December 7, 2008

A Village Shattered

Filed under: Uncategorized — unwriter1 @ 10:55 pm
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A Village Shattered  is a most interesting book and I’ll have a review of that tomorrow. This is a bit of my eclectic side coming out but I’ve discovered that these types of questions tend to allow my interviewees to cut loose and have some fun. Along the way we get more of an insight into the mind of Jean Henry Mead. So with that as an almost intro, let’s talk to Jean.
1. I have to ask, I know this is personal but, Henry as a middle name? Let me guess, your parents were big Johnny Cash fans?

Henry is my mother’s maiden name. I use it because my maiden name is Hammond and Henry sounds better between my other names. And no, my parents weren’t Johnny Cash fans. I remember them listening to music on the radio but it was sort of generic music of that era. My father did play the harmonica and mandolin. He also sang, which is probably where I got my musical abilities as well as my writing skills. Dad wrote poetry and short stories but never tried, to my knowledge, to get them published. I also inherited my artistic DNA from him.

2. You’ve published seven non-fiction books. What are they and where may our readers locate them?

Because I began my career as a journalist, I first wrote a book of interviews with celebrities and well-known people. Dick Cheney was one of my first interviews while he was serving in Congress. I also interviewed U.S. senators, governors, artists, writers, actors and ordinary people who accomplished extraordinary things. I then wrote a centennial history of Wyoming titled Casper Country, which is still available on the internet. I had so many research notes left over that I used them to write Escape, a Wyoming Historical Novel, now available at Amazon.com. My other nonfiction books are out of print although Maverick Writers is still available on the web.

3. I love classical music (Ok, I love all music and rap or hip-hop doesn’t count as music). I noticed on your profile you also like classical music. Here’s the scene.
You’ve been kidnapped and are being forced to write a training manual on raising sheep in a city apartment. As if that isn’t bad enough, you’re forced to listen to the one piece of classical music you can’t stand. What is it and why?

I’m resisting the urge to say that’s a baaad scene, Ron. I love music and can honestly say I haven’t listened to any classical piece that I didn’t like. My favorite is “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” which lifts my spirits whenever I’m down. But writing a training manual on raising sheep in a city apartment would require more than the music of Peter Iljitch Tchaikovsky. If I were forced to listen to some very loud rap or hip hop, I’d probably find a way to leave the apartment by the fire escape.

4. Most writers ascribe their words to what their muse tells them. Having said that, what or who, is your muse?

My muse’s name is Ernie and he tries his best not to lead me astray. I often hear words in my left ear when I can’t think of the right word or phrase. I’ve been known to say that I could write in the middle of a traffic jam because of my news reporting background. I don’t think Ernie was around then but if he were, I could not have heard him because of ringing phones and clattering teletype machines.

5. You have read some of what I write and you’ve noticed I’m a little on the strange side. You also made the comment there is not enough laughter in this world. That in and of itself begs the question, what do you do for fun?

For me the greatest fun is writing. I can’t think of anything that brings me more pleasure than to write a good scene or chapter before I turn in for the night. It leaves a glow that I can’t compare to anything else but sex. And humor is something I try to incorporate into all my books, even nonfiction. . . By the way, Ron, I call myself eccentric, not strange. All writers are a little “different” or eccentric.

6. Everybody asks how many pets you have. I’m curious as to how many stuffed kritters you have.

I have a few stuffed “kritters” because I collect teddy bears and give them to visiting children. But I also have a number of real critters like a dozen chickens, two ducks and a dog on our mini ranch. We also have white-tailed deer, antelope, rabbits and a variety of birds that frequent our property that I love to photograph when I’m not writing.

7. You have been given two tickets to Paradise, leaving in two weeks, all expenses paid. You start packing only to have a delivery truck bring you two boxes and a note that you’re only allowed to bring ten pounds of personal items to the Paradise space station. The first box has all the suits and gear you need for the flight. What is in the second box?

A lightweight laptop computer, ebook reader, binoculars and a digital camera. And don’t tell me I have to toss one of them out. Oh, okay, the binoculars have to go.

8. You’ve been assigned a well paying article on words. Your instructions are simple. They want 2,000 words on how and why to avoid the word and. The only other requirement is, that word (and) cannot be in the article anywhere. How would you get around it?

I’d tell them ‘Sorry, I’m busy writing a book’ or I’d write very short sentences, or I would use a lot of semi-colons or “buts.”

9. You’re giving the main address at SPAM, for the CUJO class. (Culinary and Journalism double majors). What is the topic of your speech?

