Hey, I wrote a book!

Here’s the rest of the cast for the main characters in “Shackles.” Most of the characters from the jailer’s part of the story in Philippi are entirely fictional. Paul’s part of the story, based on the Book of Acts – in particular, Acts 16 – features real characters with whom I carefully took creative liberties.

If anyone has contact info for the director/production team of Ron Howard and Tom Hanks, pass it along and let’s get this fantasy project turned into something for the silver screen. (As mentioned previously, I cast Mr. Hanks as Claudius for the Philippi story, but he’s welcome to switch with Christian Bale to play Barnabas if he’d like). Remember, this fantasy cast is based on a fantasy budget. I wanted to find spots for Johnny Depp and Will Smith, but even fantasy budgets have limits. I want to shell out the biggest fantasy bucks possible for the Howard-Hanks team.

And here’s another snippet from “Shackles,” which is now in the hands of 18 or so test readers. Tomorrow: we begin making “Shackles: The Playlist,” so start passing along your favorite Christian, sacred and secular songs that might fit this story.

SHACKLES - CAST 4 pmd

CHAPTER 24 – Telling the world …

Barnabas wondered if Paul had recognized the two men.

“I’ve noticed that many tend to follow us from town to town,” Barnabas said. “But these two. They seem different. Not just curious. It’s hard to explain.”

Paul had a more exact impression.

“I know the tactics,” he said. “I’ve used them.”

Barnabas was puzzled. “Tactics?”

“Plant seeds of division and doubt, find a spark of disagreement or anger, and fan it into flames of hatred.”

“You mean they want to do us harm?”

“Have they approached either of us with questions about our teaching? About Jesus?”

Barnabas agreed. “They’ve had ample opportunity to introduce themselves.”

“Well,” Paul said, patting Barnabas on the shoulder. “Our God is sovereign and in control. Just as He worked when I went throughout Judea, Samaria and Syria planting seeds of doubt and division, looking for sparks of disagreement or anger, then fanning the flames of persecution.”

“So you’re saying they want to do us harm?”

“They’re being very patient,” Paul said. “I’ll even go so far as to say they have support from the high priests in Jerusalem. Very similar method of stirring trouble and hatred. And the cleverest part is they get others to actually get their hands dirty.”

“Dirty?”

“Bloody. They won’t need to pick up stones. They’ll get others to do it.”

 

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Shackles: First the cast, next the playlist

Shackles cast - #3

While a dozen and a half readers consume and ponder the first complete draft of “Shackles,” I’m presenting my personal fantasy cast for the movie version of the book. This creative meandering is entirely dependent on the book actually getting published, someone adapting it for film, and someone else having unlimited funds to afford this brilliant cast.

You’ll meet the rest of the cast of primary characters tomorrow – Paul, Barnabas, Silas, Timothy and Luke. I’ve made my selections, but who would you pick to play those icons of the New Testament? After the cast is named, I’ll start announcing my playlist for the motion picture soundtrack. Go ahead and start giving me your suggestions. (Tip: secular music is okay).

Today’s excerpt of “Shackles.”

CHAPTER 8 / PERSECUTOR

“The tide has left our shores, Saul.” Gamaliel stepped to the side. “I’m hearing that many – dozens, perhaps hundreds – of those believers avoided capture and are scattered throughout Judea and even Samaria.”

Saul refused to debate his old teacher. Another member of the council also spoke out.

“That Jesus fellow chose a dozen disciples and then appointed 70 more,” the man said. “Do you know where they are?”

Saul quickly answered. “That 70 number was a myth. More like 10. Most of those derelicts gave up right away when they realized that Jesus wasn’t going to pay them wages, and they wised up after going out into the masses and trying to follow his radical teachings.”

“Are you so sure?” Gamaliel asked.

“What does my teacher know that can help us squelch this apostasy?” Saul replied.

“Have you found those original disciples? I believe they are all still in Jerusalem. All but one. Killed himself, I heard.” Gamaliel scanned the faces of other Pharisees. Many did not return his glance. “The others. In hiding, I’m sure, but still here. And I’ve heard that one of those extra 70, a man named Phillip, has already been to Ethiopia. Preaching about Jesus.”

The Sanhedrin collectively gasped. “That’s neither Judaea nor Samaria,” one man said. “The tide certainly has left our shores.”

“How many?” Saul shouted. “With the high priest’s permission, I will personally hunt them down and bring them back here for justice.”

