#randywillis | Destiny

#randywillis

Randy Willis is as much at home in the saddle as he is in front of the computer where he composes his western family sagas.

Drawing on his family heritage of explorers, settlers, soldiers, cowboys, and pastors, Randy carries on the tradition of loving the outdoors and sharing it in the adventures he creates for readers of his novels.

Randy Willis is the author of Destiny, Twice a Slave, Three Winds Blowing, Louisiana Wind, Beckoning Candle, The Apostle to the Opelousas, The Story of Joseph Willis, and many magazine and newspaper articles.

Randy Willis is an American novelist, biographer, rancher, and music publisher.

http://threewindsblowing.com

#randywillisRandy Willis #randy willis

Blank vintage paper framed branch of Christmas tree on wood

Randy Willis | Destiny | #randywillis

A letter from Joseph Willis to his grandson Daniel Hubbard Willis

December 28, 1853

“My Dearest Grandson Dan,

I received your letter. Concerning your question, “How can a loving God allow deadly diseases like cholera, smallpox, malaria, and yellow fever in Louisiana?  Yellow fever killed my best friend.”

“Let me begin by apologizing in sackcloth and ashes for asking you a question first.  If you had a cure for yellow fever would you have given it to your friend? Of course, you would have!

“I read in the Alexandria Town Talk, 1 in 15 have died in New Orleans this summer.  Over 12,000 people dead from yellow fever in New Orleans alone since January, with still more deaths in rural areas like ours.

“People are dying faster than graves can be dug. ‘Pretty soon people will have to dig their graves,’ the paper said.

“Would you have given a cure to them? There is no need to answer for I know your heart. You would have given the treatment to every man, woman and child in Louisiana and in fact the entire earth.  You would have given your life for such a great cause.  How glorious it would be to provide forty additional years to a middle aged man, perhaps a hundred years to a child.

What a great cause this would be. More significant than any political cause, for what can be more wonderful than the gift of life?

“Yet, there is a greater cause—an even more excellent gift than a cure for yellow fever. It does not give only an additional hundred years but eternal life. You and I have this good news.  How can we not share the gift of eternal life?

“Over the last eight decades, I have received many prayer requests for physical healing, and I have never refused.  My twin daughters died of honey poisoning after I prayed for days. My beloved wife died in childbirth. Do not misunderstand me; there is nothing wrong with praying for the sick. But, after their deaths, I realized I was spending more time keeping the saints out of heaven than saving the lost from hell.

“God did not answer my prayer in the way I requested, but I will be with Him and my daughters and my bride forever in heaven. The greatest tragedy is being eternally separated from Christ, not to mention my daughters and wife.

“Nothing lies beyond the reach of prayer. I believe that God heals miraculously.  Sometimes God heals naturally. Sometimes He heals instantaneously. Sometimes He heals in time. God uses doctors and beyond the doctor’s skills.

“But the ultimate healing is in Heaven where no disease can touch our new and perfect body.  The greater miracle is not a hundred years of life free from illness, but everlasting life paid for with Christ’s blood—God’s lifeblood—given freely on a tree at Calvary.

“Let us tell our neighbors on our beloved Barber Creek. Let us declare this Good News in the piney woods of Rapides Parish.  Let us travel our red-dirt roads to the Calcasieu and Red Rivers.  And from the mighty Mississippi and Sabine Rivers to our enormous deltas and vast swamps. Let the Gospel of Jesus Christ ring forth from Driskill Mountain to the Gulf of Mexico.  And let that only be the beginning!

Always, your loving Grandpa

  •         *         *

Destiny is a powerful epic with love stories, battles, testimonies, drama, politics, history, and even humor.

The sweeping family saga spans four centuries.

Inspired by true stories.

Available now at https://www.amazon.com/dp/1733567402

***

Drawing on his family heritage of explorers, settlers, soldiers, cowboys, and pastors, Randy carries on the tradition of loving the outdoors and sharing it in the adventures he creates for readers of his novels.

Randy Willis is the author of Destiny, Twice a Slave, Three Winds Blowing, Louisiana Wind, Beckoning Candle, The Apostle to the Opelousas, The Story of Joseph Willis, and many magazine and newspaper articles.

