Texas Rangers, Captain Kirk, and A Reflective Quaker

I’ve finished three different books in the past week. And yes, I don’t think you could find three more distinct and different books–not only in subject matter but in style and genre. The first is a history book about the Texas Rangers, the second a weird Star Trek book, and the third is Parker Palmer.


9781574416916-usTexas Rangers: Lives, Legacy, and Legend by Bob Alexander and Donaly E. Brice.

I bought this book at a great book store in Kerrville and looked forward to reading it for a long time. The history in these pages is wonderful. I wish the authors would have gone into a bit more detail about some of the individuals and escapades, but their intent is more of a survey than specifics. The main problem with Lives, Legacy, and Legend is at times the prose is not quite clear–as the authors seem to try and write paragraphs in the most muddied way possible to demonstrate their clever way of saying common things.

There are also a lot of digs against “Political Correctness” which I never understood in the text. One reference to it is an indulgence. Two references are pushing it. But by the seventeenth time the authors remind us that political correctness and modern sensibilities have no place in studying Ranger history, the point seems belabored.

There are some great photographs and primary documents, which alone is worth the price of the book.

UnknownThe Autobiography of James T. Kirk: A Story of Starfleet’s Greatest Captain ‘Edited’ by David A. Goodman.

Two things up front: I enjoyed this book and laughed out loud several times. Also, it is a quick, easy read, unlike the Texas Rangers book, which is slow, plodding and laborious. The problem is, I think I enjoyed the book because I enjoy Star Trek, and the writer clearly does as well. But I don’t think the book is that well written.

The best are the early pages where we learn things about James T. Kirk that aren’t covered in the television shows or movies. But about sixty percent of the book is really lame plot summaries of shows. Yes, we get Kirk’s perspective on those things, but nothing  really new is brought to the table.

But the book is funny. That should come as no surprise because it is written by Goodman, called the ‘editor’ on the book cover, who wrote for Family Guy and Golden Girls. What it lacks is emotional depth. The book was given to me as a gift for Christmas by a kind friend, and I looked forward to reading it, thinking it would give more character depth about the famous alpha male. But nope. Goodman is funny, but he is not that good of a writer. He does more ‘telling’ than ‘showing’ and as a result he leaves Kirk shallow.

There are two things that will stay with me a while, though. The first is how Goodman ‘washes’ over Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, the movie almost everyone agrees is the worst ever. It is quite clever, and I must say I like it. The second was this line thrown in to describe the mind-numbing administrative work of being an Admiral that Kirk hated.

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Page 197

Of course the Obama was over budget and behind schedule. Of course it was.

Parker-Palmer_Hidden-WholenessA Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward An Undivided Life by Parker J. Palmer

I’ve read Palmer before, but not this book. What interests me is that I think Palmer believes he wrote a how-to book, when in reality he wrote about the inner voice, overcoming our fears and paranoias, and the need to learn to trust.

The format of the book is laid out as the steps to forming circles of trust. A circle of trust is a group of people who dedicate themselves to allowing people to hear their own soul in protected communication. It is good material, and I recommend the book to small group leaders of any kind, because the principles he shares are nearly universal.

The book is a gem, but what will stay with you for a long time is the story of the woodcarver. I’ve seen Palmer use it before, but I think his exposition of it in this text is his best.

Of the three books I’ve shared about, this one is the most vital; it is the one I think everyone would benefit from.

HOW GREAT IS THE DARKNESS–OFFICIAL RELEASE

51TKg6zYCtL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_I love the cover. It is a Caravaggio, and yes, it is plot-centric.

Today is the official release day for my new novel, How Great Is The Darkness. To say I am overjoyed would be an understatement. If you love me, you should buy ten copies right now.

Darkness is a continuation of Pastor Butch Gregory’s story. It is not a sequel, because sequels pick up the same basic story arc as the previous installment. Darkness has some of the same characters as earlier stories, but it is not the same story. This is the fourth publication in the Butch Gregory series and the second novel.

There will be no spoilers here, but the book is about a conspiracy to solve the problem of immoral pastors in the most dramatic way possible. I use this plot to address two different problems I perceive among churches today. One is the very serious issue of pastors who do not live gospel-centered lives. The other is the problem of misunderstanding the difference between the theocracy of the biblical word and the grace of the new covenant.

The “bad guys” in this book are women. This was an early, intentional choice on my part because of equality. In The Little Girl Waits I made Amber a central heroic figure because it always seems to be men who are the heroes in most stories. If a woman can be the hero, then it stands to reason a woman can also be the villain.  In this case its plural.

