Monday, April 30, 2012

"Z" is for Zip-lining

My wife and I have gone on two cruises together now (she's been on many more, but I've only been on these two), one through the Caribbean and the other to the Mexican Riviera. On these cruises, we bought shore excursions for zip-lining, which was another first for me! It was so freeing gliding through the air between posts, several times hundreds of feet in the air. I am quite fond of heights and speed, so the experiences were everything I could have hoped for. My biggest problem was sometimes going faster than recommended and landing too hard at the far end. I wasn't worried about hurting myself, but I didn't want to accidentally kick the guy helping us through the course.

The zip-line adventure we went on in Antigua was located deep in the rainforest, beautiful scenery for soaring through the air, gliding from tree posts and hiking through the forest. This was my first experience. It sucked that you couldn't take pictures because they had a photographer and wanted you to buy their pictures. That's how they get you! And you have to buy at least one.

At our stop in Cabo, we were driven out into the desert for about an hour and zipped over rocky canyons. And it was hot! But we were given ice cold water backpacks. Also, the fun thing with that adventure tour was that besides zip-lining, it had rock climbing, a hanging bridge, and repelling. And the final line started at the highest point and extended a third of a mile! 

I can't wait until Gwendolyn is old enough, so my wife and I can take her. I'm sure zip-lining will make for great family bonding time.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

"Y" is for Young Adult

The popularity of young adult (or YA) has exploded over the past ten years. A lot of it has to do with the success of Harry Potter (with is categorized as middle grade, but the second half of the series transitions to young adult), then Twilight, and now The Hunger Games. These books continue to propel the genre because they appeal to adults as well as to children and teens. They also seem to interest people who are not primarily diehard readers. Young adult has become the "it" genre to write and its sub-genres hit the market in waves. Young adult paranormal romance has been the hot sub-genre for the past five years with the market domination of Twilight, and young adult dystopian is now fast on its heels with The Hunger Games' growing popularity.

I became fascinated with young adult after reading the Harry Potter series, which I read consecutively in about three months. Then I branched out and haven't looked back. The best thing about books is that they take their readers on an adventure, to another place and time, creating great escapism entertainment. But what I love about young adult books even more is that their stories and adventures also have a wonderful nostalgic factor to them, which is something I don't think I would have appreciated ten years ago.

Now, I write young adult fiction--fantasy at the moment, but I'd like to try my hand at different sub-genres in the future--and the nostalgia is even greater during the story's creation. I enjoy writing from the perspective of a teenager, having my protagonist do and feel things I did and felt, as well as having him do things I would have loved to do and feel like I might have missed out on. It's like a fusion of entertainment and therapy--half joking. Many of us are still kids at heart and young adult fiction allows us to let that kid out to play for awhile amidst the excess work and responsibility of being an adult, out in the world and driven by an unrelenting force to conquer, contribute, and succeed. Young adult fiction takes us back to a romantic time when every day was a grand scale adventure on a small stage. I love young adult fiction--to read, to write...and to relive.  

Thursday, April 26, 2012

"X" is for X Marks the Spot

Kenny laid the sledgehammer against the adjacent wall and admired the hole he'd made in the drywall of his house’s guest bedroom. He tugged at the crumbling board, and as the hole widened to the nearest stud, he noticed something quite unexpected underneath. A door. A thin door perfectly positioned between the two studs branded with a bright bleeding X.
“What are you doing here?” Kenny ran his hand along the warped wood of the mysterious door, knocked a few times, and tried the small brass knob. Locked. “This makes no sense. A door in the wall?”
He used the sledgehammer to sever the knob from the door, then jabbed the backside of the doorknob with the butt of its handle. Strangely, the metallic clink of the knob hitting the floor didn't sound.
The door creaked open when Kenny gave it a tap. Standing at the threshold, he peered into the shadows of what appeared to be a narrow, hidden room. A room between rooms? Light from the bedroom streamed in and revealed a circular hole in the floor, approximately three feet in diameter.
Kenny scoured the house for a flashlight so he could get a better look at what he'd found so unexpectedly.
The flashlight beam danced around the room as he explored the musty space. The walls were unfinished and the floor, nothing but dirt. The hole, centered in the barricaded and forgotten closet, was inlaid with redbrick like a well.
Kenny cautiously approached the well and shown his flashlight down into the creepy opening in the floor, which descended fifteen, maybe even twenty feet! And then the light grazed over a hunched figure.
“Lose something?” the man in the well asked, holding the other half of the brass knob in his hand.
Kenny shook with such a fright that he nearly dropped his flashlight into the hole. Now he knew he was crazy.
The man, or boy, looked no older than twenty. His clothes were ragged, his hair knotted and clumpy, and he flashed a smile of black and crooked teeth.
“What are you doing in” Kenny stuttered.
“It wasn't your house when I was put down here.”
“What are you talking about? I've lived here for ten years. You––”
“And the McKinley's before you. And the Cunningham’s before them. And Old Man Grommet before them. I've been down here a long time. Would you like the other half of your doorknob back?”
“How are you still alive?” Kenny couldn't believe what was happening. He clicked off the flashlight, confident that if he couldn't see the boy, then he would simply disappear.
“That's a good question. How about a little help. It would be nice to feel the warmth of sunlight on my face again. Then I'll tell you why I was placed here before taking my leave.”
“I don't know if that's such a good idea.”
“How can you say that? Do you really want me to remain here, in your house, with you and your wife? Jill, is it?”
Kenny felt a chill surge through his entire body. Turning the flashlight back on, those seemingly innocent eyes remained fixed on him like a helpless puppy. “So, if I let you out, you're just going to leave?”
“Right after telling you my story. You've got my word.”
“Fine,” Kenny said, backing away slowly. “I'll find some rope.”
       “Very good. I'll just wait here.”

