Excerpt

Below, please find a short excerpt from Starwallow, Book II of my Riven Country Series. https://amazon.com/dp/1734043717 The second novel involves travel to Italy from Wyoming, and the journeys back home to oneself. Each character makes their own precious way. The formatting here is a WordPress default. It’ll do.

From Chapter 2, Seagulls and Jambalaya

Rufus pulled on his good Pendleton wool shirt, a past Christmas gift from one of his daughters, then his wool vest. Still barefoot, he stepped into the warm kitchen. It smelled like fried sausage.

Gabe was seated in his usual place.

Gabe Belizaire, thirty-nine and recently retired (he claimed) as a bull rider, was born and raised in Louisiana on a ranch. An MFA from Tulane, he’d given up a teaching position to concentrate on writing. He’d just submitted a collection of short stories. But he still wanted, what he called, a “day job,” so he continued to work for the Stricklands, who now considered him family.

In 2006, one of his rides was ignored by the arena clown and pick-up men in a case of abject discrimination. The bull mauled him in a horrifying spectacle. Rufus remembered the bright red blood drenching the yellow shirt of the Louisiana man, whose skin gleamed as black as a no-moon night.

And what color was that bull? A brindle, maybe, Rufus recollected.

The Stricklands had invited Gabe to recover at their ranch, offered in the guise of a job, and the man accepted their hospitality.

After he had been treated for his injuries at the rodeo, Caroline and Senga continued his care. Senga Munro, their nearest neighbor, provided salves, tinctures, compresses and an ear.

Gabe explained he’d traveled to the Black Hills in search of his sister, who’d disappeared after Katrina’s destruction in New Orleans. A truck driver contacted his parents to say he’d driven the girls—Allie and her friend—to western South Dakota, where they had waiting jobs at a guest ranch in the Wyoming Black Hills.

“Mornin’, patron,” said Gabe. “How’s the hip? Or should I just shut up?” he grinned after Rufus threw him a look.

“Mornin’, Gabe. And how’s the recently engaged man?” He smirked. Distractions were gifts from God. Maybe they are God. He lowered himself gingerly onto the chair, placing the cane on the back. “Caro?” he held up his socks.

“Doin’ well, boss, doin’ well,” and Gabe picked up his mug of coffee.

“Be there in a sec, hon,” Caroline said, as she moved the skillet off the heat and covered the eggs with the lid. She stepped over to Rufus, knelt down and pulled on each sock. Then she reached for the slippers he kept beside the stove. “There,” and she looked up at him.

Caroline was heavier than she liked to be, and rising to her feet took some effort.

“Thank you, wife,” he said, meaning it, then to Gabe, “You’ll like it, being married; they’re handy to have around. Like pliers, you know?” He winked at her.

______________________________________________________________________________

If you’re in the area, The Good Earth Health Food Store on Main, in Spearfish, South Dakota, is hosting a Reading/Signing for me, on Saturday, September 19, 2020, from 2:30-4:00. This accompanies the town’s Art/Wine/Food Truck Fall Celebration; also, fellow Wyomingite Jalan Crossland, and Lacey Nelson, play from 2:00 until 6:00 at the Spearfish Corn Maze. How fun is that?? You can bet I’ll be skedaddling to the corn after the book event. 

A Note of Thanks

With gratitude, I am thrilled to announce the award of a developmental grant from the Wyoming Arts Council, through the National Endowment for the Arts and the Wyoming Legislature. Such welcome support for the artistic community, especially in these dire times, cannot be overstated. It speaks to an understanding and recognition of humanity’s bedrock need to create something out of nothing, be it a novel, a song, a work of art, or any creative pursuit—which, in truth, encompasses any and all endeavors, if intention allows. The wondrous State of Wyoming has a soft spot for those of us who would tell our stories—and by extension, those of our storied landscapes—through our fancies and efforts. My thanks to all concerned.

This particular grant, like another I received, will go toward editing costs. It’s difficult, if nigh impossible, to edit oneself. This has been my experience, notwithstanding the numerous drafts, part of the creative process, and about which myriad books are written. I won’t go on about it.

