About Calumny–What Is it???

Posted: November 13, 2017 in World On The Edge

news-517380_640To be guilty of Calumny is to have intentionally ruined someone’s character by lying about them for personal gain. It is bearing false witness against someone, and it is  sinful–as serious as shooting that person in order to kill him.

In addition, the bullet fragments of an intentional lie hit not only the victim but also, the innocent around him.

It all boils down to a certain kind of greed promulgated by vengeance on the part of the one who is lying, that he will do ANYTHING to  get back at, to take something from, or ruin the person with whom he has a grievance.

Is this right behavior?

Of course not.

Except, do we even consider Calumny today, especially in politics?

NO.  There is an ‘anything goes’ policy as long as our side wins. But if this is our excuse–to win–and if our lie ruins the character of a person, then we should be aware of the consequences. And they are not only spiritual consequences.

In a court of law, just as in the instance of wrongful damage to person or estate, so the calumniator is bound to adequate reparation for the injury perpetrated by the blackening of another’s good name. He is obliged (1) to RETRACT his false statements, even though his own reputation may necessarily suffer as a consequence. (2) He must also make good whatever other losses have been sustained by the innocent party as a result of his libellous utterances, if these losses were foreseen by him.

In the larger picture of a nation which must be built on Truth to survive, newspapers, television networks, radio personalities, movie moguls and movies, and more, twist the Truth to lead others astray. In other words, they frequently Lie in order to persuade the public into the web of their agendas.

How many times has the very life of a country, or an entire people, been intentionally crushed through schemes or philosophies based on lies?  Just look at history. Just look at our world today.

Remember THE TEN COMMANDMENTS?? How about this one:

“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Ex 20:16).

Given the recent heartbreaking violence in America, produced by intense hatred, a lack of forgiveness, and the ‘it’s only ME who counts’ attitude, I believe now is the time to publish a book I’ve worked on for nearly twenty-five years. Look for it within the next few weeks.


A Brief Background

Throughout the ages, human history has been dominated by the desire to control, punish  and subjugate one’s neighbors. Whatever the reason for the conflict–territorial, economic, political, or religious—nations, races, and individuals, have resorted to violence and warfare to resolve disputes, rather than compromise. Whether the reasons are just or unjust, the conflict drastically diminishes, and even snuffs out, the lives of both guilty and innocent human beings.

Most nations and individuals espouse convictions that call for charity toward neighbor, but avarice and malice can overwhelm those convictions and lead to violence. When violence is perpetrated, it regularly breeds vengeance. Vengeance leads to more conflict and the whole circumstance becomes an endlessly spinning wheel. Numerous powerful nations have activated such a wheel. In the eighteenth century, England was one of its greatest executors, and the people of Ireland, its casualty.

England feared the old faith, Catholicism, which the nation as a whole had cherished for over a thousand years, and sought to annihilate it. The Crown enacted the Penal Code, the price an Irish Catholic had to pay for refusal to conform to the new religion of the Church of England. From 1558 until 1769, the English Protestant government imposed the Penal Code on a country that was 97 percent Catholic. Naturally, feelings of  vengeance abounded in those Catholics. And later, when the Penal Code was extended to Presbyterians, vengeance and hatred for the Crown intensified.

The Wind That Shakes the Corn is a story of those long-held hatreds. It is also a love story, about one woman’s difficult journey toward letting go of past grievances–the only way to allow for genuine love.

The Wind That Shakes the Corn, a memoir of fact and fiction, is based on the life of Eleanor Dugan Parke, my eighth great-grandmother who for ninety-nine years lived through it all. Nell Dugan has a history that has given her a fanatic heart–capable of great love, but also great hatred.  Her story has been passed down in my Scots Irish family. Of course, much of this novel is imagined, though England’s cruel control of Ireland’s people, the American Revolution, and some of the real players are factually told.

The Story

In 1723 Ireland, Nell, an unruly Catholic girl, falls in love with the grandson of a Protestant Scottish lord. On their wedding night she is snatched from his arms. As he lies bloodied on the ground, she is thrown on a British ship headed for a sugar plantation in the West Indies, where she is sold into slavery. But Nell is a person of learned strategies, never to be underestimated. Beautiful and cunning, she seduces the plantation owner’s infatuated son who sneaks her away to pre-revolutionary Philadelphia. There she agrees to marry him, eventually falling in love with him, but keeping her first marriage secret as she becomes a loyal wife and mother–and a tireless rebel against the English rule.

