Accentuate the Positive

The New Covers

 

 

The new covers are completed. It will be a few days before all of these titles are once again available. I am still editing some of the stories in “GRAIN.” “The Slick Furies” is at the beginnings of an overhaul, and I’ve no idea when those edits will be completed. I’ve come down with a cold, am tired, and finishing the last two covers, for “Thelxiepeia” and “Red Line Wine,” brought me to tears. The original covers never met my expectations. I resolved myself to the thinking that it is the words that matter, and it is, but of course, honestly, I wanted the covers to look better. They were as good as the tools available to me, that I knew of, and what I had time for. I shall compare it to the early writers of hieroglyphics, to those crafting early cave drawings, discovering (creating) a paintbrush. The cover of “Thelxiepeia” took about four hours of meticulously layering elements, messing with filters, spacing, and colors. I have a copy of beautiful edition of “The Rubaiyat” by Omar Khayyam that I love the overall look of that served as the inspiration for the cover design of “Thelxiepeia.” I love beautiful, antique, books. I wanted the cover of “Thelxiepeia” to have a vintage feel. The cover of “Red Line Wine” is an old drawing I did when I finished writing that book in 1996. Obviously I’m not an artist, and yet the drawing, filled with so much symbolism from my youth, is a perfect cover for that book as it contains my beginnings as a writer. Really, I didn’t think it would work but sometimes things are just “right” and you know it. To be able to finally put “Red Line Wine” together this way, well, I’m still fighting the tears. It’s been a lot of years from those beginnings to now. I’m equally happy with the new back covers. My take away from this is don’t quit. I’ve done the best I could. I’ll keep doing the best I can at any given moment. I hope to keep learning, and to keep getting better at all this. I’m also inspired to get to work on the next book(s) and editing updates now knowing that I have these other creative tools available to me. Right now though, I think it’s time for some steaks, some movie watching, some tending to my aches. I can honestly say that I like these book covers that I’ve created, and  couple of them, I love.

Teri Skultety

 

Pending Updates, New Covers

Some titles may be temporarily unavailable pending updates.

As often said, all this is a “learn as you go” process. While trying to make some new design elements/memes/thingys/etc., one of the websites/tools I use frequently, quit working the way it should. Necessity is the mother of invention. I don’t know how I didn’t know about Canva before, but I know about it now. I’m only using the “free” tools that I find here and there, as ever the idea is to make money (I keep telling myself this).  So now, in addition to continuing with some edits, I’m updating book covers. I’m a sentimental gal, I don’t want to get too far away from the original ideas I had for these first book covers. That said, I’m having some fun with it. ( My hand is cramping, however, from all the cropping and intricate/delicate moving of spaces/cutting/pasting/etc.) While updates are pending, some titles may be temporarily unavailable.

 

New paperback cover for The Slick Furies in black, new cover for the Kindle version in red.

    

 

New cover for Loralee

 

 

 

I feel a lot better about these covers. The Slick Furies, while bordering on parody in places, is also a serious horror novel. Filled with multifaceted, conflicted, characters, there are no “saints” in The Slick Furies. (It’s about to get a major editing overhaul as well.) Loralee, while intended as something of a “weekly serial” when it was written, is a decent little bit of business about the hypocrisy of appearances, and the intrigues among the haves and have-nots. I thought of “Loralee” as the kind of novel used to be you could buy at the dime-store to read by the pool or under a shady tree on a hot summer afternoon. The Slick Furies is, to me, a classic vampire story set in the modern age. It is purposely cliché and yet not at all without heart. I think these covers are closer to what I had in mind when I made the originals. Now those few uncorrected proofs with the old covers get to become rarities, the prototypes.

Until next time.

