Review: Two Kinds of Truth from a Writer's Perspective

Like with Cold Earth in the previous post, my appreciation of the Bosch character (and his colleagues and family) is rounded and expanded by Amazon Prime’s production of Bosch. Because Connelly is one of the producers, I think the title character, played by Titus Welliver, is true to the books. When I read Two Kinds of Truth, I could ‘see’ Bosch, his house in the Hollywood Hills, his former partner Jerry Edgar and his daughter Maddie. I recommend the video series if you have Prime.

For more introduction to this series:

  1. Wikipedia article

  2. Amazon author page

  3. First book in the series (The Black Echo)

  4. Connelly titles available to borrow on OverDrive

You can read a sample of Two Kinds of Truth right here by clicking the ‘preview’ button below the cover.

I want to look at the four perspectives on writing that I’ve covered in the past: characters, setting, plot and emotional center.

Characters:  Connelly’s protagonist Hieronymus (“Harry”) Bosch is a modern, more interior version of the classic L.A. hard-boiled detective. While the settings and crimes are like the old-school detective novels, Connelly gives us a personality and life circumstances for Bosch in a way that make him likeable and sympathetic. We know more about his motivations and triggers than the usual hard-boiled hero, and we recognize his humanity in how he deals with his daughter and others who elicit his commitment and concern.

As with Cleeves’ Jimmy Perez, the series is usefully viewed as a quarter-century exploration of Bosch’s life and psyche. As many reviewers have noted, Two Kinds of Truth is about an older, semi-retired cop – a fact that distresses some (how dare Harry get old and tired!). On the contrary, I find his ageing and the changes it’s brought about to be fundamentally real and believable. Tracing a character arc over an entire series and making it grounded are the hallmarks of a master series storyteller. For me, the idea of doing the same with Father Ambrose is nothing short of inspiring.

Setting:  Los Angeles is the primary setting. With the extensive canon of Harry Bosch novels as well as all LA-based hard-boiled detective novels in general, there’s very little new that can be said about LA. Connelly, fortunately, doesn’t feel the need to drill deeper into the larger setting. He reserves his setting narrative for places like the commandeered jail cell where Harry reviews cold case files. The only time we’re outside LA is when Harry goes undercover in one of the two plotlines, where he ends up at a remote Southwest opioid pill operation. Some of the most nail-biting scenes are Harry’s trip back.

For my writing, I’m early enough in my series that I can’t take setting knowledge for granted. But I can take Connelly’s ability to convey place in a succinct way as a model to emulate.

Plot:  Connelly weaves two distinct plotlines around each other in a way that doesn’t detract from either. In some senses, both are a walk through Harry’s mid-sixties life choices, both of them rotating around his essential character – moral integrity and courage at the top of the list. As he ages over the series, we see these qualities honed and expressed ever more succinctly. Although each plotline could stand alone, they reinforce each other as windows onto the state of his soul right now.

For myself, I haven’t yet considered this vehicle, although the one I’m working on right now has a main plot and a significant sub-plot that isn’t quite an ‘equal.’ I like very much what Connelly demonstrates about this plot structure.

Emotional Center: 

Connelly doesn’t go inside Bosch’s head to show us his feelings. Rather, he allows us to develop an understanding of his protagonist’s emotional state through his speech and actions. 

Bosch is at his most tender and compassionate when he deals with his daughter and, in this book, with an opioid-addicted woman he meets while undercover. When he’s angry, we see him express it clearly in words or in physical action.

Over the course of the series, Bosch becomes increasingly rounded and wiser. He never becomes anyone other than himself, but, as a series, Connelly’s choices flesh him out and give us glimpses into Bosch’s core values and ways of dealing with strong emotions. An ageing Harry is the same and different from earlier versions of himself. The tensions arising from his diminishing physical prowess are set against a broader matrix of greater courage and sophistication of policing skill.

For my series writing, I can see how to use Connelly’s approach especially well with my portrayal of Sheriff Charlie Cormley, who is more like Bosch and Craig Johnson’s Walt Longmire. He’s not likely to speak about his feelings, except perhaps to his wife Ruth. But he can reveal his emotional state through how he speaks and behaves. I’m learning how difficult it is to do this in a way that seems natural and not forced with a ‘tough-guy’ character.

