COMING SOON: In Pursuit of Sleep (Oct/Nov 2015)

In Pursuit of Sleep pre-release cover.

In Pursuit of Sleep pre-release cover.

(UPDATE: Publication of In Pursuit of Sleep has been rescheduled for early January 2016.)

From the author:

This book is an outgrowth of sixty-five years of experimentation and research. I’ve had difficulty sleeping since I was a kid. At the age of eight, I had an imaginary girlfriend who went on adventures with me while I waited for sleep to overtake me. My father was a farmer and prone to worry over product prices and the weather, things he could do nothing anything about. I absorbed a certain amount of his insomnia and worry, and passed it along to my kids. This same story with different characters plays out every night throughout the world, and by all reports is getting worse because of the accelerating pace and complexity of modern life. This book is my attempt at turning the tide.

If you’ve been lying awake at night waiting helplessly for sleep to come, it is time you went on the offensive. This book is about pursuing sleep. It presents all the information you need to chase sleep all the way to Slumberland. This book is not about tricking yourself into going to sleep. The method developed herein is based on scientific principles and years of research into the problems that block sleep. It builds off of what we know about sleep and the way the mind works while negotiating that gray zone between being awake and asleep. It does not involve medication. And it doesn’t take weeks of learning before you can get started. Read this today, use the method tonight.

I’m an author and an engineer with an MS from Stanford University. I have written nine books, both fiction and non-fiction, two of them on the creative process and the inter-workings of the mind close to the sleep state. I’ve experimented with dreams and lucid dreaming and how to use them creatively. I have developed a method for dealing with insomnia. Will it work for you? Perhaps. This approach isn’t something you’ll find in the literature, and it doesn’t involve medication. It doesn’t depend on meditation either. It is completely new.

If you have a job or little ones to care for, you need good sound sleep. Sleep interruptions can occur at any time during the night. Your child can wake you. You might have to go to the bathroom. Your sleeping partner can wake you for any one of a number of reasons. How do you get back to sleep under these circumstances? Perhaps this method will help you get the sleep you so badly need to get you through the day.

I’ve only taken three types of medication to get to sleep, two self-medicated and one under prescription from a doctor. The first I tried was melatonin, which is a hormone involved in circadian rhythms. It seemed to have no effect. For a couple of years I took Benadryl, three capsules at bedtime and two the first time I woke, about four or five hours later. Benadryl helped some, but I didn’t like taking so much since it does have side effects.

For six months while teaching astronomy at a university, I took Ambien, which worked well enough but didn’t seem to give me the kind of sleep I needed. When I went off it, I had ocular migraines every day for a couple of weeks. I had large blotches in my field of vision and blank spots where I could see nothing. For six months after quitting, I also had difficulty getting to sleep when I first went to bed much worse than before I took Ambien.

I started researching solutions for insomnia seriously in December 1990. I had been using all the “tricks,” like counting sheep and trying to keep my eyes open. I investigated cognitive behavior therapy, sleep hygiene, and tried meditation techniques to clear my mind of thoughts. None of it had a measurable impact. I was an engineer working on NASA missions to the outer planets and US Air Force Projects. I was also an author writing novels and accumulating material on the creative process. I became interested in the periods just before and after sleep because they seemed to be inordinately useful for many authors as well as other creative people. I developed a method of taking my characters into my dreams, and I developed work strategies and solutions for difficult engineering tasks. Sixteen years ago, I started exploring scientific literature on the period of time just before sleep and discovered a complete world of information under the title of “hypnagogia.” I then started the development of a method to solve my insomnia problem.

