My new novel that was on the Amazon Vella’s favorite list for a number of weeks is now available in print at a discounted price. This is a emotionally powerful and epic fictional novel that may not be appropriate for everyone. Read with caution. It took me 10 years to write this story, and I’m thankful to finally see it in print. Enjoy, and be encouraged.
Book Release on Amazon Vella
My grand novel, which is young adult literary fiction, is now finished and published on Amazon Vella. This was a 10-year project that I poured my heart into through the changing years of life. I truly came to recognize the notorious artist’s curse of having a calling to finish a seemingly impossible project, but I am now proud to share it with the world.
This novel is titled The Red Fairy’s Tale.
Its sequel is finished and published too, titled Big City Lights.
Please consider reading the first three chapters for free from the link. Any “likes” help get my novel recognized and shared to others, so I already thank you all in advance for being so supportive of my creative writing, my stories.
The Cost of Commitment
Commitment to anything requires cost. It requires sacrifice. Some people say yes far too often and over commit themselves and then have a difficult time paying the cost and making the required sacrifices. But some don’t ever want to commit to anything because they don’t know if it’s worth the sacrifice.
If you are a true follower of Christ, you have the Holy Spirit guiding you.
Meditate on Scripture, and spend time in prayer. Also, seek wise counsel from your church body.
Rely on God to show you what is worth the cost of your commitments, and don’t sign up for something unless you are willing to sacrifice for it—your time, focus, and finances.
Pledging to commitments provides you special opportunities that add significant value to life, and those who always run from commitment will miss out on many of those deeper blessings.
Almost everyone has heard the cliché “Don’t do drugs.” But I’m going to tell you something else.
Don’t try drugs.
The curiosity in young people looking for an experimental adventure or a way to escape pain and stress functions as a game of Russian roulette.
Just trying narcotics one time is equivalent to putting one round in the chamber and spinning it wildly before placing it up to your skull to pull the trigger.
Trying drugs once doesn’t automatically destroy the lives of everyone who tries them, but it’s not worth the gamble of your life and the lives of innocent others.
Unlike the horrific game of Russian roulette, drugs might not kill you on the first try but instead slowly lead you down a path of long suffering as demonic spirits take over your mind and trade your ambitious opportunities for a lifestyle of destruction to yourself and to all of those around you—doing the most harm to those who love you the most.
Despite how you feel, there are people who love you.
And for sure, God loves you.
He is closer than the air your breath.
And his plans for you are greater than any narcotic could ever be.
We live in a society where people abuse the anonymity of the internet to share the hate and fear that dwells deep within them. The words typed out and thumbed from their keyboards really come from their broken and empty hearts.
They are weak people using strong words.
And their gain? Nothing, except a darker world for them to live in.
What if you made a commitment to only use your words to bring life?
What if every word that came from your mouth for the rest of your life was used for building people up?
Healing and reconciliation would happen.
Your friends would be many. Your legacy would be great.
You have the opportunity to start this today. You can be the person who walks into an early Monday morning and sincerely says, “Today is a good day.”
You can be the person who says to the failure, “I still believe in you.”
Use your words to bring forth life. Have your bright eyes pierce through the downtrodden insecurities of others as your encouraging words illuminate their souls.
Change your world with your words—every single little word.
Don’t ever be the guy who just sits while others dance. Don’t congregate around the punch bowl attempting to logically weight out the pros and cons. Don’t sit out to make small talk with some neighboring friend. And definitely don’t stare alone into the endless void of your glowing phone screen.
Don’t even think about it. Yes, you probably aren’t good at it, but it doesn’t matter. Be the guy who is secure enough in himself to simply have fun.
Make life fun.
Some will see your personality light up the floor and come join you. Others will want to but not have the confidence. They may applaud you afterwards in friendly encouragement or try to tear you down in deep jealousy.
But no matter how tired, underdressed, or not in the mood, never let your girlfriend or wife dance alone. And especially don’t persuade her to sit it out with you.
Your body was created to move. Use it. Don’t care what others will think about it. It is one of the greatest gifts you ever been given, and believe me or not, it’s fading quickly.
It was shiny, red, and new. Only two doors. Low to the ground.
