Posted in Freedom Friday, Other Things

Letter to Future Self

How would you start a letter addressed to your future self? Let’s say you know you’ll be opening it twenty-five years from now, what would you say? Would you start it off congratulating yourself for having survived another quarter century? Or would you simply turn over in bed one morning muttering something silly under your breath? Perhaps you would say, “Meh.”

I’ll tell you how I would do it…

Writing a letter to future self.
Writing a letter to future self.

Dear Jack,

Here you are, twenty-five years later. How does it feel to be officially old? Imagine where you were/where I am now, and pat yourself on the back for having survived this long. It takes guts to go through a full lifetime having read all the warning labels on products, obeying your traffic signals and eating the right things to live another day. But you did it. You’re here and there’s no turning back the clock.

How did I do? Did I finally become that best selling author I dreamed of becoming? Whatever happened to the blog I wrote? Did it go out peacefully, or did I call it quits while I unceremoniously set my laptop on fire? Do I still use a laptop? I would have thought by now I would have been typing on an air keyboard complete with optical sensors and biometric security.

Whatever happened to the movie I wanted to make? Did it ever become a success? Okay, so maybe that was shooting too high. At least I would have hoped to have realized it, right?

How are the kids? Did they grow up to become what you had wished—contributors to society? I didn’t forget that it doesn’t matter what they have become, as long as they’re healthy and happy, that’s all that matters. You do remember that, right?

Hey, how’s retirement? Did you retire like you were planning or are your working as a greeter at a department store? Not that there’s anything wrong with it, it’s just that, I would have imagined flipping burgers being more fun in the elderly years. The image of a cranky old dude flipping burgers seems like a lot of fun. Now that I’m thinking of it, did I do that? Yeah, if I have forgotten about my retirement plans it’s because of what I just wrote.

How’s the love of my life? Has she grown old with me? I’ve always had a sense of recognizing how important she is to my well-being. Did she provide the encouragement to become the best I could be? She is the mother of my children, after all. Did I comfort her during her down times? Did I offer her guidance as we moved from year to year? How is marriage treating me? Hopefully, as good as it is now.

Listen, Jack. I gotta tell you something. You know this, but after having read it twenty-five years later, I’m sure you have forgotten it. Have fun with your life. Keep focused and enjoy. I’m sure I’m going to have some nasty battles to fight. It won’t matter. As long as I know I will survive, that’s all I care about.

One more thing: About that Romance novel I will be publishing—I don’t need to mention again why I had written it, do I? It was something I had to get out of my system. The only thing you have to remember is that it was my way of decompressing from the zombie genre.

And the superhero thing—but we won’t get into that.

Yours in the past, always in the future,

Jack

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale now.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale now.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE SEARCH FOR PARADISE, on sale October 20.

Have you ever written a letter to yourself?

Posted in Wednesday Warriors

Jason Bourne

Found floating in the middle of the ocean with a bullet hole that should have ended his life, a man awakens with no memory of who he is and no idea why he’s still alive. All he knows is he needs to find his identity. Imbedded below his skin is a small laser device that when pointed to a wall reveals a number: 000-7-17-12-0-14-26.

Matt Damon is Jason Bourne
Matt Damon is Jason Bourne

So begins today’s Wednesday Warriors‘ feature with Jason Bourne taking center stage.

My wife, being a fan of Matt Damon, introduced me to the Bourne Trilogy. At the time, I wasn’t much for the spy genre, but if my wife liked it, then I thought I’d take a shot. Well, not only did I enjoy the series, I also read the first book The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum.

Jason Bourne has lost his memory. However, due to some inexplicable reason, he can quickly memorize the layout of a restaurant, its patrons, objects, and formulate an exit strategy. His acute sense of awareness of his surroundings have proven on more than one occasion to have rescued him from harm’s way.

For instance, when Security traps him in an American Embassy, his instincts switch to automatic. He doesn’t know how it happens, but once an officer lays his hands on him, batons twirl and crash to the ground. Hands fly in a series of self-defense moves only a government agent or assassin could execute. His mark end up kissing the floor.

As part of the mystery, Bourne also discovers he has an ability for stealth. He can blend in and not bring attention to his movements. He drifts through crowds with little effort, deflecting tails from capturing him.

His talents also include driving at heart-pounding speeds without causing harm to him or his passenger.

Matt Damon as Jason Bourne
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne

Overall, Jason Bourne is a master of camouflage, deadly with weapons, and—as clichéd as it may sound—a one-man-army. The moniker suits him well.

