Monthly Archives: July 2014

Mikawadizi Storms: The Illustrations

Upcoming magical realism novel, Mikawadizi Storms has 45 chapters, each revolving around a different character. The characters’ names are the chapter headings. Each chapter begins with a drawing of the character and a quote. Some characters appear in many chapters as the overall narrative unfolds — this isn’t 45 short stories, but one mainly linear story involving many characters and perspectives. Below is a description of the story, and below that, the 45 illustrations and quotes.

Thirty-five, unemployed, and rebounding from a failed relationship, Evie Arnold reluctantly moves back in with her parents. She dusts off an old journalism degree and sets out to write freelance human interest stories. Her first project is to cover the emerging conflict between billionaire Clive Gready, who is intent on digging an open-pit mine in magnificent Mikawadizi hills, and the La Roche Verte Band of Indians, who are pledged to protect their ancestors’ ancient homeland from this defilement. Evie begins the project neutral and objective, but soon her research and interviewing nudge her toward the Indian camp. She’s in the thick of things when all hell breaks loose. Mikawadizi Storms casts characters drawn with bold strokes into situations spiked with magic and smoldering with tensions of contradictory world views pitted against each other in an all-consuming contests of will. The offspring of these conflicts are enchanting narratives, with extraordinary characters sweeping into miraculous, magical outcomes.

Wesley Dubois: “We may be related.”

Wesley Dubois: “We may be related.”

Descendants know what their ancestors learn. I think it makes all the sense in the world.

Descendants know what their ancestors learn. I think it makes all the sense in the world.

Ward Commercant: “Capitalism is a treadmill where you run until your heart breaks”

Ward Commercant: “Capitalism is a treadmill where you run until your heart breaks”

Walt Strider: “We don’t have earthquakes here in Meskousing, not big ones anyway.”

Walt Strider: “We don’t have earthquakes here in Meskousing, not big ones anyway.”

Wally Wittstruck: “We got video that makes you look like some cheap-ass organ-grinder’s monkey - gimme, gimme, gimme!”

Wally Wittstruck: “We got video that makes you look like some cheap-ass organ-grinder’s monkey – gimme, gimme, gimme!”

Wade Rivers: “By bullshit she means I may have taken some narrative liberties.”

Wade Rivers: “By bullshit she means I may have taken some narrative liberties.”

Senator Gerry Spitz: “Don’t you think we should stand a little further to the right?”

Senator Gerry Spitz: “Don’t you think we should stand a little further to the right?”

Senator Biff Fanny: “This opportunity seems insurmountable.”

Senator Biff Fanny: “This opportunity seems insurmountable.”

Sara Laurent: “Can I be Indian and still be a scientist?”

Sara Laurent: “Can I be Indian and still be a scientist?”

Preston Prescott: ““Indians! They’re Indians! Once you grasp that everything falls into place.”

Preston Prescott: ““Indians! They’re Indians! Once you grasp that everything falls into place.”

She named the boys Edward III and Edward IV, but calls them Niso, and Niyo, except when she wants to get the attention of both, when she simply calls Edwards!

She named the boys Edward III and Edward IV, but calls them Niso, and Niyo, except when she wants to get the attention of both, when she simply calls Edwards!

Napoleon: “There’s no recording devices allowed in the compound, not cameras, not voice recorders, not telephones, not nothing.”

Napoleon: “There’s no recording devices allowed in the compound, not cameras, not voice recorders, not telephones, not nothing.”

The experience of the Patriot Mine left lasting imprints on the Mikawadizi Hills and on the related cultures -- both the La Roche Verte, and on the immediate Western culture.

The experience of the Patriot Mine left lasting imprints on the Mikawadizi Hills and on the related cultures — both the La Roche Verte, and on the immediate Western culture.

Marjorie Wilkins: “Cats – It’s like they’re not of this world.”

Marjorie Wilkins: “Cats – It’s like they’re not of this world.”

Makwa: “What is going on down there? What got those spirits so worked up?”

Makwa: “What is going on down there? What got those spirits so worked up?”

Louis Dubois: “Of course I’ve read the assignment. I’m ready for the quiz.”

Louis Dubois: “Of course I’ve read the assignment. I’m ready for the quiz.”

Lotta Moore: “We take good care of her and she takes good care of us.”

Lotta Moore: “We take good care of her and she takes good care of us.”

Karen Prescott: “He’ll be born without a heart!”

Karen Prescott: “He’ll be born without a heart!”