I am a professional but not a sleep professional, and apparently that is a good thing. Little or no rigorous research has been accomplished on techniques to direct the mind to enter sleep. Sleep research has been predominantly performed, or at least paid for, by pharmaceutical companies into medication to make the subject unconscious. This usurps the natural processes involved in going to sleep and does not achieve the same result as the patient actually being asleep. All the same, I do not recommend that you quit taking any medication that a doctor has prescribed for you. We do have extensive psychotherapy procedures to resolve psychiatric issues that flood into consciousness and co-opt the process of going to sleep, but this isn’t even necessarily the problem, and therapy can take years and have mixed results. I know because I have been there. An online search will quickly reveal methods for producing an environment conducive to sleep and even some superficial methods of tricking your mind into going to sleep. My guess is that none of them work reliably for you or you wouldn’t be reading this.

The other thing that has helped greatly in the writing of this book is that I went through five years of psychotherapy with psychiatrist. At the time, I was going through all sorts of problems, from troublesome relationships to panic attacks. I had fears of dying in my sleep. I had trouble sleeping. Although the therapy was helpful in many ways and my therapist was very good, I also came to realize the limitations. I walked away with many of the problems I came to it with, and getting to sleep was one of them. I even came away with a few problems I didn’t have when I entered therapy. As my psychiatrists told me, every treatment has it side effects, even therapeutic treatment.

What I present here appears to be the first serious research into methods to direct the mind along a path into sleep. My most fervent wish is that this book will prod sleep professionals to start research into directing the mind toward sleep. Perhaps then we, as a world of the sleep deprived, can actually do something about our insomnia without being drugged.

Will this be the answer for everyone? Probably not. Many people have more serious problems with sleep than the ones I present a solution for here. Some have brain damage and chemical imbalances. They will have to rely on professional medical help. However, I contend that any normal human being, even while suffering all the stresses of modern life, should still be able to get to sleep in less than five minutes. That certainly has been my experience.

After a year or so of practicing this technique, which I call the Transition Trek, I just let my mind freewheel to remind me how I used to try to get to sleep. Took me about an hour, when now I can get to sleep easily in less than a minute. Waiting for sleep is such a messy and ineffective way to get where you are going. It is like standing on a corner waiting for a bus when you don’t know the bus schedule or even if a bus comes down this street. You don’t “fall” asleep. Sleep doesn’t come get you. Sleep is waiting on you to come for it. I am going to show you how to go get it

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Announcing Pre-Release of Story Alchemy

If you’ve read Novelsmithing and thought its groundbreaking approach to novel writing was useful, get ready to be blown away. It’s coming soon, and you’ve never read anything like it. It’s a new concept in storytelling. Here’s the cover to give you an idea of what it’s all about. Click on the image for a larger, readable version. You can download the first 35% now on Smashwords, and pre-order the full eBook for $2.99 on Apple, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo (in a few days). Full release is scheduled for 14 Mar 2014. Paperback and Kindle versions will also be available through Amazon on 14 March 2014.


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Pre-Release Sales of Carpathian Vampire

Cover image for Carpathian Vampire, When You've Never Known Love by Lumi Laura

Cover image for Carpathian Vampire, When You’ve Never Known Love by Lumi Laura

Lumi Laura’s first novel Carpathian Vampire, When You’ve Never Known Love is now available for pre-release sampling (first 12 chapters FREE) and advanced purchase of the digital version at the introductory price of $2.99. Click Here. The complete novel will be published by Tragedy’s Workshop on January 1, 2014. After publication, the introductory price will discontinued and the publisher’s suggested retail price will be $7.99. A paperback version will be available on following publication for the publisher’s suggest retail price of $13.99. A Kindle version will also be available for $7.99.

Lumi Laura is a Romanian author who now lives in Edinburgh, Scotland. You can learn everything about her on her blog:

A trip to grandmother’s house that rapidly becomes a descent into an underworld community of vampires and a frantic rush to save Heaven and Earth. Teenager Alexandra Eidyn never suspected that her annual trip to Grandmother’s house to spend the summer would this time destroy her plans to attend Oxford University in the fall and instead propel her into the World of Vampires and eventually to the gates of Heaven and Hell. On the way, she’d fall in love — something she’d come to think wasn’t even possible for her — with two people, become a fugitive from justice, and be a casualty of the Church to which she’d turned for help. She withdraws into a vampire society she never knew existed but that has been waiting for her the last ninety years, and learns that the Divine World has prophesied of her coming for millennia. All this following her grandmother’s revelation of a family connection to royalty that has been kept secret for generations.

