It’s Not All Gravy

Musings on Life and Writing

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Friday Funnies

Posted by mcm0704 on March 24, 2017 |

This was a busy week for me so I did not have time to work on a blog post for today. I try not to do the posts at the very last minute, as I consider that cheating my readers a bit. Still, I didn’t want to have nothing posted over the weekend, so I’ll just share some funnies, then be off to do more yard work.

First off, here is a cute picture I thought you would enjoy.

 

Most of this week I spent working on cleaning up my property. My son, David, came out to help – well, actually do most of the work. But I don’t like to dump it all on him, so I try to do as much as I can. Plus, working outdoors is one of my favorite things to do, which is why I am still here on Grandma’s Ranch and muddling along as best I can.

While outside on Thursday, we saw this winged moth. I had never seen one like this before, and only later realized what it is.

I watched it throughout the day and saw the wings mature as the day progressed. It was most interesting.

Now a few jokes to get you through the weekend. 

I was in the six item express lane at the store quietly fuming.
Completely ignoring the sign, the woman ahead of me had slipped into the check-out line pushing a cart piled high with groceries.
Imagine my delight when the cashier beckoned the woman to come forward looked into the cart and asked sweetly, “So which six items would you like to buy?”

—————————— ——————————
Because they had no reservations at a busy restaurant, my elderly neighbor and his wife were told there would be a 45 minute wait for a table.

“Young man, we’re both 90 years old,” the husband said. “We may not have 45 minutes.”

They were seated immediately.
—————————— ———
The reason Politicians try so hard to get re-elected is that they would “hate” to have to make a living under the laws they have passed.
—– ————————- —————–
All eyes were on the radiant bride as her father escorted her down the aisle.

They reached the altar and the waiting groom.

The bride kissed her father and placed something in his hand.

The guests in the front pews responded with ripples of laughter.

Even the priest smiled broadly.

As her father gave her away in marriage, the bride gave him back his credit card.
—————————— —————–
Women and cats will do as they please, and men and dogs should relax and get used to the idea.

Amen to that last one. LOL Have a great weekend, and if you have a favorite joke to share, please do.

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Go Fly a Kite

Posted by mcm0704 on March 22, 2017 |

Slim Randles and friends are here to entertain us today as Wednesday’s Guests. Kite flying was one of my favorites past times as a kid. I can remember how hard we worked to get the kites airborne, running and running and running until we thought our lungs would burst and our legs gave out. But the thrill of seeing our kite fly higher and higher, maybe the highest of all, was worth all the effort.

Did you like to fly kites when you were a kid? Did you make your own? We often did as we could not afford to buy a ready-made kite. I was pleased to discover a site on the Internet with step-by-step instruction on how to make a kite. So, if you want to go outside and have some fun, you can “go fly a kite,” which isn’t my polite way of saying F-off. LOL

But before you go outside to play, grab a cup of coffee and join the gang as they reminisce about their kite-flying days. Enjoy….

 

“Kids got the kites up this morning down at the schoolyard,” Dud said, slipping into his chair and flipping his coffee mug to the upright and fillable position in one smooth move.

Doc nodded and spread jam on his toast. He likes grape.“Any special shapes this year?”

“Didn’t see any,” Dud said. “Same old diamond shapes, mostly.”

“Now back when I was a kid,” Herb chimed in, “we had box kites, too. Sometimes…”

Doc grinned. “Never could make one of them. Too complicated. Just got those diamond ones, because they came almost ready to fly.”

“Saw on TV the other day,” Dud said, “they got these kites over in China that look like dragons. Real long boogers, you know. Wonder how they get those things in the air.”

“Ever notice how you never see anyone on TV flying kites in Iceland?” Steve said. Steve has never been to Iceland, but he’d sure like to go. He reads up on it. A lot. “Wind blows over there in Iceland all the time.”

“I heard that, too,” Dud said.

“It might be,” said Doc, “that people in Iceland are too busy working to fly kites.”

“Could be that,” Steve agreed. “Do you realize there aren’t any dinosaur fossils in Iceland?”

He waited. No one asked.

“The reason for that,” he said, “is that the dinosaurs died off before Iceland was born.”

Loretta came by with the coffee pot. “How you boys doing today?”

“Better than the folks in Iceland, I guess,” Steve said. “Doc says they have to work all the time.”

Having coffee at the Mule Barn on any given morning can be an unusual educational experience.

