Friday, June 30, 2006

Writing does have its rewards sometimes.....


Every writer enjoys praise for their work and I'm no exception. Whatever form a compliment may take, however unusual, I happily receive it. Since I dedicated a post to the reader who called my first book "the worst schlock she ever read," today I'll share a review that's as far to the other end of the spectrum as you can get. I'm betting this complimentary bouquet is rarely received by writers.

This particular reader started by saying all the usual things we writers love to hear. The book referred to is My Name is Esther Clara:
  • could not put the book down;
  • excellent;
  • felt a part of Esther Clara's life and times;
  • experiences in the book rang true.

And then this reader put a capper on it that was priceless. Have you ever had a colonoscopy prep? For two days before the main event you eat nothing but clear liquids while taking strong laxatives at prescribed intervals. As a result, long spaces of time are spent in the bathroom praying to survive the abdominal cramping and other icky ordeals. The reader said being engrossed in My Name is Esther Clara made that colonoscopy prep less stressful and easier to endure. Reading my book got the intrepid soul through a long, difficult prep.

Unusual as compliments go? Yes. But ever so gratifying. I'm happy to have been of service. Anyone scheduled for a colonoscopy might keep this satisfied customer in mind. As the reader said, with tongue firmly planted in cheek, "Nothing passes the time more pleasantly than a good read."

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

POD-DY Mouth -- a person of generosity and vision

In keeping with my blog's stated philosophy, the third prong of which is showcasing exceptional blogs and people, today I want to discuss POD-DY Mouth. Her blog can be found at http://girlondemand.blogspot.com and she's well worth the read, especially if you are an author familiar with print-on-demand publishing. (POD)

The designation of POD has been called the kiss of death by some and the best thing that ever happened to publishing by others. POD books can be self-published by the author, as those with iUniverse, AuthorHouse, Lulu, XLibris, and others. There are also numerous small press publishers who utilize print-on-demand publishing because it is more economical. Huge print runs and storage of said print runs is unnecessary with POD-published books. Books are literally "printed on demand." Whether one book is ordered, or ten, the order is printed and shipped when received.

Now back to POD-DY Mouth. The purpose of her blog is "Wading through the sea of print-on-demand titles, one overpriced paperback at a time...and giving you the buried treasure." Since she is a published author whose books are with PENGUIN, her goal of reading POD books and sharing the gems with readers is a generous undertaking. Instead of sitting on her laurels, feeling superior, she has the vision to realize that all POD-published books are not necessarily stinkers. Similarly, all authors with POD publishers are not untalented hacks and losers.

As a reviewer for several online and hard copy groups, I've waded nose-deep in the same sea of POD titles as POD-DY Mouth. If not for POD publishing, I would not have discovered Tom Sheehan -- a national literary treasure if there ever was one. I would not have experienced the joy of reading Kevin Watson. The shattering prose of Michael Corrigan would have been lost to me. None of these, or the glorious prose of Tom Parker, would have permanent homes in my book shelf today if POD publishing did not exist. For brevity's sake I won't go on, except to say that some of the best books I've ever read, books I treasure, are POD-published books.

I'm a POD-published writer myself. I chose that route deliberately because I'm no spring chicken anymore for one thing, and my patience with rejection has worn thin. As stated in a recent POD-DY Mouth posting, "Not everyone equates success with the best seller list." That's me in a nutshell. The POD company that published my two most popular books -- without a penny's cost to me -- says they are arrows of love shot out into the world. I'll never be famous, maybe, and major reviewers won't review POD books, but my arrows of love have reached many of their marks anyway.

Once you've waded through my ramblings, go read POD-DY Mouth. Her blog is exceptional many ways. I applaud her efforts and her honesty. And if she had not vowed to remain anonymous, I'd extol her books here too. Thanks so much, Girl On Demand, for your generous spirit and vision. Take a bow. Take several bows.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Sanow Family ties....


Until I reached my forties, family history meant very little to me. Maybe I was too focused on my job or other mundane things. Life gets in the way sometimes, and then before we know it we've lost an entire generation of people who were a large part of our lives. I tried to rectify that in later years by writing a book about my maternal grandmother and her family.

