Being Thankful on the Yellow Brick Road

Hey Everyone.

I know that I’ve been super quiet lately. That’s due to a few reason, one of which is that I’m still recovering from the Labyrinthitis. I’ve regained 99% of the feeling in my face, all of my hearing in the left side of my ear. I can read on the iPad again. I can walk without a cane and am back on regular eating habits and meals. My eating tastes have changed and I’ve lost ton of weight. Hey, there has to be something good to come out of it right?

I have gone from a 48 waist to a 32 waist. I figured out the math the other day (this involved stepping on a scale willingly for the first time in five years) and I’ve lost around 100 pounds of weight. I should state that not all of this came from the two weeks I was mostly bed ridden (the stress of my divorce didn’t help, but adopting a low carb diet and eating more healthy foods-and smaller portion sizes-did help. I also cut a LOT of junk food out of my diet. Instead of eating a bag of chips, a bowl of ice cream, dinner, chocolate and a lot of pop in one evening (I kid you not) I’ll have ice cream once a week now. A small bag of chips lasts me a week. And whereas I’d have a whole chocolate bar in one even, I still have chocolate, just not as much of it.

When I stopped weighing myself, I was was 278. A few months later, I had gone from a 36 waist to a 48. I didn’t know how much I weighed. My blood pressure was 180 over 110, I wasn’t happy and decided to do something about it. So I changed my eating habits. I ate more vegetables and salad. I walked more. I drank a lot of water.

I figure that I probably lost 20 pounds or so from having the Labyrinthitis. I went from a 36 waist to a 32 during that time period. Now, that’s a sure thing given I was existing on rice, electrolyte water, saltines, chocolate pudding and tea for two weeks; I couldn’t keep anything else down.

Since then a lot of my time has been focused on getting better. I have much to be thankful for: I can take the bus to work without the use of a cane, I can work a full day at work and am finally getting back up to speed and take things one day at a time. It’s a healing process, I guess. The one thing I’m most thankful for, however, is that I am writing again.

Though nowhere near my full speed. Usually, my writing schedule usually went like this: do edits for three novels, work on current novel, novella, short story and plot next novel, do marketing for novels(s) that are currently out now and, if occurring, finish workshop notes and look at homework. Plus the occasional canvass, book review, book video, blog post. Oh and lets not forget that I actually have a day job, so there is work and a social life and family and loved ones to see (all of which I’m thankful for, too).

When I was able to sit at the computer for long periods of time again, I decided to take the advice that was given to me by Scott Pack a few years back. He had told me to take a breath and work on one thing at one time. I tried to slow down, but there were so many words and they had to come out the way they did. However, as I was healing, there was no way I could go back to my regular pace. So I did something I’d never done.

I finished off a few projects I had on the go, handed in edits, updated my web site so that it was current with all content and gave it a new look. I finished off some poems and promo pieces and picked the one work in progress I was going to work on.

I had never done this before; just picked one thing to work on. It would mean I might not have any releases for a while (though I had a few in the pipeline). It would mean no edits and writing every day-that was one thing I knew it had to involve. I would still allow myself the occasional poem or canvass if inspiration struck with the occasional blog post. I knew the novel would have to be a good one to hold my attention.

I picked one I had started two years ago (I know this because the Sexy Boyfriend and I are close to our two year anniversary and I started it shortly before we started dating. So let’s say two years and a while ago. It was called The Other Side of Oz. I had started it and, knowing the path I intended for the main character to take, put it aside. I knew it would be difficult to write and knew it would be hard work. That’s not to say that any writing is now difficult, just that this one would be more so,

I picked The Other Side of Oz because I knew that it was a story that would be a long one. I had a vague idea of where I wanted the book to go (following the path of the first half of The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum) but it would be quite a different retelling of the Wizard of Oz that would move between the book and the iconic movie. I knew I had to take a walk on the Yellow Brick Road, I just had to take the next step.

For about a month and a half now, I’ve been writing only The Other Side of Oz and taken those meagre 3, 000 words or so up to nearly 30, 000 words and we’ve got a long way to go yet, but now that I’ve finally gotten Justin to Oz, I’m having a lot of fun. I have a vague idea for a sequel, but I’ll have to see how far into the book I get and how far along the Yellow Brick Road my characters find themselves.

In the meantime, I’ll just keep writing-being thankful I can do so again-one yellow brick at a time.

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Penny’s Book – Side Tales 4

The problem was, he didn’t know where he came from.

He was half of two nationalities on his mothers side and like, twelve on his fathers side. I mean, he knew people that had grown up in Blackwood Hills their entire lives. Quite a few of them had been born there, for crying out loud.

He wondered if this accounted for the fact that he had always found himself somehow lost in the world-he didn’t have roots. His family had moved countless times when he was growing up. When he was finally on his own, numberless times more.

