R-T- Donlon

There Is No Light Without Dark

When I hear someone else say something that is totally compelling, the words resonate in the back of my head until they settle like superglue behind my eyes. My thoughts simply won't allow me to proceed with the rest of my day without the scribbling of a pen or a brush of keystrokes to preserve it before it fades from memory. My mind, as most of you know if you've read Walls and/or plan to read The Reaper Trials, is strangely twisted. If I hear it, see it, or feel it, I must write it. It's not a choice. It's a necessity.

Thousands of quotes, story ideas, character charts, world-building maps, first drafts, revised drafts, and countless other writings litter my desk at the office, in my home, and by my bed...so when I heard Doctor Christopher Ryan from the Joe Rogan Experience podcast say the quote that changed my day on March 11th, 2015, you bet I had to come home and write it down before I had the chance to forget it.

So what was the quote, you ask?

There is no light without dark.

Simple, right? But for some reason, those six words bounced between my frontal cortex, brainstem, and somehow synced up with my beating heart simultaneously in the span of fifteen weird, impenetrable minutes.

Think about it. You can't truly enjoy good food without the ability to feel hunger. That steak always tastes so much better when you're so starving that you could literally feed on your own left hand.

You can't enjoy peace without the occasional chaos. Those moments of silence really mean something after you've just endured a classroom of 30 high schoolers all with their own questions, concerns, and stories.

You can't enjoy relaxation without stress. When Friday hits and you've just completed a hard five days of time-crunching work, that REM sleep feels like none other.

(Yup, that's a Supernatural drop if you didn't notice.)

The truth is, there is a yin to every yang in our weird little existence we call life. It's what allows us to fully experience the extent of pleasure, joy, and satisfaction.

I am completely convinced: There is truly no light without dark.

I'm always fascinated with the idea of our species' condition. There are so many stories about humans getting caught in horrible, tragic, or unfair situations, yet rising from the ashes like a phoenix to accomplish something great. Humans are burdened with immeasurable fear so that we are burdened with the ability to overcome it. It's like we understand our own destiny a little too well. I think that's why we endure so many painful experiences over the course of our lives, so that we can always strive to attain those ever-elusive moments of inspiration and ecstasy.

I think life is what it's like for a reason. We are meant for something great. We always have been. It's just a matter of enduring the dark so that we can bask in the light.



The Part That Beauty Plays

Beauty. What the hell does that word mean anyway? We hear it all the time. We study it in school, watch it on television, listen to it in music...we even shove it into our mouths at restaurants! But if you think of the word in its entirety, you will see nothing but a hollow two-syllable semantic people are willing to drop everything for.

Our culture is full of steamy, steamy propaganda--a boiling pot of water just waiting to overflow, spilling through a kitchen like a tsunami of everything we have ever wanted to hear. Especially now, in the twenty-first century, where you can sit behind a computer, find literally anything you have ever wanted or needed and have it shipped to your doorstep in 3-5 business days. There is no doubt that companies, organizations, or any sort of institution wants you to understand that you are human and, because of that, you have the distinct possibility of succumbing to "beautiful" things.

Beautiful Things

Sounds like a book title, right? Well, in this case, I don't think you'd really want to read it if it was.

The human brain is a fickle thing. It relies on the constructs put in place by its evolution for millennia, like the two s words: survival and sex. This is not entirely a bad thing. After all, where would the human race be without its need to preserve legacy?

I'll tell you where. Nowhere. We wouldn't exist. It's simple science.

Instead, we would have given way to another species somewhere hundreds of thousands of years ago. Or, well, at least I presume that would have been the case.

Yet here we are...mainly because of our biological principles, but just like everything in life, however, those same biological principles sometimes get us into serious trouble. Watch beer commercials, Showtime or HBO shows, rated R movies, or a reality show on ABC, it's everywhere. It's unfair, but it's everywhere. Media uses survival and sex (mostly sex) to gauge the interest of its people, particularly men. Why connect with the hearts of men when it's easier to grab them by the balls? Kind of like this:

If you are American (which I assume my readership is as of right now), you have struggled with your biological desires in the form of making societal decisions without even knowing it. It's been engrained in you from the moment you were born to whatever age you are now. It's propaganda.

