Arn? Narn.

Shakespeare on Cowardice:

“A coward dies a thousand times before his death, but the valiant taste of death but once. It seems to me most strange that men should fear, seeing that death, a necessary end, will come when it will come.” – William Shakespeare

And make no mistake, Jacob Will was a coward… in love, truth, and most importantly, himself. He lived no truths, without love, and he would have to learn to know and trust himself before he could do anything about it. He would have to die at least eleven times before he could live.

He was fearful… and he was a coward.

Jacob Will was both, not the best combination for someone looking to destroy his former self in order to live a new and better life. Could he do it? Could he take that plunge (not a knife, but just as deadly in its own way) and come out on the other side?

Shakespeare may have put in best, “Cowards die many times before their deaths; The valiant never taste of death but once.”


A future with love, not fear: D – Part 4. A Thistle and Bee story.

Since getting in to “The Hive”, D feels like a whole new, completely different person. For the first time, in her adult life, she had access to health care, regular meals, her own bed, and clean clothes. It has shown her how she could live without cigarettes, drugs, or alcohol.

It is not without responsibility. She goes to meetings to learn how to deal with her plaguing issues. However, a couple of instances stands out in her mind. D was recently going to a GED class and there, in plain sight, was a guy selling dope. The school knew the guy was selling but didn’t do anything about it. She knew she couldn’t stay there. Temptation is everywhere, even where it would be considered “safe.”

Looking for a safe place, she then took herself to a church and right outside there, people were smoking dope. Everywhere she turned, there were drugs to be had. Fortunately, her ride was waiting, and she was able to avoid temptation.

This underscores a greater problem: the easy availability of drugs. When one can score at a public school, a church, it’s not difficult to understand why the problem is so rampant. “Addiction don’t discriminate, child, adult, no difference.” Age doesn’t factor into it either. D is right, she witnessed a 13-year-old shooting right into their hand and foot. How could that not bring up terrible memories?

Thistle and Bee is helping D to learn to love and respect herself. Before coming to The Hive, she didn’t care when she was high and wasn’t ashamed to be out on the streets. But her family did care and was ashamed for her. They knew she was using, their mother was a junkie, a crackhead. But now her future is in front of her and she feels like a new baby, being birthed.

D is experiencing freedom and feels like a child in a candy store with so much to see and now something to live for. She’s doing “The Twelve Traditions.” She along with the other women at The Hive are learning how to live, on their own and together. They’re learning how to share and to help. D calls this “love help.’

Most of all, D wants other people to her story. “If they need help, ask for it.” It was hard for her to ask for help; she didn’t want to admit she was an addict who needed a helping heart. D knows how hard it is but knows it’s not as hard as the life she’s leaving behind.

Getting our s— together.

Here we are, five weeks or so into the WFH hostage situation. This is the spring we’re all missing. As I look out the window of my home office, I notice that it’s become very green outside. Usually, this would lighten my spirits, but as we’re confined to our homes, we must look for spirit-lifting actions elsewhere.

I find I’m “unfriending” on social media a large number of people who, generally, I respect. But to turn this situation into an opportunity to spew negativity is counter-productive. Can fingers be pointed? Yes, of course. Does it make things better? No, not really.

Instead, I’m quietly celebrating those whose concern for their friends, neighbors, and family make life worth living and as I said, celebrating. This certainly includes those healthcare and essential workers. But I’m also thinking about those people who, on any given morning, nod a hello to you and go off to their daily endeavors. Today, they’re inquiring about their neighbors, whether there is something they can do for others. Asking whether or not they can pick up something at the market for them or leaving small, unexpected gifts of food or treats.

In John Carpenter’s film, Starman, the alien (Jeff Bridges), in talking about humans, states, “Shall I tell you what I find beautiful about you? You are at your very best when things are worst.”

Down here at the granular level, he was right. Something good is happening. We need to take notice of these acts of kindness and thoughtfulness and remember when this finally runs its terrible course, that perhaps we have gained something we lost sometime ago. Let’s not forget what these small lessons are teaching us. We can and maybe are getting our s— together. Instead of playing politics, let’s play together.

Brienne of Tarth, maybe.

The first time Jacob Will saw Hannah, Brienne of Tarth from the Game of Thrones TV series came to mind: not so much the perpetual scowl but her countenance. Uncommonly tall, uncommonly beautiful, and a dazzling smile. But why was she with an older, a much older man? And in Key West. All of it seemed unlikely.

And like Jaime Lannister, Jacob would be smitten too and it would change his life forever. But that wouldn’t happen until he had committed his own eleven little deaths.

The first cut is the deepest…

So states the title of a Cat Stevens song. To paraphrase it, the first line in a story is the hardest. It will help determine the direction of your story. Where does one start? How much does one have to write before you realize, damn, that’s the wrong direction. Then you have to go back and start all over again. Creating a first line that grabs the reader is one of the biggest obstacles a writer faces. “It was a dark and stormy night…” Uh-uh, I don’t think so.

