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Holy Christ!

No, I’m not taking the Lord’s name in vain, so settle down people. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to get our world back in order, and even if it’s possible. Of course it is, because all things are possible and we can come back from anything. Right? Ok, so don’t ask the dinosaurs how that positive spin worked out for them, but they didn’t possess the brain power that we humans do. And any alligator will tell you…evolution didn’t leave all of the dinosaurs behind in a wake of fire and brimstone. So with that in mind, how do we get back on track?

First, here are the major issues as I see them; the ones we actually have control over. A meteor hurdling through space with our name on it, is not something we can avoid. The word, “toast” comes to mind in that scenario. That leaves us with the other two biggest threats: 1) the demise of Mother Earth and 2) the divisiveness of the human race. Dun, dun, dun! [Cue scary, world’s gonna end music now…]

Seriously though, we HAVE to get it together or any idiot can see that we’re toast. And that is the key, getting together. Look at any comment thread and you’ll see the following: those who agree with the point being made, those who disagree, those who use the thread for their own unrelated agenda (you know who you are, “Miss Get Thin Quick”), those who totally miss the big picture and single out a word or phrase in the article (“Tisk-tisk, did anyone notice they spelled, ‘onomatopoeia’ wrong?”), and finally, those who are new to posting and hit enter before they have completed their thoug

Anyway, everyone has a right to their opinion. What I DON’T believe is that everyone has the right to voice their opinion if it furthers the demise of Mother Earth or continues to promote deep divisions within the human race. I know, “But who will police what we can and cannot say?” You should. Many of us have either lost the art of empathy or have decided that his or her agenda trumps that of the overall good. I am particularly fascinated by this explanation of empathy by Jeremy Rifkin. It is well worth watching as it recalls our simple beginnings, how we have socially evolved through the ages, and then begs the question of how we get back to empathy. My simple answer would be simplicity. More specifically, we need to get back to the fact that we are all human and have to share one planet. If we don’t respect those two basic principles and continue to let wealth, religion, nationality, race, and gender divide us, then we are creating more and more cracks that become harder to heal. 

Again, it all comes back to our opinions – for that is what shapes us as individuals and as a society. The problem isn’t necessarily in having an opinion, it’s in how that opinion is delivered, or even if it should be delivered. So say, for example, I read a seemingly innocuous Facebook post pertaining to the fact that my friend just bought a new iPod 5 for their 3 year old son. Comments could range from, “Cool! What a lucky kid!” to “Are you flippin’ nuts? He’s only 3 years old?!?” For the former, no harm done. For the latter, not only has the commenter put a damper on the poster’s enthusiasm, in effect, but he’s also insulted his friend’s parenting skills. In that case the poster should have kept his thoughts to himself because he just made a crack.

Here is another example. You read an article on a mother who gets caught stealing from a store to feed her children. You’re sick of the system and post a comment such as, “I’m so tired of these welfare moms with twenty children thinking they can steal while my tax dollars are supporting them!” So…how do you know this mom is on welfare? How do you know she has twenty childen? Do you even know her story? What you have done by posting this comment is to become part of the problem and not part of the solution. You’ve made another crack. Only through kinder, more informed, and more thoughtful words, are we going to heal the divides.

Now, back to Holy Christ! It is Christmas time. Whether you believe in God, Christ or any other higher being, the teachings of Christ are holy – “morally and spiritually excellent” to be exact. You don’t have to believe in Christ to know that he preached healing, acceptance, belief in a common good, and love for all humanity. Even an atheist can’t argue with those qualities. Jesus would be the first person to hug a Muslim, marry a black man and a white woman, lift up a prostitute to show her that her life is worth more, tell a republican or democrat that egos and wealth will not move this world forward, and he would feel nothing but empathy for the woman who stole food for her children. In fact, he would have given her the help she needs to get on a better path. He would have empathized, not judged. He would have been nothing but our blessed, Holy Christ.

Merry Christmas to all!

Peace.


