Category Archives: Mike Simpson

A Vacation Horror by Thornton Cline

I am still standing today after 11 near death experiences.

I am still standing today after 11 near death experiences.

In my last blog, I shared about how I should have died when I was only two-years-old, which is documented in Chapter Two: A Toddler Almost Lost of my Indigo Sea Press debut book, “Not My Time to Go”.
In Chapter Three: A Vacation Horror, I had just finished third grade. Summer had begun, and I was headed to the lovely, pristine beaches of Mathews County, Virginia with my sister, Robin and my parents. We ventured out in our 1959 green Rambler and headed east to the beach. We were cruising down Interstate 64 East, singing songs and sharing stories of how great our vacation would be.
The sun was quickly setting as we took the New Kent County exit and headed down a lonely, two-lane highway, Route 33. It was now very dark.
“Keep your eyes on the road,” my mother warned.
There was an eerie fog that had settled on the highway. It was so dark that even two bright headlights looked like tiny candles flickering in the night. The road creepily wound beneath large trees which draped over the road. It was very rural and there was no one around for miles. Everyone in the car was silent and still. For Robin and me, it was a scary place to be.
All of a sudden, out of nowhere, a bright light flashed down on the right-hand side of the highway.

Phyllis screamed. “Bob, watch out for those poles.”
My dad swerved left, now seeing for himself the long poles jutting out in front of us. It happened so fast that no one had time to think. Bob steered to the side of the road and slammed on the brakes, taking us from 60 mph to zero in seconds. Robin and I were thrown as the car stopped. We were stunned. Speechless, we sat there in the dark trying to catch a breath. I was shaking violently. I never demonstrated much outward affection for my sister. But that night, I reached over to Robin and held her close, comforting her.
We stared at each other like zombies, slowly realizing that we were alive and in one piece. We had no cuts, scratches or bruises, nor any broken bones. We stepped out of our car and noticed the long skid marks our car had burned onto the left lane.
There was an old construction truck parked awkwardly in a rough dirt driveway. No one was in the vehicle, which was sitting perpendicular to the road. It seemed strange for someone to leave a truck parked like that, its back end barely clearing the right lane. There was no note left on the truck nor was there a rag attached to the truck indicating that it was broken down.
We looked closer and realized that passing that truck would have been fatal for us. We stared in disbelief—jutting out the back of the truck were eight long four-inch wide solid steel poles.
The truck had been parked in such a way that the poles extended over the entire right hand lane of the dark two-lane highway. These poles stuck out low enough so that if Bob hadn’t swerved to the left lane when Phyllis screamed, they would have cut off the top of our car. We would have instantly been killed, our head severed from our torsos.
Then a strong wave of peace flooded my body. I felt like I had been touched by the hand of God. I felt renewed by a new sense of confidence and purpose. At that moment, I felt reassured that I could go on with my life know I was protected by God and His angels.

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Not My Time to Go: The Meaning of it All

I am still standing today after 11 near death experiences.

I am still standing today after 11 near death experiences.

Not My Time to Go: The Meaning of It All
by Thornton Cline

After much prayer and deep listening, I have concluded that I, as well as others, definitely have guardian angels watching over us.

I believe with certainty that these near-death experiences have been allowed to happen through the years to develop and build my character. Through these near misses I have learned to handle any adversity. Not only has each near miss made me a stronger person, each crisis has given me deeper compassion and empathy for my brothers and sisters here on Earth. I am now able to understand the difficulties and hardships that my fellow brothers and sisters face every day.

I am able to witness to my fellow brothers and sisters and share with them the love I’ve found in Jesus Christ. My close calls have enabled me to look at another human being’s situation objectively with love and without judgement.

Because of these near-death experiences I have become more dependent on my Heavenly Father, relying on Him for everything in life. I have learned to totally rely on my Lord and Savior in Heaven. My faith continues to grow stronger every day.

Over the years, I have become very grateful for my life. I look at every day as a precious gift. I never take my life for granted. I am constantly seeking opportunities and ways to serve my Lord and Savior with gifts that I have been given. I believe that the attitude of gratitude pleases God and makes Him want to help me even more by showering me with more blessings and opportunities.

I believe that these life-threatening occurrences have given new meaning to my life. I can now walk through the next phase of my life with complete faith and confidence, knowing that whatever happens from here on out, I can actually rely on God to take care of me.