It may be the reason why so many stories/books are started and go either absolutely nowhere or downhill fast. My own file on these stillborn ideas grows large. Could it be the fault of a bad first line? Or was it just a lousy idea? Or both?

On the other hand, I’ve written, what I think are, some really great first lines only to have them sink upon review into the tar pit of my imagination. Yet, there may be hope.

Nowhere is it written that one or several of these ideas may not be revisited, even salvaged into something readable. It might be a hell of lot better than its crappy first line.

But how do you know if it’s any good? Initially, you may not. Go back and review it periodically. Does it relate to the story you’re now writing? Will it intrigue the reader to soldier on through your book? Or should you table that project and start a new one?

There’s nothing wrong with that but now you have to find a new first line.

You get a review, and you get a review and…

Oprah Winfrey aside, this is what it’s starting to feel like. Now don’t get me wrong – if Oprah were to offer me a new car, I’d have to seriously consider it. But that’s not going to happen, at least I don’t think so.

However, reviews of my book A Coward’s Guide to Living are coming in and I’m more than willing to accept them as they’ve been very positive. I”ll even take the less than positive ones as they have real value as well.

So, here are excerpts from some of them as posted on Amazon, GoodReads, and Reader’s Favorites:

“I felt as if I saw a human caterpillar turn into a butterfly; the character development was compelling. Great read.” – JW

“Just like Homer and Kerouac, Meisterman peels back layers of his protagonist with a journey, one only the courageous can truly complete.” – FM

“Bruce Meisterman provided so many nuggets and passages of wisdom in A Coward’s Guide to Living that were eye-opening… If you’re looking to gain some understanding and direction for improving your life, this book will be a great way to start.” – VN

“A character-driven drama about a young man’s quest for self-discovery, A Coward’s Guide to Living focuses on the little things that can hold a man back from living his life to the fullest.” – PD

“I highly recommend this book to anyone in search of a good story. This story makes you laugh and cry and feel like you’ve never felt before. This book is not to be missed.” – AS

“This is a GREAT BOOK !!! It will hold your attention. Full of Truth, Love, Discovery and Humor. Once you start to read it, you will not want to put it down. You will definitely “become” Jacob, the main character. It is a MUST READ.” – MF

So with reviews such as these, I’ll skip Oprah’s cars and go for more of these. But if she wants to include me in her book club, I’d have no choice but to say “Yes”.

The game is afoot, Watson.

So says Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s iconic detective Sherlock Holmes. And indeed it is.

In many things in our lives. persistence is often the key to success. How many times have we given up on things too soon? Think about sports teams who when faced with lop-sided scores against them have thrown in the towel rather than continue to fight. Then think about those teams when confronted with similar situations, endured and ultimately prevailed. Which ones do you think get the movies made about them?

A definition of persistence is as follows: Refusing to give up or let go; persevering obstinately.

A definition of stubborn: Refusing to change one’s mind or course of action despite pressure to do so; unyielding or resolute.

Those who know me well will attest to my persistence. If I had a family crest it would probably feature a dog with a bone, unwilling to give it up.

And those same people know when I believe in a project, I become resolute in its pursuit. Foolish? Perhaps. But why?

In publishing and marketing a book, one must be either or both. Getting the book out there is not enough. While writing the book is perhaps more time consuming, it is in comparison far more enjoyable. But the effort put into that is wasted if commensurate industry is not committed to its marketing. Most authors I know want people to read what they’ve written. How can that happen if no one knows about it?

Media must be contacted ( incessantly?) and sold on the book’s premise and why it’s significant enough for them to commit time and/or space to it. Outlets need to be influenced in order for them to see the value in the book’s placement. It can’t be a one and done enterprise. Reviews, good or bad, need to be solicited. From the outside, it may appear to be small steps and yes, that is exactly what they are. But with enough small steps, you’ve built a staircase whose height is unlimited.

The game is afoot. Just take one step at a time and see where it takes you.

It’s never done.

Ask any artist if they’re satisfied with the work they’ve created. Chances are they’ll say “no”. It’s also a good bet that while creating that piece, they’ll wonder if it’ll ever be finished. Most artists I know struggle to put the brush, camera, or pen down and accept that it’s finished. Truthfully, it’s never finished.

That painting on your wall may not be finished as far as the artist is concerned, but there it is, just the same. The book you’re reading is the work of countless hours of writing, editing, writing some more, and then editing once again. Hopefully, you’re enjoying it. And yet upon reading it in published form, the author may look at it and shudder, thinking she/he should have done it this way instead.

Still, at some point, we have to let it go, for better or worse and the critic’s opinions.

As my new book has been on the shelves for two months now, I look back and see things I missed during its creation. If only I had… Right?

