Steinbeck’s To a God Unknown

Reading Steinbeck makes me yearn to write excellent fiction, and at the same time despair of ever doing so.

To a God Unknown is one of Steinbeck’s earliest novels. I don’t pretend to fully grasp all that the author intended to convey. But it did provide me with a lot of food for thought, primarily regarding mysticism; humanity’s desire to worship or commune with something larger than the here and now; and the struggle between changing worldviews, in this case between “pagan” ritual and Christianity. Always fascinating to think about.

We don’t write the way we used to, or at least the authors of the books I’m reading don’t. Maybe I’m not reading the right books. Steinbeck’s story is loaded with content, and concepts. Let’s face it, it’s not a fast car chase along Highway 1, a natural disaster, or a gripping tale of betrayal with guns blazing. A modern reader might think To a God Unknown is, frankly, slow.

We can’t read a novel by John Steinbeck with the same mindset as we read Dan Brown. Steinbeck writes, “Her crying was as satisfying and as luxurious as a morning’s yawn,” (37). Chew on that for a moment. The author achieves a lot of description and understanding with this simple 12-word sentence. There is nothing earth-shattering here, but there is a very clear portrayal or understanding of not only how it feels to unburden one’s heart with tears, but also to yawn—satisfying and luxurious.

Former school teacher, young wife and new mother, Elizabeth says to her husband, the protagonist Joseph Wayne, “I  used to think in terms of things I had read. I never do now. I don’t think at all. I just do things that occur to me,” (114). And when Joseph’s brother tells him, “You love the earth too much. You give no thought to the hereafter.” (117) These statements convey something rather profound about differences in the ways we live.

After Joseph’s wife tragically dies, he returns to his house:

“The clock wound by Elizabeth still ticked, storing in its spring the pressure of her hand, and the wool socks she had hung to dry over the stove screen were still damp. These were vital parts of Elizabeth that were not dead yet. Joseph pondered slowly over it—Life cannot be cut off quickly. One cannot be dead until the things he changed are dead. His effect is the only evidence of his life. While there remains even a plaintive memory, a person cannot be cut off, dead. And he thought, ‘It’s a long slow process for a human to die. We kill a cow, and it is dead as soon as the meat is eaten, but a man’s life dies as a commotion in a still pool dies, in little waves, spreading and growing towards stillness.'”(136)

To be a great writer requires more than a talent with words; it requires a great depth of thought.

Our attention-spans have grown shorter in the fast-paced computer age we live in. We don’t read the way we used to. We shouldn’t write the way we used to. But we should be pushing the boundaries of thought  forward. Taking time to observe. Contemplation. We can’t write and complete a John Steinbeck novel, a great novel, in the month of November.

Work cited:
Steinbeck, John. To a God Unknown. New York: Penguin Books, 1995.

 

 

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Someone’s crying

Three years ago today, I held my mother’s hand as she took her last breath. This is the post I wrote the day after. Today I am remembering a moment towards the end of her days when she was at Hospice. I never had a lot of time to have the heart-to-heart conversation with her that I yearned for. Things were moving too fast; I was too busy with Dad, and Mom was too sick. But on this afternoon, for the minutes she was awake, I leaned over her bed and said, “I’m going to have to find a way to talk to you.” She said, “Yes, you will.” Then I cried the tears I tried so hard to hide from her. She reached up with both of her arms and cupped my face between her two hands, giving me a lifetime of gratitude and love, a million words of goodbye, in one moment I will cherish forever.

Christine M. Grote

On Thursday night I heard my mother stir and I rose from my bed on the floor in the corner of her room and hurried to her side.

“What’s wrong?” she asked as she roused from the deep sleep she had been in all day.

“Nothing’s wrong, Mom.”

“Someone’s crying,” she said.

In my mom’s 78 years on this planet, I imagine she heard and answered a lot of someones crying.  In the 1950s through the 1970s she was raising five children who had been born within six years, including my sister Annie who was extremely disabled.  I suspect there were a lot of times someone was crying.

Even as we grew older we were sometimes crying: me coming home from college carrying a basket of laundry when a relationship ended; a long-distance phone call to speak of a loved one who died; a conversation about one thing or the…

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Book promotion update

I spent most of the day submitting Where Memories Meet to websites that promote ebooks. I want to promote the book during its Amazon countdown deal scheduled for February 1 – 7. Apparently some sites have to approve the submission (due to time, space, or quality reputation considerations I imagine). Other sites seem to be willing to take my money and go with it. That might give you an indication about the desirability of promoting on the various sites. Overall, it seems like the business of promoting self-published books online is much better established than it was when I first published Dancing in Heaven in 2011.

Here are some useful things I’ve learned:

TCK Publishing has generated two lists of sites that promote ebooks, one for  free ebooks, and one for paid Kindle books that I used since my Amazon countdown deal starts at $0.99 and not $0.00. The list is ordered by rank according to the amount of traffic the site gets. The top six are:

Book Bub 27,224
Ereader News Today 28,681
Buck Books 34,248
Many Books 35,754
Kindle Nation Daily 43,172
The Kindle Book Review 45,812

  • As I mentioned in my Marketing Self-Published Books post on January 6, I was turned down by Book Bub.
  • I submitted my book to, but have not heard back from, Ereader News Today.
  • I did not submit to Buck Books. By the time I got around to it, I couldn’t easily find the way to submit, and I was too tired to deal with it.
  • I submitted to Many Books but have not heard back.
  • I looked at Kindle Nation Daily, but the slots for the dates of my countdown deal were already taken. Next time I will have to apply earlier. (Alternately, BookBub requires that you apply no earlier than one month before your promotion date. It all gets rather jumbled up and confusing after a while.)
  • I submitted to the Kindle Book Review. They accepted my money ($25), but I have not received any confirmation.
  • Previously I paid $90 for a promotion at Just Kindle Books (ranked 365,139). I’m assuming that’s a go.
  • And earlier I paid $20 for a promotion at Goodkindles (ranked 594,646). The rankings go to 5,628,580. So although these sites are not at the top, neither are they at the bottom of the list.
  • I plan to apply at BookGoodies (ranked 231,471) tomorrow. Their application is complex with required author interview questions to fill out. I’m going to start fresh in the morning. (I stand corrected. Please see the comment BookGoodies added below.)

