An Interview with Lander Marks

April 27, 2008 at 2:59 pm | Posted in Books, Culture, entertainment, LIfe, Religion, Writing | 5 Comments
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On April 20, I had the opportunity to speak with Lander Marks about her new novel, Artist’s Proof. This is her first novel and will be released within the next week. I had a great time talking with her about the novel, but I was most intrigued by a mystery that has very recently discovered in her own life that relates back to her book. I hope that you’ll enjoy this interview as much as I did:

Cover of Artist\'s Proof

Literate Housewife: Thank you very much for the opportunity to read your book and speak with you about it. I enjoyed reading it and appreciate the opportunity. So, how excited are you to have your first novel published this month?

Lander Marks: I’m very excited about it, Jennifer. It’s been a long time coming writing a fictional book as opposed to some of the other things I’ve done. Eight years is a long time to finally have a baby arrive.

LH: Oh my gosh! That’s a long gestation period.

LM: But in between there were a few other books so I’m okay with it. The timing was what it needed to be. Obviously the book needed to come out at this time and so that’s what makes it work.

LH: Tell me a little about what inspired you to write Artist’s Proof.

LM: Artist’s Proof started as a mental whim you might say. The questions that came to mind occurred while I was on a cruise ship experiencing an art auction. The thoughts seemed to come randomly, which is the way things always seem to happen when you’re writing. From the variety of questions that caused me to pause in the moments of this art auction came a series of different events. Each little thread led me on a different path and prepared or led me to write this book.

LH: So, you knew something about art and the art world before you wrote your novel.

LM: Yes, I do have a degree in art and I am an avid collector of 20th and 21st century contemporary art. My interest in the arts, in the experiences of the artists, and in the messages that they create were very close to my heart. Questions came about involving how artwork is sold in this country, how it’s auctioned, and who buys it. These became for me part of the intrigue of writing this mystery.

LH: So what are some examples of things you have in your collection?

LM: I currently have a variety of pieces. I have an Agam, an Agamagraph, and a three dimensional Patrick Hughes piece. A lot of my art has to do with illusion and duplicity. In other words, when you’re looking at the piece, other images appear. As you move around the piece and look at it from different angles, other things show up. In some cases the messages from the artists are thought-provoking and in other cases they are just beautiful. They open up your mind to how things can expand and change.

LH: You mentioned that it took you eight years to write Artist’s Proof. Was there any one aspect of writing the novel that took you by surprise?

LM: The story started to take on elements of art restitution. This led to my travels to Europe to investigate the artwork that was stolen during WWII, where it ended up, and what its value is today. That was a place I didn’t expect to be when I started the book. It brought me to individuals who are very well known internationally and who are experienced in this process of art restitution. It’s led me to some world renowned art collectors and I’ve learned what they are doing in the contemporary art scene. That was not what I envisioned when I started to write this light-hearted, mad cap kind of murder mystery.

LH: This novel is told in large part by your two main female characters: DJ Singer and Shannon Phillips. At what point in your writing process did you decide to tell the story from both angles?

LM: Right at the beginning. I just felt that there was something that needed to be told and there were two very strong women who needed to tell it their way. I didn’t anticipate how much work was involved with bouncing the story back and forth every other chapter and keeping it straight in my own head. I didn’t write one character and then the other. I wrote the book in the sequence in which the reader reads it. So, it’s a little bit different. Because this was my first book, everyone said to me, “writing in first person is not a good idea,” or “bouncing your characters back and forth is very complex.” Many people thought it was a crazy thing for an amateur author to do, but I did it.

LH: What did you find most rewarding about having those two female characters?

LM: I was rewarded with the appreciation of the two different personalities – each fulfilling her own quest to not be a victim. To have a place and an understanding the bigger picture. At first I thought the theme of the story was really about the victims at all different levels. But in the end, Shannon finds a place for herself that she’s comfortable with or has made resolution. DJ comes to grips with something that she didn’t anticipate, but appreciates where it’s going. This leads her to make her own choices. So, my idea that this story is really about victims turns into something about tolerance, appreciation, gratitude, and an overall look at the bigger picture.

LH: Yesterday I was meeting with some women and I overheard someone say that there are no coincidences. She was talking about faith and how when there seems to be coincidence, it never really is. That made me think back on your novel. I really enjoyed the friendship that DJ and Kate shared, but the confidence and connections that came through DJ’s unexpected relationship with Ron were really essential to her at that time. What specifically do you think about her romantic relationship with Ron brought out the best in her?

