Afterthoughts from Backpacking in Thailand, Cambodia & Laos

DSC_3494Satisfaction and confusion were the emotions I saw most often. Although, it is debatable whether they were truly the emotions of others, or created in my own mind and then impressed upon others.

Then, along came the Doctor, and I don’t think either of us knew what to do.

What was right for Me?

What was right for You?

What was Just and Fair? And for whom was it Fair to?

Of course, nothing from before mattered anymore. Not when there was so much immediate brightness. There was only now.

“There is only one day left, always starting over: It is given to us at dawn and taken away from us at dusk.” — Jean-Paul SartreIMG_2499The act of love is the only true form of love. There is no meaning to it except what we give it. The value of any belief is nothing more what we assign to it and there is no love aside from the deeds of love.

To be a great man, or woman, requires the strength and courage to create and habituate  a solitary existence. The worlds greatest lie; that we have lost control over what is happening to us, and our lives are controlled by an unknown fate.

“What a man thinks of himself, that is which determines, or rather indicates, his fate.” — Henry David Thorea

Accepting there is no universal standard means only I can deem an action correct. What passes as custom today may seem barbaric years from now. To avoid the risk of jealousy, or misunderstanding we must each as individuals be truthful and transparent.DSCF5434

“If I satiate my desires, I ‘sin’  but I deliver myself from them: If I refuse to satisfy them, they infect my entire soul.” — Jean-Paul Sarte

Life and Love is an action, not a thought. A courageous man is not born a courageous man, he becomes one through courageous acts. Just as a coward is not born a coward, but becomes a coward when he commits cowardly deeds. The goal of our life is to be, or do — it is a constant project, and reevaluation of our goals, desires, and morality.

Without other people, a large part of who we are would remain unknown. We reflect back to others the important parts, as they reflect back to us, what we need to see. We are not what we have done, but constantly free to do, and become who we want to be.

“I exist, that is all, and I find it nauseating” — Jean-Paul Sarte

It is existence itself, the creating anew, which give existentialists reason to continue. Although for us, existence and hell are somewhat the same (and heaven for that matter).

So really, the point is; there is no point, unless you decide there is.
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On the left is the original copy of my book. And on the left is the version I got printed where they print the pirated versions of books they sell on the street.

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Dr. Nina and me at No name bar
Working on my second book. Pai


Gainer at Bowyer GIF
Now I am back in Vancouver, Canada. Living on a small island most of the time and working on my second book, I Killed a Black Dog

Live Video of my Audiobook Recording at 60 Road Studios in Siem Reap, Cambodia

DSC_4059At first I wasn’t sure whether to have my book narrated by a professional or record the audiobook for my true story Five Weeks in the Amazon on my own. With the encouragement, and support of Brennan McClay (my good friend and co-owner of my book’s publisher, I decided to narrate it myself.

Steve editing

For the past few weeks I have been recording the audiobook for Five Weeks in the Amazon at 60 Road Studios in Siem Reap, Cambodia. There have been two major challenges I face every time I enter the studio. First is having to relive and re-enact the same five weeks I have spent the better part of the last two years living in.  Second, it’s hard to read aloud and with emotion and not screw up! Check out the video for a live example of one of my recording sessions (mistakes and all).

I could only record for about two hours at a time before my voice and brain would get too exhausted to continue, and so far I have 10 hours recorded. Which, in terms of completion, is about halfway done. Although, I think I may be able to read the second half without making as many mistakes, which would shorten the amount of time it would take.

Recording shot #2

Stay tuned, and sign up here for my next update from the road…Which will be the other side of the world, one week from now.

If you haven’t checked out Five Weeks in the Amazon, you can order it here. But, if you just want to read the chapter I was reciting from it is called:

Five Weeks in the Amazon - Ebook Cover

Making Medicine


8:30pm, my tambo

When I woke up this morning, I was sore again. The sun was just coming up and I listened to the birds warm up their voices and find their harmony. Steam rose from the plants where the sun’s warmth melted the night’s wetness. And what started out dark lightened and the sad, painful, parts in me seemed to evaporate with it.

The sunlight becoming more intense and the day already heating up, I went and rinsed off in the watering hole, then came back to my room to write and find some shade.

I was lying in my hammock when I heard the crack of an axe echo through the jungle clearing. I threw on a T-shirt, brushed my hammock aside, and walked out of my tambo to see what was happening. There was a man standing with  his back to me under the open-roomed building at the top edge of the property. I hadn’t walked up to it yet because it was still being built.

When I walked up, I saw the man’s coal gray T-shirt had a stripe of sweat running down the spine of it. Under the raised building, he had two small fires smoldering underneath two massive stainless-steel pots. From my online research, I knew he was preparing a batch of Ayahuasca, which meant it was going to be brewing for up to 24 more hours.

He was standing next to what looked like long branches and using the axe to split them into smaller, two-foot sections. When he was done, he piled the pieces on the ground next to a small blue tarp that had a rock holding down each corner. He sat down on a log next to one of the edges of the tarp and motioned for me to sit down on a log opposite him.

