Anniversary

Joseph Jones plopped down in the chair near the fireplace.  JJ, his friends called him, and he was exhausted after a full day of people and celebration. He was finally able to sit with a glass of wine in his hand to wind down as he stared over at the urn where his dead wife sat atop the mantle.  She was quiet now, her lovely voice stricken from his world forever.  A second glass of wine sat next to the urn, so he might share a glass with her again, as was custom on every holiday they celebrated.

A solitary tear fell from his eye, and he didn’t bother to wipe it away.  It had been 5 years come tomorrow at 7:27am.  It was bittersweet for JJ, however, and he found a smile despite the pain, or perhaps because of it.

His son, Caden, lay snoring on the couch.  The fireplace alight with flames flicking the shadows every which way.  Remnants of the party lay strewn about the floor.  Streamers in places, half torn, yet hung from the ceiling here or there; some toys were on the floor; and he could smell the scents of the icing on the cake wafting in from the kitchen.  If the sights and aromas were anything to judge by, he would say the party was a success, and Caden sure seemed to enjoy his little self.

JJ’s mind went back to Melinda as he took another sip of wine, of the day his beautiful boy came into the world.  Another tear.  Such joy, such agony, and all at the same moment.  More tears.  Even after all this time, five short-long years, JJ had yet to figure out how to live outside of Caden.  In the next breath, he could no longer control the tears streaming down his face.  JJ could admit he still had no idea how to navigate this emotional dichotomy.

A small coffee table waited in front of him, patiently holding a notebook with a pen in its rings.

It felt like it all happened that very morning. “Mr. Jones,” a voice had said so long ago, or maybe it was as recent as yesterday, “This is Nurse Trish, from the Intensive Care Unit at Methodist Hospital…”  There was a hesitation in her voice, and his heart sank.  He was unable to make out much more, catching only keywords, “…accident …baby …deceased …so sorry Mr. Jones.”  He couldn’t breathe, and even now, five years later, he still had no idea how he made it to the hospital.  Everything was a blur, simultaneously distant and all-too-near.  He recalled hearing everything, but could make out none of it.

He remembered watching the doctors as they worked feverishly on the baby, who came out at an early 34 weeks, and needed to be closely monitored.  Breathing machine, intravenous lines, and all while his wife lay unmoving in another part of the hospital, perhaps being pronounced dead as he stood there, unable to think or move.  Thankfully, his sweet Caden was healthy, and required only a short time in the NICU.

However, the doctors gave no false hope to Joseph upon his arrival, informing him that the most he could do was be there for his son.  That morning was the last he got to hold his beloved Melinda, or look into her eyes, or feel her gaze and touch in return.

He snapped back to the present and looked over at his beautiful Caden laying there snoring, perfect in every way – who had never seen his mother, never got to know her, whose joyous birth coincided with the worst day of JJ’s life.

It was still all too near, for it felt like just that morning JJ had kissed his lovely Melinda for the last time.  If only she had stayed home like he wanted she might still be alive.  Playfully, he had teased Melinda about not going in to work, to just call in for the day and stay home with him, that he would call in as well and they could make a sexy day of it.  But the time drew near for baby Caden to be born, and Melinda wanted to make sure she maximized her time off with the baby, her workplace only allowing for so much.

JJ wiped a tear from his eye, a smile on his lips.  His gaze belied the strange mixture of feelings he felt deep within.  If he had only held onto her a moment longer, maybe she would have caught a red light that would have prevented her from being hit.  If perhaps he had just let her go to work like normal she might have beaten her fate by crossing the light before the man ran the red light.

But if not her, then who?  What other family might have suffered in JJ’s place?  Every time he had such thoughts, those “what-ifs” that plague everyone, he felt a sense of guilt.

Sometimes the greatest memories were harbingers for the worst, and that made them that much more terrible.

He celebrated his son, to be certain, but behind the façade, he was just as broken as he was joyous – an odd dichotomy, a living paradox – and these emotions were always worst this time of year.

A smile, genuine for the joy of his son, doubled as a mask to hide the excruciating pain he also felt within.  As he did every year on the anniversary of his wife’s loss, he reached for the notebook patiently waiting on the table for JJ and pulled his favorite pen from the rings.  He removed the cap and began to scrawl a letter written for Melinda, but for Caden to read at some point in the future.

Melinda, he began, You should see our Caden.  He looks more and more like you everyday.  He’s rambunctious and loving and intelligent.  You’d be so proud of him.  I know I am…

He continued on into the night, until no more tears or words could come from him.  Spent.  His catharsis complete for the moment,  he noticed where teardrops stained the paper with bleeding ink, now dried, and he got up, picked up Caden gently, and carried his angel boy to bed, careful to step over all the toys left out from the day’s activities.  JJ smiled and kissed Caden on the forehead as he tucked him in.

