Category Archives: Cup-O-Joe

An Interview With Joe Combs


Smashwords Interview, February 2, 2015 .

What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
My daughter and the sunrise. I had neither when I was on submarines.
What do you read for pleasure?
Mostly biography and autobiography, non-fiction, and I still enjoy the classics.
Hemingway, Twain, Dumas, Tolstoy I could go on, but those are my four favorite.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
The Old Man and the Sea, because I feel it is the best book I have ever read. Hemingway does more with less than any author.
Tom Sawyer, I enjoy almost anything by Mark Twain. However, I grew up on a large river and imagined Tom living in my neighborhood. That feeling made the story more personal to me.
White Fang, I felt like I was in the great outdoors, a part of the story.
Moby Dick. My parents said that before I started kindergarten I was telling anyone who would listen that when I got big I was going to sea, and I did. I have always been fascinated with the sea and it was the first nautical novel I read.
The Count of Monte Cristo, like the other books it was pure adventure. Plus it had a wronged man who was avenged.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
I always try to read the works of the writers on my friends list, even the ones who write in genres I do not normally read. After that I would say word of mouth is how I find most of the books I read. Once in a while I will go to my favorite ebook retailer and do a search on my favorite genre and just see what comes up.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I like both the kindle and the nook.
When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?
With my daughter, reading, painting, sometimes carving wood, talking with my readers on Facebook, and doing things with my friends. Lately I have been doing a lot of travel as well.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
Winnie the Pooh was the first story I read on my own. It made me want to read more and more because I enjoyed the story so much.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes, I do. It was an essay on how kids could help fight water pollution by pulling water hyacinths from the boat and boat trailer while their parents were putting the boat on the trailer.
By doing that they would be helping to prevent the spread of water hyacinths to bodies of water that did not already have them. I won the essay contest.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in the South. North Florida a little town called Palatka to be exact, not far from St. Augustine and Jacksonville. I have always had an insatiable curiosity and enjoy history. The area I grew up in was awash with history. I was always listening to grown-ups talk about the past. So, today I approach my research in much the same way. I go to the source, people, documents, official records. And just like that small boy I show up with a thousand questions and want them all answered. Those answers always lead to even more questions. Some times I just have to stop the research and write the article or book, if I don’t I will never get anything written.
When did you first start writing?
I won my first essay contest when I was about nine years old. When I was a submarine sailor I used to write short stories at sea to entertain myself. But, I never thought of myself as a writer. When a college English professor told me I should write I laughed at her. But, about ten years later I published my first book, “Titanic, A Search For Answers,” I have been writing ever since; and I began writing full time in 2014.
Describe your desk
I write on a small 1940s maple table that has been my desk since high school. My table holds: a photo of my daughter, 3X5 cards, notepads, an assortment of pencils & pens, my dictionary, a small table lamp, my computer, the 4 or 5 books I am currently reading, and a lead crystal water pitcher.
The pitcher was my great-grandmother’s. When I was about 5 their house did not have running water, and every morning she would fill the pitcher with water from a hand pump and place it on the kitchen table so you did not have to pump water every time you wanted a glass of water. I keep that pitcher fill with water on my desk. It keeps me grounded and connected to my family.
What do your fans mean to you?
My fans are part of the writing team. One fan, Sheri, asked me if I would write an article (for my blog) about her great-great-grandfather. As it turned out, I had studied her great-great-grandfather quite a bit in my youth. He was a Marshal for Napoleon and one of my early heroes. It was a pleasure to write about him. But, the real joy came when she told me she learned things about him from my articles that she did not know.
Anyone can send me a friend request on my facebook page, and I have fans who have. Like I said, my fans are part of the team, sometimes I will ask a fan to read a draft I am working on and give me their opinion. Sometimes I’ll ask my fans what would they like to see me write about next. I enjoy research and thanks to my fans, I have learned many interesting things I might never have learned if it had not been for a request from a fan. I know all writers say this, but I really do have a great bunch of fans and have become friends with many of them.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
The research is fun, but I really enjoy doing rewrites. Sounds crazy I know, but when I find a way to say the same thing with fewer words I get a feeling of accomplishment. If I can improve the meaning of a sentence while shortening it, that is joy.
Like I said, I know it sounds crazy, but it is what keeps me writing, my little brother says it is the perfectionist in me.
What’s the story behind your latest book?
A mythology I remembered from my childhood of a Roman soldier who bullied Jesus he on his way to the cross. Because of that he was cursed to walk the face of the earth until Jesus came back.
One afternoon I began thinking about all of the world events he could have witnessed, and my imagination was off.
What are you working on next?
I have two things I am working on next. A collection of short stories called, “Growing Up Southern,” and the next Cartaphilus book.
The first Cartaphilus book will be released on March 27, 2015. That book will be followed by my book about the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley, which I sent to my editor in last month.
What is your writing process?
I get an idea and I play with it in my head for a while. Then when I get something that I like I’ll quickly jot down those thoughts. Then I begin to write the story in my head.
While I am writing in my head I begin to list references that I will need. Then I do an outline and write the book. The outline keeps me on track and prevents me from wandering around. Then I go back and use my references to check facts. Then I set the work aside for a while. When I come back to it, the first time I use text to voice software to listen to the book. Then I start my rewrites.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
Having to learn all aspects of the business. I mean let’s face it, as an indie writer you have either no or very few people on staff. So, you need to learn to do everything. Even if you hire out aspects of the work, you need enough knowledge to be able to pick good people to hire. So, far my picks have been 100%. I have very talented people I can turn to when I need help.
How do you approach cover design?
It depends whether I am going to do the cover myself, or hire someone.
If I hire someone, I tell them what the story is and then turn them loose to come up with some ideas. It really is great working with talented people.
If I am doing the cover myself, I shoot for an idea that will be recognizable as a thumbnail and that tells the book’s story in a simple picture.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
Word of mouth has been the most effective for me. There is nothing like a reader who enjoys your work to help get the word out.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Of all the retailers around the world that my books are with, only one of those is not through Smashwords. That alone would be enough, but the tools available to authors and publishers make the entire process of publishing/distributing easier and quicker than any distributor I have worked with. There are many user friendly tools that can help with each stage of the process which other distributors do not have.
What piece of advice do you have for people who want to be a writer?
Write. Writers write, if you are not writing you are not a writer. Race car drivers race cars, teachers teach, and writers write.
Even if it is only one sentence a day, write something. Just once sentence a day will give you several paragraphs by the end of the month. Do not worry what you are writing about, just write.

