is something that John-Boy Walton once struggled with, too.  I have long been a fan of The Waltons–the 1970s dramatic television series about the struggles of a family living through the Great Depression in rural Virginia.



I suppose as a writer myself, I’ve always gravitated toward John-Boy, the main character on the show.  When the series begins, John-Boy is seventeen, still in high school, and an aspiring writer.



In a season-one episode titled “The Literary Man,” John-Boy crosses paths with a well-traveled and well-read fellow who is passing through the area.  John-Boy invites the man, A.J. Covington, to his family’s home, where Covington stays on for a few days, helping out with the Waltons’ sawmill operation.



As John-Boy quickly discovers, Covington is a writer–or at least he claims to be.  Older, more experienced, Covington impresses John-Boy with stories of Jack London, Carl Sandberg, Theodore Dreiser, and other master wordsmiths.  He quotes passages from Moby Dick.  “Melville was my model and inspiration when I was learning the craft,” he explains.  He sees in John-Boy the makings of a writer, but he gives him this advice:

“If you want to make it [as a writer], your writing has to come first–before comfort, security, happiness . . . Very few stick it out.”  As Covington explains to the young and impressionable teenager, he travels a lot.  When John-Boy asks him where home is, the older man replies, “The world’s my home.”  He is always on the lookout for new experiences–grist for the writer’s mill.

Covington says that when he was younger, he grew up on a small farm in Indiana–rural roots similar to John-Boy’s.  But when he was seventeen, Covington left home, venturing out into the world without money, without prospects, but with determination.  He says he knew then, as he knows now, that a writer needs to leave everyone and everything behind in order to find the big story he or she is meant to write.  That story is out there–somewhere.  You just have to find it.

Hearing this, thinking about it, John-Boy becomes discouraged.  He tells Covington that he’ll never make it as a writer because his writing can never come first.  He can’t turn his back on the people who depend on him, can’t cut the ties with family and friends to go searching for the big story he was meant to write.  He doesn’t have the courage, he explains.  He’s just not cut out to be a writer.  And he plans to give up his writing and concentrate on his chores and his family.

Covington feels bad.  He never intended for his advice to have this effect.  Near the end of the episode, he has a long talk with John-Boy.  He tells him he’s not much of a writer, not really.  He’s talked out all his stories in saloons and on street corners.  But he has written very little.  And then he attempts to undo the damage he had earlier and unwittingly heaped upon his new young friend  . . .

“Don’t waste your life searching for the one big story you were born to write,” he says.  “Write the little stories.  Who knows?  The sum total of them might be the big story.  Write about . . . your feelings about your family and this place–just the way you’ve been doing.  Write about how it is to be young and confused and poor–groping, but surrounded by a strong father and loving mother, and surrounded by brothers and sisters that pester you and irritate you . . . but who care about you.  Try to capture that in words, John-Boy.  That’s as big a challenge as the Klondike or the white whale or flying the Atlantic Ocean alone.  It was too big for me.  But I think you might just be up to it.”


If there is a character in The Eye-Dancers who needs to hear the same message, it is undoubtedly Mitchell Brant.  A dreamer, someone who thinks big but is not satisfied with his day-to-day self, Mitchell continually invents extravagant stories about himself, hoping to impress his friends and classmates.  He doesn’t think plain old Mitchell Brant is good enough, or likeable enough, or popular enough . . .  It takes the kind words of a new friend in the variant town of Colbyville to get him to realize, or at least begin to realize, that he doesn’t need to lie and invent and exaggerate.  He just needs to be himself.

At some point or another, we all feel like Mitchell Brant.  We feel, as John-Boy Walton did throughout much of “The Literary Man,” that our stories are not exciting enough or grand enough, or big enough.  But the flip side is also true.  A person like A.J. Covington spends his entire life searching, searching . . . for the epic story he was born to write.  But all along the story he was truly meant to write was inside him.  It wasn’t something to search for.  It was something to let out.

We all have stories to tell.  Sometimes they’re nail-biting–a death-defying chase across a busy highway; a sports triumph with much of the world watching; a journey to the stars and beyond.  Other times they’re small, quiet, tiptoeing along without making a sound–baking cookies with a since-departed grandmother on a cold winter day; tossing the ball around with a big brother who could’ve been out with his girl or his friends but instead took the time to play with you; lying in bed at night, looking up at the ceiling, wondering why it hurts so much to be rejected by someone you don’t even care about, don’t even like.  The simple joys and hurts and challenges and loves and memories of living . . .



