Monday, December 10, 2012

Welcome to my blog!

Hello, to you! I'm J.C. Wing, and I'm a writer. Thanks for stopping by and hanging out for a while!

My first novel, The Color of Thunder, is in production right now as I type this. I am awaiting the proofs for the text, and soon, I will be knee deep in cover design. I am so excited!

I don't have an ETA for my book as of yet, but I'm guessing it will most likely be available sometime in January, 2013. I am including the first chapter here so that you can read it and see what you think. My hope is that it intrigues you and you'll want more. It will be available to buy from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and direct from my publisher, Xlibris. If you like the good, old fashioned print version that you can hold in your hand, that will be available, and if you like the e-book version, you can have it that way, as well. I will have links here on the blog so you can be just one click away from having the entire book in your possession just as soon as it's ready to go. Until then, please read the sample chapter and let me know what you think. (Leave me a comment...it will only take a minute!)

If you want to know more about how this book came about, please go to my profile page and click the ABOUT button. While you're at it, become a follower of my blog. Sign up to get new posts in your email.  It'll be fun, I just know it!


Chapter One  

 1946

  Jackson, Mississippi was still a small city in 1940, the year I was born, although the population was steadily growing. It was once called "Chimneyville" after the Union forces burned it to the ground during the Civil War leaving only the chimneys of the houses standing amongst the debris. Few antebellum structures still stood in my home town to represent the city's colorful and historical past, but one thing remained, an entity years and years older than the twisting Pearl River or the Choctaw Indians who had once inhabited this fertile land. God had been there in Jackson, long before Mississippi became the Magnolia state, before General Andrew Jackson gave his name to our city and before Elvis Presley was born in Tupelo, 200 miles northeast of the capital. God resided here in the Old South and his presence was steady and strong in our churches, our families and our communities. As a daughter of a local pastor, I had first hand knowledge of God and knew that my father had a close and personal relationship with the Lord. My unshakable belief was that he was everywhere and in everything, that he was all powerful and all knowing. This being both God Almighty as well as my father.
  Construction of the First Southern Baptist Church began in the early 1900's and its doors were opened for the first service in the spring of 1920 by my grandfather, Isaiah Linsey and his wife, Ruth when my father had been nearly two years old. Outside the wide, double doors of the stately church, beneath a tall, proud spire that shot straight toward the clouds hung a placard with my grandfather's name on it. Twenty some years later, after my grandfather's untimely death and after my mother, Evelyn Hale had given him a son, my Daddy became the pastor of First Southern Baptist. His name was painted in a flowing and precise script in black letters on a white background, the sign small enough so that it didn't overshadow the graceful but strong lines of the building but large enough to be seen clearly from the other side of Cherry Street on which our church had been built.
  Outside, the church was surrounded by an explosion of color, no matter the season. Springtime brought the azaleas to life in rich pinks and clean white blooms and the magnolias, with their deep, green, shiny leaves and new flowers that looked like thick candle sticks before the big, white waxy petals opened and perfumed the air nearer to summer time. Crape myrtle trees lined the eastern side of the building, their trunks separated into many twisting branches that rose and stretched out with hanging clusters of light purple and dark pink flowers casting pools of shade onto the ground beneath them.  In the autumn, the towering majestic oaks that lived on the land long before the foundation for the church had been poured turned into tall, waving canopies of flaming yellows that showered their leaves and hard, round acorns down upon the walkways and lawn, creating an earthy smelling carpet that crunched beneath our feet. Groves of red maples that boasted flowers amongst their branches that looked like small, pink fireworks in February and March became even more dramatic come autumn when their leaves turned crimson against a pure, blue sky. Vines of roses clung to trellises on the western side of the property and climbed from the ground clear up to the eaves of the white clapboard, blooming late into the fall and early winter and dotting the multi-colored green of their vines and leaves with bright yellow flowers the color of thick egg yolks.
