writing

Make Each Moment Paradise

My wife and I are in day three of our St. Thomas vacation and she decided to get her nails done in a little nail salon on the tourist strip in Red Hook and I decided to explore the area a bit.I bought a baseball cap to shield my sunburned forehead, chatted with the shopkeeper and she offered me a seat on her, "husband couch" until my wife's nails were done but I graciously declined. Having seen all of the tourist shops I could bare (2) I simply stood outside in the blazing heat hoping I wouldn't get charged with loitering. A baby iguana scurried right up to my feet and stared at me tilting his head. Right then I realized that I should make the most of this quiet moment. I decided to catch up on my email for a few minutes so I read James Altucher's latest blog on minimalism and really connected with it.  

   After I read his blog post I was inspired to write this one, and thought about how everything is connected. Each of our actions cause a ripple effect of which we'll never know the full extent of. In a way each of us are a tiny epicenter. Since studying the Tao Te Ching and trying to put its teachings into practice I've learned life is about surrendering to and making the most of each and every moment. Do I always remember to do this? No, but when I do life just flows better. A successful and joyful life is about learning the lessons, then teaching the lessons you learn in the subtlest most unobtrusive way possible. Most often the best way to teach is merely by example. Sometimes the very best moments in life are completely spontaneous, so we must be prepared to be awake enough to notice when they arise. These moments can be triggered by a blog post or a baby iguana. Your guards must be down and your heart must be open. So many people move to a beautiful place like Saint Thomas believing that living there will solve all of their problems. This much I have learned, paradise is not a place. Paradise is more like an attitude, it's a state of being. You must begin by radiating happiness wherever your feet are currently planted. When you begin to do this your life will start to miraculously change for the better.  I know this trip to St. Thomas is the first leg of the future my wife and I have dreamed about for years: traveling the world; writing; meeting interesting new people; learning; teaching; and loving.  I have many more miles to put on these feet, many more beautiful places to visit and so much more to learn but paradise, I've already found. ~Eric Vance Walton~

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Drum

I still remember the sky was a deep sapphire that afternoon when the dead drone of the drum began,

their coffers were far from empty but they were still hungry for power and dollars, their only Gods

not a hint of regret laid across the lips of lady liberty but it did her people, they are good people, mostly, simple people

the propaganda machine had spewed its stinking filth for years leaving us so numb we were willing to believe anything, but this time was different

divisions were melting away, our world was shrinking and people were thinking, yearning badly for a lasting peace so the powers that be brought us only war

after all it's never been their sons or daughters who get the blood on their hands, only the simple people are sent to inflict the wounds and collect the scars that will cause hate and pain to rip through generations, like a tsunami

our deepest level of trouble were the false flags of fear, their hypnotic switches causing one to doubt what they know to be true

 

in their hearts, this is all they need, easy belief of these kinds of lies have always been the weeds in our garden

but the peace has always been there within us, we see the shine of it from the corners of our eyes deep down like a gold nugget flashing, nestled in the smooth rock of the river bed

to uncover it, we need

less logic and more ramble but we must learn this quickly

before our world lies

smoldering in shambles,

this time there will be no second chances, no Phoenix rising, not this time

through all of this they failed to realize that this is just the sort of thing that turns peaceful souls into revolutionaries,

our righteous and beautiful voices

may just shout them down in unison, most of us, we are just

simple people after all,

simple folks who want the chance to succeed or fail, fill our lungs with clean fresh air, and slay our demons one by one, have ourselves a bit of fun

but in the distance I hear the dreaded drum, the dead drone of the drum.

War Drum

~Eric Vance Walton~

 

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~

Fire

May the itch of wanting 

to know what's

around each bend

always nag you

may your bearings

you never fail

to find,

and a pleasant calm

drift over you 

and usher tranquil sleep

each night 'till rise and shine

may your soul

always be 

at peace

when life takes 

you far from home,

may you follow 

in the footsteps 

of your Father

in whichever 

world you choose 

to roam

may you be wise enough

not be saddened

by the embers' fading glow,

but have the wit 

to build your own fire 

whenever cold winds blow. ~Eric Vance Walton~

I Fell Off The Wagon...again

  My name is Eric Vance Walton and it’s been two months since I fell off the wagon.  There, I said it, I began to stray from the path that was working and back into an old and self-limiting, pattern of behavior that for the previous fifteen years had gotten me nowhere.  This feels strangely liberating to admit publicly.

