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Monday, December 30, 2002
In this important document of America's changing landscape, Sherwood Anderson captures America's sometimes painful transformation from agrarian to industrial, with insightful and poetic writing. This novel about a young man’s struggle for success is a perfect companion to Anderson's best-known work (Winesburg, Ohio) as well as to the many non-fiction books on the same topic (such as The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America).
Friday, December 27, 2002
Leaving 2002 in America
With 2003 approaching, we can’t help but look back at the events of 2002 in America. We saw people abusing various positions of power. For example, certain religious leaders not only hid crimes but also allowed more atrocities and sometimes even demonized the victims. Certain politicians used the bully pulpit for speaking words of bigotry. Certain business executives deceived or exploited investors, while cutting the jobs of many employees. And, around the world, terrorism continued.
Okay, all the above could really describe countless years.
But we see more and more people standing up against all the injustices I just listed. More people than ever seem to say, “We don’t want that, and we will work for change, no matter what the cost.”
People working for justice. People working for peace. Look around, and you’ll see them.
In my personal experience, I saw an outpouring of support for my charity project The Acorn Gathering: Writers Uniting Against Cancer. When terrible storms or other tragedies struck communities, I watched or read the news reports about neighbors and strangers pitching in to help.
I never doubt America’s greatness. Still, more and more, I see reminders of what makes her great: her people, and their ambition for a still greater America.
Tuesday, December 24, 2002
I read this novel long ago, and was happy to see that it has recently become much more popular. Toni Morrison realistically taps into the desires of children, such as the desire to feel acknowledged by one's parents, or the desire to feel beautiful. Sadly, her characters fail to see the beauty they already possess, and instead seek validation from people who might hurt them.
The language of this novel is both poetic and gritty. Morrison is too honest to let elegance keep her from depicting the tragedy and betrayals in many families. But she is also too gifted to simply present a tragic situation without using language that elevates its characters above that situation. She allows her characters to affect our lives, no matter how helpless they might seem in shaping their own lives.
I would recommend this book to anyone who has dealt with abuse, rejection, or internalized racism. I would also recommend it to anyone who wants an example of great black literature, great women's literature, or just plain great literature.
Monday, December 23, 2002
Shawna Chandler and I will sign copies of The Acorn Gathering: Writers Uniting Against Cancer, a short story collection we wrote with four other authors. All royalties from that book go to the fight against cancer! I’ll also sign copies of my book Degranon, and some other local writers will be there to sign their books. If you live in the Lubbock area, please take advantage of this opportunity!
Even if you don’t live near Lubbock, you’ll want to learn more about Shawna and her writing! Her story “The Flamenco Painter” was a touching addition to The Acorn Gathering.
Shawna is an Associate Editor for two e-zines. Insolent Rudder seeks submissions of “flash fiction” (described at the site). The second e-zine promotes the arts in Lubbock and elsewhere, under the provocative title LubbockSucks.Com.
Shawna’s home page includes her journal, short stories, and much more.
Saturday, December 21, 2002
This is an enjoyable critique about human vanity and greed, as well as how we react to our bodies, our lives, etc. When Lestat "steals" the other body, he finds himself delighted and repulsed by the various aspects of human mortality. Despite the novel's thickness, it moves rather quickly, with more than enough humor and action to keep the characters' observations from making the novel boring or sermonic.
Friday, December 20, 2002
Writer/director/producer Kieran Turner delivers a sweet romantic comedy with very little budget and no big-name Hollywood actors. Fortunately, he found good actors and tells a good story. The back-story is much darker and more tragic than what unfolds on screen, but Turner mostly leaves those sad elements to the imagination. Instead, we see Jonathan (Kevin Isola), a man in his early twenties, still living with his big sister and asking Santa Claus for presents. But this year, he asks Santa for the perfect boyfriend! The characters aren’t always likable, but they certainly move the story along quickly, and bring this hilarious little movie into unexpected directions. Even if it’s too late for Christmas, 24 Nights will make a good present for anyone who likes warm or offbeat comedies.
Thursday, December 19, 2002
This is one of those books that I heard about and read about for years but never got around to reading. I was missing out, and you are too if you haven't read it! The Front Runner captures many aspects of politics, discrimination, and gay life. It also captures universal qualities of wanting acceptance, success, and love. An athlete’s secrets and ambitions collide as he finds himself in the spotlight.
The attempts at turning this book into a movie dragged on for years, starting not long after his initial publication in 1973. Hopefully, it will happen one day. Until then, I suggest looking for this and other books from novelist Patricia Nell Warren.
Monday, December 16, 2002
The long-awaited tenth film in the Star Trek movie series combines some of the best elements of the previous movies, along with elements of the Star Trek: The Next Generation TV series. If it seems a little too familiar at times, that’s really okay with me, because director Stuart Baird offers such a complete vision of everything great Star Trek can provide its viewers.
Reportedly, the studio asked Baird to trim the movie to keep it short enough for multiple showings on each screen. That would explain the extremely brief appearances by some supporting characters. Their roles still work fine, but I hope the DVD will include a restored director’s cut. Further, I hope Paramount won’t repeat the past gimmick of releasing this Star Trek movie on DVD, then releasing a “special edition” or whatever edition after Trek fans already bought or rented the first one. I absolutely hate that, but the other studios practice the same marketing technique.
Back to the movie itself. The actors all give perfect performances, with some of the regular characters showing new sides, or sides they rarely revealed before. The special effects, though frequent, never look like special effects. Everything looks completely real. The action scenes alternate nicely with the emotional ones, keeping the movie from becoming either boring or mindless. In fact, I would call this one of the most emotional and exciting films in the series. I would also call it one of the best.
Now, can Paramount please make a movie or mini-series of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine?
Saturday, December 14, 2002
The Acorn Gathering: Writers Uniting Against Cancer.
Some excerpts from The Acorn Stories follow.
From the story “Paying the Rent.”
I couldn't help but notice how fat Lisa had become. She looked like one of those women who see themselves as big-boned, full-figured, girthful, well-rounded, plump--the kind who get blind dates as someone with "a nice personality." She barely resembled her former self. Sure, she had always carried a wide load in the back, and her face retained baby fat all the way through twelfth grade, but I expected more--or rather, less--when, after a seven-year disappearance, she called to say "Guess who?" I still loved her bright blue eyes and bouncy blonde curls, but the rest of her looked like something created in a misshapen Jell-O mold.
From the story “Timothy Fast.”
"Very well," said Memphis Lee. "But first, I have a gift for you." He reached behind his back and retrieved—
"A stuffed tarantula!" Ruth Feinstein grabbed it from him and cradled it against her neck. "You're so sweet. I'm sorry I called your place a dump and everything."
Rubbing his temples, Timothy Fast said, "About those ties--"
"Look by the cash register," said Memphis Lee. "We have the new graphics line. Senator Briggs was complaining about their violent imagery leading to street gangs and the disintegration of the American family, but the company made a contribution to his party, and now he calls them 'the family values ties.' I just love politics."
From the story “Mae.”
