One Candle

candles

“One candle loses nothing in lighting another.”

Once, I had a real life.  And in that real life, there were things like hobbies and people and work and pets and yards and cars and lawn mowers and gardening tools and garages and sawdust.  There were happy things, aggravating things and sad things.  There were things to laugh about and be angry over.

With the hobby came friendships.  Friendships I wouldn’t have otherwise known.  I didn’t know as much as I wanted to about the hobby, but I knew I loved it and for the most part, the people involved in it.  As with anything else, a few of them drove me to distraction, out of my mind with rage, but I also met some of the warmest and most caring people I’ve never seen in it also.

There was Tim, who called himself Willow, thinking he was a flimsy and wispy fellow.  But Tim’s a genius, a tender heart and a close, loving friend.  He opened to me as I opened to him, and I know this man is a part of my heart.  And through getting to know Tim, I met another very special person.  He went by the handle “Limey” — he was British and proud of it, and lived here in the US and would not return.  Limey had a dry British wit and a wickedly sharp mind, and he was a master craftsman who forever challenged younger and less experienced people to reach for more, stretch farther, try something they’ve not tried before.  You can do it, he’d encourage us; and I’ll be here to help if you need it.

Email and forum exchanges can’t tell you enough about a man.  Electronic communication can’t begin to provide the depth of field someone offers.  One day, however, when I spoke to Tim on the phone, Limey stood beside him.  And he and I chatted.

I’ve never been the same man.  The opening line of this post is what Limey used as his signature line on emails and forum posts, and it sums the man up to a tee.  Tim knew him much better than I, and said this wasn’t just his mantra for his hobby, but the way he lived his life.

Limey and I didn’t exchange a lot of communication.  A few emails, a couple of forum discussions, and just the one phone conversation.  He loved Falcon.  He called her a “tigress” because of the way she rallied to my defense over some jerk on the forum.  He always had such high praise for her.  He liked to challenge me to grow whether I wanted to or not.  He was always there to push me.  I remember being angry with him briefly because he told me something wherein I felt he expected too much of me.  I later realized I was being stupid and didn’t understand the great thing he tried to do for me.  I reconciled to him and then, shortly thereafter, my world came crashing around my ears.

For a time, I kept up with them through the forum and email.  Limey tried to mentor me as best he could, but I couldn’t keep the emails up.  Life and other forces intervened, and my own lack of determination made me slink away into Internet obscurity.

I lost touch with Limey after that.  I managed to scape back in touch with Tim briefly, but I’m a poor friend where correspondence is concerned and I once again fell off the face of their earth.

Yesterday, I cleaned up the kids’s computer, and while I did so I found an old bookmark to the forum where I’d met Limey.  I looked up Tim and noticed something in his signature line which startled me.  I did a quick forum search and found something which slammed me, hammered my day, my heart, my soul.

Limey passed away on December 2, 2007.  I don’t know how or why, but it doesn’t matter.

And I realized how much my bad habits cost me.  I don’t know if I’d have felt that way if it had been someone genetically tied to me.  But I felt a heartsick, punch-in-the-gut hurt and spilled a few tears.  Because of my laziness, not taking the opportunities I had when they were there, I missed the passing — by almost two years — of one of the greatest men I’ve ever met.  A genuine human, a great person, and a gentleman slipped into the night and I wasn’t there to acknowledge his passing.

That candle will never again light another.  But the world is bright with the light of those he did ignite.  I don’t deserve the privilege of calling Limey my friend, but I can say, without doubt or hesitation, I’ve never met a finer gentleman and a finer person, so willing to give out what he had inside, to share of himself, for nothing other than the joy of that giving, expecting nothing in return.

No, I’ll never be the same because of Limey.  I don’t deserve the privilege of calling him my friend; I didn’t know him well enough.  But in retrospect, how could I ever have known such a one well enough?  He was a friend to me, and to many others.

Rest in peace, sweet prince.  Many candles did you light with yours, and nothing did you lose in so doing.  It is we who have lost with your passing.

-JDT-

Could You Spare a Cup of …?

A measuring cup, manufactured and sold in the ...

How do you measure yourself?

I’m constantly comparing myself to others.  This is a major weakness of mine.  I compare myself to friends, enemies, family and strangers.  I compare myself to my peers, to my co-workers (when I’m working), to people I read about and watch on TV.  I compare myself to other writers, those published and unpublished, those struggling to be published and those writing for writing’s sake.  I compare myself to young writers and old writers, to writers on my deviantART page and in the blogosphere.

I compare myself to everyone and anyone.

