Archive by Author

We Are Such Complicated Creatures

11 Jun

On the television news last night, they had a video of two guys who ran towards a burning car to pull out the woman driver.  They saved her life.

They ran TOWARDS a burning car.

There was also a story about Scot Peterson, the security cop in Florida who is going on trial for neglecting his duty during a mass shooting. He allegedly hid outside while the shootings occurred.

Two separate acts involving life and death situations. Two completely different reactions.

We are such complicated creatures!

In 1997 I was teaching middle school here in Olympia when one day we had a pretty sizable earthquake.  Light fixtures were swaying, desks toppled, you couldn’t stand up, that sort of earthquake, and it was scarier than hell.  I saw a student, who was outside on recess when the earthquake began, run into the school building to see if he could help someone.  I saw a teacher run outside screaming.

We are such complicated creatures!

Doing volunteer work in Louisiana, circa 1970, teaching the underprivileged how to read, I saw a “hanging tree” in New Iberia Parish.  You can guess why it was called “the hanging tree.”  I saw a group of black children walk unconcerned underneath that tree on the way to school.  Ten minutes later I saw a middle-aged white woman in a beautiful white gown step out of her car, kneel at the base of that tree, and say a prayer.

We are such complicated creatures!

Writers convey these things to their readers.  We make these scenes come alive for those who did not see them, or if it is fiction we present it in such a way that it seems real.  We give voice to the human condition,  and by doing so we form connections among us all.

Don’t you dare take for granted the abilities you’ve been given.

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

That Which We Are, We Are

4 Jun

“That which we are, we are.

One equal temper of heroic hearts,

Made weak by time and fate

But strong of will.

To strive, to seek, to find

And not to yield.”

 

I memorized those lines from “Ulysses,” the sprawling work by Tennyson, back in my college days.  They spoke to the younger version of me in 1969, and they speak to me today.

The human struggle we all face!

I was about two months removed from losing my father when I read those words.  “And not to yield” . . . my dad always told me growing up to never lose ground, that ground won should never be lost, to never retreat.  Tennyson’s words echoed the words of my dad, and even today they hold special meaning to me.

The human struggle we all face!

For me, as a creative writer, that is what writing is all about.  I seek to tap into that human condition, that human struggle, and give my readers something they can relate to.

For me, as a human being, that is what living is all about. I seek to tap into that human condition, that human struggle, and relate to others based on shared feelings and emotions.

We are all 95% similar and 5% different.

Why do we concentrate so hard on the differences?

Just random thoughts on a Friday morning.

Have a great week! I will leave you with more Tennyson:

“For ever and forever when I move.

How dull it is to pause, to make an end,

To rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use!”

 

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

Back to 1967

28 May

Let’s go way back, to 1967, back to Seattle, Washington, back to my college days at Seattle University.  Frank, my best buddy, and I were enrolled in a Sociology class.  Our Quarter project was to go into the community and help the underprivileged.

Back in those days Seattle University was on the fringe of the Central District, and the Central District was primarily low-income, black in color.  After brainstorming for a week or so, Frank and I decided we were going to volunteer to help disadvantaged kids to read.  We went to the local community center, tossed our idea to the Center supervisor, he gave his approval, and two weeks later we had started the Central District Reading Program.

I remember working with fourth and fifth graders who had the reading level of 1st grade . . . see Dick run . . . see the cow in the field . . . watch Bob run fast . . . that sort of thing, and wondering how in the holy hell it was possible that there were kids in the Public School System who were that poorly educated.  What kind of disadvantage that must be, at that age, to be unable to read.  What are the chances of success when a kid is basically facing an impossible struggle at the age of ten?  How friggin’ lucky I was . . . I am . . . to have grown up in more supportive circumstances.  And the contrast was so stark: an institute of higher learning literally three city blocks from a community center where kids couldn’t read.

What we as writers do is important.  We are the guardians against widespread ignorance.  We are the other end of the spectrum.  We signify hope and advancement for society.  We tell stories, we report on events, and we explain how things function.  We take readers to far-off lands, and we take them to imaginary worlds.  We are a healthy escape for those kids in poor districts who have stopped dreaming of ever making it out of the Hood.

The day you take your writing talents for granted is the day you should stop writing, because at that point you will have forgotten just how lucky you are to be doing what you are doing.

See Dick run indeed!

Just something to think about!

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

Keeping Secrets

21 May

More naps these days

As I dive into this memoir thing, I’m coming to the realization that I knew very little about my adopted family.  Is that odd? I don’t know.  I can only recall a scant number of facts about their backgrounds, and after that I have to basically guess about it all.  It’s too bad, I guess, this gaping hole in my ancestral background, and I’m not sure who to blame for it.  We all love to blame, don’t we?  Should I blame my adopted parents for not telling me, or blame myself, heaven forbid, for not asking enough questions during my first twenty years?  I sure don’t want to blame myself although, truth be known, I’m comfortable doing so.

