Thursday, February 24, 2011

Sample Preview Book 2 "Trail Of The Damned"

Trail Of The Damned”

(Sample Preview)

Kaleb Lambert started showing up at the Hunsaker home when Rose Marie Wells was only thirteen, and by the time she reached fourteen, after much flattery and wooing, he married her, much to the chagrin of her younger brother Deacon. Deacon having only just turned eleven, clung even tighter to his sister than ever before, she having mothered him through five impossible years of poverty and abuse, while he had assumed the role of her protector. With the unwelcome change, Deacon viewed Kaleb’s imposing behavior as an invasive attack on the only secure thing he had ever known, and his dislike for his new brother in law quickly grew to disdain, bordering on hatred.
At fifteen, Rose Marie gave birth to Cole, while Kaleb was away panhandling, making it necessary for Deacon to assist Mrs. Hunsaker with the difficult birthing. Somehow, against heavy odds, both mother and child survived, and from that moment on, young Deacon felt that he was more the father of baby Cole than was Kaleb, who, ill prepared to provide his new wife and child with the needful things in life, had taken to panhandling, leaving them to be cared for by the Hunsakers, while he drifted from town to town, chasing dreams of an elusive fortune.
“I insist Marie!” Lorna Hunsaker demanded sternly, “…you will stay here with the baby as long as it takes for Kaleb to find you a suitable home, …and I’ll not hear another word to the contrary!”
“But Kaleb will be angry with me when he returns!”
“But Kaleb nothin’!” Ken Hunsaker growled angrily from the kitchen table, that boy could have a perfectly good job right here workin’ for me, but instead he chooses to leave you unattended while he gallivants around the country chasin' an easy dollar! I’ll not have it…, I tell you, I won’t!”
Deacon was unsure how to act in the moment of disruption and high emotion, but one thing for sure…, he cared nothing for Kaleb. He did, however, have a strong affinity for baby Cole, and managed to spend a large amount of his time helping to raise his little nephew. He had begun his farrier training, at ten, just shortly after arriving in Dunkirk, and quickly learned the art of working steel, impressing even Ken with his artistic approach to the job. One of the first things he made for himself was a hatchet head, which he securely mounted on a hickory handle, and began learning to throw it. Having seen a gypsy in a traveling show throw three hatchets in less than two seconds into a target no bigger than a tin plate at seven paces, he made up his mind to learn the craft. He had been so impressed, that he vowed to himself that he wouldn’t rest until he could do the same, and thus was born an intense passion with throwing hatchets.
“Can’t you think of some more worthwhile things to spend your energy on Deacon?” Lorna had asked him one afternoon. His response was just simply,
“No Ma, ...can’t think of any…” By the time he reached sixteen, he could nail the same mark on a tree from ten paces six times out of ten, and had begun to teach Cole to throw as well. Though only five at the time, Cole showed so much desire, that Deacon couldn’t have stopped him even if he had wanted to, and thinking it better that he be supervised in his attempts to follow after his uncle, Rose Marie consented to the instruction.
“I love how you are with him Deacon…” Rose Marie commented one afternoon, while watching him patiently play with her little boy, “…I just wish his father were here more to help him grow. I’m really grateful to you.”
“It’s me that’s lucky Marie, I love him…, just like I do you, and there ain’t no way he’s growin' up like we did without a dad…, I won’t stand for it! I’ll make a good man out of him, I promise…, and I’ll always be there for him too!” Rose Marie approached her younger brother, who by sixteen had passed the six foot three mark, and weighed nearly two hundred pounds. Wrapping her arms around him she pulled him down to her height, hanging on tight for several seconds to make sure he fully knew how much she loved him back.
“I can’t wait to see what kind a man you turn out to be,” she said smiling, as she let him straiten.
“Huh…, that’s easy, …what you see is what you get…, I swear, this is it!” He opened his arms wide to either side accentuating his broad shoulders, and chest, while flexing his well sculpted biceps, “…don’t get much better than this!” he laughed, reaching up to remove his thick black hair from his eyes. “I need a hair cut bad! …you want to do it for me?
“No…, you can’t Deacon, you’re like Sampson, …if I cut it, you’ll lose all your strength…!”
“But it’s hot, you should know, yours is longer than mine…, please?”
“I’m serious Deacon…, don’t cut it! …it suits you real good like that, …I don’t suggest you let it get much longer, but you couldn’t be any more handsome than you are right now! Promise me you'll leave it be.” Deacon turned and called over to where Cole was playing.
“Cole! …watch this Marie he said excitedly.” Drawing the hatchet out of the leather boot he wore strapped to his right leg he said, “…hey Buddy, let’s show Mamma how you throw your hatchet.” Little Cole smiled wide, looking for a moment at his mother for reassurance that it was alright with her, before reaching for the smaller hatchet lying near his feet. At her nod of approval, he snatched it up and ran to Deacon's side.
“You ready Cole?” The little boy, who though tall for his age was as thin as a rail, ...looked up at his uncle with exuberant eyes.
“I’m ready!” he announced, hefting the hatchet Deacon had made for him to his chest with his right hand firmly gripping the long handle. Deacon stepped and threw his hatchet at a tree about thirty feet away, and then nodded to Cole…,
“Step up to your spot and let’er rip buddy.” Cole walked ahead about eight or nine steps, and after looking back to check with Deacon on the distance, he turned and without hesitation, flipped his hatchet in a high arch toward the tree. With a solid thunk, the blade knifed into the tree a foot below Deacon’s.
“Every time,” Deacon said excitedly to his sister, “…I swear, it’s like he was born to it!”
“You just be careful with him, …you hear?”
“Yeah, yeah…,” Deacon mocked, strolling over to retrieved his hatchet, “…have I ever not been careful with him?” Rose Marie new he was right, however a pesky cloud of worry, loomed around in the back of her mind, and she couldn’t seem to shake it.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Living The Dream (Two)

