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So this week it was back to reality after seven days in the Caribbean. I could say I am sad and depressed to come back to my normal life but that would be untrue. My life excites me, especially what lies ahead.
Originally my plan was to get tons of work done on my novel during this trip to St. Thomas but I didn’t. Honestly, I didn’t add one word to it. The only writing I got done were a few poems here and there and social media posts. You know what? Typically this would leave me filled with extreme guilt but not this time, relaxation and fun is exactly what I needed.
Burning the candle at both ends for the past few years as an author-prenuer with a day job has caused my writing career to grow significantly but it’s also taken a toll. The price I’ve paid willingly and it was very much worth it, I have no regrets. Basking in the warm Caribbean sun and floating in its pristine turquoise waters was a realignment for my soul and I needed it badly. After the trip I feel recharged and ready for what’s next. What comes next for me is setting and achieving some pretty awesome goals. One of those goals is beginning to consciously realign my life to make way for even more writing, more growth, and more travel.
What I’ve found is writers are always working, even if it’s subconsciously. When we’re not writing we’re usually taking mental notes about nearly everyone and everything that crosses our path. While I was in St. Thomas I met many interesting and a few wonderful souls. I also had some true growth experiences. The wonderful souls were strangers at first but we parted as friends. When this happens you’re enriched because, in a way, these people’s stories and experiences become your own.
We met a young couple from San Diego, she was a competitive swimmer and he was a personal trainer. Then there was a man from Romania and his wife. He had immigrated to the US when he was nineteen and almost died during a failed attempt to escape Communist Romania in the mid-eighties before the Berlin wall fell. He suffered abuse at the hands of nuns who taught at the school he went to as a child, and corrupt Romanian police and military officers later in life. Against those odds he still went on to immigrate to America and build a successful construction business. During a brief chat over a delicious breakfast he told me two or three ways to immobilize an attacker with my bare hands.
The last and most profound of the connections we made was with our AirBNB host, Lecia (https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/3139209?s=p6pABAhB). She taught in in St. Thomas for decades and retired but is still very involved in the community. She cares deeply about the children of the island and their future, she also cares about the environment. Her home is almost completely self-sustaining, she eats a plant-based diet and drives an electric car (which is charged by her solar panels.) Even better, through very smart decisions and hard work she’s built a life that gives her freedom to do what makes her happy. This entrepreneurial path is the one I’m walking on now and I need to surround myself with these kinds of people and soak up their wisdom.
I’ve always loved travel but didn’t fully understand why. I’ve always been fascinated by new people, places, and experiences. Exploration runs deep in the DNA of humanity. I think our ancestors found out long ago that seeking new places and new experiences make us better and stronger, they deepen our knowledge of both ourselves and of the Universe. Growth doesn’t come from doing more of the same things. Yes, ordinary life hands us its share of lessons but when we’re traveling those lessons are condensed in significantly higher doses over a shorter period of time.
I came back from this trip feeling inspired and prepared to take more chances. Dreams have their place but I’m tired of dreaming. I want to make more of a conscious effort to build the framework that will bring about the birth of Eric version 2.0. (or is it version 3.0?)
I’ve learned many things through my two plus decades of struggle as a writer. Dreams only provide a temporary respite from a life that is less than ideal. For dreams to work they must be paired with smart decisions, follow through, and lots of hard work. Over the next few months I’m going to be shuffling many of the priorities in my life around to make more room for writing (of course) and travel.
I’ve learned during the St. Thomas trip that travel isn’t as much a luxury as it is a necessary element in my life equation. Now that I’m back into my weekly routine of being rushed and pressed for time my heart literally aches when I look at the pictures from our trip and recall the freedom we felt. I’m going to use that heartache as a motivator. From now on I’m going to be budgeting for travel just as though it was healthcare coverage or groceries, in my opinion it’s just as important.