As the afternoon train rushed by the graveyard, shaking the ground, an oak tree dropped an acorn near Cleburne's grave. Mae wondered why nature made itself that way of acorn and oak remaking and dying and becoming something big to make something small to become something big, that way of making, that way of becoming, that way of everything becoming itself only to look for something else, and everyone else looking for everyone else looking to become, becoming in the process of looking.
Mae thought these things at her husband's grave because she thought she and Cleburne would continue always in their becoming and remaking until the dying happened, but that somehow the dying would happen to both of them together, just as everything else happened to them both together. She always thought the becoming married made them become one, because she thought two people who existed as one for fifty-eight years could not become only one person who existed as one alone for even one minute, because this becoming--it could not lead to this point.
From the story “Oak.”
"Mom, there's some things I've always wanted to say, if you would only listen. You have to forgive me, like I've forgiven you. I know it was wrong of me to get pregnant by some guy who isn't worth marrying, but you know it was wrong of you to ask me to sneak off and get an abortion, so no one would find out. All to protect the Briggs family businesses." Her voice grows louder as she begins to finally say what she feels inside.
"You and Daddy are the ones who closed down the only abortion clinic in Acorn. He'd roll over in his grave if he knew what you planned. Maybe you've gotten too caught up in high society. Maybe--" The machine beeps off. Shocked by her own words, Julie starts to call back and apologize, but she sets the phone down when she hears the trailer's bedroom door slide open.
From the story "Mirrors: A Blackmail Letter."
"You're from Acorn, aren't you?" Not a very good line, I suppose, but we really had seen each other before, made eye contact at the bank, the grocery, and the steak house. When male glances lock for a moment before diverting, eyes become mirrors.
You followed me back to Acorn that night, your headlights constantly reflected in my rearview mirror, the deep cadence of your voice constantly replaying in my mind. Separate cars--what better way to avoid conversation? And when you walked inside, you only talked about me, asked about me. I honestly knew nothing about you, except that you had just moved from Dallas, which you still visited constantly, and that you drove a nice car. Well, I learned about the Christian tattoo you got during a drinking binge, and I learned that you could talk like some kind of phone sex line. You should have mentioned your teenage son and your pregnant wife before that long talk in my kitchen, the long talk that happened after the time in each other's arms.
From the story “Flip, Turn.”
I pulled myself up enough to see the alarm clock just across my room. 10:15! It had happened again: after dreaming during the night that my alarm clock was buzzing, I had gotten up and turned it off, realized I was dreaming, laid in bed wondering whether I had also dreamed turning it off, then fallen asleep without turning it back on.
"Swimming," I mumbled into my pillow. I was supposed to have met Jimmy Jacobs at Acorn College's indoor pool around ten. Since I hadn't gone swimming in weeks, I had no idea where my alumni I.D. was. I searched my disintegrating wallet, pulling out shreds of napkins, envelopes, and newspaper with scribbled numbers. Some of the numbers looked like combinations for P.O. boxes or lockers, while others looked like phone numbers, but none of them had words on them. My wallet housed numbers detached from their purpose. I thought I should keep them in case I needed them one day. But how would I know if I needed them, or which ones to use? Then I found a phone number with a familiar handwriting.
I could have called all the phone numbers to see if I recognized the voices of the people who answered. Then I could just hang up. Maybe that's what people are doing--the people who call me then hang up. Maybe they sorted through old wallets and purses, found my number on a scrap of paper. After finding my I.D. in the dark recesses of my wallet, I stuffed all the numbers back in to recreate whatever equation they had formed, knowing I would probably not see them again until my wallet fell apart.
After pulling on swim trunks, T-shirt, and tennis shoes, I walked outside into Mom and Dad's yardsale and suddenly remembered that I really need to get my own place.
Jimmy Jacobs wasn't even at the pool when I got there. I decided not to mention it to my mother--never mind that I'm twenty-eight--because she would just say, "I've told you about that Jacobs boy." From junior high 'till well past high school graduation, no teenagers within a forty-mile radius of Acorn could get drunk, stoned, beat up, arrested, or pregnant without their parents asking, "You've been hanging around with that Jacobs boy, haven't you?" By the time I graduated from college--a lot of good that did me, the new assistant manager at Ice Cream Dream--he was a husband, a father, and the pastor of Zionosphere Baptist Church.
From the story “Acorn Pie.”
People tell me a little more than they should. Well, a lot more than they should. Actually, people tell me way too much. Or they say too many things where I can hear them, which is just the same as telling me, as far as I'm concerned. Do they really think I won't share what I heard with anybody? I mean, stories like these can't just sit on a shelf in somebody's brain. The more I think about it, the more sure I am that my neighbors want someone to tell their Acorn stories, that they don't want to be just a small part of a small town in a big state in a big country. People aspire to leave something behind other than babies, a mortgage, and a nasty rumor or two. And they certainly want someone reliable telling it, like what my grandmother did when she chronicled the early folks of Acorn.
Friday, December 13, 2002
Collector’s Edition by KC & the Sunshine Band.
I give this CD five stars out of five. Still, I have a few complaints. (1) Though I haven't actually counted, it seems that half the songs from KCSB have at least one of these words in the title: boogie, party, go, do, don't, body, it. Examples: Do It, Do Me, I Like To Do It, Keep It Comin' Love, That's The Way I Like It, Please Don't Go, Don't Stop, Don't Let Go, Don't Run, etc. Those songs aren't all on this collection, but you get the idea. (2) Four of the 24 songs on this collection are a bit bland. (3) Like most two-CD sets, the packaging is shoddy, and I'm afraid I'll break the CD's whenever I take them out of the jewel case.
So why five stars? Despite the above gripes, this collection rocks, thumps, wakes, and shakes! So, okay, KC, keep doing it, and your fans will keep partying! Please don't go!
I had heard and loved KCSB's recording of "Thank You," without ever realizing it was them. So, there is obviously a lot of musical variety here. KC has a great vocal range, and this collection truly showcases that range.
By the way, this anthology is also available with just the first CD, but the two-CD set is just a few dollars higher. Pay the few dollars extra. The second one has some great tracks that I had never heard!
Thursday, December 12, 2002
Fahy has created a reference book that not only exposes homophobia and proves that it hurts everyone but also offers solutions. Adding to the book's appeal as a resource manual, she neatly organizes each chapter with sub-headings, explaining a particular situation, what gays can do about it, why non-gays should care, and what non-gays can do. Fahy takes into account people's communities, prejudices, etc., offering different advice for different readers. This is an engaging and optomistic book that deserves the attention of anyone who is concerned about civil rights!
Tuesday, December 10, 2002
The Acorn Gathering: Writers Uniting Against Cancer isn't a novel, but it was quite a novel idea created by author Duane Simolke, who gathered a group of authors together, five in all, to write against cancer in this lovely literary work that includes stories that range from gritty and controversial to gentle and touching, all helping to raise money for cancer cure research.
Simolke, who edited the book, writes in Fat Diary, what some may consider a controversially serious yet comical short fiction work, "I stifled the stereotypes that flooded my mind, and I mentally kicked myself for thinking of those stereotypes."
