Category Archives: Books

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Fiction, Poems, and Essays

Available at Amazon and Barnes&Noble.com

Four novellas, a short story collection, and selected poems and essays comprise this book.  The novellas focus on the lives of protagonists in their teens and twenties who face and overcome impossible, though adventurous, challenges.  The stories and poems reveal aspects of life and nature in unique and inspiring ways, from perspectives centered on Christian faith.  The essays discuss a wide range of topics while blending humor, history, personal observations, and eternal truths of Scripture.

Robert Lampros is an author of Christian poetry, essays, and fiction.  He earned a Bachelor’s in English Literature from Washington University in St. Louis.  His books include Fits of TranquilityLast Year’s ResolutionUndivided Lines, and Soft on the Devil.

 

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Soft on the Devil

Available at Amazon and Barnes&Noble.com

When Cindy Myran doesn’t return home one night, within days everyone in her neighborhood assumes she’s dead, but Ian Phillips isn’t so pessimistic.  She shows up at his door a week later, in need of help and running for her life.  What happens next draws him into a labyrinth of murder, corruption, and danger, where nothing is clear and sinister secrets lurk in the shadows.  Only Ian’s courage, faith, and determination can uncover the mystery and deliver him and those he loves out of darkness and into the peaceful light of safety.

SOFT ON THE DEVIL

One day the heavenly beings came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them.  The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?”  Satan answered the Lord, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.”  The Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job?  There is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil.”  Then Satan answered the Lord, “Does Job fear God for nothing?  Have you not put a fence around him and his house and all that he has, on every side?  You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land.  But stretch out your hand now, and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.”  The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, all that he has is in your power; only do not stretch out your hand against him!”  So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.       Job 1:6-12

 

Chapter 1

One of my uncles used to say judging other people based on what you can see is dangerous, because what you see isn’t always a reflection of who they are.  He said the world has a way of slanting things to make a person’s life look different than it truly is, and sometimes people look better, and other times they look worse.  He said more often than not when something bad happens to a person, sickness, tragedy, death, he or she had that evil coming because of the bad stuff they’d done and hadn’t repented of, but occasionally, something terrible happens to someone who doesn’t deserve it at all.  Like with Job, God allows it as a test, to prove His faithfulness and eventually show forth His mercy and compassion.  I don’t know whether or not my uncle was right, I just thought that was a good way to start the story I’m telling, about what I’ve seen and heard since last summer.

A woman in my apartment complex went missing last June.  Cindy Myran.  Most of my neighbors assumed she was dead, given her reputation as a drunk and an addict, and the way she came and went at odd hours, the people who picked her up always shouting, laughing, and making a scene out in the street.  My upstairs neighbor, Gary, said he thought she’d been murdered.

“Women like that get killed all the time,” he told me, a real serious look in his eyes.  “They go out partying and strut around town, hop in cars with the loudest, meanest guy that takes an interest, and sooner or later he gets tired of her yapping and loses control.  Or maybe she gets real unlucky and goes off with a really evil man who breaks her neck one night for the fun of it.”  Gary twisted his hands like he was uncapping a pickle jar.

“Don’t you think she might have moved away,” I asked, “or gone to stay with a friend out of town somewhere?”

“She didn’t tell nobody.  Kelly says she always calls and asks her to get her mail if she’s gonna be gone this long.”

“I know, but it’s possible she forgot to call Kelly, or thinks she already did, like a slip of her memory.”

Gary sneered.

“No, wait.  I’ve got a sixth sense about stuff like this.  I think we’ll see Cindy again.”

I remember being at work that week and feeling a dark cloud over everyone, even with the sunlight pouring through the windows and the people walking in from the lake all tired and rosy.  They’d order a slice of gourmet pizza and a microbrew, and I’d ring it up on the register.  I worked at the café counter of an EarthWay grocery store in the county, where those who could afford it shopped for organically grown, locally farmed meat and produce.  The majority of my customers were married women, and I had to be careful because some of them liked to flirt.  A few of my coworkers liked to flirt too, which may have been why my boss, Vera, put me on the register and kept Rob and Casey on the food line.  The Friday after Cindy went missing, one customer started flirting with me, but it turned out to be something else entirely.

It was after the lunch rush, one-thirty or so, and she walked up as I was counting and clipping the small bills, a lady with straight black hair down to her shoulders, white skin, and dark eye makeup and lipstick.  She scared me a little, I looked up and she was there.

“Can I help you, ma’am?”

“I’m checking out the menu,” she said slowly, her eyes scanning the items overhead.

I set the stacks of ones and fives aside and waited.

“The Portabella Melt sounds delicious,” she smiled.

“It’s one of the favorites,” I said.  “Is that what you want?”

