The Wishing Map

Yesterday’s quote from my fantasy novel The Wishing Map was warmly responded to. And I’m currently in the throes of editing the novelization of my feature film Healing River (to my editor’s satisfaction, I pray). And so I’ve re-posted the first serialized episode of the Wishing Map below for those who’ve never read it or would like to read it again. I’ll post the second tomorrow, with a link to the entire book. But enough intro–Let the adventure begin!

Wishing pix-Title-(framed)


Bedtime is the time to stall. And asking for “a story” is the best way to do it. In response to such requests, many years ago I began improvising an ongoing story for my daughters about two princesses, who coincidentally happened to have the same names as them. They lived in a castle at the end of a cul-de-sac with Queen Mommy and King Daddy (hey, when you’re five-years-old this is great stuff). Wishing pix-Map

Their adventures at the end of the cul-de-sac continued until one night the Princesses stumbled upon a fantastical world accessible via a mysterious map. This was an immediate box office smash. From now on, my daughters insisted that all of their namesake adventures be “Wishing Map stories!”

The epic continued into their middle school years when King Daddy, who happened to be working in the movie biz, Wishing pix-Themeshad an offer from another magical kingdom to pitch ideas for an animated series. The first thing he/I thought was, “The Wishing Map!” Calling it “a modern American Chronicles of Narnia,” the Disney folks were enchanted. I worked on the storyline and characters—the two leads having morphed into a brother and sister named Zack and Gina Dore—while illustrators created the concept art.

Wishing pix-AviarEverything was magical until one day some mid-level minions said, “Holy (bleep)! This is going to cost a ton-a-money!” In computer animation, the more settings and characters a show has, the more it costs. And The Wishing Map had scads of both. So the animated series was put on hold until its source (me) could create a book series that was successful enough to justify spending a (bleeping) ton-a-money!

Some years have passed. It took a while for this script writer to learn how to be a novelist. In the meantime the Disney offer cooled. Will it ever happen? Don’t know, don’t care. I fell in love with fiction writing! So I’ll keep on going either way.

Our journey begins here:

The Wishing Map

Prologue: The Unknown

“There’s magic in the world. And it’s waiting to be found.”

That was what Zack and Gina Dore’s Aunt Aloysia always said just before she left. She never told them what she meant. She never explained anything, ever.  Never told them when she was coming, either.  Just arrived, then left, a week later, an hour later, and never a word about when she’d be back. She was like one of those ultraviolet lights that lets you see things you didn’t know were there. When Aloysia was present you suddenly realized the world wasn’t the way you thought it was, and the things you thought you had control over, you didn’t. For example:

When Zack was seven years old, he noticed that the Centerburg Northern always took precisely eight minutes to pass Middleton. Always. So he’d come to think of Middleton as exactly eight minutes long. He’d taken comfort in this, secure in the fact that he lived in an eight minute long town. Then one day, right after one of Aunt Aloysia’s visits, the train hurtled past in four minutes.

Impossible. How did Middleton get to be four minutes long? It bugged him, really bugged him. If Middleton could change, what else could? Would he wake up one day and find his dad turned into a hippopotamus? His house into a lake? His sister into a bowl of ice cream? (Well, some change can be good.) Of course, he was older now, and understood about things like rate and motion. Still, he’d never felt quite as certain about anything since then. After all, if time and distance weren’t fixed, what was?

Nothing. Because, like ants in the pantry, the uncontrollable, the unknown, will always find a way in.


And for the Dore family, the way in was Aunt Aloysia.

⇔ ⇔ ⇔

Thoughts: Is our concept of reality, like Zack’s “eight-minute-long town,” really all there is?  Or is there magic in the world, magic that’s “waiting to be found?”

To read The Wishing Map 2, click here.

Wishing pix-Map

Posted in Books, Memoir, Story Power, The Wishing Map, Writing | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

The Purpose of Your Life

Thought for the Week

We are not the only creatures on earth who look up at the stars.

But we are the only ones who look up and ask, “Why?”


“Yes, your life has a purpose.” said Rhema.

“What?” Gina replied.

“It is what you wanted to know, and the answer is yes. But you must understand, and you must promise to tell your brother that…

The purpose of your life did not begin with you,

and it will not end with you.”

~from The Wishing Map

Posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Quips and Quotes, The Wishing Map | Tagged , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Is It Real?



If it doesn’t change who I am,

it isn’t real.

Posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Quips and Quotes, Religion/Faith | Tagged , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Weekend Chores

Me Doing Weekend Chores

Lizard 'playing guitar' - not Photoshopped (photo by Aditya Permana)

“I’ve been looking over the list of spring chores I made up last fall, and darned if they aren’t fall chores, after all.” ~Robert Breault

“Normal Person’s Weekly Chore List:
1. Clean kitchen
2. Clean bathroom
3. Clean entire rest of domicile
Cleaning-Impaired Person’s Weekly Chore List:
1. Don’t get peanut butter on sheets”
~Dave Barry

“I fought the lawn and the lawn won.” ~Unknown

“My neighbor asked me if he could use my lawnmower.  I told him he could — as long as he didn’t take it out of my yard.” ~Unknown

“Cleanliness is not next to godliness. It isn’t even in the same neighborhood. No one has ever gotten a religious experience out of removing burned-on cheese from the grill of the toaster oven.” ~Erma Bombeck

Posted in Culture, Humor, Quips and Quotes | Tagged , , , , , , | 32 Comments

Life Moves in Waves

When we think of waves, we think of the ocean. But everything moves in waves: sand, air, fire, light, even the earth beneath our feet. Life doesn’t move in a straight line, it moves in waves. Human existence, as well: failure, success, sorrow, joy, anger, forgiveness, pandemics, healing. Waves can’t be avoided, but they can be understood — the ugliest wave has a beautiful side. If we only we can see it.

Click on any image to enlarge it, to read caption, or to begin slide show.

“She was no better than the shells by her feet, tumbling this way and that at the beck and call of the waves.” ~Katherine McIntyre

“The rush of love and the surge of grief, the respite of peace and then fear again, the heart that beats and then lies still, the rise and fall and rise and fall of all of it…the infinite procession of life. And the ocean wraps the earth, a reminder. The mysteries come forward in waves.” ~Susan Casey

“Waves are not as dangerous as fear of waves.” ~Vikrmn

“Waves are the voices of tides. Tides are life.” ~Tamora Pierce

“The sea, to be happy, like hearts, must be stirred.” ~Will Advise

“If you are a boat that wants to sail in windy weather, you must be more stubborn than the waves!” ~Mehmet Murat ildan

“I tried to discover, in the rumor of forests and waves, words that other men could not hear, and I pricked up my ears to listen to the revelation of their harmony.” ~Gustave Flaubert

“Let the shores tell you the beauty of the ocean waves.” ~Aisha S. Kingu

“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.” ~Unknown*

*Attributed to various people
Posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Quips and Quotes | Tagged , , , , , , , | 37 Comments

Hurry Up and Stay, Fall!


Do you call it Fall, from the old Germanic word fallan? Which literally means to “fall,” as in the temperatures or the leaves, or both. Or do you call it Autumn? A prettier word from the Latin autumnus. Still, it’s meaning, “cold,” isn’t so pretty, so I prefer to think of it as Mr. Tumnus’s namesake season.

Whichever term you use, there’s a good chance it’s your favorite season (it is mine). And it’s here! Sort of here. September is like a potluck supper—hit or miss. But no matter what the barometer says, the leaves still begin to turn. And so do our thoughts: to homemade cocoas or pumpkin-spice lattes, or sipping fortified eggnogs while reading and whisky-dozing by a fire, with a non-shedding cat or hypo-allergenic dog on your lap.

Do you long for it like I do, and then mourn its untimely passing? Or do you comfort yourself with the thought that “Christmas is coming”? But I’m getting ahead of myself. Hurry up, Fall. And then stick around for a while!

  “August rain: the best of the summer gone, and the new fall not yet born. The odd uneven time.” ~Sylvia Plath

“But when fall comes, kicking summer out on its treacherous ass as it always does one day sometime after the midpoint of September, it stays awhile like an old friend that you have missed.” ~Stephen King

“Autumn seemed to arrive suddenly that year. The morning of the first September was crisp and golden as an apple.” ~J.K. Rowling

“It was a beautiful bright autumn day, with air like cider and a sky so blue you could drown in it.” ~Diana Gabaldon

“But frost, like the crystallized dreams of autumn, began to coat the clearing with its sugar glaze.” ~Victoria Logue

“Leaves covered pavement like soggy cereal.” ~Patricia Cornwell

   “The house was very quiet, and the fog pressed against the windows like an excluded ghost.” ~E.M. Forster

“Love the trees until their leaves fall off,

then encourage them to try again next year.”

~Chad Sugg

Posted in Humor, Quips and Quotes | Tagged , , , , , , , | 26 Comments


hole (1)

81h1fz49TIL._UY200_My Featured Blogger this week is River Dixon of The Stories In Between. I don’t know a lot about River, except that he lives in Arizona and writes short stories and poems (he’s authored seven published collections to date). The poem below approaches all-too-familiar territory: the pain of rejection. Sincere-but-amateurish love poems are legion. But that’s not River.

River’s imagery and ideas are fresh, polished, and distinctly his own. Whether the subject is unrequited love or pandemic-driven isolation, he’s always worth reading. Always. As his Amazon author page puts it, River writes about “the darkness and the light which exist in all of us…(and) through this exposure comes an understanding of the common struggles shared by each of us.”