“Abaloney and All the Latest News”

10. Jean

You’re heading towards the 9th hole and as you round the corner you pass
through a strange cloud. As you emerge from this mist you’re at a different time. You know you’ve traveled back in time because as you’re driving, you almost run into the teepee of the medicine man of the Sioux Indians that used to live in the area. How do you explain the golf cart and where you came from?

After I had recovered from shock and, if my blond hair hadn’t been lifted from my head, I’d have to use sign language to offer the medicine man a ride in my cart. I would indicate the mist from which I had come and then motion to the sky and sign that the cart had fallen from the heavens. I would then trade him the cart for my life and walk as fast I could back through the mist, hoping I would return to the golf course on the other side. Because I’ve read extensively about Native Americans for my western historical books, I don’t think I would hang around to smoke a peace pipe with the Sioux. They weren’t too fond of white eyes, with good reason.

11.You step out the front door of your house and oddly, you’ve just stepped back five centuries. You have with you, your cell phone, keys, with the keypad to open your car, clothes for work, a digital watch, and glasses. You see a message on your phone that to return to the present, you have to find two books. What two do you need?

Back to the Future and The Time Machine.

12. Let’s go traveling again. You’re headed to the new housing unit on the moon. You’re the new librarian and are allowed to bring ten books. What are they?

War and Peace, Gone With the Wind, The Great Gadsby, The Orient Express, To Kill a Mockingbird, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone, Escape, and A Village Shattered. 🙂
13. As a writer, you should be a reader. Who are your top five favorite authors and why?

1. Dean Koontz because I like the way he strings his words together, and I learned to write fiction by studying his work.
2. Ernest Hemingway because he changed the face of writing for generations of writers, and I was born on his birthday (how shallow is that?).
3. Agatha Christie because she introduced me to the world of mysteries.
4. John Grisham because I enjoy reading everything he writes.
5. James Patterson, Sue Grafton and Janet Evanovich because I read all three to relax (okay, I fudged).

14. I like challenges. Describe a typical day using at least five song titles.

“Dawn is Breaking, It’s Early Morn” (I know, those are song lyrics), “You Light Up My Life” (my computer), “Temptation” (to let the housework go to write all day),” “Moon River” (when the words really flow),” ” Hard Day’s Night” because I’m exhausted at the end of the day, although exhilarated if the writing has gone well.

15. JP (that’s my muse), said I need to ask you to give me a bit of information about your characters in AVillage Shattered and where our readers may purchase a copy.

Dana Logan and Sarah Cafferty are two 60-year-old widows living in a retirement village where their friends and club members are dying alphabetically. Dana is a mystery novel buff and Sarah a private investigator’s widow who decide to solve the murders themselves when they learn their own names are on the killer’s list. A newly-elected sheriff bungles the investigation and Dana’s beautiful daughter, a journalist, arrives in time to get herself nearly killed.

The book will be released this month (December) in both trade paper from Amazon.com and in multi format from Fictionwise-ePress-Online. my print book is up at both Amazon.com @ http://tinyurl.com/5alkkr and is #1 at Fictionwise-ePress in multi format: http://tinyurl.com/6rdzm5

17. A simple question (from me?). What was your inspiration for A Shattered Village?

The story simply evolved from a vague idea I had when I sat down at my computer. I give my characters free rein and they write the book. I just type as fast as I can to keep up with them. I’m not kidding. That’s the way it actually happens. I rarely revise my work but I do some polishing with the second draft.

18. You have been given one million dollars but instructed that you cannot keep it. You have two weeks to use it for good. What will you do with it?

I don’t think giving people money necessarily helps them if they don’t have goals in mind. I would probably provide scholarships for deserving young people to receive a better education.

19. A writer’s worst possibility has happened. You have writers block! The only way you can get past this is to play a game. What is your game of choice?

I rarely suffer from writers block but a game of Scrabble or five card draw would probably break the log jam.

20. Two colonies have been up and running for sometime and you’ve just won a two-month round trip vacation to either one. Which would you prefer, Mars, or Venus?

Venus is much too hot and inhospitable for human habitation, so I’d choose Mars and hope I could stay warm enough to survive.

Ok, I’ve tortured you enough. It’s time to turn the tables and give you free rein to say whatever you would like. Take as much space as you need.

Thank you, Ron, for the unusual, thought-provoking questions as well as hosting two days of my blog book tour. It’s been fun and I look forward to your book review tomorrow, as do my novel characters who have also been interviewed on various blog sites. In fact, two more character interviews are coming up Thursday the 11th and Saturday the 13th.. The remainder of my schedule is up at: http://myblogtour.blogspot.com/.


