Livin’ La Vida Writer…

The dictionary defines the word ‘writer’ thus: ‘a person engaged in writing books, articles, stories, etc., especially as an occupation or profession; an author or journalist.’ That’s great, except that such a definition fails to capture the reality behind the noun, which is this: Writers are a breed apart…

Our own specie, if you will.

I began writing as a teenager; the genesis of my ‘writer’ days over-lapped the peak of my ‘artist’ days. (I made decent money in my teens by painting portraits, and making drawings for local advertising companies.) By the time I hit my twenties, I was completely hooked on the written word; my small-press debut novel was released in 2004, when I was twenty-six.

That novel did well enough to merit a follow-up release in 2005, and another in 2006.

It was around 2005 that I first began to falter. I was working as a kitchen designer, a job that requires insanely long hours and causes a fair amount of stress. I was also stuck on a chemical hamster-wheel: Alcohol to ‘come down’ in the evenings so that I could write, and coffee to perk back up the next day… followed by more alcohol, and then even more coffee… Sleep? Nah, I didn’t have time for that!

I survived my exhausting lifestyle only because I was young. If I tried that mess now, I’d end up with a heart attack. Or maybe in rehab. Or perhaps both. In any case, it would be sixteen years before I returned to the literary scene, driven more by compulsion than choice. See, the truth is this…

Writers ain’t happy unless they’re writing! Period.

It’s a balancing act. Being a writer is a lifestyle, and thus requires major life alterations in order to ideally suit the writer’s needs. So, my dear reader, I would like to share some tips that I’ve learned over the last twenty-plus years. Just a few thoughts on how to maintain a sustainable existence as an author without crashing and burning…

Tip #1: Choose your day job carefully.

The brutal reality is that most writers will not make a living with their writing. We’d all like to think that we’ll become J.K. Rowling someday, but there are simply too many of us for the reading public to make rich. Seriously, you can only expect readers to ‘pony up’ but so much, you know?

A good day job for a writer is this: A job that stays as close to forty hours a week as possible, pays reasonably well (to avoid the necessity of a second job), and above all else does not cause excessive stress! Some occupations require being on the phone even during ‘off hours’, or working odd/excessive hours. This is bad. Even if one has to spend a few years training (or studying) to acquire the ideal job, it’s worth the effort. (Notice that there are very few ER nurses or restaurant managers that moonlight as writers…)

Once the right occupation has been procured, the job will also serve as a welcome counter-balance. Writing is exhilarating, but it can also be mentally exhausting (especially when it’s combined with editing and marketing). I love my day job for that reason; it lets me re-charge my creative batteries by focusing on something else that I really enjoy doing.

Tip #2: Choose your spouse carefully.

Some people are already married when they decide to try their hand at writing. If that’s the case, you just gotta work with whatcha got. (I’m old-fashioned in my thinking when it comes to marriage: A deal’s a deal. You give your word, you keep it. If you said ‘I do’, then… well, do!)

I suspect that’s not most of us, though. Writing is like smoking, or drinking; most of us started pretty young.

A writer’s spouse should be about as easy-going as it’s possible for a person to be; a needy ‘prima donna’ is the last thing a writer needs! Mind you, there’s no excuse for completely ignoring one’s mate… but the reality is that writers are simply not as available as most people. An ideal spouse should be relaxed, fairly self-contained, and have a decent circle of friends to provide company when his/her partner is glued to the laptop.

Tip #3: Network with other writers.

I have two pet sugar gliders. Without each others’ company, they will become upset, depressed, and neurotic. Writers ain’t so different. We’re nutty enough without adding unnecessary isolation to the mix!

‘Nuff said…

Tip #4: Mind your chemicals.

Writing and booze go together like peanut butter and jelly, but that can get you into trouble. Getting sloppy won’t improve your work at all. It’ll also cause friction with other writers, and annoy your spouse. Worse, being constantly hung over will jeopardize your day job… you know, the one that feeds you while you bang away at the keyboard.

Over-drinking is an easy trap to fall into, because most writers – published or unpublished – are so adept at their craft that they can still type and compose stories even while completely shit-hammered. I call it ‘The Hemingway Syndrome’… but remember, Andy Rooney was still talking trash about Obnoxious Ernest well into the 1990’s. Nobody wants to be remembered like that.