It was Shawn’s Celica. I had a Corolla, and he bought a new Celica in the midst of the dangerous Fast & Furious craze that overtook the nation. After seeing that movie, every guy in some sort of running car thought he was a racer. I, myself, put a spoiler and chrome rims on my little Corolla and installed a sound system. But my good friend Shawn didn’t have to upgrade his car.
When he picked me up in it, we imaginatively transformed into Paul Walker and Vin Diesel.
Sitting outside at the Market Place during a bored summer night in Bakersfield, our inner youth yearned for adventure. A girl named Jayme was trying to win over our attention, but we weren’t that interested. As she smacked her chewing gum in mid sentence, Shawn interrupted: “Hey, we should go out of town. We should try to get lost.”
It was summer, and my tutoring job on my college campus had ended a few weeks after my classes. “I’m down,” I replied.
The next moment Shawn and I were speeding up the highway driving through rural farm towns in the late night with Jayme riding in the small back seat.
We eventually came to a little town and grabbed some youthful fuel—Taco Bell. We ate it in the parking lot because the restaurant was already closed. As Shawn swallowed down the last of his chalupa, he confessed, “So I’m not sure if we can get lost. It’s harder than I thought.”
I suggested, “Let’s turn off on one of these side roads. We’ll have a better chance then.”
Jayme asked, “So why are we trying to get lost again?”
Shawn replied, “Do you ever get tired of being in only places that you know? How cool would it be to be in some place where you didn’t know where you were?”
We tossed our trash and continued on with our half-full sodas. Old telephone poles flashed beside us as we moved down desolate roads of bumpy asphalt as we were deep in our conversations about life, literature, movies, and video games.
Then it happened.
Shawn yelled out, “Do you know where we are?”
I examined my surroundings and didn’t. I asked, “Wait, are we?”
Shawn pulled over, and yelled, “We’re lost! I don’t know where we are.”
We pulled out on the road again, and within only a few minutes, we saw a street sign that informed us we were only a few miles from the highway.
We were not lost; we were wanderers.
When I graduated college with a BA in psychology and a BA in English, I bought my own sporty car after signing my first teaching contract. It was a convertible. I wanted a custom license plate cover but couldn’t think of anything that would appropriately represent me. Then I read a quote from J. R. R. Tolkien: “Not all those who wander are lost.”
Being a Christian and a young, single adult in a valley of college classes and new teaching career would lead to a season of wanderlust.
Seeking out how adult life works while taking risks and even making mistakes in years of unyielding change identified me as a wanderer.
But I was never lost.
That’s how it is knowing Jesus. The road may be dark and desolate. We may be running on the junk food of life. There may be a gum-smacker in the backseat trying to steal your attention.
And for a moment, you may very well believe that you are lost.
Then you see the sign—you remember God’s Word.
You are not lost.
You’re just a wander in a land that’s not your home.
And you’re trying your best to figure it all out.
Hang in there, mighty wanderer. Eventually, we’ll all be home together.
To Think and to Live
Austere seat belt rules seemed to be less meticulous back in the 80s as I loosened up the tight restriction from my waist to lay my head against the boxy side window of the backseat. The telephone pole lines seemed to sway up and down with foothills blurred behind them as the car drove steadily on the two-lane road.
The Game Boy hadn’t been invited yet, and only the rich had televisions in their cars. My parents sometimes had the radio playing oldies quietly in the background on that enduring drive from Derby Acers to Bakersfield and from Bakersfield back to Derby Acers. And I simply sat in the backseat of our long, white car with maroon seats and Life Savors dried into the matching floor mats and stared out the window, attempting to avoid car sickness.
But I really did so much more than just stare—I thought.
I thought about everything a small child could possibly think about. I wondered if I could strain my eyes hard enough to faintly see the Statue of Liberty in the distance. I reflected on cartoons I recently watched. I debated with myself the possible birthday presents I might get months down the road. I revisited confusing feelings I had about that one special girl at school. I anticipated the next time my best friend would come over and how we would team up to fight off imaginary alien invaders or protect our castle from medieval soldiers and dragons. I analyzed the lyrics of the quietly played tunes and tried to make sense of what was being sung. I soaked in the notes and the melody and felt the music.
