Write About Dogs

On January 6th, I will have been blogging for a year.  Insane, I know.  I think I have seven followers however, because this is blog number 50,  lack of followers hasn’t stymied my blog vigor.   Well, it’s hardly vigor.  Once a week I sit down at my computer with a blank mind.  I swear, a completely blank mind. Then a crazy idea enters my head and before impulse control can kick in, I’m off and running.  So far, I written about:

to name just a few.

Dogs


However, my most popular blog was Dog Daze which  included this picture of two canines totally unrelated to me which I think demonstrates that if you want readers, write about dogs or at least include the word “dog” in your title along with a picture of some adorable mutt.
On another though similar note:
Because top ten lists are so blasted popular this time of year, I’ve decided to post a list of my top ten blogs for the year 2013 (based on comments received):
  1. Dog Daze – an ode to small town Fourth of Julys 
  2. Cloud Forests and Capybaras – interview with author Cinda MacKinnon (includes a picture of her adorable dog Gaston)

    Baby Gaston (2)

    Gaston

  3. Moby Jan – golfing in the Mayan Jungle
  4. #rukidding – tweeting from gynecological stirrups

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    Sign in OBGYN waiting room

  5. Dem Dam Hippies’ Christmas in Have You Been Saved Missouri – the Hong Kong flu and an ice storm enhance the Xmas experience
  6. Shattered Glass, Shattered Lives – Melody Paris describing her inspiration for the cover of FLIPKA
  7. Black-eyed Susans – memories of a tornado in Michigan
  8. Sigmund Freudicon at Your Service –  the first couple of pages of FLIPKA posted by Twissel’s handler after her breakdown
  9. Release Anxieties – post publication jitters
  10. Man Training 1.0 – Hubby attempts to train squirrels, squirrels instead train man.

    squirrel

    Squirrel trains man

I keep expecting someone to pop up and say “stop this blogging nonsense.  You clearly have nothing to say that makes any sense”  but they haven’t and so I suppose I’ll continue on next year, however, henceforth I’ll include the word “dog” in all my titles.  Then I’ll make it a point to post pictures every doggie and kitty I come across.  prettykitty
Happy New Year, everyone.

Christmas Quiz Answers

Here are the answers to  the previous post (click here to see the questions).

1. Favorite Christmas story openers:

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a.  From “A Christmas Carol,” Charles Dickens – ghosts keep old Scrooge riled up all night long and Christmas morn he awakes jollier than Santa Claus

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b. From “A Christmas Memory” by Truman Capote – a young boy and his elderly cousin make fruitcake and get drunk.

Best metaphors in a Christmas tale:

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They were all from “A Child’s Christmas in Wales,” Dylan Thomas

 Click to hear Dylan Thomas read the poem. I think you’ll agree with me – stunning poetry.

3. Lines in a Christmas story I wish I’d written:

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a. From “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle,” Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – a stolen gem finds its way into a Christmas goose and Sherlock has to figure out how it got there.

b. Truman Capote, A Christmas Memory

c.  Dylan Thomas, A Child’s Christmas in Wales

4. How I feel after last minute X-mas shopping

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a. From “The Gift of the Magi,” by O’Henry – a young couple sacrifice their most precious possessions to make each other happy.

5. Best Endings in a Christmas story

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a. From “The Dead” by James Joyce – a middle age man realizes he doesn’t  really know his wife as all around him family members celebrate a most dysfunctional Feast of Epiphany

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b. From “At Christmas Time” by Anton Chekhov – an insensitive man cares more about his military career than his homesick wife.

c. Truman Capote, A Christmas Memory

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d.  From “A letter from Santa” by Mark Twain – letter from Twain to his ailing daughter.

 The Sobfest was, of course, from Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Match Girl.

If you haven’t read the above masterpieces, I strongly recommend them.  It’s hard to pick a favorite but  “A Christmas Memory” by Truman Capote is my number one.  It’s funny, sad and elegant.

May you all survive the Holiday Season with a smile still in your heart and on your face!

The Ghosts and Sillies of Christmas

Happy Holidays everyone!  I will be mostly
 off-line for the next week 
so I'm leaving you with a post 
from a few years ago! Jan

In my opinion (which you can take or leave) the best Christmas stories don’t include a visit from Jolly Saint Nick.  They are stories you can read any time of year and enjoy.

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Illustration by Lisbeth Zwerger. Extra credit if you can name the story!

Below are quotes from my favorite Christmas stories.  See if you can match each quote to its author:  Dylan Thomas, Truman Capote, James Joyce, Anton Chekhov, Arthur Conan Doyle, Hans Christian Anderson, Charles Dickens or O’Henry. (Hint: many of the quotes come from just one author or rather poet.)

1. Favorite intros:

a. “I have endeavoured in this Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it. “

b. “Imagine a morning in late November. A coming of winter morning more than twenty years ago.”