Our church looked white and clean amongst the colors of nature and year after year, hundreds of pairs of feet traipsed up the three thick steps that led to the portico of the building and into the entry way beyond. Those same feet carried our parishioners into the long gathering room where candles burned and filled the space with the scents of sweet vanilla and heavy mulberry, their flames winking and stuttering in the hot moist air that found its way through the heavy front doors. No matter where a person's eyes fell, there was something to be seen inside the building such as the long row of cork board lining both walls that were dotted with colored push pins and flyers for a Saturday morning bake sale, the weekly reminders for both the mens' and womens' prayer groups, or a sign up sheet announcing the hostess of the bimonthly meeting of the ladies quilting group. Artwork done in thick lines of waxy, rainbow colored Crayola's by the youngest Sunday School members decorated the walls, and in the third week of July, the projects completed during Vacation Bible School hung there as well. During the week of Easter, the long gathering room was filled with potted lilies, all pristine and white with bright yellow centers emitting a heavy, sweet aroma that trailed into the sanctuary. For most of the month of December, the air was thick with the slightly medicinal scent of the holly that was woven into the clean smelling wreaths of pine that hung on the double entry doors in the gathering room and along the long walls of the sanctuary. Tendrils of bright red velvet ribbon the shade of deep, dark rubies looped and fell from the top of each full, green circle trailing down like colorful, untied apron strings moving silently, fueled by the bodies of the congregation stirring within the sacred space.
  As a child, I had mixed feelings about the sanctuary, undoubtedly the biggest and most important room in our church. Above our heads, the ceiling was tall and each sound was amplified, bouncing off of the arched wooden beams and echoing around the walls and the large space between. Everything that was said seemed to hover high above us before tumbling down around our heads and shoulders, my father's voice thunderous and frightening as he preached, his dark hair slicked back with the gleam of sticky pomade and his mustache moving above the top lip hidden underneath. Sometimes I was brave enough to look at Daddy while he preached and when I did, I could see the hazel of his eyes if his spectacles weren't sitting on his nose catching the glimmer of light and stealing the color from them. Jacob Linsey wasn't a large man, but he dominated the expanse of the sanctuary as though he were ten feet both tall and wide, and the only muffled sounds I heard during services were those of shushing fans, swinging feet, the creak of a pew beneath tired back sides and the quiet, almost imperceptible noise of patience being strained for too long a time.
  It was my habit to look, not at Daddy, but at the window that towered behind him and I would study it each and every time I took my place on the front pew beneath the pulpit as if it was the very first time I'd ever laid eyes on it. This amazing collection of stained glass had been carefully pieced together on the eastern side of the sanctuary where the morning light hit the serene scene of Jesus in a flowing white gown, his arms cradling a soft, snow white lamb while more of the flock gathered and slept at his feet in the brightest of green grass. An azure sky arched above him, the brilliant blue falling in strips of heated light down onto the white of my father's shirt and past him onto the walls and wooden floor of the sanctuary. Red roses the shade of fresh blood dotted the pasture in which the sheep lay and together those colors fell and shimmered around the room like an enormous, warm prism. On days when the sun did not shine, the window seemed cool, unfeeling and lifeless and I would slump against the hard wood of the pew beneath me and swing my feet until Mama pressed her fingers against my shin and looked at me with an unspoken seriousness in her brown eyes, telling me without words to be still as my father's voice chased itself in the echo of the big, wooden room.
From the time I was old enough to remember, and undoubtedly far longer than that, decisions of great family importance were always made in either one of two places. One was the large, oval, wooden dining table that had once belonged to my Grandmother Linsey, amidst the clanking of plates, serving spoons and silverware where the adults would sit in concentrated discussion and the children would remain respectfully silent while eating the meal before us. Our church's sanctuary was the other, somewhere between Sunday morning worship, Wednesday evening youth group, a Friday afternoon memorial service or a wedding ceremony held at noon on a Saturday. Such was the case on a moist, muggy late morning the summer I turned six, the air so still not a single leaf moved on the branches outside and the men in our congregation filed out of the sanctuary after the service holding their suit jackets over their bent arms while their wives tried casually to move the damp fabric of their Sunday dresses away from their sweat soaked backs once they'd peeled themselves away from the pews. Children were ruddy faced and cranky and eager to be free of the big double doors that led outside and to the swing set and sand box that lie beyond.
Mama held Hope in her arms, gently bouncing my sister on her hip in an effort to keep her quiet for a few minutes longer. Hope was round from every single angle, from the dark ringlets painted with a glimmer of copper that surrounded her head like a misplaced halo, to the chubby little feet Mama always stuffed into black Mary Jane's. Her arms and legs were soft and squishy like dough made from flour and salt, her hands like little balls with dimpled fingers and her face as smooth as a school yard ball. She had roses in her plump, full cheeks and a pair of brilliant blue eyes that were framed by thick, dark lashes. Even her mouth was shaped into a cherry red circle as she peered over at me, her hair stuck to the side of her sweaty, hot looking face and her eyes clouded by a recently abandoned nap against the comfort and security of Mama's chest.
"I'm going to go and say good-bye to everyone now, Faith," Mama said moving past me and toward the center aisle. "I sent Luke after Mr. Henry, but he won't be but a minute. You go on and find him, now, you hear?"
She had quit looking at me even before she'd begun speaking and was instead peering toward the doors of the sanctuary at the line that was forming in the gathering room.
