1 What kind of book is Thunderbird?
Thunderbird and the Ball of Twine (A Folk Tale) is out-of-this-world literature.
2 What do you mean, out-of-this-world?
I mean it promptly plunges deep into the subconscious well, a grappling hook on the numinous horizon, straddling dark and light throughout.
3 I thought you were going to say its out-of-this-world because there's a UFO in it. Like Twilight Zone out-of-this-world. As you can see, I already know something about the book.
First off, this is talk-talk communication. This is not my fiction voice.
Odile McDonald sees a UFO moments before Johnnie Jackson, in his wonderful golden Thunderbird, trashes her little Kia. The UFO is the pearl of light nexus from which the rest of the story, leading up to then speeding beyond, radiates. Well, speeding beyond as best as one can in two cars that are totaled. You've probably never seen Fantastic Voyage but in it Raquel Welch and some guys are put on a submarine that's shrunk down and injected into another guy's blood stream so they can voyage his rivers of blood to his brain and bust a clot and save him. Think of the UFO as a tornado that transports Odile and Johnnie to an alternate realm, and Glenda the Good Witch sends them to the Wizard for the means by which they may return home, which necessitates Johnnie and Odile being shrunk down, like Raquel Welch and that submarine of hers were shrunk down in Fantastic Voyage, and injected into their very own brains. That's an analogy. But it's just like that.
4 Is it fanciful? It sounds fanciful and maybe comedic.
Thunderbird is a gritty book. Though ripe with dark comedy, it's not liberally alleviated with LOL humor like my book Unending Wonders of a Subatomic World (or) In Search of the Great Penguin. What happens to Johnnie and Odile is sometimes told in a humorous way, and has its funny moments, but their circumstances are too relentlessly bewildering for the kind of humor in Subatomic World. One may laugh and then consider, "I really shouldn't laugh at this." It's a fine line between gentle and very nervous dark comedy that's walked in the book.
5 If it has a UFO, is it a paranormal book?
We think of myths, fairy tales, folk tales and certain types of legendary figures not as being paranormal but as belonging to an alien prehistory that has no connection with today, only a faint shadow of which is felt in dreams. Dreams are contained in their nice safe sleep boxes, but everyone has had the experience of a dream or several that refuses to let go when one wakes up. These are characters whose ordinary lives are invaded by inexplicable forces that behave according to a seeming intelligence that stands outside their rational spheres of knowledge and experience. They find themselves entwined in a complex web of weirdness, of peculiar, alternate terrains usurping their ordinary, daily maps. The book may begin with the UFO sighting that will bring Johnnie and Odile together, but then it jumps back months preceding the collision, when their lives are already being rearranged by seeming unrelated events and odd synchronicities. As for the collision, it only gives them a glancing acquaintance.
I've described it like this. Into every life a seeming nemesis must creep, if one is to have an opportunity to evolve or dissolve, whichever way the narrative blows, and on the shore of his consensual reality world, spyglass to eye, Johnnie Jackson had watched and waited for the dot of a black flag ship to appear on the horizon, the telltale flotsam and jetsam of its existence having already swamped his beach. Then his golden Thunderbird collided with Odile McDonald, who had just been sideswiped by a UFO. Insurance information exchanged, down that dark alley between respectable, upright science and sly, illegitimate synchronicity, they each turned and limped away. A comedic philosophical quest and serious inquiry into the fool’s journey, Thunderbird and the Ball of Twine, a Folk Tale explores the fragility of our conclusions on being and consciousness when based upon the fragmentary sharing of experience and elusive, illusive perspective constrained by the regulating thermostat of cultural expectations.
6 What do you mean by the fragmentary sharing of experience?
Most of what streams through our minds and lives daily is not only unabsorbed, unreflected upon, but deliberately shunned as meaningless and irrelevant. We don't begin to share even the slimmest portions of our experience--mental, psychic, sensory--with others. We can scarcely process but a little of it ourselves. We're born into cultural boxes that define our realities for us, tell us what to think, for what we should strive. Even those who think they're "alternative" are usually walking just another one of those culturally contrived paths. What's off those paths, outside those boxes, we end up keeping hidden from ourselves because we reflexively shield ourselves from it, as we've been taught to do. What we end up knowing about each other is a garment of culture, as with ourselves.
7 What served as inspiration for the book?
The book is fiction but aspects of it parallel that experience, though considerably altered. For eight years I deliberated on the how of writing it, then spent five years on the writing once I'd decided on the "how".