If you can’t bring yourself to quit drinking, at least keep it down to a dull roar. Light beer has hardly any alcohol at all, and so do many fruity wines. Sipping on those instead of chugging hard liquor is definitely a good idea! Take it from someone who learned the hard way.

Tip #5: Mind your marketing.

It’s tempting to put all of one’s focus into writing, to the detriment of making sure that people have the opportunity to actually read what you’re writing. A story unread is just a stack of paper, or a random digital file.

Even if it means having less new material, marketing is worth the effort. It’s better to have five books out there that people actually read, than fifteen that are nothing more than Amazon listings.

Tip#6: Take time off.

This one I struggle with, because I’m a workaholic. I try to spend one afternoon a week with friends, and Sundays are reserved for the twin bedrocks of any stable life: God and family. There’s no point in being brilliant if it causes one to completely tank. ‘It’s better to burn out than fade away’ may sound romantic, but it’s also the reason that there will never be another Nirvana album.

Pace yourself!

Tip #7: LISTEN!!!

This is the most important point of all. Listen when your spouse complains, rather than waiting to be served divorce papers. Listen to your beta readers, rather than waiting to discover the same criticisms inserted into damning Amazon reviews. Listen to the advice of marketing personnel, rather than spinning your wheels generating no interest at all. Listen to your body, when it tells you you’ve had enough to drink.

So there… that’s all I got. If I happen to stumble across any more wisdom (or, which is more likely, borrow some from somebody else), I’ll pass it along. Cheers!

Regarding Fiction…

‘Foolish boy. Don’t you know anything about Fantasia? It’s the world of human fantasy. Every part, every creature of it, is a piece of the dreams and hopes of mankind. Therefore, it has no boundaries.’

– G’mork (from the film The Neverending Story)

The psychology of fiction fascinates me…

Why do humans so love stories? Why do we revel in made-up narratives that – at least visibly – have zero impact upon our actual existence? Why do we so often dwell on fantasies instead of our waking lives?

The answer, I think, is quite simple: We love stories for the same reason we love Nitrus Oxide. ‘Goofy Gas’ takes the pain out of dental surgery, and Fiction takes the pain out of living. Only humans, out of all Creation, possess the ability to maintain a non-existent world buried within the consciousness; only humans possess the ability to flee inward instead of outward. (Side note: That probably explains why I’ve never met a writer – including myself – who wasn’t somehow cracked in the grape. We actually live in a place that was meant simply to be a temporary refuge. ‘Course, if we didn’t do that then there wouldn’t be any books for everyone else to read…)

Life is messy. It doesn’t often make sense, and its ever-varying, mad-cap scenarios seldom resolve themselves into an ending wrapped tidily with a little bow; stories, on the other hand, do. They have to… ‘cuz if you’re dumb enough to submit a manuscript that makes no sense and has an unresolved ending, you’ll get that lovely email that all writers dread: Thank you for considering SuchandSuch Publishing for your book. However, this is not the story that we are seeking at this time. We wish you the best of luck with your manuscript…

But what if our stories really did mimic real life? Can you imagine a fantasy novel? ‘Otis Graybeard waved his arms, chanting a spell… but nothing happened, and his friends threw stuff at him and called him a dumb-ass. The end.’ How about a science fiction novel? ‘Zulian Supernova climbed into his homemade rocket, bound for Venus. Then it exploded in his backyard, blowing Zulian to smithereens and taking out half the neighborhood. The end.’

What if the most popular literary genre – romance – was starkly realistic? ‘Sally was madly in love with Lorenzo St. Germaine, who was brutally handsome and filthy rich… but Lorenzo wouldn’t give her the time of day, so Sally married the garbage man instead. The end.’

Even soldiers in a war zone get pulled away from the front lines once in a while, so they can re-charge their batteries with ‘Rest and Relaxation’. The human mind cannot tolerate constant, inescapable stress.

The military has R&R…

The rest of us have stories.

