Sunday, March 12, 2017

A Chapter From The Book of Barkley

CHAPTER 45 - Talking to Dog (From The Book of Barkley - Love and Life Through the Eyes of  Labrador Retriever by L.B. Johnson)

(Barkley's) pain had grown worse since I brought him home, another visit planned, a specialist consulted at my vet’s recommendation.  The last anti-inflammatory pill gone, I went to the Animal Hospital to get a refill, even though we had an appointment in two days to take another x-ray of the bone, to see if there were changes, to discuss biopsy, the doctor not ruling out bone cancer as yet.

He took it reluctantly, until I put a bit of peanut butter on it, which he then let me lay on his tongue, as if receiving a communion wafer.
 I can do nothing more for him today, but relieve his pain as best I can, while I sit and stroke his flank, talking to him in a soothing voice.

I talk to my dog a lot. People would probably think me daft, sitting and talking to my dog, but outdoors or just sitting some evening quietly watching the fire, I can talk softly about the things that will matter to me the rest of my life. And he only reacts to the heat of my words or the urgency of tone as I talk about missing people I love, and the nature of death and fate and the way I've had to look deep into my own capacities to become the person I am. He just looks, and he listens.
But I also talk to God a lot.

I've certainly had to ask for that forgiveness in my talks with Him. For we talk regularly, in the woods, hunting with my Browning, when the light has a weary quality to it, like a backwater pool of light lying low, winter's light is crisp, clean, illuminating everything so clearly.  The words are less than wishes and more than regrets, and even if I did not state them out loud, I could hear them with my breathing as they gathered within the intent of breath and came forth in a rush of cold air, invisible words going up to an invisible God.
Sometimes He and I talk as I'm sitting in a vehicle in the middle of a scene of dark desolation, ash in my hair, red smeared on my boots, as bold as if painted on a door frame, a sign, that, for tonight, I was to be spared.  Perhaps this one time I did not save His sparrow that He perhaps neglected to mark, but I am here to reconcile the remains. It's just talk, but it's still a prayer; prayer being more than the order of words, the conscious calling of the mind that is speaking, or the sound of the voice praying. I do not expect to hear anything back, the communication between us tongued with fire beyond the blaze that is dying next to me.But it's comforting; words spoken into the void, penitence and belief, as all around hope is falling into embers. He may not respond, but He is here, never and always, just like the four-legged form of love that lies beside me, drawing goodness even from the core of his suffering

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

NPR Author Interview



Small Town Roads, my first fiction novel after two non-fiction books, was one of four selected by NPR WNIJ/WNIU for their 2017 Spring Read Series and I was interviewed AND read an excerpt for the Series. (Note: there are two links on the page, one for the excerpt that was picked by the station and one for the actual interview).  Thank you WNIJ and Dan Klefstad - it was an honor.


Thursday, February 9, 2017

New Reviews for Small Town Roads

If you're looking to get lost in a small town fiction, this is the book. L.B. Johnson is incredible when it comes to descriptive narratives. It's impossible to read her books and not feel as if you're standing right in the scene with the characters.
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I was given a copy of this book as a gift. It took me back to being a child when you were told to play outside in the morning and didn't come in until dinner! No one worried about where you were, or what you were doing! We rode our bikes everywhere, played in the woods, and walked to school. What a different world we live in today.

 L.B. Johnson has captured the magic of those days perfectly!!!
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LB Johnson has a winner here. Well written, with fully developed strong characters who move realistically through life. The friendships developed ring true, and the importance of faith in our lives is well done. Highly recommended!
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Great read. I had thoroughly enjoyed the author's previous non-fiction concerning rescue labs and adoptions. Her first fiction was work was no less impressive and a quick, breezy, fun read. Thoroughly enjoyed the descriptions of small town policing which resonated with my own experiences as a Town Constable.
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L.B. Johnson's novel is about self-discovery in a small town. What really shines is less the story line than the psychological exploration of the heroine. That exploration (and her lush writing style) makes the characters come to life. Indeed, it makes us consider our own lives - as someone who has a family member struggling with dementia, this bit about the heroine's mother and her struggle with Alzheimer's jumped at me.

 "Initially, she had little moments of forgetfulness, like any person of her age, but she was such a bundle of energy, still active in church and volunteering, taking dance classes, working in the garden. Then one morning, out of the blue, she came into the kitchen and sat down, looking at me and I realized she did not have a clue as to who I was. What struck me was not that but the look on her face as she realized this, realized she should know."

