No New Year’s Resolution comes from a place of strength. New Year’s resolutions have backstory, and that backstory is usually filled with a certain amount of trial and error that is tragically dominated by the error. It’s from a place of struggle that we derive these yearly promises of growth. It’s from a place of shameful longing that we endeavor to torture ourselves, year-after-year, with the hope a better self. Would be that we succeed; it would be shocking, would it not? Don’t we secretly laugh and doubt every resolution that crosses our desk, like some veto-happy legislator striking down each proposal for a better world?
The cynic in me shakes his head at the New Year’s Resolution as if it’s something to be pitied.
But the cynic in me must die.
When I was young, I was what people politely call “husky.” In truth, I was a lumbering ogre of a boy without the charisma or self-confidence to keep myself away from my cynical predilection. I was an uninspired loaf who preferred sandwiches to social events, solitude to significance, and sitting to standing (literally and figuratively).
I played sports as a child, but only sports where my size was an advantage. I was taller than most, so I played basketball, I weighed more than most, so I played football, and I could throw things hard and far, so I played baseball. However, when I tried to play soccer… I met my match. In an aside to my parents, my coach ventured to say, “he doesn’t really like to run, does he?”
Like to run? Was he joking? Not only did I not like to run, I believe my younger self thought running would induce death or seizure. I couldn’t run and I wouldn’t work to get better. Sure, I had to run in other sports, but not for so long, and it certainly wasn’t as important. My usual plan of Hulk smash didn’t work in soccer, and for that reason, I only tried the sport for one season. I allowed myself to fail and quit because I couldn’t run.
When we are confronted with the things that are most difficult for us, we often turn our backs on them, citing that these things just aren’t our strength. We tell ourselves that it’s okay, because we still have other talents, and everyone can’t be good at everything. We lie to ourselves, and allow ourselves to believe that it’s about a fate that we can’t change, and not about our own weakness.
Fast-forward to one year ago, and the past was rearing its ugly head. My wife was a runner in high school, and wanted to rediscover the hobby. I was less than enthusiastic, however, my outlook on many things has changed since my brooding adolescence, so I tried it with her. With the memory of that fat boy, laughing at me the whole time, I failed again at running. I was just as terrible at it as I was when I was young.
The lying ways of my youth came creeping back. Well, I’m just not built to be a runner. I don’t really enjoy it. I’m just doing it for my wife. Unfortunately for my lies, I’ve grown wiser with age. I couldn’t live with the excuses. I can’t be such a hypocrite. It was truly time to flush out that fat boy I once was.
I was Densa, kneeling amid the dust and rubble of failure, telling myself to get up.
So, I got up. Six months ago I made a commitment to do something I had never succeeded at before, and frankly, never thought I could succeed at. I began running regularly, and though my improvement has been slow, I have improved. I can now run six miles, and I don’t plan on stopping there. I’m not sure what distance I would consider a success, but I’m not sure that it matters. The thing I’ve found in running is that it’s not about finishing, it’s about continuing and enduring.
This year, I have a New Year’s Resolution. This year, I will run 500 miles.
I am a Continuum fan. I never expected much from the show when I first gave it a chance on Netflix. I love good science fiction, but I rarely seem to find good science fiction. Most of the time, science fiction fans are fed the same tired storylines that fail to hold interest. Or often, the ideas are interesting, but the entertainment money machine knows it won’t be able to effectively market to a slack-witted populace, so the project ultimately fails due to poor acting and poor funding. The latter of those two options is what I expected, at best, from Continuum.
I found myself pleasantly surprised.
The acting is good, and the writing buoys it. The series has allowed for character building in ways that you don’t usually find in science fiction. The characters stay indelibly human, and it makes them relatable amid a storyline that couldn’t possibly relate to anyone. (I think). Suspended disbelief is an understatement in any storyline that deals with time travel, but Continuum pulls it off wonderfully and leaves you wanting to watch each character’s progress.
The show also dares to walk amid the gray fog that stands between right and wrong, which is always a theme that interests me. In a world where the future can be changed, the ethics of exacting that change is a daily conundrum for the characters. I know it may not be a popular feeling, but I greatly enjoy stories that make me think more deeply about my own world and my own life. A “question everything” credo has always been a guilty pleasure I won’t relinquish.
So, needless to say, when the third season concluded and there was no contract for a fourth, I was upset. I wanted this show to finish. Not just because of the human need for closure in any situation, or because I liked the show, but because this show had done something different, and it deserved to be able to continue its story. Success for Continuum could mean success for other shows that make you think as much as they make you feel, while still entertaining.