Regarding Dreams…

Shame on the night/ for what I’ve done, and things I’ve seen/ for giving me the strangest dreams/ but you never ever tell me what they mean, and oh!/ shame on the night…

Ronnie James Dio (from the song ‘Shame on the Night’)

Dreams define who we are…

But the irony is, we never ADMIT that they do! Most people hold the memory of their dreams close to the chest, sharing them with no one. We almost never talk about them or reveal their contents, not even to our closest friends.

But still they haunt us, plaguing not only our nights but our waking hours as well. Dreams bring our fears to life, and tap into our most cherished fantasies. They are a blessing, for they bring us relief from the curse that is Living…

And yet they’re also a curse unto themselves, in that they confront us with the very things from which we seek relief. Dreams are spawned by terrors of which we dare not even speak, lest through having been given utterance they be brought to unholy life.

I… hate dreams.

And I also LOVE them, because they’ve defined my world since before I was old enough to understand the difference between Reality and Fantasy.

Dreams differ from person to person. According to my sleep specialist (poor, overworked bastard) your average person is a ‘passive dreamer’. In other words, to most people a dream is like a movie. You are a spectator watching a play, and nothing more.

But some people – not very many – are ‘cognitive dreamers’. Cognitive dreamers can make decisions, speak, and act during a dream, oftentimes even altering their outcomes.

That’s me. Always has been.

The problem with being a ‘cognitive dreamer’ is this: It’s a psychological problem. ‘Cognitive dreaming’ means that one’s brain is still mostly awake it’s SUPPOSED to be resting!

This… is bad. Very, VERY bad!

It’s especially troubling to me, because oftentimes my humdrum day segue-ways directly into a dream. So my mind actually creates memories of interactions with friends, co-workers, and family members that aren’t real. That’s embarrassing. Sometimes I’ll try to continue a conversation with someone, only to have them look at me in confusion… because that conversation never actually happened.

What REALLY disturbs me are my recurring nightmares. When I was a little, maybe four or five, I lived in an apartment building that was barely a hundred yards from the Atlantic Ocean. I fell asleep to the sound of the breakers crashing onto the sandy shore, night after night…

Picturesque, huh? One would like to think so, anyway.

To this day (and I’m in my forties) I suffer from the same nightmare that I did back then: The ocean rising above its borders, and flooding my home. And with the flooding comes the SHARKS, who chase me from room to room eagerly seeking my bloody demise.

Another recurring nightmare that plagues me is this one: I’m looking in a mirror, and I see something in the mirror that I KNOW isn’t real. Am I going crazy, I wonder? Or is the mirror actually an occultic doorway into worlds that I don’t understand, and probably don’t WANT to?!

Trust me, those two nightmares are only the tip of the iceberg…

At the end of the day, I have to believe that God wired my brain the way He did for a reason. I resent the perpetual insomnia, for sure, and the crazy dreams. But what if my brain was ‘normal’…? Would I still be a writer? An artist? Or would I just be another drone, dutifully contributing to society but having nothing UNIQUE to offer it?

I’ll never know the answer to that question, at least in this life, because I’m ME and not someone else… so my maudlin night terrors will continue to define my reality, as they always have. I’ll never get a glimpse of the ‘other side’, because I was never hard-wired to SEE the other side.

Maybe that’s okay… or maybe it ain’t. Either way, I have no frame of reference.

But I DO trust that God knows what He’s doing. If my head’s a jumbled mess (and it is), then it’s that way for a reason. I don’t know what that reason is…

And you know what?

I don’t HAVE to! ‘Nuff said…

Exploding Heads and the Endless Story…

I think my head’s about to explode… again.

I’ve been training with my new publisher’s marketing director, learning how to network with other writers for promotional purposes. (THANK you, Callie!)

Now, I’ve done this before. But back when I was a player on the ‘indie book’ scene, promoting your work meant MySpace posts and Amazon.com reviews. Well, times have changed since then! By the time the dust settles and I fall into a routine, I’m gonna have more accounts than an offshore bank. FaceBook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Amazon, Goodreads, Twitter…

What’s really blowing my mind, though, is something that I didn’t quite pick up on years ago: There are a LOT of writers in the world! I’m almost overwhelmed by the sheer volume of people with whom I interact. A part of me wonders, how on earth am I gonna peddle my own work amidst such an endless sea of ink?!

