Sunday, September 23, 2012
“How do you find the time to write one book, let alone five?”
The question above is one I’m asked on a routine basis, asked by other doctors, nurses, techs, patients and just about everyone I meet when they learn I’ve written several books. The answer is that I’m always “writing” something. Writing not in the sense of sitting down with a pen and paper and scribbling out a story longhand, although I have done this in the past, nor does it even mean sitting at my computer and typing my story into Microsoft Word, which is how I actually do record my words for posterity. “Writing” means thinking of new ideas, recording them in the recesses of my brain to be transcribed later, and taking existing ideas and making them better, more detailed and more interesting.
The time I spend driving between hospitals or lying in bed at night waiting for sleep to overtake my tired mind and body is spent thinking about whatever project I have on the table at that moment. I’ve composed entire plotlines or chapters of books in this way. Sometimes a conversation or discussion in the office or OR will bring a new idea for a blog article, short story or book. The blog article Jesus was a Wino Like Me came after my assistant became exasperated during one of our operating room conversations and blurted those words out.
The first book I ever wrote, Future Hope: ITP Book One, originated with a question, actually two questions:
“What would the Garden of Eden be like if Adam and Eve had never suffered the Fall?”
“What would the world be like if Satan’s promise of man “becoming like God” was fulfilled?”
The entire story flows from these two questions and how the various characters respond to the situations created by these questions. The futuristic, scientific elements of the plot line were invented by my sometimes bizarre imagination to get the protagonist, Major David Sanders, from one world to another and create the contrast that answers the questions.
Joshua and Aaron: ITP Book Two started with from a much different perspective: a character, Joshua Smith. Of course, Joshua appears in Future Hope, but he takes center stage in Joshua and Aaron. A character like Joshua had been in my head for years. He is someone with extraordinary gifts of intelligence, insight and reasoning who is called upon to use his skills to solve problems with life and death consequences. He is a hero who tries to achieve something without guns, fast cars, explosions, great athletic prowess, or any special prowess except a remarkable mind. Ultimately, he succeeds, just not in the way he expects. I always consider Joshua and Aaron to be one of the best books that almost no one read.
My two books about surgery were developed from a different angle, less from pure imagination and more from a desire to educate. The first, Behind the Mask: The Mystique of Surgery and the Surgeons Who Perform Them, was an attempt to show the reader what goes through a surgeon’s head; my head anyway, as patients are treated. Under the Drapes: More Mystique of Surgery looks at surgery from a different perspective, much more of a surgeon’s perception of his patients and a bit of a patient’s view of surgery.
The short story Last Light started with this question:
“What would happen if nobody was sick?”
From this question flowed an apocalyptic story that contrasted the second coming of Christ with modern human nature and desires. The result was not too pretty.
Finally, there is the soon to be released Minotaur Revisited. This novel started out as a short story. I hold the opinion that the way things are presented by the media often has little to do with actual events. Reporting of “News” seems to be frequently biased and/or outright untruthful. Perhaps my cynicism is showing, I think I got it from my mother. I asked the following question:
“What if such bias and misleading reporting has been around forever?”
Humans have been flawed since Adam and Eve. I looked at the myth of the Minotaur and turned it around, made the “fierce” Minotaur noble and Theseus, his slayer, less than heroic. The events, as reported in the current mythology reflected the biases of the time and lead to a four thousand year roller coaster ride for this half bull half man beast of mythology. This short story blossomed into a novel. Quint, the Minotaur, discovers his freedom and over the years encounters Moses, Jesus, Dracula and many others.
After the such formulate in my head I go through the tedium of committing them to paper (computer anyway) and then read over what I’ve written and smooth it out, then read it some more and smooth it out more, then do it again and again. Over the years as a reader I have become pretty good at recognizing writing styles that flow; that inform with being tiresome. I try to make my writing follow such a pattern, easy to read, but still a challenge to the reader’s mind. I hope I’ve accomplished this task.
Look for Minotaur Revisited in the coming weeks. You won’t be disappointed.
