Should we separate art from the artist?

Human beings can create extraordinary things. Human beings can also do horrendous things to one another. And yet, somehow, the same people who are capable of doing horrible things may also be capable of making beautiful things. It doesn’t seem logical. Yet, humans defy this simple equation every day.

So, when an artist does something – say morally unacceptable – do we immediately negate everything he or she has ever done? On the basis that we disagree with his or her personal life? Or do we let it slide because hey, it’s not the art we disagree with, it’s the person. And one’s art – be it story, film, a painting –  ought to stand on its own. Right?

Bestselling author Andrew Klavan tends to think so. His admission that once a piece of art – written, painted, sculpted, etc. – is made for the masses, then it’s no longer the artist’s; it’s in the eyes of the beholder, so to speak. It takes on its own identity. And thereby is apart from its source.

This is a tough call, I’d argue. After all, one of art’s primary functions is to invoke a response. Good or bad. It’s up to the consumer. But, if we are more aware of the person who made it, then we might have a different outlook on what has been produced.

This perspective is becoming increasingly difficult to hold to by today’s standards. After all, we live in the age of social media. People’s thoughts and knee-jerk emotions can be plastered all over the world in a matter of seconds. So if you’re someone of influence, those words or phrases can spread like wildfire. As can allegations against your name, brand, and image.

Such has been the case of many starlets and celebrities in 2017. Kevin Spacey was fired from his hit television show. Harvey Weinstein’s entire legacy was left in tatters. And to go back aways, Bill Cosby’s wholesome stand-up comedy now looks like a cover for his secret life of seduction (this one has really hurt me).

All that being said, do we marshall on knowing that these people had the best intentions in mind? Or do we reject their work because they’ve offended us? The jury may still be out on that one.

Until then, I’ll continue debating this very topic.

The Color of Soul – January 24, 2015

The Color of Soul

In keeping with my book-a-month challenge, I’ll be releasing another ebook this weekend, The Color of Soul, on Kindle. And yes, the black and white cover was intentional.

This one is shorter than last month’s, The Scientist’s Dilemma, and follows two brothers who have sat down to craft a story together; two creatives bouncing ideas off one another, making something original, and using plenty of color to do so. Told through the voice of the elder brother, Curt, this was a story I literally wrote in about two weeks. I’m not short-changing the effort, I just wanted to tell a story between brothers. I have five of them myself. It’s an interesting dynamic and I’ve enjoyed it greatly. It felt good to touch on that in this short story.

What’s more, I wanted to produce something simple. Something that was original and something that was unique. I feel this story does some justice in that arena so I’m pleased with that.

I’ve always been intrigued with how color affects mood. Each has a specific feeling attached to it. The brothers point that out rather poignantly throughout. Right down to the core.

Since it’s a shorter story, it moves along rather quickly and my hope is that people can read it in an hour or two. But, if it takes you longer, then that’s just as well.

Moving forward, my other hope is to have The Color of Soul in audio format. So as I prep for February’s next release, I’ll be working towards my first audiobook. Much thanks to my friend, Kris, who has been schooling me in audio training. It’s clearly been needed and I’m grateful.

More to come on that later, but for now, The Color of Soul is slated to be available on Saturday, January 24. And for those who read The Scientist’s Dilemma, there are a few “easter eggs” in The Color of Soul for you. Enjoy.

Talents and gifts we wish we had

Short break from the story writing here. A few more thoughts I’ve had since I’m almost through with Spirit Run. Reflecting on the stories I’ve written has really opened up some good observations, I feel. Especially with the type of week I’ve had.

I believe every person has a talent. Yes, each and every one of us has a gift of some kind. That sounds like some cheesy Hallmark card, but it’s the truth. The usual list of suspects come to mind – singing, dancing, sports, etc. You know, the ones that get glorified in social media and late night television. There are other, “less glamorous” talents though too; just as important and in some ways, even more important: leading, teaching, mentoring, organizing, building, puzzle-solving, navigating, etc. So you see, there are plenty of talents out there. I’m sure you have one. But even so, and despite the talent you’ve been given, we still find time to covet someone else’s gift. Somewhere there’s a skill, an ability, or even a trait that we wish we had. We look at this person’s gift and we covet it greatly. We want it for our own. Ever feel that way? Oh, I’m sure you have.

Mine is drawing.

I royally suck at drawing. Not just a mediocre, average kind of sucking – I’m talking the royal kind. Granted, I can trace things. I’m pretty good at tracing objects. So long as I’m provided a piece of paper lying over top of the intended image, I’m fine. Oh, and I have to be able to see through that paper clearly too. Then I’m good as gold. But stick me with a pencil and paper and ask me to come up with an original piece of work and I’m sunk. It’s just not gonna happen. I can see the picture in my head, but the translation I create on paper is so heavily filtered that it looks like a tank rolled through a war zone.

