Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Bluegrass . . .

While winding along I-40 one morning, the sun roaring over our Smoky Mountains with every bit of arrogance the sun deserves (and only the mountains can face the sun without averting a gaze), I listened to Bluegrass—the soul-filled mournful fiddle crept up the back of my spine and settled there, vibrating until my entire body strummed and thrummed.

The roots of Mountain Music, our Bluegrass music, arrived here with the immigration of people from Ireland, Scotland, England, Africa. Early settlers of Western North Carolina were Scots-Irish, and when they arrived, they brought with them their songs and their fiddles and they expressed the human condition through their vocal and instrumental storytelling, passing them down from generation to generation, each voice, each instrument, each condition molded and formed to fit, yet at the same time, as ancient and consistent as mountain life itself.

In those early pioneer days, women generally weren’t allowed to play banjo or fiddles, so they sang, passing down from mother to daughter their musical stories. The story-songs had as big impact on Bluegrass music as the instruments. Listen to the tone of their voices and hear the plaintive melancholy that seeps into the bones and stays there, a part of the marrow, a part of the people who live in and love these mountains.

Scottish influence wasn’t all gloom and woe, for they brought their love of fun and dance with them, as well. Cool mountain evenings brought laughter and music as ancient as these old mountains, and the connection from Scottish Mountain to Western North Carolina Mountain cannot be mistaken when the ear is tuned to the past intersecting with the present.

From the sideboards of American homes, Bluegrass music entered living rooms live from the Grand Old Opry from the musical stylings of Bill Monroe, Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs, Chubby Wise, and Cedric Rainwater. Live performances are something we radio listeners do not get much of now with the onslaught of recorded music, and yet, without the recording of music, how much of the old mountain music would reach the ears of a population who will never sit on a front porch and stomp a foot in time to soulful renditions mourned out as if from the pricking of skin to let the music bleed away, deep red and thrumming, dripping down into the mountain earth where up springs a unique, rich, and varied mountain life and its song.

Now you all know I always say for us to support our writers, musicians, artists!

So, here's a few places to check out bluegrass, or variations of it, and feel free to add your own in the comments if you like:

The Get Down Boys

Steep Canyon Rangers (this is the Western North Carolina bluegrass band that actor/writer/musician Steve Martin joined up with)

The String Dusters

Robert Frost's Banjo

My brother's "california bluegrass - Saga of Virginia Kate" (and again, as I've said - I do not receive compensation for this! It goes to the musician, of course!)

(photos all taken by kat magendie)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Random Photos, Five-Minute Fiction Guest Judge

view from porch - evening

Lake Junaluska walk about

GMR made grilled pizza -ummmmm

misty lake j
Hi Y'all! Tomorrow I will be a guest judge on Five Minute Fiction. It sounds like lots of fun. Stop on by if you like and join in or vote on the stories or read or whatever you wish! I've told Leah I'll be happy to offer one of my books (Tender Graces or Sweetie) to the winner. I know it's going to be difficult choosing and that's the part that makes me go "lawd!" But, luckily I can pick more than one and then readers get to choose the winner - so that's good! *whew* :-D

See you all Wednesday with a regular blog post. Have a wonderful day.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Random Thoughts on a Wednesday afternoon . . .

While running/skipping on the treadmill, there are days I am not feeling the energy, but if I keep going, soon I’ll hit my stride and next thing I know it’s near time to hop off the treadmill--done. If I’d have stopped when the going was hard, or when I wasn’t feeling into it, I’d not have completed my workout. Sometimes we have to push through things. If after the pushing through we’re still having problems, then we should respect that. I try to be honest with myself: am I physically/mentally unable today, or am I feeling lazy/uninspired?

