Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Bit of Humor

This is another excerpt from my humorous memoir, A Dead Tomato Plant and a Paycheck. This is from the chapter: WHAT’S FOR DINNER? Or, Mutiny of the Midgets. Enjoy....

There are certain words and phrases in the English language, dirty words aside, that are guaranteed to disrupt the otherwise peaceful existence of any mother and drive her to the brink of insanity. Paramount in this area are the words, "What's for dinner'?" 
At our house, this question was always asked at the most inconvenient times – at lunch before I'd even had a chance to mop up the soggy cheerios from breakfast, occasionally during dinner the night before, and once before I'd even had my morning coffee. Approaching me before coffee, by the way, had to be the epitome of curiosity, courage, and stupidity. I barely breathe before my morning caffeine, let alone answer a question, and the kid who was brave enough to tread where no others had ever trod was putting his life in jeopardy.

When the kids came home from school the first words out of their mouths would be, "What's for dinner?"
Every other year I might have gotten a "Hi, Mom" first, but I quickly learned not to let my emotional security hinge on whether or not that happened.

I can remember thinking how simple it would have been had they all waited until everyone was home and sent one delegate to ask the question instead bursting into my office every hour on the hour. Or I could have called a family conference and made a general announcement. Or made a recording and left the tape player handy so all they had to do was push a button to hear what was on the dinner menu.

Sometimes I’d decide it would be a terrific idea for them to be surprised once in a while. But when I suggested that they just wait and see, they’d act like I just invited them to experience Chinese water torture. And maybe it was agony for them not to know. They were pretty good at devising all sorts of sneaking-and-peeking games that usually left me with fallen bread, sticky rice, and an almost uncontrollable urge to scream.

It probably wouldn't have been so bad if I thought they were asking because they really cared about what I'd expended so much time and energy to prepare. But it was terribly deflating to be asked that question for the fifth time in a row and have to hear for the fifth time in a row, "Ugh! I hate stew."

Monday, September 27, 2010


They call it bullying, but it is so much more than that. I'm talking about a current trend of social ostracizing that is at the center of the new film, "Mean Girls."

We had bullies when I was in school, back in the age of the dinosaurs according to my kids who never wanted to have their school experiences compared with mine, but it was never like it is today. We had the playground bully who pushed kids around until someone pushed back. Then they often abandoned their tactics and became more like just one of the kids.

Today, though, there is a real sense of meanness about the bullies that I don't remember from my experience, or the experiences of my children.  It's no longer, "Get out of here, punk. I was here first." Now it's ugly, venomous personal attacks that are relentless in person and online. Now it is malicious attacks that are filmed and aired on YouTube.

What is happening with young people today is just a reflection of the meanness that seems to permeate the very air we breathe. We see it in politics. Oh, how we see it in politics. We see it in business, in sports, in social events and entertainment.

Is it any wonder that kids think it is okay to act the way they do?

In a recent commentary in Parade Magazine, Harlan Coben wrote about the cliques and social posturing in high school. He wrote, "Competition is a part of life. But I wish that we hadn't wasted so much time and energy worrying and belittling and keeping score."

What Coben was referring to was mild compared to what is in the movie, Mean Girls, but he offered a thought that applies in both cases. "No one has to fail so that I can succeed.  In fact, maybe it is just the opposite. Maybe we are all on the same boat, and maybe we rise and sink as one."

What has your experience been with bullies and/or cliques? What was your response?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Book Review - Vermilion Drift By William Kent Krueger

Thanks to Carl Brookins for sharing this review.

Vermilion Drift
By William Kent Krueger
ISBN: 9781439153840
Hard Cover from Atria,
2010, 305 pages

Authors of crime fiction, like authors working in any other genre, often use their talents to work through personal issues, sometimes intensely private issues. Although it is not entirely clear, the writer may be working
through some family issues with this novel.  Does that matter?

