Giving thanks for the things I have lost.

Thursday is Thanksgiving.

I've done more than my fair share of soul searching these past few months, spending a lot of time thinking about what my life needs to look like in 2012.

I've come to many realizations, and let many things drift from me. I've realized what I am thankful to have, and what I am thankful to see go. I've surveyed the good and bad stretches in my past, and drawn from it the building blocks of what looks to be a great year ahead.

I've had some tough times in the past few years, and some of what I am about to say won't resonate with some of you. That certainly doesn't mean that you shouldn't continue reading this post, because I believe at one point or another, we all WILL go through something like this, and hopefully what I have to say will help them make sense of their feelings at that time.

I believe every person, no matter who they are or where they come from, will have a moment when everything that they hold dear will temporarily (or permanently) leave them.

I had such an experience, and honestly wasn't sure what to do with myself. In the grand scheme of things, going through a divorce that you didn't see coming after 10 years may not sound as severe as other forms of loss.

I won't try to tell you otherwise, because it would be impossible for me to put another persons pain into words. I could try, but it's extremely difficult to capture one emotional variation out of an infinite possibilities using just the 26 characters of the English alphabet.

The loss hurt me deeply at the time because my family was everything to me. It hurt me, but more importantly-It changed me.

I can't make you feel what I felt, but I can talk about my emotions at the time and try to use them to explain my thankfulness for everything I now have this year. You really can't be thankful, at least in my eyes, unless you truly understand the worth of something. I'm tempted to dig into my thoughts on gifts, but I don't want to venture into Christmas territory until Christmastime. I know, novel territory lately if you watch much TV.

A gift, in the rudimentary sense, is something that you receive because the person giving it to you hopes that it will bring you some measure of joy or relief. They want to show you gratitude for what you mean to them, and repay the kindness you have shown them. A pair of socks may not be a joy to unwrap, but a relief when your toe bursts through your last pair. A cup of water may not be worth much in Central Maine, but is priceless at the center of the Sahara. A brand new bike brings joy to a child because they anticipate the amount of fun they will have riding it.

What i'm referring, of course, is context. The context of a gift is the antithesis to the context of loss. If you lose something that you could care less about, it bears little impact on your life, and isn't missed. If you are then given something of equal monetary value that you need or find interesting, you are thankful. This, I believe, is the equalizing force of reality. Various religions personify this in different ways, such as "The lord giveth, the good lord taketh away", or the concept of Karma. The underlying concept is the same.

Taken in the correct context, differing objects of equal value can impact our lives in very different ways.

Why did I just go into this long diatribe regarding loss, giving, and context?

Simple. You remember my earlier statements about going through my divorce? I lost alot at that time in my life. I lost my wife, who I loved deeply at the time. My son, who I used to be nearly inseparable from, now spends half of his time with my x-wife, and half with me.


The one thing that I valued most in this world was taken from me, and I didn't know how to fill that hole in my life. It felt like I had lost my identity, enough of myself that I spent many nights simply sitting on the wooden steps of what used to be my front deck simply looking at the stars, empty inside.

I didn't really expect my time with the stars to fix any of my personal problems, and it wasn't until last night that I realized what comforted me so much as I looked up at them. After I loaded the wood stove last night, I took advantage of the clear early winter air to survey the stars in the sky.

It felt like I hadn't seen them in a very long time, yet at the same time I had a sense of deja-vu. It took me a minute, but I came to understand that the sense of seeing something again that I couldn't place in memory was from those countless nights sitting on those steps. My chest started to tighten a little, but after a moment it went away. I realized that I had come a long way since that time in my life personally, as well as emotionally.

To put it another way, I had gained context, or perspective, over that pain and had overcome it.

Once I was on that line of thought, the last piece of the puzzle fell into place, and this is also the key piece in the puzzle of what I want to convey here.

The stars, in their near infinite grandeur, had shown me how insignificant I was, and by extension my pain. Sure, while I was wallowing in self pity and confusion it seemed all-encompassing, but the further I stepped back, the less significant it became. I had thought it was the beauty of the lights in the sky that had helped me through it, but it wasn't that. It was in how they belittled my fear, my pain, and me along with it.

On a subconscious level, I had to have seen this, but a midst it all, I simply took comfort where I could find it. Understanding came later. I am thankful for this understanding. Those of you that know me well already know how much I like to be able to wrap my head around things.

I am thankful for my son, who shows me every day how brave, and how much stronger he is at 10 years old than I have ever been. I love you Bud.