Ironically, the story is written as if it were the diary of Pam Willard, the 260-lbs. character keeping the diary.
Huda Orfali's Lynching takes a gritty look at violent acts taken toward homosexuals due to discrimination, and what horrible results can occur when individuals fail to deal with their prejudices.
In The Flamenco Painter, Shawna Chandler paints a heart-felt picture of a man's clouded conscience after losing someone special and close.
Bill Wetzel writes about a man's love for a woman who turns out to be a complete klutz, but it turns out that the klutziness is one of the things the man really loves about the woman, in A Morning By the River.
You can read all about a single teacher named Jonathan and his love for a woman named Ana in The 23rd of August by Timothy Morris Taylor. You can read about the many obstacles Jonathan overcame to be with Ana - obstacles that those who are truly in love overcome, no matter what. It's an inspiring story, showing us that no matter what obstacle gets in our way, love really does conquer each and every one.
Jan Chandler writes, in The Gun, "I grabbed the gun off the night stand, the first time I'd even touched it. I was going to take it into the kitchen and throw it in the trash can."
"That's when I heard the door slam."
"I almost wet myself."
There are also some quite touching stories in the book, including Orfali's Dancing With the Angels.
This book makes a spectacular holiday gift for the fiction lover in your life, and when purchasing The Acorn Gathering: Writers Uniting Against Cancer for that special someone this holiday season, you are not only buying a fantastic collection of short fiction to enjoy. You are also helping these authors to raise money for cancer cure research.
For the millions of Americans who suffer from cancer, The Acorn Gathering is truly a wonderful gift to which they contributed their writing gifts. Now it is up to readers everywhere to pick up where the authors left off and start reading for a cure.
With stories as good as these, it will be hard for readers to resist this book, whether reading for a cure or simply reading as a personal pleasure for themselves.
Monday, December 09, 2002
Since I’ve written a great deal here about writers and books, it’s time to hear from another writer. I interviewed D. L. Browne, an author who writes mystery novels under the names Colin Dunne and Diana Killian. She offered insights into publishing, pen names, gay characters, book promotion, and many other topics. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not usually a fan of mystery writers, but I’ve found some exceptions, and I want to introduce you to one of them.
But first, please read my review of her novel Murder In Pastel.
Book Review: Murder In Pastel by Colin Dunne
Colin Dunne cleverly blends a painting's subject with the story of some gay friends and the story of a missing artist (and his missing painting). The resulting tale always intrigues, with a focus on strong dialogue and character development. You don't have to be gay to enjoy this book. Nor do you have to like mystery novels. Just the characters and conflicts that start the novel would have kept my attention, but the added dimension of the murder and the painting made me read quickly to the surprising twists of the novel's closing chapters.
Interview: D. L. Browne Unravels the Mysteries of Writing
Sunday, December 08, 2002
While in college, I read this book several times! I used it as a resource for my book New Readings of Winesburg, Ohio. Anyone who wants to write a paper on Sherwood Anderson or teach Sherwood Anderson’s writings needs to read this book! It provides a variety of perspectives and shows how Winesburg, Ohio invites many different readings.
Saturday, December 07, 2002
Vinod writes much more in-depth reviews than one would expect on the Internet, often using his design skills to break information into charts, lists, and such. That helps, because he writes about nonfiction books dealing with social theories. Fortunately, he avoids the dry tone that one might expect. And I love his book review chart!
Part of The home of the Jacobsen family website, this blog uses movable type (something I haven’t tried) to help visitors post reviews into a well-organized database, under a long list of categories. The home page shows the latest reviews and comments. In all cases, we actually just see the beginning of the review, with a link to read the complete review. If you like books in a particular category, this blog makes it easy to navigate and find what you want. The participants represent a wide range of views, interests, and locations.
Of course, there had to be a book blog named BookBlog. This one is a fairly traditional book-of-the-month club, where one of the members moderates a discussion of a particular book each month. The site include membership details. The blog format, the archives, and the discussion areas not only make this blog effective in its primary purpose but also make it a good resource for someone who wants various perspectives on a particular book. The book choices so far have been novels—some classic and some recent.
Obviously not just a book blog, this popular destination brings together a long list of dedicated bloggers to share about whatever interests them. In many cases, the posts also appear on the individual critic’s site. This is a great place to find reviews about products that fit your personal tastes, or just to discover more blogs that you’ll enjoy. With a total of five columns (links/credits, music, books, video, et cetera) on the main page, you can quickly skim excerpts from a variety of postings. Don’t be surprised to find X-Men, King Christian X of Denmark, the Doors, and classic poetry all beside each other. The format resembles a newspaper, and is just as easy to navigate (maybe more so).
Wednesday, December 04, 2002
I think the constant but understandable comparisons to Dead Poets Society will hurt this movie, causing people to dismiss The Emperor’s Club as a copy of a classic. Besides similar names, both films center around a charismatic teacher at a boys’ school and focus heavily on tradition. However, the similarities end there. I love Dead Poets Society, but I hate to see this movie hurt by that one’s popularity.
Kevin Kline plays Mr. Hundert, an extremely flawed but extremely dedicated and noble teacher. In his attempts at giving young men a love of history, he finds himself helping a student for the wrong reasons, and in the wrong ways.
The movie takes place in two different times, with a constantly changing cast. Kline is the only actor who appears all the way through it, with older actors replacing younger ones in certain roles. Some of the other characters come and go too quickly, and the movie probably should have been longer, so we could more fully understand and feel how all of these lives intersect with Mr. Hundert. Still, Kline’s skillful study of a man constantly facing difficult choices makes up for the sometimes-rushed nature of the narrative.
I recommend The Emperor’s Club for anyone who likes good acting and good stories, not just for fans of Dead Poets Society.
Tuesday, December 03, 2002
The 20th James Bond film not only marks the 40th anniversary series but also shows a sometimes desperate effort to make the franchise as contemporary as possible. The gadgets go way too far at times, making this seem like a comic book movie. Don’t get me wrong; I love comic book heroes and comic book movies. Still, it somehow bothered me to see Bond going so far in that direction. It’s a fun movie, and I enjoyed it, but the invisible car and such distracted me even more than the overly obvious product placement.
I recently read that a current internet campaign involves pushing Adrian Paul (the TV incarnation of The Highlander) as the next Bond. That sounds good, but I’m glad Pierce Brosnan agreed to at least one more Bond film beyond this one. Brosnan plays the role with the required wit and style, along with a little vulnerability. I also hope Halle Berry will reprise her role as Jinx.
Monday, December 02, 2002
Review by L. L. Lee , author of The Sisters: Found in San Antonio
Duane Simolke's follow-up anthology to The Acorn Stories, The Acorn Gathering, is a study in human trials, triumphs and the power of relationships to hurt or heal. The book is a gathering of moving short stories written by a group of talented writers who call themselves "Writers Uniting Against Cancer." All royalties go to the American Cancer Society. As expected, many of the stories deal with often tragic health issues: cancer, depression and other forms of mental illness, alcoholism, obesity, suicidal ideology, unwanted pregnancy. Some of the characters triumph over their conditions while others do not.
