Gap Life

Gap Life by John Coy

Gap Life

I’ve been remiss on reviewing books I’ve read. School and grading papers will do that to me.

GAP LIFE by John Coy is a delight. I read it early in January, and Cray, the protagonist has stuck with me. I find myself wondering how he’s doing on the adventure he undertook at the end of the book. To me, that’s the sign of a terrific character: he becomes so real that he takes on a life of his own and we wonder what he’s doing long after closing the final pages of the book.

Cray is all set, at high school graduation, to follow in his domineering father’s footsteps. His secret terror: that he cannot do it, and hasn’t told anyone.

Every teenager struggling with “What do I want to do with my life?” — and even every college freshman or sophomore struggling with that question–needs to read this book. That’s not because John Coy provides answers, but because the book makes us feel not alone. That, in fact, is exactly what great literature should do: help us recognize that somewhere, in our pain or struggles, we are not alone.

Society tends to make us feel all alone when we don’t know what we want. Society makes us feel alone when we have an overbearing parent who tells us what we want. Society makes us feel alone when we don’t want what our parents want for us or what society wants for us, and yet we flounder because we can’t counter the pressure, unable to articulate what we do want–probably–because we have never been given the freedom to explore our own desires. This book is all about that struggle.

GAP LIFE is not a dystopian drama where life-and-death hang in the balance. It’s the internal workings of a real human character whose skin we jump right into, whose struggle becomes ours as we read the first page. Not life-and-death, no, but life-and-death of the human soul and spirit. We can’t put the book down because we want to keep breathing with Cray, to discover if he will have the strength to find his own dream and then to follow it, and if he can connect with Rayne, the only girl he knows who follows her own heart. Most of all, I think Cray is a character we like so much we want to hang out with him, be inside his life, and keep walking with him, long after we’ve finished this book.

This is in many ways a quiet book. I didn’t look at any other reviews until just now. Some critics say there wasn’t enough conflict to be engaging. And lots of marketers eschew “quiet” books. Their loss. Their big loss.  This is a quiet book that is as big as the human heart. John Coy creates an everyday life that we jump right into because of its clear, smooth prose and delightfully consistent detail: those things that make an everyday life, so that we are living inside Cray on every page. Everybody–parent, teacher, librarian, kid, grandparent–should absorb this story.

Good luck in your life, Cray. I’ll remember you for the rest of mine.

 

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Slider’s Son update!

Slider’s Son To be published this Septemeber–2017!  North Star Press!

A murder! The boys smell something while playing baseball…It’s a body hidden in Grant O’Grady’s best friend’s basement… Who? How? Why? The story unfolds…

At the tail-end of the Great Depression in small town, North Dakota, Grant O’Grady wants nothing more than to be a major league baseball pitcher. Everything changes when he realizes the danger his best friend faces. Hatred threatens to destroy Grant and his friends from the inside out. When Grant and his dad, Sheriff Slider O’Grady, find a man murdered, life as they know it unravels, and Grant has to help fight the prejudice of the era toward his best friend (his catcher) who is half Mandan Indian.

Grant comes to grips with the power within himself—to hate or not to hate, to be a friend, and to stand up for what he hopes is right.

We’ve done what appear to be the final edits. We have a BOOK COVER–soon to be revealed! We have blurbs for the back and inside the front cover…It’s real, and it’s happening soon–seven months from yesterday!

I had a dream…

IMG_4124In the midst of some distraught sleepless nights between Election Day and Inauguration Day, I had a series of recurring dreams. They are still vivid in my mind, so I decided I had better write them down. I don’t think I’ll forget them, but rather I feel as if I should go on record having said this before it actually happens.

In each dream, I was with a different person or family. Each had voted for Trump, and was telling me how He-Who-Must-Not-Be Named had NOT made good on campaign promises to help the “little guy”: to provide jobs, to help small businesses, to make taxes bearable, to “fix” healthcare. Each person was disappointed and angry.

Some of these people I knew and some I didn’t recognize, but in my dream, they came to me to voice their discontent. From there, they traveled to Trump Tower in NYC since Trump was hiding out there instead of living and working in the White House.

In the first dream, a small crowd was gathering around the doors of the building, all yelling, “Let us in!” “We want to talk to you!” “You promised us!” “You lied to us!”

In each subsequent dream, the crowd grew and grew. By the final dream (and I haven’t had the dream for many weeks now–not since Inauguration Day), the crowd filled the streets around Trump Tower, and spilled to fill all the surrounding blocks–as big as the crowds resisting on the day after his inauguration. Everyone was yelling: “You lied to us!” “You lied to us!” “You promised!” “You promised!”

I believe that many many people who voted against Hillary already feel this way–I believe voter regret will be bigger in the next four years than it has EVER been. There will be those who blindly believe he’s making America great again, if they don’t look at the repercussions of his edicts and appointments. However, I’m afraid my dream is well on its way to seeing the light of day. I’m worried for this country, but we will keep on keeping on.

