Escape to Reality


was not exactly trapped. I could leave whenever I wanted, of course. Yet, at one point, missing even a day of checking in with my social media websites triggered extreme anxiety.

Because social media felt compulsive, I would sometimes dream of escape. My thoughts would often drift to the legendary science fiction writer Ray Bradbury. Even though he wrote science fiction, in many ways he repudiated technology preferring a simple life; he thought having too many machines crushed passion and destroyed the simple pleasures that made life truly worthwhile: taking a walk, reading a book, or enjoying a peaceful moment of silence.

He drew near-universal scorn when he said, “The Internet is a big distraction. It’s meaningless. It’s not real. It’s in the air somewhere.” He also resisted the digitization of books. He refused to have his books printed electronically because he thought a book should be a real object with rustling pages, a physical thing you could grasp, touch, and smell.

Many dismissed him as a fussy old codger who hated change. I like my Kindle, and it is hard to imagine going back to a time with no internet, but there have been times, lately, when I have sympathized with his point of view. The internet is a “world” that does not even exist in space, yet at times it has caused me real pain.

When I first started posting my blog to websites like Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, and Google Plus, my writing was my central focus: the joy of the process, the fun of creativity, the rhythms of sentences, and the vividness of metaphor. But during the several years I spent regularly visiting social media websites, an insidious shift occurred. I still loved writing, but somehow social media had shoved writing aside and stolen the spotlight. I began to feel like I was writing for social media rather than that social media was serving my writing. I had to consciously remind myself that I was a writer first, and a social media user second.

This was vexing because social media seemed to be all about being popular. It was as if the most superficial aspects of high school group behavior had been converted into algorithms, yet somehow, in my mind, writing and social media became confusingly conflated. The boundaries between the two worlds began to blur as I began to imagine, as I wrote, how specific social media acquaintances would react to my posts.

Self-consciousness set in. I worried that getting “likes” for blog posts had come to mean too much to me, diverting my focus from the writing itself. I was living a lot in my head, but not in a good way, not in the creative, productive artistic way that had previously brought joy. I began to feel wistful for things that were real and meaningful. Ray Bradbury is my go-to fiction writer for when I want to feel hopeful but not blindly hopeful, so I reread one of his books, Zen in the Art of Writing. I love that in his books he seems to have an uncompromising grasp on what really matters to him regardless of what the rest of the world is saying.

Looking at my sterile computer screen, I would think about how he loved circuses and how he had treasured, as I do, libraries and taking walks. I would imagine myself taking languorous night time strolls beneath a full moon or breathing the vaguely sweet aroma of books in dimly lit libraries, and I would feel hope.

In his essay on how to feed and keep a muse, he defines creativity as a lifelong chasing after loves.

I wonder what Ray Bradbury, if he were still living, would think about the social media style of loving things, through the touch of a “like” button, with the passions of humanity and all the possible ways of expressing them reduced to facile finger flexing. I suspect he would have thought it was a bland way to express love, awe, admiration, excitement, or passion.

But that is only assuming that a “like” means any of those things. A social media “like” may be approving or compulsive or thoughtful, or even accidental, but a “like” always means “like” to the validation starved.

And this is the key to what made social media so painful for me . While social media encouraged liking, it also encouraged and reinforced my want to be liked. That was not what I needed. All of the “likes,” the “plus ones,” the “favorites,” and the “up votes” may have felt good for a moment, but they also induced a painful self-consciousness and a drive to please.

But as Bradbury suggests, what enriches life and makes it meaningful is not being liked or merely liking, but loving, whether the object is an art like writing, a circus, a cat, a book, or anything else that connects you to the world in a way that intensifies the feeling of being alive — preferably in a good way.

Conversely, concern about being liked detaches me from my surroundings so that I fail to appreciate what is right in front of my eyes.

Self-consciousness is like being trapped at the ticket booth of an amusement park for hours seeking compliments for your ID photo. “Tell me, ma’am. Does my hair look okay in this picture? I used a new shampoo.”

“It looks fine, Miss. Now move along. You are holding up the rest of the line!”

