At the intersection of writing and life with the author of the Cameron Ballack mysteries

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Geography of Realism

Even when you're writing fiction, realistic settings can help carry the water for the reader. Glynn Young follows his review of Litany of Secretswith a second post about my novel's geography of realism. I won't reproduce it or comment much on it here, because Glynn is such a great writer that you need to hear it from him. Check it out at his blog--Faith, Fiction, Friends--at

Friday, July 26, 2013

What a Delight!

I have to tell you...this was quite a joy to wake up to this morning!

Glynn Young, author of the Michael Kent novels Dancing Priest and A Light Shining, has written a stellar review of my debut novel, Litany of Secrets.

In Glynn's words, Detective Cameron Ballack "may well one of the most unusual detectives I’ve encountered in mystery fiction".

You can find Glynn's review at his blog--Faith, Fiction, Friends--with this link:

(And while you're at it, if you haven't bought Glynn's novels yet, your library is lacking some great literature. Follow the links above and rectify that deficit now!)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Discussion Guide and the Paperback!

Ahead of schedule, the Litany of Secrets discussion guide is finally here!

Also, the paperback of Litany of Secrets is out ahead of schedule! We have discovered that Amazon has moved faster than we anticipated on getting the paperback out. I heard from a friend today that she had just received her copy of Litany of Secrets in the mail from Amazon, so go ahead and place your orders if you haven't pre-ordered already! The faster you order, the quicker you get it in your hands.

As you work your way through the book, give me your feedback about it! I really want to know your honest opinion.

Once again, you can either click on the ebook of the discussion guide here or go to the Pages menu and click on "Litany of Secrets Discussion Guide" there.

Happy reading!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Celebration of Life

Some people I know don't like going to funerals and avoid them like the plague. Understandable, I think. We usually eschew as much thought as possible about our own mortality. Those reminders tend to be painful enough as they are. And when the person in the casket is a friend or a loved one, our hearts tend to rip apart in ways that can't be fully mended.

Still, while a funeral, memorial service...whatever you want to call it...while those events can bring a fair amount of sadness, I've found they can shape us in ways we don't expect. Perhaps that's one of the reasons I began Litany of Secrets with a graveside service, to show the enormous impact it had on molding Cameron Ballack's worldview. But that takes us beyond my point, which is this: Saying goodbye to someone in this manner assists us in recognizing what life is for.

I got a sense of that this past Friday when I went to the homegoing service (it's really difficult to call it a funeral, because the tone was so celebratory) of Jim Hearne. He is the father of my college friend David Hearne, and in the all-too-short time I had to know the elder Hearne, he amazed me with his grace and earthiness.

- When we moved to St. Louis in the summer of 2008, we had to make a run up here to look for housing. During our time up here, I spoke with Mr. Hearne about leads on any rentals. Toward the end of our conversation, he said "And if you catch a break at any point, come on by and I'll take you all out for some frozen custard at Ted Drewes!" Our schedule that week was so hectic we never got the chance, but I always appreciated his offer.

- Mr. Hearne attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (yep, MIT!) and graduated from Washington University in St. Louis. Both schools are high-powered citadels of engineering production, and Mr. Hearne ended up working for McDonnell Aircraft here in St. Louis, and part of vocational journey was spent working on the F-4 Phantom and well as the Mercury and Gemini space exploration teams. He owned his own machine company and it seemed he could make or fix darn near anything. He didn't have a toolshop in his basement; his basement was a toolshop.

- The last time I sat down with Mr. Hearne for an extended time was for Sunday lunch back in October. Our family joined his (Dave included) at St. Paul's Lutheran over roast beef, potatoes, green beans, rolls, and cole slaw. My favorite memory of that meal is when Mr. Hearne kept looking at my daughter Lindsay, who had helping after helping of cole slaw. And oh my word, was he feeding off her delight. He practically beamed with sheer joy as she kept up her cabbage-infused bliss, soaking in the moment as if it was a memory he'd always treasure.

So last Friday was hardly a funeral atmosphere. There was loud singing, a lot of harp music (his late wife Laura was an expert harpist), and shared memories that made us laugh and cry. Perhaps the best description of the service came from the pastor, Ryan Laughlin, who termed it "bittersweet, yet joyful."
It was indeed a celebration of life.

That's what I want my own memorial service to be like. Would that we all hope along those lines, because whether you dwell on it or not, that day is coming for all of us. It was on my mind throughout the service as I sat there with fellow friends Lester Stuckmeyer and Kal Dawson, the three of us forming a brotherly phalanx in loving support of our dear friend Dave and his entire family. I thought about when my last grandparent--Grandma Herron--died in August 1994, and I felt the "mortality barrier" fall between her tribe and my parent's generation. Now my friends and I are starting to bury our parents. And the day will come when we will start burying each other. What will we recall then?

