Posted in Freedom Friday, Other Things

Dreams

I’ve put away some dreams. Did I have a choice? Yet, others I have kept alive by making them a reality. What would life be without dreams? Here are some of the dreams I left behind as I grew older.

Astronaut
Astronaut

When I was a kid, I wanted to be an astronaut. Oh, how I wanted to travel in space looking for life on other planets and perhaps bring back a few aliens to earth. I quickly gave that up realizing I suffered from motion sickness. Every single time I rode in the back of my parents’ car, I can’t tell you how many times I christened the seats with the contents of my meals.

When I was a bit older, I wanted to be a lawyer. Unfortunately, I had to forget that dream when I found out that I wasn’t very good at arguing. Back then, my arguments went something like this:

Girl who liked me: “Did you break my bike?”
Me: “No.”
Girl who liked me: “You were the last person to use it.”
Me: “I didn’t break your bike.”
Girl who liked me: “You did break it. You suck.”
Me: “Well, you suck harder. So there.”

Like I said, I wasn’t very good at arguing.

When I was a teenager, I wanted to be a rock star. Obviously, that didn’t happen. I learned all Led Zeppelin Jimmy Page‘s licks, joined a wedding band–I didn’t say I knew what I was doing, did I?–and eventually started my own band. We didn’t make much money, but the stress of lugging our own equipment wasn’t what I’d hoped. Where were the girls? What about the late night parties?

Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page
Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page

When I was out of high school, I wanted to author literature. I imagined a life where I lived in a cottage in the middle of the woods while I banged out a manuscript for my next bestseller. Somehow, the image of wearing one of those smoking jackets, sitting by the fire as I nursed a glass of Napoleon Brandy appealed to me.

That never happened. I’m pretty sure I suffered from ADD at the time, which in turn left me with jimmy legs. I couldn’t sit still for more than five seconds. Oh, well. At least I still have the notes to my ideas. That counts for something, right?

When I was much older, I dreamed of writing books. I wrote one book about zombies, I wrote another one about zombies and aliens, and now I’m writing a third about zombies again. I don’t think I ever gave up the dream of being a published author, although I may have changed what I’ve wanted to write about.

Am I happy? Yeah, I am. I’m glad I didn’t become an astronaut, a lawyer, a rock star or an author of literature. It took a long time for me to figure out my dreams. Was it worth it? Yeah, I would say so.

But I have to confess, it took a lot of work to become a published author. Had I known what I know now, I still would have done it the way I did. It’s the only way I knew how.

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.

What is it about dreams that spur the imagination? Have you achieved your dreams?

Posted in Freedom Friday, Other Things

The Shed

The other weekend I was tearing down the shed in our backyard and realized along with the sweat, sore muscles and tender hands gained, I was also learning a few lessons along the way. As part of my Freedom Friday series, this is what I’ve learned.

The Shed
The Shed

Tearing down a shed sounds like an easy task to accomplish. The instructions couldn’t be simpler:

1) Take hammer
2) Pull hammer back
3) Apply great force to hammer
4) Hit surface of shed where applicable
5) Repeat 1-5 until shed fully broken into pieces.

Simple. Right? Not so much.

First, the shed’s composition consisted entirely of wood, reinforced with four-inch planks, fastened together by two-inch nails that in case of a meteor assault the roof would not cave in. Second, I needed more than a hammer to take the beast down. I needed a Bobcat utility vehicle. Since I didn’t have one of those I settle on a three-foot crowbar complete with a hook that would withstand a massive beating from my hands. Last, this was not a weekend activity. I ended up taking half of it down on the weekend, leaving the rest for the week ahead.

As I was working, my brain wandered on silly things. The shed I once admired for many years had fallen apart. It deserved a final resting place before replacing it with a newer and shinier version. Similarly, there are things in my life I’ve had to remove in order to push forward. That meant replacing the bad with the good. Habits are like that. I wrote about toxic perfectionism a year ago. I had to tear apart my inner being as a means to throw away that which was causing me the greatest stress. Eventually, that old part is now gone, tossed in the dumpster. And like the shed, where I can still see bits and pieces of it littering the spot where it once stood majestically, the old self, the one wanting things in a perfect, organized box, appears every so often to remind me of the way I had once viewed life—through the doors of a rotting shed.