Josh Migizi: “So what? I walk up to Cammie in the grocery store and I say, I hear you’re having a baby. Am I the father?”

Josh Migizi: “So what? I walk up to Cammie in the grocery store and I say, I hear you’re having a baby. Am I the father?”

Johnny Appleplanter: “There’s something I must tell the world! Trees can talk!”

Johnny Appleplanter: “There’s something I must tell the world! Trees can talk!”

Jimmy Duquesne: “Are there pills you’re supposed to take?”

Jimmy Duquesne: “Are there pills you’re supposed to take?”

Ghost Cat: “If we’re going to be partners there’re some things we need to get straight.”

Ghost Cat: “If we’re going to be partners there’re some things we need to get straight.”

“This is heaven? It looks just like the Mikawadizi Hills.”

“This is heaven? It looks just like the Mikawadizi Hills.”

Evelyn Arnold: “I feel a dark cloud has billowed up around us.”

Evelyn Arnold: “I feel a dark cloud has billowed up around us.”

The young French nobleman cut a dashing, though diminutive, figure in his heavy woolen shirt and pants, knee-high leather boots and crimson scarf.

The young French nobleman cut a dashing, though diminutive, figure in his heavy woolen shirt and pants, knee-high leather boots and crimson scarf.

Edna Swineburne blinked and sniffed, causing the nostrils at the end of her long, slender nose to dilate slightly. “I smell money.”

Edna Swineburne blinked and sniffed, causing the nostrils at the end of her long, slender nose to dilate slightly. “I smell money.”

Dr. Stuart Suring: “Hormonal changes in particular can have surprising effects on how we perceive the world.”

Dr. Stuart Suring: “Hormonal changes in particular can have surprising effects on how we perceive the world.”

Dr. Zumo: “My counselor’s name was Danny, but we called him Handy Dandy because of his obsession with masturbation!”

Dr. Zumo: “My counselor’s name was Danny, but we called him Handy Dandy because of his obsession with masturbation!”

Dr. Ed Commercant: “The walls of the cave were striped with seams of pure silver.”

Dr. Ed Commercant: “The walls of the cave were striped with seams of pure silver.”

Douglas Fournier: “Mark me well. There will be no open pit mine in the Mikawadizi Hills.”

Douglas Fournier: “Mark me well. There will be no open pit mine in the Mikawadizi Hills.”

Dorothy Arnold: “She was mummified under the sofa in your study. I guess she was waiting for you to come in and read something.”

Dorothy Arnold: “She was mummified under the sofa in your study. I guess she was waiting for you to come in and read something.”

 Deloris Le Boeuf: “You want something else to eat?”

Deloris Le Boeuf: “You want something else to eat?”

 David Arnold: “I don’t know how apple pie came to be what things are as American as.”

David Arnold: “I don’t know how apple pie came to be what things are as American as.”

Clive Gready: “Indians, regulators, weather, doesn’t matter what the obstacle, we keep moving forward.”

Clive Gready: “Indians, regulators, weather, doesn’t matter what the obstacle, we keep moving forward.”

Clinton Makwasaam: “Photographs say more about who takes them than who’s in them; Drawings and paintings even more so.”

Clinton Makwasaam: “Photographs say more about who takes them than who’s in them; Drawings and paintings even more so.”

Cliff Hangers: “I don’t have to put up with this! I’m a journalist!”

Cliff Hangers: “I don’t have to put up with this! I’m a journalist!”

Chief Namekagon: “You can’t eat me! “You ate me already!”

Chief Namekagon: “You can’t eat me! “You ate me already!”

Cheryl Pepin: “She’s the mate of the mucho-macho sky god. When they screw the thunder rolls.”

Cheryl Pepin: “She’s the mate of the mucho-macho sky god. When they screw the thunder rolls.”

Cammie Loon: “Right now he has my tit in his mouth. It makes him look a little...I don’t know...sucky.”

Cammie Loon: “Right now he has my tit in his mouth. It makes him look a little…I don’t know…sucky.”

Bolt Steelee: “The land mines aren’t line mines per se.”

Bolt Steelee: “The land mines aren’t line mines per se.”

Bart Gready: “If trees can talk, I’d like to hear them.”

Bart Gready: “If trees can talk, I’d like to hear them.”

April Le Boeuf: “My Grandmother sleeps in these hills.”

April Le Boeuf: “My Grandmother sleeps in these hills.”

Apple Strudel turned his head and his huge brown eye met her eyes. The message was clear – Shut up!

Apple Strudel turned his head and his huge brown eye met her eyes. The message was clear – Shut up!

