Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Tricia is a members of the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance. She also has a blog, It's Real Life and a parenting blog Generation NeXt.
TRICIA GOYER is the author of five novels, two nonfiction books and one children's book. She also was named Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference Writer of the Year in 2003. In 2005, her novel Night Song, the second title in Tricia’s World War II series, won ACFW's Book of the Year for Best Long Historical Romance. In 2006, her novel Dawn of A Thousand Nights also won book of the Year for Long Historical Romance. Tricia and her husband, John, live with their family in northwestern Montana.
We are pleased to be able to review her exciting Chronicles of the Spanish Civil War, A Valley Of Betrayal
For reasons beyond her control, Sophie finds herself alone in the war-torn Spanish countryside, searching for her beloved Michael. His work as a news photographer has taken him deep into the country wracked by civil war. What was once a thriving paradise has become a battleground for Nazi-backed Franco fascist soldiers and Spanish patriots. She is caught up in the escalating events when the route to safety is blocked and fighting surrounds her.
Secrets abound in the ruined Spain. Michael is loving but elusive, especially about beautiful maria. The American who helped Sophie sneak into Spain turns up in odd places. Michael's friend Jose knows more than he tells. When reports of Michael's dissappearance reach her, Sophie is devastaed. What are her feelings for Philip, an American soldier who comes to her rescue?
Sophie must sift truth from lies as she becomes more embroiled in the war that threatens her life and breaks her heart. On her darkest night, Sophie takes refuge with a brigade of international compatriots. Among these volunteers, she pledges to make the plight of the Spanish people known around the world through the power of art.
Acclaimed author Tricia Goyer creates a riviting cast of characters against the backdrop of pre-WWII spain. Love, loss, pain, and beauty abound in A Valley Of Betrayal, the first book in her new series, Chronicles of the Spanish Civil War.
**a note from Karri**
I haven't finished reading my copy of this novel yet, so I can't give a thoroughly informed judgement. However, Goyer's extensive research and intimate knowledge of an era in history probably not too well-known is staggering. She, like her main character, is an artist who paints with images and words that encapsulate the world in which the characters live. I'm not a history buff, but I'm engrossed enough that I need to read on to find out what happens. Though not my cup of tea, I'm glad I delved into a less-traveled genre for me--I'm learning a lot.
Tricia's blog is: http://triciagoyer.blogspot.com/
The book link is: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0802467679
Sunday, February 25, 2007
It's a new book giveaway this week!
Leave a comment on this post, and you may win a copy of Alton Gansky's new novel. I have two copies of the book up for grabs, so I will announce two lucky winners. Friday noon is the deadline. You do not want to miss this book! If you don't win, buy it. I guarantee you will like it.
Alton Gansky is the prolific author of almost 20 novels and several nonfiction works. He pastors as well as speaks at dozens of conferences every year. I’m pleased to present a short Q&A segment with him after my review below. Visit his website at www.altongansky.com for a full list of books and other info.
Wow, wow, and wow. Did I love Crime Scene Jerusalem or what? Wordsmith extraordinaire Alton Gansky has wrapped up suspense, biblical fiction and nonfiction into an enticing package.
Max Odom is the best crime scene investigator the San Diego PD has, especially for a young guy. But when revenge taints Max’s judgment and compromises a murder case, his boss forces him to take a leave of absence. Instead of leaving Max to sit around at home for two weeks, the boss assigns him to a speaking engagement with the Israeli police’s forensics department.
What starts as routine turns into a nightmare from which Max can’t escape. His would-be cab driver transforms into a guide through first century Jerusalem. Max is recruited to uncover evidence of a conspiracy. Has Max’s mind finally yielded to his life’s recent stress and broken off with reality? Or is he witnessing events that are all too real?
There aren't strong enough positive words I can say about Crime Scene Jerusalem. Few books I've read in the last year (and boy, have I read a lot) have kept me in that "suspension of disbelief" every reader should experience. I thought that after I saw "The Passion of the Christ" no descriptions of crucifixion could shock or affect me anymore. I was wrong. The biblical and historical aspects are presented expertly, and the protagonist’s plight wrenches one’s very being. A fantastic story line, explicit detail, realistic dialogue and a story that relentlessly pursues truth make this an absolute must-read.
1. How did you get the idea for Crime Scene Jerusalem?
Well, there’s a bit of a story to that. Normally, I come up with my own ideas. Unless I’m doing a work-for-hire project, I never use an idea that originates outside of my brain. It’s hard for a writer to emotionally invest in another person’s idea. In this case, however, Mike Nappa (who was an editor at Cook Communications) sent an e-mail with the idea for CSJ. He said he wasn’t sure how to make it work but thought that I might be able to pull it off. I told him it couldn’t be done. After some thought, and several grueling boxing rounds with my imagination, I pulled together a proposal which he took to committee. They liked it and sent a contract. That meant, I had to actually write the book.
Starting with Mike’s idea, I created a framework that fit my writing style. The book didn’t come easily, but the more I worked on it, the more I liked it. Max Odom, the protagonist, really grew on me. He’s tough but fractured, intelligent but slow about spiritual things.
The other problem I faced was how to make Jesus real to the contemporary person. The Bible shows us how Jesus related to 1st Century folk, but Max is a 21st Century man. I kept asking, “If Jesus walked the Earth today, how would he speak to a man like Max?"
