Venture Galleries http://venturegalleries.com Connecting Readers, Writers, and Books Fri, 22 May 2015 10:33:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Your blogs should be as well written as your novels. http://venturegalleries.com/blog/your-blogs-should-be-as-well-written-as-your-novels/ http://venturegalleries.com/blog/your-blogs-should-be-as-well-written-as-your-novels/#comments Fri, 22 May 2015 07:40:41 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=64376 I READ A LOT OF BLOGS. I stumble across a lot of blogs in various and sundry locations on the Internet. I jump in the middle of a lot of blogs that grab my attention on Triberr. I post a lot of blogs on Venture Galleries. And I’ve found... Read more

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I READ A LOT OF BLOGS. I stumble across a lot of blogs in various and sundry locations on the Internet. I jump in the middle of a lot of blogs that grab my attention on Triberr. I post a lot of blogs on Venture Galleries.

And I’ve found some really fine authors producing some really fine blogs.

But the question gnaws at me daily.

For professional writers, for authors of published books, do your blogs really do you justice? I hate to say it. But I don’t think they do.

I know the importance associated with writing blogs. They form the backbone of all of your social media marketing. Blogs help you build your name, your brand, and the name of your books.

First, you nail the blogs firmly on your own Website. Then you tweet the blogs. You paste the blogs on Facebook. You put the blogs on LinkedIn, on Google Plus, on Amazon, on Good Reads, on any other site floating in cyberspace that has an open door for blogs. You even write guest blogs every chance you get and hope other sites steal one of your blogs.

Let readers find you. Let readers discover your name. Let readers know that you have the talent to become a force in the indie world of digital publishing.

But there’s the rub.

The blogs I read are well written. They are informative. They are educational. They are inspirational. They provide the writer with a forum and a soapbox to rant and rave any time he or she feels like it.

But most blogs are written with a very informal, light-hearted tone that you would probably use sitting across a table at Starbacks while downing a cup of cappuccino. It’s good one-sided conversation, but that’s about all.

I then went and purchased some of the eBooks produced by the bloggers I read, and I was overwhelmed, shocked, stunned, and amazed.

The novels of every genre from mystery and romance to fantasy and science fiction, delivered powerhouse writing with strong, elegant language, dialogue that fairly crackled, plots that could tear your heart out, characters that lingered long in my mind after the final word had been written.

Books have voice and style and mood.

Books are the works of real authors, real writers of literature.

But if all I ever read were their blogs, I would never know how good they really are.

I think authors are shortchanging themselves. Too often, they are merely throwing out words to make a point. They should be hammering out those words with a literary quality. A blog should be as thoughtfully and carefully written as a scene in a novel.

Here are some ideas.

  • Maybe you should occasionally blog by writing a short story that captures mood and characters and dialogue.
  • You might develop a character sketch of someone in your novel. Make the person so intriguing so interesting, so flawed that a reader immediately wants to buy the book just to find out what happens to the character.
  • Create a human interest article about someone in your town, your neighborhood, your life, and evoke a reader’s emotions. Make the readers laugh or cry or scare the hell out of them, but let them know that you are an illusionist when it comes to arranging words together to form exciting and memorable prose.
  • It might be good to sometimes build a blog around an excerpt from your novel. Give the reader a taste of the story in your own personal style and voice. If it’s as good as you think it is, as good as I think it is, a reader will give you and your novel a shot.
  • On more than one occasion I’ve written blogs by auditioning fictional characters for a role in one of my novels.

Your blogs are the first impression you make with readers. It is your once-in-a-lifetime chance for them to discover and remember your name. However, it is vital to make sure that the readers forever associate your name with an unforgettable writing style that separates the everyday blogger from the professional author.

Caleb Pirtle III is author of Golgotha Connection.

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You want it when? The Authors Collection http://venturegalleries.com/blog/you-want-it-when-the-authors-collection/ http://venturegalleries.com/blog/you-want-it-when-the-authors-collection/#comments Fri, 22 May 2015 06:55:33 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=64354 MR. WALTER CARSON (fictitious name) walked into the local WalMart last week and went straight to the photo lab in the back of the store, near the electronics section. He dropped off a disc loaded with images from his daughter’s new digital... Read more

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MR. WALTER CARSON (fictitious name) walked into the local WalMart last week and went straight to the photo lab in the back of the store, near the electronics section. He dropped off a disc loaded with images from his daughter’s new digital camera. He produced a three by five index card with numbers of the images and notes on how many copies of each he wanted printed. He inquired as to the waiting time and agreed to a one hour processing time with no discussion. He smiled and headed towards the prescription department.

Anyone who has ever worked in a pharmacy can predict what happened next. He approached the drop off window and noticed a line six customers deep. He fidgeted and paced and was in constant motion. When it was his turn, he asked for a refill of his anxiety medicine. The tech asked a few questions to identify and access Mr. Carson’s profile. The tech noticed Carson’s face was red. Carson kept adjusting his weight from one foot to the other. The tech said, “Your prescription for the anxiety tablets has expired, sir. We’ll contact the doctor for you about refills. Anything else I can help you with?”

FCEtier

FCEtier

Carson shrieked, “Every time I come in to this pharmacy there’s a problem. What’s wrong with you people?!” The tech waited in silence. She attempted to keep a pleasant, neutral expression on her face while her stomach churned. Then Mr. Carson said, “Check on my blood pressure pills.”

The tech looked at his profile and said, “That one looks good. When did you want to pick it up?”

Carson, “I want it now. What’s your wait time?”

Tech, “Right now there are a few in line ahead of you, it will take about thirty-five to forty minutes.”

Carson, “That’s outrageous! Every time I come in here I have to wait all afternoon for one prescription. Those blood pressure pills come in a bottle of thirty. Just slap a label on it and get it ready for me in five minutes.”

