Excerpt From Carolina Wine Country Cooking by Ginger King

carolinawine_thCarolina Wine Country Cooking is a cookbook and journal that showcases recipes written when author Ginger K. King discovered that her tasting notes seemed to revolve around pairings with food or possible dishes made with the wine. Naturally then, because she loves to cook and enjoy good food, the recipes stacked up, and became Carolina Wine Country Cooking.

In this cookbook, you will find recipes for drinks, appetizers, desserts and entrees all featuring the use of NC wines. The hope the author has for this book is that readers will see themselves in it, and get in the kitchen to enjoy creating something for themselves and their family. She wants the everyday cook to try these recipes, support local farmers and journal about their dishes just like she did.

EXCERPT:

Dill Dip


1/2 tsp. fresh lemon zest
1/2 Tbsp. fresh dill finely chopped
1/8 tsp. dry yellow mustard
1/2 tsp. onion salt
1 cup sour cream
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tsp. wine Viognier Ray Len

Mix all ingredients and refrigerate for at least 1 hour

Serve with potato chips, fingerling potatoes or as a topper for baked potato skins.

***

gingeking_145x184About Ginger King: Most North Carolinians have been a fan of the scuppernong grape since childhood. They have a sweet, fresh, unmistakable taste. Ginger King’s grandmother lived in the NC community called Scuppernong which is on the banks of the river that also was named for this fruit that is so prevalent in the area. Rich beautiful lands extend through and around the marsh where the Mother vine grows less than forty miles away on Roanoke Island. As a child, traveling to visit her grandmother from her family home in Virginia Beach was adventurous because they had to pass the Dismal Swamp… and Ginger always seemed to be telling a story or two about what she saw [and couldn’t see] traveling down that long shadowy stretch of highway.

As an adult, she found the scuppernong again, in the burgeoning NC Wine Industry. She supported and traveled with a friend whose goal was to visit all of the NC wineries and become a sommelier in her retirement. Through memories of their adventures and her tasting notes, comes Carolina Wine Country Cooking.

Click here to buy: Carolina Wine Country Cooking

Novel Writing Tips and Techniques From Authors of Second Wind Publishing — Excerpt: Plot Twists

Novel Writing Tips and Techniques from Authors of Second Wind Publishing is the 100th book published by Second Wind. The book is dedicated to everyone who made this accomplishment possible: our authors, our readers, our friends, and our followers. Thank you!

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EXCERPT FROM NOVEL WRITING TIPS AND TECHNIQUES FROM AUTHORS OF SECOND WIND PUBLISHING

Plot Twists:

Three Little Questions
By
Norm Brown, Author of Carpet Ride

As a writer and avid reader of mystery novels, I love a good plot twist. Like that special seasoning in a favorite recipe, they are often what turn a simple story into an intriguing tale. The unexpected is what keeps readers turning the pages. However, like the food seasoning, plot twists can be overdone or simply distracting. Whether creating the timeline for a novel or writing the first draft, I like to keep my mind open to possible twists and surprises that could be stirred in to make the story more exciting and suspenseful. Some are included in my novel and many are tossed away. To help me decide, I came up with three little questions to keep in mind as I work through each scene.

What if? As I come to each scene, usually a complete chapter, I have a pretty good idea what needs to happen in order to simply advance the plot (or a subplot) of the book, but as I’m filling in the details, I like to ask, “What if this was to happen instead of what the reader is expecting?” In my novel, Carpet Ride, I was surprised myself at how often the story expanded in a whole new direction. Seems to me, if you end up writing exactly the plot you started with, you probably missed some opportunities to make it better. So, turn your imagination loose and experiment with alternatives in the story.

Why? When it comes to plot twists in a mystery, I don’t believe in sheer coincidence. Whatever surprising thing happens, it should happen for a logical reason. The cause does not have to be obvious to the reader right at that moment, but as the story unfolds the logic of this particular sequence of events has to be believable or your reader will feel cheated.

What then? To avoid cluttering your novel with meaningless distractions, any sudden plot twist should add something to the story. Even if it turns out to be a red herring, the twist should advance the plot toward its eventual conclusion. Otherwise, it’s just filler. And nobody wants to read filler.

