The book behind the movie "Field of Dreams" (W.P. Kinsella's "Shoeless Joe") starts with a few mysterious words: "If you build it, he will come." With hardly more exposition than that, an ordinary Iowa cornfield is transformed into a magical diamond where the ghost of Shoeless Joe Jackson plays left field once again.
In Scott Blum's "Waiting for Autumn," the words that launch the protagonist on a journey of self-discovery are, "Always receive with grace printed on a piece of cardboard held by a homeless guy in the parking lot of Ashland's Food Co-op."
In both cases, the transition from concrete reality to another plane is so seamless it feels like sleight of hand.
Like Kinsella, Blum is both author and character whose narrative of spiritual awakening blurs genre lines. But in "Waiting for Autumn," Blum goes Kinsella one better, stating that he actually lived the journey he writes about as a succession of disparate spiritual experiences that gave rise to his novel.
Enhanced by fictional elements including a dead fiancée, Blum the character arrives in Ashland in serious need of a spiritual make-over. What ensues is a well-plotted, other-worldly story of psychic recovery that will keep readers turning the pages in anticipation of the next manifestation.
In a recent interview at the B Street office of DailyOM, Blum the author answered several questions, among them, "Why Ashland?" The answer, he said, lies in what spiritualists call the vortex, a triangular area of positive energy created by lines connecting the Ashland, McLoughlin and Shasta mountains.
Some believe Ashland exerts a strong pull on residents and visitors alike because the energy trapped between the mountains creates an environment of safety and comfort. According to Blum, Ashland was also a sacred spot for Native Americans who would come to the Wellsprings for healing events and rituals. As a result of these influences, Ashland has historically attracted healers and those with spiritual work to do.
DailyOM, by the way, is a Web site founded by Blum and his wife/soul mate Madisyn Taylor. It features inspirational articles, music, a gift shop, discussion groups and a page called Meet Nice People, where users can make like-minded friends. Taylor is a published author in her own right, with a volume of meditations titled DailyOM derived from the Web site.
Speaking of his writing process, Blum explained that his spiritual experiences were not unified as a narrative until he received a storyline "as a download" from a spiritual muse. He states the whole book came into his mind in about 10 seconds. In spite of having no ambition to be a writer, he got up at 4 a.m. for the next several weeks while his house was undergoing renovation, producing his first draft in the hours before the construction crew showed up.
As a result of being "open to this gift from the universe," Blum has a handsome hardcover first novel published by Hay House, a giant in the self-help/inspirational field, hitting bookstores on April 7. For anyone who has tried to break into print, that alone will make you believe in miracles. And, as if that weren't miracle enough, the unintentional author even has a publicist.
If you're a writer green with envy stop reading now. The next paragraph contains the word "series."
By the time Blum met with his Hay House book team in Las Vegas he envisioned a cycle of books coinciding with the seasons. He pitched the idea of a prequel to "Waiting for Autumn," as a free e-book available on his Web site, www.scottblum.net.
The publisher was enthusiastic — so much so, that the prequel was scheduled for on-line release in early 2009, leaving Blum only three months to write it. The deadline evidently didn't impact its quality, as it debuted on Feb. 20 at No. 1 on Amazon's Overall Bestseller List for the Kindle.
The book, "Summer's Path," is the story of Don, a jobless engineer with a terminal disease who decides to seek alternative treatment from Robert, an angel of death. Robert then appears in "Waiting for Autumn" with Don in tow.
What will winter's book be about? Blum isn't sure yet, but says whatever the universe brings, he'll be thankful for the gift and do his best.