In last Friday's post, I wrote about how Maggie must deal with controversy in The Good Community. Her anger at Josiah Norton bothers her. Normally, she is a loving, tolerant person. However, not only does she feel bullied and demeaned by Josiah, but she interprets his behavior to mean that he takes the same approach to others whom he deems as “less.”
Of course, this isn’t the first time Maggie has had to stand up for her beliefs. The first occurs in Saint Maggie, when she is attacked for showing love and forgiveness to a man accused of murder. Up until this point, she has suffered whispers behind her back and the cold shoulders of some of Blaineton’s citizens because 1) she owns and runs a boarding house and has the nerve to do so on the town square, 2) she has “ungenteel” and nearly-penniless men as renters, and 3) is best friends with the Johnsons, who are people of color. But when members of her church claim to be Christian but do not follow the way of Jesus (which Maggie understands to be the Rule of Love), she pushes back to the point that she breaks with the congregation. Ah, there’s no fight like a church fight. I ought to know.
In the excerpt below, Maggie takes on Tryphena Moore, the most powerful woman in town, and other members Blaineton Methodist Episcopal Church's congregation. In a way, she is a bit like David standing up to Goliath. However, it is important to note that Frankie shows her mother the way in this first excerpt. And this gives Maggie courage.
Maggie could hold her tongue no longer. “I cannot believe that. One cannot stop loving someone because he has done wrong.”
Tryphena glared over her shoulder at her. “Oh, what do you know? You’re making a fool of yourself by visiting him! The papers are saying that you and the others have been taken in by the man.”
“The Gazette does not say that.”
“Only because it is owned by your husband.”
“Neither has the Easton Express-Times criticized us.”
“Well, all the other papers say so.” Tryphena leveled her glare at Mr. McGregor once again. “We cannot afford to have the world think of us as naïve bumpkins, sir. We must take a stand!”
The minister mopped his face once again. “Brothers and sisters, please. Have you forgotten mercy?”
“The man deserves no mercy!” Mr. Kendall snapped.
At this Frankie elbowed her way past her mother. Maggie watched, open-mouthed, as the girl blurted, “Everyone deserves mercy! And forgiveness! Is it right to pick and choose whom we will forgive? How is that being like Jesus?”
Tryphena glowered at Maggie. “Oh, do make that child be quiet. You’re her mother, for pity’s sake.”
Stunned, Maggie paused only for the briefest of moments, and then straightened her back as she said, “You’re absolutely right. I am her mother, and as such I believe that she is absolutely correct. You all may do as you wish, but as for me and my house, we choose the path of compassion and mercy. Good day.” With that, Maggie took her daughter by the arm and steered her down the aisle and out the door.
A few short days later, Maggie runs into the Moore sisters while she is out shopping for Eli’s Christmas gift. The two women try to humiliate her into returning to the church, but Maggie’s response shows her honesty, strength of character, and spirit.
“Do not be a fool,” the older woman hissed. “Would you cut yourself off from the church over a murderer?”
Maggie drew herself up, eyes flashing. “[He] is accused of murder. The trial has not yet begun and, therefore, he has neither been found guilty nor has he been sentenced to death. As for cutting myself off from your fine fellowship, I find that I need time to think and pray. The air in our church these days feels most unhealthy.”
“Well!” both ladies said in unison.
“No, it is most unwell, if you ask me! I have suffered great losses. My niece is dead, my brother and his family distraught. I became ill and lost my baby. I discovered that my ... friend is accused of murder and attempted murder. I know this crime all too well. You may wish to wallow in anger and hatred, but I no longer can afford that luxury. I cannot – nay, will not – allow such emotions to eat me alive, to darken my soul! The only thing that keeps me from sinking into that black mire is God’s grace. The only thing that moves me to visit [him] is Christ’s command, ‘I was in prison, and ye came unto me.’ I have not healed yet, I have not rid myself of my own demons, but, dear ladies, I am hoping for a miracle in my soul, as should we all! Good evening!” And with that, Maggie swept around the two gape-mouthed sisters and strode off toward the square.
Obviously, this isn’t the end of Maggie's need to stand up and speak out to defend the way she lives and what she believes. Personally, I hope to be like Maggie, but doubt I could stand up for myself as eloquently and in such a self-aware manner. (After all, she is a fictional character. All her dialog is thought out, something we are not afforded in real-time.)
We'll see how she handles other controversies and dangers on Friday.
Greetings! I want to thank all of you who follow this blog. I love writing about writing and other sundries, but I feel that I need to change my blogging schedule for a while. Unfortunately, it’s all about time for me these days.
In part, this stems from working 25-30 hours a week as an assistant pastor at a United Methodist Church. Anyone who is employed by a church can tell you that those 25-30 hours do not translate into a regular schedule. Generally, I work Sundays (naturally), and Monday thru Thursday. However, I also may work on a Saturday. On Sundays my hours will vary anywhere from 4 to 9 or 10 hours, depending upon what we are doing. Sometimes, as in the summer, I may be involved in a days-long activity, such as a mission trip, our church’s booth at the 4-H Fair, or other events.
All part-time authors must work our writing in around our other vocation and daily life (family and friends, groceries, cleaning, doctor visits, car repairs, and so on). Finding writing time is a constant juggling act.
I find that writing one blog takes me about 1-2 hours, sometimes 3, depending upon what I am writing about. Obviously, anything having to do with the history behind historical fiction takes a bit longer because I need to assemble and check my facts and put up notes on resources.
As a result, my time for writing historical fiction and promoting my published stories has been curtailed because something new (the blog) was added to the juggling act. I love my fans and love my stories, and so, at this point, I need to cut back on the blogging.
