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Category: Seth Adam Smith

Hope Changes Everything

Hope Changes Everything

My new novel, Rip Van Winkle and the Pumpkin Lantern, opens with what I can only describe as a dark, gloomy, and near-hopeless situation. It begins with a newborn baby boy being abandoned in a cemetery—left to die on a cold, October night.

But he doesn’t die, and I’ll tell you why.

When I started writing this book, in July of 2014, my original intent was for the main character (Rip) to be an orphan living on the streets of 18th century Boston. In that first draft, thirteen-year-old Rip was pulled into a swashbuckling adventure that took him to the Carolinas. In the beginning, I felt very confident about that story. But the more I wrote, the more I began to feel uneasy. I finished the first draft (50,000+ words) in just under three months… and I felt absolutely sick about it—but I didn’t know why! Here was a perfectly good, 50,000 word draft and for some unknowable reason, I felt like it was the wrong story.

I tried to convince myself that it was the right story, that it would somehow work—but I couldn’t. It was wrong; it was missing something—a COLOSSAL something. But I didn’t know what it was!

Ripped From the Grave

I agonized over the book for months, trying to figure out where I had gone wrong. Then, one night, after my illustrator showed me a sketch of a gravestone, I had a dream. I saw  a woman in Colonial American clothing. She was carrying a lantern and walking purposefully toward a graveyard at midnight. There, she met a living, pumpkin-headed scarecrow with kind eyes. He pointed her to an open grave and she peered down. I followed her gaze and saw, to my great surprise, a baby boy—he was as pale and as still as death. The woman lifted him from the grave and held him in her arms. At length, the boy began to stir and eventually woke up. He was alive!

Ripped from the grave.

I woke up and realized what was wrong with my book: Rip wasn’t an orphan. Yes, he was abandoned by his real parents, but he was found and given a second chance at life. He had an adoptive family, he had a belonging place—he had hope—and that changed everything.

 Hope Changes Everything

I immediately began rewriting the book, adding new characters and new events. My writing reached what I can only describe as a “fever pitch.” I felt driven—compelled to write by some outside force—and part of me couldn’t understand it. There was something in this book that needed to be said. I wrote five to six hours a day. I stopped blogging and nearly every other outside activity. Some days, I woke up at three or four in the morning just to ensure my writing time would be uninterrupted. Finishing the novel became my paramount goal. I could hardly think about or do anything else.  In time, I had managed to change the entire story—growing it from 50,000 words to 85,000+ words.

You see, hope truly does change everything.

And in the end, that’s what my novel is about: hope. Virtually everything in the book is a metaphor or a symbol for the power of hope—or the power of light over darkness. At a critical point in the story, when Rip is struggling to believe that there is hope, he is met by Feathertop, the same pumpkin-headed scarecrow from my dream. Feathertop (who represents far more than a simple scarecrow) tells Rip:

“Have faith, Rip. Believe in yourself, and believe in me—for in me there is always hope. No matter how dark things may seem, know that the sun will always rise. Light will always triumph over darkness.”

I am very grateful I struggled to write this book.  My struggle has deepened my belief in the power of hope—in the power of light over darkness. In the month since publishing my book, I have wrestled with feelings of hopelessness. But then I picture the opening scene of my book—a scene I dreamed, a scene I felt compelled to write, a scene of a little boy being brought back from the dead—and I think: yes, there is always hope—and that changes everything.

A Sneak Peak at My New Book!

A Sneak Peak at My New Book!

Last week, I announced that I am finally publishing my first fiction novel on October 7th of this year. Today, I’m going to give you a sneak peak at some of the cover art (created by the exceptionally talented Howard Lyon), followed by some additional information about the book.

A raven illustrated by Howard Lyon.
A raven illustrated by Howard Lyon.

Now, given the expression on this raven’s face, you might be tempted to think that it’s evil or angry. I give you my assurance that he is neither evil nor angry—far from it! He just got a little spooked, that’s all.

Furthermore, this raven is not the main character in my story. The hero of this story is a familiar character from history (you’d probably recognize his name) and yet, in many ways, he’s very unique.

Well, I don’t want to give too much away. Perhaps I’ll post something more next week. Until then, check out this video showing the progression of the cover!

If you liked this article, please sign up for my FREE bi-weekly newsletter. And click here to read my novel Rip Van Winkle and the Pumpkin Lantern—a swash-buckling adventure book filled with symbolism comparable to C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.

BIG ANNOUNCEMENT – October 7!

BIG ANNOUNCEMENT – October 7!

You may have noticed that I haven’t blogged much the past couple of months. I’ve put a lot of things on hold to chase a dream I’ve had for twenty years. Only now I’m done chasing it—it’s on the brink of coming true!

On October 7th, I will publish my first fiction novel. I’ve been working on this book since 2006 and even produced a few piddling manuscripts around 2012. But when my blog went viral in 2013, I turned all of my attention to non-fiction. In the time since then, I’ve been fortunate enough to publish three non-fiction books: Marriage Isn’t For You, Your Life Isn’t For You, and You, Unstuck.