LM: I think the feeling that Ron was not using her in the sense of a typical male-female relationship. Young people hook up today and it tends to be random. I think when it came down to push versus shove they balanced each other well. This gave DJ a reassurance that she didn’t have before. In her experiences working in a male dominated industry, she both walked and talked like a man or she didn’t succeed. Being able to pull back a little bit and be herself without fear was something that Ron brought to the table. I don’t think that she was prepared for that relationship to blossom the way that it did.

LH: DJ becomes and avid collector of Sol Fleming. Was there an actual artist who inspired him?

LM: I’m going to drop this bomb on you, Jennifer. This is all new information that will be released in the next week or so. I inherited a piece of artwork from a favorite uncle of mine about 12 years ago. This little tempera and gouache painting has been on the wall in my house that whole time. I didn’t think much about it. It’s an interesting piece that looks a little bit like a Picasso. Very abstract. It’s just part of my collection. You go by and look at them just like an old friend and take a peek. Recently, I had to do an appraisal for insurance purposes. I took down each piece to look at it, to really address it, and to start to do some homework in preparation of the appraisal. This piece is done be Bela Kadar, and I realized that I knew very little about it. I started by going to Google to investigate. As it turns out, Bela Kadar may have been spiritually motivating this book well beyond the eight years it took me to write it. This piece is one of very few outside of Hungary. Bela was a Jewish-Hungarian artist and was a protégé of Mark Chagall. He and his work was labeled as “DEGENERATE” by the Nazis.

Lander Marks\' Kadar

I found out through my aunt that this piece was purchased through an auction in the late 50s or early 60s. It is not dated by the hand of the artist. Yet as I did my research I came to find out that his work, not necessarily this piece that we know of, was, along with André Breton, Max Ernst, Van Gogh, and Chagall in the very famous art show “entartete Kunst,” which means degenerate art in German. This was an art show that the Nazis put on as a propaganda to display what they believed to be degenerate art. Many of these pieces were ultimately burned in the square in Berlin after the show.

Nazi Art Show Poster

There were many famous artists who were considered bad because the Germans were only interested in iconic artwork and Dutch work from the 15th and 16th century. Contemporary pieces, they felt, were anti-German and were not part of what they saw as an ideal German belief system. Plus, many of these artists were Jewish. They were not white Germans, let’s say.

So, the story of this piece appearing on my wall 12 years ago and me really not paying any attention to it in the dynamics of this book really took me for a loop. I determined that for the first time in over 50 years the piece will be shown publicly with the book launch in Las Vegas and then perhaps travel with me. It’s just an amazing, amazing part of the book that I had no idea existed until literally two or three weeks ago.

LH: That is really crazy.

LM: Yes. The other part of the story that I didn’t expect is that I got very involved in appreciating the artists, musicians, and writers who were picked out by the Nazis. What was to be destroyed, to be killed, who escaped, how they got to Israel, Spain, the United States, what became of them, and how their contributions changed the art world internationally. It’s taken me on a path to speak to high school and college students and to be involved in the Holocaust education program. It’s not just the Holocaust education anymore. It’s genocide education. As part of the story I opened myself up to speak to these students and school systems about what the Holocaust teaches us about our responsibilities. I talk about it from the aspect of the arts and it has a little bit different of an impact as you relate it to people the Millenials know by name: Marilyn Manson, or Nine Inch Nails etc.. I don’t speak much about Hitler, although he has an interesting story in the story. I talk about democracy, freedom, and freedom of speech.

LH: It sounds like your uncle gave you a much greater gift than just a piece of art.

LM: Oh. That’s a mouthful right there.

LH: I have one more question about Sol Fleming. In the novel there are some anonymous web entries that are attributed to him and they are very cryptic. Without giving away the story, how did that portion of the novel develop?

LM: I think that all of us look for some spirituality or faith. This is either in the traditional faith in which we are raised or we look for it in poetry or messages. Some of us will say we get a message or a shudder. Going back to your coincidences, sometimes we get premonitions. I think today in society we pay more attention to subtle signals. In this scenario, going back in time the Bible was the constitution of many people’s spirituality. I chose to write his dialog through the use of Biblical phrases or references that were considered typical of that era. Putting them through the Internet exposes them on a whole different level.

LH: That was interesting to me. I read a lot of historical fiction, so to have Norah Jones and similar references jump out at me made it interesting and fun. I am on the Internet all the time and we’re in the Internet Age. I really appreciated having that in your novel.

LM: I think that bringing the history into contemporary context makes it easier and more fun to read, although there’s a subtle message there. That’s one of the things that is important about this story. When it ends it really doesn’t end, because the reader wants more. The back matter that references some of the themes is there for them. They don’t feel like they just got left at the end of the story without any place to go while waiting for the next DJ and Ron escapade.

