Jim Willsey is a friend of mine. I’ve known him for years, worked with him from time to time, and can personally attest to the fact that in his mid-seventies he can still outwork men half his age. He’s an upright man with a sense of honor that, these days, seems rare and outdated. If you ask him where his strength of character comes from (and probably even if you don’t ask him) he’ll tell you it’s because he was a Marine fifty years ago. He’s proud of that. He’s proud of the Marines.
Jim was a drill instructor in his twenties— a hard-nosed, hard-fisted, uncompromising soldier. As a young man, the Marines shaped him, and he in turn shaped other young Marines. He’ll tell you he was a tough master, and he’ll tell you why. Always in the front of his mind was the fact that many of the recruits in his charge would end up in Vietnam, where the strength of their training would literally mean the difference between life and death.
Our photographer friend, Larry, put together…
Hey, y’all, I need your help. At long last, my new novel is here. Hot off the presses, Kiss of the Jewel Bird is now available at Amazon and at bookstores near you. What’s it about? Well, I’ve been working on this book for seventeen years and I still don’t know how to describe it. I want to say things like “Foxworthy meets Kafka,” except those two ideas are so far apart most readers can’t imagine it.
But imagine this. A hapless, down-on-his-luck good old boy from the hills of north Georgia wants to be a writer. He’s a born storyteller in the finest backwoods Southern tradition, but he’s lacking in the tools of the trade and his writing is not up to professional literary standards. Meet Richard Frye. His friends call him Dickie.
Now imagine Dickie saving a white leghorn chicken from certain death and, after bringing the chicken home to the garage where he lives, discovering that this is no ordinary chicken.
Fast forward a few years. Nobel Prize-winning novelist Fletcher Carlyle slaughters a chicken on the…
It was a weekend road trip, just three friends on a four-day junket to Washington DC to shoot pictures of old soldiers visiting the various memorials on the National Mall. My old friend Larry McDonald is the photographer in the bunch; I usually just haul the extra equipment so he can be free to shoot.
They come by the thousands, most of them gray-haired, some in wheelchairs, some on prosthetic legs, walking a bit like Robert Duvall, most of them accompanied by younger family or other veterans. Almost without exception they slow to a stop when they draw near to whichever memorial conjures their own past. They get quiet, solemn, deliberate. Reverent. You don’t have to talk to very many veterans to know that what affects them is not the memory of horror and misery and fear, nor the genuine love of God and country. It’s not even personal cost; these men wear their scars like medals. What haunts them is the name of a buddy on the Vietnam Wall, a face embedded ghostlike in the ebony of the…
Author Buzz recently hosted a giveaway of five copies of my latest book, Though Mountains Fall. It’s the last book in the Daughters of Caleb Bender trilogy, the story of a colony of Amish who migrated to the mountains of Mexico in the 1920s. The book is now available in bookstores and online at CBD and Amazon, and is also available as an e-book download. All the contest entries are in. A big thanks to all who entered— I wish I could afford to give every one of you a copy. The five winners are:
David Cofer of Irving, Texas
Doris Suggs of Lexington, NC
Mary Robinson of Robbinsville, New Jersey
Rachiel Soliz of Corpus Christi, TX
Avil Beckford of Toronto, Canada
Congratulations to all and I hope you enjoy it! The booksare already in the mail and should arrive in a few days.
For those of you eagerly awaiting the last installment of The Daughters of Caleb Bender trilogy, the time has finally come. Though Mountains Fall, the end of the story about the Amish colony in Mexico in the 1920s, is about to be released. We’re kicking it off in Ohio Amish country with a week-long tour, starting Saturday, December 1st at the Gospel Bookstore in Berlin. I can’t wait to get back up there and see everybody— my aunts Bill-Mary and Enos-Mary, Jake-Susie, Uncle Eli and Aunt Katie, and about a million Amish cousins. Most mornings I have breakfast at Boyd & Wurthman’s with Eli Hostetler (aka “Small”, who runs the bookstore in Berlin), and John Schmid, a local singer-songwriter who, to my knowledge, is the only man ever to write songs in Deitsh. Having grown up around my family and worked with them most of his life, John knows more about my kinfolks than I do. Good people all, and I look forward to seeing them again.
I’m really quite proud of how the series turned out, this being…
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