Do You Have Theme Songs For Your Life?

Today feels like a day to listen more than to talk. I’ve noticed when writing novels that random music will stop me in my tracks —  as if the characters in the books are begging me to listen to another layer of who they are. I write about BROKEN HEARTS so I don’t think it will surprise you that the music that acts as the soundtrack to my novels has a certain poignancy.

Do you have a soundtrack? How does beauty play a role in your life? in your creative endeavors? I’d love to know what piece of music most matches who you are or what you create. Let me know in the comments.

 THE HOUSE ON TENAFLY ROAD is a book of broken hearts for sure, but Aaron Copland’s beautiful Saturday Night Waltz captures the fledgling love between John Weldon and Katherine McCullough:

Buck Crenshaw spends a lot of time in the books being an aloof and mixed-up mess, but when he meets the girl who becomes his wife in FORGET ME NOT, a new side of him appears:

This is the song I played every time before writing about the troubled William Weldon in WEARY OF RUNNING and his big time crush on Thankful Crenshaw:

LINKS:

WHAT’S ON YOUR PLAYLIST?

WHAT IS THE SOUNDTRACK TO YOUR LIFE?

MUSIC TO WRITE BY

Fiction: Revelations

The Crenshaws followed the men to the camp hospital and waited as Buck sullenly had his face bandaged yet again. Maybe God was punishing him. He’d handled his family all wrong. In a matter of a few hours he had managed to insult his sister, annoy his mother, hurt his father, and fight his brother. What had he really learned?

Thankful, a pile of children, and Mrs. Markham pushed into the crowded room. Thankful’s belly bulged, and in her hurry she had forgotten the handsome blue shawl Mrs. Markham made for her to hide what was nobody’s business.

The family understood her condition right away and huddled in the corner aghast. Thankful pretended not to see them, her face flushing with humiliation. “Poor Buck, you must be in terrible pain.”

Mrs. Markham and her children cried over the patient. “It was the meanest thing the children have ever seen,” Mrs. Markham said, “to have someone hit you when you’re already so sore. Very cruel, indeed!” The captain’s wife glared at Fred.

Margaret took offense. “Whoever you are, you’re in no position to judge my son!”

“I’m the captain’s wife, Mrs. Crenshaw, and I’m in a position to spot an injustice when I see it and to defend dear friends—Buck being one of them. He’s been such a comfort to my husband and me since the death of our daughter—every night reading to us—tracts he thinks might be soothing. The Spirit is working through him—truly.”

“Buck?” Graham asked in astonishment.

“I’ve heard about you western Bible folk,” Margaret said. “You’re crazy and you’ve gotten my son under a spell.”

Kenyon arrived with an Apache scout Buck had befriended over the gospel.

“For heaven’s sake, Buck, what’s happened now?” Kenyon asked, pushing his way past the Crenshaw family.

“I’ve failed, Seth,” Buck said, throwing his hands up in despair. “I’m no use to God or anyone and didn’t turn the other cheek.”

Kenyon saw the bandage. “Well, you should have,” he joked.

“I’ve prayed a lot,” Buck continued, “but still I’m so weak. I hoped to start things new with them, but it’s much harder than I imagined.”

“We talked about this, my friend,” Kenyon said matching his tone to the gravity expressed by Buck. “Sometimes God brings us into the valley to prepare us, to teach us. You’ve been enjoying the summit for a while now—that’s the easy part. But God is working in you. You are already forgiven, remember?”

“What the hell is this?” Fred cried. “God is working in Buck? Is that code or something? What is he, some new savior? This whole thing is scary.” He turned to his parents. “I hope you both see how frightening this is!”

“Fred, be quiet,” Graham said curious and jealous of the intimacy between Buck and this man.

“Buck,” Kenyon said, “remember what the Lord said to Paul: ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for strength is made perfect in weakness.’

Buck nodded and continued. Therefore most gladly I would rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak then I am strong.”