On the other hand…

It’s also comforting to know that I am part of a very, very large community. In some sense I’m e pluribus unum (one of many), but it’s the ‘ones’ that give the ‘many’ its power. With every new writer, the world’s tapestry of stories grows richer and more varied. Each new tale opens up possibilities for another, and every established writer is another pair of hands helping to pull the fledglings into the nest.

Every writer is unique…

And yet, somehow, we’re all plugging away at one epic tale… the tale that will define our age long, long after its people have been forgotten.

Regarding Comfort Zones…

I have a new novel coming out

This still strikes me as somewhat surreal. I’ve published three before, but always through self-publishing/small-print venues. Having a proper publishing company accept my work – under a traditional contract, and not some dodgy ‘hybrid’ deal – is a new one on me.

I’m very grateful for my blessing. God engineers all of our lives, and I’m thankful that He’s nudged mine in this direction. I’m grateful…

And I’m also very, very nervous!

During my small-press days I was a ‘big fish in a small pond’, easily one of the more popular writers in the circles among which I ran. Now I’m just a minnow… in a really big pond!

But that’s okay.

I’m out of my comfort zone, but I also know that I won’t grow unless I challenge myself. I know this as a person, as a Christian, and as a writer. So here I go, learning how to network alongside my publisher’s established writers so I can effectively do what writers are supposed to do: Bring their work to the people who wanna read it!

I’m nervous, sure…

I’m also very, very excited!

And that’s a good feeling. It’s hard to be excited in a comfort zone…

Regarding Lies…

‘For nothing that is hidden will not become evident, nor anything secret that will not be known and come to light…’Luke 8:17

‘But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire…’2 Peter 3:7

Does anyone besides me wonder how the world got so screwed up?!

It’s always been the tradition of rock singers and poets to blame ‘them’, the politicians and world leaders. But are they really the problem?

Is it really ‘them’… or is it us?

One in ten people that you meet, you will not like… for reasons that have nothing to do with them. One in ten people that you meet will also not like you. The usual subconscious reason is that they remind of someone that you already didn’t like, and vice versa.

But do you tell them that? Do they tell you that?

Nope. We hold our unspoken motives close to the chest, turning our day-to-day lives into a cloak-and-dagger game. Half the time, we aren’t even aware of our motives… but that doesn’t stop us from acting upon them.

We live in a world of shadows, a world of half-truths and outright lies. We can’t even begin to unravel it all because we’re telling ourselves the exact same lies that we tell others, often blissfully unaware that we’re being deceitful. Only fiction ever makes sense; only stories come with the blessing of tidy, fully-explained endings…

 In real life, decisions are made based almost entirely upon the Unseen.

I’m pretty sure that’s the reason that, in the end, God’s gonna burn this world to the ground.

We need a fresh start…

Regarding Writing…

I am very interested by this question: Where do stories come from?

The answer, of course, varies from writer to writer.

As Timothy Hutton’s character (in the brilliant film The Kovak Box) said, ‘a good story is a virus’. It plants itself within its intended host, and then it begins to reproduce. At some juncture a ‘tipping point’ is reached and the unwitting host at last surrenders to the virus, bringing it to full-blown life.

My first three published novels were born from my teenage role-playing days, during which I learned to tell stories with my best friends.

My later full-length novels were actually less complex in their origin: They were all born out of varying single, over-arching philosophical concepts. Once the concept dujour became cemented in my mind, everything else (as the late, great David Bowie once put it) was ‘just structure’. Characters, scenarios, foreshadowing, settings…  Everything falls into place once one has developed a clear concept around which to build a tale.

But those are my novels. My short stories…?

Dreams. They all come from dreams, every single time.

Sleep – or lack thereof – is my eternal curse. Chronic Insomnia, Restless Leg Syndrome, Sleep Apnea… If it’s a sleep disorder, I have it! A local sleep specialist actually said this to me (after a couple of overnight studies): ‘You don’t go into deep sleep. Like, ever. How, exactly, is it that you’re still alive?!’

I’m still alive ‘cuz the Good Lord wants me to be. And I ain’t gonna croak ’til He jolly well feels like I should! ‘Nuff said.

I don’t really sleep; I just change realities. Asleep or awake, my mind hums along at ninety miles an hour. It sucks, but I’m used to it.