Perhaps. That depends on the result. In this case, the author, possessed of well-honed, significant writing talent, has produced a novel of finely wrought proportions, multi-layered with considerable depth. By that I mean that the characters demonstrate multiple levels of engagement, and the story itself works on more than one level. Almost every character who appears in the book is involved in the story in more than one way.  Some of their levels are casual or socially related, such as what may be routinely expected of law officers in Tamarack County, the Northern Minnesota location of this novel. Other characters like Henry Meloux and other Native Americans all have, at different times, visceral involvement in the story.

The problem, if there is one, is that this story is much more a novel of family and community relationships than it is a novel of suspense, or crime, horrific and awful though the crimes were. Death is always the ultimate
judge, from whom there is no appeal.

So, in my view, the problem is one of balance, or perhaps of categorization. The involvement of Cork O'Connor, now a private investigator, alone in  Aurora, is mostly one of self-examination.  The novel is one of Cork's journey of discovery.  What was the meaning of his occasional nightmares? What were the issues that consumed and separated the O'Connor family in those last fateful months of his father's life?

The novel begins with Cork once again at odds with his Ojibwe heritage.  His mother, remember, was a member of the tribe.  He's hired by the owners of the Vermilion One and Ladyslipper mines to deal with threats against the mine.  But then he's also tasked to try to locate a missing woman, sister of the mine owner.  Lauren Cavanaugh has gone missing.  Finding the missing woman opens a window on old unsolved crimes from a previous generation, from a time when Cork's father was the sheriff of Tamarack County.

Sorting through old albums, records and memories, fresh and repressed, takes up the body of the novel As with all of this author's previous novels, the explanation is logical, satisfying and meaningful.  Krueger is always skillful in evoking the landscape, not just its physical self, but its atmosphere, its mystical presence and its influences on the people who reside there.

In the end, this thoughtful exploration of law, truth and justice and their profound influences on all of us is a highly successful emotionally moving effort.

Carl Brookins,
Case of the Greedy Lawyer, Devils Island,
Bloody Halls, more at Kindle & Smashwords!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Friday's Odds and Ends

A Frenchman whose arms and legs were amputated swam across the English Channel. Philippe Croizon used specially designed leg prostheses that have flippers attached, and made the swim in just over 13 hours.

Wow, talk about overcoming life's adversities.

A 14-year old high school student in Raleigh N.C. said her school should not have kicked her out because of a a nose piercing. She claimed First Amendment rights, "I belong to the Church of body Modification."

The church of what????  Let's see the ACLU get involved in this one.

The Obama administration's call for tighter federal oversight of oil and gas pipelines in the wake of a deadly California gas explosion is raising alarms about the safety of the nation's aging infrastructure — but Congress is unlikely to act this year with midterm elections looming.

 So, politics is more important than national safety?

Republican House Candidate Renee Ellmers of North Carolina has an ad running that calls a controversial mosque and Islamic cultural center near ground zero a "victory mosque." "After the Muslims conquered Jerusalem and Cordoba and Constantinople, they built victory mosques," the narrator in the ad says. "And now, they want to build a mosque by ground zero." 

Way to promote peace and understanding there Renee.

Kansas District Court Judge Wesley E. Brown is 103 years old. He is the oldest sitting judge in the U.S. In a recent interview he joked, "At this age, I'm not even buying green bananas."

Also wanted to note that I have an interview up on David Wisehart's terrific blog where he interviews Kindle Authors. If you have never visited his blog, this is a good opportunity. He has interviews with some terrific writers,  and I am so honored to be among them.  HERE IS  A LINK 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Homespun Philosophy and Fans

A long time ago when asked in an interview why I want to be a writer I voiced grand and noble ideals about the power of the written word to impact society. "If the words I write," my answer continued, "can make just one person laugh or cry, think or question, then I will have accomplished something significant."

Well, I must admit the basic dishonesty of that answer. Yes indeed, I've always wanted to stir emotions and challenge minds.  But of just one person? Let's be real here, Will Rogers did not attain national prominence with an audience of one.

I've always liked Will Rogers, and coming from a long line of homespun philosophers myself, I've felt a kinship with his ability to bring a a down-home, simplistic approach to complex issues. When I first started writing a personal column for a Dallas newspaper I thought if I really tried I could develop that same style and speak out as a modern-day version of that great sage.

Pretty nervy of me, huh?

