Saturday, February 28, 2015

I’m happy Spock has passed away

“A life is like a garden, perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory.” – Leonard Nimoy.

As a writer, I’ve occasionally asked myself what my final words would be though in all honesty, it’s not like you can script such a feeling. Like many things in life, I suspect that when it’s time to go, some lucky few just know. 

In Science Fiction, Leonard Nimoy was a giant. A wonderful, stoic, pointy eared giant. One of the most prolific representations of pure intellect, Spock resonated with many a person who wanted to look at life objectively, cerebrally. Regardless of what happened, it always seemed Spock was in control of his actions, and his actions in and out of character spoke volumes of the human spirit.

As the Vulcan, Nimoy portrayed a character who was half Vulcan, something that more casual fans didn’t know. In this combination of Vulcan intellect and human emotion, we have Spock. A brilliant science officer, his feelings were what made him amazing. Those moments when the brilliance broke to show that hope, that emotions, that a heart can exist even in the most cerebral human being.

In other roles, he truly did push Sci-fi to the forefront of many people’s consciousness. People who never watched any series or any movies still know the quote “live long and prosper”.

I can still remember learning how to do the Vulcan hand greeting... It was hard at first and I was so proud as a kid when I was able to do it on command and with either hand. I chuckle as I recall each and every time someone did a Vulcan neck pinch joke. It still gets to me.

As mentioned above, something very typical for Spock was control. As an actor, Nimoy always seemed in control of one of those trademark voices you can honestly listen on for hours. Think Morgan Freeman and you can understand. It was raspy, deep and projected exactly what Spock should be.

As I see the outpour of emotion on the net and from friends, I realize just how much Star Trek connected many of us and how much Spock resonated with people. As a person, you see so many lovely things from him and you see him in interviews and can’t help but like the guy. I definitely feel as if Nimoy was the human aspect of Spock. He was funny, warm hearted, yet always seemed in control. He projected a confidence that would make it easy to believe he could take anything in stride and respond kindly and in control. The type of human who could take an insult, accept it and ask the person who dealt it what was the need for those harsh words, even if they were true.

Part of me is honestly sad because he passed away. I see yet another person I would have loved to meet pass away. The funny thing is that he was 83 and it still feels as if he passed away too young.

Reading my various feeds, I’ve seen lovely tributes and people truly putting their heart on their sleeves. One particular quote got me thinking: “We lost a Lennon.”

Now to any music fan, that may even border on heresy... but I see the point. In the case of John, he was taken from us too soon, literally, so in that case, the comparison falls a bit short. NImoy was able to live a full life. As many have said, he lived long and prospered, something that even if it becomes a cliché, I don’t mind. It’s fitting that such a quote would be linked with his life. Going back to the quote, John Lennon did touch millions of lives with his music, with his words, with his actions and with the idea of who and what John Lennon was... that’s when the quote makes sense to me.

Spock was an idea, a tangible idea of supreme intellect with human emotion. It was showing that we should always strive to know more without sacrificing what we feel. Spock was as fearless as he was loyal and he would do anything to save the crew... which he did. He was beautifully human as was the actor that brought him to life.

When Spock died, I think every Star Trek fan was torn at the heart. In the search for Spock, we learn that his spirit lived on within Bones McCoy as a katra (something that almost killed the ship doctor in the process but that’s beside the point). In a dangerous process, eventually the katra is reunited with the body and Spock returns.

Right now there are millions of people with a katra within... we are united by our love for a dear friend who united us, who invited us to live long and prosper and to be painfully, wonderfully, beautifully human. Today we are united even if it did cost us the passing of yet another lovely person.

And for that I am thankful. For the invitation every day to go where no man or woman has gone before.

Peace, love and maki rolls,


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Writer Wednesday: Jack Cheng

Some people are born to set roots and others are born to roam the world. Jack Cheng is of the latter kind and you just need to see his Instagram to see how much of the world he has explored. It’d be enough to recognize that Jack is a talented writer, his first novel These Days is a great example of how well and real he can write. The thing is that writing is just one aspect of Jack and his professional trajectory and life journey is as interesting as his stories.

Here’re a couple of questions so you can get to know a little more about Jack.

1. Hi, Jack. So happy to have you as part of Writer Wednesday. Why don’t you give us a quick tour of what your professional trajectory has been like so far in your life?

Every career I’ve had started as a hobby. In college I was studying communications and economics but goofing around on Photoshop contest websites like Worth1000, and that helped me land an advertising internship (which was how I met you!). I moved to New York after I graduated and while I was working as an art director I spent a lot of spare time blogging and building websites. I quit my last ad job in fall of 2008 and freelanced for a while, then started a small design studio building websites and apps with a couple of friends. Around that time I also started working on a novel. I’d come home from work exhausted and spend an hour or two in front of the computer and then pass out in bed. At some point I realized I enjoyed writing so much that I’d be willing to move back to Michigan and live out of my parents’ basement to keep doing it, and I couldn’t say that about my day job.

I was telling all this to a friend over ramen and he was like, Why don’t you quit? And I was like, Why don’t I quit? At that point I had a second draft of my novel and was ready to launch the Kickstarter campaign to fund a print run. The campaign was a success; I hired an editor and went pretty much full time on the book, and shipped it to my backers nine months later.

I’m working on my second novel now, living in Detroit (though I do have my own place) and I freelance every once in a while to pay the bills.

2. What places have you visited in the world and which would you recommend as your top 3 places people should visit?

I was born in Shanghai and go back pretty often with my mom and brother because my dad’s job has him there for most of the year. Recently we’ve been doing a family trip every Christmas holiday, and most this past year went on a cruise of the eastern Mediterranean. I’ve been on every continent except Africa and Antarctica.