In My Opinion

If you were born and are breathing at this moment, then you have an opinion. It seems as though the advent of the internet, forums, blogs, instant messaging, social media, and the like, have given a larger majority of people a platform on which to express their opinion. Right or wrong, good or bad, we now live in a world of commentators, posts, articles and pins that define how our perfect world should be if it were left up to our singular voice.

The other day, I was counseling one of my children and the words, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all,” popped out of my mouth. This is a go-to phrase I’ve uttered frequently over the years, but in this particular instance, it seemed to carry a bit more weight than normal because I realized that my child was merely expressing his opinion. Therein lies the dilemma of having a voice and an opinion, and the proper balance of the two.

An opinion sums up a person’s view, judgement or belief.  Inherently, there is nothing wrong with an opinion. Yet, you can voice your opinion to one audience on any given day and get a round of applause. Announce the same opinion to a different group and you might get vilified. So is there any safe universal territory when it comes to opinions? Unfortunately, the answer is no. And that fundamental fact is why we will never come together wholly as a human race.

As humans, we group together based on our opinions. Pro-life vs. pro-choice, pro-environment vs. pro-fracking, and so on. As for myself, I adhere to one simple rule when it comes to my opinions…they are mine and mine alone. Unless it goes against a moral code (ex. thou shall not kill), then my opinion is for me to live my life by; I do not force it upon any other adult – period. Just as my child has the right to an unkind word in his opinion, he does not have the right to make anyone else feel inferior, demeaned, or saddened by it should he choose to voice it to the world as a newly dispensed law.

You see, humans can’t come together wholly because of our need to not only have an opinion, but also because of our need to control others and force our opinions on our fellow mankind. We even force it upon Mother Nature. Whether it be through casual conversation or jamming it down someone else’s throat, our egos can’t let go of the fact that although we might have an opinion, it might not be right – or for everyone. Or even valid outside of our mouth.

Within the very definition of an opinion therein lies the conflict – it is a belief or judgement. As a belief, it is a beautiful part of the foundation of you. As a judgement, it can turn ugly and redefine you as inflexible and needing to be in control, no matter the consequence.

If we were to spend more time forming our opinions into tolerant, respectful manifestations of who we are, then there would be a lot less suffering and wars. Maybe leading by force and judgement is not the way to go. Maybe living an opinion sets a better example. Think about zealots solely praying peacefully vs. suicide bombings. How about pro-life activists showing a spared life becoming a life-saving surgeon vs. a picture of a unrelatable fetus on a demonstrator’s sign? How about working through the issues of healthcare with enlightened minds vs. shouting across the aisle like a spoiled child? How about it?

While negative opinions seem to capture more headlines, it is the positive beliefs that, when nurtured, are truly the catalysts for slow and sustainable change.

But then again, that is just my humble opinion.

Peace.

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Rhyme Time Be Mine

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I love poetry, rhymes and any arrangement of words that makes them uplifting and singsongy, or forces my brain to find meaning in each and every verse. I’ve been making cards for my parents and loved ones for what seems like forever. I even applied for my dream job once as a card writer for Hallmark. Too bad they are located 1,500 miles away from me. Stupid logistics.

Anyway, because poems are such a huge part of my life, I wrote twenty-one of them for Theo’s Mythic. Ten as openers for the games Theo confronts, and eleven interspersed throughout the book to engage the reader on a deeper level. Because let’s face it, you can have a lot more fun and infuse oodles more intrigue into a poem than you can into a block of copy. Poems are like the word ninjas of the literary world, fraught with mystery, poise, precision, and a healthy dose of crazy. And I love me some crazy.

A poem that popped into my head after I decided to write a novel for kids is what jumpstarted the premise for Theo’s Mythic. I was fascinated with making the word “only” a surname (I also adore making up names, which will be covered in another blog post – with a cool title name) and hence the Onlys were born. I welcomed the Onlys into this world and introduced them to Theo’s Mythic readers with this poem:

Way up on that lonesome hill

Amongst the craggy trees

There sat a truly precious house

Frail and bent upon a breeze.

 

But in that house a wondrous light

A concert of formidable threads

All softened ethereal collected strands

That held it firm instead.

