Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Elevator Pitch by Linwood Barclay—How Great is This?


Photo Credit: S.R. Karfelt

This is a book I picked up at the library. I couldn't resist the title. An elevator pitch is what you call the pitch writers give to garner interest in their book. It's supposed to be a quick thirty second pitch that you can give if you happen to be in an elevator with someone.

Elevator Pitch starts off with just that. A screenwriter stalking someone he hopes will help him. Like with any stalking situation, it doesn't work out as planned. The elevator pitches to the basement.

The scenario is in the vertical city of New York where someone is messing with elevators. It's deliciously terrifying and can do for elevators what Jaws did for swimming in the ocean. I loved it and found it hard to put down. 

If I was going to give it stars, it would rate a solid five out of five stars. It's captivating, clever, original, and surprising. Mind you I read with half a cynical brain running in the background watching for clues and red herrings and what will happen next. 

This book surprised me. I LOVE IT WHEN THAT HAPPENS.

I won't say more about that because I don't want to spoil it for you. Read this one and let me know what you think. 

Lately I have been taking out library books. Since I can't keep them long they don't wind up living in my TBR (To Be Read) pile for years. I usually choose two fun reads and one educational. 


So, get out of your wintery house and go to the library. Get books. Borrow books. Buy books. They're the antidote to too many memes sugar-coating your brains. At least they are for me. If you want to recommend any books, leave a comment below. I like pretty much anything except Amish Romance or Erotica with no plot or contractions in the entire book. I'm still scarred from judging a Romance Writers of America contest a couple years ago. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

DARK MATTER by Blake Crouch—Book Review FIVE STARS



"Are You Happy With Your Life?"

Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before his abductor knocks him unconscious. He wakes up in a world where everyone knows him, but he doesn't know them and his wife and child are missing. 

Dark Matter is Science Fiction and explores a multiverse theory and the question of what's more important, love, or dreams and aspirations. I found it hard to put this book down and tore through it in a day. I love to read when I have a deadline bearing down and I'm feeling anxious about how my own work is going. It's like taking a break in an alternate universe, a good one.

Physics fascinates me, and I've explored dark matter and string universes in my own writing. (In a Fantasy setting, see Bitch Witch or FOREVER The Constantine's Secret.) There's heart and soul in Dark Matter and I loved the twists and turns as Jason Dessen tries to keep up with reality and find his way. 

For me this book presented a fresh take and new theories. I'm far behind in my theoretical physics books, and I don't understand half of what I read anyway, so I love exploring the process in fiction.

Few books truly surprise me, and I'm so thrilled when they do. Dark Matter surprised me, several times. It stressed me out page by page too. I've never read Blake Crouch's work before. I happened upon this book in The Book of the Month Club and I have to say I've enjoyed most books I found there. 

I don't want to give anything away, other than to say this is the kind of work that took some serious blood, sweat, and tears from an author. I'm impressed, and if you enjoy Science Fiction on any level, you'll enjoy this book. 



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Friday, January 17, 2020

The Girl Who Could Move Sh*t with Her Mind—by Jackson Ford


The only thing that could inspire me to step away from writing is the threat of a government fine. So I stopped writing long enough to pay my taxes and get my car inspected. While waiting on my car, I walked to the library. Yes, in January. I'm impressed too. It's cold. I froze. 

It's probably been ten years since I went into a library. I love libraries. I'm one of those people who always votes to increase their budget because I want it to be there when it's time for my ten year visit. One of the perks of being a writer is people give me books. Sometimes they're from other writers for a review or promotion, and sometimes they're simply gifts. Also, the local bookstore has chai tea and I go there too much and I buy books there. It's not a financially sound process to buy books with each cup of chai, and to give them away after I read them. But I have to or I'd need a bigger house.

It's really not a surprise, if you've ever seen my purse, that even after ten years I'd still have my library card in there. I also have a card for a taxi driver named Stephanos in Athens, Greece, a stone from Stonehenge, a piece of amber with a bug in it, and a one dollar Egyptian coin with King Tut on it. If I had the chance to take an unplanned trip to Greece or Cairo, I could get a taxi driver I know or skip converting my money because I have a coin worth a good eighteen cents.

