Friday, April 23, 2010

A New Read...

...received a new novel to read this week.

As is common practice, I gave it a look over, checked out the blurb, gave the first paragraph a quick glance, thumbed to the end, spied the page number, cheated and skimmed over the final passage. Then I set it down on my desk and looked at it for a while, the wheels grinding away.

The story carries with it a simple one word title. The author's name is known by few, his work read by even less. I found no accolades smeared across the back cover. No one line blurbs from King or Meyer, urging the general populace of the story's ability to create world peace, or it's guarantee of satisfaction.

Words on paper. At the moment, that's how it's best described. A story. Black and white. To read or not to read. It's a decision left in the hands of the reader him/herself...

The story was originally started more than a decade earlier. More important responsibilities weighed down an already hefty work load, and the story was sacrificed. A few years passed, the urge to continue, to write something, anything, still lingered, but the flames had sizzled down to embers. Still hot to the touch, but gently cooling over time.

One day at work, the writer found himself in a conversation with a good friend. A giddy storyteller himself. At this point in his life, the writer had become the listener.

The story involved an acquaintance, an old school buddy who'd grown weary of his 9 to 5 livelihood, and decided to do something about it. So he packed his bags, sold his replaceables, and took off in search of something better. A year later, the acquaintance had become a model, making more money in a day than he ever dreamed possible. But then again, he actually had dreamed it, which explained why he was there in the first place. A dream.

The writer listened, mouth agape. Then asked the obvious questions. "What about schooling? What about experience? How'd he pull it off?"

The friend's answer threw a spark upon those embers. The ones which were still hot to the touch, but slowly cooling. He leaned toward the writer, both of them oblivious to the rumbling of their own 9 to 5 doldrums hovering about, and said, "You can do anything if you want it bad enough."

For the friend, the conversation ended, his thoughts moving on to whatever else tickled his fancy before heading home. For the writer, something else happened.

He went home. He kissed his wife on the cheek. He went into his office, turned on the computer. He brought up a file. It had been there a while, but that was okay. He could do anything if he wanted it bad enough. And finally...he did.

The flames are so hot these days they appear blue in the distance. Well, in theory at least.

Words on paper. To read or not to read...

I know the story well. I know the writer even better. The dream is that many more will get to know him, and decide to read...

The first proof edit is complete. The subject of a cover design is scheduled for next week. A meeting. Someone else's 9 to 5.

I find it a bit unfair that I've just finished reading Gaiman's "Stardust," only to now turn to my own mess and make it sound somewhat tasteful, with a deadline looming.

But then that's what dreams are all about. Thinking big.

...because we can do anything if we want it bad enough:)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Holding Hands

...while reading Karin Slaughter's "Fractured," I ran across a passage on page 247 that caused me to stop, re-read, and burn the next twenty minutes lost in thought.

"...Will wondered if he was remembering what it felt like to hold his son's hand. Was that the sort of thing father's did? At the park, out in public, fathers and sons were always playing ball or tossing frisbees, the only contact between them a rustle of the hair or a punch on the arm. This seemed to be how dad's taught their boys how to be men, but there had to be a point, maybe early on, when they were able to hold their hands. One tiny one engulfed by one big one. Adam would have needed help crossing the street. In a crowd, you wouldn't want him to wander off. Yes, Will decided. Simon had held his son's hand..."

Earlier this evening, under somber skies threatening of rainfall, my wife and I were in attendance for our oldest son's Spring Concert. A sax enthusiast, he'd been practicing for weeks on what he self-proclaimed as being his biggest show yet. He refused to go into details with us, his obvious goal to allow for the element of surprise as his gift for Mom and Dad.

Okay, so we played along.

The show began without a hitch. As is surely the case with most 7th grade bands, the majority of tunes are for the most part recognizable, with the occaisional hiccup here, a random out of sync toot over there, an errant tweet from the back row, but nothing overly obnoxious, (although I did manage to spot a retiree turning down the volume on his hearing aid,) and every song worthy of applause.

Then the surprise.

Following the second song, a hush settled over the crowd as my son, dressed in khakis, a polo shirt, and those butterscotch wavy locks hovering over his eyes as is the going trend for young men these days, stepped forward, front and center upon the stage. His band teacher, a smile curling his lip upward, slipped behind a piano sitting off in the shadows.

The lights dimmed. I held my breath.