The remains of the shed
The remains of the shed

I also learned that with much banging of a crowbar on an immovable object, the energy I had expended needed replenishing. Drinking water. Sitting in the shade. Wiping the sweat from my brow. They all contributed to that replenishment. Again, as it is in life, I’ve had to take time away from the day-to-day grind in order to replenish my soul. Every Saturday, I disappear from Social Media and spend time with the family doing real things such as enjoying a special meal together or visiting with family and friends. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, this web site can all wait until I return online on Sunday. Saturday is mine to rest and do what I want. If I didn’t do that, then like tearing apart the shed, not taking a water break or rest in the shade, I’d collapse with a guaranteed stroke. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’d like to think I have a lot more to accomplish than make my final resting place six feet under way before my time.

My final lesson I had learned that weekend is to be patient and never give up. No matter what. Slugging the crap out of a shed wall took every ounce of energy I could muster. At times, I wanted to toss the crowbar and forget about the whole thing. I stuck to it. Every hit was one hit closer to success. Every drop of sweat was one more fraction of determination spent. I would not let failure overcome my ambition to slay the beast and win the battle.

The shed died a slow death, but I learned so much from the experience. I’m sure once I raise the new shed I will also have learned something interesting about life I never knew before.

Isn’t life an amazing thing?

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 had something you were doing from which you learned a lesson? What is it about life you find the most fascinating of all?

Posted in Freedom Friday

Future Projects—Maybe

Now that I’ve announced the release date to the final installment of my Ranger Martin trilogy, a heavy weight has lifted from my shoulders. If someone were to have said to me a few years ago that I’d have a trilogy out by Fall 2015, I would have thought he or she had lost their mind. Yet here it is, 2015, and in several months, the dream will have become a reality.

Perryville Prison
Perryville Prison

With the series fully complete, a number of other projects have fallen on my lap. I could easily tell you what they are, but then where would the fun be when I announce them? Rather, I’ll give you a hint about some of the things I’m working on, then you can tell me if you like the idea or not.

Part of my method to my insanity is diving into heavy research of a subject until I can make that research part of the story without it sounding made up. You can read some of the crazy topics I’ve written about here:

Why Don’t Zombies Eat Each Other?
Real Zombie Stories
Top 10 Most Horrifying Parasites
Zombies and Mental Illness
Zombie Animals
What Makes Horror Movies Scary?
Why do Zombies Eat Brains?
Zombie Apocalypse: Causes
A Zombie Primer
Death’s Cure

The other side of the research is byproduct subjects I never intended to write about, but nonetheless seemed fascinating to explore at the time. Things such as these:

The Human Brain
How to Sleep Well
Heads Down
Social Media Vacation
Being of Value
A Law of Success
A Day Off
Bully
Insomnia
Stream of Consciousness

Given this happens often, one of the settings to the first book in the Ranger Martin series takes place in a prison called Katlyn County Jail in Arizona. The inspiration for this setting was Perryville Prison located west of Phoenix in Goodyear. Little did I know that last month it had become the center of talk in the media for a famous criminal case that had ended. I won’t go into the details of the case, but I’m sure those familiar with it know what I’m talking about.

My natural inclination to write a book about prison life actually sparked an interest in me. That’s as far as I will go hinting on that idea. Okay, maybe I’ll go a bit deeper here. Prison can be the worst place on earth or a learning ground. Also, there are different kinds of prisons. There is the concrete kind where the prisoners are behind bars paying their dues, then there is the prison we create in our minds that we can’t escape without either helping ourselves or others helping us.

Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein

Another idea I’ve been looking at has to do with time. I like the idea of time travel, but in a non-linear fashion where the time continuum becomes corrupted. Einstein proved time is relative. Wouldn’t it be interesting meeting yourself and finding you’ve lived an entirely different life?

Well, that’s about it for now. I had other things I wanted to mention, but I think that’s enough to give you folks an idea of where I’m heading. These ideas may or may not happen, depends if I can find a story in them, but know I’m always open to writing about anything.

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.

Do you like prison tales? What about time travel stories, do you like those?

