Writing begins, I think, with the art of noticing. One of my earliest memories is this:
I am standing at the end of a peach orchard in Farmington, New Mexico, in which my parents have cleared spaces to make a trailer park. Many of the trailers sit on blocks because their tires, along with the women’s wedding rings, are visiting a hock shop until payday.
The peach trees are at the end of bloom, filing the air with a stinging sweetness and the ground with pale, brown-edged petals that swirl around in the wind. Down the row of trailers are cars and trucks, and men’s legs sticking out from underneath them, this way and that. Above them, the automobiles’ hoods are open, making them look like birds lined up, waiting for someone to feed them.
This is a sight I see every weekend, when the men come home from working as roughnecks in the natural gas fields. Most of them drink too much, and curse as they work under the cars, all day Saturday and Sunday.
Not until I am an adult do I make a connection to all the legs sticking out from under the cars and what we children do all week long while our fathers are working. We have few toys and play cowboys and Indians (“Andale, andale, arriba!”) and roleplay shopping and gas station.
For the last game we all use the square of window screen I found in a trash can. We take dirt and sift it into old coffee cans. One of them we have bent to make a spout, and while the boys let sticks hang from their lower lips like cigarettes, the girls hand them scraps of paper and tell them, “Fill it up and check the air in the tires.” We watch as they pour the silken rope of dirt into our parents’ gas tanks.
Easy way to get a free copy of my controversial novel about Mormonism:
Go to Moody Fiction’s new blog, and make a comment. (You may need to refresh the page to make sure you’re commenting on my book.) They’re giving away ten copies tomorrow, Saturday, January 9.
UPDATE: Zondervan is giving away 10 copies of The Mormon Mirage tomorrow too at the Moody Fiction blog! Go sign up!
When I began writing Latter-day Cipher (Moody, 2009), one of the themes I wanted to explore was the uneasy relationship that Freemasonry would have with Mormonism in the mind of someone who was a faithful Mormon. Here’s an excerpt from Latter-day Cipher that illustrates that connection:
This Masonic temple. . .was wedged up against the city’s mountain to the northeast. Its name was Ballut Abydos or something like that, he recalled. It was no accident that the parking lot was sheltered from view from the street. Being a Mason in Salt Lake City was a statement that even those who’d moved in from other places didn’t always want to make publicly. So you could drive behind this temple and park as securely as at any of the adult video stores that peppered the metro area.
Within the pages of the books on Masonry he bought on ebay the man had found what he suspected and dreaded: The Five Points of Fellowship were pictured there. The Five Points of Fellowship in which he himself had participated in, grasping a stranger through a rippling curtain-veil in the LDS temple years ago. The identical symbols that Mormons denied had any connection with Masonry. The Five Points that he would, therefore, illustrate in this tableau that he would create near the back door of the Masonic temple.
The man lay the thrift-store comforter onto the ground near the service entrance of the lodge and placed Alma on it. Then he placed Alma’s wife next to him and knelt beside them.
It took a bit of maneuvering. With gloved hands, he moved them toward each other, chest to chest. The woman moaned a bit.
With a roll of duct tape, the man taped their right ankles together. He moved respectfully up the woman’s right leg, moving aside the frayed wisp of the leg of her temple garment to tape their right knees together as well. He tugged on her skirt and arranged it demurely.
Under the heat of the wig, sweat began to collect and roll down his sideburns. His moustache felt loose and he stabbed at it with one finger: center, edge, edge. The hardest part was yet to come. With a strap-ripping sound, he pulled off long strips of the tape and began to tape the couple together around their shoulders. Then he placed the left hand of each onto the other’s right shoulder blade and secured it with the tape.
They began, he observed, to look a bit like Mr. Chandler’s mummies.
“I want you to look at the little runt of a fellow over there,” the man quoted Joseph Smith as he worked. “Why, that was Pharaoh Necho, King of Egypt….”
He regretted having to do the next part. He looked closely at the woman’s face. In her eyebrows and temples were the evidences of her vanity, faint scars from cosmetic surgery. The skin of her eyelids was crumpled, like old tissue paper someone had used and then carefully ironed and folded for the next use: the faint memory of creases.
But screw your courage to the sticking place, And we’ll not fail, he told himself. He glued the man’s lips and cheek to his wife’s ear. Squatting in the lengthening shadows, he pressed their heads together tenderly until the glue set. He thought about it a moment and then wrapped their heads together in a giant gray headband of duct tape so they wouldn’t unknowingly rip their skin before becoming completely conscious. Then he secured their right hands together with a large aluminum plumbing clamp that he tightened with his pocketknife. Anyone could open it – except them, of course. And they would still be unconscious, he was sure, when they would be discovered in a couple of hours.
Though the contest on this site to give away free books has closed, there are still ways for people to get free copies.
For instance, visit www.TheChristianPulse.com on June 9, 2009 for a chance to win a free autographed copy of my book Latter-day Cipher. Check out The Great Escape Summer Reading Contest – 22 books, 22 reviews, 22 winners, weekdays during the month of June exclusively at www.TheChristianPulse.com. Here’s a link to a press release: The Great Escape Summer Reading Contest 2009 Press Release
And for you bloggers — if you will read one of the books and participate in a blog tour on June 30, I’ll get you in touch with a publicist who will send you a free book right away.
What a terrific weekend this was for me!
I awakened Saturday morning to the news that my new novel, Latter-day Cipher, had hit the 8,000 ranking on Amazon.com. Wow! For a Christian book from a new novelist, God really did a wonder. In addition, it was #15 on Amazon’s bestseller list of Christian mysteries. (Six of the top slots were The Shack paperback, The Shack ebook, The Shack audiobook, The Shack in Spanish and two other Shacks.)
Well, Cipher has lost some of its lofty ratings but remains on the best seller list in its Amazon category. All praise and glory to God.