September

September 21, 2015 at 8:46 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

September, when you’re a stay at home mom, is an easy going month.  It’s when the weather cools to the point that you spend every waking moment outdoors soaking up sunshine in a relaxed state.  It’s when you read and collect your thoughts and make plans for your “school year” while all the other moms are scrambling.  It’s always my favorite part.

But I’m not a stay at home mom for September this year.  So I’m scrambling with the rest of y’all.  Instead of basking in the stay at home mom/professional writer glory that I’ve enjoyed (don’t get me wrong, it’s work, but it’s my favorite kind of work… so I’m saving that discussion for another post), I’m back in the store full time AND keeping up my professional writer work AND homeschooling my kiddo.  But at least homeschooling a preschooler involves mountainous amounts of play time and audio books.  So while she buries herself in legos, I’m taking advantage of one last chance to make our family debt free and figure out our lives…

Of course, that simply means I’ve been posting less, not that I haven’t been reading.  So here’s to September, all in one post.

It’s Abo51SHSApT9nL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_ut Time – Liz Evers

This is a fun history of clocks and time keeping.  I enjoyed it quite a bit, after checking it out from the library, and read it fairly quickly.  It’s a good one to add to the homeschooling reference books for a middle grade student, I think.  Evers writes on the level of Dava Sobel in both content and vocabulary.  Worth owning if you have kids.

The Secrets of Droon – Abbott

Between what we can findcvr in audio at the library and me filling in with my vocal performances where the library is lacking, we have been binge reading The Secrets of Droon.  It’s fun adventure like the Magic Tree House series without the educational twist.  Me? I’m partial to the educational twist.  Kiddo? She’s digging reading a fantasy story where someone isn’t sneaking a lesson in on her.  I think magic carpet rides void of research material on Mummies is refreshing after all the information she gets plugged with.  As much as we moms love to douse our kids with education, it’s good to remember that sometimes they just want some brain candy, and that’s ok.

UnknownBetter With You Here – Zepeda

This is not my typical reading cup of tea.  But I read it because it had tea cups on the front cover. Ha! The marketing gives you a sense that the book will be a cozy one about friends partaking of scones and quiche while they solve their problems over southern tea – but the reality is that it’s about some pretty real and raw struggles of single moms in the ghetto of Dallas who can’t take time for tea if their life depended on it.  Despite the conflict between the marketing and the story, I had a hard time putting the book down.  Zepeda nailed my old neighborhood (which I didn’t know I’d be reading about until a chapter or so in, it was not included on the back jacket and had no bearing on me picking up the book in the first place).  Oak Cliff, when I lived there, was exactly how she described it – and she did a lovely job of describing it by describing the people rather than the streets and buildings.  Although I’m on the fence as to whether I should keep this book or donate it to the library, I am not on the fence about whether or not to read more of the author’s work in the future – I’d definitely read something by her again.

218202Rain – Kirsty Guns

This is a short novel that I read in a series of lunch breaks at work.  It’s one of those pieces you’re not sure whether it’s meant to be for teens or grown ups until you read the first chapter and then you’re sure – it’s for people.  I will always house Gunn in the adult literature section, if I have a say, but I would certainly hand her work to high school students as well.  She reminds me of Frascoise Sagan in the Bonjour Tristesse sense, except there’s far more true sadness in Rain than Sagan ever touched on.

sackett_9780553276848Sackett – Louis L’amour

I’ve officially begun a kick.  I want to write at least one western under the name of one of my characters from my Bookshop Hotel series, but to do that I decided I must actually read a few.  I grew up watching westerns with my dad, most of which were based on books, but I hadn’t actually picked up a western to read until I read The Quick and the Dead last month.  I have to say, I’m kind of in love and hope to read at least one western a month till the day I die.  They’re so calming and quick, and I find the men that star in them familiar and pleasant to be around.

Transcendental Wild Oats – Louisa May Alcott51fKrdzHatL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

Anyone who loves Louisa May Alcott or the transcendentalist movement, will find this an interesting read. It was originally published in 1873 as a bit of satire to illustrate Bronson Alcott’s utopian dream commune (that quickly failed).  I can’t help but snicker at descriptions like the one for Miss Jane Gage who “was a stout lady of mature years, sentimental, amiable, and lazy.  She wrote verses copiously, and had vague yearnings and grasping after the unknown, which led her to believe herself fitted for a higher sphere than any she had yet adorned.”  How many times have you found yourself face to face with a Jane Gage in your life?  Daily! Haha.  Daily.

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Tidbits from Miss Golightly Make a Come Back…

May 1, 2015 at 3:36 am (Guest Blogger) (, , , , , , , )

“In a small square on the left bank of the Seine, the door to a green-fronted bookshop beckoned…”

Another swell recommendation from Andi Kay and Emily. Sally likes it too, y’all.

