Friday, August 28, 2015

A SOUL'S KISS, excerpt #3

I must have blacked out. When I open my eyes, I’m staring at my knees. They are covered by a brand new, clean hospital gown reaching to mid-calf. I’m sitting on the edge, the very edge, of a hospital bed in the recovery room. A nurse is turned away with her back to me. She fiddles with the monitor and runs her hand along the tubes that braid their way toward my head. My other head.
I hop down and look at myself lying on the bed. So pale. Still not breathing on my own. I sigh and then wonder how I can sigh. My senses seem sharper. I can read the fine print on a label across the room. I hear the two-beat thuds of a keyboard beyond the door. How can I hear individual letters being typed sporadically? The sickly scent of antiseptic cuts through the faint whiffs I get of the nurse’s mouthwash, deodorant, and hand sanitizer. She turns and looks at me—well, through me, I guess.
“How ya doing, Jessica?” she whispers as she adjusts all the paraphernalia attached to me. “Keep on fighting, sweetie. You’re gonna pull through.”
Well, that’s encouraging. Her words warm me. In fact, I feel warm all over. My feet no longer beg for socks; some ugly green footies are serving my toes very well. Huh. I touch my abdomen. No pain. I check for blood. No blood. There’s a pocket, though, and something is sticking out. A paper. Maybe a lab report? Or discharge papers?
Or love note?
Silly me. I try to pull the paper out, but it’s part of the pocket, stuck or glued.
“Hang in there, Jessica,” the nurse says. I get distracted for an instant and suddenly there’s no pocket on the gown. Of course not. Now I’m not certain I ever saw a pocket or a piece of paper. Those super sharp sensations I experienced a moment before flee as I watch the nurse squirt something into my IV line. I move toward the door and scoot out behind her when she leaves.
I wander around a while trying to figure out where my family might be. I am oddly calm, not fighting for life, or panicking. The hallways seem dreary and lifeless. The early evening light spoons dimpled shadows on the walls near the windowed waiting room. It’s empty. I take the stairs and search floor by floor. All the waiting rooms are vacant. By accident I find Keith’s room, but he’s sound asleep. I try twice but I can’t get into his head.
The last place I look is the main floor waiting room. It’s kind of noisy, but there’s a “grief room” in the corner. The door is shut and a sliding sign says “occupied.”  Hoping I’m invisible to whoever is inside I will myself through the door. Easy.
I’m shocked. Rashanda. With Tyler. Not who I was expecting to find hidden away in a grieving room.
In each other’s arms.
No way.

The tiny room has a love seat and two chairs. They are cuddled together on the love seat. Rashanda’s head is on Tyler’s shoulder, his arm around her, and his other hand holding one of hers. Cozy. I don’t know why I should feel the least little twinge of jealousy, but I do. They’re obviously very comfortable. So comfortable that they have dozed off. I get it. They haven’t slept much the last couple of days. This is traumatic for them. Still . . . this is . . . off.

Friday, August 21, 2015

A SOUL'S KISS, excerpt #2

I see Carrie, a girl in my social studies class, and call out, my lungs finally working, “Hey, Carrie, can I borrow your phone a sec?” She totally ignores me and walks around the corner.
Then I see Kayla. She’s headed for Tyler who is being mobbed by a bunch of kids near the drinking fountain. She won’t ignore me, I’m sure. I come up behind her as another girl asks her if she knew that Keith Mullins was Tyler’s brother.
I stop short. Huh? Keith Mullins? The senior who is friends with Michael Hoffman? The guy I was in a car with yesterday? I could have been in that accident!
And then somebody else swings a book bag at my chest. On purpose.
It’s like they can’t see me.
I land on my back, the breath knocked out of me. I need a doctor with a set of those shock paddles.
I feel like a flipped turtle flailing away to right itself, and nobody is coming to my aid. Not even chivalrous Tyler. Kayla is only steps away and as soon as I get some air in my lungs I gasp a plea. “Kayla, hey.”
“She can’t hear you,” someone says, kneeling down next to me. The voice is familiar. I can’t decide if I’ll be elated or deflated if it’s gorgeous Michael Hoffman coming to my assistance again. A hand takes mine and pulls me up. The bell rings and everyone scatters to class, a few of them, no doubt, facing detention for reaching the limit on tardies.
“Thanks,” I say, brushing off my butt. I have that funny feeling like I’ve forgotten something. Where are my books? Did I remember to bring back the drama script? I pat my back pocket, uncertain. I need to go to my locker before next hour, but now it’s too late.
“You’re welcome. How do you feel?”
“Okay,” I say and finally look at the angular face of tall, dark, and handsome Keith Mullins. Keith Mullins! “Hey.”
“Hey yourself.”
Keith’s eyes flicker back and forth from my right eye to my left eye. One of his eyes is more dilated than the other. He has a bump on his forehead that his hair partially hides. We spend an uncomfortable moment evaluating one another, alone in the hallway.
I remember something and say, “I heard you broke your leg.”
“I did. It’s in a cast, slung up on some kind of contraption.”
“What?” The tender tissue around my eye protests the scrunching I’m giving my forehead. “Huh? What are you doing here? Weren’t you in a car accident?”
Tyler steps out of room 236 and crosses in front of us to head to the boys’ bathroom.
“Tyler, look, it’s Keith.” He completely ignores me.

