Monday, October 20, 2014

Recommended viewing for the Halloween Scrooge

My kids are old enough that I can admit something.

I don't like Halloween. Any holiday that's used as an excuse to destroy my mailbox with a pumpkin....Grr....

And people pay money to watch movies in which some people wreck sadistic havoc on other people. That's so not cool. 

But there's at least one spooky show that's also hilarious: X Files, Season 5, Bad Blood. It was TV brilliance.

It aired in the 90s, and it's currently on Netflix.

What's your favorite scary/funny mix?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

About guns. Don't shoot me.

My workplace had an exciting week. Feminist and activist Anita Sarkeesian cancelled a speaking engagement at the university where I work because of death threats over her views on... wait for it... video games.

I was all set to write something well reasoned about how I, too, am unsettled by the way women are objectified in games and the media (I am) and how horrified I was that somebody would make such graphic, despicable threats (I am) and how disappointed I was that Sarkeesian started dissing my workplace before she knew the facts (I am). But as it often does, the debate shifted to gun laws, and I realized we've all read enough preaching for one day.

I've also already written about how my attitude about guns has evolved--on that other blog nobody ever sees.

So here is a re-tread from my mostly-abandoned Tumblr blog. I wrote it on a funnier day.

On Guns and Subarus

I used to drive a 76 Scout. It was my husband's before he married me, and he let me drive it before it became the rusting eyesore it is now.

It had many endearing qualities; the big and bad feeling that surged through me every time I got behind the wheel, the AM-only radio that introduced me to Rush Limbaugh (yuck), its remarkable thirst for fuel, and the NRA sticker on the back window.

Yeah, the Scout was symbolic of our clash-of-cultures marriage in its early years. I was from the big city of Cheyenne, Wyoming. He was a country boy from Firth, Idaho.

If you're from a truly big city (say, Denver, Colorado or Odgen, Utah) you probably don't recognize the huge cultural gap between Cheyenne and Firth. Cheyenne may be in Wyoming, but most of the people who live there don't have a horse. What's more, if you hear gunfire in Cheyenne, it's a bad thing. (In Firth it just means somebody is target practicing. Possibly on a skunk.) In Cheyenne, you're less likely to go around with an NRA sticker on your back window.

The cultures melded. We moved to a tiny town where lots of people do target shooting in the backyard. I fired a gun myself, and learned that there is such a thing as responsible gun ownership. Meanwhile, the Scout earned its rusty retirement and, years later, we bought a Subaru.

We bought it because we like how all-wheel drive performs on snowy roads, but when people in our town see you in a Subaru they make certain assumptions about you, how you vote and what you smoked in college.

I was tempted to get another NRA sticker and slap it on the back window, so that people would know I'm complicated. But while I've gained a lot of respect for gun owners, I never did learn to love the NRA.

So I just use words to tell people I'm apolitical. Compared to my neighbors, I'm a flaming liberal. Compared to the professors at the university where I work, I'm pretty right-wing. I drive a Subaru, but after several expensive repairs it's not about love. If it weren't paid for, we might have ditched the thing.

But we haven't slid of a snowy road yet.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Fall in a small town

I realized I lived in a special place when I was telling a coworker from back East about the Halloween Carnival I'd been to the night before. I'd won a cake in the cake walk. I'd also baked a cake for the cake walk, so we came out about even.

But he kept asking more and more questions. Was everyone in town there? (If they had young kids, then yes.) Did everyone contribute something? (If you  counted stuffed animals for the kids' games and the cakes and the pots of soup and the bake sale, then probably, yeah.)

He listened as if I was telling him about my latest trek to Tibet. And somewhere in there I realized that  in our own homespun way we have some great things going on.

The Halloween Carnival outgrew the city ballroom and became the Fall Festival this year, complete with dance performances, a scarecrow contest and many games and booths. It was a benefit for one of the best small town libraries anywhere.

The girls at the face painting booth.

So that was where I spent part of my Saturday. I spent another couple of hours with friends. And all around was that beautiful green grass with gold floating down from the trees.

I wish you all a festive fall, wherever you are.

Monday, October 6, 2014

My review: Life: Citizens of Logan Pond Book 1

I'll be reviewing Rebecca Belliston's latest book, Life, today. It's the first in the Citizens of Logan Pond trilogy. (Spoiler: I read it and loved it.) 

You can enter to win a signed copy + $25 gift card on her Facebook page.

