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20th of February

In 3 Months: My New Novel, Swimming the Echo


Hey all!

In a little over 3 months (5.30.17), my newest novel, Swimming the Echo, will be hitting bookshelves, and I wanted to give you as much notice as possible.

This novel will delve into more backstory of the fictional town of Seton, Kentucky (first featured in my story collection, Baptisms & Dogs (2014)), and the adventures of one youth who takes it upon himself to explore the terrains of love and loyalty.

Here’s an early synopsis:

IT’S AN ADVENTURE OF A LIFETIME.

When a summer job to explore Mammoth Cave lands in Cade Rainy’s lap, he doesn’t think twice.

THE TEEN FROM SOUTHERN KENTUCKY MAKES A BREAK FOR IT.

But when he finds his dad is connected to a man working at Mammoth, Cade discovers there’s more to this trip than meets the eye.

THE CAVE IS JUST THE START.

Cade sets out to map the real route of twisted lies through fissures and stalactites, battling claustrophobia and bats.

EXPLORE. ADVENTURE. DON’T DIE.

EXPLORE. Don’t die.

don’t die

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30th of January

Gloves Off Gospel


My pastor says things much more eloquently than me. He draws inferences from the Good Book, and I thank the Good Lord for it.

Some times I find myself just wanting to haul off and punch people.

But fortunately, I have people around me who teach biblical truth. A wife who loves first and foremost.

It stops my fist before it leaves the proverbial hangar.

Yesterday, Mark spoke on Revelation and made a connection to loving people I’d never heard in my 32 churchgoing years.

And before you stop reading, let me say right here that it wasn’t another LG,LP message. He didn’t make it about holding hands and skipping or anything.

It’s what I like to call Gloves Off Gospel.

It wasn’t highfaluting wish wash, but something that dug in and hit home.

The question he led with: Do you love as well as you used to? (Taken out of context this could mean anything. But here, for a Christian, it means what it says.)

Revelation 2 instructs every believer to – “do the works you did at first…”

This harps on how love diminishes in everyone who starts on warp speed, with mad love for God, and then, well, fizzles out.

Life, politics, saccharine packets, and bad pizza take their toll on our hearts metaphorically and literally. 1st world sucker punches happen and we think this somehow makes it okay to stop caring. I don’t know about you, but I’m not okay with any punch to my gut. From friend or foe.

My stomach hurts just typing this. I want to avoid the lull of carelessness. Forever.

Can we pray for impenetrable faith? Do we need extra compassion injections over time? Are we being the body we’re called to be?

January is cold and nothing can insulate like good works & faith.

Do I love as well as I used to?

 

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23rd of January

Language is Universal.


It’s easy to lose our love for words & conversation.

Language can become nothing more than consonants, vowels strung together and overlooked on social media.

I take them for granted every day. I misuse them, too. Saying things I don’t mean.

Writer friends of mine can do beautiful things with grammatical units, prepositional phrases.

Phonemes and morphemes constructed to make magic to listeners in any native person’s land.

I love the impact of language. How it can transport us in fiction like Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird to 1930s Maycomb County, Alabama, or relay world news pertinent to us in 2017. It can unite (and often divide). It can be succinct and to the point. It can also be long-winded and meandering. (Much like me…)

But, at it’s core, language serves a purpose: to communicate.

Fun Facts

  • With 6,500 languages in the world about 2k of these have less than 1k speakers.
  • Mandarin features almost 1 billion speakers (well over double those of us speaking English).

“Ni hao,” “Hello,” & “Hola” all greet peoples of the world. And can mean different things in the way they’re said.

I love the unity of language.

You might ask, “But doesn’t language divide & confuse us daily?”

To an extent, but linguistics unifies as well.

Studying languages as obscure as the Pirahã language of Brazil (comprised almost entirely of phonemes) merits importance to those still speaking it. Likewise, just because those natives of North Sentinel don’t want to be invaded by outsiders doesn’t cheapen the Sentinelese language spoken on their restricted coasts.