2. Is combining fiction with nonfiction becoming a trend nowadays in the CBA?
I don’t know about it being a trend. There have been several books in which authors have tried to set the Christ story in modern times or send a modern man back to the days of Jesus, but I don’t know that it’s a trend. Of course, fiction is based in fact. At the very least, fictional characters act on a stage built of facts. It’s one of the odd things about novel writing. One has to be factually accurate while telling a made-up story.
3. You're a pastor and an author of nonfiction. Did it take much extra research into biblical history to complete this novel?
I’m no longer senior pastor. I write full time (a different form for a vow of poverty). I do serve as an associate at my old church. Yes, there was a great deal of research. Some biblical history is well known; some is disputed. For example, we don’t really know where the tomb of Christ was. Nor do we know exactly where He was crucified. There are a couple of sites that seem to fit, but we can’t know with certainty. Same with the Upper Room. We think we know where it was/is, but it’s impossible to be dogmatic. I learned a lot. I learned the kind of stuff one doesn’t learn in seminary.
4. You have several novel series. What are your plans for future novels as far as genre and subject matter?
Great question. I freely admit that my genres are all over the map. When asked what kind of fiction I write, I usually respond, “Suspense.” It’s a good catchall term. I’ve written and still write supernatural suspense, straight suspense, thrillers, and the like. I’ve also written suspense-mysteries. For me, it’s all about story. Genre descriptions are like fences in an open field. They keep things in. Crime Scene Jerusalem is unique. It’s mystery and a suspense book and biblical fiction and a crime novel. Maybe a few things more.
Later this year, I have Finder's Fee coming out, a suspense novel with tech overtones involving a Martha Stewart-like character. Zondervan is the publisher of that title as they are for a book due out late this year, ZERO-G, a techno-thriller. In addition, Broadman & Holman just released my nonfiction 40 Days, a book about the 12 resurrection appearances of Christ.
5. Is there anything further you'd like your readers to know?
Just that I appreciate them and the opportunity to talk about my work through this interview. Those interested can learn more about my work at www.altongansky.com.
Congratulations, Deb. You've won two books for your to-be-read pile. I hope you enjoy them. I think you will.
Thanks to everyone who commented. Better luck next time. And speaking of next time, my next post features a review of Crime Scene Jerusalem and an short interview with Alton Gansky. Woohoo! So come on back and comment on that post--I have two books up for grabs in that contest. See ya there.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Recently, I featured the first book in John Aubrey Anderson's Black or White Chronicles, Abiding Darkness. Wedgewood Grey is a fitting sequel. And thank goodness there's a third book in the series. I knew he couldn't end it here.
In Abiding Darkness, the Mississippi stage is set with the bizarre death of a young child at Cat Lake. Evil lives there, but good will overcome. At a price.
The Cat Lake saga continues with Wedgewood Grey. Missy Parker, the heroine from the previous novel, resides out of state with her husband Pat. Mose Washington tries to get along without his beloved late wife. The Bainbridge family still spouts filth from its pores. Though life goes on, a battle brews that will change the futures of Mose and a young boy forever.
I’ve never seen a setting breathe like a real person as in Anderson’s novels. 1950’s Mississippi, especially Cat Lake, holds an eerie mystical quality that’s a perfect match for the battles between good and evil that happen there. I think that the supernatural aspect of the battles are downplayed a bit here, or at least portrayed differently, and personal belief and responsibility take more of a front seat. The fact that everything we do, whether to help someone or not, affects us and them and the course of history more than we know.
That said, I’ve never met a supernatural suspense that I didn’t like. This one is no exception. I learned in the first book not to expect breakneck speed as in some other suspense novels. Instead, the setting, characters, and plot come together in an interesting enough way that the reader doesn’t have to pant in order to enjoy.
Regardless, many layers of meaning present themselves and will not only entertain but cause the reader much pondering.
Buy the book here: http://www.amazon.com/exec
Visit the author here: http://www.johnaubreyanderson
Monday, February 19, 2007
And if you're feeling really crazy, check out his world-builder, where you can create your own alien nation.
I'm thrilled that he lists many other places where you can see spec-fic in action, including a group I'm a member of: The Lost Genre Guild.
So stop by and stay awhile:
Where the Map Ends
Then go check out the great other sites of my blogging friends, some of which have interviews with Jeff.
CSFF Blog Tour
Kameron M. Franklin
Todd Michael Greene
K. D. Kragen
Kevin Lucia and The Bookshelf Reviews 2.0 - The Compendium
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Daniel I. Weaver
John W. Otte
D. G. D. Davidson
Wayne Thomas Batson
Saturday, February 17, 2007
I knew Robin Parrish was an author to watch for quite some time. His serialized novels, which have appeared on his hip, artistic website Infuze Magazine displayed excellent fiction writing and a flair for sci-fi. So I'm thrilled to say I finally got my grubby hands on a copy of his debut novel from Bethany House Publishers.
Colin Boyd lives a solitary existence. Boring job, normal clothing. All of this changes in an instant when Colin sees himself walking across the street. Only when he passes by a shop window does he notice his outward features have changed dramatically. It’s like he has switched bodies with someone else, but his thoughts are still his own. The novel explores the “why” of this Shift.
