What’s Happening in 2017

Hello everyone.

The blog is on hiatus right now.

For the past two years I’ve used this blog to talk about…

  • Story Structure
  • Creativity
  • Novel Writing
  • Health/Inspiration/Motivation

Now it’s time for me to bring all that research to bear on my own novel. Book 1 of my fantasy series, Turtle Island, is still in the works.

I’ve been working with a professional developmental editor for the past 8 months. My novel is coming along, and in the meantime I’m getting a crash course in writing from someone who does what I want to do – someone who deals in words for a living. Most importantly, I’m getting direct feedback on my writing. Which is scary, and painful, and exactly what I need.

I still plan to have the novel published on Amazon in 2017. But because this is my first time going through the process, it’s hard for me to judge exactly what month I’ll be able to publish.

My blog hasn’t slowed to a halt because I don’t care about writing anymore; it’s just that, I’m trying to stop talking about writing and do the damn thing.

When I do re-start the blog, I’m actually considering doing it in the form of a podcast. In my podcast I plan to break down famous novels, especially fantasy trilogies and series like…The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman, Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin and The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss. The podcast will be the result of some intense reading and studying I’ve done in preparation for my own fantasy trilogy. Because how better to learn than by taking notes from the greats?

 

But the podcast is not right now. Right now I’m in radio silence mode. Working my day job, day dreaming about writing during my day job, and coming home every evening to write.

So that’s where I’m at. When I’m back here next, I’ll be carrying a basket of good news.

 

The Truman Show

 

It’s the wild west out here, a cowboy town with more jellyfish than people. Every truck has an exhaust snorkel, a spare gasoline tank, and a hatchet strapped to the hood. Palm trees, ficus trees, birds that belong on the cover of a national geographic magazine. Two seasons instead of four (that’s half!), a rainy one and a dry one

The city of Darwin (where I’m at) is closer to Papa New Guineau / Indonesia than it is to Sydney or Melbourne. The soil here is red, the water aqua green. It’s very strange to look at the water and think, there’s a whole handful of crocodiles in there somewhere, just sleeping in the mud and blinking.

My legs are sore from running because the best way to learn your new city is to run around it in a circle.

Right when I graduated college the economy crashed. And my solution for better or worse has always been, “Go wherever the hell the jobs are.” For that reason I’ve lived in a lot of tourist towns.

I feel at ease with the transient vibe of a tourist town. Tourists are happy and their faces aren’t stuck in a mold. Each day is a new experience and so people are more likely to smile, more likely to slow down, go for walks, buy another drink.

But the truth is, Northern Australia is a very weird place.

It’s weird for now, but after you live in a city for 3-6 months, you inevitably grow accustomed to the cooky and the odd. You learn how to buy groceries. You start to talk like the locals. Your brain starts to believe that where you live is normal life.

My problem is that I was born suspicious.

Beginner’s Luck

When you’re new at something, you’re standing at the base of a mountain and there’s only one place to go – up.

If I picked up a saxophone today, my improvement from Day 1 to Day 30 would be astronomical. My improvement from Day 30 – 60 would be great, but not quite as drastic. By the time I’m performing in the saxophone olympics, I’m only improving in very small increments from year to year. Why? Because now I’m the straight-laced superman of symphony.

When you’re new it’s easy to improve. So easy that it looks like magic and we have to make up a name for it, we call it “beginner’s luck.”

Newborn babies know all about beginner’s luck. Newborn babies couldn’t be dumber. They have ALL the knowledge of the universe in front of them, none behind.

Yesterday the little guy couldn’t talk, but today he’s yelling “cookies!” From words to sentences, from crawling to running, he’s smashing past those life milestones at 100 miles per. Little kids don’t bother with rear view mirrors. They just think, “What’s next man?” First bicycle? First kiss? First job? Bring it yo!

Then we get older and the mountaintop levels off. Now we’re walking a level ridge. Looking into the void on either side causes our knees to start knocking, so instead we look ahead, eyes on the prize. As adults, a few or our skills have now been sharpened into money-making skills; so… just keep doing what got you to the dance.

But…

But man it’s fun to be a kid. In any small way you can swing it. It’s fun to suck at something and get better fast. You impress with your progress. And if you screw up? Who cares, you’re only a newbie! It’s fun to stretch your legs again. Your legs miss the feeling of storming that mountain at a 45 degree angle. It’s good because it’s fun, that’s all.

And who among us dares to pretend, “I’ve got more than enough fun in my life, thank you.” I love you but I don’t believe you.

Dawn and Dusk

Few things are impossible, but describing a sunset is one of them. It’s like trying to take a selfie with a skyscraper or recreate a Beatles song using only a rock and a stick. You might as well teach a tiger to play checkers. You might as well give up before you start.

What would you say to somebody who had never seen the sun set over the ocean? “Well there were lots of yellows, and then the yellows turned to oranges, and then…”

Some people don’t know this, but our Earth is connected to a parallel universe of magic. We are only connected to this magical universe twice a day – ever day at Dusk and Dawn – during these two times we swing just close enough to this magical universe that a tiny bit of it bleeds through.

