Dream Big Dreams: The Man Behind FADE
With FADE now back out in the world, and FALL and FLAME coming, I thought today was a fitting time to share the story and the man behind this series. This post was originally shared when the first book came out years ago.
Inspiration for an author comes in many forms. A song. A myth. A dream. Heck, maybe even a college lecture. I found inspiration for The Ragnarök Prophesies series in all of those places, but the series didn't begin there.
The series began with my maternal grandfather a long time ago.
As a child, I spent my summers in his semi-truck while he drove all over the country. He showed me so many amazing stories in places not always marked on a tourist's map… the stories collected by other truckers, and those he witnessed himself.
In the middle of Michigan sits a car wrapped completely around a pole. My grandfather witnessed the accident that ended with the car there and made a point of driving by to show it to me on one of our trips to Detroit.
"Remember this spot," he said, slowing his truck so I could see, "because a miracle happened here. When the young man driving that car walked away without a scratch, they decided to leave the car right there to remind people that miracles happen every day. If that's not beauty, I don't know what is."
In Texas, he took me to a diner where a young Mexican mother offered him her baby after he gave her a few dollars to feed her young children.
"I thought she was joking, but when she walked away," he said, a thoughtful frown on his face, "an elderly guy across the way told me she was dead serious. She would have given me that baby because she didn't know how else to give him a shot at life. I've always wondered what happened to that poor little girl." He shook his head, tears in his eyes. "Be grateful for what you have, kiddo. There are people out here who have it a whole lot worse than you can imagine. And when you meet those people, you be kind to them. It just may be the only kindness they ever see."
I clung to his every word, awed at this larger than life man who shared his memories so freely. Listening to him fired my imagination and opened up entirely new worlds to me. Worlds filled with miracles and magic, with hopelessness and compassion, and with people who had their own stories to tell.
When my grandfather and I weren't on the road, we were outside. He made sure that every day was an adventure for the grandkids who flocked to him like sheep. Whether we were tinkering in the shed, shearing sheep, hunting for berries, building barns, or chasing down escaped animals, we embraced the experience and the man who watched over us without complaint. He was a patient teacher, encouraging each of us to do our best, to have faith, and to dream big dreams. No matter how outrageous those dreams, he urged us to pursue them, and cheered us on every step of the way.
At seven, when I realized that real people wrote books, I told him I wanted to write too. I wanted to tell stories like my grandpa did. He told me if that's what I wanted to do with my life, I'd better get to work because books didn't write themselves. From that moment on, he was my biggest fan.
When I wrote my first book in the fifth grade, that sense of adventure he taught me shone through. Miranda, my young protagonist, found herself on a thrilling journey through the streets of Jamaica, armed with only a picture and her two best friends. The book was published locally as part of a school project, and when my grandfather found out, my book went where school prevented me from going.
He took that book everywhere with him, proudly proclaiming that his granddaughter had done him proud and chased her dreams.
Every time we spoke, he asked about my writing, and told me never to give up on my dreams.
In 2006, my grandfather passed away suddenly. My life turned upside down, and so did those of my family members. This amazing man who brought so much love, laughter, and adventure to our lives was gone. Our one solace was that he'd gone quickly, doing what he loved to do. He was outside, taking care of his animals.
In the long months after his passing, my last conversation with him replayed in my mind.
We'd sat down at the kitchen table to eat breakfast together one rare morning when he looked over at me, and out of the blue, told me how proud I made him. He then asked the same question he asked every time we talked.
"Are you still writing?"
At the time, I wasn't writing. My nephew was nearing the five-month mark in the hospital. I was a full-time college student, a full-time volunteer, and a full-time home health aide. I rationalized that I just didn't have time to write with so much else going on.
My grandfather didn't buy that excuse for a minute. "What happened to your dream of writing?" he asked me.
I didn't know how to answer that question, because that dream had long since been buried underneath a laundry list of other things that required my attention.
He shook his head and tsk'd at me. "Kiddo, you should be writing too," he said. "You can't give up a dream just because the going gets tough."
After he passed, that conversation began replaying in my mind, and I realized what he'd asked was more significant than any question I'd asked myself in a long time. What had happened to my dream of writing?
I'd dedicated so much time to writing over the years… only to give it up for no real reason. The stories were still there, but I hadn't been telling them.
That bothered me. So, I sat down to write.
I'd always been told to write what I knew, and right then, I knew grief and the heartache of losing someone who had always been such a central figure in my life. And so Arionna's story began. Her loss was my loss. But her story was so much more than that.
Her story was a song, a myth, a dream, a college lecture… and a personal reminder that my grandfather was still with me. The things he'd taught me remained. And I owed it to both of us to honor his memory the best way I knew how: Through writing.
Six years later, FADE was accepted for publication, and I dedicated the book to my grandfather. I thought he'd like to know that our adventure was just beginning. And like those we had when I was a kid, this journey promised to be one full of miracles and magic, of hopelessness and compassion, and of people with their own stories to tell.
He never got to read any of The Ragnarök Prophesies series, but I have a feeling he's up there right now, telling everyone how his granddaughter did him proud and chased down her big dream. And knowing him, he's leaving out the part where he helped.
What do you do when you realize nothing in your life is what you’ve believed it to be?
Arionna Jacobs' world is turned upside down when she loses her mother in a tragic accident. She’s forced to leave her old life behind and move in with her father.
Dace Matthews, a teaching assistant at Arionna's new college, is torn in two, unable to communicate with the feral wolf caged inside him.
When they meet, everything they thought they knew about life unravels. Dace has intimate access to Arionna’s mind, and something deep within her fights to rise to the surface. They don’t understand what’s happening to them or why, and they’re running out of time to sort out the strange occurrences around them.
Their meeting sets an ancient Norse prophesy of destruction in motion, and what destiny has in store for them is bigger than either could have ever imagined. Unless they learn to trust themselves and one another, they may never resolve the mystery surrounding who they are to one another, and what that means for the world.