WOW! Words of Praise Sure Feel Good! I’m Honored and my Books Are Honored!


Coming up roses . . .

I’m collecting testimonials for my new books Lady Grace and Sam & Emily. These are books two and three of the Tales from Earth’s End Series, my take on life and rebirth  after a nuclear holocaust. Hoping for testimonials, I sent out some review copies and contacted a few people I know who are really good writers.

I’ve written that the hardest thing about getting testimonials for your book is getting up the nerve to ask. Then it’s up to your skill and the universe.

Wow! Sometimes what I get back after making a request blows my mind! I asked Laren Bright, an Emmy-nominated television writer, for a testimonial about Sam & Emily. What I got back is this:

I have been following Sandy Nathan’s writing since her very first book, Stepping Off the Edge: Learning & Living Spiritual Practice. Then came her novel, Numenon. Being a sci-fi fan, I have always been leery of new writers. Sandy put the lie to that for me. Numenon definitely had what I was looking for: a good story, imaginative ideas, and good writing. When I got to the end I was both sad and happy; sad because I was so invested in the story that I wanted to know what was going to happen next and happy because I was assured this was only the first in a series and I would be able to spend more time with these great characters down the line.

Then Lady Grace came along and I found that Sandy had reached new heights in her story-telling and her craft. I told her I thought it was the best thing she had written. But then I read Sam & Emily. Out of the ballpark! It’s a terrific story with wonderful characters – both the good guys and the bad guys – in all kinds of wild situations.

I think what makes Sandy’s writing so powerful is that her stories originate from her real-life experiences. The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy, first in the Tales from Earth’s End series, for example, came out of processing the grief over her brother’s death. So her stories are charged with the authenticity of what she’s going through.

If this is your first experience of Sandy Nathan’s writing, prepare yourself for a wild ride. And give thanks that there are Sandy Nathan books already in print and even more on their way.

Laren Bright
Emmy-nominated television writer

It can’t get much better than that! He praised my entire writing career. Thank you, Laren, for your words of praise and vote of confidence.

Thank you, Laren!

Sandy Nathan is the winner of twenty-one national awards, in categories from memoir, to visionary fiction, to children’s nonfiction. And more.

Sandy’s  books are: (Click link to the left for more information. All links below go to Kindle sale pages.)
The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy
Numenon: A Tale of Mysticism & Money

Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could

Stepping Off the Edge: Learning & Living Spiritual Practice

Two sequels to The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy are in production with early 2012 publication dates. If you liked  The Angel you’ll love Lady Grace and Sam & Emily.

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My Valentine’s Gift for You– A Valentine’s Video and Numenon & The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy eBooks for Free!

Coming Up Roses

I Love to See You Smile . . .
A Valentine’s Day Video and Gift for my Readers & Friends

Valentine’s Day is here. I’ve always thought of it as a day retailers thought up to sell pink and red stuff and pump up demand for greetings cards. I’m not much of a romantic.

Except that I am. I’m sentimental and romantic. I love the people who read my books and write to me saying they love them. I like all you smart people who can appreciate a quirky book that doesn’t fall smack in the middle of some genre. I love it that you understand and love my sci-fi/fantasy/romance/end-of-the-world/visionary prose.

I love writing for you and I appreciate your being my readers. That’s not exactly romantic, but it’s very true.

Many Thanks and Happy Valentine’s Day!

Sandy Nathan

My Valentine’s Gift to You: Special Valentine’s Offers

Numenon: A Tale of Mysticism & Money ebooks for free through February 2012. You can download a copy through Numenon on Smashwords. Enter the code JE53K (not case-sensitive) at checkout and your download will be free. Smashwords supports almost any kind of reader.

So you can get ready for the sequels, I’m offering ten free ebooks of The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy.
This book won four national awards, including the Gold Medal at the IPPY (Independent Press) Awards. Contact us at
vilasapress@gmail.com to arrange download. Offer expires February 29th.

Note that we have raised the price for the multi-award winning, hardback edition of Numenon to the full retail of $24.95 on Amazon. Why? Don’t get me started. You can always get Numenon for $9.95 plus shipping through our website: Buy Numenon Here

Free Numenon on Smashwords Offer Expires: February 29, 2012

That’s not it! I made a special video for you, just to make you smile! See below–––

Every once in a while, something works out right. This blog post  grew from one of those things that came out just right.

I was looking for a way to say thank you and that I appreciated your support. I wanted to do it with a video. And I did. This video came out right. Please take a moment to view a little film that expresses my feelings for you. You may want to let it run through once with no sound so that it can buffer. It’s high resolution, so you can play it full screen.

Click here to see and listen to your gift.

I like to see you smile, I love to hear you laugh . . .

Sandy Nathan is the winner of twenty-one national awards, in categories from memoir, to visionary fiction, to children’s nonfiction. And more.

Sandy’s  books are: (Click link to the left for more information. All links below go to Kindle sale pages.)
The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy
Numenon: A Tale of Mysticism & Money

Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could

Stepping Off the Edge: Learning & Living Spiritual Practice

Two sequels to The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy are in production with a late (very late) 2011 publication date, or early 2012. If you liked  The Angel you’ll love Lady Grace and Sam & Emily.

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#SampleSunday Numenon: A Tale of Mysticism & Money A Sample: Chapters 1 and 2

A SAMPLE OF NUMENON by SANDY NATHAN––CHAPTERS 1 & 2

BUY ON AMAZON  HARDBACK $9.99

BUY ON AMAZON PAPERBACK $18.95

BUY ON AMAZON KINDLE  99 cents

My twitter ID is: @sandravaldine

Chapter 1

He darted across the lawn, fleeing along the lake’s shore. Treetops lashed the sky and leaves tumbled past him. Looking over his shoulder, he saw the towers of his home stark against the thunderheads.  Something was after him. He couldn’t see it, but knew it wanted to destroy him.

He felt the wind blowing off the lake the way it did when he was a child.  The  piercing  cold  left  him  shivering  and  weak.  He  heard  his father’s voice,  bellowing from within their stone mansion.
Then he was inside, moving through the great hall. Gothic arches admitted slashes of light. People and things seemed to pop into existence out of the shadows. “Hello, Master Will.” A servant fawned. “Good show on winning the Championship!” Win more! Win more!

He ran along the lakefront, his soul tossed like the treetops. Some- thing was trying to get him—he dodged this way and that, searching for a way out. Tears stung his eyes and his legs ached.

Will sat up in bed, heart pounding, sweat running down his cheeks. He looked around frantically, before realizing it had been one of his . . .

Had anyone seen him like that? His eyes searched the room until he was satisfied that he was alone.

He didn’t try to go back to sleep. Will got up and put on his jogging clothes. He would run in the gym until he was so exhausted that the nightmare couldn’t return. As he left his room, he glanced at the book by his bed. He seldom read psychology, considering it self-indulgent. But someone had written a book supported by decent research, a book that gave him answers.

People called him a genius. The label didn’t matter to him, but he knew it was true. Only a genius could do what he had done. That book explained the rest of it: The flashes of insight, the vision of what life could be, and the drive to create it formed the sunny side of his brilliance.  The  nightmares  and  horrors  were  its  other  side,  the  negative perks that came with his gifts.

Will  snorted  bitterly.  His  dark  side  was  as  big  as  the  light.  He made his way to the gym on the lower level of his home. The house was shuttered for the night. Bulletproof metal shades covered every window. He placed his palm on the sensor by the elevator. The door opened.

“Is that you, Mr. Duane?” A voice came from a speaker. An operative. “Yes. The sun will rise again.” He carefully enunciated that night’s passwords  for  the  voice  recognition  system.  He  knew  he  had  been monitored from the moment he stepped outside his bedroom. “No surveillance while I’m running,” he ordered.

Lights  went  on  when  he  entered  the  gym,  rippling  across  the equipment-filled expanse like the surf rolling across a rocky beach. The house’s lower level was dug into the hillside to allow it a larger foot- print  than  the  fifteen  thousand  square  foot  residence  above.  Every conceivable training device found its place on the floor. An indoor track circled  the  workout  area.  Handball  courts  were  beyond  the  far  wall; outside, past steel-clad windows, the pool awaited.

