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Building a playlist: “My Chains Are Gone” and “I Will Rise”

Days 7 and 8 – “Shackles: The Playlist”

On account of real life getting in the way, I managed to fall a few days behind in my compilation of a playlist for “Shackles,” my historical fiction novel that tells the story of Paul the apostle’s earth-shaking encounter with a jailer in the Roman colony of Philippi, circa 50 A.D. The story is two-fold and simultaneously follows separate paths: Paul’s story when he was Saul the great persecutor of Christians and later then converted evangelist, and the story of the jailer, a man I named Faustus (he’s unnamed in Acts 16). I’ll admit that Faustus became my friend as “Shackles” unfolded and is one of my favorite fictional creations. I suppose it’s not too late to have imaginary friends, right?

The separate paths of Paul and Faustus eventually collide – literally – and then the story follows the outline already detailed in Acts 16. A few of my 18 beta readers have finished the story and their comments and feedback are trickling in.

For the next two entries to “Shackles: The Playlist,” I’m offering a double dose of Chris Tomlin. “I Will Rise” and “My Chains Are Gone.”

One of my all-time favorite sacred hymns is “It Is Well With My Soul,” and there a line in the last verse that yearns: “And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight.” That the answer for that yearning is foretold in Tomlin’s “I Will Rise” with the phrase, “And my faith shall be my eyes …”

Whew. Goose-bumpy stuff.

And “My Chains Are Gone” incorporates the timeless standard “Amazing Grace.” The concepts of chains breaking, shackles falling off, and liberation from the oppression of sin and spiritual darkness are absolutely fitting for “Shackles.” Allow yourself to also consider other ways that we become shackled. Our religious institutions often put us in chains with lists and expectations, which is the very thing that Paul fought until his death. We do a pretty good job of shackling others, too, with our finger-wagging and self-righteousness.

Enjoy.

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Filed under Amazing Grace, Book of Acts, Christianity, Inspiration, National Novel Writing Month, Shackles, The Bible

“Shackles: The Playlist” Send me your ideas

Shackles / Historical fiction / 82,487 words

A Roman family man, cheated by a lifelong enemy, descends into darkness and despair. A transformed persecutor of Christians avoids a vicious stoning and multiple murder plots. “Shackles” tells the story of two men, separated by hundreds of miles, destined for an earth-shaking encounter.

One verse in the Books of Acts gave birth to “Shackles” several years ago, although I didn’t realize it until 13 months ago.
“Around midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening.” (Acts 16:25)
Music brought “Shackles” to life, so it’s only fitting that music has played a key role in the writing process. The music that has accompanied this journey is rather eclectic, but also traditional. My tastes range from classic rock and Southern gospel to Indian flutes and contemporary Christian. As “Shackles” enters the test-reading and proofreading stage – with revising and editing to follow – let’s put our musical minds together for the “Shackles” soundtrack. Please send me your suggestions.
I’m getting “Shackles: The Playlist” started with a song – and music video – that tells the story of Acts 16:25. Ray Boltz’s “I Will Praise The Lord.”

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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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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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