T. D. Smith
My name is T. D. Smith.
T. D. Smith
My name is T. D. Smith.
Dreams Are Powerful Things...
Dreams are powerful things, indeed.
I write this post now nearly 3 months after finishing this story, which took me over a year to write. I tried sending it to several literary magazines and after holding off posting it here to see if they would publish it, unfortunately found nobody wanted it. (I hope that readers of this blog will!) Nevertheless, my dream of being a writer is very much alive, as is this story about dreams and a dream detective. I wrote it with my brother Peter, whom I bounced ideas and plot off of, and who came up with the premise back in April 2019 when the world was burning for us while Mom was in the late stages of a brain tumor. Yet, then the wider world of last year seemed so much simpler looking at it through the 2020 melancholic lens.
Last night I dreamt that I was riding a sort of carousel ride with my fiance. It was old and rickety and was the kind that spins your plastic seats outward on arms that also go up and down. There were no seatbelts and nothing to hold onto except a single, thin, old iron bar and each other. I nearly flew out of the malfunctioning ride several times, but she kept me in by pulling me back down into the seat. One man flew out of the ride in my dream, careened across the mall, and hit a wall, hard. My fiance and I survived unscathed by sticking together. I think perhaps my subconscious is trying to tell me something about life that I already know in such a tumultuous era.
While I was finishing writing this story in April, around Eastertime, my brother, Andrew, the monk, called me to wish me a Happy Easter (they get blessings to do this sort of thing sometimes) and I missed his call. That night I dreamt of him calling me back. We spoke and it was so vivid and so real, and I suppose I had been doing many Zoom calls with students and athletes and that burned itself into my brain, because I could see Andrew in the dream while we conversed on the phone. It was more vivid, more powerful and real than Zoom. Talking to him was a great joy, as I had not seen or heard from him since Mom's funeral in person and Christmas on the phone, respectively.
The next evening Andrew called me back. We spoke and it was wonderful. A true joy. I also felt deja vu. I told the monk, my brother, about the experience. He chuckled and said, "well, you can't always trust dreams."
A week later and I was very near finishing this story about my dreaming detective. I had around 2,000 words to go. I went to check on my other little brother during our COVID-19 lock down, who is living with his roommate and working 2 jobs remotely from his first apartment in town. They were out of food and household supplies, so masking up, we ventured out to the local Walmart. We were about to leave in my car, when both the roommate and my brother brought up strange dreams they'd had the night before, the details of which escape me now. I remarked that I had had very similar dreams with strikingly parallel details that same night. I had been hard at work that afternoon on finishing the story. It did not occur to me until later that they had brought up strangely vivid, even terrifying dreams the three of us had shared on the same night, while I was finishing a story about vivid dreams. I thought of Andrew the monk's words to me the week prior.
It sent a shiver down my spine.
This story is a dream. It is one concocted by myself and my younger brother. We worked on developing the idea into an outline and plot together. I strove to write it but life continuously got in the way. I kept fighting for the story and to complete the story. Now the dream has come true and manifests itself as the file embedded in this website.
I post this in a time where dreams seem to be everywhere for me. I have started my dream job, even amidst a tumultuous time. I have recently asked my dream girl to marry me and she said yes. One of my favorite stories, or collection of stories ever, Neil Gaiman's Sandman graphic novels, have just been released as a wonderful audiobook adaptation by Audible with some truly boss performances from some prodigious actors and actresses. I am writing another new story, that I think may just turn into a novella or even a novel. It heavily involves dreaming, too. It was not until I was several hours into listening to the Sandman audiobook that I realized just how much my story had been influenced by the graphic novels. Without giving too much away, it, too, has a character who is communicated with by a supernatural being in dreams. That being is incredibly powerful but trapped somewhere he does not belong. (I look so forward to sharing that story with you here!)
Dreams are powerful things.
