Had a blast yesterday at BYU with the Kid Authors Camp kids. An amazingly smart, talented, and fearless group of writers. They asked all the tough questions about how contracts work, movie rights, and how they can publish their work when they’re ready, like in maybe another hour or so when they finish their last chapter. These kids are going places!
Tilting at windmills is exhausting.
I should know. For the last few years I’ve been waving my sword at giants, huffing and puffing like the Big Bad Wolf, certain in the rightness of my cause. There is no drug or drink as heady as righteous indignation, for when you are certain that you are right, that you are the only person who can see the truth through the fog that surrounds everyone else, anger pours out like honey, a thick amber goo that seeps into the cracks of everything it touches and sticks and sticks and sticks.
It’s comforting to wallow in how the world should be, to bemoan the state of things, to think that if people would just shut-up and do it my way, they’d see the light. Honestly, the world would be a much better place if everyone just did what I thought they should.
When it’s put like that, it’s much easier to see the pride and arrogance for what it is. In my case, I think I had to run out of steam before I could finally stop and stand there, panting and wiping the sweat off my brow, suddenly realizing that those giants were really windmills. Not only was it impossible to defeat them, defeating them was really not the point.
I’m not going to go into long explanations about my particular windmills—at least not here in a blog post. I will say that a leaky jar of honey can spill over from one area to another until everything is a sticky mess. I worked up a full-head of steam of righteous indignation that finally got me so mired in despair that no progress in any direction was possible—the very opposite of what I was so desperately pushing for.
A hard truth about life is that there are some things we cannot change. Rather than weeping and wailing, gnashing our teeth at the injustices, and demanding that the world accommodate us, I think we need to step back. You can’t stop the ocean waves, but you can figure out how to avoid rolling up the beach spitting sand.
There’s a freedom that comes from ending the pursuit of control over the uncontrollable. It allows you to take the reins over what is in your power even if it’s only your own reactions.
When you stop fighting the waves or tilting at windmills, you give yourself the power and permission to surf.
Didn’t think of that didja, Don Quixote?
I need a new car. In our family, a new car takes years to purchase. My husband researches, test drives, compares. He considers the possible uses we’ll put it to—road trips, pulling horse trailers or boats, or simply running around town—and he figures out which models will work best. He reads all about the upcoming developments, the power train ratios, mileage, traction, and braking systems, and basically overwhelms me with spreadsheets of facts, figures, and options. I say uh-huh and ignore it all until he narrows his list down to one. That’s when I finally break down and say let me drive it.
My list is shorter. Do I like the colors inside and out? Is there a convenient place for my drink? When I stomp on the gas and turn sharply, does the back-end break loose in a plume of smoke and handle like I stole it?
Yeah, I care about the go. Don’t talk to me about fuel efficiency, warranties, the sound system, or on-board navigation. When I have to merge on the freeway, I don’t want that pause in the engine, that I think I can moment, to get in the way of the zoom.
If I drive it and like it and it’s on the lot, I buy it. My husband knows this, so he manages the test drives very carefully. If it’s not on the lot—wrong color or missing a key feature—we’ll order it. Salesmen like that about us until it comes to the negotiation. One foolish dude once said, “I can’t believe you’re walking away over a $300 difference!” I snapped, “I can’t believe you’re losing a sale over $300 you’ll get back in dealer incentives.” “What incentives?” “If you don’t know about your own current corporate pricing structures, get me someone who does. And no, I don’t need oil change coupons, either.” My husband’s research is annoyingly thorough and it makes him laugh when I’m the one going toe to toe with the big bad dealership. But that’s another post.
So we need a new car. It’s been fourteen years since I bought my decked-out Durango RT. That’s another thing about our family. We buy new and keep them forever. We’ve had other cars since, but not one that’s mine.
After several years, my husband’s narrowed it down to a diesel Jeep Grand Cherokee, either a completely loaded Limited or a Summit edition with a tow package. While we were waiting for the Grand Cherokee’s brand spanking new diesel engines to hit the showrooms, I test drove everything in its class from a Porsche Cheyenne to an Audi Q5 and Q7 to a Volkswagen Touareg. He’s right. I like the Jeep Grand Cherokee best. It’ll do everything I need it to do and more.
And this is where the mid-life crisis comes it. My eyes are wandering to the cute convertible VW Bug in candy white outside the grocery store. At the park I ran over to check out an orange racing-striped convertible Mini Cooper and swooned. Then there was the sleek deep green Jaguar parked in front of a restaurant. When I was supposed to be looking at Grand Cherokees at a Dodge/Jeep dealership, a Challenger SRT8 in classic plum crazy purple whistled at me. How ya’ doing darling, he said.