“I don’t know,” she replied, a hint of playful agony in her voice.  “What would you get if you were me?”

“I like the salmon avocado pizza,” I said matter-of-factly.

“That sounds nice.”

I waited while she scanned the menu a little longer.

“I’ll have the Portabella Melt,” she said at last.  “You look like that actor, from those old movies.  What’s his name, um…”

“Joseph Cotten.”

“Is that his name?”

“It’s what people say.”

“Maybe.  Anyway, you’re very handsome.  How much do I owe you?”

“Would you like a drink or dessert with that?”

“No, thanks.”

“Your total is twelve forty-three.  For here or to go?”

“To go, please.”

After running her credit card and handing her the receipt, I told her the food would be ready in a few minutes and we’d call her name at the end of the counter.  Later on, at about seven o’clock as I was leaving work, I saw her again, the same woman, sitting in her car in the EarthWay parking lot nearly six hours after she’d left the café.  She was watching me when I saw her so I turned away real quick and kept walking calmly to my car.  No one followed me out of the lot, but I took a detour from my normal route back to the city just in case.

The following week I turned on the tv—I usually watch a half hour of news before switching to a movie or doing some reading—and on the Tuesday night in question there was a story about the school district I lived in, Meremac South, being under investigation for allegations of fraud and abuse of public funds.  They didn’t say anything else about it, the anchor just left it at that, which kind of frustrated me because I’d gone to high school at Meremac South and if someone was stealing money from those schools I wanted to know.

I read the Bible before bed that night, and I remember exactly what I read because of what happened in the middle of it.  Chapter 1 of the Book of Jeremiah.  “Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.  I appointed you a prophet to the nations.’”  I must have read for at least an hour, and as I was struggling over one of the Scriptures, a knock came on the door.  The knock was quiet but had an energy behind it that made it feel loud.  I closed my Bible and set it aside, stood up, and went to the door, careful not to make any noise in case it was someone looking for trouble.  When I put my eye up to the peephole, there was Cindy Myran.

This was surprising for a number of reasons.  One, the general consensus in my neighborhood was that Cindy was dead.  I didn’t personally believe this to be the truth, but part of me had been afraid it was.  Two, prior to her going missing she and I never talked.  I’d lent her some quarters and dryer sheets in the laundry room a few times but we hardly knew each other.  Three, I lived on the opposite side of the courtyard in our apartment complex, so even if she knocked on a random door for help the odds of it being mine were slim to none.

While hesitating for a moment to consider my options, I heard her say, “Open up, Ian, I saw you look through the peephole.”

“Okay,” I said back, unlocking the door.

“Can I come in, please?”

“Of course,” I nodded and let her walk past me.  “Have a seat.  I’ll get you a drink.  Do you like Diet Sprite?”

“Do you have any beer?” she asked, sitting down on the couch.

“I think so.  Yeah, I’ve got a couple harvest wheat ales, and a—”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“Okay.”  I brought her a beer and opened one for myself.  “Cheers, you’re alive,” I smiled, raising my bottle.

“You think anyone’d care if I wasn’t?”

“I’d care.  I mean, we don’t know each other, but—Kelly, she’d care.”

“Kelly only cares cause I get her high.  She’d be sad about that, though, you’re right.”

“Can I get you some aspirin or something?  How about food, are you hungry?”

“If you’ve got some granola bars or something I can take with me, that’d be great.  I can’t stay here for long, they might come looking.”

“Who might come looking?”

She chugged the rest of her beer.  “The kind of guys you don’t name unless you do want to die.  Listen, Ian, everyone knows you’re a good person—”

I spat a mouthful of beer onto the wooden table between us, and some of it splashed up on her left knee and thigh.  “I’m sorry,” I coughed, “I didn’t expect you to say that.”

“What?  It’s true.  You have a good reputation, you’re honest.”

“I guess so.”  I handed her a paper towel from the kitchen and started wiping up the beer.

“I need fifty dollars for a bus ticket to Bradson City.”

“I don’t have fifty dollars.  I have five.”

“You work in Pineville and you don’t have fifty bucks?”

“I just settled some overdue rent with John.  I’m a pizza cashier, by the way—how’d you know where I work?”

“You don’t get out much, do you.”  Cindy shook her head, planted her face in her hands.  “Uhhhhhh,” she groaned.

“If you want, I can drive you to Bradson City.”

She peeked up through her fingers.  “You’d do that?”

“Sure.  I’ve got a full tank, you’re running for your life…  It makes sense.”

“Thank you, thank you, thank you!” she squealed, jumping up and hugging me.

“I’ll have to call in sick tomorrow.  We can wait till morning, can’t we?”

“No.  Yes, we can,” she smiled.  “Thank you.”