 

What can we do?

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Today, the country is in an uproar, as it should be, about Trump’s executive order and travel ban.

One suggestion that has been made, if Trump requires Muslim registration–like Jewish registration in Nazi Germany–like Japanese registration here during WWII–that we should ALL register as Muslims.

Here’s an article addressing the possibility. I think you can click it and enlarge it.

I’m ready to join my Muslim friends in this way if our country comes to this.

 

While I’m at it, read IT CAN’T HAPPEN HERE by Sinclair Lewis, written in the late 30s. The man was a visionary.  Read it!

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More Bob Feller, etc.

Today, I came upon this article by Bill Livingston, journalist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer.  Since I discovered Bill in a recorded interview about Bob Feller, while doing research for my historical novel, I have followed Livingston’s sports reporting. His voice is fresh, honest, and reads like a captivating short story. Every time. I’ve become a fan. And I like baseball, but for the first time, I’ve laughed out loud reading about the Cleveland Cavaliers, for example.

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So…the article links to a series of photos of Bob Feller. I’ve included three of them here, just because I’ve been such a big Bob Feller fan. You can see more at the link above. My Bob Feller “Rapid Robert” fandom has grown even more while doing research about Feller to create the character Grant O’Grady, title character in my book Slider’s Son, who idolizes Bob Feller.

Bob got drafted right out of high school to pitch for the Cleveland Indians. Grant, a 13-year-old pitcher wants to be the next Bob Feller more than anything in the world.

Here’s Bob’s high-kick wind-up.

signing-ballsHere’s Bob Feller with young fans.

 

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And here’s Bob showing a hold on the ball for a pitch, I assume.

And this one is of Feller with his wife and sons. He’s holding the catcher’s mitt his dad used when Bob pitched to him as a kid. I love it.

All these photos are used from the Cleveland Plain Dealer wire services, on the site linked above, and from the Dennis Goldstein collection.

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Teaching, (and aging early as a result), and the rewards

My friend and former student, Corey Taube just posted on Facebook:

teacher-stressedHAHAHA.

This is SO true for the last two weeks, while I grade research papers and stress trying to get everything done for everybody at the end of the semester.  I feel ancient and exhausted.

I have had some moments of pulling my hair out, but I’ve also had some moments where I’m reduced to tears over the beauty of a student-crafted argument in a final research paper.

Then. I just read this one.

I am sitting in awe for a moment. This semester, as usual, my Composition class read “Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” by Mark Haddon. The narrator in this book is on the Autism Spectrum. One girl in my class who had several mental health diagnoses in the past (Borderline personality disorder, bulimia, ADD, bipolar disorder, depression, and anxiety), recognized herself in the protagonist’s characteristics. She committed herself to a mental health facility and asked to be tested for Autism Spectrum Disorder. Bingo. Her self-diagnosis was spot-on.

THEN, she did her research paper on the misdiagnosis of women on the Autism Spectrum. I just read it. It’s beautiful. It’s far more than I expect from a freshman research paper. It’s beautifully done, crafted, and supported with serious research material. Women, more socialized as girls to respond emotionally, learn to mask their symptoms, and withdraw in social settings instead of acting out, and don’t get recognized as being on the Autism Spectrum. Those who are functional and intelligent students get by in every way…and sometimes diagnoses don’t happen until twenties or later.

Anyway, the point of all of this is that I’m stunned and grateful, and as much as the picture above is true, this is one of those moments when teaching is far, far, far-and-away worth every painful moment of fatigue.

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Snowfale Dazzle Night in Mapleton with Freya!

Freya and I have been invited to sign books at the Library in Mapleton at the Snowflake Dazzle evening event. I LOVE this event on Christmasy Main Street, Mapleton.

November 30

5 p.m.-8 p.m.

Freya will be happy to meet and greet everyone, and I’ll have books for sale and signing, including Woof and Wag; Bringing Home a Dog  and Beauty Missing, Hair Hissing: Medusa Tells All.  I also have some copies of Jake Riley: Irreparably Damaged, and Chasing AllieCat.

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Slider’s Son! And is anyone else sick of paranormal…?

Slider’s Son will be published September 2017.is

I wish my agent George Nicholson were alive to see this happen. He “loved” this manuscript when he read it, and that meant the world to me since he never used that term with my other novels, although he certainly championed them.

I’m getting my ducks in a row–wait, no, I’m not getting them in a row yet, but I’m herding them toward rows–for publication in ten months. That means setting up some book events and making myself available for young writers’ conferences and book fairs, libraries, schools, and, and, and…and it means lots of work, which is exciting work and fun work. I love doing book events.