 Johnson's ability to make you stop reading and think about your own life is remarkable, and is spread throughout the book. This about a rescue dog is one of a million similar gems:

"On my couch is the form of a little black dog. I do not know why Clyde was a stray. He responds with great plaintiff urgency to the sound of small children laughing, looking around for them as to say "my kids, my kids" only to get this look of pure sadness when he sees they are strangers. The first time I witnessed it, I cried."

Johnson tells you a story not by telling it, but by showing you these scenes, one after another. I found it a slow book to read because I would suddenly snap back from where I had been mentally wandering, remembering a time when I too had had an experience like what was being described.

This book asks big questions: What is it to be human? What is it to live the Good Life? What is it to leave that Good Life?

I cannot recommend this book more highly.
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This is a wonderfully sincere book by a gifted author. She artfully paints a picture of small-town life in which neighbors help one another, friendships span generational boundaries, and life is not lived in anonymity.
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If I write in a book or dog ear page corners it is an honor to the author. It means they have written something I found artistically poignant and want to remember. My copy of L.B. Johnson’s book, “Small Town Roads” now has many page corners bent and lines marking passages. May you find her words just as memorable and moving.
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A good read. I felt like I knew the characters personally.
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 LB Johnson, author of the best-seller "The Book of Barkley", has done it again. This heart-warming, true to life story of a young woman who finds herself pursuing a career in law enforcement, but in a small town instead of the big city she'd imagined. John Lennon famously wrote, "Life is what happens while you're busy making other plans." But with the help of a neighbor, life, and the persistent nudging of the Holy Spirit, she finds herself opening up to an existence she'd never considered. Highly recommended.
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Great author, I  have her other two books, The Book of Barkley and Saving Grace; very impressed with how she can describe the situation and you are there.
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Rachel Raines is looking for a place to hide a heart full of loss, and a quieter patrol than Chicago. The bequest of her aunt's house seems like the perfect opportunity for both, if she can survive the gigantic spiders, creaky plumbing, and inevitable challenges of being the rookie on a small town force. Down the street, her aunt's best friend, Evelyn Ahlgren, marks the passing of seasons and neighbors, long mired in her loneliness as a widow. When the young woman with scars of her own befriends her, they strike up an unlikely friendship across generations that just might help them both heal.

 A beautifully told, heartwarming story of finding the best in people and the small towns, this book is like finding a treasure in an old attic. Enjoy!
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Sometimes heroes are not bronze muscled doers of great deeds. Sometimes heroism is getting out of bed when every joint hurts, and doing a difficult job when everyone else turns their back, and knowing there are a thousand days ahead of you just like this one with few breaks and fewer opportunities for joy. Sometimes heroism is having a big heart when having any heart at all seems to be a liability. Most of us never have the opportunity to be the type of hero action movies are made about, but we all can be heroic in our day to day lives just by caring. That is what lies at the core of this book, and the big heart and caring shine through.
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 I opened this book eagerly. L.B. Johnson writes with ease and experience, openly sharing the truth of life in concepts and images all too real, yet lyrical.

Examples that light up a scene and illuminate the story:
"... a statement of endurance too abundant for human speech ..."
"... colorful wildflowers splashed on the ground ..."
"...the odor of a whetted knife carving shadows into the night..."

Johnson uses the present tense, a confident author's voice that's an immediate witness, up close and personal. The story is a first-person account by an intelligent young woman, alone, a new cop with big city experience transplanted to a small town, after inheriting her elderly aunt's home, an old house cluttered with bittersweet childhood memories.

Joining a small town police force means dealing with gruesome tragedies up close, mishaps typical of a small town, death and injuries that devastate loved ones. Johnson's young female cop tussles with the hardship of loneliness, and she uses this fictional first person journal to speak of her faith, devotion to duty, and the abundant human warmth of Small Town Roads.
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This book is in one word, rich. The imagery is vibrant, you feel as if you know the characters. It is a tender, lovely story told from the heart. I've read this author's other efforts and this doesn't disappoint. Not a quick read but so worth the time to curl up and get lost in the vibrancy.
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Having read the author's other two books, I was excited to pick up her first fiction piece. This book has a similar feel to her previous works, with warm and flowing descriptions, meriting multiple re-reads to catch all the nuances of her prose. I was curious how the issues of faith would be handled, this being published by a Christian publishing house. In fact, it was a sublime and personal handling of faith. Her characters are well fleshed out, and interesting, as they explore loss, life, and love across generations.

This book would make a fine Christmas gift, for the well-read teen on up to your grandparents. And as a plus, the author also donates profits from her book sales to various charitable animal rescues and other animal service organizations.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Published now with special thanks to my editor Stephanie Martin.

The book will be at Barnes and Noble and in Christian bookstores soon but it is on Amazon now and just $2.99 for the Kindle.
Click
To Order.