8 You mean you saw a UFO?
Yes. I was sitting at a stop light in urban Atlanta, and was watching what I believed was the bright light of a helicopter. When it occurred to me that the helicopter wasn't moving, the bright light zipped away, at remarkable speed. Had this been during the age of iPhones, I wouldn't have gotten a photo as I believed I was looking at the bright light of a helicopter until I realized I wasn't and it was gone. Rather than being overtly excited, I was quietly awestruck. I went on to the rehearsal for the play of mine that was in production at the time, and I didn't even think to mention it that night to anyone, not because the event wasn't impressive or because I was uncomfortable about it, but because it needed some sitting with and processing, which involved years later seeing how it fit into other peculiar experiences as a paradigm shifter.
I'm speaking in retrospect, hindsight, while at the time the event naturally moved to a very quiet back seat. I didn't think to myself, "I'll just have to see what happens next." Some of those experiences transpired over an extended period of time, others were brief, like the greeting card UFO. Subsequent my most dramatic experiences, when I knew they were over and done with--it was almost as if they had a predetermined on and off switch--I started reading around and found they shared similarities with those had by writers such as Anton Wilson, P.K. Dick and Terence McKenna. Only without the drugs. I trusted most of their accounts because they spoke of the nightmare aspect of it, the soul deep terror aspect, whereas many think instead the numinous-mystical is going to be all love, light and bliss. Old initiation mysteries were staged to scare the hell out of you for a reason. The human concept of bliss doesn't figure in--though I've experienced that transcendent, multi-eyed bliss as well, and perhaps the way I've experienced it wouldn't have been likely without all this other.
While Wilson, Dick and McKenna wrote and spoke of their experiences very soon after their occurrence, even during, I needed some time to see how things evolved subsequently. Plus I needed that time for Thunderbird to form. I can say this, that when the most dramatic paradigm shifting experiences were ongoing, I certainly learned to not jump to conclusions.
Eight years may seem like a long time to think about the "how" of writing this book, but I didn't want the novel to be just about the experiences. I had to develop the people to whom these experiences would belong and come up with the "how" of translating and changing my experience to fit their worlds, while also trying to be true to the essence of my own experience. It took a while working on Unending Wonders before the characters were so real to me that they've remained kind of personal friends to this day, though static, their stories ended when the book ended. The same had to happen with Thunderbird and Johnnie and Odile and Irma and Kyoko and Claudia and Cliff and Hellene. Only after they were solid and walking around with me daily, could I begin. Then for five years I had to sit with them and let the evolution of their lives take place. As I've told someone, it's more like being an explorer of the psychic and archetypal ocean that exists between the folds. You wait for a form to pass and then you have to eat and drink and breathe with it to get it to trust you and tell you its story, the real one, not the gloss. Get careless and the gods and goddesses become offended, they flee, and their essences turn into simple math.
I don't mean to give the impression that any of the writing is stream-of-consciousness, and that how it works out on paper the first time is how it stays. No, every word and sentence is a matter of stylistic choice in the how of the telling. I rewrite numerous times, always. I'm a very conscious sculptor of what unfolds, very deliberate in the manner and how of the telling. So, when, about three-quarters of the way through the book I alter the style in which I've been relating the story, as I do with Thunderbird and the Ball of Twine, that too is a deliberate choice.
There are things which, too, are left loose ends, and that is purposeful, deliberate. Life's not like a novel or a movie in which reasons are established for everything and all mysteries are solved.
9 Who are Irma, Kyoko, Claudia, Cliff and Hellene?
Irma is Johnnie's sister. Claudia is Odile's aunt. Simply put, Kyoko is Johnnie's employer. Odile and Johnnie needed their rocks of Gibraltar. Cliff is Odile's boyfriend. Hellene is Johnnie's girlfriend. It's a very concentrated book--not short, but concentrated--and so there aren't many characters, I had to keep a tight focus on the separate story arcs of Johnnie and Odile and their interior worlds. This wasn't a book for the extended flights of digressive exposition I interspersed throughout Unending Wonders.
10 Why should I buy this book?
It's entertaining. And it has some very good people to know, with whom to be friends.
11 Can I read a chapter?
Read a PDF of the opening chapter and chapter headings here.
12 Where do I buy this book?
The paperback version is on sale at Lulu. I've not released it as a paperback on Amazon because the mark-up there would make the price too high.
However, Thunderbird and the Ball of Twine (a Folk Tale) is also available as a Kindle ebook at Amazon.
PURCHASE THE PAPERBACK AT LULU
PURCHASE THE EBOOK FOR KINDLE AT AMAZON
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