I recently visited my neighbor, Chester, who has plenty of common sense but is short on the other kind, and learned MUCH more than I expected or cared to know and some things I still don’t understand.

I began by asking, “How’s your wife, Punkin’, doing?”

He replied, “They performed a mammy-o-gram and told her they were going to have to take her odories out because of her enthomesiosos.”

Chester does have a way with words.

“She’s also got that degeneres disc disease.”

Perhaps this is a new disease that was named after Ellen DeGeneres.

“Tell how your health is, Chester.”

His face drooped, and he said, “I’ve got that ‘sleep acne’ and am supposed to start sleeping with a machine.”

I have to say that I saw no evidence of facial blemishes on Chester’s face. Well, actually, there is very little of Chester’s face that you can see underneath his full beard, so I can’t be certain.

He launched into a rather graphic, R-rated, description of the doctor examining his “prostrate” gland and said he was going to go to the liberry to read if the doctor was making it all up or if that’s truly where his “prostrate” is. “And then, the other night,” he said, “I got up in the middle of the night and broke my little toe on the chester drawers in our bedroom. It hurt worse than when I tripped over the rot iron table in the living room last month!”

I’m not saying that Chester stumbles a lot; it’s only when he’s been drinking. Okay, so he does stumble a lot.

I tried to shift the conversation away from the medical field by asking, “How’s your grandmother doing?”

“Not too good,” he replied. “She was in tensive care and bleeding eternally the other night, but she didn’t know it because she’s got that “All-timers” disease.”

Then suddenly he turned the tables on me by asking, “Do you ever get flustrated with your wife?”

I started to tell him, “not so much as people who use malapropisms,” but knew all he would do with that is give me a blank stare. It really didn’t matter that I didn’t reply, because he had something on his mind.

“Punkin’ got mad at me because I forgot her birfday. So I drove to the Wal-Marts, nearly running off in the medium of the highway because I was driving so fast, and bought her an African that she could lay across her lap while watching TV. But that made her madder. She said the only thing that would make her happy would be if I’d buy her one of them Datsun puppies she’s so fond of.”

Between picturing an African American lying across Punkin’s lap and an old Datsun pickup sitting in their living room, I was having trouble keeping focused on Chester’s conversation. I tried again to give some direction, and asked, “How’s your kids?” (I should have asked a question that could not have been turned back toward the medical arena.)

“Supposably the boy’s got strap throat and chicken pops, which Punkin’ said was sort of simular. I don’t have any ideal if he does or not.”

“Lord, please deliver me,” was my only thought at that point. One more question came to mind. “How’s your job, Chester?”

“I don’t know the pacifics of everything, but my foreman says it all depends on what the budget looks like in this next physical year. Irregardless, I’m going to have to be off for a while helping take care of Punkin’. She told me to axe you if you could help us out with the rent money this month. We’ve got to replace our chimley.”

 

I’m often asked where I get the ideas for my books. I don’t know about other writers’ methods, but my method is to create memorable characters FIRST, then let them tell their story.

Tucker’s Way began with the creation of Tucker (who turned out to be a character people can’t forget). Then I asked myself why a person would become the way she was, in other words, what was HER story? Next, I asked myself what she would do if she ever had to interact with someone who was her polar opposite? That was how the character of Ella came to life.  But, again, what was HER story? Revealing to readers their individual stories, plus their joint story, became easy to write.  The other characters in the book sprang up as I began writing Tucker and Ella’s story.

In Toby the story was to be about two characters: Symphony and her dog, Toby. But suddenly, as I began writing their story, these other characters began appearing. Caleb, the dark character, was no where in my mind when I began writing the book. I “accidently” found him.

This last aspect of writing is one of the most enjoyable, when characters appear that I’d not thought about or planned on.  Or sometimes a character does or says something that I had not planned on. (No, I’m not spirit possessed when I write.)  I simply have the characters interacting with each other, doing and saying things that are true to their character.

It doesn’t make any difference how well you use metaphors and similes in your writing or how complex your plot might be. If you don’t have characters that are memorable, that always act in ways that are true to them, people won’t be interested in reading your books.

My motto is: let the story serve the characters, not vice versa.

For the Sake of a Song

July 12, 2016 — 1 Comment

What is there that can make people from all walks of life – unemployed, wealthy, married, divorced, staunch Democrats, hardcore Republicans, Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, Catholics, Church of Christ, Pentecostals, agnostics, saints and sinners, politicians, apolitical, black and white, PhD’s and high school graduates, professional and amateur musicians – lay aside their differences and join together in harmony?  If is for the sake of a song.

