Archive for May, 2023

A wonderful Tuesday to everyone!

The idea for my latest novel Shooting at Heaven’s Gate published by Chrism Press, came from the third story in Birds of a Feather, my short story collection published by Wiseblood Books.  Both books can be found on Amazon or from the publisher.

Do you think you’re at Heaven’s Gate? Do you think God wants you enough to allow you to climb the ladder? Well, you’ll never climb it unless you’re pure as fallen snow. Unless you leave room for God’s wrath, not your own. Repent! –The Old Preacher speaking to Edmund in the novel Shooting at Heaven’s Gate

Here’s a little behind the scenes info. Both the novel and the short story take place in a fictional town in Alabama called Bethel,  which in the Bible refers to the Gate of Heaven and the site of Jacob’s Ladder. The name Bethel comes from the Hebrew beth, meaning house, and el, meaning God. Bethel means House of God. Numerous events of Bible History occurred there. For some time it was the place where the Ark of The Covenant, containing The Ten Commandments, was housed. Also, God’s appearance to Abraham, as well as Jacob’s Ladder – GENESIS 28:15-19

When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it.”
He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.”
Early the next morning Jacob took the stone he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it.
He called that place Bethel, though the city used to be called Luz.
Jacob’s ladder brings us closer to God by an often difficult climb upward and towards Him. 


Satin is crouching at your door. You ain’t seen him coming, boy. Nobody seen him coming but the Lord Jesus Christ. Now, he’s after you. Don’t wait for his spear. Conquer him!

In the novel, Edmund is a young, married Sociology professor, haunted by his grandfather, a holiness preacher who, from the grave, constantly challenges to change his addictive ways. Except the young man ends up murdering his wife, and then, several other people, including a Dermatologist that Edmund has been led–by Dr. Mal Hawkins, head of the psychology department at their community college–to believe is having an affair with his wife. Mal is the real antagonist in the book, an atheist and true narcissistic sociopath, parading as Edmund’s friend even as he provides him with drugs. 

To counterbalance all this evil with goodness, is Alma, a teenager who works the jewelry counter at Dillard’s, where she is surprisingly given by Edmund an expensive diamond necklace meant as a ‘gift of amends’ for his wife, who he does not realize he has killed. 

Authors who take up the task writing fiction from a Christian perspective ultimately reveal whether they are theologians of glory or theologians of the cross. Kaye Park Hinckley is a theologian of the cross.  Climbing Jacob’s ladder takes suffering. You will find the symbolism of ‘climbing up’ in several situations expressed in Shooting at Heaven’s Gate. You won’t find this kind of hard-core realism in the “Christian Fiction” section at Barnes and Noble where theologians of glory are cashing in big these days.

Here are dope fiend lunatics, adulterers, and drunks, along with hard working, sympathetic, normal folks – typically of the suffering spouse model. Theologians of glory take one look at these scenarios and quickly identify who gets the glory and who goes to hell. The problem with the standard Christian fiction fare is that the derelicts have a conversion experience and then things always get better. But in these pages, it’s not so simple.

In “Shooting at Heaven’s Gate,” a spiraling out of control college professor is haunted by the voice of his Pentecostal preacher grandfather who warns a grief-stricken adolescent that he must repent or face God’s wrath. But he also remembers the words of a kind Priest who had told him that God would continue to love him despite his actions. His actions as an adult become front-page news in the same way regular readers of Southern grit lit are accustomed.

We have a serious sinner on our hands, but we also learn that he suffered horrible tragedy at a tender age and a brain injury to boot. As far as we know, he never properly repented, but his actions put the words of the Priest to the test in a big way, forcing us to ask whether the promise made by the Priest concerning God’s mercy was just cheap sentiment. But this Priest, who only gets a passing notice, is a theologian of the cross, and the bloody mess of the cross is the only thing that will resolve this mess.

I’ve come to appreciate how messy life is, and how wrong it is to ever produce a work of art that implies otherwise.  — Jim Hale, reader.


JACOB’S LADDER,  Bruce Springsteen

We are climbing Jacob’s Ladder.

Brothers and Sister’s all.

