Tuesday, October 15, 2019
I've been hesitant to share my inspiration of my characters in Head Count, but I think my readers deserve to get into my mind as the author. This is just the way I visualize my people. It helps me as I write. If anything, I see this as a compliment to anyone who inspires me. I challenge you to share your thoughts on the characters. Who would you pick?
Laura Beth Copeland, Bruce Copeland, Tanner McGill, Penny Ulmer, Diego Marin, Ed Pickering, Marge Dixon, Luis Montoya, Madeleine Becker, Doug Blanchard.
Friday, October 4, 2019
Take a census of the whole Israelite community by their clans and families, listing every man by name, one by one.
I suppose I should offer some form of acknowledgement to the U.S. Census Bureau for the experience of working the 2010 census and having a woman slam her door in my face. When I went back to try to interview her again, she would not open the door, but I saw her feet through the mini-blinds and wondered what she had to hide. Thus, my imagination began to run wild, so my census enumerator saw a decapitated head rather than feet. Thereupon, Laura Beth Copeland was born.
Cover by Christopher Chamber. juroddesigns.com
Tuesday, October 1, 2019
Thursday, September 26, 2019
Thursday, September 19, 2019
Barbra rated it it was amazing
Wednesday, September 18, 2019
...one who will lead them out and bring them in, so that the ’s people will not be like sheep without a
Shepherd the Flock
The five hundred twenty-seven residents within Possum Holler, West Virginia, did not refer to Leo Tomlin as "Reverend," "Brother," or "Pastor." Although he had a Doctor of Theology, nobody called him "Doctor" Tomlin. He was "Preacher" Tomlin. He was pastor, counselor, preacher; he performed weddings, funerals, baptisms; he played banjo and guitar, square danced, took occasional swigs of moonshine with members of his congregation. He did not shepherd his flock for money. His paltry salary from the mission board barely fed and clothed him, but he never went hungry. Most residents invited him to dine with them often. His housing was free. He was the religious shepherd in Possum Holler because he loved the people.
Leo lost himself in thought. I'm glad to be hidden from the mainstream of religion. The ruling ministers of the mission board would never condescend to visit here. I know the way I conduct myself would fall under serious criticism of most evangelicals. Still, this is my congregation, and if the church authorities cut me off, I'll always have a home with these people. He uttered a prayer of thanksgiving that his church remained non-denominational and accepted all who attended.
When Leo heeded God's call, he realized serving the Lord meant remaining a bachelor—leaving someone he loved dearly. "Being a missionary means going to remote places. I can't take you there, Lauren," he had said and waited for her reaction, breath held.
It did not go well. She screamed; she threw books, shoes, and knickknacks at him. "Get out, you coward! How dare you think so little of me?"
It was I thought so highly of you. Still do. He heaved a weighty sigh at the memory.
Nonetheless, after eulogizing five members of the same family in three years, he had taken on the additional shepherding responsibility of a child.
Once he arrived at age twenty-seven, Leo's wide-eyed ideal of saving souls and bodies changed almost overnight. By Possum Holler standards, he was middle-aged, though he saw himself as young, with an undergraduate degree in psychology, a Master of Christian Education and a Doctor of Theology.
Well, Lord, You called me here, instead of to an inner-city church or a third-world country. And I've been here for eighteen years. Leo meditated on those years as he read Scripture. "Bring up a child in the way he is to go, and when he is old he will not depart from it."
He flipped pages of his journal:
Population here is 589; middle income is $11,000; average household size—seven; median education level is eighth grade. Most popular jobs: coal mining, farming, and bootlegging. Life expectancy: 44—men, 40—women. Only homes within the corporate limits have running water and electricity. Outlying areas might have wells or pumps, but no indoor plumbing; some have outhouses; others don't.
Medical care is almost non-existent. Grandma Newton, midwife and herbalist, still delivers babies. The woman could be an ancient Druid. Some of her practices seem like witchcraft, but many of the herbal remedies work. Infant mortality rate is still sky-high, as are childbirth deaths.
