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Books Laurel on Life

Wind? What Wind?

“…I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore…”

and we’re not quite “over the rainbow,” either! Dorothy had a spectacular dream–something I very much relate to–after being struck on the head during a “twister,” but the crazy winds we’ve been experiencing lately are real(ly irritating)!

Steinbeck wrote of drought, dust storms, and the resultant hardships on humankind. The Dust Bowl of the ’30s should be a reminder to us all that Ma Nature doesn’t really care about us and that–yes–our misuse/misunderstanding of the land can exacerbate natural climate patterns. But this newsletter isn’t intended to remedy anything. Rather, it’s a reminder that we generally get to choose how we will respond to inconvenient circumstances. 

Will we allow the wind to make us cranky, keep us indoors, and remain incessantly vocal about how really irritating it is? Or will we consider WWSD (What Would Stoics Do)? While I’m not espousing the “keep it all bottled up inside” advice some may suggest, after we allow our natural inclinations to vent, we might then remember A Stoic Response to Complaining, and then readjust our response! 


Catwalk at Bishop Castle (go ahead and experience how it sways in the wind…I dare you!) 

As spring slides into summer, let’s stay aware of local conditions as a way of preventing unnecessary disasters. Dry winds (and personal negligence) cause horrific fires, and it looks like we’ll have many “red flag days” in our future. Let’s do what we can to spare our first responders this year . . . while still finding ways to enjoy the great outdoors. 

Stay well, my friends, and take breaks from news and social media (except my newsletters!) every once in a while! 

Nothing stops the mighty Bagel from enjoying his hikes!
:)

Laurel Stuff:

Meanwhile, I’m working on a new science fiction series AND a children’s picture book AND recently published my first coloring book for the Waterwight series!
(Photo Credit: Elise Sunday)

Find my other work here!

Please subscribe to Alligator Preserves on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts, and tell your friends about it! I’d love it if you “liked” the episodes you listen to, and I’d love it even more if you’d post a quick comment!

Categories
Laurel on Life

March Madness…

… has nothing to do with basketball, at least in my world. The Googles define madness as “the state of being mentally ill, especially severely . . . extremely foolish behavior . . . a state of frenzied or chaotic activity.”

And don’t those characteristics define the month of March perfectly? When days alternately bring blizzards or brilliance, when our bodies have to adjust to the theft of a precious hour (maybe it’s time to move to Arizona or Hawaii?), when sleepy towns are held hostage by spring breakers shouting “YOLO,” when friends and Marie Kondo challenge you to a spring cleaning contest, when you hope the corned beef brisket you just bought for your annual St. Patrick’s Day cabbage fest isn’t all fat and gristle, when everyone’s telling you to BEWARE this ides of March (Caesar didn’t, and look how that turned out), and when you know Mr. IRS is waiting . . . well, what more madness must one person endure?

And so I make a point every day now to take a little break in the afternoon–I call it my carpet nap, though I don’t really sleep–with my feet up on the ottoman, and I do my best to endure my new buddy, who’s a pro at this nap thing. We all could learn a few things from Bagel. After all, he ain’t crazy. He’s my granddog. 

Our son and his dog, Bagel, are with us now, and Bagel is a snuggle-hound!

 May the rest of this month bring more brilliance than blizzards, and may you find time each day to unplug from the madness.

Wishing you all a Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I’ll be cooking up the mandatory corned beef/cabbage/carrots/turnips/potatoes/onions on Thursday. Call it tradition, call it crazy, call someone you haven’t spoken with since Hector was a pup!

Stay well, my friends, and take breaks from news and social media (except my newsletters and blog!) every once in a while! 

:)

Laurel Stuff:

Meanwhile, I’m working on a new science fiction series AND a children’s picture book AND recently published my first coloring book for the Waterwight series!
(Photo Credit: Elise Sunday)

Find my other work here!

Please subscribe to Alligator Preserves on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts, and tell your friends about it! I’d love it if you “liked” the episodes you listen to, and I’d love it even more if you’d post a quick comment!

Categories
Author Interview Books Writing

Let’s Remain Hopeful!

Nadine Collier and I (and photographer Sarah Collier!) at the Van Gogh Alive exhibit in Denver, August 2021

By now we all should understand that the novel coronavirus and its persistent variants will be with us for the foreseeable–and unforeseeable– future. When Nadine and I created our award-winning book Peace by Piece: 10 Lessons from a Jigsaw Puzzle!, we did not anticipate the political strife the pandemic would create. We did not assign the virus responses to tribes: Red vs. Blue.

