Sunday, March 26, 2017

Tricameral Legislature

Just musing from my ivory tower. Just musing on the current political climate. Just musing, just musing, neither right nor left because I never discuss politics in public or on blogs. Just musing.

Here's an idea. Why not have three houses of the legislative branch?

Why not have a legislative house for the rest of us? Call it the Humble House. Its members will be called Humble Persons.

Humble Person: an elected official that represents the average Joe or Jane (You figure out the legalese).

Qualifications: A Humble Person shall have the same qualifications as a U.S. Representative, except that: the Humble Person must have attained the age of 35, have one or more dependent children living in the household with at least one between the ages of 2 and 17; and have an annual household income of no greater than 5 percent of the median income of the Humble Person's state. (You figure out the legalese).

Distribution: The number of Humble Persons representing each state shall be determined based upon a formula: 1 half of 1 percent of the total number of middle class U.S. citizens residing in that state; furthermore, there shall be no fewer than 3 and no greater than 10 Humble Persons representing each state; and at least one of the Humble Persons from each state must have an annual income that is at or below the poverty level.(You figure out the legalese).

Powers: All bills concerning social issues passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives must also pass the Humble House before reaching the Chief Executive's desk. From time to time, the Humble House shall create a bill when it seems that the other two houses need direction on a particular issue. The Humble Persons shall partake in the approving of Supreme Court Justices and all presidential appointments. The Humble House shall have no input into matters of foreign policy, international trade, or war, except in cases where over 1 percent of people are subject to job loss or 1 percent of people under 21 are called up to fight (You figure out the legalese).

Salary: Current household income plus 5 Percent of their current household income. In addition, all household bills of the Humble Person shall be paid by the Government, not including healthcare, life insurance, income taxes, or college tuition and fees. All travel and other expenses associated with the Humble House shall be paid for by the government. This salary comes with no annual raise. All Humble Persons are encouraged to remain in the real world. (You figure out the legalese).

Term: 4 years. Election period shall coincide with Presidential elections so that the Humble House Representatives shall be attached to a particular President.

Just musing.

But seriously.

We have the Senate, and all Senators are smart and good people, but ALL Senators are so far removed from the rest of us living in the real world.

We have the House of Representatives, and all Representatives are smart and good people, but ALL Representatives are far removed from the rest of us living in the real world.

Ask a senator: “How much does a gallon of milk cost?” Watch what happens.

Every single member of the U.S. Legislature is a good person, but All of them, All of them, ALL of them are so out of touch with the American people. We elect them to represent us, and they do so to the best of their abilities, but how can they do that with even the barest minimum of success?

How can they represent us if they aren’t like us?

The America government is a government of the people for the people by the people. So where are the people in government?

In the Humble House.

Just musing.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Goodbye Glenn

I was low today, and I couldn't understand why. Then I remembered that Glenn died last night. Yeah. That's it.

I feel as if though I've lost a longtime friend. We were friends in a way. Not "in a way" dammit. He was my friend. He told me all of his secrets. I told him all of mine. He told me he loved Maggie long before he asked Herschel for her hand. I rooted for him through all his battles with the dead and the undead. He always knew how to get out of a tight situation. He is like the little girl in the red dress in SCHINDLER'S LIST. Small. Weak. Least likely to survive you would think if you didn't see how resourceful she was, how ferociously she clung to life. That's why I will miss him. How ferociously he clung to life. I may even weep when I am alone.

I haven't felt this way about a television character since Hank was killed by the Neo-Nazis on BREAKING BAD. That one hit me hard too. I was out of it for days. Not a good time for me.

What is it with these AMC TV shows? How do their writers get me to invest so much in their characters?

Monday, September 23, 2013

List of Ten Things to Do If You Want to Publish a Book

(I'm posting this on all of my blogs)

Going through my files, I found this list from my WebTV Webpage. Remember WebTV? It had to be written somewhere around 2000-2002.

Man, I was cocky back then. And sharp. Enjoy.

_____________________________________

So you want to publish your book . . . here's a list of 10 things you ought to do.



1) Sit down and write the book.

That's right. Sit down and write. Lots of writers talk the talk, but they don't walk the walk. They want to live a writer's lifestyle (whatever that is). They are attracted to the writer's celebrity status (whatever they think that is). They are eager to puff their egos by seeing their names on a book jacket on a bookshelf at Barnes and Noble (and yes, that does puff one's ego). They desire to introduce themselves to strangers with a firm handshake and a hearty--"My name is FILLINTHEBLANK, and I am a writer." Cut the crap. Stop posing and get that book written. I have worked with too many clients (when I was editing books) that would hand me six or seven typed pages and say, "Here's where I've gotten so far, Tell me what you think of it." My answer would invariably be: "I think you are a poser. Go write. Come back when this has grown up." Writers write. And publishers publish manuscripts that are longer than six pages. Spend an hour every morning writing two pages. In six months you'll have your first book. It may not be great, but at least it will be finished and we can talk about it.