His new persona is Grant Borrows, a man with unique talents and abilities that seem all too natural after a while. We find later that many others have experienced the same Shift Grant has. Some have secluded themselves from the world to find out the meaning of it all. They bring Grant into their confidence, thinking he is the answer to some sort of ancient prophecy. Regardless, Grant has to find out who he really is. Is he destined to be more than a mediocre man? He is no longer who he thinks he is, but is he who others think he is?
Yes, the plot turned and hid and revealed and mystified more times than I could count. Yes, I became engrossed in Colin/Grant's search for answers to life's meaning. But was it relentless? Hmm. Well, the fight/bomb/fleeing scenes were, without doubt. Still, some things niggled at me and took me out of that "fictive bubble" or "suspension of disbelief" that the reader is supposed to stay in. I kept thinking, “This part is just like Lord of the Rings/Alias and the Rimbaldi mystery/X-Men, etc.” I often couldn’t focus on the story because sections of it sounded so much like something else.
Another detractor for me: Parrish used italics to set off words he wanted emphasized, usually in dialogue. Since the rule in writing is to only use italics for thought, I was distracted many, many times by the proliferation of italics in the text. It’s fine to break a rule, but I feel it was over-broken, if that makes any sense.
If I had to compare Relentless to other works, I’d have to say it’s more like Koontz than Dekker. But really, Parrish has his own style. I’ve heard people compare him to Ingermanson, but I don’t see that at all. However, I don’t read much sci-fi, so perhaps I’m not the best one to comment.
All in all, I enjoyed the book and felt it was well-written. The book’s end definitely set the stage for something else, namely the second in the Dominion series—Fearless—due out July of this year. I look forward to the continuation of this saga.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Writers are diligent and hard-working. We have to be, right? But this book helps us be a little lazy, because Sally has done all of the hard work for us! There is no other book that can give you as much benefit as Sally Stuart's Market Guide. Period.
Not only does the guide provide a comprehensive listing of book, periodical, e-zine and greeting card publishers, it lists wonderful resources for writers such as information on tax help, money-saving, freelancing and research tools.
But wait, there's more! (Insert cheesy infomercial music here, lol.)
She includes a section on Christian writers' conferences and workshops, editorial services, agents and contests. There's even a CD-ROM with the book's full text so the writer can search topics with ease from her computer. Whew. I'm in heaven.
No doubt, this book should sit next to the Bible on any writer's shelf--it's that necessary.
Order the book here: http://www.amazon.com/exec
Visit Sally Stuart's site here: http://www.stuartmarket.com/
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
I interrupt my regularly scheduled program (CFBA post) to bring you a special feature.
I’m happy today to promote Light at the Edge of Darkness, a work of Biblical speculative fiction compiled by The Lost Genre Guild and edited by Cynthia MacKinnon of Writers Café Press. The title fits this book of short stories like a glove. These stories guide the way to hope, life, and light—even when things look their darkest.
There’s something for just about everyone in this collection, from sci-fi to fantasy to supernatural thriller and lots in between. Variety married with solid writing makes this a keeper. Discover the true identity of an alien in “Caleb Sees the Light” or enter a house of nightmares in “Guilty.” Travel to the old West in “The Rider” or inside an alien spaceship in “Your Average Ordinary Alien.”
In the first story by A. P. Fuchs, “Undeniable”, Duncan and his son have been imprisoned for their faith and mercilessly tortured on a daily basis. Though they must walk by faith and not by sight, sometimes God gives supernatural sight so that we gain understanding and He gains greater glory. This vivid tale is not for the faint of heart. I found myself tensing and cringing most of the way through.
Karen McSpadden’s dark “Edge of Water” similarly paints a bleak picture of a believer’s future. The author takes us on a journey with two desperate characters, satisfying the reader with a thoughtful and believable ending.
“Seeing Blind” is a wonderful sci-fi/Biblical history piece that ties together a dying alien world and the world in which Jesus walked. Daniel Weaver is definitely an author to watch. I simply loved this story.
My favorite above all was “Fair Balance”, by S. M. Kirkland. Celisa and her brother Cain, at odds with each other from the start, must choose sides when it comes to their family and their faith. I’m a sucker for twists and this one delivers big time.
Andrea Graham’s “Frozen Generation” explores the possibility of technology bringing frozen fetuses to term artificially, resulting in humans being used for spare parts. One woman tries to save as many babies as possible by smuggling them away and saving them from an uncertain future.
It’s hard for me to compare this to similar works because I’ve not read many spec-fic short stories, much less an anthology of them. However, I’d say that many of the stories reach the high standard set by today’s “Christian” fiction. Some of the stories were outright strange, and others I didn’t understand. But most had good characters, interesting plots and themes that will make you think far after the last page is turned.
The Lost Genre is not dead—it is alive and kicking. I have no doubt that these talented authors will prove it further. I look forward to more works like this in the future.
Visit the Lost Genre Guild or its blog and see what it's all about. Also, go visit the authors comprising the Lost Genre Guild using the blogroll links on my sidebar.
Sunday, February 04, 2007
What would it take to make you quit, give up on life and perhaps kill yourself? There are those whose specialty is just that—psychological operations. They will find your weaknesses, exploiting them until you have nothing left but fear.
Cale Caldwell and his two comrades, Kirby and Pug, worked Desert Storm with America’s Psy Ops team dropping leaflets on the enemy to affect their surrender. Years later, a defeated Iraqi commander is out for revenge. Having lost his honor, family and home, he will not stop short of seeing all three men under a granite headstone.
