Venture Galleries http://venturegalleries.com Connecting Readers, Writers, and Books Thu, 28 Apr 2016 10:45:36 +0000 en-US hourly 1 If somebody buys it, then you have a good book. http://venturegalleries.com/blog/if-somebody-buys-it-then-you-have-a-good-book/ http://venturegalleries.com/blog/if-somebody-buys-it-then-you-have-a-good-book/#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 07:40:28 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=75401 When a writer with the book selling success of Jerry Jenkins talks, I listen. I WAS DRIVING through Louisiana this week on my way to a funeral, trolling radio stations that kept fading in and fading out and changing from country music to rap,... Read more

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When a writer with the success of Jerry Jenkins talks, I listen.

When a writer with the book selling success of Jerry Jenkins talks, I listen.

I WAS DRIVING through Louisiana this week on my way to a funeral, trolling radio stations that kept fading in and fading out and changing from country music to rap, from conservative talk shows to air sucking preachers with almost every passing mile. The one clear channel I found was a religious station where the hosts, two counselors, were interviewing Jerry Jenkins.

He’s a writer.

He’s a very good writer.

He’s a very successful writer.

He and Tim LaHaye created and engineered the famed “Left Behind” series based on a world struggling to survive during and after the rapture, the return of Christ. In doing so, they triggered a brand new approach and appreciation for real Christian fiction. No longer did it have to be interwoven with devotionals. No longer did it have to be smitten with heavy doses of a fundamentalist denomination.

Now novels could be real fiction with real plots and real characters, and a whole new breed of Christian fiction writers began churning out murder mysteries, complete with serial killers, thrillers, complete with assassinations, and books about almost any kind of crime within the intriguing confines of Amish communities. Romance? Sure, as long as we didn’t go behind closed doors once they were slammed shut. There is even at least one good, solid Christian novel with a vampire running amuck.

Jerry Jenkins and LaHaye, in 2005, were ranked ninth on Amazon’s tenth anniversary Hall of Fame Authors, based on the number of books sold at Amazon.com during the decade. Sixteen books written by Jerry Jenkins have reached the New York Times bestseller list, and the “Left Behind” series of twelve novels have sold more than sixty million copies.

When Jenkins speaks. I listen.

He points out one single problem created by the plethora of authors turning out a plethora of books these days. So many people, he says, believe that if they can write a complete sentence, they can write a book.

He was once visiting with a counselor who told him, “When I have the time, I think I’ll try my hand at writing.”

Jenkins smiled.

“That’s great,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to help people. Maybe I can start counseling them like you do.”

The counselor frowned. “But you can’t do this job without the proper training,” he said.

Jenkins raised his eyebrows. “Oh,” he said, “so let me see if I’ve got this straight. I need training to do what you do, but all you need in order to do what I do is a little spare time.”

It doesn’t work that way, he said.

Good writers train for their profession. They read a lot. They journal a lot. They blog a lot. They study other writers. They take as many writing classes as they can and take advantage of every writing conference they can attend.”

Writing is indeed a profession. It needs professionals.

Amateurs need not apply.

What’s the difference? He told the story of Red Adair, who gained fame around the world by taking his team into the most difficult of places, fighting raging infernos, and extinguishing giant oil well blowouts. Adair charged a million dollars just to show up. Then the cost really began to skyrocket.

He was once criticized for charging so much money for his services. Adair simply shrugged his shoulders and said, “If you think it’s costly to hire a professional, you should see how much it’s gonna cost you to hire an amateur.”

The fire might burn until there’s no oil left to burn. And at a hundred dollars a barrel, a fortune could be lost by amateurs messing around with water buckets and hoses spouting foam.

A professional writer has an outside chance for success. Amateurs, unless they are born with literary genius, and some are, face an even longer and more difficult struggle.

The host finally asked the question I knew would ultimately be asked. All I had to do was wait. “What do you think about self-publishing?” Jenkins was asked.

“Until a year or so ago,” he said, “I firmly believed that writers should work with agents and a publishing house that would pay them for their book. I don’t believe that anymore.”

“Why not?”

“In today’s publishing world,” Jenkins said, “it is so hard and practically impossible to find a good agent, much less a good publisher. A writer simply has too many odds against him. If he has a good book, I don’t see any reason why it shouldn’t be self published.”

Don’t trust an agent, he said. Don’t trust a publishing house. Bookstores are closing. There is only one critic that counts. “The readers will tell you if your work is any good,” Jenkins said. “If they buy it, you have a good book.”

Then again, he said, that’s the way it’s always been.

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Angling for Ideas, fishing for inspiration http://venturegalleries.com/blog/angling-for-ideas-fishing-for-inspiration/ http://venturegalleries.com/blog/angling-for-ideas-fishing-for-inspiration/#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 06:55:36 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=75398 Fishing for walleye.            In recent years, when unable to find a column topic, I reassured myself that one could join the crowd and write about politics. Thankfully, within minutes, inspiration would invariably – maybe... Read more

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Fishing for walleye.

Fishing for walleye.

          

In recent years, when unable to find a column topic, I reassured myself that one could join the crowd and write about politics.

Thankfully, within minutes, inspiration would invariably – maybe reluctantly – intervene. For example, the following thought surfaced, but in fishing vernacular, was definitely not a keeper:

Memo to self: never again – under any circumstances – watch “Young Frankenstein,” hear soundbites from Presidential candidates and read an article about a political appointee offering to donate his brain for research in close proximity to one another.

In comparison, I refer to Dave Barry’s observation: never take a laxative and a sleeping pill on the same night. This advice/information fits comfortably on the product’s packaging, but hardly expands into a full newspaper column.

