Monday, September 25, 2017

Ten Hours

Do you know what you can do in ten hours?

  • You can get a full night’s rest.
  • You can put in a full day’s-worth of work, plus a little extra.
  • You can binge watch almost an entire season of whatever your favorite show is on Netflix.
  • You can travel to Maryland and back (and even make multiple stops for coffee and bathroom breaks—and gasoline)
  • You can do great work volunteering to help those less fortunate.
  • You can build something.
  • You can create something.
  • You can give birth to a baby.
  • You can canoe down the river.
  • You can hike a mountain.
  • You can have surgery.
  • You can tour a city, visiting museums, shop, eat and go home.

Or you can do what my husband and I have been doing and try to redo travel plans, dealing with incompetent people who are unable to help you, and spending most of those ten hours on hold.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Car Place

I spent part of the morning at the car place. Again. No, we don’t have problems with our cars. Most times, I’m there for routine maintenance. But with three cars and me the only person with the time to take them, I spend a lot of my time in car places.
This time, I was at the dealer. A different dealer than usual—not next to the homemade ice cream place that tempts me no matter how early it is. They greeted me and led me inside, took down some information, and pointed me in the direction of the waiting area.
As I stood behind the closed door, I prepared myself for my usual car place waiting room experience:
  • TV blaring to some weird court TV reality show, with judges who always make me wonder…about a lot of things, or a game show where people dress up as chickens;
  • Stale coffee;
  • An endless parade of people who somehow manage to arrive after me and leave before me even though I’ve made an appointment;
  • The car person who always finds something extra that needs to be done.

With a deep breath, I entered.
  • The TV was on, as expected, but it was turned to Kelly & Ryan. Compared to the usual programs, this is a huge improvement;
  • There was a quiet room, where you can sit and avoid the noise. By the time I realized, someone else was already in there, but next time, it’s MINE;
  • I don’t know about their coffee, but there were BAGELS! And cream cheese! Again, I was too shocked to actually eat them, but they made me forget all about my coffee;
  • I was in and out in twenty-five minutes;
  • They did what I asked, and only what I asked and they took my coupon.

It was a lot better than I expected. I haven’t worked up the courage to steal the remote, yet, but with the quiet room, I might not have to. And I’m still not a fan of car places. But they were friendly and fast and I’m already home, with the rest of my day available to me.

Now they just need a homemade ice cream place next door...

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Welcome Bernard LoPinto

Please welcome Bernard LoPinto, talking about his writing journey.

A Statement About My Writing
By Bernard LoPinto

About 50 years ago, I started believing I could be a writer.  That is until I showed a sample of my work to someone whose opinion I trusted, one of my college instructors.  She took two days to read my short story and then beat it with a three-pound hammer.  After pummeling me for what seemed like an entire day—about fifteen minutes in real time—she asked, “Do you have anything to say?”
I didn’t know how to answer.  Did I have anything to say?  I didn’t know.  What was I supposed to say?  Should I write about the war in Viet Nam, which, at the time, was tearing this country apart?  How about the intergenerational polarization that was also a feature of the sixties, or the British Invasion, or the sexual revolution?  I asked myself—more than once—what do I have to say?  Then I figured it out.  Nothing.  I had nothing to say.  As a nineteen-year-old suburban kid with nothing much going on besides my sexual prime, I hadn’t lived enough to have anything to say.  I just didn’t know it at the time.  So I decided that this writing thing was too deep for me and turned to simply finishing college, which for me was about all I could handle.  Life hadn’t happened to me yet.
Then life happened.  Career, marriage, kids.  It all happened, and it was all too busy for me to write about.  I kept a journal sporadically, and I began to think that I actually understood the craft of writing.  But I was too busy getting my family by to give any thought to the old question: Did I have anything to say?  Then some things happened that gave me something to say.
Looking for the one best way, I turned to the life of faith, committing everything to building a strict moral compass that would get my family through any storm.  I quit my job and we left our home, moving wife, kids, the dog and cat hundreds of miles to work with people sure to save the world for Jesus.  I became a minister, dedicating every waking hour—and every available dollar—to a check-your-brains-at-the-door religion.  We were on the true path.  Then it all went bad.
When I finally came to understand the lies, abuse, and betrayal that had been the subtext of the life of faith I thought I was living, I had no way to get a handle on what had happened to a decade of my life.  That’s when I turned back to writing.  Now I had something to say, and I used fiction to say it.  I had found my moral universe. 
Every writer works from his or her moral universe.  Dickens, whose anger makes him my favorite author, wrote of the immorality of a society that exploits children in Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, and Great Expectations.  A crime writer’s moral universe might be simply, “Crime doesn’t pay,” or “No one is above the law.”  In Ayn Rand’s moral universe, the actualization of the ego is the highest good.  Whether or not we agree with an author’s theme is not important.  What is important is that the author expresses that theme in a way the reader understands and that it’s universal.[i]
My first novel took nearly twenty years to complete because I defined my moral universe as I wrote, and only recently did I take the opportunity to express my beliefs in detail.  Now I have it, dark as it is.
In my moral universe, nothing is as it should be.  People of faith wait for God to move in their lives, and wait, and wait, and wait. Sometimes he makes his presence known, sometimes not. There is no divine plan, no justice, just the hope that "maybe this time. . . ." And above all, remember, "Be careful what you ask for; you just might get it."
I am about one-third of the way into my next novel, tentatively titled, No Such Thing as Enough, and my moral universe is clearer to me now than when I started.  Consequently, the writing goes faster, and I have a better idea of where the story is taking me than with my first novel. 
As writers, we need to find our moral universe, our themes.  They are our starting point.  When our moral universe becomes clear to us, we can make it clear to others, and our writing becomes real and alive.

