Author’s Note

Posted: May 5, 2014 in Uncategorized
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I think I may have put the finishing touches on my thesis this morning in the form of an Author’s Note and an Epigraph (though I didn’t actually write the epigraph – I just used a quote). But, like most things I write, I am unsure of these two pieces. But, but, also like most things I write, I think they are awesome.

So I am pasting them here so that I could hopefully get some kind of consensus on which category it falls in:  “Complete Awesomeness” “Utterly Disastrous” or “Meh”. Feel free to comment here or on Facebook or on the Twitter.

Many thanks!

Author’s Note

Language is an extraordinary thing. Little symbols placed on a page with an ordered intentionality can transfer ideas, emotions and imagination from one person to another. The written word has the potential to take both the writer and reader on a journey of discovery and rediscovery. It has the power to rip through the veils over the heart and mind to uncover a beauty that has been there all along, waiting.

With the idea of language in mind, know that words can tell stories, whether true or false, real or imagined. So note that everything following the epigraph below is a work of fiction. Though many of my personal ideas and emotions find their way into Eli’s story (I tried unsuccessfully to avoid this), the characters and story are just little fabrications I have been stitching together in my mind these last few years.

My hope, though, remains the same – that the words on these pages can accomplish just a smattering of their potential, that my own intentional ordering of these symbols is powerful enough to reach you and strip away your own veils.

 

Epigraph

In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God and the Word was God. . . . The Word gave life to everything that was created . . . 

(John 1:1, 4 – NLT)

Wednesday, April 9, 2014. 6:15 AM.

 

“Hey duuude! How’s the writing?” ––Friend via Facebook

 

“Hey man! Writing is going…ok.” ––Me via Facebook

 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014. 2:00 PM.

 

“You have set up what will be a really good Young Adult story here . . . but it’s not ready to send out. . . . The voice just isn’t working. You need to rewrite your book. Not edit. Rewrite.” ––Paraphrase of my MFA Thesis Advisor

 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014. 9:00 AM.

 

I always imagine me picking up a chair and throwing it through a window. Or bashing my old wooden Army Wall Locker with a baseball bat. But, being a responsible adult, I do neither.

 

My Kindergarten teacher told my mother that I had a problem with my temper. I think I finally found ways to deal with my temper in High School. Not in 9th grade when I ripped in half a failed assignment in my teacher’s face. So maybe 10th grade? Since then, I have found ways to pack up my anger into a compression bag and vacuum seal it inside me. I think that’s why I have a tremor in my right hand.

 

When I sat in my thesis advisor’s office and she ripped my heart in half in front of my face, I tried my best to imagine my chair and my bat, and not let my anger and disappointment show. “Okay,” is about all I could manage to say.

 

Two years. Dissipating. Burning off like a morning fog in the rising sun. Two years, 65,000+ words, a complete rewrite of the first 80 pages, multiple edits, and a final tally of 271 pages turned into just another document in my computer’s folder titled “Chase’s Writings”.

 

Now I have another document – “Complete Rewrite”. It took me a complete week of mourning my loss before I stared at another blank page. Now, six weeks later, I have 73 pages and 17,615 words of . . . . 

 

Joy.

 

Yes, joy. As much as I hated giving up my firstborn, this new draft has been a blast to write. I have finally found my voice, which was confirmed during a second meeting with my thesis advisor where I was fully prepared for the consequences of throwing her through the window. Thankfully, for both parties, it didn’t come to that.

 

Now, I won’t lie – the plot is kind of lacking. But I can fix that. This rewrite is just another draft. I could pump out another 271 pages and figure out I need to rewrite again. Would that suck? Yes. Especially since my end goal is publication, and a rewrite would mean another postponement of that dream.

 

But I want to remember today. I want to remember the past six weeks. I want to remember that this process is actually enjoyable. Because I am a writer. And, just with anybody in any profession, a writer should enjoy what they do.

 

Friday, July 1, 2005. 7:00 PM

 

“Write your heart out.” ––My wife, upon giving me a journal as a wedding present.

 

 

Image

^Christmas present from my wife.

On: Finishing a Book

Posted: August 22, 2013 in Books, Uncategorized, Writing
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I haven’t properly celebrated yet, but I accomplished something this week that no one can ever take away from me. It’s not something entirely unique, but it’s special to me.

