Is he telling the truth?

My wife, even after 46 years, still can’t tell. Therefore, she usually leans toward ‘I’m not’. I’ll follow with a sarcastic option, after which her intuition kicks in (I’ll swear she’s a witch at times), then she almost never fails to make a correct assessment.

Thunderbolt

Cal was very emphatic about how his writing, and the idea for his first book, came to him.

“Like a thunderbolt,” he said. “It all came to me at once. The idea, the story, almost the whole book flashed into my mind at once.”

I found this very spiritual, and understood that it happens often to great artists who create works that, for the rest of time, earn them the genius moniker. Handel, the composer, wroteMessiah in twenty-four days.

Frank Lloyd Wright, the architect, shook the plans for Fallingwater, that many consider to be the most famous house in America, out of his sleeve in two-and-a-half hours, while his clients were in route to see them.

I wasn’t counting on that happening to me; or that Cal or I would ever become literary geniuses. After that first meeting with Cal, there was a ferocious thunderstorm that night. One bolt went from my eye to my ear in a split second. Close, I thought, but not close enough to give me my “novel” idea. I’m going to have to give birth to the book. Slow growing. Expanding. Lots of kicking and screaming. In labor for a long time, but in the end, I was able to announce:

“It’s a book!” Just like a proud parent.

The idea wasn’t a thunderbolt, but a lens coming into focus. After that chance meeting with Cal, the words began flowing towards me. They kept rolling like the surf, until the last page was finished.

 

Hearing that word in the conversation reminded me brainstorms really happen, as one did for my friend.  That brief talk convinced me to become a novelist.  The close call that night got me going.  Almost five novels and drafts later I’ve convinced myself it was no flash in the pan.

From An Acorn To An Oak Tree

The acorn, or original idea, came while talking to my friend about writing (more on that later). When finished this book, I noticed another branch on the sapling, then others, and others… A trilogy of story ideas.

I’ve always admired George Lucas’ ‘Star Wars’, and its telling the middle of the story first. This came to me after the first edition, thus the second edition is Book IV.

‘Ark Book V: Beneath’ has been published, and ‘Ark Book VI: Above is about to be.

Currently, I’m midway through ‘Ark Book I: Mars’.

I’m looking forward to running next to you for the rest of my marathon.My Journey Through Storytelling

Press Release

Ghosts: 1st Volume of Artful ‘Ghost’ Trilogy Fuses Passion for College Basketball with a Moving, Compelling Uplift of the Human Spirit

 

Masterfully crafted by John Heldon, ‘Ark: Book IV Ghosts (Volume 4)’ is the powerful first volume of a middle trilogy; a journey involving redemption for one’s spirit, weaved around the unique American culture of college sports (including a ghost cast of former players!). Expect humor, suspense, reminiscing and poignancy, in a book one critic claims “holds a mirror up to our own lives and inspires us…to make a difference in the lives of others. While their glory days may have ended, ours and theirs may once again begin.”

 

For Immediate Release

 

Marlboro, NJ – For those who follow it, college sports is a heart-pumping release from the stress of the “real world” and an opportunity to indulge in something more exciting than the 9-5. For players, their passion for their craft goes beyond the final score to guide them through an intense personal journey to the core of their very being. Their days on the court or field shape them, never leave them and ultimately define them.

In his engrossing and celebrated new novel, John Heldon uses the backdrop of college basketball to invite readers on an exploration of  how the past got humanity to its present. Told through the younger ghosts of still living older players and a building they played in that has a bold personality of its own, ‘Ark: Book IV Ghosts (Volume 4)’ reminds readers that it is never too late to reject despair.

Synopsis:

Nicknamed the Ark, this old gym is a limbo for six ghosts from 1971, who are discovered by a retired alum who they hope will be the conduit between themselves and their unhappy living persons, thereby providing the answers to their ‘young’ and ‘old’ predicaments.

If a reader enjoyed a book like W.P. Kinsella’s ‘Shoeless Joe’, or its movie adaptation, ‘Field of Dreams’, they will appreciate Ark’s different slant, served slightly chilled, sprinkled with humor, and a twist at the end.