     Over the past five years, I've witnessed many of my associates in the construction world, losing everything that they owned due to the collapsing economy.  Two personal acquaintances took their own lives, leaving behind grieving wives and children, while another threw his hands up and declared, "I quit!" abandoning his responsibilities as father, husband and provider to pursue a less strenuous course of solitude.  Another turned to hatred, accusing God of the treachery that had caused his ruin, while still another fell into a life of debauchery, too devious to describe further. 
     Last week, I had the privilege of sitting in conversation with two others, who have not lost hope, even though they too have suffered as I and so many others in great personal losses over this difficult time. 
     The following journal entry taken from early in the stages of writing "Search For Yesterday", though it repeats thoughts expressed in a previous "Not so fictional fiction" post, sheds what I thought was a telling revelation about just such battles that we face in our different lives.  I hope it's significance is not lost because of my weakness in expressing it.

Dec. 9 2008

     I don't know what's happening. This story has exploded with life and I'm finding that I control less and less of how it unfolds with the addition of each new character. I'm wondering if what I'm feeling isn't some sort of “God Complex” because all of these characters, with their separate, individual personalities, attitudes, issues, ideals and prejudices, have begun to react on each others actions. All I can seem to do is create varying scenarios by manipulating the world around them and hope they in turn cooperate with the basic course I have laid out for my story line.
     We've had several storms over the past week requiring me to be in my plow truck for hours on end, so what I've been doing is brainstorming like crazy while I drive. First I turn off the radio and mentally go over the sequential geographical landmarks I have already laid out for the story line to travel through. Then, still talking to myself aloud, I start plugging in potential scenarios, talking each character one by one through my experiment with as many of their anticipated reactions I can think of until I find something I think will move my story along toward its next critical milestone. It's crazy, but that's about all I can do! ...give my characters agency, put them in a situation, and hold on! Life just happens, and with it, happiness and ruin also happen, complete with wonderful highs and the terrible lows. As the story reaches the setting of Southwest Colorado, and the two families establish the Double H Ranch there, Ben Halladay makes this statement.
     “Well being is not measured in the avoidance of travails, but in our taking them on, and fighting through life's follies, however God might deem in his wisdom to allow them to encumber us.”
     For years now, I have subscribed to this philosophy, having learned it from the example of my parents and other steadfast couples and indivduals that have influenced me.  Through it all, I have been able to reconcile the highs and lows of life, finding that one is nothing without the other.  The more I observe this little fictional world that I have created in my story, the fiercer my conviction becomes. On a tiny scale, what is happening through its progression, seems eerily similar to real life, shadowing almost exactly, the patterns of this world in which I live. It screams the reality of Deity, who gives me my existence, free will and the opportunity of self discovery as I act and react upon those with whom I associate from day to day.
     Today in my writing, a harrowing scene emerged from seemingly nowhere, wherein a couple of surly characters happened onto the ranch while nearly all of the men were away.  All I did was bring the men there, and before I knew it, I was the observer of something I hadn't planned nor was I sure I wanted, yet in disbelief, I allowed my fingers to bang out the terrible consequence of my impulsive act.  As a result, and through this experience today, I was again reminded that the worst of times and conditions will always do three things; expose evil, make good people better, and allow the weak to either wilt or blossom, and in the end, those who choose to be happy. ...are.