I’m honored that so many of you wonderful souls are here with me to take part in my journey. I’m excited to see what the coming months will bring for us all. I promise you, the second novel, Truth Is Stranger, will be completed soon come Hades or rising tides.
~Eric Vance Walton~
I still remember
the sky was a deep sapphire
that afternoon when
the dead drone
of the drum began,
their coffers were far from empty
but they were still hungry
for power and dollars,
their only Gods
not a hint of regret
laid across the
lips of lady liberty
but it did her people,
they are good people, mostly,
the propaganda machine
had spewed its stinking filth
for years leaving us so numb
we were willing to believe anything,
but this time was different
divisions were melting away,
our world was shrinking
and people were thinking,
yearning badly for a lasting peace
so the powers that be
brought us only war
after all it’s never been
their sons or daughters
who get the blood
on their hands,
only the simple people
are sent to inflict the wounds
and collect the scars that
will cause hate and pain
to rip through generations,
like a tsunami
our deepest level of trouble
were the false flags of fear,
their hypnotic switches
causing one to doubt
what they know to be true
in their hearts,
this is all they need,
easy belief of these kinds of lies
have always been the
weeds in our garden
but the peace has always
been there within us,
we see the shine of it
from the corners of our eyes
deep down like a
gold nugget flashing,
nestled in the smooth rock
of the river bed
to uncover it, we need
less logic and more ramble
but we must learn this quickly
before our world lies
smoldering in shambles,
there will be
no second chances,
no Phoenix rising,
not this time
through all of this
they failed to realize
that this is just the sort of thing
that turns peaceful souls
our righteous and beautiful voices
may just shout them down in unison,
most of us, we are just
simple people after all,
simple folks who want
the chance to succeed or fail,
fill our lungs with clean fresh air,
and slay our demons one by one,
have ourselves a bit of fun
but in the distance
I hear the dreaded drum,
the dead drone
of the drum.
~Eric Vance Walton~
Darren was a bachelor, he would claim by choice, and he was also very particular. His life was lived like a sacred ritual, trying his best to make sure that each day was the same as the last. He woke each weekday morning at 5:20am sharp, showered, and shaved his salt and pepper shadow with a vintage chrome safety razor. He then brewed an extra strong cup of coffee and prepared breakfast which consisted of steel cut oatmeal with a quarter cup of blueberries and half a pat of grass fed butter, never more.
Although Darren was what most people would consider content he had always felt like his life was missing something indescribable. It was as though his soul was a jigsaw puzzle that was almost complete, the few missing pieces were where his heart was but he had no idea of where to find them.
Just before leaving for the office Darren always watered his bonsai tree, a ficus of the variety sold at Walmart, with one half cup of spring water, perfectly measured. For the last ten years Darren had cared for the bonsai like it was his first born. He even gave it a name, he called it Moe because the shape of the tree’s foliage reminded him of the mop top hairstyle of the lead stooge of the same name. His boss had given him Moe as a gift for his fifth anniversary with the accounting agency.
The first night Darren brought the bonsai home to his apartment he had the distinct impression that, in some inexplicable way, Moe’s well-being would forever connected to the security of this job. He believed with all of his being that as long as he kept the bonsai healthy he would never need to worry about the security of his job at the agency. In Darren’s mind his theory was substantiated the following year. He had overslept by only few minutes and was running late, as a result he had forgotten to water Moe. This couldn’t have happened on a worse day, it was the day of his annual performance review at the agency and his absentmindedness cost him dearly, that year he received a measly ten cent raise.
Each Saturday morning Darren allowed himself the luxury of one extra hour of sleep, he felt that any more would be wasting the day away. Upon waking his Saturday ritual was almost identical to the previous five mornings except for one: instead of taking the northbound train to the office he crossed to the other side of the station and boarded the southbound train to the Snelling Avenue stop. Just across the street from the Snelling station stood Wimbley’s Books and the hand painted sign out front, in bold red letters read, “Rare and Out of Print Books.”