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Walking That Short Distance

WalkingThatShortDistanceNew Publication (July 29, 2013):

Walking That Short Distance, Childhood Enlightenment in the ’50s a short story by David Sheppard

From the author: I wrote this short story (1987) for a class in creative writing at the University of Colorado. It is the most autobiographical story I’ve ever told. It’s sort of a compilation of events from my own life with some alterations of family composition. I know it’s difficult to believe, but I’ve known kids who were even more naive at eleven than I was. How things have changed in sixty years.


As the bull ran, his huge pink testicles swung from side to side like the clapper of a bell. The year was 1952 and eleven year old Michael was standing in the dirt yard in front of the house with the milk barn off to his left, looking across the corral into Mr Olson’s field where the Holstein bull followed a heifer in a half run, his nose at her tail. Michael’s father had called his attention to the bull and heifer and had then disappeared into the barn where he was working on the milking machines. His father was sometimes like that, calling Michael’s attention to something disgusting and then laughing while Michael watched. But Michael was fascinated with what the bull was doing even though he was ashamed of himself for continuing to watch. He didn’t like to cater to his father’s more base tendencies.
As Michael watched, the heifer slowed and the bull jumped easily with his front hooves, placing his chin on her rump, elevating his chest and mounting her. His hind legs, now carrying his full load, struggled to keep up. The patch of scraggly hair and hide that hung from the center of his belly puckered and out came a thin pointed shaft, so red and dripping wet that Michael thought at first that it was bleeding, and the trembling end of it bent down like it was broken. The shaft was shooting out, hitting her rear end, then off to the side along her hip, lashing around like a whip, until it found the right spot and disappeared inside. Michael thought it must hurt the cow to have that thing in her but then realized that she was running with him not from him, that she was really helping him. But it is so long, he thought, what could it be doing inside her? He visualized it inside her wrapping around her intestines, nudging her organs. Why wouldn’t that hurt? He thought of the bull’s raw looking shaft and how sensitive it must be, how warm it must be inside that heifer. While Michael was thinking, the bull’s front hooves dangled about her shoulders, and his knotty head stared straight ahead, bulging eyes drilling holes in the sky as his huge hips churned.
Michael swallowed deeply, looked down at his black-cloth tennis shoes, then raised his dark brown eyes and looked across the pasture to the green fields of cotton and corn. He heard the screen door slam and turned to see his mother, with her apron on, watching him through a frown, her hands on her hips. He didn’t understand what the bull and cow were doing, but he knew there was something indecent about it. His mother was making sure he knew. He felt wedged between his father and mother. He would set Michael up, and she would chop him down. Why wouldn’t they talk to him about these things? he wondered, as he brushed curly blond hair out of his eyes. First it was the two dogs that got hooked together some how and couldn’t get loose. His father had simply laughed and walked away. Michael had tried to talk to his mother about it, but she just shut him up and fell into a mad silence. And now this silent disapproval over the bull and heifer. Why did his mother just stand there like that? Why didn’t she say something? Why didn’t his father say something?
Michael sat in a chair at the kitchen table with his right leg folded under him, constructing a totem pole for his class on North American Indians, an orange and white striped cat named Tiger sleeping in his lap. He was alone in the house with his mother, and he like that. She switched off the static coming from the small Philco radio and leaned against the sink as she hummed “Just a Closer Walk With Thee,” pealing and slicing potatoes into a large glass bowl. It was dark outside, and through the house walls, Michael heard the deep hum of the vacuum pump, the machine that sucked milk from the cow’s teats, coming from the milk barn. Through the night air, the hum alternated from high to low pitch. Michael felt comforted by this pulsing heartbeat from the barn.

