Slow and Steady Gets Books Written

It seems to take me forever, but generally speaking, I do eventually work to finish up my plans. Some of them I even manage to accomplish in reality, not merely simmer internally until they’re fully formed imaginings. Another book, for example, that has finally hatched.

Photo: Hot Flash Fiction (photo credit: Blurb.com)

The newest baby from a past-childbearing-aged person….

Hot Flash Fiction is coming your way.

Yep. I have completed another book, and there are several more in the proverbial pipeline. This one, of course, joins its predecessor Miss Kitty’s Fabulous Emporium (Vol. 1), which is still conveniently available at Amazon, and the new book, Hot Flash Fiction, will be for sale both at Blurb.com and Amazon as soon as it ‘goes live’—I’ve submitted the posting materials and only await the gnomic decree from Amazon to finalize the book’s availability. While MKFE-1 is only available in soft cover/paperback, it has hundreds of poems and graphite drawings. Now that I’m going full-color and making the new book available in both paperback and hard cover versions, it is necessary to keep the book shorter in order to make it affordable enough to be worth my while (and yours!), but then I think a shorter book, since this one is dedicated to ultra-short fiction, is entirely apropos. And I’m pleased with the rich color and crisp details of the print. I think you will be, too.

MKFE-1 (photo credit: Amazon.com)

The one that started it all.

Hot Flash Fiction is a collection of tales with tiny twists, terrible turns, and ticklish tidbits everywhere you look, both in their texts and illustrations. A jot of the ridiculous here, a dot of the delirious there—from science fiction to steampunk, from romantic follies to childish fancies, from cradle to grave and back again, it’s all squeezed into the compact form of exceedingly brief flash fiction. The illustrations, collages of my photographs interwoven with vintage finds and digitally drawn and painted elements into complex treasure-maps to enhance the stories, are a complete turn-about from the entirely hand-drawn black and white images of MKFE, but merely reflect another aspect of my many visual loves.

I look forward to returning with somewhat greater frequency to this blog in the year ahead, but am working in the meanwhile to put together yet more and further different books, so I shall leave you for now with this invitation to dive into these two while the others are still in their formative stages. Happy reading, image-gazing, and most of all, a happy autumn to you all!

Oh—and lest you think I’ve been lounging around listlessly while not posting and only writing books of my poetry and short fiction and art, I have also produced, with the help of a nice company in France called BlookUp, the first of a series of books documenting this blog. Which, I suppose, is yet another book of my poetry and short fiction and art. Never mind! But in case you’re interested, Art-Colored Glasses is now available, too. I recommend the e-book version of that one, because it’s printed on lovely glossy paper in full color and loaded with content, so it’s expensive. But pretty darn entertaining, too, for all that.

Photo: Art-Colored Glasses 1

Book 1 of my blog-documenting series, Art-Colored Glasses. With a Certain Someone silhouetted on the cover, no less.

Ménage à Moi

Digital illo from a photo: Woolly NillyZoo Zooming

I’m off to see the monkeys now,

The ibex, the Tibetan cow,

The tortoise, hippo, kangaroo—

But if you think it’s to the zoo

I’m heading out, you’re incorrect—

I’m off to feed my intellect

Not in the jungle nearby found,

But where the animals are bound

In paper quarters, for you see,

I’m headed for the library.

The Magic of Books

Photo montage: The Magical BookIlluminations

A leather-covered volume with its pages edged in gilt

Slipped from the deck into the sea but, cradled in the silt

Where oxygen could not intrude, nor prying eyes descry

Its ancient glimmer in the mud, a century did lie;

One century—another—no, nine centuries of dark

It passed in sleeping silence after falling from that bark.

And then one day, a ray of light passed through the waves above

Just at the perfect moment for a mermaid, as she dove,

To catch a glimpse of gilded pages in that sea-deep sun

And swim down to investigate this treasure—only one

Quick sparkle of that golden edge brought her so close to look,

To brush aside the lazy silt and so, reveal the book.

Nine hundred years in darkness had it lain in quiet wait

For just this passing moment to wake up, illuminate,

And catch the passing fancy of an unsuspecting maid

Who’d bring it to her grotto in the deepest ocean’s shade.

