Character Interview: Christopher

I’m going to try to do more character interviews. In the past, I was averse to them because I write in a very visceral manner. My stories are quick, painful, bloody, and over. I don’t really have a strong sense of my main characters until the third or fourth rewrite. I’m a pantser and one of the failings of writing without an outline is that you don’t get a real sense of the world or characters until after the book is finished. Then you polish polish polish and attempt to herd cats into a basic plot. Plus, as you will see, some of my characters don’t interview very well.

 

Abby Jones’ Interview with Christopher

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Christopher leaned back in his chair, arms crossed across his chest, a lazy glare on his face. I have to admit, I was a little nervous talking alone with Christopher. While I’m years older than him, his reputation as an unfeeling bully who lorded his power over his fellow bruisers put me slightly on edge. Everything about this boy oozed danger. His scars, his posture, his mixed-match clothing stolen from others, even the fact that he was not as gaunt as the rest of the kids from the Streets communicated his first priority: himself.

I sat opposite Christopher and held out my hand. He glanced at it, smirked slightly, and refused to take it. Any pleasantries we might have exchanged remained unspoke. His scars were the first thing I noticed after he pulled off a filthy knit cap revealing a shaved head. They tracked here and there across his face and into the shadow of his hair. Across his nose and just below his right eye blossomed a spider web of lines.

On his left cheek, as if to balance out the scars carved by fights, rested Fear’s mark delineating him a bruiser. My eyes flinched away from the mark: a boy trapped in the horror of a fire. There for all the world to see was, possibly, the only thing Christopher feared: burning to death.

He grinned at me and tapped his cheek. “Pretty, in’it?”

My heart raced. Awkwardness gave way to true uncomfortableness. Wait. Stop. I took a deep breath. I knew this boy’s fate. Why was I afraid? I matched Christopher grin for grin. All the anxiety he induced melted away.

Let’s start with the basic’s okay, just to warm up. What’s your name?

Christopher.

Just Christopher?

Listen lady, I ain’t some fancy rotten boy born to fancy rotten parents. (Excuse his language, dear reader, he has, as stated, no mother.) I was pulled from the ground like everyone else around here. And it’ ain’t rotten likely that some dirty hero from Greenhome’s gonna come sweep me up. It’s just rotten Christopher.

So, you’re an unborn?

You’re as bright as the shining sun.

What’s it like to be an unborn?

What do you think it’s rotten like? No one wants a maggot like you. No one cares about a maggot like you. (He leaned forward.) It means, iffen I want it, I take it. You got a pretty I like, it’s mine. Got it?

Uh…yes. I believe I’ve got it. So, what’s your unborn skill?

(He harrumphed and leaned back.) Rotten skills.

Well?

Closest thing I got to any skill is being a rotten scrapper.

Scrapper? What’s that?

A fighter. (He wiped his mouth with his hand.) I ain’t scared of getting hurt, or dirtying my hands, or pushing the little ones around. Flo said I came up fighting and she got me out of the scroungers real rotten fast. Said I was harvested to be a dirty, maggoty bruiser.

Do you like being a bruiser, and doing what Fear says?

Beats starving.

So bruisers eat better than the mechanics and workers?

(Christopher laughed, moving in again.) What’s it look like to you?

How about Axe? Is he a good leader?

Rotten Axe. (Christopher glanced around real quick, checking to make sure we were alone.) He ain’t much older than me, and he ain’t rotting better than me. His skill is filthy dumb, reciting all them words. Give me time. I’m gonna make my pretty play and then Axe’ll be the one at the bottom of the dirty heap instead of the pretty top. Then all the bruisers will listen to me.

Sounds like you’re pretty ambitious.

I’m cold and hungry.

And Axe isn’t?

He’s got filthy food, ain’t he? He got so many pretty coats, he just rotting gives them away. The bruisers follow him around like he’s something special, and filthy Cagen lets him do whatever he rotting wants. Iffen Axe is, he isn’t as much as me.

Do you like living on the Streets?

Like? (He pushed back and put his boots up on the table. They both had holes in the soles and toes. Scraps of paper and dirty rags stuck out here and there.) What’s to rotting like? Marks, Axe, cold, hunger. Sure. It’s rotting dandy.