That means my dreams are brutally vivid, and more than a little bizarre. Every short story that I’ve EVER written (including the ones on this site) was born from a dream. I wake up in a cold sweat, grab my bedside notebook, and begin feverishly scribbling down an outline before the memory of my latest dream fades away.

What’s great about being me is that my personality is rare dichotomy: I’m a 50/50 split between Melancholy and Phlegmatic. That means that I am moody and artistic, and yet I am also capable of sorting out my maudlin visions in an orderly, logical fashion. I’m a strange cross between a hippie and a lawyer.

But ya know what? That works for me!

Writers are a strange breed, and every writer has a different system within which he/she works. Mine is ‘have a weird dream, jot down the outline at dawn, let the idea fester for a week, and finally write the story at three a.m. after a glass of wine’. Other writers have different methods, but that’s the beauty of writing: Authors are like flowers. No two are alike.

So yeah, I’ve shared MY method…

Now go find yours!

He is Risen!

Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? – 1 Corinthians 15:55

We are living in a very, very dark time right now!

For those of you who live in a cave, a virus known as COVID-19 was recently unleashed from a laboratory in Wuhan, Hubei, China. Whether its release was deliberate or accidental, it has raged through the Western World like wildfire.

That ain’t the problem. The survival rate for COVID-19 is over ninety-nine percent.

The problem is that the Globalist New World Order unleashed their loyal servant – the Mainstream Media – to inflate and distort the breadth of this ‘pandemic’. Swiftly picking up the ball, governments (at nearly every level) followed by instituting totalitarian, unlawful ‘mitigation’ efforts to see just how far they can push ‘We the People’ before we revolt…

We’re not revolting; apparently, we’re bigger sissies than our forefathers were. How does that Green Day song go? ‘Don’t wanna be an American Idiot/ One nation controlled by the media/ Everybody do the propaganda/ and sing along with the age of paranoia…’

We are all going to wake up tomorrow to a world that will be more socialistic and despotic than it was yesterday… and it was pretty socialistic and despotic yesterday. As South Park’s Big Gay Al once rhetorically asked, ‘The whole world’s gone to hell, but how are you?

To which he replied, ‘I’m SUPER, thanks for asking!’

We may live in dark times right now, but as my man Dave Draiman once wrote: Sometimes darkness can show you the light!

Today – illegally locked in our homes, or not – we celebrate the greatest event in all of human history: The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The triumphant God-made-flesh demonstrated His power by dragging evil into a tomb and leaving it there, and this is the day upon which we celebrate His victory!

Most will, sadly, reject this truth. We still, after all, live in a world plagued by legions of empty, bogus belief systems.

But

Just because Satan hasn’t been done away with yet doesn’t mean that he isn’t still defeated. He’s already been condemned; now he’s just awaiting his sentence. In the meantime, anyone can choose the redemption offered so freely by Jesus Christ. All men and women now have a choice: Embrace these dark times as though that’s all there is, or embrace a bright future in which evil will be burned away and goodness will reign for all time.

We have this hope because Christ died to purge us of our guilt, but that death would have been an empty gesture had He not triumphantly defeated Death…

By His own grace, He did.

The whole world’s gone to hell, but how am I?

I’m SUPER, thanks for asking! HAPPY EASTER!!!

To read more on the subject of Christ: https://shaunmoser.com/2019/12/14/forsaken/

A Few People I Admire…

Life is full of people who earn our admiration.

Sometimes their impact on our life is immeasurable; they show up, in the right place at the right time, shifting the direction of our othoughts in ways that are so radical as to bring about complete paradigm shift.

Sometimes their impact is a little more subtle. They just happen to possess a quality or two that we admire, that we try to mimic in order to become the best possible version of ourselves.

Sometimes we don’t even know the person who’s earned our admiration. They may be just be someone that we relate to, someone with whom we feel a sort of kinship by virtue of shared (or envied) characteristics.

Everyone has a list of people that they admire, both small and great, and for a host of different reasons. They might be the people who made you what you are, or they might just be someone who crosses your mind once in a while – but either way, they stick with you.

Everyone has a list of such people…

Mine’s pretty long – but here’s the beginning.

Bob Westfall (1928-2005)

Bob Westfall was my around-the-corner neighbor when I was growing up.

