Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Duality of Soul

There is a belief in some spiritual circles that each of us, as we travel through life's journey, develops a duality of soul. One becomes encumbered with the burden of trials, the masks we present to others and the consequences of our choices. This is the side we present to the world, for better or worse, and the one we believe is our true self.

The dual part of us begins simultaneously, at our birth, but remains unblemished by the everyday bruises we all encounter. It is not swayed by spilled coffee or harsh words from others. It is the most evolved part of ourselves, growing and ever-changing by the larger lessons in life. Courage. Faith. Love. It is the part of us that endures after we take our final breath.

Many spend their entire lives striving to find this inner core, rooting out relationship after relationship or career after career, believing that true self is a reward to be collected at the end of a winding path. Is it possible that our authentic selves are not something we left behind in a moment of wrong and must retrace our steps to find? The thought that this perfect, untouchable part of ourselves develops alongside the flawed first and will be there at the pinnacle of our lives when we most need it lends comfort to the inevitable end of our time here. That for all our imperfections we present to others, there is still a part of ourselves that is truth.

Is there a way, then, to nurture our authentic selves? Does some kind of peacefulness or one of those inexplicable warm glows wash over us in moments when we are in harmony with who we are becoming? Can we glimpse our authentic selves through a panoramic lens that takes in the bigger picture of our time here? What we're meant to learn?

What do you think?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Writing or the Egg?

If you buy into horoscopes, mine today said to take an hour to live in the moment and reflect on where I am in the present time because a big change is coming my way. Apart from the fantasy of several houses bickering for my novel at auction, I can't foresee anything. But really, who does? Life happens.

So in honor of not fighting against any kind of karmic wave of the future, and in honor of Thanksgiving, I offer my blessings: The biggies, of course. The tennis balls in that infamous jar as a metaphor for a full life. My family, friends, health and the opportunity to spend more time and money than just a fleeting moment in a dream on writing. But as it relates to the truest part of me, I'm thankful for my hard-boiled egg this morning.

Stay with me...

Ten years ago, I'd never have noticed the perfect striated texture of the yolk. How the smoke curling upward from my breakfast table reminded me of a scene I just wrote in my current novel. That perfect scent of home released as the coarse pepper fell from the grinder. These details cushion me from a life lived in the anesthetized state of daily rituals. Writing gifts me with the moment, a full sensory onslaught of the present time when so many around me live in the past and future. I delight in being a voyeur of the dialogue and movement of strangers I encounter each day and wonder if they'll remember the moment in their own lives as I remember it when I need character inspiration.

A Thanksgiving blessing just wouldn't be whole without including the writers I surround myself with. The richest friendships I've ever known. The final piece of my reflected hour. I don't know what's down the road, that impending change foretold, but for now, today, I am thankful to just be.

Saturday, November 17, 2007


Next, starring Nicholas Cage, Julianne Moore and Jessica Biel, is the latest Hollywood offering involving the manipulation of time to hit DVD. Cage plays Cris Johnson, who earns a living as a magician in a seedy Las Vegas act, but his authentic talent is being able to see into the immediate future--two minutes to be exact for every aspect of his life but the mysterious woman he's captivated by (Jessica Biel). Callie Ferris (Julianne Moore) is a government agent trying to recruit the reluctant hero to help stop a terrorist group from detonating a nuclear bomb in the middle of Los Angeles.

The best part of this movie is the directing. Imagine having to translate a script that explores several--even infinite--possibilities Cage's character sees ahead as he chooses his next move. One scenario will play out to disastrous effect, only for the audience to realize he had played it forward in his mind and it hasn't happened yet.

It tackles the common themes associated with time manipulation movies--fate, predestination--but does it in the context of an authentic, wounded hero. Reminiscent of Deja-Vu, this is a non-stop thriller complete with requisite ticking time bomb (literally) and romantic subplot. Overall, a great ride with a fantastic turn at the end and the possibility of a sequel on the horizon. Oh, and what would a Nicholas Cage movie be without an Elvis song? Listen for it.