For without them, we could not dream of times prior to COVID, when people were not dying in enormous numbers from a painful disease. When we did not have inconvenient and tedious restrictions we had to follow. When things were more economically promising. We could not dream of a world after the disease when cases are gone and a vaccine eradicates it, and we strive to make better on the things about that old world that were not so great. Maybe we can dream of a world that is not so divided. After all, the world itself with all its problems would be far worse and never become any better if it weren't for dreams. To quote Morpheus, the dream lord from Sandman, what power would Hell have over its captors if they could not dream of heaven?
What power, indeed.
Dreams are far more powerful than even the gates of Hell. I hope together we can dream a dream powerful enough to make good on now, and make a world far better than the one some of us hold onto, the one we've left behind. I hope it is more powerful than the broken ones of this epoch, in its time of social unrest, deathly disease, dying dreams, and cancelled life plans. I also hope you have someone to cling onto that keeps you from being flung from the proverbial fair ride and into the abyss, and you them while you dream your dreams.
And I hope in the meantime you can read and enjoy this story, another one of my dreams.
Dream on, friends. Dream big.
Star Sharks has a Review!
So much has happened since I last wrote on this blog.
I feel like I say that a lot these days. A worldwide pandemic rages on late into the summer. Multiple tumultuous cultural and social issues are in the forefront and seem here to stay. Politics get crazier each day. I have not been without my own struggles these past 2 months (can't BELIEVE I've let that much time slip away without posting here!). I changed careers and jobs and my new place of work is feeling the economic strain placed upon them by COVID-19. The career I am now in, which is my dream job, involves collegiate sports, and I have watched the proverbial dominoes fall as conference after college sports conference has cancelled their Fall seasons in the interest of protecting the health and safety of their student body, faculty and staff. The summer has brought ups and downs and plans that ultimately amounted to nothing when finally yesterday afternoon my university's competitive conference decided that they, too would not have a season in the Fall, and my university shortly followed suit for any and all competitions. While I support the decision and want nothing but the best in health and safety for all the student athletes I am so fortunate to work with, in addition to the greater community at large, the loss of a competitive season is a blow to both them and me. Its mental anguish and stressful strain as the possibility, nay probability loomed over us all summer, stacked together with the other negative happenings in the world, have come for me wedged between two slices of a first Mother's Day without Mom in May, and a one-year-anniversary of her repose in August.
Yet, good things have happened in my life, too. Life is funny like that. It surprises you. Sometimes, we surprise ourselves and our loved ones, too! In late June, on my 30th birthday, I got engaged to the love of my life. I am ecstatic and incredibly lucky. I did not know that there was someone as wonderful, beautiful, kind, and caring as her out there, or that I would be fortunate enough to be with her.
Then, today, I just happened to be perusing my Amazon Kindle stats, when BAM! I noticed Star Sharks, my first novel and work of epic Space Opera following Captain Basil E. "Nix" Phoenix, his family, and crew of the Star Shark as they struggle to rescue the galaxy from sheer destruction, has its first review! It is a real, written review submitted by a total stranger who evidently read the book in its entirety. It was very flattering and the book was rated 5 stars. My heart leaped with joy as my eyes rolled over those orange-yellow pentagrams and I comprehended them. The book's only other rating thus far is 2 stars, which I suppose different strokes for different folks and Star Sharks is not for everyone. And that is okay. (I actually really appreciate and value the 2-star feedback, too; 2 stars is not 1 star or NO stars, after all! Though, I do wish they had taken time to write a review and tell me their likes and dislikes.
Anyway, one Ian Palmer wrote that he loved the book, its characters (me too!), pacing, and the original story with familiar elements. He said it was a great debut and he is excited for more from me! I greatly appreciate the review, rating, and feedback, Ian, whoever you are, and want you to know I am simply tickled pink that someone read my novel and loved it. I do not write because I want to be the world's best, or to write the next great American novel. I write because I love it. I write because I have stories in my head that won't shut up until they are written down and shared in some way with the world! And I write because deep down I hope some day to be someone somewhere's favorite author, even if it is long after I am gone, or at least to write something I loved when it appeared in my head, while I was writing it, and long after I finished it off that someone else will love, too, something that will help them, give them a spark of hope in the coming dawn just when their night seems deepest and darkest. Ian, I love that you loved the book and promise not to keep you waiting for the sequel and other subsequent novels and stories for too long! It will be soon that I revisit Nix, Ruckus, Ninya, John, Boyle, Gregory, and the rest of the Star Sharks crew, and we shall see where fate takes them...