Darren spent nearly every Saturday weeding through the stacks of books, intoxicated by the mustiness of antiquity. Wimbley’s was the one of the few places on Earth where he felt like he fit in. Sometimes he would pack a sandwich and a piece of fruit in his messenger bag for sustenance enough to spend the entire day there.
From the moment he got off the train he felt as though a magnet was pulling him towards the front door of Wimbley’s shop. His strides were a little more hurried than usual as he crossed the busy street. Sam, one of Mr. Wimbley’s clerks, had left Darren a cheery voice mail on Tuesday morning with the news that his book had arrived. It took all of his restraint not to continue riding right on past his normal stop that night after work to pick up the treasure. Darren worried over the matter for the rest of his workday that Tuesday but was worried that any deviation in his routine might throw off his luck for the rest of the week.
Darren turned the doorknob and stepped inside Wimbley’s shop and as he did the tarnished brass bell that hung above the door chimed alerting the staff he had arrived.
“It’s Darren, nine o’clock exactly…punctual as always. I have no idea how you waited four days to pick this up, you have more patience than me,” Mr. Wimbley said peering over top of his wire rimmed glasses, eyes squinting as he smiled.
“It wasn’t easy, Sir! I was just so busy,” Darren answered as he blew into his hands and quickly rubbed them together.
The treasure that Mr. Wimbley spoke of was a copy of a fifteenth century Irish illuminated manuscript obtained from an extensive book collection in Dubai. There were only three known copies of this ancient manuscript created by a lone Irish monk.
Legend has it that the monk, whose name had since been lost to history, lived in a two room stone house that stood alone amongst the craggy cliffs of the Irish seashore. The monk had befriended the two Gaelic tribes in the region he was put in charge of converting to Christianity by the Vatican. After living among the native people for only a few months the monk went rogue and adopted the pagan people’s dress and their way of life.
The monk was so taken by the power of these people’s spiritual beliefs he felt it his duty to meticulously transcribe the Gallic druids’ oral tradition word for word. Each page of the book was handwritten in flowing calligraphy; although it was officially untitled, the book was referred to in collector’s circles as The Gaelic Book of Wisdom. The book contained three hundred and sixty-five passages, one for each day of the year. The monk then made two additional copies of the book, he kept one for himself and the remaining two were given to the chieftain of each of the two tribes. When the word got out that the monk had been turned by pagans and failed in his missionary work, assassins were dispatched by the Pope himself to put a swift end to the monk’s shenanigans before a legend was born.
The Gaelic Book of Wisdom is now considered one of the grails of bibliophiles. A person had be in the inner circle to even know about, let alone, get a chance at owning something as special as this. Darren’s ticket into this rarified world was Mr. Wimbley and his admission was earned slowly over decades of patronizing his bookstore and thousands of dollars changing hands.
One of Wimbley’s long time clerks, Samantha Fletcher or Fletch as she was called by the regulars, came from behind the counter and handed Darren a pair of white gloves, “I know you’re a virgin,” her face turned a bright pink, “umm…I mean, uh when it comes to owning rare books.”
Fletch took a deep breath and regained her composure, “You’ll want to wear these gloves whenever you handle it. Otherwise the oil from your skin will discolor the pages. Always remember, this book is an irreplaceable artifact. It’s so easy to forget in today’s world of disposable things how fragile and valuable something like this is.”
Fletch was attractive in a waspy conservative sort of way. Her hazel eyes were studious and she wore her brown hair short in a fashionable bob cut. She was almost always stealing glances across the shop at Darren on Saturdays and he would occasionally sneak a look at her too.
Darren had the distinct impression that there was something meant for him in this manuscript and that it would somehow help him to feel whole again. He was hardly a man of means but he was so sure of the importance of this purchase he took out a loan against his 401k to buy it. The incredible details that Fletch had shared with him over successive Saturdays put to rest any reservations he might have had.
