Jnana's Red Barn

A Space for Work and Reflection

A NEW DEAL, FULL OF PROMISE

Thanks for getting the buzz going with my previous ebook releases. Let’s do it again with Promise. Here are the steps:

  • Be among the first 20 to download my new novel, Promise, and post a review (preferably favorable, of course).
  • Let me know when it’s up by emailing me at jnanahodson(at)yahoo(com). I’ll put you on the list for a coupon for a free copy of my next novel in this series from Smashwords.
  • The review can be at the Smashwords site, any ebook retailer where you obtain your copy, a print or online journal, or your own blog. It’s that simple.

For details on the novel, go to Promise.

Promise

CULTURE SHOCK

It had been ages since I’d gone to the cinema multiplex – you know, the kind in the vast parking lot beside the mall. Usually, when we go out for a movie, it’s an art house in Concord or a volunteer-run series at the Music Hall in downtown Portsmouth.

But Wes Anderson’s latest, The Grand Budapest Hotel, was showing, and we figured we’d better make it there fast. No telling how quickly anything that quirky, formalistic, and savvy would be playing. (As we juggled our schedules, we realized it would have to be Monday night, overriding another activity on my itinerary – as we discovered, if you’re going to hit the big-box of showrooms, that’s the night to do it. We practically had the rectangular cavern to ourselves.)

I’ll leave it to others to lavish praise on the witty plotting that continually turned in unpredictable yet seemingly inevitable developments; the impressive casting and stylized acting; the precise cinematography; or the marvelous interweaving of actual sites in Germany (the hotel interior was actually the atrium of a defunct department store), miniature models of varied scales, and special effects to create a sense of fantastic and delightful artificiality. Anderson, as his fans know, is a moviemaking genius with a voice and vision all his own. (For one engaging detailed look at the roots of the story, click here.)

For me, though, the outing also invoked a series of culture shocks. Now that I’m “retired,” income’s tight, I’ll admit. I’m spending much less than I did before, and gasoline’s toward the top of my out-of-pocket budget. So the current ticket price (go ahead and laugh, you debonair rounders, when I tell you it was $11 apiece for three) made me gasp silently. (I know a good Greek restaurant where we could have dined out for that.) (I’m I really turning into this?)

From my end, it’s hard to take the very interior and decor of consumer society reflected in these big-chain outlets. It all feels plastic, cake-frosted, impermanent, unnatural. No one would want to linger in the vast lobby (what’s the point, anyway?), and no matter how plush, the showing rooms are – well, showing room sounds like something you’d find in a funeral home, which may be a good parallel, except that in much of the country, the mortuaries are usually in some amazing Victorian mansions. Nothing cookie-cutter about them, unlike these concealed warrens. None of this matches what I consider a theater or concert hall or even a house of worship, the kinds of places I prefer to assemble with others.

The third shock came in viewing the trailers and commercials. I’m still offended to be bombarded with big-screen ads after paying what I consider to be inflated ticket prices, after all, but to be hit twice with a promotion for a new computer game was especially egregious, especially with its pseudo-documentary interviews with its “creators,” a handful of pretentious nerds claiming social value for violent nihilism. I’m sorry, their world vision leads nowhere but destruction.

Actually, it was the amplified violence repeated in the trailers as well that most aggravates me. What in the American psyche so fosters terrorism of this scale? What justifies the reveling in gore for so many (and at such a price, even before we get to the price on our psyche)? Here’s the road that deserves a sermon of hellfire and brimstone, indeed. Wake up, folks, will you?

No wonder I prefer intimate, small-scale, gentle, playful, European or indie productions! They, in contrast, have soul and reality.

Anderson, I must confess, goes well beyond the small-scale criterion, but he earns the right to do so. And he’s generous to those who contribute to the effort, from the visual artists to the payroll accountants. One of the things that kept going through my mind as we were watching, actually, was an awareness of the lavish investment he was expending in the process and the question of whether he’d ever make it back. Well, maybe it wasn’t any greater than those of the futuristic trailers we’d watched beforehand, but still … Hollywood and Las Vegas have more in common than I’d like.

Maybe their biggest gamble is in making works that demand to be seen on the big screens rather than on our laptops or TVs via Netflix.

