A slip that becomes a habit and then a lifestyle that leads to disaster is a theme this week’s stories about people behaving badly. I used Cornerstone Fellowship pastor Steve Madsen’s definition of sin as missing a mark or overstepping a boundary as my standard.
- “The Legend of Fray Baltazar,” excerpt from Death Comes to the Archbishop by Willa Cather
In the early days of the old West, evangelizing priests served their God and His people first or they served themselves first. A self indulgent priest gets fat off the labor of the Indians. A simple tale told well, Cather sits us at the old priest’s table on the flat hard Acoma mesa. We look for exits along with his guests when the priest carelessly crosses a line with behavior that is sure to have consequences.
- “Rock Springs,” by Richard Ford, American Short Story Masterpieces, ed. Raymond Carver and Tom Jenks
Down-and-outer Earl gets along as best he can, hooking up with women he hopes will make him feel better, stealing cars to leave town whenever the law laps at his heels for passing bad checks. He’s the nice person you know whose unending string of bad luck puts him on the outside looking in.Read More»
Tumultuous times, The Sixties is the time period of the new book I’m writing, so I’m winding the clock back to the era of counterculture.
From American Short Story Masterpieces, ed. Raymond Carver and Tom Jenks
- “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” (1965) by Joyce Carol Oates
One of Oates most famous stories, she riffs on Bob Dylan as she digs into the psyche of a teenage girl whose sexuality leads her into frightening territory.
- “The Christian Roommates,” (1964) by John Updike
At Harvard, a hippie from Oregon is paired with a straight arrow from North Dakota. Nominal Christians both, one will grow deeper in his faith and one will lose his faith. Updike plants the clue early:
People without convictions have no powers of resistance.
With humor and insight, Updike paints a universal college experience from which some grow spiritually and intellectually and others diminish.Read More»
I love anticipation. In Advent season we prepare our hearts for the coming celebration of the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. At this season, I look for words that lift my spirit. I find them is the music in the air, the coming Remember sermon series at Radiant Church in Surprise, the advent candle Joel and I will light back at Groveland Evangelical Free Church on Christmas Eve, and on the blog posts my fellow authors are preparing for their readers. The HopeSprings Books authors cordially invite you to celebrate along with us, and as it’s the season of giving there will be lots of fun giveaways for you!
Since HopeSprings is a small press that will celebrate their first complete year in business in January of 2014, there aren’t enough of us to blog every day, so advent thoughts will appear twice a week, each time on a different blog (see schedule below). The fun for you is that each author will offer a giveaway that you can enter just by leaving a comment. There will also be a link to a Rafflecopter giveaway for our Grand Prize – a Kindle!
So mark your calendars and plan to join us as we count down the days to Christmas!
The schedule is:
December 2 - Elizabeth Maddrey Christmas with Matt and Laura
December 6 - Mary Hamilton Dreaming of a White Christmas
December 9 - Laura Jackson
December 13 - Sydney Avey The Less Than Perfect Christmas
December 16 - Angie Brashear Angels and Snowflakes
December 20 - Ginny Hamlin
Winners for the author prizes will be announced one week after the post The grand prize winner will be announced on all the participating blogs (and notified via email) on December 23.
Writing first person fiction lets you muck around in someone’s head to see what’s there or mess with their attitude. Where do you find writers audacious enough to try this? Try literary, experimental, and romance fiction.
First person seems to slow the pace in literary fiction.
- “Refuge in London,” by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, The O’Henry Prize Stories 2005
The author steps inside the head of a sixteen-year-old girl who lives in a boarding house that shelters people trying to get back on their feet after WWII. The girl sits for a down-on-his-luck artist destined for fame. Bored with the inactivity and embarrassed by the old man’s attention, she comes to appreciate the experience only in retrospect.
- “Sonny’s Blues,” by James Baldwin, American Short Story Masterpieces, ed. Raymond Carver and Tom Jenks
This masterful story doesn’t pick up until Sonny sits down to jam, because we aren’t really listening until then, and that’s the point.
For while the tale of how we suffer, and how we are delighted, and how we may triumph is never new, it must always be heard.
A girl goes to see her dentist and he takes x-rays with his fancy new imaging device that has amazing detection powers. Lo and behold, it detects a shadow that indicates something is possibly embedded in her jaw—a cyst perhaps—that could rearrange her teeth, fracture her jaw, or worse. Or not. Rare, but it happens.
What’s a girl to do? Well smart girls who are heads of households do not mess around. They take the doctor’s advice and go under the knife; a drill, actually, through her jawbone, where it encountered – nothing. Now she is home applying frozen peas to her swelling jaw and popping pain pills.
This girl is my daughter. My first response was, “How could they put her through that for NOTHING!” My second response was, “Wait a minute, isn’t that EXACTLY what I prayed for? That it would turn out to be nothing?” So I ask myself, why does she have to through this?
It reminds me of when you check your bank statement and see a rogue charge for a small amount of money. Some bot is testing access to your bank account. You hope it’s nothing to worry about. Most often a legitimate charge against your account shows up in a couple of days and the small amount that was debited gets credited back.
Perhaps in the same way my daughter’s reserves were tested. Running a single parent household isn’t easy in the best circumstances, but she rallied her resources—a friend to be with her, people to pray, the kids’ dad to take them while she recovers—and our prayers were answered.
How many times in our lives do situations pop up that alarm us? If we have built solid friendships and banked memories of all the times God has answered our prayers we stand a better chance of weathering the blips with good humor.
Stories can leave you with questions; the kind that lead to self-examination, growth and a new appreciation or the kind than leave you puzzled and laughing.
