Reincarnation, and the Plausibility of Old Souls

One of the driving forces behind my upcoming book, Old Souls, is the idea of reincarnation. When I explain the premise of the story to people they usually respond one way. “Do you believe in reincarnation?”

reincarnation-soul-mateIt’s an interesting topic. Everyone seems to have an anecdote to share, whether it’s about how a psychic once told them they were an old soul, or about a boy in Louisiana who convinced his parents he used to be a fighter pilot, and was shot down over the Pacific. These stories often result in interesting conversations about life and death, and what happens to our souls when we die.

I don’t believe I’m going to hell (and never really expected they’d let me into heaven). Although I tried the organized religion “hat” on for a while, it only made my head itch. That’s not to say, of course,  I’d ever try to take anyone’s beliefs from them. My dad is a Christian. His faith helped mold him into the kindhearted, compassionate person he is today. It’s a hat that looks good on him.

quotescover-JPG-87But, because I don’t believe in a neat and tidy, biblicized set of rules and convictions, I feel like I’ve entertained a fairly wide variety of theories about life and nature, and where our souls come from.

What I have come up with is this: I believe in life. In positive energy.  I don’t think there’s a perfect being who watches us all the time, judging us while we steal the last cookie from Grandma’s cookie jar, or a twisted demon who makes us do it. I believe the force fueling evolution and breath and everything around us, is . . . our souls. The desire to be alive, to experience each other and the world around us. I believe our molecules have collected as intricately as they have to give us consciousness, because they were driven by our consciousness to do it. As our environment changes, our molecules will find new ways to persevere, to thrive, until this world is used up and we return to the stardust we came from: drifting with a purpose, to collect in a new world where we can thrive again.

Now, does this mean that I believe that the premise of Old Souls could be real, and that there are three hundred beings here on earth who can remember each and every one of their past lives, and have fought among themselves to control mankind for the last ten-thousand years?

quotescover-JPG-58Not really. But, it has been pretty fun to think about. That’s why I love being a writer. I have been able to let my imagination run wild. My book is made up of tangents, really. It is the result of slipping into a dream-like world where conspiracy theories, plots of world domination, immortality, and the schizophrenic delusions of a madman are real.

I haven’t decided whether or not I believe in reincarnation, exactly. I feel like if we do incarnate over and over, the experiences we gather in each lifetime and the genetic makeup of our bodies–our hormones and our brains–would fundamentally change how we operate from one life to the next.

aBut, my youngest little hellion said something once that really made me stop and think. It’s amazing what children can say sometimes, in their syrupy sweet, innocent voice. It happened last year at bath time. Nonchalantly, he skimmed a Spiderman boat over the surface of bubbly water.

Mommy, when we all die and come back to life again, I still want to be your Rylie.”


So, do YOU believe in reincarnation?


DO NOT GET DISCOURAGED!! The 6 Things You Need To Do To Be A Successful Author

In case you weren’t aware, in the Twitterverse today, it’s #SundayBlogShare. In honor of this day, I’m going to. . . (gasp) share a blog.
A lot of my followers are already familiar with Dan Alatorre. Over the past few months, he’s given up hours upon hours (upon HOURS) of his time helping me with my writing, and he’s always kicking around Scribbles on Cocktail Napkins.
I often feel like every fledgling author could use a friend like him: a mentor to help overcome the obstacles that all new writers seem to face.
But, you know what? He actually offers a lot of advice for FREE already. Check this out! Hit that subscribe button. Get it straight from the horse’s (bestseller’s) mouth!

Dan Alatorre

If you look at some author groups on Facebook, you hear a lot of complaints: no sales, no reviews, no royalties, marketing is hard…

anti_no_crap_yard_signApparently, life sucks for authors.


Complaining about book sales is a bitchfest designed to… do what, exactly?

COMPLAINER: Is anyone selling books? I hear authors selling one or two every now and then but no one I know is making a killing, or has a best seller!


REPLY 1: Not selling as many these days as 2010-2011. I definitely know authors who are doing well. It usually requires writing great books and several of them and sticking with it for years.


REPLY 2: No one is going to sell much as long as they continue with Kindle Unlimited.