Posted in Freedom Friday, Other Things

Zombies and My Beliefs

My wife recently received an appointment as Children’s Ministry Coordinator for our church. Her enthusiasm for the scriptures has given her an opportunity to serve in a way she didn’t expect. She’s currently aiding with the program’s Sunday curriculum and presentations. I have to say, I’m extremely proud of all that she’s accomplished in the short time she has served in the kid’s ministry.

Writing about zombies
Writing about zombies

With that on my mind, I’ll make today’s Freedom Friday post a short one. I’d like to talk about my beliefs and how I reconcile the fact that I write about zombies.

Before I go on, let me get something out of the way first. I’m writing this post with the intention of not offending anyone. I’m sure I will, but I don’t mean to. I suppose, in the grand scheme of things, I shouldn’t say whatever’s on my mind. But because you’re my fans, I’d like to provide an added dimension to who I am–not only as a writer, but as a person.

Right. Moving along.

I get this question a lot. When I say a lot, I mean über-times. The question I receive is this: How can I write about zombies if I believe in a higher power? More specifically–how can I write about horror if I believe in God?

My answer is always the same. I write about sin. Rather, I write about the effects of sin in a godless society. This is where you as the reader either stop reading, or continue reading with the goal of trying to understand what I just said. I’m sure whatever you decide to do, I will know by the response I receive at the end of this post.

I write about zombies as a type of sin that has spread throughout society. Given sin is the breaking of God’s law, lawlessness left unchecked will produce a society where sin corrupts and kills the good. Similarly, zombies as typified sin, spread their corruption, in this case their undead state, to others by means of close contact. Without salvation, all of humanity will die. Hence, the only thing to redeem humanity from sin is the shedding of blood.

My definition of a zombie apocalypse is not about how gory the story can become, but about good versus evil. In other words, how far has sin progressed in the story that the hero–the savior–can appear and redeem the remaining few who have chosen not to allow sin to enter into their lives?

To me, zombies also represent people dead in sin. I’m talking about those folks who roam about shackled to a life of bitter slavery. They have no concept of an existence beyond themselves, and their idea of living is waking up every morning to continue a life better left unchallenged. Eventually, zombies will rot until there’s nothing left and sin will have prevailed over their souls.

Do you see now how I don’t feel guilty writing about zombies?

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

If you’re a writer, do you allow your belief system to inspire you? If so, how far do you allow it to take you?

Posted in Freedom Friday

Anniversary Week—Part III (2014)

December 17th was the one-year anniversary when Jack Flacco: The Official Site went live. In celebration of this milestone, I will present the Top 5 Most Popular Freedom Friday posts of 2014.

But before anything else, allow me the gift of your attention to thank you for supporting me during 2014. This certainly has been a year of surprises, for sure. For instance, if you’re curious as to how many views and visitors I had this year, you can read this week’s Monday Mayhem post for site statistics. Also, in keeping with my wanting to express gratitude, I wouldn’t have thought my book would have been the success it is today without the help of my review team and all those who paid me kind words after its release. Thank you so very much, folks!

Onward. When choosing the Top 5 Most Popular Freedom Friday posts, I first wanted to present them based on amount of views. The more I thought of it though, more it didn’t make sense. For instance, a visitor may pop into the site and hit the same post several times within the day. I didn’t think it fair, considering there could have only been two visitors for that day and a hundred views.

Next, I thought I’d use comments as the benchmark. You know, the more comments a post has, the more popular it is. Again, I didn’t think it represented a good way to measure popularity given I can comment on my own post a dozen times and push it ahead on the popularity scale.

No, what I used is the number of “likes” a post has garnered throughout the year. It will not only present a fair representation of popularity for a post but also prevents users from gaming the system with multiple “likes”.

Okay, now for the list. You’ll notice that for fourth place we have a tie. Other than that, it’s straightforward. Are you ready? Here it is.