I hesitated to get closer, unsure if I was disrupting the Ayahuasca-making ritual. I wondered whether I was an impure gringo. Do I have to be “cleansed” before sitting down (like when I have a plant bath before a ceremony)? Will the batch be tainted from my dirty presence?

I thought about it for a second and then thought, fuck it. With a smile and an outstretched hand, I approached him the same way I approach every stranger.

Hola,” I said.

Buenos dias,” he responded.

Mi nombre es Sean.”

Hola John, mucho gusto.” He reached out his hand and introduced himself as Nino.

I sat down across from him on the log and watched him bash a two-foot section of thick vine with a stronger thick branch. His grin was filled with such perfect white teeth, you’d think he was raised by a dentist in the city, not a shaman in the jungle. After he’d smashed the section of branch about 20 times, its internals were torn open. Then he threw it on top of the blue tarp and the plant’s nectar oozed from its tender meat.

“Ayahuasca,” he said pointing to the chopped pile next to him.

Si.” I nodded at him, the purpose of this mysterious activity now confirmed.

A flashback from last night popped into my head. After the ceremony, I had been walking up the hill and seen a fire flickering right where we’re sitting now. There were the sounds of a man singing in Spanish, and it was gently wafting through the thick night air. He must have been making more than one batch and been here all night tending to the fires.

I wondered what would happen if you didn’t brew it properly. Maybe a bad trip? One thing’s for sure, Ayahuasca couldn’t taste any worse no matter how you brewed it.

I gestured and half-asked in Spanish if he wanted me to help him smash up the pile of vine pieces. Smiling back at me, he reached behind his seat and passed me a hard stick for me to use. I leaned forward and grabbed a meaty piece of vine. I noticed it was wet where it had been cut at the ends and was about three to four inches in circumference.

Imitating Nino, I started hitting the piece of vine against the log I was sitting on with another big stick and before long, we had the whole pile laying smashed to bits on the tarp between us. The emulsified pieces of vine had stringy pieces of bark hanging that looked fresh and juicy.

When we sat down for a minute to take a break, he wiped the sweat from his golden brow with his dirty sleeve and motioned for me to follow him. Standing, he bent down and split the pile in half. We transferred the two halves by the armfuls into the boiling cauldrons, the water instantly turning a slimy green. When we were done, he led me down the hill to where a small mound of shrubbery was growing beside Otillia’s house.

As we walked through the grass, some of the deeper sections were still wet, and I felt the blades sliding through my toes as I followed him. He had been carrying two buckets and handed me one. The bush was big and leafy, to me indiscernible from any of the other big, leafy plants, but he said this plant was special, and tore off one of the leaves putting it in his bucket.

Chacruna, es especial plantas para Ayahuasca,” he said.

Que nombre?” I asked. “Chacruna?” I used my limited vocabulary mix with mimicking what he said to ask if that was the name of the plant.

Si, Chaaaa-kkkkkkrrrrrruuuu-naahh,” he said slowly so I could understand.

I repeated the word, and imitating what he’d done, I ripped a leaf from the bush and dropped it in my bucket.

Tres cientos,” he said, picking another leaf.

I didn’t understand, so Nino picked up more of the leaves, counting them out as he went along, “Uno, dos, tres…es importante para tres cientos.” He put down his bucket to clarify with his hands that he was saying three, three fingers and then two zeroes. Ok, so we each pick 300 leaves, I thought, but why 300? 

At times I got lost on the specifics of our conversations. I tried my best to ask him about what we were doing now to prepare the mystical Ayahuasca brew.

Chacruna y Ayahuasca es para Ayahuasca medicina, y visionnes? Si o No?” I posed the simple question, asking if it was the second plant that I knew must be added when making Ayahuasca. It was confusing because the vine had the same name as the finished product and that threw me off at first.

Chacruna es luz,” he pointed at the sun, “Ayahuasca los plantas, esta curador, es para curacion y es professor de vida.” He pointed up the hill to where we had sat and smashed up the vine. Turning back to the bush he continued, “Chacruna es para visionnes: mas Chacruna, mas visionnes.”

I thought about what he said thoughtfully. More Chacruna equals more visions, so no wonder some of the gringo shamans all offered “strong brews.” It was easy: all you had to do was throw in some extra leaves. I was learning the name gringo shaman was synonymous with anyone who wasn’t a local and makes these intense brews. Fittingly, there is an influx of tourists that want to find someone to follow as they hallucinate and trip out, and more of these shamans are showing up around here. God bless America…

In town, Raul told me that Otillia prepares Ayahuasca for more of a teaching/healing experience. Which makes sense, and I’m guessing that’s part of the reason I haven’t been gripped by intense visions. She must use a relatively small amount of Chacruna and more Ayahuasca.

Some of the other gringos I’ve met in town told me about some shamans, most of them white guys from America or Europe, who make crazy mixtures of Ayahuasca. They mix in things like mushrooms, cocaine, peyote, san pedro, or any number of other wild plants. They add this to their brew to make the trip more intense. Of course it gives a person extreme visions, but it isn’t balanced and these shamans don’t seem to give a fuck what the outcome is.

