Tag Archives: family fiction

A Musing: Maeve Binchy – Irish Storyteller

Maeve Binchy.  Unique.  Not “very” unique, not “really” unique.  Unique.  Distinct.  Definitive.  You are or you are not Maeve Binchy.  Ach, Maeve, we miss you so!

My library methodology is to accept the kindness of the book tenders when they present the Staff Picks and New Books.  I’d been thinking of Maeve Binchy when “A Week in Winter” popped up on the shelf.  And isn’t that just the way it goes?  For those who know of her, this is classic.  Little stories intertwining into cultural statements.  You may know the movies (Circle of Friends, Tara Road) made from books she crafted.  It’s the books you need to experience for the polished gems they are.  This is her last book, she wisely set it in a country inn so that she could spin together a group of strangers, carving each character for us.  She deliberately dropped the folderol of sex while keeping all the glory and horror of love.

Maybe you read her long ago.  Visit her books again.  The smarter you get, the better you appreciate the simple beauty of her narratives.  She is a story teller and a people watcher and a soul seeker.  She artfully captures the predatory overbearing mother-in-law as well as the earnest farmer with a hopeful heart.  The Church looms in the background, having undue influence on some of the characters, and we have to remember the Ireland of 1960 when Maeve Binchy came of age, and its struggles ever since.  One of her charms is that she “sees” the priests for what they are, good and bad, with the same down-to-earth ultimate-mortality of inn keepers and wanderers, town and country.  She keeps her focus on the individuals in her books, she doesn’t fuss over circumstances, some folks are poor and some are not, and everybody has choices to make.

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From:  TheGuardian.com

Maeve Binchy was 43 years old when the money came in. She knows exactly when it was, it was 1983, and she and Gordon, both writers – ‘Late marriage, thank goodness, we both knew our minds by then’ – were on the verge of losing their home, £211 a month mortgage, as it was then, and they were two months behind.

Then her first novel, Light A Penny Candle, sold for £52,000. Her publisher rang and told her it was the biggest sum ever given to a first-time novel: ‘It used to be Freddie Forsyth and now it’s you.’ Then the publisher said: ‘We’re so happy, we’re so happy.’ Which made Binchy want to check something out, so she asked: ‘Excuse me, do you get to keep that, or do I?’

‘I’m very much afraid,’ her publisher replied, ‘you get the £52,000.’

Binchy is very tall, very large, though stooped from osteoarthritis, faded blonde with sparkling blue eyes. We’re in the presence of an Irish storyteller here, in the upstairs study the money paid for[.]

Binchy is not just any Irish storyteller, but the one who outsells all the others. Her novel The Glass Lake is the bestselling Irish book ever and of the top sellers compiled by Irish bookstore Easons, Binchy took first, third and fourth places, with seven of her books in the top 100.

End Excerpt

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TO DO:  Habituate to meaningful reading, don’t fritter away your time with screen-games and fame whores.  Keep a book by the bed, another by the recliner.  Stow one in the glove box to give you fifteen minutes of mystery-romance-intrigue-recipes-poetry while you wait for your next chauffeur duty to commence.  Increasing your literacy will pay off professionally and socially because it enriches your context.  Do you know that the Ben Stiller movie-remake about Walter Mitty is based on a story by James Thurber from seventy years ago?  Nothing new about daring inner fantasies or dark inklings.

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Bonus Recommendation: Books of the 1980’s (much different mood but just as well crafted)  The Clan of the Cave Bear  This is the first book in the Earth’s Children series by Jean M. Auel who put a voice to our distant foremothers’ struggles to make peace with the clan way of life, and the dangers and rewards of opposing the existing social order.

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KathleenK.com – vivid family fiction for those who read between, around and beyond the lines.

“A witty and wise read, especially for fans of tough-minded heroines.”

          – In re: Stainless Mary

#maevebinchy #readingforfun #waltermitty

 

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Bras in Space – Boobs in Government – Presumptions and Surprises

Playtex took bra-smarts and created workable astronaut suits – an example of perspective determining outcome.  While the military-type contractors made prototype rigid suits of moon-armor, the BODY DRESSERS understood the challenge was to engineer fabric to support and protect a moving person in a hostile environment.

Gender dynamics push and pull the story forward.  Why is it surprising that seamstresses held the answer to the precision construction of space uniforms?  Why is it not surprising that Playtex didn’t play Uncle Sam’s Procurement Roulette very well?  The astro-military complex needed something more organic than their unyielding smash and crash protection; they needed to enfold the astronaut’s body layer by layer weaving strength from disparate pieces.

There were men at Playtex, this isn’t a Jack v. Jill story; it is about presumptions and surprises.  Most important is the notion of fair evaluation of the competing products and ideas, of the actuality, no matter who created it.  The demonstrable fact was Playtex had the expertise and the workforce to tailor safety suits for outer space, and the bureaucrats were smart enough to (eventually) accept that.

