Hagridden — Guest Author Post #1

Hagridden Newest Cover

Hagridden is a historical novel by Samuel Snoek-Brown, published by Columbus Press (ColumbusPressBooks.com).

Straddling the line of historical and contemporary literary fiction, Hagridden is a haunting drama that unflinchingly approaches race, culture, apathy, and humanity stripped to its core. It reveals what real people will do to endure, as well as how some morph into unrecognizable beasts while others hollow into shells of their former selves.

The novel follows two women struggling to survive in the war-torn South as the Civil War tumbles to an end. In a storm-ravaged bayou, their efforts and sanity are further threatened by the intrusion of a revenge-bent Confederate officer and supposed sightings of the fabled rougarou, a fierce wolf-like creature of local lore.

Shaded in Southern Gothic and classical motifs yet written in a sharp contemporary style reminiscent of Tom Franklin, Charles Frazier, and Cormac McCarthy, Hagridden presents a strangely beautiful world where humanity plays the contradictory roles of protagonist and antagonist.
Hardback, paperback and e-book editions of Hagridden are available at Amazon.com and at all major e-book retailers.

Find Hagridden here! Link to- http://www.amazon.com/Hagridden-Samuel-Snoek-Brown/dp/0989173798/

Caught in the Crossfire: Writers Waging War

Here’s a well-stated, strong argument in favor of self-publishing. If you’re new writer, there simply are no good reasons to go with a traditional publishing house. That’s right. Zero. Zip. Nada. self-publish, expressed very well.

Writerz Block Editing Service Presents: A Word to the Wise

Caught in the Crossfire: Writers Waging War.

I’ve been wracking my brain all damned day about the new dramatics facing Amazon.  The more I research indie publishing versus legacy publishing, the more inclined I am to urge fledgling authors to consider publishing independently.  I also advise all authors to follow Barry Eisler, one of the most respected traditional to indie published authors I know.

I met Barry on Myspace roughly ten years ago.  At the time, I didn’t know who he was-I was just networking and ran across him by chance.  I was shocked to find that this NYT Bestseller actually talked openly and directly to me-not something that had ever happened to me before.  It was nice, too-talking to a real live human and not a cursory exchange that I would otherwise expect from a famed author.

After I started speaking with him on occasion about writing, I…

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Merrill: The Girl with No Fear of Flying.

merrill

The Merrill Diaries, by my friend, Susan Tepper

My first impression of Merrill is that she is a woman on a quest or an odyssey, though that would imply a goal of some sort; apparently Merrill’s goal is to simply go. Go, and keep going.

At the beginning of Merrill’s journey we find her in a dead-end marriage to Teddy, who seems a decent enough guy, good looking, but clueless; he doesn’t like Merrill bringing up that “stupid women lib stuff” that she gets from that “commie magazine” called Ms.(yeah, they are clearly not living in the same reality). She’s also working at the perfect dead-end job, a “freaking travel agency,” that leaves her envious of her customers: “even the lowly student with a cheap Eurail pass.”

What’s a girl to do? Join a rock band, what else?

Merrill’s view of the world seems zany at times (“I won’t dye my crotch,” I whisper in his ear.), but what I find irresistible is her courage. Despite missing the aqua walls of their house, she leaves Teddy (It’s not like he didn’t have it coming after inviting the spies and their devil dog Mungo to share their house) for Eddie, the lead guitarist in the band she joins (“It’s blasting idyllic for a week, until it comes time to do the laundry.”).

Speaking of Teddy, she writes, “his gray vision forming a gray life. I take no responsibility in this outcome!” This is what I love most about Merrill; other people are responsible for their own lives and, as the story progresses, we see that Merrill holds herself to the same standard. Her successes, blunders, and mishaps are hers (even when others have a clear hand in the troubles).

Not surprisingly, the singing gig doesn’t pan out (the place she shares with Eddies burns down) and so it’s off to London to sell truffles as Merrill Kimberly and marry well, only to also leave him and go to Greece in time for the revolution. And so Merrill goes, and goes, and goes. I love a girl who is not afraid to put the wind at her back

Besides Merrill herself, I also enjoy how Tepper has constructed a unified whole of the thirty stand-alone chapters that make up The Merrill Diaries. It is an intriguing, seamless (zipless?) read that keeps us wondering, what will this girl get up to next? While reading it I was perpetually smiling and frequently laughing out loud thanks to Tepper’s wit and timing.

