Friday, November 30, 2018

Inside the tower

After Psalm 61

Inside the tower,
the place yearned for
and found

hearing the noise
outside, the shouts,
feeling the ground

shaking, but safe
inside the tower,
the door tightly 

closed and firm
a barrier against
the hordes, outside;

safety is found
inside the tower,
only there,
only there.

Photograph by Nathan Dumlao via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

"He will not let go."

Canon Martin Land powered on his mobile, punching in a number he knew by heart.

“It’s Land,” he said. “I was watching the press conference.”

“I saw it as well.”

“The king’s involved,” Land said. “He could use this to further his reform cause.”

“You don’t know Michael. He will not use something like this. But if he thinks there is something bigger here, something worse than one boy at a London church, he will not let go.”

From Dancing Prophet 

Photograph by Nikola Knezevic via Unsplash. Used with permission.

“The Mother’s Day Mystery” by Peter Bartram

If there’s one thing we know for certain about Colin Crampton. Crime reporter for the Brighton Evening Chronicle, is that no matter where he shows up, a dead body is sure to follow.

Crampton is in the classic English village of Steyning, substituting as a speaker for his editor, Frank Figgis. He’s brought his girlfriend, Shirley Goldsmith, along. After the speech, they’re headed out of the village and on the way to a country pub for supper, when Shirley spots a mangled bicycle on the roadside. It doesn’t take long for Shirley to find a body, some distance away. It’s an 18-year-old student at a local school, and by the looks of things, he’s the victim of a hit-and-run accident that may not have been an accident.

Crampton, desperate for a good crime story, gets the reluctant approval from his editor to investigate (payback for the speech). And he learns that no one really liked the dead student, including his teachers, fellow students, and the school staff. It appears that the victim may have been a blackmailer, and someone got tired of it. Or he picked the wrong person to blackmail. Or both.

And then Shirley’s mother disappears just as she arrives in England from Australia for Mother’s Day. And Shirley expects Crampton to do something about it. As it turns out, everything is connected to everything else.

The Mother’s Day Mystery is another in the Colin Crampton of the Chronicle (note the alliteration) mystery series by Peter Bartram, and the second in Crampton’s Deadline Murder Series (the first was The Tango School Mystery). And it continues in the vein set by its predecessors – a good story, an irreverent journalist (sorry for the redundancy), crime abounding, and the hero having to find a killer in spite of the police.

Peter Bartram
Bartram has had a long career in journalism, including being a reporter on a weekly newspaper, an editor for newspapers and magazines in London, and freelance journalism – all of which have been utilized in creating the character of Colin Crampton. Bartram is also a member of the Society of Authors and the Crime Writers’ Association.

Fast-paced, breezy, funny, and action-packed, The Mother’s Day Mystery is another solid entry in the Crampton of the Chronicle series.


Top photograph of the Brighton Palace Pier by Joseph Pearson via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

"Insight" by Deborah Raney

Olivia Cline is giving up a job she loves in Chicago to follow her husband to the job of his dreams in the small Missouri town of Hanover Falls. Their marriage is recovering from her husband’s affair, and Olivia is hopeful for restoration and a new start. But the day she arrives in Hanover Falls, her husband is killed is an accidental gas explosion at the office.

Reed Vincent is an artist who lives and works in Hanover Falls. But he’s an artist with a serious problem – he’s losing his eyesight, and he needs to have corneal transplants to save it. Almost miraculously, he’s notified that transplants are available. As he recovers from the surgery, he realizes he needs an assistant to do the dozens of things he can’t while he recovers. And he hires Olivia.

It doesn’t take long to realize where Insight by Christian romance writer Deborah Raney is headed. The plot is straightforward; you know that Reed and Olivia will likely fall in love, that they’ll both be worried that it’s too soon and Olivia needs time to grieve, and that eventually they’ll both learn where the corneas came from for the transplants. All that said, the novel is still highly readable and difficult to put down because you want to see what happens next. 

And then Olivia discovers she’s pregnant with her dead husband’s child. That was something of an unexpected wrinkle.