He is an American novelist, biographer, rancher, and music publisher.

http://threewindsblowing.com

“Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.” —C. S. Lewis

#randywillis

Destiny Randy Willis

About Destiny and In Appreciation

About Destiny and In Appreciation

Destiny is a sweeping family saga that spans four centuries. It begins and ends on Christmas Day, in 1941, at the Ole Willis Place, located on Barber Creek near Longleaf, Louisiana.

The Ole Willis Place was located on present-day Willis Gunter Road, off Boy Scout Road. There are a huge gravel pit and sand dunes next to where the house once stood.

Destiny is the story of two great nations and my ancestor’s struggle from tyranny—religious and political.

Destiny is more than a novel. It is a nonfiction novel inspired by true stories handed down by my ancestors. They depict real historical figures and actual events woven together with imaginary conversations with the use of the storytelling techniques of fiction. Truman Capote claimed to have invented this genre with his book In Cold Blood in 1965.

Destiny—A powerful epic with love stories, battles, testimonies, drama, politics, history, and even humor.

—Randy Randy Willis

“Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.” — C. S. Lewis

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In Appreciation

I’m thankful to the many people that encouraged me to write our family’s history. My first-cousin, Donnie Willis, planted the first seed in my mind to write about our 4th Great-Grandfather, Joseph Willis. Donnie has been pastor of Fenton Baptist Church in Fenton, Louisiana, for 50 years.

I’m also thankful to my sainted grandmother, Lillie Hanks Willis. She had a treasure chest of stories about Joseph Willis and insisted I write them down.

My Uncle Howard Willis was our family’s master storyteller when I was younger. I sat for many hours mesmerized by him. His granddaughter and my cousin Kimberly Willis Holt was inspired by him too. She is a National Book Award Winner, author of When Zachary Beaver Came to Town, My Louisiana Sky, and the Piper Reed series. When Zachary Beaver Came to Town and My Louisiana Sky were adapted as films of the same names.

I’m thankful to my late cousin, and the maternal great-grandson of Joseph Willis, Dr. Greene Wallace Strother. His uncle Polk Willis and Aunt Olive Willis tended to Joseph Willis in his final years, and they shared all that Joseph told them. Dr. Strother gave his vast research to me in 1980. He served as chaplain to General Claire Chennault’s “Flying Tigers” while in China as a missionary. He was a Southern Baptist missionary emeritus to China and Malaysia.

Karon McCartney, Archivist at the Louisiana Baptist Convention, has provided much help in organizing, cataloging, and protecting my research for decades, at the Louisiana Baptist Building in Alexandria.

My fellow historian and friend, the late Dr. Sue Eakin asks me if I would help her with her research on William Prince Ford. I learned much about William Prince Ford and Solomon Northup and their relationship to Joseph Willis from her. She encouraged me to have my research adapted into a play. The play is entitled Twice a Slave and is based upon my novel of the same name. My novel Three Winds Blowing is partly based on the relationship of Joseph Willis with William Prince Ford and Solomon Northup.

Dr. Eakin is best known for documenting, annotating, and reviving interest in Solomon Northup’s 1853 book Twelve Years a Slave. She, at the age of eighteen, rediscovered a long-forgotten copy of Solomon Northup’s book, on the shelves of a bookstore, near the LSU campus, in Baton Rouge. The bookstore owner sold it to her for only 25 cents. In 2013, 12 Years a Slave won the Academy Award for Best Picture. In his acceptance speech for the honor, director Steve McQueen thanked Dr. Eakin: “I’d like to thank this amazing historian, Sue Eakin, whose life, she gave her life’s work to preserving Solomon’s book.”

And above all, I am thankful to the Good Lord. He has given me wells I did not dig, and vineyards I did not plant.

—Randy Willis

“Preach Christ at all times. When necessary,
use words.” —St Francis of Assisi

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About the Author

Randy Willis is an American novelist, rancher, and music publisher.

He is the author of Destiny, Beckoning Candle, Twice a Slave, Three Winds Blowing, Louisiana Wind, The Apostle to the Opelousas, The Story of Joseph Willis and many articles.

Twice a Slave has been chosen as a Jerry B. Jenkins Select Book, along with four bestselling authors. Jerry Jenkins is the author of more than 180 books with sales of more than 70 million copies, including the best-selling Left Behind series.

Twice a Slave has been adapted into a dramatic play at Louisiana College, by Dr. D. “Pete” Richardson (Associate Professor of Theater with Louisiana College).

