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Archive for the ‘Excerpts from my Novel’ Category

From a Plane to Rome to an Elevator into Space

 Trip to Rome & the Amalfi Coast

I haven’t been posting since before  a plane deposited three other ladies and me in Italy this May. Thank God for cameras because words cannot adequately express what we saw while roaming through Rome, Naples and along the Amalfi Coast. I’ll let these YouTube videos–okay, and the Italian music–speak more eloquently of the beauty of the art and countryside and of the calamitous ruins of the Coliseum and the city of Pompeii.

http://youtu.be/8v7eF-FSoJQ and

Travel through Space & Time

I had also abandoned my work on my second novel until just recently. Now I’m back, or maybe I should say I’m off to outer space. I’d love to have you join me to  explore what a tiny, but unified team of rebels with divine connections will encounter as they resist a global corporate empire, owners of a working space elevator, who have their own otherworldly partners. Here’s the beginning:

Space Elevator Malfunction

The two in the climber unit had no warning. One minute they were looking down at the blue marble as the elevator lifted them and their cargo of grain into deep space, the next they were space junk.

 

Looking skyward, the small group on duty at the anchor station couldn’t spot the tether.  At less than eight inches wide—a tiny silver ribbon in a wide open sky—it wasn’t the easiest thing to make out, even with binoculars, as it climbed upward from the space station to the counterweight 62,000 miles up. But it had hung there for fifteen months now, never swinging in the breeze, as taut as a bow string.

One end of the cable remained anchored to the floating platform on which they stood. That connection was easy enough to see. When Torin, the chief mechanic, finally spotted an airborne section in low-Earth orbit, he understood why they hadn’t immediately detected it. It was not straight up.  Rather it had drifted to the left of the anchored section and appeared to be curving just where visibility with the naked eye became a struggle.

“Omygod,” he yelled. “When did the last climber unit start up the space elevator, Callie?”

“Two days ago,” the team’s girl Friday—a title no one would call her to her face—yelled back. “According to the log, loading was completed at 6 a.m. Tuesday with the lifters aloft thirty minutes later.”

“That means the elevator car should be 10,200 feet up by now. Please take a look ’cause I’m not seein’ it. And please tell me I’m only imagining a curvature in the cable!”

Callie looked over Torin’s shoulder while he zoomed the attached camera into the right height. An empty computer screen stared back.  As she turned toward Torin, an inscrutable look passed between them.

He turned back to the screen before he said, “They would’ve made contact if they were in trouble.”

“Maybe they encountered some space debris and had to slow down. The Maintenance Climber is still not as fast as we’d like. Try a different height.”

“No, that’s not it,” he replied instantly. “The orbital debris tracking system would’ve alerted us. I’ve already initiated a comprehensive search. We’ll know in thirteen minutes if the climber cars are up there.”

Nothing. The three moving cars–a vertical railroad–that had been crawling up the screen an hour before, were now invisible. Panic made Callie’s slim body shake so that she could barely get the words out: “You’d better.. make the call.. to Dad’s office.”

 ***

If you will give me your reaction to these paragraphs, I might save you a seat on the space elevator…

Wordiness is Weak Writing But How Little is Too Little?

I tell my students to eliminate words that don’t add anything to their subject. Purdue’s Online Writing Lab (OWL) gives reasons and examples here: Conciseness in Writing

I buy into the concept, but also expect communication–whether written or oral–to be vivid and clear, and so I must ask if there is a realistic minimum when too few words are as bad or worse than too many. Today, for the first time, I tried to tell a story in just 55 words (the flash fiction assignment I found at http://austinbriggs.com/category/Flash-Fiction-Contest/)

Are these few words–reduced from a scene in my book, Pieces of You, –enough to cause you to imagine the scene and discern the message imbedded in the story’s title, What if heaven is fun and fulfilling? Or would it benefit from more detail?

Blurred Photo of MarkThe news as usual is of carnage.

Disgusted, Mark turned to the mystifying peephole. His deceased mother, gloriously happy, was there teaching wide-eyed scholars, the scent of flowers and the notes of masters on the breeze. She took his father’s hand and faced Mark, saying, “We will help you teach them to love each other.”

Mature Long-distance Love Wins

Route from Geneva Switzerland to Detroit, MI

From Pieces of You:

“Dad, if you won’t share our home will you, at least, let us help you find someone to share yours?”

“Well, I have ample space but I don’t think I’d be a very good landlord.”

”Come on, Dad,” Claire said, “You know what we’re getting at. We wish you’d find a good woman. Would you let us help?”

“Now that’s a new dilemma. My children don’t think I can attract members of the opposite sex any more. It’s true I haven’t had a date in a few years but….”

“Because of your constant traveling, we think your best bet is an online dating service. Several of our friends swear by it.” As she said this, Claire gave her father-in-law a hug and a kiss on the cheek. Succumbing to her persuasive tactic, Mark agreed to look into it.

By the time Mark left for home the next day, a subscription to “SeniorFriendFinder” and a detailed profile already awaited his approval.

Just as I was about to give up on Internet matchmaker services, a message came from ‘Bluewatersailor: Good catch for a good woman.’

The basic information profiled a man two years older than me who had a multitude of interests. The only reason his profile was not a 100% match was the miles—actually an ocean—between us. I looked up the distance between his primary home in Geneva and mine in Detroit: 4,200 miles. But his first note added he had recently purchased a temporary home on the west side of Michigan. I wrote back.

