Monday, December 30, 2013

How Purrl made it work

2013 turned out to be a transitional year for me, and frankly, I'm so glad it's over.

At the end of 2012 I was diagnosed with "damaged" lungs.  To my way of thinking, this is a misnomer, given the fact that I was probably born with holes in my lungs.  So I came into 2013 trying to adjust to the truth (no cure, and it's progressive) and limits (uphill climbs beat me like a stick) of my "disease."  (Can't we call it a "condition"?  "Disease" sounds icky.)

In January, I left my cabin in the wilderness and became a flatlander once again, buying a three-bedroom home built in 1957 (one of my favorite years) with an insurmountable (at least for a six-pound cat with stubby legs) block wall around the back yard.  How am I adjusting?  I'm saving money toward retirement.  But I can't see the stars at night (well, your night, my morning--4:00a.m.).  I have a garden growing, and my tomatoes last summer were amazing.  But I am without the quiet and serenity of the mountain, and heading out my door for a walk no longer means sighting wildlife or standing underneath a waterfall.  Now it means following the sidewalk to the next housing tract... and the next.  But I'm eight minutes from work, so I'm no longer spending several hundred dollars a month in gas.  "No place is perfect," a friend told me recently.  So true.

With my new home and yard came the prospect of getting a dog, which I did last spring.  If you follow the blog, you will have read about Suede renamed Seamus, the chocolate lab that was abandoned at my local shelter.  Seamus was (almost) the perfect dog and would have been my constant companion... if he just had not been encouraged at some point in his life to chase kitties.  I adored him, and we walked every day, and having him beside me filled a void that had been there since 2006.  But alas... his presence in our home was terrifying for Sugar Plum.  Sugie tried several times to creep out and face her fear, but every time she did he would alert to her and try to chase her.  Sug shut down, refusing to come out from under the bed.  She wasn't eating or drinking.  She ended up very sick, and I ended up on the floor in fetal position, worried for her and heartbroken to know that Seamus would have to adjust to a new home all over again.

But as it turned out, the Universe had special plans for Shay.  With the help of my dog-loving friends (thank you forever, Donna Staub!), I found a couple who had recently lost their beloved chocolate lab.  They opened their loving arms to Shay and made him a family member overnight, and their yellow lab loved him as she had her previous companion.  Through much grief came a happy ending and the best forever home a dog could ever dream of.

After some weeks, Sug recovered.  And then I brought Purrl home.

Since losing my beloved Boo, I have made several attempts to bring a new cat into our home, so that Sug could also have a companion.  It never worked out because eventually the other cats tried to dominate Sug (and I would awake to the ferocious fury of cats brawling, teeth and claws maiming everything in sight, including me).  After three tries, I knew my only hope of making it work was if Sug could still feel like the queen of the house and another cat would defer to her.

And that's how Purrl made it work.  She was a tiny kitten, abandoned in a Target parking lot and rescued by the sister of a very sweet friend.  Purrl (Purrlie/Purrl-O/Purrl Jam) was probably about ten weeks old when I brought her home, mewling and crying in a carrier.  Instead of diving under the bed, Sug ran up to see what all the fuss was about, then hissed at the baby... but didn't fear her or reject her.  Within days, Purrl was pouncing on Sug's stump of a tail, and Sug was patiently allowing it.  Now both girls meet me at the door when I come home, and both sleep on the bed with me at night.  Of course, Purrl snores.  But then, how do I know I don't?

Oh, and one more good thing happened in 2013:  GhostGrandma, my YA novel, released on October 31.  I'm happy now for all the hours of this past summer I spent re-writing and editing it.  I've gotten some nice reviews, and teens seem to like it.

On January 1, I will begin writing a new book, a memoir about my experiences living in on the mountain.  At this point, I'm thinking (as I naively did with The Dogs Who Saved Me) that it will be an effortless expression of my passionate love of the wild.  My goal is to write three hundred words a day every day in 2014.  Check back with me; I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Under the apple boughs

A year ago British author Peter Maughan contacted me through Amazon and asked if I would read one of his novels as he was in need of reviews.  I downloaded The Cuckoos of Batch Magna but just couldn't get to it until summer.  When I finally read it, I fell in love with Peter's writing.  It was easy to give Cuckoos a 5-star review because it is just plain adorable (if a book can be such).

In September, I learned of and purchased another work by Peter which is a much shorter piece, maybe 60 pages if it were in page form.  (It's available for Kindle.)  This one is entitled Under the Apple Boughs, and I just have to say, if you want to completely immerse yourself in lyrical writing for a couple of hours, if you want to stroll the lanes of rural England in your imagination and view the sights through the eyes of an author who loves where he lives, spend $4.00 and download this narrative.

