Real Life People Skills (book review)

The book, People Tools by Alan C. Fox was very well written and I liked the format of the numbered people toolsTools. Each begins with a vignette of personal experience broken down to its teachable moment components.  Here’s how it went, here’s the result, here’s how it could go better using the appropriate people tool.

These are truly people tools that actually apply to real life.

Example: I particularly liked People Tool 15 – Sunk Cost. This resonated with me, as I meet so many people that hang on to the past in relationships, jobs, hurts, etc., because they’ve invested so much money or years of their lives, that they can’t let go and invest in a better future.

“Sunk Cost The dilemma is a company with a new machine that cost $1M and the salesman wants to sell them a better machine for another $1M.  Sunk Cost Theory says, The cost of the old machine is entirely irrelevant. It’s a sunk cost. The money is spent. It’s gone… You only have to consider the future”

Good advice, if you’re stuck in a job you hate, a relationship going nowhere, in a money pit – you get the gist.

“If your past investment isn’t working for you, find a better alternative for the future. In business, the salesperson may call on you. In your life you have to be the salesman for yourself. (Buy a Ticket.)”

Good Advice for many stuck in a rut.

As for me. I’m applying the following to my day-to-day writing and painting –

People Tool 16 – Get Past Perfect.

Angels At The Gate (a book review)

In Angels At The Gate, another nameless woman from the bible comes to life under angels at the gate
T.K.  Thorne’s deft hand.  An amazing storyteller, Thorne takes us back in time to 1748 BCE.  It is the time of Abraham, of Lot, of men believed to be angels and messengers of God, and it is the time of the infamous Sodom and Gomorrah.

As she did in Noah’s Wife, Thorne gives us a brilliantly imagined alternate history. She gives a face, a name, a life to another faceless, nameless woman of the bible. Here it is Lot’s wife – Adira.

We follow the fortunes of this young woman.  Called Adir, a male’s name, Adira is raised as a boy.  As member of her stern but loving father’s caravan, she is schooled in the art of trade negotiations, the languages of the people in the lands they traverse, and duty.  Under the sterner hand of the caravan’s cook, Chiram, she learns the meaning of hard work, loss and loyalty.

She observes and appreciates the freedom allowed her male persona, which the females around her will never know.  The woman in her stirs; however, every time the tall blue-eyed stranger comes near. Though the man and his brother are thought to be messengers of god, she cannot help the feelings and the fervent wish, at least for him, to reveal the woman she is.

Adira’s father sees his daughter coming to an age where her womanhood becomes obvious.  It is a dangerous thing among the tribes, this deception.  A woman would be put to death for daring such.  He tells Adira she must go live with women relatives, but Adira balks and gets her way to stay one more time.

The reprieve is cut short all too soon, and her cherished childhood comes to an abrupt end.  The life she knew and people she loved are ripped away.  With only her faithful and much loved dog, Nami, she embarks on a path in pursuit of the messengers of god.  The winding path takes her through trials and triumphs, and eventually to Lot’s house and Sodom.  To tell you more would require a ‘spoiler alert’ and I will not do that.

Thorne’s agile imagination and extensive research, give Adira a believable history – a name, a life and a story worthy of writing and reading about.  Here we have the story of the woman who would be Lot’s wife, Adira, imagined as it could have been, and who can say Thorne didn’t channel it as it really was.


The Edge of Dreams (a book review)

Book Review
The Edge of Dreams,by Rhys Bowen

Rhys Bowen’s latest book in her Molly Murphy mystery series, The Edge of Dreams, has a serial muredge of dreamsderer on the loose in New York City. The murderer is taunting the police with letters directed to Molly’s police captain husband, Daniel Sullivan. Much to Daniel’s chagrin Molly is brimming with ideas and champing at the bit to get involved.

She can’t help herself. Although some years ago she arrived a fresh-off-the boat immigrant, Molly soon found herself apprentice to a private investigator. When he was murdered, Molly successfully ran the business herself. It’s now 1905 and Daniel had hoped marriage and motherhood would keep her safely home as a good wife. He balks at what he considers her meddling, forbids her to get involved and refuses to discuss any part of the case with her, at least at first.

But Molly is too bright and persistent and has more ideas than he or any of his peers to be still for long. She slowly involves herself in the investigation exposing herself to dangers she’s only seen on the edge of dreams.

I discovered this series in 2008 when there were seven books in the series. I started with Murphy’s Law when Molly, wanted for questioning for murder, flees the authorities in Ireland. She lands at Ellis Island where a fellow-traveller is murdered. Everyone is detained on the island as suspects, and intrepid Molly, determined to get on with her life in America, is determined to solve it herself. I read the whole series in a month and have eagerly awaited every new adventure.

The characters are well developed and alternate lifestyles are explored with a light touch. Each story is well plotted and includes historical events that give an authenticity to New York City and the country of that era. I like that Bowen gives her own possible solutions to some of history’s unanswered questions of the time.

Although each book can stand alone as complete, it’s always nice to know a person’s history. In case you want to read the entire series as well, below is a list in order of publication.

  • Murphy’s Law (2001)
  • Death of Riley (2002)
  • For the Love of Mike (2003)
  • In Like Flynn (2005)
  • Oh Danny Boy (2006)
  • In Dublin’s Fair City (2007)
  • Tell Me, Pretty Maiden (2008) In a Gilded Cage (2009)
  • The Last Illusion (2010)
  • Bless the Bride (2011)
  • Hush Now, Don’t You Cry (2012)
  • The Family Way (2013)
  • City of Darkness and Light (2014)
  • The Edge of Dreams (March 2015)

Enchanted Realms

Songs for Ophelia by Theodora Goss. A book review by Perle Champion

To call Theodora Goss’s book, Songs for Ophelia, a poetry book would not do justice to the stories that lie beyond the gossamer songs for ophelia singleillustration gracing its cover.  This is a collection of hauntingly beautiful stories some new, some old retold – a storybook for grownups.

