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I am very excited about this new opportunity. I will continue to write LDS Fiction Novels with Covenant - so don't worry about Miss Eugenia and all the Haggerty (and Midway) folks. This is just an additional avenue I wanted to try. It gives me some extra flexibility and control over publication dates, etc.
Excerpt from Pivot Point
On the television screen two tennis players faced each other over the net. In hushed tones, the announcer reminded viewers that it was the title match at the US Open. The number one seed, Ian Lauder from Sweden, was playing a young American, Ty Randall.
Just as the American began his serve, a woman came running out onto the court. She tried to hug the young man – crying that she loved him. He warded her off with his tennis racket.
“I miss you!” she cried in front of the stunned audience. “Our son misses you! Please come back to us!”
“I don’t even know you!” Ty Randall insisted as several security guards swarmed onto the court.
The woman fought them as they dragged her off. Her hand was extended to the young tennis player and her pleadings could still be heard even after she was out of sight.
“Well,” the announcer said. “That was odd.”
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” his co-commentator agreed.
“Ty seems shaken. I wonder if this incident will affect his play here at the end of such an important tournament.”
“It’s a mystery. Something people will be talking about for weeks.”
“One thing is for sure. It will make the ESPN Not Top Ten list.”
Dr. Meghan Collins sighed in relief as her interview with the host of Today in Atlanta ended. She unclipped the microphone from the lapel of the expensive suit her mother had insisted she purchase for the occasion and handed it to the technician who was hovering nearby.
“Good job,” the technician said. “The camera loves you. Maybe you should have gone into show business instead of medicine.”
Meghan couldn’t tell if he was flirting or trying to give her a sincere compliment, but it didn’t really matter. She had no interest in flirtation and she had never taken any pride in her appearance, since it was nothing she had earned. The credit went to her Scandinavian ancestors.
The morning show host, Windy Meeks, was a little less effusive in her praise. “Yes, it was a very good interview.”
“You deserve the credit for that,” Meghan told her honestly.
Windy flashed a professional smile. “Congratulations on your award.”
Meghan nodded. “Thank you.”
Windy smoothed her short, tight skirt. “Now, I don’t mean to rush you off, but Dr. Pierce Morrow is our next guest and we have to prepare the set for him.”
“The Nobel Prize winner?” Meghan asked in surprise.
Windy nodded. “It’s a real honor.” Belatedly, she seemed to realize that this could be taken the wrong way. “Not that it wasn’t an honor to interview you too!”
“I understand completely.” Meghan stood and several crew members rushed up to swap out furniture and add a flower arrangement to the coffee table.
Meghan stepped away from the set transformation and once she was out from under the bright studio lights, she could see that Chase was there. He had taken off his suit coat, loosened the tie at his neck and rolled up the sleeves of his dress shirt – achieving a business-casual look. Even after a long day his dark shiny hair was still perfectly in place and his bright blue eyes looked amused as he waved her over.
She walked to her husband and pressed a quick kiss to his lips. “You left the office early today.”
“I did,” he confirmed.
“So the DA didn’t have enough work to keep you busy?”
“I had plenty of work as usual,” he corrected with a smile. “But it’s not every day that a man’s wife is interviewed on television. I wanted to savor it. And I thought you could use some moral support.”
“You were right about that,” she muttered with a glance back at the studio set.
His eyes admired her. “You look fantastic.”
She grimaced. “Mom picked out this suit.”
“I knew that,” he assured her. “If it had been left up to you – you’d still be in scrubs.”
“I’m not a fashion idiot and I wouldn’t wear scrubs on television,” she said. “At least not without a nice crisply starched lab coat.”
He laughed. “I’m glad you let your mother pick the outfit.”
There was some commotion at the studio door and Meghan turned as Dr. Morrow, followed by several other people, walked into the small room. He was in his late forties, perhaps early fifties. His longish brown hair was laced with gray, his skin was tanned, and his physique was trim. She’d never been attracted to older men, but Dr. Morrow was quite handsome.
Windy approached her important guest with giddy enthusiasm. “Thank you so much for coming! I can’t wait to get started on our interview.”
“Thank you for the invitation,” Dr. Morrow said graciously. Then he turned to Meghan and extended his hand. “If I read the schedule in the hall correctly, you are Dr. Collins, Atlanta’s Woman of the Year.”
She shook his hand. “I’m Meghan Collins.”