It all started innocently enough.  About two months ago I became obsessed with listening to the New Yorker fiction podcasts while on my lunch break from my corporate job. In these podcasts authors who’ve been published in the New Yorker read their favorite short stories of other authors aloud.  This became like a master class for me in writing short fiction and it prompted me to craft a few short stories of my own. I took a break from working on my second novel and spent a good chunk of time getting the short story drafts just right. Then I offered my work to beta-readers for their feedback and when I had received all of their responses I spent even more time polishing these stories.

I then thought it might not hurt my writing career to submit these short stories to the New Yorker, so I did.  After fifteen plus years of being rejected by the traditional publishing world and another five years of heading down the self-publishing path, the New Yorker submission process was a stark reminder of how cold and unwelcoming the world of traditional publishing is to an, “undiscovered” (in their eyes) author. The submission guidelines stated as follows…expect a three month response time and due to the high volume of work submitted we will only respond if your story is accepted.

 

Right out of the gate this felt like a step backwards and like a blow to my self confidence after being in the writing game for two decades but I told myself, “It’s the New Yorker, just imagine how that would look on your writing resume!”

 

Around the same timeframe I also signed up for a writer’s conference in Chicago where I would get the chance to pitch my trilogy of novels to a seasoned literary agent. I was excited, this happened to be the exact conference that Veronica Roth, of the Divergent series fame, was “discovered”.

 

A few weeks after I signed up for the conference events in my life transpired to make attending it very difficult. I began to question my decision, it just didn’t feel right, it wasn't flowing. I felt like I was once again rattling the gate and begging the gatekeepers to allow me a glimpse of their rarified world. This didn’t jive with the entrepreneurial path I had been walking with my writing for the previous five years, the merits of which were strongly reinforced by James Altucher’s book, Choose Yourself.  I was giving away my power once again and I felt it diminished my strength as both a writer and as a person.

 

The proof was right there in the results, my writing career had grown infinitely larger and more quickly in the five years I was choosing myself than it did in the previous fifteen years of trying to convince the gatekeepers of the literary world that I was worthy.

Well, to make a long story as short as possible, I’m now back on the right path again.  I realize the only people’s opinion that I truly care about are my readers. The traditional publishing path clearly wasn’t meant for me, if it was I would be locked into a multi-book deal with film rights already. I plan on publishing the short stories I wrote for the New Yorker on my own platform and will eventually use them as material for a “funnel book”, a free eBook designed to drive readers towards paid content.  

 

I’ll also use the money that would’ve have been spent on the conference to redesign my website so I can start to build and manage my own mailing list. I attribute the missteps of the past few months to some kind of temporary insanity, or possibly a mid-life crisis…whatever the cause, it feels great to be steering my own ship again, it feels great to choose myself. Brené Brown said, "When you own your story, you get to write the ending.”  Just watch how I wrap this one up.

~Eric Vance Walton~

Showcase Saturday!

Showcase SaturdayWhenever you see this meme on my page it's your cue to share your books, your blog, your art, photography, or anything you would like share with my amazing global audience.  There's one rule and one rule only, if you participate please SHARE the entire post on your own timeline. As an extra added thank you if there are five or more contributors, the contributor who receives the most likes within the first 8 hours of when the post first appears will win a free eBook copy of my novel, Alarm Clock Dawn.  

Happy Saturday, everyone! ~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~

Balancing The Books

  The life of an Indie writer can be filled with uncertainties, for most people the largest of these uncertainties pertains to income. As a writer, instead of receiving a regular paycheck your payday only comes when you sell what you’ve written.  Don’t let this dissuade you from following your dream.  The fact is there is no job that is completely safe in today’s economy. No matter what your profession, job security is now a fallacy. Even after you’ve worked for a company for years you can find one day without warning that your job has been outsourced.  Once we truly understand that risk is everywhere why not devote your time and energy to something you absolutely love?  If the financial challenges of becoming a full time writer are what’s holding you back from pursuing your dream, stop worrying and start planning.

