Fiction: No Such Thing as Progress

The ladies of Fort Grant get their feathers ruffled.

“Duty calls. I’ll come by later for the hop, girls,” Lieutenant Fahy said. “Good luck, Bill. I’ll have my boys dispose of the horse.”

Mrs. Markham eyed Miss Peckham steadily and waited for introduction.

William spoke. “Mrs. Markham, this is Miss Peckham from Philadelphia.”

“Peckham?”

“Yes, my uncle is a great friend of Captain Markham’s so I’m told.”

Mrs. Markham thought but came up blank. “Miss Peckham, I’m sorry to say that Captain Markham is on detached duty.”

“That sounds interesting. Is he off killing Indians?” Miss Peckham asked.

“No, court martial duty.”

“Oh. Well, I was wondering—hoping really that I might stay on a few days. I’m an authoress and I’m studying women—women of the West.”

Mrs. Markham laughed. “And what is there to study? Women are women.”

“So may I stay?”

Mrs. Markham blushed.

William began to strip the dead horse lying nearby of its tack.

“Mr. Weldon, I’m sorry about your pony,” Mrs. Markham said.

“That’s all right, ma’am. I rode her too hard. It’s my own fault.”

Thankful huffed.

Mrs. Markham rubbed William’s back as he stood up. “I have no room for you, Bill, I’m afraid, but we’ll set you up a nice tent for the night out back or maybe you’d like to find space with the infantry . . .”

“No, that’s too much trouble. I can, well, I can just go . . .” William craved a drink.

“You have no choice, young man. You deserve at least a hero’s supper, the way you saved your girl,” Mrs. Markham said.

“Mr. Weldon did not save me, and we’re just acquaintances,” Miss Peckham stated.

Mrs. Markham glanced at Miss Peckham. “Yes, well, I suppose you may stay on, miss. But Bill’s a hero to us. Thankful will share her room. It’s small but she’s done it up so sweet.”

Thankful blanched.

Miss Peckham brightened. “Good! Mr. Weldon, I’ll pay you again tomorrow if you go fetch my trunk and things from town and bring them back by stage—I left them with that Ginny girl—you do think she’s honest don’t you, Mr. Weldon—as you know her much better than I do?”

“Thankful’s room is small for a lot of things, Miss Peckham,” Mrs. Markham said.

Miss Peckham ignored the matron. “It’s no trouble for you, is it, Mr. Weldon?”

“No, I guess not.”

“How much do you want?” Miss Peckham asked, opening her purse again.

“Please, Miss Peckham, I won’t take a cent from you,” William replied, glancing around in humiliation. “There’s no need to negotiate a thing.”

“Ginny tells me you have no problem negotiating with her,” Miss Peckham joked.

William wiped his face. “Ginny is a friend, mostly. . . ”

Miss Peckham chuckled. “That girl is a beast and as dumb as stone.”

“You said earlier looks don’t matter and these two ladies don’t care what I get up to in town,” William said, turning to Mrs. Markham. “I’m not worthy of your company, and I never would have made the trip if I thought we’d be standing here discussing anything that goes on in town.”

“That’s the trouble with men,” Miss Peckham addressed the women as intimates. “They underestimate our tolerance for things. Women don’t faint at the thought of a whore or sex. Women have urges and feelings . . .”

Thankful blushed and took a step away from the others.

“It’s a matter of manners and breeding, Miss Peckham,” Mrs. Markham said, “that we prefer to avoid topics that may put a friend in an uncomfortable spot.”

“Pardon me,” Miss Peckham said. “I hadn’t imagined the army to be so quaint in manner when in action, from what I hear, they employ the most modern techniques of extermination.”

“Miss Peckham, stories in eastern magazines are not always accurate sources of information on the army,” William said.

“My Captain Markham is just now risking his life for the likes of you,” Mrs. Markham said, her voice deepening, “so you may travel around prattling on about a world you don’t understand and feeling superior!”

“Oh, please, ma’am, I meant no offense to you personally,” Miss Peckham said, taking the matron’s hand in her own. “My uncle has spoken quite highly of the captain. I’m sure there are exceptions.”

“Captain Markham is no exception!” Mrs. Markham replied. “Every officer in his regiment is as honorable as he is, and I’m proud of the whole lot of them. They’ve always shown themselves to be as fair-minded and as considerate as possible. There are bad soldiers somewhere, I’m sure, but I’ve never met one yet, and I’ve been with the army since the war.”

“That’s sweet, but does the army pay you?” Miss Peckham asked.

“Is everything about money to you? I gladly go without to spend time with the captain . . .”

“Some women, I know, are impressed by a uniform,” Miss Peckham laughed.

“It’s the man wearing it, Miss Peckham!” Mrs. Markham exclaimed.

“I always wondered. Do military men insist that their wives call them by their titles?” Miss Peckham asked.

“It’s a show of respect, miss,” William said.

“And endearment,” Mrs. Markham added with reddened face.

“Oh, Mrs. Markham, I’m sure you’re satisfied with the captain,” Miss Peckham said, patting the older lady’s arm, “but I for one have never been good at taking orders.”

“Captain Markham doesn’t order me!” Mrs. Markham cried.

“But it’s implied.” Miss Peckham noted. She straightened her pantaloons.

William moaned.

“Miss Peckham, Mrs. Markham is doing a nice thing in letting you stay, but maybe you might find town more to your liking,” William suggested.

“Mrs. Markham, I’m sure you understand my talk is of a political nature and not intended to make judgment on you personally. We’re all creatures of our environment,” Miss Peckham explained.

Thankful turned to her. “There is good reason for women to stay clear of politics. Bringing women’s minds into the gutter, where some men keep theirs already, is not my idea of progress.” She gave William a sharp look.

“And what do you believe is progress, Miss Crenshaw?” Miss Peckham asked.

PREVIOUS EPISODE: WEARY OF RUNNING

Excerpted from WEARY OF RUNNING. Read more about Buck Crenshaw, his sister Thankful and William Weldon’s  misadventures when you buy the book today!

“The second installment in The Tenafly Road Series definitely did not disappoint. With the introduction of new characters and the return of familiar ones, Weary of Running made for an exciting read. The protagonist, Thankful, is the real highlight of the novel. She consistently makes very poor decisions but in the end, you can understand why she has made every last one of them. The story ranges from love and romance to questions of faith and morality. It does all this without being preachy and explores many angles of different aspects of life. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time.” Amazon Review

“Buck Crenshaw is my favorite dysfunctional lovable character.”

The Real (Fake) Lives of Authors

I’m a big fan of those feature stories that circulate on writer blogs and The Huffington Post about what famous authors wore. Or the ones about where they lived. Or the ones about the superstitions they had. All the while, as I gaze at the artfully photographed author posing as if in mid-thought, I’m aware of a small jealousy.  I know these things are fabricated for mass consumption. I really know it, and yet I still feel, because they had a better desk or cooler shoes, they had a leg up on the ladder of success.

