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The Devil's Violin

The Devil's Violin
By Art Johnson

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A special FBI investigator and a neurotic sneak-thief cross paths when the world’s most prized violin becomes the centerpiece of intrigue.

Product Description

The world’s most prized violin becomes the centerpiece of intrigue as FBI Special Investigator Chris Clarke and his partner Carlos “Chubbs” Gonzales weave their way through a maze containing a notorious assassin, Illuminati, secret documents, a master violin forger and his deceptive and charismatic daughter, a Hollywood film producer and one of L.A.’s finest and most neurotic sneak-thieves.

The chase across two continents resolves in an art gallery in the South of France for a shocker of an ending.

FBI Special Investigator Chris Clarke doesn’t like “…anything or anyone” in his way while working a case. In his seventeen years with the Bureau, he has dealt with everything from retrieving stolen works of art to tackling some of the world’s biggest scumbags.

With his diverse background of art evaluation and Desert Storm duty, Chris Clarke is ready for all comers. Only one fugitive haunts his thoughts: the notorious and ruthless assassin known only as “The Man in Black," whose trail of contract killings had never led law enforcement to anything but a figure lurking in the shadows.

One morning in August 2010, the “man in black” suddenly popped up, seen by witnesses in Cremona, Italy to have been in the area where a young violinist was found dead with his throat cut. Chris Clarke and Gonzales head off to Europe to track down the assassin while attempting to decode the mystery that lies behind the motive.

Weeks before, Hollywood movie-mogul Max Pendleton, who loves fine works of art, no matter how they are acquired, hires veteran sneak-thief Gus Edward Happy to fly to Europe and steal the most valuable violin in existence—the famed violin coveted by the Jimi Hendrix of the nineteenth century, Niccolo Paganini--thought to be in league with the devil because his genius was unexplainable in earthly terms.

Through a tangled web involving Illuminati, secret documents in the possession of Paganini at his death, a master violin forger and his deceptive daughter, thieves, and assassins, Clarke faces the challenge of his career as he and his partner Gonzales move across Italy to the South of France where pieces of the puzzle begin to fall into place with the Devil’s Violin center stage, leading to a rapid-fire conclusion.

The author:

From jazz clubs smelling of stale beer to Carnegie Hall, the journey of Art Johnson has been diverse. As an accompanist to Luciano Pavarotti and Lena Horne, with credits for Grammy and Academy Award winning music, his background of world travel and experience has provided him with a story-telling nature which has produced his first novel, The Devil’s Violin.

Product Details

  • Amazon Sales Rank: #348424 in eBooks
  • Published on: 2014-02-09
  • Released on: 2014-02-09
  • Format: Kindle eBook

Dennis Palumbo on Elements of Surprise "PEN ON FIRE" SPEAKER SERIES June 5th, 7 PM

 Elements of Surprise

Please join noted mystery authors JENNY MILCHMAN, NAOMI HIRAHARA and DENNIS PALUMBO for a discussion titled "Elements of Surprise." Hosted by Barbara DeMarco Barrett, the event will focus on ways to enhance suspense and weave in the unexpected in your fiction.

Suspense and mystery writers have much to teach writers of literary fiction, mainstream fiction, and other genres and subgenres.  These authors will discuss how to use surprising elements in your writing, whether it be fresh characterization, misdirection in plot, restraint and hidden information, and more.  They’ll also talk about how their publishing journeys have surprised them.

No writer, seasoned or new, will want to miss this exciting evening!

Dennis PalumboDennis Palumbo, M.A., MFT, is a writer and licensed psychotherapist in private practice. His acclaimed series of mystery thrillers, called “Riveting” by Publishers Weekly, include Mirror Image, Fever Dream, and the latest, Night Terrors. They all feature psychologist Daniel Rinaldi, a character that Kirkus Reviews calls “Jack Reacher with a psychology degree.” The next book in the series, Phantom Limb, comes out in September. All are from Poisoned Pen Press.  Dennis is also the author of Writing From the Inside Out (John Wiley), and a collection of mystery short stories, From Crime to Crime (Tallfellow Press). A former Hollywood screenwriter, his credits include the feature film My Favorite Year, for which he was nominated for a WGA Award for Best Screenplay. He was also a staff writer for the ABC-TV series Welcome Back, Kotter, and has written numerous series episodes and pilots. His first novel, City Wars (Bantam Books), is now available as an e-book, and his short fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, The Strand, Written By and elsewhere. He provides articles and reviews for The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Lancet, and many others. He’s also done commentary for NPR’s “All Things Considered.” Currently, he writes the  “Hollywood on the Couch” column for the Psychology Today website, and blogs regularly for The Huffington Post. More on Dennis here.

Naomi HiraharaAfter 15 years of writing and rewriting, Naomi Hirahara published her first novel, Summer of the Big Bachi, in 2004. The book, which featured a Los Angeles-based gardener and Hiroshima survivor, was among Publishers Weekly Best Books of 2004 and Chicago Tribune‘s Ten Best Mysteries and Thrillers of 2004. Her third in this Mas Arai mystery series, Snakeskin Shamisen, won an Edgar Award for Best Paperback Original in 2007. Murder on Bamboo Lane, the first in her new series with a 23-year-old female LAPD bicycle cop, was released in April 2014 with Berkley Prime Crime. Her fifth Mas Arai mystery, Strawberry Yellow, was a finalist for the T. Jefferson Parker Award, presented by the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association. A former journalist, she has also authored and edited several nonfiction books and was a consulting writer for the exhibition at the Manzanar National Historic Site’s Visitor Center. Her middle-grade book, 1001 Cranes, was honorable mention in youth literature from the Asian/Pacific American Libraries Association. Also a short story writer, Naomi is a past chapter president of the Southern California Chapter of Mystery Writers of America.  More on Naomi here.

Jenny MilchmanJenny Milchman‘s journey to publication took 13 years, after which she hit the road for seven months with her family on what Shelf Awareness called “the world’s longest book tour.” Her debut novel, Cover of Snow, was chosen as an Indie Next and Target Pick, reviewed in The New York Times and San Francisco Journal of Books, and nominated for a Mary Higgins Clark award. Jenny is also the founder of Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day and chair of International Thriller Writers’ Debut Authors Program. Jenny’s second novel, Ruin Falls, just came out to starred reviews from Booklist and Library Journal, and Jenny and her family are back on the road.

The event takes place at the Scape Gallery in Corona Del Mar.

Scape Gallery
2859 E. Coast Highway
Corona Del Mar, CA. 92625
(949) 723-3406

Paris Review Interview With Maya Angelou

This interview was conducted on the stage of the YMHA on Manhattan’s upper East Side. A large audience, predominantly women, was on hand, filling indeed every seat, with standees in the back . . . a testament to Maya Angelou’s drawingpower. Close to the stage was a small contingent of black women dressed in the white robes of the Black Muslim order. Her presence dominated the proceedings. Many of her remarks drew fervid applause, especially those which reflected her views on racial problems, the need to persevere, and “courage.” She is an extraordinary performer and has a powerful stage presence. Many of the answers seemed as much directed to the audience as to the interviewer so that when Maya Angelou concluded the evening by reading aloud from her work—again to a rapt audience—it seemed a logical extension of a planned entertainment.

