Sunday, July 22, 2012

What is Wrong With USA?

Here we are in the dog days of summer, and does anyone else feel like we need to get off this ride? The shootings in Aurora, as Roger Ebert said, seem to be closing the loop of madness. What is going on here when every goofball loner seems to think only of picking up a gun and going on a rampage? In the good old days, the dispirited tended to jump off bridges. Now they want to cause as much suffering as they can. Who are they punishing? We are all in this together, so we need to all take a moment and reflect on the solution to the gun violence and alienation, especially among the young, the promising in our country. Someone should be proposing a day, a national holiday when we march in honor of the fallen, the innocent victims of slaughter, from Columbine to Aurora. This would be a day to reach out and join together and acknowledge how far we have fallen from the ideals of our Pledge of Allegiance.
I am not one to fall back on the nostrums of mainstream religion, but until we have built a perfect secular society where a spirit of community prevails, not a spirit of greed and short-term pleasure seeking, then I think the best bet lies in at least accepting that our religious traditions all warned us of today. We have met the enemy, as Pogo said, and he dwells in all hearts that remain silent in the face of evil.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Next Leg

As you set out for Ithaca,
Wish your journey to be long, 
Ithaki, Constantine Cavafy
Getting started on a new writing journey is always a little daunting. Actually, blogging about it helps, it's like talking to someone. Hello? Actually maybe it's not. Kind of scares away the demons, though and gives you the courage to carry on.
Now with Latitudes launched on the world, there is marketing to do, but there is also the sense that it has a life of its own now, no matter what happens. Time to turn attention and face the hardest part. You start with the thought: Where can I turn the light now? What is my burning need to say? I have written three novels so far.
One thing I've learned in the self-publishing adventure is to think in terms of market. It is amazing the lack of originality in the book world. You think of novels, and the word itself means something new, different, but there is in fact little new or different in books. If you have written a murder mystery featuring a drug addicted homeless millionaire, or a thriller featuring a teenage vampire in love with a basketball star, you are joining the parade of thousands, and you have a chance at best-seller status. With books as in food and other commodities, we like what we already are familiar with. Going against that is swimming against the stream. So...
Taking my character driven, plot resisting story telling instincts and twisting them a notch, I have decided to write a thriller. That's right, a young adult thriller with plot twists and contemporary action galore. Now the only way I'm going to do that is also to change my methodology a little. Therefore I have researched and found what I wanted. It is called the snowflake method of constructing stories, and seems reasonable and not simplistic. With the scaffolding of multiple pre-writing documents,  this will be a less mysterious way to go, but I think in the end, my characters will always retain the stamp of their creator. So I am not worried about their dimensionality. This should be fun. So far here is my elevator pitch. See if you like it:

While on vacation, a widowed high school teacher and his son find a Mayan calculating tablet that is the long sought key to the doomsday machine being built by the al Qaeda terrorist Ali Jajabr.

Right now it's tentative title is Cypher. I've written a synopsis and character sketches of the five main characters. Next I will build a scene list on a spreadsheet. Then I will write the first draft.  I'm not going to predict how long it will take, because that depends on so many things.
Next week, while in Costa Rica, I will take notes and do some research. So the next leg is already underway. Hooray for the craziness that is the writing life. Ithaca will loom on the horizon someday soon, perhaps.

Anthony Caplan is a writer, blogger, teacher and homesteader in New Hampshire. He is the author of the novels Birdman, French Pond Road, and the just released Latitudes - A Story of Coming Home. Find out more about him and his work at 


Thursday, July 12, 2012


“Some pirates achieved immortality by great deeds of cruelty or derring-do. Some achieved immortality by amassing great wealth. But the captain had long ago decided that he would, on the whole, prefer to achieve immortality by not dying.”
― Terry PratchettThe Color of Magic

While researching for a new book I read that algebra comes from the Arabic word for compulsion, the state of being forced into a certain act or condition, as in when solving for x we are compelled to seek an equilibrium of forces on either side of the equation. And it made me think today of how it seems as if a larger force were behind my resolution to set my thoughts into words. And of course it is a mystery what makes any human endeavor worthwhile. Why have children, for instance? There are those that think it is a crime to try to relieve your loneliness and lack of purpose by reproducing another human being, as if putting the burden of all our hopes and fears onto our children were the most monstrously egotistical thing we could ever do.
Our striving for immortality is the way we give life to our spirit. If we didn't pour ourselves into the act of creation, whether raising children or raising a barn, we would eventually wither and die. That's just the way we are made. We are all compelled to seek out meaning larger than ourselves. "Don't go looking for trouble," my grandmother used to warn me. She knew. My compulsion was never an easy one. At least all these years later it's clearer than ever what it is I need to do.
What equation are you still compelled to solve?