As an indie author and my own publisher, I find the book business side both fascinating and tedious. The action of formatting a manuscript for paperback or e-book publication is both satisfying and nerve-wracking. I just completed preparing the third book of the Riven Country series, Earthbound, and am awaiting another scintillating cover image from friend Candace Christofferson. A late November release is The Plan. To have published three books in a year and a half may seem obsessive, but given the uncertain era we live in, I thought it best to “cast [my] bread upon the waters,” and see what returns. Which begs the question, “Why put oneself through it all?”

The simple answer: the work gives my life—for the present—meaning, purpose and perspective. Being separated from our children and grandchildren is a theme I’ve explored before, but today, with the virus constraints, the onus is on everyone to protect one another. As of this writing, on August 26, 2020, +180,000 persons have died in the United States, due to Covid-19. Despite the national crisis, Wyoming continues to attend to the Arts on behalf of her low population.

Ultimately, the Arts may serve to make sense of it all.

Signing copies for an upcoming author event at Devils Tower KOA over Labor Day Weekend, in the shadow of our nation’s first national monument. Drop by if you’re in the area. We’ll be outdoors, among the Hot Air Balloons. Can’t miss it!

Housekeeping

As this site also serves as my author web page, on occasion I’ll have housekeeping duties to perform, i.e., letting readers know when Amazon is holding an e-book promotion on the novels. STARWALLOW will be discounted to 99 cents on July 7, 2020, with increases until July 14, 2020, when it will return to full price, $9.99. By the way, the e-book reflects a version of the paperback cover, in case you’re wondering… Here’s the link:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/1734043717

Stay well, all.

Editorial Review for STARWALLOW

The Prairies Book Review has published a 5-star review for the second book in The Riven Country Series. Find it also on Goodreads, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Needless to say, I’m delighted.

“Carrier has outdone herself as she returns with this heartwarming second installment in The Riven Country Series that plunges readers back into the world of her extraordinary characters’ lives.

The pain of losing Emily has not left Senga’s heart, but life has been kind to her otherwise: with a gentle, extraordinary man at her side, a close group of friends, and the quiet country life Senga is content. After getting an unexpected inheritance, Senga decides to see her old grandmother in Italy, but the trip will bring more than she hoped for. Meanwhile, the Berry place outlaws are back in their back-country hideout. An accident that deserves compassion bring them face to face with Senga. But will she be able to offer it?

Carrier efficiently builds an array of worlds, sketching both her present-day characters’ endearing worlds and the old Intriguing world of High Wolf with nuance and delicacy. Carrier’s diverse cast is beautifully rendered, and the connection between her characters is both contemplative and heartening. Senga’s inner turmoil is balanced with the quiet optimism she holds for life in general. Though readers don’t get to spend much time with High Wolf, he with his perception, insight, and compassion leaves a lasting impression.

This sweeping tale is as much a life story as it is a meditation on love, grief, and inspiration. Readers who love the first installment will find this one to be an absolute knockout.

A quiet and hopeful literary tale that marvelously explores the meaning of life, friendship, and family.

A treat for lovers of literary fiction.”

~The Prairies Book Review

Joys and Sorrows

STARWALLOW, the second book in my Riven Country series, is available on Amazon.com on June 21 in paperback and as e-book. I picked a strange time to release my first two novels. “Not getting any younger,” scrolled in the back of my mind, like a looping film clip. So! Carry on, doesn’t matter, I hear. The next installment takes up where The Riven Country of Senga Munro left off, with the folks in the Northern Wyoming Black Hills going about their lives with grit, forbearance, and, some grace. Travel is a theme. My short tag line reads: “. . . explores the distance between home and the travel necessary to come home to oneself.”

My joy—and satisfaction—at completing this writing project is tempered by a deep sorrow. A highly anticipated visit by our distant grandchildren has been cancelled, due to the virus. They live in the mid-west, and all possible routes lead through areas of virus spread, i.e., eastern South Dakota, or Nebraska or Colorado; and the stats are rising in Missouri itself. I abhor letting people down, especially our son and grandchildren, so it’s doubly difficult. The assertion that we would like to, someday, be able to attend the kids’ graduations, weddings, etc., doesn’t cut it, I’m afraid, and we’re left with a hollow feeling of perhaps being too cautious. Reason cries no! Still. . .

Between Joy and Sorrow there lies a field, to paraphrase Rumi. I’ll meet you there. . .

