The Mida, (pronounced "mi-DAY"—an Ojibwa word meaning "mystically powerful), co-written by Lyle Ernst and Kimberly Sigafus is a novel about, yes, the Mida, a mystically powerful, time-traveling carnival that provides a haven for its people until the time comes for them to face the critical decisions they made in the past.
The authors have constructed the story with professional excellence, and this construction allows the reader to absorb the novel like a favorite snack. You just keep nibbling, turning page after page, until you realize you’ve devoured far more in one sitting than you intended.
The novel possesses a fine array of story elements. There are psychic abilities, Wiccan magic, Native American mysticism, a murder mystery, a reluctant romance, a dark entity of unmistakable evil, betrayal by a trusted member of the carnival, and the primary plot, which is, in Paul Simon's words, the mother and child reunion. And if that's not enough, there's also a white owl that locates the murderer and serves to link past to present.
Yet, the story does not feel at all crowded. The authors have managed to house all those things in a comfortable and roomy structure that entices the reader to just keep snacking, page after page.
The story begins with Tony, who is perplexed at the sudden overnight and quite silent arrival of a carnival, complete with rides and all the carnival trimmings in the lot across the street from his house. When he mentions this to Nola, his grandmother—the woman that has raised him to adulthood—she knows at once it is the Mida. But she says nothing about it to her grandson.
Tony, suspicious and aggressively curious, storms over to the carnival to demand an explanation from the owner. Carnivals do not just appear overnight, especially in their small town in October.
The owner and primary character is Mesa, an Ojibwa woman who is a part of the secret medicine society called the Midewiwan. She inherited the carnival when her husband, John, was killed by the dark entity Jiibay. The carnival has brought Mesa to 1952 Iowa to reunite with Tony, the son she left with John's mother twenty years before in order to keep him safe from Jiibay.
I liked Mesa. I usually like attractive female characters, but Mesa is more than that. She is, with stoic courage, dealing with the problems of the carnival and its workers. And as the challenges continue to pile on, one after another, she simply meets them head-on, quietly, without fanfare or retreat. She inspires the reader to want to be her confidant because she seems to need one. I also sympathized with her situation. While she is trying to deal with the predicament of her son, she finds herself and her carnival family under suspicion of a multiple murder that occurred apparently about the same time they arrived. One of the victims was Tony's girlfriend, so he is also a suspect.
And to make her life even more complicated, she finds herself romantically attracted to the sheriff investigating the crime, and he feels the same toward her, despite her status as a suspect. A romance might be just what she needs, yet she cannot indulge that need, for she will have to leave all too soon.
Each of the carnival workers has a unique gift of some sort, and the carnival itself enhances these gifts. But the Mida can only remain in one place for a week to avoid being discovered by Jiibay, who wants to take control of it and use its powers for his own evil purposes. So Mesa and her friends have only that long to use those gifts to discover the real murderer, removing themselves and Tony from suspicion.
And Mesa, Tony, and Tony's grandmother must struggle with the issue of why the carnival has brought Mesa to this here and now. Should Tony choose to stay with his grandmother and the life he has known, or leave with this stranger that has been revealed as the mother he thought long dead? Will Nola allow Tony, the only family she has left, to leave without protest? And does Mesa want him to stay, safe, or allow him to put himself in danger by joining the carnival?
I thoroughly enjoyed The Mida. My only issue was that even though those special powers are introduced earlier in the novel in a very natural way, when the climax arrived it seemed to me that those abilities reached a level of power I had not been lead to expect. Yet, to be fair, that level of achievement is explained in a way that is contextually consistent with the rest of the story.
Those powers are needed for the primary climax, which is the confrontation with the man that has committed multiple murders. And they are needed even more for the secondary climax, which is the confrontation with Jiibay and the betrayal of the carnival by one of its own.
The Mida is a stand-alone novel, but it is also the first in a series of eight planned stories. The authors finish the book with a teaser of what the next volume will bring.
Kimberly Sigafus and Lyle Ernst have both garnered multiple writing awards—individually as well as for their previous collaboration, Native Writers, Voices of Power. They have collaborated on two other books about Native American traditions and writings; this is their first fiction collaboration.
The Mida is available in paperback from Amazon and in e-book format through Kindle and Smashwords.
There isn't a lot of quality speculative fiction out there written with an understanding of Native American mysticism plus an open-minded acceptance of other paranormal features. This book does help fill that void, and it's a really good read, too.
copyright © 2014
available at amazon.com
♦ Fred Waiss is a former high school teacher and coach who writes poetry, articles, short stories, novellas, and novels as the muse attacks; as an author he considers himself a work in progress.
♦ This author's generous contributions help make P&S possible.
My writing career began thirty years ago with a personal experience how-to article that sold to The Water Skier magazine. My husband and I co-owned a water ski boat with another couple, and I shared how well our arrangement worked and what co-owners should include in their written contracts. The article was subsequently published in four additional magazines.
During those three decades, my essays, articles, devotionals, poetry, and children’s stories have appeared in more than 70 magazines. Many of these manuscripts incorporate experiences about my husband and daughters. Some are accompanied by family photos. And all of the stories have been enjoyable to write.
At first it was exciting to see my name in print. And the first time one of my articles was among the “call out’s” on the cover of a magazine I was thrilled. As time passed, though, my excitement turned to watching my list of credits grow and enjoying the checks I received from the publications. The thrill of merely seeing my name in print had faded.
