Book Review: Cross Roads by William Paul Young

What you should know:

William Paul Young is the author of The Shack, which I’ve never written a review about.  If you are not familiar with that book you can read about it here the-shack-book-md

 

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or you can read about the movie based on the book here

 

Cross Roads is a very different book from The Shack in several ways.  Both books do have similar themes however.  Cross Roads is a novel that engages in a philosophical debate about personal beliefs, eternity, the nature of God, and the ideas of freedom, redemption, and forgiveness.  One of the similar themes between Cross Roads and The Shack is grief and the idea of being angry at God for the loss of a family member.  Cross Roads addresses this theme from a different point of view than The Shack does.

I think The Shack approaches the subject on the level of sovereignty and judgement.  While Cross Roads approaches it from the perspective of the fear of pain and suffering.  One theme that separates Cross Roads from The Shack is that the main theme of Cross Roads is death.

What I liked:

This is one of the funniest books I have read in a while.  There is humor woven throughout the entire novel.  Which might surprise you as death, divorce, and serious illness are prevalent in the story.  It has a compelling plot and several likeable characters. There are some amazing moments where someone says something really profound.  The author smoothly moves between two storylines, one where the protagonist is dealing with the events of his life and the other where he has a discussion with God about his soul.

During his discussions with God, the protagonist, Anthony Spencer, engages in very heady conversations about many important ideas and beliefs people have.  The book poses questions and offers answers without preaching.  Spencer is on a journey of sorts, one of discovery, where he finds answers which he is willing to accept without feeling forced to. This is genius, in my opinion.  And is worth reading for those parts alone.

What I didn’t like:

I thought it started too slowly.  I put it down for a while and finally picked it up again believing it would gather momentum because I found The Shack to be interesting.  Another similarity Cross Roads has to The Shack is its focus on extreme cases.  Anthony Spencer is extremely anti-Christian, while the protagonist in the Shack is extremely broken by the death of a child.  What’s wrong with that?  Well, not all of us can identify with these extreme positions.  But I guess the author would argue that we aren’t supposed to.

If Spencer is such an extreme is he realistic?  Now it could be fair for me to ask that, but I’d have to also admit that Spencer might not need to be realistic.  As long as enough of his thoughts and actions are reasonable, the fact he himself as a whole is arguably unbelievable doesn’t actually detract from the story.

Recommendation: Must Read

Cross Roads

Top 10 Movies That Take On Race Relations | MovieBabble

In his review of BlackKklansman (2018), starring John David Washington and Adam Driver, Collin Willis notes that recent films Get Out (2107) and Sorry to Bother You (2018) also address racial conflict past and present.  Here is a top 10 list of other films about race in America you may or may not have seen.

Is there one here you recognize as a favorite or one that you think provides the biggest impact on the topic of race?
— Read on moviebabblereviews.com/2018/08/16/top-10-movies-that-take-on-race-relations/

Writing Character Bios

Exercise:  Write a short bio for one of your lessor characters

Bio of Marie Marisol

How do you want readers to feel about the character?  Are they to have favorable or unfavorable feelings?  Will they like the character?  Will they be able to relate to her?  Probably if the character behaves in a manner that is consistent.  A bio can help guide you in how your character would perform in various situations.  What she will say and do.  So when you need something to happen in your story you know which character is most appropriate to assign that role to, because of their bio.

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Marie Marisol was born in Windsor, Canada.  Her father was a former French Canadian hockey player who worked as an equipment manager for the Detroit Red Wings professional hockey franchise.  Her mother’s family was a minority owner of the team.  Marie inherited her parents’ passion for sport and was an all-city athlete in high school.  She was on the fencing team at Wayne State University and competed for Canada in the Olympic Games.  Marisol has a PhD in Native American Studies from UC Davis.  Before becoming the college chancellor she headed the Center of Teaching Excellence at Stanford University.  A passionate animal lover, she has a standard poodle she brings to work with her.

 

poodle at work

How We Honor Our Heritage

Have you thought about lately what you do with the treasures that others have buried inside you?

Quoting an often remembered parable “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”

My mother’s love language was acts of service. Without any conscious purpose I have spent the majority of my life pursuing the following professions, military, police, and education. All of which gave me opportunities to help, protect, and cultivate. Now I’m taking the time to consider what it means to be my mother’s son.