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Update from the Poet's Path

My guest this week is poet Trinka Polite. Her debut book of poems "After the Sixth Day" has been released and is lighting up the virtual and literary worlds. Her guest post gives us an update on her spiritual journey. Welcome, Trinka!

So Anthony asked me to give an update on my spiritual journey.  Completing my first book was such a huge part of the journey.  With writing, you give away so much of yourself whether you realize it or not.  I knew that sharing my poetry with the world meant releasing my truth--the good, the bad and the ugly. And I must say as I head into the summer, with my book now in readers’ hands, I feel a new sense of freedom!  

I’m grateful when I hear from someone that a particular poem had personal meaning.
Things happen in our lives and we struggle to understand them, but somehow a magical moment happens when clarity shines through and your life makes sense.  For this reason, writing always makes me happy! J My skin tingles and I breathe more calmly when I’m in my writing zone. Fortunately and unfortunately, you can’t schedule these moments.  

I never force writing; I simply wait for the words to come and let creativity take its course. 

The last poem in After the Sixth Day (My Promise) gives you a glimpse of one of my “clarity moments.”   Here is a sample of another poem:

The Ocean is Mad with Me

I laid there and waited for you and you turned me away. 
I came closer trying to get within your reach, and your aqua lips kissed my ankles and teased my legs.
I had calmed your anger.

I came back later as the dark sky pushed down on you.
I brought others to introduce to them your calming and soothing effects. 
You greeted us with misty hands which explored our exposed bodies. 
Unaware, your liquid shoulders shrugged us to the side. 
We walked away unsure of your next move.

As I was preparing to leave, I came to you one last time with eyes bright and smile wide. 
You were sparkling and powerful, and your roar a quiet thunder. 
You did not notice my presence.  Others were totally immersed in you.
I left you as you were.             

Before the door was shut, and the curtains were closed, I stole one last glance.
Your anger was ceasing…..

So be sure to get your copy on!

Peace & Blessings,

Trinka Polite

Author of After the Sixth Day: Notes from a Spiritual Journey
Twitter: @MsTrinkaV

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Overcoming Adversity

Hope it was a great 4th of July. A lot of people are struggling with triple digit heat and no power, so it's a tough one for many. By the way, how weird is it that all the adverse weather situations have Spanish names, el nifio, derecho. I'm waiting for the other shoe to fall when we get hit with derecha, which would be a plague of locusts in the winter...
Summertime is when the climate change deniers really go into overdrive. I doubt many of them are living in the Chicago area. Imagine suffering through record heat waves like the one they are experiencing in the Midwest and maintaining the no-problem-here attitude of the business-as-usual crowd. 
I'm not one for going into panic mode. Being an eternal optimist, I believe that we will blunder our way through, coming to our senses and moving quickly to a fossil fuel-free economy, before the ice caps melt. 
It will not be an easy transition, but we have one ace in the hole. It is the greatest resource any nation possesses: its people, especially its children.
The strange thing is, we are just now realizing what a precious resource our children are. One of the most basic human intuitions is only now being confirmed  by science. Adverse childhood experiences have a tremendous and long-lasting impact on human development.
A new study, known as the Adverse Childhood Experiences or ACE study, examined over 17,000 cases to investigate the link between childhood maltreatment and  health and well-being later in life.
Adverse childhood experience can include physical, sexual or emotional abuse; having a parent abandon the family; having a parent who was a substance abuser; having a parent who went to prison or was institutionalized for mental illness; and witnessing domestic violence.
Almost two-thirds of the study subjects reported at least one ACE factor, while one in five had a score of three or more. Researchers determined that as the ACE score increased, so did the risk of developing serious diseases such as heart and lung disease, liver disease, diabetes, sexually transmitted diseases, chronic depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, etc..., as well as the likelihood of high risk behaviors including smoking, alcohol or drug abuse, and promiscuity. Those with higher ACE scores are also at increased risk of obesity, adolescent pregnancy, suicide, fetal death, intimate partner violence and sexual assault.
Of course there is a factor that can be easily overlooked, and that is the role of the healing power of relationships in overcoming adversity or trauma. As a society, I believe we will have to commit to a major project of healing, and that will include rebuilding a sense of community and belonging. It does indeed take a village to create healthy children. One of the factors impeding the development of our greatest resource, our children, is the lack of a communal culture. Much like alcoholics, the first step is recognizing that we have a problem.

Anthony Caplan is a teacher, writer and homesteader in New Hampshire. His latest novel Latitudes - A Story of Coming Home, is the story of overcoming an adverse childhood. Find it at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or your local bookseller.

Read more here:

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Yeah, I think I'm happy...: Introducing...Anthony Caplan

Yeah, I think I'm happy...: Introducing...Anthony Caplan: Meet Anthony Caplan~~an independent writer, teacher and homesteader in northern New England.     I was around sixteen when I discovere...