My top three are all part of trips that effected huge changes in my life, and as I list them I realize, maybe unsurprisingly, that they were all solo trips too: Kyoto, Japan (my first time traveling alone), New Mexico (part of a monthlong road trip two summers ago), and The Sacred Valley in Peru (in February of 2014).

3. How has being Asian impacted your life on a personal and professional level?

We moved from Shanghai when I was five and I grew up very much American. There’s discrimination, but a lot of it is unconscious stereotyping, even well-intentioned at times, and the most overt forms of it I’ve experienced have come from hormone-ridden teenagers. The new show Fresh Off the Boat is not far off from what it was like for me growing up. My parents made me go to Chinese school on Saturdays and I think anything your parents force on you at that age you automatically reject, and it’s taken me half my life to start developing a natural interest in where I come from. There are doors that I'm on the verge of opening.

4. What was it like writing and presenting These Days?

It was the best thing I’ve ever done. When you finish a monumental project like publishing a book, it makes you feel confident you can handle other monumental projects too. At least, it did for me.

5. You had a great Kickstarter campaign, how would you describe the reaction to the campaign and what can you tell us regarding that experience?

The reaction was great. When the support came in I realized how reciprocal the project was as a whole. Even though it was fiction I was writing about what I’d been living and breathing for years—advertising, design, tech—and because I was living and breathing those things, the audience for my book was an audience of people I already knew and were friends with.

6. What’s China like and how has it influenced you in the way you see life?

China is massive and bewildering. Things feel different every time I’m back in Shanghai. There is a kind of mob mentality there that reminds me at times of the Internet at both its best and worst. If you're interested in modern Chinese culture, I recommend reading China Smack, which posts a daily story that's trending in Chinese social media (along with comments) translated into English.

7. If you could transport yourself into a book by touching it, which stories would you like to visit and why?

My gut reaction here is to say sci-fi because OUTER SPACE. But I’d also like to go the other direction, feel what it really felt like to live in the past. It’s like, Thoreau complained about newspapers and gossip but did it feel as out of control back then as the Buzzfeedy internet does today? These are things I would like to know.

8. You’re a super hero and you have a super-secret lair. What’s in it and how do you access it?

If I were a superhero then I would able to fly, and if I were able to fly then my lair would either be in the clouds or on a secluded mountain with a view overlooking a valley. It would have a desk, something to type on, a notebook and pen, and a supply of healthy delicious food. In other words, everything I have now in Detroit, minus the flying.

9. You’re commissioned to design the most ridiculous obstacle course in existence, what are the five obstacles people have to face and what’s the prize at the end?

1. Voltron of all your ex-partners
2. Ten hours in a room with your biggest vice
3. Being in an episode of Black Mirror
4. Michigan winter
5. Writing a novel

The prize would be the fortitude gained from finishing the obstacle course.

10. If people don’t know Jack and want to remedy that, where do they find you and what’s next for you?

Every Sunday I send out a weekly newsletter, usually three or four paragraphs on something that pertains to whatever I'm writing or learning. I’m also @jackcheng on the tweets.


Some people live life on autopilot. Jack is exactly the opposite of this. Thanks to him for taking the time to let us get to know him a little better and to you for reading.


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Method to Madness: Hidden treasures

One of my favorite things when I’m tackling a project is the research process. That’s because when I do research, I love digging deep for information about anything.

From dust nebulas to the differences in the fermentation processes of beer, wine and champagne, every bit of information can trigger idea. In my writing, I prefer to not be too rigid because by giving myself space, I can tap into random details that sync organically.

Life is far from logical and the more I’ve rolled with the punches and gone with the flow, the more I’ve been able to enjoy it. Writing is often the same and once I commit a pen to paper, all bets are off and rules need not apply.

By adopting this approach, I’ve been able to take things I see in a cartoon and sift that through a theological filter, before pairing with musical influences, bouncing it off psychological theories and adding a dash of random strands of information to find my story.

And that’s the point. In random bits of information, I’ve often found my stories, hidden in between paragraphs and references. Although I do have a rough idea of where I want to go, there is PLENTY of improvisation in between and that’s how I like it and a big part of how I tackle many a tale.

Rather than strictly adhering to a series of steps in the writing process. I toss the instructions out of the window and found my own way… and at least for me, I find that when I look in the mirror, I see a rich man every day. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Writer Wednesday: Gabino Iglesias

In life, sometimes you come across people who are so wonderfully weird, you can’t help but read them to see how far they’ll go. Gabino Iglesias can probably outread, outweird, outreview and probably outbench press most people you know. He is also that type of author that likes to push limits and his first book, Gutmouth is as weird as it is funny AND disgusting. It is a piece of writing that really invites you to see how nasty and weird a story can be. 

Seeing as Writer Wednesday is all about variety, what better moment than right now to see what goes on in his messed up head. 

Here’s my interview with his answers:

Hey Gabino. First off, many thanks for taking the time to answer these questions. 

1. So off the bat, what’s Gutmouth about and who could be interested in reading this book?

It’s a tender love story with healthy doses of murder, weird sex, social critique, mutants, and extreme body modifications. 

Here’s the synopsis:

“He has a mouth in his gut. An obnoxious, toothy, foul-mouthed, pig of a mouth. Luckily, his girlfriend doesn't seem to mind. Marie, the one-legged stripper and cyber-prostitute love of his life is very accepting of it. And then a little too accepting. What would you do if your girlfriend cheated on you with the voracious yapper under your belly button? If you live in Gutmouth's world-a bleak city where gruesome, spontaneous mutations are no big deal, klepto-roaches take anything not tied-down, drugs turn pain into pleasure, consumers are tortured for growing food, and your best friend is a misogynistic rat-man-you might do something crazy. And what if you got caught?”