I recall being asked to make a self portrait in the 11th grade. I thought it was an opportunity to finally hone my skills and convince myself that I had some artistic talent. Well, what did happen was something resembling microwaved jello. Ugh. Was I really that bad?

Yes. Yes, I was.

And still am to this day. There are times where I have isolated moments of triumph though. A friend of mine asked me to draw a stick figure on his paper once. I accomplished that feat quite nicely from what I remember. Beyond that? Well, I haven’t had much success. So drawing is my kryptonite. The one thing I will probably never be able to do, but covet all the same. And I hate that.

It’s the great tragedy of my generation. With so many options on our plate, we think we ought to have all of the talents out there. And if we aren’t keeping up with the person next to us, then we ought to be trying harder. But I would say otherwise – along with so many others, I’m sure. Why waste time trying to be a banker when you love to cook? Why try to be a guidance counselor when you hate hearing other people’s problems? And why try to draw your work when you’re made to write it? No one person can do it all.

As a writer, I need others to help get ideas out. I will need those who are gifted in editing, gifted in publishing, gifted in teaching, and so on. And while that’s going on, I know other people will require my talents to help get their own ideas out. Or at least make sense of those ideas by putting them into words; words they couldn’t come up if they tried to do it themselves. See how that works? It’s a great feeling when you come to that realization – the epiphany that your gifts can and will be used to their utmost capacity if you’ll allow for it to happen.

But first, you have to hone the gift that’s yours. Only then will you find yourself not coveting everyone else’s, wondering if what you’re doing is right or not. That’s a road to real satisfaction. Cheesy Hallmark card and all.

Coming up for air

So, have you taken in the new year yet? It’s been 2014 for a little over a week now. Actually, it’s been about two weeks if you’re counting correctly. Anything changed for you yet? Anything worth reporting on? Celebrating, perhaps?

Well, as for me, I made some small goals last year and I was blessed by having several of those goals realized. And as a bonus, I had a few others come my way that I wasn’t expecting. That was very exciting. This is not to say that I didn’t experience some unexpected problems. I cut ties with my publisher; I gave up several social things (such as coaching and my wonderful bowling team) and my car was in the shop more than it was on the road. But if that’s all that I have to worry about, then I’m doing rather well.

In my last post, I stressed how I was going to not stress about the big goals I may have. To be better at taking things as they come. Turns out that’s a really hard thing to do for a Type A like myself. But that’s what I also love about it – the challenge. And because of said challenge, I did something to further stretch myself in the new year: I fasted from writing for a week. And when I say “writing”, I mean anything creative. No making notes, no blogging, no preparation – nada.

That probably doesn’t make much sense considering how I’m a writer. I need to write in order to survive – both financially and for my own peace of mind. So taking a break from writing may appear to be something like professional suicide. Like an employee who takes a week’s vacation without pay. But I knew this was a needed appointment with myself, regardless of my apprehensions towards the decision.

Why? Well, it’s simple: we need breaks. Fasting is more than just the act of being fast. And it’s more than just giving up something for a short while because you were told to do so. It’s a release. Too many times we find ourselves in the same old, same old. We repeat patterns of behavior, for good or bad, and we slowly grow accustom to the familiarity of whatever process we’ve adopted. What started out as inspirational may become routine; thus, lacking any heart, any conviction, or any proof of passion. That piece of us, the reminder, becomes buried beneath all the busy work of the objective. Pursuit is cast aside and the vision becomes clouded.

Knowing this, I took a breather. Writing can be a spontaneous yet grueling trade to take up, but I love it all the same. And as with anything that’s anchored in creativity, we need to take a hiatus once in a while. If nothing else, to be reminded of the call that we were given a long time before passion was replaced with procedure and process. Not that those things are bad – procedure and process – we need both to effectively live our lives, but we also need to have the passion to live it fully.

So here I am, a week later, and the writing juices are free to flow once more. I’m excited to see what happens.

The first rejection letter


Nearly a month ago, I made a decision to leave my full-time job and really go after this writing thing. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved stories. Not just hearing them, but telling them too. And now, I’m trying to make this passion of mine a reality.

Anyone who knows me personally, or follows this blog, or is fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to have picked up one of my recent works, understands that I’ve tried my hand at self-publishing. I’ve published two books in the last two years – all within the realm of self-publishing – and I’ve learned a great deal from the experience. Some good and some bad. But what it’s taught me is that you have to be serious about a dream. Sure, it comes from within, but you have to be disciplined with that inner feeling. Otherwise it’s wasted. Wasted time and wasted energy.