Peter's work has been characterized as "The Wind in theWillows for grown-ups."  Exactly.  Except... there is a thoughtful, gracious yet self-effacing intelligence in this writing that is nothing less than literary brilliance.

I began reading Apple Boughs after a particularly grueling week which was rife with heartbreak.  Sometimes, as Yeats lamented, 'the world's more full of weeping than we can understand.'  Beginning the narrative was like discovering the door to the SecretGarden and walking through to find the garden reclaimed and vibrant with trees and flowers and birdsong.  For three nights running, just before sleep, I would disappear behind that gate and wander slowly with Peter through the gardens of his imagination.  Our time together ended far too soon, but by the end of it I felt my soul had healed a bit.

If you're looking for a last minute gift for someone with a Kindle who loves the written word--especially if they love pastoral work--it takes only a couple of clicks to gift this book.  Heck, just get it for yourself and you can "lend" it to a friend for free later.

Oh, and if you're still in the spirit of giving after you read (and love--I promise) Apple Boughs, take a second and post a sentence or two in review of it so that we can share Peter's love of words with others.

May the spirit of the season abound in love!

Monday, December 2, 2013

One fact, one fiction

For this post, I thought I'd share with you what I've been reading lately... because I want these great books to be discovered and loved by others.  (Clicking on the titles, by the way, will take you to the Amazon page for each book.  And no, I don't receive any compensation for promoting them--just that warm fuzzy feeling.  Wait--maybe that has to do with what I'm drinking....)

First, a novel.  Days of Smoke, by Mark Ozeroff, is fascinating for two reasons: (1) its point of view and (2) the unique voice of the writer.  Here's some of the review I posted on Amazon:

First and foremost, the most compelling reason to read this novel is for the gorgeous prose. Ozeroff knows the English language, and he enlists it lovingly but without being florid or verbose; he simply employs the right word for the right spot, and that includes the tight, effective dialog here.  This novel, set in WWII,  is the story of a German pilot, but it is also the story of a war. Without being didactic, Ozeroff encourages his readers to consider what it may have been like from the other side's point of view. When we love someone, we tend to overlook obstacles to our love, and Days of Smoke offers a glimpse into how this may be true when we love our country as well.

Ozeroff has this style of writing that I can only characterize as "gallant," for lack of a better word.  The main character is heroic in the classic sense, and I found him to be charming and engaging.  If I can be sexist for a moment, Days of Smoke is kind of a guy's book (with all those aerial dog fights and aircraft specifications), but there's romance in it, too (which is of the classic heroic type as well).  It's a great read, so if you're looking for your next novel-fix, here it is.

Next, a memoir.  I just finished reading Jeffrey Koterba's book, Inklings.  Koterba is an editorial cartoonist for the Omaha World-Herald.  He's also a musician and plays frequent gigs in his own swing band.  Oh, and on a side note, he inherited Tourette's Syndrome from his father.

Here's the amazing thing: I knew of Koterba's artistic work before I knew of his book, and I knew he had Tourette's.  I assumed the memoir would be all about growing up with the syndrome, but no.  It's about growing up with a non-nurturing, somewhat harsh father (a big reason why the book resonated with me).  And it's about struggling to achieve his goal of doing the work that he loves (cartooning) as his bread-winning day job (something else I could identify with).  Here's a bit of what I posted on Amazon about his book:

If memoir serves its purpose well, it helps us to see our own lives with a slightly better perspective, having glimpsed another life which is similar to ours but perhaps embraces greater or different challenges. Koterba's book does just that as he throws wide the shutters of his childhood and allows us to stand just outside the window, witnessing in detail the harsh and poignant moments which shaped him as a child and pushed him slowly but determinedly into the two careers he follows today.

In my own career path, I read a lot of memoir and personal narrative. Inklings will stand as one of the most memorable books I read in 2013. Koterba achieves here what few memoirists do, and that is the point at which the writer manages to step outside of his own experience and look back at it objectively, portraying events as authentically as they actually occurred. Perhaps Koterba's skill at cartooning extrapolated into his skill at writing. Whatever the case, this is an honest, forthright, sincere offering that had me staying up late turning pages.

In the winter, because I can't play outside until 7:00 (unless I want to play in the dark), I tend to read more.  I'm already missing reading these two books--but I've just started E.L. Doctorow's new one.  So far, it's brilliant.