I like not knowing some things about the French language. It’s mysterious. There’s a hidden code in every language. It allows people groups to learn from one another, share, and also hide in the comfort of their uniqueness as well.

Did you know inhabitants of the island of La Gomera use a whistled language? Or, that the Pawnee tribes’ (Native American) language involved a love affair with syllables (some words possessing over 30 syllables)? Or, that the Taa language in Botswana literally translates to “the language of human beings”?

I found the English language WordClock online and it states there’s a new word added every 98 minutes. As I type this post, the clock shows: 1,005,366 words in the English language. That’s 14.7 new words per day. See it here.

Do you think language unifies or divides? Should it be kept in a lockbox only for natives to speak to natives? Should North Sentinel Island be invaded for the sake of conversation? (Ok, that one is a bit pointed.)

Are you a wordsmith secretly planning to now learn Pawnee, because you read this blog? Buy Rosetta Stone for Pirahã if it exists?

I love the discussion of language. No matter where you are on this blue planet you can take this blog, copy & paste it into a word app on your phone, and in a minute (maybe less), you know exactly what I’m saying. You process it in an exquisite, God-given brain, and you respond.

Magic. Voilà!

 

 

 

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20th of January

Slice of Nostalgia: How Many Do You Remember?


Searching for the band BareNaked Ladies on a school browser and immediately regretting it.

Discovering the face of Jesus in a slice of rectangular-shaped pizza in the school cafeteria.

Purchasing pencils, pens, & paper out of one of these:

Losing more oxen than you care to remember on The Oregon Trail.

Eating a nutritious pack of Gushers to curb your appetite before lunch.

Eating the other pack of Gushers before making it into the lunchroom.

Using your lunch money to buy Fruitopia out of the machine.

Playing Candystand & Nabisco World Mini-Golf in class.

Wearing JNCO jeans you got at Goody’s, because it was absurd not to. (Plugg Jeans were a nice backup.)

Metal choker necklace – check.

Hair glue – double check.

A worn in pair of Airwalk sneakers – always.

Forming a WINDBREAKER club afterschool.

 

 

 

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17th of January

4 years 273 days at Sea.


4 years. 273 days. That’s the length of time one couple has sailed across various oceans of the world with Princess Cruise(s).

I only know this, because of a bulletin that recognized them as distinguished on a recent trip.

I couldn’t process that milestone. 1,733 days at sea. 1,733 vacation days. 1,733 days passed willy-nilly with endless watermelon and copious entertainment. How?

I haven’t had anything last that long in my life, have you?

I mean, apart from marriage, education, and well, breathing. [I’ve been alive that long but not much else.]

The couple’s picture was prominently displayed on the cruise line’s bulletin and I wondered what brought them out on the waters so much. Why would they keep sailing? And how the heck did they pay for it?

Has anything ever drawn your attention for so long? Any passion? Any hobby?

I can safely say I lose interest in things longer than a Netflix season.

This couple obviously found something in those 4 (almost 5) years at sea. But what? Did they secretly know where sunken treasure was and didn’t want to tell anyone else? Their secret resting miles below the ocean’s surface.

Maybe love was prodding them out to nature as they aged. It seems they could almost name a ship after you, if you cruised for 5 years with the same company.

Obviously Princess Cruises thought them significant enough to print their picture. But what was their story? What prodded them to embark for an eternity? Was it a Melvillian fixation with marine life?

Remember that song from the 90s by the band Fastball called “The Way”? It was about an elderly couple (Lela & Raymond Howard) who wandered from home one day and tragically drove over a cliff. Authorities indicated that they left their belongings behind and suffered from forgetfulness in their final hours.

I sometimes wonder what grabs our interests and keeps us enthralled. Imagine that something lasting for 5 years.

What do you care enough about to pursue for 1,733 days?

 

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12th of January

If your resolution was to read more…


WHEELMAN & BAPTISMS & DOGS on sale NOW!

