On Writing: Stopping and Noticing

Damaris Coulter Photo-of-photo: Taken by W. Alexander

The lights this morning beam bright. I cozy myself into, what I think is a pine desk, in the furthermost corner of the WPL—Wolfeboro Public Library. My closest neighbor is a beautiful artwork, really a fine-art-esque, professional photograph, named “Service.” In the picture, a strong woman poses. She’s proud, she’s tattooed, she’s in bibs, and she wears big, gold hoop earrings. She’s my dream! Granted, if I wasn’t already married to my dream girl. Her eyes reveal her wisdom, courage, and the tough story that gave her both of these very obvious powers.

I didn’t expect when I sat down this morning and began hacking out the next phase in my latest novel, I would be interrupted. However, it’s her words, not her photo, which are responsible for holding my attention.

Damaris Coulter: "Rather than being focused on money or pretense, our family was more focused on asking, 'Are you being a good friend and sibling? Are you kind? Are you generous?'"

Ms. Coulter owns a restaurant, along with her sister, called Coco’s Cantina, and every Friday, they offer a meal to the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective.

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On Stopping and Noticing

When’s the last time you stopped and noticed what’s around you? When’s the last time a stranger’s photograph and short bio wrestled your attention from the day’s insurmountable tasks? The masters teach all true and good artists are versed and proficient in our abilities to observe. I admit it: I’m great at finding, thinking about, and weaving the tiniest, nearly invisible, sliver of details and ideas stemming from everything I see and experience into my writing. Of course, artists like me, like you, still miss more than we catch. It means we’re human and other clichés.

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Trust me when I tell you that stopping and noticing the details around you is life’s most generative experience, not only will your writing improve, but so will your mental health. You don’t have to go to your local library to get inspired to notice. Stopping and noticing is not something a person just-knows-how-to-do, but it’s the easiest philosophy to pick-up, and will generatively fill your life with gratitude and empathy.

What’s Her Story got To Do with Me?

I’m writing a historical fiction novel that takes place in the fifth century B.C.E., Egypt. So what’s a woman who owns a restaurant outside of Auckland, NZ, have to do with me as a writer and Egypt? I’m glad you asked. Here me out:

One of my main character’s is a prostitute. She didn’t choose the life god(s) set out before her, and everyone in her world keeps their strides wide and their noses upturned. Nobody ever reaches out to help her. This was, is, and I fear, will always be the plight of our world’s most vulnerable. It’s called Neighbor Apathy. Okay, I just made that term up. Neighbor Apathy is when we believe we can’t help someone so different, in such a foreign reality, living a lifestyle we can never be seen to walk next, so we choose not to offer a hand, and we choose our own pride and judgement over another’s brokeness. That’s Neighbor Apathy.

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Here’s the literary theme of my character’s arc: culture creates its own evils. Neighbor apathy is disagreeing with someone, someone in your community, someone’s story you know nothing about, and judging you won’t have anything to do with them. In other words: ‘I don’t like them, so I don’t care what they think or do or believe.’

W. Alexander, 2022

The Bible teaches us to love our neighbors as ourselves, so when we think a stranger’s problems aren’t ours, then we think we know better than God and his desire for human harmony. He says to help the breaking, to shut up and listen to the hurting, and do something, anything at your disposal, that He’s blessed you with, to change the lives of the flailing. Not for your joy, but because God holds each of us responsible for what we do, and for what we choose not to do.

A wise man once said: It’s not what I believe, but what I do that defines me. That man was Batman, so you know he’s right.

So, when I took my seat this morning, in a library I don’t normally work from, and I noticed Damaris Coulter’s photo called Service, and I read her short bio, clicked and followed the QR link to her youtube, and I learned about her work, I engaged in the generative experience of learning how at least one-human, in this case Coulter, is making a difference in a world tired of being asked to make a difference.

I know nothing about Ms. Coulter, but I know art, and therefore I know the eyes of empathy and strength, and hers aren’t swimming in empty platitudes. She shields the broken or breaking from life’s universal, but horrible lie: we are alone in our struggles. She’s a hero. Her legacy helps my own story.