To me it seems irresponsible and unnecessary. As a drug, I’ve already learned how unique Ayahuasca is, and that it’ll do what it wants, when it wants. That is why I believe it’s important to have a shaman who you trust lead the ceremony.

I have faith in Otillia, and the way she prepares, and administers Ayahuasca. I believe it’s more aligned with how indigenous people meant for it to be used thousands of years ago when they learned how to make it. I thought I’d need the strongest Ayahuasca I could find when I first got here so that I could have intense visions.

It made sense; strong trip equals more growth, right? However, I’m beginning to think that’s not true at all. If I trust nature’s medicine, and I trust Otillia, then I should use it in the way it was meant to be used. For some reason us gringos (foreigners) just love pushing boundaries. In a way, I feel like my entire soul is in the hands of the plant medicine, for that reason I respect its power.

Nino finished picking the 300 leaves before me and walked back up the hill. When I joined him, he motioned for me to dump my bucket of leaves into the second pot. It was bubbling and boiling with a green, frothy layer of foam on top. It looked like magic potion being brewed in a witch’s cauldron.

We sat back down on the logs. It was cooler now that we were in the shade, and we took a break to cool down. When I offered Nino one of my last American Spirits, he exposed his bright smile once again and accepted my offer. I watched him light it and take a slow drag. He looked down at the burning tip of the foreign cigarette and took a second pull. It was a new kind of tobacco for him, from a different part of the world, and he’d never tasted one like it before.

Muy suave,” he commented and rolled the cigarette between his fingers, looking at the American Spirit logo stamped onto the filter.

I smiled back and said, “Si, muy suave.” Suave?

The indigo smoke from our cigarettes drifted past our heads and blew away with the smoke coming from the fires under the pots. Watching it drift across the property, I felt happy. I hadn’t been planning to help Nino prepare the Ayahuasca, but I’m glad I did. There was something about the process that brought us together.

As I sat there, I remembered seeing that the bottle Otillia poured our shots of Ayahuasca from last night was getting low. That must mean we’ll be using the batch we just made soon.

Smoking the last of my cigarette, I thought back to last night’s ceremony. It had been a progressive step in the direction I want to go, and a positive experience overall. It led me to the conclusion I’m not just to here to pursue a psychedelic journey; I’m here for much more than that. Ayahuasca is one of the means which will bring the true end I am here for, but there is a lot for me to accomplish before then. My purpose in the jungle is to find answers and heal myself. Already those are being given to me.

My purpose is to heal my body from years of eating a shitty American diet.

To heal the physical injuries I’ve accumulated from a decade and a half of skateboarding.

To heal my mental wounds from failed goals and deserted dreams.

And to heal the emotional wounds from my shattered relationships and loves lost.

Most people probably come here to do Ayahuasca because they’re lost in their life and have no connection to their spirit. Contrary to what I thought before I got here, the healing I need isn’t so much spiritual—for the most part my spirit is fine—it’s all the other shit in my life that’s the problem. In a way I already knew that.

Normally, the effects of a substance are relatable to the amount, or purity, which one consumes. However, Ayahuasca works differently than anything else I’ve tried. My second ceremony was a completely different experience from my first time even though I drank the same amount of Ayahuasca.

What makes it different from alcohol, pot, mushrooms, caffeine, cocaine, cigarettes, or any other drug is this: even though both times I had the same dose of Ayahuasca, from the same bottle, it was a totally different experience. It was so different, if I didn’t know better, I would say it was a different drug.

I feel like a good person, but for God’s sake, isn’t everyone more or less a “good” person? I think we are, but the problem is that most of us are wrapped in cloaks of vice, and are ignorant about who we truly are. Maybe beneath those dark robes we are all filled with goodness, but I don’t know.

The spirit I’ve been referring to is the essence of who I am. It is my character, my personality, my soul if you want to call it that, but most importantly it is who I am. I could lose an arm and still be me; I could win the lottery and still be me. It really doesn’t matter because this part of me, my spirit, is unchanging. It is the intangible, an immaterial part of me, and this is what I will call, for lack of a better word, my spirit or soul.

Part of the reason I wasn’t scared the first time I took Ayahuasca was because I already knew this. I want to continue to learn about myself. I don’t know myself as well as I could, but I know that who I am is nothing to be scared of.

The intangible: it’s what ties all humans, plants, animals, and binds the entire universe together. It is the reason things work out the way they do in life. Everything is connected and we are all one. The body is just hunks of meat and bone but the brain is like a computer. With an incredibly elegant design, it controls our operations. But who is the individual, who is the “I” and where does the essence of who I am come from? I really can’t say, but I know it’s the part of me that is my true self.

If there is any spiritual guidance I need, it’s how to be more confident when facing the anguish and despair that overcomes me as a single individual cast out into the world.

