A Conversation with a Friend

Jesus

I was hanging out the other night at the Tiki Hut, minding my own business, when a voice behind me said, “Hey man, what’s up?”

I should first explain that the Tiki Hut is an edifice here at the marina where I live. The denizens of said marina congregate there on occasion to commune with one another. I, on the other hand, avoid it like the plague. It’s not that I don’t like people, it’s just that I don’t like being around people, but that particular evening I had the place to myself.

I turned around, and standing there was this dude I had never seen before, although he did look kind of familiar.

“Hello,” I said in response. I was a little perturbed at having my solitude interrupted, but decided not to be rude. “Are you new here?” I asked in a friendly manner.

“Somewhat.”

I mentally shrugged. I didn’t care one way or the other, I was being polite. Well, I had done my part and started to head back to my boat. I had a six-pack of cold beers waiting for me and I thought it about time I paid it some attention.

“Want a beer?”

It was the dude. He was holding a plastic grocery bag that I had not noticed before. It definitely had the outline of a six-pack. Figuring the guy might be lonely, and thinking I might as well do my Christian duty, I said, “Sure, why not?” I would have a beer and we’d shoot the shit and then I’d get the hell out of there. I reckoned I could put up with him for the time it would take to drink one beer.

He reached into the bag and came out with two bottles of my favorite beer. Things were looking up. He did the honors of popping the caps and we both took a long pull of that cold, good-tasting beverage.

“So,” I said, “you moving in?”

“I’m thinking about it. I wanted to get a feel for the place first. Do you like living here?”

“It’s okay. As long as you pay your rent on time, they leave you alone.”

I’ll not bore you with the rest of the mundane conversation. That first beer led to a second and then a third. I was starting to warm up to the guy by the fourth. Then it dawned on me. We both had had four beers, but we started out with only one six-pack. When I mentioned that fact, he said, “No, you must be mistaken. There were two six-packs in the bag.”

Another mental shrug on my part.

As I popped the cap on my fifth beer, he asked me, “So, what do you think of the state the world is in?”

If I had been asked that question on the first or second or even the third beer, I would have bolted. I don’t get into conversations like that. Truth be known, I generally don’t get into conversations at all. I live alone and I like it that way. I don’t have to please anyone and I sure as hell don’t have to answer stupid questions. But . . . I was on my fifth beer and the guy was buying. So, what the hell?

“It depends on what world you are talking about. My little world is doing just fine. I eat every day. And when it rains, I’m dry. What more could a man ask for?”

He nodded, but said nothing. Fueled by Guinness Stout, I went on.

“Now, if you’re asking about the world in general, I would have to say that for the majority of the people in it, the place is a shit-hole. Wouldn’t you say so?”

“I would say that the vast majority of the people on this planet are living the lives that they want to live.”

Now the guy was pissing me off. Being of Irish descent and having four and a half Guinnesses in me got me up on my soap box.

“Do you believe in God?” I asked with a drunken sneer.

“I have heard of Him, but I don’t know if I believe in Him.”

“Well, if God is real, how can he let the suffering go on? How can he allow a baby to get cancer? How can the son-of-a-bitch let the world get into the mess that it is in today?”

“Good questions, my friend. Very good questions.”

“Don’t patronize me, and hand me another of those goddamn beers.”

I was in rare form.

When I had been placated with my sixth beer (but who’s counting?), my new-found friend went on.

“Many people feel as you do. They use the same argument. ‘If there is a God, how can He allow the suffering?’ I think the answer is that there is no God. There is only the Oneness. There is only us. Perhaps we are all God. And if we are God, how could we allow ourselves to suffer?”

That was it for me. Free beer or not, I was out of there. The guy was crazy. But first I would finish my beer . . . just to be polite.

Then he went on.

“It’s a shame that we don’t believe in reincarnation because that would explain many things. If reincarnation was for real that would mean souls exist before birth. It might even mean that we choose our lives. That life is not a crap shoot.”