"Yes, ma'am," I replied and watched as a satisfied smile settled on her face.
Hope's head bobbed over Mama's shoulder as my mother made a hasty retreat, the curls wild and free around my sister's head, but Mama met an obstacle in her path as a man who had been standing near the door moved closer to the front of the sanctuary. He paused and smiled at Mama, a dark hat held in one hand as he offered my mother his free one.
"Good afternoon, Mrs. Linsey," he said. Mama's soft, blond colored waves shifted as she nodded in greeting, then she quickly reclaimed her hand and moved swiftly forward once more and to the task of caring for Daddy's congregation.
I turned and quickly walked to the end of the pew away from the aisle, my shoes sliding across the wooden floor as I slipped around to sit in the second row, my fingers wrapped around the scrolled edge of the bench in front of me and my eyes peering over the back of the pew, ever watchful of this man whom I had never seen before as he continued his way up to the front of the room and the pulpit where Daddy stood. Knowing everyone who spent time in our church was an important part of being the pastor's family and I'd been on many social calls in my short life. At six, I could not recall the names of each one of our congregation members, but I knew faces well enough to remember if I'd seen them in services before, which children belonged to which grown ups and who had been in constant attendance and those that hadn't been seen in recent weeks. There was no question that this gentleman was a newcomer and that fact alone was enough to make me curious about him.  
Daddy poured some water from the pitcher Mama kept filled for him every Sunday, condensation beaded and wet along the glass and pooling around the base, dripping cold and clean into a neat, moist ring on the wooden table on which it had rested throughout the morning. No ice cubes remained floating in the water but Daddy's eyes closed as I watched him fill his mouth and saw his throat work as he swallowed the contents of an entire glass before filling it once more.
"That was a terrific sermon, Pastor Linsey," the stranger said in a clear voice.
My father did not lower his glass until he'd swallowed the last drop of water inside of it. Droplets of moisture clung to the coarse dark hairs of his mustache as his hazel eyes found and stayed on the other man's face. "Glad you liked it," he said with a nod. "Don't reckon I've seen you here before. Glad to have you."
The man smiled and creased the brim of his hat in his hands. "This is the first time I've had the pleasure of visiting First Southern Baptist, but my boss has been here and he was right when he said that I'd like your preaching."
Daddy put the glass next to the half empty pitcher and walked around the pulpit before descending the two short steps that led to the center aisle, his left foot coming down first, then the cane he used to walk with hit the floor before his injured leg followed. He moved his hand over the buttons of his white dress shirt and the colors from the stained glass window caught and reflected in each one them, blue, red then green. "Your boss?" he asked. "He's a member of our congregation?"
The man laughed and shook his head. "No, sir, but he did speak to you a couple weeks back. His name is Marcus Landry and he's the owner of WCOL radio right here in Jackson. He'd heard about your church and thought he'd come to visit. He liked it so much, he sent me out."
The toe of my shoe was pressed against the back of the pew and the colored heat inside the room was stifling. I rubbed my nose against the back of my arm and blinked, feeling the sweat on my eyelids cool for a moment beneath the lazily spinning ceiling fan hanging above me. Dust motes floated sluggishly in the air as if it were too hot for even them to move at a faster pace.
"Marcus Landry," Daddy was saying, his eyes pulled up and to the right as though he were searching for a memory he'd stored there. "Ah," he said with a nod. "I do remember him as a matter of fact. He's Cecelia Crawford's brother."
"Yes, sir," the stranger said. "And I'm Phil Michaels." He offered his hand to Daddy and my father took it giving it a vigorous shake. "I'm the program director at WCOL and we're interested in your message, sir. Would like to hear some of it go out over the air waves as a matter of fact. Both Mr. Landry and I think what you have to say would make some very fine program material indeed."
"Do you now?" Daddy responded.
Quiet shuffling noises started behind me and I remained still as my brother plopped down next to me, pressing a hot leg against my own and nudging me with a pointy elbow. "Look what I got," Luke whispered opening up his fist and showing me the two shiny dimes that were nestled against his sweaty palm.
"What are you showing them to me for?" I asked quietly.
"Got them from Mr. Henry," he told me.
Luke had rubbed his blond curls away from his forehead and they stuck up at an odd angle away from his face. His cheeks were heated and one of his front teeth was crooked as he grinned at me, the smile reaching all the way up into the blue of his eyes.
"Children," Mama admonished in a loud whisper from behind us. Both Luke and I looked back and she motioned for us to come to her. "You're being too loud. Out with you," she said. "Now."
Luke turned to me again, his freckled nose nearly touching mine. "Want to get some ice cream?" he asked.
I nodded and felt his hand wrap around my arm and pull as we quickly shuffled sideways down the long row and into the center aisle, then out of the sanctuary, the stranger and the idea of Daddy talking on the radio all but forgotten in the time it took to cross the length of the gathering room and out into the blazing hot sunshine beyond.