Dream Across This Mortal Coil

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This is my second novel.  I have finished my second draft and will soon send this out for beta readers. Still working the query/synopsis below, but here is a start.   I have updated it, so take a look:

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Fifteen-year-old Lucinda is always awake in dreams.  Once a sanctuary, her dream world makes a dramatic shift and twists out of control, blurring the line between sleeping and waking—maybe even sanity.

It’s hard enough being a high school sophomore without being the girl who nods off during Spanish and wakes up screaming on the classroom floor. Lucinda fights for normalcy, but her dream reality has other ideas as unwelcome guests bleed over from the other side, wrecking her social life.  Her only comfort is seeing glimpses of her mother’s soul.

David, a boy from her dreams, introduces Lucinda to others, who claim they will teach her to control these nightmares.  They remain wary.  Her homegrown abilities and her lack of training makes Lucinda the equivalent of a toddler playing with a loaded gun, and anyone in either of her realities could get hurt.

She’s torn between balancing the intricate life of a high school student with the complex realm of her dreams.  When her powers make a quantum leap, warring factions in her dream world compete for her allegiance.  She is a weapon, but for which side?

DREAM ACROSS THIS MORTAL COIL is a YA contemporary fantasy novel with a metaphysical bite, complete at 80,000 words.  I’d compare my potential audience to readers of “The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer”, “The Iron King” with a slice of “WICKED”.  I’ve been an active member of the Lesser North Texas Writers for over three years.  This is my second novel.  I’ve written several short stories.  Three are currently published: “Medium Medium” at Dark Media Online and “Lotto Man” at the Nautilus Engine.  “Chicago ‘71” is an annual finalist selected for publication in The Texas Writers Journal, appearing in the July 2014 quarterly issue.

 

Life Rules of Forrest Gump

Forrest Gump

Forrest Gump – Letting the Wind Guide Him

Forrest Gump is making the rounds on cable again .  It has been awhile since I’ve seen the film, and I found myself mesmerized and pulled into its cinematic vortex.  Around the house, I start talking like him  to my family, and it cracks them up.  Later, I realized as I imitated his words that I wished that I could embody more of his attitude and spirit.

It got me to think that if Forrest could sum up his rules for life, what would they be?

1. … Life is Like a Box of Chocolates: You Never Know What You’re Going to Get – This is the essential quote from the movie and explains the core belief system that Forrest lives by.  You take what’s given in life and do your best.  If you’re like me, then anything chocolate is good.  I know that some choices in the box may be better than others, but hey, it’s all chocolate.

2. Keep your Eye on the Ball – To succeed in ping-pong or the shrimping business, Forrest knew to never take his eye of the proverbial ball.  His channeled an obsessed focus on what he enjoyed or believed, and in return it allowed him to transcend his mental shortcomings.

3. Love Your Family – Forrest loved his mother dearly.  She was the guiding force that drove him to see that life had some truly beautiful things to offer.  He realized that he was her whole world.  When Forrest met his son for the first time, he openly cried.  He asked if his son was smart.  Forrest’s limitations were clear to him and he did his best, but his love for family was paramount.

4. Be Loyal to Your Friends – This one come through loud and clear.  Forrest was fiercely loyal to those people in his life that he determined were his friends.  He ran out into an active battlefield to retrieve his best friend, Bubba.   When called upon to help his fellow comrades, he couldn’t let their cries for help go unheard.  Then later after Forrest established himself in his shrimping business, his friend, Bubba, was only a spiritual partner, and yet, Forrest took care of Bubba’s mother by giving her half of his share of the business.

5. Be Friendly No Matter How Disagreeable Those Around You May Be. ( See the Good in People Unless they Hurt the Love of Your Life, then You Pound Them ) – Forrest showed this best with Lieutenant Dan.  He saw beyond the pain and depressed spirit of the broken soldier that was his commander.  He allowed Lieutenant Dan to be angry and upset, but did not let his irascible behavior dull his dedication to him.  Forrest was his secret friend until Lieutenant Dan understood Forrest actually was his best friend.  But refer to rules number 2 and 3 if you decide slap Jenny, your Black Panther Party will get ruined.

6. Never Give up on Love – Forrest had his heart broke by Jenny time after time.  He knew his limitations in life, but his capacity for love was unflagging and unlimited.  In the end Jenny saw that quality and realized that he was the right man for her.

Conclusion: Regardless of the curve balls that life or fate handed him, Forrest took them in stride and endured certain difficult moments to arrive at those times in his life he could enjoy.  He fiercely held the promises he made to friends, the love for his family, and his undying dedication to his childhood sweetheart.  It wouldn’t hurt for all of us to live like Forrest Gump.

