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 by Sarah Stonich...


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


Ha!



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. 



Nice!



It was a great read. Whimsically poetic. 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. 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!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Game of Followers

My first instagram shot from our 2017 trip to Nicaragua.


I finally joined the instagram party last July. #latetotheparty.  I was delayed at the Phoenix airport, bored and harboring a new digital crop of imagery from Sedona, Arizona. I'd resisted becoming a social media loser on instagram for quite awhile. But photography is my favorite hobby. It just makes sense to share the love with like minded phone carriers. It turns out, however, that like minds don't always think alike.

Don't get me wrong. Insta-users love my photos. But only for one day. Then they say adios, au revoir and good bye. Of course, anyone that uses instagram knows who the real losers are. Them. The idiots that only care about numbers. They mindlessly follow every instagram account they run across, then they turn the hour glass upside down. When the last grain of sand funnels through, they cackle like the green faced witch from the Wizard of Oz. 


Their stats give them away at first swipe. They only follow 400 people, but are followed by 23,000. They must be famous! They must travel the world sharing paparazzi worthy flashes from their fabulous life. Hashtag the Eiffel Tower. Hashtag the Pyramids of Egypt. Hashtag moi and Bobby Flay. Oh wow! They absolutely must be the coolest people on the planet to have so many instagram followers. Right?


Wrong. They're just jerks. There are no pyramids. I lied.


Here's a screen shot from a blog post educating people on how to be assholes. 


So who employs the nasty follow/unfollow method? Almost everyone on instagram. I've been unfollowed by accounts that only have 6 boring photos. Most of the time, their photos are marginal at best. You might see the Tower of Pisa nestled in-between 1,000 selfies. There's lots of food porn. No doubt about that. There's a few tasty beverages. A few hot mamas in bikinis. And maybe their cat. Like I said, they only care about numbers. Not photography. So they follow every page they swipe across like a frazzled tax accountant on February first, hoping to be followed back. They might even like one of your photos. And leave a thumbs up in your comment area. Then, like they heard a blaring smoke alarm accompanied by a river of flames, they run away from your page screaming. They dump your sorry ass.


A few months after I joined instagram, I was about to cancel my account in disgust. I still feel that way every time I have to unfollow another scum bag. Sure, I've accumulated a few real photo fans. Thank goodness for them. Or I'd lose faith in humanity completely. 


So what do you do if you want to stay sane and also stay on instagram? There's an app for that. Now, as soon one of those losers un-follows me, it's adios amigo. It's easy. There are tons of un-follow apps to choose from. The apps compile a list, as often as you choose to refresh, of every last loser that leaves you in the dust. Please people. Don't become a stat. Don't become someone that was only followed to grow another fool's account. Ditch them as soon as they ditch you. 


Don't play into The Game of Followers!


Monday, February 13, 2017

The Phenomenon

Image result for images of busy sidewalks
A busy sidewalk from google. It is located somewhere in the world, somewhere I definitely don't want to walk...


There's a bitter brewed, percolating phenomena underfoot. An insidious, pervasive rudeness is sweeping the land... and the sidewalks. I've grumbled to my husband about it for years. I even walk to his right, hoping to avoid a walking path ker-scuffle. What is it? I'll call it walking while f-ing rude syndrome. Good grief people. Move the F over! 




A few months ago, I was walking on a tepidly busy sidewalk in Naples, Florida. It's a given that the drivers are bad. It is Florida after all. But the walkers? Well, they might be worse. A blond dressed to kill, resembling a well seasoned Prada model, (apparently strutting the sidewalks in front of the pedestrians of fashion) just about made me sit my ass down into a potted palm tree. This so called lady and her oblivious friend would not budge. Then later, two dudes did it twice. One of the times we passed each other, I had to turn sideways, and even so, I was being groped and scratched by the lecherous shrubbery. I'm not kidding. They would not move the F over. 



So finally I googled it. It's a thing. The walking rudeness. The phenomenon. It bugs other people too. 



A few times I've tested the waters. I've tempted fate, by not walking completely off the sidewalk into the safety of the grass, like so many rude groups of so called ladies expect you to do. I put hundreds of miles on my sneakers a year, walking the Minneapolis chain of lakes. There will be groups of women walkers, side by side, hogging the whole trail like leaf cutter ants, deeply entrenched in self important conversation. Well, a couple times, I just moved to the edge of the sidewalk, like I always do anyway. Heck, I'm not rude, right? We collided! The ants would not move the F over! And don't even get me started on the runners who almost plow into me on a regular basis. Maybe I'm invisible...



When I googled this phenomenon, there was a group of women that were mentioned several times as the worst offenders. I've had this happen to me as well. Moms with prams. They will walk together, prams lined up like an offensive line, and God willing, they will not move the over. 



So what gives? I know we're all busy gabbing with our gals, eyes and fingers stroking our beloved phones, brains oblivious to the locations of others. But, please, I have a blog and I'm using it today. For good. For change.



People... please remember...to move the F over!



Thank You

Monday, February 6, 2017

The 37th Parallel


"If aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn't turn out well for the Native Americans."

Stephen Hawking



I've been interested in Aliens for as long as I can remember. It just doesn't seem practical to imagine that we are all alone in the Universe. Over the years, T.V. shows like The X Files and Fringe just fueled my curiosity. The truth is out there, somewhere, right? According to Chuck Zukowski, the main character in The 37th Parallel, "There's more physical evidence that UFOs exist than there's physical evidence that Jesus Christ existed."

