Closer to the Spirit

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Galaxy Girl

47002_10200709901333775_932704236_nThere is a question next to her,

a small dog’s face,

loyalty to what she carries,

a cluster in the sky.

She is a new constellation,

lead by nebula light

and a galaxy brain.  ‘

Shy girl hiding her face beneath stars, exposed with her large naval,

all the dark matter of her belly, the crook of her arm, womanly hips.

I am in love.  I believe she would carry me to the dimensions of dreams,

through the night as minutes pass.  Call her Midnight and be done.

Sad Elephant

543812_10200988872667884_1646305683_n  Sad Elephant (seven minutes)

The winged insects flew

in from another world.

My stomach churns diamond shards

but my tears only drop red paint.

I step into the desert half crazed and wary.

I was a dandy but now I am old

and heavy with stars, scars on my skin.

I look for the palo verde and hope for healing.

My tears become little men

who pick the palms.   I’m leaving the wild ocean

for temptations of rocks and yellow sand.

I am blessed to wear elephant shoes,

but I grieve the water wings

I leave behind.  Cacti rattle hymns

for the predetermined God, the One who lives

in arid spaces.  I’ve gone to listen for him.

The ocean was too noisy.  My birth jungle brims

with confusing myth.  My tears speak of the wild gifts

buried within my heart.

I pray erosion will uncover them,

the crazed animals, dear unformed art,

the unknown blessings.

Review of In the Land of the Grasshopper Song: Two Women in the Klamath River Indian Country 1908-1909

ImageIn the Land of the Grasshopper Song is, hands down, my favorite book, and I have often wished the authors had written more. I found it in a bookstore in Eureka over twenty years ago on a trip that took me through the Klamath River area. At that time I was beginning work on a novel. The power, quiet wisdom, and tolerance of In the Land of the Grasshopper Song inspired my manuscript and, I believe, it became a richer book for reading this fascinating tale.

Two women from the east coast venture in the wilderness of northern California riding on rugged trails to the heart of Karuk culture. Their job was “Indian Field Matrons” and to “educate” the tribe. What happens, though, is that their world opens and they are the ones who receive the education. The writing, taken from journals they wrote during their tenure in the woods, is so fresh that the reader easily falls into a world, not so remote in time, but one that is different in every other aspect from today.

My novel, Heron’s Path, was born because I was so deeply immersed in the adventures of Ms. Arnold and Ms. Reed. They inspired an important character in the novel, and I feel in debt to these two remarkable women.

Returning to Blogging

Golem Girl45311_10200988872147871_167166715_n543812_10200988872667884_1646305683_nmermaidThere is probably a teaching god we never learned about who is related to Cronus, who eats the time of educators.  My last post was in October. I remember how hard it was to carve away time enough to write the review.  I was walking today in Bogg’s Bog, yes, I believe that’s its real name, with my friend Gail who is a retired teacher, talking about how much teaching consumes one’s life, and how a teacher needs as much “down time” as possible doing things like taking walks.  Since the beginning of the year, I’ve made the time to walk almost every weekend for at least an hour and a half or so along the trails on Bogg’s Mountain here in Lake County.  I’ve also have given myself time to paint.  I’ve put these on Facebook already, but displaying them here on my Heron’s Path blog as testimony that I have been creative.  I deal so much with words that it’s healing for me to go into the visual and color and the feel of a wet paint brush along the paper.  I take classes using the Zero Point technique developed by Michelle Cassou and went to San Francisco last weekend for a two-day course.  I also go north to the town of  Willits where Bethellen Levitan offers classes each month.  I can pretend I’m going to Oregon, especially when the day is cloudy and feel like I’m really getting away.  Anyway, I’m writing here in hope that I will continue.  I’m confident I will from now until August.  I’ll let the new school year in August take care of itself.

Review of How I Came to Sparkle Again

How I Came To Sparkle Again, by Kaya McLaren, reads as if it’s intended to be made into a screenplay for a chick flick. It is an undemanding melodrama which ending broadcasts it’s self within the first pages. That being said, McLaren has invested her characters with charm . . .and dare I say it?. . . plenty of “sparkle”.

