The Calm Before the Storm

You know that tingle of apprehension and expectation that comes when you catch the scent of the rain before it falls? The tell-tale dark clouds, rumbles of thunder, and flashes of lightening never fail to alert us to the approaching storm.

But what about when that storm is on the inside rather than out? What happens when the tell-tale signs are unexplained pin-pricks of pain, nerve tingling in your face, a slowly building buzz in your brain or a sudden shift of pressure that makes your head feel on the verge of exploding? Maybe you see zig-zag lines or blur spots in your vision? Perhaps what you experience is the sudden “ice pick” stab of pain in your skull that has no obvious origin?

What do you do when the calm before the storm refers to the warning signs of a hell that is about to be unleashed inside your own head?

For those of you who haven’t already figured what I am describing, I envy you. Because it means you have not experienced migraines.

I, however, and countless thousands of others like me have suffered with them on a regular basis. I know there are many who have experienced worse episodes than myself, and I won’t even attempt to speak for them. But for myself, I have battled migraines for over 13 years. They started very suddenly during a terrible sinus infection that had gotten out of control. I have suffered with them ever since. In the last two years, I have had one nearly every single day. At least 50% of those have been moderate to severe (by my internal pain scale).

My particular affliction means that my eyes are my biggest trigger receptor. So sunlight and the color white are my greatest enemies in the world. To me, bright light equals pain. Don’t get me wrong, I love a beautiful sunny day! It just doesn’t love me. I have to wear sunglasses every single day of my life from the time the sun rises until it sets, unless I am in a room with no windows and only soft lighting. Even at night, if I go into a store with bright fluorescent lights I must wear the sunglasses or suffer intense pain within the first couple minutes of exposure (that grows with intensity the longer I linger). As for going to concerts with flickering lights, forget about it! Those days are long behind me, my friend. I will never again be able to look at them, because strobe lights are an instigator as well.

I am also sensitive to smells. Lilies, lilacs, lavender, perfumes and colognes, cleaning agents (especially bleach), candles, incense, and air freshener are all torture to me. (You may have seen me running from some of the aisles in Walmart with a frantic look upon my face.)

Last but not least, noise is the other big baddie on my list. Heavy metal, rock and roll, techno, rap, anything with an unsteady beat, heavy pulsing bass, or erratic lyrics is just like nails on a chalkboard. I literally want to crawl out of my skin and escape. I know that sounds crazy, but the pain creates a desperation to escape the trigger at almost any cost.

When you live with daily pain, you just want to make it go away. Sufferers will go to great lengths just to get any kind of peace and release (even though it may be short-lived).

So every day from the time I wake up, I am living in the calm before the storm. Knowing that I am always “watching the skies” so to speak for the signs which I know are coming to announce the impending arrival of the next storm.

 

The Evil of Men’s Hearts

By now most everyone has heard of the tragedy at the Boston marathon. It horrifies me to my very core. It is worse then any scary movie or horror story on the market.

It is irrefutable proof that great evil dwells every day in the hearts of men. I say men in a general sense referring to mankind.

The fact is: men have committed greater atrocities and unforgivable acts than can ever be imagined, even in the worst of nightmares. Pointless violence for the sake of violence, done to fill a sick craving in a maniac’s mind, or to make a statement which has no direct bearing on its victims is the expression of an evil that knows no justice and fears nothing.

One can only hope for a day when darkness is finally overcome by light, when real-life villains do fall and heroes prevail, and when life is appreciated by all for the blessing that it is.

My sincerest heartfelt prayers go out to the victims and families of this latest tragedy.

 

 

Tapping Your Emotional Wellspring

It has been said by many, to write with passion and intensity the writer needs to tap into their emotional wellspring. It comes from within, brought on by life events. It can take us from happy and peaceful to any number of extremes.

Even if your present state of life is content and calm, (which I hope it is), at some point in your life you have felt pain. We all have. We’ve known our share of pain, loss, grief, sadness, desperation, desire, anger, need, and many other emotional extremes.