Wait times for prescriptions have been a major concern of patients for over forty years. Most customers, oops, patients, are unaware of the complex processes involved in getting a label to “slap on the bottle.”

In spite of what may appear to be a simple procedure, but is in fact a series of steps to assure accuracy with live saving medications, the main factor in wait times is simple. When asked what our wait time is, my usual answer is, “It depends on how many are in line ahead of you.”

Otherwise, here are just a few of many factors that have a direct bearing on the wait time of every prescription:

  • Almost ninety percent of our patients have a third party such as private insurance or a government program (Medicare/Medicaid) that pays some portion of their prescription bill. These claims are handled online and often take just a few seconds. Problems can result in minutes, hours, and sometimes days in order to resolve the issue. (Do we have your current insurance card on file?)
  • As Mr. Carson discovered, some prescriptions expire with time even if they have unused refills.
  • Oftentimes, the prescriber must be contacted via phone or fax to clarify information on the prescription order. Pharmacists won’t guess with patients’ medicine.
  • When will the prescriber return my call? If I knew that, I’d buy a lottery ticket.
  • Due to changes in doctors’ prescribing habits and the availability of certain drugs, sometimes, the pharmacy may be out of stock of an item.
  • Communication technology fails sometimes. I once worked for a company whose computers relied on satellites. When it thundered, our computers when down.

What can a patient do to help speed up the process? Plan ahead.

If Mr. Carson had called ahead the day before, he would have only had to wait in the line at the cash register to pick up his prescription.

How long does one typically have to wait in line at the check out station? It depends on how many are in line ahead of you.

FCEtier is author of The Tourist Killer.

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For towns large and small, it’s a wonderful life. http://venturegalleries.com/blog/for-towns-large-and-small-its-a-wonderful-life/ http://venturegalleries.com/blog/for-towns-large-and-small-its-a-wonderful-life/#comments Fri, 22 May 2015 06:50:54 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=64369 Congressman Jim Wright speaking on the stage in Fort Worth with, from left to wright, Texas Senator Ralph Yarborough, Texas Governor John Connally, Vice President Lyndon Johnson and President John Kennedy. Before the day ended, tragedy would strike... Read more

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Congressman Jim Wright speaking on the stage with, from left to wright, Texas Senator Ralph Yarborough, Texas Governor John Connally, Vice President Lyndon Johnson and President John Kennedy. Before the day ended, tragedy would strike in Dallas. Photo: UTA Special Collection/Star-Telegram.

Congressman Jim Wright speaking on the stage in Fort Worth with, from left to wright, Texas Senator Ralph Yarborough, Texas Governor John Connally, Vice President Lyndon Johnson and President John Kennedy. Before the day ended, tragedy would strike in Dallas. Photo: UTA Special Collection/Star-Telegram.

FORT WORTH CITIZENS recently paid homage to 92-year-old Jim Wright, who rose to be Speaker of the House in Washington, DC.

Two stories untold at the funeral date back to the late Christian statesman’s years as “boy mayor” of Weatherford. On a sleepy afternoon, he received two bird-related phone calls a few minutes apart. One caller on the west side complained of the growing sparrow population in his neighborhood. Another on the east side was angry that some youngsters with air rifles were firing at sparrows. “I relocated the kids with air rifles to the side of town where they’d be more welcome, thus pleasing both callers,” Wright said.

At a dinner honoring the late Larry Hagman–Weatherford actor who played JR Ewing on TV’s long-running Dallas TV series–Wright spoke of being Hagman’s boxing coach. “Thank goodness you weren’t my acting coach,” Hagman responded.

*****.

Don Newbury

Don Newbury

 

Home towns keep bars held high when they measure up to the ways they are remembered. Memories’ afterglow is abundant with “warm fuzzies.” We gather memory bouquets of roses, giving little thought to thorns encountered in their gathering.

Folks growing up in small towns believe experiences during their youth are unique, far different from others coming of age in the city.

Uniqueness, though–like much else–is in the mind’s eye of the beholder.

*****

   Adam Hill, a nine-year-old in Albany, Texas, is bound to have a trove of tales to one day tell his kids and grandkids. He’ll brag about growing up in a small West Texas community where it’s a given that parents “look after” all children—theirs and others.

With their “one for all, all for one” spirit, much of life in Albany is little different than thirty, forty or even fifty years ago.

The youngest of four children of Kevin and Kim Hill, Adam is making memories as an observer–and an occasional participant–in a popular summertime game. Sometimes, he joins older brother Ryan in what is called “Ding-Dong-Ditching.”

*****

 

Adam Hill

Adam Hill

It’s kinda like Halloween, except the players are all in for tricks. Treats aren’t in the equation.

The game calls for children–most of them ten to twelve years of age–to ring doorbells, then running down the street, hoping to avoid being identified. “They don’t realize parents are a hundred percent ‘in’ on what’s going on, happily playing along by ‘chasing’ the children down the street,” Kim said.

When Adam participates, he’s always barefoot, sometimes “dressed down” to his underwear. During one of his recent “observation sessions,” darkness set in.

*****

   That night, one of Kim’s friends sent a text warning that bell-pushers soon would appear at the Hills’ front door. Overhearing the conversation, Adam hid in a front yard bush to take it all in.

Later, darkness fully in place, Adam asked, “Okay, Mommy—I have a really important question: Do cats sneeze?” Kim answered she was sure they do.

Adam was greatly relieved by her answer. “That’s good. When I was hiding in the bushes tonight, something in there with me sneezed, and I was sure hoping it was just a cat.”

*****

   Some accounts withstand the test of time, like a son who stubbornly showed up his dad years ago in Sulphur Springs. He accompanied his father, a longtime farmer, to the Sulphur Springs Cattle and Dairy Auction, where they planned to sell a cow and a calf.

