Monday, September 26, 2016

Burning the Wood

"But people need to have their real sadness and fear to be justified, then begin working through it, to accept that their greatest wounding can be their greatest gift. That's what I call burning the wood. Only after you've burned all the wood are you ready to move on."

Your Story is Your Medicine: A Prescription for Healing in an Imperfect World. by Shelli Stanger Nelson

My dad and his animals during better times.
I love these photos.

I burned the wood by writing a novel inspired by my dad's long and insidious battle with Parkinson's. The story percolated in my cerebral cortex for years after his death. Spinning and spreading until I decided to listen to the voice urging me to write it down. Now that I'm weaving the story onto the page and nearing the end, I'm glad for every day that my brain functions normally. Scenes and sentences drift through my brain quickly and peacefully, like a bubbling stream, when ever I conjure them. And my fingers spryly tickle the keyboard. For now. But I worry. What if I'm afflicted by Alzheimer's or Parkinson's someday? 

Every story has a great villain. And Parkinson's is a sinister foe. 

 In my book, a retired farmer named Oren Walton is plagued by Parkinson's and menacing hallucinations. The visions start out benign enough. Small things really. Bugs that others don't see. A stray animal darting through the house. Little things. As Oren's disease progresses, so do his hallucinations. Crows act as a menacing harbinger as the hallucinations escalate mysteriously, as if fertilized by a poisonous and insidious farm chemical, until they become the central conflict of the story. 

All of the characters revolve around this conflict.

I'm almost done with the book. My wood has been reduced to flickering, undulating embers. 

I think we could all benefit by burning our wood pile...

Monday, September 19, 2016

Read, live long and prosper!

I just read in the Science and health section of the Star Tribune that book readers live an average of 2 years longer than non readers. The Yale study found a similar (but weaker, gulp) association among those that read newspapers and periodicals.

Well, luckily, I read lots of books as well! Here are 3 short and sweet book reviews I created for Springtime in Magnolia.  Including my newest review of The Dead Lands.

 Read, live long and prosper!

The Dead Lands is first and foremost, a re-imagining of the journey West by explorers Lewis and Clark. This time, in a post apocalyptic future, the expedition is led by Mina Clark and Lewis Meriwether. These characters didn't earn my love or reading devotion throughout the book. They seemed one dimensional, leaning on the harsh side. But since they were on a journey of survival, they were written in a singular way. The characters had little time for anything but staying alive. My favorite character was the psychopath Slade. He collected odds and ends from unlucky victims and adhered them to his mannequin collection. Delightfully wacky.

But it was an enjoyable and expansive story. Inventive, interesting and wildly creative. The book begins in the dusty, captive world of the Sanctuary.  Formally known as St. Louis. As the journey West unfolds, the reader flips back and forth between the struggle West and the trials of life in the militant Sanctuary.  If you think Trump would be a bad president, the character Thomas, Mayor of the Sanctuary, would be ten times worse! 

As an aspiring writer, I'll never forget the author's line, "...her teeth chattered a skeleton's song." That isn't an exact quote, since I couldn't find the passage. But the character was cold. And the sentence described it beautifully. 

This book isn't for everyone. I read it because I don't have a particular or preferred genre. I love them all. And Benjamin Percy is a Minnesota author endorsed by Stephen King. You can't beat that.

I have to admit, the first thing that intrigued me about Michele Raffin's book The Birds of Pandemonium was the beautiful cover. It's really hard to believe how many exotic and dazzling bird species fly our skies and nest in our trees. I love to spot them in the jungles of Central America. But most of them live in places that only exist on my bucket list. 

But not for Michele Raffin. On a whim, she rescued a dove by the side of a California road. No kidding. That is how it all started. We've all had that impulse. To save an injured animal. Or adopt a sad, abandoned pet. Michele took that impulse and ran with it. Now, her sanctuary is one of the largest in the country and she has rescued over a 1,000 birds. And many of the 89 species she has saved were threatened. 

Well, all of that is admirable.  But the real question of a book review blog is, "How's the book?" It is so charming. The reader wakes up with Michele and experiences the subtle, sweet sounds of bird chatter. Well, it is not always so soft and sweet. Sometimes it is demanding and deafening! And the birds, all 1,000 of them, have their own personality. You will discover that not every bird story has a happy ending. But you'll be glad you entered their feathered world for a little while.

It's a good read.

I brought the book Gone Girl with me on my last vacation. Well, it was so good that it was gone in a flash! But luckily the rental where we were staying had a pile of books. It was especially opportune since we were lodged in a remote area of Costa Rica. The Tico Times or a Spanish novella might have been my only other options. 

Clearly this book was left behind by a female traveler. It definitely was not part of the home owner's collection. His stash seemed to be all male. Politics, John Grisham and obscure biographies. But this booked screamed, "Read me on the beach! I'll entertain you." And it was a fun and fast read. Just look at the cheery cover. That usually says it all.