Sunday, September 2, 2012
The Minotaur of Greek Mythology was depicted as a vicious, fierce beast, part bull and part man. Myth states that he devoured a tribute of young men and women sent annually to appease his wrath. The truth is far different. I sat down with Minotaur recently and had a long and informative talk with this legend. He was refined and articulate, immaculately dressed in a black, tailored suit.
I know that you go to great lengths to reveal the truth about your life in the upcoming book, “Minotaur Revisited”, but is there anything more you would like to add?
The book covers the highlights of my life, but there are some events that are left out. For instance, besides myself there are other characters that have been erroneously depicted by the current Greek mythology. Of, course, the book talks about Theseus, but the stories about Hercules (I knew him as Heracles), Perseus, Pandora and many others suffer from exaggeration, distortion and outright falsehood. For instance, Hercules. He was a truly noble soul, noble with an IQ only slightly higher than a bowl of tapioca pudding. It’s a good thing I was around to point him in the right direction. When he was battling the Hydra I was the one that figured out how to kill it, not Iolaus.
And, when Hercules took Atlas’ place holding up the Heavens it was only my looking out for our hero that managed to get Atlas to come back. If you remember Atlas went to fetch the golden apples from his daughters, which was one of the twelve labors of Hercules. If I hadn’t been around Hercules would still be holding up the Heavens. I told Atlas that Hercules had made a deal with Zeus that whoever was holding up the Heavens during the next full moon would become a god and be allowed to enter Mount Olympus. Atlas didn’t believe me at first, but I showed him a sworn statement signed by all the gods testifying to the veracity of my words. Atlas was more than happy to take over the burden; what a fool. He’s probably still stuck there today. I did take some pity on him and convinced Pandora to massage his shoulders once in a while, until she took up with Prometheus, that is.
Quite the remarkable woman, if you ask me.
Mythology calls her the first woman. Although this is not exactly true, she was the best woman. Witty, beautiful, smart, refined, talented and oh so charming, she turned heads everywhere she went. What the “gods” did to her was cruel, to her and to all of humanity.
It was Hera that hated her the most, that wretched wench rallied all the other goddesses against poor Pandora. It was out of jealousy; strictly jealousy and envy. I guess Zeus was paying too much attention to Pandora and ignoring Hera. One would think that wicked, shrewish Hera would be used to such philandering, but I guess some things never change.
Hera went to Aphrodite, Athena, Artemis, Demeter and hatched a plot, a test for poor Pandora. She was locked away in a solitary room with nothing but a bed, stone floor, a single small window, which she could only peer out by pulling herself up on its ledge. And a large clay pot, which she was told never to open. That was it, day after day, week after week, locked away with nothing but temptation.
To make matters worse, she was told that the pot contained something truly wonderful, but also truly wicked. She was admonished to never open that pot or else all of humanity would be doomed. At first she had no trouble resisting. She would sing and pull herself up to watch the clouds roll by and the birds fly and then she would sing a bit more. But solitude and boredom are deadly to the soul. And, to make matters worse, that clay pot began to call to her, enticing her with lies and false promises.
“Let us out, sweet Pandora,” a sweet melodic voice would sing. “Surely, we cannot be as evil as they told you. Would something wicked be content to stay inside this clay jar? If we were truly full of iniquity we would merely push the top away and escape, but, we are not demons. We are waiting for you to liberate us and when you set us free we will save all of mankind.”
Poor Pandora. Day after day, night after night, voices cried out to her, tempted her, pleaded with her, begged her. No peace, no relief; how cruel the “gods” can be.
“Just a little peek,” the voice finally announced. You don’t need to do anything but open the top just a crack, just enough to capture a brief glimpse and then we’ll leave you alone, give you peace.
Surely if I open the top just half an inch that won’t cause any harm, she thought.
She went over to that clay jar and stared at it. She put her hands on the lid, it felt warm and when she touched it she felt a little hum. She took her hand away and it was almost as if that pot was annoyed, almost like it cried in anger. She put her hands on it again and felt an even stronger buzz, all the way up to her head.
Then the pleading started.
“Please, please, just a little bit, just a peep, we won’t try to escape, we’ll be good. We won’t tell…we won’t tell.”
Even still she wasn’t sure. She sat down and put her head on her hands and thought and thought.
