Monday, October 28, 2013

"The Incurable Disease of Writing"

"Many suffer from the incurable disease of writing, and it becomes chronic in their sick minds." 
~ Juvenal

This is a story about how I attempted to "cure" myself from the "incurable disease of writing"...and failed.

If you follow this blog or my social-media posts, you will know that I spent the early part of the fall writing stage-musical adaptations of my three Q'ntana Trilogy stories. My plan had been to write at least two drafts of each script before tackling the next, with a suitable break between stories. What I felt called to do instead was to work straight through all three first drafts, back-to-back-to-back, with only a day off between The MoonQuest and The StarQuest and another one between The StarQuest and The SunQuest.

Unlike in my early years as a freelance journalist where my writing was skilled and craftsmanlike but written from the surface, my current creations rise up from profound, gut-wrenching inner places that challenge me as little else in my life ever has. In metaphysical terms, they are "energy activations" that force me to face my deepest fears and impel me to trust more fully and surrender more completely than I sometimes believe to be possible.

All my work now comes from that place -- fiction, memoir and books on writing alike. Yet nothing has ever activated me more intensely than The MoonQuest, The StarQuest and The SunQuest. And no writing experience has ever been more intense than working nonstop through all three stories, something I had never done before launching into my Q'ntana Trilogy Stage Musical Marathon.

When I finished first drafts of the three scripts a few weeks ago, I swore I would never write again. I wasn't kidding. I was physically and emotionally exhausted. I was depressed. And, in moments, I was despairing. I was also broke. And I couldn't help but question the purpose of an enterprise that had left me so depleted in so many ways.

Days passed and I grew no less adamant. I would hang up my quill and keyboard and try my hand at something different, even though I couldn't imagine what that might be. As more days passed, I moved from hopeless to helpless to anger to resignation, traveling my own version of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross's stages of grieving.

Then two things happened, almost simultaneously.

The first occurred as I was editing an interview I had done in August with mystery writer Ellen Hart for my "One-on-One Conversations with Creatives" series. As Ellen and I talked about her work, her characters and her craft, I began to feel myself pulled back into the writer's identity I had so recently pushed away.

A few hours later, a favorite story about Wrinkle in Time author Madeleine L'Engle popped into my head and wouldn't leave. The story, which I recount in Writer's Block Unblocked: 7 Surefire Ways to Free Up Your Writing and Creative Flow, talks about how the already-published L'Engle nearly quit writing after receiving repeated Wrinkle in Time rejections (including one from her then-publisher).

She tried to quit...but found that she couldn't. Here's the story, excerpted from Writer's Block Unblocked:

Toward the end of that two-year period [of rejections], L'Engle covered up her typewriter and decided to give up -- on A Wrinkle in Time and on writing. ... 
[Her] decision to throw in the towel was short-lived. Or, perhaps, a determined Muse caught L'Engle's towel and tossed it back at her: On her way downstairs to the kitchen, L'Engle had an epiphany -- an idea for a novel about failure. In a flash, she was back at her typewriter.
"That night," as she explained 30 years later in a PBS documentary, "I wrote in my journal, 'I'm a writer. That's who I am. That's what I am. That's what I have to do -- even if I'm never, ever published again.' And I had to take seriously the fact that I might never, ever be published again. ... It's easy to say I'm a writer now, but I said it when it was hard to say. And I meant it.”

L'Engle's words haunted me for days.  

I'm a writer. 
That's who I am. 
That's what I am. 
That's what I have to do. 

Wide awake or drifting off to sleep, reading a book or watching a movie, out for a walk or out in the car: No matter where I was or what I was doing, those four short sentences played over and over in my head. I couldn't escape them.

I'm a writer. 
That's who I am. 
That's what I am. 
That's what I have to do. 

In Acts of Surrender: A Writer's Memoir, I share stories of how I resisted becoming a writer (in school, I hated writing and everything creative) and of how, once I finally surrendered to it, my writerly identity never completely left me. This time, for the first time, I willfully turned my back on it and said, "No more!"

In the end, though, like Madeleine L'Engle, I couldn't do it.

There's a scene in The SunQuest, The Q'ntana Trilogy's final book, where the main character tries to shrug off his destiny.

"That is your path," Yzythq'a insisted. "That is your destiny."
"You speak as though you believe you have a choice."
"Of course I have a choice," I countered with more certainty than I felt.
"You made your choice already," he said. “The moment you chose to return to Q’ntana, you made this choice, too."