I am thankful for my family, who have given me more than I can ever repay, and have stood by me through my darkest days and let me know that things would get better. I'm not sure I could have done it without you.

I am thankful to my friends, for humoring me as I complained, shared my disbelief at how selfishly one human being could act towards another, and showed me ways to laugh about it all even when my heart was convinced what I really needed to do was cry.

I am thankful for time, giver of perspective and healer of wounds. There is plenty of pain in the world today, most of it on a scale that I will never comprehend. People are losing homes that they can no longer afford through no fault of their own. Loved ones are lost, and no reasonable explanation can be given as to why.

And I am thankful to all of you that give of yourselves, and your families that support you as you do so. This includes those of you that look out for those less fortunate, and members of our armed forces.

Our Military spend their Thanksgiving in a foreign land and away from their families, facing death every moment of every day so that 32 year old aspiring writers can write lengthy blog posts about how he endured obstacles that pale in comparison to missing the birth of their child, or missing an opportunity to help a loved one when they needed most.

I am thankful for all that I have, and also for all that I have lost. The losses have given me the perspective needed to appreciate all that I still have. I've come to realize that life is a circle, and love a form of energy. Like energy, when love is lost another form of love almost always takes it's place, if you let it.

Lastly, I am thankful for those of you willing to read this blog, the stories I have written, as well as those yet to come. You have given me an outlet to share my love, my malice, my nightmares, and my dreams. I thank you all from the bottom of my heart, and hope that I can continue to entertain you in some small way in the future.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving, one and all......
 

Throwing in the NaNoWriMo towel......

Yes, what you see to your left is the official NaNoWriMo towel.
(Actually, it's not, I just photoshopped it, lol)

I'm throwing it in.

I came to the realization that the 50k a month writing marathon was hurting my book more than it was helping it. Not because I wasn't making progress, but because I found myself pushing out content that I KNEW to be crap.

Seriously. Every sentence in the last chapter I have written is leaving a bad taste in my mouth. I wrote an entire action scene that is superfluous to the plot. When I finally decided that I needed to tie it back in later, I realized that it would take too long. I took a dare to write the dialog of an entire character using movie quotes from the collected works of a single actor.

It killed three days. Have you ever tried writing three separate conversations using movie lines, and have it flow naturally? As I was writing it, I found myself thinking, "this fucking sucks". And you know what, somethings wrong if I'M saying that as I'm writing it.

If a critic says it later? At least then there's a chance it can be written off as an unpopular, dissenting opinion. I need to be able to live with myself, I don't need to be able to live with every reviewer out there.

So, I've decided for the betterment of my novel I am going to slow down and concentrate more on writing this novel in a way that I can be happy with.

WriMo's, please don't take this as an attack on NaNoWriMo. it's not at all. There are plenty of people that this schedule, or event, brings out the best in. I just happen to not be one of them.

I produce alot better work when I give myself time to think things through for a few days, then sit down and bang out 7000 words. Sure, I can do that for NaNoWriMo, but the problem is that I needed to change a few things in my outline, because my story reached a point where I was writing to fill space until I filled enough words to get to the events that would drive the final three-quarters of the novel.

My novel d.o.mai.n is outlined to be around seventy thousand words in length. Which posed another dilemma-how can I "win" NaNoWriMo with an unfinished book? If I hit 50k, I'm really only 2/3rds of the way done.

Hence, the character speaking in only quotes from Jack Nicholson movies. (Yes, "You Can't Handle the Truth!" is in there......sigh.

So I am going to tweak that chapter, and finish the next, and see if I can produce the kick-ass book that I know I can write before the first of the year.

Because if you haven't heard me say it yet, 2012 is my year. I decided that it would be good to get in one more good year before the world all goes to hell just before next Christmas, so I'm picking 2012.

And this book is my first Salvo.

Now, if you excuse me, I have another 52000 words to write.

PS-Thanks for checking out my blog. I appear to have developed a rather large following in Russia between posts, or at least d.o.mai.n-Book 1 has, so I would like to say hello to all of my peeps from Russia, the Ukraine, and Latvia!

If this continues, I may need to look into translating d.o.mai.n for export!
 

Book Review-Farsighted by Emlyn Chand


A parable exists in the writing world that goes as follows, "Show, don't tell."

When I first learned of the underlying concept of "Farsighted", I had to admit that I was more than marginally intrigued. I approach reading through a writers eyes, and quite often make my reading choices based on an interest in how the writer might choose to bring their particular plot line to life. In essence, I read in order to learn ways to become a better writer.