There was nothing to tie him anywhere in the world, no matter how he tried to make a mark on it. His words were out there, in electronic formats all over the world. He was a superstar, he had done cameo’s in movies. He wasn’t able to count the number of talk shows he been on, the limitless vidscreen’s he had been seen on.

When the screens lit up, he could press his thumb to the screen and his signature would appear on the page. Really, actual ink had gone years ago and ink decades before that. However, he was a somebody-that should count for something right?

The truth of it was, he missed books. He did everything with his vidscreen now: watched television and movies, read and studied, listened to music. Even though I didn’t have to, I took it with me everywhere. I’m pretty sure everyone did. They were convenient, they were compact and held a library of our every wish and whim.

When he was younger, he had seen a cartoon called Inspector Gadget. That guy was a fucktard but his niece, Penny, had this computer book that could do anything and everything. I thought it was the neatest thing I had ever seen. I dreamed of the day when we would even get that far, technology wise. Sometimes, I would look down at the Atari, mocking me with it’s limpid gaze or, later, the slightly more bulky (but equally awesome) Nintendo. Later would come the Sony PlayStation, the GameBoy (which, if memory served him was the first portable gaming device).

He even remembered a game he had played with his father in a video arcade. It was supposedly one of the very first 3D video games ever. The controls didn’t work very well, and the gameplay sucked, but it was pretty sweet.

Late at night, though, he would still sit up late and watch Inspector Gadget to see how Penny and her Computer Book would save the day. He had watched technology change around him:

Tapes to CD’s to MP3 and 4’s, Beta, VHS, Laser Discs, DVD, BluRay, floppy discs to hard ones to flash drives, a little six inch black and white to television in my pocket. It strikes me that, as I think of Penny’s Computer Book, I wonder if we’ve surpassed it.

Everyone in the compound of Blackwood Hills have never known fresh air. Many do now know what a bird sounds like. Some don’t know what a banana looks like. As he looks around the compound, all of Blackwood Hills with their vidscreens clutched in their hands. They have those. Of course those work.

He had been living in Blackwood Hills for nearly thirty years now. The writing thing had started by accident, as something to pass the time. There were three million of them left, crammed into a bubble on the east coast. Despite the amount of information that they had access to, the vidscreens windows into anything, he could never find out where they were.

Three million people might sound like a lot, but there had been over thirty-nine billion people in the world at the time the walls went down, three million isn’t much. Still, he’s been able to meet most all of them and he has his fans, the people that read his books. He’s been to one end of the compound to the other side; most people lived and died in the smaller blocks fabricated to look like 1980’s suburbia-it was a poor replica.

Still, there are towns and cities, railways and roadways. There are no planes anymore either, not since fuel ran out. But cars and rail work on alternative gas means. Car and train both are controlled by already installed vidscreens.

He missed lots of thing: real wild flowers, honey, non-recycled air. Non engineered animals and food. What he missed most, however, were books. Instead of swiping a finger across a vidscreen to sign his name, he longed for a pen and some bright blue ink, or deep serious black.

Was all of this advancement worth it? He thought. Also: I miss the smell of books.

The Drowning of Arthur Braxton by Caroline Smailes

The-Drowning-of-Arthur-Braxton_cover

Mythology is as old as the sands of time themselves. It is where our history started, our belief systems began, where story came from. They influence our habits, whether we know it or not, are reflected through history in a variety of different ways.

The Drowning of Arthur Braxton by Caroline Smailes is a new myth for the modern day-it is a twisting and entwining of the Greek myths of Apollo and Daphne, Pollux and Castor, Jason and Medea.

Smailes has created a tapestry of a story, an interwoven narrative that is entertaining in its own right. However, the awesome bit is that, if you know your history and myths and legends, the story takes on a new kind of resonance.

Instead of being a bland retelling of a myth, it becomes something of its own. Trust me on this one. I recently sat through a play set around Ovid’s myths. The stage was a two tier pool. The top one was in the centre of the stage with space in between where the actors would appear.

The actors really swam in both pools of water. The backdrop to this play was a dark and haunting electronic lines of blue and white-think Matrix here. The music was really amazing (except when there was singing) and the design incredible.

That is the kindest thing I can say about the play. I did however picture that set when reading The Drowning of Arthur Braxton. I have never been inside a proper bathhouse, so I wouldn’t have anything else to compare it to. I can only hope the author can forgive my imagination.

Smailes had typically written about troubled people before. Her debut, In Search of Adam, was about a girl trying to find herself. Black Boxes was about a woman who wanted to lose herself. Her third novel, Like Bees to Honey, an international best-seller, was about a woman who went looking for what she left behind.

That’s what makes The Drowning of Arthur Braxton different: its voice is predominately male. Make no mistake, you will meet many people in these pages. You have Arthur Braxton, neglected at home and beat up at school. He meet Delphina and Laurel in an old abandoned public bath that hides some pretty terrible things; and there’s Silver. Always Silver. It is the story of Kester and Pollock, two old men with a secret, it is the story of the world and the refuge that Arthur finds at the Oracle.