LH: That actually brings me to my last question. At the end of the book, the mystery that surrounded the Monte Carlo House and Sol Fleming was resolved, but questions about DJ and Ron, their future, and the future of art stolen during WWII still linger. I know the answer already from the context of our interview, but I’ll ask anyway. Will we be seeing more of this couple and that topic in the future?

LM: You’ll definitely be seeing more of DJ and Ron. I don’t know if you’ll be seeing them specifically dealing with this artwork issue. DJ and Ron will continue as a couple in some way, shape, or form. As you can appreciate based upon the way the story ended, they are both very strong advocates and I think that DJ’s personality will continue to get her into trouble. Her nose will be in the wrong place at the right time and carry her on to the next mystery.

LH: Thank you so much for the interview.

Three Things I’ve Learned About Myself Today

March 19, 2008 at 3:12 pm | Posted in Books, Free, LIfe, My Life with Books, Reading, Writing | 1 Comment
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I’m working on transcribing my interview with Robin Gerber this afternoon during breaks.  During this process I’ve learned three things:

  1. After 11 years living in Virginia, I still very much sound like someone from Southwest Michigan – no matter what my family or anyone else has to say.
  2. LeeAnn, my youngest sister, and I have the same conversational tones and qualities.  I could hear a lot of her in my voice.
  3. I interrupt way too much and must work on that.  Sorry, Robin!

I’m hoping to post my interview tomorrow if at all possible.  Over the past week I’ve gotten a significant promotion at work (go me!) and then Allison caught a nasty virus.  So, I haven’t had much time until now to really work on this.

Don’t forget that you have an opportunity to receive a free copy of Eleanor vs. Ike!  Simply leave a comment or send me an email.  I’ll hold the drawing for the free copy a week after I post the interview.

#47 ~ Without a Map

November 11, 2007 at 4:29 pm | Posted in Adoption, Beach, Books, Childhood Memories, Culture, Inspiration, LIfe, Memoir, Parenting Dilemmas, Post-Partum Depression, Reading, Religion, Secrets and Lies, Sexual Identity, Writing | 2 Comments
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Without a Map: A Memoir by Meredith Hall

I am angry. Correction. I am pissed. Really, I’m f*cking pissed off after reading this book. I am angry and hurt for Meredith in specific and for all women in general. That one woman should have lived through a teenage pregnancy is horrific to me. That this is by no means an isolated incident makes this even worse.

Meredith Hall became pregnant, at the age of 17. This happened after a non-conventional summer romance that ended with one sexual encounter on the beach before Anthony, five years her senior, returned to college. Meredith’s mother, who had been left to raise her three children as a single mother, also found love that summer with a hippy. After spending so many years using negative pressure to keep Meredith a virgin, she began staying out until all hours of the night herself. She, in fact, left Meredith alone at the beach most days while she worked with her new lover. Going from suffocating boundaries to nearly none at all made that summer confusing for Meredith. She ended up paying dearly for it.

Meredith’s family was seen as an upstanding family in their small New Hampshire town. After her father left, Meredith’s mother became extremely involved in her local Protestant church. Once it was discovered that she was pregnant, Meredith was permanently expelled from her school. She was then abandoned immediately by her church and her mother. When Meredith’s father asked what they were going to do about the pregnancy, her mother simply replied, “She can’t stay here.” Meredith went to live with her father and step-mother, but being forced to stay alone in the house (and mainly in her upstairs room) for the remainder of her pregnancy was of no comfort. There was no one for her to cry with. There was no one to explain what was happening to her body. She was not allowed to take an active role in the decision to place her unborn son for adoption – except she was forced to set up a meeting with the baby’s father by herself and get him to sign the adoption papers. I will not even get into the verbal abuse she suffered at the hands of the obstetrician who allowed an abusive family adopt the baby.

I read this portion of the book on the plane from Atlanta to Denver last week. It was enough to make me want to lash out at society. Sex is a shame that is only worn by women, and most especially when they get pregnant outside of socially acceptable settings. There was no shame for Meredith’s father when he left his family with almost nothing to settle down with another woman. Yet, no one could speak to or about Meredith because her unplanned pregnancy was so shameful. I could scream.

So, Meredith was told either directly or indirectly by everyone who was supposed to love her that she was a dirty, shameful person. One sexual act and your life is judged as unworthy of any respect. You are shunned by the rest of society. She was not even allowed to have a roommate at the alternative school she graduated from after the birth of her son. No one wanted her to have the opportunity to even share her experiences with another girl for fear of “infecting” the others. Yes, because this was all working out so well for Meredith, right? Wouldn’t every young woman want to sign herself up for a complete societal shunning? So, alone in her grief and full of shame, Meredith did a lot of wandering after she graduated. The relationships she became involved with were not (in my opinion) good enough for her. They were only good enough for a woman who thought she was tarnished and trash. The reactions to her pregnancy became a self-fulfilling prophecy. This is what happens when people and institutions only use principles to guide their choices and reactions instead of love.