“Your anger is fueling their cause,” Gamaliel said. “This persecution you have unleashed is actually fulfilling their twisted prophecies about the message of Christ spreading well beyond our borders. Without your persistence and persecution, they would have stayed right here in this city until they had either converted everyone or their little fad had run its course. Or until the Romans tired of the drama and dispatched them on crosses.”

Gamaliel walked away. “You should visit with some of your prisoners who have relatives in Syria.”

“A hundred miles from here?” Paul asked.

Gamaliel turned toward him. “Just a little further than that.” He pointed to the northwest. “Damascus.”

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“Shackles: The Movie” goes to Mayberry

Since I’m working with an unlimited budget to build my fantasy cast for “Shackles: The Movie,” I’m selecting Opie – I mean, Ron Howard – to produce and direct. (You’ll make a lot of money, Mr. Howard. It will be a pleasure working with you). I’m also bringing his buddy Tom Hanks on board and while I have Mr. Hanks playing a bit part portraying Emperor Claudius, he can choose to play Barnabas instead, if he’d like. My Barnabas actor will have to take Claudius if Mr. Hanks prefers Barnabas.

Hugh Jackman, the Wolverine, gets the role of the fictional Lucianus, the antagonist of Faustus, the central character in the story. Emma Stone is Lydia. Welcome aboard. We’ll start production as soon as Mr. Howard, the best director in America, gets back to me. No rush.

Tomorrow: You’ll begin meeting the cast for Paul’s story, featuring the apostle’s old Pharisee teacher. The actor portraying Gamaliel played my all-time favorite television character from a series that ran from 1972 to 1983. Hint: The series finale in February 1983 still ranks as the highest-rated single television broadcast in U.S. history wtih 105 million viewers. Care to guess the series and the character?

Shackles cast - #2

Here’s a short scene from my historical fiction novel “Shackles,” featuring Lydia and Faustus (Eddie Cibrian), just a few hours before Faustus’s world crashes.

From CHAPTER 18 – Stolen gods …

Faustus turned toward Lydia.

“You’ve come to see for yourself the unrest in Philippi?”

“No, I just happened to be coming by with my nieces and I stumbled up on an interesting question,” Lydia said. Faustus craned his neck and leaned back looking for her nieces.

“They’ll be along,” Lydia said. “But I heard someone ask how a god can be stolen or go missing.” She looked at Faustus.

“Is this a riddle?” he said.

“Not at all, just a curious inquiry from someone who acknowledges a God that cannot be stolen or go missing.”

“Your God,” Faustus said.

“Jehovah. My God.”

“I think you mentioned that God, but no others,” Faustus said. “With only one God to keep track of, it would be harder for him to go missing, I suppose. You have but one God to appease. We have hundreds.”

Lydia softened her voice and repeated that no one can steal Jehovah.

“One God,” Faustus said again. “It does make one wonder if your God is alone because He killed all the others in a fit of jealous rage?”

“Oh, my God is a jealous God.” Lydia lowered her head. “Graven images are an abomination to Jehovah.”

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Get to know “Shackles” – a fantasy motion picture cast

I’m a Fantasy Baseball nerd to the nth degree, although I cut back considerably in 2014. I only had 22 teams. With zero champions. Sigh.

I’m applying some of the same strategy to selecting my fantasy cast for “Shackles: The Movie.” (Production note: “Shackles,” an 84,000 word historical fiction novel, is now in the hands of about 18 test readers). My fantasy cast is based on two very fortunate – but also fantasy – facts: I have an unlimited budget (just wait until you see who’s directing and who makes a special guest appearance as Claudius) and no one else is picking a cast, so I have the world of actors and actresses at my disposal.

Shackles cast - #1

“Shackles” is two stories told simultaneously before the paths of Paul the apostle and Faustus the jailer meet. From the story of Faustus the jailer I present the main characters Faustus and his wife, Perpetua, and their best friends (doesn’t go over so well with the townsfolk in Philippi) Lutalo and Nadra, a couple about the same age and the manservant and maidservant (they don’t like the term “slaves”) of Faustus and Perpetua.

Now, a snippet from “Shackles.”

From Chapter 25, subtitled “Shattered Dreams” …

The true story of how they came to own the prized horses was known only to Faustus and Perpetua. His father, Veritas, was dead by the time the wedding came and the arrangement for the marriage had not been completed, nor had the dowry been negotiated. Faustus already had received his inheritance of the family home, household gods, and another property, a vast meadow area just west of Philippi on the River Gangites. He’d been deeded his father’s insulae, the street-front woodworking and chair-weaving workshop in the middle of Philippi.