Now here's the point:

I'm not interested in a one-man front against the ways society pushes us to make decisions. I'm not even interested in changing anything that these companies do. I'm only interested in how it affects me, how you choose to let it affect you, and how to move on in achievement.

I am in a constant search for true beauty, not what is shoved in my face, but the little things that have the power to change a mentality from dead to awe in a matter of seconds. I look for a single ray of sunlight breaking through the jilted branches of an old oak tree in the winter. I listen for the high note in the climax of a favorite anthem. I look for the taste of a favorite meal, steaming on a warmed plate. I look for the conversations between two or more people--accents, emotion. I am constantly reaching for inspiration.

If you allow your environment to dictate your actions, you are only as good as what you can offer to that environment. If you break away from those same confines, you no longer need reassurance. You only need to trust in yourself to find a way to rise above it all. As a writer, I take the "beauty" I see around me and twist it into something different--an alternate universe of sorts where I control what happens, where I control the fate of everything involved. To me, the images, ideas, and power that come from my mind is a way to keep me from going insane.

It's not enough to live one life. I must live infinitely. I must live in everything.

True beauty isn't a concept. It's not in a Victoria Secret model's walk or body shape. It's not colors hidden in the deepest sunset.

True beauty is a choice to be better than who you are right now. It's the decision to undergo a project that might physically, emotionally or spiritually hurt, but will rise you like a phoenix from the ashes of culture. It is an action to pry the roots of human fundamentalism and believe that humanity is no longer grounded, but limitless in the ideas we choose to pursue. Welcome to the twenty-first century, where life is what you make of it, where limits are only held in place if you allow them to hold you there.




I believe I sense a pattern here.

Go forth and do something great with your lives. I know I will.



The Florida Effect

It's a foregone conclusion, folks. New Hampshire is my home of choice. No questions asked. Well...until spiders started ruining my new homeowner's glow. Just before I left for my Florida vacation to Jacksonville, I mowed my lawn. It was then my life changed. This picture does not do this little bugger justice. It has fangs and hissed at me as I passed with my mower. Yes. It hissed.


So I ventured from my land of arachnids into the land of reptiles--where lizards the size of your index finger run free literally everywhere. Not to mention, as we stepped foot off the airplane into the Florida weather, this is what the heat felt like:


Nonetheless, it was a fun time to hang out with a few people I don't see as much as I would like and, that alone, makes the trip absolutely worth it. Plus, it's summer! If there's a time I'm going to take a trip like this, everyone knows it's now.

If you're an author...or just anyone who likes reading in general...who is the first person that comes to mind when you think of Florida? Yup, it's Ernest Hemingway. I don't really know how Hemingway became one of my favorite authors, but he has been since my days in high school. I tend to admire authors that I know are way out of my league. For example, Hemingway kills it with character development. He strips his prose to the basics and allows the reader to attach or relinquish the characters in whichever way they please. He tends to get a lot of grief about this writing technique of his, but I think it's simply genius. Look where it's brought his writing--to a level I bet he never knew existed.

I'll be honest. I knew this weekend wasn't about accomplishing huge amounts of writing. In order to do that, I'd have to be sitting behind my computer in complete concentration, which wasn't happening in a time when fantasy football drafts, get-togethers, and America Ninja Warrior completely controlled my consciousness. But what did happen, happened reflectively. It offered me a chance to "free" myself from the crazy world of superheroes, zombies, and "greatest fears" and indulge in the blessing that is my ability to read.

So in this post, I'll be discussing a few novels that I have (and am) reading.


My Kindle Fire says I'm 88% through the novel, which makes me horribly sad it's almost over. I wouldn't say that this is my favorite novel of all time. It's not even my favorite novel of the summer, but there's something magical about Gaiman's use of interweaving folktales and myth to create his own, wildly creative, and humorous storyline. It parallels his other works, especially American Gods, which just happens to be my favorite book of his. That was one I simply couldn't put down. But Anansi Boys has a certain flare of its own, which Gaiman boosts with his English dialogue and quirky personalities. We'll have to see how it ends, but so far, this summer read is worth picking up.