Jill has come back to her hometown of Sparkle, a ski destination in the Colorado Rockies, to recover from finding her husband in bed with another woman not long after having had a miscarriage. She falls on the graces of an old friend, Lisa, who is the Wendy to three Peter Pans who live next to her in trailer called “the Kennel.” They work on the ski patrol and spend as much time as possible partying and having sex, though all of them are over thirty. Jill moves into the Kennel and finds part time work on the patrol, as well as a job babysitting Cassie, a ten-year old girl whose mother recently died from cancer. It is obvious at their first meeting that Mike, the girl’s father, and Jill are meant for each other, but since their tragedies are so recent and wounds too fresh, tension develops between them.

Lisa and Tom, the least emotionally stunted of the men in the Kennel, have had a sexual rivalry for years, complete with a competitive game board with pictures of their conquests. They, of course, have sworn off having sex with each other, and their natural attraction . . . this couple is also oh so right for each other . . . complicates their interactions.

Jill’s Uncle Howard is the old man of the mountain, a kind hermit, who foists copies of Siddhartha on skier and mountain wanderers, and doles out sage advice that no one understands but everyone respects. Jill’s parents are Mormon missionaries and their belief she will not be with them in the after-life is another aspect that she must heal. McLaren’s best work in this novel comes with the non-judgmental light-handed way she weaves the idea that there is a God whose love shows through imperfect people. Jill comes to love her horny, rowdy roommates, all of whom respect her wish to keep things platonic. Cassie’s mother left her with a journal of letters, wishes, and prayers that comforts her daughter when things are bleakest. There is a motif of heart shaped objects that suggests that we never really lose those we love.

Sparkle resembles Homer, Alaska in the television show Northern Exposure with its quirky residence, small town traditions, a sense of the frontier, and a whole lot of snow. I thought the novel would be written in first person, as is the title, but we get into the heads and longings of all the major characters. Jill, though, is the thread . . . or perhaps the ski binding . . . that holds them together.

Sparkle is a good escape read, perfect for bathtub reading, a long weekend, or to take along on a vacation. In some ways, it’s too bad the world isn’t more like Sparkle. We’d be kinder and be having a whole lot more fun, even when the world turns upside down.

 

 

Monsters and Mysteries: Interview with Author Candy Korman

Candy Korman is a free lance-writer and mystery novelist whose books have classic monster motifs.  She lives in New York City.  This week we discussed THE MARY SHELLY GAME, a who-done-it that combines the elegance of Agatha Cristie’s style with themes taken from Mary Shelley‘s FRANKENSTEIN, her love of Tango, and her new release BRAM STOKER’S SUMMER SUBLET.

The Mary Shelley Game is witty and contemporary, yet it successfully relies on classic motifs on drawing-room who-done-its. I thought it was clever of you to have Amanda, your protagonist, mention Agatha Christie mysteries, and then have the plot unfold like one: the country house, the quirky guests, a twist about whom the murderer was.

I gave my nod to the master of the classic English country house murder mysteries in my own house party story. I couldn’t resist. My mother is a huge mystery fan, so I started reading Agatha Christie very early on. She may not be part of my DNA, but Christie is definitely part of my early education.

There are many layers in the novel. Amanda tells the main story, but we also get into the heads of other characters, especially the two stalkers. There is also the added layer of the stories the guests wrote for the weekend entertainment. Would you mind discussing how you planned the novel. Did you start with a master outline? Write the main story separately from the stories? Or did you just start at the beginning and write to the end and develop each piece as you came to it?

The Mary Shelley Game actually started as a longer work. A number of years back, I realized that I’d seen at least a hundred Frankenstein movies, but had never read the book and it was time to give it a try. I was surprised. It was a sophisticated, non-linear story told from multiple points-of-view. Around that time, I was invited to a weekend house in upstate New York. The setting, Mary Shelley’s original and the story behind her creation sparked something in my imagination. I wrote a very arty, out-of-sequence, literary novel about friends telling their own Frankenstein stories while the monster (made by the choices of people in power) stalked them.

No one wanted to publish it, so it sat around for a long time, until a very wise woman suggested that I transform it into a shorter, straight ahead, thriller ebook. Last summer, in cafes in Berlin and at my desk in New York, I dissected the original and put it back together — Frankenstein style — while eliminating more than one third of the original text and adding an extra threat in the woods. No outline, no master plan and not a method that’s easy to repeat.

I appreciated the sense of humor in the book. I really loved Igor’s story. Of the stories told that weekend, is there a one that’s your favorite?

Igor’s is the best!

Did you mean any irony in choosing the victim among your characters?