     Both friends who I mentioned conversing with in my introduction, have made the choice to remain hopeful, happy and industrious, adopting the tenacious attitude of, "they can take my stuff, but they can't take my soul"
     I love the words of that quirky song of not too many years past, "...don't worry, be happy."

Thursday, February 17, 2011

More Than Just A Couple Of Good Guys

     "Nice job," the voice from behind me huffed, as I bent over, desperately trying to catch my breath.  It was fall football camp, and I had just finished my qualifying mile run before pads were issued.  I didn't know the kid from whom the comment had come, in fact I didn't know anybody having just moved in a week previous, and to tell the truth, I didn't want to.  The big kid belonging to the voice moved along side again, and repeated his greeting.  He looked nearly my same size and build, but he had monstrous calves and paint spattered cleats which I found myself unwittingly staring at while I fought back rising nausea from our strenuous run. 
     "Thanks," I replied, moving forward a few steps thinking that would end the unwanted conversation.  But Ken wasn't your ordinary jock, ...for some reason he had it in his head to befriend me, and refusing to be shaken from his objective by my rudeness, he again moved to my side.
     "I'm Ken," he drawled in an easy Utah twang, extending his big hand toward me.  I was a seventeen year old senior with an attitude large enough to cover several zip codes having just been forced to leave my friends and former school against my will, but when I took his hand and looked up to meet his wide, friendly smile, I found his sincere kindness impossible to resist.  " bout a milk shake? ...I'm buyin" he added, still gripping my hand.
    A lot can happen in the time it takes to suck down a large strawberry/pineapple shake, especially when someone with such extraordinary character as Ken had sits on the stool across the table.  We were instant friends, finding numerous commonalities between us as the cold, sweet/tart refreshment slid smoothly down our parched throats towards the ravenous voids in our stomachs.  He asked if I wanted a job, and then proceeded to tell me about the car painting business he and a friend had started, which explained the multi colored splatters on his cleats.
     "We can use another guy," he offered, "...if you want."
     The next morning, I met Brad Simons, a tall blond kid with a slight build who from our first introduction gave off an air of "In Charge".  They say three's a crowd, but it never seemed to be with us.  Brad was in charge alright, but also every bit the "Take care of a brother" sort that Ken was and together, they made sure my unwelcomed changing of worlds, was something that even an issue riddled kid like me could overcome.
     In the thirty years since, not hardly a day goes by that I don't think of what their friendship meant to me back then, and continues to mean even now.  I thank God for sending them my way.

Today is Brad's birthday, so here's to you Brad, ...and Ken, ...and anybody with the guts to be like you guys, I'll forever be in your debt.