"Things haven't improved much, since I first arrived." Leo sighed. "Girls are still married or pregnant by sixteen." He shook his head and read another entry: The horror stories about inbreeding are real. Grandma does a good job when there are no complications. "I can say most of the inbreeding has stopped."
He dog-eared the page. Alain, Alain, Alain. He bit his lip and tasted the bitterness of blood.
"Many of the people have simple, childlike faith," he said softly. "A few escape, but most never return. Others die, still believing, still loving, and still trying." Ander Reardon's face came to the front of his memory. "You were twenty-four when I met you, Ander, but looked forty, trying so hard to be a good father, husband, and friend." A tear rolled down his cheek. "I still miss him, Lord. I had to bury his wife, three of the children—and Ander." Pneumonia took you, my dear friend. "Nobody so young and healthy should die like that, Lord."
That night was frigid—single digits. Starless, pitch-black. Mac walked twelve miles from their cabin to this house. A seven-year-old. The preacher rubbed his face with both hands. "I'll never forget opening the door and hearing, 'Pa's not breathing.'" Leo wiped away another tear. "That day, Mac became the child of my heart, even if I never legally adopted him."
He sat pensively a few minutes longer. "My precious boy is now a doctor." He smiled. "Time to make a call."
Dr. MacKenzie Reardon snatched the receiver from the phone on the wall as he and his wife entered their apartment just after his graduation. "Hello?"
Felicia continued to their bedroom with a seductive lick to her lips and a wink that said, "Make it quick."
"Hello, Dr. Reardon!"
"Papa! I wish you were here." Mac closed the apartment door with his foot.
"Me, too. Congratulations. I won't keep you long. What's next?"
"We leave tomorrow for Chicago."
"Yes, sir. Felicia has a job interview. Papa, I have news."
Mac gusted a breath. "We're expecting a baby."
"Oh." The one word was weighted with shock. "I thought you were waiting."
"Well, it's a gift—just like you were. Congratulations a second time."
"I'm so proud of you. Ander would be just as proud."
Strained silence followed. "Mac?" Leo prompted.
"Papa, why don't you come to
for a short visit?"
"I have my flock here."
"They'll survive a couple of weeks without you. This little lamb could use a visit."
"I'll try. Call me when you get settled. I love you, Mac."
"I love you, too, Papa." Mac hung up the receiver.
The pink lace teddy Felicia wore as she ran her hands up her husband's back did not dilute her acerbic question. "Why do you call him 'Papa'? It sounds so childish. Why not 'Dad'?"
Prejudice? Judgment? "Where I'm from 'Dad' is strange. Sometimes 'Daddy', but never 'Dad.' Usually it's 'Pa'."
"You're so silly."
"No, I'm serious."
"You make it sound like The Beverly Hillbillies. Were you surprised by the cement ponds?" Felicia laughed.
Does she realize how awful that sounds? Mac scowled and shot back, "Felicia, The Beverly Hillbillies is a joke. If you want closer to the truth, watch Deliverance."
"Are you mad at me?" She nibbled her index finger.
"No, darling." He placed his hands on her shoulders. "Forget the stereotypes—just like you're not a dumb blonde. I just want you to understand."
Doubtful. "Oh, I hope so."
She put on a pouty face. "I thought we were celebrating. I'm dressed for the occasion."
"We are, and you're gorgeous, breathtaking. No more depressing talk. Come here." Mac kissed Felicia and then swept her into his arms and took her to bed.
"Lord, Mac's troubled. What do I do?" At his desk in Possum Holler, Leo prayed, one hand still on the receiver. "Yes, I must visit my lamb—he's not lost, but in need. The father will travel, but the preacher must make plans."
Leo stood, stretched his thin seventy-four-inch frame and headed outside to find Royce Dent, a deacon and owner of the general store. "He'll take care of the Sunday Sing and dinner on the grounds." He took a deep breath. "Yes, my flock won't flounder for only one weekend without me." Preacher Tomlin walked down the dirt road to the general store.