***

Novel Writing Tips and Techniques is available from Second Wind Publishing, Amazon (Print & Kindle), Barnes and Noble (Nook), Smashwords (all ebook formats including palm devices)

Excerpt From “The Boon: Thoughts of a Schizophrenic in Remission” by Eugene Uttley

51BSsVlm8LLHi, Pat. Very Kind of you to offer to post excerpts! I have just self-published a book entitled The Boon: Thoughts of a Schizophrenic in Remission… not scary! The experience of late onset schizophrenia and a year-long psychotic break was scary, yes, but I have emerged stable and the wiser for it. The book is available on Amazon. Here’s a link –> http://www.amazon.com/dp/1481233947/ref=rdr_ext_book or check out http://showandtell.tripod.com for other options. What excerpt to show here… hmm… okay here goes:

Looking again at Joseph Campbell’s monomyth, his many steps in the hero’s journey, I come to the step called The Ultimate Boon. It is the penultimate step in the quest, the achievement of the goal, the winning of the prize. It is not the end; there are five or six steps after it, including The Crossing of the Return Threshhold and The Freedom to Live, which is overcoming the fear of death. But what Campbell says about The Ultimate Boon is very interesting. It’s about God (or gods and goddesses) being the custodian of the prize. He says what the hero finds himself seeking is not God, but God’s grace, a “sustaining substance”:

“This miraculous energy-substance and this alone is the Imperishable; the names and forms of the deities who everywhere embody, dispense, and represent it come and go. This is the miraculous energy of the thunderbolts of Zeus, Yahweh, and the Supreme Buddha, the fertility of the rain of Viracocha, the virtue announced by the bell rung in the Mass at the consecration, and the light of the ultimate illumination of the saint and sage. Its guardians dare release it only to the duly proven.”

I have the sense of having proven myself. Not to any mystical guardians or even to God, but to myself. I lasted the course of my year-long psychotic break and, like Job, I did not blame or curse God or my fate. I countenanced the loss of my station, my ability to work – and of practically all my possessions – with fairly good humor and temperament, if I do say so myself. And after I had endured the mental and spiritual maelstrom long enough, say nine months, I dedicated all my energies to making myself well. I had whipped myself into decently good shape by the time I finally sought professional help. All the medical people I’ve come into contact with and told my story to congratulate me on the work I’ve done to overcome my symptoms, and I take those congratulations to heart. Taming the lions of dysfunctional thinking, mastering and shepherding oneself, is not an easy task. Now I’ve just about got myself jumping through hoops.
By the grace of God, I know what I want. You guessed it: to be whole. To be mentally and spiritually whole and to cultivate an ever-keener awareness of connectedness to the greater whole. I’m not saying I’ve accomplished these goals. In fact. I’m pretty sure they’re not the kind of goals one ever quite achieves. But knowing them as goals, and being in the process of working towards them is sweet relief from the restlessness of heart I had as a youth. It’s a hollow feeling, not knowing what you want. To know is to have that hollowness filled, that vacant space occupied by a worthy ideal. Wisdom warns against desire, but there is power in wanting, power that can fuel the will and keep lit that precious torch, hope.

INvoke
knowing is hard to trust
for facts take faith
and faith I find
in short supply
but ficts I got
in spades

Thisclaimer
Now and again am I
of a mind to write
yet what have I to describe
who have known but a moment
of no moment and none
other than this?

In these two poems from the old chapbook, I see the aimlessness I felt at that time. Obviously it irked me enough to spur me to write about it. No facts, just ficts. Those ficts became trouble. Being delusional was like living fiction. Now, with faith, facts are easier to come by. Faith is a foundation, a solid base on which to build. In Thisclaimer there is a humility I like, but also that aimlessness. “What have I to describe?” Why, the workings of my mind! The goofy profundity of selected great works and the glorious trivia of the day-to-day here in the vale of Soul-making. I wish I had written more about my life in Korea while I was there. Which tells me I should write more about now, as I live it.

–end of excerpt–

A little explanation.. “The old chapbook” is a collection of poetry, prose, and dialogue which was written in the years leading up to my onset of schizophrenia. A good deal of this material made it into The Boon as I explored my mindset before becoming ill. The “vale of Soul-making” is a reference to a letter written by John Keats, which is discussed more thoroughly elsewhere in The Boon.

