Deus volt; Deus mittit me.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Free Willy



The summer of 2014 is dying an early death. Although I get very little writing done when my kids are home, I morn its passing. Summer is for regeneration. It's for restarting the engines and making a fresh start.

I feel our school district has robbed my children of precious moments. We no longer have enough time to go on a family trip because the schools want to show our kids more R-rated movies and other trash. Do I sound angry? I am. It would be different if the school had an outstanding program to offer. But they don't. In fact my son has moved to another school in search of a better program. I hope his search will be rewarded with more than an extra hour of driving every day for his mother.

Summer is for working hard at your first life guard gig or mowing lawns or growing things. It's for reading piles and piles of library books. It's for wandering down a mist-shrouded beach to watch the dolphin pod as it works its way up the coast. It's for lying back in the tall grass and watching clouds sail across the sky. It's for that moment when you reach the peak and you can finally shrug out of your pack and gaze into the wind and out across the ranks of tree-clad mountains. It's for smelling the grass as you raise your bat in your first ballgame.

I'm not one of these moms who doesn't care about my children's future. But I have seen up close what this district has to offer. And it doesn't cut it. I feel as if our children are being wrenched from us to be loaded into stock trucks instead of being taught vital information they'll need in colleges and universities. They won't be good for anything but flipping burgers when they get out of todays schools. They certainly won't be fit to solve their own problems or use their imaginations in useful ways.

Give our children back their summer. And stop trying to shove them into holding bins to be babysat instead of teaching them.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Glorious Lexicography



I plunk my ever-widening derrière into the seat at my desk and pound away at the keys on a nearly daily basis. I fill with verbiage letters to friends, three blogs, a couple of networking sites, and, thus far, nineteen books in varying forms of pajama-undress. Often I concoct scenes while hanging the laundry or driving somewhere.

Now and then I have a chance to contemplate what I do. At times discouragement looms on the horizon as I obsess over how many people aren't reading what I have to say. Why is it a single dad writing about dating woes or a style maven talking about the right purse with the right outfit get thousands of readers and I with my wild variety have only a dedicated few? Why do I have such a backlog of orphaned books waiting for publishing parents?

I shrug. Perhaps I'm doing it wrong. Perhaps I should be offering style tips (laughable as I'm the poster child for frump) or helpful relationship hints (also laughable since I'm still trying to forge a way through the marital ice myself) or non-stop blog hops and raffles. Maybe I should spend more of my time courting those 'parents' who will love my babies as I do.

Or not. At best they'll have to share the trip. This chair is where I live. This is where I stand, mental pith helmet firmly strapped to my head, hiking boots laced securely, as I gaze out over the vast escarpment, past rank on rank of whispering trees to the purpling mountains beyond. If you want, you can join me on Mars or a tour of the smoke vents at the bottom of the Marianas trench. We can go barrel racing or shoot aliens in deep space. My latest book will involve synesthesia.

Welcome to my world. Now get your SCUBA gear and your snowshoes and let's go.


Saturday, June 28, 2014

GIFT OF THE PHOENIX Review



I read THE HOBBIT by J R R Tolkein in the fourth grade and DUNE by Frank Herbert shortly thereafter. I won't say GIFT OF THE PHOENIX by Donna Cook stands in the vanguard with the hobbits, elves, and fremen, but it's definitely in the same battalion.

The action was gripping, the story fabulous, the characters well-developed and likable (except for the villain, of course, who was utterly chilling). I enjoyed how she worked the magical sequences. They were believable, if not doable.

Prince Marcellus, Corren (an apprentice wizard), and Nicolai (a farmer) have something secret in common--a father and mother. The secrets don't stop there, cropping up at every turn, filling the book full of lovely twists and speed bumps. It's the job of The Three, along with two remarkable women, to stop The Crafty One from killing the phoenix and stealing its magic. The book is a mad dash to the finish line of the world with at least one brother knowing he was doomed to die. Earth, Wind, Fire, and Water faeries combine to make this a fascinating tale.

There were a couple of incredibly silly bits which I can't refrain from snickering over, just because they are so very ridiculous. Donna had people shooting their quivers. Anybody who has ever heard anything about archery or seen a bow shot, let alone anyone who has shot one, knows that you shoot arrows which you carry around with you in your quiver. Even if you are shooting a crossbow, you know those are called bolts or quarrels, not quivers. She mentions them twice, so I know it wasn't a typo.
The other silliness was that she called the sword hilt a helm. Sorry, Donna, a helm is a metal hat you wear on your head to keep your brains intact. You meant a hilt. Just keep that in mind for the sequel I'm waiting for.