In the photo above left, Esther Clara Sofia Sanow is standing on the far right, next to her seated mother, Emelie Schultz Sanow. My Name is Esther Clara is the story of her life and times. Esther Clara is the little Cherokee County Iowa girl who burned the family outhouse down and nearly killed the hogs by putting pepper in their slop when she was five. Her adventures were many and varied throughout life and certainly did not stop when she met and married Herb Ford from Kansas. Whether burning outhouses, sick hogs, drunk roosters, mean goats, white witchcraft, blizzards, bedbugs or World Wars, Esther Clara took life head on.

Any Sanow descendents out there searching the web for information, I hope you find this blog and contact me. The Sanow children in the photos are as follows:
  • Anna Augusta
  • Amelia
  • Louise Emma aka "Lizzie"
  • Esther Clara
  • Carl Albert
  • Frank August
  • Otto Carl
  • Henry
  • August
  • Alfred

Emelie Schultz Sanow and August Ferdinand Sanow were their parents, who raised their ten children on a farm near Marcus, Iowa from 1878 until the last child left home.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

A meandering Father's Day train of thought....

Mom always said her kids were a "duke's mixture." What she meant by that, I was never quite sure, but guess it referred to the several different nationalities swimming around in our gene pool.

Dad's side of the family was predominantly English and Irish with a soupcon of Cherokee to enhance the mix. Mom's people were Polish / Prussian / German and English. All our ancestors, except the Cherokee woman who married an Irishman, emigrated to America on boats. It's safe to say that none of them traveled in first class accommodations on their voyage to a new land. We came from poor but sturdy European stock.

My ancestor's first order of business was to learn the laws and language of the land. The Germans, especially, made it a family rule to first establish citizenship and then to speak only American English in their homes. Grandma said sometimes her parents argued behind closed doors in German, but the children were required to converse only in the language of this land. As a result, Grandma and her siblings knew a few cuss words in German and how to say "I love you" --"Ich liebe dich" -- but very little else.

All I know about the Cherokee woman in my father's ancestry is that she ruled her marriage with matriarchal determination. She refused to "lay" with her handsome dark haired, dark eyed husband until he homesteaded land in Kansas. She also stubbornly refused to register as an Indian, and insisted whatever children their marriage might produce be born outside the reservation on their own land. I suspect he swiftly complied because 12 children came of their union. No one in later generations ever met the woman, but her strength is in her descendents to this day.

My father left my life early, via divorce, but his ancestors live on in his children. They are indelibly stamped into our DNA. So thanks, Dad, for the Irish--Cherokee genes you passed along to your children.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Jesus in Song -- Shirley Priscilla Johnson's website


Today I segue from hard line rock and roll to an exceptional Christian ministry. Never let it be
said that my blog does not offer a variety of talent from which to choose!!



Shirley and Robert Johnson have co-pastored He Lives Ministries in Florida for more than 25 years. Shirley also has a degree in Christian Counseling, is a published writer and songwriter, and reviewer for Midwest Book Review. Although we share a last name, the Johnson's are no relation to me. I do claim Shirley as a treasured friend and colleague, however.

In the beginning of her music ministry, Shirley created glorious praise songs inspired by God. Although these songs were sung by only her voice and occasionally that of her nephew, sometimes a chorus of Angelic voices were clearly identifiable as accompaniment. Now I am nowhere NEAR as faithful in my service to the Lord as Shirley is, but those angelic choirs on her recordings inspired even me!!

In the years I've known her, Shirley has added to her list of Christian music and books.

  • A Divorced Mother Talks to God and Whispers of Life -- Poetry from the Heart are traditionally published books.
  • Her child-friendly, inspirational packets of colorful booklets, tapes, CDs, coloring books, and crayons make delightful gifts for children and Sunday School classes.
  • Her Covenant Package containing a beautiful book, pen, music CD, and salt pouches in a striking tote bag makes a perfect gift for adults. (Why salt packets? God made a Covenant of Salt in Numbers 18:19. Go read it for yourself.)
  • The Fos and Prissy Series for adults and The Nothing Book for kids of any age are humorous tales that often made me laugh out loud.
  • Her latest project is Shiloh Cards for pets and people.

One goal when starting this blog adventure was to feature talented people who don't get the publicity they deserve. Shirley Priscilla Johnson surely qualifies. Read more about her ministry at http://www.funport.com/insong/default.htm

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Thundershack.net -- rock and roll and more.....