Randy Willis owns Randy Willis Music Publishing (an ASCAP-affiliated music publishing company), and Town Lake Music Publishing, LLC (a BMI-affiliated music publishing company). He is an ASCAP-affiliated songwriter.

Randy Willis is the founder of Operation Warm Heart, which feeds and clothes the homeless, and is a member of the Board of Directors of Our Mission Possible (empowering at-risk teens to discover their greatness) in Austin, Texas. He is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Joseph Willis Institute for Great Awakening Studies at Louisiana College.

Randy Willis was born in Oakdale, Louisiana, and lived as a boy, near Longleaf, Louisiana, on Barber Creek. He currently resides in the Texas Hill Country.

Randy Willis graduated from Angleton High School in Angleton, Texas, and Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas. He was a graduate student at Texas State University for six years. He is the father of three sons and has four grandchildren.

Randy Willis is the fourth great-grandson of Joseph Willis and his foremost historian.

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To learn more about the author and
the characters in this book visit:
http://www.threewindsblowing.com

512-565-0161
randywillis@twc.com

Destiny is available on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/dp/1792724470

And Amazon Kindle at

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Randy Willis|Destiny is available Christmas Day

Destiny is available Christmas day—at Amazon at this link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1792650698

Christmas Day, 1941
Longleaf, Louisiana

Ran Willis arises before sunrise, nestles next to the fireplace, with hot coffee—as alone as the morning star.

The wind whistles through the dogtrot and awakens Julian. He struggles upright, half asleep, and rubs his eyes as he pours a cup of coffee.

“It’s our first white Christmas! Grab some firewood—please. And check on the horses, mules, and the dogs too.”

“Yes, sir, Daddy. Merry Christmas!” Julian shivers as he chips through the frozen water trough with a horseshoe. He gathers the firewood, now covered in two foot of snow. Icicles adorn the trees overhanging Barber Creek. It is cold and rather barren, but it has the loveliness of a Christmas card. And, like a Christmas card, it will hold that image in Julian’s mind for years to come.

Ran’s eldest son, Howard, driving his International Harvester truck, can be heard a mile away as it plows through the snow on the red dirt road. The family knows there will be no snowfall that will prevent Howard from delivering a Christmas tree to the homestead—a real tree, and not one of those artificial, awkwardly bent imitation trees that have no texture, no fragrance, no fullness.

“That’s a big cedar. Let me help.” Julian drags the Christmas tree out of the truck bed.

Howard’s wife Zora cries out, “I need help, too.” Ran clasps her. “Ah-ha! All my favorites: freshly baked pies, peach preserves, and okra in mason jars. Oh, my, and even your famous buttermilk pie.”

Ran’s wife Lillie collects each family member’s handcrafted decoration for the tree. “Let’s hang them.” The aroma of cedar, sugared fruit, and gingerbread brings back memories of Christmases past.

Today is Ran and Lillie’s grandson Donnie’s fourth birthday, to boot. “Can I play with my birthday gifts, Grandpa?”

“Yep, but keep the stick horse at a trot. Let him get used to this colder weather, eh? See what else Santa left you. The new game Shoot the Moon and a wooden jigsaw carton puzzle.”

Good, long-time neighbors, John and Ruth Duke, along with their two kids, Johnnie Ruth and Jerry, arrive with a pumpkin pie and two fruitcakes.

Miss Ruth always spikes her fruitcakes with a little rum. “It’s no different from using cooking sherry and, therefore, is not an affront to the Lord,” Ruth says. “It provides moisture and helps preserve the cake.”

Ran fidgets. “The better part of valor is not to mention that to Lillie. Her definition of what constitutes a mortal sin may be different from ours. Let me taste-test the cake for moisture.” He pinches off a nibble and smacks his lips in approval. “Now, indeed, that’s the moistest cake ever! I may have another slice or two later.”

Johnnie Ruth and Donnie sit on the floor. Donnie prefers Conflict, a military board game—Johnnie Ruth, paper dolls.

Howard reaches and hangs the star of Bethlehem on the tree.

“It almost touches the ceiling.” His brother Herman carved it from a piece of hickory. Christmas stockings, stuffed with nuts, candy, and fruit, hang on every available nail. Earlier, Lillie had placed books, tablets, pencils, wooden soldiers, and even a-rockin’ horse under the tree.

The children’s faces glow from the fireplace. Herman stokes the fire with a piece of pine-kindling.

The sunrise colors glisten in the snow. “Who can paint like the Lord of creation?” Lillie proclaims.