Peace by Piece: 10 Lessons from a Jigsaw Puzzle!

We did, however, intend to help those struggling with every kind of “normal” challenge life throws at us, and our book is as relevant today as it was when we launched it into the uncertain world.

We are honored by The Colorado Sun’s SunLit Interview about how we came together to create our inspirational and humorous book, and we hope you might find reasons in it to be encouraged about our shared future despite the ongoing and often changing reality of this troubling pandemic.

Let’s remain hopeful and do what we can to return to living life in a sensible and less stressful way while remaining vigilant against the virus and protecting those most vulnerable.

Our book is available everywhere in paperback and ebook versions. Hope you’ll consider taking a gander!

Laurel Stuff:

Meanwhile, I’m working on a new science fiction series and just published my first coloring book for the Waterwight series!
(Photo Credit: Elise Sunday)

Find my other work here!

Please subscribe to Alligator Preserves on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts, and tell your friends about it! I’d love it if you “liked” the episodes you listen to, and I’d love it even more if you’d post a quick comment!

Categories
Author Interview Books Podcast Writing

Meet Award-Winning Author/Editor MK (Molly) Sturdevant!

A fascinating multi-genre Doctor of Philosophy writing about an old-time miners strike in Colorado!

Visit with us in this YouTube video!
Listen to the “audio-only” version here!
Molly spends time in COLD Leadville researching the historical archives and environs.

Show Notes with Links:

  • Molly tells us a little about herself.
  • She answers the question, “How does someone with a PhD in Philosophy end up researching the 1896 mining strike by the Cloud City Miners Union (Local 33) in Colorado? That happened 126 years ago!”
  • Why does she present this nonfiction event as fiction?
  • Molly talks about some of the characters she created.
  • The many surprises from her research.
  • Research has taken her several places. She talks about those, and if she has found any ancestors of the miners.
  • She is a Writer in Residence at Elsewhere Studios in Paonia, CO for the month of January 2022.
  • Molly discusses how the pandemic has affected her work.
  • Her book–“The Sleepers”–is almost finished!
Shaft and tunnel map of the famous Robert Emmet mine, not far from the Matchless Mine in Leadville. 
Molly in front of Leadville’s historic 1879 Saloon! (All about the research!)

Laurel Stuff:

Meanwhile, I’m working on a new science fiction series and just published my first coloring book for the Waterwight series!
(Photo Credit: Elise Sunday)

Find my other work here!

Please subscribe to Alligator Preserves on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts, and tell your friends about it! I’d love it if you “liked” the episodes you listen to, and I’d love it even more if you’d post a quick comment!

Categories
Author Interview Books Writing

Author Kathy Taylor

Tree Whisperer!

Kathy Taylor, author of Trees and Other Witnesses
Audio-only version
https://youtu.be/9zkwZEZwBHM
Visit with us on YouTube! (https://youtu.be/9zkwZEZwBHM) (please click the link if you cannot see the embedded link with photo)

Show Notes with Links:

  • Kathy talks about how growing up in a Quaker community in Pennsylvania informed her life and work.
  • Visit with us on YouTube here: https://youtu.be/9zkwZEZwBHM
  • We met at a Chaffee County Writers Exchange event and I took a “look inside” her book on Amazon…and immediately bought it!
  • We discuss our favorite trees (not that there could be just one!)
  • Why 13 stories?
One of Michele Wayland’s illustrations in “Trees and other Witnesses”
  • I share many glorious figurative language excerpts from her book.
  • Kathy reads a passage from her book.
The Amate Tree!
  • We talks about how figurative language “happens” (it’s my opinion that Kathy is a master!)
  • Autobiographical elements in her writing, and discussion of different languages.
Woman with Burro, Ocotal, Nicaragua
Meanwhile, I’m working on a new science fiction series and just published my first coloring book for the Waterwight series!
(Photo Credit: Elise Sunday)

Find my other work here!

Please subscribe to Alligator Preserves on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts, and tell your friends about it! I’d love it if you “liked” the episodes you listen to, and I’d love it even more if you’d post a quick comment!

Categories
Laurel on Life Podcast Writing

From the Bidet to the Beach!

Reflections on Time Well Spent

If you’d like to listen, I’ve embellished my reflections in this podcast episode. :)

“You should go.”

Mike had been preparing for this year’s elk hunt, and I had naturally assumed I’d be tagging along behind him, whispering haiku poems into my voice memo app and praying he wouldn’t bag a big one miles from civilization. A bull elk weighs in anywhere from 700-1,100 pounds. We may be strong for our age, and I’m about to turn pro on the speed bag Mike bought for me (there will be videos), but that’s just too much weight to haul from the wilderness.

