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Swimming the Echo by Brian L. Tucker

Swimming the Echo

by Brian L. Tucker

Giveaway ends September 20, 2017.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

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9th of August

The Time Given


Last weekend offered something all of us pray for, whether it’s an audible, breathed prayer or not:

Time with people we love and care for and MISS as the clock pulls us forward

My hometown library hosted a book signing, and Lindsey S. Frantz (a childhood best friend) and I were able to attend, and sign, our newest works. That in itself was a great blessing. To be able to write and share our stories with others. But the best was still yet to come that day.

We had friends and family in attendance, when so many other things were happening in the lake community of Monticello. It meant so much that people chose to stop by and say, “Hello!”

We saw people we hadn’t seen since the days Monticello High School stood three stories high on Cave Street. And that in itself was also like walking into the wonderful past.

I saw teachers I respected and still talk to this day. Vicki York Davis. Carolyn Harris. Betty Hyden. Allyson Upchurch Tucker. Beth Brewerton. And family was there. And best friends. The library gave us a solid 2 hour window. And the reunion saw people staying well beyond that.

Then, the night held more reunions with best friends opening up their home in Somerset and allowing all of us to eat dinner together. And Sunday permitted my wife and I to see my grandparents, for the first time in many years. My brother, sister, and their families were also in town. I was able to see nine-month-old, Henry, for the first time.

Before we left, Mom packed up yellow and green tomatoes from her garden and put them in our car.

We were exhausted arriving in Chattanooga. But the time permitted us to see a microcosm of what I imagine heaven to be. It was worth it.

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20th of February

In 3 Months: My New Novel, Swimming the Echo


Hey all!

In a little over 3 months (5.30.17), my newest novel, Swimming the Echo, will be hitting bookshelves, and I wanted to give you as much notice as possible.

This novel will delve into more backstory of the fictional town of Seton, Kentucky (first featured in my story collection, Baptisms & Dogs (2014)), and the adventures of one youth who takes it upon himself to explore the terrains of love and loyalty.

Here’s an early synopsis:

IT’S AN ADVENTURE OF A LIFETIME.

When a summer job to explore Mammoth Cave lands in Cade Rainy’s lap, he doesn’t think twice.

THE TEEN FROM SOUTHERN KENTUCKY MAKES A BREAK FOR IT.

But when he finds his dad is connected to a man working at Mammoth, Cade discovers there’s more to this trip than meets the eye.

THE CAVE IS JUST THE START.

Cade sets out to map the real route of twisted lies through fissures and stalactites, battling claustrophobia and bats.

EXPLORE. ADVENTURE. DON’T DIE.

EXPLORE. Don’t die.

don’t die

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27th of April

5 Things To-Do Before Vacation Starts


make_your_road_trip_an_epic_adventure

Prior to hitting the road –

  1. Setting aside swimming trunks (getting to use them in warmer climes after they’ve clogged your drawer space ALL YEAR LONG)
  2. Packing that 1 book you’ve been meaning to read FOR EONS
  3. Buying some favorite “road warrior” snacks – examples include: Beef jerky (Mingua, if you can find it), Clif bars (Carrot Cake), Twizzlers (Cherry Pull ‘n’ Peel), enough Coke Zero to get to Destination: Wherever
  4. Printing paper directions [Just in Case – power on the Eastern seaboard abates, cell phones die, tech fails mid-trip]
  5. Adding those top 10 favorite albums to your car playlist (yes, Bob Marley should be in there…somewhere)

Bobmarleygold

Let’s go!

 

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Categories:  adventure thankfulness
4th of September

Buffets are Bad for Your Health


162

Or, Chest Pains Part II – the Return

I forgot to include a vital story within the heart surgery – to – diabetes transition of 2005.

It goes something like this:

Before working at Bellarmine University with an all-too-new diabetic condition in the summer of that year, my brother and cousin and I decided to embark on the open road. Our destination: Ocoee, TN – for some white water rapids (Home of the 1996 Olympics terrain).

Terrible idea.

Did I mention how bad I was feeling in the last post? I included the record quantities of Easy Mac and Snicker’s Protein Bars I’d consumed that semester, didn’t I? No. Well, they were there, just like the DiGiorno’s pizza and the passing out in the bathroom floor episode.

But, we embarked into the great Wilderness. We arrived at Ocoee, and somehow (with God’s strength and my ignorance) I survived Class 4 rapids and didn’t go overboard, into the currents, once.

Then, we decided to stop at none other than the place where dreams go to die –

Golden Corral.