TS

 

 

 

Undone

The other day, in promoting my vampire novel, I posted links to chapter excerpts. In reading through those excerpts again myself, I noticed places where the sentences could use tightening. I noticed places where I want to replace commas with periods. In reading one of my own stories earlier today, I found an instance where I’d changed the name of a character and missed one of the corrections of that name. These are some of the perils of doing everything myself. I am writer, editor, proofreader. I am a one woman show. Is that an excuse for mistakes? No. There are books on my bookshelf by big time authors published by big publishing houses, that have mistakes in them. Is that an excuse for me? No. The truth of the matter is that I’ve needed to slow my roll, as it were, for a while. There’s a balance between letting go of perfection so that the work gets out there at all, and doing the best job I can do. This is also why it is important to let the work sit (rest) for long enough that you can look at it with “new eyes.” So, while I am working on re-writing a novella, I’m not going to publish anything else until I make some of these corrections to previous work. The good news is, there isn’t anything overwhelming in that, the stories are good, ( I say humbly) I like them, and for the most part, pretty clean. But, I want them to be better. I can do that. Was a time when I was far more ruthless about editing my work. I’d go through a piece removing every “and”, for starters, as a way of determining if I needed to use it. I need to get back to those editing habits. Like I said, I’ve needed to slow down some things for a while. I’ve known that. I’ve learned so much in the last few years about the creative part of writing. I’ve written things I never would have attempted before. Creatively, it’s been a wildly expansive time, one that I am grateful and thankful for. Now it’s time to really try to put all that learning together. I’m thinking of it as taking some time to hone my editing skills. Writing is a learn as you go endeavor. Always be learning.

Giving up Pinterest and tumblr has been a good thing. I’ve been tempted to get back on both of those sites but they are a distraction. ( I’m still on the tumblr. Eh. but I have deleted facebook forever.) I realized, I’ve always been trying to do too many things at once because there’s just so much I want to do. I have so much writing work to do, so many things I want to accomplish. Every minute on Pinterest or tumblr is time away from writing, or reading ( my tbr list is endless), or editing, or a multitude of other more productive things. I have, however, come up with a plan for marketing at least the vampire novel, kind of a fun one. Every time I see a post on social media to do with vampires, I’m going to take as a cue to remind me to be about the business of selling the books too and promote the vampire novel along with one other book. (I can tell you here that Season 11, Episode 10, of The X-Files, spoke to many of my concerns regarding modern technology.)

This brings me to the subject of Marilyn Munster. What started this train of thought was Joan Jett. In the early eighties, Joan Jett couldn’t get a record deal. She had twenty-three major label rejections. So, she formed Blackheart Records with producer/songwriter Kenny Laguna, and the rest, as they say, is rock and roll history. “We didn’t start the label on purpose. We started it because we couldn’t find a record deal.” ~ Kenny Laguna.  Can you imagine rock and roll without Joan Jett? It’s an incredibly powerful and empowering, inspiring story. I was thinking about that, how she wouldn’t be stopped from making her music her way. I had a novella that I wanted to see out in the world and it was getting rejected, so I published it myself. What does that have to do with Marilyn Munster?

I was thinking about what we deem to be rebellious, or “different,” or a misfit or an outcast. Who would argue that Joan Jett is a rebel? Was she an outcast? Different? A metaphorical “black sheep” or “lone wolf”, and etc. ad-infinitum? Do you think that was easy, back in the day? But if everyone was, say, a “punk rocker,” if the vast majority of people were “punk rockers,” then being “preppy” could be seen as being rebellious. If you’re from a family of hippies and you go conservative, that could be viewed as rebelling, and vice versa. I was thinking about how Marilyn Munster is the oddball, in a family of monster Munsters, she’s “normal,” and that is seen as being abnormal. Which reminds me of a line from the film “Smokey and the Bandit.”  “When you tell someone something, it depends on what part of the country you’re standing in, as to just how dumb you are.” There are a multitude of variations in perspective as to what is normal, what is rebellious, and so on, depending on who you are, and where you are at. When I first started publishing my work traditionally, I had no idea what I was doing. Without rehashing it, or whatever circumstances were at the time, (years ago now), I felt like no matter what I was doing or how I was doing it, the message was that I was doing it wrong. As for my end of that, I didn’t have it together. I do now.( I hope, I think, maybe, anyway, anyway…) Whatever the case, however it went, at some point I made up my mind not to quit. I made up my mind to teach myself whatever I could, to learn whatever I could, whatever I can. Ultimately, for a variety or reasons, I made up my mind to go my own way. But what I realized is, I was always going my own way. Sometimes, I was doing it wrong. Sometimes, I was just doing it my way because that’s what I wanted to do or thought was best, including things like writing a serial novella on my webpage one chapter at a time and letting people read it for free, along with some stories, poems, etc.  Sometimes, yes, I so wish it had all gone differently, that I’d had it together, made tons of real-true friends, been everyone’s darling, landed the big mainstream book deal, and, hey, life isn’t over. Once upon a time, I wanted to be a cheerleader too. But, things went this other way. I realized, it’s always kind of worked out like that. It has occurred to me that perhaps there is more room in that, more freedom. I’ve decided that I’m no longer sad about it.

