Stray Dog Musings
The Writings of T P Graf
As the Daisies Bloom – A Novel
The generous spirit they share is a gift to any seeking greater understanding when you believe you have little in common. Yet it is through sharing that August discovers a deep reverence for Momma Daisy and Pappy Jemison, and for the legacy of love and mettle that defined their lives. August challenges our certitudes as, in his own life, he says, “I would rather have doubts and be wrong than to be certainly wrong.” Tyler and August bear witness to what might appear to be ordinary lives, yet which both see as nothing less than extraordinary.
Literary Titan – ☆☆☆☆☆
T. P Graf’s As The Daisies Bloom is as enchanting as it is charming. The story is intimately and poetically told. Like a well-written symphony, it has a rhythm and magnetism that is undeniable. It is especially hard not to fall in love with the main character, August.
While it is a work of fiction, this novel gives a heartfelt account of August’s life that is so touching, so authentic, and for lack of a better word so human. It is clear that this character was so thoroughly thought out, his experiences so beautifully brought to life.
Although the book starts with a chance encounter between August and a young family just freshly arrived in town, it ends in an interweaving of lives that we never see coming. The author also does well explaining the details of August’s life before this chance meeting and how the past has spilled into the present in interesting ways.
The fact that this book is written in August’s own voice, even with the accent and all, gives it an authenticity reminiscent of a memoir. What is more captivating though is that the author has managed to use this man’s seemingly simple life to draw attention to serious societal issues.
By easing us into topics like racism, sexism, faith, patriotism, and homophobia, he has personalized them, given them faces, invoking empathy and deep introspection. With neither insults nor judgment, he has made me think deeply about what it means to be human, to love, and to be loved.
Apart from the use of descriptive and almost poetic language, I also love that the author took his time to fully develop the characters in this book. Even though they are described as seen through August’s eyes, I could clearly picture each character. And not just physically, but who they are as a person.
It was clear what each one stood for and what was most important to them; something difficult to fit into 184 pages. Unexpectedly I found myself laughing with the characters and mourning with them, their struggles seeming so real to me somehow.
Reviewed By Grant Leishman for Readers’ Favorite – ☆☆☆☆☆
As The Daisies Bloom: A Novel by T.P. Graf is a tale that explores the synchronicities of life and how there is always a power greater than ourselves guiding and directing us in the best direction, if only we take the time to listen and follow. Two totally disparate individuals find themselves and their families’ lives overlapping and intersecting across time. August Kibler is a retired white man of Swiss descent, set in his ways and in his daily routine now that his husband has passed. Living in the university town of Boone, North Carolina, August takes his daily breakfast at the Daisy Café, where a chance encounter with a young African-American Tyler Jemison and his two young sons will change August’s life forever. This sets both families on a path that seems to have been preordained and directed by Tyler’s wonderful late grandparents, who had raised him in Macon, Georgia; Momma (Daisy) and Pappy Jemison. When Tyler moves to Boone to work as the City Manager, he discovers that not only do he and August have much in common, they were destined to meet and be family for each other in this new town. Similarly, August discovers that the death of his beloved Miles does not mean the end of life for him and that he can learn so much about love, life, and family from this young trio, who come from such a different background to himself.
As The Daisies Bloom by T.P. Graf is one of those stories that just envelop you in the warmth and love of human kindness, goodness, and, most of all, family. The author goes to pains to say that this story is not a memoir, but he is right in his assertion that it certainly does read like one. What appealed to me the most was the overarching theme of the story; that you get back what you put into life and that there is indeed something greater than ourselves, guiding and directing us. The story reminds us that it doesn’t matter what your station in life might be – if you do what you do to the absolute best of your ability, the rewards, be they financial, emotional, or spiritual, will surely come. In some ways, Momma (Daisy) and Pappy read almost as stereotypical southern Black grandparents, and yet the author was skillfully able to give them the ability to rise above that and appear totally real. I particularly enjoyed the passages where Momma allowed her rage to come out and although she was bitterly angry at the government, over her son’s death, she still managed to deal with that anger in a suitable and respectful manner. The writer’s style is easy and flowing and draws the reader intimately into the lives of this unlikely partnership between the old man, his young friend, and the two boys. Few stories can raise a tear in this reader’s eyes, but this story definitely did in places along with many smiles. It was a beautiful telling of life’s trials and tribulations, always overcome by the love of family and of something greater than oneself. I thoroughly enjoyed this read and can highly recommend it.