I finished writing a book. I have to say that again for my own benefit (forgive my self-indulgence):  I wrote a book. I wrote a freakin’ book.

Now, I know it’s only the first draft and, given this, it probably reeks of bad writing and storytelling. I know that there will be much editing and rewriting and more editing to go.

There will also be the moment I hand my work to others that are going to tear it apart. I will probably go home and cry after my workshops, but hopefully I will get over it fairly quickly so I can begin paste the pieces back together.

This is why I am even in California. I am a writer, but a writer needs a writing community – a select few that will be honest with you. People who, unlike the parents who have told their kids lies their whole lives, telling them that they are good singers, and then the kids audition for American Idol and humiliate themselves, (that was a really long supplemental phrase [followed by this aside]) will break me down and build me back up.

But even harder than handing my work to my colleagues, I will be letting Jami (my wife) read my work. She is my best reader, but she is also the harshest. Well, she might not be the harshest, but it always seems unbearable to hear her questions and critiques. I mean, she’s supposed to love and support me, and cheer me on, etc. but, on many of these occasions when we discuss my work, we end up in an argument because I become so defensive. I mean, it’s my precious work that I have labored over for hours and days and weeks and months, and she just guts it open. She might as well be gutting me open.

But there eventually comes a point where I stop guarding my writing with my life and realize she is doing what she is supposed to do:  love me.  Love me enough to not coddle me.

So what next? I’m going to tuck this bad boy away for a few weeks and forget about it. Then I’m going to break out the red pen (I actually prefer a pencil, but you get the point) and get to work again. Then I’ll hand it off to my friends. Then I’ll take their critiques into consideration as I work on further edits and polishing the crap out of it before querying some agents, who will undoubtedly queue up at my door and fight to represent me. You know how it is when you know you’re great.

Anyway, thanks for reading this post, and thanks to everyone who has taken this journey with me, dragging me along at times. My bi-polar writing self (if you don’t know what this means, ask) couldn’t have done it without your support.

–Chase

Favorite Sushi Restaurants?

Posted: August 22, 2013 in Uncategorized
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As you may have noticed, the title of my blog is a type of sushi roll. You may have also noticed that I have a section titled “Favorite Sushi Restaurants”. You may even have noticed that there are no pictures or links there from California, where I reside. The reason for this is because I have yet to find a sushi joint that is even as half as good as the only one listed, which is in Nashville, TN. We’ve been to a few interesting places, such as Myozan which has a conveyor belt that brings your sushi around, but the sushi at these places just hasn’t lived up to my expectations. Sorry, California. You need to get your act together – a landlocked state in the southeast is sushi-ing you.

Hey all, here I am 7 months later and I still haven’t written anything new. This is a guest post by my friend Allison.

Enjoy,

Chase

 

Faith AND Reason (and boys)

Ok first off, I want to apologize for the abundance of quotes to follow. I got kind of carried away. Feel free to just skip over them. They do, however, represent some of the differing views on the subject of Faith vs. Reason. Oh, and the last quote is a bonus quote for the ladies – Girl Power!

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

Hebrews 11:1, The Bible

“Faith consists in believing when it is beyond the power of reason to believe.”

–Voltaire

“The heart has its reasons which reason knows not.”

–Blaise Pascal

“That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.”

–Christopher Hitchens

“Here we are, trapped in the amber of the moment. There is no why.”

–Kurt Vonnegut

“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.”

–Galileo

“Those who will not reason, are bigots, those who cannot, are fools, and those who dare not, are slaves.”

–Lord Byron

“I don’t believe in God. I believe in Science.”

–Esqueleto, Nacho Libre

“I hate to hear you talk about all women as if they were fine ladies instead of rational creatures. None of us want to be in calm waters all our lives.”

–Jane Austen, Persuasion

Ok, so I’ve been taking this philosophy course this semester in college. It’s pretty fun and pretty thought provoking. One of the most recent discussion topics was the idea of Faith vs. Reason. Faith and reason are pitted against one another inside the Octagon, and only one can win. Or so says some. But I say that the construction of this dichotomy is flawed. Why does it have to be faith vs. reason? Why can’t it be faith AND reason. Why are the two mutually exclusive?

I ask this because of the question “Why?”.

Reason is supposedly scientific. It deals with measurable things and the logic based on what can be observed.

Faith deals with the unseen. It provides an explanation for things that can’t be explained by logic alone.

