Creativity

Indentured Solitude

Indentured Solitude It was four-thirty in the morning and Ernest stared blankly through the fog that clung to the window of the black cab. He found himself lost in the lights of London shimmering on the Thames. He realized how close he was to getting the one thing he most desired.

“How far away are we?” Ernest asked the cab driver.

The cabbie glanced up and their eyes met briefly in the rearview mirror.

“Six more blocks, Sir, roughly,” answered with a strong Hindi accent.

Ernie reached into the inside pocket of his wool pea coat for a wad of Pound notes and started thumbing through them.

“You can drop me off right here.”

The driver pulled to the curb, draping his thin arm across the back of the passenger seat, “That’ll be an even fifty-five quid, please.”

“Keep the change,” Ernest nodded as he slipped two carefully folded fifty pound notes in the driver’s ashy palm.

The driver quickly jerked his hand away.

“Ouch! Nothing starts off a shift like a paper cut! Paper cuts are like annoying little f*cking barking Chihuahuas only you can hear,” the cabbie said.

Ernie laughed to himself and immediately repeated the line under his breath so he wouldn’t forget it. Life sometimes handed you these glorious lines, words that deserve to live forever in fiction and this was just such a gem.

“Thanks, mate. Enjoy your stay.”

One more act of kindness can’t hurt he thought closing the cab door and watching the taillights of the taxi as they disappeared into the darkness.

Despite how unfair the world seemed Ernie still believed in karma. Besides, money would be of no use to him where he was going now. Taking in a few deep breaths of the cool, fresh air he almost forgot for a moment why he was here.

Ernie had been extremely shy as a child and life was easier when he lived it inside his head. He spent most of his childhood within the confines of his own imagination. Solitude was Ernest’s cocoon, the shield that protected him from the world’s harshness, and over time solitude grew to be his best friend. Back then, if he wasn’t scribbling in his bedroom you could find him lying on the shag carpeting in front of his parent’s console T.V. engrossed in some British sitcom on PBS.

Ernie had always felt an unexplainable familiarity with British culture. He loved their dry wit and even the gloomy weather. It didn’t surprise him when he discovered later in life that his ancestors had immigrated to America from Warwickshire in the late 1600’s. He’d always suspected he’d lived a past life as a Brit but now his theory leaned more towards genetic memory.

Ernest sighed heavily and made his way against the biting November wind. He tried to focus on the rhythm of his footsteps instead of his fears but he was failing miserably at it. It didn’t help that his brain still buzzed from too many cups of coffee during the flight. He could never sleep on planes so any trip over four hours was pure torture.

As he turned the corner he realized that this would be the last block he would walk as a free man. As charming as this neighborhood was, each step brought with it a greater feeling of dread.

This is my own green mile, he thought.

He wasn’t literally losing his life but it felt like it.

Ernie’s eyes scanned the addresses of the Victorian row houses as he walked. When he spotted 1356 Tenley Place the gray canvas duffle bag he was holding slid from his fingers and fell to the sidewalk with a dull thud. He felt a sharp stab of pain in the pit of his stomach followed by the urge to retch up the remains of the disgusting breakfast sandwich he devoured on the plane.

“Just what in the bloody ‘ell ‘ave you done now, mate?” he whispered in the best Cockney accent he could muster.

Thank God I still have my sense of humor, he chuckled nervously to himself.

A few months after he received the advance for his first novel, Ernest bought a condo in the very building F. Scott Fitzgerald was born. He thought the place would be inspirational, and it was for a while. In the quiet hours, just before dawn, there was a perfect stillness and it was as though he could hear Fitzgerald’s ghost whispering words and ideas into his ear. For almost three months last winter he rarely left the condo and wrote the best fiction of his life. This gave him such confidence that he felt his second novel could be the next Great Gatsby. One morning, about halfway through the first draft of his second novel, the ghost didn’t pay him a visit and the whispers stopped.

Ernest didn’t overlook the irony in the fact that his literary agent chose London for this scheme. The city now considered so civilized was built on a foundation of suffering and barbarism. Ernest knew that nearly everything of any value was born of suffering, if he didn’t he would never have agreed to this plan.

Ernie remembered so vividly the afternoon this insane idea was born. He was alone, cooking dinner in his condo, streaming Tito Puente a little too loudly from his phone. He was already two glasses into a bottle of a nice cabernet and feeling the comfort of its cozy warmth. A cool breeze blew in from the open window and the scent of pepper beef stir-fry filled the air when the music stopped and his phone began to ring. He almost didn’t answer the call when he saw it was Harold, his literary agent. He knew what it was about but decided he had avoided the conversation too long already.

“How’s my favorite author?” Harold said.

Ernie rolled his eyes dramatically.

“Hey Harry, I’m doing okay,” Ernie answered.

“You don’t sound okay, Bud. We’re only six months away from the publisher’s deadline. How’s the progress coming?”

Ernest didn’t want to admit that he hadn’t written a word of substance in months and was beginning to fear his debut novel was a freak thing he couldn’t repeat. Every time he sat down to write his mind went blank. He was desperate to get his mojo back.

“Honestly, Harry, I’m petrified. I have the worst goddamn writer’s block of my whole life. These past few months have been a roller coaster. Between the book tour and the media interviews, I feel like time is rushing by too fast. Everybody wants a piece of me. All I need is solitude, some time away…from everything.”

During the flight’s excruciating hours he had questioned a thousand times if he would’ve agreed to this Harry’s plan if it hadn’t been for those two glasses of cabernet. He always came up with the same answer; no. The wine was the rickety bridge that had temporarily merged his world with Harry’s.

The line went quiet for a moment. “Gosh, Ernie. You know if you don’t give them something Doubleday can terminate your contract and we have to pay back a substantial part of the advance.”

Harold Cincotti thrived in the alternate universe that was Manhattan. A person who didn't know his backstory would never guess he fought his way up from poverty in the streets of the Bronx. Ernest didn't see the other side of Harry until the final days of the contract negotiations with Doubleday when Harry’s demeanor went from polished executive to a Soprano’s cast member in under three seconds. Witnessing that kind of explosive fury scared the hell out of Ernie. However blunt they were, Harry’s negotiation skills secured a record-breaking three book deal from one of New York’s most respected publishers and made Ernie a rich man.

“I have an idea, I know this guy who owes me a favor in London…” This was the exact point where Ernie couldn’t bear to replay any more of the conversation in his head, it made him feel too foolish.

So, instead of taking in the sights of Britain here he stood, before the heavy wooden double doors of a fancy Victorian row house. This is the first moment it all felt real. This place would be his prison and the length of the sentence would be totally up to him.

“You are a desperate and a very stupid man,” Ernest muttered.

The creaking brass hinges of the heavy wooden double doors broke him from his self-loathing.

“Please come in, Mr. Solomon. Mr. Jacobs has been expecting you,” the butler said with nothing but emptiness in his eyes. He looked more like a linebacker than a butler; this man weighed three hundred pounds if he weighed an ounce.

As hard as he tried Ernest could conjure no words. His head was spinning and the salt crunched under his feet as he climbed the stairs to the front door. By the third step he realized he left his bag on the sidewalk behind him but he knew if he turned back the urge would be too strong to try to make a break for it. As he crossed the threshold, the air inside held a different kind of gravity, it was heavier somehow. He knew he was entering a world in which he didn’t belong. The scent of the place was just as he expected a proper English house to smell, the subtle fragrance of fine leather, expensive candles, and generational wealth.

“This way, Sir,” the butler said as Ernie followed him towards the back of the house. Ernie felt the man’s heat signature as he walked three feet behind him.

Ernest’s breath quickened. Beads of cool sweat began to form on his forehead as they approached another doorway leading to a flight of stairs down to the basement. The old wooden stairs groaned, protesting each of the butler’s footsteps as they descended.

“Watch your ‘ead, please. I believe you’ll need it,” the butler whispered, smirking over his shoulder.