Knowing what I know now, I can faithfully on my angel to protect me for life. I can call on our Lord and Savior knowing He will send my angel and angels to my side in times of danger.

I believe I have come a long way in my lifetime. And I still have a long way to go. But my faith has grown to new heights. And I revel in my total and complete reliance on my Heavenly Father.

I have found my purpose and mission on Earth. I am eternally grateful for being spared and given many chances to carry out my mission until I am called to come home to be with the Lord. I have truly discovered the meaning of it all.

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Filed under Author Interviews, life, Mike Simpson, Thornton Douglas Cline, writing

What Is Indigo Sea Press and What Happened to the Old Blog?

It’s all about literature! Second Wind Publishing will soon cease publishing literature. The outstanding authors who made up Second Wind, however, are just getting started. Most of them are represented now by a dynamic new publishing company, Indigo Sea Press.

Indigo Sea Press is a creative accumulation and collaboration of the finest emerging authors and their exquisite, exceptional stories. While we are a traditional press, ISP is also riding the waves of change in this rapidly changing age of publishing. Our titles are available in print throughout the United States and Europe, and they are digitally available around the world. Founded by editors and publishers who are also authors, ISP strives to provide the highest quality literature in all our genres. Indigo Sea Press is a new voice of literature in the 3rd millennium.

Welcome to the Indigo Sea Press Blog! –Mike Simpson, Publisher

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Fractions

2014_10_05_06_47_50By Jay Duret

“Want to hear a realization?” I said.

My wife Marty and I were driving to New Haven from Philadelphia and the traffic had come to a dead stop on I-95. She was trying to read a thick Power Point presentation in the front seat.

“Huh?”

“I have had an insight.”

“Jay. Not again. I thought you were giving up insights.”

“I am serious.”

“I am in the middle of this presentation…”

“Give it a rest for a minute. This could change your life.”

“I doubt it.” Marty sighed and put down the papers, “What is it?”

“Boys are fractions.”

“Oh God.”

“Seriously. They are fractions from the time they are 8 until they get to be 18 or so. Depends on the kid, but they are all fractions. Some are ¾’s, others ½, some are 7/8ths. All fractions, though.”

“Where are you going with this?”

“So when there is a task that needs doing, a boy brings his fraction to the task and either the fraction is a large enough fraction to get the task accomplished or it isn’t.”

“Powerful insight, Jay. Riveting.”

“Stay with me.”

“I am a bit of a captive audience.”

“Excellent. I love a captive audience.”

“Just carry on.”

“So when two boys get together they are now two fractions.”

“Mercy!”

“Could you stop with the mockery?”

“Just keep up the pace.”

“I would go a lot faster if you weren’t already japing at my theory.”

Japing? Is that what I am doing?”

“You are japing at my hypothesis.”

“So that is what it is now, a hypothesis. I had it more as….”

“Quiet, or you’ll miss the insight…”

“… a rambling rumination.”

“So when two boys get together and they have a task to confront you’d imagine that what I would say is…”

“…actually I can’t imagine what you are going to say…”

“…that you’d take each of their factions and add them together and then the combination would either be bigger than the task or not. That’s what you thought I would say, but that would be wrong.”

“On so many levels.”

“That would be how it would be if it was two girls, assuming girls were fractions at all.”

“But you are going to say that with boys, its not.”

“Correcto. Muy bien, mi esposa bonita. It is multiplication. That’s the mathematics of it.

“Not addition.”

“Multiplication.”

“Because?”

“Cause when you add things you get more, but with boys you get less.”

“And I am sure you are going to explain that…”

“So it’s just like if you are multiplying fractions, you always get less than you start with. Like a ½ times a ¼ is an 1/8th. It’s always less. And what’s so beautiful about the math is that it works with any number of boys. It just keeps getting less as you get more of them. You take a ½ and a ¼ and then a third boy shows up and he could be a ¾’s on his own, but when you multiply him into a full three boy equation, you no longer even have an 1/8th – you have got yourself ¾’s of an 1/8th which is … which is … less than an 1/8th.”

“Did you actually say ‘a full three boy equation’.”

“I did indeed.”

“It takes the breath away. It is flat out amazing, Jay, how you can take a modest insight and turn it into, well, a really small insight.”

“Jealousy doesn’t become you, my dear. I believe I nailed that one.”

“I will erect a statue.”

“That would be fine. Just don’t get boys to build it.”