To fuel your creativity, start with the simple act of remembering. Close your eyes, go back in your mind, and pull the emotions from deep inside of you, until they boil over to the surface. Once it is raw and real and (sometimes) terrifying, just dive in and let go.

Daniel Kemp and The Unpredictable Nature of Life

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Daniel Kemp is a father, grandfather, poet, and an amazing author. Unlike the stories of authors who dreamed of writing stories their whole life, Daniel’s journey to writing came about in a most unexpected and challenging way.

(Daniel): I’m not sure that I was ever ‘meant’ to be a writer, I stumbled into it by accident; literarily.

I was at work one sunny November day in 2006 minding my own business, stopped at a red traffic light when a van, driven incompetently, smashed into me. I was taken to Hospital and kept in for while, but it was not just the physical injuries that I suffered from; it was mental.

I had lost all confidence in myself, let alone those around me. The experts said that I had post traumatic stress disorder, which I thought only the military or emergency personnel suffered from.

On good days I attempted to go to work, sometimes I even made it through Blackwell Tunnel only to hear, or see, something that made me jump out of my skin, and the anxiety attacks would start.

I told my wife that I was okay and going regularly but I wasn’t. I could not cope with life and thought about ending it.

Somehow or other with the help from my wife, and the host of professionals that I saw, I managed to survive and ever so slowly, rebuilt my self-esteem.

It took almost four years to fully recover and become what I now am, somewhere close to what I was before that day, but it was during those dark depressive days that I began to write.

My very first story, Look Both Ways, Then Look Behind, found a literary agent but not a publisher. He told me that I had a talent, raw, but nevertheless it was there. After telling me to write another story, he said that there were two choices open to me: One, wait for a traditional deal. At sixty-two, with no literary profile or experience; little hope. Two, self-publish through New Generation Publishing.

This, I’m delighted to say, I did.

His career as a writer really took off after a chance meeting.

(Daniel): About a month after The Desolate Garden was published I met, by pure chance, a film producer, who on reading my novel paid me for a twelve month option to turn my story into a film.

I’m a licensed London taxi driver and met him in that capacity. It was, he said, exactly what he was looking for.

This is maybe why. It is copied from a review, and summary, of an Australian journalist’s radio broadcast from the novel.

 “The Desolate Garden is especially for readers who like a story, largely rendered through dialog because it was the dialog that pulled the work off the page and onto a movie set. This political thriller resonates with charm, deft touches of satire, and romantic entanglement and where the promise of rampant sex is a turn of the page away.”

I should add here that there is no graphic sex nor gratuitous violence in the story and it is suitable for all ages

He wrote something recently that he led to an unexpected opportunity.

(Daniel): I posted this three-line romantic poem on the internet a week or so ago.

“To rise from a barren earth.

To soar above, to wing away.

To escape from all that’s lacking, and live to love another day.”

From it, I met another author who liked it so much that she commissioned me to do the prophecy at the heart of her enticing tenth century novel. It was an honour and great privilege to do.

The book is titled Viking Hearts, and written by Robynn Gabel.

 It tells the story of a boy left to die by his Viking parents because of the birth stain on his face. He is suckled by wolves until discovered by the Druids who believe he is their answer to this ancient prophecy. The boy becomes…..and there I will stop.  Allowing your imagination to take over. This is the Prophecy I wrote.

The story is hidden in this, and follows the chronological order of the tale.

 “There be cometh a boy that a wolf did raise, with a blotch and stain on his face.

He hath a twin who will rule this land, that only he hath the right to replace.

‘Tis a leader of men he will become, with much victory and treasure at his feet.

But that is not all that will trouble him. T’is much danger he will meet.

 

His image will be seen at an altar, where a marriage will be made.

T’will be a terrible time of vengeance, when plans will be laid.

Come one score year and seven, a mask of death will fall.

The boy will stand alone as a man, with ner’e a fear of its call.

 

All is not pure that lives inside, as greed is hidden away.

With no pleasure the Gods will watch, with much pain and dismay.