Umm… there really is some irony there! But that particular choice had more to do with the dynamics of the relationships between the characters and who was needed to further the story.

The real monster in The Mary Shelly Game was created as much as Frankenstein’s monster was, a sum of the dysfunctional parts of family and society. I took note of your reference that the monster was peacefully talking to the blind man until his children came and saw him as something other. How did the parallel between the murderer in your novel and Mary Shelly’s tragic monster evolve?

You are very perceptive. The scene with the blind man is the quintessential moment from the original. It speaks to the humanity of the monster and the monstrous nature of humanity — in the person of the blind man’s family. The monster in my book is created by the greed, ignorance and self-interest of the people with power. They create a monster because it’s expedient. He is the unintended consequences of their choices.

You’ve written about Writer’s Boot Camp on your blog. Did you create the parameters of the “camp” or learn about a discipline from other sources? Tell us what your writing day looks like, or what expectations you put on yourself in terms of production.

My “boot camp” is simply my crazy writing life. I publish short stories on my freelance writing website every month. In order to have 12 short stories (or 10 if two are longer) to publish, I have to write between 15 and 20 stories a year. I’ve been doing that for years. No one told me I had to do it, but… I know it’s been good for me. It’s like going to the gym or flossing your teeth, if you make it a habit you do it, and you benefit from the effort.

I write a lot and I’m a relatively fast writer. I’m also a slow reader and I enjoy research (I was a history major in college). My freelance work is primarily for businesses and not-for-profit organizations. I write website text, brochures, patient information sheets, promotional text, annual reports, presentation scripts, newsletters, etc. This requires a lot of interviewing so I meet, if only on the phone, Skype or the internet, many interesting people. I’m also finishing up a ghostwriting project. Nothing like writing someone else’s memoir, for learning how to get inside a character.

You tango! I was in Chile a few years back and was fortunate enough to attend Festival Danza America in Iquique. The tango dancers from Argentina took my breath away with their grace, agility, and pure athleticism. How much does tango play in your life? Do you do it for fun? In competitions? What do you find most rewarding about it?

My Tango is entirely social. I started with Swing, Latin and some Ballroom, but my first Argentine Tango class changed all that. It’s like I fell into the Tango vortex and never came out. A few months later I as in Buenos Aires. It’s a complex and beautiful dance with a very long learning curve. Argentine Tango is danced all over the world and since I love to travel it’s a great match for me. I’ve danced in many places including Berlin, Nijmegen (the Netherlands), Perugia and Buenos Aires. At home in New York, I dance a few times a week and have made wonderful friends through Tango.

There’s no Tango in The Mary Shelley Game, but it makes several important appearances in my second Candy’s Monster — Bram Stoker’s Summer Sublet. The protagonist doesn’t know anything about Tango so bringing her a Milonga (a Tango dance) in the story was an interesting challenge. I had to try to see the dance and hear the music from a relatively naive point-of-view.

Do monsters follow you? I read about the encounter with the monster on the bottle at the restaurant where you recently ate. Do you look for or expect signs of synchronicity that parallel your work? I personally love this aspect of being creative.

I thought there would be two monsters and then I started rereading Poe. I’m working on my Poe-inspired ebook this summer. I think all the monsters were lurking for a long time and I just wasn’t looking. Now that I’m looking, I can’t help but find them everywhere. Creativity seems to be about putting together bits and pieces in new ways to form something new.

You have a new book Bram Stoker’s Summer Sublet, which was released yesterday, July 11, 2012! Is it another drawing-room mystery? What would you like readers to know about?

Bram Stoker’s Summer Sublet was inspired by the original Dracula — another book that was a surprising read. It’s a epistolary novel, so I updated the diary entries, letters and news clippings to diary entries, voice mail messages, email, etc. The character is feeling lost and alone after a romantic disaster. Instead of spending the month of July in Italy on her honeymoon, she’s pet sitting in an apartment in the East Village in New York. The dog is old, the parrot goes on philosophical rants and she gradually comes to the conclusion that the man next door is a vampire. It’s a comedy.

Do you plan to continue the series? What other monsters can we expect to appear?

Yes! I’m in Edgar Alan Poe land right now. After that I’m not sure which way I’ll go. I’m playing around with some interesting ideas. I read Lovecraft when I was a kid. Maybe it’s time to give him another try? Right now, the plan is to have the Poe ebook out by the end of the year, so I had better get back to it!