The bottom of the staircase opened to the limestone walls of the damp, windowless cellar. Two leather wingback chairs were facing one another on a faded red Oriental rug. In one of the chairs sat a dapper man with a perfectly shaped bald head. His legs were crossed at the knee and he wore an impeccably tailored gray suit with brown saddle leather boots polished to a mirror shine. As the man stood to shake Ernie’s hand he noticed a deep and jagged scar that ran from just above his ear to his chin.

“Welcome to London, Mr. Soloman, I’m Peter Jacobs. Before we begin I must tell you how much I admire your work. I can tell from your writing that you're an honorable man. I told Mr. Cincotti that after I read your book I saw the world in a completely different way. Do you know how rare that is for someone like me? When Harry told me of your troubles I couldn't bear it because I recognize such an immense greatness in you.”

Mr. Jacobs stood so close that could Ernie feel his warm breath on his face. Ernie’s body tensed as Mr. Jacobs rested both hands heavily on Ernie’s shoulders and gave them a firm squeeze, staring him straight in the eyes.

“I’ve developed a great instinct for people. It’s a talent that has served me well in my business. We’re rooting for you.”

As he smiled slightly, the light caught the flash of a gold-capped tooth as he turned on his heel and began to pace back and forth in front of Ernie.

“Anyway, I digress. I’ll be administering the process here today,” he said.

“Let’s run through the terms of our agreement, shall we?”

“Well, umm, Mr. Jacobs you see...I think I’ve changed my mind,” Ernie pleaded as his eyes dropped to the floor.

“Come now, Mr. Solomon, relax. Shall I remind you that I made our friend Mr. Cincotti a promise? In our world our word is all we have and we live and die by it,” he said, staring at Ernest intensely with his piercing blue eyes.

“First, we ask that you turn in your mobile phone and empty your pockets of all personal belongings and place them into this plastic tub.”

Ernie tried to find comfort in Harry’s words as they kept echoing through his head, Let me tell you two things I’ve learned, Number one, in this world the hero and villain can possess the same kind of greatness, and Number two, everything in this life, good or bad, comes with a price.

He didn’t have the life experience it took to understand what Harry meant until this very moment.

Back in Manhattan Harry was probably already two whiskeys into the night, getting his ego stroked by an attractive waitress in some swanky Manhattan restaurant. This plan was easy for Harry because he wasn't the one standing in this dank basement, alone with a powerful British crime boss who happened to be Ernest’s biggest fan.

Ernie tried his best to swallow but his throat was far too parched. He began to accept his fate as he started to empty the contents of his pockets into the clear plastic tub.

“The terms of our agreement are as follows,” Mr. Jacobs said as he walked a few feet towards a gray steel door, rapping it two times with this knuckles as it rang like a bell.

“This is your new home. You will be housed in this secured room, eight feet by ten feet in diameter including one writer’s desk with a chair, a bed, a lavatory, and a shower until such a time as a draft of your new novel, deemed worthy of publication by Mr. Cincotti, is produced.”

Mr. Jacobs’ face took on a more serious expression and he started pacing back and forth again as he continued, “You will be issued a laptop computer and access to reading material of your choosing. A chef will be at your disposal from 6am to 9pm to prepare anything you desire. There will be no internet access, radio, or television to distract you. There is an intercom system in the chamber to communicate to my staff but you shall have absolutely no contact with the outside world save for one call per week to a single party of your choosing. These calls will be monitored closely and I promise you that there will be a severe penalty if there is an attempt to breach any of these terms. A press release has been prepared by our staff informing the public that you are taking a hiatus from public life for an undetermined amount of time until your task is complete.”

Ernie twitched as the large stainless steel lock on the gray door buzzed loudly. Mr. Jacobs swung open the thick door to reveal a sparse vault-like room.

“Smith, show Mr. Solomon into the chamber, please.”

“Of course, Sir,” Smith quickly complied, he rested his enormous hand in the middle of Ernie’s back and pushed him six feet into the middle of the room.

“Hey!” Ernie screamed as spun around to see the steel door slam shut behind him.

This last outburst was like the final whimper of a baby before surrendering to sleep. After a few seconds Ernie’s tightly clenched jaw relaxed and his shoulders slumped forward. Everything was instantly quiet and still. Instead of feeling confined by the tight space he felt his imagination expanding, this gave him hope.

In a moment of desperation Ernest had agreed to pay a price far greater than money for what he desired. He willingly agreed to pay with his freedom and his time but now that he understood his predicament on a deeper level, he realized he might even pay with his life.

Ernest slid the simple wooden chair away from the desk and sat down. As he opened the laptop and rested his hands lightly on its keys he felt a shiver run down his spine. Ernie realized that for all of Harry’s wisdom there was one thing a person like him couldn’t begin to understand and that one thing was how complex an author’s creativity could be.

Muse was magic, like a beautiful monarch butterfly that decides to land on you when you’re standing all alone in a garden, perfectly still. Muse could never be forced or even willed. Ernie closed his eyes and prayed that this locked chamber, in the basement of this Victorian row house in London might possess the kind of perfect stillness that would welcome the fickle whispers of Fitzgerald's ghost.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just Another Day

Darren was a bachelor, he would claim by choice, and he was also very particular. His life was lived like a sacred ritual, trying his best to make sure that each day was the same as the last. He woke each weekday morning at 5:20am sharp, showered, and shaved his salt and pepper shadow with a vintage chrome safety razor. He then brewed an extra strong cup of coffee and prepared breakfast which consisted of steel cut oatmeal with a quarter cup of blueberries and half a pat of grass fed butter, never more. Although Darren was what most people would consider content he had always felt like his life was missing something indescribable. It was as though his soul was a jigsaw puzzle that was almost complete, the few missing pieces were where his heart was but he had no idea of where to find them.

Just before leaving for the office Darren always watered his bonsai tree, a ficus of the variety sold at Walmart, with one half cup of spring water, perfectly measured. For the last ten years Darren had cared for the bonsai like it was his first born. He even gave it a name, he called it Moe because the shape of the tree’s foliage reminded him of the mop top hairstyle of the lead stooge of the same name. His boss had given him Moe as a gift for his fifth anniversary with the accounting agency.

The first night Darren brought the bonsai home to his apartment he had the distinct impression that, in some inexplicable way, Moe’s well-being would forever connected to the security of this job. He believed with all of his being that as long as he kept the bonsai healthy he would never need to worry about the security of his job at the agency. In Darren’s mind his theory was substantiated the following year. He had overslept by only few minutes and was running late, as a result he had forgotten to water Moe. This couldn’t have happened on a worse day, it was the day of his annual performance review at the agency and his absentmindedness cost him dearly, that year he received a measly ten cent raise.

Each Saturday morning Darren allowed himself the luxury of one extra hour of sleep, he felt that any more would be wasting the day away. Upon waking his Saturday ritual was almost identical to the previous five mornings except for one: instead of taking the northbound train to the office he crossed to the other side of the station and boarded the southbound train to the Snelling Avenue stop. Just across the street from the Snelling station stood Wimbley’s Books and the hand painted sign out front, in bold red letters read, “Rare and Out of Print Books.”

Darren spent nearly every Saturday weeding through the stacks of books, intoxicated by the mustiness of antiquity. Wimbley’s was the one of the few places on Earth where he felt like he fit in. Sometimes he would pack a sandwich and a piece of fruit in his messenger bag for sustenance enough to spend the entire day there.

From the moment he got off the train he felt as though a magnet was pulling him towards the front door of Wimbley’s shop. His strides were a little more hurried than usual as he crossed the busy street. Sam, one of Mr. Wimbley’s clerks, had left Darren a cheery voice mail on Tuesday morning with the news that his book had arrived. It took all of his restraint not to continue riding right on past his normal stop that night after work to pick up the treasure. Darren worried over the matter for the rest of his workday that Tuesday but was worried that any deviation in his routine might throw off his luck for the rest of the week.

Darren turned the doorknob and stepped inside Wimbley’s shop and as he did the tarnished brass bell that hung above the door chimed alerting the staff he had arrived.

“It’s Darren, nine o’clock exactly...punctual as always. I have no idea how you waited four days to pick this up, you have more patience than me,” Mr. Wimbley said peering over top of his wire rimmed glasses, eyes squinting as he smiled.

