Octavia Butler’s Life and Legacy


This month celebrates Octavia Butler’s life and legacy. I find myself pulled into numerous discussions on the subject, although I’m not a scholar of her work: she was my friend, my big sister, my neighbor, my colleague. Sigh. It is good to see people finally recognizing what we had walking among us, but also just a little sad. TELL THE PEOPLE YOU LOVE THAT YOU LOVE THEM WHILE THEY ARE ALIVE will you please???

Octavia was a hard-SF writer who was driven by questions about sexuality, gender relations, race relations, human violence, and our misuse of the environment. “Who are we?” and “What is true?” To me, although she certainly had politics, she was far far more philosophical, genuinely wondering if humanity had what it would take to survive, given our hierarchical and egotistical tendencies. And…her massive research into realms biological suggested to me that she was searching the natural world for answers. Were we animals? And if so, were our flaws outgrowths of our survival traits? Or our destructive traits? Or something else?

Hard, hard questions, and very few writers have gone as deeply into these questions, let alone written of them with grace and power. She was one of a kind.

Tananarive and I visited with her as often as possible, and for years Octavia and I lived walking distance from each other, and frequently got together for dinner, lunch, and conversation. She didn’t drive, and I often took her to speaking engagements so that she’d not have to take the bus.

This Friday, we’re going to discuss her life and legacy, art and craft, politics and philosophy in our ongoing exploration of how the inner and outer worlds of the artist combine to create genius. This Friday, 6pm pst on Lifewriting

Join us!




Tears streamed down my face. Was it too late?

About thirty years ago, I was sitting in a Greenwich Village restaurant speaking to Leo and Diane Dillon about art.   These were REAL artists, fabulous graphic geniuses (the inset image is from their cover to Harlan Ellison’s DEATHBIRD STORIES), and a husband-wife team who performed as a single mind.  When she started a line, he finished, and vice versa.  In the presence of such greatness, all my pretense of wanting to interview them to help an artist friend just…dissolved.   



Tears streamed down my face, all my bullshit stripped away in the face of such artistic purity.  I realized that in trying to maintain a career, to support my family, I had often written things purely for the money, sometimes scrabbling to please people with corrupt values and petty creative minds.  “We can’t do that story” I remember being told once.  “If we did that story, people would think this show is about something, and our only excuse for putting on a mass murder every week is that this is pure entertainment.”


Name of God.   And…I needed the money.  Instead of excusing myself and using up a bobbin of mental floss, I stayed and pitched madly, desperate to get that check.   Frankly, honestly, it took me a year to recover.  


That’s another story.


I explained my situation to Leo and Diane, and choked out the words: “is it too late for me?   Can I still find my way to my art?”


They looked at me not with scorn or mocking, but pure compassion.  Diane reached across the table and took my hand.  Through a film of tears I heard her say words that changed my life: “if you can even ask that question, it’s not too late.”


Bless her.  I’ve lost my way at times. We all have.  If you have ever wanted to work in Hollywood, you have been tempted to sell out, to change your words, to write what’s “hot” instead of what’s true.   It’s the war between heart and head, child and adult, and it is eternal.


In prose writing, the answer is often to write short stories, which cleanse the palate, give you a chance to study your craft for its own sake, and to play with nutty ideas for the sheer joy of it.


But what if you want to make movies?  In the process of chasing that dream, is it possible to create a path that takes you CLOSER to your creative impulse, while satisfying your heart, and simultaneously learning the skills you need to succeed in the money game?


Tananarive and I believe there is.  And it lies in making short films.  We’ve done it for nothing, for 30k, and I’ve done it in writing for television’s The Twilight Zone.   There you have it: from zero to 100% Guild, a continuum ANYONE can begin, a road ANYONE can walk, easier than at any point in history because of changes in technology.  


This Friday, we’re doing a totally Free webinar to create more material for our exclusive SCREENWRITING MACHINE class.  We’d love to have you in the audience for it.  We’ll be discussing the nuts and bolts of actual creation of short films, and you’ll have the opportunity to ask any questions you want, from the “why” to the “how” and the “how much.”  It will be at 6pm pst Friday the 22nd of January 2016, and we’re going to have serious fun, and show you how you can do the same.  Not “some day” but NOW.




If you can even remember your dream…it’s not too late.