One of my very favorite short stories is Truman Capote’s “A Christmas Memory.”



The opening paragraph reads as follows:

“Imagine a morning in late November.  A coming of winter morning more than twenty years ago.  Consider the kitchen of a spreading old house in a country town.  A great black stove is its main feature; but there is also a big round table and a fireplace with two rocking chairs placed in front of it.  Just today the fireplace commenced its seasonal roar.”

A late-November morning.  A country kitchen in a small town.  A black stove, a table, a fireplace, and two rocking chairs.  It is hard to paint a more “ordinary” picture.  It would be a challenge to begin a story in a more soft-spoken and simple manner. And yet–it is riveting.  Evocative.  Magical.

Do you have a story to tell?  Do you feel it is “trivial”?  That it won’t captivate and interest people?  Tell it anyway.  Tell it honestly, openly.  Share a little piece of your heart.



Your readers will be glad you did.

Thanks so much for reading!


An Anniversary, An Award, a Reminder, and a Thank-You!

One year ago yesterday, I published my first post on The Eye-Dancers site.



At the time, I really had no clue what I was doing or if anyone would even read the post.

I had visions of it floating in a dark, forgotten corner of cyberspace, existing but not existing.  My mind concocted variations on the old tree-falling-in-the-forest riddle:  “If a post is published on the Web but no one ever sees it, is it really published?”  I was so new to blogging, I didn’t even think to use keywords or categories (I have since added them to my initial post!).  I just wrote a brief synopsis of The Eye-Dancers, held my breath, and hit the “Publish” button.

I didn’t have much of a plan at the time.



I wanted to introduce the four main characters of The Eye-Dancers, too–each in their own post.  Within a span of a few weeks, character profiles for Mitchell Brant, Joe Marma, Ryan Swinton, and Marc Kuslanski were created.  After publishing Mitchell’s post, I received an email.  A blogger, somewhere, Liked the post!  (Yes, even now, I still remember that first Like!)  A couple of weeks later, I discovered that, indeed, it might be a good idea to tag posts with keywords and organize posts into categories.  I was, literally, learning as I went.



For the first few months of The Eye-Dancers site, up until the book was released in mid-November 2012, I was utilizing the blog strictly as a promotional tool for The Eye-Dancers.  A character profile here, an update on the release there–that sort of thing.  But then I got to thinking.  This website could be so much more fun than that.  Why not write about the things I’m interested in, create posts that can talk about the book, yes, but that also explore other topics–writing, quantum physics, comic books, movies, Twilight Zone episodes . . .  The possibilities seemed endless.  My main concern was–would anyone want to read my musings?  I thought it over, then decided to take the plunge into full-scale blogging.  The results have been, to put it mildly, much more rewarding than I ever dared to imagine–and that is because of all of you.  I know I’ve said it before on previous posts, but it merits repeating.  You are the reason why I blog, and you are the reason it’s fun and enjoyable.  You made a blogging neophyte feel welcome and at home here in the blogosphere, and I can’t thank you all enough.




I have been fortunate enough over the past several months to be nominated for several blogging awards.  And even though I’ve neglected to do an awards post lately, please know that all nominations are very much appreciated.  It’s really a great feeling knowing one of your blogger friends chooses to nominate you for an award.  And I wanted to take this moment to thank those who have nominated The Eye-Dancers in recent weeks . . .

Thanks to Briana from When I Became An Author for nominating me for the Liebster Award!  Briana is a fellow author, and she maintains an exceptional blog.  Please check out her site!

Thanks to the Ambitious Poet and to Sherri at A View from My Summerhouse for nominating The Eye-Dancers for the WordPress Family Award.  I truly appreciate it, and highly recommend that everyone check out their fantastic websites!

Thank you to  Violet Wave and Mary at Author Mary J. McCoy-Dressel for a Supersweet Blogging Award nomination!  Two very talented and creative individuals who author wonderful blogs!  I hope you’ll visit their sites.

Many thanks to Josey from Joseyphina’s World for her nomination of the Dragon’s Loyalty Award!  I can’t recommend Josey’s site highly enough.  Please take a look!  I’m sure you’ll enjoy it as much as I do.

Thank you very much to Lucia at Luminous Blue for nominating me for the Versatile Blogger Award.  Lucia has a captivating blog!  You will be glad you stopped by.