“No, no, I’m serious. Will you look at my photo again? Is that a cowlick? Oh, God! Please, tell me it’s not a cowlick!”

“No miss, your hair looks fine. Now go on through. There are rollercoasters, one of them makes you feel like you’re flying through space on the back of a robot.”

“Do you really mean that about my hair, or are you just saying that because people are behind me? Ooh. Is that a bump on my cheek? Or just a shadow?”

Seeking validation is boring. I am tired of the ticket booth. I want to ride the Ferris Wheel. I want to see monkeys riding unicycles. I want to prowl haunted houses and eat popcorn and turn my lips blue with cotton candy. And the internet, despite its many benefits, is a poor amusement park.

The great thing about the internet, though, is I can turn it off. Is it troubling me? I can make it disappear. Problems with trolls? My computer has an off button. If I feel like I want to live in my head, I can indulge my imagination through writing. The rest of the time I will inhabit a world with cats, coffee, and comic books. Not to mention popcorn. The real kind that inhabits physical space, fluffy, buttery, kernels that sound crunchy when you eat them but make no sound at all when they fall on the carpet.

Internet popcorn, on the other hand, is not crunchy, fluffy, or buttery. It numbs the taste buds; it is flavorless, airless, and popped in a vacuum. It is odorless and bland. It needs more dimension. It needs more salt. It is not good.

It is not there.

To Blog or Not to Blog?

I love to blog. For over seven years my blog has followed me through my life, marking meaningful events and shifts in my thinking. It has at times felt like a home where my mind goes to meditate even when I am not actually writing. It feels like so much a part of me, it is hard to imagine a time I was ever without it. I assumed ever since I began blogging that I would be doing it forever.

However, I did originally hope my blog would promote my writing. Although blogging is fun and worth doing for its own sake, I had always hoped that if I wrote for the right reasons, my blog would eventually, somehow, help me sell my fiction.

I dreamed of growing my following so much that I would eventually have an audience for the books I published. Or, if I decided to publish traditionally, I could show an agent how many followers I had in order to improve my chances of success.

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My Book Remembering the Future is Temporarily Free on Amazon Kindle

I have a happy announcement for the holiday season! My short story collection Remembering the Future is now free for electronic download on the Kindle, so if you don’t have it yet, now would be a great time to get a copy. It will be free for five days starting December 15 and ending on December 19.  

Featuring fantasy and science fiction stories with a psychological twist, my book has an average five star rating on Amazon.  Here have been some of the comments: 

“An interesting read for one who feels he has read everything”
“well-developed characters and crisp prose”
“A mind-bending collection of fascinating and innovative stories” 

If you read my stories, feel free to write to me and let me know what you think. Until then, happy holidays! 

Click Here to Visit Amazon and get Remembering the Future for FREE

Disarming the Cliché Police

For most of my life the way I viewed the writing process was destructive to my ambitions. To write freely and learn from my mistakes, I had to jettison beliefs that had blocked me and made me dread writing.

One attitude that fortified my block for many years was a terrible fear of bring trite. To call my work trite was the ultimate weapon of my inner critic; it shut me down completely.

I thought that if a cliché appeared in my work, even in a rough draft, it must mean I was a human cliché myself: a dull, unimaginative, and lazy thinker. So many books I had read about writing denounced cliché users as lazy; in general the authors condemned not just expressions like “dead as a doornail,” “fit as a fiddle,” or “It was a dark and stormy night,” but almost universal real-life situations like a cheating spouse or even themes like good versus evil.

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Disgraced (Short Story)


I have never understood the emotion of admiration; but then, I am a cat. Cats feel a lot of things, including pride and affection, but at our very essence lies independence, the source of all dignity. If I ever need a mentor, I will be my own. Admiration is a color of feeling I will never see.  

But I have glimpsed its ghastly reflection in humans enough to sense what a trap it is. I have seen it lurking in their star struck eyes, and that alone is enough to make my spine curl and my tail fur bristle.  

I especially used to cringe at the looks the young women gave Michael when he brought them into the apartment we shared, the sickly-looking glazed-eyed expressions that a male friend of his later explained by saying, “Look how much they admire you. I wish I was you.”   