“Alright.  I hope the couch is okay for you to sleep on.  I’ll get you a blanket.”

In the morning, I woke up to find an empty couch, no Cindy, no note, only the blanket folded neatly over the armrest and a few empty beer bottles on the kitchen counter.  “Guess I don’t have to take the day off work,” I said.  I walked across the courtyard to Kelly’s place to ask if she’d seen her the night before.

“Honey, Cindy’s dead.  I thought everybody knew that by now.”

“Everyone thought she was dead, but I don’t assume stuff like that.  I had the feeling she might have dropped by here last night at eleven or twelve.”

“If she did then it was her ghost who showed up.  They found Cindy’s body in the woods down by the lake.  Don’t you have a tv?”

I heard Kelly’s voice speak these words and saw her lips moving, but their meaning didn’t sink in right away.  I shuffled back to my apartment like a zombie and sat down at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee and a plate of untoasted poptarts.  Our conversation the night before revolved through my mind, Cindy’s face, her words, the urgency of her request, faded into the hollow ache of nothingness.  I made myself eat, chewing quickly and washing down the synthetic sweetness with strong black coffee.  Then, standing up, I approached the television, took a deep breath, and pressed the power button.  The screen showed trees, police officers, and emergency vehicles, with a caption reading:  “Woman Found Dead at Hoppersand Lake.”

 

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Undivided Lines

Available at Amazon.com and Barnes&Noble.com

Undivided Lines is a collection of stories about wisdom, love, adventure, and redemption, featuring a diverse range of characters who brave challenging and life-altering experiences.  From a tenacious senator defending the legacy of his work, to a Native American youth fighting for survival in his homeland, to a new mother traveling the galaxy to solve the mystery of her husband’s disappearance, these stories entertain, amaze, and enlighten.

From Undivided Lines:

The Senator

“The first sign of the decay of nations is when they begin to have common gods.  When gods begin to be common gods, the gods die as well as the faith in them, together with the people themselves.  The more powerful a nation, the more individual its god.”  — Fyodor Dostoevsky, Demons

The senator’s crisp white sleeves made a whisking sound as he punched, jab, jab, right cross, left hook, left uppercut, jab…  He kept his chin in and head down, weaving lightly back and forth.  The standing mirror in front of him quaked gently after every punch, faintly blurring his reflection, as he threw his fists harder, faster, exacting a fierce combination of head and body blows until the whole room began shaking, then he slowed, dropped his hands to his sides, stood there and watched himself breathing.

“You don’t get into my line of work unless you care about people and want to make a difference in the world.  I look back at who I was thirty, forty years ago, and it amazes me how much I didn’t know.  It astounds me.  You could fill a library floor-to-ceiling with volumes of books about the staggering depths of my ignorance.  The knowledge I’ve gained since then has changed my opinion about some things, but honestly, the reasons for me staying in this fight are the same as when I started.  My heart’s the same, it’s about heart.”

The boy glanced up at the creases branching out of the corner of his dad’s eye.  “Brandon said his grandpa had a heart attack a while ago, and he died.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.  May Brandon’s grandpa rest in peace.  Steven, I’m talking about your figurative heart, like your spirit.  When heart attacks happen it’s your physical heart, here…”  He pressed his hand against the boy’s chest.  “That’s what pumps your blood.  I’m talking about the heart you feel with, the heart that makes you strong.”

“Where is that one at?”

“Same place, I suppose.  Only it’s invisible.”

“Invisible?”  The boy’s eyes opened wide as he smiled.

“Never mind.  The point I was trying to make is whatever you decide to do with your life, you’d better make doggone sure you’re doing it for more than a paycheck.  You can farm money trees for all I care, but if you haven’t got a bigger goal than making money, you might as well set those trees on fire.”

Burn money trees?”

“You bet, burn ‘em up.”

“Wouldn’t that be a waste—”

“No, it wouldn’t be a waste.”  He looked at his son’s blank expression.  “Yes, it would be a waste, but only because of what you could accomplish with all that money, the businesses you could start, people you could feed, and bless, and help out of all kinds of trouble.  The money itself isn’t the thing, is what I’m saying.”

“The money isn’t the thing,” the boy echoed.

“Correct.”

“Isn’t the thing,” he said again, more softly.

The pavilion they were in had a green pyramid-shaped roof made of hard plastic that started to click right then with the impact of heavy raindrops.  Click-click, click, click-click-click, click, click-click, click…

The senator cast an irritated glance upward.  “Did they design this thing to be obnoxious in the rain?”

The pavilion was built on a bridge spanning a small lake in a park near their home, and the fish started jumping once the rain began, launching out over the rippling surface and splashing down, or merely churning the lake with a whip of their tails and descending.

