Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Words of Winter

I might be too busy penning my next novel about Levitation to post regularly here, but I haven't forgotten about my feathered literary muse. In a way, Chorus of the Crows has been wintering. My novel has been on hold while I've been out chopping wood, stapling plastic over the windows, buying one of those wearable sleeping bags and putting up canned goods for one hell of a winter. In other words, I'm doing the hard grunt work of editing. Sigh.

As 2017 sputters out, I'm busy working through my forth edit, (I naively thought I was done after two) and the good news is, now, I have help! I no longer have to wonder if my novel is good or destined for the garbage like used kitty litter. This month, my favorite new mentor (and award winning author) Peter Geye, said its terrific and that's all I need to know to keep editing with a tentative and hopeful straightening of my spine. It takes resolve.

 Now, I don't mind churning out edits like a deranged Rumpelstiltskin - in the hopes of getting published by somebody. (the only guarantee is that I'll be rejected by somebody) Peter has been a great mentor - for every slap of the hand there's a pat on the back. 

But enough about my novel. Have you read Wintering? It's Peter Geye's third novel - another book like his previous works, Safe from the Sea and The Lighthouse Road. It's immersed in Norwegian immigrant culture and tales of life in Northern Minnesota. I loved it. I wonder if it's because I'm Norwegian?

These are the kind of jokes I grew up with: 

Lars asked Ole, "Do ya know da difference between a Norvegian and a canoe?"
"No, I don't," said Ole. "A canoe will sometimes tip," explained Lars.

  • Ole went to the Sons of Norway Hall one night and finally won the door prize, which was a toilet brush. He was so excited that he won he brought it home and used it often. Someone asked him during the next meeting what the prize was and if he liked it or not. Ole replied, "Yea I like the toilet brush, but I think I'm gonna go back to using paper."

Ole and Lena got married. On their honeymoon trip they were nearing Minneapolis when Ole put his hand on Lena's knee.
Giggling, Lena said, "Ole, you can go a little farder now if ya vant to"... so Ole drove to Duluth.

 I absorbed Ole and Lena jokes at every Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas gathering of my childhood. (not including family reunions) Nobody told a joke better than my Aunt Pat. She also baked a mean ham dinner.

But no, I didn't like the book because I'm Norwegian. The characters were familiar, odd (someone was even named Odd) and compelling. Harry, the main character, reminded me of Richard Proenneke - the man who ventured into the wilds of Alaska to build a home for himself and later turned up on PBS during pledge drives. Like Richard, Harry is damn likable and utterly capable. A real man. Plus, survival stories are always interesting. My favorite character, the location, serves as the book's visual heart. I don't have any complaints, just like one of my favorite lines: 

"She had the constitution of a hunk of granite."

"Then how did she die?"

"Without complaint." 

P.S. Guess what I'm making on Christmas day? 

Lefse. My Aunt Pat might have baked the ham, but my Mom wielded the Lefse paddle. 

Friday, October 27, 2017

Feathered Floozies

It's Halloween week on The Chorus of the Crows. I've lassoed a few wayward, Halloween themed posts, and I'm sweetening the deal by re-posting some old favorites. This one in particular is an expose on my unforgivable, dirty lowdown past... 

Me and my favorite pistol. Beside me, my pretty partner in crime. 

Alas, there is a shameful and checkered past reflecting back at me from my foggy rear view mirror. Oops, I mean the dusty old fashioned looking glass I held up over my shoulder, to ascertain just what was galloping at a rowdy clip, at the tail end of my wagon. I ran across this picture in my photo archives and it spurred me to describe my former life, as a low cost Saloon girl. 

The news of the weird unfolds like this...I may have worn feathers by night, but by day, I was a gun toting outlaw - robbing from my former clients. There were no morning trots of shame for me. No little doggie. After every illicit crime spree, me and my trusted horse Maybelline tethered up at the saloon with garters full of cash. There were only a few occasions where the men were so flat broke, that I was forced to steal a chicken or a skinny goat. Well, a girl has to eat. It was all too easy. Those were the glory days. The nights were sticky, the sheets looked like a future Jackson Pollock painting and my lips were always irritatingly chapped, from long rides in the Arizona sun. But, those were good times. 