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February Reads

March 5, 2015 at 6:32 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

One of my literary counterparts, Neon Gods, posted a “February Reads” article.  In general, she’s more organized, I think, in her reading ventures.  We’ve kept track of each other’s reading habits for years, having met on Shelfari about 5 or 6 years ago.  Despite my aversion to meeting people on the internet, she has been a pretty stellar internet friend.  I’ve never met her in person, and yet she has influenced me – my reading life, atlas – greatly.

My reviews these last few months have felt less consistent than usual, so  I thought I’d take a page from her book and do a monthly summary.  At least for this last month anyway.

UnknownWe wrapped up January with One Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith. 5962aa9fa44e441668ea01c6c249b2b1 The original, not these new media tie ins you’ll find with the Glenn Close movie cover on them.  For once I can actually say, No, it’s not the same book!  Typically you can tell book buyers that it was just a marketing tactic.  They put a movie cover on an old manuscript and sold the same book again.  That is not the case with One Hundred and One Dalmatians.  Pay attention when you purchase.   Also… now that we’ve read the original, I’ve discovered that there was a sequel.  Of course, now me must find it and read it too.  (Until then, we are tackling The Wind in the Willows as our evening family chapter book.)

As previously mentioned, I read Guide to Wild Foods & Useful Plants by Nyerges.  But I also read through A Game of Thrones last month. (And caught up on the tv show.)  There’s a reason the masses are in love with George R.R. Martin’s world.  It’s impressive.  It’s grossly human.  It’s epic fantasy.  The prude in me would like a little less nudity and sex out of the show – the books are far less detailed in that regard – but from a cinematic point of view, I’m blown away.  The sets, the actors, the crew, everyone just seems to have nailed the feel for the world.  Clearly, I’m very late to this party – as usual – but I love it.  Obviously, it brought a whole new appreciation to this moment from Comicpalooza in 2013:

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Yes, that would be me, braiding the hair of the Father of Dragons. I knew what I was doing, knew what we were emulating, but I didn’t really have a full appreciation for it all until now.

Then, I kind of went all self improvement in my reading.  I read through The Excellent Wife by Martha Peace and The Homeschool Life by Andrea Schwartz.  I don’t particularly care for self-help books, but I do manage to keep them in my life via my “read for every discipline” mentality.  No section of a bookstore is left untouched by the end of the year, if it’s a good year.

I also read through Garden Crafts for Kidsby Diane Rhodes.  Unfortunately, this was a library book and I had to turn it back in, but we’ll be purchasing it as soon as possible, because it’s such a great homesteading resource for a homeschooled kid.  I love it and can’t wait to dive into all the projects with my kiddo.

Finally, I finished The Gardener’s Bed Book by Richard Wright.  I’m not going to touch too heavily on the book here, because honestly, I have far more than an online book review in mind for my experiences while reading it.  My favorite thing about a reader’s life are the books written in response to other books.  They are like love letters through time and space to people you’ll never meet or know, but feel more akin to than any other humans on the planet.  I feel like Melanie Kerr’s Follies Past was her love letter to Jane Austen.  I have projects in mind that will be odes to Madeleine L’Engle and Richard Wright.  They have moved me so completely and become a part of who I am, it’s only right they are responded to with ink and paper.

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Life is Flat

March 3, 2015 at 6:43 am (In So Many Words) (, , )

I officially quit hosting the Half Price Books Humble Book Club tonight.  I was there and no one else was.  Again.  So I’m giving it up.  Along with giving it up, I gave up attempting to read The World Is Flat.  I liked the first chapter – a lot, actually.  And then I couldn’t get into the rest of the book.  It’s old hat.  It’s no longer interesting.  Yet, it’s far too recent to feel like history to me.  Friedman talks about things I remember, but the memory isn’t exciting.  I was bored.

I used to be one of those people that could not stop reading a book I started.  Now, I find I start a lot of books and only finish about half of them.  I’m still reading more books than I did before, I’m just a little less masochistic when it comes to suffering through things I just don’t have time for.  There are too many phenomenal books out there to suffer through ones that either don’t suit my mood at the time or are flat out BAD.  Friedman’s was a little bit of the first part, not really the second part, but a whole lot of just plain boring.

I find I’m bored more often than I’ve ever been before.  The world has always been so intriguing to me that boredom was not much of a problem.  With a TBR pile taller than Goliath and a bucket list a mile long, how could I possibly ever get bored?  Add a kid to the mix, and man, who has time for bored?

But lately, I’m bored.

I simultaneously find myself missing the noise and the quiet.  I’m desperate for a research project alone in a proper library and also nostalgic for downtown dancing of my college years.  I want the glorious silence of noisy strangers in a crowded room.  Except I’m a terrible dancer, I hate crowds, and noise makes me twitchy.  Yet without it, I find myself being that annoying chatty person that doesn’t know what to do with my hands.