“But . . . hunting,” I said. I didn’t want to appear too enthusiastic about his suggestion that I attend a gathering of West Point women on the Outer Banks of North Carolina that happened to coincide with his hunting week.

And now I offer great praise and thanks to my husband’s friend since childhood, Gene Dixon-Anderson, who, after reading my book “Hunt for Red Meat (love stories),” flew in from the East Coast to experience a Colorado elk hunt.

Gene and Mike scouting for “signs” of the wily elk!

So off I went on an adventure I’d never intended, pandemic be damned, and the night before my flight out, knew the trip would offer plenty to ponder.

To say I have generous and merciful friends would be an understatement. It was Mimi Finch who told me about the OBX event at our classmate Bonnie Schweppe’s beach house, and I spent the night before our early morning flight with Mimi’s family in Denver. They were still moving into a new home, and the guest bathroom had what I recognized as a bidet arrangement on the toilet.

Well . . . I may be on the downslope of the proverbial hill, but I’ve never “experienced” the workings of a bidet. Curious about how it might work—I wasn’t about to use it without knowing what to expect—I stood in front of it, reached down, and pushed what appeared to be a typical flush handle.

The powerful jet of water nearly knocked me over, and in a state of startled confusion—why wouldn’t it stop? I only pushed it down once!—I stepped from the torrent and watched in horror as it splashed against the opposite wall.

“Help! Helllllllp!” I shouted, closing the seat cover—that would surely shut if off!—and watching as water cascaded over the edges and onto the floor. “HELLLLP!”

Mimi and her sister finally came to my rescue—I wonder what they were thinking when they heard my call—and I learned a bidet lever is not like a flush handle. I’m telling myself I merely christened their new home, and I’m not sure I’ll ever personally experience this contraption as it’s intended to be experienced, but the incident certainly set the tone for the rest of my trip.

When Mimi and I landed, our “hostess with the mostess” met us at the airport and chauffeured us to a great outdoor restaurant where we met several other weekend adventurers, and by the time we all got to the beach house, despite the late hour, we established the unspoken rules—there would be late nights with enough M&Ms and music to keep us awake, and early mornings with sunrises no one would want to miss. Bonnie ordered ideal weather for us, and the gods complied.

This was the only day I did not swim in the ocean!

Now I’ll share the memories that will stick with me until those particular brain cells hibernate.

  • Champagne breakfast at sunrise on the beach. One of the youngsters, my king-bedmate, brought the champagne and crystal flutes, and Bonnie arranged the picnic basket. Soft sand, candles, and curious crabs greeted us, and we oooed and ahhhed as the blood-orange sky announced the rising sun, which soon silhouetted sleepy-eyed dancers and yoga posers in the ebbing surf.
Mimi Finch in her signature sunrise pose! So happy I captured this moment.
  • Strolling on the beach after sunset, and range-walking (that’s speed walking, for you non-Army folks) back to the house when the sky turned black and rain pelted our backs.
That’s a rising moon behind us. And then came the storm!
  • Diving through and being lifted by ocean waves, and the mandatory peeing in the sea. Absolutely glorious, all of it.
  • Ten women belting out Helen Reddy’s iconic song and being startled when I tear-choked over the words “Oh yes I am wise, But it’s wisdom born of pain.” I still choke up thinking about it. Ten entirely different women bonding over experiences shared decades ago, and each with distinctive memories of those events.
  • Along those lines, getting to know women from Proud to Be ’83, Best of the Corps ‘84, and For Excellence We Strive ’85, and being saddened by stories of rape and assault, discrimination and abuse, gross injustices that still somehow prevail in our society.
  • Writing my 250-word nycmidnight challenge story with a glass of bourbon while others shopped—being dubbed Laurel Hemmingway McHargue, if only!—and then sharing the story with the group over dinner. No one wanted to sleep with me that night—but several of them chipped in with ideas for a fairy tale that had to include drinking milk and the word heart. “Magical unicorn milk” . . . “the people who drink it get the power to eat the hearts of others” . . . and several other suggestions that would have required far more than 250 words to complete. I’ll read it to you after my reflections.
  • Winning a game of Scrabble because I got to put my “Z” for “zapped” on a triple letter score.
  • Three former “Rabble Rousers” going through their routine as we all sang “On, Brave Old Army Team,” the USMA fight song. Sadly, it didn’t help our Black Knights win that night.
  • So much dancing with wild abandon late into every night, fueled by M&Ms, wine, and joy.
  • The long walk over the boardwalk and through the woods—another mandatory peeing in the trees—and back along the beach.
“Old Grad” toes!
  • And who will ever forget the discussion of glass dildos and butt plugs? It had to happen in a group lucky enough to include a sex therapist.