The fish tastes like steak and the steak like dessert. And how does this happen we all ask? The oil. It’s all cooked in the same oil. Everything becomes a taste of something else. But, then there’s the amount of food, too. It’s a buffet. (My favorite pre-Type 1 diabetic word.) I could flat put it away. And that day, after the rapids, and the sun, and the fatigue, I did.

Jacob claims I ate an entire blueberry pie myself. And Jared remembers 7 large glasses of sweet tea going down my gullet. But, I recall all of those rolls…butter and rolls. Then, they practically excavated us out of there.

And we were on the road again. I was delirious. (Friends let this be a lesson on gluttony for all of us – it never pays back good dividends. Ever.) I requested we stop so I could go to the bathroom for the umpteenth time. While at a Citgo, I purchased a 32 oz. PowerAde. Go figure!

And as I fell into sugar-induced oblivion in the backseat of Jared’s Camry, I actually asked him if he wanted me to take over the driving.

They knew something was up, or, maybe they just didn’t like what they were seeing, because they sensibly said, “No. You just rest.”

And I fell into a stupor which landed me the diagnosis that next week. It was surreal and it was abrupt, but I’m thankful it was both things.

I don’t remember the exact blood sugar number, when they drew blood, but I remember the sound of the doctor’s exhaled breath through his teeth. And more importantly, I remember that “cross-eyed, always having to go to the bathroom, disoriented feeling” – a sensation almost otherworldly. Not a good memory.

In summary: Golden Corral is a place I still avoid. The distinctionless tastes just aren’t worth the pain, my friends. Don’t let the inviting words “All-you-can-eat” fool you, because buffets are always bad for us.

Even the salad bars.

There I said it.

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3rd of September

Chest Pains.


public-domain-images-free-stock-photos-bicycle-bike-black-and-white-1000x667

In 2001, during a one-mile run my junior year of high school, I felt chest pains. My heart started racing. I remember leaning against the side of my car and praying Not again.

I had been seeing a heart specialist in Somerset, KY to monitor irregular heartbeats which had started causing my heart to palpitate. A company in Atlanta had requested that I send results to them through a heart monitor every day for the past month. (Imagine the cool points that bad boy won amongst my peers.) After the run, I remember getting to my house, collapsing on the floor, and recording the heart rate with the attached monitor. The rate was above 250 beats per minute, and it kept this pace up for an hour. A week later, my cardiologist had me visit Lexington for a heart ablation – so that the heartbeat would return to normal. We prayed. And, they were able to successfully burn eight spots that were instigating the additional heartbeat, and…things felt much better!

A few months later, I remember returning to the basketball courts and being afraid that the arrhythmia would return. Every time I took a jump shot or started to jog, the fear of being out-of-control would return. Thankfully, the arrhythmia remained absent for the rest of my junior year and all of my senior year of high school. The choice to push ahead was solely mine, but I didn’t want to let anyone down either. My senior year was a tough experience, and I was able to encourage the under-classmen in athletics (and academics), I hoped. I went to college and didn’t think this health ailment or any other would affect me again.


Fast forward to the spring of 2005, I was a sophomore at the University of Kentucky. I felt the strain of a busy finals week and the side effects of an unhealthy diet (‘Thank you, DiGiorno’s’), and I knew something else was awry. One morning I found myself tanked on the side of the bathroom tile floor, face wedged beside the tp dispenser. Suffice it to say: I survived that finals week operating at a crawl.

When I went home for the summer, I remember having an insatiable thirst and visiting the refrigerator countless times my first week back. Mom asked, “How long have you felt this way?” I shrugged my shoulders and turned a bottle of Gatorade up into the air. She shook her head, “We’re going to the doctor.” I remember closing the fridge and asking her something, but I don’t remember the drive to the medical center, the doctor saying, “Type 1 diabetes,” or my mom’s response. I wasn’t sure what to do next.


It wasn’t hereditary and no one else in the family suffered from sugar problems. I was devastated. In less than a week, I was scheduled to work at a program called the Kentucky Governor’s Scholars Program at Bellarmine University in Louisville. My role was to be a resident advisor and also a seminar teacher. With this new obstacle added to my cache, uncertainty of how well I’d be able to monitor my health (and teach in a classroom) loomed like the Headless Horseman. On the first day of class, I remember asking if any student would be willing to help assist. There were several hands that shot into the air. Then, I proceeded to explain my recent diagnosis, and I exclaimed that I was learning about this condition with them. One student said “I have a sister with that.” So, I nominated her as the first week’s helper. When I’d have a sugar low, I’d point to the student assistant, say, “Lead on,” and the other students rallied around that day’s helper, played some motivational song of the 2005 summer on our communal stereo I’d brought. This provided us all a chance to work together, and I’m still grateful for their willingness to help. I wish I knew the finally tally of Nerd boxes I consumed.


