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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Space, the Only Frontier

The Roots of Drayton is finally done.

This is the first full length novel in the Drayton series. It's more science-fantasy than it is urban fantasy. The series started out more urban fantasy but this novel evolved with more science fiction elements. So Sci-Fan.

It was space.

That was the element that bent it toward sci-fi. Like a lot of my stories, I don't recall how I got to it, but it frequently reminded me of one of Joko Beck's dharma talks. Practice was about building A Bigger Container.

Joko was the founding teacher of San Diego Zen Center. Her teachings, for me, were some of the most profound and influential. I needed things to make sense, lessons I could integrate into life. A bigger container has always stuck with me. Another Zen teacher, not nearly as well-regarded but still on point, once described his job as "selling space".

Like a lot of my Zen work, my life in general, it's taken time for me to understand. Even now, it takes me weeks, sometimes months, to understand what I'm really feeling. The other day I recalled something that happened over two years ago and put it together.

But space.

Joko's metaphor worked well for me. At the time, I understood it as the ability to hold more life. Forgive me Joko if I missed your point entirely, but that's what I did. My own understanding was something like this. If anger is a pebble and I am a thimble, then anger will completely fill my awareness. I have no room for any other experience. But if I practice and allow myself to expand to the size of a barrel, then the pebble is insignificant. The anger didn't need change.

One of my favorite talks comes from a pschotherapist named Bruce Tift. Already Free is the audiobook. I've listened to it three times and get something from it every time. He refers to experiential intensity and those emotional experiences that can be overwhelming, especially in childhood when we lack the ability and means. When we work with them, or practice, we improve our ability to tolerate, or make room for, more experiential intensity.


I think of space when I lose patience. When someone steps on my last nerve. When I can just be in the moment, listen to someone. I begin to fidget, feel anxious, irritated. I run out of space.

But then there are times when I have plenty of space, enough to accommodate all the feelings--fear, happiness, curiosity, whatever--and just be there with it all. I can't always explain why I have moments of spaciousness. I know I like it. I know I want more. And I seem to experience it more often the more willing I am to just be with whatever is there.

Thimble or barrel.

So if you're a Drayton fan or want to find out what space has to do with any of this, the novel is available for pre-order. Get on it. 

Monday, April 30, 2018

Is anything ever really finished?

I went to ArtFields, an art competition in various disciplines, because I'm fan of the creative. It's what compels me to write.

The abstract stuff appeals to me, Jackson Pollack and the like. Some of it doesn't look that hard to do. I'll be honest, a lot of it looks like stuff I did in third grade. But then there's other work that's more complex than it appears.

I've completed several works for the sole purpose of hanging them in our house. It was cheaper than going to a studio. Writing, by far, satisfies my creative needs, so I rarely pick up the brush. But the one question every artist has to answer is when is the work finished? At some point, I think, you just have to put the brush down or type the end. Make your best effort and set it free.

A couple of weeks ago, many of you took up my offer to visit my redesigned website. Three winners of the drawing have already been contacted. Honestly, I'm the biggest winner. Your feedback was outstanding. I'm still in the process of working through changes. Feedback like this is essential to the creative process. In other words, how are you experiencing what I'm putting out there. That's the challenge, especially in writing. I don't have your perspective when I write. So feedback is always a critical part of the process.

In other words, I need you.

So thanks for taking the time and staying with me. There's new work on the way. Just scroll down a few inches and you'll see what I'm talking about.

This multi-author, fantasy boxed set just popped.

Included is Claus: Legend of the Fat Man. So if you haven't read it, here's your chance to score it along with 9 other authors.

From gods and their games to the games that make gods, Storms of Fate and Fury promises and non-stop delivers with thrilling adventure and deeply lush romance.

This critically curated anthology from award-winning New York Times and USA Today bestselling authors uses cutting-edge augmented reality to bring stories vividly to life. Explore artwork, maps, and exclusive bonus content that keep the magic alive long after the tale is told.


Friday, April 20, 2018

The New Look

I became obsessed with redesigning the website. I blame video gaming.

I don't game anymore because there's other things to do, but I've spent many o' hours unblinking and sleepless in front of God of War. I'd finish a level at 2 in the morning and just peek at the level, you know, just to see what it was like. Next thing it's 4 in the morning and I still haven't blinked. And that was on a work night. That's what it's like to be a grown up child. The website redesign wasn't that bad--I did blink and did go to bed--but nothing else was got done until it was finished.

Now I need you.

Brandon Sanderson's website is what got me thinking. I started reading Sanderson's Mistborn. Dude is a prolific writer with ratings like I've never seen. Over 260,000 Goodreads reviews on Mistborn alone. That is redonk. More about Brandon another time.