What is a surprise was that the ten-year-old library card still works. It was nice and warm in the library and I could have free books for about three weeks which makes good fiscal sense. I grabbed the newest Margaret Atwood novel and a book on coding written for someone about ten years old. I learned more about coding in the few minutes I perused it than I ever knew, so I checked it out. 

I also picked up a book by a writer I'd never heard of before. Jackson Ford. He wrote The Girl Who Could Move Sh*t with Her Mind. I love titles that tell you what you need to know. There's a book I loved called The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared. It's by Jonas Jonasson. You have the synopsis in the title with these kinds of books. 

I'd bet that The Girl Who Could Move Sh*t with Her Mind will become a television show/movie (the 100 year old man book did). I could sense that as I read it. It's about a woman named Teagan Frost, who was genetically altered by her science-minded parents to have the ability to move sh*t with her mind. She gets taken by the government and forced to work for an agency called China Shop. By day they move furniture, and on the side they're spies. At least they're the kind who break into buildings and take information. 

It's an action packed novel and nothing goes right for Teagan. Her powers are limited and hurt her, and you can't help but feel sorry for her forced into a life she doesn't want. Teagan wants to run a restaurant. Her hobby is eating. She's rude and swears a lot. You can't help but like her when she's getting tasered, punched in the face, or jumping out an eighty story window. 

The book is set in L.A., and I'm not familiar with L.A. other than passing through a couple times. The setting didn't sound like the place I'd passed through, and at the end of the book the author admitted he'd never been there. Someone more familiar with it would have to make the call on the authenticity, but who cares? It was escapism. My only other criticism is that they use the word kerb for curb and somehow they use that word a lot. That may be a translation issue, I don't think it was written in English originally.

As a nitpicky writer little things like that bump me out of a story. I know it's dumb, but it does. Mostly I think things like OMG, is this a new writing thing? Has curb officially become kerb? Because sometimes there are weird little writing rules, like having to capitalize dumpster (I refuse. I hate other people's nitpicky rules, especially when they look like errors to the reader when technically they're correct. Dumpster was/is a brand name). I only like MY nitpicky things, not other peoples. I can be annoying like Teagan. 

Anyway, I'd give this book a solid four out of five stars for pure escapism, but no depth. I tend to be generous with my stars. As a writer I'm aware that someone took the time to do all that work and transform this story into a fast-paced exciting read. I'm not going to poo-poo it because it's not what I'd have written. 

The Girl Who Could Move Sh*t with Her Mind ends by opening up the story for the next book in a series, which is a thing series writers are supposed to do too. So kudos to Jackson Ford. But I'll be moving on to my ten-year-old level book on coding now, and I'll wait for the movie or the series. If it never happens, and I spot the next book in the library someday, well, I'd definitely pick it up. Maybe, maybe, I'd buy it to read with a chai too—that depends entirely on the cover. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Golden Retrievers, Angels, and a Big Little Life


On Black Friday I go to the bookstore. They have autographed editions of bestselling books at Barnes & Noble. I like to pick up a couple to give as Christmas gifts to my favorite people. Like myself. Normally I do this one for you, one for me thing.

First I pretend I'm just getting only a few books and I try to carry them in my arms. After I hit the journal section, and I'm dropping things, I get a basket to drag. 

This year the store manager spotted me and asked if I'd be willing to sign copies of my angel book as they were selling like hotcakes. 

Cue me standing there blankly running through all my books in my mind, and wondering which one she thought was about angels. Both angels and my books selling like hotcakes is what threw me. My books don't sell like hotcakes. When I think about my books I think about my novels or memoir. I've got immortals, warriors, assassins, a bitch witch, and dementia. We walked over to the bookcase where they keep my books and looked at it. 

That's when I spotted the angel book.

It's an anthology.