– Jay Duret

jayduret@yahoo.com

***

Jay Duret is a San Francisco based writer and illustrator. Second Wind published his first novel, Nine Digits, in December. To view the book trailer, click here

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Filed under fiction, Humor, Jay Duret, Mike Simpson, musings, writing

Chadwick

2014_09_24_19_31_28

Chadwick

By Jay Duret

Every so often these pages feature advice and words of encouragement for writers. This is my contribution.

I will change the identifiers so as not to cause embarrassment, but this story is true.

Last year I received a note from a journal about a story I had submitted. The note said:

Jay

Thank you for giving us the chance to read your work.

Unfortunately, we do not feel this piece is a good fit for the Squamish Review. This does not necessarily reflect the quality of your work, but, more so, the large number of submissions we have received.

Thanks again. Good luck with this elsewhere.

Milton Q. Chadwick,
Fiction Editor

I gave the note the same attention I give to all communications from editors who  have considered my writing: I read Milton Chadwick’s email with the greatest care. I weighed every word, every syllable. I read between the lines, over and under the lines. All to see what he was really communicating about my story. Fine, he wasn’t going to use it, but what else? Was Mr. Chadwick saying no go this time but we loved the work, please submit again soon? Was he saying Jay, you are funny as hell but sadly our journal is condemned to publishing prose as dry as burnt toast and so it just isn’t going to happen here, with my blessings submit it elsewhere ASAP and I’ll give you a letter of reference?

Apparently not.

I read the note three or four times to see if I could mine any bit of encouragement. At first I took some heart from the sentence that said the decision did not reflect the quality of my work. But when I gave it a closer read I had to confront the word “necessarily”. The letter said the rejection did not necessarily reflect the work’s quality, which I suppose was Chadwick’s way of saying that some things that he rejects are by good writers, but his note to me, fairly read, contained no suggestion that I was in fact one of them. Indeed, the more I parsed the wording, the more it seemed like I had a received a flat out form rejection letter, the one sent to rejectees who were of no interest to stone-hearted, small-minded, Chadwick. Ugh.

I hate a rejection letter that ugly, but I didn’t let it get me down. I have had worse rejections. And even if the piece I submitted was vibrant and strong, I understood that it is hard to get a spot in a journal of quality. There are themes and page constraints and inherent biases all to contend with. I wasn’t going to get angry over the rejection.

What a lie! Of course I was going to get angry! What else would I do? Obviously I had been the victim of Chadwick! A nasty, nasty editor, probably sleeping with the writer whose work he choose over mine!! Damn him! Damn them both!! I would never stoop so low. Those wretched wretches. Damn them.

My anger did not last long though. After all, there were so many other things to get angry at, so many more editors to curse. But when another email arrived from Milton Chadwick, my anger returned twice as fiercely. I didn’t even need to read Chadwick’s post to realize that that the bum had decided to reject my story twice! He was such moron that he did not know that he had already rejected it. Oh, what a dingus!

I began to compose my response. You can’t write to protest when an editor rejects your work. All the knowledgeable people say that. But if you have the same piece rejected twice by the same editor you surely are allowed to bring that fact to the attention of the cretin. And I was just the guy to do it. I was going to enjoy this. I was going to make sure that he knew how it feels to pour heart and soul into a work of creative genius only to have your offering stomped on by a heartless bastard like Chadwick. Oh you miserable soulless beast! You, you…Chadwick!

I started to write and it was great. I was on fire! Oh I would not want to be Chadwick when he opened my email, when he read my smoldering prose. I was just ready to press send when it occurred to me that I wasn’t sure how to spell Squamish – really? they named their journal the Squamish Review? – so I opened Chadwick’s latest email to find the spelling and this is what I read:

Dear Jay

Don’t know what happened, but as you know, we accidentally sent you a rejection note intended for someone else. The truth is we loved the story and would like to publish it in the October issue of Squamish Review, if it is still available.

Sorry about the mistake.

Thanks,

Milton Q. Chadwick
Fiction Editor

I know there is a moral here. Probably it is not to give up hope. But frankly the one that I have extracted is that before writing an angry email to Chadwick, read his email first, cause he is a prince among men…

***
Jay Duret is a San Francisco based writer and illustrator. His novel, Nine Digits, published by Second Wind Publishing, will be available later this year. See www.ninedigits.com. Jay welcomes feedback at jayduret@yahoo.com. 