Now in my more mature years, I can chuckle at the brashness and idealism of that youthful vision. Maybe I had more nerve than good sense back then, and sometimes I wonder if I still have that disparity.

While I never gained national prominence with that column, I did touch a few minds and hearts, and that was a source of great satisfaction. Not too long ago I ran across a  letter I received from a reader. The letter started "This is a fan letter," and was signed. "Your friend, Charlie." I never got to meet Charlie, even though he continued to send me letters over a period of several years, but his gesture early in my writing career meant a lot.

It still does, these many years later. It was my very first fan letter.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Anger - Not Always a Bad Thing

I was sorting through some handouts yesterday from grief workshops I used to conduct in my role as a hospital chaplain. Several about anger were clipped together, and when I glanced through them I realized that I have always had a problem around anger. Probably because I grew up in a family that had no clue about the healthy ways to express that particular emotion. Anger tended to erupt like some dormant volcano, and I would run to avoid the flow of lava.

It took me a long time to realize how much that instinct to run away from anger and confrontation affected my writing. I could be working on a scene that had some major conflict between two characters, and I would quickly insert reason and bring the level of conflict down.

This was pointed out to me by Stephen Marro, a producer/director in New York that I worked with for a while doing script editing and doctoring. We also wrote a few scripts together. He would come up with the ideas and the basic story beats, and I was to flesh them out. He read one of my scenes and then asked, "Where's the beef, Maryann? These people are talking this conflict to death."

So, much like I had to force myself to allow my characters to use colorful language (see my post at The Blood Red Pencil) I had to force myself to let my characters get really angry and ratchet up the conflict.

What about you? Are there emotions that you struggle with in your writing? How hard is it for you to separate yourself from your characters?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Book Review - In Dog We Trust by Neil S. Plakcy

 Thanks again to Carl Brookins for sharing another book review here....

In Dog We Trust
Neil S. Plakcy
ISBN: 2940000889596
Ebook available from Amazon, Smashwords, B&N.

Steve Levitan is a convicted felon. Through a lapse in internal discipline, he did a little computer hacking and ended up in prison.  Released on parole, he returns to his home, Bucks county, Pennsylvania, where he obtains a position as a part time faculty, teaching English at a local college.

His marriage fell apart, which is another factor setting up everything that follows, murder, car chases, odd and interesting characters, such as a sort of hard guy named Santiago, Steve's parole officer, and a couple of cops, one of whom is a long-time school buddy of Steve.

Then there is the dog. Who names their dog Rochester? The dog belonged to a dead woman, and dog and Steve bond almost immediately, although both seem to have serious issues with authority.

Without revealing too much, this is a very "now" detective novel, delving into computer and other crime. How closely do you reads your credit card statements? The novel  is well written, smooth and interesting. It's always good when a crime novel teaches or reminds readers of information they should know. This story does that, without preaching or lapsing into lecturing. The classroom scenes and internal dialogues regarding student
attitudes are authentic. For anyone who enjoys a jaundiced look at small college academic life, this novel is a pleasure to read on that level.

Everything about this novel smacks of a professional, polished approach. The writing is smooth, the characters well developed, and they stay in character. The plot has been carefully laid out and proceeds at a good pace. It's conclusion is satisfying.

Then there's the dog, Rochester. Dog lovers will be pleased to know that the author refrains from
anthropomorphizing the dog. Undeniably talented, Rochester is helpful throughout the novel, but only in naturally occurring, that is, doggy ways.

In Dog We Trust is a completely enjoyable way to spend a  reading afternoon.


Carl Brookins,
Case of the Greedy Lawyer, Devils Island,
Bloody Halls, more at Kindle & Smashwords!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday's Odds and Ends

First off today is a wonderful bit of wisdom regarding the debate about the mosque and Ground Zero. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who would be the spiritual leader of the mosque, was recently  quoted as saying the clash is not between Christians and Muslims. "The real battle that we must wage together today is not between Muslims and non-Muslims. It is between moderates of all the faith traditions. We must not let the extremists, whatever their faith, whatever their political persuasion, hijack the discourse...."