I have the greatest respect for Meredith Hall. She ultimately discovered her own self-worth. She has raised two exceptional sons and has established a warm and familial relationship with her first son. Due to circumstances, she was not able to ever confront her parents about how they abandoned her when she needed them the most. Her mother developed MS. When she needed her children the most, Meredith did not abandon her. Although it was painful for her never to get the opportunity to even tell her mother how the shunning impacted her life, she was an ever faithful daughter. Even though her brother and sister’s families were always invited to her father’s house, Meredith was not allowed because of an argument with her step-mother. Still, she made a point of meeting with her father before he died to tell him that she loved him.

This memoir stirred up many personal things in my heart. I can only hope that I can forgive as Meredith did. She was able to do for her parents the very thing that they and her church failed to teach her by example.

Meredith, thank you for sharing your story.

To buy this book, click here.

In Heaven!

September 16, 2007 at 6:59 pm | Posted in Books, Henry VIII, Historical Fiction, Philippa Gregory, Reading, Writing | 6 Comments

I’m currently in Philippa Gregory’s live chat!  It’s been really interesting to say the least.  What a wonderful experience.

Slow Cooker

June 29, 2007 at 2:25 am | Posted in Exercise, Jodi Picoult, LIfe, Literate Housewives Book Club, Reading, Writing | Leave a comment

I have not regained any enthusiasm for writing since my last post.  Muggy weather blahs?  I think what I really need is a nice long run to clear my head and get some good fresh air in my lungs.  The problem with this is that I do not run and I’m severely out of shape.  Anyway, I’m going to attempt to write something, even if it is only a paragraph and post it tomorrow for Fiction Friday.  Technically, I need to write at least two paragraphs – one for last week, too.

I am not joking about needing some good vigorous exercise.  I need it.  I need it bad.  So, I vow to take a walk tomorrow, even if it is for only 10 minutes.  I need to get my juices circulating.  That’s all there is to it.  An exercised body will lead to a more exercised brain.

I have finished The Kite Runner and it was simply amazing.  It has been a long time that the ending of a book brought tears to my eyes.  I need to give it some more thought before I write my formal review.  I will simply say that Judi picked a gem for me.

For those of you who might be interested, don’t forget that the Literate Housewives Book Club officially begins on July 1st.  If you would like to read Perfect Match by Jodi Picoult with us and post your own reviews, comments, questions, or impressions, send me an email and I’ll set you up.  You need only have a WordPress account.

Postponed – Fiction Friday Installment

June 22, 2007 at 9:48 pm | Posted in Childhood Memories, Film, LIfe, Parenting Dilemmas, Religion, Writing | Leave a comment


I am feeling particularly unmotivated today.  I didn’t even think about it last night.  I know that it is Fiction Friday, but I have nothing at this point.  What I have learned is not to leave the writing until Thursday night.  I will post my Fiction Friday for this week at some point this weekend.

Along those lines, I haven’t gotten much reading done this week, either.  No, Judi, it’s not because I want to make you wait anxiously at your mailbox for as long as possible.  I guess it’s been a combination of things.  I live 700 from home.  Much of the time, it keeps me out of any drama that might ensue.  At other times, I get hit with hot magma from a family drama that’s been brewing for a long time.  I’m not sure if it would have been better to know all along or not.

On Sunday I found out that a relative of mine has been in prison for about a month in a county jail for a fourth DUI on a suspended driver’s license.  After having been bailed out on all previous occasions, family chose not to step in.  This family member isn’t that much older than me, but I’m sure that tough love is a hard decision for parents no matter how old your child is.  They have made the right decision; still, my heart breaks for M.  I can’t imagine how it must feel to know that you have gotten yourself to a place like that.  Alcohol has a history in my family and I’m sorry that it has affected my generation.  Other than bales of hay, it’s probably the number one killer (though usually not directly) on my dad’s side of the family.

Ever since I found out, it has been on my mind.  It’s hard to live so far away.  My Dad told me to pray for her, and I do.  Still, doesn’t that seem like a little bit of a cop out?  How is that all that different from Pontius Pilot washing his hands?  Then again, prayer isn’t my “thing.”  I am much more of an action person.  I’m definitely not a meditative person.  I know that there are people who are and I’m thankful for them.

