Serpents and Doves
by G. Lloyd Helm
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GENRE: Literary Fiction
Stephen Mitchell did not know what he was getting into at a small church college in Tennessee. Sex, protest, friendship, and Civil rights. The title “Serpents and Doves” comes from the warning Jesus gave to his disciples as he sent them out to preach the gospel, knowing the dangers they were going into. He said “I send you out as sheep among wolves, therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” Stephen Mitchell learns first-hand what that warning means when he goes to a Tennessee church college in the midst of the turbulent 60’s. He learns about friendship, war, protest, the sexual revolution, and civil rights.
Ethan’s suicide rocked the school, but not nearly as much as Stephen expected. The New Jersey and New York folks mostly didn’t know anything about Ethan or the BSU so they noted the suicide as a bit of news, but it didn’t affect them much. There was some anti-homosexual noise and the inevitable nasty jokes, but Ethan Patrick’s passing caused no more than a ripple for the most part.
There was some noise and protest from the Mason First Baptist Church when Billie Jo asked them to hold the funeral service, but finally they said they would bury him, but not in the church cemetery. They ignored the fact of his suicide and the reasons for it and held a small service. Stephen debated with himself whether he should go. He had about decided not to when Cathy Powell cornered him and asked if he would go with her. “I really don’t have the strength Steve,” she said. “I’m just a wreck. Can’t you please come with me?”
Stephen seriously thought about saying. Why don’t you go ask David Hall? But didn’t say it. “All right. I’ll meet you at the church.”
She smiled sadly, but Stephen thought he saw just the smallest glimmer of triumph in it.
The coffin was set across the aisle in front of the altar. Closed. It was silvery gray and looked more like a large tin can than a coffin. The congregation was small, mostly people from the BSU but a few from Beacon’s faculty including Dr. Conners and Dr. Marchant. Having the Pope there was no surprise. Probably here to make sure the sumbitch is really dead, Stephen thought, and then felt bad about thinking it.
It is my pleasure to welcome you to Room With Books, Mr. Helm!
Please tell us about yourself.
My CV–Born 1948, Little Rock Arkansas. 6′ 3″, 270lbs. Gray hair and beard. Married 45 years to the same woman. Two sons, one grandson. Ne’er-do-well scribbler.
Did you always want to be a writer? If not what did you want to be?
Maybe I did always want to write, because the first time I remember thinking I needed to write a book was when I was in 7th grade. I also had some visions of being a professional soldier–Marine Corp, but I never made that. I considered it at the time this book, Serpents and Doves is about, but there was what I considered an unnecessary and immoral war going on at the time so I didn’t volunteer. Then my draft number came up at about 340 so I didn’t worry much about getting drafted.
How long have you been writing and who or what inspired you to write?
I’ve been writing since 7th grade but I didn’t really consider myself a writer until I reached college. As for inspiration there were several, John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath was one influence. It was about my people both the Okies and the Californians. But then there were less lofty writers like Robert Heinlein, and Ross McDonald.
Do you do a job in addition to writing and would you tell us more about it?
Not at the moment–I mean I am the chief cook and bottle washer, and manager for the family but I don’t get paid for that except in food and time to write. But I have had a mess of jobs down the years, everything from ditch digger, to dock walloper , store clerk, night guard, actor, radio DJ, and cab driver. None of them ever really had my heart except maybe cab driving. I liked that job. The pay was lousy but it was an adventure every day.
How would you summarize this book in less than 20 words?
Naivety gains wisdom through hard knocks education.
Now, let’s talk about writing and how you came to be a published author.
I first got published in my college paper. I had some poetry in there and then I wrote a couple of articles. The best one upset the administration enough that the dean attacked it from the podium at a general assembly. It was an article questioning where student tuition and fees were going. That’s a question that is still being asked and attacked from various podiums around the country. Then I had some short stories published in various anthologies, the biggest most important at the time was CITIDEL the literary magazine from Los Angeles City College. Lots of really fine writers started there. But, truth be told I had to put together a publishing company to publish my first novel. Mouse Prints Publishing. I published my first novel Other Doors myself, and had to do my own sales and distribution, too. That is the hardest part of publishing a book. But I am very proud of that little book. It is a story about a man who can stop war by simply saying stop. Having been associated with the US Air Force through my wife MSGT. Michele Helm (retired) I have sold hundreds of copies on various military bases around the world. Since it came out in 1996 my little book about peace has gone to every war zone in the world. A few years later, another publisher picked up the book and re-published it. They have published almost everything else I have written. Rogue Phoenix Press. God Bless ’em. But Mouse Prints is still alive. It went on to publish the Antelope Valley anthologies, which was gatherings of local writers works. We published them for nine years. Mouse Prints has also published several other things, mine and other peoples.