She Helps my Story

My second-leading character’s name is Satipy. She’s the prostitute, and her background comes straight from academic and contemporary research. Satipy was stolen as a young girl. She was robbed from a healthy home and forced into sex-slavery. She’s forced to work outside various Egyptian gods’ temples. She’s seen as meat, not as a person. People avoid her on the streets; mothers warn daughters not to be like her, father’s lust in secret, but are harsh with her in the square. Satipy, par-ably, represents the misrepresentation of struggles. Until this morning, and my encounter with Ms. Coulter, I wasn’t confident about how her story ends. That changed.

W. Alexander’s Published Poetry

I know how she ends now. Satipy is a positive arc. She starts from somewhere low and hopeless, and she ends somewhere better-off, but most importantly, and convicted by her experience to keep other girls, and boys, from ending up trafficked slaves in the Ancient-Near-East. Now, I think, no I know, her ending will have her generatively reaching out and helping others at great personal risk. Like her, everyone she knows is forgotten by the world’s prudes —majority of populations.

Stopping and Noticing Works

On the other side of a globe, unique to her own vision, and for her own reasons, Ms. Coulter began feeding the prostitutes in her area, giving them one less need to have to perform-their-services. She is serving them with love not judgement. She could have, and probably never will have, any idea that her photo and story hangs in the Wolfeboro Public Library, in rural Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, USA. She might never know how her legacy, which I happened to stop and notice, will influence and help me write and flesh-out the The day god Died. But, that fact is encouraging, because you never know how your own actions can cross the globe and inspire others. None of us are doing any of this life alone; we’re all in this together, so stop and notice the life around you, and your life will grow.

The power of stopping and noticing is paramount to honest writing. You cannot write what you do not know, and you will never learn the complexities of the human condition by not taking interest in strangers. Empathy is a practice, not an ideal.

So, I say all true and good artists are proficient in empathy, because they stop and notice and refrain from Neighbor Apathy.

—Happy Writing.

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The Day god Died: Chapters I & II

“…I hated him and his kind. I hated his affluence, his expensive clothes, his chiseled looks, and the arrogance he was born too. But most of all, I hated the power he held over me, his assumption of authority, and the truth of his superiority.”


Writing is Business

I am not overthinking; I am self-reckoning.


This article is uncomfortable to write, because I’m not pretending artsy-pompous, pennings of self-indulgence, or bleeding on display my deep personal wrestlings. I’m writing you in the nude—naked in spirit. It’s important that you read me. I have to admit something embarrassing.

I confess too many of my posts have been half-assed written. I blame my self-sabotage’s grip on my life, and how it’s crushing my dreams, squeezing the life out of me. My blog is my brand; my train-ticket destined for you to end up reading. Don’t be alarmed. Where you are is where I’m safe. 2022, is my year for both professional and personal growth. I share my strategy for growth. I’m concentrating on quality. I might even end up paying for a web designer. I want a flawless image. I’m twice published now. I got own this accomplishment. I think it’s okay to indulge in a win right? I worry I’m not worthy of accomplishment all the time.

It’s nice to get that off my chest. Thank you. 😊

I sobered to the cold-water-truth: making myself into a successful writer will be hard work. I’ll be thirty-three-years-old this summer. It’s time I win the fight against self-sabotage. So I’m going to do my blog right: each post gets equal attention to what I write in my prose and poetry. I want to be tomorrow’s next class act and sophisticated New England writer. We all have our ambitions, and you now know this one is mine. My dream is to publish a novel. Starting today, I will start performing like the writer I want to be, and I hope to attract more readers like you on my journey. It’s time I step out into the world; the primetime hour of my ambition nears. The time has come to put everything learned to test and work it.

I graduate with my english degree in a few months. I’ve been all in; I’m living everything I’ve learned. I looked into literatures deep waters, and she shared with me how she sailed over the currents flowing times passed, ideas and theory churned and crashed. She often whispers to me, I am your religion.

art, by W. Alexander

I try to never forget God is first-and-foremost worshipped as the creator. He’s the artist sculpting the cosmos. So, yes, I guess literature is right whispering she’s my religion. I am convinced it must have been the early artists, those who first looked inside themselves to color-in and seed perspective for the world outside, who first discovered God’s presence.

