Sunday, December 28, 2014

D. Gilbert Trout, Author, Musician, Filmmaker, Whip Artist, and more...

D. Gilbert Trout is the illegitimate son of Kurt Vonnegut's famous character, Kilgore Trout.  Consequently, he's a half-fictional bastard. Like his father, he is a writer of science fiction, horror, and fantasy that is often full of good ideas, but is poorly developed and executed.  He lives with his wife and imaginary friends in a small town in Southeast Ohio USA dubbed “The Thirteenth Most Haunted Place on Earth” by the British Society of Psychical Research.  He enjoys Hermetic research, whip artistry, and writing about himself in third person.

Lastly, never let it be said that D. Gilbert Trout has ever let anything so boring, mundane, and tedious as the truth get in the way of telling a good story.

Trout expounds, “A little about me, (that “Daniel Trout” rather than my pseudonym/alter-ego “D. Gilbert Trout.”  We are ever so slightly different...for which there are reasons, but anyway…) in addition to my writing pursuits, I am also a graphic designer, media producer and filmmaker, and have called Athens home for about 20 years.  I try to specialize in working for small businesses and non-profit organizations for my video and media design work.  I'm currently in the editing phases of a feature documentary about the Athens Local Food Movement that has been a LONG process of four years thus far.

And yeah, that "whip artistry" thing in the above bio...I am sort of obsessive about bullwhips.  Indiana Jones was a pretty big influence on me growing up.  I've worked with a great number of the world’s finest whip performers, and have spent some time teaching cowboys how to crack whips, and working horses so that they don't spook as easy around loud noises, (you never hit an animal with a whip - at least not the kind I use - it's strictly a noise maker).  I could go on for hours about that.  I only mention it because it might be of interest to your equestrian contacts, but is pretty much outside the scope of any sort of interview you might want to do. 

My experience with horses is pretty narrow.  I've ridden, but not as much as I'd like, (and I admit that most of my time in the saddle, the horse is in charge.)  I've worked with a couple cowboys, teaching them to crack a whip, (out at Smoke Rise a number of years ago, as it helped add "Atmosphere" to the tours,) and have done a couple whip demonstrations and impromptu lessons to visitors out at Last Chance Corral to people who had traveled far to adopt a horse, (and had made charitable donations to help fund the work Victoria Goss and staff do out there) and I've stood in a ring cracking a whip in the direction of a horse that was spooking easy to sudden noises...The rider, FAR more the equestrian than myself, steadily reassuring that there was nothing that was going to harm the animal, so ever so slowly, the horse no longer jumped or flinched when I cracked a whip.  But I do give lessons and do demonstrations to try to dispel a good amount about the negative image the bullwhip has mistakenly developed over the years...”

When did you realize you wanted to become a writer?
I think I've always been a storyteller, and I really consider myself more of a "Storyteller" than a "Writer," because there are some stories I just don't think translate as well to prose as they do to spoken word or motion picture, or animation...what have you.  And I do...or have in all of those varied media to tell my own stories or to tell someone elses.  It's all storytelling.  

I have always LOVED stories, and there have always been stories rattling around inside my head that managed to get out in some way or another.  All of my playing as a child involved these complex narratives.  It was never just "Cop/Robber" "Good Guy/Bad Guy" games with me.  I wanted to establish motivation and further define relationships between these characters in our roleplay that would be an ongoing evolution between "Play Sessions."  There was no "reset switch" at the end of recess.  When we went back out on the playground, we picked up where we left off.  No "New Game."   At least, not in the "D. Gilbert-Verse."  I think how I wanted to play was often very confusing to many other five and six year olds, and I was considered kinda weird.  I wasn't particularly aware that I was doing it either.  It was just as confusing to me that they would find the "Bang! Bang!  I Gotcha!" types of roleplay interesting at all.  That sort of thing bored me greatly, as did sports.  I didn't care about football, basketball, or baseball, (still don't actually.)  I was always more interested in sword fighting and such.  I didn't want to be a quarterback in the NFL, I wanted to be Luke Skywalker, (or, more often than not, Darth Vader.)

The actual road to being a "Writer" is a bit more complex.  It's been a long and winding path. I can't exactly tell you when I started writing down stories, because it seems I was doing that as far back as I can remember.   But the stories typically reflected whatever I was interested in at the time; Comic Books, Doctor Who, (the original series.  I'm a fan of the new one as well, but my love of Doctor Who goes back almost 36 years!) Sci Fi, Horror...And I tended to mimic whatever writer I was in love with at the time, so lots of silly British verbiage and tropes while reading Doctor Who and Douglas Adams, while a bit more grim and gritty while reading Batman comics by Alan Moore and Frank Miller.  

I was actually more interested in being a performer than a writer while I was growing up.  I did a bunch of musical theater in junior high and high school, and I actually started college as a theater major.  That lasted about a year.  It just hadn't dawned on me that I wasn't cut out for theater as a career, because after 6 weeks of rehearsal, 2-3 weeks of performances, and some matinees, I was pretty sick of doing the show. That's the exact opposite of what you want as a working actor.  You want to stay in the role, and keep that show going as long as you can, because that means a steady paycheck and not having to go through the torture of endless auditions.  

Even when I had decided not to be an actor, it didn't sink in that part of the reason for that was the reluctance of spending my life telling someone else's stories, and that I would be telling those same stories over and over every night.  That came later.  I decided that what I really wanted to do was direct, so I began to study video production as a stepping stone into film.  Along the way, I completely fell in love with the flexibility and immediacy of video and never went on to actual film, (which seems to have been a good thing, as there's not much left shot on actual film anymore.)  Most of my work in that arena has been corporate, educational or informational.  I did tinker with narrative fiction screenwriting, but never really fully developed anything.

Again, in hindsight I understand why, but at the time I found my hesitation to produce fiction fairly frustrating.  Dramatic media production, (whether TV or feature film,) is a very collaborative process.  It is lots of people with lots of different visions and ideas creating one thing.  Now, I love to create, collaborate, and build shared universes.  But my problem is I want to do it all!  The actor in me wants to play this role that I've written, but I also want to direct, I also want to be the camera operator, I also want to edit...  