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Morning Music

Morning Music

Morning Music

By Jay Duret

When I open the windows of my study in the first light of morning the sound of birds spills in, a full musical program, like I have fired up a playlist of classical music or jazz. Usually I just soak the sounds without conscious thought while I write, but because I have been away for a long time, today I listen into the music like I make my children listen into the radio to identify the instruments as we drive to school. I hear chirps and chips and clucks and long cooing calls. I hear cheka-checka-checka and a dry rattling like dice shaking in a cup made from bone. I hear one bird chiding the others – tsk, tsk, tsk – in a long combined piece of advice: tsktsktsktsktsk.

One call starts on the same plane as the others but then warbles higher, loops around – a rollercoaster on one of those fantastic tracks that twists and inverts and loop-de-loops as it rackets forward – climbing higher, louder, more insistent, until it stands fully free from the other chatter. I don’t know which bird this call comes from. We don’t have much exotica here – mostly sparrows and robins and starlings, occasional blue jays, cardinals, a hummingbird or two – but this one comes from a bird that I don’t know about. For a minute, I consider doing some research. In today’s world of instant knowledge I have no doubt that if I try I will find audio recordings of the different species and with patience, diligence and determination I could probably identify which specie is emitting that fantastic arching call.

Yes, if I went at it, if I applied in this area the analytic talent that I have applied in other areas – including many far less consequential – I believe I would be able to say which bird is crying out above all the rest. And if I were to bear down on that research question I would learn much more. The sounds outside my window aren’t the sounds of gleeful pandemonium that rise from a school playground at recess. The birds below my window are making those noises for a reason. Or many reasons. Those birds are calling and shushing and and clucking and tskking for a purpose. They are hunting and mating. Mommas are schooling their chicks. Territory is being marked; alerts are being given. There are cries for help. This is a city and the birds are full of all those same urges and needs to communicate that people in my city are full of – at least this is what I bet research would tell me – and this is what I hear from my window on a summer morning listening deep into their music.

It would be, it must be, a worthwhile effort to undertake – that is why I make my children identify the instruments that combine to play Kind of Blue or The Brandenburg Concertos – but I decide not to pursue that line of inquiry today. I have been away and have come home wearied from the beating I have taken on the road. Today I don’t feel it matters if it is the thrush or the robin that looses that high topping call, the one that startles me with its insistence and glory. It does not matter if that call is a cry for help or sex or a warning to family. Today, it is the insistence – it is the glory – that I want to soak in, not the explication. Tomorrow I will bear down. Tomorrow I will follow questions to their conclusion. Tomorrow I will seeketh understanding. But today – this morning – I will let the morning music wash over me and soak down to that place in my bones where the healing begins.

****

Jay Duret is a San Francisco based writer and illustrator who blogs at http://www.jayduret.com. His stories have appeared or are forthcoming in dozens of print and online journals, including Narrative Magazine, Gargoyle, Painted Bride Quarterly, December and The Blue Lake Review. Second Wind Publishing will publish Jay’s first novel, Nine Digits, later this year. For more information, see www.ninedigits.com.

Read Jay’s prior posts on this blog:

Last Man Standing

Last Man Standing (“The. Worst. Fundraiser. Ever.” She said.)

 

Arc of Truth

Arc of Truth

Arc of Truth (“I am a liar. I write fiction, that’s the job.”)

 

Nom de Plume

Nom de Plume

Nom de Plume (“The best decision I ever made was to adopt a pen name…”)

 

Queen For A Day

Queen For A Day

Queen for a Day (“The winner was chosen, I swear to God, by an Applause-O-Meter…)

 

Bridalplasty

Bridalplasty

Bridalplasty (“Twelve young woman and a celebrity-style, dream wedding…”)

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Some People Are Just Lucky

Like I said, some people are just lucky. There is no other way to explain it and I’m one of them. You’ve all heard the cliché, “It’s not what you know, but who you know that counts.” Another one is, ”It’s better to be lucky than smart.” Well, I am very lucky in that I know (via the Internet) Mike Simpson and the fine folks at Second Wind Publishing who are the “who you know that counts” part of the clichés.

churchstepsIn the 3 years since submitted my first novel to Second Wind Publishing, I have signed contracts with them for five books. The latest to be released in a month or so, is Body On the Church Steps. Now really, one just does not expect to find a naked body in front of the church. One might find a nude body in front of a bar, or club maybe, but certainly not in front of the church and certainly not dead. And why was it put there and who put it there? Well that is what the story is all about, and it’s going to  more than the police to solve this mystery.