When he woke up the next morning, his son was eating some cereal in the living room, watching cartoons on Netflix.  JJ had to be strong, present, not altogether difficult, but he wanted the day and celebration with his son to be purposeful in every way.  “Happy birthday, bud.  Whatcha watching?”  JJ yawned as he came up behind the couch where Caden sat on the floor watching TV.

“Voltron.”

A smile crossed JJ’s face, “It’s a bit loud, isn’t it?”  Caden didn’t seem to catch his point, and JJ just left well enough alone, “I used to watch that when I was your age.  Mind if I get some cereal and come sit with you?  I could use a distraction.”  He wished he could have taken back that last utterance as soon as it left his mouth.

“I don’t mind Daddy.  Thinking about my mommy?”  The kid never missed a thing, and while JJ never went into too much detail, he made sure to take the time to tell Caden how much he was loved by his mommy as well.

“Every day, my sweet boy.  But today, my li’l angel, today is your day.”  He pulled out a bowl and the milk as he looked over at Caden with a smile and a wink.  The chair Caden used to reach everything still in the middle of the kitchen.  As he looked around, he noticed that either no milk had been spilt, or Caden cleaned it up well enough.  Either way, JJ was impressed.

Looking back to the TV, Caden replied, “I wish I coulda met her.”

“Oh you would have loved her.  Hers was a smile that could light up the moon itself.  Much like yours.”  JJ smiled.  An image flashed in his mind of his own childhood, when he was five, like Caden.  He smiled at the thought of Heather, the only friend he had in the world at that tender age.  Of how they would go to the big yucca down the street and collect ladybugs in their big jar, taking turns caring for the bugs.  Truly, he thought of her often, for she was the only light to find in the overall darkness of his memories.  “She loved you with all her heart.”  JJ wanted only light for Caden.

He picked up the flat-laying box of cereal and poured it into his bowl, noting how it was toppled over on the counter, spilt all over the place.  “You couldn’t pick up your mess?”  JJ rolled his eyes and turned toward the living room as he heard and felt the crunch of the Cinnamon Toast Crunch square under his bare foot.

Caden looked at his dad and beamed, completely ignoring the last bit, “I have mom’s smile?  Everyone says I look just like you.”

“Well, I say you have your mommy’s smile.  I see so much of her in you, my baby.  I think you are looking more like her with every passing day.  And yeah, you definitely have her smile.  Yup, that one right there,” JJ said, putting the box of cereal and the milk away, determined to clean up the kitchen after he finished eating with Caden.

“I’m not a baby anymore.  I’m five now.”

“Well then, big boy, you can clean up the mess you made.”  JJ grabbed his bowl and left the kitchen to sit next to his lovely boy, cross-legged on the floor, then he leaned over and bumped Caden lightly.  Caden put his bowl down and tried with all his might to budge dad with his little shoulder.

Caden looked over at JJ, defeated, “Not fair, daddy.  But one day, I’ll get you back.”

“Can’t wait, li’l buddy.  So, today is your actual birthday.  What do you want to do?  Today is yours.”

“I wanna visit mom’s favorite place.  Then get some Legos and come back and build them with you.”

“You’re definitely my kid.  I love you, bud.”

“Love you too, Daddy.”

JJ looked over at the mantle where his wife lay, a picture of the two of them, Melinda beaming and glowing as a pregnant woman often does, and they both hugged her growing belly.  Even now, she could take his breath away in all the greatest of ways.

Melinda’s favorite place had been the lake, not too far from their home.  It had become Caden’s favorite place as well, although JJ was unsure whether it was because it was his mom’s favorite, or because he really just loved it there.  It was summer, and a perfect day for a swim.  So they would go and enjoy a swim, and some ice cream and candy, and Lego building, even if the memories of his wife would eat him alive.

One day he would need to let her go.  JJ thought about his mom and dad, who kept telling him that Caden needed a mom in his young life.  But he didn’t want anyone, he was doing okay, at least he had convinced himself he was okay.  Convinced himself that he didn’t need anyone.  They had their home, and food, and plenty of smiles and laughter to fill the house.  Aside from a massive hole in his heart that never healed, JJ was, indeed, happy.  Caden was that happiness.

~*~*~

The lake was warm, as expected, but so nice.  JJ had taught Caden to swim in the lake from the time he was very little, after a bit of a fright when Caden ran and jumped in the water during a barbeque.  It scared JJ, but now he was confident in Caden’s ability to swim, and while he never takes his eyes off his precious boy, he also knows he can worry a bit less.

A big grin went across JJ’s face as he unloaded the car and turned to see Caden jump off the small pier and right into the water.  No fear.

“Hey bud!” JJ yelled when Caden resurfaced a second later.

Treading water, Caden flashed his teeth at his daddy, “Yeah dad?!”

“I’m gonna set up our picnic, be careful!”

“Daaaaaadd…” came the exasperated reply.  And with that, Caden was swimming around like he owned the place.  JJ laughed and finished walking to the shore, ever vigilant.