I'd definitely take Elizabeth Noble on a vacation. I bet she is just as fun as her characters. But she would probably prefer I take one of her books. In this book we meet Natalie and Tom. Tom is trying to win Natalie's heart. So far, he's been unsuccessful. Then he proposes an unusual arrangement of dates that run the garment from A- Z. The first thing they do is Abseiling. What the heck is that? Well... 

Abseiling (/ˈæbseɪl/ or /ˈɑːpzaɪl/; from German abseilen, meaning "to rope down"), also called rappelling, is the controlled descent of a vertical drop, such as a rock face, using a rope. Climbers use this technique when a cliff or slope is too steep and/or dangerous to descend without protection.

It was a fun book.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Human Wrangling

I've never wanted to be a human wrangler. Never. My friend Nina called me a cat wrangler in jest once. My new part time occupation stuck like a barbed tongue full of fur. Cat wrangling just sounds cool. But people? No way. 

Well, a couple months ago I created a new social group on the Meet-ups site. It is a website where cowpokes and their ilk, can coral groups of people with similar interests. Like reading, hiking, dining, traveling or cat wrangling. Whatever. I decided to start a book club for women writers. So far, it has been a small success. I've managed to rope in a few gals. And, I've even fenced in a few free laughs. Here's my open call...

This is a book club for women writers. We have a unique perspective. The books we read not only entertain us, but inspire and strengthen our written word. We'll socialize over a glass of wine and most importantly, take turns answering questions and discussing books. Everyone will get a chance to shine in this club. The future goal will be to form a small and intimate group of kind, thoughtful and committed readers and writers. 

As a creative, I use words like a paintbrush. And reading is my part time job!

I ran into a few wayward calves on my ride. First, I posted a few simple questions to weed out the prime Kobe beef from the mutton. Some of the answers tickled my funny bone. While others left me wondering if anyone really cares how they come across anymore. In the age of i-phones, it seems there's only a select few who attempt to spell, capitalize or give a generalized hoot about what they say. It makes me sad. If you were attempting to join a group of people who like to read and write, wouldn't you try to come across as doing both successfully? Here are some unsuccessful answers...

Why do you want to become a Novelista?
like the club description
What is the last book you read?
the turner house
What kind of creative writing do you do?
none....want to start
There's no need to attend every event. But, we'll be a small group. So please rsvp carefully. And if you need to cancel, be sure to change your status. How often do you hope to attend?
?? don't know
We'll be a small and intimate group. If you belong to dozens of meet-ups, this group might not be for you. Can you tell me what makes you Minnesota nice?
good listener,

What kind of creative writing do you do?Not much. I love to read.

What kind of creative writing do you do?Due to limited time, commenting on blogs.

What is the last book you read? 
I did just answer this.
We'll be a small and intimate group. If you belong to dozens of meet-ups, this group might not be for 
you. Can you tell me what makes you Minnesota nice?Can't. From Iowa.

No, you didn't just answer (Chris Hansen reference) The Iowa remark is pretty funny though. I'm left wondering, why would you want to join a group of writers, if you don't even write a darn thing? 

At least it gives me something funny to write about!

Uff da. 


Monday, September 5, 2016

Survey Says!

Facebook research indicates, "...that dog-posters tend to be more extroverted, more upbeat and luckier in love than their feline photographing friends." (According to the photos and posts of facebook users.) 

What you talk'in about Willis?

"Meanwhile, cat people tend to be single, express a wider range of emotions (including chiefly exhaustion and annoyance), and to harbor an unusually strong interest in fantasy, anime and science fiction."

This is from an article posted in the Star Tribune by Caitlin Dewey of the Washington Post.

Thanks facebook. I already hated you. You always make me feel like a loser when I post a favorite photograph and get 3 likes while other people post that they just burned their toast and get 100. Now, according to you, I'm an emotional, exhausted nerd too. (O.K. facebook nailed it) Because I don't have a dog. If I did, I'd post lots of upbeat photos of him or her on facebook. And if I'm lucky, get 4 likes. Maybe 5.

So goes my love/hate relationship with facebook. When I post something on facebook, I feel like James Corden, struming his guitar while singing his heart out on the street in the movie Begin Again, only to look up to discover no one is listening. No one at all. My "likes" might not be quite as pathetic as all that. But close. Most of the time. 

I also just read another related article about addiction to social media in the Star Tribune. I guess some people become addicted to facebook and other sites, just like with drugs. The feedback and "likes" act like a drug affecting the dopamine levels in their brain. They get a virtual high. 

How can I get some of that?

Don't get me wrong. I believe that people can experience a real addiction to social media. Everywhere we go these days, people are staring at their phones like in-human drones, strumming them like a guitar. I almost expect them to look up and shoot a penetrating glare my way, revealing mechanical pupils and whirly gigs. It just makes me mad and ultimately sad, that I'll never experience a dopamine high from facebook. Now I really am annoyed!