That brings me back to the above bit of writing wisdom and the dilemma that it presents in this instance-How do you show anything from the first person perspective of a blind teenager?

This is the part that caught my attention, because I honestly couldn't see how it would work-but it does.
Emlyn replaces the typical imagery of a paranormal novel with a heightened sense of feel and touch, one that made me wish I had a paperback copy to read instead of the more efficient but much less tactile ereader.

I wanted to feel the dry, rough texture of the page. I wanted to smell the fine wood dust emanating from the constantly turning pages. In a sense this book made me want to see the world, if not through Alex's eyes, through his other four (actually, five ;-) senses. I realized halfway through this novel that the choice of protagonist was a stroke of genius. 

What better way to get your reader to identify with a character's emotions than to eliminate all the visual chaff? To put it another way-the less on the page, the more important what is there becomes. If you aren't constantly oohing and aahing at the descriptions of flashing lights and sparkles, what you are left with is comprises a much more nuanced view of the world. 

I could continue to draw parallels all day long, but I feel I've made my point. The way things feel, they smell, they sound, are all more intimate means to discover a characters inner workings than the appearances of the people that surround them.

Another byproduct-it makes you pay attention.

So when you meet Simmi, you first learn of how she smells like an Almond Joy candy bar, then of the kindness in her voice. I have no idea if I would find Simmi attractive or not, but it's what I don't see that makes her beautiful. As I found myself drawn into looking deeper into the information available, I suspect that Shapri is more physically attractive, simply based on the self confidence that she feels justified in displaying to the outside world. Of course, the most physically attractive of us tend to be deficient in other areas, and Shapri's shortcomings are that she has a hard shell that she rarely lowers out of fear of emotional hardship. 

It is yet another compelling argument deftly posed by the author. If you are seek companionship (a girlfriend in this instance), but cannot see how they look, you are forced to find more important parts of them to love.

Alex's developing love for Simmi drives the plot for a while, but there are hints that something more complex and nefarious is happening outside the range of Alex's ability to comprehend. He awkwardly fumbles his interactions with Simmi (as adolescent boys often do), all the while enduring the mockery of the school bully and psychic visions.

Without the visual cues to differentiate when these visions begin, Alex must slowly learn to recognize more subtle hints, such as changes in temperature and humidity levels. The content of these visions is often unsettling, but over time he senses a pattern in them. Someone is going to kill the girl he loves. 

He doesn't know this person, but this "Dax" is obviously an angry, troubled young man with a powerful talent or two of his own.

Alex must use his new found ability to find a way to save Simmi before their paths cross Dax's. 

In the end, I found reading Farsighted to be an enlightening experience. Aside from his psychic "second" sight, Alex's powers of observance are available to us all, we simply choose to "judge books by their covers" (pun intended). If you slow down, and look at the abundant information around us, we can often make more appropriate decisions. 

Of the few things that I found distracting in this book, only one is truly an issue. At the beginning of each chapter, a short "prophecy" is given to prelude the events to come. I found that these gave too much away, and by the second or third chapter began to skip them (as Emlyn presented as an option in the beginning of the book). 

I can't say that everyone will find them as distracting as I did, but as I read I am constantly running through different tropes in my head, already trying to see the future like Alex. When I guess wrong at a way that a story will go is a surprising (and fun) twist, one that I felt like the prophecies at the beginning of each chapter denied me. 

If you read as analytically as I do, I suggest skipping the prophecies and simply reading the book normally. It is a great story, and I won't run the risk of ruining it here in this blog by telling you how it all works out because I feel discovery is much of the fun.

The other detraction wasn't a problem with the novel at all, it was simply that I can see so many possibilities for the world she has created, ways that it can grow and become richer that I didn't want the novel to end. Perhaps that was how I felt the ending to be a little abrupt, because at the time I read the book I was unaware that the novel is in fact the first in a new series. I see no shortage of compelling material for Emlyn to draw from in her series, which should make for many more entertaining reads in the years to come.

With that knowledge, the quickness with which all loose ends are tied up and hurt feelings forgiven are more understandable. I do feel that with another page or two of discussion before the final decision is made (the one that Alex has a hard time stomaching), would let you accept it more easily as a reader. It has a, "This is how it is going to be, so deal with it" quality that I found a little incongruous. 