Friday, February 11, 2011

No Ordinary Teacher

Ina Norton, ...Who is she? 
     Only the single most influential teacher in the ten schools I attended during my young educational life.  Yes, of all the wonderful men and women who I have had the privilege of learning from, she stands alone at the very top.
     As a nine year old, just entering the fourth grade, there was no way for me to know what was in store for me.  All I knew about Mrs. Norton, was her much talked about reading of, "Where The Red Fern Grows".  I knew of her, in the tiny town of Milford Utah it was easy to be acquainted with almost everybody.  I saw her at church each Sunday, and occasionally in Larene Lund's dad's drug store down on Main street, and of course every summer at the Fourth of July celebration in the city park.  What I was about to find out, was that she somehow knew of me.
     Soon after beginning that fateful year, "Marble Season" arrived.  Nobody really knows the day, or reason for the random phenominon, but every year without fail it came and like a plague, "Marble Fever" swept through the community, infecting every grade school kid, and even some who had moved on and within a matter of two days, everybody it seemed, had a bag full of marbles.  Everybody that is, but me.  Oh how I wanted to play, but being a time when my parents had no money to spare, marbles were a luxury we just couldn't afford.
    "Quinn," I heard Mrs. Norton's voice call from the school door where she stood watching the other children play, "...come here for a minute."  She opened the door and led the way back to her office, where she produced a small denim bag full of marbles and tied with a white draw string at the top.
     "Go have some fun," she said, "...just don't tell anyone where you got them."
     A month later, when "Jack Season" arrived from out of the blue, again I found myself watching and wishing I had some jacks and a ball so I could join in the fun, but they too were a luxury our family of nine couldn't afford.
     "Quinn," Mrs. Norton called softly from behind me, "...would you come with me for a moment?" Again she reached into her office closet  producing this time a brand new set of jacks still in the package and handed them to me.
     "These are for you, now go and enjoy yourself, ...but be sure not to tell, ...remember?" she placed her finger to her lips, and I understood.
     "Coming into Spring, just following Mrs. Norton's annual reading of "Where The Red Fern Grows", a several page colored leaflet was handed to each student with an attached order form where we had the awesome privilege of choosing books to buy for ourselves.  With our minds bursting with colorful images left over from her recent reading, the thought of choosing my very own book seemed for a brief moment like the greatest thing in the world, however, disappointing reality arrived as soon as I reached the final page and saw the price list.  I wouldn't be ordering a book for myself. 
     Not wanting anyone to know of my inner pain, I pretended to be choosing, and even filled out the order form placing a check mark in the box by a book my older sister had talked about.  Then, as the bell sounded, and the other kids handed in their orders, I subtly stuffed mine into a text book and quietly edged my way past and out into the hall.
     For weeks, building anxiety turned inside my stomach, as each day I wondered if that would be the day when the books arrived, for none would be handed to me, and the potential embarrassment of that dreaded moment was more than I could bear.
     "Guess what students," Mrs. Norton announced one afternoon as the clock neared 3:30, "...your books have arrived!"  A loud cheer of squealing voices filled the room, getting louder as one by one she handed books to each of the children.  I could hear her coming up my isle from the back of the room, and dreading my impending doom, I laid my head down, burying it in my arms pretending to be asleep.  She was talking to David Barnes, who sat right behind me, and then I heard her feet shuffling forward, but not fast enough.
     "Oh no!" I silently gasped, "...please just keep walking?"  But she didn't, and sensing her eyes on the back of my bowed head, I hunkered even deeper into my arms, pressing my face against the cold surface of the hard desk.
     "Here's your book Quinn," she said softly, leaning down to my ear so only I could hear her, "'s a good one, I hope you like it."  I raised my head and found a shiny new copy of "Island Of The Blue Dolphins" laying near my elbow.  I looked up at her with surprise.
     "But I didn't....." I started to object, but she stopped me with her finger raised to her lips and a wink which I immediately understood.
     She was my Guardian Angel, a Goddess among teachers.  Now as I reflect back, I feel such a debt of gratitude to her as likely can never be fully repaid, ...and wonder, was I the only one?, I really doubt I was.

Thank you Ina Norton, are and always will be my greatest inspiration.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Our Potential Is Limitless

As a freshman attending the University of Utah, I had to try out just to get into an expository writing class.
     I wanted the class more than any other I had applied for, hoping to get heading toward a career in journalism.  When I walked in, the room was packed, but I managed to find an unoccupied chair.  The Professor entered, his head, face, and neck fully enveloped in a mass of poorly kept black hair, wearing a pair of tight holy jeans, and a yellow tee shirt with a huge flower on the front.  All I could think was, "holy hell, what is this?"  With late comers lining the walls, and some sitting on the floor, he began.
     "I am..., he introduced himself, "...and I will be teaching this class.  As you can see we have way more applicants than this room has capacity, so today will be an audition.  Twenty five students will be asked to stay, and the rest of you will have to find another class to fill this slot in your schedules.  Take out a pad and pen and write, In all my life I...  Now write until this timer sounds."  He tapped the start on a small timer sitting in front of him, and it's ticking, along with the sound of pencils and pens busily working their way across a multitude of papers filled the room
     "That's it?...I'll destroy this!" 
Knowing that I could totally kill that opening line, I set about constructing the perfect thesis, mulling over numerous possibilities but rejecting each one fearing it lacked the bottom necessary to produce the content needed for my perfect paper.  One by one, as my ideas fell short, I began noticing that I was the only one that I could see that wasn't writing.
     "It's OK," I told myself, "...they're not even taking time to think so their writing will suck for sure."
Twenty five minutes later, with blood pounding in my temples, and sweat trickling down my sides beneath my shirt, I found myself in an acute state of panic.  Only the opening words given by the professor appeared on my note pad, and all of the possible ideas that had earlier been floating freely in my mind, were long gone. 
     I had nothing! 
Never in my life, before or since have I experienced a negative emotion of the magnitude of that moment and the fifteen minutes that followed.  The longer it lasted, the worse I got until things were happening in my head and to my body that I can't begin to explain. 
   Then, the ticking timer erupted with a sound that thundered in my ears like an exploding bomb, marking the end of the audition period while at the same time, bellowing out my failure.  Inexplicable disappointment rushed over me, bringing me to tears.
     "How could this have happened?"  I questioned, "...there's just no way!"  Staying in my seat, I waited, gradually composing myself as others filed to the front, each leaving their papers in front of the scruffy hippy dude who was to have been my professor.  Not willing to accept failure, I waited until only he and I were left before approaching him.
     "I don't know what happened Sir, ...but I couldn't write."
     "Don't worry man," he said, sounding like he'd just stepped out of a weed fest with his stoner buddies, " happens, ...maybe this just isn't for you." 
     "No," I argued, "...this doesn't happen to me, and I'm not willing to accept that."
     "Sorry, ...if you got writers block, that's not my problem, why don't you try again next quarter."
I stared at him with disbelief, and seeing no give in his eyes, quickly scrawled the name and phone number he had written on the board and walked out.
     I don't know what I thought I would do with his personal contact info right then, but by the time I reached my house I did.  I immediately sat down and began to write, taking care to check the clock and when forty minutes had passed, I stopped and called the number written at the top of my paper.
     "Mr "So and So," I began, introducing myself to reminding him who I was, "...I live in Sandy, and I just couldn't take what you said about me not being good enough to be in your class.  I started writing the minute I got here, and it's been forty minutes.  May I bring you what I wrote right now?"
     "The tryout is over man," he returned, his impatience showing in his tone.
     "I don't care about the tryout, ...I just have to know that what you said isn't true.  Please, ...will you just look at it, and give me your opinion?"
     "How long will it take you to get here?"
     "Thirty minutes if I stop at the signs and don't speed."
     "Do you mind bringing it by my house?"  He gave me his address, and I hurried out the door.  I'll never forget the look in his eyes as he lifted them from the paper to meet mine, nor will I forget the exit interview I had with him at the end of the quarter, when before handing me my final essay he said.
     "I make it a rule not to give an A to anyone, and in my time as a professor I haven't broken that rule.  The position you have taken in this essay goes against every fiber of my being, yet it screams that I respect it.  It has been a pleasure having you in my class room, I hope you come back." 
     He handed me my final Essay, and smiled..., I still haven't broken my rule.  In red pen was a large circle, and in its center an A+ 