After months of wondering and waiting, Showcase, the Canadian channel that has rights to Continuum, released all Continuum fans from their self-imposed purgatory.
The show would be renewed. (Cheers come from the crowd.) For a fourth and final season. (Hmm. Really?) That will consist of six episodes. (Shit.)
Great news, that turned into just good news, that eventually settled on a giant cloud of impending doom. If you’ve never watched the show, or even if you haven’t watched the first three seasons, you may not understand why I would react that way. However, for those who have watched the first three seasons, the immediate question is:
How in the world are they going to tie this story up in six episodes without completely destroying everything that was good about Continuum?
I am dubious… insanely dubious.
For fans of the show, you know that the end of the third season was almost akin to a sucker punch, but in a good way. (What? You’ve never been punched and liked it?) It was one of those moments in a storyline that tells you “everything you know is wrong.” Continuum had taken you off in one direction for three seasons, for the shear purpose of building you up to tear you down. It was the kind of breaking point that left you saying, “wow, this is going to get so good. They’re going to have to keep this going for another four seasons, at least.”
Nope… six episodes.
Simon Barry is a great writer, but six episodes?
If he can pull it off I’ll be amazed, and honestly, I’m really pulling for him. Continuum is a show I recommend, and a show I can’t wait to watch again. The SyFy Channel gets the right to broadcast it to us in the States, and when the fourth season premieres, I’ll be watching it full of hope.
But I’ll be watching it in the way I watch a basketball team, down ten points, with one minute to play. I’m pulling for you, but you’re going to have to pull off a miracle to win this one.
ORIGINALLY POSTED 12/2/2014
As an author, you need to spend a good deal of time with words. Of course this is beyond an obvious statement, but we often look past the obvious in our lives to the detriment of fundamental mastery. Does a master woodworker not need to obsess over wood? Should the master arborist not have a devoted attention for even the simplest and most common of trees? Should I, if in fact I care about my craft, not look at a word as benign as ‘hello’ and wonder where it came from and why we use it? (According to the Oxford English Dictionary, hello is an alteration of hallo, which came from the Old High German word halâ, used especially in hailing a ferryman).
I think it is important for someone in my field to seek this information and have a curiosity about these things. Often, I’ve come across humorous and interesting words. What I wanted to share in this blogpost were a few examples of words and phrases that have left the modern lexicon for one reason or another, and I would argue that they should be brought back. For what reason, you ask? For fun, for perspective, or for no reason other than my own strange curiosity. You are welcome to whichever reason you prefer.
“Tell it to Sweeney!”
Meaning – what you say when you believe something to be untrue, meaning, tell it to someone who is dumb enough to believe it.
Usage – “You say a good book can’t have talking bears? Pfft, tell it to Sweeney!”
Etymology – “Sweeney” referenced the myriad of monikers used in England around the 1800s to describe the stereotypical Irishman.
Meaning – distant, reserved, aloof
Usage – “Isn’t it great how offish Dylan Lee Peters is? I wish I could be that offish!”
Etymology – comes directly from standoffish
Meaning – Drunk
Usage – “Poor Dylan Lee Peters has gone and got himself fuzzled again. Though, it does improve his writing.”
Etymology – derivative of the French word fusel, which means bad liquor
Meaning – A writer of books; an author
Usage – “Dylan Lee Peters is the best bookwright ever. Anyone who says different can tell it to Sweeney!”
Etymology – from book + wright. The word wright deriving from Old English and meaning ‘related to work.’
Meaning – To silently watch someone while they are eating, hoping to be invited to join them
Usage – “Dylan Lee Peters is going to groak you if you eat that taco in front of him. He will groak you like a dog.”
Etymology – I couldn’t find the origin of this word, but had to include it. If you know the origin, please post it in the comments.
ORIGINALLY POSTED 11/5/2014
If you’ve read the What Is Everflame? page of my website, then you know that the concept of Everflame means something more to me. It stands for my ethics, philosophies, and character, and I believe it can mean that for anyone. I see the concept of Everflame as an individual’s inner barometer. It’s something to think about when you need to look within yourself for strength. The strength I find within myself, I call Everflame.
I try to apply this inner strength to my life as much as I can, though no one can be perfect, and there are certainly times that I struggle. However, I feel that the Everflame Series has “talked the talk,” and I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t at least try to “walk the walk.” Through this series of blog posts, titled My Everflame, I intend to document this search for strength within myself.