You once told me that you write lying on a made-up bed with a bottle of sherry, a dictionary, Roget’s Thesaurus, yellow pads, an ashtray, and a Bible. What’s the function of the Bible?
The language of all the interpretations, the translations, of the Judaic Bible and the Christian Bible, is musical, just wonderful. I read the Bible to myself; I’ll take any translation, any edition, and read it aloud, just to hear the language, hear the rhythm, and remind myself how beautiful English is. Though I do manage to mumble around in about seven or eight languages, English remains the most beautiful of languages. It will do anything.
Do you read it to get inspired to pick up your own pen?
For melody. For content also. I’m working at trying to be a Christian and that’s serious business. It’s like trying to be a good Jew, a good Muslim, a good Buddhist, a good Shintoist, a good Zoroastrian, a good friend, a good lover, a good mother, a good buddy—it’s serious business. It’s not something where you think, Oh, I’ve got it done. I did it all day, hotdiggety. The truth is, all day long you try to do it, try to be it, and then in the evening if you’re honest and have a little courage you look at yourself and say, Hmm. I only blew it eighty-six times. Not bad. I’m trying to be a Christian and the Bible helps me to remind myself what I’m about.
Do you transfer that melody to your own prose? Do you think your prose has that particular ring that one associates with the King James version?
I want to hear how English sounds; how Edna St. Vincent Millay heard English. I want to hear it, so I read it aloud. It is not so that I can then imitate it. It is to remind me what a glorious language it is. Then, I try to be particular and even original. It’s a little like reading Gerard Manley Hopkins or Paul Laurence Dunbar or James Weldon Johnson.
And is the bottle of sherry for the end of the day or to fuel the imagination?
I might have it at six-fifteen a.m. just as soon as I get in, but usually it’s about eleven o’clock when I’ll have a glass of sherry.
When you are refreshed by the Bible and the sherry, how do you start a day’s work?
I have kept a hotel room in every town I’ve ever lived in. I rent a hotel room for a few months, leave my home at six, and try to be at work by six-thirty. To write, I lie across the bed, so that this elbow is absolutely encrusted at the end, just so rough with callouses. I never allow the hotel people to change the bed, because I never sleep there. I stay until twelve-thirty or one-thirty in the afternoon, and then I go home and try to breathe; I look at the work around five; I have an orderly dinner—proper, quiet, lovely dinner; and then I go back to work the next morning. Sometimes in hotels I’ll go into the room and there’ll be a note on the floor which says, Dear Miss Angelou, let us change the sheets. We think they are moldy. But I only allow them to come in and empty wastebaskets. I insist that all things are taken off the walls. I don’t want anything in there. I go into the room and I feel as if all my beliefs are suspended. Nothing holds me to anything. No milkmaids, no flowers, nothing. I just want to feel and then when I start to work I’ll remember. I’ll read something, maybe the Psalms, maybe, again, something from Mr. Dunbar, James Weldon Johnson. And I’ll remember how beautiful, how pliable the language is, how it will lend itself. If you pull it, it says, OK.” I remember that and I start to write. Nathaniel Hawthorne says, “Easy reading is damn hard writing.” I try to pull the language in to such a sharpness that it jumps off the page. It must look easy, but it takes me forever to get it to look so easy. Of course, there are those critics—New York critics as a rule—who say, Well, Maya Angelou has a new book out and of course it’s good but then she’s a natural writer. Those are the ones I want to grab by the throat and wrestle to the floor because it takes me forever to get it to sing. I work at the language. On an evening like this, looking out at the auditorium, if I had to write this evening from my point of view, I’d see the rust-red used worn velvet seats and the lightness where people’s backs have rubbed against the back of the seat so that it’s a light orange, then the beautiful colors of the people’s faces, the white, pink-white, beige-white, light beige and brown and tan—I would have to look at all that, at all those faces and the way they sit on top of their necks. When I would end up writing after four hours or five hours in my room, it might sound like, It was a rat that sat on a mat. That’s that. Not a cat. But I would continue to play with it and pull at it and say, I love you. Come to me. I love you. It might take me two or three weeks just to describe what I’m seeing now.
How do you know when it’s what you want?
I know when it’s the best I can do. It may not be the best there is. Another writer may do it much better. But I know when it’s the best I can do. I know that one of the great arts that the writer develops is the art of saying, “No. No, I’m finished. Bye.” And leaving it alone. I will not write it into the ground. I will not write the life out of it. I won’t do that.
How much revising is involved?
I write in the morning and then go home about midday and take a shower, because writing, as you know, is very hard work, so you have to do a double ablution. Then I go out and shop—I’m a serious cook—and pretend to be normal. I play sane—Good morning! Fine, thank you. And you? And I go home. I prepare dinner for myself and if I have houseguests, I do the candles and the pretty music and all that. Then after all the dishes are moved away I read what I wrote that morning. And more often than not if I’ve done nine pages I may be able to save two and a half or three. That’s the cruelest time you know, to really admit that it doesn’t work. And to blue pencil it. When I finish maybe fifty pages and read them—fifty acceptable pages—it’s not too bad. I’ve had the same editor since 1967. Many times he has said to me over the years or asked me, Why would you use a semicolon instead of a colon? And many times over the years I have said to him things like: I will never speak to you again. Forever. Goodbye. That is it. Thank you very much. And I leave. Then I read the piece and I think of his suggestions. I send him a telegram that says, OK, so you’re right. So what? Don’t ever mention this to me again. If you do, I will never speak to you again. About two years ago I was visiting him and his wife in the Hamptons. I was at the end of a dining room table with a sit-down dinner of about fourteen people. Way at the end I said to someone, I sent him telegrams over the years. From the other end of the table he said, And I’ve kept every one! Brute! But the editing, one’s own editing, before the editor sees it, is the most important.
The five autobiographical books follow each other in chronological order. When you started writing I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings did you know that you would move on from that? It almost works line by line into the second volume.
I know, but I didn’t really mean to. I thought I was going to write Caged Bird and that would be it and I would go back to playwriting and writing scripts for television. Autobiography is awfully seductive; it’s wonderful. Once I got into it I realized I was following a tradition established by Frederick Douglass—the slave narrative—speaking in the first-person singular talking about the first-person plural, always saying I meaning we. And what a responsibility! Trying to work with that form, the autobiographical mode, to change it, to make it bigger, richer, finer, and more inclusive in the twentieth century has been a great challenge for me. I’ve written five now and I really hope—the works are required reading in many universities and colleges in the United States—that people read my work. The greatest compliment I receive is when people walk up to me on the street or in airports and say, Miss Angelou, I wrote your books last year and I really—I mean I read . . . That is it—that the person has come into the books so seriously, so completely, that he or she, black or white, male or female, feels, That’s my story. I told it. I’m making it up on the spot. That’s the great compliment. I didn’t expect, originally, that I was going to continue with the form. I thought I was going to write a little book and it would be fine and I would go on back to poetry, write a little music.
What about the genesis of the first book? Who were the people who helped you shape those sentences that leap off the page?
Oh well, they started years and years before I ever wrote, when I was very young. I loved the black American minister. I loved the melody of the voice and the imagery, so rich and almost impossible. The minister in my church in Arkansas, when I was very young, would use phrases such as “God stepped out, the sun over his right shoulder, the moon nestling in the palm of his hand.” I mean, I just loved it, and I loved the black poets, and I loved Shakespeare, and Edgar Allan Poe, and I liked Matthew Arnold a lot—still do. Being mute for a number of years, I read and memorized, and all those people have had tremendous influence . . . in the first book and even in the most recent book.
I was raped when I was very young. I told my brother the name of the person who had done it. Within a few days the man was killed. In my child’s mind—seven and a half years old—I thought my voice had killed him. So I stopped talking for five years. Of course I’ve written about this in Caged Bird.
When did you decide you were going to be a writer? Was there a moment when you suddenly said, This is what I wish to do for the rest of my life?
Well, I had written a television series for PBS, and I was going out to California. I thought I was a poet and playwright. That was what I was going to do the rest of my life. Or become famous as a real estate broker. This sounds like name-dropping, and it really is, but James Baldwin took me over to dinner with Jules and Judy Feiffer one evening. All three of them are great talkers. They went on with their stories and I had to fight for the right to play it good. I had to insert myself to tell some stories too. Well, the next day Judy Feiffer called Bob Loomis, an editor at Random House, and suggested that if he could get me to write an autobiography, he’d have something. So he phoned me and I said, No, under no circumstances; I certainly will not do such a thing. So I went out to California to produce this series on African and black American culture. Loomis called me out there about three times. Each time I said no. Then he talked to James Baldwin. Jimmy gave him a ploy which always works with me—though I’m not proud to say that. The next time he called, he said, Well, Miss Angelou. I won’t bother you again. It’s just as well that you don’t attempt to write this book, because to write autobiography as literature is almost impossible. I said, What are you talking about? I’ll do it. I’m not proud about this button that can be pushed and I will immediately jump.