That's right! I have a story in the new Chicken Soup for the Soul book, Angels All Around. Suddenly it all made sense. Chicken Soup for the Soul books and books about angels make excellent Christmas gifts. I'm not surprised it was selling. Happily I signed every copy in the store before continuing my book-gathering extravaganza. 

After loading so many books into the basket that I had trouble even dragging it, I spotted one more.


A Big Little Life a memoir of a joyful dog named Trixie caught my eye because it was shelved under Philosophy, had been written by Dean Koontz—who writes suspense—and I have a huge weakness for Golden Retrievers.

Years ago when my husband and I were in the middle of moving from Boston to Dallas, he came home with a surprise. It's been ages, many states and babies ago, but I still remember him walking through the door and unzipping his jacket. A Golden Retriever puppy poked his head out. 

We named him Maximillian. He lived in our first house with us and I loved him beyond reason. Goldens are kind and smart. I just visited a friend in Boston who has a Golden. I sat beside it and petted it the entire visit. It was bliss.

It was easy to justify buying another book. I'd give it as a Christmas gift to someone. As soon as I got home I peeked inside and read the first couple of pages. It wasn't what I thought. I expected something sappy and cheesy. I have this thing against stories that are designed to play with your emotions. I swear I can tell a genuine story from one manufactured to sell and become a Major Motion Picture. 

Within an hour I quit trying not to bend the spine too far so that I could still gift the book. This might change how you feel about this writer, but I have a tendency to devour my books. I reread a lot and I multitask. Most of my favorite books look slightly abused, worn, and have a few tea stains on them. 

Go ahead and judge me. It's all true. 

A Big Little Life a memoir of a joyful dog named Trixie by Dean Koontz is surprising. It's not cheesy or campy. It's smart, philosophical, deep, and clever. I absolutely loved it. Trixie was a retired service dog. I liked learning about CCI, Canine Companions for Independence

My all-time favorite Dean Koontz book is Watchers. It's a story about a Golden Retriever who was raised in a lab and has human intelligence. If you haven't read it, it's the kind of book you will want to reread regularly. As I read the memoir I assumed that Trixie is who inspired the author to write Watchers. But Watchers had been written many years before Dean Koontz had a dog. 

If you need some holiday escapism and want to give yourself a treat, read them both. Now that I've mentioned Watchers, I guess I need to read it again too. 

I wish I'd thought to take a selfie with my friend's Golden, Kona. Here's a picture of Kona though, and that's the important part.

If you read the books, let me know what you think, and if you'd like to keep up with my big little life, be sure to sign up for my monthly newsletter (via the contact form, bottom right of this blog).

Wishing you joy in your own big little life, until next time.  






Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Eighteen Years of Vestibular Migraine—Never Ask Why I Cuss


The Glitter Globe/Stephanie Karfelt



The Gift of an Inappropriate Sense of Humor


Most of the time I prefer to laugh than cry. That often includes laughter about some seriously sucky things. Inappropriate laughter is my superpower.

I figure if I'm laughing about my own pain, it's allowed. 

If I'm laughing about someone else's pain, it's not. I hope I don't do that.

A good friend of mine died from cancer a couple years ago. Toward the end he had to endure some vertigo. How the hell do you cope with this all the time? he asked. The answer is simple, I don't have to die from it. 

The hard part is I have to live with it 


I'll take living with it as opposed to dying any day. I have books to write and a life to live, and I'm thankful I get to live it despite this shit vertigo problem

When I first got it I didn't cope so well. I ran from doctor to doctor. When they were useless, and they were, I researched it myself and asked for test after test. It cost a boatload of money. Absolutely nothing good came of it. Sometimes I laid in my bed and cried. 

That's not entirely true. Crying made it worse, so I didn't even have that. I laid there wanting to cry and not daring to. I was sure I was dying. I was certain that if I could figure out what I had that there would be a cure.

Eventually, after years of freaking out and developing high anxiety—which seems to come hand in hand with living a dizzy life—I decided I wanted my life back.


