Review: The Hearts of Men

 

Reviewed by Jay Gilbertson

 

This is a guy’s book; a grownup Boy Scout’s novel. It’s for some women too. Women who have loved bad men who broke their heart or men who came home from war, lugging the war with and—it’s about love and loss and hope. And underneath, it’s about revenge.

One of the main characters is the setting, a fictionalized Boy Scout camp situated on a chunk of beautiful land north of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, nestled along Bass Lake. The impressive collection of human characters in this story spans six decades and three generations, but swims around and around author Butler’s main Boy Scout; Nelson. Early on, when Nelson is a young man at camp, he is given some advice that follows (and haunts) him for the rest of his life.

“…the truth is, not all of these boys will become good men…good human beings. We do our best, try our damnedest to guide them, and instruct them. But in the end…Some boy in this room will become a murderer; another, a bank robber. Some of these boys will cheat on their taxes, others on their wives.”

As the interconnected storylines unfold, many of Nelson’s ‘friend’s’ lives unravel into divorce, murder, booze and loneliness. Through it all, Butler manages to wrap everyone’s life around some core Scout beliefs that if you walk with a moral code of good in your back pocket, somehow things could turn out. Or not.

“And now Jonathan turns his back on the younger boy, moves his head out of the tent, into the rain, “Sometimes,” he begins quietly, “I think you get mixed up in something, and it’s like stepping into a river. The current takes you and the next thing you know, you’re swimming…” He stands up fully and is gone, the flaps undulating behind him like green canvas curtains.”

On several occasions, stepping into a new scene or chapter, I had to backtrack in order to find the story thread forward. Once on track, the story moved onward in ways I found both exhilarating and very, very dark. Like life. Though female characters are few, one stands out, Rachel. Her inner thoughts are rich, rough, raw and sadly true.

“She’ll never marry again. Why would she? And it isn’t that she even desires another husband, or even, for that matter, a man, a lover. Men bore her, frankly. If only it weren’t so lonely, fighting the single-parent fight. Wouldn’t it be nice, she thinks, to simply have someone to confide in? Who had dinner ready when she came home from work?…To help pay the bills, carry the garbage out, remove a dead mouse from the basement…Just the kind of garden-variety male come-on a woman endures all the time until, of course, her body ages into simple invisibility.”

As the pages literally fly by and the ending lands neatly around you, Butler leaves you with a small ray of hope. And isn’t that what a really good read should do?

 

  • Soon to be a movie
  • Wisconsin Author
  • MORE has it—run!

November and NO Snow—Nice…

sunflowers-on-the-porch

 

This is our front door and those awesome sunflowers we grew from seed. Even at my age I still feel there’s a touch of magic in growing things. It just never ceases to amaze me that you can grow something so darn beautiful from a little seed that fits in your palm.

 

Love the mystery of it.

 

Could be why I enjoy the art and freedom and yes, mystery of writing. When the words are flying into my head and zipping through my fingers and onto the laptop-page, well trust me, I feel something. Not a believer in having a muse or wearing a lucky hat or all that other stuff so many authors seem to lean on. I simply read a poem to warm up, or gaze at a bouquet of wild flowers or sneak a look out my window, and if things are unfolding with my story in all the right ways (or wrong) off I zoom!

 

If the words are not lined up and ready to move onto the page, I get up and do something else. If I force the work—that’s exactly how it will read.

 

So, if inspiration doesn’t come into your current project—

 

Know that in the spring the seeds will grow again and somewhere—the sun is always shining.

Get Hoppy—It’s National Frog Month!

Toad

Welcome to spring and maybe to your first time over here in/on/with my personal website. It’s hard to know precisely how much effort to load into this baby since I am a trusty Facebook dude and post over there constantly. But don’t ask my mom, she is rarely on. Too busy.

 

Yet here I can expand more and not feel as though the entire world (wishful thinking, I would imagine) is going to pop in and place judgement. Being National Frog Month I will hop around a tad, taking advantage of this silly premise because as everyone knows, every day is Frog day—or rather Toad Time!

 

I am partial to toads.