———–

Brought to you by Packing the Backyard Horse by Slim Randles Available on Amazon.com

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Home Country is now a radio program in 17 states. Have a listen at www.homecountrydemo.com/

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Slim Randles writes a nationally syndicated column, “Home Country” that is featured in 380 newspapers across the country. He is also the author of a number of books including  Saddle Up: A Cowboy Guide to Writing. That title, and others, are published by  LPD Press. If you enjoy his columns here, you might want to check out the book Home Country. It features some of the best of his columns.

 

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Book Excerpt – Evelyn Evolving

Posted by mcm0704 on March 20, 2017 |

As I promised on Friday, here is an excerpt from Evelyn Evolving, the book I am writing about my mother’s life. I know little about what happened when my mother was just an infant that caused her father to leave and her mother to abandon Evelyn and her sister, so this is what I made up, based on innuendo and fragments of memory from my aunt Viola.

I do know my grandmother liked her beer, so perhaps we could all have a glass of ale in her honor. Despite her faults – but don’t we all have them? – she was a very nice grandmother.

When the second girl was born and Fred showed little interest, Regina gave the child the first name that came to her – Evelyn Louise, using her middle name. Maybe that would spur some emotional bond. Since Fred wasn’t there to object, Regina could choose whatever goddam name she wanted.

Fred wasn’t much for visiting hospitals.

To his credit, Fred did come to take her home from the hospital after her two weeks of laying up, but once they were home, he wasn’t much help with the children. Babies both of them really. Viola was just barely two, and if the baby wasn’t screaming, she was. “She’s probably jealous,” Regina’s mother had said. “First children can be horrid about others. I was thankful to only have one.”

Five months later, Fred said he was going out for some smokes and didn’t come back. If she hadn’t been angry enough to kill him if he showed his face again, Regina would have laughed at the whole cliché. How many men had used that same line, and how many women had believed the husbands would return? Waiting for hours, then days, then weeks, only to end up being stuck at home with kids. No job. No money. And no hope?

A week after Fred left, a man came to the door asking about him. Regina didn’t like the looks of this well-dressed man – neatly-pressed suit, colorful tie and hat like any other salesman who tried to separate her from a coin or two. But his eyes were different. They didn’t have that friendly sparkle framed by laugh lines. They were hard and empty, and the man didn’t lead with some pleasant banter. Instead asking, “Do you know where your husband is?”

Regina hated saying the words out loud, but his eyes compelled her. “No. Haven’t heard from him since he left days ago.”

“He say where he was going?”

“Out. Just out.” Regina couldn’t bring herself to repeat the tired reason that Fred had used. This man would see right through that.

“Do you expect him back?”
Indignation stiffened her spine and gave weight to her voice. “If he intended to come back, he’d be here by now.”

The man took a half step closer. “Do not use that tone with me, little lady. You understand?”

He spoke softly, almost conversationally, but the menace was like ice in his deep blue eyes. Regina nodded, swallowing her pride and her fear.

“Good.” The man eased back, but the hard look in his eyes didn’t change. “Fred owes my boss money. A lot of money.”

Momentarily, Regina flashed on the large satchel Fred had slung over his shoulder when he’d walked out that Friday night. Was that…? She masked any outward reaction as best she could.

“It’s my job to get that money back.”

“Don’t know anything about your money,” Regina said, hating the way her voice broke over the words. “He left me with nothing. Just the kids and a pile of bills.”

The man didn’t respond and didn’t move. As they stood there, silent, a trickle of sweat ran hot down Regina’s back. What if he didn’t believe her? What if he forced his way in? Searched the place? She was trying to figure out if she could close and lock the door before he made a move, when he took a half step back. Regina fought to keep relief from showing as she maintained eye contact.

“When that husband of yours comes back, tell him Bernie wants his money.” He paused, as if wanting to give time for that to sink in, then added. “Understand? Bernie don’t like hurting women and kids. But he does what he’s got to.”

The man stood on the front stoop for another few seconds, then turned and left. Regina quickly closed and locked the door. Then she leaned her forehead against the wood.

Oh, Fred, what have you gotten yourself into?

I’d love to have any feedback you might like to offer. This is still a work in progress, so I am open to suggestions.