It dawned on me as I traveled back to my Colorado mountain home that although each of us in that magical gathering has overcome hardships many cannot imagine, age-old insecurities still linger. Words like “not enough” or “if only” or “I’m too (fill in the blank)” or “I should” or worse—“I should have” . . .  still plague us. And we have far fewer years remaining than those we’ve already lived. Will we ever believe that we are enough?

Mike always starts his morning with quiet reading time and hot coffee, and although I was slow to adopt this habit, I now relish this gentle way of reengaging with the new day. We read a passage from The Daily Stoic and then as many pages as seems right in whichever book we’ve chosen. Mike sets a timer, but that’s because he still works to keep me in the manner to which I’ve grown accustomed. I’ll never be that disciplined, but that’s a topic for another day.

Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations is always nearby too, and I’m drawn to his idea that “The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.” I often struggle with rumination over past and future events, neither of which I can control, but I also often prompt myself to remember how I felt when I first read Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now.

And I remembered it throughout my time in the beach house and on the beach this past weekend. I remembered to be present for every moment, for every dance, for every sip of bourbon, for every confession, for every song, every tear, every hug, every wave, every crab, every M&M.

In addition to my short story, I left a haiku in Bonnie’s guest book:

Powerful women
Tribulations all endured
Invincible us!

Despite late nights, we did not miss a sunrise!

Mimi’s husband, Ed, picked us up at the airport and her sister, Betsy, had late-night quiches waiting for us upon our return. I smiled the entire drive home the next morning after spending another night there, no more bidet incidents, and I felt—as I have been feeling lately—like the luckiest gal on the planet. With a husband who supports and encourages me to dance on the peak of Maslow’s hierarchy and friends whose generosity knows no bounds, how could I feel any other way?

“I am so, so happy I went,” I told Mike when I returned.

There was no fresh elk meat to process, but Mike and Gene made their own man memories over miles and miles of mountainous terrain . . . while I danced in the sand and embraced a sisterhood of extraordinary women.

And now, my story. The title (offered by another contributor to my creation): Sour Milk. The challenge required a story of no more than 250 words in the fairy tale or fantasy genre, with an action of drinking milk and use of the word ‘heart.’

Sour Milk

I’ll tell you a story that’ll have you think twice before smiling when someone says unicorns are sweet and magical. I know the real deal about those one-horned freaks. Seen ’em in action, and it ain’t pretty. It all started, once upon a time, with the first “blessing”—hahaha!—of those pompous beasts.* Don’t get me wrong—we hyenas might’ve done the same had two-leggers tried to capture us—but misunderstood is our middle name. We’re born with enough of a bum rap.

I watched in horror, tried not to laugh—really, I did—when they lured that first dude into their midst. Mesmerized by their seductive scent, he dropped his weapon, nestled down among them, and proceeded to drink the milk from one who’d just birthed another foul foal. Disgusting, but that wasn’t the worst of it.

Full-bellied and drowsy, he was, when they crept around him in an ever-smaller circle. I appreciated their tactics. Must’ve learned that maneuver from us, and I suppressed another chuckle. Dude never saw it coming, though, probably thinking about his forthcoming good luck, but as soon as he lay back against the momma’s milk-soaked belly, her stud sprang forward, spearing him through the heart with his horn.

His blood made me giggle and drool, but they made quick work of the cleanup. Not a chunk of him left for me. Explains why no two-leggers ever report seeing a unicorn. Magical creatures, my ass. Selfish charlatans, more like it. Milk ain’t always heart-healthy. Hahahahaha!

* A group of unicorns is called a “blessing”!

Meanwhile, I’m working on a new science fiction series and just published my first coloring book for the Waterwight series!
(Photo Credit: Elise Sunday)

Find my other work here!

Please subscribe to Alligator Preserves on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts, and tell your friends about it! I’d love it if you “liked” the episodes you listen to, and I’d love it even more if you’d post a quick comment!

Categories
Author Interview Books Writing

Scott Thomas Knows HORROR!

Meet him in this fascinating interview!

Visit with us in the YouTube video above!