Published 2015-02-02.

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My Christmas Gift to You


This is my Christmas gift to you. This is not your typical Christmas writing and for some of you it may be hard to read. Please, stay with me. My Christmas wish for you is to feel the love that surrounds you, feel the peace of those who bring and have brought joy and love into your life, and for you to be able to experience the joy of celebrating and experiencing life.

The religions of the world have creeds, doctrines, and laws that the faithful must follow. People, not the Creator, create religions and their rules; the Creator has but one law, one creed, one doctrine – Love.

Many of these religions claim the bible as their governing document. When I read the bible (No, I am not trying to convert you. I love you just the way you are.) I do not see all the rules, I see one rule – love. When the religious leaders tried to trick Jesus, they asked Him what was the greatest commandment. They were expecting Him to pick one of the Ten Commandments over the other nine. Instead, He stated simply and elegantly the greatest commandment was to love God; the second greatest commandment was for us to love each other as we love ourselves. He said, “On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

There are no random acts in life, we are all connected, and we are all one family. Strangers are merely family we have yet to come to know. No life is a waste and good can come from all things, if only we have the eyes to see, ears to hear, and the heart to feel.

One of the things in life that we lament is fairness. Often we create rules and laws to insure fairness. But, if life were fair, no good person would ever die young. Some people believe that before we are born we choose the circumstances of our birth, life, and death, even to the point of who will be a part of our life. Stop and think about that for a moment – that is powerful.

If this is true then what we see as a loss is not a loss, but a sacrifice. A sacrifice our loved ones made for us. Sacrifice is something we should always be proud of, for in the act of sacrifice we do not lose that which is precious to us, we pass it on to those we love. Sacrifice is the noblest thing we do; it is what makes us human.

My grandfather lived to the age of 72 (I was 16 at the time). He wanted to live long enough to see me graduate high school and become a man (I was his oldest grandchild). But, this was his sacrifice for me. You see, I remember the many teachings of my grandfather even though, at the time, many of them I did not understand. As I moved into the world I pondered many of the things he said to me, but without my grandfather to tell me what to do, I had to make my own decisions for myself. Without my grandfather, I had to stand on my own in the world.