The ones I remember most are the photos of great-looking authors who later went on to commit suicide. I don’t know about you, but I’m drawn to  studying the demise of celebrity authors–so tragic, so mesmerizing.

I think the real problem is photography. It captures just a moment–a perfect moment. The unreal moment when an author becomes famous. Even for the biggest writers the moments are only small things that happen for a few hours now and again.

It’s why reading about what authors do when not writing is so interesting. Are they really human? Are they witty all the time? Are they jerks to family? I know the answers but still need reassurance.

This weekend THE HOUSE ON TENAFLY ROAD about a dysfunctional family in the post-Civil War era received this review:

“*****I started this book without bothering to check the length. Had I done that, I may have changed my mind. So many of those books are full of pages that say nothing – or the same thing.

This is not one of those books. This is a piece of art – a story that flows from one page to the next, one year to the next, with absolute beauty. It was painful at times, full of raw emotion, but so beautifully, wonderfully written.

Well done!”

I was elated and grateful, of course.

But then we had to shoot one of our goats.

Yes, my favorite milking doe Kate who loved peanuts and affection has spent the last year barely hanging on. The vet hinted last year that she should be culled as a weak link in our herd, but I adored her and spent the winter injecting her with all sorts of remedies that didn’t work. In the thick of blizzards I was in the dark barn running my fingers over Kate’s rib cage looking for some fat to stick a needle in twice day.

When spring came on we thought we saw some hope, but then there was none. We researched the most painless, least stress inducing way to put her down: gun to the back of the head while she ate. I milked her one last time (we needed the milk for other goat kids) and brushed her–she liked that–and then I brought her into the big fenced in area to graze until my husband came home from work.

I did what everyone does in the movies–I took that one long look back at her and she at me. A little while later I heard the gunshot and that was it.

The next day my husband and I got into a two day fight about hummus–the stuff you put on crackers. When we spoke to each other again it was about the fact that one of our registered bucks turned out not to be a purebred Nubian. We had foolishly assumed he was and paid a purebred price a few years back but he was just an American Nubian (a step down in breeding circles). A customer of ours knew the breeder and pointed out our mistake  after I had advertised and sold a few babies as purebreds! I had to call everyone to apologize and offer to take back the babies or keep them for the $50 deposits they had given me. Luckily everyone was fine with getting great animals for a great price, but still I was mortified.

One of the babies was born with entroption (when eyelids turn under). I spoke with the vet and she assured me it was an easy fix and I could come by the next day and she’d walk me through the procedure. Instead I sat on her porch with a knocked-out baby goat on my lap as the vet with a tiny scalpel sliced off skin. The eyelid was HUGE like the vet had never seen. BTW, both of us humans were in a weird mix of farm clothes and pajamas since we thought we would only be injecting the lid with a tiny bit of penicillin.

I could also go on about our Golden Retriever whose face blew up after having eaten a bee this week, but the goat stories and last week’s post on the trials and tribulations of adoption are enough.

It’s raining again today. I’m beginning to wonder if there is such a thing as weather manipulation. Photos of famous authors (and not so famous ones) are manipulated. The perfect turtleneck sweater, the relaxed sitting on the porch look, the deep in thought at typewriter pose . . . all fabricated, idealized versions of lives. Lives where writing is the obsession maybe but lives with a lot of mess. My life is no messier than others–it’s actually quite good despite goat shootings and bee stings.

I think for today I’ll luxuriate in a good review, knowing that for a brief few moments I took someone’s mind to another place.

MORE FUN LINKS:

WHAT WRITERS WEAR

WHAT WRITERS WEAR WHEN THEY WRITE AT HOME

THE CLOTHES BEHIND THE BOOKS

Fiction: The Stairway Down

“A man accepts his weaknesses and then rises above them.”

“Oh, and you do that, Papa?” William asked with a disgruntled laugh.

“Yes, yes, I’m trying very hard. I always have. I’m not a quitter,” John replied.

“Except when you quit on Mother and me and Eliza or when you quit and let me run off or when you quit your respectable job at the feed store to do gardening and write your idiotic little soldier stories. It’s a good thing none of your readers get to see the real man behind them.”

“The feed store?” Weldon asked in confusion. “I volunteered to help out Mr. Adriance after his son died. I never worked there.”

“Well . . .” William faltered, “well . . .”

“Writing those stories puts food on the table and paid for your doctors.”

“And none of that would have been necessary if you hadn’t let yourself become an opium eater! I remember you on parade—it was disgusting to see you struggle in the end. If you’d been any good, you would have kept us together and had plenty of money, and I’d be at West Point,” William said.

“W-Willy, you never had the temperament for West P-Point.”

“You say that now to avoid feeling bad. You avoid everything and hide everything behind all this new happiness—it’s sickening. I’m glad to be away from you. You always played the fool in town—laughing at your falls and being so gentle all of a sudden—it makes you look so horrible. It would have been better if you died in some Indian fight. That I could be proud of! I don’t know how Mother takes it! It’s probably why she wants me home so she can throw you off on to me again!”

“She threw me off on to you because she wanted you to care for me again, but it didn’t work. I tried everything . . .” Weldon said, inching toward the door.

William got on his elbows. The cowlick at the back of his head made his hair stand funny. “So give up, like you always do—it’d be a relief. All you ever do is make me sorry and miserable. Leave me alone, and you can go back to the little safe spot you have on Tenafly Road.”

The older Weldon’s voice shook. “Yes, I’ve finally allowed myself a safe spot and some happiness. I made mistakes—a thousand of them—and I’ve paid for them and continue to pay. I never had family to guide me. I was on my own—and I lied to your mother and you for years because I thought it was the only way of keeping you both.”

“Well, you were wrong. I’m so tired of hearing about your devotion to Mother and me. You constantly brag about you and Mother! Mother was a fool and weak to stay with you! She deserved better like Doctor Crenshaw!” William replied.

“Don’t ever talk with such disrespect about your mother who has devoted her life to you!” Weldon’s cane shook in his hand.

William hacked and spit phlegm to the floor from the side of his bed. “That’s funny! She devotes her sad little life to you and you alone! I come a distant second! If she wasn’t so God-awful pathetic and stupid she would have kept you away!”

Weldon ran over and pulled William from the bed with force. “You ungrateful little bastard! Your mother and I lived with nothing—gladly—to see that you recovered enough to have a life—a good life! And you sit here—drunk—making excuses for not taking responsibility!”

“You and Mother ignored me then suffocated me. You prepared me for nothing! I have nothing! I am nothing! You did everything wrong, and you get to be happy! It’s unfair, and I hate everything about you! I pretended to care for you in Englewood because I was trying to be so damned good. Where was my reward? I’ll never go back there!” William pulled away and wrapped the dirty blankets around himself like a filthy cocoon. “I am who I am, and I won’t hide it or hurt others.”

“But . . . you hurt Thankful.”

