Monday, October 31, 2011

Back to the Beginning

Many years ago, it's been too long since, I crawled out of the Snake River and decided I would write my story.
Then something happened. Like the violent rapids I had just escaped, life pulled me downstream and kept me from grasping my dream. I wanted to write. I could see the images in my head and plotted a way to eventually allow them an escape. Eventually is an evil word. I hate it. Eventually turned to tomorrow, and then to next week, and then to next year. Every day, the stories inside begged me to release them, but I kept telling them that the moment wasn't right, that eventually, I would find the time. That was 1989.
So, what has happened between then and now? Well, that's all back story.

My Novel is Finished.
I finished my novel, On Fallen Wings, a couple months ago. It's not my first book, in fact, it wasn't supposed to happen. While completing an edit on another book, I wrote a page of words about the sister of a main character. They were wonderful, the best words I have placed with keystrokes. Suddenly, I saw her in my mind. She was sad and beautiful. I wondered what her story was. On Fallen Wings was born.

What About the Other Story?
I learned while writing my first book that sometimes you have to cut the parts that get in the way, even if they're good. That story is good, but it keeps me from the direction I've chosen to travel. It's like a stone in the river. By the way, they hurt when the water smacks you into them. Stories will come, words will form. I can't wait to see what the future has in store for me.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

This is Halloween

I love this time of year. The air turns cold, the leaves add color to the landscape, and the yard work ends! I also love Halloween. I enjoy haunted houses, scary movies, frightening stories, and yummy food. With five children, our candy supply never seems to disappear after October 31st.

This year, our neighborhood held a chili cook off and costume contest. Let's talk about chili first. I love chili, but it's hard to find a perfect bowl sometimes. So a few years ago, I made my own recipe and have been tweaking it ever since. I decided this would be the year to introduce my creation to the neighbors. I'm glad I did. I won! In honor of my achievement, I'm sharing my recipe with the world. Take it, enjoy it, share it. I won't mind a bit. If you make money off it, give me credit.

Jamie's (Award Winning!) Chili

1 Pound          Bacon                    chop into 1/2" pieces and fry
1 Pound          Ground Sausage           
2 Each            Onion, chopped          
7 Clove           Garlic, minced          
1 Each            Green Pepper, chopped    coarsely chopped
1 Each            Red Pepper               coarsely chopped
1 Pound          Tri Tip Steak            smoked and cubed
1 Pound          Turkey Breast                smoked and cubed
2 Tablespoon  Brown Sugar             
2 Squirt           Honey                    or 3
30 Ounce        Tomato Sauce            
30 Ounce        Tomatoes, diced          do not drain
2 1/2 Tablespoon      Cumin Seed, ground      
2 Tablespoon   Chili Powder            
1/2 Teaspoon   Cayenne Pepper          
1 Teaspoon      Oregano                 
15 Ounce          Black Beans              drain and rinse
15 Ounce         Chili Beans              DO NOT DRAIN

Combine first 6 ingredients in Crock pot and set to "low" until sausage is cooked, then set to "keep warm."
Add smoked meat and set for "keep warm" overnight.
Add rest of ingredients and simmer on stove (unless it fits in the Crock pot) so ingredients can infuse into each other.

There it is. It's that easy. I also made some dutch oven cornbread as a side dish. That recipe isn't my own, so I won't share it here. This is how everything looked:

Yes, it was tasty. I won a cool apron and a golden bowl of chili for my efforts. Yay!

Now, for the really cool part. Our family went to see Tron: Legacy this past winter on IMAX 3D. It was the first 3d movie I had seen in the theatre, and it was a lot of fun. My kids enjoyed it so much, they asked if they could be Tron characters for Halloween. They designed their costumes, my wife did the sewing, and I added a few final touches(including the technical headache work of all the lights).
They won the costume contest! I'm sorry the photos aren't great. The costumes look so much cooler in the dark, so that's where we took them. We also added some light to our Suburban window, to complete the effect.

However you celebrate Halloween, I hope that you enjoy it. We are so far.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Magic of Discovery

Last night, I dusted off my telescope and took it out to the front porch. My wife and children joined me and, together, we enjoyed magnificent views of Jupiter and a handful of its moons. Jupiter is my favorite planet to explore, because it’s bright and colorful—the bands of clouds look amazing.  I also enjoy exploring Jupiter because it offers something different every time.

When I experience something for the first time, it feels magical. Whether my expectations are exceeded or failed, the discovery of what I previously didn’t know holds a special place in my memory. It’s that magic that keeps me exploring, keeps me trying new things. There’s nothing like it, and this is the only way I know how to describe it.