“This book is a cocktail of humor and seriousness, reminding readers that it is never too late to give life a second chance and that our mistakes exist to learn from, not regret,” explains Heldon. “The book is set in the present; the first volume of a middle trilogy with eight more volumes in the works.  Sport is the springboard for the Ark saga, but the ensuing volumes plunge into what’s most important in life. The first trilogy tells of how the past got us to our present, while the last trilogy will express my hopes for the human race in the future. The timeline is billions of years, told in a fantasy not too far beyond our grasp of the possible.”

Continuing, “Readers will be able to twist their own lives around the narrative, turning the last page with a new perspective on their existence. Redemption is for our spirit to live beyond our corporal “shell”, but it is never too early to start this fundamental journey.”

Readers have come out in force with positive reviews. Bill Raftery, CBS , ESPN and FOX sports commentator writes, “In the wonderful novel by John Heldon, he writes about a facility (The Ark) that was home to a college’s outstanding basketball team.  The book evokes memories for me of the seventies…, which aroused the pride I had as a resident of New Jersey…  John brings these memories all back into focus.”

Mike adds, “Author John Heldon has made a “fast break” from literary anonymity with his debut novel, “Ark.” His familiarity with the ins and outs of college basketball effervesce from the pages of this whimsical apologue. And just as it isn’t necessary for one to own a Harley to appreciate Robert M. Pirsig’s classic, “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,” the reader doesn’t have to know the difference between a back court and a backboard to appreciate this “Field of Dreams” meets “Hoosiers” fantasy.”

‘Ark: Book IV Ghosts (Volume 4)’ is available now: http://amzn.to/1JCtrfc.

 

About the Author:

John J. Heldon, Jr.(1947-) was born and raised in Bergen County, NJ. and attended Rutgers University. After a long career in sales before founding his own business, he ‘retired’, to work and love twice as much as a writer.  He’s always been an avid student of human behavior, from its funny side and its foibles, to its disgust and its profound.  “Ark” is his first novel of the Ark series. He lives in Marlboro, NJ, with his wife, better half, and inspirational character, Ginni, along with their hyperactive Maltese, Lily, who keeps them young.

Contact: John Heldon / jgheldwork@aol.com / 201-805-2608

My Journey Through Storytelling

I owe my first time reader an explanation about a few things. I know it’s not the norm with all writers, but I get to the point after some research, a skeletal outline, and some expanded thoughts when my fingers start to tingle. The core ideas start to shake my sleeves, and nudge my fingers toward the keyboard. It’s time for me to ‘go’. I have a need to trust what comes to me. Here’s the short story how I got here:

I became a writer at the corner of Bayard and George Streets. If you went to Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, you know where that is.

No, I didn’t whip out a pen and pad. Later, hindsight realized that was the moment.

John HeldonBefore then, I had dabbled at blogging, which wasn’t enough to count for me, just as warm up exercises don’t compare to a cardio workout. Nothing against blogging. Some are terrific, but a novel was my goal before saying to myself, ‘I’m a writer’. So, on that corner in the Spring of 2011, while talking to a big guy about basketball, blogging, then writing a novel, an epiphanous wind blew through me, leaving an idea: ‘Hoosiers Meets Field of Dreams’.

It would become my first novel, Ark. It’s second edition, Ark Book IV: Ghosts, is necessary because Ark was the pebble thrown into the pond, whose ripples gave me ideas for a much larger story, or saga, to be sure. Also, a rewrite was needed to sow some seeds which would sprout in later books.

If you’re still with me, I’ll give you a sneak peak of the next two books, and a hint of a third.

Guess what? Ark turned out to be a light, fast (and many said good) read, which got me to my second book: Ark Book V: Beneath. Telling a ghost story allowed me to realize the Ark had it’s own special character: it’s a paranormal portal linking a mysterious Native-American tribe, who vanished before the Europeans arrived, and a Doomsday which can be averted, if the tribe’s secret is found.

This second book ends in a cliffhanger, as the main characters gain entrance through the portal. I found it wasn’t much of a leap between the paranormal and the spiritual. These few have been chosen by ‘Higher Authorities’, and ‘He’ and ‘She’ have been guiding their quest.