I was thinking, “You’re a crap shoot!”

“Do you know that physicists have proven, mathematically at least, that there is no such thing as time and that we are living in a hologram? And if that is so, then what does anything matter? Look at it this way. We live in a dimension known as space-time. You cannot have one without the other. You cannot have time without space and you cannot have space without time. Right?”

“If you say so. How about another beer?” We were now into the third six-pack that wasn’t there. But what the fuck?

“Think of it this way. Space-time is a manifestation only of the physical plane. Off the physical plane, there is no space-time by definition. Correct?”

“Please stop asking me to confirm what you are saying. I’ll admit it makes sense . . . so far. So, I’ll sit here and listen to you as long as that magic bag keeps popping out Guinnesses.”

“Okay. Now visualize this. If you were to look into a dimension of time-space from a dimension of non-time-space, meaning a non-physical universe, what would you see?”

“Your momma!”

He smiled at me with such forbearance that I felt ashamed at having made such a flippant remark. And I sobered up instantly. “I’m sorry I said that. Please go on.”

“I take no offense and I assure you, ‘my momma’ takes no offense.”

I pushed my half-finished beer aside and waited. He didn’t seem drunk, yet he had had as many beers as I had. He took another deep swallow of his Guinness and continued.

“What you would see is all time happening at once. That is what you would see. Now, here’s my point. If all time happens at once and we are living in a hologram—a false reality if you will. And if we pre-exist before we are born, and if we know the lives we are going to live, and if there is no time, which means the duration of our lives are as one-millionth of the time it takes to blink an eye, then how are we harmed?”

A good question to which I had no answer. But I had to ask, “Who the hell are you?”

“I’ve been known by many names over many lives. My time on the space-time plane is over. I just come to visit once in a while because that’s what I do. I am a teacher. Sometimes to the multitudes, sometimes to just one lonely man thinking of drinking a beer by himself. In my last incarnation, I was known as Jesus Bar Joseph, or Jesus, Son of Joseph. In parting, let me say this. There is no God. There is only the Oneness and we are all fragments of that Oneness, playing out our existence. Working our way back to the Oneness where we will be reunited. There is no hell and there is no heaven. There is no loss, there is only us. Peace be with you, my friend.”

Then he glowed with such intensity that I had to cover my eyes. The brilliance was filled with love. I have never felt such love. I have never been so loved. It was all I could do not break down and cry right there on the spot.

Then he was gone.

Now I sit here pondering his words. If we are all One, then hiding from my neighbors might not be such a smart thing. I think I’ll invite that nice young couple who live a few boats over for a Sunday brunch. If I can make it through that, perhaps I’ll visit the Tiki Hut a little more often.

You never know who you might meet there.

Guest Post by Andrew Joyce: Danny and The Three Monsters

Inked Brownies

My name is Andrew Joyce and I write books for a living. Anne has been kind enough to allow me a little space on her blog to promote my new novel RESOLUTION: Huck Finn’s Greatest Adventure. I think it’s a good book, but what do I know? Anyway, I’m kinda shy about tooting my own horn. So I think I’ll turn things over to my dog, Danny, to toot it for me. He always has an attitude and usually does not speak highly of me. But please understand that we co-exist as the old Soviet Union and the United States once co-existed. We tolerate each other. So without further ado, here’s Danny the Dog.

Andrew took me away from watching reruns of Lassie to help him out here. For a person who works with words for a living, he has very little to say in real life. He wants…

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Authors beware: A new danger for KU authors

WOW!!!

Darrienia: The Forgotten Legacies Series

Hi all,

Anyone who follows me closely will know my book was removed from Amazon for almost a fortnight after they registered some unusual activity. At first I was at a loss. What was it, where had it come from? But since I have learnt a terrifying truth behind Kindle Unlimited, it is one all authors need to be aware of. It is a KU scam that could ruin your career and put your money into fraudsters’ pockets.

