Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Life and Writing: Tragedy, Tumult, and Triumph--INKBLOTS

March 13, 2018 INKBLOTS (two for one)

My next fiction book? WW II French Resistance?
I told about my birthday lunch with my venerable mother (March 13, her 81st birthday), and then about listening to her read aloud vignettes she has been writing from her life: dysfunctional family, bi-polar mother, adultery, illegal abortions for her mother (there's no need for adjective before abortion; they're all illegal in God's sight), she and her siblings separated and placed in various foster homes, older brother chronic trouble with the law (ends up at Ft Leavenworth, then years later dying at mental hospital years later, alone, except for my mother's regular visits), one foster home for my mother, a believing Lutheran family, in the providence and mercy of God, where my mother regularly attended church for the first time, heard the gospel, compensated for the domestic disaster that was her family by excelling in academics, orchestra, student government (she was the first female student body president of RA Long High School, Longview WA), and graduation day was awarded outstanding senior by the faculty (and by student body awarded most likely to succeed, and class clown--she does have a great sense of humor). How to format these vignettes of her amazing life? 

John leads off with a rereading of last chapter of Saving Grace, just edited and proof read by, you guessed it, my venerable mother, and literary wise woman. John has gotten push back from Inkblots before for this being to0 pat, everything works out just hunky in the end. Suicide theme. Did you really try to kill yourself--can you show her incredulity rather than state it like this. Grace's tantrum seems stiff, forced. Nora's comforting feels formulaic, too superficial. And Grace comes around awfully quickly, considering she was about to kill herself a few minutes before. I know, I'm just feeling sorry for myself. And then Grace suddenly gives God glory, seemingly out of the blue, considering the suicide context. I think the reader will be most moved, changed, by seeing the soft, fleshy cheeks of a newborn baby, a teem mother cuddling her real human being, created in the image of God, precious life. Observe a mother with a newborn (Monica in France) and write down all sensory material you observe. This is where this book needs to end. Not everything will be easy, make clear, but everything is now right, new life and new light. Overwhelm readers with the wonder of birth, new life, regardless of and without diminishing the sin and crisis that conceived it. End with cooing baby spitting up, a metaphor for the delights and challenges of life in a broken world.

Patrick thinks that the mom comes around too quickly. Alisa thought there was a huge change from suicidal thoughts and words to settled calm.

So my marriage non-fiction book--what to do with it? Marriages Through the Ages: Delightful, Disappointing, and Dreadful Ones (working title). I received some good counsel from Greg Bailey (editor at Crossway and good friend; and Marvin Ink-in-the-veins Padgett over breakfast last week in Atlanta. Both were cautious about the book, great idea, but difficult to package and sell on large scale (I'm not Keller or Tripp, big names in marriage books along with others). Patrick thinks I should imbed it in story form, a pastor counselling parishioners, meanwhile, the pastor has his own struggles. He gives advice to others but is missing the big issues looming in his own home. Could use dramatic irony, the reader seeing what the pastor is blind to. Made me recollect The Confession by Grisham, featuring a Lutheran pastor caught in the middle of the courtroom thriller; I was handed the book on a plane by a woman whose husband bought it at the airport but she had already read it. Is this where I should invest my writing energies right now? I'm just not so sure. Maybe package as blog devotional material. 

Or there's my WW II French resistance yarn idea, with CS Lewis, the voice of faith, breaking through on the BBC from time to time throughout. This would pair well with War in the Wasteland. I'm enthusiastic about this idea. Then again, I have my long standing Bunyan era historical novel idea still very much on the agenda, but is this the right time? It would follow The Betrayal, The Thunder, The Revolt, and Luther in Love in my adult historical novel category. And I've toyed with the idea of writing another Hand of Vengeance like whodunit, but this one set in 1066 era Norman Conquest France and England. For the time being, I have tabled my American Civil War era novel idea, under counsel from respected publishing peoples; far too much flapdoodle in media and general society to invest energy there, for now; it always had carried with it the potential to alienate blocks of readers arrayed against one another already in the entrenched encampments. Someday.

Patrick has rewritten his Adam and Steve satire yarn, speculative fiction. He feels much better about it. We did heaps of chatting and good conversation this evening. Maybe that's what we all needed. It was warm and pleasant, from my perspective. I trust for everyone else too.