In dappled dark, her opal eyes lit up the page, and next,

She read it, eager, mesmerized, the calligraphic text

Transforming, leaping from the book, becoming swiftly wild

And glorious, and telling tales that moved the mermaid child

To bend with sorrow, weep with joy; to palpitate with fear;

To live the story as her own; and, as the end drew near,

To grieve that such a magic fable had to end at all,

For it had seemed so rich and real, had held her in such thrall

That she’d begun to think it true, this tale of mythic men

And women wondrous wise and brave—she turned to read again—

Thrice through, in fact, she read the tome, and every time the more

Believed its great, compelling tale of life beyond her shore.

Full hearted, then, she closed the book, but never ceased to wish

That other mermaids, other seas, and other sorts of fish

Than those she knew in her own place were, as the story’s, real,

And though once happy, now she longed to see and hear and feel

What was beyond her native coast. One day she must return

To where she’d found that magic book, and see what she could learn.

One day, indeed, an older lass, but nonetheless enthralled

By the old book (she’d read again six times, if she recalled),

She caught the rolling afternoon’s most fearsome wave and rode

Under its lashing, crashing crest to where the book was stowed

Within its silken, silty bed so long, so long ago,

And knelt down on the ocean’s floor, and watched the water’s flow,

And saw the ripples up above, a thousand fathoms high,

And wished a little inward wish that something from the sky

Up higher still would pierce the waves, would light for her one ray

Of visionary hope the way it had upon that day.

Out of the darkness streaked with kelp, the passing sea life came

To look at her, this pearly lass, but swam off just the same,

For curious though she appeared, they’d naught to give or tell

That would assuage her longing or relieve her of her spell.

For days she hovered in that place, to gaze with fading hope

And heave a soft and bubbling sigh, and comb the gentle slope

To see if some small, overlooked companion to her find

Would rise to hand and help explain; but none was left behind.

At last she turned, quite woebegone, to drift for home, undone,

Her childhood fantasies all dashed—but wait! A ray of sun,

One faded spear, had pierced the deep; it beckoned her to draw

Back to the place her book had lain, and in its light she saw,

But faintly, now, another book, this one yet older still,

And as she took it in her hand, she felt a silent thrill

Race up her spine. She sailed for home as swift as mantas fly,

Gripping her treasure to her heart, this book dropped from the sky.

There in the grotto, as before, she read with trembling care

The prologue to her favored tale, the key unlocking there

The meaning of that history and mystery so grand,

The explication of her longed for never-ever-land.

Page One of this tremendous tome opened the secret wide

And startled her to drop the book, for there she saw inside

The preface to her deepest loved tale of that mystic place

Began with an engraving of her own familiar face!

Around her portrait, mirror-like, the title read, in part,

“The Story of Our Lady-Queen, the Owner of My Heart.”

Her own heart skipped a beat or two ere she once more to read

Took up the opus in her hand, to see where it might lead—

There in the shell-lined grotto sweet, she pored over the lines

Telling her life from this day forth, as writ by kingly hand:

Who authored this spoke of his love, and how she ruled his land

Long years to come, and how, in sum, her people throve as well,

And in the book, she met her love, who had such tales to tell,

And read them through with eager joy, to see what else she’d learn,

‘Til by the end-page she loved too, and had begun to yearn

To know this King and how it came that time had backward spun

So that these books of things yet dreamed fell from the present sun.

The end-page held, as she had hoped, engraved once more, two eyes

Whose gaze made her young, beating heart in recognition rise!

She dashed outside into the swell, and ne’er looked back again,

To find that place the boat was moored, to greet the sailing men,

To follow them to distant seas where they in their bark would roam,

And find the heart that from its start had known she would come home.Digital illustration from a photo: The Mermaid's Tale

Get Me Some Book-Larnin’

Drawing: Samuel ClemensJust because I have had the benefit of a decent education doesn’t mean I am smart. We all know that it’s entirely possible to have any number of degrees and diplomas, plaques and endorsements, letters and titles decorating your name and still be a complete fool. Idiocy is a far less rare condition than the number of high school and university graduates would have us believe.

Indeed, I have read a great quantity of writings during the course of my life, but I would never go so far as to say that I am well read. Among other contradictions to that claim would be my incredible slowness as a reader, both in speed and in comprehension: as a multifaceted dyslexic, able to turn words, letters, numbers, directions and relative spatial placements all inside out and upside down without even trying, I can easily spend four times the amount of energy and hours reading that any decent reader would need to get through the same amount of text. And of course that doesn’t guarantee that I will actually understand what I read in precisely the way the authors intended.

