Books, Quotes, Reading, Writing

Books & Beginnings I

img_1061-1I learned to read at age three. It saved my mother from having me muling for her to read me a story night and day. By eight or nine, I had exhausted my love for children’s literature and started at my parent’s bookshelves where I found such treasures as Plato’s Republic and Dante’s Inferno. My parents both studied literature in college.

My cousin gave me J.R.R. Tolkien at age nine but between eight and nine was a difficult time as reading was a fierce addiction for me.  I no longer enjoyed children’s books and my parents bookshelf had an upper shelf I could not reach. They refused to assist me in acquiring the books on the top shelves. They told me I was too young or some such nonsense. It was a condition I easily outgrew, but not at age eight.

One day my mother brought home a book from the library. She made a game of trying to find something that I would love. I could not fathom Dante and Plato was a bit boring, at least when I was eight.  She held the book up and said this was a book written for children like me. She was right. I wonder if you will recognize it as well.

This book, one of the greats of all time for young readers, starts in a way writers are cautioned never to begin their books. With the weather. Funny, how the best writers always break the rules. Funny, how when they do, it is in such a sublime fashion. Recognize this? Such wondrous magic.

ask blackboard chalk board chalkboard

It was a dark and stormy night. 

In her attic bedroom, Margaret Murray, wrapped in an old patchwork quilt, sat on the foot of her bed and watched the trees tossing in the frenzied lashing of the wind. 

Do you know this? Feel free to comment.

life, Literature, Reading, Writing

My Library – Random Thoughts

One day I would like to live in a library.  Or more correctly, I would like to convert my home into a library. I don’t have room for all my books in my small city apartment. But one day.  And not just some little cozy room with a few built in bookshelves, but something grand. Like the citadel in Game of Thrones. Only no chains on the books. Like below- grand architecture, perfect book preserving climate, that goes on and on.

ancient antique architectural design architecture

 

img_1054For now, I have a few shelves, some over-stuffed with my lovely books. Inside these books are some of the loveliest and nastiest people I have ever met. Some human, some dragons, some of various origins. It is here in these pages where I see possibility, where I find hope when I can’t find any in the “real” world.

img_1059There is a section in the classic, Lord of the Rings, where Frodo Baggins laments that he has thought an attack of dragons would do his fellow hobbits a world of good. Only, when it comes down to it, he only wishes to save them. I suspect we all feel this same conflict at some level about our fellow humans with whom we share this tiny pile of space rubble.

img_1056In Brandon Sanderson’s trilogy, The Stormlight Archives, there is a character, a king by the name of Taravangian. This king appears to all the world as a feeble, old man albeit kindly. And on most days, that is true because Taravangian often wakes up as an idiot. He doesn’t have the strength or intelligence to be duplicitous.  On other days, he is a genius. On those days, he is, well, scary. I won’t give away any spoilers. But I do suspect there have been a few Taravangian type kings to visit their wrathful genius in this world. It’s so much better if the villains can be kept on pages in black and white.

Well, tonight I am an idiot so I am going to do some grammatical edits and read one of my glorious books for a spell before sleep takes me.

 

 

 

Books, Writing

Book Review – The Road To Bittersweet

I was lucky enough to score an ARC of Donna Everhart’s The Road to Bittersweet. I absolutely loved her debut book, The Education of Dixie Dupree so I was very excited to get her latest book.

The Road to Bittersweet follows the Stamper family through trials and tribulations as a flood destroys their home in the foothills of South Carolina. Woven into this tale of tragedy and redemption is a lovely story between two sisters, Wallis and Laci. Younger Wallis is a sturdy sort of girl, very near the opposite of her fey older sister, Laci, lithe and lovely but autistic. Laci is a music savant who does not speak, and Wallis has assisted in Laci’s care her entire life.

When a young man, Clayton, appears on the scene and earns Wallis’s regard, the relationship between the sisters is tested and changed as Clayton pays more attention to Laci over Wallis.

The Road to Bittersweet is a lyrically emotional journey and a beautiful coming of age tale of faith and family. Donna Everhart is off to a wonderful start in her literary career, and I look forward too many more wonderful journeys with her work.

Books, Literature, Pets, Writing

Week 12 2016 – The Last Good Bye

HeavenlySkiesI can picture Hell. It’s all too easy these days. Just turn on the news.  A place without love, without compassion, full of selfishness, ignorance, oppression, totalitarianism, and violence. Hell is nothing more than the absence of God, although there are plenty of false gods and theocracies formed to keep the drivel in line.  There are no miracles, no magic, no dragons, demons, or ghosts,  and no happy endings. Everything can be explained. It is all terribly shallow and mundane. Imagine a life occupied by only the most base of human experience. There is no need for fire and brimstone. While humans suck at power to do any good, we are quite adept at making our own little Hell dimensions, especially if we are given any power.