Amanda meets Owen Fiddler

Filed under: book tour — unwriter1 @ 1:00 am
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Today’s post is part of The Owen Fiddler Experience Christmas Cyber Tour 2008.  All the prizes and giveaways and the entire tour agenda is listed here – and also a mention that tomorrow the tour continues at Joyce Anthony’s Books & Authors blog.

Ok folks, this is what the whole week was leading up to. You’ve met Amanda, You’ve met Koko, You’ve met Owen, now Meet Owen getting waylaid by a kitty.


Leaves and Grass interview

“Amanda, there was this very odd human in town today. Of all the strange humans, this one is probably the strangest. He never looks up, and growls constantly. The last time I saw something like this is when Greystripe, the wolf, got that thorn in his paw and didn’t want help getting it out but he growled all the time with it in. At least he went back to his normal surly self after the raccoons tackled him and held him down so they could remove the thorn.”

“I remember reading that story. Didn’t he finally move to a better hunting ground?”

“It wasn’t a planned move. The humans were scared of him so they had a way of putting him to sleep and taking him someplace.”

“Okay, I didn’t think I’d seen him lately.”

“Anyway, the reason I contacted you is that I want to do a feature in next week’s Leaves and Grass. Since you seem to have a knack for dealing with humans, do you think you could…”

“I’d be glad to. What’s his name, any idea?”

“I’ve heard his only friend, a writer named Marvin Wilson, or something like that, called him Owen Fiddler. Which reminds me, if he plays the fiddle, maybe we can get him to join the chorus.”

“That won’t work. Humans are too tall and they smell.”

“We have a human descenter spray.”

“Okay, but there is only one person that understands kitty, how am I supposed to talk to him?”

“Koko has a kitty to human translator. You ask the questions in kitty and it prints out in human. Then hand them to the human. The papers you use are this special magic kind. Once he holds them in his hands he will go into a trance. In that trance you and he will be able to talk to each other and understand each other. So you will be free, really, to deviate from the written questions if your interaction with him lends itself to that, okay?”

“Wonderful! That sound like a fun thing!”

After compiling the questions and printing them out on the magic papers, Amanda searched around and found Owen Fiddler trying to get a fifty cent piece off the sidewalk but everyone kept stepping on it. Amanda scurried over, sat on the coin upright on her rear haunches and offered the sheets of paper to him with her paws. He had no choice but to take them if he wanted the coin.

As Owen reached down and took hold of the papers, Amanda said, “Mr. Fiddler that is a funny name if you don’t even play one, where did you ever find it, the name that is?”

Owen was startled speechless. He felt funny. Weird. He looked all around. The entire world had an eerie glow, like psychedelic with vivid colors and alternating tunnel and panoramic vision. He felt faint and high. Very high. And wheezy. He nearly fell, but caught himself. He looked down at the kitty in disbelief. A cat? Talking? To me? Geez, I gotta cut down on the booze. Well, no one is looking right now, go ahead and talk to the thing I guess. Good grief – am I really doing this?

Owen grumped, “Like it’s any of your business. The author of my life story, Marvin Wilson. He named me. If it’s funny soundin’ it’s all his fault. Don’t blame me. Somethin’ about me always owing the fiddler or some such (bleep).” He shook his head at the thought of what he was doing, actually standing in a bizarre broad daylight talking to a little furry creature. He decided he’d try and be nice to the varmint. “So what’s your name? Or do you have one?”

“Amanda, that’s my name. Ahm, my friend Koko has a human to kitty translator so we took your book and did that to it. I doesn’t talks human so well, but I readed it. I thought kitties had strange names, like Rascal or Othello, but where did Blue Moon-sky come from?”

“Blue Moon-sky? Oh, you mean the guy who drew up the art work for the book cover. That’s Marvin’s son. He dedicated the whole book to Blue. He told me once how he came up with the name. It’s kind of a Native American-like thing as I recall. They had a home birthing, he and his wife. When the boy was born, Marvin walked out into the back yard in the wee early hours after midnight and he says he named him after the condition of the heavens. It was a deep blue sky with a full moon. So, Blue Moon-sky.”

“Awwww,” Amanda purred, “that is so beautiful!”

“Whatever,” Owen shrugged. No one ever said his name was cool or beautiful or nuthin.

Amanda looked him straight in the eyes and said, “Why do you blame your daddy for everything? Aren’t you man enough to admit you may have something to do with what happens to you?”