If I think about the first ceremony, all I remember is how painful it was, like getting run over by a truck. The second ceremony hurt my body less and I didn’t get a fever or the chills like the first time, but it still hurt.

When I walked into the main room and sat down, I started heating up again. I started sweating profusely for no real reason and my skin felt like it was on fire. It went away after 20 minutes or so, but I was left wondering why I had such weird heat flashes at the beginning of both ceremonies. Am I nervous and I don’t know it? I thought.

I sat there in the dark room in the middle of the jungle, in the middle of the night, listening to the shaman sing for hours on end. My mind wandered and I thought about all kinds of crazy things, but it seemed more like I was daydreaming than tripping out. I felt like at any point in the ceremony, my sober mind could interject.

I felt like I was about to fall asleep. Lying there, my mind slipped into a state somewhere between waking and sleeping. Immersed in my thoughts, it was like half of my brain was creating thoughts and the other half was observing them.

Whether or not these were “visions” I don’t know, but I remember thinking Otillia is here to help me heal and make my time here less difficult.

—There was a point later on during the ceremony when I knew I was going to purge. I felt like I was being guided outside and went to the edge of the clearing where it met the jungle and puked. Drenched in moonlight and bright stars, I saw the vomit as part of the darkness that lived within me. I was purging the darkness that was stuck and needed to be released—although that could have been just a borrowed notion, like the geometric patterns. I went back inside and lay down again.

I was on my back, arms by my side, when I imagined a medicine lady with buckets of plants coming out of the jungle. My body was opened up, split down the middle with my ribs pulled back and my chest cavity spread apart. She kept filling me up with buckets of plant medicines.

Later, as I lay on my side in the fetal position, my back sore, I imagined pain and darkness pouring, oozing, and shooting out of my back. An unfathomable amount of darkness rushed out from each of my lungs, and out onto the floor behind me. For a long time it kept pouring out of my back, and as it did the liquid coming out became cleaner, and my back began to hurt less.

I am here to break some of my old habits, some of my bad faith as Jean-Paul Sartre called it. As an adult I have never felt as clean as I am right now. The nagging voices that speak on behalf of my vices are less obtrusive than usual.

“Would you like a cigarette?” my mind asks.

“Yes, but not right now, I’ll have one later…”

Maybe it’s the organic fruit and veggie diet combined with the fresh rain forest air. Or, it could be the plant medicines. Whatever it is, I feel a sense of somatic tranquility.

Why? Because it was Magic!

When I was staying at the Funky Flashpacker in Siem Reap, Cambodia, I met friends from all over the world. They hosted a magician to entertain the guests one evening. I captured what I saw in writing while my friend Gabriel Bouchard shot the below photos. What I’m really curious to know though; do you believe in magic?

Magic #2

Why? Because it was Magic

The crowd was huddled shoulder to shoulder, their eyes darting back and forth. Curious, confused, laughing.


Because it was magic.

His Irish accent rolled into his capacity to capture the crowds attention. When he moved, they moved. His clear voice portrayed honesty and responsibility, but became logically criss-crossed by his power of persuasion (of which he had an abundant ability).

The Khmer staff snuck out from behind the bar to watch. Their eyes-popping-open like when they watched the tourists spend hundreds on selfish and self-centered motives. The cards turned in ways that seemed fluid, in the way well thrown cards do. However, proceeding the cards being shown, all sense of understanding was lost.

The Finale, “Come on up, who’d like to be my final volunteer, and help me find the missing card?” The tall, lanky German shuffled the deck. Innocent, and chosen because of it; but where did his card go? How did he make it disappear? It was in his wallet, somehow sealed in plastic.

The six of clubs.

The crowd now excited, buzzing, interested, and talking amongst themselves. Drifting away in small groups back to the bar, or to order dinner.

Curious and smiling.


Because it was magic.

Magic #1

Travel Psychology Secrets: Why 1000 Words is Worth More Than a Single Picture

“A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words” was written above a pod of breaching Orca whales, on a photo taken somewhere in Puget Sound. The words were written in a haphazard cursive as if to imply the weakness of writing, while proving the magnificence of photography. This was was when I was a young boy, on a promotional poster for the ferry company, during the two-hour ferry crossing to see my grandparents from Tsawwassen to Vancouver Island.

BC Ferries

Something captivated me in that quote. It seemed like a challenge. As though you couldn’t use words to create a replica of a moment, or a feeling. Since then I have written enough to realize with 1000 words you can say a lot.

Take the short story I have included in a PDF for a free download. It’s called Kids will be Kids and I’ve been working on it since I was in living in Colombia last year. This version of Kids will be Kids was edited while living in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Sucking the life out of my chosen existence; trying to find some sort of balance between the act of survival, happiness, and an environment which fosters creativity and focus. It will be included in I Killed a Black Dog, my soon to be published second book.

Kids will be kids

Kids will be kids

They were sitting on the grass across the street. It was dry now, but it wouldn’t be later. The rain always came in the afternoon and most of the time after he had taken lunch. It never lasted long, and it was never cold enough to need a jacket, but every day the rain would come.

