Monday, August 26, 2019

Word Warrior

Mrs. Jones's Tea Party: Perfectly Imperfect

All merits and all mistakes produce all the colors on your palette, and the interesting thing about acting or any art is that the mistakes are as valuable as the merits. So I've gotten great lessons from errors in my life. You have to make mistakes.

Jeffrey Tambor

The bad news: 

I was showing my illustrated children's book (see above) to a relative recently, and she told me: "I like it because it's so imperfect." 

What? She must not realize that I'm no longer a mild-mannered illustrator, but a novelista packing heat. I'm a word warrior that might deposit a blasphemer into my next novel - and not as the hero or heroine. Maybe, she or he will end up picking their nose, or crop-dusting farts into every scene. They may be turned into a cockroach in The Savannah Book of Spells. (my 3rd book) Or murdered in Murder on the Grand Norse. It doesn't get much worse than that.

In real life, I stared back in dismay, wondering how to address this confounding statement. It did seem like she liked it, but then again, we haven't always seen eye to eye. 

The word imperfect simmered on my neural-stove all weekend. Eventually, I googled the definition on the internet. Words like: second-rate, sub-standard and unsellable stared back at me. There was only one thing I could do, take out my frustrations on my keyboard, send my faulty feelings across the internet. 

Art is never perfect. I've struggled with perfection my entire life. When I was a kid, I would erase holes in my paper tablets trying to achieve perfection. It was impossible. I love Jeffrey Tambor's quote. It fits this post perfectly! 

The good news: 

Always in life, there are connections and coincidences. Inspiration might be written on the rock that just hit you on the chin. The same day that I was stewing about my imperfect art, I read an inspiring article in the Star Tribune, about Kari Wagner  We even have the same last name! (be sure to click/hop over to admire her art) She doesn't let Cerebral Palsy dampen her desire to create color, movement and a language all her own on canvas. The fear of imperfection doesn't prevent her from creating art with a special brush braced at the center of her forehead. So, I figure, I shouldn't let it stop me either. Of course, these days, I'm painting with words instead of watercolor. Isn't it funny how things turn up when you need them to?  

Saturday, May 25, 2019

The Virtue Club

It takes Patience to hand feed a chipmunk.

Last September, I was inspired by an article in the Star Tribune, about virtue. I saved the article, intending to create a post here. But, spending time blogging at TCOTC is not a good use of my time - rest areas in Death Valley get more visits than this particular blog. Still, I never forgot the people from Faribault, who created a community wide project focused on living your best life. I wanted to spread the timely and important message, so I finally picked seven virtues to highlight here.

Sometimes, I'll attract a new follower on instagram that posts inspirational quotes and uplifting messages. Isn't that nice? Turns out, they 're just like everyone else, only in it to grow their account. They unfollow in two days just like all the other flawed individuals. The irony breaks my heart. Integrity is a virtue. I wish there was more of it on instagram. 

Hopefully, if you've read this far, you're wondering what other virtues you've misplaced. Well, worry no more. The kind people of Faribault have made it easy for you: they created reflection cards Visit their website to view all the wise ways to make a difference. Here are the rest of my picks...


"You can't use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have." Maya Angeleou


I received a rejection from a literary agent last week. Not exactly good news, but, at the end of the email, the agent said: "Keep your chin up and keep swinging!" 

I thought, O.K. I will!

 Thank you kind and tactful agent lady for the great advice. Although, I prefer the mantra of the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel: "Tit's up!" 


I've written 50,000 new words on the virtual pages of my next novel: The Levitation Game. Hooray!


Yesterday, I was reading You before Me at lake Harriet. I was completely absorbed in the book, until a row of loud and rascally children lined up on the sidewalk in front of me. Some of them even piled on to the bench I was sitting on. All of a sudden, reading was impossible. It was cute, but I wondered: Hmmm, how long will this chain of little legs hover around me like a fast moving stream? Not long. The classroom ran off like a twisty kite string. But, as the kids ran by, one said: "Hello!" as he breezed past me. 

Ha! So cute. There's always an out-going, friendly kid in the bunch. (I was the shy one)

What's your favorite virtue? Be sure to spread the message by sharing this blog post or visiting The Virtue Project 

I think it's important.

"We'd never know how high we are, till we are called to rise; and then, if we are true to plan, our statures touch the sky"
- Emily Dickinson

Have a meaningful Memorial Day.

Friday, September 28, 2018


Hope is a word full of promise.

 For awhile now, I've been hoping for a literary agent. Sometimes, I whisper my hopes into the indifferent, twitching ears of my cats. (because they are the only beings around during the day) Other times, I shout hope into the air like a helium balloon, and then let go. If I'm feeling introspective, I simply say a prayer. I've learned that my dream will happen through persistence, hard work and failure. Failure? Yes. Because failure is necessary - to learn. I'm polishing my manuscript and learning more about the craft of writing everyday. I'm like an inch worm on a giant Redwood.

However, there's another kind of hope and I have a blood connection to it. The Hope Diamond. Donna, the beautiful lady in blue, (above) wearing a priceless gem in the shadow of her neck, is related to me. My cousin Jane kept this sepia-colored selection from the Star Tribune for 54 years! Now, the copy and the story that surrounds it, are mine. 

The real diamond is Hopeless. 

In the article, I discovered the path of destruction refracted from the Hope Diamond like a deadly mirage. The bad luck that plagued almost everyone that came into contact with the gem is mind boggling. Here are three examples:

*Jean-Baptiste Tavernier sold the original 100 carat stone to Louis XIV.  After a time, Jean was killed by wild dogs.

* Prince Ivan Kanitovski was a Hope Diamond recipient. Later, he hung the rock on the slender neck of Lorens Laduc, a Parisian dancer. Unfortunately, her dancing career hit a mis-step. It got tripped up when the Prince murdered her. 

* Lady May Yohue-Hope (the diamond's namesake) had a dream that the diamond possessed frightening, malevolent forces - she never wore it again. Sadly, she left Lord Francis Pelham Hope for an army captain who went bankrupt. In the end, she was brought to her knees. Literally. She became a washer women.

 Bad luck - check
Suicide - check
Murder - unfortunately
illness - yup.

So, what happened to my relative? The one that modeled the necklace at the Smithsonian?

She had a life impacted by illness and tragedy. What else did you expect? 

These days, the Hope Diamond can be found at the Museum of National History. 

Here's the original article from 54 years ago...

 What are you hoping for?

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!