Other than those bits, I found the book absolutely readable and difficult to put down. Bring on the next one, Donna. If you'd like to purchase this book, you can get it here. and here.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Bouncing Noggins



This week (and for the last long while) I've been working through editing re-writes for SUNRISE OVER SCIPIO. The process has been a little like my baby being flogged mercilessly, then painted puce, stuffed into an orange velvet jumpsuit and chartreuse crocs, and sent out on the street to flip signs. Okay so it's an exaggeration. I'm not really that babyish. Really. But bidding a fond farewell to a few of those bits wasn't pleasant.

As I see sentence after sentence go to the guillotine, I'm reminded of my previous folly. My editor told me mine was one of the best books she'd read all year. For a while it didn't seem like she was going to change much at all. Silly author. It's difficult to remember that when the manuscript is full of mark-outs and bids for re-writing. At first this week I was more than a little discouraged. I'd already gone through my own exhaustive hatchet job, then that of my writing group and Beta readers. Who was I kidding?

 I have gone through and done all the chopping, rearranging, and re-purposing my editor has asked for, however.

Most of those revisions are painless and I can see they'll make for a better story. Some? Not so much. My one happiness is that I have the original manuscript in my hot little fist and I can pour over it to my heart's content. Probably as I read, I'll agree with La Editorix.

My daughter is reading another of my books I'm getting ready to send. She laughed until her eyes bugged out about a phrase I wrote (something about gustatory sensations) I'll be chopping that one in a few minutes. She also said the author she illustrates for has said he had maybe one paragraph in all his books that remained untouched. That statement made me feel much better. He's done many books, most of which I love.

The problem is this: When do you bow to the slippery slide our country's children are on and when do you hold firm in a desperate attempt to keep some kind of vocabulary intact? I think it won't be too long before we're back to the grunting/pointing stage. I'm reminded of a comedy spot I saw on Youtube recently by John Branyan. It's called something like Shakespeare's Three Little Pigs. Check it out.

And now back to my previously scheduled chopping block. Thank you, editor mine. I shall get back to it now.

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Swan

This is part of a short story I wrote a while back called THE SWAN.

Anna watched, disconsolate in her seat against the wall, as the dancing couples passed by. Envious of their youth, their figures, and the handsome men on their arms, she took in the whirl of colorful gowns and the flash of gems. The air was redolent of orchids and aftershave and the delicious scents of chocolate cake and champagne.

The men in their tuxedos offset their partners' brilliance perfectly. Hers was, as usual, AWOL, leaving her partner-less. They glided past her in waltz formation, dipping and swaying with the lilting strains of the orchestra. She found herself utterly envious that their lives still held the promise of love and adventure.

Hers could not offer such. She contemplated her life as if looking at the false front of a drama set. The garishly painted set represented her early years, impressing a stream of less-than-stellar boys. As they got older, fewer men could be captivated by the glitz and paint of the false front.

Until there was only Jack.

They'd seemed to fall together as two felled trees, leaning precariously in mutual need. While her friends spoke of aching love and surpassing passion, Anna knew her marriage to be much quieter--more like a tree standing on a hillside, cutting the spring breezes.

Now? Jack didn't care to socialize. He'd much rather stay at home with a book, his dogs at his knee as twilight fell in the library. And all that was left to Anna was the tawdry back of the false front with its bared, rusty nails and pealing paint.

Now no one looked at her with a glint in his eye. She had run to fat, and wrinkles replaced pimples. Even the cheap black dye couldn't disguise the tufts of silver. She watched her reflection in the back-lit window, mourning the lithe figure of her youth. Look at those arms, she thought sadly. They're as big as my thighs once were.

As the dancers whirled past, a potent longing rose up in her, choking. Cloying. She had let those valuable hours of her youth slip away like quicksilver, unappreciated. For what purpose? She felt alone and valueless. Unneeded. Unremarkable. Fit only for the dim spaces against the wall with the other ferns.

She felt a hand on her shoulder. She glanced upwards.

Jack!

Bowing, he whispered, "Dance with me, Sweetheart." Somehow he'd been practicing, for with a flourish, Jack expertly drew her through the couples and out onto the dance floor. She clapped her amazed mouth shut as he squired her through a whole series of expertly executed dance steps.