It’s 2026 and the United States has fallen under the sway of an oppressive government where all citizens’ rights have been stripped, Red shirt platoons patrol; the streets, and people die for voicing opinions. Into this chaos step Sid and Annie Winthrop. The elderly couple set out on a journey of revenge against the Red Shirts who murdered their son.

Red Shirt members Victor and Brooklyn have devoted their young lives to the cause of the president in protecting the nation.  When attacks on their home town leave dozens of Red Shirts dead, Victor must help his superiors find the vigilante.

At their darkest moment, each couple finds a common bond in their suffering and must decide where their loyalties lie.


The next morning, despite his patched knee, Sid went out, pretending to shop for bread, listening for anyone talking about the carnage of last night. He came home, threw the bread on the table, and hurried into the bedroom, Annie following closely behind.
“Did you have any trouble?” she asked.
Sid sat on the edge of the bed, rubbing his hands together the way he did when he had a riddle he couldn’t figure out. Annie sat down next to him, and he put his arm around her. “No problem, babe. It’s just that there are so many of them. They’re all over downtown, at least one squad on every block. They’re even on the side streets. One group is a few blocks away, coming in this direction. That’s why I hurried home.”
“But you’ve dealt with clowns like these before.”
Sid let go of Annie and started pacing. “Not like these. Half of them, I’ve never seen before. They have gold leaf on their helmets and gold braid on their shirts. Their bearing is different. They’re tougher, but we found that out last night. The troopers were searching people. I must’ve looked too old to cause trouble because they let me pass. If they hadn’t, if they had frisked me, I’d have been done.” He pulled the .45 out of its holster under his coat and placed it on the bed.
“Are you going to go out tonight?”
“Not after last night. I don’t want to do that again.”
“I never expected things to go like this. Those kids don’t know what they’re doing; they’re Rowson’s pawns, and I killed four or five with the car.” Annie wrung her hands. “I’ve hated them for so long, but seeing them go down last night… Is it hard for you, too? I mean after Vietnam and the police force? Do you ever get used to it?”
“I never have, and I hope you never do. When it stops bothering you, you’ll have lost a big piece of yourself.” Sid pulled Annie back into his arms. “I don’t like it, but we started down this road, and there’s no turning back. With the heat on us like this, let’s lay low for a while.”
When starting on a journey of revenge, first dig two graves. Or in our case, three.

Bernard LoPinto draws inspiration for his stories from his years in ministry and prisons, and creates a reality where the lines between good and bad, right and wrong, are easily blurred. He and his wife, Jeanne, live in Northeastern Pennsylvania.