 

And in that house a fantastic world

Known alone to those who dream it

The few, the far, the in between

Are the Onlys who get to see it.

 

Only the ones that believe in their head

That all things are possible still

Only the ones with imaginary friends

Earn their passage to that hill.

 

The Onlys are perfect

The Onlys are smart

Only the Onlys

Follow their heart.

So fun! And the poem begs the questions, “Who are the Onlys?” “Why are they so smart?” “Where is that awesome house?” and finally, “What the heck does craggy mean?” Is craggy even a word?

Shel Silverstein is a poetic genius and Dr. Seuss certainly knew what he was doing and was the master of whimsical rhyme. Dr. Seuss is one of my all time favorite literary ninjas because he would skewer every word that didn’t have a rhyming partner by making one up – bam! Boy oh boy could he make up the most farcical words, too. Case in point, “shorth” – which, according to Dr. Seuss, “Shorth is better than length.” Short for shortened length – so shorth plays the part beautifully. Curtain close.

Here is another poem from Theo’s Mythic – one of my favorites:

An Only’s clarity frees his mind

Sinking imprints beneath the rind

Removing thoughts of no use or weight

Impressing knowledge to complete a fate

Like a lightning scorch mark on the ground

Like water finding its way around

Not knowledge deferred or misaligned

But truth be told and ideas be mine.

For example, “Like water finding its way around,” means that nothing was getting in the way of Theo absorbing the information he was destined to know. Knowledge would be his as soon as he cleared his mind of all the extra baggage he didn’t need.

Poems are like crafting a well-built house out of carefully selected sticks. By piecing each one together flawlessly, you have constructed not only a place to live, but also a work of art. Verses on canvas that take hold of the beholder and draw them into a deeper and more magical level. The art of the rhyme is like no other because, whether you intend it or not, your brain goes into instinctual meter mode and the pulse of the words click through to a conclusion automatically. A lyrical ride for your senses.

So while Hallmark doesn’t allow telecommuting, I’ve chosen the path of novels to give my poems a home…way up on that lonesome hill, amongst the craggy trees.

Peace.

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Still at Home

I live in the town I grew up in. There, I said it. Get a glass of water if you need one, I know the news can be jarring to many.

To the many, I know such a statement makes me sound simple, unadventurous, and mundane. Growing up you often hear the words, “I can’t wait to get out of this place.” Why? There are many reasons both valid and just plain escapist. For the former, it might be an abusive home or a lack of jobs. Valid. For the latter, the allure of something more – whatever that may be – lies somewhere else. Anywhere else but where you are. Which is ok, but take a hard look at your reasons for leaving before you think the grass is greener in Greenville, USA. Because maybe you just need a new lawnmower.

Like anything in life, sometimes it isn’t the physicality that limits you, it is what you do with the resources you have and how you look at them. To me, this town is my home base. My family is the foundation that represents a four mile radius around my house, my personality has been imprinted on the local schools and playgrounds, and my memories were born here and float in the ether until I pull them back down to reminisce. All readily available at a moment’s notice.

Instead of letting my home limit me, I look to it as my springboard for the vast pool of life. The comfort of home allowed me to jump out of my comfort zone and explore the world. I’ve been blessed to have travelled far and wide, experiencing so many things that different climates and cultures have to offer. But I’ve always come home. And when asked…I am proud, not ashamed, to say that I live in the town I grew up in; for I have found no other place in the world that is fully me.

I firmly believe everyone should let themselves go. If you come back to your home town, it was meant to be. If not and you have found what you are looking for elsewhere, then that was meant to be. I just don’t want anyone to assume that “getting out of this place” is an easy way out. To find your own truths, don’t assume they lie elsewhere, instead, start by digging in your own backyard first. When you are done, you may have made a hole big enough for a pool.

So if you are one of those who live in the town you grew up in and someone asks you, “Don’t you feel limited having been chained to this place your whole life?” Simply reply, “While you see them as chains, I see them as roots.”

Peace.

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Self-Publishing

As I’ve written in past blog posts, my epiphany to write a book and the words that ensued came quickly and easily. The publishing part, well, did not.