The Stories In Between

I wasn't quite dead
But you buried
Me anyway
It wasn't much Of a ceremony But what Did I expect
I wish this hole Was deeper Because I can still Hear your voice
Going on and on To your friends About all the ways I wasn't right for you
And who invited Them anyway They're your friends
Oh, that's right You did I wish it was Sunday Then you could Move on Go to brunch Or something And Leave me At the bottom Of this hole
You've thrown Enough dirt On me For today
I know, I know You never meant For it to be This way
But I was just so- And too- You needed me To be more- And not so- Yes, I know I get it Okay It's over
If you change Your mind Just know I'll be right Here, waiting In this hole For you…

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Posted in Poetry, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Activating God’s Promise

15039555_10210831807652088_8231918332645232678_oMy first feature film as a writer-director, Healing River, in production.

“This is what the LORD God says, ‘In returning and rest shall you be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength.’ But you would not.” ~Isaiah 30:15

Nearly 20 years ago, I received Isaiah 30:15-18 as a promise from God. I don’t usually “claim” promises from God (like never). But I felt deeply impressed that this was real.

I assumed the last line (“but you would not”) didn’t apply to me. And verses 16 through 18 were about the Israelites to whom the promise was originally given. I was a seasoned Jesus follower, so, unlike the Israelites who tried to fulfill the promise themselves, I knew I wouldn’t do that.

As a part of the promise, my wife and I felt called to make movies. So I secured a day-job teaching filmmaking, and she became the production coordinator at an animation and special effects company.

Then the teaching gig ended. And the movie deals, almost miraculously, fell apart:

  • A mega-studio held-off sending my contract for a “sold” movie project, and then produced it without me.
  • A film financier’s marriage collapsed (cheating and guns were involved) hours before he was supposed to transfer the money for our upcoming production.
  • A division of Warner Bros went broke just before they were supposed to begin work on their next feature film–my project.
  • And an executive at 20th Century Fox suddenly kaboshed a movie I’d pitched after the production division had already said yes.

I pushed harder. And harder. Desperately trying to fulfill God’s promise. True, I’d sensed from the start that the promise was about more than just making movies; it was about becoming the person I needed to be, and that others needed me to be.

Finally, the money ran out. So we quit the movie biz and moved to Ohio, where I served at a church for four years. Then one day I revisited that Isaiah passage, the part I figured hadn’t applied to me:

“But you would not, ‘No, you said, ‘We will flee on horses.’ And therefore, you will flee! You said, ‘We will ride off on swift horses.’ Therefore, your pursuers will be swifter! You will flee until you are left (unprotected and exposed) like a flag on a mountaintop.’ But the LORD (still) longs to be gracious to you (to fulfill His promise).”

And then it struck me: The passage begins with a challenge, not to amass “horses” and armies, but to “return and rest.” Not to frantically wage war and “win,” but to find strength (the fulfillment of the promise) “in quietness and confidence.”

Like the Israelites, I’d never fulfilled my role.

So, without expecting ever to make movies again, I entered a time of renewal, of returning and resting, of seeking nothing more than God himself. I learned more than I ever had before about who I was, and who I needed to be. And I began to find my true strength.

And then one day an Ohio (not Hollywood) movie company called and said,

Hey, want to make a movie?”

Healing River PosterNotzilla posterTo watch or order Healing River, click here.

To watch or order Notzilla, click here.

Posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Memoir, Movies, Quips and Quotes | Tagged , , , , , | 38 Comments

A Different Kind of Mask

Thought for the Week

“We are intensely attached,” Matthew Kelly observes, “to being perceived in a positive light, even by people we don’t know and will never meet—perhaps most telling, we even 'Self-Portrait With Mask' by Felix Nussbaum (1928)want to be perceived positively by people we don’t like. In short, we want everyone to like us. This of course leads us to present ourselves in ways that are inauthentic. This is a recipe for disaster. I am never happy when I pretend to be someone I am not. The birth of social media has put this pretending on steroids… We seem more interested in pretending to live interesting lives than actually living interesting lives. (Instead), we should see social media as a way to bring a positive message of hope to a realm filled with so much negativity and hopelessness.”

When will we stop wearing masks? Not the COVID-19 kind, but the kind we were wearing long before this pandemic began? The kind that hides who we are? The kind that keep us from infecting our culture with the “virus” of hope it so desperately needs?

“Live life with a due sense of responsibility, not as those who do not know the meaning of life, but as those who do.”

~Ephesians 5:15

Posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Quips and Quotes | Tagged , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

Never Forget

This Is Eternal Life

Never forget

It’s not what you know,

but Who you know

Posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Quips and Quotes, Religion/Faith | Tagged , , , , , , | 9 Comments