You would think that all this internal angst would make for some great writing stints, but I’m not so sure that’s the case. And with my reading enjoyment being on the decline the way it is, it’s hard for creativity to come out when there’s not a lot of it going in.

I’ve been reading gardening books.  Yes, gardening books.  What the heck? Am I 85?  Apparently.

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Books, books, books, more books, and oh! – some books.

October 15, 2014 at 1:50 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , )

I went back to work full time, temporarily, but I’m working 40 hours a week again.  I’m still freelance writing.  I’m still acting as a marketing consultant.  I’m still homeschooling my daughter.  I’m still working on my novels.

I’m also still reading.

I’m a busy sort of gal – I’ll never stop reading.

So on the docket this last week was Stolen by Kelley Armstrong, Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon (gee, you’d think I was a romance reader, which is funny, I never thought I’d join that crowd), and Lies That Make You Pay (a title I reviewed for Money-fax.com).

To be fair, I was pleased that book two in the Otherworld series was far more action oriented than it’s first book Bitten.  The romance and sex scenes took a back burner to the story which made for a much better book.  Having read Stolen, however, I began to be a little irritated Alone from the Girl in the Box series.  Stolen was published first (June 2010) and Alone (December 2013) seems like a bit of a rip off of Kelley Armstrong’s work.  This may be a complete coincidence, but I’ll have to read more of each series to find out.

I’m still enjoying Bill Bryson’s The Mother Tongue and I just started reading Edward Rutherford’s Sarum.  I’ll be sure to post reviews when I’m finished, but sneak peek review for Bryson: he’s marvelous and I adore this book.  I’m taking my time and savoring every glorious word.

I’ve currently completed reading 75 books this year.  I know that not everyone reads that much.  I also know plenty of people who read a lot more than that.  So I nearly choked on a laugh when a lady told me today that she had read too many books to keep track, like 75 books too many.  Ever.  Not this year, not in the last two or three years, but ever.  If you’ve made it to your mid-forties and have only read 75 books ever, I want to know what school you went to and how this travesty happened.  To be honest, however, I think she has read quite a bit more than that, I think people who don’t work in bookstores don’t really have realistic views on book quantities and what that looks like.  75 sounds like a lot to people, until you look at 50,000 – 100,000 every day.

What have you been reading?

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Literacy and Education

October 4, 2014 at 4:31 pm (Education, In So Many Words, Reviews) (, , , , , , )

Every day I read.  And since having a child, every book I read is filtered through a mental checklist of sorts: Would this be useful to Kiddo?  How would I feel about her reading this? What age is this appropriate for? How can we apply tools, principles, morals, themes, etc. that we learn from reading this to our lives?

Does this mean she’s the center of my universe and I do it all for her?  No.  I read for myself.  It might not seem like it when I’m making lessons plans, blogging reviews with Amazon affiliate purchase links (every time YOU buy a book by clicking the link from my site, a portion of that money is used as much needed income – thank you), posting about bookstore events, etc.  But I do so much of it for me it verges on selfishness.  This is my vice, my hobby, my job, my world.  I am a book fiend and somehow I have made that work for me on as many fronts as possible.

But even with all that self-serving book binging going on, determining how my reading material could mold the mind of my child – whether directly or indirectly – is a constant subplot to my life story.

If I weren’t homeschooling, would I have been interested in titles like Why School? If I wasn’t teaching my daughter to read right now, would a book on literacy research been a desirable past time?

I laughed at myself several times this week.  By the time I’m done raising my daughter I could have a PhD in education, going by my thirst for educational theory.  However, it’s not even remotely close to what I desire to earn a PhD in.  Is every parent required to study this hard? No.  Is it necessary to do all this leg work to be a homeschool mom?  Absolutely not.  You are qualified to teach your child just by virtue of being their parent and longing to make a priority of their spiritual, educational, and physical growth, of viewing your parent-child relationship as something worthy of being tackled with excitement and care.  But for those naturally driven to research and reading, for those who have undeniably lofty ideas regarding the swoon of academia, for those who possibly have an unhealthy love for pens and paper, stacks and shelves, mahogany and oak, for those people it’s a little hard not to fall “victim” to the pull of differing philosophies regarding your life choice to teach your child yourself.  (God help me when it comes to instructing her on the laws of grammar as I’ve never quite mastered getting over run on sentences, they are my favorite grammatical mistake.  Those, and sentence fragments, I suppose.)

why schoolWhy School? is a diminutive sized hardback with a picture of an old one room schoolhouse on the front.  Behind the schoolhouse – identical to what I long to build on my future homestead, although much larger I’m sure – is a vast sky of blue inviting you to all the possibilities contemplation and the school of thought might have to offer you.  The book begins with a tale about a janitor who had suffered some brain damaged, but chose to work at a community college to be around “where it happens” and to have access to materials he could study and/or take home to his daughter.  It was a beautiful tale regarding academia and how it is viewed from different sets of eyes.  Most people see it as a mandatory road map in life, one they can’t get out of.  Some see it as a golden ticket to the land of opportunity.  Few actually see it for what it is meant to be: a place to learn.