This is a psychological thriller to die for (pardon the pun). From the author of the “bug man” novels and Plague Maker, this novel is a suspense lovers’ heaven. Everyone likes a good mind game, as long as they aren’t the object of one, and this plot is full of them.
The enemy has already caused one tragedy, and his uncanny knowledge of every aspect of Cale’s life almost drives him crazy. Nothing of Cale’s is safe—his wife’s memory, daughter’s life, and even beloved dog are in jeopardy. Can Cale and Pug turn the tables on their pursuer before someone else’s life is threatened? Will Cale cling to what he knows is true instead of the lies being lodged in his brain?
Cale’s teenage daughter being wooed by a new girl in school who isn’t who she says she is provided an interesting subplot. Downs created a realistic character in the rebellious, hurting daughter and in the prostitute turned would-be friend as well.
It has been a long time since I’ve seen such a believable and brilliant plot. Many times, novels contain what I call the “oh, get real” factor, abandoning the suspension of disbelief. None of that happens here. The reader is left guessing and rooting for the heroes until a spectacular twist creates a very satisfying ending.
The only down side I found was a fair bit of character back story that slowed down the pace in several areas. I prefer faster page-turners, but regardless, this novel is still worth the read.
And lastly, kudos to the author on the comic-like opening of the book. I’m impressed. Okay, I know that authors are multi-talented, but color me surprised. I recently found out that Downs is a nationally syndicated cartoonist—hence the professional quality artwork. The frames that open chapter one are drawn expertly and added an enjoyable dimension to an already great story.
1. How did you get the idea for Head Game?
During Operation Desert Storm I read an article about psychological warfare—our deliberate efforts to capitalize on the enemy’s fears and vulnerabilities and induce them to surrender. These efforts had remarkable success—during Desert Storm our forces dropped 29 million leaflets on enemy positions, and as a result 87,000 soldiers laid down their arms and surrendered. That was one quarter of their entire army! The process was simple and straightforward: the goal was to create doubt and fear. We asked frontline troops why they had been positioned in the most vulnerable positions, we asked enlisted men if their officers shared the same risk, we asked if they had adequate ammunition and equipment, we showed them photographs of our own weapons, we even sent them our daily menu and asked them what they had been eating lately!
It occurred to me that this same process occurs in every human life: There are voices that speak to each of us—voices that work on our doubts and fears. Why does your life matter? Who really cares about you? Does it really matter what you do or what choices you make? I asked myself the question, “What if someone launched a deliberate psychological attack on me? What are my fears and doubts? What would it take before I would be willing to surrender, and what voices would keep me from giving in?” That’s when the idea for Head Game was born.
2. Your graphic comic at the beginning of the book is astounding. When did you start drawing?
Like a lot of the boys of my generation I grew up reading comic books, and I learned to draw by copying my favorite superheroes. In my junior year of college I started drawing a daily comic strip called "Downstown" for my college newspaper, the Indiana Daily Student. "Downstown" was later syndicated by Universal Press Syndicate (the syndicate that handled Doonesbury, Cathy, The Far Side, and Calvin & Hobbes) and it appeared it daily newspapers all over the U.S. for six years. I drew about 2,500 comic strips during that time, so I had a little experience with cartooning. When I created the character of Kirby in Head Game—a comic book artist who decides to draw his own suicide note—my publisher suggested that I draw the note instead of simply describing it. That’s where the idea came from, and it was great fun to have the chance to draw again.
3. Is there really such a PsyOps division in our military? If so, how did you do your research for this?
Like all of my novels, most of the story is based on fact. Yes, there is a 4th Psychological Operations Group based at Fort Bragg, NC, just about an hour from where I live. All of the examples of PsyOps included in Head Game are true. It would be difficult to invent anything more amazing than the things these people have actually done. My chief source for this information was a man named Ed Rouse, a retired Army major and a twenty year veteran of PsyOps going back to Vietnam. He was a gold mine of anecdotes and information, and he directed me to a lot of other helpful sources as well.
4. What is your favorite part of writing?
I like every part of it: the research and interviews, creating the basic storyline, working out the plot summary, and then the writing itself. I like creative projects that involve a number of different skills. That’s what I enjoy about writing. It’s not just one thing.
5. It seems to me that the spiritual aspect of this story is downplayed (that's neither a positive or negative statement). Was that your intention? For example, I saw the power of friendship more prominently than the power of God.
As a Christian writer, I’m trying to explore what makes a story Christian. In recent years the concept of “Christian fiction” has been fairly straightforward and limited: books about Christians doing Christian things, or books about non-Christians coming to faith. But Christian fiction has a long history, and historically Christians have attempted to express their faith in many different ways. John Bunyan wrote allegory, C.S. Lewis wrote thinly-veiled fable and science fiction, Tolkein wrote about imaginary worlds that operate by the same moral laws ours does so we could view our world in a fresh way. In Head Game, I wanted to try a much more subtle approach. The Scriptures warn us repeatedly not to lose heart and to encourage one another. That’s the theme I wanted to explore in this story. What are the voices that discourage us? What are the voices that keep us hanging on? The antagonist in my story, Hashim, is a symbol of Satan, while the graveyard caretaker, Walter, is a symbol of God. Which voice will Cale listen to? His very survival depends upon his answer.