The Munsters

One of the definitions of the word “rebellion” is simply the process or action of resisting control, tradition, authority, or convention. “Conventionality belongs to yesterday.” (from Grease by Frankie Valli) Sitting calmly, can be an act of rebellion. These days I tend to think of it (rebellion) in terms of, thinking for myself. My sobriety is an act or rebellion.  What does all that have to do with anything? It has to do with not giving up on your dreams, whether you’re Joan Jett, or Marilyn Munster, not fitting in however, wherever. It has to do with pressing onward despite rejections, mistakes ( we all make those), nay-sayers, and all else. I’m not starting a publishing company, just dealing with my own work is quite enough work, all I can manage, but if I were, I’d call it “Undone Hem,” in reference to something that Joan Didion wrote as she observed a woman who was out of sorts, her hem coming unsewn. To me, that represents everywhere that I was when I set out to do this in 2011. I was a woman out of sorts, out and about with an undone hem. It means something to me. It’s something that I don’t want to forget. I also think that until you’re finished, well, you’re not done. “Undone Hem” is my “Blackheart Records.” I wanted to share that. Find your inspirations where you can. Keep on keeping on.

It is my sincere hope that I’ve many more books to write, to publish, that I am just getting started.

TS

 

“Do not cringe and make yourself small if you are called the black sheep, the maverick, the lone wolf. Those with slow seeing say a nonconformist is a blight on society. But it has been proven over the centuries, that being different means standing at the edge, means one is practically guaranteed to make an original contribution, a useful and stunning contribution to her culture. When seeking guidance, don’t ever listen to the tiny-hearted. Be kind to them, heap them with blessings, cajole them, but do not follow their advice. If you have ever been called defiant, incorrigible, forward, cunning, insurgent, unruly, rebellious, you’re on the right track. Wild Woman is close by. If you have never been called these things, there is yet time. Practice your Wild Woman.”
~ Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype

Be In Love With Your Life

I took about a two-week break from working on anything at all writing wise and that was about as much of a break from writing as I could manage. As for what I’m working on, the thing about that is that it doesn’t matter, until the work is completed. There are many things that I want to write, hope to write, and some of those things are more difficult to write or will be, than others. If you’ve ever actually completed the writing of a book, then you know first hand that it’s easier said than done. I think, I hope, I’ve finally learned to stop spouting about what the next project is because the truth about that is, there are some things that I want to write that I don’t know if I can write them. I don’t know if I have the skills to write what I want to write to the fulfillment of my ambitions about whatever it is. There are some things I want to write that now, having written a few books, I understand exactly how much work is involved. I don’t want to talk those things into the ground, and be all hat, no cattle.

Taking a break, for a minute, gave me a moment to think about what it is that I want to be doing. For me, there’s always a moment of, “I wonder if I can write this _______.” And then challenging myself to. In that, there are also moments when I’ve looked at something I’ve written and realized what it could have been, what it could be, the potential beyond what it was at the moment of creation and that’s always a pull to get back into something, to try to meet the challenge of one’s own vision. I find myself less interested in talking about the process of it all, or that, perhaps, the process is less interesting to me. I think, I hope, I’ve finally learned to let go of self-judgement with regard to my writing. There are some who never struggle with that, with accepting themselves as writers and what that ultimately means for them. Would you write if no one in the world cared anything about it other than you? I would. And I would write without placing any limits on my writing other than those dictated by what it is that I find to be interesting, what it is that I want to do. I don’t know if I will release another book this year.

I’m always writing poetry. I wrote this one today…I don’t know what the title of it is yet It might be “Falling In Love With My Mid-Life Crisis” or “The Last Time I Fell In Love When My Hair Was Turning Grey” or “I Remember the Last Time I Fell In Love When My Hair Was Turning Grey”… I think that’s the one.