Do you select a dominant theme for each book?
I try to remember times in my life, incidents in which there was the dominating theme of cruelty, or kindness, or generosity, or envy, or happiness, glee . . . perhaps four incidents in the period I’m going to write about. Then I select the one that lends itself best to my device and that I can write as drama without falling into melodrama.
Did you write for a particular audience?
I thought early on if I could write a book for black girls it would be good because there were so few books for a black girl to read that said this is how it is to grow up. Then, I thought, I’d better, you know, enlarge that group, the market group that I’m trying to reach. I decided to write for black boys and then white girls and then white boys.
But what I try to keep in mind mostly is my craft. That’s what I really try for; I try to allow myself to be impelled by my art—if that doesn’t sound too pompous and weird—accept the impulse and then try my best to have a command of the craft. If I’m feeling depressed and losing my control then I think about the reader. But that is very rare—to think about the reader when the work is going on.
So you don’t keep a particular reader in mind when you sit down in that hotel room and begin to compose or write. It’s yourself.
It’s myself . . . and my reader. I would be a liar, a hypocrite, or a fool—and I’m not any of those—to say that I don’t write for the reader. I do. But for the reader who hears, who really will work at it, going behind what I seem to say. So I write for myself and that reader who will pay the dues. There’s a phrase in West Africa, in Ghana; it’s called “deep talk.” For instance, there’s a saying: “The trouble for the thief is not how to steal the chief’s bugle but where to blow it.” Now, on the face of it, one understands that. But when you really think about it, it takes you deeper. In West Africa they call that “deep talk.” I’d like to think I write “deep talk.” When you read me, you should be able to say, Gosh, that’s pretty. That’s lovely. That’s nice. Maybe there’s something else? Better read it again. Years ago I read a man named Machado de Assis who wrote a book called Dom Casmurro. Machado de Assis is a South American writer—black father, Portuguese mother—writing in 1865, say. I thought the book was very nice. Then I went back and read the book and said, Hmm. I didn’t realize all that was in that book. Then I read it again, and again, and I came to the conclusion that what Machado de Assis had done for me was almost a trick: he had beckoned me onto the beach to watch a sunset. And I had watched the sunset with pleasure. When I turned around to come back in I found that the tide had come in over my head. That’s when I decided to write. I would write so that the reader says, That’s so nice. Oh boy, that’s pretty. Let me read that again. I think that’s why Caged Bird is in its twenty-first printing in hardcover and its twenty-ninth in paper. All my books are still in print, in hardback as well as paper, because people go back and say, Let me read that. Did she really say that?
The books are episodic, aren’t they? Almost as if you had put together a string of short stories. I wondered if as an autobiographer you ever fiddled with the truth to make the story better.
Well, sometimes. I love the phrase “fiddle with.” It’s so English. Sometimes I make a character from a composite of three or four people, because the essence in any one person is not sufficiently strong to be written about. Essentially though, the work is true though sometimes I fiddle with the facts. Many of the people I’ve written about are alive today and I have them to face. I wrote about an ex-husband—he’s an African—in The Heart of a Woman. Before I did, I called him in Dar-es-Salaam and said, I’m going to write about some of our years together. He said, Now before you ask, I want you to know that I shall sign my release, because I know you will not lie. However, I am sure I shall argue with you about your interpretation of the truth.
Did he enjoy his portrait finally or did you argue about it?
Well, he didn’t argue, but I was kind too.
I would guess this would make it very easy for you to move from autobiography into novel, where you can do anything you want with your characters.
Yes, but for me, fiction is not the sweetest form. I really am trying to do something with autobiography now. It has caught me. I’m using the first-person singular and trying to make that the first-person plural, so that anybody can read the work and say, Hmm, that’s the truth, yes, uh-huh, and live in the work. It’s a large, ambitious dream. But I love the form.
Aren’t the extraordinary events of your life very hard for the rest of us to identify with?
Oh my God, I’ve lived a very simple life! You can say, Oh yes, at thirteen this happened to me and at fourteen . . . But those are facts. But the facts can obscure the truth, what it really felt like. Every human being has paid the earth to grow up. Most people don’t grow up. It’s too damn difficult. What happens is most people get older. That’s the truth of it. They honor their credit cards, they find parking spaces, they marry, they have the nerve to have children, but they don’t grow up. Not really. They get older. But to grow up costs the earth, the earth. It means you take responsibility for the time you take up, for the space you occupy. It’s serious business. And you find out what it costs us to love and to lose, to dare and to fail. And maybe even more, to succeed. What it costs, in truth. Not superficial costs—anybody can have that—I mean in truth. That’s what I write. What it really is like. I’m just telling a very simple story.
Aren’t you tempted to lie? Novelists lie, don’t they?
I don’t know about lying for novelists. I look at some of the great novelists, and I think the reason they are great is that they’re telling the truth. The fact is they’re using made-up names, made-up people, made-up places, and made-up times, but they’re telling the truth about the human being—what we are capable of, what makes us lose, laugh, weep, fall down, and gnash our teeth and wring our hands and kill each other and love each other.
James Baldwin, along with a lot of writers in this series, said that “when you’re writing you’re trying to find out something you didn’t know.” When you write do you search for something that you didn’t know about yourself or about us?
Yes. When I’m writing, I am trying to find out who I am, who we are, what we’re capable of, how we feel, how we lose and stand up, and go on from darkness into darkness. I’m trying for that. But I’m also trying for the language. I’m trying to see how it can really sound. I really love language. I love it for what it does for us, how it allows us to explain the pain and the glory, the nuances and the delicacies of our existence. And then it allows us to laugh, allows us to show wit. Real wit is shown in language. We need language.
Baldwin also said that his family urged him not to become a writer. His father felt that there was a white monopoly in publishing. Did you ever have any of those feelings—that you were going up against something that was really immensely difficult for a black writer?
Yes, but I didn’t find it so just in writing. I’ve found it so in all the things I’ve attempted. In the shape of American society, the white male is on top, then the white female, and then the black male, and at the bottom is the black woman. So that’s been always so. That is nothing new. It doesn’t mean that it doesn’t shock me, shake me up . . .
I can understand that in various social stratifications, but why in art?
Well, unfortunately, racism is pervasive. It doesn’t stop at the university gate, or at the ballet stage. I knew great black dancers, male and female, who were told early on that they were not shaped, physically, for ballet. Today, we see very few black ballet dancers. Unfortunately, in the theater and in film, racism and sexism stand at the door. I’m the first black female director in Hollywood; in order to direct, I went to Sweden and took a course in cinematography so I would understand what the camera would do. Though I had written a screenplay, and even composed the score, I wasn’t allowed to direct it. They brought in a young Swedish director who hadn’t even shaken a black person’s hand before. The film was Georgia, Georgia with Diana Sands. People either loathed it or complimented me. Both were wrong, because it was not what I wanted, not what I would have done if I had been allowed to direct it. So I thought, Well, what I guess I’d better do is be ten times as prepared. That is not new. I wish it was. In every case I know I have to be ten times more prepared than my white counterpart.
Even as a writer where . . .
Yet a manuscript is what arrives at the editor’s desk, not a person, not a body.
Yes. I must have such control of my tools, of words, that I can make this sentence leap off the page. I have to have my writing so polished that it doesn’t look polished at all. I want a reader, especially an editor, to be a half-hour into my book before he realizes it’s reading he’s doing.
But isn’t that the goal of every person who sits down at a typewriter?
Absolutely. Yes. It’s possible to be overly sensitive, to carry a bit of paranoia along with you. But I don’t think that’s a bad thing. It keeps you sharp, keeps you on your toes.
Is there a thread one can see through the five autobiographies? It seems to me that one prevailing theme is the love of your child.
Yes, well, that’s true. I think that that’s a particular. I suppose, if I’m lucky, the particular is seen in the general. There is, I hope, a thesis in my work: we may encounter many defeats, but we must not be defeated. That sounds goody-two-shoes, I know, but I believe that a diamond is the result of extreme pressure and time. Less time is crystal. Less than that is coal. Less than that is fossilized leaves. Less than that it’s just plain dirt. In all my work, in the movies I write, the lyrics, the poetry, the prose, the essays, I am saying that we may encounter many defeats—maybe it’s imperative that we encounter the defeats—but we are much stronger than we appear to be and maybe much better than we allow ourselves to be. Human beings are more alike than unalike. There’s no real mystique. Every human being, every Jew, Christian, backslider, Muslim, Shintoist, Zen Buddhist, atheist, agnostic, every human being wants a nice place to live, a good place for the children to go to school, healthy children, somebody to love, the courage, the unmitigated gall to accept love in return, someplace to party on Saturday or Sunday night, and someplace to perpetuate that God. There’s no mystique. None. And if I’m right in my work, that’s what my work says.
Have you been back to Stamps, Arkansas?