There is pleasure in Hell, fame and riches, envy and lust, but it is all empty, meaningless and always surrounded by horrors.  Hell lacks subtly and is so prevalent in its creeping tendrils in our world, we scarcely notice it. And we certainly do not dare call it by its name.  We live in a fallen world where glimpses of Heaven are fleeting.

Heaven is found only in moments of pure joy, unconditional love, and painfully beautiful visions that take our breath away, a sunset here and a clear blue ocean there. It is quiet, always there just in your grasp, not on the other side of the clouds, but rather on the other side of your life. In my belief, a man of love was nailed to a tree for our crimes so that everyone of us might conquer death and gain Heaven. This man descended into Hell, rose again on the third day so that all of us might one day dwell eternally in a place that is filled with love so bright that even the most glorious of poets could never describe it.

J.R.R. Tolkien gave a wondrous description at the end of Return of the King which comes pretty close to my meager imaginings of what paradise might be like.

“And the ship went out into the High Sea and passed on into the West, until at last on a night of rain Frodo smelled a sweet fragrance on the air and heard the sound of singing that came over the water. And then it seemed to him that as in his dream in the house of Bombadil, the gray rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a far green country under a swift sunrise.”

AuntBarbara

I like to think that my Aunt Barbara is there in that far green country reunited with her beloved horse, Annie, both young and whole again.

 

This week we said our last goodbyes, and though I will miss Aunt Barbara from this day until that day, I do believe we will meet again. I might go fishing with my granddad first, my dad (if he beats me there), and my old Springer Spaniel, Winston. That dog loved to jump in the lake, especially when a fat brim began to nibble on my line.

So Aunt Barbara and her horses may have to wait. I am sure she won’t mind as there will time for everything and everyone. For now, I will try my best to fight the good fight, live my life as full as I can until the good Lord calls me home at last.  At least, I will write more whatever comes along.

Pets, Poetry, Reading, Writing

Week 8 2016- The Desiderata

My grandmother used to ask what I would like of hers after she died. She was determined to leave each of her grandchildren something to remember her by so she was always asking from even my earliest childhood. I wanted something impossible.

I wanted perfect spring days and our talks on her screened in porch over iced tea as we watched the birds flitting about the fountain in the garden, petted her dogs (there were never fewer than three) laying at our feet, and the occasional graces of the cats wandering in and out to see if there was a bird or a lizard they might be able to catch.

I have come to believe that porch exists in my heaven, and it’s always a fine spring day with birds chirping about and cats hoping for prey while dogs are cradled at my grandmother’s feet. She is young once more, and she always has fine company and new stories to tell. One day I will visit her there again.

As the mysteries of the afterlife were not on the table as things my grandmother might leave me, I asked for the framed poem that hung outside her bedroom. I remember reading it the first time. The peace that came over me was mystical. I asked her about it, and she told me of a trip she took to Baltimore ages before. She liked the poem and purchased it from the gift shop of some ancient, historical church. Whether or not the words of this poem had the same profound effect on her as it did on me, I do not know. Perhaps, she never needed these words and they were already part of her soul.

My grandmother left this world four years ago.  The poem, still in its original frame, dingy with age, now sits above my writing desk. When the world tosses and turns me in its fury, these words restore me and calm me.  This is what keeps me going until I find those perfect spring afternoons with my kindly grandmother in the fullness of eternity.

This week started stormy in my head, full of worry and doubt, and ended with me returning to the peace I find in these words.

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.

Books, Cafe, Literature, Pets, Publishing, Reading, Writing

Week 7 2016 – The Slush Pile Cafe

SlushPileSo I am opening a café. It’s virtual because my funding for it at this time is virtual (non-existent). It is a café for writers at all stages of their career, and those who help us, delight us, improve us all the while tormenting us (beta-readers, editors, agents, cover artists, marketers, publicists, book critics, and fans.).

After a writer completes a book, most of us would like there to be readers. Lots of them.  This involves a great deal of waiting, and usually that waiting is done at the bottom of a slush pile. This idea came to me when reading this post by Janet Reid about an agented author waiting to hear about her second novel placed with that agent. I just want to hear about my first novel,and realized I am way on the bottom of several slush piles. Hence, I give you the Slush Pile Café.

The Slush Pile Café

SlushCafeFloorPlanImagine a 4-story circular building that opens into a lovely outdoor café and garden at its center. Think miniature pentagon. There is free WiFi (naturally), and it is pet friendly. Writers get awfully attached to their animals.