If someone called one of my books “a delight,” I’d probably turn snarky and ask, “What is that, a dessert?” Merrill herself might ask, “Me? A delight? You must have me confused.” But what can I say, The Merrill Dairies IS a delight, as is its eponymous irrepressible heroine. As one other reviewer noted, “I want more of Merrill!”

 

 

http://www.amazon.com/Merrill-Diaries-Susan-Tepper-ebook/dp/B00GW18AQ2/

Richard Brautigan and the Ghost of the Bolinas House

I just read a third account of the ghost of the Bolinas house and so thought I’d repost this.

Winging It

One of my favorite authors is Richard Brautigan. I like him so much that in addition to reading his novels and poetry, I’ve also read memoirs about him (I normally do not enjoy memoirs and biographies). In two of these, Downstream From Trout Fishing in America: A Memoir of Richard Brautigan, by his long time friend, Keith Abbot, and You Can’t Catch Death: A Daughter’s Memoir, by his daughter, Ianthe, I encountered a true ghost story. I was pleased by the discovery because I’ve also recently become interested in ghost stories (both true and fictional accounts). Both authors had contact with this ghost, and provide accounts that are both close enough and different enough that I can accept them as true.  I’ve included both here so that you can judge for yourselves.

In the early 1970s, Richard Brautigan bought a house in Bolinas, California (along the coast north of…

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Attacked by Fairies

This photo was taken in northern Oregon rather than in the Philippines (I have few photos from that time), but you get the idea.
This photo was taken in northern Oregon rather than in the Philippines (I have few photos from that time), but you get the idea.

In either late 1977 or early 1978, I was visiting my then wife’s remote village in southern Luzon in the Philippines. One day we went to visit an even more remote farm, and had to walk through the forest to get there. At one point I needed to urinate and so slipped behind a tree to do so.

That night I was struck with extreme painful constipation. There was no doctor in her village, so a traditional healer was called. After examining me, he asked if we’d been in the forest, and upon hearing that we had, asked if I’d urinated on a tree. After admitting that I had, he that was the cause, that spirit that lived there, translated for me at the time as “fairy,” was retaliating. The condition lasted until we returned to Manila.

One could argue that it was simply a reaction to food, but I had by that time been living in the Philippines for over a year and was acclimated to the diet, even to the point of eating dishes foreigners typically avoid.

Richard Brautigan and the Ghost of the Bolinas House

One of my favorite authors is Richard Brautigan. I like him so much that in addition to reading his novels and poetry, I’ve also read memoirs about him (I normally do not enjoy memoirs and biographies). In two of these, Downstream From Trout Fishing in America: A Memoir of Richard Brautigan, by his long time friend, Keith Abbot, and You Can’t Catch Death: A Daughter’s Memoir, by his daughter, Ianthe, I encountered a true ghost story. I was pleased by the discovery because I’ve also recently become interested in ghost stories (both true and fictional accounts). Both authors had contact with this ghost, and provide accounts that are both close enough and different enough that I can accept them as true.  I’ve included both here so that you can judge for yourselves.

In the early 1970s, Richard Brautigan bought a house in Bolinas, California (along the coast north of San Francisco), and asked friend Keith Abbot, who owned a truck, to help him move in. Abbot gives the following account of his first day in the house.

*

While I was having a look around, I wandered upstairs and found three bedrooms and a bath. The last place I looked in was the east bedroom. Set in a corner of the house, it was quite small and filled with junk, bed frames and such. As I was leaving, I turned and had the strong sensation that someone was there. In my mind’s eye, almost like a slide being placed in a projector, I saw a girl in a white nightgown. I didn’t think much of it; it was so fleeting. I assumed it was just a mild hallucination.

That night when Richard arrived, I made a joke about “Who’s the girl in the corner bedroom?”

Richard blanched. “You S-s-saw her?” he stuttered.

“Sorta, I didn’t really see, I only had a sensation,” I said, “Who is she?”

“I don’t know,” Richard said. “But you are fourth person who has seen her upstairs. You don’t know the other three who saw her, so I’ve got to believe you.”

It seemed comically right to me that there should be a ghost in the corner bedroom of Richard’s new house. . . . I thought a ghost was the perfect companion for his Northwest Gothic sensibilities to mull over. His daughter told me less benign stories about the ghost, how it would walk up and down the stairs at night and scare the hell out of her. Richard didn’t seem terribly bothered by the ghost. He was more curious than spooked by her. Later he researched the history of the house and discovered that a young girl had died there at the turn of the century. She was buried in the backyard.

