Welcome!

Have some coffee… or I’ve got iced tea, do you like sweet or unsweet?… and take a seat. Let’s visit.

If you’re here for my my novel, The Fellowship, and my short story collection, Go Right, you’re in the right place. You can buy both, either in print or ebook, from my Bookshop:

The Fellowship

Go Right

Alternatively, The Fellowship and Go Right are also available through Amazon and other online sellers. 

If you’ve come to the blog to see what I have to say, I discuss issues that I write about: Christian authoritarianism, patriarchy, womanhood, recovery from legalism, marriage, coming to terms with racism, common-sense relationships, and just being a good person.

You can find me on Facebook as Sara Roberts Jones Author.

Check under the Writing > Blogging menu above to find links to posts I’ve written elsewhere.

And thanks for dropping in. I hope you’ll stay with me!

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Back to Hackney’s: The Sequel

I really did write a sequel to Hackey’s Novel Shop. There was more that had to be said. You can’t stop Art and Thinking and all that sort of thing, you know.

Back to Hackney’s

Clouds loomed and the wind lashed against the glass front doors of the Novel Shop (B. Hackney, proprietor). Someone scurried in from the wet and cold, jangling the bell above the door. It was the recently-celebrated author Faith Tritely, whose book A Heart’s Cry had made a big hit in the Christian fiction market. “And I owe it all to Hackney!” Faith would say fondly.

Today, as she shook the water from her coat and umbrella, she looked around the shop inquiringly. It wasn’t like Hackney to leave her waiting.

“He’ll be here shortly,” a clerk assured her. In a hushed voice she added, “It’s been a trying day.”

In a few moments, Hackney himself appeared. He looked dapper and, as always, delighted to see her. But there was a tightness about his mouth that concerned Faith.

“Is everything right?” she asked.

“Yes, yes, quite all right.” He paused, and drew an elegant hand across his brow. “I had a difficult customer with the most unsettling requests. Gave me a turn. How refreshing to see you, my dear Ms. Tritely!” His smile returned. “Am I to hope you’re here to announce…” He paused significantly.

Faith beamed. “Yes! I’m going to do a sequel!”

“Marvelous news! Congratulations!” Hackney cried. “Let’s waste no time! What can I do for you?”

Faith hesitated. “The story has been coming to me almost unbidden. I can see if unfolding in my mind’s eye. I hope it isn’t… I hope you have…”

For a fleeting moment, Hackney’s smile slipped. His face took on a white-lipped look of ferocity. But almost as soon as it came, the look vanished, replaced by his usual good-humored expression. Faith told herself that she must have imagined it. “Tell me, Ms. Tritely. I’m confident I can help.”

She began diffidently, but soon warmed to her subject. “Well, the story concerns the daughter of my first heroine. I think I’m going to call her Angeline – you understand the reference, of course?”

“Of course!”

“Well, her father has died in a tragic accident, and Angeline feels compelled to discover his roots. Her quest takes her to the South — the war-torn, ravaged South, still on its knees after the fire and blood of the Civil War.” She paused for breath. “She’s inherited a derelict old mansion, you see. Along the way, she meets a nice young minister. But their carriage is held up by a irreverent young highwayman who heeds to pleas not to steal her money, but demands her amethyst necklace and a kiss from her.”

Hackney’s smile was genuinely sunny now. “And that highwayman is really a courageous fighter for the poor – ”

“ – against the false minister and his band of thieves and thugs, yes!” Faith exclaimed.

“And the Christian message is – ”

Together, they sang out, “Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart!”

Faith gazed at him in amazement. “Mr. Hackney, you are truly astonishing!”

Hackney bowed and beamed. “I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to do business with you. Now, let me show you our war-torn South settings!”

They headed for the green door with the gold lettering. But before they reached it, the sound of a muffled bell stopped Hackney abruptly in his tracks. He whipped around, and Faith saw it again — that expression of white ferocity. He glared over her shoulder, and she turned quickly to see who could warrant such a passionate dislike from the affable Mr. Hackney.