The author, Mike Rose, talks about many things regarding school and college and life.  He discusses blue collar life vs. white collar life.  He addresses a few political issues, some I agree with and some I don’t.  But one thing is clear: he is passionate about learning.  He is passionate about education.  Rose’s goal is to make others aware of the importance of developing the mind and taking charge of what we put in it, whether it be tools and life skills or book facts.

“We live in a time of much talk about intelligence.  Yet we operate with a fairly restricted notion of what that term means, one identified with the verbal and quantitative measures of the schoolhouse and the IQ test.  As the culture of testing we live in helps define achievement and the goals of schooling, it also has an effect on the way we think about ability.” – pg. 73

I loved that part.  I loved how he addressed the parts of the brain used by those who work with their hands.  My husband works with his hands, he is a millwright.  More than anything, I want to balance my child’s developmental education with things both her parents are passionate about.  I want her to continue to love books, but I want to allow her to be passionate about building things (the girl is a master tower builder when it comes to legos and VHS tapes).  So much creative energy is dismissed when people look at their mechanic or a machinist.  People do not understand how even your diner waitress is the Queen of her domain, has mastered brain patterns you cannot fathom, and has an internal clock and rhythm you could not duplicate without years of practice and training.  I understood this example Rose provided well, having waited tables just long enough to say I learned to do it the best I ever could and could not do it forever.  (I was a good server, well-liked by most my customers, but I was no Wanda.)

lit resI read chapters of Rose’s book in between dives into Adolescent Literacy Research and Practice.  Where Rose is quaint and inspiring, though thoughtful and well-spoken, Adolescent Lit. is all academic essays, lengthy work cited pages, references to studies and schools of thought.  The book is written by public school educators for public school educators, but one would be remiss if they didn’t hear the constant hum of “Homeschooling is the answer” to nearly every issue they address.  The writers would laugh, I think, as there is an entire section dedicated to how people tend to read things and find support for their own arguments and core beliefs even where there may be none.

Timothy and Cynthia Shanahan were the contributors I enjoyed reading the most.  They talked in great detail about what literacy is truly about, what being able to write is for, and how important it is in the education process to not confuse its purpose.  Literacy and developing good writing habits are at the core of understanding any subject – not just literature – but math, science, and history as well.  Writing isn’t merely about communicating what you have learned, but a process of diving deeper into a subject and gleaning a more thorough understanding of it.  Not just about memorizing facts and regurgitating, but thinking about what those facts mean to you and how that may or may not affect your world view.  It is about engaging the brain and coming up with new thoughts about old concepts.  It is about developing theories from research.  It is about invention and progress.  It isn’t just about basic comprehension, it’s about eventual enlightenment on any given subject.

Several essayists in the book discuss the issue of the misconception that writing is only for the literature major and how there is only one way to read.  There is great detail on how the practices for reading a science text cannot be considered the same as those to read classic fiction.  So many do not address this, which is why we have children in our schools reading their chemistry and physics homework, plodding their way through formulas, but they haven’t internalized it.  They only barely understand, it’s passion-less math or vague theories… whereas teaching these same kids how to read their science text (and giving them more than just standard textbooks, but also journals produced by scientists and articles from the professional world) will bridge the gap between the information and the passion to do something with that information.  Not everyone is Einstein, but we are not raising independent thinkers with a drive to feed their brains.  We are raising frustrated honey bees who have been deprived of pollen, and by doing such a thing they become useless drones who produce nothing.

I say this screams “homeschool is the solution” to me because the essence of the discussion in the book is teach a child to read for each appropriate discipline and you give them the world.  You teach them how to teach themselves.  You teach them how to use their brains and be studious and good stewards of their minds.  Not for the sake of a grade, not for an award or blessing, but for the act of embracing the knowledge itself.  We are driven by standardized tests – and I get it, how else do you assess where a child is when you must maintain some semblance of order while still addressing the needs of 30 students at a time.  How else do you sort them out and provide the best education possible?  If you can, you teach them at home.  Smaller classrooms, a personal relationship, true observing of where that child is developmentally and how you can aid them on the path to true literacy.  In Texas a homeschool is considered a private school run out of the home.  If there was nothing I liked about Texas (and I love Texas, but if I didn’t), this fact alone would keep me here as long as possible.