“It wasn’t easy, Sir! I was just so busy,” Darren answered as he blew into his hands and quickly rubbed them together.

The treasure that Mr. Wimbley spoke of was a copy of a fifteenth century Irish illuminated manuscript obtained from an extensive book collection in Dubai. There were only three known copies of this ancient manuscript created by a lone Irish monk.

Legend has it that the monk, whose name had since been lost to history, lived in a two room stone house that stood alone amongst the craggy cliffs of the Irish seashore. The monk had befriended the two Gaelic tribes in the region he was put in charge of converting to Christianity by the Vatican. After living among the native people for only a few months the monk went rogue and adopted the pagan people’s dress and their way of life.

The monk was so taken by the power of these people’s spiritual beliefs he felt it his duty to meticulously transcribe the Gallic druids’ oral tradition word for word. Each page of the book was handwritten in flowing calligraphy; although it was officially untitled, the book was referred to in collector’s circles as The Gaelic Book of Wisdom. The book contained three hundred and sixty-five passages, one for each day of the year. The monk then made two additional copies of the book, he kept one for himself and the remaining two were given to the chieftain of each of the two tribes. When the word got out that the monk had been turned by pagans and failed in his missionary work, assassins were dispatched by the Pope himself to put a swift end to the monk’s shenanigans before a legend was born.

The Gaelic Book of Wisdom is now considered one of the grails of bibliophiles. A person had be in the inner circle to even know about, let alone, get a chance at owning something as special as this. Darren’s ticket into this rarified world was Mr. Wimbley and his admission was earned slowly over decades of patronizing his bookstore and thousands of dollars changing hands.

One of Wimbley’s long time clerks, Samantha Fletcher or Fletch as she was called by the regulars, came from behind the counter and handed Darren a pair of white gloves, “I know you’re a virgin,” her face turned a bright pink, “umm…I mean, uh when it comes to owning rare books.”

Fletch took a deep breath and regained her composure, “You’ll want to wear these gloves whenever you handle it. Otherwise the oil from your skin will discolor the pages. Always remember, this book is an irreplaceable artifact. It’s so easy to forget in today’s world of disposable things how fragile and valuable something like this is.”

Fletch was attractive in a waspy conservative sort of way. Her hazel eyes were studious and she wore her brown hair short in a fashionable bob cut. She was almost always stealing glances across the shop at Darren on Saturdays and he would occasionally sneak a look at her too.

Darren had the distinct impression that there was something meant for him in this manuscript and that it would somehow help him to feel whole again. He was hardly a man of means but he was so sure of the importance of this purchase he took out a loan against his 401k to buy it. The incredible details that Fletch had shared with him over successive Saturdays put to rest any reservations he might have had.

Fletch lightly placed her hand on Darren’s shoulder and glanced from side to side to make sure no one else was within earshot, “The auctioneer we bought this from said the previous owner of the book bought it nearly a decade ago a flea market in Paris and found an old letter written on parchment between its pages. The letter told of how the book had a way of finding the person who needed it most and shared stories of how past owner’s lives were magically transformed for the better after acquiring the book...” Fletch trailed off as the brass bell rang and a few new customers noisily filed through the door. There was a look in her eyes that told him there was much more she wanted to say.

“Well, I could really use some magic in my life,” Darren laughed nervously.

Mr. Wimbley wrapped the book carefully in brown paper and tied it off tightly with twine. Darren eagerly handed him a cashier’s check for ten thousand dollars. Mr. Wimbley removed his white gloves and held the check up and studied it in the light. He then paused, slowly twisting the end of this handlebar mustache.

The pause lasted a bit too long for Darren’s liking. He feared Wimbley was having second thoughts about the transaction. Wimbley then shot Darren a look of concern, flicked the check noisily with his finger and said, “Darren, you’re now among the ranks of a precious few. Do you promise to take good care of this book?”

Darren exhaled more deeply than he ever did in his life, he knew now he had crossed all of the hurdles.

“I do, “ Darren said.

As he exited the shop Darren cradled the book against chest as if it was a newborn baby. He decided he wouldn’t take off the wrapper until he was home but could swear that he felt the power in it as he held the book close.

He could remember nothing of the train ride home, all he could think about was unwrapping his treasure. He quickly unlocked the door of his apartment, slid on the white gloves Fletch had given him, then carefully cut the twine with his Swiss army knife. Darren held his breath as he slowly peeled back the brown paper revealing the book’s cover, it was an emerald green leather and was in remarkably good condition for its age, only slightly faded.

As Darren cracked open the book he was in awe of the richness of color on the pages and elegant flourishes of the calligraphy. The scent was a combination of old paper, leather, and the sea. He started to read and from the first few words Darren felt wisdom and vitality pour over him. Immediately he got the distinct impression that little by little the puzzle of his life was being completed and this book contained all there was for him to learn.

A few days passed and he read from the book religiously. Each day he arose an extra fifteen minutes early to allow himself time to mindfully absorb each new passage. Almost immediately he began to notice a great change in his life: men treated him with more respect; women began to notice him; and the day's events seemed to suddenly flow effortlessly in his favor.

On Wednesday of the following week Darren’s phone buzzed as he was grocery shopping, he glanced at it and decided to pick up the call when he noticed, “Wimbley’s Books” flash across the screen.

“Hello,” Darren said sheepishly.

“It’s me, Fletch,” she paused, “I don’t know how to tell you this but I just couldn’t go through with it any longer.”

“I’m not sure what you mean,” Darren said dumbfounded as he continued bagging his pink lady apples.

“There’s something I need to tell you.” Darren could hear Fletch breathing heavily on the other side of the line.

“Sure, what is it?”

“I made it all up about the book,” she said as she started to sniffle. The sniffles then turned into sobs.

Darren tied off the plastic bag and dropped the apples into his cart, “Made it all up? I guess I’m still not sure what you mean.”

Fletch continued nervously, “I mean the book is old and super rare and it was written by an Irish monk but I concocted the whole part about the magical aspect of the book, there was no letter. There’s no magic in it either, Darren. Believe me, I had good intentions, all I wanted was to see you happy and get to get to know you a little better. I thought I might even have a chance to go out with you or something. Please forgive me.”

Darren’s face took on a look of bewilderment as he walked away from his grocery cart. For a moment Darren let his emotions get the better of him and completely forgot where he was.

“You’re lying. I feel the magic in it, I feel the change in me and nothing you tell me can convince me otherwise!” he yelled, now pacing back and forth in the produce aisle.

“Oh I get it, you probably just want the book for yourself, don’t you Fletch? This conversation is done!” Darren said as he forcibly tapped the end call button and shoved the phone into the pocket of his trench coat.

Oh my, after all these years now I have to find myself a new bookstore Darren thought to himself as he took a deep, controlled breath and continued shopping as though it was just another day.

 

~Eric Vance Walton~

Deep Pockets, Empty Souls

So many little stories unfold  all around us we must smile

and try to enjoy

our brief journey, the intricacies 

of which we 

know nothing 

about, really we must dig deep

to find our greatest joy

and relish each moment

in its wonder only then we will know

this isn't just a world of 

deep pockets 

and empty souls. ~Eric Vance Walton~

Still the Bell Tolls

Once we had broad shoulders and callused hands,

we were craftsmen

and held in high esteem

those who made things, 

ingenuity ran in our blood once we were young, 

full of enthusiasm

we convinced ourselves 

that our way was better,

we sold the world the fabric 

of our idealism to weave

their own magic carpet  now we are lost,

we are listless

our eyes dead from worry,

our souls scarred by greed

we have all that we want

but not enough of what we need,

still the bell tolls giving all we think 

we have to give

and then we give more

to serve our corporate Lords

I fear that we will never

be able to replace 

what they've subtracted

nor fully decipher 

what's been redacted,

still the bell tolls the foundation 

of our empire quivers,

but the Lords are 

too brazen to shiver 

as we awaken

hungry in our cells,

still the bell tolls we are catching fire

some call it revolution 

but it's only evolution 

to a higher consciousness

it's time for change

let's come together

and let the bell toll. ~Eric Vance Walton~

The Greatest Gift

  When there are no more jobs for these hands, no more ideas  streaming from my mind

I wish to be remembered as a cultural chameleon, a humble drifter, sensitive to the beauty of this world

these days, they are borrowed, but the memories are ours to keep

the greatest gift of the mortal is living a life so brave that you find your tribe, and grow old with those know your soul so well, they can see the world through your eyes.