Navigating the times, a raging river, are we headed for a Niagara’s Falls? Both/and inclusion insist we’re aboard a hardy Lifeboat and shall weather the rapids, to finally make our tenuous way toward the far shore. I must believe this. Our country, and the world, have faced adversity before, as well as revolutions of mind and heart. This particular Lifeboat is large enough for EVERYONE. May all beings be safe. May all beings be loved. May all beings be free.

It may not be coincidence that my novels feature a Louisiana man who chooses to live in Wyoming, where his skin color is rare. Gabe Belizaire, of blue-Black heritage, quotes W.C. Fields to a belligerent hunter: “It’s not what they call you, it’s what you answer to.” When I began writing this story six years ago, notions of white supremacy and its hurtful message slithered in like the proverbial snake in the garden. For a reason, I suppose.

Beyond the idea of good and the idea of evil there lies a field. I will meet you there. ~Rumi

May you stay safe, afloat and, keep breathing.

The Painting

The penetrating gaze is the first element that grabs you. A challenge. A strong look of disdain mixed with dignity mixed with bemusement. A stand taken and projected for all the world to see, to understand, to answer. Draped round the man, a shoulder and arm free, you see the blanket; no—an American flag, crimson and white stripes painted with blinding accuracy and life, joining the field of stars on indigo, the bordering hem of grommets just kissing the floor. A reversed flag, signaling distress, in nautical terms.

Portrait of Russell Means by Bob Coronato

After studying the perfect rendering, your eyes are drawn back to his. When you finally turn away, you suspect they will follow you.

Bob Coronato’s life-size portrait of Russell Means hangs today in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C. Currently closed during the Covid-19 pandemic, one may experience exhibits online. I visited the capital in August 2019 and was privileged to view the painting “on exhibit,” as works are regularly rotated. The image still occupies a wing dedicated to Contemporary Americans, 2000-Present, though Means passed away in 2012, the same year Coronato completed the portrait.

As Bob states in personal “liner” notes displayed in his Hulett, Wyoming, Gallery and Museum, “I have been researching and planning this painting for over 10 years. I first heard about Russell Means when I moved into the Black Hills and learned how much controversy there was around him in the Hills . . . I wanted to learn more for myself.” Hulett is a long way, geographically and professionally, from the National Portrait Gallery, where current exhibition signage suggests “an era of upheaval and seismic shifts, in both American culture and international politics.”

Originally from New Jersey, Bob confesses to being an outsider. “Even as an outsider, I run into people who share stories and have strong feelings about the entire mishandling of the Indian People.”

Russell Means wished to bring to light, and mitigate, the suffering of his Oglala Nation.

Is the flag’s position describing a singular now, or is it a warning? At the artist’s request, Means agreed to wear the flag as depicted, but he reminded Coronato, “Indians are not the idea of old Hollywood westerns or to be thought of as ‘in the past,’ but a people very much of today, and with a rich history.” The artist meant to recognize Means for his activism on his people’s behalf.

You might shudder at the man’s part with the siege at Wounded Knee in 1973; a crisis, where a town was held hostage, a federal marshal shot and paralyzed, and two Native American activists killed. In the ensuing three years, two FBI agents were killed. A paradox of self-determination and government intervention fueled the heated conflict, but this is simplistic, and you would likely uncover less complexity in a Saturn rocket. Means, as spokesman, announced AIM’s settlement with the U.S. Government. He left the American Indian Movement in 1988, but continued to work to improve conditions on the Pine Ridge Reservation, located in one of the poorest counties in the United States. Has life improved since? Was Means a catalyst? Or, misunderstood and conflicted himself?

The New York Times obituary described a colossal contradiction of a man, in reviewing his actions and their consequences.

A friend has described standing in the covered doorway of a Rapid City business with Russell Means and another man, all waiting for a downpour to cease. Her comical account: “He would turn in profile to the direction the traffic was moving. When the light turned, very dramatically, he would rotate in the new direction. It was hilarious!” Like a sunflower following the sun. She thought him vain, but he may have been merely playing. Subtle-like.

