Thursday, April 28, 2011

Joseph Devon's new book launches today!

My talented writer friend Joseph Devon has worked for years on the sequel to his novel Probability Angels. The result, after many readings, rewrites, edits, texts, emails and arguments, is Book Two: Persistent Illusions, on sale today for Kindle and paperback. Below is a review I wrote of Probability Angels after first reading it, originally published in The Tennessee Writer, a quarterly newsletter for the Tennessee Writers Alliance.


Every once in a while I start a book that, a few pages in, I feel the need to turn back to the first sentence, slow down, take my time and truly enjoy. Because I read so much for work, and there are never enough hours in the workday to see the bottom of my Inbox, I tend to scan, to skim, to let my eyes slide over words, digesting them enough to get the gist of what I’m reading without actually tasting it – more like chewing gum than enjoying a snack. Rarely do I find reading material, particularly that I’m reading for pleasure, that forces me to slow down, to cock my head and consider each sentence, each description, turn of phrase and idiosyncrasies of dialogue – Joseph Devon’s Probability Angels is one such book.

The concept of the novel is intriguing and original – mortals who give up their own lives to save that of a loved one and in turn spend eternity “pushing” other mortals to go as far as possible and create new ideas, art, and technological innovations: such examples in the novel are Isaac Newton, Bram Stoker, and Shakespeare.

These “angels” are trained by masters, such as Epp (Epictetus), a one-time slave from Ancient Greece who has pushed mortals and trained angels for centuries. Epp is powerful and smart, tough and brave – and other elder angels think his time as a deified master has come to an end, sparking a battle between the angels and the “other things,” described as zombies, for the soul of Epp and the position of power he holds in their eternal universe.

I won’t go into the details of this novel because I think everyone should read it for themselves, but the themes of this fascinating, thought-provoking read have been tackled and tossed about through the ages: the choices we make affect more than just our lives and create a ripple affect, touching the lives of others for years to come, and making difficult choices – or choosing not to make them and allow life to just “happen” – are how people grow, change, and adapt.

The choices the angels make to forfeit their lives as mortals and spend eternity “testing” other mortals is one of immense, eternal pain and sorrow, but, as Epp tells protagonist Matthew, the reward for the excruciating decision long outweighs the temporary pain.

“The upside is that you can be greatness itself. You could be Shakespeare’s broken heart, Beethoven’s deaf ears, Van Gogh’s madness. You could be Kellar’s scarlet fever, Roebling’s crushed left foot, the color of Dr. King’s skin. You could be the entry for light to pass into the soul. You could be the reason everything worth doing on this rock ever gets done.”

While the notion that our most difficult decisions, and their life-changing results, are “pushed” by angels who are constantly surrounding us and interacting in our lives in ways that we never realize, is not a purely novel concept, Devon’s characters and methods are original and wholly captivating. His ear for dialogue and knack for character development is to be admired, and I closed the book feeling not only as if I knew the characters but felt invested in their lives. Succinctly, I wanted more but was satisfied in the moment with a fully realized experience. And like any good meal savored slowly and carefully, relishing each moment and morsel, I can’t wait to return for a second course.

Book Two: Persistent Illusions launched today, Thursday, April 28. Find Book One: Probability Angles and how to order Book Two: Persistent Illunsions at

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

On Motherhood: Working title (a poem)

Swathed in my sheets
my son, sweaty and five,
sighs, reaches out a plump palm.

Even in his dreams
he has been waiting for me.

Friday, April 8, 2011

On Mayhem: For Whom the Heart Bleeds

I'm part of a fun, interesting project called Dorothy: Locked and Loaded, which is - in creator Scott Meek's words - the serialized, collaborative novel effort of five writers, each of whom will play a very specific role within the story of the return to Oz of "Dorothy". Only this time, it is not "Dorothy Gale" of the original; it is "Dot", her granddaughter, who grew up listening to the wild and hardly believable tales of her grandmother's adventures in the land of Oz.

What fate awaits our heroine in an Oz that has evolved, or dare we say "devolved", over the course of fifty years? What new or old dangers lurk? What has been the fate of Dorothy's old companions? Will they still be there to help the newest stranger in the land? Will they be who she's always heard they were, or have they changed? And was it for the better?

Stay tuned and find out right here as Dot, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Lion, as well as your faithful narrator, tell the story of "Dorothy: Locked & Loaded". Toto is a little more lethal than he ever was, but this isn't Kansas or your grandmother's Oz!

Here's the beginning of my latest installment, posted today:

I thought that they could never die. That’s what I was told. That no one in Oz ever dies.

It was a lie.

Scarecrow sat by my side while I was on the throne. While I was Emperor of the Winkies, he traveled with me, chattering ceaselessly, reciting poetry he learned from his professor friend. What I wouldn’t give to have him here with me, now, on this lonely road to the Emerald City. For these are hills familiar to him, forests deep and known, and I should know them, too, but my head is filled with nothing, with dust rising in a wind of thought, of need, my mind dusty and rusting and turning on itself.