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

"W" is for Worrying

Worrying is a viscous action. It's like cancer cells multiplying exponentially. Worrying creates more worry, and on it goes in its vicious cycle--in its downward spiral. We all do it to some extend, some more than others. I'm probably guilty of being one of the latter.

In the theme of positive growth, I would like to leave you with the wisdom of Van Wilder with regards to worrying:
Worrying is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn't get you anywhere.
Now that's great advice from an unlikely source.

I'm sorry, but I need to cut this short tonight so I can get to bed. I've been on here way too late the last few nights, and I was like a zombie at work today. I'll be sure to visit tomorrow. :) Thanks for understanding.

Alex's Giveaway to Celebrate the Big 1500!

To celebrate 1500 followers, Ninja Rock Star, Alex J. Cavanaugh is holding a giveaway for a copy of CassaStar and CassaFire! The books will be donated to the winner’s choice of public or high school library, along with a selection of bookmarks.

It is such an awesome accomplishment, so come and celebrate! And if you haven't done so already, be sure to join the Ninja Army.

Rules straight from Alex's post:

How to enter: (and must be a follower)
Comment on my posts (just once each) U-X (Tuesday through Friday) – one point
Ten extra points for the first comment (please don’t melt my blog)
Ten extra points if you blog about this contest (leave a link so I know)

Winner will be announced Monday on Alex's blog during the "Z" post! Good luck & Godspeed!

Brand New Blog Design!

I found Lori at Imagination Designs a few months back from visiting blogs in search for ways to make mine better. I loved the blogs that she had designed, which made it an easy decision to have her give my blog a facelift. I've been on her waiting list for awhile, but finally got my turn, and she loaded the new design on my blog last night! I love it!

Lori has been working on my blog for less than a week. She is professional, nice, and super easy to work with...and she does a great job. If you're in search for a new blog design, then check out her blog. You won't be sorry!

Use Your Imagination Designs

"V" is for Violet

Early on I talked about my 15-pound Chiweenie, Bugsy. Now I get to introduce you to his older, aggressive, pint-sized sister, Violet. We got her from a no-kill shelter almost two years ago, and we were told she was between three and five years old. She had very little records and almost no history. We joke and say she's from the streets, which is why she's ten pounds of pure aggression.

She bullies "The Bugs" to no end. And to Bugsy's dismay, she enjoys making friends (human and canine). You may remember that Bugsy hates everyone. Violet is the exact opposite. She loves nearly everyone, but be careful, she's very aggressive with her love. Her kisses land right on the lips every time no matter how you try to maneuver her--it's a gift.

She lives by her own rules, and breaks even those. Bugsy can only jump a few inches off the ground, while Violet can jump nearly three feet with a running start. She can also squeeze through holes that look half her size--she is a master of escape! When Violet isn't knocking "The Bugs" around, she spends her free time stealing beds and toys, and burrowing under blankets. She could be anywhere waiting to attack you with kisses or to seize the one remaining item Bugsy still has. Bugsy never has a chance. But she gives back by keeping him clean. She performs a great service by licking his head, ears, teeth, and eyes. This can go on for upwards of ten minutes. It's hilarious, endearing, and gross simultaneously. See, she's a bully with a heart of gold.

This picture was taken after a fit of chasing her tail. She was exhausted and oh so proud of herself. Violet, who would want to get rid of you?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

"U" is for Unanimous

Unanimous in this case refers to Team Unanimous on The Celebrity Apprentice. Team Unanimous started out as the guy's team, but now that there are only a few members from each team left, The Donald has switched up team members to change the dynamic and stir up drama.

