Some of you have seen me talk about this book before.  I never stopped working on it.  How many years now?  I'm ready to be done, but I know there is still a bit of work to do on it.  All I can say is… it's been an experience!

So the following is a post I hope to put up in several places so that I can get a feel for what people think… if they'd consider buying and reading such a book.  If you take the time to look, I'll be most appreciative.  Here's the complete blog:

   

One of the hallmarks of mental illness is belief in one's delusions.  People who are psychotic may hear things that are not there, though they believe wholeheartedly in what they are hearing.  Or they may see things that do not exist, though they are convinced they do.  With OCD, people believe that the voices in their own minds are telling them something true about themselves.  You will murder your family.  You will run over someone in your car.  You will molest a child

The ensuing panic is understandable given the conviction these voices seem to have.  Yet, we are told over and over that what we believe is false. 

Is it always?

In this novel, I have explored the false voices that offer destruction.  But I have also explored the voices which may not be false.  Is everyone who hears the voice of God psychotic?  If you are a religious person, you believe that sometimes, God does speak.  Your therapist may have told you otherwise.  Who is right?

I also simply wanted to write a story about people with mental illnesses and how they face their lives.  Why are they so often drawn together in relationship and friendship?  How do you grow up when nothing makes sense and your mind is filled with uncertainty?  How do you find love when you can't believe your own feelings? 

I hope this novel will serve first to entertain, but also to inform.  It is not easy to grow up at all.  But becoming an adult in a world where your mind betrays you is filled with pitfalls that might make more sense to the average person if they could get into the mind of the mentally ill.  This is what I have tried to accomplish.  I want people to understand, not simply tolerate. 

I hope you will welcome Celia Lattimore, Ken Goodson, Daniel Fuentes, and Kelly Shale into your lives.  They have a story to tell you.

 

The following are the opening lines of the novel, "The Healer."  If you take the time to read it, please tell me if it is something you would be interested in reading about further.  I am hoping it will win a place on your bookshelf someday!  

 

Ken, 2008

      

    I am looking down at David's sleeping form and I wonder how I got here.  I know I've been in the car a long time, driving blindly toward this hospital, this quiet patient's room, this moment; but I think I was more driven than driving.  The entire time I was in the car, I kept repeating in my mind all the ways David's presence in my life has hurt everyone I love.  Without exception.  Over and over I have defended him.  Over and over I have fought for him, but right now, I think I just want to kill him.

    He stirs a little and groans as he leaves the peace of sleep.  He reaches down to scratch the leg encased in its cast and his hand trembles with the effort.  Multiple Sclerosis is consuming his nervous system, causing the strange tremors that were previously foreign to David's experience. 

    I tell myself I do not feel pity.  I will myself to hate him.  He senses my presence and he opens his eyes, crystal blue, trying to focus them from the fog of sleep. 

    "Goods?" he says.  "What are you doing here?  I thought you were at Lake Lure with your family."

    "I was," I say.  It sounds so casual, the way I'm speaking to him.  Like everything's OK.  

    He takes a moment to let his mind clear, a task that has become increasingly difficult for him.  Memory, coherence, clarity are all muddled by the slow death of his brain.  

    "What day is it?" he asks.

    "Doesn't matter," I say.

    He senses something in my voice and it helps him focus.  "What happened?"

    "Penny came to Lake Lure," I tell him.  I assume that will be sufficient information. 

    "Good for Penny," he says.  "I need a little water, Goods.  You mind getting me some?  Just out of the tap over there."

    He knows what he's doing.  I strike him hard in the face with the back of my hand.  His neck whips to the side and I hear a wheezing grunt emit from his mouth.

    He doesn't move.  He keeps his face turned away, limp black hair hiding his eyes from mine.  "I take it she's speaking to you again," he says.

    "She talked to me for a few minutes, yes.  But they were a very intense few minutes, Hoff.  She told me the most fascinating story."

    He brings his head slowly around and moves his hair out of the way with a shaky hand.  There's going to be a bruise on his cheek where I hit him.  He makes an exaggerated effort to pull himself up in the bed, but the cast surrounding his broken leg proves to be more weight than the shaking wasted muscles in his arms can pull.  He gives up and slumps back onto the stiff hospital pillow. 

    "It was such a long time ago, Goods."  His Alabama drawl pulls each word out a fraction of a second too long.  It's almost comical.  

    "Yeah, it was.  But that one little incident has managed to kill any chance I might ever have to be her brother again.  I can't see her forgiving me."

    "Or wanting to," he agreed.

    We stared at each other. 

    "I am what I am," David said.  "You here to kill me?"

    I don't answer.  I don't know what he sees in my face.

    "If you're gonna kill me, you'll need to spring me from the hospital first.  You kill me here, they'll put you away for the rest of your life.  Don't be stupid because I was."

    "And where should I take you?" I ask.

    "Woods, back alley, my apartment will do.  I have a small hand gun.  Yeah, I know.  I'm not supposed to have one.  I keep it hidden because I have a lot of enemies, Goods, and I need one.  You understand.  Not that I can really aim the damned thing any more.  Take me there.  I'll pop myself off and you can take the credit."

    He's playing me. 

    "I'm not here to kill you," I say.  "I should be, but I'm not."

    "What then?"

    "I'm here to heal you."

    At this David laughs.  It starts out like a cough, a dry hacking hiss that slowly turns into gurgling laughter.  He catches his breath.  "You always rough up the people you heal just before you unleash the power of Jesus?" he asks.  He says the word Jesus like he's a televangelist.  "Jeeesus."

    God, I hate him at that moment.  I grab his throat in my right hand and I press into his windpipe.  "Shut up," I tell him. 

    He stops laughing but retains the sarcastic smile. 

    "Here's what's going to happen, David.  What I'm going to do to you is a great deal worse than killing you.  I'm going to rip out that chunk of ice you refer to as your heart and replace it with flesh and blood so that just for once before you die you can know what remorse feels like."

    I'm an inch from his face and my right hand still has him in a choke hold.  I place my left hand over his heart and I pray.  I pray so hard. 

    At first I think nothing will happen.  I'm going to fail.  I've tried to heal David many times and I've never been able to do it.  I think of Hal, my father, and I draw on his strength and his faith.  I think of the gift he gave me and how it rested silent in him all of these years until now.  I think of why I am here and how it is hurting my wife, my mother, my friends.  I think of being forgiven and it comes to me why I haven't healed David before now.  I was trying to heal him because of my guilt.  Because I needed to redeem myself.  It's different now.  This is for his benefit.  If I fail, I will have to take him up on his offer and do him the favor of killing him.  I cannot let him go on this way any longer.  He needs the redemption of either healing or of death.  Even he knows it.  One of the two will have to suffice.

    But then I feel the familiar pressure building behind my chest.  I feel the world and everything in it dissolving and the space between David and me becoming liquid.  I freeze.  I stand perfectly still.  If I move, I explode.  Whatever it is that is tearing its way through me heaves into the atmosphere around us and into David Hoffman's wasted body.  David's face takes on a look of astonished bewilderment. 

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