August Kibler’s Stories for Tyler
Voices of Context from Eden to Patmos
Was it a chance meeting in the Daisy Cafe that brought Tyler Jemison and his boys into August Kibler’s life, or was it the mysterious workings of Tyler’s grandmother, Momma Daisy? In this companion book to the novel As the Daisies Bloom, August shares with Tyler a life’s thoughts on what he would call his tiny systematic theology.
What might Eve say after millennia of being the first scapegoat? What might the first and last wives of the great king say to us if we read between the lines? How can we walk a bit with Joseph as he rides with Mary into Bethlehem? And what does Philip have to say to the black Eunuch, and to us about church membership?
Journey with the author as he imagines what we might have overlooked in the Bible stories that we teach our children. He shows how reimagining these people in voices for our time can bring to life each of these important guides, who could never have imagined how they would shape 2,000 years of Christianity, and how they can still transform us.
Reviewed By K.C. Finn for Readers’ Favorite – ☆☆☆☆☆
August Kibler’s Stories for Tyler: Voices of Context from Eden to Patmos is a work of fiction based on Christian history and Bible stories, and was penned by author T. P. Graf. Written as a companion short novel to the book As the Daisies Bloom, this standalone story explores theology and Christianity from the perspective of the titular character, August. In a modern reimagining of key Bible stories that are so often told in historical senses, the author develops a new perspective on Christianity and the many gifts and wisdom that it can still offer us in the modern age. What results is a highly effective and updated take on Bible stories for the modern reader.
Author T. P. Graf has crafted a masterful work of modern literature that takes on some very complex topics but delivers them in a format that any reader can engage with and glean wisdom from. Whether you have read the original novel or not, this offshoot book offers its own setup and premise to get you into the flow, and the narrative skills of the author will have you engaged with the enigmatic August Kibler at once. In the spirit of reading between the lines and considering wider messages rather than specifics, we begin to see how relevant Christianity can be to us in current times if we learn how to re-engage with it through this intelligent perspective. Overall, I would highly recommend August Kibler’s Stories for Tyler as entertaining and essential reading for those curious about theology.
Literary Titan ☆☆☆☆
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to speak to someone from the bible or know their inner thoughts? August Kibler’s Stories for Tyler, takes you on that journey. Covering a plethora of different areas and people, including Isaac, Ben, Miriam, and Paul, this book explores the perspective of each person portrayed in the bible. T.P. Graf dives into stories that are less known and not as recognized as other stories in the bible.
The book’s premise is quite unique and the author has done a fantastic job incorporating his thoughts in his writing. There are many readers and people interested in the bible that would enjoy a book like this, and I found myself reading through it reasonably quickly. Graf’s writing style was something I enjoyed and I loved how the author constructed the book to feel like a book of poetry. This story is thought-provoking and evokes a positive emotional connotation.
The author also covers contemporary issues and topics that we still face today. The book offers fresh ideas that others might not have considered as well through stories like the eunuch. I found myself moving seamlessly from account to account without stopping. August Kibler’s Stories for Tyler is an absorbing Christian fiction novel that embraces classic literature to deliver a stimulating allegory of life.
Looking Out onto Our World
Explorations of Power, Dogma and a World Deserving Contemplation
Long abandoning the popular notions of optimism and pessimism, Looking Out onto Our World is a many-year journey, with plenty to despair, yet always with a mind toward hope, joy, and celebrating the many free gifts of creation. You are invited into musings that on one page delve into our complex complicity and on the next observe as a simple creature goes about its daily work. You are invited to examine where we’ve been, where we are, and where we are headed. It is a celebration of life and the grace that comes at the cost of each of us recognizing what we have done and what is still ours to do.
Reviewed By K.C. Finn for Readers’ Favorite – ☆☆☆☆☆
Looking Out Onto Our World: Explorations of Power, Dogma, and a World Deserving Contemplation is a work of non-fiction in the poetry, slice of life, and anthology sub-genres, and was penned by author T. P. Graf. This thoughtful and fascinating collection of poetic works takes us through many years of different experiences and perspectives. The intention of the collection is to make a realistic observation of life’s journey, but with an eye towards hope and celebration, and the author takes several different time periods and locations in which these complex notions are explored. What results is a collection full of emotive and intelligent wordplay.
Author T. P. Graf has crafted a wonderful array of verses and ideas which will certainly please poetic fans seeking introspective work which also expands out into wide-reaching themes and relatable points. I enjoyed the organization of the work, which takes us along on unexpected moments in life as well as some very uplifting spiritual moments found in somewhat unlikely places. A particular favorite was Grama which had some beautiful imagery and a heartfelt theme. The author expresses artistic freedom over the verse and word choice but also makes a concise effort to convey the point of each poem very well, and with the maximum emotional impact. Overall, I would highly recommend Looking Out Onto Our World: Explorations of Power, Dogma, and a World Deserving Contemplation for poetry fans everywhere as a great pick me up and talking point to share with others.