I asked my parents for M’s address and they weren’t even sure of the facility.  Thank goodness for the Internet.  I was able to find her within a few minutes after only one Google search.  I thought about what I would want to hear if I were in her shoes.  I would really be embarrassed.  It’s one thing to hit rock bottom.  It’s quite another to have it happen so publicly.  I wrote her a note telling her mentioning an old picture where I’m nearly strangling her with a hug when she was a baby.  I wish that I could do that right now.  I also mentioned that I loved her and always would.  We both have our own demons.  Mine is food.  Hers is drink.  I told her that we come from strong stock and that we had everything we need to change our situations inside of us.  Most of all, I told her that believe in her.  We all need to hear that from time to time, no matter where we are.

We are readers.  We know how powerful the written word can be.  If there is someone you know who could use a little encouragement, please take the time let them know that you care.  What better way could there be to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Summer of Love?


P.S.  I have a confession to make.  I love the word incarcerated.  Every time I hear it, I can see the scene from Say Anything where Lloyd Dobler in the prison yard visiting Diane Court’s father, who is nearly spitting in his face, “I’m incarcerated, Lloyd!”  Just thinking about that makes me laugh (because of the tie-back to the pen).  It has been hard for me not to think or say that word this week.  I hope there was someone in prison who is able to make M forget, even just for a second, where she is and laugh.

Fiction Friday #3 ~ Crystal Lake Bit 2

June 15, 2007 at 9:43 pm | Posted in Fiction Friday, Writing | Leave a comment

Fiction Friday is a challenge my good friend Mark made to himself to remind him of how much he enjoys writing.  Dreal joined him in this challenge and so have I.  I jumped in two weeks ago.  If you would like a fun way to keep yourself writing, just let Mark, Dreal, or I know.  We’ll link to you so we can all be inspired by each other’s work.  Otherwise, please read what we’ve been writing.  We’d love to hear what you think.

This is the second bit of what I’m entitling Crystal Lake.  It does not pick up where my first entry left off and it’s in a completely different voice.  It will eventually lead up to the first bit.  I hope that the change in voice will not be confusing.  I’m not sure which voice, if either, will change once the story lines meet.  Once again, we’ll see.  Here goes:

The wind was furious, even for October, and it howled against the weather worn frame of our farmhouse. You might suspect that this worn old place is spooked, but those noises and shakes are as familiar to me as my dog Schroeder’s nose. I was brought to this house before I was a week old so I know that it can rattle and jar like it’s riding a tornado, but it’s perfectly safe. It wasn’t until I heard something unfamiliar and faint that I looked up from my studies.

Rubber soled shoes pounded across the scalloped roof. Their destination was my brother’s room in the attic, so I decided to climb the stairs. Sure enough, I crouched down on the shadowy landing just in time to find him opening the window.  I just about finished planning my lecture to him about using the door when someone grabbed Kurt’s shoulder and used it to ease into the room. It seemed to take Amber forever to catch her footing, but as soon as she did, she stroked the front of his jeans.  He grabbed a hunk of her blue-black hair in his hand and yanked her head back so that she was looking up to him.

“I’ll thank ya later for what ya did, Babe.  Anyway you’d like.  Everyway you’d like.” They’ve taken to sleepovers up here, supposedly on the sly.  I’m not sure if Dad knows how often or not.  I backed against the wall and held my breath in fear of being discovered, but most to avoid the foul stench of a cloud I imagined floating across the attic toward me, not unlike the great fog of death as it made its way through Egypt.  Before, Kurt would have known what I was thinking. He would have puffed up his chest and yelled, “Pharaoh, let my people go!”

Kurt sneered down at her and pulled her hair just a little more.  “It’s a good thing we’ve got all night.  You’re gonna need every last second.”

Dad should have bolted the window shut after the first time he fought with Kurt about pulling these kinds of stunts. On top of that, I can’t fathom why I can’t have the room myself. Right inside the west slope would be the perfect cradle for my bed.  In the middle, where the ceiling was high, I could make enough bookshelves to harbor my entire collection. The huge window faced east so it would be a necessity for my reading bench to sit right underneath it. I wouldn’t need lamps to read until supper and I’d keep it just as pretty as Momma has kept the living room. For pity’s sake, Kurt has everything flopped all over the place and his decorating job, if you could call it that, is unsatisfactory. What was so attractive about bloody rock bands and gothic creatures? As it is, my room is too small for my needs.  Just think of all the used library posters I could frame and mount to the walls! I know Mrs. Holston would give them to me. Then you could barely tell that the attic wasn’t finished.  I don’t think that Kurt’s friends even know how to read.