Deborah Raney
Raney has published more than 30 books in the Christian romance genre. Her first book, A Vow to Cherish, was made into a movie starring Ken Howard and Barbara Babcock. She received numerous awards for her novels, incuding the Romance Writers of America RITA Award, the American Christian Fiction Writers Carol Award, the National Readers Choice Award, and the HOLT Medallion. She’s also been nominated for the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association’s Christy Award three times. She lives in Wichita, Kansas.

Insight rarely surprises, but it also doesn’t disappoint. We know things between Reed and Olivia will work themselves out. The enjoyment comes in watching how Raney makes that happen. 

Top photograph by David Besh via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

"It's about who you are, who you are as a person"

“Josh,” Zena said, “there’s something in Michael that speaks to you, and I suspect speaks deeply. He thinks the world of you, but it’s about who you are. He’s grateful for what you’ve done and what you can do, but it’s more about you as a person. He likes you, Josh. You’re not used to having someone who simply likes you as a friend.” She paused. “And you may have to ask yourself what your new faith means in the context of government politics.”

     - From Dancing King 

Photograph by Dominik Vanyi via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Poets and Poems: Matt Duggan and “A Season in Another World”

AIn his new chapbook A Season in Another World, British poet Matt Duggan takes on a journey. The 21 poems in the collection use words as a kind of travel guide, whether it is to look through the window of time, or arriving in Venice and its Island of the Dead, or wandering through a dark forest. These are poems steeped in legend, myth, fable, and fairy tale; where else does a dark forest “leak bare light” but in a fairy tale?

Duggan has been previously inspired in his poetry by myth and legend. His 2011 collection Underworld: The Modern Orpheus was a retelling of the legend of the musician and poet who could charm all and also served as one of Jason’s Argonauts, looking for the golden fleece. The poems of A Season in Another World are less concentrated on one theme or character but display a strong sense of connection with myth.

To continue reading, please see my post today at Tweetspeak Poetry.

Monday, November 26, 2018

"Death's Confessor" by P.J. Bryant

When you think of the American Civil War, you think of Gettysburg, Virginia, the fall of Atlanta, Vicksburg, guerilla warfare in the border states like Missouri. But New Mexico?

Yes, New Mexico. The conflict wasn’t as sustained or intense as in the East, but a Confederate force did attempt to capture Santa Fe or at least disrupt the Santa Fe Trail. One of the federal forts established during the period was Fort Union, not too far from El Paso. It’s now a national monument.

Fort Union is also part of the setting for Death’s Confessor: A Civil War Mystery by P.J. Bryant. 

Bryant has studied the Civil War for more than 25 years, and written several novels set during the war, including the Shiloh Series. His wife Jennifer Bryant has served as co-author and researcher (she's the J of P.J.).

Death’s Confessor is set in 1863. Peter Thomas Smith is an officer and the post chaplain at Fort Union, having been ordained a Methodist minister. The garrison at the fort keeps a close eye on the Confederates, but also watches the local Apache Indian tribes. Mostly the garrison tries to find ways to alleviate boredom; Smith often plays and loses chess games with his friend Captain Morgan. 

An Indian scout finds and brings in a dying man, likely from the federal garrison at Socorro. The man, a Catholic, wants to make his confession. Smith reluctantly agrees to hear it; Methodists (and Protestants in general) don’t do confession to a priest or minister. And the dying man askes forgiveness for killing – and it’s clear that he’s speaking of murder and nor military combat.

Phillip Bryant
Then it’s learned that two soldiers from Fort Union are missing; they supposedly went hunting but didn’t return. When the logs are checked, it turns out there’s no record of their having left the camp. But they and their horses are clearly gone. 

Smith and Morgan travel to Socorro to see what can be learned about the dead man. They soon find themselves in the middle of legends about lost silver from 150 years earlier.

Bryant received a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of New Mexico. He’s been active in Civil War reenactments in New Mexico and nationally. The sources for the research of his novels include diaries, autobiographies, historical monographs, and first-hand accounts from battle reports and War Department communications. 

Death’s Confessor is solidly researched and a well-done mystery story. It’s part-Civil War and part Old West, but the fact is that for a time the two eras converged.

