The Shadows: a Short Story of Ghastly Gatherings

Today is a different kind of blog post. I’m using it to introduce my newest piece of short story fiction. It took me a longer than expected amount of time to complete it, but I finally did. Hope you enjoy it!


Welcome! This is a profile in the macabre. It’s a short story about a family who lived in the 19th Century. They lived a rather normal lifestyle back then, aside from a few setbacks in life. They’ve survived but not in the way you might expect.

Introducing the Graybeers: Mr. and Mrs. Jonathan and Priscilla Graybeers, and their two children, Tony and Stephanie, ages 14 and 16, respectively, at the time of death. Tony was shot in the head while Stephanie was downed by an ax. Back in 1862.

Mr. and Mrs. Graybeers committed suicide, each at the other’s hands. In 1863, following a tumultuous year of mental anguish over the loss of their children. It seems mental illness takes its toll.

Looking back, they were a typical northeastern suburban family, college educated, upper middle class, sports-minded.

In present day, they’re like most other families of similar ilk except for one thing: they can disappear. Oh, yes, one other thing: they don’t really have human form; they’re not ghosts, they’re shadows from their former life. They even live in a mansion called The Shadows, which is near a cemetery.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is the-cemetary-by-jaroslav-gebr.jpg
The Cemetery by Jaroslav Gebr

Aside from select social occasions, the family rarely leaves the Shadows. The mansion has been in their family for centuries. And the location next to the cemetery has always been a family favorite, so no one has ever thought of selling the property.

Although on rare occasions, an unwitting realtor will appear at the door only to be “greeted” by Mr. Graybeers himself. But being a shadow, he really can’t be seen so the realtor leaves his card and walks away, seemingly unaffected by the opening and closing of the door — by itself.

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To Quote is to Speak, to Listen, to Learn!

The subject matter may vary. The speaker may vary. The quote may still be memorable no matter who says it. Keep that in mind when reciting any one of the quotes below. It will make for a memorable occasion.


Advertising becomes a dialogue that becomes an invitation to a relationship. — Lester Wunderman, member, Advertising Hall of Fame

Thinking about ourselves isn’t related to knowing ourselves. — Lauren Esposito, arachnologist, co-founder of 500 Queer Scientists

Nothing comes merely by thinking about it. — John Wanamaker, member, Advertising Hall of Fame

Regardless of the moral issue, dishonesty in advertising has proved very unprofitable. — Leo Burnett, member, Advertising Hall of Fame

Attract attention, maintain interest, create desire and get action. — E. Elmo St. Lewis, member, Advertising Hall of Fame

Rules are for people who don’t know what to do. — Keith Reinhard, member, Advertising Hall of Fame

I don’t like closed doors. Creativity flourishes best in an environment of open doors and open minds. — Keith Reinhard, member, Advertising Hall of Fame

Advertising is what you do when you can’t go see somebody. That’s all it is. — Fairfax Cone, member, Advertising Hall of Fame


Hopefully making a ruckus, one blog post at a time!

Be sure to check out my other blog, Joe’s Journey, for a different kind of playground for creativity, innovation and inspiring stuff.


A “How to” for Improving Your Creativity

Usually every week I come across an article or narrative on creativity, its many facets and how better to utilize one’s own creativity. Such is the case this week.

One of the subscriptions I maintain (zero cost, but there is an option for minimal cost) is with Medium. I’ve even posted some of my writings on the site.

This week I came across a posting having to do with noise and the role it plays in creativity. It was written by Donald Rattner, Architect, and since it has some very interesting points, I’d like to share it with you. . .

. . .Maybe it was inevitable, but after years of touting the virtues of the open workspace, people who plan and use them appear to be having second thoughts about its effectiveness. Among the biggest drivers behind the mounting backlash are complaints about noise, especially in the form of overheard conversations, ringing phones, and clattering machines.

But before you jump on the “silence is golden” bandwagon, it might be worth taking a step back to assess the problem with a cooler, more objective eye, especially if you spend some part of your day in creative problem solving. The reason? A modicum of noise has been found to boost idea generation, rather than interfere with it.