There’s also a thing called Unschooling that I’m finding more and more I lean to (I am combining classical education and unschooling education styles in my “private school” that is the Klemm home).  Unschooling is child driven.  You pursue their interests with a passion when they have them.  You learn what you can while they are motivated to learn it.  Every moment is a possible classroom moment.  The other day we researched praying mantises after discovering one in the garden we were weeding.  Kiddo was so excited and immediately went to her bug book and found a picture of one, thrilled to see something in the book that she had just seen in real life.  Well that’s easy when they’re in pre-school, people like to say.  Yes, it is.  But it can continue to be that way as they get older.

“Reading classrooms at the secondary school level typically tend to minimize student choice (Guthrie & Davis, 2003).  However, giving students opportunities to ‘self-rule’ and ‘self-determine’ can make learning more personally meaningful and intrinsically motivating (Deci & Ryan, 1985, Deci, Vallerand, Pelletier, 1991; Ryan & Powelson, 1991).” – pg. 286

What do you think?

 

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Plagiarism

June 10, 2014 at 4:20 pm (The Whim) (, , , , , , , )

Plagiarism sort of fascinates me.  Mostly because I am a reader, I think.  And as a reader I absorb.

I absorb thoughts, ideas, fairy tales, story lines, dialogue… and sometimes when I’m writing I find that I can’t remember if what I’m writing came from a dream I had, a book I read, or a an actual idea that I am actually formulating as my ink pours from my pen.

I am re-reading The Mortal Instruments series, and with a re-read comes more review reading, more research, because I no longer fear a spoiler.  So long after the scandal, I discovered this morning that Cassandra Clare was accused of plagiarism on a fan fiction site for a Harry Potter spin-off series about Draco.  Not only accused, but her account was cancelled because of it.

I’m not defending plagiarism, it’s not ok.  The idea that someone would purposely just copy someone else’s work turns my stomach.

But what if it is purely accidental?

What if you have internalized a work so completely in your youth that as an adult an idea, dialogue, plot points, come to you so wholly formed and you recall that it was inspired by something, but not necessarily who or where the inspiration came from?

I can see that happening to me.  I read so much as a child and I cannot remember it all, but I do have to say that I don’t think a single idea I’ve ever had could actually be attributed to myself.  They aren’t my ideas.  They are the ideas of those who came before me.  They are the ideas that came from authors I loved, and characters who became my friends.

I distinctly remember writing a story once, I was maybe seventeen at the time, and I was so in love with it.  I thought, man, I’m good – this story is fantastic.  I re-read it, I worked on it avidly.  Then I realized, about a month later, that it wasn’t mine.  I was re-writing The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley.  Perhaps slightly in my own words, but the essence of it was entirely hers and I was forced to throw it away.

It was the first time I became doubtful that I would ever publish anything.  Until then, I had been completely convinced that no matter what happened in my life, I would at least become an author in some capacity.  It was in my veins since the first time I picked up a book and could decode the letters that made words and sentences.  I had been writing stories and ‘books’ since I could manage to scrawl out a readable letter with my number two pencil.  But right then, as a teenager, I realized my biggest fear – that perhaps I didn’t have any words of my own.  Perhaps they all came from elsewhere.

That is when I realized what the biggest challenge would be for me to become an author – writing something original.  How do you sort through all that you’ve read, all that you love, and find something that doesn’t already belong to someone in some way?

Because of this, my novella doesn’t have much in the way of plot points.  The characters came to me, yes.  I can write their essence, yes.  But ultimately, I am terrified of plot points.  I feel like they’ve all been written before.  But people, people are always capable of being their own.  Characters are easier to write than plots, because I’m surrounded by characters – they live in my head.  Plots, on the other hand, only live in books that have already been written.  Real life doesn’t seem to consist of plots so I can’t rely on life to deliver inspiration that hasn’t already been had by someone.

Logical fallacies, of course.  But that’s how I feel.

And I can’t help but wonder if Cassandra Clare felt the same way from time to time.

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Anthropology of Reading

April 3, 2014 at 4:59 pm (In So Many Words) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

bookstacksAnthropology
[an-thruh-pol-uh-jee]
noun
1. the science that deals with the origins, physical and cultural development, biological characteristics, and social customs and beliefs of humankind.
2. the study of human beings’ similarity to and divergence from other animals.
3. the science of humans and their works.
4. Also called philosophical anthropology. the study of the nature and essence of humankind.
Origin:
1585–95; anthropo- + -logy

Reading
[ree-ding]
noun
1. the action or practice of a person who reads.
2. Speech. the oral interpretation of written language.
3. the interpretation given in the performance of a dramatic part, musical composition, etc.: an interesting reading of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony.
4. the extent to which a person has read; literary knowledge: a man of wide reading.
5. matter read or for reading: a novel that makes good reading.

 

This is a challenging post, in that I could talk for days and days, possibly write a whole website dedicated to the topic, so I’m going to do my best to remain concise and not chase too many rabbits.