In the midst of these life threatening issues that are handled in sensitive and inspiring ways, there are moments of laughter. Duane Simolke's "Fat Diary" is hilarious and could very well be expanded into a funny, uplifting novel. A simple love story by Bill Wetzel, "A Morning by the River" needs to be commended for reminding us of the pure joy of falling and being in love. And "The Gun" is well worth mentioning for its humorous, light treatment of a not so funny situation.
The Acorn Gathering is a good read. If you're looking for characters that fit the mold of traditional, you won't find them here. The book is like a warm, pleasing quilt made up of disparate, yet cohesive patches represented by characters of various ethnic backgrounds; among them, African and native Americans, Hispanic and Anglo Americans and with a few Texans sewn in.
Review by W. Brian Moore
It was an extreme pleasure reading The Acorn Gathering. The talented groups of writers have put together a wonderful collaboration of short stories. What makes this an outstanding buy is that all the royalties go to the American Cancer Society for cancer research. I highly recommend you go, buy copies for yourself and your loved ones, and enjoy reading this well-written book.
Each story in The Acorn Gathering deals with situations in life that most of us can easily relate to and have experienced. They deal with breast cancer, life on an Indian reservation, struggles of gay life in a small town, losing weight, divorce, coming to terms with feelings of a abandonment, and a wonderful story about a hero who goes to New York City to help after the September 11 Terrorist Attacks, just to name a few. If you think none of those stories sound like you, wait until you read them and experience the way each writer brought those issues into a world we all understand. I found myself caught up in several of the stories, feeling at times, that they were about my own life. This collaborative work, even though it is made up of different short stories, has a common thread that runs throughout the book that gives it an unbroken flow. One story seems to flow right into the next even when they are dealing with new people and new topics. This book has been put in a perfect reading order.
The first section of the book, “Acorn, Texas” begins with “Finding Acorns in Winter” by Duane Simolke. This story begins years back when the Indians inhabited the land where Acorn, Texas, now stands. The story goes back and forth between the time of the Indians and the present time where a woman is in the hospital after just having breast cancer surgery. The relationships between her daughter and her nurse, an American Indian, is beautifully written. It is a story of love and hope in dealing with “the silent killer,” breast cancer.
“The Seedling” by Janice Chandler is next. This story revolves around the relationship between two sisters, one a struggling artist. As with many of our relationships with our siblings, it shows how we often wish we had their lives instead of being grateful for our own. It deals with an unwanted pregnancy and the loss of the child during a moment when the artist’s work is beginning to be noticed.
Next, we have “Fat Diary” by Duane Simolke. This is one of the most humorous stories in the book and one of my two favorites. A woman, through her diary that she is told to keep while trying to lose weight, relays the events and happenings of her life. Many aspects of this story are easy to relate to. It is the conflict resolution and the woman’s ability to see things happen as she writes them that makes this piece so appealing.
The next two stories, “Again” by Duane Simolke and “Lynching” by Huda Orfali, deal with gay life in Acorn, Texas, a town of 21,001 people. “Again” introduces us to the characters and “Lynching” continues with those characters and addresses and an issue all too familiar in the gay and lesbian community, gay bashing. The twist of the storyline will cause you to think. It is another reminder of how selfless some human beings are.
The second section of the book is entitled “Beyond Acorn.” The stories in this section deal with the world outside of Acorn, Texas. There are insights into other ways of life that I found myself unaware of.
The first story in “Beyond Acorn” is “Nachos Are Green And Ducks Appear To Be Blue At Town Pump In Cut Bank, Montana” by Bill Wetzel. Life on an Indian Reservation is depicted in this well-written story. It addresses the high percentage of alcoholism and the general welfare attitude that seems to be so prevalent on them. This story of a group of men who are friends tells itself well.
“As I Lay Dying” by Huda Orfali is next. It is set in a boarding school and they are having trouble with a boy who has lost his parents. This is a story of kidnapping, child abuse, and the love given by the school’s psychiatrist, who reaches out to help the boy. This story keeps you wondering all the way to the end about what really happened.
“The Flamenco Painter” by Shawna Chandler deals with the strained relationship between a father and his alcoholic son at Christmas time. This piece focuses on traditions south of the border, about assisted suicide and the grief the son has carried. It challenges your beliefs and makes you think about the gray area within assisted suicide.
Next are “The 23rd of August” by Timothy Morris Taylor and “A Morning by the River” by Bill Wetzel. These are clearly the love stories of the book. For those of you who have experienced true love, these stories will help you relive those feelings that exist when you met that special person. For those of you who have not, you will yearn for that person even more after reading them.
“Dancing with Angels” by Huda Orfali is a very short story in the book. It shows one’s acceptance of knowing the end of life is near and being willing to cross over. What it does not have in quantity it truly makes up for in quality. This is a wonderfully written piece.
“The Gun” by Janice Chandler is a poignant story that many of us deal with today, that being, whether or not we should own a gun for our own safety. This is the murder mystery of the book, dealing with the relationship between a husband and wife. It is suspenseful and poetically ironic up to the very end.
The last section of the book, “Still Beginning,” contains one story by Duane Simolke entitled “The Last Few and the First Few.” Of all the stories, I liked this one the best. It deals with the issues of abandonment by a parent, being raised by a single mother, struggles in life and marriage, divorce, and dealing with the aftermath of September 11, 2001. The main character goes to New York City to help with the search and rescue at the World Trade Center. This story is moving beyond words. I found myself in tears many times throughout it, tears of sadness and tears of utter joy. This story is a beautiful ending to a great book.
The Acorn Gathering has something for everyone. The stories will provoke happiness, laughter, sadness and sometimes anger. Each is an extremely poignant view into the life of people who are all around us. The subject matter is so diversified that not only will you enjoy this book, it will open your eyes to the broader picture of how life exists for others around you.
As a person whose life has been greatly impacted by cancer, I applaud the writers of The Acorn Gathering for sharing their talents with us through these stories and for giving the proceeds to help find a cure for those with cancer. The American Cancer Society is a responsible choice to receive these funds. Your contribution by purchasing this book will be well spent. No better gift can be given to someone who is suffering from cancer, than hope. Your support of this book will do just that.
Review by Lisa at Book Review Cafe
I'll tell you the number one greatest thing about 'The Acorn Gathering' right off the bat is that all the proceeds from the sales of this book go right towards cancer research. I think that is wonderful, and I encourage you to pick this book up today at your favorite bookstore!
All the stories you will read here are very unique. Some teach a lesson, some are sad and some make you think. These are all very talented writers, and I'm glad they got together to have a compilation of their stories in one book.
Some stories that really stood out to me were; 'Fat Diary,' 'Dancing With the Angels,' 'The Gun,' and 'The Seedling.'
I think these authors did a great job with this book. If you would like more information about the book and the authors, please visit: The Acorn
Review by Ronald L. Donaghe, author of The Blind Season
A vision Duane Simolke had for this book was that writers would contribute stories freely and that all proceeds from the sale would go to the American Cancer Society. Perhaps what he did not count on is that this "gathering" of writers has also produced an artistic realization rarely witnessed in anthologies. The various and individual voices of each story teller in this collection lends cadence and lyrics like an orchestra to a whole larger than the sum of its parts, from Simolke's humorous and "biting" "Fat Diary" to Shawna Chandler's haunting and beautiful "Flamenco Painter."
