Monday, September 30, 2013


Christal Cooper – 612 Words
Facebook @ Christal Ann Rice Cooper


“The tree sways ever so gently.
It’s not a building; it’s a living thing.
Trees have their own personalities,
 and they are very accepting and comforting.
You’re up there and you are a part of it.
It is just you and nature.”
Naomi Ruth Waggener Rice

Active Tree Climber and Tree Climbers USA member Naomi Ruth (which means Pleasant Companion In Hebrew) Waggener Rice fell in love with trees at an early age.  As a six year old, the shy Rice did not feel as comfortable with people as she did with trees.  She lived in Alabama and considered her backyard of woods her own playground, and the trees her playmates.  Later, something happened that changed her perspective on trees.
       “When I was six I was bouncing on the branch in this dogwood tree.  The branch broke and I broke my femur and fractured my jaw.”
       The active six-year-old was constrained into a half body cast.  The accident also resulted in her not climbing trees for the next three to four years.  She still spent her time exploring the woods and its animals and taking walks with her cat Smokey. Smokey would kill animals and the animals he didn’t kill Waggener tried to rescue.  Flutter, a small bird, managed to escape Smokey’s claws.  Waggener fed the bird with an eyedropper tube and made the bird a little hammock from cloth to ease the bird’s suffering.  When Flutter died she was crushed until she moved to the outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia at the age of ten.
       “One day I was looking at the tree in our front yard and thought, ‘Why did I stop climbing trees?’  I don’t remember too much (of the accident) because my brain tends to delete my bad memories.  I told myself, ‘I do love climbing trees.’”
Waggener took the trees as her pleasant companion once again.  Her love and interest in trees grew even more when, at the age of twelve, she spotted her brother Tim reading an article about tree climbing.  After reading it herself, she was thrilled to learn that the experience the article described was exactly what she experienced while climbing trees.  She contacted the tree climbing club mentioned in the article and attended their classes. When she was thirteen she bought her own equipment and has been climbing trees ever since.
“Tree climbing is a lot freer than rock climbing because with tree climbing you can stop, rest, swing, and bounce off the tree from branch to branch.” 
The necessary equipment for tree climbing is not as expensive or complex as mountain or rock climbing equipment: a tree climbing harness; a long rope; a “D” shaped tool that clicks the climber to the rope being climbed; and a throw line which is a small yellow line with a bean bag attached.  The double rope technique, where the rope goes up and over the branch and then is tied by a series of knots, is the most common technique used in climbing trees. 
Waggener says climbing trees is not always a bed of roses.  When she starts on the ground she is sometimes attacked by swarms of hungry mosquitoes.  On the other hand, Waggener prefers the bottom part of the tree because the rope is at its longest which enables her to get the best and widest swing.  There are also those times when the tree’s inhabitants stalk her.  One such evening Waggener fell asleep in the tree boat (hammock connected to two limbs) only to be awakened by squirrels squawking, and spitting pieces of acorns on her head.  
       “Tree climbing is like a dream.  I can do this all the time.”

Photo Description and Copyright Information.
Photo 1.
Naomi Ruth Waggener Rice.  Copyright by Namoi Ruth Waggener Rice.
Photo 2.
Scrapbook page of Maya Angelo poem and image by Christal Cooper.  Copyright by Christal Cooper.
Photo 3.
Naomi climbing a tree.  Copyirght by Naomi Ruth Waggener Rice.
Photo 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8.
Married couple Jody Rice (left) and Naomi Ruth Waggener Rice climbing the Naomi Tree.   Copyright by Naomi Ruth Waggener Rice.
Photo 9.
Naomi in the tree boat.  Copyright by Naomi Ruth Waggener Rice.
Photo 10.
Squirrell.  Photo by David Iliff.  Licnse:  CC.BY.SA 3.0
Photo 11.
Naomi sleeping in the tree boat in the tree.  Copyright by Naomi Ruth Waggener Rice. 

Sunday, September 22, 2013


Christal Cooper – 2,643 Words
Facebook @ Christal Ann Rice Cooper

The ten linked stories in Ashes Rain Down explore what life might be like after several decades of environmental and social apocalypse.  Despite the impending doom, there is also dark humor spiced with grotesque realism embedded in the overarching theme:  that people do carry on.
Excerpt from press release.