Noises Off or Noises On?

Credit a team of researchers drawn from several different universities for daring to challenge status quo thinking.

In 2012, the trio published a paper documenting a series of lab experiments they ran to study the effect of noise on creative task performance. Their methods were pretty straightforward: Subjects performed various exercises designed to measure ideational fluency and open-mindedness while a soundtrack played in the background.

The track played at either a low (50 decibels), middle (70db), or high volume (85db). A fourth group performed the same exercises without any accompanying soundtrack to establish a baseline from which to measure the collected results.

Contrary to expectation, the people in the quiet sessions did not achieve the top scores. That honor went to subjects exposed to midlevel noise (70db).

Illustration: The author

As a point of reference, 70db is the rough equivalent of the din at a bustling restaurant or coffee shop. It also approximates the loudness of a running shower, which is probably one reason why we so often get good ideas while under the spigot.

It’s evident from the data that the right type and level of noise can literally change the way our creative minds work. But how? And why? And how do we harness this information to boost our creative output in real-world settings?

Guilford’s Model of Creative Thinking

A model of creative thinking first developed in the 1950s might be the most effective vehicle for providing answers to these questions.

The model was the brainchild of the psychologist J.P. Guilford, an important figure in the history of modern creativity studies. Its basic premise is that creative thinking comprises two styles of cognitive processing: divergent and convergent.

Divergent thinking corresponds to what we variously call right-brain or generative thinking. It is generally abstract, big-picture, intuitive, nonlinear, and inward-focused in nature. It induces us to see things as they could be, rather than as they are.

Convergent thinking is nearly the mirror opposite. Unlike divergent thinking, it is rational, objective, sequential, narrowly focused, highly detailed, and concrete in character. It looks outward rather than inward for answers, such as when we apply the external laws of mathematics to calculate the sum of two plus two, instead of drawing from our imagination.

For Guilford, the creative process is neither one nor the other alone, but both styles working in tandem, and nominally in sequence.

Illustration: The author

As a linear progression, Guilford’s model translates into a five-stage process composed of the following phases:

  1. Definition of the problem to be solved: (?).
  2. A period of divergent thinking, during which you open up your mind to as many ideas for potential solutions as time, budget, energy, or creative capability allow. Brainstorming is a technique for inducing divergent thinking.
  3. A point of inflection where divergency ceases and convergency begins.
  4. A period of convergent thinking, during which you narrow down your options to zero in on a potential solution, which is then tested and validated.
  5. Realization of a final solution: (!).

In real life, of course, the creative process rarely travels in an uninterrupted straight-line trajectory from (?) to (!). More often than not, you find yourself going backwards one or more steps before getting to your goal — if you reach it at all.

But as a conceptual model, Guilford’s paradigm gives a pretty accurate picture of how our minds work in the course of working out feasible solutions to creative problems.

The Value of Noise

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Special Edition: World Cancer Day Tomorrow

It comes around only once a year. However, research and breakthroughs take place 24/7/365. Tomorrow, February 4, is World Cancer Day and as a survivor I thought it best to interrupt my weekly creativity posts with this special alert.

Those of you currently battling cancer or know of someone who has cancer, this info is for you. Dealing with cancer is traumatic and expensive or it can be. Seek out a clinical trial and a non-profit foundation for support and assistance. Your oncologist and the social services department of the hospital can be of tremendous help.

World Cancer Day held every 4 February is the global uniting initiative led by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC). By raising worldwide awareness, improving education and catalysing personal, collective and government action, we are all working together to reimagine a world where millions of preventable cancer deaths are saved and access to life-saving cancer treatment and care is equitable for all – no matter who you are or where you live. 

So this year’s World Cancer Day’s theme, “Close the Care Gap”, is all about raising awareness of this equity gap that affects almost everyone, in high as well as low- and middle-income countries, and is costing lives. 


Hopefully making a ruckus, one blog post at a time!

Be sure to check out my other blog, Joe’s Journey, for a different kind of playground for creativity, innovation and inspiring stuff.