What did you think of the movie?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

John's Clock Shop

My wall clock broke. The minute hand, long and graceful, remained steadfast. The hour hand hung lifeless at six. Removing it from the wall sent me into some bizarre zone of timelessness. The central timepiece of our family's existence, at the epicenter of schedules and meals marking comings and goings, its absence made me feel lost and realize that maybe my obsession with time isn't just something that comes across in my stories. Maybe a week on some rocky coastal island with no way to tell time but the rising and setting of the sun would do wonders to deprogram me.

Not too far from here, I found a homegrown clock repair shop nestled in a tiny brick structure on the backside of a property in suburbia, complete with french doors, a stalwart iron sign and an unassuming name: John's Clock Shop.

I'd never been in a clock shop. I can't lie. The prospect of going into one, the symbolism and time references in my stories fresh on my mind, seemed more than just an errand sandwiched between the grocery store and dry cleaners. It also made me wonder what kind of craftsman would choose to specialize in clocks? Would that person have the same semi-obsessive thoughts about time as I do?

I found John bent over his elevated worktable, the sun through a window at his back lighting his gray hair. Already a portrait of time. His chin rippled along his neck, compressed in a downward concentration of his task at hand. The air in the one room shop too warm. Too close. And filled with the random ticks of fifty or more clocks.

At first, the clicking, both chaotic and rhythmic, felt like standing in the middle of airport security, the movement of pendulums simulating the presence of nervous people clogging personal space. But the longer I stayed, the more the independent sounds became one, a white noise not unlike ocean waves or classical background music. Maybe this is the body's coping strategy to deal with too much sensory input.

I toured the room's periphery. Every object moved in some way--brass dials clicking, second hands sweeping, old-fashioned pulley systems keeping track of the passing moments. Some clocks lay stripped bare, others hidden in the bowels of some ornate wooden cabinet. Only a few showed the accurate time.

"I'll bet the time change wreaks havoc around here," I said.

"Nightmare, actually," John replied.

Had he given up calibrating them to Daylight Savings? Maybe the mere fact that they moved forward with time was enough for him. John didn't need a week in remote isolation to put time in perspective. Just the notion time is what it is and sometimes there's nothing we can do to control it.

John fixed my clock, free of charge. Doing what he loves to do. If you ever need a clock repaired, he's your man. Drop me an email and I'll get you in touch with him.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Waiting Room

Since I entered the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest last month, I've become entrenched in this alternate reality of authors pacing in a cyber-waiting room. Some, who stress about margins and word count and punctuation and dozens of other things they're powerless to change at this point are the equivalent of the hopeful squeezing their Styrofoam cups charged with espresso. Some profess free love and dance around the forum spouting mantras about how we are all artists on the same canvas. Some burst through the door wielding previous publishing credits--more of a divide and conquer mentality.

With such a broad contest, the diversity of manuscripts is staggering. Religious. Aliens. Coming of age. Epic war-torn tragedies. Self-indulgent literary works. It begs the question: How will the judges receive genre fiction when pitted against more mainstream "literature"? The word "breakthrough" brings to mind popular fiction, but what about the closet sleepers brushed with magical Oprah dust? The final judges are accomplished in the distinctive literary fiction realm, but before a manuscript reaches that point, customers and reviewers en masse will crawl through these manuscripts. Will the demographic of book buyers reflect the end result?

Meanwhile, the countdown clock on Amazon's site reads 64 days until customer voting begins. 18 hours. 5 minutes. 11 seconds. What is it about a precision readout revolving backward that sends people into the most urgent display of human emotion? As if the supply of snark will run out long before the coffee and cigarettes.

Who am I in this waiting room? The one with a laptop clicking thoughtfully on my next project. No spoken words to add to the din. Just the words that count.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Gift of Time

For the time-obsessed person on your holiday list:

Wall Projection Clock

Celebrate the intangible nature of time with this projection clock, which creates a large clock image on any wall surface. Discovery Channel Store ($129.95)

A little philosophy thrown in with a sales pitch, anyone?