A special needs son, he begged his pappy to sell the cow and calf separately. The old man was adamant, however, insisting they be sold as a pair.

The auctioneer was so instructed.

*****

   While his dad was getting coffee, the son–obsessed with a hunch that the animals should be offered separately–revisited the auctioneer. He said his pappy had changed his mind–they should be auctioned separately.

When the animals paraded separately into the ring, the farmer was furious, ready to march on the auctioneer. He mellowed quickly, however, upon learning the proceeds of the two sales would be several dollars more than if the cow and calf had been offered together.

“I never thought I’d ever see the day when a calf was worth more than its mammy and I was smarter than my pappy,” the happy forty-something son beamed.

*****

   Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Inquiries/comments to: newbury@speakerdoc.com. Phone: 817-447-3872. Web site: www.speakerdoc.com. Archived: venturegalleries.com, newbury blog.

Read more of Don Newbury’s humorous and inspirational stories in When The Porch Light’s on.

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Authors Showcase: Highland Lass by Rosemary Gemmell http://venturegalleries.com/blog/authors-showcase-highland-lass-by-rosemary-gemmell/ http://venturegalleries.com/blog/authors-showcase-highland-lass-by-rosemary-gemmell/#comments Fri, 22 May 2015 06:40:57 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=64359 The Book: Highland Lass The Author: Rosemary Gemmell The Story: Eilidh Campbell returns to her Scottish roots from America with one burning ambition: to discover the identity of her real father. But her mother’s past in Inverclyde is a... Read more

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The Book: Highland Lass

The Author: Rosemary Gemmell

The Story: Eilidh Campbell returns to her Scottish roots from America with one burning ambition: to discover the identity of her real father. But her mother’s past in Inverclyde is a mystery with family secrets, a book of Robert Burns’ poems with a hidden letter and a photograph link to the Holy Loch at Dunoon when the American Navy were in residence.

Staying with her childhood friend, Kirsty, while searching for answers, Eilidh begins to fall in love with handsome Scot Lewis Grant, but just how divorced is he? Together they trace the story of Highland Mary and Robert Burns, with its echoes to her mother’s story. From Dunoon, to Ayrshire and culminating in Greenock, Eilidh finds the past is closer than she realises

Reviw by Cynthia Harrison:

Rosemary Gemmell

Rosemary Gemmell

Determined and quietly courageous Eilidh Campbell never knew her father. At age 12, she traveled with her mother from Scotland to America, where they made a new life. Despite her mother’s refusal to identify her father, Eilidh was happy enough as a bookstore owner with an avid interest in all things Scottish. Then, when Eilidh is in her thirties, mother dies and daughter finds a clue to father’s identity. It leads her home to Scotland.

This finely layered novel evokes place with vivid realism, both in contemporary Scotland and in the past, with a compelling parallel story featuring Scottish poet Robert Burns and his “highland lass” Mary Campbell. As Eilidh searches down the clues to her own heritage, she also delves into the historical records of Burns and Campbell, teasing out a seemingly innocuous link between the two Campbell families.

Helping Eilidh with this task is her “cute meet” crush, history professor Lewis. Delicate echoes of the Burns and Campbell romance resonate for the contemporary couple, making those 18th Century chapters even more poignant. I’d not heard the story of Mary Campbell and Robert Burns, and this novelistic retelling is so splendidly wrought it could stand on its own, yet adds delicious foreshadowing to the Eilidh and Lewis plot.

Lewis is an intriguing character, both charming and mysterious, and readers, knowing how the tale of Burns and Campbell ends, will anxiously anticipate the unfolding of Eilidh and Lewis’s love. Yet there’s more: the primary reason Eilidh has traveled across the pond. Her initial goal was to find her father. Author Rosemary Gemmell does not disappoint, delivering a masterful and deeply poignant resolution.

Review by J Fleming:

Rosemary Gemmell has succeeded in telling two stories which, at times, seem to merge into one, yet they remain distinct. The contemporary romance of Eilidh and Lewis runs parallel to the historical (fictional) story of the love affair between Highland Mary and Scottish poet Rabbie Burns.

The skilful structure of the book ensures there is no confusion between the two stories. The 18th century tale is told in short chapters, in the present tense using the first person; the reader follows Eilidh’s romance with Lewis in longer alternate chapters, using the past tense and the third person; quotes from Burns’ writings link the two together.

When Eilidh returns to Scotland to trace her roots, the tale of her romance unfolds, but it is only towards the end of the novel that the reader discovers if it will be doomed – as Highland Mary’s love for Burns was.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel with its convincing characters, interesting plot and its setting in the beautiful west of Scotland

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Friday Sampler: Cleansed by Fire by James R. Callan http://venturegalleries.com/blog/friday-sampler-cleansed-by-fire-by-james-r-callan/ http://venturegalleries.com/blog/friday-sampler-cleansed-by-fire-by-james-r-callan/#comments Fri, 22 May 2015 06:35:52 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=64364 In our mission of connecting readers, writers, and books, Venture Galleries is beginning a new series, offering writing samples from some of the best writers we know. Our Friday Sampler is from Cleansed by Fire by James R. Callan. Want a great... Read more

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In our mission of connecting readers, writers, and books, Venture Galleries is beginning a new series, offering writing samples from some of the best writers we know. Our Friday Sampler is from Cleansed by Fire by James R. Callan. Want a great cozy mystery right out of today’s headlines? This is the one.

***

Bless me Father for I have sinned.”

Father Frank DeLuca waited in the dark behind the screen of the Prince of Peace confessional. The voice sounded familiar, like he should know the person but he quickly wiped that thought from his mind. He did not want to know who it was.