2) Copyright the book.

Now a few years ago, I would never have wasted your time or mine with this piece of advice. In fact, if you had asked me a question about copyrights back then, I would have told you not to worry about it. "No one is going to steal your book," I would have told you. "If a publisher really likes your writing, they won't steal it. The work is like the golden egg, but you are the goose that lays the egg. If they steal the work, they sell one book. But if they sign you as one of their writers, they can sell a series of your books. That makes more sense." Recent personal events, however, have demonstrated that people do steal a writer's work. Protect yourself. Enough on this.

3) Get another set of eyes to read the book.

Join a writer's group or sign up for a creative writing class at a local college and have someone competent and objective read your book. Listen to their advice on what works and what does not work with your book. As the author, you do not have to take all of their advice, but you should listen to it. This helps you to gauge how an audience will read your book--such information can be valuable when you make later decisions on what to cut and what not to cut. Writing groups and creative writing classes are also good places to help you tighten your prose and fix your grammar and clean up your typos. As writers, we often have a vision of the book in our heads that is quite different from the actual book that is written on the pages. We become blind to our mistakes. Worse yet, our hubris makes us unwilling to cut dull and longwinded passages. So get your book read by an objective reader or two and leave your ego at the door.

4) Find twenty to twenty-five publishers who might be interested in publishing your book. There are a couple ways of doing this. The first way is to be a good reader. If you are a good reader, then you already have many books on your shelves that are similar to the one you have written. Who published these books? Start writing that list. The second way is to go to a bookstore and pick up books that are similar to yours. Who published these books? You can go online and do the same thing. You can also go to a very important book called the THE NOVEL AND SHORT STORY WRITER'S MARKET and do the same thing. This is your target list.

5) Arrange the target list in order of most prestigious to least prestigious.

When you start sending out your manuscript you will begin with the publishers at the top of the list and work your way down. In the words of author Lynne Barrett told us in grad school, "Your manuscript, like water, will find its own level."

6) Write a MEETS hook.

Think about your book. Think about two other books (or movies) that it is similar to. Then write your MEETS hook. Your MEETS hook should sound something like this: "My novel, CHARITY GARNER'S BOYS is a story of rage, temptation, gangsters, and surprising compassion set in the high plateaus of depression era South Dakota [. . . include a brief description of the book . . . then finish with . . .] It is like BONNIE AND CLYDE meets THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY.

7) Get an agent.

Once you have tightened up the book, gotten your target list together, and written your MEETS hook, it is time to get an agent. Why do you need an agent? Because you need a friend and guide in the publishing world. Yes, there are writers who have gotten published without agents. They are not the rule--they are lucky. An agent will get 15% commission on your book, and he/she will be worth every penny of that commission. How do you get an agent? There are several ways to do this. Send out query letters to agents listed online or in books such as THE NOVEL AND SHORT STORY WRITER'S MARKET (there are many good books and online sources that will guide you through query-letter writing--do consult them). Ask another writer to introduce you to his/her agent--but expect to be turned down. Writers guard their agents jealously. Go to writer's conferences and take a course with the agent (s), who will read your manuscript and maybe sign you up for representation. Note: It is a good idea to go to writer's conferences regardless. Many authors have gotten their books sold or represented through contacts made at writer's conferences.

8) Beware of agents who charge a fee. Usually, agents do not charge a fee. Agents take 15% commission on advances and book sales. Think about it: if an agent charged even, say, $25 per manuscript as a reading fee, he/she could make a pretty decent living without ever having to do the hard work of actually selling a book. There are a few, very few, big name New York agents that charge a small fee--if you get a chance to work with one of these, pay the fee by all means! Beware of agents who solicit you--most reputable agents have more clients than they can handle. If an agent contacts you via phone, letter, or email, ask for a list of published clients. There are many writers out there eager to get into print and they are easy prey for predators posing as agents and editors.

9) Help your agent to sell your book.

