Writing From An Alternate Reality

Every writer gets asked, “Where do your ideas come from?” at least a thousand times. The short answer for me is, “I don’t really know.” Another answer could be, “Everywhere.” In my upcoming Psychological Horror novel, Dark Hollow Road, a partial answer is from a simple road sign we passed while traveling through Eastern Pennsylvania several years ago. It was the catalyst, but from there even I am forced to ask myself, “Where did this come from?”

However, the answer that intrigues me most would be, “An alternate reality.”

It’s said that belief can be a powerful thing. In Mathew 17:20 of the Bible, Jesus says: ‘He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.’ The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale contains the same kinds of messages. “Formulate and stamp indelibly on your mind a mental picture of yourself as succeeding. Hold this picture tenaciously. Never permit it to fade. Your mind will seek to develop the picture… Do not build up obstacles in your imagination.” One of his most popular quotes is, “Change your thoughts and you change the world.” Today, Notes From The Universe are sent out daily from Mike Dooley author of Infinite Possibilities. “If you know what you want, if you’ve made up your mind, if you can see it, feel it and move towards it in some way every single day… it has to happen.” His most popular quote seems to be, “Thoughts become things. Choose the good ones.”

All this leads me to the next question. “Which way is the creation process actually flowing?” My characters and the worlds they live in become very real in my mind during the process of storytelling. I can see them and their surroundings. I can hear their voices. I’ve often said they are the ones who pester me into writing. They won’t be quiet until I write down what they are telling or showing me. Are they already in existence waiting to get their stories out or am I creating their stories and in some metaphysical way, bringing them into a type of reality by the act of believing in them and their worlds?

If you’ve talked to any number of authors, they will likely all tell you at one time or another the characters took over. They did things and said things that the author never dreamed of. Stephen King tells the story of a very minor character, a waitress, who, over the course of the novel, became a major player. It was completely unplanned. Apparently she had a lot more to say than he’d initially thought. Who is actually telling the story here?

Last week I found an article at Myths of the Mirror called Why Books Are Living Things. It raises some intriguing ideas and I strongly encourage you to read it. In it the author states, “I believe, on an energetic level, that books are more than paper and ink or digital symbols. On some level, our creations are new entities with the ability to enter into relationship with others on a personal and emotional level, just as we do.” She also raises the questions, “What if, when we create worlds and characters, we create something that exists? How do we know that the myths we fashion in our heads don’t coalesce into something real and measurable? Simply because we lack the brain capacity and technology to perceive and quantify, doesn’t mean something can’t be.”

To this I add and ask, “How do we know we aren’t tapping into an already existing plane of reality, an alternate universe full of people with stories to tell? And for whatever reasons, they have chosen us to tell their tales.” I honestly don’t feel like I am the creator. I feel like a parapsychologist roaming the halls of some great haunted mansion, listening for the voices of those who came before me, asking them, “Who are you? What is your name? Why are you here?” And the answers come in the form of my stories. Is it their belief in me as a storyteller or my belief in them as actual entities that gets the job done?

Maybe it’s a combination of both. Maybe it’s not any of it. Maybe I’m completely nuts. Perhaps Edgar Allen Poe had it right when he asked, “Is all that we see or seem, but a dream within a dream?” Chances are no one will ever know what the real answers are. Either way, it’s certainly an interesting path to explore.

 

They Who Scream The Loudest, Win.

I took my final stroll down Dark Hollow Road on August 9th, as in I finished the first draft. My practice is to then put it away for at least a month, no peeking, and either move on something else or not write at all. It’s not been a month quite yet and well, I DID edit a couple of chapters of DHR, but that’s it.

Apart from working on settings and characters notes for The Witch’s Backbone I’ve kept the writing down to a dull roar. But now, while on my honeymoon, new fodder has risen to the surface.

We’re staying in one of many of the places that offer cabin\cottage rentals up along the St. Lawrence River in Upstate New York. It’s a cozy little place and for a few days we were the only ones here. Nothing really creepy about it at all, well… not to the normal-minded person but then I have never claimed normalcy.