“Whoa!  Did you see that?” the boy asked, his eyes lit like high beams.

“Must have been a five-pounder,” he answered.

Steven jumped up and walked over to the railing, then, feeling the cold rain, leapt back under the roof of the pavilion.  “It’s cold.”

“It’ll stop soon.  You see those clouds over there, the gap over those trees?  The wind is driving ‘em this way.  We may see sunny skies before lunchtime.”

Sitting down again, he turned and asked, “What’s for lunch, you think?”

“Chips,” the man smiled.  “Salsa.  P, b, and j.  Doubt mom’s gonna fix anything today.  She might, though.  Never know.”

The rain slowed to a light drizzle.

The man cleared his throat.  “Steven, I want to tell you something, and this may have been what I was trying to say earlier.  You’re too young now to understand it, perhaps, but I’m not getting any younger myself, so here goes.  Grown-ups, we do the best we can.  We start out as little kids just like you, everything’s new and interesting, the world’s a great big adventure.  We go to school and get jobs, start families, and hopefully put our time and effort into something useful.  The problem is, most of the time, the simple goal of building something, building a career, a life, can be the most difficult task in the world.  And people can hate you for it, even when you’re just trying to help.”

“Hate you?”

“That’s right.  Now life is complicated, son, and the world, it’s a chaotic place.  Chaotic, you know, crazy.  For everything that goes right and smooth and the way it’s supposed to go, there’s about fourteen hundred things that go wrong along with it.  I’m not saying I’ve been a perfect man, far from it.  But I have tried, every step of the way, to steer clear of trouble, both for myself and your mother, for you, Helen, Jenny, and Allen, and most importantly for the American people.  My job is tough, Steve, tougher than you know.  You’ve got to fight and do the best you can to help the highest number of people you can, and half the time you’re killing yourself just to steer clear of the next catastrophe.  Catastrophe, like a disaster, like an earthquake or something.  Anyway, that’s what I tried to do, day in, day out, for thirty some-odd years.”  He smiled.  “So don’t let them tell you different.”

The boy glanced up at him, half-smiled, and gazed out over the water.

“You hungry?  Let’s go get that p, b, and j.”

As they crossed the bridge onto the path that curved up toward the front of the park, it started raining again, harder than before.  The senator hopped a few times and started running, smiling back at the boy, and letting Steven run on ahead.

 

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Intended Consequences–Essays

Available at Amazon and Barnes&Noble.com

From Intended Consequences:

Wishing

Perhaps the worst thing about living in Missouri is the distance from the ocean.  A thousand miles to the Atlantic and two thousand to the Pacific, the city of St. Louis sits securely landlocked in the middle of the Midwest.  You start to feel it too when summer begins, when the rising temperatures, blinding sun, and boiling air start prompting visions of crisp blue waves and white sand beaches, of running and diving into the surf, then stretching out and relaxing in the shade.  There are plenty of swimming pools around but it’s not the same, pools are crowded and boring compared to the sea, like playing with Hot Wheels instead of driving an actual car.  And the only way to get to the coast would be to fly there for a week and who has time for that?  So here I am, in a coffee shop in a mall, watching people drink iced coffee while I write a pointless essay about wanting to be somewhere else.

The last time I swam in the ocean was over fifteen years ago, my tenth grade spring break in Destin, Florida.  My friend’s grandparents had a house down the beach a couple miles from the hotels.  It was quiet, and at night if you walked down to the water and listened to the waves rushing over the sand you felt alone and content in a universe as infinite as the ocean is mysterious, the moonlit waves drawing back and back and back into rolling darkness.  One night at 3am or so I awoke and went down to sit by the water, and for no reason at all jumped up and ran figure eights in the sand, as fast as I could, until I couldn’t breathe and collapsed on the beach with burning lungs.  Not sure why I did that—I think it had something to do with freedom.

Another memory from the trip took place a hundred yards out from shore, nothing tragic, no shark attack or near-death drowning, just a feeling of staring out at the horizon, faintly sinking and rising, melting with the sky, and feeling close to God.  Moments like those rarely happened to me back then and I didn’t recognize what it was at the time, but now I know it was Christ reaching down to bless me, to let me know as a kind of bread crumb that He loves me, that God watches over us, even when we don’t believe, and with Him is complete and radiant joy.  Everything fused in that second on a raft off the coast of Destin, and since then there’s been nowhere else I’d rather go to get away for a while, away from dry land, from routine, and from real life.