Jim Valvano: A Life of Inspiration

Jim Valvano giving his 1993 ESPY Speech

Jim Valvano at the 1993 ESPY Awards

I caught an episode of 30/30 that reviewed the 30th reunion of the 1983 N.C. State NCAA Championship. As I watched the show, it became clear that it also was a tribute to their coach, Jim Valvano.  The man had a gift to motivate and squeeze every bit of guts and determination from his players.  They all loved him.

It followed the team throughout the ACC championship and the March Madness of 1983.  His team came from behind multiple times and beat opponents that no one would have expected.  When they won it all, Sports Illustrated claimed it as the greatest college basketball moment of the 20th century.

As I watched, I was amazed at the man’s charisma and his gift of speech.  At the age of sixteen at a basketball camp, Valvano heard a speech from the Reverend Bob Richards, a pole vault Olympic golf medalist.  Richards looked over the group of kids and said, “The Lord must have loved ordinary people because he made so many of us.”  Valvano said he was sitting there thinking he was special and these words momentarily crushed him.  Then Richards gave the line that Valvano said had changed his life: “In every single day, in every walk of life, ordinary people do extraordinary things.  Ordinary People accomplish Extraordinary things.”

The following are some quotes from Jim Valvano to take with you into your daily life:

“There are three things we should do everyday.  Do this every day of our life.  Number one is laugh.  Number two, you should think.  You should spend some time in thought.  And number three, you should have your emotions moved to tears: could be happiness or joy.  Think about it.  If you laugh, you think, and you cry  That’s a full day.  That’s a heck of a day.  You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.”

“My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me.”

“Cancer can take away all of my physical abilities. It cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart, and it cannot touch my soul.”

Jim Valvano fought hard in his battle to beat cancer. He lived a beautiful life and many wondered why such a life had to end. The Jimmy V Foundation he started has raised upwards of 100 million dollars for cancer research.  Through his death, the impact he made on those around him, and his foundation, he has extended and saved the lives of many others.

Here’s to Jim Valvano: An ordinary guy, who did extraordinary things with his life.  He inspires us all to do the same.

Click Here to view his ESPY Speech

 

Dad Is Bad

My son’s protest sign,
“Dad Is Bad”

In the picture my son is eight.  If you read the cardboard sign he’s holding, it says “Dad Is Bad” and was born out of a grievance he filed against me.  My wife and I prepared to sell our old house, and we decided to paint a short white fence that surrounded the flower garden in our front yard.  The boy wanted to help, but I wouldn’t let him because we were in a hurry to get a number of things done, so I didn’t want to spend the time to supervise a slop-fest of latex all over the bushes.

He was not pleased, and while we finished the paint job, he prepared this sign.  When I went around back to cleanup, I heard this chanting from the backyard.  I looked over the fence and saw my son standing on the top of his plastic fort holding the sign up to the street running along the side of our house and repeated his protest mantra, “Dad Is Bad”. The audacity: he was conducting a protest against his own paternal unit.

This was one of those moments as a parent that I made the right choice.  It made me laugh. I got him to come down, took a picture of him, and commended him for using his words like his mom and I had always taught him.  The result is we let him know that we were proud of him.  This picture is part of a collage on my desktop PC.  I noticed this recently and remembered this slice of family time in our lives.  It still makes me smile. My boy is turning eighteen later this April.  As a parent, I have faith that he will apply the lessons learned while he treads down his new path in adulthood.  Happy birthday, my civil disobedient son.

 

Meeting Your Novel’s Character in Real Life

Healing Hands

I am currently on the last revision of my first novel, SAINT JIM.  It has been a long road of culling passive sentences, removing useless words, fixing connection points, etc. I have read it so many times I think I have parts of it memorized.  The story is of a homeless man named, Jim, who develops an ability to heal.  He comes upon this gift by accident, but is reluctant to use it because he wants to remain anonymous.   The gift, however, has a mind of its own and compels him to help others–almost like an addiction.

I had completed the first draft of my novel in 2010 with all the places and characters complete and was in a hospital helping my wife as she recovered from a surgical procedure.  When I arrived at the refreshment area on that hospital floor to make my wife some tea, I found an older white-haired gentleman there in his patient gown getting some water.  I asked him how he was doing.

“I have my faith in the Lord,” was his response.

I found him interesting, so I struck up a conversation.  Now, understand that I never brought up my novel or healing in any way during our talk.  I asked why he was in the hospital, and he said that he had a cancer and was recovering–the Lord willing.  He volunteered that he had been reborn and even a healer at one point.  This caught my attention.