Magi

Also by Lisbeth Zwerger and in the same book.

2. Favorite Metaphors:

a. “Bells the children heard, were inside them…”

b. “The postman with a rose on his button nose…”

c. “Mittens made for giant sloths…”

d. “Making ghosts with their breath…”

e. “Uncles breathing like dolphins…”

3. Lines/scenes I wish I’d written:

a. ‘”The goose, Mr. ####! The goose, sir!” he gasped.

     “Eh? What of it, then? Has it returned to life and flapped off through the kitchen window?”

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From bing images

b. “Oh my,” she exclaims, “it’s fruitcake weather!”

c. “What would you say if two hippos were coming down the street?”

4. This is the way I feel after last minute X-mas shopping:

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Lisbeth Zwerger

“There was clearly nothing to do but flop down on the shabby little couch and howl. So Della did it. Which instigates the moral reflection that life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating.”

4. Best Endings:

a. “It [the snow] was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.”

b. “And what is in there?” he asked, pointing to a closed door.

Andrei drew himself up at attention, and answered in a loud voice: “The hot douche, your Excellency.”

Freefoto.com

Image from FreeFoto.com

c. “That is why, walking across a school campus on this particular December morning, I keep searching the sky. As if I expected to see, rather like hearts, a lost pair of kites hurrying towards heaven.”

d. “Your loving Santa Claus Whom people sometimes call “The Man in the Moon””

5. Let the sobfest begin! “And the matches gave such a brilliant light that it was brighter than at noon-day: never formerly had the grandmother been so beautiful and so tall. She took the little maiden, on her arm, and both flew in brightness and in joy so high, so very high, and then above was neither cold, nor hunger, nor anxiety–they were with God.”

The answers here.

The Ice Storm Cometh

Part Two (and Conclusion of) Dem Dam Hippies’ Christmas in Have-You-Been-Saved Missouri

icestormThroughout the day winds howled as an ice monster crept over the town, his goal, to flash freeze everything living and lock us all in houses where our illusion of safety would be challenged by falling trees, downed power lines and out-of-control infernos.   Between the ho, ho, ho of jolly Christmas songs, we heard horror story after horror story over the radio, pleas from officials to stay off the roads.

044ba2f4fe013fdd236b3606d515e75fChristmas Eve the Ice Monster still controlled the town. We had no tree, no stockings, no presents.  Family managed to get through on the phone, disappointed we hadn’t gotten the packages they’d sent. But there was no mail delivery service in Greenwood.  Just a tiny one-room post office two blocks away where you went to “call on” your mail and neither Jo or I had had the strength to walk down there. Outside trees bend towards the ground as though begging for mercy.  I watched as Christmas lights on the houses across the road flickered on and off, reflecting in their icy boughs.  They, I knew, were dead.

Christmas morning the sun burned through the ice-encrusted windows and into our shack. The ice acted like a prism, sending all colors of the rainbow magically spinning through the room as the winds outside whispered gently – the ice monster has moved on.

“I’m hungry.” For the first time in days I’d woken with a growling stomach and not a headache.

“Hot damn!  So am I!”  Joellen was already scrounging for something to eat in the kitchen.  “Look what I found! A bran muffin mix and it only needs water.  Good thing cause we bloody well don’t have anything else.” She turned on the water but nothing came out.  “Whelp, no water either! The pipes are frozen!”

Ever inventive she soon had a plan. “I thought we weren’t supposed to drink melted ice.” I said as she melted one of the icicles formerly hanging from the eaves in a pot set on icestorm2the hot plate.

“Why the hell not?”

I had no idea why the hell not and so I just watched as she whipped up the bran muffins.

Then she scoured the barren cabinets for something else to eat.  “Hot cider mix!  I do declare, we’re in for a real feast now.”

I can still remember children shrieking as they slid on sleds down the closed roads, the hot apple cider and bran muffins tasting better than any gourmet meal I’d ever had. Happy to be alive, we danced to Jefferson Airplane:JeffersonAirplaneOne pill makes you larger, the other makes you small, and the one mother gives you doesn’t do anything at all.  Go ask Alice, when she’s ten feet tall!! 

As we danced around the room, townsfolk walking past and hearing the unholy ruckus, shook their heads, “Dem dam hippies sure are crazy.”

Ah yes, no Christmas since as ever been so sweet.

Dem Dam Hippies’ Christmas in Have-You-Been-Saved Missouri

The year the Hong Kong flu swept across America killing scores of people and leaving others begging for death, I was working at the Macy’s department store in downtown Kansas City MO as one of their Christmas Help Squad.  I’d been assigned to a department that sold home goods about which I knew nothing.  If you’ve ever taken a seasonal job trying to sell products you know nothing about then you’ll understand why I spent most of my time in the stock room.  I never got into trouble because it was a well known fact the no one could even find anything in the stock room.th

The store was located in the old city center, not far from the abandoned stockyards and across the frozen river from Kansas City KS. It was a four story brick building with no windows on the upper floors where home goods was located.  I arrived in the dark of morning and left in the dark of night, never seeing the four hours of sunlight for which a midwestern winter is so famous.