If you could leave, if someone offered to salvage you, would you go?

(Christopher’s face twisted this way and that.) No one would rotten do that for me.

How old are you, Christopher?

Who knows? Maybe somewheres around sixteen. Seems a pretty answer.

What is your job in Gang Gray, as a bruiser?

To bruise. (He smiled, showing all his dirty teeth.) I watch the wall with my boys and pound any of the dirty gangs that try and attack us. And I pound any other rotting bruisers who try to sleep in our spot. (Christopher paused.) And I pound any maggot who has what I want.

Sounds like you were born to be a bruiser. Any last thoughts or something you’d like to say?

(Christopher stands up.) Last thoughts? Yeah. I’m the one to watch. I’m going pretty places. Axe thinks he gives the orders now, but Pain’s asking me to do special things. Me. Rotting Christopher. And I’m gonna do ‘em. So you just keep your dirty eyes on me.

Oh believe me, I will. One last thing, did you know Jonah before he was salvaged?

(That question got a frown from Christopher.) Sure I rotten did. He and Deke were two of my best dirty little ones. I was going to make something of that boy. Talk about a rotten skill to fight, though they said he wasn’t no filthy unborn. I never in my life seen a boy so bent on hurting everything. I would’ve smashed Deke’s dirty hands myself for getting Jonah salvaged.

How do you think he’s doing in Greenhome?

Jonah? He better be making that rotting Soul regret ever salvaging him. I put a lot of work into training Jonah. Hate to rotting see it go to waste.

Do you miss him?

Miss him? He wasn’t no dirty brother of mine. But, boy, could he fight. (Christopher smiled to himself.) One time he took on three kids big as me in a fight, and whipped ‘em good. They was howling maggots by the end of it. Sure could use Jonah now, with what Pain’s got planned.

What’s that?

I ain’t no rotting snitch!

He stared at me for a few minutes.

Thank you for coming by and talking with me.

Without a word, Christopher pulled his hat back on and stalked out of the room. I sighed. All the ambition in the worlds, good or bad, wasn’t going to get Christopher what he wanted, thank the King. I couldn’t help but smile to myself at the fact that Christopher thought he had it all figured out. I folded up my paper and put away my pen. I was glad to interview the sixteen-year-old bruiser. I love him after all. But, I was gladder to never again have to deal with him like he was then. Change was coming for Christopher, change named Jonah.

 Christopher is a character in my Faerie Story from the Worlds before the Door, The Cost of Two Hands. Read the first chapter here.

 

June #WIPjoy: The Cost of Two Hands

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Author Bethany Jennings created a fun hashtag challenge for writers, with a different prompt about your WIP (work-in-progress) every day. I’m so excited. This exercise not only allows me to share my story with you, but it prompts me to twist my brain around for different perspectives on the story.

If you want to join in visit Bethany’s Twitter profile (@simmeringmind) to see the pinned list of daily prompts!

THE COST OF TWO HANDS #WIPjoy

One: Intro Week

Tell us about your WIP:

The Cost of Two Hands is my WIP. It is a Faerie Story set in a world overtaken by long harsh winters. Jonah is salvaged off the Streets and comes to live in Greenhome where he must learn to control his uncanny ability to get into fights. Settling in, Jonah struggles with making friends and learning how to read. Back on the Streets petty wars are started by petty men. The starving shadow of Jonah’s old Gang reaches out for Greenhome while on the horizon kidnappers appear drawn by the scent of children: born and unborn alike.

Share your Protagonist’s awesomeness:

What I love the most about Jonah  is that even as he discovers he is something mighty and magical, his main concern is living up to being Jonah Soul’s Man. All he wants to do is live in light of the sacrifice made to him. What he comes to find out about himself is far less important to him, than what was done for him. I also love how he has embraced using his abilities to get into fights for the good of others.

Share a line showing your WIP’s Atmosphere:

White flakes trickled down from the flat, steel-gray sky. Brittle branches tingled stiffly in the wind. Gray sky above the gray naked branches, and white below, white falling, all lined and encased in silver ice: the world gone monochromatic.

Share a line showing your WIP’s main emotion:

“Root and water,” he muttered.

“You’ve said that before,” Presto said. “What does it mean?”

