As 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.
Since 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.
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.
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.
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
As 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.
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 theJune 1stFestivaldes 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.
Recently, I was invited to speak at an International Baccalaureate Lyceum Speaker Series at my son’s high school. The proposed topic of his English teacher, Mr. Ed Booten: “How To Craft a Novel.” Both the English and History senior and junior classes were combined for the event.
For those of you haven’t heard of it, the IB Diploma (and I borrow) is an English-medium university preparation course based on an approach to learning involving critical inquiry and is aimed at the education of the whole person. Every year more than 130,000 young people at schools all over the world take the IB Diploma examinations.
In other words, these are sharp kids – on the ball.
Mr. Booten had read my second novel, The Lost Lantern, and enjoyed it enough to request my insights, which I very much appreciated. I will say, as an independent writer with my last book in its second year of release (available on Amazon.com along with my first, The Long Shadow of Hope), speaking opportunities are few and far between.
I prepared my remarks to include my background (and knowing how a high schooler will cringe at a 500-word assignment): as a former sportswriter required a minimum of 500 bylines a year (my totals were more like 700) I was cranking out at least 400,000 words a year. An average novel is 70,000 to 120,000 words. Thus, a work of such length was attainable in my mind. The Lost Lantern has 143,000, or 505 pages.
I hit the usual topics: Write What you know; Point of View/pros and cons of First Person versus Third Person omniscient; Genre; Plot; Character Development; Tone; Choosing a Title.
I did have to contradict myself – and this is the beauty of the imagination and the fun of writing – because my next novel is about a sexual-serial killer within a gated community on a southern coastal island, and the female police detective who goes undercover to try and catch him. I promise, what I know most of these three topics is the island.
And it is from this contradiction that many of their insightful questions emerged. We laughed as I paced back and forth coming up with answers about creating literary monsters, men willing to go a little further in their crimes and deception then they had previously, the aftermath causing mayhem.
I will say now, one young lady got me. These students in addition to spirited novels are assigned interpretive books such as How to Read Literature Like a Professor. Her question was on my style of writing. I had (at least in that moment) completely forgotten about the four types of writing so often brought up in college courses: Expository, Descriptive, Persuasive, and Narrative, and went on to her about how my style was dialogue-driven, conversational, and that I used my dialogue to create tension. That’s all true, but I completely whiffed on her question. While some authors’ novels might be considered Descriptive in style, most novels – my novels – are written in the Narrative style.
But style goes much deeper than the above literary categories. Writing to your audience is always the key. J.K. Rowling doesn’t write like Ernest Hemingway, nor should she. Hemingway’s Iceberg Theory (or theory of omission) strips stories to their bare bones, leaving the reader to interpret his meaning. The voice of Hunter S. Thompson will never be found in a John Grisham tale. Pat Conroy and Cormac McCarthy are in another stratosphere, but hardly similar, nor did they ever mass-produce in a Pattersonesque fury. My goal is for my murder-suspense novels to become page-turners with a surprising twist or two. I don’t use my thesaurus to find big words to enhance my meaning or bog down the reader, nor do I enjoy reading with a dictionary by my side. That’s my style, and for now I’m sticking to it. Thanks for reading, A.S. (Photo courtesy of Ed Booten)
In my childhood, Kim Bannister was the friend of my big sister Kelly that was frequently over on the weekend to spend the night. The friend that, with deceptively great strength, would wrestle me to the floor and pin me, laughing as she did it. The friend that made me, as a skinny 11-year-old, realize that girls existed, and that they were good.
Flash forward eight years. After freshman year of college, one of my best friends, Pat Austin and I, followed the lead of Kelly and Kim and my future brother-in-law, Chip Simmons, and migrated to the Murrells Inlet (work), Garden City (live), Myrtle Beach (play) area for the first of three summers. It was 1983. In ‘84, we had six young men making the southern trek to a house in Surfside: Pat, Paul Larkin, Joe Matheny, Joe Henderson, and Andy Carroll. A good time was had by all.
Kim, like a number of my friends, never left the beach. She became Kim Lipton. She remained pals with my sister and took the (above) picture of Kelly and her daughter, Chloe, in Charlotte, NC, in 1992. Flash forward another eight years. Kelly was tragically taken from us due to breast cancer. Kim is a breast cancer survivor. I feel a sibling-like bond with her.
My second novel, The Lost Lantern (suspense – available on Amazon.com), a book ultimately about racial harmony, also encapsulates life as we knew it in Murrells Inlet and Myrtle Beach in the late 1980s. I thanked Kim in the Acknowledgements as I did a number of friends who touched my life, including all of the boys, Paul and Carter Elliott (pictured below). Kim wrote this review about the book:
In the 80’s Everyone knew each other in the Murrells Inlet area. Not like that now. I loved the book! Andy’s description of Murrells Inlet Garden City area in the 80s with straight on. I live in this area and it was a blast working in the restaurants going out at night being young. This book brought up a lot of wonderful memories. Thank you Andy for this book it was a joy to read. Kim. July 16, 2018.