I can certainly say that I got absorbed in the hype of self-publishing. This is not to say that self-publishing is a bad thing. No, do not hear me wrong on this. There were so many great stories about writers who began their careers in self-publishing so naturally I wanted to do the same. The recent craze involving Hugh Howey’s new sci-fi series, Wool, makes me think that there is a place for self-publishing success. That someone can, and will, be successful at self-publishing if they are ambitious enough and know how to tackle the marketplace.

But that’s Hugh Howey’s story. Not mine. I have since resolved to try another route: to go beyond self-publishing and find representation from an agency. Though I may return to my roots someday, I feel like this is the road I’m headed on. And to my benefit, I will have the opportunity to republish and reprint my original works on a larger scale if I choose to do so. What’s more, I can further learn how the industry works and how it truly functions. That, I’m sure, will be an ongoing process. One that I’m looking forward to with much anticipation.


In the spirit of that new road I’m on, I’ve decided to share my first rejection letter. What I’ve attached is the image of my first email query letter. To those who are unfamiliar, the query letter is intended as a means to gain interest for your work. If you’re a writer looking to get a book deal, you would address one to a writing agent or agency, all in the hopes that they will be interested enough to back you and your manuscript. You could call it an open solicitation to sell your book and yourself. Believe in it. Own it. Because if you don’t, then nobody else will either.

I removed the names of the parties involved, as well as their contact info, as I don’t want to be responsible for a lawsuit (that would be bad). I just want this to be a good reminder that all things take time. Not every hit will be a homerun, but I’ve seen homeruns hit before so I know they’re possible. I also want to make mention that by no means is this a “I’ll show you” moment to the agent. I would hope that anyone reading this will be encouraged to keep moving forward because I’m sure I’ll get more of these rejection letters in the future. I can only hope that they’ll be as cordial as this one was. Nobody likes being told their idea is crap. That could require some counseling. In some ways, it feels like I lost my prom date. Which is fine because there are plenty of fish in the sea. Interestingly enough, the book I’m soliciting is about being single (a larger dose of irony, if I do say so).

So to wrap up, this is the new journey I’m on; a road to representation and more publications. A friend of mine recently told me that every failed attempt is another step towards inevitable success. That’s a great way to survey the landscape of one’s own life. We usually hear about the success stories and momentary triumphs, but we easily forget how many missed shots there were in the lead up to that final breakthrough. This letter, marked up with my notes and my thoughts, is just one of those stories. From here, I’ll just need to keep stepping and see where it goes from there.

Writers vs. Authors – ok, go.

When someone asks me what I do for a living, I usually say, “Do you have a couple minutes to let me explain?” It’s not that I’m a raving narcissist and just want to hear myself talk (sometimes), it’s just that I’ve always tripped up on how to describe my life as a writer/author. It’s not helpful that I’m relatively new to this gig either. After six years of working in insurance, you’d think I’d be an expert at selling myself. But in all honesty, the reverse is true.

Why is that?

I suppose the biggest hang up I have is knowing what follows my answer. “Oh, you’re a writer, are you? Well, what exactly do you write?”

That’s a toughie right there. That question can be as broad or as specific as it can get. For if you present yourself as a writer, then people may assume that you’re actively writing. You could be a technical writer for a large company or you could be a beat writer for a local newspaper. You could also be an aspiring author who is looking to make a career out of telling great stories (that one sounds the most appealing to me…). But if you say you’re an author, then people have the perception that you’re established in the publication world. And when that happens, you have to describe just what it is you’ve spent your time writing about. Be it something totally irrelevant or totally absurd to the ears of a questioning acquaintance.

I’ve been fortunate enough to be engaged in both of these conversations. So I know a little something about how this show plays out. When I say I’m a writer, people ask what it is I choose to write about. So I give the answer that I write all sorts of things – experience-based satire, fiction, fantasy, and other fun stuff like that. Depending on what nerve you hit, the other party may probe a little further. “Satire, eh? What kind of satire?” or “So you’re into fantasy stuff? What types?” And from there, the conversation becomes give and take. You share a bit about why you choose to write about those topics while the other person tells you why that topic interests them so greatly. I find this to be very enjoyable. I learn a little to a lot about the person I’m talking to and in turn, they learn a little bit of something about me. Not a bad outing, I’d say.

But what happens when I say I’m an author? Well, I get some rather mixed reactions….

“An author, huh? How successful are you?”
“So you say you’re an author? How many books have you sold?”
or my favorite….
“You don’t look like an author. Shouldn’t you have a big beard or something?”

