Journey with Sudan

So, my big sister Karen is the Director of Music (and brilliant organist) at the Wesley-Knox United Church in London, Ontario.  She also runs her own 38-voice community choir, named (appropriately) the Karen Schuessler Singers, and she pretty much surrounds herself with all things music.

Well, back in November her church’s Mission and Service Committee officially kicked off a new project called Journey with Sudan, which includes the sponsorship of two young Sudanese women to attend school, and just a few days ago a 16-member team began a two week trip to South Sudan under the auspices of Canadian Aid for Southern Sudan (CASS – http://www.web.net/~cass/index.shtml), who have maintained a presence in Gordhim, just southeast of Malualkon, for 15 years.

After decades of civil war, the people in this region truly have nothing and CASS brings them medicine, builds schools, digs wells, educates them about sanitation, and helps people begin home-based enterprises. For two weeks, Karen and her companions will be staying at a Catholic mission in Gordhim in the northeast corner of South Sudan. Each morning, Karen and a jazz singer colleague will run a music camp for more than 300 children, while others from the team teach them crafts.  Later in the day they will participate in educational activities, help in the medical clinic, deliver goats and chickens (donated through CASS) to families, and take part in the lives of the locals for two weeks. And of course, there will be lots of singing!

If you’d like to find out more about Journey with Sudan and follow the project’s progress, Karen’s husband Harry is facilitating an informative and daily-updated digital notebook documenting the experience.  Here’s the link: http://wesleyknox.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=66&Itemid=53

Just a thought.

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Review of Breaking Steele: Trust Me, You Gotta Read This!

So, a friend I’ve never met writes a blog that consistently busts my gut and amuses me to no end, and when I learned she’d collaborated with a popular thriller writer on a new pulp crime series featuring a reluctant Assistant D. A. heroine named Sarah Steele, I simply had to bite and Amazoned it in paperback, then read it on a return flight from Chicago just before Christmas.  Took me four hours to power through it.  Couldn’t put it down.  Buckle your seat belts for take off — READ — Buckle your seat belts for landing.  Done.  Wow.  What just happened?

Oh, Ellie Ann, this girl can write!  I have no way of knowing which parts and pieces of Breaking Steele were her contribution and which poured from the pen of collaborator Aaron Patterson, but I heard her voice woven throughout the narrative.  She’s a funny gal and there’s a subtle wry humor that springs up on occasion that’s clearly hers. Bottom line, though, it doesn’t really matter.  Ellie and Aaron, Aaron and Ellie — it just flat out works.

But I’ve got to warn you, this is pulp crime.  As in pulp fiction.  As in raw and wicked and in your face and without a lot of poetry.  James Lee Burke they ain’t.  Characters die big and wrong and bloody and at times your stomach will turn and your skin might crawl.  But in oh such a please-no-but-give-me-more kind of way.  And you’re in the midst of it from paragraph one.  Innocent young woman kidnapped, bound with duct tape in a crate reeking of rotten corn, rat droppings, and urine, then abused offstage in
every manner possible and electrocuted in a bathtub.  But there’s a witness and an arrest and tons of evidence and an open-and-shut case.  ADA Sarah Steele is riding high and sensibly confident in conviction and justice served.  Then everything goes to hell.

And for Sarah Steele, it becomes personal.  Especially when the profession she’s committed her life and soul to is compromised and she begins to question if justice truly can be served without crossing into that dark place where vigilantes accomplish what the legal system can’t.  The co-authors do such a fine job delving into her struggle, but without slowing the story’s breakneck pace, and by five chapters in you’ll be totally hooked on both the story AND on Sarah Steele. (Who’s also a bit of a hottie, IMHO.  Which never really hurts.)

Back in the day, pulp crime writers would pump out these bare bones magazine serials with fresh chapters on newsstands each week; short and sweet episodes with enough visceral grab to keep your attention until next Tuesday.  Pack a few dozen of those together, slap a cover on, and you’d have a pulp novel.  Then it’d start all over again with the next one.  Consider some of the film work of Quentin Tarantino or Robert Rodriquez and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about: they do pulp crime on the big screen.

I love this stuff.  And Breaking Steele does the genres justice: pulp, crime, thriller, page-turner, recommended read.  I know I have to wait until March (and not next Tuesday), but I’m squirming in my seat for Twisting Steele, the next Sarah Steele Thriller.

Always Write Redux

So, it’s 2013.  Happy New Year!Seattle New Year's Fireworks

For the last month or so I’ve had my eyes and mind and trigger finger targeted on January 1 as the launch date of the renewed me.  Well, at least the renewed “writer” me.  When I created this blog I titled it Always Write, which I thought clever and innuendo-ish at the time, but nowadays seems disingenuous in its veracity.  Sometimes Write has been the reality of late.  Or even Write. Uh, Not So Much.  Hell, let’s admit it, I’ve been elsewhere for a while.

But don’t get me wrong — life’s been good.  Better than good most of the time.  The money job’s been incredibly satisfying, my grandkids have become the greatest gk’s on the planet, Nancy and I spent 11 days on Maui and 9 days in Prague and Vienna, I’ve read some fantastic books and articles, viewed a dozen emotion-romping movies, made new friends, enjoyed a half thousand different craft beers, and even carved a few notches in my Bucket List.

#47  Eat a Vienna sausage in Vienna – Check.

Bucket list 47

All in all, the last half year has been one of the best of my life.

But my soul has ached a bit and my days have ended all too frequently with a note of unfulfillment and dissatisfaction because I haven’t been writing.

Alas.  Those who write know of what I speak.  This writing thing — it’s a tough row to hoe sometimes.  There’s nothing quite as satisfying as pouring one’s mind and creativity and sense of humor and message into words on a page, then massaging it into exactly what you want it to be, then risking your soul by putting it out there for others to ingest and love it or hate it.  It’s scary, being a writer.  Hence, it’s all too easy to set aside for a moment, which becomes a day – week – month – season.  And for some, it never comes back.  Permanent distraction.

A while ago I wrote a piece about climbing back into the writing saddle.  What I didn’t realize at the time was some paparazzo apparently filmed me in the process, as you can see in this video.

What the foul dog didn’t stick around for, however, was this here cowpoke picking myself back up, brushing off the dirt and the cobwebs, and re-hoisting.  The pen and pad and keyboard are ready and my fingers are chomping at the bit.

2013 is gonna be a rodeo.