Next month, I’ll be looking at Laurie R. King’s recent Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes novel, Island of the Mad.

Leave me your comments below or write me at emma@emmacyrus.com. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

See you then!


Review: Cold Earth from a Writer's Perspective

I don’t remember how I found Ann Cleeves’ Shetland Island series, but I started reading them before the BBC shows were created. Since then, however, my enjoyment of the books is very much amplified by having the setting and character visuals. I especially see Doug Henshall as Jimmy Perez when I read.

For more introduction to this series, see here:

  1. Wikipedia article

  2. Ann Cleeves Amazon author page

  3. First book in series (Raven Black)

  4. Series ebooks available on OverDrive (library loans)

You can read a sample of Cold Earth right here by clicking the ‘preview’ button below the cover.

I want to look at the four perspectives on writing that I’ve covered in the past: characters, setting, plot and emotional center.

Characters:  Cleeves has constructed a memorable protagonist in Jimmy Perez. Even though we’ll often travel around the storyline with the supporting cast, we always want to return to Perez to find out what he’s thinking.

I realized recently that the entire Shetland series (which will conclude this year with Wild Fire, out this month) is an 8-volume exploration of Jimmy’s life. While each book has a standalone mystery as its frame, who Jimmy is and how he’s dealing with his life are the central concerns.

This approach has its benefits. The series becomes an extended single novel where readers develop loyalty to Perez and want the best for him, personally more so than professionally. Cleeves gets high marks for accomplishing this.

The realization then got me thinking about Father Ambrose, my series protagonist. Although I’ve only just started the second book, I see that I can increase the power of what I’m doing by conceptualizing a four- or eight-book series with a beginning, middle and end. I’ll be looking at that idea over the next week or so.

Setting: The books are all firmly embedded in the geography and culture of the Shetland Islands. Cleeves has done her homework, but she generally only reveals the background when it directly serves the story. If you want to get more oriented, the Wikipedia entry on the islands has lots of interesting lore. There’s also the tourist-oriented Shetland website.

The key elements which play large roles in the storyline are plane and ferry travel, the weather, the midwinter and midsummer light extremes, and the local agricultural structure of crofting. In Cold Earth, the heavy rains cause a landslide which effectively cuts off one part of the island and exposes the body of a woman who’d been killed in one of the crofts. Cleeves is skillful in using the drama of the weather and geography to further compress the ‘cozy’ scene. The characters’ range of motion is thereby curtailed, and interpersonal relationships made more intense.

The environs of my Father Ambrose mysteries have many of the qualities of a cozy that have to do with setting – his cloistered spiritual community embedded in a small town in a rural environment. Nevertheless, in preparing the second book, I’ve learned from Cleeves to work at making some element of it smaller still, so that tension can build from that compression.

Plot:  As mentioned above, the story begins with a landslide during a funeral which Jimmy Perez is attending. Shortly thereafter, he finds an unfamiliar woman’s body swept out of a nearby croft. The plot revolves around finding out who she is, what she was doing there and who had a reason to kill her (yes, like all mysteries). If we set our standards for a mystery plot that it needs to achieve a certain kind of novelty, then Cold Earth doesn’t really break the mold.

But, if we recognize that the series is the story of Jimmy Perez, then the real plot is about him beginning to move beyond the death of his partner Fran and finding himself entangled in a relationship with his superior officer. I assume that Wild Fire will give us the denouement of that circumstance, as well as the other threads of his life that will need tying up.

In looking at my current work on book two, I’ve been feeling that both the plot and the character of Father Ambrose are driving it right now. If I step back and think of a closed-end series, and I construct a character arc that establishes Father Ambrose’s story and growth over that series, then, as with the Shetland books, the plot of each book will emerge out of that arc.

Emotional Center: 

Since Perez is the central and most well-developed character, I’ve very little choice but to place the emotional center with him. He has a serious demeanor and expresses himself in very few words, so we don’t know that much about his feelings from what he says. However, we do learn much by his interactions with others and the decisions he makes in his personal life.

In addition, when Cleeves is working with Perez’s POV and is ‘in his head,’ so to speak, we see more about his emotions – he chastises himself for having romantic notions about the dead woman’s story, he shows us ambivalence and confusion about how Willow, his senior investigator, is affecting him. These inner expressions let us see how Perez is dealing with his own life challenges. It’s this inner thread that is the emotional plotline.