~Eric Vance Walton~

How To Fail

HOW TO FAIL MISERABLY AS A WRITER (or anything else) It doesn’t matter how good of a writer you think you are, if you can’t figure out how to connect with readers you’re not going to sell anything. Internet marketing for indie authors is especially tough to figure out. Often our budgets are small or even non-existent and the rules are changing often.

This is important stuff. If you don’t figure it out eventually you’ll be discouraged enough to give up on your dream. I admit that marketing has never been one of my strong suits. This is one of the reasons it took my writing career so long to take off.  I was that skinny and awkward kid with thick glasses that few things came naturally to. I would practice things hundreds of times until I perfected them. One of the few things I had on my side was persistence. I’m still that same kid inside, only larger, with a few gray hairs, and the nagging thought that time goes far too fast to waste it.

A month ago I tried to make a poached egg. It ended up looking like egg drop soup. It was terrible. Ten or so attempts and a few YouTube videos later I can make a perfect poached egg. The secret, once I learned it was like magic and made the process easy. What is the secret? Soak the eggs (still in the shell) in white vinegar for five minutes before cracking and boiling them. That was it.

Things are incredibly hard until you figure out the secret and then they’re easy. To find success you must have to have the patience and persistence to get to the EASY.

Most of us have heard the quote by William Faulkner, “In writing, you must kill all your darlings.” If a sentence or passage doesn’t work for the good of the overall project you must get rid of it no matter how brilliant you think it is. This is excellent advice but it isn’t easy to do partially because of ego but to a greater degree because of fear that you can’t write something better.

To become a successful writer you must subdue your ego and have the confidence to believe that great ideas come from an endless source within you. When you believe this amazing things begin to happen.

The opposite is true as well. The surest way to fail at this is to write from a place of fear or hold on to ineffective ideas. They become bars in an invisible prison cell that will keep you stuck right where you are.

I know this “kill your darlings” philosophy works for writing so I applied it to marketing. Sometimes the entire marketing idea stinks and has to go but sometimes part of it can be saved, retooled to try again. I’m not getting any younger and the books aren’t selling themselves so I’ll only try a retooled idea once. If the idea doesn’t get results it must go to the scrap heap.

Some of you might remember last summer I had a marketing idea that I was super excited about. While traveling I decided to hand out a few copies of my novel, Alarm Clock Dawn, to random people for free. There was a note inside the front cover asking the recipient to leave me a message on Facebook letting me know what they thought about the book. After they were finished reading it I asked if they would pass the book onto another friend to read and they could do the same, and so on. The whole idea was based on the Pay It Forward philosophy. It was a hard thing to accept because I was sure it would work but the whole thing fell flat. I waited for months but all I heard were crickets...not a single response from anyone. Ever. I had to accept it and move on to something new and better. All of us are a constant work in progress. 

Failure is not an option. Next week I’ll be traveling to Chicago for a long weekend, partially for business but mostly for fun. I’ll be visiting a few independent bookstores and doing some research for my new novel Truth Is Stranger. Along the way I’m going to try this Pay It Forward marketing idea once more. It’ll be interesting to see how it works after a few tweaks. I’ll be updating you all on my experiences throughout this process.

All it really takes in this world to be successful is working through the hard to get to the EASY. I hope your path to easy is a short one. More importantly, I hope you learn quickly from every misstep along the way.

With Gratitude, ~Eric Vance Walton~

A Writer's Life

Shaky with apprehensions, poorer this year than the last,

existing in the place between

what will be and what has passed

 

it’s an author’s life for me

I have given the benefit of every doubt,

and during fevers of eloquence,

found myself electrified absolutely

by the lightning bolt of muse

 

this current flowing through me,

greater than any currency

it has given me friends that span oceans wide

there are no borders here, no blind pride

we are bound by our love of words,

and have found an all embracing tenderness

that shows us

there should be no other way.

 

~Eric Vance Walton~

Special Announcement

DEAR READERS: I’m excited to announce the pre-sales for my newest handmade poetry chapbook start now!  

EMANCIPATION is the second volume of my poetry chapbook series.  Artist Kristi Casey has outdone herself this time by creating a beautiful work of art that incorporates a technique called encaustic painting.  The chapbook is handmade, hand-bound, numbered, and autographed. Emancipation contains twenty-three original poems with the general theme of freedom. I’m so proud to share this project with you.

 

This book of original poetry will have a very limited print run of 75 copies for this handmade version. The dimensions of the book are 5” x 6” and the interior is printed on 24lb paper. Since it’s handmade, each copy will be slightly different in appearance.

 

PRICE:

$15.50 per copy (shipping included/U.S. domestic only); and

 

$14.00 per copy for those outside of the U.S. (plus a flat shipping fee of $10 for up to 5 copies shipped to the same address).

 

Reserve your chapbook(s) via PayPal (https://www.paypal.com) in 4 easy steps: 1. log onto your Paypal account;  2. choose, “Pay or Send Money”;  3. click, “Send money to friends or family; and 4. send the proper amount to, “ericvancewalton@gmail.com”.  Please don’t forget to include the shipping address in the notes.

 

If you’d rather pay by check please send me a private message with the number of copies you wish to purchase and your address and I’ll respond with the address to which you can send a personal check.

 

Here’s the book’s foreword:

 

“I went through a few days of deep thought before the title of this chapbook came to me. I was trying too hard and getting nowhere. I was attempting to force the natural creative flow and this never works. Suddenly, while walking our beagle, a common theme for all of the poems in this collection came to light.

 

Emancipation.

 

Take a moment to analyze your dreams and wishes. Isn’t a large component of each of them the desire to be free from something? This was the case with all of my dreams and wishes but I never realized it before. The process of writing teaches me something new almost every day.

 

I hope you enjoy and get lost in this collection. These twenty-three poems represent almost a year of my life. In them I hope you find joy, a seed of thought, or even inspiration for an emancipation of your very own!

 

With Gratitude,

 

~Eric Vance Walton~ “

 

This book of poetry would make a very thoughtful and unique Holiday Day gift. Although we can’t guarantee it, we will do our very best to have these to your doorstep by Christmas Day.

 

Again, the price is $15.50 per copy (shipping included/U.S. domestic only) and $14.00 per copy for those outside of the U.S.(plus a flat shipping fee of $10 for up to 5 copies shipped to the same address).

 

Thank you!

Just Fly

Free me from this gravity, only long enough 

so that my mind may rest, 

my soul may soar, 

and this heart, 

for a moment,

might feel a splendid

absence of yearning

 

there is so much more

to this life than we can see 

and these words are wings

that hold me aloft

long enough to remember worries and wants 

are beggars who keep us 

mired in mortality 

and ever shield us

from our truths  when life 

leaves us lost

we must only 

remember that  

inside each of us is 

all we will ever need call on the magic 

of your muse,

spread your wings,

and just fly. ~Eric Vance Walton~

CRACKED ACROSS THE KNUCKLES BY THE UNIVERSE

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Do you remember what an incredible feeling it was to believe in Santa Claus or Superman? There was a certain comfort and hope as a child believing that there were really no limits, not everything could be explained, and that some element of magic was part of everyday life. When we were young the line between magic and reality, as we know it, was blurred. As a child you knew there was something beyond what your five senses could perceive.  For all its great contributions over the last hundred years science has indirectly taken something immensely valuable away from humanity. Science has imposed false limits that have held us hostage in accordance to our level of intelligence. Our egos lull us into believing that nothing more than we currently think is scientifically possible can be real.  

