Desire at first sight

My novel, What’s Left, springs from the ending of my first published novel, where our hippie-boy’s troubled journey finally brings him to true love and an embracing community.

Part of his epiphany is brought about by his colleague and guardian angel, Nita, when she hangs two portraits of her younger sister on her wall. Even as a professional photographer, he’s riveted. You could say it was infatuation at first sight. Or something more primordial.

And then, when he visits their family, the romance blossoms.

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Whatever happened to apprenticeships and mentors?

The conversation turned to a current problem many face in finding the right job.

Employers seem to demand college degrees for even the most basic positions, and then expect years of experience as well for what’s lowly paid entry-level work.

How does anyone get that requisite experience in such a setup?

That’s had me thinking of bosses who see something in a candidate and hire them, regardless of the credentials, and then guide them in their development. I’ve certainly had some fine examples as well as some crucial (paid) internships.

It’s also had me reflecting on the great inventor Charles F. Kettering, who once said that if he faced a metallurgy problem and had a metallurgist and a biologist on his staff, he’d hand it to the biologist – because the biologist would be more likely to solve it.

Why? The biologist wouldn’t know all of the things that weren’t supposed to work, unlike the metallurgist.

Of course, this is not just about jobs. I’ve noticed that we need mentors in the many diverse skills of living and in the practice of our own niches within it.

These days, I’m also realizing I’m at an age where I might be expected to be fulfilling the mentoring role, not that I often feel that capable. What I am noticing, however, is the gap in the circles I travel, where individuals in their twenties and thirties are scarce. A wider look finds them scarce in general, and those I know openly admit their puzzlement about connecting in real life with their peers. Where are they, outside of the Internet?

I can name a long list of mentors in my journey to here. Some were teachers or bosses, others poets or Quakers or Mennonites, even fine arts painters or folks a generation younger than me.

Who’s filled a role of mentor in your life?

What do you mean by ‘promise’?

One of the foundations of my novel Nearly Canaan is the varied meanings of the word “promise.” It’s central to a marriage, especially, as we see with Jaya and Joshua. It also centers on their vision of arriving in their own Promised Land.

Here are ten examples of its possibilities.

  1. Potential or vision. “I saw her potential.”
  2. Vow or oath. “I will do this, so help me God.”
  3. Agreement or contract. “My half of the bargain in exchange for your half.”
  4. “If you do that, I’ll do this.”
  5. Word of honor. “I place my reputation and character behind this.”
  6. Betrothal, engagement, marriage. Now we add romance and a life together, venturing into the unknown.
  7. Security, warranty, or insurance. As a shield against risk.
  8. “I agree to this willingly.”
  9. An emblem of the agreement, making it more fully visible. The Biblical Promised Land would fit in here, I’d say. Perhaps also the birth of Jesus.
  10. Obligation or devotion. “This is what I’m moved to uphold.”

~*~

What would you add to the list?

Are you embraced fully into your mate’s family?

It’s a phenomenon I’ve observed repeatedly now, where a man finds his basic family connection through his wife’s siblings and parents, more than his own. He feels especially welcomed and embraced.

That’s the case with Cassia’s Baba in my novel What’s Left, when he becomes an active member of her mother’s extended clan. Well, it can also happen in the other direction, as it does with Cassia’s aunts Pia and Yin, or in Nearly Canaan, where Jaya grows especially close to her in-laws and vice versa.

This came up, too, when a friend and I were discussing our own lives and that of an important American figure we were examining. We realized it’s far more universal than we’d thought.

Can you tell me of a time you’ve seen this?

My newest novel revolves around young adult couples

I’m delighted to announce that my newest novel has just been published.

Nearly Canaan focuses on the lasting impact a single person can have, but its details often erupt from committed young adult couples interacting with each other.

The story takes off once Jaya leaves the ashram in Yoga Bootcamp.

Nearly Canaan

As she ventures forth to resume her career and teach yoga on the side, she becomes enmeshed in erotic passion, despite her best intentions. As she becomes half of twosome, she’s also influenced by two other couples – her lover’s parents and his pastor and wife Wendy.

Soon after, when Jaya and her beloved move on to the Ozarks, they grow close to another young couple, their new neighbors.

And when they arrive at last in their promised land, two more young couples as well as their landlords in the orchard weave into the action.

I didn’t set out with these overlapping circles as my model, but that’s what’s emerged. It’s quite exciting, actually.

The new novel is a thorough reworking of three earlier books – Promise, Peel (as in Apple), and St. Helens in the Mix.

Be among the first to read it!

Ultimately, the new series is all about Jaya

Cassia is not the only character who’s had me drastically revising my earlier fiction.

Jaya, the central figure in what now stands as Nearly Canaan, has more recently had me doing the same to six other published books.

First, before Cassia became part of my life in What’s Left and the earlier stories now told in my Freakin’ Free Spirits cycle, Jaya emerged in a set of revisions in what became the three novels Promise, Peel (as in apple), and St. Helens in the Mix.

Initially, her part wasn’t even female – and while transforming her wasn’t exactly literary gender reallocation surgery, it certainly changed the dynamic of the story, which became older woman/younger man, with the woman being the tall dark sophisticated stranger being pursued by a hot young guy.

In the early drafts, she wasn’t yet a yogi, either, but rather a Sufi.

The stories themselves were about encountering specific landscapes as much as the individuals themselves.

A few years after their publication, I decided to restore them to my original intent of one volume but realized drastic revision was necessary. First, they needed to be cut significantly to fit into what would still be a “fat” and hopefully juicy book. Second, I needed a clearer understanding of Jaya’s actual career as well as her companion’s character. And, third, a fuller comprehension of her lasting influence was required. That led to the new version, Nearly Canaan.

It still felt incomplete, though. Her earlier spiritual training needed to be told. While she had talked briefly about her ashram experiences, they didn’t align completely with my yoga novel. But they could.

I reopened the manuscript, changed one of the eight students to be Jaya, and then changed the gender of the guru throughout. That led to a slew of drastic alterations and additions, moving the novel from Ashram to Yoga Bootcamp.

That gave me two novels in a series, but a series needs a third or more, I felt.

But wait, there’s more.

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Don’t overlook your guardian angels

In my Freakin’ Free Spirits novels, aunt Nita serves Cassia’s guardian angel.

Earlier, she had played a similar role for Cassia’s future father, from their college years together onward.

In fact, without Nita in the background, the daughter may have never come along at all, as she eventually appreciates in What’s Left.

Reflecting on my own life, I’m now sensing moments when someone stepped in, behind the scenes, to affect a change that opened an opportunity in my life. At the time, I was clueless. One led to a summer job and later part-time employment. Another, to my being able to transfer away to college, rather than continue at a commuter campus.

There were another attempts that were turned away, in my ignorance or incomplete understanding.

But there were also the other, more typical and ethereal guardian angels, the kind that kept me a brush away from death or serious injury, say being hit by a car or bus or finding myself in the deep end of the pool when I could barely swim or maybe even getting sexually involved with the wrong person.

Has someone in your life ever functioned as a guardian angel?