We are Climbing Jacobs Ladder

Every rung goes higher and higher

Every rung just makes us stronger

We are brothers an sisters, all.


This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is bother-sister-jp-and-caroliine.jpg

Is this statement True or False? Childish behavior is the opposite of adult behavior. 

Well … do we ever fully let go of our childhood experiences—joyful or sorrowful? Either we expose them for all to see and hear, or we hide them so no one sees or hears about them. Regardless, our personal childhood experiences color nearly everything we do as adults.

The older I become, the more I’m assured of this—that our childhood years have created a blueprint for the rest of our lives. Sometimes a good blueprint, sometimes not so good.

This is precisely why childhood itself is so important—how and where we spend it,  who was there, and most especially, what were the  attitudes of our parents? More than likely–unless there’s a conscious effort— we express those same attitudes with our own children.

We not only look like our parents, but we also tend to think like them—unless something causes us to rebel—and many do rebel, swearing not to be a clone of either of their parents..

Still, we may later find ourselves like them. We may corner the sheets on bed just like our mother used to do. Or we may have interest in a particular sports team as our father did. Interiorly, we may have learned to solve problems the same as one or the other of our parents.

Because of our parents, we learned empathy for others, or not. We learned selfishness, or not. We put great emphasis on money, or not. We give of ourselves, or not.

As we grow into adults, we often try to forget any sorrows we may have had as children involving our parents, and our peers as well. We may even put aside the joys, too; intending to be ourselves, our own man or woman. Some who have been badly parented have success in consciously doing the opposite with their own children.  But it’s not often any of us get away from the old tapes in our heads as our childhood re-plays. For better or worse, they are there.

The realization that your parents were human, and therefore, imperfect, can be tough to accept. We have a natural tendency to want to protect our parents. We even unconsciously identify with their critical attitudes toward us and often take on their disparaging points of view as our own. This internalized parent is what we refer to as one’s “critical inner voice.” It can feel threatening to separate from the people who we once relied on for care and safety.–Lisa Firestone, Ph.D, Psychology Today

Not all of us have/had mature, loving parents — and no parent is perfect. But even if our earthly parents fail, our heavenly Father never fails. Isaiah assures us, “Can a mother forget her infant, or be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you.” (Isaiah 49:15)

The love of God, Our Father, is constant and unlimited. In the parable of the prodigal son, the father loves his children beyond anything they have earned–the same way He loves us.

So when the blueprint of our earthly parents fail us, and our critical inner voice is heavy to bear, we can turn to the very personal and perfect love of God to become who we were truly born to be.


Behind all your stories is always your mother’s story, because hers is where yours begins.
― Mitch Albom, For One More Day

Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers. You are experiencing a rare kind of love.

The love for your child is special because it has the capability of being a truly holy love, a love that sometimes calls for  intense sacrifice, a love that puts your child ahead of yourself and your own desires. A love that mimics the love of Mary for Jesus.

A mother–every mother–is forever bound to her child. And at one time or another, she will experience sorrow.

Sorrow. Maybe because of what her child does.

Sorrow. Maybe because of what is done to her child.

Often what is done is betrayal. And sometimes betrayal by one’s own country when that betrayal is performed by leaders who are supposed to protect. We saw that in the debacle of the US defeat and chaotic retreat in Afghanistan.

And I still remember the 2016 tragedy of Benghazi when on the first day of the Republican Convention in Ohio, revelations by the mother of  Sean Smith, one of four Americans killed in Benghazi, brought me to tears. American Ambassador Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods, and Glen Doherty pled for help from the U.S. government to no avail. “All security had been pulled from the embassy, Patricia Smith said. “Nobody seemed to listen, nobody seemed to care. . . .The last time I talked to Sean, the night before the terrorist attack, he told me, ‘Mom, I am going to die.’ ”

What a tragic betrayal! A current story, one of many, where the life of a child is snatched from his/her mother; and yet, the mother courageously goes on to make sure that her child did not live in vain.

My heart aches for all mothers who have lost beloved sons and daughters, precious gifts from God.

What can a mother do with her sorrow? What good can come from suffering?

We might remind ourselves that it was the betrayal and sufferings of Jesus Christ on the Cross that opened for us the gates of Heaven.