COMMENTARY by indie author Kathleen K.

The tug of war over gender dominance is a male theory, as if it was axiomatic that competition exists between men and women.  That’s a man thing.  Women see it more as teaming, us against whoever is against us.  Women don’t have illusions about what male domination means:  assault, rape, and murder.  Check the stats on who is harming and who is harmed.  No effective leader-class dismisses the contribution of half its population, so whatever design flaws in the male-model world result in pollution, crime, and slavery cannot be separated from their flagship belief they are “masters”.  Women are not blameless, but we’ve never been in charge.

Feminism is not the answer, not if it merely reverses the polarity of judgment.  The genders are complementary by design.  We are not the same, but we are equal.  That’s a premise in my books.

FAMILY:  Love v. Money examines the emotional foundations of two female narrators.  It’s a two-for-one book with Baby Girl Battersea telling the story of a fatherless heir to a family fortune in the hands of her selfish uncle.  You, Drive North puts us in the driver’s seat of an accountant’s hijacked car as she tries to figure out what makes this intruder tick and how fast he is ticking.

Woven into these stories is the impact of being female, the intrinsic plus-minus of gender presumption set against the family-social background.  Neither story is a strident call for change; the observations articulate the tilt of being born female.

“There certainly is one way women are superior to men.
They are better at being women.”

from Stainless Mary by Kathleen K.

I like men, it is obvious in my writing; I married one; I raised one.  I appreciate and applaud them as individuals.  I’m not distracted by their pretensions of ascension as a group over women as a group.  One on one we’re even.  Each of us is given unique parts of the human whole:  we laugh, we weep, we dance, we sleep.  That’s the underlying discord for me:  that a seemingly sane person thinks the presence of his twig and berries specifically confers… intelligence, bravery, worthiness… beyond my own second-sex aspirations.  As a matter of fact.  No.  If men en masse embodied the acumen to actually run the show, they would make a world of balance and beauty to survive and thrive.  Theories of communism and humanism speak to our shared souls; practicalities of capitalism and territoriality overstuff the greedy.

The focus of males on male dominance is an entitlement mentality that undercuts the true power they have to lead and mold their own lives with allies of all sorts.  Instead, they follow the baying of the brethren who they trust beyond reason to lord over lesser beings:  females, children, weaker men, animals, crops, the land itself.  Even Space is a man’s world (so say the men).

We can abandon the male supremacy argument because in the race to quantify their superiority they muddied the water and polluted the air which is not a high-side outcome.  Given the percentage of children living in poverty versus percentage of politicians not living in poverty it is fair to say that men take care of themselves before their children which is tribal self-defeat.  Not all of them but enough of them disrespect their mates and disregard their offspring to use their selfishness as a meaningful character marker.  They abuse their mates with misdirected aggression (sorry, doll, bad day at the office), rising specifically from their hunger for “presence”.  They have to noticed, to be accommodated, to be obeyed, to be feared, they believe it is their right and therein lies the danger.

Luckily, women aren’t asking men to change the shape of their pelvises or give up team sports… simply cut back on the chest-thumping and dick-waving.  We get it.  You have an immature need to pronounce yourselves better than us.  Go ahead.  It doesn’t make it true and in a way it proves it false.

KathleenKBooks.com

#erotica #KathleenK #goodread

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Ten Books Published in Thirty Months: Erotica after Fifty [Years of Age and Shades of Grey]

Kathleen K. Books was launched in Spring of 2011 to bring my fiction to the marketplace.  I had spent years writing in private and felt it was time to manifest faith in the work I had done.  I didn’t bother trying to find an agent-editor-promoter-publisher (external energy source), the next step was making the books and I didn’t need help doing that.  I needed inventory before promotion.

As I planned my strategy for publishing sexotic books for the rowdier reader, it was important that I understood my audience.  Vintage Boomer porn is not the millennial digitized-kaleidoscope of unrelenting stimulation.  Bedside Readers for the Adult Mind address the deeper hungers for inclusion and possibility; they target the sharper reading skills of a sophisticated consumer.  Romance and expectancy are not limited to the young or the restless.

I wrote most of these books underground during my Mommyhood, benefitting from my IT job with family time for team sports and field trips… there was no reason to explain I was a notoriously naughty writer on hiatus.  I retreated into a creative backwater, where I could soak in the words of others and sharpen my narrative choices heedless of external praise or criticism.  I sometimes circulated segments of new things among local literati but I stayed down low on purpose.  I completed my front-line kid care in 2011 and launched the indie publishing project.  (Selling would come later… which turns out to be now.)  So, I’m over fifty years of age… but the business is young.