Summer Thoughts

I started this blog saying I was going to write for at least seven minutes daily.  It has morphed and taken on a personality all its own, however.  I like that it has.  It’s been awhile though since I’ve just sat down to write and see what I want to say.  Summer is speeding by, as always, but this summer seems to have roller blades.  School starts August 14th (I think, if that’s a Tuesday).

Some people would say, Oh, you have a month, but come the first of the month I’ll be my classroom getting ready, putting up paper for bulletin boards (I reused the same paper two years in a row, time for a change), sorting math supplies, peeking into our new reading curriculum . . .I’ll most likely teach first/second grades again which means learning Pearson for both grades if my school can’t find a way to separate kids for reading time.  We’re small, one or one and a half classrooms per grade and sometimes the numbers don’t work.  Nobody wants 35 kids for reading.  Last year I had only 10 first graders for math, though, and it was delightful.

There’s smoke in the air.  A fire is burning a long way off, but the sky is red and that burning feeling is up inside my nose.

Wondering what to start writing next, the project I’ll be committed to for the next year.  I thought my mermaid novel, but in working on promoting HERON’S PATH I’ve found a plethora of mermaid books.  Going to look over my novel THREE DEMONS and see if it’s salvageable.  I think the Las Vegas part works well.  But I need to re-envision Hell.

I am so grateful for summer.

New Writing by Anthea Carson

In my last post, I interviewed Anthea Carson, the author of THE DARK LAKE.  Here is a selection from the next book in THE OSHKOSH TRILOGY, which chronicles the turbulent life of Janeylou.   Please be forewarned, there is some strong language below.

Also, Anthea is also a fan of William Faulkner (I wonder if that term was ever used in his lifetime about his writing).  Here is her blog in homage to him: www.stalkingfaulkner.blogspot.com

THE DEEP BACKYARD

Bam! Slam!

Then I woke enough to hear the roaring back and forth of angry vacuuming, then some more slamming.

Krishna ran into my room and a pillow followed her, flying in the air.  The door was slammed behind her.  I was barely able to lift my head.

“What the fuck?”  I said.

Krishna was giggling and dragging a sleeping bag behind her, my dad’s old army one, with lumberjack colors.  She wore army clothes herself so she looked like a soldier dodging bullets.

The door opened again and three empty cans of beer were thrown at her head.  By this time she was laying on the wood floor next to my cot, purchased by me from the army store in Appleton, a town twenty minutes from Oshkosh if you took the back roads, which I always did.

When the cans hit her in the head some of her black hair lifted up a bit, like hair does with static, which was unusual, because her coarse waves never seemed to budge but then again, with my mother on the warpath, practically anything could happen.

Then the slamming began in earnest, against the door.  I thought it would break down.

“Bang!  Bang! Bang!”  Krishna, still asleep, began imitating the sound.

Finally I lifted my head.

There was Gay over there passed out on the green fold out chair.  Only it wasn’t folded out.  It had just folded in under itself and she was so contorted there that I had to wake her up to see if she was still alive.  After all, if the vacuuming wasn’t going to wake her, she might just be dead.

She opened her eyes half a slit, glanced sideways at the exploding door and turned over on her side, which made the chair twist into a new shape, one I’d never seen before.  And her leg was at a strange angle now too, with her foot either stretching or breaking, I couldn’t tell which.  She knocked something over when she turned and it made a crashing sound but I didn’t have the will to sit up and see what it was.  It sounded like that cinnamon candle in the glass container that was shaped like a big dragon.  What a bummer.

Man that candle smelled good.  When we burned it I always ended up wanting-

“FUCK!”

What had happened to cause Gay to scream this was just… unthinkable.  Unbelievable.

You see, last night, we had rented a very expensive piece of equipment.  I think.

No.  I think we might have already owned it.  Because it was an antique film projector (quite heavy) and we owned a lot of that kind of stuff.  We had a really old funky ass stereo that had been there since I was only old enough to peek into the soft cloth in it’s windows and try to figure out how they got the tiny people in there to sing –

“FUCK!”  she screamed, rubbing her head,  “God DAMN!!”

Did that thing actually hit her in the side of the head when my mom opened that door and threw it in here?  Did that happen?

Well, she was crazy!  She was fucking crazy!  Crazy fucking B-

She opened the door again and threw in a couple more teenagers.