The piano's soft keys began to hum. Then, without any cue or hesitation, my son curled his fingers around his golden alto sax, and began to play.

Teacher and student. A spring melody. His very first solo.

I heard no tweets. No toots or huffs. Every note timely and on cue. Three full pages of music, played without a hitch.

My wife's grip around my arm, which had originally been cutting off circulation, relaxed. I found that I could once again take a breath. And throughout the final chorus, together her and I simply listened to our son and his memorable song.

The melody complete, he lowered the instrument from his mouth, flipped back his curly bangs, and managed a smirk, his gaze finding mine in the crowd. A crowd steadily rising to their feet.

And following the performance, and a gracious and teary-eyed hug from his mother, I approached my son, hand outstretched.

He's grown like an unattended summer weed over the past year, his fingers nearly as long as mine. As I embraced it, the size of his hand reminded me that adulthood was on his doorstep.

And I thought back to when he was young. He earned his share of hair rustles and playful shoulder knocks for a base hit or a first down snag on the forty yard line, but he also got his hugs. And he was allowed to hold his father's hand. A gesture of kindness and support whenever needed.

On this night, my son returned that gesture. His way of saying thanks. And I couldn't imagine a better way of showing it.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Katie's Hope

...she was thirteen and pregnant. Tall for her age, she was a Dinka girl of Sudanese descent. While not her birth name, she responded to the title, Hope, which was ironic considering how small the amount of hope had been spared for her.

At the age of ten, Hope had been kidnapped by her Uncle and taken to Uganda in order to serve as the family's slave. Trapped in a house born of mud and clay, her job was to tend to the needs of the five adults and ten children of whom she shared residency. She cooked and she cleaned. Seven days a week without fail. Like a modern day Cinderella, an ocean away from Happily Ever After.

Miles from home, Hope was unfamiliar to Ugandan culture. She couldn't speak their language. She struggled to adapt. What she could understand was the order given from a pointed index finger. An angry shout. And the endless beatings.

She was repeatedly kicked and punched in the stomach, in hopes of terminating the life she was carrying. Because of the pregnancy, she was considered damaged goods, as useless as a homeless wanderer living under the shaded canopy of a rickety bridge during the rainy season. And she was treated as such.

Neighbors could hear her screams from behind closed doors. They grew concerned for Hope's safety and alerted the police. In time, a standoff took place, in which the adults blocked passage for the authorities to rescue Hope. The police prevailed however, and Hope was taken away.

Weeks later, the Sudanese Embassy ruled on the case, and rewarded custody of Hope back to the Uncle who had originally kidnapped her in the first place.

The beatings resumed.

At last, with the help of a concerned neighbor, Hope managed to escape in the middle of the night with nothing more than the clothes on her back, but freedom standing before her.

She was quietly moved from one home to the next, her exact whereabouts a mystery, and therefore remaining one step ahead of her uncle's search party.

And it was during this time, when her story was heard by the person known as "Auntie Katie." Hope didn't realize it just then, but her life was about to change.

Still in her early twenties, and known to the locals only as Auntie Katie, she is the adoptive mother of 16 African girls. In association with Amazima Ministries, this slim-figured brunette, born in America, now living in Africa, is saving lives and turning heads from across the globe.

Her blog, The Journey, kissesfromkatie, is now read by a multitude of followers worldwide. She is not a writer, and yet her words possess an awe-inspiring sense of urgency for all who treasure the experience. It's been said that if the Bible were still in the process of being written, Katie's name would surely appear in passage in the New Testament. The Book of Katie.

It causes one to think...if a simple twenty-something girl from the states can do so much, what if...

Hope gave birth to a healthy baby boy two weeks prior to her due date. One day after Christmas she was rescued by Auntie Katie and her ministry. Mother and son are currently living under Katie's care while her original family from Southern Sudan are located.

The link to Katie's blog and Hope's entire story are located under "The Journey," on my blog list, or go to

Monday, April 5, 2010

Back Cover Blurb for "Broken"

We're huddled in the far corner of my bedroom.
Arms wrapped around our knees in the dark.
The approaching footsteps grow louder.
Ominous thuds.
Our mother...but somehow not.
She's standing outside my door.
We listen to the creak of hinges.
My sister clenches my arm.
"She's coming," she whispers.
"She's broken."
"Broken" by Elliot Grace (due out late 2010)