Each year on Facebook, I ask my Facebook friends this one question at Christmas time, “What was the first Christmas gift?” The answer is – a father’s love. God so loved the world that he gave his only son for the world. In my own personal faith we are all children of God (I am still not trying to convert you). Do, you see the sacrifice he made for us? No conditions, no selfishness He gave all. This is the love of a father. A love I had never known until the birth of my daughter Alexandra.

What of my daughter Alexandra? Her life was a mere 93 minutes. Yet, from this tiny girl came the greatest of all gifts. Alexandra passed on to me unconditional, total, unselfish love. I was 42 years old and had experienced many things in life both good and bad. Yet, I had never experienced a love that gives all and takes nothing. Without this gift from my daughter, Alexandra, I would never have been able to give the unconditional love of a father to my daughter Elizabeth, and so Alexandra passed on her gift of love to a little sister she never met.

My favorite author started one of his books with something he called “The Storyteller’s Creed,” it ends with, “… and I believe that love is stronger than death.” You see, life must end, but love does not. There are people in our lives whose hands we can no longer hold, whose hair we can no longer brush from their faces, whose warmth we can no longer feel in an embrace. Yet they are still with us, and they will always be with us as long as we have our memories; and as long as the love that we shared with those people still lives within us. That love will never die. This is the greatest gift, their last gift to us, the gift of their unconditional love.

Our last gift to them is to pass on their gift of love to others. There is however, one more part we need to conquer before we can share their love. Forgiveness.

When I learned to drive a car in driver’s education in high school, Mr. Henderson taught us to keep our eyes down the road in the middle of our lane. He said that we go where our eyes go. A great lesson for life, not just for driving. (Thank you Mr. Henderson).

Many of us have people we have not forgiven. By not forgiving people, we are keeping our eyes on that wrong from our past. Hate, anger, and hurt are a double-edge sword, the harm we think we are doing to others; we are really doing to ourselves and those we love. You see, we don’t forgive those people for their sake, but for our own and for the sake of those who love us. Until we can forgive, we are stuck in a past of hate, anger, and hurt.

We have to leave the past so that we may focus on the love we share and have shared with others. By doing this, we are then able to pass on the love that has been passed on to us. This is how we honor those who wait for us on the other side, through sharing their love with others, and we cannot share their love until we forgive.

This Christmas my wish for you is the gift of forgiveness, but I cannot give you this gift, nor can anyone else. It is a gift that only you, can give to yourself.

May you always feel joy, peace and love.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I have never dedicated a post to anyone before, but this week I would like to dedicate this post to my friend, Ed Horner. Besides being a good husband, father and friend, Ed was also one damn fine submarine sailor. Fair winds and following seas my friend.

Ed Ray Horner III my friend, my chief November 20, 1954 to November 23, 2013

Ed Ray Horner III
my friend, my chief
November 20, 1954 to November 23, 2013

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Royalist, Jacobin, Republican, or Patriot?


Napoleon Bonaparte in the coup d'état of 18 Br...

Napoleon Bonaparte in the coup d’état of 18 Brumaire in Saint-Cloud. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Battle of Weissenfels 1813 by Girardet

Battle of Weissenfels 1813 by Girardet (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

His Grace Jean Baptiste Bessieres, First Duke of Istria, Marshal of France, awarded the Legion d’Honneur (grand eagle, the highest rank), knighted in two countries, and numerous other awards for bravery and valor in battle.

Jean Baptiste Bessieres was born on 6 August 1768, in Prayssac near Cahors in southern France. His father was a successful and affluent country surgeon. Jean was 21 and studying to follow in his father’s footsteps when the French Revolution began in 1789.

In 1791, the new Legislative Assembly was divided between those who wanted a constitutional monarchy like England and those who wanted a republic. It was a dangerous time in Paris and the royal family decided to secretly flee to Varennes near the Austrian border. In Austria they would join those who had fled France in voluntary exile, and with the support and protection of Austria, retake France.

On 21 June the royal family fled Paris, dressed as their servants. Jean Baptiste Bessieres joined those protecting the royal family on their attempted escape from Paris. The king was recognized in Varennes and captured before the royals could get into Austria; they returned to Paris 25 June under house arrest in the Tuileries.

In early 1792, Bessieres joined the National Guard as a non-commissioned officer. Then in April of 1792, he was selected to join the new King’s Constitutional Guard of Louis XVI. When the Constitutional Guard was disbanded, he remained in Paris. When the Tuileries was stormed by a Paris mob on 10 August, Bessieres again joined those who protected the king, at great risk to himself.