COMPLAINER: My friends say they sell, but what they don’t say, is they buy the books…

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Fear of Failure . . . Afraid to Finish

AAAWriting is a solitary effort. There’s no one to talk to at the water cooler. Finding other authors who have experienced the same things you are, who can prod you on when you need it, and shoot the $hi# on command, can make the process of writing a novel just a little less painful. Case in point: I recently had a venting session with one such friend of mine, and discovered something I hadn’t realized before. I am afraid of finishing my book. Sounds crazy, right? Having spent so many years on it, you’d think I’d be raring at the bit to set the thing free. But . . . I’m not. In fact, my writing output has slowed to such a crawl that the last three chapters have taken me five months. quotescover-JPG-73Even that might not be so bad, if this wasn’t my second draft. But, it is. The bottom line is I should be moving along faster. I’ve talked about the importance of author swagger before here. But, you know what else is important? Finishing the goddamned book. Having something to back that “swagger” up. What’s stopping me from moving forward (you may wonder)? After talking to my friend, I realized it’s the fear of failure. I LOVE the idea behind my book. I love it so much that I feel like it could be really successful. I’ve created a world where I can add sequels and prequels my whole writing career if I wanted. But, as a new author, I’m also afraid that I might not write it properly: that I might ultimately fail the story. Instead of sitting down and typing it out, I’ve been distracting myself with Twitter, my Facebook Author Page, reviewing my critiquing partners’ submissions, and this very blog. Not mention my hellions . . . what’s that? The boys are trying to start a block of wood on fire with a magnifying glass? What’s that? The wood is attached to my HOUSE??

quotescover-JPG-20In the past few months, I spent the short eight weeks of hot(ish) weather Prince Edward Islanders enjoy playing with my kids and messing around with social media, and when I tried sitting down at my computer in the fall, I was SHOCKED at just how hard it was to type words onto my keyboard. Writing became painful. After a mere half-hour or so my brain actually hurt. When my writing muscles recovered from their eight weeks off, I found myself bungled by some rather unfortunate plot-holes. Then I started a new job. And, last week, I received a really, really great promotion. It’s a promotion so good that after years of contributing to the financial security of our household in bits and pieces, I am now in a position where I can earn quite a bit more. It means more money, more job security, and more hours. Which is great, not only for myself, but for my family. But, it’s not so great for my writing time.

Even though I’m happy with my promotion and the extra hours (and dollar dollar bills, y’all) that go along with it, and even though writing can be incredibly HARD, ultimately, writing is what I want to do. So now that I’m aware of what my brain is doing, that I’m subconsciously allowing myself to be distracted because of a innate fear that my book is going to suck and all this swagger will have been for NOTHING, what am I going to do about it? Well, I’m going to . . .Write

I’ve put myself in a time-out. It means I’ve had to make some of the same choices as countless other authors before me. The time has come to minimize critiquing my partners’ submissions. It means that if I want to finish this book and thrive in my new job, I have to quit everything that doesn’t really matter. I’m talking to you, social media.

So, if you’re looking around one day and wondering where I’ve gone, here’s the answer. I am writing. I have four chapters to go before I tackle some pretty big revisions and then try to grab an agent.

See you at the finish line.

Hunt for the Troll: Mark Richardson

Many of you follow Scribbles on Cocktail Napkins because you want to be an author . . . someday, in the hypothetical land of far, far away. tn5xnBut, I recently met an author who proves that even with a busy family life and successful career, that dream is still an option . . . now.

As new author myself, when I come in contact with the few who have made it, who have climbed the mountain of writing a book and then *eyes widen in wonder as mouth unceremoniously unhinges* getting it published, I have a ton of questions.

I talked about my love/hate relationship with Twitter before, here. To be fair, most of the time I do love Twitter. I’ve had some pretty neat conversations with people I would have never come in contact with otherwise. On Wednesday, when Canada’s new Prime Minister was sworn in, I logged in to read up to the minute updates about his cabinet. As a writer, I follow hashtags like #amwriting which often lead to the incredible, free writing resources that are invaluable to self-taught writers like me.

Last week in the Twitterverse, I met a budding author whose debut novel, Hunt For the Troll, was picked up and released by the independent publisher, New Pulp Press. We got to talking, which got my curiosity up, and I checked out his book.

A-may-zing. His characters are out of this world. You need to read it to believe it. Here’s a quick look at the blurb:


It all starts when twenty-something software programming genius is visited while he sleeps by a mysterious figure referred to as the Troll. “We’re going to change the world,” the Troll tells the narrator. Soon we’re introduced to an assortment of off-beat characters: a red-haired, one-eared, female temptress; a pot-smoking tech reporter; a computer-generated Halfling; and a few venture capitalists who are all interested in finding the Troll. Mostly taking place in San Francisco, Hunt for the Troll is a quirky hybrid of mystery, pulp, and modern fairy tale.”

The author, Mark Richardson, graciously agreed to an interview for Scribbles on Cocktail Napkins. I just knew most of YOU would be interested in hearing about everything from the process of writing a novel to getting it published, too.