“You ready for a sammich, bud?”

“No, I’m ready to swim!”

“You don’t need your goggles?”

“Well, I suppose it’s fun to see in the water.  Can you toss them to me?”

“No, what if I hit you?”  JJ laid out the blanket and food.  “Come get your goggles and have a sammich.”

“Ugh, fine.”  And Caden disappeared beneath the surface.  JJ could still see his son, swimming like a frog toward the shore.  The kid was getting better and better with holding his breath.  After enjoying a quick sandwich, and putting some sunblock on the boy, Caden was back in the water, and soon thereafter JJ joined him in the water.  Splashing about, swimming, they enjoyed a couple of hours at the lake, taking in all the sun they could.

~*~*~

The bags the Legos came in were always so loud, and opening up the new set brought a smile to JJ’s face as he wrestled with them, struggling to open them so the Legos wouldn’t explode outward every which way.  He failed at least once, to raucous laughter from Caden, and he joined his son, unable to contain it, until his belly and sides ached, tears rolling down his cheeks.

Eventually they found all the scattered Legos and placed them into piles associated with the bags, at least as much as they could.  They would find out shortly how well they did.  Regardless, the two of them had a blast together, and JJ absolutely loved the time he spent on the floor, his butt and knees hurting, his feet having lost all feeling except for the pins and needles he loathed so much, and yet, he refused to move from his son’s side until they had finished putting together the set.  After that, JJ only got up to grab the bin of Legos so they could play some more.  It was a funnily slow and painful walk, but JJ couldn’t care any less if he’d tried.  Caden was all that mattered.

The shared smiles and fun Caden was having was enough for him.  He could even feel Melinda’s smile on them both.  Her spirit was always with them, JJ just wished he could hold her again, that he could touch her once more.

“Daddy?”

JJ was brought out of his reverie, “Yeah, bud?”

“I wanna hear a story about Mommy.”

“Oh yeah?  Which one?”

“The funny one.  Where I made mama sick and she told you, ‘This child is trying to kill me,’ it always makes me laugh.”  He raised his voice to try and imitate a mama whose voice he only ever heard from within the womb, and JJ laughed at both Caden and the memory.

“Well, you know the story so well, maybe you should tell it to me,” JJ smiled.

Caden looked at him cockeyed, a mixture of JJ’s own brand of humor and Melinda’s attitude, “No Daddy, you need to tell it.”

“Fine,” JJ conceded. “Well,” he began, “your mama and I had just found out that we were going to be having a baby, and your mama wanted to eat at her favorite restaurant to celebrate.”

“Mommy loved eating at Olive Garden, huh Dad?”

“She really did, even though the quality of food had gone down,” JJ shrugged and frowned a bit, crinkling his eyebrows in exaggerated consideration as he recalled the tale to his son.  This drew smiles from Caden.

“You mean the food was gross, Daddy?”

“Well, not that bad, bud, but I pretty much only liked the breadsticks at that point,” JJ laughed with the reminiscence of his beloved wife.  “Whatever your mom ate, which I think was the fettucine alfredo, did not sit well with her.”

“Yucky.  That stuff is gross.”

JJ laughed again, “It’s not that gross, relax.”

“Well I don’t like it,” Caden said, matter-of-factly, as though he’d tried every food known to man.

“So I’ve noticed.  Anyway, after we got home, your mommy’s tummy was bothering her, and very soon she ran to the bathroom.”

“See dad?  The noodles made mama sick, and now I can’t eat them.”

“Oh, is that how that works?”

“Duh,” Caden shook his head as he rolled his eyes at his father, all too obvious for the five year old.  Daddy clearly knew nothing.

“Where did you get your attitude from, you li’l turd?”

“Mommy.”

It was JJ’s turn to roll his eyes, and he scoffed in mock exasperation at his son, “Well, regardless, your mama, leaning over the toilet after throwing up,” Caden was giggling like the little boy he was, “she looked up at me, wiped her face, and said, “This child is trying to kill me.”  JJ left out the real phrasing Melinda used so his five-year-old boy wouldn’t know that Mommy had a potty mouth, but he found himself laughing at her actual spoken words.

She loved Caden from the moment they saw him on the ultrasound.  The tears in her eyes of pure joy mirrored JJ’s.  They had been trying for years.  Seeing and hearing the little heartbeat was enough to make Melinda bawl.  JJ held her hand and kissed it, staring at the little life within her womb, tears streaming down his face as well.

They were going to have a baby.

“Daddy?” Caden pulled JJ back to the present.

“Yes, my li’l love?”

“Mama was the best, wasn’t she?”

“The very best.  And even though you were trying to kill her,” he joked teasingly as he tickled Caden, “she loved you more than life itself,” a big grin crossed JJ’s face and he winked at Caden again.

“Daddy?”

“Hmm?”