Literary Titan – ☆☆☆☆
Looking Out onto Our World is a compilation of largely introspective poems that takes us to T. P. Graf’s homeland along a spiritual journey across life’s most unexpected moments juxtaposed with more recent world events. T. P. Graf’s poems are alive with sensory experience, and refuse standard conventions of storytelling.
His verses are crowded and confident, bringing together sequences of characteristically long and winding poems, with shorter, punchier entries and brief narrative explanation. Each word in each verse is deliberate, as if arranged for maximum impact. There’s a heavy social critique to many of the poems, and a detached tone that describes “Predatory drones drone on night and day. Any vestige of dignity long removed. Eden obliterated by fire for profit.” Drifting from hidden wars to moral landscapes, nature becomes more psychological, symbolic in its resonances. And that sense is broadly on display in poem after poem.
Themes are revisited with similar language to explore a wide world of thought, but it’s hard to find the same sense of deep feeling in each. Though the book’s verse is not particularly complex, it is gripping and compelling, and will engage even the most reluctant poetry reader. The poems are accessible, relatable and without pretense, confronting their audience with what it means to look at our world, with all its agonizing complexity. The truths are surprising, but then, whose truths are they? The casualties’ of long wars on overseas soil, or our distant author’s? Is T. P. Graf true to his own voice and his own sense of what constitutes poetry, or do the verses transcend it?
A ‘Wishing Shelf’ Book Review – ☆☆☆☆☆ Five Star Award
Insightful, intelligent; the sort of poetry that will stay with you for a long time. Highly recommended.’
My job is to tell you if Looking Out Onto Our World is a good book or not. And my job is to do that in approx. 300 words. I tell you now – it’s impossible. But I will do my best. First, the simple bit–yes, it’s good. Very good. In terms of poetical style, it’s ‘intelligent wordplay’, with emphasis on ‘intelligent’. As a result, it’s still accessible to most poetry lovers. And that’s important as there’s nothing as annoying as a poet who’s determined to confuse everybody. In many ways, this is a ‘slice of life’ memoir; moments in time which the author felt were uplifting, even inspiring.
Framed within a playful writing style, the author seems determined to jump from pillar to post, the reader never knowing what to expect next. Yes, it’s introspective, but it’s playful too, and there’s a tiny element of hope hidden away in there that’s refreshing.
To sum up, poetry lovers will find this very much of interest. They will delight in the word play, the imagery and the thoughts of this talented and very intelligent author. It’s not often I find a new author/poet to enjoy…but I think I just did.
Roots, Branches and Buzz Saws
More Stories of August Kibler
After August Kibler’s death, his executor and friend, Tyler Marvel-Jemison, finds a file on August’s computer that enlightens Tyler on August’s ancestral roots and earlier years before he, Johnny and Jimmy wandered into the old man’s life at the Daisy Cafe. In this collection, August expands on the people and places in his life beyond those introduced in As the Daisies Bloom. We sojourn with August from the rural Ohio township, to Indiana, down to Louisiana and finally to North Carolina. August peels back the hidden layers of a life lived in the shadows of abuse—facing his own regrets for how he might have been a better friend. He unwittingly exposes an unhealed wound from Miles’ childhood. He and Miles learn just how Maggie and Ethel from the Daisy Cafe are “joined at the hip.” We witness how time and circumstance shape lives and families and diverse friendships over a lifetime, and how the Hope Mennonite “creed” of Loving God, Loving Ourselves and Loving Others is all the creed we ever truly need.
Readers’ Favorite – ☆☆☆☆☆ Five Star Award Reviewed By Tammy Ruggles
Roots, Branches & Buzz Saws: More Stories of August Kibler by TP Graf is an insightful novel about what shapes a life. This story centers on August Kibler, a man who dies. His friend Tyler Ethan Marvel-Jemison is also Kibler’s executor and discovers a file on his friend’s computer post-death that unlocks the life and times of the man. The Daisy Cafe is the place where August met his friends Tyler, Johnny, and Jimmy. We travel with Kibler as he makes his way from a country township in Ohio to Indiana, then to Louisiana, and on to North Carolina. The file reveals the ups and downs in his life, including abuse, regret, and hardship. The Hope Mennonite tenets of loving God, self, and others are also expressed in the lives and actions of the characters in this book. Some of the characters are a carryover from the book As The Daisies Bloom but there are new ones as well.