I knew after Fifty Shades of Grey went legit that my business model was right on target:  people still read as individuals but can be moved in ever-widening circles that go beyond the book.  The secret was to be purely submerged in the world of that book while you wrote it, and going underground gave me that luxury.  An author falls into their magic kingdom or their gritty crime scene utterly and completely alone, reaching for coherency that can only be proven later.  Then came the reviews:  I commissioned professional assessments of six of the books with each yielding positive results.  Necessary validation to proceed.  They weren’t perfect but they were contenders for a reader’s attention.

To construct the world of Harry Potter, or Get Shorty, or We Need to Talk about Kevin, is to craft a map for others to follow into the emotional wilderness of an off-tangent world.  I am pleased to introduce you to the different worlds I’ve populated for you.   My business plan includes a smart audience, people who use their words and appreciate sexy, sassy, candid, comical writing about the human condition.  I am (finally) seeking those rowdier readers, confident that these ten books fairly represent my contribution to high-end erotica on one hand (KathleenK.xxx) and contemporary narrative fiction on the other (KathleenK.com).  These are statement pieces, ageless and recognizable as words about love & sex have always been.

I started the publishing project with an “all age” short story collection, Joody (A Case Study in Post Dramatic Stress Disorder).  I was willing to “sacrifice” it if the production company I selected was unable to co-create my book to the simple standards I established.  If it was horrible I would bury it and keep looking for a way to make books I could afford to sell.  I was stunned by the striking cover image proposed by my new “creative team”; it arrests me every time I see it.

frontcover

It made that first step in creating “product” meaningful because I knew CreateSpace.com could build books that I’d be proud to share.  I have four “vivid family fiction” books for those who like wry and witty narrators with choices to make, minus all the folderol of overt sexuality.  Romantic, yes.  Deep and abiding decisions about love in the voices of real characters wrapped in rich prose and peppered with sharp dialog.  The next all-age book is Lee Chin, Law Office Safari (names have been changed to protect the inefficient).

Six bedside readers for the adult mind tailored for the nightstand…  This tenth book is graphic poetry, sexotic and tender and sassy and chill.  In this Tweet‑y world of ours, quick jabs and complicated word play work as stimulants.  Arching Over pairs nicely with the other sexplicit works because the authenticity earned running a phone sex business (Sweet Talkers) flowers in the fantastical voyeur’s catechism The Lunarium (One Man’s Memories of the Watchers and the Watched) then snaps back in Honey B., Sexual Consultant to give Frank advice about Dick.

There are five more books slated for production in the coming 15 months.  I’ve been banking all these titles as “on demand” print and Kindle formats to share with loyal readers who appreciate that I never underestimated them.  I aimed at the high side of their mentality:  the part that churns their yearning.  Not suitable for some, appreciated by others.  I trust people to set aside what doesn’t satisfy them… and to reach for things that do.

Kathleen K. Books invites you to read…

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Joody – family fiction told in four stories

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Joody is not a good mom to her three kids.  She’s not dangerous, she’s careless; she self-medicates with pot and beer; she’s allergic to responsibility.  Life is a big mirror with her in the center.  Her all-perfect sister Janet with the good job and the nice car and the big house can certainly afford to share with her and the kids.  It is the fourth pregnancy that convinces Janet that it might be time to take the kids away from her sister.  If it was time, she wasn’t ready.

Four narrators tell their side of the story, this is a family in crisis with sisters in conflict.

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 Joody (A Case Study in Post-Dramatic Stress Disorder

 SAMPLE

 

“You were pregnant?”

“I didn’t know.  Until it was too late, I just didn’t know.”

“How could you not know?  Joody… what is going on with you?”

“I knew you’d be mad.”

“Mad?  You think this is about me being mad at you?  What have you done?”

“I figured it out, that I was pregnant, so I got some girdles.”

“You were wearing girdles to hide the baby?  Is that why I didn’t see what was happening?”

“It wasn’t just girdles, I had to squish my boobs flat until they about burst, my clothes looked terrible, lucky for me you’re blind to fashion.  Like that sweater, Janet, really.”

“Focus, Joody.  The baby… what about the baby?”

“It came too early or something, I mean, it just kind of slipped out.  It never cried or anything.”

“When?  When did this happen?”

“Wednesday night.”

“You had the baby Wednesday night and went to work yesterday?  And today?”

“I’m fine.  I have given birth a few times before, you know.  I did what I had to do.  It’s over and I’m telling you I’m fine.”

 “If there is a dead baby in this house then you are not fine.”

