Friday, October 21, 2011

My New Literary Crush

In the beginning were the howlers. The opening line to Barbara Kingsolver’s The Lacuna refers to the monkeys on Isla Pixol off the coast of Mexico. Later the term comes to symbolize any group whose actual or metaphorical howling is meant to terrify or intimidate.

Howler Monkey
Image courtesy: siwild

Another image from the beginning is a school of fish witnessed by the protagonist, Harrison Shepherd, through a borrowed pair of goggles. He knows that if a shark were to arrive the fish would dart away as a unified body, leaving him for shark-bait. Again, this image resonates throughout the book.

school in Mexico
Image Courtesy: dchrisoh

The writing in this book makes me want to weep. Key images resurface throughout, woven through the story and its themes like beautiful strings of bright silk. If you’ve ever pondered what it means to “show” and not “tell”, the opening chapters of The Lacuna will set you straight.

The title, if you’re curious, is not a Spanish word, but refers to an underground tunnel full of water that, when the tides are favorable, “swallow the boy down it’s gullet” and deposits him in a jungle populated by ruins, strange birds, snakes, and bones. This passage does double duty as a metaphor for birth and death. It makes you want to take a trip to Mexico to see if such a magical passage exists, and if so, can you try it?

Lush Rain Forest and Green Sea
Image courtesy: Chris Diwald

The theme of this character being dragged about by forces beyond his control is played out many times as he moves from kitchen apprentice to plaster mixer for the artist Diego Rivera and then to cook and secretary for a household including the painter Frida Kahlo and the exiled Russian Marxist revolutionary, Leon Trotsky.

After Trotsky’s assassination, Harrison returns to the U.S. to settle in Asheville, N.C. There he achieves a level of fame to rival that of his former employees as a successful novelist.

Unfortunately for Shepherd, his past association with communists signals his doom in the McCarthy era. I love Shepherd’s conversation with his lawyer. The lawyer points out that the politicians don’t know (or really care) what communism is. They stand for anticommunism above all else (including common sense). Trying to view the two sides as liking tuna fish vs. not liking tuna fish is dangerous. The lawyer says it's actually tuna fish vs. Spanish influenza.

Shepherd ends up on trial for un-American activities and treason. What happens makes you want to punch through time and scream at the unfairness of it all—pure writing genius on Kingsolver’s part. But don’t fear, the unexpected ending is not without hope.

What authors have taken your breath away with their writing prowess?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Pay It Forward Blogfest

Without further ado, let me introduce you to three extraordinary bloggers who write:

First, Hannah Kincade at The Palindrome Effect. Looking for graphics (like the one above) that make you want to compose a short story in honor of their awesomeness? This is the blog for you. This week she has some outstanding vampire pictures that are not to be missed.

Plus, Hannah is a true blogger buddy. I came back to my blog after a ten-day hiatus and had nine new followers. Nine! What in the world? Turns out Hannah featured my blog on a Under 25 (followers) and Still Fly blog post. Very cool.

My second pick is L. Diane Wolfe at Spunk on a Stick. This is versatile lady of many talents infected with a crazy love for rollercoasters.

Image courtesy: Franco Folini

Diane's website is chock full of great information and tips for every aspect of writing and publishing. She comes by this knowledge from experience as the author of the inspirational YA series, Circle of Friends, and the non-fiction Overcoming Obstacles with Spunk!

Diane is also a professional speaker offering advice on publishing, promoting, and speaking. But my favorite part of the blog is the Sunday funnies featuring cats from Sunday-morning treat much more fun that reprints of Snoopy. Cats rule!

My third pick is Zoe Courtman at No Letters on My Keyboard for having one of the most original, hilarious, and unique voices in the blogoverse. She was one of the first followers to pop up on my blog, I suspect, because we both have a mad love for the King of Horror (yes, sir Stephen, of course.)

Here's a video from her latest post. I challenge you to watch it without laughing until you cry.

Curious about me? I'm a former penguin keeper who left the glitz and glamour of cleaning bird poop to go back to school. I eventually made it to the other side of the desk so I could become a (thing of nightmares) math professor. Yes, I caused herds of college students to excrete vast amounts of adrinaline with the simple phrase: Please clear your desks and get out one clean sheet of paper.

Today I can't add properly. Therefore, I write. When not composing extremely long and awkward run-on sentences chock full of unnecessary adverbs for my blog, I chase after my two cats with toothbrushes (yes, really) and scream at my children to stop fighting over tiny pieces of rubber (silly-bands are from hell) and to please, for the love of all that's holy, give me back my sanity. I need it.

Ready to hop along to the next blogfest site? Just click the Pay It Forward icon on the upper right-hand corner for a linked list of participants.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Eat Me

Image courtesy: jkblacker

I have a problem with procrastination. I can't seem to get my act together on writing book number 2. Some delays are beyond my control—my children get sick and stay home from school a lot. Sometimes I'm busy with school-related volunteer work or I break down and realize that if I don't do some housecleaning, said house will be condemned as a public health menace. Usually it's my fault. Much writing time gets frittered away reading.

Disgusted with my lack of progress, I came up with a brilliant solution to get those pages cranking. I would not allow myself to go to bed until four pages were produced. I wasn't going to let anything get in my way. This time, I was serious. I was especially serious about keeping my evening on schedule as I furiously chopped up raw chicken for dinner and sliced through my finger.

Not to be deterred, I wrapped it in gauze and masking tape and kept on trucking. The schedule—must keep to the schedule. After the kids went to bed, I knew the injury needed a more thorough cleaning and unwrapped it. Oh, ick. Instead of going to the keyboard, I went to Immediate Care nervous about the possibility of stitches.

After a Betadine bath, I got some interesting news. No stitches necessary. The tip wasn't sliced; it was gone. I got a tetanus shot, some super cool glue stuff to make the blood clot, and a spiffy, skin-colored wrap that turned my index finger into a large puffball. As I drove home, inadvertently giving other drivers the bird, I couldn't stop giggling.

Raw chicken and fingertips are about the same color so . . .

You are what you eat, especially this evening.

Wonder what I tasted like? (Well, duh, chicken!)

What goes in, must come out so—if you'll pardon my French—at some point I may sh*t myself.

I'm serious about keeping track of my sodium intake, but how in the heck do you calculate the amount of sodium in your fingertip?

Husband: What's for dinner?
Me: Chicken 'n fingers.
Husband: Chicken fingers? 'Kay, but what's with the stutter?

And last, but not least, if I'm not a cannibal, does that mean I married one?

So there you have it—the depths I will sink not to work on my book. Can you top self-mutilation?