Will  was  a  runner.  He  didn’t  warm  up,  simply  launched  himself onto the track. He’d run until the sound of rough breathing, the smell of his father’s cigars, his gravely voice, and the revulsion at what happened  disappeared.  He’d  run  until  his  chest  ached  and  he  couldn’t think. If he was lucky, the joy that came from running would set him free. His legs moved easily as he began. His breathing expanded and became rhythmic. He’d hit a groove in a few minutes. Until then, his mind roved.

He’d had the nightmares as long as he could remember. He thought of them as spells. He had no idea what anyone else would call them. Once past  childhood,  he’d  never  told  anyone  about  them.  They  were  deeper than  dreams;  sometimes  he’d  come  out  of  one  to  find  that  the  world seemed dangerous and unreal. He had a hard time shaking the feeling.

They all began the same way. The world became silent and empty, a colorless, foreign landscape. He could feel the malice behind every- thing. And then he was running along the North Shore of Lake Michigan where he had been raised. His father bought a mansion built by one of the old Robber Barons the moment he could afford it. He manufactured a family tree to go with his new wealth. Will scowled. They were not American royalty. They didn’t have a fancy pedigree. Will hated pretense. He’d seen enough.

He could recall the whiskey-roughened voices in the library when his  father  and  his  friends  played  poker.  Cigar  smoke  penetrated  the walls. They joked about fancy women and what they’d do with them later. His mother was in the house, awake—how could his father talk about that with her there? They spoke of Micks and WOPs and kikes. These were good Christians who praised Jesus on Christmas Day and screwed anyone they could the rest of the time. They got country clubs, while their workers got union busters and substandard wages.

During the day, he was the perfect son. But in his sleep, he found himself running along the lake. As a child, the nightmare came almost every  night.  A  river  of  darkness  sucked  him  down.  The  evil  in  that darkness was so absolute that no terror could express it. He fought the murk and filth as something toyed with him; a malignant something hid behind the opacity of daytime life. If he made a mistake, it would capture him. He would have to crawl for it forever, doing its will.

He’d awaken, screaming and sobbing. His mother would come. “Will,  Will—what’s  the  matter,  darling?”  He’d  rave  about  something terrible that was going to get him. She’d sit up stiffly and pull the
bell cord for his nanny. “Will, I don’t know where you get these stories. I simply don’t understand you.” She’d finger an amulet she had, a jade piece, as she left the room. Her quick steps and averted eyes told him that his mother was afraid of him.

What happened next depended on his nanny. They changed all the time. A few held him and petted him until he went back to sleep. Most caned him for his wild imagination and refusal to shut up. That was at his father’s orders: “Make a man of him.”

The  beatings  taught  him  to  bury  his  screams  in  his  pillows  and never tell a soul about the night visions. With good reason—they took him to realms that separated him from everything good.
They say I’m the Prince of Darkness, Will thought, pausing to tie his shoelace. I am. You can’t be a good person and know what I know. He had seen things about human nature that revolted him in his spells, but  he  knew  what  he  saw  was  true.  His  reality  wasn’t  for  ordinary people; it was his special gift. Will’s mouth tightened.

All his life, his father had told him what he thought of him: “You’ll never be the man I am.” He bellowed the words when he was drunk, and said them silently when he was sober. No matter what Will won,
or what team he captained, or how good his grades were, they were never good enough.

His nightmares ended the same way: A vortex dragged him toward the malevolence at the core. The stalker. He clawed against the whirlpool. His father appeared above him, grabbing his arms and hauling him to safety.  Will  looked  into  his  father’s  eyes  with  sobbing gratitude,  and saw the stalker’s hatred blasting back. His father was the demon, as evil as hell.
The old man bent to Will’s ear, drawing in a breath to say something . . .

And the dream ended. Wherever he was sleeping—at school as a youngster,  or  later,  in  some  woman’s  bed  or  his  own—he  woke  up, sweating and gasping. If he wasn’t alone, he’d hide his panic, jumping out of bed and throwing on his clothes.

“Is there anything wrong?” the woman he was with would say, confused.

“No, no. No problem.” He’d leave no matter what time it was; he couldn’t let any of them see his terror. They’d be afraid of him if they knew what he saw. They’d leave him.
Of course, he would never go back to any of them anyway—they’d seen him like that. He stopped bringing women home, and never took them anyplace he couldn’t make a fast exit.

Will took off, flying along the track. Unaware of the pounding of his feet on the gym floor, the sweat flying from him, or how long he’d run.
He would forget. He would forget. He couldn’t forget.

The funny part was, even if he wanted to tell someone how much he suffered, who would care? His father had been a millionaire, and he was the richest man in the world. No one cared about the rich kid— Will knew that better than anything.

He knew what his father was going to say when the dream stopped: “It will get you in the end, no matter how hard you run.”

Will ran faster. His torso was erect and his mind clear. His breath moved in and out without effort. His legs fired away like steel shafts. He could go forever. He was so strong, he would go on forever. He tore around the track.

When he ran, nothing but his power existed. Will didn’t feel the ache in his heart that whispered on quiet nights. He had no longing for a childhood that didn’t happen or anger over the one that did. He never noticed the little boy inside him that still hoped everything would turn out fine. When Will ran, only running existed.

Tonight  he  wanted  more  than  relief  from  pain.  Will  pushed  his limits, hoping that it would happen.

It  did.  When  he’d  run  himself  close  to  oblivion,  the  light  burst from the base of his spine and traveled upward. His back arched and his chest expanded. The force moving through his body was so powerful that he couldn’t run. He stopped abruptly, bouncing along the track. He  slammed  into  the  side  of  the  gym,  sliding  for  a  yard  or  two.  He stayed on his feet and swung to face the wall, pressing his chest against it. The column of light rose up his back. Groans escaped him. He put his arms out, palms hugging the wooden surface. His head twisted to the right, as though he were trying to face the center of the room. His face contorted as the energy moved upward. He couldn’t stop what was happening, and didn’t want to.

The pillar of light rose up his back. When it climbed above his head, it exploded into a brilliant golden fountain, brighter than the sun. He rose onto his toes. The energy unfurled around him, spreading and spreading, moving everywhere. It felt like it reached the edges of the universe. Will was its center. He knew things when the light surrounded him; he could see  relationships  between  ideas,  organizations,  and  people  that  were hidden from him before. The worst business problems became simple.

The bliss that came with the light was hard to accept. He felt so much pleasure that it shocked him. He had chased pleasure all his life, but this was beyond that. Sex paled in comparison. He pushed off the wall and walked down the track, his hands reaching up, enraptured. He talked to it, the Light.

“I love you. I love you. Oh, stay with me. I love you.” On like that, words he’d never spoken to anyone. The Light could understand what he said, he knew that. It heard his dreams and desires, his sadness and pain. And it fixed him; it healed him, at least for a while. With it, he could keep going. The Light was the most precious thing in his life.

Will  had  no  idea  what  it  was.  The  closest  he  could  come  to  an explanation was that column was his soul. Or maybe God. He thought it might be God, except that he didn’t believe in God.
The bliss played with him, flowing upward in a torrent. He moaned in  delight,  walking  around  the  track,  face  alight.  He  held  his  hands high, reaching for something unseen. “I love you!” he shouted. “Oh, I love you so much.” He danced, filled with joy. Tears of gratitude splattered the floor. The gym was magic, enchanted. He skipped and laughed like a child.

The Light had come to him years before. After being whipped because he had a nightmare, Will crawled into his bed and pulled his quilt over his head. He shook with a child’s shuddering sobs—and the Light came to him. Delight traveled up his spine, erasing his pain. Will found himself lifted to a place as wonderful as his nightmares were horrible. The Light showed him a world he never dreamed existed. In it, he found  creatures—people  and  animals  and  things  he’d  never  seen— moving between luminous hangings across a mythical landscape inside him. Every touch was ecstasy; every sound, a chorus.