Evelyn Ahlgren, a widow and retired teacher, enjoys the quiet comforts of her tranquil neighborhood. That’s why she is intrigued to see what her new neighbor, rookie police officer Rachel Raines, will add to their charming small town.

Rachel had big-city plans that hadn't included inheriting a tiny home in a rural community, a place with no coffee baristas and where the town’s only restaurant had a giant plastic cow on the roof.
  
Evelyn believes that God brought the two together to find renewed purposes in His will, and they begin an unlikely friendship that surpasses age and experiences. When an unexpected act of violence impacts them both, their concept of faith and family is tested with life-changing results.

Small Town Roads, by best-selling author L.B. Johnson, accurately depicts the feeling of small town life, where residents know each other’s names and become neighbors, and friends, for a lifetime.


L.B. Johnson has a Ph.D. in Criminal Justice and lives in Chicago with her engineer husband and rescue black Lab.   

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Amazon #1 Best Seller.

April 22, 2015.  From the Author of the Amazon #1 Best Seller The Book of Barkley - Love and Life Through the Eyes of a Labrador Retriever  - a story crafted from the heart and soul of a mother who wasn't a Mom.

It started with a piece of paper--a birth certificate, sent to the author's parents long after her birth. There is much history in that piece of paper. For she was born to an unwed mother in the generation prior to Roe v. Wade, on a warm day in August-a small, painful beginning in which she had been an unwilling participant, yet one that would shape her destiny. She is adopted into a loving home with another child that would become her beloved brother. She finds herself pregnant; she's a teen and a college student, abandoned at the news. The options are obvious, but there is only one decision she could make: to give her child up to a family praying for one, and walking away. Saving Grace is more than a story of adoption. It's a deep look into family-at hope and faith and why we end our days surrounded by souls that may not bear our name or share our blood, but who are our true family.

Available at Amazon (USA, Au, Japan, UK, and Italy) and Barnes and Noble.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

A Chapter from Small Town Roads

A Chapter From Small Town Roads - Xulon Press - Christmas 2016

We don’t have to speak for our intentions to be read.

Speech seems like a simple thing, a coordination of muscle and bone, nerves and tongue, something within us, just as the ability to control and guide both weapon and machine lay slumbering within the wrists and hands. We can stay silent, but the words are still there.

Man experiences things of great magnitude and cannot speak of them at all. An artist or craftsman creates something that was part of them, honed into art or machine. On completion, they say no words, they call no one, and they simply put down their tool, their brush, and stare at their vision, incarnate.

Veterans come home from battle empty of all words, bound together by only that identical experience which they can never forget and dare not speak of, lest by speaking of darkness, they are wrapped in its chains. First responders and law enforcement officers often relate as they too see so much death that never again, as long as they breathe, will they ever truly go to sleep alone.

Man experiences the mundane, the meaningless, tweeting and texting of it feverishly. It is as if, by doing so, inconsequential acts become more than the passing of time by the imminently bored. The words can uplift but they can also sting like so many insects, their incessant noise, finally dimming to a hum.


We speak in different languages, and even when speaking the same language, we often don’t communicate, and when we do, we often don’t truly mean what we say. Promises can be nothing more than words and oaths empty air, especially when election times near, wherein contests of fierce and empty oratory are somehow, retroactively, supposed to make us believe, any more than they can make us forget.

We speak in the language of the past, chants unchanged in generations hanging in the air as God is placed into a golden cup, there underneath the eyes of angels. We speak in the language of silent prayer, calling upon God and our reserves, saying prayers without words, as we draw near our weapon as we enter what could be hell on earth.

Words can support, they can heal, with gentle utterance after a nightmare in the still of the night, the soothing voice that smoothes the frayed edges of a day with nothing more than the touch of supple prose. Words can injure, cutting like a knife, discharging like a spark of electricity, those words, from someone we love, marking us always with their wounding.

Words, a movement of lips and tongue that can cause laughter or pain; that can divide or conquer. Even in a nation where English is the official language, in parts of our country, there are whole neighborhoods where you won’t hear it spoken.

Sometimes one doesn’t need to speak at all.


On any given day, tragedy and the earth collide, flood, tornado, the plunging of a mighty machine into a peaceful neighborhood. The details differ, but the response is always the same. When disaster strikes, the land itself turns mute and those that remain, stand simply as silent instruments unable to make a sound.

I didn’t fully understand that until the tornado came through our town last night, leveling several homes a mile or so north, leaving others, like mine and most of my neighbors, miraculously standing.  We were lucky, in that there were no deaths, the majority of the homes having basements and a good tornado warning system. But as we came up from our basement, our house untouched but for a tree that took out the front porch, it was as if what I viewed was a completely different town.