Donnie and Johnnie Ruth grab a shovel, off to go sledding from the barn. They slide down the hill to the banks of Barber Creek.

“You kids get back up here,” Lillie yells. “That’s too dangerous. Ten more feet and you’d both be frozen lollypops!”

Julian blows in his horse’s nose to calm him. It’s not the first time the animal has experienced snow, but it has been a long time, and any sudden change in the weather makes horses skittish, until they get reassurance from their masters that all is well and everything is still just fine. “The Comanche use to do this in Texas. Helps you bond with the horse.”

“I’m going to churn ice cream in my new pewter pot,” Lillie promises. She stirs snow, milk, cream, butter, and eggs. She also prepares Ran’s favorites, especially dewberry pie, along with a cup of kindness known as Community dark roast coffee.

Ran grins. “I hung some mistletoe.”

Lillie looks him in the eyes and kisses him on the cheek. “The kids.”

“We have enough to feed Camp Claiborne’s 34th Red Bull Infantry,” Ran says. The nearby U.S. Army military camp accommodates 30,000 men but does not give Lillie a sense of safety. A world war is still raging, and every American is on alert.

Lillie’s eyes sparkle. “Please play my favorite Christmas carol—O Holy Night?” Ran’s father bought him a fiddle on a cattle drive from East Texas when he was barely twelve. He spent his evenings teaching himself the fingering and bowing techniques.

“How can I refuse a woman of such virtue—and one so beautiful? Our home overflows with your sweet joy.”

Lillie hugs him. “Will it be our last Christmas with our sons?”

The snow drifts against the windows and doors, begging entrance into their lives like the events of the previous three weeks.

“There’s nothing as peaceful as Louisiana Longleaf pines covered in a fresh layer of snow,” Ran muses. “Ah, if only our world were that way.”

Ran’s eighteen-year-old nephew, Robert Willis, Jr., enlisted July 31, 1940, and reported aboard the battleship USS Arizona, on October 8, 1940, at Pearl Harbor. A surprise military strike by the Japanese Navy Air Service on the morning of December 7, 1941, detonated a bomb in a powder magazine. The battleship exploded and sank. Hundreds of marines and sailors were trapped as the ship went down.

The family held out hope, but those hopes had been vanquished a week ago, like a shadow darkening all elements of light. Rapides Parish Sheriff, U. T. Downs, along with Robert’s pastor from First Baptist Church, Pineville, delivered a Western Union telegram to Robert’s father.

Downs struggled to speak with tears in his eyes. “It has been confirmed that Robert’s entombed in the USS Arizona at the bottom of Pearl Harbor. I just can’t tell you how grieved I am to have to bring this news to you, and especially so soon after Thanksgiving. This is the part of my job that I dread the most. If there’s anything I can do for you folks, just say the word.”

Howard and Zora took Donnie to the Pringle Picture Show in Glenmora to see How Green Was My Valley. “We need to seem as if nothing has changed for Donnie’s sake,” Zora insists. “I fear that we will be one of many, many families who will receive telegrams before this war is over. Our hearts are broken, but we must carry on.”

Julian now works with the horses and mules—plenty of grain, hay, and water for them. He grooms their coats of hair and checks to see if they are sound and well-shod. He’s gentle with horses, the elderly, and children, but as tough as rawhide on men who are no-account. “I wish I could ride you guys into battle, but an airplane will have to do.”

Two stray goats, covered with ice, nudge their way into the barn. Julian jumps up to shoo them back outside. “Get out of here. You’re going to break Daddy’s deer horn hat rack I made. It’s his Christmas gift.” The goats resist but then yield when Julian gives each a swat.

Herman, quiet and soft-spoken, takes off, without saying a word—impeccably dressed, as always.

Howard and Julian help their father with the firewood. “It’s best you two find him—now! Take my Ford,” Ran insists.

They pump ten gallons of gas into Ran’s ’40 Ford Coupe at Bob Johnson’s Grocery Store at Shady Nook. “Where do you think he’s at?” Howard asks.
“Charlie’s Cafe in Glenmora is the closest—let’s try there first.”

“He just left, but not until he whipped two men for making fun of his khaki pants,” the owner tells them when they arrive.

“Did he say anything?” Julian asks.