It was something the man had come to expect and it didn’t bother him anymore. He wasn’t certain, but they looked like they were wearing the same clothes as last night.

There were two girls leaning against each other and two boys sitting on either side of them. A third boy lay with his head in the lap of the girl with jean shorts and a new tattoo. One of the boys, the one wearing a yellow hat, stood up. He wobbled to the right, leaned to the left, and then he fell down in the same spot he’d been sitting. The group erupted in laughter and across the street the man continued walking.

One of the girls took a sip from a can of beer and placed it on the grass beside her. She pulled out her cellphone and said something to thee others. The girl next to her was playing with the hair of the boy whose head was in her lap. He looked up at her curiously and she smiled. Her cheekbones were framed by her short, slightly tangled hair and she smiled back at him. The boy wearing the yellow hat pointed at the man who’d been watching them.

He looked down when he realized he’d ben caught staring and began waking faster. A nervous wave of self-consciousness washed over him when he assumed whatever they were saying was related to him. The only reason he’d been watching them was because he remembered the girl with jean shorts and the new tattoo. She had come in three times last night, each time a little more drunk.

She spoke with rapid, confusing English words and while the man couldn’t understand it, he liked her voice. It was soft and clear, but also piercing in its honesty. Walking along the sidewalk the man tried to listen to her foreign words and wondered if he would ever learn English.

Across the street he saw one of the boys grab the hands of the boy who had been laying down and pulled him to his feet. The others stood and they all looked towards him.

There was no doubt anymore; he knew they were going to follow him and he walked faster. Without slowing, he bent down and picked up an empty beer bottle from the sidewalk, and stole a quick glance towards them.

The girls adjusted their shorts and tops. One of the boys put his arm around the girl with the new tattoo, but she slid out from under his arm and turned around to face him. Grabbing both his hands she began skipping backwards; leading him, and the group, playfully across the street.

The man saw that they were getting closer. Suddenly he felt rushed. He stubbed his toe and stumbled, but used his good hand to keep hold of the railing as he climbed the short staircase. The group had almost crossed the street when he looked back again.

He wondered how long they had been waiting for him when he reached into his pocket and pulled out a key ring with keys of all shapes. He coughed a little, cleared his throat, and then bent down on one knee to open the giant padlock. He jiggled the padlock loose and with a surge of effort stood, sliding the shuttered metal door upwards. It clicked loudly at each fold until it was open.

He slid a different key into the second door and turned it clockwise until he felt the deadbolt drop into the lock. Swinging the door open made the bell attached to the hinge of the door jingle.

The sound had been burned into his memory and by this point gave him a feeling like deja vu every time he heard it. Taking one final look over his shoulder he shuffled inside as fast as his old body would let him.

The group jumped up the stairs cheering.

The beer store, was now open.

Editing I Killed a Black Dog

At just over 700 words, I hope Kids will be Kids says as much as any Instagram photo I’ve posted. For now, I will borrow a quote from Michelle de Montaigne’s Essay’s. It describes the merit of written verse (and prose) in an illuminating analogy :

 Just as the voice, confined in the narrow channel of a trumpet, comes out sharper and stronger, so, in my opinion, a thought, when compressed in the strict meters of verse springs out more briskly and strikes me with a livelier impact

What do you think? Is a picture worth a thousand words? Or is 1000 words worth more than a picture? Sign up here, I have a new post coming soon!

If you want to read more of my writing, check out my first book Five Weeks in the Amazon

How Ernest Hemingway Inspired Me To Quit My Job, Move To Paradise, and Change The World

My favorite writers have always influenced me, but none more than Ernest Hemingway. The way he was able to mix real life experiences into his fiction was brilliant. In the disposable digital era we live in, it is not as common, or accepted, to live the way he chose, and now I choose to live.

Luckily, guys like Hemingway (whose words are italicized), left clues on how to become a great writer. Here are five simple idea’s that inspire me to be the best writer I can be.

In studio with Five Weeks #11 – How to never get stuck with “writer’s block”.

I compare my ability to write to the muscles needed to perform a physical skill. The more use those specific muscles get, the stronger they becomes. I agree with what Hemingway writes in his novel, A Moveable Feast, that, to get started, write one true sentence.

Sometimes when I was starting a new story and I could not get it going, I would sit in front of the fire and squeeze the peel of the little oranges into the edge of the flame and watch the sputter of blue that they made. I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, “Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.” So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there. It was easy then because there was always one true sentence that I knew or had seen or had heard someone say. If I started to write elaborately, or like someone introducing or presenting something, I found that I could cut that scrollwork or ornament out and throw it away and start with the first true simple declarative sentence I had written.

Angkor Wat Air Guitar

2 – All work and no play makes Sean a dull boy and the importance of not thinking about the story when you’re not working on it.

