Always Be Humble, Never Feel Small

Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.”–Carl Sagan

Carl Sagan, renowned scientist, atheist, and all around cool guy, once described the earth as a mote of dust floating in a sunbeam–which, admittedly, is true. Factual, even. His writings and productions often state the insignificance of our presence in the greater universe, while still inspiring awe at all the possibilities present therein.

That got me to thinking.

There are so many majestic things to witness in this world, so many profound thoughts to consider, so vast a universe to explore, sometimes it is hard to feel significant. Harder still to take in all the possibilities–all the things that you could achieve but haven’t yet.

It’s overwhelming. Perhaps, even terrifying.

You’re standing on a place that is no more than a mote of dust floating in an infinite void, gazing out into a black abyss. Life, in all it’s varied meanings and manifestations, is almost unspeakably trivial in the grand scheme of things.

But. At the same time, this abyss is filled with endless possibility and wonder. There is so much to say, and do, and explore. Do not be paralyzed with this expanse of choices: the innumerable stars in the sky.

Instead, ride the wave of awe that rises within you.

The more possibilities there are, the more likely you are to succeed at something. The more “unknown” there is to investigate, the greater chance you’ll have of stumbling across something amazing. Do not fear your own potential. There is always room for greatness.

You will feel humble looking out into the universe, but you should never feel small.

Poetry 101: An Introduction

There are so many people who refuse to read poetry because they find it scary, or difficult. Well, my darlings, I am here to assure you poetry is for everyone, regardless of skill or courage levels.

Poetry is essentially communication through metaphors, imagery and rhythm.  Poems tell stories and evoke feelings, just the same as any other narrative, but they do it in shorter, more intense bursts.

Poems require that the reader is an active participant—engaged in the poem and engaging their imagination. You will have to do some thinking when reading poetry, but don’t let that scare you. You think all the time, you’ve totally got this handled.

Schools will teach you how to read a poem for symbolism, and I believe that’s where the public gets its fear from. Finding symbolism is complicated, and difficult, and not something you want to do on a rainy Saturday morning. Naturally, after having learned to do that for poems in schools, people will steer away from poetry.

Poets will teach you to feel the poem. To watch it; to let the images therein rise and mutate and flow—to feel the beat, the rhythm. That hardly sounds any better, does it? But all the poet is asking you to do is follow your gut and let the poem sink in. Much in the same way a favorite song would get your foot tapping, and then get stuck in your head after a listen or two.

Poetry is mental osmosis, my doves. Completely painless.

Yes, some older poems or ones that are more lyrical will contain obscure references or archaic words. Keep a dictionary handy, and be sure to read whatever footnotes are there to help give you context. More contemporary poems, however, won’t be that labor-intensive. Start with the modern ones, then work your way backwards if you feel daunted.

Billy Collins at D.G. Williams books, San Diego. Photo by Marcelo Noah. Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Billy_Collins.jpg

Billy Collins, a modern poet, is very easy to understand and is an excellent poet. Try his poem “Introduction to Poetry” on for size.

And then go ahead and read “To the Reader Setting Out” by Edward Hirsch for more information on starting your love affair with poetry.  Do you feel a little more confident in your ability to read poetry now? I hope so.

Happy Towel Day!

I almost forgot, today is Towel Day, a day celebrating the master of science fiction comedy, Douglas Adams. Adams, who wrote “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” died May 11, 2001, and his fans created this day in his honor.

 

“A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have.”

If you forgot your towel, don’t panic. Everything will be fine if we stick together and avoid the Vogons.

 

1,000 Words

Sunset on Holden Beach, N.C.

A picture is worth 1,000 words. This particular image invokes a sense of peace for me–it’s from a favorite vacation spot where I find sanctuary. I took it a few days before hurricane Irene hit the east coast last year. This picture tells me that everything will be alright, and that there is beauty both before and after a storm.

What does this picture say to you?

How do the places you’ve been, or the places you hold dear affect your writing?

Terror makes good writing

Norman Reedus is on AMC’s “The Walking Dead.” He kills zombies. He is my hero.

Good writing evokes emotions in the reader. It doesn’t matter which emotion, really, as long as the reader can feel what your characters are feeling. It helps the audience connect with the story. One of the easiest emotions to convey, in my opinion, is fear, as it is a pretty universal feeling.

And the easiest way to terrorize your readers is to put something you are scared of in your writing. If you’re scared out of your gourd, chances are the readers are too, and that makes for a satisfying story.

That said, let’s talk about zombies.

First off, I would just like to say a few things about my feelings on zombies:

I hate them. I hate them so much.

Not because it’s an over-saturated genre, or because I am afraid of some biological outbreak, or because they are “stupid” or anything remotely along those lines. I hate zombies because they are entirely unsanitary.

When the apocalypse comes, I’ll be armed with a shotgun, a wet-dry vac, and industrial strength hand sanitizer because those suckers trail goo and puss like nobody’s business. ::shudder::

Based on my limited research–limited due to the fact that I will have nightmares if it is extensive–I have come up with a few categories for typical zombie scenarios.

The Shufflers: These guys are the zombies you see in the traditional zombie movie. Reanimated corpses in various states of decay that roam around muttering “braaaiinnnss” in slow motion. The will never outrun you, but they will overwhelm you. Their strength is in their numbers. Don’t get backed into a corner.

The Sprinters: These are the 28-Days Later zombies, or the Reavers of Firefly fame, that move like lightening and are ridiculously intelligent. Basically, you’re going to need extensive ammo and a sniper friend. And fire. Lots of fire.

The Voodoos: These zombies are controlled by a witch doctor, and are the only variety of zombie with real-world religious basis. You guys. They are real. I’m not sure how to feel about this.

The Specials: The special zombies are anything that doesn’t quite fit into the above categories, such as cybernetic zombies (those are a thing?), Star War zombies, which are reanimated by the dark side of the Force, and Harry Potter’s Inferi. You’re going to have to do your own research on these fellas, because I’m about to blow your mind.

Then, my friends, we have the Norse zombies. The Draugar.

During my research for the Viking novella that I am working, I stumbled across the draugar, which fall into two main behavioral categories.

Some just hang out in their tombs, guarding their sparkly shit and lamenting the fact that they are no longer living. They just want a friend, and are jealous of humanity’s ability to live. Thus, they have an insatiable hunger for human flesh and will attack unsuspecting tomb-raiders.

The others leave their snuggly graves and go on the hunt because of their jealousy for the living. Now, this is where it gets a little hairy.

You all understand that Vikings are buried with their weapons and armor. So the draugar are armed. With battle axes and spears and rusty swords, and are covered in chain mail. And they’re up, roaming the earth and shit! Do you all understand this? It’s pretty terrifying.

But wait! It gets worse!

The draugar are possessed with superhuman strength, can increase their size at will, retain some sense of intelligence and delight in the destruction they cause, and can move through the earth. Petrified yet?

They also have magic powers.

I want to make this clear. Draugar are magical, armed, super-zombies that can pop out of the ground anywhere they choose like demented daisies!

You guys. WE ARE SO FUCKED.

And I am so putting draugar in my Viking novella. I’m not sure how I’m going to write myself out of this one. Are there any monsters that terrify you all so much that you write them into a story specifically so you can annihilate them and get over your fears? Tell me about it in the comments!

Sidenote: I have yet to figure out how to properly insert media from other websites. Mr. Reedus’ picture is credited to Rick Marshall, derived from a work of Ana Dunn, found here.