Kurt didn’t even look away from her when he yelled, “Hey Drew… Jase… All’s clear!” Still, his eyes were glazed, not twinkling the way they were when he first told me about her.  He curled his lips and sucked on her face while haphazardly trying to clear his old hunting equipment and girlie magazines away from the window.  He probably hoped his two stooges wouldn’t trample them.

Amber didn’t seem too concerned about his divided attention, but I was.  I wanted to jump out from the darkness and make him look at me. I wanted to slap him, make my brother come back to me.  When we were kids he never lost at hide and seek because he had this uncanny ability to feel me when I was around. He even could tell when I was walking the halls at school instead of sitting in the classroom. Now, I could be standing right in front of him and he wouldn’t see me there any better than Helen Keller could.

I miss our wonderful talks. Fall used to be the best. We would set the Franklin stove to fire and cook marshmallows and watch cheesy late night movies. We could share everything. To this day he is the only one who knows that Chucky reached under my shirt and pinched my titties when I was twelve. Kurt beat him up pretty badly after that. I still haven’t found anyone brave enough to be my boyfriend.

Kurt was thoughtful, too. It wasn’t even that long ago.  On my birthday last September, he jumped up on the picnic table at Blain Park, pointed at me, started to dance dramatically, and started singing “You are fifteen going on sixteen…” If he weren’t my brother, I don’t know how I would have reacted.  I just beamed and looked back and forth between him and Daddy.  I think I even saw a tear in Daddy’s eye when he applauded Kurt’s performance.

Everything changed that Halloween when Amber, that wicked leech, took an interest in Kurt.  It wasn’t long before he quit school and started making money. I’ve never figured out how. If it weren’t for her, he never would have demanded that Dad clean out all of Momma and Granny’s treasures so that he could make the attic “his palace.” He figured that since he had to start paying rent to live in his own home, he was entitled to as much. It’s a good thing Schroeder’s mine.  She’d have gotten rid of him if he was Kurt’s dog.  She’s ruined the rest of our happiness.

Dad should have kicked him out.  I’ll never forget how he and Gramps kept sniffling as they moved all of those memories out of the dust and into the barn. I kept the special trinkets, like their wedding shoes, correspondences, and books in my room. Kurt couldn’t have concerned himself less. In fact, he took Amber to an all day horror film festival in Alma and didn’t lift a finger. The next day Dad told him to start looking for a place of his own; but, Kurt said that he had to be saving his money to order a ring for Amber out of the JC Penney catalog.

Things really got rough in November when Kurt first brought Jason and Drew home. It didn’t take Dad long to decide that those two meant trouble. They’d both seen jail before and I don’t mean juvenile detention either. Frankly, they made the hair on my arms pimple up faster than a spider would. Jason’s more than chubby but he’d at least look better if he had more than razor sharp stubble on the top of his head. I suppose he figures that gargantuan tattoos make up for hair. And he doesn’t dress any better than old Mr. Martin, the bum who used to be Dad’s football coach. Drew’s no better. They couldn’t find a tower tall enough to keep him away from Rapunzel. He’s 6’11” or close to it. Stupid, though. Kurt kept telling him not to stand up straight but the fool went on beaning his head against the solid attic beams, one right after the other.

After Jason and Drew finally thudded into the room, Kurt’s kisses left Amber’s lips and started exploring Mexican territory, if you know what I mean. I knew well enough where this was headed. My room was unfortunately situated right under the usual location of his bed; but, I had no idea that he grabbed her like that in front of other people. Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum stuffed their hands in their pockets and just stood there with grins on their faces.  Amber peeled herself away and tripped over to the stereo.  When she turn it on it nearly blew the speakers.  The hair in my ears started to tickle and the floors were nearly vibrating.

I scampered down the stairs.  It wasn’t until I got back into the kitchen that I was far enough away to distinguish the singer’s voice from the drumbeat.  I shook my head and let my brown hair cover my entire head.  It was too fine to block anything out.  I wish I could stay at Gramps’ place tonight, but I don’t want to leave Kurt alone when Dad got home from work.  It didn’t appear as though Kurt’s little party was going to be over by then.  I think he’s finally going to lose it tonight and someone’s got to keep reasonable.

It wasn’t until then that I realized this was Friday night. Bowling night. Kurt’s smart, you see, but not as clever as me. Dad is always out late Friday night.  However, I not only have the number for the alley but I know something my brother doesn’t. Gramps is coming over tonight so that he and Dad can get an early start to see Granny tomorrow. He wasn’t going to be any happier about what was going on than Dad and he’s no where near as soft.  He won’t hesitate to take all of those boys down a peg or two. I had a feeling I would remember this night for a long time to come.