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Weekend Reading

Posted by mcm0704 on March 18, 2017 |

Today I’d like to let you know about a couple of new books and great deals. And what goes better with a good book than a nice cup of tea. Please help yourself. I like mine with a bit of cream and honey, and I love this teacup. My mother-in-law collected pretty teacups and I inherited many from her. Fond memories….

First, from author Lyn Cote, here is an offer for a free copy of her book, For Sophia’s Heart, part of her Northwoods Past series. She is offering the book free from March 18-22.

BOOK BLURB – In April 1898, Sophia Schiffler boards a train and meets Gannon Moore, both on their way to Chicago. Gannon is going to withdraw from the university to enlist in the Spanish American War. Teddy Roosevelt is gathering his rough riders to invade Cuba, and Gannon is ready to join the fight against Spain for Cuba’s freedom. Mourning the recent loss of his sister, Gannon is shocked when Sophia reveals she is going to marry a man she’s never met. When this suitor doesn’t meet Sophia at Union Station, Gannon accompanies her to the man’s address. What they discover there catapults Sophia into a situation she could never have imagined.

Soon she is living in Chicago and frequenting Jane Addams’ famous Hull House. Gannon trains in Florida and prepares for combat in Cuba. He and Sophia exchange letters written from their hearts. In the fall, Gannon returns from war, a changed man. The course of true love never runs smooth. And life has a way of turning tables on two young people in love. Their springtime love endured separation and a war. Will it survive a winter of reality?

I have not read the book, just got my copy, but I have read others by this author and she spins a good tale.

Next up is The Altruism Effect by Kristin Helling, a thriller. The book is not free, but it is a good deal for Kindle at only $3.99

A kidnapped psychologist. A murderous warden. There’s more to this prison than meets the eye…

BOOK BLURB – Dr. Raine Walsh has a right to be paranoid. The expert psychologist has spent far too much time in the minds of the criminally disturbed, but that’s no reason for her to be drugged and thrown into prison. Raine can’t remember if she’s even committed a crime and she wonders if her growing paranoia has destroyed her sanity…

Raine is determined to solve the mystery of her twisted incarceration, but finding allies is a dangerous game. Some of her fellow prisoners are far from innocent, and a guard confides that he’s also been kidnapped and forced to play a role. The problem is that the warden controls the compound with an iron grip. Her only chance of escape could put her and the other inmates in grave danger…

I have not read this book either, but I read a few of the sample chapters on Amazon, and they were well done. Since I am a sucker for a good thriller, I will be adding this one to my TBR pile.

That’s it for me for today. Have you read any good books recently that you would like to tell us about? Please do share in the comments, and have a great rest of the weekend.

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Get Your Irish On

Posted by mcm0704 on March 17, 2017 |

Last Wednesday, I was at The Celt Irish Pub in McKinney Texas for lunch with my daughter, Dany. It was my first visit, but not hers, as she lives in McKinney. We had a wonderful time and I really enjoyed the Shepard’s pie. Being only a few days before St. Patty’s day, talk was about the holiday, and the waiter reminded us that there are nearly 40 million American who claim Irish heritage including five million who say they are of Scots-Irish heritage. That number is almost seven times larger than the entire population of Ireland (6.3 million).

I am of Scots-Irish heritage by marriage, as my grandmother married a Scotsman long after her first husband had disappeared. (Come back on Monday to get the skinny on what happened. I’ll post another excerpt from Evelyn Evolving that reveals all.)

Royal Stewart Tartan

Grandpa Stewart was the only grandfather I knew until much later in my life, and I was always proud to be part of the clan, if only by association. He was a good man, and a wonderful grandfather, and I loved the fact that his tartan could have been the Royal Stewart tartan. It is the best known tartan of the royal House of Stewart, and is also the personal tartan of Queen Elizabeth II. For a little girl, being even remotely connected to a queen was mind-boggling.

And it still is for this grown up girl.

So, in honor of St. Patricks’s Day, I offer you a toast and this traditional Irish prayer:

“May God give you…
For every storm, a rainbow,
For every tear, a smile,
For every care, a promise,
And a blessing in each trial.
For every problem life sends,
A faithful friend to share,
For every sigh, a sweet song,
And an answer for each prayer.”

And Now Some Irish Quotes

“For the whole world is Irish on the seventeenth o’ March!” – – Thomas Augustine Daly

“There are only two kinds of people in the world, The Irish and those who wish they were.” – – Anon.

“Never iron a four-leaf clover. You don’t want to press your luck.” – – Anon.