How could I have thought my path would differ from Ben's when everything I write, however fantastical, is also autobiographical? In this world filled with an infinity of choices, I have no choice. As I write in The Voice of the Muse: Answering the Call to Write (and encourage others to read aloud for themselves), 

I am a writer.
I am a writer.
I am a writer.

Only in the past few days, have I finally surrendered again to something that is far from a disease. It is a way of being, a way of breathing, a way of moving through the world, a second skin...possibly even a first skin. I know that now, not from the intellectual place I have stated my surrender in the past, but from that same deep inner place my writing comes from. I know that, too, because it's in writing this piece that I feel it more deeply than I ever have before.

I am a writer. And, yes, it's incurable. 

What's your relationship with your writing? Has it changed over time? How? 

Remember that whether you're published or not, if the Muse calls and you're writing, you are a writer. Do you need some help believing that? Watch the video meditation, "You Are A Writer." Are you feeling judgmental about your writing? Watch the video meditation, "Let Judgment Go." The audio for both was drawn from my recording The Voice of the Muse Companion: Guided Meditations for Writers

Find all the books mentioned in this post in the Kindle, Nook, iBook and Kobo stores, readable on your e-reader, tablet, computer and smartphone:
• The Q'ntana Trilogy (The MoonQuest, The StarQuest, The SunQuest; The MoonQuest is also available in paperback at
• Writer's Block Unblocked: 7 Surefire Ways to Free Up Your Writing and Creative Flow
• The Voice of the Muse: Answering the Call to Write (also available in paperback at
• Acts of Surrender: A Writer's Memoir

Get The Voice of the Muse Companion on CD at
or as an MP3 download from iTunes, Amazon, Google Play or CD Baby

• • •

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Sunday, October 27, 2013

One-on-One with Mark David Gerson: Inspiring & Entertaining Conversations with Top Creatives

Earlier this year I was privileged to interview six remarkable individuals for a series of conversations I've titled One-on-One with Mark David Gerson. The result is this series of videos, each of which is sure to entertain, inspire and inform -- whether you are a writer or a reader or are just curious about how the creative mind works.

If a particular video won't play inline, click on its mini-headline to be taken to its YouTube page. You'll also find many more videos -- all equally inspiring -- on my YouTube channel at

Many in the film world know Michael Wiese as founder of Michael Wiese Productions, publisher of more English-language books on film than anyone else in the world. But Wiese is also a modern-day shaman who shares a lifetime of spiritual journeying in a compelling new memoir, Onward & Upward: Reflections of a Joyful Life, a book studded with insights...and with such celebrities as Shirley MacLaine, Buckminster Fuller and Salvador Dali. In this video, Michael offers insights about memoir-writing, filmmaking and the creative process, and speaks frankly about  his latest journey, with Parkinson's Disease.

Susan Heim has put together 10 Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Her latest is Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Writers, and in this entertaining and inspiring conversation, Susan shares a few of the Chicken Soup stories that inspired her as a writer, reveals some of her own writerly quirks, wonders whether she carries vampire blood, confesses her resistance to novel-writing and offers some powerful inspiration of her own.

Sally Morgan insists that anyone can speak in passionate, empowered ways that engage, engross, captivate and convince. In this One-on-One interview she offers simple tools, tips and exercises to strengthen your voice, enhance your creativity and improve your life...whatever your profession, interests or perceived abilities.

The Secret's Bob Doyle

If you know Bob Doyle only from his appearance in the Law of Attraction book and film The Secret, then you know only one side of this multifaceted  and multitalented man. Beyond the Bob Doyle you think you know is Bob Doyle the musician, the magician, the author and the photographer. What links these seemingly unrelated pursuits? Passion: "I promised myself that I would never again do anything for a living that I didn't absolutely love." In this conversation, Bob talks about the passions that drive his life.

From the moment J.A. Jance discovered the Wizard of Oz books in second grade, she wanted to be a writer. Unfortunately, the journey was neither easy nor direct. Discouraged because of her gender and ridiculed by an alcoholic first husband, Jance would be 38 before she began writing. Today, 50+ books later, Jance is a New York Times bestseller and one of the country's top mystery writers. In this conversation,  J.A. Jance talks about her life and her newest books: Second Watch, her 21st J.P. Beaumont mystery, and After the Fall, an autobiographical volume of poetry.