So yeah, Pat, thanks for inviting us to participate in your blog and thanks for supporting indie books!

Cheers,
Eugene Uttley

Excerpt From “Why the World Doesn’t Seem to Make Sense: An Inquiry into Science, Philosophy, and Perception” by Steve Hagen

why_the_world_100Why the World Doesn’t Seem to Make Sense is an eminently down-to-earth, practical, and non-technical response to the urgent questions posed by contemporary science and philosophy. This book aims for an intelligent general audience. It does not require readers to have any familiarity with modern or classical physics, philosophy, formal logic, or any other specific body of knowledge. The book takes the reader on a journey that examines our most basic assumptions about reality; focuses on fundamental questions of knowledge, perception, and belief, both in the light of quantum research (which yields contradictions) and ancient wisdom (which anticipated such contradictions); and ultimately suggests not only a new way of seeing the world, but a set of practical and ethical principles for living in it and experiencing it, free of mind-boggling contradiction. Why the World Doesn’t Seem to Make Sense addresses the two-not-two paradox that other works only identify. It is through reliance on perception rather than conception that we have an opportunity to resolve this essential paradox, and through which we can establish an effective moral, philosophical, and intellectual framework for living our lives. The primary purpose of this book is to help readers learn to perceive the world directly — as it is, not how they conceive it to be. It is through this perception that each of us can answer profound moral questions, resolve philosophical and ethical dilemmas, and live lives of harmony and joy.

EXCERPT

The Trouble with Believing

When I was a child I lived on the side of a hill. It was a broad, grassy escarpment, furrowed by wooded gullies and pierced by outcrops of gabbro, and it rose high behind the houses of my neighborhood. I was told by adults that unicorns romped in those hills.

I don’t think I ever believed this, however. My friends and I often hiked there, and we never saw any unicorns. Besides, there was something in the eyes of the adults—a bit of glee, perhaps—that made them seem less than convinced of their own story.

The question of unicorns, of course, was never a serious one. But I was told other things—things that, even to the adults, were clearly not meant to be far-fetched. These stories were not so easily dispelled, for many people believed them. And I used to wonder, what was required for me to believe?

I was raised in a strict Christian home where religion was a daily mat­ter of serious concern. I was brought up to believe that Christ was my personal Savior. This belief was of extreme importance to me as a child, because I was told that in order to be saved from eternal damnation, all I had to do was to believe in Jesus.

Well, I certainly did not want to be damned for eternity, so I was very motivated to believe what I had been told. But there was something enigmatic about the proposition. I wasn’t sure just what it was I was supposed to do—that is, will myself to do. What was my responsibility? If belief was, as it seemed to be, a moral question, what was I to be held accountable for? As it was presented to me it seemed rather easy. “Just believe,” I was told, “and you’ll be saved.” Just believe—but what could this possibly mean? Surely not just to say that I believed.

The incident that brought this matter to a head occurred when I discovered that my church frowned on the idea of evolution. I had, by the age of twelve, become convinced through my readings that the theory of evolution explained clearly how life occurred and developed on this planet. Suddenly, I discovered that my belief regarding evolution was in direct conflict with my religious instruction. I was in a quandary, for I did not wish to be damned, yet I could not choose to believe as my church would have me believe. I didn’t know what to do.

I knew, I was to be honest with myself (and I was taught, and believed in, the importance of being honest), that deep down I truly did not believe. To believe in creationism, I would have had to dismiss other things from my mind that I already knew (believed, really) and understood as valid. I was not at liberty to simply start believing any notion that others happened to declare was true, correct, proper or necessary. In other words, I was powerless to make myself believe what I—or others—would want me to believe.