But if you return to the question of “Why?”, you get a fusion of faith and reason.

Let me explain:

Gravity itself cannot be seen, but its effects can. Newton’s apple always falls; what goes up, must come down. It’s a law of nature.

But where did the law come from? Why is there a law? Why does gravity exist?

We have laws to explain what things that exist do, but the laws don’t explain why they do what they do.

Further, Stephen Hawking believes (note that this, too is a form of faith!) that the laws of physics have always been, that they were in existence at the Big Bang. But can we say that something has “always” existed? Is there no origin? Others would argue that something like gravity came into existence from a catalyst. So what was the catalyst? And what was the catalyst’s catalyst?

Again, why are there laws, period?

Logic and reason calls for an ultimate catalyst, or something that always is and always was that not only created (I know, that word has certain connotations attached to it) the laws of the universe, but continually control and keep these laws in motion. The Big Bang cannot be the be all and end all because there had to be something to set the big bang in motion (if indeed the big bang actually occurred).

So here we are:  even if you choose to believe in the Big Bang theory, something typically exclusive of God, logic and reason calls for a belief in something bigger – it just doesn’t make sense not to believe in something bigger.

Which is where faith comes in. Faith picks up where reason leaves off. Or stated in another way, reason leads to faith.

So why does science and faith have to be pitted against each other? Why are scientists generally afraid of faith, and religions generally afraid of science? If those that believe in God weren’t so afraid of science, they could strengthen their belief by using sound reasoning. If scientists would just consider the idea of God, they might be able to do the same.

Ok, so enough of this philosophical craziness.

Why do boys do what they do? (Maybe still philosophical?)

Why can’t boys just be men? (Boyz 2 men, boy-boy-boyz 2 men : ))

And do you think it’s possible for one person to be in love with two people at once? And I mean really – not just physical attraction, but genuine love.

Thoughts???

For those of you who slogged through this post and made it to this point, congratulations. You’re the winner of the grand prize!!!

Enjoy this baby monkey riding on a pig – backwards!!!

You’re welcome.

–– @ragamuffin_AL

Back from my unintentional blogging hiatus, I still have nothing new to say. Sorry. But I would like to share with you something my friend Allison wrote for one of her paper assignments in college.  It is a personal narrative of a time that was deeply moving for her, and she and I hope that you find it moving as well.  So, here it is:

Near the Cross:  A Personal Essay

It’s just me and my mother. My dad left us two years ago. The months following him leaving, I would go for runs along the main highway near our house. I would cry as my muscles burned and my heart ached after my dad. I kept wishing and imagining that his red Ford F-150 would drive past me, slow down on the shoulder and come back towards me in reverse. He would reach over and open the passenger door and beckon me in. I would get in and he would just hold me as I cried and finally rested. But he never came. Plenty of red F-150s would drive by, but it was never him.

Last summer my mom decided we needed to go on vacation, to “get some fresh air.” So we picked Monterey, California, somewhere that is about as far away as possible from Nashville, but not some place too big and noisy. We both thought it would be a good choice, a good fit, after we saw a picture of the Lone Cypress online (http://www.extranomical.com/HTML_PAGES/LONE_CYPRESS_TREE.htm).

The Lone Cypress actually ended up being the last stop for us on our vacation/tour of Monterey, Carmel and Big Sur. The Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey was okay, and the aquarium was pretty cool. Carmel was fun and quaint. There were a whole lot of art galleries that we checked out, but none really suited me. Big Sur was amazing – the views are the ones you dream about seeing one day before you die. And the Lone Cypress was about as serene as the picture made it out to be. It was definitely mom’s favorite spot. But I don’t think you can find any pictures online of my favorite spot.

The morning of our last day, I felt sad because I knew we were departing at 1:19pm to head back to reality. So I got up early while my mom was still asleep and walked to the beach, which was only a couple of blocks away from our hotel. The first day we were there, the beach wasn’t that great. Mounds and mounds of seaweed and a couple of dead seals were washed up on shore, and hungry flies seemed to reign over the area. Given this, I don’t even know why I wanted to go back. Thankfully, though, the beach had been cleaned up sometime during the week and was completely free of sea creatures and flies. The sun was just coming up over the hills behind the beach, and a thick layer of white fog crept out of the sea and reached up and grabbed the hills. The fog clung to my skin and went right through to the bones in my hands.