While mulling the extensive list of reality shows dotting the TV menu collectively termed “Keeping Up with the Party Down South,” I suggested consolidation into a single location, termed the (rhymes with “glass pole”) Network.

“Too late,” my daughter said primly during our weekly lunch, “There is one, and it’s called Fox News.”

Describing the snort of laughter and accompanying rapid expulsion of rice and yellow squash from one’s nostrils should be limited to a single sentence as well, since I indiscreetly mentioned it in the first place.

Stephen Lang

Stephen Lang

Therefore, when the going gets tough, the tough can go fishing, but in West Texas, finding a place to go is tougher than most places. I have not fished since moving here, but will note, with a few exceptions, that the general topography here is best suited for dry fly casting and trolling for dust trout.

While Texas offers only a handful of natural lakes for 250-plus counties, Minnesota sports 11,842 (10 acres or larger) for eighty-seven, which made fishing a process sufficiently simple to hold my attention. As a youth, fishable waters were literally a short bike ride away.

Years ago, my father noted, “Fish at the same mentality of the fish,” which I slowly came to comprehend as finding where they hang out and feeding them what they like to eat.

Not that basic approach would guarantee success, particularly when our basic equipment often proved faulty, defective and sometimes, still in the trunk of the car when we were in the boat. To parody Shakespeare, “My kingdom for a landing net!”

My angling history, largely compiled in Minnesota, is dominated by tales of the ones that got away, often in peculiar circumstances. Once, a friend and I were catching walleyes with regularity, but after lifting the fish basket to drop in our fourth or fifth fish, noticed that seconds after the depositing the catch, it zipped out a hole in the side.

As soon as we pulled out a stringer for a back-up plan, the walleyes stopped biting. A week later, with a new fish basket, we trolled the waters again, snaring a marble-eye on the first pass. I lifted the new basket, deposited the fish, then watched basket separate from handle as I lowered it over the side.

I learned the hard way why fishing with a member of the constabulary is not always a good idea, and it had nothing to do with stretching the limits of the law.

Forty years ago, two of my regular fin-and-feathers companions were the city attorney and a city police officer. Together, we sat in goose blinds, waded swamps, tromped the fields and shared space in fishing boats.

Our respective professions provided ample fodder for round-robin jest and ridicule, but on one occasion, Officer Dave apparently carried some irksome work issues in his tackle box.

Usually, I was the guy dipping the landing net for my partners, but on this evening, the walleyes found my hook first. As I progressively reeled first one fish, then another, into the net, Dave’s grumbling about the inequity of bites grew louder and louder.

Finally, as I pulled in a third walleye and Lawyer Mike lowered the net, Dave jumped up, grabbed an oar and smacked the water with such vigor that the fish decided to head back to his school.

The entertainment value of the moment continues to pay off in dividends, as I’m still laughing. And speaking of sweet revenge, my Uncle Fud exacted some a few years later.

During a summer of much trolling with little success, Fud usually came home each evening with his limit, snared on the very waters others called “The Dead Sea.”

Dave’s uncle, the local game warden, grew suspicious, and invited himself along on Fud’s next excursion. Fud blithely suggested the warden meet him at the public access at 10 the following morning.

Knowing the solunar tables, the warden suggested to Fud that 10 a.m. may not be the most favorable time to wet a line, but Fud, unconcerned, continued to motor toward a shady bay. The warden kept up a steady negative discourse throughout a half-hour boat ride.

As he pulled into the bay, Fud quickly cut the engine, reached into his tackle box, pulled out a stick of dynamite, lit it and tossed it over his shoulder. Seconds after the explosion, stunned bass, northern pike and walleyes of varying sizes floated to the surface.

The warden, equally stunned, proceeded to inform Fud of his numerous misdemeanors, when Fud placed a lighted stick of dynamite in his hand and asked:

“Now, Mr. Warden, are you going to talk or are you going to fish?”

            Steve Lang has numerous fish stories, some as tasty as his last trout dinner.

 

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Who was this man who touched the lives of millions? http://venturegalleries.com/blog/who-was-this-man-who-touched-the-lives-of-millions/ http://venturegalleries.com/blog/who-was-this-man-who-touched-the-lives-of-millions/#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 06:50:06 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=75395 Rev. Stanley Jones with Mar Thoma Church members in Kerala, India. Photo: Nalloor Library. LAST WEEK I WROTE about an elderly man – Frank Laubach – and an elderly woman – Corrie ten Boom – who even when they had grown old touched the... Read more

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Rev. Stanley Jones with Mar Thoma Church members in Kerala, India. Photo: Nalloor Library.

Rev. Stanley Jones with Mar Thoma Church members in Kerala, India. Photo: Nalloor Library.

LAST WEEK I WROTE about an elderly man – Frank Laubach – and an elderly woman – Corrie ten Boom – who even when they had grown old touched the lives of millions of people.

Today I want to tell you about another great man – Dr. E. Stanley Jones – who in his seventies and eighties continued to minister to people throughout the world.

I first met Dr. Jones in northern Japan back in the 1960s. He was visiting the Island of Hokkaido for an Ashram or convocation. It was my honor to serve as his host for a week and I spent hours talking to this great man and learning from him.

Bill Keith

Bill Keith

Dr. Jones was a Methodist missionary to India for 50 years. During those years he and Mahatma Gandhi became friends. Gandhi was the “Father of the Nation” of India and was the leader in that country’s independence movement from British rule.

But Dr. Jones was more than a missionary. After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt called on Dr. Jones to be in charge of the repatriation of all Japanese nationals back to their homeland.

After the war, Dr. Jones also became acquainted with Emperor Hirohito of Japan. He urged the emperor to embrace Christianity and lead Japan to become a Christian nation. Unfortunately, the emperor refused.