I really enjoy watching this show because there are interesting tasks, no shortage of drama, emotional moments, and quasi-celebrities fighting to raise money for their charities. I love that aspect of the show, which is why I like The Celebrity Apprentice over just The Apprentice. Each season, millions of dollars are raised for an assortment of charities. And you can see many of these celebs' personal connections to their charities. It's touching television. There should be more shows centered around giving back. The Celebrity Apprentice does it in a way that is quite entertaining, and my guilty-pleasure tooth can be satisfied with the comical drama between contestants, but at the end of the day, it is about raising money for charity.

Cable television could do with less Keeping Up With the Kardashians and derivatives thereof, and have more shows like The Celebrity Apprentice.

For this season, out of whom we have left, I want Clay Aiken to win.

Monday, April 23, 2012

"T" is for Tool

I will continue with my music thread for one more day, and today I talk about Tool. This band has been on the top of my musical list since their 1996 album, Aenima. I had listened to them since Undertow and backtracked to Opiate, but Aenima introduced their true creative vision. Tool's artistry is not for everyone, I can appreciate that, but they are undeniably accomplished and incredible musicians.

They have one of the most talented rhythm sections, often times not keeping to typical time signatures, creating truly unique sounds and songs. And then there is Maynard James Keenan, the voice of Tool (and A Perfect Circle and Puscifer). In my opinion, he has the best voice in rock -- from melodic to screaming, studio to concert, he's just amazing. The interesting thing in live shows is that Maynard no longer plays the role of a rock front-man, under the spotlight, front and center. He is usually positioned back with the drums without a spotlight, as just another instrument in the band. Everyone is an equal member. Vocals, drums, bass, and guitar -- four guys producing surreal sonic landscapes that reach the boundaries of Heaven and Hell.

Tool is a very secretive band. They have never released an official live video, it usually takes a few years to get official lyrics posted online (they're never printed on the albums), and their songs are still not on iTunes. They use a lot of occult and mystic imagery in their lyrics and performance videos flashing from large screens behind the band. They are such a strange and unique band, I could talk about them forever, but I just need to shut up and let you listen to some music.

I love this song, from 10,000 Days, broken up into two tracks on the album, but flowing together as one epic journey. An official video was not released, so this is just something a fan put together. It is decently made and I like the fact that it has the beautiful lyrics interlaced into the video. This song is written about Maynard's late mother, Judith Marie. Part 1 is basically an intro. Part 2 starts at about 6 minutes in. My favorite segment is from about 9:45 to 12 minutes (and if it's you're first time listening to it, shut your eyes and just listen to the music, then go back and follow along with the lyrics).

Saturday, April 21, 2012

"S" is for Soundtrack

Below is the soundtrack/playlist for Provex City that I created during the writing of my first draft to reflect the mood I felt while envisioning the unfolding events. So each song fits a certain scene in the story. As I wrote, each scene played out like a movie, and the most memorable scenes in movies to me are scenes with powerful music.

Like I highlighted in my last post, I love the movie Good Will Hunting, which a lot of it has to do with the music (mainly Elliott Smith). Some other movies I love with music that stands out for me are: Vanilla Sky, Donnie Darko, Almost Famous, The Butterfly Effect, The Girl Next Door, American Beauty, and Braveheart (for its score). Not all of these are great movies objectively, but movies I love due to the power the chosen music brings to the scenes.

So something I wanted to do at some point, which just became today, was to release the Song-to-Scene Key for Provex City's soundtrack/playlist for anyone who's read or plans to read the book. Enjoy. :)

Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones

  1. Running up that Hill – Placebo (An intro for the whole series)
  2. The Leaving Song – AFI (Helen waking a five-year-old Oliver)
  3. Rhinoceros – Smashing Pumpkins (First day of sophomore year at a new school)
  4. All Cleared Out – Elliott Smith (Oliver researching Elliott Smith on his computer)
  5. The Fixer – Pearl Jam (After the first session with Mr. Gordon)
  6. Mamma Sed - Puscifer (Trek to the cemetery)
  7. Royal We – Silversun Pickups (Escape from mall security)
  8. Hide and Seek – Imogen Heap (On the dance floor - playing over actual party music)
  9. Snuff – Slipknot (Jeremy vanishing in the quad)
  10. Restless Heart Syndrome – Green Day (Visiting Richard in the hospital)
  11. Hurricane – 30 Seconds to Mars (In Hollywood, Oliver's glimpse of the phantom buildings)
  12. Paradise - Coldplay (Oliver and Jeremy rocketing down the side of the building in a glass elevator, looking out at Provex City)
  13. Mad World – Adam Lambert (Aftermath of the events on top of Lorne Tower)
  14. In the Darkness – Dead by Sunrise (Friend's reunion, the last scene)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

"R" is for Roman Candle

Roman Candle is the first album by the late singer-songwriter, whisper rock artist, Elliott Smith, who is one of my all-time favorite musicians. I was introduced to his Figure 8 album while working in a small coffee shop, fell in love with it, and sometimes played the album over and over for an entire shift. Figure 8 was his last completed album before his death in 2003, so I worked my way backwards through his discography.