Ellen Hart has been entertaining us with her Jane Lawless mystery series for more than two decades. In this interview, Hart entertains us further as she shares what it means to her to be a storyteller, talks about the challenges of writing fiction that features a lesbian protagonist, tells us why she thinks the mystery genre is so popular, unveils her process (she doesn't outline), reveals her writing-time quirks (incense and cold coffee) and explains why, unlike one of her protagonists, her lipstick does not match the color of her car.

• Visit my YouTube Channel for more entertaining and inspiring videos -- for readers and writers alike!

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Saturday, October 19, 2013

My Father's Day: An Experience of Reconciliation and Love

Few of the stories I share about my father in Acts of Surrender: A Writer's Memoir are flattering. Physically and emotionally absent in my early childhood and dead before my 14th birthday, Sydney Gerson was not the kind of parental figure one thinks of as, well, much of a parental figure. 

On top of that, it turns out that he was probably not my natural father, something I learned long after all the principles in that drama -- him, my mother and my natural father -- had passed away. 

And yet I carry his name, and of the three fathers I have experienced in my life, he is the only one I ever think of as "Daddy." 

So today, on what would have been his 101st birthday, I share this story, a story of love and reconciliation, excerpted from an Acts of Surrender chapter titled "Channel Surfing." It takes place in 1997, while I was on a three-month full-time road odyssey...

"Inspired by my experience at Circling Hawks in Burke's Falls, one of the first things I now always did when arriving in a new town was to flip through the local Yellow Pages in search of health food stores, bookstores, and metaphysical shops and services. It proved an often-successful way for me to connect with like-spirited people on this open-ended road trip. That's how I had found Deep Lake Rocks in Bemidji, the bookstore in Dickinson and Missoula's EarthSpirit Books, where I had been directed to Reiki master Vish. The Yellow Pages was also how I found downtown Boise’s metaphysical emporium, which I drove out to the following morning on what I thought was my way out of town.

"When I walked into the bright, spacious store, a voice greeted me from on high -- not the disembodied spirit I had channeled the previous night during my first-ever channeling experience, but Bodie Dugger, a slim young man with tousled blond hair and a face in that unclassifiable place between chiseled and cherubic. He was perched atop a tall stepladder rearranging merchandise.

"'Where are you from?' he asked a few preliminaries later.

"'Toronto,' I replied.

"He laughed. 'No. What planet or star system? I'm from Arcturus.'

"Not a single customer wandered in during the hour-plus of our conversation, freeing us to chat nonstop about all things metaphysical. By the time I left, I knew I would stay the week so I could attend Bodie's full-moon gathering in seven days

"That afternoon, my cocker spaniel and I checked into the Shilo Inn, with a room right on the Boise River. That evening, I changed into my bathing suit and settled into the white-tiled steam room that's a fixture in many of the chain’s properties. I had no plans, other than to shut my eyes and relax into the steam. But after a few minutes, I felt another presence in the room. I opened my eyes and peered through the clouds of steam. I saw no one.


"No answer.

"I closed my eyes again. Immediately, I sensed a white-robed man staring at me from across the room. He was tall, dark-haired, with a trim beard and mustache and a muscular build. A gold coronet rested on his head.

"'Who are you?' I asked silently.

"'My name is Arctur,' I sensed rather than heard.

"Right, I thought dismissively. My mind is still focused on Bodie and his Arcturian stories. It’s playing tricks on me.

"'This is no trick. I am Arctur,' he repeated.

"Once again, despite myself, I was channeling. I don’t know how long we conversed. Time had no meaning among the mystical swirls of steam.

'If Bodie's from Arcturus,' I challenged, 'where am I from?"

"Not that it matters,' he replied, “'but you're from Sirius....and stop being so serious.'

"I was too serious, too much of the time.

"'There is someone here who wants to speak with you,' Arctur said a few moments later.

"I waited.

"'Because this is so close to the anniversary of your father's death...' Suddenly I sensed my father's presence, Sydney's presence. My heart started to race.

"I'm sorry I couldn’t be the father you wanted me to be,' my father said. 'I’m sorry I couldn’t be there for you in all the ways you deserved.'

"I began to sob.

"'But I loved you and I still love you,' he continued. 'And I'm so proud of what you're doing and what you're becoming. I couldn't be a role model for you, but you're now a role model for me. I'm watching you. I'm with you. I'm learning from you. Thank you.'

"Moments later, I sensed that Sydney and Arctur had left. I was alone, still crying. I opened my eyes. The steam room was empty. I wiped my face, collected myself and returned to my room.