How I got my life back


It wasn't simple. I was lucky. My husband is a bit like Mr. Spock in Star Trek. He actually says, "That's not logical," more than any 100% human should ever say. Isn't that something only Vulcans say regularly? 

Instead of annoying the heck out of me, it helped me through the early years of vertigo. No matter how many times a doctor told me I wasn't dying I didn't believe them. I could hardly walk down the hall or bend my head to shave my legs. For about six months in 2001 the only place I went was to another doctor appointment.

My Spockish husband argued all my dying worries. He'd sit beside me on the bed where I half sat not moving my head, and listen to me repeat my worries over and over.

When the dizziness slowed and began to skip entire days in a row, I went to see a therapist. The reason I went to see the therapist wasn't for coping skills. I actually went to see a therapist so that I could make him listen to me talk about my dizziness and what it might or might not be.

At some point I'd realized that if I didn't stop bouncing those worries off my husband that I was going to drive him mad. For an hour a week I'd sit there and tell that therapist all the details of when I got dizzy that week. At least once I caught his eyelids drooping and he nearly nodded off.

Not kidding.

I couldn't believe it. It didn't matter. I kept talking to him. It's what I needed. Besides the conjecture of what I felt like and what it might or might not be, I also attended Physical Therapy for vertigo.

Stuff that helped


P.T. was the most useful thing I've done for this problem. I learned how to shave my legs when I'm dizzy. I can't do it when it's really bad, full-on spinning, but most of the time I can. If you have chronic dizziness, I highly recommend Physical Therapy.

Thanks to it I'm EXCELLENT at spotting. When I don't have dizziness my aim is spot on! 

Meds were FOR ME a grab bag of hell. No joke. It made everything worse. WAY worse. Heading for the E.R. in an ambulance worse. Tachycardia and nitro worse. Double your blood pressure worse. I had completely opposite reactions to migraine meds. So I hesitate to recommend anything, but in the interest of being candid I have to be honest. 

A small dose of diazepam (valium) did help. It has to be minuscule and taken daily. I'm not sure why it helps. I read articles that says it suppresses the sympathetic nervous system. I don't know. I'm not a doctor. All I know is that it did work for me, BUT it can be highly addictive AND if you take a smidgen too much (I always cut my lowest dose pills in half and took it once a day), you will SPIN LIKE MAD.

Surely there's no way someone with Vestibular Migraine will risk anything that will increase the spinning. I think there needs to be a study of us to see if anyone with V.M. has gotten addicted to diazepam when taking it for this problem. Sheer terror wouldn't allow it in my opinion. 

But what do I know?

Since I've never had a drug do anything but make everything incredibly painful, far worse, and expensive (except diazepam), I'm the last one to understand drug addiction.


Acceptance


I took diazepam for a couple of years. Then I went through a period when my dizziness seemed worse and I was getting full on spinning several times a week. I read that I should never just stop diazepam cold turkey, but I couldn't cut the pills any smaller to step down any slower so I just quit. No, I didn't tell my doctor I was doing that. But SIDE NOTE TO DOCTORS—the reason patients end up googling important things is because calling you for two weeks doesn't result in a call back.

Also, I'm a terrible patient after all the years of this. Please don't follow the example of some chick on the internet if you're going through this. Listen to your doctor and follow their advice. I'm just being honest here.

It's been years since I took diazepam now, but I still carry a bottle with me when I travel in case it gets bad. When it does get bad I don't take it though, for fear it will make it worse. I still carry it. It's more of a talisman now. 

At some point deep into the spinning years I realized I was getting used to being dizzy. Mind you by then I had stretches of time without vertigo. There are varying degrees of it too. You can't just deal with full-on spinning. You can't move your head or walk with it. I still sit in bed when that happens and wait for the bobbing to stop.

That bobbing spinning is why I call my blog The Glitter Globe. That's what it feels like. It's like your brain is swirling around in a pool of liquid. Remember when you'd spin as a kid so you could have that feeling? It's like that only faster. It's zero fun and completely out of control and it won't stop. 