Creatives like us understand lightning can strike the artist anytime. It’s even more likely when the writer’s pen is spent and hot. My blog’s goal is to steal as much of that fire as I can and give it back to you. I’m starting 2022 intending to grow. Help me grow as an artist and influencer and follow.

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The Day god Died: Chapters I & II

“…I hated him and his kind. I hated his affluence, his expensive clothes, his chiseled looks, and the arrogance he was born too. But most of all, I hated the power he held over me, his assumption of authority, and the truth of his superiority.”

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The Day god Died: Chapters I & II

Chapter I: Necessity Breeds Destiny

We were poor, almost destitute. I remember pretending to sleep through my father’s weeping himself into exhaustion, day after day, from scratching a scanty living gathering and selling fish to our neighbors. The Nile sustained both of us, until, that is, I became a thief. Father was once a holy man, so the first day I stepped through the door with a handful of silver and laid the coins before his feet, he didn’t ask where my bounty came from. Instead, he sighed. Then, he kissed me and hurried out to trade for wheat and barley. Though necessity drove me to steal my daily bread, I soon found, Ra forgive me, that I was good at it. In fact, I loved the thrill of following fat patricians, as they waded through the agora’s crowds. I became their shadows, and when the moment was ripe, I jostled them, pretending accident, before I slipped my knife into their robes and sauntered into the crowd before they knew their purse was gone.

            That day, thievery and destiny entangled. Forever after, my previous insignificant life was insnared in a role far larger, and far worser than what fates befall the gods. I had been stupid, even overconfident. It was a ruse I used often: I hid behind some drunkard poking the barrels of beer imported from upper Egypt grumbling about their price. Senselessly, I lobbed a small stone at the next merchant’s stall, if I am remembering right, hitting him full on the chin. At once, the stall holders clamored at each other’s throats allotting their recriminations. In the upheaval, I grabbed a basket, believing it stuffed with bread, from behind the beer seller’s stall.

            But a woman caught me in the act. She emerged from the encirclement of barrels stored behind the stall just as I scooped up my prize and shouted: “Thief!” The entire agora turned. A cacophony of voices followed her, “Stop that thief!” and “Somebody, grab that boy!” I squirmed through the crowding press of the rich and poor alike until—crack—a soldier supplied a cudgel to the forehead. When I came ‘round, the soldier had dug his heel into my chest, pinning me to the ground in the center of the jabbering, malicious crowd. I struggled, but he picked me up by the neck and punched me full in the face with his battle-hardened knuckles. My legs went limp.

            “That boy is Ishaq,” I heard someone cry. Another yelled, “have pity on him. His father once served Horus.”

            The crowd’s expressions whirled and meshed with the blue liveries donning Pharoah’s guard, and I knew I was caught.

            I spit out a single tooth, and feared my own blood threatened to drown me. The soldier dropped me, and I sat up dazed and trembling. Onlookers craned forward to see the incriminating evidence the soldier was about to pull out the basket. I’ll never forget his smirk.

            “Why lose an ear for papyrus, boy?” he asked.

            “It’s not bread?” I replied.

            He laughed, “Scribbles make poor excuses for bread.”

            Then, a wave of jostling and shouting, and the crowd parted for six seven-foot-tall spearmen. Into the clearing stepped a figure outfitted entirely in scarlet. Though, I had never seen him before, I knew this was Imhotep: the first prince of Egypt, husband to Pharaoh’s daughter, regent of Alexandria, and, as such, held the power of life and death over all peoples for a hundred leagues. The agora fell silent, and I gawped at him, frightened, as his eyes scanned serenely up and down my starved body, taking in my unshaved scalp, bloody face, and tattered clothes. Prince Imhotep was a slight man, not tall like his guards but handsome. He had a body sharpened from heavy use clad in a scarlet kaftan, and a black satchel, fixed with a turquoise clasp at his hip. In his left hand, he fingered a black leather riding whip a yard long. His face was clean-shaven, carved and framed underneath his nemes. His eyes were cold and inhuman, and he pursed his lips while he studied me.