Distorted Wall Clock

Made in the surrealistic tradition of Salvador Dali's famous Persistence of Memory. Fluid lines of the shiny, brushed aluminum, wooden frames contour and bend around the gold-tone inner trim. Touch of Class ($199.00)

This one is screaming at me to say something profound, but I digress...

Sonic Boom Clock

Guaranteed to wake up even the heaviest sleepers. When the alarm goes off, the user can select to wake up to any combination of loud pulsating audio alarm, flashing lights, or shaking bed (vibrator sold separately). ($37.00)

Not sure about you, but waking up to an apocolyptic onslaught of sensory stimuli wouldn't put me in my happy place to start the day. And yes, I am holding my tongue.

ChronoArt Clock

Chimes, color, light, and time combine into an ever-changing functional work of art. This wall clock uses a series of multi-colored lights and a system similar to the binary clock to display the time of day. Entertaining and unique, ChronoArt clock features a face that changes every single minute of the hour, and a chime which announces every hour.
If anyone knows the actual time on this clock, leave it in the comments. I'll consider a clock vibrator for you for Christmas.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Through a Mirror, Dimly

Yes, I used *gasp* an adverb. Sloppy, maybe, but this is the exact phrase I heard this morning. Although in a completely different context, it captured my attention. Of course, the writer in me instantly starts playing with the word choice and connotations: through a mirror, darkly; in a mirror, darkly; "can someone look through a mirror?" and "*warning-cliche ahead*"

The point, however, is that some of what we see in our reflection is not always what others see--it is a dimly lit place of truth, clouded by messy human emotions. A reversal of the power we normally attribute to mirrors. Usually, we are to see in them the honesty we share with no one else, but is it possible for this image to distort in undetected increments the way time alters loved ones we see everyday?

The abused sees shades of unworthiness. The executive finds entitlement in the sharp lines of his brow. The beautiful see only the flaws. Is it possible this is the one thing that creates character depth above all things?

One thread common to all my stories is the longing to return to self. In almost all, the main character has slipped away on a tide of life and circumstance so far from what they believed they would become or what they're capable of, they barely recognize their own image. What greater sadness in a character's backstory could there be than that of a stranger they've become? And, the fact that we're all guilty of shades of untruths about ourselves to some extent, makes the story experience real. Candid. Raw.

Hold your protagonist to a mirror this week as you craft his story. What do you see? How is that different than what your character sees?

Friday, November 2, 2007

The "D" Word

What if you were gifted with knowledge of your future? A newspaper article, a snippet on the evening news projected two, maybe twenty years to foreshadow what your life would become? How your ambitions panned out?

For those of us who aspire to be New York Times bestsellers or live in a castle in England and type away madly all day, indulging in the eccentricities our success wrought, what if the glimpse turned out to be true? What if we knew one day our story would be the one to finally knock the Harry Potter empire from the collective lists? Would we change the way we live our lives? Work harder? Or would that knowledge lead to the paranoid fear of a misstep? Something that would blow us so wildly off-course, we'd never reach that snippet of the future?

It is all in what you believe of fate and pre-destination. The free will to make mistakes in the microcosm, but still part of the overall plan we're too closely focused to see. Would this knowledge really be a gift, or would it cripple us to seeing anything different or wiser or more important?

When we look back, do we see it and really understand it?

If I'd known nine years ago I'd still be marching the shelves at the chain stores and not find my own book, would it have stalled my dream? Would I have sprinted the path, more determined than ever to shorten the distance? Would I have never taken the first step?

These past nine years, fattened with highs and lows and all the frustrations and joys in between, I know absolutely have shaped me into the person I've become. Someone I love dearly used the "D" word to describe me. Determined. Not exactly a word at the forefront of my vocabulary nine years ago, but now, it's the exact legacy I hope to create for those who follow me.

Would knowledge of your future be a gift?