Windy put a proprietary hand on the doctor’s arm. Then she addressed Meghan. “Dr. Morrow is doing some fascinating research with dream therapy. Pretty soon there won’t be a disturbed person left in Atlanta.”
His entourage laughed politely, but the Nobel Prize winner himself, did not.
“My research is not only for the disturbed,” he corrected Windy. “It is also for healthy people and I believe in the near future it will revolutionize life as we know it.”
This was a bold statement and Meghan found herself intrigued. “I’d like to hear more about your work.”
Dr. Morrow smiled. “And I’d be delighted to discuss it with you. Perhaps after my interview we could get some dinner and talk about my research.”
“I’d like that, but I’m not sure what our plans are.” Meghan moved a little closer to Chase and he put an arm across her shoulders. “I’ll have to ask my husband.”
Dr. Morrow’s eyes drifted over to Chase. “What can I say that will convince you to stay and have dinner with me?”
“Nothing,” Chase replied coolly. “But we’ll stay if Meghan wants to.”
Dr. Morrow nodded. “A wise husband.” He lowered his voice and said, “This won’t take long.” Then he walked over to the set where Windy was perched on a little green chair.
From the corner of her eye Meghan could see the technician putting a microphone on Dr. Morrow. Windy was batting her eyes and blushing.
Meghan whispered to Chase, “Thanks for accepting Dr. Morrow’s invitation.”
He frowned. “You’re welcome, although I can’t understand why you want to eat dinner with him.”
“He’s a Nobel Prize winner,” she pointed out. “That alone is enough to make me accept the invitation. But besides that, I’m interested in his new dream-therapy research.”
Chase whimpered. “Great. I get to spend the evening listening to a bunch of medical talk.”
“It’s not like I haven’t spent plenty of evenings listening to you and your colleagues discuss boring points of law.”
He acknowledged this with a shrug. “Okay, but let’s try to make it home before too late.”
Pleased, Meghan gave him another quick kiss. “We won’t stay out late, I promise.” Then she turned her attention to Dr. Morrow, who was now settled in the spot she had recently vacated. With a microphone clipped to the collar of his shirt he looked composed and prepared for the interview ahead.
Then the technician walked over to Meghan and said, “I’m sorry but Mindy is afraid you’ll be a distraction during Dr. Morrow’s interview, so you’ll have to wait in the hall.”
Meghan frowned and Chase grinned. “That’s what you get for being so distractingly gorgeous,” he whispered as they walked out of the small, crowded studio.
She rolled her eyes. “Windy is being ridiculous.”
They waited in the hallway until Dr. Morrow emerged, followed by his own personal parade.
“All finished,” he declared. “I hope you’re hungry.”
“We are,” Meghan replied for both of them.
“You name the restaurant and I’ll meet you there.”
“How about Minelli’s Buffet?” Meghan suggested. “It’s right around the corner.”
“Sounds perfect,” Dr. Morrow agreed. “I’ll see you there in a few minutes.”
Chase and Meghan rode in his car to the restaurant. They were seated at a quiet table discussing their day when Dr. Morrow walked in – without his entourage.
“So, are we ready to eat?” he asked.
“We’re more than ready,” Chase replied. “Meghan looks like she’s about to disappear.”
“I am hungry,” Meghan murmured, slightly embarrassed.
They walked over to the buffet tables, laden with food. Everything looked delicious and Meghan hadn’t eaten since breakfast so she filled her plate. Chase was a health nut so he made his choices more judiciously, avoiding fat and tending toward fresh vegetables.
For the first few minutes of their meal there wasn’t much conversation as they enjoyed the food. But when Dr. Morrow finished his dinner he pushed back a few inches from the table and said, “Dr. Collins, how does someone so young get named Woman of the Year in a city like Atlanta?”
“It was a great honor,” Meghan acknowledged, “Although I don’t deserve all the credit. I started a program in conjunction with Children’s Hospital that provides assistance to teenage mothers including, but not limited to, prenatal care and parenting classes. The idea was good but Momentum has become a huge success thanks to remarkable community support.”
“She’s too modest,” Chase inserted. “She worked herself to death generating that remarkable community support. And the program she developed is now being used as a model for similar programs all across the southeast. And she still donates twelve to fifteen hours a week to Momentum in addition to her rigorous private practice schedule.”
Dr. Morrow seemed impressed. “Now I understand why you have risen above the pack. You’re beautiful, you’re smart, and you work very hard.”
Meghan was uncomfortable with the praise so she deflected attention from herself by pointing at her husband. “I’m not the only one who works hard. Chase is a very up and coming assistant district attorney and he puts in long hours as well.”