“I wasn’t actually trying to kill mama.”

“Well, I know that, but how do you know?  You’re just a li’l turd.  You couldn’t possibly remember.”  JJ continued to tease Caden.

“I sure do,” he beamed, with a smile that could outshine the sun.  Then he looked up at his daddy again and asked, “Daddy, do you ever think about finding me another mama to love me and you?”

“You really should stop listening to your grandparents,” JJ chuckled.  “And why would we need another mama for you?  Your mama was amazing.  I don’t think we could find someone like her again,” he offered up in return.  Perhaps his parents were right, he could not find another Melinda, but perhaps he could find someone who could love Caden the way he deserved to be loved.  After these five years, JJ never really gave women a second thought.  Sure, he might find himself physically attracted to someone, but moments like that passed through his mind quickly

“I don’t know, there are a lot of girls out there.  I see them all the time in my school and class.”  Life was much simpler for a kid.  JJ understood though, if Caden saw girls everywhere, then his daddy ought to be seeing women everywhere as well.  Truth be told, JJ had pretty much stopped looking altogether.  Or, perhaps more accurately, he saw but never took notice.

“There are a lot of girls, but none quite like your mama.  She was the only one in the whole world that I could find like her,” oh the romance of it all, which was completely lost on Caden.

“Daddy,” he looked at JJ with that Melinda-attitude again, and JJ knew he was about to get educated, “but you haven’t seen the whole world.”

“And just when did you become so stinkin’ smart?” JJ scooped up Caden in his arms and held him close, tickling the poor boy trapped in daddy’s embrace.  “Huh?  Huh?”

Caden laughed, fighting for JJ to stop, but then wanted more when JJ slowed his assault.  Eventually, it was time for bed, and JJ tucked Caden in for the night.  “School tomorrow, li’l bud.  Did you have fun today?”

“It was the best day ever.  Love you daddy.”

“Love you more, my sweet boy.”

“Nuh uh, I love you nineteen!”

“Whoa… that much?  Are you sure?”

“Yup!”

“Well, I don’t know if I can handle all of that, Caden, but you know what?”

“What daddy?”

“I’ll bet you anything when I get up in the morning my heart will have grown more to hold all that love you’re sending my way.”

“Is that how it works, daddy?  Our hearts grow and fill with love?”

“Yes, my li’l love.  That’s how it works.  I love you, Caden.  Sleep well, my baby boy.”

“I’m five dad, this many,” Caden held up all the fingers on his hand.

“Oh, I’m so sorry, I must have forgotten.  Sleep well, my big boy.”  JJ turned and closed the door a smidge on his way out, leaving the hallway light on for Caden, “Good night, Caden.  I love you.”

“I love you too, Daddy.”

JJ was the luckiest man on the planet.  He went to his bathroom, brushed his teeth and sat in bed with the lamp on, pulling out a book to read.  Tonight was a continuation of War Angel, by A.L. Mengel.

~*~*~

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The Dark Archer by Robert Cano

A wonderful review on my book The Dark Archer, from Stacy Overby… Check it out!!! And as for the cons, this was certainly done on purpose, as my target audience is of those seeking a more intelligent read.

Thanks Stacy, for the wonderful and thoughtful review!

S. Overby's This is Not Hitchhiker's Guide

Title: The Dark Archer
Author: Robert Cano
Genre: Dark Fantasy

The Dark Archer is where Bene’s story starts. Loyal to his princess at all costs, he is tortured, and his soul is ripped from his being. As a wraith, Bene searches for death to avoid hurting others to survive. His quest brings him an unlikely group of followers who become his friends despite his efforts to avoid those connections. After all, they are all seeking redemption.

Pros:

There are a lot of things I loved about this book. First is the world building. Cano spent a lot time developing his world. The compleTDA ebook cover finalxity of creatures, social rules, and history are stunning. And the way he doles it out just fast enough to be interesting but not overwhelming is masterful. Every detail seemed well thought out.

I also loved the character development. These are characters who have a tremendous amount…

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The Shadow Cult

The sequel to The Dark Archer has hit a bit of a snag.  I got about 30k words in, but I’ve come across a wall, and not for the story, but for how to bridge the gaps between where I am now and where it needs to go.

Part of the problem here is that I write linearly.  The other part of this is that I’m juggling 8 different points of viewA massive undertaking, which I knew and expected.  I think the fact that I had to stop for a while threw off my thought train, and I’ve yet to get it back on the rails. This is okay, I’ll get it going again soon, but I’ll just have to be patient with myself.  I know what I’m capable of doing, and with school back up, I think I’ll be okay to write in between assignments.

Anyway, I just wanted to give a bit of an update for those who were wondering.  Probably because I’ve been wondering a bit myself…  Thanks for stopping by.  I’ve got some poems to write as well.  Time to get after it.