Fourteen days until…OMG

For those who have been tracking things, the TV Movie deal is still on track. Amazingly, we’ve heard from the studio, and they are eager to get it on the schedule. The next step will be some serious paperwork.  Keep you posted.


But the trick to the “Secret Formula” is that if you want something to happen, you cannot NEED for it to happen.  You have to turn things over to the universe and get the law of statistics working for you.   “A watched pot never boils”–meaning that you have to have multiple irons in the fire, so that when decisions about something are taken out of your hands you have somewhere to focus all that nervous energy.

Part of the reason I’m building a new business structure.  And on Tuesday, I discovered that I’m going to have a fantastic opportunity in two weeks.  Will talk about it later.  Let’s just say that the least it can be is educational. And the most?   Life changing.   Even at the level of happiness I currently enjoy.   Mind-boggling.   Forgive me for not being more direct.  Perhaps I will be in coming days, but I feel a little shy about it.  But I do think that getting my thoughts on the next 14 days would be valuable for me, and I’ll share them with you, in case you want to know how I think about such things.

And when I say “life changing” this is no exaggeration in the slightest.   Two weeks.


I can feel that my mind is trying to convince me that it cannot happen.   Think about this.  If it IS possible, and I think it isn’t?  I could kill my opportunity.  If it ISN’T possible and I think it is, I might be disappointed.   NO COMPARISON!!! This is a game, and I’m going to play it 100%.  I can survive disappointment. But if I don’t “show up” 100% and blow the chance, I’ll deserve the pain.

Need to clarify what I have to do.

I have a wonderful, wonderful opportunity coming up in a couple of weeks.   At this moment, EVERYTHING is going right.  That “Secret Formula” thing is fabulous.    GOALS X FAITH X CONSTANT ACTION X GRATITUDE = RESULTS thing is the best and simplest way to language the path to achievement I’ve ever seen.    Have spoken of it often, and want  to look at the other side of it.

That is: use this template to diagnose problems.  What is the “Shadow” of the Secret Formula?

Well, more specifically, what did I experience this morning that represents my ego’s assault on my efforts?  LACK OF FAITH.

What would “faith” be in this context?  That there is an opportunity, that it is positive, will bring more pleasure than pain into my life.  That I can and should do it.  That if I don’t currently have the ability or knowledge to accomplish it, that I WILL have it by the time the window of opportunity arrives. If I give the negative voices (and they aren’t really “evil”, they are trying to protect me.  Trying to save me from disappointment, or wasting effort, or even death.  After all, if I change, then my “old self” dies, from a certain point of view.)

That was the morning assault.  “The opportunity isn’t a 10.  It is a 1.  Nothing really amazing could come from it. There is no reason to treat this like a potential life-changing incident.   They won’t like you.  You don’t know enough.  How many times have you juiced up your enthusiasm and been disappointed?  You couldn’t even handle that level of success anyway…”

Wow.  Oh…just wow.   Faith.

I remember the very first thing I ever wrote for television, a Twilight Zone episode entitled “Teacher’s Aide” (a little piece about an inner-city remedial English teacher who gets possessed by a demon. Starred Adrianne Barbeau, which was an absolute trip, because not seven years earlier I’d been a set guard on “Maude” at CBS…which is another story.)

The point is that I was asked to write a 20-minute script, and I did.  AND THEY LOVED IT.  Said it was the best first draft script they’d ever seen.   And asked me to expand the script to 30 minutes.  I was stoked.

And…I froze.  

All the demons rose up in my head and absolutely shut me down.  I COULDN’T EXPAND IT.  I couldn’t do anything with with it.  I stared at the paper as if it was an alien creature.  I had no contact with my creative self, the part of me who had created that original work.   

It was terrifying instead of exhilarating.  Diminishing instead of expanding.  My impostor syndrome had kicked in BIG time.   I wasn’t good enough.  Trained enough. Smart enough. I’d only gotten the job because of Affirmative Action.   And on and on.   Absolutely poisonous, snakes hissing and coiling in my head.

Lack of faith.   I was not able to expand that episode, and ultimately it was cut down to 15 minutes and is an enormous disappointment instead of a sense of triumph.  When I first saw it I was at a room party at an early Norwescon.  Everyone congratulated me.  I went back to my room and cried.


This is the same thing, in a different form.  If this event takes place, and is as successful as it is POSSIBLE to be (probable?  Who knows?), I will change.  My life shifts.

