Bloody Point 1976

Another author in our Working Writers Forum, Brent Lewis, has just published his first novel, Bloody Point 1976. Wednesday night he had a signing at The Crab Deck on Kent Island. Brent told me he was a bartender here twenty-five years ago. This is the place to go for crabs on Kent Island.

Brent Lewis book signing

I got there early as I was on my way back from Baltimore. Brent told me he didn’t know why he looked so distressed in this photo, but he wondered if he was concerned nobody would show up. Book signings can be awful, but Brent’s peeps showed up and he sold 125 books in two hours. That’s frigging awesome!

Here’s the back cover blurb: Fourth of July, 1976. Tooey Walter, a young Chesapeake Bay waterman on Maryland’s rural Eastern Shore, is hired to retrieve big shot Harris Bradnox’s rebellious daughter Dee from The Block, Baltimore city’s grimy and notoriously dangerous red-light district. Thrown into a menacing world of vice and violence, with hometown goon Clacker Herbertson on his tail, Tooey collides into a lineup of mind-blowing strangers, including: Salt Wade, Dee’s murderous “manager” and his mysterious case; Dr. Merriman, the fallen from grace, drug-addled “Block-doc,” and Amy Ruari, the red-headed waitress with a carbonated personality who might know more than she lets on. A coming-of-age crime adventure mixed with an epic quest and garnished with a funky slice of Bicentennial Americana; told with fishhook-sharp dialogue and a boatload of twists, Bloody Point 1976 is a rowdy and racy tale of unforgettable characters born of voice, humor and truth, trying to navigate their survival in a changing time and place.

And talented Laura Ambler did the cover!

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Laura and I were mentioned in the acknowledgements because Brent Lewis is in our Working Writers Forum critique group. That’s twice this month we’ve been mentioned in new books. Forum has been reading chapters of Bloody Point for two years and we couldn’t wait to find out what happened at the end.

Brent’s writing has a wonderful Eastern Shore voice and he is a master storyteller. Put this book on your reading list. It’s a page turner.

 

And Here They Come…

Saturday morning I sat on my front steps and watched runners propel themselves down my street. First the speedy runners, determined to finish the race first, then a bunch of high school kids, then the folks who probably run every day.

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runners with strollers

Then more people than I would have expected pushing strollers, and finally the runner/walkers who just wanted to finish. In past years I’ve seen people using walkers, but if they were out this year, I missed them. More power to these energetic folk.

By 9:00 twenty-eight hundred people had passed in front of my house and the road was clear. A good thing because I had a 10 o’clock Bay to Ocean Writers Conference meeting in Easton and needed to be on the road.

This was the fourth year of the  St. Michaels Running Festival. It’s website describes it as “one of the premier destination races in the Mid-Atlantic. Based in one of the oldest waterfront towns on the Chesapeake, runners will be treated to gorgeous water views, a quick mile past charming main street shops for the 10k and half marathon and a rockin’ after-party in downtown St. Michaels. In addition to offering the flattest, fastest USATF half marathon in the region, runners get a generous package including race shirt, finisher medal or pin, complimentary refreshment, handmade finish line treats and so much more.”

The Running Festival donates to a number of charities. One of them is the St. Michaels Community Center, but not all the proceeds go to local charities and that’s a shame. The main road in town is tied up all day making traffic a nightmare. Local businesses suffer and other events get cancelled because people can’t get to them. In my opinion if the St. Michaels Running Festival is going to use the town, the charities it supports should all be local. That’s my rant!

Saturday the weather was perfect for a good run. Me? I sat on the steps and watched, hoping my FitBit would sync with those pumping legs navigating my street.

When the Ordinary Becomes Mythic

Poet Barrett Warner spoke to a meeting of the Eastern Shore Writers Association last week. He talked about the ordinary events in our lives that resonate with our readers, sometimes becoming mythic in the process.

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It made me think about the themes in the screenplays and the stage play Laura and I have written over the last five years.We have a body of work of six screen plays and one stage play.

I’ve been formatting them so they can be put on Kindle, and in the process reading them one after another. It’s been instructional to see the the recurring themes in our work: the importance of “family” (whoever who choose that to be), reconnecting with family and friends, acceptance, listening to others, being nice, and doing the right thing. I like to think these themes grow from our own moral underpinnings.

Nice people in stories can be boring, so we give our characters flaws. It’s overcoming the flaws that creates the conflict that carries our stories forward. And by overcoming flaws, or trying to, our characters become real.

So thanks, Barrett Warner, for reminding me that our best stories come out of ordinary events. And that mythological elements are embedded in there somewhere.

The Messenger – a Spirit Guide

Helen Delaney, a member of our Tuesday night Working Writers’ Forum, has had a spirit guide for years. Last Tuesday she came in carrying a box. Her face was alight with excitement as she handed us each an inscribed copy of her new book.

Messenger cover

Helen has been working on this book for a long time, and our Forum has seen it evolve over several years. We even critiqued versions of her back cover text below. It just makes you want to read this book.

“Helen Delaney is in a railway book store, inconsolable and suicidal after the death of her son. A book at eye level catches her attention. She touches it, and it falls off the shelf, into her hand. It is a set of instructions on how to connect with a spirit guide. Thus begins The Messenger, the true, intimate story of a grieving mother, a gifted medium, and the spirit guide, Lukhamen, who keeps her alive by recounting the story of his life.

It is 214 AD, and the Egyptian city of Luxor is ruled by Rome. The last vestiges of Egypt’s glorious past are discernible in the deteriorating temple dedicated to the god Amon, and its high priest, Lukhamen’s father. A Roman centurion, hopelessly in love with the wife of the high priest, becomes governor. A sadistic Roman underling seeks to unseat him, while lepers and beleaguered Christians struggle to survive in this unprecedented account of the end of an era. Above it all, and against the tide of history, Lukhamen, nine years old when the story begins, is expected to be the next high priest, and a light unto his people.

The author duly records Lukhamen’s memories, barely noticing that a healing has begun. By chance, she is sent to Cairo on business. From there, it is a short trip to Luxor, where an internal, unerring compass leads her to the places Lukhamen has imprinted upon her consciousness: the river road, the temple of Amon, a garden two thousand years old, and a Christian church, hidden by time. There, in the ancient city of Luxor, flooded with memories and emotion, one thing becomes clear: she has been there before.”

One of my favorite books over the years is Mika Waltari’s The Egyptian. So any story of ancient Egypt hooks me. But Helen’s book has two stories: that of the grieving mother and the Egyptian story  channeled to her by a spirit guide. Both are compelling in different ways.

When Helen first brought chapters to Forum it was just the Egyptian story. It took her awhile to share that the story was about her own experience. Laura and I were hooked. We even went with Helen for readings by the psychic she’s gone to for years. That was something on my bucket list. He told me our scripts would sell soon. Well, it hasn’t happened yet, but Helen tells us that time is fluid for psychics.

Our advice to Helen, once we knew this all had really happened to her, was to include her story in the book. She found it difficult to expose her raw emotions, but she was convinced her story might help others who had suffered terrible losses. Ultimately, both Helen’s and the Egyptian story are stories of grace and healing.

But here’s the best new thing. Laura and I (and the rest of the Forum) are mentioned in the author’s acknowledgements. That’s a first for me and for Laura.

I encourage you to buy Helen’s book. If it were a work of fiction, it would be a great read. The fact that it actually happened makes it remarkable.