“She hurt herself—she was stupid to leave her money.”

“Why do you have her watch?” Weldon asked.

“It’s broken. She didn’t want it anymore. I’m gonna get it fixed. It’s expensive.” He pointed to the maker’s imprint. “Remember the Christmas watch, Papa?”

Weldon said nothing.

“You do remember, don’t you? The watch you promised me? I bragged about it a lot before Christmas to all the soldiers the year I came back with you. I was so excited and proud to be getting a grown up thing . . . you fooled me those first months. You were brilliant then to me. You were better than a god. You were everything. Do you remember what it felt like to pawn it for morphine or opium or whatever it was?” William looked his father over like a specimen in a freak show. “So now you shake and have tremors, but it’s all an act. I don’t feel sorry for you. Maybe you even limp and fall for attention. I don’t trust a single thing you do or say.”

“William, I’m so sorry for everything.”

“Sorry means shit to me, Papa.  This is my life now; it’s a relief in a way. There’s no pretending, no optimistic little plans for me to make you and Mother feel less guilty that you were rotten parents. For once I’m doing what I want!”

“What you want? Drinking?”

“I have friends. We do things.”

“What about your drawings?” Weldon asked.

“They’re not that damned good! You want to latch onto something—anything to make me at least a little special, or better than I am. I’m not! Stop this awful pretending.”

“Willy—you are special. Look. If you weren’t then how would someone like Doctor Crenshaw think so highly of you?”

“Papa, sometimes you’re so blind. Doctor Crenshaw loves Mother. He always has.”

Weldon laughed, waving away William’s words.

“Mother has always had a thing for doctors,” William said. “Before you came back east Doctor Crenshaw visited every day. He and Mother spent hours together on the porch talking. Mrs. Crenshaw was always too busy to come.”

“He came to help you, William,” Weldon said.

“Maybe for the first ten minutes,” William said, delighting in the sight of his father unsure and angry. “You remember Doctor Dudley, don’t you, Papa?”

Weldon clenched his cane with white knuckles. William searched his troubled eyes with glee.

“Yes, well I remember him, too. When you left with Crook on a scout, I guess, Dudley kissed Mother, and she didn’t stop him. Eliza and I saw.”

“Stop lying, William! You’re angry.”

“I don’t lie, Papa. You know that. I told you I’m a different man to you! Dudley was madly in love with Mother so that’s why he left. I wished that he hadn’t. He was bound for success.”

“William . . . I . . .”

“Papa, I can’t take the stammering! I can’t! And I can’t stand this game you play with mother . . .”

“There are no games between us, William.”

“Mother sees you like another child, not a real man at all.”

Weldon stood motionless, his breathing labored.

“Your caring is the worst kind, Papa. You suck the blood from people. Now please leave!”

“Y-your mother wants you home . . .”

“You’re well practiced in disappointing her. Don’t worry, she’s used to it.”

The old soldier limped out the door. William listened as his heavy leg hit each rickety step on the weather-beaten staircase.

PREVIOUS EPISODE: WEARY OF RUNNING

Excerpted from WEARY OF RUNNING. Read more about Buck Crenshaw, his sister Thankful and William Weldon’s  misadventures when you buy the book today!

“The second installment in The Tenafly Road Series definitely did not disappoint. With the introduction of new characters and the return of familiar ones, Weary of Running made for an exciting read. The protagonist, Thankful, is the real highlight of the novel. She consistently makes very poor decisions but in the end, you can understand why she has made every last one of them. The story ranges from love and romance to questions of faith and morality. It does all this without being preachy and explores many angles of different aspects of life. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time.” Amazon Review

“Buck Crenshaw is my favorite dysfunctional lovable character.”

Fiction: A Man to Man Talk

William sat at the back of The Buckskin and read over the letter he’d received from Thankful at Fort Grant.

 

Dear William,

I am to be married to Lieutenant Fahy as soon as my parents come out. I would have wanted you to be here for my wedding, but I know you would hate being around the Crenshaws. I miss the old times terribly much. I hate being grown up, and I am sorry that we are not friends anymore.

I would love to invite you to the grand socials we will have and talk about Delacroix and Raphael and maybe about the music we both liked so very much. I wish I had your mother who let you paint and draw and loved you.

Do take care of yourself. It is so lonely thinking that you are only miles away and we no longer talk. I forgive you about the money. You will always be William to me, not Bill and I will always love you like a brother and friend.

Kindest regards,

Thankful Crenshaw

 

 

Why did Thankful make a point of telling him of her engagement? They had hardly spoken in the months since William left her at the post. William slipped the letter into his pocket and threw back a shot. The saloon door creaked open and, though the glare of the sun obscured the man, William’s heart quaked.

“I’m looking for my son, William W-Weldon . . .” John Weldon said, clearing his throat.

William hated the weakness in his father’s voice.

“Bill Weldon? Well, you’ve come to the right place,” the barman laughed and pointed back to where William sat, adjusting his sweat-stained collar.

The men in the place turned to watch John Weldon, with his walking stick, head toward the other cripple in the room.

“Papa.”

John Weldon rushed up, flush from the desert heat. He didn’t touch his son. No embrace; no handshake. “Oh, no, Willy . . . what’s become of you?” he asked, his voice hardened. “I wanted you to escape it.” He couldn’t meet his son’s hateful stare. “William, Mother has missed you. I’ve come to take you home.”

“What? I’m not going anywhere.” William crossed his arms, moving himself as far back against the wall in his seat as he could get. He looked around embarrassed.

John glanced around too and, whispering this time, said, “You’re wanted at home, son. Now don’t fight me on it.”

“Are you trying to be a strong father suddenly?” William asked, slurring his words.

John Weldon grabbed William by his suspenders–jerking him from his high chair and dragging him to the door before throwing him into the light. William stumbled to the sidewalk. Passersby took about the same notice they would a fly on a window sill.

“Oh, for God’s sake, Willy—give me your hand.”

William pulled himself to his feet and teetered till he caught hold of the building’s porch rail. “Papa, give yourself a rest.”

“We’re going to sober you up, son, and take the train back.”

“No! I’m not going back. You’ve come to humiliate me. Haven’t you done that enough?” William’s stomach roiled. He had no idea how long he’d been drinking—since yesterday? William wanted to crawl into bed and be left alone. He stumbled around the corner and up to his room with his father trailing. The sound of his father’s Grand Army of the Republic walking stick against the wooden path and then on the slippery sand grated on him.

William opened his door and took to bed. His head spun as his father, looking older than he had a few months ago, explored the tiny room, knocking things around with his stick as if afraid of coming up close. His arm trembled. William knew every muscle of those long arms. How many times had he seen his father clean a gun or pull a horse’s girth tighter in the old days? Strange things William remembered. “Papa, I’m sorry,” he began, but his old anger resurfaced. Why was he apologizing?

“W-William, I thought you’d be different from me. Why are you doing this to your mother?” Weldon asked.