Coronato’s artistic intent, I believe, was not as apologist for the man, insofar as this could be possible, but he captured a bald truth in the contradictions, in paradoxes. From his subject’s wrist shines a finely-painted Rolex. Means insisted on wearing it and the black tee-shirt, as further evidence—or gesture—against Hollywood standards. But paintings are for interpreting, and you could imagine Means including the timepiece as a sly message of timeliness and perhaps worthiness.

Coronato once told me he suffered a kind of break while at work on the painting. He sunk his soul into it, and perhaps he did give something up, in trade, harkening back to the fear some indigenous peoples report, of their spirits being hi-jacked by a camera. The serious painting seriously demands your attention and consideration, not solely for its own sake, being a formidable effort, but for what it represents: the larger picture, a sign, a warning, the dire prediction. It asks, in its thousand-word capacity, what you will do. You will likely never forget his staring you down.

Having first encountered the painting when the artist initially hung it in his Wyoming Rogues Gallery, I felt a nudge, then, a charge—in the old sense of the word. If we are indeed responsible for knowledge attained (and today we are overrun by mere information, granted), do not gaze too long at this portrait. Move on to the next; in this particular National Portrait Gallery wing, it might be Toni Morrison, who redefined the Great American Novel, or Michelle Obama, who reinvigorated the role of First Lady. Choose the image into which you would lend, if not lose, your soul, but ask the subjects to release you afterward, if only to spread a few words—like a town-crier, or eyapaha.

Work in Progress, Shelter in Place

Sheltering in place is less of a hardship for some than for others. For writers, it can mean a tacit permission to do what they do, a tragic circumstance notwithstanding. Covid-19 has brought the world to its knees, forgive the cliché; and has brought some lower. As of today, March 20, 2020, the first full day of Spring in the northern hemisphere, 259,684 cases have been reported worldwide, with 10,549 deaths. These numbers are fluid and, sadly, are expected to rise exponentially in the coming weeks. In Wyoming, 19 cases are confirmed as of today.

My husband bought provisions to last a while, and I’ve had three months of medications mailed to me. A compromised immune system and heart condition precludes socializing, but I’m experiencing a renewed inclination to be in telephone or email touch with friends and family, those I would neglect while in the throes of formatting my novels for publication, or completing my WIP, or “work in progress.” A paradox, I suppose. I wouldn’t call it a silver lining.

We are being tested, and sorely so, I fear. When I watch a news segment, showing cavalier college kids gathering during Spring Break, flouting the danger that surrounds them, I want to shake my head and sigh. And then, I want to weep. When I was young and foolish, I was young and foolish, goes the saying. With half the country minimizing the outbreak and the other half entering solitary confinement of a sort, and, in some states, all being restricted to quarters, there is little room for middle ground. We downplay the virus at our peril.

All this said, my husband and I attended a gathering just seven days ago, when we were still feeling flush, and Wyoming’s lone Covid-19 case was being managed. No get-togethers since then. Given the speed of spread, we will soon know if we, and/or anyone present, already had contracted the virus and were not yet presenting symptoms. Just now, I heard there’s a five-day incubation period. Not long at all. So, we take our temperatures daily, practice social distancing and cancel trips to see our children who live out-of-state.

I like “Work in Progress” as a title—a mantra during fraught times. Progress is positive, or it can be, but disease can “progress” too. I’ve always thought the phrase, “progressively worse,” an oxymoron. There must be a more correct phrase . . .  

Music is Amenable

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Good morning, Everyone,

The notion of musical themes for Senga and her literary cohorts came to me several months ago, so I’ve created a playlist on Spotify for them. Under “ren”–see Senga’s playlist. It won’t be difficult. It’s the only playlist I’ve posted. If you don’t have the app, you could look them up on itunes and play the sample. The pieces on Spotify aren’t identified as to whom they represent (in my mind), so here’s a hint: In order of play (though I think they shuffle them–)~1. for Caroline: The Main Theme to The Cider House Rules (composers below) 2. Rufus: In the Middle of This Nowhere, on Oblivion 3. Senga: Nuvole Bianche 4. The Lover (no spoilers here): The Cello’s Song off A Childhood Remembered 5. Gabe: The Mission~Gabriel’s Oboe 6. Aunt Karen: The Emigration Tunes 

When I hear these, I’m immediately pitched into the story. That magnificent film theme to John Irving’s Cider House Rules also lends itself to sunrise on a North Carolina tobacco barn. See what I did there? It’s Caroline’s tune, but Papa and Grannie’s too~Music is so very amenable . . .