I’m in the process of building a fence in the backyard between us and our neighbors to the north. It’s been a long time coming, one of those chores that just seem to constantly fall down the to-do list.  This fence is eight feet tall rather than the customary six.  That was a purposeful decision, of course, as all are.  We have gone a good number of years with zero privacy back there, and a good number of years enduring the arguing young couple and their countless guests and loud parties.  I can’t do anything about the sound, but I sure can do something about the privacy.

And maybe those first two paragraphs are related.  Maybe my parents just wanted privacy and so did not share their past with their only son.

Finding the reasons for actions, or inactions, is important, don’t you think? It’s something I’m trying to do more of as I grow older and hopefully wiser.  It’s one of the reasons I’ve opened up so much about myself in my writings.  “Why keep secrets” is my mantra.  In truth, nobody can hurt me as much as I hurt myself in the past, so judging me will be like water off a duck’s back.  I might as well just open up and have at it, and perhaps a better understanding about me . . . and perhaps about you . . . will come from it.

There really is a great freedom which comes with growing older and not giving a shit any longer.  I wonder if my parents would have been more forthcoming if they had lived longer?

Knowing them, I doubt it!

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

It’s All About Me?

7 May

More naps these days

Writing one’s memoirs is an interesting exercise.

My first reaction is one of resistance. It all seems so self-serving, directly opposed to the humility I wish to convey and live by.

It all seems so silly, the concept that my life might be interesting enough for a full-length book. Who would ever find my life to be fascinating?

And yet I see the value in it and, as a writer, I understand that every memoir written is not only written about the author but also about every single person who reads it, because we are all so much the same.  We strive for individuality, from the make-up we use to the clothes we wear to the thousands of possessions we purchase over the years, and yet, at our core, we are the same.  Events which have happened to me are relatable to a great many people.  We all have suffered loss. We all have struggled.  We all have had great personal triumphs, all have loved, and all have similar fears.

So my story is, in many ways,  your story, and perhaps that is the greatest value of a memoir, to show others that they are not alone in this world, that they are not strange in their thoughts, and that they are not mistakes of creation.  We are all stumbling, bumbling, mistake-prone jumbles of emotion, and we are all, in our own way, miracles.

And so it continues!

Bill

A Fly-by Update

30 Apr

I’ve been quiet online for a couple weeks now.  Just too much to do to devote any time to blogs; I’m afraid this will be a short one as well, but I think it’s important that I take a moment to thank all of you who purchased my latest novel, “The Magician’s Shadow.”

In truth I have no idea how many have sold.  I doubt I will ever know because I don’t follow up on stuff like that.  It’s enough for me to know I have written a novel and that people have enjoyed it.  So thank you!

Someone suggested recently that I write my memoirs (thanks a lot, Zulma!).  Actually my wife Bev has suggested it for quite some time as well.  I fought it for awhile; discounted it as silly for another while; now I’m going to do it. Who knows, I might find some healing in the exercise.

The working title of that memoir:  “And the Blind Shall See.”

Anyway, just a quick howdy and thank you!  Have a brilliant week!

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

Making Connections With People Through Writing

9 Apr

One of our local television news reporters does a weekly special called “Eric’s Heroes.”  Each week he highlights a “normal” citizen who quietly does acts of goodwill in the community.  It’s a feel-good segment, one of the few things on the weekly news reports I look forward to.

Last week he did a segment about a young man who daily goes to Green Lake, sits down on a park bench, and holds up a sign which says: “I desire a conversation. Will you talk with me?”  He will sit there for about an hour each day, and invariably one or two complete strangers will stop and talk with the young man about life and all manner of things.

The young man, during the interview, explained that originally he began doing that because he suffers from clinical depression, and he wanted desperately to interact with people and not stay in his bedroom, tucked into the fetal position.  So he forces himself, each day, to walk to that park bench and interact with people.

It was a touching story.  It is a story I can relate to as a writer.

No, I don’t suffer from clinical depression, but I am painfully shy and introverted.  Conversations are difficult for me. Always have been and I suspect they always will be . . . so writing is my way of communicating with other people.  It is my way of reaching out and screaming “I’m alive and I need all of you!”  It is my release from a self-imposed prison.

More naps these days

I suspect I’m not alone.  I suspect many writers are like me.  Heck, I suspect many people who are not writers are like me.  For some of us, face-to-face conversation is like a trip to the dentist.  While most people seem to instinctively know how to carry on a casual conversation, I am lost in tall forest and dense undergrowth.  Social gatherings are like “death by a thousand paper cuts” for me.

