December 13, 2022
Like many people, author David Raymond was inspired as a child by “Star Wars” and “Star Trek,” and saw science fiction as an escape into unknown, fantastical worlds. For him, the genre represented something bigger than himself. He was captivated by its inherent concept of endless possibilities and discovering new things.
“It blended together the things I’m passionate about – helping people, the environment and making the world a better place,” said Raymond.
All those things intersect in his latest science fiction book, “The Mermaid of Arch Creek,” which is set in Miami’s Arch Creek Park and was released last month.
As we sat in his beautiful, sunlit home office in the Village of Biscayne Park discussing the book, Raymond spoke clearly and with passion, like a true storyteller. The T-shirt he wore, emblazoned with “Mr. Write,” perfectly summed up his personality.
Raymond, 62, an Amazon bestselling author, is virtually a jack-of-all-trades who explored a variety of disciplines before deciding to pursue his true calling and childhood dream: writing.
He realized he was a gifted writer in the sixth grade, when he wrote a television script for “The Wild Wild West” in class. He yearned to be a comedy writer for “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” but for a long while, Raymond put writing on hold to pursue other interests, like real estate, teaching and environmental sciences.
Raymond received his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Florida International University at the age of 24. His mother was bipolar, and by the time he was 12 he had experienced all kinds of physical and mental abuse. He studied psychology to help others who had similar experiences. Then he quickly realized he could also make a difference as a social worker.
(Gabriela Yero for Biscayne Times)
David Raymond with Bill Clinton in 2010 during the Clinton Global Initiative’s community service project with the Homeless Trust.
He then earned his master’s degree in mental health counseling from Barry University while working with Jewish Community Services of South Florida.
Raymond went on to work at the Florida Department of Children and Families, where he oversaw adult services such as mental health and substance abuse programs. Work-related stress caused him to develop a tumor in his colon and high blood pressure.
“Working at DCF for five years felt like 50,” he said.
He eventually left DCF and took on the role of executive director of the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust for 10 years, retiring from the county in 2012 after 30 years in the field. But he didn’t stop working.
Shining Light Into Darkness
Raymond supported several organizations after his retirement, assisting with grant writing as well as systems and programs organization for about six years. Throughout his career as a social worker, he wrote more than $1 billion in grant proposals.
He stopped consulting in 2018 to spend his time traveling with his wife, Amy. While in New Zealand, Raymond said he had an out-of-body experience while praying and meditating. He saw the form of an icy-blue figure in the shape an angel and heard a voice say to him, “I am the archangel Gabriel, and you must write it down so they can see it.”
Dumbfounded, Raymond immediately went to his phone to look up the role of the archangel – and discovered that Gabriel was known as the angel of communicators. He thought he was going crazy and dismissed it as a weird dream, but as he tried to go back to sleep, he felt his body levitating and continued to hear the voice.
“I don’t even have to close my eyes; I can still see it,” he said.
Raymond said he knew he always wanted to write a book, and after that experience began writing what would become the initial few chapters of his first book, “It’s like Having Sex with God.” He shared his work with his wife and children but then stopped writing, since the feedback he received wasn’t as encouraging as he’d hoped.
In December 2019, his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. She began radiation treatment in the beginning of 2020, around the same time their grandson was born and the pandemic began.
Due to COVID-19 protocols, Raymond wasn’t allowed to accompany his wife into the hospital. So, while he waited for her in the car outside, he figured, why not do something productive?
And he began writing.
One day, while meditating, Raymond said he observed various psychedelic, 1960s-esque colors and patterns and felt connected to a higher being. He told his wife the experience was so euphoric, it was almost like having sex with God. His wife responded, “that should be the title of your book!”
The author hoped his first book would bring light to people’s spirituality, and he explained that his intention was never to be blasphemous, but rather to demonstrate the honor of having a relationship with a higher power.
Whether working in environmental sciences, real estate or social work, Raymond was always a storyteller. Although his books are mainly science fiction, they both feature positive stories with comedic elements because he feels there isn’t enough of that around.
“My personal mission statement is to try to shine light into darkness,” he said.The Magic of Miami
His second book, “The Mermaid of Arch Creek,” features 64 short chapters of comedic paranormal mystery within a series of events, an enchanted creek and a quirky group of individuals attempting to unravel its secrets.
The book is about Wekiwa Sawgrass, a tribe leader in the Florida Everglades who embarks on a journey to help her people escape the impoverishment of the early 20th century. Wekiwa builds her home on Arch Creek, a mystical place originally inhabited by indigenous people, after opening a restaurant on the Miami River. As she transforms and is tempted by a darker side of magic and begins performing seductive rituals on her patrons, Wekiwa struggles to follow the path of her ancestors.
Raymond said he grew up camping in the Everglades and spent much of his childhood in nature. While many stories in both his books are reflected by his life, this book is special for him, as he used to play and fish from the natural bridge at Arch Creek Park in North Miami when he was a kid; he even had his fifth birthday party there.
But when he started writing the book, it was neither about Arch Creek nor set in the park.
In early 2020, Raymond took his grandson for a stroll at the park. As he walked around he was inspired by the magic he felt in the space, and his mind automatically went to mermaids. He felt something click and knew his book had to feature this park and its magic.
(Gabriela Yero for Biscayne Times)
The 200-year-old tree in author David Raymond’s backyard is featured in his book “The Mermaid of Arch Creek.”
He hadn’t yet finished writing the final pages of the book when he began working with an artist to design its cover. That artwork provided inspiration for the book’s ending.
Both of Raymond’s books are based in Miami because “Miami is the greatest place in the world to live,” he said. He’s worked with thousands of people throughout his scattered career path, but loves working here because of the diversity.
For Raymond, writing “funny, off-the-wall stuff,” has provided a positive release. He said he knows that some people will get it and some people will think he’s crazy, but for him, writing and sharing his work is an opportunity to send a hopeful message. He wants his books to leave people “feeling good.”
Raymond said he never thought he would be where he is at this point in his life; he expected he’d still be working in social services or consulting. “If Amy wouldn’t have gotten sick, would I have done this?” is a question he’s asked himself many times.
But there’s no question that he’s settled into his present calling – as “The Mermaid of Arch Creek” was still in the publishing stage, Raymond began writing what will be his next book, which features an outer space setting with more supernatural elements, and of course, some comedic elements. So if you love the idea of a mix of science fiction, adventure and humor, stay tuned for the next one.
David Raymond’s books are available on Amazon.com.