Incidentally, I have not been entirely idle writing-wise during the last couple of months. I am working on another novel that is not Star Sharks (I am up to 5 of those I have going in some way shape or form, if in my head, partially or mostly written, or in my head. You see, similar to many people's rule with animals, if I name the novel, even in my head, it is real and has a name and I cannot "kill" it; I HAVE to write it, even if it takes me years. I am stuck with it. I have 5 such novels now and really ought to get around to finishing one or all of them!) but rather a work of fantasy that fits into another fantasy universe for what I imagine will be my magnum opus fantasy work novel that I have been building for years. I am also beginning to work on some other things, and will post the fruits of my labor soon!
So to Ian, and to all my other fans I either know or do not know about, keep checking back soon, keep reading and enjoying, and I hope you will love what I have to share in a relatively soonish timeframe!
7/22/2020 just shy of 2:00 AM
A Mother's Day Story
I don't know what to say today on Mother's Day, except maybe "I love you," "I miss you," and "thank you" to my own mother, this being the first one in my life without her.
They say a picture paints a thousand words. I am nowhere near the artist or painter my younger brother Peter is. However, I can write halfway decent. And sometimes we writers put to pen and paper with words what we cannot otherwise verbally express. So I wrote a short story. It's about Angels and Demons. It's about the 7 Virtues and the 7 Deadly Sins. It's about redemption. It's also a story about my family. It's about my father, and it is about my mother, their relationship, and what we all have been through this year. It is a story I wrote on Mother's Day, for Mother's Day for my mom. I hope its roughly 7,400 words paint an adequate picture of how I feel about her and what I am feeling and have been feeling.
Happy Mother's Day, mom. I love you, always. We all do.
It is a day late, but "from a certain point of view", it is right on time! It is Revenge of the 5th, being May 5th, of course!
Another sleepless night a couple of weeks ago and I decided to write a little review for each of Disney's Star Wars films they have released so far, to help me occupy my mind and get to sleep. I began typing up what I wrote for each one and turned them into much longer reflection pieces/reviews. I have given each film a rating/grade, too, as well as an overall grade for the sequel trilogy. I wanted to post these yesterday, on May the 4th, but did not finish them in time.
So I am posting them here now. They are a little different than my typical format, being critical reviews rather than poetry or stories, and they are rather opinionated (unpopular opinion time!) but here they are for you to read, agree or disagree with, and (hopefully) enjoy. I hope if you disagree with my opinions in these reviews, it will not cause you to stop reading me as an author or enjoying my stories. Remember, if I made you feel anything at all, uncomfortable, happy, sad, offended, etc., then I have done my duty as a writer :)
Only other thing I have to say is *spoiler warning* if you have not watched any of the new Disney Star Wars films, or TV series.
Because I did not get to say it here yesterday, May the 4th be with you, and for today, Happy Revenge of the 5th!
Look for more stories and news coming soon here!
Just a Little Star Wars Poem...
A lot of crazy, difficult things have happened to me in the past year. At the same time, a lot of incredibly good things have, too. It is a crazy world out there right now with the novel Corona virus pandemic in this unprecedented and uncharted territory. It is the best of times, it is the worst of times, to paraphrase Dickens. I got to see and be with my father and brother and girlfriend yesterday. We had Orthodox Easter (Pascha) dinner together. I cooked my first lamb, something my mother usually did before she died. Last year I attempted to help her cook it and "learn" how to do it. This entailed me following her around her kitchen making sure she did not fall, as her mobility was increasingly declining at that point in the cancer's progression. She would take things out of my hands and insist that she do this part. The parts she did ended up being most of all of the parts, while I kept vigil making sure she didn't plummet to the ground.