THERE IS NO WAY TO REACH THE NEXT LEVEL OF YOUR LIFE WITHOUT GOING THROUGH THE DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL.   It is totally predictable.  And the way through the “Dark Night?”    

The leap of faith.

Oh, ho.   

So If I am on the Hero’s Journey, attempting to complete a new cycle, then it is predictable that my ego will try to stop me by keeping me from moving through this slough, and its weapon of choice will be obvious.

So.  Even in despair (and no, it didn’t get that bad.  Just a slight sick feeling. This time) I realized that I was having a Faith Attack.  It had begun the instant I heard about the opportunity.  A roller coaster ride…and then a plunge.  

And what is the way through? Well, what are the three aspects of faith?

  1. Faith in yourself. That you have abilities untapped. Have triumphed in the past. Am worth fighting for.
  2. Faith in your companions. That you have friends, mentors, allies, who believe in you and will support you, advise you, keep your head on straight.
  3. Faith in a Higher Power.   That God would not have given you the belief that you can accomplish something and allow you to sustain it over time, unless you had the capacity to achieve it.  That “miracles” can happen in your life.  If you align yourself with the forces of nature, you will always provide your basic needs, and provide a foundation for greater growth.

You only need one aspect of one of these three.   I choose to nuke myself and get all three.  So.

  1. Faith in myself.  Have I accomplished wonderful things before?   Brought my dreams to life?  You bet. That is my pattern. A good friend told me that not only did I build cloud castles, I had the disturbing tendency to move into them.
  2. Faith in my companions. I’ve reached out to and called a dozen of my closest allies and friends, and will talk to more. Explained the situation.  Gained their perspective.   And gotten almost nothing but support and encouragement.  A little doubt from a couple of them, but I can isolate that (“they love me. They just don’t understand the situation”) but lots of great advice (a huge amount of it was: “what would you tell a student, Steve?” or “What was it you told me the last time, Steve?”   My favorite was “what you don’t see is that you’ve already done all the work, Steve! All you have to do is show up and be yourself!”  Wow. That one only works if you believe in yourself.   That’s where something like the Ancient Child comes into it!)
  3. Faith in a higher power.  I meditate every single morning, connecting myself to the “light” inside myself, and connecting it to the heart of the universe.

How do I bring this all together?  My morning ritual.   I’ll listen to an inspirational MP3 while doing Tai Chi and doing my chants: “Every Day in Every Way I’m Getting better and better…I’m so grateful for (past)…I’m so grateful for (future)…I know exactly what I have to do today…All I need is within me now…

All of it.  While breathing, moving powerfully, smiling and breathing with authority, enjoying the moment.  This is my life.  THIS IS MY LIFE.   There is no amount of material success that is unreasonable, if you study the actions others took, and are willing and able to pay the price they paid.   If any other human being has accomplished such a thing starting from where I started SO CAN I!

I live in that space, move like that guy, feel and think like “that guy” for twenty minutes, until the voices in my head shut up, and I  am connected with my heart and body and mind.

And then I’m ready for my day.    

Bring it on.


Steven Barnes

I have hinted about this, but it has taken me eight months to actually decide to openly speak of it. Last December, Sijo Steve Muhammad gave me one of the greatest honors of my life, something I never dreamed of receiving. All I ever wanted was to stop letting fear control me…and then of understanding just a little of the martial sciences that had called me since childhood. I can only humbly believe that this honor is a statement of what my commitment must be for the rest of my life: to share the body-mind sciences with which so many wonderful men and women have entrusted me. Announcement about how I plan to do that will be seen tomorrow, and heard on the Lifewriting radio show Saturday. Sigh. Well, I guess I’ve stalled long enough…here it is.


What was your first SF book?

Worldcon was so much fun!   I was on one panel, entitled “When We Were Young” that dealt with the   our first science fiction books.    For me, there were three that I remember from grade school

  1. “Space Cat”–the story of a stowaway kitty on a rocket.  I believe there were sequels (“Space Cat Goes To Mars” etc.)
  2. “Have Space Suit Will Travel” by Robert Heinlein.  Story of a kid who wins a space suit in a soap contest, and ends up saving the world.   Wonderful stuff.    One of his very best “Juvies.”  Read it in 4th grade, and never looked back.
  3. “The Invisible Island”.   This wasn’t an SF book, per se, but it was, in a sense, a fantasy.   It is the story of three siblings forced to move to the country, and hate it.  Then one of them notices that streams on their property actually encircle a patch of forest, creating an “island” that only they can “see.”    The resultant story is mild and charming, and I loved it.