And thanks so much to Mary at Oil Pastels by Mary for nominating The Eye-Dancers for the Sunshine Award.  Mary’s site is a treasure trove of creative energy and talent.  It’s a privilege receiving this nomination from her.

I was lucky enough to have already been nominated for each of these awards previously, but I wanted to thank all of the great bloggers above for their nominations!  I really appreciate it.


The Eye-Dancers has also been nominated for The Inner Peace Award!  I want to thank Jane at Jane Dougherty Writes, Joanna Fay, Samina at Samina’s Forum for Police Support, and Sherri at A View from My Summerhouse for their nominations!  If you’re not already acquainted with these wonderful bloggers’ websites, please take some time to do so.  I am happy to wait . . . !

The Inner Peace Award is an award that comes with no rules, no questions . . . no conditions.  As such, I will do what I’ve done a few other times in Awards posts, and pass the award on to all followers of The Eye-Dancers site.  (Even when there are Awards rules, in other words, I tend to break them!)  I hope you will accept this award and, even if you do not post on it, I hope you’ll put the image onto your blog . . .




I would also like to take this opportunity to remind everyone that The Eye-Dancers gift card promotion is still running–the last day is August 22, so there is still time to take part, if you haven’t already!



But mostly, I would like to say one big, hearty thank-you to all of you.  Thanks for reading these off-the-wall posts of mine, for continuing to stop by The Eye-Dancers site, for your great and thoughtful comments, for your ongoing support.  I created The Eye-Dancers site one year ago, on a late-summer day not unlike this one, with the intention of marketing my book of the same name.  And I did.  (And as the previous paragraph attests, I still am!)  But I’ve discovered along the way that the blogging experience is richly rewarding in and of itself.  I genuinely enjoy coming up with posts that I hope will contain some small kernel of truth, interest, or intrigue.  And I enjoy the WordPress community more than this post is able to express.



It’s been a great first year for The Eye-Dancers.   Here’s hoping the second year will be even better.

Thank you as always so much for reading.  You are the best.


Author Interview with Luciana Cavallaro

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege to be interviewed by Luciana Cavallaro on her great website, Eternal Atlantis.  And now, as I write this in my little corner of Vermont, as the summer season shows its first, subtle hints of ripening into a New England autumn, it is my pleasure to return the favor.

I have been a fan of Luciana’s website for quite some time, and really enjoy her work.  I’m sure you will, too.  She was kind enough to answer a few of my questions recently . . .

1. On your fantastic website, you mention that you love both Greece and Italy.  What is it, specifically, that you enjoy so much about these two countries and cultures?

As a teenager I was drawn to Greece, the history and the magnificent historical sites.  There’s a mystical quality to the country which fascinated me and still does.  I’ve been to Greece twice and each time was a memorable trip.  Being of Italian origin, Italy was always on the cards to visit but my appreciation of the country really hit home when my sister and I went there on a Contiki tour.  I must admit it was an odd feeling, as if I was going home.  Both of us felt it the maternal pull, even though we were born in Australia.  The history of Italy and what the Romans achieved, the good and the bad, is still remarkable.

2.  Who are some of your favorite authors?  Were there any authors who inspired you when you were growing up and/or who were driving forces in your development as a writer?

I have many favourite authors across a variety of genres, though stand outs would be David Gemmell, who sadly passed away, Michael Connelly, Massimo Valerio Manfredi, Robert Harris, and PD Martin.  I was in awe of authors who created amazing stories and could take you on a journey where for a while you are immersed in the plight or danger of the character.  Writing stories was something I didn’t consider especially growing up.  English was not my strongest subject at school but I loved to read.  It wasn’t until I read Herodotus’s The Histories while studying at university and then Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey that I was inspired to write.

3. Many of your stories center around ancient history and myth.  Do you have a particular favorite Greek God and/or Goddess?

Not really,  I find them all equally mesmerising.  Each has flaws as well as positive traits which is a great way to explain the nature of human behaviour.

4. When you write about famous characters, such as Helen of Troy, you are of course somewhat restricted by historical and literary precedent.  There is an established story in place for such a character.  How do you therefore walk the line of staying true to the classical literature and yet, simultaneously, inject a fresh, new, and perhaps unexpected or even controversial point of view?

