Technical writers or non fiction writers scribble to pay the bills and for the love of the analytical or the exercise of truth or deception.
Fiction authors write to illuminate their world or escape it.
Whichever kind of writer, it's all about staying alive and helping or entertaining others.
The Writing Life
Like most writers, I have a love of reading and the power of words. When I was younger, I read everything I could get my hands on, but I don’t consider myself well read. I consumed books like a starved person, so quickly I hardly knew what I had read. By some strange process of osmosis, I learned from everything I read, but I cannot give you an erudite discussion of characters, plots, or authors. I can only tell you it’s lodged some where in the core of my being and informs my writing.
In addition to reading, I’ve spent a life time writing---from that first elementary school composition to my college days when I studied French literature and wrote explications de texte. Along the way, I fell into technical writing--to put food on the table and pay bills. In the 90s, I had the good fortune to take a dialog class with Sol Stein, former owner of Stein & Day publishers in New York and a prolific author. That led to his California-based writers’ group, Chapter One. It was a rigorous, ego-bruising experience, but I was intent on learning everything I could about fiction writing. A few years ago, I also had the good fortune to study with another writer, Louella Nelson, an experienced romance writer and teacher of fiction writing. She provided a different perspective and balance to my writing.
My novel, DREAMING OF LAUGHING HAWK, a mainstream, Sixties era novel, is available on Amazon in print and ebook (also available in Canada, Europe, Japan, and Brazil). Download a free sample. If you like it, I hope you'll download the book and post a review on Amazon.
What an awful experience this most recent election was! I blame voters for being uneducated about American history and the constitution or being unwilling to evaluate what is truth or lie. I blame the media for all their reporting of bogus information and opinion, for giving the platform to a man who has no capacity for truth just because he was entertaining and could boost their ratings. I despise those who are mean-spirited and unable to recognize their own hypocracy. I despise the Republican-controlled Congress for their corruption and unwillingness to serve the American people. The list of blaming is a long one and we each bear responsibility for the damage done to our democracy.
Mention the word “hoarder” and we all think of the TV shows about unrepentant hoarders who are buried in disgusting trash in their own homes and unable to discard anything. Setting aside this extreme version of the hoarder, we all have to admit we hoard to some degree or another. There is a strange kind of comfort in it.
If you live in one place for any length of time, you accumulate a lot of things that you don’t have the heart to discard because, well, you might need it at some point in the future. Eventually, when we feel we have reached critical mass, we pack it up and park it in our driveway for charity pickup. There is at least the comfort of knowing someone in need might be able to use the things we have been piling up in our closets, basements, and garages.
I suppose the tendency to hoard must be something one is born with. I have one daughter who can’t tolerate clutter of any kind and who always throws out things no matter the value. My other daughter has always clung to her belongings. As a small child she would go dumpster diving for the old ragged blankets or broken toys I threw out.
I admit to being a particular kind of hoarder. I love my collection of paints, brushes, and art supplies. I love my collection of plants and gardening tools. I have an armoire cabinet with a sewing machine, sewing notions, and craft supplies, all carefully organized. I have a small chest that contains my collection of tarot cards, which I prize for their artistic beauty.
I know other people hoard clothes, shoes, tools, art, knick-knacks, and many other things. The thing about hoarding is that it always reaches critical mass if you are not vigilant. When I visit the home of a friend whose beautiful home is filled with knick-knacks and paintings, I go home and start cleaning out closets and drawers to remove anything I no longer need. It’s my compulsive reaction to too much stuff. Too much stuff makes me nervous so I guess in that sense I am not a true hoarder: I am not comforted as many hoarders are by the proliferation of stuff. When I was working full time and raising a family, I probably didn’t have the time to monitor the accumulation of stuff, but now that I’m retired I have a constant eye on it. There is a kind of beauty in the meticulous management of things you acquire, culling out the unnecessary and letting go of things. Obviously, there is nothing wrong with keep-sakes and retaining a few items which have special memories attached to them, but when everything has an emotional element, then you have a problem. If you acquire things to fill some hole in your soul, if you hang onto things which no longer serve you but to which you are emotionally attached, you are going to lose yourself in the excess of things. Less is more. On that note, I am plotting my next cleaning/reorganizing project. What about you?
We never liked each other that much from the beginning. It was always a love-hate relationship. If we had not been born brother and sister, we would have never crossed paths in a million years.
I can't remember when I became aware of my brother Scott. He was three years younger but he never registered on my radar until he was old enough to form a sentence or break one of my possessions. I remember his temper tantrums: he used to hold his breath until he started to turn blue and then my mother would put a cold wash cloth on his face. Actually, according to my mother, he was blue when he was born. Nurses held my mother's legs together to prevent him from being born before the doctor arrived. Obstetrics were a little primitive back in the 40s and 50s. I probably had a better birth experience than he did, but my doctor died the following day. I trust I wasn't the cause.