“He mentioned, he would not be back, ever, and he preferred Boom Town’s honky-tonks. Not sure which one, but they’re all outside Camp Claiborne’s main gate. As long as that base keeps bringing in new boys who are wet behind the ears and willing to waste their pay during a weekend pass, those places will thrive. Check ‘em one by one.”

This time one man lay on the floor in need of medical attention.

“Let’s check the Wigwam, in Forest Hill,” Julian says, “before someone kills him or, God forbid, wrinkles his pants.”

The sounds from the beer joint known for live music and its jukebox shakes the windows as they drive into the parking lot. Chicken wire fencing wraps around the bandstand to keep the band from getting hit with beer bottles.

As they enter, the bartender yells. “Break ’em up before they destroy the place!” Three men are holding Herman while two others are landing repeated punches and kicks. The jukebox blares Jimmie Davis’s hit—I Hung My Head and Cried.

Herman, bleeding like a stuck pig, calls out, “Are y’all going to help me or just stand there, whistlin’ Dixie?”

“I’ll take the three holding him, you the other two. Use that chair, Howard.”

After a melee of about ten minutes, they settle with the barkeeper for fifty bucks in damages and haul Herman outside to his truck. His lip is busted, his nose is bleeding, and one eye is starting to seal shut. He refuses to show any sign of weakness or pain, although he wheezes when drawing in a breath between bruised ribs.

They arrive home in time for a delayed supper. Ran examines Herman’s cuts and bruises. “Save all that anger for the Japs and Hitler.”

Lillie brings clean towels. “My three sons fighting in the Devil’s playground and on Christmas Day! May the Good Lord find mercy to forgive you for such behavior!”

Ran smiles. “At least they didn’t go to the Duck Inn…it provides more than liquor.” She does not find the humor in his observation, as her grimace reveals.

Lillie pulls her collar up, tightens her scarf, shoves her hands deep into her pockets, turns her face and walks outside into the biting wind. “I need to gather more snow for the ice cream.”

She returns—but with no snow. “It’s suppertime.” Her words are all that is needed for family and guests to gather around the candle-lit table.

As Ran says grace, a light dispels the darkness in their hearts just as the Star of Bethlehem did long ago. The reflection in Lillie’s face, from the beckoning candle, contradicts the devastating news from Hawaii.

Ran bows his head as everyone joins hands. “Lord, we know the world will still turn, the songbirds will again make their joyful sounds, and this too will pass. Keep our sons in the hollow of Your hand. Bless this food—and bless our nation. In the name above all names—Jesus.”

American men from coast to coast step forward to retaliate against the attack on U.S. soil. In the days shortly after Thanksgiving, Julian had enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps and Herman in the ground forces Army after hearing President Roosevelt’s words on the radio: “No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.”

Howard went with his brothers and did his best also to enlist. However, the recruiter didn’t even need to wait for the results of a physical to see that Howard had a deformity that would make him 4-F. Howard had a serious head injury, caused by a blow from a split rim truck wheel. It had exploded while Howard was filling a tire with air in Glenmora. He tried to disguise the injury by pulling a cap down over his hair and forehead, but the recruiter—who was not new to his job—pulled off the cap, surveyed the scar, and motioned a thumb over his shoulder, indicating Howard was “out” of the running. Ran tried to assure Howard he could still be of service to the nation in other ways. For a scrapper and brawler like Howard, those words brought little appeasement.

Now, as they continue to enjoy what will probably be the last Christmas as a united family for perhaps years to come, Howard stokes the flames in the fireplace with a kindling-stick from a busted chiffarobe. Ran raises his fiddle. “Join me, in the family key.” Everyone joins in.

“O holy night, the stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth;
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
‘Till he appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.”

As the long day ends, Ran leafs through his great-grandfather Joseph Willis’s six-inch thick leather-bound journal written long ago.

“What would he do?”

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Excerpted from Destiny
a nonfiction novel by Randy Willis

Destiny is available Christmas day—at Amazon at this link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1792650698

Randy Willis Destiny a novel.jpg

Randy Willis| Novelist

Randy Willis is an American novelist, biographer, rancher, and music publisher. 

Randy Willis is the author of Destiny, Twice a Slave, Three Winds BlowingLouisiana Wind,  Beckoning Candle, The Apostle to the Opelousas, The Story of Joseph Willis, and many magazine and newspaper articles. 

Randy Willis…novels about adventure, family, faith, and the character of men and women that touched generations.

http://www.ThreeWindsBlowing.com

Randy Willis #randywillis