It was a middle-aged man, dripping from the rain, still with his hand on the bell to keep it from ringing out. He saw the look that Mr. Hackney gave him, and didn’t seem surprised. He let go of the bell and gently closed the door behind him. Every line in his body begged an apology before he even spoke.

“I’m sorry to disturb you. Just one more question…”

“Leave my store!” Mr. Hackney warned.

“Just one thing, I won’t take much time, just one question -– ”

Mr. Hackney was breathing hard through his nose. “I do not sell settings of small towns without dark horrible secrets.”

“I know, it’s not that -– ”

“And I do not sell good-hearted heroes who are nevertheless thirty-five pounds overweight.”

“Yes, you told me that -– ”

“I do not sell short, plump heroines with bad teeth!”

“That isn’t -– ” But the man interrupted his own protest. “But why not? I mean, I live in the twenty-first century, and my teeth are terrible. You know teeth in earlier eras had to be hideous. They probably didn’t see it as the stigma we would…” He saw Hackney’s expression and quickly added, “But I didn’t come back to discuss that. What I want to know…”

Suddenly remembering Faith, Hackney blushed a deep red and turned to her. “I apologize, Ms. Tritely. I should not have subjected you to my own temper like this. I apologize profusely.”

But Faith understood now. Imagine coming into this store and asking for bilge like that! “You ought to be ashamed of yourself!” she snapped. “This is a highly-respected fiction store. It doesn’t carry imperfect and… ugly merchandise!” She turned to Hackney. “I completely sympathize with you. My audience wouldn’t want to read about a plump heroine with bad teeth, honestly!”

The man looked frustrated. “All I want to know is if I can buy one of your heroines.”

Hackney and Faith looked at him suspiciously. “Which one?” Hackney asked. “You didn’t like any of my stock.”

“The brown-haired one, with blue eyes.”

Still suspicious, Hackney replied, “She is flawless and beautiful, with perfect teeth.”

“Yes. All I’m going to do is give her a prominent nose.”

His ire flared again, and Hackney waved at a clerk. “Show this man out! Get out of my shop, sir!”

“But we aren’t all beautiful,” the man protested, backing away from an advance of clerks. “Wouldn’t it be inspiring for readers to identify with a… a pleasant face who can attract… no, wait, listen… attract love anyway… you write Christian romances –- doesn’t God use even the ugly and defiled to show His beauty?” he finished desperately.

The effect was electric. The clerks stopped in mid-stride. Hackney and Faith stared at him, then at each other, in wonder. The man looked from one awe-struck face to another, and suddenly seemed to realize a great horror. He sagged against the doorframe and groaned. “What have I done?”

Hackney called to his head clerk. “Sam! Get the warehouse on the phone! We need to discuss a design for a new heroine. What was it, brown hair, blue eyes, and a prominent nose?”

“But good teeth,” Faith added quickly. “No need to make her repulsive. Just plain.”

“Until love brings out her beauty,” Hackney added. “Why have I overlooked this aspect all this time? Ms. Tritely, I would be honored for you to be the first to use this new line of heroines.”

Blushing faintly, Faith stumbled, “Oh, Mr. Hackney! I –- The possibilities are thrilling! I’d imagined Angeline with raven-dark hair and flashing blue eyes, but she could be plain instead. Until the highwayman sees her inner beauty, and that’s how she finally realizes that God sees it, too!”

They fell into eager conversation, until suddenly Hackney looked up. “And we must thank you,” he said graciously, turning to the man.

But the man was gone, the bell jangling harshly after him. “What have I done?” he was heard to groan as he staggered into the driving rain.

Faith looked at Mr. Hackney, who gazed out the rain-spattered door after the man. “A strange man,” he murmured. “But even the strange ones can come up with a good idea every now and then.”

***

My soul now rests in peace.

Hackney’s Novel Shop

About ten years ago, I read a book that made quite a big splash in the world of Christian romance. It still comes up in conversation occasionally; it deeply resonated with some women.

I guess you could say that it resonated with me, but not exactly in the same way. I mean, those other women felt validated and even healed of past wounds. I, um… well, I wrote a parody of it.