As we opened the screen door and stepped onto our little closed-in porch, I looked at the old tongue-in-groove door and the slightly bent numbers nailed to the front, 14. Cabin 14. Helpless to The Muse and her methods, the ticklings of another book started to arise. Jim and I both took pictures of that door and I began my mental and literal note taking.

After dinner last night, we took a walk down to the river to watch the sunset and as we strolled back I said aloud, “I don’t see a Cabin 13. I wonder if they skipped it like some buildings skip a 13th floor?” This morning I looked it up on their online map of the accommodations. Sure enough, there is no cabin numbered thirteen. Technically speaking, WE should be in Cabin 13, yes?

Me being me finds this all quite amusing, of course, but now I face a dilemma. Do I work on The Witch’s Backbone as planned or do I delve deeper into the world of Cabin 14?

I guess whoever screams the loudest while I’m working on edits and rewrites for Dark Hollow Road will determine the answer to that question. Let the characters fight it out!

 

 

Alice Is Coming To Town

… and for a mere $725 I can get a front row ‘INSANITY PACKAGE’ for a once in a lifetime experience. Now, I like Alice Cooper just fine. In fact, funny story, one of the odd things future hubby (11 days to go) and I have in common is that we’ve both dressed up as Alice Cooper for Halloween. And we’d love to experience his brand of theatrical musical madness in the almost intimate theater (less than 4000 seats) he’ll be performing at next month less than an hour’s drive from our front door, but… $725?!

The Insanity Package does sound pretty damn awesome, I’ll give you that.

FrankenAlice       HeadlessAlice

One front row ticket. VIP early entry into the venue. Exclusive after show Meet & Greet with Alice Cooper. Personal photograph with Alice Cooper. On stage tour prior to Alice’s performance – including a photo with the FrankenAlice and your head in Alice’s guillotine! Autographed Alice Cooper Certificate of Insanity. Official Alice Cooper set list. Specially designed Alice Cooper tour shirt. Alice Cooper tote bag. Collectible limited print, Alice Cooper for President tour poster. $50 merchandise voucher to the official Alice Cooper online store. A chance to be chosen to be on stage with Alice Cooper and toss balloons at the end of the show!

But…$725?!

I’d be happy with a couple of those Gold Circle ($75) tickets. First ten rows ain’t too shabby. Again, small venue. We’d be right up there.

Sadly, as with so many things we want to do in life, the timing is bad.

Almost-Hubby had this to say: “Let’s spend the $1450.00 for the two of us on a guitar and Amp and I’ll put on a top hat and play School’s Out.” Now, I’m not negating the musical abilities of my Old Man, but I fail to see where I’d get as much enjoyment out of this idea as he would.

SigningJim  <-NOT Alice Cooper.-> alice

Where’s the boa constrictor? Where’s the guillotine? Where’s the straight-jacket, the smoke, the baby dolls, bloody dismembered body parts and the gallows?! Really, Jim? You think I’m going to fall for this just so you can get a new guitar and amp? I love you, darling, but… no. Besides, my favorite Alice Cooper song is Welcome To My Nightmare, not School’s Out.

It’s pretty clear at this point neither one of us will be spending the night with Alice Cooper any time in the near future. Which, kinda sucks, but whatcha gonna do? That’s life. We all wish for a lot of things and as much as I wish this could be a thing, it  won’t be and I’m not going to lose any sleep over it.

Though probably not as outlandish as an Alice Cooper show, our honeymoon is looking like it will be quite the experience, or as we like to call these sorts of things, An Adventure. I finally read the pamphlet that came with our cabin reservation confirmation letter last night to discover that the cabin we reserved on the St. Lawrence up in the Thousand Islands has no A/C, nor are you allowed to sneak in an A/C unit. A fan it is! I hope this hazy, hot, and humid heat wave we’ve been having this summer breaks by then. And though they have cable, they don’t have televisions in the cabins. WiFi is available, but the lady I spoke to wasn’t sure if it reached as far as the cabins. So, we’re resigned to maybe taking along a collection of bad B-movies and renting some porn to watch on the laptop. I think Alice Cooper would approve of those choices. We’re going to wing it most of the time because as much as I do like to plan, being spontaneous can be just as much, if not more, fun!