Walt Whitman wrote a poem entitled, “As I Ebb’d with the Ocean of Life,” about walking the edge of Long Island and feeling humbled and inadequate.  The poem begins:  “As I ebb’d with the ocean of life/As I wended the shores I know/As I walk’d where the ripples continually wash you Paumanok/Where they rustle up hoarse and sibilant/Where the fierce old mother endlessly cries for her castaways/I musing late in the autumn day, gazing off southward/Held by this electric self out of the pride of which I utter poems/Was seiz’d by the spirit that trails in the lines underfoot/The rim, the sediment that stands for all the water and all the land of the globe.”

Whitman uses the Native American name, Paumanok, for Long Island, the place of his birth.  I wonder if the Native Americans had a name for St. Louis.  If they did it probably had something to do with rivers.

 

Brotherhood

One of my church brothers told me a while ago that we have to treat every day like it’s Day 1.  It made sense then with what was happening in my life and I remember this statement from time to time when the cares of the world start weighing on me.  Regardless of our progress in any area of life, our families, work, friendships, spiritual growth, there’s an open invitation to help other people out, and when we make that our goal and pursue different ways to help others, new doors open up and new opportunities present themselves.

Martin Luther King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail talks about brotherhood in idyllic and majestic terms.  He so exalts the idea it seems that if he had one dying wish, he’d ask for all Americans to live as brothers and sisters, bonded by love, securely able to withstand social turbulence and survive whatever conflicts arise with a foundational, brotherly love intact.  Dr. King dreamt of such a place, of one national family.  The late Sixties weren’t so different from today.  Violence between police and citizens, especially African American citizens, plaguing the news every week, sharply divided political parties clashing in dismal arguments, and frightened people yearning for peace, stability, and brotherhood.

Since the beginning of this election year I’ve made a point of trusting God for our national welfare, and instead of panicking over the latest catastrophe, praying and reading Scripture on behalf of those in power, the civil authorities, and the oppressed.  Prayer helps more than anyone gives it credit for, and God hears every syllable of every word we speak in love.  Families pray for each other.  Brothers look out for one another automatically, as a rule.  Jesus teaches in the Gospel of Luke, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” (Luke 16:10)  The Lord promises that those who do show faith and responsibility in the less important things will be promoted to leadership roles in the kingdom.  Details like kind words, respectful manners, and common courtesy reflect a heart that belongs entirely to God and go a long way toward healing people.

When families disagree, the details are what hold them together.  My brother might hate the fact that I’m a Beatles fan, but as long as we keep it respectful, and I don’t make fun of his weird antler statues, there won’t be a problem.  The same dynamic works for politics—as long as people operate under the agreement that we are or at least should be a family, the major disagreements won’t tear us apart, and reconciliation will occur.  Details hold families together when the world tries to break them down.  Details matter.

Details matter so much that fifty years ago people sacrificed their lives for equal seating in restaurants and on buses, for the right to eat and drink in the same places as everyone else, and for the right to be regarded publicly as citizens by their government, because those superficialities revealed the state of America’s heart toward African Americans.  Martin Luther King knew that better than anyone, which is why he gave his life for brotherhood, the kind that fills the heart and manifests throughout the world.  He closes his Letter from a Birmingham Jail like this:  “If I have said anything in this letter that is an understatement of the truth and is indicative of an unreasonable impatience, I beg you to forgive me.  If I have said anything in this letter that is an overstatement of the truth and is indicative of my having a patience that makes me patient with anything less than brotherhood, I beg God to forgive me.”

 

Kind of Blue

Jazz originated in New Orleans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, evolving to produce some of the most creative and varied music the world has ever heard.  Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue holds the honor of being one of the most highly valued jazz albums, and one of the most influential records of any musical genre in history.  Recorded in New York in 1959 and released that year, the album features Bill Evans on piano, Jimmy Cobb on drums, Paul Chambers on bass, John Coltrane and Julian Adderley on saxophones, Miles Davis on trumpet, and pianist Wynton Kelly on one track.

The use of improvisation makes jazz unique, gives the music life and power, and carries an emotional energy through the sound waves like currents of electricity.  The solos on Kind of Blue feel like echoes of an invisible music more real and powerful than the notes we hear from the trumpet and saxophones.  The drums, bass, and piano maintain a gentle structure for the horns to dance over, trancelike, then more upbeat, alternately crying and singing, sadness, weeping, fusing into mellow joy.

A departure from the style of his earlier work, Davis shifted from hard bop to modal jazz with Milestones in 1958, furthering his experimentations with modality on Kind of Blue.  At a time when American music, culture, values, and society were rapidly changing, artists like Davis cleared new paths for others by simply doing what they loved.  The Sixties saw wave after wave of brilliant, unprecedented, soulful music flooding out of the United States and Great Britain, a creative movement founded on the bold work of fearless artists of the 40’s and 50’s.  Popular music contributed a uniquely powerful voice to the national community, a vitality which healed and bonded people when bitter disagreements kept trying to make our nation split.