So, just how did I pull off my robberies?  I plied the men folk with so much whiskey during our rolls in the hay - on the third floor of that filthy, whiskey soaked establishment -  that they never saw me follow them home. Maybelline was a sure footed horse with the stealthy hooves of a cat on the hunt. So, the foul drunkards never heard or suspected a thing. Mind you, I never hurt any woman folk or young-ins. Although, I heard from my friend Michelle (on the right) through one of her clients, that one disgruntled wife bashed in the skull of her husband at breakfast with a cast iron skillet -  bison meat and eggs flying around the cabin in a flurry of grease, after one of my early morning visits. I guess the cheater deserved it. 

I never made enough money to get rich. But I lived well. I could afford to mail order new feathery frocks from the Sears Robuck catalog. I had a custom made saddle, rumored to be fashioned and carved by the same leather mason that the Jesse James gang used. How I learned that will remain a secret between me and a certain, un-named outlaw. And my friend Michelle and I never went hungry. When other settlers were eating potatoes boiled with pine needles for flavor - through the long harsh winters - we were eating high on the hog. And a fat one at that. 

After a time, I gave up the outlaw life and married a warrant/bill collector. My friend Michelle became a famous horse whisperer. She fixed up unhinged horse flesh in a jiffy, starting her career in the arid hills of Los Angeles, and winding all the way down to the wilds of Baja, Mexico. She always did have a way with my Maybelline. 

She gave up whiskey. 

I didn't.

The sober truth.
Me and my friend Michele at one of those old time photo booths. As if you didn't already know that!

The Spooky Sand Hill Cemetery

The Sand Hill Cemetery has the unfortunate reputation of being haunted. 

In fact, there is no doubt that the location near Caryville, Wisconsin, isolated on a dirt road leading to the edge of a rural bluff, is indeed scary. But, is it haunted? As the narrator of Ancient Aliens always proclaims..."some say yes." 

We were picnicking on the bucolic Chippewa River State Trail in May, when an older gentleman appeared out of nowhere, with a camera in hand. After discussing the historic value of the site where we were eating lunch, (click here for more on that) he regaled us with ghost stories surrounding the nearby Sand Hill Cemetery. He warned us that a demon named Blackie resided there, growling at all comers. He said that back in the day, he witnessed a circle of dark figures wearing black swirling cloaks surrounding the grave of Baby, performing some kind of unnerving ritual. And some say, they've seen children roaming the grounds, attempting to converse with living visitors. Except, they might not really be children at all. Well, not anymore. Gulp. So what did we do after hearing these mysterious tales?

We finished eating and biking, of course, then headed straight for the cemetery...

The grave of Baby.

This stone is slowly being masticated by the ravenous earth.

The penny stones.

It really does seem like a lonely and forgotten place.

If you look into the distance, you can see that this abandoned cemetery sits on a ridge. The isolation is off putting. After hearing about the haunted tales from our new friend, my pulse raced as we approached the site in our vehicle. Luckily, it was during the day, because some say the headlights of a ghostly vehicle will trail you at night and then mysteriously vanish. I wondered if we too, would experience an assault on our car, as others have claimed. After parking, I shakily exited the car with my camera. Meanwhile, my husband was too freaked out to take any photos with his phone. None.

I walked to the edge of the tombstones and just stood there. I wondered if I would be accosted with a negative energy.  To be honest, I didn't feel anything. I only felt a gentle breeze stir over the ridge line. I only heard the rustle of pine branches. But, that being said, I didn't like it when my husband abandoned me to go wait in the car. I, on the other hand, felt compelled to finish my illicit photo safari.



I don't know what significance placing a penny on grave stones possesses. But, it must mean something to someone.

On our way out, we noticed blood red tags on this sign. I don't know what the red tag signifies either. But I assume it is some kind of warning. Unfortunately, we most likely didn't heed it. Gulp.

When we got home, I asked my husband why he wouldn't take any photos. And more importantly, why he abandoned me to wait in the car. Jerk!

He said he didn't want any spirits attaching to him like an unwanted tick. I've always wondered... 

did we come home alone?

Google the Sand Hill Cemetery. If you dare.