With that being said, I enjoyed this novel much more than I initially thought I would. I was skeptical that it would work well, the whole "First Person/Blind Person" perspective, but Emlyn pulls it off while simultaneously making the concept approachable to her Young Adult audience. For a first novel she has definitely done what she set out to do, which is establish herself as a unique voice in a crowded Young Adult Paranormal scene-not an easy task.

I look forward to checking out the next installment in the "Farsighted" series.



(This review is based on an Advanced Review Copy of Farsighted, and was written on 10/15/2011)

-If you have written a novel that you would like to submit for Review consideration, please forward a copy in .pdf format to maetrixss@gmail.com.


Blog Tour Notes


THE BOOK:  Alex Kosmitoras may be blind, but he can still “see” things others can’t.  When his unwanted visions of the future begin to suggest that the girl he likes could be in danger, he has no choice but to take on destiny and demand it reconsider. Get your copy today by visiting Amazon.com’s Kindle store or the eBook retailer of your choice. The paperback edition will be available on November 24 (for the author’s birthday).

THE CASH PRIZES:  Guess what? You could win a $100 Amazon gift card as part of this special blog tour. That’s right! Just leave a comment below saying something about the post you just read, and you’ll be entered into the raffle. I could win $100 too! Please help by voting for my blog in the traffic-breaker poll. To cast your vote, visit the official Farsighted blog tour page and scroll all the way to the bottom. Thank you for your help with that.

THE GIVEAWAYS:  Win 1 of 10 autographed copies of Farsighted before its paperback release by entering the giveaway on GoodReads. Perhaps you’d like an autographed postcard from the author; you can request one on her site.

THE AUTHOR:  Emlyn Chand has always loved to hear and tell stories, having emerged from the womb with a fountain pen grasped firmly in her left hand (true story). When she’s not writing, she runs a large book club in Ann Arbor and is the president of author PR firm, Novel Publicity. Emlyn loves to connect with readers and is available throughout the social media interweb. Visit www.emlynchand.com for more info. Don’t forget to say “hi” to her sun conure Ducky!

MORE FUN: There's more fun below. Watch the live action Farsighted book trailer and take the quiz to find out which character is most like you!




 

Another Excerpt from d.o.mai.n!

Wow......I decided to take a look at my stats tonight before I sat down again to write and realized that I've been sorely neglecting this site. I've decided to post part of what I wrote this Wednesday night, for fun of course since this is being written at a breakneck pace for NaNoWriMo (9540 words so far ;-), so try not to judge the clumsy wording TOO hard, lol.

To preface this scene, Miles has jumped on the bus, entirely on a whim, and runs into a person from his past. Let me know what you think, as I've said I realize that this is pretty rough but I thought a few of you might enjoy getting a sneak peek at what I've been working on.

Enjoy!

Excerpt from:
d.o.mai.n
Book 1:  pre://d.o.mai.n


Miles didn't consider his urges as fate, exactly, just that nature and society at large often settle into subtle patterns, and he had found that if he allowed those imperceptible patterns to guide him, invariably good things happened.

As he settled into his seat and the large mag-ride tires lifted into position, for the first time he allowed himself to feel sorry for his mother. He felt as though he had let her down, sure, but more importantly he felt that she had been robbed of a life worth living. Robbed, by the greed of the insurance companies that had taken that from him..... from her.

Of course, companies are run by people. They may be assisted by computerized intelligences, but humans were still required to make the unlitmate decisions when it came to coverage. That meant that someone, a real flesh and blood person, had chosen money over his mothers life.

His fingers curled into tight fists, which he managed to resist thrusting into the padded back of the seat in front of him out of sheer will.

The entire thing was criminally unfair.

Criminally...

“Miles? Miles is that you?”, a sweet, vaguely familiar voice found the crack in his all consuming hatred and brought him back to reality.

“Hey, how have you been?”

It wasn't the voice that had been vague at all, Miles understood, it had been reality itself.

The voice was the very familiar voice of his girlfriend Gemma Beck.

Correction. X-Girlfriend. He had ended things around a year ago, shortly after his mother had fallen ill. He had refused to tell Gin exactly why he had become so distant, why he never felt up to hanging out, and she had taken it as a fault that he had found with her.

Of course, she had plenty of faults, if he had cared to deem them important. Everyone does.

With Gem, they ranged from her hangups regarding personal hygiene to her extreme paranoia regarding getting pregnant. With her tattoos, piercings, and brightly colored hair she had appeared to be a fun girl to get into bed. Miles soon found out that what he thought was a common feminine need to avoid filth was in fact a deep seated dysfunction that turned even the most spontaneous of lovemaking sessions into science experiments. With all of the spermicidal creams, gels, diaphragms, condoms, and assorted other safety equipment, Miles wasn't sure, even after sleeping together at least a dozen times if he had ever actually touched her longer than at that moment.