But if anything were to stand out as the telltale attribute for this character, it would have to be his resourcefulness handling situations as they come. He doesn’t gripe or complain. He handles it. With a firm lower lip and a solid stare, everything he does has purpose. From the smallest matchbook to the largest plank, whatever he uses can become either a weapon or an object to save someone’s life. Add to it his resilience to beat the odds, and Bourne becomes an unstoppable machine.

Thank you Robert Ludlum for creating the amiable Jason Bourne. He truly is a character worth admiring.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale now.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale now.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE SEARCH FOR PARADISE, on sale October 20.

Have you seen any of the Bourne movies? What do you like about the films?

Posted in Freedom Friday, Other Things

The Library

To me, the library has always been a special place to visit. In grade school, every teacher I’ve known would bring me, along with the rest of my friends, into the magical world of books where I would lose myself for hours at a time. While the rest of my class enjoyed recess outside, I took to the books, drowning my imagination in their stories.

LIbrary
LIbrary

For Freedom Friday, allow me a few minutes of your time to tell you what I love about the library and why I think everyone should take the time to enjoy this great resource of knowledge and wonder.

As a teen, I had my first job working at the city library. They hired me as a page. I never really knew what the title meant, but it wasn’t until I got older that someone told me a page is a gofer. Go for the books. Go for the librarian. Well, you get the picture. I spent most of my time putting books away. I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.

Late one fall evening, as I sat in my usual spot near the window sorting my books, the rain began. I stopped my sorting and just sat there watching. The traffic lights made a reflection on the street as they changed from green to yellow to red. People scattered to the nearest store searching for shelter. I sat on the ledge of a carpeted bay window. I remember how peaceful it was to look at the water coming down in the middle of the street.

When my wife and I had our first child, it was an incredible period. All of a sudden, we were parents, but at the same time, we became kids again. We filled our home with toys, books and baby clothes. We’d take family trips to the zoo, the movies and our nearest park. What I remember the most though, is the trips to the library. I don’t know who enjoyed it more, my child or me.

The biggest kick I got from the experience was watching my child’s face as it lit up with joy after having found the most perfect book. It brought me back to when I first graced the aisles of my school library to discover the book Where the Wild Things Are.

Now that my kids are older, I visit the library on occasion. I still get that wonderful feeling in the pit of my stomach knowing it’s an extended home to me. My interests may have changed, but I’m ever willing to explore the catacombs where fantasy and reality meet.

The library is my refuge. It’s where I belong.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale now.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale now.

Have you been to your local library recently? What do you like about it?

Posted in Monday Mayhem

A New Year

Happy New Year, folks! Welcome back to Monday Mayhem, where zombies rule and humans run. Perhaps this is a good time to lay the groundwork for 2015—what to expect and when, and to talk a bit about where JackFlacco.com is heading.

Everett's Hangout
Everett’s Hangout

First, two years have passed since I started writing three posts a week about zombies, strong female characters and anything else that pops into my mind. Recently, I’ve transitioned Wednesdays from my female-centric Women Who Wow Wednesday series to the testosterone-fueled Wednesday Warriors. This will continue through 2015, as the main character to my Ranger Martin series is just that—a testosterone-fueled warrior aiming to rid the world of the undead.

Second, if you haven’t caught my podcast interview with Denver Everett and TV Media Junkie Mark G. Pogue, I suggest you head on over to Everett’s Hangout to check out last week’s episode. Denver’s show is one of the few podcasts I listen to, and with Mark’s banter, I had so much fun fielding questions about my early years growing up in one of the toughest neighborhoods in Toronto, my family life, and my writing. You’ll finally have an opportunity to associate my voice with my words. Have a listen and tell me what you think!

Ranger Martin and the Zombie ApocalypseThird, as many of you may know, the only time when I talk about my books is during release. I’ll typically write a post or two dedicated to Ranger Martin, his latest exploits, and the road I had to take in order to get the book published. Other than that, I’m the type of guy who holds his cards firmly to his chest, only releasing news when I have to.

That is, until today.

Today, I’m announcing Ranger Martin’s exploits will end this fall with the third and final book. This should not surprise anyone close to me, since I’ve talked about a Ranger trilogy for a long time.

When I began to write the first draft of Ranger Martin and the Zombie Apocalypse in 2011 for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), I mapped a three-book arc for my hero that would include zombies, aliens, and other surprises. I had always meant it to be a trilogy, but never knew when I would complete it. Sure enough, here it is 2015, and I’m ready for the final, exciting chapter. Will there be zombie deaths? Oh, yes. Will there be revelations? Of course. Will there be explosions? I wouldn’t have it any other way.