This book is a perfect example of how each life is valuable and is a story to tell. Any person’s life is worth documenting, even in a fictional way. Graf has crafted an interesting, entertaining, and sometimes touching account of how our lives are shaped, changed, harmed, or enriched by the people that we meet. The author shows that no one is an island and that we are the product of both nature and nurture. I liked so much about this book, but the premise itself is what is most intriguing, at least to me: An executor opens a file that reveals much more to his friend than meets the eye. It makes you wonder what you yourself would document in your own file, and how you may or may not have affected those you encounter. The characters in this book are realistic, with memorable personalities and unique situations and settings. You’ll come to appreciate August Kibler’s life, his love of trees, his thoughts on faith, and the nuances found. And, in a way, we appreciate the author too for reminding us that each life is important and impactful. Roots, Branches & Buzz Saws: More Stories of August Kibler by TP Graf is the perfect slice-of-life novel.
A ‘Wishing Shelf’ Book Review – ☆☆☆☆☆ Five Star Award
This is the story of August Kibler, a man you might have met in another book by this author. As it happens, I know the first book and, like ‘Buzz Saws’ as I will now refer to it, this is just as good, if not even better. Within this charmingly written text,you will uncover who August Kibler is (or was), how life shaped him, his regrets, even the abuse he faced, and you get to enjoy it in the context of a long lost American setting.
In terms of writing style, this novel is superb. It is very accessible with plenty of descriptive prose which is well-written and imaginative. I could almost call his writing ‘uplifting’. There is a sort of Dickens feel to it. It’s warm, cosy and always descriptive. The best way to sum it up is the first sentence of the first chapter. My mother was from firm stock. The author is also confident with dialogue(although there’s not a lot of it) with plenty of ‘showing’ and not ‘telling’, a good sign of a confident author. Finally, the author is not scared to keep a sentence short and simple where it’s needed; and, by doing so, helping to improve the pacing where speed is important.
But this is not a ‘race to the finish’ sort of novel. In this book, character is everything; the jam that holds everything together. And by following the characters, we get to understand them. How every life is enriched by who they meet, and how a life can be altered, destroyed even, by the smallest of happenings.
I thoroughly recommend this book to anybody who enjoys a story enriched with compelling characters and a simple message of love and thought for others.
Literary Titan – ☆☆☆☆☆ Five Star Award
The title of TP Graf’s book, Roots, Branches and Buzz Saws: More Stories of August Kibler immediately tells you that this isn’t the first introduction to August Kibler. It expands on his life as introduced in As Daisies Bloom. I don’t think it is necessary to have read the previous book to follow this book-and the author himself hopes that is the case.
Roots, Branches and Buzz Saws takes you back to the beginning of August’s life. It shares details of his ancestry, early years and takes you through his life, introducing you to the people he met along the way.
That Tyler discovers the story of August’s life by opening a file after his death made me think about what the story of my life would look like to other people. How would I present events that have happened to me over the years? Is everyone’s life worth reading? After reading this book, I say yes, we all have a story to tell. Here, the author makes it feel at times like we are taking a gentle meander through August’s life, but in fact it deals with some serious issues. We learn about August’s upbringing, how that shaped him, the abuse he faced, his faith and his thoughts on his faith. For me, this book reminded me that we all have our own story to tell and woven within our history we all have lessons to teach, each life is valuable. The characters we meet along the way are well rounded and memorable. I loved the way the author took me from Ohio to Indiana, to Louisiana and North Carolina. The descriptive writing brings the story to life. The book also reminds me that we shouldn’t take the simple things in life for granted, particularly if abuse and discrimination have touched your life just because of who you love.
There were a few quotes in the book that stood out to me. My favorite is “Celebrate who you are, even if it is quietly…”. That is what this book is, a celebration of August’s life and a reminder to the reader to celebrate their life, who they are. What a message to impart to readers, and I hope others who read this take that message away with them.
Days in the Desert
Food For Body and Soul
This is a collection of meditations/musings and low carb recipes. The paperback version includes color phots taken outside Fort Davis Texas. All meditations were written while the author lived there.
Tumbleweed and Dreams
From the Trilogy The Life and Stories of Jaime Cruz
Jaime Cruz is a native Californian whose dream of the good life has ended in abject failure. With little more than peanut butter and an old Ranger pickup, he heads to a west Texas town he’s only seen in a movie where he hopes to find a new life and some glimmer of hope he’s ever really known.
What he finds in this remote, desert town is a host of characters that slowly work him into their lives as he works them into his own. Jaime can’t conceive of a plan for his life—instead he takes each day as it comes. He finds his life slowly unfolding into an expansive and rewarding journey nurtured by the desert landscape with its dark, star-filled skies, brown craggy mountains and vast plateaus. In the captivating, generous and unpretentious lives of the people of his adopted home, he finds that humor, solace, joy and dignity abound. Journey with Jaime as he awakens to the light within—moving us beyond the best measure of what we can imagine as we move through the wounds of our past together on our journey to a new and abundant life.
