long black trainFreedom is a big word. A weighty word. A lengthy word. The locomotive of Freedom is championed by words, like Liberty and Independence. But the locomotive’s steam is often the lack of any restriction or inhibition.

The train of Freedom runs two ways, and on conflicting tracks. One is a track of lies, the other a track of truth.

Before you buy a ticket on one train or the other, there are questions to ask: Where does it come from? Where is it going? And most especially, who is its engineer?

The lying train of Freedom can be very long and black. It can come from jumbled and defective thinking. It can take us to foolishness and death. And its engineer can be a faulty entity of propaganda.

Do we really have the freedom to kill innocent babies? The engineers of society and our government say we can.

Do we honestly have the freedom to forget our marriage vow, or steal another person’s wife or husband, or to have sex with whomever we want? The engineers of Hollywood say we can.

Do we truthfully have the freedom to knock ourselves out with dope at the expense of the life of our family and our own life as well? The enormous drug trade says we can.

Who is your engineer? Who is driving your Freedom train? We do have a choice. On which train will you buy a ticket?

For you were called for freedom, brothers and sisters.
But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh;
rather, serve one another through love. For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement, namely, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. But if you go on biting and devouring one another, beware that you are not consumed by one another.– Gal 5:1 13-18

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Love is the greatest virtue. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.–Colossians 3:14

Too often, we get down on ourselves and those we profess to love. We feel less than we are, and treat them less than we should. We may even get tired of our everyday lives—always so much of the same thing, we can’t even call it love.

And so, we long for something different, something more alive, fresh, and vibrant. But how do we go about finding or creating this kind of love in our lives?

The answer to that question lies in the answer to this one: What is love, really? What should we expect from it?

Love is not a fairy tale–don’t we all know that! Yet, it truly is meant to bring delight. It is a story that’s meant to have something like a prince and princess; a knight who would die for his lady if he had to, and vice versa.

Our Love is meant to change the other person in such a way that they are better than they would have been without us. If it doesn’t do this, if it makes the other worse, we ought to question what sort of relationship we actually have–because it’s probably not love.

Love’s expression is tied with the virtue of kindness. In our own love story, are we kind to the other person? Many times we’re much kinder to strangers than those we say we love. Is this because we take their love for granted? Taking someone for granted is another way to ruin a relationship.

You may be surprised to hear that love and suffering go together. When we truly love another person we can expect to suffer. That’s because people are fallible and can hurt us, yet true love continues to love.

Love means to love that which is unlovable; or it is no virtue at all.–G.K. Chesterton

Every artist sees beyond what is apparent, but the sculptress in my new novel sees even more. I would love for you to read She Who Sees Beyond and hopefully leave a review for me. It is free on Kindle from tomorrow, March 1, until March 3. Here’s a short summary:

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.

She Who Sees Beyond was a Finalist for the Tuscany Prize for Fiction.

Kaye Park Hinckley writes southern literary fiction from a Catholic perspective. A graduate of Spring Hill College, Hinckley owned an advertising agency for twenty years before she began writing full time. Many of her stories have been published in literary magazines, such as Dappled Things. She is the author of A Hunger in the Heart, Birds of a Feather, Mary’s Mountain, and The Wind That Shakes the Corn: Memoirs of a Scots Irish Woman. Her books have won various awards, such as Englewood Review of Books listing of Birds of a Feather, as one of the six best fiction books of the first half of 2014. Hinckley also won Poets & Writers Maureen Egan Award, First Runner-up, for a novel in progress.

A True Friend–Or Not???

Posted: February 26, 2018 in World On The Edge

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All that needs to be said about friendship.

1 Sir 6:5-17
A kind mouth multiplies friends and appeases enemies,
and gracious lips prompt friendly greetings.
Let your acquaintances be many,
but one in a thousand your confidant.
When you gain a friend, first test him,
and be not too ready to trust him.
For one sort is a friend when it suits him,
but he will not be with you in time of distress.
Another is a friend who becomes an enemy,
and tells of the quarrel to your shame.
Another is a friend, a boon companion,
who will not be with you when sorrow comes.
When things go well, he is your other self,
and lords it over your servants;
But if you are brought low, he turns against you
and avoids meeting you.
Keep away from your enemies;
be on your guard with your friends.
A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter;
he who finds one finds a treasure.
A faithful friend is beyond price,
no sum can balance his worth.
A faithful friend is a life-saving remedy,
such as he who fears God finds;
For he who fears God behaves accordingly,
and his friend will be like himself.

A Good Woman???