 

I Remember the Last Time I Fell In Love, When My Hair Was Turning Grey

I am too old to have been this naïve.
But then, I’ll always remember this time.
Some days, I have the most beautiful heart,
and the most brilliant mind.

 

I love the complexity in the simplicity of this poem, it’s the old adage of “better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all” ( Alfred Lord Tennyson), bittersweet, coupled with the implication of “Some days” implying that “other days” I’ve been neither beautiful nor brilliant, some days I’ve been perfectly foolish, to say the least. I’ve fallen in love with writing again, and I’d just about fallen out of it! I’ve been thinking about that a lot, love, in general. They used to say that before a person could, or can, really understand and accept love from someone, they’ve got to learn to love themselves. I think a person has to learn to like themselves first, to know that it’s good and fine and okay to like yourself, and go from there. That means learning to appreciate one’s own imperfections, one’s flaws, and folly. Perspective, and other ten-dollar words.

“Be in love with your life, every minute of it.” ~ Jack Kerouac

 

Teri

On This Valentines Day

 

One of the most wonderful things within the many fine and good examples that Bruce Lee left us with, is his example of inclusiveness. Despite being met with prejudice throughout his life, he seemed to hold no such feelings in his own heart. He continuously broke with traditions. He fell in and love and married who he wanted to marry. If you came into his studio, dojo, with an open heart, an open mind, a willingness to learn and be taught, he would teach you. It made no difference to him what color your wrapping paper was, no difference to him if you were male or female, his wife, Linda, was one of his students. He stayed true to what he believed in despite being met with continuous opposition and challenges to his ideas, his philosophies, his approach to living. Bruce Lee understood that prejudice is the product of ignorance, and the antidote, is education.

I’m at the beginning of really checking this out thoroughly, but I can show some love for that example for sure.

Have a Happy Valentines Day.

TS

 

Bruce Lee, website

Bruce Lee, wiki

The History of Valentines Day

The Society of Classical Poets.

The Society of Classical Poets, of which I am a member, was kind enough to republish one of my poems, “The Harvest.” I’m honored to be included. I think that their efforts promoting classical poetry are commendable and wonderful, a really cool thing. If you enjoy poetry, you should check out their webpage and anthologies!

 

TS

The Next Voice You Hear

 

 

Currently listening to Jackson Browne, discovering T Bone Burnett, trying to catch up on episodes of the podcast “Cocaine and Rhinestones.”

 

Reading “Cotton Tenants: Three Families” by James Agee with photographs by Walker Evans. Here’s the synopsis from Amazon,

“In 1941, James Agee and Walker Evans published Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, a four-hundred-page prose symphony about three tenant farming families in Hale County, Alabama at the height of the Great Depression. The book shattered journalistic and literary conventions. Critic Lionel Trilling called it the “most realistic and most important moral effort of our American generation.
The origins of Agee and Evan’s famous collaboration date back to an assignment for Fortune magazine, which sent them to Alabama in the summer of 1936 to report a story that was never published. Some have assumed that Fortune‘s editors shelved the story because of the unconventional style that marked Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, and for years the original report was lost. But fifty years after Agee’s death, a trove of his manuscripts turned out to include a typescript labeled “Cotton Tenants.” Once examined, the pages made it clear that Agee had in fact written a masterly, 30,000-word report for Fortune.
Published here for the first time, and accompanied by thirty of Walker Evans’s historic photos, Cotton Tenants is an eloquent report of three families struggling through desperate times. Indeed, Agee’s dispatch remains relevant as one of the most honest explorations of poverty in America ever attempted and as a foundational document of long-form reporting. As the novelist Adam Haslett writes in an introduction, it is “a poet’s brief for the prosecution of economic and social injustice.” -end quote

I purchased this book sometime ago, was reading another book before the holidays but got sidetracked and never got back to it. This book is of particular interest to me because while it is not literally the story of my grandfather’s family, it is essentially the story of families  for whom the circumstances of survival were the same as his. One of seven children, my grandfather’s family had no indoor plumbing, of any kind, they had a well, and an outhouse (eventually), typically sharing only a few rooms, two or three, in tin roof houses. When they didn’t have a mule to plow the fields, when they couldn’t borrow one, which was frequently, the boys took turns pulling the plow. They were the definition of “dirt poor.” And my grandfather would readily say that there were those who were poorer yet.