The dazzling column had no physical characteristics, but he felt it was a person. It could understand like a person. It had different parts. One was female. She was like a mother or angel. Her presence suffused the good place, and she enfolded him, making everything that happened all right. He called her Beloved. She and the Light kept him alive. If  the  dark  torrent  yanked  him  down,  the  ones  who  lived  in  the bright place brought him back. They brought him back, regardless of what he did in the ordinary world or the dark dreams. They loved him no matter what he did.

One day, they showed him a world where people cooperated, where commerce served everyone, and the good that everyone said they wanted came to be. They told him that his job was to make it real. It was real; he had touched it . . . Reality, the numenon. The thing as it exists. He named his corporation after it.

The world of Light was his deepest secret. He couldn’t explain the beauty of that realm; words would defile it.

Besides,  if  they  thought  he  was  crazy  because  of  his  nightmares, what would they say if he told them about a Light that gave him answers and protected him? Or an angel called Beloved?
Will didn’t trust his experiences: He thought he was crazy.

He’d never heard of anyone who had such encounters. They didn’t talk about them at Stanford or its Graduate School of Business, where he went to school. No one talked about such things at meetings of the Numenon Board or any other corporate venue. He wished he could ask someone, “Does a brilliant light surge up your from ass and give you unbelievable pleasure—then tell you how to solve that merger problem?”

He knew how that one would go over, so kept his mouth shut.

Will felt the rapture drifting away. “Don’t go . . .” he cried. It always left.  He  knew  it  would  come  back—when  he  needed  it.  Running  as hard as he could was a good way of getting it to return, but he couldn’t make it do anything. It came tonight because he needed it––after Marina kicked him out, after everything else, he needed it.

When the light had gone, Will threw a towel around his shoulders. His  legs  shook  as  he  walked  to  the  elevator.  He  was  so  exhausted that he could barely place his palm against the sensor. “The sun will rise again.”

He got into the elevator and became aware of something. He punched a button on the wall and spoke into a microphone.

* * *

Rick Bromberg took off his headset and handed it to the guy on the next shift, still shocked by what he’d seen. He resisted the desire to tell his  replacement  about  it.  Pretty  good  for  my  first  night  at  the  freak house, he thought.

He had been thrilled to get the job, even it if was the night shift; it paid better than any job he’d ever had and offered perks you couldn’t get anywhere else. Passing the test to get into the place took everything he’d learned getting his MA in Computer Science and what the Marines taught him about surveillance. But he passed.

And he signed the inch-thick contract that granted him the privilege of coming to work. He knew all about the non-competitive agreements that  were  standard  in  Silicon  Valley  employment  contracts.

But  this one, shit—if he breathed one word about what he saw in this house, they’d have his first-born child.

He  hadn’t  meant  to  do  it;  it  was  just  so  boring,  sitting  in  that cubicle alone. There were five of them on duty. He didn’t realize they’d be manning separate stations. True, it was better professional practice to have five people in separate rooms monitoring the screens than all of them together. The urge to talk came up when guys were together—it was a natural thing. Rick had even given in to the urge to drink beer once in a while on other jobs. He never brought the stuff, but if it was there, hey . . . Yeah, guys in the same room could miss things.

Before  showing  him  to  his  security  booth  that  night,  his  super- visor had told him that they meant it here. His name was Dunkirk. He was a fucking stiff—a Brit who acted like the Empire hadn’t fallen. He was one of the commandos Duane had all over. “We are here to facilitate  Mr.  Duane’s  security.  We  do  that,  and  nothing  else.  Have  you read your contract?”
Yeah, he had.

“Any  breach  of  contract  will  be  taken  very  seriously.  Mr.  Duane gives the orders. If he tells you to do something, or not to do some- thing, you will do whatever he wants. If you don’t, you’re fired, that’s it. No appeal.” Dunkirk had looked at him with those frost-blue, British eyes. “Or, if you must appeal, you will appeal to Hannah Hehrmann. You will never forget that experience, and you will lose. Now, it’s time to begin the shift.”

Everybody was scared stiff of Hannah Hehrmann. He hadn’t seen her.  Hadn’t  seen  Will  Duane,  either,  until  the  monitor  showed  him walking out of his bedroom in the middle of the night. Looked just like all the magazine covers: white hair, tall even on a screen. Good looking for  an  old  guy.  Duane  was  in  his  mid-sixties.  Rick  couldn’t  imagine being that old.

He heard him say, “No surveillance while I’m running.”

Yeah, Rick heard it. But as the time went by, he began to get worried. Duane’s old, he thought. How could he run that long? What if he had heart attack and they didn’t find him until the next day? So, he flipped a couple of switches and fired up one of the screens.

Rick knew that Will Duane couldn’t tell he was watching. He knew his stuff; he had an advanced degree in stealth. Besides, Dunkirk gave him his introductory walk around that afternoon. They stood in the gym, and he said, “Mr. Duane does not like to be aware that he is being observed. The house’s surveillance system is designed so that none of the monitors or sensors can be seen or detected in any way. For instance, do you see any cameras in this room?”

He looked around and shook his head. “No. Nothing.” Yet when Dunkirk took him to his cubicle and replayed the videos, Rick could see himself on five cameras and hear every word they said. The gym was loaded. That’s what he called smooth.

He wasn’t worried that his boss would know he was taking a peek. When he first saw the old man on the screen, he couldn’t believe how hard he ran. He must have been an Olympic runner when he was young. Now, for Pete’s sake. Mr. Duane was tearing up the track, and he’d been out there a long time.

He almost punched a button for help when his boss suddenly stopped and bounced into the gym wall. A heart attack, Rick was sure. That’s what he gets for being so built at his age. He couldn’t help but compare his paunch to Will Duane’s non-existent belly. But then, Duane put his hands out straight and started moaning and arching his back like he
was humping the wall. He turned his head to the right like a corkscrew.

Rick’s eyes widened. Jesus, was he possessed, or something?

He’d heard a lot of stories about Will Duane being a warlock or the fucking devil, even. Lots of stories about his new boss were out there. When he started doing that shit, Rick stared into the monitor, mouth open.  His  new  boss  started  dancing  around,  waving  his  arms  and screaming, “I love you.” This was certifiable, Rick thought. Real nutcase stuff. Which he’d also heard—that Will Duane was crazy.

But then his shift was over and he came back to earth. What Duane did was his own business—if you’re the richest man on earth, you can do what you want. If he wanted to hump the wall or dance around his gym all night, who cared?

Rick  went  to  the  checkout  point  where  they  patted  them  down before letting them go home. As he was being searched, he thought, Why all the need for security? What else does Duane do in here? It was only his first night and the place was starting to get to him.

Dunkirk  burst  in,  looking  at  Rick  like  he’d  run  over  his  dog. “Bromberg, I need you in my office.”

His  office  was  a  cement-walled  cell  with  monitors  ringing  every wall. They hadn’t been watching him, had they?

“I need your identification badge, your code book, and your keys.” Dunkirk looked as scary as a skinny Brit could. He handed them over. “I need you to sign here, showing that you understand the reason you are being terminated and you will . . .”

“What? I’m being fired? For what?”

“You were spying on Mr. Duane as he ran, Bromberg, against his orders.”

The expression on Dunkirk’s face and the cement walls, plus all the monitors and steel doors got to him. He told the truth. “Okay. I did watch him for a while, but I won’t tell anyone what I saw.”

“Definitely not, Bromberg. You’ll never mention it again, nor will you mention your reason for relocating.”

“Relocating? I’m not . . .”

“Yes, you are. And you’ll be no more trouble to us. You are banned from employment at Numenon or any Numenon partner . . .”

“That’s practically the whole world!”

“Yes, it is, Bromberg. So you’ll be happy that we secured employ- ment for you at your new location.”

“Where is it?”

“I’m not at liberty to say. A car is waiting for you . . .” “

But how did you know?” Rick sputtered.