One of the things that most great authors have in common is that they lived true and challenging lives. Lives worth writing about, filled with experience, drama, love and loss. Whether it was J.D. Salinger storming the beaches of Normandy with six chapters of Catcher in the Rye tucked in his uniform, or Hemingway going on european road trips with F. Scott Fitzgerald. I wake up early, write until I am done for the day, and then go explore whatever town I am traveling in, this I also learned was Hemingway’s natural propensity as written in A Moveable Feast.

When I was writing, it was necessary for me to read after I had written. If you kept thinking about it, you would lose the thing you were writing before you could go on with it the next day. It was necessary to get exercise, to be tired in the body, and it was very good to make love with whom you loved. That was better than anything. But afterwards, when you were empty, it was necessary to read in order not to think or worry about your work until you could do it again. I had learned already never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it.


3 – Two steps forward and one step back.

Every writer has a personal style, but each story must be written with a consistent voice. In an Esquire article from 1935 I learned how Hemingway did this with his stories.

The best way is to read it all every day from the start, correcting as you go along, then go on from where you stopped the day before. When it gets so long that you can’t do this every day read back two or three chapters each day; then each week read it all from the start. That’s how you make it all of one piece.

In studio with Five weeks #2

4 – Describe the emotion through critical observation.

Hemingway said close observation of life is critical to good writing. It is the little things that happen in passing, the things that make you feel an emotion stir that you need to look for and write about. Once you can identify what caused the emotion you can write about it in a way that makes the reader feel the same emotion. In Death in the Afternoon, Hemingway writes about his struggle to figure this out.

I was trying to write then and I found the greatest difficulty, aside from knowing truly what you really felt, rather than what you were supposed to feel, and had been taught to feel, was to put down what really happened in action; what the actual things were which produced the emotion that you experienced. In writing for a newspaper you told what happened and, with one trick and another, you communicated the emotion aided by the element of timeliness which gives a certain emotion to any account of something that has happened on that day; but the real thing, the sequence of motion and fact which made the emotion and which would be as valid in a year or in ten years or, with luck and if you stated it purely enough, always, was beyond me and I was working very hard to get it.

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5 – Quit while your ahead.

Stop while you still know what is going to happen, I had learned already never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it…The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day when you are writing a novel you will never be stuck. That is the most valuable thing I can tell you so try to remember it.

My daily word-count quota is 1000 words, and my first book, Five Weeks in the Amazon, was 80,000 words, which means if I stay consistent, if my writing muscle keeps growing, and I follow Hemingway’s advice, my next book, I Killed a Black Dog, will be finished soon.


Making friends (and enemies) in Thailand

Working on my second book.This is my first play, It is written in a style I like to call True-Fiction, a fusion of creativity and real events. Currently I’m in Sihanoukville, Cambodia and would like to thank Darko Kos, Sonia Sakhi, Dez Price, Tyler Thomasson, John Minns, Brennan McClay for their consistent guidance and support while I travel and write. Without it I couldn’t have written my first play. Dedicated to the girl in a hostel, who was sitting on a bench and editing stacks of paper for hours on end. I couldn’t help but ask her what she was doing. She clearly wasn’t checking her Facebook. Aine Ryan turns out to not just be the girl on the bench, but a “Kitty in the Lane”, as her massively successful play is titled. It wasn’t my first Irish friend, but my first playwright and she inspired me to write a play called…

Making friends (and enemies) in Thailand


–  Albert: DJ wearing red tassel hat, board shorts and a t-shirt.

–  Friend #1: Similar age and dress to Albert.

–  Friend #2: Similar age and dress to Albert.

–  Three Blonde Girls: Two girls wearing similar dress and Demon Whore, the “p” of the three.

–  Demon Whore: Pretty girl, blonde. Wearing “sexy” nightclub dress.

–  Cheap Tourist: Tall male wearing tank-top, boardshorts and flip-flops.

–  Bar owner: Old man with glasses.

–  Bar staff: Mix of girls and guys, wearing collared shirts.

–  Pretty Tourist:  Pretty young lady, nice smile.

–  Bar Patrons: mixture of young people, dressed like different types of backpackers found while traveling.


Act 1 – The Bar

Big cushions set around small tables on the edge of a tiny dance floor, in the middle of a small bar. A Deep-House song plays from two speakers on each side of the dance floor. Half the patrons dance while the others sit at the bar, or around the small tables. 

The Bar Staff serves tourists sitting at the bar and wave at Albert, Friend #1 and #2 as they walk into the bar. Albert steps into the DJ booth and his two friends sit down at the bar to order drinks. Moving his shoulders along with the music Albert looks up to see Three Blonde Girls walk in and sit down at a table.  Friend #1 walks up to the DJ booth with two drinks. 

Friend #1 – Back home, there’s no way we could have done what we did today.

Albert – That’s why being in places like this is so fucking awesome.

Friend #1 and Albert raise their glasses as the song builds toward a thumping hit of bass. The Bar Staff stretches across the bar with looks of apprehension on their face and see the two drinks being raised higher and their arms falling heavily together, cups clashing. Some of their drinks spill onto the dance floor and Albert and Friend #1 try to regain their balance. Friend #1 goes to sit at the bar and Albert steps back into the DJ booth.  

