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Me and my shadows


Have you ever opened a book only to meet yourself staring back from the very first pages?

I did and what’s more, it was my own book, If a Dragon Cries, the first book in my fantasy series, Hooper’s Dragons. I discovered a very interesting, and perhaps a bit disturbing aspect of my writing. In certain scenes, I wrote about . . . ME.

Sounds a little egotistical but actually it’s not because the scenes are very unflattering of my protagonist and I recognized there was a lot of me in him. Back in the Jurassic Age, or was it the Pleistocene Age—I get all those Ages mixed up—anyway, long, long ago, when I was a kid I didn’t have a particularly happy childhood.

My parents divorced when I was three or four, mom was too poor to take care of me so I shuffled around to aunts, uncles, grandparents for a while, then, my biological father kidnapped me and took me to Alaska and then back to Texas. My mom regained custody of me and

remarried but we were lower, lower middle class on the economic rung.

Which meant that just before school started mom marched me to JC Penny’s where she would put on layaway (that word alone shows you how far back this goes) two pairs of blue jeans, three shirts, some underwear and socks and would sternly say, “That’s all you get, Gary, they have to last you the whole year.”

She meant it too. If I put a hole in one of my blue jeans—which was fairly often as I was one of those kids that climbed and fell out of trees, played on the school ground equipment and jumped off the swings scraping my knees almost every time, mom would iron on one of those blue-jean patches to cover the hole. Needless to say, by the time the school year ended my pants were more patches than actual material.

I was an only child, too. I had two younger brothers, but both died of heart defects—one after living only a few days, the other when he was eight months old. I suspect that in both instances that if they were born in this day and age, modern surgical/medical technology could repair their hearts and they might be alive today. I wish I had memories of them, but I don’t, which sometimes makes me a little sad.

An only child has its advantages and disadvantages. The most significant drawback? If something goes wrong in the house ALL the fingers point to you. There’s no one else to deflect your parent’s anger—you stand alone against those fingers.

Of course, usually, most of the time, almost always, you were at fault anyway, still it would have been nice to have someone else around, a brother or sister, where you could at least try and make the case that they were mixed up in the fiasco, too thereby spreading the punishment around a bit.

I was a latch-key kid. Both parents worked but didn’t make enough money to afford child care so from about eight years old (3rd grade as I remember) I had a key to the house and so after school and on Saturdays I had the house to myself. Didn’t have a lot of neighborhood friends but I had quite a few imaginary friends that went on some awesome living room adventures with me.

We had an old, tiny black and white T.V. set and for a kid the only thing on during the weekday afternoon was the Mickey Mouse club but that didn’t last long enough and that meant I had a lot of mischievous time on my hands until mom got home from work.

Saturdays were a bit better with cartoons and Sky King, and Rin Tin Tin, and Roy Rogers in the morning followed by a western movie, but I still had enough time on my hands to get into trouble, and I usually did.

I was an ugly child. Still am, but that’s another story. I was fat, had a broken front tooth that earned me the nickname, “Snaggletooth” from the kids at school and then there were my ears. Ever seen the Walt Disney movie, “Dumbo?” I related to that little elephant because while my ears weren’t quite as big as his, still, I always thought that if I could just flap them, they were pretty close in size to lifting me off the ground.

Fat, ugly, and on top of that I was an angry kid, too. Not a destructive, angry kid, but I had a very short fuse. Still working on that issue, even after all these years. Got into a lot of fights at school and from grades 1-6, the principal and I were on a first-name basis. Well, at least he called me by my first name. It seemed as if I spent about as much time in his office as I did in the classroom.

So, when I started writing my Star Scout sci-fi novels, and in particular, my Hooper’s Dragons series, I didn’t realize it at the time but there’s a lot of “me” in my protagonists. I wish I could say it was the good part of “me” but unfortunately, most of it’s not.

However, one of the things I’ve realized about writing is that it can be very therapeutic. It sometimes, and does, bring out those deep, inner thoughts and feelings that we too often harbor for years, unleashes them out from the dark and into the light where we can really see and confront them, and hopefully resolve to our benefit.

So, if you’re someone who’s struggling with an issue(s) try doing some writing. It doesn’t have to be the epic fantasy of the sort that I write and can be as long or as short as you want, nor does it have be fiction.

You could compose diary entries, or a story about your life, or of an event that had a marked effect upon you. You don’t even have to show your work to anyone, unless you wanted to, of course.

It can be just for you, an expression of your deepest feelings to yourself, a cleansing mist of words to wash away old hurts and anger, a healing balm over the scars and wounds of life.

If it can work for me, I genuinely believe it can work for you.