This year I was not alone in the kitchen. My girlfriend was with me, eagerly and lovingly looking up recipes for other trays to supplement the lamb. (She made a delectable stuffed shells dish with goat cheese, walnuts, mushrooms, and peas that would make a fine meal on its own any day.) The lamb cooking was left entirely to me. I racked my brains to remember how mom had "taught" me to do it, and then tried to combine it with a recipe I perused online to put my own spin on the old Smith classic. My mom cooked a mean lamb. I daresay, (and I mean no offense to my Greek friends when I say this,) that her Pascha lamb was better than any of that which we would have after services at the local Greek parish. I didn't do too bad myself. I think it turned out very well. (Olive oil, rosemary, thyme, garlic, and Dijon mustard go quite well with lamb!)
The night before Pascha (Saturday) I stayed up and watched what I could of the Paschal midnight Divine Liturgy live-streaming on YouTube from Holy Cross Monastery in Wayne, WV, where my brother, Brother Andrew, is a novice monk. My other half and I sat outside in my backyard with a campfire. Like the monks, we waited quietly in the dark, listening to the hymns and readings stream from my phone, and awaiting the midnight hour with a light burning brightly before us, ours being campfire rather than candlelight.
At midnight, when the lights came on at the Monastery, we went inside and watched the service on the television where it was warm. I turned on every light the property I live on has, back porch, shed, and outside garage nighttime floodlight included, flooding the grounds with light the same way the Church does. I was privileged to see my brother Andrew streaming through YouTube wearing his golden Easter robe and carrying the golden cross at the head of the procession the monks led around the exterior of the grounds surrounding their small chapel. He was grinning from ear to ear in delight. I smiled too, and felt for a short while like I was standing there with him. I found myself whispering to him like I would have long ago when we served as altar boys together, forgetting for a brief moment the physical distance and separation. Shortly prior to 1:00 AM, just when the monks were re-entering the chapel to finish their liturgy and commune, the ISP at Monastery gave out, and the stream froze, cutting short. I think too many people were viewing it at once. I went to bed for the night shortly after that, tired, weary, but happy and with joy in my heart.
Then the darkness came.
Oddly, I could not sleep. I thought of my mom. I missed her, badly. I couldn't cry yet I felt like I needed to. I tossed and turned. I wondered if Dad was doing okay tonight, if he missed her as badly tonight as I did. I got up a couple of times. One time I had my phone in hand and almost tapped the words "Peter Smith" on the screen that would have initiated a FaceTime call. I did the same for "Gray Smith." Dad had plans to rise early to do prayers for Easter. Peter had online college assignments and was either currently still working or enjoying a hard-earned, well deserved slumber. I turned my phone back off. Like Gandalf on the bridge of Khazad-dum I decided to face the night and its demons alone, sparing my loved ones of having to join in the battle and aid me. Sleep finally took me for 2 or 3 hours, killing the demon when I could not, and I awoke for the final time at 5AM. I let Hermione outside, and was surprised it was 37 degrees out, for I felt so warm.
Later that evening as Dad and Peter arrived, we set the table and sang the hymn and ate and drank and laughed together. Peter made the Smith family Mac and Cheese recipe, and did a good job with it for his first time, from the kitchen of his first apartment living on his own for the first time. We conversed and when Dad brought mom up, I looked down at my plate. It was the set of family China mom had given me, with one plate that has a chip. She would always give me the chipped one for some reason. Maybe she knew I would not mind or complain. Somehow I always got the chipped plate, whenever she used that set of China. And tonight, when Dad brought her up, I looked down and sure enough, I had the chipped plate, somehow, completely by accident. I confided in Dad then that the night prior, while joyous, I spent sleepless and missing Mom. He said he had barely slept too, and had had a rough night as well. Peter, too. I regretted not calling them then. But, we all smiled and I told them about the chipped plate and as we ate the Paschal lamb, I think we could all feel her there.
Dad bid me and my girlfriend farewell for the night and drove home a little while later. We watched a movie that I passed out asleep halfway through, then went to bed. I had to teach early this morning remotely.
