Exploring Racial Harmony: Teaching “The Cay” in 2020

While it’s currently corona-stalled and banished to on-line only, I have been in a new arena the past eight months – the classroom. I once, beginning 38 years ago, intended to teach English and coach basketball. The whirling dervish called life took me in some different directions, and now I’ve landed back where I began. I’m teaching Creative Writing to sixth graders, and I assisted a lifelong coach with the same middle school’s boys’ team and coached the junior varsity, two reasons blog posts have been flowing like mud in the same time frame.

The classroom work has been interesting and I have varying levels of writing talent among the 180 students – some quite accomplished. To teach the value of reading to writers, to be able to point out some excellent author technique, and for a break from the growing mountain of papers to be graded, I thought it would be fun to read a book with them. I chose The Cay, by Theodore Taylor.

The CayIf you’re not familiar, The Cay is set in Dutch-held Curacao during World War II. A Caribbean Island just north of Venezuela, at the top of South America, the area is a target for German submarines because neighboring Isle Aruba’s oil refinery has begun producing and shipping aviation fuel for use by the Allied Forces. Taylor’s lead sets the tone for the book aptly: LIKE SILENT, HUNGRY SHARKS that swim in the darkness of sea, the German submarines arrived in the middle of the night.

Young Phillip Enright, 11-year-old son of an American petroleum engineer, has to leave the island with his foolishly-squeamish mother, who longs for the safety of eastern Virginia. Of course, their ship is torpedoed and Phillip ends up on a raft with Timothy, an old, black man (portrayed by James Earl Jones in the TV movie), and the ship’s cook’s pet, Stew Cat. Making matters worse, Phillip is hit in the head by a timber during the ship’s demise, and after a couple of days on the raft he goes blind.

“It makes no sense to dislike an entire race of people.” – Timothy, of The Cay

Adding to the tension between the two characters is Phillip’s ignorance and attitude about blacks, purely a mirror of his mother’s beliefs, which he doesn’t actually understand. The book is narrated by Phillip. He thinks of Timothy initially as a “big, ugly Negro.” Timothy is a West Indie native, and calls Phillip “Young Boss” in his native accent. When they land on their cay, a small island that is part of the unnavigable-by-ship Devil’s Mouth, Timothy sets about making plans for their rescue and keeping them alive in his pleasant way. Phillip refuses to help with chores he is able to do, thus tension eventually comes to a head until Timothy smacks Phillip for a particularly disrespectful outburst. After that the two become fast friends. Timothy teaches Phillip how to be self-sufficient: to catch rainwater, to fish, to bare-hand lobster, and to climb trees for coconuts, in case his stay on the isle outdistances 70-plus-year-old Timothy’s life. They even talk about race. Timothy tells Phillip it makes no sense to dislike an entire race of people, and that people of all colors are the same on the inside. Ultimately, Phillip respects and loves Timothy, and as he matures he realizes everything Timothy did to save his life… both before he dies protecting Phillip during a hurricane and after.

Lantern ThumbMudboundThe theme of my second novel, The Lost Lantern, is also about racial harmony. More so than The Cay, to achieve my goal, harsh examples of racism, and racists, had to be depicted. It grates on the soul and sensibility… but it was realistic. It is certainly authentic to South Carolina in the ’60s and ’80s, where and when The Lost Lantern takes place. The Lost Lantern is more closely related to Hillary Jordan’s Mudbound than Taylor’s young adult effort (released in 1969) as Lantern’s black and white friends team together to overcome tall racial odds.

When asked by students about reading my books, I have told them that they must be 17, that the books would be “R or NC-17 rated,” if there were such distinctions for novels. Less than ten percent of my students are black, but many, white and black, initially found The Cay to be racist. One young man (privately) found the term Negro offensive to the point of tears. In his mind it was the N-word, not the commonly-used, proper term of the World War II era. Still, I was sensitive to his point. He said he didn’t like the way the kids “were looking at him.”  Like the protagonist Phillip Enright, most of the students are just beginning to reach maturity. If they were looking, they were watching for his reactions.

I believe that had my junior high English class read The Cay in the late ’70s instead of Romeo and Juliet, it would have been uncomfortable. Race then could still be volatile. In today’s world, I never felt the students looked at each other as black, yellow, mixed, white, brown. The friendships I’ve observed seem colorblind. Ultimately, nearly all of the students enjoyed the book because it was about friendship, love, respect and loss. Time marches on, worldwide problems obviously change, but for some, hopefully a small minority, maybe race relations stay the same.

© 2020

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. 

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

A Question of Style

SCHS Talk 2.jpgRecently, 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) 

© – 2019  

 

 

Beaches, Books, and a Block Party

Drew n Ernest

Ernest Hemingway said, “There is no friend as loyal as a book.”

A great book stays with you. It grips you as you read. Compels you to push on. It re-enters your consciousness and your thoughts over and over as you go about your life. You long to go back to it. You know the characters. You like, love, or loath them.

