Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Jersey and Lucy

Our second-to-youngest grandson had a great idea while watching dogs, Jersey and Lucy, playing roughhouse in the family room__ “How about you and I take a trip to Tokyo, Japan this summer?” he had asked.

“Tokyo? Are you kidding. One of my neighbors just broke her leg while touring Russia. Another friend required emergency surgery in Germany while he was cruising the Rhine River. I’ve reached a stage in life where I’m happy to just tour the USA and Canada!”

“I’m not as energetic as I used to be!” I added as my primary defense. I much prefer sitting at my lap top pounding out another chapter to my books in progress.

The grandson was quick to point out Jersey and Lucy still running about the family room snapping playfully at each other. Jersey, at eleven-years-old, is the matriarch of the family dog clan: Jersey, Remy, Shilah, Lucy, Luna and Daisy. Lucy is younger, never stops moving, and her tail never stops wagging.

“Jersey and Lucy remind me of you and me,” the grandson said. “Look how Lucy energizes Jersey who was slowing down and content to just sit quietly and watch the world go by.”

The grandson had a point. Jersey had more energy recently. Her renewal reminded me of another observation that applies to senior adults. So many older adults gravitate to senior housing developments where most people are about the same age. I see the value of that living arrangement especially when the person is alone or deals with chronic issues. But I also see value watching younger families taking evening strolls past our home with infants in strollers and youngsters in tow. As the people stop and chat, both young and old derive benefit from the encounter.

I suspect that people live longer, are happier, and healthier when we live in a community with people of different ages and backgrounds.

When we get older we need a Lucy in our lives to strengthen our way forward.

Robert Parlante
June 2017

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

It's Okay Not To Like Everything!

Recently heard a sermon by our pastor as part of a series on the biblical concepts of Zion. I was blessed by the series, but I was also struck by a passing comment he had made. He said there appears to be two basic variations of the Christian church today at opposite poles from each other__ the “Rock Concert” and the “Lecture Hall”. Most churches gravitate toward one of these two poles. As well, there are many fine churches somewhere in the middle.

How does one define a rock concert church or a lecture hall church? I can only define these from my personal experience having looked for a new church home at various points of my life, in different states, or visited other churches for a variety of other reasons and special events.

In the rock concert church, at its worse, the music tends to be raucous and overwhelming the service. Does loud and clappy make church worship more meaningful? I know of one church that decided to cancel its sermon during the worship time because churchgoers had gotten into the rock-style music. They did not want to break the moment. That church no longer exists, and I can only speculate why.

Lecture hall churches tend to be exactly what its namesake implies. Think of school with large crowd of students listening to a lecturer drone on about some topic. It’s usually the time I need a caffeine-powered drink to keep me awake. Music in this type of church is not typically emphasized or may be minimized.

While it’s easy to criticize either church/worship style there are positives as well. In the best definition of a lecture hall church where the Word of God is being preached, the Holy Spirit can use that Word to penetrate any human barrier and minister to any need. There are many testimonies of people being called to serve after hearing a dry and minimal sermon.

There is a place for engaging music, too. There are many contemporary musicians, Hillsong being one of them, that attract younger people. If modern music legitimately draws a person to the cross of salvation, we should be expressing our thanksgiving to the Lord. There is plenty of room at the foot of the cross for all kinds of music. And yes, it’s okay not to like everything.

Where do you come down on these two opposite styles?
Robert Parlante
June 2017

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Class, Let's Go For A Walk

For the first three years of my education I attended a three-room school house in a coal mining town located in the anthracite region of Pennsylvania. Room 0ne was for grades 1 to 5. Room Two was grades 6 to 8. Room Three was high school. Miss Colcovage was the teacher of the five grades in room one, with five rows of desks representing each of the five grades.

The education was quite progressive. Each row was a grade, but if you were a capable reader you might be placed in another row for the portion of teaching for that subject. When Miss Colcovage was teaching one row, the other four rows of students worked independent and were self-directed. (One of reasons I can study/read/write in a noisy environment was being educated in a noisy environment. I’m just used to all the ambient noise.)

One of my fondest memory of Miss Colcovage was when she would decide to take the entire five classes on a nature walk through the woodland area. This usually happened on a warm sunny day. When we got back to the classroom after traipsing through the woods we would have to write our reaction to the nature walk. One could never see this decision to take a walk in the legalistic school environment of today. Permission slips, parent helpers, safety issues are just a few the things to consider today. And they should be. We live in a different world.

