Back when this blog was more personal, I started a series called “People Who Create Awesome Things,” but I ran out of steam and quit doing them a while back. Well, I had a little time this afternoon and thought I’d use it to write about another one of those people, one of my all-time favorite singers, Jon Foreman.
During my three week vacation and trip out west, I did a lot of reading and no writing, which had the effect of making me think quite a bit about my writing in a philosophical sense – specifically what I gain from the practice that keeps me going. My ideas are still helter-skelter, but I thought I’d plunk them down anyway before I forget. One of the questions I ruminated on is why I’ve become so enthusiastic about the idea of keeping my art completely free. I know many others, with good reason, see the point differently. I’m not saying that artists don’t deserve to be compensated for their work, which enriches humanity — but for me, the freedom from thinking in those terms was exhilarating, and infused me with a fresh love of the joy of creating art for its own sake. When I quit worrying about the traditional route of publication and marketing, I found myself refreshingly free from the confusing and daunting process of hoping to find agents and editors and publishers, as important a service as they all offer. I was like a kid again. I could create just for the sheer joy of it, share it with the world as I’m making it, flaws and all, cast my stories to the wind like a child blowing on a dandelion, knowing that a hundred seeds might not find good soil, but if even one should take root and brighten the heart of another child with its pert shock of yellow, then the world would be immeasurably richer a place.
A change of pace, before I get back to Perrin. I was just about to drift off to sleep in my chair the other night and my dream self dumped the idea into my head just like that. Not sure what to say about it except that it’s darkly disturbing. Is it ironic or just absurd? Is there a point to it? I’m honestly not sure. But I wrote it down anyway. Who am I to question my dream self?
Well, I had planned on writing a bunch of short stories so I could experiment with different styles and techniques, as well as using up some of the files of ideas I have sitting around and collecting cyber dust. But . . . after finishing the last one, “Stories,” I just couldn’t get away from that world. Cerelys and Perrin kept calling me back and their personalities are stronger than mine, so I acquiesced.
Memorial Day brings up a lot of mixed feelings in me. I love the idea of America. I love her proud heritage of heroes willing to suffer immense privations, injury and death in the noble fight against tyranny. But I can’t let that heritage of honor blind me to the truth that America isn’t always the good guy. Far too often, the opposite is the case. America doesn’t always fight for freedom. In fact, America isn’t even a free nation. Ask the millions of non-violent citizens we’ve locked up at a rate that far exceeds that of any other nation on earth. America’s governmental agencies — FBI, CIA, NSA, DEA, etc. — have a shocking history of cruel and perverted experiments, torture, and murder which no reasonable person could hear of and still maintain that America is always the good guy. And yet…there is so much of good and heroism and freedom-fighting in America’s history. On Memorial Day, I want to honor those Americans who truly were heroic, who truly did sacrifice everything for the sake of freedom. But I don’t want to do so in such a way as to pretend that everything American soldiers do is on the right side or on the side of freedom. Perpetuating that myth won’t do anything to stop the trajectory of tyranny that America has been hurtling down for so long.
So…today, I honor all of our fallen heroes (and there are many of them). I mourn all of her fallen troops who were misled or coerced into fighting an unjust war (and there are many of them). And I remember and honor all of the victims of America’s unjust wars. Innocent families in Afghanistan who were blown into eternity by American drones without ever knowing why. Innocent victims of police brutality and governmental tyranny who were ripped from their families, stripped of their property and left to rot in jail for no crime but peacefully daring to exercise their God-given freedom. Children who needlessly suffer hundreds of seizures a day. Torture victims languishing in Gitmo. American history is full of true heroes, and I take time today to honor them. But at the same time, I mourn the many victims of American evil and tyranny because it is no true patriotism that refuses to acknowledge those deep and shameful bloodstains on her fingers.
I’ve decided to steer this blog in a more literary direction. At least until I decide to steer it another direction or stop steering at all. But I’ve decided to write some short stories, and I have a file full of dozens of ideas, but I’ve been too lazy to write any of them. So yesterday I decided to write and it came out…well, rather crazy. Or did it? Here it is:
I left work one evening, right at 11:15 as normal, and the strangest thing happened. As I was driving down the highway, the rest of the world disappeared, and only the highway was left there alone.
As some of you know, I spent last winter writing a fantasy novel. Well, today I learned how to format an e-book and I just published the electronic version on Lulu. Best of all, I was able to make it free. Just cuz I think art should be free. So please, if you have a nook or an iPad or anything you can use for an ePub file, drop by and download a copy. I know it’s good because it’s already had at least four readers, two of whom aren’t even family, and not one of them has given me a bad review to my face. 😉
So about the book. Hmmm… it’s a little strange, not gonna lie. But in a good way, I hope. The story is basically a long elaborate daydream I had last spring when I was driving through the beautiful north woods of Wisconsin and the upper peninsula of Michigan. I started writing it in the fall, one chapter a week, and I used an experimental technique: I tried not to think through the plot ahead of time, except very generally; then, I would use self-hypnosis to get my mind into as dream-like a state as possible and just pound out whatever I was seeing, all stream-of-consciousness. Of course that meant I had to go back and edit like crazy afterward, which was kind of a drag. So even though the editing and revising is left-brain, the whole storyline is very much a right-brain kind of fantasy. I enjoyed the trip my subconscious took me on. Occasionally, I completely surprised myself. But I’ll quit talking about my unusual methodology lest I raise the undue (I think) suspicion of schizophrenia.
I’ll give you the synopsis I put on the back cover, so you have at least a vague idea of what it’s about:
Jesse Artsinger isn’t looking to be the most popular kid in middle school. He just wants to be left alone. Joe Grabe, the class bully, won’t let that happen. When a chance occurrence plunges Jesse into an extraordinary world of fragile beauty, which has always existed unseen within his beloved Wisconsin woods, he begins to suspect that Joe’s egotistic rage could bring about a devastating and irreversible result. As the fight spins out of control, Jesse is brought to the brink of losing everything – his friends, his family and even his own life. He’s always prided himself on being a loner. But when being alone is no longer enough, will he find the help he finally realizes he needs before it’s too late?
That’s all I’ll say about it. If it sounds at all interesting, pop on over and download it. The only thing you have to lose is a few moments of your time — cuz did I mention it’s free?
Peace out, my people. 🙂