Originally I went the traditional route: I sent query after query to literary agents I was sure would not only be the perfect fit, but also welcome me and Theo’s Mythic with open arms. Each one gushing at my expert writing ability and fighting for a chance to be “the one”. Not.

Side note: I am, and always will be, an eternal optimist.

After some very nice, “No thanks, your book isn’t quite right for my list at this time” replies, I started looking into self-publishing. Was it because I felt defeated, like this was my only option? No. I actually fell into it and realized it gave me something I was yearning for – a chance.

There were a few things I wanted to accomplish with my book and I was blessedly able to bring them to fruition via self-publishing:

  • Use my own illustrator. I wanted to use Jeff Hopkins, because he is a childhood friend and is extremely talented. I knew he would be the perfect fit and I wanted control over defining my mind’s creations onto paper. I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, he could do that for me.
  • Write the way I envisioned the words to fall onto the page from day one. I wanted to use words that would challenge today’s commonplace vernacular, and use a non-linear format that would engage and make children’s brain cells work for the reward. I wanted to hand them a great book; a book that would give them the satisfaction of putting all of the pieces together by themselves. Go kids!

Those are the pluses, here is the minus:

  • I’m having a hard time reaching the masses. So now that I’ve accomplished my goals above, I’m seeking a literary agent to help me with the task of getting my book into the hands of many more children via a larger publishing house. Some agents are open to working with self-published titles and some are not. Literary agents are on the fence with this whole new world, and those who have embraced the possibility of the next “big thing” being a self-published title, are the open-minded and truly optimistic folks I’m looking for. I liken it to choosing a toy license. I used to work in licensing at Hasbro and will never forget the day I was watching a hit TV show in the UK for consideration in the US as a toy license. It baffled me. But my wonderful boss and mentor at the time said, “You don’t need to like it or even understand it, the kids do.” I was watching Teletubbies.

So where is the next great book going to come from? Everywhere. There will be titles that go the traditional route, some that come by way of internet exposure, and some that bubble to the surface of the self-published pond.

Again, being an eternal optimist, I am forever grateful that self-publishing gave me the chance. Now I’m hoping my literary agent is sitting on the shore waiting for my bubble to appear.

Peace.

 


20 Thoughts for a Better Mankind

I love quotes. Especially when they are made into pretty little graphics and elegantly placed on Pinterest for the world to see. So I made up some of my own quotes – 20 thoughts for how I like to live my life.

Will they make for a better mankind? Debatable at the very least, yet inspirational at the very most; as many quotes have been for me throughout the years. Here goes:

  1. Be the bandaid, but don’t get stuck on the wound.
  2. If I judged everything by the outside, my heart would never get a place on the jury.
  3. Give a “thank you” wave, because your middle finger only makes me want to look up.
  4. Hold the door. If you don’t, you’re telling God not to open another one for you.
  5. Smile more, because the earth couldn’t survive without sunshine.
  6. Don’t litter or you are trash.
  7. Never say to yourself, “It’s ok, just this one time,” if you want more time.
  8. Give a disabled person a high five, not a lowered head.
  9. Have an opinion. Keep it in your head if it’s spiteful. Put it on paper if it’s respectful.
  10. Don’t carry your heart on your sleeve in case you want to change your shirt.
  11. Rise above, because if you sink below, only you will drown.
  12. Listen with your ears, not with words coming out of your mouth.
  13. Pay it forward, backwards, and sideways.
  14. I pardon you FOR only to GIVE myself peace.
  15. Be kind even in the face of evil, or you will become a mirror.
  16. Wish for world peace, because believing in something, is something.
  17. The earth was here first and you were here second. So putting the earth first is the natural order of things.
  18. Use good manners. Please and Thank You will get you more Welcomes.
  19. Use your hands to make things right instead of your finger to point out what’s wrong.
  20. Be humble. Big heads don’t fit through windows of opportunities.

Peace.

P.S. If you cite my quotes out of context, please credit me. Or pay cash. Bwahahaha. And please feel free to post your favorite quote(s) in the comments. I’d love to read them!