The story “Ashes Rain Down” won Glimmer Train’s Fiction Open Contest (winter 2008), “Family Life” won The Ledge Magazine’s 2010 Fiction Competition, and “Out There” won honorable mention in Carpe Articulum’s International Fiction Awards competition; “Heat Wave” has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

This past February Spuyten Duyvil Press published Ashes Rain Down A Story Cycle by William Luvaas.  The collection of ten short stories centers on two fictional California communities, the mountain community Sluggards Creek and a community on the Mendocino Coast, embroiled in a Global Warming crisis.  Climactic disaster, global economy collapse, social order collapse, epidemics and its affects are entombing the communities with agonizing slow time.   

       The time frame is within the next fifty years:  King Charles II is now King Of England; both Hillary and Chelsea Clinton have served terms as U.S. President; President Barack Obama has served his third term; St. Louis and Oklahoma City are no longer in existence; there is only one functioning newspaper; only three television stations operating; most of the world has no television or electricity; and there is The Forever War, which Luvaas described as a global-conflict-kind of third world war in the Middle East.

       “I wanted it to be a vague, distant conflict between unspecified combatants.  It is not a war against global warming but an ongoing conflict fueled by global warming as beleaguered countries scrap over remaining resources.  Vietnam is mentioned, yes.  When you think about it, the U.S. has been fighting an undeclared war against vague enemies almost continuously since Nam.  So we are already engaged in the Forever War.”

When Luvaas wrote the first story Ashes Rain Down” he knew that it would turn into a short story collection.  It took him a period of years to complete the stories. Luvaas described the writing of Ashes Rain Down A Story Cycle as writing a novel since all the stories share the same themes, locales, and characters.  The main character is Lawrence:  moral, loyal, unruffled, pragmatic, good-hearted, and constantly trying to help his community. 

There is the hint of the supernatural, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, gay rights, true love, adultery, family relationships, and the conflict between the town’s evangelical Christians, who see the holocaust as God’s judgment, and the secularists, who see it as a scientific inevitability.  The main themes, however, are the dangers of Global Warming and how humanity responds to the catastrophe.
 “It occurred to me that some people–especially enterprising people–would likely survive and some technology would survive.  To an extent, lives would go on much as they do now, but would be scrappier, less comfortable, more challenging...more endangered.”
To most readers, Ashes Rain Down: A Story Cycle may be just an artistic endeavor and/or something to read – but to Luvaas the book is also a warning to readers of the dangers of Global Warming.   
       In the past 15 years, I have come to understand the dynamics of global warming and its impact on the environment.  I find it deeply disturbing.  If we go on as we are, ignoring the distress signals, we will lose life as we know it, and the earth will become a hostile environment.”
       One could describe Sluggards Creek and Mendocino County as fictional communities, but Luvaas views them as everyone’s community – we are all affected by global warming; therefore, we should all be concerned with this issue.
“Yes, I suppose in a way I am suggesting that no one can escape the environmental holocaust; it hits all communities equally.  But it is generally true of my fiction that I cast a wide net.  I do not focus on any single group or community but write about all kinds of people in different social strata.  However, societal outsiders interest me more than insiders do.” 
       Luvaas writes most of his fiction at his study in his home in Hemet, California, where he has views of flowerbeds, jade trees, a huge Jeffrey pine tree, a honeysuckle hedge, palm trees, green foliage, and the San Jacinto mountains.  The two things he has to have with him in order to write is a huge cup of coffee and his laptop.
       “I write directly on the computer.  I write the first draft of a story in a few days.  I never plan out my stories in advance, outline them, anything of that sort.  I begin with some simple spark–a phrase, an image, a rough idea–and follow the trace.  I try not to lead the characters but to follow them.  I almost never know at the outset how a story will end...or even what it will be about for sure.  I discover that in the writing.  Then come endless revisions.  I am obsessive about revising and editing.  In revision, I ask myself, very pointedly, “What is the intent of this story?  Is it fulfilling its intent?”   I want everything to be exactly as it must be–every word, every comma, every dash.  I labor over imagery and dialogue; I want it to be precise.”
       Unfortunately, part of being precise is to kill other stories that do not fit in the scheme of the book.  An example is a story called “The Forever War”, which focuses on Lawrence and his estranged son who dies, and which Luvaas deemed too lengthy.  Another story that didn’t make the final cut was “Rapture Fire”, which was published in Spring/Summer 2013 issue of Texas Review.
       “Eventually, I ran out of steam; I had written what I needed to write about Sluggards Creek and environmental apocalypse.  I wanted to move on.  I realized I didn’t need more stories, I had more than enough for a collection.  So I decided which of the stories to include and in what order and was ready to send the collection to publishers.
       Luvaas, who decided not to use an agent, queried small publishing houses, since smaller houses tend to publish more short story collections.  He then sent the manuscript to the publishing houses that expressed an interest.  At the time, he was also shopping to sell his novel Welcome To Saint Angel.  Spuyten Duyvil Press rejected the novel due to its long length, but inquired if Luvaas had something shorter he could offer them.
       “So I got Ashes right off to them, and they wanted to bring it out both in hard copy and as an eBook.  This all happened over perhaps two weeks–very fast as publishing goes.” 
       Thus far, four works of Luvaas have been published:  A Working Man’s Apocrypha Short Stories, Ashes Rain Down: A Story Cycle, and two novelsGoing Under and The Seductions Of Natalie Bach. He also edited an anthology of California writers, Into The Deep:  The Writing Center Anthology 3, and is the online fiction editor for Cutthroat:  A Journal of the Arts (

