Friday, November 14, 2008
Living in both Texas and Hawaii, I have the best of both worlds. In Texas I'm surrounded by a large family, lots of friends, and I'm very grounded in the business world. In Hawaii I get a more spiritual perspective on life and get to escape the rat race for a little bit. I get to study with spiritual teachers, like Kahunas who are not affected by the ups and downs of the stock market. And they don't place one's self-worth on financial success. In Hawaii, it's much easier to live in the moment and experience peace in your heart. There are so many places to commune with nature--beaches, rain forests, mountains. Endless summer and eternal sunshine. Here there are a lot of surfers. Their bliss is catching the next big wave. Even though I have yet to learn to surf, I am gaining a lot just by watching how they live. They are showing me that even though life, like the turbulent ocean, can toss you around and send you plunging, the surfers just shake their mops of wet hair like a dog, smile big, and yell something like "Whoa, total wipe out!" Then they get right back on their surf boards and courageously face what life offers them next. Sometimes they catch the wave's peak and ride it smooth, feeling at one with the Universe. In the surfer's mind getting wiped out is just part of living. It's okay to make mistakes. Wiping out doesn't mean it's the end of the world. You can always catch the next big wave and next thing you know, you're riding high again. Kowabunga!
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Once I got it in my heart it was time to move, my radar was scanning the map for what places felt like they were pulling at me. Immediately cities across the U.S. began to shine on the map--Austin, TX, Ashville, NC, Phoenix, AZ, and ... Hawaii! I couldn't imagine moving that far away from Texas. No way. Austin, maybe, but never Hawaii. I did a lot of meditation seeking answers. I visualized living in each place and felt what that area of the U.S. might be like. I even considered Costa Rica for brief moment, then decided better to stay where I'm a citizen and know the language.
I listed my values--surrounded by nature, warm weather most of the year, lots of sunshine, spiritual community, plenty of activities that involve the outdoors, exotic locale, friends nearby, dolphins, bikini girls, etc. Then I went on a retreat in Hawaii and just fell in love with the energy of the islands. I had already been to Kaui twice, Maui three times, and the Big Island twice. The Hawaiian islands matched my values and more. A good buddy of mine and his girlfriend were already living on the Big Island and encouraging me to move here. While retreating on the Big Island I meditated some more just to be sure I was making the right decision. For me this was such a monumental decision, because it was my first move away from my family: parents, sister, grandparents, and cousins, most of whom live in Texas.
As I meditated, I got a strong inner feeling, a deep knowing, that this would be a good move for me. On a beach staring at the ocean, listening to the surf crash against the rocks, I made the decision. "I'm moving to Maui." Even though I was on the Big Island at the time, Maui was calling me very strongly. The rest was me overcoming all the fears and obstacles that wanted to keep me in Dallas, my comfort zone. I had a fifteen-year video business and several established clients I was leaving behind. My closest friends and clients all pulled at my heart strings to stay. You just don't realize how much you're loved until you tell everyone you're uprooting.
Leaving Dallas was much harder than I thought. I was raised a Texan since the age of two and thirty-six years later I was leaving behind my cowboy boots for flipflops and hula girls, oh yeah, and bikini girls, too. But more than just heading off to some kind of tropical paradise, this was a spiritual decision for me. I was on a quest of self-discovery and knew that staying for other people was not allowing me to grow. As I writer I felt it would be good for me to expand my horizons. So I sold everything, said many tearful goodbyes, and flew West to seven tiny dots on the Pacific Ocean.
I'm often asked, when following one's bliss, how does one know they are making the best decision? You meditate until your thoughts are clear and your inner voices have stopped chattering, and then you feel into your heart as you ask very specific questions. Also helps to get away from the noise of the city and commune with nature. When the true answer comes your heart fills with joy and the idea of doing this next new thing motivates you to hop out of bed in the morning. Following one's bliss is an ongoing exploration. It's not a destination to reach, but an attitude of just doing what makes you happy.
We passed lots of waterfalls along the way.
In Hana there's a secret path that leads to Red Sand Beach. The path cuts through a Japanese cemetery. These graves are on the side of a cliff and I noticed a couple of tombstones had tumbled into the ocean. My imagination was running wild, coming up with short story ideas about Japanese ghosts haunting fishing boats who anchored near these cliffs.
Next went to the Venus Pool. It's an oasis that has still water that's perfect for swimming. Because the water is deep, people jump off the cliffs. It's by far the most beautiful place I've found so far on Maui. You can find out how to get there in the book Maui Revealed. I also discovered a couple of caves back in the trees to the right of the next photo. I climbed into one of the caves by myself. At the back was an altar where someone had burned candles and performed some kind of ritual. On the ground there were piles of palm seeds that looked like shrunken heads. Freaked me out, I must admit. That's what I get for putting that kind of voodoo stuff in my books.
