When The Ghosts of Faithful won First-Runner-up for Poets & Writers Magazine’s Maureen Egen Award, it was a novel in progress. Now it is finished and will be my seventh published novel, due out next month.

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!”

About the completed novel:

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?

Prologue

The River and Carroll O’Murphy

When I was dying, my wife kissed my forehead as the moonlight dwindled. There were tears in her eyes, and I knew the tears were for both of us when she said to me, “Carroll O’Murphy, I will never forgive you.” And I said to her, “Well, I will never rest in peace until you do.”

And so regrets flash before my eyes, just as I’d heard they would.  Through a window, the days of my life wash over me like the river coursing beyond the pane. The minutes, the days, the years, whisper to me in a breeze that rises and falls, rippling like the wings of an angel, or the soiled pages of a baby’s book, turned by its mother’s trembling hand.

As a young man, the river and I, its faithful rider, traveled as one. Always, it was a persona greater than I, a much older, yet stern friend who called me to task, for our way south was a hard one, a way of mystery, and sometimes heartlessness.

From the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia, across the Florida panhandle with its auburn knees of prehistoric cypress, the river and I fingered like mist through the wild woods until we grew darker and darker. Below multi-colored canopies, we skirted the trunks of Live Oaks, their blackened roots rising like fences to stop us. We did not stop. We pushed forward until an escaping ray of  light  fell upon us and swirled in lemon-colored shapes like the billowing dress of a little girl dancing; a promise that we would find our destination.

The river and I knew what we wanted. Other fickle rivers and riders surged into us, troubled us, and attempted to shift us from our course. We swallowed them. We reached the steadfastness of the Gulf. There, the river rushed ahead, changing itself from drab to crystal green, cobalt, and purple. And I remained behind to live my own destiny.

This was during the Great Depression of the 1930’s, when the few who settled here weren’t able to find a dime. Except the river had given me confidence, taught me courage, and enough cunning to conquer any dam that blocked my way.

So, I created a town and called it, Faithful, for the river’s loyalty. I discovered more riches than I could spend in a lifetime. And yet, I lost a lifetime of love.

The death of one’s child by his own hand will pulverize a man who has no angels to hold him.

My six books will be available at the Called to Love Conference at Corpus Christie in Mobile, Alabama on Saturday October 6. It’s going to be a great conference. Come if you can!

A N G E L U S  N E W S:  BOOK REVIEW

In “Birds of a Feather,” a wife and mother feels trapped by a secret. An abortion doctor’s mother would never have considered the option he offers. An Alzheimer’s sufferer feels judged and drives to his childhood home.

The birds in Kaye Park Hinckley’s short story collection, “Birds of a Feather,” all find themselves from flocks of Catholics. Their family members, or at least a shining few, believe in forgiveness, hope and redemption.

But it’s the sinners with whom we most sympathize. How can we not? Hinckley’s expert literary craftsmanship is matched by the drama of Judeo-Christian values confronting American relativism and egoism.

It’s Easter Sunday when the wife’s grandmother, on her deathbed, whispers, “We know the truth.”

The abortion doctor sees a newborn grasping for life then kills her.

The Alzheimer’s patient is frightened by the unforgiving eyes of that blonde woman, his wife. This fear leads his mind to relive his experience as a soldier crawling on his belly through enemy fire. In present day, he screams out loud — a military command to his fellow soldiers — scaring his daughter to tears.

Unlike his caretakers, the reader can see the interweaving of his past and present experiences. If you have ever stood at the bedside of a loved one with Alzheimer’s, Hinckley’s depiction helps to make sense of a beloved’s puzzling, and at times hurtful, outbursts.

For individuals struggling toward redemption, despite themselves, there are moments where the light, or, as the saying goes, the truth, hurts. “A patch of blue sky births an unblemished sun so holy in appearance I turn away.” Pain often accompanies being awoken to truth. “A ruthless streak of sunlight wakes me.”

Hinckley’s fallen humans are driving home. Many of them literally. All of them figuratively. Though some at the close of the story take “a procedural deviation from integrity,” we find ourselves hoping, alongside the practicing Catholic in the family, that they make it home.

Hinckley’s characters are alive. Their flaws and struggles create dramatic tension and lead us to reckon with the sinner and saint within. Throughout there is an uncanny presence of the Communion of Saints.

This is most explicit in “The Pleasure of Company: A Ghost Story.” The loving souls of two deceased grandparents tell us that their granddaughter, Julia, “is not alone …We are here … Ghosts from the past. Grandparents who love her.”