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High Heels, With a Touch of Prufrock

HighHeelsCoverNew publication (July 28, 2013):

High Heels, With a Touch of Prufrock a short story by David Sheppard

From the author: I wrote this short story during the summer of 1992. It helped me flesh out a couple of characters in my first novel, The Escape of Bobby Ray Hammer, which I was writing at the time. I wrote it one Saturday evening, and the next afternoon, I read it to a rather large writing class. Our instructor loved it, and the class, mostly women, gave it a loud round of applause, something unheard of.


Brenda is sitting up in bed leaning against the headboard with the white sheet and pink quilt pulled to her neck. She’s naked and has her right hand down between her legs and her left hand on her right nipple squeezing hard. She’s also thinking hard about Norman Todd, so hard in fact sweat is breaking out on her forehead and in her armpits. Spit is filling her mouth so fast she has to keep swallowing to keep it from running down her chin. She’s thinking of the future, on a fantasy date with Norman, and he’s got her where she wants to be most, pinned on her back in the seat of his brand new ’57 T-Bird. She’s also thinking of the past, about losing her virginity two months ago with Thomas Powers in the grassy foothills just outside of town (wondering why it happened with him, he’s such a jerk), and the steamy date she had with Melvin Swensen last night. She can’t believe how delicious he was. Her problem is, she can hear her mother’s high heels clicking rapidly on the hardwood floor down the hall toward her bedroom. Brenda hopes she can come before her mother does. And, she’s wondering why her mother is wearing high heals.
The reason Brenda’s mother has hurried down the hall and is now turning the doorknob to Brenda’s bedroom (Brenda is at this very second in the throes of ecstasy) has a lot to do with the reason she’s wearing high heels. Her name is Ramona, and today she is forty. Just yesterday she was thinking that when she was born, her grandmother was forty, and she had always thought her grandmother was very old. Now Ramona is the same age her grandmother was then. That’s bugging the shit out of her, even though she’s not a grandmother, maybe in part because she is not a grandmother; maybe she could accept her age if she was a grandmother; but the fact is, she’s not. She exists in this woman’s no-woman’s-land; she still feels young and vital, and she has never crossed over into that state of mind, that state of mental existence, that state of being old and knowing it, as she expected she would. She specifically does not mean a state of acceptance; no that is not what she means at all. When you are old, she thinks, it should be like you were always old. You shouldn’t have to accept it. You’re just that — old. Enough said. It is on you just like skin. You don’t even have to think about it. Someone asking about your age should be like asking about your skin.
“Do you have skin?”
“Yes, I have skin, of course I have skin,” you would reply. Just like that. No question about it.
“Are you old?”
“Of course I’m old. I’m forty. I’ve always been old. What a silly question.” But it just isn’t that way. That isn’t the way she feels at all.
So Ramona at her advanced age, and yet still feeling very young, put on her high heels this morning just after breakfast, after she fixed a breakfast of ham, eggs and toast…

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Encountering Hermes

HermesCoverNew Publication (July 27, 2013):

Encountering Hermes, On the Road in Greece by David Sheppard

From the author: This short essay describes a psychic experience I had while on an extended journey through Greece. The ancient Greeks viewed Hermes as the protector of travelers, but he was more than that. He was the complete existential experience. I seemed to lead a charmed existence during that journey, and when something did go wrong, it seemed to be for a reason.


Not many will go it alone in a foreign country, particularly if they can’t speak the language. Still one day I found myself wrestling with plans for a ten-week odyssey about Greece, the mainland and islands. The longest I’d ever been on the road by myself was the week I spent motoring about Ireland a few years before. But I was pretty much a loner anyway, had been divorced for the past twelve years, my kids grown and off on their own. After making the decision, I hired a tutor and studied Modern Greek for four months. Had to learn a new alphabet. I bought a travel pack, combination suitcase and backpack, inside of which I stuffed clothes, toilet articles, etc.