I think I’ve remembered “Invisible Island” because it speaks of the power of imagination, it told me that my flights of fancy could define my life, change my perspectives, help me create an internal world that was mine alone, and independent of the “outer” world.

We all need that, a place that is safe within us.   This exercise of the imagination led directly to writing my own stories, my own “places within my heart.” And as I shared them with my schoolmates, they began to understand me better, they enjoyed those stories, and I made friends, allies and protectors.  Yes, protectors.  I’d read part of a story to members of the football team, and then later, if bullies tried to beat me up, a hulky fan would run up saying “leave the little brother alone!”

If you don’t think THAT caught my attention…

And then later, I became a professional.  I think that that was hugely satisfying to me, but things hit a different level the day I got a fan letter from a cancer patient who told me that a heroic image from my novel “Blood Brothers”, where Aubry Knight has to run across the desert holding a mouthful of water, helped him to survive his chemotherapy.

Wow.  Just…wow.   I wrote to express myself, my own sense of isolation and existential pain. And learned to express it in a way that others drew strength.

Isn’t that why we write?  Isn’t that what we crave from our work, to touch others in a way that eases pain, lends strength, makes the world a better place?  I can’t ask for more than that.    

To be honest, Tananarive and I both believe that writing is craft in service to the soul, the quest for who and what we are on the DEEPEST levels, to touch something true about our characters, and by doing so, communicate something valid and beautiful about the human experience.  

Seek this in your own life, your own work, whatever that work may be, and you have expanded your humanity, and the gift you have to give the world.


(P.S.–you have until Midnight tomorrow night to get the extras on the LIFEWRITING 10-WEEK HOME STUDY COURSE.   Please do yourself a favor and see the wonderful deal we have for you, at

Your Life…One Successful Day At A Time


I’ve been promising something special to celebrate the World Science Fiction Convention, and here it is.  We created a special video applying the “Secret Formula” concept specifically to a writing career, but make no mistake: the SF can be applied to ANYTHING you want to accomplish, so long as you

  1. Have a clear goal with a plan for its accomplishment expressed in continuous action, with a clear definition of “success”.
  2. Unwavering faith that you can and should do it, and that the efforts will bring you more pleasure than pain.
  3. A clear understanding of the DAILY ACTION you need to perform, such that a 10-1000 such days would accomplish your goal.
  4. A sense of GRATITUDE for your life, right here and now, so that you live every day with a feeling of joy and fulfillment.

Once you understand this concept, you can create almost anything you want. More importantly, you START with the actual emotions most people have been conned into believing they must wait to experience “some day.”  Nonsense.    Joy, fulfillment, and passion…the sense of making continuous progress…is yours NOW.

Find out how!

Namaste, Steve

Movies That Saved My Life: “All That Jazz” (1979)

MOVIES THAT CHANGED MY LIFE:   “All That Jazz” (1979)

Spoiler Warning!  We’re taking this film apart!



HERO CONFRONTED WITH CHALLENGE: Joe Gideon (Roy Scheider) is challenged to create the greatest choreographic achievement of his life.

REJECTS THE CHALLENGE:  He does not see that this is a false challenge: the real challenge is to raise his daughter, love his sweetheart, and protect his health from a self-destructive lifestyle (drugs, smoking, meaningless sex)

ACCEPTS THE CHALLENGE:  He does not accept the correct challenge!   He chooses falsely, and the rest of the film is a spiral into death while chasing a dream (the death-dream is “played” by a transcendent Jessica Lange)

ROAD OF TRIALS: He must convince the investors to trust his approach.  Cajole the most extreme and amazing performances from his dancers.  Work obsessively balancing the musical with a movie he is editing (which provides perfect counter-point and subtext to his self-destructive actions), pushing himself insanely hard.

ALLIES AND POWERS.  His ex-wife, daughter and girlfriend are all allies. The daughter represents his future and pure love.  His ex-wife loves and admires him, and he can see that she is deluded about her ability to play a much younger woman, but cannot see how this applies to himself–he is pushing himself like a much younger man.  His girlfriend genuinely loves him and would like a life with him, but cannot break through his ego shell.  Powers?  Oh, man, is this ever a brilliant human being!  He can dance, direct, edit, write, and is magnetic to the people around him.  A real leader. He has everything…except his own heart and soul.