What I liked most about his website was a section on where to start. He has so many books that it's mind-boggling. I don't have near as many, but I found the suggestions helpful for new readers with what book to begin and why. So I need your feedback on what I've done. Take a look at the website and give me your thoughts. There's a little something in it, you know, for the effort.

A giveaway.

I'll draw 3 names from all participants. Each winner will receive a free download of any of my works. Name it and it's yours. Here's what you do.
1. Go to the website (below)
2. View the website
3. A link at the bottom of the homepage will take you to a short survey
4. Fill it out and my gratitude is yours to keep


Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Find the Inner Horse

I'm not a horse person.
Horses come up a lot in my writing because I know a lot of horse people. I sleep next one. When we go to the barn, I usually stand outside the fence. These are 1,500 pound pets that can stampede you; they can kick you, bite you, rip your head off and stomp your guts out. 
That's what I think, anyway.
None of that happens. Oh, they can kick and they can bite, but they don't. The thing they can do is communicate. As prey animals, their sensitivity to their surroundings and each other is off the charts. They even seem to perceive our emotions with hyper-accurate sonar. Not hard to believe since our emotions are often expressed in subtle postures. 

Recently, I did a session with a horse friend who developed Unbridled, LLC, a program that practices Equine Assisted Learning. She doesn't ride her horses. Instead, she interacts with them in a way that provides insight into the honesty of their communication and how that reflects our own way of living.
I find the best way I can interact with the world is being honest with my own feelings, no matter how yucky. I see some real self-centered shit in my everyday living that I'd wish would just go away. I've got to recognize the ickiness before I can work with it. However, it sometimes takes me days, sometimes weeks, to know what I'm really feeling. My poor wife will ask me what's going on. I'll probably have an answer by June. 
By the end of my horse session I found myself warmly connecting with 1,500 pound animal that was heart-warming and pretty damn honest. He didn't stomp my guts not one time. I'm still more of a dog person. And, yes, dogs can rip your face off.
But they're so damn sweet.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Sitting in a Tree

First comes love. Then comes marriage...
Let's be honest, no one ever sang that song as a compliment. It was jealousy. I admit it. I was the one who wanted to be up in that tree k-i-s-s-i-n-g the class hottie and not my dumbass friend, so I was going to sing him into embarrassment. Which never worked. But we were in third grade or high school, I don't remember. Point is, eventually we all get up on that limb and get busy. There's love. There's marriage. And then a baby. Not always in that order, but it happens.
Then what?
My wife and I have had a pretty good run over the years. We started dating in high school, hit some rough road, worked it out, grew up and got careers, had kids, watched them grow up and hit some rough road, work it out and then move out. Now we have dogs. 
So you figure after 30 years of relationship work, we would be over the hump and hiking downhill, holding hands to fetch a pail of water. 
A teacher, Zen or otherwise, once mentioned that relationships are one of the best vehicles for spiritual growth. That's where our buttons are revealed. Anyone who can push our buttons is showing us where our work is. They are our Buddha. What better Buddha than your spouse?
A parent, sure.
After more than half our lives together and raising two kids and paying off a house, we still find that our relationship takes work. Expectations clash, desires go in opposite directions, body parts don't work the same. But we're lucky. We're both willing to put in the hours to make a go of it. Seriously, we're totally lucky.
Most people get married when they're still kids--early twenties, late teens. And twenty years later, we're not the same people. So I got lucky. We're still interested in making a go at it with each other after all these years. So here's to luck. And to the work.
And to K-I-S-S-I-N-G.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Inheriting Earth

Bugs, man.

Every year, I participate in a STEM event. My students help me drag hissing cockroaches to the stage and we stand around with them crawling up our arms and watch.

Disgust. Fascination.

Some people take off running. Seriously, literally. I have older students that ain't scared of anything, grew up in rough neighborhoods and take care of business. But they will back up on a hissing cockroach. But here's the thing. At this STEM event, (almost) everyone touches one.

The most fearless are the little girls. No joke. The cuter, the more fearless. They walk up and put their hand out and we plop a giant hissing bug in it. And they just stare.

It's the adults who are terrified. They will pull a kid in front of them. Then the kids start daring them to hold one, start daring each other. Eventually, most of them touch one. They start by petting one with their finger. It's shiny and smooth, doesn't bite or sting. Then they might put one on their sleeve. And then, holy shit yeah, hold one in their bare hand.

Bug on skin.

We're learning and facing fears. It's creepy, it's fun. It's Fear Factor, sort of. If everyday could be like that.