 

For some people there’s an innate romance associated with a writer’s life but when you begin to think about it more practically it’s easy for trepidation to sink in. I know how scary it can be, I’ve been in the workforce since I was fifteen years old and receiving a regular paycheck for almost twenty five years. As I’m preparing to make the transition into becoming a full time writer I’ve done thorough research and have begun to retool my entire life to make the transition to becoming a fulltime writer less of a shock. You only have to stop thinking like an employee and start thinking like an entrepreneur.

 

Your odds of success as a full time writer will be much greater if you have a practical plan in place which includes concrete and realistic goals.  First off, it’s very easy to underestimate how much money you’ll need to support yourself with your writing but it can be done. I have a huge amount of respect for authors who have figured this out.

 

As I was looking at my budget  I decided the best way to start would be to determine how much money it would really take to make the transition into writing full time. I have always told myself that my magic number would be two year’s worth of my current salary.  If I could earn the equivalent of two year’s salary from my writing then I would feel comfortable putting in my notice at work and finally take the leap of faith that I’ve been fantasizing about for years. Of course, this amount needed to put your plan into action will differ for everyone based on your lifestyle and current finances. The first step is to determine your personal number.

 

To aid in your transition it helps to deeply examine your life and decide what can be eliminated from your monthly budget as well as how you can maximize the revenue from your writing. Unless you have a lot of cash saved or an alternate source of regular income it’s best to have a lean budget as you’re making the transition into writing full time, at least in the beginning. Frugality is your best friend during the transition into the writer’s life. This part came easily for me because I’m one of the few creative people I know of that are also very fiscally conservative. My parents love to tell the story of how when I was a young child I would save my allowance for months to buy a toy that I wanted only to decide the next day that I wanted the money back and I would return the toy to the store unopened.  

 

I guess it’s always really bothered me to hand over my hard earned cash on things that aren’t a good value or something that doesn’t add any real value to my life. I would much rather have money left at the end of the month to have wonderful life experiences like seeing new places and trying new restaurants than having my life cluttered with a bunch useless of things. When it comes to buying stuff I’ve rediscovered something our ancestors already practiced out of necessity, research everything you buy and purchase the best quality you can afford, it’s always less expensive in the long term. For example, it absolutely drove me crazy to spend twenty dollars on a pack of five disposable razor blades that lasted only a few months. Three years ago purchased a Merkur brand safety razor for $30 and a pack of 200 blades for $20. I’ve only gone through half of the box of blades in three years. This one purchase has saved me several hundreds of dollars so far.

 

As I was started striving to live my ideal writer’s life, the first thing to be eliminated from the household budget was satellite television. I was spending over one hundred dollars a month for this service and only watched a handful of channels. As an alternative, my wife and I discovered the digital TV antenna and AppleTV.  Now we get over twenty free local channels over the air from the antenna and more content than we can watch on NetFlix and Hulu for around sixteen dollars a month.  The content on these streaming services isn’t as current as cable or satellite television but it’s worked out just fine because we’re watching far less television and have more time for more important things. If we want to watch a more current film there’s always the option of renting DVDs from RedBox for under two dollars per movie.

 

If you really start to examine your life you’ll be amazed at the number of creative ways you can find to lower your expenses.  It’s just a matter of taking a look at your own personal situation and decide what you can live without. Some other suggestions to get you started are growing your own vegetables and canning for use later and shopping at thrift stores. I haven’t owned a new car for years but save thousands by buying cars that are still in great condition but just a couple of years old. I also bike to work when weather allows.  

 

Once you begin to analyze your situation ways to save money will become very apparent.  Ironically, you’ll find that most of the cuts you make to your budget will come along with the fringe benefits of simplifying your life, improving your health, enhancing your creativity, and giving you more free time to do things like read and write.

 

The English writer, Brian Aldiss said, “A writer should say to himself, not, How can I get more money?, but How can I reach more readers (without lowering standards)?”  It’s important not to let financial concerns slow the progress or stall the enthusiasm of your writing career.  As you grow your career your income typically will increase organically.

 

Even before you can make the full transition into your dream of writing full time it’s good practice to view your part time writing gig like the business that it is.  Before your writing can pay all of your living expenses the first step is to make your craft self sustaining.  By self sustaining I mean, try to support all the expenses associated with your writing with proceeds from your writing. When you try this you will realize that supporting writing expenses from only your writing proceeds sounds much easier than it is. If you don’t think outside of the box you may find yourself stuck in a cubicle.