I was on a spiritual quest, planning to look within myself while at the mythological sites, but not really expecting anything other than a good encounter with the country, its people and a peek at the archeology. I was particularly interested in Thebes, the land of Oedipus; Ithaca, the island of Odysseus; and the religious sites: Delphi, Patmos, whatever. I certainly didn’t anticipate an encounter with an ancient Greek god.

The first week of October, while recouping from jet lag, I spent in Athens breathing car exhaust, sweating in the late-summer heat while traipsing about the Akropolis, the temple of Olympian Zeus and visiting the National Archaeological Museum. I spent four days in Thebes, which all the guidebooks told me to avoid, and fell in love with the little city on the hill where the ancient seven-gated Kadmia stood in Oedipus’ day and even spent some time staring across the Aonion plain at the mountain of the Sphinx in the distance. But after a couple of days in Delphi at Apollo’s temple, I had a problem that threatened to cut my trip short.

Not only was I lonely, but consciously disturbed at having two more months traveling before me. From the very beginning of my trip I’d had unusually-powerful dreams, where I longed for my family: my daughter who had run away from home years before but was now well-established in Atlanta, and my son who was a freelance illustrator in San Francisco. At Delphi, I dreamed of my own death and argued with God about my divorce, woke crying. Not long before leaving for Greece, I’d finished five years of psychotherapy and unaccountably lost my job in aerospace. For the past thirty years I’d been an astronautical engineer, and getting laid off was a serious blow. But since I was also a writer, I’d taken the free time as a blessing. Now, seven thousand miles from home, and alone, I was in trouble.

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Sirius Chasing The Pleiades


New Publication (July 27, 2013):

Sirius Chasing the Pleiades, An Essay on Euripides’ Iphigeneia at Aulis by David Sheppard

From the author: This short essay addresses some of the opening text of Euripides’ play Iphigeneia at Aulis. By investigating a couple of what appear to be throwaway lines, I found added meaning in the play, but I also came to realize how Euripides’ genius at times lies deeply hidden in the subtext.

I’ve always viewed the constellations as rather paper doll-like, static images pinned against the blackness of the night sky, but a few evenings ago while surveying the heavens for a night’s viewing, I spotted the star Sirius and started wondering about a passage in Euripides’ play, “Iphigeneia at Aulis,” that seemingly serves no narrative purpose. The tragedy concerns the Greek fleet prior to sailing for Troy to fight the Trojans and return Helen to Sparta. At the beginning of the play, Agamemnon, commanding general of the Greeks and father to Iphigeneia, paces outside his tent just before daybreak. He calls to an old servant to join him, and this short exchange occurs before more weighty concerns:

Agamemnon: What star is that, steering his course yonder?
Old Man: Sirius, pursuing the Pleiades sevenfold path, still traveling high at this hour.

I finally surrendered to the temptation to investigate this seemingly trivial passage, and what follows are the startling revelations concerning Euripides and his play that I uncovered.

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Carpathian Vampire (COMING SOON: Fall 2013)

Carpathian Vampire ...when you've never know love... A Novel by Lumi Laura

Carpathian Vampire …when you’ve never know love… A Novel by Lumi Laura

Carpathian Vampire is a novel set in current day Romania, specifically the mountain village of Sinaia. It will be published Fall 2013.

For updates on Ms Laura, visit her blog. Click here.

Lumi (Luminita) Laura is the author of the recently published eBook of short stories titled Tales of the Carpathian Vampire. She is currently writing a novel titled Carpathian Vampire, which will be published at a later date. She was born somewhere in Romania, probably Victoria but possibly Fagaras. Her parents have no record of birth, and they never seemed concerned about it. She attended public schools until she was to enter high school, but when she didn’t pass the entrance test, they were going to ship her off to a craft school for a couple of years, so she bolted. That was four years ago when she was fifteen. Now she’s on the run and has been since then. Lately, she’s been staying with a gypsy or Roma family, as they are called. Although she doesn’t claim to be, she sometimes wonders if she’s not at least part Roma. She looks Arabic, or at least so she’s told, but she’s not that either.