“The Hurt Man,” by Wendell Berry, The O’Henry Prize Stories 2005
A good story sends a character up a tree and throws rocks at him. A great story brings him back down and knits him back together. This is a great story.
At the age of five Mat was beginning to prepare himself to help in educating his grandson, though he did not know it.
What redeeming actions do you perform in sight of your children that will burn in their brains and be reproduced for generations to come?Read More»
There are as many ways to do blog tours, I suspect, as there are ways to plan a vacation. What is a blog tour? As best as I can figure it out, around the time you get ready to release a book, you want to make guest appearances on other people’s blogs, either by writing a guest post or doing an author interview.
Go first class or DIY?
Bloggers are very generous with room on their blogs. They like guests. There is no BRBO website (blog rental by owner) to peruse, so a good way set your itinerary is to consult members of your travel clubs—the people you hang out with in professional organizations and those you collaborate with to bring your book to market.
I’ll be stopping in to see people like Brandy Heineman in Atlanta, a Christian author who is interested in genealogy, and Cherie Burbach, a working writer, blogger and artist in Milwaukee. I’ll be meeting new people who are gracious enough to introduce me to folks they know.
Ink From an Earthen Vessel – November 13
Jennifer Slattery Lives Out Loud – November 19
Working Writers and Bloggers – November 21
Reading, Writing and the Stuff In-Between – November 28
Come Hither and Venture to Other Worlds – December 04
Bookishness and Other Beauties – December 10
Renee’s Inspirational Moments – December 12
In January, I will host some “tourists” on my blog in a new series featuring authors who set their stories in California. I’ll introduce the line up soon.
I’m pushing my genre borders this week, reading mystery, looking for beautiful writing in a category of literature that features conflict with the twist of crime.
The Best American Mystery Stories 2013, edited by Lisa Scottoline
“Bullet Number Two,” by Hannah Tinti
Hawley never makes it to the scene of his intended crime. Crime finds him first. Tinti lingers over descriptions of sand storms in the desert, which inspired this story. This line works on many levels:
The bullet was turning now, spinning its hardness into a dark place and taking him with it.
- “Bound,” by Maurine Dallas Watkins
So much character development in so few pages, Thyrza is an evil chameleon who changes appearance to suit her purpose. Her ugliness is bone deep and it’s no mystery that someone will off her, but who? I’m starting to like this genre.
- “So Near Anytime Always,” by Joyce Carol Oates
It becomes quickly apparent that Desmond Parrish is a stalker. His motives are a mystery but the ending is not a shocker; are we ever shocked by what possesses the loner male? The magic is in the author’s rendering of the sixteen-year-old girl who comes into his crosshairs.
- “Light Bulb,” by Nancy Pickard
This story began with promise, when Judy experienced “…a sinking in her stomach, a setting of a match to an unburned pile of regret.” I love that kind of writing. But as the story unfolded, the emotion was overpowered by stereotype (the preacher who molests, the funny uncle), psychobabble (Alternate Reality Judy), and a freight train of fortuitous events that lead to a tired conclusion.
- “Smothered and Covered,” by Tom Barlow
Pacing, focus, vivid detail, and the skillful weaving of a crime and a back story distinguish this account of a kidnapping from the tale of abuse I found tedious. Anchoring the story to interactions that take place in a diner provides enough narrative distance for readers to piece things together slightly behind the narrator instead of one step ahead. The feelings between the divorced parents of a dead child reliving their experience in a crime that occurs before their eyes is fresh and real. The ending is a surprise.
- “When They Are Done With Us,” by Patricia Smith
The worst poverty, lack of love, generates the worst crimes. This story puts you inside the head of a mother in the projects and makes you want to murder. I found myself clenching my fists and whispering in my head, “kill the evil spawn.”
- “Quarry,” by Micah Nathan
I love a story where the good guys win. Trouble shows up on the front porch and two brothers draw on moral fortitude and common sense to bury the problem.
The Audible Audio Edition of Sheep Walker’s Daughter is now available for download. The print and eBook edition will be available on December 3, 2013.
Lisa Copeland has done a masterful job narrating the story.
The Sheep Walker’s Daughter by Sydney Avey. ISBN 978-1-938708-19-0 (paperback), ISBN 978-1-938708-20-6 (ebook). Publication: December 3, 2013. ISBN 978-1-938708-30-5 (audiobook). Publication: November 8, 2013.
Time to summon up the holiday spirit; I’m looking for holiday-themed, heart-touching stories to set the mood. They are hard to find. Giving them a mood setting rating from a 1-star “Treacle” to a 5-star “Uplifting ”
I have also compiled a short list of holiday stories on a Pinterest Board reading list.
- “Home for the Holidays,” By Maile Meloy, Byliner.com
A not uncommon tale of a young person trying to form her own traditions only to discover a stripped down Christmas lacks charm. She misses the melee caused by births, marriages and remarriages that require interstate trekking and gift giving aerobatics. 3 stars
- “Christmas Story: For the Man Who Hated Christmas,” by Nancy W. Gavin, Web of Love
A true story about a woman whose husband disliked the commercial aspect of Christmas; she began a tradition of buying gifts for people he knew that had urgent needs, and slipping a note about the gift into a white envelope she placed on the tree every year. 5 star idea
- “Markheim,” by Robert Louis Stevenson, eastoftheweb.com
At first glance, the only thing Christmassy about this Poesque tale of murder is that the crime occurs on Christmas Day. Stevenson explores the conscience of a killer in satisfying language and then confronts him with a specter who poses a question to us: Can a sinner be tempted to behave rightly? Isn’t that the hope of Christmas?
Loved this line:
Terror of the people in the street sat down before his mind like a besieging army.
5 star writingRead More»