There are likely as many presentations of dizzy as there are brains affected by vertigo. I personally know only one other person who has Vestibular Migraine. Sometimes when I'm going through a spate of them I'll compare stories with her. It helps.


Emotional Support besides Therapy


Online I joined a support group. I'd forgotten how bad it was at first. How much you want a cure. How hard you search. So many people are desperate for someone to listen to them and to get some reassurance that they'll be okay. So many people are afraid that doctors/family/friends don't believe them.

I'd forgotten all of that. It's hard when you look perfectly healthy. It's hard when all your tests are stellar. Not that you wouldn't want them to be anything else! You just want to be cured and going to the doctor for this is incredibly frustrating. After a couple of years I decided if you go to the doctor without a bone sticking out of your flesh it's tough to get anyone in the medical field's attention. 

Now I really don't care to convince anyone, doctor or otherwise. I can't be bothered with it. I've wasted enough time on it. Now my time is spent living and coping with this shit problem when it crops up, and it does. Somehow it always catches me by surprise. Somehow I still try to figure out what I did to cause it. Did I have caffeine? Did I have gluten? Sugar? Meat? Did I skip a meal and low blood sugar kicked off a migraine?


IS IT REALLY SOMETHING ELSE THIS TIME? 


Recently someone said to me in an aside, you know your dizziness is probably just anxiety. For a moment I just sat there a bit stunned. For starters if it was anxiety that isn't a nothing problem. Stress will kill your ass. Yet after eighteen years of fearing flying dreams because I'll wake up to a spinning room, or throwing back my head to laugh and nearly losing my balance, or sitting in a classroom and grabbing onto the chairs in front of me when everything starts to roll backward in my periphery, I can confidently say Vestibular Migraine comes and goes with no rhyme or reason that I can track. I've tried.

It's NOT anxiety, but it sure as freaking hell CAUSES anxiety. 

Anxiety makes everything worse, but V.M. is just as likely to gob-smack me when I'm blissfully happy.

It's difficult when you're looking for support. That's why it helps to talk to people who have V.M. too. Anyone who lives it will understand. What I can offer up is that eventually the bad spinning fades for now. You can learn to cope. People are amazing. You are amazing. We can get used to anything. I've been able to skydive, hike the Grand Canyon, and occasionally travel the world solo. Yes, vertigo does blindside me at the most inconvenient times now and then. 

Know what? You deal when you have to


Don't give it your time when you don't have to. Even when vertigo hit me in Greece I simply took a day to sit in my hotel room alone and cuss to myself. When it hits I'm more likely to take it in stride now. I'm sorry to say I'm used to it. There are times it still freaks me out and I still try to figure out what I did to cause it. I think as humans we try to control our environment by knowing the reasons for things and fixing them. Maybe sometimes there is no reason. Or maybe there is a reason deep in our brains but there's nothing to be done for it. Maybe sometimes instead of fixing it you have to deal with it. It's not fair, but that shouldn't come as a surprise. What about real life is fair? 

Dude, I write fiction for a reason.

The people close to me try to be supportive now. Maybe those who weren't have fallen by the wayside. My logical husband listens if I need to go over what might have brought it on for the millionth time. He's helped me deal all of these years. The man might be part Vulcan but it turns out I'm into that. 

Recently I thought I'd have to cancel an out of town concert because of vertigo. There's no driving with a spinning migraine. Even when it stops I'm cautious for several days. My BFF offered to come get me and drive me. She lives in another state. She actually drove here to the shire and got me and took me to the concert and drove me home the next day.


The most important part


You don't need everyone to believe you or understand. Some people
have their own limitations or problems to deal with. Some people
Skydiving, living, beautiful life
It wasn't a vertigo day and this was fun.
are acquaintances more than friends no matter how much you love them. You have to believe you, even if you don't want to deal with it.

If you believe in yourself, the people who really love you will follow.  