Now Owen was starting to get pissed as usual. Ya try and be nice and what happens? People, well a cat in this case, whatever, they get all accusing and judging on ya. Sucks.

“My dad was a good for nothing drunk who beat my Mom and me and my brother. And my step-dad was a phony suck-up that Mom paid all her attention to instead of me. So if I’m a little bit (bleep)ed in the head over it so what? I do what I gotta do to get by, ya know? It’s a big dog small dog world out here. Least for us down-on-our-luck human guys. Hey would you mind moving over a bit?” Owen needed that fifty cents. That put with what he had left in his pocket would buy him a six pack of Miller Gold.

Amanda didn’t budge. She swished her tail in a display of irritation. “Oh my poor kitty whiskers, you even blame doggies. Big and small dogs survive as well as they can. You are human, you can change your conditions, but don’t, why?”

“You’re so smart, why don’t you write a book?” Owen lit a cigarette. He took a deep inhalation, exhaled and promptly disappeared in a cloud. “Change the subject?” Came from behind the nicotine nebula.

“Well okay.” Amanda thought for a few seconds as Owen gradually returned to visible. Then her face lit up. “Hey, your daughter’s best friend has the sames name as me! Even human Amanda’s try to help. Your daughter sounds so friendly why don’t you likes your family?”

This repulsive creature is insufferable

“Look. My mother favored my little brother, I already told you about my dad and step-dad, both jerks, my brother is a smug guy all successful, mocks me with his phony kindness to his poor big brother, and my wife ditched me just cuz she caught me having one little affair. Wasn’t even nothin either, really – just a one-nighter fling with a bar floozy. As for Frenda, I do love her. With all my heart.” Owen’s face changed and his voice trailed off, “Well … did. Love. Her.”

His eyes filled up. The memory of his recent tragic loss, the one and only true love left in his life, gone forever, because of him and his stupid selfishness was unbearable. He sniffed, blinked his eyes several times and choked back a cry.

Amanda was touched. “I’m sorry Mr. Fiddler, did I touch on something that hurtins you?”

Owen collected himself. Acting all gushy in front of a cat for god’s sake. “Forget it. I’m all right. Would you mind please moving over, I -”

“Mr. Fiddler, Your wife is very religious, why aren’t you?”

I’m gonna kill this cat

“I don’t believe there is such a thing as a god. If there is a god, he’s doing a piss-poor job as far as I’m concerned. All I’ve ever wanted is to be happy and have a good time. But nooooo, no way. My life has to turn out like this. God. Gimme a break.”

“You are a very not nice human. Why didn’t you try to return that purse?”

She knows about that?

“That’s none of your business. Who told you that, and who else have you told?”

“I told you I read the book, silly, everyone knows about the purse. That was pretty bad, Mr. Fiddler. Not very nice.”

Jesus, that’s right. The whole world is on to me now. Why did I ever agree to Wilson writing that book?

Amanda interrupted his mental anguish with another annoying question, “Did Mr. Wilson find you from some memories of his own past?”

“Sez so, yeah. Sez he relates to me a lot from his own past. I don’t much believe him. He can’t have gone through anywhere near what I have and turn out the way he is. He’s just making stuff up. Writer, you know.”

“Mr. Fiddler, I just read about your mama. Do all humans grow up to be ugly or just the pretty ones?”

Oh now the little creep’s gonna go and talk about my Mama

“Now hold on there fuzzy face. My Mom is still beautiful. Got her faults, can’t stand to live with the nag or put up with her constant haranguing me about what I should be doing better with my life, but don’t you ever-” Owen had to catch himself. His face was turning loud crimson. He started shaking.

Amanda recoiled. She cocked her head to the side and said, “Now I understand the expression of losing your marbles. Like in your story. When you was ten. Was that where you lost yours, in that marbles game or whatever it was, in the driveway?”

Owen had completed counting to twenty. His face boiled back down to just soft red. He sighed and said, “You could say that. I mean, I’ve always had a bad temper, but when my so-called friends tried to cheat me out of my winnings, I mean, any damn fool could’ve seen my marble was closest to the wall, well … I just lost it.”

“Mm-hmm, I see. As I read through the book about you, all I see is you blaming everyone else. Have you ever once thought you could maybe be at fault yourself for some of it?”

Owen thought about Frenda. The purse. The crash. His loss. The connection. The undeniable indictment of him, his character. His absolute direct responsibility. No denying it. It was all way too much to bear. He really needed that six pack. He threw his head to the side in bitter denial and spat. Another long puff on his square. He blew his smoke to the side this time, while keeping his eyes on the cat.