Don't ever let one, or even many failures define your potential.  Our potential is limitless.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Living The Dream (One)

     What's it like? ...Living in a "Dream Moment?"  Such a moment as you've only ever been able to dream of. 
     When I began experiencing some of those very moments in the early stages of writing my first novel, "Search For Yesterday", I had to write them down, to help the revelry last, sustain the euphoria of my creative writing adventure until the next "Wow" moment came along.
     As a seventeen year old kid, I once approached my dad with a fantastic notion, having just closed the final page of one of Louis L'Amour's western novels.  Also being a fan of the legendary author's romantic westerns, he looked up from the one he was reading and gave me his full fatherly attention.
     "You know Dad," I began excitedly, "...every one of these books should have it's own cool drawing, and a song."  He was amused, and nodded back with a smile,
     "Yeah, I know what you mean son, ...I like em' too."

     The youthful notion may have been a little over the top, but it was typical of me back then.  With my musical background, artistic hand, and creative thought processes, such an idea seemed completely reasonable in the moment, but I didn't even consider trying my hand at writing such a story that might inspire someone else as L'Amour had me.  As mentioned in a previous blog post, that thought didn't come until later that year, when the idea for "Search For Yesterday" first came unexpectedly into my mind.

     Now, thirty two years later, I am in the early stages of living a dream much bigger than the one I divulged to my father on that lazy Saturday afternoon.  Periodically, I will post portions of my journal, chronicling this exciting dream travel as I feel I need to call it, because the surreal nature of it feels like nothing less than a dream.

Nov. 14, 2008
     I started my story again this morning, the one I tried to write several times years ago, and surprisingly, it seems to be alive in me still.  This time, however, I've added a different twist.  After getting clocked on the head by that boulder a few years ago, resulting in temporary memory loss, I thought infusing what I learned from emotional toll the whole experience took on me, might lend the needed intrigue my story lacked to finally carry me past the first chapter, ...and it did!  I changed my main character from a seven year old, to a fifteen year old boy, who, while smack in the middle of his tumultuous adolescents, with all its attending hormonal and emotional upheaval, finds himself suddenly alone in the world, and totally without memory to boot. 
     I didn't have any construction work to do today so I started writing at about 9:30 this morning, and kept at it until after eleven at night, the whole time experiencing a groove of creative thought that I couldn't even keep up with. It was awesome!  I can't believe what is happening to me, even though I'm only thirty pages in, I can't help thinking that this is going to be big.  I really hope I won't have to plow tomorrow, because, although we need the money, I can't wait to tap back into the indescribable feelings I had today.