It's not even a game of "It's my ball, and you'll let me do it my way or I'll take it home!"  It's that I love doing all of those things, and asking me to pick just one is very difficult.  Very early in my video production journey, a guy I greatly admired said to me "KNOW IT ALL!," meaning learn every position in a production crew...not only to find what you really want to do and to make yourself more valuable as a professional, but also so when you step into the director's chair, you know exactly what every member of your crew has to deal with, and you know exactly how to make your vision manifest through them.  I kinda took that to the extreme, and "KNOW IT ALL" became "DO IT ALL!"  I love too many positions in that process to pick just one.

So, while I've worked with a good number of people to bring their creative stuff to life, I haven't worked with too many other folks on my own stuff.

I was still writing through all of that; Short stories, scraps of ideas, fan fiction and other derivative stuff...Nothing I actually had any plans on seeing the light of day.  I was just writing because I enjoyed it.  I also spent about 8 years teaching college full-time while finishing up a Masters degree, so I was really busy with too much other stuff to consider publishing anything but academic non-fiction.

A number of years ago, I started to put together a pitch for a TV series, and had developed a good amount of a pilot script and a "Series Bible" (the "Shared Vision" guide that the showrunners put together so the executives, the production crew, the staff writers, etc. are all on the same page as to what the series is about,) before I realized it was really too ambitious to do myself, and getting any studio to back it would be impossible without considerable compromise.  I wasn't willing to make those compromises, so I began working on it as a novel, and it was while I was hammering it out that I decided that I really liked my prose, and perhaps there was a market for it, (though it did take a couple other shifts in my thought patterns to actually take steps toward publication, but we'll get to that.)  

What books have you written?
To date, just one… My first published work, 
A Study in Gray, came out in May of this year, (2014.)  I self-published through Amazon CreateSpace, and it's currently available through my website,, and through  You can also pick up copies in the gift shop at Stacked Stones Retreat in the Hocking Hills, and there are plans to make it available through a couple local retail bookstores here in Southeast Ohio.

It is the first in my ongoing series, The Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Mysteries which are probably best described as the "Paranormal Detective" genre, though I don't think it's quite as formulaic as many other book series in that genre, (or if it is, it's formulaic in very different ways.)  Most other "Paranormal Detective" fiction out there, especially by Indie Authors, is in the style of Harry Dresden or Anita Blake, where the detective is some paranormal creature or has some bizarre, tainted past that ties them forever to mayhem and magic.  But it seems to me that characters like Harry Dresden...himself a wizard...and Anita Blake...Martial Artist Necromancer Vampire Hunting Badass Extraordinaire...should be the SUBJECT of paranormal investigation, not the ones doing the digging, and these type of series often take place in alternate worlds that have different histories and rules than our own.

Don't get me wrong, I LOVE that genre!  In fact, I am working on a number of World-building projects of my own, but MY paranormal investigators are just "regular joes" that live in the same world that you and I do.  They get up in the morning, take a shower, have a bowl of cereal, a cup of coffee, and go out trying to earn a living like the rest of us.  It's just their job that's kinda weird.  They don't have spells, or swords, or magic powers, (though Rosie is a pretty good shot with a pistol) their only advantages in dealing with the madness are their wits, their experience and their friends...  

The series follows two guys; Stan "Rosie" Rosencrantz and his partner Jack Guildenstern, college buddies who investigate events of Grand High Weirdness; Hauntings, UFO sightings, Psychic Phenomenon, Monsters, etc.    

I describe it as being one part Dashiell Hammett's Spade and Archer, and one part Neil Simon's Oscar and Felix, and then throw in some creepy "Weekly World News" headlines for good measure.  It's funny, it's scary, and hopefully folks find it entertaining.  

Something else I should point out about Jack and Rosie living in the "Same World" we do.  I base the scenarios in the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern books, on actual reports.  In addition to many other things I've mentioned from my childhood, I Was a Teenage Agent Mulder.  I was studying reports of bizarre hauntings, UFO activity, Close Encounters with aliens, Bigfoot, and the Loch Ness Monster from a VERY early age....reading books on the subject right alongside Amelia Bedelia and Dr. Seuss.  As a little kid of age 8, I was pretty excited that I live just up the river from Mothman's stomping ground, if that gives you some idea. 

Something that's always frustrated me about the "Paranormal" and "Horror" genres is that the reports of actual events are often more terrifying and bizarre than ANYTHING that could dreamed up in the imagination of the author, (note that I am talking about reports of actual events...I'm not saying that they really happened as reported, but I've seen too much from too many intelligent, sensible people who have nothing to gain and everything to lose in making these apparently outlandish claims.  So, while many reports are pranks and hoaxes, there is no doubt to me that many of these folks did indeed experience something extraordinary.  What it ACTUALLY was is all conjecture, and whether the actual explanation is mundane or earth-shattering doesn't matter.  The fear, the awe, and the astonishment are real.)

I hope to capture at least part of that Grand High Weirdness in my writing.  The general premise of A Study in Gray is based directly upon the experiences of dozens of self-identifying "Alien Abductees."  It does however diverge quickly and considerably as on page one, we find our hero driving down the Pennsylvania Turnpike at three in the morning with a woman asleep in the passenger’s seat, head wrapped in tinfoil, and a dead alien rolling around in the trunk...

I think that gives you a good idea of what to expect from the book.

What are you currently writing?
I'm currently working on a couple things.  The second "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern" book, Tomb of the Adena, which I hope to have ready for human consumption by May or June of 2015.  This adventure will take Jack and Rosie to an archeological dig in Southeast Ohio where the investigation of some very strange artifacts leads to even more strange phenomena that the Ghost-hunting Gumshoes are brought in to consult in on.  It will have a bit of an Indiana Jones feel to it, (or at least Jack WANTS it to have an Indiana Jones feel.)  There are other books in the series planned out beyond that, but it's not like J.K. Rowling or George R. R. Martin where events DIRECTLY follow one another in an extended plot arc across several books.  The R+G adventures are much more in the style of Sherlock Holmes and the pulp novel series of the '50's and '60's where there may be SOME continuity between books, but for the most part, they are meant to stand independently of one another.