I’ve discovered the unfortunate truth (and you should too) that people love to address social status when presented with the opportunity to do so. And why wouldn’t they? The term “author” gives the implication of established credit. That you’ve “made it” somehow in your profession. In order for you to be an author, you must have published something significant. No one goes throwing around the term “author” unless he feels like he’s accomplished something, lest he be labeled a fool for doing so. And thus, these are the reactions one can receive for being so bold.

So what do you say when addressed with such inquiries? Well, to answer each of those above questions in order, here are some of my responses:

“More than I can count.”
“I can’t grow effective facial hair but I’m hoping to do so one day, thank you.”

I’ve made certain to rehearse each of those for each situation. It’s the preparation that makes all the difference, I assure you.

But in all seriousness, I’ve published two books to date and therefore take great pride in saying that I’m an author. On the flipside of that statement, I love to write about just about anything so I’d rather not pigeonhole myself in the guise of a particular genre (which just so happen to be short story satire). I plan on writing fictional short stories and I’m dabbling in some fantasy and mystery ideas too. So if I’m smart about it, and recognize that every person I talk to from here on out is a potential reader, I’ll be sure to mention that I’m a writer, first and foremost. That makes the most sense to me anyway. Perhaps one day when I have several more works in the marketplace and I’ve gotten more specialized, I can start talking about being an author. But until that day comes, I’ll stick to being a writer. The more interest I can gain, the better and I’m convinced that if you’re a good enough writer, then you can write about anything and be good at it.

Even without the hefty beard.

Why I will gladly be in your wedding party

Two friends of mine took the plunge last weekend. They got hitched; they exchanged vows; they received their license to wed; in essence, they got married, folks. That’s cool stuff all the way around.

Weddings have historically been a great experience for me. Granted, I’ve never been a groom, but I have been one of the groomsmen on several occasions. And I’ve also had the honor of being the best man for my best friend. The entire experience that a wedding brings is really phenomenal. At no other event (save funerals) do friends and family gather in such large masses. People will fly halfway across the country for a wedding if they are able and even if they aren’t, someone will usually shell out a few extra dollars to help pay for plane fare just so they can get there. Heck, decades-old grudges step aside for weddings. Uncles, aunts, cousins – anyone who has a beef with someone else will still find a way to get to the wedding for the sake of being there.

They may be only be going because they want to see if their adversary gained weight or lost hair, but hey, they are coming all the same.

But what is it about weddings that are so attractive? Why do so many people attend them? Well, there’s lots of reasons, but if you ask me, it comes down to one simple thing (and I promise not to be sarcastic here) – the beauty of the moment. That’s my honest opinion and belief.

Never again will we see a shimmering bride, walking down the aisle to her groom, in the same way, at the same time, in the same fashion. Yes, people do get divorced and remarry, I am not oblivious to this fact, but never again will it be like this time. The bride and groom may take vows again in future years, but I’ve said already – it won’t be the same twice. For in the moment the bride reveals herself to the groom – who is standing at the front, next to the men he has chosen to share his day with – nothing will ever be exactly like this time, this place, this experience.

When it comes to human beings, we like to be there for the “big moments”. The times where we can say “I was there, were you?” There’s an element of awe that we take great delight in with one another. And if we aren’t there for this big to-do, we have a sense that we missed out on something really spectacular. Getting to watch a video recording just isn’t the same. We have to be there in order to enjoy the wedding in all its splendor. That’s how I perceive weddings at least. A fleeting beauty that forever etches itsleef in the minds and memories of all who attend.

As I stood next to my five comrades (aka the other groomsmen) this past weekend, I couldn’t help but get the sense that this wedding was truly beautiful. As were so many others that I’ve been a part of. That level of emotion really stays with a person. And when it’s all said and done, you find yourself wanting more of that feeling if you can manage it.

Which is precisely why I try to make as many friends as possible. It may be selfish of me (you can say it is if you want though), but I want to be in more weddings than I can count. What better way to enjoy life than to be present at one of the happiest moments in another person’s life?! That’s how I like to look at things. So far, I’m up to 5 apperances (four in a groomsmen outfit and 1 as a reader). I figure I’ll squeak into another one or two in the near future, but consider this as an open invitation to any/all who need groomsmen. I don’t charge anything but I will require that my date be allowed a seat close to the bridal party. That’s all I ask in return. And hey, since I’m a writer, I may just share that experience in a book someday too.

I wouldn’t want anyone to feel slighted, so expect an invite to my own wedding if I’m in yours. It’s only natural to return the favor, is it not? I won’t claim my wedding to be the most spectacular you’ll ever behold. But can you imagine a lineup of about 30 groomsmen and bridesmaids on either side?

Yeah, that’d be a once in a lifetime experience you wouldn’t want to miss.