April 3, 2014
There are those in this world (and I am chief among them) who tend to devote a lot of their time to being more and better. Not a bad thing at all, unless of course you start thinking that who you are and what you’re doing now just isn’t good enough. Not true, I say. Not true at all…
I came across this a few days ago and loved it so much that I wanted to share it here. The words are mine, but the story is an ancient one from China:
There was once a stonecutter who lived in a tiny shack on the outskirts of his town. Every morning he would rise out of his simple bed and trudge off to work in the quarries. He hated his tiny job and his tiny shack, but he especially hated his tiny life.
One morning he passed by a wealthy merchant’s house. The gates of the courtyard were open, and through it the stonecutter could see the merchant’s fine possessions and important guests. “I wish I could be that wealthy merchant,” he said to himself. Then he would no longer have to suffer through life with a tiny job and shack and life.
Then, a miracle happened.
He woke the next morning to find that he had indeed become that wealthy merchant. He enjoyed more power and influence than he had ever dreamed and had more riches than he could ever spend. But then a government official passed by the house, carried in a grand chair by servants. Soldiers flanked each side blowing horns and commanding respect. Everyone, no matter how powerful and wealthy, had to bow to the official. “I wish I could become that official,” the man said. “No one could be more powerful than him.”
He awoke the next morning to find that he was now the government official. He was carried through the city by servants, guarded by soldiers, and everyone was forced to bow to him. But as the day was hot, he noticed the sun was causing him to sweat. And more, he noticed that the sun didn’t care if he was a government official or not. “I wish I could be the sun,” he thought to himself. “Surely there is nothing more powerful than that.”
Then he became the sun, shining his power down upon the earth, giving life and taking it at his own whim. But as he was shining, he noticed a dark cloud pass between him and the land. No matter how hard he shone, the cloud prevented his light from reaching the ground. “I wish I were that cloud,” he said. “Then even the sun would have to obey me.”
And he became the cloud, rolling over the land to bring comfort from the heat and terror with his storms. He was both feared and revered, and no one stood against him. But then he discovered that the wind would blow him here and there without his consent. “No one tells me what to do,” he said. “I want to be the wind!”
So be became the wind, uprooting trees and spreading fires and damaging homes. Nothing, he thought, could stand against him. But then one day he blew against a mountain. A no matter how hard he worked, the mountain would not budge. “I want to be that mountain,” he said.
And he became the mountain. More stable than the merchant, more powerful than the official. Unfazed by the sun and the clouds and the wind. But as he rested there, content and finally at peace, he found that a small part of himself was slowly being chipped away. “What is causing this?” he asked. “I am a giant mountain. What could be more powerful than I?”
He looked down and saw far below a tiny speck hard at work. And with that sight he began to cry, for he knew then all his work and all his dreaming had been for naught.
For below him was the one thing in the world even more powerful than he:
March 31, 2014
I see him there just down the street. See the ratty jeans that are too small and the jacket that may have fit once but is now too big. See the hat pulled down over his bushy hair and his empty eyes. And the sign—HOMELESS PLEASE GIVE—that is propped against his left leg.
A few who pass offer him quarters and dollar bills. One brings a cup of coffee. Another a candy bar. He takes them with a nod, but no words. One woman offers him both money and a sandwich from the 7-11 down the road. As she walks away, he stares at her backside and smiles.
The patch on his right sleeve is the eagle of the 101st Airborne. Army. A veteran. But then he turns and I see above his left pocket the globe and anchor of the Marine Corps.
I rub my chin. Something’s wrong here.
Another dollar from another woman, which brings another nod and another leer as she walks away. He tips his cap in salute of her appearance. As he does, he exposes the gold watch on his wrist.
I rub my chin again.
Then I begin to understand.
Such sights are more common than we would like to admit—people who pretend to be homeless, penniless, and hopeless but who in fact are none of the above. They spend their days playing to the sympathies of the public and spend their nights in their own homes mocking those good deeds.
And this, I think to myself, is one of those people.