In my yoga, there is a balance pose that I’ve been doing for quite some time. I stand on one leg while the other leg is bent and that foot is pressed into the standing leg on the upper thigh. I then raise up my arms to the sky. This morning, before I raised up my arms, I took a little time to adjust my body and found that it settled into place, my spine and body aligned--it felt right. When I raised my arms, my balance was sure and easy. I thought of the times I rushed through the pose and even though I could often keep my balance, I was a bit unstable and stiff. That moment of knowing I had my body right where it should be gave me an “aha!” moment—that all along I’d been doing it half-ass. Full-ass feels much better. I think I'll try to do more things full-ass instead of half-ass.

In edits, I read through my manuscript over and over and over and over and over, and I find the little darlings are easier to kill. I ‘see’ the parts that aren’t working as well, or are boring/draggy to me, or just don’t need to be there. What happens is, I read the words so often, the parts that do not need to be there beg to be deleted. But, the parts that work, the parts that make the novel fun or a joy or interesting or page turning, etc., they never lose their ability to move me or make me laugh or to keep reading. Reading the manuscript over and over takes the shine off the darlings so I can delete them, and the parts that continue to shine no matter how many times I read I know I can leave there. I am learning to trust this process now that I see how it works for me.

I’ve learned to have more humility. Even when I thought I had humility, I see times when I did not. Things I was so adamant about I’ve had to look at in a different way, because there is nothing like having the shoe on another foot, walking a mile in someone’s shoes, putting your footprints in another’s prints—and all those other foot/feet/shoe/boot/flip flop clich├ęs. It’s easy to point a finger or criticize or feel above something when you are on your high horse, but dang if the fall doesn’t bruise (or worse) when that horse can’t quite make a hurdle, or stumbles, or decided to stop suddenly, or rears up, or turns around and bites you on the ass, or the horse is just exhausted and needs a break, or it's not your horse at all but someone else's, or you need to go help someone else because they've fallen or maybe they need a lift up, or a ride.

Here’s the thing: we all just do the best we can do and we do the right thing when we know better. And if someone out there isn’t doing the right thing, or doing better when they know better, well, their cover will eventually be blown and next you know they are standing in front of a microphone whining about how “sorry sorry oh I’m so so--o-o-o-o-rrrry” they are—by the way, if you have to carefully read from a speech how sorry you are, then I don’t exactly think it’s coming from your heart, but that’s just me. If you have to be caught at it and told it is wrong when you know all along it is wrong and you are pretending it is not because you haven't been caught, then the apology is a little empty, as is the cries of "Let me fix this so I can have my life/job/everything I want because it should be mine back."  But those are thoughts for another day :-D

Now, I’m going to gallop away, and not on my high horse, but instead on VK’s Fionadala.

I'm really down to some wires, so I'm offline more than on. Last minute PETEY stuff, Rose & Thorn Journal summer issue out soon. Trying to complete edits for VK III. Lawd!

 Soon I should have a cover image of Firefly Dance anthology (where my PETEY novella is to be published) - but I will leave this image of the anthology that just came out - such a beautiful cover. Information on this anthology "Women's SpacesWomen's Places" is here; Celia Miles. I receive no compensation for the anthology sales, so don't want you to think I"m "advertising it" - but I am honored to be included in it (a creative non fiction essay I wrote about my kayaking experience) and hope it does well for the editors, etc, and recognition to the other writers/poets. If you like a variety of poetry, essays/creative non fiction/short stories, then here you go! Support these writers/poets/editors and get your copy!

What are your random thoughts? Have a great weekend!

(all photos taken by Kat Magendie, except the one of where I'm hiding my face and the book cover--two of them taken from the window of an airplane)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Me, the future You: R E S P E C T! Your life

The furthest thing from a young woman’s mind is that time far off into the future when she will be fifty(+) and menopausal. Who has time to think about such things when your baby is crying, your toddler is reaching for a sharp object, and your eight-year-old just threw up all the pizza, cake, and, I’m not kidding—sushi (sushi?)—he had at a birthday party where the parents spent more to please Bobby or Suzy than what you spend on two-weeks worth of groceries? Or when she’s heading out the door to work, tossing down a piece of toast and a hot cup of coffee. Or whatever it is this young woman is doing to Live Her Life and do what she must do because so much of our lives is spent doing “what we must do.” (And I’m not leaving out the guys here, you can take out “menopausal” and add your own lists and dos and etcs here just as well!)