Once you have gotten your agent, give her/him your plan for selling your book: the target list of publishers, your MEETS hook. The agent will likely modify the target list based on her/his contacts in the publishing world. The agent may also modify your MEETS a bit. The agent will also want to know what audience you wrote the book for: age, race, gender, level of education. You should be able to answer all of these questions. It is also likely that the agent, upon signing you up, already has a few publishers in mind for your book, publishers that he/she has worked with in the past and who are looking for a book such as yours. If this is the case, you have hit the jackpot. Just sit on your hands, and let your agent do his/her job.

10) If All Else Fails . . .

Should I self-publish? Maybe--but hold on there a minute. Did you join a writer's group? Did you leave your ego at the door? Did you edit and then really edit your book? Did you go to a writer's conference and hobnob with agents and publishers? Maybe you should enter your book in a few contests. Try that. If all else has failed, then maybe you should self-publish. Self-publishing is not a bad idea if you are the right kind of person. I hope to build another link in a month or two that addresses the issue of self-publishing with a greater thoroughness. For now, let me leave with you with a few tips. 1) Get a company that is inexpensive. The self-publishing companies that charge $5000 provide roughly the same quality service as the ones that are $750, $450, $250, or free. 2) Make sure your book is copyrighted. 3) Don't purchase any of their add-on services. They are a waste of time and if you need them, you can always get them cheaper at Office Depot. 4) If you plan to get rich on the book, prepare to have a professional marketing plan; in fact, you need to hire a professional publicist. This will cost you money, but it will be worth it. 5) Be prepared to travel to sell your book. 6) Be prepared to make deals with bookstore managers to stock your books. 7) Be prepared to work.

I have more to say on this, and I will on a new link.

Good luck

--Preston

Friday, September 20, 2013

Forbes says Michael Jordan Still earns $80 Million a year.

I found this on Forbes while searching Michael Jordan's Religion. Wow. His Airness does mighty well even after the bath he took from divorcing Juanita. Gambling may be a sin . . . but if you have that much, Praise the Lord, man, and let those wicked dice roll!

_________________________________________

"How Michael Jordan Still Earns $80 Million A Year"

By Kurt Badenhausen, Forbes Staff, 2/14/2013

Michael Jordan turns turns 50 on Sunday and retrospectives of his career have been getting heavy airtime this week. The highlights include his six titles with the Chicago Bulls, his impact on athlete marketing and countless unforgettable moments on the court (“flu” game; switching hands driving the lane; the “shot” versus the Cavs). Los Angeles Lakers forward Antawn Jamison opined last week that Jordan could still average double-digit points in the NBA. I think it is safe to say we’ve seen the last of MJ soaring above the rim after hitting the half-century mark with three retirements already under his belt. But Jordan the business? It is stronger than ever.

Jordan earned an estimated $80 million last year from corporate partners Nike, Gatorade, Hanes, Upper Deck, 2K Sports, Presbyterian Healthcare and Five Star Fragrances. Other Jordan assets include six restaurants, a North Carolina car dealership, a motorsports team and his 80% stake in the Charlotte Bobcats. Jordan out-earns almost every member of the world’s highest-paid athletes 10 years after his last NBA game (Floyd Mayweather topped Forbes June 2012 list with earnings of $85 million).

The Jordan Brand, a division of Nike, is responsible for the vast majority of MJ’s earnings. Jordan partnered with Nike after being drafted by the Bulls out of North Carolina in 1984. The original five-year deal was worth $500,000 annually, plus royalties. The terms of Jordan’s current deal with Nike are a closely guarded secret, but royalties now generate more than $60 million annually for MJ, according to sources.

Nearly 30 years later, the brand is still a marketing juggernaut. It controlled 58% of the U.S. basketball shoe market in 2012, according to research firm SportsOneSource. The Jordan Brand’s parent, Nike, was second with a 34% share, while Adidas (5.5%), Reebok (1.6%) and Under Armour (0.6%) divvied up the leftovers.

Nike signed up current NBA stars Carmelo Anthony, Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, as well as non-NBAers like Derek Jeter and Nascar’s Denny Hamlin for the Jordan Brand. But the star is still Jordan and the Air Jordan franchise.

Nike will release the Air Jordan XX8 this weekend to coincide with the NBA All-Star game. It is the 28th shoe in the Jordan franchise. The suggested retail price is $250. In addition to new Air Jordans, Nike continues to pump out retro versions of the franchise with an average selling price of $130 to $150.

The Jordan Brand is doing “exceptionally well” says Susquehanna Financial analyst Christopher Svezia. He estimates the brand grew 25-30% in 2012 and now generates more than $1.75 billion globally, including apparel. The U.S. Jordan Brand sneaker business alone had $1.25 billion in wholesale revenue in 2012, says Matt Powell, an analyst at SportsOneSource. LeBron James is the top-seller among current NBA players with signature shoe deals, but Jordan outsold James by a 6 to 1 margin in 2012 in the U.S.