The blogger of So Many Books wrote a post about the Anthropology of Read, which I reblogged (click the link and it will take you there). Follow that post even further and the blogger wrote another on Auden’s Eden Meme. Combining these two posts into one thought, this is my anthropological response concerning my reading habits.

“Though the pleasure which works of art give us must not be confused with other pleasures that we enjoy, it is related to all of them simply by being our pleasure and not someone else’s. All the judgments, aesthetic or moral, that we pass, however objective we try to make them, are in part a rationalization and in part a corrective discipline of our subjective wishes. So long as a man writes poetry or fiction, his dreams of Eden are his own business, but the moment he starts writing literary criticism, honesty demands that he describe it to his readers, so that they may be in the position to judge his judgments.” – from Auden’s “Reading”

So following Auden’s checklist, here is my Eden:

Landscape
Mountains that butt up against a beach, with open fields in between. I like oceans that beat against cliffs, good soil to plant, large trees to climb, and somehow still manage to lay in the sand whenever I want. Take about 10 acres of the Rocky Mountains and stick them in the Florida Keys. If you manage to surround it all with Texas landscape that would be even better. Clearly, it’s a dream world.

Climate
70 year round, I’ll take an occasional hot summer in the 90’s to 100’s. After all, I’m a born and raised Texan.

Ethnic Origin of Inhabitants
I’m a big fan of melting pots.

Language
“English will be the official language but all languages are encouraged (even Elvish and Klingon) and everyone should know more than one.” That’s a direct quote from the So Many Books response to Auden. I see no need to alter that statement in any way.

Weights and Measures
I’m not concerned with this. I’ll let someone who cares decide.

Religion
I’m a Christian hippie. I’ll take Jesus with a side of dirt & trees.

Size of Capital
Small indeed. Close, personal friends. If I want a break from this closeness, I’ll take a vacation out of Eden.

Form of Government
In very small governments, I’m ok with elected monarchies with limited terms. I like to call a spade a spade, and in my research I never see true democracy at work, it’s always bastardized into an oligarchy or some other nonsense.

Sources of Natural Power
Wind, water, solar… the idea that anything was ever anything but amazes me. Wind turbines, watermills, solar panels, this makes sense to me.

Economic Activities
Farming, arts and humanities. Science would remain of the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang variety. I think science is cool, but a lack of tech would be such a nice reprieve from the rest of the world.

Means of Transport
Bicycles, boats, hiking and swimming. Of course, from the mountains to the beach and over some landscape… that requires at least one community zipline.  Also, I love horses and would definitely encourage horseback riding.

Architecture
Self-sustained, energy efficient estates. Design – To each their own.  Although, I see a lot of bungalows, Victorian estates, farmhouses, and hobbit holes.

Domestic Furniture and Equipment
Again, to each their own, but made by hand is a marvelous thing. In the kitchen, all I need is an oven, a French press, and a coffee bean grinder. If someone slipped me a bread machine, though, I wouldn’t complain.

Formal Dress
Simplicity makes me happy. But again, to each their own. If someone likes frills, I have no desire to stop them. There would probably be an abundance of denim and cotton in my Eden though.

Sources of Public Information
Newspapers, journals, and gatherings over food at a meeting house. My population is quite small, remember?

Public Statues
This would be up to the people. I see gnomes and literary-like shrines in public gardens.

Public Entertainment
Choirs, street theatre, and public readings of important books. Book clubs and bands… I come from a Baptist background, so weekly potlucks are sort of a must.

If this is my Eden… If this is end result of my reading… if 30 years of a life devouring books has brought me to this, where did I begin? How did I evolve?

Anthropology… archeology… the two go a bit hand in hand to me. I would like to go back to school and get a Baccalaureate in Anthropology & Archeology. I love that niche of history and science. I always thought the Indiana Joneses of the world were the most amazing. Amelia Peabody… As a child I was riveted by adventures, but was still very much a typical girl – no, correction, a typical tomboy with girlish tendencies.

I read an awful lot of Nancy Drew. I liked historical things like Little Women and Gentle Annie. Jo March, of course, my favorite of the sisters; Gentle Annie was a civil war nurse running out into the battlefield in the face of danger. I was, and still am, fascinated by doers.

Hatshepsut, Nefertiti, and Cleopatra intrigue me, but I have a literary foundation in all things Jane Austen – the fierce butting heads with the feminine.

My reading is much like my real life – a black belt, with hair usually down to her butt, who loves to get her toes done. I look for brave warriors who want to bask in the sun with some flowers. I desire the intelligence to drive to take care of people, protect them both in battle and emotionally by serving them foodstuffs and coffee. Because this is who I am, this is what I look for in my reading – in fiction, in history, in science, in all of it. I try to find people in all the thousands of years of literature, who are (as Anne Shirley would say) kindred spirits.

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Log Off and Smell the Lattes

April 2, 2014 at 9:48 pm (The Whim) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

DSC03062The phrase used to be ‘stop and smell the roses,’ I don’t know that it’s an entirely accurate turn of phrase anymore.