When nothing more came, he said, “How long has it been since you last took the Sacrament of Reconciliation?”

“Ah, I don’t remember. Kind of a long time.”

“Is there something in particular that has brought you back today?”

Another silence.

Finally, “I knew about the fire Thursday.”

Thursday. Father Frank’s mind searched through the events of two days ago.

jim - 6“You mean the Pine Valley Baptist Church? That fire?”

“Yes, Father.” Then he quickly added, “I didn’t set it or nothin’.”

When the boy did not continue, Father Frank said, “But …?”

“I knew it was going to happen. And I didn’t tell nobody, uh, anybody. I mean, I didn’t tell the police.”

Father Frank furrowed his eyebrows and ran a hand through his black, curly hair. He hadn’t heard if the fire had been classified as arson or an accident.

“Do you mean you knew someone was going to set fire to the church before it happened?”

“Yes.”

Father Frank’s mind raced down several paths at once. As a rule, the priest tried not to recognize any penitent. Tonight, with news of the arson, his mind inadvertently associated the voice with a name—Sammie Winters. Did someone tell the boy they were going to burn a church? Did he have a vision or premonition? Sammie didn’t seem the type. Had he heard some­one talking about it?

“How do you know this?”

The teenager remained quiet for a moment before answer­ing, almost in a whisper.

“I, uh, I heard someone say they were going to burn a church.”

“Why didn’t you tell the authorities?”

“I couldn’t. Uh—you don’t understand. I just couldn’t.”

The priest closed his eyes and rested his forehead in his hands, suddenly weary. Could the fire have been prevented? He took a deep breath. He was supposed to give guidance. He raised his head.

“You’re right, I don’t understand. But God will. Talk to Him. Tell him you’re sorry for your sins, and say a Rosary for the people who lost their church.”

“Yes, Father.”

“I absolve you from all your sins.” Father Frank made a sign of the cross. “In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”

The priest cleared his throat. “There is one other thing. Since you know who committed the crime, you really should tell the police. Now. If you don’t, this is going to weigh on you like a lead warm-up jacket. You have information that can help the police solve a crime. You have an obligation to tell them.”

The boy said nothing but Father Frank heard the door open and close. Sammie was gone.

The priest sat in the darkness, eyes wide open, as he hoped no one else came into the confessional tonight. Sammie Winters knew Pine Valley Baptist had been arson. He probably also knew the name of the arsonist. Why wouldn’t he tell the police?

The priest sighed. Maybe Sammie was more involved than he indicated. Maybe he pushed someone into setting the fire. What was the extent of his participation?

Sammie didn’t seem like the type to be involved in serious crime. He seemed like a good kid, and attended mass every Sunday with his parents. Yet, some connection existed be­tween Sammie and the arson. Father Frank shook his head. Maybe he didn’t know Sammie that well since he wasn’t involved in any church activities. Nice looking kid, about fifteen. What had he gotten himself into?

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I wonder what stories those walls could tell. http://venturegalleries.com/blog/i-wonder-what-stories-those-walls-could-tell/ http://venturegalleries.com/blog/i-wonder-what-stories-those-walls-could-tell/#comments Thu, 21 May 2015 07:40:47 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=64336 Abandoned school house in a New Mexico ghost town hides its stories and secrets, too. Photograph: J Gerald Crawford I CAN STILL REMEMBER the handful of vacations we took during my growing up years. We never took the main roads for one simple... Read more

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Abandoned school house in a New Mexico ghost town hides its stories and secrets, too. Photograph: J Gerald Crawford

Abandoned school house in a New Mexico ghost town hides its stories and secrets, too. Photograph: J Gerald Crawford

I CAN STILL REMEMBER the handful of vacations we took during my growing up years.

We never took the main roads for one simple reason.

There were no main roads.

We drove through the heart of big cities, wandered down the only streets that little towns had, the ones that followed alongside the railroad tracks, meandered across farmlands where cotton or corn stalks rose up from the good earth for as far as the eye could see, cut through national forests, and always tried to see what was on the other side of the mountain before dark.

Dark always caught us.

On our journeys, we passed the last remnants of an abandoned America.

Decaying houses, weathered gray by time and neglect.

Old white clapboard churches.

Steeples empty.

No wind to ring the bells.

And sometimes, there were no bells in the steeple tower.

Historic homes.

Forgotten homes.

Homes where only memories resided.

My mother would look at them until they were out of sight in our rearview mirror.

And she always possessed the same thought.

It never left her.

“I wonder what those old walls could tell us if only they could talk,” she said.

The walls know all of the stories.

Good.

And bad.

A girl in love.

A boy marching off to war.

A baby’s first cry.

A mother’s last cry.

A father who never comes home again.

Was it war?

Was it fear?

Was it another woman?

The old houses witnessed joy.

And heartbreak.

Hunger.

And pain.

Laughter.

And sadness.

Death.

And divorce.

Neighbors no longer remember who lived there.

Or when they left.

Or why they left.

I know.

I’ve knocked on doors and asked.

I’m a lot like my mother.

I look at the weathered old houses ask the same question she did.

What would those old walls tell me if only they could talk?

But the walls remain silent.

They hold tightly to their secrets.

We can only guess.

We’ll never know the truth.

Not all of it.

So we sit at our word machines and manufacture the truth, and by the time we write The End to a novel, we believe our own lies and wonder if anyone else will believe them, too.

