Monday, October 27, 2014

On Mortality

I’m going to ramble a little bit here… roll with me if you have the time.

Recently I had an experience that made me examine my fragile grip on life. I write about everything that happens in my life... so I feel like it would be cheating not to talk about this... even if what I have to say may sound all-too-familiar or even a little cliché. It wasn’t a profound awakening in a church… or a car accident… or the birth of a child… no. I had a heart attack. It happened suddenly, on a Saturday morning (the 18th of October) at home, with only my 7 year old daughter awake. It was the worst pain I’d ever felt, and preceded several days of floating in and out of consciousness while procedures and tests were performed. It kept me in the CCU for a week, and completely brought my life to a halt.

I’m 37 with bad genetics, a lot of stress, poor sleeping habits, and (until recently) a pack a day addiction to Camels. Death, it occurred to me, had been a very real possibility. It was as if some fictional reaper from a CW television show had decided to tap me on the shoulder… but then let me go on my way. I'd like to pretend that it was no big deal... that it was just a thing that happened, and it was in my past... an experience I could draw on... and not much more... but that's not true.

It shook me up, it shook up my family, it distressed those who know and care about me… but how it really impacted me… is still influencing me… that was the real surprise.

I had to examine how I feel about the subject of death, and it came out a little differently than I’d have imagined it would. I could spend time here telling you about my changes in diet, rest, and stress… about my ongoing rehab, and my increased fascination with how my children know me… but the difference I’m dealing with in my creative life has been the most fascinating to me.
I’ve started talking things out, a form of therapy I suppose, through fiction - letting my characters discuss the things that were on my mind and it’s led me to some dark places. It has also made me somewhat comfortable (how is that even possible, right?) with the idea of being gone.

These are two passages that I’ve worked on since this happened… I think they illustrate what I’m saying fairly well:

“Life is so fragile, so frail. Ending it… breaking it… there’s no magic in that. It’s simple, and easy, and takes little or no thought at all. Fixing what’s broken? That requires a spark of magic… a flicker of what some might call the divine.  True Magic, however, comes from unbreaking… from unending… from making the damage, the pain, or the death… not have happened. That can mean to a body, it can mean to a mind, an emotional core… or even to the very soul of a being. To undamaged a soul would be the strongest magic imaginable."
“Orpheus failed. That was the goddamned point. He did everything he could… he moved heaven and Earth, softened the hearts of the hardest of gods and in the end Eurydice stayed dead. Death has meaning. It is profound and it is forever. You flaunt that, and because of that I will always oppose you.”

Writing immortal characters (by way of ‘for instance’)… in paranormal fiction has shifted in its overall gravity for me… 

We (everyone) all live on beyond ourselves… I’ve been aware of that since I was a child and attended the funeral of a very beloved relative. We do that though what we leave behind… who we leave behind… marks we’ve left on the people and places and things in our live. Again, nothing I wasn’t aware of. I’ve been in love with Shakespear's Sister’s Hello (Turn Your Radio On)… and the lyric that always hit me the hardest was “Life is a strange thing… just when you think you’ve learned how to use it’s gone…”. I knew this was true.

I knew it like I know that Jupiter is out there… in space… in its orbit.  It’s a fact, but a fact with no reality for support. I believed these things were true, but now I had them hit me in the face.

Death is the result of life… and the sum of what we do while we are alive is shown through what we leave behind. I’m leaving three great kids… I’m leaving some words I’ve strung together here and there… and those whose lives I’ve touched. This matters to me a lot more than I had realized.

People are telling me to take it easy… to rest… but if anything this experience has led me to want to do more… to create more… to complete more. I want to leave a more full body of work behind me. Ultimately I guess that may be ego, or vanity… I just want to do everything now. I want people that were close to me, my family, my friends… my kids… to have something to point to and say “I knew the guy who did that” or “I was inspirational in that thing being made” or “I was a part of making that”. I’m not sure what that says about me as a person… but it certainly feels like I’m doing that whole ‘get busy living or get busy dying’ thing that Andy Dufresne talked about in Shawshank. 

I’m pushed, almost beyond myself, to write… to shoot… to create… and I feel almost reborn. It’s as though I was turned off and back on again so that I could free up my processes and focus on work I should have been doing instead of getting bogged down in the stress of day-to-day nothing… in bills and yard work… in car repairs and dinner plans... in grocery shopping and dirty dishes…

If I have anything to say, now… to all of you who are still reading this… to those who are still with me… it is this: Don’t let it take a heart attack… a stroke… a car wreck… cancer… tragedy… to focus you.

Find what you love… do it. All the time… with all you have. Live a life that you’re proud to look back at. Don’t waste time stressing the small stuff… and don’t pause or hold back because of what others think or say… or what they might think or say… live your life, with passion… and make your dreams real… (even if it sounds kinda Disney… or Hallmark…)

Life really is too short… make the most of every piece of every second. You don't have to believe me... it won't be any less true if you don't.

Just my two cents... take it for what it's worth... 



Friday, October 3, 2014

A Review - Paper Souls

I gave this book 5 out of 5 stars. (even if it really should be 5+)

The Blurb: 

From the author of the bestselling genre-defining Enchanters series, comes a new literary tour de force about Emily, a young woman balancing two worlds between her fingertips: the one that is real to her and the one that is real to everyone else…

The question is: which one will she choose?

Never romanticizing what it means to be a twenty-something schizophrenic in a world broken by normalcy and half-baked fairytales, Allie Burke’s latest novel unites Emily and her world at large spanning from the streets of Russia, to the sheets of her bed, to the idiosyncratic comfort she gets from worlds that don’t exist at all.

Woven with angst and darkness, bursting with heartache, Paper Souls tells of the irreparably damaged and broken, and how they survive.

The only thing I could think to say.... after I finished reading... and my mind stopped reeling (more time than I've gotten from a book in a long time) was exactly this: "Breathtakingly Overpowering!"

Seriously... just... Damn!

There is an electric spark to the words contained in this text. A vibrant shocking rhythm that draws you on to keep reading as the time, the hours, even the world around you melts away and you are with Emily. You can see in and through and around her in a visceral, living, breathing way that is rare to find in most books.

The subject matter, and blunt 'in-your-face' delivery, are both refreshing and unexpected. The chaos of the just being in Emily's world is riveting and a bit frightening.

This is 126 pages of 'can't-put-it-down'... 'punch-you-in-the-face'... raw... emotional... sexual... painful... furious... funny... frightening... force.

I wish I could think clearly enough to articulate all that this book brought up in me, but I am still awash in it. This is a book you cannot pass up (no exaggeration).

Most certainly the first absolute #MUSTREAD I've come across in far too long.

Don't just take my word for it though. Here's what other people have had to say:
"One of the most unique, tortured tales I've ever read." -Marni Mann, #1 Bestselling Author of Seductive Shadows

"The pages drip of human sweat and sexuality, of our duplicity and self centeredness, of our anger and kindness. Without preaching a deeper literary theme, she captures the essence of the human condition. Read this book. By the end of the first paragraph you will be hooked." -Jerry Gentry, Author of Syn: Fin            

"A heart-wrenching, beautifully woven tale of survival." -Wendy Garfinkle, Author of Serpent on a Cross

"A beautifully tangled knot woven around love and angst. This thought provoking journey will take your mind on a ride you'll never want to come off of. Paper Souls is a unique story of realism told through surreal thoughts." -Shari Ryan, Bestselling Author of Schasm

- Dennis Sharpe

Paper Souls on

Paper Souls on (Kindle or Paperback)