If you were a moviemaker or investor, what would you do? Or, as a film buff, what are you doing now?

MINING THE GOLD

Before the discovery of gold brought a flood of prospectors to central and northern California, nuggets and ore had been uncovered in North Carolina. Growing up, I had no idea my ancestors had owned their own mine there. Nor did I know they spelled our name a little differently. For that matter, I had no idea our surname came by way of Piedmont North Carolina.

You’re welcome to take a look at what I’ve dug up so far in the story at my Orphan George Chronicles.

UNEXPECTED DIMENSIONS

Marriage begins with a promise. Or, more accurately, a whole string of promises, many of them conveyed wordlessly in nothing more than a touch or exchange of the eye.

~*~

Despite all their ups and downs, Erik still knew his wife was beautiful. But his appreciation had entered an unexpected dimension, one based largely on companionship. That night, having braided her hair into a bun and wearing a white, crisply pressed blouse, she captured his vision again. When she smiled, she resembled a blanched almond in lace. The leaves gasped.

Promise~*~

To learn more about my novel, go to my page at Smashwords.com.

CHEATING WITH TOMATOES

Where we live, getting a homegrown ripe tomato before the beginning of August is an annual challenge. And once they start arriving, we face a big battle against blight. In fact, we’ve given up on heritage varieties like Brandywine and Beefsteak and turned to more resistant hybrids.

So when the agricultural school at our nearby state university had its greenhouse open house last year, the opportunity to come home with a healthy tomato plant was an irresistible temptation. We kept it in a sunny window and under grow lights, taking it outdoors on days when the temperature edged above 50F. And just look at what happened into May!

Will we repeat the experience? It’s awfully tempting.

Is this cheating?

Is this cheating?

INNOCENCE OR IGNORANCE REGARDING MONEY

One of the biggest weaknesses of the hippie movement sprang from an issue that continues to elude many people, no matter their self-identity: it’s a denial of understanding how money works, especially as it connects to time, labor, possessions, wealth, and then all the social interplay.

If you haven’t already taken a look at my Money Talks category at Chicken Farmer I Still Love You, by all means do. It’s the kind of nitty-gritty that needs to be examined fully if you’re to move with any financial freedom, regardless of your actual income or assets.

~*~

In the late ’60s and early ’70s, while some hippies had an astute understanding of money – and others could always somehow find a paying job along the way – many others were in complete denial. It still comes up whenever I lead a workshop and the thing folks want to talk about is bartering, as if they have anything to barter for, say, brain surgery or a college education. (Pumpkins and squash go only so far, after all, especially out of season.)

Sometimes a proposal for a social service or government program would come up, and the only answer to who’s going to pay for it was a vague, “Oh, they can afford it.” Whoever the “they” was.  (Actually, we see a similar thing happening when the Republicans say we can’t pay for this or that while simultaneously keeping those who can pay securely out of range.) OK, if we can pay for the excessive military we have, maybe we can afford to realign our priorities.

Looking back, though, my sense is that many who drifted toward communal living were hoping to ride on someone else’s income. And, yes, there were those who were living on mommy and daddy’s largess or a grandparent’s trust fund, though they were the distinct minority.

The arrangement I describe in Hippie Drum was one alternative, but as I display, it had potentially fatal flaws. The food poachers, for one, and the rent money skimmed by the organizer, for another.

The generosity we experienced – and the out and out openness – was great as long as it was a mutual exchange. But it was fragile. In it was a vision of what society could be, before it came crashing down, triggered by self-centered, selfish, or maybe simply skill-less individuals.

Were they hippies? Maybe. Or maybe not, really. Who’s to say, in the end?

Hippiedrum-final

A MEDITATION, OF SORTS

At the beach the other morning, observing the beauty of the blue surf at low tide on a crystal-clear day, I realized my mind and heart were not in oneness with the postcard view before me. Yes, I was there, but on a mission, and I was all too aware of a desire to be home before my wife left for her afternoon and evening obligations.

My oneness, however, was with the seaweed before me as I put it into buckets and transferred these to black bags in the trunk of my car. The drive home was also a meditation, as was spreading one of the bags over our asparagus bed.

The goal, of course, is to be fully present where I am. Rather than off somewhere far ahead or far behind me.