            Suddenly, somehow, in that moment my fear retreated. I discovered I hated him and his kind. I hated his affluence, his expensive clothes, his chiseled looks, and the arrogance he was born too. But most of all, I hated the power he held over me, his assumption of authority, and the truth of his superiority. I concentrated my disgust in my stare. He must have recognized my repulsion in the instant our eyes locked, for he simpered.

            “What is his crime?” Imhotep asked.


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            The soldier bowed and handed over several papyruses, “My Lord, he stole this thinking it bread.”

            Prince Imhotep undid the thread tying one of the rolls. I could feel blood running down my chin. I resisted the urge to lick at it. Imhotep signaled he wanted silence. He began to read.

            “Can you read this,” Imhotep asked me. Instead, I pressed my lips shut, trembling underneath. “Boy! Answer me.”

I stayed silent.

“You do as your prince commands, or I will—” threatened the soldier who caught me before Imhotep cut him short.

“Silence!” Imhotep thundered.

He stared at me with contempt and then spoke, “You’re brave. I can see that much, but you’re stupid.”

He snapped his fingers, and the soldier grabbed me by the arm, lifted me to my feet and started to drag me away when we all heard a man cry:

“That’s my son. Please, my prince, have pity on him, he’s only a foolish boy.”

Both Prince Imhotep and the soldier turned toward the man’s voice. As he looked, the soldier detained my left arm with only one of his fists. I twisted my body against his grip, ripped free, fell to the ground, and crawled through the prince’s legs and missing, by inches, his fast-closing grip. I took to my heels and dashed through the crowd.

Behind me, hell itself erupted; the soldier shoved and cursed the people impeding his path. A woman threw a pottered vase. I ducked just in time, avoiding my brains becoming entangled with the falling shards which crashed above me. I juked left and right; I slid through the crowd’s legs; I shoved past stout tradesmen and skirted unsuspecting slaves and the livestock they drove. Men and women, slaves and soldiers, sellers and buyers, all rounded quickly, furious at being so roughly shoved. I dared to look behind me. Only the soldier who caught me earlier pursued me. Prince Imhotep and his bodyguards walked, absentmindedly, the opposite direction. I stopped stunned still. That’s when I caught a fist with my left cheek and toppled into the dirt. I pushed my heel into the man’s kneecap. He screamed. Then, I rolled out of the soldier’s path as he dived to tackle me. I got to my feet again and squirmed through another fast-pressing crowd. I sent carts flying. I shoved an elderly man to the ground busy tying his empty cart to his donkey, seizing it, and then, with all my strength, pushing it into the nearby sheep hurdles. The animals let loose, and the ensuing tumult was chaos.

The soldier’s legs were taken out from under him by the stampede of darting sheep. That’s when I raced down a side alley, bursting, to my surprise, through our city’s great library, and into a crowd of philosophers and wealthy patrons. Then, out the other side, up a wide street, passing between noble houses, I ran until the noise behind me subsided. I turned left into another alley.

 I stopped in the doorway of a brothel, recovering my breath. No one was behind me. I leaned my back against the door, struggling to calm my hammering heart. The pain emanating from my jaw threatened my ability to stay conscious. In a flash, a hand wearing three gold rings closed around my mouth and dragged me through the door. I landed on my ass, coughing through a pounding head. My stomach churned. I struggled to stand, but a woman’s heel fixed my hand to a dirty clay floor covered in ragged yellow and green carpets.

A voice whispered, “Stop yelling, you fool.”

Outside the door, a troop of footsteps charged down the alley. Their voices commanding bystanders to stop me. The woman let off my hand and held a single finger over her mouth. I crept to the door and peered through one of its cracks. The soldier I ripped myself from in the agora was leading the others.

“Damn, he has help now,” I said.