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It seemed horrible that my plea to Joody to be careful and avoid getting pregnant again was interpreted as not letting me know when she did get pregnant.  I suspect I was her test case because if she could fool me, she could fool everybody.  She was fooling us for our own good, according to her, so we wouldn’t get all worked up and blah-blah-blah in her face.  By the time she faced facts about being pregnant, one of those facts was it was too late to “do” anything about it.  I have no experience making this decision, having made an earlier decision to avoid the risk or be prepared to face the natural consequences.  Only child-bearing women ever live through this issue and I don’t qualify (yet) to judge any woman’s choice even if I have a strong opinion.  This thinking brought me back to the dead baby, the poor little soul who wasn’t celebrated in the womb, wasn’t spoken of with anticipation; didn’t have a cute nickname like Fetal Attraction.

Joody confessed she hadn’t seen a doctor or midwife, she bound her belly and crossed her fingers.  She thought the baby would come at the end of the summer but it was only June so that’s why she wasn’t prepared.  Why did we have to tell people now when she’d done such a good job of hiding it?  We could take care of this on our own, just the two of us, right?  I insisted my sister get some medical attention, more importantly I wanted the baby treated like a human being.  I knew CPS would get involved, maybe the police… it was a nightmare.  It was Joody’s nightmare.  I knew she wasn’t looking that far ahead:  she thought going to the emergency room was a complication ruining her Friday night.  I knew it was the floodgates opening.  Some part of me wished it wasn’t so but, really, she’d been adrift in dangerous waters, not under­standing her kids were real live people, they were her burdens, they were her joys, they were hers.  She did the best she felt like doing and then expected others to lend her a hand for the sake of her kids.

Down deep, I knew that the lifeless baby was a human being no matter how inconvenient it seemed to uproot all of us over a death that couldn’t be changed now.  Joody had bound her body and kept her weight down in denial of her responsibilities to see beyond herself.  I didn’t know where Juniata found the baby: my toddler niece had been left alone in the house, poking around the kitchen cupboards like little kids do, probably banging the doors.  I was glad Bryce hadn’t seen the bundle, and that Suzanne hadn’t understood it.  I intended to transport the remains in a valise I knew was in the front hall closet.  Even wrapping the swaddled bundle in the table cloth left my hands feeling stained with death.  Some part of me understood Joody had actually handled the slippery baby, had waited for the afterbirth, cut the cord then discarded the placenta in her trash can the next day on her way to work.  She went to work to smile at the restaurant staff and customers like any other day in the melodrama of her mind.

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I have a reverse guilt of knowing I have enabled Joody to avoid the most severe consequences of her choices.  She is weak; she lacks a sense of perspective.  Her pregnancies were all complete surprises to her, as if she had caught the Martian Flu here on Earth ‑‑ astounding.  It was true I had grown more exasperated with her as the years went along and she didn’t pass out of her party-phase.  Now Bryce didn’t like it when she came home drunk and even Suzanne didn’t laugh at her stumbling around anymore.  Juniata had been the ‘it isn’t just me’ flag on whether Joody was as bad as I thought.  The sailor-daddy felt his child was safer with his aged grandmother taking point for his interested family so he made legal arrangements before the baby was even born.

Joody had tolerated that pregnancy knowing the long-haul work of raising the baby would be passing her by for the immediate future (she has a short horizon).  In her fuzzy-thinking dream-world she would reunite with Juniata sometime after the girl was potty-trained, or maybe when the kid was old enough to run errands.

You can look back at my river of tears tracking scars that she made, and see how the gravity of the situation has determined the course of my life.  These children are real, and they are now, and they are precious in and of themselves beyond any blood relation to me.  In that sense I cry for all children… because I constantly consider the kids I know best in juxtaposition to the circum­stances of little brains worldwide convoluting with their own experiences.  There are starving children and battered children, militarized and sexualized children.  Just being born in the USA improves the odds you’ll survive infancy (although not as high as Sweden’s).  Just as importantly, I know most kids grow to productive adulthood.  Part of loving children is to know their world, and help them through it by celebrating their contribution to it.  Joody and her kids live in an urban environment, lucky to have good schools, affordable housing and public transportation, with a vigorous economy.  And me.

I’m so appreciative of our advantages that it makes it hard for me to forgive anybody wasting opportunity, opting out.  Joody is guilty of consistently choosing herself above her children.  Joody chooses herself above all.  The degree of her self-absorption makes it impossible to communicate with her about anything but her.  She can be goaded to at least look like a good mother at times… motivated to improve her own image rather than act on behalf of another.  Bone-deep, Joody believes she is special.  If she thinks she’s doing her best, then that is good enough.  No matter if the results are inadequate, that’s not her problem.  She did what she did and it’s done. 

How was I to know what was truly in her heart?  I can only look at the thirty years I’ve known her and use that to predict her most probable reactions.  All of this anchored my thinking as I ran through a dizzying recalibration of what I knew about Joody with the dead baby between us.

 

Questions.  Answers?  Order!  Info@KathleenK.com

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