Posted by: TA Sullivan | September 29, 2015

What makes a great non-fiction author?

escortingcoverTo me, the number one answer to that question is: storytelling ability. It doesn’t matter whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction, if you can’t relate the information in an interesting and compelling manner, then no one will read it.

Many people can tell a story or an anecdote, but only true storytellers can make them come alive. This is so very important when creating a non-fiction book. You have to find ways to help your readers relate to the characters, but without sacrificing the facts. After all, in non-fiction your characters aren’t made up and your readers can check the details. Yet, you don’t want to bore your readers with nothing but a compilation of facts, either.

Writing truth as if it were fiction is a fine line to walk. Some authors do it quite well, and others fall flat. As a reader, I noticed the difference and I began taking notes on what made some books great non-fiction and others just so-so. When I decided to share my own near death experience story (Escorting the Dead) with the world, I went back to my notes detailing the differences between good and not-so-good non-fiction to make sure I did it right.

As I analyzed these difference, I found that the major difference between good non-fiction and so-so non-fiction was the author’s ability to relate a story. As an author of both fiction (The Starstone) and non-fiction (Escorting the Dead), I have learned that no matter what type of book you are creating, you still have to tell a good story.frontcover

But how do you tell a story when relating facts, history, and biographical or autobiographical data? I found that there were two methods that seemed to work the best: use anecdotes to bring your people and time period to life; or relate one major incident from the person’s life in a friendly, story-like way. Both methods let you add flavor and depth to the people you are writing about. This then gives your readers a chance to connect with the people in your book. If you can’t build that bridge between your reader and the key character of your book, then no amount of facts, figures, charts, and graphs will win them over. Your readers want to see the humanity in the people populating your non-fiction book; they want to be able to relate to and understand the reasons motivating the people in your book. They want a really good story, even if it is non-fiction.

So, a great non-fiction author is one who can bring reality to life and fool his or her readers into believing that what they are reading is just a great story even if it is a moment plucked from real life.

Posted by: TA Sullivan | September 11, 2015

Helenism, Aristotle, and Multiverses

soapbubblesHellenism is the Aristotelian ideas of matter and form.

Matter is the potentiality, and form is the actuality. God is pure form (no physical matter) and we humans are combinations of matter and form, or potential and actual.

Both Judaism and Christianity adopted Aristotle’s teaching that we are matter and form, but renamed it body and soul. However, the concept of the form existing beyond the demise of the matter continued beyond Aristotle’s teachings and populated most major religions.

But there’s another point here that piques my interest. The fact that Aristotle believed in two states of being: potential and actual. When looked at in conjunction with the multiverse theories of today, you can see that Aristotle named these states of being very well. Every time we make a choice, we end up creating one or more potential realities. That means, we are always in a state of potentiality. The only time we can be in a state of actuality is when we forego the physical world for one of pure spiritualism. That’s because only outside of the physical world does time cease to be a factor, and without time, there is no potentiality. Without time, everything just is. All realities exist, all potentials are realized, and we (every aspect of us) is now an actuality.

It boggles my mind, yet I understand it so well. I’m sure that in another reality, a potential reality, there’s a me that doesn’t understand it all, or doesn’t even care about it; but in this reality, this me thinks this is utterly awesome.

Science lists five possible types of multiverses:

The flat repeating multiverse. This is described as a patchwork quilt view of reality. Each square of space-time extends only as far as light has traveled since the big bang (or 13.7 billion light-years). The next square beyond that is another, separate universe of multiverses. So, within our square would be an infinite number of each of us, some living lives very similar to our own, while others would have taken completely different paths.

The bubble universes. The main bubble is where we all started. However, as choices are made, smaller bubbles break out along the surface of this main bubble. Major breaks in the space-time line result in large separate bubbles being created, while less influential choices result in smaller collections of surface bubbles.

Parallel universes or braneworlds. This theory comes from the string theory world. Each brane is a layer that floats just out of reach of the next brane. Each brane is a self-contained universe which may or may not be similar to our own.

Daughter universes. This theory is part of the quantum mechanics world. It says that every possibility is created and becomes a reality. For example, if you reach a crossroads where you can go right or left, the present universe gives rise to two daughter universes: one in which you go right, and one in which you go left. quilt

Mathematical universes. Scientists have debated whether mathematics is simply a useful tool for describing the universe, or whether math itself is the fundamental reality, and our observations of the universe are just imperfect perceptions of its true mathematical nature. If the latter is the case, then perhaps the particular mathematical structure that makes up our universe isn’t the only option, and in fact all possible mathematical structures exist as their own separate universes.