The change that takes place during sunset (or sunrise) is blatantly subtle. You know some wacky magic is happening right in front of your eyes, but it’s faster than a hummingbird and gone before you even grab. You can’t freeze it. To take a picture of a sunset is like drawing a rainbow with only one crayon. This is because a sunset dances, not walks, across the red carpet of time. A sunset moves as slowly and surely as your fingernails grow. It moves at the speed of a blooming rose, a climbing vine, a ripening fruit. It moves at the rate that a child grows. You know it’s happening, but you can’t pinpoint exactly where.

Another big problem is, in order to describe an ocean sunset you’d have to somehow re-create wind through the viewers hair. A chilly wind but slightly warm. A wind that isn’t cold but is somehow getting colder. A sunset is not all about color, it’s not all about light, it’s also the air density, the twist of the wind, the blue blanket of night being draped across the bedtime sky.

Sunsets just wouldn’t be romantic if they made sense from all angles. The day belongs to science, and the night belongs to rest, these things are well understood. But the dusk and the dawn, those are something else entirely. Something that reminds us of the truths we knew before we got born.

Travel for Dummies

7 years ago when I was traveling through Europe, I remember showing up to a random town in Italy, stepping off the train and thinking, “Well, time to go knock on some doors and see if I can find a place to sleep.”

These days, I book my airbnb as soon as I’m done buying a plane ticket to a new country. When I arrived in Bali, my airbnb host arranged a taxi pickup at the Denpasar airport. Now that I’m here, I call an Uber whenever I need a ride. I use the “go-jek” app on my iPhone to order delivery from any restaurant in town. I have three different mobile banking apps that allow me to constantly check on my funds, set travel notices, and transfer money between accounts. I know the currency rate before I go, and thanks to Facebook groups, I already know exactly how and where to exchange cash. The world has never been smaller or better connected.

World Travelers used to have to be super savvy. World Travelers used to wear fanny packs and Crocodile Dundee hats, and they had to keep all of their cash squirreled away in secret money belts.

A smart phone is all you need now. Somebody has already written a blog, posted a video, and documented the exact kind of trip that you want to take.

The way I see it, the internet has taken the initial shock out of travel. Showing up, finding a place to stay, getting local currency – these are the principal pains-in-the-ass that the internet has improved for all of us.

But the magical gems are still out there, buried in the desert. Because once you plop down in a new part of the world, then you start to meet people. And those people plug you into the culture – which is what you still can’t get online – the local markets, the smells, the sun, the smiles. Now the gate opens and the journey jumps off.

One Step Ahead

summer in january

It’s Friday man and I’m still half young. Two things worth celebrating in 2017.

This is how I look after two hours of Muay Thai training. Now matter how whiny I wake up feeling, how stuck, how full of self-loathing… I’ll always be smiling and skipping by the end of a good workout.

There’s something about movement that directly combats the feeling of stagnation. Depression is a kind of stagnation (nothing is changing, nothing is getting better, nothing seems to help). Physical movement takes that snow globe world where nothing ever changes, flips it on it’s head and sends an army of serotonin snowflakes to sparkle your city towers.

We all experience depression, minor or major, daily or weekly. But I’ve never once felt depressed during a backpacking trip.

I don’t know what the doctors say and anyway, I don’t trust them as much as I trust myself. I can distinguish some very clear patterns if I look back on my life with an objective eye.

When I was trail-running in Alaska this past summer, I quickly learned that I had to stay in a constant state of motion, otherwise I’d get blanketed by bitch-crowd of mosquitos in no time.

Depression is a buzzing black cloud of mosquitos. No amount of sitting and swatting will make them fly away. The universe is yelling over the megaphone that I need to move. I need a change and I need it fast.

Giant Kangaroos

Did you know that 15,000 years ago the American West looked like the plains of Africa?! Lions and cheetahs chased herds of horse and elephant. Camels and giant ground sloths moped around the flat lands. Imagine the American West looking like the Serengeti.

Of course that all changed when Homo Erectus arrived on the scene. We have a pretty predictable habit of elbowing all the other mammals up into the mountains.

Right now I’m on the island of Bali in Indonesia, and around here there’s no room for large mammals like Buffalo or Elephants. However, they do have Komodo dragons, which I haven’t seen yet but plan to. I can’t miss out on my only chance to see real live dinosaurs.

And this part of the world has a remarkable history of exploration and colonization.

Long before humans made it into Alaska and down into North America (around 12,000 years ago), they had already island hopped their way from Asia to Australia (around 40,000 years ago).

THOSE guys were badass. They were some of the first to develop watercraft and explore the uncharted oceans. Essentially they island hopped – from West to East – all the way across to Australia. It was a golden age of successive human population explosions. And what’s crazy is that Australia would not have been visible from where the explorers set out, which means they were just going, casting off into the sea with no idea if they’d find another island, no idea if they’d row off the last cliff of the universe.