I'm also writing Book 1 of a Post-Steampunk series I've been working on.  I say "Post Steampunk" because it takes place in the early years of an alternate 20th Century, in which many developments of "Steampunk Genre" technology occurred, but have since been supplanted by the technological genius of Nikolai Tesla.  In MY universe, it was Tesla's visions of the future rather than Tom Edison's that became the basis for the technological revolution.  It is Tesla that is touted as the most brilliant man in the world, and Edison who died a pauper.  

So, Electricity is generated via harnessing the Earth's own magnetic field, hydroelectric power, etc. etc. and rather than Edison and Westinghouse spreading wide the "For Profit" model.  Tesla's almost endless supply of power is made free for all the world who wish to use it and AC current is beamed directly to devices "wirelessly" via a network of towers like the one Tesla actually experimented with at his Wardenclyffe facility in upstate New York, (and functions similarly to our cellular data network, except providing power, not communication.)

With electricity being a readily available nigh-on "Universal" natural resource, there is a fairly dramatic shift in the socioeconomic face of Europe and North America.  The Great War does not happen as it does in our world, and an EU-like alliance of nations, known as The Europa Republique comes into existence.

I'm not really giving anything away by talking about this.  Everything I just told you is really just the backdrop to a coming-of-age story about Colin DeVere, a kid who goes off to rescue the love of his life from being used as a political pawn, and all the people he meets and the adventures they all have along the way.  The Rosencrantz and Guildenstern stuff I've written primarily for adults, as there's some mature subject matter and some fairly coarse language.  The Europa books will be tween-friendly, but will hopefully be engaging enough for adults as well.

I really want to get Tomb of the Adena out before I worry too awful much about that, but look for at least a PREVIEW of Chasing Europa with the release of Tomb.

There.  I think I've shilled enough.

What are you currently reading?
Mostly non-fiction.  I'm currently reading a number of books on European Renaissance Magic, Alchemy, and Swordplay for a project that's still somewhat hush-hush, a bunch on Tesla and pre-WWI Europe, and both the Thule and Vril Societies in post WWI  for Europa.  I'm reading a bunch of somewhat "Fringe Anthropology"/Hidden History material about pre-historic earthworks in the Midwest and the people who may or may not have built them to further flesh out Tomb of the Adena.  

I have a few fiction books that are waiting patiently to be read, but I have no idea when I'm going to get to them.  They've been sitting there quite a while as well.  I'd really like to appear to be incredibly dedicated and say that EVERYTHING I've mentioned is solely for my fiction writing, but alas, that's not it entirely.  I have strange obsessions, and unfortunately with a lot of these topics, once you start digging that rabbit hole, it just gets deeper and deeper.

My wife seems to have infinite patience...

Who is your favorite author?
There are a bunch.  The first one that always springs to mind is Clive Barker.  If there was anyone who I ever wanted to write like, it would be Clive.  His writing is so incredibly visceral...repulsive and sexy at the same time.  The musician Tom Waits once said "I like beautiful melodies telling me terrible things."  That's how Clive's prose is.  He writes such eloquent filth.

I'm also a big fan of Vonnegut.  That should be obvious, but Kurt's incredible honesty and simplicity just bowl me over while barely containing this barbed satirical wit. Kurt also is the inspiration for my work in so many ways, which I'll get to in a minute. 

I think that Alan Moore has been a big influence on ME more so than anything I've written or that I'm working on.   Moore tends to be touted as this 20th century genius that redefined comic books as literature.  If you ask Alan, he'll probably just tell you that he writes comics and "Funny books."  He's rather non-assuming like that, but he has this grandiose strut and ego as well that make people either like him or hate him, (which I relate to, or at the very least STRIVE to relate to.)  I honestly prefer Alan WRITING about his writing than the writing itself.  His stances on writing, creating art, magic and defining our own reality resonate VERY deeply with me.  I think that I could probably sit down to a meal with Clive Barker and even the late Kurt Vonnegut, and be able to carry on at least a passably intelligent conversation.  I think I would be nervous and star-struck to sit down with Alan Moore.

Your Dad is an author, too. Did he influence your writing career? 
OK...On the subject of creating magic and defining our own reality, I really need to come clean about a couple things.

First of all, let me tell you a little about my father, who is quite the character...literally.

Kilgore Trout was an awful father, or at least, I imagine he was because I never knew him.  Additionally, he was not the most upstanding of citizens.  He spent a significant amount of time living in basements in Illium and Cohoes, New York, and it appears that he was the ONLY American to be convicted of treason during the Korean War.

However, he was a rather prolific writer.  The current tally is that he wrote over 117 novels and 2000 short stories.  I think one of the best descriptions of his writing is that he had GREAT ideas, but lacked either the talent or motivation to see them through effectively.  Nevertheless, he has a very small but fiercely loyal fanbase...or he did..until October 15th 2004, when he consulted a New York Psychic who informed him that George H. W. Bush would be elected for a second term to the Presidency.  That night, rather than facing four more years, he topped himself off in his basement in Cohoes by drinking Drano.

The epitaph on his tombstone reads "Life is no way to treat an animal."

Another bit of trivia.  My father, Kilgore Trout, was also entirely fictional.  He was a character that the aforementioned Kurt Vonnegut Jr. created as a rather unflattering caricature of his friend and fellow writer, Theodore Sturgeon.  In later appearances, Trout almost became a cypher for Vonnegut himself: A chain-smoking shabby man with many regrets and a keen intellect coupled with a rather low opinion of himself.   