I am a busy lady with lots of activities, but mostly I’m busy on the internet.  I have my personal accounts, and most things started out as hobbies, but somewhere along the way all my hobbies turned into jobs – and most these jobs include manning facebook, twitter, pinterest, and a whole host of other social media.  Not just for me and my writing career, but for my art company, bookstores, and, well, everyone.

Because I do all this from an actual computer, because I don’t have what I call a ‘fancy’ phone or any kind of ‘spectacular device’ (smartphone, ipads, and whatever other twenty-first century gadgets the world has at their fingertips these days), when I go on vacation, or even a business trip, I get a true break from everything.

I had a book signing in Dallas this past weekend.  Which means from the time I got into my car to drive the four hour trek to the time I pulled back into my driveway 72 hours later, I was on internet silence.  No facebook to log into. I didn’t have a chance to or even a reminder to tweet anything.  My blog became an afterthought; and everything of the cyberspace variety went 100% on the back burner so that I could spend all my time with the real world – or ink and paper when I didn’t want to look beyond my nose.

And guess what?

It was marvelous.

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Click the photo to see all the pictures from the HPB Preston Village book signing.

My afternoon at my signing was completely focused on my customers, my business partner, and the beautiful friends that came to visit and support me.  I’ve seen many authors sit behind author tables and have no clue how to interact.  Instead they spend precious moments when they could be chatting with fans, typing on smartphones or figuring out how to take credit cards.  Being able to accept credit cards sure does make things simple for people – but my tech-free weekend kept all transactions cash only, and I have to say, it was nice.

Afterward, a group of us went off to a new restaurant in the Bishop Arts District of Dallas called Smoke.  I highly recommend eating there for anyone who hasn’t tried it.  The food was excellent, the service was great, and the place had a pretty stellar vibe.  (By the way, the creme brule is to die for – and the best part is the candied ginger. )  Part of that vibe, I must say, was enhanced by the fact that we spent little to no time on our phones!

P1010467 Instead, we discussed future events for Aoristos and myself, as well as books (both published and not yet published).  To the right, my lovely friend Miss Golightly is taking a brief gander at the Follies Past by Melanie Ker while we wait for our dinner.  (I’m still reading, but there will be a review posted soon!  Austen fans, stay tuned!)

Time and time again I have gone to dinner with the far less considerate only to sit at a table and watch people facebook and text all their friends who aren’t present.  It’s something I’ve never appreciated.  So, although having  a smart phone would make many of my events have a more solid online presence, I am not inclined to purchase one until I absolutely have to.  I’m less interested in an online presence and more interested in being present.  The online part can happen before and after, in my opinion.

After being stuffed to the gills with the most amazing barbecue I’ve had in a long time, I finished the day at my aunt and uncle’s house.  It’s practically a bed and breakfast it is so cozy and relaxing.  Homemade lattes were made, there was some time in the garden, and then afterward the kiddo and I slept here…

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Clearly, this is after I mussed up the pillows.  P1010517

FYI, there’s a manlier room down the hall…

It was the best sleep I’ve had in a good long while.  Probably helpful that my eyes hadn’t spent any evening time looking at a computer screen.  (Not to mention, I was physically exhausted.)

Bright and early, and well rested, the next morning… I stepped out of my room to something that is nothing short of heaven to my soul:

P1010502Yes, that’s a coffee bar right outside the guest bedroom.  Complete with bottled water for the Keurig, International Delight creamers (in hazelnut and french vanilla), sugar packets, and real mugs!

After helping myself to coffee, I took my journal and Melanie Kerr’s book and headed to the room one door down…

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It was a beautiful morning.  I did what I do every morning, sans computer screen blinking at me.  That lack of a computer screen makes all the difference.  And although computers are useful, and I adore my jobs and the freedom I have to raise my daughter while working mostly from home; once in awhile I need to remember that just because I’m sitting, doesn’t mean I need to be sitting with technology.

Log off… smell the lattes… breathe, relax, enjoy.

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Literary Journal Monday – Mapping My Mind

March 10, 2014 at 10:14 pm (In So Many Words, Reviews, The Whim) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I am not ADD, but my mind is often many places at once. It goes and goes… it races… it is unstoppable.

hungerI’ve been reading Hunger by Michael Grant.  It’s one of my niece’s books – the second in a series she introduced me to.  No, that’s not how I want to start this post – is it?

I was craving a little bit of dystopian society literature after reading Herodotus.  My brain spinning in a circular momentum about democracies, oligarchies, and dictatorships.  Darius and then Xerxes tyrading around ancient lands building the Persian Empire.  A thousand utopian and dystopian variations of all societies throughout history – a million possible outcomes for our modern world – twisting about in my mind.  Conveniently, it was at this moment that a trailer for the movie Divergent came on and I thought, “It’s about time I read Veronica Roth.”