“Two Struck Images” – a Short Story

Bryant has also published a longish short story, entitled “Two Struck Images,” that imagines a s story based upon a Civil War photograph of two brothers. In the story, brothers Thomas and Levi are both members of the 15thWisconsin that is part of the Army of the Cumberland. Their photograph was taken by a photographer in Chattanooga after the city fell to federal forces. They’re on the march from Chattanooga, and the story is about what happens to both brothers.

It’s a poignant reminder of what war can cost, and what the Civil War particularly cost.

Top Illustration: The Fort Union National Monument in New Mexico.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

At the edge

After Psalm 61

Teetering at the edge,
to look behind is to see

      the darkness, deep,

an abyss of the unknown. 
To feel resolve
      ebbing, courage

diminishing, strength
dribbling away leaving

     a husk, a shell,

a piece of chaff, prepared
to blow away at wind’s

     first hint, teetering

calling out in weakness,
teetering, slipping away,

     reaching for the rock
     the refuge as the rock
     the refuge reaching out
     to accept
     to embrace.

Photograph by Leio McLaren via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Saturday Good Reads

Chris Naffziger is a St. Louis photographer who’s been posting his images of St. Louis for quite a few years now. His aim has been to capture the neighborhoods and architecture of the city, particularly the architecture that’s endangered. He occasionally comes out to St. Louis County (where I live), and then crosses the river to Illinois. He also visits Italy. This past week. He’s been in Iowa, and he captured images of four small towns that tell you a lot about small-town life, Iowa, the Midwest, and America: OelweinFayetteWest Union, and Clermont.

It seems to have become a national pastime – harassing people you disagree with at restaurants, sports events, walking down the street, etc. Jon Mertz at Thin Difference talks about the dangers of “Stick It to the Man.”

We live in the Age of Science, and we believe, or have been led to believe, that science has all the answers. Except when it doesn’t. Scott Watkins ran into a problem science couldn’t answer – the chronic illness of his wife

They’re some of the most common statements by Christian writers: “God called me to be a writer,” or “God called me to write this book.” Well, that could be true. I don’t make those claims with any of my books, and I’ve never said that about 50+ years of writing. Literary agent Rachelle Gardner frequently runs into those statements in query letters from writers trying to sell their books, and she writes about it in “God told me to write this post.”

More Good Reads

Life and Culture

The Orchard at the End of Paradise – Gerry Vanderleun at American Digest.

Solzhenitsyn on the Problems in the West – Zak Schmoll at Entering the Public Square.

Writing and Literature

“World Renowned” – Janet Reid, Literary Agent.


How Many Exiles in the Monastery? – James Matthew Wilson via Rod Dreher.

A Prayer for the Disillusioned Idealist – Kelly Belmonte at All Nine.

Alone – Edgar Allen Poe via The Imaginative Conservative.

Anti- – Chris Yokel. 

The Draft Horse by Robert Frost – John Telford at Great poetry explained.


The Hard Faith of Inaction – Laura Boggess.

American Stuff

‘A New Birth of Freedom’: The Gettysburg Address – Thomas Kidd at The Gospel Coalition.

Why the Pilgrims were actually able to survive – Peter Mancall at The Conversation.

Art and Photography

Confetti – Tim Good at Pixels. 

The Broken Hallelujah – as a Wedding Song

Painting: The Reader, oil on canvas by Harold Knight (1910)

Friday, November 23, 2018

Joining the Family

That evening at dinner, Michael raised the issue. “We have a sixth family, Jason.”

“Yes?” he said, his eyes hopeful but wary.

“Sarah, why don’t you tell him?” Michael said.

“I’ll tell him,” said Jim. “It’s us. We want you to live with use.”

Jason looked at the three of them. “Are you doing this because no one else will?”

“No,” said Michael, “we’re doing this because it took God this long to make us open our eyes and see the obvious. You’re already part of our family. We want you to stay part of our family, if you’re willing to have us.”

     - From A Light Shining 

Photograph by Warren Wong via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Not the law

After Psalm 1

Not the law as we consider it
not the compilation of statutes
   and strictures
not the assembly of precedents
not the determinations of the man
who judges
not the law as they understand and chafe
   against the word

but instead

the law as the big story
the law as overflowing mercy
the law as grace

the entire story
not only the part we find comfort in

the full story, all of it

the law as invitation
the invitation to eternity

Photograph by Sebastian Pichler viaUnsplash. Used with permission.