On 13 August, the king was officially arrested, and on 21 September, France was declared a Republic. On 21 January 1793, King Louis XVI was executed. Afterwards Bessieres traveled south joining a cavalry regiment and was elected a second lieutenant.

All during this time, France was involved in war with foreign countries invading France and violent struggles among the revolutionaries within the country to establish a legitimate government in France. The Jacobins emerged in power after four years of struggle within France. The Jacobins were a political club that wanted France to be a democratic republic. By September of 1793, the Jacobins created the Committee for Public Safety and the Reign of Terror began, lasting for twelve months. Under the direction of this committee and its leader Robespierre, the streets of Paris ran red with blood until the execution of Robespierre in July 1794. The Jacobins were outlawed and most of its leaders also executed.  While all of this was going on, France continued to be attacked by foreign countries that feared the violence of France spilling over into their own country.

In 1795, Bessieres’ regiment was sent to the Pyrenees and coastal Italy, not good terrain for cavalry. It was while in Italy he attracted Napoleon’s attention with his calm and intrepid personality.

Of course, Jean Bessieres would have attracted attention anywhere he went. He was tall with a natural military bearing and grace, with long powdered hair (like the 18th century military men before him). His hair style fitted his youthful face. Bessieres was a man of integrity, very exact and even-tempered; in battle, he possessed an almost cold courage. Some of his contemporaries described him as unflinching. He was more intelligent and had better judgment than his peers. He also had an unusual kindness about him and took better care of his men, horses and equipment than other generals. Though, he was very disciplined, he was well loved by his men. At the battle of Wagram a cannonball struck Bessieres’ horse; killing the horse, injuring him, and knocking him unconscious. He was carried from the field of battle. His men, thinking he was dead, wept and charged into battle vowing revenge.

At the end of the Reign of Terror, the Directory was the governmental head of France, and still the wars and civil unrest continued. By 1799 it appeared the Directory was about to start a second Reign of Terror.

Meanwhile Bessieres was serving his country in the cavalry under General Bonaparte, first in Italy, then in Egypt and the East. Bessieres had risen to the rank of colonel and become a trusted friend of General Bonaparte. In November, General Napoleon Bonaparte secretly returned to France with a small body of trusted friends to take the reins of power through a military coup. Bessieres was a member of this small group and helped Murat, Lannes, and Marmont secure the support of the Army for Napoleon, and he went on to play a prominent role in the coup d’état.

In March 1804, when Napoleon had the Duke of Enghien executed on dubious and shifting charges, Bessieres protested loud and long against it. Apparently, Bessieres did not suffer from blind loyalty for his best friend and Emperor.

My Analysis

Thirty years ago, I was a young man still forming my approach to history. I accepted the history books at face value, except those areas I knew to be stilted concerning America’s Civil War. I knew the victor had written the history books in their favor on that great conflict, but was this the case throughout historical writing. I was determined to find out, and decided a good place to start my quest was with Napoleon, one of the most important military leaders in history.

I knew from history that Napoleon was an egomaniac determined to sacrifice his own country and Europe to feed his own ambitions of power, fame, and glory. I realized much of what I could find in English about Napoleon (I don’t read French) was written after the fact and could be tainted by the victors. So, I chose to start with Napoleon’s Marshalls. I chose, at random from a list of Napoleon’s first selected Marshalls, Jean Baptiste Bessieres. My approach to history was changed forever. From that point forward I would conduct my own research of primary source material, read the analysis of professional historians, and then arrive at my own analysis. Without Bessieres, my historical work as you see it today would not have been possible. The articles that so many of you have expressed appreciation for, through your comments and e-mails, would have never been written.

Family tradition has Bessieres as royalists; Bessieres himself proclaimed to be a Jacobin; and most historians list him as a republican. I found Bessieres to be none of the above. To me Bessieres was a man loyal to France, a patriot. When France was in upheaval and under threat from forces within and without the country Bessieres sided with his country and not any particular government. When the Monarchy seemed to be France’s best hope for stability, the 26-year-old Bessieres risked his life to protect the Royal family. When the Jacobins seemed to be France’s best hope for stability, he joined the Jacobins and became a republican. When the Jacobins threatened to tear France apart with a second Reign of Terror to support their own power, he became a prominent figure in a coup d’état that brought Napoleon to power.