Cleeves’ success in giving Perez this inner plotline shows me ways in which to do the same for Father Ambrose. Like most men (as with Perez), Ambrose is loath to ramble on about his feelings. But his meditation practice gives him a rich inner life that needs to be organized and presented over the series emotional arc in a way to which readers relate.

Next month, I’ll be looking at Michael Connelly’s recent Harry Bosch novel, Two Kinds of Truth.

Leave me your comments below or write me at emma@emmacyrus.com. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

See you then!

Review: A River in the Sky from a Writer’s Perspective

The Amelia Peabody series from Elizabeth Peters has always been favorite, but I hadn’t read one in a while. This one was the last one published by Peters (Barbara Mertz) while she was still living. The final book in the series (The Painted Queen) was finished by Joan Hess after Peters’ death in 2013.

For more introduction to this series, see here:

1.         Wikipedia article: 

2.        Amazon author page

3.         First book in the series: Crocodile on the Sandbank

4.        OverDrive (Library) Holdings

You can read a preview of A River in the Sky by clicking below the cover here.

 

I want to look at the four perspectives on writing that I’ve covered in the past: setting, plot, character and emotional center.

Setting: Unlike most of the other titles in the Amelia Peabody series, this one is set not in Egypt but in Palestine. I was surprised to see that Peters was quite thin on describing this new locale, especially in Jerusalem, where there is a natural abundance of cultural, religious and historical context to draw on. Especially since this locale represents a significant departure from her other work, it was a perfect opportunity to draw her readership into a whole new set of unfamiliar sights, sounds and aromas.

For me, this is a reminder to look at each scene in my current book manuscript for ways to make the setting come alive for my readers. Even though I may ‘see’ it clearly myself, unless I describe it, no one else will see it, and the scene will just be ungrounded dialogue and action. This is an exercise in disciplined editing, to make sure everything is as fleshed out as possible.

Plot:  One should be able to step back from a book after finishing it and summarize the plot in two or three sentences. In a mystery, one might not know how it ends until the very last minute, but the whole thing should make coherent sense after the last page is turned. There should be a moment of “ah-ha, now I see how all this hangs together.” Unfortunately, I never had that moment with A River in the Sky. The potentially enticing plot elements – a kidnapping, suspected German spies, searching for the Ark of the Covenant – weren’t given enough depth and dimension to grab me, make me want to keep turning the pages. There was little that qualified it as a mystery. Even among Peters’ loyal fans, there was much consensus in the reviews that this offering was not her strongest.

For me, this means making sure I understand what the story is that I’m trying to tell. The arc of the story has to be compelling, has to have continual forward movement and propulsion, has to carefully peel away the mystery layers so that the reader really wants to know, on each page, what happens next.

Characters:  Well-loved series characters don’t need to be completely re-drawn with each entry, and, here, I think Peters does a good job of giving us enough of a taste of Peabody and Emerson that we recognize them but not so much that it drags down the pace. The parallel story of their son Ramses and his friend David, told in Manuscript H, likewise gives us enough of their personalities to make them recognizable, but without starting from scratch. Reviewers have criticized Peters for not fleshing out some of the other recurring characters, but I didn’t find that to be a problem.

This issue is tricky, how to present series characters in sufficient detail to make them “live” for a new reader while not boring the reader who already knows the series. I’m working on this subject now with my mentor, as I re-draw the recurring characters (like Father Ambrose, Sheriff Charlie Cormley, and Mother Francine) for the next book.

Emotional Center:  I had some difficulty finding a character to follow emotionally in A River in the Sky. Amelia, being the mother of children in danger, is the natural locus of this role, but most of the emphasis is on her organizational abilities and simple marital bickering with her husband. The closest I could come to really caring about characters’ feelings was in Manuscript H, where Ramses and David are protective of each other and (justifiably) on edge while imprisoned.

I’m beginning to realize how very important it is to engage the reader’s emotions and create a story and characters that develop and sustain that bond. This is especially key in a series, where continuing readers will come back to find the people they’ve already come to care about. This second book in the Father Ambrose series will seek to round him out more and trace an emotional arc for him through the story.

Leave me your comments below or write me at emma@emmacyrus.com. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Next month, I’ll be looking at Ann Cleeves’ recent entry in the Shetland series, Cold Earth. Hopefully, it’ll whet your appetite for the last book in the series, due out in September.

