My Spirit Is Dance

 

While working on a piece for the upcoming Altered Book Project performance about sisters, these thoughts bubbled to the surface.

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When I am gone

No epitaph for me.

Instead, give me a little dance in your garden

With the pumpkins, spiders, and rabbits watching.

 

A jig on the stone steps of the church,

In your favorite chair with your socks off,

On a mountain top with the wind blowing,

Near the banks of the Missouri.

 

Pound the earth with feet and hands

Under the live oaks in Mobile,

The Trail of Tears in Arkansas,

And on the graves of your mothers.

 

When I am gone,

No epitaphs for me.

If you can’t dance

Swing up high, jump, and fly.

 

Cat Tips on Being Neighborly

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Kyle Brooks & Black Cat Tips                      Pete the Cat Artist James Dean

Kyle Brooks is a Lithonia artist who leaves his art around town for the public to enjoy. If you’re paying attention, it might be on a telephone pole, on a tree stump, or on the side of the building.

Pete the Cat by James Dean holds a special place in my heart because James Dean gave this signed piece of art to my grandson. Mr. Dean could tell he loved it. By the way my grandson just went to his first homecoming dance.

September 28th is Good Neighbor Day. Each of us has something we can share with a neighbor. I consider conversation with a friend over a cup of java an art form. As a friend of mine said, “Remember to look up.” I would add look up, down, and all around.

Review: White Leopard by Laurent Guillaume

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Solo Camara is a former cop from France with a dark past and now, a P.I. in Mali. He takes an ordinary missing-person case and ends up dealing with murder and corruption. The translation of French into English hasn’t diminished the poetic rhythm of the language, or the use of setting as a character. The desperation of poverty that drives men and women to do awful things to survive and feed their families is palpable. You can feel the heat and sweat.

Solo has lost his wife and child. He lives life unafraid of death. This bull-headed protagonist pulls the reader through the blood and beating scenes making your heart race. I had to cheer for him each time he survived and continued his plot for revenge against the bad guys, but the sex scenes with the French lawyer are brutal. The “Me Too” movement wouldn’t approve.

I didn’t approve, but I kept turning the pages of this modern noir classic. Rated: 5-Star

Miraculous Random Rain

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There is a weather line about halfway between my home in Stone Mountain, Georgia and  where my sister lives about 30 minutes north of Macon. It is not uncommon for rain to fall on one side of this visible line across I-75, but not on the other. However, I’ve never seen rain fall on one side of a house, but not the other, or as in this case, sunshine without any rain on both sides of the rain column. It looked like someone was using a gigantic sprinkler can creating long slow-moving drops of rain.

Natural phenomenon is fascinating. I might call my sighting a miracle. I’m sure there is a scientific explanation, but as a writer, I prefer my interpretation. Also, I enjoy pondering how the Mayans and other ancient people knew how to build huge temples without using mortar.

They used the stars. Of course, they used slave labor.

Modern life lacks the mystery for me. For example the homeless, present wherever I go, make me think about how little we have progressed in our understanding about a fair and equal society. I think about how much I compromise my values to remain stable and comfortable. Maybe the homeless are the last rebels against tyranny.

In the movie Glass Castle based on the bestselling memoir by MSNBC gossip columnist, Jeanette Walls, we see the life of her parents who had money, but chose to swat in abandoned buildings and be homeless with their brood of children. “You’ll always have your star,” is said to each child as they pick and name a star with their alcoholic father, played by actor Woody Harrelson. At times the grand gestures seem idyllic, but their is real, every-day hunger for the minor children. Another line: I never kid about food,” is said by the grownup, now wealthy daughter–played by the superb Brie Larson–as she puts her leftovers in a doggie bag in a swanky restaurant in New York, and then asks the client if they’re finished with their food. Priceless.

Miracles are priceless. It just takes so much dang money to eat.

Note: Naomi Watts shines as the mother in the movie, Glass Castle.

 

MY SWEET ICED TEA and ME

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Traveling can be tricky for me if the region or hotel doesn’t serve sweet-iced tea. Headaches ensue, and I find I am more disagreeable. Because I am not a bubbly happy gal at my best, I can in a withdrawal state present a problem for others around me.