“Mr. Duane told me.”

“How did he know?” Rick’s voice rose in a wail.

“Mr.  Duane  knows,  Bromberg.  He  knows  without  all  this,”  he waved his hand at the banks of monitors. “I don’t know why he keeps us on, really.”

* * *

Will  stood  swaying  in  his  bedroom.  Traces  of  light  seeped  from behind the metal clad windows. The silk draperies didn’t hide the fact that  the  new  day  had  arrived.  Should  he  get  dressed  for  work?  Will wore a robe embroidered with the Numenon logo that he’d put on after showering. His face felt like a leaden mask; his eyes kept blinking as though they were filled with grit. He couldn’t think of his schedule for the day, didn’t notice the lovely furnishings of his vast room. Not the Turner over the bureau or  the  little  Monet  he  loved.  The  bed  beckoned.  A  minute  won’t hurt, he thought.
Will laid down and pulled the quilt over his head.

He ran through the grey-green world, the thing he feared behind him, roaring for his blood. He turned his head, and something overran him. He was tossed without mercy, slammed into the ground. He rolled and tumbled, landing on his feet, battered but alive. He watched the juggernaut’s howling progress.

It  destroyed  everything.  He  watched  everyone  die,  smashed  and bent, torn to pieces. The maelstrom killed those he loved first, then the rest. Everyone died; all humanity. Billions of bloody, ruined bodies piled up around him. He was the only one left.

He stood in the void, surrounded by nothing.

He  had  to  live  when  everyone  he  loved  was  dead.  Everyone  he hated, too. Nothing was left, not even hatred. He had to go on living and living and living. Realizing that caused his jaw to drop, and pulled his hands to his mouth. Made him curl into a ball.

He lay, dazed. His chest rose and fell. The movement of his ribs was the only thing he could grab onto to tell him he was alive.

Was it a prophecy? Was that going to happen? Nothing could tell him; everything was gone. He felt a rumbling below the earth and heard the sound of rocks grinding together. His stomach roiled at the noise.

He realized what it meant: The stalker was coming for him.

His Beloved appeared from nowhere, speaking softly. “Yes, my dar- ling, it is true. The fate you have fought for so long will come to be very soon—in days. You have one chance to save yourself and all you love.” Whispering, she told him the way out.

Will did as she directed. It was already shaping up: He had a call in to the Indian shaman. He’d made it in hopes that what Marina said was true.  He’d  heard  from  her  once  since  she  threw  him  out.  She  wrote: “He’s a great holy man who has helped many people. If Grandfather tells me I should see you again, I will. But only then, Will. You and I are done.”

She did include a phone number where he could reach the shaman. He originally called the old man hoping he could get her back, but then he had that dream. He had to go now; the world of light required it.

The sucker didn’t return his call . . . He kept him waiting.

When the shaman finally called him back, Will was ready to detonate.  He  forced  himself  to  be  civil;  he  agreed  to  everything.  “I’ll  go wherever you want; I’ll do whatever you want. I’ll go on your retreat, just tell me how to get there.”

The  old  man  didn’t  sound  surprised.  It  was  as  though  he  knew what Will would say.

“Bring you best warriors,” the shaman said. “As many as you want, as long as they’re your best.” And then he laughed.

Will’s stomach clenched. The joy in the old man’s laughter hit him like a fist.

And then he gave orders that would make it come to pass. “I want you  to  go,  too,  Betty,  and  a  few  others  from  the  Headquarters.”  They looked at him in disbelief. He convinced them: “We have to go. This is the most important thing we’ll ever do.”

But he would never tell anyone the real reason for their pilgrimage.

 

Chapter 2

The boy felt his legs trembling and cramping, moving purely by the force of his will. He heard the breath enter his lungs, rage, burn  there,  then  exit,  only  to  reenter,  burn  again.  The  child couldn’t run any longer, he was run out. He shouted at his little brother, “Go there! Into the canyon! Hide!”

The younger child veered off, going in the direction the older boys had taken. The boy turned, running at the horsemen, trying to provide some cover for his brother. The two horses headed straight at him. He heard the hard staccato of the gallop on rock. A lasso’s whir filled his ears as one rider swung his loop overhead. He charged the men, waving his arms.

The horses ran past him. He stopped, bewildered. Before he could turn, something grabbed him around the waist and jerked him back- ward. He was dragged, popping over ruts like a twig. One bounce flipped him  onto  his  belly.  His  face  hit  a  rock.  His  arms  were  pinned  to  his sides: He couldn’t protect himself. The impact was so hard; he didn’t know  his  tooth  had  chipped.  He  didn’t  know  what  happened  until everything stopped and he found himself lying in the path.The  lariat’s  loop  bound  his  body.  Like  a  tight  fishing  line,  it  ran straight to the stranger’s saddle. At the end of the rope, the horse loomed above the boy, larger than any horse he had seen. It stared at him, ears pointed like spears. Loud blasts of air came from its nostrils. It moved the thing in its mouth, and streams of white foam splattered its chest. When the beast’s hooves hit the rocks, sparks flew. It danced around and the foreigner yelled at it.

“Whoa, Buddy. Whoa. I know he smells like shit. It won’t kill you! Whoa, you . . .”

Eventually, the horse settled and stood stiffly, arching its neck, and backing to keep the rope taut. The man looked directly at the child. The boy had seen such men before, but never had been close enough to one to see his pale blue eyes. He became stiff, shaking. “Y’re in a hell of a fix, ain’t you?”

He couldn’t understand the stranger’s words, but he smiled in a way that told the boy what he already knew: This man would enjoy killing him. His father had warned of these people and kept their band out of their way. The warnings had not been strong enough.

His breath came in fast pants, and his heart felt like it would jump out. He shook all over. The man began reeling him in, hand over hand, looping the lariat on his saddle, dragging him across the rough ground. Rocks struck him, bloodying his face, bruising his flesh. The smashing impacts  dazed  him,  and  as  they  did,  he  realized  that  a  monster  was ahead of him. It was a two-headed demon, both horse and man. A skin- walker, a giant of the mountains, come to eat his flesh. His body moved like he had the falling sickness, shaking out of control.

Windborne streams of sweat and saliva lashed him as he groveled. Rowels of spurs that were as big across as his face spun and flashed. The interloper’s stench assailed him. The closer he got, the more terrifying the monster became. The giant horse began tossing its head. Its feet started moving up and down so fast that sparks flew without stopping. When he finally was dragged next to the animal, he felt nothing: no pain, no injury—only terror. His body went limp. The horse spun away from him and tried to run.

“Knock it off. It’s just a kid. A fucking digger kid.”

The rider reined hard and finally, the animal stood still. When that happened,  the  cowboy  yanked  him  up,  dangling  him  in  front  of  his face like a fish on a line. They looked into each other’s eyes. The man was  opening  his  mouth  to  speak,  when  suddenly  the  boy’s  paralysis lifted. In that instant of freedom, the child lunged, tearing into the flesh of his captor’s chest.

“God damn it to hell!”

The man shouted, and then struck him. A blow made his ears ring.  Another  blow,  and  everything  went  blank.  When  he  could remember again, he was tied face down on the saddle in front of his captor. Something was stuffed in his mouth, and something else was tied around his head.

“Try that again, you little bastard!”

The other rider returned with the smaller boy over his saddle. “The big ones got away,” he said to the first.

“This little fucker bit me, damn it to hell!” He rubbed his chest. “Damn waste of effort. You can’t do nuthin’ with this bunch. They’re never gonna educate ‘em fit for nuthin’.”

“It’s a job, Roy. It pays good.”

A  third  rider  came  up  behind  them  and  halted  his  horse.  “Slim pickin’s,” he said, eyeing the two little boys.

“The rest of ‘em high-tailed it up that draw.”