This is what I am striving for as a writer. My second novel, The Lost Lantern (suspense – available on Amazon.com), a book ultimately about racial harmony, takes place in Murrells Inlet and Myrtle Beach in the late 1980s. The Long Shadow of Hope, my first book, is a tale about what can go wrong when greed, lust, and deception are put on the front burners. The setting? A college football program – Lookout Mountain State University in Tennessee!

I will be visiting MISC: Everything Murrells Inlet, this Saturday, Nov. 10, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., selling and signing some books, maybe singing some songs, and enjoying the Historic Downtown Murrells Inlet Block Party!

All Things picture 2Bernie Delgado’s shop, 4493 Highway 17, Murrells Inlet , is filled with the creations and home furnishings of over seventy local artists. Don’t forget, Christmas is just around the corner! Hope to see you there!

https://www.facebook.com/EverythingMurrellsInlet

Book Number Two

The preface of a possible first-person sequel to my actual second book, The Lost Lantern, though my third novel will be available much sooner. Thanks for reading, A.S. 

I don’t exactly recall when I decided that making money was unimportant. It wasn’t a conscience decision. If you watched my wedding video, the event nine months into my gig as a low-paid sportswriter, you’d see I actually snickered when I repeated the line “For richer or poorer.” It drew some laughs from the crowd. But believe me, at that time I had no intention of doing what I have done.

I went along with the newspaper game because it was fairly high-profile for my medium-market, Carolina world. My beat was a little-brother university bull-rushing its way into bowl contention with highlight-reel future NFL-ers. My publishers were willing to catch me up to a living wage once I proved I was worthy of their paycheck. But this was in the mid-1990s. Ever since Gutenberg slapped a sentence together newspapers have been consolidating and shutting down at an alarming rate. The movement was crescendoing through the ’80s and into the ’90s and the internet, email, websites, and blogs only made it worse. Gutenberg would probably flip a letter tray or two if he observed the ease in which we now share information and print.

The only intelligent notion I ever had was to marry my wife, Katy. I knew she was going to be a rock star. Beautiful and brilliant, she skipped over ladder rungs like a dog after a squirrel’s tail. About the time my newspaper was purchased and we writing rats were told we’d soon have no jobs – albeit illegally, we later learned – she was holding down management positions in the green pastures of pharmaceutics and medical equipment.

I somehow landed on my feet, wooing a college president and multiple panels of interviewers, successfully jumping the fence into media relations. I became the pitchman, the occasional spokesperson, the principle writer of the alumni magazine, the advertising buyer, the events coordinator, the Speaker Series planner and talent booker, the photographer, and, like Gutenberg, the print shop manager, which alone would have been a full-time job.

For a couple of weeks the president took me around town like his new pet. I met influential members of his Board of Directors, money-men with vision. But soon I was just like all the other poor schleps that worked there. The big man didn’t care who stayed or went. I know, because I also wrote the classifieds and placed the national ads. His lone concern was donors and his pleasantries extended only to a tight circle of cabinet members.

As the economy tanked and colleagues moved on, additional duties were heaped on me like pallets on a bonfire. I wore more hats than that kid on “Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium.” Katy knew better than me that I was miserable. We had three children now (you may have guessed by the movie reference), the youngest of whom was about to start half-day pre-school. Katy was on the road three weeks out of four, pulling in mega bucks. And, I had an ace in the hole: my first novel was under contract. Like a rube jumping out of an airplane wearing a potentially-defective parachute, I signed my resignation, gave a month’s notice, and walked away. My name is John Gates, and my world is about to get weird.

© 2018

 

the genius of Andrew Spradling (a repost of Joseph Bird)

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Here are some hints and clues as to the nature of my next project. A sincere thanks to Shelton College Review member Joseph Bird, who is completing his FIFTH novel, for these flattering thoughts and comments – please follow link and read HIS post, my reason for writing today. 

Let me add that if you are an independent writer at the beginning stages of this game, find yourself a writers group to bounce ideas off, help edit, support, and encourage. Along with our founder Larry Ellis, Joe and I are in a positive, fun, informative situation that very much helps me in my quest for completing a third novel, following The Long Shadow of Hope, and The Lost Lantern. The photo, for photography buffs, is from a recent Charleston (WV) Live On The Levee, and is a situation in her game of cat and mouse that Harper Stowe might find herself in. Thanks for reading and keep slinging ink! A.S. 

via the genius of Andrew Spradling

One Reader at a Time

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Maybe building readership is like laying the foundation of a house, one cinderblock at a time. Can’t do two, it cannot be done.

Last night I gave a copy of The Lost Lantern to one of my best friends. It will be heading to Oak Island, North Carolina. Our waitress inquired.

“It’s a book about racial harmony and overcoming some serious racism.”

She ordered a copy by phone before we left. Tip got bigger.

The night before, the new fiancé of an old teammate of mine told me she was ordering both The Lost Lantern and The Long Shadow of Hope for him. They are moving to Savannah, Ga., in the fall.

“Oh, my next book takes place on Hilton Head Island with Savannah as the secondary city.”

Coincidence or karma?