Let’s break it down. Sugar and I go way back. I know sugar has a bad name, and nutritionist cringe.

I was raised on sweet-iced tea instead of milk with meals. Bless mom’s soul. She loved to bake, and a cake or pie was always on the countertop near the breakfast bar dad fashioned from scrap lumber. She and daddy would talk and eat dessert at midnight after we, their wayward children, finally went to bed.

I digress.

I compromised how I make my tea a few years ago with boiling raw sugar and guava, a natural sweetener, in the tea water, and I added real lemon slices to cut the acid. (By the way, I have a special saucepan for this process.)

The bottom line: most foods don’t taste the same without my tea. For example, an egg salad sandwich or a BLT lacks the endorphin kick without tea and potato chips.

I am addicted. I am ok with it. It could be whiskey I crave. Tea comforts me like petting a dog.

I control my environment since I retired from law enforcement. I allow myself quiet every day. Sometimes, I nap, but the joy of simple food with my beverage of choice, and a peaceful mind can’t be beat.

Humpty Dumpty Disorder

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“Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,”

BY MOTHER GOOSE

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall;

All the king’s horses and all the king’s men

Couldn’t put Humpty together again.

 

After the Killer Nashville International Writers’ Conference, I feel like Humpty Dumpty. Nothing has sorted out my brain. Rest, exercise, contemplation haven’t helped. Sitting in a dark quiet room and listening to my blocking-Beta-wave music hasn’t balanced my introverted self. It is still hard to focus and items from the conference are everywhere. Clutter bugs me. I close my eyes as I walk by to fold a load of clothes or go to the kitchen to fix myself another PB&J sandwich.

Of course, the people made the conference, and I met many interesting people. An English woman living in Japan sat with me at lunch, but the noise in the auditorium was so loud I couldn’t hear most of her answers to my questions. Otto Penzler spoke after the luncheon about how he helped to make mystery writers’s stories respected and revered by establishing Mysterious Press and the Mysterious Bookshop in New York City in the 1970s.

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After my name and work were read with a yawn by the presenter, who read the long list of cozy-writer nominees at the award banquet, an author and lawyer from Kansas, William Mott, PSEUD. Leonard Ruhl, made me laugh. I didn’t win the Silver Falchion Award for “Another Kind of Hero”, but I was in good company. Thanks, Bill.

Reading the nursery rhymes below gives me a strange sense of wellbeing. Maybe, I’ll read Mother Goose poems for the next couple of days until I feel better. I do enjoy the faded pictures in my copies, and the smell of the pages as I turn them.

 

For info about the origin of Mother Goose https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/mother-goose

 

 

 

 

The Chicken Versus The Rabbit

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The assembly line made the chicken a popular industry in Gainesville, Georgia and a statue was erected. Rabbittown, a former hamlet in Gainesville, still had people who remembered the importance of the raising and selling of rabbits in the past, and they proudly erected a 20-foot, BIG rabbit in 1993.

BEWARE. It’s still illegal to eat chicken with a fork in Gainesville. https://www.gainesvilletimes.com/news/visitor-arrested-for-eating-chicken-with-fork/

As a writer I see the humor and conflict in this situation. A short story is forming involving a mayor, a town council, and a couple of elderly men who have held grudges  over a woman for 40 years.  The guy who didn’t marry owns half the town now, and the other guy, a widower, retires and moves back to his hometown…

 

Met A Clever Spider: Quite a Character

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Photo by Dean Hesse

The female yellow garden spider has many admirable, intriguing traits:

“The writing spider” makes zigzag lines in her web. –Plot twists abound

She is clean. She remakes her interior web every day. –A born editor

She has an additional claw to spine her intricate webs. –A secret weapon

She is larger than the male. –A strong female protagonist

The male is brown, but she is yellow. –A colorful, exciting female

The male roams from female to female and seeks out the female by plucking at her web. –A musician, no doubt, and my antagonist

Many males die shortly after mating. –What can I say? A body needs to appear early on in a mystery.