These “health” obstacles have helped me learn a lot about perseverance. Just in the few years since I’ve developed them, I’ve learned that succumbing to something shouldn’t be my first thought. My students at GSP taught me that. I appreciated their belief in me (and loyalty to the classroom). For these reasons and countless others, I know that battles must be won, or at the very least—fought for e-v-e-r-y d-a-y. For-ev-errr (imagine Squint from Sandlot saying this). The resolve of my coaches, teammates, parents, and former students to have faith in me has developed character that I didn’t know existed. The more I think about these “setbacks” I recognize that without battles, daily living really could not be fully appreciated. I’m thankful for these obstacles in my life, and I’m even more appreciative of the people who’ve helped me with them.

You know who you are!

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1st of September

2 Types of Days.


Some days you grab the bull by the horns (proverbially speaking of course)…

bvxba4G

 

Other days, not so much.

bull

 

As we walk through this life, we know there is strength in asking others for help. I recommend doing so, before it gets to this point.

 

Here’s to your (and my) other days!

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3rd of June

5 Phases of Writing.


5 PHASES OF WRITING (in summary):

 

Phase 1: The Excitement!

You shout, “This is the BEST thing since sliced bread! I LOVE YOU book! Go make it BIG.” (Click on picture for fun celebratory dance.)

176175

 

Phase 2: Nervous Nelly.

Question you send to publisher, agent, editor: “Soooo did you love my book?” Followed by sweaty palms galore. (see, Chandler Bing)

428890

 

Phase 3: Awkward Silence…

…Days, weeks, months.

You say to yourself, “Where is that darn reply?”

446622

 

Phase 4: Rejection. Rejection. Rejection.

Publisher writes, “We’re sorry but this work just isn’t right for us at this time. We wish you the best with it elsewhere. Keep us in mind for future projects. Thanks.”

67243

 

Phase 5: The Attempt To Stand Back Up.

Recover. Pick up the spilled milk. March on towards that next publisher, say, “Pick me!”

**All the while not walking with a limp.

61258

 

May your encounters be sweet in the publishing world this week! Remember: they’re just words typed on a keyboard – somewhere. Nothing personal. Keep at it!

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Categories:  writing tips
22nd of May

Friends.


amigos

Friends.

Tell them that you love them.

“Love. Amour. Liebe. Amore. Amor. Ljubezen.”

 

There are so many ways to say it. (The last one was Slovenian. You’re welcome, honey.)

 

Why tell them?

 

  • Maybe because they let you do the ‘Cluck Hunt’ one Halloween, while dressed as Johnny Appleseed:

 

https://www.facebook.com/dani.pintopyles/videos/vob.12919627/518518643203/?type=2&theater

(If this link doesn’t work, add Dani Pinto Pyles on Facebook. The video is a good one. You’ll want to see it. Maybe for your next party?)

Game rules: “Two teams – 2 Roosters, 13 Hens, and hidden candy corn. The hens can only CLUCK to get the roosters attention when they find a candy corn. Only the rooster can put it in the hen’s cup. Collect the most candy corn for your team to win.”

 

  • Maybe because this friend didn’t desert you when you danced like this:

VIDEO0016

 

  • Or looked like this:

shoe on head

  • Or this:

beard

 

  • Maybe because they swam in lake water with you that was so murky you couldn’t see the water moccasins. Just feel them.

 

  • Maybe they rescued you from yourself more than once.

 

Whatever they do/have done for you. They’ve gained the label ‘friend’ for no uncertain reason in your life.

 

Celebrate that today. Tell them, “Thanks for not letting me die that one time!” Or, whatever you feel led to thank them for.

 

God put them there in that space for a reason.

 

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20th of May

Best Road Trip Ever!


activity-bus

Think of your favorite road trip.

Do you have yours?

What’s the best *spontaneous* trip you’ve ever taken?

Not a vacation. Not a pre-set engagement. Just a “get-in-the-car-and-go” moment.

Mine happened in the Spring 2007. March. (I remember, because it was 2 months before I got engaged to my beautiful wife.)

 

My buddy, JT says: “We should go somewhere.”

My pal, Danielle confirms, “Somewhere with a beach.”

This was the extent of our plan.

1._ We should go somewhere. & 2._ We should find a beach.

 

So, we embarked South on I-65. No beach criteria other than it’s warmer than Kentucky, in March, and there were some good times ahead.

Pedal down.