       Despite his success, Luvaas continues to write religiously:  he has a strict routine that he abides by at least six days out of the week:  he gets up at 9 a.m., has coffee with his wife, works in his office until late afternoon, takes a break for dinner, then goes back to his office where he works until 1 a.m.  He usually writes most of the time; but sometimes works on revisions, promotions, correspondence, and research.
       “Chaos is an enemy of artistic creation.  We need constancy and security that comes with well-established rituals and routines, because creativity thrives only when it finds stable, fertile soil to grow in.  Most all of the serious writers and artists I know are hard and dedicated workers.  You have to be.  If you lie about daydreaming in an idyll until inspiration hits you or stay up drinking all night, you won’t get much work done.”
       Luvaas makes sure to work out three times a week at the local gym and, more importantly, to spend time with his wife, prolific artist Lucinda Luvaas.  The couple like to go out in the evenings for long drives in L.A. and San Diego; visit friends in Palm Springs, or go to a movie, reading, or gallery opening. 
The married couple also has collaborated on projects together.  Lucinda is the first person to hear his stories and novels and he values her input.  Lucinda also designed three of his book covers: 

       “We drove all over the Coachella Valley looking for a house to use on the cover of Ashes...finally found one in Riverside.  We found an antique doll used in the cover design on EBay.  She loves my writing, and I love her paintings, films and musical compositions.  I suppose we have our own ongoing artist colony.”
       Luvaas writes novels, novellas, and short stories, but views himself more as a writer of short stories than novels.
       “I have come to love the short story form – its brevity, how it demands precise narrative focus, how all elements must work together in common cause for the story to succeed:  characters, atmosphere, thematic elements, symbolism, imagery, voice, events – all must walk in tandem down the definitive path of the narrative.  There can be no stragglers.  No side paths.  The discipline of the story is a kind of elixir to me.” 
      Luvaas is in the early stages of writing his memoir addressing his struggles with his diagnosis of epilepsy.  He recently completed a new novel and is in the early stages of revising it.  Luvaas is also revisiting and revising his older works, mostly novels.  His main focus is to write new material, preferably novels, that are similar to his short stories in tone, atmosphere, and compassion. 
       “My novel-in-progress is the first of these. They will be short, focused, likely will contain elements of magic or grotesque realism as most of my stories do.  Likely, they will focus on societal outsiders."
       Luvaas’s advice to new writers is to focus on little steps first:  before publishing a short story collection, publish individual stories first.  This will help you gain a reputation as a writer and give you a track record.
       Luvaas acknowledges the existence of writer’s block and, during his early years as a writer, faced it on occasion.  He’s learned that overcoming writer’s block is not to force oneself at the desk, but to get away from the desk – but only for a short time.
         Possibly writers block is a warning that the well is drying up, and we need to find a new source of water–new subject matter, a new approach.  After taking a break, we often return to the desk with renewed vigor.”
His best piece of advice for new writers is to simply write, and to live as a writer, which means paying attention to all of your surroundings.
“Living as a writer means that everything you do and see, every place you go, everyone you meet, every conversation you have or overhear is grist for the mill.  You try to develop what Elizabeth Bishop called “the writer’s eye.”  You are constantly taking notes in your head, you never get a break from it.  If you don’t love doing it, you can’t do it.  I think it’s a great way to be in the world: always on watch!”
         The last piece of advice is the same advice that all writers will give – to read. 
       And what better short story to read than “A Crack in the Pavement” from the Ashes Rain Down collection; a story Luvaas found emotional and moving to write.
       “My wife and I are very close and that surely informed it.  How does a person go on living, I wondered, without their lifelong mate?  Some may cling to vestiges of their lost partner, as Gil does here, talking to her, laying out clothes for her, etc.  Maybe will even hear her responding to his remarks from beyond the grave, but along with his grief and longing, there is a good bit of humor, too, since Gil and Amanda are both feisty, idiosyncratic people.  I suppose it was one of those pieces that came as a kind of inspiration, as though the story was hovering out there waiting to be written down.  I just took dictation.”

