November 25, 2022

Stick a Fork in It -- It's Done

 It's done. At least I think it's done. The Novel. The one that's consumed me through at least five edits, over the past sixteen months. It's been edited, beta-read, re-edited for content, and then again for grammar and punctuation, and now it's ready for a real-life editor to check. 

Part of me is relieved, part of me is apprehensive. Will the editor, whose opinion I trust, like it? Think it's marketable? Suggest the next step? 

The premise is simple - a young woman, Marie Arnholt, in 1857 Kansas finds herself having been turned into a vampire. Her whole life as a Quaker is now at odds with her need to kill in order to survive. The book details just over 85 years of her adventures as a vampire. Along the way, she changes into a person who is less at odds with herself than she is with a human society full of other predators.

Because this part of her story tells of her life up to the end of WWII, there appears to be a sequel. At least, that's what Marie is telling me. And she was so excited a month ago about the first part of her story nearing completion, that she started telling me more. Over seven thousand words more. 

If you need me, I'll be at the computer. Taking dictation.

And, OH! I almost forgot to tell you!  I am really excited about six of my poems having been selected for a print publication, Solstice, A Winter Anthology. which will be available in December. Preorders are now being taken at Devil's Party Press, the publisher. Check out their website!!  And, order a couple of copies for your friends - it makes a GREAT gift, and the holidays are approaching!  There are some really remarkable writers in this group, and you'll be pleasantly surprised!

November 10, 2022

A Year-Long Project

 In July of 2021, I submitted a short story to Gravelight Press (Devil's Party Press) to be considered for their horror anthology, Halloween Party '21. It was accepted and published in October. Set in current time, it was a ~4500 word story about a young woman who had been a vampire for 160 years. She continued to be in my mind, even after the story was written, and I began exploring her back story, at least as much as she wanted to share with me.

The offshoot is that I am finishing the editing suggestions from the beta reader prior to sending it to an editor for final polishing. Marie is a complicated character. Raised a Quaker, she finds herself turned into a vampire, but not by her choice. Like many of us, she must deal with the internal conflict of reconciling her need for human blood with her Quaker ethics and morals. Blood, particularly human blood, is vital to her existence, and the conflict is mind-wrenching. 

The storyline sees Marie move from 1857 Kansas territory to the aftermath of WWII. As a dewy debutante, she travels from New Orleans to St Louis, from Atlanta to Pittsburgh. She becomes a gun moll in 1920's Chicago, and travels to California in the great migration caused by the Depression. Her WWII adventures help her deal with loss, grief, and the inevitability of a long, long lifetime.

Here's an excerpt. 

That early afternoon I adjusted my bonnet and threw my brunette hair over my shoulders, searching in my pocket for a bit of string to tie it back. I shielded my eyes from the insistent sun. It was getting hotter, and the day promised no respite. I had long given up on a cool breeze, and my light gingham dress clung irritatingly to my shoulders and back.

Laundry needed to be washed, regardless of the weather, and today was an especially beastly day. Mam called, "Come back, Marie. The boys will get here when they get here, and your watching won't make them move any faster. Hildy needs help with the grandson, and you have a special way of soothing his teething aches.Come in, daughter. Supper will be ready soon." Her last words are etched in my memory. 

This book, at close to 80,000 words, covers only half of her life. So, I've started working on the last half of her life, bringing her from 1945 to the present. Volume I has a working title of "Second Date." That is subject to change. It is, and has been. a lot of work, but Marie was rather insistent that I write her story. All of the editing and coreection is to make sure her voice is strong, and her story (and struggles) clear. 


June 17, 2020

Day 90

When this self-isolation began, I knew it would take a while for the Covid-19 virus to be contained and controlled.  I did not think of actual numbers, just "some distant day."  It's day 90, and while our governor has gradually eased restrictions, I'm still not ready to proceed unchecked into the day.  Masks, in my life, are a part of my life now.  In fact, the reminder note on the inside of my front door now reads "Keys,   Phone,    Pants,    Mask."  And I don't really see an end in sight, at least not until a vaccine is developed, tested, and is as widely available as the flu vaccine.

In the last 78 days since my last blog, much has happened in the world and in my 'hood.  The most striking is the protests against racial inequities.  We have over 400 years of racial inequity in this country; it was here at our first settlements, it was here and thriving during the American Revolution.  It was not eliminated by the Civil War - it simply changed it spots.  And today, we still see, DAILY, how we judge others and treat them according to what we have internalized.

I grew up in Virginia, with segregation, with Jim Crow.  Racial inequity was so ingrained in our daily lives, that it was never discussed.  We learned to not ask why, or how, or when.  We simply accepted it as the status quo.  I do not think of myself as racist, but that is a mirage.  Every time I look at someone, I see the color of their skin.  I am trying, daily, to change that.  Some days are better than others.  But I have a lot to learn.