Although Dr. Jones became one of the best known missionary/evangelists in the world, he started his ministry in India working among the low castes and outcastes of India. However, after only a few years, he had burned out and was sick in body, soul and spirit.

“So I decided to give up and return to the United States,” he told me.

Before his planned departure from India, he attended an Indian youth conference where about a thousand young people were meeting in an outdoor amphitheater.

“All of those young people were dressed in flowing white garments and I sat in the back of the amphitheater and watched them as they worshipped the Lord,” he said.

Then Dr. Jones told me that night something quite mystical took place in his life. He said he received a supernatural touch from the Lord. “I was healed in body, soul and spirit.”

That night he prayed and made a covenant promise to God that he would not return home but would continue to serve Him in India and throughout the world. He kept that promise for another fifty years.

A Methodist bishop once called him “the greatest Christian missionary since Saint Paul.”

While in India, he wrote a book on the subject of Gandhi’s non-violent demonstrations. “It was just a little book and never had a very wide circulation. But I learned that Martin Luther King, Jr., read the book and was so impressed with Gandhi’s non-violent demonstrations he chose the same methods for his civil rights movement in America.”

In 1971, when he was eighty-eight, he had a stroke while leading a Christian Ashram. The stroke impaired him spiritually, but not mentally or spiritually. In the month of June the next year, although he was in a wheel chair, he delivered a message at the First Christian Ashram World Congress in Jerusalem.

He died on Jan. 25, 1973, in his beloved India.

I will always have wonderful memories of the week I spent with this great man of God and am thankful for the inspiration and blessing he brought into my life.

Bill Keith is the author of The Prayer Bag:

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Thursday Sampler: Seer of Souls by Susan Faw http://venturegalleries.com/blog/thursday-sampler-seer-of-souls-by-susan-faw/ http://venturegalleries.com/blog/thursday-sampler-seer-of-souls-by-susan-faw/#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 06:40:37 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=75391 In our mission to connect readers, writers, and books, Venture Galleries is showcasing some of the best authors in the marketplace today. Thursday’s Sampler features an excerpt from Seer of Souls, a fantasy epic by Susan Faw. As one... Read more

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In our mission to connect readers, writers, and books, Venture Galleries is showcasing some of the best authors in the marketplace today. Thursday’s Sampler features an excerpt from Seer of Souls, a fantasy epic by Susan Faw.

As one reviewer said: Faw’s work is innovative while still paying homage to the best hallmarks of fantasy, bringing readers an engaging story inspired by the breath of new life, like forging a new path through a well-loved forest.

The Story

To save the world, they must be born of the world. The battles between the Kingdom of Cathair and the Primordial forces at Daimon Ford are the stuff of legends. Desperate to save the world, two immortals choose to be reborn as mortals, wiping away all memory of their divine existence.

But even as Cayden, and his twin sister Avery make the ultimate sacrifice, other gods are plotting against them. At the point of birth, divine intervention and powerful, ancient magic are called upon to snatch their souls from the dying flesh of a princess’s poisoned womb. The royal family of the Kingdom of Cathair has always been the physical Spirit Shield of the world.

With the murder of the entire royal family, who guards the secrets within the castle walls? Can the magic of the gods, old and new, ensure the safe keeping of the immortal treasure within, and if they fail, who will choose for the unborn?

Helga, the goddess of the underworld, is not amused and has set into play a diabolical scheme of her own. There is a little place called Sanctuary by the Sea and chaos is about to pay a visit…

This is Seer of Souls, Book one of the Spirit Shield Saga, a fantasy read for all ages.

The Sampler

Susan Faw

Susan Faw

The baby gave a feeble, barely discernable kick. Its twin had ceased movement but not with the natural stillness of slumber. Poison moved through their premature bodies, oozing along their tiny veins, a burning acid in their blood.

Mordecai lifted his hand from the woman’s sweaty forehead. Gwen’s panicked eyes locked onto his sad grey ones. She clutched her distended belly as another wave of pain ripped through her.

“It must be poison! This is more than simple birthing pangs.” She coughed and the motion made bile rise in her throat. Gwen clutched at Mordecai’s left hand, gripping it so tight the knuckles of her hand whitened. “It’s reaching the babies! Mordecai, what do we do?”

Straightening his lanky frame, he released her hand and wandered over to the tall mullioned window of the bartizan room. His sweeping brows pinched together in a frown as he gazed unseeingly at the silent courtyard below him. Purple wisteria climbed the ashlar walls of the castle, revealing their stark outlines. A fresh breeze stirred the heavy tapestry curtains as lightning flashed, highlighting the roiling clouds, puffing in eager anticipation of the storm breaking over the castle.

Her seclusion was for her protection. Gwen’s grief over Prince Alexander’s failure to return from his most recent patrol with the Kingsmen twisted in her gut, accentuating the pain of the poison.

The prince and all of the Kingsmen in his unit had been slaughtered by Primordials in a sudden vicious attack. This sorrowful news had arrived on the heels of the king’s death from a heart attack a week prior. The kingdom was reeling from the double disaster. And now it’s my turn. I am the target, she thought.

Gwen coughed and froth formed in her mouth, drowning her thoughts. Her lungs attempted to fill but failed. Intense pressure gripped her chest as though a large man with a booted foot stood on it compressing it. She pushed aside her discomfort and staggered over to join the wizard at the window. She clutched a handful of his grey robe sleeve, partly to gain his attention and partly to keep from sinking to the floor.

“Please, Mordecai, I must save my babies! What can I do? There has to be a way to help them. Between your magic and my heritage, there must be a way.”