“He can’t hear you,” Keith repeats, almost like a chorus. “Or see you. Us, I mean.”

Friday, August 14, 2015

OUT OF EXODIA, excerpt #1

I CLIMB DOWN, duck through the crowd, and run nearer to the edge. I clasp my hands over my ears to muffle the painful cries. I see ribbons of blue diminishing into the depths, but I’m not close enough to see the bottom. The crashing sounds of metal are distant pings underscored with explosions. The thump of each body hitting the rocks so far below is not audible even to me, but I know when each scream breaks off.
Lydia and her mother, Jenny, come up on either side of me. Lydia pulls my arms down from my ears and takes hold of my hand. There is only a single breath of silence before a cheer goes up.
“We’re free!”
The joy is palpable. From their sleds and packs people pull out banners and flags. Children grab the ends and parade around while adults shout and sing and whistle and make more noise than a thousand lions.
Mira leads dozens of women in a dance line that follows the children as they snake among us. When she passes us she pulls Lydia away and I hate that I’m no longer touching her hand. Without her euphoria coursing through my being I feel as if my special gemfry powers are shutting down.
Suddenly the shouts and claps fade to nothing. I spot a large group of Reds who have stopped their jubilation and appear to be marching toward me. As they pass through the crowd people act bewildered, ashamed, even horrified. All eyes are riveted on this group. The spontaneous excitement of our victory over the Blues has morphed into a wretched misery. Too quiet.
“The Mourners,” Jenny whispers.
“What do they want?”


Friday, August 7, 2015

EXODIA excerpt #2

I walk away from the fence to get another perspective of my home. At night it doesn’t look much different than the dilapidated dwellings I just passed, only bigger. I feel no tender pull to return home.
I hear a growl that makes me stop mid-stride. My head and hands and feet freeze. My eyes track around the shadows. Before I get to the edge of my peripheral vision I see the dog. He’s a stone’s throw to my right. If I charge the fence and leap up I’ll make it. He takes a single step and his throaty rumble is only slightly louder than the pounding in my chest. I hope I’m only imagining the slow advance of other dogs in the distance. Stalking shadows. Though a pack of wild dogs tearing me to shreds seems like justice for the crime I committed.
The growling intensifies, grows deeper and my fingers tighten on the knife. I judge the distance. I need to run.
I need to run now, before he launches himself, knocks me down, and locks his fangs on my neck. My knife is only a few inches long, not good for much more than peeling an orange or picking at my dirty nails.
His front leg moves up. I’m wasting precious seconds. My legs move before I consciously command them. I run full out toward the nearest section of fence, ten feet closer than Barrett’s spot to cross. The wild dog lunges, crosses the distance between us in an instant. I jump too soon and catch the links lower than I should, but I clamber up a couple feet as the dog hits the fence, and his hard body sends a quiver along the wires. I almost lose my grip. His claws reach the metal inches below my heels and I crab up a little higher. I transfer my knife to my mouth so I can get a better hold and climb to the top.
The barbs are fortified with razor wire here so I cannot climb over. The dog has yet to bark. His growling gurgles with the saliva that drips off his fangs in anticipation. No other dogs have joined him. He is a lone killer.

Like me.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Musings on First John (5: 21)

Wordle: Musings

21 Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.
And that, folks, is the end of our 6 month “musings” on First John.

There’s actually quite a bit to this one verse. First of all, the term John uses here that is translated as “children” is actually a term of affection used by Hebrew teachers (2000 years ago) to their disciples.

The advice he gives in his closing is to keep ourselves from “idols.” That could mean images of heathen gods or anything that keeps us from putting Jesus first. Is there anything that keeps you from putting Jesus first? 

Friday, July 24, 2015

Musings on First John (5: 18-20)

Wordle: Musings

18 We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the one who was born of God keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him. 19 We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. 20 We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true—even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.