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How Immersive Video Games Ignite My Writing

As a kid, what enticed me to become an author was the way fiction could sweep me into other places. Through reading I could experience through words what I could not experience in real life; I could even become other people. It was sorcery.

However, words were imperfect. Reading could only transfer experiences to me if I had some personal frame of reference for them. As an adolescent I had trouble relating to books with military settings, for example. They were so far removed from my experience, I struggled to create a vivid picture of them in my mind.

I was painfully aware of how my patchy store of personal experiences could limit me in writing. I scrounged for anything that I could use to make up for the gaps, so as a sheltered adolescent, I seized upon one of the most reviled technologies of the age as a way to broaden the scope of my experience for my writing: video games.

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Paw is Free for 5 days!

I have some great news: My novel Paw will be free for electronic download from November 7 through November 11. If you have not downloaded it yet, now is the time. Here is the description on my Amazon page:  

When Mitalla turns three, she learns that her mother has kept a dark secret from her: Mitalla is a slave. Being a member of an intelligent feline species, she has never seen a “pink and furless” human until a cruel overseer takes her and her siblings from their seemingly safe home and into a life of bondage. 

Even though Mitalla has struggled to survive as the runt of her litter, she is unprepared for the harsh world of the desert where her enslaved species is forced to mine a precious mineral collected by the human king of her world. 

As Mitalla comes of age, she constantly seeks ways to escape with her siblings into “the greater world,” a place her mother once described as having lush green grass and an abundance of food and water. To her advantage, her early struggles have honed her persistence and wit. 

Despite her strengths, cruel guards, barbed wire fencing, swords, whips, and constant hunger make escape seem all but impossible.  

Frustrated desires finally erupt in a tragedy that forces her to make a decision: to stay and suffer or risk her life and the lives of her family to escape. Either way, she will need all the cunning and courage she possesses to survive. 

The novel, which has a five star rating on Amazon,  is the first installment of a three-part series. I am currently at work on the second book of the trilogy. Thanks to all of you who have bought my books and kept up with my blog! There will be more stories, blogs, and novels coming soon! 

Get Paw FREE on Amazon

The Pain Surrogate (Short Story)


Pain was almost a myth to him, something he could no more fathom than he could see an atom. He had never felt the stinging, stabbing, burning, or aching that could come from courting danger.

He only knew how the dogs of his neighborhood whimpered when injured, but he could not imagine what was going on inside of them. His siblings could not imagine it either, but unlike them Brand loved being alive, loved it enough to keep on living.

He had known moments of heightened awake-ness when the world had leapt into full color. He had enjoyed the tangy sweetness of a ripe strawberry, the contemplative view of a night sky, and the wonder of his shimmering reflection in a pond. He enjoyed chopping firewood, the blunt sound of impact, he loved shivering in the cozy warmth of a fireplace on a cool night, and he liked to write about them in his journal, how they sounded, how they felt, how they smelled.

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Finding the Pulse of a Story

When I write a rough draft of a story or novel, I am constantly looking for its pulse, the raw energy of a story, the point of transition in which the story takes on a life of its own and seems almost to write itself.

That being said, there is nothing wrong with writing rough drafts that lag. I write them all the time because I have to start somewhere. In fact, sometimes my story does not come to life for me until after I have written my self-conscious, plodding. uninspired rough draft. But after having been through the process many times, I have learned some things about making dead prose stir to life.

In fiction, a problem that I have grappled with, which can be solved early on, is the strength of character motive.

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I Have Finally Released The Ghosts of Chimera

Exciting news: My novel The Ghosts of Chimera, which I began to write over ten years ago, is now available on Amazon for electronic purchase.

It is 558 pages, but I have reread it dozens of times, and it has never seemed that long to me, to the point that I have at times questioned the veracity of my computer.

The novel was accepted by a traditional publisher a couple of years ago, but my experience was not good. I strongly disagreed with the content edits and backed out of the deal. I would have done any amount of work, gone to most any length, to make changes if I had believed they would strengthen the novel, but I refused to make any changes that I thought would weaken it.

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