“What I don’t have is the young goddess Perpetua who is going to share my life and bare my children,” he told Perpetua when the two stole away together to the riverside meadow. She insisted then that Faustus kiss her and complete the marriage contract before the gods, but he made it clear that he would wait until marriage to taste her lips and take her to his bed. Perpetua worried then that another suitor – perhaps even the horrible Lucianus – might make a play for her, and Lucianus’s family had so much property, art and livestock that her father needed provide only a meager dowry. Faustus no longer had standing to ask for a dowry because he was not yet technically the head of the household, which he would be upon the completion of a marriage contract.

Perpetua’s father, Hortensus, was a selfish, rough man who rarely kept his hands to himself and often belittled and demeaned her mother, Quintina. Faustus was the last in his line, with no surviving brother and only two sisters, both of whom were sickly and unmarried.

It was true that Faustus had no standing in the matter. While he could just ask Hortensus for his daughter’s hand, that simply wasn’t the custom. It also was not customary for a man to wed so young. Perpetua at 15 could become part of a large family that might not demand much in the way of a dowry yet would be in position to enrich the lives of her parents as well. Faustus was 17 and had known Perpetua from their earliest days. He was preparing to become a soldier, and soldiers were not supposed to marry, although many did before their 16-year military service was finished. He’d been working for several local farmers and was adept at breaking and training horses. He’d even received payment – little as it was – for services rendered to Hortensus.

Faustus knew that Hortensus despised the horses and did not appreciate their strength, agility and intelligence.

“Bland-brained” was the way Hortensus described the horses. Faustus went along with the description and told other workers that the slowest horses of the bunch – in foot speed and brain power – were Valens and Mirandus. Hortensus had given the horses other names that Faustus was not comfortable repeating in company or in mixed company. Faustus spoke one afternoon with Dimaldi after a day of tending the horses. They leaned against a stall door discussing their futures. Faustus knew that Hortensus was around the corner, listening.

“Have you given up on your girl, Perpetua?” Dimaldi asked.

“I suppose I have,” Faustus said. “And I believe I was the girl’s only hope for a husband, considering her deficits. There’s not a dowry large enough to convince anyone else to take the poor girl off her father’s hands.”

Faustus and Dimaldi continued the exchange without spelling the nature or specifics of the “deficits” that they talked about.

“She won’t bear a child, that’s for sure,” Faustus said. “And I need a wife to keep my line alive. But I’d probably still take the girl off her father’s hands for as little as the gift of those two sluggard horses.”

“That’s too bad,” Dimaldi said. “But the girl will be pretty at least for a while longer. You know, before that illness cripples her feet and clinches her hands.”

Faustus and Dimaldi left and went their separate ways. The next morning, Hortensus arrived at Faustus’s home with slaves walking the horses.

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My buddies

Abby the Goldendoodle missed me today. Some say she's spoiled.

Abby the Goldendoodle missed me today. Some say she’s spoiled

I recently located a list from about 10 years ago that shows the 64 critters that have bitten me. I’ll share when I have a little time to update the list. Probably more by now.

 

Hey, while you’re here, be sure to check out the Author/Blog Q&A on the tab under the header.

And a praying mantis that showed up over the Labor Day weekend. Beautiful little creature. Love reptiles and praying mantises. Put a spider on my hand and I'll faint dead.

And a praying mantis that showed up over the Labor Day weekend. Beautiful little creature. Love reptiles and praying mantises. Put a spider on my hand and I’ll faint dead.

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Changing, staying the same …

… And still embracing cliches one at a time.

After helping my bride set up her WordPress page, “Ball Jar Blue,” I was inspired to make a few changes of my own – including a new blog title. The previous title was “Jackson’s Journal,” which is now the name of one of two blogs that I have for the Columbia Daily Tribune.

Anyone out there with even a rudimentary grasp of WordPress is encouraged to critique this design and make suggestions. Feedback is welcome.

The featured page headers are basically bookmarks right now. One step at a time.

Carry on, peeps.

 

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Dog Days of Summer

Abby the Goldendoodle. Living the good life.

Abby the Goldendoodle. Living the good life.

Dog Days of Summer - Zinnia

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Praise You in this Storm

Casting Crowns – Praise You In This Storm (Live) from casting-crowns on GodTube.