Vonnegut also really liked to blur the lines between the worlds that existed in his head and the world his head existed in.  Kurt himself appeared in his book Slaughterhouse Five.  The book's protagonist, Billy Pilgrim encounters the author as a scared young American World War II soldier, cowering in fear and cold in a burned out building during the bombing of Dresden.  Vonnegut also appears directly in his novel Breakfast of Champions, of which Kilgore is one of the main characters.  To sum up quickly, Vonnegut strolls right up to his character, Kilgore Trout, and declares him a free man, no longer slave to the whim of the author and free to define his own destiny rather than succumb to a fate of Vonnegut's devising.  That, Vonnegut thought, was the end of it.

But it wasn't quite that simple.  Kilgore Trout wasn't so much a free man as a free agent, and just because Vonnegut no longer manipulated Trout's life, that didn't stop other two-bit hacks with a typewriter and corrective fluid from trying their hand.

The most well-known of these is Philip Jose' Farmer's attempt, which resulted in the novel Venus on the Halfshell.  The least well known of these resulted in me. 

Breakfast of Champions came out in 1973. I came out in 1974.

My mother, a rabid Vonnegut fan, wrote what would today be considered an erotic piece of fan-fiction featuring Kilgore, and nine months later, there I was.

Now, before it gets too deep in here, (too late) I really should get to the coming clean part.  After being a storyteller for as long as I can remember, a "Writer" (in terms of being "Published" anyway) and a "Media Professional" for the better part of two decades, I see myself as a professional liar.  But a lie can be a really precious thing as long as everyone's in on it.  It's the lies that only a few are in on...the governments, the corporations, the special interest groups...that are damaging.  Those are lies to CONCEAL the truth.  Art creates lies that REVEAL truth.  

Now, I like facts, don't get me wrong.  Facts are very important things in medicine, legal matters, police work, etc.  Facts are ESSENTIAL.  I am not a police officer.  Nor am I a doctor or lawyer, (often to my mother's chagrin.)  I am a proud storyteller.

If Kilgore's epitaph is about how the ASPCA should boycott life, then mine should read, "Never let anything as boring and mundane as fact get in the way of telling a good story."

But to tell the truth, (which is a funny thing to say after spinning that yarn) Kilgore did give me the tools I needed to write.

Now I'm being completely honest in saying that I don't use a "Pen Name."  The name on my birth certificate is not all that different from the name on the cover of my book.  I've been asked, "any relation to Kilgore Trout?" on more than one occasion, (a display of wit I find refreshing compared to the more common, "Ya like fishin'?" or "I caught your cousin the other day!")  I always try to answer smarm with smarm, and so the tale of a half-fictional bastard was born.  But, truth be told, I think there are many aspects of my biography that sound like fiction, so maybe there's something to it.

I also have a lot in common with Kilgore in terms of how I view my own writing.  I think I have good ideas that I often don't feel I have the skill to pull off as a writer.  As a result, I have a lot of fragmentary stories and undeveloped ideas, and very little finished material.

With a portfolio of over 2000 short stories and over 100 novels, Kilgore, fiction or otherwise, did not have this problem.  It seemed to me that I either needed to be a better writer, OR I needed lower standards.

So, rather than approach my writing AS myself, I invented a fictional character to write THROUGH.  I'd had this story about a detective driving down the Pennsylvania Turnpike with a dead alien stinkin' up his trunk clanging around in my head for years.  I'd written about half of it down, and knew where it had to go.  The story is written from one of the detective's perspective, so why don't I go one level deeper? Write AS the character D Gilbert Trout writing AS the character Stan Rosencrantz?  Inception Authoring!

It was a silly idea.  I didn't take it seriously or expect anything to come of it, but I tried it anyway.

The half-manuscript to A Study in Gray had been sitting on my hard drive for years, waiting for the real guy to finish it.  I gave D. Gilbert a crack at it on a Friday, and there was a finished first draft on the following Monday.

It's neurotic as hell, but it worked.  

I have one more quote from Vonnegut, my "Literary Grandfather," and it's my favorite of all of his, (and there are so SO many,) and this really summarizes everything about my approach to who I am and ESPECIALLY how I write:  "We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be."

Somehow, I think you must have poetry in you as well. Can you share a favorite poem of your own creation?  
If I have poetry in me, it traditionally has a hard time finding its way out.  I don't consider myself a poet, and I've never liked anything I've written as "poetry."  I do enjoy turning a good alliterative or evocative phrase, but in terms of writing poetry with rhyme and structure, I'm awful.  I really admire poets that can express so much while still building their sentences within the confines of a structure like a quatrain, couplet, or iambic pentameter.  If any of my prose has a poetic color to it, then it's obviously been a good day.

What instruments do you play?
I used to sing a semi-professionally back in the early days of college, but years of disuse have pretty much got my pipes pretty rusty.  These days about the only singing I do is in the shower.  Beyond that, I'm a drummer.  I'm very specific about that.  I'm a "drummer," not a "percussionist".  Percussionists are musicians.  Drummers are guys who hang around with musicians and hit things with sticks.  I used to do some Middle Eastern drumming for belly dancers here in Southeast Ohio, but I haven't done that for a few years now.

And you are a Whip Artist! When did you become a whip artist?
I've been fascinated with the bullwhip since 1981 when I saw Raiders of the Lost Ark for the first time.  I wasn't that into Cowboys and Indians growing up.  I like Zorro, but all I knew was the Disney version, and Guy Williams never used a whip on-screen that I remember.  So, in that opening scene set in the jungle where Indy whips the gun out of the guys hand...where the whip gets its big close-up even before Harrison Ford does...I was completely blown away!

That began a long process of trying to figure out how it worked.  I had all sorts of crappy whips growing up: Cheap goatskin with guts made of sisal rope, home-made whips made from braided shoestrings... just utter crap. 

Then about 11 years ago, I decided to do something completely insane for my 30th birthday, and I took a 2-day long bullwhip handling workshop from a guy over near Dayton [Ohio], (some people go on drinking binges, some throw huge parties, or jump out of airplanes...Me...I get bullwhip lessons.)  