I remember the first time I saw the Eiffel Tower. The van driver providing the tour had driven specifically so that no one had a view of the tower until the exact moment he wanted. As we passed a row of trees on our left, there it stood—GIANT and right in front of us! We had arrived at its base and I had to crane my neck just to see it all. I lived in France for two years and saw the tower hundreds of times after that. None of those times matched the feelings of the moment I described.

I have this same experience when I see a great movie for the first time, or eat at a spectacular restaurant. Yes, I also feel the magic when I read a good book. As I progress through the story, I sink my face into the pages, digging for each word, unwilling to miss a meaning. I imagine the characters in my mind and can watch them, hear them. I gladly give up sleep just so I can get to the end. Then I gasp in surprise at the finale I wasn’t expecting.

While on this writing journey, I'm trying to keep the magic of discovery in mind and understand that I'm writing for the audience. Yes, it's my story and my characters play their parts, but I have an obligation to give you that magical moment when you read. It's not easy, and I have wonderful people around me to keep me on track. As I write, I want you to know that I'm doing everything possible to keep you turning the pages.

Monday, October 10, 2011

I Don't Trust My Dreams

I stood near the campfire, surrounded by darkness, while rain fell that never touched me.
Then the voice spoke—that American Idol contestant from Hollywood week two years ago—saying, “I’m going to tell you a ghost story.”
 Am I dreaming?
The man told his story and then another. He asked my son to make a howling noise for everyone gathered. Then he asked a stranger how to say “Happy Halloween” in Japanese. She knew how.
I had told my wife I didn’t want hot cocoa, but my mom arrived and handed me a Gatorade. Next to her, it was all so strange, I recognized a woman with a small child.
What is happening?
That woman babysat me when I was a toddler. I remembered my 3rd birthday party in her kitchen.
“I haven’t seen you since you were that small,” she told me.
I didn’t blink. There was no need to blink since I was dreaming. “It’s been a long time,” I answered.
My children walked up to me, drinking hot cocoa. When I told my wife about the woman, she admitted she knew her, and they started talking. Then my nieces were there. They grabbed my arm and said I should take them through the haunted castle. I followed them, but it was a maze inside the castle. As they pulled me through it, one of them started speaking Chinese.  
Where am I?
I wanted to find my wife, but my daughter and my son played tether-ball with a pumpkin head. Then an announcement came.
“Pig races in ten minutes.”
I found my wife and told her I wanted to see that. I had never seen a pig race before, especially in a dream. When I arrived there, my children left me.
“We have special seats up close,” they said.
Then my neighbor arrived. I told him it was a strange night. He understood. I stood in the dirt, confused and hungry, and watched three little pigs race.

I don’t trust my dreams, because sometimes they aren’t. This story happened tonight. None of what I wrote was fabricated or imagined. I think. If I wake up, I’ll let you know otherwise.


Monday, October 3, 2011

What if I Never Try?

I’m usually a positive person. I smile. I wave back to people. I don’t speak ill of anyone. I open doors for strangers. I’m hopeful about what could be when I’m daydreaming. That’s most of the time

Every so often, a little bit of self-doubt creeps into my being and ruins my day. While my intentions are to pursue constructive thoughts, that menacing demon takes over and makes me feel like I’m not good enough. “Everyone else is better than you,” that creature tells me. “You’re wasting your time. Hard work leads only to exhaustion.” The longer the thoughts linger in my mind, the more negative they become. Finally, these two damaging words enter my mind: “Give up.”

I wish I were making this up; I wish this were just a story. Sadly, it isn’t. This happens repeatedly. Over and over, the doubt returns and forces its way into my consciousness. It’s not often, but it doesn’t have to be—once the words enter my mind, the damage is done. I start believing my thoughts and sink into despair…

Fortunately, that’s the point where my inspiration comes to rescue me. “I’m the worst,” I tell myself, “so I need to work harder. If I’m wasting my time, well, at least I’m committed to something. Give up? Never. If I’m worth this much trouble to discourage, then I’m worth equal that in promise.” Like the sunrise after a starless night, my own words rescue me from hopeless abandonment. I start to believe. 

As my spirit lifts and my confidence regains its tread, I remind myself that no one knows what they can achieve unless they try. I’ve had my share of failures. That doesn’t mean I’m worthless. It means that I was willing to try. If I never try, then I’ll never know. And it’s in the unknown where fear resides.

Whatever you seek, whatever you do, please keep working hard at it. There’s satisfaction in the effort, no matter what happens in the end.