***

s_hagenSteve Hagen has been a student of Buddhist thought and practice since 1967. He became a student of Dainin Katagiri Roshi in 1975, and continued on to be ordained a Zen priest by Katagiri Roshi in 1979. He has studied with teachers in the U.S., Asia, and Europe, and in 1989 received Dharma transmission (the endorsement to teach) from Katagiri Roshi. Steve founded the Dharma Field Meditation and Learning Center (www.dharmafield.org) in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he lives. He currently maintains an active role as the head teacher at the center, where he leads classes, meditations, sesshins and more. He has written four books that help to clarify Buddhism, and his Buddhism Plain and Simple is among the bestselling books on the subject.

http://sentientpublications.com/catalog/why_the_world.php

http://sentientpublications.com/authors/s_hagen.php

Excerpt From “The Open Path: Recognizing Nondual Awareness” by Elias Amidon

open_path_100Interest in nondual awareness as the essence of spiritual awakening, free from the obligations and cultural references of a particular religion, is rapidly expanding throughout the Western world. Those who have sought out and followed spiritual paths, such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Sufism, Kabbalism, etc., have often found themselves coming up against a kind of ceiling in their longing for spiritual awakening. This can be a result of the religion’s cultural context or a belief system that may not see awakening as something within the reach of adherents. So, many serious spiritual students have turned to nonsectarian teachers to further their practice. These readers will find The Open Path to be an excellent guide to the realization of the silent ground of all being and to the expression of that realization in the diverse conditions of their lives. The book includes very helpful exercises and practices that foster a sense of equanimity and natural insight, as well as methods and teachings from many sources: Sufism, psychology, meditation traditions, and both Eastern and Western nondual teachers.

EXCERPT:

Release at Inception

In a future chapter we will explore the dynamic described by the fourteenth-century Tibetan Dzogchen master Longchenpa, called release at inception. I would like to introduce it here briefly, however, as a way to conclude this chapter. My hope is it will serve to ease any possible sense you may have, after reading all of this, that mental constructions and fixations represent problems requiring a lot of skill and effort to get rid of. They don’t. Yes, fixations have a stubborn tendency to show up again and again in our mind stream — that’s why they’re called fixations — but in themselves they are like all other mental phenomena that arise in our awareness: they originate out of nothing (that is, they aren’t there before they are), seem to abide for a moment or two (although they don’t exactly “abide” in a fixed way), and then they vanish back into nothing without any effort on our part. They are released naturally.

You can test this for yourself right now. Try to generate the feeling-tone of one of your common fixations — for example, a typical situation in which you feel you need to justify yourself. If you are successful at generating this feeling-tone, even to a small degree, you may notice that the pattern of the fixation, with its accompanying emotional state, arises in your awareness for a moment or two, and then begins to dissipate, and will vanish altogether unless you repeat the thought or image that stimulated it.

Over the next twenty-four hours you might try this again with a few real-life “fixation situations.” For example, there may be a situation in which you feel unsure of yourself and don’t know what to do. Notice that the thought-feeling of uncertainty appears, seems to abide for a while, and then naturally dissolves into the next thing that happens. And if you look carefully you may notice that even in the moments when it seems to “abide,” it is changing and moving, becoming stronger, diminishing, adding new elements, etc. It doesn’t even “abide” as the same thing for more than an instant.

Let’s try another example: say you suddenly feel a flash of anger at your partner because once again she didn’t put the top back on the toothpaste tube, even though you’ve asked her to do so many times. You shout, “I hate it when you do that!” As soon as you shout, you remember this suggestion, and do your best to notice what’s happening. You notice the typical sensations of anger: heat rising in your chest and face, the distance between your righteous point of view and your partner’s behavior, a near-immediate flood of mental justifications for raising your voice, etc. Now watch what happens. Either your point of view gets reinforced by more justifications (e.g., recounting all the previous wrong-doings of your partner), or it immediately starts to dissipate, naturally, on its own, if you don’t add fuel to its fire.

This natural dissipating is sometimes called the “self-liberating” quality of phenomena.

The Dzogchen recognition of “release at inception” points to the same quality. In the words of Dzogchen teacher/translator Keith Dowman, release at inception entails “confidence in the simultaneity of the inception and release of thought that induces a constant opening up that turns into seamless thought-free openness.” And as Longchenpa describes it:

Whatever occurs externally as the manifold appearance of the five types of external objects (forms, sounds, smells, tastes and tangibles) or internally as some mental activity, at the very moment of its inception as a field it is seen just as it is, and by the force of its advent it is fully potentiated and then vanishes by itself — how could it possibly remain? — released without a trace, and in that moment the three crucial functions — carefree detachment in whatever arises, access to wide-open spaciousness, and easy relaxation into the appearance upon its inception — are assimilated.[1]

It is not necessary to understand everything referred to by Longchenpa in this passage right now. The important thing is simply to begin to explore and appreciate, through your own experience, that every perception that arises in your awareness, whether thought, emotion, or sensation, “vanishes by itself.” When we no longer put energy into repeating mental phenomena, they vanish! This is the natural release of fixations.