From the publisher:

The economy crashed, the country is floundering, and Carrie Ashworth struggles to keep her siblings alive. She has two jobs in her newly-formed, newly-outlawed clan: grow crops to feed thirty-six people, and keep Oliver Simmons, their local patrolman, happy. Carrie’s life is almost content when Greg Pierce shows up. A man with the ambition to help them survive. A man determined to hate her.

When a government raid nearly wipes out their clan, Greg realizes the true reason behind their safety. Patrolman Simmons has fallen for Carrie. Greg takes it upon himself to give the socially-awkward patrolman what he wants. Only Carrie doesn’t like Greg throwing her in Simmons's path, especially when Greg’s brusque exterior melts, and she catches a glimpse of the real man underneath. Carrie is forced to choose: follow her heart or save her clan.

Life won’t let her choose both.

My review:

It was a delight to read this book. Its premise is dystopian, but there was a lot to love about the society of Logan Pond. It revolved around decent, kind people.

Belliston’s writing plays with some thought-provoking themes. What happens if all the trappings of society go away--because the dollar crashed? What if all you have to recommend you is your personality, skill and whatever looks you can salvage without makeup and a hairdryer?

Against that backdrop, Carrie subsists in a community that relies on her but doesn’t give her much credit. And while Greg enters the little group with matchmaking plans for Carrie and Oliver, he also helps her understand that she can refuse to be bullied.

When Carrie decides to stand up for herself, she discovers that her actions, justified as they are, still have consequences. Because that’s Life.

I related to all three characters in this story’s love triangle—Carrie, who wants others to be happy; Oliver, who craves her company but hates walking through a crowd of slightly contemptuous people to get it; and Greg, whose fierce loyalty has been covered over with a thick layer of cynicism. I’m hoping to see more of them in the coming novels, and, since I always like the underdog, I’m really hoping to know more of Oliver’s story in the next installment.

Full disclosure: Rebecca and I have never met in person that I know of, but we became blogging buddies years ago and I have grown to love her voice. It shines in both her books and her communications with others.

Author interview: Rebecca Belliston

(She turned these questions back on me, so you’ll be getting two interviews for the price of one today.)

1. If society collapsed, what would you miss the most? 

Rebecca: Probably clean water, although electricity is a close second.

JoLynne: Indoor plumbing. And after that I’d miss my mattress.

2. What is your best survival skill? 

R: I know enough about gardening to survive. Sadly, that's about it. Yikes. A scary prospect.

J: Hoarding. If you looked in my closet, you’d see what I mean.

3. Why did you choose Logan Pond as your setting? 

R: I wanted the neighborhood to be the kind of neighborhood anyone could live in. While Logan Pond is a fictional place, I live in a neighborhood that is close knit, and I'd love to think that if something similar happened, we'd pull together and thrive. (I have awesome neighbors!)

J: I do too, actually. And many of them have much better survival skills than I do.

4. How do you fit writing into your day? 

R: Anyway/where/place I can. Sometimes it's five minutes in the carpool line. Sometimes it's early in the morning or late at night after my kids are in bed. Basically, if my kids don't need something, and the house isn't burning down, I try to fit a little bit in each day. Writing makes me awfully happy, it's my de-stresser, and my family can tell if I haven't written in a few days because snarky mom appears. :)

J: I've learned to be creative, too. My iPad is wonderful because it helps me take advantage of those stray minutes. As the kids have gotten older, it's been easier to grab an hour after dinner, as long as we don't have something else going on.

5. What is your favorite chocolate? 

R: Reese's ALL the way, although Junior Mints is a close second. Then again, there's chocolate milk. Really, I'll take anything chocolate. An-y-thing. Funny fact: when I'm sad or depressed or just need a good smile, my hubby brings home Reese's instead of flowers. He knows me well. 

J: Lindt Excellence 70 Percent Cocoa. Unless it's a true binge, and then I go for Lindt milk chocolate with hazelnuts. 

Rebecca Belliston is the author of Sadie and Augustina, two romantic suspense novels with LDS themes. Besides writing fiction, she loves to compose music, teach and read. She lives in Michigan with her husband and five children.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Small towns

The Mountain View Hotel in Centennial, Wyoming. 
Somebody's got to write about Centennial, Wyoming (population 270, elevation 8,074 feet). There are copper artisan earrings available at the Mercantile, and you'll find the amazingly good food at both hotels. The Mountain View Hotel cook makes food like an artist but insists he's a cook because all the chefs he knew were jerks.

The town's one gas station/convenience spot is called the Friendly Store. It's tended by a gruff man who cracks jokes and tries not to smile. And because Centennial's on the threshold of the Medicine Bow National Forest, there are at least two hotels and two bars. A short drive away, you have this:

I mean, it's all a Wyoming Doc Martin, waiting to happen. So next time I'll go for longer and take better notes.