Native Americans, Hispanics, African Americans, and even gay people delightfully form a cohesive voice in the fight against cancer and prejudice and hate. Also given voice, here, is how the destructive cancer of hate can ruin lives, and this message adds urgent notes in the orchestration of the whole. Read Bill Wetzel's two stories and you'll see how two disparate themes are unified by this collection; or read Huda Orfali's work and see how a continuing sub-theme is woven into this smart collection. In all, each story is a note or theme in a surprising whole.
Friday, November 29, 2002
In Margaret Drabble's novel The Waterfall, we meet Jane Gray, a woman whose suffering and blessings stem not from action, but from inaction. She prefers boredom over activity, chance over effort, and whatever happens to her over whatever she can make happen. She only falls in love by chance, a corrupt love she never tries to avoid.
Since Jane will not reach for it, love must find her. It watches and waits for her to recover from the birth of her second child. Jane, who drifted into marriage then drove her husband away with her passive disinterest, manages to (unintentionally) attract another man, with whom she falls in love. Their love develops not from a courtship, but from his childlike desire to lie in her warm bed, and from her passive inability to refuse him.
Jane takes us on a journey through her passive experience to an existential awakening. Though it would seem that a character like the one I describe here would prove intolerable, the talented Margaret Drabble makes us want to take the journey with Jane, and makes us want to see Jane finally discarding her passivity.
I consider The Waterfall Drabble's finest novel, and hope that more readers will discover it.
Next week: some blogs I love!
Thursday, November 28, 2002
Angels in (Lubbock, Texas) America.
Tony Kushner’s play Angels in America: Millennium Approaches upsets some people so much that they often work to shut down any theater that produces it. In one case, organizers even tried to block funding to an entire college, just because the theater department there had decided to perform Angels!
This play deals openly and bluntly with the early days of AIDS and the issues surrounding it, focusing largely on gay characters and religious themes. Many people find that unacceptable, but many theater departments see this winner of the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for Drama as an important document of American culture that provokes relevant discussions.
In February of 2003, the Texas Tech University Theatre in Lubbock, Texas, will present a production of Angels. Appropriately enough, Tech’s theater department recently produced The Laramie Project, a play about interviews conducted in the town where Matthew Shepard was murdered. I say “appropriately” because references to a local production of Angels play an important part in that drama. I hope Texas Tech University Theatre does as good a job on Angels as The Laramie Project. From past experiences, I think they will.
I’ll have more about Angels, before and after the local production, both here and in Rainbow: Lubbock.
Monday, November 25, 2002
At Blogcritics.org, John Mudd has just posted a challenging review of The Acorn Gathering. I edited and co-wrote that unusual fiction collection, with all royalties going to cancer cure research.
Click here to read the review.
If you’ll link to the Amazon.com listing of The Acorn Gathering (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0595227880/) in your links section or within a blog entry, I’ll link back to you on the following high traffic page. You can find details (and some great links) there.
The Acorn Gathering Link Trades
Friday, November 22, 2002
While the writing might not quite match that of Piers Anthony's more recent works, I like that this book stands alone. Too many science fiction and fantasy works today offer subtitles like "Book Two Billion of a Multi-Billion Part Saga in Nine Hundred Stages." If you like high-concept science fiction, then look no further. After rainbows of ice formed around the Earth, they began melting, leaving an unlikely band of people to save themselves and each other. I enjoyed the frequent action sequences, and the growing relationships between the characters. I especially liked how the attitudes toward the transvestite character slowly changed, and how all the survivors learned to work together.
If you like Piers Anthony, you might also like my novel Degranon.
Tuesday, November 19, 2002
I keep coming across references to BookCrossing! For those who haven’t heard, BookCrossing is an online and physical book club that encourages people to give away books or “accidentally” leave them places. The books carry labels to help track them, and the people who find them can use the label information to write about the books and share them with others.
For example, Joe buys a copy of Bush at War, reads it and labels it, then leaves it on a park bench or a coffee shop booth. Sue loves Four Blind Mice, so she buys an extra copy, labels it, and gives it to a friend at work. Some people even pass labeled books out at events.
Some writers and publishers hate the whole idea of “freeing” books, as you can see at BookCrossing’s message boards. However, as a writer, I love the idea of more people finding my books, sharing them with others, and writing about them! The buzz they generate sells more books, so that’s hardly a loss for the author or publisher. Besides, someone has to buy a copy to (as BookCrossing says) “release it.” Also, for authors whose publishers don’t supply free review copies, it means someone else provides a review copy! From visiting BookCrossing’s site, I can see that freed books generate reviews, unlike too many of the review copies sent to traditional book reviewers.
If you’re interested in BookCrossing (or already involved with them), please consider buying and “freeing” a copy of The Acorn Gathering: Writers Uniting Against Cancer. I even posted that suggestion at The Acorn Gathering Home Page.
I edited and co-wrote that collection of unusual and often inspiring short stories, with royalties going to cancer cure research. With a program like BookCrossing, many more people would learn about The Acorn Gathering, and help it raise more money for its cause. They could start buying more copies and “freeing” them, for still others to discover. They would also see that they treasure many of the book’s stories; I’ve found that different readers have different favorites in that collection. With a discussion area like at BookCrossing, a lively talk could develop about why some of these stories and authors affect readers so deeply.
Readers can order The Acorn Gathering at most local or online bookstores. They can also preview it online at iUniverse.
Even beyond my work, I love reading books, and I love the idea of people sharing, talking about, and promoting books in general. Please tell others about BookCrossing, or e-mail them a link to this entry.
Monday, November 18, 2002
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets opened to near-record audiences, and deservedly so. Besides a perfect cast, this magical movie blends humor and scares in a wholesome package that all ages can love. Most “family” movies really only appeal to children. But here is one aimed at children that is just as exciting for anyone who loves escapist fare. As with the first movie, my favorite scenes are the scary ones in the forest.
I have to admit that I didn’t like the first movie in the beginning. The Cinderella situation with Harry’s relatives bored me with its familiarity, and director Chris Columbus dragged that part out. However, once Harry arrived at the train station, I fell in love with J. K. Rowling’s fantasy world. In the second film, Columbus uses the family situation to re-introduce us to Harry and his background, but then quickly moves him into a series of amusing and sometimes dark adventures.
I still have too many other books to read to add the Potter books to my reading list, but I certainly look forward to the next movie, and suggest this movie for anyone of any age who wants an entertaining escape!
Saturday, November 16, 2002
And speaking of West Texas…
Here are 16 reasons to visit Acorn, Texas.
(1) German festival!
(2) The best chicken-fried steak and apple pie this side of Throckmorton!
(3) Close to Lubbock and Amarillo!
(4) Antiques shops and an art gallery!
(5) As far as we can figure, no film students have ever turned up missing here.