Chase rolled his eyes. “I’m an assistant DA – but I’m not sure about the up and coming part.”
Dr. Morrow acted politely interested in Chase and his career, but after a few intelligent questions, he turned his attention back to Meghan.
“Because of your medical knowledge, I would love to give you a tour of my lab and get your opinion about my work. Your husband too,” he included Chase in the invitation as almost an afterthought.
Chase asked, “So what is it you do at this lab?”
“We manipulate dreams,” Dr. Morrow said. “I call it dream therapy and it can help people solve problems – like phobias or addictions. But the applications are much broader than just that and the possibilities are almost endless.”
Meghan twirled shrimp Alfredo onto her fork. “What kind of possibilities?”
“Most people have points in their lives – we call them pivot points – where they make a decision that sets the course for everything that comes afterward. Things like what school to attend, what career to pursue, who to marry.” He glanced between them. “Even things as simple as whether to play little league baseball or take piano lessons can make a huge difference in life. For instance, what if Tiger Woods had taken swimming lessons instead of learning to play golf?”
“He might have been a great swimmer,” Chase said. “Maybe the greatness is inside him and the sport didn’t matter.”
“Maybe,” Dr. Morrow said. “Our technology would allow him to find out. We take people back to those pivotal moments and let them make a different choice – just through dreams – and see what might have happened if they’d taken another path.”
“You’re kidding.” Chase’s tone was skeptical.
Dr. Morrow shook his head. “I assure you I’m completely serious.”
Meghan put her fork down. “How do you do it? How can you manipulate people’s dreams to recreate a scene from the past and then project it forward on another path?”
Dr. Morrow said, “First, we recognize that the brain is an amazing source of stored knowledge. Every experience you’ve ever had is locked there in perfect clarity – just out of reach.”
“But how do you reach these perfect memories and then change them?”
“We begin with an in-depth exploratory session with the client. We glean as much from their conscious memory as we can and determine the new path they would like to take. Once we have this information we can use computers to flesh out their memories and make the adjustments.”
“Flesh them out?” Chase repeated.
“We combine the information about the client, including pictures, with actual data from the time that their pivot point took place – like the weather, the music, architecture, clothing styles, popular models of cars. Then using a technique similar to the ones used in sophisticated video games, the computer creates an alternate life – starting with the pivotal moment. We anesthetize the client to keep them in REM sleep, and give them a combination of drugs . . .”
“Drugs?” Chase asked with a frown. He wouldn’t even take an aspirin, so this portion of the therapy earned his immediate disapproval.
“All perfectly legal and harmless in moderation,” Dr. Morrow assured him. “And the final component is something similar to subliminal imagery – only much better. That is how we impress the alternate reality – if you will – on the client’s sleeping mind.”
“And that works?” Chase was still frowning.
“It does,” Dr. Morrow claimed. “Let’s say for instance your pivotal moment was the day you chose between two college scholarships – one baseball and one academic. If you chose the academic course but wanted to see how your life would have been if you played baseball – the computer would start at your pivot point. It would take all the variables – the schedule played by the college, broken down into individual games, and then it would predict what effect your presence would have made based on your strengths and abilities at the age of eighteen. It would create an alternate path using the cities you would have visited, other students who would have been in your classes, and – of course – incorporating any desires you mentioned during the exploratory session.”
“Like if I said I preferred redheads my wife in this new reality would have red hair?”
“Perhaps,” Dr. Morrow said. “Or if during exploration it was determined that the woman you married in your real life is your one true love, the computer would find a way to introduce her into your dream life. Everything doesn’t have to change just because you picked a different career path.”
“So it’s not what would have happened,” Chase said. “It’s what could have happened.”
“Exactly,” Dr. Morrow told him. “We just give our clients a possibility - preferably one that they will be pleased to explore.”
“What if the client isn’t pleased to explore the scenario generated by the computer?” Meghan asked.
“Then we can make adjustments to the scenario and let them have the dream again.”
“And what is the point of all this?” Chase wanted to know.
“From a clinical standpoint, it can help people with problems. Smokers can visualize the benefits of a life without
cigarettes and that gives them added incentive to stop. It can be used on both criminals and their victims, on soldiers who
suffer from post combat distress syndrome, and to help people with neuroses to conquer their fears.”