The Awesome Links: 

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Cover of the Crows

Now that I'm done writing my novel, I'm planning my book tour. I'm already booked at the Barnes and Noble on the north pole in September. The shiny new store resembles the ice palace from the movie Dr. Zhivago. It's breathtaking! Of course, I'll have to wear a puffy jacket, bring my hair dryer to thaw out the books and look out for falling icicles. But other than that it should be cool - literally. These days, I'm practicing my signature while wearing mittens. So far, it is only slightly better than the scribbles created at the credit card machine at Rainbow. Nevertheless, its getting better. 

I'm super excited! My appearance has been scheduled for months at the galley sized book isle at Kmart. That's coming up soon. I'll have to ask my assistant to shine a blue light on the details. Well, if I remember right, I'm only signing at the Fargo location. That was an ego fail. Even so, I heard Jaclyn Smith started her collection at that location, so great things could happen to me as well. Just in case, I'm growing out my hair and using Breck shampoo. 

I'm on a waiting list at one of the research stations on Antarctica. (the coldest one) They told me I would have been a shoe in if I would have created a penguin character. That was ill planned on my part. At least Amazon will take me - they take everyone!

Well, I may not be touring quite yet, but a girl can dream. And speaking of dreams, I'm always waking up with editing ideas. Luckily, I keep a notebook under my bed. Besides dreaming, I'm drawing. When I'm not illustrating my current children's book commission, Mrs. Jones' Tea Party, I'm counting and drawing crows. There are 7 on my mock cover. 

I had so much fun creating it. I feel it works on many levels: first, there's a color blocked punch of color; readers won't have a corn kernel of trouble spotting it at Target or the book kiosk at LAX. It would really stand out against the snow and ice of the North pole too - I'm just saying - in case Target doesn't work out. Other than color, the maze of arterial fibers at the center resemble a heart muscle, but are really the roots of a corn stalk. Besides those visuals, if you squeeze your eyes you can almost see a skeletal hand reaching down to twiddle its bony fingers. All of these visuals are shaken out of the pages of Chorus of the Crows

Coming soon! 


Monday, May 8, 2017

Monsters at the MIA!

If my novel, Chorus of the Crows, is ever made into a film, I want Guillermo del Toro to direct it. I can't think of anyone more qualified to spin my dark and stormy dreams into a surreal reality. Last night, I dreamed I was visiting a deceased loved one from my past. She appeared to be living in a porcelain institution lit by insanely bright florescent lights - I should have headed back to the parking lot right then and there - but I forged ahead, entering her room, gasping. There I witnessed her carbon colored head, shrunken, as if magically turned into a rotten, dehydrated apple. Her skin was like burnt leather and anchoring her face, the pertly blinking eyes of a mannequin. To top things off, her freak face was bobbing like a demonic bobble head doll, glued to a disproportionately large body wearing a trendy black fringe leather jacket. (Well, I do like fringe) Needless to say, my loved one didn't look like that. 

What the heck?  Maybe I'll turn demons into demon-ade and insert this wicked vision into one of my novels someday. Thanks weird brain. 

Now, witness Guillermo del Torro's monster of a collection culled from his home in L.A. It's been on display at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts for months, scaring all comers. The MIA gave future instagramers the green light on photography. Luckily, my husband had his i-phone. I took photos of my favorite monsters - I freaking loved the show!

The first masterpiece theater drama I ever watched was the Charles Dickens classic, Bleak House. That's what Guillermo - we're on a first name basis since he'll be directing my movie someday- named his un-heavenly abode. The first Guillermo directed movie I ever witnessed was Pan's Labyrinth - a masterpiece of horror. 

Dark-lights of his collection...

The wings have eyes. 

I remember this character from American Horror Story/Freak Show. I didn't know it was based on a real life person. 


Poe and his toes.

I love Fawn.

Dresses from Crimson Peak. 

Hitch and a crow. My muse. 

Talk to the hand!

The freakish exhibit is on display through the end of May at the MIA.
For more click on

For more on Chorus of the Crows buy my book someday!

Friday, April 21, 2017

The Land of Venison and Honey

 I paid a local author to critique the questionable query letter I created for my novel, The Chorus of the Crows. The move prompted me to read her book...

"There's a lot to be said for conserving words," was one of Vac's unintentional witticisms. 

Sarah Stonich, Vacationland

Conserving words. That would be a nice way of describing my query letter critique from the author. My critique was slight - possibly rushed - even so, I loved her book Vacationland. Here are two more great lines from Sarah Stonich...