CONFRONT EVIL-DEFEAT:   His health collapses just as he has created his ultimate masterpiece, the “Air Rotica” sequence.

DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL: His play will be taken away from him, or even closed so that investors can reap the insurance (shades of “The Producers”!)  And oh, by the way, one minor problem: he is going to die if he doesn’t change drastically.

LEAP OF FAITH: He totally blows it.  He has no faith that he, as a human being, has value separate from his ability to perform.  He must be his ego-shell, his image…or he is nothing.

CONFRONT EVIL-VICTORIOUS:  Again, he is off the rails.   Spirals into death, finally finding union with the creative death-muse he has pursued his entire life.

STUDENT BECOMES THE TEACHER:  Well, he certain taught at least ONE viewer…


The movie “All That Jazz” saved my life.   The fictionalized story of Bob Fosse, choreographer extraordinaire, was a dazzling descent into self-destructive excess: sex, drugs, and musical theater as addictions.  And the “Gideon” character was brilliant.

I wanted brilliance.  Was obsessed with the notion that unless I could find a way to be extraordinary, the world would chew me up and spit me out.   And I walked out of that theater confused, afraid, and determined.

What a conundrum, dilemma, Gordian Knot, whatever.  The belief that I had to be excellent to survive was deep, and I could not easily invalidate it.

And the easiest way to become excellent is to focus obsessively on one subject until you have absorbed the basics at the level of unconscious competence (“mastery” being the ability to express skills in flow, under pressure).

But…that focus throws you out of balance. And when you are out of balance, you neglect important aspects of your life…which can destroy the very thing you are trying to protect.


Round and round it went.  Weeks.  The scenes from that movie hammered me.   He was excellent.    He had everything.


Oh, crap.

And then, I got one of the ten most important insights of my life: if excellence is safety, and obsession is the fastest way to excellence, and obsession creates imbalance, and imbalance is dangerous…then the only thing it was relatively safe to become obsessive about IS BALANCE ITSELF.

I looked at that in multiple directions.  Obsession about balance could of course create problems itself–paralysis, for instance, because you can never be perfectly balanced.  But it seemed to me that I could get CLOSER to 100% with this concept, without self-destruction.

So the question was: how to define balance?  For decades I used the simple, classic answer: Body, Mind, Spirit.  Defining the worldly measure of those things to be: health and fitness, career, and relationship.  Those who have known me for a while know that I made a little error there that cost me dearly, and had to modify that to add another category: finances.  SAVING and INVESTING the money I made.   The animal equivalent: saving your nuts for winter.

That movie, ultimately, saved me.  I can easily see how I could have burned myself out trying to “succeed” if I hadn’t had love and health to fall back on, because there is NO way to succeed without failing at times.  None. And if you don’t have other things going on in your life, cannot let the love of your family (or your God, or your own deep self) touch and heal you, you need the money, the roar of the crowd, and will chase after it and destroy yourself in the process.

Yeah.  “All That Jazz” was simply wonderful.




The art of fighting without fighting

So yesterday I introduced a bad situation.    One of Nicki’s friends (“Mary”) had a dad (“Carl”) who was trying to push me into a violent confrontation.  My reticence to hurt little Mary’s father had created a vulnerability in me that could easily lead to me getting hurt.   I compensated by shifting to the perspective that Carl was trying hurt NICKI’S dad.

And the instant I did that, everything changed.  Suddenly, I could access my tactical mind.   We can often do things for other people (in this case, my daughter) that we cannot do for ourselves.

But…what was I to do?

Well…I thought about it for a day or so, and finally remembered a conversation I’d had with a gentleman named “Mike”, one of my martial arts instructors, who had a reputation as a badass.   To the point where people would come into his school and challenge him on a monotonously regular basis.  He got tired of it.

Mike is more than a martial arts master. He also holds a Phd in Sports Psychology, and is one sharp cookie.

