Thursday, January 28, 2010

Author Interview: Dorraine Darden-Part I

Jack Rabbit Moon: A Garner Park Story
By Dorraine Darden
ISBN-13: 978-1-58385-139-5
Publisher: Cold Tree Press

Dorraine Darden is the author of Jack Rabbit Moon: A Garner Park Story. I ran across her blog, Free Ice Cream, on Blogger a while back and have been a constant reader ever since.

I discovered her book, Jack Rabbit Moon, on her side bar. It is a magical story set in the beautiful, mystical terrain of Garner State Park in Texas. Her story is about eleven-year-old Marnie Evans's search for her place in the world. Like all of us, Marnie yearns for the comfort and stability of a loving family.

Dorraine graciously allowed me to interview her about her experiences with writing. I know that many of you are aspiring writers and those of you who are not, are avid readers. Which ever category you fall into, I believe you'll find Dorraine to be a tasty dip for your literary chip.

Hi, Dorraine, welcome to the Wonderland. Oh, I see you brought your little dog, Lucky, with you! Happy to have the both of you. Take a seat and let's get comfy before we begin our visit. How was your flight from Texas? Great! Glad to hear that the first-class ticket I bought you was worth the extra money. Nothing is ever too good for Wonder Guests. Now, let's see...

Your novel takes place in Texas. What inspired your story, its characters and its location?

The inspiration for Jack Rabbit Moon came from our initial visit to Garner State Park. I’d heard many inspiring stories about the area, regarding history and the families who gather year after year in the park. Cypress trees, their low slung limbs caught with Spanish moss, lace the banks of the Frio River, which captivated the nature lover in me.

The characters seemed as natural to the story as the river itself. Some came right up and introduced themselves, while others were a little thorny and needed to be coaxed with promises of beer and Little Debbie’s.

It is clear that you've done a lot of legwork for this book including the duties of a park ranger and the terrain of Garner State Park. What were the highlights?

The highlights were working with a Park Ranger in Garner State Park, who is also an Interpretive Specialist and yodeling ranger. He was gracious enough to allow me to pattern a main character (Ranger Rick) after his duties as ranger. He answered my endless questions about park history and was one of my manuscript readers. I learned much from his experience about the intricacies of running a state park.

Another highlight was going every summer with friends and family. We got to know the locals, who were interesting and colorful. We also relished floating the river by day and by night sitting outside in a moonlit yard, lulled by a sky swirled with stars.

You've told the story from each of the three main characters points of view, which is hard to do. (Marnie, Rick and Claire). Did you hear each of their separate voices from the beginning? Were there people in your life after whom they were modeled?

Yes, I think every fiction writer hears voices. First person can be a tough choice, though. To get under three unique skins and do it right is tricky business.

The ranger's character was a stretch for me, though, possibly because I’m not a middle-aged guy. I had to think like a man. Talk like a man. Walk like a man. Marnie, the main character, however, came right up and thwacked me on the head, her eyes shiny and mouth sassy. Claire, another character, was like a favorite friend with her cinnamon drenched hospitality.

As far as modeling characters after those I know, I think authors do this naturally. We graft in a laugh here, a nose there, attitudes of liveliness or doom and before we know it, we have the sweet and sensitive, or bitter and broody Frankenstein’s.

More than anyone though, Marnie reminds me of my youngest daughter, Grace. They both climb up forbidden mountains, carrying spunk in their back pockets.

Fairies, religion, Jesus and even an angel wearing a white cowboy hat and sequined boots are woven through this book. Have you had any spiritual or paranormal experiences?

Regarding the spiritual: One powerful memory is the time I gave a checker in my local grocery store a rose. I do this occasionally because I enjoy it. This particular day I didn’t want to. I’d had terrible news myself and needed some good cheer. But the urge to get the rose was so overwhelming, I couldn’t resist. I found a flashy yellow blossom and got in the checkout line. I paid for the flower and handed it to the young cashier. "This is for you," I said.

She smelled the rose and sobbed. When I asked what was wrong, she said her life was a mess. On her way to work that morning, she’d prayed for a sign, anything to show someone loved and cared for her. I cried with her and my own problems melted away.

