Tag Archives: reading

Rising Ash Hits the Shelves

The book is here!!

Times Square
This has been an especially weird week for a book launch. I had to do some unexpected travel due to some family circumstances, so a whole five days have already passed. But at long last, the paperback copy of Rising Ash is available for purchase.
This project started out about three years ago as a NaNoWriMo project, my second time completing it. I took the manuscript over the following year and re-worked it for release in serial format for release on Kindle. The goal had always been to get it out in paperback, and I’m also toying with the idea of doing an Audiobook version.

Even if you have already read the Kindle versions, you will want to check out the paperback. (Hint: There are a few differences and revisions!) I like to think of it as akin to the Director’s cut of Blade Runner. 😉

But if you haven’t already, go ahead and click right on through and grab your copy today!

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Review of “Girl’s Weekend” by Cara Sue Achterberg

The book Girl’s Weekend, by Cara Sue Achterberg was recently recommended to me through an online book marketing group. It is an honest review in exchange for a free copy. This review also appears on GoodReads and Amazon

This book is a delight!

Three lifelong friends, Meg, Dani, and Charlotte, go away for beach weekend to clear their minds and take a break from the hustle and bustle of being moms and wives. Each of them seeks to find that missing piece of themselves. This book is a wonderful example of female-driven story telling. I could practically hear the sounds of the waves as I read the words.

None of them are fully unhappy in their lives necessarily, perhaps just a little bit unsettled, with the exception of Meg. She had gone through the worst experience of any parent when losing her toddler son two years prior. She has become consumed by her grief but is afraid to acknowledge it. In her attempt to block out the pain she has perhaps grown numb, to her life, to her marriage and most of all to herself. Dani is an artist who has lost her muse. Desperate to reconnect with her creative side she pals up with a local art dealer along the beach hoping to rekindle the passion she once felt. Charlotte feels as if her marriage has gone cold and seeks to find a way to invigorate her restless soul in the worst way possible.

Each of the characters are complex and nuanced. There were times when I disagreed heartily with their actions, just as I would with real life friends. Walking along the journey with each of these women as I read this book was like standing alongside them. Wine, laughter, headaches, heartaches. Things we all can relate to.

Not everything in this book is packaged with a perfect bow and a neat resolution, but that’s how life works sometimes. Achterberg captures with finesse the pressures placed upon women in the modern world. The way the characters express themselves reminds me of the fragility of relationships and the strength of the bonds of friendship. I recommend this book to anyone as a great summer read, but be ready for the twists and turns which only come when traversing the trails of the human heart.

The Duck Stops Here.

Oh, man.

I tried. I mean I really tried to write something topical and tackle this whole Phil Robertson thing… Is it Robertson or Robinson…?

See, I don’t even care enough to Google the name and make sure. It hurts my brain to try and engage those who are defending his words. Sure, he’s allowed to have them and free speech and yadda, yadda, yadda. But he didn’t get arrested so it’s not a breech of the first amendment. There that’s done. Blog post done.

Nope, just kidding.

Then he came out and said that it’s important to marry women young because otherwise they are only after your pocket book or some such. Where are the flocks of supporters for this statement? Oh, he was just kidding you say? Really? Really?!!

Having grown up mostly in the Southern region of the United States and having been female for the whole of that time I can assure you that he was not kidding. What he speaks is representative of a very real and pervasive mindset. I can assume this, even though I don’t know the man, never met him, never care to. I’ve never watched the show nor do I intend to. But I have read time and time again that he is representative of a subset of our society. That part I agree with. I have seen posts on social media that the show represents a family of red necks and therefore we should not be surprised when he says something that a redneck would say. That I can also agree with. It’s all part of the culture. Meh, pay it no mind. Shrug it off. He represents an antiquated viewpoint from a small vestige of our society. Ignore it and it will go away.

That I cannot do.

Because last I checked, rednecks can vote. And this mentality regarding women is dangerous.