Exactly fifty years my senior, he was about as crotchety as they came. He could b**** about anything and everything for hours on end, and – like most his age – he had a pretty dim view of anyone under the age of, oh, say about sixty or so.

I struck up a friendship with him when I was about twelve years old. We were sort of an odd pair; he was lonely, and had all the time in the world to shoot the breeze. I was wise beyond my tender years, seldom connecting with those of my own age. He could talk for hours about what life was like in the thirties, or what it was like to be in World War II. He could tell you all about China and Italy and Spain and France, because he’d been to all of those places. We used to hang out in his garage and just yap about nothing at all, for no reason whatsoever.

I missed him terribly when I lived in New York. I missed, I think, having the constant guidance of an older man’s perspective. The young person, by virtue of his or her total inexperience, tends to catastrophize everything. The old man, however, knows how to truly ignore that which doesn’t matter. I think one of the tragedies of our age is that we don’t value the wisdom of the elderly anymore, and seldom make time to be guided by them. We grow impatient with their crankiness and antiquated tastes, and completely miss the underlying importance of their presence.

Bob passed away in 2005. A memory that will stick with me for the rest of my life was how large and varied the crowd at his funeral was. There was everyone there from the mailman to the store clerk to the kid around the corner, now grown into an adult – me. The kid who so loved the generous old fart that so willingly offered his time and guidance.

Bob never did anything even remotely epic. He worked in a paint store, and raised a few kids and lived a life that was quite ordinary. But what he will always be loved and admired for was his love for people. He always had time for anyone who wanted to chat… and that quality is so utterly absent in the modern man, driven, pell-mell creatures that we are.

I wonder if Bob knew how profoundly he affected me, helping to shape me during those very formative years into the person I am now. I hope he did.

And I hope that when I am old, I will remember to pass on my hodgepodge ideas and thoughts to the generation that will succeed my own.

Ed –

Ed was my artistic mentor growing up.

I could peg him as ‘a drawing/painting instructor’, but that would trivialize his role in my life. Ed was/is a brilliant artist, with the keenest eye for detail, and the greatest gift for explaining things that I have ever seen.

I first met Ed when I was fifteen. He was teaching a class for the department of Parks and Recreation, and I signed up for one of his classes. I was a decent childhood doodler, with a fair amount of potential, but little polish and no knowledge at all of theory or principle.

It was Ed Stubblefield who molded me into a professional-caliber artist, and I have never let my skills grow rusty. “Them as can, do,” he used to say “and them as can’t, teach.” He was being unusually harsh on himself when he said that, for Ed could both do and teach.

One of my flaws is that I like to be mysterious. Three people – Ed, my mother, and guitarist Jerry Lavene – helped me unlock the mystical secrets behind art, literature and music. Yet rather than pass on what was so unselfishly given to me, I like to keep my own secrets close to my chest, choosing instead to simply amaze others with what I can do without ever telling them how.

Thank God that others in my life were less selfish than I.

Wendy –

Wendy was a childhood friend of mine, a wispy, willowy blonde who was decidedly girl-next-door, and prettily tomboyish even as an adolescent.

Wendy shared my interest in art and literature, as well as my intellect – although I suspect that her nature is less abstract, and far more practical than mine. As children generally do, we grew apart as teenagers, each one of us fleeing whatever demons teen-dom thrust our way.

I could never have predicted, then, what direction Wendy’s life would take. I saw in her great potential, but that was about all I could’ve told you. I couldn’t even have told you what sort of potential.

She’s now a wife, and a mother.

There was a time when I would have told you that such a life was a waste of potential, a failure to meet one’s self-imposed challenges.

I was a child when I thought that…

I’m an adult now, and I know better. I know that there is no higher calling than raising one’s own family, patiently molding and shaping the lives that one has created.

The modern woman, generally speaking, is so saturated with the 1960’s ‘liberated woman’ bull-hockey that she isn’t much use as a wife or mother. ‘Have the kids and chuck ’em in day care’; that seems the child-rearing method of the day. And throwing them into sports somehow counts as ‘family time’ these days, as though that amounts to any kind of meaningful interaction. There is a subtle attitude to the modern woman, one that says domestic life is beneath her, something to be avoided. The ones who suffer, of course, are our children.

