Expectations

They shape us, sometimes sculpting with care, but often chipping away at who we could be. For expectations are born both from within and from without. Left unfettered, expectations will crush a soul, reduce an artist to rubble, and smash the joy we should feel every day.

Our parents start the process… “You go to a good school, get a good job, marry well, have children, and work hard. Go to church on Sundays. We absorb these ideas until they seem to be our own.

Then our peer group kicks in, and they can either help or hinder the process of personal growth. In my case, my friends from school and early adulthood tended to be unconventional. I tried to have it all, marrying a lawyer and writing songs in Nashville and never quite fitting in. Like many writers and artists, I strived for conformity, yearning for acceptance. But as an unknown writer, I was always just on the other side of an invisible door.  I could see the people, smell the food, and hear the music, but I was more spectator than participant. So close,  yet infinitely far.

Artists and creatives who surrender early on my find happiness if they can kill that part of themselves which longs for artistic success. It’s tough to achieve a balance.

We believe, deep in the secret places of our heart, that we are living a certain kind of lie, that there is something else out there in the universe whispering, then shouting, exhorting us to yearn for more. We chaffe against the bonds of the past and the expectations which threaten to confine us. Some of us are lucky enough to shed those shackles, and that is a glorious thing, an awakening of the spirit.

Yet, when we look beyond the borders we have been confined to and set our eyes upon the distant mountaintop, we begin another journey in which our own great expectations do us harm. It’s inevitable.

We dream great dreams and imagine a future of rainbows and unicorns where our art is heard, seen, read, and important. We visualize how things could be and convince ourselves that they not only should be, but that they will be thus because it is our destiny. Ahh, the arrogance of an artist. We must possess some of it, for we dare to believe that someday, somewhere, we will make a difference and that our work will matter. This drive can propel us to great heights, but it can just as easily destroy us.

I write because I must.  My pen touches the page and I and mix color and emotion because I need to pull the swirling tempest of light and darkness out of me and share it with the world.

When I remember this truth, I enjoy the journey toward that lofty peak, savouring the scents and vistas along the way. I am free of expectations and can live, love and laugh in the moment, and the moment is what matters.

I strive to remember, because the moments will only keep slipping away.

Free short story: Sand

kelli at the end

Sand

1

The ocean this morning is that special blue, deeper than any color can be alone, truer than the sun playing golden on easy waves, warm and inviting. The sweet breeze and the singing feeling in my chest and the taste of salt and life and the way light and shadows dance against a vast horizon are all part of one color.

I am an artist, feeling what I see, seeing what I feel, and right now in this moment I have discovered a new color. Hope.

Standing in the surf, hard packed sand beneath painted toes and wind tossing my long hair, hope embraces me, a brilliant color and emotion I have yearned to find. There is freedom and forgiveness and exhilaration in it, but it is more than those things, for it is akin to explaining the sunrise to a blind woman or the joy and pain of childbirth to a man. There are some things that only make sense with color and context.
Henry launches himself into a wave, laughing and carefree and seven, bursting with light and potential, and I am filled with joy and gratitude as I gaze upon my son, and for a moment a cloud passes overhead and there is regret mingled with wonder at his resilience and my own.

“Momma, did you see that? That wave almost got me. It didn’t though.”

“I saw, honey. You beat that wave.”
“Look out,” he shouts, grinning with his hands in the air. “Here comes a big one. Get ready.”

Yeah. I know about that.

Behind us, the castle surrenders to the water, walls sliding into the sea, a work of art doomed to memory from its inception because it was built in the only place it could have been with the materials at hand: Hope and love and sand.
#
I saw something in him when I first laid eyes on him, and part of me still wonders about that. Doubts my sanity. That’s a man, I thought. Tall and handsome and cocky, a guitar on his back and a searching kind of loneliness in his eyes at the same time. A road trip with some girlfriends to Panama city with a detour to Nashville cast ripples I never could have imagined. Probably we should have gone to the beach.

I’m from a little shithole southern town where everybody knows everybody, even though they never really do. They think they do, and make up lies to fill in the blanks. Don’t get me started. That’s a whole separate ball of wax. It’s part of it, though. Part of why I stayed when I should have left after things went like they did. There is hope now, and for me back then in those hard years between the folds, I saw hope in that guy with a guitar and wounded eyes and silver words.

You work with what you’ve got, and sometimes it’s sand. You build where you can, and if it’s the damn beach, then that’s better for the moment than anywhere else if that’s the only place you think you can build.

Worse, if that’s where you want to make something lasting even though you know better, because there is that thing that you can’t explain to anyone with a brain, including yourself. That love and passion and color and self-delusion wrapping around each other in a heady mix of blue sky and Cinderella and faith and kisses.