“Why, hell, that’s a blind draw, I bet,” the third one said, grinning. “It’d be easy as shootin’ fish in a barrel.” The other two grinned back. “Throw me them runts, an’ you go get the rest.We’ll save the tax-payers some money.” The boy was thrown across the front of the third man’s saddle.  It  wasn’t  hard  to  do:  He  was  small,  even  for  his  People.  His younger brother was tossed on top of him. When they ended up back at the band’s camp, the boys were dumped into a mule-drawn wagon, balong with some girls their age and some older kids that were too slow making their escape.

Dazed and exhausted, the boy saw his father standing in the open space before their shelters. His face was bruised and bloody and men with guns surrounded him. The agent waved a paper in his face.
“I do, too, have the right. My right is here. They gotta go to school— it’s the law. We’ll make ‘em civilized Christians. We’ll make ‘em good Americans, every one.” The children sat in the wagon, crying silently, looking  at  their  parents  who  stared  back  with  hopeless  tears.  The mothers’ faces beseeched the agent and his hired hands. The boy sat looking at his father. Why didn’t he do something? He looked for his mother, and then remembered she ran away with his baby brother and sister when the scouts came back saying that the white men brought a wagon.  The  band  knew  what  that  meant.  The  boy’s  father  had  protected  his  clan  as  long  as  he  could,  moving  far  into  the  wilderness. They couldn’t go any farther.

His father was a man of peace: surely he could reason with these white men. Then the group waited, silently, until the two riders returned.

“Couldn’t find any of ‘em! That’s the last of the bunch I reckon we’ll get. The rest got clean away.” One rider chuckled (he’d have to clean his guns when he got home).
As the wagon pulled out, the boy’s father came to life. He remembered the words in English, though he knew his father spoke in their language; try as he might, he couldn’t remember a word of his tribe’s tongue.

His father shouted, “I will come for you!”

He called his son’s name, but his mind was a blank. He couldn’t remember his own name, which his father had given him in their lan- guage; he couldn’t remember it at all.
“I will come for you! I must move the camp. I must find the boys who ran. Then I will come for you!” The wagon pulled out and his father ran beside it, looking in the boy’s eyes, “You are the leader, my son! You will be Chief one day. You will be great. I will come for you, my son. I will come for you, or the sun will cease to shine.”

His father couldn’t keep up. The boy watched him recede into the distance. That was the last time he saw his father. It was 1918.

The old man lay back on his bed, gasping at what he had remembered. Starlight illuminated the interior of the lean-to, but all he could see was his father’s form, hands grabbing the wagon as he ran along- side so many years before. The sun was going down, and it outlined his father’s head, the bright light surrounding him like a halo. He turned to the wall, pinching back tears.
Even with his eyes closed, his mind showed him the canyon where it happened as clearly as if he stood in the path. A brilliant blue sky arched overhead. Canyon walls topped by spiky pine trees loomed on each  side.  The  cheerful  sound  of  water  played  down  the  stream bed, dancing past rocks and trees with fluttering leaves. He and his brother ran through the scene, a beautiful place where something ugly occurred. He had lived perhaps eight summers when he was stolen.

The old man’s mind was an open corridor. That morning, he could see everything he had ever done and feel each event as though it were happening. Bud Creeman had told him about amusement parks; the Shaman had never been to one. He told him about a ride where you got in a little boat  that  floated  in  a  darkened  indoor  stream.  Without  warning,  the channel would widen and— wham— a scene would appear. This morning, the boat took the direction it had been commanded, going back in his life. He would watch whatever it presented, knowing the Great One willed it, knowing he would need what was revealed in the week to come.

He reflected upon what would soon unfold. Thousands were coming to be with him and learn what he had to teach. The coming week was the last Meeting—the retreat had grown beyond anything he imagined.

It was the last chance that many of his People would have to meet him and imbibe wisdom of their Ancestors.Preparations had been made to assure the Meeting’s success. The campgrounds were groomed and facilities repaired. The Founders had studied everything touching the Meeting, making sure they were ready. Paul Running Bird’s report, tabulating the data he’d gleaned, was part of the preparations.
Grandfather knew all this, just as he knew that those questions Paul had  presented  to  him  last  night  were  the  reason  he  felt  the  pain  of remembering his past. He wanted to hate Paul’s report, but knew that everything that happened was the work of the Great One.

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Are you sick of people trying to fix you?

I'M ON THE WARPATH!

I'M ON THE WARPATH!

I’m on a bazillion e-mail lists––I swear, they must reproduce in the night. Every day, I get ecstatic emails about some new system or formula that will FIX ME. Or MAKE ME HAPPIER, MORE FULFILLED. A MAGIC BULLET THAT WILL  BRING ME THE SECRET OF MY DREAMS, the dreams I haven’t DARED TO DREAM BEFORE.

All I have to do is listen to a free teleseminar, where I will be seduced into signing up and plunk down big bucks.

Thing is, I ain’t broke. I’m happy, fine, doing well, I don’t need anybody’s friggin’ system to fix me––and I resent these self-appointed gurus assuming they have the right to make the offer. (I have a real guru, and she doesn’t sound like that at all.)

There’s more. I have an MA in Marriage, Family, & Child Counseling from Santa Clara University. I worked had getting that degree and did very well. I began my meditation practice in 1975 and have worked hard in the inner and outer worlds to make my spiritual self the one that runs things. I’ve had three or four professional careers that taught me to exercise my brain and will, and personal skills. The challenges I’ve dealt with myself––cancer and my leg falling apart, for a couple––and in my family have strengthened and tempered my soul.

I know both from a professional, theoretical standpoint and from the work I’ve done on my self that the so called miracle transformation in 30 days or less doesn’t exist.

I know for a fact how hard it is to change, barring acts of God and grace, and how stupid these Get Enlightened Fast schemes are.

There’s no easy way, folks. No fast track to a magic life. You slog through in the trenches, day by day. That’s where the breakthroughs occur, as St. Teresa of Avila pointed out. Daily life is the ground of spiritual transformation.

Read St. John of the Cross, St. Theresa of Avila, Julian of Norwich, Rumi, Mirabai. No easy, sign up now and be free trip will take you where you want to go.

Here’s my promise: I WILL NEVER ATTEMPT TO FIX YOU. You’re fine right where you are, just as you are. And so am I. I’m going to get off all those stupid mailing lists starting now.

This is the first Sandy Nathan discussion post from my Amazon Author Page.

You can read the original on Amazon through either of the links above.

COMING SOON: LOWERED EXPECTATIONS!

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Monster Houses and Eating Crow

One of the really great things about being on a spiritual path is that you get to eat crow really often. A few days ago, I wrote and published a scathing article talking about monster houses and other things, my dad, Andy Oddstad among them. (My dad built houses, but not monster houses.)

How scathing? I spoke of the “McMansions littering our hillsides” and hoped that the home in which I grew up “doesn’t get transformed into an ostentatious edifice fit for pseudo-royalty.” I closed with an indictment of modern capitalism: “Today, companies are about marketing position and branding, about the “USPs”–unique selling propositions––magic words to charm the consumer into buying an illusion that she can’t afford and doesn’t need.”

Those words scathe effectively.

The Palace at Versailles: A true monster house

A TRUE MONSTER HOUSE: The Palace of Versailles was home to Actual Royalty. I’m illustrating this post with photos the prototypical Monster House, elegant in every way, full of pretension––I mean, if you think you’re God, you could live in this house with a straight face––and the best of everything. It differs from modern monster houses in that its real, way upscale, and conforms to the principles of design, listed down below.

Only a few hours after posting my position statement on large houses and the contemporary practice of flashing every dime you’ve got, I went to a social function at a home that can be described as plu-perfect, and huge. A monster house, by size, anyways. Oops.

I wandered around the edifice, marveling at the workmanship, the 3 ” thick marble counters, wood floors, plaster finishes, gorgeous fenestration (windows), views of the Pacific Ocean from every window. Sweeping panoramas of the City of Santa Barbara, offshore islands, gardens. Everything.

This was the most beautiful home I’d ever seen, and a monster house. I’d never want to own it: I couldn’t afford the gardener, much less the utility bills. But, wow. And what a spiritual feeling about the place.