I was a sophomore in high school. First period was a study hall class and I spent it in the library. This was back in the day when the last fifteen minutes of first period was devoted to Channel One, a run-by-teens news show with flashy Saved by the Bell looking graphics. I sat behind the check out desk reading a book. Some students were mulling about waiting for Channel One to finish blaring out from the wall mounted televisions. One guy was leaning against the desk near me.

Heavy into my literary high school ennui I muttered under my breath “Uch, Channel One is creepy. It’s too much like 1984,” 

The guy across the desk peered from under his tattered John Deer baseball cap and asked in a thick drawl, “Why, what happened in 1984?”

I glanced disdainfully in his direction. “You know,” I said, “’Big Brother is watching’?”

He shifted slightly. “What’s your brother got to do with it?”

I shook my head. “Nevermind. It’s a book.”

“A book?”

“Yes,” I said “A book. Rectangular thing made of paper… ‘S got words in it…?”

His eyes lit up slightly. He must have recognized something I had said… He smiled, leaned in and said, dripping with gentlemanly charm, “Now what’s a good-looking girl like you doin’ readin’ books?”

True story.

Just as I glanced up at him from the pages of the offending book the bell rang letting out class.

This is the first inkling of a moment when I realized that something may be afoot at the Circle K. I am not in Kansas anymore. All is not quiet on the Western Front. Big Brother really IS watching. From that moment forward I began to become aware of something sinister, a nasty underbelly of expectations regarding my behavior. I traveled along living my life, experiencing joys and pitfalls just like everyone. Reading, learning, living. Then every once in a while someone would look at me and say “You don’t have to act like that you know,”

“Act like what?”

“So independent. Especially now that you have a boyfriend,”

Wait, what?

More than once in my life has a guy told me to “stop using such big words. No one knows what you are talking about,”. Sorry no. I don’t have a list in my head of words that other people don’t know. I’ve been told that I don’t behave the way women are supposed to. I’ve been told that I read too much, that I know too much, that I am too outspoken. I’ve been told to be submissive, that there are certain jobs I shouldn’t have or can’t do (sometimes during the very moment of doing said job!).

Hearing a phrase from a guy on television about women being a commodity who are to be treated a certain way to avoid or guarantee a certain outcome, to predict behavior and restrict experience cannot be shrugged off or ignored. Yes, his behavior is ridiculous and reprehensible, and it absolutely hurts my brain to hear those statements. But guess what. It isn’t the first time, probably won’t be the last and I would venture to say that there might be hordes of other women who have had similar stories.

Well guess what? Last time I checked, women can also vote. 

 

The Amazing Life of Sir Terry Pratchett

As a newly budding writer, (who has written all her life), I have developed quite a sense of loyalty to the writers that I have read over the years. Writers who have created worlds for me, books being portals to walk into after a long day just to feel something different for a little while. As a small child I roamed the forests of Narnia, forged the hollows of the Misty Mountains, even fought alongside the brave children on the planet Camazotz. As I grew into my teens and older, I quickly developed a repertoire of names that I returned to time and time again, C.S. Lewis, Ray Bradbury, Kurt Vonnegut, Madeline L’Engle. Over the years I have come to love my writers and the stories they create. The respect that I have for these artists cannot be put into words.

A writer can create an entire universe out of absolutely nothing. Words on paper, lines and symbols communicating to the reader everything that a human being can feel or experience, planets and worlds and other dimensions. This is why it brought me such sadness to learn of the illness of one of my heroes, Sir Terry Pratchett, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease in 2007.

Pratchett is probably best known for the Discworld Novels in which a rag tag cast of characters live in the city of Ankh Morpork atop a planet shaped like a disk, balanced on the backs of four elephants, standing on the back of a giant turtle, slowly swimming through the universe. He has won multiple awards and accolades including the World Fantasy Award for lifetime achievement, no less than eight honorary doctorates, and a knighthood.

The symptoms of Alzheimer’s includes a full mental decline, for which there is no cure. Pratchett has faced the news with bravery, stating early that he plans on taking part in Physician Assisted suicide before loosing his ability to create stories. The form of Alzheimer’s that Pratchett affects the part of his brain that controls motor functions. He has lost the ability to use a touch typing device, but this has not stopped the prolific writer. Terry states in a recent article in The Telegraph, “Fortunately, technology has come to my aid,” describing his current process of dictating his story to a voice-recognition program. The stories are still fresh, and at the time of the article Pratchett has shown minimal signs of decline.