Caleb Pirtle is author of Golgotha Connection.Golgotha-New-2

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God bless the man and his music. http://venturegalleries.com/blog/god-bless-the-man-and-his-music/ http://venturegalleries.com/blog/god-bless-the-man-and-his-music/#comments Thu, 21 May 2015 06:55:29 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=64331 The Day I Met Johnny Cash: Part Two LAST WEEK IN THIS COLUMN. I mentioned that I once met Johnny Cash during his performance for the prison inmates at the Angola Penitentiary in Louisiana. Now let me tell you a little more about this great... Read more

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The Day I Met Johnny Cash: Part Two

LAST WEEK IN THIS COLUMN. I mentioned that I once met Johnny Cash during his performance for the prison inmates at the Angola Penitentiary in Louisiana. Now let me tell you a little more about this great man.

Walk the Line, the movie about Johnny’s life, was the story of his early life and career. Actor Joaquin Phoenix starred as Johnny and actress Reece Witherspoon as his wife June Carter Cash. Johnny himself also starred in several movies — including some on Hallmark — and appeared from time to time on Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman along with his wife June.

 

Bill Keith

Bill Keith

In the seventies, Johnny teamed up with old timers Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson and created “Outlaw Music.” The four often appeared together and the music revived all of their careers. It was heartwarming to me to see all of these guys — much older now — sing and play together like old times.

Johnny passed away at two o’clock in the morning of September 13, 2003, at Nashville’s Baptist Hospital. June Carter had passed away four months earlier with Johnny at her side.

Prior to his passing, Johnny was a guest on the Christian Broadcasting Network, where network entertainer Jesse Carey was able to interview him. Johnny talked about how he had turned his life around.

Carey says the following about Johnny: “Cash had written two autobiographies and was vocal about his deep faith, his personal struggles and passions. His final albums didn’t need to clear the air or set the record straight. They weren’t for the masses. They were for him.

“These (albums) are the last thoughts of a man looking back on his life—and looking ahead to eternity.”

Carey noted that the last song Johnny recorded was Ain’t No Grave and said it’s “a haunting, fearless look at meeting the God who delivered him from drugs and changed his life, finally face-to-face. The sounds of chains dragging — or maybe chains being broken — can be heard behind a rumbling acoustic guitar as Cash proclaims,  ‘When I hear that trumpet sound / I’m gonna’ rise right out of the ground / ain’t no grave gonna’ hold me down.'”

Johnny was an icon in the country/western world of Nashville. A man of character and integrity, he revealed to me a great passion for his music, but a like passion for his family and those less fortunate.

People loved his corny songs about “a boy named Sue,” to rousing anthems like “Folsom Prison Blues,” to love’s “burning ring of fire,” to passion that proclaims “I walk the line because you’re mine.”

Johnny’s life to me was a testament of everything good in Nashville and throughout the land.

Goodbye, Johnny, I’ll never forget the day I met you and from that day forward, I have always appreciated you as a man and your wonderful music.

Bill Keith is author of Whisper in the Wind.

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My Own Personal Shootout at the O.K. Chorale http://venturegalleries.com/blog/my-own-personal-shootout-at-the-o-k-chorale/ http://venturegalleries.com/blog/my-own-personal-shootout-at-the-o-k-chorale/#comments Thu, 21 May 2015 06:50:56 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=64328 Where did my teachers go wrong, or did I get in the mess by myself? “Good teachers are the ones who can challenge young minds without losing their own.” – Anonymous             “He who laughs most, learns best.” – John... Read more

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Where did my teachers go wrong, or did I get in the mess by myself?

Where did my teachers go wrong, or did I get in the mess by myself?

“Good teachers are the ones who can challenge young minds without losing their own.” – Anonymous

            “He who laughs most, learns best.” – John Cleese

Once again, I write about Teacher Appreciation Week (May 4-8) and teacher appreciation in general after its passing.

But, to quote Browning, for many educators, “the best (part of teaching – June, July and August) is yet to be.”

I credit some of my teachers for having the foresight to steer me away from future paths that may have led to my downfall and definitely affected their own credibility. Mr. Sneva, my industrial arts teacher, was one; Mr. Pederson, the band director, was another.

Others, in subtle fashion, nudged me on my eventual career path by keeping verb conjugation and literary creativity in proper balance.

One music teacher’s hopes for this student’s success exceeded reality, though, but I’ll get there in my usual meandering fashion.

Stephen Lang

Stephen Lang

My lack of musical talent/inclination apparently emerged in first grade. While the teacher may have cited seating arrangements, it seemed she always ran out of rhythm sticks or those melodic triangles before she got to me…even when I sat in the front seat of a middle row.

Word had probably leaked that an older kid and I had etched her unflattering caricatures on the school bus windows. This action earned me a stern reprimand from my classroom teacher, but in retrospect, what prosecutor could prove deliberate, malicious intent from a stick figure drawn by a six-year-old?

By fifth grade, I received a dishonorable discharge – for being off-key and likely out of step — from the squad of Christmas soldiers who sang in the elementary operetta. I settled for assistant stage manager, which meant I stood next to the kid who opened and closed the curtains.

After settling in ninth chair among eight fledgling clarinetists in fifth grade, band was never again an elective option. And, as noted previously, my continued participation was not encouraged by the director, either.

I also attempted piano lessons, a futile endeavor capped by a rendition of “Carry Me Back to Ol’ Virginny” that sounded like two squirrels wrestling over an acorn atop the keyboard.

If my teacher really didn’t say, “If anybody is going back to Ol’ Virginny, I’ll be happy to chip in for gas,” she was justified in so doing.

I signed up for choir as a sophomore because industrial arts and I parted ways the previous year and I did not feel sufficiently ambitious to study a foreign language (Spanish). As it turned out, the choral director was fond of Latin selections, so I mumbled along in an alien tongue, anyway.

A year later, the director committed a serious error. Our high school baseball team was competing in the playoffs on the same night as a choral concert was scheduled. He sent the high school principal to pull the catcher from behind the plate and me – as I prepared to take the mound — from the game in order to sing.