The Top 5 Most Popular Freedom Friday posts of 2014 (including the three-way tie for fourth place):

  1. Spring in Canada
    Spring in Canada

    Sweet Moments“That moment during a hot summer day when the clouds above you churn and you know it’s coming. The smell of burning wood on a cold winter night and all those memories flood your mind of how it used to be when you were a kid. How sitting on the park bench while the wind…” ~72 likes

  2. Photo credit: Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license
    Photo credit: Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

    Writing“As many of you know, and as some have noticed, I don’t talk about writing. There’s a reason for that. I’m sure I’ll get my hands rapped because of this declaration, but I think it’s important to talk about, since this is the rare and possibly only occasion when I will speak freely about this. One of…” ~69 likes

  3. Love is flowers in full bloom.
    Love is flowers in full bloom.

    Love Is…“Love is helping the elderly carry groceries to their car. Love is holding the door open for those behind you. Love is making hot soup for someone sick in bed with a bad cold. Love is forgoing our needs in order for others not to need. Allow me the liberty of this Freedom Friday post…” ~56 likes

  4. Toxic Perfectionism
    Toxic Perfectionism

    Toxic Perfectionism“I have a confession to make. I’m not sure if this is the right forum to admit this, but I’ll give it a shot. I’m going to write this in stream of consciousness without editing any of it. Let’s see how far I get for this Freedom Friday post. The confession. If you haven’t figured…” ~55 likes

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

    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…” ~55 likes

    Groundhog Day
    Groundhog Day

    Groundhog Day“Every February the second or so, my kids and I pop some corn, grab a few drinks, and ease into our seats in front of the TV to lose ourselves in the movie Groundhog Day. It’s been a tradition in our family for quite a while. Every few years even my wife joins in on…” ~55 likes

  5. In the depths of life
    In the depths of life

    Life“I write about zombies. There, I said it. I write about the atrocities zombies commit on humans during an apocalypse that should never have happened. I write about the horrors of being undead. I write about death and how it’s not the end but an unpleasant beginning for those chosen to die a second death…” ~54 likes

That’s it! Thanks for a great second year here at JackFlacco.com. Don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere. I’ll be back next week with more posts for your reading pleasure. Have a great weekend!

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

Do you have a favorite Freedom Friday post you’d recommend to your friends?

Posted in Freedom Friday

The Angel

Her eyes met his and her heart stopped. She never thought it would ever happen to her. But happen, it did, and she wobbled on her feet with the whiff of his scent. By the time her pulse began to beat again, it was too late—she knew she was his forever.

The AngelThat autumn evening was like any other. She left work thinking if she caught her bus, she’d make it home in time to watch an episode of her favorite show on TV. It was dark, but the street standards lit the sidewalk to her usual spot. What she hadn’t counted on was the bus arriving early. She raced in hopes the driver would yield to her sudden appearance in the side mirror. It didn’t work. The vehicle blew smoke and left her behind. It wouldn’t be for another fifteen minutes before another came along.

Alone, she thought of heading back to work and waiting there. Something, though, kept her from returning. It could have been that instance where the rustling of the leaves caught her ear or how the air smelled as if it was just about to rain or the way the wind gently patted her skin to tell her everything was going to be all right. Whatever it was, she stayed, enjoying the moment.

Minutes passed and she noticed a shadow from the corner of her eye. Fear gripped as the thought of violence seeped into her head. It lasted a short time. Somehow, she knew she was safe. The shadow emerged into the light.

She had never seen anyone like him. His eyes blue. His hair black. And, although he towered in stature, she could make out the faint, warm smile dancing on his lips. Time slowed to the beat of her heart, which was non-existent. There must have been a reason she had missed her bus, she wondered. Was it by design? Fate?

When the clocks started again, he asked, “What’s your name?”

A stranger asked her name, and if it were any other circumstance, she’d tell him it was none of his business. Instead, she gulped, then answered, “Kate.”

“Hello, Kate.” He said. “My name is Henry.”

Henry. Henry, she thought. If all the angels in heaven went by the name Henry, the world would be a better place. What did Henry do? Was Henry an actor? A writer? A painter? Had Henry a wife?

“Beautiful evening.” He lifted the collar to his jacket, and slipped his hands into his pockets. “I’ve seen you taking this route every day. Do you live far?”

Another crazy question. Henry, what are you doing to me? I can’t answer that. I don’t know you. But I want to know you. I do! She said, “I live a few blocks from here.”

Henry smiled.

The lights to Kate’s bus flooded the street and when she turned to say good-bye, he had disappeared. Later that night, she tossed on her pillow for hours with thoughts of him running through her head.