Friend and foe alike claimed that Bessieres was a man whose intelligence and cool judgment were above that of his peers. Bessieres had a clearness of vision and his advice always lacked bias, disinterested, but decidedly not uninterested. When, early in the Russian campaign, Napoleon had a defeated the enemy in the field, and had all of his Marshalls convened around him deciding what to do next. Bessieres kept quite while the other Marshalls advised sending in the reserves (comprised entirely of Imperial Guard) to finish off the Russian army. Then Bessieres calming stated to Napoleon, “Sire, you are seven hundred leagues from Paris.”

Napoleon did not send in his reserves.

Yet, when Napoleon executed the Duke of Enghien, unjustly to Bessieres’ view, he did not hesitate to go against his friend and Emperor. Undoubtedly, it was Napoleon’s respect for Bessieres’ intellect and clearness of thought, which saved Bessieres.

When I finished my studies of Jean Baptiste Bessieres, I was convinced the victor tainted our knowledge of Napoleon. Bessieres would not have supported Napoleon for so long if Napoleon had been the self-serving, egomaniac, sacrificing France for his own power and glory that we have been lead to believe.

Next week, more of this remarkable man, Jean Baptiste Bessieres, in war and peace.

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“We interrupt your regularly scheduled article …”


Generic regular strength enteric coated 325mg ...

Generic regular strength enteric coated 325mg aspirin tablets, distributed by Target Corporation. The orange tablets are imprinted in black with “L429”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I started my blog, I intended to devote myself to writing about historical events and people. Over time, I received mail from people saying they enjoyed my articles, and that the articles distracted them from their troubles, if only for a few minutes. Troubles we have all faced to one degree or another through the weak global economy of the last ten years, and recession of the last five years. This was when I started to include other topics in my writings in an attempt to help as much as I can. Today’s article is in that vein. It is also very personal, but if it helps just one of you or someone you know, then it is worth it.

On Monday July 22, I walked into the plant medical department at work (my night job) asking for aspirin. I had been feeling bad since Friday afternoon. After a few questions and quick examination, I was rushed to the hospital and admitted to the intensive care unit. The doctors had determined that Friday afternoon I had a mild stroke.

There are signs that someone is having a stroke and I will share those with you at the end. However, I spent eight hours working around dozens of people on Friday without displaying any of those signs to anyone else’s observations or my own. I had a bad headache by my right temple which spread out to the rest of the right side of my head (I rarely get headaches), but that was all. A headache I had for the entire weekend, something that never happens.

I was examined by three doctors (one a neurosurgeon), had blood draws every three hours, endured sonograms to observe my heart and arteries, endured CAT scans and MRI’s. The doctors expected to find a physical problem, which would explain the stroke. What the doctors found was that I was in excellent health, particularly for a man 50 years old. (I thoroughly enjoyed the looked of confusion at my apparent excellent physical condition hehehe – I know this is not a laughing matter, but it is nice to be in better shape than the doctors anticipate). My heart and arteries are working perfectly, no blockages, weaknesses, or leakage. My cholesterol levels are fine. My blood pressure, high when admitted, returned to 120/80 which the doctors said was very good (normally I am 110/70). Their conclusion was that the only risk I had is the half pack of cigarettes I smoke a day. Then we set down for a conversation.

This is when the doctors discovered the cause of my stroke. Stress. You see some of the problems that some of you have shared with me in your private letters, I am also having. With our recent economy, I have (as many of you are having) several serious issues that all need addressed immediately. Some of the issues have only been made worse by the actions of our politicians, and often those government agencies which claim to offer help are time consuming and in the end offer no help. I will prevail with hard work and attention to detail, and now (on advice from my doctors) taking time to clear my mind from time to time by stepping back to enjoy a pleasant moment without thought to those things I need to do.

The final word of the doctors is that I have a slight weaknesses on my left side, which should be gone in 2 to 6 weeks. I did not notice the weakness, but each doctor discovered it independently of the other two doctors. They also told me that 80% of the effects of a stroke are reversed in the first 24 hours. When I got home Friday night, I took some children’s aspirin I keep in the house for my daughter. I do not use any kind of drugs myself and children’s aspirin for my daughter was all I had in the house. The doctors said the aspirin definitely helped me with the stroke. So, in about 2 to 6 weeks I will be completely recovered with no lasting effects. Very lucky indeed. The doctor’s also said that if I do not follow their advice about relaxing from time to time I will most likely have another stroke and I will not be so fortunate the next time.