Gatorade, Hanes and Upper Deck are long-time Jordan sponsors. 2K Sports put Jordan on the cover of its NBA 2K11 and 2K12 video games. His latest deal is with Presbyterian Healthcare and its Winston-Salem parent, Novant Health. The agreement signed last year was part of a sponsorship renewal for the Bobcats franchise. It was the first time Jordan included himself as a carrot to close a team sponsorship deal. Jordan will appear in TV ads for the hospital system.

Jordan still resonates strongly with consumers. His 22 million Facebook fans rank fourth among athletes, behind only soccer icons Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and David Beckham. His Q score, which measures awareness and popularity, is 43 among sports fans. The next highest active athlete is Peyton Manning at 32. Jordan has had the top Q score among sports fans every year since 1987. The one exception was in 1990 when Joe Montana usurped him for a single year (Tiger Woods is the only athlete to top MJ’s Q Score among the general population, which he did once in 2008).

“Jordan is unique in that he has been able to maintain that emotional connection with his consumer base for more than 25 years,” says Henry Schafer, Executive Vice-President at the Q Score Company.

Jordan’s net worth is estimated at $650 million thanks to years of endorsement checks and $90 million in salary from the Bulls. Jordan’s net worth has the potential to surge through his 80% stake in the Bobcats. The team has been losing as much as $20 million annually and part of Jordan’s ownership agreement included providing working capital to cover those losses. Those deficits will shrink under the NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement, which triples the amount of revenue sharing from high-revenue to low-revenue teams. The Bobcats will be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the new plan and are expected to receive as much as $18 million annually by next season. The value of the Bobcats was up 14% to $315 million, including $150 million in debt, in Forbes recent annual look at the business of basketball.

Happy birthday, Michael. It’s been a memorable first half-century. Next stop: the Forbes billionaires list.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Jesus Boy . . . Pentecostal . . . Maybe

Here is an interesting review of JESUS BOY I found on http://literarypentecostal.blogspot.com/2012/09/review-of-preston-allens-jesus-boy.html.

The reviewer Andrew Connolly divided the site into 4 parts--Author Bio, Plot Description, Pentecostal Elements, and Critical Response--but I'll only re-post the Plot Description and Pentecostal Elements sections.



"Plot Description" Jesus Boy spans somewhere between 10-15 years and recounts the affair of Elwyn Parker and Sister Elaine Morrisohn. When the affair begins, in 1979, Elwyn is just 16 while Elaine is 42. While Elwyn is wracked by guilt as the affair begins, Elaine is not, instead taking pleasure in their encounters and asserting that the Faithful of Our Blessed Redeemer Who Walked Upon the Waters, a predominantly black Holiness church in Florida, are simply too strict.

Eventually the couple are found out by Elwyn’s family. Despite his family’s efforts to end the affair, the couple continue to see each other, and even plan to get married until Elwyn’s grandmother reveals that Elaine’s dead husband, Buford, is actually Elwyn’s grandfather. Even though there is no blood relationship between Elwyn and Elaine, the connection is enough to scare him away from marrying her. He does not, however, end their affair.

When Elwyn goes away to college he experiences a crisis of faith from which he never fully recovers. In large part, this crisis is a result of his inability to reconcile his affair with his faith. Elaine, though she still attends church, is unconcerned as long as Elwyn continues to see her. He does this despite marrying another woman.

In the end, Elaine passes away and Elwyn sits by her deathbed, still unsure about how to feel about her, their relationship, and his faith.

The novel also contains many subplots and one major flashback. One of the more important subplots features Peachie, Elwyn’s first love, who marries Elwyn’s rival Barry. While Barry starts a church and television ministry with fluctuating success, he cheats on his wife and beats her. Eventually, they separate. Peachie and Elwyn remain friends even after Elaine dies. In the flashback, Buford has an affair while married to his first wife. This flashback story has striking similarities to the story of Gabriel in James Baldwin’s Go Tell It on the Mountain.

The novel ends with a kind of epilogue, where Elwyn has become a womanizing car salesman who specializes in selling cars to preachers. He becomes dissatisfied with selling, and in an act of kindness, makes reparations to a woman who purchases a damaged vehicle. Though he no longer attends church, he frequently quotes scripture to himself, sometimes ironically and even criticizes contemporary believers for their lack of commitment. Clearly haunted by his religious upbringing, Elwyn finds a way to salvage part of it: he begins to believe that God is love. He does not begin attending church again, nor does he leave his position at the dealership (despite threatening to), but he has found a belief he can build on.