Luckily I’d made friends with another member of the Christmas Help Squad – a young African American woman who knew barely more about home goods than me, however, she did know how to navigate her way around KC’s inner city and thus made sure I got on the right bus home.KansasCity

I lived with a friend whose husband made the unfortunate decision to sign up for the National Guard at the start of the Vietnam “engagement.”  First, they were shipped to Missouri and then he was deployed to Japan; however by that time  she’d enrolled in graduate school and couldn’t go with him, leaving her alone and friendless in a small town just south of KC. At that time I was a mess.  My initial post-graduation plan: to meet the Beatles and save the world had ended with me planted face down in a Mennonite cornfield in Indiana.

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The ambulance that took my friends and I to the hospital.

Enough said on that sad chapter. My next plan was to get a job, enroll in college, and finally get my life in order.  So far all was going according to plan.

Joellen

JoEllen

I should point out that Reno Nevada is about as far from Greenwood Missouri as you can imagine.  We’d left the Everything-Goes, Wild, Wild West and were now in the Have-You-Been-Saved Bible Belt. We were known in town as “dem dam hippies.” Dem dam hippies lived in three room shack with little insulation, leaky windows and a wall heater that barely kept the place warm. It had a lean-to shed used to store the car but in order to keep the engine block from freezing, we had to run an extension cord out to a lamp underneath the hood. I slept on a cot next to the wall heater.  Its fire-breathing eyes often gave me nightmares but without it I would have frozen.

Five days before Christmas I started feeling achey at work. The feeling got worse on the long bus ride to the university when I met Jo each night.  The bars, barbecue joints, and old boarding houses along the route were decorated for the season with blinking lights and Santa Clauses but in my worsening condition, santathey looked as sinister as ghouls in a carnival funhouse. I remember seeing my reflection in the window on that dark, cold night.  Instead of eighteen I looked eighty (or as my mother would say “death warmed over”).

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I cried as I waited for Jo outside her class. All around were murals Thomas Hart Benton had painted in his lean years, done, I decided, while he himself was feverish. I had no sick time. I’d be fired. I tried to convince myself that a good night’s sleep was all I needed but deep down I knew I was doomed.

The next morning I was barely able to lift my head from the pillow. I managed to call Macys only to be fired but didn’t care.  I was about to die so what did it matter. Some time during the next three days JoEllen stopped checking on me which meant she’d also been stricken. The phone rang and rang and rang until whoever was on the other end gave up.  The day before Christmas I was finally able to stand for longer than a few minutes without feeling dizzy but as so often happens when you think the worse has come and gone – BINGO – you find out it was only a teaser for the main event.

Click here to read the conclusion The Ice Storm Cometh.

Shattered Glass, Shattered Lives

I’m exhausted.  Two book club meetings, two release parties and a book convention all within the space of two months. And…they’ve all been entirely different experiences.  I never know what people will ask or what interpretations they will have of what I consider a fairly easy to comprehend novel.  The author never knows.

Two things I’ve learned:

  1. My readers are not an easy group to categorize. I thought women of a certain age but at release parties more men comment on the book than women – they loved it.  Who’d have guessed?  Not me.

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    Release Party #2 – Reno Nevada. I was sweating it big time!

  2. Never underestimate the power of a good book cover.  Everyone wanted to know about the cover designers and what inspired them so here goes…
From Melody Paris, book cover designer:
“We are an aunt and niece located in Idaho. [I] am 35 years old and [have] been a professional graphic designer for more than a decade. Kaira is 17 years old, and loves photography. She is headed for Boise State University next Fall where she wants to begin her journey into Theatre and Film as a designer and cinematographer. She is also considering following [me] into the publishing world, at least part time.

FacebookProfileThe inspiration behind the cover came about after a discussion of Fi’s journey. My niece was over and we were discussing the book and how not everything fit for Fi, about like trying to drive down a broken road – a very bumpy journey with the mystery. So, I started out by creating a few designs around the idea of a broken road. I didn’t like my initial designs and that is when my niece Kaira suggested we try broken glass. Originally were were going to shatter the image and have it fragmented on the cover, but we didn’t like how that was coming out. That’s when we left the picture alone and added broken glass to the cover. We loved this cover because it represented both the literal and figurative road that Fi had to travel in this story and how broken she was as a character. Her life kept shattering, changing, and yet she still traveled that road, letting nothing stop her. She walked through the broken glass and was the stronger for it.”