Mordecai’s mouth drooped beneath his long white beard. “I can only think of one solution, Gwen” he said gently. “You must pass the mother bond to me.” Tears sparked in her almond-shaped eyes as he locked his to hers. “I think we both know that you cannot survive this poison.” He squeezed her hands. “We need to convince Alcina the babes have died with you.”

Gwen’s liquid green eyes searched and found steely resolve reflected in his grey ones. She nodded once and unconsciously rubbed one hand across her protruding belly, where the foot of the lone stirring child pushed against the thin protection of her skin.

“We need do this quickly, Gwen. The birth will take most of your remaining strength, and they must be born alive in order to pass the bond.”

She groaned again as a hard contraction took her. The twisting pain of a poison-filled cramp left her gasping for air as she sank to her knees beside the wizard. She raised her head, panting. “I do not think that is a problem, Mordecai.”

Mordecai gently eased her onto her back, on the cold stone floor. Reaching inside his pocket, he took out a clear crystal stone and placed it between her cold hands, clasping them with in his own. Together, they began to chant.

***

The late-day sun streamed through the garden-view windows of the bartizan room. Dust motes stirred in a breeze heavy with the smell of damp earth and wisteria. A few trailing clouds scuttled across the sky in an attempt to catch the storm moving off to the east, low rumbles fading softly into the distance.

With a groan, Mordecai sank back to his knees on the polished floor beside the princess. Gwen’s sweat-soaked brown hair curled damply over her curiously shaped ears. Dark circles shadowed her eyes; eyes that stared back at him from a deathly pale face.
She lay on the floor, her bloodstained gown bunched to one side. Beside her, wrapped in cotton swaddling, were two newborn infants, a boy and a girl.

Both children were dead.

A tiny red birthmark, resembling the shape of an oak leaf, adorned the right side of each smooth cheek. The tattoos faded away before his eyes. Mordecai smiled a grim smile and trailed a thin finger down the soft cheeks where the tattoos had appeared so briefly, sensing the residue of magic under the skin.

Gwen lifted her hand and caressed the cheeks of her two babes. A hot tear trickled out of the corner of her eye. She would never know them, nor they her.

Mordecai lifted the children and placed them in her arms. She hugged them and wept silently, tears streaming down onto the cherubic face of the closest child.

Gwen’s mournful eyes lifted to the man standing beside her.
“Are they truly safe now, Mordecai?” Her weak voice shook with supressed emotion.

“They are as safe as we can make them, Gwen.”

She touched his sleeve. “Thank you,” she murmured weakly. “You have been a true friend.” She stiffened, sucking in a hard breath that ended abruptly. Her eyes widened as the soul in their emerald depths faded away. Her hand slipped from his sleeve and thudded to the floor.

Mordecai gently closed her eyes, squeezing his own shut to dam the tears sliding down his whiskered face.

“Sleep well, Gwen, and welcome the peaceful embrace of the Mother.”

He staggered to a chair by the open window. Leaning out over the stone ledge, he saw a dead eagle on the stones below. He dropped back into the chair beside the window and gazed out at the setting sun. The last of the storm clouds faded into the distance. Little did they know that they carried the hopes and dreams of the world in their midst.

Pain stabbed into Mordecai’s chest and he sucked in a deep breath. If his calculations were correct, he had little more than a half hour left. The poison was completing its job.

Well, his task was finished. What would be would be. Eyes opened wide, he watched the sun creep toward the horizon. The rays of the setting sun blazed through the retreating clouds, glowing pink and orange. His lips curved with satisfaction. It was done.

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Three rules of life you should never forget. http://venturegalleries.com/blog/three-rules-of-life-you-should-never-forget/ http://venturegalleries.com/blog/three-rules-of-life-you-should-never-forget/#comments Wed, 27 Apr 2016 08:00:59 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=75379 Remember that sin isn't sin if good people do it. I LIKE RULES that come bunched in threes. So as we consider writing tips about matters legal, I thought I would share the three rules of a lawyer's life. First, a word about the list's... Read more

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Remember that sin isn't sin if good people do it.

Remember that sin isn’t sin if good people do it.

I LIKE RULES that come bunched in threes.

So as we consider writing tips about matters legal, I thought I would share the three rules of a lawyer’s life.

First, a word about the list’s origin.

Many years ago, I had some business with an old attorney who was nearing the end of his career.  On this particular day, he was in a philosophical mood.  After we finished our work, he told me a story about a conversation he had with  a legendary prosecutor from Central Texas.

According to my acquaintance, the prosecutor shared with him the three things he had learned about life as a result of practicing law for more than twenty-five years.

So this is my version of a second-hand list that may have been edited along the way.

Rule One: Blood is thicker than water.

Stephen Woodfin

Stephen Woodfin

A lawyer doesn’t have to handle very many cases before he understands this one.  Family connections are dynamite.  And they can cut both ways.  If the relationship is good, no one need think he can dilute it with the niceties of the law.  If there is bad blood between family members, no one will ever change it.  Don’t even try.

Rule Two: Sin ain’t sin if good people do it

This is my favorite of the three. There are laws written in books and laws written in our hearts.  Sometimes these match, sometimes the written law gives way.

In East Texas, where I live, people go to church on Sunday morning and say ‘amen’ when the preacher rants against gambling. Then they get in their cars and drive to Shreveport to spend a few hours “at the boats.” For those of you who don’t understand the expression “at the boats,” let me explain. Texas doesn’t have casino gambling.  But in Louisiana, they have casinos built on waterways, floating crap games. So if a person says he “went to the boats” last night, he means he spent the evening gambling.

Sin ain’t sin if good people do it. You get the point.

Now for the grand finale.

