Good morning, friends. My most pressing news is, of course, the release of my first full-length book Catching Lightning. With 300 pages of fantasy and science fiction, this book is the culmination of a TON of work over a long stretch of time. The stories within are a piece of me. They are, in essence, the result of me catching lightning over and over again.
A lot of people ask authors a peculiar question: “Where do you get your ideas?” Now, it may seem like a pretty straight forward question to ask. The easiest answer is something a bit snide like, “Oh, you know, I go to the idea shop at the mall (are those still a thing?) and pay three fifty a pop. Sometimes they’re running a buy-one-get-one.” In reality, it’s much, much more complicated and elusive than that. In reality, as many authors have already stated, we really have no clue.
In that regards, writing is a bit like catching lightning. You never know where it’s going to strike, and it *probably* won’t strike twice in the same place. But sometimes, if you’re lucky, it may strike one after another close enough to put together something special.
That being said, I’d like to share with you the title story, which touches better on this idea through fiction than I ever could through a blog post. This is, “Catching Lightning,” the first story in Catching Lightning (starting to sense a theme here??). Thank you for reading.
Catching Lightning, by Curtis A. Deeter
“You’re going to…try to catch lightning?”
“And…put it in a jar?”
Seymour, the patent officer, peered quizzically at me over the top of his spectacles. He scrunched his forehead until the lines began to look like wheat fields.
“Fine, I’ll bite. With what are you planning to catch said lightning with, Mr. Faulkner?”
“Why, my hands, of course.” It was as if he never caught a baseball or held a socket wrench. There was no difference with catching lightning; it was simply bolder. “How else?”
The patent officer sighed, removed his spectacles, carefully folding them shut, and set them on his desk between us. He shifted the photograph of him and his family, facing it away from me, and took a sip from a mug labeled, “World’s Best Patent Officer.” This must have been the only mug with that monogram in existence, and that was a little impressive.
He steepled his fingers. His mouth opened and closed a few times like the goldfish in the tank behind him, then he sighed again. “To what end, dare I ask?”
“To having caught lightning, sir. I thought at least that much was apparent.”
“No, Mr. Faulkner. Let it be on record that I do not condone this sort of asinine, dangerous behavior. I want nothing to do with this ‘catching lightning.’ Please, leave my office before I’m forced to call security. I’m a senior partner. I do not have time for this…nonsense. I would advise you do something more productive with your time. Something your parents can be proud of.”
I gathered my papers, stuffed them into my leather briefcase, and stood to leave. But, before I did, I turned and raised a finger.
“Can I please—”
He began dialing. “I’m calling now, Mr. Faulkner.”
“Right.” I tilted my hat. “Good afternoon, then.”
You see, I was something of a liar back then. I made things up, and people paid me to read those made-up things. Well, sometimes. Most of the time, they were ready to pay me to go away. Before I became a visionary—The Catcher of Lightning—before I won the Nobel Prize for Physics and Literature, I told stories about the last dragons and dark wizards, programmable automatons and anthropomorphic deities. I still tell those stories, mostly in my head, but I’m busy traveling the world to share my discovery with eager young minds.
But that’s not all there is to my story. It isn’t even the most important part.
The first time I was struck by lightning I was washing dishes. It wasn’t a particularly nasty thunderstorm, and there weren’t any signs to indicate that I should be worried about my well-being. I was only scrubbing plates, after all.
A new episode of Cheers was playing in the background. If I listened carefully, I could hear laugh tracks and the clanking of beer glasses. There was the gentle tinkling of the shower upstairs, too. My wife. I warned her, “Don’t you think you should wait until the lightning passes,” but she insisted. It was her time of the day to wash away the disappointments. I hoped I hadn’t been one of them, but I never imagined it was actually me who had to worry about the lightning that day.
All I remember is a blinding flash of light. I was frozen; the pain was so bad, like my whole body was being pressed flat onto the stove top. Then, as quickly as it began, I was released, flung backward across the kitchen into our Michigan oak dining room table. Other than crispy around the edges, and smoking a bit from the ears, I felt okay. In fact, I felt amazing.
My mind raced, filled with images and scenes, characters and stories. I grabbed a notebook without hesitation. Three broken pencils later, I had filled six books and written my first four novels. Looking back, I don’t remember a single word I wrote, but they were among the first of many. My dream had begun.
The Collective laughed in my face.
They claimed to be bigger than Shark Tank. They said their money, their brand, and their products were shaping the future. A deal with them meant success and riches beyond your wildest dreams, but they were exclusive. Very exclusive.
But they laughed until tears streamed down their polished cheeks. They laughed until they fell onto the floor, and then they laughed some more until I thought their sides might split one rib at a time.