Recently, my mother told me of an experience that happened to her thirty years ago. She had never shared with me that she was nearly mugged and robbed in her mom and pop gift shop as she was closing up one evening! God had intervened by sending a frequent customer at just the right moment which saved her from the potentially dangerous situation. I knew her story must be told. She was 86 years old now and had never written anything. She asked me to write the story for her. I wrote the “as told to” story and submitted it to Mysterious Ways magazine, a publication of Guideposts.
The editor bought and published my mother’s story. Her name was listed as the byline, and we both received payment. When our copies of the issue arrived, my mom was ecstatic to see her name in print. I was thrilled for her and proud that my elderly mother was now a published author. Had she never shared the story with me, readers would never have been blessed by her inspiring, mysterious incident.
Since then, I listen carefully to my mother’s conversations in a new light—realizing there are many more stories we can author together. We’re currently working on an experience from her childhood when she was two years old. She even dug up a photo of herself at that age to accompany the story.
Seeing my name in print thirty years ago was exciting but, over time, I came to understand that the stories are more powerful than my byline. Bringing my mother’s stories to the public decades later has given me the greatest satisfaction of all.
copyright © 2014
Sue Carloni has been published in more than 70 magazines in the religions and secular markets for both children and adults, including Guideposts, Woman’s World, and Mature Living.
'Many fish bite when you got good bait.'
For twenty-several years, that was the motto of my ad agency. I'd appropriated the line from an old blues song, and it appeared on all our signage, letterhead, business cards, and promotional materials. To me, those few folksy words exquisitely and completely captured the essence of selling. You have to bait the hook before you cast out the line. And the better the bait, the better the haul.
I don't write ads anymore. But I'm still in the business of selling. I sell stories. Not to agents, or editors or publishers, or movie moguls. I'm talking about Salesmanship 101. Selling my fictional fabrications to flesh-and-blood readers. Selling. Oh sure, I fancy myself a serious writer now, but I'll never abandon the bait and hook method of writing. Bait and hook are as essential to marketable writing as a Thesaurus. Yes, Virginia, that's the big book of words that mean the same thing.
I'm consistently frustrated by the number of otherwise decent writers who throw out their lines with old, tired, lifeless bait attached to rusty, frail hooks so dull they couldn't snag a whale stuck in a pickle jar. Geez, people, don't you realize that readers are bombarded with other entertainment options? Yes, Mr. Melville, I said entertainment. Maybe there's hope for you after all. Mr. Dickens was wordier than the telephone boiler-room of a presidential campaign, but he understood he was an entertainer. Mr. Twain, too.
What I'm trying to say, folks, is put a little salesmanship into your writing right from the jump. And try not to look down your noses when I say salesmanship. I'm not suggesting you sell out. Just sell up. It's my contention that there are more authors dying to write The Great Novel than there are people dying to read it. And I've yet to hear of a great novel no one read. Nor am I likely to.
By all means, stay true to your artistic sensibilities, my idealistic friends. But how about mixing in some entertainment, huh? I'm not talking car chases. A fresh and clever turn of phrase can be just as exciting. Or start your story in an unlikely place (Not setting, Jethro. I'm talking about using unexpected chronology to add zest from page one onward). Or cop an unexpected attitude. Be creative. And be creative right from the beginning. Then keep it up. That's how you sell a reader--one page at a time. When I wrote TV commercials, I knew I had fewer than ten seconds to hook my viewers. If I hadn't, I may as well have been talking to myself for sixty seconds. Writing short stories is not much different. No one has a reason to read my work unless I provide a reason, and do it--fast. Bloggers and memoirists please take special note: If you're writing isn't interesting, no one will be interested. Despite what you think. If you don't believe me, ask the untold millions of other people who don't care. They won't be hard to find.
Authors, accept this simple fact. Your work is no different from any other product. Yes, I said, product. You can refer to it as art if you must, but until a whole lot of other people call it art, you're better off thinking of it as a product, and writing with that realization in mind. Because if you haven't sold me something by the third paragraph, you're not likely to get the chance. And, believe it or not, I'm more empathetic than most.
♦ Lee Allen Hill is just a leftover hippie with a penchant for word-slinging.
♦ This author's generous contributions help make P&S possible.
Free verse, though a legitimate poetic style, is often exploited as a dump site for a load of pretty words by poets who neither understand nor respect the form.
The current fashion of writing a beautiful description and calling it a poem frosts my cookies. Sorry folks, I don’t care how pretty you dress up your noun, if there’s no verb, it ain’t a sentence. If your description doesn’t serve a purpose, you’ve raised my expectations for absolutely no good reason. You’ve wasted my time.
That’s disappointing, and disappointment makes me impatient. Impatience is not what I want to feel after immersing myself in a well-crafted description of yesterday’s sunrise. What’s the deeper meaning behind those artfully split light waves? It’s pretty? So take a picture! What I’m saying is: if your words have no point, no deeper philosophical meaning ... there is absolutely no point!
Not every page ribboned with unpunctuated words qualifies as free verse. Readers have expectations to be met in return for their investment of time in reading the poet’s work.
Free verse needs not follow a set pattern of rhyme or meter. The length of the poem is up to the writer. Like words set to music, it’s a lyrical style that evokes an emotional response. But the reader must perceive a message, a revelation, with the final words. Without that revelation, the poet’s work is incomplete and as satisfying as an unresolved chord.
So what does the thrifty poet do with all those lovely orphaned descriptions? Use them to caption vacation photos? Consider filing them for future use and inspiration. No telling when a profound thought will sprawl at one's feet begging to be dressed up for company.
N.K. Wagner is