Irish Proverbs

“A handful of skill is better than a bagful of gold.”

“If you’re lucky enough to be Irish, then you’re lucky enough.”

“Do not resent growing old. Many are denied the privilege.”

“Your feet will bring you where your heart is.”

Irish Toast

“May luck be our companion
May friends stand by our side
May history remind us all
Of Ireland’s faith and pride.
May God bless us with happiness
May love and faith abide.”

And A Few Jokes

An Irish priest is driving down to New York and gets stopped for speeding in Connecticut. The state trooper smells alcohol on the priest’s breath and then sees an empty wine bottle on the floor of the car. He says, “Sir, have you been drinking?”

“Just water,” says the priest.

The trooper says, “Then why do I smell wine?”

The priest looks at the bottle and says, “Good Lord! He’s done it again!”

Q: Why can’t you borrow money from a leprechaun?

A: Cos they’re always a little short.

Q: What is black and blue and found floating up side down in the Irish sea?

A: Someone who’s tells a stupid Irish joke

Since I don’t want to end up in the Irish sea, I will stop with that one. Do you have a joke to share? Please do. And let me know about your Irish connection, thin though it may be. If you are ever in McKinney, do stop by the Celt Irish Pub. Good food, good service and a terrific wait staff. The Yorkshire pudding rolls are to die for.

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Changing Up Language

Posted by mcm0704 on March 15, 2017 |

Slim Randles is here as today’s Wednesday’s Guest, sharing the latest from the Mule Barn Truck Stop. We should all run away when Windy Wilson shows up. Grab a cup of coffee and join the gang as they listen to Windy’s latest great idea.

 

When Windy walked into the Mule Barn during that cold snap last week, we knew he was getting frantic for an audience. He has a hard time getting us to listen to his version of history, his notions of what was going on now, and his prognostications of the future of mankind.

But it was cold, and sitting out on the bench and ambushing listeners didn’t work too well right now for Windy Wilson, so here he came. We gave each other the wink and dragged out a chair for him.

“What d’you know, Windy? Cold enough for ya?”

“Cold? You think this is cold? Why, one time up on the high line, I was disappropriating firewood for the crew on the railroad, and it come over me, then and there …”

“We weren’t talking about the cold this morning, Windy,” said Doc. “We were discussing the future of microbes.”

“Microbes? Ain’t they like choir robes? Why, this one time I was singing barleytone in the Presbytoolian church, and there was this guy named Mike all right, and …”

“Now Doc,” said Steve, twitching his walrus mustache, “Don’t you remember? We’d finished with the microbes and went sailing on into February. Sorry, Windy, Doc didn’t mean to disrupticate your dissemination of events, but he’d just forgot. It was February.”

“February? You mean like Leap Year kinda February paraphernalium where you only get olden on one day every four years? That kinda February?”

Dud and Herb were trying hard not to laugh.

“No, Alphonse,” Doc said. He sometimes got formal with our friend. “We were discussing whether or not to leave out the first r in February. No one uses it …”

“But just because something isn’t used,” Windy said, waving his empty coffee cup at Mavis, “doesn’t mean we have to completely immolify it, does it? If we occasionally sloop over the top of a letter, that doesn’t braggandize it. That doesn’t codify its lesserness, does it?”

“So you’re saying we should keep the first r in February, is that it?” asked Steve.

“Absotively,” said Windy.

“OK, now,” Doc said, “who will stand up for the h in school?”

Some people think we’re just having coffee each morning there in the truck stop.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Home Country is now a radio program in 17 states. Have a listen at www.homecountrydemo.com/

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Slim Randles writes a nationally syndicated column, “Home Country” that is featured in 380 newspapers across the country. He is also the author of a number of books including  Saddle Up: A Cowboy Guide to Writing. That title, and others, are published by  LPD Press. If you enjoy his columns here, you might want to check out the book Home Country. It features some of the best of his columns.

 

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Monday Morning Blues

Posted by mcm0704 on March 13, 2017 |

Unless you are one of the few people who love the time changes that we get to experience twice a year, please take a moment to join me in a huge groan. 

I particularly dislike the spring-forward time change, as if we are to jump with joy because it feels like 6 a.m. when we wake up but our clock says 7 a.m. We’re supposed to be happy that we’re going to be horribly behind on everything until our internal clock catches up with the other clocks?