Hackney’s Novel Shop

The bell tinkled as an author pushed open the front door and walked into the shop. The proprietor looked up and smiled. “May I help you?”

The author didn’t answer immediately. First-timers were always a little overwhelmed by the shop. Finally, her eyes stopped on the large, friendly-looking sign above the check-out station:

Your One-Stop Shop for People, Plots, and Places
B. Hackney, proprietor

“Can I help you find something?” B. Hackney prompted gently.

As if shaking off a daze, the author said, “Um, yes. I’m writing a novel.”

Hackney nodded, still patient.

“And I need… well, pretty much everything. A friend recommended me, said you could set me up.”

“My pleasure!” Hackney exclaimed. “May I ask who I have the honor of serving today?”

She blushed slightly. “I write under my pen name, Faith Tritely. You’ve never heard of me.” With a lift of her chin, she added, “Yet.”

“Delighted to meet an up-and-comer, Ms. Tritely. If you’ll follow me, let’s start with the setting. That dictates the rest of your choices, you understand. Can’t have a Southern belle in an ancient Persian palace, for instance.”

Faith’s eyes lit up. Hackney shook his head firmly. “No, no, I don’t at all encourage mixing-and-matching. Very rarely works. Best to stick with the package. Trust me, all our settings have been great successes.” He moved quickly across the floor to a large, ornate door. It was painted green, with gold lettering that said, Settings and Backdrops. Opening it, he ushered Faith inside.

It was an expansive room, with floor-to-ceiling rolls of tapestries. Faith looked at the nearest tapestry: it was a green-and-gold forest scene, with a large castle just visible through the trees. A crowd of colorfully-dressed people made their way down a winding road to a village market in the distance, past a row of thatch-roof cottages.

“That’s our Medieval setting,” Hackney said. “Very, very popular.” Indeed, there were a few threadbare places visible here and there, especially around the castle, the tourney, and the romantic moonlit bower. “Is your novel a medieval one?”

“No,” she said, regretfully turning her eyes away. “No, it’s a California mining town, circa. 1850.”

“Ah! A popular choice as well.” Hackney pulled down a roll and gave it a firm jerk. The tapestry spun off and settled on the floor, where Faith studied it with a pleased smile. It was all there: the dusty air, the muddy streets, the ramshackle houses. Horses plodded along with fully-outfitted cowboys on their backs (most of the cowboys wearing red bandanas and brown hats). Along the bare dirt Main Street were four wooden buildings: the Bank, the General Store, the Jail, and the Saloon and Brothel.

“I’m going to need a church in mine.”

“Certainly! That’s an add-in for only $1.49.” He fished in a plastic bucket and pulled out a white clapboard church with a steeple. “And a school too?” he added, holding up a red schoolhouse.

“No, just the church. Thanks. This is exactly what I need.”

“Great!” said Hackney. “I’ll have them wrap this up for you. Let’s move on… Characters, would you say?”

They stepped through the green door, and Hackney led the way to another door, this one painted yellow and marked, Characters, Main and Supporting.

This room was smaller, but brightly lit. Several round racks were hung with full-size cardboard people. Faith read the signs posted above each rack: Heroines. Heroes. Best Friends. Master Villains. Minor Villains and Thugs. Assorted. One rack proclaimed, Clearance! The rack was full of soft, plump, lacy Victorian heroines and hard-edged misogynistic action heroes.

She looked through the Heroine rack, taking her time with the decision. She finally narrowed it down to the tall, slender, red-haired one with flashing green eyes, or the tall, slender, golden-haired one with the alabaster complexion. “Just so hard to decide!” she said. “But I think I’ll go with this one.” She lifted off the blond heroine. Hackney smiled and set it aside.

“Now to heroes,” he said.

This choice was easier: “I’d know him if I saw him on the street!” she exclaimed, thumbing through the choices. “And here he is, exactly.”

“Ah, the tall, broad-shouldered, hard-bodied working man, with blue eyes and dark hair,” Hackney noted, and propped the hero next to the heroine.

“Now for the villain,” Faith said.

