Tag Archives: inspiration

Monday Meditations: Sydney Carton

Have I ever told you how much I love A Tale of Two Cities? If there weren’t so many other books I must read, I’d be back inside that one. Dickens captivated me with his genuinely epic scope, and endearing characters. My personal favorite is Sydey Carton. You could see his sacrifice coming a mile away, but somehow that never ruined his dramatic and tear-inducing rise from miserable drunkard to sacrificial hero.

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine showed me a song that reminds me of him. Hear the song, and then read the final passages of A Tale of Two Cities. Is it melodramatic? Yes, and beautifully so.


“Lay Me Down” by the Oh, Hello’s

This might be the most cheerful song I’ve ever heard that starts out with lines about fire and brimstone (lyrics right here). Every time I hear it my day lights up. I want to stomp along and clap and sing at the top of my lungs. I can see Sydney Carton, rumbling along in the tumbrils to his death, knowing it’s the finest death a man could ask for.


“‘I see Barsad, and Cly, Defarge, The Vengeance, the Juryman, the Judge, long ranks of the new oppressors who have risen on the destruction of the old, perishing by this retributive instrument, before it shall cease out of its present use. I see a beautiful city and a brilliant people rising from this abyss, and, in their struggles to be truly free, in their triumphs and defeats, through long years to come, I see the evil of this time and of the previous time of which this is the natural birth, gradually making expiation for itself and wearing out.

‘I see the lives for which I lay down my life, peaceful, useful, prosperous and happy, in that England which I shall see no more. I see Her with a child upon her bosom, who bears my name. I see her father, aged and bent, but otherwise restored, and faithful to all men in his healing office, and at peace. I see the good old man, so long their friend, in ten years’ time enriching them with all he has, and passing tranquilly to his reward…

‘It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”

Dickens, Charles (2010-12-01). A Tale of Two Cities (p. 335). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition.


Notes Of A Storyteller: I’m Not Scared Of Query Letters

Usually this post appears on Friday, but the claws of chaos reached into my life once again, leaving me off-schedule and very disoriented.

So let’s not waste any time. This afternoon, I peeked into my e-mail, with more interest than usual. You see, a week ago or so I decide to shoot some queries out to literary agencies about The Quest (Part One of The Kingdom Trilogy). I’m still writing The Stand (Part Two) and I mean to self-publish it, but I figure that there’s no harm in shooting a few e-mails and seeing if I get a response. I’m still open to traditional publishing, and if that door opens, I’m inclined to take it (after taking a careful look at who I’m throwing in with, of course).

After what happened today, I know for sure I want to send more query letters. I got my first rejection today, and it felt amazing.

It was very nicely-written- about as nicely written as a rejection letter can be. Basically, they told me the project wasn’t right for them. I got a big grin on my face. I wasn’t angry at all; I was ecstatic. This is no rejection. This is a challenge. This is a competition. I’m thrilled to have the chance to play.

I was so enthused, in fact, that I posted the following on Twitter…

I love getting my query letters rejected by agencies. Makes me feel nice and defiant. #query #writing #inlikealion #outlikealion #roar

I’m going to spend even more time on that next query letter. I’m not intimidated at all. Neither should you, if you’re making queries yourself. This is fun! We get to show off our writing talent, pack it into a one-page explosion of goodness, and send off into the unknown. I feel like I’m the Rebel commander from Star Wars, watching his X-wings fly off against the Death Star. It gets my adrenaline going.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to plan my plan of attack for the next agency on my list. And play some motivational hard rock war music.

Fall, Goliath, fall.

Notes Of A Storyteller: Writing Made My Day Better

I had a rough morning. I told some college friends I would wake up bright and early to exercise. My alarm blared at 5:30, and I mindlessly slept in. In my stupor, I lifted my head and 5:55 and decided I couldn’t get to the rendezvous in time.

Grunting, I translated some Latin and got on with my day. I returned to my laptop, prepared to stay on top of my coursework. A cloud still rumbled in my mind. I was frustrated. I like my days to go the way I plan them. The fact that I had chosen to derail my day was frustrating.

I don’t even remember deciding to write but I did. I kid you not. I’m not writing this to make you keep reading, or spice up my prose. My fingers instinctively moved to a short story I’ve tinkered wit now and again. Several paragraphs later, I breathed and felt slightly more complete. I still felt in a funk, but I also felt like I had done something good and natural. We’ll see how good and natural that story looks when I dive in for an edit, but I’ll dive later. I feel good.

What’s the lesson, then? Frustration, whether with little things or great, can all be pent through writing. But not pent completely. You still have to do the work to put a smile on your face and spread it around your world. But the pen is a wonderful place to put those anti-smiling forces to rest.

The Storyteller Reports: Business Doubleheader

RANT OF THE WEEK: The Many Genres that Highly Effective People Read

My adoration for The Wall Street Journal has gone on for years. Once again they tickle my thoughts with a feature on some books that business leaders call influential. Before I go on, let me test your expectations.