(6) Acorn College, and more importantly, Acorn College Football!
(7) How 'bout those sunsets?
(8) Unlike the people in Happy, Texas, we wouldn't mind if you made a movie about us, as long as you gave us lots of money.
(9) A short drive to Roswell, New Mexico.
(10) A short drive from Roswell, New Mexico, if you get tired of the alien hunters.
(11) We’re nothing like West Texans in movies or that ***** Greater Tuna play. (The preceding sentence was edited for a word that made me have to put a quarter in the cuss jar.)
(12) We have a more “normal” name than Shallowater, Levelland, Muleshoe, Throckmorton, or Earth, Texas. We love to brag about our beautiful name.
(13) Though he may deny it and tell us to take this off our Web site, rumor has it that a certain famous West Texan who now lives in D.C. attended a frat party or two here. Maybe he just doesn't remember.
(14) None of our citizens have been on that Survivor TV show or American Idol, but we have a daily Wheel of Fortune Viewers Club, over at the Ice Cream Dream, and you don’t know Fear Factor until you’ve been to Acorn’s Cow Palace on Karoake Night.
(15) According to the latest recount, we still have more marriages than divorces.
(16) Have we mentioned the sunsets?
Learn more at the Acorn, Texas Chamber of Commerce.
Wednesday, November 13, 2002
This science fiction novel is part of a series by Hugo-winning science fiction author Poul Anderson. The storylines here develop from a strong focus on detailed technology that seems completely real-even if the characters seem slightly less real. I wouldn't call it one of my favorite sf books, but I liked it, even without reading the first two books in the trilogy. I also liked the artwork and the book's fast pace.
If you like Poul Anderson, you might also like my novel Degranon.
Monday, November 11, 2002
I only recently discovered Poul Anderson and plan to read more of his works. Unfortunately, I picked a bad place to start. From his Hugo Award and his many rave reviews, I know he must deserve recognition, but not for this book. He spends most of The Rebel Worlds trying to explain the plot and the different races to the readers, but never really develops much in terms of character or action.
Friday, November 08, 2002
As I mentioned in my review of Lanyon’s first Adrien English book, Fatal Shadows, I usually don’t like mystery novels. But some of them are both witty and exciting, focusing on character development more than the actual crimes. A Dangerous Thing provides a good example of that.
Adrien’s thoughts in response to the other characters often differ from what he really says; otherwise, he would find himself in even more trouble! He is a sarcastic individual, but still lovable!
As with the first novel in this series, Adrien’s passion for writing and for mystery books tie in with the plot. And homophobia again complicates that plot. When this murder investigation begins, he’s in love with a closeted and obviously self-loathing cop, and surrounded by bigoted local law enforcement. Adrien’s health problems make matters worse, along with the fact that he has been accused of murder before.
While I loved Fatal Shadows, I think Lanyon has matured even more as a writer. His prose breezes by, never allowing readers to slow down, but also making them not want to slow down. He describes scenes in intricate details when needed, without boring readers with unneeded details. Also, his knowledge of his genre works smoothly into Adrien’s character, helping Adrien solve the mystery.
This novel should please fans of Fatal Shadows, while also winning Lanyon new readers!
* * *
I’ll have several more reviews over the next few weeks, including a review of a rather long book I’ve just started reading: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About POD Publishing But Didn't Know Who to Ask!!! John F. Harnish wrote that book about print on demanding publishing, how it works, and how it is changing the book market.
Wednesday, November 06, 2002
Texas Techsan, the alumni magazine of Texas Tech University, announced the publication of The Acorn Gathering: Writers Uniting Against Cancer, under Alumni News, in November/December 2002, Volume 55, Number 6.
I received a Ph.D. in English from TTU in 1996. Earlier this year, I edited and co-wrote The Acorn Gathering, with all royalties going to fund cancer research.
Monday, November 04, 2002
The witty barbs tossed around in Gosford Park could leave a body-count that even Jason Part Two Billion (coming soon, of course) couldn't match. Many viewers will want to see this movie just for a well-dressed, deceitful, and possibly gay character played by Ryan Phillipe, and who can blame them? Phillipe is a handsome and clever actor. But Maggie Smith really makes the movie, with her quiet little insults and her gentle scene-stealing.
The movie is as much about the servants in Gosford Park as about the well-to-do characters who pretend to deserve our attention more. Director Robert Altman brilliantly plays the two sets of characters off each other, toying with their similarities without ignoring the class differences and injustices that keep them apart. Those similarities first become obvious when one of the new arrivals learns that she will be known not by her own name but by the name of the woman she serves.
I wouldn't call this a great comedy, or a great mystery, though it strives to be both. Still, I would call it a great showcase of brilliant acting and clever one-liners. The 1930s period costumes and the character studies make it even more enchanting.
Thursday, October 31, 2002
Leona Lipari Lee, MA, RN, has posted a review of The Acorn Gathering at the Barnes & Noble website.
Ms. Lee is the author of one alternative health book for women, How to Survive Menopause without Going Crazy. She is a contributor to Chicken Soup for the Sister’s Soul and Conversations in Women’s Health (2003). Ms. Lee is also the author of three humorous novels, Taxing Tallula, The Sisters: Lost in Brooklyn, and The Sisters: Found in San Antonio. Contact her at email@example.com or visit her website at http://www.homestead.com/lllee/.
All royalties from The Acorn Gathering go to fighting cancer! Click here to read L.L. Lee’s review.
Tuesday, October 29, 2002
I'll forego the knee-jerk comparisons to Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter that all high fantasy receives these days and tell you the simple truth: novelist Ronald L. Donaghe has created a world unlike any other, but with constant echoes of our own. The names, the places, the cultures, and the beliefs all seemed familiar enough that I could relate to and imagine them. Yet their differences from our world constantly surprised me.
When young Jeru breaks away from his family in the search for what caused a plague upon Omoham, he embarks on a series of adventures and soon becomes involved with one person who will become his mate and several other people who will become their allies in seeking the cause of the plague. However, their journey to Cinátis will involve them in much more, as Jeru finds himself entwined in a battle to rid Omoham of a violent group called the "Ch'turc."
The names become comfortable after a while, just like the dialects. If you set the book aside for a few days, you might need to check the handy glossary in the back of the book, but why would you set this book aside? Despite its length (much longer than what I usually prefer), Volume 1 breezes by, entangling readers in its mists (you'll have to read the book to know what I mean by that).
It also ends at a satisfactory place. It left me wanting more, without leaving me angry that I have to wait a while before Volume 2. I look forward to reading that book, as well as the two other books in this fantasy series, which Donaghe named "Twilight of the Gods." Silver Dragon Books has taken on several authors who look promising, and I'm glad to see Donaghe now added to that list.
Saturday, October 26, 2002
I usually don't like mystery novels, but I liked the idea of one involving gay characters and an intriguing metafictional slant: the mystery involves Adrien English, a mystery writer who owns a mystery bookstore. Like the levels of mystery, the guilt in this book also manifests itself in a variety of ways, other than the obvious question of who is guilty. None of the characters just happen to be gay; homosexuality and homophobia add to the complexity of the mystery, and the barriers to solving it. Lanyon creates believable, conflicted, and, in many cases, disturbing characters. The narrative is fast-paced, sometimes humorous, and always unpredictable.