People talk about jazz’s quality of incorporating “wrong” notes into the music, pressing on through failed attempts and using the rhythm as a platform to speak hints of some far greater truth, so that really there are no mistakes in jazz, no “wrong” notes, because it’s all one big try anyway.  The musicians get together and give it their best shot to reach the unreachable, maybe they come close and maybe they don’t, but at least they gave it a shot.  Miles probably wouldn’t care too much that the Library of Congress selected his album for the National Recording Registry, or that Rolling Stone ranks it among the top 20 albums of all time, but he definitely does care that his music speaks truth to people, revealing the eternal.

America has a lot of music playing today, jumbled, broken music, jagged signals flying around and scattered voices trying to sing along.  The invisible music of truth gets drowned out by all that noise, but that doesn’t mean it’s not still playing.  Another thing people say about jazz is the most important notes are the ones you don’t hear—not that those notes aren’t being played, only, silently.  Miles teaches us the best thing one can do in life is miss.

 

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Robert Lampros Author Reading

Link to Event Homepage

DATE AND TIME
Tue, October 11, 2016
7:00 PM – 8:00 PM
(Free Admission)

LOCATION
University City Public Library
6701 Delmar Boulevard
University City, MO 63130

DESCRIPTION
Robert Lampros, Author Reading/Book Signing. Intended Consequences, and Last Year’s Resolution. The author will present both a work of nonfiction and a short novel, the first an essay collection about faith and Christianity as it relates to life in contemporary America, the second an Apocalyptic romantic comedy.

Robert Lampros is an author of Christian poetry, essays, and fiction who lives in St. Louis. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature from Washington University in St. Louis. His books include Fits of Tranquility, Afternoon, and Last Year’s Resolution.

 

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Last Year’s Resolution (novel)

Available at Amazon and Barnes&Noble.com

A couple weeks before Solitaire High School’s winter break, Eddie stopped by for a quick talk followed by a question and answer session with the students.  The school enrolled about a hundred and fifty kids, who all gathered in the gymnasium with the administration and faculty after lunch.

The principal introduced him as, “Mr. Edmund Stovender, the most talented writer of his generation,” an epithet that embarrassed him but succeeded in rousing the attention of the distracted students.  After speaking for half an hour about his childhood in Iowa, his love of books as a teenager, his early career, and the lessons he’d learned from his novels, he concluded on a note of encouragement, stressing the importance of faith and perseverance in one’s quest for achievement in any field.  “Does anyone have any questions?”

A young lady in the second to last row raised her hand.  “Hi, Mr. Stovender, my name is Margaret, my friends call me Marge.  What are you working on now, if you don’t mind telling us?”

“Oh, not at all.  It’s a new type of project for me, a medieval science fiction novel about a space knight, Sir Remo Daggenthorp, who travels the galaxy protecting civilizations from attacks by various plagues, predators, invasions, and things.  It’s kind of a metaphor for my own spiritual journey.  Who’s next?  You there in the red hat.”

“How much money you got?”

“Excuse me,” said one of the teachers, “do you mind elaborating on your last statement?  How exactly is that a metaphor for your spiritual life?”

“Sure, sure.  Well, it’s no secret that there’s a war happening right now, in our country, the world, and the universe, and like any good human I’m trying to do my part to crush the devil.  Good vs. evil, Light vs. dark, Love vs. hate, you know how it goes.  ‘The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.’”

“Are the aliens like the locusts from the Book of Revelation?” asked a young man in the first row.

“Not necessarily, although there is a species of mutant condor from the planet Taldrathon which bears certain similarities.  No, I think of the alien invaders as evil influences, such as hatred, anger, jealousy, lust, greed, carelessness, unrighteous fear, anything that threatens our peace and safety here…  Including the monsters from Revelation, of course.”

“My neighbor saw one on the roof of the Makermart last week.  He said it was big, and had giant knife-teeth.”  A number of students gasped.

“It’s alright,” he said, “don’t worry about the hell creatures.  They can not touch us who have faith.  Are there any more questions?”

“How long have you been married to Ms. Altnikov?”

He laughed nervously, “Actually, Marie and I aren’t technically married in the official legal sense of the word, although we do plan to marry soon, at some point.  With all the fire and wrath this past summer it’s been difficult to set a date—”

“Christmas,” called Marie, and the students turned and looked.

“Sorry, what?”

“You and me, let’s get married on Christmas.”  Shrieks and laughter arose from the crowd.

“Okay, if you wish.  Christmas Day.  And you’re all invited,” he raised his voice as they broke into cheers and applause.  “Everyone in Solitaire is invited!”