I don’t think so. And a pox upon whoever had the bright idea to start this nonsense in the first place.

Okay. Rant over. I feel much better now. A good rant, along with a nice cup of coffee does the trick every time. Please do join me, in the coffee, and the rant, if you’d like. And we can have a sweet biscuit, as well. 

Today I am going to share an excerpt from my WIP, Evelyn Evolving, that is based on my mother’s life. I put the book aside for a while, as I had some editing jobs to work on, but I am back to it. Several months ago I received some excellent advice on improving the story from Kathryn Craft, a terrific writer, as well as writing coach, and I am pleased with her suggestions for changes. 

This excerpt is from the beginning of chapter three. Enjoy….

Sister Honora made Evelyn tremble. She always made Evelyn tremble. Sometimes, when looking into the stern face pinched tight by the wimple, Evelyn was afraid her bladder would let go and she would be punished twice. Once for not scrubbing the floor fast enough and again for soiling herself. That’s what the sisters said about pee and poop. “Soiling oneself.” As if she had rolled in the dirt outside. If she was not locked in such terror of the nun before her, Evelyn would find that thought amusing.

Evelyn and Viola had been here at St. Aemilian’s Orphan Asylum for just over two years now, and Evelyn still didn’t understand why. Couldn’t Miz Regina or Miz Beatrice not come and take them away from this horrible place? Everything was all so confusing, and Evelyn kept hoping that someday someone would love them enough to come back and get them.

Sometimes in her dreams, she lived with both women. Miz Beatrice not sick anymore and Miz Regina happy to have her girls back. Viola said it was silly to wish. Pointless to dream. Nothing was going to change.

“Child. Are you listening?”

The harsh words tugged at Evelyn. She nodded, unable to push words past the lump in her throat.

“Why have you not finished this floor?” The nun gestured down the hall with her walking stick. “You are as slow as molasses in winter. What good are you?”

“I don’t know, Sister.” A soft whisper.

That was met with a sharp crack along Evelyn’s backside. “Don’t talk out of turn.”

“But, I—”

Another smack. “I said no talking.”

“But, you—”

This time when the walking stick landed, Evelyn’s bladder did let go.

“Now look what you have done. You dirty, nasty little child. Take those panties off. Right now.”

Evelyn did as she was told, holding the wet garment gingerly between thumb and forefinger. Sister Honora took the panties on the end of her walking stick, then draped them over the child’s head. “You will wear these to supper.”

“No! Please, Sister. No!”

“Enough. Go!”

Standing in the middle of the dining hall, the rotten stench of old urine swirling around her while the other children pointed and laughed, was the most humiliating experience of Evelyn’s young life. She swallowed hard and held back the bile that rose in her throat. She couldn’t vomit. She wouldn’t vomit. If she didn’t want more humiliation she didn’t dare vomit.

Thanks for reading, and please do leave me a comment and let me know what you think about the excerpt, and/or the time change rant. 

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Writing Tips

Posted by mcm0704 on March 10, 2017 |

First this cute meme to start us off with a smile:

I had a busy week, interspersed with bouts of pain that had me away from my computer for large amounts of time, so I thought I would offer some writing advice from Kristen Lamb on the blog today. I enjoy her posts on all aspects of writing, which she generously allows us to steal er, borrow, and this one about prologues interested me, as I tend to write prologues in most of my books. 

After reading Kristen’s blog post, The Seven Deadly Sins of Prologues, I was pleased to see that I do not have to seek absolution for any of mine.

Sin #1 If your prologue is really just a vehicle for massive information dump…
This is one of the reasons I recommend writing detailed backgrounds of all main characters before we begin (especially when we are new writers). Get all of that precious backstory out of your system.

Many new writers bungle the prologue because they lack a system that allows them to discern key details or keep track of key background details. This makes for clumsy writing, namely a giant “fish head” labeled prologue (which we editors will just lop off).

Sin #2 If your prologue really has nothing to do with the main story.
This point ties into the earlier sin. Do this. Cut off the prologue. Now ask, “Has this integrally affected the story?” If it hasn’t? It’s likely a fish head masquerading as a prologue.

Sin #3 If your prologue’s sole purpose is to “hook” the reader…
If readers have a bad tendency to skip past prologues, and the only point of our prologue is to hook the reader, then we have just effectively shot ourselves in the foot. We must have a great hook in a prologue, but then we need to also have a hook in Chapter One.