The more he thought about it, the stranger her hand felt in his.

As he was brought back to the present, he realized she had been talking to him for several minutes. She had come to a natural stopping point in her monologue and was looking at him expectantly for a response. She squeezed his hand gently, prodding him to say something to end the awkward silence. Miles glanced around, and several adjacent passengers seemed to have keyed in on the fact that he had been rudely ignoring her..

“Sorry, I've had a lot on my mind” was all he could manage.

She tightened her smile uncomfortably and offered, “I know. That's what I was saying. I'm sorry, I heard about your mother.”

Miles eyed her warily.

“Yeah, we're trying to get her surgery scheduled now, but everything is so booked up.” He lied.

He had never lied to her when they were together, and perhaps that was their demise. Sometimes, an appropriateness filter was necessary.

“Wow, I guess I never realized how shitty a liar you are.”

Apparently Gemma hadn't lost her touch.

Miles could only nod slightly as he found something less judgmental to look at.

“Sorry, I didn't mean that. I promised myself that if I ever saw you again I would apologize for the way I acted. I didn't really give you a chance to explain what was going on, why you pulled away. I was insecure, and I guess more than a little scared.”

Miles sighed.

He was caught in the middle of a dilemma. He wanted to accept her apology, but wanted to be careful to not take it too casually or quickly.

He was still in no position to date, and wanted to make sure that she didn't read too much into his body language.

A sharp object pressed against his finger, and he looked down at the hand Gemma was holding. He spotted the diamond ring on her third finger, and laughed.

“I was wondering how long it was going to take you to notice that”, Gemma said brightly.

“When?” was all he could manage. He was more than a bit surprised that she had moved on so completely in a years time.

Miles realized just then how much can change in a year, and how a year spent focusing on a solitary task could make time so irrelevant.

“A few months ago. We're getting married in the fall. He's a great guy, you'd like him”

Miles didn't know how to feel. He had no compelling evidence to disagree with what she had said, so he simply smiled and nodded respectfully.

He marshaled every ounce of happiness left in him from the last year and said, “I'm happy for you”.

Her radiant smile told him that she had bought this, the more convincing of his two lies in the past few minutes.
 

NaNoWriMo-2 days in

No, I am not going to post long, esoteric ramblings about my feelings and how the writing went for every single day of NaNoWriMo. That would become boring even for me after the first week or so, and I think we all know how much I like to listen to the sound of my own voice.


What I will do is every few days give an update on my progress, and share one or two things that I have learned along the way, funny stories, etc.

Yesterday, on the first day of the whole shebang, I had to wrestle with my son over time with my desktop computer. Today, I didn't feel so great....blah, blah, blah.

The truth is that I STILL surpassed my word count requirement so far. There are people that have probably made their way to the halfway point already. There are probably people that haven't written a word-You know what, It's possible that the book already completed is unreadable drivel, and the person who hasn't come within 15 feet of their keyboard could not only finish in time, they may also write this years "Water for Elephants".


Me? I'm using NaNoWriMo as an excuse to get my novel d.o.mai.n off the ground, and all of the plotting I had done ahead of time has made it so much easier to stay on task. I did get a little high-centered at the end of one chapter, but I was able to work my way through it. (I am trying to keep my chapters around 2500 words roughly, and this chapter was either going to be 2100 or 2700....I found a way to get it in at around 2300. If it sucks I can always fix it during editing.)

Overall, I am very happy with the way that the novel is shaping up so far. I know that the voice that will emerge as I toil away to 50000 words will make the chapters written these first few days feel like they were written in crayon, and it will be hard to take a step back from this entire thing for a week or two before I start editing, but I think I can find something to occupy my time.

Maybe I will hand it over to a friend to "beta" test for me. Maybe I will get started on the media for the launch (book trailer, advertisement images, alternate reality game, etc) I did get started on one part of the alternate reality game before November 1st-Miles Torvalds Facebook page and Profile pic.

Here's a screenshot for those of you that would like to take a look-



So, the wheels are turning, and by the end of the month I should have a complete novel, which is not the same as having a finished novel. If this story is to be all that I think it can be, I will need to really tear it apart and massage out the knots, and that will take time. I will share bits and pieces along the way, and I hope that you all will decide to follow along and be part of this process.

-Chris