"How close to the anniversary is it? I fired up my laptop and opened my file of significant dates.

"As close as it could be. My father had died 29 years earlier -- on that day."

• An excerpt from Acts of Surrender: A Writer's Memoir (c) 2012 Mark David Gerson

Read more about my three fathers, and much more, in Acts of Surrender, available right now from the Kindle, Nook, Kobo and iBook stores and readable on your e-reader, tablet, computer and smartphone

• Photos (long before I was born) -- Top: My parents, probably around 1940 or 1941. Bottom: A family gathering in the later 1940s. 

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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Voice of the Muse: A Reader's Journey

Rather than offering a traditional ranking and critique, reviewers at The Uncustomary Book Review chronicle their experiences and relationship with the books they write up.

Kat Kiddles's review of The Voice of the Muse: Answering the Call to Write, which I reprint here from a few years back, offers a too-rare window on the journey you travel, as the book's reader. If you've already made that sojourn, you'll undoubtedly recognize some of Kat's experiences in your own. If you haven't, she offers a movingly personal up-close view of what you might expect.

• Unlike when this review first appeared The Voice of the Muse is now available in ebook form as well as paperback. Get the ebook in the Kindle, Nook, Kobo or iBook/iTunes store; the paperback is at The Voice of the Muse Companion recording of guided meditations is sold on CD at and as an MP3 download from iTunes, Amazon, CD Baby and Google Play.

The Voice of the Muse

Review by Kat Kiddles

Reprinted from The Uncustomary Book Review ~ May 29, 2011
Full Title: The Voice of the Muse: Answering the Call to Write
Author: Mark David Gerson
Format: Paperback and ebook
Number of Pages: 248
How long it took me to read: 1 year, 2 weeks, 3 days
Where I got this book: A heavily hinted at Christmas gift
Audio Excerpt: Guided Meditation #10: You Are a Writer

Like a Moth to a Flame
I’m not really sure why I was drawn to this book. I remember watching an interview with the author on a webcast. I think it was during a stage in my development as a writer when I was just warming my mitts to the idea of working with a muse. The creative process was still foreign and uncomfortable; holding my pen brought back ridiculous memories of grade school when we used sausage-sized pencils to learn how to print and the idea of calling myself a writer made me want to cower behind desperate attempts at topic changes so that people would get back to talking about themselves. (Not quite sure how that differs from today, but that’s too large a can of worms to open this late in the evening.)

Favorite Five Quotes
Whittling 13 down to 5…I propose that the top 5 quotes from this book are:
5. “The pain is in the resistance.” (p.113)

4. “You ask why you fear the blank page even as you know that the act of writing will make you feel better. It’s simple: The fear of the void far outweighs any perceived benefit that might arise from allowing it to be filled.” (p.112)

3. “Your imagination is limited by what you think you know. When you let go of that, when you leap off the bridge or cliff with nothing but trust, that’s when you fly.” (p.233)

2. “The fiercest ridicule and loudest, cruelest judgment will come from those who are touched most deeply by your words…Your critics are touched at a place deeper than they feel comfortable going, so their reaction and response is one of cruelty.” (p.69)
…and my pick for the No.1 quote is…
1. “Writers often have the cleanest windows, floors, fridges and toilets, the most up-to-date filing system or the best record for returning calls or e-mails because, in the moment, just about any task seems more palatable than sitting down to write.” (p.136)

New Words
Words are wondrous creatures. Put them together and they paint a picture. Rearrange them and the scene changes. But to be able to see what they are saying, we must first know what they mean.

• New Word: egress (noun)
Definition (Source: WordBook iPhone App): 1) (astronomy) the reappearance of a celestial body after an eclipse; 2) the becoming visible; 3) the act of coming (or going) out; becoming apparent
Synonyms: 1) emersion; 2) emergence, issue; 3) egression, emergence
Origins: 1538; from Latin ‘egressus,’ from egredi ‘go out,’ from ex- ‘out’ + -gredi, comb. form of gradi ‘step, go.’
As in: “If you would but open your heart and allow what longs to flow from you easy egress, there would be no block.” (p.113)

Conversation with the Reader
While I read, I write, and as I write, I read. Here’s some of what I wrote while I read this book:

“I so often feel I’m writing books I don’t know about yet. Is it because the words I’m writing are going to be published one day, or because my scribbled notes will become the fuel of future stories? It’s strange, living a life that you know is going to be something someday, but that still isn’t. I suppose it’s akin to being a gardener, sewing seeds in the soil, knowing that one day the garden will be there, its form only visible in the imagination.”