Plus the owners were really nice, humble, kind people.

0versaille

Never underestimate the value of nice landscaping in increasing property values. Look what it did for Versailles!

My cheeks burned and I felt that inevitable, “I blew it,” walking around that beautiful place. So what’s wrong with this picture? First off, my original mind set was that big equals evil. Big is just big. And wealth is OK. Better than OK. Where’s the wisdom in this experience?

I immediately thought of the four goals of life. You know them:

  • Dharma: righteousness
  • Artha: wealth
  • Kama: pleasure
  • Moksha: liberation

These are straight from the Guru Gita, an ancient Vedic text. Other philosophic systems will have different goals, but I like the simplicity of the four above.

Dharma refers to living a spotless life by whatever moral system you espouse.

Artha––well, we all know what wealth means. Pile it on. My mom had a great poster in her house: A southern mansion with the line, “I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor. Rich is better.” That’s easy.

Kama––kama as in kama sutra. Pleasure. Better far better life goal than pain. Pain comes on its own.

And Moksha––liberation. Means liberation from the wheel of life, attainable by union with God.

3versailleskingsbedroom

The King’s Bedroom at Versailles: With the right karma, you could sleep here. Of course, it didn’t do much for Louis XVI.

The magnificent edifice I wandered into after my rant about monster houses was the fruit of a life well lived. The individuals owning the house had all four goals, in spades. The wealth one, artha, very obviously. And humility.

3versailleinterior

Versailles, Beautiful, Ornate, Over the Top. Sparked a revolution.

The difference between a monster house and a very large and beautiful house rests in the five principles of design:

  • Balance
  • Proportion
  • Scale
  • Harmony
  • And one other, which I forget. Let’s call it taste, or beauty.
  • Oh––rhythm. Remembered it.

I’ll discuss those principles in a later post. Here’s a link to an article about the importance of beauty in book cover design. Says it very well: Lewis Agrell’s Article About Book Covers.

Here I am, ready for Versailles.
Here I am, ready for Versailles.

Sandy Nathan is the winner of seventeen national awards, in categories from memoir, to visionary fiction, to children’s nonfiction. And more.

Her books are: (Click link for more information)
The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy
Numenon: A Tale of Mysticism & Money

Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could

Stepping Off the Edge: Learning & Living Spiritual Practice

Two sequels to The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy are in production with a late (very late) 2011 publication date, or early 2012. If you liked  The Angel you’ll love Lady Grace and Sam & Emily.

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Father’s Day Tribute to Andy Oddstad, my Dad

Andy Oddstad skiing in the SF Bay 1960s

Andy Oddstad water-skiing in the SF Bay 1960s

Okay, so it’s a little after Father’s Day––the thought was there. One of the terrific things about the Internet is that it brings people together. People you didn’t even know introduce themselves. About a year ago, I heard from the daughter of the folks who bought my family home in Atherton CA about 35 years ago.

It is a special house. Built in six weeks (that’s right, 6 weeks) in the middle of a carpenter’s strike (you got that right, too), the house was destined to be memorable. Not because it was a McMansion of the type littering our hillsides today. The home my parents, Andy and Clara Oddstad, built in the 1950s was a comfortable rancher on an acre. It had a pool, but it wasn’t a showy house. Atherton always has been a pretty fancy address, a bit more restrained in those days.

The move from San Francisco was a huge leap for my folks, both of whom had grown up on the rough side of the Great Depression. “If we can’t afford it, Honey Chum, we can always sell it,” my dad told my mom, thinking positively. (He called her Honey Chum, typical of those goofy ’50s nicknames.)

My dad was Andy Oddstad, President of Oddstad Homes, which was at that time closing in on being the largest residential developer in northern California. He started out as a carpenter, which is why the guys built his house during a strike. He had been––maybe still was––an AFL/CIO Carpenters’ Union member.

The house was built, we moved into it and spent many happy years living there–-my folks didn’t have to sell it after all. Oddstad Homes became the biggest home builder in northern California by a long stretch.

In 1964, my dad was killed by a negligent and possibly drunk driver. Everything changed. After a few years, my mom found the house was too big and too laden with memories. She sold it and moved on––regretting the sale almost immediately, actually.

The house passed from our hands but continued to glow in our memories.

What a surprise when I heard from Stephanie, the daughter of the people who bought our house! She found me searching online. We hit it off by email right away. The house continued to charm: Her family lived there for years, kids growing up with memories as glowing as mine. She told me stories of the house––including a real ghost story! I was so glad that our old home had been so cherished.

Recently, Stephanie emailed me again to say that her parents had sold the house. It was time for them to leave. But they didn’t want to move. None of the solutions Stephanie showed them felt like their nest of so many years. Other houses just weren’t the same.

“I found one house for them, and just felt ‘This is the one.’ I cut through all the ‘We don’t like it’ and got them to move.” When she was moving her parents into their new home, she found something in a kitchen drawer. It was a brochure by the developer, pointing out a philosophy of building. The brochure dated from the 1960s and was signed by the builder, Andy Oddstad.

From the minute Stephanie’s folks knew they were living in an Oddstad Home, they settled down and felt they were in the right place.

An amazing story, yes? It brought tears to my eyes. I hope the new owner of our families’ home at 69 Catalpa Drive in Atherton hears it. I hope the simple and comfortable home that we knew doesn’t get transformed into an ostentatious edifice fit for pseudo-royalty.

What did the brochure say that prompts me to post it here? The text of the message is below. It’s a clarion call of an era based on true value, not show and appearance. Listen to my dad’s words:

The brochure’s title:
FARM HILL
ODDSTAD HOMES
MEDALLION SERIES

“WE FIRMLY BELIEVE that every home buyer should select a home with an eye on investment, as well as a place to live. We firmly believe that every builder has a responsibility for the kind of homes he creates. We accept this responsibility. As local builders, not here for a day on a quick investment, standing behind the 8,000 homes we have already constructed in the bay area, we realize that keeping an eye on the investment value of your home is a solid, responsible way to do business.

“We have carefully selected conservative designs because experience tells us this is the surest way to keep property values high––for the individual owner and for the community. Fads come and go; we’re here to stay.

“We purchase land in the thriving Bay Area communities, easily accessible to work centers, and because we are a big outfit, we buy big––we develop the land ourselves put in the improvements: roads, sidewalks, and sewers; no middle men [implying] no hidden costs when you buy one of our homes.

“Our production is enormous. Each working hour, a new foundation is poured; each working week, 40 new homes are completed.  Skilled crews go from job to job without wasted motion or lost time; ready made forms, jigs, scaffolding and labor saving equipment go with them to save time and expense––so we can deliver a better home, better built, at a lower price.

“The executives in our organization came up from the ranks. I myself was a carpenter. I still am. I take pride in the materials and the workmanship that go into each of our homes––from the foundations to the trim. You are invited to come out and watch us build––to see for yourself why our homes cost less when you buy … are worth more if you sell.”

Andy Oddstad
President
ODDSTAD HOMES

We’re in the middle of the Great Recession now. I read my dad’s words and thought, “If our society had continued to be base itself on the solid reality and true financial conservatism that this brochure demonstrates, we wouldn’t be in the fix we’re in.”

Today, companies are about marketing position and branding, about the “USPs”–unique selling propositions––magic words to charm the consumer into buying an illusion that she can’t afford and doesn’t need.

My dad’s words on a forgotten brochure reminded me of who he was. I could almost hear his voice. Growing up around Andy Oddstad was a lot like growing up in the Marines––he was very demanding. He required excellence of everyone around him. But he had something very valuable to say and a product to offer. Mostly, the way he lived––athlete, body builder, community member, husband, father, philosopher––was his message.

Andy Oddstad & Triff Trifeletti

Andy Oddstad & Triff Trifeletti

Thank you, dad, and many thanks to all those who worked for Oddstad Homes and with him. I remember Triff Trifelletti, Gordon Hanson, John O’Malley, Chuck Jonas and so many others who worked with and for Oddstad Homes. And of course, I love and remember my dear auntie Elma Mendola, who worked with my dad from the beginning, along with my mom, Clara Oddstad.