“Papa, we’re nothing alike.”

“You’re a drunk, William. How will I tell Mother?”

“Do what you always do, Papa. Keep it a secret. Lie. I don’t care what you do.”

John Weldon scratched behind his ear. “William, Thankful told her father you spent all her money.”

“And you believe it, of course.”

“I don’t know . . . I used to do things . . . when the morphine . . .” John said.

“I don’t want to hear about that! I don’t take things! I have my own money!”

“Have you been getting the money I send?” his father asked.

“Yes, and I’ve bought a lovely ranch with it,” William replied.

“I know it isn’t much,” John Weldon said, “but with Grandmother nearly burning the house and with Lucy always needing new spectacles and . . .”

“Well, if you never work then . . .” William interrupted.

The old soldier stared at his bleached out son. “Willy, do you mean me or you?”

William tried sitting up but groaned and fell back on to his bed. “You take away every chance I have and think a lousy box of paints and five dollars now and again makes up for it all.”

“Is that all I’ve done for you over the years?” Weldon asked. “How is it you stand and walk today? It was me who helped you. You gave up with Mother and Doctor Crenshaw when they tried to help you.”

“You sat on a chair bleary-eyed as Mother did everything!” William said. “You made me sick.”

“No. I sat in the chair teaching you your lessons when Mother ran low on patience. I stayed home to help you. You begged me to,” Weldon replied. “I know I’ve made big mistakes.”

Mistakes? You were afraid to leave the house. You go out of your way to set me up for failure, and I stupidly go along,” William said. He swallowed hard, pulled himself up and opened the shuttered window to vomit. Someone below, who got the worst of it shouted up abuse. He turned back to his father wiping his mouth on his sleeve.

John Weldon’s once impressive posture now bent into a defeated curvature of the spine.

“Papa, why did you tell Thankful where I was? That was the worst thing you could have done.”

“I-I never thought she’d come to see you. I hoped you’d be flattered that a girl was asking after you. I saw the way you admired her back home . . . I hoped . . . remember that time when I got you the paints, and she helped me when I fell?”

“How could I forget?” William replied—though he’d forgotten a lot. “You set up these ridiculous hopes for me!  Thankful wanted to use me as an escape from her parents,” he said climbing back into bed. “If you’d have left things alone maybe I would have had a chance with Thankful . . . someday.”

“Someday?” Weldon laughed dismissively. “It looked like she wanted to be a part of your life now. D-did she give you that watch, son?” Weldon pointed to the exquisite little article opened on his side table.

“What? Do you think I stole it from her?”

“No.” Weldon said with a hint of doubt.

“I didn’t spend her money either. I know I wouldn’t,” William said, shielding his eyes from a shaft of light through the dirty window. “Oh, Papa, I don’t know what went wrong. I’m just so stupid. The money—Thankful came, and I was ashamed. I didn’t fit in the army and . . . I always lose my money. I told Thankful that, but she still trusted me. I don’t remember taking it.”

“B-but your drawings–they’re real good,” Weldon said.

“Who cares?” William cried. “I’m all by myself. How could a girl like Thankful, who’s smart, ever feel more than pity for me?”

His father looked at the dark walls and dirty windows in the charmless room so unlike William’s attic room back in Englewood with its sketches and small collections full of boyhood dreams and innocence. “You’re right, William, she couldn’t have feelings for you the way things stand now.” He picked up the broken little timepiece. “A man accepts his weaknesses and then rises above them.”

PREVIOUS EPISODE WEARY OF RUNNING

Excerpted from WEARY OF RUNNING. Read more about Buck Crenshaw, his sister Thankful and William Weldon’s  misadventures when you buy the book today!

“The second installment in The Tenafly Road Series definitely did not disappoint. With the introduction of new characters and the return of familiar ones, Weary of Running made for an exciting read. The protagonist, Thankful, is the real highlight of the novel. She consistently makes very poor decisions but in the end, you can understand why she has made every last one of them. The story ranges from love and romance to questions of faith and morality. It does all this without being preachy and explores many angles of different aspects of life. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time.” Amazon Review

“Buck Crenshaw is my favorite dysfunctional lovable character.”

How to Write Believable Female Protagonists (and why we have such a hard time liking them)

Can we be honest? About 1/2 of the reading public has just moved on at the phrase “female protagonist.”  Since “women continue to read circles around men, especially in fiction and literature: 64 percent of ladies read at least one book in 2012 (and 56 percent read at least one literary book), compared to only 45 percent of men (only 37 percent read at least one literary book) why do we shy away from reading about women  when most of us fiction readers are WOMEN? SEE STUDY

We tend to see men as doing and women as feeling, yet in the study sited above even when names were switched and men  were  feeling and women  doing, readers felt they related to whomever was named Jack, not Jill.

As a novelist who writes about men and women who do AND feel I wonder why even I feel more ambivalent about female protagonists in my writing. Despite the study above my gut says there’s 5 things going on here as illustrated through my characters:

WEAKNESS: Katherine Weldon  and her husband both carry with them burdens of childhood trauma, yet John Weldon’s weakness (morphine addiction) takes center stage. Katherine is blamed for somehow standing out and being subjected to a violent sexual encounter. I don’t believe we live in a rape culture, but I do believe that rape is so horrifying to most moral beings that until very recently people would rather read about a trip on a raft down a river (as a small aside: statistically, more men than women are raped each year–mostly in prison).  In our modern age we don’t like butting up against a biological truth that, in general, women are weaker physically and at times more emotional. Sue me, but the ladies in SEX IN THE CITY and GIRLS are someone’s fantasy.  If you want to write about women realistically you have to accept the fact that it’s probably going to get pretty messy.

LOVE DRIVE: Keep in mind that I blog what I ponder, fully aware that I don’t have all the answers here. Mostly just more questions: Why do women want to be men?

Thankful Crenshaw does not have a man’s sex drive. She has a love drive. She is driven by an overactive desire for deep love. I know women like this (I may be a woman like this). A woman like this is not flippant about sexual encounters. I knew one young woman who was flippant until her boyfriend deserted her at the abortion clinic.

Real women can compete with men on many levels, but unlike men, they have a harder time compartmentalizing. A sex drive fits easily into a box. A love drive spills all over the place.

Women carrying heavy machine guns, kick boxing in tight spandex and yukking it up at the bar later (wearing lipstick) just don’t sit well with me. Men doing the same thing minus the spandex and lipstick entertain me greatly.

JEALOUSY: Men seem to use jealousy to drive themselves forward. Women tend …to … destroy each other. Thankful is beautiful. She’s used her beauty as power and sadly misused it as well. Miss Peckham arrives with her modern ideas and her contempt for women like Thankful and feathers fly. It’s not a pretty picture. This is not men cock-fighting. This is women and pecking orders. This is blood and guts in a way we don’t want to see it.  I wonder also if we as  women readers don’t really want to see a  successful woman to make us feel bad about ourselves. We want men with machine guns again or women pretending to be men.