"Pentecostal Elements"

Unlike some of the other memoirs and novels, Jesus Boy makes a sharp distinction between Holiness churches and Pentecostal ones. It is an important reminder that, while in some areas and churches the terms are used interchangeably, that is not always the case.

While Elwyn is at college, he meets Donna and her father, whom he refers to as “Holy Rollers.” Elwyn attends their church and discovers the real difference between Holiness and Pentecostal churches is “the noise. The Rollers used tambourines and drums along with their piano and organ” (210). Of course, that is not the only difference. There is some implication that the Pentecostals engage in speaking in tongues and other ecstatic experiences far more often than the Faithful of the Holiness church. Elwyn sees all of this as showboating.

This does not mean that Holiness believers never engage in ecstatic religious experiences. During a Holiness tent meeting, one of the female believers is slain in the spirit and trembles as the ushers carry her to the back of the church. Various other members cry and pray. Eventually, a white minister who is at the meeting grabs the microphone, speaks in tongues, and runs out of the tent. No interpretation/translation follows. The event startles the other participants at the meeting, but they all seem to interpret it as a miracle. Furthermore, it is interesting that the man is identified simply as the “white man" by the characters. Although his presence points to the multi-ethnic nature of the Holiness church (reinforced in other passages), the constant focus on his race indicates that white members are still a minority.

Even more than these instances of ecstatic religious experience, the constant references to the Holy Spirit moving on/in/over people bears a strong relationship to Pentecostal churches. While it begins in church services, characters begin to use it as an ironic metaphor for sex.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Martin Luther King: March on Washington Turns Fifty

50 Years Later, A March On Washington Among Generations

by Hansi Lo Wang

NPR August 24, 2013 3:00 PM

They came by the beat of drums: grandparents with their grandchildren, community organizers and activists, church members and college students.

A slow, early-morning trickle of foot traffic out of the subway and off tour buses grew into a steady stream. By mid-morning, thousands filled around the reflecting pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial for of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

Many carried blue-and-yellow, poster board signs distributed by NAACP volunteers like Moné Armah of Houston, who stood by boxes where marchers could choose from a menu of printed slogans — from "We March For Jobs And Freedom" to "Protect Voting Rights."

The signs echoed similar calls for economic opportunities for all Americans 50 years ago. Back then, Todd Endo of Amissville, Va., helped carry a blue banner calling for "Better Americans For A Greater America," as he, his mother and other members of the Japanese American Citizens League walked across the National Mall.

Endo, now 71, stood near the reflecting pool while Martin Luther King Jr., declared his dream to the world. But Endo couldn't hear King's words. "The audio [system] wasn't very good. They had no video," he explained. "You could barely see the Lincoln Memorial, so we didn't hear any of the speeches."

Fifty years ago, Jo Ann Johnson from the Bronx in New York City also stood on the National Mall. She was barely a teenager then. This time she arrived early with a folding chair and sandwiches for a better view of the speaker's podium.

Johnson recalled the metaphorical "check" from America's "bank of justice" that King mentioned in . The check was supposed to extend "the riches of freedom and the security of justice" to all African-Americans. But Johnson said as an African-American in 2013, she's "still waiting for the check."

Just two years old when King spoke, Eric Cole of Cincinnati was too young to understand the struggle in 1963. There's been progress over the years, but he said he's a "realist."

"I'm not looking for any miracles" to come out of the march's commemoration, Cole explained. "But I'm hoping that at least the consciousness will be raised about high unemployment."

Consciousness was just one of the goals for the national leaders who spoke on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Attorney General Eric Holder emphasized that America's struggle for justice will go on "until every eligible American has the chance to exercise his or her right to vote, unencumbered by discriminatory or unneeded procedures, rules, or practices" and the criminal justice system "can ensure that all are treated equally and fairly in the eyes of the law" — references to at the Justice Department under his leadership.

Other speakers called for the repeal of "stand your ground" laws, a central focus in the Florida trial and acquittal of George Zimmerman for the killing of teenager Trayvon Martin. Myrlie Evers-Williams, widow of the slain civil rights activist Medgar Evers, urged the crowd to apply a different meaning to the name of the controversial law.

"We can think of 'standing your ground' in the negative." Evers-Williams said. "But I ask you today to flip that coin. Stand your ground in terms of fighting for justice and equality!"

Evers-Williams represented an earlier generation of civil rights leaders who took to the podium. That generation, Rev. Al Sharpton underlined in his keynote speech, paved the way to success for younger generations.