I’ll be curious as to your own impressions and whether you can hear/feel the characters . . . perhaps it’s too personal a notion. Let me know.  Now, the Hammock was chosen when I was working on the third book. (Thank you, Johno.) You may be familiar with the piece. John sent me a link and told me he was listening to it as he was piloting his jet over water at night. Its expansive dimension fits well where I wrote it into the story, along with several others, with thanks and apologies to the composers–whom I credit). 
I’m a musician; I can’t help it. Rhythm in writing is musical, and integral, I think. How we phrase and lengthen a narration can sound musical. Word choice, definitely. The affective, or emotional, in story doesn’t mind background music. If I had my druthers, I’d include a CD in the back of the novels. That’s a whole other exercise in organization. Besides, you may choose your own, or none. The gap sings between notes. 

Thanks for allowing me go on about it, and I hope you’ll give a listen. Deepest bows to the composers, in order of play: Rachel Portman, Hammock, Ludovico Einaudi, Kostia and David Arkenstone, Ennio Morricone, and Loreena McKennitt. All Native American flute music reminds me of High Wolf. No surprise there. And yes, he plays the flute. The end of Book 3 evokes a piece, but I’m not ready to disclose it. 

I’m working on the second novel’s formatting for release this summer. It will answer questions from the first you may have. Thank you for reading Senga and I hope you’re wintering well. All this said, I do want to recommend a memoir I just read. The Unwinding of the Miracle, by Julie Yip Williams. Absolutely stunning (thank you, Linda); the author may rearrange your thinking on life and death, the caveat. 
For now, to life!

renee

Decades

 A new decade. Looking back a hundred years ago, I shudder. Earth had just endured a world war and a flu epidemic, only to fall back into conflict less than two decades later. We stand on some brink today. Jackson Browne’s lyrics haunt me: “Oh people, look around you, the signs are everywhere, you’ve left it for somebody other than you, to be the one to care . . .” Look up the rest. I’ve turned to my singing, having put it aside in the throes of this book launch. Browne’s was the sheet music poised, and waiting, on my stand.

Candace Christofferson

I’ve a friend who, in her seventh decade, has taken up singing lessons. I applaud her courage. And not for reasons one might suppose. To make a concerted effort to raise one’s voice in song, in these strange times, beats burying one’s head in the sand of despondency. Which would be easy. Candace Christofferson is an artist, just so, and she will succeed, given her voice is a willing instrument tuned to her will. It has a “whisky” timbre to it, and I envision her before a microphone and stand in a darkened club, blue light beaming down on her, giving it her all. She’s that kind of performer. An artistic one. While I, on the other hand am more timid, and lean into my guitar as shield. At readings, I suppose I could pretend my open book is my guitar and take comfort there. And courage.

Candace is responsible for my novel’s striking cover art. Generous to a fault, she allowed the use of the image. Here it is sans mark-up. And right-side up. Crows are a motif through my series, and attracted to bright, shiny objects. They are Watchers of Great Penetration; just what an artist must be. Poets, too.

by Candace

Patricia Frolander, Poet Laureate Emeritus of Wyoming, penetrates her environs and its secrets in her newest collection, Between the West Pasture and Home. The titular poem, about faded blood on a saddlebag, whispers its evidence from a fading decade. Pat, my elder—like Candace—shows me doorways and possibilities.

We count time in decades as we age. Minute eras. Miniature eons. We have a decade, the scientists predict, to rearrange our response to climate needs, or catastrophe ensues. See the red ball to the left? Could be a blood moon. I see it now as Earth. And I shudder anew. The crow is a harbinger, yes, Senga Munro’s spirit animal along with Bear, Totem of Healers. Crow balances on Time. But lo! Surrounded by a consciousness apart.

I liked the image for its serendipitous interpretation of my novel’s themes. But like everything else, it speaks to more than personal notions.

Let us continue to “live liberty,” as philosopher of wholeness Patricia Sun entreats. May we make art, sing, write novels and poems and histories and memoirs. May we live as though Peace were a matter of living it. On this 4th day of a new decade, may Peace Prevail.