This spiritual aspect of the story is definitely subtle, and I intended it that way. I believe there is great power in subtle and indirect communication, as many Christian writers in the past have discovered and demonstrated. My inspiration and model for communicating this way is the Lord himself, who often chose to communicate through parable and story. His words were sometimes confusing and ambiguous to his listeners—even to his own disciples—but his style made his listeners work hard to engage him and to understand. Think of it this way: Jesus could have been more clear—but apparently he didn’t think it would be more effective.
(Karri here: Wonderful answer. I couldn't agree more.)
6. You write a mean psychological thriller, and in my opinion, they are too few and far between. Is there a trick to writing this kind of story?
The foundational principle of writing a good psychological story is found in the first epistle to the Corinthians: “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man…” To understand and describe the motives of a character—even those of a sociopath or serial killer—the place to begin is by exploring the dark places of your own heart. The trick to writing a psychological thriller is to balance psychological insight with a fast-moving plot—which is never easy, but something I was trying to accomplish in Head Game.
7. What do you want readers to come away with after reading this novel?
I want readers to consider the voices that operate within their own minds, and I want them to consider which voices they are choosing to believe. From a biblical perspective, we are all victims of psychological attack: There is an Accuser out there who knows our fears and doubts and preys on them, hoping to create fear and discouragement and to cause us to surrender. I want readers to see themselves in this story and to draw the same conclusion that Cale did: I am under attack, but I can do something about it.
8. Tell us about your next project.
My next novel is entitled First the Dead (Nelson, December 2007) and it will once again feature forensic entomologist Dr. Nick Polchak, the lead character of my first two novels (Shoofly Pie and Chop Shop). The story is set in New Orleans immediately after Hurricane Katrina. Nick is there volunteering with an organization known as DMORT (Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team) to help recover bodies after the disaster. It’s a very fast-paced, very atmospheric story set in the flooded city and the isolated bayous that surround it. Best of all, it features Nick—the brilliant wise guy who always has the right comeback. It was a lot of fun to write! There’s even a little romance in this one—something unusual for a Bug Man story.
Thanks for your time, Tim. You're a great interviewee! May God continue to bless your writing.
Visit Tim's websitehere.
Thursday, February 01, 2007
It is February 1st, time for the FIRST Day Blog Tour! (Join our alliance! Click the button!) The FIRST day of every month we will feature an author and their latest book's FIRST chapter!
This month's feature author is:
and his book:
After graduating from Mississippi State, he flew six years in the Air Force then twenty-nine years for a major airline. And now he gets to write.
He and his wife have been married for forty some-odd years and live in Texas—about twenty miles south of the Red River. He spends the biggest part of his time writing; she’s immersed in leading a comprehensive, women’s Bible study.
They like greasy hamburgers and Dr. Peppers, most species of warm-blooded creatures (the kind that don’t normally bite), and spending July in the mountains.
Abiding Darkness is the first book in the Black and White Chronicles.
I read this book last year and really enjoyed it. Click on this link to my blog archives to read an interview that Glass Roads PR did with John.
A review appears there as well, but I've revamped it and placed it below for convenience.
A treacherous evil lies submerged in the inky blackness of Cat Lake that seeks to destroy Missy Parker and her loved ones. Missy will experience a battle like no other and a life-changing sacrifice. The war, however, has just begun. How will she choose to respond?
Set in mid-twentieth century Mississippi, Abiding Darkness explores the reality of spiritual warfare while creating unforgettable characters and challenging the reader in his faith. Racial tensions play a big part in this story, giving the series name “The Black or White Chronicles” double meaning.
Anderson nails the accents of the southerners in this novel. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing their drawls in my mind. My tears came as welcome friends while pondering how the portrayal of our actions cause a ripple effect that stretches far beyond what we can see. The author threads a theme of urgency to spread the gospel throughout the story. As one of the characters says repeatedly, the most important thing in the world is “to know Him and to make Him known”. Other themes presented include protecting children and the innocent, elimination of racism and that everyone is special to God in their own way.
I personally didn't find this book overly scary. But I don't scare easily. :) The author writes in an informal style that matches the setting and characters, using omniscient point-of-view in order to capture angelic and demonic thoughts. Anyone interested in a supernatural story with strong thematic material will enjoy this as I did and find it a worthwhile read. There are questions in the back for group study as well, a great addition to the book.
THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Summers were mostly reliable.
The always followed spring. They always got hot. And they always promised twelve weeks of pleasure to the three children at Cat Lake.
The summer of ’45 lied.
^ ^ ^
The whole thing started right there by the Cat Lake bridge.
They were playing their own version of three-man baseball when Bobby knocked the ball onto the road near the end of the bridge. Junior was taller and faster, but Missy was ahead in the race to get it. Bobby and Junior were older, but Missy was tough enough to almost keep up, and the boys usually held back some so they didn’t outdo her too much.
Missy was still a few yards from the ball when it rolled to a stop near the only car in sight. A boy taller than Junior stepped from behind the far end of the car and picked up the ball; he was followed by two more boys—one younger than Missy and another almost as tall as a man.
Missy slid to a stop in the gravel and yelled, “Hurry! Throw it!” Junior jogged up behind the girl and waited.
A heavyset man in a rumpled suit was standing in the road by the driver’s door; he allowed himself a long look at the girl and whispered something to the boy with the ball.