“Father, he’s been hypnotized!” Fred declared. He pushed Kenyon aside and grabbed Buck’s shoulders. “Get a hold of yourself, boy. Take pleasure in weakness? Are you mad? Are you satisfied being pathetic—the world will tear you apart!”

“It already has,” Buck replied.

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Featured Image: Mary Turner Austin by John Singer Sargent

“If you want to send a message, use Western Union.” Sam Goldwyn

I’m not responsible for your salvation.

I’m sure you consider that a good thing. As a writer, I’m responsible for my characters’ salvation but even that can get sticky. How many of us like message films and books? I’m not talking about self-help books or how-to videos. I’m talking about entertainment that aims to convince us of something.

Heaven exists because a cute little boy says so. Or God doesn’t exist at all because an unhappy scientist says so.

Women are better kick boxers than men. (Every super hero movie with Scarlett Johannson — she does wear the Spandex well)

People have no control over their sexual desires — and why should they? (Most movies about men and women)

All violence throughout history was caused by white men. (Dances with Wolves and a host of others — I loved Dances anyway because of the soundtrack)

People with low IQ’s are better parents than white women. ( I Am Sam — worst movie ever made, but totally worth watching as a dark comedy)

Great art always conveys a message but the art that rises to the top does it with subtlety. The artistic outcome satisfies on a deeper level that taps into our common humanity.

Art that has at its center a desire to convince and cajole is limiting, propagandizing and not satisfying for those of us interested in something more than just gluing ourselves to a movement or, to be more blunt, a cult.

As a Christian, I very rarely read “Christian” fiction in the modern sense based on its reputation for being fluffy. Even the colors of the Amish romances don’t appeal to me (though some may be quite good). I just don’t want to read about people who don’t cuss sometimes (yes, I’m being unfair since I’ve never gotten past the covers).

I don’t want to be protected from the world. Jesus didn’t play that way, so why should I?

The reason I admire a movie like GLORY, for instance, (if you haven’t seen it you should) over a movie like 12 Years a Slave is that the characters in GLORY grapple with big ideas, big prejudices and big emotions yet each and every character invites us in and asks us who we are and how we would react in similar situations. The acting, cinematography and soundtrack elevate this movie to art. We leave with questions, not easy answers.

Readers here know I’m still getting over reading WAR AND PEACE. Tolstoy may have been trying to convince me that great leaders have no free will or many other things, but he left me with more questions than answers. He left me feeling I’d lived an alternative life in the shoes of others.

I try to write, in my humble way, not to convince the reader of my novels to become a Christian or to become an activist or to become anything at all. My goal is first to entertain and then perhaps to lead the reader to see in another person the chance to question assumptions and exercise compassion for those people who are valued just as much as you and I by our maker, but who may not be members of the same groups as we are.

Experiencing or producing great art (or even lesser art that leaves us with questions to explore) and living on this earth offer far more questions than easy answers.

300px-The_Calling_of_Saint_Matthew-Caravaggo_(1599-1600)

Caravaggio isn’t forcing us to follow  in The Calling of St Matthew

A curiosity seeker who wanted to catch Jesus in his words asked him, “Who is my neighbor?” when told that he should love his neighbors as himself.

Neighbors and characters ask more questions. They don’t pelt us with their answers. They may offer opinions. They may debate. They may cause us to question our own assumptions.

How many times have I won an argument or convinced someone to change by yelling at them or  by wearing a pin that announces my strident desire to be change (translation: to control others)?

“God acts in history and in your and my brief histories, not as the puppeteer who … works the strings but rather as the great director who no matter what role fate casts us in conveys to us … how we can play those roles in a way to enrich and ennoble and hallow the whole vast drama of things.” CHRISTIANITY AND LITERATURE

*** Featured Image: Detail from Conversion on the Way to Damascus by Caravaggio

Do you disagree? Do you enjoy message art? I’d love to know your thoughts.

 

 

***Thanks to Nadine at: CHRISTIAN VICTORIAN LITERATURE for the above quote from a thought-provoking article she linked to on her blog.