Get a copy for your e-reader or for someone else’s. Get both for just $5.

 

And stay tuned for more updates about my newest novel, SWIMMING THE ECHO, out 5.30.2017.

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14th of November

Home is more than an address


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I think about home a lot.

Especially since moving away.

 

Home –

“the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household.”

 

I like this definition better than some of the others online; it includes that one word, the adverb ‘permanently’.

The image seems truer somehow, even if it’s not the reality you (or I) experienced.

If you’re like me, the word home seems more distant now than it ever has.

 

If you’re from southern Kentucky (specifically Wayne County), you know exactly what Monticello-born author, Harriette Simpson Arnow meant when she said this about her mom’s view of home:

… she (Mama) knew most of the families … in Wayne County. If Mama didn’t know at least who their grandparents were, she considered them strangers. Because she’d grown up that way with the Denneys. There was Denney’s Gap and a Denney post office and two Denney graveyards, and Denney’s Store. And she’d grown up surrounded by her Denny kin. I don’t think she ever felt at home after leaving Wayne County and her close relatives.

 

The sentiments ring true for me. They make the world so much smaller. In my head I think, I’m from where she’s from, my grandparents still live in Denney’s Gap, I know where those graveyards are and that store. I feel what she felt.

denneysgapsign_72

Have you connected with a place like that before?

A place that makes the world suddenly smaller, more intimate?

Do you travel home as much as you’d like?

Is it home like you remembered? Or, do you find yourself longing for another home?

Something C.S. Lewis once surmised, saying, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

It clicks in my head and my heart, as I write this blog in Tennessee. The world isn’t too large to make the trip back, but the miles seem endless staring at this electronic screen. The years busier, and the friends older. While I might not be able to stop time and make my hometown exactly as I remember it, I smile when I think of that one word, and the notion of eternity for all of us.

Not here in Chattanooga. Not there in Monticello. But, another world – permanently.

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2nd of November

How to Break Free


Jim Burgen’s, No More Dragons, from Thomas Nelson Books.

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(on shedding decades of gnarly scales)

 

His sermons (while at Southland Christian Church in Kentucky) were instrumental during my college years, and this book has taken it a step further with messaging that centers upon curing a hardened heart.

Jim challenges the reader saying: becoming a dragon is a dangerously sneaky process.

He uses the C.S. Lewis novel, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, as a fitting example of a boy becoming a dragon unawares. The boy finds treasure, falls asleep on it, dreams, and awakens as a dragon concerned for his treasure hoard. Upon awakening, he discovers he cannot remove his dragon scales without the help of Aslan the lion, protector of Narnia.

Once the scales have been cleansed from his back, Eustace’s friend says, “You have been – well, un-dragoned.”

This is a status most of us (if we’re honest) would like to reach at some point in life: un-dragoned.

Have you ever felt this freedom?

Free of the past. Hopeful for the future. Very much alive in the present.  When we can look in the mirror and not see a monster staring back, is a good day.

What will get us there?

Is there a moment when you can assuredly say you’ve arrived?

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30th of September

Why Our Work Matters


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“Utterly alone, at the bottom of a fourteen-foot trench filled with water so thick with silt he literally couldn’t see his hand in front of his face, William Walker laid twenty-five thousand bags of concrete, slitting each bag open so the concrete could spread out as it set. He then used 115,000 concrete blocks and 900,000 bricks to shore up the national treasure we know as Winchester Cathedral.

Every morning, five mornings a week, fifty weeks a year, for six years and one month, from 1905 to 1911, Walker would climb into his diver’s suit and wait while his tenders loaded forty-pound stones over his shoulders and placed a fifty-pound metal helmet over his head. Then he would step into eighteen-pound metal shoes and descend into the depths of the trench around Winchester Cathedral to work for three-and-a-half hours.

After an hour for lunch, he would go through the ritual again in order to work another three-and-a-half hours in the pitch dark completely alone.