On the paranormal front: More than a few things here too, but one stand out were pictures I captured, at night, in an ancient family graveyard on a Louisiana plantation. I’m a clucky chicken, the last person you’d expect to find at a pitch black cemetery. But that night I was coaxed. What I caught on film made hair bristle on the back of my neck. Still does. The pictures are unexplainable and will be the cornerstone for an upcoming paranormal series. I’m sorry to leave you hanging but please stay tuned.

I don't see any mention of any other books you've written. Is this your first novel and are you working on any others?

Yes, Jack Rabbit Moon is my first published novel. I’m currently finishing a second work of fiction titled The Passion Diary. The tale is about a pastor, Danny Yates, who finds and reads a woman’s lost journal but doesn’t expect to ever meet her, let alone fall in love with her. Due to synchronistic events, he ends up in the same small town she lives in. This book is about secrets and the messiness of love and how sometimes we must lose everything to find the one true thing. The novel was inspired by my own lost diary and is set in southern Missouri.

Thanks, Dorraine. Let's take a little break, shall we? Can I buy you a cuppa coffee and a cinnamon roll? If any of you would like to join us for a little bean brew and casual talk, feel free. Otherwise, folks, we'll be back on Tuesday, February 2 with:

Author Interview: Dorraine Darden-Part II

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Jack Kerouac...Call Me?

Today is the blow out, extravaganza, Grand Opening of Kewl Beanz, the Internet Cyber Cafe that is more than just a meeting place for progressive thinkers. I need a date and Jack Kerouac, if you can hear me, please give me a call. If you can't call, just meet me there at any time today from 5 a.m. to midnight (CST). I love you. And when you write like this, I love you even more:

They danced down the streets like dingledodies, and I shambled after as I've been doing all my life after people who interest me, because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes "Awww!"

You are one the greatest beat poets of the 1950s. I'll be the envy of all the other new millennium-beats at the party if you go with me. Of course, I know YOU disdain envy, but, hey, maybe you can get behind pity. If you don't take me, I get stuck with this poser and his impotent bongos. Jack me?

List of Essentials

1. Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for yr own joy

2. Submissive to everything, open, listening

3. Try never get drunk outside yr own house

4. Be in love with yr wife

5. Something that your feel will find its own form

6. Be crazy dumbsaint of the mind

7. Blow as deep as you want to blow

8. Write what you want bottomless from the bottom of the mind

9. The unspeakable visions of the individual

10. No time for poetry but exactly what is

11. Visionary tics shivering in the chest

12. In tranced fixation dreaming upon object before you

13. Remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition

14. Like Proust be an old teahead of time

15. Telling the true story of the world in interior monolog

16. The jewel center of interest is the eye within the eye

17. Write in recollection and amazement of yourself

18. Work from pithy middle eye out, swimming in language sea

19. Accept loss forever

20. Believe in the hold contour of life

21. Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in mind

22. Dont think of words when you stop but to see picture better

23. Keep track of every day the date emblazoned in yr monrning

24. No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge

25. Write for the world to read and see yr exact pictures of it

26. Bookmovie is the movie in words, the visual American form

27. In Praise of Character in the Bleak inhuman Loneliness

28. Composing wild, undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazzier the better

29. You're a Genius all the time

30. Writer-Director of Earthly movies Sponsored & Angeled in Heaven

as ever,


[By Jack Kerouac, exerpted precisely as published [sic] from a letter to Don Allen 1958]

from Heaven & Other Poems, Grey Fox Press, San Francisco 1994

Thursday, January 21, 2010


El Nino,
the sleepy little boy,
is awaking from his
long nap.

wailing winds
blast high speeds across

tears rain
down soaking
parched land.

diaper, full from
floods and brown,
sludgy mudslides, reeks.

throws tantrum
after stormy tantrum
until finally spent,
he's, hopefully, put
our years of drought
behind us.

Friday Flash Fiction 55: tell a story in EXACTLY 55 words. Go see g-man on Friday to give it a try or read more.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

I Have a Dream

Martin Luther King, Jr.'s, I Have a Dream, speech is one of the most compelling pieces of writing I've ever read. His vision, strength and conviction drove our nation to change. Yesterday we celebrated the birth of Mr. King in the United States. Since then I have been thinking about dreams.