Fiction: Unplugged

The missionaries took over the fire. William hung in the shadows, but Buck came to him with a new bottle, unplugged it, and shared it out.

William offered Buck a cigar.

“No,” Buck said. “Oh, what the hell.” He took it and lit up, staring into the fire.

“I guess I’ve lost my job now,” William said and drank.

“You don’t really want to work for a missionary, do you?” Buck asked. “It’s embarrassing. Seems Thankful is very receptive to that sort of thing. She’s fond of Kenyon. You aren’t doing this to impress her, I hope.”

“Hell, no!” William said, shaking his head before emptying his mug.

“Maybe Thankful hopes Kenyon will adopt her once the folks find out about her baby,” Buck joked miserably.

“You won’t tell on her, will you?”

“My parents have a right to know! Of course I’ll tell them. She’ll need their help. I don’t trust that Fahy and I’ll see to it he pays.”

“What can you do to him?” William asked.

“I don’t know yet, but I’m not a coward who lets others get the best of me,” Buck said with bluster in his voice.

“I guess you think I am,” William said. “You can go to hell.”

“No, I wasn’t talking about you. I mean, you did always have a whole troupe of people coddling you—including my father—but, well, sometimes you were impressive. How you kept getting up and trying again. You never gave up. I liked that. You and your father—I was—it was nice how much your father cared.”

Fahy and the other soldiers sang, and Buck and William stumbled over to them and joined in while the morose missionaries chewed the tough meat.

 

Here’s success to whiskey

Drink it down, drink it down,

Here’s success to whiskey,

Drink it down, drink it down.

Here’s success to whiskey

For it makes the spirits frisky,

Drink it down, drink it down, drink it down!

 

The missionaries took up the challenge:

 

From this world’s alluring snares,

From its perils and its cares,

From its vanity and strife,

Jesus beckons us to life.

 From the vanities of youth—

 

The younger group moaned and called out in protest with a song to top them:

 

Where is me bed, me noggin’ noggin’ bed?

It’s all gone for beer and tobacco

Well I lent it to a whore and now the sheets are tore

And the springs are looking out for better weather.

 

Well, it’s all for me grog, me jolly, jolly grog,

It’s all for me beer and tobacco

I spent all me loot in a house of ill-repute

And I think I’ll go back there tomorrow!

 

Kenyon’s friends had enough and took their lanterns with them to bed, but Kenyon stayed seated. William felt sorry and uneasy. The soldiers considered their battle won until Kenyon, on his own, sang clear, but soft.

 

The drunkard as he steals away

To scenes of dissipation,

No anguish warns, no tears delay;

He fears not the temptation.

I wish I could but reach his mind,

And set him once a thinking;

I’m sure he’d be a father kind,

And leave off all his drinking.

He drinks away his goods and store,

That years were spent in making;

Yet day by day he craves for more,

All warning still forsaking.

 

“All right, old man. Enough preaching for the night,” said Fahy. “We’ll take our chances with the drink. You Americans take the fun out of everything and these young boys don’t appreciate it. Do you boys?”

“He can sing what he likes. It’s a free country,” said Buck, but no one listened to him.

William stumbled up to Kenyon and slurred, “You sing these songs to make me feel bad, but I don’t! All you do is try to prove how great you are and you’re not. What good are you doing? These Indians hate you. You just sit around talking about Jesus—what sort of work is that? It’s worthless—everybody says so.” William staggered, too close to the fire. “So God exists, so what! How does that help? All your preaching about what Jesus wants or Jesus did—it hasn’t stopped Fahy and his men from stealing even as General Crook and Lieutenant Davis and the rest try to do what’s right!

“You tell me to leave off drinking—why? Why do you give a damn? I’m like a son you never had? I’m not! And how come you have no family? No one was good enough, I bet. And Jesus, he drank wine didn’t he—but you have to deny me? How has Jesus made your life so good? You feel higher than me but all you have is some old clothes and sour friends. You think because you gave me paints you’ve done something big. Hey, I’m like Christ—I have nothing—no family, no friends or anything. Maybe you should worship me instead of looking down on me!”