However, it also means lots of social media time and online promotion. THAT I’m not such a big fan of. But I’ll do it. I’m delighted that North Star Press promotes its own authors’ events. That gives me great hope. I’m excited to publish this book with them.

The BEST news right now is that I found out last week that I will be receiving a Prairie Lakes Regional Arts Grant (PLRAG) Mid-Career Artist Grant to help promote this book!  I’m excited. And GRATEFUL!

Okay, besides the excitement,  I sat down to write here because I just followed a thread of a YA book promotional publicity group, thinking ahead to that social media aspect of publication. EVERY, and I mean EVERY book in the top thread was paranormal romance, time travel, or dystopian. A few dozen books down, I found one realistic-fiction romance book. Is anybody else sick of paranormal romance and dystopia? I really do love historical fiction. That’s what I love to read, and that’s why I wanted to write Slider’s Son, based on true stories, but set in the 1930s. I’m following my own passion, and it’s not the trend right now, but that’s okay!

Okay, that’s my vent for the night. In spite of the vent, I really am EXCITED to have Slider’s Son out in the world!

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Chasing AllieCat Film and events

untitled copyThe short film of Chasing AllieCat (see “New Projects”) will be ready sometime early next summer/late spring.

One of the cool things about the filming of  my story Chasing AllieCat is a small resurgence in the popularity of the novel. It sold out entirely from the publisher’s warehouse. When FLUX was sold to another overseeing publishing house, Chasing AllieCat went out of print.

 

Steph Borklund (her arm is visible in the second photo here) is working on editing the rough cut of the film. The last version I’ve seen is amazing. Gave me chills, even though I wrote the screenplay! She’s made some terrific edits, and has been kind and gracious enough to ask me if I’m okay with some of them that change the screenplay language. Like ALL edits, no like MOST edits, it’s hard to let go of  a writer’s “darlings,” but they make the story tighter, better, clearer. SO grateful Steph is doing this film!

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So now, the only way to get a copy is through used books–Amazon or B&N online. I have to buy books that way when I go do an author event about Chasing AllieCat! 

13051780_1249792608383865_1080295417738133882_nIn the meantime, I’m doing a few book clubs again: I visited a book club on Monday what was a pure delight. The women who had all read the novel had wonderful questions. We had a great discussion, and they plan to ask me back when Slider’s Son comes out.

I’m scheduled for another book club in late October, and just got book copies to that group yesterday. YAY!

And, here’s another delight: I’ve been asked to speak in my colleague’s creative writing class about the transferrence from novel to screen play. That’s coming up this Wednesday.

steph&Becky bikes shopHere’s Steph and me. We were consulting about how to get a shot we wanted inside the bike shop.

November: I’m going to Citizen Jane Film Festival at Stephens’ College. I’ll just be a visitor this year, but I am going to speak to the creative writing class there about collaboration with Steph on the screenplay, and about moving a story from prose to screenplay. All this is exciting!!

 

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Slider’s Son to be published in 2017!

Slider’s Son to be published in 2017!  North Star Press!

A murder! Grant O’Grady and his buddies smell something while playing baseball…It’s Big Joe’s body hidden in Grant’s best friend’s basement… Who? How? Why? The story unfolds…

Set in the late 1930s in North Dakota, Slider’s Son is the story of a boy named Grant who wants nothing more than to be a major league pitcher. Grant and his sheriff father discover Big Joe’s murder, and the story that unravels, leading up to the murder, causes all sorts of problems.

Grant and his buddies like to take a few risks. They sneak coal from the coal train passing through town to help heat their families’ homes during the Great Depression. Will they get caught? Or hurt?  One night, they climb the water tower for a thrill. Frank slips…and dangles. Another risky escapade could lead to crushing Grant’s dream of being a pitcher, forever. And who killed Big Joe, after all? Along the way, Grant has to help fight the prejudice of the 1930s toward his best friend (and catcher) who is half Mandan Indian.

This book has been done for a a couple years. It’s the first book I’ve written that my former agent, George Nicholson (RIP, my friend), said he loved.  At the time, George asked me to get some Native people’s endorsement that the book isn’t offensive in the world of Native Literature for young readers. I don’t think we’ll have a problem. I’m not trying to usurp anybody’s voice. I’m not pretending that I know how to write from a Native perspective. I just have a character whose best friend happens to be Native.

In the process of responding to my agent’s request, the Mandan Historic Village in Mitchell, SD, asked if they could keep a manuscript in their archives! YayI guess that’s a stamp of approval.

Grant’s idol is the late great “Rapid Robert” the “Heater from Van Meter” Bob Feller. The Bob Feller Museum in Van Meter Iowa asked me to come do a book event there. I look forward to that day!

FINALLY, this book will be out in the world in 2017, thanks to North Star Press! WhooHOO!! I’ll keep posting as I have more information.