Fiction Friday #2 ~ Crystal Lake Bit #1

June 8, 2007 at 10:10 pm | Posted in Fiction Friday, Writing | 1 Comment

Fiction Friday is a challenge my good friend Mark made to himself to remind him of how much he enjoys writing.  Dreal joined him in this challenge and so have I.  I jumped in last week.  This is my second Fiction Friday installment.  If you would like a fun way to keep yourself writing, just let Mark, Dreal, or I know.  We’ll link to you so we can all be inspired by each other’s work.  Otherwise, please read what we’ve been writing.  We’d love to hear what you think.

This is the first bit of what I’m entitling Crystal Lake.  I have no idea if this will take on the form of a short story or something longer.  We’ll see.  In the meantime, I hope that you enjoy the first installment.  Here goes:

Crystal Lake

The urge to vomit was overwhelming and it pained her that she had nothing inside her belly to regurgitate. The dry heaves, when she gave in to her gut, only make it worse. It would be as if the spirits remained inside, mocking her feeble attempts to conquer everything that is so far out of her control. For they knew better than she that there were no more resources left. There was nothing left at all.

She would look a sight to any passersby, but people rarely ventured down this desolate, dusty, gravel road. The pine trees on either side of the road appeared drooped in despair over their location. She only stopped where she did because she couldn’t run any longer. Only the plentiful orange-breasted robins nesting in the branches betrayed that beauty is intended by nature. In mid-summer they knew nothing of suffering. Food was abundant and the clear Michigan sky was a glorious playground in which to be alive.

It was the sweet, expectant song of those robins that eventually calmed and settled Shannon. Still facing away from the road, she sat back on her Keds and wiped her lips with the back of one hand and then the other. She raised her head toward the heavens and took a deep breath. She breathed out slowly through her mouth before she wiped her damp cheeks on the sleeves of her coral t-shirt. The waves of nausea were no longer compelling and were finally dissipating.

Crossing her legs, Shannon leaned back on the palms of her filthy hands and continued to breath deeply. There wasn’t a breeze to speak of, but with the sun hot on her face, the hair matted to her forehead was drying quicker than expected. Shannon wondered if this is what her baby chicks used to feel after hatching. The constant 95-degree temperate must feel great after immerging from the moisture within their shell into the world of their incubator. Either way, they had it good. They had no concept of hunger, thirst, or their futures. They always have each other, and when they don’t, they don’t care.

She sat up and reached over for her olive green knapsack and dug inside for her thermos. The water was warm, but it couldn’t feel better if it were glazier cool. She took out a pack of peanut butter crackers and ate them slowly. Sticky peanut butter was not all that appetizing or easy to eat after being sick. She needed energy, though. She didn’t know for certain where she was headed, but she felt it was a ways away. She needed her strength. Now that she was as far away from the farm as she’d ever been on her own, she could walk instead of run. For all anyone knew, she could have gone anywhere. With any luck, they wouldn’t have bothered to start looking anyway.

Feeling stronger, Shannon stood up and looked around. The pine trees were grouped haphazardly on either side of the road. There were a lot of weeds poking through the gravel, except in the deeper groves the size of heavy-duty utility tires. She looked down the road as it marched straight back into the woods. She forgot her watch in the rush to get out of the house. She looked up at the sky. The sun was descending to the west. She didn’t want to be here or any further down this road when it started to get dark. There was no “Beware” sign posted, but she trusted her intuition. Nothing good or helpful was that way. She turned south and walked a quarter mile until she reached 17 Mile.

If she went West she would eventually walk right into Martiny Lake. She didn’t want to go there. That’s where Jacob, Cheyanne, and Kelly’s families spent their weekends during the summer. She wasn’t taking off on her own to accidentally run into any of them. Crystal Lake is what she would really like to see. Tonya always used to talk about taking vacations there before her family moved to Mt. Pleasant. She said that there was no place more beautiful than Crystal Lake. She’d head there. Once she got there, she knew that there would be a sign or something to help her figure out what to do next.

Now that her sweat was drying, her scalp was itchy. Shannon scratched all over hear head and then turned East on 17 Mile. She had no idea how to Crystal Lake. She only knew that Mt. Pleasant was East of Barryton. Maybe she could find Tonya and they could walk there together. She smiled and started to skip a little along the side of the road until she noticed her tummy. She slowed down and walk. Hopefully there would be a gas station or store soon, she thought. She needed a map.

