The Certainty of Uncertainty

Death and Taxes are the two subjects that always come up when the topic of certainty is introduced. And while I know it is appointed for each of us to die, the taxes thing is somewhat subjective, although it seems to be a persistent bane.

But I suggest to you that there is another certainty in life, and that is the sense of uncertainty. As a writer, I experience this all the time. For a long time I was afraid to let anyone read my first book because I was uncertain of their reactions. That was a bit of a paradox since I wrote it as a college graduation gift for my oldest daughter. When graduation day came, I had that moment of truth: I had to accept that she would like it or not.

Now my writing uncertainty comes in a binder full of categories. How should I market this series? Should I be spending my time on this book or that? Is this turn of phrase a stroke of brilliance, or an act of blind idiocy? And the subject tabs in the uncertainty binder go on and on.

This may seem to be a random muse, but it is not. This is actually a motivational prod for all my artistic friends. If you have a story to write, write it! If you have a picture to paint, paint it! If you have a song to compose, compose it! (I guess that's what you do with songs.) Anyway, don't let uncertainty hold you back. It is okay if you are the only one who is satisfied with it. You will almost certainly be uncertain about it forever. Just keep moving forward.

Today is day 17 of the year 2016. If you have a creative goal for this year, and have not yet begun, jump! Go now! Put something on paper, or canvas, or fabric, or electrons, or something!

In advance, you're welcome!

Welcome to Fantasy Island

Some days it feels like my imagination is taking steroids. It seems I can hardly keep up with recording the conceptual outline of stories that are writing themselves in my head. The other day, I had a vivid story come to life in my brain and I had no opportunity to write any of it down. Why? Because I was in the shower. Yeah, that happens all the time. I've thought maybe I should get some waterproof markers for those moments.

Then I had a better idea! The simplicity of it makes the whole idea flawless. All I need is a time warp portal.

Now before you scoff, let me point out that somewhere in the future someone may be dialing this date into their time machine. Think about that the next time you drive by someone dressed funny.

So here's how the time warp portal deal works. First, I get a story while ostensibly occupied. The shower is not the only place that catalyzes my imagination into light speed. In school it happened daily. I hate to mention safety committee meetings, or any of a plethora of painfully boring events, but there are a lot of times when this happens. Sometimes a whole story comes in an instant.

Next, I write what I remember afterwards. Then, I simply ride through that exact time again and again until I have all the details recorded.

You see, simple as promised!

There is really only one complication to the whole plan. I'm one time portal shy of pulling it off. However, I had a fascinating (lucid) dream the other day. It was about time portals and the ability to foray into the past and/or the future. In fact, it was so realistic … maybe it was an actual time warp event! Maybe my imagination is just playing tricks on me. On the other hand, that could explain why I have appeared to age considerably more than my wife. What if … what if I have actually been time traveling all along?

P.S. – This blog has been written today and scheduled to post tomorrow. When you read it, it will have been written yesterday and scheduled to post today. Now think about that time portal again.

Everything Changed in One Instant

I am not a particularly dramatic person. In fact, I get accused of being passive, cool, collected, and other things along those lines, regularly. Evidently I don't register a lot of external emotion during a crisis, so people hang those descriptors on me for better or for worse.

That does not mean I have no feelings or emotions. I just don't pour them out on the sidewalk.

That said, when the doctor used the “c” word on me, I was a bit stunned. I eat a well-balanced diet. I have no vices. And in general, I am quite healthy.

Cancer? The word sort of ricocheted around in my brain. It was skin cancer, which is easily treatable and generally non-life-threatening. Still, I felt as if my body had betrayed me. The doctor assured me it was due to UV exposure from long in my past. No doubt that was all those adolescent sunburns. Yet the offending spot needed to be excised promptly. And so it was. But not without a thorough soul searching on my part.

For a guy who doesn't get out, hang out, or go out, I sure am a busy person. I have a day job building yachts for the rich and famous. I build boats for third world missionaries in my shop on weekends. And I write every moment I can get. My current to-write list is long, like twenty-four or so books long. As a side note, today a whole new book wrote itself in my head as I was pumping gas into the trusty old Blazer.

All that is to say, I had a moment of revelation as I was telling my wife that bump on my forehead was cancer. I discovered that I am mortal!

I have stood face-to-face with my mortality before. But those were particular incidents that took me close to the edge of life and death. In each of those cases, the risk diminished as fast as it had appeared, or I had to recover from the injuries. Either way, it was a brief encounter from my perspective.

The truth of life is, we are all on the brink of death every moment. We just don't see all the potential. With this doctor visit, I was forced to look into the hourglass and realize that fifty-three, eighty-three, or one hundred three are all finite numbers. Sooner or later I will draw my last breath.

I am mortal, but not morbid. I believe, without reservation, in eternal life through faith in Christ. It's not what's on the other side of life that concerns me, it is what I need to do on this side before I am finished!

What changed? Perspective. Since my writing will outlive me, and there is so much more I would like to share, I feel compelled to write more sooner rather than later.
I also have a deep burden for forgotten people in desperate places. How many boat builders are out there working to directly help those people? I don't know. I only know of one. I feel compelled to press harder into that work.

So, where does the extra time come from? I cannot afford to retire from my day job yet, unless everyone I know rushes out and purchases fifty each of my books. That was a little comic relief there. Maybe sleep could be subtracted from my schedule. But, since that probably will not work out, I am left with an unsolvable paradox.