*The below excerpt is Copyrighted – Copyright owners William Luvaas and Spuyten Duyvil Press (

A Crack
 in the Pavement
Bicycling home three days before his wife died, Gil Ridley
swerved around a deer carcass lying in the middle of the road. He thought to race home for a hacksaw and buck knife to butcher it while it was fresh, before someone else got to it. These were hungry times. But, coming to a foot-dragging stop beside it, Gil realized the cadaver was two-legged, naked and lying on its side in a fetal position so he could not determine the sex, no doubt run down by some big rig that had abandoned rutted interstates and taken to back roads. Sonnabitch had likely climbed down from his tractor, prodded the victim with a toe and muttered, “Poor bastard is dead.” Just left it there. In his own driving days, Gil would have rolled the body up in a blanket and wrestled it up into the sleeper. Then, the damnedest thing! The corpse disappeared, sucked down into a crack in the pavement. Gone.
Gil dismounted the bike–no easy task with his arthritic knees and hip joints–kneeled stiffly down on the shoulder and sniffed the pavement. Sat up straight. “I seen mirages but, damnitall, I never seen that before.” It had been there sure enough–what they called an “apparition,” a forewarning of death maybe. Because, truth to tell, what he’d seen in that first instant was his own wife, Amanda Ridley, stretched out bare naked on the pavement (fine body for a seventy-four year old woman–used to be before cancer stripped flesh from her bones), and before his eyes she’d coiled up in a fetal position. “Can’t blame you none, babe, exposed in a public place in your condition! No, sir.” Doctors gave up on her five years ago when they closed the hospital in Haneysville after her last chemo, and she’d been living on borrowed time ever since. “Remission,” they called it.
Walky Talky, passing silently on the far side of the road, glanced up at him; they exchanged a nod. Didn’t bother old Walky to find Gil muttering to himself. After all, he himself walked the roads loudly reporting the news and weather from the transceiver they say Tommy Whitehead installed in his brain. But here lately Walky had stopped reporting; maybe his receiver was broke down or it had got too depressing reporting all that bad news. “That’s the hell of growing old,” Gil told Walky’s retreating back, “trouble stores up over your natural lifetime to where you had about enough of it. I believe my Amanda’s reached that point.” Gesturing at that place on the pavement where her body had lay. “Life offers more problems than it does solutions. You can’t blame a person for having enough of it. Still, I resent it. It’s damn hard having your wife of fifty-two years ready to pass on you– ready and willing.” Looking at the road again, Gil was certain it had been Amanda lying there. “Apparition,” “premonition”...whatever you want to call it, scared the b’jesus out of him. Walky went silently on.
“How’m I s’posed to live without you, baby? How’m I s’posed to get by in this world of bad news without you? Answer me that! Good news either, for all that–if we ever got any! No one to share a damn nothing with.”