Rule Three: It Ain’t No Crime to Shoot a Sonofabitch

Once I was the first assistant DA in a rural Texas county. The first assistant is the guy who runs the grand jury.  The grand jury is a group of citizens that makes the decision whether to indict a person for criminal activity.

I had a case where a local resident started to pull up in his driveway at his home in the country when he saw a guy loading stuff out of his house into a pickup. It was a burglary in progress.  The resident didn’t call the cops. He waited on the side of the road, and when the burglar came out of the driveway, he opened up on him with a deer rifle and killed him.

I presented that case to the members of the grand jury.  They deliberated about three minutes and returned a “no bill.” In other words, they didn’t indict the homeowner.  The reason for their decision was simple: Rule Three.

So, when you are writing fiction about legal matters, remember the three rules.  They will come in handy.

Stephen Woodfin is the author of the Revelation Trilogy, a collection of three legal thrillers.

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There’s a place for music in my novel. http://venturegalleries.com/blog/there-will-be-a-place-in-my-novel-for-music/ http://venturegalleries.com/blog/there-will-be-a-place-in-my-novel-for-music/#comments Wed, 27 Apr 2016 07:40:28 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=75384 MY MIND is made up. When I write my next novel, I will find a place in it for Raymond Burke. He's real. The novel won't be. It doesn't matter. Raymond Burke is the stuff of fiction. When I first met Raymond, he was sitting in... Read more

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Bourbon-street-sign

MY MIND is made up.

When I write my next novel, I will find a place in it for Raymond Burke.

He’s real.

The novel won’t be.

It doesn’t matter.

Raymond Burke is the stuff of fiction.

When I first met Raymond, he was sitting in the darkened corner of a tiny room in a darkened corner of Bourbon Street, far removed from the madding crowd that crushed through the neon alleyways outside, calling to the past with the haunted tones of a clarinet.

Only the song was older than the wrinkled little man who played it. It was familiar, an anthem of sorts in New Orleans: When the Saints Go Marching In. It was a hymn. It was a dirge. It was a parade. It was jazz.

And the interpretation was his own. It always was.

Raymond Burke had probably played The Saints a million times, maybe more, and that, he said, was since sundown. He never played it the same way twice. His clarinet simply expressed the way he felt – sometimes sad, sometimes happy, sometimes lost in the wayward web of his own thoughts. A woman crying. A heart in pain. A restless road. A night without end.

He had seen the saints. He had known the saints. He wasn’t for sure he would ever be one, marching or otherwise. He couldn’t die. He shouldn’t die. Who else would send them to the burying ground with sounds as rauccous as a heartbeat following along behind their final ride.

Raymond Burke

Raymond Burke

From such emotions came forth the distinct and haunting sound called jazz. It evolved from the work camps, the levees, the revival meetings of the Delta poor. It was simple, in older days, broken-hearted blues that took an assortment of lonely notes where they had never been before and might never go again.

Most who really played jazz were born to play jazz. It became their own personal prison, a private kind of hell and confinement that cursed and condemned but seldom ever rewarded them. Fate never let them escape.

Take the lonesome clarinetist Raymond Burke. He gently placed his head back against the wall, cradling his clarinet across his chest and said, “Man, New Orleans is a jazz town. Always was. Still is. When I was growing up, everybody played something. I used to play homemade instruments like a tin flute or a bobbin’ with paper that sounded a lot like a kazoo.”

He was nineteen when he got his first professional job.

A band needed a clarinetist. The band was on the street, in the clubs, back in the alleys, trying to hire a clarinetist.

Raymond Burke walked up out of the darkness and said without any hesitation, “I’m a clarinetist.”

“You pretty good?”

“I’m real good.”

“You got yourself a job.”

Raymond Burke smiled. He did not own a clarinet.  He had heard them, and he said, “I loved the sweet music they put out. But I had never played one.”

Raymond Burke went down into a Louisiana swamp and cut a stick of bamboo, roughly the length of a clarinet. He fixed it with a reed mouthpiece, bought with the advance from his first paycheck, placed graphite on his fingertips, and held the bamboo so it was comfortable in his hands.

Everywhere the graphite left black marks, he drilled a hole. He walked on stage and played that night. He played for a lot of nights.

His bamboo clarinet was in perfect tune.

I’ll find a place in my novel for his kind of jazz.

And I will keep hearing the music long after the final word is written.

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Morning has broken with the bird land’s first song. http://venturegalleries.com/uncategorized/morning-has-broken-with-the-bird-lands-first-song/ http://venturegalleries.com/uncategorized/morning-has-broken-with-the-bird-lands-first-song/#comments Wed, 27 Apr 2016 06:55:48 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=75376 Coming early to break the dawn. Photograph: J Gerald Crawford. (May 1 is International Dawn Chorus Day, a day set aside to rise early and hear the robins, finches, wrens and other songbirds as they sing -- and delight -- at start of day.... Read more

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Coming early to break the dawn. Photograph: J Gerald Crawford.

Coming early to break the dawn. Photograph: J Gerald Crawford.

(May 1 is International Dawn Chorus Day, a day set aside to rise early and hear the robins, finches, wrens and other songbirds as they sing — and delight — at start of day.

Disconnect for a little while from electronic devices and gadgets that rule you.

Set the alarm. Greet the sun. Connect to the music of the songbirds. Enjoy. Be uplifted. Be alive.)

“Morning has broken,

“Like the first morning . . .”

English children began singing the song in church services decades ago.

Folk singer/song writer Cat Stephens popularized it in the 70s.

“Morning has broken . . .”

It is a song of spring.

No matter the season.

Only hours into spring, shortly before morn was to break, we stepped out to get the papers.

Retrieved them, sat down in our front porch chair.

Waited for the sun to break the day, bless the day.