Buck tried to pull William back, but Kenyon came up and punched William to the ground. “How dare you—you rotten little ass! Say all you like about me, but leave God out of it! You dare compare yourself to God? You’re more lost than I thought and I won’t stand for it! You think I look down on you? Who has laughed at you for the last hours? Not me. I was worse than you—maybe I had more call to be too. So you don’t have a girl and you’re huffed at your parents—poor you! What have you ever done?”

“What have you?” William asked.

“I killed my father—how’s that for starters.

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Fiction: Stuck

Fahy caught Buck’s unfriendly look. “What’s the matter? Has something happened to Thankful?”

“She’s fine under the circumstances,” Buck said in his strongest voice.

“I know she’s upset over my being here—but it’s the army.”

Buck said nothing more. He’d been sworn to secrecy by Thankful.

“The cadet brought us a whole case of fine spirits for later,” Joyce said.

“Oh, bully for you, cadet. You’re just what we needed. The stuff out here is either too strong or too soft. How long will you stay? Were you injured on the way out as well or is that an Arabian inspired headdress from the academy? You look like a damned Apache scout,” Fahy joked. “Listen, let me finish up here with these old biddies and after we’ll have a nice celebration. Joyce, will you do us a favor and find him a tent and all? Have him bed down with us officers as a treat.” He slapped Buck’s back and walked back to the complaining women.

Buck stared after him with a sneer. Joyce read his mind.

“Buck, Fahy’s a great fellow once you get to know him, but he’s very unhappy at this post. He’ll show you a good time off duty.”

“Hmm,” Buck replied, rolling his eyes at the sight of William with his supplies, limping off toward the agency building. Joyce nudged Buck in the same direction. Buck considered apologizing to William for past wrongs, but they had been so long ago and far away. Maybe they could just be friendly acquaintances while Buck visited, but when he rounded the ugly adobe building he saw a familiar scene that hardened his heart.

An older gentleman praised William’s drawings. Wherever William went, people took him under their wings. Thankful had even asked Buck to see how William was and it annoyed him. William was fine. Lieutenant Joyce led Buck along the sandy pathway to meet the missionary and his artist.

“Greetings!” Kenyon called to them.

“Mr. Kenyon, this is Cadet Buck Crenshaw all the way from West Point for a visit.”

“That’s quite a journey,” Kenyon said with a grin and real interest. “Crenshaw, hmm, oh you’re Miss Crenshaw’s brother. She spoke of you over a supper at Fort Grant. How’s your head?”

Buck smiled for the first time in months. William didn’t watch his step and stumbled back when trying to make way for Buck to shake Kenyon’s hand. The missionary grabbed his shoulder to right him.

Buck’s smile disappeared when he formally, very formally extended his hand to William. “How are you, William?”

“I’m fine,” William replied, pulling a cigar from his pocket and lighting it.

“Well, I hope we can leave the past behind us,” Buck said stiffly and grudgingly.

“No, I don’t think so,” William replied, blowing smoke.

“Well, that’s no way to be, boys,” Kenyon commented. “I promised to watch Mr. Weldon’s back so I hope you’ll be kind, cadet.”

William went red.

Buck laughed. “Always someone watches Willy’s back. I guess it’s a way of getting attention.”

“Go to hell, Buck, and stop the blasted whispering!” William said.

Buck shielded his eyes from the late sun. “Listen, William, I don’t want to start things off badly.”

“Fine, neither do I.” William offered him a cigar, but Buck refused it. “So you’ve seen Thankful then? How is she?”

Buck’s countenance changed again. “Sorry, I don’t want to talk about that. I was angry with her.”

“Me too.”

Buck saw that William knew of Thankful’s condition. “My mother isn’t happy about any of it.”

“Your mother knows?”

“I mean about the wedding,” Buck said.

Joyce said not a word.