The boy nodded at what the man said and backed toward the car. The tallest boy moved up to stand by the man.
The fat man eyed Junior, then looked up and down the deserted road before beckoning to Missy. “Why don’t you come closer, and he’ll let you have it?”
Missy ignored the man and advanced on the boy with the ball. “Give it.”
When she walked past the taller boy, he fell to his hands and knees behind her and the one with the ball shoved her over his back. When Missy hit the ground, all three boys laughed. The man grinned.
In the near distance, a foursome of well-armed witnesses—tall, bright, and invisible—stood at a portal between time and eternity and watched Bobby Parker leave home plate and sprint for the bridge.
One of the group said, It begins.
Junior Washington’s guardian answered for the remainder of the small assembly, And so it does.
The three guardians conferred quietly about the events taking place before them; the archangel watched the unfolding drama in silence. The quartet—guarded by the wisdom of the ages against restlessness—waited patiently for a precise instant in time that had been ordained before the earth was formed.
The middle kid was plenty bigger than Missy, but she came off the ground ready to take him on. When she waded in, the tall kid grabbed at her. Junior got a hand on the strap of Missy’s overalls and yanked her out of the boys’ reach. He held her back with one hand and popped the tallest kid in the nose, hard enough to knock him down.
When the boy landed in the gravel, the man started swearing. He reached into the car, jerked a mean-looking billy club from under the front seat, and turned on Junior. “Okay, Black Sambo, let’s see h—”
Bobby was short steps from the trouble, running wide open, when the archangel broke his silence. The long-awaited time is come. He pointed his bright sword at a point between Bobby and the man with the club and said, In the Name of Him who sits on the throne, and for the Lamb—go there and turn the tide of evil.
Bobby—barely slowing when he got to the confrontation—tripped over thin air and rammed the business end of the bat hard into the man’s back. The man lurched forward, stumbled over the boy Junior had knocked to the ground, and sprawled on top of him.
Knocking the man down wasn’t what he’d planned, but Bobby knew better than to back off from a pack of bullies; he was talking before the man rolled over. “You keep your hands to yourself, mister.”
The red-faced man struggled to get up, cussing and pointing the club at Bobby. “Son, when a boy hits me, he steps over the line to manhood. That means you’ll get the same beatin’ I’ll be givin’ this nigger.”
On the Parker place, Negro folks were called black or colored. For the children, transgression of that rule meant someone was going to get his mouth washed out with soap. Missy and Junior froze when the man said the forbidden word; Bobby didn’t.
When Bobby squared his stance and drew the bat back, the man rethought his position. “You better put that down, boy.”
Bobby was only twelve, but he knew serious trouble when he saw it—and he was the one holding the bat. “I reckon not.” He and Junior and Missy had made a law about standing up for each other, and these strangers had chosen to be their enemies. If the man made a threatening move, Bobby was going to swing for his head and deal with the consequences later. “You’re on Parker land, mister, an’ you best be gettin’ off.”
The baseball bat had the man stymied. Exertion and frustration soaked his collar with the sweat. “This isn’t your land; it’s a public road.”
Bobby said, “That might be, but the land on both sides of the road belongs to the Parkers—an’ that’s us.” He looked the man up and down. “You ain’t from around here, are you?”
The man’s wide mouth and thick lips were not unlike those of a bullfrog; small, widely-spaced teeth and flesh-draped eyelids contributed to a reptilian appearance. “What if I’m not?”
Bobby cracked a hard smile. “’Cause if you was from around here, folks would’ve told you not to mess with the Parker kids—that’s us, ’specially the black ’un an’ the girl.” He pointed the bat at Junior and Missy. “That’s them two.”
From within the car a woman’s voice said, “Let it go, Halbert. Don’t be getting heated up over some white trash.”
When the woman called them white trash, Missy puffed up and started for the car. Junior grabbed the strap of her overalls again. “Stay quiet, Missy.”
The girl jerked loose and glared at Junior, but she stayed where she was.
The tallest boy got in the car, holding a hand to his bloody nose. The other two weren’t ready to leave.
The man looked at the car and back at Bobby; he didn’t want to leave either, but he wasn’t going to argue with the woman. “Git in the car, boys.” His tongue came out and made a circuit over the fat lips; he let his gaze rest too long on the girl, and he spoke to her last. “You’ll get yours, Little Miss Blue Eyes. Just you remember Hal Bainbridge said so.”
The woman in the car leaned across the seat. Facial features that had been cast to portray beauty were twisted into an angry mask. “Halbert!” she snapped, “I told you to shut up and get in the car.”
The two smallest boys were the last ones to climb. The one who had pushed Missy said, “I’ll be back.”
Missy made a face.
When the Bainbridge family withdrew, a creature that had been traveling with them stayed behind.
The being that remained on the Cat Lake bridge had been working his vile mischief in the Bainbridges’ lives for years. His brief observation of Missy Parker, however, ignited a hatred that far exceeded anything he had ever felt toward Estelle Bainbridge. He petitioned his leader, the high-ranking villain who was assigned to the Bainbridges, to let him stay at Cat Lake and work his evil on the girl and those around her. The one to whom he answered hated to grant any request that might strengthen the position of a subordinate, but he hated humans more. So it was that the malevolent being stayed behind while his former superior and dozens of their kind moved away with the Bainbridges.