 

JT’s Mercury Sable shook intermittently, as we drove sometimes above and sometimes below the speed limit.

We made the coast in record time.

What coast? Gulf.

What beach? We’d thought Gulf Shores, but discovered Orange Beach was, in fact, this one.

We were ecstatic to hit water!

The skies were dreary, but our moods wouldn’t be controlled by some foul weather.

 

We RAN to the water. Our plan looked to be a success. We figured 3-4 days at non-Gulf Shores would be just the trick for our poor, post-Winter, pre-Spring blues.

The skies…did I mention they were dark? Well, they were.

The water was FRIGID!

I remember Danielle had a really awesome camera. She thought JT & I were crazy for risking our necks in barely above freezing water.

Not only was the water almost frozen, but the coastline was empty. It was JUST us. The 3 amigos. (Adam and Lindsey had been too cool to join us in no-man’s land, this time.)

The coast looked like the set from the Cormac McCarthy novel-to-movie adaptation of “The Road.” There was nothing but rough waves, and we yelled to try to hear one another.

JT did something I’d never seen him do. He swam farther out…(Jo Carol, if you’re reading this, please know that I would’ve done my best to save him, had he drowned.)

Yes. JT, the doctor, swam farther out to sea in 40 degree-Farenheit water. I did the only thing a best friend should do: I followed. Plus, I had an ego the size of Texas and had been growing a Jesus beard and couldn’t be out-done. So, out we went.

Danielle snapped pictures and watched from an ever-increasing distance. Our ill-planned trip was all right, if you didn’t count the hypothermia, and “water-so-cold-it-burned” component. But…

The waves pulled us out farther. JT didn’t seem to mind. I noticed the swift current and started to resist. (Again, my Texan complex should not go unnoticed.) Well, the waves were winning, and I couldn’t just LET them. So, I resisted.

JT seemed to wait for the waves to crest at just the right moments and eventually, he decided to “tuck-tail-and-surf” back into the mainland. I tried to follow, but the rip current caught me and pulled me out farther. The timing was off. I was only about 3 feet behind JT, but it resulted in a constant drag outward to sea. I fought mother nature, and she won. I was so tired, I started to think I wasn’t going to make it back. I began to think “Great. I don’t think I even told Mom where I was going,” and started to panic at the turbulence.

When I looked up and saw JT almost back to Danielle on the beach, I decided I couldn’t let THIS be the end (ego rejoined). This was life or death. Orange Beach couldn’t be the end.

I swam as hard as I could with each swell, and even kicked through the rip currents, until finally I was pushed onto shore with a burst that drove me into sand. JT and Dani looked down and hadn’t noticed how much I’d worked to not die. They hadn’t been able to see my panic. (Truth be told: it’s the closest…2nd closest…I’ve ever come to dying.)

But, we survived our first rendezvous with Spring Break.

 

Fast forward to dinner that evening. (We’d placed our bags in some hotel that had availability. Actually they all had availability. Apparently, Gulf Shores, Panama City, and Pensacola were the Spring Break hot spots. Not Orange Beach. So lodging had been no problem.) At dinner, we found a nice seafood restaurant and JT ordered gumbo.

I remember the gumbo, because Danielle and I had commented on New Orleans and made small talk with the waitress. She’d gone on to tell us that Orange Beach wasn’t usually too popular during this time of the year. We added bits and pieces to the conversation about where we were from (small-town USA, Kentucky). She admitted that Kentucky was a place she’d always wanted to visit. The rain kept falling HARD against the metal roof of this establishment.

Her comment about this not being a touristy destination didn’t register right away with us.

Danielle had said, “With this being so close to Gulf Shores, AL, I figured there’d be more people over here.”

The girl had re-filled our waters and nodded. “You’d think that, but I meant because of the storms, and the weather.”

“It’s March.” JT added, “You’d think it’s kinda understood that bad weather happens.”

The girl nodded again. “Of course. It rains a ton. Thunderstorms when there’s not hurricanes. But, I didn’t mean just the weather. I meant what the weather brings with it…” she trailed off.

We just stared at her. Waited for her to continue.

“The sharks,” she said matter-of-factly.

None of us spoke. JT finally piped up, “Sharks? C’mon.”

“Seriously. The bull sharks. They come up close during these thunderstorms and feed close to the shoreline.”

Danielle looked at me. “But, they’re not that dangerous are they?”

The waitress went on, “Only the most. They’ve attacked a few people just a few weeks back. That’s why they’ve asked people to stay away from the water. Until…it clears up anyways.”

JT swalled a big gulp of now colder gumbo.