My book can be enjoyed by folks with a sense of humor, an open mind, and a strong stomach.

2. Bizarro isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, why are you into that genre and what is your favorite part of tackling it?

The best thing about bizarro is that there are no limits. You can do whatever you want with the narrative and throw every preconceived notion out the window. As a writer, this absolute freedom is amazing. As a reader, this is the genre in which the most creative, brave, exciting authors are working, so it’s one of my favorites to read. I also write horror, crime, and whatever passes for literary fiction these days, but there’s always a weird element in my writing that comes from bizarre.

3. What projects are you working on?

Zero Saints, my second novel, will be published by Broken River Press this summer. I’m still tweaking it because Broken River is one of my favorite presses and J. David Osborne is one of my favorite writers, so I’m killing myself to make that thing as close to perfect as my abilities will allow. I also have 55 55-word stories in an anthology from Carrion Blue. That will also drop this summer. As far as novels go, I’m working on three manuscripts, one of which will surely be published this year…maybe even soon. It’s secret stuff. That one’s horror. Then I have my reviews and a bunch of short stories, as always.  

4. You are a prolific book reviewer, to put it lightly. How many reviews do you have to your name and how many books do you read on average every year? (Or total books you’ve read in your lifetime).

Oh, man, I’ve been in the reviewing racket for about four years, so I have no idea how many reviews I’ve done. Last year I read about 140 books. The goal this year is to hit 200. Most of those will be reviewed somewhere. As for lifetime, I’ve been digging books since I was a kid, so I have no idea. A lot.

5. How does being Hispanic influence your writing?

Now that I’ve found presses and venues that embrace diversity, my positionality is starting to exert a hell of a lot of influence. Zero Saints is really heavy on the Spanglish and I’ve decided that all my work will probably have a Latino character in an important role. I’m not saying I’m only going to be writing what I know, but that my roots and upbringing give me a certain flavor that, when properly used, translates into me having my own voice.  

6. If you could make your own liquor and beer, what would they be, what would they be called and how would you drink them?

I’d probably have a brand of whiskey called “Writer’s Medicine” and a really dark stout that would sit on your stomach like a full meal. I’d drink them like I drink everything else: in good company and as often as possible.

7. Your kid has asked you to write a story to scare his classmates, what’s it about?

A kid in class who lives with a monster at home, a monster he has to keep fed with animals from the neighborhood or face being eaten himself. His classmates pick on him because he’s always quiet and sits by himself in a corner while everyone else plays. When the bullying gets to be too much, he offers the monster a hell of a meal. The monster comes to school and eats the bullies’ guts while they’re still alive.

8. You are actually a great guitarist, if you had to make an hour-long set, what would you play and who would you invite onstage?

Man, your sources told you some lies! I’m mediocre at best. A perfect set would include songs by Joaquin Sabina, Alejandro Filio, Fito Paez, some originals, a bit of flamenco, some Tom Waits…the list can go on and on. As much as I’d love to have any of those musicians up there, the perfect gig would be closer to home; a jam session with folks like you and Trobi.  

9. What is your philosophy between the body and the mind?

I understand that not everyone needs to bench four plates, but yesterday I went to get some groceries and saw a guy break a sweat trying to tear off a fruit bag from the roll. Also, I dig thick books, and having your arms quit on you when you’re reading at the bus stop is not an option. Jokes aside, I think that “mens sana in corpore sano” is a great way to live.

10. Where can people find more about who Gabino Iglesias is, what he’s about and what’s in store?

I’m on the Facebook, I have this blog ( and I tweet about books and other nonsense at @Gabino_Iglesias. I also love writing and hearing from people, so anyone who has a question to ask can send me an email at


Thanks again to Gabino for taking the time out of an insane schedule to connect. Definitely someone to keep an eye out for especially if you want something very different for your bookshelf. You saw the links, so by all means, check him out. Cheers

Monday, February 9, 2015

So you want to write a book Part 1: Why and What

Plenty of people say they want to write a book. Few actually do. 

It’s been two years since I published Only Human and in that time, over a hundred people have told me they have a story or that they have an idea for a book. People have been kind enough to ask me for advice, tips and pointers and I always do my best to help out and answer any and all questions that come my way. 

(By all means, if you have a question, email me:

So let’s say you want to write a book. The first thing you have to ask yourself is why you want to write a book. If your answer is to make money, get a movie deal or become famous, maybe writing a book isn’t the best option for you, honestly. 

Writing is not an easy way to make a living. It is demanding, draining and is devoid of an exact science. By this, I mean that just because you’re brilliant and a hell of a writer doesn’t guarantee pretty much anything. 

To be honest, I think that if you want to write a book, completing the project should be its own payoff, i.e. Your greatest reward from writing a book is, well… writing a book. Everything else should be a bonus. I say this because if I needed fame and fortune to be satisfied, I’d be under medication right now. By caring about the story and the work, I look past low sales and low engagement. 

Who knows? Maybe your book sells two million copies and becomes an ultra-successful series… but what happens if you only sell two copies? Neither of these outcomes should take away from the fact that you finished a book. 

After asking yourself why you want to write a book, go to the next question: what do you want to say?

If you have something to say, that’ll be what drives your narrative. If instead you want to write a zombie book because they’re selling like hot cakes, ask yourself why you need to sell something that doesn’t really say something that’s true to you. 

Once you've answered these questions, then and ONLY then should you go o the next step to focus on the how.

Something to talk about on our next post.


Friday, February 6, 2015

Daydreams on the Sherbet Shore - Episode 6: The Savory Sensational Sabbatical

There are many lands within the Lucid. In the country of Draem, the Sherbet Shore extends from where the eye can see just short of the edge of forever. You see, within the Lucid all is possible and forever can happen in the blink of an eye.