I enjoy expanding my horizons and making new discoveries. I love rock and roll and the people who make the music. Thundershack.net is two treats in one -- a new discovery, and people making great music.

If there is a partiarch of Thundershack, I guess it would be Klyd Watkins. He's the one with the long gray hair and beard in the montage to your left. He's been working at making Thundershack a reality for a long time now. To quote him, "Thundershack is a studio built out of concrete blocks and a love of music." Klyd was determined to have a state of the art studio, and he finally got what he wanted.

I guess you could say Thundershack is a family affair because Klyd Watkins' sons Bob, David, and Eric are also first class musicians. These folks, along with fellow musicians from the Nashville area, can play anything and I DO mean ANYTHING. Their CDs include everything from old time rock and roll to country raunch to experimental rock to spoken word poetry accompanied by world class music. As a rock and roll lover since its inception in the 50s, I'm a die hard fan. I've seen the music transform itself over five decades now. These guys are unusual, off beat, unique, and march to their own drummer, which is what rock and roll is all about. Don't expect a formula approach or laundered lyrics from this music!!

In addition to music made by the Watkins family and colleagues, Thundershack records intense, aggressive groove metal by Thousandfold; music by rock and roll singer/guitarist Marc Harris; and the latest work by hard core rockers The Screamin' Cheetah Wheelies. In other words, this studio produces music for devotees of rock and roll. If you are on the lookout for something different, not the same old everyday stuff, Klyd Watkins is your man and Thundershack will deliver. Check out www.thundershack.net to learn more.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

The Alley of Wishes



A writer is always so pleased when a flurry of interest is created about their book or books. The Alley of Wishes was published in 2003 by Dandelion books. Now, almost three years later, renewed interest in readers has snuck up and surprised me.

Alley is my sentimental favorite book, a testament to the power of unconditional love, hope, and friendship. As fiction, it's quite different from My Name is Esther Clara. Readers who loved Esther Clara, or my first, The Grass Dance, were either delighted or shocked by the Alley story line. It's not an easy book to pigeon hole in any particular genre. I say it is a fictional allegory, and prefer to think of it as literary fiction. Others say it is historical fiction or romantic fiction, despite the fact that it was not written according to any set formula.

I wrote Alley for my mother, who died in 1984. Her marriage to an alcoholic man was often violent and a sorrow that stayed with Mom all her life. When I talk to writer groups about this book, I tell them that every sorrow, rage, and joy I've ever known was called upon to create Alley. The violence in it seems real because I've known violence first hand. The sorrow experienced by the main characters is real because I've lived with great sorrow. The love, joy, and hope they feel was alive in me as I wrote the book.

Faithful readers and fans of my work often express the hope that I'll write a prequel or sequel to Alley. I'm not convinced that will ever happen. I think it's best that The Alley of Wishes stands alone as my gift to the world because that's what I intended it to be. I want it to shine as an example of how love, hope and friendship can mend shattered lives in beautiful ways. I'm not an arrogant or proud person, just one who accomplished what she set out to do in a book.

Thanks so much to the readers who buy this book and take the time to comment on it in emails and letters. My mother loved reading. By reading this book I wrote for her, in my mind you honor her.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The HyperTexts.com

Now that the hubbub of my book signings is behind me, it's time to forsake shameless self- promotion and tackle other topics. I've been meaning to talk about The HyperTexts website for awhile and now is the ideal time.

Editor Mike Burch believes that more can be accomplished internationally by reaching out with WORDS rather than with guns and bombs. Visiting this website is always an exhilarating and enlightening adventure. It's easy to navigate and positively loaded with memorable poetry and essays. Burch carefully chooses gems written by past poetic masters and new, compelling offerings from contemporary poets.

At The Hypertexts you can read the best of Edna St. Vincent Millay, John Donne, Czeslaw Milosz, Robert Louis Stevenson, Lord Byron, Shakespeare, Plath, Kipling, T.S. Eliot, Yeats, Shelley, Longfellow and a hundred other poetic icons of the past. Of equal importance to the mix are international poets laboring under often grim conditions in our modern age. Pay close attention to these names: Jerzy Ficowski; Miklos Radnoti; Blaga Dimitrova; Nadia Anjuman; Mahnaz Badihian; Makoto Fujimura; Soufi Mostafavi. Burch seeks out and publishes an astonishing array of translations. Each one is well worth reading.

