29 For 29

Sure, it’s a play on one of my favorite reoccurring sports series by ESPN. Hard hitting, unvarnished truth. It’s a reminder of why sports-related novels are few and far between – sports truths are dramatic enough presented as non-fiction.

Shadow Copy thumbnailIn this case, 29 represents the reviews written about my college football-based sports novel, The Long Shadow of Hope, AND, after a little over two years, the match – 29 reviews reflecting opinions about my second novel, The Lost Lantern, a  Myrtle Beach-Murrells Inlet-based tale of racial harmony and good over evil in the form of racial bigotry.

Hard-hitting, faced-paced plots are the goal for my novels. They haven’t been Michael Johnson out of the blocks, but as I put the finishing touches on my third, I feel The Lost Lantern picked up momentum over the summer in sales and perception, with a  4.9 average out of five stars. Here are some of the opinions rendered:

Lantern ThumbMRE4 – I didn’t want the story to end… August 21, 2019

The setting of this story made it the perfect book to read while vacationing in the Myrtle Beach area. The character development was so good that I found myself feeling angry and deeply rooting for the “underdog.” By the time I got to the last third of the book I couldn’t put it down because I was so engrossed in the storyline that I needed to know what was going to happen with the characters I had grown to love. I finished the final 100 pages on the road trip home. Really great read. Do yourself a favor and grab a copy.

A page turner from beginning to end! August 8, 2019

I loved the characters and the settings. From West Virginia to the low country of South Carolina. My favorite character was William and the story of the Lost Lantern.

Bandit – Fantastic surprises await! July 19, 2019

Spradling’s masterfully crafted characters in the accurately depicted Myrtle Beach of the 1980’s are intricately woven into a web I could not put down. I literally shouted expletives out loud at one point, then was amused at how attached I was to the people and the storyline. It really delivers as a great read of many facets: a love story, crime, murder mystery, and more! This is one you’ll suggest to your friends!

W.McCallister – Very addictive story. July 7, 2019

Very interesting and detailed story. I couldn’t wait to see what happened next.
I love the way all of the characters are so entwined.
Several unexpected twists were very creative.

A.F. – Great summer read! June 12, 2019

Great summer read. Good story with many sub plots that come together nicely. Really good character building. Enjoyed the twists and turns that kept me engaged in the story. Definitely recommend and looking forward to reading more from this author!

I want to offer a sincere “Thank you” to all who have given me a chance and taken the time to read my novels. I truly appreciate you! Thanks for reading, A.S. 

Threads

It was when I observed my son’s recent high school graduation pictures that I saw it, realized it, and the emotions began to rip through my soul like raging flood waters. The jacket I wore. I hadn’t considered it or given it any thought at the time. Throw it on and go.

We have an emotional ritual that we endure every summer. His birthday celebration on July 26. Her anniversary on August 6. This Tuesday marked the nineteenth year since her passing. The year 2000 was the ultimate “Best of times, Worst of times” in our immediate family history, exceeding the premature passing of our grandfather thirty-three years earlier as his three daughters – one, our mother – were birthing the eight grandchildren he would briefly enjoy, spoil, love, and depart from. He would have been 110 Saturday.

Kelly headshot copyHere’s the tale of two cities. My wife and I were preparing for the arrival of our first child. She, nearly three hundred miles away, was fighting for her life. We’d always come together as frequently as possible. We love and adore their children, and hoped to model our child rearing after hers. While we were choosing colors, painting, attending Lamaze classes and baby showers, she was battling the cancer that had begun in one breast, and had, after removal “success,” come back with the fury of a conquering army.

She told me a couple of months before our due date, at an annual family vacation, her goal was to see our child born. I replied, “Well, you need a new goal. You’re doing great.” I was naïve about death. She, a 39-year-old nurse who had last worked in drug research, was not. She was thin and frail from chemo and the disease eating at her bones and organs, always in hat to cover her scalp. She realized her own mortality as she and her husband held their household together and raised their nine and seven-year-old. It was a confusing time.