But first I'll go back across the state and introduce a couple more small towns.

This is the Grand Encampment Museum, the jewel of Encampment, Wyoming (450 people at 7,277 feet altitude). The museum is on the outskirts of town, and it has a curator and a gift shop. It highlights Old West life in a town which once expected to become the Wyoming capitol. 

It's done fine for itself as it is. The community obviously has a lot of spirit. More power to the people of Encampment.

A short drive away, there is this:

Then there is Wamsutter, population 481, elevation 6772 feet.

My history with that town is pretty much summed up in the "before" and "after" pictures on this sign:

Car trouble brought us in, and a friendly resident got us on our way. Sometimes the car broke down. Once we slid off the icy highway and a guy in a big pickup pulled us back onto to road. The family I grew up in visited Wamsutter a few times without ever planning to go there. For a while I thought the place might be cursed, and I've got to say it's mighty suspicious that they're telling a car breakdown story in pictures on an enormous sign by the service station. You'd think it happens a lot or something.

Wamsutter is home to two gas station/convenience stores, one on each side of  Interstate 80. It's a long way to civilization on either side, so they get a lot of highway traffic.

A favorite Wyoming writer, E. Annie Proulx, has already written a story set in Wamsutter. It's called the Wamsutter Wolf, and I totally recommend it. You can find it in her Bad Dirt story collection.

Now I'm home in my own small town of about 1700 people with no hotels, two gas stations and a small grocery store. I guess it's not a destination, but it's beautiful, and it's home.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Scheduling error

If a book promotion brought you here, I am sorry. A scheduling error ended the promotional price for The Truth Inducer about 23 hours too early, and I cannot reverse it or even change the regular price today. But I can bring back the promotional price in a couple of weeks, so I will! Thank you for your patience--this first foray into publishing has been a huge learning experience.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Sierra Madre and Snowy Range aspens

It is a good aspen year. I only see them on drives in the fall, but people who live in the mountains say the show is best when orange hues come out--and this year, they did.

The first photo was taken in the Medicine Bow National Forest, near Centennial, Wyoming. (In case you're wondering, that is not the Centennial that James Michner wrote a book about. His Centennial was about Colorado, and he devoted 928 pages to it.)

But many of the photos in this post were taken mighty close to the Colorado border.

The aspens above were in the Sierra Madre mountains, on what Centennial residents called "the other side." Medicine Bow National Forest includes the Snowy Range to the east, near Centennial, and the Sierra Madres to the west, near Encampment. (There are several Sierra Madre mountain ranges, but the ones we visited were in southern Wyoming. I don't know how they got such a southwestern-sounding name.)  A drive over highway 70 revealed some stunning fall color, which I have not reproduced as well as I'd hoped.

Aspens, I am discovering, can be hard to capture. I've edited the heck out of these photos, not to make them look better than the actual scene but to attempt reproducing them as they really were. My sister Ilene gave me some hints, and I'll keep working at it.

The trees were like an enormously-scaled, fussy flower garden, planted with yellows and oranges against deep greens for the best effect. And they went on and on and on. It was fun to see them with a fellow photographer, who stopped the car and jumped out with a camera as often as I wanted to.

It was also a splendid day during peak color. We enjoyed remarkable luck, as we had scheduled the trip a month or two ago with no idea how the conditions would be. Against that lovely backdrop we celebrated our sisterhood and remembered Valerie, another sister who left us too soon. I think she would have liked to be remembered that way.

Emails from home

Most of our email is pretty mundane. Once in a while, though, the immediate flavor of country life sings amid the shopping lists and communications to the office. Here are some stored on our home computer, written by people in our house and edited for privacy.

Some of the terms are softened for a family audience, but not by much.

Your evil kitty just woke up your son by urping up a mouse on his lion blankie.

You know you live in a small town when…

...Fifty-year old people born and raised in town are ‘new comers’.

...You are more afraid of locking yourself out of your house than of being robbed.

...The library has a different schedule on every day of the week.

...You are darn proud that your town has a library. Incidentally, your library account is handled not by a card but by a number that the librarian types into her computer. You have trouble remembering it, but the librarian can always tell you what it is.

...You can honestly say, "The Mayor is in front of the house fixing his manure spreader."

Good news: We caught another mouse.

Bad news: We have at least one more.

Good news: He must be hungry and he thinks of traps as a food source, since he robbed the bait of an un-sprung trap, finished the bait of the sprung one, and ate an eye from his dead brother.

Hope you're done with breakfast.