Posted: February 19, 2018 in World On The Edge

She would of been a good woman, if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.–from the mouth of the character, The Misfit, in a short story collection by Flannery O’Connor, entitled “A Good Man is Hard to Find.”

I have had the above framed words for many years, long before I launched my 2014 short story collection, Birds of a Feather, at Andalusia, Flannery O’Connor’s Milledgeville Georgia home. I believe the drawing was done by one of Flannery’s relatives. Take a moment to consider the words and how much they encapsulate! What was it about the woman in the story that causes The Misfit to say such about her?

Yet, these words are remarkably true for everyone–man or woman–at a point of real crisis, especially if possible death is staring us in the face. This is a mental moment when we understand that everything is going to be different, or that maybe even our life will be been taken from us.  Moments like that mean something BIG. They show exactly who we are–our true identity– as well as what we strive for, which is usually the world we live in.

As a Southern writer, I take Flannery’s words to heart. My identity is wrapped in the wonderfully changeable, material world around me—the world I live in. But as a Catholic writer, as Flannery was, my identity is also wrapped in the mystery of mercy and grace in the immaterial world that lies deeply behind this one—because that is the world that is unchangeable and enduring.

Flannery’s words reveal that mystery of grace and mercy–what we pray for in any dire life-situation when, sometimes in complete despair, we face our inevitable ‘brick walls.’  But how can this be ‘good’ for us? How could a loving God intend this for us?

Oddly, O’Connor uses an unlikeable, bad-tempered old woman; a self-absorbed, manipulative grandmother to depict the truth of what God’s love is for each of us: that when we are ‘less than good,’ less than we were created to be,  we still have the capability (the sanctifying grace) within us to see and act more clearly. And even to BECOME GOOD people. It is in such a shattering moment that we are at the same time most human, and yet, most participatory in the divine–the closest we have been in this life to God.

WANT TO SEE BEYOND???

Posted: February 14, 2018 in World On The Edge

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Would YOU like to see beyond???

This novel, published on February 11, is about the gift of sight–the benefits and hindrances for a young woman who is a seer.

To a certain extent, we all possess the gift of seeing beyond–it’s what makes us human. If you could see beyond, you might realize how much more you can be as a human being. You might see purpose in your life. You might understand others more, or be more compassionate. You might love more, incited to do so by the gifted wisdom of your sight.

Or you might try to get away from such a gift and its grave responsibilities. For it is a gift that will require your response, just as it is requires a response from the young woman–the seer–in this novel.

SHE WHO SEES BEYOND,  begins during a New Orleans hurricane that 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. As a sensitive child she’d been gifted with a keen perception, 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 trying life as a seer and takes up residence in the old house on the island, meaning to concentrate on her art. But when an unidentified boy is found dead on a pyre, her gift of seeing will not let go.

Main Characters:
Audrey Bliss, an artist, and seer who wants to be rid of her gift.
Joe Hightower, FBI Special Agent and single father, out to take down traffickers,
Hamilton Blanchette, a County Sheriff with secrets.
The Dead Boy on the Pyre, attempting to make his presence known to Audrey. But will he succeed?

SHE WHO SEES BEYOND is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and in most Southern Bookstores. Click on the Book Cover above. If you’re interested in reading and reviewing it, please let me know.

Does Anybody Need Me???

Posted: February 13, 2018 in World On The Edge

We often use this phrase today: “She (or he) is needy,” meaning insecure enough to ‘need’ an overabundance of attention from another human being.

It’s difficult to interact with people who have learned from negative experience not to trust. If you ignore or avoid them, they will be hurt by your rejection, and may get frantic, desperate or spiteful.

Clingy behavior puts a strain on any relationship. We don’t want to suffocate another with our insecurities, but the fact is each of us needs to be needed. Can you imagine what it would be like if nobody needed you?

Most of us wake up each morning thinking about our family, our job–the people who need us. But what if you woke up each day feeling totally alone, with no one to talk to or turn to? What if you were separated from your family? What if you thought that no one cared whether you lived or died?

Today, too many Americans feel this way. They don’t see themselves as unique, or important, or loved. Once, during a very difficult time in my life, I came close to feeling that way, too, until I realized I still had my faith, and that God loved me. The impact of God’s love struck me not only through prayer, but through His loving bombardment of seemingly unrelated incidents. Those incidents yanked me away from my self, and shoved me back into life. I even heard songs on the radio in a different way. Often, I heard a challenge. Sometimes the lyrics soothed my wounded feelings like a salve.