The spirit-being assayed his intended victim and was encouraged by what he saw. The girl was self-willed, self-centered, and self-confident—all traits that made her more susceptible to his influence. Early pieces of his plan were arranging themselves before the Bainbridges’ car was out of sight. He would recruit his own team of underlings from the demonic realm. When he and his chosen confederates were in place, he would formulate a plan to destroy the girl’s life, maybe in bits and pieces over the coming years, maybe catastrophically in a single day. There might even be a way to use the Bainbridges to help bring her to ruin. And, if the opportunity presented itself, he would do the same to the two meddlesome boys.
When the car was down the road, Bobby turned on Missy. “You can’t be startin’ fights with boys bigger’n you.”
“I didn’t start it. He did.”
Bobby watched the car. “Well, don’t be messin’ with folks like that. That man had somethin’ wrong with him, like he was mean or evil or somethin’.”
“I ain’t scared of the boogeyman.”
“I don’t mean like that. I mean grown men who stare at little girls like that—stay away from ’em.” He watched the car disappear behind a curtain of dust. “An’ if that bunch comes around here again, you head for me or Junior, you hear me?”
The girl directed her wrath at her brother. “You’re not my boss, Mr. Bobby Parker, an’ I’ll have you know I ain’t a little girl.”
Bobby was still learning that he needed to tell Missy to do exactly the opposite of what he wanted done, but he knew who carried the most influence over her. “Tell ’er, Junior.”
Junior picked up the ball and offered it to the girl. “Do like he says, Missy. A growed man that’d speak bad to a lit—to somebody not big as him has got somethin’ wrong inside ’im. That man had the devil in ’im.”
She turned her back on the ball because she wouldn’t be bribed. “Well, if a’ evil man shows up again, an’ I can’t whip ’im by myself, y’all can help.”
The boys took that as a concession and followed her back to their baseball field.
^ ^ ^
Amanda Allen Parker was the first girl born into the Parker family since the Surrender. Maybe they had spoiled her or maybe she knew she was special. Whatever the cause, “Missy” Parker was a young lady who didn’t just give orders—she laid down the law for those who drew near.
When they didn’t call her Missy, everybody on the Parker place and most people in town just referred to her as the girl. The petite picture of brown-haired Southern charm endured the company of women when she had to, but she preferred the attention of the males of her domain.
The Old Parkers and the Young Parkers lived out south of town in two nice houses set back from the west side of Cat Lake. They got good shade from a stand of oaks planted by their ancestors and the cool of a lake breeze when the wind was right.
Bobby Lee Parker ran the Parker Gin; young Bobby looked as if he had been spit out of his daddy’s mouth. Young Mrs. Parker played bridge, went to the garden club and Missionary Society, and tended her yard. Old Mr. Parker farmed ten sections of cotton land, played dominoes, drank coffee, and visited with his friends. Old Mrs. Parker, the genetic source of the girl’s spitfire personality, stayed close to home and baked things.
The Washington family—Mose, his wife Pip, Mose Junior, and little Pearl—lived across the lake from the Parkers. Their home was set back in a stand of pecan trees planted by the same hands that put down the Parkers’ oaks. Mose had been born in the cabin and inherited the house and forty acres of good sandy land from Pap, his great-granddaddy. Back behind the cabin, a full section of Old Mr. Parker’s cotton land separated Mose’s place from the trees of Eagle Nest Brake. Pip, her brother Leon, and her momma Evalina “did for” the Parkers during the week. Mose was Mr. Bobby Lee’s overseer at the gin.
When she became old enough to walk, the girl went where Old Mr. Parker went. While he drove, she stood beside him, one arm on his shoulders, the other holding on to the seat back. When he played dominoes at the pool hall, she sat on his lap. It was the men at the pool hall who had named her Missy—she and those same men called her granddaddy R. D. Trips to that establishment dimished in frequency after Pip had to switch her for “cussin’ in my kitchen.”
Once she started to Mrs. Smith’s kindergarten, Missy’s day-to-day activities became even more curtailed. She countered by playing hooky when she’d had her fill of finger painting and stories about animals made of gingham and calico and velveteen.
After the second time she got called away from her Thursday morning bridge game to hunt for the girl, Young Mrs. Parker taught Pip how to drive. For the next two years, Pip was called into town about twice a week to retrieve the girl from the pool hall. When she was captured, Missy’s complaints were drawled in a little-girl bass voice.
On her first day in first grade, the girl and the staff at the elementary school encountered the first in a series of unique obstacles. The magnitude of the initial confrontation was probably connected with the fact that Missy was on a first-name basis with most of the men in Moores Point, including both bankers and both white preachers.
Missy finally came out of her chair when the first-grade teacher persisted in calling her Amanda.
Hoot Johnson, the school’s janitor, attracted by the mounting sounds of battle, abandoned his dust mop and intervened to contribute his unsolicited—and uninhibited—opinion. The girl’s reaction to what Mr. Johnson had to say didn’t help the situation.
The teacher made a strategic blunder when she decided she would enlist the aid of the principal. The principal made the mistake of showing up, and the tension multiplied geometrically.
Someone eventually called the pool hall and let Old Mr. Parker know about the conflict.
When he got to the school, the farmer didn’t have to guess where the girl was; the war in Europe could not have been heard over the commotion coming from the first-grade classroom.