Through the constant practice of relaxing the grip of our attractions, aversions, and the reactive fixations that express themselves from our preferences, we open to a serenity in our lives that allows us to accept each experience as it arises — simply because that’s what’s happening — without turbulent reactivity.

Rather than losing anything through releasing attachment to our likes and dislikes, our experience opens us to the possibility of the most profound intimacy.

A final example: imagine you are on your death bed. You know you have only an hour or two left in this life. Your closest friend is beside you. What would be most helpful to you in that moment? Would it be your friend responding to your imminent death with emotional reactivity from layers of fixations about loss, fear of death, attachment to you, etc.? Or would it be more helpful if your friend were serene, free of fixations, and completely present to you in those moments, accepting what is?

[1] Longchenpa, Natural Perfection, Ó Keith Dowman, 2010. Reprinted from Natural Perfection: Longchenpa’s Radical Dzogchen with permission from Wisdom Publications, 199 Elm Street, Somerville, MA 02144 USA, p. 107. http://www.wisdompubs.org.

***

e_amidonElias Amidon is the spiritual director (Pir) of the Sufi Way International. He has been an initiate of the Sufi Way for the past forty-two years. Pir Elias has also studied with Qadiri Sufis in Morocco, Theravaden Buddhist teachers in Thailand, Native American teachers of the Assemblies of the Morning Star, Christian monks in Syria, Zen teachers of the White Plum Sangha, and contemporary teachers in the Dzogchen tradition. From child to elder, Pir Elias has lived a multifaceted, engaged life. The son of an artist and a social activist, he has worked as a schoolteacher, carpenter, architect, professor, writer, anthologist, environmental educator, peace activist, wilderness quest guide, and spiritual teacher. He helped develop several schools, including the Boulder Institute for Nature and the Human Spirit, the graduate program in Environmental Leadership at Naropa University, and the Open Path. He has a Bachelors degree in literature from Antioch College and has written six books. Pir Elias has been leading programs in Sufism for over three decades, and Open Path programs for the past six years. He resides in Boulder, Colorado but continues to travel widely, both teaching Open Path programs and engaging in citizen diplomacy. His website is http://www.sufiway.org.

MORE INFO:
http://sentientpublications.com/authors/e_amidon.php
http://sentientpublications.com/catalog/open_path.php

Excerpt From “The Tao of Walt Whitman: Daily Insights and Actions to Achieve a Balanced Life” by Connie Shaw and Ike Allen

tao_100Walt Whitman, whose Leaves of Grass was called “the secular Scripture of the United States” by Harold Bloom, is a source of contemporary inspiration. His ecumenical wisdom, which includes both transcendentalism and realism, is encapsulated here in short verses for each day of the year. These, along with a daily action step, become a springboard for readers to transform themselves. The sublime poetry combined with exercises for self-reflection will make this unique pocket-sized daybook a constant companion for those seeking greater balance in their lives. In a world in which poetry has few readers, the authors have created a format to make it accessible and inspire a new audience to find value and use in this genre. By giving readers a context of action or contempation in which to find their own meaning in the text, they reinvigorate the appreciation of the poetic word. Whether the reader is new to Whitman, or poetry altogether, or is already steeped in the words of the masters, they will find in this volume new ways to approach poetic language and their own lives, regardless of their generation. This is a book to share with grandmothers, best friends, young adults, and book groups, and anyone who wants to plumb the depths of poetic wisdom while learning more about themselves.

EXCERPT:

Week 1 – Truth

Monday

All truths wait in all things,

They neither hasten their own delivery nor resist it,

They do not need the obstetric forceps of the surgeon,

The insignificant is as big to me as any,

What is less or more than a touch?

If you’re open to the pedestrian moments along with the larger revelations as you go about your activities, perhaps you will discover some heretofore hidden truth. And you might try answering Whitman’s question as well.

