NaNoWriMo 2017

The past several years have been an up-hill struggle.  But I am nearing the crest of this mountain.  Physically, I bottomed out four years ago.  That was the year my body quit working.  Everything became so difficult to do that anymore, I wasn’t able to do anything.  I woke up tired every morning.  Sleep apnea, brought on by weakening muscles in my face and throat, and two or three dozen extra pounds, had me waking up gasping for air whenever I would fall asleep on my back.  I would doze off, the wind pipe would constrict, and dreams became nightmares about dying.  Wake up!  Adrenal glands would pump me with a hormone and neurotransmitter.  I would wake up choking.

Waking up was not enough.  My body needed to breathe.  Alerting the mind and synching it with body was just the first step.  Generally, I needed to sit up before I could breathe again.  But I had lost the ability to sit up.  So instead, I would roll myself off the bed or couch and onto the floor, and get up on all fours.  It never failed.  That first breath again was so calming.  So welcome.  Over time, this became routine.  Falling back to sleep was becoming an act of conscious faith that the driver of events in this world still wanted me to live.  What seemed to sustain me through these dark times was a story that wanted to be told.

Stories are mystical in nature.  As a writer, I am aware that I am writing a story.  It is a conscious process.  It is an every damn day decision to write.  But I am driven to write by the story itself.  She began by seducing me.  And then, once she had me, she tormented me and twisted our relationship.  She gained a certain power over me.  And she used it to beat my ego into submission.  I am not telling my story.  I am telling hers.  Hers is the voice that whispers to my intuition, not often enough, telling me to pay attention.  Pay attention to this or that.  There is something of significance here.  And then she would vanish.  I was being seduced by an elusive and unheard voice.  She was teaching me to listen.

***   ***   ***


This past weekend I attended a writing conference, at Wrightsville Beach, put on by the North Carolina Writer’s Network.  This is now my fifth writing conference in the past nine years.  My first in North Carolina.  Their conference pricing was an incentive to join.  So I did.  I joined an incredible community of writers here in my new home state.

My last conference was in Tucson, Memorial Day weekend, 2016.  The Pima Writers Workshop.  That was the first (and still only) conference in which I submitted a manuscript to be critiqued by an agent.  An agent looking for special stories good enough to market.  I wasn’t looking to sell my manuscript.  I was looking for an honest opinion.  And I found it in an agent who took the time to tell me that I need to re-think my approach.  He told me that anyone who can write well can get published in fiction.  But that in order to actually sell a manuscript in non-fiction, you have to be someone.  And I was no one, he told me.  My professional background is in mathematics and computer science.  I am writing about philosophy and religion.  But he also told me that the opening of the book could stand alone on its own as a magazine piece.

A lot has changed since then.  When I heard these things, I thanked the agent for his time.  Later the next day the conference ended, and I headed back to Tempe, where I was doing everything within my strength to change my situation.  I was still married then.  I made the decision to separate in 2010,  with only inklings of what was to come.  We still owned a house together.  I was still working on that set of problems.

Now, I am divorced.  I sold off or gave away almost everything.  Many things, like bicycles and power tools, I could no longer use.  Other stuff had simply become clutter.  I am down to a bed, two couches, a table for the kitchen, some kitchen tools, some clothing, and my grandmothers old dresser.  I also have a desk for writing, and an incredibly comfortable chair.  A few simple hand tools for gardening.  Now I have a small house centrally located in Chapel Hill.  I can carry out my daily routine most of the time with just my wheelchair.  The only time I need to drive anywhere is to go to church on Sundays, to visit Mom or my sisters family, or to attend writing meet-ups.  Groceries, banking, most shopping, coffee shops and much much more are all within a mile or so of my house.

My muse is no longer elusive.  She has become something of a live-in partner for this project.  She like’s to stay in my head.  She’s always nagging.  Write.  Write.  Write!  The problems I had just solved were preventing me from closing a writing chapter, and moving on.

I am writing.  I have been writing.  But what I thought was just a book is actually so much more.  The book that I was working on will now be published in pieces.  I am going to plant the seeds of this story in journals and magazines, and let it begin sprouting in the minds of others.  Meanwhile, a kernel of fiction is sprouting in me.

Until now I have never had both the time and energy needed to tackle NaNoWriMo.  At the writing conference in Wilmington, after the business of Saturday was done, there was a NaNoWriMo launch party.  We didn’t write.  But wine was served and people who were launching a book got together with people who have completed NaNoWriMo projects.  I got home late Sunday night.  Monday was my official start.  I have 1388 words.

Discovering Death

Two days ago I was exploring the Bolin Creek Trail.  I wanted to photograph ‘autumn,’ but in the forest I am drawn to fallen and rotting trees.


I got onto my knees in front of this stump and stuck my camera into the holes in the wood.  Seeing through the view-finder was impossible.  I couldn’t maintain the necessary posture.  So I just snapped about a dozen photos, pointing the camera at the bottom, at the top, and so forth from the entrance.  Outside, scrolling through images on the camera, I couldn’t recognize what was in this photo.  But after viewing it on my computer I was surprised and pleased that I went to the trouble to get on my knees.  Do you see it?