I'm a Plugger. I have no idea who this Lady Gaga is and what is the deal about the meat dress?

AWARD - Carol Kilgore from Under the Tiki Hut presented me with the Versatile Blogger Award.  It is quite an honor to receive this award and according to the rules I am supposed to tell seven things about me and then pass the award on. Carol, who shares my inclination to be a rule-breaker, decided to share seven things about her writing. She also gave us permission to mix-up the rules any way we want, so I am going to share some things about my cats. I might get to seven and I might not.
       1. Little John, who is definitely not so little anymore, thinks he is king. The rest of the cats defer to him, so maybe he is right.
       2. Shadow, new kitty on the block, has given up on trying to make friends with the other cats and plays with the dog.
       3. Orca is a pig. He sits like a vulture while the other cats are eating, just waiting for the leftovers.
       4. Orca is also a great hunter. The other day he got that gopher that was tearing up my pasture.
       5. We only have one cat that we got on purpose.
       6. Misty, the matriarch of the herd - is that the proper term? - tolerates the other cats, but really wishes she lived alone.

Now I will pass this on to a few of my blogger friends. Tracy Farr at I'm Just a Guy  because I think he will have the most fun with breaking the rules. Mary at Giggles and Guns because she, too, will have a twist on the rules. Don't you just love the name of her blog? A new blogger friend, Alex, at Breakfast Every Hour . You can really tell I like blogs with unusual names.

Lastly, I am a guest today at Elaine Cantrell's Blog  where I am interviewed by the central character in my upcoming release, Open Season. Since Robin Spano and I are still debating whose idea this type of interview was, I am going on record as saying I did this one for Elaine looonnngggg before Robin did hers. Just sayin...
Elaine's blog has lots of links to interesting sites and articles about the publishing business and is a nice place to visit.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Not your Normal Interview

Robin Spano's first book, Dead Politician Society, was  released  Sept. 1 in hardcover   from ECW Press. She has been visiting blogs recently to introduce people to her work and today let her central character ask her a few questions. Enjoy....

Clare Vengel: Why would you want to write books all day? Don’t you get bored?

Robin Spano: Are you kidding? I love writing. Sometimes it frustrates me and I want to scream, but I’m almost never bored.

Clare: I’d go mental. I’d rather be out in the world doing things. Want a cigarette?

Robin: I’d love one. But I quit years ago.

Clare: At least have a beer.

Robin:  Gladly.

Clare:  So…you ride a motorcycle. At least you haven’t given that up in your old age. Do you do your own repairs?

Robin: I wish. I tried to at first. But I’m a lousy mechanic.

Clare: You need focus to be a mechanic. And you need to groove with your machine.

Robin: Yeah. I can’t do it. I can focus and groove with my writing, though.

Clare: Okay, I kind of get why you wouldn’t be bored. Have you always wanted to be a writer?

Robin : I think so, but I’ve spent most of my life trying to do everything but write.

Clare: Why?

Robin: I think I was afraid of it. Of not succeeding. Then not having the dream anymore.

Clare: That’s stupid.

Robin: I agree.

Clare: How did you get over that?

Robin: It was my husband. He couldn’t understand why I would possibly NOT spend my life doing what I love. His favourite saying is that life is not a dress rehearsal, and one day I understood what he meant.

Clare: Why crime fiction? Is it because you live such a boring life, you need to spice it up with some adventure?

Robin: That’s not it. I used to have a lot of trouble with plot. With a mystery, you’re forced to spend a lot of time crafting the plot. So I couldn’t run away from my main weakness as a writer.

Clare: Okay, that’s boring. I don’t care about writing technicalities. Why did you write about dead politicians? Do you follow politics in real life?

Robin: Politics entertain me. Sometimes I get riled up about an issue, but mostly it just cracks me up how these grown men and woman happily sling mud around while they’re supposed to be making the world a better place.

Clare: Why did you set your book at a university?

Robin: Because it’s such a great age. People in their late teens/early twenties reason like adults but are ruled by their emotions and ideals. They still see a lot of the world in black and white, but they’re starting to understand that gray might have some merit. For the political murders and their motives, I needed a group of intelligent characters at that stage in life.