See you then!

Review: Wild Chamber (Bryant & May #14) from a Writer's Perspective

This post, I’m looking at Wild Chamber, the most recent and 14th in Christopher Fowler’s popular Bryant and May series. If you’re not familiar with the books, here are a few places to look: 

If you want to read a sample at Amazon, see below the cover image here.

What have I learned as a writer from Fowler’s work in general and from this latest entry in his series? I want to focus on four elements: character, plot, setting and emotional center.

Character: All the stories revolve around the two senior detectives for whom the series is named: Arthur Bryant and John May. They lead investigations from inside the Peculiar Crimes Unit in London. Their decades-spanning partnership is mainly successful because Bryant’s quirky brilliance is balanced and shaped by May’s stability and common sense.

The more I thought about it, though, the more I’ve come to believe that Bryant is the primary protagonist, with everyone else in the PCU, including May, providing support. This is subtle, but looked at in this way, the series is an extended story about Bryant’s personality and the changes he goes through. It’s making me want to focus more intensively on Father Ambrose in the second book in my series. I think it can make the stories richer and more complex.

The risk I run (and that Fowler runs) is that readers might not like it, wanting greater engagement with different characters. In Wild Chamber, we see glimpses of the struggles Bryant is having with hallucinations, but I would have preferred more of a thread of this theme throughout the plot rather than the time spent on details about London’s parks. I’d like to have had even greater opportunity to understand and empathize with him.

Plot: The story is about the murder of a businesswoman inside the locked gates of the park outside her home. Her murder is followed by others, and Bryant seems to know clearly who the murderer is very early on. I’d have liked to have followed his logic better, since how he knew all this wasn’t very clear.

In all, I found the plot convoluted and so long in coming to the point that I really didn’t care very much about the outcome. The murders were of people I never developed any sympathy for. The ultimate villain isn’t visible until late in the book, and his reasons for committing the crimes didn’t seem very compelling to me. Tying back to my comments on character, I see how important it is for readers to have someone to care about in the story. If it’s going to be Bryant, in this case, then let me really see through his eyes and feel into his feelings. In the case of my stories, my mentor has asked for what he calls the “emotional reveal,” the telling of the story through the inner states of the key characters.

Setting: For the most part, we’re in London parks, the larger city of London, and the offices of the PCU. Each of these locales is very well-developed, and the visuals are good. Fowler’s in-depth knowledge of his city is apparent, and I can tell what a massive amount of research he has done. It’s impressive. While he probably needed to do it, perhaps he could not have used so much as book content. I prefer to have enough info so I can do my own further research, but not so much that the story gets waylaid by it. Fowler also delivers all this background primarily via dialogue with Arthur.

It’s instructive for me in working on my second book. The central event is a fire, and I’ve had to do a fair amount of research on fire investigations. My first draft was way too detailed, with a lot of technical info provided through the voice of the fire scene investigator. My mentor has encouraged me to use less technical talk and, instead, use vivid descriptions of the scene itself.

Emotional Center: I’m defining this as meaning “who do we care about the most and why?” The Emotional Center in Wild Chamber is definitely Arthur Bryant. His age, his illness, and his self-doubt bring us into his humanity, and we feel for him, want to protect him. I would have liked more of him and less of London if there had to be a tradeoff.

I’ve become convinced, in my own writing and in what I’ve read, that this emotional arc is the most important and engaging aspect of great fiction. For myself, it means examining my characters and plot from this perspective and making sure I know upfront how that emotional arc will unfold over the course of the book.

Fowler doesn’t give us as much flesh here as I’d like, but Arthur Bryant has all the features of a character who could carry this requirement.

 

 

Review: The Antiquarian from a Writer's Perspective

I thought I’d start talking about some current and some older mysteries that I’ve read from the perspective of the craft of mystery writing. Even though I can say “liked” or “didn’t like” in the same way other reviewers do, for this blog I want to talk about what the book taught me about “the craft.”

This month, I want to talk about The Antiquarian by Julián Sánchez.  Click beneath the cover image for a free preview of the book.

What did I learn? First, I know that a book can elicit both raves and pans, and this book is no exception. For a writer, going through another author’s reviews after reading the book provides insight into the standards of excellence for that particular sub-genre. In this case, the sub-genre includes such well-known examples as Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. Here the standards of excellence include esoteric credibility and a clear danger built into the search for the arcane object at the center of the narrative.