“Roots that are deep don’t fear the wind. Trees by water don’t wither.”

 

Two: Character Week

 

The character you relate the most to and why?

I relate most to Jonah. I wrote him as a semi-allegory for a new believer and have poured into him a lot of what it’s like to be converted as a child. Obviously, with more magic and with a far different lifestyle than the one I had growing up. I also love him cause he’s not afraid to fight for those around him. This is something Soul develops in him. I love that Jonah is always ready to defend the ones he loves, with violence if necessary.

A character who shares a flaw with you.

I literally have no idea how to answer this one. My writing style doesn’t really lend itself to me thinking about flaws and strengths that often. Adele is the character with the most flaws and on some level I guess I understand her. I would willingly sacrifice almost anything in the name of peace. I hate conflict. I view this as a flaw cause there are things worth fighting for. Adele willingly sacrifices what she knows is right for what she thinks is the greater good. That’s as close as I can get.

Did you base anyone off a real person?

Yes. Axe is based off of Matt Axelson who was a Navy Seal in Afganistan. He died during Operation Red Wings and is know from the movie Lone Survivor. My character Axe isn’t a whole lot like him other than looking the same and knowing random bits of quotes and things. This is my way of honoring this American hero.

Share a line that shows a character’s sense of humor:

Presto is all about the sarcasm:

“What’d I miss?”

“Nothing,” Presto grunted. “We were waiting patiently for your return so we could communicate with Oak in words instead of smoke signals.”

Which characters would you want to be roommates with?

Kelby, my sharpshooter. She’s brave, loyal, comes with a paint pony named Sackett, and is an excellent shot. I think we would probably have a lot of fun together . . . wait, she may be my alter-ego . . . does wanting her as a roommate make me a narcissist?

Share a line that makes you want to hug a character.

Bree looked around the tent. The bright morning sun flooded in down the hole at the top of the teepee. Boys with bare chests—clean for the first time in how long?—sat around her. The light gleamed in eyes of all shapes and sizes and across smiling faces. They all looked at her. They’d had their time running wild and now they wanted, needed, a mother’s tender touch. A kiss for their hurts. Someone to see and exclaim over their amazing acts. Someone to care for and to take care of them. They wanted a mother. Bree bit her lower lip. “Go and come back then,” Bug translated for Eagle. “Go and come back. We will still be here. We are always here.”

“I can’t. I just can’t. I have to go back.” She pointed to the marks on her face.

“Mighty Eagle says you should stay here,” Bug translated. “Here you will have many sons to replace the ones who didn’t grow up. Won’t you stay?”

A minor character with author-head canon you enjoy:

Haze. He is in charge of the defenses of Greenhome. He paid the cost of the crimes of a handful of kids from Gang Red including Cid, George, and Silas with his eyes. (Not his sight.) This is as much as you can piece together from the story. He himself was salvaged from the Streets by a cranky old man with a big white beard at Christmas time. Soul sent the old man to save him, indicating Soul is much older than he appears. Haze, though wild and disrespectful, brought joy to the cranky old man: each saving the other. Haze and Soul are best friends now that Haze is grown up. They remind me of friendships like Spock and Kirk with Haze being Kirk and Soul being Spock.

Thanks for reading! Check back later for the rest of June’s #WIPjoy. If this peaked your interest at all, you can read a sample chapter here. Also follow me on FB for updates on how the writing is going. The link should be on the left side.

King’s Speed!

 

Read Chapter 1 of the Cost of Two Hands!

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Read the prologue and 1st chapter of The Cost of Two Hands!

If you’re a regular visitor to this blog, you know I love to write stories for my nieces and nephews: The Texas Cousins Adventure Stories. But, did you know I’m also working on a YA Faerie Stories series? It has hints of fairy tales, a twist of steampunk, and undeserved rescues. Here’s what it’s about:

The Artists are gone. The world is trapped in winter. Young expendable lives fade fast. Petty wars are run by petty men. One mother flees. One man fights. One girl hunts the hunters.


Jonah relied on violence to survive. After Soul paid the price for Jonah’s crimes and adopted him, the boy had to adapt to a new life: reading, writing, and learning to control his uncanny ability to get into fights. But when his first good friend is kidnapped in order to build a machine endowed with a human essence, Jonah must apply his fighting skills in a new way. Can the fists that once beat a crone be used for the good of others?

