If you've read some of my posts, you know one of my complaints about Christian fiction is that so often we get more of the same without much variety or imagination. This occurs primarily in the romance and romantic suspense genres, but predictability can show up anywhere. That's why it's so utterly enjoyable to review a novel which is written incredibly well with a fascinating plot that allows for immense satisfaction even if or when the dots can be connected early.
Alton Gansky's latest release aptly titled Wounds and published by B&H Publishing Group is an exceptional crime novel with well-defined characters, two of which are uniquely connected by a single tragedy which has severely altered their lives for nearly 30 years even though they aren't introduced until a murder unites them. Their still open wounds have been festering and healing seems incongruous but an absolute need.
Detective Carmen Rainmondi lost her sister to what she's convinced was a murder many years ago. She's never given up on finding out who took her sister's life although officially attributed to a car wreck. It's a cold case that simmers in her psyche and never cools off. She's walled up her heart to control the emotional breakage caused by the unresolved loss of her younger sister.
Dr. Ellis Poe is shocked and saddened to learn that a student at the seminary where he teaches has been murdered but equally shocking is the deliverer of this news. Recognizing the female detective from a distant past that haunts his everyday existence with guilt and remorse, Dr. Poe must find a way to reveal his secret to Detective Rainmondi and suffer the inevitable consequences.
A series of grotesque murders begins in the San Diego community while detectives attempt to figure out if, how, and why they're connected. A purposeful Dr. Poe visits the police department to see Detective Rainmondi and is literally sickened by the murder board pictures in the room where she agrees to talk with him. Distracted by the heinous photographs, the professor is able to see the one thing that ties the murders together and insinuates there are more to come.
Carmen is an intentionally lonely soul with a hard edge. Dr. Poe chooses his loneliness as a deserved punishment and allows depression to rule his soul. His faith is strong, but his practice of it is shallow and plagued with guilt. In different ways both are pitiable. Their connection proves to be intense and climactic.
The only enhancement to the story, for me, would've been some bona fide spiritual warfare at the end, but it would've been out of character for Dr. Poe's faith so the conclusion works perfectly.
Alton Gansky is a veteran writer of exciting and innovative adventure and mystery novels, and this story joins the mix with outstanding prose which gives his characters a clever combination of wit, sorrow, and tenacity. An interesting story with plenty of tension, Wounds gives lovers of crime novels a genuine treat to read. I loved this book.
In horse racing the finish line is referred to as "the wire", an invisible line at the finish of the race marked with a pole and a camera to document who has won. The line shows up in the recorded lens. The starting points in horse races vary by distance, but the location of the wire is always the same. Veteran race horses get to know that place well because right after crossing it, the jockey relaxes the furious pursuit to the wire.
The camera is able to capture and photograph the finish of the race and the video tape can be slowed to show who the winner is during those races where it's too close to call due to the tight finish and the speed of the animals crossing the wire. On rare occasions there occurs what is called a "dead heat" which means the horses' noses hit that invisible line at the same moment with no distinguishable difference between them. On even rarer occasions there will be more than two involved in the dead heat.
Only in private unsanctioned match races does the "winner take all". At recognized racetracks, purses are usually divided between the top five finishers with the largest percentage going to the winner of the race and a downward graduation to the fifth place horse. Although horsemen often remember the top three finishers in a big race like The Kentucky Derby, people watching the race might only remember the winner. (For those of you who fail to realize the scope of the Triple Crown races, the first of those, The Kentucky Derby, ran on Saturday at Keeneland on a sloppy track. "Orb" won the 1 and 1/4 classic.)
So let's talk writing contests. Does anyone really remember who finishes second or third other than the authors of those entries? Rarely. Perhaps a judge in the contest might remember because the first place finisher wasn't her absolute favorite. Other than that, only the winner is remembered. Not that winning translates to a publishing contract - it depends on the individual contest prize and notoriety. Equally rare is a dead heat among contest winners. It seems one individual is always able to eke out first place.
Competitions for writers can be a good way to gain exposure and some critiques, but from my experience and from those I know who've entered them, the results have ranged from rewarding to disastrous, encouraging to deflating. I know this: if you write "edgy" and enter the "wrong" contest where the judges prefer "sweet", look out. Be careful in your contest selections.
It's the same in horse racing. When you put a horse in The Kentucky Derby just because you earned enough money to enter (and nominations for the privilege of running in that race begin at the horse's birth), but your odds of winning the race show upwards of 30 to 1, chances are you're in well over your head. It would be good if some of those trainers decided against giving those horses a shot at The Derby to make the field less crowded and, because of that, potentially less dangerous.