Here's a banyan tree. I can't remember where we saw this, but there are several around the island. The largest and most famous you'll find in downtown Lahaina.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
So anyone here been to Ontario or Montreal? Those two locations are where my mind has been much of this past year. It's interesting writing a winter tale while living in the tropics of Hawaii. I really have to use my imagination to conjur up feelings of being trapped in a blizzard. I actually started this novel a year ago when I was still living in Texas, and we do occasionally get snowy winters there, at least a day or two of snow, but nothing like Canada. Certainly no blizzards. I look forward to traveling up to Ontario and Montreal some time soon and doing research.
The other exciting project I've been working on is a collection of short stories called Chasing the Dragon. I've been writing short fiction since I was in college and have always wanted to share my stories on the world wide web. Three of my stories are now available at my fiction blog DARK LUCIDITY. Read them for free and if you like, tell me what you think. I love hearing from people who read my work.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
I needed a mini vacation and finally took one. Since I'm already living in Hawaii, a vacation destination, I decided to go out and explore some parts of Maui I hadn't seen yet. There are so many beaches, rain forests, sacred sites, and mountain vistas here it will probably take me a year to see them all. Adventure for me is more than just about the excitement of writing and publishing fiction. It's also about getting back to nature. One of my favorite things to do when not working is to go hiking and exploring new places. Here are some photos of two hiking trips I took last week with my good friend Greg "Magick" Bernstein.
That's Magick in the hat. He's a retreat leader here on Maui and knows about many of the sacred places to explore. First, we went hiking the Waihe'e Valley, a rain forest region located on the northwest side of Maui, just a short drive from Kahului.
The sky was an azure blue that day.
A very wise and ancient banyan tree watches over the trail.
We crossed several streams like this.
Two of the streams have swinging bridges.
The trail ends at waterfalls that flow into a swimming hole.
It's a great place to picnic and swim.
On September 2nd, the day my novel released, I celebrated with my buddy Magick by hiking Haleakala volcano. If you've been to Maui, you probably know about Haleakala. It's the peak where tourists go up to the top and watch the sunrise then ride bikes down to the bottom. The volcano is dormant, so there's no lava flow. That's only on the Big Island. At the top of Haleakala there's a vast wilderness with 27 miles of trails for hiking and riding horseback.
At the entrance to the Halemu'u trail
we were greeted by two Hawaiian Geese called "Nene."
The Nene is Hawaii's state bird.
The crater has a barren desert side and a lush green side with lots of ferns. On this particular day, Magick and I hiked the lush green side. The first mile gradually descends to the valley.
There were plenty of breathtaking views.
We spent a good five hours hiking and had lunch overlooking the valley. At one point we watched an owl fly along the cliffs. It was a magical day.
When we got back to the car, the Nene were still there to bid us farewell.
If you find yourself feeling stressed-out about working long hours, I highly recommend a mini-vacation in your area. Explore the outdoors, get back to nature. I feel recharged and ready to get back to writing my next novel.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
In my World War II supernatural thriller Shadows in the Mist," I follow Lt. Jack Chambers' platoon through the famous Battle of the Hurtgen Forest. During that time I was reading Band of Brothers by Stephen Ambrose. From reading that book I learned the thick bond that developed between soldiers who had to rely on one another for survival.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
In addition to all my publishing and promotion tasks, I've been preparing for my big move next week, calling the electric company, Internet company, shopping for a new mattress, and lining up a mover. I'm ready to end my gypsy lifestyle and live in a home that's mine with only my stuff in it.
I've been mostly working these last couple of months. Fun work, the kind that makes me leap out of bed in the morning. Work that I enjoy so much that ten hours will just fly by. And life would be just a bowl of cherries right now if work wasn't my only mode. I'm behaving like a typical workaholic, who puts work before everything else. Whew, I'm finally willing to admit it, look at the imbalance closely, and change it. This has been pointed out to me by a close friend, as well as my roommate, Eli the cat, who demands a lot of attention, especially while I'm at my computer type-type-typing away, and all he wants is some human affection, and my attention is zoned in on writing or surfing cyberspace.