In this post I will detail my own experience, in hope you know what to look out for.

I was running a book promotion, a push to generate interest in my first book. After approaching blogs and book promotion sites I began to run a 99cents promotion on Darrienia, which at that time was number one in two of its categories. Book two is coming out at the end of the year…

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Enter the 27 Word Challenge and win a Special Grand Prize…

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

bill-doyleHello, I’m Andrew Joyce.

I was here a few months ago and issued a 79-word challenge.

I asked you to write a 79-word story with plot, character development, and all the stuff good stories are made of.

And I must admit that you all came through with flying colors.

Because you were all so damn smart, I’m back with a new challenge.

This time it has to be exactly 27 wordsnot counting the title.

You must tell a story bringing Facebook into it—at least tangentially.

Give it pathos.

Give me Gone with the Wind in 27 words.

Simple, huh?

This time there is a grand prize.

The winner will get an all-expenses paid weekend with the famous Danny the Dog.*

Danny Meditating

Infuse your stories with your soul.

Make us laugh.

Make us want to hang our heads and cry at your angst.

Make us want…

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Heteronyms & Homographs

images (4)

Emailed from a friend. (And don’t be so surprised. I got a few. Well . . . at least one.)

Homographs are words of like spelling but with more than one meaning. A homograph that is also pronounced differently is a heteronym.

Some Examples:

1) The bandage was wound around the wound.

2) The farm was used to produce produce.

3) The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.

4) We must polish the Polish furniture.

5) He could lead if he would get the lead out.

6) The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.

7) Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.

8) A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.

9) When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.

10) I did not object to the object.

11) The insurance was invalid for the invalid.

12) There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.

13) They were too close to the door to close it.

14) The buck does funny things when the does are present.

15) A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.

16) To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.

17) The wind was too strong to wind the sail.

18) Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.

19) I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.

20) How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?

Editorial: Self-publishing > Traditional Publishing

Bubble Cow

This article is reprinted with permission from Fred Johnson of BubbleCow.com

Hi everyone.

The school holidays are almost upon us, and I wish those of you with kids good luck. May your family holidays avoid disaster and may you never hear the dreaded “I’m bored!” It might be a good time to lock yourself away and work on that novel.

And when you finish it, go ahead and self-publish. That’s right, I’m not even beating around the bush any more. Self-publishing is the way forward, and big publishers know it. They’re scared. They’re trying to shut us down, man.

Okay, so they’re not actually trying to shut us down, but they are panicking over things like digital rights acquisitions and trying to keep the prices of eBooks up. Self-publishing is becoming more and more prominent each year. Self-published writers are starting to worm their way into the limelight and into the critical establishment. The time of reckoning is nigh.

And yet there’s still a residual shame surrounding self-publishing. It’s still seen as second best, as a sign of implicit failure. It’s vain and narcissistic. It’s something your dad shakes his head at. Get a real job son.

No matter that self-published writers can earn far more than most publishers will offer writers in their book deals – what’s 15% royalties against 70%? No matter that when you traditionally publish you can kiss goodbye to distribution rights as well as potentially to a whole load of other rights too – one contract some poor Redditor signed forbade him from blogging for two years. I suppose it also makes no difference that traditional publishers will stop marketing your book after a month if it’s not instantly a bestseller. I hope that advance was worth it.
Then again, if traditional publishing is so bad, why has literally every great work of literature ever gone through it? Where’s Jane Austen’s self-published collection? Where’s Don DeLillo’s Amazon profile? Why wasn’t War and Peace a poorly formatted eBook before it was a mighty hardback?

Self-publishing is new. People don’t trust it. They visit Amazon’s Kindle marketplace and they see an ocean of erotic fan fiction and some eye-meltingly offensive cover designs. They dig through Game of Thrones knock-offs and veritable acres of romantic Vampire fiction and then they leave, crossing themselves and muttering about the rapture.