Clare: So what’s my job?

Robin: You’re undercover as a student. You have to befriend the suspects, try to get into the secret society, and find the killer if you can.

Clare: But I don’t know anything about politics. Or university.

Robin: The politics don’t matter. This is all about the people.

Clare: Will I do a good job?

Robin: You’ll have your moments.

Clare: Will I end up solving the case?

Robin: How would I know? You have to go in and do the best job you can. That’s all we can ever do.

Robin Spano grew up in Toronto, studied physics in New Brunswick, then dropped out to travel North America on her motorcycle. She met her husband, Keith, while working as a waitress, and helped him run his Toronto pool room until they moved to Vancouver. She unwinds by snowboarding, boating, or arguing about politics.

Robin's  Web site 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Guest Blogger Tomorrow

Robin Spano, author of  Dead Politician Society,  will be my guest tomorrow. She will be interviewed by the central character in her book and is a great deal of fun. Stop back by tomorrow if you get a chance.

Robin loves to write crime. She loves the plotting, the pacing, and the character arc of her protagonist. Her first novel, Dead Politician Society, was just released  Sept. 1, 2010.  It is a hardcover release from ECW Press

Here's just a little teaser for her book:

After the mayor falls down dead in the middle of a speech, a clandestine student society claims credit for his demise.

Clare Vengel is given her first undercover assignment: to pose as a student and penetrate the society. A streetwise amateur mechanic, Clare finds university a foreign land, and she has trouble creating an in with the suspects. She quickly alienates a popular professor and loses the respect of police superiors.

When another politician is killed, Clare kicks herself into high gear. She forges friendships with students and makes inroads into the secret society.

As the body count rises, Clare realizes that the murderer she has to unmask is someone she has come to consider a friend. She only hopes that the friend doesn’t unmask her first.

Robin's Web site

Book Trailer

Monday, September 13, 2010

Excerpt From my Humorous Memoir in Progress

 Here's another excerpt from my book, A Dead Tomato Plant and a Paycheck. This is from the chapter titled School Daze; Is There Hooky in Kindergarten. Enjoy...

The beginning of each new school year is always met with varying degrees of eagerness and excitement. There are some kids, like Jason in the comic strip Fox Trot, who live for each school year so they can amaze a whole new set of teachers. Others go begrudgingly because in some respects it is better to have something to do every day than be home with Mom who might find some unsavory job to do, like clean the toilets.

Mother’s are generally thrilled to have the kids gone most of the day, but first there is the mad rush to get them all outfitted with a few new clothes and the 10-page list of school supplies.

One year, a couple of days before school was going to start, I went up to our local grocery-drugs-everything-under-the-sun store to get those school supplies. When I arrived, I discovered that I wasn't the only one who'd waited until the last minute to perform this little task.

The aisles were crammed with shopping carts, harried mothers and a multitude of kids, which created more confusion than in the pits at the Indianapolis Speedway. The mothers wore a grim look of. determination which clearly said, "I can only suffer through this indignity because it is all for a greater good," as they jiggled crying babies, fought their way up and down the aisles, and did their best to ignore the earnest pleas of their kids.

"Oh, Mommy, please! Can't I have this organizer? See it has Star Wars stuff on the front and this neat thing for paper. And I won't ask you for another thing extra, I promise."

"I know it's not on the list, but I really need these felt-tip markers, and the big box of crayons and some of these notebooks."

For the first time in my life I actually had the presence of mind to think ahead and only brought one kid with me on this shopping trip, and he had masking tape over his mouth. So I was in a position to see a little humor in the human drama occurring around me. Although I did have to hurry to cosmetics if I felt a laugh coming on to avoid the risk of being attacked by a horde of irate mothers armed with wooden rulers.

The store clerk probably deserved as much sympathy as the shoppers. He valiantly tried to keep the shelves stocked, answer questions, and help locate vital items. He looked like he'd been through the proverbial wringer, and I wondered whether he would pull his hair and scream if I asked him to help me find the grade two manuscript tablet.

I decided not to take the chance.