I remain where I am and study his technique. He’s had practice, this man. He knows how to look and act his part, though the gold watch on his wrist and the conflicting patches on his jacket tell me he hasn’t been at this little charade long.
But his silence more than makes up for his lapses. Silence conveys a sense of brokenness, and he has to act broken. The leering at the women, though, is trouble. He’ll have to work on that if he wants to stay in character.
He tips his cap again to another passerby. I notice more this time. His hand is shaking in an almost violent spasm. He’s sniffing, too. Not a big deal in the winter, but this is a warm spring day.
I think I know where all the money he collects out here goes.
Right up his nose.
The cycle of addiction brings out the worst in people. It’s a reality of desperation and wasting away that is only slightly masked by a false and fleeting bliss. It cradles and chokes you at the same time.
He’s rocking back and forth now. I’m not sure if that’s part of the act of it he just needs to move. Or maybe the drugs are wearing off.
He’s decided to use the shakes to his advantage, drawing people to his decay by holding the sign in his trembling hand. It works. Five out of the next twenty people stop to donate. This time there’s much more green than silver.
What should I do with this man? Pity him? Scorn him? Call him unfortunate or lost? Call him worse? I’m not sure. But I know he’s not what he pretends to be, and I know I can’t stand here and watch him any longer.
As he stands between me and my truck, I have to walk past him. Each step brings a little more pity for the addiction choking him and a little less anger for the lie he’s living. I decide this is a test. Give to the poor, Jesus said. Do good. Whatever bad he does with what I give him is his choice, not my consequence.
I reach into my pocket. As I pass, I put the dollar in his hand.
He says, “Thanks, you stupid redneck.”
He shoves my dollar into his pocket before I could snatch it back. I stare at him, fuming.
I spend my ride home enjoying neither sights nor music. I can’t speak, can’t concentrate, can barely think. Anger consumes me.
Not because he took my gift. Not even because he called me a name.
But because he dared to judge me by appearance alone.
March 27, 2014
It’s been a whirlwind couple of weeks since The Devil Walks in Mattingly was officially released March 11. My sincere thanks for continuing to help get the word out.
Here’s some of what’s been going on in the past week:
Novel Crossing The Five Books That Changed My Life: Billy Coffey
Litfuse Group Get to know Billy Coffey
katdish.net The Revealing Billy Coffey Multiple Choice Interview
Relz Reviewz Character Spotlight: Meet Billy Coffey’s Jake and Taylor
Maureen Doallas at Writing without Paper Monday Muse: New Interview with Billy Coffey
Faith Village The Story Behind “The Devil Walks in Mattingly”
A Christian Writer’s World THE DEVIL WALKS IN MATTINGLY – Billy Coffey – On Free Book, Plus More (interview and book giveaway)
Novel Reviews Billy Coffey’s The Devil Walks in Mattingly Reviewed
Life is a Story The Devil Walks in Mattingly by Billy Coffey
Burton Book Review The Devil Walks in Mattingly by Billy Coffey
By the Book Book Review: The Devil Walks in Mattingly
Just Wondering A book review by Diana Trautwein
Electively Paige Spotlight: The Devil Walks in Mattingly
Regina’s Family Seasons The Devil Walks in Mattingly Book Review
5 Minutes for Books The Devil Walks in Mattingly
JoJo’s Corner Review and Giveaway
Savings in Seconds What’s the local haunt story in your neck of the woods?
Reviews from the Heart The Devil Walks in Mattingly
Goodreads Many great reviews by first time and long time visitors to the town of Mattingly.
Guest spots, Giveaways and other things worth mentioning
BookPage Editor’s Choice for Book of the Day
Fox News Opinion Page Regrets, remorse, and a boy named Ed
There’s still time to enter The Devil Walks in Mattingly Kindle Fire HDX giveaway.
One winner will receive:
- A Kindle Fire HDX
- The Devil Walks in Mattingly by Billy Coffey
Don’t miss a moment of the fun; enter today and be sure to stop by back here on April 7th to see if you won.
As promised last week, I’m giving away a signed copy of my book. Just leave me a comment below. I’ll draw an entry at random next Friday, April 4, 2014 and the winner will be notified via email.