The adults in the room—a scattering of teachers, the principal, and one vocal janitor—were all yelling at the girl or each other. The other first-day first-graders—joined by two brand-new teachers who had made the mistake of coming to see what on earth the noise was all about—were all cringing in the farthest corner of the room. The girl, who seldom found it necessary to yell at anyone, especially an adult, was keeping her voice down. She was, however, employing the teacher’s chair to be at eye level with the other combatants.
There was Missy, standing in the chair, her tiny fists at her waist, leaning into the principal’s face, her Dutch boy-cut brown hair popping back and forth as her miniature bass voice cataloged the things she didn’t like about his institution. She took passing note of her granddaddy’s presence but continued with her business. She reasoned that if R. D. needed to talk to some of these folks, he was gentleman enough to wait his turn; if he needed to see her, he’d wait ’til she was finished. And wait he did. Leaning on the door frame and giving himself a manicure with his favorite Case pocketknife, the cotton farmer stood by for a break in the storm.
When a majority of the folks finally stopped to catch their breath, Old Mr. Parker put away his knife. He got everyone settled down, borrowed the teacher’s chair from the girl, and presided over the formation of a multifaceted truce.
In the future, the school’s staff would call the girl Missy; she was old enough to decide what her name was. In return, Missy would address the Truitt Elementary School’s principal as Mr. Franklin, not Jimbo, for basically the same reason. Missy would address Mr. Johnson, the school’s janitor, as Hoot because he and the girl were good friends and both preferred it that way. And, one of the teachers crouching in the corner would be released from her contract before the girl moved up to her grade level.
The last point of the truce was a little vague and never resolved to the girl’s satisfaction. It had something to do with whether she could stand on the teacher’s chair, balanced against how many adults were “raisin’ sand for no good reason” when the girl needed to make herself heard.
In the pool hall that afternoon Jimbo Franklin said, “You know somethin’? That girl ain’t always pliable, but she’s almost always fair. I musta been about a bubble offa plumb to take that teacher’s side.” The sages in the pool hall, including Hoot and R. D., nodded. They agreed with every word he said.
During the next year, the second grade had tolerated her well enough; the reciprocal wasn’t always true.
She was three feet tall in the summer of ’45, on the slender side of a pound an inch, with what Scooter Hall called “about eight ounces of eyelashes” strategically situated around midnight blue eyes.
When the sun was out, the three older children at the lake—two Parkers and one Washington—were inseparable. Junior usually deferred to white folks of all ages, and both boys required themselves to yield to most adults. The girl’s deference, however, was never offered capriciously; people of all colors and ages were evaluated on a case-by-case basis, and any recipient of her respect had earned it.
For those times when they stepped away from the rest of the world, the children—like a tiny nation—followed an often-argued tangle of laws they had fashioned for themselves.
For three months every summer, and at any other time the children were together, their respective parents—who never knew what might be coming next—waited for the “other shoe to drop.” Or as Old Mr. Parker put it, “for the next shoe to crash through the floor and take most of the house with it.”
^ ^ ^
That spring, the three had used up practically a whole Saturday morning arguing about what to name the boat.
The year before, they had procured the building materials for the vessel by tearing the siding off a dilapidated cotton house. Pip’s brother Leon, who took care of things around the Parkers’ houses, was perfectly content to cater to the girl’s every whim. Missy traded him two of Old Mr. Parker’s cigars for his help with the boat. Leon sawed the boards, helped the children nail them together into something that would almost float, and showed them how to put tar in the cracks “so it don’t leak too bad.” The finished product looked like a pauper’s coffin: roughly seven feet long, two feet wide, with two-foot sides. They swamped it so often the first month that Pip told them, “Y’all could use it for one o’ those summarines.” Missy made a new law that only one person could stand up in it at a time, and they kept slopping on tar until they got so they could stay most of the day on the lake without sinking, unless somebody broke the rule. Pip complained, “When they git outta that confounded piece o’ junk, they’re so black I can’t tell which one’s Mose Junior.” It wasn’t the kind of craft a person would want to venture out in while wearing Sunday clothes.
The argument about the christening surfaced because Bobby wanted to name the boat after his hero. Mose Junior said he thought it might be good to name it something out of the Bible, but he cared more about getting started with the painting. When it came right down to it, Missy didn’t really care what they named the dadgummed boat; she was just tired of Bobby getting his way just because he was twelve and she was seven. Bobby countered her objections by claiming they were a democracy, then bought Mose Junior’s vote with the promise that Junior could do most of the painting.
They “happened across” a can of white house paint on the top shelf of the tool shed and made a paint brush by tying a wad of pine needles together. Unraveling the boat’s actual name called for the reader to do a little traveling. The lettering was white and bold; the spelling was close. Junior’s GENRALROB worked its way down the starboard side; around the corner, the bow showed Bobby’s neatly done ERT. The arrangement of the general’s middle initial and last name on the port side was Missy’s responsibility—they came out EEEL. The craft was one of their greatest accomplishments, and they were rarely near the water without it.
Young Mrs. Parker took some snapshots of the paint-splattered trio standing by their pride and joy and gave one to Pip. The two mothers kept the cherished photographs on their dressers until the day they died and occasionally laughed together at speculations of what kind of grandchildren they would see from the mischievous threesome.
They had no way of knowing that the three little figures in the picture were never going to have children.
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