Thursday, October 31, 2013

April Newsome's Getting Married--And You're Invited

In her recent review of False Prophet on Main Street Plaza, C.L. Hanson wrote:
"As much as I enjoyed her earlier book (The Girls From Fourth Ward), I think this one is even better."

I think False Prophet is a better effort too. -- At least it's shorter. But for those of you who have asked about them, the girls do play minor roles in my new novel. For example, when Lt. Matt Ryan attends April Newsome's wedding reception--a grand fete made grander now that her father, Dennis Newsome is a candidate for the U.S. Congress.

Excerpt from False Prophet:

I followed the walkway to the stately McMansion. When I arrived on the porch, the door opened, and I entered to piano strains of “Isn’t it Romantic?” A blonde, teenaged girl held the door with a smile. Two more were stationed at a guestbook table just inside.
“May I take your gift?” One of the girls asked.
I handed it over and watched as she nestled (the gift I'd wrapped in) Abbottsville’s crime report amongst the silver and white ribbon-tied presents that covered a long mahogany console. Then I took the white feather-plumed pen from its holder and, clearly and in all caps, filled up two lines of the guestbook with, Detective Lieutenant Matt Ryan, Abbottsville Police Department, Homicide Division. I returned the pen to its place, smiled and thanked the girls, and continued into the reception with a spring in my step.
Officer Davis stood in uniform at the edge of the living room, his expression taut, without a trace of his perennial smile.
“Hey, Davis. You okay?”
He leaned in and half whispered in my ear. “As okay as I can be when half the folks in the room are wondering what the hell a black guy is doing here.”
“C’mon. Are you sure they aren’t just wondering what a uniformed officer is doing here?”
He moved away from my ear. “That’s the other half.”
“How can you tell?”
“Experience. But speaking of the uniform, I don’t think the guests are buying the idea that Newsome invited an on-duty black cop to his daughter’s wedding reception. Can we get this over with now, Ryan?”
“Keep a lookout for Romano and I will find the candidate. If anyone asks, tell them you’re on a routine investigation for the vice squad.” I winked.
I wandered through the well-dressed crowd, catching dull snippets of conversation along the way, most of them prefaced with either “Brother” or “Sister.” A bow-tied waiter offered me the last glass of pink bubbly off his tray. I took it and thanked him. Then I came upon the baby grand piano. The formally attired man at the keyboard played a respectable version of “The Way You Look Tonight.” I caught his eye and nodded my approval, then froze at the sight of Oakland Temple President, G. Maddox McKay. We stared at each other for a second and then he looked beyond me. I relaxed and smiled to myself. Probably didn’t recognize me with my clothes on.
I took a sip of the bubbly and shuddered. The stuff went down just like the Strawberry Ripple my date and I had snuck into the prom. Only without alcohol.
I stopped the nearest waiter. “You got anything to drink besides this?”
“Pellegrino. Also, there will be an herbal tea service with the cake later.”
Pellegrino? Herbal tea? Jesus, where the hell was the punch? I set the glass on a table and walked through the dining room past a long, sumptuous buffet. My stomach growled. I hadn’t had anything since Mrs. Zimmerman’s cookies. Surely the candidate could spare a dinner roll. I grabbed a Parker House from the basket, broke it open, went around to the end of the buffet, and stuffed it with a slice of roast beef and a dab of horseradish. The server at the carving block looked at me funny but didn’t comment.
I took a bite and then continued out of the house and into a large tent where guests dined on cloth-covered tables. A female harpist performed an awkward version of “Hey Jude” on a small stage set in a tropical motif. Beyond her, the bridesmaids and groomsmen posed for pictures in front of a large floral arrangement. Right off the bat I recognized them. Three of my favorite unconvicted murderers: Jill Spencer, Sarah Renfro and Betsy Miller decked out in burnt orange and beaming for the camera. The groomsmen wore nervous grins. I stepped into the girls’ field of vision. They glared at me like death. The photographer snapped their picture. I waved at them, finished off my roll, and ambled over to the rose arbor where the newlyweds and their parents were receiving a long line of guests. I caught a glimpse of Murderer Number Four through the crowd. April Newsome was the quintessential fresh-faced virginal bride. Like a model in those ads for Breck shampoo—or Eve in the temple movie. I craned my neck to get a look at the poor bastard she’d tricked into marrying her. The kid resembled a young George W. Bush, only sober.

Order your copy of False Prophet here.

Also read my Main Street Plaza review of Johnny Townsend's amazing new short story collection, Dragons of the Book of Mormon.

...And don't worry, gentle readers, I will break from the flagrant self-promotion to bring you more emails from the Abbottsville Fourth Ward. For starters, elder young is due to give his mission homecoming talk soon!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Two Conferences, Both Not Alike In Dignity

dig - ni - ty
1. The state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect.

In Mormonworld October is the month for two conferences.

The first is the LDS Semi-Annual General Conference. On the surface, it exudes the appearance of dignity: envision a sea of distinguished white men in white shirts.