“Definitely,” Dr. Morrow insisted. “We’ve seen great success in our chemical dependency group of test clients. Also victims of violent crimes benefit from the dream therapy. They can relive the horrible moment with a different outcome.”
“That sounds like hiding from the truth,” Meghan said.
“It might sound that way, but actually it’s very therapeutic. It seems to help them let go of the pain from the past and move forward.”
Chase shrugged. “If you say so.”
“Obviously there is a lot more research that needs to be done to determine the clinical benefits of the therapy, but I have high hopes,” Dr. Morrow continued. “However this level of science and technology is not cheap and there is a limit to how much money I can raise from wealthy donors. So I’m shifting gears.”
“What gear are you shifting into?” Chase asked suspiciously.
“Commercial,” Dr. Morrow replied. “I’m looking to create revenue from the process itself that will fund continued research.”
Meghan frowned. “How?”
“I’m hoping that people might find it amusing to take a walk down a different Memory Lane.” He winked at his play on words.
“So you want people to pay for the opportunity to dream a different life than the one they actually chose?” Meghan confirmed.
“You want to create a new industry,” Chase said. “Recreational dreaming?”
Dr. Morrow nodded.
“It sounds like a hard sale to me,” Chase told him. “I wouldn’t take drugs and let a computer mess with my mind just to try out an alternate life path.”
Dr. Morrow raised an eyebrow. “Then you are a rare man with no regrets. You’re sure you made all the right choices.”
Chase stared back, silent and maybe even a little angry. “I’m sure there’s nothing I can do about any wrong choices I made in my past.”
Meghan inserted herself into the awkward moment. “If you could make the cost reasonable and guarantee that there are no negative side-effects, I think there would be a market for your dream therapy. It would be like personalized escapism – watching a fictional movie staring yourself.”
Dr. Morrow seemed pleased. “Exactly! And there would be practical applications for healthy, well-adjusted people as well. If a man and woman want to marry they could do dream therapy first – to make sure they are compatible. They could experience years of marriage together before they ever say ‘I do’.”
“That’s amazing,” Meghan was fascinated by the possibilities.
Encouraged, Dr. Morrow continued. “If the leader of a country wanted to know if they should start a war with an enemy – he could try it through dream therapy first and make sure the outcome is worth the loss of life before a single shot is fired.”
“Think how many senseless wars could be avoided if leaders were given hindsight in advance!” Meghan said with enthusiasm.
Chase looked unhappy. “But the computer can’t tell anyone what would happen for sure – it’s just a guess.”
“A very good guess,” Dr. Morrow amended.
“But still a guess,” Chase insisted. “So what if the dream indicates that a couple will be unhappy and they don’t marry – but really they would have had a long and compatible relationship?”
“We make sure that our clients understand from the beginning that dream therapy is just a tool to help them make life decisions,” Dr. Morrow said. “They are all required to participate in counseling before and after their sessions.”
“So you already have clients?” Meghan asked. “You’ve been practicing these techniques on people?”
“Oh yes,” the doctor said. “We’ve been using human clients for almost three years now.”
Meghan’s mind was racing with so many questions she wanted to ask, but before she could pose another one, Chase stood.
“Well, it’s late and we need to get home,” he said.
Dr. Morrow stood as well. “I’m sorry that I kept you so long. When I get talking about my research I have a tendency to get carried away.”
Meghan frowned at her husband and then addressed Dr. Morrow. “Your research is fascinating and it was wonderful to meet you.”
“I consider myself the fortunate one to have spent the evening with someone both beautiful and intelligent. Your husband is a very lucky man.”
“That is one thing we can agree on,” Chase said with a semi-smile.
Dr. Morrow insisted on paying for the meal.
So with a grudging, “Thank you,” Chase headed toward the door.
Meghan added her thanks and moved to join her husband.
But Dr. Morrow put a hand on her arm to delay her departure. Then he leaned in close and said, “Because of your medical background my research is much more interesting to you than it is to your husband. I would love to show you my research facility and explain my dream technology in depth. Would you come for a tour tomorrow? I could answer any other questions you might have then.”
Meghan found that this offer was just too tempting. “I would like to do that,” she responded. “I’ll have to check my schedule, but I can probably break away for a little while during lunchtime.”
He pressed a card into her hand. “Here are several numbers where I can be reached. Just let me know.”
“Meghan?” Chase called to her from the door.
His voice had a little edge of annoyance so she smiled at Dr. Morrow and said, “Good night.”
Then she hurried to the door with Dr. Morrow’s card was clutched tightly in her hand.
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