Those long drives were some of the best gifts my parents ever gave me because they gave me so much more than a ride from one point to another; they gave me time—free time.
Time to think.
Time to live.
There were no cell phones, email, or social media. Video games were only in 8-bit. And television was something watched with my mom and dad on the couch.
There was time to play. There was time create. And there was plenty of time to think freely.
All of those minutes of thinking added up to make me who I am today.
Someone who thinks.
I didn’t need programs and lessons on the practice of thinking. I didn’t need an educational mindfulness curriculum. I just needed time.
I hope I can someday give my children the same gift in this technologically packed society of today. I hope they can sit back and watch the telephone pole lines sway in the sunset and observe the mountains around them. I hope they can ponder what is beyond our visible sight. I hope that they can be still and know that God is God. I hope they can learn to hear that still small voice through the deafening static of our society.
I hope they can think so that they can truly live.
The Worst Job, Temporarily
My parents always had to work jobs in high school, so they missed out on the many common high school activities that are normally associated with the typical, American, high school experience. They made the most out of it with each other, marrying instead of graduating and starting a family a few years later.
They wanted my sister and me to have a different high school experience. As long as we were involved in school activities and earning good grades, we didn’t have to get jobs. Thus high school, for me, was some of the best years of my life, full of new experiences, unfamiliar adventures, and social challenges.
The summer after I graduated high school, my parents informed me that it was time to get a job. And when you’re an 18-year-old with no previous job experience and no employment connections, you don’t get to be picky.
I spent the early days of my summer as a high school graduate driving around in the increasing heat in a long sleeve dress shirt and tie, dropping off resumes at any and every place that looked tolerable.
I recalled my nanny and papa telling me how my dad used to make the best pizzas when he was a teenager working at a pizza parlor when dating my mom. He would bring them over on the nights he closed after loading up the pizzas with the best combination of cheese and toppings.
I can still hear my nanny say, “Best pizza I ever ate!” as she sat on his couch reminiscing back to the past as my papa nodded in agreement.
Following in my father’s footsteps, I drove to a pizza parlor near my house. After introducing myself to the manager and asking about employment, I was turned away with the common “We’re not hiring right now.”
After a few days of more rejections all around town, I decided to go back to the pizza parlor again to ask if they were hiring now. This time the manager said, “We’re not hiring right now but maybe later.”
A few more days went by with no luck on my job hunt, so I went back to the pizza parlor again. This time the manager asked, “Why do you want to work here so bad?”
I explained I thought it would be a neat job. And that’s how I got my first job. Or that’s how I got the worst job I ever had in my life.
I learned quickly that my dreamy idea of making pizzas while cracking innocent jokes with a new community of friendly faces was far from reality.
I was the joke.
The workers there were not what I would describe as people of high character, and I didn’t belong.
And they knew it.
And they wanted to make sure I knew it.
I seldom heard my name without profanity attached to it, and I was yelled at for questioning their disagreeable procedures, such as making salads with their bare hands directly after handling money and crushing the ice down with their foot when too much was placed into the soft drink ice machine tray. One of their favorite moments was when some kids set off a cherry bomb in the toilet, and they laughed hysterically as they watched me mop off the filth from the walls and ceiling.
The real humbling moment was when I saw my high school ex-girlfriend walk in holding hands with one of my old friends. I had heard that they were dating, but the moment of humility was when they saw me and uncontrollability let out a slight laugh of shock. My post high school life looked dim and lame as I stood there in a cheaply printed pizza parlor t-shirt with one of my managers staring down at me from the oven, looking for a reason to criticize me. When they had finished eating their pizza, my manager quickly yelled at me to clean up their mess as they were still walking out the door.
Now you might think one of the advantages of working at a pizza parlor would be getting free pizza every now and then. Not for me. I was allowed to buy pizza at a small discount, and when making minimum wage, I wasn’t about to spend an hour and a half of my wages on a pizza. During hungry evenings there was a real temptation to sneak a bite from unfinished pizzas left on tables. Being a rule follower, I would throw away half eaten pizzas that were still warm from the oven and leave work hungry.