The magical coastline of the Sherbet Shore has sands of a myriad of flavors that change as the sun sets or the moon rises. This merely means that if you were to taste the sands of the shore at noon, they would taste like watermelon or lemon sorbet, and it would be more on the lines of plum or cranberry as dusk nears.

Within Draem there are many fantastical places. Some are permanent staples like the Parched Pumpkin Pub while others roam in the vast lands within the Lucid, like the Kung Fu Circus, the Nickel Market or the recently released floating island of Felinia.

Draem is a place of possibilities, friendship and adventure. It is also a place without time since dreams have no use for it. So being late was completely relative, especially when going beyond time zones to cross dream zones. That said, as the morning fog lifts off the Soufflé Station, three people await on the platform doing their best to remain patient.

“Do you think it’ll be long, dear?” asked an older man with a beige fedora, brown pants and a sharp cream shirt with a sleek brown tie.

“Ed, it’s a dream; have some patience, darling,” answered an elegant woman in a lovely dress with cream and tangerine lines. Her eyes smiled as much as her small frame could hold. They also happened to match her dress, one being a lovely shade of hazel and the other a light grey, just as lovely as its counterpart.

The man smiled at the woman, “I know, Mavis. I just want to see where we’re going. It’s not every day we get to share a dream, after all.”

“No worries, dad,” said the other woman on the platform. “I’m sure they’ll be here soon.”

The sweet old woman smiled, “Oh very soon.”

“Can you see something?” asked Ed stroking his bushy beard.

“No, darling. In dreams we’re invited to feel. Pay attention to your right foot.”

“Oh?” said Ed bewildered at this wife’s familiarity with Draem. He focused on his right foot as she’d suggested and felt an odd sort of buzzing. He couldn’t feel it anywhere else in his body. “Do you feel that, Karen?” he asked his daughter.

“That I do, dad,” she replied, “So they truly are right on time.”

“But I thought there was no time in dreams.” asked Ed.

“Exactly,” said Mavis chuckling at the randomness of dreams and the current meaning of being right on time.

On the tracks next to the station, a huge steam cloud bellowed in the distance, churning its way towards them. Ed’s eyes filled with wonder as he saw what looked like a gigantic tea pot making its way towards them.

Atop the steamy tea locomotive, a man stood with a set of reins he kept cracking. He had a burgundy coat that roared behind him in the wind. “Miss Claudi,” he called from up top, “I think it’s high time to have ourselves a little stop.”

On the side of the long teapot, a window lowered and a lacy hand peeked out, flicked something on the tracks and returned inside.

Even at a distance, Karen had been able to see a small disk-like pebble bounce twice on the tracks before landing flat on its side. “Is that a dime?”

Just as the freight train tea locomotive touched it, it stopped, sending the young man flying through the air. The remarkable part wasn’t that he was able to hold onto the reins, it’s that when they became taut, he swung in a glorious arc through the air and back towards the platform where he let go, flipped twice and landed in front of the trio.

“And that’s why it’s good for us to be in a dream,” said the young man following his dismount with a bow. “Pardon the delay and greetings to the Ohrens. It is our pleasure to have you here in Draem.”

At that moment, the top of the giant teapot blew a burst of steam and a side door opened onto the platform, down which walked a nice young woman with some of the loveliest black curls any of the people had ever seen. To add to the intrigue, she was followed by a large walking fish in a captain’s uniform, a long julienne fry and a small crab. 

“Welcome to the Sherbet Shore,” said the young woman. “We hope the wait was not too long.”

Karen stepped forward and shook the young woman’s hand. “A pleasure to finally meet you, Miss Claudette. I’ve been meaning to visit for a while, but you know how things are.”

“That I do, Miss Ohren. I take it this lovely couple are your parents.”

“Pleasure to meet you both,” said Ed with the eagerness of a child about to enter an amusement park. “I see you’ve brought friends.”

“Indeed,” responded Claudette. “It’s no easy thing to handle a dracomotive. The Falkori Express can only be handled by the esteemed Captain Phish and his crew.”

On cue, all three saluted the dreaming visitors. Looking behind them, Ed, Mavis and Karen were able to see that the teapot was in fact a large steel dragon shaped a little like a green metal teapot.

“All right already, folks. Lots to see and dream’s a waiting so if you’ll kindly follow the Captain, we’ll board and be on our way. I have a feeling the station requires our immediate departure. Oh, and I’m JD. We’ll be going to a couple of places so by all means, if you have questions, ask away, though best to do it inside.”

Captain Phish picked up on JD’s urgency and quickly ushered the guests aboard. The small crab and fry took JD’s place atop the large pot and in mere seconds, the dreamers heard whips cracking and felt as the train pulled out of the station.

Looking out the window, the tracks took a long left turn that allowed everyone to see the station they had just left. There was a shudder, a shaking and a quaking and in mere seconds the entire station basically deflated, for lack of a better word.

“Soufflés are a rather delicate thing,” said JD casually.

Everyone looked at him bewildered, although that’s how things go in Draem. Captain Phish ushered everyone along the train and opened a sliding door onto a large roomy compartment. Inside were various couches, a long table with all sorts of desserts and what seemed like the drink station.

Mavis walked up to the odd refreshment table and JD joined her. There was a large boxing glove pouring a thin orange colored liquid. “That’s our special punch,” said JD. “I know it’s contradictory but careful, it’s got quite the kick.”

Next to it was a bowl of glowing liquid with a label below it that read SPARKLE WATER.

Next to it was a basket with ice and light bulbs that seemed to be filled with a caramel colored drink. “Is that curiosity cola?” asked Mavis.

JD smiled surprised. “So you’re familiar? That’s wonderful. But you haven’t tasted it so may I do the honors?"