Being a fugitive is nothing new to her family. Her father killed a man, and they were on the run for two years before the police caught up with him. Now he’s in Codlea Prison for life. Sometimes she believes her life is more interesting than her character’s, but then she’s a vampire, so how cool is that? She’s not sure anyone is actually after her. Her mother has moved since Luminita was last with her. She is not sure where her mother lives now. [Update: Luminita has located her mother in Edinburgh, Scotland. She went to visit her over Christmas, and made some new friends there herself. Her mother has a baby two years old and is pregnant with another.]

She’s been reading and writing in English since she was five. She loves storytelling, and it’s what she does to pass the time. The Roma family picked up a laptop computer for her. She didn’t ask where they got it, and they didn’t say. That was a couple of years ago, and she’s not put it down since. She doesn’t always have an internet connection, and when she does it’s usually slow. On the message boards they always get it wrong: “Luni bin Laura” is what they call her. She’s not very fond of that.

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Story Alchemy (COMING SOON! Fall 2013)

Story Alchemy, The Search for the Philosopher's Stone of Storytelling.FROM THE AUTHOR:

I intend Story Alchemy, The Search for the Philosopher’s Stone of Storytelling to be a companion volume to Novelsmithing, The Structural Foundation of Plot Character and Narration. Whereas Novelsmithing addresses more directly the craft of novel writing, Story Alchemy focuses on the generic processes of storytelling and may more readily be applied to all forms of narrative fiction and screenwriting. Story Alchemy bears a relationship to alchemy but is also deeply entrenched in analytical psychology, and I ran onto many of the principles developed in these pages while studying and practicing modified therapeutic techniques suggested by Carl Gustav Jung. Specifically, I developed this material using Jung’s Active Imagination but modified to suit my needs.

The Land of Story, as the habitat of all myth, ancient and modern, is an ephemeral psychic space that exists in the fertile soil of the imagination. To bring your story to life in that phenomenal landscape, the leavening ingredient is conflict.

With an Imaginarium, Dream Invasion, and a Memory Palace.


The Search for the Philosopher’s Stone of Storytelling
David Sheppard

CHAPTER 1 The Quest

Such was the contention of alchemy that a substance exists, called the nigredo [Latin = black] or prima materia [prime material], that Alchemists thought to be matter’s original primitive and base state. Use of this primal ingredient was the first step in the long quest to obtain the Philosopher’s Stone, a substance that transmuted lead into gold and under the name Elixir of Life could provide immortality. After obtaining the prima materia, the alchemist followed detailed but coded procedures to produce, after decades of slaving over a hot, smelly furnace, the sacred Stone. But the search had a catch. To find the correct path to the Philosopher’s Stone and wield it once found, the alchemist had to be worthy. Every alchemist knew that within the dark recesses of the inner being, a human nigredo also existed, and this Shadow of the Soul had to be transmuted as well. To become worthy, she/he had to attain personal perfection along the way.

The culmination of two thousand years of alchemy came at the hands of Sir Isaac Newton. We don’t think of Newton as an alchemist; after all, his Laws of Motion and Gravity came to govern the mechanical theories of the Universe for two hundred and fifty years until Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity replaced it with what might be termed the Philosopher’s Stone for cosmologists. Even today, we have put men on the Moon and robots on Mars using Newton’s Laws as an accurate and easily manageable physics to predict motion and gravitation on Earth and throughout the Solar System. Newton’s Laws, obtained by decades of studying alchemy and rudimentary scientific research, were his Philosopher’s Stone. They didn’t change lead into gold, but they did turn a world of scientific chaos into a manageable, predictable arena of scientific development and led directly to the Industrial Revolution. Newton transmuted the ideas of alchemy into intellectual gold.