The sun, too, now hiding behind a cloud with tails of mist that follow, like the farts that trail her father. 


She fetches a lawn chair from the porch just as bats start to scallop out from the eaves and dusk begins to suck away the color. 


It was a great read: Whimsically poetic with a wile use of words - wonderful. There were so many sentences that pulled me back, prompting me to re-read them. The story takes us to a fictional Minnesota resort called Naledi Lodge - way up north. So far, that some of the cast of characters resemble comedic Fargo characters. But not all of the characters live up north; some are tourists whose paths intersect with Naledi in subtle ways, almost as if dispersed into the wind like cottonwood seeds. At the end of almost every chapter, I thought, "That was my favorite one."

I also laughed more than once about the mention of venison, since my freezer is full of the stuff. I felt like I was a kindred spirit with the venison chow-mein eating cast of characters. Does that sound weird? Well, the meat is healthy and when you have a freezer full, you have to get creative. 

I might not have discovered this book if I wouldn't have hired the author to critique my query letter. I still don't know if I've created a good query. I contemplated hiring another author to critique my revision, but I figured I might end up even more confused. I'm still in awe that The Loft Literary Center offers this opportunity. It is pretty darn amazing to be able to get feedback from a living, breathing writer - even if I felt my critique suffered from temporary asthma - it was worth it. 

The author suggested I change the title of my book to Chorus of the Crows instead of The Chorus of the Crows. 

I think that's a great idea!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A Novel Update

In November of 2016 I finished writing my first novel. Hooray! But where was the parade? Not on my street. I expected to exit the computer room to an explosion of fireworks. At the very least, I hoped for a wrap party with balloons, streamers and lots of liquor. There was nothing. Nada. My husband may have given me a hug. I don't remember. It is possible, that my cats looked at me with a whisker twitch of pride and amazement. But it was probably just a sparkly reflection over my shoulder that caught their eyes. Or hunger pains. 

Not only did I finish my novel, but now, I've finished my first revision. As soon as I enter the story line, time flies like a Delorean on plutonium. I become immersed in it. I hope some day soon, readers will feel the same way. Revision is fun when an editor isn't breathing down your neck with a laundry list of shame. Gulp. That could change. 

Soon, I'll be entering a new phase. The phase where people actually read it. I'm not sure when or where that will be. The internet? A self published e-book? A hard cover that wins the Pulitzer prize? Here's where you may find my book in the future...

a) Richard Branson's speedboat. President Obama is reading it, again, while kite surfing.

b) First class. Hillary Clinton forgets her copy in the seat pocket of an airplane. Shesh! What is she going to do while waiting to give her speech at the latest Women Who Whiskey gathering? Meanwhile, the first class flight attendant snags it, taking it with him to Hong Kong on a long layover. Then he passes it on to all his buddies. Score!

c) The airport kiosk of Barnes and Noble. The world awaits!

d) President Trump's golden toilet. 

e) The garbage can at Starbucks. Bummer.

Here's a snippet of story line snagged from my query letter...

Just like stubborn weeds, retired farmer Oren Walton finds himself plagued with nagging hallucinations. The visions start out benign enough. Small. Harmless. But like a prolific summer thistle, they grow, sprouting new leaves with every passing day. If you ask Oren, the things he sees are real. Like his gal. The one he sneaks out to the R.V. to see at night. She’s the best damn thing that has happened to him since his wife Amelie. He has Parkinson’s. That’s true enough. But hallucinations? He doesn’t believe it. Until the visions escalate, darkening the skies like a murder of crows, threatening not only him but the safety of his loved ones.

Loved ones like his wayward daughter Sedona. She doesn’t know what to do. She quit her job in true country music fashion to move home and help out her struggling father. But now what? She wasn’t cut out to witness her father’s slow decent into madness. And then there’s his lady friend. The real one. Her old school teacher Lavinia Swift. The one that spews profanities like, “Education elevates you!” Ugh. If it wasn’t for her mother’s mysterious journal entries, leading her closer and closer to the truth, and Jeb, lanky, glacial eyed Jeb, she’d be high tailing it back to Minneapolis. But then again, Jeb is the new Methodist minister. And there’s no way she’s going to church. Ugh.

Wish me luck!