With no further ado, here’s Mark!

So, you’re from Chicago, and now you live in Northern California?

Yes. I grew up in Winnetka, Illinois, just north of Chicago. I went to school at the University of Iowa. And have now lived in California for a number of years. I feel like a Californian at this point.

I bet you love California winters.

It’s funny: I am not sick and tired of perfect weather!

That is funny. And, I hate you. (Did I mention we got 18 feet of snow last year???) So, Hunt For the Troll is your debut novel. I HAVE to ask, where did you get the idea for the book? It almost seems like a mix of The Matrix and Alice in Wonderland.

It is sort of like those books, although not really exactly. It started out as a short story. I am a big fan of Haruki Murakami, and I really like his story, “The Dancing Dwarf.” It is a fairy tale. And I wanted to write something similar. So I started writing a story called, “The Internet Troll.” The short story didn’t really work; I spent 2-3 months trying to make it work. And then one day . . . it just kind of became a novel.

Wow! So how long did it take you to write?

It took about a year. I have a family and a full-time job, so I couldn’t write every day. But I just kept plugging away.

Would you like to explain how Haruki Murakami’s writing affected your work, to people who may not be familiar with his style?

He’s definitely one of my favorite authors. You should check him out. He’s Japanese and probably one of the most popular writers in the world. Many (although not all) of his stories have magical elements (magical realism). And he writes in a very accessible style. So the books are easy to read, weird things happen, and I find them very fun to read and interesting. The first line of “The Dancing Dwarf” is: “A dwarf came into my dream and asked me to dance.”

That is a killer first line.

You find out later that the narrator works at a factory where they build elephants. So weird stuff.

mark 2

Your characters are pretty out of the ordinary. Were you ever concerned that people might not love them as much as you did?

Concerned probably isn’t the right word. I think it is unlikely that everyone would like my book. I think a fair percentage wouldn’t, and that is okay. But hopefully some would.

I think that’s a bold move, though. The books that try to please everyone are hardly worth reading.

Exactly. And it is frankly impossible anyway.

So did you focus on a certain theme while writing your book?

It did not come naturally. There was a lot of thrashing around to figure out what the book is about. I didn’t outline, and after writing about a third of it I had to go back and re-write it.

You aren’t saying you’re PANTSER, are you?!

Not sure what that means…

Plotters plot, and pantsers wing it. I am a die-hard plotter, and madly jealous of all pantsers . . . who can pull it off

I think I am a pantser. I kind of wing it. At least initially. I have started a new book and did storyboard it. But now finding myself going madly off what I had planned!

Do you use any kind of standard outline? The Hero’s Journey?

No, I really didn’t. Although it is kind of a hero’s journey story. Maybe starts out as stranger comes to town, but then the hero goes on a journey to find him.

You say this was supposed to be a short story. Have you written many others?

I’ve written around 10 short stories that have been published. That’s how I started out writing fiction.

Where can we find them?

I listed some of them on my webpage. My favorite is “Tears of the Platonic Man,” although my wife likes, “Tattoo Woman.”

You are married, with two kids and an active career . . . so how do you find time to write?

It can be tough. I write for my job, so the periods when I was really busy I just couldn’t write the book. But there were also weeks when I wasn’t that busy at work, so I would block off an hour or two and work on the book. I’ve found if I just keep at it the words can pile up.

How did you feel about the whole editing process of publishing?

Mine was pretty easy. My publisher, New Pulp Press, is an independent publisher, and they hardly changed a word. The editing process at my job is much more arduous.


Really? So what do you do in your Clark Kent time?

I work for a tech company in Silicon Valley. I write speeches and white papers and sales guides and other documents. Webpage stuff, too.

That’s interesting. Do you find writing fiction hard after slogging away all day in the real world?

If I am working on a big project at work, then I’ve found it is hard to dedicate the mental energy to the book. But I think the fact that I write so much at work also helps me be a better writer. The whole idea of putting in ten thousand hours. I haven’t put in ten thousand hours of fiction writing, but I have definitely done that and more as a writer. And I think the fiction writing makes me better at my job.

How so?

I’ve gotten very good at starting with a blank page and creating something. And I can kind of slip into that dreamy state where time flows by and you’re just focused on what you’re writing, if that makes sense. I have to create things for work, so I have learned to just buckle down and do it.

Let’s face it. A blank page can be very intimidating, especially when writers have so many other aspects of daily life to contend with. But, even though Mark has an active home life and successful career, he still pumped out a great book.

Because the only difference between writers and everyone else, is that writers write.

Check out Mark’s book here. You won’t be disappointed!