IRRATIONAL FEARS: This does not mean women shouldn’t have their hands anywhere near the nuclear bomb button. What it means is that women unleash deep irrational fears in both men and women. The ability of women to have children is kind of weird. Even cavemen were awed. Awe is scary. Women access emotions and splatter them about when least expected. Men scatter. Other women sometimes scatter, too.

Men do a better job hiding the messy stuff behind action. Or maybe those compartments they have come in real handy. Be prepared as a writer to be shocked by your female characters. Wow, suddenly Katherine uses food as an outlet for freedom? Who would have guessed it.

RELATIONSHIP VS ACTION: A female character who isn’t concerned with relationships over action seems really alien to me. As a wife, mother, sister and friend I find it hard to imagine not sacrificing the limelight to another. In real life most women I know struggle at times with this. When writing about Lucy McCullough I walked a fine line. Somehow she managed to not only be strong and quietly heroic, but also generous and self-sacrificing. It’s probably why I have a love/hate relationship with her.

SO WHAT DO YOU THINK? Do we love men more or are we afraid of women?

WHY DO WOMEN READ MORE NOVELS?

THE HARRY POTTER EFFECT

29 AWESOME BOOKS WITH FEMALE PROTAGONISTS

THE TENAFLY ROAD SERIES

 

Fiction: Sex and the Single Girl

All the way to his quarters Fahy fretted over Thankful’s lie about enjoying sex and was disappointed.

Maybe Thankful couldn’t be trusted. Fahy considered his own lame attempt at making the night special. He had hoped that she would enjoy the element of risk and find the woodpile area endearing, but had known as he brought her there that he had failed.

Fahy did want to please Thankful, but she was so stiff and restrained. Being with her forever suddenly felt like a frightening burden even as he loved Thankful very much. Now Fahy wished he hadn’t pressured her. Before, Thankful seemed to enjoy touching, but he’d been impatient and may have spoiled it all. Fahy took a slug of whiskey. He didn’t even like it. Why had he assumed Thankful might? Ugh. The night had been a disaster. Fahy turned around and went back to the Markhams’ home now.

“May I speak for a moment with Miss Crenshaw, Captain Markham?” he asked the sleepy older man.

Markham called up to Thankful, and she came to the door in her wrapper with her hair loose now. The oil lamps made her face glow. Markham left for the kitchen.

“Thankful, I’ve been a brute. I never should have asked you to do what you’ve done.”

“Well, it’s too late now,” said Thankful. “Are you here to break our engagement?”

Fahy laughed nervously. “No, why?”

“I just thought . . . well, you tried so hard tonight.”

“Thankful, you’re wrong. I didn’t try at all. I’m the selfish one. Forgive me. I want you to wear my ring.”

“Oh, thank goodness!” Thankful whispered. “You seemed terribly disappointed in me.”

“No, it wasn’t you. With practice, you’ll be fine. It’s just that I ruined it for the wedding—you were right about that.”

“Lieutenant Fahy, I don’t want to talk about it anymore.” She pointed to the kitchen where Captain Markham rattled pans. “I’m just happy that you aren’t angry at me.” Thankful peered up at him and ran her small hand over his. “I must go to sleep now—but would you mind if from now on I call you Pierce?”

“No, call me whatever you like,” Fahy replied, but seemed uncomfortable with the idea.

It troubled Thankful when Fahy moved his hand away from hers. “Maybe I’ll stick with Lieutenant Fahy,” she said, trying to make light of it. “That’s what I’m used to.”

“I’m sorry, what did you say?” Fahy asked, glancing behind him at the empty parade grounds.

Thankful pulled her wrapper tight. “Nothing. It’s not important. Good night.”

“Yes, good night. I suppose I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“You suppose?”

“Thankful, please, stop trying to catch me in my words.”

“I didn’t mean to . . .”

“I know. Damn. I’m just knackered. Things will seem better in the morning,” the lieutenant said.

“Why do things suddenly seem so bad?” Thankful asked.

Fahy shook his head. “Good night, miss.” He kissed her hand and left again.

PREVIOUS EPISODE: WEARY of RUNNING

***Featured image “Sadness” by Julia Margaret Cameron

Excerpted from WEARY OF RUNNING. Read more about Buck Crenshaw, his sister Thankful and William Weldon’s  misadventures when you buy the book today!

“The second installment in The Tenafly Road Series definitely did not disappoint. With the introduction of new characters and the return of familiar ones, Weary of Running made for an exciting read. The protagonist, Thankful, is the real highlight of the novel. She consistently makes very poor decisions but in the end, you can understand why she has made every last one of them. The story ranges from love and romance to questions of faith and morality. It does all this without being preachy and explores many angles of different aspects of life. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time.” Amazon Review

“Buck Crenshaw is my favorite dysfunctional lovable character.”

Fiction: The End of Innocence

The rest of the day hung like a weight around Thankful’s neck. Poor young Lydia cried and suffered. Captain Markham came home from a few weeks in the field and was informed about Thankful’s surprising inattention to important household duties.

Thankful poured coffee for the couple and it took everything in her not to spill the hot liquid in Mrs. Markham’s lap. The captain listened to his wife with nodding head before turning to Thankful.

“You do know that we have a very sick child and my wife cannot be burdened with menial labor right this moment, Miss Crenshaw. What do you have to say for yourself?”

“Nothing, sir. I was dispirited over Mr. Fahy, but it’s no excuse for not having coffee made.” Thankful wanted to rip the captain’s disgusting sideburns from his face and fling him into the fire. Why on earth must they keep such a fire in the desert?

“What’s happened to Fahy?” Markham asked his wife.

“He’s fallen for our Thankful and plans to marry her.”

“Sakes alive! Why didn’t you tell me that straight off? Well, that’s darn good news for you, young lady—and Fahy, too!” Markham scratched his freshly-shaved chin as if pondering the mysteries of the universe. “Don’t worry about this morning’s coffee. I understand it all now, and I’m certain it won’t happen again.”

“No, sir.”

“Why doesn’t she seem at all happy then?” the captain asked his wife.

Thankful wiped her eyes. “May I be excused?”

Mrs. Markham replied, “Right after you wash up those dishes, dear. Will you see the lieutenant this evening?”

“Yes,” Thankful sobbed and ran to the kitchen.

When Lieutenant Fahy came to call, Thankful lingered upstairs. The few things she had to wear were smoky and wilted in the overheated house. Thankful washed and wondered if Fahy would like her body. She poured a liberal dose of flower water over herself and slipped on her best dress. Her hair needed washing, but she hadn’t any time, so she pulled it tight like a school marm, feeling anything but gay.

When Mrs. Markham called to her a third time, Thankful appeared. Fahy looked dashing in his dressier blouse and trousers. He flashed her a big friendly smile. They let the Markhams believe they were going to the dance tonight. Fahy and Thankful skirted the music and a wave of loneliness crashed over Thankful as the band played the fiddler’s waltz. She pulled on Fahy’s arm. “I’m so very frightened.”