The term songs instead of poems suits this collection of prose stories.  It puts one in mind of the bards of old, who with lyre in hand, sang their tales.  In Songs for Ophelia, we accompany our own bard through enchanted realms, traversing the wheel of the year in the ancient way season by season, song by song.  Strewn through this collection are songs populated by names out of legend and myth whose stories we thought we knew full well until we read Goss’s deft retelling.  In her hands the stories are at once familiar and not.  She adds a depth as she explores and exposes possibilities giving each character and place a richer more well-rounded existence on the page.

Reviewing poetry is so very different from reviewing a novel, so I’ve chosen to give a small glimpse of one poem from each season of Goss’s enchanted collection.

Spring: In The River’s Daughter, the river morphs from like a father to father in this homage to the death of a much admired writer. “She walks into the river/ with rocks in her pockets, / and the water closes around her/ like the arms of a father…”

Summer: In By Tidal Pools, Goss gives new dimension to Circe affair with Odysseus.  She elevates Circe from the flat stereotype of Homer’s telling to a fully imagined woman with real yearnings.  “At first she watched in case he should return/ by tidal pools…Does he lie on some shore/ where snails leave glistening tracks upon his eyes,/ or has he found his home?”

Autumn: In A Walk in Autumn, Summer becomes a maiden and slain.  Although I prefer to raise a glass to Persephone descending into hades, the imagery in this song is haunting.  “Her name was Summer – her hair the grasses/ her gown the forest’s leafy cloth… She lies unburied, exposed to weather/ in tattered garments the worse for wear…”

Winter: And lastly, there is The Last Night That She Lived.  Who has not pondered these lines in some variation? “When soul from form is rent,/ do streams run over stones/ in valleys of content?/ Or dust, on bones?”

Ray Bradbury once told me to read good poetry or an essay before turning out the lights at night.  He said he kept a good book or two of poetry or essays by his bed and read from one or the other volume every night. He said it turn the mind away from the noise and garbage of the day and prepared the mind for dream.

Since that conversation, I’ve followed that ritual with various volumes Gibran’s Sand and Foam, Leaves of Grass, and Rilke’s Book of Hours to name a few.  Each brings its own brand of dreaming. I’m adding Songs for Ophelia to that short list, perhaps to walk enchanted realms in dream. Thank you Theodora Goss.

Reading ARC’s

For those that don’t know, an ARC is an advanced reading copy of a book that isn’t out yet to the general public; it’s free if you have the right contacts, which I do.

Worth reading is Moonbird by Phillip Hoose scheduled for 7-17-12.  Imagine a little bird barely 4ozs in weight that has lived for over 20 years and logged over 325,000 miles in his lifetime.  Every March he migrates from Argentina to his breeding grounds in the Canadian Acrtic – that’s 9000 miles one-way. A human’s marathon pales in comparison,

Told and imagined through the eyes of the people who study these birds and their migratory patterns while fighting to to preserve the fast disappearing feeding grounds that enable their lives.  In the words of my beloved Spock – ‘Fascinating’.

Other books await, but next up is the one I picked up at the library today, The Blood of Heroes – the 13-day struggle for the Alamo and the sacrifice that forged a Nation by James Donovan.  Hey, what can I say, wherever in the world I hang my hat, I’m a Texan.

Georgia Bottoms Makes Scarlet Look Tame

In his latest novel, Georgia Bottoms, Mark Childress introduces readers to a southern belle who makes Scarlet O’Hara seem tame by comparison.

Georgia is the sole support of her family, and she tries always to put her best foot forward to maintain the family image of genteel wealth. That’s hard to do with a no-account brother who’s rarely employed in anything legal and an elderly mother who is losing touch with reality and who daily rails against that “evil Rosa Parks” whom she blames for everything wrong with this new South of 2001.

To maintain her image, Georgia sweats it out every Sunday in a sweltering hot church. She sits elegantly dressed and shod in her family’s pew because she must. Church is de rigueur in a small southern town, but showing face doesn’t mean she has to listen. She considers her manicure and contemplates whether a rebellious Jesus was a Tide fan to spite his Father, whom the preacher assures the congregation is an Auburn fan, as are most of the men in the church. She studies those around her and wonders if they, like she, are just there to show face, when suddenly the preacher catches her attention.

He’s about to repent his sins, and she is one of them. Her mind races; he can’t do this to her. What can she do? What would any southern belle do? She makes it to the church aisle and very convincingly faints dead away.

Thus begins Georgia’s personal hero’s journey. The hero’s journey is epic, but it’s not always huge and larger than life. Some are just like you and me and sweet Georgia Bottoms. She’s facing change against her will, trying desperately to hang onto the status quo, making difficult choices at every turn in a comedy of personal and serious world events that conspire against her and turn her world upside down.

Georgia is making it on her own terms. She’s not exactly Louise Wooster, nor the fictional Belle Watley, but she is a woman with a heart of gold making her way the only way she knows how for herself and her own.

This is a delicious Southern novel full of colorful language. No political correctness here. Stories about real people are rarely PC.

This is a story about endings that lead to beginnings, the face we show the world, and the face that’s true. It’s about knowing when the price of saving face is too high.  Georgia faces that ultimate choice and she shines.

Previously published in First Draft, the magazine of the Alabama Writer’s Forum – March issue.