It doesn’t have to be like this. Writers know that, economically speaking, self-publishing is a sensible option. They know that it offers them total control and total freedom. They know that for the vast majority of writers who snag a book deal with a major publisher, only the tiny minority will see major returns with a runaway bestseller. Fewer still will be lifted into the hallowed halls of the literary elite. What are the chances that you’re one of those lucky few? Statistically speaking, minuscule. It’s like the literature lottery – sure, you can’t win if you don’t play, but hey – you’re still not going to win.

And yet – what if you really are that special writer whose stars have aligned just right? What if your book doesget picked up by Penguin or Faber and you get a chunky advance with several zeroes? What if your book reallydoes sell millions of copies? Maybe Michiko Kakutani will call your novel “the greatest book ever” in her review for The New York Times. Maybe Thomas Pynchon will send you a picture of his face in the mail. You always knew you were special, that you were destined for greatness. Behind you, your literary agent adjusts his glasses and looks at you. He nods and smiles, unexplained sunlight sparkling from his silver beard. I’m proud of you, he mouths. In the crowd, the critics – hard-eyed, bastard critics, people who’ve made a career out of being spiteful – they’re weeping. Their pads and laptops lie forgotten on the ground. Academics have gathered like birds outside to peck at the crumbs you toss their way. Schoolchildren will be reading you for decades to come. You’ve done it.

Pull the plug. I’m sorry, I was getting carried away there. If you found your eyes misting over a little, chances are you want what most of us want: recognition. Writers aren’t typically people overly concerned with making a lot of money. After all, there are far more lucrative avenues to walk if that’s your objective. What writers want is recognition – someone to say, hey, I see what you’ve done here. This is good. I want to read this – more than that, I want to tell my friends about this. I want to shout from the rooftops about how much I love this book.
This kind of affirmation is what writers live for. They need the reinforcement, the encouragement – the yes, this is good, keep at it. What you’re doing has worth – people need to read this. It will bring them something that money cannot. Writers need to keep hearing this, and this is what keeps traditional publishing in the ring. Maybe you started off writing in school when a teacher liked your short stories. They told you that you had some talent for it – it felt good. The literary agent is much the same: an approving expert. If this guy likes it, it must be good! And then, when the publishing house agrees a modest advance and a three-book deal, holy cow, now this is validation.

This is the kind of validation that not even big sales as a self-published writer can grant. Big deal, I sold ten-thousand books. What do people know? To quote Peep Show‘s Super Hans: “People like Coldplay and voted for the Nazis, you can’t trust people.” There’s something about having that select coterie of wise old literati and cold-blooded critics approve of you and your work. You’re one of them now.

This, I believe, is the thing that’s keeping writers pursuing the traditional publishing route. It’s this support framework that self-publishing lacks – you have to do it alone. There will be no agent to encourage you when you hit a wall, and no editorial team reinforcing your status. But you know what? Times are changing. Self-published writers are winning awards. They’re having well-respected movies made from their books – seen The Martian? That’s a Spielberg film based on a self-published novel by Andy Weir. As hard as it can be to believe, beneath the Kindle marketplace’s masses of housewife porn lurk some seriously good books by talented writers.

Of course, these truths are easy to know – they’re much harder to internalise. I know that eating meat is bad for the planet and is cruelty on an industrial scale, but damn it if that truth isn’t hard to internalise and apply. Writers know that self-publishing is the logical choice. They know it’s only getting bigger and they know that critics are starting to pay attention. They know they’ll have more freedom, that they’ll keep the rights, and that they’ll probably see more money in the long term. But they’d still sign a book deal quicker than I could blink if given half a chance.

Resist this urge. Self-publishing is no longer a failure, no longer a second-best avenue for mediocre writers. Self-publishing is the only option that makes sense – it is a victory. Don’t listen when people assume you couldn’t get a book deal. Choose self-publishing. Champion it. Reap the rewards.

Go forth and conquer.