So the plane is careening into Jacksonville. We're about 80 or so miles out from the airport and, to my right, I see one of the creepiest airplane sights anyone can see: a giant, winding mess of dense black clouds hovering like a tornado in midair. Inside of it, streaks of blinding yellow and orange bolts of lightning burst at each other like a scene straight from The Day After Tomorrow (you know, the film with Dennis Quade...oh, Dennis Quade). There was no announcement from the pilot, nor any reaction from the flight crew, which frightened me a tad. Granted, I don't fly much, but don't you think something like that merits some sort of attention? Apparently not. Instead, the plane bends away slightly and misses it by a good 100-yard distance.

What immediately comes to my head? Hole in my Life by Jack Gantos. That's what. Why, you ask? Well, because of one scene.

First of all, if you haven't read this wonderful piece of writing, you should. There aren't too many works of literature out there that rely on the brutal honesty of someone's reality, but Gantos does this incredibly well. He leaves nothing out. He describes the highs and the lows without censor and, because of this, his audience is able to absorb what they want about the story, the hardships he both undertook and overcame, and the beauty of sometimes having a second chance. Some parts of the story are graphic in nature, but it's well worth the read if you ever get the chance.

Now back to my flirt with death (such an exaggeration, but hey, who cares?). Before Jack's drug trafficking fiasco, he goes through a wild Jack Kerouac (particularly On The Road) phase and travels to Key West in the middle of a hurricane...just for the adventure. He describes the boarded up buildings and the departing traffic, all the while, thinking how he can be more like the characters in Kerouac's groundbreaking novel. He spends some time in Key West and, once the hurricane passes, he visits Hemingway's house and sits there for some time, admiring the dirty, debris-filled water and the sea turtle that had somehow made its way into it.

As I was reading this scene, I thought to myself, I know exactly what that feeling is like. During a giant blizzard, or a rough hurricane up here in New Hampshire, everything stops. No one travels. No one leaves their houses. The world seems to stand still for those long hours of natural wrath. But when it's all over (and, hopefully, everyone comes out of it without any harm), suddenly everything is so much clearer. Have you ever noticed that? There's just something different about the day after a storm. Somehow, we are so immersed in the beauty of escape and freedom that we view the world in a different light.

The Hemingway house is Gantos' moment of literary clarity. His adventure leads him straight into the clutches of a hurricane and he is able to soak it all in. I guess there is a part of me that wants to partake in crazy adventures like this, but that part of me is definitely not big enough to inspire me into a road trip. I'm a settler. I always will be (unlike Jack Gantos--image below.) A trip to Florida to hang with friends and miss an isolated thunderstorm by the length of a football field is as close to a Kerouac adventure as I'm going to get.

JackPlus, I don't look like Gary Oldman.

Without Time, We Would Not Exist: A Look at Sci-Fi Reading and A Review on the New Sci-Fi Flick "Lucy"

What makes an enticing sci-fi flick? What makes a person who doesn't even like science fiction interested in contributing to the gross box office earnings...or novel publishing revenue? These are tough questions, but questions I must face on a daily basis now. Keep reading and I'll tell you why. As all of you now know, Walls (by yours truly) released on Monday and, so far, it's been exactly the hype I was expecting. There are the die-hards who were first in line to grab a copy and have been reading every night since. There are the "nudgers": the people who have been planning from the very beginning to grab a copy, but need a nudge or two to actually purchase it. And then there are the "lukewarm" fans. And, by the way, this isn't a critique on fandom here. This is me speaking out loud about the honesty of my supporters. They (YOU) are all great in your own ways. I appreciate it all--no matter how much financial or exposure support you offer. The question is: "How do I reach the 'lukewarm' fans that don't see zombies/violence/gore as something they want to invest a big chunk of time into?"

It's a good question, I think.

Last night, I saw the film, Lucy.

It reminded me somewhat of a movie a few years back that made a big splash in the undercurrent of sci-fi fans: Limitless. You know, the one with Bradley Cooper who plays a struggling author. He is given a drug that opens up his brain's accessibility so that he can be more productive.