 

I’ve found that launching a writing career takes a fair amount of two things, time and money. To make your work known to the world you must pay for things like marketing, professional editing, and travel to and from appearances just to name a few.  If you can get to the point in your career where your writing is paying for itself you will be that much closer to achieving the dream of making a living with your words.

 

Since income as a writer can be so sporadic it’s important focus on diversifying your revenue streams as much as you can to make the most from your writing.  Begin to think of different and creative ways your can market the same work.  For example, I publish collections of my poetry in book form but I also sell the poems individually, matted on parchment paper.  In doing this, I produce two different products and can profit twice from the same poems.  Additionally, I offer a service where I will collaborate with clients to create a completely original poem for a gift or special occasion and by doing so can use my talent as a poet for a third potential income opportunity and the best part is I love doing all of them.

 

As an indie author, you’re busy writing so it’s easy to overlook all the ways to profit from your work, and many writers often do.  The first, and most effective, thing to focus on is making it as easy as possible for readers to find you and buy your work. It’s important to have a page on your website or blog that list live links to where readers can purchase each of your published books.  Regularly post a link to this page, with an attention grabbing introduction on your social media sites.  It’s also imperative to choose the correct keywords on your pages so they show up in internet search results.

 

Whenever you have the opportunity to do personal appearances like book club meetings, readings or any event where you have the chance to make a face to face sale it’s important to have extra books on hand and provide your readers the option of purchasing these books easily with a credit card.  Companies like PayPal and Square offer reliable, easy to use, and compact credit card readers that plug right into your smartphone.  Buy one of these credit card readers and learn how to operate it.  Never be hesitant to wisely invest in yourself and in your career.  According to a recent survey of BankRate.com, fifty percent of Americans admit they carry less than $20 in cash, and nine percent say they don't carry cash at all. Giving your audience the ability to easily pay with a credit card is a simple way to improve your sales potential.

 

Another great way to add another source of revenue is to monetize your blog through pay per click ad programs such as Google’s Adsense. This service will embed ads in your blog that usually correlate, at least remotely, to products or services you’re writing about in your blog post. Once you sign up for these programs you will get paid each time a reader clicks on an ad. You can even download the free Adsense app to your mobile phone to manage your account on the go. You won’t generate much revenue at first, but it will grow as more readers begin visiting your blog. Although it’s not typical, Google reports that some users are making tens of thousands of dollars per month off this program. Whatever you make, every little bit helps.

 

I can’t stress this enough, just because you choose to pursue a writing career doesn’t mean you have to be a starving artist, it only requires you to think differently and have the discipline to stick to a budget.  Use your gift of creativity to discover new and different ways to get people to pay you for your work and be mindful of the money that you’re spending. If you accomplish this balance you will be well positioned to successfully support yourself with your words. More than ever before writers really do have control of their destinies. Utilize all of the tools at your disposal and you will soon see that reaching the goal of becoming a full time writer will feel every bit as amazing as you imagined it would be.

 

Here’s to your success!

~Eric Vance Walton, Author~

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More information on finding success as an indie author can be found in my book, One Word at a Time, Finding Your Way as an Indie Author. This book debuted at #7 on Amazon and currently has 19 reviews with an average of 4.9 stars.

 

The Happy Path

Lately I've been steeped in the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu. I'm reading it, slowly and deliberately, one verse per night, and letting the wisdom sink in.  I've read the Tao Te Ching many times before but it's never resonated with me like this. There's such a infinite wisdom in this book I can see how it's survived thousands of years. The message is so good, so poignant, so useful to humanity that it's stood the test of time. I've been doing my usual year-end reflection and have been thinking a lot about my writing, mainly the snail's pace in which my career has grown. Many times I've asked myself why I haven't achieved the level of success I've wished for. I've been working at my craft for more than two decades and each time I hit a wall and feel like giving up my psyche has always offered up a myriad of excuses:

You haven't met the right contact;

There's too much competition;

It's impossible to make a living at writing;

Facebook is severely limiting my outreach;

Blah, blah, blah, blah.