Scott was the middle child, the odd one. Parents pick their favorites no matter how hard they try to be fair. He was not cute or cuddly or funny. He was intelligent but in a wrong-headed sort of way. He did not have any of the easy-going charms of my youngest brother. Life was difficult for him, partially because he made it that way for himself. He was immature, shy, ornery, a poor student, and dependent upon my younger brother for social interaction. He taunted and tried to bully me all through high school, but I was a good fighter, a down and dirty fighter. I would have fought to the death before admitting defeat to him. He was forever proclaiming that one day he would beat the shit out of me, but I never lost a fight. To be sure, I was no innocent either. But I do recall him coming after me with a butcher knife one time and putting me in a strangle hold another time (he got a pretty good bite on his arm for that one). Of course, our parents were mostly unaware of our fighting. We tore the house apart the minute they stepped out of the door, and put it all back together before they got home. And we lived to fight another day.
By the time he was in high school, Scott had joined the Mormon church which provided some of the structure he needed in life. He later enlisted in the Air Force which provided even more structure and at some point his life successfully came together. He married, had a son, and years later retired from a successful military career. Maybe he had a few bumps in the road but the same can be said of anyone. There was a lull in our ongoing rivalry, a period of time when we had no quarrels because we were too caught up in our day-to-day lives in different parts of the country.
Flash forward to 2016. We are now both in our twilight years and the fighting has resumed. We live on opposite coasts and that's probably a good thing. I tell myself he must have some good qualities and on some days I actually feel sorry for him. But then he posts some racist, misogynist, bigoted statement on Facebook and I feel like sinking my teeth in his arm like I did all those years ago. He thinks it's funny to post a negative story about blacks that portrays them as thugs or lazy welfare queens. He loathes Barack Obama. He thinks it's hilarious to post a picture of Hillary Clinton with horns or a dog pissing on a poster of her. He posts stories from alt-right websites that accuse her of murder. He never has a bad thing to say about Donald Trump or the "deplorables" who support him. Of course, Scott considers himself to be an exemplary Mormon and Christian. I figure if there's any chance of him getting into heaven, I would just as soon be in hell.
I will never understand how two so opposite personalities could have the same parents. Neither of my parents were narrow-minded and self-righteous. They mellowed even more with age. I can't recall either of them ever going off on an insane rant against a person or institution. Whatever flaws and personal prejudices they might have held, they had respect for other people and they had respect for themselves. They had dignity. They could distinguish fact from fiction. Their minds were open. They held no hate in their hearts.
So I am the bad sister. I cannot love this thing that my brother has become. One minute I am full of pity, the next I am angry. I am still that fierce little girl, that indignant and defiant older sister. I think my parents and I went wrong somewhere. We failed to nourish that difficult child. Somehow he didn't get enough love and attention. I must have stolen his thunder. I never lost a fight.
Remember all those fairy tales from your childhood that seem so irrelevant to your life now? Perhaps because they were cautionary tales cloaked in the trappings of far away times, talking animals, and impossible scenarios, we easily dismiss these fables.
So this week naked statues of Donald Trump have been mysteriously appearing across the country in major cities in the U.S. It's tacky and disrespectful and yet the child in some of us is amused that this vain emperor has been exposed. He is bloated with evil, lies, and incompetence. Those who don't want to see who he is play along as if he is dressed in the most elegant clothes with the highest of ideals. They are tone deaf to the ugly innuendo and outright lies that come out of his mouth. They ignore the truth of the life he has lived...multiple marriages and affairs, multiple bankruptcies, racism, misogyny, and on and on. He is naked in his ugliness, the pursuit of money and celebrity, and the threat he represents to this country.
He has no clothes, Nothing. He can only offer fear in hopes that we will continue to cloth his arrogance.
It remains to be seen whether the Republican Party survives this craziness. More important, will the country survive this fairy tale, uh, I mean nightmare.
I'm frustrated. Time keeps slipping through my fingers. Chaos seems to be creeping into my life. It's summer now and under a blazing sun the temperature heads up to 90 degrees Fahrenheit every day. Gardening needs to be done before ten o'clock; otherwise, it is just too hot. The garden has been somewhat decimated by heat and pestilence. There never is a drop of cooling rain because, well, according to that old song by the Mamas and Papas, "it never rains in Southern Californis." True. So I ration water the best I can and accept that some things must suffer. My beautiful May garden is now in scorched tatters.