There are hotel rooms where people to this day cannot go because of us. We fucked like wild animals and it was glorious, mattresses askew and cushions on the floor and people calling the front desk. It was like that; that was the good part, the beginning, that thing that was real in its own way but painfully elusive in the life I eventually lived. The life we lived for a damn decade.

I wasn’t happy where I was when I met him, raging against the small town and small minds and big egos, and there was this huge man with song and gentle touch. A caress and a look around the eyes that unlocked parts of me I didn’t want to face, but which ignited a tingle and desire and a longing for something I’d almost given up on believing could be real. I wanted to believe. I truly did. I was divorced, he was divorced. I had a boyfriend, he had a girlfriend. We lived 550 miles apart…here we go.

I should go back and slap myself upside the head, but it’s a little late for that. I try to tell my daughters not to make the same mistakes I did, and I pray they hear my plea. They likely haven’t learned the things I wished they would, the right lessons that could have been lived and not said, and it makes me sad still.

That son of a bitch. The man I loved destroyed me and he hurt everyone I loved. There was darkness in me and surrender because I didn’t see anything else.

I am better than that. I remain undefeated, and with the sky true and the ocean sweet, I feel it. He was my enemy, implacable in the way of the tide claiming a castle built upon the sand. He did what he did, hurting and acting and reacting. Hurting me. Harming our family. The tide has no choice, serving the moon, but he made choices the ocean never has. Later, I made choices too. I don’t have many regrets. He can keep those.

The bitterness in my heart devoured me, and that I lay at his feet. That he fell in love with me for a second time when I wasn’t in love with him doesn’t matter anymore. I’d already moved on before I moved on, he just didn’t see it. Truth is often painful but always worth the price, even when it’s paid in heartache.divorce-2

I am a woman, a mother, and an artist, and my past does not define me. I fought like hell to get here to this moment and feel these colors. I earned this ocean and this light. I paid the price with tears and years and parts of me I should never have surrendered.sand3

I hear a laugh behind me, a joyous hearty thing, and I spin, my toes digging in the sand and the sun on my face and smile at the man I love and want to spend the rest of my life with.
He is not the same man I built castles in the sand with.

And that makes all the difference.
2

Dawn comes slow and warm, the surf an easy whisper on the beach. Lying on my back beneath a sand dune, the sky is turning from black to gunmetal gray, becoming something new, painted with swirls of pink and orange until the sun breaks on the horizon. I’ve always loved to watch the sun rise; it’s a wondrous transformation, as darkness surrenders to light. A kind of rebirth which only comes through time.sand2

Endings are really beginnings; I often forget that. I remember it now.

The fresh sea breeze soothes my soul and there is the taste of salt and the coming sun on my lips mingled with peace. The kind of peace you don’t know you need until you find it again and see how much you’ve been missing it.

I am a writer, and I’ve sacrificed much at the altar of love. The love of words, and the love of a woman.

Maybe that’s how it had to be.
#
Sometimes when you meet the love of your life you know it right away; that’s how it goes in the movies. It wasn’t like that for me.I didn’t know it until it was too late.

I met her in Nashville years ago, rebounding and hurting and she helped heal me. Made me feel loved and safe. There was a whirlwind romance with this unlikely woman from the deep south with wild hair and blue eyes and a hunger in her I found intensely desirable. Within six months of divorcing my previous wife of many years, I found myself married again, an expectant father and stepfather of two girls, living far from home in a new town.
I wanted to be that guy. I really did. I wanted to believe.

I wasn’t ready to meet her, but it happened the way it did and went to hell from there. I hung on through kids and demons and heart break, inflicting my own upon the way. Resentment grew in that void and bitterness festered. There were actions and reactions until it was impossible to know what was true and what was false. It’s not an uncommon story, and I wish I’d written a better one for my life, mine and her’s.

We hung onto eachother and our children through years of quiet desperation. Clinging to the hope that one day things would change, that light would break through the looming clouds and we would feel that shine on our hearts again. That God would bring purpose and healing to us together, not individually. To our family. That our faith would sustain us.
It happened for me, but it never did for her. I only thought it did.hourglass

On a perfect day right before the blue sky fell, the sun was gold dust glittering on the water and in the air and we were a family. I recall the sense of wonder and glory, savoring that moment with my children in the waves, holding hands with my wife, a deep gratitude and awe in me that things were good. I can wrap those memories around me now and hold them tight

Just because we wish a thing to be true does not make it so.

I defined myself as a father and a husband and an author, and it’s been a process to remake my life and my existence. I will always be a dad, and being away from my boys for any time has wounded both me and them. I’ll always be a writer, too and I embrace that part of me. Words don’t keep you warm at night, though, don’t hold you when you are crushed.

She was my muse and best friend, inspiring me, making me a better man and better author. It’s an anguished thing to loose, knowing that that has faded away. I hope forgiveness finds me. For the moment, there is peace. There is hope in the growing light.