The night before that, a new Garden City, South Carolina, resident posted pictures of the moon over the Atlantic from her balcony. Another good friend said you should pick up a copy of The Lost Lantern from Bernie Delgado’s Miscellaneous: All Things Murrells Inlet. The book takes place right there at the beach.

A copy is in the hands of a National Guardsman heading northeast to Camp Dawson, on the Cheat River, in Kingwood, West Virginia. It’s also being read by a sought-after medical malpractice attorney who travels extensively. Will either bear additional fruit?

A few weeks ago I told the technician at my Optometrists’ – who I knew to be a reader – about my books. She became the 20th reviewer of The Lost Lantern! Yes, Stephen King is pushing 9,500 for Doctor Sleep: A Novel. But I’ll bet I appreciate – and am humbled by – my 20 more, as I do each and every sale. Vacation-season has increased sales, and if you’re heading to the beach or a national park next month or in August there’s plenty of time to order and receive delivery from Amazon.com as we approach the year anniversary of The Lost Lantern’s release! Thanks to Bruce Moss, Lynn McGraw, Bertha Watson, and Renee Simms for reviews 17 through 20!

1. Renee Simms reviewed The Lost Lantern

Great Read! Couldn’t put it down! June 15, 2018

I definitely recommend this book! The author has a flair for telling a story, and weaving several plot lines through each other without them getting lost and confused, then tying it all back in. His rich use of vocabulary keeps the reader engaged and helps to draw mental images. We will see this author an best-selling lists soon!

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2. BERTHA WATSON reviewed The Lost Lantern

Five Stars May 25, 2018

couldn’t wait to see what happened next, thanks Andy.

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3. Lynn McGraw reviewed The Lost Lantern

Five Stars February 28, 2018

Very good book-page turner. Very Interesting storyline, characters, and setting. Highly recommend.

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4. cheri t. reviewed The Lost Lantern

1 of 1 people found the following helpful

and now as a author of great depth and creativity February 25, 2018

Bruce E. Moss says: February 9, 2018 at 4:04 pm Edit It has been my privilege to watch Andy Spradling grow and mature from grade school to today. I have watched him as an student, an athletic, a sports reporter, a restaurateur, a parent, and now as a author of great depth and creativity. I appreciate his research that gives his story such depth and credence. He truly knows has to cast the spell, draw you in, and keep you on your mental toes as you follow the events of his story line. He is truly a gifted writer. I look forward to many more of his most entertaining works and to him be recognized for his remarkable talent.

 

Friends Old and New Give “Hope” a Bump

You just never know where your next bump is coming from. My first novel, The Long Shadow of Hope, experienced a bit of a resurrection when The Lost Lantern was released in July. Let me clarify. I’m talking about going from a drip to a trickle, though it has sold more consistently in the last few weeks. And yet, I hadn’t received any new reviews on Hope in at least six or eight months, maybe more.

Shadow Copy thumbnail I realize that writing a review – going to the Amazon or Goodreads site – is new for some and can be uncomfortable. You’re putting your opinion, your thoughts, out there, sometimes with your name attached. There is also the tightrope of honesty versus appeasing/not upsetting the author. As one of my lifelong friends put it, “I don’t want to be THAT guy,” (accentuating the negative).  I also realize it’s an additional time commitment, after the reader has generously given hours of their lives to the author.

I’ve been blessed to know the sweet and amiable Dawn Snyder for going on 40 years – school buds, mutual work friends, overlapping non-traditional college experiences, and ongoing Lantern Thumbsmall-town life. I’ve known Jeremy Fallecker for less than three, he’s a young man not even close to pushing 40 years old. He carried The Long Shadow of Hope with him to Kuwait, honorably serving our country with the Air National Guard. His codename on top of the list is “Bandit.” ( I hope that’s not a security breach!)

Both friends took time this week to write informative, thoughtful reviews, and that means the world to an “Indie” writer like me. If you care to take a peek, click on this link: https://authorcentral.amazon.com/gp/community  I also want to again thank two former SAHS English teachers, Cathy McClanahan and Carla Williamson, along with our close neighbor at my parents’ home of untold years, Gayle Michael, for their recent reviews of The Lost Lantern.

Thanks, in fact, to everyone who has read or purchased my books. I’m going to try to keep this circus rolling, while writing novel number three. Thanks for reading and Merry Christmas, A.S.

Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me

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Just over 30 hours remain to enter to win a free copy of my new novel, The Lost Lantern. The deadline is 11:59 p.m. Pacific time Sunday, tomorrow, December 3. It’s easy to do.

Just click on this link: https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/9de9b7bc52e07df5

 Lantern ThumbIf you win it will be delivered to your door.  If you’re not a reader, give it to one on your Christmas list. Your odds of winning are quite high. If you’re doubting its worth, read reviews on my Amazon author page: https://authorcentral.amazon.com/gp/community

Good Luck, thanks, and Merry Christmas! A.S.

Pictured above, Coal River at Twilight from the Hayes Bridge.

 

 

 

 

© 2017