Ner’e wielding axe, ner’e slashing blade will spill nor cease his breath.

T’will be only a mirror of disguise that can bring upon him death.

 

Ner’e human hand can take his life, though many will want to try.

He is blessed from the heart of the forest, and to water one day he’ll fly.

T’will be a reflection of his own face he will see that coming day,

But all but the eyes will be hidden from view, secured far away!”

If he could give advice to his younger self, what would he say?

(Daniel): What a question and where to start! One part of me would want to say, change; don’t become what you did, but then again I have loved my life. What some could call ‘mistakes’ I would call ‘opportunities.’ There are so many hackneyed clichés one could use here, but I wrote another poem, that my granddaughter now has, that sums me up quite well. This is it. 

Along the Way.

“I am heavy, I am tired” said the old man to the child. “My life, is drawing to an end. It is not what I have done to life that has brought me here today, but what life has done to me along the way.

I was strong, I was fierce, I took no-one to my side, simply brushing them aside with no need of them. Now I find that I’m alone, but don’t pity nor disown those memories that I’ve sown, along the way.

My path was never straight, sometimes narrow, sometimes wide but along it I did stride to find you here. And I am pleased that I did, otherwise you would never know what I managed in my life, along the way.

I have reached that final bend, the one that leads me to my end, and now I leave you here to make your own way through this life. Tread your path with care, and always be aware that there is no such thing in life, as a mistake. 

Daniel’s book “The Desolate Garden” is available in here!

Daniel Kemp Cover Art

Check out Daniel Kemp’s website here.

Daniel’s on Twitter.

Clowning Around With Jim “Soapy” Dixon

Jim Dixon

Today’s interview spotlights a special guest of mine, Jim Dixon or Soapy, as he is known in the clowning world. To take a quote from his own webpage:

Soapy has been providing entertainment for the Wichita and surrounding area for 18 years. His number of performances is now in the range of 1800, and the education of other clowns is the next step.”

Clowning is not simply painting on a big smiley face, donning some goofy clothes, and running around, tripping and falling for comic relief.

Clowning truly is an art form, and it should be appreciated as such. It incorporates so many different disciplines: face painting, makeup, storytelling, skits, gags, balloons, balancing, juggling, slapstick comedy, costumes, and more.

Now, let’s talk to Jim and learn a little more about the industry from an insider perspective.

Tell me Jim, how did you get started in your career as a clown?

“The answer to that probably isn’t what most people would like to hear; but the truth is I got into it as a ‘for profit’ job, because I saw the potential after having taken a class at a local rec center. I took the class for stress relief, because I was going through a really terrible period in my life; and the instructor said that I was good and he would pay me $65 a birthday party to do it for him; and after a while I decided to break off and do my own. For probably a decade, I was a ‘for profit’ clown. I did not love clowning as a craft, I loved the income that it could provide. It wasn’t until Master Clown, Jim Howell paid me one of the most amazing compliments ever that I realized that, “Hey, I actually do love this”.

Another factor that made me realize how much I love clowning was that I started working at night and realized that I physically couldn’t do working at night, working during the day, and clowning on weekends. So I decided to retire and it took about two weeks before I realized I couldn’t give it up, I actually liked doing it.” 

Jim, what factor has helped you the most in your current success as a performing clown?

I would say it’s my mild autism. I didn’t know I had it until I was diagnosed  with it at 40 years old, and suddenly everything started making sense. As far as how it helps me with bein a clown, I become obsessed with things that I like doing. I become obsessed, and because of that I’ve taken my clowning past what most people would have stopped at. Also, I see patterns. Because I see patterns, I think  it helps me in both skits, balloons, and comedy magic.  I see patterns of behavior in people, so I can anticipate better and when I anticipate better I can prepare better.” 

Makes good sense, the better prepared you are, the better you will think on your feet (so to speak).

Okay, if you could attain any goal with your clowning, what would you hope to attain?

“The answer is: I want to see the industry completely improved. I want to see the industry, as a whole, develop a sense of pride and quality that would make it less scary to people.