“If you confine it, you’re confining a whole thing. If you make it spontaneous, so that anything can happen, like we don’t want to confine or restrict anything. What we can do, whatever we can let happen, you just let it happen.” – Alice Cooper.

 

My Slightly Fictional Childhood

Life certainly throws some strange punches.

For the past thirty years I was fairly sure I’d grown up in the 1970-80s real-life version of Mayberry, USA. It was a quiet, idyllic, free-range childhood. Summers were spent walking the creek beds catching crayfish and stuffing them into a Pringle’s can only to free them further upstream. It was the thrill of swimming in Snapping Turtle Infested waters, camping in backyards, and riding our bikes down the steepest, most twisted road in town. It was racing to the R\R tracks with a shiny penny in hand when we heard that train a’coming, followed by the frantic hunt to find whose got squished the flattest. It was all the town kids gathering together after dark, unsupervised, setting our own rules and boundaries for a game of Hide-n-Seek or *Commander Tag.

I say I was fairly sure I’d grown up like this, but after attending Saturday’s ‘Blueberry & Books Festival’ in my hometown and visiting one of the haunts I frequented back in the day, I’m starting to wonder what was actually real and what is imagined.

The setting for my first murder-mystery, “Secrets of the Scarecrow Moon”, is the fictional version of my hometown, Berkshire, NY. Nell Miller, the town librarian and a main character, lives in a small, two-story apartment  attached to the library. She also runs the town’s history museum that is upstairs from the library. Unlike most kids, I spent a large portion of my Friday nights at the library hanging out with Mrs. Leonard the librarian. I was there a lot! I went up to the museum a fair amount of times, too. The library was a safe haven. Ah, I remember it all so clearly.

Or not.

When writing “…Scarecrow Moon” I closed my eyes and brought to mind every nook and cranny I could remember of the library. The little apartment that always fascinated me, the front entry,  the small section of Children’s books front and center as you walked in, the larger section to the left where I did all my browsing, and the research area with its wall of card catalog shelving all sprang to life in my mind’s eye.

Apparently, my mind’s eyes need glasses.

One day as I was driving by on my way to my mom and dad’s, I looked fondly towards the library and realized, “Hey, there’s only one level to the little side apartment section.” How, odd. No matter. It’s fiction, but I could have sworn there was an upstairs to that.

BerkshireFreeLibrary

The real life Berkshire Free Library.

Yesterday, after a thirty year absence, I was able to visit the library once again while the crowd was at a lull and one of the library workers offered to sit at my author table to keep an eye on my things. I walked in, the thrill, the nostalgia, the sheer wonder of… where the hell am I? Is this even the same place?  Yes, yes, there’s the familiar front door and the desk it right where Mrs. Leonard always had hers. And over here to the left are the larger stacks. Okay, well, those shelves are metal now instead of the wonderful, dark wood ones I recall, but that’s progress. In front of me is, not the Children’s Book section at all. The Children’s section had been expanded back into another room I never even knew existed. The research area with the big table and card catalogue was now full of more shelves and books and… No, say it ain’t so! The little apartment is gone! GONE! I wandered in slowly, and slightly horrified, at what should have been Nell Miller’s living quarters. It was about a quarter of the size I thought I remembered and so, yeah, where are the stairs that go up to her bedroom and bathroom? That’s right. No upstairs. This is reality. *sigh*

But, the museum, surely, SURELY that’s the same, right? Wrong.

