Very interesting article on the what’s going on in the heads of creative people.
Very interesting article on the what’s going on in the heads of creative people.
While looking for something to plug into my ears while I work, I came across some Philip Glass music. From my understanding, Glass is what is called a minimalist musician. Some of his stuff I honestly just don’t get, but then there is the album Koyaanisqatsi, which means “life out of balance” in Hopi.
A once good friend from up Albany way whom I’ve not been in contact with for, God, 10+ years and on whom I partially blame for helping me to discover my apparently not-so-shabby ability to write erotica stories, introduced Glass to me. It’s different, it’s very, very different.
It turns out that Koyaanisquatsi is actually a movie soundtrack. I had no idea that was the case until this morning, so poked around beyond that to see what other weirdness Glass was up to. I was not disappointed. Another piece called Einstein on the Beach is almost fifteen minutes of seemingly random counting, spoken word, and single long held notes played on an electric keyboard. The Hours isn’t so bad and the music for The Kiss is alright even if the video is more than a little bizarre. Is that cotton candy she’s wearing?
As much as I like “Koyaanisquatsi” in small doses and listening to music beyond the top twenty soft rock, country, and/or pop tunes that are played on the radio – today I think I made the wiser choice and settled on my favorite stand-by of taking in some even earlier memories from back when I was just a kid; good old episodes of CBS Radio Mystery Theater instead.
I’m feeling pretty balanced lately and I’m afraid that listening to too much Philip Glass might throw that all out of whack. Besides, I really don’t need to be any wackier.
It’s been a crazy, busy, week here in my little world. The Good, the Bad, and the Maybe-Not-Quite-So-Attractive.
The Good, of course, is the recent release of my second paranormal murder mystery. The handful of people who have read it said they enjoyed it. Of course, that includes my mom and fiancée so they may be a bit partial. Still, they are being encouraging, positive support for this crazy, lifelong dream of mine. I’ll take it. I need all the ego-boosting I can get. It’s not that I think bad of myself, but as any writer who is struggling to find their way can tell you, we all tend to think at one time or another that maybe we’re just not good enough, that our stories don’t matter, and question why we keep plodding along with this self-torture. We do it because we can’t not do it. As I posted on Facebook recently, “Writing to me is a lot like breathing. I can stop any time I want, but doing so would prove fatal.”
The Bad happened last night at around 7:30. Sitting here at the computer, I thought I heard sirens going off. It seemed far away. On clear nights when the wind blows just right we can hear them from the neighboring town three miles away. I didn’t think much about it, until I glanced up and looked towards the window our Christmas tree stands in. I saw flashing lights and a line of fire trucks head up the road. Still not too concerned, I went to the front door and said to Jim, “Here comes a fire truck parade.” Except, after a few more seconds, the parade had not gone by. I stepped out onto the front porch, looked and lo and behold, the neighbors house was on fire! Luckily, our lot sizes in this part of town are pretty big. It’s a good hundred feet or more from my house to the neighbors. It looked like it could have been a chimney fire, which seems on since we’ve been having such an unseasonably warm winter this year. The one guy who was home got out safely along with their two dogs. The house, however, did not fare so well.
It’s an old place; roughly the same age as mine, built circa 1886, built by the Seeley Family for workers of the mill as well as some of the family members. There are about seven of these homes, all looking very much alike if you pause to study them. When my ex and I moved here in 1995, some great people lived in the house next door. Bob and June were older, in their early-mid 70s, and very friendly without being intrusive. Bob rounded up our dog more than once when she broke free of her outside chain and often shared the stories he knew about our place. He’d lived next door since about 1929 and was fastidious about his lawn. June would often bring over goodies from her small tomato garden and leave them on my porch, or cookies and other baked goods. Good people. Sadly, they both passed away in around 2009. The place was never the same since. I’ll just leave it at that.
I feel bad for the two young men who lived there when all this happened. The family has been rife with tragedy for the past five years. They moved into that place after their previous home caught fire and they just lost one of their brothers a few years back on New Year’s Eve due to a car accident.