To make matters even worse, we all knew that we'd back in a few days to try to exchange the things that shouldn't have been on the list for the things that should have been. None of us was more acutely aware of this than that poor clerk, and I wouldn't be surprised to find out that as soon as he clocked out for the day, he took off for a quick vacation in Siberia.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Book Review- River of the Arms of God by Irene Sandell

 This book was published in 2008, but is still in print.

River of the Arms of God
Irene Sandell
Sunbelt Eakin Press
Trade Paperback – 294 pages
ISBN: 978-1-934645-59-8

River of the Arms of God is a story of two women held against their will in the harsh Texas frontier. Sarah is held by Eli along the Butterfield Stage Line in the mid 1800s, and a hundred years later Kate is the emotional prisoner of a rancher in those same Texas plains. She thought Colby loved her, but he only wanted her to bear him a son. When she failed to provide him one, he lost interest in her.

Against great odds, Sarah manages to survive in the isolated cabin for almost two years and makes a daring escape with her son, Edward. She leaves behind a diary and some stone carvings that Kate eventually finds. Reading about Sarah’s courage gives Kate the courage to demand a divorce.

As the story unfolds, the parallels between the two women become more obvious, as does the emotional connection that Kate makes to Sarah. It is written in a style that captures the look and feel of cattle country in Texas, and the characters are well-drawn and endearing. In introducing Kate, the author explains how she came to call herself that. “The people in Wheeler, Texas, would have been shocked to know that shy Kathryn Rowley had defied her father and chosen her own name. It was her secret and an uncharacteristically rebellious decision on her part. It hinted at strength that even she could not imagine.”

This is an enjoyable tale of two strong women who fight against all odds to escape the tyranny of their men and their circumstances

Ms. Sandell is a retired history teacher and River of the Arms of God is her second novel. In a Fevered Land was published  in 2003, and Ms Sandell was chosen as a highlighted author by Barnes & Noble Booksellers when that book was released. She is a fourth-generation Texan and has written and produced 16 documentaries on Texas history.
FTC Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the author for possible review and did not contain any money to influence my decision to review it. Drat!

Saturday, September 11, 2010


Very few people in the world were not touched by the events of 9/11, some more deeply than others. For those of us in the United States we will probably never forget where we were that morning and what we were doing.

I was getting ready for work, putting the finishing touches on my makeup and about to head out the door when my daughter called to tell me to turn on the television.

At first I wasn't sure what I was seeing and we both watched in horror as the second plane hit. I was stunned. Not even sure I could go to work, but I had to. I was working as a chaplain in a hospital at the time and I thought of all the patients who were feeling the emotional impact of this tragedy on top of the hardships they were already experiencing. If ever they needed a chaplain it was that day.

So I went to work.

There's a great country song by Alan Jackson that seems appropriate for today "Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning?" 

Every time I hear that song I cry a little more.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Friday's Odds and Ends

Recent Headlines:
BP Cites String of Failures
"BP's internal investigation concluded that a series of failures by its own crews and its contractors led to this summers Gulf of Mexico spill."

Right. It had nothing to do with cutbacks and shortcuts to protect the almighty bottom line.

Animal Control Officer Drags Dog With Broken Legs
I'm not even going to publish the story that went with that headline. Suffice it to say, the officer has been suspended.

A Shift in Perspective
A 24-year old man who has been blind since April 2009 has not only learned to deal with the challenges, he has excelled at meeting them. It took him only 3 months to learn independent travel with a cane, and it usually takes a person a full year to master that. He is anxious to complete his training so he can teach mobility skills to other people with vision impairment. He says dealing with blindness just takes "a shift in perspective."

What an inspiration, unlike the following....

The Wealthiest Lawmakers Got Wealthier Last Year Despite Recession
According to an annual survey conducted by The Hill, the top 50 wealthiest lawmakers combined worth increased $85.1 million during 2009, topping out at a total of $1.4 billion. Sen. John Kerry topped the list with a $20 million increase in minimum net worth to a  total of $188.6 million. The lawmakers made millions more dollars while the economy struggled and the nation's unemployment rate hit as high as 10 percent.