Fahy kissed her, a little impatiently. “Don’t worry, miss.”

Thankful imagined that Fahy would bring her someplace special—a hidden spot—so she grew curious when they circled back behind the Markhams’ house and toward the woodpile. A tattered army blanket and a jug of whiskey lay in the shadows.

“You said that you imagined us under the pines—well, here’s some wood, anyway—pine wood—so it smells sort of the same,” Fahy explained.

“But the woodpile?” Thankful asked in astonishment. “I can practically see into Mrs. Markham’s kitchen. I hear the children! And there’s Mrs. Tremble bringing out the trash. My goodness! They’ll see us here!”

Fahy kissed her. “No one will come back here at this hour. There now, let’s sit.” He dragged Thankful down on to the itchy woolen blanket and kissed her again, handing her the jug of whiskey. “Go ahead. Taste it—it’ll make things easier for you. Go on then. It’s not poison!” Fahy laughed as Thankful sipped and choked.

“Oh, it’s awful!” she cried.

Fahy ran his hand over Thankful’s head. “Sweetheart, this is what adults do, I’m afraid. Don’t you like when I touch you?”

“Yes, but behind the woodpile? There are bugs and things and it’s just not what I expected.”

“Look, we have the stars and the cool evening . . . and each other, darling. Isn’t that enough?” Fahy kissed her more passionately and her body responded. “I love you dearly, Miss Thankful. Do you love me?”

“Yes.”

The lieutenant tore Thankful’s shoes and stockings off in a hurry. No fine words, no tickling behind the knees. She had worried all day about her body, but he plunged under her petticoats, pulled himself out of his trousers and pushed his way inside. “How does it feel?” he asked.

“Fine.” It hurt just a little, but then it didn’t. It wasn’t unenjoyable or enjoyable—it was nothing, really, but wrong.

Fahy moaned, kissed her and it was over. He rolled off and gazed at the stars. “So what do you think now, Thankful?”

“I don’t know.”

“What’s wrong?” Fahy asked getting up on his elbows, his intense eyes shining in the moonlight. “Didn’t you like it?”

“I think so.” Thankful didn’t want to upset his feelings.

“Think so? You should know!”

“Should I?” Thankful asked.

“You should have had more whiskey,” Fahy said, sitting up. “Damn. So you didn’t enjoy any of it?”

“No. I mean, I did, sort of. Did it make you happy?” Thankful asked.

“Well, yes, but it’s supposed to be for both of us. Want to try again—in a few minutes?”

“No! Someone will come by,” Thankful said, grabbing her stockings and slipping one over her toes.

“No one will come by,” Fahy assured her, taking the stocking off her again. “I’ve got a friend watching out.”

“A friend?” Thankful cried. She tugged the stocking away from him and pulled it on in haste. “How awful! Now everyone will know what we’ve done!”

“No. He’s trustworthy. Thankful, why don’t we marry before your parents come?”

“I want a proper wedding,” Thankful cried. “You’ve already deprived me of a proper wedding night.” She tugged the other stocking on and slipped into her shoes.

“Don’t say that!” Fahy complained. “Our wedding night will be great.”

“Maybe we’ll even get to have a bed,” Thankful said.

“You told me you imagined doing it outdoors. I thought you’d like my idea.” Fahy said, surprised at her emotion.

“I never imagined doing anything behind a bunch of logs in view of Mrs. Tremble’s and the Markhams’ back yard. You said it would be special.”

“I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy it, but you need to relax more,” Fahy offered, running his hand along her hot cheek.

“How many girls have you been with?” Thankful asked.

“Oh, Thankful, let’s not talk about this now. Let’s try again, and I promise you in time you’ll grow fonder of it.”

The horses whinnied in the stables and someone, probably the lookout, whistled a melancholy tune.

“I’m so sad, Mr. Fahy. Were you engaged before, too?”

“No, Thankful. Stop it. You’re the only girl I’ve ever loved.”

“But you slept with girls you never loved?”

“Yes, but . . .” Fahy began, shaking his head.

“But what did you tell them?” Thankful asked, her eyes welling with tears in the moonlight.

“I didn’t have to tell them anything,” Fahy said as if Thankful’s questions insulted his honor. “You’re the only girl I’ve ever had to explain myself to. Please, Thankful, I’m still randy—let’s try again.”

Something changed. Fahy didn’t love her anymore. But now Thankful loved him desperately. “Mr. Fahy, I love you.”

“I’m glad. Will we try again?”

Thankful was his now, and she so wanted to love him. Thankful lay back and this time Fahy was more attentive. “Do you feel anything? How’s this? How about now?”

At first Thankful was honest, but after a while it seemed cruel to keep him trying and not getting anywhere—so she lied and said it was good.

Fahy knew she lied and it upset him, but he kept it to himself, wondering if he had satisfied the other girls or were they just more practiced liars. Fahy brought Thankful home and kissed her good-night with forced passion.

Thankful stood at the gate and watched him go.

PREVIOUS EPISODE: WEARY of RUNNING

Excerpted from WEARY OF RUNNING. Read more about Buck Crenshaw, his sister Thankful and William Weldon’s  misadventures when you buy the book today!

“The second installment in The Tenafly Road Series definitely did not disappoint. With the introduction of new characters and the return of familiar ones, Weary of Running made for an exciting read. The protagonist, Thankful, is the real highlight of the novel. She consistently makes very poor decisions but in the end, you can understand why she has made every last one of them. The story ranges from love and romance to questions of faith and morality. It does all this without being preachy and explores many angles of different aspects of life. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time.” Amazon Review

“Buck Crenshaw is my favorite dysfunctional lovable character.”

Top 5 Reasons to Write a Series

 

desk 2Three minutes into sobbing over the ending of my first very long book, a new curiosity arrived about one minor character who pushed William Weldon from a hayloft in childhood. Now as I edit the final chapters of what has become a four book series (THE HOUSE on TENAFLY ROAD being a prequel to the series) I want to celebrate the joys of writing (and reading) multiple books about your characters.

I set out to write one small novella ten years ago, but life took hold of my muse and carried me along through at least 2,200 pages (and more lost to editing) of a series I never imagined when first dipping my foot in the pond.

I offer no hard and fast rules because my natural tendency is to resist such man-made limitations and trends. When I began it was to entertain myself. Quite early on I realized that the books I adored were often quite different from the ones I admired. Adoration has kept me going all of these years later.

LOVE: When a writer falls in love with a character the love is forever. The sad and lost John Weldon swept me through a thousand pages of addiction and the underlying terror of being found truly worthless. As a loving creator I set Weldon up with everything he needed to see his value, but being lost comes with a blindness to certain realities. I believed at the close of the book that my final gift to him was a glimmer of hope in a marriage he’d worked so hard to destroy, but my muse gave him a good and troubled son with a love interest in Thankful Crenshaw. I had to know what would become of them!