We might picture Mary there, at the scourging at the pillow,  at the crowning of thrones, and remember how she followed her son as he carried his cross. How did she feel as she knelt beneath the cross, watching the unbearable crucifixion and death of her beautiful son?

Her mother’s love, her sacrificial love, was a perfect love.


1.The Agony in the Garden. Fruit of the Mystery: Sorrow for Sin, Uniformity with the will of God

2.The Scourging at the Pillar. Fruit of the Mystery: Mortification, Purity

3.The Crowning with Thorns. Fruit of the Mystery: Contempt of the world, Courage

4.The Carrying of the Cross. Fruit of the Mystery: Patience

5.The Crucifixion and Death of our Lord. Fruit of the Mystery: Salvation, Forgiveness


When The Ghosts of Faithful won First-Runner-up for Poets & Writers Magazine’s Maureen Egen Award, it was a novel in progress. Here’s what Victor La Valle, author, Professor at Columbia, and Judge of the contest had to say about it:

Faithful suggests a broad canvas–a well-rendered local; a promising war of equals in the characters, a clear desire to address/tackle the issues larger than the back and forth, and a clear understanding on the author’s part about pacing and clarity. Also, I thought the father’s chapter was really funny!

IN 2019,  THE GHOSTS OF FAITHFUL was Runner-Up for the American Fiction Award, and also won the Independent Press Award for Religion Fiction. ‘Ghosts’ was the second novel of mine to win this prestigious award. The first, The Wind That Shakes the Corn: Memoirs of a Scots Irish Woman, won the same Independent Press Award in 2018.

My novels are labeled Religion Fiction, but they are really about everyday people, flawed people just like you and I. Flawed people who are presented within the context of being very valuable. Why? Because they are human beings created by God, and no matter what they are doing or have done, their actions are known by God who loves them. Do the characters change their ways? Some of them do, and some don’t. That’s life.





First of all, the soul of Catholic Fiction is that God exists and works in the lives of sinful, fallen in people who have totally rejected Him–and that He does this out of love, regardless of how forcefully a character tries try to shut Him out. And we need to know that.


Secondly, because Catholic Fiction points to our true identity as human beings, which is that we are not just happenstance entities placed on Earth. We are God’s children, created by Him and made in His image and likeness, and that we have a greater purpose here. And hopefully, Catholic Fiction does this through stories in which we can see ourselves, and with language and imagery that points to the divine in each one of us.


And then, thirdly, Catholic Fiction attracts us to what we lack on Earth, something larger and more beautiful than what this material world can give. And honestly I think in their hearts most people know this. It may not be the underpinning of a lot of fiction as much as other subjects are, but the yearning is definitely in every person, though they may have crusted it over with ‘stuff’ that our culture says we ought to have. And this is an innate yearning that only the divine can satisfy. People are seeking the beauty of God, whether they classify it as such or not.



The Sacramental aspect of the Catholic Church. We are bound by the Sacraments of the church and believe that they are instruments of grace. Think of our definition of grace—an outward sign instituted by God to give grace. Then go to this Flannery O’Connor quote:

From the Sign to the thing Signified
From the Visible to the Invisible
From the Sacrament to the Mystery

The Catholic sacramental view of life is one that sustains, and supports at every turn, the vision that the storyteller must have if he is going to write fiction of any depth.



Izzy Collier runs the Food Bank in a town called Faithful, on the banks of the Suwannee River. She is the least amicable of two daughters in a frustrating family; all, keeping secrets of betrayal. Her parents are at odds with both daughters, and with each other. Her sister, always Izzy’s competition, is an unstable former beauty queen, the wife of a philanderer, and the mother of four. Now, their ninety-four year-old grandmother sees her dead husband’s ghost, accompanied by a strange little girl. At the same time, Izzy’s husband, a defense lawyer, is being forced by his boss to effect the acquittal of a teenager accused of the rape and murder of a child. When Izzy starts to see her deceased grandfather and the little girl, too, she questions her sanity. What if the little girl ghost is the murdered child? But then, why would she be with Izzy’s grandfather? Are the ghosts after revenge, justice, or something greater?