A ‘Wishing Shelf’ Book Review www.thewsa.co.uk – ☆☆☆☆☆ Five Star Award
A gripping story filled with colorful and often captivating characters.
I must begin by saying how talented this author is. With my mind so full of Covid 19, I find it very difficult to focus on a book just now. But I thoroughly enjoyed Tumbleweed and Dreams; I enjoyed the Texas desert setting—and the wonderful way the author described it—and the colorful, charismatic characters the hero meets. I also enjoyed his journey as he immersed himself in a new community.
This is very much a character-led story. The author knows his characters so very well, and this shows in everything they say and do. I often find with drama-type novels, the author falls into the trap of bringing too many characters into the story which results in a confused reader and a watering down of the plot. Thankfully, this author did not do this, and the small number of central characters were well-developed and impossible to mix up. He also works hard in describing the setting. It is here that the author excels too, showing off not only his fluid style of writing but also his knowledge of the small desert town and the sort characters that might live there.
This story is very much a “personal journey” as the hero’s thoughts and feeling become molded by the characters he meets and interacts with. As a result, it is often thought-provoking—although, I’m glad to say, there is often a hint of humor to the goings-on preventing it from getting too bogged down.
All in all, I’m very happy to recommend this novel to anybody who enjoys well-developed characters and a sizzling (literally) setting. In fact, I enjoyed it so much, I will recommend it to my brother; he reminded me of one of the characters in the story – I won’t tell you which one!
Reviewed By Tammy Ruggles for Readers’ Favorite – ☆☆☆☆☆ Five Star Award
Tumbleweed and Dreams by T. P. Graf is an immersive journey of self-discovery and a sense of home. This character-driven, personal drama presents people from protagonist Jamie Cruz’s life that he encounters, and who influenced or enriched his life. Cruz had a California business dream that wasn’t realized, so he went to Texas in search of himself and possible answers to his life. Who and what he finds in the desert may be better for him than the dream he left in California. This poetic story is about old wounds finding healing and finding happiness in unexpected ways and with unexpected people.
In this book, Graf describes characters and situations that you can connect with, just as Jamie does. On his way to find solace and a different kind of life, Cruz meets people that fill in his gaps, in a way. The author’s good instincts for place and character bring the scenes to life, and you find yourself invested in the lives of the people and the friendships that are made. Besides what he gains from the people, the people gain from him too. I enjoyed Cruz’s inner dialogue as he traveled to Texas, getting to know his family roots/heritage and motivations for leaving California and his disillusionment. He’s the kind of realistic protagonist you rarely read about, and Graf isn’t afraid to show his faults and vulnerabilities–which is really why Jamie is so relatable. The first-person POV makes Jamie even more personal to readers. I like when others point out to Jamie that he’s talented, and that he didn’t even realize he had a gift. That’s as close to a spoiler as I’ll come. Tumbleweed and Dreams by T. P. Graf is a gem you don’t want to miss.
Night Air Descending
From the Trilogy The Life and Stories of Jaime Cruz
Now a gen-u-ine cowboy, firmly rooted in far west Texas, Jaime Cruz tells the stories of his life as a member of the Geermann-Schlatter family. He waits to see if any of the seeds he cast to the wind in writing to his own estranged family take root. The Schlatters deal with their continued disappointment in their son, Brett, as it seems his life becomes evermore distant from his roots and his own children. Sallie’s humor and connection to the natural world continue to nurture “the boys” and inspires the next generation. And still lamenting the actions that drove her oldest son away, Betsy says, “If there isn’t a story in the Bible about a prodigal mother, there ought to be.”
In this sequel to Tumbleweed and Dreams, Jaime embraces the joys, meets the challenges and faces the shocks with his adopted family now woven so intricately into his own life.
Seeds in the Desert Wind
From the Trilogy The Life and Stories of Jaime Cruz
Seeds in the Desert Wind is a story of casting seeds as an article of faith for what can be; some will take root and flourish; some never will. Jaime’s life has taught him how the invasive seeds of estrangement slowly choke our lives. He reminds us that sowing seeds of compassion and forgiveness remains the work of us all. His story is a story of lives made whole. It is also one of stewardship and care.
In this final book in the trilogy of The Life and Stories of Jaime Cruz, continue the journey with Jaime and all those so much a part of his life, as they take each day as it comes with gifts of humor, grace and dignity. If the heart is open, love finds a way in.