Final MSS Cover frontThe book before that was Murder Sets Sail, released just last month. There is no mystery here. The reader knows right from the first chapter who the killers are and whom they are planning to kill. The question is can the intended target escape? Of course they can. That’s what an adventure/action novel is all about, isn’t it? This is a fun read. A friend of mine told me he got up to give their infant son his midnight bottle and instead of checking his cell phone he started to read the book. His son finished his bottle and went back to sleep and my friend couldn’t stop reading. Next thing he knew it was time for the 4 AM feeding.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00023]The Telephone Killer was published December of 2012. In this one the serial killer calls a television station ahead of time with clues as to who he will kill next. Although those clues are correct, they are often misleading.

So there you have 3 novels that have seen “the light of day” so to speak.

prison-bars-2The 4th novel, A Short Futile Life has a tentative release date of December 1 of this year. It is unlike anything I have done before in that it is a near-future political drama. A war hero works to help a man be elected President only to discover that the candidate planned all along to make the Presidency of the United States into a dictatorship. When our hero tries to expose the dictator, he is of course, arrested, brought to trial (a rigged trial), found guilty and executed. No picture of the cover for this one, but maybe something like this.

Finally the 5th novel, Endangered Species, with a tentative release date of March 2015, is a terrorist/adventure novel in which a group of terrorist devises a way to kill all the residence of a major US City. I have no idea what the cover of this book might be, but the team at 2nd Wind will come up with something fabulous.

Did I say I was lucky? Now wait a minute. Lucky has the idea of no reason for one’s good fortune; you know, like “dumb luck.” I think “blessed” is a better word. It implies that there is some force working on your behalf. Maybe that is what George Lucas meant when he had the characters in the Star Wars movies say, “May the Force be with you.” Well, there is certainly a Force with me and it is Mike Simpson and all the team at Second Wind Publishing.

Thank you, Gang, and May the Force be with you!

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Paul’s book The Telephone Killer published by 2nd Wind Publishing is now available on Amazon and from the publisher. Kindle and Nook versions just $4.99. – Soon to be available as an audiobook.

Murder Sets Sail  now available from Second Wind Publishing and on AmazonKindle and Nook versions just $4.99,

Body On the Church Steps coming soon from Second Wind Publishing.

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Arc of Truth

Jay DuretBy Jay Duret

 

I am a liar.

I write fiction, that’s the job description.

I am fine with the undeniable fact that I will go to my grave as a liar, but I have noticed that some of my colleagues squirm under the label. They don’t want to lie for a living; they get queasy when describing what they write as “fiction”, the very word a declaration of mendaciousness. They believe, as I do, that lying can be a way to truth, sometimes the only way. But they want that idea to be more than just a line in a graduate student’s paper or an aphorism attributed to Hemingway. (“All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.” “You have the sheet of blank paper, the pencil, and the obligation to invent truer than things can be true.”)

Because we live in an age where each of us can create our own narrative, some writers have cast off from the fiction pier and are floating into waters closer to the shore that has been called, forever, by the bad name “non-fiction”. The problem is, despite its bad label, non-fiction is a real thing. There is an underlying school of craft – we call it journalism – that has rules and boundaries. A fiction writer can’t simply declare that he or she has landed on the shores of non-fiction and proceed to take up shop there; doing that would subject the writer to the rules and regulations governing the craft of non-fiction, a weighty commitment, particularly for those who love fiction precisely for the freedom it offers from overbearing regulation.

But that doesn’t end the matter. For those floating in the waters between fiction and non-fiction, new possibilities are arising, and I do not mean Creative Non Fiction. CNF, according to Lee Gutkind editor of the magazine Creative Non-Fiction, is subject to the same rules of reporting that govern journalism. The “creative” in CNF does not mean creating facts; it means telling the story with some of the tools of fiction – pacing, suspense, flashbacks, etc. A good piece of CNF is no less required to be grounded in actuality than a piece of straight up reporting. As Gutkind puts it:

“Creative” doesn’t mean … that the writer has a license to lie. The cardinal rule is clear—and cannot be violated. This is the pledge the writer makes to the reader—the maxim we live by, the anchor of creative nonfiction: “You can’t make this stuff up!”