Tensions rise between the Patriots and Loyalists. Nell sees opportunities to pay back the English–blood for blood with no remorse–not only for her own kidnapping but also for her Irish mother’s hanging two decades earlier. When her first husband shows up in Philadelphia, very much alive and married, too, emotions between them run high, but Nell’s Scot remains stoic and the two families actually bond in their desire to leave the turmoil around them and take advantage of land offers in the Carolinas. Except the American Revolution follows in full flow to Carolinas. Nell experiences a tragic crescendo for her family after the Battle of Kings Mountain that only increases her desire for vengeance.

And then, a child is born. The dangerous circumstances of his birth cause a final migration into the wilderness of the Mississippi Territory to a cave of miracles, where Nell’s eyes are opened at last to what it will take to truly love.

 The Wind That Shakes the Corn  is not only Nell’s story, it is the saga of the feisty Scots Irish immigrants in a burgeoning America, and their heart-held faith and courage that led the struggle toward freedom. The novel spotlights both Catholic and Protestants immigrants to America who brought with them age-old grudges against the English Crown.

Love and hate, life and death, trust, betrayal, and the ‘always hovering’ choice to forgive, are prominent themes in this novel. In fact, they are themes that every person on earth struggles with, aren’t they?

And yet, in the end Nell confesses: “I am struck by the craving common in every man–white, red, or black–for more than he has, for more than his share; that prideful warring to complete himself, and only himself, despite consequences to another. I have come to this conclusion: genuine completion is not meant to be found on this earth, at all.”   — Eleanor Dugan Parke, c.1799

The Wind That Shakes The Corn was Runner-up for the Josiah Bancroft Award for Novel sponsored by Florida First Coast Writers, and a Finalist in the New Orleans Pirate’s Alley Society William Faulkner/William Wisdom Writing Competition.

If you are interested in reviewing The Wind That Shakes The Corn, please let me know by replying here, and I will get in touch with you.

file0001191597629“In the novelist’s case, prophecy is a matter of seeing near things with their extensions of meaning and thus of seeing far things close up. The prophet is a realist of distances, and it is this kind of realism that you find in the best modern instances of the grotesque. Whenever I’m asked why Southern writers particularly have a penchant for writing about freaks, I say it is because we are still able to recognize one.” Flannery O’Connor

What are the “far things” O’Connor is talking about?—the connection between close-up realism on Earth and a higher spiritual Truth. God and our relationship with Him, however weak or strong or strange; this is what O’Connor writes about. This is what I strive to write about, too.

To show God’s presence in the world, a writer who wants to bring far things close up often uses the strange or the outlandish. O’Connor called it the ‘grotesque.’ She was an author who wrote fifty years ago, when not only the South, but most other areas recognized the outlandish as just that.

Today, the rules concerning what is strange have changed. Oddity has become almost normal. Yet God hasn’t changed. He is just as apparent in our world, maybe even more so. And to present Him in fiction, a writer cannot use quietly sentimental fluff to show His action through people. Because God’s action– His grace–coming to fruition in people who want to be restored is sometimes harsh. A writer concerned with presenting the chance of salvation has to come to grips with this noisy, often nasty and distracted world.

Many of us yearn for a chance of restoration. And most readers have a desire for some redemptive act in a novel or story that offers the chance of restoration as well. We long for that moment of grace that will turn us, or better us, or lift us up to higher place in the eyes of those we love. Yet we often forget that the price of restoration sometimes takes the grotesqueness of a crucifixion.

From a distance, I watch the red veil of silt cover the box they bury. He is so far away from me now. If I could go back to the night of his death, I’d cut out my tongue before I could say what I said to him. I did not mean those words. I loved Peck. Always. And I always will.
–from “The Distance Between High and Low”


Posted: November 2, 2017 in World On The Edge


Life isn’t easy. Each of us face problems, and sometimes we don’t know which way to turn in solving those problems or in making our lives better. Sometimes there seems to be no answer to our difficulties–at least none that we can come up with on our own. We are like leaves haphazardly blowing in the wind.

But why do we feel that we have to be in complete charge of every aspect of our lives? Why are we so afraid to give up control and surrender ourselves and our problems totally to the will of God?

Is it that we don’t believe that He loves us—-really and personally loves each one of us? Because if we don’t first believe that He loves us, then there’s no way we’ll trust Him.

Stop a minute and think about it. The person I trust most in the world is the person who loves me, who wants only the best for me, and would lay down his life for me if he had to.

If I believe that Almighty God loves me—-and he does–then why shouldn’t I trust Him enough to surrender all?

Mary, the mother of Jesus, surrendered. If she hadn’t, there would be no Jesus Christ. If she hadn’t, there would be no Christianity. If she hadn’t, we’d never have heard the words, “eternal life.” In fact, we would have no idea how to attain it.