[Previous unposted 'Blots meeting material]

Maybe too close to Valentines Day, but Inkblots, four strong, charges onward and upward. Rachel (whose computer died just as she started to read last time) leads off with another of her scrumptious food-centric yarns. I gain weight just listening to Rachel read her work.

Manhattan setting, shopping outing, with food? Third person, with thoughts, and backstory. Miss Dahlia. Rachel's characters are so unique and human. There is a hint of Ramona. Mysterious, powerful girls you read about in books. Delightful metaphoric doctoring and thrifting. Allusion to Bronte's Wuthering Heights. Lots of chatty dialogue. John wanted to know how much the shoes cost. Rachel said Miss Dahlia gave her a discount. I want to hear more about that exchange. When did the story occur? We tried guessing based on clues from the reading. I thought it reminded me of Beverly Cleary's Ramona yarns, so set in 50s. Rachel said she was up in the air, maybe 90s, but then maybe taking in the Cold War and Communism, or even earlier when the stock market crashed. Might be a good idea to narrow that down. The grandfather is a saddle maker and could have memories of the Depression and its effect on the saddle making business. 

Sydney picks up on her reading, shifting to chapter two and twenty years later. We had discussed the challenges of a twenty year gap from opening episode in prelude to here chapter one. The hour between sunset and dark... soft shadows of dusk. Sydney writes like a Pre-Raphaelite, but unlike many I have heard who write in an archaic style, she pulls it off with ease and authenticity; it sounds like it could be Gothic romance, Jane Eyre-esque. 
girdle, and shilling from under his boot? I was a little confused by both of these description. Sydney has actually improved on the Gothic romance feel, as she stays on intentional trajectory, without the seeming excercies. There is also a Dickensian feel, narrative heavy, with dark mystery, layers of intrigue, and a sense of impending doom around the next dreary dark corner, the gas street lights casting eerie shadows on the cobblestones, oily and reflective in the evening drizzle. 

John wonders where Sydney is going, how long is it going to be? He wondered about the pace. He felt it moved slowly, but he loves Sydney's writing. Intricate detail described. Rachel said she can see everything clearly. White skin and chiseled features, but chews his moustache, which seemed out of character with his chiseled features; buff hunks shouldn't chew their moustache. John wonders why

Good crowd tonight, seven, the number of perfection. We chatted (read, I chatted) about my birthday lunch with my mom for her 81st birthday today. Such an extraordinary woman on so many levels. Her story is the material for Hollywood, but they would slaughter it's outcomes, outcomes ordained by a merciful God who providentially rescued my mother from being another tragic statistic of the materialist naturalist mid century last.


  1. I love your WWII resistance idea with the BBC thing. The CS Lewis thing would give it grace and continuity--a backbone. Maybe another title for the marriage book? I have a Martyn Lloyd-Jones marriage book that is simply a repackaging of previously published material on Ephesians. But it's packaged to sell. Maybe wait on that while you do the WWII one!!!

    1. Thanks Lynne, I appreciate your thoughts and suggestions. After my Oxford trip which involved an overnight layover in Paris, I feel more than ever the desire to launch into the WW II yarn, so many ideas whirling. Yes, it needs to sit and stew in its juices. Nice thing about non fiction, its still there like it was when you come back to it after an extended time away. Facts are stubborn things

  2. Funnily enough, before I read your comments re a Civil War era book, I'd thought how much I'd love a Civil War era book, but hey, how could he possibly do that in this climate ... Sad, but true. It is one my favourite, yet achingly so, eras to read of. But, as you say, that must be left for another day.
    I'd love a historical novel from the 1066 era. I'm not a huge CS Lewis fan (yeah, I know, just shoot me now :) ), and I do find WWII (and WWI) reading painful - too close to home.... coming from the Isle of Lewis, the realities of these wars were - and are, even - devastating. This is true of all wars, and that's why reading of the American Civil War (or WBtS, whatever one wishes to call it) is painful too. Older wars are so distant, and can be.... enjoyed (am I allowed to say that?) :)
    Forgive me, I'm rambling.

    1. Anne, rambling can be good. It can lead to clarification of ideas and thoughts. I do lots of rambling, especially in the early stages of idea forming on a novel. I've thought of doing the Norman era yarn in the sub genre of Hand of Vengeance, which was one of my most enjoyable books to write. French Resistance was so enamored with Communism, which provides me a realistic context to critique and expose the fallacies of Marx.