While I am not here to declare my own opinions on Euthanasia, I cannot help but have respect for Pratchett as he fights to raise awareness and funding for dementia research, taking part in several documentaries about assisted suicide. He has stated that he wants to live as fully as he can, until the time that ‘words fail him’, and then he wants to die in a chair on his lawn listening to music, with a brandy in one hand and a deadly cocktail in the other. He has lived his life on his own terms. His wish now is to end it on his terms.

I cannot put myself into his shoes. I cannot imagine being faced with the scenario that he faces. Except to say that I am inspired beyond words. For a very long time I have made so many excuses as to why I am not writing. There isn’t enough time. I need more structure. I should take a creative writing class. I don’t have time to take a creative writing class. I’m too tired at the end of the day to write. I’m too tired to get up in the morning to write… and so it goes. But then I hear about Terry Pratchett and I realize that I have no excuses. Pratchett believes in stories. He understands their importance. I do not pretend to be as talented and prolific as Pratchett, but as a sign of respect to him, I put proverbial pen to paper and make myself write.

Since his diagnosis, Terry Pratchett continues to create new stories and his new novel Dodger is available through Doubleday Children’s Books.

Dang it, Ray…

One summer when I was fourteen I picked up a book out of boredom. I remember because it was a book I had seen on my parents bookshelf literally for as long as I could remember. Because of this I had chalked it up as some sort of spiritually edifying text book and never paid it much mind.. But on this day I picked it up, glanced through the yellowed pages, scanned the back… well… it’s got aliens in it and there’s not much else to do.

This book was called “The Martian Chronicles” by Ray Bradbury.

I consumed it. Then I went to the library and systematically found every other scrap of written word bearing this man’s name that I could get my hands on. Over the next several years his books topped my list of must reads. In high school I read ‘Dandelion Wine’, I was swept away into this town and its inhabitants. “The October Country” really got my attention. Ray showed me that sadness is necessary for happiness to have any meaning, that love can be found and lost, and found again… That true horror lies not with monsters and night terrors but within the human heart. Beauty and Shadows lurked in his mind and he gifted them to us, his readers.

‘Fahrenheit 451’ entered my world as required reading in my high school English class. While my friends moaned with chagrin at required reading, I welcomed the assignment. This would be easy, I said. It’s Ray Bradbury. My eyes opened to the possibility, no the inevitability that everything would not turn out okay. That story telling might someday not only die out but be snuffed out under the heel of oppression.

Today I have heard about his death. He lived well to the age of 91. But for some reason the news of his death makes me want to run into the nearest grassy meadow and scream. I want to scream until I can’t scream any more. I want to shake the trees until the leaves fall off. I want to shake the skies until the stars fall out. I want to read everything he has ever written, again. I want to throw a tantrum like my children do when the toothpaste is crooked. I. Want. To. Scream.

I don’t normally respond to the death of celebrities in such a way. But writers are different. The institution of story telling is as old as time itself. As long as there are two people living there will be stories told. Histories repeated, fantasies weaved. Once upon a time and sometimes now I have weaved those stories myself. For a while I joined a writers group to gain inspiration and accountability. I had myself on a rhythm, one short story a month. And I had a pretty good clip going. Until the day I logged onto my computer for the very purpose of printing out my collection of stories, and the darn thing blue screened. We sent the computer to every tech savvy friend and specialist within a twenty mile radius, but my stories were lost.

I haven’t written much since then. It broke me in a way. I had some really good stories there that I had been really proud of. Gone.

Just recently I had started back again, working on a little bit here and there. Then today I hear about Ray Bradbury. Apparently he wrote ‘Fahrenheit 451’ at a rented type writer at his local library for 10 cents a half an hour. Yeah, I have nothing to complain about. I am heart broken and inspired today.

So… dang it Ray. Here’s to you.