So, our universe is probably just one of an infinite number of universes making up our reality. And whether it’s a bubble, a brane, a patchwork square, a daughter, or an equation, in this reality, Aristotle expressed it first.

Posted by: TA Sullivan | September 8, 2015

Relationships…they’re harder than they look

EbookCover“More from the Masters,” the companion book to “Escorting the Dead” is finally here. This book can help you understand why you do some of the things you do, why you seek out the types of people you do, and how to make more love-filled choices. The book is filled with wisdom from the ascended masters regarding the different types and levels of relationships that we create during our lifetimes, and how each of these relationships affect the experiences we have. It is a compilation of discussions and explanations that (hopefully) will help you gain a new perspective to and understanding for the complexities of human relationships and how to cope with them.

They explain how life is an intricate pattern of relationships, which we weave into and out of our lives with every choice we make. They also speak about how our choices are based in love or fear (love’s opposite), and how we can help ourselves overcome the fear to make more love-based choices.

To find out more about this book, or any of my other books,check out my page at Goodreads or

Posted by: TA Sullivan | August 17, 2015

They Get Paid for That?

1598R-10019499I just watched a show on the Science channel that explored the idea that our world and all of us in it are nothing more than a computer simulation created by some other beings “out there” somewhere.

While I’m all for exploring who we are, why are we here, and where did we come from, I found this whole concept ludicrous in the extreme (and I’m not speaking of the rap artist). These so-called scientists had spent years melding together theories from the Matrix movies and the movie the 13th Floor which they then submitted for grants and funding so they could produce little more than bogus formulas that proved only that they loved playing computer games.

Don’t get me wrong…I love a good theory as much as the next person. However, you had one Danish “expert” who was doing nothing more than videoing his world in an effort to capture THE GLITCH which would prove once and for all that we are nothing more than a computer simulation. His selling point is that no computer is massive enough, sturdy enough, or fast enough to constantly update the images we see as life without periodically glitching. So, he is determined to capture that moment when the programming stalls for that micro or a nanosecond, which means that he needs to capture his entire life digitally. (Of course, he ignores the fact that if some civilization is capable of creating such a realistic virtual reality as ours that they just might have figured out how to create a powerful enough computer to avoid those glitches.)

One scientist said he could prove that our world wasn’t really three-dimensional, that it was, in fact, only a two-dimensional representation of a three-dimensional world. That when the astronauts went into space, they were only moving beyond the defined structure of the computer simulation that defined our world and that’s why it was dark and empty. Ooooookay. (Perhaps, he needs more hugs…or a nightlight?)

Then there’s the expert who is convinced that if we use our peripheral vision to look at the edges of our world we will eventually see the grid that surrounds our world and holds us in place. (Does this sound as if he’s watched Hunger Games 2 a little too much to anyone?) As to where exactly we find these edges, I’m not sure. I mean, didn’t Columbus already show everyone that the world is round (or at least oval). Wouldn’t our space explorers have run into the grid when they blasted into space (or are we doing that the-moonwalk-was-a-fraud-thing again)?

Then there was the guy who spends his time surfing, but scribbles his formulas into the sand between waves (at least his theories don’t stay around long). For him, we’re all just avatars for those outside our virtual reality. Okay…but who are these beings using us as avatars? He doesn’t know, and does it really matter? (I suppose not, since there’s another wave coming which will wipe his theory off the beach anyway.)5387-Beach--8x10

One expert from Germany was using a type of heat sensor to find the energy grid that was the framework of our world.  While some theorist in the UK said he could point to the polygons found in everyday items (such as mountains and buildings) that he was sure were actually the foundation of the wireframes that comprised our computerized world.

As for me, I can disprove all of their theories with one question: Why would anyone create a virtual world in which the most exciting thing their characters/avatars do is watch TV, read books, and stare at computer screens?

Posted by: TA Sullivan | July 15, 2015

The Magic of Creating

paint_brushAll creative pursuits are part talent, part skill, and large part magic. What do I mean by “magic”? That’s simple, it’s the piece of you, your energy, your spark, that you imbue your creation with. Without that little bit of your own energy embedded in your creative work, it won’t have a voice, or at least not a very loud voice.

For instance, I attended a photography display at a local college recently. One of the assignments was to take an image of a sun rise. Seems simple enough, doesn’t it? Well, evidently two of the people found a similar location in a local park and decided to photograph it.

Both captured the image perfectly, framing the rising sun through the rose-covered arched trellis; however, only one of the images had a voice. Only one of the images made you feel as if you were there, standing on the dew-damp grass with the ground-hugging mist encircling your feet and shins. You could smell the rose-scented air, feel the warmth of the struggling sun beams as they climbed over the horizon, and hear the twitter of the morning birds greeting the new day. The other photo was a nice image, but it was silent.