The Dark Archer

34190336_2086963601586345_7414342381694091264_nI have not been able to write a blog for myself for some time now.  For those of you who don’t know yet, The Dark Archer has officially been released as of July 26th!

This marks almost a year since I began this novel, but many more years’ culmination of work in this fantasy world.  As some know, my first book release, a novella entitled The Suffering, was released back in January of this year as an experiment.

I needed to learn some of the finer points, and while I consider this a success in that regard, the world of publishing is a crazy one, and for an introverted type like myself, the marketing aspect is a world we need but don’t want.

And so, here I am, writing a post for my first novel and second story written in the world I’ve created.  As I write this, I am in the middle of writing the sequel to The Dark Archer, called The Shadow Cult, and it is already at 30k word count.  The hope is to have this done and released by next summer.  Tough but doable.

With all of that said, I’d like to narrow my focus to The Dark Archer.

This is Bene’s story.  He is a wraith.  Wraiths are steeped in lore and legend and myth, where they were a frightening entity that stole a person’s soul.  For my world, I took this idea, creating a system where a wraith can be created by being separated from their soul.  In order to function, a wraith must feed off the life-force of the living.

The life-force can be magic or life, but ultimately, the idea is to draw from the soul of the person.  A wraith kills.

This makes Bene’s character an interesting one, because he still holds on to his humanity, and does not wish to kill.  There is a caveat to this, of course – because he was a soldier, he has killed and will kill to protect the innocent.  The problem is that Bene, as a wraith, faces a physical torment should he refuse to feed.  But if he does feed, he carries the full weight of the agony felt by his victim.

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The darkness of The Dark Archer is not one of evil, per se, but that of hopelessness, sorrow, and despair.  The physical pain and torture he endures only adds to this throughout the story.  I have seen a lot of dark fantasy which covers the ideas of evil and horrible actions taken by characters in the story – things that we consider “dark.”  But I’ve never read a dark fantasy that speaks to the horrors of despair.

In the end, we always have a choice.  The Suffering speaks to one possible path.  The Dark Archer takes us on another one.

If you’re interested in reading my books, please follow me on Amazon or you can find me on smashwords.  Either place has a sample for you to read and enjoy.  So join me, and get lost in my world, fall in love with my characters.  I’m positive you won’t be disappointed.  If you do take a chance on my stories, I humbly ask that you leave me a review when you’re done.

Thank you.  And please feel free to spread the word by sharing this far and wide.  I can use all the help I can get.  Have a great one, and I do hope to see you in the world of Arduil.  Bene awaits you.

Depression

I had posted this on my facebook page, but I wanted to get this here on my blog as well.

With all the recent talk and posts of those meaning well with regards to depression, I felt compelled to respond in some way. What I am going to do right now is attempt to shed some light on depression.

Some know, many don’t, that I am depressive. Due to my past I have dealt with PTSD since I was 3, and the depression, I believe, was spawned from the same things that caused the PTSD.

Now my goal here is not to ruin your worldview, or try to make you feel bad or anything. That’s not me. But my purpose in this post is hopefully to educate you so you understand perhaps just a little bit better about how we think and how we operate.

Let me explain how it works for me.

My childhood was hell. I’m going to leave it at that. My middle school years were horrible and I became suicidal at 14. Figured the world was better off without me.

I still believe the world would be better off without me. Please understand, there is absolutely nothing you can say to make me believe otherwise. This is a daily battle. A struggle I have to face every day of my life.

At some point I realized I had to begin a journey if I was to survive. And this journey became my life. You see, I had to understand. I had to understand myself, my perception of what it meant to be a part of this world, what I meant to others in my life, and how all these things intertwined to create me. In the end, it all comes down to perception.

But the journey to oneself is not to be taken lightly. And it ends only with our death. In a way, to embrace this journey is to admit we know nothing, are nothing, and eventually we may discover ourselves in the midst of all the commotion and noise surrounding us.

Now, here’s the thing that many don’t seem to grasp: While I appreciate your kindnesses, they are irrelevant. A kind word doesn’t make me get up in the morning. Trying to remind me that I have a wife and daughters who love me doesn’t help me roll out of bed. You don’t have that power.

I’m sorry if this hurts your heart. I don’t mean it to. But I need you to understand. My life, ultimately, is my own. It is not yours to do with as you please, and in that same vein you do not have the capacity to make me feel better or worse about myself unless I gave you that power.

Trust me, I didn’t. Now, I am not speaking for all depressives, but I’d venture to guess that there are many like me. But please know this, if someone wants to talk, they will talk. If they do not want to talk, you cannot force them. If anything, you may force them to shut down further by trying to intercede… and we lose that person we love so much at the end of our actions which were meant to save.  Ironic, isn’t it?

The reality is that there is no real answer to this problem. All we can do is our best. In a world beset by the ravages of philosophical, theological and political turmoil, with people confused, or in utter hatred of those different than they are, I fear the problem of depression will only get worse.

