Monday, April 28, 2014


     It’s hard not to feel like I’m walking on air when I walk out of an office supply store with a spiral-bound copy of the second draft of my novel. I wrote the first draft of Sidewinder last November for National Novel Writing Month. I thought that after that, I would pick back up on writing my memoir. But I didn’t, Sidewinder was too fun. And I thought that if I could complete a second draft, then I would have gone further than I ever had in writing something. I started the second draft in January and wrote sporadically, usually about 3 days a week. When I injured my foot I put in a few good days of binge writing. Then this April I accepted a challenge called 30 day Hustle. I resolved to complete the second draft of Sidewinder, and achieved my goal.
     So now I have a second draft. It is not close to flawless and needs a lot of work before I would consider publication. But I am offering it for critique. I have one printed copy and electronic versions available that can be read on a tablet or e-reader. So far, my feedback is what I expected, great characters and a good ending. No-one had mentioned what I fear is still a weakness; the middle is a little dull.
     I have been advised to post a snippet of the novel. So here it an excerpt from near the beginning of the novel where to characters meet again.(a brief explanation first)
Jerusha Cartwright is following a young man, thinking he’s in need of help. What she doesn’t realize is that it’s Mundy Gilbert, a con-man who has been left behind by his fellow tricksters. They just completed swindling a church out of most of its money, Jerusha’s church. Mundy is trying to find a new gang to join and it looks like he’s found one. Jerusha is looking for the person she just saw at a distance wearing a long tan coat and looking miserable. If she could perhaps buy him a meal and share the gospel with him, perhaps she could feel better too.
Sidewinder chapter 5 excerpt.

A man with a jester’s hat was standing behind a tall crate with three cups on it. Mundy counted five other people around and one had already spotted him, so he put on an innocent interest look and walked closer. The jester noticed him too, but kept up what he was doing, which was sliding the cups over the top of the crate with a casual expression, like someone painting a wall.

Mundy took in each of the men. The one who spotted him right away, that was the lookout. Of the four others there, three were also working with the jester. Two musclemen, and a plant. The plant had a suitcase like a traveler. The single remaining man with the nicest shoes was the mark. He stood behind the man with the suitcase and watched the cups being moved.

The jester stopped the cup’s motion and yanked his hand’s away. “Whoa,” he said. “I think I lost track myself here. Where’d the steelie go?”

Mundy watched the plant, the man with the suitcase place a twenty down in front of a cup. The jester lifted the cup and groaned when the steel ball was under it. He handed the man a twenty from his belt as the man took back his own twenty. Then the jester slammed the cup back down.

“I’m watching it this time,” he said and began swishing the cups around again.

Mundy crept a little closer and looked at the men. Yes, of the six men here watching, only one of them was a mark. The rest appeared to be interested or wanting to play, but they were all working together. The man behind the jester was the lookout and there were two strongmen. The man with the suitcase was there to make the game look easy to win so the mark would make a big bet.

The jester whooped and stopped the cups again. The plant was holding both twenties and looked at the three cups. He brought the two bills down to one cup, but didn’t let go. Mundy watched the mark hold his breath. Then the man moved his bills to another cup and dropped them.

The jester lifted the cup to reveal the ball. “Somebody help me!” he said. “This dude is going to clean me out.” He handed the plant two more twenties. The man smiled, then looked at his timepiece.

“Yeah, get gone man,” the jester said. “Give somebody else a chance.”

The plant pocketed the bills and turned to leave. As the mark stepped to the crate, one of the musclemen bumped against Mundy, blocking his way. Mundy’s skills hadn’t left him and he worked quickly. Then he watched the jester drop the ball and shuffle the cups. He raised a cup once to show the ball was still there, then whirled the cups again.

They let the man win once. Then the man tripled his bet. They had him figured out well. Mundy watched the steel ball go up the jester’s sleeve. The man lost once, then two more times. When he had lost several hundred he turned and left.

The men started packing up and Mundy stepped forward.

“Take a hike kid,” the jester said. “We’re done for now.”

Mundy produced two twenties. “Come on, let me try,” he said.

The jester looked at the money and then glanced at the lookout who nodded. Then he shrugged and set up the crate again. Mundy figured they wouldn’t even let him win once. They had a good enough take for now and would just make another quick win.

The cups spun around. Mundy watched the ball appear under one lifted cup once, then they spun around again. That’s when Mundy lifted his gaze from the crate to the jester’s face. The man blinked in surprise.

“Hey, keep your eyes on the cups,” he said. “Hey, you’re going to lose, kid. You’d better keep watching the ball.”

“It’s not under a cup anymore,” Mundy said. “It’s stuck to your wrist where you got a magnet.”

The man straightened up. His face darkened and he pulled off the jester’s cap. The friendly gamer was gone and here was the street thug. The other men closed in.

Mundy shrugged. “What?” he said. “I guessed right didn’t I? Gimmie my winnings.”

“No, you lost kid,” said the strongman who had blocked him. He reached for the bills in Mundy’s fist. Mundy pulled his hand away, then offered the money over.