For the past 18 years it has been my privilege to direct a community chorus made up of 30-40 singers whose backgrounds are described above. For 18 years these people have met once a week and for two hours laid their differences at the entrance to our rehearsal hall and focused on make harmony with each other.  Then they go on the road together, traveling on a bus for days, in order to share their song with others.  The result is nothing short of magical.

Surely to goodness if a small group people can lay aside their differences for the sake of a song, we can all lay aside our differences for things even greater. 

We don’t have to agree on every point

in order to get along

                                                                                               for the good of humanity.

Greg Gilpin wrote a powerful song about how we must “rise above the wall” of our differences.  Click on the link below and listen to my chorus performing this wonderful song at the Dixie Carter Performing Arts Center.  And instead of looking for ways you can disagree with others, look for things you can agree on.

Rise Above the Walls

If you’ve read any of my books, you know that the Obion River (that’s pronounced [o – BI (long I sound) – yun] flows through all of them and plays a significant role in the story line. My newest book, Toby, is no exception.

Although most of my stories are completely fictional, the Obion River is real.

The Obion River system, which has four separate streams, is the primary surface water drainage system of northwestern Tennessee. Those four forks are: the North Fork, Middle Fork, South Fork and Rutherford Fork (which is named after the town of Rutherford). The confluences of these forks are only a few miles above the mouth of the Obion’s discharge into the Mississippi River.

In Toby the South Fork of the Obion figures prominently.  If you take the Hinkledale Road out of McKenzie, TN,

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you will soon find yourself enveloped in the verdant landscape and surrounded by thick woods, the closer you get to the river.20160630_122034

 

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During the dry, summer months, the water level is often low enough that walking through the woods can be done with relative ease when compared to trying to navigate it when all the trees are standing in water and the mud is 8-12 inches deep.

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This is no crystal clear stream.  It’s color always reminds me of the color of chocolate milk.

During the summer it is teaming with snakes, especially the deadly water moccasin, or cottonmouth, as it is sometimes called.  But in the winter it is home to ducks and occasionally to nesting Bald Eagles.

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Symphony Nelson and Toby are completely at home in this area, having grown up hiking in it.  But even familiar areas become unfamiliar when a flood removes familiar markers or if you are there at nighttime (without a flashlight) which makes it impossible to see more than a few feet in front of you.

Join Symphony and Toby as they frequent this area on their journey toward discovery – discoveries that will change them forever.

Book Cover

Years after Symphony rescued Toby, they went walking in the woods where they both took what was to have been a short nap, but don’t awake until night has fallen. Here’s some of that scene:

Without warning Symphony jerks awake and sits up. Her eyes wide, she stares into the darkness. “Toby, it’s night! I didn’t mean to sleep this long.”
Toby stands up, stretches himself, and shakes.
Symphony feels around on the ground beside her until she finds her walking stick then stands up. She pats each of her empty pockets. “I didn’t bring a flashlight or matches or anything. I didn’t plan to be out here after dark. I didn’t even bring my phone.” She feels panic pushing its way into her throat. She looks up, trying to see through the canopy of trees. “I can’t see the moon or stars to try and get a sense of direction.”
The woodlands orchestra and chorus that fell silent when she shouted Toby’s name reconvenes and picks up their performance where they left off. Tree frogs begin their sing-song buzz, the high-pitch chirp of crickets rubbing their legs together, a chuck-will’s-widow and a whippoorwill start up their own variations of their similar frenetic song, the deep bass of a bull frog croaks in the distance. Though all these sounds are familiar to Symphony because she was in the woods many times with her grandfather at night, she’s never been in the inky black woods without any light. She tries to think about the path she took before she sat down and went to sleep to see if perhaps she can retrace her steps back to her car. She closes her eyes and sees all the different items that attracted her attention during the day. But when she opens her eyes she has no sense of what direction she should start in. A chill shakes her body, and she notices for the first time that she is cold, the damp, cool air having settled into her bones while she was sleeping.
Suddenly Toby detects something that doesn’t not fit in with all the naturally occurring elements of the woods. Unsure which of his senses picked up on it, he gives out a low growl of warning to whatever it is and sweeps his eyes all around them, then sniffs the air.
“What is it?” Symphony whispers, gripping her walking stick more tightly.
In the distance Toby believes he sees a tree fifty yards away move ever so slightly. His eyes are like lasers as he stares unblinking. Again he sniffs the air. This time his olfactory senses reward his effort with the smell of something that is human-like but unlike any human he’s been around. His hackles raise reflexively, and he growls a little bit louder. Every nerve in his body is alert. He sees movement again in the same place and explodes into rapid barking.
Symphony screams.