“Gerson’s book is asking me a question, so I suppose I’ll attempt to answer it.
Where are you now? Where are you now in your writing? In your life?
“Well! I can see we’re starting off on an easy note this morning! Alright, where am I now in my life? Well, I’m in a funny place that has me looking to past relationships as I position myself for my next step. I’m in a place of searching and building. I suppose part of that process is about tying up loose ends, taking these last few moments to indulge in reflecting on the unresolved experiences that have made me who I am today, and making sure I’m as ok as I can be about what it took to get me here.

“Where am I in my writing? Well, a few months ago, I was struggling to write 500 words every other day. Today, words flow into everything I do. They spill onto the sheets of my notebook and splatter onto the pages of my blogs. I write job proposals and professional profiles. I contribute to magazines and draft content for clients. I’m seeing many value-added opportunities through the marriage of writing and education (my passions); however, what I’m not seeing is the coming along of my book…or books (perhaps it’s better to just use the singular for now). So, wherever I am in my writing, it’s a place wrought with the guilt of not doing more work on it, overgrown with the fear of facing it, and polluted with clouds of uncertainty that make it all the more difficult to see the path ahead.

“When I close my eyes and think of a word that represents where I am in this moment, change gurgles up my creative esophagus, followed by a reflux of transition, metamorphosis, chameleon, creation, building blocks, turning corners, cultivation, honing, fine tuning, tweaking, experimenting, listening, silence, soliloquy, crafting and obstacling.

“Although not a ‘real’ word, obstacling feels as though it encompasses so much of my current reality – the act of overcoming obstacles. Obstacling. Maybe that’s my word of the day.

“Next, Gerson asks about his readers’ expectations,
What do you want from this book?
“My first thoughts are of what I don’t want. I don’t want homework or assignments. I don’t want exercises every few pages or activities that make me stop to reflect. Then again, a wise man recently told me that ‘children don’t always know what’s good for them,’ so perhaps I would benefit from focusing less on what I don’t want.

“What I want from this book, then, is a friend – a friend that reassures me that I’m not alone, that reminds me that I’m not crazy, and that encourages me to keep swimming (a reference that will make sense to those of you who’ve conversed with Goldberg on her Long Quiet Highway.”

“Humph. Is writing really as simple as tuning into the frequency of your heart, putting pen to paper, and then just…transcribing? I think I might have sort of maybe thought of it like that once before, but only now that I’ve read it on Gerson’s page is it really beginning to sink in. It might actually be that simple. I know that I’m not supposed to judge, that I’m supposed to trust, so maybe fine-tuned transcription is the perfect approach. But what do you do when you have pages and pages of writing, files of notes and a partial manuscript, all insisting on getting your attention? What do you do with all the words once you’ve poured them (at least some of them) out?”

“I fear my pen will run out soon. I suddenly see my pen as a powerful wand, a Harry Potter wand, a magical wand of words!”

“Enough dust has collected on the cover for me to be squeamish about picking it up. Although I’m aware that the message of the book is what I’m actually fearful of, I firmly believe that dust bunnies have no place in the literary equation.”

“Demand brings force. Force inspires fear. Fear drowns out the silence and muffles the gentle hum of creativity.”

[In response to Guided Meditation #1 - Meet Your Muse (pp.36-8)]
“I crossed the threshold of my imagined door, a door engraved with mystical carvings on glimmering, ancient wood. It felt cold on the other side. Everything was dark, black. My muse, a muse, something, approached; an outline of white, the skeleton of a winged creature. We stood, face-to-face, being-to-being, in an empty space of resolved (resigned) understanding. The gift I received before making my way back was a blank page and a pen. The unspoken message, something along the lines of, ‘Keep going.’

“The encounter hasn’t left me feeling fulfilled or inspired. It’s made me wonder what’s around the corner. It’s making me more aware of consequences, the way choices impact the courses of our journeys. I had thought, had assumed, that once the first drop dribbled over the cliff’s edge, there would no stopping the cascade. Am I about to experience a drought?”

[In response to the writing exercise on p.51]

“My healing lies in a place of self-embrace, where sizes are stretched and words are dressed in colorful tunics embroidered with lace from foreign lands no map can chart. My healing lies in the space between my breath – a place undisturbed by attempts to control and define. My healing lies outside of me, for everything inside pushes order ahead of the unknown. How can healing have enough room to spread and stretch in a space too small to measure? My healing lies in a place I haven’t found, in a direction I’m forgetting to look. Does healing mean succeeding, or is it just another sequence of letters defining acceptance?”