“Sure, take it,” he said. “It’s yours.”

“Good boy,” the man said.

“No. I mean it’s really yours,” Mundy said. “I pinched your billfold when you blocked me from your mark.” He held up a cowhide billfold bursting with currency notes.

The man’s hand shot to his hip and his eyes widened. The other strongman grabbed Mundy from behind and the first man reached out and snatched his billfold back. Mundy felt the man behind him tighten his grip and he braced himself.

“Whoa,” the capless jester said, holding up a hand. “This kid’s good.” He looked at Mundy. “Where’d you work?”

“Core worlds,” Mundy said, trying to ignore the strongmen. “Tau-Ceti and around there.”

“Tau-Ceti, huh? Who was your boss?”

“I was small time, just paid tribute to some locals for the bulls, that’s all,” Mundy said. He looked around at the men all looking at him now. “Guy’s, I just need some work, okay?”

The lookout who had been standing behind the jester stepped up. He took Mundy by the chin and pulled his head back and forth as if examining a horse for sale. The man behind Mundy kept a tight hold.

Here’s the boss, Mundy thought. The small time boss at least. No real boss would be doing the fieldwork. But if he could get in here, it would be enough. Now just show them I know how to shut up.

“He’s got a sweet face,” the man said. “Could be a good plant.”

“I’ve been a plant,” Mundy risked.

“Yeah, I think we could use him,” the boss said with a nod. Then he turned to leave.

“Hey,” said the strongman Mundy had robbed. “Ain’t we going to jump him in then?”

Mundy sighed. He’d been jumped in before, beaten up as a part of initiation. But that had always been in a gang of kids. He didn’t think that grown up gangs like this really did that. They probably didn’t actually. This big guy just wanted some kicks.

The boss didn’t look back. “Don’t mess up the face,” he said and kept walking.

Fine, Mundy thought. He could take a few good hits to the gut. They wouldn’t mess him up too bad, especially if they did it right here. His arms were cinched even tighter behind him and the strongman looked him up and down, rubbing his hands together. He was wearing cowboy boots with steel tips.

Come on and get it over with, Mundy thought. He tried to think of a way to get the guy started already without too much reckoning.

“Whose picture is in your billfold?” he asked. “She’s ugly enough to back a buzzard off a meat wagon.”

The jester guffawed and the strongman dropped his fists, looking even more shocked then when he had discovered his billfold gone. His face went red. He clenched his jaw and raised his fists again. But now he was angry, this wouldn’t be a calculated assault now. An angry beating was always better. Mundy took a deep breath as the man brought his fist back.

“There you are!” a voice called. Faces turned to the alleyway entrance and Mundy tried to turn and look too, but couldn’t move enough. Finally a tall woman in a long dress came into view. Mundy knew that dress, and the voice too. He ducked his head down.

“Hey lady,” the jester’s voice said. “This is private business. Be on your way now, okay?”

The woman’s voice was cold and calm. “You boys let him go,” she said. “Do it now and I won’t scream. There are policemen out in the lower level and they will come running when I do.”

It was quiet for a moment, then Mundy heard shuffling of boots and his arms were released. He was happy to have escaped the beating, but really wanted to join up with the gang. And he didn’t want to stay here with this woman. He turned away from her and watched them walk away down the hallway.

“Okay honey, they’re gone.”

Mundy dropped his head again. She hadn’t recognized him. Maybe she would just leave now. But he felt a gentle hand touch his cheek and lift his face. Then he was looking into the eyes of the woman who had held him last night and sung him the lullaby. Her mouth had a kind smile that put lines around her sparkling blue-green eyes. Mundy tried to look away, but then her grip tightened and he felt her nails. Mundy watched the lines around her eyes vanish and her face harden. He mouth opened slightly and a small hiss came out.

Mundy barely saw it coming. Her whole body moved like a striking snake. Her fist connected with his mouth and he felt his body bounce off the wall and hit the floor.

There you have it, a short excerpt from Sidewinder. If you would like to download an copy for an e-reader, here is the link:
I would appreciate any feedback before I start the third draft. I know that sooner or later, I must get to work on the memoir. That is what I feel I am called to share.

Monday, April 21, 2014

No post this week, but you can take a survey.

Readers are down and I am getting a lot of referer spam lately. I am hoping to improve this blog. You can help me by taking a short survey:
Thank you.
If you want to read a good blog this morning, here are some of my favorites:

Monday, April 14, 2014

Which will I be?