Not long after, due to protein levels, it was quickly determined we needed to induce the following morning. She was there – from over four hours away. She had to be wheeled into the waiting room. I was crushed when I saw her physical state. But I was so wound up for the coming of our child – I had to let it go. Again following her lead, we chose not to learn our baby’s gender. “There are so few surprises in life,” she used to say.

Evan's birthShe was to go into delivery with us to witness our miracle, but the epidural my wife was given halted the expansion of her cervix, and at 10 p.m. after a 5:30 a.m. start it was determined a cesarean would be performed. My big sister, due to medical bureaucracy and insurance concerns, would have to miss the birth. But she would not miss the welcoming of our son, named Evan Kelly, Kelly after her. I can still see her long, thin fingers holding him, speaking baby talk to him, and immediately loving him. She had a way with babies and children. She embraced the “precious present” and had an unquantifiable love of life.

Earlier, in the fall of 1999, upon learning that her cancer had returned, she and her husband hosted a party to make the announcement. Her friends formed such a strong support group she never had to cook another dinner. A couple of months later, in December, they held another party for the upcoming holidays. We traveled to attend.  They had been high school sweethearts. He was like a brother to me. That was the night we told them we were pregnant. And though we said let’s keep it between us, she couldn’t hold it in. Their friends were our friends, and good news was welcomed. A quicker eight months you could not imagine. Phone calls to her – with talks of her children’s advances, of hopes, fears, expectations, pains, worries – were frequent, and yet now I wish that I’d spoken with her twice daily.  

Because eleven days after Evan’s arrival, with her children, her husband, our mother and father, her closest friends, and me by her side, she peacefully let go and moved on.

Baby Evan reducedWith the services for both there and here planned, I returned home and realized that, having become a more mature man, I needed a new black suit. The picture with Evan was before her memorial service here, where, due to love, his health, a crutch, a barrier, a conversational buffer, pure selfishness, a bit of contempt – I could not let him go or put him down. I must have held him for three hours straight.

131.JPGThe next picture (above) is nearly nineteen years later – graduation night. Our family. Our growth, our progression, our happiness. Same jacket. She would laugh at that. I think daily about how she would love our children, and how they would be enriched by knowing her – the same as her own kids, who have become successful adults, each with their own niche in other regions of the country.

Baby D with KAfter a tumultuous start due mostly to my immaturity, we became the closest of friends. I wrote a poem in college about a cherished neighbor who had passed away. In it I mention a Cincinnati Reds game we attended in our youth. “I like that image, heavy binoculars,” she told me. Words. I was a sportswriter when she left us, not always fluff, constantly striving to improve. I became a novelist, which I had but an inkling of early on. If she had disapproved of a thought, any notion, in one of my books, she would have called me out on it. But if she believed in it, she’d have been my trumpet section. She always protected me. She literally fought for that which she believed, and she’d pump me with courage to make me stand tall, move forward. That was our history. That was our thread.

 

© 2019

What A Day Off Means To Me

                                                                             My old friend Jody Jividen was an avid runner who inYod 85 his heyday kept meticulous records about his daily near-sprints through the streets of Dunbar. Once I began to ride a bike somewhat seriously Jody would tell me, “Don’t plan a day off. They’ll come on their own.” Which meant, for him, he could have streaks of consecutive weeks in which he RAN. I never made the mistake of saying “Did you jog today?” more than once. That was offensive to the former Marshall University Cross Country athlete. And, happy drewif I persuaded him to take a day off to play some one-on-one, you’d better know that you were in store for some rugged hoops. The courts at Shawnee Park are named in his honor. We all lost Jody to colorectal cancer in August of 2002. Charleston’s Run For Your Life (in connection with the Smoke On The Water Chili Cook Off) began as a tribute to Jody’s memory as well.

IMG_0287I took a day off yesterday, which of course made me think of Yod. I’d ridden just shy of 90 miles in three days, 318 in fourteen rides through June, which is not impressive except that, I didn’t get to ride in April and May, so I’ve really been building a base in the first half of the month. We concluded our 3-week middle school basketball period with a morning practice and late-afternoon game, and while I could have squeezed a ride in between those events and the raindrops, I chose to rest (clean the kitchen).