A more important reason that I don’t consider myself well read is that I have managed to conquer only a relatively small segment of the library most scholarly and literate persons would consider to be well written, informative, accurately researched and defended, or just plain must-read, important stuff among books. Long before I knew why it took me so long and so many tries to read a mere paragraph, let alone a book, I was required to tackle a handful of the so-called Classics of literature, and a bit of contemporary contenders for the title as well. It’s just as well I didn’t imagine I had such an anomalous reading style or that it was considered a disability by others, because I might have had yet more frustrations and difficulties in trying to fit the mold of how one was expected to overcome such things, instead of finding that by plodding through in my own backward way, I became attached to some of the books and stories to an equally unexpected depth. Whom should I, as a struggling reader, admire most among authors but those champions of the dense and complicated, say, Charles Dickens and Robertson Davies.

On the other hand, it’s probably less surprising that I also favor the purveyors of the most outlandish and appalling and ridiculous, from Ogden Nash, Evelyn Waugh, and Edgar Allan Poe to Mark Twain, S.J. Perelman and Franz Kafka. This part at least makes some sense, if you tend to believe I’d read writers who reflect something of my own mind’s workings or the weird ways in which I see the world. In any event, this latter crew might explain a little more about my tending to choose the least arduous paths in life, since I find a certain sort of familiarity in the strangest of their inventions and so can perhaps navigate their writings with a surer strength than otherwise.

So while I may not be the sharpest pencil in the drawer or the most edified of readers, I have at least a few pieces of proclamatory paper in my coffers to prove that I did my homework somewhat dutifully if not doggedly. My degrees don’t confer any special wisdom upon me, but they at least excuse my curmudgeonly attitude about how long it takes me to read my own posts, let alone anyone else’s books and articles and poems and proposals, no matter how brilliant and scintillating and clever and beautiful they are. I’m still trying, but give me plenty of time!

It Speaks to Me

What attracts us to certain artworks? Whether book or stage production, painting or photograph, dancing or theatre, singing or instrumental music, there has to be something with which we can connect for the work to have any meaning for us as individuals.Photo: Book of Languages

Some of those connections are obvious: an author with whose philosophy or politics I tend to agree is more likely to produce a book or script I enjoy than one whose beliefs are wildly different from mine; if I favor a specific style or period or medium, I’ll probably always find the works within them resonating in my heart more often than those from unfamiliar or less loved types.Photo: Familiar Passages

Other attractions might be more tenuous or less overt. I read a whole lot online nowadays, both factual and fictional, but I still enjoy reading magazines and books, and there is no digital substitute quite yet for the fine roughness of antique paper pages in my hands and the musty scent of old books.

Filling in the Blanks

Like many of my compatriots here in Bloglandia, I chose to close my awards-acceptance shop after having been gifted with a generous helping of them. We all learn very quickly that this is an incredibly open-hearted and open-handed community, and the reassurance of being recognized in this way is a grand encouragement to keep working. It can also demand a fair amount of work and dedication just to go through the proper procedures each award requires for acceptance and the passing of the torch to other deserving souls, this on top of the way that the regular work of producing the blog not only continues but tends to increase if one wants to ‘grow’ the blog in any significant ways regarding its style, content, purpose, and so on ad infinitum. On top of that, there is the increase of comment correspondence that, in turn, inspires other changes and improvements along the way but also means one is devoting larger and larger amounts of time to the correspondence itself.

That is all good and great stuff. Really. Even if I were to quit blogging cold turkey this very moment I would say unabashedly that it has been wildly enriching, educational and happy work for the last nearly three years in ways that I couldn’t have imagined or replicated with any other kind of activity. I’m still almost entirely income-free in every way, though I’ll admit I’m starting for the first time to consider advertising here onsite for commercial partners in addition to the previous, occasional tiny plugs for my ArtSparks store at Zazzle.com or my book on Amazon or my Pinterest accounts, all of which combined make me an amount of money that I assume would send any self-respecting modern teenager into tizzies of fiery revolution if offered as their allowance. Again, not a complaint, as I am a happily kept woman whose partner willingly arranges his life to do the income earning while I blog, tend the household’s needs, and accompany him when I’m able. A surprising twist (to me) is that leaving a full-time job teaching at university and becoming a homemaker in a one-car family didn’t turn me into a hermit and a fearful little creature who hides in the hedgerows, but rather brought me out of my shell in developing and sharing what skills and arts I like to cultivate and in corresponding with and befriending a slew of people doing similar things all around the world.

digital drawing (BW)

Not a fearful little creature who hides in the hedgerows.