However, what I wish a big sister had told me in my teens, twenties, and thirties is this: how you treat yourself and how you ask to be treated by those around you will forever affect the person you will become—Me, the Future You. Who are you—I mean, the real you, not the Mommy You or the Wife You or the Worker You or the Partner You, but the Woman You, the one you must face in the mirror from now until, well, until you can no longer look into a mirror. For one day in your future you will look into that mirror and see the woman you have become from the experiences you have now. As your big sister, I want to tell you to care for yourself. To expect more of yourself, yes, but to expect more from others as well. That Respect should be a part of your daily diet—both taken in and given out—physical and mental/emotional respect.

When is the last time you patted yourself on the back for a life well-done? Have you been perfect? I bet not. Has every day been a gloriously sunshine-filled day of joy and happiness? Probably not. Have you lost your temper, been in a foul mood, screamed at your kids/partner/husband/coworkers/boss/employees/parents?, stomped around as if you were the two-year old? Maybe. But if this didn’t happen at least some time in your life, I’d wonder what you were trying to prove, or hide from yourself and others. We’re all human, and we all need to give ourselves a little break now and then to consider just how hard it is to raise a family, work to make a living, be married, be single, be independent, be dependent, caretake, be caretaken, etc etc etc, in other words: Life. Since you will one day be me and then beyond, I give you permission to love yourself, one day, one choice at a time.

And if you are already at the Me stage, it’s not too late to take everything I wrote and apply it liberally. Never too late to make a change, or go for that goal, or let go of one, etc etc etc, yup, in other words: Life ain’t over after 50, 60, 70, 80, beyond. I promise. We can make every excuse in the book—and they are all written down, believe me, in one fashion or another, nothing new under the moon—but ultimately this is our only life and how we decide to live it and how we decide to treat ourselves and others will determine how satisfied and at peace we are, how much respect we gain and give out. And when we fall on our ass, well, get up, brush the dirt off, and go on, who cares if someone saw you fall on your ass? You can betcha they’ve fallen on theirs but only you weren’t around to see it!

And remember, friends and family aren't perfect either . . . they fall on their asses regularly too! But we can help them up just as they can help us up.

here is the only perfection:

Now go do the day!

PS - This is the LAST day of the Summer Sunshine Deals at Amazon (that page takes you to where TG happens at this moment -and that can change and does -to be No 1 on a list-which as I said below, if you put in enough criteria, you just may end up No 1 on a list *laugh*). After today, Tender Graces, and the other 600ish titles will revert to their regular prices. Thank you for your support! I guess we'll see where all this leads. I have also found I am terrible at "self promo" - I suck at it - I become so uncomfortable talking about these things that have to do with "buying my books" - ungh ungh! But, happy to pass on savings, yes, that's always a good thing!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Three Videos: Mountain Storm, Whale Back Rock, Nekkid Reading

Mountain Storm taken from my porch

Whale Back Rock short (I'm going to do a reading there this summer, maybe nekkid *teeheehee*) Whale Back Rock, if you don't know, is taken from my SWEETIE novel.

Recorded before I re-achieved my (almost) "Michelle Obama Arms"of course haw! :-D

And in general:

I've also been here at Amy Nathan's blog: women's fiction writers: no heroes. no zombies. no high heels. well, maybe high heels. Stop by and check out her blog.

and will be here later for Diana Estrella's Micro-Ficion Muse (lawd!)

See you all on Wednesday with my regular Wednesday posting. Wednesday happens to be the last day of the Sunshine Deals on Amazon - TENDER GRACES is $2.99 until then, then it reverts to its regular pricing. I like passing on the savings, however, who wants some author hollering about her book -y'all know I am funny about that - see y'all later and have a good great day! :-D

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Oh, the wild and wacky world of Amazon rankings, ratings roller coaster ride

First off, a big Thank You to my readers/friends—you are the reason I have this job, this wonderful life, the reason I keep writing, for what would I do without all of you?

