Joy: Taking on a Life of its Own

Life, the Universe, and Everything is both fascinating and entertaining. This is especially true when I stop focusing my attention on the “bad” things over which I have no control. I suffer emotionally, only when I am disgruntled over things I think should be different than they are. The state of “how things are right now” is called: “reality.” When I argue with reality, I accomplish two certain results: (1) I lose; and, (2) I become more disgruntled over losing an irrational dispute I had no hope of winning in the first place. My irrationality turns into clinical insanity anytime I repeat this behavior in hopes of a different outcome. This particular kind of crazy tends to take on a life of its own if left unchecked.

On the other hand, when I determine to give my attention to my own joy and peace of mind, and I focus instead on the people and events which stimulate peace and satisfaction, well, fortunately, that too tends to take on a life of its own.

Several years ago, I wrote a novel called The Ghostwalker File.  After over thirty years as a freelance writer, this accomplishment was unique in at least two ways. First, the manuscript seemed to pour directly out of my subconscious. There was none of my usual “wrestling the words onto the page.” The second thing that was different from the past three decades of writing was the resulting “joy factor.” During the months I spent getting that book ready to publish, I found myself laughing and crying from the sheer joy of living the experience. It was nothing like work.

To be honest, it was so much fun, I experienced some emotional post-partum depression when I was finished. All my life, I had read or heard stories about folks who loved their jobs in that way, but I’d never experienced it before. It took a while for me to ask myself why this book affected me so positively, and a bit longer to ask how I might revisit that joyous experience. Shortly thereafter, I was happily writing a sequel called The I.M.P. Master.

I was revisiting a world that I loved. I had created characters who were, like me, peculiar. But I had also created community, a place where weird people like me could find acceptance and friendship. Novels, after all, are fiction. They are made up. Maybe they’re not all fantasy in the classic literary sense, but this series was my fantasy. I had created my “happy place.”

Book Three in the Ghostwalker Tribe Series will be published in the summer of 2017. It’s called The White Mouse. It was every bit as much fun for me to write as the first two volumes were, and I’ve already begun the fourth installment: The Sisterhood of the Rhinestone Eye. I am proving to myself that no matter how dysfunctional the world beyond my control might be, I get to choose joy in my own day-to-day. And, having found that joy, I love that it has taken on a life of its own.


I.T. Sucks

The cover!

Now Available for Kindle and Nook!

My admiration is great for folks with Information Technology skills. The people who learn (or were born with) computer skills will effectively rule the world in the coming years. But at 61 years of age, I just don’t care to learn much more about it. I bought an Atari PC in 1980 or so, and have owned and used PCs ever since, but as the programming and file management capabilities have gotten more complicated, I sometimes find myself hating what should be the greatest tool known to mankind. It’s supposed to be an easy to use tool, but it’s not.

Forget that operating systems and their menus are forever changing, that even two computers in the same household, purchased at the same time, at the same store, will have different menus located in different places, and forget that endless updates reprogram your computer every week or so (changing nearly everything), but the nasty little beasties have now learned to lie…right to your face.

I’ve been trying to upload my new novel, The Ghostwalker File, to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Apple for their e-readers in recent days, and I am currently beside myself, staring at myself with the steely gaze of a stone cold killer, and I am on the verge of taking a framing hammer to my computer. I paid dearly to have a specialist convert my manuscript to the appropriate file formats, but after paying two freelance copy editors and proofing the manuscript a dozen times myself, I discovered a word missing in the very first sentence of the prologue…five minutes after successfully uploading the book to Amazon. “I can fix this,” I told myself. “How hard can it be to insert one word into a .epub file?”

I commanded my computer to open the file, but of course it told me that I couldn’t do that…unless. There’s always an “unless” now days. Any opportunity to sell me anything seems to make my computer giddy, and it even made an instantaneous suggestion about what programs would allow me to proceed. Thinking its first suggestion should be the best choice, I paid $30 dollars for “SpeedyPC Pro,” made a second copy of the .epub file, renamed the second .epub file, and tried to open it with my spanky-new program; which, of course, had no idea how to do it. What it did know how to do was convert the .epub file to a .speedypcpro file…which it still couldn’t open…and which Barnes & Noble wanted no part of. Not only that, it converted the original .epub file to a .speedypcpro file, so now I can’t even upload the original file with the missing word.

Even after all of that near criminal cyber-audacity, I was determined to fix the mess. I wrote my I.T. guy and requested that he make the correction for me and resend the .epub file to me, and then I completely uninstalled the dirty, rotten, lying scoundrel SpeedyPC Pro program from my computer and rebooted it. When the corrected .epub file arrived via email, I downloaded it…only to discover that it had been converted to a .speedypcpro file, apparently by a program no longer listed anywhere in my computer’s inventory. Do you understand my seething anger? Can you see how I might have been driven to the edge of I.T. madness? I wrote my expert back this morning, begging for help, but I’m not sure my semi-sane ranting got through to him. Or, if it did, perhaps he’s letting me stew in the mess as some perverted object lesson about leaving it to the pros. I’ve never been a violent man, but today I learned not to cross it off my list of possibilities.

Does Anyone Read to Their Kids Anymore?

It was my favorite time of every day for most of fifteen years. From before my daughter could understand a word I was saying until years after she could read perfectly well by herself, our bedtime story time was the best. Early on she took longer and longer turns reading books back and forth with me. We started with typical children’s books, but it wasn’t long before we tackled The Chronicles of Narnia, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, A Wizard of Earthsea, and The Book of Duncow. Now days, thankfully, my daughter reads to my five grandchildren at night.

I’m not particularly counting on a rebirth of the tradition in this day and age, but one can always hope that the practice won’t die away entirely. With that in mind, I created a new children’s series based on my love of the Native American tradition of oral storytelling that included “animal stories” or “lodge fire stories” told by a Chief or an Elder to the children at bedtime. These stories used metaphor as well or better than any writers on earth to teach children how to navigate childhood and become intelligent human beings as adults.

The sheer genius that separates these stories from so many of the Anglo stories I grew up with is their intentional lack of certainly about Life, the Universe, and Everything. There was no ONE truth about who or what “the Creator” or “the Great Spirit” was, exactly. Children heard many versions of creation, of how humans obtained fire, or of how the buzzard got his bumpy red scalp or the rabbit his long ears. While the brilliant and humorous metaphors taught useful truths about living, the children were free to let their minds imagine anything as possible when dealing with the great cosmic mysteries that befuddle even the smartest among us. Today metaphysicians call this the “not know mind,” and the idea that an open mind creates a more apt learner than a closed one has become a universal given.

So my Grandfather and Grandmother Bear Stories are my attempt to emulate this amazing tradition. I also suspect that while most children can read my stories for themselves, the real magic lies in hearing them told by a loving adult. That part of the “growing up” process is evaporating from American society at an alarming rate, and it is my hope that there are still plenty of parents and grandparents around who will join me in looking forward to a renaissance of this time-proven story tradition.