I would want to see the industry, as a whole, become something that everybody wants to do, instead of everybody wanting to make fun of it and make fun of it in a bad way, not the way it should be made fun of.

It’s the industry that I want to see improve. So if I could attain a goal for myself, it would be to be a good teacher, where I would make a difference in the success of clowning, because the problem with clowning right now is that anybody can pretty much do it. There is no restrictions on anything. Its an industry where you can throw on a little makeup and some pajamas, call yourself a clown, and start doing birthdays, and what that does is it kills the industry. My goal that I would love to see is to have education or at least help with the education of new clowns.” 

Learn more about Jim “Soapy” Dixon through his website: http://sillysoapy.com/

You can also learn more about the art of clowning at:

Clowns of America, International

Mooseburger Camp

Getting Published – Is It Really As Hard As It Seems?

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How many times have you dreamed of writing a book? How often have you wondered how to get a book published?

We have all heard discouraging stories about the difficulties of getting work published. Yet many authors have managed to do it; so what is it they know that you don’t? What are the tricks of the trade so to speak?

It’s time to get all the insider information you’ve been waiting for with Gabe Berman’s brilliant new book, “The Complete Bullshit-Free and Totally Tested Writing Guide: How To Make Publishers, Agents, Editors & Readers Fall In Love With Your Work” available now on Amazon.com!

Get it here!

A Look at Life Lessons with R.S. Guthrie

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Today’s interview spotlights writer, R.S. Guthrie. In case your not already familiar with this talented man, we will start things off with a brief look at his bio:

R.S. Guthrie grew up in Iowa and Wyoming. He has been writing fiction, essays, short stories, and lyrics since college.

“Black Beast: A Clan of MacAulay Novel” marked Guthrie’s first major release and it heralded the first in a series of Detective Bobby Macaulay (Bobby Mac) books. The second in the series (Lost) hit the Kindle shelves December of 2011.

Guthrie’s “Blood Land” is the first in the Sheriff James Pruett Mystery/Thriller series and represents a project that is close to his heart: it is set in a fictional town in the same county where he spent much of his childhood and still visits.

Guthrie lives in Colorado with his wife, Amy, three young Australian Shepherds, and a Chihuahua who thinks she is a 40-pound Aussie!

Now let’s dive into the questions:

Tell me R.S., if you had to pick a favorite from among your writing projects, which one would you pick?

(R.S.) – “My third book, which is the first in my James Pruett mystery series, because I have always wanted to write about the people, land, and mannerisms where I grew up in Wyoming. It’s a place of which I’m very proud and when people read the books (I have a second out and a third on the way) and tell me that they felt like they were there and they loved it, well, that’s exactly what I was hoping for, so it’s pretty gratifying.”

Most people start writing as a hobby, dabbling a little here and there along the way. But for some writers, things happen in their lifetime that changes them as people and as writers. What was that moment for you?

(R.S.) – “When my son died of SIDS in 2008 it went so deep into my heart and soul that my writing changed. It wasn’t that the emotions weren’t already there, or that I wasn’t already the writer I was, but his death caused me (willing or not) to really plug into my core. That’s why I am so adamant to other writers that they need to dig down, use the pain, too.”

You have my deepest sympathies on the loss of your son. As a parent, that is the nightmare that keeps me up at nights (worrying about my kids).  

Considering where you are at in life now and the lessons you have learned along the way, what advice would you give the younger writer you once were?

(R.S.) – “Write earlier. Write later. Write more. Write when you don’t feel like doing it. Make writing a part of every day, even if it’s just a fun short-short, blog. But man, once you’re forty, you have yourself in a rut where it’s too easy to put off (like exercise or a million other things in your life). I would have told myself that to be a writer there can be nothing more important in your life (elementally speaking).”

Sounds wise indeed and gives credence to the “practice makes perfect” theory.  🙂

I have asked other writer’s this, and I’m curious what you will say, but have you ever struggled with writer’s block?