Mary allowed God to use her; and yes, she could have said no. She had free will just like the rest of us. Almighty God would never have forced her to bear His son.

For a moment, put yourself in her position. When Mary was asked to be that vessel by a messenger from God, what would she have thought–“Am I going crazy? Do I really see an angel? Am I dreaming?”

She was engaged to be married. How would Joseph react if she turned up pregnant? He had the right to have her stoned. But there was something in her, a grace given by God that allowed her to trust that the angel was His messenger. She didn’t ask for proof that she would become the mother of the Redeemer. Her only question was, “How?” She trusted that nothing is impossible for God, and then she surrendered.

“I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to thy will.” Luke 1:38

Got a Witchy Woman??

Posted: October 31, 2017 in World On The Edge


Halloween evokes many memories of my children growing up. I probably shouldn’t admit this particular memory, but when ONE of my girls was a tyrannical toddler, I gave the little thing a nickname–“Witchy Woman.” Believe me, at the time it suited her well. All she needed was a miniature broom.

Of course today, she’s anything but witchy–I mean I’m certain her husband and children would never call her such!!

But hey, aren’t we all a little ‘witchy’ at times. Look at some of the characteristics of these tiny, toddling people:

They discover they can walk on two legs and so are “into everything.”
They are stubborn about ME, MINE, and MY.
They are in love with the word NO.
They become easily frustrated.
They like to build, knock down, put in, and take out.
They have very short attention spans.
They imitate almost everything they see.

And then there are:

The big smiles when they wake up from a nap or in the morning (Despite the load in their diapers)
The sloppy kisses.
The arms around your neck.
The squeals of laughter.
The “help Mommy make dinner” pans on the floor.
The colorful scribbles.
The heads of hair full of paste, or spaghetti, or you name it.
The fall, the get-up, the tears and the “I want Mommy!”

Today, my little ‘witchy woman’ is one of whom I’m very proud. Her witchy-ness propelled her, and may even have been the key to her great success as a woman. I am amazed at how high she flies!

My new novel, THE DISTANCE BETWEEN HIGH AND LOW, is almost ready for publication. It is a book that I began ten years ago and worked on sporadically, searching for the right publisher. In the interim, it was chosen as a Finalist for The Tuscany Prize, and also a Finalist in the William Faulkner/William Wisdom Writing Competition. In addition, one of the stories in my short story collection, “Birds of a Feather,” published by WiseBlood Books, came out of this novel, as well as a story published in Dappled Things Magazine. So…I think it is time for the whole book to be finally unveiled. That unveiling should happen sometime before Thanksgiving.

The novel is southern gothic, about twins who must do without their father, and about those who pick up the slack.

Here are the important characters, along with a few of their thoughts.



LIZZIIE model-2405020_640

“My brother Peck and I were twins. In the darkest of watery wombs, we waited for the voice of our father, and heard silence. So, we placed our arms around each other and felt the beating of hearts, tiny sweet pulsations thumping against our skin. Wound together, my brother belonged to me, and I to him, for our breath was the same breath. Our loss was the same loss. I loved him then. I love him now. No matter what happened, no matter the distance between us, I will always love him.”



“I can’t tell Lizzie what I know– that our Mama is hooked on some drug and maybe on Hobart, too, that our house is not ours, but his, and that I never really wanted the osprey, only our father who doesn’t want us. I love Lizzie too much to hurt her like that. And I can’t let her into my room because no one, except Izear, has ever seen me cry.”



The Grandmother, always with Super Glue in her pocket to restore broken things, like fine china, radios, and even people. Pearl’s favorite adage is a warning picked up from her second cousin, the only Judge in Highlow, Alabama:

“If  you don’t want to go to Cincinnati, then don’t get on the bus.”


                       (Because in my mind, he looks like George Washington Carver)

Izear george-washington-carver-393757_640

“Did you know your father?” Peck asks Izear.

“Knowed he was a full-blooded Cherokee, ugly as sin, and the meanest man I ever met. People saw him walking down the street, they crossed to the other side ‘cause he always carried a plank of wood in case somebody made him mad.”

“At least you knew him.” Peck rolls his napkin into a snake shape.

“Most fathers ain’t all they’re cracked up to be,” Izear says. “Eat your toast. I made that blackberry jelly myself.”

“But you did know him.”

Izear turned from the stove where he was frying bacon, “Lookahere, you got all you need. No reason at all for another man to be in this house, so quit whining.”

“I want just want to meet him.”

“Maybe I wanna meet the King of Egypt, too, but it ain’t gonna happen. You take what you get and thank the sweet Lord Jesus for it.”


Lila face-painting-1976861_640

“Mama tries, again, to kill Hobart with the just-in-case gun. She shoots through her opened window as he walks toward his new car, still bandaged from the first time. I am sorry to say that all she hits is the rear-view mirror.”