A new feature added recently is In Peace's Arms. Featured here are Hungarian, Afghani, Iranian, Czech, American, English, Indian, and Russian poets -- the famous and not so famous -- who speak out against all forms of war and subjugation. Another popular feature, Mysterious Ways, addresses life's great mysteries, and sometimes God's place in it, through the provocative voices of known and unknown poets.

For those who prefer lighter fare, Wit and Fluff and Rock Jukebox are whimsical and fun. Yes, The HyperTexts has so much to offer that I can't possibly discuss every feature here. I'll let readers make those discoveries themselves. Whether you like rhyming, metered poetry or modern free form, are a committed anti-war activist or a Romantic, a tortured deep thinker in search of answers or a frolicsome funloving spirit, you will find something to feed your senses at www.thehypertexts.com.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Marysville KS Library Book Signing

Left to right, Max Yoho, me, and Tom Parker at my Marysville KS Library book signing. Max and Tom are two of my top five favorite writers of all time. Both are exceptional in every way and better than most writers you will find on the New York Times best seller list. Max is a Kansas icon and Tom is a popular newspaper columnist as well as book author.

Marysville KS has a beautiful, modern, public library with every amenity imaginable. I was particularly pleased to do a signing there because Marysville is where I was born, raised, and lived for much of my adult life. Classmate and friend Leanna Stenglemeier made the initial arrangements with Kathryn Hatfield, Library Staff person responsible for technical services and interlibrary loans. This signing was a success by every measure.

I've said in a past blog that book signings are about more than simply selling books. They are about the new people a writer meets, the old friends who stop by to gab or show support, and the family members who stand beside a person in good times or bad. If a few books sell, that's frosting on an already tasty cake.

Don and Leanna Stenglemeier were waiting for me when I arrived. A gorgeous bouquet of white roses with burgundy trim from the Stenglemeiers and my high school classmates graced the table. And before the books were unpacked or arranged on a table, the area assigned for me filled up with people. Aunt Lois Ford Lueers arrived, and Emma Ford Suther close behind her. Lois is one of the stars of My Name is Esther Clara, and Emma's father Elmer Ford is a hero in the early years of my grandparents' marriage. Dora Jones, mother of one of my best friends and lifelong pals, was also an early arrival.

My sisters Jeanne Smith VanLoenen and Pam Smith Sutton drove in from Nebraska to help Aunt Lois ride shotgun. And our long time friend Karen (K.K.) Wiemers arrived shortly thereafter. A happy time was being had by all, with everyone talking at once or in small groups when Max and Carol Yoho meandered in all smiles and hugs from Topeka, followed soon after by Tom Parker and long time friend Jan Koll.

It bears repeating that Max and Tom are two of my favorite Kansas writers. Tom had already forewarned me via email that he expected me to read and that he planned to make faces at me throughout. Max and Carol joined forces with him and, much as I was reluctant to do so, I read a short section from Grandma's book. My reluctance to read had little to do with shyness and much to do with reading in front of two very accomplished writers. If Max and Tom enjoyed the same sort of publicity, promotion, and advance hype provided Brown, Frey, et al, they would be reigning in New York too.

After the reading, old friends Mina and Howard Zimmerman arrived, followed by another friend from high school days, Lynn Millenbruch. My alloted time passed swiftly and I think the Library staff was desperate for me to clear out. People were still coming and going at two, and I was still signing books.

This experience was exactly what a book signing should be: stimulating conversation; a pleasant atmosphere for folks to visit and mingle; a helpful library staff; and excellent advance publicity in The Marysville Advocate. This writer, who prefers to remain anonymous and shuns public appearances, was allowed to shine with the encouragement of fellow writers, family, friends, and readers. An added bonus was that I came home with an empty book box. Every book I took with me sold.

Thank you so much to everyone who made this signing a success. As Grandma and Grandpa used to say: "Thank you all so much until you're better paid."

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I enjoy good writing by writers and poets who are not famous. My mother said I was born a hundred years too late. The older I get, the more I realize how right she was.

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