Well, one day Mike was sitting in his office, and heard someone enter his school’s foyer.   A gruff, bass voice yelling: “I wanna talk to the Doc!”  Mike sighed.  And then he reached into his desk drawer and pulled out a .45 automatic and laid it on his blotter.  And then imagined the gentleman entering his office in a belligerant mood.  And…imagined himself blowing the guy’s head off.   And found the place inside himself that enjoyed the sight.

Yeah, I know.

Then he put the gun away, and walked out into the outer office, and had a very pleasant conversation with the truck driver who had come in looking for a fight, and somehow found himself distracted into polite conversation. And went away, and never came back.

I had my answer.

So…I thoughts and meditated until I found the part of my personality that would ENJOY fighting Carl.  No, not fighting him.  CRIPPLING him, after being certain that he initiated the attack, so that I had a perfect excuse to do what I needed to do. The part of myself that resented all the people, over the course of my life, who had not allowed me to just be a peaceful, happy, loving person, who had pushed me into spending over forty years of my life learning how to hurt other human beings.  And oh, yes, that wolf lives within me. And I love him. And have made an agreement with him that if he is ever necessary, I will release him to do what he wants to do, and love him afterward.

Good Lobo.   Here’s some floss.

I imagined the results, and trust me, they weren’t pretty.  I contain multitudes.  Then I put Lobo back in his cage, and thanked him.   I got up, hugged Nicki and kissed my wife Toni good-bye, and walked to Carl’s house.  His wife opened the door.  “Hello,” I said politely.  “Is Carl home?”

Yes, he was, in the back room on the computer.

“May I speak with him, please?” She smiled a bit uncertainly (I’ll just bet!) and let me in.   I walked back to the computer room, where Carl was on the internet.

“Hi, Carl,” I said, and we had a wonderful conversation, about life and business and family. After about ten minutes, I said, “well, I just wanted to come by and say hello.”

He walked me to the door, and I left.

A couple of weeks later, his wife told me that after I left, Carl turned to her and said: “you know?  That Steve Barnes is really a nice guy.”

And he never, ever, messed with me again.


What lesson do I extract from this?   When you are uncertain, conflicted, afraid, and confused, people will mess with you. Life will attack you, seeking weakness and attracted to muddy emotions.

But when you are clear?  Your values like crystal?  Know who you are, and what you are, and precisely what you are prepared to do to protect the values closest to your heart, and given yourself up completely to the process of being who you are in the world, owning all aspects of your inner being..?

Miracles happen.  Life unfolds.  People move out of your way, and even more, wish to join with you–people with clarity are fascinating.

We all have “Carls” in our lives, whether they are people, or circumstances, or obstacles within our own psyches.   The clearer you are, the easier it is to see your way to your goal, and the more external circumstances will change to support you.


Works like crazy. The more I look back over my life, the more I think that this is the simplest expression of “what works” that I’ve ever found.   Look back over your own, see whether this is true, to what degree, how you might have to modify it to see how you succeeded in This or That circumstance.

And then…repeat your success, being certain that whatever you add, you do NOT subtract from the basic equation.

And then…with love, and clarity, and faith…share what you have found with others.



True love is strength, not weakness

The “Mastermind” principle applies to the army of voices within your own head, and the creation of your primary relationship.

In fact, I would say that if you have these two basics, you have the seed from which all else flows.  People who are happy, healthy, successful and loving, filled with gratitude and purpose, who understand how every day fits into their overall plan (or better yet, just “zen-ing it”!)  automatically begin to extend their humanity to others.

They are strong enough to take no crap, but offer offense to no one.  When insulted, they pretty much roll with it the way you would if a baby spit-up on your shoes.

They own themselves, and so while they are interested in your opinion (feedback) are not dependent upon it.   Whatever cause you believe in, they can hold a logical and reasonable attitude longer without devolving into schoolyard games.  THAT is the kind of human being we need to take the next step in our development. And we need them of every race, creed, nation, political  bent, gender, or sexual orientation.  The core human being is NOT the same as the specific expression of those lesser dimensions.

So back to basics we go.   The beginning is loving yourself. Because love is an antidote for fear, and love also gives you permission to DEFEND yourself.  It is very typical for people to be unable to do for themselves things they can do for others.  Let me tell you a story…


A long time ago, the father of one of Nicki’s friends (call him Carl) was, for some reason, intimidated by me.  He argued with me. Called the police on my dog, and then told me about it and offered to fight me over it.  Made not terribly concealed racial insult.   I rolled with most of it, because I actually liked him and his family, and especially his daughter (call her Mary), who was dearly beloved of Nicki.