LAYERS: A series allows for unmasking the layers of a character or a whole town of characters. A chance remark on page two of a book sprouts a whole series of future events. In WEARY of RUNNING, the first in THE TENAFLY ROAD SERIES, a young girl stands up for Buck Crenshaw. Born with troubled eyes she hears the truth in Buck’s voice though no one else does. This small act of kindness hints at Lucy’s sudden emergence as the series heroine she will grow into in the last two novels. Life isn’t chocolate and vanilla. Some readers prefer easy answers, but in a series the writer can play with nuance, growth and regression. When Thankful Crenshaw makes her first bad decision with Lieutenant Fahy the reader knows it won’t be her last. There is a risk here for series writers. Will the reader follow lost characters for long? Will they love them enough to stand by and watch (and cringe) at the way these people seek love and redemption? The risk is well worth it if the author is being true to her muse. Critics be damned.

LAUGHTER: Gallows humor is my cup of tea. It’s not for everyone. “Only kidding” is a family mantra when so often outsiders look askance at the way we joke. The House on Tenafly Road can be a tough read for some. Can one really make addiction funny? Sometimes it is. As the characters grew and I grew to love them more I allowed for more fun and faster pacing. The House on Tenafly Road stands alone as historical fiction while The Tenafly Road Series is more an American period drama. We laugh best with people we know really well–and cry all the more bitterly when these people hurt themselves. William, Buck and Thankful carry a whole lot of hurt, but they make me laugh (especially when I forget what I’ve written and come back to something as if for the first time).

LOSS: Loss and love. The stuff of life. There is something so edifying when you kill off a character. Let me explain. To have a well-loved character die with a Victorian sense of dignity feels like doing what’s right by your kin. The author is the ultimate funeral planner, the writer of letters found tucked in the cubicle of a roll-top desk in the study. The laurel wreaths are hung and mirrors covered to prevent lost spirits. Oh, the many ways to explore grief as time passes! What does it say about Buck or William? How does it change Thankful?

LIFE: A day in the life of a character is sometimes all an author needs to make a novel. I’m not that author. I devour whole lives. I want the beginning, middle and end. I want a prologue and an epilogue. I want growth and maturity, death and rebirth. In writing a series, especially an epic family saga, I’ve lived so many lives in the last ten years. When the series is over (though ideas float around about a new direction in writing) I will be satisfied that I’ve lived life well. Before writing a series I couldn’t honestly say that.

 

And now a note for the READER of my books: Realize that life is a slow burn with sudden temporary gusts to enliven the fire. Yes, THE HOUSE on TENAFLY ROAD is a bit heavy and long, but (in my opinion) worth the buildup. And yes, there are terribly many mistakes made by Buck and friends in THE TENAFLY ROAD SERIES but if we take the blinders off we see so much of ourselves in the house fires and dampened reversals. I do believe that endings can be happy and well worth the wait. In the meantime there’s love, loss and laughter. I hope you enjoy the layers and the lives of the (fictional?) people I adore.

And now for the WRITER a quote by Thomas Merton to hearten you on your journey:

“Many poets never succeed in being themselves. They never get around to being the particular poet they are intended to be by God. They never become the person or artist who is called for by all of the circumstances of their individual lives. They waste their years in vain efforts to be some other poet. They wear out their minds and bodies in a hopeless endeavor to have somebody else’s experiences or write somebody else’s poems.”

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Fiction: How To Keep a Man Happy (Part Two)

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Thankful makes a decision about Mr. Fahy . . .

When Mrs. Markham awoke to find the fire puttered out, and the coffee not made, she wasn’t pleased.

“Thankful Crenshaw, I love you like a good friend’s daughter, but honestly, crying at this hour and before coffee is just wrong. I don’t pay you to pout. I’m sorry to be so upset, but you know how I am about coffee.” Mrs. Markham watched for reaction from Thankful out of the corner of her eye, but when she did not get it, turned more emphatically in the girl’s direction. “I allow other things to slide, child, but not this. I will have a word with Captain Markham about our arrangement.”

Again Thankful sniveled. Mrs. Markham wanted coffee, but softened. “I’d hate to lose our friendship over such a trifling thing. I’m at wits end, and the captain knows best what to do.” The mantle clock clicked the time slowly. A horse whinnied.

“I’ll pack my things, Mrs. Markham,” Thankful sobbed.

Mrs. Markham rushed to her side. “But you have no place to go, my sweetness, just be more mindful of your chores!”

“Yes. I’m sorry.” Thankful rose to fetch the coffee pot, wiping her eyes on her gingham apron–one Mrs. Markham had a laundress make for her pet.

“Whatever are you fretting about?” Mrs. Markham asked, sitting to write out Thankful’s endless list of chores. “Do you miss home?”

Thankful nodded, but then shook her head.

“Poor girl, you’re all mixed up. That’s what love does. I should know—the captain still keeps me in conflict. But love is love, and you’re lucky to have it. Some never do.”

“Mr. Fahy is demanding,” Thankful hinted.

“That’s men. Would you rather he left you to yourself and found another?” Mrs. Markham asked. “I didn’t think so.”

“But he’s very demanding,” Thankful said, wondering if the captain’s wife was really the friend she needed right now. “I just don’t know. . .”

“I don’t know how to say this.” Mrs. Markham took the pot from Thankful– too theatrically for Thankful’s taste and mood–and filled it herself with a scolding look. “I do love you, but you’re selfish in a way. A man has to be given his way once in a while—he needs to think that you trust his judgment. I’m sure that Mr. Fahy, of all men, wouldn’t lead you astray—he’s a fine gentleman.”

“Mrs. Markham, has he had any girls before me?”

“Many girls have sought him from what I hear, but I’ve never seen him take especial notice. I do believe Lieutenant Fahy is saving himself for you—that’s very sweet, I think. You’re a very lucky girl. Everyone thinks so. Don’t ruin things for yourself by being hard on him. After all, he’s only a man.” She laughed.

Later that day Mrs. Markham went visiting while Thankful took the children out to play. The sun blazed as Thankful’s temper flared. The older children fought, and the younger ones hung off her, wilted and cranky. Thankful could see Lieutenant Fahy smoking on the porch at headquarters, and this infuriated her. Usually he tripped up to see her for a moment around midday.

“Come along, children. It’s time to go indoors for your naps.” The young ones whimpered in protest, and the three eldest ran off, knowing Thankful could not give chase with the little ones clinging to her. “Horrible little wretches,” Thankful muttered as Fahy finally trotted over to her. She pushed past him.

“Thankful, please slow down, would you?”

“Why should I? I’m busy!” she said.

“I wanted to apologize for this morning. I can be a right bastard sometimes.”

“How you curse!” Thankful said, relieved and glad for his apology.

“It’s just that you’re so darn beautiful. I’m not a patient man, and I want you. But if you don’t feel the same way . . .”