The gods must have known all this would happen. They’re testing me, they probably want to know if I can think for myself, if I’m brave, worthy. They probably really want me to open it. I’m sure there’s something wonderful inside. Just a quick peek. If it’s bad, I’ll slam the top down and seal it forever.
She stood up and stood next to that clay pot. It seemed larger than before. She put her hands on the lid and then removed them. Finally she took a deep breath, grabbed the lid, bent over and opened it, barely even a centimeter.
Well, you know what happened. All Hell, literally, broke loose. Evils of every size and shape burst forth, whooping loudly with shrieks of delight and malice. They flew and crawled and climbed, spilling out of that clay jar like soup boiling over.
A giant green insect who was jealousy, a slimy worm called sloth, a fat blob of slime named gluttony and more and more escaped.
Pandora tried to stop the flood. She grasped hatred, a black stinging beast by its foot and suffered a nasty bite on her hand. She stamped her foot down on sloth and felt its greasy body beneath her bare foot, but nothing she did stopped it as evil slithered away. She grasped gluttony between her fingers, but each time she squeezed, it broke into five new blobs that grew and crawled away. Hundreds of foul, stinking ills were released that day. After only a few minutes they were gone, leaving Pandora alone in her sorrow filled prison. After a few minutes she went to cover the clay pot, but as she put the lid on a hand pushed against her and tried to stop her. Pandora pushed back.
At least I can keep one evil trapped, she thought.
But, she looked at the hand, a beautiful hand with white skin, nails painted so that they shined like the sun and beautiful jeweled rings. She pulled the top back and, well, you know the story, Hope was released into the world.
But, the story didn’t end there. The gods released Pandora from her prison, giving high fives all around as they were sure they had shown their superiority over mere mortals. Pandora, however, was more than they had bargained for. She was determined to recover every ill mannered, slimy, nasty beast that had managed to escape from “Pandora’s Box”. This is where I came into the picture. She found me before I left for Egypt and begged me to help her search the world for the evil she had released. I did my best to talk her out of such a hopeless task, pardon my pun, but she was determined. Of course, I had to be careful. I was supposed to be dead at the hand of Theseus and I was due to leave for Egypt at any moment. Pandora turned on all her charm and I agreed to delay my departure while we searched.
And what a search. Where to look, that was the big question.
“Look for evil in places where evil lives,” I counseled.
And off we went, to seedy bars, houses of ill repute, opium dens, battlefields, every place a man or woman would go to behave badly. And we found them. In the brothels we smelled the foul breath of Lust and grabbed it and locked it away in that clay “box”, on the battlefield we found Cruelty, perched like a giant roach on a hill overlooking the war, we pulled Disease screaming obscenities from the walls of a leper colony, Greed from the marketplace and on and on. One by one they were tracked down and returned to that jar, until I was convinced that we’d found each and every one of the nasty vermin.
“No, there’s one more out there,” she sighed staring at her hand. “Hatred is still roaming free and as long as it is free, it doesn’t matter that we have all these others locked away.”
Day after day, night after night we searched. We went door to door, to palaces and to shacks without success. Every time we heard a shout of anger we went to look for the monstrous black insect and one time we saw it flying away and gave chase, but it eluded us.
“It’s hopeless,” I concluded.
“No, no, no,” I can’t believe that,” she screamed. Her voice softened a bit. “I know you have to leave. If Theseus or Minos discovers you, it will be your end. You go on your way. I’ll carry on by myself.”
I looked into those beautiful eyes and saw her kindness and determination. I knew she would be OK and that she was right to pursue this mission, futile as it was. Every moment I delayed was a danger to me. I kissed her on the cheek, as best as I could being part bull, and said my good-byes. Before I left, however, I peeked into that big clay jar. I suspected it would be empty and at first I thought I was correct. As long as Hatred roamed free in the world all the other evils would also be free. There, was, however, something else inside. Two beautiful eyes stared back at me as I lifted the lid higher and Love emerged.
The world will be OK, I surmised, and Pandora too. Hope and Love can overcome all the evil.
I said my good-bye and left.
Look for the release of "Minotaur Revisited" in October. More "Conversation with The Minotaur " to come.