Elliott Smith was a true tragic artist, created brilliant music, and was deeply haunted in his personal life. He was an exceptional guitarist and proficient in five more instruments. His music is often melancholy and emotional, his guitar work intricate and sweet, and his melodies and harmonies can change my moods instantly. Many of his lyrics are depressing, but I don't feel depressed listening to him.

Elliott's biggest mainstream success came with his musical role in Good Will Hunting. The movie had several of his songs in it, Angeles in its entirety, and an original song, Miss Misery, which was up for an Oscar for best original song. He performed at the Oscars and lost to Celine Dion for her song in Titanic (tough year).

Like I said, he is a truly tragic artist like Jim Morrison and Kurt Cobain. He was clinically depressed, didn't handle fame and criticism well, and suffered from alcoholism and drug abuse. He died in 2003 from two stab wounds to the chest; and the autopsy report was inconclusive to whether it was suicide or murder. He was reportedly doing well at that time, but he had admitted to attempting suicide several times before.

Condor Ave. is a song from Roman Candle, from 1994, the beginning of Elliott Smith's solo career and a great example of what I love about his music.

I debated about using this recording of Angeles, but decided to go with it because it's so raw, showing how emotional he was about his music, how fragile he was as an artist, yet still incredibly talented. He messes up and doesn't want to continue the song. But he does finish...and finishes strong. It's far from a perfect performance, but extraordinarily memorable to me in how I look at art and artists.

"Q" is for Quotes

I am at a loss for words today, so I'd like to allow some truly profound and remarkable people speak on my behalf:

“You know you're in love when you can't fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.”
― Dr. Seuss

 “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe.”
― Albert Einstein

 “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”
― Oscar Wilde

 “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

 “In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on.”
― Robert Frost

 “Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.”
― Albert Camus

 “Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.”
― Albert Einstein

 “I am so clever that sometimes I don't understand a single word of what I am saying.”
― Oscar Wilde

 “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
― Martin Luther King Jr., A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches 

 “If you want to know what a man's like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.”
― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire 

 “Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans.”
― John Lennon

 “If you don't stand for something you will fall for anything.”
― Malcolm X

 “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
― Albert Einstein

 “To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”
― Oscar Wilde

 “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”
― Mark Twain

 “A day without sunshine is like, you know, night.”
― Steve Martin

 “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche

 “I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”
― Albert Einstein

 “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.”
― Thomas A. Edison

I hope you've enjoyed these words of wisdom. Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

"P" is for Provex City is Finally Available in Paperback!

I've been waiting a long time for this. Many weeks, two proofs, and about 50 corrections later, and Provex City now has a physical book form. It is exclusively on Amazon, not yet linked up with the ebook...but it'll get there. Below I've posted the original sketch for the cover, which I liked a lot, but nothing compared to how blown away I was with the final product. I just wish I could get this artist to do the rest of my covers...but I won't get into that.

I won't ramble on too much about Provex City because I've discussed it in detail in earlier posts and there is a dedicated menu above on this blog, but I couldn't do another "P" post. Forgive me. For anyone not familiar, Provex City is my first novel, young adult fantasy, which I released only about a month ago in ebook format on Amazon. It is the first book in The Lorne Family Vault Series and a project I had been working on for almost three years. It was a hard decision to one day stop querying agents and commit to self-publishing. I was tired of waiting and wanted to continue telling my story. Now, I'm about 80% into my first draft of Book 2, writing before work and on my lunch breaks. My goal is to have it out by this fall.

I was so excited when the ebook came out, but the paperback makes it feel more real somehow. Holding a book with my name on it feels like victory and I know I want to keep writing for the rest of my life. No matter what I write in the future, Provex City will always be exceptionally special to me. It helps me believe anything is possible. Thanks, Mr. Gordon.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

"O" is for Oberammergau

My wife and I were part of a tour group that traveled through Germany and Austria in the late summer of 2010. There was so much to see and so many wonderful places to visit, but the crowning jewel of our vacation was visiting a small town in Bavaria called Oberammergau. This town is so special because of their passion plays that they put on every ten years. 2010 just so happened to be one of those years.