The measure of what we do in our lives depends on whether it threatens or enhances our life and dignity as well as the life and dignity of other human beings. Do we see ourselves and others as precious? Do we really understand that people are more important than things?

See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are. 1John 3:1

If we carry God’s love within us–and we do–then don’t we have an obligation to show others, especially the lonely, that they are also children of a merciful God?

Is there an action we could perform as a group or individually that would say to them, “We need you!”? What do you think their reaction might be?

HOW Are You Strong???

Posted: February 12, 2018 in World On The Edge

The question is not “Are you strong?” It is–“HOW are you strong?”

Human beings have various strengths: Physical strength. Intellectual strength. And strength of character. Do you have one, two, or are you fortunate enough to have been given all three?

Physical strength builds a country, a city, a home. Physical strength protects that country, guards that city, maintains that home. Physical strength is beautiful, empowering, and necessary. So people with the gift of physical strength are admired.

Intellectual strength conceptualizes the country, the city, the home. Intellectual strength is responsible for the ongoing progress of a country, its industries, and the well-being of its people. Intellectual strength is also beautiful, empowering and necessary.

But a person can possess physical strength, or mental strength, and not have strength of character.

Strength of character is found in someone who is resilient to hardships, and has the resolve to stand firm in their beliefs. Strength of character is found in someone who is virtuous. It can be found in the physically and intellectually strong. But often it is found in the weak, the humble, the unattractive, the elderly, and surprisingly, in children. Because we are all born with an instinct to love through the grace of God.

Virtuous actions are indicative of Strength of character.

These virtues do not require physical strength or intellectual strength. But all of them require strength of character—the underpinning of what it means to be a human being.

In Catholicism, the seven Christian virtues refer to the union of two sets of virtues: The cardinal virtues–from ancient Greek philosophy–are prudence, justice, temperance or restraint, and courage; and the theological virtues–from the letters of St. Paul of Tarsus–faith, hope, and charity, or love.

Animals have physical strength. Today’s machines and electronics have intellectual strength. But only a human being can have strength of character. Persons of character are noted for their honesty, ethics, and charity. We think of them as “men of principle” or “women of integrity.”

The lack of character is moral deficiency, and persons lacking character tend to behave dishonestly, unethically, and uncharitably. An individual, a country, or a world that disregards this fact is doomed.

How are we doing today–individually and as a nation–regarding Strength of Character?

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There are three infallible ways of pleasing an author, and the three form a rising scale of compliment:

1. To tell him you have read one of his books;

2. To tell him you have read all of his books;

3. To ask him to let you read the manuscripts of his forthcoming book.

No. 1 admits you to his respect; No. 2 admits you to his admiration; No. 3 carries you clear into his heart.– Mark Twain

I’ve been writing this blog since 2013, just before the publication of my first novel, A Hunger in the Heart. Many of you have read it, along with my short story collection, Birds of a Feather, published in 2014, and my novelette, Mary’s Mountain, 2015. Last week, my new novel was published, The Wind that Shakes the Corn: Memoirs of a Scots Irish Woman.

I’m asking a favor of those who have read any of my books: Please write a review for me on Amazon?

If you are a follower of this blog, you know I’m a native Southerner who loves the South and writes stories about her people. You know, too, that I’m a cradle Catholic who loves the Faith and aspires to be worthy of it. But you may not know the thought process of behind my work…..and perhaps you are interested?

My stories usually center around a person who is, in one way or another wounded by life. Sometimes this is of his/her own accord, other times he is the victim of someone else’s cruelty. Real life has its ways of doing that to us all, doesn’t it?

So, my characters need to be healed in sometimes deeply personal ways. They come to a crossroad, and a choice, then find that healing in a grace-filled moment—a moment that, on first look, may not seem filled with grace because it is an unsavory, or violent, moment. And not every one my characters will find it—-because not all of them allow it–just as in our own lives, when we’re not open to the grace of God.

My characters choose between love and hatred, disruptiveness or peace, vindictiveness or compassion. And some choose either to stay with, or part from, the most evil circumstances of our society. It’s their choice. Free will. But whatever they choose, their choice will cost them something.

Like you, I’m an earthly traveler through a world that seems more and more on edge, yet aren’t we striving to find and increase within ourselves, Faith, Hope, and especially Love–even when Love Hurts?

I thank you for following my blog. Please do me the favor of writing a review for me on any, or all books, if you’ve read them. Here are the books and links:
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Amazon cover

Available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and most Southern Independent Booksellers

 

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, and a Tuscany Prize for Catholic Fiction Finalist.