“Whatever you did, you won’t be escaping today,” she said.

“Who are you?”

She frowned. “I wouldn’t expect you to recognize me as I—,” she hesitated. “As I am now.”

Keep Reading! Chapter II here: page 2

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Beat the Boy; Destroy the Man 

W. Alexander Dunford  I will never forget the television’s blue light that night fifteen years ago. Leonardo DiCaprio’s Blood Diamond played. Outside, beneath black skies, rain pelted our windows and the house’s bones braced against high winds. Thunder shook the walls.  It was Father’s idea to watch the movie. He loved violence, and I loved…

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Continue reading The Day god Died: Chapters I & II

Back To Workshop

I’ll be done with my degree in a few months, and that means my workshop classes will be history. This breaks my heart, as I fear without the structure of “deadlines,” I won’t write as much. I have my local writer’s group, and without school’s work load, I will be able to attend far more regularly. Not to mention, I will attend national conferences, and by spring my book will be finished.

Fortunately, also in the spring, our new car will be delivered.

However, I’m still going to miss my professors. This is why, per my last workshop at school, I’m going to use my project to apply for grad-school—An MFA.

Yes, I’m still weighing attending seminary. My stomach turns and flips and twists and yanks itself as I discern the future. Fortunately, the decision does not need to be made today, tomorrow, or even six-months down the line. Pray for me!

Also, Quick Life Update:

I got my new tattoos. Eeek!

My baby girl’s name & D.O.B.
Jerusalem Cross—hand

The hand hurt like…🏒🏒

A Life Lived for Art Is Never A Life Wasted

Hi, friends.

Today, I talk art. I want to share about how much I love to create; that is, I want to show you how writing changed my life.

For those of you who have stumbled on my blog for the first time, here is a quick introduction. My name is W. Alexander, and I am an artist; I am a writer. I am thirty-two, married to a smoking-hot, perfect ten, and I have two kids in diapers. Our family calls New Hampshire home—a writer’s paradise—, and, well, there you have it: I am a writer in New England. However, as you will see, I am also a budding painter and illustrator. As for my day job, I am enrolled full time at University, and I am a stay-at-home modern dad.

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Ever since I was a small child, I wanted to be a writer. Perhaps, you too wanted to do something you felt passionate about and naturally drawn toward, but life did not pan out as hoped. That is what happened to me. I spent my entire twenties following the “rules.” I devoted myself to work, and I prided myself on clocking long hours of hyper productivity. I was the poster boy for the disillusioned American capitalist, and there was little room left, within, to spend time on my passion, my beating-heart, my calling, my writing. So, like all things left unused, my skill decayed—I had forgotten, it seemed, everything I ever knew. In order to write, and write well, I would need guidance; I needed to study creative writing. Ultimately, at thirty-years-old, I went back to school, and am earning a degree in Creative Writing. That was two-years-ago, and, now, I am set to finish my degree in March, 2022. So far, it is working out. I published, for the first time, this spring.

Many writers declare you cannot learn creative writing, and I think, for the most part, they are, excuse my French, full-of-shit. The arts are like anything else: if you want to get better, you have to work and selfishly carve out a schedule for your writing and push yourself beyond what you know and what is comfortable.

Yes, you can learn craft, and any writer worth his salt is devoted to craft, period. So, obviously, grammar and syntax are teachable, but what someone means when they say, “you cannot learn writing.”, they are talking about style, voice, and the artist’s attention to detail.

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Book Review: On Writing, by Stephen King

“What I took from this book? Stephen King is not superman, and neither does the aspiring writer need to be. King makes it clear, writers are made in the trenches, and those who put their nose to the grindstone, and never let anything stop their writing, succeed.”

One thing I know well: Art demands all of you. You can have no Plan B’s for life, or as one of my favorite song artist said, “The greats weren’t great, because a birth they could paint. The greats were great because they paint a lot” (Macklemore). The same laws apply to the art of writing fiction; if you want to be a good writer, you have to write. Talent makes you decent, obsession makes you great.

