Another Wonderful Review of Southern Man

Many thanks to J. Steven Svoboda of the National Coalition for Men for this fantastic review of Southern Man. I can't tell you how pleased I am with his comments and insights. I'm not sure when and where the review will be posted, whether the organization's  main website or Transitions, which is a print publication for NCFM members only. However, when a link appears, will post it here and on social media.

Meantime, read the review here:

Southern Man: Legacy of Fortitude, A Southern Heroes Novel. By Connie Chastain.  Pensacola, Florida: Great Southern Publishing, 2009.   334 pages. No price given on book but amazon lists for $12.95., Review by J. Steven Svoboda.
Author, self-proclaimed devotee of the South and preacher’s daughter Connie Chastain has written a novel that greatly broadened my horizons and for which I owe her a substantial debt.  Her novel tells the compelling saga of hardworking family man Troy Stevenson and his adoring, supportive wife Patty.

Chastain throws in passing references to misandry, trusting the reader who may be unaware of the meaning of that word to look it up, wisely avoiding a political digression to explain it. 

The author describes a world relatively unfamiliar to me. I have only spent a few weeks in the South in my life though I have been very favorably impressed by the welcoming people there and the down-to-earth, unpretentious feeling I have gotten when I have visited.  While my mother was a housewife for a while until she took a job when I was about twelve years old, I frankly do not know many women who have chosen to build their lives around nurturing a family and around supporting their wage-earner husbands rather than around their own careers.

The book grew on me tremendously as I continued to read the extremely engaging story.  Chastain has a knack for convincingly, non-judgmentally immersing us in the lives of a very diverse set of characters.  Complications ensue when a young woman, Brooke Emerson, becomes obsessed with Troy and, determined to take him to her bed, begins stalking him.

Brooke’s plot to ensnare Troy goes so far as to encompass a wrongful sexual harassment accusation when he rejects her advances.  Due to some very provident actions, Troy is eventually able to clear his name.  Southern Man brought me face to face with some philosophies quite different from those familiar to me—characters who use Christian scripture as a guide in their daily lives, in some cases going so far as not to engage in premarital sex.

It is refreshing to read an author who unapologetically, unostentatiously yet convincingly paints a world in which men are accepted as different from women (as indeed they are), and the differences are celebrated. Troy and his wife Patty are full equals yet have different roles. And they love each other fiercely and with a commitment and devotion that many married people might well envy.

The family reunion that occurs on pages 226-228 is downright moving and sweet. What a wonderful book. And a true page-turner as well. I couldn’t put it down. Don’t miss it!

J. Steven Svoboda is the senior board member of and Public Relations Director for the National Coalition For Men, the world’s oldest and largest non-profit devoted to educating the world about the harm done to men and boys by gender discrimination. Steven is NCFM’s book reviewer and his articles are available through the group's bi-monthly newsletter Transitions.

Read his entire bio here.

Great Review of Southern Man

I'm absolutely blown away by Hope Denney's review of Southern Man, published at her review site, Orchard Rest Writer's Loft.

Ms. Denney is a Southern writer as well as a great reviewer of Southern fiction, having published her first novel, Surrender at Orchard Rest, in February. Her affinity, both writing and reviewing, is for 19th century Southern Gothic novels, so I am especially pleased that she chose to review my late 20th Century historical.

The entire review made my day, but here are a few snippets that I especially appreciate.
Ms. Chastain excels at penning a smoothly flowing, polished prose that is years ahead of first novel status.

 Despite this novel having a large cast of characters once you add in the cast of Troy’s workplace, I got to know each character well. They were powerfully and beautifully sketched.

Ms. Chastain sketches a Christian but passionate marriage with all the prowess of an armchair psychologist

Working Cover
Troy Stevenson is a well-crafted Southern hero that I believe encompasses the contemporary Southern man ... much better than any that I have read of late.
In addition to giving my novel a fantastic review, Ms.  Denney has inspired me to take the closest WIP I have to Southern Gothic -- Walraven Manor -- off the back burner, and get cracking on it again. To help reacquaint me with the genre, I have her debut novel in my Kindle for PC and some other titles she has reviewed.

You can read her reviews here: Orchard Rest Writer's Loft. Her novel is available at, here: Surrender at Orchard Rest.

Many thanks, Ms. Denney.

It Was Twenty Years Ago Today

I had a very enjoyable time yesterday at Joe Scarborough's 20-Year Reunion for his campaign volunteers. Although after the campaign, several of us maintained contact the years he was in Congress -- especially we who worked in his district office -- there were folks there I had not seen since his first campaign, when he was a 30-year-old unknown with no political experience taking on Earl Hutto, a 16-year incumbent.

Had to look at name tags to recognize a few people...heck, ain't none of  us getting any younger. Had some laughs. Chatted with Joe's mom, shared  memories of her husband, George, who passed away several years ago. There were others no longer with us that brought home the passage of time. 

I got a big hug, three pecks on the cheeks and some nice words of welcome and remembrance from the former member of Congress and talk-TV host. I gave him an autographed copy of Southern Man. Noted the slight graying  at Joe's temples. Very distinguished looking, though in many ways, he still looks so much like that thirty-year-old who was inspired -- goaded? -- to run for Congress by the election of Bill Clinton, and the leftward lurch of the country afterward.

I left the Congressional office in 1998; worked for Joe at The Florida Sun for a while after that, and helped prepare the Congressional office for the incoming member, Jeff Miller, after Joe resigned. But basically, my interest in national politics ended with the Clinton impeachment hearings. If memory serves, I didn't vote in any presidential elections after that, until my vote for Mitt Romney in 2012, which wasn't so much a vote for the Republican candidate as it was a vote against the Democrat incumbent. My main reason for voting for Romney was my belief that he would be immensely better for the economy than Barack Obama.