The stairs were in the same spot. That was a good sign. I headed up, smiling, my hope renewed. I swear to God the place has shrunk. What’s up with that phenomenon? They say it’s because you were so much smaller\younger, but I’m the same height I was back then. It’s not like I was five years old the last time I was there. Anyway…

That big room where the Scarecrow stands guard at the top of the stairs in the book? Nope, not there. How about those two big rooms laid out side by side, one at the front and one at the back and all those display cases and the door that connects them on the far end so you can walk through and loop around? Nope, sorry, kids. That ain’t so. Well, damn, my brain has been lying to me. And if it lied to me about this place, what else do I have wrong? What other parts of my Berkshire-berry USA childhood are fictional?

DSCF2858

One of the museum rooms upstairs in the library.

Did we really walk the creek and put crayfish into Pringle’s cans? Did we really swim with Snapping Turtles? Those trips to the pond in the middle of a farmer’s field to go ice-skating, those really happened right? What about the time our toboggan of five went barreling over the cliff and into the freezing water of the creek below? I know thirty town kids plus played Tag and Hide-n-Seek on those long, hot summer nights, but could I produce any witnesses to this? What about the rotten apple fights we had in Slate’s back yard!?

My mind reels. What I thought was reality, maybe wasn’t! If it wasn’t, then where was I and who was I actually with all those times? Aliens? Or maybe, just maybe, it’s all a Barnesville conspiracy. Maybe what I wrote about isn’t fiction at all. Maybe that’s the reality, not this here and now place that’s messing with my old, forgetful brain. Could innocent Mrs. Leonard have put something in my cup of Kool-Aid during Summer Movies in the library basement? I mean, after all, Nell Miller’s grandmother was good friends with the librarian from Nell’s childhood, and Nell’s grandmother was some sort of witch, so it only stands to reason … .

I guess my fiction is a lot more fictional than I thought it was!
Life … strange punches.

*Commander Tag. I probably have the name of this game wrong, too! This was played on the baseball field located in the center of town. The Commander was chosen and would stand on the pitcher’s mound. Everyone else gathered around. He or She would then cover their eyes and count  just as one would do in Hide-N-Seek and also like H-n-S, the rest of us would scatter in all directions. Hiding, however was optional. The Commander was not permitted to step beyond the baselines, instead, the players would slowly start to inch their way in an effort to reach the pitcher’s mound without being tagged. If you did so, you were Free and would head over to the bleachers to wait out the rest of the game. If you were tagged by The Commander, you became one of the Soldiers and you joined his forces to tag other players as they came in. The longer a Player waited to make his move, the harder it was to reach the pitcher’s mound. Good times!

CAUTION!

So… this is in the gender neutral – handicapped restroom where I work.

Be careful out there, kids! No one wants to step on a giant worm. They can be very slippery. This might actually be some good signage after a rainy day when all the worms are covering the sidewalks!

 

Stepping Stones Across Hell’s Half Acre

It has only taken ten years since the release of my first published novel, but I finally reached a milestone I’ve been dreaming of for much longer than that decade. Last night I had my first book signing event! I got to talk about my progress as a writer, my novels, my inspirations for those novels, and answer questions from the audience. I got free food and even sold 80% of the books I took with me! All while feeling old and youthful at the same time.

As this was a private, local event, the gathering was only around 30 attendees, but among them were several folks from my much younger days! A former grade school teacher, a woman who remembered me from when I was in Headstart, the parents of two girls I went to high school with, and a former baby sitter. Even if they didn’t know me, a lot of them knew my parents! Ah, the world of being ‘a local girl’ as I was called. Yes, to these folks, this 50-year-old was just a girl. They were a fun bunch of ladies and gentlemen and I enjoyed hanging out with them for a few hours talking about books in general. Funny how I work in a large university library and almost never talk to any of my co-workers about what we’re reading. Maybe it just feels too work-related and who wants to talk about work-work? Blech! Not me! Unless it’s away from the office and really has nothing whatsoever to do with my job or most of the people that job pertains to. It’s weird.

I even managed to get a laugh out of them with my opening and the story about how I first realized maybe I wasn’t like the other in Mrs. Dodd’s 3rd grade class. It was in that moment that something deep inside me clicked and my writing dream was born.