Great Comments:
At  meeting to discuss issues surrounding the Trans-Canada pipeline RoseMary Crawford of the Center For Energy Matters said, "If we stand together and tell our stories in a calm and courteous manner, we can impact government policy and procedures."

How refreshing that was to hear someone call for focusing on the issues instead of promoting heated rhetoric that only promotes more heated rhetoric and completely obscures the issue.

At a meeting in Dallas to discuss imposing stricter regulations on the disposal of coal ash, the Dallas Chairman of the Sierra Club suggested that the "Texas Commission on Environmental Quality be renamed the Texas Industrial Permitting Agency."

You've got to love it. It does appear that big business does have too much power on the local, state, and federal level.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Many Forms of Creativity

When you really stop and think about it, you realize   people are often creative in a number of different ways. My friend Lindy Hearne is a singer/songwriter, and he is also an amazing photographer. I tried to snag a copy of one of his pictures from Facebook, but couldn't. If you would like to see a few of his shots, here is a LINK  And if you would like to hear some of the music he creates with his partner, Lynn Adler, here is a LINK to their page on MySpace.

I have another friend who is a writer, Jory Sherman, and he is also a painter. What is the most amazing thing about that is that he is legally blind. Well, so am I in one eye, but he is blind in both. He can see light and dark and make out some large images, but that is all. The work he has turned out on canvas is stunning and he has won awards for that work as well as his writing. Here is a LINK to a story I did about Jory last year. You can see some of his paintings there.

I thought about this cross-over of creativity this morning when I set out on my morning walk. This will now explain the pictures of the buzzards in case you were wondering what on earth they have to do with this topic.

As I was walking, I was checking out the cows and the egrets in the pasture across the road from me when I saw this dead tree full of buzzards. It is a gray, cloudy morning and the silhouette of the birds against the gray sky was captivating. I thought about just walking on by, but couldn't resist the urge to go back and get my camera. 

That urge got me to thinking about this cross-over of creativity and  how people are loaded with it, even if they don't realize it or explore it. Since reading The Artist's Way,  I have been more aware of the forms of creativity I enjoy and am apparently gifted at. At least that's what people tell me.

I don't think I am as gifted as some of my friends, but then I have always had a hard time being my own cheerleader. I do enjoy singing, acting, directing, playing guitar, and I have even done some painting. All of that feeds my creative core, and as I learned from that book and from wise friends, all creativity is connected and feeds each other. So I believe I have become a better writer since allowing myself to enjoy all these other forms of creativity.

What about you? What types of creative endeavors do you enjoy? It doesn't have to be in the arts. Creativity can take many forms.

Monday, September 06, 2010

I'm Not Believing This

I ran across this little news bit this morning and had to shake my head.

"The Gainesville, Florida-based Dove World Outreach Center announced plans to burn copies of the Koran on church grounds to mark the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, but has been denied a permit to set a bonfire. The church, which made headlines last year after distributing T-shirts that said "Islam is of the Devil," has vowed to proceed with the burning."

There are so many things wrong with this, it is hard to know where to start dissecting it. I couldn't help but notice the dichotomy between the name of the church - if we even dare call it that - and the hatred they are promoting. Isn't a dove a sign of peace and love?

No matter what one thinks about the Muslim extremists who were responsible for the horror that was 9/11 and all the other horrors committed before and since, the Koran is a holy book. Dare I even say it is as holy as the Christian Bible and the Jewish Torah?

Yeah, I do dare. There are thousands, maybe millions, of people who practice the religion of Islam who have had nothing to do with terrorism. They revere their holy book and burning it in effigy is a grave insult. It is also stirring the embers of hatred among Muslims.

Today there are protests in Kabul over the plans to burn the Koran, and the protests have been taken to the same extreme as the plan. Protesters are calling for the death of President Obama, somehow believing he is behind the church's plan.

As I think about the ramifications of this, I wonder what the Dove World Outreach Center would think of a group burning a Bible to mark the horror that was the Crusades?