If you enjoy the first chapter, please share it and leave a comment. Let me know if you would like to be a beta reader. I’m always looking for fresh opinions on my story.

Thank You!

Change is in the Air

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It’s been three years since I made a change in my writing. Three years since I left behind my thriller, criminal, vampire urban fantasy stories for a blog geared to encourage my church, stories for my nieces and nephews, and YA Faerie Stories. (Read about it here, and see my new blog here.)

As I worked on my YA Stories, I tried to create a whole new world from scratch for my characters, but the world I used in my Urban Fantasy stories fit too well with what I was doing to resist. What a joy not to waste the work I put into the world building. The Worlds before the Door is here to stay. Originally, I had only the Material World and the Spirit World before the Door. Now, I’ve added the Metaphysical World which will house my unborn.

So, what has changed? My Faerie Stories are just a bit more obviously Christian. They’re not preachy, but the Bible is quoted. The term ‘witches’ has been changed to Guardians. I felt like this might be a bit more palatable to parents, and this wasn’t a hill I wanted to die on. The focus characters are no longer Crow, Olive and the Justicars, but a group of kids in the Metaphysical World. Moving to Faerie Stories has pulled out more of my poetic prose and a whole cast of quirky magical creatures. The darkness has been toned down. The stories are still dark—unborn are aborted babies from the Material World after all—but the serial killers are now monsters, and the toned-down tortures leave less visible scars. These are the biggest changes.

What hasn’t changed? The themes of the Undeserved Rescue, Warriors, Eucatastrophe, and Hope in the Darkness are as well and alive now as they were in my Urban Fantasies. The King still stands behind the Door only reached by Death. Crow, Olive and the Justicars are still fighting monsters and evil Guardians. Things are still dark and characters you love still die. These things haven’t changed. J

My goal is to write a story that I would have loved as a regenerate young person. No language, sex scenes, or whining teens, but adventure, friendship, and heroes. Along with that, I’m continuing to develop my craft so that my stories can be enjoyed by adults as well. I want to write a story I love to read now. I don’t want this to be a book only for teens, even if teens are the main characters. I want this to be something that all ages of Christians find encouraging.

If you have read Fiddler’s Green by A.S. Peterson and enjoyed it, there is a strong chance you will enjoy what I write. I love to read and write that strange combination of beauty and visceral action.

So far, I have finished the second rough draft of The Cost of Two Hands (Book 1). It is being examined by beta readers and critiqued on Scribophile. While others are spotting problems, I’m working on The Sparrow and the Star (Book 2). Jonah’s storyline is finished, but I have only just started Sparrow’s side of the story. The Seventh Son of the Seventh Son (Book 3) is semi-patiently waiting its turn to be written.

This blog will be dedicated to everything about my world and Faerie stories. All my articles, book and movie reviews, Sunday Thoughts, and Quote of the Weekend will stay on my Gentle and Quiet Blog. Due to my health, both of these blogs will stay only partially active. I don’t have a schedule for this blog and don’t plan on setting one up. If something happens that I want to share about my book, I’ll share it. The schedule for my Gentle and Quiet Blog will remain Monday posts and Saturday quotes.

Thank you for your support for so many years. I’m excited to share this world, slightly refurbished, with you!

And now….onto something Completely Different!

I started a new blog!  Check it out Here! 

 

Girl%20With%20Lamb-755544Change is brewing in my heart and mind.  Explaining the change will encourage some of you, puzzle others, and mark me as crazy for a few of you – tis life and life where faith is involved.  As all of you should know by now if you read this blog with any regularity, I’m a Christian.  Specifically, I’m a Reformed Baptist.  As a Christian, I believe that Christ is constantly working to sanctify me and make me more like Him.  He asks me to live a life of sacrifice for His sake just like He did for me.  How can I do anything other than that??

In the process of that sanctification, Christ challenges us and pushes us out of our comfort zones.  He seeks to make us holy, not necessarily happy. (Assuming you understand happiness and joy to be two totally different things.) Recently, I have been challenged and convicted about my writing.  I don’t believe anything that I’m writing is wrong, but I have begun to wonder if it the best use of my gift.  This has been a very painful thought process, and a very long one.  I love my vampire/serial killer stories.  I love them.  They are a deep part of me.  They resonate with me.  I cherish them.  But my local church family and my own family are not being served by them.  I have been able to use them as a bridge to a few people in our church and I have forced them on others with threats of friendships ending, but they aren’t serving my body as a whole.