This may have been the worst mistake in judgment the director made during his brief tenure at my high school, and not because we lost the game (which we may have lost, anyway). Nay, his belief that me in a choir robe offered greater potential than me in a baseball uniform gave me a false sense of untapped musical talent.

While it required nearly twenty years for me to abandon diamond dreams, my efforts were soon forgotten and forgiven upon hanging up my spikes. Prolonging the notion that I could sing haunted listeners for the next half-century, however.

When not singing, and sounding, as the anonymous student essayist so aptly stated, “like a walrus giving birth to farm equipment,” I developed a personally enjoyable, but likely annoying habit of writing parodies to once-popular songs. While these pieces could be set to music, critics suggested they should be set afire.

Two of my favorites still swirl between my ears: “Thank God, I’m a Contra Boy,” borrowed from John Denver’s hit and owed to Oliver North, and a third verse to the Alma Mater of my present university:

Where roadrunners peck at whiptails/and the buzzards soar/circling o’er a roadkill pizza/on the desert floor.”

I still love music, but mainly as a listener, and after sixty-five years I finally learned the most appropriate definition of perfect pitch: throwing an accordion into a dumpster and hitting a banjo. (Thank you, George.)

My move to West Texas ultimately confined my vocal efforts to the shower or my back forty.

After all, folks down here still adhere to the code of the West, and if someone resented my tone, it could lead to a shoot-out at the O.K. Chorale.

Steve Lang also appreciates the teacher who told him, “you will go far, and I hope soon.” Though it probably didn’t happen soon enough to suit the teacher, Lang just left for Europe.

 

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Authors Showcase: Three Days to Forever by Lauren Carr http://venturegalleries.com/blog/authors-showcase-three-days-to-forever-by-lauren-carr/ http://venturegalleries.com/blog/authors-showcase-three-days-to-forever-by-lauren-carr/#comments Thu, 21 May 2015 06:40:08 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=64317 The Book: Three Days to Forever The Author: Lauren Carr The Story: In this latest Mac Faraday Mystery from best-selling mystery author Lauren Carr, readers will embark on a rollercoaster adventure with old friends (including the Lovers in... Read more

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The Book: Three Days to Forever

The Author: Lauren Carr

The Story: In this latest Mac Faraday Mystery from best-selling mystery author Lauren Carr, readers will embark on a rollercoaster adventure with old friends (including the Lovers in Crime team of Prosecutor Joshua Thornton and Homicide Detective Cameron Gates), but also meet new ones as Mac Faraday’s daughter Jessica Faraday and Joshua Thornton’s son Murphy Thornton join the team in the race to get the love birds to the altar!

With three days left to the year, Deep Creek Lake is hopping with holiday vacationers and wedding guests pouring into the Spencer Inn for Mac Faraday and Archie Monday’s huge wedding ceremony which is being touted as the social event of the year.

But droopy flowers and guests who failed to RSVP are the least of Mac’s and Archie’s problems when a professional hit squad hits Spencer Manor to send the groom, Joshua Thornton, Archie’s mother, and Gnarly running for their lives.

With time running out to the big day, Mac Faraday and Spencer’s small police force have to sort through the clues to figure out not only who has been targeted for assassination, but also who is determined to stop everything … FOREVER!

From Lauren Carr:

Lauren Carr

Lauren Carr

Fans of past Mac Faraday and Lovers in Crime mysteries are in for a treat with Three Days to Forever. I have chosen to take a different path with the latest Mac Faraday Mystery. Don’t worry. We have plenty of dead bodies and lots of mystery– as well as intrigue, suspense, and page turning twists.

The key job of a fiction writer is to look at a situation, make observations about how things are and how they work, and then ask, “What if …” Then, the writer twists, turns, and manipulates, while maintaining believability, to make for a thrilling plot.

This is what I have done with Three Days to Forever.

Mac Faraday’s latest adventure plunges him, Archie, David, Gnarly, and the gang head first into a case that brings the war on terror right into Deep Creek Lake. Current political issues will be raised and discussed by the characters involved.

Keep this in mind while you turn the pages–Three Days to Forever is fiction. It is not the author’s commentary on politics, the media, the military, or Islam. While actual current events have inspired this adventure in mystery and suspense, this fictional work is not meant to point an accusatory finger at anyone in our nation’s government.

If, however, future events prove that circumstances in Washington are as I have depicted them in Three Days to Forever … well, keep in mind that you read it here first.

Review by Rhonda:

This has more of spy thriller mystery feel to it. Dealing with terrorists. It is exciting, has humor, lots of action, drama , romance and mystery. I stayed up till 2:00 a.m. to finish. It is a fast paced story.

We get to see a different side to David, the military service. Then 18 months later it is three days to Mac & Archie’s wedding. It is going to be a big social wedding. Then a assassination team hits Mac’s house, with his future Mother-in-law Agnes Douglas, Joshua Thornton and Gnarly of course.

On another front Mac gets threat from a husband of a murder suspect that he put behind bars.

Lot of characters that we have met before in Mac Faraday Mysteries and Lovers in Crime series. Plus we actually get to meet Mac’s two children. Lots of targets for murder.

Mac Faraday inherited 270 million dollars on the day of his divorce. From his birth mother. He is a retired homicide detective. Mac instead of being a rich playboy type, Still helps out by working murder cases by local police department. Mac also inherited Gnarly not your everyday dog.

Gnarly is a fun character. A dog who got a dishonorable discharge from the Military. He is a thief.  I love Gnarly, he brings a lot of humor to the series.

I love this series of books from Lauren. I laugh, like the mystery and don’t put the book down till I have finished and I like to reread the stories too.