When writers ignore Gutkind’s maxim, disaster can follow. Truth in labeling is the way of American commerce, why should it be different in writing than in, say, soup packaging? I like this quote about the writer of A Million Little Pieces, an Oprah Book Club Selection that became a best seller before The Smoking Gun outed the book’s many fabrications:

James Frey wants us to believe that he is a tough but sensitive bad-boy writer with a drug problem. The truth is, he’s a sensitive but boyish bad writer with a truth problem[1].

No, calling fiction CNF will not solve the writer’s dilemma. Fortunately in this, as in so many things, writers can borrow from another art form: movies. With the bigger budgets and the legions of people involved in making a movie – they have producers, best boys, gaffers! They have lawyers on the creative team! – no wonder motion pictures have fished these waters better than solitary writers tapping their keyboards in lonely scows and leaky rowboats. The movie industry has created a finely gauged explanation of the territory between fiction and non-fiction and that can serve as an excellent guide for writers.

The foundation of movies – perhaps other than documentaries – is to have  extremely good looking actors and actresses pleasingly stand in for the sad sacks whose stories are being related (All the President’s Men – I mean, really, Robert Redford is a beat reporter?). Given that foundation, it is hard to say that any movie is actually “true” – but a movie will frequently self identify as A True Story. That’s a wonderful phrase and frankly might be just the perfect oxymoron to serve any writer in need of a forgiving description of their work. Yet if the body of CNF proves anything, it is that non-fiction can be told as a story and therefore A True Story may not be quite as oxymoronic as one might have supposed. No, further nuance is needed.

Based on a True Story – here is a category that gives a writer some freedom! Nothing in it says that lying is involved – the writer is telling truth! – it is just that the truth the writer is telling is devolved from an underlying truth;  it is an expression of that truth, just not exactly the literal truth that might be found in the Palace of Truth and Justice. True, but not true in the pedestrian sense a member of the public might have otherwise expected. Understood properly, BTS is a branch of metaphysics.

So much of fiction is BTS that the category – by itself – solves the problem for most writers. But for writers that paddle even further from the banks of non-fiction, the movie industry offers an even more flexible concept: Inspired by a True Story. This one is a winner. Short of flat out fantasy, what fiction doesn’t fall under the category of ITS? And how could any reader complain if that little bit of disclosure were to be appended to the description of a book marketed as fiction? How could the writer be called out? As far as I can see, the best approach for one bent on attacking the description would be to say that a dreary work was not inspired. That would seem easier to prove in a court of law or public opinion than the proposition that somewhere – anywhere – there wasn’t some true story that the writer’s tale sprang from. Yes, Inspired By A True Story does the job: it will lend almost any piece of fiction a fine patina of truthfulness.

As good as ITS is, it doesn’t quite work for me. I write many stories that are all or mostly dialogue. I have come to believe – for better or worse – that you can tell the reader all they need to know about the characters by what they say and they way they say it. Many of my stories have come to me by eavesdropping – one of those things, like lying, that are essential parts of a fiction writer’s trade. Often I will hear a conversation and later on, after I have played it through in my head a dozen times, I will put it down on paper and find that I have a story that – at least to my own taste – is of interest.

Yet this is where I run into trouble. An editor will read my piece and ask if I am submitting the story as Fiction or Non Fiction or CNF. (Indeed, Submittable usually requires a commitment to one of those categories right from the start.) I could cover myself with a judicious use of the key phrase Inspired By A True Story but that disclosure – broad as it may be – needs some adaptation to apply to my type of writing. For when you start with an eavesdropped conversation, you never know whether the event that is being discussed is actually true or not. You may have happened upon two bullshitters – whose conversation you may be reporting truthfully – but there is no true story beneath it. I needed a way to capture that nuance.

At first I tried to explain it – but many of my editors did not possess the forgiving span of attention that the nuance inherent in this thing requires. And then I had an inspiration. Why not handle it with a picture, a diagram, an illustration? That would save me explaining the details to editors too busy  to focus. And that is how I came to memorialize the Arc of Truth.

I am not much of an illustrator but I like the way the arrow on the dial moves between black and white with shades of grey in between. Not fifty of them, alas, but enough for these purposes:

Arc of Truth3

 

***

Jay Duret is a San Francisco based writer who blogs at www.jayduret.com. His first novel, Nine Digits, will be published by Second Wind Publishing this year. Visit the website: www.ninedigits.com. Jay welcomes feedback at jayduret@yahoo.com. Read his prior posts on the Second Wind blog:

Nom De Plume

Nom De Plume

Bridalplasty

Bridalplasty

Queen For A Day

Queen For A Day

Last Man Standing

Last Man Standing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] http://listverse.com/2010/03/06/top-10-infamous-fake-memoirs (retrieved July 23, 2014).