William glanced at Kenyon. “Well, Lieutenant Fahy isn’t so bad. And what’s happened to your face, Buck? Did you fall off the train or something?”

“No, they slit my neck when I couldn’t breathe and well, it’s a long story,” Buck said. “My father thinks maybe I have a condition—nothing heals right. I might not be officer material after all. Depends . . .”

“Shit, Buck.” William sympathized with him for a moment. “They won’t keep you out for a few cuts will they?”

“It’s my voice,” Buck said, pointing to his throat.

“Oh.” William scooped up his art supplies.

They stood at loose ends until Fahy strode up with his hat tipped to the back of his head, looking more relaxed and jovial with the women behind him. “For God’s sake, where’s the funeral?” he asked, bumming a cigarette from Joyce. “Save any souls today, Kenyon? The Apaches are a hard bunch, aren’t they?”

“I do what I can and leave the rest to God,” Kenyon said.

Fahy waved his finger. “Sorry Kenyon, but that’s a lazy attitude to take.”

“Mr. Fahy, I’ve been meaning to ask you if it might be possible to retest the scales—the older women begin to complain about their sugar. . .” Kenyon said. “I was told, also, that the condemned uniforms were to be given to the destitute—not sold.”

“So now you’re an expert on military orders, sir?” Fahy asked, folding his arms. “I’m trying to teach them economy. These people are the most improvident I’ve ever met. They feast on ten days rations in two or three and then beg off the others. If we give the blouses and things for free they don’t value them. They must learn a lesson—like the rest of us—save some for tomorrow.”

“You must have learned that lesson well, Lieutenant Fahy, to have the funds for Thankful’s ring,” Buck said.

William took a long satisfied drag of his cigar.

“I learn all of my lessons well, cadet,” Fahy said, messing Buck’s hair with an impatient laugh. “No one gets so roughed up at the academy unless they deserve it. Maybe you have more to learn yourself. So tonight we’ll have a social in honor of our visitor—soon to be my brother-in-law and I suppose you holy Joes can come along if it’s not past your bedtime. I am glad to meet one of the clan, Buck and I don’t mean to give you a hard time. I’m just aggravated at my luck—that Britton Davis is a favorite and gets all the notice. He’s off after Geronimo and I’m stuck here.”

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Fiction: East Meets West

Lieutenant Fahy cursed to himself. While he baked in the sun weighing sugar at San Carlos, the rest of his battalion prepared for the field against Geronimo. The assignment of handing out weekly rations to the Apache women was a great slap in the face. Fahy considered leaving the army if he didn’t have excitement soon. He read Thankful’s note testily:

Dearest Lieutenant,

My prayers about your safety have been answered with the news that you won’t join the others in the field. I am waiting to tell you something and want you here desperately. But do stay on at the reservation until your unit is out. I don’t understand why the men are so excited. They mustn’t care at all for us women who worry ourselves to death! I know that you will want for me to wish Lieutenant Barnhart all the best luck as he was picked to take your place. He is terrible down spirited about it. Some say he is a coward, but he seems just an overly sensitive fellow.

I have sent someone out to see you. I hope that you will like him as he is dear to me.

I love you, I love you, I love you.

Affectionate regards,

Thankful Crenshaw

Across the way and under a fly tent shaded by branches sat William sketching the Apache women as they squabbled over the weight of this or that. When the military took over handling the annuities, the weights had been fixed fairly, but the Indians, wary of being cheated in the past, kept a close eye. More often than not now it was the Indian women coming in with gathered hay for the army mounts who fixed their bundles with rocks hidden in the middle. The women didn’t trust the new unhappy officer.

Fahy fumed seeing William recording this less than heroic duty as if to purposely annoy him. And there was one of Kenyon’s missionaries handing an old and befuddled Apache a Bible tract in English. It would be almost laughable if it wasn’t so damned stupid. The missionaries had a way of getting involved in everything. They were energetic—he’d give them that.