On a roll pounding the keyboard, I finished Ark Book VI Above. It gives these chosen few a glimpse of Doomsday, which is near and tough to avoid, unless the World returns to a matrilineal way of life. Can these chosen few sell this simple, best idea to the ‘engineers’ who are driving the ‘train’ off its rails? I think yes, since there was a David and Goliath.

From one idea, Ark became a trilogy. Actually, the middle trilogy of nine books in all, God willing.

Here is where I think we all need help, looking at the messy World we live in. The end of Ark Book VI Above asks:

Would we be in a better place if Wars were up to women?

I’ve run the question past quite a few women, and their answers fall into two camps:

Yes, we would be in a better place.

No, Power would corrupt them also.

It should be pointed out that nearly all ancient tribes were matrilineal, where the mother’s brother was trusted more with the mother’s children than the children’s father (s). Over time, with brute force, and herds of domestic animals to trade for a wife, the men took over.

How should my question above be answered?

You, the reader, are now up to date with my journey through storytelling. I will tell you the middle of my story, after which I’ll tell you the beginning, then the end. Present, Past, Future, over billions of years.

John Heldon
June 16, 2015

The Sow's Ear

We boomers all have funny stories when it comes to raising our kids, and here’s another one of mine.

George, our son was about 3 or 4 years old when we took him to Van Saun Park, when we were still living in Bergen County, NJ.  It’s a wonderful place to introduce young children to other wild animals like themselves.  George was very precocious at that age and we were beginning to suspect ADHD, but had yet to address the issue.  At this age he was bouncing from pen to pen, giving each animal a look see before moving on to the next, without marveling the various other forms of life so near his neighborhood.

Reaching the pig pen gave George a pause, however, and that gave us a chance for a breather.

“Mommy and Daddy, look at the big pig rolling around in the mud!”

George had a knack for getting “down and dirty” during his play time at home, and we were hoping he wouldn’t make the connection between the water hose, and making mud.

In the pen lay a huge sow, easily 300+ pounds, seemingly happy as a pig in… you know, with four little piglets sliding around her, just as happy.  Two of them were nursing, not much caring about the mud and milk mixture they were consuming.  The other two were rolling around, squealing as if laughing in a play pen.

There was a fifth piglet totally devoid at what the siblings were doing.  While the sow was resting in contentment, this obvious “black sheep” of the brood was doing everything he could to antagonize his mother.  He bit her tail.  He walked on her back.  He bit his siblings.

The sow paid him no mind at all, and was content to sun herself in the heat of the day without a care in the world.

Until Mr. Fifth Piggy bit her ear.

In a split second, she snatched him in her jaws and tossed him skidding and rolling into the sloppy mud, where he came to rest about ten feet away.  He moaned and trotted off to the other end of the pen to sulk.

No one was going to make a silk purse out of that sow’s ear anyway, whether or not if had teeth marks.

There are lines in the sand, or mud, parents make which should not be crossed.

Why did you call it Ark?

Why did you call it Ark?I can’t remember how many times this question has been posed since the book’s been published.

As I’ve gone  onto the marketing trails of bookdom, it keeps up with me.  Almost like I’ve just stepped on the claw part of a rake, and I have to grab it before it smacks my nose.

As I said in Ark Book IV: Ghosts, an ark can be defined as “a place of refuge or asylum.”  The ghostly characters inside are allowed to exist and cavort at a time in their prime.  However, I was really intrigued by the range of meaning of the two words, refuge and asylum.  Either word could connote a good situation, or a bad one.  For example:

He sought and gained refuge from the storm in the old building.

The asylum protected him from coping with the real world, until he could regain his health and well being.

As I began thinking of the possibilities for the second and third books in the middle Ark Trilogy, the range of meaning of just these two words presented many ways to go, not to mention the more common associations that come to mind when the word “ark” is mentioned.

Still, I’ve been approached by alums from my Alma mater, Rutgers, asking,

“You’re talking about the old Barn here, aren’t you?”

Yes and No.

Was I inspired by the old gym nicknamed after a farming structure?

Yes.

Was that enough to allow me to tell a story larger and more significant than the mostly mundane chronicle of an average guy?

No.