Well nothing ever happened. No poison ivy encounters. No law suits were filed. The minimum 180 days of school was not a factor in the decision-making. And I loved every minute going on a nature walk because it sparked ideas about unknown places, new people groups and horizons not confined to my small coal mining town. It takes a special teacher to cast that vision in a child.

On warm sunny days, I can still hear Miss Colcovage say, “Class, let’s go for a walk!”

We need more of this spontaneity in our lives. There are risks to our exuberance. We live in a world of laws and regulations. I started writing back in those early days. That spontaneity led to a desire to be a writer/novelist because the walks made me see another layer of life beyond the obvious.

But dreams don’t become fulfilled that easily. Life happens. The clock keeps ticking. Responsibility is thrust upon us.

Miss Colcovage’s mantra was: don’t give up. The embers of desire to write never went out. With a little fanning the embers turned back to flames. Books were written. Road traveled. Goals met decades later. Because of a sweet teacher who said, “Class, let’s go for a walk!”
Robert Parlante
May 2017

Friday, May 19, 2017

He Said/She Said

After four books and four different editors I have learned a few things about “talking heads”. When your fiction is overloaded with dialogue that relies on he or she said or John or Mary said, we end up with people talking to each other with minimal forward movement of the story. It gets worse, because we are so dependent upon the verb “said” we look for substitutes. Like he exclaimed or she questioned. There are websites that give you hundreds of alternate words for said.

Here’s what works for me: I try not to use the word said or any of its substitutes. The reader knows generally who is speaking in the story. If the dialogue is a question, there is no need to clarify the dialogue with an added, “he questioned.” Many times, you do not even need a “said tag” because it is obvious who is speaking. Furthermore, “said tags” are a lazy way to describe character emotion. For example, if the character is angry, you could write “he bellowed”. Forget the tag and describe the anger and how it affects the character. Some readers may understand the “bellow tag” completely different than you intended.

When you do not use “said” and its substitutes the writer then could provide action beats that describe the inner thoughts of the character. You can add depth to your characterization by providing sensory information, the smells, sounds, etc.

Action beats should propel the story forward.

Try writing a few pages without the word “said” or it substitutes! You may be surprised how well it turns out.

Robert Parlante

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Chickens, Eggs and Goats

Passed a sign yesterday as I drove along a country road to meet friends for lunch. Along the winding road I encountered a crudely paint (more like shabby chic) sign advertising chickens, eggs and goats for sale. Brought back memories of growing up in the country.

My family raised chicken and one of my household chore was collecting eggs. I hated the job because every time I tried to collect eggs I was attacked by our resident rooster for disturbing his domain. That unfriendly relationship left an indelible mark on my psyche. Recently, I was buying some plants in an old-fashioned hardware store. They have a resident rooster prancing about the store which I was not aware of. When the rooster crowed, I froze. After all these years, I still had an immediate urge to run or kick the rooster away when he charges me.

I have no extensive experience with goats. I do recall once trying to milk one when my father took me to visit a friend who owned a large family farm.

I’m not wild about goat cheese for no reason. I more likely associate cheese with something more familiar like Laughing Cow.

I checked out the web for information about owning a goat. I visited sites that gave 10 reasons to own a goat and 20 reasons not to own a goat. None convinced me one way or the other. But one did appeal to me. Goats can clear land like a mini-bulldozer. Apparently three or four goats can clear an acre of overgrown grass and shrubs in no time!

Have any experience with goats? I’d love to hear from you.

Robert Parlante
May 2017

Friday, May 5, 2017

The Reflection in the Mirror - Book Reviews

Check out Rebecca McNutt's review of "The Reflection in the Mirror" on the Goodreads website:

A gripping story of the fragments of a dysfunctional family coming together even through dire times of addiction and trouble, The Reflection in the Mirror is anything but typical and ultimately a story of love and redemption. Readers get a powerful glimpse into the muddled lives of various interesting characters, including a confused sixteen-year-old runaway, a dad who has found God, and Linda, who understands the baggage of the past that her fiancée carries. "The Reflection in the Mirror" is very impressive and exciting, sometimes sad and other times full of joy, and it's definitely a book that I would recommend.

Robert Parlante

Finding Emmeline - More Reviews

Here is Rebecca McNutt review of Finding Emmeline" on the Goodreads web site.

The adventures of Martin continue in this thrilling and captivating novel, and so far this is my absolute favourite of Robert Parlante's books, as it's definitely one of the most exciting and family/friendship oriented of them all. Always his companion in his work is Martin's wife, proving that love and companionship has no boundaries, and Finding Emmeline is also an excellent detective story with a mysterious premise. I loved this book and I really appreciate the author sending me a copy. :)

Robert Parlante