Only once they open their mouths they're stripped of any semblance of dignity--all the way down to their holy temple garments. It never fails. Every General Conference what the men in the magic underpants say is sometimes folksy, always guilt-inducing, basically bullshit, and, at the same time, over-the-top boring.

As my regular readers know, I had the good fortune to be in London during this October's 7 1/2 hour snore-fest. So I missed the whole damn thing. But from what I understand this year was no different. Evidently only two speakers managed to rouse the faithful from their rem sleep:

The unintentionally hilarious Dieter Uchtdorf who admitted that LDS Church leaders had made a few mistakes (presumably referring to eensy boo-boo's like polygamy and the Mountain Meadows Massacre) and then urged skeptics to "doubt their doubts." (Whatever the hell that means.)


The intentionally nasty Dallin Oaks who pompously insisted that even though gay marriage is legal it is still immoral.

Shakespeare couldn't have said it better.
The second of two conferences is the Ex-Mormon Conference in Salt Lake City. I was present for that and can report first hand. On the surface, it did not exude the appearance of dignity.

I spent a good part of it playing hooky with my pals at the registration desk.
I got this amazing breadboard made by InsanaD's husband.
Also we had a little too much fun with some missionaries I found at Deseret Book.--Leave it to the Mormons to make "action figures" with no moveable parts. We did our best to loosen them up.
Right off we got them drunk.
Ensuring these are the best two years of their lives.

Also there was some flagrant self-promotion--Yes, of course, I brought my new book!

I also won a very cool book in the door prize drawing!
These are true messengers!
But here's the thing, what the Ex-Mormon Conference lacked in decorum, it made up for in substance. What its speakers shared was sometimes folksy, never guilt-inducing, totally true, and, at the same time, over-the-top interesting. For example:

Micah McAllister's heartfelt presentation about his excellent book, Exit Strategy: Leaving Mormonism with your Dignity Intact. (There's that word again.)

D. William Johnson's panel discussion of his "I Am an Ex-Mormon" videos--a presentation so moving that at it's end, members of the audience rushed forward with cash donations to help him continue the project.

Richard Packham's two excellent talks that were, at times, intentionally hilarious.

Chris Johnson's fascinating insights into possible sources for the Book of Mormon.

Kay Burningham's speech, "Are Mormon Leaders Above the Law?"

And beyond that, the hours of scintillating conversation amongst the thoughtful and intelligent attendees.

Which of the two October conferences possessed the state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect? I'm with the Ex-Mormons. We may not wear white dress shirts anymore, and we've nothing like the magic underpants. But our dignity is intact. Also we're allowed moveable parts.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

I Wish I'd Written This Book

The Complete Mystery of Matthew Alcott: Heritage of Secrets
by Michael Oborn

It was his editor who did the talking and, God bless her, she didn't mince words.
"We received a second-party offer to purchase your manuscript, Mr. Alcott. It's a kill fee and it's for a considerable amount of money."
"It's a direct buy-out, Sam," the attorney Vincent interjected.
"Yes," she said, turning to her secretary, Glenda something. "Do you have it?"
Glenda handed her boss an off-white envelope. Sam pushed it into the middle of the table in Matt's direction. It rested there, on the glass surface. Five pair of eyes focused on it like the last piece of chocolate. 
When Matthew Alcott finishes his honest and meticulously researched biography of Joseph Smith, some high-ranking officials in the Mormon Church offer him 2 million dollars to keep from publishing it.--Like I said, I wish I'd written this book. But it's lucky I didn't, because a chicken like me would have taken the money and run.

Not the case with journalist and researcher Matt Alcott, the fearless hero of Michael Oborn's exciting thriller, The Complete Mystery of Matthew Alcott: Heritage of Secrets. Recovering from both Mormonism and alcoholism, Matt escapes Salt Lake City and then Las Vegas to a tiny town in upstate New York where he gets sober, finds love, reclaims his writer's voice, and begins to live an authentic life. But when news of his lucrative book deal reaches Salt Lake City, he is immediately pulled back to Utah and the hell he worked so hard to leave behind.

As the story weaves back and forth in time, Oborn's writing is consistently as solid as the passage above, his dialogue witty and entertaining, and his characters engaging--from the self-important Mormon patriarchs, to the desert denizens scattered around Zion's periphery. For example, the sexy herpetologist "without tan lines," and the Salt Lake based bikers who call themselves "The Twelve Apostles."

My one tiny criticism is that some passages are a bit long on explanation. But then, I speak from the perspective of a former Mormon who is already too familiar with the author's subject. Readers who are not so fortunate as to have belonged to the "one and only true church" will probably welcome these bits of exposition. And nothing gets in the way of Oborn's fact paced, thrill-packed plot.

Ready for an adventure? Order it here.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Darn, I Missed General Conference!

Mark and I were in London last weekend, where Season Four of Downton Abbey actually took precedent over the first worldwide broadcast of the LDS General Priesthood Session.