So, really, last night was something like 40 years in the making and wishing and dreaming. These things take time and I’ll admit I’ve not always been very patient about it getting here. The writing gig has given me more lows than highs, but the highs are what keeps me going. This may seem like small potatoes to those who are further along in their journey than I am, and I know I’d be jumping the gun if I believed for a moment I’d made the big time with this single and simple event, but it’s one step closer.

A week or so again I posted a Facebook status of “Remind me again why I am doing all this.”  It becomes so frustrating and disappointing at times. You want something so badly and it’s so important to you and you pour so much of yourself into it that when things don’t happen how you hoped and dreamed or as fast as you want, you feel like a complete failure and like giving it all up. You question what’s the point in even trying. Why even bother? No one cares. No one appreciates. No one understands any of this, let alone you, and it seems it’s all for nothing.

Then, something like last night happens. I am forced to remember that day in 3rd grade and a little girl who was terrified she’d done her weekend homework assignment wrong. I am forced to look back at where I was ten years ago in this process. I have to remember how devastated I was when the publisher of my first murder-mystery went out of business and how utterly defeated I felt. All that work … and I’m sent back to Step One again.

But, once I really looked and understood, I knew I wasn’t at Step One at all. My path had merely been diverted by a very annoying and slippery rock that sent me on my ass into the icy cold stream. It took me two years to regroup and in those two years I focused on other projects. I built my resume one little article and a second murder-mystery at a time. I looked back and saw my stepping stones zig-zagging all over Hell’s half acre, but I’d traversed them. I may have slipped, stumbled, crumbled, cried, and cursed, but I mostly FOUGHT my way across those damned stones. I was not about to give up now. I’m too stubborn for that and seeing all the progress I’d made helped, too.

I’ve got at least two more events planned for this year and now that I have the first one under my belt, I’m looking forward to the others even more. Baby steps. This process is not going to happen overnight. The trick is not to let the down times and the imagined failures drag me into the muck of my own raging self-doubts. I will continue to fight for this dream because I don’t know any other way. It’s too much of who I am. I am blessed by being surrounded by those who believe in me when all I really want to do is chuck it all into a bonfire. Words of encouragement are not just words, they are vital to the process that keeps me going when I feel like I just don’t want to anymore.

All that from a simple two-hour event held in the middle of nowhere. Thank you all for your continued support, your kind words, and the opportunity to share and entertain you with my dream. You are each a hand held up out of that crazy stream of life that helps guide me from one stepping stone to the next and I am truly grateful beyond all measure.

The A-B-C’s of Sweet Dreams, Horror Style!

Sometimes it’s hard to fall asleep at night. You lie there with your mind running a mile a minute with, what a friend of mine calls, Hamster Brain. I could never get into the whole counting sheep thing. Sometimes I’ll turn the TV on to our local ads channel and turn the volume down just low enough so I can hear the soft elevator music they play. That works pretty well. My fiancé counts backwards from 100. I’ve tried that, but usually start at 200-300. Sometimes that works, too. For some reason I lose track of the numbers around 287 or 187 or 87, get confused and restart at 290, 190, or 90. Now my little hamster brain is trying to do math which is not always conducive to the goal of falling asleep.

In the past couple months I’ve devised my own method to induce sleep using the alphabet. I’m a person of letters and words, not numbers. First, I select a theme; a types of food, wild animals, movie stars, friends, songs, band names, professions, and the like, whatever floats your boat. Last night it was Horror Movies. Don’t give it a lot of thought, just use the first thing that pops to mind and move on to the next letter. The point is to keep your mind focused on one somewhat meaningless and monotonous task. I fell asleep around the letter O or maybe it was N. In either case, it works like a charm for me. I seldom make it through the whole alphabet before I’m out. Here’s what I came up with last night, at least as well as I can remember.

A – Amityville Horror

B – Beetlejuice (Technically not a horror movie, but that’s what came to mind first.)

C – Carrie

D – Dracula

E – Evil Dead

F – Frankenstein

G – Godzilla

H – (The) Haunting (original version, of course..)