By the time her breath caught up with her, and several dances later, he had retrieved a couple of drinks and some secluded seats for them both. She blinked at him, wondering at the metamorphosis of her once staid husband. His prowess on the dance floor had been negligent and uninspiring. Here he stood in a tuxedo, cutting a dashing figure as if he'd crawled out of a decades-long cocoon to emerge a glittering butterfly.

He launched into a gleeful explanation about how long he'd been planning this most stunning surprise--the lessons, the tux, the planning. "I can't have my Sweet Girl thinking she's lost her shine, can I? After all, you mean everything to me."

© 2014 by H. Linn Murphy

Monday, June 9, 2014

A Miracle on the Mountain

I don't know about you, but I believe in miracles. I see them every day. I actively look for them and find miracles in the most out-of-the-way places. Recently one of them happened to a young friend of mine.

This young man and his buddy had been up in the mountains working at a girl's camp. They'd selflessly gone up to teach a class on paint-ball and had stayed to work over night guarding the camp from bears, skunks, the occasional scorpion, and whatever else might go bump in the night. They'd stayed up all day and all night and the morning of the next day, volunteering with no pay but the knowledge that a hundred or so girls were safe and had fun that day.

Instead of sleeping before they went down the mountain, they took off after helping put the camp to rights.

This set of mountain roads are narrow; winding; have treacherous drop-offs which plunge thousands of feet to the valley floor; and lots of traffic of the car, truck, and bicycle variety. There are goose necks and switchbacks and blind corners. There have been a number of heartbreaking accidents on that stretch of road.

Luckily the driver didn't doze off on the upper slopes where the car could have careened off the cliff and plunged to the bottom, killing them both. He did it near mile marker one, where the shoulder is easy and not precipitant. He didn't hit another car. He over-corrected and rolled the car several times.

The driver was fairly unhurt (maybe a slight concussion) although he should have been thrown from the car.

The biggest miracles involved his sleeping passenger. That young man woke to find his hand crushed beneath the car. It was scraped and bleeding profusely. Luckily the driver and some ambulance personnel helped lift the car from his ragged hand.

It turns out that he was wearing a ring on that hand featuring footprints. It has to do with a poem called "Footprints in the Sand" in which Christ carries the subject of the poem during his darkest hours, leaving one set of footprints. That ring held the car off the boy's hand just high enough so the car didn't crush the bones, making re-constructive surgery possible.

The ring was unscratched.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

WISH Review--Knocked it out of the Park



I came to my liking for baseball late. Seeing a game on TV gave me the hives and sent me running for a book. It took going to my first real game before I understood my sister's longtime love affair with watching her Boys of Summer. It took listening to the crack of the bat and the calls of the peanut vendors, and smelling the new mowed grass and popcorn and leather. Now I got to heckle the pitcher and he'd actually hear me! It was merely a bush league game but I was hooked.

Jake Smith's book WISH puts you there. You feel your muscles stretch as you sling that ball to first in a double play. You smell the pine tar as you rub it into the bat. You feel the skid marks on your chest as James dives for a base. You feel his anguished worry that he won't get the mojo back long enough to play that one major league game his dying son has begged him for. You watch in the middle of the night with anxious parents for any sign that the tiny baseball nut in the hospital bed will rally from his coma.

The story is about a boy with leukemia who relapses. He loves everything about baseball and can tell you every stat and skill. His dad is a coach who played college ball but gave it up for his family. Aaron's dying wish is to see his dad play one major league game for the Detroit Tigers. This book is about that journey.

WISH is about sacrifice. It's about a man sacrificing his major league career for the promise of a family. It's about that family spending countless hours trying to help their son wring that last little bit of life away from the demons of his disease. It's about a father's love for his son and a son's love for his dad and their love for baseball. It's about winning battles over self and disease and fear and reaching into the dark, dank basement of your soul to open the doors and let the light stream in. It's about finding faith and the battle to keep it bright as you bash through the dark forces that whisper poison in your ear, telling you that you'll never make it.

I rarely give out 5 stars. This book earned every one. I couldn't put the book down until I'd found out whether Aaron lived. Jake Smith's words wove around me so completely and so brilliantly that he put me out on that field beneath the bright lights, fingering the laces of my mitt. I cared whether J-Mac made it to The Show so his son's wish came true. More than that, I cried like a baby at the ending.

WISH is worth every penny you spend for it. For me, it knocked one out of the park. You can get this book here.