As of 1964 when my dad was killed, Oddstad Homes had completed over 14,000 homes, 2,500 apartment units, three shopping centers, a youth center, and a couple of churches in the San Francisco Bay Area. An incredible legacy of achievement.

I often wonder what my dad would think of the world today if he could see it. He died before the Beatles became popular, when a really nice house could be purchased in the SF Bay Area for $36,000, when cars had fins and so did guys’ hair styles. He would not be able to believe housing prices or the consumer lifestyle of today.

Sometimes networking on the Net isn’t about wasting time, it’s about remembering what’s important.

All the best,
Sandy Nathan

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NUMENON WINS THE 2009 IPPY SILVER MEDAL IN VISIONARY FICTION!

Independent Publisher Book Awards

Independent Publisher Book Awards

JUST ANNOUNCED: NUMENON by Sandy Nathan won the 2009 Independent Publisher Book Awards’ Silver Medal in Visionary Fiction. The “IPPY” Award is one of the oldest and largest book contests for independent presses, with more than 4,000 books competing this year.

A press release from Independent Publishers provides more information about the contest in their news release:

======================
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
======================

May 21, 2009 — New York, NY — Organizers of the 13th annual Independent Publisher Book Awards, conducted to honor the year’s best independently published books, have announced the results for the 2009 competition.

This year’s awards attracted 4,090 entries from throughout the U.S. and Canada, plus most English-speaking countries worldwide. Medal-winning books came from 44 U.S. states plus the District of Columbia, eight Canadian provinces, and six countries overseas. Launched in 1996 as the first unaffiliated awards program open exclusively to independent, university, and self-published titles, the 2009 IPPY Awards will be presented to winners at a gala celebration during BookExpo America in New York on Friday, May 29th. Winners receive gold, silver and bronze medals and can place foil seals of the medal image on their book covers.

“Today’s readers are seeking diverse perspectives on hot-button issues,” said awards director Jim Barnes. “This year’s list represents a mix of established independents and bold new voices, and their messages echo the call for change and a straightforward approach to dealing with the world’s social, political and economic problems.”

The IPPY Awards are presented by IndependentPublisher.com, the online “voice of independent publishing” operated by publishing services firm Jenkins Group of Traverse City, Michigan. The annual IPPY Awards celebration on Friday night during BookExpo America is a highlight of the weekend and publishing media are welcome to attend.

For more details about the Awards, to attend the event, or to interview recipients, please contact:

Jim Barnes, Managing Editor & Awards Director
Independent Publisher Online/Jenkins Group
www.IndependentPublisher.com
Ph: 1.231.933.4954 x1011
jimb@bookpublishing.com

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A FATHER’S DAY TRIBUTE TO MY DAD, ANDY ODDSTAD

I was looking through old family albums recently and came upon the following article about my father. It contained information that I thought worth sharing––some of it was new to me. Father’s Day is about acknowledging our fathers for what they’ve done and honoring who they are or were. That’s what I’m doing here.

For all his accomplishments, some of which are laid out below, my dad died at age 45. No, he didn’t die of a heart attack. He was in perfect health. Someone who turned the wrong way onto a freeway off-ramp killed him. The old guy might have been drunk––he did have an opened bottle of wine on the seat next to him–-or he might have been confused. He could have been trying to end his own life. He did end his life, along with my father’s.

Here’s the article from an old newspaper. I’m going to post it in its entirety.

From the DAILY COMMERCIAL NEWS, “OLDEST BUSINESS NEWSPAPER ON THE PACIFIC COAST––SINCE 1875,” Thursday, January 15, 1959, by Hugh Russell Fraser

Today’s Bay Area Profile of Andy Oddstad is another in a DAILY COMMERCIAL NEWS series which appears each Thursday to give you an intimate portrayal of prominent Bay Area executives. The author, Hugh Russell Fraser, is recognized as among the top book reviewers and biographical writers of our time. ––Editor.

When I heard that down in Redwood City there is a man, only 40 years old, who has built 10,000 houses in the Bay Area in the last 10 years, I decided to go down and see what he was like.

They call him Andy Oddstad, but his real name is Icelandic in origin––Andres Fjeldsted Oddstad.

He is a stocky, blond type, built like a wrestler (which he was at college, and still is), decidedly affable and friendly in his manner.

There is nothing ostentatious about his office a 1718 Broadway. There he presides over the destinies of 10 construction and building companies, the best known of which is Oddstad Homes.

With a signal to his secretary to cut off the phone, so as to give me his uninterrupted attention (How I hate these tycoons who take a dozen calls while pretending to talk to a visitor!), he talked in a low-pitched, well-modulated voice.

Naturally, I wanted to find out what made the man tick; I first questioned him about how he got into the home-building business.

Born in British Columbia, Oddstad’s forbearers were all from Iceland. He was 9 years old when his father, a carpenter and builder, moved to San Francisco. Here he worked for his brothers-in-law, the famous builders Ellis and Henry Stoneson. Young Andy went to Sunnyside Grammar School.

At the age of 10 he knew he was going into the building business. Never was there any doubt of it.

FASCINATED

Not because his uncles were builders in a big way, the founders of Stonestown, but because everything about building, from sweeping out the floors of new houses to constructing walls and roofs, fascinated him.

Every daylight hour that he did not have to spend in school, he spent around building projects; in fact, he worked after school cleaning up trash on building sites, sweeping floors, helping make repairs. He discovered he would rather do that than play.

Meanwhile, Andy kept on going to school––first to Aptos Junior High, then two years at San Francisco college and finally two years at the University of California [at Berkeley] from which he graduated with honors and an engineering degree in 1941.

Despite the financial status of his uncles, he worked his way through college, always in building and construction work.

It was while at college that he stumbled onto something that made him think of business in more precise terms. He took as his graduate thesis a study of low-cost housing in California!

ALMOST HALF

He went all over the state, and in San Diego he ran into an eye opener. Mind you, this was in 1941 when government construction of low-cost housing was at its high point. He discovered to his amazement that Uncle Sam was putting out $9000 for a unit that was little more than a three-room apartment, while in San Francisco, private enterprise was building five-room houses with a garage underneath, definitely superior to the San Diego Government-subsidized project, for about $4250! In other words, for less than half the subsidized amount!

That was his first acquaintance with the waste inherent in bureaucracy. He could hardly believe his eyes, but slowly he came to realize that he was looking at a simple and inescapable fact.

His interesting and carefully documented thesis went to waste, however, although the University of California gave him a pat on the back for it.

Hardly had he completed this study when the approach of World War II brought him into the Navy. There he became a “frogman,” an undersea demolition expert. He saw combat duty in Okinawa, winning a raft of medals, including the Bronze Star Medal, a Presidential Unit Citation, and the Pacific Theater Ribbon with five battle stars.

On getting out of the Navy, with the rank of Lieutenant [Actually, Ensign  SN], he returned to the Bay Area. Then he decided to go into business for himself. [The initial business was funded with $500 or thereabouts that my mother, Clara Oddstad, saved from her wartime wages. SN] He teamed up with another Icelander, Chris Finson, who hailed from Seattle, and together they formed the Sterling Building Company.

GREAT TRIO

It was at this point that his famous uncles, Henry and Ellis Stoneson, came in with help and guidance. A third man, to whom Oddstad gives great credit, was Parker Maddux, one-time president of the San Francisco Bank. This great trio, all three of whom helped Andres Oddstad on the road to a spectacular success, have all passed on, Henry Stoneson only recently.

Andres Oddstad doesn’t think much of the co-called “self-made men” who insist they did it all, that nobody helped them.

“When you come to analyze it,” he said, “that is nonsense. Nobody makes it alone. Sooner or later, they get cooperation and/or assistance. I am proud of the help and expert guidance that I got from my uncles and from Parker Maddux, and if you writing anything about me, don’t forget to mention their names!”