By midmorning, I'm thinking what's next? To where do I escape? There are lots of places to go and things to do but, unless it's air-conditioned and doesn't involve bumper-to-bumper traffic, I'm not too enthusiastic. Besides, I have a pile of laundry on the the couch that needs to be folded. There is also a basket of laundry that needs pressing (I refuse to wear wrinkled clothes.)
My diningroom table is covered with books on watercolor painting, sketches, brushes, tubes of paint. On the floor nearby I've started a pile of things for an upcoming family outing--lantern, food items, suntan lotion, trekking sticks, and so on.
In another room are four yards of material and a pattern waiting for assembly. In the kitchen, there are paprika peppers and chili negroes that need to be cut up and put in the dehydrator. Then at four o'clock its off to the hair dresser for a two-hour session. I already know I'm not going to feel like cooking dinner--just leftovers and a glass of wine when I get home.
I'm making myself tired just thinking about all this. How did I ever manage when I had a full time job and kids?
And then there is the TV and the internet, the constant yammering about the presidential election. Talk about frustration. How did the Republican party end up with a nominee who is a mentally unhinged billionaire with an orange comb-over and a small-mouthed scowl that would scare any baby? How do I come to terms with the reality that one of my own brothers is a foaming-at-the-mouth troll for Trump? There's a story here, I'm sure, but do I want to go there?
With the exception of Pinterest, which satisfies my artistic curiosity, I have come to loath social media, particularly Facebook. Twitter I rarely bother with because I don't feel any necessity to limit communication to 140 characters. What for? But Facebook is an enervating addiction. It starts with a positive--the ability to main contact with friends and family and easily check in on their day-to-day activities. It does help hold far flung families and relationships together. But from that point on Facebook goes down hill. My first irritation is all the people who post endless selfies and other narcissistic trivia. After that comes people who post religious statements or who want to see how many people they can get to share a particular post. All the cute pet posts and the disgusting recipes are somewhat tolerable. The ads are annoying but I don't pay any attention to them. And then there are those of us who post political and social news (of which I am guilty). However, there is a difference between the back and forth of posting political/social statements and what really turns me off: mean-spirited, ugly comments devoid of any respect for the facts. Blinding hatred. I've reached a point where I can't take it any more. I don't want to know that people, particularly those I know personally, harbor such hate in their hearts. Honest discussion is one thing but insane ranting is another. So I'm making myself a promise to swear off Facebook. I'm blocking all the most obnoxious posts and unfollowing those who regularly post annoying junk. I'm wondering if I can reconfigure Facebook in the future so that it is a useful tool or if I should just discard it altogether. Can I break my addiction?
These days you're likely to have seen several of the Lincoln auto advertisements featuring Matthew McConaughey. They're kind of weird in an intriguing way. McConaughey is one of those actors who lets his quirky self shine through.
And so it is with the Free State of Jones which is based on the true story of the Civil War in Mississippi. Newt Knight (McConaughey) is a Mississippi farmer who is a medic in the Confederate Army. When his nephew dies in battle, he returns home to Jones County to bury the body and protect his family. He is soon branded as a deserter and on the run.
Knight does not believe in slavery and is angered by the fact that the Confederate troops confiscate the livestock and grain of local farmers to provision the army, leaving the local people in danger of starvation. He is angry that wealthy slave owners are exempt from serving in the Confederate army, but the small land owners are expected to give their lives and property for the cause of defending slavery.
With the help of Rachel, a domestic slave, he flees to the swamps and soon finds himself the leader of a band of small farmers, fugitives, and escaped slaves who eventually organize an uprising. Jones County secedes from the Confederacy.
Intertwined with this story is the modern day story of Davis Knight, a descendant who some 85 years later finds himself on trial for breaking the state law against interracial marriage, even though by appearance he looks to be white. It's a delicate but true story of interracial sexuality in a state that banned marriage with people who were one-eighth or more Negro descent. It is the tale of white supremacy and the Ku Klux Klan that still figures in the fabric of American life today.
The film gives a fascinating perspective on this period in our history and McConaughey does a good job of portraying the scruffy radicalized Knight. It is not a joyful story but nevertheless it is uplifting as only an American story can be by defying evil against all odds. Go see it.
Click on photo to go to: http://www.lindakatmarian.com
Dreaming of Laughing Hawk
DREAMING OF LAUGHING HAWK is the story of Elizabeth Leigh, a young woman who leaves behind the ashes of her unhappy, Midwestern upbringing for a new life in California. But it’s 1964 and neither the turbulent times nor the people in Elizabeth Leigh’s life make a Cinderella ending possible—least of all, a quicksand character like Mark Laughing Hawk. Available on Amazon.