Tuesday

Only what proves itself to every man and woman is so

What are the bedrock principles, truths, or realities you live by? Can they be denied by anyone? Do you think Whitman is right?

Wednesday

O truth of the earth! O truth of things! I am determined to press the whole way toward you,

Sound your voice! I scale mountains or dive in the sea after you.

How committed are you to the truth? To paraphrase Tracy Chapman, “If everything you think you know is wrong, would you change?” Write about 3 things that you’re lying to yourself about and what steps you can take to change things.

Thursday

The earth does not withhold, it is generous enough,

The truths of the earth continually wait, they are not so conceal’d either,

They are calm, subtle, untransmissible by print,

They are imbued through all things conveying themselves willingly

Give a try at expressing one of “the truths of the earth” in some way other than through words. Perhaps paint a picture, dance a dance, create a melody…

Friday

All must have reference to the ensemble of the world, and the compact truth of the world,

There shall be no subject too pronounced

Take one of your most firmly held beliefs and go through your day imagining that the opposite is true. For example, if you sincerely feel that someone in your daily sphere presents a challenge to your wellbeing, take every opportunity to notice ways in which this may not be so.

Saturday

What do you suppose creation is?

What do you suppose will satisfy the soul, except to walk free and own no superior?

What do you suppose I would intimate to you in a hundred ways, but that man or woman is as good as God?

And that there is no God any more divine than Yourself?

Spend time contemplating the meaning of this. Is this true?

Sunday

I spent this week continuously asking myself what I could actually say was true. What was true for me? I noticed that my truth was not necessarily true for others. By the end of the week, I noticed that the only thing it seemed everyone could agree on was that we were all having a common experience. Beyond that, it seemed we each translated truth in our way to support us in this experience. What is true for me is that I create my own truths and I choose to create ideas that make my experience here filled with joy by whatever name. I invite you to enjoy your truths and embrace the truth others share with you. –iKE

***

Connie Shaw is a publisher and poetry lover who lives in Boulder, Colorado. Ike Allen is co-creator of the film Leap! and other movies about consciousness. He leads transformational seminars internationally, and also lives in Boulder.

More Info And Photos: http://sentientpublications.com/authors/c_shaw.php, http://sentientpublications.com/authors/i_allen.php

http://sentientpublications.com/catalog/tao.php

Excerpt From “Settle for Best: Satisfy the Winner You Were Born to Be” by Kristine M. Smith

Excerpt From “Settle for Best: Satisfy the Winner You Were Born to Be” by Kristine M. Smith

Chapter One
My Story—How Much of It is Yours, Too?

I was born into a working class family. My dad, an unwanted child, had a sixth grade education, a verbally and physically abusive father, and a drinking problem. Despite his circumstances, he achieved far beyond what most other folks would have anticipated to be his fate. He made millions. He also squandered them. His decision to persist despite his shortcomings is the engine that assured his success.

My father’s forte was construction. He started as a bricklayer’s apprentice, absorbing everything he learned while at work. Over time he transformed himself and became a much-in-demand general contractor. He built part of the Washington State Library in Olympia, Tacoma General Hospital, slews of homes, and many of the brand name restaurants you see all over the country.

Living under his roof was a trial to his children and wife. He was verbally abusive, demanding, and criminally unsympathetic to our desires to do anything other than what he wanted us to do. I was suspect because I wanted to become a writer. He wasn’t even a reader. Unless we were all doing what he wanted, we were being “lazy.” And he “analyzed” to death beforehand every chore we were given, making this kid resentful before I ever set foot out the door to “get ‘er done!”

My mom—although a voracious reader—didn’t support my desire to become a writer either. Back then, there wasn’t the demand for writers that there is today, thanks to cable stations, the Internet, and other inventions unforeseeable in her day. Mom was sure I would starve to death unless I became well-versed in a “real” career that would support me reliably. So I dutifully became a secretary/ administrative assistant.

Back then, I figured they were both right! My dad was right because I was unenthusiastic to the max when it came to doing things I absolutely hated, so I rushed through them like Grant took Richmond just to finish them so I could open up space in my life to write. Dad considered this “laziness.” I considered it super efficiency: do what you gotta do fast so you can get to what you wanna do faster! My mom was right because only James Michener, Leon Uris, Louis L’Amour, and a handful of other writers were making a decent living back then.