Of the four titles below, what would you expect Ray Fisman (professor of social enterprise and co-director of the Social Enterprise Program, Columbia Business School) to call an influence on his view of business?

A) The Gospel of Wealth by Andrew Carnegie

B) Competing for the Future by Gary Hamel and C. K. Prahalad

C) Frog And Toad Together by Arnold Lobel

D) The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End of Business as Usual by Christopher Locke, Rick Levine, Doc Searls, and David Weinberger

Believe it or not, it’s C. That’s right. The business brain in the suit names a children’s book as one of his big influences in business theory. A few others like him cite books like Henry IV, Part One by Shakespeare, and In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson. You can check them all out here.

In the meantime, allow me to do the commentary that the Journal didn’t do. I have never read a business advice book in my life. I probably will someday, but I received Crime and Punishment and The Faerie Queene for Christmas. Somehow The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People doesn’t seem as appealing. It will be a while yet before I read Covey’s famous book, or anything like it.

Why should I, if one of the primary influences on Mark Cuban was Ayn Rand? It seems to illustrate something that I have subconsciously held for a number of years. Business books seem to deal with business. Literature and philosophy deal with the human condition as a whole. Why should I spend my precious time with specifics when there is so much to be understood in the whole? And if I approach life, reading and improving myself as a whole, will this not trickle down to specifics like business management?

I know there’s at least a couple of my followers for whom this is relevant. I, too, am an indie author, selling fiction for money. My reading choices have higher stakes than the average American. My time with words is a powerful investment in how I look at the world. Every deposit I make must yield bountiful returns. Too many failures will ruin me not as an author, but as a human being.

Am I being snobbish? Of course I am. I needed some sort of self-confidence to start writing in the first place. Will I read a business book? Someday, if it’s truly worth it. But until then, I run to the arms of Fyodor Dostoevsky and Edmund Spenser. They will teach me more than Michael E. Gerber’s The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Business Don’t Work and What to Do about It ever will.


You may or may not know E.D. Kain. He blogs for Forbes.com about “nerd culture”. Whether you’re a nerd or not, you should be interested in what he has to say about the “evil corporation” stereotype in movies. After watching the trailer for Ridley Scott’s upcoming film Prometheus (an Alien prequel that doesn’t call itself an Alien prequel), Mr. Kain commented on how it might continue the corporation stereotype.

He also comments on how we can expand on that. I won’t steal any of his thunder. Check out what he has to say. For his insightful ideas, I name him Storyteller of the Week.

Monday Meditations: Being Classy

Be classy, everybody.


“It Was A Very Good Year” by Frank Sinatra

Let me revise. Be both classy and sentimental.


“I like the word ‘indolence’. It makes my laziness seem classy.”
Bern Williams


By the way, if you haven’t gotten a chance yet, you can enter until December 2nd to win The Quest (Part One of The Kingdom Trilogy), along with a couple other indie fantasy titles, over at J.C. Martin’s blog. Check it out.

Notes From A Storyteller: Death and Thanksgiving

In the sprawl and squalor of post-Thanksgiving suburbia, I ran into Death.

He had ran into me long before, but I didn’t know it. All through Thanksgiving, as I had gorged on turkey and cranberries, he had watched my every move. He knew every song I had blasted through my earbuds on Spotify, and every play I had made playing football with the guys. He knew me through and through.

I started thinking about him today. Yesterday, I could have died at any time, at any hour. Being a writer, that was something I couldn’t ignore. It was a notion one normally finds in storybooks, and here it was in the ordinary world I lived and walked in. I was sitting in a plush armchair when it came to me.

“I’m a writer,” I said to myself, “I haven’t written a line these past few days. Am I going to Death catch me off-guard? I want to get a few more paragraphs in before I go!”

Thus I found my way back to this blog, and back to you readers. It’s been a lazy week, hasn’t it? We get so swept up in Thanksgiving and Black Friday, and forget completely that we are mortal beings. Our days will end. The bear-trap is waiting just around the corner. How many of us have made their final gasp, just while you’ve been reading this blog post? Maybe if I walk out of my room right now, I’ll trip and fall down the stairs and break my neck.

If I do, I’m glad I wrote this first. I think that might be what I’m most thankful for this Thanksgiving, besides my family and friends. I’m thankful I got the chance to do a little more of what I enjoy before I cross over to the other side.

I don’t know what you believe about the other side. I don’t even know if you’re a writer. But whatever you are, you’re a human, and you know what you want. Will you have it before you die?

Monday Meditations: Adventure

Fire up your imagination today. Life is an adventure. Just ask Hans Zimmer.


“Pirates of the Caribbean Theme Song” by Hans Zimmer

Forever the anthem of the swashbuckler at heart.


“Certainty of death… small chance of success… what are we waiting for?”

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)