Each struggling character evokes a feeling of care within us. I will buy this book for all in my life on this side of the veil. It will be loved especially by the fiction aficionados and all the birds who have flown askew, losing the flock. “As one might lift a tiny, injured bird falling from a tree…”

As rare as the saints among us, a good short story is hard to find. But Hinckley’s collection, “Birds of a Feather,” remains with us with the power of an epic novel.

Today’s Big Surprise!!!

Posted: August 17, 2018 in World On The Edge

My SCREENPLAY for ” A HUNGER IN THE HEART” has been selected as a DRAMA TV PILOT to be included in the Oaxaca Film Festival!!

https://www.oaxacafilmfest.com/global-script-challenge?t=tv-pilot

The United States Judge is Larry Laboe (Producers Guild of America) and President of Production at SXM where he has produced for Disney, NBC, VEVO, Dailymotion, MTV, Break Media (now DEFY Media), Amazon Studios (Twitch), Comedy Central, and Complex Media. These projects have been directed by talent such as James Franco and Joseph Gordon Levitt. In addition to his work at SXM, Larry also serves as Co-Founder and Executive Director of NewFilmmakers Los Angeles (NFMLA), and is a Visiting Faculty Member in the film department at the San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI).

Prayers please!! 🙂

Life itself is a terrible wrestling match between divine love and human freedom. And God is not insured of a victory–not even from some of our own, especially some of our own clergy. Right now, human freedom seems to have the upper hand.

We are in troubled times where lies are being twisted to resemble Truth. And if one disagrees with the promoted agendas, there is an attempt to make him or her feel guilty by holding up false platitudes resembling Catholicism, but not true to it. Instead, a finger is pointed at faithful Catholics, insinuating that disagreement with the falsities  shows racism, sexism, no charity, lots of judging, and more. This is difficult for many faithful Catholics to hear, watch, or personally experience from others who question what the church has taught for well over two thousand years about the sanctity of marriage, the evil of abortion, the disorders of homosexuality, and the fact that a man is created to be a man and a woman is created to be a woman. But disorder is where evil works best. Confuse and then condemn.

Always we must remember:  Our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. —Ephesians 6:12.  For despite the condemning labels, we are indeed wrestling for the truths God intended us to follow. 

We don’t want to admit that some who speak as authorities concerning the Church we love are as vulnerable to evil as anyone else. Yet, we should not be surprised. The very mission of evil is to seek and destroy Truth in any way, and in any place, it can — especially in the Catholic Church whose doctrine crushes its ugly head. We must have courage to vigorously stand up for the Truths of our Church. We cannot be vicious in our battles though; we recognize that we have often been sinful, too.

The Church is made up of individual people, and each of us, at one time or another, is also a target of evil, and sometimes even a participant. My goodness, how many times do we personally open the door for evil in our own lives? We know  first-hand the sins we have and how easy it is to cover them over with lies or excuses, and then twist circumstances to make our sins seem okay. We don’t want to be the ones who are wrong, so we change the ‘wrong” to “right.’  Our human freedom allows us to do this.

But we also know that we have the strength of God within us, and that we are called to admit our sins and confess them in sorrow, expecting God’s forgiveness which He gives.

We know as well, that a person is an individual being, one in itself and distinct from all other beings. No two people are exactly the same, just as no two flowers or no two stars in the sky are exactly the same. Our sameness–the thing that makes each of us a human person is that we are both body and soulwe have a physical nature and a spiritual nature. And just as our human bodies are fallible to human failures, our spiritual natures are also fallible, for they are influenced by our personal histories–as unique as the flowers and the stars– and by our own free decisions.

And yet, there are times–this is one of them–when we must not let our fallibilities frighten us. Neither must we be afraid of being labeled. We must polish up our spiritual armor, tattered as it may be, and stand together in TRUTH.  We are more than God’s hands and feet on Earth. Indeed, we are His army. His soldiers. And soldiers are brave; they do not run from battle. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. — Ephesians 6:11

We are the Body of Christ–the genuine Body of Christ–sent out as lambs among wolves.

In fact, Jesus sends us out with battle instructions: If any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.–Mark 6:11

In Matthew: 27-28, Jesus gives us confidence in the voice of the Holy Spirit within us.  What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.

We have been allowed to live in this moment of history. We cannot ignore that we have a role to play in today’s world. A role to defend TRUTH. And we will play it.

We are Catholic, after all.

