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Covenant: When We Left Paradise

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The friendships of four children are tested by family dysfunction, relocation and the changes of the 1960s. Set in semi-rural, part-suburban Florida, this short novel takes the children through school integration, civil rights, and the explosion of rock’n’roll music. Secrets and betrayal lurk beneath the seemingly normal surface. Orchie and Red seek love and a meaningful life, Bobby escapes his abusive grandfather and learns the truth of his parents’ deaths, and Lucy goes in search of her tribal family near the Everglades after her father leaves the family. In the atmosphere of the Gulf Coast’s vacationland, the circus, and great swaths of wilderness, their journeys tell the story of an era but are also universal. 

Covenant, by Mary Clark, Kindle

Excerpts from Covenant:

She saw clearly when she left paradise. He left the garden, seeing the world for the first time.

It is 1960.

Elvis’ voice is an ellipse from every hamburger joint. In rural Florida, subdivisions and truck farms, migrant workers camps, quarries, parks, ranches, rodeos, and small villages dissect the sprawl of the land. The circuses—Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey, Clyde Beatty and the Cole Brothers—winter at the fairgrounds.

Children sit on their front lawns listening to transistor radios play soul and the blues, country, pop, and rock ‘n’ roll, words burning down in the sun, staying like liquid metal in their brains. Blue-jean babies, leather-jacket ladies, flying beyond their parents’ call.

Fishermen found Larson’s boat drifting on an estuary. The next morning, his body was found below an old boat ramp.

“He must have fallen, hit his head, gone overboard,” Earl said, “and his boat kept on going.”

Red and Orchie walked to Bobby’s house. He was standing at the end of his driveway, as if he had been waiting for them.

“The police came here and told me my dad was dead.” Bobby stuffed his hands in his jeans’ pockets. “I didn’t feel anything.” He hunched his shoulders. “But when they said I couldn’t live here anymore, I . . . I started to cry.”

Orchie put her arm around his shoulders.

In silence as they walked to the orange groves, Orchie imprinted on her memory the freckled nose and sprout of hair on the back of Bobby’s head, the too-small tee-shirt, the too-big blue jeans, and vowed never to forget.

A vision of the trading ships of the world coming into the harbor, bringing their gift, their legacy—sailing, sailing—the heavy vessels of the past empty their cargo and are refilled, flowing with a purpose, only to run empty across time and space to find that purpose again. Swinging across the globe and back, they circle quietly with the joy and ecstasy of fulfillment in time, until they sink into the fold and mantle of the sea, all the while creating a design so potent it shapes eternity.

Reviews:

That is a truly wonderful book Mary. I read it right through in one go and it held me spellbound. It’s like a glass of rich red wine.  You drink it slowly right to the end and then you say, Ah. – David Turnbull, writer, occupational coach

The story is soothing and stark, amusing and disquieting, individualistic and altruistic as it reflects through hours, days, months and years. Mary Clark’s writing is eloquent, even as she ‘speaks’ of poverty and violence, devastation and betrayal. It is word-rich with beautiful sensory descriptions that set the scenes – the woods, the swamps, the beaches, the small town – where the young people spend their time; a blend of raw reality and dreaminess that moves the narrative beyond the simple alliance of children to an agreement that requires them to look into their consciences and hearts. – Diane Denton, author

Plot, movement, characters, ambience, and metaphors. A series of scenes beautifully created and sewn together. Very satisfying. The complete picture will remain with you. – Sally young-eslinger, poet

My Writing Process: The Blog Hop Tour

DM Denton (http://bardessdmdenton.wordpress.com) invited me to participate in this Blog Hop Tour and answer four questions about my writing process. Diane is the author of A House Near Luccoli, All Things That Matter Press, an historical romance based on the life of the Baroque musician and composer Alessandro Stradella. An accomplished artist, she illustrates her own books. Her short fiction books include The Library Next Door and The Snow White Gift.

1) What am I working on?

I am taking a stab at philosophical essays, relying more on my sticky-note mind that gloms up ideas, phrases, points of view and a dim memory of wandering into the wilderness from time to time in my life, than any deliberate reading or traditional educational experience. Some of these essays are inspired by a writing group of thinkers, caregivers, teachers, and disabled persons: actually each person in the group embodies several or all of these “labels.”