Our vets are taking their lives at an average of 22 a day.  But we tell them to man up.  Or we tell them that they just have to work through it.  What about those who have had to deal with childhood issues, like physical or sexual abuse?  Their demons are among the worst a human could face.  But they just need to get over it, right?  Forgive and move on, because that fixes everything [Sarcasm].

I want you all to know that I am okay. No need for worrying or anything. But I also need you to know and understand that even if there was cause for concern, your words would be met with a smile and a ‘thank you’ that was as empty and meaningless as your gesture. I know that sounds harsh, but this is exactly how we see it. We can’t just be fixed, or snap out of it. It does not work that way.

For those of you who stuck through reading this, thank you for listening.

A Rant.

So much of what I am about to say is going to come across as insensitive or uncaring to people’s feelings…  Both of which are true.  If you do not know how I truly feel, and think that my words are too mean or uncouth, I really don’t care.

Let me start with the story… Some of you have seen the picture floating around social media about the school where the assignment was given for the students to present the pros and cons of life as a slave.

Now, I’ll agree that on the surface this sounds bad.  And perhaps the assignment wasn’t properly worded, but here’s the thing:  my daughter goes to one of the campuses of this school.  This is a school that has a classic education curriculum, and whose curriculum is very advanced by modern American standards.

This school teaches our kids critical thinking skills.

Before I move forward, I want to repeat that…CRITICAL. THINKING. SKILLS.

We as a society have been complaining for a long time that millennials are lacking critical thinking skills, but parents are so quick to find any little thing to complain about and attempt to mold our kids’ education into what only they deem appropriate.

Now I want you to think on that concept for a moment as well…  Parents only want their kids taught what they want their kids to learn.  Not the facts.  So I’m going to ask the question: do you want your kids taught what to think?  Or do you want them to be taught to think, and how to approach determining an answer?

We need to be able to understand our own bias as we proceed with life.  Critical thinking skills teach us how to do this, or at the very least, gives us a starting point.  We need to see how our bias informs our decision-making ability.  We need to understand that not everyone has our same experiences, nor do they draw from their experiences in the same way we do.

Back to the issue at hand.  I want to show you that I practice what I preach.  My daughter, who attends one of the campuses of that same school in question, came home with homework where an interesting question was offered.  Now, I’m paraphrasing here, but the question was “Was it moral for the Europeans to come to the new world and claim land that was already inhabited by natives?”

You might be thinking that’s not the same thing.  So allow me to illuminate this for you.  I am a card-carrying member of the Cherokee Nation of Tahlequah.  And yes, I can prove it.  I could easily find a question like that unsettling, but instead of going off about the question and why it was being given to my third grader (keep in mind that the slavery question was offered to 8th grade, where the level of thinking expected is much higher), I instead decided to make it a teaching moment.

Many of you have spoken with me and learned about my passion for ancient culture.  That includes mythology from all over the world, theology, belief systems, and the cultures that embraced them and why.  As such, I speak often to the fact that we, in our current world and American way of thinking, which is incredibly…mind numbing… have the luxury of being armchair quarterbacks.

What does this mean?  This means that I spoke with my daughter about the different points of view.  The Europeans thought what they were doing was moral.  They thought it was ordained by God.  The heathenistic Indians were not people, they were only savages and should be eradicated so they could take the land and claim it for the one true God.  Sure, it sounds stupid to us now…  But put yourself there, in the footsteps of the settlers?  You’re human, and you’re afraid, as all humans are, of anything that is different than you.

Again, I’ll let you think on that a moment.

Was it moral?  To the Europeans, absolutely it was.  To the natives?  Not so much.  But even today, what I see a lot of is that natives are not taken seriously.  So in this we haven’t learned a thing.  But we LOVE to talk a big game, don’t we?

So now I get to the slavery assignment.  Perception, people.  Critical thinking skills.  Was there anything right about slavery?  Truth be told, it depends on what side of history we die.  The Hebrews were enslaved in the Bible a lot.  The Jews during the Holocaust were both interned and enslaved.  The slave trade has ALWAYS been a part of human advancement (although the current human trafficking/ slave trade doesn’t show me any advancement, only regression of the mind).

I would argue that while I am ultimately glad the Emancipation Proclamation was enacted, the more I’ve learned of the after-effects, I wonder if Lincoln did not fail the prior slaves.  Let’s look at this honestly, the death toll for blacks increased exponentially in the years following the Emancipation Proclamation, for slaves were no longer looked at as property, and therefore had lost all of their value.  If this statement upsets you, you’re not looking at it from the perspective of the time, you’re looking at it from our current comfortable position all these years and movements later.

America was built on blood.  A lot of blood.  To say anything else is trying to sugarcoat the facts.  However, we also need our kids to make these decisions for themselves, to see for themselves the issues and why these things are so bad.