Review by Amazon Customer:

The Wedding is to take place on New Year’s Eve. Everybody and anybody is heading for Deep Creek Lake and will stay at Spencer Inn… The countdown has begun–3 days to go before Mac and Archie will publicly commit to each other that they will spend the rest of forever with each other…

But what happened there in Deep Creek had already been corrupted, evolving from an incidents far away and many months ago… and the constant war with terrorists…and criminals alike…

Aside from the planning for the wedding–some of which is outrageously funny, if the events aren’t happening to you, Mac has the first murder at his doorstep! A husband of a criminal is blaming Mac for the suicide of his wife who’d been jailed for murder. Mac knew the arrest and punishment was righteous, but the husband could just not accept it and wanted revenge…on Mac! He threatens to take Archie and started sending messages of harassment–until the husband is found murdered. With the evidence piling up that Mac is responsible!

Getting all mixed up in that investigation, individuals who are definitely professional assassins invade the Spencer Mansion! Interestingly, Archie’s mother had come to the Mansion while Archie was getting things done for the wedding, and began by telling Mac that she would give their wedding 6 months and then went on complaining just about everything, including Gnarly who she claimed was filled with germs… Joshua and Mac had been scheduled to head for fittings of their Tuxes… As the gun battle erupts, the men break into the mansion–Joshua is shot, but they all still get out and to Joshua’s van…and Escape!

But there are so many bad guys, readers will have no idea who is responsible for what, because wherever Mac’s group goes, they are found! They discover that Joshua is on a secret mission and, when he calls into his boss, they send Murphy his son to finish that particular project!

Then Cameron, Joshua’s wife, is assigned a high-profile murder case for the Pennsylvania State Police leading to one big mess for her! While an attempt to kidnap Jessica on her way to Deep Creek is made! Are they all tied in? Or, was the news of the big wedding bringing everybody there to settle old scores, of one kind or another?

What intrigued me was the cross-genres of this latest book! Actually, it has all of my favorites in this beautiful mix: Action, Mystery, Police Procedure, Romantic Suspense, and most of all Thriller. With this book, in my opinion, Lauren Carr has taken a major move in the complexity and diversity of her books. They are certainly not cozies any more, even if still listed that way for purposes of sales…

What is significant for me, however, is that Carr has seamlessly molded all the excitement of a thriller within the construct of that emotional feeling of cozies! We know and love her characters, we are excited when new characters come into play, but still within the family structure. For instance, I was thoroughly pleased when Jessica, Max’s daughter, first met Murphy, Joshua’s son! With an explosive rescue scene through to the surprise twist later, it was just like watching the relationship of a niece or nephew develop! But this one may be the hottest one ever for the Faraday family… Carr also throws one important secret that readers have known about for years…Now the Deep Creek community in the book will know… Cool!

I think one of the most impressive things about this book is that Carr has obviously done much research and includes more than the norm in helping readers see her perspective of headline events included. It is irrelevant whether the viewpoints differs from yours–the important factor for me is that individual Americans are watching, sharing their concerns! Yes, this is so finely woven into the story line, however, that many readers may exclaim–I didn’t know that–but not miss a beat to continue quickly reading and turning pages

Carr has joined the outstanding authors who are not afraid to use their fiction to spotlight trouble spots within America and throughout the world. It is irrelevant whether the viewpoints is something that differs from yours–the important factor for me is that individual Americans are watching, sharing their concerns! ThisAt the same time, within some tense scenes, Carr has one of her characters throw out her famous one-liner zings that quickly pulls out a grin from readers and lessens the tension from what has gripped us, as if in reality…

I am, bottom line, amazed at the giant step that places Carr comparable to significant authors whose name slips off our tongues like, for instance, Nora Roberts. Watch this author–she’s moving quickly to where her goals are headed… Three Days to Forever has to be, in my opinion, the best of her best! Get it!

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Thursday Sampler: Accidents of Birth by Christina Carson http://venturegalleries.com/blog/thursday-sampler-accidents-of-birth-by-christina-carson/ http://venturegalleries.com/blog/thursday-sampler-accidents-of-birth-by-christina-carson/#comments Thu, 21 May 2015 06:35:09 +0000 http://venturegalleries.com/?p=64322 A new series on Venture Galleries will feature sample writing from novels produced by some of the best writers we know. It underscores our mission of connecting readers, writers, and books. Thursday's sampler is Accidents of Birth: Book One by... Read more

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Kindle Cover - Book One

A new series on Venture Galleries will feature sample writing from novels produced by some of the best writers we know. It underscores our mission of connecting readers, writers, and books. Thursday’s sampler is Accidents of Birth: Book One by Christina Carson. Want a great novel with characters who will live in your heart forever? You’ll be glad you read  this one.

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Rain splashed against the windows, as if thrown from a pail, driven by the winds of a storm that had started three days earlier on the eve of Katie Gayle Sutton’s passing. Martha Faye Maddox, Katie’s daughter, stared out the floor-to-ceiling windows of her home and watched the wash of rain separate into long, silver streaks reminiscent of tears on transparent cheeks. Martha Faye’s thirteen-year-old daughter, Lily Claire, remarked it was the world weeping over the loss of her dear mamaw. The storm soaked the ground spongy and the gray trunks and branches of the bare live oaks, black. The massive silhouettes of the magnolia trees, black-green against the gray of the sky, shouldered the gusty squall as their kind had done for millennia, their waxy leaves shedding the icy rains, undisturbed. The January temperatures had dropped almost to freezing during the night, driving the cold even deeper into Martha Faye’s mind as she waited for Lily Claire to finish dressing. Katie’s memorial service was scheduled to start at two o’clock at the Veteran’s Lodge. Martha Faye’s spiteful thoughts included a silent snicker that the only tribute to her mother was to take place in a hall normally filled with besotted old men and tainted with the odor of stale beer. Martha shrugged. Where else could they hold the service, her mother having made it clear that a church was the most inappropriate location for anything concerning her life or death? In the small town of Ellensburg, Mississippi, there weren’t many choices.