“What would you say if someone were to tell you that the book you were about to start reading was equivalent to a yoga class for writers, where the words were the teacher and the writing activities were the poses? How would you feel holding a verbal asana for minutes at a time, meditating on the imagery of the author’s vision, while trying to maintain a deep, even breath? To me, it feels as though I’m wobbling my way through tree pose, desperately trying not to fall on my face, not because of the inevitable pain but to avoid having to publicly admit that I couldn’t do it. When reading words turns into a strenuous exercise, it’s difficult to want to get back to the verbal gym the next day.”

[In response to the writing exercise on p.98]
“I follow my pen wherever it carries me. Today it carries me to…

“…the ends of the earth, where I can tickle the stars with the tips of my lashes and caress the sands with a hand touched by the mercy of a moment’s repose.

“…the center of the softest of all marshmallows, where there’s none of the stickiness and all of the joy these puffs bestow upon good girls and boys when the time comes to greet the forest and count the leaves and feel the freedom of sleeping outside.

“…a place with no walls and no keys and not even ripe cheese. All that exists is the nothingness in between.”

“I trusted today. I trusted, despite time constraints and inner fears. I trusted. I sat in front of the computer, and I trusted. What poured out was a story I discovered for the first time as it filled the screen. I trusted words today, and now I think I believe that words trust me. They trust me to carry them with me each day. They trust me not to lose them as I rifle through my bag for a piece of gum and dig through my change purse for my office key. They trust me to share them with you. It is for trust that I am grateful today.”

“Reading this book can be restful, which isn’t an adjective I expected to use when I started it. I expected a tormented experience that thrashed me against the waves of my resistance. Instead, or rather, in addition to what I expected, I also got a reminder to breathe, encouragement to withdraw from the tension and to splash in my frothing pool of unused words.

“I wouldn’t recommend this book to commuters who spend their time reading on trains, not unless you have a very steady hand when inspiration strikes. Then again, perhaps I shouldn’t assume people still write with quill on parchment. Gerson does inspire, but more than encouraging me to write, he continuously reminds me to relax – a welcome reminder he seems to have known I would need nearly each day of the year it took me to complete my journey with him. For that, I am thankful.”

“Near the end of the book, Gerson reflects on how the meaning of words is defined more by the meaning we put into them than by the meaning we find in the dictionary. He talks about what the word feedback means to him.

“On first thought, feedback is something I feel as though I’m supposed to like, supposed to be open to, supposed to want to invite into my writing process. On second thought, I admit to fearing the process – fearing being told to go back and rewrite what I thought had already taken full form. But if I’m honest with myself, if I open up to the core of my truth, then the process of receiving feedback is akin to (slowly and patiently) unwrapping a present.

“Even when you know you’re going to get a gift, that first moment of receipt is so often filled with excitement. You see the beautiful promise of potential coming your way. There is so much possibility in that moment, so much fuel for the imagination.

“Then you begin to unwrap it. You notice the slightly ripped paper, the uneven folds, the off-centered ribbon, the strips of wrinkled tape. You disregard them, refusing to give them permission to ruin the perfect image of your first impression.

“Once you get past the paper and bows, you reach the box – undecorated, unimaginative, disappointing. You may even discover that it’s a recycled box of crackers or of discounted muffin mix that’s been forming the shape of your gift.

“It’s only when you work through the process of unwrapping your present, tearing apart its shell of generic packaging, that you begin to capture a glimpse of the true gift hidden inside. The more you unwrap, the closer you get to your truth.

“The best part of feedback is the realization that the real gift was better than what you first expected. Yes, sometimes you get a gift you don’t want or that you don’t think you need, but that’s just life’s way of helping you learn acceptance. And, as is often the case when the festivities are over, you’re left with lots of used wrapping paper, some of which will get tossed, and some that can be salvaged for future gifts.”

• Reprinted from The Uncustomary Book Review: A Conversation with the Reader, 5/29/2011

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Saturday, October 12, 2013

Who's Who in Q'ntana: A Guide to the People, Places & Creatures of The Q'ntana Trilogy

I always insist that the unusual people, place and creature names in The MoonQuest, The StarQuest and The SunQuest are pronounced exactly as they look....but no one ever believes me! So, for the unbelievers and terminally confused, here's Who's Who & Pronunciation Guide to the world of Q'ntana.