The assignment was to offer a balanced perspective.  I don’t think there is one.  And perhaps that is also part of the point.  From the eyes of the slave of the time, which we truly can’t put ourselves into, what were some positives that we could attempt to extrapolate?  Even the slaves had a hierarchy within the slave system.  There were slaves who had made it high enough to garner the trust of the owners, some were those exacting the punishments on their fellow slaves.  Whipping them, doing what was needed to keep them in line.

Who was wrong?  Who was right?  At the end of the day, every person is selfish.  Every person looks out only for themselves.  Once in a while we will find common ground and join forces to make a change for the better of society, but once that is done, we have a tendency to forget, and then we as a people move on with life, on our own, apart from those who had helped to shape ours.

At the end of the day, I want my daughters asked the tough questions, and I want them to find the answers for themselves.  ALL of the answers.  The good, the bad, and the ugly.  Because it is only through all of the answers that we find the truth through the lies.

I posted a couple of videos to Facebook earlier.  One about California and their laws during the gold rush era to get paid for Native scalps.  And then the federal government paying all that to California (you know it was as a thank you for doing their job for them, money well spent in their eyes).  The other video was about the nature of mankind and how they divide themselves into Us vs Them…  If you didn’t see these videos, please do.

My goal in all of this is not to be preachy, although that’s exactly how it sounds, but to try and educate.  So go, learn, and educate yourself, and then do yourself a favor and stop getting in the way of your kids learning.  We need our kids to be able to think critically again.  So stop filling their heads with stupidity or PC rhetoric, and LET THEM COME TO THEIR OWN DAMNED CONCLUSIONS.  Let our kids be intelligent, for the love of a future we may never know since we’re already in a world beset by idiocy.

And please, PLEASE, stop being afraid of anything different.  Different is NOT your enemy.

Feel free to add me on Facebook if you haven’t already…  https://www.facebook.com/robert.cano.750

 

The Suffering

The Suffering is officially released as of the 26th of January.  It’s weird, if I were to be honest, but really cool.

I’m sitting here looking over the book, getting feedback on it, listening to my readers, both critics and fans alike, and I don’t know if I ever imagined this feeling.

You see, it was never about becoming rich and famous, or selling the rights so a movie could be made.  No, it was about telling my story and getting it into the hands of readers who might be interested.  It was about bringing them into my world for a spell, about making them feel something for these characters I poured so much into.  In many ways, it was about nothing more than the creation.

How many of you played with Legos as kids?  Do you remember that feeling of having finished something?  It could have been the set, per the instructions, or it could have been of your own creation, from your own mind, but there was something about having borne something new with your hands.  Do you remember that feeling of elation when you ran, carrying your new spaceship, or boat, or house to your parents, so excited to tell them all about it?

Yeah, this is kind of like that.  Except exaggerated.  Multiplied exponentially.  I’m not sure there are words enough to really do the feeling justice.

And that was just for a novella.  Nothing too big, just something small to introduce my world and bring my readers along to meet some characters.  Now, here I sit, with a finished manuscript for The Dark Archer, a novel which spins off from The Suffering with a character who held a small but significant role in the events of the protagonist within The Suffering.

The Dark Archer is currently being edited.  And as it looks right now, it’ll be ready for a July release.  When I consider the time I spent with The Suffering, I look at this next story with excitement, as it is the culmination of many years worth of work and learning, and it expands the world you meet in The Suffering.  And these are not all that’s planned in this world, as I have already begun work on Reyvyn’s Dance, which is only the first of a trilogy.

I say all of this only to let you know that I’m not stopping any time soon.  And I hope you continue along on this journey beside me.

If you’re interested, come follow me on Amazon.  And if you’re up for a quick read, pick up a copy of The Suffering.  It’s pretty short, but a pretty crazy ride.  https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B0798JC552

Talk to you soon.

Robert.

The Poet – What is Poetry? Part II

“Poets are damned… but see with the eyes of angels.”
― Allen Ginsberg

In the last post, I began the attempt to answer the question, “What is poetry?”  In order to answer that question, however, I first had to define art, for art is all encompassing, with the idea of oral tradition being possibly the oldest artform on the planet.  This, in its very essence, was the beginning of the storyteller, the first trappings of the poet…

We cannot, and must not, look past the importance of the poet when trying to explain what poetry is.

The poet’s chosen medium is pen to paper.  In today’s world, this might be more figurative, but the fact remains.  Instead of choosing to draw or paint a picture which tells its own story, the poet chooses to convey a message, to evoke emotion, or paint their own picture through his or her words.  This is a wonder of the written word.

The creation of thoughts and ideas, the ability to weave a spell with the flick of the proverbial tongue, or pen as it were, is powerful, even within this modern world which is often found to be devoid of appreciation for the poet.  As people, we still require communication, community, and connection, for without these three things, life seems to lose all meaning.  Poetry, through the voice of the poet, offers a means of both hearing, and being heard simultaneously, as we seek the poem which speaks the loudest to our joys, or our aching souls, or for any emotion we seek to elevate in the moment.