As for the Maybe-Not-Quite-So-Attractive, it’s time for Jim to head to the dentist! He’s been having a lot of trouble with his teeth for years now and finally was able to take it no more. We found a place nearby that will take his insurance so we’re off today to get matters taken care of at long last. Can anyone say, “Christmas Dinner Ala Blender”? Yeah, he’s not going to be his usual attractive self for about eight weeks, but I can deal with that and it’s a lot better than seeing him in pain and suffering. I’m glad it’s finally going to get taken care of and he’ll have a beautiful smile for those wedding pictures in August!
And that has been my week so far! And it’s only Wednesday!
As I do every year just before Halloween I bought some pumpkins. My heart wasn’t into it as much this time around, but who am I to break a lifelong tradition? I considered carving them into Jack-o’-lanterns, but that never happened. The smallest of the three succumbed early to rot. The other two sat on the porch quietly awaiting their fates. Would they, too, be food for the birds and critters?
Last week Jim asked about them, suggesting I actually process them and make a pie. It was a novel idea and not one I have not considered in the past. It did seem a waste to just let them sit around only to eventually be tossed out back into the compost pile.
On Saturday, I made the commitment and set to work cutting, gutting, cooking, puréeing, and freezing the smaller of the two still edible squashes. I figured the big one wouldn’t be as good for human consumption and frankly I don’t use a lot of pumpkin in anything to begin with. This was more a fun project than anything else. I ended up with 12 cups of home-processed pumpkin. Not a bad haul and easy enough to make.
As my mind is wont to do, it wandered off while all this was going on. It kept repeating that old nursery rhyme in my head, “Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater” to the point of turning into something more than a little disturbing.
Consider the whole rhyme for a moment:
Peter, Peter pumpkin eater,
Had a wife but couldn’t keep her;
He put her in a pumpkin shell
And there he kept her very well.
Peter, Peter pumpkin eater,
Had another and didn’t love her;
Peter learned to read and spell,
And then he loved her very well.
Seriously think about this.
This guy Peter, apparently a HUGE fan of pumpkins, can’t seem to keep his wife interested. His solution is to put her inside a pumpkin shell and keep her there. First off, that’s one big pumpkin. Second, how did she go about her domestic duties once put into this shell… or did she? He’s a known eater of pumpkins. He stuffs his difficult wife into a pumpkin. Does he then eat the pumpkin and possibly his wife in the process?
As I cooked my own pumpkins, I pondered this more times than is probably healthy. Maybe Peter was actually a cannibal! Maybe putting her into a pumpkin shell is the nice way of saying he butchered her, ala Mr. Todd and his lovely assistant Mrs. Lovett.
Which brings us to the next verse. The wife Peter stuffed into (and possibly ate) a pumpkin shell was apparently not his one and only. His second wife he was unable to love until he could read and spell (write). I get the feeling Peter was not a particularly bright man. Perhaps he envied this other wife’s education. I’m going to speculate she was pretty well off considering this poem is believed to have been first published around 1825, a time when well-read women weren’t quite so common as they are today.
After eating his first wife, Peter found another woman he admired. Unfortunately, she lived in a world above his. Maybe he was but a mere pumpkin farmer and felt he didn’t have a chance with this new woman until he could improve on his own education. So, Peter somewhere along the line learned to read and spell. Only then was he able to approach this new love with the confidence he needed. It never says if she loved him back, mind you. I would like to think she did, otherwise I’m guessing she, too, would have ended up on the dinner table.
All this because I decided to be frugal and not waste my pumpkins this year.
As Edgar A. Poe once wrote, “I am a writer, therefor I am not sane.” Yeah, I really think there may be some truth to all that. Do sane people think about Peter the Pumpkin Eater as a poorly educated pumpkin farming cannibal?
And yet people continue to ask where horror writers get their twisted and dark ideas from!
Oh, and by the way, enjoy your pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving!
Acorns, acorns everywhere! It’s that time of year when walking around the Arts Quad here at work, or walking to the parking lot can be hazardous to your health. The mass quantity of oak trees we have on campus are shedding their bounty, acorns. They fall randomly. They cover the sidewalks. They get kicked while you walk, crushed under tires, and many a squirrel is gathering and burying them for later.