The young man twisted the screw bottom and handed it to Mavis. She took it with a small giggle and sipped on the pleasantly chilled bulb bottle. “Oh my!” she let out, quite surprised by the taste and gave another giggle.

“What’s it like?” asked JD.

“It’s got enough pop to have a slight bite, which is rather pleasant. It starts off like the perfect cup of tea, but fizzy and then it smoothens into a nectarine aftertaste.”

JD smiled quite satisfied at her approval. “I’m glad it is to your liking, ma’am. Feel free to get comfy and enjoy the sights.”

Mavis took her cola and sat next to Ed on a couch as they overlooked the Lavender Lake. JD picked up a remote and pressed a button that opened the window just enough to allow the gorgeous aroma in while they took in the sights of the mesmerizing purple shores.

Meanwhile, Claudette was with their other guest. “So tell me, Karen, when’s the next show with the Ravens?”

Karen blushed like a tomato at the mention of her band. “Well, I dunno. Not like we have a venue set up.”

“Hogwash and poppycock,” said Claudette. “I’m sure we can talk to the management of the Pumpkin to get you a spot.”

“The Parched Pumpkin?” asked Karen a bit in disbelief.

“O’course, luvy. It’ll be brilliant. After all, I have a feeling you will be making a wonderful splash soon.”

While Karen wondered what Claudette actually meant, Captain Phish’s voice came through the speaker system. “First stop, the Mandarin Museum.”

“’Ere we go,” said JD hopping onto his feet with quite the spring in his step. “You’re going to love this. Please, please, this way. Follow me.”

As they got off the train, a huge building stood before them the color and shape of a huge orange. The entrance was the peel pulled down with a large clear door with light shining out from within.

Ed was beside himself at the sheer mass of the building and how perfect an orange it was. He looked to the left of where they had gotten off from the train and saw a large sign.

The Mandarin Museum
Commissioned by the Earl of Orange
Building design by Satsuma

“The Earl’s a lovely chap,” JD Said. “Sweet as a peach although for his part, Satsuma is a bit acidic; brilliant, but acidic.”

Ed could only grin at the sight of such wonders. He took his darling Mavis by the hand and smiled at his wonderful daughter. A tear actually glimpsed and got away from his eye, causing Karen to become concerned. “What is it, dad?”

He smiled and pointed at the sign next to the one with the building’s information.

– Special exhibition by Karen Ohren –

While she looked around for answers, it didn’t take her long to find JD’s cheeky grin. “Every question can lead to something special, K. Did you think I’d pass on the chance to present the exhibition you’d curate? Let’s go in and have us a looksie.”

Upon opening the door, the loveliest aroma of orange blossoms swept over the entire group. Karen and her parents had to smile as a wide bright hall opened in front of them. Pulpy mosaics let in plenty of light, warming up the entire area while small squat oranges served as makeshift seats.

There were crowds of people flowing into and out of all the exhibitions, which had large signs over their entrances.

- Liquid Sunshine: a study of light and water -

- A peel above the rest: mixed media -

- Candles and coffee -

- Zest of Life –

However there was a large commotion coming from another one of the galleries. JD and Claudette stood in front of Karen and her parents next to a gallery titled Brewed by Buist.

“Out of the gallery!” called out a voice followed by a crash of countless things falling on the floor. As if obeying the scream, a set of three paintings seemed to be making a break for it. One was an elegant horse, another was the sweetest beagle you’ve ever seen and third, there was a rather large and hulking mountain cow that actually walked right up to JD’s face.

“Hullo,” it spoke in a gruff highland accent. “Do you know where the exit is?”

One simple point of JD’s thumb behind him and the painting nodded in thanks.

“Boris!!” shouted the beagle. “What are you doing?!”

“Exit’s this way, chums!!” said Boris to his fellow paintings. “Nobody frames us and gets away with it!”

Off they went and close behind came a lovely older woman with a cowboy hat and lasso. “Where’d they go to?” she asked.

JD did the same exact movement he’d done to show the painting the exit. “Rowdy bunch. Are they yours?”

“Indeed!” said the woman. “Left the tele on too often and they saw quite a few cops and robbers movies. It’s my fault they’re that way. I’ll catch them yet and then I’ll have a chat of the different meanings of the word frame.” She ran off leaving everyone a bit befuddled, to put it lightly.

“All righty, then,” said JD clapping his hands and bringing everyone out of their slight shock. “How’s about we see the exhibition we came to see?”

Everyone agreed and at the far end they could see the exhibition.

- Dreams and tweets -

Karen looked at JD. “What did you do?”

“Me?” he asked with a smile. “I just asked a simple question. You’re the one that did all the work.”

When they walked through the entrance, the exhibition was within a huge dome divided into four equal parts, clearly divided by colored lighting. Karen was a bit at a loss for words while both Ed and Mavis beamed at her.

JD walked up to them. “Mr. and Mrs. Ohren, although your darling Karen will insist she had no say in this, her words were the fuel for this collection. First we have the Elysian Poems.”

JD led them towards the green lighted area where countless wind chimes of different colors swirled from the ceiling. Some were shards of glass, others were made of wood, and others had stones. The view took their breath away because it was so beautifully delicate. “Each shard is a word captured by your dear daughter. She can tell you which is which, although best would be if you heard them.”

Claudette then handed Karen a conch shell, Ed received a pinwheel and Mavis got a bottle of bubbles and a ring. “It’s simple, really. Pick a poem you’d like to listen to and use your wind to listen to the emotion captured in those words as they resonate off your life. Karen, if you’ll do us the honor?”

Karen was completely in awe and taken aback with emotion. It took her a moment or two before she could properly blow on the conch shell. The moment she breathed her first breath through the musical artifact, the wind chime began to swirl and the voices of a thousand angels began to harmonize, filling the entire hall and most of the museum with beautiful wordless music. In the chest of every one present, a note rang within their soul and tears of joy flowed from everyone’s eyes.