I found myself getting angry a few times that the cat was all over me, motors running, loving me unconditionally. It was really pushing my buttons. I felt angry because this little fur ball of bottomless affection is breaking my concentration. After some deep self-reflection, I discovered I have a fear pattern running me. Afraid if I don't keep working, my first book is going to fail in the marketplace, I'm going to lose my writing muse, and the dream career I've been working on is just going to end in failure. So there it is, a fear of failure. On the flip side of that is that I've been driven by an extreme desire to be successful like Stephen King. I want to walk into a bookstore and see not just one of my books on the shelf but twenty, a body of work I'm proud of. And the idea of earning royalties off all those books makes me want it more. Because residual cash flow gives an author freedom to quit his day job and write more books. This is all great as a vision for my future, but what about enjoying the here and now?
Life happens in the moment, and it's easy to live out in the future, saying, "As soon as I reach this point, then I'll be happy, then I'll relax, or then I'll spend time with my loved ones or do those things I'm most passionate about." The other day while meditating I began to feel into the energy of being a workaholic. I had this vision that inside me were hundreds of gerbils running on metal wheels. As I examined them closely, I saw their little feet were spinning the wheels faster and faster. Their black beady eyes kept glancing at me pleadingly, as if to say, "How long do we have to keep this up?" I suddenly was overcome with a sense of compassion about how hard I've been driving myself. I took a deep breath, then in my meditation I reached over and pulled an imaginary lever. There was a metallic shriek, then all the wheels began slowing down. I blew the factory whistle. All the gerbils climbed down from their wheels, looked up at me smiling, then grabbed their tiny little lunchboxes and hopped on home.
I had a revelation during that meditation. To be happy, I don't have to work like some gerbil on a wheel. I decided it's time to find some balance between working and relaxing and having fun. Spend time with people I care about. It would also be good to get out and date again. Go out and share some spicy conversation with a special woman. Romance is something, that I admit humbly, is an area of my life I have neglected for several months. I always told myself I wouldn't become that person who gets so consumed by work that I would have no time or energy left for the people who matter.
So this is me turning over a new leaf. Today I'm only working the morning, and then taking the afternoon off. I'm also taking Friday completely off to go do something fun around the island. You know, one of those activities tourists do when they come here to pretty much do nothing but explore and play and frolic at the beach. So I'm going to go do some much needed frolicking. I might even flirt with some ladies and spark up a new romance. Hawaii is the magical destination where anything can happen. Especially when you can allow the inner gerbils to just relax and enjoy the moment.
Saturday, August 16, 2008
Thursday, August 14, 2008
This morning I got up at 6:00 a.m. and wrote a 14-page short story called "The Dealer of Insatiable Needs." I banged it out in about six hours. It's pure horror and creepy as hell. I was getting goosebumps just typing away at the keyboard this morning. I'm making the story available this week at my new blog DARK LUCIDITY. Tonight I built the new blog to publish my short fiction on-line. Check it out and read the "Welcome" page.
So how did I go from unmotivated, procrastinating slacker to rampant motivation in just one day? Let's backtrack. As I shared in yesterday's post, I was so down on myself for not getting anything done toward writing or marketing. I was feeling guilty, like I was throwing my dream away. I literally sat on my bed and just stared at the walls, trying to motivate myself into action. I know I can be stubborn with other people. But it's a royal pain when I'm stubborn with myself. But sometimes it's like there's a little kid inside me who just won't budge. So I thought, well if I'm going to procrastinate with work, I might as well read an inspirational book.
I'm staying at my friend's house for a couple weeks and she has all these great spiritual books lying around. I picked up Stillness Speaks by Eckhart Tolle. You may be familiar with him, he wrote Power of Now and one of Oprah's favorites A New Earth. I start reading Stillness Speaks and it's comprised of short passages called sutras that help you slow down your mind and just relax. Be in the moment and breathe deeply. He talks about how all creativity comes from stillness. All we have to do is take a few moments to focus on nothing. I know that can be hard to do on your own, but this book guides you through the process. I kept reading the sutras and noticed that all my mental chatter just all of the sudden stopped. I reached this zen master state and just let go of all my attachments to getting work done today. The rest of the day I was so relaxed. I went for a workout at the gym then took a walk, noticing the sky, the clouds, the mountains. I know this sounds kind of woo woo, but I had a breakthrough. I went to sleep calm and, when I woke up, I was inspired to write and my short story just rolled across my computer screen as fast as I could type. I didn't even have think much about it. It was literally like the story was being told to me. As a writer, I don't always know where my creativity comes from, but I do believe I have a muse, and when I silence all the mental chatter, I get much more accomplished. Not only was I inspired to write, but as soon I completed my short story, I easily jumped to a whole list of tasks. Whew! Okay, now it's 1:00 a.m. and I'm going to force myself to stop and go to bed or I'll be too tired to wake up in the morning.