I’m not knocking science, it’s not the main culprit but our egos most definitely are. We must understand that science’s system of so-called absolutes is limited by our level of intelligence and sophistication of our tools. Science is only the ability to measure our uppermost understanding of reality. It’s important not to confuse a system of measure with absolute truth. 

We must never think we “know it all” or lose our hunger to evolve into a greater version of ourselves. To give into the ego is the lazy path and although it might seem easy at first it only brings suffering in the end. This causes mental and spiritual stagnation and will prevent us from growing to solve problems that, on the surface, appear to be trying to bring about our demise. 

As we’ve seen in the brief snapshot of the last hundred years as our intellect grows we realize things science once told us were impossible are, in fact, possible. Albert Einstein searched but never was able to find the elusive Unified Theory, the theory of everything that tied all of his other theories together. As the sophistication of our tools have grown many physicists are theorizing that consciousness itself is the golden string that ties everything together. What amazing power we possess if this turns out to be the case. 

As I’ve progressed down the path of meditation in the last twenty years my sense of reality has drastically changed. In some ways it has come full circle. As my consciousness has expanded through meditation an inextinguishable sense of wonder and hope have returned. I’ve come to realize that “I’m” just one tiny drop in a vast ocean of consciousness. 

Meditation taught me that the Universe is an interactive web that presents each of us with lessons, in real time, as we’re meant to learn them. We are students and our job is to merely pay attention and to learn. Life will teach you everything you need to know. Until you grasp the meaning of the lessons you can bet they will be repeated, again and again until you get the message. The Universe is like the proverbial nun that cracks you across the knuckles with a ruler if you don’t get the message. This is happening to a lot of people but they don’t realize why.

I’ve been cracked across the knuckles by the Universe more times than I dare to admit. There has been great struggle in my life but I’ve also experienced magic, many things that I once believed were impossible. The severity of the struggle can be far less the more quickly we learn our lessons. I’m convinced that the purpose of this physical life is to learn, to love, and to evolve into that greater version of yourself. I have no doubt this is one reason I’ve connected so much with the Choose Yourself movement because they share this same philosophy.

I truly believe consciousness is humanity’s next great frontier to explore and it makes me ecstatic to think of the possibilities. After I’ve seen what meditation has done for me I have no doubt that, if practiced on a global scale, it would spark the next phase of humanity’s evolution. Meditation is the single most powerful evolutionary tool we have at our disposal. 

Imagine waking up each day with a sense of wonder and that you're beginning a wonderful new adventure. To do this we must only invest a few minutes of our day to venture inward with a daily meditation practice. If you do so one thing will quickly become apparent, we have only scratched the surface of our superpowers. $h!t happens in life but so do miracles and these miracles occur every single moment. The real question is...are you awake enough to notice? 

~Eric Vance Walton~

----------------------------- About the author: Eric Vance Walton is a novelist, poet, traveler, and tea junkie. He invites you to follow his unfolding story by "liking" his Facebook author page at https://www.facebook.com/EricVanceWaltonAuthor for updates and promotions on his current and upcoming projects. You can find Eric's new book One Word At A Time: Finding Your Way as an Indie Author, on Amazon in print or as an ebook. Article © 2015 Eric Vance Walton 

PERFECTING OUR STORIES

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It’s astonishing is how fast it happened. One day I was young and then I blinked my eyes and somehow landed in the unchartered territory of my middle years.This June I turned the double quatro, forty-four years old, and have started to notice some interesting very things going on.

There are the well known physical changes of middle age, decreased muscle tone, laugh lines starting to form, higher forehead and gray hair. As we approach the autumn of our years, no matter how hard we try to hide it, our faces truly reveal the kind of lives we've lived.

The psychological changes are even more interesting. Before middle age I thought the repetition of stories was just something seniors did along with complaining about whippersnappers and eating dinner at three-thirty in the afternoon. I was wrong. Yes, my friends and I are now beginning to tell the same stories over and over again.

This could easily be attributed to some natural age-related cognitive decline, stress, or maybe the accumulative effects of too many beer bongs in the 80’s and 90’s but I don't think this is totally it. It’s as though we are retelling the stories that comprise the mosaic of who we are because a small part of us are afraid we’ll be forgotten. On some level we want our stories to be forever etched into the collective consciousness of humanity. We want our brief blip of existence on this planet to be remembered.

The middle years usher in wave after wave of profound realizations or “Oh $h!t” moments as I call them. I think Generation X, like every generation who came before us, are experiencing, “Oh $h!t” moments on an epic scale. I see it in mass media, social media and face-to-face, we are waking up to the fact that we’re not going to live forever. When you have an Oh $h!t moment it can’t be denied and isn't easily forgotten. It’s a realization that can be felt on a deep cellular level.

Because of this, Gen Xers are discovering how valuable time is and are figuring out how we can best spend the time we have left more wisely. I’m concerning myself much less about what others think of me or the balance of my investment portfolio. Lately, I’m focusing more on happiness, facing fears, and making awesome new memories. Most importantly, I’m thinking about how I will be remembered by those I leave behind. Lately, I’ve been making a conscious attempt to shed anything or anybody who doesn't bring a spark of joy to my life. Time is just too short to spend what you have left of it mired in drama and negativity.

I’ll admit this year I’ve given a lot of thought about my legacy. To get to the bottom of it I asked, what do I love greater than myself? After a little contemplation I decided that the legacy I wish to leave the world with will be small, often anonymous, acts of kindness and my words. I hope the many words I’ve written and the words I’ve yet to write will spark some joy in others. I hope my words make someone think, or smile, or even know that they’re not alone in this world. If my words accomplish this my life will have been complete.

Thinking about legacy can be uncomfortable. It can even border on morose but it doesn’t have to be that way. Contemplating and then consciously creating a legacy can provide an extra boost of octane to those of us in middle age who are beginning to feel a bit weary and worn around the edges. I tend think it as a little red button on the steering wheel of life that, once pressed, propels me through mires of the middle years, soreness, fatigue, and at times, the worry that my life will never quite measure up to the one I wished for in my dreams.

Time can teach, time can heal, and time eventually always reveals the truth...IF a person is awake enough to notice. Sometimes we simply must take a deep breath, have faith and take comfort that the universe is unfolding exactly as it was meant to. One thing's for certain, there’s no fighting age or time. There’s such a profound beauty in learning from our missteps, gathering wisdom, and surrendering to time gracefully.

I would like to leave you with a three things I’d like you to ask yourself. What do you love greater than yourself? What will be your legacy? How would you like the world remember you? When you answer these questions your life changes in some pretty amazing ways. What once seemed so important starts to seem trivial and some things that seemed trivial all of a sudden pretty damned important.

Shakespeare penned the following lines in his play, As You Like It nearly five hundred years ago,

“All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts, His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant, Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms. Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel And shining morning face, creeping like snail Unwillingly to school. And then the lover, Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier, Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard, Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel, Seeking the bubble reputation Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice, In fair round belly with good capon lined, With eyes severe and beard of formal cut, Full of wise saws and modern instances; And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts Into the lean and slippered pantaloon, With spectacles on nose and pouch on side; His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice, Turning again toward childish treble, pipes And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all, That ends this strange eventful history, Is second childishness and mere oblivion, Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.”

Here the Bard sums life up with his typical genius. Yes, life can hard and it is short but it is also the most amazing ride. Not a minute of it should be taken for granted. We are put on this Earth to love, to learn, to grow, and perhaps to help make life a little easier for others. Each of us have the chance to leave our own unique stamp on the world. What will yours be?