Several days went by that she hadn’t seen Henry anywhere, neither at the bus stop or on her way from work. One afternoon during her lunch hour, Kate strolled through the park adjacent to the spot where they first met. The gray sky reflected her melancholy mood. How a man she met only briefly could become such an obsession caused her to stop under a tree where the ducks fed in a small pond. Studying the ripples in the water, memories of Henry’s slight smile filled her soul, warming her.

When she spun around to head back, Kate noticed the tree again. This time, the brass plaque planted at its foot came into view. She’d never seen it before. Crouching to get a better look, she wiped the dirt from its surface to reveal the engraving:

“Donated in memory of Henry McAlistair, a generous supporter for the global preservation of wildlife. b. December 19, 1909 – d. September 26, 1939”

It can’t be, she thought. That’s almost a hundred years ago. It can’t be him. It just can’t.

Below the letters on the plaque, debris covered a photo. Kate violently rubbed the dirt from the face of it as she tried to catch her breath.

It can’t be him, she muttered. It can’t be him.

When his eyes appeared in the photo, she dropped to her knees with her jaw hanging.

It was him.

Years along, the seasons changed. As autumns turned to cold, bitter storms, and the wind yielded to the sun in the spring, twenty summers had left Kate alone, still thinking of the man with the compassionate eyes named Henry.

On September 26, a brisk fall morning, Kate left her apartment, headed for her bus and stepped into the street. She didn’t feel the impact. All she remembered was someone screaming, “Someone call 911!”

As the light in her eyes faded, she felt a hand touch her shoulder. When she set her gaze on the one whose warmth took away the pain, she now understood why she hadn’t seen him again until that morning.

It was him. Henry. You’ve come back, she said to herself. You’ve come back for me.

Kate died that day, but witnesses stated they’d seen a stranger comforting her those moments preceding her passing, holding her hand all the while she was smiling. When asked to identify the man, the same answer came—it happened so quickly that he had disappeared in the crowd.

[I’d written this stream of consciousness, first draft Freedom Friday post in an attempt to capture my feelings about autumn.]

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

What do you like about autumn?

Posted in Freedom Friday, Other Things

Writing

As many of you know, and as some have noticed, I don’t talk about writing. There’s a reason for that. I’m sure I’ll get my hands rapped because of this declaration, but I think it’s important to talk about, since this is the rare and possibly only occasion when I will speak freely about this.

Photo credit: Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license
Photo credit: Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

One of my family members calls me a machine. I’ll take that as a compliment. The other comment I get is I’m a workaholic. Again, I’ll take that as a compliment.

The truth is, before I started this site, I had taken an extended leave of absence from all social networking sites. I know what you’re thinking, “Nothing wrong with taking a couple of weeks off to regain perspective.” In my case, it wasn’t a couple of weeks. It wasn’t even a couple of months. Sit down for this.

I’d taken eight months off from all social networks. That’s eight months off Twitter. Eight months off Facebook. Other than email, eight months off every social network. Months prior, I’d written a three-quarters completed draft of Ranger Martin and the Zombie Apocalypse. Then I stopped. Cold turkey. For eight months, I didn’t write a word. Anywhere.

[This paragraph is intentionally left blank.]

When I came back, I had so many pent-up ideas that I couldn’t stop writing. The format for the site took an afternoon. It was that quick. This includes coming up with the categories Monday Mayhem, Women Who Wow Wednesday and today’s Freedom Friday. I dusted off my old zombie manuscript and completed it. I quickly started Ranger Martin and the Alien Invasion.

Earlier, I said my family considers me a machine. Well, that’s not too far from the truth. I write every day except Saturday, even when I don’t feel like it. I don’t wait for inspiration because, I suppose, it’s now a habit.

If you’re curious, this is how I do it. I sit. I write.

Pretty simple, huh?

There’s a bit more to it than that, but I write whatever comes to mind. I’ll edit after it’s down on paper. And because I’ve established a two-to-three week buffer before publishing anything, I have a lot of time to think and play with ideas. If I don’t like an idea, I chuck it. In a year, I must have thrown away a dozen posts.

But I must say, hadn’t I taken eight months off before creating this site, I’m sure I would’ve convinced myself I needed inspiration to write. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The bottom line? I don’t talk about writing because I’m too busy writing.

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

What about you writers out there—what is it that compels you to write?