I found myself applying the standard of “pacing.” For me, a sense of danger is provided by a thriller-esque pace. The arcane object must be found quickly, or else. That urgency must be credible, so that the reader is rooting for the protagonists to get to the object before ‘the bad guys.’

Here, I think Sánchez didn’t pull it off. Even though he created a credible artifact, I couldn’t bring myself to care about its recovery. If the central premise isn’t super-strong, at least let me have characters I feel a vibrant connection with. In this case, none of the primary characters were intriguing or dynamic. One writers’ guide I was looking at recently said something like, ‘Great characters aren’t just one of many elements of great fiction – they are the primary and most important feature.’

This, then, is the yardstick I’m applying to working on the second Father Ambrose mystery – are my characters memorable and are they pursuing goals that drive the narrative?

Again, inside the issue of pacing, I found The Antiquarian too sluggish and, therefore, too long. Pacing intertwines delicately with the issue of setting/background. While Sánchez provides a lot of context about the city of Barcelona and its environs, too much is repetitious or unnecessary. I’m learning that economy and precision of language are more important than exhaustive description. Too much turns a would-be page-turner into a slog where the sense of urgency is diluted or overwhelmed completely.

This second lesson is key: I need to focus on providing the exact background that’s needed to propel the story going forward and not allow any context to apply the brakes to the momentum.

Finally, on background research in general: as an author, I need to know much more about my subject and my characters than I put out in the text. Too much and the effect is ‘show-off-y.’ Sánchez gives me way too much. It’s good that I know he’s very conversant with the eco-sphere of Barcelona, but I don’t need to know the names of every street the protagonist walks down.

For my own manuscripts, then, I must research thoroughly, but continue to ask myself ‘What is important to include about this, in order to set the right tone or create a scene visual?’ The good thing about working with Beta readers is that they’ll immediately pick up on places where more detail is needed, where what’s left unsaid isn’t strong enough to carry the story forward.

If you’re a huge Dan Brown fan, you might find The Antiquarian compelling. If you’ve read it already, I’d love to hear your thoughts below.

Next month, I’ll likely be talking about Christopher Fowler’s Wild Chamber, book #14 in his Bryant & May series. See you then!

Emma, how did you choose the town of Green Butte, California for the series?

Well, like many mystery novelists, I chose to use fictional locations. Both Green Butte and its county, San Miguel, were created to take the spotlight off of any real-life places. Since small towns are, by definition, more intimate, it would be easy for me to accidentally slight or offend a real-life person or place.

Nevertheless, the northern part of California’s Central Valley, the Sacramento Valley, is the key setting for the book. It presents a distinctive landscape, and its cities and towns are a reflection of the dense and prolific agricultural world of that region.

The pictures here show some of my inspiration. Green Butte and San Miguel County aren’t identical to any of these, but I studied all these in-depth and came up with a ‘blend’ which I hope captures the spirit of this amazing region.

From left to right:

  1. Map of California's Central Valley. CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=186941
  2. The Central Valley from the air. CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1030054
  3. Chico CA. By Travisthurston [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], from Wikimedia Commons
  4. Chico CA By MARELBU [CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
  5. Corning CA By Visitor7 [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons
  6. Oroville CA By Podruznik at English Wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Emma, why is ‘Emma Cyrus’ a pseudonym?

Someone has called me her alter ego.

This is how I understand it. First, how I was born, if you will. When she thought about actually preparing Life Without Shoes for publication, when she had finished Chapter 1, she wanted a different ‘person’ to be out front.

She chose ‘Emma Cyrus’ out of a list she developed from family names combined in unusual ways. Both these names are from her dad’s side of the family. So, there’s a link to her personal life, but it’s subtle.

I think part of this was for privacy. The world of the book is drawing on a deeply personal aspect of her life. Too much exposure seems uncomfortable.

She recently watched part of a documentary in which J.K. Rowling re-visited the flat she lived in when she was writing the first Harry Potter novel. The author didn’t exactly sob, but it was obvious she really wished the camera weren’t there.

I also think the pseudonym helps my ‘owner’ (not really the right word) create an author persona that’s distinct from her everyday life. When she’s writing, she becomes me, she steps inside my skin. She blocks out everything that’s not about the creative process that hour or that day.