About 1970, Bill Moyers, Willie Morris, and I were at some affair. Judith Moyers as well—I think she was the instigator. We may have had two or three scotches, or seven or eight. Willie Morris was then with Harper’s magazine. The suggestion came up: Why don’t we all go back South? Willie Morris was from Yazoo, Mississippi. Bill Moyers is from Marshall, Texas, which is just a hop, skip, and a jump—about as far as you can throw a chitterling—from Stamps, my hometown. Sometime in the middle of the night there was this idea: Why don’t Bill Moyers and Maya Angelou go to Yazoo, Mississippi to visit Willie Morris? Then why don’t Willie Morris and Maya Angelou go to Marshall, Texas, to visit Bill Moyers? I said, Great. I was agreeing with both. Then they said Willie Morris and Bill Moyers would go to Stamps, Arkansas to visit Maya Angelou, and I said, No way, José. I’m not going back to that little town with two white men! I will not do it! Well, after a while Bill Moyers called me—he was doing a series on “creativity”—and he said, Maya, come on, let’s go to Stamps. I said, No way. He continued, I want to talk about creativity. I said, You know, I don’t want to know where it resides. I really don’t, and I still don’t. One of the problems in the West is that people are too busy putting things under microscopes and so forth. Creativity is greater than the sum of its parts. All I want to know is that creativity is there. I want to know that I can put my hand behind my back like Tom Thumb and pull out a plum. Anyway, Moyers went on and on and so did Judith and before I knew it, I found myself in Stamps, Arkansas. Stamps, Arkansas! With Bill Moyers, in front of my grandmother’s door. My God! We drove out of town—me with Bill and Judith. Back of us was the crew, a New York crew, you know, very “Right, dig where I’m comin’ from, like, get it on,” and so forth. We got about three miles outside of Stamps and I said, Stop the car. Let the car behind us pull up. Get those people in with you and I’ll take their car. I suddenly was taken back to being twelve years old in a Southern, tiny town where my grandmother told me, Sistah, never be on a country road with any white boys. I was two hundred years older than black pepper, but I said, Stop the car. I did. I got out of the car. And I knew these guys—certainly Bill. Bill Moyers is a friend and brother-friend to me; we care for each other. But dragons, fears, the grotesques of childhood always must be confronted at childhood’s door. Any other place is esoteric and has nothing to do with the great fear that is laid upon one as a child. So anyway, we did Bill Moyers’s show. And it seems to be a very popular program, and it’s the first of the “creativity” programs . . .
Did going back assuage those childhood fears?
They are there like griffins hanging off the sides of old and tired European buildings.
It hadn’t changed?
No, worse if anything.
But it was forty years before you went back to the South, to North Carolina. Was that because of a fear of finding griffins everywhere, Stamps being a typical community of the South?
Well, I’ve never felt the need to prove anything to an audience. I’m always concerned about who I am to me first—to myself and God. I really am. I didn’t go south because I didn’t want to pull up whatever clout I had, because that’s boring, that’s not real, not true; that doesn’t tell me anything. If I had known I was afraid, I would have gone earlier. I just thought I’d find the South really unpleasant. I have moved south now. I live there.
Perhaps writing the autobiographies, finding out about yourself, would have made it much easier to go back.
I know many think that writing sort of “clears the air.” It doesn’t do that at all. If you are going to write autobiography, don’t expect that it will clear anything up. It makes it more clear to you, but it doesn’t alleviate anything. You simply know it better, you have names for people.
There’s a part in Caged Bird where you and your brother want to do a scene from The Merchant of Venice, and you don’t dare do it because your grandmother would find out that Shakespeare was not only deceased but white.
I don’t think she’d have minded if she’d known he was deceased. I tried to pacify her—my mother knew Shakespeare but my grandmother was raising us. When I told her I wanted to recite—it was actually Portia’s speech—Mama said to me, Now, sistah, what are you goin’ to render? The phrase was so fetching. The phrase was “Now, little mistress Marguerite will render her rendition.” Mama said, Now, sistah, what are you goin’ to render? I said, Mama, I’m going to render a piece written by William Shakespeare. My grandmother asked me, Now, sistah, who is this very William Shakespeare? I had to tell her that he was white, it was going to come out. Somebody would let it out. So I told Mama, Mama, he’s white but he’s dead. Then I said, He’s been dead for centuries, thinking she’d forgive him because of this little idiosyncrasy. She said, No Ma’am, little mistress you will not. No Ma’am, little mistress you will not. So I rendered James Weldon Johnson, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes.
Were books allowed in the house?
None of those books were in the house; they were in the school. I’d bring them home from school, and my brother gave me Edgar Allan Poe because he knew I loved him. I loved him so much I called him EAP. But as I said, I had a problem when I was young: from the time I was seven and a half to the time I was twelve and a half I was a mute. I could speak but I didn’t speak for five years and I was what was called a “volunteer mute.” But I read and I memorized just masses—I don’t know if one is born with photographic memory but I think you can develop it. I just have that.
What is the significance of the title All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes?
I never agreed, even as a young person, with the Thomas Wolfe title You Can’t Go Home Again. Instinctively I didn’t. But the truth is, you can never leave home. You take it with you; it’s under your fingernails; it’s in the hair follicles; it’s in the way you smile; it’s in the ride of your hips, in the passage of your breasts; it’s all there, no matter where you go. You can take on the affectations and the postures of other places and even learn to speak their ways. But the truth is, home is between your teeth. Everybody’s always looking for it: Jews go to Israel; black Americans and Africans in the Diaspora go to Africa; Europeans, Anglo-Saxons go to England and Ireland; people of Germanic background go to Germany. It’s a very queer quest. We can kid ourselves; we can tell ourselves, Oh yes, honey, I live in Tel Aviv, actually . . . The truth is a stubborn fact. So this book is about trying to go home.
If you had to endow a writer with the most necessary pieces of equipment, other than, of course, yellow legal pads, what would these be?
Ears. Ears. To hear the language. But there’s no one piece of equipment that is most necessary. Courage, first.
Did you ever feel that you could not get your work published? Would you have continued to write if Random House had returned your manuscript?
I didn’t think it was going to be very easy, but I knew I was going to do something. The real reason black people exist at all today is because there’s a resistance to a larger society that says you can’t do it—you can’t survive. And if you survive, you certainly can’t thrive. And if you thrive, you can’t thrive with any passion or compassion or humor or style. There’s a saying, a song that says, “Don’t you let nobody turn you ’round, turn you ’round. Don’t you let nobody turn you ‘round.” Well, I’ve always believed that. So knowing that, knowing that nobody could turn me ’round, if I didn’t publish, well, I would design this theater we’re sitting in. Yes. Why not? Some human being did it. I agree with Terence. Terence said homo sum: humani nihil a me alienum puto. I am a human being. Nothing human can be alien to me. When you look up Terence in the encyclopedia, you see beside his name, in italics, sold to a Roman senator, freed by that Senator. He became the most popular playwright in Rome. Six of his plays and that statement have come down to us from 154 b.c. This man, not born white, not born free, without any chance of ever receiving citizenship, said, I am a human being. Nothing human can be alien to me. Well, I believe that. I ingested that, internalized that at about thirteen or twelve. I believed if I set my mind to it, maybe I wouldn’t be published but I would write a great piece of music or do something about becoming a real friend. Yes, I would do something wonderful. It might be with my next-door neighbor, my gentleman friend, with my lover, but it would be wonderful as far as I could do it. So I never have been very concerned about the world telling me how successful I am. I don’t need that.
You mentioned courage . . .
. . .the most important of all the virtues. Without that virtue you can’t practice any other virtue with consistency.
What do you think of white writers who have written of the black experience—Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury or William Styron’s Confessions of Nat Turner?
Well, sometimes I am disappointed—more often than not. That’s unfair, because I’m not suggesting the writer is lying about what he or she sees. It’s my disappointment, really, in that he or she doesn’t see more deeply, more carefully. I enjoy seeing Peter O’Toole or Michael Caine enact the role of an upper-class person in England. There the working class has had to study the upper-class, has been obliged to do so, to lift themselves out of their positions. Well, black Americans have had to study white Americans. For centuries under slavery, the smile or the grimace on a white man’s face or the flow of a hand on a white woman could inform a black person that you’re about to be sold or flogged. So we have studied the white American, where the white American has not been obliged to study us. So often it is as if the writer is looking through a glass darkly. And I’m always a little—not a little—saddened by that poor vision.
And you can pick it up in an instant if you . . .
Yes, yes. There are some who delight and inform. It’s so much better, you see, for me, when a writer like Edna St. Vincent Millay speaks so deeply about her concern for herself and does not offer us any altruisms. Then when I look through her eyes at how she sees a black or an Asian my heart is lightened. But many of the other writers disappoint me.
What is the best part of writing for you?
Well, I could say the end. But when the language lends itself to me, when it comes and submits, when it surrenders and says, I am yours, darling—that’s the best part.
You don’t skip around when you write?
No, I may skip around in revision, just to see what connections I can find.
Is most of the effort made in putting the words down onto the paper or is it in revision?
Some work flows and, you know, you can catch three days. It’s like . . .I think the word in sailing is scudding—you know, three days of just scudding. Other days it’s just awful—plodding and backing up, trying to take out all the ands, ifs, tos, fors, buts, wherefores, therefores, howevers; you know, all those.
And then, finally, you write “The End” and there it is; you have a little bit of sherry.
A lot of sherry then.