Recently, my father-in-law Nick Geiermann passed away, after a struggle with ALS. Nick was a great man, and I can say this without having known him through the entirety of his life, and without having spent an immense amount of time with him. I know this because I know the woman he raised, and I love her more than any other. To me, Nick Geiermann is responsible for someone who has enriched my life with love in a way words do no justice. Now, in these days after his passing, I look within myself to find my role after this tragic event. I look within myself for the strength to honor him and to do what he would have wanted.
My wife and I met each other, and still live with each other today, in Florida. However, my wife grew up in Michigan and that is where her father, Nick, lived his life. Due to the distance between us, I never spent as much time with Nick as I would have liked to. In fact, the first time I met Nick was when I asked for his blessing to marry his daughter. I’ll never forget that conversation. It was a difficult thing for me to express deep feelings to a man I had only just met, but I believed he needed to know who I was, and how I felt.
The words we spoke to each other during that conversation were not as important to me as what I could see in Nick’s eyes. It may sound foolish, but I’ve never evaluated a man by his words. To me, it’s the spaces between those words that say so much more. It’s the moments of silence in which we search for the correct words to convey how we really feel that give everything away. In that conversation, and in those moments that I was pouring my feelings out to a man I barely knew, his eyes told me everything I ever need to know about Nick Geiermann.
He eyes conveyed that he loved his daughter deeply and he was both terrified of me and grateful for me, all at the same time. I could see in his eyes the caution with which he regarded me. I can only assume he was trying to figure out everything he could about me, with not enough information to make such an important decision. Ultimately, his want for his daughter’s happiness coaxed him into accepting me. His want for his daughter’s happiness gave him the strength to take my words as truth. What I learned about Nick Geiermann on that day was that his want for his daughter’s happiness was as strong as anything.
So, as I look within myself during this difficult time, I now know exactly what to do. I know what Nick would want from me, and I’ve known it ever since that first conversation. I am here for his daughter’s happiness, her security, and her well-being. I will love her, protect her, and be there for her always. I promised that to him then, and I reaffirm that commitment now.
We will miss you, Nick.
Originally Posted 10/9/2014
Sleeping Beauty was released from the Disney Movie Vault yesterday, and that may not be an especially important event in the grand scope of life, but in my house it was marked on a calendar. My wife happens to be one of millions of women across our great nation who grew up on the magical tales spun by the Walt Disney Company, and those memories have blossomed into unabashed fandom occasionally bordering mania. Really though, who am I kidding? It would be dismissive of me, a man who has written stories of English-speaking bears, to ignore my own nostalgia and influence derived from movies I loved as a child. For every grown woman wrapping herself in the warm blanket of Disney princesses, there is a grown man playing with a Star Wars Lightsaber while wearing a Yoda t-shirt. We all have been molded by the fantasies of our youth in some way. So I figured that I would list five movies that were a large part of mine.
ORIGINALLY POSTED 10/23/2014
When I set to thinking each year about what would make a great Halloween costume, I’m usually brought back to a simple decision I made almost ten years ago. I was living in New Hampshire, and had been invited to a friend’s house party. The weather report was for a cold, clear night, (house parties always seem to spill outside) and I knew there would probably be around thirty people attending the party. Now, I have always been an introvert, and any introvert never really enjoys being around a large group of people, even when they are all friends. So, while the creative in me wanted a costume that somehow stood out, the introvert in me wanted to be left alone to have deep and meaningful conversations with myself. The costume I decided on turned out to be the single greatest Halloween idea that I’ve ever had.
I wore a gorilla suit. From head to foot, I was a big furry gorilla.
Now this solution seems simple, and not very creative, not to mention there was a high level of likelihood that the six-foot-three, two hundred and fifty pound gorilla might attract a lot of attention at a party. However, it wasn’t really the costume alone that made the idea perfect for me, it was what the costume afforded me the ability to do.
When I arrived at the party everyone walked directly over to the big gorilla that had just entered, and believe it or not, were incredibly entertained when the gorilla refused to say a word, or identify who was wearing the costume, or to acknowledge them in any human way whatsoever. I had created the perfect wall between the party and myself. This was a stroke of antisocial genius. I walked around, all night long, awkwardly standing next to people, dancing wildly to bad music, and all the while, never having to make small talk or pretend to be interested in anything I didn’t want to take an interest in.
As the night wore on, the entertainment my gorilla costume was giving me mounted. I could overhear people’s conversations about me as if I weren’t there.
“Who’s the big gorilla?” someone would ask.
“We think it’s Dylan, but we’re really not sure.”
“What do mean? You don’t know who it really is?”