IMG_0299Note: If you have a horse or a dragon, please call ahead. We can only stable so many horses, and we can only provide so many treasure hordes for dragons. And some people become unglued when they see a dragon outside the pages of books.  Most writers are totally fine with them. The café is divided into several distinct areas to accommodate the entire writing process (from start to fans).

The Query Trenches

SlushMenuThis part of the Slush Pile Café is for writer’s who are deep in the Query trenches or trying to finish their book. The Query Trenches is located next to the coffee and bakery station. If you wish, there is an app available inside the trenches that will hit refresh on your email every two seconds and alert you when an agent or editor has made some reply to your query or request. After 90 days, it will send a gentle follow-up to non-responding agents. If the agent is one of those Normans (No Response Means No), it will pipe sappy love songs from the 70’s elevator music into their office.

The Plot Thickens Craft Bar

IMG_0152In the basement of the café is a craft beer and whiskey bar. This is primarily for writer’s with works in progress. This area seeks to satisfy the writer’s needs so they can keep editing and writing. The beer, various bar classics, and generous offering of typical pub fare should keep them calm or at least inspired until they pass out and dream up that next plot twist. *NOTE: Magic mushrooms are available at additional cost.

The Critique Corner

Both the café and the bar cater to this little corner where beta readers and critique groups gather, discuss, and offer feedback to all those works in progress. Agents and editors are welcome here as well.

The Slush Pile Itself

IMG_0160This room is covered with unread pages and manuscripts waiting for review. There are printers and e-readers, and of course, ample numbers of cushy chairs to allow agents and editors to work their way through their individual slush pile. 

A relaxing atmosphere is provided to keep those gatekeepers at peace as they read their way through. For each manuscript reviewed, the café offers one free beverage of the reader’s choice. Each week, The Slush Pile Café will sponsor one agent or editor to answer writer questions for two hours.

This week’s special: Zombie Killer Ale

The Dream Shelf

UnattendedChildrenCurious as to where your book will live on bookstore shelf?  This is the place where anyone can go and do some reading while sipping on Fantasy Mochacinno or Mystery Espresso. There will be displays devoted to writers who have successfully navigated the query trenches and found their way to print. Three times a week, authors will be invited to do book signings and readings of their work. A Slush Pile Café app will be available to mock up a cover for an aspiring author and put it around a standard size debut novel. The author can then put the book where it will one day live on the real world bookshelves just to see what it will look like.

The Board Game Loft

IMG_0452A second bar area will be located upstairs in a two story loft area where writers and readers, agents and editors can unwind with some friendly board game competition. All those hostilities that build up in the glacial process that takes a writer from idea to print, an agent from newly discovered talent to six figure book deal, the editor from the slush pile to the best-seller and movie deal, the reader to the discovery of a new magic in the universe in book form can be distilled in friendly and often humorous competition. Once a year, I will capture (invite) two to three established authors to join us at the Loft for a game of Cards Against Humanity. That will be lots of fun, and we can all learn something from those who have already survived the query trenches and found writer nirvana.

 

I hope to see lots of you at the Slush Pile Café.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Books, Literature, Pets, Writing

Week 5 2016 -Frankie’s Bookshelf

FrankieBookshelfIt’s not been what you would call an organized week. Or life. It’s mostly been like Frankie’s bookshelf. This is the shelf next to the back door with the basket with all of Frankie’s junk; her leash, her collar, her treats, spare toys, and what have you. It’s also one of several bookshelves in the house.

Aside from Frankie’s basket which has earned its place due to convenience, nothing else on my bookshelves are guaranteed their spots. I have never organized books or knick knacks, not by genre, author, or anything else. Not even by series. Books wander about the house freely so they are able to explore various positions on shelves, in the pile next to the bed, in boxes, in bags, in closets, and other dimensions that transect with my living quarters. I really should get more bookshelves.

IMG_0398 I like the chaos. It suits me. Except when I am looking for that one special book and have no idea where it is. That about describes my life. I have all the stuff I need, but it’s never in a place I can find it when I want it. I am pretty sure this is what happened to the pet Scotsman I have always wanted. He ended up on some shelf and I have no idea which one.

I get the feeling my pug knows where any book (or Scotsman) is at any given time, but she’s not going to tell me. In fact, I suspect she takes books out in the night and moves them. She is a very well-read pug. And she definitely does not want to be usurped by a Scotsman so I fear the poor fellow has been sentenced to some parallel universe where we will never meet.

That’s about the story of my week and my life. I seldom get what I want, but I almost always get what I need. Isn’t that the way the song goes?

“You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.”  – The Rolling Stones