"You got there because some unleaded grandmas, who never saw [an] inside of a college campus [and] put [their] bodies on the line in Alabama and Mississippi and sponsored you up here," said Sharpton, founder and president of the National Action Network, which helped organize Saturday's event.

Cory Booker, the 44-year-old mayor of Newark, N.J., and U.S. Senate candidate, directed his speech to his peers who, like him, "were not even alive" for the 1963 March on Washington.

"I call upon my generation to understand that we can never pay back the struggles and the sacrifices of the generation before," he said. "But it is our moral obligation to pay it forward."

It's a call to action that inspires Kwanzaa Nivens, 38, of Washington, D.C.

"Just to hear what a lot of people went through 50 years ago to get us to where we are today, it really motivates me to do more."

For Nivens, doing "more" on Saturday meant marching to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and then the Washington Monument in her tennis shoes. She'll lace them up again on Wednesday as a volunteer at another commemoration on the March on Washington's official 50th anniversary.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Doggies in the Pews

Sweet

"Dog Attends Daily Mass at Church Where Dead Owner Used to Go"

By Spooky on January 17th, 2013

Ciccio, a 12-year-old German shepherd, whose owner passed away two months ago, visits the church she used to frequent and where her funeral was celebrated, patiently waiting for her to return.

The people attending the church of Santa Maria Assunta in San Donaci, Italy have received a lesson in love and loyalty from a dog that for the past two months has been coming in for the daily mass, hoping his beloved owner would return. Local Maria Margherita Lochi, 57, had adopted Ciccio years ago, after she found him abandoned in the fields near her home. She was an animal lover who had taken in several stray cats and dogs, but her connection with Ciccio was special. Apparently he felt the same way, as even though Maria died two months ago, the dog keeps coming back to the place he last saw her. She would walk with him to the church, for the daily Mass, and the priest would allow him to wait patiently at her feet. He was even there with Maria’s loved ones at her funeral. But Ciccio seems to have a tough time letting go, and he comes back into the church each day, as soon as he hears the bells calling in the faithful for the Holy Mass. He just sits by the side of the altar, quietly, hoping Maria will come back…

“He’s there every time I celebrate Mass and is very well behaved – he doesn’t make a sound, I’ve not heard one bark from him in all the time he has been coming in,” says Father Donato Panna. “He’s still coming to Mass even after Maria’s funeral, he waits patiently by the side of the altar and just sits there quietly. I didn’t have the heart to throw him out – I’ve just recently lost my own dog so I leave him there until Mass finishes and then I let him out.” Everyone in San Donaci has been so impressed by Ciccio’s loyalty to his owner that they decided to adopt and look after him.

This kind of heart-breaking stories never cease to impress me. I posted quite a few of them on OC, if you’re looking to shed some tears: Capitan, who has been living by his owner’s grave for 6 years, Leao, the dog who lost his master to landslides in Brazil, or the Russian dog who stood guard over his mate’s body for a week, after she was hit by a car. Tragic stories that make me appreciate dogs even more.

Ariel Gonzalez Interviews Preston L. Allen on WLRN radio

Religion has often played a role in Preston L. Allen's fiction, but perhaps never more so than in his new novel, "Jesus Boy." Set in Florida, it follows a group of black fundamentalists who have trouble distinguishing the sacred from the profane. Allen has won praise for his accessible style, raunchy wit, and compassion for human foibles.

Literary contributor Ariel Gonzalez spoke with Allen. He began by asking him why there was so much sex in his work. The interview begins with Allen's reply.

Preston L. Allen WLRN Interview With Ariel Gonzalez Part 1

Preston L. Allen WLRN Interview With Ariel Gonzalez Part 2

Reading at the Pen Festival 2010

May-June 2010, New York, NY

Preston L. Allen reading at the Pen with Javier Cercas, Siri Hustvedt, Karl O. Knausgaard, Anne Landsman, Thomas Pletzinger, Monique Proulx, Lee Stringer, Christos Tsiolkas, and Tommy Wieringa