I wasn't blown over by the evidence in the book. But there's no doubt it is intriguing, sometimes gruesome and curious. Ben Mezrich did a handy writing job, shuffling the deck of information gleaned from Chuck's real life little black book and in turn, dealing out a winning book. I don't want to give away any spoilers, but there were a couple incidents at the end of the book that were pretty darn compelling. Chuck is a self proclaimed UFO nut. He has devoted his life to investigating cow mutilations and other unidentified objects. Flying and otherwise. The unfortunate cows in the story are firmly planted on good ole terra firma. But even so, they are caught up in the whole alien phenomena just as certain as if they had sprouted wings. I was equally shocked at the sheer number of mutilations as I was at the gruesome details of the crimes. It's worse than a Stephen King novel. And the book certainly left me wondering, What in the heck do aliens see in the 37th parallel? They seem to use it like a runway, lighting up the skies above and reeking havoc below. If you're an Ancient Aliens junky like me, you'll love the book. 

"A generation from now, people will look back at us the same way we look back at those who believed the earth was flat; the evidence that we've been visited by extraterrestrials is so overwhelming, it's actually a leap of faith to believe anything else."

Anonymous aerospace executive

"If we ever travel thousands of light years to a planet inhabited with intelligent life, let's just make patterns in their crops and leave."

-words of humor and wisdom from the internet!



Monday, January 30, 2017

Rent-a-Cat


Ma Petite


"What will happen to Ma Petite and Le Puff when we leave? What will happen to me?" Those are the questions I found myself asking at Villas de Palermo this January. We always make friends with the locals when we travel. And by locals, I mean the local critters. 

At Flor de Sarta in Leon, Nicaragua, we met Bruno. Bruno would race, claws clicking, ears flapping, up to our balcony at night and lie down at our feet. He was simply devoted to me after I accidentally dropped a pat of butter on the floor. Bruno the dog. Of course, there was also Coq a Vin and Barbecue. The French owners of Flor de Sarta were unhappy with the taste of the local chicken. (I, on the other hand, think chicken in Central America is far superior to America's bland, tough and antibiotic riddled jail birds) So they decided to butcher their own. Instead, they fell in love with them. Now, Coq a Vin and Barbecue roam the courtyard, picking and pecking, along with a flock of pigeons and doves. 


Le Puff. A.K.A Puffy.

So when we met our new orange vacation pets, shown above, I gave them french names. In honor of our stay in Colonial, vibrant, gritty Leon. But of course, it had more to do with the french owners of Flor de Sarta. Mais oui. 

We also called them Little Orange and Puffy Orange. Eventually, it became puffy and petite. When the mood struck.  As you can see, they made themselves right at home. After we fed them, they were ours. They never left. Whenever we came home, their two little faces were staring back at us from outside our patio door. When we woke up, they were waiting for breakfast. After they ate, they made themselves right at home inside. Who ever stays there next will have two cats whether they want them or not. At one point, puffy brought in a dead dove and hid it under the sofa. But hunting wasn't puff's only joy, he also loved to curl up by my side while I was clacking the keys.


The ladies that cleaned the casa and the dude that walked by every morning watering, would point and say, "Gato." What ya gonna do? 

The first time we went to the restaurant at Villas de Palermo, we found an orange kitten mewling at our feet. Good grief! Our hearts can't take anymore!!! Orange is a theme at Villas de Palermo. There were orange cats here the first time we stayed three years ago, and they'll be orange cats long after we leave. 

I still think fondly of Caracol. Our beach companion in Panama last year. Caracol the dog. He followed us everywhere.

 

"How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard." 

-Winnie the Pooh


Friday, January 20, 2017

Two Tears in a Bucket


Akua in a bucket.

We're planning a trip to Savannah next Summer. Being an aspiring writer, the first thing I did was pick up a copy of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. I'd never read it. But I knew it would be the perfect literary guide to the city. And a great beach side page turner to bring along on our travels to Nicaragua this winter. I wasn't disappointed! Needless to say I'm sick of Flor de Cana rum. (not really) Nicaragua's holy water. Now, I can't wait to sip a martini in Savannah, sitting on the bench and grave marker of the poet Conrad Aiken, while watching a few ships pass by. Their destinations mysteriously unknown. I won't mind making a toast to him and his ill fated parents. But I draw the line at giving his parents a suspicion. Anyone fool hardy enough to commit murder, then suicide, doesn't deserve a sip of my tasty beverage. 

The real life characters in the book were humorous and enchanting. Especially the drag queen nicknamed the Grand Empress of Savannah. She had a motto that I found irresistible. I told my husband about it and now it has entered into our language lexicon. Especially while on vacation in Nicaragua. Life is slower there. Sometimes, the gringo faces certain challenges. First world problems to be exact. It's good to have a phrase to spout when times are tough. Like when happy hour isn't observed as it should be. Or, when the breakfast that is supposed to start at 7, starts at 8. Can you imagine? The worst thing possible happened on a Monday. We were on a gelato streak. We got dreamy, creamy gelato, the best in the world, every darn day...until Monday rolled around. Ever have a case of the Mondays? Well, we did. They were closed!  AAARRRGGGHHH!!! But I need my medium sized, half chocolate, half passion-fruit gelato. Finally, after much frumping and grumping, I decided that it wasn't the end of the world to wait for a pina colada later that day. For heaven's sake. Of course, times really are tough for most of the country. Many people still travel by horse. Most people need to collect wood just to cook or heat water. Chicken dinner? Where's the ax? Need milk? Hitch up old yellow. 

When the going gets rough, just think of Chablis. Drinking wine is a well known cure for the Mondays. But I mean the drag queen...

"Mama's different though. She has a big ol' photograph of me bein' crowned Miss World, and it's hangin' in her living room. She taught me not to worry about things that don't matter. She has a motto that I love: 'Two tears in a bucket. Motherfuck it.' That's  Mamma. She's a okay girl." 

The lady Chablis and John Berendt from Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

Words to live by!

I'll be back to my regular blogging schedule next week. Over at Sharon's Souvenirs