Once the heartfelt sound ceased, Karen wanted to say something but words failed her. JD put an arm around her. “Save it for the paper, dear friend.”

With tears in her eyes she nodded and hugged her parents. JD smiled at the sight. “Here’s an idea, Ed and Mavis, if you’d be so kind, would both of you choose one poem and let’s see what happens when we listen to both of them at the same time. 

The couple looked at each other lovingly and chose two poems next to each other. With one hand, each held their wind generator and in the other they held each other’s hand. Ed chose a wind chime made entirely of stones while Mavis stood in front of a beautiful set of leaves that danced with color. They cued each other and blew softly on the pinwheel and bubbles causing violins, cellos and other stringed instruments to swell along with gorgeous wind instruments filling everyone with a beautiful sense of uplifting emotion. The music made them feel as if they were soaring through the heavens, through cool misty clouds and warm air currents on their way towards the horizon.

Once the sound subsided, the people in the hall exploded into cheering and applause. JD signaled to the three people whose soul had just filled everyone with such joy so everyone knew whose voices they were hearing. They waved thanks a bit embarrassedly and JD took that as the cue to pass onto the next gallery.

The lighting here was a warm orange and there was a plaque at the front of the Exhibition.

- The Portrait of Truth –

This painting takes on the character of the viewer and exposes them
to the true aspects of their innermost heart and soul.

Inside, there was a beautiful fountain where water fell in a thin sheet, while engravings on the frame read Amor et Veritas. They stood in front of the fountain wondering what was so special with this piece when a huge jet of water shot out and burst in front of all five viewers. The water formed a huge water capsule that continued to flow as it surrounded them.

Claudette was the first to appear in the reflection in front of them. She appeared in an art gallery, painting with a brush with one hand and holding the hand of a beautiful little boy. Tears of joy slipped from her eyes and JD smiled towards her. “You do know you’re doing fantastic, don’t you luv?”

The image vanished quickly replaced by Karen’s. She was actually dressed the same way she was now. “There’s nothing different with me,” she said out loud.

“Look at your hand in the reflection, dearie,” said JD. When she did, she saw a trophy of sorts. “You will do great things, dear friend. Just believe.”

As her image was replaced by his, they all saw how JD’s skin turned to paper covered in words. Now it was Claudette’s turn to smile over at him. “I guess your stories really are an important part of you, mate.”

The image once again shifted and Ed and Mavis appeared dressed as they were at the moment. As in completely identical. “What about us?” they asked.

JD smiled although Karen was the one who picked up on the small detail in the image. “Dad, mum, look where each of you is standing in the reflection.”

When they looked back, it was apparent that in the reflection, Ed stood in front of Mavis and the lovely woman stood in front of her husband. No other words were needed and the water parted ways returning to the fountain and leaving everything dry as a bone.

JD prompted them to go over to the next gallery. As they crossed to the purple area, the lighting was darker and a sheen of mist floated in the area. They could all see each other but not much else. There was no fixed area, no picture or display, nothing.

“What are we supposed to be seeing?” asked Mavis.

JD walked next to her and answered. “This is the exhibition of the Infinite Tale. It is said that it is a book without ending and the story evolves with the touch of each reader.”

“So where’s the book?” asked Ed.

They all scanned the dark area and could only make out sheets draped from the ceiling and the gentle rustling of pages in the wind. Karen then spotted the story and looked it straight in the eye… literally. A bright purple eye opened in the middle of the darkness and a small shadow looked to be retreating into the darkness. “Hello,” she said soothingly, holding out her hand and they could all see the eye looking at her curiously until it let out a chirp.

As they were asking themselves how a story could chirp, a purple ball of light shot out from the shadows and landed right on Karen’s left forearm. The creature looked like a living piece of origami and instead of feathers, small pieces of paper laced its wing. “Oh… hi,” said Karen, melting at the sight of the adorable story bird. “Who are you?”

The paper bird looked at her and gave a small smile while it tweeted in response. “Infi.”

“You’re adorable,” she said and reached out to pet it. She felt such warmth from its head and it lovingly smiled and stretched in approval under her touch.

“Is he getting larger?” asked Ed.

He was right. The bird had grown in size as had the paper feathers. “He grows on love and inspiration,” said JD.

Not a second passed by when the bird took flight and started to shine brightly, lighting the entire area with a beautiful violet glow. It soared towards the ceiling, flapping its paper wings and singing a glorious birdsong. All five dreamers looked on at the graceful bird and when Infi swooped down, they reach reached up to touch him. As their fingers grazed the magical creature, he grew to four times his size and began to look more like a purple phoenix. As it soared high above, the ceiling did not stop him and instead he kept flying off into the deep purple. To each of them, it felt as if the bird had taken something without leaving an empty space.

This time Claudette nodded for them to go to the next gallery. They walked out of the purple light into the aqua lighted area continuing to feel blessed with every piece they came into contact with.

In this area, a thin sheet of water covered the floor and the gallery actually opened out into a shoreline. If you looked at the walls you couldn’t tell where the wall ended and the open space began. It was a soothing bay and there shone daylight although unlike a typical day, light seemed to move much faster.

In the middle of the bay, there was a huge raft made of flowers and vines and a figure stood next to the raft. It was a large body, completely made of bark, twigs and vines.

“Is… is that a photogeni?” asked Karen.

“That is correct, luv,” said JD. “Remember Banyan?”

Her eyes opened wide with a look of awe mixed with joy. “Indeed I do. Such a courageous warrior.”

JD began walking towards the figure. “That he was. Well he’s here to say goodbye. This is the Song of the Sea. It’s a symphony of love and longing, transporting each listener to the lost aspects of their own soul, giving them the inner peace and harmony they have been searching for.