The Place 
Much of trilogy is set in the mythical land of Q'ntana [kin-TAH-nah], a land where two suns shine in the sky. The larger sun, Aygra, rises in the east and sets in the west. The smaller sun, B'na [bih-NA], rises in the west and sets in the east. They meet at noon in what's known as "suns-merge." The moon is called M'nor [mih-NOR]

In The StarQuest, there is only one sun (Aygra), and land is knowns as M'ranna [mer-AN-ah].

The MoonQuesters 
• Toshar [TOE-shar] ~ Reluctant hero of The MoonQuest and, in his late teens, the youngest surviving bard (storyteller) in Q'ntana.
• Yhoshi [YOE-shee] ~ One of TosharOne of Tosharʼs three MoonQuest companions, along with Fynda and Garan. In his late teens.
• Fynda [FIN-da] One of Tosharʼs three MoonQuest companions, along with Yhoshi and Garan. In her late teens. 
• Garan [GA-rren, rhymes with Darren] ~ One of Tosharʼs three MoonQuest companions, along with Fynda and Yhoshi. His full name is Ryolan Ó Garan [RY-o-lin o GA-rren].

The StarQuesters & The SunQuesters
• Q'nta [KIN-tah] ~ Toshar's daughter
• Ben ~ A young man in his late teens when we first meet him in The StarQuest
• Tom Dirqs [Tom Durks] ~ A humanoid of indeterminate age but childlike energy. One of Q'nta's companions on The StarQuest.
• Mariah [ma-RY-ah] ~ A country girl in her early teens. One of Q'nta's companions on The StarQuest.
• Panesh [pa-NESH] ~ An "angarusha," one who walks between the dream and waking worlds. One of Ben's companions in The SunQuest.
• Janq'a [JAN-ka] ~ A dwarf-like man and one of Ben's companions in The SunQuest.
• My'leen [my-LEEN] ~ A woman in her early 20s and one of Ben's companions in The SunQuest.

Other Principal Q'ntana Characters 
• BoʼRaʼKʼn [bo-RAH-kin] The evil force behind all three stories in The Q'ntana Trilogy.
• Eulisha [you-LEE-sha] ~ Toshar's grandmother and Elderbard, one of the most honored positions in the land before the present tyranny.    
• Na'an [NAWN, rhymes with "fawn] ~ A Tikkan Dreamwalker. She weaves dreams and sometimes appears in them. Itʼs rare for her to appear to someone who is awake.
• O'ric [OH-rick] ~ An oracle, old yet ageless.
• Reesa Kam'ana [REE-sa ka-MAN-ah] ~ The Star Chantress.
• S'kryssna S'kyaga [sk-RISS-na skee-YA-ga] ~ Evil sorceress.

Everyone Else in Q'ntana (listed alphabetically)
• Ama'ray [AHM-ah-ray] Villager in The SunQuest.
• Ana [AH-nah] ~ Ethereal being in The SunQuest.
• An'Coro [an-CO-ro] ~ Kyri's general.
• Artos [AR-tos] ~ Court page.
• Bonda'ar [BONN-dar] ~ Character in one of Ben's stories and king of Hana Mar O Q'inaya [HA-na mar oh ki-NAY-ah].
• Co'anra [ko-AN-rah] ~ Twin brother to Co'anri.
• Co'anri [ko-AN-re] ~ Twin sister to Co'anri.
• Coriann [CO-ree-un] ~ Appears in one of Toshar's stories.
• Cormal [COR-mal] ~ One of S'kryssna S'kyaga's guardsmen (aka Ka-Rey: kah-RAY).
 Crozon [CRO-zun] ~ Innkeeper. Fynda's father. Mean, slovenly and abusive.
• Dadu [da-DU] - Garan's father.
• Dafna [DAF-na] ~ Kyri's younger sister.
• Fara [FA-rah] ~ Tough warrior queen of the Vilda'aa [vil-DAH] people.
• Forq'ad [FOR'kad] ~ One of the King's Men in The SunQuest (see Holgg).
 Fvorag [FOR-ag] ~ Cruel king of Q'ntana.