“No comment. Change the subject. Please. And please would you just move a little ways over to one side or the other? I really need to get at-”

“In a minute. I’m almost done. Just a few some questions more. You know, you humans are funny creatures. Mama told us kitties sex is only to make more kitties. Why do you do it just for fun? And why do you have to use those drugs?”

“See? Right there. That’s what I’m talking about. Supposed to be a god. A god that loves us and cares for us. Bull(bleep). You cats, all the animals, have well balanced nerve endings, designed for relative comfort and survival. Not us humans. We have like, a gazillion nerve-endings, pleasure sensing nerve endings, built right into our sex organs. Sex is like the ultimate physical pleasure for a human being. We get flippin ecstasy out of our sex experience. Then this supposed loving and caring god goes and commands we aren’t supposed to have sex? Not supposed to enjoy it with anyone we want to? Pretty good joke, god, wherever you are.” Owen rolled his eyes heavenward with a two mocking thumbs up gesture.

“Mr. Fiddler, I’m just a kitty, but the more I read, the less I see of you liking yourself. Have you ever noticed that?”

“Well aren’t you just the brilliant one. Should I throw you a fish? What would you prefer, tuna? Next.”

“You like money and this booze stuff. If someone had offered you some of both, would you have gone to therapy to find out why you don’t like you?”

Owen considered felinocide. He pulled at his cheek while shaking his downturned head and snorting at this nosy creature’s audacity.

“Doubt it. What’s a stupid shrink gonna do to help?”

“Well, you didn’t know it, but your now ex-wife was thinking of counseling for both of you. Did you love your daughter enough to consider it, if given the chance?”

I really gotta read the book. I didn’t know that. Just – reading is so much work.

“Maaaybe … I guess, maybe. Hard to say. It’s too late now anyways.”

Amanda sensed a tenderness in Owen she hadn’t felt before. It touched her little kitty heart. “Mr. Fiddler, your life was nothing but torment. What would you have changed to prevent that?”

Owen heaved a heavy sigh, and slumped to a seat on the grass, cross-legged, head down. He muttered something to himself. Buried his face in his hands.

“What did you say, Mr. Fiddler?”

Owen’s pained face looked up at the strange little cat that had brought tears to his eyes. His voice was barely audible, “I said I’d … I’d never have been born.” He grimaced and bucked and choked back the agony, pinching his eyes shut to stave off an impending flood.

Amanda gave him some time. When he looked able to go on, she smiled and said, “Your book goes into some strange things. But mama taught us about this God creature. Does your God, and you are learning about him now, watch over us kitties too?”

Owen just stared at her, blank. Just stared.

Amanda thought she understood. If there was a god creature for humans, Owen hadn’t found it yet, wasn’t at all connected with this god. How could he have anything to say about a god he didn’t know?

“Mr. Fiddler, when you met with God, did that change your self-image?”

Owen’s arms went out with palms up. “What? What in the devil you talking about?”

“It says in the book. And you met your brother again, after the meeting with god. Did it feel better this last time, meeting with your brother?”

Owen’s face was an unsolved puzzle. “What in the hell are you saying? What’s this about meeting god and it being all better with me and Paize? You’re losing me here.”

He hasn’t even read his own book, Amanda thought. Amazing. Guess the rest of the questions I wanted to ask will have to wait for someone else.

“Mr. Fiddler, I’ve asked all the questions I can for now. I really appreciate you been so well – I know it’s hard to talk about some things like we did.” Amanda got up, stretched, meowed her farewell and started to meander down the sidewalk. Several yards away, she stopped, turned her head back to Owen and blinked.

A blinding flash of light made Owen cower and bring his forearm over his eyes. A peal of deafening thunder cracked the air apart. Then silence. Then car noises. People noises. Animal noises. Normal smells and colors. His world was back in place.

Owen picked up the fifty cent piece. He shook his head free of the insane micro-term memories he was having. I must be going bonkers. He walked into the convenience store to buy what would be his regular lunch, a six pack of liquid courage. He would need it. A full day of work ahead with a boss he can’t stand and co-workers that drive him mad. But at least it was Friday. He would get paid. Five o’clock sharp he’d be headed to the pub, the only place in the world he ever really felt happy. With pains for brains he paid for his hooch, hopped into his old beater and growled off to the mill.

The goal of quitting time was all that Owen Fiddler had to bolster him against the burden of the day.

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