 

“Don’t plan a day off. They’ll come on their own.”

Great Cycle ChallengeI’ve currently raised $1,568 for Children’s Cancer Research, good for second place in West Virginia, 615th in the U.S., but I sure hope for more. I put new cleats on my shoes. I have 10 days remaining to see what I can do in the Great Cycle Challenge. Through the rain that has become our state, through weariness of limbs, in memory of Jody, our friend and colleague Mike Cherry, my sister Kelly Spradling Simmons, I will not take another day off.

https://www.facebook.com/andy.spradling

Postscript: Internet was working slowly this morning. Got in 32.4 to surpass 350.  

©2019

 

The “Why” of It

Great Cycle ChallengeAs of today, because of the generosity of many friends and family members, I have raised $1,174.63 of my $1,500 goal for Children’s Cancer Research. This month, I’m attempting to ride my road bicycle 650 miles in the Great Cycle Challenge, to fight children’s cancer. I surpassed 205 miles yesterday, and have yet to ride today. I am behind pace and afraid that goal may be unattainable. But the goodness of people is already apparent, and that’s the important issue. We all know someone touched by cancer.

It has been nearly three years since I posted “Immeasurable Kindness,” the story of Rich Harper, our local bicycle shop owner, giving me an incredible gift.

https://andrewspradling.wordpress.com/2016/08/20/immeasurable-kindness/

(or on this blog site in August, 2016)

bike-in-b-n-wSince that time I have released my second novel, The Lost Lantern (available on Amazon.com), and am coming down the home stretch of my third. Along with my wife, I’ve watch our three children continue to grow and amaze us, our son graduating high school with high honors. This spring, I returned to work as a substitute teacher, finishing the final ten weeks of the school year as a long-term sub at my own former junior high. Now I’m jumping into coaching basketball as well as an assistant there. We are currently in our 3-week practice period, adding to my daily fatigue.

As I re-read “Immeasurable Kindness,” I thought how can I NOT be doing something? I’m quietly cynical at times and see the bad in our world. Sometimes I wear blinders, while my wife constantly reaches out and helps those in need. But people have been so very good to me, God has been so very good to me, I have to do something to give back. Forcing myself into a little fitness at the same time is a win-win.

Thanks for reading, A.S.

© 2019

A Swing Through Time

kids swinging.JPG

Maybe the long, firm hug, the glassy eyes, and the tears spilled said it all.

On one hand it was easy to laugh about, and yet on the other, it was the most real and recently-reoccurring emotion. One that most parents of growing children – those who actually parent – struggle with, I’m sure.

We were doing a good deed. We gave our kids’ swing set to a young family around the way. A swing set that brought immediate shouting, laughing – and departing tears to the new children. They were in. The swing set hadn’t really been used much in the past few years. It was one that was in danger of falling into disrepair without some TLC. But one that – a blink ago – brought so much joy to our children. So much laughter.

Trio 11x17 cpd.jpg

I can see them twelve years ago, innocent and wide-eyed, laughing and struggling to climb into the collapsible swings. “Push me, push me,” one would ask as I pulled their swing backward, higher, and higher – “beep, beep, beep” and then – on release – a launch sound, “Pppshhhhhooooooolllllllll.” That was my swing routine with them.

I can see my wife with her beautiful smile and playful personality standing behind the children and their friends as they climbed one of the ladders, ever fearful of a slip of the foot. Once safe, I can hear her loving banter and their gleeful shouts as they joyfully slide the slide, turn, and of course try to walk back up the hard way.

It was an adventure to their tiny bodies, through the tunnel, into the little club house. Their joy brought to mind my Grandma Betty, who could, on park-sized swings, push us high, then run under us to the other side. She was amazing to me.

Our oldest is about to graduate from high school and will soon leave for Virginia Tech’s School of Engineering. Next in line is just a class behind. The reality of those departures have spring-loaded my wife’s emotions – and mine. You love and nurture, and do all that you can to prepare them, and pray that you’ve done enough. You realize you cannot stop time, but that only through time can you see the results.