I like this about the man. No boasting, no phony claims. In fact, I think he underestimated, rather than overestimated, his own ability, which I soon recognized was considerable. It is plain he is a hard and unremitting worker; that he thinks problems through and believes in doing a through and careful job.

But he also has imagination! This was apparent in his keen interest in economics and architecture. Perhaps a better word is enthusiasm, although I do not usually associated the word “enthusiasm” with a man who always talks in a low-pitched voice, never once raising it to an excited pitch.

It was obvious he has been fascinated by two men, the great architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, and J. Kenneth Galbraith, author of The Affluent Society. Wright he regards as a great architect, the like of which American has never known. “He thinks and designs in three dimensions,” says Oddstad. “In addition, he is a showman and super salesman. Take this training ground he operates for young architects on the desert near Phoenix, Arizona. [Taliesin West] There he takes young men out of college, puts them to work drafting––carrying out his ideas, and the result is he has a far-reaching influence on the rising generation of architects.

“Wright sees things in their relation to their environment. Many orthodox architects––and Wright is anything but orthodox––remind me of the fellow who polishes a pebble in a mosaic. Write has helped me think in depth––you have to do it in any kind of business, but especially in the building business.”

But it was the imaginative Galbraith I wanted to question him about. The Affluent Society has dynamite in it, and I was curious our the third largest builder in the San Francisco area reacted to the top U.S. economist.

“Let me say one thing,” said Oddstad, “I like to solve any problem by reducing the variables––in other words, simplifying the assumptions. But by no means do I disregard the variables. Some economists––in fact all of them but Galbraith, disregard factors they don’t understand.”

“Meaning what?” I demanded. “Let’s get specific.”

“Well, just this: The usual run of economists pay no attention to such factors as human greed, the ego, etc. Because they do not understand these, they ignore what they can’t understand. Galbraith does not. He tries to reckon with all the variables. In other worlds, he sets the whole problem of economics against against a background of common sense. Do I make myself clear?”

“Exactly, ” I said. “In fact, you have converted me, as never before, to the value of Galbraith. My previous acquaintance with him was wholly superficial. In other words, if I may add, it is your view that most economists are lacking in fundamental common sense?”

ALL BUSINESS

“Right!” he said in that low, even voice of his. Then he added slowly: “Of course, you can ask how all this helps me in my business? Well, an understanding of economics helps toward an understanding of the reference frame of all business, not just the building business.”

“And speaking of business,” I said, “what do you think of the future of the building business in California?”

“Just this:” he replied, “first, our population is going to double by 1975. They are coming in here at a great rate now. It is becoming a trend. And it will accelerate. Not only that, we will double our production units. I mean––and let me make myself clear––for every apartment house or building you see now, there will be another apartment house or building by 1975. For every home you see now, there will be another home in 16 years.

“You mean,” I said, “for every house and building we see know, we are going to see double that by 1975?”

“Yes. This is one part of the country where values are going to be on the increase, steadily and persistently. In fact, right now California has the only semi-permanent wealth in the nation.”

When I left this rather extraordinary man, whose profession is building and whose hobby is economics, I suspected he was telling me the truth. The surprising thing is that 1975 is only a relatively short time off!”

End

ANDY ODDSTAD WATER SKIING IN THE SF BAY 1960s
Andy Oddstad getting ready to water ski in the SF Bay, early 1960s

• • • • • • • • •

AFTERWORD: Well, we all know that 1975 came and went. I’m sure my father’s predictions were far lower than actual levels of development in California. I’m also certain that he could not comprehend the explosion in housing prices from the 1970s on. For a guy born in 1918, contemporary housing prices would sound like fantasy.

These days [I originally posted this in 2008.), some of his most modest homes that sold for about $9,000 in the 1950s are going for $1 million. (I wish he hadn’t sold them!) [They’re down to a mere $800K due to the recession of the 2000s.]

Andy Oddstad was a guy who came up in the Great Depression. The article above mentions him working for his uncles after school. He did it because he needed to work if his family was to eat––and the rest of the Oddstad family worked, too. Sweeping out jobs after school wasn’t a hobby. Nor were his two paper routes before school just for fun. He constructed the bicycle he rode to deliver those papers out of scrap from the junkyard. And raised rabbits behind the family home for meat for the table.

Those were hard times.

Oddstad Homes had built over 14,000 homes at the time of my father’s death. Oddstad Homes was the #1 builder of residential housing in Northern California by a wide margin, and #10 in the US at its hey-day.

What was it like having a dad like that? Like growing up in the Marines. Tough, and fair. He really did read Galbraith. He had––and read–-volumes by the philosophers Immanuel Kant and Baruch Spinoza on his bedside table. When he helped me with my homework, I had to have razor sharp pencils, several pens, a pad of scratch paper, good paper for the answers, a straight edge, and a compass at the table before he would sit down with me. I got one explanation, that was it. [Pocket calculators didn’t exist.]

Brisk.

I majored in economics for my first two college degrees, due in part to his influence. I’m glad I have that knowledge, though it’s taken me a lifetime to start “listening to my heart” as the New Agers say. I still feel guilty about being a writer and author, though I know it’s what I was born to do. (My dad could not have fathomed the New Age, either. Or free love or the 1960s.)

I owe Andy Oddstad a very great deal. I’ve never seen a person who lived at 100% and demanded that those around him do the same. He shaped me and my life.

What are some of the most important words my father said to me?

First off, he said, “Sandy, there’s no reason a girl can’t do everything a boy can do.” So I took physics and calculus in high school. “And I know how smart you are, so don’t try and tell me you can’t get good grades.” I got good grades.

He held me to a high standard, and I’ve kept it. That’s the most valuable thing I got from my dad. He was the most disciplined person I’ve met. He moved through life at hyper-speed, like he was skating on the edge of a razor blade.

It’s a shame he’s been all but forgotten. He gave a great deal to the San Francisco Bay Area.

But that’s what happens when you die.

I know that housing tracts built by one of his competitors, Joseph Eichler, have been named Historical Neighborhoods. There’s an very glossy, slick magazine put out for owners and fans of Eichler homes. I think that’s great. Eichler’s designs were spectacular examples of low cost, good design.

They are not spectacular examples of low cost, good construction. I’ve lived in an Eichler. I know all about huge single-paned windows that leak all the heat in the room and radiant (under floor) heating that that doesn’t keep rooms warm and can lead to big repair bills when it breaks. My cousin worked as a carpenter building Eichlers. I will not repeat what he said about the quality of their construction. I don’t know if the old saw about how fast they burn down is true. Do Eichlers really burn down in three minutes?

Enough carping. I expected that Frank Lloyd Wright would approve more of Eichler’s work than my fathers. I do wish that some of the folks living in Farm Hill, Linda Mar, Crestmont, Rollingwood and the rest of the communities built by Oddstad Homes might throw together a blog or something.

My dad was an engineer. He was interested in straight lines and economy and that’s what he built. He wanted everyone to have a good, well-built house over his or her head. He was a political liberal, a strong Kennedy man, a man who cared about everyone, not just the rich.

Now is the time to remember our fathers, whoever they were and whatever they did, even if they weren’t perfect and contributed to our personal difficulties. We’re here because of them, whoever they were or are.

My best wishes, fathers. And all the best to you, Andy Oddstad, whom I knew as Daddy. There’s so much you didn’t get to see, Daddy. You have five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. You missed the Beatles.

And you didn’t get to read my books! I think you would have liked them.

Sandy

Andy Oddstad & Ray Stern
Ray Stern and Andy Oddstad getting ready to water ski in the SF Bay, early 1960s.
Ray was a great buddy of my dad’s. He was a professional wrestler and entrepreneur. The caption next to this photo in our family album is, “Ray floats at last.” That is written in my dad’s handwriting and refers to the fact that Ray was a block of solid muscle. He had so little fat mass that he couldn’t float at all without his wet suit. I think he was the hardest to teach of the many people my dad taught to ski. By-gone times: The Bay is too polluted for skiing now. Ray and my dad are gone.

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