After some consideration, I think posting three times a week will help me meet my goals as an author. I hope you don’t mind, but this is something I need to do.
The Squeaking Blog will now appear Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays to give me more time to do research, write fiction, and promote my published stories.
Thank you for understanding.
See you Wednesday!
A large part of The Good Community, my work-in-progress, has to do with the creation of a school for children of all races – a product of Maggie and Emily’s frustration when they learn that Blaineton’s public school no longer will admit children of color. Within the struggle to treat all children equally, Maggie also finds herself wrestling with her anger toward Josiah Norton, her main adversary. Normally, a quiet and focused woman, Maggie is challenged to speak up and do political and social battle – and it disturbs her. But she will have to do it.
Maggie's situation opens the door for a little role reversal. It is Eli’s turn now to be the voice of reason and help.
The scene below illustrates Maggie’s issues with Josiah Norton and Eli’s attempt to both smooth her ruffled feathers and give her advice.
A frustrated Maggie had retreated to the porch where she proceeded to take in a pair of Eli’s trousers. Since they had returned to Blaineton, he often would walk to and from town in fine weather and when his leg was not paining him much. Hence, his circumference had reduced a bit.
Maggie attacked the trousers with a vengeance, but it wasn’t Eli’s middle that had her in a fit of pique. She was pleased with his weight loss. What ate at her was the conversation she had had with Josiah Norton.
Try as she might, her mind kept replaying everything they had said to each other. The more she thought it over, the more vexed she became.
How dare the man take that tone with her? How dare he suggest that she ought to go before the school board and ask them – nay, beg them – for permission to start a school. And a private one at that!
How dare he –
She had poked the sewing needle into her finger.
She growled and hissed, “Blast!”
“Language, Mrs. Smith.”
“Not amusing, Mr. Smith.” She stuck her bleeding index into her mouth.
Eli sat down on the rocking chair beside hers. “Let me see it, sweetheart.”
Maggie sulkily held her hand out for him to inspect.
“Yep,” he concluded. “It’s bleeding all right.” He pulled a handkerchief from his pocket. Glancing up at his wife, he teased, “The hankie's clean.”
“I should hope so.”
Eli wrapped the handkerchief around her finger. “Now, now, would I do anything less when it comes to you?”
Maggie sighed. “I apologize. I am disturbed by a conversation I had today.”
“It was with Mr. Norton.”
And Eli gently said, “I know.”
“Yes. He came to my office to complain. About you.”
“Oo!” She flopped back into her chair. “That man!”
Eli laughed. “Yes. That man. He is officious and self-important. But…” He leaned toward her. “Please don’t let him upset you. That’s how he operates. He likes to nettle people, so they will become furious with him and make a mistake to his advantage.”
Maggie removed the handkerchief from her finger. “It has stopped bleeding. Thank you.”
Eli’s smile widened in love for her. “You’re welcome. So, did he?”
“Did he what?”
“Cause you to make a mistake?”
She shook her head. “No, but he did cause me to become furious. Oh, Eli, I don’t like feeling this way! It’s not who I am, who I aspire to be!”
“And the very fact that you are relating this also tells me that you are a better person than you think.”
Maggie laid a hand over her husband’s. “He is angry with me. Why? All I want to do is educate the very children he and the school board refuse to educate.”
“They’re afraid, Maggie.”
“Of what? Of children?”
“Of children with black skin who will grow up to be adults who will, in some people’s minds, compete for employment, wealth, and status they feel they is undeserved.”
Maggie sighed. “Life is not a competition.”
“Some believe it is.”
“No. Life is to be lived together. We are to help and serve and build others up.”
“Oh, my Maggie! You’re such a good, Christian woman. The trouble is not everyone follows that path.” Eli turned his hand over and interlaced his fingers with his wife’s. “But I know you. You’re determined and brave and, my love, you will have a school. I’m willing to stake this house and my life on it.”
“Nonsense. You shouldn’t bet. That's gambling.”
He fell into chuckles at her very Methodist attitude. “Oh, I do love you so!”
Will Maggie and her friends prevail and do what the town will not? Or will Maggie be cowed by Norton’s bully tactics?
Believe it or not, I’m still not sure how it all shakes out. I guess we’ll all find out together.
Today I finished draft gazillion of the script for HEART SOUL & ROCK ‘N’ ROLL. It’s something Dan Bush and I have been working together for a long time. We finally got serious over the summer. I read it, he stopped me and made comments, I gave him an argument, he told me to get over it, I made some other suggestions, we synthesized them, and I made the changes. A true team effort. And we didn’t break up over it.
We both think HEART SOUL would make a good little indie film.
Of course, neither of us knows any producers, nor do we have an agent. I think we have some work to do!
I’ve attached the first 26 pages. I’m not saying it’s typo-free yet and it still has some bugs in it, but we’re getting there.
HEART SOUL FIRST 26 PAGES
If you’ve never read a spec film script before, it looks quite different from a piece of prose. Scene descriptions are on the left, in caps, describe whether a scene takes place inside or outside, where it happens, and whether it is night or day. So, an exterior shot taking placing in the Flying Fish Club at night looks like this: "EXT. FLYING FISH CLUB - DAY." Also on the left are lines describing action. Dialog and occasional parentheticals to help the actors are centered. Transitions are always to the right, such as FADE TO BLACK or CUTAWAY. It looks complicated, but give it a chance. You might be able to see how it would look on film.
Also I've written a logline, A logline is a no more than 25 word description that you might see in the "information" section for a movie or TV show. For HEART SOUL & ROCK' N' ROLL it might go like this: "While on vacation, assistant pastor Lins falls in love with agnostic rocker Neil. Will they rock into the sunset or call it a day?"
Rock on, my friends...
Janet Stafford, Squeaking Pips Founder