(There. I said it. I don’t care how many bra-burning lesbians take offense, either. Right is right, and wrong is wrong!)

But Wendy has chosen to focus all of her intelligence, patience and empathy on the seven children that she’s brought into the world (yep, seven). I am sure that she – as did my mother – suffers persecution from those ‘liberated women’, too. I bet they sneer at her and say things like ‘so, when are you going to work?’, as though she doesn’t run herself ragged now. I don’t know how she handles their presumptuous derision, but I bet well. Seven children do have a way of making one quite patient, after all.

If a person intends to live a selfish life, they don’t deserve children.

But Wendy deserves them. If only more women possessed such character, strength, and wisdom.

Mr. Lee –

Mr. Lee is probably the most colorful character in my circle of acquaintances. He owns and operates This Old House, a sushi restaurant in Virginia Beach.

Mr. Lee is from Taiwan; he’s a little midget of an oriental man, with a pot belly and an accent. He’s as friendly as he can be, and an absolute avatar of a chef. His restaurant is probably the best eating establishment around.

What I admire most, though, is the passion with which he runs his business. You can visit his place just once, and then go back a month later. And he will remember exactly what you ate the first time, and suggest something new based on what he thinks you might like. (Yes, he pays that much attention.)

About half of his menu is traditional sushi entrees, and about half of it is unique to him, painstakingly created from customer input. He spends as much time catering to his customers as his waitresses do, if not more.

I remember going in there on evening around 8:30, only to find his door locked. He usually closes at ten, but it was stone dead that night, and he was gonna leave early.

I gave the door a tug, and then turned to leave.

But Mr. Lee let me in, locked the door behind me and hooked me right up – playing chef, waiter and cashier all at once because he’d let his staff leave for the night. I protested, but he insisted – I was ‘good customer’, he said.

I have always believed that a person should do whatever he is passionate about. As a white cracker with relatives in West Virginia, I find the idea of making fish rolls an odd choice for one’s life work.

But Mr. Lee doesn’t… and that’s why he makes the best food one can buy, and the dining experience in his establishment is always second to none.

I wish I had that sort of dedication.

I could go on for hours. I could write a whole book on who I admire, and why. But I won’t. I won’t because you’d get bored, and stop reading. I won’t because I can’t always remember them all at once. I won’t because my hands hurt from having typed all night.

What I will do, however, is live a life worthy of the effort that others have put into me. Some have put forth that effort directly, willfully influencing my thoughts and behavior. Some have simply served as examples to me, and they probably don’t even know it.

Which is my cue, I guess, for living day-to-day with the greatest care…

Because you never know who’s paying attention to what you do and say.

Confessions of a Lifelong Nocturne…

‘I prefer a sunless sky/ to the glittering and stinging in my eye…’ Nina Gordon (from the song ‘Tonight and the Rest of My Life’)

Our world seems to consist mostly of people who adore the daylight…

They wallow in the sunlight, those sprawling masses, forever reveling in the bright light that shows them their path. They bask in every moment of lingering sunshine before they reluctantly retire at dusk, their heads hanging in disappointment as they anxiously begin counting the minutes until the dawn rises anew.

Sunlight may show you your path…

But the darkness shows you the stars. You can find your path by the stars, just as well as by the sun; it just takes more practice.

Nocturnes understand life more deeply than the sun-worshipers ever could. Life slows down at night. It gives one a sense of calm, of focus, and a much more profound sense of things. Daylight invites the ‘sheeple’ to run about in a higgledy-piggledy mess, bumping into one another in their hurry and making no sense as they do.

Nocturnes see life with much more focus, because we prefer to ‘run about’ during the hours in which the ‘sheeple’ aren’t making such a mess of things. Daylight brings confusion; Darkness brings clarity. When one is awake at three a.m., the anxiety that defines humanity just fades away. The world might actually blow up soon… but it won’t happen at night; the moron that ‘pushes the button’ will almost certainly be some brainless ‘early bird’. In the meantime, the Nocturne has more stolen time in which to make sense of the world, of himself.

Some prefer the sun; it makes their path clear.

I prefer to navigate by the stars. I’m good at it, too…

And that’s something that the diurnal masses will never understand.