A couple years back, upon seeing all these nuts, I pondered if they were edible. I mean, they are EVERYWHERE! If we can eat them like the squirrels do, why aren’t we taking advantage of them? It’s free food for goodness sake! As it turns out, they are edible. “Three Fat Guys In The Woods” made some porridge out of them. I found a recipe for Acorn-Maple Cookies made with Acorn Flour.
Last week, as acorns fell from trees barely missing my head and bounced off the sidewalk behind me, I decided that I would try my hand at the incredible, edible acorn. I gathered 30-40 nuts from a variety of different trees over the course of three days. I didn’t want to get too carried away with this, in case they proved to be nasty. While dinner cooked, I started cracking them open with a hammer because, well, who the heck knows where my real nutcracker is?
Other than a few nuts that went flying across the kitchen and my fiancé coming out wondering what the heck I was doing, then asking “Why?” when I told him, (answer: In the event of a Zombie Apocalypse and we’re desperate for food, of course) it was a pretty easy and quick process. Some of the nuts I’d chosen were too old. The meat inside was a shriveled, dry thing the size of a raisin. The majority however, proved in good shape.
I moved on to step two after dinner by placing the freshly shucked nut meats into a shallow dish of cold water to soak overnight. Acorns contain a pretty hearty amount of tannins which makes them super bitter to eat right from the shell. I tried a little pre-soak nibble and almost immediately spit it back out. The next morning I drained the brownish-yellow water and refilled the pan to let the nuts soak another eight hours. Another nibble was taken and again, spat out. So far, so bad.
Next, I placed them into a pan and began the boiling process. I let them simmer for about 15 minutes, drained, nibbled (without spitting it out this time) and boiled a second time for another 15 minutes. I drained again and this time, let them sit in the strainer to dry. The final product after three days was a couple handfuls of, hopefully, edible acorn nuts!
The final step, taking more than just a nibble. I removed a good-sized piece, popped it in my mouth, chewed cautiously and well, hm. Not so bad. The vast majority of the bitterness was now gone. There wasn’t a lot of flavor to them, a bit like a bland macadamia nut, but they were certainly edible. I think I’ll maybe try and roast them a bit next and add a touch of salt before presenting them to the family for a taste test.
Will I do this again? I don’t know. It was a lot of fun really and now that I know better what to look for when gathering the nuts so I get fewer dried up raisins stumps, I may move on to try and make some Acorn Flour and bake up some of those Acorn-Maple cookies I saw a recipe for next.
Although this has apparently been going around for a few years now, I’ve only just learned about the whole BerenstEin – BerenstAin kerfuffle and am pretty much stunned. It’s been tumbling around in my head for the past few days. I add my voice to that shared by the “Universe E” people. And now, I hope, it’s time for you to learn about it, too! Enjoy.
We had company last night, my boyfriend’s Uncle Lloyd and his uncle’s wife, Betty. It was a very casual affair with a simple, homemade meal. Up for discussion were mainly travel adventures and life in the gated senior community they now call home in South Carolina. They were both dismayed that neither of them were able to make the senior citizen’s baseball team. Their attempts to do so were quite comical though.
Of course, considering the crowd, the topic of writing came up. Jim mentioned he’d just finished reading one of my books. I’m very modest about my writing efforts because I guess I just don’t feel my ‘successes’ are worth mentioning. They don’t live up to my expectations of where I’d hoped to be at this point in my life. I’m published, but pfft, I don’t even bring in $200 a year on what I have out there.
The banter turned to things like, “Some people who write never get ANYTHING published,” and “Sometimes luck plays just as big a role as talent.” Betty commented that sometimes it’s just a matter of finding the RIGHT reader, the person who loves your work and knows who’s who and what’s what in the business. I haven’t found that person. Sometimes I wonder if I ever will. When Jim and I last saw his cousin nearly a year ago, he said he wasn’t the best writer in the writing classes he took. To paraphrase part of the conversation, “There were a lot of people in those classes who were far better writers than I am. I, however, was the most persistent [in getting published].”
