Many years ago I sat down on the couch, reached over and grabbed Melissa May―like I have done so many times before―and began to massage her neck until she purred like a kitten.

I named her Melissa May because of a woman. Men do that, did you know that?

Inanimate objects receive the names of someone we held dear to us. The object becomes an anchor into the past and we begin to cherish the “it” as much as the “one” because we can easily travel back to a place filled with warmth and love and experience “that” feeling all over again.

As I sat there strumming her strings and moving my hand gently up and down her neck, the wood warmed and she began to hum. She prodded me to go back in time, and to stand there once again, my feet covered with the warm sands of my island home. As I stood there, watching the mighty sea rise and fall, these are some of the words that Melissa May imparted onto me, “I see that wall. That mighty, mighty wall. Rising up from hidden depths, setting me up for the fall.”

The wall represents a wave on the ocean. You can be sitting on the beach or floating on a surfboard and the rhythmic churn of the sea will always draw you in. A wave begins a journey far from any shore. Pushed by the wind of distant storms. Directed by unknown currents. Altered by the moon. One becomes mesmerized into taking that heroic ride. In an instant, you are cruising across a face of raw teal energy, the spray washing your fears away. Many will plummet, will fall, will tumble up like a sheet, only to pop up on the back side, to swim out to do it all over again.

^^^

In the very first paragraph of WHITEFISH, I wanted to utilize a similar rhetorical style.

However, I know my strengths and weaknesses when it comes to performing voice overs. I have a difficult time pronouncing certain words and the “s” sound for me, is like scratching on a chalk board. I had learning disabilities as a child and to this day I still read and write out of sequence, having to go back and fill in the gaps. I do not see this as a weakness. I turned it into a strength by working on conciseness and precision. This does not mean I am a person of brevity. Indeed, I am quite the opposite, once I begin to let the words flow.

“For every condition falsely declared to be a weakness, there is an equal and balancing strength―but only if you have the grit to turn the weakness in on itself.” ― MOKANA

I went into the sound studio and narrated the sentence originally as written:

“MASSIVE PILLARS OF ROCK, rising up from hidden depths…”

Sure enough! Chalk board! Hated it!

In my mind it sounded great. When I sing the above referenced song lyrics, I sound good. When I narrate the words as originally written, I struggle to clearly and cleanly pronounce the “th” and the “s” in the word “depths” and the word “massive” was simply a horrible pile on of painful screeches.

Another take away from reading this article is readability or word strength. The very first manuscript of WHITEFISH had a post graduate reading level. One may think that having such a high reading level is a great indicator of genius. Genius is the ability to explain the complex with simplicity.

I had learned over time my strengths and my weaknesses. My does and my don’ts. My writing flows out from a long life involving military special operations, entrepreneurial undertakings, and experiences I am very grateful to have enjoyed and endured.

I write because I must. As far back as I can remember, I have had boxes of black writing tablets, filled with ideas and concepts, that followed me on my travels around the world. I have and always will write.

Given my entreprenurial background, monetizing my writing is goal number one. Writing and selling novels, via printed or electronic (ebooks) means, is only one part of the revenue equation. Audiobooks are now a dominant revenue stream in the book publishing world.

Graphs from AuthorEarnings.com

If I were to hand off my novels to a “professional actor” to perform the narration, I would either have to pay this individual an agreed amount up front, or pay out royalties equal to half of what ever I would receive from Audiobook delivery platforms such as Audible. I am simply not willing to do that. Call it greed. I call it grit. The willingness to do the hard work, to find out what does and does not work and make the appropriate adjustments until the finished product sets a standard I am content with.

I am fortunate because I have worked really hard. There is a huge back story about how MOKANA STUDIOS came into being, and perhaps I will share that another time. A quick overview is that I was in post graduate school studying law and I was thoroughly miserable.

I was shy of being 50 years old and I hated my life. The night before L1 finals, on December 14, 2008, I picked up Melissa May and began to play random songs to calm myself down. It was that night, at four in the morning, I decided I would do only that which brought happiness and peace to my soul. I took my exams, acing them as I always do, dropped out of grad school, and built a home that housed a separate internal 700 square space for a studio in which I would make guitars.

Making guitars switched to recording music.

Recording music switched to doing a voice over work and occasionally playing music.

I do have more voice over than stage acting experience. I do have a life time of being on the road and listening to audio books. I read novels and listen to audiobooks for two main outcomes: enjoyment and to gain a greater understanding of the craft. Craft is not one dimensional. Craft comprises so many distinct elements that each one requires a dedicated book―or a least chapter―breaking down concepts and their applications.

In the beginning, I built MOKANA STUDIOS for one purpose, only to have events evolve and to have that purpose completely morph into where they are now.

Isn’t that just like writing?

You start out with one style or level of understanding. And you stick with it, developing your craft. You work really, really hard, and you develop ideas and transform them into masterful literary works of art.

By having grit and doing what must be done in order to arrive at a destination knowing your strengths and weaknesses, your does and your don’ts, you are able to create a product that sells across all delivery platforms, and then finally gets green lighted by Amazon or Netflix for a mini series.

“PILLARS OF ROCK, rising up from deep within…”

That is the new sentence. The screeching sounds are gone and I can now clearly articulate the words as I narrate the story. An important tangential topic is brought into vivid relief during this entire process. From a geological perspective, the words ROCK and STONE do not mean the same thing. Why is this important? The answer has to do with meaning and intent.

 

ROCK is comprised of STONE and is formed by nature. STONE is derived as a subsequent process by man. There are innate instinctual traits possessed by man. Man is also conditioned to perform certain behaviors, almost habitually. By using two different terms, rock and stone, I am foreshadowing the contrasts of traits and habits.

 

I am of a belief that skillful writers educate themselves on the topic they intend to imitate. Art is all about imitation of reality. The better you get at your craft, the closer you are at arriving at a more accurate imitation. I chose “PILLAR” instead of “COLUMN” because I was seeking something that represented the character of man, or ethos, the values that drive a man (no gender implied here) to do what her or she does. The underlying point here is that I make conscious decisions about why I choose some word or train of thought over another. There is a reason. There is a purpose. There is intent.

 
I searched the Internet using the exact phrase “rising up from deep within” and the results took me down a rabbit hole where I lived for the next few days. What was initially an exercise to refine an opening phrase in order to enable a clearer narration turned into developing―once again―a deeper and broader understanding of the craft behind highly effective storytelling.

 

Joseph Campbell circa 1982

I have read his works before. I am certain of it. I simply never associated his name to such an enormous ground breaking body of work. The life of Joseph Campbell was dedicated to understanding the origins of mythology. This body of work would later be known as the “The Hero’s Journey“, a concept heavily relied upon by George Lucas and his development of the Star Wars saga.

Immersion is the only real way I can fully learn anything. I am so grateful for the Internet and hyper links. If there is a topic I do not fully understand, I will spend however much time is required to fully comprehend the subject matter. The ability to drill down or have an explanation or dictionary definition pop up on the screen allows me to go on for hours, sometimes days, developing a comprehension vital to my chosen profession. 

I encourage anyone who desires to fully embrace writing as their chosen profession to dive deep into the works of Joseph Campbell. I continue my journey immersing myself with his body of works by watching the entire Bill Moyer’s interview on Amazon and by purchasing and reading The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

The Hero with a Thousand Faces

Until the next read,

MOKANA