“The gorilla hasn’t said a word to anyone all night. Honestly, we’re not sure if Dylan even said he was coming to the party.”
“Isn’t that kind of weird?"
“Yes. No. I don’t know. It’s kind of funny. Everybody’s finding hidden bananas all over the house.”
Before the party, I went to the grocery store and purchased roughly twenty bananas. Then, right before the party, I placed all of the bananas in a black backpack and wore it over the gorilla suit. Throughout the night, I hid bananas in random places all over the house. I put a banana in a light fixture, I put a banana in someone’s bed (under the sheets), I put a banana in the toilet, a couple hours into the night and there were bananas everywhere. I even found out the next day that the party’s hostess had woken up covered in smashed banana. She probably should have checked for bananas before falling asleep that night.
The gorilla became the odd event of the party, and everyone loved it. I’ll admit, I did have a few conversations with other people throughout the night, but they happily agreed to keep my secret and keep the gag going. The gorilla suit gave me the ability to experience the party in only the ways I wanted to, and it remains the best costume I’ve ever had. Maybe I’ll bring the silent gorilla back one day?
ORIGINALLY POSTED 10/31/2014
What if Everflame became a movie? It’s a question I’ve thought about. (I’d be lying if said I hadn’t). Whenever you read a book, you imagine what the characters look like, and sometimes, you imagine a famous actor or actress is playing the role. When you are writing a book, it’s no different. You develop your character, and in your mind’s eye, you know what the characters look like. There are even times when you see a performance that reminds you of a character you have written. So here are some of my ideas of who would make great Everflame characters, and at the end of this blog post, I’ll choose my favorite choice from the fan forums.
Note: I totally agree with the idea that movies of this type should be cast with relative unknowns in the world of acting. It allows the fantasy to become just a little bit more real, and in many cases, it’s necessary in movies that can be otherwise unbelievable. Mark Hamill is Luke Skywalker, and Daniel Radcliffe is Harry Potter. We never had to see them in a role prior to those iconic roles, so it became easier to accept them as those characters. When you see Samuel L. Jackson as Mace Windu, it’s harder to suspend disbelief. (Sorry Mr. Jackson). Ideally, I would want Evercloud, Densa and Iolana to be cast with unknowns, but for the purpose of this blog post, we’re not going to stick to that ideal. The nature of this blog post is to be fun. So, here we go.
ORIGINALLY POSTED 8/7/2014
Years before I began the Everflame Series, I fashioned myself as a musician. I was a singer/songwriter with a yellow and black Gibson, fronting a band that played at bars and house parties along the New England seacoast. Although my contribution to music came to a fast and uneventful end, my love for music and its influence on me have never wavered. Below is a list of twenty songs that I listened to a lot while writing the Everflame Series. I encourage you to listen to them. Feel free to guess what parts of the series each song influenced and leave your ideas in the comments.
1. Just Like You Imagined – Nine Inch Nails
2. Dust Bowl Dance – Mumford & Sons
3. Not With Haste – Mumford & Sons
4. Roll Away Your Soul – Mumford & Sons
5. I Will Wait – Mumford & Sons
6. La Mer – Nine Inch Nails
7. The Way Out is Through – Nine Inch Nails
8. The Day the World Went Away – Nine Inch Nails
9. A Warm Place – Nine Inch Nails
10. Right Where it Belongs – Nine Inch Nails
11. We’re in This Together Now – Nine Inch Nails
12. King of Pain – Police
13. Eye in the Sky – The Alan Parsons Project
14. Army of Me – Bjork
15. Awake – Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
16. Furr – Blitzen Trapper
17. All These Things I’ve Done – The Killers
18. Take a Bow – Muse
19. The Night – Rob Dickinson
20. The Sound of Silence – Simon and Garfunkel
ORIGINALLY POSTED 7/16/2014
You must figure things out on your own
So you have a manuscript, now what? Well, the truth is that unless you have a lot of financial backing, then you’d better learn to become a jack-of-all-trades. When I started out trying to figure out what I was going to do with the first Everflame book in 2009, I had no money. I was working a minimum wage job while going to school to get a degree in graphic design. I had to use the resources that were available to me. So, I used a graphic design program, Adobe InDesign, to layout Everflame, and then made it available at Lulu.com, a print-on-demand website. Lulu.com was free to use. They only charge you once you order a book. (Note from Captain Obvious: ordering one book is monumentally cheaper than paying a publisher to print a run.) Now, I was lucky that I had a great program like InDesign available to me, but I had to learn how to use it. It took long hours and persistence. Most computers have a program you can use to layout text. It’s up to you to master that program, as well as any other program or resource you may have to use. When I wanted to convert to ebook, I had to learn to do it myself and find a cheap resource to do so. Professional editing of a book costs roughly $2000. I had to improve my editing skills and resubmit versions of Everflame as I improved. The list continues, and you have to be willing to do research to figure out how to fix your problems and get what you want. Being a self-published author is a fight, and the more you can do, the stronger you will ultimately be.