The Boardroom was much larger than it had any right to be, and much higher off the ground. We were twenty-eight floors up in a room the size of a soccer pitch with nothing but a twelve-foot Ikea table in the center and a rolling, farmhouse-modern bar cart off to the side. If you ask me, staying grounded makes much more sense when it comes to cultivating ideas. That’s where, more often than not—and without any sort of rod—lightning strikes.
“So,” I said once they composed themselves, “will you fund my project? It’s really a no brain—”
“I’m going to stop you there.” Chad, the guy in charge, wiped tears off his face. He had creased his Armani suit in his hysteria, but the gel glooped into his hair held. Losing his “do” would probably have been the worst thing to ever happen to him. “Yeah, no, my guy,” he said. “We’re not gonna be doing that.”
Karen stroked her perfect blonde hair. “We don’t invest in fantasy.” She said “fantasy” like she had burned her mouth on a chai tea latte. “Besides, how are we going to make money on lightning?”
“Well, all you have to do is—”
“It was rhetoric, my guy.”
Julia smiled, and I felt a little better. She seemed like the designated dreamer of the group when I first walked in, and that gave me hope. Maybe someone might yet see reason.
“Thank you for considering the Collective, Mr. Faulkner. Your pitch was…unique. Inspired, even. Unfortunately, your vision does not align with ours. We wish you all the best in finding the right investors for…What was it, again?”
“Right, that. Anyway, we hope you consider us for any future endeavors. Please, see yourself out, Mr. Faulkner.”
We shook hands. I heard them laughing some more after the door closed behind me.
It’s hard for our visions to align, I thought, when you have no vision at all.
The second time I was struck by lightning I was walking home from school with Amelia Kramer. She was a tiny little thing, blonde with frog-like blue eyes and a tragic case of, “No, thank you. I’m not hungry right now.”
Before I was struck by lightning, I was too afraid to hold her hand. It was right there, brushing against my outer thigh as we meandered through the suburbs, each house a clone of the last. Where it was better to fit in than to stand out, to keep quiet than to make bold statements.
After I was struck by lightning, I knew exactly what I wanted to say and how to say it. I composed an epic poem in eight colors of jelly roll, wrote the entire notebook full. I confessed my Shakespearean love to her in sonnets under the full moon. She wept. I wept. The neighbor’s cat wept. We were each other’s destiny: The girl who might float away and the boy with permanently spikey, silverish-blue-streaked hair.
Then, she moved to a facility on the other side of town. While I never saw Amelia again, she wrote me a letter that first week. Her letter said:
“You’re going places, kid. Catch that lightning and share it with everyone you can. The world’s a sad, tired place. It needs a good recharging. Xoxo, Amelia.”
Nothing about us. Nothing about herself or what she was going through. Just that: a brief word of encouragement and two ink-scrawled kisses and hugs. Somedays I can still feel the pressure of her pen on my cheek.
I gave a lot of speeches over the years. Small auditoriums filled with eager, under-engaged teenagers; theaters of desperate, middle-aged, working-class people who were never encouraged to chase their dreams; stadiums of geriatrics, using their last days to finally figure out who they were and what they wanted their legacies to be. Each speech left its lasting impressions on me. But my first, when I accepted my Nobel prizes, will always burn the brightest.
“To conclude,” I said, “I’d like to say a few words to all of those who helped me get here today. Not for supporting me, not for giving me the tools and resources to accomplish the seemingly impossible, but for telling me no. For laughing in my face when I told you, ‘I’m going to catch lightning someday.’ You responded, ‘You’re crazy. You’ll do no such thing.’
“But I did it, didn’t I? I did it again and again and again. Now, we all live in a world of boundless possibility. We live in cities where dreams come true, dragons soar the skies, and people live together in intellectual harmony and abundance. We put a woman on Mars, we charted the deepest depths of the oceans, we unlocked the secret to eternal life, and more. We build monsters, for science’s sake. We can be whoever we want to be, do whatever we can imagine, and go wherever our feet desire. These things didn’t happen by accident. They happened because visionaries were in the right place at the right time, armed with one of my flasks. They allowed themselves to be receptive to the bolts of inspiration that otherwise miss us every single day of our lives.
“In short, they caught lightning. And now you can, too.”
The auditorium erupted in applause. Cameras flashed in rapid succession. Microphones were shoved in my face from every angle, questions assaulting me from close behind.
All I could do was smile. That was a moment I knew I would never forget.
The third time I was struck by lightning my heart stopped. But that’s okay. I’d already secured my legacy; it was someone else’s turn. Besides, humanity has everything it could ever want. All because some crazy kid dreamed it so.
Without further ado, here are my parting words. A few of those early pages, written in the heat of an electrifying moment. There are many, many more, but those will be revealed in due time.