I have recycled some characters such as Lucy and Wyoming Wallace. I have also brought back an old character. The key law enforcement figure in Darkness is Detective Wright. Careful readers will notice he is the same person who interrogated Amber after her brother’s death in The Haunting of Pastor Butch Gregory.

Aside from the creepy violence of building the religious cult, the most fun I had was in creating Terence Harrison, Butch’s new-old friend. I think there might be more of me in Terence than there is me in Butch. Terence is a bookish introvert who balances Butch’s practical extroversion.

I also explore in this novel Butch’s assurance of his rightness. In TLGW Butch knows he is acting in the will of God. In this story, Butch thinks he is acting in God’s calling, but I leave it open to the reader whether he is or not. I hope the answer is a little muddled, because I find life to be like that sometimes.

I have uploaded what I think is the best trailer. You can buy the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and many other outlets. It is available in paperback and ebook formats. I will likely blog a free first chapter tomorrow, so be waiting for that.

SIRI TO THE RESCUE

Last night I finished the final edit of my new novel, How Great Is The Darkness. It is due out May 11.

I had edited it several times previous, including the all-important read-out-loud. I have had many people proof read it for me, and for that I am very thankful. However, I wanted to do one more proof that was new and different. I coaxed Siri to read it to me by using the “voiceover” option. Here is a tip–open the voiceover feature audibly. If you try to do it manually, you will eventually throw your phone into a deep ravine.

Siri
Read some awesome Jamie Greening to me, Siri.

For starters, this was fun. I enjoyed the book on a whole new level being a listener rather than reader. It was creepy though, having Siri read my horrifying story in her flat monotone, then suddenly have it interrupted by cheery up-speak. I recommend every writer do this with their work, because I found a total of 23 errors and changes I needed to make in what I thought was a clean manuscript.  Rest assured, I am sure some still got by me and will appear in the book. That seems to always happen, regardless of how hard I edit.  Nevertheless, I am glad these 23 were caught.  Here are some “low-lights” of what Siri helped me find.

  1. One of the characters, a pastor named Terence, has a habit of puckering his lips when he speaks. One line is supposed to say “puckered his lips” but instead it said he “puckered his list” and I’m glad that got changed because puckering a a list is a felony in Georgia.
  2.  A problem I often have is my typing gets sloppy.  Therefore, “No neighbors near the building” was “no neighbors near he building.”  They were, however, near “she-building.”
  3. The worst offense was the terrible plaque problem.  I would have never caught this by looking at it, because my eye always fixed it internally. But for some reason I typed the phrase “Bubonic plaque” like it was a dreaded middle-ages gum disease or awful death causing memorial etched in stone.  Of course, it should have been Bubonic plague, as in black death, not black teeth.
  4. I am so ashamed of the “set” that should have been “sit.”  My head hangs; it no longer sets properly on my shoulders.

Siri was such a big help in finding these, because she read them and I heard it. True, it was annoying how she didn’t handle hyphenated words at the end of lines very well. Her awkward pronunciation of “Yeah” was hard to handle as well.  When I write I often have a hard time with homophones. So does Siri.  The word “lives” is in my text several times, and it is always a hard “I” sound as in “Wyoming Wallace saved our lives.” Siri always, and I mean always, pronounced it as a soft “I” as in “Wyoming Wallace lives in a double-wide trailer.”

But, it is edited now. I can get some other work done–like never ending blogging and mindless twittering.

 

 

A PREVIEW OF THE EXCITING NEW BOOK, THE WARDEN-WATCH BY A. R. HORVATH

Several months ago I was blessed to be read a preview copy of A. R. Horvath’s newest book, The Warden-Watch.  To say it was delightful is an understatement.  The book, written primarily from the first person perspective is about a boy who finds himself wrapped up in a dangerous world where fantasy, faith, history, and reality blend in ever increasing ways.  The big idea of the book is, “What if all the old stories were true,” and from there it takes off.  One of the best ways to describe it is as a mash-up.  This is the first novel in a series.417caJJFvaL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_ With Horvath’s permission I have included part of the first chapter here for you to read.  You can buy the book at Amazon or the author’s website http://thebloodking.com/.  I recommend it as fun reading for anyone, but it might really be a good fit for those looking for fantasy YA that is written from a Christian perspective.  It would also make great beach reading.