Book Review: Chicago Center for Literature and Photography



Regular readers know that I believe the key to a successful novel to be the combination of an exciting plot and deep characterization; but if I'm forced to choose only one or the other in any particular book, I think it's clear by now that I generally prefer the former over the latter, in that stories featuring barely-defined characters doing interesting things tend to be inherently more entertaining in my head than ones where interesting people sit around doing nothing. So I'm always excited, then, when I come across the rare character-heavy novel that I end up liking quite a bit; take for example the recently released Jesus Boy by Florida professor Preston L. Allen, author of the previous gambling novel All Or Nothing which also garnered quite a bit of praise, both of which were put out by our pals at Akashic Books, who in the last few years has seemed almost incapable of making a wrong move. I thought today, then, I would take the opportunity to do an actual analytical examination of what makes this such a great character-driven novel when so many others fail so spectacularly at it, as a way of hopefully passing along a few tips to fellow writers out there who are struggling over the same issues; because believe me, Jesus Boy is an almost textbook example of how to put together an intriguing and page-flipping yet plot-light story, and it's no wonder that Akashic signed this despite it having little to do with the subversive culture and hipster characters that define most of the other titles in their catalog.

As you can imagine, step one with books like these is to create a fascinating milieu for your characters to inhabit, which Allen does: he in fact sets this book within the world of radical Protestant churches in rural south Florida with mostly black congregations, the kinds of groups with names like "The Holy Rollers" who consider even Southern Baptists to be timid wannabes, and who create elaborate conservative moral codes for their members which often contradict themselves in their specific rules. And indeed, that's what makes this milieu so fascinating, is that as human beings, the desires of these groups' members often come into direct conflict with the restrictive code of behavior they are trying to maintain; and this is in fact what Allen mostly examines in Jesus Boy, the various ways that the private lives of his expansive cast betray their public lives as the religiously pious, and the ways these schisms affect the long-term lives of these characters over the course of approximately half a century and several generations, from roughly the Jim Crow 1940s to the hiphop 1990s.

Now of course, this particular milieu is also ripe for easy, lazy stereotyping -- after all, it's these organizations that spawn most of our nation's televangelists -- which leads to my second tip concerning such novels, that they require not only fascinating environments but unique and compelling looks at these environments; and this Allen also does, centering the tale around the complex "Jesus Boy" of the book's title, a naturally gifted piano player who was hailed by his church at a young age as a zealous musical warrior for God, and who then struggles for the rest of his life over the balance between his spirituality and his heathen side, complicated even further by his decades-long secret relationship with a MILF-like older church member (during their first tryst, he's 16 and she's 42), as well as his manytimes humorous multicultural adventures at the secular state university he ends up attending. This then leads us to a closer examination of his lover as well, who turns out to have had a very similar experience in her past but that time playing the younger role, which as the novel progresses we learn is tied in complicated ways to the muddled lives of all the other characters, which then drops us down the rabbithole of how crazy and screwed-up all these relationships within the church are, filtered by such factors as pre-civil-rights

segregation, the expectations of "manliness" within African-American society, the disconnect between what we want and what we can have, and of course the all-important public face of respectability that members of the church are expected to wear at all times.

This then nicely leads us to my third tip concerning character-heavy novels, that if you're to attempt a story light on action scenes, it's important to make those scenes count for as much as possible; and it's here that Allen really shines, in that like Michael Chabon, all of his well-placed plot-oriented moments serve as true catalysts for twisting the entire story in a new direction, delivering by the end what's still a deep character study but that is quickly-paced and always inspires you to excitedly wonder what's next, whether that's the occasional fistfight or discovery of infidelity, a flight from the law or the disgrace of a popular preacher. And that of course leads to my fourth tip concerning such books, the one probably best known already, that when you choose to write a story based mostly on character, it helps to give that story a strong sense of personal style as well; and here too Allen is just great, penning the entire manuscript in a way that's both poetic and easy to read, and with a sly humor that complements very well the unhurried Southern story he's telling.

Add all these things up, like I said, and you have that special rare character-oriented novel that reads like an airport thriller, not just lively and entertaining but that gets you thinking about all kinds of subjects for the first time, or at least thinking about them in new ways. As with many recent Akashic books, I suspect that Jesus Boy will be popping up again in one of my best-of lists at the end of the year, and it comes highly recommended today whether or not you're a natural fan of character-heavy stories or fundamentalist Christians.

Out of 10: 9.3

by Jason Pettus

Review of Jesus Boy by Geoffrey Philp, Author of Who's Your Daddy and Other Stories

Just when you thought it was safe to go back to church, Preston Allen writes Jesus Boy, a story about a young Christian, Elwyn Parker, who falls in love with an older woman, Elaine Morrisohn, a matriarch in the Church of Our Blessed Redeemer Who Walked Upon the Waters. In many ways this was a difficult book to review, not only because Preston Allen is my friend and colleague at Miami Dade College, but also because of my own history with fundamentalist Christianity and Preston’s ability to depict the tortured consciousness of a teenage true believer at war with his faith and his flesh:

"At sixteen, I met my first great temptation, and I yielded with surprisingly little resistance, I who had proclaimed myself strong in the Lord. There had been, it seems, a chink in my armor, through which Satan had thrust his wicked sword" (34).