These excuses are falsehoods that, once I climb from the mire of self-pity, eventually allow me to justify continuing down a path that isn't working out.  Yes, I receive great joy from my work, there's no denying that, but one thing the Tao Te Ching has taught me to do is step outside myself and look at things objectively.  When I do this I see the truth, my work is just not good enough. Admitting this is an amazingly freeing and cleansing experience. If my writing was good enough my words would resonate with people to the point they would catch fire. I would be doing what I love for a living.

This very moment I'm taking full ownership of my life, both the successes and the failures. Like James Altucher has said many times before, there are no longer any gatekeepers. This is very important to realize because when you do you can't blame anyone but yourself.  I'm totally responsible for my own happiness and success.

My second novel, Truth Is Stranger, will be done by June, a series of short stories called, Embrace The Wobble will be published shortly after that, and I'm actively seeking people interested in making my trilogy of novels into films.

Indentured Solitude, my latest short story, is the best fiction I've ever written. I know I can do this. I see that all of the struggles and life experiences I've been through have made my writing better. I'm going to continue to learn, continue to walk down my happy path, and continue to write.

A few other things the Tao has taught me is: 1. everything happens in its own time, when it's meant to; and 2. we must act but detach ourselves from results of those actions.

2016, like any year, will be filled with the usual ups and downs but this year I refuse to see myself through the lens of any falsehoods, any excuses will be hunted to the point of extinction. In the New Year, and every year thereafter, I'm going to work harder than ever before at my craft until my words absolutely catch f*cking fire. There’s no other way.

Until then, my head and heart will be completely in my work, I will try to see things as they are and not how I wish them to be, and my nose will be trained for that first sweet whiff of smoke.

Happy New Year all!  Thank you all for the wonderful support and ideas.  May 2016 bring you truth and may that truth lead you to the success you seek.

~Eric Vance Walton~

Contradiction 

Our consciousness  is the conjuror 

of many contradictions,

this world 

in which we live 

is a lavish stage

of grand illusion, each act is filled 

with sharp edges

and serene softness,

twisted knots,

and breathless beauty, reality is nothing 

but our soul's mirror,

it takes such courage 

to gaze into it,

and admit our thoughts

create everything we see but sometimes 

it's not bravery at all,

sometimes we're just tired 

of being broken and 

simply have no more 

tears left to cry.