Thanks to new friend Bernie Delgado, I returned to Murrells Inlet, a couple of weekends ago and visited the Historic Downtown Murrells Inlet Block Party and out of Bernie’s shop, MISC: Everything Murrells Inlet, sold some books, met and talked with many wonderful people including Bernie’s significant-other Brian, a WVU grad and a super-nice person. The memories of being in and around Murrells Inlet were so thick I felt I could reach out and touch them: Bounding across quiet Highway 17, feeling that breeze off the Atlantic, playing the guitar and listening to others at the Tree Top Lounge after work, and before heading to the next friendly place.
I even ran into a fellow-wait staffer from The Ghost Ship – Sissy (above left). It had only been 34 years! I finished off a busy day visiting Out Back at Frank’s, in Pawleys Island, with Carter Elliott (middle), of Georgetown, SC, and Paul Larkin (right), of Surfside, SC. Great friends.
I also wanted to include this shot I took of Murrells Inlet at sunset, from the lot at The Tuna Shack.
I will definitely be back next year for the Block Party, hopefully with my third novel, A Most Beautiful Trigger, in tow.
Bernie shop, 4493 Highway 17, Murrells Inlet, is filled with the creations of art and home furnishings of over seventy local artists. Don’t forget, Christmas is just around the corner! Thanks for reading, A.S.
I am not a LeBron James basher. He is one of the greatest athletes and basketball players of all time. He has made a bad decision or two, but who hasn’t. And, he is a giver – to the tune of well over $40 million. Probably twice that.
As dawn came in the east, sports fans learned that James last night surpassed Wilt Chamberlain on the NBA’s all-time scoring list (31,419). Wilt had been surpassed by four others: Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Karl Malone, and (No. 1) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. LeBron will likely surpass them all.
I watched the first half, in which he was 4-for-4 from behind the 3-point line. And I have seen the highlights – he did it in amazing fashion – needed 39, scored a season-high 44. More importantly the Lakers have won 4-straight.
Comparing Wilt and LeBron is, of course, apples to oranges. I just want to point out a fact or two.
In Wilt’s day, you weren’t allowed to play in the NBA until the college class you entered with had graduated. Wilt, frustrated by being ganged up on by entire teams, played what would have been his senior year at Kansas with the Harlem Globetrotters.
In those first four years of LeBron’s career, in the NBA, straight out of high school, he scored 8,439 points. Surprisingly, in LeBron’s fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth years, at age (approximately) 22-26, he scored 8,923 points. Only 484 more points in what should have been the prime of his life.
Wilt in those years (age 22-26), keeping in mind that one was his rookie season, scored 13,355 points, including, in his third season, his 50 points-per-game.
Is it fair to say that Wilt would have scored 10,000 points from 18 to 22 years of age had he been in the NBA? I think it’s a safe bet.
Hard to believe, but LeBron is already in his 16th NBA season. He is quite durable and has never suffered a major injury. Wilt played only 14 seasons, in my estimation walking away much like Jim Brown did, with a few good years still ahead of him. In one of those seasons (69-70), Wilt played in only 12 games due to a knee injury.
Here’s a few fun facts about Wilt’s career. In 61-62, when he averaged 50.4 points per game, he had 45 games in which he scored over 50 points, including his 100. Never wanting to come out of a game, he actually averaged 48.5 minutes per game (an NBA game is 48 minutes). Wilt averaged in that season over a point a minute (1.037) per game. Never matched. The year after Wilt changed his game to help Philly get past Boston and win the NBA title over San Francisco, he led the league in assists per game, at 8.6, the only time a center has led (he averaged 7.8 assists, 24 points, and 24 rebounds the title year – 67). In his last two years with the Lakers, including his second title in ’72, Jerry West and Gail Goodrich handled much of the scoring. Wilt still scored 19.2 points and 18.6 rebounds per game, starting a wicked fast break, again unheard of numbers today. Wilt’s field goal percentage his final season? .727.
Yes, players over 7-foot were rare in the 60’s. But Wilt was an athlete. Before he gave up track and field, he high jumped 6-foot-6, ran a 49 flat 440, 1:58.3 880, long jumped 22-feet and put the shot 53-4. He played volleyball during and after his pro ball career. Could Wilt have played the “stretch-4” position like today’s big men? I believe he could have if it were asked of him. Despite his free throw woes, he had a soft touch on his turnaround and fade away jumpers. He could have developed a 3-point shot had he wanted to – and had there been one. Of LeBron’s 11,419 field goals, 1,645 have been 3-pointers. Wilt made 12,681 – the hard way.
Lastly, as once the first and now the sixth-leading scorer of all time, Wilt’s 14 seasons were the fewest of the other five. Kobe was the only other straight out of high school and played 20 seasons. Kareem, after four years at UCLA, played 21 seasons. Karl played 19 after three at Louisiana Tech, Jordan 15 after three at North Carolina.
So, yes, I’m a Wilt fan (See Postscript below). I don’t begrudge LaBron or those who will surpass his milestones. I’m just trying to keep it all in perspective.
P.S. On being a Wilt fan: One beach trip when there was an excessive amount of seaweed washed up on shore, my kids and I didn’t build a sandcastle, we built Wilt. LOL. Thanks for reading.