And when they reached Australia, they found giant kangaroos, giant pythons, land-dwelling crocodiles, 400 pound ostrich-like birds. Can you imagine? All of these creatures just walking around. And the craziest part is that the animals probably weren’t scared of humans, simply because they had never seen us before. We just showed up. How could they have known?

It’s easy to mourn the loss of a world we’ll never go back to (I’d be a fool to want to live back then). But I’m grateful that I have leaned against a 2,000 year old sequoia giant. I’m grateful that I have seen the bear and moose and mountain goats, the wild oceans and the Himalayas and man’s marvelous skylines from the vantage point of an airplane window.

The Vita-mix universe tosses the earth around on it’s geological spin cycle. I’m living in a polaroid snapshot of a curious events. I’ve got history books that help me see the past, Sci-Fi books written by insanely smart minds that help me see the future, and a 15 minute yoga practice that helps me slow down and discover where on earth I’m actually standing.

More Magic

 

Campuhan Ridge Walk in Ubud, Bali

7 million years ago, African Apes are branching into four different groups: Gorillas, Chimps, Bonobos and Humans.

4 million years ago humans are walking upright like a bunch of silly wankers.

1 or 2 million years ago Homo Erectus is found in SE Asia. The “Java Man” has literally walked out of Africa and into Europe and Asia. Holy shit! And I call myself an explorer when I fly to Paris, book a hotel, and ride the elevator up the Eiffel Tower.

200,000 years ago these Homo Erectus guys are starting to look like me. If one of those guys got a haircut and put a jacket on, they’d be able to watch Star Wars at the cinema today without causing too much trouble.

50,000 years ago, give or take, you have the sudden “Great Leap Forward.” People go from using crude stone tools to painting in caves and sewing with bird-bone needles. By 13,000 years ago we’ve populated all of the main continents except for Antarctica.

How weird that we were the ones to populate the world, and not the Apes or the Chimps or the Bonobos who all, at one time, crouched at the same exact starting line and waited for the same exact whistle to blow.

One of my favorite explanations for how humans covered the globe comes from E.O. Wilson’s book: Social Conquest of Earth. For the all the concepts that flew over my head, the one that stuck with me was “Eusociality.” It’s a biological term for a species that has an advanced social system. Ants are the poster boys for an Eusocial society. They divide labor, cooperate, store away food, look after the young. Like us, Ants have successfully spread to all the earth’s continents. (Except Anartica but who cares.)

At some point humans stopped being solo hunters and we started sitting around the fire. Some of us cooked while others hunted and others set up camp. Women were able to have more than one child, and children had more than two parents. The fire was synonymous with home; we’d leave for a time, but we’d always return to the fire. We laid awake looking at the stars. Nobody told us what was out there, what flew around up there in the cosmos, so we invented our own mythologies and passed them around the fire. The stars were brighter, the nights were longer, and there was a lot more magic back then.

The Value of Advice

sparring session

Life Advice is not only cheap, it’s bad for the environment. Seagulls are always getting their innocent little necks tangled in the plastic trash of ill-given advice.

The highest form of advice is autobiography; one person shares what worked/didn’t work for them. But even if the advice giver is 100% honest (not likely), and the advice recipient is actually listening (not likely), the chances are still astronomically small that my advice sweater will fit perfectly over your shoulders. Nothing about success is “one size fits all.”

Investigating 100 paths yourself is far better than following someone else’s road.

I’m talking about going straight to the primary sources. None of that third party crap. I’m talking about academic research, the god blessed scientific method of experimentation.

If I stick exclusively to one sport, one city, one job, one restaurant… how many potentially richer futures am I missing out on?

Every day I murder a new version of myself. If I choose to turn left, then I’ll never know the future of the guy who turned right. Life is the first draft of a novel that you’ll never get to revise. Every decision deserves to be weighed carefully on the scale of justice.

Once recent example… I never would have thought to try martial arts because none of my friends and family were into it. But now I’m thankful that I did throw my effort into boxing/wrestling/grappling. The same principle holds true for other parts of my life, and it just makes me wonder what else is out there waiting around the corner.

Jungle Rain

bali rainforest

Deer by a river in an evergreen forest. That’s my spirit environment.

I’m dangerously far away from my element here in the jungle. I had to stare at those leafy green trees for a good five minutes before I realized they were sprouting bananas. Mangos, Coconuts, lizards on the walls, chickens in the streets. The weather is warm year round with only two season: rainy and less-rainy.

People have dark skin here. They don’t stop for the rain. True to island culture these people seem to exist in the present. No harsh winter lurks around the corner. The horizon is green. The rivers are heavy. When the wind whistles it sings the song of abundance.

I heard the author Hugh Howey say one time, “The characters in a Sci Fi world should never be surprised at their surroundings.”

Balinese people don’t stop to marvel at the miracle rain storms that happen once a day here. But I’ve lived in the land of forest fires and I’ve walked through the dry American West. My brain still can’t register the fact that the ocean I’m seeing is the Indian Ocean. And if I’m walking through the woods and an Orangutan reaches down and gives me a noogie, I don’t know, maybe that kind of thing happens all the time.