But this “writing thing” just would not let me go! As unpromising as it was at the time, it was my “drug,” my addiction, my passion. So I kept writing; I have literally hundreds of journals to prove it.

Malcolm Gladwell writes in The Tipping Point that to become an expert in any field, it’s necessary to invest ten thousand hours in the pursuit. I’d far exceeded ten thousand hours of writing time by the time I was eighteen years old. Strangely enough, my first nationally-published article happened at eighteen, thanks to actor DeForest Kelley who shared the manuscript with a national TV magazine in New York. They wanted to publish it. I was over the moon! Mr. Kelley remained an enthusiastic encourager until his death in 1999. (You can read more about my association with Mr. Kelley in DeForest Kelley: A Harvest of Memories.)

English and Creative Writing teachers, Mrs. Choyce, Alpha Rossetti, and Walter Dobbs also encouraged me, but…silly me…back then, it was the naysayers in my life—my parents—I listened to most and regarded as “knowing me and my potential best.” WRONG!!!! Hear me, loud and clear: Naysayers are the blight on too many horizons. Never consider naysayers wise counsel. As long as other people, in better positions to know about your potential, encourage you, keep going!

I’ve invested thousands of dollars and tens of thousands of hours reading self-help books. I did this because I was unhappy as a 9-to-5 secretary and knew I wasn’t cut out for it, even though I was very good at it.

There’s a passage in the Bible that reads, “Raise up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). I always thought that meant, “Raise up a good little Christian or Jew and when he is old, he will remain one.” What it actually means is, “Find out what your wee one’s passion is, and as long as it can serve others, encourage him to pursue it by giving him the encouragement, knowledge, and skills he needs to succeed as a businessman later in life doing what he loves.” WOW! What a HUGE difference a little excavation of the Scriptures makes!

Too many parents are sending their unique, creative, enthusiastic, gung-ho kids to cookie-cutter schools that raise cookie-cutter citizens. Why? Fear! They’re afraid that if their kids don’t toe the line, stick with the straight-and-narrow, they’ll fight poverty for the rest of their lives.

But what about the poverty of spirit they’ll have if they’re herded into careers that don’t excite them? What about the poverty of contribution when they do show up only to put in the minimum effort required to collect their next paycheck?
Employees who “check out” on arrival are parasites, party poopers, not positive contributors to a cause.

Parents: don’t feel guilty! You were taught to think this way! It’s unnatural not to worry about your children’s long-term survival. Part of your job description as a parent is to counsel wisely and gently guide your children to self-sufficiency.

The problem happens when we start looking at job market projections and steering our kids to the careers most likely to need lots of warm bodies for the foreseeable future. Not everyone is cut out to be a medical worker, IT engineer, or an alternate energy expert. Imagine, just for a brief moment—so you don’t let your imagination spoil your day— lying helplessly in a hospital bed being monitored by a person who couldn’t care less about you, your comfort, or your well-being. “Hey, they needed nurses, so I became a nurse…”

Nurses are special people. They SHOULD be special people. Not everyone can handle the constant pressure of holding other people’s lives in their hands.

The same goes for teachers, plumbers, writers, actors, singers, musicians, bankers, and electricians. It takes a unique passion to carry the torch for an extended period of time in any field. Those without passion for what they do burn out long before they wear out.

People come in all “flavors”: extroverted, introverted, and perverted! Expecting an introverted wallflower to excel on the sales floor is insanity taken to the ninth power. Expecting an extrovert to sit in a cubicle and crunch numbers all day is equally nuts.

If all this is making sense to you, you’re in the right place. Because whatever your passion is, there’s a niche for you in this world. You no longer have to “fit in” to survive. You have the option of standing out and thriving, even as an introverted wallflower.

It isn’t easy. Stop reading now if you expect success to come as quickly and easily as you can order up a meal at a drive-thru restaurant.

As my publisher loves to say, “There’s a big difference between being ‘led beside still waters’ and sitting around the watering hole waiting to be fed and quenched. Wherever we stay in our minds is where we live. Live in the upper stratosphere. The fruit of the spirit grows and thrives there.”

In the next chapter, I’ll define what it takes to succeed.