The female eats the dead male. –Quirky, a little OCD

She is stable and stays in one place to reproduce. –Maternal instincts, or other likable traits are necessary for a heroine

Her presence is a sign the ecology is healthy in your yard. –She protects the other characters in the story.

She isn’t aggressive as a rule, but she will bite you if provoked. The human reaction to her poison is similar to a bee sting. –You’re going down if you commit the crime — no get-out-of-free jail card.

 

Preparing For A Retreat

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At the last minute, I’m scheduled to go on an Alternate ROOTS retreat in Arden, N.C. in the mountains with trees, one of my favorite recharge and meditation spots. I will be in a cabin with bunk beds and plastic covered dorm room mattresses. (My back will let me know it’s not happy.) My assigned roommate or roommates might snore, or be late-night people who like to go to the open mics held from 12-2 p.m. and make noise when they return to the cabin, and then talk about the rambunctious, outrageous performers.

It’s a bit like summer camp, but the session have a special purpose for the artists dedicated to creating art with social justice themes and working with community to bring about positive change.

This year I have paid attention to my neighbors and neighborhood in S. E. DeKalb. I joined NextDoor.com and began to listen to their concerns. I started with a neighborhood coffee, a community group, and a monthly subdivision clean up based on what my neighbors expressed an interest in.

It’s not a trendy inside-the-perimeter area around Panola and Redan Road, and we have a long way to go to trust and work together, but we are trying. For September two women volunteered to speak about their domestic violence experiences, and how they are thriving now.

At the retreat I expect to learn more about myself in connection with gender bias, racism, and cultural stereotyping. To do this I must go with an open heart and mind, give what I can, learn what I can, and rest. It’s not my job to fix anything, but to listen and try to understand. As a writer I’ll be taking notes, being curious, napping, and playing at recess. Whatever I bring back to community is a bonus.

This self-care offering looks interesting.

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Anti-Heroes Must Be Interesting

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Last weekend in South Carolina one of the more thought-provoking questions for the panel members at the Mystery in The Midlands surrounded the topic of whether the protagonist must be likeable. Underlying this question there was a presumption of the mainstream moral code of right and wrong being part of a good guy’s persona.

Most authors at the conference agreed the ‘good guy’ wins in fiction because he follows the rules, or bends the rules only for the common good in extreme circumstances. Even Detective Inspector Fred Thursday in the BBC series Endeavor, allowed a murderer to go free when she killed her abusive husband.

War would be another example of a reality where the lines of right and wrong become blurred, or temporarily suspended because survival depends on actions aimed at bad guys, but many times during the execution of the mission innocent people are killed. Using military terminology these people are considered collateral damage.

Wow, that is heavy stuff. Back to fiction.

Should fiction give us a break from the harsh realities of life, or does it reflect real life in complex characters and plot lines? Make us think, see another point of view, or disturb our illusions?

The philosophical questions I considered before I wrote about my anti-hero character, Clara Shannasey McDougal, in my upcoming novella Stranded in Atlanta:

If your subculture developed because your Roma people were isolated and starved in a ghetto in Russia, would you think stealing from your oppressors was wrong? If millions of your people were killed in concentration camps, wouldn’t the persecution of your great-grandfathers and great-grandmothers influence your worldview and inform your modern choices in America?

Of course, I think literary and excellent genre fiction can incorporate whatever the author’s imagination can conjure.

This is my answer to the original question. Yes and no. An anti-hero must be interesting and have a particular moral compass for the reader to overlook their deviation from societal norms long enough to empathize with the character. For example the Taken movies sequels with Liam Neeson work because planning revenge would be a natural reaction if someone took, or killed a member of your family. For most people the fantasy wouldn’t be acted upon. In fiction the protagonist can stalk and extract the just punishment. Eventually, we like some parts of the anti-hero because we see the underdog win. We have lost, and it didn’t feel good.

However, we can suspend reality, read an anti-hero story, and let the character get even for us. In the end we may feel a guilty pleasure, and ask ourselves why we like the almost irredeemable character, but we do. Why? We want to believe in justice, despite the odds, for everyone including ourselves.