In a few minutes it did, initially bringing its special array of soft, inspiring colors.

And hope.

A bird came. We didn’t get sufficient look at it to know what kind.

Might not have known even if we had gotten a good look at it.

It settled into the hedge in front of our porch, began singing.

Until it sang, we’d more or less assumed the birds about our place knew only a song or two.

Roger Summers

Roger Summers

As do we.

On this morn, we learned otherwise.

This bird sang a different, extended tune.

After a little while, we realized this bird had what seemed to be an inexhaustible repertoire.

No two songs were alike.

For several seconds, it would offer up one song.

Then, finished with that song and without hesitation, it moved seamlessly on to another song.

For an equal amount of time.

Then on to another song.

Then another.

Then . . .

How many songs can a bird know?

Sing?

Depending upon the bird, some say thousands.

Some say tens of thousands.

Some say some birds sing with special energy at dawn.

More loudly.

More vigorously.

More enthusiastically.

More purposefully.

Mornings can be like that.

For birds.

For people.

After a good while, the bird that came to delightfully break the morn for us, with us – and after we lost count of the many different songs it sang – it moved on.

Perhaps to sing for a neighbor.

Then maybe another.

And then . . .

Bringing the morning.

Cheerfully, optimistically bringing the morning.

Presenting the morning.

As it deserves to be presented.

Offering up its enviable repertoire.

Like the awakening sun, helping to bring the day’s blessings.

Smoothing, soothing as it does.

As morning breaks.

And, having been calmed, entertained, encouraged, delighted, stilled and yet at once enlivened by the countless, captivating songs it sings, we’ll be back tomorrow.

Promise.

Bright ‘n’ early.

Before darkness completes its assigned time.

Before the sun begins to sign on for the day.

We’ll be back, hoping this joyous, melodious songster comes again.

To elevate the spirit.

Captivate the heart.

Embrace the soul.

To say good morning.

To smile upon us.

To offer up its delightful, limitless repertoire.

And all that comes with it.

As morning breaks.

Roger Summers is a journalist, essayist and author of Heart Songs from a Washboard Road.

Unknown

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Amie: An African Adventure by Lucinda E. Clarke http://venturegalleries.com/blog/amie-an-african-adventure-by-lucinda-e-clarke/ http://venturegalleries.com/blog/amie-an-african-adventure-by-lucinda-e-clarke/#comments Wed, 27 Apr 2016 06:40:58 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=75372 In our mission to connect readers, writers, and books, Venture Galleries is showcasing some of the best authors in the marketplace today. Wednesday's Sampler features an excerpt from Amie: An African Adventure by Lucinda E Clarke. As one... Read more

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In our mission to connect readers, writers, and books, Venture Galleries is showcasing some of the best authors in the marketplace today. Wednesday’s Sampler features an excerpt from Amie: An African Adventure by Lucinda E Clarke.

As one reviewer said: Because I always look at the underside of what I’m reading, I saw the metaphor as well as the reality of Amie’s incredibly courageous journey. It described woman’s struggle everywhere: to be heard, to fight against neglect and abuse, to overcome fear and find a safe place of refuge, to discover her own strength and her own authentic voice. This book was written with such consummate skill.

The Story

Amie was just an average girl, living in her home town close to friends and family. She was happily married and she had her future all planned out. They would have two adorable children, while she made award winning programmes for television.

Until the day her husband announced he was being sent to live and work in an African country she’d never heard of.

When she came to the notice of a Colonel in the Government, it made life very complicated, and from there things started to escalate from bad to worse.

If Amie could have seen that one day she would be totally lost, fighting for her life, and enduring untold horrors, she would never have stepped foot on that plane.

The Sampler

Lucinda E Clarke

Lucinda E Clarke

They came for her soon after the first rays of the sun began to pour over the far distant hills, spilling down the slopes onto the earth below. At first the gentle beams warmed the air, but as the sun rose higher in the sky, it produced a scorching heat, which beat down on the land with relentless energy.

She heard them approach, their footsteps echoing loudly on the bare concrete floors. As the marching feet drew closer, she curled up as small as she could, and tried to breathe slowly to stop her heart racing. No, please, not again, she whispered to herself. She couldn’t take much more. What did they want? Would they beat her again? What did they expect her to say?

There was nothing she could tell them she was keeping no secrets. She knew she couldn’t take any more pain every little bit of her body ached. How many films had she seen where people were kicked or beaten up? She’d never understood real pain, the real agony even a single punch could inflict on the body. Now all she wanted was to die, to escape the torture and slide away into oblivion.

The large fat one was the first to appear on the other side of the door. She knew he was important, because the gold braid, medals, ribbons and badges on his uniform told everyone he was a powerful man, a man it would be very dangerous to cross. He was accompanied by three other warders, also in uniform, but with fewer decorations.

They unlocked the old, rusty cell door and the skinny one walked over and dragged her to her feet. He pushed her away from him, swung her round and bound her wrists together behind her back, with a long strip of dirty cotton material. She winced as he pulled roughly on the cloth and then propelled her towards the door. The others stood back as they shoved her into the corridor and up the steps to the ground floor.

She thought they were going to turn left towards the room where they made her sit for hours and hours on a small chair. They’d shouted and screamed at her and got angry when she couldn’t answer their questions. This made them angry so they hit her again.

She’d lost track of the time she’d been here was it a few days, or several weeks? As she drifted in and out of consciousness, she had lost all sense of reality. Her former life was a blur, and it was too late to mark the cell walls to record how long they’d kept her imprisoned.

This time, however, they didn’t turn left. They turned right at the top of the steps and pulled her down a long corridor towards an opening at the far end. She could see the bright sunlight reflecting off the dirty white walls. For a brief moment, she had a sudden feeling of euphoria. They were going to let her go!