Persistence, as the saying goes, paid off for Jim’s cousin. I am doing my best to be persistent. I try to have queries out there at all times, always hoping that eventually one will come back with something other than the generic, “We’re sorry, but this isn’t what we’re looking for right now,” rejection form letter. If Queries are the Job Applications of the writing world then I am not finding any gainful employment here. If you’ve ever been desperately looking for a job and either never hear back or go to one interview after another only to be told, “Sorry, you’re not quite what we’re looking for,” you know the feeling well. It sucks, doesn’t it?
You can’t give up though, can you? No, not if you really care about getting a job. You’re driven to keep on filling out the forms, submitting the letters, and tweaking this or that to adjust the resume to fit the job you are applying for. What does it take to land that job? The right person to see it and realize, “Hey, this person’s got some potential. Let’s give him a shot and see.” That’s really all I’m asking for, a chance beyond the erotica.
To add insult to injury, over the past few years I’ve read a number of novels by quite famous female writers and I just shake my head wondering. They were alright, but as modest as I am, I write just as well, if not better, than they do. The plot to one was over the top predictable. Another told me the story instead of showing me. That was even more annoying. A third contained some of the most two-dimensional characters I’ve ever encountered. Yet, there they are, out there, known, loved, embraced, accepted and appreciated for their skills.
A few weeks back I finished writing my ninth novel. I have at least three more in me patiently waiting for their stories to be told. Where will these go? I’m not sure I want to know. If I knew they’d never be shared with anyone but a handful of family and friends, would I make the effort to write them? If I knew they’d bring me millions, would I put more effort into getting them done? Will that elusive Right Reader that Betty mentioned EVER enter my life? Is it any wonder so many writers are slightly insane? How do I up the odds of making it? What about my queries is not getting through to the right person?
The doubts creep in and tear me apart all too often. All the encouraging words sometimes don’t do much to lift the spirits of the jobless man standing in the soup line. He needs the job. He wants the job. He KNOWS he can do that job. His wife, family and friends are encouraging and supportive. They tell him to keep trying. In his mind, he remains an unrecognized and unwanted failure.
That’s the place I am standing now, bowl in hand. I’ve not given up. I’ll persist a while longer. I’ll write. I’ll edit, rewrite and submit again and again. I’ll try and look at Lloyd and Betty’s visit as another nudge in the right direction – that little glimmer of hope offered to me over a honking big serving bowl of Chicken Alfredo with broccoli and sweet red peppers on a hot and humid Tuesday night in July.
The Story Link idea came about while I was working on “That’s What Shadows Are Made Of” and was considering the back story of one of my murder suspects. Where was the character from? What was the character’s secret? Why did the character act the way they did in certain situations?
At first the Story Link was very minor and just something I tossed in there for fun, but once I got thinking about it, I realized how cool an idea it really was. Why not link ALL the stories I had in mind together in this way? Maybe the link would be really obvious, as with the first two murder mysteries. They take place in the same area of New York State. They have some of the same characters. The Greenbrier Trilogy is, of course, the same way. It’s a trilogy. They are all meant to go together. Maybe the link would appear to be just a minor scene or bit of dialog within the grand scheme of things.
Then along came “No Rest For The Wicked”, my first novel length ghost story. It takes place over 300 miles from the fictional town of Barnesville. What could these two locations possibly have in common? I already had an answer, of course. And so it was that the Story Link formed between my murder mysteries, the paranormal writings and my older, previously published erotica series. In the meantime, other links are being brought together in stories I’ve written only a chapter or two of.
How will “Dark Hollow Road”, which takes place in Eastern Pennsylvania, be story linked to any of the others already mentioned? “Ghost Town” starts and ends in Texas and the characters are Texas natives. What on earth could they have to do with a bunch of New Englanders or Virginians? Then there’s “When The Darkness Presses” which features a bunch of kids growing up in the mid-1970’s who face the unsavory (and possibly deadly) consequences of meeting up with the infamous Hag. Where will any of them fit into a Story Link?