Fahy figured the old shriveled heathen would use the paper covered with indecipherable words for kindling. And wasn’t it the government who spent money and men on these foolish American evangelists when the funds could be better spent on paying army personnel proper salaries or at least supplying them with more desert-friendly uniforms?

“No stone in bag? No stone in BAG?”

“Pardon?” Fahy asked the young woman before him. “Oh, no, it’s a perfectly fair measure . . .”

The willowy squaw with high cheekbones didn’t understand a word. Fahy admired her, sighing as he surveyed the crowd of women enjoying this waste of a day and wondered how he’d get through it, but luck shined upon him and the visitor Thankful had promised arrived.

Lieutenant Joyce called to Fahy. “Bully for us. A visitor bearing gifts.”

A young man dressed in a partial West Point uniform and a bandage around his head trailed Joyce.

The lieutenant stepped away from the scales to the annoyance of the women.

“Fahy, here’s someone you need to meet,” Joyce said with a grin. “Can you guess who it is? I did on the first go.”

Fahy fumed. While his men were out chasing Apaches, he was expected to entertain boys from the East? Fahy looked the cadet over for signs of the usual West Point arrogance he despised. The cadet on holiday had no mirth–just weird eyes and a pretentious cravat around his neck. “Should I know him?” Fahy asked Joyce, giving the intense young man a challenging stare.

“You are to marry my sister, sir,” Buck whispered.

“What? Why are you whispering?” Fahy demanded.

“Fahy, Thankful’s brother. . .” Joyce said.

“Oh, shit, you’re one of the twins from the Point! I should have seen it a mile away although you look nothing like I imagined.”

“Yes, well I guess you’ve heard of my troubles,” Buck said, touching his head.

Fahy rubbed his chin. “No, I don’t think so.”

“Fahy! You must be joking,” Joyce interfered. “He’s all Thankful ever talks about—worrying after him.”

“Oh, yes, that’s right. Something about a colored cadet roughing you up.”

“No.” Buck replied.

“No need to whisper, cadet. Men respect a strong voice,” Fahy said, slapping Buck’s back too hard.

Joyce cringed. “Seems the young man’s voice is damaged, lieutenant.”

“Oh, he’s sent here to recuperate then. Good. That’s nice for Thankful. She’s wanting company and I expect to be out in the field soon. She’s been a fair bit homesick of late.” Fahy caught Buck’s unfriendly look. “What’s the matter? Has something happened with Thankful?”

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Fiction: Illegitimate

After Kenyon’s missionary friends are openly hostile to William joining their mission to the new Indian reservation at San Carlos, William blanches at the idea of first traveling back to Fort Grant to request a military escort but he has no other options.

calvary officer and womanBy late day the team of missionaries and their hungover artist rolled up at Fort Grant’s entrance. William hung behind the others, but a guard spotted him.

“Sakes alive, it’s Bill Weldon. What’s he doin’ in among holy folk?” one asked another.

William kept his eyes to the ground with crimson cheeks as he walked along Officers’ Row.

“Willy? Willy!” came Thankful’s cry.

William tried his best to ignore the raven-haired beauty who ran after him. Thankful caught the heavily burdened men. “Oh, goodness, William Weldon, what’s happened to you?” Thankful exclaimed, grabbing his arm. “New clothes and all—and your hair! You look adorable!” she laughed.

“Thankful, it’s nothing really, I . . .”

Seth Kenyon and the other men tipped their hats.

“Hello, young lady. We’ve hired on your friend as our artist,” Kenyon said.

Thankful clapped her hands in amusement. “Did you make him cut his hair that way?”

Kenyon laughed.

“No, Thankful, it was Ginny,” William said.

Thankful’s face clouded and her mouth was grim.

“We’re missionaries, miss, to work among the Apaches at San Carlos,” Kenyon said.

Thankful kept her eyes on William. “I don’t understand, Willy—you’re going with them? It’s dangerous there.”

“Yes, I’m going for the money—that’s all—the money.”

Thankful turned to the missionaries. “Oh, I’ve prayed for so long that William would leave town—but the reservation, Mr. Kenyon? Do you think he’s fit for it?”