Fiction Friday #1

June 1, 2007 at 7:46 pm | Posted in Fiction Friday, Writing | 8 Comments

My good friend, Mark, has challenged himself and any other brave soul to post a work of fiction – or at least some sort of writing – each and every Friday.  The both of us love to write, but finding the time to write creatively has been problematic.  He is calling this endeavor Fiction Friday and the rules are quite flexible.  As I did not discover that I had personally been challenged until I was on vacation last week, I am taking the liberty of posting this on a Monday while jury-rigging the date to say last Friday.  Mark’s friend, Dreal (hey, I think I know that guy, too), has also taken the plung.  If you’re interested, please give our work a read.  We’d love to hear what you think.

My first entry is a bit of tall tale and memoir mixed together.  I dedicate it to the friend for whom I first wrote it, Kim

Now, for your reading pleasure, I submit:

Carl Jung, Mr. Skippers, and Great, Great, Great Grandpa Drees

When I was in the fourth grade, Mr. Skippers scared the living shit out of me.  He was at least 8 feet tall and he could yell better, louder, and with more hot air than any drill sergeant I could ever imagine.  To make matters worse, the mileage proposal up to the voters the summer before to cover buses and physical education was not passed.  Therefore, my mother drove me to my doom every single morning and, three days a week, my teacher just about killed me as he ran us through the most sadistic gym class in which I’ve ever taken part.

As an illustration, I am not a tidy person.  I never have been.  From day two of the fourth grade, Mr. Skippers was on my ass to clean out my desk.  Finally a few weeks later, in a misguided attempt to please him, I spent the time between lunch recess and reading time cleaning that sucker out.  After I finished, I edged my way up to his desk and told him that my desk was sparkling clean.  He smiled and said that he would see me in reading group.


When I saw everyone else with their homework on their laps, I started to feel sick.  I live to please people, perhaps to a fault.  My fault that day was forgetting to do my reading homework as well.  After he collected the papers, he asked me why I hadn’t turned mine in.  My throat was so dry and tight I have no idea how I responded audibly, but I told him that I forgot all about it and cleaned out my desk instead.


Have you ever seen an 8 foot tall man get blood red in the face?  Have you ever seen an 8 foot tall man lean toward you while his eyes are shooting out of their sockets in your direction?  I have.  I’m surprised that I didn’t pee myself.  “Hogwash!” he screamed.


I started to cry instantly, but the first tears might have been some of the spit flying out of him mouth when he yelled at me.  “I don’t want to see your face until you’ve finished your work!  For the rest of the week you will stand against the wall during lunch break so you never, ever, forget to do your homework again.”


Perhaps this is why just about everything he taught me afterwards took on a sinister tone.  “Water is the combination of two units of hydrogen and one unit of oxygen.” says Mr. Skippers.  “Yikes!” says my fourth grade self.


At some point during that year, we had scientific discussions about the weights of single things and then larger amounts of those things.  Some things weigh in large quantities as you might expect.   For example, the weight of one egg prepares you for the weight of a dozen eggs.  He was a farmer (slaughterer of animals) when he wasn’t a teacher (slaughterer of young children).  A lot of his examples in class took on one or another aspect of farm life.  He showed us a stalk of hay.  So light you can tickle someone with it, right?  Well, he explained, hay is deadly when it is rolled into a bale.  He said that if a bale of hay rolled over you or fell on top of you it could kill you.  From that moment, I have never been comfortable in the company of hay.


I don’t particularly care for hay rides although I understand that he wasn’t talking about bales of that size.  When I see them while driving along a country road, the thought of painful, crushing death is never that far from my mind.  I wouldn’t quite call this a phobia, but you might.  While watching a past season of The Amazing Race, there was an episode where one member of each team had to untie and unroll bales of hay in order to find the clue to the next Pit Stop.  I looked at my husband and told him flat out, “You’d be doing that task.  I’d rather bungee jump over the Grand Canyon.”


So, you don’t care about my fear of hay bales any further than you can throw them (but not in my direction, please)?  Why did I clog up the blogosphere with this story?  It is because I believe that this fear of mine is living proof of Carl Jung’s school of psychology.


My maiden name is uncommon in the United States.  Everyone born in this country with that last name is related to me in some fashion.  This makes them easy to research, assuming you find any information at all.  The ancestors associated with my maiden name come from an undoubtedly godforsaken town in the upper northeastern tip of the Netherlands called Finsterwolde.  My paternal grandfather, Egbert, is first generation American.  His father, Eggo, immigrated to the United States sometime before 1904.  Eggo’s father, Drees, immigrated as well.  It was while researching my grandfather’s ancestry on the Internet that I discovered that my poor, great, great, great grandfather Drees died of a broken neck while being crushed by his very own – you guessed it – bale of freakin’ hay.


I will let you decide if I am stricken with horror by merely glancing at hay bales because of one Mr. Skippers, or if have I been contacted and forewarned via the collective unconscious by my loving great, great, great Grandpa Drees.

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