Whether this work of mine benefits anyone outside my household is a matter for all visitors to decide for themselves, but I know that I derive both pleasure and growth from working here, in one way and another. I think I lead a far more colorful and expressive life internally, and that has external ramifications that effect useful change and direction in what I do—and how and when and why and with whom.

So I was happy to be tagged in a recent round-robin writing meme that requires little labor I wouldn’t already be doing and offers in return an opportunity for thinking about what does happen hereabouts and for learning how that is similar to, and different from, what happens in others’ blogging territories. I thank the marvelous Rosemary, whose blog is full of constant delightful, piquant artworks, brain-stretching turns of phrase and ideas that get my gears turning each time I have a chance to stop by there, for inviting me to be another participant in these collective ruminations.

Part of the meme process is to publish on the Monday after being tapped, and ask your nominees to do the same. I failed to get even close to the right timing, being on my own weird schedule as always. It didn’t, however, prevent my thinking further on the topic, so I’ll just pretend I was timely and wax philosophical when I’m good and ready, and if you need to, you can pretend it’s Monday the 28th of April all over again.

The rules of the process that I can follow merely require that I answer four questions about how I write and nominate three others. My nominees may well be no-award bloggers, too, (always or by now) but might find the questions worth asking themselves yet again, for these are questions we all ask or are asked often enough, those of us who write regularly whether for self alone or with wider purposes. Have fun with it, or if it doesn’t in fact offer that possibility to you, just ignore it while digging through the big basketful of thanks I’m sending your way for what your writing means to me.

What am I working on at the moment?

I’m working on blog posts, books, art commissions, planning for other posts-books-artworks, and doing what reading and research I need to inform and guide all of those things. The book of art and poetry I published in January used about a tenth of the content I’ve been creating and amassing over the last decade or so, leaving bunches of other books to be refined from the collection. I’m currently compiling sets of related, somewhat thematic poetry with which I intend to combine my visual art and texts as in the other books, but in these particular instances will collaborate with composers to set the texts to music. The art projects include a piece for a friend and former university colleague’s change of job celebration and a companion artwork for one of my graphite drawings that was bought at a fundraising auction. The latter won’t engage my writing skills, but the former is going to be a mixed-media piece that will allow me to play with textual content, another element I greatly enjoy incorporating quite often in my visual work. One feeds the other, always, just as my reading and correspondence inform what I do here.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I have no idea what genre my work actually fits. Seriously. This has been a problem as long as I can remember: it seems no one else knows how to classify me, either, and if I can’t be conveniently and recognizably enough pigeonholed, apparently no one can figure out any ways to market my work. I’ve posted about it before.

I roam down so many strange little byways every time I stop to write that if “genre” applies, I suppose I must move from one to another regularly. I consider myself an essayist, artist and short fiction enthusiast in what I typically do here; my self-selected projects, like book number one, virtually always have substantial overlap somewhere between those. Adding to the oddity is the spill-over from my personal blend of contented immaturity, constant rambling from piquancy to pathos and beauty to the bizarre. If I can figure out how to make a one-page piece that combines visual art with text and ranges from terrifying to hilarious, tenderly thought-provoking to ridiculously unexpected, then I am likely to be truly happy. And oh, so un-sellable. Blogging at least allows me to practice, enjoy, and air out whatever variety of my inclinations and artistic urges I choose, so it doesn’t merely stay bottled up, endlessly mouldering.

Why do I write what I do?