As we work together, my ‘life’ is becoming more fleshed out. I actually have a different personality. And her day-to-day life isn’t swamped with the ups and downs of writer hood.

One Take on my Writing Process

Earlier this year, I re-took a class on character development at Gotham Writers Workshop to help me jump into the second book in the series. As part of the (online) class discussion, the instructor asked us to say something about our writing process. I thought I’d share what I wrote:

“I've found that, when I write, I walk into the 'movie' of my characters' lives and just watch, listen, write it down. Then, it seems as if there's another 'voice' available in the background: it corrects me if the language isn't right and prompts me when I'm stuck. When I'm 'done' for a while, it's as if the movie theater has closed for the time being or for the night.

If I try to write more methodically (the dreaded plot outline), everything is just as dry as sand. It isn't that a story arc hasn't been made generally clear to me along the way, but a well-planned fiction project seems outside my ken, possibly even harmful for me to try to achieve.”

An excellent book on fiction writing is Write Away by Elizabeth George. She’s a champion of a more systematic approach. I look at it from time to time to make sure I’ve covered some of the bases!

 

Researching Agriculture in NoCal

New Life Ecumenical Retreat is located at the northern end of the Central Valley in California, one of the most abundant growing regions in the world. It was quite an experience identifying all the possible crops that New Life might cultivate.

Each one of these crops that I decided on for New Life has its own California growers association ~ apples, blueberries, cherries, figs, peaches, pears, pecans, pistachios, and table olives. And, of course, because Green Butte has a lively farmers market, New Life can provide all the usual organic garden produce picked fresh that morning, in season ~ from early spring greens to late fall squashes.

In addition, I looked at the possible wine varietals and settled on pinot noir grapes. I think this was partly because I only really like pinot noirs and cabernets. New Life's production is very small, but its qualities are highly valued and there is never a surplus.

Finally, I had a friend take pictures of the landscape in NoCal for me - they gave me a feel for the overall setting. I've posted some of them here.

Researching Life Without Shoes 1.0

This'll be more than one post because it has so many factors. Hopefully, you'll see something interesting for your own writing or another project you're working on.

I keep all of my research notes in Microsoft's One Note, an app well-suited to collecting and organizing content. This morning I looked back to my first entry for the Shoes project. It's dated Saturday, February 20, 2010, almost eight years ago!

As with most of the Shoes project, I rely on inspiration and intuition to point me in the right direction. So I see in that first note that I'd already chosen names for Father Ambrose and Mother Francine, as well as the title for the book. 

I must have known I wanted the setting to be in rural California, because my next notes have to do with understanding the structure of the County Sheriffs Offices there. Somewhere in the middle of that study, Sheriff Charlie Cormley's name came to me, and I began to create an org chart for his office.

I also started looking at the physical layout and local geography of (predominantly) agricultural counties and towns in Northern California. I ended up creating a fictional county and town because I needed the freedom to invent places and communities that were "right" for the storyline.

New Life Ecumenical Retreat has many elements in common with my own spiritual community, but also many differences. One big difference is that New Life supports itself on the land. I started looking at monastic communities with that focus. One that I looked at in depth was the Abbey of New Clairvaux - see its Wikipedia entry here.

I'll talk some more in future blogs about how New Clairvaux's existence informed my understanding of Father Ambrose's world.

Emma, are you Father Ambrose?

There are aspects of me that show up in Father Ambrose. I think the most pronounced aspects show up in his eclectic approach to spirituality.

New Life was founded by men and women who didn't want to be bound by dogma or strict formulas for spiritual/religious practice. Ambrose has continued leading the community from that perspective while adding some of his own more broad-based approaches.

My own history reflects that viewpoint, and my shelves are crammed with books on many different aspects of spirituality - both from the West and from the East.

You'll see more of that woven in as the series proceeds.

But I'm not the same as Father Ambrose. First of all, he's a man! So, his qualities remind me of several different men I've known in the communities where I've studied. The pictures I've found here, looked at together, are similar to how I see him physically.

In truth, his character has been revealed to me as I write. It's like talking to someone I know already, without knowing what he's going to do or say next. And I like it that way! It's like walking into a TV show that I love and just writing down what I see and experience.