She could hear muffled sounds and shouts from the street outside. It was surreal there were people so close to the prison going about their everyday lives. On the other side of the wall, the early morning suppliers who brought produce in from the surrounding areas were haggling over prices with the market stallholders, shouting and arguing at the tops of their voices. Not one of them was aware of her, of her pain or despair. Even if they had known, they wouldn’t give her a second thought. Why should they care? She didn’t belong here. Only a few years ago she’d never heard of them or their country. The sounds drifting over the wall that were once so foreign had become commonplace, then forgotten, and now remembered. She was aware of the everyday bustle and noise of the market, goats bleating, chickens squawking, children screaming and the babble of voices. But all these sounds could have been a million miles away, for they were way beyond her reach.

Hope flared briefly. Her captors had realized she was innocent. They’d never accused her of anything sensible, and she still didn’t know why she’d been arrested. She knew she’d done nothing wrong. Her thoughts ran wild, and she tried to convince herself the nightmare was over at last.

All the doors on either side of the corridor were closed, as they half carried, half dragged her towards the opening in the archway at the end. The closer they got, against all reason, her hopes just grew and grew. They were going to set her free. She was going home.

As they shoved her through the open doorway, she screwed up her eyes against the bright light, and when she opened them, it was to see they were in a bare courtyard, surrounded on three sides by high walls. As she looked around, she could see there was no other exit leading to the outside world.

Then she saw the stake in the ground on the far side, and brutally they dragged her towards it. She thought of trying to resist, but she was too weak, and there was too much pain. It was difficult to walk, so she concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other, determined not to give the soldiers or police or whoever they were, any satisfaction. She would show as much dignity as she could.
The skinny one pushed her against the post, took another long piece of sheeting from his pocket and tied it around her chest, fixing her firmly to the wood. She glanced down at the ground and was horrified to see large brown stains in the dust.

Not freedom; this was the end. She squeezed her eyes shut, determined not to let the tears run down her cheeks, but the sound of marching feet forced her to open them again. She saw four more men, all dressed in brown uniforms, with the all-too-familiar guns who had lined up on the other side of the courtyard opposite her. They were a rough-looking bunch, their uniforms were ill fitting and stained, and their boots were unpolished and covered in dust.

She was trembling all over. She didn’t know whether to keep her eyes open to see what was going on, or close them and pretend this was all a terrible dream. She was torn. Part of her wanted it all to end now, but still a part of her wanted to scream, ‘let me live! Please, please let me live!’

The big fat man barked commands and she heard the sounds of guns being broken open as he walked to each of them handing out ammunition, then with the safety catches off, they shuffled into position.

To her horror, she felt a warm trickle of liquid running down the inside of her thighs. At this very last moment, she had lost both her control and her dignity. They had not even offered her a blindfold, so she closed her eyes again and tried to remember happier times, before the nightmare started. Briefly, she glanced up at the few fluffy white clouds floating high in the sky as the order to fire was given.

 

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You can never turn puppets into people on a page. http://venturegalleries.com/blog/you-can-never-turn-puppets-into-people-on-a-page/ http://venturegalleries.com/blog/you-can-never-turn-puppets-into-people-on-a-page/#comments Tue, 26 Apr 2016 07:40:04 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=75359 The movie Indiana Jones did have its memorable characters – portrayed by Harrison Ford and Sean Connery. IN THE BEGINNING, do you create your own personal heaven and earth? Probably. You look at the screen in your computer and begin... Read more

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The movie Indiana Jones did have its memorable characters – portrayed by Harrison Ford and Sean Connery.

The movie Indiana Jones did have its memorable characters – portrayed by Harrison Ford and Sean Connery.

IN THE BEGINNING, do you create your own personal heaven and earth?

Probably.

You look at the screen in your computer and begin building a new world, or maybe it’s an old world, a leftover from your previous novel, the door to a sequel that has been bouncing around in your head.

You already know your old world. It, perhaps, just needs a few finishing touches.

Creating new worlds is little more than playing with matter that matters. Towns. Buildings. Streets. Landscapes. Mountains. Deserts. Swamps. Highways. States. Or even countries.

You can make them any size. And any shape.

The only architect you need is your imagination.

Now come the most important ingredients of all.

Now come the characters.

You can’t simply make them up, give each of them a name, slap them on a page, and hope they do something. Stick figures kill off a story quicker than a shotgun blast down main street.

That’s not particularly my opinion nor an epiphany that came to me in a flash of light in the middle of the night.

As I’ve said many times, I’m a thief. I steal from those much smarter than I am, which means I have carte blanche steal from most anybody and usually everybody.

I think, however, that author Leslie Gordon Barnard explained it best when he said, Don’t expect the puppets of your mind to become the people in your story. If they are not realities in your own mind, there is no mysterious alchemy in ink and paper that will turn wooden figures into flesh and blood.

Characters aren’t just a bunch of names scattered or scribbled on a page.

They breathe.

They think.

They plot.

They scheme.

They’re in love.

They’re afraid.

Their irritating.

They annoy the hell out of you.

They’re rich.

They’re broke.

They may steal from you.

They may kill you.

And you know it’s true.

As author Leigh Bracket put it: Plot is people. Human emotions and desires founded on the realities of life, working at cross purposes, getting hotter and fiercer as they strike against each other, and finally there is an explosion. That is plot.

And so it is.

I have this one basic rule about my characters. If I can’t take him or her out for a steak and bourbon simply because I enjoy the wit, wisdom, curiosities, and conversation they bring to the table, then I don’t have a real character.