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Book Review - McMansion by Justin Scott

Thanks to Carl Brookins for sharing another book review....

by Justin Scott
Poisoned Pen Press
255 pages, hardcover
ISBN: 1-59058-063-X

Justin Scott has written over a dozen mysteries, thrillers and adventure novels under several names, taut, exemplary stories that illuminate and explore many of our social concerns.  They are good stories, well-written
with drive and panache.  This is another, peopled with interesting characters, a serious underpinning, and enough crime and mystery to satisfy the most enthusiastic crime fiction reader.

Ben Abbott is a sometime private investigator, sometime real estate agent, and a full time commentator on some of the more egregious aspects of our modern society and the influence on small town America.  Abbott is also one of the more pleasant and thoughtful investigators readers are likely to run across in this age.  Abbott is concerned about the effects of aging on his Aunt Constance who lives nearby, he takes in children in need of adult supervision and he worries about unrestrained development of open spaces in the Connecticut town of Newbury where he lives.  That last concern forms the core of this interesting novel about crooked developers, and a badly twisted legal system.

One of the worst developers, a Billy Tiller, possessed mostly of terrible taste, monumental greed and a willingness to break the law anytime he thought there was profit in it, gets his come-uppance when somebody drives a bulldozer over him at a construction site.  The perpetrator, a young member of ELF, is discovered by the local troopers sitting at the controls of the offending 'dozer with the crushed body of Billy Tiller underneath.  Open and shut, but Abbott, retained by the boy's lawyer, doesn't believe it.  His pursuit of the truth leads him into some interesting and stressful situations.

Carl Brookins,
Case of the Greedy Lawyer, Devils Island,
Bloody Halls, more at Kindle & Smashwords!

Friday, September 03, 2010

Friday's Odds and Ends

What is it with some people and their attitude toward kids? In one week's news in Dallas there was a story about a woman who killed her boyfriend's son by setting his bed on fire. The father woke up, but was unable to save the boy. 

Another story was about a mother who bit her five-week-old baby all over his body. There were also other signs of abuse, and she told doctors that she did it because she didn't want the child.

What's happened to maternal instincts?

"Ecologically it's not responsible & maybe ethically it is not a good idea either." Franklin Percival, wildlife biologist for the U.S. Geological Survery questioning the wisdom of flushing pet alligators down the toilet when they get too big.

"What the heck?" Maryann Miller questioning the wisdom of folks who have alligators for pets.

Another oil rig blew up in the Gulf of Mexico yesterday. Do we need to take a serious look at the safety of off-shore drilling?

And ending on a lighter note. I love to read the comics in the newspapers. One of my favorite strips is Pickles and a recent strip had Opal and a friend at the beauty shop sitting under a hair dryer. Opal is reading a magazine and says, "I'm feeling more irrelevant all the time."


"Every time I read a People Magazine it seems like there are more celebrities I've never heard of."

I'm not so sure I want to admit to how much I can relate to that.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Aid to North Korea?

A recent news story I read said that the United Nations is planning to spend more than $290 million on a number of aid programs in North Korea. Apparently this is part of some negotiating tactic to get the country to accept oversight conditions from the countries that will donate to the cause.

According to the news story:  "The U.N. plans demonstrate the determination of the world organization and its most influential backers -- notably, the U.S. government, which is the biggest single financial supporter of most U.N. aid and development organizations -- to keep dangling carrots of assistance before the North Korean regime."

At t least a dozen U.N. agencies hope to be involved over the next five years in North Korea’s national welfare, in areas ranging from health care and education to sanitation and civil service training. Exactly what that involvement would be was a little vague, as there were no details given of specific programs planned to address  these areas.

I guess the reason I've never gone into diplomatic service is that I don't understand why the U.N. and the U.S. would invest that kind of money into a plan that has no guarantee of success. Even if Kim Jong II accepts the oversight conditions, there is no guarantee that his son, who will probably take over leadership in the near future, will abide by the deal.

That's an awful lot of money to risk on what could be a roll of the dice. And I'm sure there are a lot of hungry people in Africa, Pakistan, and a lot of other places who would like a piece of this  290 million-dollar pie.

For more about the proposed aid CLICK HERE

By the way, the real reason I haven't gone into diplomatic service is because nobody asked me. But I think I could do a bang up job and I wouldn't waste a lot of money doing it.