About a year ago, my husband was provided with the opportunity to start teaching in our Church. This is where his heart is, this is where he wants to go as the Lord provides.  As his wife, it is my goal in life to help him in everything that I do.  I want to help him achieve his dreams and I want to grow and mature alongside him, not away from him.  I want to be the old couple who still enjoys each other.  That takes sacrifice.  (And before anyone gets all feminist on me about him sacrificing for me, remember, this is me talking about me, not him, and he has sacrificed for me.  He does every day.  This is not an idea he foisted on me.  He gave me his opinion, of course, but he left me alone to sort things out in my own head, and between me and God.  There was no dictatorial edict from on high, but a loving friend at my side in the journey of life.)  Needless to say, vampires and serial killers don’t feature in his Biblical Studies….ever. So as he grows and changes, I want – more than I want to be published – to grow with him.

What does this all mean???  I’m not sure yet.  LOL.  I’m making a new blog where I can write things that will be more encouraging and edifying for my church.  It’s called a Gentle and Quite Spirit. I’m thinking about taking all the rumbling tumbling stories inside me and writing children’s books.  I hope to have children someday (sooner rather than later) and it would be nice to write stories for them.  I think there is a deplorable lack of decent, fun, and wholesome stories with strong life lessons offered to the youth of our day.  If we want them to stop acting entitled along with all their other problems, giving them more books like Perks of Being a Wallflower won’t help.  (I’m not saying that’s the problem entirely, I’m just saying stuff like that doesn’t fix anything.)  There are lots of thoughts stuffed in my head leaving me feeling like I need my own Pensive, and I have lots of decisions to make.  I can tell you this with all certainty, I will keep working on my stories, I’m just not going to focus on them.  I will use my gift to encourage and edify my church.   I will still honor our soldiers and look for awesome warrior stories to share with you.  I will find ways to express the concept of the Undeserved Rescue which sets my heart and mind on fire!

walk_away_by_iza87The new blog will still include the Writing Journal.  I’ll still review Books, Movies and Music, and I’ll still have Quotes.  Since these are the articles I get the most views and comments on, you and won’t be losing anything. In fact, other than a new layout, more content, and a few new categories, lots of you won’t notice a change.  At some point in time I will shut down the old blog.  This will be the last post going up on it.  If you don’t want to miss out on my Quotes tomorrow, please follow, or at least visit the new blog.

If you want to follow the new blog, you now know what my focus is.  I’d love to have you along for the ride, but I understand that some of you may find this offensive, uninteresting, and choose not to follow me as I change focus.  I understand.  For those of you who are interested, here’s the new blog.

Thanks for reading, commenting, and encouraging me for the last two years!  It’s been awesome!

The Death of a Friend

September has been a very busy month.  It started with a head-cold, then a wedding during the cold, than a dear friend passing away, then a conference.  I coordinated the wedding with the cold and almost no voice.  I was the person in charge of the five meals for about 200 people attending the conference.  It was crazy.  But what I’m sharing today is about my friend who passed away.

These are notes I took while sitting in the hospice room for the last few days of his life.  These are very intimate notes, but I feel it is important to share them.  I’m leaving them much as they were when I wrote them, so please excuse the rough draft format.

9/14/13:  Early AM 

I’ve never been with someone when they died.  I’ve been to relatively few funerals.  My fear and repulsion for hospitals and any and all things medical coupled with the one too many things I know about crime scenes and thus how the body decays after death has led me to fear the side of a dying friend for many years.

But, I have entered a stage of life where I can no longer avoid hospitals and death.  God’s grace is sufficient and like a good hobbit I screw up my courage and visit my friends.  I have found love to be a great motivator.

So, here I sit, having been in the hospice room for almost 12 hours and only three of them spent asleep.  My brother “breathes” loudly in the hall.  My husband is finally lying down covered by my St. John throw, faithful to his friend to the end.  Glenn is sleeping for the first time in days and Flo stays by his side, nurse, wife, and friend.

