For seven years of single parenthood, my son Luke (the late Major Luke Gaines Parker, Aug. 19, 1976-Nov. 17, 2013) and I lived in the Nevada desert. One of our favorite entertainments was holding sagebrush jumping contests – which I hasten to add, he invariably won!
Except the mountains changing colors as clouds pass over them, shadows in the desert are short. Rocks, sagebrush, Russian thistle (tumbleweed), rabbit brush – all cast short shadows and there are virtually no trees. When we moved to the Texas Hill Country, trees along the road threw shadows down and when those shadows hit the road in front of me when I was driving, I got dizzy. It was a silly thing and I couldn’t understand it until Mom’s Christmas present.
Because Mom never had much money to spend on us at Christmas, she came up with unique, affordable gifts like the scrapbook of childhood photos she compiled for each of us one Christmas. It must have taken her weeks of sorting through pictures to get all the photos in the right albums for the right children. Luke loved the pictures of his mom as a child. We were looking at the album one day when I focused in on a small wooden house splattered with shade from trees surrounding it. Suddenly, the picture reached out and grabbed me. I was pulled through the hall to the back door where – partly outside my range of vision – my father was beating something to death. I couldn’t see the victim clearly enough to identify it, and the unexpected image frightened me so badly that I snapped out of the trance. I tried to revisit that picture later when I was alone, but I never could get past the front door again. The image of him pounding something and blood everywhere had terrorized me.
So my newest book, “Fear of Shadows,” was born from that Christmas gift and from the horrendous memory that almost surfaced.
My father was an atheist. He was a cruel wicked man who obeyed no law – God or man-made – except his law: “What’s good for J.L. Potter is good.” As a result, he committed shockingly evil crimes during his lifetime and was one of the first 51 people in the U.S. to die from a newly discovered disease that hadn’t even been named yet. We know it now as AIDS.
“Fear of Shadows” is a Christian mystery-romance-suspense book written from my imagination, not a true story. They say that fact is stranger than fiction. It is a fact that when I was five, my father loaded me, his mother, a Great Dane dog, my grandmother’s dog, and two cats into a wood-paneled station wagon and drove away from California in the middle of the night. He left my sister, my brother, and my pregnant mother behind. We camped out in the then-untamed Florida Everglades swamp along a lagoon with venomous snakes and alligators. We ate bread and peanut butter, and pancakes that my grandmother cooked over an open fire, every day…day after day. All these years later, I still can’t eat pancakes. My father claimed he was looking for work. Perhaps he wanted to herd alligators.
So…who and what was his victim? I don’t know. But I think you’ll enjoy the story that this experience wrote for me. God Bless you and Merry Christmas.