And as if dealing with his hyperactive conscience wasn’t enough, Elwyn’s plight is exacerbated by Elaine Morrisohn’s deliberate pursuit of him, even during church services:

"As she sat down with a satisfied smile on her face, she knew she was being naughty. She shouldn’t have shouted like that, but she was trying to send him a message by shouting like she did during orgasm…She just wanted to rip off her clothes and fly to him. He was so tight and so fresh and so full of juice…he was a lean, strong fresh-tasting black boy—he looked good enough to eat" (77).

But Elwyn wants to be saved. Desperately. Yet the God that Elwyn serves is a God of wrath who is eager to punish sinners, especially women who wear pants or jewelry and who listen to “worldly” music. Growing up in this kind of environment Elwyn becomes a holier-than-thou preacher—an attitude that he exhibits long after he has left the fold:

"God’s people have to be apart. They have to be different. Christians these days—I don’t understand them at all. They go to parties, they drink, they have premarital sex, they wear the fashions of the world. Even the music. These days you can’t tell the difference between a church song and hip hop" (361).

What is remarkable about Jesus Boy is Allen’s use of point of view. He writes as an insider, someone who knows the secrets within the black community and reports the intimacies of people who want to live, love, and praise God. And he does this without resorting to stereotypes or clichés. Allen explores the black family and black religion without the filters of white validation, effectively banishing the "double consciousness" theory of W. E. B. Du Bois. The characters in Jesus Boy exist in a milieu in which whites exist peripherally. Jesus Boy asserts without rancor: This is our story.

And this perhaps is one of the major accomplishments of the novel. Allen uncovers the hypocrisies within the black church in the way that James Baldwin’s Go Tell It On The Mountain exposed the vision of its adherents—a world divided not along racial lines, but between the “saved” and the unsaved. And because being “saved” requires denial of the most basic human impulses, the “saved” are always in state of guilt over the state of their soul:

"Demons, I was certain, frolicked in my room after the lights were turned off. At night, I watched stricken with fear, as the headlights of passing automobiles cast animated shadows on the walls of my room. Only God, who I believed loved my singing voice, could protect me from the wickedness lurking in the dark. Thus, I sang all of God’s favorite tunes—hummed when I didn’t know the words—in order to earn his protection" (13).

There is much to admire about Jesus Boy. From the cover designed like an old family Bible to the genealogy list of the begetting that took place in Elwyn’s family, the novel has hints of Faulkner with an oversexed patriarch and a family history of incest, abuse, and illicit romance. Preston Allen has truly written what Dennis Lehane has deemed a “tender masterpiece.”

***

Preston L. Allen, a recipient of a State of Florida Individual Artist Fellowship, is the author of the critically acclaimed novel All or Nothing (Akashic) and the award-winning collection Churchboys and Other Sinners (Carolina Wren Press). His stories have appeared in numerous magazines and journals and have been anthologized in Brown Sugar (Penguin), Miami Noir (Akashic), and Las Vegas Noir (Akashic). He lives in South Florida.

The Spectator: Review of Jesus Boy

BOOK: ‘Jesus Boy’ by Preston L. Allen

If the church’s name isn’t intense enough, Our Blessed Redeemer Who Walked Upon The Waters has an intense set of rules and lifestyle regulations to match in Preston Allen’s latest novel.

The novel follows one Elwyn Parker, a member of the Our Blessed Redeemer congregation who firmly abides by its teachings: no drinking, no smoking, no coffee, no secular music and no pants for women. But of course the story doesn’t just explicate the strictness of the church; it explores the turmoil running beneath its surface, and the primal urges common to all of its members. These primal urges compel Parker to explore the taboo topics that exist outside of his church’s borders—which means just about everything non-religious that life has to offer.

The book is equal parts an exploration of church-sexy and sex-sexy, and it provides an intriguing, sometimes gripping glance into the psychology of a person wrestling with the nature of religiously-imposed restriction.

Mission Statement

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About Me

Miami, Florida, United States
According to Author's Den: "He cut his teeth on the classics of the golden age of science fiction, the lurid bestselling thrillers of the sixties and seventies, and the Holy Bible (King James Version). He grows up to pen fiction that rages with truth and insight--a master of erotica, thrillers, romance, noir, Preston L. Allen is America's writer. So let it be written, so let it be read."