“We have several popular Master Villains in stock,” said Hackney. “Here’s the rude and shrewd one… No? Here’s the violently angry one… Not that one? How about this one, the polished and polite, sinister one? Yes, definitely a good choice. You’ll see that he comes with three free phrases: ‘My dear, you look lovely; Oh, my, what a temper you have!’ and ‘I do hate to have to make things messy!’”

“Perfect!”

“And today we have a special. Buy one Master Villian and get a Minor Villain half-price.”

The offer was too good to resist. She chose the dumb, dirty, and violent Minor Villain.

For the next hour, Faith browsed the other racks. She finished with an impressive collection of supporting characters, including a Villain-Who-Reforms, an entire set of The Benevolent Family (“they take in my heroine when no one else will,”) a Loyal Friend, a Wise Friend, and a “Uses Heroine For Greedy Schemes” Villain.

“Excellent, excellent!” said Hackney. “I’ll have these wrapped up for you. Before we move on, please look through this bin of Motivations. Our customers often find helpful tidbits there.”

She ordered the Deeply Hurt and Iron Will cards for the Heroine, and the Sensitivity and Understanding cards for the Hero. Hackney smiled, “Is there anything else I can help you with?”

“Do you have any pre-packaged scenes for my particular setting?”

“Oh, do we!” Hackney replied happily, and led the way to a large shelf along the back of the main room. “Let’s see, 1850s mining town… Here you go. This entire section contains applicable scenes. You’ll see that your Motivation cards have a colored dot on them. The scenes are color-coded to reinforce the Motivations.”

It was a happy half-hour as she sifted through scenes to include in her novel. She chose a Childbirth scene, complete with flustered husband, serene wife, and pots of hot water. For the Hero and Heroine, she chose a Playful Run Through the Field (useful for breaking down the Iron Will, according to the scene’s specifications). She found several brothel scenes, and chose one with world-weary harlots exchanging hard-edged dialogue during their off-hours.

“Just one more thing for now,” said the author. “My novel is a romance…”

“Say no more!” Hackney led the way to a pink-painted door marked Romance and Erotica. This room looked much like the Settings room, but was quite stuffy. The far back of the store was obscured by an opaque fug. “Light romance or…”

“Light,” Faith said quickly.

Hackney walked up to a roll marked “Western” and pulled off a length of bright red. It steamed slightly in his hands.

“Um, it’s a Christian romance…”

“Right. We’ve got those.” Hackney re-wound the red and turned to another roll. He pulled off a shorter length of pink, which was merely warm to the touch. “How many do you need?”

“Well, none of them too long, but a lot of them throughout.”

“Great! I’ll have those wrapped up for you. Now, if this is a Christian romance, you’ll want to look through our Morals box and see if there’s anything that will help you. Self-Sacrificing Love is a very popular, as is Knowing God By Falling In Love.”

At last, laden down with packages, Faith watched a clerk ring up her purchases. The price pleased her. “This is so much more economical. I heard that J.K. Rowling had a lot of her stuff customized, and it was over the top expensive.”

“Yes. I always recommend going with the pre-fab, at least when you’re starting out,” Hackney agreed.

As he escorted her to the door, he said, “If you need anything else, please come back! We’ve got a new shipment of Crisis and Catharsis Scenes coming in next week. Great for resolving relationship problems quickly.”

“Yes, thank you!”

“And remember,” Hackney added, “we have a special buyers’ program for sequels.”

Faith Tritely’s eyes glowed. “I’ll be back,” she promised.

**

And then I wrote a sequel!

First Draft!

Today I finished a complete draft of my current novel. DJ took me out for ice cream.

The occasion certainly deserved a mint-chocolate-chip sugar cone from a specialty ice cream store. I’ve been working on this draft for two years, and this week I shoved everything else aside and wrote for six to eight hours a day just to get to that last chapter.

Of course, that chapter, and the forty-eight preceding it, will have to undergo some serious editing and revision to get it up to actual “I wrote a novel” level. But I can’t get to that until I finish this.

So today I’m this much closer to introducing the world to Richmal Griffin, librarian and self-described supernerd, whose sense of justice is as vibrant as the Cherry Bomb lipstick she loves to wear.