You know what?  I usually don’t measure up.  I don’t consider myself an equal as a writer to Stephen King no matter how many warm and loving compliments I receive.  No matter how many accolades I get I’m never quite as good in my own eyes.  I’m not as good-looking, not as financially successful, not as thin, not as young, not as young-looking, not as interesting, not as smart.  I’m not as strong a writer, not as talented, not as educated, not as polished.  I always come up short when I compare.

So why do I keep on doing it?

I don’t know, truth be told.  I can’t say why I continue to refuse to learn this lesson.  I’m not competing just with myself, to get better, to improve my craft enough to be published and to be content with that success.  I’m not content to hit mid-list if I do get published.  I want the brass ring, the NYT Bestseller list in the top ten, maybe the top five.  I want the movie deals, the multiple book contracts, the rock-star writer status of J. K. Rowling or Stephenie Meyer or yeah, Stephen King.  I can’t settle for less.  I can’t be “successful” in my own eyes unless I hit that level.  Will I be excited to get published at all?  Oh yeah, no doubt.  Ecstatic.  Will that be the last of it for me?  Will that euphoria last?

Nope.  Know myself too well to say otherwise.  I’d be lying to you, and worse still to me, if I say otherwise.  I’ll want it all.  I’ll want mega-success as I measure it.

And how do I measure it?  Not by my own talent; not by my own improvement; not by any standard against my own work.  I do it against the standard of others, of course.  It’s what I do.

What about you?  What standard, what stick, do you hold up for yourself, do you put in front of the mirror you stare at when you’re looking at yourself?

-JDT-

All original content © 2009 DarcKnyt
ALL rights reserved.

Getting to Know You

How well I could write if I were not here!

All right, writers … let’s chat.

But wait – don’t run off, non-writers.  I want your opinion too.  You read, don’t you?  So you’re as important to writers as words.  More so.  Without you, why do we write?  If we don’t do it for the entertainment of others we are self-entertaining … and self-deluded.  ALL writers want to be read.

So, I’m nurturing ideas for another book.  I have one in edits, one in progress (yeah … right), and a couple of others sitting at a fast simmer on the back of my brain.  One of the things people say about books they love is the characters are real, identifiable, lovable, despicable, and tangible.  And if I want to be successful writer – and I do – that’s a skill I need to hone to the highest degree possible.  Hence this post.

My question to the writers is: How do you create your characters?

And more than this, how do you develop, nurture, get to know, your characters?  Their traits, habits, names, occupations, tendencies … everything?

I know a lot of writers who talk about how their characters create themselves, how they make themselves known to the writer, how the creation guides the creator.  I know that’s a lot of hooey too.  C’mon, let’s be honest.  These are fictional people; we create them.  We name them, give them their characteristics, and their physical appearances.  We give them their jobs, their passions, their goals and obstacles.  No more goofing off here – we’re all writers.

Now, maybe it seems your characters emerge without any effort from you, the writer.  ‘Cause you’re a natural.   Or you’re just great at characterization.  If that’s what you mean, and you articulate it by saying the characters “come alive” – well, more power to you and your incredible imagination.  Mine doesn’t work that way; I have to pour effort into this.  I don’t have characters who spontaneously generate in my head, fully formed and fully developed.  I have to do the work, beat the muse as it were, squeeze the juice out.

Maybe you can’t help me, but maybe you can.  Maybe you’re someone who has a method, a working formula you use for coming up with characters.  How do you connect them to the real world?  What do you do to decide their occupations?  Their interests?  Their tastes?  Their speech patterns, their physical tics, their eccentricities?

How do you go about getting to know their characters?

Readers, what about you?  Most readers will identify with characters who have weaknesses, flaws, problems.   What are some of your favorite characters in literature and why?  What was it you loved about them?  How did the author of the character create a believable and convincing person you can be fond of?

Sound off, y’all … I really need help with this, I think.

-JDT-

All original content © 2009 DarcKnyt
ALL rights reserved.

Mentoring

National Mentoring Month logo, designed by Mil...

When I was young, I had a friend who spent a lot of time teaching me the fine art of being a boy.  As we grew older, he taught me more about being a man.  The problem was, he lived a long way away from us and I hardly ever saw him.  My father wasn’t the best source of that kind of information, though I’m sure I must have gleaned something from him too.  So, I had few if any strong male role models in my life.

As I look at my son, I realize I’m a lot more like my father than my friend.  I have no idea how to teach a young boy to be a man.  I don’t know if I even know what that is.  I have to try and figure out how to teach him about honor, honesty, caring, balance, responsibility, and myriad other topics about which I know diddly-squat.  So he’s already starting out with a strike or two against him.