And that is why I'm thrilled to have been there at Mr. Hearne's homegoing service on Friday. It reminded me that life--permeated with a passionate love for God and for others--is meant to be lived, not merely gotten through.

I would hope that people who attended that service went away as changed souls.

I would hope that when Jim entered heaven when he died last week, that the first person he saw was his wife Laura, and that they shared a kiss so magnificent that it blew the hair back on all the angels in heaven and caused Michael the Archangel himself to say, "Bro! Welcome home!"

I would hope that--after Laura--the first person in heaven who greeted Mr. Hearne in the Holy City was  our sweet little Jordan, and that even now the two of them are working on building something.

I would hope that all our lives are lived with the zeal and mirth that Jim Hearne lived his own.

If not, what on earth are we here for?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

And If The E-Book Isn't Enough For Ya...

...the paperback edition of Litany of Secrets is coming out on July 26th! Catch it on Amazon for the great price of $15.55!

As always, once you make your way through the book, please consider writing at review online. I appreciate your thoughts and feedback.

Blue and Gray

On Sunday afternoon at four p.m. Central time, I steered our Nissan Quest back into our driveway in St. Charles, Missouri, easing our week-long vacation to a gentle halt. We had experienced a whirlwind of activity in that short time: seeing dear friends along the way, enjoying a series of Atlanta points of interest, eaten way too much barbecue, strolled the streets of little Senoia, Georgia, and seeing the world of AMC's The Walking Dead, and generally wishing we had more time to see more places and friends.

All of which led me to think deeply about this reality: Born in Kansas, I am a Northerner who has lived the majority of his life below the Mason-Dixon Line, and so I'm able to bring a unique perspective to life in America and the North-South divide. There are plenty of stereotypes on both sides: what Yankees uncharitably believe about Southerners, as well as some knee-jerk assumptions people of the South have against members of the Union.

So I thought, there are three perspectives about this: the Yankee's, the Southerner's, and the truth.

And I also thought: Nah, there's a fourth perspective. Mine.

In the spirit of Pat Conroy, who allowed Leopold Bloom King to give us the ten things Yankees hate about Southerners in South of Broad, allow me to give my own rambling list of impressions of North and South.

1. Understand this, my Yankee friends: Southerners are not uncouth, ignorant, uneducated clods, no matter what conclusions you reach based on their drawls and accents. When it comes to higher education, yes the North has Yale, Princeton, Harvard and Notre Dame. But I'd put the Southern quartet of Duke, Rice, Vanderbilt, and the University of Virginia up against them any day.

2. To my Southern friends: The Civil War, the War Between the States, the War of Northern Aggression...whatever the deuce you want to label's over. And stop blaming me for what the Union armies did. And stop acting like Yankees today had something to do with that. Like me. I mean, I'll admit to killing only three Rebels at Gettysburg. That's all.

3. Yankee folks, you need a serious lesson on food. Don't get me wrong. There's some great eating up north, which I'll get to next. But holy cow...when you fire up the grill for hot dogs, burgers, steaks, and stuff, that is NOT a barbecue! That is a cookout!

4. Southerners, you can talk good food all you want, let alone which region is the king of barbecue--be it North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Texas, or Memphis. But your region does not have the only grip on fantastic grub. Chicago's Italian beef sandwiches, Philadelphia's cheesesteaks, Wisconsin's brats, Yankee pot roast all over New England, and St. Louis' thin crust pizza with luscious provel cheese--the North has a lot of fabulous victuals.

5. Northern companions: If you ever--EVER--go to the Varsity in Atlanta, when the cashiers ask "What'll ya have?", you need to have a game plan. Have your order ready. And if you want a plain hot dog, for the love of all the soldiers who fell at the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, DON'T call it a "hot dog". It's a "Naked Dog". And yes, it helps if you blend in and call it a "nekkid dog".

6. Southern friends: It's clear to me that you enjoy the Southeastern Conference's recent dominance in college football, winning every national championship since 2006. And great programs like the ACC's Florida State and Clemson have added to the championship legacy. But outside of Alabama's kingship and a couple of blips elsewhere, it was not always so. Great tradition exists at Notre Dame, Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, and Nebraska. Enjoy your time on top; these things are cyclical and will eventually recalibrate themselves.