One of the Three Blonde Girls is standing and talking to Friend #2 at the bar and walks away carrying three drinks. With a condemning look she sits down with her friends and points her finger at Albert. Friend #2 leaves the bar and dances up to the DJ booth. Albert is dancing in a full-body boogie.

Friend #2 – Love this song, who made it?

Albert – A couple Aussie’s I used to live with, Cut Snake, they fucking rule! – Points at the Three Blonde Girls – You talked to those girls since they came in?

Friend #2 – Only one, she came up to the bar and asked me to buy her a drink.

Albert – Shitty way to start.

Friend #2  – She said they are from Nova-Scotia, I’ve never met anyone from Nova-Scotia.

Albert – I have, great people! (steps back into DJ booth and covers one eye with his hand to stare intently at the controls, then leans back towards Friend #2)  I’ve got just over a minute until this song ends. Want to go talk with them?

Friend #2 – Sounds good to me.

Albert and Friend #2 walk over and sit down with the Three Blonde Girls. Albert turns to Demon Whore to begin a conversation. Friend #1 stands up and his barstool falls backwards. 

Friend #1 – It’s 50 cent beers buddy, I’m pretty sure you can afford it. (looks the Cheap Tourist up and down)

Cheap Tourist – I’m in a third world country, I’m trying to bargain.

Friend #1 – You’re either a cheap fuck, or a poor bastard. This is the cheapest beer I’ve ever had.

Cheap Tourist – You ever been to Laos, you can get a bottle of whiskey for one dollar.

Friend #1 – We in a bar in Thailand, you’re being a cheap fuck. You know what buddy, here, (Reaches out to pass some bills to the bartender) let me to pay for this one. Keep the change.

Cheap Tourist – Like hell I’m going to let you call me a cheap fuck! My parents are rich! (Takes a wild punch at Friend #1)

Friend #1 – (Ducks under punch and puts Cheap Tourist in a headlock) This just proves my point.

Albert jumps up from talking with the Three Blonde Girls and runs across the dance floor. He slips on the spilled drink and his hat falls off, sparkling under the disco ball. Friend #1 remains arguing with Cheap Tourist at the bar.  

Albert picks up his hat and gets to the DJ booth just before the song ends. 

DJ Albert at the Boom Bar

Hitting a few buttons a saxophone plays into the high-hats of the previous song and next a bongo drum starts bumping from speaker A to Speaker B. The people on the dance floor begin to step from side to side and a full percussion rift is added. The people on the dance floor start tapping their feet and the song’s tempo increases. They begin to shake their hips as well as bang their feet. The sound drops dead and then comes back fully developed, now sounding like a Latin influenced House song, brought together by a tropical Spanish vocalist. Everyone in the bar runs in to join the dance party. 

The Bar Staff look confused, they want to dance but know they must stay behind the bar. The Bar Owner jumps out from a small door next to the DJ booth to see why there’s so much commotion. 

Pretty Tourist walks into the bar and takes the Bar Owner by the hands and leads him onto the dance-floor.

Only the Three Blonde Girls remain seated. They are mostly glaring, but sometimes laughing at people. Demon Whore walks over to the bar and begins snapping her fingers, trying to get the attention of the Bar Staff. Albert see’s her standing alone and dances through the crowd to talk to her. 

Albert – Look, just because I don’t agree you could have sex with any guy in here doesn’t mean you have to be a rude.

Demon Whore – You look like an idiot in that hat.

Albert –  A Thai lady named Darling gave it to me as a present today.

Demon Whore – Well I think you look like an idiot. (Demon Whore steals Albert’s hat from his head and puts it on.) 

Albert (Albert reaches into his pocket and pulls out his cell phone.) I want to make you famous.
Demon Whore – Famous for what?

Albert – Famous for having the worst attitude of any backpacker I’ve met.

Demon Whore – How are you going to make me famous?


Albert – You’d love it if I gave your narcissistic ego the attention it desires, wouldn’t you, I doubt I’ll waste my time but I do want digital evidence of you stealing my hat. (take’s photo)

Friend #1, and Friend #2 step away from the dance floor to join Albert at the bar. Demon Whore sneaks back to her friends wearing Alberts hat. The Bar Owner is behind the bar with the Pretty Tourist and pours them all a round of shots. The Bar Owner refuses Alberts money and a new DJ steps into the DJ booth . While Friend #1 and Friend #2 high-five the Bar Staff, Albert tiptoes up to Demon Whore who is talking about herself. He takes his hat back without her noticing and leaves the bar with Friend #1 and Friend #2.  — END ACT 1 

Buddha headstand— ACT 2

Later in the night Albert and Friend #1 stand outside a shop and watch Friend #2 buying liquor and cigarettes. Laughing, they have their arms around each other when Demon Whore walks up behind Albert and taps him on the shoulder. 

Demon Whore – Can I speak to you for a moment? (Flutters eyelashes)

Albert – About what? (Steps back with suspicion)

Demon Whore – Just come here, I want to talk to you about something. (looks up innocently)

Demon Whores takes Albert’s hand and leads him behind a parked van. 