Of course, we are supposed to help take care of our fellow-man. If he is hungry, we must give him food. But a few weeks back, I read a blog post that seemed to say God’s intention of giving us the Eucharist was an example of how we should feed the hungry. This is not correct. The Holy Eucharist is between the individual receiver and God. The celebration of The Holy Eucharist at Mass is Jesus’s real sacrifice of His own body and blood, food for our spiritual salvation. It is a miracle, uniquely personal to each of us, and nourishes God’s own divine life in we who receive it. It is not a reenactment of feeding the hungry five thousand.  In fact, the Eucharist is not a reenactment at all. It is a covenant between each one of us and Jesus Christ who is truly present in the host, still loving us enough to offer His life for us.

As a man must be born before he can begin to lead his physical life, so he must be born to lead a Divine Life. That birth occurs in the Sacrament of Baptism. To survive, he must be nourished by Divine Life; that is done in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. – Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

John 6: 24-35

When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there,
they themselves got into boats
and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus.
And when they found him across the sea they said to him,
“Rabbi, when did you get here?”
Jesus answered them and said,
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
you are looking for me not because you saw signs
but because you ate the loaves and were filled.
Do not work for food that perishes
but for the food that endures for eternal life,
which the Son of Man will give you.
For on him the Father, God, has set his seal.”
So they said to him,
“What can we do to accomplish the works of God?”
Jesus answered and said to them,
“This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.”
So they said to him, “What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you? What can you do? Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written: He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”
So Jesus said to them,
“Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.
“So they said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
Jesus said to them,
“I am the bread of life;
whoever comes to me will never hunger,
and whoever believes in me will never thirst.

United with the angels and saints of the heavenly Church, let us adore the most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist. Prostrate, we adore this great mystery that contains God’s new and definitive covenant with humankind in Christ. — Pope John Paul II

Prayer Before Reception of The Eucharist:

Latin: Domine, non sum dignus, ut intres sub tectum meum:
sed tantum dic verbo, et sanabitur anima mea.

English: Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof,
but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.

PANGE LINGUA by St. Thomas Aquinas:

Watch Out for Weeds!!!

Posted: July 31, 2018 in World On The Edge

On Earth, we don’t have the fullness of Heaven, where all is perfect and God’s presence is enjoyed eternally in a problem-less place. Here, there are most definitely problems, growing like weeds. And weeds can overtake once-healthy plants. Sometimes we allow those weeds in our own lives. Even knowing that they may one day strangle us, we don’t pull them out or do much of anything about them.

And yet, we Christians pray The Lord’s Prayer, that God’s kingdom will come on earth as it is in heaven. We want our devotion and our service to God to show that He is present in this world. We do this by loving and caring for the people He created; people made in His image and likeness. And because I am an American, may I especially include our American brothers and sisters?

Here on Earth, we can choose not to respect our American brothers and sisters. We can choose to hate, or disrupt, or bring down those in our American family. We can choose to call them names, like racists and much more; we can yell in their faces that they are deplorable, or chase them out of public places, ruin their businesses, or spread lies about them. We can choose not to see their connection to us through the same God who made them.

But—-

When this happens, expect courageous Americans proud of their history, and their flag, to stand up and fight back as they have done from the birth of our nation.

The very roots of our democracy, built on a Constitution that states allegiance to the laws of God, have been attacked and shredded by the so-called–and perhaps even well-meaning–progressives. But the end does not justify the means if the means are innately evil.

Today our America is being threatened from within, until it has become infested by those who would turn evil into a false good, and good into a false evil. One daily hears their dangerous propaganda through much of the media–making up their own rules to demolish the sanctity of life through abortion on demand, creating their own brand of diminishment the sacrament of marriage, putting illegal non-Americans ahead of those who worked diligently to become legal American citizens. Spouting their petty, adolescent criticisms to anyone who disagrees with them, they take every opportunity to belittle our country and our President. These are only some of the means they use–means that are anything but good for the American people. I am one of the Americans who resent those means. And there are many more of us.

Many of us descend from American pioneers all the way back to the Mayflower, who have fought, or have relatives who fought for our country throughout its history of nearly four hundred years. Others are  more recent immigrants who did the hard work it takes to come legally into our country, and our country has been better because of them. The majority of us who truly love America have been taught respect for other human beings from birth to death, no matter who they are. We have been taught respect for our country, respect for our flag, respect for the office of President.

And yet, these lessons are daily demeaned by those who call themselves progressive.