So I write!  I reach out, with my words, and attempt to connect on some basic level with other human beings, in hopes of making a vital connection, in hopes of bridging the deep canyon I am always facing.

And so it goes!

If you would like to watch the aforementioned episode, follow this link.

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

A Little Self Promotion

2 Apr

More naps these days

A little self-promotion if you don’t mind . . .

The fifth novel in my Shadow series, The Magician’s Shadow, will be published in a week, give or take a day or two.  For those of you not aware of this series, I would categorize it as paranormal/action/thriller in genre.  I did not start out with a series in mind, but I took such a fancy to the main characters that I could not bear to say goodbye to them after the first novel, so here we are now, with #5 in the hopper.

I have no idea when I’ll start in on the sixth in the series. I have a different novel I want to write first, a reflection thriller about life in the 60’s.  I promised myself that novel would be the next I write, and I aim to keep that promise, so Eli, Liz, Striker, and the others from the Shadow series will just have to live their lives without my interference for a year.

I wish I was younger.  I started writing so late in life, and now the sun is setting and I doubt all the books inside of me will see the light of day.  Of course, all writers can say the same thing, right?  I’ve got a few good years left in me, so I’ll kick out as many books as possible and just be satisfied with what I accomplish.

So a short one this week.  I’ve got other things to do, so you’ll have to excuse me as I duck out of this blog and get busy elsewhere.  Have a great week doing what it is you do.  Whatever you do please, do it with love, passion, and compassion.  Life is just too short for hatred or complacency.

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

Laughing at Writer’s Block

19 Mar

Sixty-five degrees today.

I was thinking about writers’ block as I fed and watered the chickens today.  I was thinking about it as Maggie and I took our walk down the country lane, birds joyously declaring to anyone willing to listen that life is for the living, to be embraced, smothered with kisses, and held so dearly until that last exhale.  I was thinking about it as deer broke from the forest, saw us approaching, and darted back into the shade, now you see them, now you don’t, a magic act performed especially for us.

I was thinking about it as I began cleaning the back yard, the old muscles protesting, shaking off the winter rust, the first positive actions of Spring, capital “S,” thank you very much, protesting and yet rejoicing in the fact that there’s still some miles to go on this old body, and ain’t that the cat’s meow?

I was thinking about it as I looked at the countryside, six shades of green, emerald and Kelly, sage and absinthe, a touch of jade for good measure, nature’s paintbrush mixing and matching, always in search of the perfect hue, and again with the woods, browns never drab, coffee and dun, tawny and umber, such subtle differences by the Master Artist, should he exist.

And I thought about it at day’s end, a time for relaxation, for contemplation, a tally of the day, good acts and harmful, blessings and negativity, how did I score, what to improve, what to eradicate, and I thought about it as I reflected on lives gone, loved ones, lessons learned sitting at their feet, a continual classroom of love, free for the taking, the only requirement being to practice what was preached, do all things with love, never let a friend down, cherish the small and insignificant, all part of life, all to be valued.

My final thought, as I laid me down to sleep . . . how is writer’s block possible?

Wishing you peace and love, today and forever!

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

The Universal Joy of Literature

12 Mar

I remember way back to a time I was ten, eleven, in that neighborhood, at least.

My dad had a manual labor job for twenty years.  He left the house every morning by six, so I rarely saw him as he headed out to work.  For some reason though, one morning, I staggered into the kitchen at some ungodly hour and Dad was sitting at the kitchen table, a cup of coffee in front of him, and he was holding a Louis L’amour paperback.  It was an odd scene for me. I couldn’t remember ever seeing my dad read a book.  Dad had dropped out of high school as a sophomore, during the depths of the Great Depression, and never did return.  He signed up to fight in World War 2, got married in 1945, and started the next chapter of his life as breadwinner and family pillar.  To see him reading was inconsistent with everything I had seen before.

I mumbled “good morning, Dad,” and sat down at the table.  “Whatcha reading?”

“Just an old beat-up copy of a western, Bill.  I like to read in the mornings.  It’s a good way to start my day, take my mind off things, that kind of stuff.  I like the quiet of the early mornings, a good cup of coffee, and some entertainment before I head to work.  There’s never any time for reading once my day begins.”

I’ve never forgotten those words.  Even for a man like my father, a person who would never be labeled an intellectual, reading provided entertainment and gave him some peace of mind before his day began. I try to remember that when I write an article or a novel.  What I do matters. What all of us writers do matters.  We entertain.  We provide an escape from the mundane, and we provide an exit strategy from the worries of the day.

Don’t ever think what you are doing is not important. I don’t care if you write novels or you write blogs only, what you do matters.  In this day and age of instant sound bites, purported fake news, and unsupported hearsay, what we do is damned important.

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”