I’m currently reading the second book in Lanyon’s Adrien English series, and will review it soon.
Monday, October 21, 2002
I'll never forget the first time I heard U2. The song "New Year's Day" started playing on my radio, and I stood transfixed. I had never heard anything like it: the passionate vocals, the chilling lyrics, and the truly unique guitar style. As soon as I found a copy of WAR, I bought it, and found each song as satisfying as "New Year's Day." Now, I've heard countless U2 ripoffs, not to mention several other U2 albums. Still, I can't hear the songs from this album and just think of them as background music; they still demand my attention. While U2 continues to deliver great new music, WAR stands alone as one of rock's greatest albums ever.
Saturday, October 19, 2002
Friday, October 18, 2002
(This list is by no means complete--just a sampling!)
Global Network of Dreams
Ronald L. Donaghe’s Fantasy Pages
S. R. Chandler
Mudd Communications Continuum
Blogg News Wire
Geometry: the Online Learning Center
And of course
Duane Simolke.com (every page of it)
AuthorsDen: Duane Simolke
Duane Simolke’s Sci/Fi Fantasy Page
The Acorn Gathering Home Page
Tuesday, October 15, 2002
Spunky girl and Sherwood Anderson
In her house arrest/book club blog, Spunky girl (aka Liz Maryland) features reading lists by various avid readers, and invites discussion of the lists. Matthew Johnson’s Picks reveal his thoughts on Winesburg, Ohio and several other classics.
Spunky girl’s other blogs will interest many lovers of tattoos, knitting, or just clever observations about life.
Two years later, I moved to Lubbock for Texas Tech University, and I kept thinking of more ideas for my West Texas town, even re-visiting some of the characters I had created in the initial stories. My studies at Tech greatly influenced the collection, especially after one of my professors introduced me to Sherwood Anderson’s book Winesburg, Ohio.
In many ways, what Anderson had done resembled what I was doing. That book became an obvious choice for my dissertation topic (New Readings of Winesburg, Ohio), and one of many influences on The Acorn Stories.
The Acorn Stories later led to a cancer cure fund-raiser, The Acorn Gathering: Writers Uniting Against Cancer.
Thursday, October 10, 2002
I love the novel Sacrament by Clive Barker, with its epic scope and its beautiful passages about life and death. It’s hard to believe such a book came from a man who creates horrific paintings, and the man who created such movies as Hellraiser (which never interested me), Candyman (which kept me jumping),
Lords of Illusions (an under-rated thriller that showcased the always likable Scott Bakula and might soon become a Showtime series), or
Nightbreed (a creepy and allegorical look at life for the rejected and the outcasts).
Of course, Barker was one of the producers of the critically acclaimed Gods and Monsters, and I’m looking forward to his SciFi Channel movie Saint Sinner. I also plan to read more of his novels.
If you like Clive Barker, you should check out terje’s comments about his recent novels, in an August 14, 2002 blog entry. In fact, you might enjoy many of the other entries in terje blog.
I’m not surprised about how Barker keeps people talking. I remember when I saw Candyman at the theater. A woman in front of me kept telling Virginia Madsen stuff like, “Don’t go back in there, girl. You don’t need the camera that bad! Get out of there!” Normally, I find theater talkers annoying, but she actually added to the suspense.
Wednesday, October 09, 2002
While explaining and confronting the dangers of free radicals to our cells, Dr. Curtis W. Irion reveals how a better diet can make us more healthy and make us age more slowly. He also reveals surprising information about many plants-from garlic to tobacco-and their interactions with both the Earth and the human body. Most importantly, he accomplishes his study in simple language that almost any reader can understand and apply. My only complaint would be the extreme length of his paragraphs; especially for nonfiction and complex subjects, I think most readers prefer short paragraphs. Aside from that, this book should appeal to any people who want to improve and extend their lives.
Since many of his diet suggestions might not appeal to some people, Irion also offers alternatives. He makes sure that anyone can find ways to live longer and with less diseases, through simple changes in diet.
If you like this book, you might also like The Acorn Gathering: Writers Uniting Against Cancer.
Tuesday, October 08, 2002
This author's almost obsessive attention to realism will enchant readers with beautiful language and fascinating characters. I loved The Spell, and I felt like I knew these people. In this novel, the acclaimed author of The Swimming Pool Library and The Folding Star looks into the overlapping lives of four men, closely examining the complexities of human relationships.
If you like this book, you might also like The Acorn Stories.
Monday, October 07, 2002
Despite some hilarious high-camp scenes, The Howling is one of the few scary movies that actually scares me. Some of the most chilling moments result from the camera focusing on only shadows or only the eyes or feet of a werewolf. A frantic pace, a remote setting, and some incredible pre-CGI creature effects help make this a classic horror flick. I've tried (unsuccessfully) to endure each of the sequels, but have never made it more than a few minutes through any of those B-movie clunkers. Instead, I watch this favorite again and again. If you must watch a werewolf B-movie, stick with the horrible but amusing Bad Moon or Project Metalbeast. Better yet, watch the good werewolf flicks, like The Howling, An American Werewolf in London, An American Werewolf in Paris, Stephen King's Silver Bullet, and some of the earliest black and white ones. You might even try The Wolfen, which features a complex mythology of werewolves in the clever and scary book; though the movie just uses wolves with glowing eyes, it certainly isn't bad either.
Friday, October 04, 2002
The Acorn Gathering recently reached number 1 at the blog-based book rating site All Consuming. Over the past several days, it has consistently appeared there and two similar sites: Weblog Bookwatch and News Is Free. Those sites look for books that receive coverage in blogs.
I edited and co-wrote The Acorn Gathering, with all royalties going to fund cancer research. I previously wrote four other books. In fact, one of them came out just a few months before The Acorn Gathering…
That controversial science fiction novel has received mention at some of the same sites, as well as at various science fiction sites and in various newspapers. You can comment on Degranon at The Global Network of Dreams (GNOD), a rather unusual, interactive site.
As GNOD’s creator put it: “Gnod is my experiment in the field of artificial intelligence. Its a self-adapting system, living on this server and 'talking' to everyone who comes along. Gnods intention is to learn about the outer world and to learn 'understanding' its visitors. This enables gnod to share all it's wisdom with you in an intuitive and efficient way. You might call it a search-engine to find things you don't know about.”
Tuesday, October 01, 2002
Please make sure that the women in your life know about the breast cancer information in Yahoo! Health. It includes news, prevention tips, inspirational stories, and much more! If any of those women don’t have Internet access, please encourage them to visit a local hospital or clinic for brochures and a check-up.
Breast cancer is slowly becoming less of a crisis as more women take charge of their health by educating themselves, taking care of themselves, doing monthly self-exams, and getting check-ups! Meanwhile, countless heroic doctors are searching for treatments and a cure to breast cancer!