The tide eats the beach and blue waves claim the sand as they have forever, and when the wind blows right and the ocean calms, the sand blows up onto the rolling dunes and the beach is born again.

The sky is bright now and I turn away with a certain wistful sadness; I’ve got pages to write. Later, I’ll come back with my boys and we’ll build a sand castle. The memories will remain long after my footprints are gone, and they will be true and good.

The End

cropped-banner11.jpg

http://www.amazon.com/Objects-Wrath-Book-1-ebook/dp/B00IK7MH9M/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Author or Salesman part II: How to show an author love…

We writers are an odd breed. We drink coffee into the wee hours, hunched over computers in small rooms and carved out spaces, getting up early to work day jobs and burning our candle at both ends. We leave our blood and heart on the page, dreaming characters, plot, and conjuring worlds in our minds. That’s the fun part, the creating, the honing, the story-telling. At some point, we set our work free to roam cyberspace, hoping that someone reads it and feels something true.

After it’s live on Amazon, then comes the anguished part of the process. We log onto our author page and check our sales rank, and we look for reviews. Good reviews make our day, and a bad review can cast a pall over a week. I’ve been told many times not to read bad reviews, but it hasn’t stuck yet. I read them, and I try to learn something from them. The general thinking amongst the author community is that 4 and 5 star reviews are good, and anything less is bad. Potential readers will often read the negative reviews, too, looking for a common thread. Also those 3 stars tend to give a little more credibility to the other reviews on the page. It’s a numbers game; the more reviews an author gets, the more books he or she is going to sell.

Indie authors must promote themselves, which is a nuisance for both the writer and for their friends, who grow weary of chest-thumping and begging and pleading. Writers don’t like doing it and people generally don’t like to hear about it. I understand. I apologize. There is no other way, unfortunately, for a writer to break out among the millions of other voices, attempting to be heard. So we blog, and we tweet, we Facebook, we Google Plus, we join groups on Linkdin and we post on Tumblir and Instagram, doing what the industry people who are far more savvy at marketing call “building your brand,” and equally important, “building your platform.”

An author’s brand is essential. If someone says, “I’m about to read a Tom Clancy book,” I know what they’re talking about. Clancy built a brilliant brand of military techno-thrillers. The brand is the author’s name in association with the books he or she writes.The reader has a certain expectation of the kind of book the novelist has produced, and will decide to buy based upon that prior knowledge.

The platform is just as important, if not more so. An author’s platform is how we are able to reach people. Social Media is the foundation of this platform, but it also includes book signings, radio show appearances, press releases, networking with other writers, and anything else we can dream up to find readers. For new authors, it’s maddeningly difficult to build a platform.

As a relatively new novelist, I’m familiar with these woes. There is the feeling of a tree falling in snowy woods when a book is released. A muffled, quiet sound at best. My publisher is a big believer in “soft releases” which lead to a “long tail.”  I’ve not yet quite figured out exactly what that means. I guess that the hope is word of mouth makes a novel or a series take off, and this takes a long time. In the meantime, authors have to keep writing, keep producing, not relying on one book or three.

Here’s where our friends are so important.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Perseid-Collapse-Series-Sunshine-ebook/dp/B00T41JBYM/ref=zg_bsnr_6305072011_4

If you’ve got a friend or family member is an author, please buy their books. (Hence the begging!) For less than the price of a Starbucks Latte, you get eight hours of serious entertainment. Less than the price of a movie ticket. And folks, the book is always better than the movie.

After you read the books, please leave honest reviews. (more with the begging.) Reviews matter because they drive sales. The more reviews we receive, the more Amazon does it’s thing promoting our books to a wider audience. We’re more likely to qualify for promotional tools like Bookbub, which can potentially make or break a novel. I know it’s a pain to log back onto Amazon and crank out a review. But it really makes a difference to all of us who are striving to entertain a wider audience, those of us who dream of quitting that day job and sitting down at the computer both during the day and in the middle of the night.

http://www.amazon.com/Wrath-Redemption-Sean-T-Smith-ebook/dp/B00SXOLOEQ/ref=pd_sim_kstore_11?ie=UTF8&refRID=0ZJFS5B0X0M4WM0RSQJ1

If you enjoyed the book, tell people about it! Share a post every now and then, pass out a business card, or simply mention the book if you’re having a conversation about books. If you’re in a book club, throw it in the ring. People listen to what you have to say, and that word of mouth recommendation is crucial. It means more to us than you know.

No one told me I had to be a writer, no one insisted that being an author was the only right path for me, and that’s how it is for all of us, we crazy writer folk. We chose this path because we felt drawn to words, this need to create, and deep down we believe that we have something worthy to say, and emotion to impart. Whether it’s pure entertainment or something profound, we want to move people.

If we have moved you, please leave us reviews! And you will have succeeded in moving us.

amazon.com/author/seantsmith

understand.