Perhaps we should all go back to our beginnings here to realize what a wonderful country our forefathers intended for the citizens of America, and then, assess how each of us is doing as a citizen today.

William Bradford, Governor of the Plymouth Colony, “Of Plymouth Plantation, 1620-1647,” had this to say:

Having undertaken, for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith, and honor of our King and Country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia, do by these presents solemnly and mutually, in the presence of God, and one of another, covenant and combine our selves together.    

Do we today, solemnly and mutually, in the presence of God, and one of another, covenant and combine our selves together as Americans?

FAITHFUL–To The End???

Posted: July 26, 2018 in World On The Edge

When my third child–now the mother of three sons–was a third-grader at Epiphany Catholic School, the class put on a program in which they sang the song, “God is so good, He’s so good to me.” To watch her singing these lyrics, https://youtu.be/jejWZM9Sh8k, brought tears to my eyes, and also brought a catch of confusion in my heart about the goodness of God.

At five years old, my daughter had been diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor which had been partially removed after two surgeries. Three years later, hearing her sing, I prayed even harder that the tumor would not return, though we had been told of that possibility and checked it twice a year through brain scans. However, two years later it did return and we were told there would be yet another surgery. During the surgery I thought of that song and held the memory of her singing, God answers prayers, hoping God’s answer was the same as mine, yet not sure it would be. Oh it was hard! Believe me, I had moments of doubt that God was so good and even disbelief that He answers prayers.

Except–the surgery was successful, enough for the doctor to say that he believed he got it all this time, but she would still need the yearly scans to be sure. Eight years later, my daughter received her last scan. At that time, we were told that there was no sign of the tumor and that she was cured. The answer we had prayed for came in God’s time, not ours.

When awful things happen to us, or to those we love, we want an instant fix. We don’t want the suffering that continuance of our problem will give us. We don’t want to wait for God’s answer to our prayers, fearing that His answer will not be OUR answer. But we don’t know–and cannot know–the infinite mind of God who sees our problem from beginning to end. Throughout the thirteen years of waiting for a final answer, our family drew closer. Often centering around my third child, we functioned as one unit. Many of you, have seen the same in your own family when life and death problems have arisen.

By now–as we all will–I have experienced years of living through some pretty awful things. But today, if I were to describe my relationship with God in only one word, that word would be Faithful.  Faithful To The End.

From the time a human being comes to the age of reason, he or she will be confronted with error and truth. Because we are human we have the ability to weight them both, and to choose between them; all this from a young age — which is why it is so important to teach a set of high values to children, because these choices are what will ultimately form individual character. If at sometime, we glance into the mirror and don’t like the person we see looking back at us, it is still possible to change. Our ability to decide never leaves us.

Our main concern in forming good character for ourselves and our children should first be recognizing the difference between error and Truth. I attempt to address this in my stories; stories that begin in the human heart when Truth is exchanged for the lies of the moment.

It is a human choice when hatred replaces love because my new enemy doesn’t look or think like me.
It is a choice when anger becomes a fist to the face of a wife, or child, or friend.
It is a choice when a hidden hand steals because what it has seems not enough.
It is a choice when every hunger–lust, greed, power–must be satisfied.
It is a choice when my place in the sun is secured by lies and dishonesty toward my fellow human beings.

It is also a choice to do nothing and allow recognized evil to continue.

As a human being we not only HAVE choices, we are RESPONSIBLE for the choices we make. The way of our created world is not toward an anything goes attitude, or a society without common decency.

Man is a being with free will; therefore, each man is potentially good or evil, and it’s up to him and only him (through his reasoning mind) to decide which he wants to be. — Ayn Rand

If our choices do not make us feel good about ourselves, then by the standard set in our hearts, they are failings. So, after our failings, what is possible? Contrition, forgiveness, and redemption–or a puffed-up pride that will not allow us to admit that we have failed, that we ought to forgive, or that we need to be redeemed?

My stories contain these themes. They are stories about what it means to be an imperfect person in an imperfect world.