Richard once offered the Bolinas house to his friend Don Carpenter, after Don’s apartment had been damaged in a fire. I helped Don collect any useable stuff from his place in San Francisco and drove him to Bolinas. I was busy unloading, when Don went into the house. He came right back out and told me to pack it up again. He refused to stay there, maintaining that the joint was haunted.  (pp. 73-74)

*

Brautigan’s daughter, Ianthe, gives a slight different account of the same ghost in You Can’t Catch Death: A Daughter’s Memoir.

Candence [Ianthe’s long-time friend] has believed the Bolinas house haunted since the first time she saw it. We were twelve years old. She took one look at the three-story Arts and Craft-style house, which was set back in a steep hillside, and quickly came to her decision. . . . She refused to go into the house. . . .

Not long after, I found out that there was a real ghost. A Chinese woman who had worked as a servant for the original owners of the house had killed herself, and some people said her spirit frequented the house. (p. 52)

She also wrote of being afraid of the ghost throughout her early teen years, but reports nothing specific.

*

Tragically, Richard Brautigan took his own life in this house in 1984.

Much more about Richard Brautigan at: http://www.brautigan.net/index.html

You Can’t Catch Death: A Daughter’s Memoir, by Ianthe Brautigan

http://www.amazon.com/You-Cant-Catch-Death-Daughters/dp/0312264186

Downstream From Trout Fishing in America: A Memoir of Richard Brautigan, by Keith Abbot.

http://www.amazon.com/Downstream-Trout-Fishing-America-Brautigan/dp/0982225229/

On Suffering: An Invitation to Dialogue

Zen rock garden at Ryōan-ji, Kyoto, Japan

When the Buddha appeared in the 6th century BCE, He encountered wide-spread materialism among the wealthy and miserable poverty among the less fortunate, thus explaining His emphasis on detachment, suffering, and compassion. Buddha’s teachings were also of course influenced by long-standing Indian religious traditions, in some cases dating to before the arrival of the Aryans1 (His emphasis on compassion can be linked to Dravidian beliefs), but my purpose here is to address His focus on suffering.

Buddha’s first noble truth, shortened in Buddhist nomenclature to dukkha or dukha2 is often translated as ‘Life is Suffering’. I believe this to be a gross simplification. What Buddha actually taught was that the realization of the transitory nature of life causes a vague dissatisfaction with living that leads to suffering. Perhaps a closer simplification would be “Life involves suffering.”

I think that we can all agree that life actually involves many things, suffering being one of them, but, as I have noted, the historical and cultural milieu in which Buddha lived and taught lead Him to focus on this particular feature of human life.

Buddha then went on to develop the remaining three corners of His doctrine, called collectively The Four Noble Truths.

1) Life involves suffering

2) Suffering stems from desire

3) Suffering can be defeated by eliminating desire

4) This can be accomplished by living a disciplined life conducted according to the Noble Eightfold Path

The Noble Eightfold Path, also known as the Middle Way, is essentially a prescription for leading a moderate and balanced life. Walking the Middle Way entails turning away from devotion to luxury and extreme covetousness, while rejecting as well regimes of extreme asceticism, such as Buddha practiced before His enlightenment.

Specifically, the Noble Eightfold Path calls upon individuals to choose correct belief, correct resolve, correct speech, correct behavior, correct occupation, correct effort, correct contemplation, and correct meditation. Or more simply and succinctly, correct choice.

And what is life if not choice. An individual life moves in one direction—forward. The only thing one can do about yesterday’s bad decision is to make a better decision today. On the most basic level, free will is the least illusionary aspects of human life. With the exception of autonomous body functions (breathing, blood circulation, and so on), everything I do must be chosen; that my own past, or society, or whatever, compels me to chose this or that, does not negate my need to choose. Even if all choices are bad, one chooses. If you know of a circumstance that negates free will as I’m here defining it, I’d like to hear of it.

Yes, we are bound in a web of societal, cultural, and national constraints, we are bound by job pressures, family pressures, the need to eat and sleep, the need to care for the individuals around us, by all sorts of expectations. One could even argue that these various duties and expectations, to life, society, and humanity functionally negate choice.