Christina Carson

Christina Carson

The four Sutton girls had entered the world between 1937 and 1947. Tara was the oldest, followed by Liddie, Katie Gayle, and Frankie. Tara now sat in Martha Faye’s living room occupying an overstuffed armchair. The well-worn pink and white peonies of the fabric were pale on the armrests and faded out on the seat that Tara’s flabby body spread across pudding-like. She wore her radiant white hair pulled into a tight bun on the nape of her neck. Her face, however, was her most telling feature. Lined by a lifetime of scorn, it appeared etched into perpetual haughtiness that neither love, nor grace, nor passion could likely soften now.

“Isn’t it just like her to die at this miserable time of year?” Martha Faye said to no one in particular. “Maybe it’s good she decided on that godless choice of cremation. We might all have caught our deaths at the graveside in this torrential storm.”

Tara, lost in her own reverie, neither acknowledged nor responded to Martha Faye’s rebuke of her sister. Being seven years Katie’s senior, Tara’s concerns lay elsewhere. Awash in the disquiet often experienced by those who outlive their younger siblings, Tara appeared to be in a private debate. Minutes passed before a quick nod of her head coupled with her smug expression indicated she’d come to a satisfactory conclusion. Turning to Martha Faye as if her niece had been included in her deliberations, she said, “I’m a God-fearing woman, always have been, and my longer life reflects His favor. Katie either never understood the rules or just plain ignored them. Her sudden death was her comeuppance.”

It took Martha Faye a moment to figure out what indeed Tara was going on about. When she did, she turned away from Tara, clenched her teeth and rolled her eyes toward the ceiling while stuffing that line of thought into some obscure corner of her mind, so she could finish running her own checklist of what she considered pertinent concerns before leaving for the service.

“Lily child, this is not a beauty queen pageant,” she called up the stairs. “Get on down here. Hurry! We need to leave in five minutes.” She then went into the kitchen to gather the plates of food she was taking to the reception that was to follow the service. She packed them carefully into two cardboard cartons she had rescued from the trash. Katie’s sudden exit took everyone by surprise, except perhaps Lily child. Something the girl had said made Martha Faye think she had an inkling that her mamaw was about to die.

Over the last year, Lily visited with Katie often, spending most weekends with her on the home place, the farm on which the Sutton girls were raised, which Katie had taken over after the rest of the family had moved to town. It irritated Martha Faye to have her daughter enthralled with a woman she so loathed. But every time she tried to prevent Lily from going, the child made such a fuss that Martha Faye never felt it worth the effort to carry through with her threats, or so she contended. The truth, however, was simple; it always is. She held little authority in the court of her daughter, while this family oddity, Katie Gayle, held it all. Was it Katie’s allure as the family black sheep, her wild stories and wilder dreams, or something Martha Faye would not admit even to herself? Whatever it was, it had captured Lily’s heart, much to her mother’s dismay. Impatient, Martha Faye yelled one more time. Then she went back to the kitchen and carried the food boxes out to the car, handy and dry in the attached garage.

Having secured the boxes, Martha Faye helped Tara into the front seat more from respect than need. Though portly, Tara still carried herself erect and sure of foot. It was Martha Faye who acted like the older of the two, her rigidity and unrelenting pessimism making her lifeless and stiff. As she went back to the driver’s side a bit out of breath, she felt her chest and neck tighten, as if the unease in her mind was seeping into her body. From the moment Martha Faye knew of Katie’s passing, she felt faintly bothered by a lingering hint of culpability, having awaited that news for years. She dismissed the notion quickly, however, bolstered by righteous indignation she kept handy for any such assaults on her person. Sucking in a big breath of air, ready to yell one last time for Lily, the child one-upped her as she zinged into the garage and slid onto the backseat like a ballplayer tagging home. She sat up straight, smiled, and busied herself by moving an old afghan off the seat to make room for Aunt Liddie Sutton, the second oldest sister, whom they were picking up on the way to the hall. The child hoped desperately that town folk would come to honor her dear mamaw’s passing. Like many children caught in the middle of family history they had no part in creating, Lily knew only confusion. She loved her mama. She loved her aunties. She loved her Grandma Katie, and she didn’t understand why they just couldn’t love one another. So Lily hoped the rest of the town felt more like she did about her mamaw; she hoped she’d not be mourning alone.

No one knew if the fourth and youngest Sutton sister, Frankie, would make it to the service. They presumed she still lived in Memphis, though they hadn’t seen her in years. She’d left home when she was eighteen becoming a talent of note as a blues and jazz singer. But then talent flourished in the Sutton girls. In their youth, fame and distinction awaited them all, as long as they directed their talents toward praising the Lord. Tara and Liddie did. They played piano and sang at the Ellensburg Baptist Church, their soprano and alto voices blending richly, their duets fabled. They’d even performed throughout the state, but when a recording contract presented itself, Mother Sutton gathered her daughters back to her bosom and busied them with church work and helping the elderly. Thus, Tara and Liddie never married, nor knew the fruits of fame or passion, withering gently on the vine of service to God and community. But when Mother Sutton tried to grab back Katie Gayle, the child who danced like an angel, her grip acted like a wet hand on a bar of soap sending Katie Gayle flying out from her clutches. After all, in Mother Sutton’s world, dancing did not please the Lord. But dancing was like breathing to this child, and she fought back against the iron maiden of religion, family values, race, and gender into which she’d been born. In so doing, she became the family’s shame made carnate, its fears made public, its cross to bear. Only little Lily Claire knew her differently and was awaiting her moment at the funeral to say so.

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