When did you first consider yourself a “writer”?
I wrote my first real “story” when I was in college. It was lousy and a couple of English teachers told me so, but it was too late. I was infected with the writing sickness. But I didn’t really consider myself a “writer” until I began submitting to magazines and anthologies in the very early 70’s.
How long did it take to get your first book published?
See the above answers. I wrote articles and stories for various publications but it was more than 25 years until I got a book published and I had to do that myself. I have since published five more books including this one.
How long does it usually take you to write a book, from the original idea to “The End”?
Depends on the book. Other Doors took a couple of years but I was having to work full time. Second book, Design, took about a year. I was doing the chief cook and bottle washer and raising kids at the time and doing as much touring all over Europe as I could. It was mostly written in the library of Rhein-Main Air Force Base in Frankfurt Germany. Technically I guess it was really my first book but Other Doors got published first because it had my heart. Serpents and Doves, on the other hand, has taken me forty years to write. I started it several times and ended up with a couple thousand pages that didn’t really hang together much. One day I mentioned to my wife and patron that the damn thing was just burning a hole in my soul and she said “Well, shut the hell up about it and go to work on it.” which I did. From the thousands of words I pulled the novel and when she read it she said, “It’s the best thing you have ever written.” This isn’t just a wife telling her husband what he wants to hear either. She has been very vocal in her dislike about some of my other books, especially one called Sometimes in Dreams. That one took about six months to write.
What can we expect from you in the future? More of the same genre? Books of a different genre?
So far I have written a fantasy, Other Doors, a soft science fiction Design, a sort of a bent romance Sometimes in Dreams, another kind of fantasy, World without End, and now a straight ahead Literary Novel, Serpents and Doves. I also have a volume of short stories called Train Wheels, Flying Saucers, and the Ghost of Tiburcio Vasquez. Those are bar stories. They start in bars and end in bars. As to the future, I am working on a screen play for Other Doors as well as a second novel with the same kind of theme. Peace. We have been at war one way and another since the end of the 19th Century. A century and a quarter of war. That’s enough. It is time for the world to grow up and live together.
Who is your favorite character from your books and why are they your favorite?
I always answer this in a way that upsets people. I love all my characters. You see, I consider that in my books, in the universes I create I am god and I love all my creatures, even those who aren’t righteous. If I have to kill some of them off I freely admit that I cry. That being said, one of my favorites is Ben Fordham from Other Doors. He is a poor schmoe that got sucked into a world he didn’t understand, and was burdened with a power he didn’t really want; the power and the need to speak peace to those fighting, and have them stop instantly, thereby infecting them with peace so that they had the same power and need.
What is your routine for writing?
When I am working well, I just plop down in front of the computer and begin. I try to get a thousand words a day. Some days it is easy. I can crank ’em out in an hour. Other days it ain’t so easy and I work at it for hours at a time.
Do you choose a title first, or write the book then choose the title?
I have done both. Serpents and Doves sort of came as the book developed, back on that thousand pages of junk I talked about earlier. For “Train Wheels…” I had no idea until Arlo at Rogue Phoenix asked what I was gonna call it and I just said “Well it’s about train wheels, flying saucers and the ghost of Tiburcio Vasquez, so why not call it that if it isn’t too long.” and he did.
Are there any hidden messages or morals contained in your books?
Yes. The ongoing message in all my books, even in Train wheels is that there is a God, that he wants us to live together in peace, and that just because there is a God you can’t blame him for your own stupidity.
Which format of book do you prefer, eBook, hardback, or paperback?