There is a dead bird attached to the wood.  A bird or a bat.  I don’t know which.  The skull of the animal is almost dead center.  A foot is visible in the upper right portion of the image.  It appears to have just died and decayed there.  Perhaps on a cold and stormy winter night.

A new direction


What I originally envisioned as a book has instead become a project to occupy me until my death.  Instead of a book, I have decided to begin publishing papers and articles.  The last few years left me with a lot of time to think about what I wanted to write.  I have so much more than a simple book.  Eventually, (hopefully), a book will come.  But my goal at the moment is to stir the cultural pot.  I seek to challenge conventional religious thinking.  I am convinced that Christians and Muslims see the world incorrectly.  I am convinced that for many, faith has become an obstacle to thinking.

Without rationality, we are socially controlled by a dynamic system of opinions.  Without knowledge to compare with our beliefs, we cannot know whether our opinions are actually true.  A correct understanding of the world allows to make correct decisions.

My goal is to marry rationality with our collective spiritual practices, by challenging the idea that Christians and Muslims speak for God.  I am an atheist who believes in God.  My goal is to demonstrate that within Christianity and Islam, a false understanding of God is being taught.

A hell of a week. A wonderful year.


This week my furniture and belongings were moved from my apartment to my new pad.  A home I found in a fantastic location.  Close to everything I daily frequent, yet on a quiet wooded dead-end street.  My home is surrounded by pine, oak, and something I will share after I learn its identity.  When I bought the house I had to have a deck built to replace a porch that was never designed to hold a power wheelchair.  That project is mostly completed.  I am waiting on a county inspection before the deck and ramp can be finished.  After moving, my apartment happily suffered a disaster.  The night after my furniture was moved, I went back to the apartment to plug in my chair.  I can’t keep the thing at the house until the deck is done.  The next morning (Wednesday this past week), I went back to the apartment and found between 50 and 100 gallons of water in the living room.  It came pouring from the ceiling in the kitchen during the night and migrated into the living room rug.  Squishy squishy.  I reported this immediately to the landlord.  They drug their collective feet in addressing the issue.  By that afternoon, the apartment was smelly smelly.  That evening I wrote a letter demanding to be let out of my lease.  By the Friday evening, my wish was granted.  I am grateful I don’t have to pay those last two months on an empty apartment.  Although I am an atheist, it is moments like that which leave me feeling that maybe an angel does have my back.  I also had to get a new tire put on my van.  I had a slow leak that turned out to be a nail in the inner sidewall.  The picture above is of one of my two cats, Sylvia.  A year ago this is how she felt between our first and second moves.  This is how I feel now, after the third move in a little over a year.  Maybe I can finally settle down and share what I am up to.

How do I know Thee, father?

As a former Catholic with a more naturalistic understanding of the world, I have long suspected that many Catholics, maybe most?, must have priestly ancestors.  There was a scandal in my own community that was kept hush-hush when I was a teenager.  A priest had become a real father with a girl from the church.  She was my age, +/- 1 year.  No one talked about it.  Years later my mom brought it up.  For some reason, we didn’t discuss these things as a family while they were an actual threat.  Ah, but that is the Catholic way.  We were kept ignorant by our own inability to speak about sexuality without feeling shame.

Now we have strong evidence that children fathered by Catholic priests is a worldwide phenomenon.  Thousands of people around the world have strong evidence that they were fathered by priests.  They are pressured not to speak about these things.  Why did I leave Catholicism?  Because the ideology does not allow for open and honest communication about things that matter.  Plain and simple.


Two Symptoms of the Same Problem

In Saudi Arabia, the 14 prisoners who were condemned to death for attending a pro-democracy rally have had their death sentences upheld by their ‘justice system.’  The prisoners have been transferred to Riyad, where executions are typically held.  Now they await a royal decree that the executions can take place.

In Davis, California, an Egyptian-born Muslim cleric named Ammar Shahin gave a sermon this past week during which he prayed for the death of all Jews.  Why?  Because, in his mind, this is what Allah wants.

Mr. Shahin and the Saudi judicial system are guilty of the same flawed thinking.  They both believe that God ordained the violence in their hearts.  He did not.  They merely have dark hearts.  Neither party speaks for God.  And neither speaks for Islam.  I keep hearing that Islam is a religion of peace.  But I cannot see peaceful intentions in praying for the death of Jews, nor in the execution of people who simply want a voice in how their government is run.

Islam has to change.  It is unimaginable that a hatred for Jews, or the execution of these prisoners, is something that God would want.  Ammar Shahin.  Saudi judges.  Why are your hearts so dark?  Why do you stand on the side of evil?

Only Two Names

In the news stories about the 14 condemned Saudi protesters, I only saw 2 names being shared.  Munir al-Adam and Mujtaba’a al-Sweikat.  I wanted to learn the names of the other 12.  Sharing their names would be a great way to bring awareness to their plight.  I emailed, looking for a full list of names.  They responded first thing this morning.  Unfortunately, at this time we don’t even know the identities of the condemned men.

Reprieve has an online petition to the Saudi Government speaking out against the death sentence handed to these political prisoners.  Anyone who values human rights and democracy, and wants to do something, they can sign the online petition.