~Eric Vance Walton~

The Curtain

As the curtain of darkness is drawn tight

and the incense smoke hangs still,

muse settles in

and I become its channel it’s quick to remind me

in its soft murmurs

that possibilities and hope

are still within the reach of my mind muse, my sweet amnesia,

makes me forget my wounds,

my worries and

the prickly ache of time passed once refocused in the moment

it’s easy to see my scars

make me who I am

but do not define me worries are only time wasted,

my muse is otherworldly

and Heaven sent,

it leaves me lifted, with the warmth of it

wrapped around me

I can brush the

the frigid throes of this world

from my shoulders again I can walk

with head raised,

proud of each facet of my soul,

happy in every cell of my being,

filled with the anticipation

of what might be. ~Eric Vance Walton~

THEY WALK AMONG US

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I was five years old and panic stricken. I was away from my parents for the first time, laying on a hospital gurney in some cold and sterile holding area waiting for my turn in the operating room. Through my tear filled eyes I noticed I wasn't alone, there was a man lying there on a gurney beside of me. He resembled a young Cat Stevens. This man reached through the bars of his bed to pat my hand as he asked me what my name was.  He told me his name, of which I forget, and shared that he was a poet. He asked if he could recite some of his poems to me. A great sense of peace washed over me the moment he began reciting his poetry. This small act of kindness calmed my racing heart and made everything feel as if it was going to be okay. It was the first time I realized the true power of words.  This kind soul gave me only five minutes of his time but these five minutes were immensely valuable to me. So valuable, that the lesson has survived inside of me for almost forty years. Small deeds can have a huge impact, they can transform lives. and create lasting change. Could this experience be partially responsible for my becoming a writer and poet?  Maybe or maybe not. It's interesting to think about. I have many other examples in my life that I can share. There was Mrs. Bohl, who could have made me repeat kindergarten for being out sick so many days but she didn't. Mr. Morgan, my seventh grade teacher who took an extremely skinny, shy, and awkward pre-teen boy and over the course of the school year transformed him into a much more confident young man. There was also that one boy in the group of twelve who chased me down for blocks in our inner city neighborhood that dark Friday night in the mid-80's with every intention of beating me up and/or robbing me. I had been in enough of these situations to understand what the outcome would be if they caught me and they were gaining on me fast. I ran through all of the options in my head and chose the only one I had left, I stopped under a streetlight, turned to face them, and plunged my hand inside my jacket as if I had a gun. The group stopped instantly. Suddenly this boy said to the others in his group, "Wait, I know him! It's cool, he goes to our school."He didn't have to say anything, but he did.  A few of them paced, high on adrenaline and testosterone, itching to take part in a beat down. More recently, as my writing career has started to go global, I've had the good fortune of having many virtual mentors. The largest, by far, has been James Altucher. I've devoured his podcasts and blog posts and feel as though his guidance alone is responsible for most of the growth in my writing career this past year.  There's also Maja Gray, Joan Holman, and many more people that I've met through the Choose Yourself Facebook group who give so freely of their time and their ideas even though they're busy themselves. Add my loyal readers to this list, my true fans, people like Ulrika and Cecilia Fjellborg, Annie Rider, Bobby Leigh, Anthony Smith, Jeanne White, Charles Bond, Claudia Tucker and the list goes on and on. These folks have been with me from nearly the beginning of my social media presence. They enthusiastically purchase my books, they like and share my social media posts. Some even geek out on the fictional characters in my novel (I LOVE this.)  I feel like they are an army rooting me on, they make me continue to march on when I feel like I'm up to my knees in mud. They make me believe in myself through the countless struggles of this profession. Each of us are presented with opportunities. I call them Angelic moments. These are brief points in time in which we make a difference or not. We can step outside of our comfort zone or not. We can risk being ostracized by the herd by voicing an unpopular opinion that we truly believe in or not. We can have the patience to lend an ear and offer words of support or not. It takes a certain kind of courage and isn't always comfortable. The choice is up to us and the beauty is each moment presents us with new opportunities to test our wings. We simply can't help everyone but if you feel a strong urge to do or say something in a given moment, take heed. If you feel something tugging at your heart, pay very close attention to it. Act, don't over think. Act. It could make all the difference. The truth is Angels are more common than we think. They walk among us. Sometimes they're dressed to the nines and other times they wear filthy clothes. Sometimes they offer sweet words of praise, sometimes they swear at us like sailors. Yes, sometimes the angel is even walking in your shoes. ~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 

10 WAYS TO PIMP PROOF YOUR LIFE*

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10 WAYS TO PIMP PROOF YOUR LIFE*Pimped (slang): To be persuaded, smooth talked or tricked by another person into doing something for their benefit. Apparently I'm an extremely slow learner because it's taken me twenty years to just begin to find modest success as a writer. In my defense, writing is one of the most difficult professions in the world. In the last twenty years I've learned some hard won lessons by being pimped (i.e., taken advantage of, swindled, led on a professional equivalent of a snipe hunt) in almost every imaginable way. Below are some of the most effective ways I’ve learned to shield myself from the pimps of the world:   1. Realize your true worth and never tie that self worth to anything outside of yourself. Your self worth should never be measured by anything external like money, possessions, looks, or anything other than the treasures you hold within yourself. Never seek acceptance or validation from others. This alone takes away most of the pimp's power of persuasion. If you are walking around with a general feeling that you don’t measure up this is a good indicator that you have work to do on yourself, spiritual work. I realized this in my early twenties. I began a self improvement regime that prompted me to move eight hundred miles away from home and to master meditation. I became a new person because of it.   

2. Get to know your true self. This isn’t as easy as it seems. Have the courage to learn who you really are beneath the mask that you’ve become accustomed to wearing so you will be accepted and liked by others. This takes courage and honesty, this takes deep reflection, this involves assessing your strengths and weaknesses. Pimps seek out victims who don't know who they are, the confused, and the indecisive. We spend too much of our time and energy trying to figure out other people and events in our lives but not nearly enough attention on introspection and contemplation of ourselves. Once we know ourselves we can learn to love ourselves. If we don’t like what we see, we can also identify what we need to work on.  