Fletch lightly placed her hand on Darren’s shoulder and glanced from side to side to make sure no one else was within earshot, “The auctioneer we bought this from said the previous owner of the book bought it nearly a decade ago a flea market in Paris and found an old letter written on parchment between its pages. The letter told of how the book had a way of finding the person who needed it most and shared stories of how past owner’s lives were magically transformed for the better after acquiring the book…” Fletch trailed off as the brass bell rang and a few new customers noisily filed through the door. There was a look in her eyes that told him there was much more she wanted to say.
“Well, I could really use some magic in my life,” Darren laughed nervously.
Mr. Wimbley wrapped the book carefully in brown paper and tied it off tightly with twine. Darren eagerly handed him a cashier’s check for ten thousand dollars. Mr. Wimbley removed his white gloves and held the check up and studied it in the light. He then paused, slowly twisting the end of this handlebar mustache.
The pause lasted a bit too long for Darren’s liking. He feared Wimbley was having second thoughts about the transaction. Wimbley then shot Darren a look of concern, flicked the check noisily with his finger and said, “Darren, you’re now among the ranks of a precious few. Do you promise to take good care of this book?”
Darren exhaled more deeply than he ever did in his life, he knew now he had crossed all of the hurdles.
“I do, “ Darren said.
As he exited the shop Darren cradled the book against chest as if it was a newborn baby. He decided he wouldn’t take off the wrapper until he was home but could swear that he felt the power in it as he held the book close.
He could remember nothing of the train ride home, all he could think about was unwrapping his treasure. He quickly unlocked the door of his apartment, slid on the white gloves Fletch had given him, then carefully cut the twine with his Swiss army knife. Darren held his breath as he slowly peeled back the brown paper revealing the book’s cover, it was an emerald green leather and was in remarkably good condition for its age, only slightly faded.
As Darren cracked open the book he was in awe of the richness of color on the pages and elegant flourishes of the calligraphy. The scent was a combination of old paper, leather, and the sea. He started to read and from the first few words Darren felt wisdom and vitality pour over him. Immediately he got the distinct impression that little by little the puzzle of his life was being completed and this book contained all there was for him to learn.
A few days passed and he read from the book religiously. Each day he arose an extra fifteen minutes early to allow himself time to mindfully absorb each new passage. Almost immediately he began to notice a great change in his life: men treated him with more respect; women began to notice him; and the day’s events seemed to suddenly flow effortlessly in his favor.
On Wednesday of the following week Darren’s phone buzzed as he was grocery shopping, he glanced at it and decided to pick up the call when he noticed, “Wimbley’s Books” flash across the screen.
“Hello,” Darren said sheepishly.
“It’s me, Fletch,” she paused, “I don’t know how to tell you this but I just couldn’t go through with it any longer.”
“I’m not sure what you mean,” Darren said dumbfounded as he continued bagging his pink lady apples.
“There’s something I need to tell you.” Darren could hear Fletch breathing heavily on the other side of the line.
“Sure, what is it?”
“I made it all up about the book,” she said as she started to sniffle. The sniffles then turned into sobs.
Darren tied off the plastic bag and dropped the apples into his cart, “Made it all up? I guess I’m still not sure what you mean.”
Fletch continued nervously, “I mean the book is old and super rare and it was written by an Irish monk but I concocted the whole part about the magical aspect of the book, there was no letter. There’s no magic in it either, Darren. Believe me, I had good intentions, all I wanted was to see you happy and get to get to know you a little better. I thought I might even have a chance to go out with you or something. Please forgive me.”
Darren’s face took on a look of bewilderment as he walked away from his grocery cart. For a moment Darren let his emotions get the better of him and completely forgot where he was.
“You’re lying. I feel the magic in it, I feel the change in me and nothing you tell me can convince me otherwise!” he yelled, now pacing back and forth in the produce aisle.
“Oh I get it, you probably just want the book for yourself, don’t you Fletch? This conversation is done!” Darren said as he forcibly tapped the end call button and shoved the phone into the pocket of his trench coat.