The Apostle John has almost finished his first epistle and I’ve taken about six months on this blog to reflect on it bit by bit. Here John tells us 10 things that we (should) know. Because sometimes we read scripture and miss all the treasure that is in a short passage I’m going to list it out and let you fill in the blanks (yeah, I was a schoolteacher).

1. If you’re born of God you won’t continue to ________.
2.   ____________ will keep you safe from sin.
3.    ____________ cannot harm you.
4.  We are _________________ of God.
5. The whole ______________ is under the control of Satan.
6. The __________ of God has come.
7.   ______________ has given us understanding.
8. We can know Jesus, who is ______________.
9. We are in _________________.
10. Jesus is the true ________________ and eternal life.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Musings on First John (5: 16-17)

Wordle: Musings

16 If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that he should pray about that. 17 All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death.
Wait! What?! There are sins that can lead to death? Really? Well, of course. In the book of Acts we see that Ananias and Sapphira were instantly judged and killed for the sin they committed against God. I started to do quite a bit of scholarly research on these verses to get it clear in my head what the Apostle John means here. He doesn’t explain what a “sin unto death” is, so we can assume that the people he was writing to already had some understanding of this. I found that scholars were divided on the subject and there was quite a bit of varying commentary on this.

When I get confused by the professionals I look to Scriptures. The best place to look for the answer is in the Bible. In Matthew 12: 31 Jesus said,
 “I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.”

Aha! There’s your unforgivable sin. Don’t blaspheme against the Holy Spirit. Now don’t be scared to death (as I was as a teenager) that you might accidentally commit this sin and damn yourself for all eternity. To blaspheme against the Holy Spirit is the willful rejection of Jesus and attributing His works to Satan. That’s what was happening in Matthew 12 when Jesus warned against it.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Musings on First John (5: 13-15)

Wordle: Musings

13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. 14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.
In this part of John’s concluding remarks he reminds us of why he is writing this letter: to assure us believers in Christ that we have eternal life. He speaks also of the confidence we can have in asking God for anything and being assured that he will provide it. But wait, is that really what it says? Look again. Ask anything “according to his will.” Well, that changes things. If I ask God to let me have a winning lottery ticket, um, that most likely is not in his will for me. But good health, a great job, and a wonderful spouse are in his will for me.

One Bible commentator has put forth that this phrase “according to his will” means “that which he has promised in his word.” Search the word for God’s promises and then pray for them. Here are a few:

Love (John 3:16)
Forgiveness (Ephesians 1:7)
Salvation (Hebrews 7:25)
Peace (John 14:27)
Joy (1st Peter 1:8)

There are many more promises for freedom, growth, health, family, strength, blessing, finances, forgiveness, guidance, marriage, and even deliverance from addictions, fears, or depression. You can find those here:

Friday, July 3, 2015

Musings on First John (5:9-12)

Wordle: Musings

9 We accept man’s testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. 10 Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. 11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.
The apostle John has given his own testimony many times, but here he tells us that while we (most of us) accept a person’s eye witness account, we have a greater testimony available to us. Lots of people say they have to “see it to believe it.” Those are the ones who would doubt John’s testimony regardless. However God gives us His testimony (that Christ is our only Savior) by placing it right in our hearts. This is why it’s impossible to argue with Christians about these truths: we know the Truth in our hearts. Those "see it to believe it" people change their tune when their hearts are changed. It's amazing to witness.

John finishes this passage by explaining exactly what that testimony is: God has given us eternal life through His Son Jesus. Know Jesus, know life. No Jesus, no life.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Musings on First John (5:6-8)

Wordle: Musings
6 This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. 7 For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.
At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry he was baptized by water. At the end he was crucified and shed his blood. Then the Holy Spirit descended, dwells within us, and testifies to Christ’s sacrifice.

Actually verses 7 is quite controversial and translated differently or even omitted from some Bibles. I checked the original Greek and the text is quite clear, and there is more than appears in verse 7 of the above NIV translation. Here's the original:
7 For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. 8 And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.

Okay, then, that takes our study of this passage to a new level and also gives proof to the concept of the Trinity. I like that the Father (God), the Word (Jesus), and the Holy Ghost (Holy Spirit) bear record (of the Truth) in heaven. And these three are one.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

EXODIA and OUT OF EXODIA Both Launch Today!

By 2093 American life is a strange mix of failing technologies, psychic predictions, and radiation induced abilities. Tattoos are mandatory to differentiate two classes, privileged and slave. 