8 Late Updates

The updates aren’t particularly late, I guess. But it rhymes!

Interesting how nothing bloggable has happened since November, huh? Well, the truth is, too much has happened — many things that made me think, “I should post about that.” You know what they say about good intentions and how they’re ideal for diabolical road maintenance. I’m just giving up and writing out a list of updates.

1. I’m writing a novel. Yes, the same one I’ve mentioned over the past (sigh) two years. Two or three times, I thought the end was in sight. I got really excited. And then I’d run into a snag that required me to go several chapters back and rewrite. Which is where I am now, having to write in an entirely new event to justify the climax.

2. It’s going to be a good novel! My problem is that I tend to write stories that are similar to existing genres, but don’t quite fit in one. They’re too lighthearted for drama and too serious for beach reads. So in my current novel, I’ve got a young librarian in a small town who has two love interests; but at the same time she’s dealing with the ongoing effects of racism and abuse. So definitely not an easy fit into one particular category.

3. I’m putting this item third, but I really ought to put it first, last, and in between all other points. In January, my kids’ best friend, a 13-year-old boy who was like a nephew to me, died suddenly of a previously unsuspected brain clot. He and his family have lived directly across from us for sixteen years, and he spent hours at our house. His loss is inexpressible. My kids are still pretty numb, and my husband is able to compartmentalize a broken heart. But I go through every day with my brain repeating, over and over, that our favorite friend is gone. It’s very difficult to watch his family grieve, and to try not looking too far ahead at all the years that he won’t be here. It’s hard, and sad, and I wish we could rewind and get another chance.

4. But life goes on, weirdly enough. I can switch from flooding tears to figuring out the day’s schedule in a moment.

5. Some stuff has been happening in the Toxic Christian Patriarchy world. A lot of it happened around the time we lost our friend, and I just couldn’t dredge up enough spirit to care. Fortunately, others have covered it better than I could anyway.

Go here to read about how Bill Gothard of IBLP/ATI had to face his accusers in court. The suit was dismissed due to the statute of limitations, but the judge allowed each woman to speak and validated them afterward.

Here’s the Joy frequently covers the various implosions among long-entrenched church leaders.

You know how Christians are always looking at “our country” and shaking their heads and praying for revival? If you ask me, those prayers are being answered. Powerful men are finding that they can’t squash their victims’ voices like  generations of men before them could.

6. We’re finishing up another year of homeschooling, but this year is different — this year we’re graduating our oldest daughter. I wrote an open letter to her to commemorate the occasion. It’s odd to be writing to an almost-adult, when I still clearly remember her as a newborn baby with her nose smashed sideways from the birth.

7. I’m seriously excited about this novel I’m writing. (It’s still untitled since I can’t title my works until I’m done.) I’m finding space to allow my characters to be that confusing mix of good and bad that everyone is. It’s especially important in this novel, I think, because it’s set in a little Southern town with the usual history of racism. It would be all too easy to write it as “bad guys racist, good guys not.” But I strive to write real, human characters — and none of us possess all of the approved virtues that would make us a full-fledged “good guy.”  If only I could keep the plot from tangling up, I’d get this thing done!

8. (The fact that there’s a plot at all is a dramatic improvement from my earlier attempts at novels.)

Summer is coming. Writing is on the docket. That looks pretty good to me.

Mock-A-Meme 21

You know how you have those friends who come to mind in times of need? Someone to talk to, someone to help you out, someone to appreciate a really horrible meme… guess which one I qualify for.

In related news, I’ve got a buildup of memes that I need to snark at, so here we go.

Click here if you have no idea what Mock-A-Meme is and why in the world it’s on this blog.

Meme Cliff

This one-session Bible study was entitled, “How gravity can bring us into the presence of God.” It was not very popular.

Meme Plant Woman

She lists all these painful things, but it seems like she’s forgetting a couple of possibilities. I do appreciate that she’s streamlined her wardrobe to only one sock, which is obviously all she needs at this stage of growth.

Losing Beer Pong

Whose yelling at the beer pong table because she’s losing… is what? Don’t leave me hanging!