“What does that mean?” asked Mavis.

JD turned to the lovely woman and offered a warm smile. “Although it means something different for everyone, it’s a place that allows you to let go of things that are weighing you down.”

They turned to Banyan and even if he was an imposing figure, a warm kindness flowed from the scarred bark of his skin. JD walked up to the photogeni and held out his hand. 

“Hello, father writer,” Banyan said in his deep voice, embracing JD’s hand warmly. “So good of you to be here.”

JD’s eyes grew misty. “I wouldn’t miss it for all of Draem or Raelity, my friend. I brought some friends to help send you off.

“Very kind of you. Did you take a jar?” asked the photogeni.

“No we have not, but we will. Count on that.”

“Good. My thanks to all of you for your presence.”

Everyone nodded at the friendly wooded giant, slightly at a loss for words due to the presence he commanded. JD led them to the right and saw how people lined the entire bay, saying hello to each other and holding a jar in their hands. Looking to the bay, out of the water came three figures made entirely of water. Two had a feminine physique while the third aquatic silhouetted was larger and more masculine, well if water could be masculine.

From left to right, they spoke to the dreamers.

“I am Brook,” said the first female water being.

“I am Crystal,” said the second.

“And I am River,” said the masculine water creature.

When next they spoke, they did so in perfect synchronicity.

“We are all of the same water,
We are all of the same stream,
Temporarily trapped in matter
Before swimming in the same dream.

“Sing your burden to the jar
Feel as you become lighter
Light your wish far from a star,
And let your freedom spark a fire.”

Each dreamer received a jar and the figures returned to the water. The crowd on the bay was massive and the sun began to set in the gallery. As they stood in the dark, little flickers started sparking all around them and Ed noticed the light come from the jars.

Claudette explained, “You have to say one of the things you’ve carried all your life and let it go inside the jar and hold it with your hand. When the time comes, just let it go.”

As a soft breeze blew off the bay, each dreamer breathed their secret into the jar and one by one they saw little flames flicker in the jar.

“It’s so small,” said Ed.

“A little goes a long way,” said JD with a wink.

They saw as Banyan pushed his raft to the center of the bay and no one needed to be told what to do. They just let go of their jars and the flickers of flame flew to the photogeni. The kindling caught fire and a magnificent drumming could be heard. Bayan beat on his wide chest and sang a wordless song while dancing on the platform.

“Why’s he dancing?” asked Mavis, with tears in her eyes. “He’s dying…”

Ed walked to his wife and wrapped his arms around her. “He’s celebrating life, my love.”

JD smiled at the couple as tears also fled from his eyes. “Life is always meant to be celebrated and at the end, it’s just another step in the dance of the universe. Our time here may be finite, but our energy is neverending.”

The photogeni kept dancing and beating to the rhythm of his own song, one that came from the deepest part of his being. It was beautiful, joyful and infectious and before they knew what they were doing, everyone on the bay was dancing and cheering. With every new person that danced and sang, the fire grew brighter and brighter and brighter still until a sphere of translucent light surrounded the photogeni. You could still see him dancing when the platform began to lift off. The cheering grew louder and louder and Banyan beat on his chest with uncontrolled joy.

He then began to chant very low and started raising his voice, reminiscent of that wonderful Beatles song that invited you to shake it on up. Twice he rose before beginning again and in the third ascension he kept raising octaves. When everyone was at the limit of their voices, the sphere shot up through the sky, soaring off and taking his music to some other galaxy.

Although a feeling of longing remained, people smiled as the crowd dissipated from the bay until only the dreamers remained.

“Is he really gone?” asked Karen.

JD looked at her and replied with his own question. “Is anyone ever really gone? Come on, we have one more stop.”

Walking towards the Falkori Express, a profound feeling of joy buzzed between the dreamers and Captain Phish welcomed them back. Hello, Miss Claudette. Did your friends enjoy the visit? “

Claudette looked back at Karen and her parents and the smiles on their faces. “You could say that, Captain. Thank you for asking. All well here?”

“Indeed, Madam. Chips and Pinch are ready to go when you are.”

“Good man. When everyone is seated, we can go.”

“As you wish, Madam.”

After settling into their seats and cracking open a couple of Curiosity Colas, the Falkori blew a huge burst of steam and set off, leaving behind the Mandarin Museum. The trip was smooth and everyone had a low hum of happiness bouncing among them. In between conversations, they had to stop and smile every so often.

They exchanged stories, Ed of his paintings, Karen of her concerts, Mavis of Old Yorkshire, Claudette of her wonderful son and JD of all the adventures one can have on a Caribbean Island. Their time was pleasant and Captain Phish was even able to enjoy some downtime for a change.

“So where are we going now?” Ed finally asked after about an hour’s trek.

JD sprang up from plush couch he was sitting on. “Good of you to ask, my friend. If I’m not mistaken, you should have an answer in a moment.” The young man listened carefully and smiled wide when the train sounded off its horn. “Captain Phish, if you’d be so kind.”

The fish captain saluted JD and walked out of the compartment. A huge racket came from what appeared to be the engine room. Along with the clangs, bangs and whirrs, what sounded like giggling also mixed with the other sounds until a loud hissing rang out.

“What’s that?” asked Mavis alarmed.

“Not to worry, madam,” said Claudette.

The hissing grew into a crackling and the metal inside of the Falkori Express began to become translucent and pink. All the visitors looked a bit confused and looked to Claudette for answers. “If you’re tickled pink, it gets pretty easy to see through you.”

As if it were the most natural thing in the world, metal melted into pink glass and all the dreamers were treated to the sight as they entered a tunnel at the base of a huge mountain. It was a magnificent view and everyone craned their necks at it. It wasn’t too typical for a mountain since it actually looked like a huge bush carved out of stone.