The most important thing is that you can get back to that wonderful life of yours.  Vestibular Migraine is just a nasty glitch in your beautiful life and fortunately for us, we get to live.



Links to other Vestibular Migraine Blogs:

Vestibular Migraine is the Devil

It's my Vertigo Anniversary






Tuesday, October 1, 2019

2019 Walk to End Alzheimer's—TEAM GUMMY


Nobody Told Me Love in the Time of Dementia, Karfelt
The Glitter Globe/S.R. Karfelt


You're Invited


Saturday, October 19, 2019


Eldridge Park


Elmira, New York


10:00 a.m.


Join TEAM GUMMY


or


DONATE


to the Alzheimer's Association,


and join our fight to help stop this disease.



Two Beasts. Alzheimer's and the Stairmaster.


If you can, please register to walk with us or make a contribution
Saffi, Karfelt, Gummy, Nobody Told Me love in the time of dementia
Gummy & Saffi
directly to the Alzheimer's Association in honor of Gummy. 

Together we can do something about this disease. I know this because as Gummy taught me, people are amazing. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Circe by Madeline Miller—My Latest Good Read

S.R. Karfelt, Books, Stephanie Karfelt, read, tbr
Another one for your TBR pile!

First, Bibliophile Details

I read Circe in hardcover. I'd also put a copy on my Kindle App. It's something I often do in case I go on a trip in the middle of my book. In this case I never opened the Kindle copy. I got the book from the Book of the Month Club. The subscription was a gift. 

It's a Little, Brown and Company book. The cover is matte and pleasant to the touch. The paper is a nice quality and the pages are easy to turn. Reading it was a pleasant visceral experience.

Beware, there be spoilers ahead

Circe is about the immortal goddess, daughter of Helios. The story world is one readers will be familiar with if they know their Greek myths. Even if you've never read them you'll probably know more than you realize from movies and pop culture. 

The author does a lovely job of giving it her own twist and provides excellent details about the hierarchy of the gods from Kronos to Zeus, and from Titans to the "new-squeaking gods upon Olympus who had not seen the making of the world". 

The details are delicious and the fate of the nymphs brings an excellent arterial vein take on subjugated females to the tale.

The Ugly Truth

Immortality is an idea that's intrigued me since I wrote my immortal warrior story. So I loved Miller's ruthless, spoiled, childish gods. They are heartless to each other. There's no love between them. They're cruel and delight in inflicting misery on each other. 

It makes sense to me that an immortal would lack empathy, but occasionally the chronic meanness was a heavy read.

Circe is a goddess and nymph with less than perfect looks and no discernible talents. The other gods can barely tolerate her. She's loyal but aware of her situation and reads her people well. 

After wreaking revenge on a fellow nymph Circe gets banished to a Greek Island. (That's my personal dream scenario. What god do I need to offend for that?)

You Go Girl

Most of Circe's life passes alone on that isolated island. She discovers her strengths and weaknesses there. Her father is Helios who rides his chariot across the sky as the sun each day. He can see her if he cares to, so he and other gods can know what she's up to though they ignore her even when she needs help.

Shipwrecked mortals occasionally knock on her door. Circe has a weakness for them though they disappoint her possibly more than the gods did. 

What worked for me was both the world Miller detailed and Circe's depth. She recognizes her faults as well as the faults of those around her. Despite having the ability to eternally be as selfish or comfortable as the other gods she constantly searches for meaning and growth despite the judgement and misery she brings on herself. 

Not that she's perfect. She has a real talent for vengeance. 

I'd give it four stars

The five star system doesn't work for me. Since I write too I always see the hard work behind the story and want to give five stars for
Book review, the glitter globe, reading
Stephanie Karfelt
that. Yet I think of all the stellar literature I've had the pleasure to read and drop it down a notch to be fair. 

Circe is a good solid read. I'm glad I read it and I enjoyed it. If you're into mythology you'll want to dig in. 

Next! Bring on another hardcover!

You and I both know I'm chapters into that next book already, but we'll talk about that one another day.