Hobart man-916498_640

“You ever shot a gun?”

“I saw how to do it on TV.”

“Well, TV ain’t real. They use ketchup for blood.”

“I’ve seen real blood. I saw Peck’s blood and it was real.”

“I told you to shut the hell up about that!”

“Okay, Hobart.”

“Look, hold the gun like this and look through that sight. When you see the damn hawk, pull the trigger and kill it.”

“Okay. . .but what if we get hungry out here?”

“When you hunt, you got to be patient. And quit that damn sniffing. Here’s a handkerchief, wipe your nose.”

“What’s that fell out of your pocket, Hobart?”

“Somethin’ D.C. gave me. Dixie sugar. It’s for Leona. I don’t use anymore; I’m trying to fix myself up for Miss Pearl.”

“My daddy loves sugar. He loves all that sugar in Izear’s pound cake. Mama says it’s why he’s got a spare tire around his waist. Peck loved sugar, too.”

“Listen Little Benedict, maybe we oughta go on back if you’re hungry.”

“But we haven’t even seen the Osprey. If Peck was here, he’d wait for it.”

“I told you not to talk about–. Little Benedict, get back in the truck, we’re leaving!”

“I don’t want to go.”

“Hell, I’ll give you a rain check, okay?”

“Okay Hobart, but–“

“But what!”

“I loved Peck, too, ya’ know.”

“Yeah. I know, Little Benedict.”



Peck 2

“Remember Little Benedict, “Miss Pearl says, looking down at me and pointing her tiny finger. “You and I are Highlow blood and in this together. Plus, The Judge will write down whatever you say.”

Naturally, I keep my mouth shut.


Little SIster child-2745167__340

Little Sister doesn’t take rudeness personal;
she’s always looking for Jesus. She tip toes
toward the fruits and vegetables and comes
up just behind the Foodliner manager who’s
absorbed in checking for bruised tomatoes.
She taps his shoulder. He turns around to
see Little Sister smiling at him, and then she
gives him her best kiss, right on the mouth.
The Foodliner manager is stunned. “Jesus!”
he shouts, wiping his lips. “Jesus!”
Little Sister tilts up her chin in triumph.
“Uh huh!” she says. “I knew He was
in there somewhere.”



Anthony man-1209947_640

Anthony tightens his grip over my hand. “You can do it, Lizzie. Just don’t sail directly into the wind. Zigzag a little, a forty-five degree angle. It’s called tacking. See? The wind crosses over the bow, not into it.”

The boat straightens, and stays that way as long as Anthony keeps his hand on mine. We have a smooth sail and make it back to shore, while the other two passengers barely notice.


blind artist nikita-shalenny-84372_640

     “Which one beat you?”
“I’m almost certain it was the kid, but I couldn’t see. By then, I was blind.”
“Well, it was the black man who went to jail for it,” I say, but he isn’t listening.
“Lila was screaming,” he went on. “She said if they’d leave me alone, she’d go back with them. The beating stopped then.   And that’s all I can tell you, except after I knew they were gone, I called the police. Of course, they couldn’t give me back my eyes.”



The Judge thinking-272677_640 

From The Official 1950’s Archives of Pearl’s Cousin, The Judge.

Written on a single, stained page, recently discovered under a tea napkin by Little Sister, and left just where she found it.

“Lila’s twins were born today. She named the boy, Peck, and the girl, Lizzie. Their father is just another Highlow secret, best left untold. Pearl says she and Izear will see to it that Lizzie and Peck don’t feel the lack of him, but I say those twins will search the distance between high and low for their father’s love. It’s only natural.”


Quote  —  Posted: October 27, 2017 in World On The Edge

Cannot say enough about the importance of FATHERS.

Translating a World on the Edge

father-as-leaderOver the years there have been many published studies on the importance of fathers.

From a father a child learns the basics: how to act, talk, react in certain situations. How can a father teach these things if he’s not present?

Without a father a child is much more likely to engage in activities that are abusive or harmful. In an article entitled The Plight of Fatherless Children from Gazette.net the following discoveries were noted for children without fathers:

  • Sixty-three percent of young people who commit suicide are from fatherless homes.
  • Eighty-five percent of children who exhibit behavioral disorders are from fatherless homes.
  • Eighty percent of rapists are from fatherless homes.
  • Seventy-one percent of high school dropouts are from fatherless homes.
  • Seventy-five percent of all adolescent patients in chemical-abuse centers are from fatherless homes.
  • Seventy percent of juveniles in state operated institutions come from fatherless homes.
  • Eighty-five percent of youth…

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