As I continue to wish upon a star for a miracle to salvage my “career” situation, I realize I still, even to this day, seek a mentoring relationship with people for whom I work.  I’ve done it almost everywhere – almost – I’ve ever worked.  I hope that somehow one of them will take me under their wing and teach me the “ropes” of … something.  Anything.  But the fact is, I’m not a young lad anymore who someone wants under their wing, and the idea of doing that with a man fast approaching middle age probably creeps people out.  Then I can’t figure out why I don’t get job offers.  Heh.

I guess all my life I’ve wanted a mentor.  Someone who would not just work with me and give me instructions, but teach me, show me something – a trade, a craft, the way the job should be done – and become that missing role model in my life.  The world is harsh and expects us to stand on our own two feet even if we’re not shown how to do that.  It’s like swimming in many respects – no one cares how you learned to get across the pool, only that you did.  If you don’t know how to do that no one cares whether or not you drown.  And being taught to do it right saves a lot of energy, time, and lives.  It certainly would’ve saved mine.

But I don’t know if anyone gets mentored anymore.  Does an old vet in some industry, craft or trade take a young buck and teach him the right way, the wrong way, the best way?  Is there anyone out there doing that, going through things day by day, step by step, making sure the protégé gets it, is able to do it, and can be turned loose into the field without fear of embarrassment, harm or failure?  Does that ever happen anymore?  Are apprentices treated that way?  Is there a bond, a friendship or paternal (or I suppose maternal, depending on what we’re talking about) relationship forged between the two, or is it just two guys working together and that’s it?

I’ve never known.  I’ve always wanted to.

What about you?  Did you have good, solid role models in your life to guide you, steer you the right way, make you straight and true as you fly through life?

-JDT-

Old West Shootout

Cover of

We had an old fashioned shootout here recently, discussing western movies, their stories and characters, and so, I’ve endeavored to see some of the movies recommended to me by some of you.

I finally saw The Good, The Bad and The Ugly end-to-end as commended by WIGSF and GoodBadandUgly2.  They both claim it’s the best western ever; GBU2 goes so far as to say it’s her favorite movie of all time (could you tell?).  My beloved liked Silverado, and recommended that one.  I, myself, got her to sit with me through High Plains Drifter, one of my favorite all-time westerns, and if I can ever find it unedited and without commercials I’ll make her wade through Unforgiven.  On the horizon is The Outlaw Josey Wales, someday, when I run across it.  And how can I forget Pale Rider for westerns??  Come on, TCM!  Or AMC, whichever.  Show ‘em.

So far, for me, Unforgiven is the undefeated champ of western movies.  High Plains Drifter pulls a close second.  Both were excellent, fun movies, and I loved the supernatural twist of HPD.  But The Good, The Bad and The Ugly was a decent movie.  For my tastes, it was too long.  Some of the stuff they included either dragged on too long or could’ve been left on the cutting room floor without hurting the story at all, and the pace would’ve been better.  Still, there were some good moments, and the overall story was sort of cool, too.  Not that there’s anything unique or original about three shady-ish characters hunting for hidden gold, but the movie was well-done for the most part.  And if anyone knows what the other two parts of that trilogy are called, shout out; I’d be interested in seeing ‘em.

I didn’t like Silverado quite as much as my first two choices, but it certainly moved along much faster and had a lot more action than a lot of them.  Same guy wrote the script who wrote Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back and Star Wars: Return of the Jedi and Raiders of the Lost Ark, so that figures.  The bad guys were slimy and despicable, as should be.  The good guys were sort of caricatures, as is typical.  But the acting was decent and some of the scenes were fun, and in this western, they had to reload the guns.  Ha!  Nice touch!  A nice romp, really, but lacked the depth of some of the others.  Still, I agree with my wife: a fun movie.

I never thought I’d be a cowboy movie fan, but I’m getting there.  Thanks to The Dark Tower, I’ve reconnected with my love of cowboys and things western.  I even sat through Charles Bronson acting for The White Buffalo, which my son enjoyed with me.  (I didn’t really enjoy it, but it was okay.)

Now, I need to find a way to stop myself from watching cowboy movies and comparing hats to find the coolest one.

What genres of movies have surprised you?  What sorts of movies took you by surprise, made you enjoy them despite your insistence that you don’t like those kinds of movies?  Let me know, and tomorrow, we’ll get back to some “horror” movies I saw recently.

God bless, all.

-JDT-

All original content © 2009 DarcKnyt
ALL rights reserved.