I’m happy for my fellow alums if they want to inject themselves into the story, and their time “on the Banks.” In fact, for the careful reader, I’ve paid homage in the book, much the way a mapmaker puts a fictitious street onto his work to protect his copyright (look for a word out of place, that’s all I’m going to say).

However, I was reaching, while writing, for a wider appeal, and more applicability to a greater number, but that doesn’t mean I’m not willing to die for dear old Rutgers.

The Writing of Ark

Readers, and other writers have asked me how the idea for the story came about. It was really quite simple.

The Prologue of the book is a true story. I remember standing on the corner of Bayard and George Streets in downtown New Brunswick, NJ, talking to Calvin, when the main idea of the book got my attention like a splattering bucket of rainwater. It wasn’t raining, but the idea of a story about ghosts who weren’t really dead, ie, their persona’s still alive today, occurred at that moment.

Just like THAT was how it hit me. The angle, the pitch, whatever you want to call it, the unique premise of the book is what grabbed me first. The rest of the story hit me more like a bucket of nuts and bolts, or a bucket of loose change dumped into a coin counter, which I had to process and order in my head before I fingered the keyboard.

I reference Frank Lloyd Wright, the architect, a few times in the book out of deference to this same practice he employed. Before searing the pencil lead onto paper, before one stroke of genius after another, all the major elements of the project were already in his head. His brain was a tuning fork with the same pitch as Nature, and he couldn’t proceed until keyed into the latter.

I started to write when I organized the beginning, and the ending, and I had a “feel” for the middle ground. I decided to proceed, with a few notes I had jotted down as to structure and pace. I was excited to start testing my creativity, to maneuver through the forest of the middle pages of Ark.

Ark: Truth in Fiction

How many times have you said, or heard someone say, “You can’t make this stuff up,” or “Truth is stranger than fiction.”? More times than you can remember, no doubt.

People at book signings often ask me why I became a fiction, and not a nonfiction writer. I answer by telling them two short stories. Both of them seem reasonable, but, I say, there’s a catch. Only one of them is true, which do you think is? So far, I haven’t had a unanimous vote. Fiction gives me the ability to use an actual event in the story, and most readers probably think I made it up.

Here’s an example. In reality, Cal, my real life friend, and character in the book, were driving to a Summer League basketball game. My cell phone kept ringing, but I don’t like to answer the phone in the car. In New Jersey, it’s against the law. Finally, I thought, this may be important, I should take the call anyway. As I reached into my pocket for the phone, it slipped out of my hand. As I tried to grab it, I swerved the car, which startled Cal, enough to give him the shakes. I pulled the car over, like the law suggests, made the call, which turned out to be nothing.

The incident found it’s way into the book. Again, I’m driving in the car with Cal, and I’m toying with the idea of letting him know what’s going on between me and the ghosts.

From the book:

“We were almost at the end of Route 20. A couple of minor roads and side streets and we’d be at St Mary’s High School gym where the games were played. I was about to change the subject, but before I could speak, ‘Tell No One else!’

I swerved the car slightly, but enough to give Cal a start. He looked over at me and fidgeted in the seat. It was a good thing the top was down, for his head’s sake.  I managed to say this.

“I’m OK. I thought I saw a piece of glass on the road (fib). Sorry, Cal”

There are quite a number of events in the book, which if aren’t outright truths, are heavily based on it.

To find out, read the book, and come to one of my book signings to ask me!

Characters of Ark

Since Ark was published, quite a few readers, especially Rutgers alums, have come running up to me at RU basketball games, and said, ‘this or that character was this or that player, right?’

Characters of ArkMy response has always been, if you want to interpret the character that way, go right ahead, it’s your enjoyment, and money at stake here. However, I have to repeatedly insist, all of the characters are composites of college and pro players I’ve admired over the years of my watching, enjoying, and paying to see games.

I’ll just throw some character names out there. If you’re a Rutgers fan, more of the names will stick with you, since that was my experience also. Here goes.

“Sampson”, “Bird”, “Quincy”, “Barrett”. These samples reflect my experience within the professional and collegiate ranks. Also, mannerisms and ethnicity stand for certain players, and certain teams.

I guess I could explain ’til I’m blue in the face, but that’s really the way I structured the book. It’s my homage to the game, as I’ve watched it over the years, and that’s the truth.