I kept trying to find ways to reach him, and one day when I was over at his house, Carl mentioned that his back was hurting (he was overweight).  I offered my jacuzzi, and he gratefully accepted.   Score!

But when he came over an hour later, he brought a towel, and folded in it was…a .38 revolver.  He asked me to hold it for him while he soaked.  I was a little flustered, asking him why he felt he needed it.  And he said something about problems with his boss (!) and went on to talk about how much he hated the man…and that he was really, really ugly.

And then said that, in fact, his boss looked just like me.

As Hank Kingsley used to say: hey, now.

Well, needless to say I knew this was about to get very unhappy.  I was training with Harley “Swift Deer” Reagan in Jiu Jitsu at the time, and Harley was a wonderful advisor as well as teacher, and I poured my heart out. What do I do? This guy is getting out of control.  He is obviously trying to push me in some way I don’t quite understand. I don’t want this to happen–I don’t want to hurt Mary’s daddy!

Swift looked at me with intense sincerity, and said: “and that’s what he’s counting on. And that’s why he’s going to hurt you.”

Oh, snap.   Damn.  The truth of that hit me hard.  I was off balance, and that is a dangerous position to be in when under attack.   I went home that night, and thought about what Swift had said, realizing I was caught in a horrible dilemma.   I didn’t want to hurt Mary’s father.  I adored that little girl.  I didn’t want to hurt Mary’s father….

And suddenly, after about twenty minutes of rolling this thought around in my mind, another notion came to me: wait a minute: Carl was trying to hurt NICKI’S father.    And something went cold inside me.  Wait a minute.  He’s trying to make my daughter an orphan. To make my wife a widow.

And suddenly, I saw with crystal clarity that this must not happen. All hesitation gone in an instant.  Nothing remained but certainty, cold and clear and calm.

I knew I had to take action, and knew I was 100% capable of doing it. The only question was…what?

I’ll tell you tomorrow.   For today, look at the “Secret Formula” (GOALS X FAITH X ACTION X GRATITUDE = RESULTS) and apply it to all four basic aspects of your life (Career, body, relationships, and finances) and if you are not running smoothly in all four, ask yourself if you have the motivation you need to do WIT (Whatever It Takes).  You have to admit there is an issue, and you have to be certain you have the motivation, the LEVERAGE, to take decisive action.   Don’t worry that you don’t know what you will do.  I sure as hell didn’t. But first I had to have clarity, and total motivation, no conflicting emotions, my brakes off.

Until you have those things, an answer could be dangling right in front of you and you wouldn’t see it.

And yeah, it’s mean of me to make you wait to hear what I did.  But then, I’m a storyteller.  Hand me that flagon of beer and that joint of mutton while I rest my throat, would you?

Heh heh.



http://www.lifewritingweekly dot com

Life Story Part VII

At the “African American Fantastic Imagination” conference at Clark Atlanta University, I met my current wife, Tananarive Due. She’d only published her first novel, The Between, at that time, but her next, My Soul to Keep, was on its way. At the time she was the relationship columnist for the Miami Herald, but I only had to read a single page of her writing to know that this was a brilliantly skilled novelist. And . . . wow, she was cute, and could dance like a dervish.

It was about as close to love at first sight as anything I’ve ever heard of. Within two days we were holding hands at the airport, leaning our heads together, talking about how we could create an empire.

The road was bumpy—her mother, civil rights pioneer Patricia Stephens Due, met me with the words, “Well, I’m not impressed by you at all.”

“It’s not your job to be impressed by me. It’s your job to protect your daughter.”

I sat back and enjoyed watching her try to pretend I hadn’t said the perfect thing.

After we were married, we moved to Longview, Washington. My daughter, Nicki, needed me to be there until she graduated high school. It was still far from Hollywood, but I did manage to keep my hand in a bit.

A German television show called Ice Planet flew me over to Munich. The streets were as clean as Disneyland. I remember walking through those deserted streets at midnight, thinking that if the little boy I had been had any idea at all where I was going to end up in life, how delighted he’d be.

During this time I wrote for a number of shows that filmed up in Vancouver, British Columbia: Andromeda, Stargate, and Outer Limits. Amanda Plummer won an Emmy in my “A Stitch In Time” episode. (more…)