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Murrieta's Leap ... a 'change of heart' tale from the Ojai Valley

Some of you will remember that way back ten years ago in Kauai, I wrote a crazy story, originally titled Finding Juaquin, that simply took me over as a writer for more than a year, generating a long wild non-genre novel that my non-fiction agent wouldn't touch, then generating a screenplay a producer optioned but wanted to gut all the deeper dimensions ... then - for ten years the manuscript lived in total darkness in a proverbial attic box.

Six months ago I found the manuscript, read it - and plunged into a massive rewrite that is now complete. Murrieta's Leap is just that - a leap into mythic realms that transcend the intellect. I was brought up deep in local Ojai myths, both of the Chumash and the rancher kind - and it seems that these myths have been fermenting inside me all my life - and now ultimately manifesting as this novel and screenplay.

Who Is The Narrator?

Probably the best label for the story is a 'post-Christian' allegory, considering what transpires with the characters. Theology has been thrown aside but 'spiritual transformation of the heart' is central for all the main characters. I didn't write the novel with any religious intention at all - in fact my ego self didn't write the book - a voice very similar to the voice of my dearly-beloved grandfather (also John Selby) took over the narration early on - and I just worked as the scribe, participating by documenting the discovery of the characters and plot. Quite a humbling experience.

There's always a bit of magic that empowers fiction writing - who is the narrator, to what extent does some voice beyond the author actually inspire the narration? The voice that narrates Murrieta's Leap feels way beyond me as a writer. I don't say I 'channeled' some external mystic source - but this level of fiction writing for me is definitely what we call inspired - its source draws very deeply upon the core human spiritual font. The narrator of Murrieta's Leap seems to be a non-participant witness to the events that unfold in the story. He never judges or interferes. And he maintains his sense of humor throughout. Furthermore his openhearted compassion for the characters allows them to reveal their deeper and often their darker sides, without hiding anything at all.

From Fiction Unto Film

I would also have to say that writing this book for me has been a deep healing for my own childhood, and also some kind of unexpected literary fulfillment that I didn't see coming, but am thankful I could participate in manifesting. Also - I want to express a giant thanks to Birgitta for midwifing the fiction-development process.

The screenplay of Murrieta's Leap (Finding Juaquin) is of necessity somewhat different from the novel. Somehow my job wasn't done until both novel and screenplay were complete and on their separate manifestation paths. Several times before, I've approached Hollywood with my more cinematic stories, and each time ended up retreating, unwilling to compromise enough to play ball. Now, armed with both novel and screenplay (you can read the script under the title of Finding Juaquin on the "screenplays' button) I seem to have the steam to once again do my best to get this movie made. I can sense an awaiting producer or director or actor, who perhaps has a home in Ojai, reading the novel and leaping up to make the film. I feel confident that the spirit of the novel, the spirit of the valley and the spirit of the Chumash will all sustain this vision.

And so, it's 'attraction meditation' time ... seeking the team that can get the job done. Meanwhile enjoy the book, and let me know if you know someone who will perhaps want to leap into this project!

Toward the higher good ... John


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