Gery Deer is a whip coach from Jamestown, Ohio who has a lot of the same problems that I do.  He couldn't decide what he wanted to be when he grew up, so he did everything! (and he's still a very good friend.  He compartmentalizes his various careers a bit more than I do; including whip artistry Since then, I have had the honor of working with some of the best whip performers and whip makers in North America; Guinness World Record holders, Hollywood stunt people, cabaret and burlesque performers, wild west show folks, martial artists...All amazing people who share the unique passion for this archaic tool!  The whip is rather unique.  Every culture that domesticated herd animals on the planet developed a whip of some kind, and if you look at cultures that historically had no contact with one another, you'll still find similarities in their whips.  This wide diversity has also unfortunately created a great number of misconceptions about whips, their use, and how they work.

Contrary to common belief, using a bullwhip properly is not cruel. The bullwhips I use are of an Australian design and construction technique, (and are the same ones that you see in the Indiana Jones and Zorro movies, in fact I have bullwhips from the folks who made them those films,) and these types of whips were never designed to be used to strike an animal or a person.  They're designed to be noise-makers.  The cracking sound that they produce occurs when the tip of the whip breaks the sound barrier. Herd animals tend to shy away from loud noises, so if you crack a whip to one side of them, they tend to go the other direction.  So, crack the whip behind them, you get the herd moving forward.  If the herd starts veering off to the left, crack the whip on that side of them, and they'll start meandering to the right.  

That's not to say that a whip wouldn't cause a lot of pain and damage if you hit something or someone with it.  As I said, the tip of the whip is breaking the sound barrier.  That's a minimum of about 768 mph at sea level, or about 1200 feet per second, which is faster than the muzzle velocity of any commercially available handgun round.  The tip of the whip may only be a twisted piece of string tied to the end of a slightly thicker piece of leather or nylon cord, but at that speed, it can cut flesh like a hot knife through butter.  You don't want to use that on cattle.  If you're a cowboy driving a herd of cattle to market, and you're actually smacking and animal with a bullwhip, it will A) Damage the hide and the bruise or cut into the flesh of the animal, thereby reducing the quality of the leather and meat and consequently the market value, and B) most likely cause a stampede, which may likely kill you, your fellow cattlemen, and probably several head of cattle in the process.  Really dumb.  However, using a bullwhip for what it was designed for...making probably the safest, most humane method of moving cattle over land for long distances.  I've trained a couple local cowboys that work on ranches here in Southeast Ohio to use a bullwhip, and I've worked with a trainer or two to help a horse get over being spooked by loud noises.

All in all, that might seem somewhat boring, but the whip is such a mystery.  As I said, every culture developed their own designs, their own preferred material and construction methods, and refined them over time.  That development was mostly through trial and error because while we've had supersonic whips for at least the last thousand years, it was as recently as 1958 when scientists figured out that the crack was caused by the whip breaking the sound barrier.  

I know it seems very strange to call a bullwhip "subtle," but the act of working with one is an exercise in subtlety, minimalism, and "Zen" like centering.  Over the years, I've studied martial arts on and off, Tai Chi, Karate, I've done Kendo, (Japanese Fencing,) Olympic style fencing, studied renaissance and medieval sword combat, (both theatrical and competitive,) tactical handgunning, etc. etc. etc.  ALL this stuff, and I have connected with nothing in the same way that I've found with the bullwhip.  Any idiot can get a whip to crack, but to manipulate the whip with minimal effort, precision and accuracy...It's like dancing at the speed of sound.

In addition to all my other insanity, I teach whip artistry and provide private coaching to performers, dancers, actors, martial artists, and just folks who want to take it up as a hobby.  My website for THAT is

As a filmmaker/produce/graphic designer, what projects have you completed?
The big thing that we're still currently hammering out is a documentary about the local food community here in the Athens area of Southeast Ohio.  The website:

It's really an amazing story, and with all of the attention right now on big corporate farming, Monsanto, GMO vs. Organic, all the "Free Range" scandals, etc.  I think what it has to say is more important than ever.  Locally producing food is a currently a big movement here in the US, and Athens has been doing it...and doing it well...for about two or three decades now.  I really think our community is one of the most viable, (if not THE most viable,) working model for building a dynamic, diverse, and thriving local food economy with very little resources other than sweat equity.

Other than that, I've done work for local non-profits and small businesses to promote their services or projects.  Not a lot the general public would have seen.  Hand to Mouth is my first feature length project intended for large distribution.

Do you have advice for novice writers?
I don't know that I'm much more than a novice writer myself really, but I will take some old advice and flip it around.  We've all heard people say "Write what you know."  I agree with that in principle, but unfortunately that often means that people are writing some fairly mundane things.  However, NOT writing what you know is FAR far worse and you end up with prose that is as bad as those procedural medical and police dramas that are obviously pulling stuff out of their ass, or Science Fiction so horrible that you just cannot suspend your disbelief.  The argument there is always, "Well, it's a world I made up, so I decide how it works!"

Well, OK...But that's no excuse for laziness.  If you're not going to research the ACTUAL methods and terminology, then at least have enough respect for your audience to really think about the world you're creating so that it makes sense within its own continuity.

So, rather than saying "Write what you know," which can be, (and often is,) an excuse for laziness, I prefer to say "Know what you write."  Know your world, know your characters, know it all inside and out.  Even if it's not something you ever plan on actually writing into the fiction, know it.  

You can look at these beautiful worlds like Rowling's Potterverse, Tolkien's Middle Earth, and Frank Herbert's Post-Butlerian Jihad "Dune" universe, and see how they have endured, (at least Tolkien and Herbert have endured.  "Harry Potter" is still a relative newcomer to the game, but I have no doubt that Rowling's legacy will endure for generations, as Tolkien has.)  There's a reason for that.  I know that I reread Dune every couple years because it is such a lush, dynamic world.  It doesn't matter that I know the story backward and forward.  It's like visiting Disneyland once every couple years.  You know the rides, you know what's around the corner in the Haunted Mansion, but that doesn't take the thrill out of revisiting it.  