• Gorkat [GOR-kat] ~ One of S'kryssna S'kyaga's guardsmen (aka Ka-Tika: kah-TEE-kah). See also Holgg.
• Grandmother Dirqs (The Grandmother) [Durks] ~ Tom Dirqs's grandmother.
• Gravel [gra-VEL] ~ King of Q'ntana in The SunQuest.
• Grizz'm [GRIZ-em] ~ Gravel's first minister. 
• Gwil'm [GWILL-im] ~ Leader of the Tena'aa [ten-AH], a diminutive people with a reputation for fierceness, who give Eulisha and her bards sanctuary.
• Gwna [guin-AH] ~ Ethereal being who appears to TosharYoshiFynda and Garan in the Table of Prophecy, also known as Kol Kolai [kohl ko-LYE].
• Holgg [WHOLG, rhyme it with “bold,” but as though it had a “g” at the end] ~ Captain of the King's Men, the brutal army whose soldiers ride black stallions and dress identically in black shirts, pants, boots and masks.
 Kor'da [KOR-dah-] Villager in The SunQuest.
• Kronan [KRO-nun] ~ Retired soldier.
• Kyri [KEE-ree] ~ Crown prince and, later, King of Alanda [ah-LAHN-da], Q'ntana's ancient and never-conquered capital.
• Leq [LECK] ~ One of Micah M'renna's farmhands.
• Lanaya [la-NYE-ah] ~ A female scribe.

• Magritta [ma-GREET-ah] ~ Micah M'renna's housekeeper.
• Manu [ma-NOO] Appears in one of Toshar's stories.
• Marq'o [MARK-oh] ~ Villager in The SunQuest.
• Maysha [MAY-sha] ~ Villager in The SunQuest and wife of Rolo'en [ROH-low-en].
• Micah M'renna [MI-cah mer-REYN-na] ~ Mariah's uncle in The StarQuest.
• Miknos [MEEK-nos] ~ Court page
• M'naben [mi-NAH-bin] ~ A female scribe.

• Myrrym [MEER-im] ~ Zakk's wife.

• No'An'o [no-AHN-no] ~ guardian of the Do'Am portal in The StarQuest.

• Prak'ka [pra-KAH] ~ Captain of the King's Guard under Gravel (see Holgg).

• Ra'ina ~ [ra'EE-nah] ~ Friend of Panesh and wife of Yeer'ga [YEAR-gah].

• Rolo'en [ROH-low-en] ~ Villager in The SunQuest and husband of Maysha [MAY-sha].

• Ro'an [ROW-un] ~ Toshar's cousin.

• Simeon [SIM-ee-an] ~ Court page in Q'nta's Castle Rose.

• Tyanna [TEE-ya-nah] ~ Toshar's mother.

• Yeer'ga [YEAR-gah] ~  Friend of Panesh and husband of Ra'ina [ra-EE-nah].

• Yzythq'a [iz-ITH-kah] ~ Otherworldy oracle in The SunQuest.

• Zakk [ZACH] ~ Toshar's uncle and Eulisha's younger son, a sly, mean and abusive man who took over Tosharʼs schooling when Garan went missing.

Q'ntana's Creatures 
• Arukka [a-roo-KAH] ~ A tartaruca [tar-TAR-u-kah].
• Da'nay [dah-NAY] ~ Large, leopard-like creature.
• Freya [FRAY-ah] ~ A whale-like baleya [bah-LAY-ah].
• Fynn'Qya [fin-KEY-ah] A giant, fish-like thor'qya [thor-KEY-ah].
• Kep'cha [KEP-cha] A giant, black bird-like creature piloted by a thorag [THOH-rag].
• Meya [MAY-ah] ~ A whale-like baleya [bah-LAY-ah].
• Mishak [MEE-shahk] A kyrrel [KEE-rul]. Appears in one of Toshar's stories.
• Nayla [NAY-lah] ~ A black, menacing coyote/wolf-like creature with a bloodcurdling howl.
• Parika [pa-REE-kah] ~ A multicolored bird.
• Pryma [PREE-mah] ~ A tartaruca [tar-TAR-u-kah].
• Rykka [REE-kah] ~ One of Oric's magical horses, the pale blue of the dawn sky.
• S'kala [sih-KA-la] ~ A two-headed serpent.
• Ta'ar [TAR] One of Oric's magical horses, the smoky plum of dusk.
• Tashek [TAH-shek] ~ A creature that morphs between bird of fire and lion.
• The Q'ophar [KO-far] ~ Half man, half dragon.
• Thorag [THO-rag] A one-eye, troll-like drone that pilots a kep'cha [KEP-cha].
• Treya [TRAY-ah] ~ A whale-like baleya [bah-LAY-ah].

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