Sin #4 If your prologue is overly long…
Prologues need to be short and sweet and to the point. Get too long and that is a warning flag that this prologue is being used to cover for sloppy writing or really should have just been Chapter One.

Sin #5 If your prologue is written in a totally different style and voice that is never tied back into the main story…
Pretty self-explanatory.

Sin #6 If your prologue is über-condensed world-building…
World-building is generally one of those things, like backstory, that can and should be folded into the narrative. Sometimes it might be necessary to do a little world-building, but think “floating words in Star Wars.” The yellow floating words that drift off into space help the reader get grounded in the larger picture before the story begins. But note the floating words are not super-detailed Tolkien world-building.

Sin #7 If your prologue is there solely to “set the mood…”
We have to set the mood in Chapter One anyway, so like the hook, why do it twice?

Then Kristen followed with the virtues of prologues: 

Virtue #1 Prologues can be used to resolve a time gap with information critical to the story.
Genre will have a lot to do with whether one uses a prologue or not. Thrillers generally employ prologues because what our hero is up against may be an old enemy. This was true for the prologue I wrote for Boxes For Beds. A modern-day crime was tied to one that had happened 30 years prior and it was important that the reader know that.

I was pleased to see that Kristen acknowledged that prologues are common in mysteries and thrillers: 

Prologues are used a lot in thrillers and mysteries to see the crime or event that sets off the story. Readers of these genres have been trained to read prologues and generally won’t skip. Yet, still? Keep it brief. Reveal too much and readers won’t want to turn pages to learn more.

That is the reason I kept the prologues brief in both of the Seasons Mystery Series books, Open Season and Stalking Season, as well as Doubletake, my other police procedural novel. As an avid mystery reader, I had come to like reading a prologue that introduced me to the crime and the criminal, without identifying the person, but giving me a sense of who he or she was. 

Virtue # 2 Prologues can be used if there is a critical element in the backstory relevant to the plot.
The first Harry Potter book is a good example of a book that could have used a prologue, but didn’t (likely because Rowling knew it would likely get skipped). Therese Walsh in her blog Once Before A Time Part 2 said this:

J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is told in a close 3rd person POV (Harry’s), but her first chapter is quite different, told when Harry is a baby and switching between omniscient and 3rd person POVs (Mr. Dursley’s and Dumbledore’s). Rowling may have considered setting this information aside as a prologue because of those different voices and the ten-year lag between it and the next scene, but she didn’t do it. The info contained in those first pages is critical, it helps to set the story up and makes it more easily digested for readers.

Prologues, when done properly can be amazing literary devices. Yet, with a clear reader propensity to skip them, then that might at least make us pause before we decide our novel must have one. Make sure you ask yourself honest questions about what purpose these pages are really serving. Are they an essential component of a larger whole? Or are you using Bondo to patch together a weak plot?

Not much space for a joke, but here goes:

Two factory workers are talking. The woman says, “I can make the boss give me the day off.”

The man replies, “And how would you do that?”

The woman says, “Just wait and see.” She then hangs upside down from the ceiling. The boss comes in and says, “What are you doing?”

The woman replies, “I’m a light bulb.” The boss then says, “You’ve been working so much that you’ve gone crazy. I think you need to take the day off.”

The man starts to follow her and the boss says, “Where are you going?” The man says, “I’m going home, too. I can’t work in the dark.”

 

 

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Character Interview

Posted by mcm0704 on March 8, 2017 |

This is Leonora – just so there is no confusion. 🙂

Please join me for an interview with Lyudmilla Hrihorivna, a character from The Woman Behind the Waterfall, that I reviewed here earlier this week. The author, Leonora Meriel has gone undercover as a reporter, to interview Lyuda in her home in a village in Western Ukraine. We can have a piece of honey cake as we read the interview. Enjoy….

 

Reporter: Good evening, Lyuda. Thank you for agreeing to talk to me.

Lyuda: I don’t talk to many people. I don’t know why you’re interested.

Reporter: I’m wondering why you look so sad Lyuda. You’re so young, and you’re very pretty. Why aren’t you smiling?

Lyuda: [struggles to answer] I’ve been like this since the birth of my daughter. My life just keeps getting worse and worse. [tears fill her eyes]. My mother … died just after Angela was born. I couldn’t cope. I didn’t’ know how to run a household. I didn’t know how to make soup. I didn’t know how to take care of a baby. I was only 17. And then Volodiya used to get so angry with me. I couldn’t do anything right. And then he left.