I also honestly believe that if you've spent time constructing the world that your characters inhabit, it also makes it easier for you as a writer to construct your plots and scenarios.  If you know your world and characters, you can almost just introduce your characters to the plot scenario, and they will help in writing themselves, (though I should add that this can backfire when you plan for A event, and the characters seem to gravitate toward B you have to compromise with C.  Writing is sometimes and exploration where try as you might, you don't control the map.)

On top of that, I think it not only makes you a better writer but a better person as well.  I told you mostly non-fiction when you asked what I was currently reading.  I have probably read more non-fiction, hard science, history, philosophy and religion as research for my fictional writing than I ever did for college, and to put that into perspective, I have a Masters in Communication, and taught college full-time for 8 years!  

So, writing should be more than just a creative outlet and income source, writing should be a method of self-improvement.  I think that should always be the goal.  Yeah, you can be emotionally drained, sleep-deprived, and a bit of a wreck in getting your work to the state of publication, but that act should ultimately be cathartic and you should come out of it a better person than when you started.

GOOD writing should elevate not only the reader, but the writer as well.  Language is the most powerful tool on the planet.  Use it well.  Spread beauty.

Connect with D. Gilbert…

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Saturday, December 27, 2014

Nancy Kaiser, Animal Communicator & Author

Archived interview.
Posted on Monday, June 11, 2012 2:29 PM

Since this article has posted, Nancy continues to write and has accumulated awards and accolades for her communication skills and penmanship. 
Congratulations Nancy on your great success! 

Nancy  Kaiser is an animal communicator, author and freelance writer.  In her first book, she draws on extensive experience to share her personal journey and anecdotes about the animals she has encountered along the way.  The result is a spiritually uplifting book that inspires all who truly care about animals or is drawn to the world of inter-species communication.

Where are you in the world?
I was born and raised in New Jersey, USA. My husband and I had an equine hospital and breeding farm in central New Jersey for 27 years. He retired in 2004, and we moved to the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina in the High Country. I live in Todd, which is just north of Boone with my two Labradors and a Swedish Warmblood horse.

Tell me about your writing and your book releases....
My husband walked out six weeks into construction of our retirement home. We separated and divorced in January 2005. I began writing a personal journal about a year later to understand how and why I was alone and 600 miles from everyone I knew without a home or a job. At the urging of friends who felt my writing could help others faced with traumatic life challenges, I turned my journal into my first book, Letting Go: An Ordinary Woman’s Extraordinary Journey of Healing & Transformation, which was published in June 2008. I released the book I’d always intended to write, Tales of an Animal Communicator ~ Master Teachers, in October 2011. This is the first of a series and shares the stories of the filly foal who taught me I was meant to be an animal communicator and healer and my personal animals. 

Where do you like to write?
I write in my office looking out at the woods that surround my home.

Do you write every day?
If I’m working on a book then I write daily if my communication and healing work allows me to. When I’m not working on a book then no, I don’t write daily. I write according to deadlines for articles I’m submitting, and my monthly column for Stable Woman Gazette -  Horse Tales & Teachers.

How do you maintain ideas and thoughts? 
I write what I live, so I access my memories. For me, writing is akin to channeling. My soul guides what needs to be expressed and shared. Of course, once it’s on the computer screen then my left brain does any editing and organizing that’s necessary.

Who is your niche market?
For Letting Go, my market is anyone that is struggling to learn and grown from significant life challenges; unexpected losses due to divorce or death. It will help those who want to learn from and release the pain of their trauma as easily and quickly as possible.

The market for Tales is anyone who loves animals. I’m confident that Tales will broaden people’s perspective on the significance of their animals in their life while helping them develop more meaningful relationships with not only their animals, but all animals.

Do you have a favorite author?
I really don’t have one favorite author. I chose books based on topic rather than author. I read mostly non-fiction, but anxiously awaited each new installment of Harry Potter. I have an extremely eclectic book collection.

What are your writing goals for future endeavors?
My next book, Tales of an Animal Communicator ~ Being A Clear Voice, will share the lessons taught by my clients’ animals. I know it will be created in perfect timing, perhaps 2013. For now, I’m focused on promoting the first in this series, so that the amazing lives and lessons of the animals that have made me the woman I am will be enjoyed by as many animal-lovers as possible. These remarkable souls have waited a long time for me to share their stories and I feel a responsibility to them. I want to be sure Tales finds all those interested in enriching their relationships with animals. 

Do you have suggestions for newbie writers?
Write for the “right” reasons for you. Write from your heart. Publish to contribute something of value to others not just to earn money. Surround yourself with professionals that respect your opinion regardless of your inexperience. Be open to constructive criticism and be willing to explore new possibilities and options. Remain true to your purpose and know that your heart knows best. Even if you never publish, the act of writing alone may be all you need. Writing healed me; publishing didn’t. But, know that the first time you hold your own book is magical and enormously satisfying. Each time you hear how your words have helped another, your heart warms and you smile. Those are the moments you’ll remember long after any money you’ve earned is spent.

Excerpt from 
Tales of an Animal Communicator: Master Teachers

I asked Bob what happened. What did they do to Love? Bob confessed they’d kind of forced and manhandled her, i.e., disrespected her. They’d tried to carry her. “Well, no wonder! Love needs to do it herself,” I declared. The breadth of her emotions continually amazed me. Love wanted so desperately to be independent. It broke my heart to know she never would be, but I couldn’t let her sense that from me. I’d learned early on how much she picked up from those around her. I wasn’t going to make that mistake again. 

I continued to encourage Love to be patient while I applied healing energy and waited for the stronger cart to arrive. Again, I don’t think I can stay much longer. Is your mission done? No, not really. Didn’t you come to teach me? Yes. Have I learned all I should? No. Did you come to teach others? Yes. Boots, Bob, Kathy, the other communicator, and my chiropractor. Have they learned everything? No. Could you please be patient with people and stay to help us? I’m trying, but I’m so sad and tired. I don’t know if I can make it. If I can’t get outside, I don’t want to live within four walls, no matter what. I spent longer than usual, flooding Love with healing energy, trying to heal her emotional state as well as her imperfect body. 