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The Writing of Citadel Run http://venturegalleries.com/blog/the-writing-of-citadel-run/ http://venturegalleries.com/blog/the-writing-of-citadel-run/#comments Tue, 26 Apr 2016 06:55:31 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=75352 Part One of a Two-Part Series: TECHNICALLY, MY FIRST NOVEL was a title in the Diamondback series of adult westerns. Written under the house pseudonym Pike Bishop, the series of paperback originals was created by Raymond Obstfeld and published by... Read more

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Part One of a Two-Part Series:

TECHNICALLY, MY FIRST NOVEL was a title in the Diamondback series of adult westerns. Written under the house pseudonym Pike Bishop, the series of paperback originals was created by Raymond Obstfeld and published by Pinnacle. My entry was Diamondback #6: Shroud of Vengeance. It featured plenty of six-gun and sagebrush action built around the two required explicit sex scenes—the raison d’etre for the very existence of the successful adult western genre.

I would never disparage the genre or disavow my connection to it, but despite my gratitude to Ray Obstfeld for taking a chance on a novice, and the coolness of the Pike Bishop pseudonym echoing my name, I actually consider *Citadel Run to be my first novel—I created the characters, the plot was uniquely mine, there were no required sex scenes to wedge in, and my real name was right there on the covers of both the hardback and the paperback.

To understand how Citadel Run evolved, I need to digress. In 1977, I joined the Los Angeles Police Department. As I moved from uniformed patrol to the detective squad, I still pursued my writing aspirations on the side. For most writers, life necessitates another career—one that pays the bills, provides health insurance, and has all the other perks of a real job.

006Still, I’ve always considered myself a very lucky guy being able juggle two careers and doing the work I enjoy—putting villains in jail and putting words on paper. One career is a lot more dangerous, but it is also a lot more financially secure. I spent thirty-five years with the LAPD. For thirty of those years, I also worked as a professional writer, completing twelve published novels, multiple hours of episodic television, and a produced feature film.

Police and detective work often fed my creative muse, but there were also many times the creativity I honed as a writer led to a breakthrough in a case. This was particularly true in the latter part of my LAPD career as I moved deeper and deeper into the art of interrogation.

When I joined the LAPD in 1977, Joseph Wambaugh was my writing idol. He was and continues to be the gold standard against which all other police writers are judged. Wambaugh’s early novels, including The New Centurions, The Onion Field, and The Blue Knight, influenced both my writing and my police career. I was already on track from an early age to pursue both of my chosen professions, but Wambaugh’s books were the light in the window guiding me home.

Wambaugh is a great storyteller. He also tells stories in a complex, layered, provoking manner which elevates his prose into the stratosphere of literature. Wambaugh knows cops at a primal level. He also knows how to capture them on the page in all their flawed glory.

However, in my era of LAPD’s history, things were changing fast. The Wam-boys—cops who woke up hungover in beds other than their own, spent all day trying to get and keep their act together while dealing with the worst denizens of LA’s gutters, and then drowning it all in a bottle of forget juice at night—were not the cops I saw daily working around me.

The era of Wambaugh’s choirboys was transforming into a sharper, harder, more professional LAPD as the demands of the job itself changed. There were still colorful characters within the ranks, but the harsh penalties for questionable behavior dampened all but the most innocuous hijinks. It wasn’t anywhere near as much fun as Wambaugh’s generation of cops, but it did provide me with a different perspective and approach to bring to my own cop novels.

While I aspired to Wambaugh’s artistic prose, I had to earn my own chops and skills first. This explains my foray into the adult western genre, however, Diamondback was a far cry from the brilliance and emotional power of The Onion Field.

Paul Bishop

Paul Bishop

While I had always read voraciously and widely in an autodidactic manner, it was the world of hardboiled mysteries, high adventure novels, and pulp that sparked my imagination. If I was going to find my own unique voice as a writer, I had to find a way to marry my Wambaugh-like aspirations with my love of popular fiction – and I thought I had found just the story I needed to do it.

While my early years with the LAPD might have been the tail-end of the wild days Wambaugh had chronicled so assiduously, but there was still some bite left in the dog. As a rookie I often heard rumors and stories about Morning Watch (graveyard shift) patrol cops driving, while on-duty and in their police cars, to either Tijuana or Vegas and back in one shift.

All the other Morning Watch cops would cover for them by handing any calls for service assigned to the missing unit (in those days, all on-duty cops heard every call for service over the radio in their divisions and could buy calls from other units). The cops doing the run would get their photo taken (remember Polaroids?) with their patrol car prominently displayed outside a Vegas Casino or behind a guy in a sombrero leading a moth-eaten donkey. Proof of the deed was always needed.

Since the statute of limitations hasn’t run out, I’m not going to admit to any involvement in these types of outrageous japes. However, from the first time I heard about a run, I knew I had a never before told story. This was as valuable as all the gold in Fort Knox to a novelist with grand aspirations.

Like with any great idea, the hard work of turning it into a story was still ahead. I knew I had to up the odds to create conflict, so I turned my fictional run to the Citadel Casino in Vegas into a grudge match between two sets of police partners.

I knew my hero, Calico Jack Walker, was an old school cop—so old school, he is only a week away from retirement. If he were to get caught doing something as foolish and out of policy as driving to Vegas and back in his police car, he could lose his pension. This was something Calico’s brown-nosing, politically crawling, promotion lusting sergeant, Sal Fazio, would love to see happen. Fazio hated the freewheeling and popular Calico for any number of reason—plus he’s dating Calico’s ex-wife.

All right, conflict and confrontation, but I still needed more. Enter Tina Tamiko, Calico’s Asian rookie partner.

Next week, the tale continues…

*Citadel Run transitioned to a new title, Hot Pursuit, for the current e-book version…

 

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