I stretched for a minute and then began running north along the shore where the surf met the beach. A large beach front hotel asserted itself in the distance, and I decided that would be the landmark that I would run to before returning.

This run turned out to be much different than my runs back home. Instead of heat emanating from pavement and tears and snot and puffy eyes, I was met with a cool, wet ocean breeze and dry eyes. My muscles still ached a little, but I didn’t care. My breathing was steady and I felt like I could run into infinity. I picked up my pace and, surprisingly, my legs no longer hurt. I felt I was on the precipice of something, something big. Then that something happened. I was almost unsure of what was going on at the time, and only truly understood afterwards. I saw my body. I circled it like a movie camera – I drifted from behind myself to my right side and then to my front before returning to the right. I looked at the beach and the ocean on my other side. I felt like I had no control over my body; it was running on its own. It began running even faster. I watched it go faster, but I it watched in slow motion. Then, the slow motion sped up to a fast-forward pace and my spirit was sucked back into my body. With my mind and body reunited, I felt elated, and I let out a “Wooo!” I was only a little tired, and the hotel was just up ahead.

When I reached the hotel, I slowed to a walk. My original plan was to turn around and immediately run back, but I wanted to take everything in and try to process what had just happened.

The reflection never happened, however. I must have been outrunning my emotions, because as I was looking down at my feet while walking circles on the beach, they rushed in and nearly knocked me to my feet. I felt the tears coming and tried to fight them. I actually growled and yelled “No!” to them. I clinched my fists and raised my head to let out another battle cry to scare them away, but before I released anything from my throat, my breath was snatched from my chest by what I saw on the top of a sand dune next to me at the beach’s rim.

The cross was wooden and splintered. All I could see behind it as I looked upwards was the blue sky and a few white clouds. The tears must have seen this distraction as their opportunity to invade me, and I no longer cared whether they came or not. As they welled up and rolled down, I climbed the dune and stood in front of the cross. Several carvings of people’s initials and names and dates and proclamations of love covered the cross on all sides. Jeremy loved Michelle back in 1999, and I wondered if that were still the case. I wondered if Steve left Jill and his daughter, as well. I felt the pain of the mother or brother of Nolan and hoped he was indeed resting in peace.

Then I thought about God. The all-powerful God who couldn’t stop my dad from leaving. “Why?” I cried out. “Why did you let him leave us . . . leave me?” I wanted an answer. I was crying freely now. “Why?” was all I could manage to get out at this point. I sobbed. I swung in the air, punching the face of God in my mind. In that moment, I hated God. My prior beliefs were nowhere to be found. My former reverence wasn’t anywhere nearby.

But they must have been lagging behind, even more so than my emotions, because in an instant I felt the need to reach out and place my hand on the cross. I felt the rough wood and was careful not to slide my hand for fear of splinters. The feel of the weathered wood sent thoughts racing through my mind. I thought of splinters rubbing through the hands and shoulders of a man as he carried a cross up a hill. I thought about how it must have felt as the wood rubbed against the flesh of his back as he hung from it.

These thoughts overwhelmed me and I fell to my knees. I kept my hand on the cross, and begged Jesus for forgiveness. Forgiveness for questioning him, for doubting him. Then I thanked him for every second of pain he suffered on my behalf. I imagined blood staining the wood, and I couldn’t stop thanking him.

My tears began to dry, and peace was settling over me. I felt I could finally rest. I saw myself resting, not in my dad’s arms in his truck, but snuggled up against the breast of Jesus as he held me and ran his fingers through my hair. I finally rose again and surveyed the area around the cross. On one side, the hotel dominated the landscape. Behind the cross was a bike path that winded up and down the coast. Behind me was the ocean, the sun now casting a wonderful glow across the water. On the other side of the cross a trash can stood. It was overflowing and garbage littered the area beneath it. I thought about the entire scene and looked back to the cross. I put my hand back on it, but this time ran my fingers through the grooves of the carvings, feeling somehow connected in this moment to all those other lives. Looking at the cross for the final time before returning to the hotel, I thought to myself that Jesus truly is that Emmanuel, that God with us.