Boots called to say the filly seemed really alert, happy, and energized – very different from the last week or so. She said Love was lying down just like a normal foal would, with all four legs tucked underneath her. This was a momentous first. I asked Love what had changed. Excitedly, she confessed, I can feel things in both my hind legs that I’ve never felt before. My bad leg doesn’t bother me, because I know where it is now. Is it painful? No, it’s just sensations.

The new cart still wasn’t ready, so we went over with Bob’s cart. I sensed Love’s excitement. Bob wanted me to handle her head, because he knew I’d let Love do whatever she wanted to. This was her deal. We’re just there to support her. My promise had been kept as I helped her outside. She was amazing – flying as fast as she could to the grass to graze. I was ecstatic to finally see her out of her stall. 

We headed back in when Bob felt she’d done enough. Love cantered back in, breaking another wheel and bending the cart. She did it on her own. She had an amazingly strong will and endless determination. I was so proud of her, and of us. Bob said she was the most alert he’d seen her, with a very normal head and neck carriage; all were encouraging observations. She stayed up for quite a while – meaning she wasn’t too tired. I, on the other hand, was exhausted from her Herculean effort. 

Her short time out had her sweating and breathing like she’d run five miles. I told her I was appalled at how hard she had to work. I don’t mind. It’s my turn to work. You’ve been doing all the work ’til now. As I talked with her, I felt a buzz down both of my legs that I interpreted as the new sensations Love was feeling. I thought I’d be happier seeing her outside, but knowing how many people she had to rely on was disheartening. She’d never be truly independent, which I knew was so crucial to her. We were so much alike, this remarkable filly and I. 

The next day, Love was exhilarated when I asked how her muscles felt after all her exertion. They’re a little stiff, but that’s okay. Being outside makes my lungs expand, which feels good. I told her the new cart was finally ready. I know it’s outside my stall. I told her we’d be out the next afternoon. I’m sure it will take some adjustments. Please be patient. Hurry. 

The stronger cart was donated by the generous builder. Love attracted the most wonderful people to her and brought out the best in everyone. The cart supported her weight and had wheels that swiveled. She galloped out, calling to the other horses. She seemed so proud of herself. 

Later, I asked what she was screaming at the other horses. When I told them you were going to fix me so I could go out, they told me people wouldn’t if it was too hard. I wanted to show them they were wrong about people. The older horses’ low opinion of people broke my heart, but I certainly understood it. I asked how she felt. Did anything hurt? I don’t really know how I feel. I’m enjoying it so much. I don’t focus on anything negative. Smart gal. Do you feel your hind legs? Not much, just a little. I use my hips to move them when I’m going fast enough. That’s why I go fast. 

We got Love out again the following day. She was elated, moving fast and attempting to buck and play just like any four-month-old foal. She almost got away from me. I was leaving for a weekend workshop at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York, the next morning. She’d be without my help the next few days. I’m not sure who was happier about her adventures outside, Love or me. No doubt Love, because I knew this was the best we could give her, while she had no expectation for her future. Animals know nothing of future. For Love, now was all she knew – an important lesson we humans could learn from our animal brothers and sisters.
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Friday, December 26, 2014

Deborah Barnes, Author

Archived Interview
January 18, 2012  

Following her dreams of becoming an author, Deborah Barnes writes about her relationship with her cats as inspiration for her first book.  

Deborah has a beautiful website, a lot to say about the joy of cats, and a wonderful outlook on writing... 

Welcome Deborah!

Where do you live?
I was born in Lansing, Michigan and have moved about two dozen times in my life. I currently reside in the paradise of South Florida with my fiancé, Dan, and my seven beloved cats.

Tell me about your writing and your book releases...
For as long as I can remember, I have been a writer, but it was not until the completion of my first book in October of 2011, The Chronicles of Zee & Zoey – A Journey of the Extraordinarily Ordinary, that I could claim I was an author.

My writing began in typical fashion – scribbling with lipstick on the bathroom mirror as a toddler that elevated to a career as an Executive Assistant for over twenty-five years. It was after two life-changing and unexpected events in my late forties, that I found the personal strength and courage to follow my dream of actually writing a book – one was a surprise of nature – Zee, my lovable male Maine Coon cat, and Zoey, my high-spirited female Bengal cat fell madly in love and subsequently had a litter of kittens together.

The other event was less joyful, I was unexpectedly laid off and went through a very difficult time dealing with the unemployment. Through the lessons learned from my cats, I found the strength and creativity I needed to write a story about how powerful the feline-human bond is and how integral my cats were to my road to personal healing.  My current writing revolves primarily around my Blog, Zee & Zoey's Chronicle Connection, that is a collection of beautiful photos, artwork, and heartfelt true stories about myself and my life with my cats.

Where do you like to write?
I like to do my structured writing at the computer, but the majority of my writing occurs at any hour of the day or night when a thought or concept comes to my mind.

Do you write every day?
Absolutely. Because I maintain a blog and am looking to branch out into article writing and another book, I find it imperative to write my thoughts down loosely every day.

How do you maintain ideas and thoughts?
I am very old-fashioned in that sense – I have piles and piles of handwritten notes that range from Post-it notes, to scraps of paper, to formal notebooks that are later typed into more formulated and concise thoughts at the computer. Sometimes an idea is perfect right out of the gate and sometimes I will struggle with it for hours or days, looking for that perfect sentence.

I find that most of my thoughts occur at random moments of the day - normally either while I am at work at inappropriate moments; driving home during hostile rush hour traffic; when I am watching one of my favorite TV shows and my mind wanders; or when I am exhausted and need to get some sleep, but my brain just won’t shut off, forcing me to get out of the bed at an ungodly hour to jot down my thoughts.

If am driving, I will grab any scrap of paper I can find in my purse – check stubs, receipts, shopping lists, lottery tickets – and quickly and incoherently scribble my random thoughts to translate later onto the computer. I become obsessed when my creative juices are flowing and have learned the hard way, that I won’t remember them with the same foresight or genius passion later on if I try to recreate them.