William winced. And Thankful saw it.

“By the way, gentlemen, my name is Thankful Crenshaw. I stay with Captain Markham’s family. If there’s anything I can do for you . . .”

The missionaries were suddenly all smiles. “Miss Crenshaw, you’re very kind. We’re off to headquarters . . .” Kenyon said. “But if you can keep Mr. Weldon out of trouble for a few minutes, I’d appreciate it,” he teased and slapped William’s back.

William didn’t want to go anywhere near the officers at headquarters but didn’t relish a conversation with Thankful either. The men deserted him.

Thankful laughed.

“I know that I’m ridiculous to you,” William mumbled, rubbing his close-cropped mane.

“Oh, no, William! Not at all. Was it only two days ago that you were drunk at the dance? And now you’re to become a missionary? It’s exciting and wonderful for you—though scary, but I’m glad that awful Miss Peckham had such an effect on you.”

“I’m not going to be a missionary, Thankful and Miss Peckham had no effect on me at all! And why do you have to mention my drinking all the time?” William grumbled.

Thankful sighed and tied her bonnet tighter. “Willy, I’m happy for you. I laughed because now with your hair you look so like you used to in Englewood—but appearances are deceiving, I suppose. You are the man the West has made you,” she said with bite.

“I’m glad I’m not the way I was in Englewood—a burden and a fool.”

“I don’t know what you mean, Willy.”

Two riders and their horses streaked past, circled and came up beside them. Miss Peckham and Fahy dismounted. “My God, Bill, you’ve been scalped!” Fahy laughed too heartily and Miss Peckham joined in. Fahy continued, “I wouldn’t have expected you to show yourself here for a while after what you did to poor Miss Peckham’s things.”

“Be quiet, Lieutenant Fahy,” Thankful scolded. “William has found work with the missionaries.”

“The missionaries? You must be joking,” Miss Peckham responded. “They must be desperate for recruits!”

“They seem nice,” Thankful said.

“Nice until you’re snared in, and they’ve taken over your life!” Miss Peckham replied.

“I won’t be snared,” William explained. “I’m just looking to be paid.”

“There’s the Bill Weldon we know and love,” joked Fahy.

“Well, all I can say is that I’d never want to be involved with religious types,” said Miss Peckham, “selling the ignorant tribes a false bill of goods in the form of ancient bedtime stories. They’re no better than the contractors skimming annuities.”

“The Indians deserve no better. Don’t you agree, Bill? Didn’t your uncle die at the hands of savages?” Fahy asked.

“Yes, I’m no fan of Indians,” William replied.

“The best thing to do is to not allow any more undesirables have children until everything is sorted out,” Miss Peckham said.

“When will the world be sorted out? Humanity is fallen . . .” Thankful began.

“Humanity is capable of much improvement,” Miss Peckham asserted. “I for one don’t plan to wait for divine intervention. We can, through science and understanding, create a wonderful society. No missionary I know of has been able to keep Indians from debauchery and still they multiply—like the Irish.”

“I’m Irish, you remember, Miss Peckham,” Fahy said, twirling his mustache between his fingers.

“You’re hardly the type I’m talking about—you have control. The swarms of illegitimate children back east are very troubling indeed,” Miss Peckham explained.

William caught a desperate look on Thankful’s face. “Thankful, I’m surprised to see you not out riding. Are you unwell?” he asked.

His question cut to the bone. William saw it and felt like a cad, but how could Thankful be so stupid to give herself to Fahy before marriage?

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“Rich and colorful page turners. Morris has a fine sense of time and place and brings her memorable characters to life. She also tells a captivating story. You won’t find it easy to put her book down, and her characters will stay with you when you do. We can only hope she keeps writing and gives us more episodes in this fascinating chronicle.”