Again, thanks so much for helping me get the word out about the book by sharing links via social media, reviews or just good old fashioned word of mouth. I’ve provided some links below:
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/billycoffeywriter
Join the Launch Team: Devil Walks in Mattingly Launch Team
March 24, 2014
For the last three months my buddy Kirk has sequestered himself in a rented cabin deep in the Blue Ridge mountains. As far as I can tell, he took with him only the barest of essentials to complete his stated purpose—a dozen bags of deer jerky, four cases of MREs (that’s Meal, Ready to Eat for you non-military folks), three cases of beer, and two dozen protein bars. That should get him through, he says. If not, he’ll just go hunting.
Get him through for what, you ask? Well, now there’s a story.
Kirk is an old high school classmate and friend. Back then he was awkward and shy and always had his head in a book—three characteristics that guaranteed he’d have a tough time until after his senior year. But he sat in front of me in freshman English and, well, some friendships are born of compatibility and others location.
Even then Kirk wanted to be a writer. A published one. But as both his talent and his confidence were lacking, he always qualified “I want to be an author” with “Probably won’t, though.”
Like a lot of high school friends, Kirk and I lost contact after graduation. But then I ran into him at the mall three months ago.. Well, not him. Not the Kirk I knew. This was New and Improved Kirk, and version 2.0 was quite different.
He had found a cure for all that awkward shyness.
Kirk had become a Ranger in the U.S. Army.
Now that he was out, he was back to pursuing his goal of writing a book. And in the spirit of his down-and-dirty Ranger training, he was locking himself in a cabin in the middle of the wilderness to do it.
And you know what? I bet he will. I can almost guarantee it.
There were a lot of reasons why Kirk wasn’t ready to be a writer in high school. You have to grow some and learn some and fail some and hurt a lot first. But more than that, you have to be trained. Kirk told me he’d had his training now. He was a Ranger.
I’d never considered special forces training and training to be a writer to be one and the same, but he was adamant. They’re exactly alike, he said. Both are a process that tests you, then breaks you down, and then shows you whom you truly are.
But to Kirk, his Ranger training gave him one very big advantage—he’d been taught how to be comfortable in misery. He knew how to embrace the thirst and the hunger. How to endure the cold and the heat. And above all, he knew he was being readied for war and that war was hell, which is why his drill instructors trained him to, in his words, “Get the damn job done. Regardless.”
I think he’s onto something.
Because you can (and should) read all the books you can about the craft of writing. You can learn about plot and character and point of view, learn to kill your darling adverbs and adjectives, and speak in present instead passive voice. But until you learn to be comfortable in misery, you will not succeed. Ever.
There are times when sitting down to write is an invitation to pure bliss, when the words leap from your fingers virgin and perfect and you know without doubt they come from the very best part of you. Enjoy those times. They will be few.
Because for the most part, it’s just the opposite. The writing life is not bliss. It’s roaming through the desert of one submission after another, searching for whatever scrap of food or drip of water you can beg, borrow and steal in order to stay alive. It’s enduring the cold of having nothing to say and the heat of knowing you must write anyway.
And above all, writing is war.
It is a war fought not against agents and publishers, but against yourself. It is a war in which the enemy isn’t acceptance, it’s surrender. And yes, it is hell. No doubt about it. But you know what? A writer, a real one, wouldn’t have it any other way.
I haven’t seen Kirk since. For all I know, he’s still up in the mountains writing his book. I like to think he is. I like to think he’s pounding away at those keys and fighting his war.
That he’s getting the damn job done. Regardless.
I like to think that’s what you’re doing, too.
March 20, 2014
One of the best parts about a book launch is that I get to participate in giving away free stuff.
She also interviewed me about a bunch of stuff that has absolutely nothing to do with the book. Or writing for that matter.
But there’s more…
I’m celebrating my new book, The Devil Walks in Mattingly, with a Kindle Fire HDX giveaway.
One winner will receive:
- A Kindle Fire HDX
- The Devil Walks in Mattingly by Billy Coffey