This was the road we took to find her. To find my Nimma, my rose, my love.

But then, she was called Nimmie Amee.

I pause on the edge of a forest, eyeing the trees shivering in the fading pink light of dusk. Leaves turning over, silvered, offering themselves to a coming rain. I have to get out of the open, under cover, before it comes. Ignoring a groaning that rises either from the wind through the trees or my own aching throat, I start toward the dim, the depth, the held breath of the forest.

My steps echo on the flaking brick road, bounce off the trees and back to me, bounce off the tin that is me and back to the trees. We are playing, the trees and me. Calling out, step step step. Knock knock knock. Tik tock. Tick tock.

The trees are reaching arms and gnarled grey bark faces. Maybe it’s my tired eyes, my rising mind, but they seem to yawn and snarl, to eye and scorn me. Last time they punished us for Dorothy’s collecting their fallen fruit. They were hateful and scorned. But that was then, when our world was different, before my empire of shining tin crumbled into dust and ruin.

What's the Tin Man's deep, dark secret? How many beating hearts did he carry in his metal chest?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

On Media: On the General Jackson

General Jackson’s new season has something for everyone

Whether you like current country, your grandfather’s classics, or get down with gospel, this season’s General Jackson show cruise has something for you.

Country Music USA is a nostalgic take on country’s past and present, showcasing the talents of country, western and gospel stars from Hank Williams, Sr. and Patsy Cline to Reba Williams and Rascal Flatts. The show gives a nod to its country roots in the Grand Ole Opry, reverence to the religious roots with a gospel medley, and a shout out to today’s stars with current hits straight from country’s Top 40.

But the music’s not the only thing to enjoy on the General Jackson, which was named after President Andrew Jackson and has been a Nashville staple since 1985. Tourists and locals alike enjoy views of the Cumberland River and Downtown Nashville singular to the cruise, as well as gourmet meals prepared with care by Gaylord Opryland Resort’s award-winning chefs and served both “family style” and as three course meals, depending on the cruise.

“The General Jackson Showboat has a proud heritage here in Nashville. From the moment our guests board the boat, they are treated to a one-of-a-kind experience, which starts with our well-known Southern hospitality,” said Dennis Schnurbusch, general manager of the General Jackson Showboat. “Guests get to see the sights and sounds of the city as the boat travels the Cumberland River, all while enjoying Tennessee’s temperate climate. With excellent music and wonderful food, the General Jackson is where memories are made.”

Country Music USA features the talents of Brian Glenn, Chad Hudson, Paul Vann, Lori Beth Hogan, Jamie Godfrey, and Natasha Noack. The high-energy show begins with an Old Time Gospel Medley, then moves into Country Roots and Grand Ole Opry staples, such as “Foggy Mountain Breakdown,” “Blue Moon of Kentucky,” and “Salty Dog Blues.”

Fans of classic country will be tapping their toes to the two Classic Country Medleys, in which songs and artists range from “I Walk the Line” by Johnny Cash to “Why Haven’t I Heard from You” by Reba McEntire.

Prefer current country? The cast jams their way through a set list with hits from Garth Brooks, George Straight, Carrie Underwood and many more – including, of course, the omnipresent Taylor Swift. Filled with great food and thrilled by an excellent show, General Jackson cruisers enjoy a patriotic finale with “In God We Still Trust” and “God Bless the U.S.A.”
But don’t think you have to sit still the entire time – a mid-show intermission gives cruisers an opportunity to explore the General Jackson and enjoy the great views of the Cumberland River, green banks and finally, the sparkling skyline of Downtown Nashville over the splashing paddlewheel. Bring your camera.

The General Jackson Showboat, built by Jeffersonville, Ind.-based Jeffboat, was launched April 20, 1985 and was christened July 2, 1985. The boat can hold 1,200 passengers and 157 crew members. The paddlewheel riverboat stands 77 feet tall, making it one of the country’s largest showboats. The paddlewheel itself is 36 feet long, 24 feet wide and weighs 36 tons. Two Caterpillar 3512 engines, each with 1050 horse power and 880 kilowatt generators, are responsible for powering the boat, which has a maximum speed of 13 miles per hour. Most recently, the General Jackson, with its beautiful surroundings and one-of-a-kind experiences, was named “Best Place to Kiss” a distinction from the Tennessean newspaper.

Special event cruises for Valentine’s Day, Mardi Gras, Tennessee Titans football games, Halloween and even New Year’s Eve make the General Jackson a popular choice for people looking for a safe, memorable time.

Country Music USA is a three-hour evening cruise and runs through November 13. Ticket prices range from $55.52 per person to $87.95 per person, plus tax.

Boarding takes place at 6:15 p.m., with the boat returning at 10 p.m. (Monday through Saturday). Sunday evening cruise times are one hour earlier.

The General Jackson Showboat offers both midday and evening cruises with a variety of entertainment options throughout the year. Holiday cruises begin mid-November.

For tickets or more information, please call 615-458-3900 or visit

Have a program, show, book or event you'd like me to attend and review? Email