(If you want to know what happens, be sure and buy the book when it’s released July 26. Better yet, why not pre-order your copy today from Amazon?)

Aren’t you amazed at what tiny, seemingly insignificant things can excite a puppy? Here’s a very early scene from my soon to be released book, “Toby”, when he is first taken in as an orphan:
From the corner of his eye Toby notices a small tear in one of the blankets he’s sitting on. He turns and looks more directly at the frayed threads ringing the edges of the tear. He shifts his weight and the blanket moves. Immediately he pounces and attacks the edges of the hole, grabbing a mouthful of the loose threads. Growling, he shakes the blanket furiously. Pushing backward with all four feet he tries pulling it toward him. When it doesn’t budge, he lets go of it and bounces at it with stiff legs while barking at the same time. He stops and waits to see what will happen. When nothing moves, he eases forward and sniffs of the saliva soaked tear. Just as he does, his foot causes the blanket to barely move. Believing his quarry is still alive, Toby jumps backward and barks as ferociously as his puppy voice will allow him.

(release date is July 26. Pre-order your copy today from Amazon.)

 

I am an unabashed patriot. In spite of all our flaws and problems, I believe that The United States of America is the greatest country in the world. It is in that spirit that this year’s spring concert of The David Johnson Chorus will be a celebration of America.

The first half of the show will feature popular American music that has been sung around the world.

  • A medley of song’s from Disney’s “Frozen”
  • From the 40’s: Oscar & Hammerstein’s “You’ll Never Walk Alone” combined with “Climb Ev’ry Mountain”
  • From the 50’s: a medley of Ray Charles’ most famous songs
  • From the 60’s: a rousing 10-minute medley of songs by The Four Seasons (whose music enjoyed a resurgence after the musical “Jersey Boys”)
  • Also from the 60’s: a pulse-driving medley of The Beach Boys
  • And from 1969 an unforgettable arrangement of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water”

In the second half of the show, we will feature songs about America’s greatness.

  • We’ll begin with a medley of Irving Berlin’s music that concludes with, perhaps his most famous song, “God Bless America.”
  • Following the bombing of the World Trade Center on 9/11, Joseph and Pamela Marten composed “Song For The Unsung Hero” that salutes all first responders.
  • “American Anthem”challenges us to look at where we’ve come from and raises the question are we going to carry forward that legacy into the future.
  • After Celtic Woman toured America they recorded “O America,” a song that celebrates America as beacon that draws people to it.
  • “America, the Beautiful,” by Katherine Bates and Samuel Ward, is the quintessential patriotic song.  We will be singing all the verses of this wonderful song.
  • Mark Hayes is one of the most talented arrangers of choral music. He takes My Country, ‘Tis of Thee, America, The Beautiful, and This Is My Country and weaves them together in a gospel style that is mesmerizing.
  • And we will close out the show with a medley of all the fight songs of each branch of the military, followed by God Bless America.

If you celebrate the greatness of America as I do, you won’t want to miss this show.

Come join us at one of these venues:

  • May 14 – Union City (TN) (Cumberland Presbyterian Church)
  • May 21 – Senatobia, Mississippi (The Baddour Center)
  • May 21 – Cordova, TN (Covenant United Methodist Church)
  • June 4 – Dresden, TN (Dresden Elementary School)
  • June 11 – McKenzie, TN (McKenzie Church of Christ)

I have long “preached” to clients, and anyone who will hear me, about the importance of being “in the moment” and being “present.” One of the things that gets in the way of our doing that is all the technology at our disposal.

Christopher Willard has written a thoughtful article on the topic in which he says in part, “There’s nothing inherently bad or good about technology. Technology just is. How we relate to it and what we do with it are what matters. But our phones are not designed to be neutral, they are created to keep us hooked with texting, shopping, and sharing data with marketers, corporations, and even government agencies…oh, and our friends and family, too.”

Take the time to be “in the moment” and read his entire article at the link below.

Source: The Joy of Missing Out – Mindful