He is entranced with the always swimming Delphina. He skips school to spend time with  her. In doing so, he finds himself falling into modern day myth that was part comedy, part romance, part coming of age. Oh, and it a myth, so you can’t forget the tragedy.

I ached for Arthur, that is how brilliantly Smailes has written his story. I also cheered for him, yelled at him, thought of him, hoped for him. He was someone all of us know, that all of us have inside us. We are always trying do to whatever we can to fit in, even if it will cost us what we love most. At least we were-everyone remembers high school right? His story if incredibly well told. If I didn’t know the name on the cover, so convincingly has the author told Arthur’s story.

Caroline Smailes has always delivered and her stories always have a character that you’re drawn to. First it was Jude and then it was Ana and Nina and in her eBook novella, 99 Reasons Why, we are given the story of Kate. Her protagonists and their story are her greatest achievement. From the first page her characters grab hold of you, the story sinks into you and then you are held enraptured. For a little while afterwards, everything you try to read doesn’t draw you in. You are left haunted by the story for a little while and want to read it again; at least I do.

The Drowning of Arthur Braxton is no exception, but it is the first time Smailes has chosen to write mainly from the point of view of a male. It’s a bold move. Something that takes the book into the stratosphere. Think of the brilliance of The Fault With Our Stars by John Green, anything by Meg Rosoff (especially There is No Dog), mix in a little Christopher Moore (particularly Sacre Bleu and Fool) and you’ve got something that is close to the brilliance of this book.

When I first started reading, I wondered what story Caroline Smailes had gifted us this time around. Instead, like a very good story, after a few words, I stopped wondering and just enjoyed.

The Drowning of Arthur Braxton is a brilliant retelling of myth, a fantastic reference to pop culture with a bit of magic thrown in. If Caroline’s intention was to put a spell on the reader, the consider me spellbound. I urge you to pre-order this book, no, I implore you. I want you fall under the spell that her novel creates.

You can find The Drowning of Arthur Braxton here:

http://www.amazon.com/Drowning-Arthur-Braxton-Caroline-Smailes/dp/0007479093/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1363823485&sr=8-5&keywords=Caroline+Smailes

If you want the paperback (and you will, it’s just that good) you can order one from The Book Depository with free shipping worldwide:

http://www.bookdepository.com/Drowning-Arthur-Braxton-Caroline-Smailes/9780007479092

You can always read the eBook while you’re waiting for the paperback copy to arrive. Like all good myths, The Drowning of Arthur Braxton by Caroline Smailes goes on the keeper shelf. It’s a modern classic on par with The Wizard of Oz or Harry Potter or The Hunger Games.

All I can tell you is to read this book. That it is a beautiful story incredibly told. I can’t wait to read it again when my paperback arrives.

Welcome to Prime Time – FREE NOVELLA!

Hey Everyone!Prime Time Cover Three

Check it out! Another unexpected novella! I had written Welcome to Prime Time over a period of about three weeks and then it just sat there on my hard drive. I had so much fun writing it that I thought I would share it with all of you for free. And who doesn’t love free?

Here’s a bit about the novella:

Rolanda Mackenzie had it all: she had won an Oscar, several Emmys and had her own talk show. And then one woman’s betrayal made her lose it all. Now Rolanda is out for blood. But what brought Rolanda to her knees? And how does she plan to collect her pound of flesh? Revenge is a dish best served hot and Prime Time is calling…

Of course, the title is a reference to Nightmare on Elm Street 4: Dream Warriors. However while Welcome to Prime Time isn’t as graphic as a Nightmare on Elm Street movie, it is quite dark.

You can read it for free here:

http://www.wattpad.com/story/4605086-welcome-to-prime-time

It’ll be available in eBook format soon! For now, enjoy the free read!

The Cast – FREE NOVELLA!

Hey Everyone,The Cast Book Cover

After writing my young adult novella The Contestant, I realized there was more story to come. More than that, I wanted to find out what happened. So, even though I should have been writing my current Work In Progress, I kept going back to the second novella in the trilogy, The Cast.

And here it is! Like The Contestant, I’m giving away The Cast for free. Here’s a bit about the novella:

When Mave is chosen as a Contestant on the popular reality television show Haven, she has no idea what to expect, least of all her father showing up from her past.

Now that she has been processed, it’s time to meet the Cast she will be competing with and figure out what her place if within the game…

You can read The Cast here: http://www.wattpad.com/story/4526098-the-cast

Or, if you have an iPad, iPod Touch or Android device, you can read it via the Wattpad app! How cool is that?

Woohoo! Oh, and if you haven’t read The Contestant, you can do so (for free!) here: http://www.wattpad.com/story/4242585-the-contestant

Awesomeness!

 

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