And this bit of advice specifically states that she’s losing. Not the ideal breeding partner, obviously. You know why? Well, memes tell us why!

Women

In other words, women are created solely to give birth and breastfeed babies. Don’t know what’s wrong with this generation, so busy encouraging women to do anything else! This is what keeps them unique among the standard type of humans, otherwise known as men.

Also, womanly uniqueness is best preserved if you’re young with flawless makeup and awesome hair.

So there you have it. Once again, memes show us the ideal woman. She’s that unique creature who:

  • Grows trees from her body
  • Yells at beer pong
  • Leaps off cliffs
  • Has babies and breastfeeds them

Not necessarily in that order. Guess you need to get busy, girl.

 

And I still have more memes for a future post! That should give you something to look forward to while you’re sprouting saplings.

 

Fifty Shades of Fiction

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Am I coming out as a secret fan of Fifty Shades of Grey?

Well, the books began as a fan-fiction retelling of Twilight. I will say that I don’t like Fifty Shades as much as I liked Twilight. 

And I utterly despise Twilight.

No, I’m not a fan. I did try to read the first book. The writing was abysmal, the characters were intolerable, and having been fed toxic patriarchy in my younger years, the forced-submission stuff made me want to cry. A good sex story shouldn’t make you cry.

So why have I linked to the video below? Well, sorry, it’s actually not as salacious as secret sex dungeons and thinly-veiled abuse. I’m linking to one section of it where he talks about fiction vs. reality, because I think this is an area where people haven’t really thought through things.

I’ve heard many times, “How can a woman support the #metoo movement against sexual harassment when she reads things like Fifty Shades of Grey?” Or any erotic fantasy, really, because the genre so often blurs the line between consent and compulsion. This argument frustrates me. What people enjoy in fiction is often exactly the opposite of what they want in reality. In fiction you want conflict, drama, danger, and uncertainty. In real life, you want trust, reliability, peace, and security. Granted, I look askance at the fact that Fifty Shades was ever so popular because, really, it’s a very terrible series on many levels. But I don’t think that enjoying erotic fiction means a woman has no say in whether her boss can pat her butt or require sexual attention for her to keep her job.

The video explains it better, though. Why do we look for situations and stories in fiction that we don’t want in real life?

If you’ve got time, I recommend watching the whole thing, because he goes on to take apart 50 Shades (book and movie) and explain why it doesn’t work even in the context of fiction.

(Note: I have friends who like Twilight and Fifty Shades. Especially for Twilight, it really seemed to hit people on some deep level while they were dealing with difficult issues in their lives. I have no idea why, mostly because they can’t tell me either. They like it, I don’t, we’ve agreed to disagree.)

The Journal of S. Roberts J.

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The problem with my old journals is… well, me.

As I explain over at Legacy Leather Books today, my younger self was on a mission to make my mundane life as interesting as possible. I also read a lot of Jane Austen and P.G. Wodehouse. The result is this weird mix of rural Southern life and strained British wit. But hey. It’s not boring!

More seriously, not all of the memories I wrote down are pleasant for me to revisit. Those were my “Fellowship” days, when even my private thoughts had to conform to what I thought were God’s standards. I can see it at work in how I wrote spiritual phrases that I didn’t really say naturally; or how I was careful not to mention any “young man” in a way that suggested I thought he was attractive; or how I emphasized the many positives of my life, but didn’t explore the struggles and conflicts that I was going through.

Many of you who read my blog will understand this kind of internally-imposed control, which is why I mention it here. I didn’t get into all that over at Legacy. Over there, you can just laugh at my overly bright and sparkling prose.

Then linger to look at the handmade, family-heirloom-quality leather notebooks

I love these books. My first thought is that nothing I write is actually worthy of a book like this. But the more I think about it, the more I realize that anytime I write down my thoughts and memories, I’m preserving something priceless. Memories that don’t fade — those belong in a book that will last almost forever.

And besides, just look at this book. Or this one. Or this one. 

Oh. Are you still here? Sorry, I was browsing and dreaming.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy a few laughs at my 20-year-old pretentious self, and find a cut-above gift for a loved one… or, you know, for yourself.