Any of them. Personally I rather like hard bound books, but they are so bloody expensive any more that I get a stomach ache every time I look at one. Paperbacks are great because you can just stick one in your back pocket and go. I remember once having an argument with someone who said, “How do you know?” I was fortunate enough to have a book about the subject in my back pocket so I whipped it out and said “Cause I read.” and that was the end of that argument. I don’t have an ereader. My Wife on the other hand won’t read anything unless it is on her ereader. She humors me to read my manuscripts but her regular reading is on her ereader. She says it is because she can carry fifty books at a time and can make the print as big as need be.
What is your favorite book and why is it your favorite? How many times would you estimate you’ve read it?
That’s a real hard one because I have a lot of books I have worshipped and read many times. I’ve read the Ring Trilogy and the Hobbit several times each, and I have a complete collection of Ray Bradbury and Robert Heinlein, again having read them until they are ragged. I have said in the past that my favorite is The Grapes of Wrath and that is kinda true on one level, but it all depends on what is going on in my life and where my mind is. I read voraciously and have for many years so this is a really impossible question to answer.
Do you read all the reviews of your books?
When I can find them I read them, but it ain’t like everybody in the country wants to review my books. I don’t take the ones I do find to heart, either the good ones or the bad ones.
That’s enough of the serious business. How about a handful of fun questions?
What is your favorite food? Food. I’ll eat it if doesn’t crawl off the table and if it does crawl it better crawl damned fast. I like Mexican, and Italian, and Sushi, and steak and, well see the above quote.
Who is your favorite singer or group? That one is easy Beatles Forever. Once when I was a radio DJ I locked myself in the studio and played nothing but Beatles all night until the manager finally came with a key and threw me out. People were calling and saying “Play more Beatles G. Lloyd! Play more Beatles!” All that being said, I am generally a music lover, including classical and jazz.
What is your favorite color? Green, like money and trees.
What is your ideal getaway dream vacation? Don’t really have one. I’ve been so many places around the world and loved them all with a couple of minor exceptions. Loved Hawaii and we are aiming to retire there when my wife retires from her teaching job.
What final words would you offer to our readers?
Thanks for listening/reading what I had to say here and I hope you enjoy Serpents and Doves.
Thank you for spending time with us at Room With Books, Mr. Helm. I appreciate your time and wish you the best with Serpents and Doves. I hope you will come back again!
G. Lloyd Helm has been writing for 40 years, having published poetry in a wide variety of magazines and newspapers including “The New York Poetry Anthology,” “Stars and Stripes News,” “The Los Angeles Times,” “The Antelope Valley Press,” and “The Antelope Valley Anthologies,” among others.
… Has published short stories and memoirs both in the US and in England in such journals as “Pilgrimage” which published the memoir “Football” in spring 2005, and a second memoir “4 April, 1968” in the winter of 2008. He has published short stories in “Citadel” the literary magazine of Los Angeles City College,” “Delivered Magazine,” which is based in London, “Short Story Library,” The University of S. Illinois’ “Eureka Literary Magazine,” “Tales as like as not,” and London’s “Black Gate Magazine.” Recently published “Even Up” a Civil War Ghost story at http://www.ruthlesspeoples.com/, an English on line magazine, and the short story “A Lovely Elephant” in “Delivered Magazine” an English fiction journal. “The Other Fellows Shoes,” Pulp Empire III, Metahuman Press, Cedar Rapids, IA Nov. 2010. Is being published in an on line experiment from Alfie Dog Publishing in England. May 2012.
…Has published three novels in the F&SF field, 1) OTHER DOORS, From MousePrints Publishing, and 2) DESIGN from American Star. 3) WORLD WITHOUT END from Rogue Phoenix Press, http://www.roguephoenixpress.com/ OTHER DOORS, originally published in 1997, was published electronically by Rogue Phoenix Press in July 2010. Also Published a literary Romance novel called SOMETIMES IN DREAMS, from Siren’s call. Most recently a volume of short stories called TRAIN WHEELS, FLYING SAUCERS, AND THE GHOST OF TIBURCIO VASQUEZ. Many of these stories appear on the Alfie Dog site.
…Is in process of publishing an adult literary novel called SERPENTS AND DOVES with Rogue Phoenix Press, which will be out in May 2016.
G. Lloyd Helm will be awarding 10 paperback copies of the book to 10 randomly drawn winners via Rafflecopter during the tour. (international giveaway)