The passion plays of Oberammergau are so amazing because the entire town gets involved, over a 2000 person production, and the town's been doing so every ten years since the 1600s. The play was started as a celebration that that town was spared by the bubonic plague. There is a museum in town that shows the history of the play and how it has evolved over the years. It is now a modern, spectacular production that can rival any Broadway show, and the history keeps this large production intimate.

Our tour group had some of the best seats in the house, only five or six rows from the front, and center. The music was haunting and beautiful. The play was not in English, but it's easy enough to follow. Just remember to dress warm because it gets cold in the evenings, even in the summer.

I will remember this trip forever (Germany and Austria are beautiful countries), but especially the visit to this little town tucked away in the mountains. The picture below shows the exquisite murals painted on many of the buildings. Another nice little anecdote is that my wife's grandparents saw the Oberammergau passion play twenty years earlier (in the summer of 1990), which later led to great conversation. I hope I have the opportunity to go back in a decade or two.

Monday, April 16, 2012

"N" is for Never Again

Never again is the catalyst for change. When someone makes that kind of declaration, then it is absolute that whatever it is will never be tolerated again. No one can talk you out of it. It is not up for discussion. The bridge behind you is ablaze so there is no going back.

I am not good at burning bridges, I am good at devising exit strategies, which goes against the never again mantra. It's almost impossible to be full committed in a direction when it's just as easy to turn around and go back. Never again prevents even a glance back. The weight of glancing back is an overfilled backpack, filled with much  more than the necessities to proceed. Drop the pack and carry on. Never again makes dropping that excess baggage a must. 

Without never again there is very little leverage to change. If there isn't leverage, then you haven't convinced yourself of its necessity. If change isn't a necessity, then it's okay to go on with the way you're living, which may be fine. But if there is something you really want to change, it is imperative to get to the point where you declare: never again!

This is a concept that Tony Robbins talks about, and it is much easier in theory than in practice. I hope to get to that point for a few of my vices one day. What if I ever need that bridge? It takes a lot of strength to burn it down. It's much easier to lightly cover the trail behind and say, "I'll be able to find my way back to the bridge if need be." But at least I have the courage to carry the matches, just in case.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

"M" is for Mr. Clock

I mentioned in the "G" post that there is a ghost that my baby girl converses with on a regular basis, and my wife named him Mr. Clock.

We have a circular, mechanical clock on the wall above the changing table. Many times, regardless of her mood and attention, when we lay Gwendolyn on her changing pad, she perks up and focuses solely on the clock. She smiles, coos, and laughs, looking up at its dark wooden frame. She speaks in her cute baby language, and Mr. Clock ticks back his response, seemingly aware of just what she'd said. And they continue to carry on a full conversation. Paying a visit to Mr. Clock is one way we can get her from screaming to smiling in 2.3 seconds.

My wife and I have both leaned down to Gwendolyn's vantage point to see the clock from her perspective, but nothing magically appears for us. There is no smiling face within the face. We've recorded these events and you'd swear there was someone looking down on her and making funny faces. It's the only place in the house where that occurs. And frequently, she's more reactive to the clock than to us.

But I can't complain. Any means of stopping her from crying and getting a heart-melting Gwendolyn smile is a blessing. So the clock on the wall, dubbed Mr. Clock, is doing a great job of entertaining our daughter. He is a friendly ghost and I appreciate the watchful and protective eyes of friendly ghosts. Thank you, Mr. Clock. We owe you one!

Have a great weekend, A-Z bloggers and appreciated followers!

Friday, April 13, 2012

"L" is for Lasik

I had been wearing glasses for over twenty years. Waking up to a blurry world just seemed normal. I didn't hate them, I didn't love them, they were simply what I was used to. I tried out contacts for a few years, but since I had a rather severe astigmatism, the contacts needed to correct for it weren't very comfortable. So I became a part time contacts wearer...very part time.

Four months ago, I decided to test my visual fate with Lasik eye surgery. I did the research, went to the consultations, and ultimately took the plunge. And it was a great decision! The results have been phenomenal. I had to sign my sight, life, and soul away on more wavers than I care to count, but I ended up being another success story for their file.

After the surgery, I was so drugged and woozy, I couldn't believe some people actually went to work the next day. And when the anesthesia wore off my eyes felt like they were burning hot coals. I was instructed to take another Xanax and go to sleep and when I woke up the next morning I'd be able to see. It was hard to believe, but after the second pill I passed out and the next thing I knew it was morning. For the first time that I could remember, I opened my eyes and saw my room clearly without fumbling around for my glasses. It was a miracle!