Hellooo, big boy! I called and trailed a finger across his hood while he purred.
My husband shakes his head. No way he’s driving a girl car like a VW Bug or Mini Cooper. Might as well get a Prius and take away his man-card. He says if I want a convertible, let’s check out a BMW or maybe a used Audi.
We’ve had convertibles and I loved them for about four months out of every year. In our souped-up Miata I’d drive with the hard-top off in winter, heater blasting full blast, ears numb by the time I got where I was going. But too often I had to drive with either the hard or ragtop up, more because of where I was parking in the city than the weather. Hate, hate, hated dealing with the tops. And all that rear wheel power made it tricky in the snow. A few times during record snowfalls, we had to wait for snow plows to clear our street before we could make it up the hill to our house. Unfortunately, we live much higher in the mountains now. Snow and icy canyons and hills are a sucky fact of life.
Plus convertibles are low slung. Sexy, but hell to climb in and out of on my bum Achilles’ tendon.
When I mention the Challenger, he’s wary. But you hate sedans, he says. You’re always complaining about the seat belts getting tangled in the doors and the trunk’s never quite what you want it to be. He’s right. Sedans make me twitch.
I also know he’s right about the diesel Grand Cherokee. It does have great zoom, cargo space, and sits high on the road. There’s enough space for a couple of adults to comfortably road trip in the back seat. It could tow a boat, small horse trailer, or even the ultralight camper. It’s easy to handle, park, and if I turn off all the annoying auto-driving helpers and chatty navigation systems, I’ll probably like it. As much as the cute, sporty, and outright muscle cars are whispering their siren songs, I know it’s a mid-life crises.
But this time I’m insisting on Deep Cherry Red. A girl has to have some standards.
Available for purchase as an eBook and to order as a trade paperback is the first novel in Angela Hartley’s Sentient Chronicles, Copper Descent.
From the back of the book:
The tale of Sinauf was a secret nineteen-year-old Nina Douglas’ ancestors kept hidden for eighteen generations. But the truth has been brought into light.
The dark god of legend is real.
Caught in an ancient war still raging strong in the modern world, Nina is confronted with Sinauf—the embodiment of all she fears and desires. Like a moth drawn to a deadly flame, Nina must resist the seductive charm of a beautiful monster, or prepare to lose everything she holds dear.
Temptation has a name, and he is coming for her.
I’ve read bits and pieces of this novel as it was being written and can’t wait to read it in its entity. Copper Descent is a New Adult speculative fiction story that weaves Native American mythology into a modern world. Central to the story is the question of fate–can one change it or are we doomed to the future forecast at our birth? Looks like I’ll have to get cracking to find out how Angela answers that!
Copper Descent, the first book in the Sentient Chronicles by Angela Hartley, is published by Fox Hollow Publications and available from Amazon.
You ever get the blahs? It’s like being hungry but nothing looks good on the menu. Blah. When I feel that way, phrases like a change is as good as a rest and only idle hands make bored minds rattle around in my brain. The voice is my grandmother’s. It also says things like if you think you’re bored, I have some chores that’ll wipe bored right off your face.
Grandma is a no-nonsense quit-yer-bitchin’-I-survived-the-Great-Depression-walking-uphill-both-ways kind of lady. She has no patience with blah.
I don’t either, but I deal with it more in a stand-in-front-of-the-fridge and futz-around-on-the-computer way. I’m hopeful something good will magically appear in the five minutes since I last scanned the shelves or clicked a link.
Yeah, not so much.
Grandma’s right. I really should clean the house. It’ll sweep cobwebs both metaphorical and literal out of my life.
You could argue that all teenage girls are self-centered survivalist monsters at heart, at times unlovable, wholly malleable, and subject to the whims of the adults around them.
But in Eleanor’s case these typical teen traits are a little more literal.
Eleanor the Unseen is the first in a trilogy by Johnny Worthen that explores love in many forms: redemptive, passionate, maternal, transformative, first, true, self, and sacrificial. It’s a theme repeated in metaphor and action both gentle and terrifying. Johnny has a knack for drawing the reader into his world like a warm bath. Just don’t get too comfortable. And for heaven’s sake, don’t close your eyes.
On the surface, Eleanor is a YA horror novel about a monster that flies under the radar masquerading as a shy Wyoming teen growing up in a small town on the edge of an Indian reservation. The town itself is a character with all its stifling contradictions playing a part in Eleanor’s decisions as the plot progresses. David, a military kid, was Eleanor’s best childhood friend who knew all her secrets and her heart—until he moved. In their sophomore year, David returns, and Eleanor can no longer hide behind her hair.