The gentleman told me that he had been given the gift of healing when he re-dedicated his life to the Lord after being away from the Church for a long time. He remarked that the power of healing was real and beautiful at the same time.  He claimed to have healed one particular man of some deadly disease.  He told the man that he would remain healed on the condition that the man turned from his dark path within a year.  The man was healed but a year later abruptly passed because he remained unrepentant.  The gentleman told me that he had lost this healing gift after he once again had a lapse in his faith.  He no longer could heal but his trust in the Lord remained strong, so he assured me he would be all right.

I asked that man his name.  Somehow I knew what he would say.  He said, “Jimmy.”

This gave me a small sign that maybe I should complete my latest revisions and somehow get it published. I never saw Jimmy again on that floor as my wife was released soon afterward.  That was two years ago and I’m thoroughly amazed, even now, that every time I read my latest draft that there is still some typo, unconnected detail, or polishing to be done.  The time has finally come though for me to wrap it up.  It’s like an old friend you spent a number of years with who’s moving away to another city.  I don’t want that relationship to end, but I have to give it up.  Who knows maybe we will reconnect someday.

 

The Reluctant Heroes

This summer’s Olympics brought a new set of heroes to the forefront.  Fierce gymnasts who hurled themselves into the air with what appeared to be reckless abandon, but represented hours of ritualistic repetition to perfect their routines.  Swimmers who flew through the water at break-neck speeds.  We saw a runner with no lower legs with the indomitable spirit of a champion to compete.  These are the heroes witnessed through the media’s eyes and to some we bestow our national pride.  They have worked hard and have earned that respect.

That said, there are a number of heroes that don’t get celebrated on a national level, but we recognize their sacrifice and the work they do.  Our armed forces represent those that sacrifice time from their families, physical injury, and risk the ultimate sacrifice of their lives.  They’re on the front lines to protect our country. Local, State, and Federal Police along with Fire Fighters risk their lives in similar ways internally to protect us.

But what about the reluctant heroes that walk among us?  The ones that if you put them on the spot and told them they were a hero, would wave that comment away as if you were talking crazy.

The single parent who plays two parental roles, struggles to make ends meet and still finds the strength raise their kids are heroes.  Maybe they’re not recognized by the any news organization, but the children who are old enough to understand their sacrifice know.

The teacher who has inspired generations of children to learn, instilled a sense of wonder, and challenged their students to step outside the boundaries of themselves and reach beyond what they believe they were capable.  Not every one of them are recognized, but any student that remembers those special teachers in their lives accepts them as heroes.

The person who doesn’t just talk about their religious faith, but lives it as an example to others every day.  These people are heroes and have the capacity to heal the souls of those around them.

Everyone of us have heroes that touch our lives everyday.  If you acknowledge their heroism, they may be reluctant to accept that mantle.  But if you take the time to recognize what they do for you and what they mean to you with heart-felt gratitude, the reluctant hero will always accept a hug.

 

Don’t Grow Up too Soon – James Taylor Knows the Secret

 

Child On Shoulders - James Taylor Knows the Secret

Walking through the mall the other day, I saw a father lift his child to his shoulders.  It brought back memories of my own children.  I can remember carrying them around on my shoulders and grasping their ankles to hold them tight, so they didn’t fall.  As they got older, they could balance better, and hold onto my forehead or around my neck.  Those were beautiful years.

Those days zip by so quickly. Someone told me to revel in every moment your child asks you to pick them up because one day they’ll stop asking.  I followed that counsel until my kids became too big and my arms too weak to lift over my head and set them on my shoulders.  I understand now, but it was also that I had NOTAS disease.  “NOT AS” Young as I used to be.

My son is a year from being an adult and my pre-teen daughter is growing up fast.  Sometimes too fast.  In this wonderful age of technology and information it’s hard to slow them down.  My advice to her was to enjoy being eleven and do as many girly things that she could.  Don’t worry about someone thinking that your acting immature.  If you want to play with dolls, then do it. 

I looked to the future and realized that before I knew it, they’ll be in college, starting their own lives, and moving on.  I couldn’t blink too long, or I’ll miss something.  Then it hit me. I should follow my own advice.  Not doing girly things, mind you, but try to live in the moment.  Enjoy my kids as they “are” and not how they “were” or how they’re “going to be”.

About this same time, one of my favorite James Taylor songs floated up in my mind.  The song is called, “Secret O’ Life”.  Certain lines of this song are so poignant and full of wisdom that I’ve played it whenever I’ve found myself worrying about the time I’ve lost or may lose.  Read some of these lines below, and take them out into the world with you:

“The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time.”
“The secret of love is opening up your heart.”
“And since we’re only here for a while. Might as well show some style.”
“The time about time is that time isn’t really real. It’s just your point of view.”
“Try not to try too hard.  It’s just a lovely ride.”

The full lyrics can be found <here>

 So for now, I’m settling for giving piggy-back rides; I can still do that.