(R.S.) – “I seriously don’t believe in writer’s block, per se. We get jammed up or blocked by something else in our lives (usually stress or pain from something) and creativity takes a blank canvass. I believe Life (capital “L” intentional) blocks our creativity and that’s what we writers call “writer’s block”. Until you deal with whatever is blocking your creativity, you CANNOT force writing. I mean you can do some writing exercises (I usually blog when I can’t come up with something for whatever I’m writing at the time—for some reason I can always blog). Now here’s the upside: if the thing that is blocking the creativity is something painful or dark (say a death in the family), use it. As I mentioned before, you should be using it anyway. Break through by figuring out what it is that’s stressing you and use those emotions to get you going on that page—infuse those emotions into a character, or a new plot twist. Say you were stressing about an upcoming family vacation. Jump a couple chapters ahead (i.e. disjoint from your current time line) and write about your character preparing for ______ (it doesn’t have to be a vacation; use the emotion you’re feeling to infuse a great scene for your character (and it can be something you use later, earlier perhaps, or even not at all, but it will get you writing like crazy).”

Were you ever inspired by other authors?

(R.S.) – “John D. MacDonald and the Travis McGee series really got me interested in writing Mysteries in a recurring character format, but it wasn’t until I read James Lee Burke and his Dave Robicheaux series that I really feel like I found my voice. I was recently fortunate enough to meet Mr. Burke at a book fair and then listen to him speak.”

On that note, are there any favorite books you are particularly fond of?

(R.S.) – “Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. There are several audiobook recordings of it, but a very special one, narrated by Scott Brick, is the most soothing, wonderful literature I’ve ever heard. I can listen to it anywhere – honestly it is like one of those relaxing Zen CDs. For me Brick accentuates what Conrad was shooting for as the writer; he assists in telling the tale rather than detract from it. Another combination of narrator/author that is completely magical is Actor Will Patton (Remember the Titans, Armageddon) reading many of the James Lee Burke newer collection. He is so perfect I can’t imagine listening to anyone else.”

Out of curiosity, what are the top three things on your bucket list (assuming you have one)?

(R.S.) – “1. Visit Scotland; 2. Meet Clint Eastwood; 3. Fly, just once, in one of those new wingsuits that allow you to leap off a four-thousand foot mountain, fly for several minutes, and then slow down, pull your chute, and land. You reach speeds over 200 miles per hour. (The death rate in that sport is near 100% if you stay in it for more than like five years. But there’s just something about it. Watch it here.)

Disclaimer about #2: I’m not a stalker. But if I could meet Clint just once and have a half hour or an hour with him, man, that would be amazing.”

I’m inclined to agree with you on #2. Clint is the man!

As we wrap things up, can I convince you to share a little known fact about yourself?

(R.S.) – “In 2002 I had cancer and just this past July, I hit my ten year anniversary cancer-free!”

That’s awesome news, Congrats! May you be blessed with many more decades of cancer free living.

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Now that you have gotten the skinny on R.S. Guthrie, check out one of his books:

 

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Blood Land Synopsis:

Crime’s an ugly constant in the big city. L.A. Chicago. New York. But when a savage murder brutalizes a small town and neighbor turns on neighbor, a tough-as-nails cop is essential to restoring order. Blood Land is a gritty, emotional saga set in the Wyoming badlands with both greed and vengeance at its core—the first in a series of James Pruett Mystery/Thrillers.

When billions of dollars in natural gas rights hang in the balance and the town’s top law officer’s wife is slain by her own blood, a reluctant hero is forced to battle his own demons and ultimately choose between justice, revenge, and duty.

In the tradition of Dennis LehaneTony Hillerman and James Lee Burke, Guthrie’s sparse, haunting storytelling compliments his talent for creating richly-drawn, unflinching law officers with human frailties and a sense of justice.

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Don’t forget to check out these links for even more tidbits of info on R.S. –

Official Website of R.S. Guthrie

R.S. Guthrie’s Amazon Author Page

R.S. Guthrie on Facebook

R.S. on Twitter