Ann Gaazhagens: “Fun? Like when I kicked your ass in the Hanson case?”

Ann Gaazhagens: “Fun? Like when I kicked your ass in the Hanson case?”

Alison Martin: “What do you call these militia men who took aim on children and fired, ripping their bodies open with lead bullets?”

Alison Martin: “What do you call these militia men who took aim on children and fired, ripping their bodies open with lead bullets?”

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Magical Realism Bloghop Coming Soon!

Coming in a few weeks… the Magical Realism Bloghop (like a pub crawl, but more literary). This event is organized by Zoe Brooks, who writes wonderful reviews of magical realism books: Zoe’s Blog

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So far sixteen blogs have signed on. I’m looking forward to reading the posts and beginning to assemble my contribution.

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Keeping Score: The Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters Grades the Lawmakers

Senator Tiffany (my senator) heads up the dishonor role. Come on Senator — the people you represent deserve better!

The Badger and the Whooping Crane

The new month of July has dawned with the annual Conservation Scorecard from the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters at the top of my InBox. It’s always an interesting resource, and to me it seems well worth the price of a membership with WLCV.

This one was particularly nice to get since it identifies some bi-partisan co-operation on important conservation issues and some hope for Wisconsin’s tradition of strong protections for natural resources. And it gives the credit for that renewed bi-partisan spirit not to the politicians in our state legislature, but to the thousands of engaged Wisconsinites who kept the pressure on their state lawmakers to do the right thing for clean air and water.

IMG_2451 (2) Keep Wisconsin Beautiful: At Necedah NWR (A Badger & Whooping Crane photo).

“We were happy to see glimmers of Wisconsin’s nonpartisan conservation legacy this session” said Ann Sayers, the Program Director WLCV, noting that…

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Field Trip to the Penokee Hills

I drove 50 miles up and down the Penokee Hills on roads like this and worse.

Drove 50 miles up and down the Penokee Hills on roads like this and worse.

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Lake Superior from near the Wisconsin/Michigan border. The great inland sea, called Gichigami by the Ojibwa. Here is the largest fresh water lake in the world (by surface area) and 10 percent of the world’s surface fresh water (and not frozen at the poles). Water clarity is startling.

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A stream near the Penokee Hills cascades on its way to Lake Superior.

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Ashland, WI, features a number of murals on downtown buildings.

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The Penokee Hills, subject of this exploring.

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Silver Street in Hurley, WI – famous for its prostitutes.

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These photos are from a weekend exploration of the Penokee Hills, the setting for upcoming novel, Mikiwadizi Storms. I wanted to get a feel for this area in order to represent it with sensitivity. These hills are an ancient mountain range, something like the Alps, but worn down over many millennia of erosion. The novel draws on an intense controversy now raging over these hills – mining interests would dig a 24-mile long open pit iron ore mine here. The tribe next door (Bad River Ojibwa) are dead set against it. Many locals support the project, because of the jobs it would bring, and the boost to local economy.

Mikiwadizi Storms is fiction (magical realism, in fact) but it echoes some of the voices engaged in this controversy. In this fictional representation (all names are changed) the mining project moves ahead, ultimately to disastrous results. No doubt this reflects my environmental leaning, but the novel isn’t based on predisposition alone, rather, some good reasons:

  1. The mining interests, based out of the area, have corrupted (i.e. given campaign contributions to) local political  processes and politicians. Certainly they have an interest and should have a voice in the debate, but not that way. I resent their attempts to buy elections.
  2. There is no example of a mine of this sort that hasn’t been fined for polluting water. The water at stake here is Lake Superior (see photo), holding 10 percent of the worlds fresh water that is above ground and not frozen perpetually. The owners claim this mine will not cause such pollution, but clearly this is unwarranted optimism. I’m reminded of the off-shore, deep-water oil drilling operators, who, until the BP platform exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, believed they could bring oil from the sea bottom through such depths without danger. Optimism is good, but here we need hard-core realism. What is the plan when water polluted in the ore processing seeps into the ground water and makes its way to Lake Superior?
  3. The local benefits (jobs and boost to the economy) are short term and unsustainable. Isn’t it time we committed to sustainable use (and renewal) of resources? Clearly we (or our descendants) will do this one day and clearly the transition gets more difficult the longer we postpone.

Some characters in Mikiwadizi Storms advocate for the mine; others against it. There are many more arguments that presented here, but you’ll have to wait for the novel to be released (September, if all continues to go well) to read them.

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