If this is true of science, one might well wonder why no one has found a Philosopher’s Stone for storytelling. The reading, theatrical and movie going public have an insatiable appetite for story, and yet so many, indeed most, writers stumble and fall in their attempts at telling a good one. Even the master storytellers of Hollywood puzzle over the basics, sometimes hitting the mark and at others missing so badly that they spend tens and even hundreds of millions of dollars on special effects, trying to coverup their storytelling deficiencies. They end up with not gold but fool’s gold.

Writers can’t even agree on how to define the key elements of storytelling. Definitions for theme, plot, and storyline are without consensus and have no actionable content. Do we have any hope of finding the Philosopher’s Stone of storytelling? Who would believe that he or she had been given a truth, the equivalent of Newton’s Laws of Motion, that could straighten out the process? Who would claim to be such an adept?

I believe such an ‘object’ does exist. I believe we see bits and pieces of it in all the writings of those who have tried to lead us forward. Storytelling is a primitive art, although it has had eloquent practitioners who have tried to convey their knowledge. Henry James, Annie Dillard, Syd Field, Irwin R. Blacker, Janet Burroway, Robert McKee, Stephen King, along with many others have provided sound device on both the art and craft of writing. And yet, no specific, detailed and consistent guidance on how to plot and integrate the organic elements of character, conflict and theme exists. So the question persists: What is the underlying nature, the physics, of storytelling?

This problem didn’t start yesterday. Here’s a quote from Aristotle that illustrates how difficult plotting was for tragic poets back 2300 years ago:

…beginners succeed earlier with the diction and characters than with the construction of a story; and the same may be said of nearly all the early dramatists. We maintain, therefore, that the first essential, the life and soul, so to speak, of tragedy is the plot… [Poetics, 6]

Aristotle didn’t just see plot as an important part of storytelling. He called it the “life and soul” of the work. He was talking about epic poetry, tragedy, as well as comedy and dithyrambic poetry, all of which he calls “modes of imitation” of life. All storytelling is an imitation of life. But even Aristotle’s advice from 2300 years ago provides nothing actionable. It doesn’t help us get the words on the page.

To whom can we turn to get a surefire way to construct a story? If we follow the examples of Sir Isaac Newton and the alchemists, we could spend decades producing the Philosopher’s Stone of storytelling. But once found, would we recognize it? Would we be able to wield it? The alchemists realized that it had to be an outward quest for knowledge but also an inner purification of the heart to become worthy.

I started my own search some four decades ago in Denver, Colorado with my first attempt at a novel. I quit after one hundred or so pages because I didn’t know where my dystopian story was going. I had a good idea, I thought, but after exploring the situation I envisioned, my story lost steam because it had no direction. It ran aground in a sea of possibilities. I tried again and again but always ran up against one stumbling block after another. In the ’80s and ’90s, I read about craft, took classes at the University of Colorado, formed a writing group, joined the Rocky Mountain Writers guild, and over a period of five years, I finished my first novel, not set in a post-apocalyptic world but my own hometown. Since then, I’ve written and published three more novels, along with a couple of nonfiction works. One of them, Novelsmithing, on the craft of narrative fiction.

At the same time, I was constantly reading self-help books. I was always interested in psychology, and I even briefly entered group therapy following a divorce. I kept a journal. In 1988, I entered therapy in earnest with a psychiatrist, and I continued two-a-week sessions for almost five years. Shortly afterward, on January 1, 1993, I got laid off from my day job, astronautical engineering no less (yes I was a rocket scientist). I decided not to return to my profession and instead took a trip to Greece where I confronted myself with the ruins of my life while visiting ancient religious sites for two and one half months. During the following two years, I turned my journal of that trip into a travel book and published it under the title Oedipus on a Pale Horse. I learned that narrative nonfiction contained the same story elements and structure as that for fiction.