Now I won't go flowering things up and say it all was wonderful. The recovery process was lengthy and trying at times. There were a few times that I went out for the afternoon and forgot to bring eye drops, and they were burning horribly by the time I returned home. But over the past four months, the burning went away, the dryness and night vision has lessened significantly, and I've still got 20/20 vision. All in all, I'm quite the happy camper! For people in the Southern California area, I'd highly recommend my doctor, Dr. Tooma, in Newport Beach.

Happy Friday the 13th and thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

"K" is for Knowing

For today, I've included a short excerpt from my young adult novel, Provex City. This scene is during the first candid conversation between Mr. Gordon and Oliver, and in this excerpt, Mr. Gordon describes the difference between knowing and believing.

“Let’s establish what you know and what you believe," Mr. Gordon said. "A belief would be something you think is true, but you don’t have first-hand experience of; it’s based on faith. Something you have first-hand experience of is something you know to be true, no matter what anyone else says. No one can talk you out of or convince you against something you know to be true. But someone can change your mind on a belief. Throughout your life your beliefs will change, but what you know will not. What you believe you may come to know, but never the other way around.
“Right now, what you think you know about the world around you are actually beliefs. You thought you knew that instantaneous healing through the power of thought was impossible. Until about a half hour ago, you knew that to be true. You believed it to be true—as do most people—but you found out that you actually didn’t know that at all. You are now one of a select few who know that instantaneous healing through the power of thought is possible and accessible.
“Let me make one thing clear. Nothing we talk about in our sessions together is restricted to an elite few or people that were born special. Everything we talk about is accessible to anyone who can think for himself.”
“You’re still just a regular person?” I asked.
“You and I both. This is not magic. But, like I said on the first day of class, it may seem like magic to those who are unaware. You are not one of those people anymore. You’re now aware of the tip of the iceberg, and we’re going to swim under the water and see how deep the iceberg really goes."
- Provex City, pages 61-62

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

"J" is for Joy

I've watched my father work hard to progress his career. He has as strong of a work ethic as I have ever seen. There is no quit in him. There is only drive and persistence. When he retired at the end of last year, he could finally take a breath, relax, and reflect on all he had accomplished in his thirty plus years of management service. And his conclusion was that he hated nearly every minute of it.

I've seen the toll of what hating what you do everyday has on a person. And that's not a path I wish to follow. I want to enjoy what I do. I know that's asking a lot in these uncertain economic times. I should be happy with what I have. And for the moment I am. A few months ago I disembarked on a new adventure and am learning about an entirely new industry for me. So that's my day job, and by night (well, not specifically my baby-less free time) I work on my writing, which I love!

One day I plan to support myself and my family through my writing. I wouldn't be able to ask for a more fulfilling and joy-filled life. So that is where I place my attention. On my joy. I want a life full of color and high-definition. Daily joy makes that possible. Working in coffee, I saw so many people fighting just to get through each day. That's no way to live. When I retire, I don't want to say, "I fought to get here." I want to be able to say, "I enjoyed getting here." And I'll have the pictures to prove it.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

"I" is for Inner Strength

Inner strength is required to do anything outside of your comfort zone. It is required to persist when you don't initially succeed. And it is required to break through barriers and overcome obstacles standing between you and your required outcome.

Where there is no struggle, there is no strength.
-Oprah Winfrey

The publishing industry, like the other entertainment industries, is not for the weak. There are so many people trying to break in, so much networking, so subjective, and so many timing/place/luck factors that it feels like there is a thousand-foot brick wall directly past the gate. Then you have to figure out how to get to the other side. Climb? Tunnel? Barrel through? And by the grace of God you make it only to find another wall on the other side. How many more are there? It's impossible to tell. There is a different number of walls for each person. It's daunting and uncertain, and that's where inner strength truly comes in.

You can worry about how many walls you have left or you can focus on conquering the wall directly in front of you. One wall at a time. That is where I choose to focus my attention. If I can climb over one wall, then I can climb over them all. Throw me another one; I have the strength, stamina, and stubbornness to climb it! 

Strength does not come from winning.
Your struggles develop your strengths.
When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender,
that is strength.
-Arnold Schwarzenegger

Monday, April 9, 2012

"H" is for How I Met Your Mother

My wife and I began watching How I Met Your Mother about two years ago and it is legen--and you better not be lactose intolerant because the next word is--dary. Legendary! I had seen snip-its of episodes a few times but didn't connect right away and changed the channel. Then we watched the episode where Barney can't take a bad picture (season 5) and I couldn't stop laughing. We started recording reruns and then had to go back and start from the beginning.