     One of my favorite storybooks to read aloud has a part where the absent-minded Mr. Pig accidently drives away in Soldier Rabbit’s Jeep instead of his own car. My favorite part of reading the story is indulging in what the poor rabbit is saying as Mr. Pig drives away. I use a weak incredulity, with the voice of a performer who is watching another go off the script.
     “Hey,” he says. “That’s… that’s my Jeep you’re taking. You’re driving away in my Jeep. Hey, you’re… taking my Jeep. Hey, that’s my Jeep. Hey.”    
I wonder if that’s how the owner of the donkey colt felt when a couple of strangers came, untied his animal and began to take it away.
     “Hey, you’re taking my donkey. That’s my foal of a donkey you’re untying and taking… hey.”
     And the answer they gave him was this: “The Lord needs it.”
     Here is where the owner of the animal had a choice. He could go along with God’s plan, for it had been prophesied in the Old Testament that The Messiah would ride into Jerusalem on a colt, the foal of a donkey. If Old Testament prophesy said it would happen, there was no stopping it. Or the man could have argued and tried to prevent it from happening. But he didn’t and the disciples were able to bring the donkey to Jesus.
So did God bend the will of the owner? I don’t think so. If the owner of the animal had not agreed to let his donkey go, something may have happened. But God’s plan was for the donkey to be there, and the owner of the animal choose to let the donkey go. By doing that, he was aligned with God’s plan.
Meanwhile, the donkey colt showed perfect submission. Where God needed him, he went. He carried a burden without fuss and without any pride. People waved palm fronds and shouted praise, the donkey knew it wasn’t for him. He went forward in complete obedience with the plan God had for him.
Compared to the folks Jesus met later that week, the ones who were convinced that they wanted nothing to do with Jesus or his will, who were the real Jackasses?
God has a plan for me and my life. It may be giving up something because The Lord needs it. It may be the least of services, carrying a weight and letting God get all the glory. Regardless of what it is though, I want to be a part of it and not be the one with a hardened heart, a stubborn person. I’ve used the word once, you know what I mean.
     I’d like to think that at the end of the day, the man got his donkey back. (I’m sure there’s an apocryphal fiction story there, that I’d enjoy writing.) I can only imagine that the man was blessed for giving to God. The blessing wasn’t a reward for obedience, or something material. It was the kind of blessing I want, a blessing that comes from being on God’s side.
     Submission or stubbornness, it’s my choice. Donkey or, well you know.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Sympathy for the Pharisee

I once told my mom she might go to jail for using her emergency flashers without a reason. In our Volkswagen Bus, hazard light knob was so tempting that I pulled it out once while she was driving down our back alleyway. My mom pushed it back in and told me that she could get a ticket for misusing them. I had no idea that was illegal and I realized that she had gotten a speeding ticket some time back. I thought perhaps the law was draconian enough that any second violation of the law would not result in a ticket, but incarceration. So, jail for having the hazard lights on.
     Back then I had a strict sense of right and wrong. You were not supposed to do wrong, or bad things would be done to you and you deserved it. So one day I was looking at our bathroom scale and asked my dad what the words: NOT LEGAL FOR TRADE meant. My dad explained it meant that the scale was only for people. He did not tell me it meant the scale wasn’t intended to weigh items for sale. But I knew what the word “legal” meant; it meant the law. So months later when my aunt was getting ready for an airplane flight and she put her suitcases on her bathroom scale, I nearly lost my mind. My aunt was breaking the law, how could she do that? All the way to the airport I expected to be pulled over by a scowling policeman to whom I would try to explain that I knew better.
     Growing up like that made me always root for the good guy. I never wanted to be the robber in cops and robbers and I did not particularly like to break the rules, ever. One might think this made me the kind of student teachers like. But I was judgmental. I could not abide others breaking the rules, so I was a tattletale.
     Why couldn’t everyone just follow the rules and be nice to each other? I didn’t get it. There’s a word for people like I was. Reluctant to extend grace, stick fast to the rules, even if it meant sending their own mother to jail for driving down an alley with hazard lights on. You could call us Pharisees.
     I understand how those religious leaders and teachers of the law might have felt. Their identity was fixed into the laws they followed so well. That feeling of security that you’re right and everyone else is wrong helps one sleep at night. No wonder they got so terribly upset when that man from a backwards town came along. People liked him even though he broke the rules. And he seemed to think that all those rules that made them feel so good and secure were a hindrance. Look what he did on the Sabbath, right in front of them sometimes. But worst of all, that right feeling they loved, the identity they found in their rules, that might have begin to feel weak against everything this man did and said.
     So would they give up the old ways, which it turned out were nothing more than a perversion of the original plan? And would they adapt to the new ways, which were in fact, the simple plan God had all along? Sadly for them, they tried to get rid of the usurper to their ways. The source of their discomfort had to go. And three days after they thought they had succeeded, not only had their plans been thwarted, but sin and death had been conquered too.
If I have been living back then, I might have been a nice, law-abiding guy who followed the rules and thought his place was secure. I might have prayed in the temple, thanking God I wasn’t like those others, those luggage-weighing sinners. I don’t know if I would have felt the need for forgiveness or grace. I could have been a Pharisee.   
     Thank God my sin hurt me enough that I recognized my need for Him. Thank God I am broken enough now to know I am right there with every other sinner.
     There are still times where I feel so very comfortable in my life of regulation and control. Which means when the inevitable upset comes along, I become pretty bent out of shape. And I stay that way until I let go of my intense desire for order and replace it with submission to God. Most of the time I can’t do that on my own and I have to coast to the side of the road with my hazard lights flashing. Against such thing there is no law.