~Eric Vance Walton~ ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Eric Vance Walton is a novelist, poet, aspiring world traveler, and tea junkie. He invites you to follow his unfolding story by "liking" his Facebook author page at https://www.facebook.com/EricVanceWaltonAuthor for updates and promotions on his current and upcoming projects. You can find Eric's new book One Word At A Time: Finding Your Way as an Indie Author, on Amazon in print or as an ebook. Article © 2015 Eric Vance Walton

DON’T FALL FOR ANYONE’S BULL$H!T (ESPECIALLY YOUR OWN)

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All of us can think of at least one talented artist (musician, writer, actor, etc.) whose creative prowess peaks a few years into their careers and they spend the rest of their lives chasing their former glory. As a creative person myself I always feel horrible for both them as well as the loyal fans who follow them down the death spiral of their careers hoping their heroes will regain their glory. Many times these people just can’t seem to free themselves from the gravity of the spiral and their work gets progressively more and more out of touch. They eventually become irrelevant, or even more tragically, a societal joke. I've heard many excuses as to why this happens, among them are laziness, too much of the good life, a creative dry spell, burnout, old age. What do I say about these excuses? I call bull$h!t...quite literally. I think all of these excuses are merely symptoms caused by two different kinds of bull$h!t.

Let me elaborate.

I've been writing for decades and have recently had the good fortune to finally achieve a small taste of success. As a result of this I’ve suddenly realized how crafty bull$h!t is and how easily it can creep into your life. If you achieve even a small amount of success in this world inevitably people begin lavish you with praise and tell you how talented you are. Most times this praise comes from a altruistic place within the people who are doing the praising but occasionally it doesn’t. Sometimes people seek you out and will stroke your ego so they can manipulate you into doing things for them. These are the takers.

The truth is when you begin to believe the praise from either source that praise turns into poison for both your soul and your career.

As a creative person you must proceed with caution and become cognizant of which category the praise falls into. It’s difficult at first but gets easier to discern with practice. In a short amount of time you develop a sixth sense for spotting takers and they become easily avoidable.

The altruistic praise is ten times more dangerous. We feel that it’s sincere and after struggling for so long it feels amazing to get this kind of attention. This sincere praise creates an emotional high that we begin to crave more of, if we allow ourselves to believe it. Some people become addicts and surround themselves with people who lavish them with praise. So begins the death spiral.

The antidote to the bull$h!t is to accept the praise, be grateful to the praiser for it, then release it long before it has a chance to turn into bull$h!t.

You see, altruistic praise only is recycled into bull$h!t when you begin to believe it. Ego is our kryptonite. Each time you believe it makes you feel as though you’re as good as you need to be. You feel as though you’ve finally attained your long sought after goal and you no longer need to learn, grow, polish your craft, and evolve into a better version of yourself.

I liken this modern world to a treadmill, things move so fast that to stand still means you quickly fall behind. The only way for most of us to be truly successful and create a sustainable career is to wake up to the fact that we will never truly “get there”. Our work will never be quite done. We will be honing our craft until the day we die. In fact if this seems tiring and it feels like work we probably shouldn’t be doing it.

I’ve learned that it’s truly never been about the destination, it has always been about the journey. This journey is exhilarating, I wake up every day with a new wish and a renewed sense of hope.

Enjoy each second of your journey but just be careful where you step and that your meter is finely tuned.

~Eric Vance Walton~ ------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Eric Vance Walton is a novelist, poet, aspiring world traveler, and tea junkie. He invites you to follow his unfolding story by "liking" his Facebook author page at for updates and promotions on his current and upcoming projects. You can find Eric's new book One Word At A Time: Finding Your Way as an Indie Author, on Amazon in print or as an ebook.

THE WAY TO THE SECRET GARDEN (INSIDE YOUR HEAD)

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Just this morning a coworker told me about her recent vacation to a family lakeside cabin in mountains of Pennsylvania. She said her favorite memory of the whole trip was picking huckleberries that grow wild around the lake. Her family fashioned a metal pail with a shoestring from the handle so they can hang the pail around their necks. This way have both hands free to pick berries. With the most serene expression on her face she said picking those huckleberries for an hour was the best therapy in the world. These moments, to me, are like visiting a secret garden inside your own head that only you can access. The time spent in this garden is special and it is sacred. Our world today is so demanding that to stay balanced we need access to the garden more than we realize. We need the visit the garden as much as we need to breathe oxygen. For most people a trip to this garden is can be triggered by some external thing or memory (most often connected to childhood). When discovered, this trigger can act as a magical pathway to that wondrous place.

When we were young it was easy. We could find the garden instantaneously. Our lives were uncomplicated, we still believed in magic, our heads weren't filled with excuses of why we couldn't do things. Somewhere between childhood and where we are today our worlds became a lot less a land of laughs and magic and much more of a scary and dangerous place. A small portion of this scariness is real but most of this is false perception, propaganda, and conditioning. These false perceptions keep us from achieving our best life.

It’s easy to see that we don’t have to live each moment of our lives in fear once we find our way to the garden. The trick, as a lost and stressed-out adult is rediscover our triggers that we once could so easily access. Ask yourself...what made me happiest as a child? Once you have the answer to that question think how this can be integrated back into your life as an adult, even if it’s silly. The sillier the better, we need more silliness!

As I child during summer vacation my feet rarely touched the ground. Except for meals I was on my black Huffy BMX bike from sun up until the streetlights came on. As an adult I can still spend hours not only riding my bike but also restoring them. My father taught me how to fully dismantle a bike and restore it by the age of eight. My latest project was a 1958 Raleigh three speed bicycle and it’s a gem. Any time spent with or on a bike transports me instantly to the garden.

One major hurdle to finding our triggers is technology. You must put your mobile phone on airplane mode and ignore it for a while. As useful technology can be, it occupies all of our attention and robs us of our chances to experience these sacred moments. It's difficult to calm our minds and be present when we're constantly connected. In all reality have you ever paid attention to how many times you check your mobile device in an hour? It’s astonishing. Anything that keeps your ears from tuning in to the music of life is a roadblock to the garden and the music I'm speaking of can't be found on iTunes.

What are your triggers? I urge you to delve into your deepest of memories and answer this simple question. Once you find your triggers I urge you incorporate these things back into your routine and see how quickly your life changes.

Do you know someone who needs their own trip to the garden? If so please share this post with them. By all means, after you revisit your garden come back and let us know how it felt. I guarantee the world will seem like a better place.

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Eric Vance Walton is a novelist, poet, aspiring world traveler, and tea junkie. He invites you to follow his unfolding story by "liking" his Facebook author page at for updates and promotions on his current and upcoming projects. You can find Eric's new book One Word At A Time: Finding Your Way as an Indie Author, on Amazon in print or as an ebook. Article © 2015 Eric Vance Walton

10 TIPS FOR BETTER UNDERSTANDING CREATIVE PEOPLE

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If you are not creative but have creative people in your life the following list may help you decipher some of our perceived oddities. If you are a creative person you might recognize some or all of these attributes in yourself and find some comfort in the fact that you're not alone. With a little understanding and compassion we can all happily coexist and even learn from one another. Here are some tips to help better understand us:

1. Absolutely by no means sneak up on us. We are often deep in thought and we are easy to startle.

2. Most of us tend to be empaths (whether we realize it yet it or not). This means we have the ability to be very "in tune" with others and feel their negative and positive emotions. This is confusing to us until we figure it out. Other's emotions tend to easily transfer to us and we can misinterpret them as our own. Because of this it's very important to pay attention to the company you keep. William Gibson's quote (often falsely attributed to Sigmund Freud) comes to mind here, "Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self-esteem, first make sure that you are not, in fact, just surrounded by assh*les." Also, we tend to make most of our decisions based on gut feeling instead of intellectualizing as analytical people do. Sometimes this works out, sometimes it doesn't. It's a roll of the dice.

3. We will occasionally have outbursts when ideas come to us or mumble incoherently to ourselves. When this happens please excuse the wild look in our eyes and our scrambling to find some way to quickly record those ideas. We are like channels and when we're in the creative flow complex ideas hit us spontaneously and swirl inside our heads. When this happens we tend to shut everything else out until we record those ideas. If we don't write them down chances are we'll forget them and we're afraid that we might lose them forever.

4. Life can be especially difficult for us. As a creative we're either: 1. working a job that doesn't afford us the chance to use our creativity and satisfying our creative urge on our own time; or 2. pursuing our creative passions as a full time career. Both are equally as challenging. Those of us who fall in the first category usually have money to pay the bills but often have to work the equivalent of two full time jobs. Those creative people brave and smart enough to figure out a way to monetize their passion to the point of making a full time income usually have the stress of trying to financial make ends meet . As James Altucher (The Choose-Yourselfer-and-Chief) explains, finding multiple revenue streams is often the answer. Either way we're very busy folks.