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The Insanity Plea

The Insanity Plea
By Larry D. Thompson

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A spell-binding tale of four amateur sleuths who must find, track and trap a serial killer before the clock clicks down to a guilty verdict for an innocent man.

Product Description

"...fierce courtroom drama..."
"...intoxicating...and nail-biting..."
"...the courtroom scenes often soar..."
-Kirkus Reviews

A young nurse is savagely killed during a pre-dawn run on Galveston’s seawall. The murderer slices her running shorts from her body as his trophy and tosses the body over the wall to the rocks below. As dawn breaks, a bedraggled street person, wearing four layers of old, tattered clothes, emerges from the end of the jetty, waving his arms and talking to people only he hears. He trips over the body, checks for a pulse and, instead, finds a diamond bracelet which he puts in his pocket. He hurries across the street, heading for breakfast at the Salvation Army two blocks away, leaving his footprints in blood as he goes.

Wayne Little, former Galveston prosecutor and now Houston trial lawyer, learns that his older brother has been charged with capital murder for the killing. At first he refuses to be dragged back into his brother’s life. Once a brilliant lawyer, Dan’s paranoid schizophrenia had captured his mind, estranging everyone including Wayne. Finally giving in to pleas from his mother, Wayne enlists the help of his best friend, Duke Romack, former NBA star turned criminal lawyer. When Wayne and Duke review the evidence, they conclude that Dan’s chances are slim. They either find the killer or win a plea of insanity since the prosecution’s case is air tight. The former may be a mission impossible since the killer is the most brilliant, devious and cruel fictional murderer since Hannibal Lecter. The chances of winning an insanity plea are equally grim.

It will take the combined skills of the two lawyers along with those of Duke’s girlfriend, Claudia, a brilliant appellate lawyer, and Rita Contreras, Wayne’s next door neighbor and computer hacker extraordinaire, to attempt to unravel the mystery of the serial killer before the clock clicks down to a guilty verdict for Dan.
The Insanity Plea is a spell-binding tale of four amateur sleuths who must find, track and trap a serial killer as they prepare for and defend Wayne;s brother who is trapped in a mind like that of John Nash, Russell Crowe’s character in A Beautiful Mind.

Combining legal thriller with tracking a serial killer, Thompson once again takes the reader on a helluva ride, right up to the last page and sentence.

The Insanity Plea, a new legal thriller by Larry D. Thompson, Best Selling author of Dead Peasants, The Trial and So Help Me God.

Product Details

  • Amazon Sales Rank: #9082 in eBooks
  • Published on: 2014-05-06
  • Released on: 2014-05-06
  • Format: Kindle eBook

Guest Post:Memorial Day Reflections by Richard Pena

As America prepares to celebrate another Memorial Day, it is important to remember the lessons of prior wars. There is a common thread that links all wars and it is important that we not forget any of the wars or the soldiers that served in them.  For example, throughout the years that followed the withdrawal of combat troops from Vietnam,  America generally tried to forget the Vietnam War. However, it is vitally important for the 3.1 million soldiers who served in Vietnam and to the millions more of that generation who were affected by the war that we not forget. In fact, it is important to America’s interest that we not only remember Vietnam, but more importantly that we remember the lessons from that War.

Yes, it is good that the American service men and women have left Iraq and are currently in the process of  leaving Afghanistan, as it was good in March of 1973 that American troops left Vietnam. But the American consciousness should not stop there. We should not say to ourselves, “ Now that our troops from Iraq are back home and those from Afghanistan will soon be back home, we can forget about those wars.” We must be honest with ourselves individually and as a country. There are those who say that Iraq was not like Vietnam just as there are those who say that Iraq and Vietnam were very much alike. Well, both sides are right. Iraq was not like Vietnam because the fighting was not in jungles, napalm was not being dropped on civilians, the troops were not draftees, and over 58,000 Americans were not killed. There are however, several similarities. In both, young American troops were sent halfway around the world for questionable causes in wars we could not win. In both, there was a drumbeat for the necessity of war by the politicians. In both, what the politicians professed was accepted as the truth. In both, it was not.

 As another war is coming to a close let us not romanticize it, but let us see it for what it really is.  Many say that there are lessons we should learn. My response is that there are lessons we MUST learn. We, as a country, cannot continue to march blindly into wars of choice. The consequences are catastrophic for our country, not only in the enormous amount of money we spend in these wars but, just as importantly, in the toll it takes individually on our troops, their families, and on the military itself. The American veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are different from the Vietnam War veterans in part due to the vast number of head injuries sustained, the multiple deployments endured, and the increased number of women serving. But for both, the nightmare of war may continue long after their service is completed.

They cannot turn the war off after the 6 o’clock news like many civilians are able to do. These men and women will carry invisible scars of war back with them as they try to reintegrate into society.

Many Vietnam Veterans continue to suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or addictions. The Chief Justice of the Texas Supreme Court, Justice Nathan Hecht, in the November 13, 2013 edition of Texas Bar Blog, cites the national organization Justice for Vets as reporting that approximately 460,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans suffer from PTSD or depression and another 345,000 suffer from alcohol or drug addiction.  Obtaining statistics on homelessness is difficult, but it has been estimated that approximately one third (1/3) of the adult homeless are veterans and nearly half of those are Vietnam Veterans. When these young soldiers were accepted into the military and sent to war they were not like this. Too many returned unable to forget the horrors of war and instead of being treated for their mental wounds or addictions caused by the war, they were put out on the street. Those who deal with Veterans affairs warn of a coming tsunami of serious mental conditions and suicides in the military because of the multiple deployments and stresses related to the current wars. America should not forget these veterans. The least we can do for our aging Vietnam Veterans, and our Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans, is to take care of the injuries brought about by these wars. On this the 41st anniversary of the last American troops to leave Vietnam, let us honor the Vietnam Veterans. In the March 6, 2013 edition of At War, which ran in NYTimes.com, Mike Haynie and Nicholas Armstrong call for a National Strategy on Veterans. The time has come for this. We owe it to the men and women who have fought and sacrificed for our country.

Richard Pena is an Austin attorney, co-author of Last Plane Out of Saigon, and is a veteran who left Vietnam on the last day of American withdrawal.


Jay Atleson’s PLATINUM BLACKMAIL FREE Kindle Download May 27 – May 31

purchase on Amazon.com

 Cryptic messages appear on Mark Sterling’s secure iPhone with a link to a website on which he discovers a video for sale that shows him in bed with his boss's deceased daughter, along with explicit instructions to pay a million dollars in blackmail to keep the story from the prying eyes of the media.

Like some modern-day Job, Mark finds his sales career sabotaged, his company in danger of bankruptcy, his modeling expectations at a brick wall, and himself the victim of a vicious ship-board attack. Then things get worse.

Mark is wanted for murder, his house is blown up and burned to the ground, and he’s knee-deep in a cosmic battle for his life against the forces of cyberspace.

Platinum Blackmail is a story of high-tech power, sex, Wicca, murder, and love that displays the intimate psychological thought processes of a somewhat self-consumed man, forced to mature and realize one of life’s important lessons: be careful what you wish for since nothing is as it seems.

Story Merchant Books LIFE IS BUT A DREAM by Marcia Wieder FREE Kindle Download May 22-May 26.