And remember that you can fight all types of cancer by ordering The Acorn Gathering: Writers Uniting Against Cancer right now!
Saturday, September 28, 2002
09-25-2002 - Cut Bank, Montana: Cut Bank Pioneer Press: Wetzel's Writings To Raise Money For Cancer Research
Friday, September 27, 2002
Friday, September 20, 2002
Tuesday, September 10, 2002
Fund-raiser Captures America’s Racial Richness
My fiction collection The Acorn Stories captured America’s racial diversity within a West Texas setting. My science fiction novel Degranon strictly used people of color for its characters.
The Acorn Gathering, a spin-off from The Acorn Stories, is a fund-raiser for cancer research, and it includes work by five other writers. Still, this new book also celebrates racial diversity.
Certain Native American tribes would gather acorns for use in medicine and foods. While many of them began gathering during the summer or fall, some tribes gathered acorns in winter, which is the premise behind the story I used to open the collection.
That story, “Finding Acorns in Winter,” blends together two narratives. One involves a Native American woman trying to encourage an elderly German woman who is recovering from breast cancer. The other involves the Native woman’s ancestor, finding acorns to keep her people from starving during a harsh winter.
Acorn gathering becomes a metaphor about helping people through the winters of their lives. That metaphor captures the book’s fund-raising goal.
Native American themes also appear in one of Bill Wetzel’s contributions to the collection. That story carries the rather long and unusual title “Nachos Are Green And Ducks Appear To Be Blue At Town Pump In Cut Bank, Montana.” Though looking through the eyes of an unscrupulous Indian, Wetzel focuses on the injustices of reservation life, and the problems that still confront young Native American men today.
Wetzel, a Blackfeet Indian, chose a simple love story for his other contribution. Timothy Morris Taylor also submitted a simple love story, with the possible complications of one character coming from a Catholic and Hispanic background, but the other coming from an Anglo and Baptist background.
Despite her residence in Damascus, Syria, Huda Orfali uses my Acorn, Texas, locations for one of her stories, placing the other two in places that could easily be in any town, or even some other country. The races of the characters are sometimes indefinite, in keeping with Orfali’s ability to capture universal longings, fears, and hopes. Texan Jan Chandler uses a sharp focus on a cast of two for both of her stories, but also captures universal themes with those characters. Shawna Chandler focuses on a Mexican family for her tragic and evocative story “The Flamenco Painter.”
I end the collection with “The Last Few And the First Few,” a story that finds a soldier and firefighter trying to repair his interracial relationship, his ties with his estranged father, and the lives that are disrupted by September 11. Despite the subject matter, it becomes an inspirational call for all Americans to bring hope to each other, returning the book to the theme of people “finding acorns” to help each other survive.
The stories deal with many other issues, of course including cancer. But those issues become common struggles that unite the racially diverse cast and show how they are ultimately more alike than different.
While helping with the fight against cancer, the other five authors have also helped me tap into the special sides of us that make us all human and make us all one.
Click here for more about The Acorn Gathering.
Click here for acorn recipes and related Native American history.
Monday, September 09, 2002
Friday, September 06, 2002
After my last few postings, I thought it was time for a funny distraction.
You might be from the Permian Basin IF...
This is one of those joke messages that gets forwarded around. I live in West Texas (Lubbock, to be exact), so I get most of it. If you’ve never been to this area, you might not. The Permian Basin includes Midland/Odessa—George W. Bush’s old stomping grounds. For more West Texas strangeness visit The Acorn, Texas Chamber of Commerce.
* * * * *
You might be from the Permian Basin IF........
You consider the 15 minute drive from Greenwood to Midland as: "Going into town."
You've never met any celebrities (except the Gatlins!)
Your idea of a traffic jam is eight cars waiting to pass a camper on I-20.
"Vacation" means driving to Lubbock.
You've seen all the biggest bands------ten years after they were popular.
You measure distance in hours.
Your work or classes are sometimes canceled because of the snow, and voluntarily missed the next day because it reaches 90 degrees, which brings on the next point...
You 've had to switch from "heat" to "A/C" in the same day....crazy on the electric bill.
You see people wear tank tops at funerals.
You think of the major food groups as Taco Villa, beer, and cigarettes.
You carry jumper cables and a toolbox in your mother's car (and possibly bailing wire).
You only own 3 seasonings: salt, pepper, and hot sauce....velveeta may fall in this one also.
When it rains its the talk of the town for two days.
When it snows it's the talk of the area for two weeks, especially in 1993 when it snowed in April.
The local paper covers national and international headlines on one page but requires 6 pages for high school football.
You think that quail and dove season is a national holiday.
You find 98 degrees "a little warm." And 60 degrees freezing.
You think the only seasons are hot, too darn hot, and winter.
You think that if the wind should ever stop blowing, everyone would fall down.
You know what it feels like to have sand in your teeth...hair, ears, and many other body parts.
You know if another person is from out of town the second they walk in the door.
You've had several friends move off and move back within a few of months.
You know someone that lives near a pumpjack.
You look forward to the Oil Show. And you pronounce it: "AAAAWWWWWL Show".
You have ever decorated a tumbleweed at Christmas.
Mesquite barbecue is no big deal (but any other kind is a real treat).
The thought of an 8-foot tall jack rabbit didn't scare you as a child... and you have a picture to prove it!
You dust your house, only to uncover MORE dust.
You can't believe the horned toad is an endangered species.
You ignore Tornado "Watches"
* * * * *
For more West Texas strangeness, visit The Acorn, Texas Chamber of Commerce.
Sunday, August 25, 2002
My science fiction novel Degranon offers hope in the face of terrorism, oppression, and all threats to freedom. The book's preface follows.
This book is for all people who dare to be themselves.
Thanks to the many people who gave me feedback on the drafts of this novel over the years and encouraged me to eventually finish it. I would go for months or even years at a time without looking at the manuscript, but my mind often wandered to the distant worlds I had created. It took living my own life for more years before I could fully explore the lives of these characters; it also took rejection from several publishers to push me into just writing the novel as I really wanted to write it. I hope you enjoy the final results as much as I have treasured constantly returning to this project.
Just a few days after I finished Degranon, I saw the results of real-life fanatics attacking a real-life city in my country, and destroying a popular landmark, which I once visited. I made only minor changes after the September 11 attacks: changes such as punctuation, clarification, or removing wordiness. Some people will find parts of this novel disturbing or offensive, but I refuse to water down the very self-expression that oppressors fear.
Though I wrote this novel as entertainment and focused on making it exciting, I hope it will also provoke people to think for themselves, rather than blindly following those who claim to know the way for them, and rather than fearing those who want to control or terrorize them. So I repeat the dedication that I wrote for this book years ago.
This book is for all people who dare to be themselves.
Degranon is a science fiction novel that involves time travel, diversity, overpopulation, civil wars, and one family’s struggle to remain a family. Welcome to the planet Valchondria, where speech and actions face constant scrutiny, the future offers no progress, and most people can no longer see in color. Those who want change will not only confront the rigid maintainers of tradition but also become involved with Gazer, a violent religious fanatic from a war-torn planet called “Degranon.”