All I can say for now is stay tuned, folks.

Finally, I’m holding on to a couple of more announcements until the time is right, but until then, check here often, as this will be the place where I will release the big news.

Again, stay tuned. There’s more to come.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale now.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale now.

What is on your schedule for 2015?

Posted in Freedom Friday, Photo Opportunities

Ranger Martin Cover Design

If someone were to have told me this time two years ago I’d be in the process of releasing my second book Ranger Martin and the Alien Invasion, I would have said they were nuts. And yet, here I am. Another book release. Another cover. I’m not ready to take that yacht cruise I’ve talked about just yet. But maybe one day, when all the work is complete and I’m itching to try something new, I’ll indulge in a little R&R. For now, I only have this story to keep you entertained—this Freedom Friday story about the new book cover.

Original photo I'd shot for the cover
Original photo I’d shot for the cover

As with my first book Ranger Martin and the Zombie Apocalypse, I left the cover design process to the very last minute. It was not because I procrastinated, not by any means, but because I didn’t know how best to represent the story through art. I knew it needed a flying saucer, that was a given. I also knew it had to have a dark sky, again, another given. What kept me from going further was how all the elements would fit with one another in a nice little package.

Like last year, I had to dig deep in my 16,000+ original photos collection in an effort to find a handful of images that would work. Not an easy task. I was looking for woods scenery, but then I didn’t know how the spaceship would fit into the design. I was lost and time was slowly creeping away.

It wasn’t until I showed my son a few mockups that the creative juices began to flow. He had some amazing ideas and I wanted to incorporate all of them. One of his thoughts involved an onlooker watching the saucer from behind a tree. The forest scene would be reminiscent of those WWII movies where an escaped POW would be observing enemy planes passing overhead in the distance. I knew of the perfect picture and had no trouble finding it.

His next idea included deep dark clouds with a storm raging in the background. For a while, I wanted that, too. I tried adding clouds from a series of photos I’d taken a few years ago, but none them really worked. I ended up tossing the images and drawing my own clouds. Yep, them there are fake clouds, all right.

The last piece of the puzzle was the saucer. In reality, though, it was the first thing I’d worked on.

So begs the question—what did I use for the saucer? Initially, I wanted to throw a Frisbee in the air, take a shot and paste it into the scene. But my lack of motivation and lack of Frisbee prevented me for doing such a thing. I also had a hubcap I could have held from a fishing pole, yet again, my lazy self said, “I don’t think so.”

I eventually decided to work with a sightseeing landmark, cropping it, playing with the lighting, distorting it to have it look like the saucer in my head. The challenge was the bottom. Because the landmark is a tower, I had to erase the foundation and replace the underside with a pattern. Wouldn’t real life be simple if by the stroke of a mouse buildings could disappear? I’d totally replace them with parks and trees. By the way, if you can guess the landmark, I’ll give you the biggest kudos ever.

After I completed the work, I showed it again to my son. He liked it, but there was still something missing. I thought so, too. It needed color. That’s when I added the green ray firing from the bottom of the ship, the same ray featured in the first book of the series. Once I had drawn that, I knew there wasn’t anything left to do with it. I had finished.

And that’s the story behind the cover to my new book, folks. I really hope you enjoyed it, but most of all, I really hope you like the cover.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale October 21.

Did I miss anything? Do you have a question I may have not answered?

Posted in Freedom Friday, Other Things

Reading

I wasn’t much of a reader in my young adult life. I mean, I would read the occasional textbook, newspaper and the back of a cereal box, but I never considered myself a fiction reader. In January 2013, that all changed. I had gone through a transformation of sorts months earlier and one of the things missing in my life was reading fiction.

John Grisham Books (Credit: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported)
John Grisham Books (Credit: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported)

Stepping back to December 2012, I began reading Nicholas Sparks novels. Given I had lost many loved ones in the preceding months, his novels actually connected with me lending comfort when I needed it the most. I read A Walk to Remember, The Notebook and Message in a Bottle back to back. Somehow, the strange, inexplicable feeling I got when reading his novels translated to a healed soul.

Jumping right back to January 2013, I made a promise to myself to read every single day. I also promised myself I would read John Grisham’s complete bibliography. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. Believe me when I say that reading Grisham is no small task.