Cue discussion of autism I’ve been having on and off with people since reading Not Even Wrong written by Paul Collins. Collins is an amazing author and obscure historian. Still suffering from story hangovers from Divergent and the movie Tonight You’re Mine (all about instantaneous human connections) – I found myself thinking about my niece’s Gone series.

Set in a town in California, all the kids fifteen and under have been left in a supernatural bubble – all adults over puberty have vanished, leaving kids and babies to fend for themselves and create a new government. Not unlike Lord of the Flies, different factions have formed. One is under the leadership of Sam Temple, another under his half brother Caine (the biblical implications of Caine and Abel not to be lost on readers, of course). Sam and his new girlfriend, Astrid, are two of the oldest left behind. They have formed a parental union for the younger kids, caring for all the helpless, including Astrid’s autistic brother.

Like bumper pool – or pinball, if you missed out on the bumper pool phenomena – the synapses in my brain spark and twitch and leap bringing me back to Paul Collins/Not Even Wrong/ McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern. Then, I find myself thinking, “Goodness, it’s Literary Journal Monday.

tonight you're mineTonight You’re Mine still echoing in my gut (I’m pretty sure I love that movie far more than what is considered healthy or normal), I veer toward the London Magazine when selecting my Literary Journal Monday feature. (Tonight You’re Mine is set in Scotland – not England, but for an American like me, it is the closest I can get in Literary Journals once I mentally cross the pond.)

London Magazine February/March 1981 Vol. 20 Nos. 11 &12

The Private Letters of Tennessee Williams and a piece on Gore Vidal catch my eye. I flip through the first few ads, the table of contents, then stop dead on a heading: FINAL REMINDER.

“If we are to survive the next issue we need 1,000 new subscribers or their equivalent, and we need them immediately […]”

P1010303My reading screeches to a halt and I turn to the shelf. Were there more? Did they have to cancel the magazine? Did they get their 1,000 readers? Ah, sigh, they survived. At least until 1989 where the collection at the bookstore stops. So clearly, they got their 1,000. I wonder who these 1,000 were and if this final reminder is what provoked them to officially subscribe. Or were they friends and family of existing subscribers, terrified their favorite magazine would cease to exist if they didn’t recruit others to love what they loved?

My thoughts have veered so far off track that I forget what I was reading altogether. I flip through the journal in my hand trying to grasp the reason I had sat down to look at this in the first place.

It’s March. St. Patty’s Day is coming up. Irish authors keep popping in and out of my mind. Ireland… Scotland… Tonight You’re Mine… music… poetry… Derek Mahon, an Irish poet’s name blinks at me from the page of the literary journal in my hand. Literary Journal Monday, of course. I read the poem “The Elephants” first. I love elephants. Then my eyes skip over to “April in Moscow” and I read “Spring burst into our houses…” It does, doesn’t it? Just bursts right in and none too soon. At the end of the poems there is an ad for the Poetry Society Bookshop at 21 Earls Court Square in London. I wonder if it is still there.

If they do still exist, I bet they have a copy of Lang Leav’s Love & Misadventure. I’m dying for a copy. Leav has been speaking to my soul lately. Misadventures stuck in the cogs of the mind of a woman turned 30.

A line from Grant’s book swings into full view of my mind’s eye:

“He buried his face in her hair. She could feel his breath on her neck, tickling her ear. She enjoyed the feel of his body against hers. Enjoyed the fact that he needed to hold her. But there was nothing romantic about this embrace.” – pg. 21

There rarely is when a hug is really needed. It’s that moment Leav writes about…

When words run dry,
he does not try,
nor do I.

We are on par.

He just is,
I just am
and we just are.

– Lang Leav

The lack of selfishness between the characters at this point is refreshing in fiction and real life.

In a 2014 American Society of infantile adults who never learned to fend for themselves and work hard without constant praise, we are fascinated by literature and movies where children and teens are forced to grow up overnight and be adults.

It’s sad when the idea of fifteen-year-olds co-leading a community and making wise, unselfish decisions for themselves and each other sounds absurd and fictional. My associative mind leaps back to all the ancient history I’ve been studying, back to the likes of King Tut – pharaoh at age nine – dead by nineteen, married somewhere in between.

We believe in responsible marriages like the Romans, but we chase telepathic connections like the Greeks. What a very convoluted and contradictory way to live – the reality of a dystopian society is that every society is a dystopia – even a society of one. Our minds are everywhere and nowhere. Of course we are in conflict.

I suppose you Literary Journal Monday followers got a little more than you wanted. I bit off more than I could chew today. I attempted to map my own mind and identify all the associations and patterns, leaving myself somewhat exhausted from chasing whimsies.

At least I got to spend a few stolen moments in this room…

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