Oh my, after all these years now I have to find myself a new bookstore Darren thought to himself as he took a deep, controlled breath and continued shopping as though it was just another day.
~Eric Vance Walton~
So many little stories unfold
all around us
we must smile
and try to enjoy
our brief journey,
of which we
we must dig deep
to find our greatest joy
and relish each moment
in its wonder
only then we will know
this isn’t just a world of
and empty souls.
~Eric Vance Walton~
May the itch
to know what’s
around each bend
always nag you
may your bearings
you never fail
and a pleasant calm
drift over you
and usher tranquil sleep
each night ’till rise and shine
may your soul
when life takes
you far from home,
may you follow
in the footsteps
of your Father
world you choose
may you be wise enough
not be saddened
by the embers’ fading glow,
but have the wit
to build your own fire
whenever cold winds blow.
~Eric Vance Walton~
My name is Eric Vance Walton and it’s been two months since I fell off the wagon. There, I said it, I began to stray from the path that was working and back into an old and self-limiting, pattern of behavior that for the previous fifteen years had gotten me nowhere. This feels strangely liberating to admit publicly.
It all started innocently enough. About two months ago I became obsessed with listening to the New Yorker fiction podcasts while on my lunch break from my corporate job. In these podcasts authors who’ve been published in the New Yorker read their favorite short stories of other authors aloud. This became like a master class for me in writing short fiction and it prompted me to craft a few short stories of my own. I took a break from working on my second novel and spent a good chunk of time getting the short story drafts just right. Then I offered my work to beta-readers for their feedback and when I had received all of their responses I spent even more time polishing these stories.
I then thought it might not hurt my writing career to submit these short stories to the New Yorker, so I did. After fifteen plus years of being rejected by the traditional publishing world and another five years of heading down the self-publishing path, the New Yorker submission process was a stark reminder of how cold and unwelcoming the world of traditional publishing is to an, “undiscovered” (in their eyes) author. The submission guidelines stated as follows…expect a three month response time and due to the high volume of work submitted we will only respond if your story is accepted.
Right out of the gate this felt like a step backwards and like a blow to my self confidence after being in the writing game for two decades but I told myself, “It’s the New Yorker, just imagine how that would look on your writing resume!”
Around the same timeframe I also signed up for a writer’s conference in Chicago where I would get the chance to pitch my trilogy of novels to a seasoned literary agent. I was excited, this happened to be the exact conference that Veronica Roth, of the Divergent series fame, was “discovered”.
A few weeks after I signed up for the conference events in my life transpired to make attending it very difficult. I began to question my decision, it just didn’t feel right, it wasn’t flowing. I felt like I was once again rattling the gate and begging the gatekeepers to allow me a glimpse of their rarified world. This didn’t jive with the entrepreneurial path I had been walking with my writing for the previous five years, the merits of which were strongly reinforced by James Altucher’s book, Choose Yourself. I was giving away my power once again and I felt it diminished my strength as both a writer and as a person.
The proof was right there in the results, my writing career had grown infinitely larger and more quickly in the five years I was choosing myself than it did in the previous fifteen years of trying to convince the gatekeepers of the literary world that I was worthy.
Well, to make a long story as short as possible, I’m now back on the right path again. I realize the only people’s opinion that I truly care about are my readers. The traditional publishing path clearly wasn’t meant for me, if it was I would be locked into a multi-book deal with film rights already. I plan on publishing the short stories I wrote for the New Yorker on my own platform and will eventually use them as material for a “funnel book”, a free eBook designed to drive readers towards paid content.
I’ll also use the money that would’ve have been spent on the conference to redesign my website so I can start to build and manage my own mailing list. I attribute the missteps of the past few months to some kind of temporary insanity, or possibly a mid-life crisis…whatever the cause, it feels great to be steering my own ship again, it feels great to choose myself. Brené Brown said, “When you own your story, you get to write the ending.” Just watch how I wrap this one up.
~Eric Vance Walton~