These are just some of the options. They vary in what promotional services they provide from tweets, Facebook posts and emails to featuring books on websites. Many promotions run for only one day, although it varies depending on the site and the price you are willing to pay. It’s rather complicated. I have started an Excel spread sheet that I am using to keep track of site URLs and the status of my submissions. I don’t have any first hand experience with paid promotions. I chose not to spend money on promoting my first book. If all goes well with this experience, I may decide to splurge and promote Dancing in Heaven later.

Wish me well.

 

 

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The top twelve things on my mind

The top twelve things on my mind first thing this morning:

  1. My mom – Tuesday is the 3-year anniversary of my mother’s death.
  2. My health – I frequently have anxiety upon waking. My sleep is restless and I never know if it will be 3:00 am, 4:30 am, or 6:45 am when I wake. Anything before 6:00, and I stay in bed.
  3. My 2nd son – He has been unemployed for some time and continues to look for a job.
  4. My husband – His body is warm as he sleeps here beside me. He came to bed last night very disappointed in the Bengals’ performance in the playoff game. I save myself those ups and downs by maintaining a lack of interest in most sports.
  5. My youngest son – He is in Hong Kong for two weeks on a business trip. His days are my nights.
  6. My daughter – Will we be able to work out a quick visit to Chicago in the next few weeks to help her with an upcoming move?
  7. My oldest son – He and his wife are expecting a third child in June.
  8. My mother-in-law – I should call her today and see if she wants me to go to her doctor’s appointment with her this week.
  9. Things to do today –  I added several items to the “today” list on my Wunderlist phone app before I got out of bed. I love that app. It’s very satisfying to click items off when they’re done.
  10. Bathroom design – A remodel for our bath is overdue. It is a complicated space and the design is not straightforward, but we’re getting close. I took a few more measurements this morning to try to visualize how things will fit and look. I keep a tape measure in there for this specific purpose.
  11. The weather – I heard rain falling when I let Arthur out the front door (I did not accompany him today.) Then through the laundry room window I saw the rain turn to snow in the light that shines from above the garage door. I took a few quick photos with my cell phone. (Whatever did I do before I had this handy device?) This photo is going to do triple duty as my photo-of-the-day for the 365Project, my post of the WordPress weekly photo challenge for “Weight(less)”, and an image for this page.
  12. What to blog about. ‘Nuff said.

20160110-Snow-500

The snow has weight, because gravity causes it to fall, or float, from the sky. But each little snowflake is nearly weightless by our typical standards. The wind was able to blow the flakes horizontally.

 

7:10 a.m.

I step out onto the front covered porch. Arthur pulls on the lead in my hand. I am warm enough in my pajamas and robe on this mild winter morning.

Arthur stops at the edge of the porch. I always think he sees, hears, or smells another animal when he does that. Maybe he’s just being sure.

I look around also. It is dark, but my eyes adjust and I can see the silhouette of the branching arms of the locust tree. Four porch lights glow across the front of the vacant house to my left around the bend of the lane. Straight ahead a series of small bright lights from the homes on a neighboring street shine through the winter woods barren of leaves. I’ll not see those lights come spring.  The new neighbors’ house to the right, at the corner, is brightly lit on both the back and the left side that are visible from where I stand, perhaps to discourage burglars. I wonder if our motion-detector security lights around back where it’s near the woods still work. The new neighbors’ strand of Christmas lights sparkle across their back porch rail.

Arthur tugs and pulls on the retractable dog leash as he steps off the porch and meanders through the foliage in the landscaping that stretches across the front of the house and along the bend of the sidewalk to the tree.

I notice a drip, drip, drip from the rain spout to my left. Otherwise I hear nothing except the steady drone of distant traffic. The juvenile owl, with its awkward squawk must not be visiting this morning. Ah, now the soft whistle of a train miles away breaks the silence.

Arthur is taking his time.

The sky is beginning to lighten to a dark gray-blue, as the place where I stand, on this glorious planet we call home, turns towards the sun and the dawn of a new day.

 

20100114 - Sunrise
January 14, 2010

Inspiration

Often I use my writing to inspire my photography. I’ll have a topic I want to write about and I’ll go find a picture. My editing post is a good example. I knew what I wanted to write about and I went in search of a photo. Granted, the clock photo is a bit of a stretch.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Sometimes I use my photography to inspire my writing. And as I’m participating in the 365 Project where you take a photo everyday, I should be able to generate a lot of inspiration. Yesterday’s brilliant puzzling post is a good example. As is today’s post.

Now, you might expect I’m going to write about home and hearth, warmth, passion, or any other number of things a burning flame brings to mind, but no.

The fire inspired me to write about that illusive quality we call inspiration. Writing from my photographs can be just one more tool in my limited toolbox.

How do you find inspiration? Care to share your secrets?