Incredibly, the majestic structure that thrills people even today with its remarkable architecture had been built on a bog, floating on what Sir Francis Fox called a “raft” of massive beech timbers. As the timbers rotted, the mighty building started to sag.

It isn’t stretching things at all to say William Walker single-handedly saved Winchester Cathedral.

Since the water swirled in and out of sites where bubonic plague victims had been buried centuries earlier, Walker also had to worry about exposure to life-threatening infectious materials and the possibility of encountering floating skeletal remains. His response: “I try not to think too much about that.”

So day in and day out, week in and week out, year in and year out, Walker fought to save a structure built by long-dead humans to honor a still-living God.

In a perfect world where happy endings always happen, William Walker would have lived a long life bathed in the adoration of the English people for his unseen labors. In a perfect world, a famous sculptor would craft a statue to sit in the halls of the Cathedral to honor Walker’s name. In a perfect world, visitors to the tombs of William the Conqueror and Jane Austen would see and remember the face of the man who saved an irreplaceable part of England’s history.

Alas, to use the king’s own English, ’tis not a perfect world we rest in.

William Walker would be one of the millions and millions of people felled by the flu pandemic that swept the world in 1918. When the sculptor sat down to craft the monument to Walker, he used a photo of the wrong man, and the Church of England, embarrassed by its error, refused to correct it for almost 90 years.

But William Walker knew something most of us need to learn or, having once learned it, need to be reminded of again and again and again.

It isn’t adoration or statues or even the satisfaction of a job well done that is God’s gift to His children.

It’s the work itself!

Hard as it is to imagine, even those things we do in the places nobody can see, even when we’re weighed down by heavy trials, even when we don’t have the joy of the company of coworkers, the labor we’re engaged in is God’s gift to us.

Let the coal miner rejoice. Let the bond trader exult. Let firefighters and architects and school teachers glory in their labor, for God in His infinite wisdom has given them the chance to play a role in shoring up the foundations of a creation built to last forever.

One day, when every knee has bowed and every tongue confessed that Jesus is Lord, every dark hour, every tedious task, every ounce of effort given by God’s children to the tending of His cathedral will see the light of day, and we will know and count it as great treasure that God let us be a small part of His big work.”

– from Randy Kilgore’s Made to Matter

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22nd of September

Stranger Things at a Stop Light


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One of the most beautiful things I’ve seen occurred on my commute to work yesterday. Something I hadn’t seen before and the epitome of what many might call a Hallmark moment. But, for me it was something else. It didn’t come off as cheesy in the slightest.

It distracted my driving, but in a good way.

I was driving in the slow lane listening to Weezer, and the traffic was stop-and-go. And I was belting some lyrics from the white album, and I came to another red light and immediately looked in my mirrors to see if I’d been caught in any direction. Then I glanced left and the car next to me offered this aforementioned Hallmark moment.

It was a beat-up, rusted Buick with the front bumper held together by what looked like bungee cables.

Inside was a young couple who looked younger than my wife and I when we first got married (19 & 23). The young lady was in the passenger seat, and she was reading aloud from a book I couldn’t see too well – to her boyfriend, husband, fill-in-the-blank. (I’d like to say it was a Bible, but I couldn’t confirm the text.)

And what spoke volumes to me was their passion. She was reading and he was locked in with two hands on the wheel. (Imagine a young Johnny Cash with hair swiped to the side nodding and listening.) She would read, pause, and wait to see the man’s reaction. He, meanwhile, listened and encouraged.

The light turned and we all were set in motion again. As I turned Weezer down, in my rearview I saw the old Buick go left. I replayed the image in my mind, their passion-

It was 7am. The car wasn’t new. Their dress and style didn’t suggest wealth. And, they had what many call zest. I could see it all in that brief window of time stopped together.

[Imagine what an image of our grandparents joyriding around town might’ve looked like 50-60 years ago.]

This was something unexpected, and I got a better sense of what the word ‘contentment’ ought to mean.

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