I – I Spit On Your Grave

J – (had to pass on this one, nothing came to mind)

K – Killer Klowns from Outer Space

L – Let’s Scare Jessica To Death

This is where things start to get fuzzy. I’m sure I had a movie for M but I can’t really remember what it was.

M – ??

N – Night of the Living Dead

O – (The) Omen

And that was it. I was snoring by the time young Damien was shoving his mom over the upstairs railing. Sweet dreams are made of this.

I’m curious. What would your Horror Movie Dream List look like? What methods of sleep induction have you tried? I’d like to hear if one of you actually tries this and if it works as well for you as it does for me.

Theatre of the Mind

Remember when the radio was actually a source of genuine entertainment instead of something we just turned on for background noise; occasionally singing along while driving, doing housework, or puttering around in the garage? No? Maybe you’re too young, but back when I was a kid, and even more so in the days of my parents, radio was king. The air was full of radio waves that made us laugh along with Amos & Andy or Benny Goodman; or thrilled us with dramas like Charlie Chan or The Avenger. The air waves mystified, thrilled, and chilled us with such programs as Cloak & Dagger, Ellery Queen, and Radio Mystery Theatre. Cowboys like Hopalong Cassidy and The Lone Ranger carried young boys and girls off into the Wild West while Buck Rogers sent them into the future.

the-whistler-radio

If you have never listened to radio theatre, you are really missing out. There’s a reason it’s called the Theatre of the Mind. Like reading, radio theatre requires you to use your imagination. Two people sitting side by side listening to the same program are going to experience the story differently and that’s part of the fun. You’re going to see the characters in your own way, the setting will be slightly different to your mind’s eye than your listening partner’s, and you may even interpret the story at a different angle. Personal experiences will color everyone’s interpretation differently. This, I think, is why very often you hear people saying that the book was so much better than the movie. When reading, you let your mind wander and create, just like with radio and few things, imho, can beat that.

Radio theatre, also known as audio dramas or radio dramas, began in the 1920s and became wildly popular into the 1950s. In 1922 The WGY Players out of Schenectady, NY introduced a method of radio theatre that would forever change the art of the craft. They began using music, sound effects, and a regular troupe of actors instead of just simply reading the listeners a story. Other stations quickly caught wind of this and followed suit. This expanded beyond the normal practice of putting on existing well-known plays to employing full-time writers to create original story lines. One of the best known radio programs, broadcast in 1938 by The Mercury Theatre on the Air, was an interpretation of an H.G. Wells classic, War of The Worlds. It’s still wildly popular nearly 80 years later.

Unfortunately, just like “video killed the radio star”, television killed off many radio stars and programs in the early 1960s. Despite that, some programs still remained and new ones were born. The creator of The Twilight Zone, Rod Serling, created a radio program called Zero Hour for the Mutual Broadcasting System, National Public Radio aired Earplay, and Himan Brown brought us CBS Radio Mystery Theatre and General Mills Radio Adventure Theatre.

Though it has suffered a huge decline since its hay days in the 1920s-1950s, new radio theatre continues to be made. Doctor Who, Dad’s Army, and The Tomorrow People have all been revived into radio programs. In the early 2000’s new episodes of The Twilight Zone aired with moderate success. Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere was released in 2013 by BBC Radio 4 and featured a cast of well-known film and television actors.

Today, we have Podcasting whose programs are often serialized stories or discussions employing the use of music, sound effects, and a set cast of actors and/or hosts. The big advantage to Podcasts is that you can listen and download what you want to hear any time that’s convenient for you without missing anything. You don’t have to be sitting next to the radio at all! You can listen directly using any device that can store and play audio files. I will confess, I have nearly zero experience and know very little about Podcasting. I’m kind of old fashioned that way.

CBSRMT_CoverV1Exp

But on the bright side, I’m not so old and set in my ways that I don’t know how to manipulate my way around the Internet where I’ve found a plethora of sites offering me the old time radio programs my parents and I grew up listening to. For the past year I’ve been working my way through CBS Radio Mystery Theater which was a huge favorite during my early double-digit years. I’ve only gotten as far as 1975 so far. I’m thinking I’ll move on to Ellery Queen or The Whistler next. In either case, I don’t think I’ll suffer with a lack of things to listen to thanks to the amazing powers of the internet and the foresight people took to preserve these entertainment masterpieces.