Task of a Poet

“To hear never-heard sounds,
To see never-seen colors and shapes,
To try to understand the imperceptible
Power pervading the world;
To fly and find pure ethereal substances
That are not of matter
But of that invisible soul pervading reality.
To hear another soul and to whisper to another soul;
To be a lantern in the darkness
Or an umbrella in a stormy day;
To feel much more than know.
To be the eyes of an eagle, slope of a mountain;
To be a wave understanding the influence of the moon;
To be a tree and read the memory of the leaves;
To be an insignificant pedestrian on the streets
Of crazy cities watching, watching, and watching.
To be a smile on the face of a woman
And shine in her memory
As a moment saved without planning.”

DEJAN STOJANOVIC

Painting: Venus Veiling Pandora by Charles Courtney Curran

Family Histories: How Family Can Be A Driving Force in Your Writing

Welcome to Family Histories, a series of guest posts by some of my favorite bloggers in which they explore family . . . and history. The families and histories are sometimes their own and sometimes not.

This week JACQUI MURRAY discusses how her children’s military careers inspired her writing.

Family History and It’s Part in My Writing

Jacqui MurrayThank you so much, Adrienne (author of The Tenafly Road Series), for inviting me to participate in this wonderful exploration of families. When I received Adrienne’s invitation, my knee-jerk reaction was it didn’t fit me. My stories about ancient man (the upcoming Born in a Treacherous Time) and my Tech-in-Ed writing didn’t have obvious connections to my family; they were tangential at best.

And then I thought about my novels, in the Rowe-Delamagente series. Lots of you know my daughter is a Naval Officer, my son an Army Sergeant, and my husband a saint, but I don’t say much about my family beyond that. Yet, they have been the driving force behind my writing. Here’s a rundown:

Building a Midshipman

This is a personal how-to on preparing for and applying to the United States Naval Academy.  It’s based on my daughter’s experience in high school where she first thought such a selective school was out of her reach and then was accepted into a life-changing activity that would change her forever. My daughter wasn’t the 4.0 (or 5.0 if you’re an IB school) student, the hardest-working or the one with all the answers but as it turns out, that’s not who USNA wants anyway. They wanted tenacious, never-give-up, critically-thinking applicants who always had another way to solve problems. They might as well have stuck her picture by the profile. I wanted to share her story so other high school girls who might think they could never be good enough for an Ivy League college like USNA would think again.

I wrote Building a Midshipman in about two weeks by replaying in my mind how my daughter had accomplished this feat.

To Hunt a Sub

jacqui murray 3This story comes from time spent with friends of my daughters from the Naval Academy who had served on or were serving in the Silent Service. It is a story of brain vs. brawn, creative thinking, and the importance of family in our lives, but at its core is patriotism. Many of my ancestors were in the military though I wasn’t, and by the time I started writing this book, both my children were committed to their paths. I respect the patriotism, single-mindedness, and stalwartness of our warriors–this story reflects that.

This book took about five years to write. I think being my first fiction book, I had little faith in its success so was afraid to turn it loose.

Twenty-four Days

This story takes place in large part on a US warship, the USS Bunker Hill. This was my daughter’s first ship after graduating from the Naval Academy. She secured amazing access for me during my research to the ship and its people. She put herself way out there to help me. For that I am forever grateful.

It took about three years to publish, slowed down a bit because I had an agent at one point, from whom I parted amicably.

Book 3 of the Rowe-Delamagente Series

This third in the series deals with satellites and the weaponization of space–in a nod toward my Army Signal Corps son. I’ve barely begun the outline so I don’t have a good sense of where it’s going but I do know it will be an action-packed thriller where Otto and a new AI friend Ascii will play a major role.

Born in a Treacherous Time

For this book, I go way back on my family tree, long before man was even man, to 1.8 million years ago. It’s always amazed me how our ancestors survived a world filled with vicious predators, not the least of which was the more improved iteration of man. That’s what I explore in this book, Born in a Treacherous Time.

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, and the thrillers, To Hunt a Sub and  Twenty-four DaysShe is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer,  a columnist for TeachHUB, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.

***Please visit next Sunday for the next guest post!

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