Me and Joe, Back in the Day
Joe reminisced about the accomplishments of the 104th Gingrich-led Republicans in DC, and how the GOP has changed since then, giving rise to the Tea Party. But he says the country is strong and it will survive eight years of Barack Obama. I'm not so sure.  It would be interesting to know  his perspective, and why he thinks that. From where I sit, the USA is not only weak and growing weaker all the time -- it's culture, politics, religion and nearly every other aspect of its existence are practically unrecognizable.

Still, it was nice to see folks, and remember when we were younger, had boundless energy and  genuine hope for the country.

And  now, back to defending Dixie and writing books.

Video Trailer for Love in Smallfoot Alley

It's getting there.  I've added some slow, Ken Burns-style pans and zooms. The models for Leslie, the PI, and the older brother have changed. They were chosen long ago, but the PI was depicted with papers but no computer, and as he relies heavily on the computer, I wanted one in the trailer.

Thanks to Tin Eye, I found him on a microstock site in a number of poses, including the one in this mockup. I found the older brother on my hard drive -- I had purchased the pic some time ago, never used it, and forgot about it. And Leslie -- this is the original Leslie model I chose when I started writing the story.

I originally found her on iStockphoto and downloaded a comp with the idea of using her in a video trailer if I ever finished the book (which was in doubt when I started writing, as the story was basically a lark, and I wasn't real serious about writing it).

When I recently went to iStockphoto to see how much the price had increased (they've priced themselves out of my price range, mostly), the photo ID on my original comp download turned up a "not found". So, I did a Tin Eye reverse image search, which not only found her at iStock, but also at several other microstock sites -- including 123RF, where I have a bunch of credits. She was not only there -- she was there in several poses -- and affordable!

When I started the story, the male lead was named Julian Walraven (a surname in my genealogy) but I wanted to save that for another story, so I renamed him Chris Dupree (he has some Cajun forebears, and is named after a South Louisiana Cajun I used to work with). His appearance was inspired by the actor Ryan Carnes, as he appeared in SyFy's The Phantom. I haven't watched TV much since The X Files went off the air, but I saw a promo for The Phantom, and decided to watch it. During the mini-series, hubs filled me in on the Phantom backstory and said SyFy had really buggered it up (apparently fans of The Phantom were really pissed at the liberties taken in this production), but I enjoyed it and I thought Carnes was a cutie -- and a not-bad actor. I had never heard of him, so I Googled him and discovered he was a teen soap star; he's straight but portrays homosexuals in some of his movies. How unfortunate that he didn't choose to promote virtue and decency in his corner of the popular culture...

The inspiration for Chris Dupree's appearance

In any case, as cute as he is, I of course would not be able to use his likeness in a video trailer, so I was delighted to find this model. With a little help from my photo-editor, he makes a very credible Chris.

Left, stock photo model; right, Ryan Carnes in The Phantom.

Here are some of the video mockup frames, and images used to composite them:

 The storm clouds --

From Dreamstime Free

 The cryptids --

Images from Morguefile, Pixabay and/or the public domain

The crash --

Images from Morguefile, Pixabay and/or freebies

The Rescuer

These pics are all stock images except the duster and the truck. There are pics of men in dusters on the stock sites I use, but none are posed like I need them to be. If I can't find one by the time I'm ready to do the actual video, I'll contact the manufacturer of this duster and see if can use it (ditto the truck). I have emailed the company that makes the duster I used on the Catamount cover mockup, but have not heard back from them. Hope I have better luck with this one. With some commercial interests, you just never know. (I contacted Rawlings to seek permission to use an image of one of their catcher's helmets on the cover of Alex Austin, and they not only permitted it, but sent me a beautiful, print-resolution image to use.)

Creating Chris

I shortened and widened his face and mouth and added fullness to his hair above his ears. Also saturated his hair to be more yellow-blond rather than platinum blond, but it looks almost red, and needs to be desaturated a little. Chris is twenty-seven. (I've had critics tell me that he looks twelve....)

Chris, as Leslie sees him:
He entered the main room, opened up the armoire, which was filled with an impressive array of electronics, and trundled out a computer workstation. In silence, he pulled up a chair and sat down but as he powered up the computer he suggested, somewhat offhand, that she sit nearby.

She lowered herself onto straightback chair he  pulled up next to his and took the opportunity to study him.

He was not overly tall, probably an inch or two under six feet, but he was rangy, his muscles strong and hard but graceful and elongated. His neck, adorned with a gold chain that disappeared beneath his shirt, rose from wide, square shoulders.

His slender face was remarkably handsome. A bow-shaped upper lip was complemented by a barely prominent lower one, and he worked them slightly as he set about his task. Beneath thick, gullwing eyebrows, his gray-blue eyes took on a darker blue, depending on the lighting around him. A beautiful frame for his face, his his hair spiked outward from a symmetrical hairline with exquisite temporal points.

What happened to 'possible serial killer,' girl?

It was all she could do to pull her eyes away from him and focus on the computer screen.


These are a few of several shos of thsi model at 123RF
Unfortunately, there are none of this woman in profile, so I had to use a similar looking model, but I think she'll do:
A frame in  the video --
Let's wrap up with a couple of promos from The Phantom miniseries. My favorite part --  "I'm not wearing that." Dorkiest part (did Carnes feel like an idiot saying this line?) -- "They call me the Phantom."