John Grisham (Photo © David Burnett)
John Grisham (Photo © David Burnett)

The project didn’t start out in chronological order based on publication date, but as time went on it drifted into that pattern. I began with The Firm. I had read the book when it first released and it was my last fiction book before life took over and left me with no time for anything else. From there I burned through Ford County, A Time to Kill, and The Racketeer. At the same time, I was editing my first book in my Ranger Martin series and noticed how everything started coming together quite nicely. My blog was also in its infancy and I drew on Grisham’s stories for inspiration.

Next came The Pelican Brief, Bleachers and The Client. I think this is where my wife and I spent our anniversary on our yearly getaway trip to resort country, an hour north from our town. As surprising as it sounds, we decided the best use of our time would be to relax and read by each other’s side. Amazing what happens when the kids aren’t around for a couple a days. We had fun doing other stuff, too, but when presented with the opportunity for peace and quiet, we were in our element. Who can deny that a good story calms the soul?

By the time summer and early fall rolled around, I had completed the final edit for my book, approved the cover, and sent Advanced Reader Copies (ARC’s) to the reviewers. At the same time, I had read The Chamber, The Rainmaker, The Runaway Jury, The Partner, The Street Lawyer, The Testament, The Brethren, and I had just started reading A Painted House when my book hit the shelves. That whole period was a blur to me. I still don’t know how I was able to contain my excitement.

Here it is, spring again. At the time of writing this Freedom Friday post, my John Grisham literary love affair continues with me having read Skipping Christmas, The Summons, The King of Torts, The Last Juror, The Broker, and The Innocent Man. I have a few books left and then I will have accomplished my goal of reading John Grisham’s entire bibliography.

What’s next for me after rediscovering the joy of reading fiction? I’m seriously considering Ernest Hemingway. I don’t know. His terse writing appeals to me. And it might even influence my writing. We’ll see what the future holds.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, now on sale.

What’s on your bookshelf these days?

Posted in Freedom Friday

Browsing

I have a ritual I perform every weekend during this time of year. I’m not sure if anyone else does the same thing, but it satisfies my hunger for something different. What do I do? Early in the morning on a Saturday or Sunday, I’m talking 7:00am, or late in the evening, 11:00pm, I hop into my car and head to Wal-Mart.

Paying for a good find
Paying for a good find (Photo Credit: Unknown)

Then, I stroll.

Yup. I amble through the aisles with one intention—to study the shelves. Why? I ask a lot of questions, don’t I? Well, how else would you enjoy Freedom Friday without my questions?

Getting back to my story, as I wander adjacent the neatly stacked shelves of the all-you-can-eat consumer buffet, I take note of the prices of items, how many sit on the shelves and the need of such items for our family. Things like picture frames seem always to make an appearance in my journeys since I’m rarely without my camera taking a shot of something interesting out in the wild. So when a nice picture frame comes on the market, I take notice of its quality and price.

Another item I look at is the TVs, then notice how my antiquated Sony Wega 32-inch CRT is so 1999. Every time I head to the electronics section, I lose myself perusing the digital displays hanging along the wall. Oh, to have one of those 80-inch TVs invade our home. But then I’d wonder where would we put it? There’s the whole problem of getting it into the house. Okay, that wouldn’t present too much of a problem since we have a double-door entryway, but where would we hang the thing? Seriously? We’re talking about finding a wall or an area filled with—virtually nothing. Hard to do in our house, considering we have stuff hanging everywhere.

Fancy big screen TV
Fancy big screen TV

Nice to dream.

Next stop, the book section. I love looking through the new releases, the older picks and the discounted items. I love the smell of the paper when I flip the pages, the look of the lettering when glancing at the covers, and the feel of the whole package in my hand. I get a high off of the gloss or matte finish the publishers use.

I need to buy more books.

Then I come upon the music section. Oh, how music inspires me. There isn’t a moment I don’t have the headphones on with some music playing in the background as I perform my daily routine. In this instance, I browse their CDs to check out the newest artists, albums, songs, and maybe even listen to a few samples.

Is there a point to this post? I suppose there is.

Every now and again, I enjoy browsing simply for the sake of browsing to see what stores have available. I also find it relaxing since I do not feel the pressure to buy anything. When I do come across an item that I deem as a good deal, I snap it up without a second thought.

I think browsing is a lost art form that presents unlimited possibilities on the budget.

And who knows, maybe one day I might just replace that old Sony Wega 32-inch CRT with one of those fancy widescreen monsters everyone raves about. It would certainly make for a wonderful surprise for the folks at home.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, now on sale.

Do you browse the store shelves? Have you found any treasures in your travels?