Show Notes with Links:

  • Scott Thomas, award-winning author of horror–“Kill Creek,” “Violet,”(and other things!) and screen writer for TV Movies and teleplays for networks including Netflix, SyFy, MTV, VH1, the CW, Disney,Nickelodeon, ABC . . .
  • We talk about Kill Creek and decisions Scott made and changed during its creation.
Award-winning Kill Creek
  • He talks about the difference between plot and story.
  • He tells us what scared him as a child . . . and now, and why he thinks some people enjoy horror.
  • He discusses his planning vs. “pantsing” and the “Save the Cat” format.
  • He talks about the expectation of horror and if anything is taboo.
His second book Violet
  • How does he answer the “Kill, Marry, Sleep with” question?!
  • Find his books on Amazon, B&N, Inkshares, or any bookstore, and contact him on Facebook and Twitter (@ninjawhenever)
Audio-only version of Scott Thomas Interview (above)
Thank you, Scott Thomas! There’s nothing “boring” about you!
Meanwhile, I’m working on a new science fiction series and coloring book for the Waterwight series!
(Photo Credit: Elise Sunday)

Find my other work here!

Please subscribe to Alligator Preserves on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts, and tell your friends about it! I’d love it if you “liked” the episodes you listen to, and I’d love it even more if you’d post a quick comment!

Categories
Books Writing

“Lucky Bucks!”

A debut novel by a young author!

Just about 1 year ago, Katherine Stead committed to writing a book. Destined to spending most of her 3rd grade year in a remote learning situation, she craved more of a challenge than her online homework could provide.

For 1/2 hour every Wednesday morning (with few exceptions), this young author met with me over Zoom, and little by little, her story emerged.

Lucky Bucks! is a delightful “young reader” story about sibling rivalry and power. It’s a coming-of-age story that will resonate with anyone who has ever been a sibling and anyone who has witnessed the complex interaction of siblings. Embellished with one full-color illustration per chapter (15 chapters).

This story will leave you smiling!

Full disclosure: Katherine (Katie) is my 9-y-o great-niece! I had a blast helping her with this project and illustrating her book!

Would you please share this email with everyone with young readers? Thank you!

Categories
Books Laurel on Life

What Can We Control?

Not much, but maybe . . . enough.

“Raindrops on Roses” and Wildfires in Forests…

That is not my favorite song this year. But while I’m saddened by the flash floods, the mud slides, the fires raging out of control, the ongoing political turmoil, the conspiracy theories, the persistent pandemic, I’m reminded that the radius to the edge of my circle of influence remains a stone’s throw away. As I stand in the center of my circle, I can choose either to complain, to feel trapped, helpless, and defeated . . . or to feel inspired to put more effort into those things within my ability to control, if only slightly.

  • I cannot control the weather.
  • I cannot control our government.
  • I cannot control those with opinions contrary to mine.
  • I cannot control this dastardly virus.
  • I can make the area around our home safer, I can minimize my carbon footprint, and I can remember I won’t melt in the rain (even on my witchiest of days!).
  • I can research issues and candidates intelligently and exercise my right to vote.
  • I can choose not to engage with those on social media platforms whose goals are to spread unsubstantiated falsehoods and provoke hatred, fear, and anger. 
  • I can follow the guidelines recommended by legitimate professionals to keep myself healthy and to encourage others to do the same.

I’ve been working for hours in our garden and around our home recently because the unusual amount of rain this year where we live has caused an explosion of weeds–some lovely, most not so. How I wish I could wave my witchy wand and send the downpours to surrounding fires. 

Here’s my latest YouTube video in which I share our garden and the magnificent efforts my husband invested to create the perfect place for veggies to conquer weeds (with help, of course)! Dirty Hoe Days!

I choose to be inspired. How about you?

:)

Meanwhile, I’m working on a new science fiction series! (Photo Credit: Elise Sunday)

Find my other work here!

Please subscribe to Alligator Preserves on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts, and tell your friends about it! I’d love it if you “liked” the episodes you listen to, and I’d love it even more if you’d post a quick comment!

Categories
Laurel on Life Writing

“A Catwalk to Nowhere”

in the Tiferet Journal!

Spring/Summer 2021 Edition of Tiferet Journal
  • Delighted to have my essay “A Catwalk to Nowhere” published in the Spring/Summer 2021 Edition of Tiferet Journal! I hope you’ll consider subscribing to this literary journal!
  • Click here to check it out!
Meanwhile, I’m working on a new science fiction series! (Photo Credit: Elise Sunday)

Find my other work here!

Please subscribe to Alligator Preserves on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts, and tell your friends about it! I’d love it if you “liked” the episodes you listen to, and I’d love it even more if you’d post a quick comment!