Despite its premise, Eleanor is a literary work that builds gradually. It echoes other great works including Grendel, I Heard the Owl Call My Name, and even To Kill a Mockingbird. But don’t let that fool you. There are some horrific scenes in the story that showcase how very alien—and therefore human—the monster is. But rawer than the monster’s survivalist thoughts and actions is Tabitha’s debilitating cancer. Tabitha, Eleanor’s foster mother, races against time to prepare her daughter for life without her. At the heart of the book is their symbiotic redemptive love, a love so strong that it has the power to work miracles.
But don’t forget. Eleanor the Unseen is a horror story, too.
For me, the most realized characters in the story were Eleanor and Tabitha, which sometimes made other key characters like David seem a little underdeveloped in comparison. I also felt that the ending was rushed given the previous pace of the book, but I think I understand why: Johnny wants to hurry the reader past the clearing of the first course to the next tasty morsel in a lazy Sunday brunch. I spent a morning reading Eleanor in one delicious gulp; yes, it’s that good.
Eleanor the Unseen by Johnny Worthen is published by Jolly Fish Press and is available for pre-order from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and wherever fine books are sold. Eleanor‘s publication date is July 1, 2014.
You know when you read a book about teens and you think the author just didn’t get it? Well, F.J.R. Titchenell gets video gaming, paintballing, Vespa riding, teenage tomboy angst, true love, the uses of theater paint—oh, and killing zombies.
Confessions of The Very First Zombie Slayer (That I Know Of) is awesome like that.
The story is told in a flashback diary format, a record written by teenage Cassie Fremont for future generations about the first week the dead came back to life. It’s the story of being at ground zero when she accidentally kills her crush with a sawed-off paintball gun’s pellet to the temple. Unable to spare a moment to wrap her mind around it, Cassie has to leap into action when Mark snaps back to life as one of the world’s first zombies. An escape from jail—suprbat and psycho-bunny backpack filled with fireworks in tow—she begins a fantastic cross-country journey to reunite twin sisters.
Cassie is not about to wait to be rescued. She embodies what every teenage girl who would rather hang with the boys aspires to—wit and a can-do-buck-up-little-camper attitude. She calls herself a listener, but in reality she leads through example and rock-steady nerves. Cassie’s bravery is in doing what she has to in the moment. She’ll think about it later.
I’m going out on a limb here to say that this YA novel is less about a zombie apocalypse and more about finding yourself, learning to see what’s right in front of you, grabbing life with both hands, and living in the moment. It’s a love story about two people who would never have seen the rightness of each other until life stripped away everything unimportant. Yes, the zombies are there in all their classic want-brains-quick-hit-‘em-with-a-headshot glory, but they serve as a catalyst and an inconvenience, a way for Cassie to show-off her bad self. Titchenell’s touch is refreshingly soft. She trusts her reader to understand her characters through their quirks and reactions to situations rather than relying on a ton of exposition and backstory.
Confessions is a tale that can be read on many levels, and I love meta-fiction like this. While the narration is mostly straightforward, the situations are hilarious and dark. Cassie’s first time driving a car is epic in both scope and tragedy, but she brushes it off with her trademarked that sucked, what’s next aplomb. There are many moments like this that hint at a much larger story unraveling in the background.
Confessions of The Very First Zombie Slayer (That I Know Of) by F.J.R. Titchenell is published by Jolly Fish Press and is available in paperback and eBook formats from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other retail outlets. Don’t miss this one.
- You could wear pajamas grocery shopping and no one would know.
- Skip everything but eye make-up.
- Ponytail hair every day.
- No shaving, waxing, or nylons.
- No sunscreen.
- Big lunch? No problem.
- Ultimate crowd blend—you could hide in your car and check email instead of sitting with the other mothers at the soccer game. (Of course I saw your awesome goal/kick/pass/tackle, honey! I was sitting on the bench right there!)
- One black handbag.
- One pair of comfortable black shoes.
- Carrying a scythe, you could scare the crap out of people walking down a hospital corridor.
I understand that what I called a burka in this and previous posts is a religious garment, an outward reflection of an inner commitment to a particular standard of modesty and propriety. I respect that. I also understand that these garments are usually worn only in public where men not related to a woman might see her. However, as a non-Muslim woman from the USA, seeing so many women wearing hijab, niqab, and burqas in Turkey made me wonder what benefits I might get from wearing Islamic dress. For those interested, here’s a better description of what I saw.