5. We're typically introverts in varying degrees. Even if we truly enjoy and appear comfortable socializing it can sometimes take more energy for us. This is partially attributed to #2 above.

6. It can sometimes be difficult for us to make other, non-creative people, understand how we feel (and vice versa) but it can be done with patience and practice. In my opinion, this is why so many creative people express their feelings and emotions through their chosen art.

7. Most of us creatives are eccentric and rebellious. We feel smothered by routine and conformity. Creative people tend to not follow trends. We see through propaganda and it makes us angry and agitated when we feel someone is trying to control us for their own agenda.

8. We tend to enjoy altered states of consciousness because we quickly learn that achieving these altered states of consciousness can open up our creative channels. Those of us who are lucky discover that through meditation we can achieve this altered state without the outside help of drugs, alcohol or anything external. Meditation is the creative person's best friend, personally and professionally.

9. We need quiet time to devote to our creative passions. Creating is what feeds our souls and we get frustrated and depressed when we don't have the time to do this. Please be respectful of a creative person's privacy when they are creating. If you give them the gift of this time they will be happier in all other aspects of their life.

10. Honest support and feedback is invaluable to us, even if it stings at first. I can only imagine how frustrating and tiring it is for non-creative people when their creative friends and relatives are constantly and enthusiastically sharing their latest idea. It's easy to say you like everything but if the idea stinks, tell us it stinks. You might save us valuable time and give us ideas to polish our idea and make it better.

Pass this along handy guide on to all of your friends, creative and non-creative alike. It's a big world and it takes all kinds. As the French say, "Vive la difference!"

---------------------------------------

Eric Vance Walton is a novelist, poet, aspiring world traveler, and tea junkie. He invites you to follow his unfolding story by "liking" his Facebook author page at https://www.facebook.com/EricVanceWaltonAuthor for updates and promotions on his current and upcoming projects. You can find Eric's new book One Word At A Time: Finding Your Way as an Indie Author, on Amazon in print or as an ebook.

Article © 2015 Eric Vance Walton

Bobos

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  As we’re all finding out in countless ways Facebook is a blessing and a curse. Tonight it was a true blessing for me. Let me share with you why...nestled in the comments of a childhood friend’s Facebook post was a word that I hadn’t heard in about thirty years and it is a gem. In fact the term was completely erased from my memory. What was this gem?  Bobo.

 

It’s funny because back in the seventies bobo (pronounced, boe boe) was a word of shame. Bobo was a derogatory term but it was a shame all of us shouldered. Me, my brother Curt, my friend Sean, and our other friend Shawn all grew up on Elizabeth Avenue in a lower middle class neighborhood on the eastside of Columbus, Ohio. Before any of us had the means to scratch together our own money with paper routes or lawn jobs our parents had to buy our clothes and shoes. None of our parents had a lot of extra money so those shoes were always bobos.

 

Just incase you aren’t familiar with the term bobo or have forgotten, like I did, bobo was a term for generic, no-name shoes. Bobos never cost more than ten dollars, they sported, “made in Taiwan” on the label, smelled like burning rubber, and were almost always from Kmart. I have to hand it to the Taiwanese, they were inventive.

 

I suspect the foundation of the entire modern Chinese economy was built by the bobo tycoons of the 1970’s making knock-offs of popular brand shoes like Nike and Adidas. At first glance bobos looked strikingly similar to the popular name brands but had crazy features that were just a little off like an upside down Nike swoosh or four stripes on the Adidas-style shoes instead of three.

 

When new, bobos were magical. The funny thing about bobos is all of us were convinced that we could run just a little faster and jump higher when our bobos were brand new. This luster wore off in just a few days when they were covered in mud and grass stains. The life span of pair of bobos was way too short, it only took a month before they looked like they had been run over by a herd of buffalo. We would still try to make them last all summer.  Between Curt, Sean, Shawn, and I our parents probably paid for the Taiwanese bobo factory several times over.

 

In retrospect I think bobos were actually a good thing. Those parents of the seventies were wise because bobos built character. In our neighborhood you weren’t measured by the clothes or the shoes you wore. You were measured by how fast you could run, how high you could jump, or how far could sail off of a flimsy plywood ramp on your BMX bike (sans helmet or knee pads.)

 

So many children walk around these days with an air of entitlement. I would bet a majority of kids now would refuse to step out their front doors without their smartphones, let alone wearing non-name brand shoes.  Children of the seventies, this is our chance to make a difference in the world. We need only pool our money together, stoke the flames of that Taiwanese shoe factory, and get it churning out bobos again.

Parents, it will be difficult, but we must work together. For this plan to succeed you must refuse to buy your children a pair of name brand shoes ever again. From here on out it’s nothing but bobos until the kids can pay for their own name brand shoes. I have faith that we can stand united and together we will change the world, one child (and one beautiful pair of bobos) at a time.

 

~Eric Vance Walton~

FUN TICKETS

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I had a lot of misconceptions in my youth. One of them was that making money was the ultimate goal. I think dispelling this myth was one of my biggest lessons in this life. I started doing regular lawn jobs when I was eight so I always had a little stash of cash on hand. Once I saved for months for a set of walkie-talkies. All I could think about was how cool it would be to be able to talk to someone down the block, wirelessly.  This is commonplace now but in 1979 it was still like magic to an eight year old kid.

The thing I discovered is after a few times of using the walkie talkies is this wasn’t cool at all. They were a burden, you had to buy batteries, my friends fought over them. Really, what did eight year olds have to talk about on walkie-talkies anyway...Saturday morning cartoons? How good looking Daisy Duke was? I quickly discovered that this “thing” didn’t make me happy and I felt robbed.

Fast forward a few decades and I got the bright idea that I wanted to become a writer. I dreamed of having a bestseller and getting that huge advance that would change my life in an instant. I wanted to travel and live the glamorous life. I was an idiot. I worked and I worked for years but that day never came for me. The truth was I was still dreaming of and chasing money instead of it being about the love of the craft, connecting with, and helping others.

Only about seventeen years into my writing career did I change my attitude. Honestly, my spirit was broken by the struggles of this career, I was humbled, and had no ego left.  I found this little book called, Choose Yourself and read it on a flight to Cleveland. This is when it all changed for me. I started writing from a place of love instead of a place of greed and after a while I saw the world with new eyes.

Just yesterday I received the first batch of royalties for my first traditionally published book, One Word At A Time: Finding Your Way as an Indie Author. Although I was incredibly grateful, the experience felt weirdly anticlimactic. The positive feedback I’ve received from indie authors about how the book has helped them provided me with many more sparks of joy than the money.

I had a wise uncle who referred to money as, “fun tickets.”  Only now do I fully fathom what he meant. Money doesn’t buy happiness but what it can provide is a little independence and, yes, a little fun. The happiness you must create yourself.

The days of one book providing you enough “fun tickets” to live on are pretty much gone. Indie authors must hustle and use their ingenuity to dream up multiple revenue streams. Books, consulting, freelancing, speaking engagements.

I’m spending this dreary and cold weekend in a city far from home to visit bookstores and drum up some new readers. My life is far from glamorous but I'm beginning to catch a glimpse of real freedom and what a writer's life is like.

I’m here in a loud hotel lobby in downtown Chicago banging out this blog post. Tired, strung out from getting about four hours sleep the night before and waiting for the hotel staff to have the room ready so I can nap for an hour.

Reality is usually so much different from our dreams. Sometimes it’s even better. I’m writing the best I have in my whole life, I feel completely alive, and am full of hope. This, I couldn’t buy with all of the fun tickets in the world.