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What Makes Us So Special? by Mike Simpson

“Horse sense,” Mark Twain wrote, “is the remarkable quality that prevents horses from betting on people.” Twain was well known for asserting in his speeches and literature that, despite our assumptions to the contrary, it is not the intelligence of human beings that sets us above all other creatures on our planet.

In actuality, humans do have the greatest raw intelligence of any species. When it comes to evaluating the true worth of our intellect, however, our natural smarts may not be our best calling card. The wise psychiatrist Murray Bowen was able to demonstrate that virtually every decision made by human beings is emotionally driven—that is, we decide what we believe, what we want, what we’re going to do and then we use our significant brain power to justify the decisions we’ve made. One of Bowen’s students famously referred to this process of rationalizing our decisions as “cerebating”; and, in its way, it really does make you blind.

So assuming it’s not really our brain power that sets us apart from all other creatures, what does separate human beings (in a positive way) from the rest of the animal kingdom?

In my youth, I can remember it being said that people were a higher species because, unlike animals, we weep. It was said that, “human beings are the only risible animal” (the only one that smiles and laughs).

I guess the underlying assumption of these assertions is that animals don’t experience emotions, but human beings do. If Facebook and YouTube have taught us anything, it is that animals—lots of species—experience and express emotions just as people do. Spend an hour scrolling the posts on Facebook and you’ll see dogs, elephants, deer, primates, lions-and-tigers-and-bears, even (bless their hearts) cats express a great range of emotions: joy, fear, indignation, rage, courage, guilt and grief. We all remember watching clips of the house cat taking on and scaring off the dog that had attacked a little boy. To recognize the full depth and power of the emotional states animals experience, I recommend watching the short video of Jane Goodall and her co-workers releasing a captive ape back into the wild. The appreciation, relief and joy expressed by that primate in the video are beyond denial.

And while I’m on this, I get so tired of pundits telling us not to “anthropomorphize” animals by attributing human emotions and characteristics to them. What hooey. When you get down to it, animals can be a lot more “human” than a lot of people I know. In our best moments of compassion, courage and goodness, we human beings should say how proud and humble we are to act out the goodness we have seen in animals.

Well if it’s not our intelligence and it’s not our emotions that make us a superior species, then what is it?

I believe what sets humanity apart from the other species on the planet is our ability to create. Take, for instance, the places where creatures dwell. When you walk around a barn and you see a nest hanging from the eves, you know it was make by swallows. Those who study spiders are able to determine from the shape of a nest what variety of arachnoid created it. Ever moron who has ever gone noodling knows exactly where in the muddy water to stick an arm to snag a catfish.

Like every other creature, human beings also need safe places to dwell, but—from thatch huts to high rise apartments to brick farmhouses—the dwellings we call “home” reveal a dizzying array of creativity, responses to the environment around us and our own innate need to be a least a little bit different from the folks next door.

Human beings create. Musicians, engineers, writers, neurosurgeons, seamstresses, artists and entrepreneurs—regardless of their ideals, faith, politics, personalities or vision—all have this one thing in common: they create. They build upon the foundation of the creatives who came before them and expand the vision they received with their own new, keen insights. And the purist, finest, most revolutionary creativity in every field of human endeavor in each generation advances our species as a whole.

Accordingly, if I’m correct that it is our ability to create that sets up apart and above all other species, then logically the highest form of human activity is creation—that is, being immersed in the creative process. Thus those human beings who have to greatest value to our species are those who create, followed by those who empower creators. And therefore, those human beings who are the most deadly to the potential and survival of our species are those who ignore, demean or impede the creative process.

I believe human beings were created to create. Learning, developing, exploring, meditating and sharing your creative endeavors is not just what sets us apart as beings, it is the purpose for our being. When you create—in whatever of the billion forms of creativity there are—you affirm the existence of us all. Thank you, creative soul.

—Mike Simpson

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Has Anybody Seen Toto, by Mike Simpson

After all those years of growing up in Oklahoma and Texas, I would never have expected my closest encounter with a tornado—about thirty yards—to be in North Carolina. The storms that came through about 10:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 9, knocked out our electricity and it was about eighteen hours before we got it back. At first I thought it was a lightning strike that took out our power. It wasn’t until Wednesday morning we discovered it had been raining trees.