Getting reviews is the key
The best thing you can have going for your book is good reviews, so spend time figuring out how you can get them. Reviews are the first thing a reader will look for before they will take a chance on your book. If you don’t have any reviews, no one will take that chance. Here is a dirty little secret for you. When I first released Everflame and had no reviews, I created my own reviews and posted them as other people. I had friends and family post reviews. I created online profiles of people that didn’t exist and used those profiles to review Everflame. Was it underhanded? Yes. Did it work? Absolutely.
You’d better have some thick skin
“This reads like a fourth grader's first creative writing assignment.”
Yup, that is an actual quote from an actual reader. Putting your work on the internet for others to read is fun. Another reviewer wrote that Everflame was literally the worst book they had ever read. Isn’t that wonderful? In the end, you have to remember that you can’t please everyone, and some people are just vicious. You take the criticism and work to get better. That’s all you can do. I’m sure those are not the last scathing reviews I’ll receive, but each one makes me grateful for all of the glowing reviews I get.
Get comfortable with promotion
In 2009, I advertised Everflame on craigslist under the free section. It was completely against the policy of the website, and the ad was taken down soon after, but I received a lot of downloads from it. In fact, I spent a lot of time that year finding places that I could post about Everflame online. I joined online fantasy communities just to talk about Everflame, and I filled out every free book listing I could find. I sent bookmarks to local bookstores. I did anything and everything I could think of that was within my meager budget. To this day, promotion is something I’m constantly looking to improve upon. My most recent ideas have been contests to promote fan interaction and I’ve also tried creating Everflame themed internet memes. (You never know what might end up going viral)
Never give up and never stop improving
All told, the number one thing that self-publishing has taught me is that you can never give up. You never know when or where your break might come, but you’d better be ready for it and willing to fight for it. I love writing, and because I have that love I know I will continue to work at and improve my craft. If you love writing, and are considering self-publishing your work, remember Densa at the end of Everflame 4: As the Darkness Waits.
I go forth with my love, knowing nothing can stop me now.
ORIGINALLY POSTED 7/10/2014
I have received comments and questions from readers in regard to some of the names that I use in the Everflame series, and I thought it might make for a good blog post to divulge how I created certain character names. Names such as Tomas and Ben Floyd have no real meaning behind them, they just happened to be the names that popped into my head at the time I was creating the characters. Names such as Evercloud have meaning, but are also explained in the books. “You are a mystery, my son, like a cloud that continues forever. No one can see through to what lies on the other side.” Yet, there are names that I chose for certain characters that were chosen with reason and purpose that the books don’t necessarily explain with clarity. You may have guessed at why I chose certain names, (if you have some knowledge of Latin, the meaning of a name like Lithlillian becomes obvious) but I figured I’d take out the guesswork on a few names for you. So, here… we… go.
The Daughters of Earth and Sun
There is no great mystery involved in how I named these characters. However, I was looking for more than just simple feminine names. I did want names that sounded feminine, but that were also grounded in meanings associated with the earth aspect that each daughter represents.
Harena – the word is Latin and means “grains of sand” or “a sandy land.” As I’ve already said. There is no great mystery as to why I chose this.
Dendrata – dendro- is a Greek prefix meaning “tree.” I simply changed the end of the word to make it sound like a woman’s name.
Nivalia – nivalis in Latin means “snowy.” Again, I made a slight change to the word.
Tallulah – is of Native American origin, and the meaning of Tallulah is "leaping water."
Aella – Means "whirlwind" in Greek.
Lithlillian – litho- is a prefix meaning “stone.” (Are you seeing a pattern here?) I thought Lithlillian sounded melodic.
Selva – selva is Portuguese and means “tropical rain forest” or “jungle.”
Amber – Amber is a semi-precious gem formed of fossilized tree resin, and the name may refer either to the gem itself or to its color. In the Hindi language, Amber is derived from Sanskrit, and means "the sky."
Other notable language derivatives:
King Aplistia – aplistia is Greek for “greed.”
The Kingdom of Nefas – nefas is Latin for “wickedness.”
Have any questions about other names in the Everflame series? Leave a comment and I promise I’ll answer your question.