But despite the success I’ve had with non-fiction, I’ve felt an undeniable, inescapable urge to write and publish fiction. In fact, the impression to write fiction has been so overwhelming that I’ve hardly been able to concentrate on anything else. I need to write and publish my novels, particularly this novel…

And so, for the past six months, that’s what I’ve been working on. At first, progress was quite slow; I struggled with the story and wrote several versions of the book, only to throw them away and start over. (Do you realize how maddening it is to write over 40,000 words of a draft, only to throw it away and then start over?!)

But then—after a number of revelatory experiences—several plot pieces came together and the story practically wrote itself. So much so that I’m actually awestruck by what the book has taught me. It’s strange, but I used to think that I was the one writing the book, and now I feel like the book, in a way, has written me. I suppose that’s the true measure of any creative endeavor: in creating art, you shape the work, but the work should also shape you.

So what can I tell you about the book? At this stage, not a whole lot…but I can tell you that my primary sources of inspiration are Nathaniel Hawthorne, C. S. Lewis, Washington Irving, Benjamin Franklin, Lloyd Alexander, J. K. Rowling, and Charles Dickens.

Oh, and one other thing: a few weeks ago, I met with my friend Howard Lyon—an exceptionally talented artist who graciously agreed to do the cover art for my book. In his studio, we talked about the book and its release. He then gave me a gift: the first canvas print of the cover of my book. Below is a picture of me holding the painting. Over the course of the next two months, I will release portions of my book alongside snippets of the cover.

This is a picture of me holding a framed copy of the cover of my book. I know it says that I'm not supposed to open it but I already know what it looks like! Also, that tree behind me can be found on one of my favorite walks. I go on walks for inspiration—you should too! :)
This is a picture of me holding a framed copy of the cover of my book. I know it says that I’m not supposed to open it but I already know what it looks like! Also, that tree behind me can be found on one of my favorite walks. I go on walks for inspiration—you should too! 🙂

If you liked this article, please sign up for my FREE bi-weekly newsletter. And click here to read my novel Rip Van Winkle and the Pumpkin Lantern—a swash-buckling adventure book filled with symbolism comparable to C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.

You, Unstuck – My NEW eBook!

You, Unstuck – My NEW eBook!

After nearly two months of complete radio silence, I am happy to announce my triumphant return—and I come bearing gifts!!

First of all, why the silence? Well, my wife and I had to work through a couple of heavy things and it took up a lot of our time and energy. (Don’t worry, we are fine—no marital drama. Just outside pressures.)

Also, I’ve been working on three top secret projects. These projects are so top secret that only a handful of people know about them! It would take too long for me to tell you about them here and now, but you’ll find out more about them by the end of this month (and trust me, you don’t want to miss this!)

But here’s the BIG news: my new ebook is out!! Huzzah! Let us bask in the glorious cover of my new ebook:

My former boss, Jeevan, did the illustration. Isn't it awesomeness?!
My former boss, Jeevan, did the illustration. Isn’t it awesomeness?!

A little background: This was originally intended to go into my first book, Your Life Isn’t For You, but there wasn’t enough room for it (I was contracted for a specific amount of words.) So, I published an extremely watered-down version of this idea and published it as The Most Damning Belief of All Time.

The article did so well that my publisher approached me and asked about experimenting with a short ebook. After one year (and many, many rewrites), the ebook has been published!

Here is the publisher’s summary:

All of us feel trapped, stuck, or unable to move forward in life at some point. What is it that’s holding us back? According to Seth Adam Smith, it’s who, not what. Ultimately, the greatest obstacle to achieving your full potential is you.

But you are also the solution to your greatest problem.

This book combats a destructive mind-set that we all sometimes fall into: I can’t change. I am the victim of my circumstances, and I am confined by my personal limitations. This philosophy, though intangible, destroys more dreams and limits more lives than any actual, physical obstacle. To show us how to overcome this philosophy of fear, Smith draws on literature, history, and his personal experiences with chronic depression, as well as on encounters with remarkable “ordinary” people who’ve embraced a different philosophy: the belief that we possess the power to lift ourselves out of the abyss and into the light.

Smith inspires us to see that no matter how dire our circumstances may be, there is always a positive step you can take, however small it might be. He doesn’t sugarcoat the difficulties or offer promises of overnight success. But he does promise that if you continue to see yourself as a victim you’ll remain frozen and fearful. We may not be able to control what happens to us, but we can always control how we react.

But I don’t want to give any more of it away. Click on this link and buy a copy for yourself! I dare ya. 🙂

My TEDx Talk – Books Don’t Create Movements…

My TEDx Talk – Books Don’t Create Movements…

Last month, I had the incredible opportunity to speak at TEDx in Sarasota, Florida. The title of my talk was “Books Don’t Create Movements, Movements Create Books.”

In my presentation, I shared some ideas on how to start a movement that will help you achieve your dreams (and I even reveal my own childhood dream…)

I am deeply grateful for the love and support of my wife, Kim, and for the support of everyone at Berrett-Koehler Publishers. In particular, I’d like to thank Jeevan Sivasubramaniam, my mentor and friend. If I accomplish anything good in my writing it is because of your encouragement.

Please watch the video and submit any comments or questions below. I will be writing a follow-up (with some behind-the-scenes info) for Monday’s post.