Who is your niche market?
While it is primarily cat lovers, my humorous and spot on approach to the nuances of everyday life situations makes my writing universally appealing.

Do you have a favorite author?
I no longer have the time I used to for leisurely reading, but when I did, I read a variety of books from romance novels, to vampire gothic, to historical sagas. I can’t say that I have a favorite author, as I become fully absorbed in any story I read. I also like to keep myself open to storylines that appeal to me and not just a particular author.

What are your writing goals for future endeavors?
I would like to write another story about my feline gang, but I am not yet sure of what direction I want it to go in – possibly something more for a younger audience and I also have a very solid idea in mind about the masculine side of loving cats. For me, my writing goals are not just about books.

I want to use my skills in a broader scope to help educate people about the serious problem we have in this country with cat overpopulation. I would like to become a strong voice and leader in helping to increase shelter adoptions for cats and decrease the number of them that are brought to shelters for behavioral problems that could be corrected with more knowledge on how to correctly care for a cat.

Do you have suggestions for newbie writers?
Don’t be afraid to follow your dreams. I was 50 years old when I wrote my first book and it has been an incredible joy and liberation for me. You can’t always write with the sole purpose of fame and recognition either – I find for me, writing has opened so many new doors and possibilities I never knew existed just by reaching out and trying. It is also extremely important to take advantage of social media. I have made dear friends for life through Facebook in niche markets and by attending conferences in my field.

You will find that most people want you to succeed and the mental scope is fascinating in that your world will stretch to depths you never thought possible otherwise. Lastly, really like yourself as a person. When you are happy with who you are and accept the fact that you are human with weaknesses, imperfections, and flaws, it will give you a certain strength and confidence to believe in yourself. While writing is a joy, it can also be brutal. You need a really thick skin and have to learn to take the praise along with the rejection. Above all, don’t take it personal – learn from it and move on!

An excerpt from...
        The Chronicles of Zee and Zoey 

"Imagine, if you would, a world of love at first sight, where pigs do fly, where carpets are meant for magical rides, where empty boxes are transformed to magnificent castles and forts and a door becomes the gateway to the unlimited possibility of a charming and enchanted garden filled with endless adventure and intrigue. That, my dear readers, is the looking glass world of Zee and Zoey and this is their journey of a shared life, where every day, the merest of ordinary becomes the possibility of extraordinary in their minds eye."

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Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Hidden Joys of Christmas

Welcome Author Lily A. Dolan!
Lily shares a fond Christmas memory and a yummy cookie recipe!

The Hidden Joys of Christmas
By Lily A. Dolan

It was our Mom's secret, her sweet labor of love.  Every Christmas she made dozens and dozens of Christmas cookies.  They were delicately sprinkled with sugar colored red, green, blue and yellow and covered with icing flavored with peppermint, almond and my favorite, vanilla.  Each shape cut from dough rolled out not to thin or thick.  Trees, stars, hearts stored in metal tins tucked away in the darkness of her bedroom closet for Christmas Day.

I'm not sure which one of my brothers or sisters found them or even if it was me but we would individually sneak into the narrow closet and help ourselves.  The taste and smell floods my memory like a brand new box of crayons reminds me of the first days of early grade school.  That's about how old I was when I would sneak into the closet, open up the blue tin decorated with little white cherubim and have my fill.

Now, I still sneak into my own closet and I've found something sweeter than any Christmas cookie.  It's a secret place in my heart where I can taste and see the fullness of joy in the presence of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  His word, found in the Bible, is sweeter than honey or even the honeycomb.  He is the living word and I love to search the pages of my Bible.  Hidden in my prayer closet, alone with Him, my soul is satisfied.  In Him alone I find the "Hidden Joys of Christmas."

I wrote this story a few years ago after I read a collection of Christmas reflections in a waiting room while my husband was having test done on his heart.  Over a 15 year period he persevered through a stroke, heart surgery and kidney transplant.  The doctors told us they would not be able to do surgery and so we went to our prayer closet and tasted and saw how the Lord is good.  He had brought us through so much and He will continue to prove that all things work together for the good for those who love God and are called to His purpose.

Our purpose is to have a relationship with Him and to give Him glory.  My husband, John, is now tasting and seeing the joy of the Lord in heaven.  He went to his eternal home on June 15th, 2012.  It was John's wish that our family go forward and rejoice.  We will because we have the hope of seeing him again.  May I encourage you today to hide away with Jesus and taste and see for yourself how sweet it is to know Him.  The Lord is good and He is faithful and His love and mercy endures forever.

By the way, I really don't remember my Mom getting mad and there were always plenty of cookies for Christmas because she told me she started hiding them in the washing machine.  All my children love these cookies because I have made them for the last 46 years. This Christmas my five along with their spouses and my grandchildren will share the joy of making dozens and dozens of Christmas cookies together to celebrate Jesus' birthday. The hidden joys of Christmas are found in the prayer closet of your heart before Jesus.  He is the main ingredient for a sweet life!

My Mom's Christmas Cookies

Lily's granddaughter Giavelle
creating yummy Christmas cookies!
Preheat oven 375
By hand mix:
1 cup softened butter
¾ cup white sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoons vanilla
2 tablespoons half and half
In a separate bowl mix:
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt

Blend dry ingredients into butter mixture.
You will need wax paper under cooling racks.

Make icing before baking:
Blend with a mixer half a bag of powdered sugar into ¼ cup butter.  (Do this in the sink because it’s messy)

Add 1/3 cup hot half and half and 1 tablespoon vanilla to make icing easy to spread.

Roll out dough (thick or thin) with a rolling pin and cut out shapes.

Put cutouts on baking sheet and bake for 5-8 minutes. Depends if you like them lighter or darker or if they are thick or thin.

Ice immediately and sprinkle with colored sugar.  If you like lots of icing let them cool first before icing.

Cool and store in a cookie tin.  Makes about 3 dozen.

Lily baking Christmas cookies with her granddaughters Giavella and Makenna. 

Lily A. Dolan, Author

Merry Christmas 
Best Wishes for a Wonderful New Year!

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