Monday, December 28, 2009

Legacy of Dickens

Although the gift giving legacy of Christmas most likely has its origins in the gold, frankincense, and myrrh of the three wise men, I'm certain that "A Christmas Carol" influenced the extravegant giving that has become the secular legacy of our modern Christmas. And that wasn't the story's only influence. When we think of a famous phrase from Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," we think first of "Bah Humbug." But there's another phrase from the novella that became so popular after it was published that we no longer even think about its roots. That is, at least according to wikipedia (, the phrase "Merry Christmas."

I spent some time in a local park on December 26. A young boy and his father were there, trying out a mini motorcyle that I assume had arrived the preceding day. There was also a young mother with her son and daughter all on rollerblades they clearly were just starting to master. And there was a young father, also with a son and a daughter, experimenting with a skateboard first as it was meant to be used then as a sled on wheels. All the families I saw that day could have come out of Dickens' work. They were all examples of people sharing time and love while they shared gifts.

I can understand why some Christians are upset that sacred holidays are celebrated with such secular traditions as a fat man in a red suit bringing gifts, a rabbit hiding chocolate eggs, and (on the evening before All Saints Day) children dressed as witches, ghosts and devils. And I understand how reruns of an old, stingy man being visted by ghosts has become one of those traditions. But all these events increase family love and as Paul wrote in his first letter to the Corinthians, "And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love."

Books can influence our lives at their cores. I, for one, am glad "A Christmas Carol" is one of those books.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

What's in a name?

While I was in my company's fitness center over lunch today, the television was set to CMT (Country Music Television). So while I was working on the elliptical trainer I heard a Brad Paisley song called "Welcome to the Future." In it he sings "From a woman on a bus - To a man with a dream – Hey, wake up Martin Luther – Welcome to the future…" I immediately began to wonder if this singer knew that regardless of how the name rhymes, Martin Luther (without the King) is not the civil rights hero. The Martin Luther I think of is also not the current Rebel Soul musician. Luther did, however, write a few songs, including "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God." I suppose he also had dreams. Yet I don't think Paisley was thinking of the sixteenth century man who initiated the protestant reformation.

This made me think of other cases where someone famous is named after another famous person. I knew someone who purchased a hard bound copy of a play called "Dylan." He was dissappointed that it was about the Welsh poet instead of, as he had assumed, about Bob Dylan. Yet when Robert Zimmerman chose the name he would make famous, he did so to honor Dylan Thomas. I suppose that works, but there is also a loss when a name is associated with someone other than the original person.

In my book, Motherless Soul, I have a character named Glen Wiley. I named him after a friend I had, James Wiley. This friend died fairly young and that tragedy affected me while I was thinking of character names. I did change the character's first name in case he did something that Jim wouldn't have been proud of. As it turned out I think Jim would have liked Glen, so I was glad I made the choice to use his name.

Choosing names in fiction or in songs is a process that can have some subtle impacts we don't always think of when we're writing.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Jump starting my New Year's resolution

This is my first step into the world of blogging. I've been thinking about making this move for awhile now. Since the New Year is approaching quickly, I've decided to make the creation of this blog my resolution. Part of the reason I'm writing this is to publicize my book - Motherless Soul published by All Things That Matter Press, but more than that I'm motivated by a love of all kinds of writing. So at least once a week I'll be talking about random things that will be loosely connected with thoughts about writing, reading and other forms of art.

My wife, Toni is an artist, so I'm involved in the art community through her. I also have a background in theater. It's been a few years since I've been in a play, but I still love the stage. We have season tickets for Triad Stage, a small theater in Greensboro. The last show we saw there was Oleanna by David Mammet. I can't say I liked it. I don't believe it was a bad production, but Mammet managed to write a play with only two characters and make them both despicable. At the end all the people in the audience were shaking their heads and wondering what to think.

My book is about Emily Vinson, a woman whose entire life was impacted by the loss of her mother when she was 2years old. At 82 Emily contacts a hypnotist hoping to draw out hidden memories and discover as much as possible about the short time she spent with the woman who gave her life. Glen Wiley, the hypnotist, teaches her more about herself than she had expected. He helps her bring out memories of many past lives, including an experience that took place on a smoke filled battlefield. All of Emily's lives have had the same tragic event, the loss of her mother at a young age. Her soul is caught in what Glen calls circularity, meaning that the tragedy will occur again and again unless she can break the pattern. She and Glen must revisit her past lives and use what they learn to find the other souls who are part of the circle. They must use the past to change the future. Emily's stubborn desire to know her mother is realized in intricate and unsettling ways no one could have imagined possible.

If that sounds interesting, here's a link to my website