About K.J.

Dust bunnies are prolific throughout our lives and in the world. They hide in dark places, and when least expected they roll across the floor in silence.

Star Struck

margo-lesser-gods

On May 15th, 2017, Margo Catts launched her debut novel, Among the Lesser Gods. Normally I would be writing a review of her book – which I will be doing soon – but today I am writing about my experience of being “Star Struck”.

I have always felt that every human is just a person no matter their social or economic status. As the old saying goes, we all put our pants on one leg at a time. Shirts only go on one arm at a time, and skivvies are in the same category. We all wear them (ok, some people feel skivvies are too binding) and we all put them on essentially the same way. Thus, Mark Zuckerberg and I are on the same playing field in the basics of life. I’m sure that if I met him on the street he may look familiar to me, but I would not really recognize him, much less be star struck for him.

But, on that evening in May, I was struck by Margo. Her book launch was at the Tattered Cover,  a bookshop where friends gather to sip tea and talk books. It is cozy. When I arrived, Margo had already started her presentation to a group of about 40 adoring fans. Up to this point I had only known Margo during our critique group and at her home for coffee. I met a new side of her.

Her presentation had everyone laughing and crying. Her slight nervousness gave her a down to earth eloquence. She spoke of her inspiration for the book and how her curious mind took a tiny article about a fire and turned it into a wonderfully moving novel.

After her presentation we all clutched our copies of her books to wait for a few moments with the author and have our copies signed. I ended up toward the end of the line, and was able to chat with several of our writing friends to pass the time. I watched as each new person smiled and had kind words for Margo, and in turn she generously shared hugs and laughter.

I wondered what they all were saying. “Great job Margo!” “Loved your book Margo.” “When will the next book come out?” “I couldn’t put it down.” The compliments just flowed and Margo beamed. My turn finally arrived and I walked up to the table grinning from ear to ear and my mind just went blank. I stood in front of Margo with this smile, and I couldn’t get any words to come out of my mouth. I really was star struck. I was (and still am) so proud to stand in front of this wonderful author. Margo Catts, my friend, was now a published author and I was beside myself with awe. I finally was able to push out a single word…WOW. That’s all I could say in that moment. I went around the table and gave her a hug and whispered, “I’m so happy for you.”

As soon as I got home, Margo’s book was put where all of my signed copies go – in a book cabinet that holds all of my closest friends (that is, book, friends). I never read the signed copy of a book. That one gets put away to be treasured and I purchase a second copy to dog ear and love. Thank you Margo, for making my first star stricken experience a great one! I can now go back to my regular life putting my pants on one leg at a time.

Dragon Naturally Speaking

I just purchased the new software called Dragon Naturally Speaking. I have been working with it for just a short while. Actually, only about an hour. This blog post is the first sizable bit of writing that I have done with it.

I decided to purchase the software mostly because I broke my arm last weekend. Typing with one hand is quite slow and rather annoying. I had been thinking about purchasing Dragon Naturally Speaking in order to increase my output as a writer because I felt like my hands kept getting in the way of my thought processes when I’m writing. Then I broke my arm.

It is quite awkward to talk and try to keep track of where my punctuation goes. I am getting the hang of it pretty quick and things seem to be slowly coming together. I will say that this program is quite accurate so far. I haven’t really come across anything that is not working very well. I do go back and double check spelling and punctuation, and things like that, just because I’m not saying them correctly yet. For the most part I’m pretty impressed.

I have the premium version that I purchased on Amazon for about $75. The only drawback was the headset that came with the software didn’t work, and I had to purchase a separate headset with a USB connection.

Since breaking my arm I have a whole new appreciation for anyone who has limited use of a hand. This limitation really brings challenges that you never would think about on a day-to-day basis. Things such as opening a bottle, or putting on your pants, or tying your shoes. I also found that typing is extremely challenging, and things that took me just a few minutes to type now take me twenty. Finding this software has made my life simpler. So, I’m looking forward to continuing the test on this software. I let you know how it all works out.

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell


★★★★☆
This hefty novel opens in 1806 with the meeting of the Great Magic Society. Theoretical magicians meet to discuss their discoveries while reading about, but not practicing, magic. A gentleman does not, after all, practice magic.

Ms. Clarke weaves a wonderful tale filled with shadows lurking in dark corners and chilled breezes that sneak through the window cracks. Magic is coming back to England after a 300-year absence, and Mr. Norrell and Jonathan Strange are in the middle of it all as they fumble through dusty spell books.

The reader spends the first third of the book with Mr. Norrell and his fussy approach to magic. His counterpart, Jonathan Strange doesn’t make his first appearance until well into the story.  The two characters are the opposite of one another in every respect. Mr. Norrell is small, mousey, and reserve in personality and magic. On the opposite side, Jonathan Strange is tall, handsome, and bold.

Their lives become deeply intertwined and neither Johnathan Strange nor Mr. Norrell understand the depth until the last chapters and pages.

I loved the writing style of Ms. Clarke, which is reminiscent of the time-period in which the book takes place. The humor is dry, and hidden among the words. If you are not an English major, you may miss many of the jokes that are drizzled throughout the book. The writing style is colorful and the reader will be treated to smelling the acrid air and feeling the rough textures.

The use of end-notes gives the reader some backstory of side characters and events. They are a fun diversion away from a long story, but they were a little disruptive at times. I skipped a few just to continue with my reading.

Overall, this is a great book to lose yourself in.