AN INEVITABLE ATTRACTION

PromiseJaya sees her new job in a small, out-of-the-way town as a shortcut to career advancement. After a religious detour, she wants to rebuild her professional portfolio and quickly move on. But banter with a capricious young waiter in a family restaurant soon leads to infatuated encounters and the inevitable attraction of opposites. Erik knows how to make her laugh, for certain, even when he insists their meetings remain secret. Still, he drops in on her downtown loft with increasing frequency, where he learns of new worlds far beyond his background. When they realize they both dream of moving to the Pacific Northwest, their direction is set. What follows includes their marriage and a volcano.

~*~

The two of them had important decisions to make, like whether to hyphenate their last name. “I’m no Mrs. anybody,” Jaya insisted. “That’s your mother. I was born a Lorenzo, and that’s how I’ll die. I’m keeping my own name. Even if nobody one else can ever comprehend it, just remember, you have no idea how I’d feel seeing the newspaper clipping, ‘the new Mrs. anybody.’”

~*~

Of course, nothing goes quite as they envisioned, including their first move from Prairie Depot, but when they finally land in the Northwest, they discover their new home is in a harsh desert rather than thick forests. Likewise, their marriage is hardly what they had expected, especially when the demands of her career intensify and Erik’s left trying to define his own direction. Before long, they inhabit different worlds within the same landscape. Sometimes their experiences overlap, especially regarding their shared environment. At the same time, her promotions come at a cost – first, long hours and heavy responsibilities, and then, with a changing regime, an intolerable boss who lies to her face. At last, after a mountain blows up and buries their valley in volcanic ash, she accepts a lifeline.

For Erik, this requires a fateful decision. He has no idea what’s right around the corner.

~*~

To learn more about my novel, go to my page at Smashwords.com.

GARRISON HOUSE

The distinctive overhang design allowed for self-defense from within.

The distinctive overhang design allowed for self-defense from within.

From the outbreak of King Philip’s War in 1675 until the conclusion of the French and Indian War in 1763, much of northern New England was under an ongoing threat of violence along its frontier. Nearly all of the English settlement in Maine was pushed back to a few towns nearest New Hampshire, and many villages, including Dover, suffered devastation and massacre.

Indeed, officials ordered many residents to construct fortified garrison houses, like this reproduction along Cider Hill Road in York, Maine, where families could retreat for armed protection when an alarm was sounded.

The site overlooks the inland tidal salt marshes that give rise to the York River. The hay from such spots was prized, even though feeding it to cows would produce a distinctively salty milk.

The site overlooks the inland tidal salt marshes that give rise to the York River. The hay from such spots was prized, even though feeding it to cows would produce a distinctively salty milk.

Also on the site is a more traditional New England style of construction -- shingle siding that weathers to gray.

Also on the site is a more traditional New England style of construction — shingle siding that weathers to gray.

‘PROMISE’ OFFICIAL ANNOUNCEMENT

Jnana Hodson’s new romance novel leaps to the Pacific Northwest

Promise

DOVER, N.H – Promise is one of the most powerful words in the English language. It can be a contract or a covenant, assurance, potential, apology, hope, trust, the exchange of wedding vows, a cover for lies, and much more – both as a noun and a verb.

In Jnana Hodson’s newest novel, it unites Jaya and Erik in their leap to their own Promised Land.

As a promising young professional from the East Coast who arrives in Prairie Depot to jumpstart her career, Jaya’s best intentions quickly become entangled.

Yes, she’s a yoga teacher who introduces the practice to the town in her spare time, but that’s not all – especially once she’s caught the eye of a young waiter at the corner restaurant. When their dreams of resettling in the Pacific Northwest finally become reality, she and Erik face crucial adjustments when they find little resembles what they’d anticipated, even before the volcano erupts.

Hodson’s 87,000-word novel, Promise, arises in the dimensions of their potential, expectations, unspoken definitions and their differing interpretations, as well as the vows they exchange. In the end, as they demonstrate, the state of matrimony can be a place as well as the accord they must fulfill or break.

The ebook, published April 5 at Smashwords.com, is the Dover, N.H., writer’s six novel. Each of the six volumes is available in a choice of ebook platforms at Smashwords.com and other ebook retailers. (Please note adult content.)

~*~

To learn more about my novel, go to my page at Smashwords.com.

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