The next evening he called. The voice on the other end projected an appealing calmness and confidence. We talked again within the week. In between, I got friendly little text messages. After the third phone conversation, we agreed to meet.

The first couple of hours together were fairly typical for a first date: sharing our best stories over dinner and drinks. An occasional slip of his mask made me wonder what I, too, might be revealing. His expressions assured me I was doing okay. The farewell kiss punctuated the end of our first date like an exclamation point ending a sentence that deserves special emphasis.

Nearly four months later an e-mail from Mark contained the captivating words: “Just wanted to remind you that I am in love with you.”

The Saturday before Thanksgiving his flight to Detroit was booked and he promised to call just before his plane lifted off.

That call never came.

Mark lay in a Swiss hospital thinking, “What’s happened to me and where am I?”

Zachri responded, “This will be hard for you to comprehend but it’s the truth: you are in a coma. I was summoned by Janine’s pleading.”

Author page: https://www.amazon.com/author/jelferdink

Pieces of You: Jewel’s Debut Album AND Joyce’s Debut Novel

Jewle’s debut album (1995) and Joyce’s debut novel (2012)

Please read the information on Amazon (from links above) and tell me if you find any  similarities (other than the price of her CD and my Kindle eBook).

Somalia Piracy in the News Again

I consider piracy to be deplorable, and yet I have to wonder why people, especially those with families dependent on them, choose such a dangerous lifestyle. Is it, for some at least, their level of despair over joblessness? I’m not alone in thinking of that possibility. One of the cures listed in the quotation below is ‘building livelihoods ashore.’

“Piracy is like an ancient disease that should be extinct in this modern world,” said Commodore Simon Ancona of the British Navy, who is currently deputy commander of Combined Maritime Forces. “The cure is difficult and requires the disruption of pirate actions, building law and order and livelihoods ashore, and making the merchant prey less vulnerable. Although there are signs of remission, I would judge the medicine will be required for some time to come.” from the August 28  NYTimes online: Piracy around Horn of Africa has plunged

As I look at the faces and body language of imprisoned pirates caught on film by  Jehad Nga for The New York Times, I see youth, hunger, belligerence, fear. I wonder what I can do in affecting a cure for piracy.

In my novel, Pieces of You, my protagonist asks the same thing after one of their corporate tankers is attacked by pirates.  What they tried worked for three years, and they were proud of helping young Somalis learn skills and pleased with organizing a large network to deter attacks. Then another of their tankers was captured.

What do you think Americans can do to cure this “ancient disease that should be extinct in this modern world?”

Where is Heaven?

Into the heavens

The protagonist of “Pieces of You” is offered a glimpse of Heaven by his spirit guide. ‘Hear’ them discuss where it is and what he will find there:

 “Are you sure you’re not an angel, Zachri? I’m pretty sure you belong on their side but if you’d show me your wings I’d be fully convinced. I’m only joking! Remember the story you told me about the purple gown and wings? Are you sure your home base isn’t what prophets and poets describe as Paradise?”

“Oh, you mean the place where I store my wings when they’re not in use or when they need to be cleaned!”

“All right, tour guide and occasional comedian; I wouldn’t mind a glimpse, but only a brief layover, into this future.”

“You still don’t understand, Mark. Unlike man’s linear perception of time and space, true existence – beyond the physical – spans past, present and future simultaneously. ‘Heaven’ is already here but much of its beauty is hidden for now. A day is coming when the Earth will be restored and renewed and your liberated world will know our peace.

You will understand it with your first step behind the veil that separates the earthly from the ‘heavenly’. Shall we go?”

“Yes, please.”

Mark was stunned by his own response. He’d always been an intensely rational man but he couldn’t stop, especially after he felt something gently removing his panic as though it were his coat.

In the next instant Mark was transported through the ultimate mystery to an experience radically new yet tinged with the familiar; a place of purity, peace, vibrant colors and dramatic energies.

“Can you describe what you are seeing and feeling, Mark?”

“Busyness. How astonishing! I see beings doing a great variety of activities, all with a look of pure contentment. This is beauty beyond belief. I see colors that are indescribable, light-reflecting brilliance that bathes everything in splendor but also beauty in every creature, the breathtaking kind associated with cherry blossoms at their perfection or the setting sun’s transformation of earth and water. Describing it requires words I never learned.

How does this fit with your perception of the heavenly place beyond our physical world?

Who Are We Killing in Wars?

I used “The Killing Zone” for some of my research on the Vietnam War, one of the turning points of my protagonist. In his book, Frederick Downs recounts:

‘A man pointed to the hook sticking out of my left sleeve and said:

“Get that in Vietnam?”
When I affirmed his guess, he replied.
“Serves you right.”
Of one thing I am certain; none of the men I knew who served in Vietnam deserved to die or to be maime
d, either physically or mentally.’

Downs said that, twenty years later, when he returned to Vietnam for the first time since the war, he recognized the hatred he had held onto all these years for the ‘dinks’ was for “an enemy less than human” but, suddenly, he knew better. He recognized a reflection of himself in the natures of a Vietnamese man and his son.

So true! Here’s my perception as I wrote it in Pieces of You:

I wake each day waiting for him to call to me. Then I remember that he was put in a box and the box was covered with dirt. You know, Ban, it hurts more than when the mule stepped on my foot last year. This pain is in my heart. It must have broken into more pieces than my foot.”

Now tears were pouring down the boy’s cheeks and he began to wail, a sound that pierced the invisible listener’s soul. (more…)

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