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To initiate something is to begin something, so this is the perfect place to start. Initiation is about moving from where you are to someplace else. In this case, initiation is about waking up and remembering who you really are and how you want your life to be.
It's time to reclaim the true you, the "you" that at some level knows that life is about ease and grace. This does not mean life is necessarily easy, for we have all struggled at different times. It is about slowing down a bit, opening your heart and being a little more gentle with yourself and your life.
There is a place inside of you that knows life is more about how you live and less about what you achieve. This book is designed to help you remember what it's like to live your life fully and create what you want. This will help initiate you into completely living that life.
Initiation is not subtle, yet essential and happens to us all at different times in our lives. Most recognizable are births and deaths, weddings and divorces. Sometimes initiation even comes and goes unnoticed or unnamed. Sometimes it's very obvious.
I was in the London Tube with my friend Arlene who is President of the British Association of Women Entrepreneurs. We were stopped in our tracks by a poster advertisement for Nelson Mandela's autobiography. The poster boldly said only four words: "Tribesman, Terrorist, Prisoner, President." Here is a man whose entire life seems to be about initiation.
Joseph Campbell, the father of modern mythology in his wonderful book and television series called The Power of The Myth, spoke about how rites of passage and other rituals clearly marked initiation in days and cultures gone by.
Since we have few blatant initiations into manhood or womanhood, we often don't realize we have entered or need to enter a new phase of life. Sometimes we need something to help us understand it is time to move on or to make a major change.
The calls and letters I receive most often these days are cries for help and usually at some level what the cry is asking for is assistance in being initiated. I hear from people who have lost their vision or their way, from people who are tired and from people who are craving a reconnection to their heart and soul. They are seeking what's next. They are seeking an initiation.
And initiation into what? Into more of life. We seem hungry to live life differently, to feel more alive and more inspired, to reconnect to our passion, to our hopes and our desires. Sometimes we may seek out the initiatory process, but often it seeks us. Something starts to push from the inside out and simultaneously from the outside in, and eventually you can no longer live the life you have been living. Then what?
You can try to run, hide, lie to yourself or others, cry, or go to sleep. It doesn't go away. What is necessary at this point is an awakening. I've experienced several exciting and difficult initiations in the last few years. I completed a major training program, fell in love, published a book, had surgery, ended a love relationship, closed a business and moved to a new city.
What makes these experiences initiations and different from everyday life, is that they profoundly change us. We see and experience life very differently after each experience. We learn from them, and hopefully often share what we have learned with others. We become students and we become teachers.
Angeles Arrien, author of The Four-Fold Way, Signs of Life and several other books, explains that in the Basque culture where she grew up, their initiation into adulthood required doing a walking meditation for one year and in complete silence through the Pyrenees mountains. When they returned, they would share their insights and what they learned with the Elders in the community. The initiation required learning and teaching.
Often the biggest initiations, the occurrences that can change or affect us the most, are done by or with the guidance of other people, people who know and understand things that we don't. Hopefully, these are people who we trust, so we can get vulnerable and ultimately changed by the experience.
I moved to San Francisco because I knew it was time for me to "wake up." Although I had been very successful in my previous marketing business, every single day it became more and more evident to me that something was missing and what was missing was the "truth."
I had a sense that everything I knew and believed was somehow limiting, but it was like finding out that the world was round after a lifetime of knowing without any doubt, that it was flat. Everything I knew somehow felt off-track. There was no proof of this and certainly no one is my sphere of friends that could help me explore and come to understand this. So I moved to California.
In San Francisco you can pretty much find any resource imaginable. I didn't know exactly what I was looking for, but the most critical skill in preparing for any initiation is developing your ability to trust your judgment or intuition. This I did have. We will explore later how you can deepen and further develop your own intuition.
The benefits of having a more open heart include questioning and understanding who I am and who I am not, deeply feeling compassion and love, speaking clearly and learning how to be still and even sometimes silent. I continue to learn and grow, and am relieved to know that I have my entire life to practice. From this place, I can relax a little, choose to be of service and give generously to others.
My process and practices include journal writing, drawing, meditation and prayer, retreats, silence and fasting, breathwork, dreamwork, movement and other ancient and modern pathways into the unconscious. It began with a sense that I desperately needed something, something that would pop me through into another way of living and being. Later, I came to realize what I needed was to be initiated and reconnected with my soul. And it's not a onetime shot. Over a period of a lifetime, we can open up to so much more. We can open to ourselves and to life and then, life is different and so are we.
I couldn't know that's what I needed until I began to wake up, which is what this book is designed to help you do. These are some of the tools I use. You may choose to use these and others. It doesn't matter. There's no wrong way. What's important is that you have decided it's time for you to live life more fully.
I will introduce you to some areas to explore and you will know what's right for you. This is the beginning of your initiation into a more joyful, loving and inspired life. This begins your initiation into being a dreamer and knowing that Life Is But A Dream.