“That was a very expensive piece of equipment you just threw in here I hope you realize that!”  I stood at the door now in a tee shirt.  “She’s crazy!”  I turned around,  “She’s fucking – how’s your head?”

Gay was still rubbing the side.  It should have had a baseball-sized egg on it but miraculously did not.

I expected her to complain about my mom’s insanity some more but she just lit a cigarette and sat up, still looking really confused.

“I’m starving,” she said suddenly, her Nikes still on and only an inch or two from the broken glass under the coffee table.

But was it safe enough yet for us to raid the kitchen with her on the rampage like that.    Maybe not but we did.  Some uncounted number of zombie creatures we stumbled in there and started pouring cereal and making coffee and trashing he kitchen.  Where was she? Then it all began to seem like it happened a long time ago.

—————————————————————————————————-

The backyard birds, deep leaves and cool summer shade, sent energizing vibrations in through the wide kitchen window.  We slammed our glass bowls and porcelain coffee cups on the rippled glass table and I can still hear it.  We tossed things into the sink.  We emptied cartons and left opened milk on the black lacquer top counter.  Cupboard doors stayed open and spills dried on the glass.  We took off in a blue Chevette.

“Hey,” somebody said, “ever wonder who gasses this car up?”

After a moment of genuine wonder everyone laughed all the way to the park.  Why were we going there again?  Oh yea, to drive around it.

“Who’s rolling?”

“I got it, I got it.”

She threw the seeds into the rubber backed floor mat and they soaked into the scratchy dark blue car rug.  She took the red tray with the picture of the leggy girl and leaned it down toward her lap.  I always liked to watch the seeds roll, and watch her scoop the gritty green leaves back up.  I glanced sideways over the steering wheel.  She was licking the paper and rolling it up now.  Lighting up.

Then everything, all the green in the park and the blue in the sky suddenly came to life like the set of Wizard of Oz when they entered into the color and promised more than it had before.  And it didn’t need more … back then.

Discussions became philosophical.  Especially me.  I talked and talked to hear my great ponderings and sometimes Gay just stared at me like I was nuts.  Maybe turned the music up or something.  Sometimes she just stared straight ahead and I didn’t know if she was listening or not.

“This is a mad world.  This is all madness.  It’s crazy.  People are crazy,” I would say into the void.  And she would just stare straight ahead at Bowen Street, which turned into the highway and you could follow it out of town.  But first it passed Menomonee drive, and there we might turn right to pick up Krishna, or drop her off.  And it wound around back to Menomonee Park, which we had to drive through, and then New York Avenue, which could take me home.

“Why is it so crazy?”  Gay never asked these questions.  But sometimes Krishna did.

“Because,” take another toke, no problem, I can answer that, “nobody knows what we’re doing here.”

Silence and then,  “What are we doing here?”  Krishna, never hesitant to mock pretentious scholarliness.

“These conversations never get us anywhere.  They never end.”

“What the hell are you talking about,”… that would be Krishna.

I must have meant the car rides.  And Gay just sat there staring straight ahead.  Looking at me like she wasn’t sure what she was doing in my car.

“Can you drop me off?”

“Sure,” and now I had to drive out of town, down by that strange turn off, down where we ran over all those frogs one night, and where the lake flies were thicker than anywhere else in town, than anywhere else in the world probably.

Hashtag, Handle, Bitly Register

So, since I’ve started this blog I’ve written about everything but my book.  I’ve been shy, I guess.  Or because this place has been a wonderful  to fheave stuff on to it that fills up my brain and life.  And that has a purpose.

I want to share an exciting moment in the life of an author.   I could pretend this is a found poem and title it “How I Spent My Summer Vacation”:

  • did u figure it out?

  • you put the tweet that you want tweeted in as a comment

  • you have to follow that format

  • you pick two hashtag words

  • then put your handle in

  • then your books name

  • then the link has to be shortened

  • you do that at bitly

  • there is a link to bitly on there

  • you go to bitly and register

  • or you might not even have to register

 

Alethea Eason:

A poem for a sister. I just read this and its simple power blew me away.

Originally posted on Susan Daniels Poetry:

Perhaps now
After years of silence
& empty pages

I am finding a voice again

 Now, my words break free
Of the dry husk wrapped in layers
That kept them safely from light

Emerge from the earth singing
& fly

My song may be offensive and discordant,
But it is loud

& cannot be ignored

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