“Bush Mountain is impressive, isn’t it?” said JD.

The tunnel started off extremely dark until a sharp turn opened way to a kaleidoscope of amber, orange, yellow and pink.

“These are the Honey Well Caverns deep within Bush Mountain, where you can enjoy every imaginable variant of honey in and beyond existence.”

Ed, Mavis and Karen could only hold their mouths open at the myriad of colors that danced in front of them. They were so amazed that they didn’t even notice the Falkori slow down until it came to a full stop.

“Hullo,” said JD, “What’s going on?”

Phish was quick to respond and enter into the compartment. “We have a situation, Miss Claudette. Seems there was a cave in and we cannot leave the Honey Well Cavern.”

“Not to worry, Mister Phish,” Claudette said. “Everyone, if you’d be so kind as to follow me.”

They all walked following the young woman and her dark curls while JD and the Captain brought up the rear. When they stepped out, the smell of honey was beyond luscious and their mouths actually watered. It was strong although it didn’t reach the point of being pungent. They walked to where the cave in had occurred and JD knelt next to the rubble. He tasted the crumbled pieces of honey rock and grunted knowingly. “Honey Badgers… big ones. They had a party here.”

“Ok, so what now?” asked Karen.

JD gave his good old Cheshire before responding. “Oh that’s simple enough. Claudi, did you bring the sugar moths?”

“Of course. Did you bring the seeds?”

“I never leave Raelis without them.”

Claudette looked at him sideways, “Really?”

“Nah, just a lucky guess.”

“Good a reason as any.”

They both turned to the cave in. JD pulled open his maroon coat and took a bag out labeled, SESAME SEEDS with a big logo on top reading Open. He took a handful of seeds and lobbed them at the entrance. Claudette for her part took out two crystal clear eggs that had little moths flying inside. She cracked them open and the moths flew all through the cavern. You could hear them sipping honey from each and every crack.

The entrance grumbled and groaned and opened only slightly. JD gave a deep harrumph confused as to the lack of result. Meanwhile, the moths had had their fill and the Ohrens could see them fast at work knitting a lovely carpet that looked like golden candy floss. It went from the size of a handkerchief to a huge area rug in little over four minutes. When it was big enough to hold all of them comfortably, Claudette snapped her fingers loudly and the moths flew back to her and nestled into the crystal eggs, which sealed after the young woman gave each a kiss. Looking over to her fellow oneironaut, she couldn’t help but wonder if all was in order. “Problems?”

“I dunno...” he said… and without being able to contain it, he gave a wide yawn, a surprising thing to happen within a dream. The thing is that as we all know, once we see or hear a person yawn, it’s pretty hard to keep yourself from yawning. First it was Claudette, then Mavis, then Ed, Then Captain Fish then Karen and after she yawned it was as if the entire cavern wanted to yawn as well, so it did. The entrance groaned open and Claudette saw their chance. “On the Carpet, Ohrens, it’s time to go!”

Before they knew what was going on, they stood on the carpet as it lifted off straight out of the cavern. Flying in this fashion was something new for all of them and Ed couldn’t help but give a whoop and holler.

The golden carpet soared high into the Draem sky. They punched through grapefruit flavored clouds and marveled at the different colors of the water and the different beaches far down below. It was such an exhilarating explosion of color that had they been fully awake, you didn’t know if their senses could handle the intensity.

JD pointed to a tall plateau where four mountains seemed to converge. “Behold, my friends. I give you, Onana.”

The flying carpet soared over the ridge and they landed on the softest grass anyone had ever experienced. It was a wide open field with four peaks on every corner. There were ponds with sparkling water, trees with soft leaves swaying in the breeze and in the center a large pole with a hanging orb that dripped sundrops into a small brook that split into four directions.

To one of the four ends was a large Japanese home with a wide porch, a sand garden and a series of small bonsai trees that actually were walking towards them opening the way to a lovely woman, with fair skin, straight brown hair and two large eyes the loveliest shade of brown anyone had ever seen.

“Greetings, fellow dreamers. I hope your trip was pleasant.”

“Hello, Mamomita,”said JD smiling at the woman.

“Wait a minute, isn’t this Jane?” asked Karen.

JD smiled to his wife and gave her a kiss before the young woman walked to Karen and gave her a warm hug. “I’ve heard so much about you.”

“And I of you! What is this Mamomita business?”

“Oh just one of the dozens of names we have for each other.”

“Lovely,” said Karen as she was led by Jane and her flowing kiwi colored kimono.

JD walked Mavis and Ed to an area with a small table where there was another photogeni brewing several types of tea. Ed sat down at the table and saw quite the peculiar sight running around. “Are those… canvases?”

“Wild blank canvases at that, Ed,” JD said. “Go get ‘em. After all a painter needs to catch his muses... and sometimes a canvas or two.”

Ed gave out a hearty laugh and set off on a run in the direction of the canvases. Mavis walked up and gave JD one of the warmest hugs ever and he returned it with much care. “No thanks needed, my friends. It’s been a wonderful ride and now it’s your turn to have some fun.”

Karen smiled as she saw her mom smiling at the prospect of trying out so many teas and JD pulled out what looked like a cigarette holder and gave it to his friend.

“What are these?” asked Karen opening the case to see a row of lean sausages that smelled wonderful.

“Those are the best smoked sausages beyond Raelity and I thought your dad would enjoy sharing a couple with his daughter.”

Karen smiled at JD. All was happy and mellow and wonderful and she realized that even though not all dreams come true, they don’t have to for you to enjoy them. As the world of Draem became a blur, three sets of eyes opened at the same time and the prospect of a new day filled their chests with one collective question.

“Where to next?”