There may be a time in life when one is tired of everything and feels as if all one does is wrong, and there maybe some truth in it- do you think this is a feeling one must try to forget and to banish, or is it ‘the longing for God,’ which one must not fear, but cherish to see if it may bring us some good? Is it ‘the longing for God’ which leads us to make a choice which we never regret? Let us keep courage and try to be patient and gentle. And not mind being eccentric, and make distinction between good and evil. –Vincent van Gogh

THE WIND THAT SHAKES THE CORN: Memoirs of a Scots Irish Woman

The 2018 Independent Press Award Winner in Religion Fiction

Beginning in eighteenth century Ireland and then set against the background of a burgeoning America, The Wind That Shakes the Corn tells the story of the feistiness of Scots Irish immigrants, and the heart-held faith and courage that led their struggle toward individualism in America. Nell Dugan’s hatred, but also her love and determination, spotlights the Irish, both Protestant and Catholic, who bring to Revolutionary America age-old grudges against longtime English rule.

On Nell’s wedding night in Ireland, English soldiers abduct her from the arms of her Scottish Lord and throw her on a ship, slave-fodder for a West Indies sugar plantation. But Nell uses her beauty and cunning to seduce the plantation owner’s son who sneaks her away to pre-revolutionary Philadelphia where she agrees to marry him, keeping secret her marriage to the Scottish lord she truly loves, and swearing to pay back the English not only for her own kidnapping but also for her mother’s hanging two decades earlier.

A story of love, hate, revenge, and the ever-hovering choice to forgive.

A HUNGER IN THE HEART

Set in 1955, a young boy comes to terms with the consequences World War II has had on his family. His beloved, shell-shocked, father is a decorated hero who stages continual games of war to train his son; his bigoted, alcoholic mother blames the misfortune in her marriage on the soldier whose life her husband saved; and his manipulative grandfather stirs up trouble between mother and son, until the boy must fight a personal war just to survive. When the boy’s father is suspiciously shot and killed, his grandfather accuses his daughter-in-law, and a bitter estrangement between the boy and his mother is set in motion, tempered only by the family gardener and a neighbor girl with family problems of her own.

A story of hope and love. How we find it and thrive in even the darkest circumstances.

BRIDGE-MAN BURNING: The Sins of a Southern Man

Sequel to A Hunger in the Heart

As a boy Coleman Putttman Bridgeman III was hurt by the love he hungered for. Now as a young man, leaving his hometown behind, he carries with him the family blood that runs through his veins and voices of the past that run through his head. In marriage and business, Coleman faces love’s most powerful battles where he must confront the weakest and deepest, parts of himself. Honesty versus dishonesty, faithfulness versus betrayal, and courage versus cowardice, are all in play while the question remains: Will Coleman Puttman Bridgeman III win his war, or will he lose love forever?

SHE WHO SEES BEYOND

A New Orleans hurricane takes the life of artist Audrey Bliss’s husband, swallows any trace of their four year-old son, and dramatically changes Audrey when she suffers a head wound. She’s always been perceptive, but now she sees and hears the voices of missing people calling to be found. Soon, asked by local law enforcement to solve crimes in The Big Easy, she finds many missing people, including a girl from Birmingham, Alabama found murdered in New Orleans. Yet, she never finds her own son, and accepts he died in the hurricane. After inheriting a tiny island in the Tennessee River near Red Clay Springs, Alabama, Audrey attempts to discard her life as a seer and takes up residence in the old house to concentrate on her art. But when an unidentified boy is found dead on a pyre, her gift of seeing will not let go.

A love story …. but of a mother for her lost son, of a father for his daughter, and of a sheriff for two  young men he thinks of as his own. First in a series to come.

BIRDS OF A FEATHER

In the past few years Kaye Park Hinckley has emerged as a major talent in what Paul Elie calls “the literature of belief.” Hinckley translates grace in a world on edge, sees a double beginning and ending in everything, literally everything, including the unspeakably awful. Like her novel A Hunger in the Heart, the stories in Birds of a Feather—several of which have won substantive awards—take us to the heart of the matter.

“The short stories in Birds of a Feather are richly imagined tales full of finely drawn characters who demonstrate how people estranged from faith can bumble through life so distracted by worldly horrors and delights, so full of themselves, that they don’t even notice faint nudges of grace that stir in their souls or recognize subtle emanations of the holy that abound in the world around them.”–The Catholic World Report

MARY’S MOUNTAIN

The story of Paul Dunaway’s struggle to re-shape his affluent but joyless life, while opposing forces in the out-of-control, politically correct America he helped to create, threaten to take him down. A tale of Tolerance taken to the extreme, as patriotism and religion are deplored by those in command.

“Mary’s Mountain” follows the conversion of everyman through the character of Paul Dunaway, who is born into the Faith but loses it shamelessly through the enticements of the world: money, lust, power. Then he eventually finds his way back to God through Mary’s Mountain, his former home.