Dalton Battista fears that his fading tattoo is a deadly omen. He's either the heir of the brutal tyrant of the new capital city, Exodia or he's its prophesied redeemer. Shy, handsome, smart and in possession of powers he doesn't yet realize, he escapes an order for his execution by fleeing the city with the help of Lydia, who quickly captures his heart. But can he escape a destiny that will force him to marry another girl and return to Exodia as its liberator?

In this sequel to EXODIA, Dalton Battista takes on his prophesied identity as Bram O'Shea. When this psychic teen leads a city of 21st century American survivalists out from under an oppressive regime, he puts the escape plan at risk by trusting the mysterious god-like David Ronel. With Ronel's ulterior motives under suspicion, Bram's loyalties questioned, and a mutiny imminent, this large group of outcasts faces multiple problems. What should have been a two-week journey lasts for months as they engage in battles against new enemies. Bram's unusual abilities and a special weapon supplied by Ronel help them overcome obstacles but can they reach the "Promised Land" before time runs out?

Special Launch Day Prices for EXODIA

Special Launch Day Prices for OUT OF EXODIA

Also available in multiple digital formats from

Based loosely on the ancient story of Moses, this two book dystopian journey (EXODIA and OUT OF EXODIA) crosses genres, combining young adult, new adult, sci-fi, magical realism, and speculative fiction for an adventure full of symbolism, hidden codes, and thematic imagery.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Musings on First John (5:1-5)

Wordle: Musings

1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. 2 This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. 3 This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, 4 for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.
Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God? Please answer yes. Now, spoiler alert for those of you who are pessimistic about the direction this world is taking: We (those of us who believe) will overcome the world. John even tells us not to be concerned about all those “commands” of God’s that we are to obey. Hey, they’re not burdensome, he tells us. We can overcome the world.

Love God, carry out His commands. Love one another.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

EXODIA Excerpt

Chapter 1 The Red Slum

From the first page of the Ledger:
The black voice said, “Live in fire, wild, souls howl here.”
There are two paths to every man’s life. Some choose hell …

IT’S AS IF I too am running for my life.
I sit transfixed by the scene outside the smudged window. A scrubby looking boy races away from a statehouse guardsman barely out of reach of the angry soldier’s whip. I clench my fists, press closer to the window, and let the pounding in my ears cover my idiot tutor’s droning voice:
“… after the Eurasian Nuclear War of 2049 when North America united into 90 states and declared trade independence from the rest of the world …”
The kid reaches the fence and scrambles up the chain links. The frayed end of the guard’s whip catches him on the ankle. Two small oranges spill from his pockets as he lurches to scurry over the top unfazed by the lashing or the broken barbs. He casts a casual, nonchalant glance over his shoulder and disappears out of sight.
My posture relaxes and my pulse returns to normal, but then my eyes fall to the words the tutor has scrawled on the wallboard: Eurasian Nuclear War. The letters jump around in my head and rearrange themselves into I aware casual runner. My heart skips a beat. I’ve been having more of these strange distractions lately. Words change in my head and I miss several minutes of time.
I slump down in my seat and glance at the three other boys forced to sit through this drivel with me. Not one is paying attention. We’ve heard it a thousand times.
“… post-apocalyptic immigration changed the culture of our new nation. Tattoos on the left elbow, red or blue, were given at birth to differentiate the two classes. Intermarriage is punishable by death and so is killing or breaking the bones of someone of the opposite tattoo.”
I fight the urge to cradle my left elbow even though it doesn’t matter since I’m wearing a long sleeved shirt. I can never draw attention to my fading tattoo. As grandson of the most powerful man in the nation, Executive President Bryer Battista, there should be no doubt that I am a Blue.
But I have a doubt. Something isn’t right. No one else’s royal blue tattoo has purpled like mine. For months now I’ve secretly dabbed blue dye on my skin, as much to hide the suspicion from myself as from anyone else, that maybe, just maybe, the tattoo I was given sixteen years ago was red. And maybe I, Dalton Battista, grandson of the cruelest tyrant ever, am not a true member of the elite ruling class. That maybe I belong to society’s religious outcasts–those poor hoarders, low class rejects, slave labor.
It takes a moment before the silence registers on my ears. The tutor is no longer speaking. Four sets of eyes are turned on me, watching, waiting.
“Excuse me? Could you repeat the question?”
“Certainly,” the tutor smirks. “What is the name of the resistance leader who tried to claim all of Exodia for the Reds?”
“Um,” I clear my throat. I love history actually. Half my life I was raised by a Red nanny whose tales of Ronel captivated me. “Ronel, David Ronel, he, um …” I run a hand through my hair, long by current standards, and simply stop talking. My fear of public speaking muzzles me even in this small group.
And now my mind swirls around the fact that this morning I ran out of blue dye.
*   *   *