“But I do, Mr. Fahy! I’m afraid of it though, and I only want to do what’s honorable and right.”

“But no one has to know and you’re nearly my wife.”

“I would do anything,” Thankful began–she must be honest, however immature it may seem to this man, “but that.”  She saw he was not pleased. “Oh, but let me explain. It’s very horrible really . . . I’ve never told a soul, but my parents conceived before they were married. It’s been a horrible marriage, and I’d hate for us to end so sadly.”

Fahy wiped his brow. The babies were crying, and the toddlers smelled like sewage. The lieutenant sighed. “Thankful, you’re a great girl—too good for me at times. I came over to apologize but also to let you know that I won’t be by this evening.”

“Oh,” Thankful said, a rush of panic and hurt coming over her. Had he even listened to her? “Well . . . why not?”

“Some of the fellows, well, I’ve been neglecting my friendships lately, and I have tonight free.”

“What will you do?” Thankful hated herself for asking.

“Just drink at The Buckskin. Nothing more.”

“Town? You’re going to town?” Thankful cried.

“Yes. Oh, you don’t think—what I said before about the others?” Fahy rolled his eyes and looked truly affronted. “Now I see you really don’t trust me!”

“No, it’s that I don’t know what to think! Before you threaten to use a whore and now. . .”

“I never threatened it!” Fahy said.

“Go ahead with the boys, but don’t expect me to be friendly tomorrow!” Thankful cried.

“So now I can’t have any friends?” Fahy complained. “You’re being unreasonable!”

“You can have as many friends as you like,” she said. “But I have no friends here at all!”

“And how is that my fault? Maybe if you were a little less stuck-up. You girls are always so dramatic!” Fahy fumed.

“You said you loved me!” Thankful sobbed now. “And I’m not stuck-up!”

“I do love you!” Fahy turned her away from passing soldiers. “Bear-up, Thankful. You’re making a fool of yourself, now,” he said irritably but hugged her. “My passion for you is so great that I don’t know how much longer I can wait. I’d never spend another moment with the lads if only I could have you the way we talked earlier.”

“So you would stay home for me?” Thankful asked. “I’m the most important to you?”

“Of course. It’s all I want, but I need to know that you trust me for everything.”

Thankful grabbed his arm. “Mr. Fahy, please come to me tonight, and I’ll be ready.”

PREVIOUS EPISODE: WEARY OF RUNNING

Excerpted from WEARY OF RUNNING. Read more about Buck Crenshaw, his sister Thankful and William Weldon’s  misadventures when you buy the book today!

“The second installment in The Tenafly Road Series definitely did not disappoint. With the introduction of new characters and the return of familiar ones, Weary of Running made for an exciting read. The protagonist, Thankful, is the real highlight of the novel. She consistently makes very poor decisions but in the end, you can understand why she has made every last one of them. The story ranges from love and romance to questions of faith and morality. It does all this without being preachy and explores many angles of different aspects of life. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time.” Amazon Review

“Buck Crenshaw is my favorite dysfunctional lovable character.”

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The Seven Virtues in Writing

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Virtuous Girl? (Courtesy Pinterest)

How our culture hates a goody-goody! I think we hate virtuous people almost more than we hate child traffickers. Or so it seems.

As I write MY HISTORICAL FAMILY SAGA it’s easy to hate the virtuous because it almost feels as if there’s nothing to say about them. I sometimes imagine a virtuous person having no struggles, and this, I know, is unfair. My tendency is to focus on the lost and sinful elements of characters and heap tons of sympathy upon them while the virtuous remain alone in their human toil.

The virtuous, we think, are bland like vegetables to the person inclined toward sweets. Yet broccoli can be a tasty thing when put in the hands of a good cook. And so it is with virtue. Those of us who struggle to attain even a modicum of humility realize the great difficulty involved in becoming virtuous. There is a faith necessary here. One must believe that life, and the characters you write will become even better with a sprinkling of virtue.

When a person wakes up each morning expecting a do-nut (that in one half hour will make them feel sick to their stomach) they find it hard to believe that a warm glass of lemon water and some protein will will produce better results.

Anti-heroes intrigue me, but the characters who challenge me to take a hard look at myself and my icing covered flaws annoy. More than annoy, they tempt me to run from them. A virtuous person (albeit with some flaws) causes me to contemplate my own place in the race of life. Sometimes that’s not enjoyable.

The anti-hero understands our hidden parts, asks us to wallow a while in the shallow comfort of self-pity and despair, but the virtuous character asks us to stretch ourselves in uncomfortable ways with only scant promise of success (or that elusive thing called joy).

The further along this racecourse of life the more I’m ready to tackle the virtuous in writing with admiration instead of suspicion and jealousy. Buck Crenshaw as he grows through each of my novels is moving out of his anti-hero costume into something more compelling and rare: a man who (timidly at first) is drawn to the good race. Yet Buck is a clumsy runner and always will be.

Surprises sometimes come in the shape of a mate. Around the final bend Buck is brought to his knees, but along comes a virtuous friend. I can’t wait to see what Buck does with her.

So here’s the question, readers and writers: who’s your favorite virtuous character in fiction (or in life)?  I’m dying to know.

Humility – Humility is the virtue that counters pride. As pride leads to other sin, true humility clears a path for holiness. Pride is a sin based on undue and inappropriate appreciation of one’s self worth. Conversely, the virtue of humility is about modest behavior, selflessness and the giving of respect.

Liberality – Liberality, or generosity, is the virtue that is counter to greed – the sin of immoderate desire for earthly things. The virtue of liberality is focused not merely on the appropriate concern regarding one’s earthly things, but furthermore on generosity and a willingness to give, freely and without request for commendation.

Chastity – Chastity is the counter-virtue to the sin of lust. Chastity embraces moral wholesomeness and purity, and in both thought and action treats God’s gift of sexuality with due reverence and respect.

Meekness – Meekness, or patience, is the virtue that counters the sin of unjust anger, also called wrath or rage. Where the sin of wrath is about quick temper and unnecessary vengeance, the virtue of meekness focuses on patiently seeking appropriate resolution to conflicts, and on the ability to forgive and show mercy.

Temperance – The virtue of temperance or abstinence counters the sin of gluttony. To be gluttonous is to over-indulge. On the opposite hand, the virtue of temperance is centered on self-control and moderation.

Kindness – Kindness, or brotherly love or love for one’s neighbor, is the virtue which counters the sin of envy. Envy, in contradiction to God’s law of love, is manifest in a person’s sorrow and distress over the good fortune of another person. Conversely, kindness and brotherly love is manifest in the unprejudiced, compassionate and charitable concern for others.

Diligence – Diligence, or persistence, is the virtue which acts as a counter to the sin of sloth. Sloth, as a capital sin, refers to laziness in matters of Faith. Diligence in matters of the spiritual combat laziness and this virtue is manifest in appropriately zealous attitudes toward living and sharing the Faith.

Excerpted from: AQUINAS AND MORE