© 2019

 

 

A New Literary Star Is Born

Sam Hindman

 A literary review by Sam Hindman carries with it a great deal of weight. Hindman rose to the highest levels of professional journalism as the Publisher of the Charleston Daily Mail, with Thomson Newspapers, and with Reuters. Sam gave me my first job at the Daily Mail in 1983, and he and his wife, Iris, remain two of my favorite people. Die-hard West Virginia Mountaineer fans, their devotion to family is unmatched as they help nurture and support their teen-aged grandchildren. Thank you Sam, thank you brother Tom Hindman for use of the photo, and thank you for reading. A.S.

 A New Literary Star Is Born February 8, 2019

Lantern ThumbAs I dove deeper into this captivating tale, The Lost Lantern, I found its words, character development and stories within the story so compelling that this novel sent a clear message. A new literary star is born. This tale, positioned in and around Myrtle Beach, is a setting known so well to many and brings similar visions to other beach lovers. With the turning of each page, this author’s words sprang to life. The intrigue woven into a time when the south was less than hospitable to all races causes memories and visions from each reader’s past to play like a movie of the harsher times when racial discrimination plagued Murrells Inlet, yet was rejected by many as this tale so vividly portrayed.

Author Andy Spradling has earned a look by the big publishing houses and those that would need a script for their next movie. It is here in The Lost Lantern. This story rivals those found in many works by John Grisham. Andy’s character development, from the indomitable William McMillian. His ambition, interplay with a racist Danny Rivers, his equally vile brothers and the help of friend John Gates, a family minister and his mother’s church is as satisfying to your literary hunger as would be a good meal served by Mr. Spradling and many of characters who once toiled in those 1980s restaurants, and then danced the night away.

This novel depicts Horry County for what it was and what it wasn’t in those days, while numerous other plots run parallel to the struggles by William McMillian and his friends. Indeed all the twists, evil or otherwise, are well developed while you continue to envision the resourcefulness behind McMillian, Gates , and others. . Without lessening the true joy that comes from embracing this strong read of good over evil, it is time to ask for more…more recognition for Andy Spradling’s literary talents and more from his fertile imagination.

5-stars

Purchase The Lost Lantern on Amazon.com at: https://www.amazon.com/Lost-Lantern-Andrew-Spradling/dp/1548476250

© 2019

String Discovery

images[1]Live tonight in Livermore, California – Luca Stricagnoli. The Italian-born guitar sensation will play four more U.S. dates in Kent, Washington (3-1), Mount Vernon, Washington, (3-2) Big Sky, Montana, (3-3), and Bozeman, Montana (3-5) before heading off to Germany, Portugal and Australia. He will be at the June 1st Festival des Guitares du Monde en Abitibi-Temiscamingue, in Quebec. It begins May 25th.

I stumbled upon this ultra-talented player because of my love of South African-born Trevor Jones’ music written for “The Last of the Mohicans.” It has always been one of my favorite movie scores. The 1757 saga was based on the James Fenimore Cooper historical novel written in 1826, which I once read, but Michael Mann drew more, I learned, from the 1936 movie of the same name, then Cooper’s book. Interestingly, he found a diary of one of the French soldiers that strengthened the 1992 production.*

I also learned that in post-production, Mann scrapped Jones’ electronic score and decided he wanted a more traditional orchestral score. Jones reworked his score but didn’t have time to finish it, and Mann had to hire composer Randy Edelman to complete the music ( * from movie/fone – 17 Things You Never Knew About The Last of the Mohicans).

Anyway, Stricagnoli blew me away with his style of one-handed finger-picking on his 7-string guitar (not to mention the bow and two other guitars he utilizes). I look forward to exploring his music. Livemore is east of the San Francisco Bay area, less than 35 miles from Oakland. The Warriors are at Amway in Orlando tonight. If I were there, I’d check Luca out.

Here also is a link to Jones conducting his score. Beautiful.

Thanks for reading, A.S.  

© 2019