We have two choices. Which will you make today?

Years ago when I was trying to get my first novel published, I met with an editor who pushed my synopsis back across the table towards me and said with a harumph, “It’s way too dark. Our readers don’t want dark. They’ve got enough of that. They want to escape.”

Eventually I did publish that novel, and it’s called How Sweet the Sound.

In fact, Tyndale House is re-releasing it this fall and I couldn’t be more thrilled.

Still, that editor had a valid point.

There’s a lot of dark in the world. I’m frankly overwhelmed with how vitriolic our culture is, and I don’t remember a time since I’ve been on the planet where things have been quite this stirred up. Why read a story or see a movie or listen to music that’s dark, when we’re staggering around in pitch blackness all day long?

One reader of How Sweet the Sound commented that the title belies the dark themes of the story, and if you only read the first few chapters, she’s absolutely right. There’s nothing good or light or cheery about a family ravaged by generational sexual abuse. There wasn’t anything good or light or cheery about it either when Tamar, in 2 Samuel 13, suffered the same fate.

But by the end of the story, there is hope.

Loads of it. 

Three novels later, and I admit my writing tends toward some deep and painful themes. That’s because each of my stories begins with something–a news story, an historical event, an injustice–that breaks my heart. (Believe me, there are days when I wonder what it would be like to write cozy mysteries or Hallmark-style romances.)

And each of my stories ends with hope.

Not the sort of hope where everything is tied up with a big, red bow and all the characters ride off in the sunset. But the sort of hope that comes when you learn you’re not alone, and that it’s possible to find joy in the midst of pain and suffering.

Still, I learned something from that editor, and from several editors since.

Darkness and pain must be balanced with light.

In story.

In art.

In life.

The world is dying a little more every day because it is starving for the light and color God has given to us.

As a follower of Jesus, I write stories from a Christian worldview. And while I am often passionate about the need for stories which don’t sugarcoat pain and tragedy, I’m even more passionate about the call to bring hope to a hurting world. 

Even without a Christian worldview, the world needs goodness. The world needs kindness. The world needs hope. The world needs love.

And the world needs that from us, now more than ever.

As confusing as headlines and media can be, at the end of the day we are left with two basic choices:

We can spread darkness.

Or we can spread light.

We can be angry.

Or we can give grace.

We can hate.

Or we can love.

We were made to be light, dear ones.

We were made to be on this earth, here and now, for such a time as this, for a purpose:

To show the world the colors of life and hope.

We have to acknowledge the darkness, yes.

But we have to know that truth and love can obliterate it

if we choose

wisely.

Dear Lord, begin with me. 

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“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16 (TMV)

the writers group. a poem.

like the uncertainty of an approaching storm

the staccato tap of fingers on keys

plays a scattered beat. I wonder

if that is the sound of

the soul

revealed like sign language,

the give

and take

battle of life

revelation.

Lock your doors and HANG ON! Review of The Curse of Crow Hollow, by Billy Coffey

IMG_7615There are writers, and then there’s Billy Coffey.

I’ve been lucky enough to “know” Billy (because we’ve never actually met in real life) since the earliest stages of our publishing careers. He is genuine, honest, chivalrous, and has one of the most creative minds around. If you doubt that, just read his post from today, in which he thanks folks for reading his books. He’s just. that. nice.

But don’t read his books because he’s nice.

Read them because he’s a mix of Stephen King and Ron Rash, with a sprinkle of Rick Bragg and Tom Franklin.

Read them because you won’t be able to put them down because his stories are true and scary and real and impossible all at the same time.

Take this new one, for instance. Here’s the synopsis:

With the “profound sense of Southern spirituality” he is known for (Publishers Weekly), Billy Coffey draws us into a town where good and evil—and myth and reality—intertwine in unexpected ways.

Everyone in Crow Hollow knows of Alvaretta Graves, the old widow who lives in the mountain. Many call her a witch; others whisper she’s insane. Everyone agrees the vengeance Alvaretta swore at her husband’s death hovers over them all. That vengeance awakens when teenagers stumble upon Alvaretta’s cabin, incurring her curse. Now a sickness moves through the Hollow. Rumors swirl that Stu Graves has risen for revenge. And the people of Crow Hollow are left to confront not only the darkness that lives on the mountain, but the darkness that lives within themselves.

My thoughts:

This book is CRAZY! Crazy good, crazy paced, and crazy wicked! But more than that…beyond the plot…it’s a story that will have you asking heart questions and hard questions…questions about what you believe and what’s real and what’s not-so-real…about what’s important and what’s not.

I love the way he centers the story around teenagers (maybe since I have three of my own), because teenagers are young enough to feel invincible but old enough to have wisdom unspoiled by cynicism like adults. I love the way he uses dialect and setting to pull you right in to the deep, dark mountains of Appalachia. I love the way he’s not afraid to blend mystery and faith, good and evil, the seen and the unseen. 

And the end? Good GRIEF, the end! 

Billy’s written a lot of really, really excellent books. But this one…this one is my favorite so far!

So what are you waiting for? Get yourself a copy today from my favorite indie bookstore, Page and Palette, or wherever your favorite books are sold. 

portrait7About Billy

Billy Coffey’s critically acclaimed books combine rural Southern charm with a vision far beyond the ordinary. He is a regular contributor to several publications, where he writes about faith and life. Billy lives with his wife and two children in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Visit him at http://www.billycoffey.com. Facebook: billycoffeywriter Twitter: @billycoffey

“Coffey spins a wicked tale . . . [The Curse of Crow Hollow] blends folklore, superstition, and subconscious dread in the vein of Shirley Jackson’s ‘The Lottery.’”
—Kirkus Reviews