“You’d have to be insane to be out there in the water. If the waves didn’t get you, the sharks would.”

“That’s why the beach was empty,” I said out loud. “That makes sense,” I tried to laugh, now in a cold sweat.

“You all weren’t in it were you?” she asked.

JT shook his head yes and told her we had.

She called us N-U-T-S and told us we were lucky to be alive.

 

The remainder of that impromptu road trip was spent watching it rain, singing random songs the 3 of us knew, and playing frisbee against some tropical winds.

Safe to say, none of us swam the rest of that trip. We were alone on a beach without any traffic, any commitments, and plenty of bull sharks watching us.

JT looked for the fins poking out of the water. I worked on my Jesus beard. Danielle (camera amateur-turned-pro) took phenomenal pictures of the storms raging power.

It was a road trip unlike any I’ve ever had. Do I miss Orange Beach? Not at all. But, would I delete that memory and the dangerous elements of that trip? Not in a million years.

It was a season I’ll not soon forget. Thank you for the adventurous camaraderie guys!

Share your story today!

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15th of May

Credit Where Credit Is Due.


well

There’s a 90s country song by the band Sawyer Brown that sums up my goal today. The lyrics go like this: “I thank the bank for the money. And, thank God for you.”

If you’ve ever appreciated someone for something they’ve done for you in this life, now is as good of a time as any to let them know.

So, here goes my list (and there will be omissions, my apologies up front):

 

For my entire life, soul, purpose: God

For being a true light in a dark world to me and to countless others: Leah

For showing godly love each and every day she breathes: Fay

For my humor: Johnnie

For a strong spirit: Brandie

For teaching me to laugh, no matter what: Sherry

For teaching me to be strong and presentable: David

For showing me determination: Jamie

For teaching me to endure (often whilst mowing the yard): Jared

For being an artist in so many ways, levels: Leah D.

For showing a strong will, kind heart: Brittany Sexton

For teaching me that not all Clevelanders are rude: Al

For opening her home to guests, amazing cooking and board- game skills: Linda

For showing great teacher-to-be skills and being a great witness: Lydia

For commitment to any task, being a best friend: Hopper

For whimsy, being unpredictable, and accident-prone (you made me laugh more than you knew at home): JT

For zany, slap-stick humor, and being the female portion of our best friends quintet: Dani

For tact, example, and leadership, and appreciation for 80s hair metal: Patrick

For being great friends and wives/husband to my best friends: Dana Silvers, Sarah Hopper, and Vince Frantz

For kindness shown to total strangers who become additional family members: Jo Carol, Joey, Tim, Jane, Diana, Dennis

For riding roller coasters even after back surgery, taking me to the skating rink, and sharing oldies music at the pool each summer: Kay

For love of language, life, creativity, travels, and annoying high schoolers as unpredictable as the Little Debbie snacks served at MHS each morning: Paul

For showing HEART, baring soul, and teaching the heck out of a history lesson each day: Jimmy

For devotion to science, and to people, and a cause: Chaplin

For showing family connectedness: DeeDee, Darci, Jane, Ludelle

For writer inspiration, appreciating the lesser seen beauty in things: Lindsey Frantz, Rebecca DeSensi Sivori

For passion in literature (in and outside the classroom): Eliot, Young, Bob, Derek, Nancy, Julie, Amanda, and MFA peeps

For boldness to step out on faith and be yourself (different is okay and non-traditional): Mark Love, Scott Pollard

For studiousness (and mentoring 3 high school dudes when the Bible was often the furthest thing from our minds each morning at the greasy spoon): Jeremiah Goley

For mission-mindedness, going to Russia when God asks, and serving, serving, serving: Coy Webb

For community love, accepting 2 strangers into his community church in E. NC in 2013, and scholarship, and writing a book I want to read someday when it’s published: David Schmaltz

For healing people, and being a counselor, and college roommate unlike any other: Thomas Carter

For inclusion at a new place and making me a part of the team: UT-Chattanooga- Stacie, Laura, Elizabeth, Kayla, Deardra, Lisa-Michelle, Sevan, Michelle, Angela

For acceptance into a new community of faith, in a new town: Journey Church

For my spiritual growth and development and paying my way to serve in Brazil in 2003: First Baptist Church (and the anonymous friends and their support)

For teaching me about subject matter on the past and present and life, in general: MHS teachers, staff, UK faculty, EKU

For consistency and always being there (and being the same): my grandparents, relatives, and old, dear friends in Monticello, Lexington, KY, NC, TN, and across the world

 

For those I haven’t met: May our paths cross soon.

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Categories:  thankfulness

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