I was surprised to find myself unable to sleep again. I played cards on my phone through my favorite time wasting, yet still brain-engaging app, to no avail. So I pulled up my notes app again. The Muse came to me then and sang inspiration to me in my ear, fighting off the Balrog of the night with her song. I thought of Star Wars, one of my favorite things ever, as I often try to think of things, stories, franchises, etc. that I love when I find myself sleepless. I got an idea. A song, a poem, something that organized what many fans of Star Wars think of Disney's trilogy of films.
I tapped, typed, and I wrote, doing my best to follow some kind of meter, which is difficult for me; I usually work in free verse when I do poetry. I chuckled at some of the lines, and took some unabashed poetic license. I finished with a poem voicing complaints from the perspective of vexed Star Wars fans and fears and conundrums on the part of the Disney studio writers/producers. I woke up this morning to teach tired and groggy, but happy that I'd made something again.
And here it is! I decided to polish it up and post it here. My little poem from one of the nights I couldn't sleep, about one of my favorite things. I hope you enjoy it. I hope it makes you laugh.
It is the best of times. It is the worst of times. There is an awful virus killing hundreds of thousands. Times are uncertain. We are out of work, out of our ordinary routines, thrown for a loop, and some of us who have lost loved ones this year cannot sleep. Despite all this, "Make Good Art" as Gaiman says, always. This is an example of my art that has come out of this dire situation, born out of anxiety and sleeplessness. It isn't much, but it is something. I hope it will entertain you. And even though many things have all gone wrong, I will continue to stand before the Lord of Song with nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah, as an old song goes.
Don't stop being positive, don't stop doing what you do best, and don't let the world change your smile, let your smile change the world.
ENJOY THE POEM,
May the Force Be With You Always,
T. D. Smith
* Disclaimer: the opinions in the poem aren't necessarily my own. I love all the Star Wars films, good and bad. Like I said, it is one of my favorite franchises ever. I just got inspiration/an idea to write a poem that embodies and encompasses the contemporary complaints of the fans, capturing their zeitgeist, so to speak. *
The rest of the story, "March the 33rd: A Quarantine Story," is complete! The story is available in its entirety RIGHT HERE.
I honestly never intended this to be an Easter release, and it isn't an Easter story (per se,) but I am happy to give it to you to read as a gift for Easter, anyway.
Enjoy it, may it bring you joy and something productive and meaningful to do during these troubled times, and Happy Easter from my family to yours!
Stay healthy and safe.
Easter Sunday 2020
A Story During Quarantine
A bunch of crazy stuff has happened in life. I will likely blog about it after a long hiatus, soon. In the meantime, you can read Part I of a story I have been working on below. It is inspired by all the craziness that has come along before and during the COVID-19 outbreak. Some of these details in the story are true! Can you guess which ones? Enjoy, stay home, and stay safe, my friends!
The following is a true story.
Well, parts of it are. Santarchy, or Santacon is actually a real event, run by an organization called the "Cacophony Society," who raise a ruckus at Christmastime, allegedly to protest the holiday's over-commercialization, although one suspects it to just be an excuse to riot and cause mischief. Most of the people involved in this organization don't really protest anything, they just dress up as Santa and have a good time. Generally it is a peaceful event that simply entails a bunch of people dressed up as Santa in many major cities across the world.
However, in 2005 in Auckland, that year's Santarchy took a turn from its usually peaceful protesting event, or simply fun party, and got way out of hand. Some drunken Santas actually committed some of the acts described in my story. You can read the news story from 2005 here: https://www.smh.com.au/world/bad-santas-rampage-in-auckland-20051219-gdmnfy.html
Learning of this event on an archived page of Neil Gaiman's blog (of course) and finding an expired link to a CNN story that no longer existed, and down the internet rabbit hole I went! After much searching I finally found the full story on the Sydney Morning Herald, and was (of course!) inspired. I got to thinking, what if something more was going on in this story? What if there was something deeper happening behind the scenes? What if the REAL Santa was in some way involved? Adding a SciFi element of cloning and the Fantasy element of magic, and making it as Christmas-ey and heartwarming as possible by its end, writing essentially 2 stories and suturing them together, all the while taking care to add/embellish elements in each to keep them consistent and part of one overall narrative coming from two different perspectives, and eventually I had this story.