7. Yankees: The South is not a demographic swath of racist, sexually deviant hicks. Northerners exhibit racism as well, evident in the white flight to many suburbs across the nation. Incest and shameful bed activity takes place on both side of the Blue-Gray divide; the difference is that--as Erskine Caldwell showed so ably by penning Tobacco Road and God's Little Acre--Southerners write about it more eloquently. And there are rednecks, hicks, whatever you call them, everywhere. But the South manages to give theirs creative names, like Cooter, Biscuit, and Potato Salad.

8. Rebels and Rebellettes: You are a very warm and friendly bunch. Not doubt about it. But stop these accusations that Northerners are unfriendly and cold. They may never match your warmth or consistently call complete strangers "Pumpkin" or "Babe" or "Sweetie". What you have to understand is the Great North slides more toward the introvert end of the Myers-Briggs scale. Yankees like people. They just have a few more relational filters to get through. Be patient.

9. You can tell where someone is from based on how he'd greet the preacher after church. If he says, "I really enjoyed your sermon this morning," chances are you're in the Deep South. If he says, "I got a lot out of the service this morning," peg him as a Yankee. And if he says, "Gotta go to the ballpark and boo the Easter Bunny," you're in Philadelphia.

10. So the debate comes to this: Where's the best place to live? And I would say this: I have found a way to love something about every place I've lived, from Blue Rapids, Kansas to Richmond, Virginia to Louisville, Kentucky to Jackson, Mississippi (okay, not so much Jackson) to Westminster and Baltimore in Maryland to Lookout Mountain, Georgia (college) to St. Louis, Missouri (seminary) to Moreland, Georgia to Lafayette and Opelousas, Louisiana to Charlottesville, Virginia to Salisbury, North Carolina (well, just the BBQ there...little else otherwise) to Wellington, Florida to suburban St. Louis once more. I am a Yankee who loves where I came from, who loves the South that has given me so much to enjoy.

I am Blue. I am Gray. It is what it is. And I wouldn't want to be any other way.

Monday, July 8, 2013

One Week In!

I've been out and about in the Deep South this past week and loving life (and barbecue) a lot more than the average bear. But I have been able to check in on Twitter and Facebook from time to time. And the good news is that Litany of Secrets is enjoying some good initial plugs. Of course, once the paperback comes out in early August, we could have another push, but for now, the eBook is holding its own.

If you still haven't downloaded Litany of Secrets, you can still do so by going to the book's page at Dunrobin Publishing. It really is a great least I thoroughly enjoyed writing it. But as sales and everything move into the future, here are some things I hope you keep in mind:

(1) When you finish reading Litany of Secrets, consider going to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or other book sales sites and write a review of the book with the starred rating you believe the novel garners (no, I have not disabled any rating from three stars on down...I let the chips fall where they may). Reviews help drive online traffic to the book and they help readers make more informed choices about potential purchases. A good, concise yet meaty review takes perhaps five minutes to write. That's less time than it takes for you to demolish a meal at Taco Bell.

(2) Exponential word of mouth is the best marketing tool! How, you ask? If you pass the word on about Litany of Secrets to twenty people, you've helped the book plow a number of avenues unknown to it before. Say only three of those twenty buy the book...that's still triples the readership from your one recommendation! And if they do the same, we have a mildly swelling following that grows and grows! Tell people on Facebook, on Twitter, take a picture of it via Instagram. There are so many roads this can go.

(3) The future: Again, the paperback version of Litany of Secrets comes out in early August. You can continue to track progress on my author page on Facebook, following me on Twitter, or re-checking here at Sacred Chaos. Also, in mid-August, I'll be putting out a discussion guide for people interested in  doing any book club-type stuff with Litany of Secrets. And as other reviews come up from time to time, I'll be posting them here, as well.

In the meantime, happy reading. And thanks for all your encouragement and support!

Monday, July 1, 2013

It's Here!

Litany of Secrets is now available to the public! The eBook version is now available on Kindle and Nook (and soon will be on iBook). To order, you can go through Dunrobin Publishing's website and go to my book page ( and click the link you need. Or you can go to the Amazon or Barnes & Noble sites and type in "Luke H. Davis" or "Litany of Secrets". The eBook version is $2.99, which to be mildly honest--I think is a bargain for a great story.

One more thing: Please consider taking a couple more action steps once you've read the book. (1) You can place a rating at Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Also, (2) if you could, I'd appreciate a concise yet detailed review of the book. These actions steps can help assist potential readers and can drive more online traffic toward Litany of Secrets.

No matter what, enjoy the book! And if you want to connect here on the blog and give feedback, I'd appreciate that, too!

Happy reading!