Y’all may have read here how I never look at my rankings/ratings on Amazon. But when the Amazon Sunshine Deals promo (this is the promo I talked about below—where Tender Graces is sale priced at $2.99 instead of $9.99- Dang!) rolled around on the 2nd, and the next day someone sent me a link to my ranking on a “bestseller list;" That was fast, I thought, and it piqued my curiosity.

I did some clicking around Amazon lists. It was rather interesting, but mostly confusing. According to what criteria I searched under, Tender Graces was at: No 34, No 7, No 105, No 203, and in one place I couldn’t find TG so it must have been somewhere way off in oblivion-- haw haw! Then, much to my surprise, while searching for TG, I stumbled across Sweetie, not even aware that Sweetie would be on a “bestseller list” since it's not on the promo. Huhn. La Tee Dah! *Don't Look Gift Horse In Mouth* :-D

I was also curious about rankings—according to Amazon: "The Amazon sales rank is a number that says how many other titles sold more than your titles. The smaller the Amazon Sales Rank number, the better the sales.” So, I peeked at Tender Graces’s ranking, and at that point in that day in that hour (for it changes willy nilly up and down hourly) I was 950 in Kindle reader ebooks, 6,500 in trade paperback, and—this is really funny—some million number in large print *laughing* dang-large print TG's just do not sell! lawd! Those numbers change and change again, up and down up and down up and down. It boggles the mind. Which is why I stay away from it! So if you peek, don't tell me where I am now, unless I've suddenly become a Kindle Millionaire and then you can tell me *LAUGHING*! :-D

Isn’t it all a weird scattered numbers thing where luck and timing have much to do with where you are? It's a quickly morphing entity. I am not saying talent isn't a factor, for if a book has no merit, eventually it will fall under its own weight of mediocrity or plain old badness. And hard work never hurt anyone - you have to produce your product!
Just as You Tube videos can go viral, so can books—which explains the Kindle Millionaires—somehow they find readers, then more readers, shoot up to bestsellers status lists, and find ever more readers, and then things begin to ‘snowball’ and next you know—MILLIONAIRE! Wow. Dang!

Whatever Amazon has planned in its weird monstrous brain with its Sunshine Deals promo, and however it is affecting brick and mortar stores, or The Big 6, and pricing, I do not know, and I find I’m having a hard time worrying about that (for they certainly aren’t worried about little ole me, are they?) when I’m just doing the best I can. With Amazon placing me in a cool position on their summer deals promo page, my book can become visible to readers who may not have heard of little old Kathryn Magendie, and as well attention is brought to my wonderful small press BelleBooks/Bell Bridge books—who by the way have several books on Big Top Spots in Amazon through these deals right now—GO BBs!

The quest to Do and Have More can be never-ending if you don’t find a way to ground yourself. You'll make yourself sick and heartsick unless you find a way to accept whatever comes your way and realize/recognize that wherever you are in this journey, luck, timing, hard work, and talent go hand in hand—and gratitude for what you do have and what successes you find along the way--big or very small--can keep you grounded and healthy and happy. 

As interesting as my looking into rankings and lists were this week, I find what works for me is to stay away from them, and instead to focus my time and energy on writing my books. How people react to the Me I place on the page is mostly out of my control. Where I end up is mostly out of my control.

So to come full circle in this post, I want to say: Thank You All. I appreciate you—whether you are five people or fifty-five people or fifty-thousand people, you are the reason I write. My novels are love letters to you all. You think I am giving you something, when all along it is You who are giving me the greatest gift of all: You and your time, and yes, even your hard-earned money. You are investing in me, and I will always give you the very best I can.

Love, Kathryn  *muwah!* Have a great weekend!

(PS- I'm over at "Women Fiction Writer's - the wonderful Amy Nathan interviewed me and of course I'm all over the place chaotic, but I did my best *laugh* - she has a wonderful blog full of gooey good stuff and I am honored to be her guest!)