Reporter: I’m very sorry, Lyuda. That’s terrible.

Lyuda: And then I was on my own with this baby. I hadn’t even finished school. I just didn’t understand what had happened to my life. One minute I was in school and happy. The next minute my mother was dead and I was living on my own in the house with a baby. I loved Volodiya. I believed him when he said he was going to build a house for us, build a life for us.

Reporter: And why didn’t he? Why did he leave?

Lyuda: I don’t know [cries]. It was so awful. It was like one minute everything was made out of dreams, and the next minute everything had turned black and I just couldn’t find my way out.

Reporter: How do you cope?

Lyuda: I’m ashamed to say really. [looks around the kitchen]. I drink vodka. It helps. My neighbor, Kolya, brews samohon – it’s homemade vodka. He gives me bottles of it. It really takes away the pain I feel all the time. I’m ashamed though.

Reporter: Tell me about your daughter, Angela. She’s 7 years old now? Look – we can see her. She’s dancing in the garden? It looks like she’s playing a game. She’s smiling and laughing.

Lyuda: She’s the most wonderful girl in the world. She’s the reason I’m still alive.  She helps me a lot. She gets the water from the well. She picks flowers and fruit and vegetables.

Reporter: Do you think she knows how unhappy you are?

Lyuda: I hope not. I pray not. When I cry, I try to hide it from her. One day I will have to tell her about everything. But I don’t know what to say to her. I could say – I made terrible mistakes. I could say – I ruined my life. I didn’t listen to my mother. But then – all those terrible mistakes led to her being alive. So what is right and what is wrong? Were they mistakes?

Reporter: That’s a difficult question, Lyuda. Thank you for trying to answer it. Now, why don’t you show me around your home?

Lyuda: Well, it’s a typical cottage for a Ukrainian village. There is the porch – that is to leave boots and coats and also to store jars of pickled fruit and vegetables. Then there is the main room, where we are sitting – it has the kitchen and the big tiled stove. It’s very hot in winter. The houses get very stuffy with the heat, even though it’s freezing outside. Behind this room, is the one big bedroom. Angela and I sleep in there. There is a small bedroom to the side. I use that for a storeroom now. In the past, several generations would live in the same house, so all the bed space was used.

Reporter: Where is the bathroom and the toilet?

Lyuda: There’s an outhouse in the garden, just a few steps away. There isn’t a bathroom. None of the houses in the village have running water. There’s a well down the road where we pump water and carry buckets back to the house.

Reporter: And I notice there isn’t a fridge in your kitchen?

Lyuda: No. We keep meat and milk on the windowsill or the porch near the door, to keep it cold. We’re careful to use things quickly.

Reporter: That sounds like quite a struggle to live. No fridge, no running water. No toilet. It doesn’t feel like the late twentieth century!

Lyuda: It’s just how we were brought up. It isn’t a problem when you’re used to it. Of course, I dreamed of leaving the village and having a different life. A better life. But then… but then Volodiya left and…

Reporter: Yes, yes, that must have been terrible. Lyuda, before we finish, can you share with me a Ukrainian recipe? Maybe a favourite of yours or something Angela likes?

Lyuda: We eat a lot of soup; and I make cakes. I’ll tell you the recipe for a Honey Cake or “Medyanik”. It’s very easy to make. Angela loves it. It’s very filling though. It’s best if you make it with the “grechnii med” – the buckwheat honey. It’s black and thick and has a very intense taste. But the cake works with any honey.

Reporter: That would be wonderful, Lyuda. Thank you. (Lyuda writes out the recipe and hands the paper to me.)

Lyuda: Mix it all up into a big bowl and stir thoroughly. Then pour the whole mixture into a buttered dish. The best kind is a round dish with a hollow centre – that’s the most traditional way to cook it. You bake it at a medium heat for 30 to 40 minutes. You can smell when it’s done. Don’t leave it in too long or it will go hard. You can eat it like a cake, or spread it with jam like bread. We would traditionally have a cup of black tea with lemon and sugar to go with it.

Reporter: That sounds delicious. Thank you so much for your time today, Lyuda. I do hope that your sadness goes away.

Lyuda: I doubt I will. It feels sometimes like I am trapped behind a waterfall.