Albert – (earnest face) Why are you such an angry person?

Demon Whore punches Albert in the face. He bends over laughing and Demon Whore continues to lightly assault him. Friend #1 runs across the street and pulls Demon Whore away from Albert. Albert can’t stop giggling until he realizes his hat is torn apart. Friend #2 walks out of the store. 

Friend #2 – Whoa! Whats going on here?

Demon Whore – Your friend’s going to make me famous.

Friend #2 – Famous for what?

Demon Whore – For being the girl that beat him up, oh yeah! (fist-pumps with one arm)

Albert – (Laughing) Are you kidding me? How am I going to win a fight with a girl, especially one that punches like you.

Demon Whore – What are you trying to say? you’re not even blog-famous?

Albert– (laughing) You punch like Sleeping Buddha.

Friend #1 and Friend #2 begin laughing along with Albert and they turn and walk away from Demon Whore. Demon Whore mutters to herself and turns to stumble away. The lights in the shop go out and the shop owner closes the window shutters. THE END


Click here to check out my book, Five Weeks in the Amazon… Unlike this play, it is a completely true story.

#AtoZChallenge: F is for Five Weeks In The Amazon

It is always great to hear a fellow author’s thoughts on your writing. Thanks for the consideration and kind words A.M. Dunnewin…

A. M. Dunnewin

A to Z Challenge - Ugly Truth

The Inspirations, Ugly Truths, and Things That Make You Go “Huh?” for Under A Melting Sun


The book Five Weeks in the Amazon is nothing close to being ugly. Written by pro-skateboarder Sean Michael Hayes, this novel is a real account of one man’s journey into the Amazon after almost losing everything, including his fight against depression. Seeking out a shaman and partaking in Ayahuasca rituals, the cleanse diet heals more than just his body. Taking a step out of the norm and into the wilderness, Sean’s story is not only fascinating; its inspirational.

So what’s the ugly truth? I hate to admit it but I probably wouldn’t have read Sean’s book if it wasn’t for my need to do research for my own novel. I know this is going to make me sound terrible, but I didn’t really think much of the Amazon until recently. Sure…

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Pai, Thailand – There Is No Such Thing As A Coincidence

Three girls in a pool - PaiTo confess, I am John in the following story. For me it’s easy, always be honest and have nothing to hide.

I am honored to have met a young woman in Pai who is going after what she wants with so much enthusiasm.
Nothing is created without destroying what was once there before. This story was written about a girl who met me and, well she’s honest about our experience together.

Before you read her thoughtful essay I will expose my history with the moments before my book Five Weeks in the Amazon was published. Every day during the final week working over last minute editing details I would have to step outside to puke. This story has much more to it, but I feel honored to have such a revealing post written about a guy named John….Pai

Wild Spirit Wanderer

..or maybe it’s just fate.

Ernest Hemingway said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” His eyes pierced through me as he quoted the famous author and proceeded to tell me that if I didn’t feel the need to vomit after finishing a writing piece then maybe it wasn’t good enough. For two days I couldn’t get what the young Canadian man I had met at my hostel in Pai said out of my head. Maybe he was right because as I am writing this my stomach is turning and I am unsure of the reasons why. Writing is quite funny, I don’t realize where a piece of writing is going until I actually finish it. It’s as if I didn’t have a draft already written down in a notebook, ready to be typed up when all of a sudden as…

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Teaching English at a School for Orphan Children in Cambodia

I stayed at the Funky Flashpacker when I was in Siem Reap, Cambodia and I feel a bit guilty for being such a “bad” tourist.

Mr Ross school - pics.009I never went on the floating village tour. I never saw the Angkor Wat temples. The only thing I did besides DJ pool parties and take on the responsibility of “VIP Concierge” at the Funky Flashpacker (which was awesome, and part of why I stayed two weeks) was to spend my afternoons at Mr. Ross’s Orphan School.Mr Ross school - pics.002

Every couple days I would go visit, usually bringing tourist friends with me to teach English, or help out around the school yard. The owner of the hotel was happy to send some of the staff with me. He even donated the money needed to repair one of the classroom walls before the rainy season.Mr Ross school - pics.008

The way I heard about Mr. Ross was from my old babysitter in Canada. She was giving me a haircut on the day I drove 24 hours from Los Angeles to Vancouver. I was about to go give a book reading at her dad’s art show opening and wanted to look less dishelveled.Mr Ross school - pics.007

“If you are going to Thailand, and think you might go through Cambodia, please go see Mr. Ross and his children for me” She said, after explaining that she had taught there ten years ago.

So I did, when I got to Thailand I didn’t have any plans and so I took a bus to Siem Reap. and every time I went back it made me happy. Which isn’t the emotion I expected would come from visiting an orphan school in Cambodia.
Mr Ross school - pics.006 Mr Ross school - pics.004Mr Ross school - pics.005 Mr Ross school - pics.003