The Buried Giant

The Buried GiantThe Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Buried Giant is a book that will leave you thinking long after you have finished reading the last words. Kazuo Ishiguro masterfully weaves a tale of things forgotten, covered in the mists that hang like a curtain at the edge of remembering.

The main characters, Axl and Beatrice, are saddened that they live on this precipice to remember their son and, one day, decide to leave their lives behind in order to see him once again. During their journey, across the bleak landscape of Arthurian England, they cross paths with Sir Gawain, the last knight from King Artur’s time, Master Wistan, a Saxon warrior, and young Edwin a cursed boy who becomes Wistan’s apprentice. Mirrored in the undercurrent of the forgotten brutalities during the Briton and Saxon wars the characters face trials in morality, honor and love.

The reader is left a little off balance trying to find the thread of The Buried Dragon story, but this seems exactly how it should be. The allegory is strong only if the reader chooses to remember.

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Leap

During the month of February I joined a group of writers in a writing challenge. The gist of it was to write everyday for the month of February with the end result being that good habits will continue through the rest of the year. Today is the final day of that challenge and for this last day I set a challenge for everyone to write a flash fiction or a short short story using the following 8 words:

  • Leap
  • Jump
  • Fly
  • Year
  • Day
  • Crazy
  • Fun
  • Write

Without further adieu…

Come to the Beach

The breeze off the ocean pulls my hair back out of my eyes. Trying to write on the beach is not always easy, but today I think it’s in my favor. My papers jump and, chased by the gust, I watch a leaf fly across the sand . This year has been much like the leaf. What was it like before? I try to recall. I think I was fun at one time, maybe even a little bit crazy, but those days are past.

I close my binder and take one last look before I leave. The salt fills my nose with a chill and my hair tangles on the buckle of my bag. It is happening again, I can feel it crawl up my spine. I’m going to change someone’s life today. I never know who, nor how, but whenever I get that itchy feeling I know it’s coming.

Once I gave my lottery numbers to someone and they won. I read about a mugging the next day. Another time I stopped to pet a cat along side a road, then it took a leap over the curb. One day I left my shoes at the top of the stairs. He never saw the bottom. Those are the ones that get me. Those are the ones that make this all so unbearable.

Today I will change someone’s life. I have been warned, and so have you. Tomorrow I’ll return to this spot to see the wind chase a new leaf across the sand. Would you like to join me?

Opinion – Harper Lee

With Harper Lee’s death there is already speculation about her writing and if it should have been (or should be) published. There are discussions about the publishing houses and if they preyed on an elderly woman with dementia. Was her state of mind lucid enough to suddenly publish Go Set a Watchman? I do not have an answer to this question, but I do know a little bit about the elderly.

Over the past 5 years I watched my father slowly lose his mental faculties to age related dementia. There were days he was his old self, full of jokes and laughter. Then there were the days he thought he was at his childhood summer home wondering where his brother and sister were. It was his good days that threw me off balance, so much so that I thought he was back and we didn’t have to worry anymore. It was his good days that made all the rest bearable. It was his good days that gave me a false sense of “normal.”

If I had to guess, it may have been during one of those good days (sometimes they last for days and weeks at a time) that Harper Lee was cleverly duped into signing the rights over. Maybe it was a series of good days. I don’t know. I wasn’t there.

One thing I feel is true, as a writer, if there is anything I never want published – I’ll destroy any and all copies, forms, ideas, and outlines of said story while I have the mind to do it. “Horrors!” You might say, “What if you change your mind?” If, what I wrote before (and deleted) is good enough, or fills my heart enough to finish, I will find the words again. I will find the story again. Plus, it will probably be much better the second time around.

Harper Lee should have destroyed any manuscripts she really didn’t want published. If she disliked Go Set a Watchman so much, she should have burned it. Why? Ultimately, it is our responsibility as writers to protect our work, because those that prey on the weak and debilitated will pounce the moment we can’t stop them. It is our work and our choice about publication. Period.

The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating

The Sound of a Wild Snail EatingThe Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey
★★★★☆

I was pleasantly surprised with this book. The writing is very eloquent. It has a quiet strength to it that the reader may not realize until after reading Ms. Bailey’s story. The main character (the author), who is gravely ill, finds her own strength and resolve through her observations of the daily challenges faced by an unassuming creature. The snail’s simplicity brought a bit of joy to what was a difficult time in her life.

I know more about snails than I ever thought possible and was entertained while learning and reading. Some of the historical quotes, facts, and figures got a bit tiring, but it was well balanced with the humanness of the story. I don’t think I’ll look at a snail the same way.

From Goodreads: In a work that beautifully demonstrates the rewards of closely observing nature, Elisabeth Bailey shares an inspiring and intimate story of her uncommon encounter with a Neohelix albolabris —a common woodland snail.

While an illness keeps her bedridden, Bailey watches a wild snail that has taken up residence on her nightstand. As a result, she discovers the solace and sense of wonder that this mysterious creature brings and comes to a greater under standing of her own confined place in the world.

Intrigued by the snail’s molluscan anatomy, cryptic defenses, clear decision making, hydraulic locomotion, and mysterious courtship activities, Bailey becomes an astute and amused observer, providing a candid and engaging look into the curious life of this underappreciated small animal. 

Told with wit and grace, The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating is a remarkable journey of survival and resilience, showing us how a small part of the natural world illuminates our own human existence and provides an appreciation of what it means to be fully alive.

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