If you find yourself procrastinating on something that needs to get done, or if you're blocked creatively, I recommend taking the day off and stilling the mind. Read Stillness Speaks.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
The press release is what my publicist sends out to newspapers and magazines so they can publish an article about me. The challenge is I have to write the content that goes into that article, so newspaper editors can just copy paste it into their columns. Journalistic writing is just not as fun as writing a chapter of a novel. I enjoy making stuff up, creating fantasy worlds and imaginary people. I'd much rather being immersed in a scene seeing what my characters are going to do next. I almost never know what they're going to do until I get into the scene.
The next novel I'm working on, Dead of Winter, has a whole cast of troubled characters, including two exorcists trying to solve the mystery of an unholy plague. Also I counted at least two love triangles. And there's a lot of sex in it. I'm not sure what's going through my head these days, but this book, which is set in Canada during the mid 1800's, is much spicier than my World War II thriller.
So today I got little accomplished and I'm feeling the pressure of my debut novel, Shadows in the Mist, releasing in three weeks. Back when I was only dreaming of being published, I thought when my first book releases I'd be kicking back drinking champagne on a yacht somewhere, enjoying the good life. But instead I'm having to work double time writing my blog, updating my website, writing press releases. No wonder I slacked off today. I'm feeling a bit overhwelmed. Oh, well, at least I got my blog entry in.
Friday, August 8, 2008
This is my second morning back on Maui, and I'm still recovering from jet lag from the five-hour time difference between Texas and Hawaii. I'd love more than anything to write a scene or two for my newest horror novel, DEAD OF WINTER, but I feel too pressured to tackle my list of things to do: find a place to live, explore the island, go swimming, take surf lessons, take Salsa lessons, meet up with friends, organize my life. It's hard for me to concentrate on writing when I'm feeling disorganized and pulled in a hundred different directions. I've been on the road for over two months now, living out of a suitcase and wearing the same clothes over and over. All my cherished belongings are in storage. My strongest motivation to write is on my blog, which is a great outlet for me, until I can get settled and back into the swing of novel writing. I can't wait to finish DEAD OF WINTER and share it with the world. Just a hundred more pages to go. But for now I'm putting off fiction writing until next week. By then I should be more stabilized.
Okay, so first on my agenda is find a place to live. I've got just over two weeks to do it. Fortunately I have a place to stay in the mean time. I'm currently house sitting for a friend. It's actually quite nice here. The condo is in a beach town called Kihei and right across from the beach. I walked there yesterday evening after sunset and just listened to the tide rolling in. It was the first moment since I got back that I've felt a sense of peace. Can you hear the waves lapping at the shore?
Where I'm staying, my friend has a cute white cat named Eli who is completely deaf. He understands some sign language though. Like if you pat your chest, he knows that means "Come to me." I found my rooming with a deaf cat an interesting metaphor. I had suffered a hearing loss myself a few years back. I didn't go completely deaf but I had difficulty understanding most people. It was very frustrating. I lived in denial about my hearing loss for years. Only recently did I accept that this was a part of my life experience. Last month I finally got hearing aids and now hear everything loud and clear. Thank God for advanced technology! I used to be ashamed of my reduced hearing, but now I see it as a gift. I made a discovery the other day on the airplane where there was a crying baby. In noisy environments I can take out my hearing aids and escape to a more tranquil place.
So here I am at day two of my Maui adventure and rooming with a deaf cat named Eli. He stares out at the back garden a lot, gazing at the statue, so I'm guessing he's a Buddhist. Because he can't hear, my friend says he's extra sensitive and needs to be around people constantly. He has a tendency to cry in the middle of the night. The other night I tossed and turned while he mewled in the next room. He must have been loud, because I wasn't wearing my hearing aids and he sounded like he could raise the roof. I slept walk into the dark living room, searching for Eli. I spotted his white form in the darkness near the dining table and petted him. He immediately stopped moaning. I talked to him. Even though he can't hear, I'm sure he can read lips. I scooped up the furball into my arms and put him in bed with me, but he didn't stay there long. I'm sure the cat misses his master, who is an attractive woman. After that, the house went quiet again and I went back to bed. As I lay there, I wondered if Eli's crying in the middle of the night might also be some kind of metaphor. Maybe a part of me was sad that I had just left behind all my close friends and family and was starting a new life alone. I'm not really one to cry myself, so I guess that's why the Universe roomed me with a deaf cat named Eli who cries in the darkness. I'm certain he'll end up in one of my novels.
Well, I'd love to continue writing, but you know, I have that list of things to do tugging at me, so aloha for now.