We have kept the night watch.  We have been with Harry as he struggles to breath – labors! – and as his body shuts down.

I’m amazed that I have done this.  I have visited Harry, my Grandma and spent all day with my father-in-law in the hospital.  And while I have not changed my revulsion for them, I am here.  I haven’t “felt” the hand of God, but I have thought, “I love these people and I must do my duty.” (Maybe that’s what the hand of God feels like.)  It is so ordinary and I am so thankful for it.  For the quiet working of God to aid me to be motivated by love.

So, Brother Harry lays dying.  Not real quickly I must say.  He has no family here, only his church.  But as far as I am aware, he has not been alone at all.  Men and women have gathered to sit at his side, hold his hand, stroke his brow, pray, read the scripture, sing.  We have sung his favorite hymns and the hymns he wrote.  We watched him try to sing with us.  We felt him squeeze our hands when his favorite passages are read, and like Sam at Gandalf’s death, we have spoken often of his banana pudding.

So, I sit and watch a friend die.  A man I love because he encouraged my husband.  And you know what I think….Harry’s gonna get to see Glenn Wilkinson before the rest of us.

My facebook post that day:  For the believer death is but a door to heaven.  It is the ending of one story to begin the real story in the presence of Christ.  And dear believer….this story has the best ending through the path to it has been dark.”

A quote sent by a friend: “Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens.” – JRR Tolkien

9/14/13: 9:00AM while Price reads Revelations out loud to Harry.

Listen.

Listen for his last breath,

Feel the twist in your gut,

Is this the one?

A moment of bi-polar emotion.

Fight. Fight to stay alive!

Go. Go. Let go.  We will soon follow.

So we gather.

We hold tissues tight in our fists.

We sing in broken voices.

We share intimate moments of tears.

We hold his hand unsure of being held.

We talk unsure of hearing.

We read unsure of comprehension.

And we listen

Together, we listen for your last breath.

Even now, when he lies lost in dark halls of his mind laboring to breath, hot with fever, he serves his church.  Even as his last few hours slip away, we are encouraged, brought together, given new opportunities to serve, given new love for each other.  As you come closer to haven’s door, we, gathered around you, examine our own future deaths and find peace.  We see the love of the saints.  We see you surrounded by hymns and the Word and by tears and laughter and we know we are not forsaken.  Even in death, You are with us, our mighty brother who already conquered death!

(I have, on my next page, the words written out from Before the Throne of God Above and Into the West.) (http://instagram.com/p/eP6SugTFFU/)

9/15/13:

Watching Harry, I’m struck by God’s beautiful multi-tasking. I’m beginning to understand joy in the midst of suffering.  Our church hurts, yet here we are gathered around Harry with all the members singing, praying, reading the scripture.  We are laughing and crying, crying with people who I’ve never cried around, watching people cry who I’ve never seen cry.  And we are united.  So as the Lord takes Harry home, as he finishes the work which He began, we are made stronger.  We are untied and we are challenged.  As the Lord takes him home, he is using Harry to help us love each other more.  He is using Harry to sanctify us.  Harry’s faithful testimony has been mentioned again and again.  And the Lord even used that.  If Harry hadn’t been faithful, he might have died in his apartment alone, but God used his faithfulness to preserve Harry.

“I have so many friends, and I don’t know why,” is what Harry told his niece before he became mostly unresponsive.

9/18/13:  (Harry passed on the morning of the 16th.) 

I spent the weekend carefully watching my husband.  When did he become the man I always wanted him to be?  When did he get so strong?  As I watch him hold the hand of a dying friend, as I listen to him sing and read the scripture, I couldn’t be more thankful for this man, my friend.  He sacrificed his time, sleep, his work to stay by Harry.  The Lord granted his request to be there with his at the end.  But the part that I remember and cherish the most is him holding Harry’s hand and reading the book of Revelations barely able to keep his voice steady.

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(We were there at the end, when Harry died, along with my parents, our other pastor, Glenn and Flo, and Ben.  It was the first time I held someone’s hand as they passed away….I know it will not be the last.  But I do know that God is good.  He will finish the work.  He has conquered death.  I hope and pray my death serves my church as well as Harry’s did.)