3. Be original. Once you have removed the mask and are comfortable with who you are relish it then unapologetically flaunt the h@ll out of it. There's only one you, a single person who sees the world through the exact same lens as you. Don't dare compromise your future fans and/or customers by emulating anyone else. There are many people waiting to connect with your uniqueness. Do you. Learn to be confident and comfortable in your own skin and others will be drawn to you. People can feel genuine confidence and are attracted to it like a magnet. Authenticity sends the pimps running for an easier target.     4. Live, eat, and breathe your business or craft. You must learn your business or craft inside and out. It must be absorbed into your DNA. It’s cliche but knowledge truly is power. Your passion in life should not feel like work. I repeat it should not feel like work. Your business or craft should give you a reason to get out of bed in the morning and provide you with hope that is the guiding light through dark days. If this is the case, it is a very good indication that you should doggedly pursue it. Your passion simply must feel like one of the greatest loves of your entire life.    5. Don't be afraid to fail. Pimps can smell fear from a mile away. Unless you're extremely smart or very lucky you will fail a few times. You may even fail five times like me, or more but that’s okay. I published five books before I sold even two hundred copies of a book title. Sure I was depressed about it but I learned something from each and every failure. If you learn a lesson it’s never a failure.    6. Do the work. Research shows that it takes ten thousand hours to master a new skill. I would argue it takes another five to ten thousand hours to learn the skill well enough to put your own unique stamp on that skill. This will set you apart from everyone else doing the same thing. The most important thing is to start...start today. It’s absolutely not necessary to “pay dues” in anything, never let anyone let you believe this line of thinking. This is a trick the pimps of the world use to exploit you. But you better believe there’s no way around having to do the work. There’s a difference.    7. No excuses. Believe me, I've used them all, "I'm too old, I don't have enough time, I don't have enough money, no one will publish my work, no agent is interested in me, I don’t know the right people, etc." This is pure bull$h!t. Very few people are handed anything in this world. The problem is some people just make it look easy. The clock of your life is ticking, don’t delay. The sooner you begin the sooner you’ll eventually find success.    8. Be patient. The universe unfolds according to its own timeline, not yours. For fifteen years I watched almost every single one of my peers far surpass me in every measurable way. Have faith and trust that everything that mystifies you will eventually make sense in hindsight.Trust me, it will. Most people quit when they’re just inches away from the finish line. Don’t quit.    9. You can’t do it alone. Trying to wear every hat and be an expert in everything will not only lead to exhaustion it will take you years longer to achieve your goals. Outsource what you’re not proficient in to the experts and focus on your strengths this creates a shortcut. Do you remember those first five books I mentioned before that didn’t sell? I failed because I did everything myself from book layout to cover design, to promotion. I spread myself too thin to spend enough time on the things that mattered. Learn from my mistakes, assemble a talented team to help you achieve your goals. If you don’t have money offer to trade skills or offer them a percentage of future sales up to a certain amount. Also, find an altruistic network of people who support you and provide honest feedback. I found a wonderful online forum of like minded individuals on Facebook called, “Choose Yourself” (based on James Altucher’s bestselling book of the same title) that has been a tremendous help to me.   10. Help others whenever you can. This is especially important to do when you’re feeling depressed or like you’re a failure because it boosts you up! This kind of behavior is the ultimate pimp-repellent. It confuses them, they don’t understand it. In truth, there’s so much success to go around that it should never be hoarded, rather it should be shared. There’s plenty available for everyone to have their own piece. No matter where you are in the pursuit of your passion there’s likely someone you can teach or encourage. When you do this the world literally opens up to you. We’re so lucky to live in an age where it’s easy to connect with large groups of people to share our stories and teach. Others can learn from the mistakes you made and you can offer them the invaluable gift of providing a shorter path to success. The really beautiful thing is the universe rewards this kind of behavior and you’ll ultimately find much greater success because of it.    I hope these tips have helped to give you something to think about. In reality, the pimps of the world are cowards and bullies that thrive on intimidation, scare tactics, and empty promises to survive.    These people will never find happiness and true peace until they learn to evolve and become a better version of themselves. Even if a few of the steps above are mastered your life will quickly become more pimp proof.   Each of us have a right and an equal opportunity to experience life as a victor instead of a victim. The only true limits are the ones we perceive in our minds. Life can be much more wondrous than we can even imagine. The choice is yours, which path will you choose?  ~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