Writing to publish novels can be a solitary endeavor. Not always of course but most of the time. The objective or at least the hope is to cover costs of producing the book but more than that to gain exposure and with that a profit. Christians vary in their approaches to the making money part of the plan, but publishers don't. The one objective is to "win" the hearts of readers in order to get them to spend money on their authors' stories. This is the way it works. Not easy to do in light of the thousands and thousands of novels published every year, but the logical goal is to make money.
Not everyone wins. Not owners of race horses. Not authors of books.
Father, thank you for allowing us the privilege of writing stories. With you it's always a win-win situation. Without you it's a lose-lose. Whether we know it or not . . . In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness . . ." So God created man in his own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Genesis 1:26-27 (NIV)
But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man's ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and He brought her to the man.
The man said, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called 'woman' for she was taken out of man."
For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. Genesis 2:20b-24 (NIV)
Basic biology and physiology characterizes the two sexes as a complement to one another. One is made with the apparatus which fits into the other's bodily apparatus and between the two of them in a physical act, when the proper conditions exist, can produce another of the same species.
Spiritually speaking, here is God's opinion of homosexuality:
Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator . . .
Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. Romans 1:24-27 (NIV)
Historically speaking, when powerful nations implode, there is always a moral element to the demise.
How is it that so many people can be "proud" of a relatively unknown professional basketball player declaring he prefers to experience sex with men? Why is that admittance so exciting to a portion of the population? Why is it that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says he speaks for the NFL in endorsing "gay" marriage? When has he visited locker rooms and polled the players on this subject to arrive at this conclusion?
Some have said this athlete's announcement proves that "real men" can be gay. What it proves is that men (and women) can lust after one another in unnatural sexual relationships and label it love as they know it and make it marriage-worthy.
Most of us aren't very good at real love. We're selfish, often one-sided, and we tend to have contrived notions of the demands of truly loving someone more than oneself. We attempt to do it right, we grow in our efforts, and by the time we're committed to each other, we'd no doubt lay down our lives to save our mates.
Two men or two women can love each other, but their sexual relationships aren't "normal". They're not designed that way. Whether it's foul hormones or haywire psyches, homosexuality isn't how humans are supposed to be.
I'm not attacking homosexual individuals. I can't imagine only desiring the same sex. I. Can't. The sexual component is huge and powerful and often won't be denied. I assume there is no more promiscuity in the gay community than there is in the heterosexual community. Neither of which is acceptable to God. In this world sin has its way for a time. We can choose to fight it or we can give ourselves over to it, but regardless of how we want to define it - or do not wish to - it exists and God defined it first. Some would have us think there is no God and therefore not really much "sin", preferably designated "behavioral issues".
Christians are often labeled "bible thumpers". Well, the "gay thumpers" use a louder horn and have the media's favor. I, for one, am weary of their agenda, their "pride", and their self-righteousness. As much as we all might fight for justification of our particular sins, there is none.
Father, please help all of us to follow you. To take up our crosses and put to death our fleshly desires to find and to serve you. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
outlier: n. 1.A portion of anything that exists or lies apart from the main body or system to which it belongs
I interviewed for my first job at the barn of a respected trainer on the backstretch at Longacres Racetrackin a mini-dress, high heels, and two-shaded octagonal sunglasses. It's safe to say I appeared as an outlier. For a reason known only to God, the boss's daughter hired me and told me to come back in a week. Of course when I returned, I wore Levis, a flannel shirt, and work boots. Then I looked the part but was racetrack green (and that's not in reference to any facet of the environment). I threw my heart and soul into learning the various parts of caring for and training the magnificent Thoroughbreds, and, although this city girl didn't quite fit in with the racetrack natives, I persevered to gain my place in the racing scene.
I attended a few writing conferences after finishing seven novels. Having self-published three of those, you could still say I'm an outlier. Not quite fitting into the publishing industry. With several published author friends I'm still well out on the periphery of the biz and will probably remain here.
Not the most comfortable place to reside and not sure why I seem to occupy the fringe of places I want to be, it creates an observation level that reveals viewpoints not easily visualized from an insider's dwelling.
I'm a people person but prefer one-on-ones to a crowded bunch. Intimate conversations that take time to develop and reveal heart situations rather than small talk which reveals little. Private moments rich with emotion instead of silliness and canned laughter. Gut-level insights over repetitious responses and platitudes.
In my own skin . . .
Father, you made me. Help me to keep being made into the one you designed me to be. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.