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Ten Thousand Hours, by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis

Once, I dedicated my life to writing, not to become famous or rich, but to do what I love, I have experienced incredible personal growth. Has it been easy? Hell no! Has it been the best experience of my life? Yes. If my wife asks, tell her she is the best experience. I am a writer, and that means, human psychology is my canvas. To write well, you have to write what-you-know, and your knowledge about what motivates, scares, angers, and affirms the individual person are the brushes you will use to paint page after page. The greatest thing about only writing what-you-know is there is always an excuse to keep learning. The bigger your worldview, the richer your work. All writing is autobiographical, it cannot be avoided, so writing helps me stay oriented as a person, neighbor, citizen, and lover.

—W. Alexander

Come back next week. I may speak more on the subject. Again, go ahead and follow me and share my post with those you know it would benefit. Also, feel free to contact me and discuss the writing life.


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Excerpt: A Current Project.

The next morning, Agnus and I singed in fields blanketed under heavy-fresh dews. Our hot breaths chimneyed above tilled ground, and sweet-earthy aromas filled the mist. Agnus kept busy practicing a new song he learned from the troubadour. Committed to not forget it, he sang its lyrics, over and over, until a breeze showered us with dew drops from the evergreens above.

            “Do you think that troubadour will stay another day?” Agnus asked.

            I hoped he would, but I was not so sure. His type never stayed anywhere for long. I scanned a red and orange sky for the village’s skyline. Four chimneys smoked above the tree line. The shortest chimney belonged to the tavern below. The traveler would be staying there.

            “He didn’t play the song,” I said.

            Agnus shrugged his shoulders and tilled a new row. The mist soon receded, and I began to sweat. By late morning, the earth was dry and hard. Twenty-three new rows later and I could no longer see our breaths.

            “That looks like trouble,” Agnus said.

            He was right. A black, windowless square block, towed behind six draft horses, emerged. The carriage was not alone: atop of it, a driver whipped the horses; and on the back, two-armed soldiers rode. Twelve-calvary-men followed the carriage, and two-squads of foot-soldiers followed them. A knight headed the column, and six uniformed in their master’s colors, rode in three rows of two behind their leader. Following the entire column: wagons of supplies, groups of artisans, prostitutes, and tradesmen followed much further behind. I counted thirty-three archers assisting the convoy.

I recognized the banners: a red octopus wrapped around a spear, both across a green background. The troops paid no attention to us as they passed. We smelt them before we laid eyes on them. All of them wore black tankards emblazoned with their master’s standard.

“They smell like the sea,” Agnus said.

“Good. We never quarrel with that kind,” I said.

“How would you know?”

“Lords don’t sail to pillage farmers. They are after bigger prizes.”

Back in town, Agnus and I toasted with a couple old pals who planted our lord’s fields further down the road. They stroked their grey beards and remembered a thousand-men at least. Others were more reasonable: they thought three hundred, because they weren’t sure there was one-thousand people in the whole world. Not after the last wave of plague. One farmer’s daughter, a real beauty, shared how her brothers all of a sudden grabbed her and her sisters by the mouth and pulled them into the forest, far from the road, far from the soldiers. All the women agreed, they shared the same experience.

“Did any come into town?” one old pal asked the barmaid.

“The whole town cleared out, but I stayed right behind my bar,” she replied. She handed them their beers. “They never left the road.”

“Has anyone seen Rufus?” I asked.

No one answered. The troubadour stepped out of his room.

“Well, you forgot a bit of news to tell us last night,” Agnus said.

“Ah, the jest is up,” he replied.

The troubadour climbed onto the bar. His blonde hair fell to his shoulders. He smiled and raised an empty cup.

“Cheers, my friends, and forgiveness, for I lied,” he said. “I serve her Lordship, the Countess, the leader of the very army that so peacefully passed through your hamlets today.”

The room erupted. The troubadour sat, ordered a drink, and waited for everyone to cool down. The door swinged open and standing in the midday’s light was Rufus and our Lordship, the Duke. Behind him, the Dutchess and Wet Nurse stood.

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