-Allison (Al) Rutherford @Ragamuffin_AL

I try really, really hard not to voice my opinions on politics or religious views that are hot-button issues in our country. I think I don’t mostly because I am afraid to be put into a category – “Oh, you’re one of them…” or “You Left-wing Facist!” or “Right-wing Nut Job!”  I hate that we have to judge and place everyone in our nation’s false Rolodex.

I’m also afraid to hurt anyone’s feelings.  I think it is reckless and inconsiderate for the average joes like myself to break people’s toes with our “free speech”.

So I guess you are expected at this point for me to say, “But I feel the strong need in this situation to break my own rules.” Well, I’m not going to.  I’m still going to take a step forward for myself and do something I wouldn’t normally do for the same reasons as above, but I am going to leave the majority of my opinions out of it.

So here goes:

Our Foundations of Contemporary Literature class just finished studying the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass.  Douglass, as you may already know, lived a good part of his life under slavery until he escaped.  He then became an orator and outspoken opponent of slavery. He also spoke out against the hypocrisy of Christianity in America. He was a very articulate and intelligent man, something very rare for an African American in his time, and used his level of intelligence and reasoning to give a sharp rebuke of the so-called Christians of his day.

His rebuke was very poignant to me, and I felt the strong need to share it.  All I want to do is transcribe his words here.  Interpret it however you want.  If you feel the overwhelming need to categorize me, try to fight it, but do so if you just have to.  The only thing I am saying here is that I feel his words are very relevant to our culture today, and should be taken into consideration.  If you don’t feel this way, then you are probably unaware of the ridiculousness that goes on in our country, and may be happier for it.  If these words do cut you in some way, good.  Try to take them to heart.  Try to understand where he was coming from, the context of his situation, and how it may apply to our nation.

So without further ramblings, I give you the words of Frederick Douglass:

“…What I have said respecting and against religion, I mean strictly to apply to the slaveholding religion of this land, and with no possible reference to Christianity proper; for, between the Christianity of this land, and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference–so wide, that to receive the one as good, pure, and holy, is of necessity to reject the other as bad, corrupt, ad wicked.  To be the friend of the one, is of necessity to be the enemy of the other.  I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ:  I therefore hate the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land.  Indeed, I can see no reason, but the most deceitful one, for calling the religion of this land Christianity.  I look upon it as the climax of all misnomers, the boldest of all frauds, and the grossest of all libels.  Never was there a clearer case of ‘stealing the livery of the court of heaven to serve the devil in.’  I am filled with unutterable loathing when I contemplate the religious pomp and  show, together with the horrible inconsistencies, which every where surround me.  We have men-stealers for ministers, women-whippers for missionaries, and cradle-plunderers for church members.  The man who wields the blood-clotted cowskin during the week fills the pulpit on Sunday, and claims to be a minister of the meek and lowly Jesus.  The man who robs me of my earnings at the end of each week meets me as a class-leader on Sunday morning, to show me the way of life, and the path of salvation.  He who sells my sister, for purposes of prostitution, stands forth as the pious advocate of purity.  He who proclaims it a religious duty to read the Bible denies me the right of learning to read the name of the God who made me.  He who is the religious advocate of marriage robs whole millions of its sacred influence, and leaves them to the ravages of wholesale pollution.  The warm defender of the sacredness of the family relation is the same that scatters whole families–sundering husbands and wives, parents and children, sisters and brothers,–leaving the hut vacant, and the hearth desolate.  We see the thief preaching against theft, and the adulterer against adultery.  We have men sold to build churches, women sold to support the gospel, and babes sold to purchase Bibles for the POOR HEATHEN!  ALL FOR THE GLORY OF GOD AND THE GOOD OF SOULS!  The slave auctioneer’s bell and the church-going bell chime in with each other, and the bitter cries of the heart-broken slave are drowned in the religious shouts of his pious master.  Revivals of religion and revivals in the slave-trade go hand in hand together.  The slave prison and the church stand near each other.  The clanking of fetters and the rattling of chains in the prison, and the pious psalm and solemn prayer in the church. may be heard at the same time.  The dealers in the bodies and sould of men erect their stand in the presence of the pulpit, and they mutually help each other.  The dealer gives his blood-stained gold to support the pulpit, and the pulpit, in return, covers his infernal business with the garb of Christianity.  Here we have religion and robbery the allies of each other–devils dressed in angels’ robes, and hell presenting the semblance of paradise. . . .”

Again, take this as you will.  I would love to hear some of your thoughts, though.

Chase