One of her defining traits was fostering. Her grandmother showed her what that meant while raising her from infancy. As a child my mother practiced it with her cousins. As an adult she continued it with coworkers, friends and acquaintances throughout her life.

I am humbled by the daily experience where I engage in the same fostering my mother once did. This manifests as a cherished memory now. One I welcome with warm embrace. Thankfully, I have powerfully available visual cues to remind me of how my mother’s spirit remains present in her absence.

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It occurs to me that similar expressions will be born out in her other children, grandchildren, and those others whom she endowed with her loving legacy. There is a good sized list. My hope is that in the days ahead that we live without her, each of us still recognize how we operate as an extension of the seeds she planted within us.

What about you? Who do you think about? What do you remember? What do you see in your life that must have come from them? Will the idea of honoring the heritage they passed on to you bring you peace, comfort, or assurance? Will it bring healing and restoration? Will it help you bury your treasures in the right fields?

Continue reading How We Honor Our Heritage

Picture Your Novel

In this exercise you will indulge your imagery with a concept design for your novel cover.

Do you have talent?  Use it to create your graphic.

Otherwise you can find a photo and use magazine print cutouts to tape over your image.

Display your final product.

Having this vision cast in front of you is useful as inspiration for you to keep writing.

And always remember to enjoy the process.

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A Procreate drawing 

 

Bathsheba wants to write #metoo – Writers Resist

Her husband enlisted: eager to fight,
eager to serve. She was a good wife,
accepted this. She could argue, but why
fight? The last night the sun set pale
in their wine by the garden. The last
kiss was fragile—lips thin and chapped
with goodbyes. In his absence, she bathed
behind a wickerwork screen, enjoyed
the iridescent rainbows of shampoo bubbles,
the way soft light manicured her nails,
the curl of toes beneath hot water,
the volume of hair as humidity twirled
fingers around her loose locks.
— Read on www.writersresist.com/2018/06/14/bathsheba-wants-to-write-metoo/

Imagine Your Writing

Rachel Federman has a poem based exercise called Imagine Your Sky-house.

For more about Rachel Federman and her advice for writers go to http://rachelfederman.com

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Photo by veeterzy on Pexels.com

Writing My Sky-house

 

I live in a Redwood tree. Five foot thick branches extend out from the trunk I call the hearth. Like the spokes of an octagon shaped wheel, each branch leads to a different room.  Looking east you’ll find the sleeping room, the first room of the day. To the right of the sleeping room you encounter the open air shower room where water cascades down in a soothing massage of rainfall.  Follow your nose southward into the cooking room where you smell the aroma of fresh fruits, berries, nuts and vegetables being prepared. Just across the way sits the dining room, glancing down you notice a brilliant sheen glistening off the surface of  a hardwood table carved from a log.

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Head west where the drawing-room awaits.  Complete with musical instruments, a fully stocked bar, card table, billiards suite, portable table tennis, hand sculpted built-in chess table, sunken sitting area for tea, and a lounge. Off the drawing-room is the play room equipped with a working stage.  A vast library of play scripts bookend the stage.  Yoga mats are rolled against the far wall.  Near at hand is a rack with jump ropes, carved wood weights, display shelves of jigsaw puzzles, a standing desk with sketch paper, pencils, ink, fountain pens, paint, brushes, and an array of canvas materials. Two adjacent doors stand behind you.  One is labeled darkroom and the other ceramic studio.  The north branch leads to the entry room, access to all available transportation. Between the entry room and the sleeping room is a parlor, where there is a writing desk and a sofa surrounded by bookshelves.

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There are massive skylights in the ceilings with rolling shades. Fine wood furnishings highlight polished hardwood floors. The walls have rich wood panelling of course. Portal shaped windows are positioned in such a fashion to create enough natural lighting throughout the day.

Outside you can see birdhouses above and below. The patio has swings, hammocks and a small yard. There is a launchpad and a zip line for ferrying to lower elevations.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

As you walk through the house it seems heavenly. A natural aura emanates from the walls as you examine the layout. The northeast wing is quite restful, and you close heavy eyelids, unable to resist sampling a pleasant dreamscape.  A peaceful air dominates the southeastern portion of the house.  You hear harmonious chords being struck as a fresh breeze blows through the west windows, perfumed by forest blossoms.  You can’t seem to shake the almost prophetic sense of deja-vu when you find yourself in the entryway, not remembering how you arrived there.