As I mowed the back yard earlier this evening, with rain and wind picking up but not yet in drench mode, my ear buds delivered “Praise You in This Storm.”

Good stuff.

Must share.

Enjoy.

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June 9, 2014 · 11:19 pm

32 years of mystery and revelation: Married to my best friend

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Thirty-two years ago tonight – I’m writing this on the eve of anniversary No. 32 (6/5/14) – my groomsmen, a bunch of on-fire-for-Jesus evangelicals, were probably somewhere eating pizza or studying their Bibles. I would have been right there with them except for a powerful need to be by myself. I was parked at the Belle City Park, facing the lake that had positive, powerful connections to my young life.  I stared out at the darkness, strangely calm although aware that an “I do” in about 14 hours would chart a course that I was not ready to begin.

Kelly had been 19 for six weeks. I would be 19 in nine weeks. We were just kids who were in love, drawn together six years earlier – barely teenagers – at about the same time both of our homes and lives were gut-punched by the divorce of our parents.

We weren’t “ready” to be married. Yet when I say, “Kids, don’t get married when you’re 19,” we’d do it all over again. Every day is at once new and predictable, laced with a solid measure of security yet seasoned with adventure and discovery. Kelly and I are as different as night and day yet also as similar as lifelong best friends and companions should be.

But imagine changing the way it began? Any delay, any detour might have meant missing the miracles of Feb. 26, 1985, and March 13, 1987 – the births of Kishia and Natasha. Imagine …

The night before our wedding, as I stared out over the pitch-blackness of the city park lake, I asked God for a sign, some indication of whether I should be getting hitched in a few hours. It already seemed that there had not been a time when I didn’t know Kelly – we started “going together” in the eighth grade, Nov. 22, 1976 – yet the thought that overwhelmed me at that moment was to imagine like without Kelly.

There was a lot I didn’t know at the age of nine-weeks-before-19. But what I saw at that moment was life-altering and confirming. The answer was right there in my gaze toward that dark lake: Nothing. Empty. Alone.

I didn’t see what the future held, but I saw what it wouldn’t hold if I opted out of “I do.” I’m not sure if Kelly had a similar epiphany. And if she did see even the most unfocused, however brief glimpse of our future together, the very fact that she didn’t flee and get as far from me as possible is a remarkable demonstration of grace.

I’m a mess. As a writer, I filter each word, sentence and paragraph I write through perspectives that range from, “That’s really pretty good” to “That’s the worst piece of drivel ever penned by a human being.” The wiring is basically the same when it comes to husband-hood. Just when I start thinking, “Hey, I’m finally getting the hang of this,” that other voice suggests, “Dude, you don’t even have a clue.”

I love to watch Kelly. Sounds kinda creepy, maybe, but I love just watching her: talking on the phone, reading, being Grammy to our Princess Kianna, in deep thought – sleeping. Her facial expressions, her unique-to-Kelly mannerisms and speech patterns, the look on her face when she’s sweetly and intently listening to a random stranger who approached her to just spill their guts about life’s trials and troubles. (That happens more often than I can count).

Thirty-two years.

There’s still so much I don’t know. I still don’t know how it’s possible to be so comfortable, so close and so connected to someone. And just when it seems that I’ve given my bride a lifetime of reasons to pull away and withdraw, she pulls even closer and loves even more.

Thank you, God, for Kelly, for these 32 years, our lives together, and the rest of our lives being amazed by the mystery of it all.

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Something special about today

Written for Easter 2012. “The Voice.”

But first this thought. Easter, in some form of observance, is secular, pagan, Christian or simply “religious.” What is it to you? It’s easy to get side-tracked by religious ceremony, colored eggs or a special meal. For the Jacksons – for as long as I’ve been alive – no single events in all of human history are more profound than the resurrection of Jesus Christ and his violent, Self-sacrificial death on the Cross. It was the darkest, most hopeless hours ever.

Listen. He already knows your name. He knows your heart. Listen.

The Voice.

Jodie Jackson Jr. - Author

Yesteryear’s calendar …

Easter Sunday, April 11, 1982 — Preach sunrise service, Pilot Knob Baptist Church.

John 20:15-15Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? Whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.

Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.

John 10:27My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.

That Easter sunrise service I preached 30 years ago didn’t use the text I just shared. (That morning the text was Philippians 3:7-11, focus on verse 10). But if I had an Easter message for 2012, the title, based on the above reading from the King James Version, would be something of a take-off on the…

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