We all have them, right? Some are big. Some are small. I remember the Wonder Husband looking me straight in the eye a couple of years ago and telling me, "I have a dream. And that dream is to see you driving this car I am going to build just for you. A Grocery Getter. That's what I want to give you."

I almost laughed until I saw the passion in his eyes and heard the truth of his heart in his voice.

Now, you see, at the time I was driving my Mitsubishi 3000GT Twin Turbo Vr4. She's a racy, little, two-seater sports car. Mama likes to drive fast and slam gears. But the problem was that, even though I could lay her back seat down for cargo space, she wasn't really appropriate for a lot of the things I needed to do. Costco runs were a little tight because of the small area. And taking the dogs anywhere was touchy. Not to mention hauling bags of soil and plants home from the nursery.

So, he built me this sleeper of a Chevelle station wagon. No one would expect this old lady in a station wagon to beat them off the line. She has a big motor that satisfies my inner speed demon. Her Flowmaster mufflers growl like a big dog. She is also the perfect mate to the Wonder Husband's El Camino and Buick Skylark. And, I have to admit, that she wonderfully fills the bill for doing household errands. There is a part of me that knows that the Wonder Husband probably felt using the Mitsubishi for schlepping was an act of automotive desecration. Every thing unto heaven has a purpose, and that was not hers.

But the moment he told me his dream I thought, we are so different. My dream is for world peace and unity, food for the hungry, access to affordable health care, bringing love to humanity, the ability to travel at the speed of light and warp through dimensions of time and space. And he dreams of building cars for me.

Who am I to trample a man's dream. Life would be empty and uninspired without them. Build away, Wonder Hubby. Build away.

What are your dreams?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Four Tissues and a Wedding

As a young woman,
I smiled at weddings.

I cheered BRAVO
as the new couple began
their dream life together.

As a mature woman,
I smile at weddings.

My heart, burning with the
knowledge of the lessons they'll
learn during their lifetime together,
be it long or short,
sends a wet tear down my cheek.

Flash 55: Tell a story in 55 words of less.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Smokin' Good Time!

I'm tired. Happy, but tired. We put on my nephew's wedding this weekend. My family is very talented and we can all pull together and work like a team of Clydesdale horses when it matters the most. In hosting the ceremony, we decorated, provided our own live and recorded music, hosted the bar, catered the food, and cleaned the hall.

The wedding was kind of East Meets West in style. The service was performed before a puja table by a western, non-denominational minister. Puja is a form of Hindu ceremonial worship that honors one or several gods. Other than the altar, the decor was western in theme and style. It truly reflected the couples beliefs and those of their guests which ranged from Evangelist to Hindu, carnivores to vegans, heterosexual to homosexual to lesbian, suburbanites to ashramites, northern hemisphere to southern hemisphere and those that dance to those that don't.

To respect the various diets in attendance, we served hummus and bruschetta with hearty, locally baked breads and crackers. Sweet fruits and salty cheeses spilled across cold, black marble slabs. Sliced strawberries and tangerine sections brightened a crisp, mixed green, winter salad, penne pasta dressed with pesto, sun-dried tomatoes and artichoke hearts, mouth watering, homemade spring rolls, and smoked chicken provided weight to the dinner.

Well, the chicken could have been more appropriately named Chicken Flambe after the Great Smoker Fire occurred. Oh, yeah! Up to that point, everything had been going so well and we were ahead of schedule. And then, during the champagne toast, we somehow lost a handle on the evening.

I was just about to announce that, after the final toast, we would begin serving dinner, when I was notified to stall another 30 minutes because of technical food difficulties. My other nephew and I kept asking if anyone wanted to speak and luck was with us. Most of the guests were chiropractors and chiropractic students who, after spending many hours in public speaking courses, turned out to be quite verbose. Becoming unsuspecting participants to our stall tactics, they embarked on a mission of one-upmanship that totally saved the evening. Instead of 30 minutes, it was nearly an hour and a half before we got the high sign to wrap it up.