We are taught as toddlers to differentiate -- color; size; taste.  We group things by similarities, and we learn that things we like are "good," and the things we don't like are "bad."  It's part of being socialized and "domesticated," as I read another blogger describe it.  So, then things like me are good, and things not like me are bad.  The transition to race becomes easy.

We have now equipped our police with riot shields, mace, helmets, kevlar, rubber bullets, tasers.  And we treat them as front-line warriors to protect the public from the "bad" guys.  Tell me, how  can we equip warriors and not expect them to act as warriors, when they have not been trained to differentiate between the good guys and the bad guys?  When all they know is what was educated in them as toddlers - "us" and "them"?  And then that education continued, as is readily available in every media, every religious institution, every format?

When is enough, enough?  When is it too much?  When will we accept we are wrong to continue to look at things (and EACH OTHER) as how we are different, and not as how we are the same?

March 30, 2020

Day 12 of self-isolation

Oh, where DOES the time go?  It really HAS been 10 days since my last blog!  Things in Delaware are moving erratically.  Some of the grocery stores are opening at 6 ayem for elderly (that's us'uns, over 60) to shop, along with the at-risk population.
The governor has issued another update to his Emergency Declaration.  Any visitors traveling into the state MUST self-quarantine for 14 days.  the only ifs, ands or buts are for medical care for self, or to care for family.  if you're traveling through, just keep going.  If you're an Essential Business, it's ok to come and go.  There is a large at-risk population here in Delaware, and it is mostly centered in the high-growth areas along the coasts -- the beaches, to be exact.  And that is where everyone went 9 days ago when the temps hit 70+  --   to the beach.
So, to my friends who have second homes here, and to visitors, We love you. We really do.  But PLEASE STAY HOME!  Our hospitals, our infrastructure, our toilet paper and hand sanitizer supplies, they are all stretched right now.  Even our hospitals and essential medical providers do not have enough PPE's to maintain sanitary and healthy medical environments.  Please shelter in place.
Read; write (keep a journal of this very real world-wide pandemic for yourself, and for the begets; go for walks; grab a video-conference app (there are plenty out there) and SEE the faces of your family and friends.  Paint.  Listen to Music. Take a Course on-line!  YOU CAN DO THIS!!
COVID19 is changing our lives; how we individually come out of this is our personal responsibility. 
I refuse to call this virus anything other than Covid19; we cannot stoop so low as to blame this on any one person, race, country, or thing.  Our scientists have posited what could happen should a global epidemic strike.  Our government knew in January this was coming.  We are left holding the bag, waiting for something new to happen, when we can do something.  Our love and compassion will shine through; our teachers, our health-care professionals, our neighbors, we all are stepping in and stepping up.  We will come out of this better and smarter and wiser.

March 20, 2020

The Epidemic, Spring, and Me

Today is the first full day of spring, and it's already 72 degrees on my apartment porch.  The pear trees, daffs, flowering cherries, maples and and a number of other pollen-laden plants are having at it.  Allergies abound, and an epidemic is in full swing.

I'm not going to talk about the panic buying at the stores, or the hordes of people coming to the beaches in this encouraged self-isolation.  There are enough hand-wringers out there.  What is amazing and so damned encouraging to me is that in light of the fact that the federal government has known about the impending epidemic for two months now, and subsequently failed to notify even the state or local governments, the Helpers arrived.

Teachers, at a moment's notice, figured out how to stream classes and rewrite their class syllabuses to accommodate distance teaching. Local governments, state, county, and city, have taken action across the country to take care of their citizens.  Restaurants and school districts are enacting free lunch schedules for kids, whether at-risk, or not.  Individuals are reaching out, contacting those who are alone, scared, at-risk. And their care is still evolving.

We've lived in a society of Instant Gratification for several decades, and it has been encouraged by the internet.  We have instant access to our friends, to news, to gossip, to information.  Our circles of friends has become world-wide, and we communicate on a regular basis.

I found a letter recently, written by a great-grand-uncle to his sister, in the late 1870's.  he gave her sad news, of the death of his wife.  The letter took weeks to arrive.  The sister could not go to the funeral, grieve with the family, talk to her brother.  It was all done silently, remotely, and weeks later.  Today, we know instantly of every happening locally and at a distance -- no waiting weeks for newspapers or letters to arrive, or news to filter from foreign correspondents to their editors, to the publications, to us.  The good news is that we know--quickly..The bad news is that we know--quickly.  what matters is how we deal with it.  Attitude is everything. 

My two greatest incentives to do anything are anticipation of reward and fear of punishment: gold stars or switches.  I have enough - toilet paper, hand sanitizer, soap, food, although I'm not hoarding.  I know this will pass.  I know that our society has been through worse.  I know how quickly fear can spread on the wings of rumor.