Photo 1
William Luvaas.  Photo attributed to Lucinda Luvaas.  Copyright by William and Lucinda Luvaas.

Photo 2
Jacket cover of Ashes Rain Down:  A Story Cycle.

Photo 3.
Spuyten Duyvil Press logo (

Photo 4
Mendocino Coast.  Attributed Paul Hami.  Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic.

Photo 5
Hillary Clinton.  Attributed Kai Mork.  Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Germany.

Photo 6
Chelsea Clinton in Philadelphia on March 2008.  Attribution Kyle Cassidy.  GNU Free Documentation License and Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported.

Photo 7
President Barack Obama on December 6, 2012.  Attributed to Pete Souza.  Public Domain.

Photo 8a.
Orthographic projection of the Middle East (in green).  Public Domain.

Photo 8b.
Middle East map.  Public Domain.

Photo 9.
William Luvaas and his dog.  Attributed to Lucinda Luvaas. Copyright by William and Lucinda Luvaas.

Photo 10
Description is based on the NOAA (2007a) public-domain source: This world map shows the projected change in annual mean surface air temperature from the late 20th century (1971-2000 average) to the middle 21st century (2051-2060 average). The change is in response to increasing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases and aerosols based on a "middle of the road" estimate of future emissions. Future emissions are based on the "A1B" emissions scenario, taken from the Special Report on Emissions Scenarios. Warming is larger over continents than oceans, and is largest at high latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere. These results are from the GFDL CM2.1 model, but are consistent with a broad consensus of modeling results.

Photo 11.
Satellite image of w:ship tracks, clouds created by the exhaust of ship smokestacks.
Liam Gumley, Space Science and Engineering Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison
NASA, public domain
May 11, 2005

Photo 12.
William Luvaas.  Attributed to Lucinda Luvaas.  Copyright by William and Lucinda Luvaas.

Photo 13.
San Jacinto Mountains.  Creative Commons Attribution 1.0 Generic

Photo 14.
The office of William Luvaas.  Attributed to Lucinda Luvaas.  Copyright by William and Lucinda Luvaas.

Photo 15.
William Luvaas.  Attributed to Lucinda Luvaas.  Copyright by William and Lucinda Luvaas.

Photo 16.
Spuyten Duyvil Press logo (

Photo 17.
Jacket cover of A Working Man’s Apocrypha Short Stories

Photo 18.
Jacket cover of Ashes Rain Down:  A Story Cycle

Photo 19.
Jacket cover of Going Under.

Photo 20.
Jacket cover of The Seductions of Natalie Bach.

Photo 21a.
Cutthroat:  A Journal of the Arts ( logo.

Photo 21b
Cutthroat:  A Journal of the Arts Summer 2007 issue with cover art by Lucinda Luvaas.  (

Photo 22.
The office of William Luvaas.  Attributed to Lucinda Luvaas.  Copyright by William and Lucinda Luvaas.

Photo 23.
William and Lucinda Luvaas.  Copyright by William and Lucinda Luvaas.

Photo 24.
Ashes Rain Down: A Story Cycle
ebook version published by Foreverland Press.  (
cover art by Lucinda Luvaas.

Photo 25.
Going Under
ebook version published by Foreverland Press  (
cover art by Lucinda Luvaas.

Photo 26.
The Seductions of Natalie Bach.
ebook version published by Foreverland Press (
cover art by Lucinda Luvaas.

Photo 27.
The manuscript closet of William Luvaas.  Attributed to Lucinda Luvaas.  Copyright by William and Lucinda Luvaas.

Photo 28.
William Luvaas.  Attribution to Lucinda Luvaas.  Copyright by William and Lucinda Luvaas.

Photo 29.
The office of William Luvaas.  Attributed to Lucinda Luvaas.  Copyright by William and Lucinda Luvaas.

Photo 30.
Elizabeth Bishop in 1934.  Fair Use under the United States Copyright Law.

Photo 31.
Lucinda and Bill Luvaas at the Rose Bowl in 2012.   Copyright by Bill and Lucinda Luvaas.

Photo 32.
William Luvaas.  Attributed to Lucinda Luvaas.  Copyright by William and Lucinda Luvaas.