It may well be that I’m driven by forces far beyond my conscious choices. I’ve never embraced nonfiction much when choosing my reading; maybe that made it seem too much like work, like required reading, and you already know of my deep aversion to Effort. So no, I wouldn’t have chosen to write nonfiction any more than to read it. But of course, it could be argued that blog autobiography of the sort I practice, barring my being obviously delusional, is a generally factual forum in itself. Very much on the other hand, I have always loved goofing around with wild and outrageously unlikely fictional and fantastic ideas, subjects and stories. It’s so much fun to invent and flesh out my fantasies with all sorts of odd details and unexpected turns of phrase and plot and character development, the best of those in my practice being the ones that can develop in extremely short and shallow tales that fit into a single blog post or book page. I have a short attention span, so I prefer to treat even pretty sophisticated topics with this kiddies’-picture-book approach, quite often, knowing that it’s what will appeal to me first, and any somewhat like-minded reader after. If there are any such readers.

How does my writing process work?

I am, and have long been, a scribbler. Everywhere I’ve lived I’ve kept notebooks, scratch paper, and notepads stashed everywhere I’m likely to come to rest for even the shortest time: bedside, by my reading chair, on the kitchen counter nearest the table; next to the toilet, in the glove compartment of the car, on my desk. When the tiniest idea pops into my head, I’m likely to grab one of these and whatever pen or pencil I’ve put with it and scrawl as fast as I can. Story, drawing, list, note, sketch or poem? Maybe a combination of them. I might have my laptop or iPad handy and go directly to digital, but the medium matters less than grabbing hold of the idea while it lasts. I can always transcribe, scan, photograph or otherwise capture my paper scribbles, and those stashes of mine are much easier to access in most of the places where my day and night find me, so part of me is still very old school in this regard.

PS—I know there’s a long and honorable tradition of early morning writing—really early morning writing, by my standards—being a great and grand way to produce fabulous stuff and have a lasting career and all of that. I am not in that tradition. When I write in the early morning hours, it’s because I’ve been writing late and am still at it at 3 a.m. I would rather sleep ten or eleven hours a night, every night, than be a great writer. If that’s what it takes. Until I have confirmation that early morning writing is the only path to artistic excellence and writerly happiness, I’ll keep writing in snatches and patches of day and night that leave me free to sleep when and as much as I want and need. That’s my process, for good or ill. So far, it keeps me mighty happy. And happy to be here.

And now, I nominate these three writers to participate in a Writing Process Blog Meme:

Diane @ http://bardessdmdenton.wordpress.com

Christine @ http://journeyintopoetry.wordpress.com

Jim @ http://gingerfightback.com

If you accept my nomination, you will write an article prompted by the following four questions and post it on your blog on Monday, April 28, 2014. Just like I did! Wink-wink. The four questions (just to jog your memory from the above bits):

What am I working on at the moment?
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Why do I write what I do?
How does my writing process work?

I completely understand if this ‘isn’t your thing’. No obligation. Just having fun!

digital illustration

Even for a shy little goof like me, life can get pretty colorful when I plunge into writing wholeheartedly.

Reading the Classics or Writing Them…

There’s this little spot inside my skull that gets kind of itchy. Pretty sure it’s not dandruff, seeing as how that’s usually external, from what I’ve heard. Can’t be an excess of brains, something no one’s accused me of having in that nice cobwebby attic of mine.

I think it’s a bit of me that wants to Make Stuff. Specifically, to write things. I can’t say there’s any legitimate or meaningful purpose to this writing, or even the slightest logic to the motivational itch. But I write.photo montageWhether any of the scribblings comes to fruition beyond becoming letter-shaped specks on the ethereal pages of my blog or typed or scrawled word-like objects spilled all over my notebooks, concert programs, receipts, paper towels and shoebox lids–further polish or publication remains to be seen. Memorable, respected or classic status is improbable to within the neighborhood of outrageous fantasy.

But I’m a first-class fantasist at heart, after all. By my own admission. photo montageMeanwhile, several friends whose work I respect have put their longtime writing itches to good purpose and published, recently. I’ve been writing to scratch my inner itch for a number of years now. If I’m going to make anything out of it other than random scratching I suppose I had better take heart from my predecessors’ bravery and get serious about putting my writing into something a little more challenging and concrete than my lifelong style of clinging to the safety of the familiar land of personal sharing and blogging.

Uh-oh.

Time to suck it up and nerve myself. I suppose I should warn all of you to shore up your own nerve as well. It seems that this particular kind of itch might well be both dangerous and contagious.photo montage