Breathe, my friends, breathe.  we will get through this.  We will be changed.  We will know our own strengths and weaknesses better.  we will cement friendships, and lose friends.  We will rediscover our core values of compassion, patience, care, love, and community.   We are better than our base instincts to hoard and isolate, for we are stronger together.  And, there are always helpers.  Look for them.  Support them.  Become one.  Be safe.  And wash your hands like you mean it.

March 10, 2020

I continue to be amazed at what happens with the time!!  All of a sudden, it's March, and it's been a month since I last updated this blog.  Golly, I am a wee bit embarrassed!
Two major things are happening:  The Big Draw Festival DE, and a sketching workshop I took over the weekend.  (We'll just save the other things for later!!)
 Last October the Mispillion Art League conducted a Big Draw Festival for the first time.  Although the Festival itself originated in England 20 years ago, we decided in a "Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland Let's have a show" moment, to conduct one ourselves.  And since it was a BIG Draw, we decided to do it for the entire month, rather than just a single event.  And, since we had never conducted an event like this before, we had to start from scratch and invent the wheel!  We carried out 25 free Saturday events for children and families, and an additional 25 or so classes and workshops at reduced fees.  In total, we had over 1800 participants (those we could count, since most of our events were outside and traffic was very free-flowing.)  we painted in the street with our feet, built a HUGE sandcastle out of 8 tons of sand, had arts activities at 4 other arts organizations in town (music, dance, theater, museum), painted with coffee, and painted a mandala on our entryway into the Art League.
The theme has changed this year, to one of The Big Green Draw - A Climate of Change.  And, we're doing it again!!  We've changed our focus to include art with recycled materials and encompassing a larger geographic range in the city. And we've started planning, with weekly meetings and on-going assignments.  And, I'm the co-chair.
Second, the workshop.  I just finished a two-day sketching workshop with Pat Southern-Pearce, a Bolton, England (it's near Manchester) artist who has the most amazing sketchbooks and art!  (look for her work on her Facebook page.)
I started painting 20 years ago, after a lifetime of being admonished "don't think about art, because you'll never be able to make a living at it."  So, I came late into the entire field.  My first instructor was a classic watercolorist (don't use black and save the whites of the paper for the whites in the painting).  And she used ONLY watercolor, no other media.  I moved to acrylics and collage, where there was more freedom of media, but it still seemed to me that anything using watercolors should still be purely watercolor.  Well, Pat changed that!  We sketched on beige, grey, and black (yes, black!) papers, used markers, pencils, acrylics, inks, chalks, watercolor pencils, and glue sticks to create deeply personal stories of our days.  What a concept!  Finally, permission to use anything I wanted, without reservation!  I'm still recovering.  and I just may never recover!  (At least, I hope!)

February 6, 2020

Be Careful What You Ask For

Early last week I commented to a friend that I thought the landlord (outside) had forgotten to pay the heating bill.  The was immediately followed by two days of 70 degree weather.  (Note to self:  be careful what you ask for.)

A year ago I was looking around my 4-bedroom house, bemoaning the fact that I had too much stuff, including too many bedrooms.  In July I moved - drastically reducing the available space for "stuff," and going from essentially eight rooms to 4.  The biggest challenge was the reduction in space, from close to 3000 square feet to 1000.  (Note to self:  be careful what you ask for.)

One of the interesting things about this new space, is that there are only 2 closets, each located in a bedroom.  And the bigger bathroom is attached to the bedroom with the smaller closet. This created a massive decision -- bigger bathroom, or bigger closet?  By the way, there is no hall closet for coats. (Note to self:  be careful what you ask for.  Second note to self:  you have to ask for what you want.)

If you're following along, you get the drift.  In order to get what you ask for, you have to know what you want.  Feel free to change the pronouns in the previous sentence.  One of the hardest things I have had to learn in this life-walk is to ask for what I want.  As a Baby Boomer and a female raised in the South, women were taught to be demure, quiet , and willing to put everyone else's wants and needs before their own.  And, coming from a long line of martyrs, this was not difficult.  I give a lot of credit to my mother, who entered nursing in the '30's as a necessity to support her family.  So growing up, I never had heavy expectations put on me regarding what I shouldn't do (art is a different topic), but there were no clear-cut guidelines as to what I could do.  I found myself directionless -- not knowing even what I wanted.

The good news in all of the ensuing confusion was that I was given the freedom to try many things.  The cultural expectations of  my parents' generation was that once you found a job, you stayed there.  Once you found a home, you stayed there, but you were permitted to move in you needed more room.  The changing of jobs, moving to different cities, even changes in life-style, were met with raised eyebrow and a question about the "stability" of the person moving.  WWII changed most of that, both form the new-found roles of women, to the ability to move and change.

All that we do in our lives is helped by standing on the shoulders of that who have gone before.  I confess, there are times I wish I were born later, that I could go back to college and major in what really excites me now, alter relationships, change my path.  But what comes to me at the close of the day is that I am right where I'm supposed to be, notes to self nothwithstanding.