So, pull up an easy chair, put on the headphones, check out the aforementioned links as well as those below, and take a trip into your personal Theatre of the Mind.

Radio Lovers

Old Time Radio Downloads

 

Embracing Your Inner Weirdo!

If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a million times, “You’re weird.” Some meant it as a compliment. Others were trying to insult me. In either case I would always reply with “Thank you!” It made the complimenting ones laugh and it confused the bullies, especially when I’d smile and be all sickly sweet about it. “Wow, thank you! What a wonderful thing to say!” and just walk away grinning.

I’ve always been proud of my weirdness, my uniqueness, my one-of-a-kind self; which in a way really surprises me because I also consider myself a shy, insecure introvert, too. A lot of it depends on my surroundings and who I’m with. Alone in a strange place where I don’t know anyway, it’s almost guaranteed I will not speak to a single soul unless they speak to me first. I’m pretty clueless when it comes to the opening lines of conversation. Idle chit-chat is not my friend.

Many years ago I used to go a drum circle event every few months. I went alone and for the first year I barely spoke. One day, while a group of us were working together to do some spring cleaning on the land we met on, I volunteered to be part of the Tent Sewing Circle. The group had acquired a large tent that was in desperate need of some TLC. About a dozen of us sat down with heavy duty needles and twine-like thread. Some sat in lawn chairs. Some sat on the floor. And we sewed. They talked. They laughed. They chit-chatted like the long, old friends they were. I listened. Hours passed … and then the madness set in. My sarcastic, quick-witted, smart-ass brain took control. Once it got going, it was impossible to shut it up again until it was good and ready.

We broke for lunch at around 2:00 and while was moved along, more or less single file along the woodland trail that would lead us to the food, one of the other Tent Circle members drew up a bit closer and said, “I’ve seen you here for almost a year and I think that’s the first time I’ve ever heard you talk.” I offered up my nervous, shy laugh and shrugged. We ended up talking and hanging out a lot the rest of the day.

And that’s when he started to find out how weird I really was … am. Whatever. At one point over the many years of friendship that followed, I’m sure I started to recite the Wizard of Oz by heart, including the songs, to him at least three times because that’s how I roll. My music collection is equally as obscure. The first two record albums I owned back in the 1970s were John Denver and KISS Destroyer. Then there’s the harpsichord music, movie soundtracks (including but not limited to, Jesus Christ Superstar, Star Wars & The Pirates of Penzance), Black Sabbath, The Monkees, and maybe a touch of disco – but let’s not go there today.

There was also the hippy phase, the punk phase, the witch phase, and the vampire phase. How many ‘normal’ people don their vampire fans in July and wear them to the grocery store of all places just to see who notices and what sort of looks they can get?

Not all weird people are quiet, shy, introverts such as myself. (That vampire thing is about as outlandish I get in public. No, really. It is … was … erm.) ANYWAY …There are a lot of pretty famous weirdos out there. Gonzo, from The Muppets, for example. And get this, according for FORBES, weird is not just a wonderful condition, but it’s also profitable and it’s something we all need to cultivate. They even prove it with nifty charts and graphs!

But, weird isn’t just for the rich and famous! In fact, as James Victore points out very accurately over at 99U, “Owning up to your weirdness isn’t about making it big and deciding who will play you in your life story. It’s about the courage to be who you were born to be. You don’t quit the band or stop writing poetry just because you have kids. Your weirdness is the source of your character and creative powers. Weird is who we are, the best parts, not perfect, not trying—just yourself.” That’s it, just BE YOURSELF!

If all that’s not enough for you to believe that weird is the way to be, check out these motivational quotes put out there by Aletheia Luna over at Loner Wolf.

Let your weird flag high, my friends! Weird, after all, is just another word for AWESOME!!