However it must be done, I am determined to write more.

The Real Reason I Write

I have always enjoyed writing. I love it when someone is drawn into my story, and I love hearing about it when someone reads one of my books a second time.

But the real reason I write is for my kids.

They're all grown now. Our youngest is about to turn twenty-one and our oldest just turned thirty. Ouch! How did that many years sneak by?

As it happens, we have four children: three daughters and a son. They are all far more talented than me, but as Dad, I still love to write them stories.

Today I have decided to share some of their many talents. I begin with the daughters because we have this epic triptych photo of them. They are in age order here.

sisters three

The middle daughter, Rochelle, is the photographer. She is the mastermind and talent behind these photos. In fact, the really good photos on my website are all hers as well. I don't know how I can stand beside her and take a photograph of the same thing, and hers are epic and mine are ... not. I'll share her website here someday soon. The book dedicated to Rochelle is Ascent of the Falcon, Book 2 in the series.

I know, I started out of order. But doing the photo credit first seemed appropriate.

The oldest is Vanessa. She also writes. I am looking forward to seeing her work published. I will someday share a tiny book she wrote for me when she was a little girl. Vanessa is the linguist and, I must say, nerd of the family. She can carry on two animated conversations simultaneously ... in two different languages. How is that possible, you ask? One is in spoken English, and the other is ASL. American Sign Language was her first degree. I don't remember what her Masters is called. Blood Trail of the Falcon, Book 1, is dedicated to her.

Irene is the youngest daughter. She is probably the most mixed bag of talents. She runs long on visual design, and she also writes, and she sings. She also has been around the world with the US Navy. How many people do you know who have been to Greece, Turkey, Italy, Bahrain, Crete, Dubai, Georgia (the country), Romania, Bulgaria, and more? Besides all that, Irene can repair numerous communication systems on ships. Gepetka, Prince of Gypsies, Book 3, is dedicated to her.

Stay tuned ...

Writing Between the Lines: The Making of "Blood Trail of the Falcon"

I always enjoy learning how things are made. In fact, it makes me crazy when I can't figure out how something is made and I have to Google it just so I can sleep. I am, by nature I suppose, a chronic thing maker. So it is only natural for me to be curious (my wife says psychotic) about how things are made.

So, I am sharing how a book is written. I have no earthly idea how normal people do it. I have very little experience with normal anything. What I am sharing is how I did it. It was actually really fun. So fun that I have repeated the process.

All you need is ambition … and a lot of spiral notebooks, and a lot of pens, and a lot of coffee, and a lot of determination. Other than that it just takes time. Oh, and some research.

I suppose an out of control imagination is a handy thing for the process as well.

Truly the hardest part is writing the first page. At least it was for me. Maybe that's because I rewrote it about fifty times. Maybe normal people start with their first page, but I might as well skip it and come back later. The truth is, this whole series started with a scenario that has yet to be written.

Yep, I'm that kind of special. The aforementioned scenario will show up in Book 4 in the Falcon series. Yes, that one will be released a year from now. Please stay tuned by the way.

My, but I have digressed. I write the first draft longhand because I write much faster than I type. With the book Blood Trail of the Falcon, I wrote the second draft longhand as well. There were probably some really good reasons in my mind, but I was mostly afraid to let my wife see it in the raw form. I was uncertain if it was readable as a story, and I didn't want to get my feelings torpedoed.

When I let my dear wife read it, she laughed and cried at all the right places. That appeased my insecurities a bit. It also won her the privilege of deciphering my glyphs and typing the whole mess into the computer. It was much easier to edit on the computer.

Once it was in digital form, the serious editing began. It started with rewriting the whole thing all the way through a couple of times. Then there was the copy editor's highlights and notes that pointed out all the ways I was illiterate. Then I tackled all the spots I was not satisfied with. After that there was more editing. And that cycle could have gone on indefinitely. It was kind of a long process, but very satisfying in the end.

I have included a photo of those spiral notebooks. The pile of pens was a shameless theatrical cheap trick. In truth I probably used up over a dozen Pilot pens.

As for the coffee … I would have had the same amount if I was fishing or doing anything else.

Children's Series ... Book 2

Today I have officially finished Book 2 in the series of children's books I am writing.

Finished means different things to different people. To some, it may indicate ultimate finality. To me, in this case, it is more like a major milestone. Finished means the fun part of writing the story is completed and the first round of mop up edits have been accomplished. Now the real nitty-gritty of editing is ready to begin.

This is when my copy editor, who happens to be my wife, sharpens her nasty red pencil and lacerates my masterpiece. I am being metaphorical, of course, we do all of that on the computer now. This is when I discover I have read a comma as a period many times in a row. This is when I, once again, learn the misplacement of words such as that for than are invisible to the spell checker. Finding incomplete sentences. And this is when I make the frustrating discovery that a brilliant rewrite of a favorite passage has somehow vaporized. Most likely that happened when I hit a wrong button somewhere along the line.

But I digress. I really do love every part of the writing process. And I am totally loving the illustrations that Shawna is making. There will be a public display soon, I'm sure. I do hope each of you is following her blog or facebook page.                                         

P.S. If the incomplete sentence in this missive was like a fork between your teeth, congratulations.