Currently, I am working on Children of the Moon, or is it working on me? In this long short story, or novelette, a troubling and enigmatic character named Shadow is befriended by several teens. Two teenaged brothers, Sandy and Will, are separated as Sandy is convicted of assault and sentenced to a long jail term. Two teenaged girls, Laurel and Mira, face their own challenges along with those of the brothers. A rancher-lawyer, Morris Rubra, tries to help them all. There’s a bit of mystery in what happens to Sandy, and at the end, an unexpected link to another book of mine.

The other major project, Into The Fire: A Poet’s Journey through Hell’s Kitchen, is much longer. This is what I call a “docu-memoir” of my early years on Manhattan’s West Side, working in the arts and transiting into community services.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Each of my books mixes styles, or genres. In this way, perhaps my writing will bridge the gap between very different people, and if I can achieve it, between and among diverse communities.

I’d like to think I’m part of a trend toward mixing genres and creating new classifications. One popular author, Alexander McCall Smith, in his detective series combines the slimmest mysteries with philosophy, social commentary, ethics, and a dash of history.

Tally: An Intuitive Life (All Things That Matter Press) is part memoir, part biography, and features conversations about philosophy and art history. It differs in that it doesn’t keep to a strict chronology, and two of the main characters’ names are changed, really a literary device. So it’s best described as that new amalgam, Creative Non-Fiction.

Children of Light (BardPress/Ten Penny Players) is a blend, or alternation, of poetry, poetic prose and dialogue, built around the themes or issues, and characters, rather than traditional plot lines. It is traditional in that it is chronological, but even in the specific times and places, there is universality. A reader called it a “poetry novel” years ago and the name has stuck.

Covenant (self-published Kindle Direct)  falls into a new category: Boomer Lit. It is primarily historical fiction, with occasional poems, calling on some of my own experiences growing up in Florida in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Other parts came from research and stories I heard later on.  There is little embellishment, which there often is in the historical fiction genre, but there are variations of theme and character, so it is my hope (it springs eternal) they appear at different stages, in different lights.

In Children of the Moon, my writing continues in this terse style, with metaphors bundled into a few sentences. These follow one upon another. Each sentence or two sentences is like a Tweet. I began writing like this about twenty years ago as modern life bore down upon me with all its stimulation and diversity. Before that, I was interested in the detail, the finest descriptions. The change helped me cull out the meaningful from the noise, and move on, because so much more is available, out there to be apprehended. Yes, there is a loss of the wonderful detail, the embellishments of 19th Century literature. But I think we receive and take in information differently now.

3) Why do I write what I do?

There’s the sheer beauty of the experience. It began with that, and still does. Writing is also an adventure into the unknown; sometimes it’s a response to a subliminal beckoning: into what you sense but don’t realize that you have any knowledge or understanding of until you make the journey. There are always surprises, times of pain, times of fun and epiphany.

Certain ideas and characters have been with me for years. With them I live through and express my reality. In a way they are avatars that I unleash in fictional or historical settings. The ideas that populate my mind, that Jungian garden, involve human motivation, our essential nature, and our role, if any, in the universe. So there’s a lot about intent, guilt and innocence, identity, relationship with the natural world, love and friendship, freedom, search for meaning, and death.

Tally: An Intuitive Life, for instance, is an unvarnished look at old age and dying, and how we determine the meaning of our lives. It is a story of caregiving and friendship across generations and values and lifestyles. It will challenge you as a reader.

4) How does your writing process work?

It would be a good idea to have one! I suspect I would be more successful. Basically, I sit down and write whenever and wherever I can, as long as I have the space and time to concentrate.

And now, I recommend visiting the websites of these fine writers who have joined us in the Blog Hop:

Grace Peterson is an author, garden columnist and blogger. Depending on the weather she can be found either pecking on her laptop or puttering in her garden. Her blog can be found at www.gracepete.com

Jo Robinson is a South African writer. In her book, African Me and Satellite TV, a woman living in modern Zimbabwe has managed to escape reality for years, until she takes in an elderly domestic worker and begins a journey into the turmoil outside her door and within her own life. Jo also writes short stories, science fiction and fantasy. Her blog on “My Writing Process” starts March 3: http://africolonialstories.wordpress.com/

MaryLee MacDonald is unable to join the Blog Tour since she is working on her new novel. She is a prolific writer of literary fiction and creative non-fiction. Her book, Montpelier Tomorrow, is forthcoming from All Things That Matter Press. Please visit her Author’s Guild website: http://www.maryleemacdonald.us/.