I then decided not to return to my profession at all, but to write full time, and I moved to Carlsbad, New Mexico where I lived in an old house my grandfather had built with his own hands. Not particularly plush, to say the least, but certainly adequate for a struggling writer. When I ran low on funds, I went to work in the library at the local branch of New Mexico State University. In addition, I taught classes in Greek mythology, novel writing, and astronomy. I turned my class notes concerning novels into my book Novelsmithing.

Still, I seemed to be missing something and continued my work investigating the nature of storytelling. I ran into the writings of Carl Gustav Jung, the analytical psychologist. I read many of his works and those of other Jungian psychologists. Then in mid June 2009, I made a startling breakthrough in my research. In the ensuing days, I extended this new concept. For four years, this new hunt kept expanding, but the full importance of the discovery eluded me. I didn’t fully realize what I had discovered until the morning of January 23, 2013 when it came to me in a flash. I finally realized that I had discovered the Philosophers’ Stone.

In the following chapters, I provide directions for creating a magic ‘substance,’ the equivalent for authors of what the alchemist’s called the Philosopher’s Stone. It took forty years of hard labor to learn the true nature of the writing process and decode it. What I am offering you is the inside story on the nature of storytelling.

Even if I do give you the Philosopher’s Stone, will you be able to use it? In the words of the alchemists, “Are you worthy?” The answer is probably no. Jung cites an old Chinese proverb: “If the wrong man uses the right means, the right means work in the wrong way.” [Alchemical Studies 7]

Don’t lose heart. I also know something about remedying this worthiness issue. Jung’s method of individuation could well get you there. Perhaps I can show you the way. The good news is that the process of writing fiction, at least the method I’ll provide, is an offshoot of the path to individuation so that while practicing your craft, you are also traveling the path to becoming worthy. Just as the ancient alchemist perfected himself by looking within while practicing his alchemy, so will your writing efforts, if done properly, serve a dual purpose. By staying on the right path to good storytelling, you become worthy.

Here’s a word of caution. Sir Isaac Newton may have found the Philosopher’s Stone for physics, but he paid a price. He had an emotional collapse and almost didn’t survive the process. Plus he was a different person once he came out the other side. He was no longer much of a scientist and became a bureaucrat. Unaccountably, he accepted an appointment to be Warden of the Royal Mint. No one remains unaffected by a process that looks so deep into the psyche. You might have a good talk with yourself concerning your own emotional stability before getting into what I’m going to present here. I’ll have more to say on this as we proceed.

This is where I’ll leave off this introductory chapter and start down the path to teaching you about storytelling. Have I found a Philosopher’s Stone for storytellers? You’ll have to decide for yourself.

[Publication: Fall 2013]

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The Eternal Return

The Eternal Return: Oedipus, The Tempest, Forbidden PlanetThe Eternal Return by David Sheppard is Volume II of the Tales of the Mythic World series. This narrative discusses the relationship between Sophocles’ Oedipus at Colonus (429 BC), Shakespeare’s The Tempest (1611), and the Adler/Hume movie Forbidden Planet (1956). It also delves into the relationships between the authors’ lives and their work.

Father/daughter stories have resonated with readers throughout history, and this current narrative depicts three such relationships encountered in (1) ancient myth, (2) the Elizabethan stage, and (3) modern cinema. Volume one, Introduction to Frankenstein, of this the Tales of the Mythic World series dealt peripherally with the relationship between Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, and her father, the philosopher William Godwin. In this second volume, titled The Eternal Return, we encounter more directly three literary relationships: Oedipus and Antigone from Sophocles’ Oedipus at Colonus, Prospero and Miranda from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and Morbius and Altaira from the 1956 movie Forbidden Planet.

The reason for treating all three in a single narrative is that they are related. Forbidden Planet is a known derivative of The Tempest, but The Tempest is also related to Oedipus at Colonus, either intentionally or not, and the totality of the Oedipus myth is related to Forbidden Planet. The relationship between all three goes even deeper through what the psychologist Carl Jung called the Collective Unconscious. So come with the author as he explores this amazing phenomenon of the human psyche called the Eternal Return.

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