Reporter: I’m sure it can’t last forever. Thank you once again. And goodbye, or “do pobachenya” as they say here in Ukraine.

Lyuda: “Do pobachenya!”

Recipe for Medyanik:  Ukrainian Honey Cake

1 cup of crushed walnuts

1 cup sour cream

1 cup sugar

1 cup honey

3 eggs

3 cups flour

1 tablespoon of sunflower oil

Pinch of salt

1 teaspoon of soda, dissolved in a tablespoon of vinegar

Pour the whole mixture into a buttered dish and bake at a medium heat for 30 to 40 minutes.

Best made in a round buttered dish with a hollow center.

Eat as cake or bread, or cut in half and spread with jam.

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Book Review – The Woman Behind the Waterfall

Posted by mcm0704 on March 5, 2017 |

The Woman Behind the Waterfall

Leonora Meriel
Literary Fiction, Magic Realism
Granite Cloud Publishing: October 1, 2016
ISBN: 1911079239
234 pages – hardback
262 pages – paperback

BOOK BLURBHeartbreak and redemption in the beauty of a Ukrainian village
For seven-year old Angela, happiness is exploring the lush countryside around her home in western Ukraine. Her wild imagination takes her into birds and flowers, and into the waters of the river. 
All that changes when, one morning, she sees her mother crying. As she tries to find out why, she is drawn on an extraordinary journey into the secrets of her family, and her mother’s fateful choices.

Can Angela lead her mother back to happiness before her innocence is destroyed by the shadows of a dark past?

REVIEW – As I read this book a couple of things kept running through my head. First, the lyrics of a song by Adler & Hearne “River Wide River Deep.” The song is a story that connects to this one, speaking of a woman who enters the river to get away from the darkness in her heart, and both stories make a strong emotional connection.

Then I thought about a truth that a friend once shared with me that the woman is the heart of the home and the heart of the family. When the heart is heavy with sadness and despair, the home is dark and unhappy.

This is a truth that is also shared in this wonderful book.

Trying to help Angela understand what is happening with her mother, who has an incredible sadness inside, Grandmother tells the girl, “When your mother is in her darkness, she thinks she is alone. But where ever she goes, she carries us with her.”

Then Grandmother explains about the connection that women have from generation to generation, “The rope contains all our memories, Angela. All our emotions. The feelings we had when we made our choices. It holds us to the single path, so that all the other possibilities are closed.”

And a bit later in the narrative Grandmother says, “This is the rope with which we validate our womanhood. The rope we use as a guide to measure out our journeys. The cord that we wind around our bodies, binding our hearts inside and our choices outside, lashing them to the faults of our generations.”

Ultimately, this is a story about choices and how those choices affect our lives. There is even a hint of “It’s A Wonderful Life” as Angela’s mother, Lyuda, is given a glimpse of what her life could be had she made a different choice as a young woman. But that is where the similarity ends. The Woman Behind the Waterfall, is much more magical and mystical, written with beautiful poetic words and flights of fancy.

I have to admit that there were times I got lost in the transitions from real time to the mystical, especially in the beginning. However, I loved the whimsical introduction to Angela in the very beginning, and as the story progressed, the transitions were easier to follow. And Lyuda is a woman that we can all understand and to whom we can connect.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Leonora Meriel grew up in London and studied literature at the University of Edinburgh and Queen’s University, Ontario. She worked at the United Nations in New York, and then for a law firm. In 2003 she moved to Kyiv, where she founded and managed Ukraine’s largest Internet company. She studied at Kyiv Mohyla Business School and earned an MBA. During her years in Ukraine, she learned to speak Ukrainian and Russian, witnessed two revolutions and got to know an extraordinary country at a key period of its development. In 2008, she returned to her dream of being a writer and completed The Woman Behind the Waterfall, set in a village in western Ukraine. Her second book, The Unity Game will be released in May 2017.

You can see more about Leonora on her WEBSITE

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Do come back on Wednesday, when Leonora will be my guest. She will be sharing an interview with Lyuda, and it will be great to find out more about this fascinating character.

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See the book at Goodreads

Buy at AMAZON US  ***  AMAZON UK

Follow Leona at her Amazon US Author Page and her Amazon UK Author Page

You can also follow her on FACEBOOK and TWITTER

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Has the review peaked your interest? Do you like to read mainstream literature that has a mystical element?

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