As it stands now, only two of my completed novels are without links to anything written before or after them. This could change. I don’t know how or when, but it could happen. Stories are like that. Characters like to suddenly pipe up, “Hey! What about me? When do I get my turn?!”
So, yeah, Story Links have become my little writing quirk. I don’t claim it to be an original idea, but I am hard pressed to come up with any author I’ve read a lot of who I’ve seen do it. On the outside, the novels may appear to have absolutely nothing to do with each other. On the inside, well, I guess we’ll just have to wait and find out, won’t we?
Another year has rolled around and my birthday is fast approaching, not that anyone would have the time to recognize that fact. They are all too busy shopping for Christmas or Chanukah gifts, too busy baking holiday cookies, too many office parties to go to, too many guests coming over for Ugly Sweater Parties. Too many decorations to put up and a tree to trim and on and on. There just aren’t enough hours in the day during December to take a moment to recognize the December Birthday Boy or Girl.
I didn’t always feel this way. As a kid my parents always made an effort to keep my birthday something apart from Christmas. A special cake would be made. I’d get to pick what I wanted for dinner or where I’d like to go out to eat. My presents came wrapped in real-live birthday paper. Birthday cards even came in the mail addressed just to me.
The first time I had to make my own birthday cake is when it all really started to go downhill. Not sure what year that was (only that I was still living at home with my parents) or how I somehow found myself completely alone with the realization that if I wanted my chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting and mint chocolate chip ice cream that I was going to have to go about getting those things myself. I only remember that I was alone and I made my own cake and I cried. It wasn’t until the next day that someone suggested maybe we should get together and celebrate it after the fact. I accepted it all graciously because I reckoned it was better late than never.
I hate to complain, I really and truly do, but having a December birthday really does suck. Every year you get to hear at least one person say, “Oh, you mean I have to get you a birthday present, too?!” No, you don’t have to get me a birthday present, but just keep that in mind when your birthday rolls around during any one of the other eleven months of the year.
Some people don’t make a big deal out of their birthdays and that’s fine, but others look forward to them and forward to the celebration with family and friends and having just ONE day out of the year they can call their own. I knew a couple of people in school and within my family that share my birthday with me and that was actually cool, we could commiserate together over the lack of overall recognition.
Since that first birthday spent alone and/or unrecognized came about, it’s happened more and more. My birthday to others has become an afterthought, and let’s face it, a downright inconvenience. At least that’s how it has felt to me. Think about this. What if every year you never heard a peep from anyone on your birthday? No one called. No one sent you a card, let alone gave you a gift. No one invited you out for any sort of anything. Your special day is completely forgotten and ignored by everyone. Or if they did give you a gift, they said, “Happy Birthday and Merry Christmas” even if your birthday is say, in August.
I am fully aware at how selfish this all sounds. That’s why it’s taken me so long to get to this point where I can actually speak up about it. It’s still not comfortable, but being quiet and modest and claiming it doesn’t really bother me is a lie. It does bother me. It bothers me A LOT! I’m not asking for extravagant gifts or a full-blown party with all the works. No, I’m asking, like millions of other December Birthday People out there, for simple recognition that we were indeed born and that we do indeed have a birthday just like everyone else. Every now and then it’s nice to be recognized that we’ve managed to live another year and that maybe that fact is considered a good thing by those that know and love us. You do love us, right, despite the inconvenient time of year we were born?
I used to look forward to my birthday. I don’t anymore and not for the usual reasons other dis-likers of birthday’s people give. I like the idea of getting older. It sure beats the alternative! Now, I just assume it will be another ordinary day in the lives of those around me. There will be no fan-fare. They will be too busy working, taking down decorations, planning New Year’s Eve parties, or returning gifts they got for Christmas. All their time (not to mention money) has been spent. Besides, they just got me a Christmas present!! I should just shut up and be happy with that.
I’m the last person I’d expect to be writing about this particular topic, but there I was, typing away, checking my facts, looking up certain terminology of which I am otherwise ignorant. Not ten feet away the television droned. The images, voices and sounds mostly ignored. When I’m into what I’m writing the rest of the world melts away.
And now it’s time to share it here; my December article for The Good Men Project.