Hijab: Covers a woman’s body leaving only face and hands visible. What I saw most often in Turkey, particularly among women walking alone. Long skirts or long pants with thigh-length coats and head scarves. The clothes were always dark blue, grey, black, or brown. Some of the under 30 crowd wore brightly patterned head scarves. Well, sorta. Lots of blues, golds, muted greens, and browns. Very few pinks, reds, yellows, or purples.
Niqab: A loose fitting garment that also covers part of the face leaving only eyes visible. Less common, but I usually saw women in niqab in pairs or threesomes. Black. The fabric weight varied with some floating more like silk or nylon and others looking heavy like wool.
Burqa: A loose fitting garment that also obscures the face with a mesh so even the eyes are not visible. Fairly rare, but burqa wearers tended to travel in packs with male escorts. Black, only black, and heavy weighted fabrics.
Jo Ann Schneider’s debut novel New Sight, is a little hard to pin down. Not knowing much about it when I began it, after the first few chapters I thought, “Ah-ha! Sci-fi!” and settled down for thriller about futuristic drugs and big brother. 16 year old Lys Blake has an uncontrollable urge to rip people’s eyes out and a new club drug is suspected. Cool. After a strong start, the plot turns and I found myself reading a lot of exposition about magical powers, technology, and cartels out to suppresses and control ancient gifts relating to sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell.
When it comes to literature, I’m more of a right-brained reader and New Sight is definitely a left-brained read. For me, sometimes the action gets bogged down in making sure the reader understands all the nuances of the magic system and the larger issues at play. The story is compelling, but I found myself skimming to get to the good parts.
Having said that, you should know that I’m the kind of person who ignores the directions and jumps in. More thoughtful, methodical thinkers who want to see how the trap is being set—left-brained readers—will thoroughly enjoy New Sight and look forward to the next book in the series.
And now that I’ve got all the details down, I will, too!
Sunday evening, May 4, 2014, Istanbul, Turkey.
There are 800 of us in semi-formal western attire walking through the plaza past the Hagia Sophia to the Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarayi) where we’ll have a dinner so fancy that at 2 am my husband will order pizza from room service.
The walk is long, over uneven cobblestones and up and down slick marble steps. Most of my attention is on avoiding holes and cracks, teetering along in my sparkly spiked heels. My swollen and healing foot isn’t quite up to the stress, but every women knows beauty is pain. I keep a tight grip on my husband’s arm.
I’m not the only woman walking gingerly, so we’re strung out in a line that runs about a third of a mile long. What little attention I can spare is spent bedazzled by the soaring minarets and domes of the buildings we pass by. It’s everything I’ve seen in history books and more. Carts selling roasted chestnuts, watermelon, corn on the cob, and something I suspect is tea are strategically placed along the way, as are benches under shady trees.
And that’s when I see them.
It’s Sunday evening after all, and local families have been enjoying the day in the Old Town, the part of Istanbul that was once Constantinople and before that, Byzantium. Ancient doesn’t begin to describe it. Over loud speakers we hear an Imam wailing praise and glory to Allah, calling the faithful to remember and give thanks.
Perched on benches, gathered in front of spurting fountains, and lining both sides of the walkway are women in burkas. I can only see their eyes, but I can feel their disapproval. They clutch children close and whisper in their ears. I resist the urge to tug down on my hem. In a fitted black cocktail dress that comes to my knees, covers my shoulders, and barely shows my collarbones, I feel like I’m wearing a bikini.
Ahead of me people in my group are taking pictures with cell phones and surreptitiously point with their chins at men in fezzes offering to shine shoes, beggars leaning against walls, gypsy children chasing around a tree. At the same time I see cell phones peeking out of burka sleeves, snapping photos of us, the freak show on parade. Some of the young men walk up and boldly take pictures of long legs and short hems, crowing to their buddies as they gather to review their spoils.
I catch their eyes and give them my best motherly you-should-be-ashamed-of-yourself look. They back off. It’s only later that I learn that making direct eye contact with a male stranger is more scandalous than cleavage.
I take note of the few burka-less women I see: dark colors, closed-toed shoes, long pants or skirts to the ankle, long sleeves, thigh-length coats, head scarves. I think of what I packed: bright colors, capris, sandals, short-sleeves. There’s no way I’m not going to stick out like a naked sore thumb. Even my rain jacket is bright raspberry.
I’m not used to this. By most American standards, I dress on the dowdy side of frumpy. I’m pudgy in all the wrong places. Baggy and shapeless are my friends. The idea that anyone besides my husband could find me titillating is ludicrous, but waves of disapproval are crashing all around me. I begin to question my own standards of modesty and wonder if it’s all in our heads.
Maybe modesty is really more about what people think and assume rather than how much skin is showing.