I swear I am not dead! (Cue Monty Python joke)
It has been a few months and life has been very busy. I have had little spare time for writing, which I regret. But, I decided to post a story here, for Father's Day (a day late, I know) that I wrote back in October and did not post.
I promise that I am still alive, I am still writing (that has picked up some lately), and that I will have new stories on here soon. There is one I am currently writing that I am rather excited about, so check back frequently!
Anyway, I hope you had a good Father's Day. And if you do not have a father in your life, or are not a father, I hope you had a good day anyway, and have an even better one today. And I hope you enjoy this tale I wrote for my father on his birthday in October 2020. His favorite fairy tale is the Three Billy Goats Gruff, and this is a spin of sorts on that tale, interlaced with the Russian demon Chort. He seemed to really like it, and I hope you do, too!
Life has been hectic.
I feel like I say that a lot on here!
It has, though, with many irons in the fire. I was making great progress on 2 novels, then stopped to give full attention to other things professionally, not least among them starting track meets back up as safely as humanly possible in a pandemic.
We pulled one off successfully, then I got a nice, snowy Sunday to myself and fiancé. We went walking in the woods in a winter wonderland. I looked at our tracks in the snow. My mind drifted to that old poem, "Footprints in the Sand," and an idea came to me for a take on that poem.
Here is the result, that I jotted down then typed up a couple of days later.
Here it is, my Halloween short story, a shivering tale, "Room 216A," for Scaretober this year!
I hope you have a Happy Halloween. I hope you are warm, healthy, and safe. I hope you are with a person or people you love. If you trick-or-treat or ride a hayride or bob for apples or drink some cider with friends, or partake in some other form of Halloween merriment, I hope you have fun and enjoy it and don't become sick from it.
If you do not choose to go out, I hope you do something Halloween-y and fun inside with the members of your household or a loved one. Regardless, I wish you well and hope that Halloween 2020 brings you as much or more joy than always, despite the conditions the year has brought along with it. And, if my tale here, while not really a Halloween one, while it is sort of a ghost story, brings you entertainment and joy, then that will have made my Halloween a happy one.
My best always,
T.D., Halloween 2020
Chapter III is here and ready to be read!
A couple of my friends read it and when I'd given it to them realized I'd committed a minor plot error. It's corrected for you, and I honestly don't know if my friends caught it, so I'll be interested to see if they do.
Anyway, enjoy, and Happy October 1st!
Here it is! I realize I have fallen behind on my weekly chapter promise. However, life and work have been busy and I have been sending each chapter to friends to read first to get some feedback and tweak before posting. I apologize nevertheless. Here is Chapter II. Enjoy!
Chapter III to come soon. I am hard at work penning it down!
As I have said elsewhere in this blog, dreams factor into my writing quite heavily sometimes, being integral parts of many of my stories.
This new story came to me the same way most of them do: confluence of ideas, situations, and goings on in the world and in my life.
I was told many times in conversations with my dad that you "can't have God in a box."
As I have written here previously, my younger brother Andrew is an actual, real-life Russian Orthodox monk who grew up unique, different from others, and always interested in the monastic life.
One of my favorite graphic novel series, written by Neil Gaiman (of course!) was just adapted into an audiobook on Audible.
Crazy things and times, and dark forces behind them continue to go on.
A character, a story, an idea formed and once again I typed up a rough outline bringing all those threads together.
I have not named the monk. Not yet. I suspect in the coming weeks I will.
He too, is special, and has many spiritual gifts others do not, that he will develop over the course of his life encoded in the words contained here on this blog. I will strive my utmost to upload a chapter of his story each week until the entire story is told, to the best of my ability. Once I compile these chapters, I will publish them somehow as a novel.
And he, too has dreams and communicates with a reality above our own.
That is all I will say for now, other than that in such a crazy world that shows no signs of slowing down or returning to the normality we might have enjoyed to a degree in the past, it is important that we carry on writing, reading, creating, and making new things that will inspire and get us through it, give us and future generations, hope, and shine some light in uncertain, dark times.
Without further ado, here is chapter one.
I sincerely hope you enjoy it.
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.
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
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.
Friends of T.D. Smith