Such obligations spring from religion and other belief systems (the idea of duty to society is secular as well as religious), and I personally accept many such obligations. This is also a choice, one I choose freely; I’m equally free to not follow this path. Duties, obligations, and constraints certainly exist, but these are all external forces, while the will to choose whether or not to comply is entirely internal. That duties and obligations can be neglected demonstrates that compliance (or non-compliance) is an act of will.

And so, while we are indeed bound by various circumstances, I still see these as nonetheless illusionary because, as Buddha noted, since life is transitory it is also illusionary, a functional illusion to be sure, but an illusion nonetheless. More importantly, while many certainly feel as if life is not within our control, how we respond is because one’s response is always a matter of choice (that we may be ill-equipped to make these choices is irrelevant).

Plus, that suffering can be overcome tells me that it is optional. Take for example a man who dies in battle, his death unbeknownst to his wife until she is informed. Baring fantastic examples of precognition, she cannot grieve (and suffer) until she knows that her husband is dead. The grief therefore is a choice. I’m not saying it’s the wrong choice (or the right choice); only that it is a choice. One might argue that said grief is a natural reaction, and I’m not ready to argue against this, but that grieving follows knowledge points to something important in my mind.

It is also entirely possible that choice itself is also illusionary, but this may depend on which choices are under discussion.

My point about ‘choice’ is that one must choose, every moment of everyday; you cannot put one foot in front of the other without choosing to do so. Once you get to more complex levels of ‘making choices’, and because we undergo a dreadful amount of conditioning before we even know free will exists, the conditioning kicks in (maybe) and subsequently, what one can/will choose becomes more limited. And since access to all possible options is nearly impossible, the idea that we have ‘choices’ is functionally problematic. Still, even when one is hemmed in by circumstances, one must still choose, leading me to believe that the exercise of free will is inescapable; that we must choose to do or to not do, to respond or to not respond, and how, no human can escape.

The idea of eliminating desire is Buddhist doctrine at its most basic level; Buddha’s point was primarily about attachment and detachment. Freedom from desire would perhaps be an ideal state, but were we to live in an ideal state, there would be no need for us to be here in the first place. The purpose of life is to go out into the world and to grow by testing ourselves; we were never meant to remain in the Garden. If we look at it from the perspective of the Eden metaphor, God’s ‘kicking us out of the garden’ was an act of Love. Baha’u’llah wrote, ‘Busy not thyself with this world, for with fire We test the gold, and with gold We test Our servants.’ But why test us at all? Because with no tests, there is no growth; if a plant is to bear fruit, it first must struggle to emerge from the seed. We might be ‘better off’ had we remained in the Garden but we would not be truly human.

A Secondary Consideration

It is quite possible that the acquisitiveness Buddha, and that fact, Christ in His time, witnessed, and that we can see today in our own society, is to some degree inescapable, part of our biological survival imperative. We have, after all, spent thousands of millennia just surviving; we’re wired for it. To choose to switch it off may require an act of will, but it is nonetheless a worthy choice.

__________

1By about 1500 BCE, the Harappan civilization of the Indus River valley, India’s first civilization, was on the verge of collapse. At about this same time, a pastoral Indo-European people we call now called the ‘Aryans’ migrated into the Indus Valley and eventually what is now northern India and Pakistan. Color distinctions between the smaller, darker Dravidian peoples (who had created the Indus Valley civilization), and the lighter-skinned Caucasian Aryans became the foundation of the Indian caste system (while the caste system persists, the color distinction is no longer apparent).

Aryan society was tribal and warlike, but by 1000 BCE, they had developed iron metallurgy, with their iron axes and other tools, they opened new regions to cultivation, particularly the jungle-covered Ganges valley. These newly cleared lands yielded large harvests, leading to agricultural surpluses that could support regional states, and eventually empires.

These surpluses also encouraged the emergence of towns, the growth of trade, and further development of the caste system.  By the 7th century BCE, even the lower caste farmers, artisans, merchants, and landless peasants and serfs, were becoming wealthy, and thus challenging the prevailing order.  The development of wealth also led to the growth of its antecedent, poverty, and its attendant suffering

2Dukkha (Pāli दुक्ख; Sanskrit दुःख duḥkha; according to grammatical tradition derived from dus-kha “uneasy”, but according to Monier-Williams more likely a Prakritized form of dus-stha “unsteady, disquieted”) is a Pali term roughly corresponding to a number of terms in English including suffering, pain, discontent, unsatisfactoriness, unhappiness, sorrow, affliction, anxiety, dissatisfaction, discomfort, anguish, stress, misery, and frustration. Source: wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dukkha