Well, the same plot applies to that of Lucy: a woman blindsided by a drug ring that ultimately releases a drug into her system that allows her to access more than the normal 10% of her brain functionality. The film dives into the theories of what may happen when we unlock this type of power within ourselves. It's mind-blowing to think we have millions upon millions of neurons in our brains that have yet to be unlocked. It's even crazier to believe that their potential may very well die along with us when we ultimately go to that great blue yonder called Heaven, Elysium, Valhala...whatever you want to call it.

So...how is Lucy recognized as a great flick to see on a Friday or Saturday night, and not just a sci-fi thriller? I'll tell you why...because it's not sci-fi until you make it sci-fi. Once you give it a category, it becomes that genre and people associate it with nothing but that. Months from now, when Lucy is available for home purchase, things might change. The film might be put on the "thriller" or "sci-fi" shelves along with many other titles, but the money has already been made. The box office revenue is set. They have nothing left to lose.

In my personal opinion, there is somewhat of a stigma that comes along with science fiction and fantasy reading. Either you love it or you hate it. Most people think nerds in broken glasses who play with Magic and Pokemon cards read these novels to fill some magical, fantastic void within themselves. That is not the case at all. And who's to say that's bad? All of you reading this most likely know me in some capacity and understand that I, in fact, possess the power of the nerd and am not afraid to declare it. It's a part of the mind that most people are afraid to tap into because it allows them to think beyond the bland and sometimes grim realities of the world in which we live and really think about what this world could be if we, a) took a different path at some point during our human history, or b) change how we are living now.

Yet, the stigma persists.

Back to my original question: How can I reach that next level of readers who think zombies are not worth their time? Perhaps it's not categorizing the novel so quickly (although I don't agree with this at all. I'm proud to be a science fiction writer). Perhaps it means less accentuating of the zombie component...or just maybe, it's trusting my readership enough to allow my words to spread. After all, I tend to think I'm pretty good writer. If I let you all read it, maybe...just maybe...my story will do the talking.

What do you think? Is it worth so much worry? Does science fiction and fantasy writing have a stigma? Am I just blatantly wrong and you want to call me out on it? Hey, I'm open for anything! Comment below or visit my Facebook page (R.T. Donlon - Author) and drop me a line there. I'd be happy to hear your comments on the matter.

Until then, here's my review and rating for Lucy, directed by Luc Besson:

3.7/5 stars

I'm being a little generous here because of the movie's overall nature. There are many good things to say about the movie itself without giving away any true spoilers for those of you who want to go watch the film yourself. First and foremost, it is a sci-fi flick that tests the boundaries of philosophical theories and understanding. It dives deep into the science and workings of the human brain, which has been an ultimate mystery for humanity's entire existence. The mix of sci-fi, philosophy, and thrill really work well here. I found myself eating too much popcorn, sipping too much soda, and clinging to my seat to see where the story would ultimately lead.

There is no question about Scarlett Johansson's prowess on the big screen. She is a master of the craft, but the casting of supporting actor, Morgan Freeman, is what really made the theories pop. He just has a way about him that most actors do not. He can hold his own mini-plot line and conflict without needing the support of any other character. He is pretty much a main character that is told to stick to the story's outskirts. I give him two (three if I could) thumbs up for this one.

As for the storyline, this idea has already been worked and stretched in Limitless. The cinematography even attempts to rival that of its predecessor with the quirky images of molecules, flashback, and random nature scenes that keep the audience's brains stimulated. If you recall, Limitless spaced out the storyline by doing this, too, except theirs focused on mirrors and images-within-images. I'm usually not a fan of films that copy other films' premises, but Lucy possessed such a great blend of philosophy, action, and sci-fi that I am ultimately choosing to ignore this aspect of the review.

As for the ending, I was relieved that it didn't end the way I expected it to. Besson would have taken the easy way out if that had happened. But it didn't, which led to a more potent resolution and, perhaps, a sense of relief. Overall, not a bad flick. I wouldn't jump at the opportunity to see it again, but I'm glad I was able to see it on the big screen this once.


Until next time,