It wasn’t long until I found a better job working at the bookstore on my university’s campus, which really was a breath of fresh air. My managers there appreciated my hard work and even rewarded it by increasing my responsibilities. I made friends there and got to meet many of the university’s professors before classes began. Plus, I enjoy books far more than pizza.
Eventually, the fall came, and a very special moment of my life happened.
I arrived on my university’s campus to be early on that first day of college, and as I stepped onto the white sidewalk and strolled over freshly cut green grass still wet from the morning’s dew, I took in a deep breath and exhaled in victory knowing that I had made it farther than anyone in my family.
I was a university student.
I was going to be the first in my entire family to graduate college.
And I did, and now I have a wonderful job.
The worst job was only temporary. And that’s something to remember when God has us walk through the valleys in life—or through the pizza parlors.
It’s only temporary.
Even the good career I have now is only temporary.
It’s all only temporary.
This is why our focus should not be on what can be seen around us, for all of this is only temporary. Our focus should be on the things that are not seen, for those things are eternal.
Not everyone is lucky enough to know their great-grandmother, but I was. Grandma Patterson is what we called her. From Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl, she and my great-grandfather brought their many children over to California for a better life. She spent her time working in the laborious fields and raising her 10 children.
When I knew her, she was already old. She wore her hair pulled back tightly into a brown bun that rested on the back of her head. She mostly wore long straight dresses that hung like giant t-shirts. She was overweight some, and she hunched over when she walked.
And her eye vision was failing.
Back then, people didn’t always wear sunglasses when working outside in the fields, and a lifetime of abuse from the unforgiving sun did a number on my Grandma Patterson.
When I was in the sixth grade, I was chubby with an acne covered face and a mouth full of metal. My undiagnosed OCD caused me to slick my hair straight down with a perfect part so not a single hair would ever dare go out of place. I was extremely shy, awkward, and my best friends went by the names of Nintendo and Sega. Needless to say, I didn’t have girls chasing after me, and I didn’t blame them.
For Christmas that year, I remember unwrapping a Christmas present from Grandma Patterson. I think it was the last one I ever remember receiving from her. It was a green bottle of spray deodorant.
Yes, underarm deodorant.
I opened it up not knowing how to react. I was still at the young age when body odor didn’t exist, but I didn’t want to be rude, so I forced out a “Thank you!” with a decent smile.
My great-grandma stood up and walked over to me hunched over. She leaned in close to me and said, “You spray a little of that here and there, and you’ll have to fight those little girlies off of you.” She motioned like she was spraying it on both sides of my neck.
It then made sense to me and my observing parents that my Grandma Patterson thought she bought me spray cologne. Like I said earlier, her eyesight was failing.
Not too long later, I visited her with my family, and she said to me, “Terry, I bet all those little girlies are after you now, aren’t they?”
I answered awkwardly, “I don’t know.”
She continued, “Well, this is what you do. You need to get yourself a baseball bat in one hand and a croquet stick in the other, so when the girlies come after you on the right, you can knock them off with the left, and when they come after you on the left, you can knock them off with the right.”
I thought she really must not be able to see the dorky looking kid standing right in front of her; the girls at my school didn’t want anything to do with me.
On our way home that night, I silently chuckled in the backseat of our family minivan. And after thinking about it some more, it was nice to have someone see something in me I didn’t see in myself, even if that person was going blind. It was encouraging that she saw something in me that she thought others would find attractive.
A few years later, my acne cleared up, my braces were taken off, and my hair hung more loosely and naturally as it grew out in a blond, suffer style. I lost weight and spent time outside swimming in my family’s new pool as my skin darkened into a healthy shade. With my newly gained confidence, I traded in my timid shyness for a gregarious, extroverted personality.
And the girlies started to chase after me.
My Grandma Patterson didn’t get to see me graduate high school or college. She didn’t live that long. But she didn’t need to see those events because even with her blind eyes, she saw me—the real me.
I pray to be a little more like her and see others not with my eyes but with something more. I hope to see their future possibilities. I desire to be a builder of people and error on the side of encouragement.
There’s already enough honest evaluation. There’s enough tough love. Even after the silly self-esteem movement in the 1980s and this crazy post-modern society we live in now, we still need people to see in us what isn’t there yet.
We all need a Grandma Patterson who will give us our own underarm deodorant.