Wise Techniques for an Inspirational Journey

Marcia Wieder

"All human beings are also dream beings. Dreaming ties all mankind together."
Jack Kerouac, American writer
At different times in our life, things happen that make us stop, feel and actually change the way we are thinking and living. A single incident, interaction or insight, is sometimes all it takes. And out of that experience, from that moment forward, everything, including us, is somehow different.
When my life became a little too overwhelming, I took myself away on a quiet retreat.Inspired by the beautiful scenery and the peace I found, I took a long walk to the top of a nearby mountain. Then I got this great idea. I decided to create a ritual where through visualization and meditation, I could surround myself with many of the awesome women that I admire. They included my mother and grandmother, my eighth grade English teacher, Mother Teresa and Eleanor Roosevelt, to name a few. Each one had a special gift or message for me that I either heard, felt or thought about. It was wonderful!
After a few hours, I completed the ceremony and as I descended the mountain I felt the spirit, love and energy of each woman within me. I was elated and felt like a queen. Returning to the retreat center, I collapsed exhausted into a hammock and slept deeply through the night.
The next morning I awoke abruptly at 6:00am. It was August 25th. How do I remember the date? It was the day of my debut on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Panic set in. Would they like me? Did I do it right? I told myself there would be a direct correlation between how I did and how many books were sold. Before I knew it, I was sobbing uncontrollably.
I clearly saw and felt how I had lived my entire life out of my need for approval and recognition by others. I saw how in a moment and with a single thought, I could go from feeling like a queen to feeling like an ant. That realization became a moment of truth. "No more," I declared. I would not continue to live my life that way. I would learn to honor myself.
Insight and initiation are so powerful and impact us so deeply because we don't just realize something "in our head." This decision I made about my life was not just a nice idea. I so deeply felt both my glory and my pain, and was so present for the experience, that it actually changed who I am, choices that I make and how I live my life.
When you feel it is time for an initiation into a new way of living, you can use the following map or process. First, set an intention for what it is you want or what you are seeking. This shows you are willing and wanting. Then declare what you want. Declaring your intention or sharing your dream definitely gets the energy moving. Next, take action. This demonstrates that you are serious about your intention and taking action solidifies your commitment. And after all this, the final most important step is detachment. Let it go.
For years when people said to me, "Just let it go," I thought they were nuts. "Let what go, and why, and how?" I just didn't get it. You can learn to have desire and detachment co-exist in your life. Although at first this may sound contradictory, you are actually setting into play a dynamic energetic force. Set a clear intention for what you want and then release it so it can unfold naturally. In the next chapter I will show you why it is essential to understand this often misunderstood concept and the ease and freedom detachment provides.
These four steps; intention, declaration, action and detachment, together comprise a dynamic formula for initiating and exploring a new way of living, a way filled with power, ease and grace. They will all be addressed throughout this book.
The first step in any initiation, or new beginning, is your choice to go for it. Are you willing to live a dream come true life? Your intention and willingness will set the tone and pace for everything. At a core level, this is a journey you must take yourself on, for you can only go as far as you are willing to go. And how far is that?
Are you willing to go all the way, all the way to your heart's wildest desires? Perhaps, all the way home to your own truth? Isn't that why you are reading this book? Or perhaps you are reading this because you are unwilling and seeking help.
Whether to escape, transform or transcend, to seek, grow or
explore or simply for a change of pace, something, someplace inside of you must be saying, "I want to dream" or "I want my dream" or "I am dying to have a dream and be a dreamer again."
Is there a part of you that is crying, "Take me away? Take
me away from all this reality, all these day to day "shoulds" and
"have to's." Maybe for a moment or a night or maybe, for a lifetime?"
And as a dreamer, which I know you are, you have what it takes to make this voyage. You already have the ability and your willingness will serve as the key. If you hear yourself saying "I can't," try this. Change "I can't" to "I won't." It's probably more honest. Then be willing to change "I won't," to "I will," simply by becoming willing. Again, use your volition to change "I won't" to "I will."
It might sound like this inside your head or coming out your mouth. "I know I need/want/have to make a change in my life, but I just can't. Okay, the truth is, I won't. Well perhaps I will take just one small step forward and see what happens."
Now you have actually begun your journey. Your willingness was the essential first step. It takes courage and true desire to do this, so I want to acknowledge you for saying "yes" to your needs.
You have the vehicle to make this journey. Your tank may need a little re-fueling but the gas for this trip comes cheap. It is your desire and your imagination that will give wings to your chariot and gently have you lift off. You didn't think we would just drive off when we could fly, did you?
The American poet Audre Lorde said, "Our visions begin with our desires." Your desire already exists. I hope you are feeling it as you are reading about being a dreamer, but if not, that's fine too. For now, don't think about it too much. There's no advantage or need to reconnect with any old doubts, but if they are present, it's okay.
Take care not to over-analyze your desires, for in doing so you may begin to judge them and wind up dissipating your energy. Thoughts like "I should be more motivated and I don't know what I'm doing or what I want and I can't have it anyway"...BOOM! kill the dreamer.
Focus more on your desire than on your doubt and the dream will take care of itself. You may be surprised at how easily this happens. Your doubts are not as powerful as your desires, unless you make them so. If you truly want to be a dreamer and have wonderful dreams that will inspire you and ignite passion in your life, then so be it.
Desire is a powerful force that can be used to make things happen. My friend Deena had a burning desire to reconnect with an old boyfriend. He had left her abruptly and she never got to say good-bye. Although ten years passed since they had spoken, she thought about him often and felt incomplete about the relationship. All she knew was he was now living somewhere in San Francisco.
Years passed, she married a wonderful man and moved to Los Angeles, but as crazy as it seemed, she still had a strong desire to find Patrick and complete the relationship. When she began to visit me in the Bay area, she knew it was just a matter of time.
Motivated by her desire, she used everything she had to find him. It was pretty wild to watch. It started with a harmless call to "411" where she asked "information" if they knew a popular Irish pub. They did. She called the pub and got friendly with the bartender who told her that Patrick had just left and was working for a local cab company.
Too nervous to just call him directly, for the next three years every time she came to visit, she peeked into taxis all over the city. One night a cab was stopped at a red light right in front of her and she recognized the driver. After thirteen years, there they were face to face through his taxi window. She softly said hello, asked how he was and gently touched his cheek. They spoke only for a few minutes and he drove off. But she was complete. Her dream was realized through her desire.
Never underestimate the power of your own desire and the way to ignite your passion is through your heart. Start to feel what you truly want and how you would love your life to be. Start to dream. Choose to be a dreamer and declare it. Declaration is an essential step. Clearly let yourself, others and the universe know what it is you want. This begins your initiation to discovering and living a richer life.
It's time to let your desire grow and there is no better tool for doing this than your very own imagination. The writer Joseph Joubert said, "Imagination is the eye of the soul." Allow your soul to express itself. Even if you think you might be a little rusty in this department, it doesn't take much to get the gears functioning again. Fine tune your vehicle by being aware and by being creative. Get in touch with your feelings. Take some time to dream!
The secret is to have fun. If this feels serious or overly significant, it probably means you have switched gears from imagining to thinking. Avoid thinking.
For many of us, this is easier said than done. But over time and with practice you will come to know that there is a very different way of living that doesn't require nearly the amount of thinking and efforting that many of us are accustomed to.
Remember when you were a kid or watch some children using their God given gift of imagination. There are no limits, no rules, no right or wrong ways. The reason is, kids don't have preconceived notions based on their past. Everything is new and exciting. Life is a discovery. Learn from them and give it a shot.
The two necessary ingredients for an active imagination are imaging and feeling. Actually practice seeing pictures in your mind and connecting them to your feelings and emotions. The more you feel, the more real it becomes. On a certain level, your psyche doesn't distinguish between thoughts, dreams and reality. Mark Twain was right when he said, "We can achieve what we can conceive and believe."
Here's a chance to practice. If you could be anywhere, doing anything with anyone, where would you be? If you had unlimited resources, including all the time and money you needed, what would you do? Who's living the life you dream of living? If you could order off the "a la carte" menu of life, what would you have?
Imagine the "you" you've dreamt of being. Where do you live, how do you look and feel, who are your friends and loved ones? What do you do to fill your days, your life? What do you imagine for yourself, your community, your country, the world?
If you've never thought about this before, now is an excellent time to start. Imagine your life, your loves, your body and soul, being nurtured beyond your wildest dreams. Imagine a world that works and one reason is because you have a dream, like the great dreamer Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., that the world would look and function a certain way.
You can play this imagination game at any level. Pump up your muscles and develop yourself as a dreamer by using your imagination to dream big dreams. Don't worry. Coming back to reality is the easy part. The English poet William Blake reminds us, "What is now proved, was once only imagined." It seems to be in the area of dreaming that we need practice.
Notice what your mind and those noisy little voices in your head are saying as you dream and as you imagine what you want. What are you thinking as you are imagining your heart's desire? Do you hear your mom saying, "You're thinking about doing what?" or perhaps dad yelling, "How do you expect to pay the rent doing that?" Or do you hear the booming voice of society saying, "Dreamers live with their heads in the clouds. Get real!"
Pablo Picasso said, "Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up." I recently gave a keynote speech to the Parents and Teachers Association, the PTA. I see the importance of influencing our next generation of dreamers and I was curious to hear what parents were telling their kids about the future and their dreams.
I heard a young girl about the age of nine, tell her father that her dream was to be a teacher. Over the past years I've heard many parents respond with concern to this dream, saying things like, "There's no money in that field" or "You'll never get a job."
I was so pleased to hear this father tenderly say, "How wonderful that you have chosen to help so many. I know you'll be a fabulous teacher." His daughter lit up. Her dream was heard. Someone believed in her, which made her dream real and made it very safe for her to be a dreamer. What a precious gift.
Let's face it, most of us are not taught to dream, but rather to be realistic. What has this cost us? I'm not even sure what "realistic" means anymore. Many use the word "realistic" like a pair of handcuffs, keeping them chained to some unexplored limitation.
At 38 years old, most people, especially a man, might think it unrealistic to begin a career as a professional dancer. But not Don. It was a dream he had for a long time and he felt ready, so he called Ron Guidi, the artistic director for the Oakland Ballet in California. Ron said he loved Don's moxie, and talent and guts usually went hand in hand. He agreed to let Don audition.