Ed-dee, Ed-dee, Ed-dee, Ed-dee…”  They clapped and cheered as he walked over to hug Marie and kiss her cheek on his way out.

“Thank you, students,” he waved from the door.  “God bless you all, and God bless America.”

*         *         *

A few days before the wedding she interrupted one of his writing sessions to see if he wanted to go sledding.  “Marie, check this out, come here.”  On the desk lay an open Bible, an open magazine, and Eddie’s phone with words on the screen.

“What is this, research?”

“Sort of.  Not for the book though.  Listen to this, Revelation, Chapter 22:  ‘In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month.  The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.  And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him.  They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads.’

“Okay, now listen to this, this is from a story by Vladimir Nabokov they published in The New Yorker a while back:  ‘Embracing my shoulders for an instant with his dovelike wings, the angel pronounced a single word, and in his voice I recognized all those beloved, those silenced voices.  The word he spoke was so marvelous that, with a sigh, I closed my eyes and bowed my head still lower.  The fragrance and the melody of the word spread through my veins, rose like a sun within my brain; the countless cavities within my consciousness caught up and repeated its lustrous edenic song.’

“Now, last one, here are the last two verses of John Newton’s ‘Amazing Grace’:  ‘The earth shall soon dissolve like snow, the sun forbear to shine, but God, who called me here below, will be forever mine.  When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we’ve first begun.’”  He took a deep breath and smiled up at her.

“I thought you were working on Nebulaic Stormrider today.”

“I was, I got sidetracked.  Did you follow my reading?  I think the name of God we receive in the New Jerusalem is going to be like the word in Nabokov’s story, a word of eternal praise to Christ, like John Newton describes, having no boundaries in time or space, and by receiving that name on our foreheads it’s like we merge with Him, and we become eternal too, like divine Light or Spirit.”

“Sure sounds nice,” she nodded.

“It’s better than nice,” he laughed.  “It’s…  Perfection.”

“Right, perfection.  So how about it?  You, me, a couple plastic tubs, and a hill full of frozen water.  Sound good?”

“You wanna race me?”

“Pshhh, you know I’m gonna race you.”

Eddie stared intensely at her.  “You wanna race me?”

She bent down so her face was directly in front of his.  “You know I’m gonna race you.”

*         *         *

The days leading up to Christmas were busy and stressful with wedding preparations.  Both the ceremony and reception would take place at the highest point in Solitaire, the rooftop of the Makermart Superstore.  He paid the tent people and the superstore people an extra twenty-five thousand each and hired the staff of the hardware department to stake an orange safety fence around the roof’s perimeter.  He and Marie agreed to spend Christmas Eve apart, so he slept in the guest room of Frank Drummond’s house.  Frank was the town sheriff.

 

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Warzone: Nemesis (Book Review)

Available at Amazon and Barnes&Noble.com

A skillfully written, action-packed science fiction novel about the undisclosed truth of the space race, Warzone: Nemesis documents the fight between Russia and the U.S. for alloy-x, an element that could revolutionize space engine technology.  The battle scenes are descriptive and expertly crafted, the characters intriguing and vividly authentic, and overall the story is highly imaginative.  Graham’s writing is at once unique and easily readable, and the novel an extraordinary accomplishment.

Summary:  This is the seventh edition of Warzone: Nemesis, which opens the files of the top-secret war for space, hidden behind the facade of a decades-long cold war between super-powers.  The wrecks of two alien spaceships, and the larger disaster behind the wrecks, gives both the USSR and the USA the rudiments of space travel, and access to the element known only as alloy-x, the key to the interplanetary engines.  Elite fighters recruited anonymously from Special Forces units join the battle between the two countries for supremacy in space, waged on the Moon, on Mars, and on the moons of the outer planets.  To their planet, these men are dead, their histories erased from the record.  Identified only by call signs, they engage in a life-and-death struggle far beyond the view of the public.  Warzone: Nemesis is an action-packed opening novel to the Warzone series, a richly-detailed read for lovers of science-fiction and military fiction alike.  Contrasting ideologies bring the underlying similarities between the commanders on both sides into sharp focus, adding depth to the story, and the levels of research that have gone into the book are clearly visible in the meticulous description of locales and technologies.  Morris E. Graham creates comprehensive battle strategies and interesting psychological twists to keep the battles, and the story, moving along, while touching on some of the many ethical dilemmas that any war brings into the open.

Title:  Warzone: Nemesis (A Novel of Mars)
Author:  Morris E. Graham
Paperback:  322 pages
Publisher:  Morris\Graham; 1 edition (March 4, 2013)
Language:  English
ISBN-10:  0615862985
ISBN-13:  978-0615862989
Category:  Science Fiction

 

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Intended Consequences

Giveaway Link:  https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/31441734-intended-consequences

Available at Amazon and Barnes&Noble.com

Intended Consequences is a collection of short essays about faith, life, and Christianity in America.  The range of topics includes charity, art, patriotism, addiction, freedom, gratitude, and Bruce Lee.