 

Frogs, in my book, can take a leap.

 

Honestly.

 

They tend to be on the slimy side and have only croaks and ribbits to share where’s toads tend toward handing out warts and hop more than swim and certainly are more into hanging in the garden than splashing around in the pond—pad-to-pad—as it were.

 

And since we’re on the subject, (you started this after all, hopping over here) I really find it rather odd why on earth folks munch frog legs and then, on top of it all, say the most ridiculous things such as:

 

“…Tastes like chicken!” Usually with a miniature Kermit-like foot hanging from their surly lips. Is that what a lion murmurs finishing off a human?

 

These and other priceless gems are what you get to devour when you hop on over to this webpage. And don’t forget to add your very own comments and thoughts and ideas of things you’d like to know more about and skip the frog recipes please and that would go double time for toad.

 

Now hop outside and don’t forget to take a book!

 

 

Month—O—LOVE

chocolate-heart-5001

The number uno-selling genre in the entire universe, no lie, is ROMANCE. Well, and a rather new one often referred to as ‘Mom Porn’. That would mainly be the hugely popular Fifty Shades of—S & M. I have to admit, I have yet to read it, or them as there are three and now a movie. Good for the author and she certainly put a face on the self-publishing world.

 

Then we have this month of February and the 14th in particular and all the Hallmark cards and candy and roses and dinners out.

 

Why? Why do we go bonkers for the 14th? Is it romance or the love part or what?

 

Let’s delve a little deeper and simply do some wondering and along the way I think we’ll find our answer.

 

C’mon!

 

So, you’ve read author Nicholas Spark’s ‘The Notebook’, seen the movie (more than once, maybe) and who in the world hasn’t daydreamed of being ‘rescued’ from this thing called life? Strife, more like. For some it seems logging onto Zoosk (weird name people) or eHarmony or Rural-Singles-Look-Here is the answer to love. Or not.

 

Sure, folks want to read about love, but the actual doing love part? Not so much. So let’s give ‘em more romance. Write on!

 

More than half of us are now living alone. Tons and tons of people watching Netflix solo. And guess what, they’re loving it! What does it all mean? Maybe the reason romance is this huge genre is that it’s so much easier (less mess, let’s be honest here) living alone.

 

So—if you are single and as the 14th rolls around, give yourself a Valentine. Take yourself out for a really nice dinner, buy you some roses and a big box of chocolates and leave a lipstick smack on your own mirror!

 

Think of all the money/time/heartache you’ll save yourself (and your family) from.

 

Because, after all, YOU are never alone…sorry Mister Sparks.

Place=Inspiration=Writing/Baking

Flanagan Third Floor

Ever wonder where authors get their mojo? The magic powder that they sprinkle over their keyboards filled with secret codes only they can decipher? Well, you may be in for a surprise. That muse you see them welcome every morning along with picking out their lucky cap is all rolled into one truth.

 

It’s all fiction folks!

 

There is no magic to what we do. Only hard work with a hefty dose of inspiration and that can come from any number of sources. For me, it seems, to mostly come from a physical place. Setting is so important to my writing life. Once I have my setting figured out, I can usually roll out the story.

 

Recently we were with friends in Ripon, Wisconsin and they showed us an old building they are considering buying. The top floor had been boarded up since the forties. It felt haunted to me. Lonely and forlorn, creepy. Filled with possibility. It was once a grand space. There was a small stage in one area, another room had a huge covered-over rectangle that could have been a skylight and the possibilities started stacking up.

 

My imagination bounced off those peeling walls and I could see and hear and imagine. I was filled with story.

 

And yes, the characters that bring life to a novel, for me, are based on real people. Any author who says otherwise is making it up. Honestly.

 

When I teach writing, or even offer up my two-cents of how to get your novel going, I use baking as an analogy to creating story. You need a bowl (setting) and the ingredients (characters) to add in just the right measure. Then it has to rise and become something else (conflicts) and be punched down (more conflicts) and then baked and sliced and enjoyed (resolution).

 

With a whole, hell-ova lot of cool shit to keep things interesting!

 

There. Now you know how it’s done. Any questions?