~Eric Vance Walton~

HOW TO FAIL MISERABLY AS A WRITER (or anything else)

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It doesn’t matter how good of a writer you think you are, if you can’t figure out how to connect with readers you’re not going to sell anything. Internet marketing for indie authors is especially tough to figure out. Often our budgets are small or even non-existent and the rules are changing often. This is important stuff. If you don’t figure it out eventually you’ll be discouraged enough to give up on your dream. I admit that marketing has never been one of my strong suits. This is one of the reasons it took my writing career so long to take off.  I was that skinny and awkward kid with thick glasses that few things came naturally to. I would practice things hundreds of times until I perfected them. One of the few things I had on my side was persistence. I’m still that same kid inside, only larger, with a few gray hairs, and the nagging thought that time goes far too fast to waste it.

A month ago I tried to make a poached egg.  It ended up looking like egg drop soup. It was terrible. Ten or so attempts and a few YouTube videos later I can make a perfect poached egg. The secret, once I learned it, was like magic and made the process easy.  What is the secret?  Soak the eggs (still in the shell) in white vinegar for five minutes before cracking and boiling them. That was it. Things are incredibly hard until you figure out the secret and then they’re easy. To find success you must have to have the patience and persistence to get to the EASY.

Most of us have heard the quote by William Faulkner, “In writing, you must kill all your darlings.” If a sentence or passage doesn’t work for the good of the overall project you must get rid of it no matter how brilliant you think it is. This is excellent advice but it isn’t easy to do partially because of ego but to a greater degree because of fear that you can’t write something better. To become a successful writer you must subdue your ego and have the confidence to believe that great ideas come from an endless source within you. When you believe this amazing things begin to happen.

The opposite is true as well. The surest way to fail at this is to write from a place of fear or hold on to ineffective ideas. They become bars in an invisible prison cell that will keep you stuck right where you are.

I know this “kill your darlings” philosophy works for writing so I applied it to marketing. Sometimes the entire marketing idea stinks and has to go but sometimes part of it can be saved, retooled to try again. I’m not getting any younger and the books aren’t selling themselves so I’ll only try a retooled idea once. If the idea doesn’t get results it must go to the scrap heap.

Some of you might remember last summer I had a marketing idea that I was super excited about. While traveling I decided to hand out a few copies of my novel, Alarm Clock Dawn, to random people for free.  There was a note inside the front cover asking the recipient to leave me a message on Facebook letting me know what they thought about the book. After they were finished reading it I asked if they would pass the book onto another friend to read and they could do the same, and so on. The whole idea was based on the Pay It Forward philosophy.

It was a hard thing to accept because I was sure it would work but the whole thing fell flat. I waited for months but all I heard were crickets...not a single response from anyone. Ever. I had to accept it and move on to something new and better. All of us are a constant work in progress. Failure is not an option.

Next week I’ll be traveling to Chicago for a long weekend, partially for business but mostly for fun.  I’ll be visiting a few independent bookstores and doing some research for my new novel Truth Is Stranger. Along the way I’m going to try this Pay It Forward marketing idea once more.  It’ll be interesting to see how it works after a few tweaks.  I’ll be updating you all on my experiences throughout this process.

All it really takes in this world to be successful is working through the hard to get to the EASY.  I hope your path to easy is a short one. More importantly, I hope you learn quickly from every misstep along the way. With Gratitude, ~Eric Vance Walton~

Just Before The Dawn

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I’ve been in this business longer than I care to think about. If I think too much about how many years of my life I’ve been pursuing the goal of becoming a full-time writer I sometimes get depressed. Up until just a couple of years ago I didn’t even have a real plan, I was only a dreamer and the dream didn’t have teeth. It’s good to dream but that’s only one element of what it takes to get you there. Recently just such a moment of depression descended on me. My sales had hit a plateau; there were no new opportunities to speak of. It only lasted a few hours but it was a gut wrenching feeling that this was as big as my dream would ever become. I feared my fifteen minutes were over. Then I remembered that I’d felt this a few times before and usually when I did a breakthrough was on the other side of that dark night. What I’ve found is the closer I get to achieving that next burst of exponential growth in my writing career the more seems to be working against me. I’ve learned from talking to others who are trying to achieve a dream similar to mine that this experience isn’t unique.

The challenges can crop up from a variety of places…the news, envious people, and, yes, even my own mind. All these challenges need to do to be successful in derailing you is to plant that seed of doubt and it will grow into a dream killing monster. But, you know what? None of that matters once your mind is made up and my mind was made up a couple of years ago. I am a writer. I will do this for a living while traveling the world with my wife, meeting new people, and experiencing different cultures.

The most effective way out and on to the next plateau begins with deciding to just focus solely on what you have control over. I know I have control over my mind. Most often I’ve learned getting out of this kind of slump requires a simple shift in mindset. Think about it, anything can seem difficult or even impossible if you’ve made your mind up that it is.

The secret is to make up your mind that your goal is attainable, not just attainable but easy to achieve. This isn’t fooling yourself, well maybe a little, but this Jedi-like mind trick fills you with such confidence and positive energy that I believe you attract opportunities and people that can help. The truth is most of us can’t do this alone and that’s okay. Build a team of helpers who are geniuses in their particular field (marketing, editing, etc.) You will be simply unstoppable with an army of experts behind you.

Whenever find yourself in a funk such as the one I just described ask yourself these three things:

1. What do I really want?

2. Why don’t I already have what I want?

3. What do I need to do to get what I want?

To answer these questions as honestly as you possibly can gives your dream teeth. In my case, my most limiting factor is always inside my own head. The mind is quite good at self-sabotage by peppering your inner dialogue with negative statements like, “This is going to be a real challenge” as well as countless other statements that begin with those two dreaded words, “I can’t…”. Negativity is pure poison and will keep you lost in delusion.

The truth is you CAN do this and if you want it badly enough YOU WILL. The other option is to find yourself right where you are in ten years from now doing the same things in the same way. Stay with me and we’ll build our dreams together. Create a strategy. When you make it through to your next day’s dawn I’ll be there to greet you. Maybe we can have a beer or a nice glass of cabernet at some quaint Parisian café and swap stories.

In just a few short days from ground zero I have renewed hope. I also have a few new and exciting irons in the fire. I can tell you from experience that what I speak of works and this sunrise, it’s such a beautiful thing.

I wish you the very best,

~Eric Vance Walton~

Big Boy Pants

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I was feeling depressed and stuck a few days ago. After nearly twenty years my writing career underwent a quantum leap in growth in the previous two years and then began to sputter. I started to panic. Don't get me wrong, I am totally grateful for each and every step of my journey so far but working with others can be difficult and when our personal aspirations aren't met it's easy to become impatient and frustrated.

I had a shift in attitude this morning that was triggered by a comment from one of my loyal readers. This is a precise example of why it's so valuable for creative folks to communicate with one another. This particular interchange was Zen like and forced me to think about things from just a slightly different perspective. It was a reminder that it's up to no one but me to take ownership for my own success.

What was the magic question you ask? It was a simple question but one that when deeply contemplated was absolutely transformative. It's something that I challenge all of you indie authors to answer yourselves. If it were totally up to you what would you do to promote your books? Think about it, if you had to rely on no one else and the one person on Earth responsible for you achieving your goals was you, what action would you take? The secret is this is absolutely true...ultimately we're all responsible for our own successes.

This writer's life is really a difficult path, it's one of the most difficult professions on Earth to make a living at, and it's so easy to get discouraged. The truth is the very minute you think you have to fully rely on someone else for your success you instantly diminish your power. Although literary agents, publishers and the media can play an important role in your success, your fate never has been and never will be dictated by them. Your savior is yourself. If you keep remembering that, no matter what, no one else is responsible for your success but you, your power and confidence will grow exponentially.

I've learned from the James Altucher show that podcast guest appearances are the best book promotions available today. Author after author has confirmed this. So today I'm going to begin researching and contacting the hosts of the top writer-focused podcasts to give my pitch and ask to be a guest. If nothing else this will give me some experience and help foster new connections that I can draw on. I will also begin to learn more about the industry incase I want to host my own podcast at some point in the future. It's time to put on the big boy pants. The sky is truly the limit, I'll make sure of it.

~Eric Vance Walton~