I've been a Friends fan for many years and have all the seasons on DVD, and after watching a few episodes of How I Met Your Mother, I quickly tagged it as Friends 2.0. Fact, 83% of HIMYM fans were Friends fans first. There were so many similarities and felt like a ripoff in the beginning, but it quickly developed into a hilarious show of its own.

The Friends to HIMYM Compasison Chart:
  • Ted -- Ross 
  • Robin -- Rachel
  • Marshall -- Chandler
  • Lily -- Monica
  • Barney -- Joey
  • There had to be some differences, so Phoebe wasn't represented.
They are a group of friends in NYC, with most scenes of the show taking place in their apartments and their local hangout. In HIMYM, their local hangout is MacLaren's Pub, and in Friends it is Central Perk (but in flashback episodes Central Perk used to be a pub).

And the little cherry on top of the big cherry on top of the cupcake of awesomeness that is HIMYM is Neil Patrick Harris...I mean, Barney Stinson...and his catch phrases. What up! The show has a great ensemble, talented writers, and a diminishing laugh-track. Here are a few classic moments:

Damnit, Trudy, tell us about the pineapple!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

"G" is for Gwendolyn

I became a father 11 weeks ago and it has been quite a journey. It's been a magical, emotional, and trying experience...and it's just the beginning.

Her name is Gwendolyn, which my wife and I arrived on months ago from a five minute conversation. It was probably the easiest decision we've ever and will ever make. It was almost as easy as my decision to propose, but that's another story.

I wasn't around many kids earlier in my life, and definitely not babies. The only baby I remember holding before Gwendolyn was my sister when I was four years old. But after a few minutes of holding my daughter for the first time it just felt so natural.

She has such a firm grip and the bluest eyes, and now that she's learning to smile, she melts my heart. She's going to be deadly, my kryptonite. The dogs love to give her aggressive kisses, and one day they will be the best of friends. I'll talk later about the ghost Gwendolyn converses with. It's hilarious and creepy. She's grown so much in just a few months and I can't wait until we can do more together...the whole family.

It hasn't been easy and I've never been so tired, but I wouldn't change it for anything in the world...well,, nothing. I don't get much time when I'm home to pursue the great dream, all this and my books at your fingertips, but I've never had the drive before that I have now. It's not just for me anymore; I want to pass something on. I want to provide for her the best I can. I want her to be proud of me. I want her to be happy and pursue her dreams.

The best gifts come in small packages. And thus far, my arms are thankful of that.

Friday, April 6, 2012

"F" is for Fear

I was so tempted to title this one: "F" is for Friday! But then I was stuck.

Instead, I'm going with fear. Fear creates a lot of emotion and I enjoy using it to my advantage in my writing. Fear changes people. It causes them to do things they wouldn't normally do. Fear paralyzes people. Fear motivates people. Fear creates villains...and heroes. I love the theme of conquering fear to create a hero. There is a great struggle along the way, but the payoff, success, or reward is far greater in the end. Fear creates great stories.

In line with the fear topic, I am also a fan of horror (books and movies). I can't really explain why I enjoy it so much; my parents have often asked me because I am the only horror fan in the family. Maybe because it was a way of rebelling through my teenage years and now it's nostalgic. Maybe it was a way to build my identity and differentiate from the family instead of actually rebelling. Maybe it was me conditioning myself. I started off scared and therefor determined to continue to watch things that scared me until I conquered that fear, by which time I started to enjoy them. Maybe my morbid fascination stemmed from having a cemetery as a playing ground as a toddler. It's interesting for me to think about, but I don't have a definitive answer. All I know is that: I remember being scared of Michael Jackson's Thriller when it first came out (I must have been 4 or 5), Nightmare on Elm Street 3 was the first real horror movie I remember seeing (from 3rd or 4th grade) and thereafter haunted by nightmares of the puppet scene, and I was afraid of clowns long before I read Stephen King's It (no explaination on that one besides clowns are just scary).

And with that, I'd like to leave you with a few of my favorites in horror:
  • It (book)
  • The Exorcist (book)
  • The Exorcist (movie)
  • Halloween (movie, original)
  • Poltergeist (movie)
  • Saw (movie)
  • Paranormal Activity (movie)
  • American Horror Story (TV show)
Sometimes it's fun to be scared. And next Friday is Friday the 13th, which is a great night to turn off the lights and watch a scary movie with someone you love. Have a good scream. :)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

"E" is for Energy

And where does energy come from? For me, it's coffee. I can't function in the morning without my first cup, which comes from years of conditioning and addiction. I worked in coffee shops for about 12 years, so it was to be expected. The first espresso drink I had was a Starbucks mocha when I was 18, and I hated it! It was too bitter. Then I went on to work for Starbucks for 9 years. Now, the mocha is too sweet! Haha.