The difference was felt, not just by me, but by most everyone who looked at the two photos side-by-side. Most tried, but couldn’t understand how two such similar images failed to invoke the same type of feelings. My hypothesis, one photographer pushed the energy of their feelings for the scene into the image they created, while the other photographer merely completed the assignment—they took a photo of the sun rising.

So, while one photographer captured an image using talent, skill and magic; the other photographer, forewent the magic and the project fell flat.

Books, paintings, sculptures, stitchery, knitting, any and all creative endeavors need that spark of magic, that little piece of energy from their creator in order to be more than just another object. When you write a story, you have to make those characters live. You have to put enough of yourself, your energy, into the characters and the world you have created for them so that other people can see what you wrote. That world has to form around the readers the moment they open the book, and those characters have to leap from the page and perform their actions with the reader in their midst.

To the readers and viewers (of visual art) it may seem like nothing short of magic. But if they can become involved in the worlds and characters that you have created, they can then add their own spark to it and make it that much more alive. The more energy that gets added to a creative endeavor, the more alive and ‘real’ it becomes. The Harry Potter series is an excellent example of magic feeding on magic. JK Rowling imbued her creations with so much energy, everyone could ‘see’ and experience her world. The readers then added their own spark by becoming so involved in the story that the characters became even more ‘real’, the possibility of that world actually existing became ‘real’. The whole idea grew into something magical, because she used all three ingredients.Starstone_Front_Cover_Only - 1

When I wrote my book, “The Starstone,” I left a large part of me in the story. Danaria was a real world (to me), the characters were real (to me), and I was always concerned about their welfare. I saw the world, I conversed with the characters, and I struggled with their dilemmas right alongside them.

Hopefully, I left behind enough of my energy, my magic, to speak to others; to call them, to entice them to visit Danaria and see what adventures my characters could show them.

Posted by: TA Sullivan | July 3, 2015

Prove It

proofAfter three episodes of Proof, I have to say I’m pleasantly surprised and pleased by the treatment that TNT (and thereby, Hollywood) is giving to the topic of ‘life after death’ and all the related topics (NDEs, ghosts, poltergeist, sceances, mediums, etc.).

They provide enough skepticism and watered-down science to keep it from getting campy and melodramatic; yet, they seem to have an open mind, too. For instance, in the episode pertaining to ghosts and poltergeist, they had the doctor (the primary skeptic) “prove’ that it was a brain lesion causing the dead-wife-sightings. Yet, the poltergeist-type manifestations that were attributed to the ghost of the dead wife continued even after the brain lesion was removed. This left the doctor (and the audience) wondering—were the sightings and manifestations truly caused by the brain lesion; is there something else going on not related to the medical condition of the man who had lost his wife; did the brain lesion only enable the sightings and not cause them; or were the events of ghostly sightings, poltergeist activities, and brain lesion simply random occurrences?

The show leaves it to each viewer to decide these questions, and that’s what makes the show so good. The writers, producers, and actors provide the information and the varying viewpoints, but then they leave it up to each of us to decide what it all means. I enjoy being presented with the information, the different perspectives as to what it all means, and then being allowed to come to my own conclusions. As a partial skeptic myself, I identify with the doctor’s dilemma of wanting proof, and yet I love hearing the explanations from those whose viewpoints rely more on belief and acceptance.

During the past life regression episode I found myself nodding at certain statements made by the skeptics in that particular episode; while at the same time, I know that past lives are real and they do impact your current life (for good or for ill).

So, while I would love for there to be a scientific explanation for everything that occurs in life; I don’t believe that science (or religion) has managed to keep up with all that life has presented to us. Therefore, there are times when we need to say, “Is it possible?” instead of, “Is it provable?”.

As for me, if it seems reasonable and possible, then I’m likely to say, “I’ll consider it.” I don’t always need Proof, but it’s a good show, nonetheless.

Posted by: TA Sullivan | June 17, 2015

It’s in the Eyes

An-EyeI saw a movie the other day called I Origin. Although, not a great movie (the acting was so-so and the film was a little too heavy on the science and rather light on character development), it did get me wondering, and that’s usually a positive thing. The premise of the move is whether or not human eyes (specifically the iris, or colored portion of the eye) and iris patterns are unique to a person or to a soul. In other words, is my iris pattern unique to this body or is it unique to the soul wearing this body, and, therefore, follows me into every body I wear for each life I live.

While I find the idea interesting, I would have to say it’s highly doubtful. In this life, I have blue/green eyes (they shift between blue and green depending on my mood). I can remember at least four previous lives where that eye coloration would have been extremely unusual; so unusual, in fact, that I would have been killed or abandoned at birth because the parents would have believed me to be a witch, devil, or possessed by demons.