The signs of a stroke (my employer has signs posted with these symptoms)

1. Confusion

2. Fatigue

3. Slurred speech

4. Numbness, tingling, or weakness on one side of the body

5. Vision problems are also possible

6. Speech or actions that do not seem to make sense or are unusual for that person

As I said, I did not display any of these symptoms, though I was having an unusual headache. Physically I am in better shape than even I knew, as well. The cause in my case was pure and simple … stress. Stress is a killer. As my doctors found out, there was no physical cause for my stroke.

If you or someone you know is having ANY of these signs or symptoms, seek medical help immediately. If you are having an unusual physical problem (like my long and unusual headache) … seek medical help immediately. Do not wait. If my stroke had been more serious, the three days I waited to seek medical help would have been too late. I was lucky this one time. Do not count on luck.

A stoke can strike anyone at any time, no matter how good or how bad your health may be. Slob to professional athlete, no one is immune.

DO NOT WAIT TO SEEK MEDICAL HELP.

English: A right MCA artery stroke.

English: A right MCA artery stroke. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Our Voice


"Lev Tolstoy in Yasnaya Polyana", 19...

“Lev Tolstoy in Yasnaya Polyana”, 1908, the first color photo portrait in Russia Français : « Léon Tolstoï à Iasnaïa Poliana », 1908, le premier portrait photographique en couleur en Russie. Suomi: “Leo Tolstoi Jasnaja Poljanassa”, 1908. Ensimmäinen Venäjällä otettu värimuotokuva. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have been blessed in my life to have the opportunity to travel the world, and quite literally sail the seven seas. I seen so many interesting places, and met so many wonderful people. I have learned much in all my travels, and have cherished each experience, and each teacher. One of the things I have learned my travels; in the entire world, there is only one thing made by the hand of man that is truly infinite. My library. I purchased yet another new book this week.

I may have grown up poor in the Deep South, but I learned early on poverty would only hold me back if I allowed it too. As a small boy; I sailed on the whaler Pequod, raced dog sleds in Alaska, whitewashed a fence in Missouri, and captured Spanish treasures ships with Captain Edward Teach onboard the Queen Anne’s Revenge. Some of the places I read about as a boy, I visited as a man.

This week, while I should have been working on my article, I was enjoying the latest edition of my always-expanding library, Invented Voices by Donald Newlove. Invented Voices is a book of dialogue from some of the world’s greatest movies, plays, scripts, poems, and novels. While in my moment of solitude, I remembered what I liked about many of the scenes Mr. Newlove shared. It was the originality and honesty of those dialogues. Dialogues from artists, for these people are more than authors, of people like Ernest Hemingway, William Shakespeare, Herman Melville, Anne Tyler, Stephen Crane, Leo Tolstoy, and so many more. To be sure, the originality and honesty is that of the author’s. More important, the originality and honesty is that of the characters. In each of these works, we came to know people like Captain Ahab and Elizabeth Bennet, just as surely, as if we had been properly introduced to them.

I also remembered reading the intro to a book by an independent author, someone I had never heard of before. The first sentence stated that this book was written in the style of “Stephen King, Ernest Hemingway, and James Patterson.” No, I did not download the book, even though it did have a catchy title. Although, I do have to admit, I almost downloaded the book just to see how you could combine these three styles.

In the classics (and soon to be classics), the character is as real, and as original as you or me. The author stepped back and allowed the character to speak their own words, in their own voice. If Hemingway had written in the style of Mark Twain the old man in The Old Man and the Sea, would have been contrived, forced, and false. The words and thoughts would not have been those of the old man, but of Ernest himself trying to be Mark Twain. The author is merely the soapbox the character stands upon to shout their words to the world. When I want to read Ernest Hemingway, I read Ernest Hemingway. When I want to read Stephen King, I read Stephen King. When I want to read Scott (http://wp.me/IYiO) or Sheri (http://wp.me/P2IjCG-2), I read Scott or Sheri.

Each person, throughout all time, has a voice that is unique and their own. It does not matter if that person is you, Tom Sawyer, or me. Each of us is at our best when we allow our true voice to come out. But, we cannot make others into our own image, they too have to speak out in their own voice. As authors, when we write “in the style of …,” we have reduced ourselves to a mere copy. We do the same when we act as we believe others would have us act; when we suppress our dreams, our desires, and our passions. We do the same to others when we try to influence them to “be what they should be.” Why would you read something written “in the style of Mark Twain” when you merely need to pick up Tom Sawyer? I won’t. The same is true of our lives, and the lives of others.

Succeed in life, be honest, be an original, be you!

Cover of "The Old Man and The Sea"

Cover of The Old Man and The Sea

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