I had been sitting upstairs, diligently working on Second Wind manuscripts, when my wife called up at me, “What are you doing up there?” She thought I was pounding on the walls and scratching the window in my study. The sound she heard was truly unique—I’d never heard it either. It was sort of like hail, but at a much lower pitch. In the midst of our yelling back and forth at one another, the lights went out—came on—and went out again. With the moon behind the clouds, there was a sort of eerie gray light illuminating the outdoors. With that and the constant flashes from lighting, I could make out a number of strange shapes in the front yard and the street.

I grabbed a flashlight and went to investigate. It didn’t take long before the weirdness of what I was seeing began to add up. As you can see from the attached photo, we live in a heavily wooded area. A small creek runs along the east side of our yard.

The East Side of Our House Smith Branch Creek Is About 15 Feet Further to the Left

The East Side of Our House
Smith Branch Creek Is About 15 Feet Further to the Left

Scattered in our front yard and street were numerous large limbs, twigs and branches. To be specific, they were almost all from sycamore and tulip poplar trees. Our house is surrounded by a number of ornamentals (that’s a dogwood you see standing by itself in the photo above), including a massive cherry tree. On the west side of the house are elms, pines and hickories. Right away I thought it was kind of odd that the gusty wind would select out only certain trees. Then I began to pay closer attention to appearance of the branches I was pulling out of the street.

A Sycamore Limb with Telltale Twisted Break

A Sycamore Limb with Telltale Twisted Break

Every one of the limbs and branches had a telltale “ripped and twisted” appearance from where it had been attached to the tree. This sort of corkscrew tearing does not come from straight wind gusts, but from winds that have a powerful rotation.

The sight of these branches transported me back to an April morning in 2000. I was standing at a large storefront window, trying to judge the severity of a sudden storm, when I saw the top half of a large oak tree floating airborne down the center of the street, rotating as it went by. That morning in Greensboro, NC, there were four or five small tornadoes (category 1 or 2) that followed creek beds throughout the city. Since no alarms were sounded and there had been no weather alert, the civil authorities first reported that these were “straight winds.” It didn’t take long, however, before the type of damage and the narrow pathway of these “winds” forced the recognition that it had been twisters and not straight winds (after that the three local TV stations all quit running ads that boasted about their Doppler radar systems).

Tuesday evening about thirty minutes after the initial storm blasted through, another squall line hit us. This one was straight line winds and torrential rain. Having been outside between the fronts, I could tell on Wednesday morning that the heavy winds that came through with the second front had not resulted in any more damage or downed limbs. Over the course of the next couple hours in the daylight, we discovered the twister that came down our little creek was only one of at least two. The one that was a quarter mile to the east, following another creek bed, did a lot more significant damage—within a very narrow parameter of maybe fifty or sixty feet. Several massive trees were “skinned” and/or splintered; a nearby mega congregation had its church marquee sucked out from the back and an oak tree, maybe ten or twelve feet around, was bent over, blocking the entrance to its parking lot. . . . Sort of makes you wonder if there was a divine message there.

Want to Know the Tornado’s Path?

Want to Know the Tornado’s Path?

This photo was taken at the corner of my street where it intersects the street immediately to our east. The row of tall trees along the right side of the photo is on the side of the creek bed opposite our house; this is about fifty yards from our front yard. If you want to see the path of tornado, notice the lamp post just to the left of my neighbor’s house (in the picture below, you can see that the lid of the lamp post has been opened; tornadoes do some strange stuff). Just above the top of the lamp post you’ll see a hunk missing from their river birch tree; those limbs aren’t really missing, they just got folded down. Then to the right side of the photo, you can see the lighter color of the turned-down leaves of saplings. The funnel cloud went in close proximity to this path. No other foliage in the area was impacted except for the upper limbs of the poplars and sycamores, the tallest trees along the creek.

As we neighbors put our heads together on Wednesday morning, we began to realize how lucky we all were. The two twisters bracketed our fifty-six house development and, so far as we know at this point, caused no structural damage to any dwelling. As for me, I wondered if there was maybe a divine message as well—since the twister was literally less than 100 feet from the room where I was working. In retrospect, I think there is a message that for me: royalties! I need to get my authors’ royalty checks in the mail before something really bad happens. –Mike Simpson

The Tornado Opened the Top of the Lamp Post And Flew Above the Houses in the Background

The Tornado Opened the Top of the Lamp Post
And Flew Above the Houses in the Background

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