Harry, my elderly friend from across the street, was on the sidewalk, Evelyn holding on to him, shaken but unhurt. Ezekiel and Miriam waved from down the block, his shop roof damaged but the structure intact. But just down from Harry’s home, Betty, the widow that lives there stood in front of what remained of her house of 60 years. It was one set further back from the road than the others, the back portion of the house completely missing its roof and some walls, not even a photo of her failed dreams, left where the wind rushed through those rooms. She cried silently, in the faded robe she fled in, as one of the neighbors came over and put her arms around her. Behind all of the homes across the street from us, there were so many trees downed, limbs flung through windows, shattering them as if they were thrown like a lance.


A young woman, her face growing older by the minute, stumbled from the walkout basement of the home that had sold when I moved in, a solitary figure, clutching only a stuffed animal, making a path towards what is known. Her brother, off in military service, was letting her live there to care for the place while she attended a community college in a town not too far east of us. We beckoned her to come over to us, and though I am probably only ten years older than she, like Evelyn does with me, I hold her in a mother’s protective embrace.

The older couple from the corner of the block lost a brand new outbuilding they had painstakingly constructed behind their house. They now could only look at the work of their sweat and tears strewn about for miles by the force of nature, the wind thick and warm, like blood spilled, pooling around what little remains. A lone tree stood among so many that were downed, torn out by the roots, its nervous branches bent down as if hoping not to be noticed.

The first responders arrived, standing for just a moment, still and mute, hands unmoving beneath the invisible stain of what was, always, needless blood. For just a moment they stopped, as if by whispered breath or the movement of disturbed air, what little remains, would crumble.


They gathered, moving in and around, the firefighters, emergency medical personnel, law enforcement officers, wearing blue and black and yellow. Such garments, solemnly worn, exchanged for lives that used to be ordinary, worn as they shape something from chaos, coercing that terrible blood wind to give up a sound, the forlorn echo of someone who might have survived underneath the carnage. I waved at an officer I worked with, seeing the relief in his eyes that I was unhurt, feeling like I should be doing something more to help. I realized that I was still in shock as I held my neighbor to me to comfort as beneath my bathrobe my precious child lay safe.

It’s surprising how much noise there was in the silence, of hope, of grief, of disbelief. It was a sound which one could almost, but not quite, capture, receding like dwindling song until there were only the shadows and the quiet. And then a small voice, “Can anyone help me?” low and faint as the Vespers of sleep. It came from a home that didn’t have a walkout basement, and a tree had gone through the sunroom. I had been there, and that would have blocked the basement stairs. Hopefully, the person is fine and can get out once the tree was moved.

Survivors and saviors, moved without sound, sending a message as loudly to the heavens as if they were one voice. People were helped from the rubble, the injured accessed, the grief-stricken comforted as best as one could, if only by a touch that resonated straight to the heart, bypassing a brain that could not accept its fate. There were no Teleprompters, there were no cue cards, and there were no words for boundless grief and regret. There was no language for this, no word, no sound; it’s defiant and imminent life, holding on.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Amazon #1 Best Seller

2015 Indie B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree and winner of Silver in the Readers Favorite International Book Awards.  Gripping Memoir, Hailed "An Instant Classic" by Critics, Shares Journey of Love & Life through the Inspirational Eyes of Man's Best Friend...

Crafted from the heart and experiences of L.B. Johnson, 'The Book of Barkley: Love and Life Through the Eyes of a Labrador Retriever' takes readers from the author's depths of grief and personal despair to an empowering new life chock-full of love. But Johnson's radical life change didn't come from just her renewed faith in God or her friends, but instead from some additional help of a black Labrador called Barkley who taught her the real, innate meaning of love

 In a wholly-unique and uplifting new memoir, Johnson tells the deeply-personal story of her life and experiences with a rambunctious Labrador Retriever named Barkley. It's not just a story of one woman and her dog, but a bold journey to discover what love really is, and why learning to live like a dog gives humanity a powerful new meaning.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Lord,

No one but you and I understands 
 what faithfulness is.
Do not let me die until, for them,
 all danger is driven away. 

Carmon Bernos de Gaesztold, The Prayer for the Dog


Thank you for supporting the books of L.B. Johnson.  Through your purchase, another animal may find a purpose as 100% of all book sale profits are donated to animal rescue and support groups including American Dog  Rescue, PAWS of Chicago, Chicagoland Lab Rescue, Waldo's Muttley Crew in Indianapolis, Midwest Lab Retriever Rescue, Love of Labs Indiana, Search Dog Foundation, Lucky Pup Dog Rescue in San Diego, and many other animal non-profits.