Fred Johnson, Editor

Belinda Mulrooney, Queen of the Klondike

Belinda

While doing research for my latest novel, Resolution: Huck Finn’s Greatest Adventure, I came across an astounding woman—one who bested some of the toughest men in the world at their own game. Her name was Belinda Mulrooney.

The setting for RESOLUTION is the Yukon Territory in the year 1896. The biggest discovery of gold had just been made and the outside world was flocking in by the tens of thousands. The women who made the arduous climb over the Chilkoot Pass and flowed down the Yukon River to Dawson City—the hub of the goldfields—all travelled with their menfolk. All, that is, except the twenty-five year old Belinda. She came to Dawson City in 1897 . . . alone.

She arrived without a dime to her name, but she had had the foresight to bring along something that she knew would be in great demand in that hostile environment. She brought one bolt of silk and another of cotton along with fine and delicate ladies’ undergarments. She had trudged over the pass carrying dresses, petticoats, and things that the women who had been in the vicinity before the gold strike—and those that were pouring in—would pay a hefty price for.

Belinda constructed a crude cabin from scrap lumber to live in; its roof—a piece of canvas. The cabin also doubled as a makeshift store. She set up a wood plank to act as a counter and went into business.

After months and sometimes years of wearing coarse, men’s clothing, the women were more than ready to feel a little softness against their skin. They had their men pulling out their pokes of gold dust and lining up with them to purchase the frilly treasures before they were all gone.

Once the last camisole had been sold and Belinda had a substantial poke of her own, she cast an eye about to see how she would next separate the miners from their dust.

She noticed that the few eating establishments in town offered a very dull bill of fare, so she hired herself a man to do the cooking and converted her store into a restaurant. The food she served was so far superior to her competitors’ that the miners were soon lining up outside her cabin, waiting for a seat at one of the few tables inside.

Her poke grew even heavier.

When Belinda saw that the influx of people to the area was not abating, but growing, she went into the property development business. She bought empty lots in town, hired men to build cabins on them, and sold the cabins for an astronomical profit.

Her poke grew heavier still.

At the time, all the mining took place up Bonanza and Eldorado Creeks. When the men needed supplies or just a respite from their back-breaking labors, they would have to hike into Dawson. But first they would have to trek down-creek anywhere from five to ten miles to where the creeks converged. Then it was an additional sixteen miles into Dawson.

Belinda looked at the spit of land where the creeks met and thought it would be a good place to build a hotel and save the miners a thirty-two mile roundtrip hike into Dawson. And at the same time, add a little dust to her poke. Hence, she built the Grand Forks Hotel—a two-story affair. The downstairs housed the bar and the dining room. Upstairs were bunk beds for the miners to catch forty winks before heading back to their claims. The place was always filled to capacity . . . and then some. The hotel was such a success that Belinda built another one. The Fairview Hotel was the first three-story structure in Dawson.

The gold dust continued to pour in.

With no sewers or sanitary conditions to speak of, the water around Dawson soon became polluted. So Belinda started the Yukon Hygeia Water Supply Company, which sold boiled and purified water. The endeavor paid off handsomely. She also bought stakes in numerous claims up and down the creeks. Within a year of landing in Dawson as a penniless, single woman, she had amassed a fortune of almost three million dollars.

The next year, she married a man that was more in love with her money than with her. After he had gone through a good portion of it, she caught on and divorced him.

In 1908, she settled in Washington State where she built herself a grand mansion. She lived there until the 1920’s when her money ran out, forcing her to take menial jobs such as housekeeping and sewing dresses for the wealthy ladies of Seattle.

She died in 1967 at the ripe old age of 95, feisty to the end.

Belinda Mulrooney left the Yukon Territory with as much gold, if not more, than any of the miners. And she did so without panning for an ounce of it while standing stooped over in the freezing waters of a creek. She did it without turning one shovelful of frozen earth. She did it using her wits and the brains that the good Lord had given her.

Belinda Mulrooney was one hellava woman!