Is it the words with which we connect the most?  Or is it through the poet’s exposed heart that we find ourselves with caught breath, anxious for the next word, the next line, the continuance of their message?  The poet dances with the pen and paper, inking between the lines in an effort to release themselves from the burden of the words weighing heavy in their minds.

The manifestation of the poet’s soul, that is what poetry is, in its most raw state.  When we read a poem, we bear witness to this manifestation, we see the poet’s mind, we hear their soul, we feel their past.  As such, the poet becomes the poem, and vice versa.  It is impossible to separate the two.  The poet’s dance with words is meant to elicit a visceral and emotional response from his or her reader.  Sometimes, there is a connection, and sometimes there is not.  The poet’s words, even if fallen upon deaf ears, are not lost, however, for the poem was not meant for the deaf, but for those who could hear.

I have often said that in order for the poem to be fully understood, the poet also needed to be understood.  Often, in critical analyses, the life of the poet, particularly in moments of their highest poetic achievements, is looked at more closely when seeking to understand those achievements.  What was going on in the poet’s life?  What was happening in the world around them?  Was there joy?  Or loss?  These things all matter, and yet, those poems which resonate loudest often do not resonate because of the poet’s life…rather because of the poet’s chosen words.

Depth, then, is not always required.  Often times, only the reader and the poem are required.

I will post Readers – What is Poetry? Part III soon.

What is Poetry?

To start, I believe I will be writing this as a series, exploring different aspects of this question as I move along from one topic to the next.  The end goal will be to find the answer I seek through the journey.

“Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.”

– Leonardo da Vinci

 

Art.

Perhaps in an effort to define poetry, one must first define art, for poetry is art in written form, and possibly in its purest form.

Simply put, art is the expression of oneself, creatively, through a chosen medium.  It is said that one’s art could be in anything.  We speak of the “science” of things, the idea that something can be reproduced, or recreated, or fixed.  But, in like manner, we have also heard of people elevating a science to an artform.  What does this mean?

I think it is best described in terms of music.  One can teach someone else how to play the violin, the technical aspects of it, how to hold the bow and optimum angle for holding the violin to your chin, the type of violin which might be best, or the strings on the bow.  The music played could also be technical, following a piece as simple as a nursery rhyme, or as magnificent as a Mozart concerto.

So where does the art come in?

The art of the music is not found in the music itself, but in the emotions it evokes.  We can hear Mozart over and over again, played the exact same way, and every person with a violin playing that piece could play it exactly the same way, and so the magic is not found within the technical aspect of playing the music.  Either we will feel because of the music, or we will not.  Either we will get swept up in the wonder of the piece, or we will hate it and never listen to it again.  Here, there is no middle ground.

But what happens when a piece is elevated beyond the technical?  What happens when we hear that same concerto, but with variations in the way it is played?  What happens when an instrument, not originally in the piece, brings the piece to life?  As you read this, you’re thinking of songs you’ve heard, you’re imagining them with different instruments and variations on the tune itself.  You might hear the music slowed, or quickened.  All these things can change the entire meaning of the song.

So what is art?  Is it truly as simple as the evocation of emotion?

Perhaps art is the search for that emotion.  Perhaps art is found within the seeker, as much as in the artist who creates it.  Perhaps art is hidden within the journey.

In order for art to matter, what elements must it have?  Can art be art simply because its creator calls it such?  Or is art in the eye of the beholder, which can and must include the one who formed it in the first place?  I believe the answer to this is that in order for art to be considered as such, it must first be created, and then it must be given its importance by those who seek its truth within themselves.

Truth.

What is truth, specifically within the realm of this topic?  By using this term, what I mean is the truth of ourselves, those elements hidden within us which can only be unlocked by searching out those difficult, metaphysical and philosophical questions the art brings to our minds.  The art may use truth, or it may use untruth.  It might use that which we can see, or touch, or taste; or it might use a story, a parable or tale woven to elicit a realization – your truth.  Perhaps this is why we have such a hard time defining these things which matter the most to life, but are given such a small importance…or perhaps a big importance, but without ever knowing or understanding.

Stay tuned for Part 2, The Poet.

 

 

Echoes of Darkness

The crystal’s light echoes in Byzantine
Clarity, in diamond hues it breathes fate
Into her Phoenician harbors, unseen,
Unkept, hidden near, beyond the ornate.
Her heart a ruby, its shadow is cast,
In darkened hues of crimson void of light.
With Sapphic eyes yet filled with joy, now glassed,
A starry ceiling is her final sight.
Her cries do not echo, the quiet lea
An offering of solitude – her stilled
Soul mirrored in Atlantis’ berth at sea,
Where solace and comfort share in Fate’s will.
She views the echoes from a distant hope,
In desperate crystalline fits of woe.