Robert Lampros is an author of Christian poetry, essays, and fiction who lives in St. Louis.  His books include Fits of Tranquility, Afternoon, and Last Year’s Resolution.

 

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Robert Lampros Poetry

Robert Lampros is an author of Christian poetry, essays, and fiction who lives in St. Louis.  His writing focuses on healing, love, and revelation through faith in Christ, as well as on the beauty of the natural world.    He currently has three poetry books available, entitled Fits of Tranquility, Illuminating Sidewalks, and What Is Sacred.

Available at Amazon and Barnes&Noble.com

Reviews of Fits of Tranquility

“A great sense of connection with human nature and the human condition which I found refreshing…  A delightful read.  5 stars.”  – Lauren, LivingABookLife.com

“This book made me feel overwhelmingly good.  As a religious person myself, I felt like there were some lines that really resonated with me.  Even if you’re not religious, a lot of the poems deal with nature and the spiritual experiences that being outside can bring…  I definitely recommend.”  – Ashley, What’s She Reading?

“Each poem offers the reader something to reflect on that will lead to other meditative thoughts.  If you enjoy poetry, you will enjoy Fits of Tranquility.”  – Terry Delaney, Christian Book Notes

“Containing over 20 unique poems and short stories, this book ranges in topic from inspiring images of nature to thought-provoking stories filled with charming dialogue and everything in between…  I would recommend giving Fits of Tranquility a try.”  – Prairie Sky Book Reviews

“Ideas of hope, healing, joy, and faith mirrored in poems about family, lightening, life, and wilderness, the second part is comprised of prose about falling in love…  A book for avid poetry readers.”  – Jen Pen, Savurbks.com

“I enjoyed many things about this book, foremost is the author’s tone.  It is understated, but capable of conveying some deep thoughts quite effectively…  There is a religious perspective in this book, expressed with artistry, understatement, that avoids sentimentality.”  – Arthur Turfa, author of Places and Times

“One of my favorites is ‘Family,’ it describes the value in a heartfelt and touching way.  I also really liked ‘Invisible Arms,’ a vivid picture of how God protects us from physical and emotional harm.  I am a hopeless romantic so I appreciated the sweet moments described in the short stories.  I would recommend this book for anyone who enjoys reading smooth thought provoking poetry.”  – Ivory M, Beautyful Word

Fits of Tranquility contains a variety of styles and structures which makes this collection immediately more appealing to the poetry connoisseur.  Lampros’s poetry contains a sensitivity and emotional eloquence which flows gently through his work…  Fits is a superior collection and I recommend it to those readers who want to read beautiful, family-safe poetry.”  – Karen Jones, The Poetry Bookshop

 

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Last Year’s Resolution

Available at Amazon and Barnes&Noble.com

“I genuinely liked reading this book from beginning to end.  The writing was simple and felt like a classic book I should have read years ago.  The characters were well-developed and the gentle romance felt sincere and really carried the story well…  It is Christian enough to be called Christian romance but it’s also secular enough to pass as a simple love story.  One of the things I liked most about this book was that it intertwined the characters’ faith with romance and realistic events…  A comfortable cross between contemporary fiction and love.”  – Valicity Garris, Author

“I am continually amazed by some of Mr. Lampros’ imagery…  Thematically, I would say that this novel is about friendship, love, Christ… a real knack for dialogue and characterization through said dialogue, rounding out the characters even if the description of where they are and what they see is subservient to the plot and the overall thrust of the story.  Bravo!”  – John Morris, Author

“This is a very well-written Christian novel with a plot running in fast pace…  The author did a superb job creating characters that are lovable, and the book is definitely a boost to our faith…  I recommend this book to the permanent library of all readers who appreciate a well-written novel, very entertaining, with a strong Christian theme.”  – Roberto Mattos, BooksAndMovieReviews

“Great writing, great story!  I could’ve read it in just a few days but you kind of want to take your time with it and reflect on some of the passages and things that happen… a great book, fun and exciting and even edge-of-your-seat action at times.  I highly recommend it!”  – B. Hill, Goodreads Reviewer

Last Year’s Resolution is a well-written, clean, Christian story.  One of the more thoughtful depictions of a popular theme.  It is not an over the top horror-fest, but it is not sugarcoated either…  Those readers interested in such a topic will find this telling both entertaining and faith-affirming.  Not a bad feat to accomplish.  Enjoy!”  – Mike Siedschlag, Books are Theater of the Mind