Now, I realize that some dark-skinned people do have light eyes, and some light-skinned people have dark eyes, but I don’t think the number of light-eyed, dark-skinned people in the world number enough to account for all of those who should be around if we always retain our same eye colorations.

So, what if the eye color isn’t carried over? What if only the iris pattern is; the pattern of crypts, furrows, canyons and the like? What if the color is derived from DNA, but the pattern is derived from the soul? Now, that would be an interesting study.

Posted by: TA Sullivan | June 4, 2015

The responsibility is yours…

signs I’ve always believed that we are each responsible for our own choices and the results that occur. Yet, so many people (and yes, I’ve caught myself doing it on occasion) are too willing to blame someone else for their ills. The car accident that wasn’t their fault, the reason they were late to work or even why they just couldn’t even come in at all, or the overall “my life sucks, because…” excuses.

I had a friend who spent her life as a social worker and she was always regaling me with the excuses people had for why their lives were so messed up. I have to admit, I thought she was making up at least half of the stories she told me…at least until I read the post: Do Your Decisions and Behaviors Align With Your Goals?

The author has an interesting slant on this, and I encourage you to read it, think about it, and (perhaps) even make it one of your life’s goals to better align your choices with your desired outcome…I know, I will.directions

Posted by: TA Sullivan | June 1, 2015

Escorting the Dead…a reboot

escortingcoverI updated some of the material.

I added some bonus material.

I reformatted the interior.

And I redesigned the cover in anticipation of the companion book, “More from the Masters,” which is due to come out this fall.

So, the rebooted version is available in ebook! (I’m still waiting for CreateSpace to
approve the paperback version.)

Escorting the Dead from

RT-conventionI asked people to tell me of their experiences in attending book or fantasy conventions, and although I didn’t receive many responses, the ones I did receive were interesting.

Among the replies, I received two that described the responder’s experience with some detail. Their stories showed me that, while their attendance at these conventions was in part exhilarating, exasperating, interesting, and nerve-wracking, it was also costly and probably didn’t gain the hoped-for results.

The costs associated with attending one of these conventions as an author can near $500, and that’s not including travel, accommodations, and food costs. Then there’s the time factor. Evidently, if you want to make the most impact, you need to be there for the entire event, or at least the key days of the event. That means, taking time off from work (if you have a regular “day job” other than author), which can be a long weekend, or a whole week (depending on the convention).

It seems as if there are two main goals of those authors who attend these events:

  • Network (with agents and publishers, and other authors)
  • Recognition (give away free copies of your book(s), give away other free items with your brand/logo on them—t-shirts, pens, coffee mugs, etc., get noticed—give a speech/reading, make an impact on potential readers)

While these seem like worthwhile goals, the second one (especially) can be done for less money and with less hassle via the Web. If you want to give stuff away, create a web site and announce free stuff; list your book(s) for free with Amazon (or other online vendors) for a day or two; announce a contest and the prize can be a free mug, t-shirt, or book, or even lunch with the author; create posters of your book covers and offer them on some of the art sites; create an electronic newsletter or blog and build an audience via your writing.

If you really crave the spotlight and want to give a speech or reading of your material, you can arrange to do so at local gatherings (libraries, country clubs, social clubs—red hat society meetings, reading clubs, schools—present yourself at career day for high school or middle school students or college campuses, give a history or writing lecture for school students or local college, etc.). If you can afford the travel expenses, then you can pursue these same types of venues in other (further) locations from where you live.

As for the networking angle…well, I’m all for meeting other authors, I think most of us are a great bunch of people. However, I’m not all that stoked about landing a contract with a “real” publishing house, and I don’t really see the advantage of sharing what few commissions I make with an agent. Now, I might be willing to share my commissions with someone who could actually help me do the marketing of my books, but since most agents and publishers don’t really help you out with that, I’m not really interested.

As it is, I’m too busy trying to build my readership and develop some name recognition to really spend time cultivating a network of agents and publishers. Nearsighted? Maybe, but I’d rather shake hands and socialize with those few people who just might want to read my stories.

So, to sum up:

Pros of Attending: Lots of chances for networking, opportunities to listen to and learn from more experienced people in the industry, possibilities for building readership recognition

Cons of Attending: costly, crowded (easy to get lost in the crush), not a great venue for introverts

Therefore, I think if I were to attend, I would go as a guest. I would get a day pass and attend conference sessions, lectures, and demos; speak with other authors; and make connections with potential readers. However, I don’t think I would bother with the hassle of renting a space and a booth, and then hoping that people would find me. I think I’d rather go out and find them.

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