Christmas is in and of itself a good thing. It is a positive outlet to remedy stress for the work force, a day off to look forward to, a time to be with family. It is a time full of cheer, excitement, and elevated, hopeful feelings. It is a day we set aside our usual earthly cares to focus instead on goodness and giving, helping each other, thinking of others, and going out of our way to be helpful our fellow human beings. It is a time of forgiveness and a designated season for focusing on the more important things in life, even if it has become incredibly commercialized. Behind the facade of commercialism and the rampant stampede to buy things, the more important, deeper aspect of the holidays are still there, and they always will be. Goodness, goodwill to man, love for one another, and giving will never go out of style. They will stand the test of time.
Christmas will come no matter what. It will continue and go on and on each year. The Yuletide Spirit will not, cannot, and has not been conquered, regardless of even the most violent of Santarchys, or vilest of plots by Krampus.
This story is my gift to you, the reader. As always I sincerely hope you enjoy it, and I sincerely wish you a
December is here, and with it the Yuletide spirit has come rushing in.
Today, December 6th, is St. Nicholas Day, recognized by Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran, and other Christian denominations worldwide. The historical saint's image has been preserved and passed down through the ages and morphed and changed in the cultures, mythos, and legends of the peoples of the world. In America, today the Saint is best recognized as the chubby, rosy-cheeked, white bearded man adorned in a fluffy red coat, an image spawned and popularized by the Coca-Cola company in the 20th century, and re-dubbed "Santa Claus." The group of ideas associated with that name is now inseparable from the historical saint whenever you bring up his name. The real, historical figure who lived in the 3rd century in Asia Minor was likely vested in Christian clerical bishops' robes for most of his day, and the black cassock/tunic he would have worn underneath for the rest of it. He would have been olive-skinned, and emaciated due to the fasting that came along with his clerical and monastic vows. By all accounts he really, truly cared for people, and went out of his way to help them, putting their physical and spiritual needs before his own. He did this daily, and year round, caring for people's real needs, not just giving them things they want in one magical night before the morning of the nativity.
Regardless of the transmogrification that his appearance and character have undergone in the modern public eye, St. Nicholas has stood the test of time and remains today a figurehead of the holiday season and its spirit of good will toward mankind, giving, forgiving, and seeking to serve and help others who are less fortunate than ourselves. In that regard he is still very much here and among us, and I like to think he meets us where we are, taking a form now in our postmodern, consumerist society, that we all can understand and identify as a good and saintly type of person. In that spirit, I'm posting a story that's (sort of) about the Saint, in a way. There is a famous legend about St. Nicholas of Myra dropping gold coins into the drying socks hanging outside on the windowsill of a man and his three daughters under the cover of night so that the destitute widower would not have to sell his children into slavery. And that is how the tradition of hanging Christmas stockings began. (Or in many cases, setting your shoes out for St. Nicholas on the evening of Dec. 5th, to find him having filled them with goodies the next morning!)
This story is quite loosely based on that legend- it is a humorous tale, both a ridiculous and absurd one, lighthearted and meant to make you laugh. It reads to me like a skit from "Tim and Eric's Awesome Show, Great Job!" on Adult Swim, one of my favorite, most bizarre comedies I've ever seen. It is really silly, but like all my stories, (at least I like to think so and strive for this in my writing) there is something for everyone who reads it, and while it is funny and not meant to be taken seriously, there is still an underlying dimension of depth beneath the surface of even the seemingly silliest story, for those willing to dig deep enough to find it. I wrote this 2 years ago in July 2017, thinking of a vague notion of Christmas in July, and have gone back since and touched it up and embellished here and there to present it here to you tonight. The name of the man's best friend in the story went through several changes from the rough to final draft, starting as simply "Ted," then transforming to "Kris," and finally, and I think most appropriately, "Nick."
Well, without further ado, here is the story. As always, I hope you read and enjoy it. I hope you laugh and it warms your heart, and brings you good cheer as the holiday season begins.
We could all use a little more absurdity, the kind that makes us smile and/or laugh in our lives, after all.
-St. Nicholas Day, 2019
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