Writers Are Weird People

While visiting at my husband’s parents’ house some time before we were married, someone brought out some Indian arrowheads. Don’t remember who found them or why they were sitting out, I just remember part of the conversation surrounding them.

Fingering one of the points, feeling its cool smooth surface and examining its chiseled edges, I couldn’t help wonder about the story it could tell, could it talk. Who fashioned it? Had he traveled far to get the flint, or was it received in trade or by some other means? Was he a young man, still trying to earn the respect of his tribe? Or was he too old for battle, but a skilled arrowhead maker? What was he thinking as he chiseled it? Was he wrapped up in thoughts of the hunt to come, or did he dream of the girl he loved? Did he chip it down to a sharp point with plans to bring food home to the tribe? Or did he have thoughts of war and revenge?

And what had that point penetrated? Who or what had it killed? Did it pierce the hide of a deer, straight into the lungs and heart? Did it slice into the plucked-smooth, painted chest of a man? How had the point become lost? Did the shooter fall in battle? Did the arrow miss its mark and disappear into the forest? Did a wounded deer bound away into the gloom, with the point working its way ever deeper into the muscle?

All these thoughts, and more, went through my mind as I handled the mute piece of flint. It had so much to tell, it seemed almost like a living thing. Still lost in thought, I said, “Whenever I see an arrowhead like this, I always wonder who made it.”

My father-in-law looked at me, a little confused. “The Indians made it.”

When I tried to explain what I meant, his expression grew more perplexed and then he shrugged. Probably thought, “What kind of wacko is my son marrying?”

Flash forward thirty-six years: recently said hubby and I were trying to track down information about an old army helmet. Turned out to be from Sweden, World War II vintage or before. (The Internet has so many uses!) Once we established just what the helmet was, I said to my husband, “My question is, how did it come to be on our kitchen table?”

He is his father’s son. “It came from my Uncle Don.”

Ummm, yes. But who worked the factory line that made it? To whom was it issued? Where had it traveled, what had it seen? Was its owner a father? If so, are his children still living, or grandchildren? Did he see action, or was the helmet merely a formality? What kind of a mind did it protect? What color were the eyes that peered from under it? Had the wearer’s sweat soaked that leather liner? How did it get from Sweden to Ohio?

I frequently wonder things like that about items I see. Is this one of the things that makes me a writer? Or am I just weird?

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Book Review: Jihad’s Messiah

Since signing with Risen Books, I’ve undertaken to read every release in the house. Not too hard, since they’re a brand new company; but they’re issuing new titles every couple months, so the collection is growing.

Scheduled for release this fall is Nick Daniels’ second fictional work (I reviewed his debut novel here), the first in a promising new series:

The Jihad’s Messiah
by Nick Daniels
Jihad Series, Book 1
344 pages
ISBN 978-1-936835-06-5
Publisher: Risen Books
Release: Fall, 2011

A sort of Left Behind gone Arabic, the story opens in 2024 Iraq, approximately three and a half years after the Rapture. A devout Muslim and a major general in the Iraqi army, Farid Zadeh is an avid admirer of Caliph Al-Mahdi, the charismatic leader of Iraq. Enjoying an astonishing rise to power and calling himself “the Awaited One,” the caliph promises to convert the world to Islam—a goal the loyal Farid approves of.

He also hopes to be promoted soon, and looks forward to being the point of Al-Mahdi’s spear. But Brigadier General Hussai has similar ambitions. When he falsely accuses Farid of being not only a Zionist but also a spy for Russia, Farid flies to Jerusalem, seeking to prove his loyalty to Al-Mahdi and to Allah.

No grass grows under his feet, and the pages turn fast as the reader races with Farid to vindicate himself. But before he succeeds, Al-Mahdi’s united Arab states attack Israel, putting Farid on the wrong side of both parties in this new war. That’s bad for Farid, but good for the reader, as the tension ratchets up another notch.

The entire story is written in present tense. The protagonist’s scenes are written in first person; the rest are in third person. Some might like this method. Personally, I’m okay with the present tense part, but the switch between first- and third-person points of view distracted me, and I had to pause to get my bearings at every transition.

Though I’m not a fan of apocalyptic fiction as a rule, this adventure, daring on the part of the author as well as the protagonist, paints a fairly likely scenario–including the projected dates. Readers familiar with biblical prophecy will recognize and anticipate a number of events, nodding, “Ah, yes. That sounds about right.” But however you feel about end-times prophecy, you’ll find the book a wild ride.

I won’t spoil the conclusion, but I do want to share with you my favorite line, which comes near the end. A Christian Bedouin is speaking to a Jewish woman about his faith, and she reminds him a person doesn’t change religions without good reason. She asks, “Why would I become a Christian?”

His answer: “Jesus loves you.”

Predictably, the end of this book isn’t the end of the story; the conclusion leaves you hungry for the next volume in the series. I plan to snap it up as soon as it’s available—and the only thing I can imagine preventing me from doing so would be if the Rapture occurs before it’s released.

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Now THAT’S What I’m Talkin’ About…

Until he joined the staff of the blog then called Novel Journey/now known as Novel Rocket, I’d never heard of Athol Dickson.

But since we’d be working together (more or less), I thought it would be nice to familiarize myself with him a little. So I checked out his blog — and found a writer after my own heart. In fact, I borrowed (stole?) a quote from one of his entries and have it displayed prominently above my computer:

Let us search out the finest words deliberately, with beauty as our goal, as shepherds once searched through their flocks for lambs without a blemish.

Man, I wish I’d said that.

Since then, I’ve read three of his books. He has a new release coming in September and I’ll review it then. (Can hardly wait!) But in the meantime, I’d like to share my thoughts concerning his 2008 release from Bethany House, Winter Haven.

Winter Haven
by Athol Dickson
Released: 2008
Publisher: Bethany House
333 pages
ISBN 978-0-7642-0164-6

Vera Gamble, shy and retiring numbers-cruncher from Dallas, Texas, gets a call from a police chief on an island off the Maine coast: they’ve recovered a body, and it appears to be her brother’s.

Her autistic older brother, Siggy, walked away from home thirteen years ago, when he was a teenager, and was never seen again. How could he have washed up now, and on a desolate Maine beach? It wasn’t possible. But Vera was trapped on a treadmill of CPA work, captured by an eternal parade of scrolling numbers that held no more meaning than the endless, impersonal Texas heat. It would be cool in Maine, and there, she could catch a break from the tedium and stress of her lonely, demanding life.

Suffering from seasickness on the mail boat to the island of Winter Haven, it’s too late for the second thoughts that plague her. And upon landing, she has third thoughts as well, and fourth ones, at the reception she receives and the shock of seeing her brother’s dead face, preserved unchanged despite the years that have passed.  But when she wants to leave, the police chief won’t release the body because too many questions remain unanswered.

Ghostly apparitions, veiled threats, polite deceptions and overt rudeness run Vera through an emotional ringer and keep the reader spellbound to the last page. Dickson proves himself a true artist, painting word pictures as graphic as oils and as breathtaking as the fragrant mists that curl through the towering pines.

It’s a compelling story, beautifully written, with a conclusion that warms the bones like the breaking through of a sunbeam.

When I have a hankering for a good book, this is exactly what I’m talking about. Athol Dickson is fast working his way toward the top of my Favorite Authors list.

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