Reading various sources and watching documentaries helped create a profile of Helen and of the other characters in the short stories series.  I wanted to tell their version of events but still keep some of the characteristics of their personalities as well as keeping true to the myth or story.  The most challenging aspect about the stories I have written is how well known they are and how readers will react to my translation of them.  I do hope I have, to use your words, “injected a fresh” perspective of mythology with my stories.

5. The stories you write clearly entail a lot of research and study into the subject matter.  Do you enjoy that part of the process?  Or is it something you like to get done and out of the way?

I love the research and learning new intriguing information, it is what drives me to write the stories.  I read Euripides’ play on Phaedra and followed it up with research.  There is not a lot of information about her but there is plenty on her father King Minos, her sister Ariadne, Theseus, and of course the Minotaur.  She was a little-known character amidst these huge players and yet she had a story to tell.  Most of the nonfiction books I read tend to generate ideas for me and then I go and explore.

6. Do you have any new works in progress that you can tell us about?

I am currently reworking my epic novel, The Legacy, a huge task as I am deconstructing each chapter.  Had hopes of getting it published early next year but may take longer, depends on how much I can get done between now and the end of the year.  I am also working on a print version of the short stories titled Accursed Women, and aiming to have it out late this year.

7. Where can readers discover more about you and your work?

People can visit my blog Eternal Atlantis:

Come say hello on my Facebook Page:

Follow me on Twitter:

I have a Google+ page, too, and if you really want to keep up to date with the latest news on book releases, launches, competitions,  I have an e-Bulletin: I am on Goodreads:, and have a Smashwords page:, Amazon Author page:, and am on Kobo:



Luciana Cavallaro grew up in a small country town in Western Australia and moved to Perth to study teaching at university.  After some years teaching teenagers, she decided it was time take some of her own advice and follow her dream.





Luciana has travelled extensively and since her first trip to Europe revisited her favourite destinations — Greece and Italy — the inspiration for her stories.  “Mythology and Ancient History has always been my passion and I want to share these wonderful legends.”






Thanks so much to Luciana for doing this interview, and thank you to everyone for reading!


Nightmare at 20,000 Feet

Have you ever gone through something and wondered if you were losing your mind?  Have you ever witnessed something no one else saw?  Did you try to convince others that what you saw was in fact real, only to be met with skepticism, unbelief, and odd, quizzical glances?  And, after facing the doubts, did you then begin to question your own perceptions, doubt your own eyes and ears?

This is precisely what happens to Robert Wilson (played by William Shatner in a pre-Star Trek role) when he boards a plane in an unforgettable fifth-season Twilight Zone episode called “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.”  Recently released from a sanitarium, where he’d been admitted for six months following a nervous breakdown on a flight much like this one, Wilson is noticeably nervous as he takes his seat–beside the emergency exit.



“I’m not acting much like a cured man, am I?” he says to his wife.



His wife assures him all is well, they just need to get home.  “Everything is still intact,” she says.  To which Wilson replies, “Except me.”

Adding to his distress, the aircraft is flying through an electrical storm.  It is night, as the thunder rumbles and the lightning flashes across the black canvas of the sky.  His wife now asleep, Wilson glances out his window.   He does a double-take.  There is a man on the wing of the plane!



Wilson buzzes for the flight attendant, but when she arrives, the man on the wing is gone.  He draws the curtain, as if trying to block out the vision of what he just witnessed.  The commotion wakes up his wife, but he tells her not to worry, he’s just having trouble falling asleep.  She gives him a sleeping pill, and dozes off again.

He tries to relax, but the pill isn’t working.  Glancing at the window, tempted, he pulls the curtain back again.  An inhuman face stares back at him.



The man–the creature–is back.  But how?  How can there be a living thing out there, on the wing of an aircraft flying through a storm at 20,000 feet?  “It isn’t there,” he tell himself, closing his eyes.  “It isn’t there!”



But when he opens his eyes, the creature is still looking in at him.



Wilson rings for the attendant again, but, just as it happened earlier, the creature vanishes when she looks through the window.   Sure enough, when the attendant leaves, the creature returns.  Only this time, he begins to tamper with the wing, as if he wants to crash the plane.



Wilson wakes up his wife, tells her there’s a man on the wing.  “No, no, don’t look!” he says when she tries to see past him and out the window.  He explains the man out there disappears whenever anyone else tries to see him.  Then he clarifies.  The creature on the wing is not a man.  It’s “a gremlin,” he tells her.