How none of the guests noticed the large, raging smoker fire flaring against the night sky through the glass door, the fire extinguisher being nonchalantly carried out, the fortuitous removal of the propane tank from said smoker, and the steady, but curious, line of people carrying large, stainless steel pans of chicken through the building headed for the industrial ovens and further baking, is beyond me. When we tell you that you're gonna have a smokin' good time at our party, we can pretty much offer a guarantee.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Ten Years After

The new millennium, Y2K, or the year 2000, was met with guardians at the gate. Warriors, ready to fight the hoards of people who failed to prepare for famine, failed governments, collpased energy grids and impotent businesses, gathered weapons, generators and supplies. The dark predicitons fizzled like a wet fire cracker when disaster failed to strike.

In contrast, it felt like we graciously opened the door to welcome in the second decade of this millennium. No one seemed sad to give 2009, and the first ten years, the boot. I understand why. On September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks destroyed the World Trade Center, damaged part of the Pentagon, and resulted in a plane crash in Pennsylvania. We are still pursuing Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda. For the first time, Americans began to experience life with terrorism as a constant near and present danger. We precariously teetered across the tight rope of global financial meltdown and national depression.

The energy of this new decade feels positive and light rather than ominous and heavy like its predecessor. But is this new decade in its honeymoon phase? You know, in 2012, just two years from now, another apocalyptic, end of the world prophesy is foretold in the Mayan Calendar. I've already seen long-term food storage and survival guides being advertised. 2012 is touted as being real and not a Henny-Penny, sky is falling, y2k, scenario. How long are we really going to be happy with this new decade?

For many years, I've heard the widely held end of the world theory of 2012. But there are other theories. One of those is that the Mayan Calendar marked the year 2012 as the date that we, as a society, embark on a enlightened period of humanity. And that, in the years leading up to that date, we would face near catastrophic events and conditions. That times would be hard and beings who are not strong enough or prepared for this new period may leave the planet. Which made me think of all the people who were checking out last summer like Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett and Billy Mays. Wasn't it remarkable how many people left in one short time?

I'm going to take the position that we've gotten through the worst of those catastrophic times. And, although I know that the next few years won't be all strawberries and whipped cream, I think we are about done wading through the muck. I'm going to hold the thought that we are at the beginning of a new era, a wonderful era, and an era that will be recorded in history as the golden age on Earth.

And so it is!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Dr. Wicked this Way Comes!

Most of us who blog, sooner or later, run smack dab into writer's block. That wall, white washed of its graffiti, is blank, dreamless and uninspired. Well, no more. Meet Dr. Wicked! I recently had the pleasure. Well, really it's more like having a rectal thermometer placed between your double-lobed, butt-cracked glutes than a pleasure. But, all the same, he's good for your writing health.

The esteemed doctor's practice is located at the cyber-streets of Write or Die. It is here that he puts the 'Prod' in your productivity. Dr. Wicked gets you flossing out the creative bits that get trapped between the teeth of your over thinking, procrastinating head.

You write in a text box which is not a word processor. There are no editing tools in the on-line version, which is free. This exercise is designed to separate the writing and the editing processes. The only way to save your work is to copy and paste it into your own text editing program.

These are the available functions:

Grace Period:

Gentle Mode
Normal Mode
Kamikaze Mode
Electric Shock Mode

First, select a specific time frame, or a word count, as your goal for the session. Next, start typing. In Kamikaze Mode, if you quit typing for too long, you lose all your words. I'm not sure what happens in Electric Shock Mode. I tried to select it but the function was not available. Maybe it comes with the down loadable, desktop version that has more capabilities, including editing and blog posting, for $10.

This web application is about instilling in the writer the fear of not writing by using the principles of Operant Conditioning and Negative Reinforcement. In Negative Reinforcement, a behavior becomes stronger because a negative condition is avoided or discontinued because of the behavior. So, as long as you continue writing, you will not be punished.

In my first attempt, I didn't even have a subject in mind. I just started typing a flow of consciousness. What ever words popped into my mind, I recorded. I produced nearly 700 words in 20 minutes and, yes, I can use much of it for at least one completed piece.

In my second attempt, I needed an ending to a story I am writing for contest submission. My story is done but the ending is weak. I could not get the conclusion to read with the impact of my internalized version. I set the timer for 10 minutes and, bingo, I had over 300 words and the meat of my new ending. As far as writing and creativity are concerned, it is the best 30 minutes I've ever spent.

Go see the doctor, he's got the prescription for what ails ya!