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Standing at the outer edges and looking down, the view is majestic. Lake Tranquil is separated from a lazy river by an earthen dam. Below the river is a steep plummit called the Everlasting Falls. Once the pool of falling water settles, the path heads into a steam of rolling rapids that disappear into a lush forest I call The Hidden Wood. Completely secluded, only the squirrels and birds ever find their way to my front door.

Try creating by writing your sky-house.  Or pick another imaginary place.

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Photo by Fabian Reitmeier on Pexels.com

Poem by Mary Oliver

Beside the Waterfall

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Source:  The August 1993 edition of Poetry, a JSTOR publication with the Poetry Foundation poetryfoundation.org

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5 Ways to Add Tension to Your Story

5 Ways to add tension to my story

Here I want to examine specific ideas which would fit seamlessly into my story. I should do a close reading and determine which additions would be consistent with the themes I have built. How well can these be woven into the overall plot of the story? Do they help build towards a climax or move the story along constructively in other ways? Another use for this practice is to find the right amount of tension. Are you satisfied with the level of tension in your story? By adding and removing you can make adjustments here and there until it tastes just right.

Take one of your stories and try this technique too. Did it help? Do you have a similar technique that works for you?

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1. Competition

My protagonist ‘John’ is attracted to a woman. By adding another character to compete with him for her attention I could introduce tension. How does John feel about the idea of losing her? How does John react to what the other person does and says? How does his behavior change because of the presence of competition? Alternatively, does the woman have a job or a family member whom John has to compete with? Would that create guilty feelings in John for wondering if he is being selfish?

2. Work Stress

John has an important position at work. I might have something bad happen on the job. Perhaps an accident occurs where John has to split his attention from his current assignment to help out. Someone could file a complaint or lawsuit which would add pressure on John from both that direction and from his superiors as well. How does he handle pressure from his boss? What are the consequences to John and others if the lawsuit has merit? How can John solve the situation or prevent it from getting worse?

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3. Family Trouble

John’s sister is his closest living relative. If she is dealing with a medical condition and needs John’s help that could increase demands on him. She might refuse the help or be a difficult patient. She might have a secret that she is keeping from him causing him concern. How does he feel about his sisters actions? Does she have personality traits that get under his skin? Does he fear losing his sister because he is a widow who already suffers from the death of a loved one?

4. Grief

John has been alone since his wife died. He could have an unresolved issue related to her loss. The anniversary of her death, or their marriage might be a source of stress for him. His son might blame John for her death and act out in dangerous ways as a result, forcing John to resolve the conflict. How does he relate to a son who resists his attempts to heal their relationship? What happens when he thinks about his wife and the times they had, does he remember happy times or conflict? Is he struggling with regret?

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5. Personal Flaws

John is not perfect. He makes a mistake or forgets an important event. Now he has to deal with the aftermath. Perhaps he had to choose between two conflicting demands on his time. Why did he make the choice he did? How did having to make that choice affect him? How did the people affected respond to John’s choice? What new challenges does he have to overcome as a result?

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Writing Meditation

5 Things You See

For my practice of mindfulness I completed the exercise of describing five things I observed when I went outside today.

Water

The shimmering surface of a pool of water.  The clear blue hue.  Stained surfaces beneath the water, bleached, rough, and uneven.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Shadows

Gray Oak leaves blowing in the wind.  Bouncing off the ground.  Waving along a wooden fence.

Hammock

An empty hammock rocking slowly back and forth.  Dozens of pine needles trapped in the white cloth webbing , dotted with dried leaves.

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Lamp

A black oil lamp hanging from a pole.  Rust spots below an empty wick slot, on one side of the base a capless reservoir.  Soiled surfaces along the frame and a dusty glass enclosure.

Wind Chimes

Six silver flutes strung with black string hanging from a stone stamped with “Welcome” in a bed of flowers.  Alongside, two faded tear drop clappers twisted into a line of miniature Christmas lights.

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Do you practice writing meditations?  Does it help you with mindfulness?  Does it benefit your writing?

The Mystery of Writing and Living

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