She looks at him like he’s lost his mind.  He can’t deal with that look.



“I’m not imagining it!” he says.  “He . . . he jumps away when anyone might see him.  Except me.”

He continues to explain himself:  “I know it sounds crazy.  But do I look insane?  I know I had a mental breakdown.  I know I had it in an airplane.  I know it looks to you like the same thing’s happening again, but it isn’t! . . . If I described him [the gremlin] to you, you’d really think I was gone.”

His wife tries to console him, telling him it’s all right, but he grows angry, tells her not to patronize him.  He could see in her eyes that she doesn’t believe a word of what he’s telling her.

“I am not insane!” he shouts, and says he’s only telling her about the gremlin because he’s starting to tamper with one of the engines under the wing.



He asks her to tell the pilot what he’s just said, and to keep an eye on the wings.  If they see nothing, he says he’ll re-commit himself to the sanitarium.  “But if they do . . .”

When his wife gets up and walks down the aisle, Wilson sees the gremlin return.  The creature pulls up a cowling plate.



“Hurry!” Wilson shouts.  “He’s out there!”

But of course when his wife and the flight engineer rush to his seat, the gremlin is gone.  The engineer, however, pretends that he’s seen the creature before.  Wilson sees through the act.  They are merely trying to placate him.  “You can stop now,” he says.  “I won’t say another word.  I’ll see us crash first.”



Later, his wife asleep again, Wilson sees the gremlin come back.  The creature continues his assault on the wing, and Wilson decides to take matters into his own hands.  He steals a gun from a sleeping policeman, then returns to his seat, careful not to wake his wife.  Before allowing himself to back down, he opens the auxiliary exit window, and, despite being nearly blown out of the plane, succeeds in shooting and killing the gremlin.  He screams as he fires the final shot.

After the plane lands, Wilson is carted off in a straitjacket.  Everyone on board is sure he has gone insane.  But then the camera pans to show us the damaged airplane wing–which no one has yet seen.  But when they do, they will realize Wilson had been right.  There had been a gremlin out there.  He wasn’t delusional, after all.



The beauty of “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” is that we the viewer, along with Wilson himself, are not sure what he sees is real.  Is there really a creature out there, on the wing of the jet?  Or is Wilson suffering another breakdown?  We do not find out the answer for sure until episode’s end.


A parallel exists in The Eye-Dancers.  The four main characters journey through the void, and when they emerge on the other side, they find themselves in a strange new world.  But are they still dreaming?  Is this nothing but an extension of their shared nightmare of the “ghost girl” and her hypnotic, swirling blue eyes?

In chapter 6, as Mitchell Brant, Joe Marma, and Ryan Swinton, walking in their sleep and caught up in the throes of their nightmare, begin to vanish before Marc Kuslanski‘s eyes, Marc wonders the same thing.

“He reached out with his own hand, placed it on top of theirs.  Instantly, he felt a force, like a vacuum, grab hold of him.  He tried to pull away, but couldn’t.  . . . Had he somehow entered into their dream?  But that was impossible.  He was wide awake.  Besides, since when did dreams exert a force, a literal, tangible force, that could hold you in place?

“He tried to think–all of his knowledge, the theories he had studied, the insights he had gained–searching for the answer.  Possibilities, potentialities spun around in his mind like clothes tumbling, layer upon layer, in a drier.  He hoped one of those possibilities would stick, make sense, unlock the trunk that contained the answer.  But nothing could adequately describe what he was experiencing.”


What is real?  What is a dream?  How much does perception shape what each of us views as “reality”?

Maybe Einstein was right when he said, “Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a persistent one.”

Or, in the words of Thoreau:  “The question is not what you look at.  But what you see.”



Thanks so much for reading!


The World at Your Doorstep

It often happens this way . . .

An idea strikes.  How it strikes, why it strikes, you do not know.  It just does–a gift from the universe, the birth of a new story you feel meant to write.  You want to celebrate.  There is nothing like the euphoria of a new idea that grabs you, demands to be written, kicks and yells and screams to be let loose onto the page.



But then . . . you realize the idea is layered, rich, complex.  It’s not a short story.  It’s a novel.  Uh-oh.  A novel needs a plot, and a subplot, and, maybe, a sub-sub-plot!  It needs direction, organization, planning.  Suddenly the inspired idea doesn’t seem so inspired anymore.  How can such a gigantic project be tackled?  Where to begin?