Well, it’s out there. Nothing can be done about it. That’s as it should be.

So, without anything else to do, I’ve started on a new book. Let’s hope I can finish this one.

A face for radio…

When television reared its ugly head, many radio stars lost out on jobs for entirely cosmetic reasons. Hence the saying, he/she has a face for radio.

As an author, it’s the words that do the heavy lifting, so no pictures here, just the semi-dulcet tones of the writer.

In preparation for a book signing for my new book A Coward’s Guide to Living, I was interviewed by Darel Snodgrass on WKNO-FM’s Checking on the Arts program.

Here’s an audio clip of the show. Hope you enjoy.

A cast of thousands…

So goes the marketing hype for films made right through the ’60’s. Such spectacles featured a couple of A-list movie stars and then the requisite number of extras hoping for their chance at celluloid stardom.

But what about our lives? How many “extras” populate them? Not the people we don’t know, but those with whom we have a regular or at least semi-regular relationship. It’s probably still a number too high to calculate. And that doesn’t include your social media such as Facebook friends in that number.

Then, who are the people in our own cast of thousands who influence us in some way or another? In the case of Jacob Will, the protagonist of my book A Coward’s Guide to Living, he too has many people who in the course of his story change his life.

Just like in real life, some of these people have a positive impact (A-listers), others not so much (B-listers). But it’s his cast of thousands. Who’s in your story? Who’s on your A-list? Are the B-listers important? That’s a question for a later time.

Who knows where the time goes? – Part 2.

“Like sands through the hour glass…” – goes the opening quote from the TV soap opera, The Days of Our Lives. That quote is misleading though, time never runs out. It is us who run out of time.

“There’s never enough time” we may complain. “I don’t have time for that” we can protest. “If only I had more time” we cry. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Look, it’s what we make of it. I’m as guilty as the next person in managing time. Time spent frivolously on the internet, time spent worrying about things beyond my control. Time wasted in useless endeavors. The list goes on.

It would be easy to recommend time-saving devices, programs, and tools. The truth is they don’t really work unless we make ourselves slaves or acolytes to and of them, spending all our time on them. Nah, not for me.

Am I stating I’m about to initiate a profound change in my life? No, not really, just maybe be a little more aware of where my time goes.

So, perhaps that will start with breakfast. What better way to start saving precious time than with a one minute egg? I’m feeling better already.

Stoking the star-making machinery.

With apologies to Joni Mitchell’s “Free Man in Paris” song about shilling for one’s art. It’s similar to promoting a new book. And I’m stoking that machinery myself with launch parties, book signings, media appearances, and social media postings.

This is all part of publishing a book these days. If you’re not John Grisham, then you have to do all the heavy lifting yourself, regardless if the book is published by an established publisher or by yourself. Please don’t view this as a complaint, it isn’t. There is nothing like going out and meeting your potential audience face-to-face. It’s also not for the faint of heart. You’re out there, exposed. Your work is out there for all to see. What is this all about?

Norman Mailer once wrote and I paraphrase: A writer must have an enormous ego to believe anyone would want to read what he has to say.”

So, yes, it is about ego.

He also said the following: “Writing books is the closest men ever come to childbearing.” and When I read it, I don’t wince, which is all I ever ask for a book I write.”

And about pain. And hopefully, acceptance. What do you think?

Now what?

That’s the question every author faces when his/her book is released upon the world. The endless hours of writing, rewriting, editing, and then editing some more are now over. What’s next?

If you’re someone like James Patterson who seems to write a new book before breakfast each day, that’s an easy question. If you’re like the rest of us, now comes the hard work – marketing your book, getting it into stores, getting media attention, and ultimately sales. None of this will make us rich though complaints on that would be far and few. That’s not what we’re in it for.

So, we do all of that. But then, if we’re lucky, a new idea bubbles up through the dark tar pit of our minds. And we’re off again, unless… it’s not a good idea. We start to write only to discover it fizzles out after a few chapters. There are very few writers who don’t have a plethora of book ideas that went nowhere. Maybe you think you’re devoid of new ideas, a possibility for sure, but not terminal. Ideas are like trains, there’s always another coming around the bend. It may not be on your time schedule, but you’re not driving that train…yet. Just be ready to board it when it does come.

A cast of thousands (well, maybe not quite that many), years in the making, and best of all, no animals were harmed in the production of this book.

All of that is true. And that’s about it as this is a fictional tale of a man charged with getting his s___ together. How many of us can honestly say we have our act together? How many of us have gotten ill-advised tattoos? Been assaulted with a metal detector and then treated to lunch? Or wasted a bottle of expensive champagne and not by drinking it? Fortune told? Yes, twice. Or… ah, the list goes on.

And that’s just a hint of what Jacob Will (think Adam Driver) encounters in A Coward’s Guide to Living, now available in paperback here.