It was about mid-afternoon, and the sun had already dropped quite a bit from its noon-day position at the top of the sky. A telephone pole cast its long shadow over the tool shed. The first thing that caught my attention was the sound of something ceramic getting tossed to the ground, presumably on account of the wind. Something wasn‟t right. The trees were waving in the wind and the swing on the swing set was creaking, but there wasn‟t breeze enough to push pottery around. I turned around to see what was broken and, out of the corner of my eyes, I saw a shadow leap, as though startled. The strangeness of this observation did not register in my mind. I continued to gaze blankly in that direction until it dawned on me that there were now two long, narrow shadows lying across the tool shed: one explained by the telephone pole and the other explained by… Well, that was the thing. There wasn‟t an explanation for this second, new shadow. There was no corresponding object like there was with the telephone pole. Still, as odd as that might be, I wasn‟t feeling particularly inquisitive. I probably would have never thought any more about it except that as I sat there on the back deck, the new shadow began rotating in a circle, like the hands of a clock. I could remain no longer in my summer daze; I scratched my head. The shadows of the trees were sweeping back and forth on the lawn as would normally be expected. That is proper behavior for a shadow. No sooner did it occur to me that here was something worth fighting the heat and humidity to investigate did the insolent shadow cease moving. It was as though it had spied me spying it, and froze. It was all to the worse, however, since now the shadow was perpendicular to the shadow of the telephone pole! Not only was there a shadow with no corresponding object, but it was lying in the completely wrong direction. With a sigh and a groan, I stood up. Some instinct kicked up in me, and I felt like if I was going to make a move to learn more, I had better be sly: this shadow was clever. I nonchalantly made my way in the direction of the shed. The shadow didn‟t move. The wind was still blowing, the trees were swaying and the swing set was creaking, but the shadow held fast. I knew that when I got closer I wouldn‟t be able to see on top of the shed, so I decided to make off for the tree-line, which was about halfway up a modest hill. Then, when I circled back, I‟d be on the slope of the hill and would be able to see the roof of the shed for a little longer. I feigned that I saw a butterfly and wandered towards the trees. I had never tried to outwit a wayward shadow before, but I hoped it didn‟t take much more cunning than this. After all, I am just twelve years old. I have only begun to fill up my bag of tricks. Though my legs took me on a long, out of the way ramble, I never took my eye off of the top of the shed. It was probably for this reason that the shadow refused to budge. Even as I changed my perspective as I circled the shed, I couldn‟t deduce what was making the shadow. The more I thought about it, the more I was certain that I had seen that shadow leap into existence out of nothing. I steeled myself; one doesn‟t let one‟s guard down around such renegade shadows! As I finally drew near to the shed, it seemed to me that the shadow was now moving, but just a bit. It was very hard to tell. Could it be that the shadow knew I was approaching, and it thought that by slow, incremental movements, it could fool me? Do shadows have brains? I concluded that my best bet was a surprise burst of speed to take the shadow off its guard. That is what I did. When I got closer to the shed, I leapt towards an old milk crate, alighted upon it, and pulled myself up so that I could just get my eyes over the edge of the roof and could see on top of the shed. Who was surprised more? Take a piece of paper and hold it so you are looking at its edge. If you knew nothing else about 2 paper, you would think it was just a thin, white line. Now take the paper and slowly tilt it. The surface of the paper gets bigger and bigger until at last you can read clearly what is on it. My first glimpse of the shadow was a bit like that. As I made my leap, the shadow „tilted‟ to reveal a larger form. Only, what I saw was not a drawing or a scribble. It was a full bodied ape-man, poised to jump, and hiding in plain sight on top of my shed! When my eyes locked with its eyes, it fell over backwards, startled. I was pretty startled myself, and I fell off of the milk crate. The ape-man had fallen off the shed on the side opposite of me and I, like a fool, gathered up my five-foot, three-inch self and darted around to catch it in the act of retreat. It was Big Foot. Sasquatch. The North American Yeti. It was a huge beast and I was a little man, but I just had to get one more look! It was tall and hairy but its face was wise and startled, rubbing its head in apparent pain. When I came around the corner of the shed and looked upon it, it regained its composure and made like it was going to run away. I don‟t really know what I was thinking. Maybe I felt that if such a large thing was scurrying away in fear from me, then I had nothing to fear from it. Maybe I knew what all the adults would think if I told them what had happened but had nothing to show for it. More truly, I considered the fame I‟d enjoy if I came away from the incident with a fistful of hair that couldn‟t be identified. At any rate, before it could make its run to the woods, I was already leaping towards it. I grabbed hold of its arm… its eyes grew large and white… and my eyes grew large and white… as what I was doing started to settle in. It jumped!—I was still attached! To my astonishment, the world grew larger and larger. Big Foot and I were getting smaller and smaller as we hurtled through the air. I just barely had time to notice that we were falling into a cleaned out mason jar that had been resting against the edge of the shed for who knows how long, before even the jar was so large it seemed like it contained the sky… and then it was dark, dark, dark. “And that,” I said, “is how I came to be in the Great Cavern Council of the Wardens.” I was explaining myself to an assembly of large, hairy creatures. I was standing…

You’ll have to buy it to read more!