At this point, you may be tempted to borrow from Stephen King, who, in his memoir On Writing, explained that when he begins a novel, he often does not know where he’s heading.  He gets an idea, an image, a scene–and that’s all he needs.  From that kernel, he begins to write, hoping, trusting, that said kernel will sprout and duplicate, creating a garden of seeds, which will then flower and bloom.  So, perhaps, you do indeed begin your story, not knowing where it will lead . . .



As author William Saroyan once said, “I don’t have a name and I don’t have a plot.  I have the typewriter and I have white paper and I have me, and that should add up to a novel.”

Or, perhaps you’re a dedicated planner and outliner, and you set out to craft detailed chapter-by-chapter outlines.  You think of the main characters, the supporting characters, the bit characters.  You form a clear picture of the setting, down to the last, intricate detail.  Is the post office on Main Street, Elm Street, or Walnut Way?  You map it out.  “Writing a novel is like traveling the universe on foot,” writer Dennis R. Miller has said.  You want to be prepared for anything.   There are always some surprises, of course, anytime you write creatively.  But with this intense level of planning, you try to minimize these surprises.  You want to know exactly where you are going.



Or maybe you fall somewhere in between–you plan a general strategy, with a few major plot points as guideposts.  And you may even have a broad idea how the story will end.  But many of the details are left out–you want the comfort of a firm foundation but the freedom to create during the process.  This tends to be my approach.  I cannot seem to begin a novel without some sense of direction in my mind.  Even if I don’t yet know all the twists and turns along the back roads, I at least want to know what state I’m traveling through.

When I started The Eye-Dancers, I knew the first scene would be Mitchell Brant seeing the “ghost girl” again, for the third consecutive night.  I knew the next several chapters would introduce the other main characters of the book and move the plot along at the same time.  I knew the setting where the bulk of the story would take place, and thought I had a reasonable sense of how it would all end (though the ending I initially envisioned turned out a little differently when I actually wrote it).

The thing is, this approach still brings with it a great deal of uncertainty.  Much like the Stephen King method, this requires an abundance of faith.  If you don’t have every detail planned out ahead of time, then the possibility exists that you will get stuck at some point.  In The Eye-Dancers, it was certainly possible that I would have brought Mitchell and Joe and Ryan and Marc through the void and into the variant town of Colbyville, but then, devoid of any further ideas, I would leave them stranded there like astronauts that have crash-landed onto some dim, lifeless asteroid, with no means of repairing their ship and getting back home.  The story may have ground to a complete halt.



Indeed, what happens, for instance, if you write 207 riveting pages, full of tight narrative description, crackling dialogue, and a well-paced and interesting plot, but then, suddenly, on page 208, you just stare, wide-eyed and horrified, at the blinking cursor on your screen?  You’ve created a top-notch first half–but now what?  The middle section of a novel is often the most daunting aspect to get through.  The lines of the story reach out in all directions, a maze of tangled branches and labyrinths needing, somehow, to be navigated.  You have a good idea how you want the story to end.  But how do you get there from here?



Your mind may lock up, holding your creativity hostage.  You may feel panic, regret, frustration.  It took months to write those first 207 pages!  How can it all dry up now?  All that work (and good work, too) going to waste?  You might feel like deleting the file and tossing any printed-out pages into the fireplace.   You might curse the day you ever thought you had a complete story idea.  You might be tempted to give up writing altogether.

But then, then!  An idea comes.  Ah–yes.  That’s how it should go . . . and you begin to peck away again, the clinky, rhythmic noise of your keyboard the sweetest music you’ve heard in days.  You get the flow back, and the crisis is averted.  Of course, the same trouble may arise again two chapters hence, but you dare to take the risk, your dark, bitter musings only minutes ago now awash in your own personal River of Lethe.



You realize that, despite the inherent insecurities, there is nothing that can compare to the art of creating, of letting the words and sentences pour through you, of feeling the sense of accomplishment as the bones of your story take on flesh and cartilage and sinew.  A wide chasm still separates you from story’s end–but you don’t look down into the dark, bottomless abyss.  You choose to look ahead, thinking of the possibilities, the wonders, the discoveries yet to be made.

The world is out there, just beyond your doorstep.



You just need to make the leap.



“Jump,” Ray Bradbury once said, “and you will find out how to unfold your wings as you fall.”



Thanks so much for reading!


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