Don was great, so Ron told him the reality of his situation. If Don would practice and train six hours a day, six days a week, in six months he could go on stage with the ballet. Ron also told him that realistically, he would have much greater opportunities and success as a dancer in musicals. This thrilled Don and was the beginning of his professional dance and theatrical career. In this case, their conversation about being realistic created more opportunities rather than more limitations.
Don differs from dreamers who are actually day-dreamers or wishful thinkers because he took action. The distinction is they have been told so often or have come to believe they can't have their dreams, that they now live in a fantasy world, never planning how to make their dreams happen, mostly discontent. Most day-dreamers never take any substantial action on their dreams. This is how you can spot them.
Some believe they have a dream to hold on to. This is often worse than not having a dream at all, since it can set them off on a delusion of grandeur, a search for a treasure that never existed or that they never intended to obtain.
As we wake up, we start to remember or to realize that not only is being a dreamer (different from one who fantasizes) a great way of living, but it is essential for us to be joyful and fulfilled human beings. And with this realization, we make the commitment to be the kind of dreamers that we were destined to be.
One of the critical skills for being a dreamer is to have expectations. It seems over the years, having expectations has somehow gotten a "bum rap." We've been told that it's not good to
expect too much and many of us have been trained to believe that expectations lead to disappointment. I was one of those people.Often at a very young age, traumatic things happen in our lives that shape our core beliefs about our dreams and about our expectations. In my own life, the year that I was born, my older sister lost her hearing. On top of that, my mother's sister was diagnosed with a terminal illness and shortly after that, her father died.
It must have been devastating for my mother and although I was too young to remember, I'll bet that one of the choices she made at that time in her life, was to protect me and make sure no harm would come to her baby. That choice had many repercussions.
For many of us, as we grew up, one of our strongest and loudest teachings was, "Don't have any expectations and you won't be disappointed." Although our parents' intentions may have been to protect us, this became the foundation for some of our biggest limiting beliefs and tremendous amounts of fear.
Everytime we started to have a dream or an opportunity surfaced for something special or big in our life, our fear of disappointment kicked in and often immobilized us. Sometimes we avoided the opportunity and sometimes we unknowingly sabotaged the dream because of our terrifying fear of the disappointment.
Once we begin to actually see how this fear impacts us and the pattern that is in play, we can try on a new behavior or explore a new belief. Here's the secret for expanding your capacity to trust and try something new. Since we choose our beliefs, we can choose to believe that which will empower and move us forward, or that which will impede and hold us back.
I just love Mark Twain, so forgive me for quoting him again. He so accurately said, "If you think you can or if you think you can't, you're probably right." Realizing that you can choose what you believe (regardless of your life experiences) can be the biggest and most significant turning point of your life.
Can you see how your fear around expectations and disappointment can keep you in relationships that are dead end, afraid you won't find someone better? Or, can you see how this same belief may keep you from fully expressing all of yourself, out of the fear of having your partner or friends leave or people not like you? How has this fear kept you in a job or career that's not rewarding? Do you see how your unwillingness to expect the best or even anything wonderful, is costing you your dreams?
It takes time and practice, but you can begin the process of changing your limiting beliefs, here and now. I did this by learning to recognize when I was afraid of being disappointed and I developed the capacity inside myself to hear when "that" voice was talking to me. I used "Post-it" notes around the house to reinforce a new belief and tried alternative ways of responding to that old limiting voice. I changed my belief from "life will disappoint me" to "life is filled with miracles."
With this belief, you begin to live a very different life. If you no longer expect life to disappoint you, in one very real way it no longer will. This doesn't mean we never get disappointed. It's actually our relationship to disappointment that shifts. Sometimes we no longer "get stopped" by the fear or possibility of being disappointment. And often, we actually do experience far less disappointment in life.
As the fear lessens and releases some of it's grip, we can explore other options and begin to see and understand deeper aspects about ourselves. You may even come to realize that your relationship to disappointment is a necessary skill to develop, in order to be a dreamer. Consider this. If we are never disappointed, we are not being dreamers, we are being realists. In other words, we are playing it safe.
When we expect to have our dreams come true or are not stopped by the fear of being disappointed, our eyes are peeled. We go out in the world with our heads held high looking for that which we desire. We go to the places and do the things we want to do, expecting to enjoy ourselves and we can take personal responsibility for the fulfillment and the disappointment of our expectations. To expect your dreams to come true is to believe in your dreams and yourself. To expect your dreams to come true is to have faith.
What are you expecting from life? Take a look at what you want in the areas of love, health, money, career, friends and lifestyle. Are you expecting to have a long healthy life, filled with passion and good times or are you expecting in some way to be shortchanged and disappointed?
The proper use of your expectations is a great way to deepen your desire. Focus on what it is you want, all of it. Use your imagination to elaborate, to visualize and see your dreams and fully expect your dreams to happen. Expect to live your dreams and expect the daily miracles of life to give you the evidence that you are doing this masterfully.
And practice letting it all go. Having clarity about what you want along with your expectations, will generate "juice" for you. Obsessing over it will drain you. Expect and let it go by relaxing, breathing, believing and trusting.
We can't look honestly at expectations unless we also examine and consider where they don't work. Expectations can be ineffective and even dangerous when we are not honest about them.
Sometimes we want and expect something so badly that our perception becomes skewed. My friend Barbara is a successful business executive with a Fortune 500 company. She's been able to make many things happen for herself and others, but right now more than anything, she wants to be in love. Barb always knew exactly what she wanted from her mate. She had lots of pictures and even more expectations.
One day she met a special man. When he spoke to her, he said all the right things and very quickly, she decided "he was the one."
As the relationship developed, he said and more importantly did, many things that were incongruous with who she thought he was. She began to compromise on her dream and on her needs. She continued to view him through her expectations rather than see who he actually was.
Eventually she ended the relationship and felt a tremendous amount of disappointment and heartache. She thought maybe she had expected too much and began to doubt that she would ever meet the man of her dreams. As we discussed what actually happened, it became apparent that the only thing she did wrong was lose touch with reality. She so badly wanted this to be "it," for this love to be "real," that she stopped seeing the truth. She got lost in illusory expectations.
After the pain of finally seeing what happened, she took a bold step forward in her life. She revisited her expectations regarding her dream relationship, checked in and decided that this was still her dream, it was still what she wanted. As a matter of fact, she even added some additional qualities and expectations, based on what she had learned from the relationship that ended. Although she is not in a new relationship yet, this experience allowed her to reclaim a part of herself that she lost when she stopped being true to herself.
When we want something so badly, we may be unwilling or unable to see what is actually happening. I can't stress this enough. The power of your expectations only works when you are completely honest with yourself and others. You must be truthful not only about your expectations, but also about the reality of what is happening in your life.
How we use our expectations or our fear of disappointment, is probably one of the most debilitating factors in being a dreamer. We have all had disappointments in our life, but each of us deals with them in our own positive or negative way.
Many of us are stopped by our unmet or unfulfilled expectations. It just has become too painful to have our dreams not work out the way we wanted and hoped, or not at all. Often the decision is to abandon the dream, and for some, to stop having dreams completely. This is often reflected in the futility or resignation associated with day-dreaming.
Can you imagine being disappointed by the failure or demise of one of your dreams and actually using that experience as the inspiration to deepen your commitment to your dream and the way you live life? Do you know it is possible to use failure as a tool or as a teacher, as a way to practice and learn, and to continue to have your expectations and your dreams?
The musician Miles Davis said, "Do not fear mistakes. There are none." Failure or disappointment is a chance for you to check in and make important decisions. Do you still desire your dream and in spite of apparent setbacks, do you still fully expect it to happen? Check in and see if this is perhaps a childhood dream or someone else's dream for you. Will it honor you more to release it? Is the failure of this dream somehow protecting something or is the potential failure of this dream the lesson itself? Is this a dream that your ego is craving or that your soul and spirit desires? Do you know the difference?
In The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, Sogyal Rinpoche says, "Two people have been living in you all of your life. One is the ego, garrulous, demanding, hysterical, calculating; the other is the hidden spiritual being, whose still voice of wisdom you have only rarely heard or attended to."
This is worth exploring. I can't give you easy one, two, three answers or directions here. This is the journey of a true dreamer. To seek and ask and listen and seek some more, truly is the path. There is a time to demand and there is a time to surrender. Learn both and you will come to know yourself.
And along the way you get to ask yourself the most important question of all. Are you still committed to having your dream come true, to fulfilling your heart's desire, or is it time for another dream? Is this about accomplishing THE dream or can life be about living, learning and growing through your dreams and failures?
It takes courage to keep going and maturity to know when not to. This is your life that you are designing. Whether you keep going on this dream or create new ones, are you willing to practice using your life's experiences as the path to open your heart, to feel more deeply and passionately what you want and to really live?
Be honest with yourself throughout the entire process. Notice what you are thinking and feeling. See what actions you are taking or not taking. Keep checking in with the reality of what's happening and use your expectations to continually re-fuel your desires and move you forward.
Learn the power of expectations. By breaking through the fear of disappointment or unmet expectations, you will be living your life at a whole new level and at a new standard. Life's daily experiences, even the painful ones, become magnificent opportunities to fully express yourself, your dreams and a way of living that few have tasted, but you can come to know.
Use your expectations to whet your appetite, to get your mouth watering and your tastebuds going. Expect your life to be a dream come true and be prepared for a feast, regardless of what the menu offers.
Sometimes the experience begins by stopping where you are and emptying out. So stop for a moment, take a long slow breath and ask yourself, "Am I ready to become a dreamer, am I ready to live a more loving, joyful and fulfilling life?"
If your answer is yes, let's begin now. If your answer is no, explore why and use your reasons as the opportunity to get to know yourself, your beliefs and what matters to you. And consider this book part of your research in saying, "yes."

Either way, let's find your dreams, let's discover what makes your heart sing and let's play there.

1. Initiation is about beginning something new, including a new way of living.
2. The four steps of initiation include: intention — to be willing and wanting, declaration — writing and speaking about what you want, action — doing something about it and detachment — letting go of it.
3. Willingness is essential in any initiation or in making any dream come true. "I can't" often means "I won't." You can change "I won't" to "I will" with willpower. Practice this.