It's Thursday; you've made it this far in the work week. Friday is almost upon us. I don't know about you, but Thursday is usually the day that I need a little extra energy, a little extra kick, a little extra coffee to get me through. By the time Friday falls into place I've got the natural energy from looking forward to the weekend. I love what I do (which I'll talk about later), but come on, it's the weekend we're talking about! It's when I have the most time to write. :) Happy Thursday, everyone, and "cheers" with a piping hot cup of morning joe!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

"D" is for Dreams

This is a dual purpose post. It serves the April A-Z challenge and the IWSG.

I spend much of my time dreaming, dreaming of new stories, dreaming of what my future holds. I find my time spent dreaming is quite productive. Everything starts as a thought or a dream before it can become a reality.
"Man, alone, has the power to transform his thoughts into physical reality; man, alone, can dream and make his dreams come true." Napoleon Hill
The more clearly I dream, the more I can't wait to embrace its creation. I dream of writing for a living. I dream of living in a big house. I dream of being interviewed on The Today Show. I dream of traveling the world with my family. I dream of starting my own foundation. I dream of being a positive impact on many people's lives. I dream...

Provex City was first a dream. And now it's real. I received the proof for the paperback last week and holding it in my hands for the first time was a dream come true. I never want to lose my dreams. I never want to give up my dreams. And why should I?
"I don't dream at night, I dream all day; I dream for a living." Steven Spielberg

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

"C" is for Customer Service

I worked in customer service for about 15 years, and it was a great experience, but I never want to do it again. I'll start off by saying that I served and met some really great people, made new friends, and I genuinely enjoy being nice to people. But there are quite a few rude, condescending, and inconsiderate people out there. I think it should be mandatory for everyone to work in customer service for at least a little while. The perspective of being on the other side of the counter will help some people realize that the employees serving them are not below them.

The problem with companies pushing the pride of excellent customer service is that over the years, especially in the crippled economy, they are doing more and more for the customers. In theory it's great. But the mantra of "we will do whatever it takes to exceed your expectations" invites more people taking advantage and creating more commonplace customer insolence.

To preface the video below, when I went to see The Hunger Games a week ago, there was one super-considerate patron sitting towards the front of the theater continually playing with his/her phone. My eyes kept being drawn to the phone screen as it flashed on and off throughout the movie. That's when I appreciate companies that fight back.

Monday, April 2, 2012

"B" is for Bugsy

Bugsy is the bigger of our two Chiweenies, weighing in at a whopping 15 pounds. We got him when he was about 10 months old from a foster family. He had already been returned by another family, but he seemed so nice and mellow when we met him. How could someone not love this dog? We adopted him that night and he cried all the way home. It was heartbreaking.

Now, Bugsy, the slayer of many dragons, is famous in our circle of family and friends. Did I say famous, I meant to say infamous. He is so protective of his family...and hates the rest of the world. He would never attack anyone, but he barks, growls, and shakes until every last intruder has left the building. And even then, it is his duty to check every room for himself. He is not much of a guard dog, but he is quite the watch dog--he sits back and watches things happen. He'll bark to tell on our other dog, Violet, when she's getting into her daily mischief.

Bugsy, Bugsy, Bugsy...what are we going to do with you? But we've got to love him. He's part of the family, now protective of our 2.5 month old daughter, and was tax deductible. And in a past life he was a meerkat. Da Bugs.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

April 1st! The A - Z Challenge Begins! "A" is for Amazon

It has arrived, the A-Z blogging challenge. And I am not prepared! Haha. This is my first blogging challenge like this, so bare with me. I'll hopefully get it down by the end of the month.

For "A" I'm going to write about Amazon (the website, not the rainforest). I think Amazon is headed for world domination. They have and do everything! They are like Massive Dynamic in Fringe. I'm sure they're involved in multi-dimensional business and conspiracies, and have employees with many levels of clearance. What secrets hide behind their upper level doors!

I discovered the joys of shopping on Amazon a few years ago, and now I get almost everything on it. Anything I need is shipped directly to me, usually without any shipping charges. I am partially responsible for the downfall of record and book stores. I am one of those shoppers who goes to the stores to look around, finds what I want, and goes home to order it on Amazon. Sorry. But their prices just can't be beat for a great many things.

And now I have a book up on Amazon. It's crazy! Right now, Provex City is available for Kindle. And soon it will be out in paperback through Createspace...another Amazon company! Then there's AmazonEncore, their own publishing company, and their growing list of niche market imprints. They are changing the world of publishing, which I don't have the space right now to even get into.

Thank you, Amazon, for saving me so much money over the past few years and helping me get my first novel out to the world. Amazon has changed my life in a great way!
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