and sharing thoughts.
You know what, when you tell me you're a Christian, and then post gleeful speculation about your hopes that a woman is deathly ill, or if you call the first lady of our country names I wouldn't want my kids to hear, and wish our president would die, it makes it sound like this Christian religion is not something a good person would be involved in. Do you ever think of who you might be turning away from the faith by the nasty things you say? Are you really that kind of person, or have you just been listening to those people who speak so often and loud, filling hearts and minds with hate, that you can't hear the voice of the one who told us to love one another as he loved us? I admit, I'm as guilty as anyone. This political campaign has brought out the worst in us, but I resolve to try to base my opinions on policies and positions rather than personal dislike. I want to focus on what's best for the country and I refuse to wallow in the ugliness that that has us treating politics like professional wrestling. I ask myself, who honestly has the know-how to step into the role of the most powerful person in the free world? Who has the diplomatic skills to work with our friends, and the knowledge of world affairs required to keep us safe from our enemies? Who can put the needs of the country ahead of self, and respect the rights of all Americans? I decided who I will vote for based on these questions and others, not because I hated one or the other. I won't listen to the talkers who get rich spreading venom, or their fans who can't see through their callous manipulation. I believe in us as a country, and trust that we are waking up from their spell. Just a little rant I needed to get out of my system. They happen occasionally and I appreciate your patience with them.
For every writer, a special book lurks behind the consciousness, insisting on attention. I had three that wouldn't leave me alone until they found their way into print.
A couple of decades ago, I met a Cajun man who told a story that wouldn't let me be. He was a Cathar, he said, descendant of ancestors who escaped the inquisition in the South of France and eventually ended up with the Cajun people of Louisiana. I knew then I had to write a story of a Cajun who knew a secret with the power to change the world.
I went to the South of France to learn about the Cathars. What I learned transformed the way I looked at history, religion and the church. It took me almost twenty years to tell the story I needed to tell. I worked hard at my craft because my writing had to do justice to the characters who came alive when I heard their stories from living believers in a faith that gave the martyrs strength to face the fire.
The places where they lived and died, the memories they entrusted to a few who survived, the ruins that used to be castles and villages, and the faith that still survives among believers who still trust the path of Gnosis that leads to the eternal and reveals the great truth of the ages.
While I struggled with The Vessel of Scion, Conjuror emerged from memories of a childhood filled with stories from my Cherokee family, the awe I felt for a grandfather who knew the old ways of his people, and a bluegrass playing father who did his best to understand. I lived again as a little girl, scared to death of the tales of a monstrous being who once threatened the survival of the world, and a little group of men who held it at bay. Conjuror will be released by Mercer University Press September 1st.
Twisted Hair is the third book I absolutely had to write. I shed a lot of tears while I worked on it, brought on by memories of storytellers who are no longer with us , They cried when they related the stories of their people, and the pain they felt was real. They talked about the mother town where the wisdom keepers lived, and how it was lost long ago when strangers came and killed the people and took the land. They longed for the day when it would be discovered and returned to the tribe. I needed to capture the longing for that sacred place, and the one fire that burned on the mound to unite all the people. The holy man, Twisted Hair lives again in this book, bringing the stories and sacred ways that kept the people strong. The mother town is once again in the possession of the Eastern Band Cherokee people. I sat on the mound where the fire once burned and gave thanks that I could tell its story in this book. Twisted Hair is due for release next month in a revised and expanded form.
I have other books. I write a lot, but these three are books I had to write. They lived in my heart until they found their way to the page.
Interviewers, whatever the media, have a stock list of questions they ask writers. One I've heard several times is some variation on the theme, ‘when did you know you were a writer.’ It’s an easy one for me to answer.
I was five years old, and worshiped the ground my grandpa walked on. He loved stories and riddles, so I wrote one as a gift to him. I’m sure my block print was illegible, mostly symbols I invented, but Grandpa kept that lined sheet of notebook paper from my brother’s ring binder in his pocket for years. He knew every word of that story and repeated it to anyone who would listen. Looking back, I realize he knew what it said because he asked me to read it to him before he folded it and put it in his pocket. The story was about a little girl who had an amazing adventure.
The Magic Girl.
Without a ladder, and without climbing, Magic Girl went to the top of an apple tree and picked an apple.
Then she walked across the creek without a bridge and didn't get wet.
She went under the roots of the apple tree and saw where the roots became the tree.
She looked inside an ant’s town and saw where they kept their babies.
Then she climbed up through the roots of the tree, and walked all the way to the top.
She jumped down to the ground and didn't get hurt.
I was proud of that story, but even prouder that my grandpa, the champion riddle solver of the world, couldn't figure out how Magic Girl did all those wonderful things. He didn't believe it was possible.
Of course it was possible, because I was Magic Girl and this was my adventure, and my apple tree. A storm blew it over, it fell across the creek, and I played on it until it was added to the pile of fireplace wood.
What a magical experience to explore the roots of a tree and see a hidden, underground world I never imagined before. It whetted my appetite for more. I turned over rocks and wrote about the little creatures living there, creating tunnels and roadways, scurrying away from the light. How dark it must have been under there before I exposed them. I put the rock back just the way I found it, and made up stories about the mysterious denizens of the dark.
Earthworms had a story, imagined as the makers of caves and tunnels for other creatures to live in. Ants were easy. They had a plan to bring in their big relatives, the huge orange striped cow ants, and the big red ants with nasty stings, and take over the territory under the willow tree. I worried about that.
With an imagination like that, I had to write. The alternative was to admit that my world view was so strange, and my version of reality so warped, I might have a problem. So, I’m still writing, making up stories that sound totally outlandish to many people. With so many mysteries, so many things beyond our mortal understanding, it’s my way of explaining the universe to myself. It might be true, or it might not. I live by the law of the storyteller.
Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.
I've been many things in my life and if I'm lucky I hope to become many more things before I leave the world. Today, I'm a priest, an author, a literary agent, and mentor among other things. This page will contain my thoughts and on any given day, it might reflect any of those identities.