Coldly cut off from the one and only true church, I had to wait until I got home to hear the inspired words of the Lord's anointed. Of course my primary sources were exmormons here in the states--most of whom seemed more interested in my sneak peak at Season Four of Downton Abbey. 

Here are the few snippets of the 183rd Semi-Annual General Conference that I managed to gather:
Meanwhile, I was in London, surrounded by an infinitely more civilized, sophisticated, and welcoming society. Whenever I visit their wonderful city, I am amazed by how these tactful, genteel, and proper people are so adept at getting straight to the point. For example:

And then there's the theater!

According to the Daily Mail, Prince Harry recently took in this hit show in the West End. Isn't that smashing?

My next challenge: figuring out where to escape during the April conference.

Sorry President Uchtdorf, Carson's a way bigger rock star than you'll ever be.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Priesthood Session, Warm Fuzzies, Scary Temple Scene

Recently, a group of Mormon women requested tickets to the General Priesthood meeting. The LDS Church countered with the claim that the physical presence of women in the Conference Center would violate the sacred bonding between fathers and sons who attend the session together. As a feminist, I admire the efforts of this small number of women who seek to equalize their status within their church. But as an Ex-Mormon, I can't fathom why anyone would want to sit through this mythic snore-fest. Moreover, I question how much father/son bonding takes place during 90 or so minutes of verbal chloroform that is only enlivened by occasional scoldings toward those who are single, gay, or sometimes tempted to touch themselves.

But then, the Mormons are expert at promoting their bizarre and tiresome rituals as warm and fuzzy spiritual experiences. Lieutenant Matt Ryan discovered that when he inadvertently found himself inside a Mormon temple endowment session--under the guise of Brother Zimmerman, whose temple recommend he'd borrowed. It's just part of my new novel, False Prophet. (Yes, this is more flagrant self-promotion for my book--did you think it wouldn't be?)

Excerpt from False Prophet:

A voice from the speakers said, “We are instructed to clothe you in the Robes of the Holy Aaronic Priesthood.” I heard, “place the robe on your right shoulder.” It lost me after that. I saw that my neighbors were removing their Dearfoams. I popped mine off too, with barely a tug at the overtaxed elastic, and rummaged through my clothing for a robe. I found a long skinny scarf, what appeared to be a hat, and a folded square of white cotton. I figured it for the robe.
“Need help, Brother Zimmerman?” (actually Ryan.)
I looked up to see Brother Booze and a handful of others standing and staring down at me. 
“Nope, I got it,” I replied, and jumped to my feet. 
What they called a robe looked more like one of those sexy drapes that actresses wear in movies set in ancient Greece. It fastened with those annoying little hospital gown strings that I never could properly tie. When I at last completed the task, I looked around to see that the entire room was now fully accessorized and seated. Brother Booze leapt to my aid. 
“Where are the rest of your temple clothes?” he whistled. 
Indeed, where had they gone? The young red-haired man on my right collected them from underneath his seat. He stood, handed my hat to Brother Booze then tied the long white scarf around my waist. Booze placed what looked like a baker’s cap on my head, and came around behind to tie yet another string, this time connecting my hat to the shoulder of my robe. I stood still and stiff, aware that every eye was on me. 
Brother Red Hair searched under his seat again then mimed, “Where is it?” 
I shrugged. 
“Your apron?” Booze whispered. 
“The green thing?” 
Booze nodded. 
“I’m still wearing it.” 
Booze and Red Hair hiked up my skirt on either side. I flashed back to the pained expression of my fellow kindergartner, Rhonda Tressler, after I’d performed what I thought was a harmless playground prank. Brother Booze removed my apron and motioned for me to tie it around the outside of my clothes. Then the three of us sank gratefully into our seats. Red Hair pointed at my feet. 
“Brother Zimmerman, you need to put your slippers on,” said Brother Booze. 
Right. The Dearfoams. I guess I could manage that on my own. I found the left one in front of me on the floor and then felt around for the other. Shit. It must have traveled. If only the goddamned elastic wasn’t so tight. I dropped to my knees, searched under my seat, and those around me. I thought I spotted it, but when I touched the toe it moved. This was getting me nowhere. I climbed back into my seat and aimed a desperate look at the officiator. 
He cleared his throat. “Will the brethren in the room kindly check around their chairs for a stray slipper?” 
The room roiled with the bobbing of white caps, until a polite whisper of discovery came from behind, and the shoe floated hand over hand in my direction.“Thank you, brothers,” I murmurred before returning it to my foot and facing the altar. 
The officiator sent me a withering look and motioned to Brother Booze. Booze glanced over, grabbed the baker’s hat that dangled from my shoulder, and put it back on my head.  
I smiled up at the guy at the altar. He nodded, sighed, and depressed the button that activated the voice of God.

That will do! For now.

Click here to order False Prophet--and check out its first 5 star review from Mikayla Anne Pratt!