Son of a sharecropper (not a photo of my grandfather but it could have been) working near Chesnee, South Carolina, 1937, photo by Dorothea Lange

Growing up I heard these stories, these family histories, on visits to those places that held the spent youth of my grandparents, not fully understanding the larger history and story that I was being told and taught. My grandfather stands as the best person I have ever known. ~ Personal interest aside, the book is, thus far, a fascinating read and account of a particular time in our country. The passion of the author, James Agee, with regard to his subject, is evident from the first page. It is not an unbiased portrait of the times or the plight of the cotton tenants, but in this case, that has not seemed to interfere with the accuracy of it.

James Agee     Walker Evans   Dorothea Lange

 

 

Still reading from The Big Book of Joan. “We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live.” Joan Didion ~ The more I read from this book, the more I want to read from it. At 1160 pages, it keeps on giving. I count it as one of the best book purchases I’ve ever made.

I was watching a show called “Mountain Men” but I started calling it “Men Walking in Snow” or “Men Walking in Snow After Something Breaks” and then I started fast forwarding through those parts and decided I had to quit it. What caught my attention about it was that as the commercial for it pointed out, it is a way of life that people are not running to in droves and thus many of the skills, and much of the knowledge necessary to sustain life away from so-called civilization, are going by the wayside. Case in point, I read a BBC story this morning about companies that are selling “Raw Water” (untreated spring water) as the latest trend in… trendy…beverages. For those who really don’t know why drinking “raw” unfiltered, unsterilized, untreated, water is dangerous, I urge you to look that up, ask a healthcare professional if you can, and I would say to you that when they say that untreated water has to be boiled in order to sterilize it so that it is potable, that doesn’t mean that you should drink boiling water or water that is boiling hot, ever. Really, just, don’t. Ironically, “Idiocracy” was running on one of the movie channels last night. My husband said, “Someday ( in the future) they’re going to find a copy of “Idiocracy” and think it was a documentary.” ( I hope not.) Speaking of documentaries, sporadically watching Ken Burns’ series on both “The West” and “The Civil War”, both are excellent. Also looking to get into the new season of “The X-Files”, whilst still keeping up with episodes of “Supernatural.”

Fall was quite lovely. The holidays were hectic, unusually so, as well as being unusually poignant this year. Just before Christmas, we weathered the passing of my mother-in-law after a lengthy illness. Though not entirely unexpected, grief is an exceptionally private matter, and a strange animal, that often reverberates long after its primary impact. It seemed to me that I should wait a time before posting again or, I’m not sure what, but then it is time to be trying to get things moving forward.

I’m working on a variety of projects, none of which I care to discuss any further than that other than to say fiction and poetry. Still planning to release the next collection of poems, “Thelxiepeia” sometime early this spring. I had set up a coffee station in my office ( to make tea with) but that didn’t work out, I didn’t use it the way I thought I would. I need another bookshelf in the space. So I’m planning on moving the apothecary table back to the kitchen and this spring, getting busy with a small garden. I’ll have these grandiose ideas about decorating but then I’ll see something that speaks to my soul and all previous ideas get renounced. This, in one way or another, has been at the crux of much of my existence, the battling of my exceptional brain, and my heart. My ongoing sobriety, as well as my own changing, evolving, ideas about aging, have put me on a path to a healthier existence overall. (though no sooner spoken than I think I might have a cold)

 

coffee station that didn’t work out

apothecary inspirations, from pinterest

current reality

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ability to be comfortable is luxury, to sit at my kitchen table and look out our window is a dream come true. The last few weeks have borne with them a humbling astonishment at, and thankfulness for, every good grace. My life has been so difficult sometimes, incredibly challenging, and really, just hard, but then to think of where my husband’s mother began her life as the daughter of Sicilian immigrants in New York in the 1930’s, to think of where my grandparents began, so many other things, it brings perspective to simple joys, to everyday goodness. I’m so thankful right now. I think that’s a good way to begin the new year.

TS

 

 

An Essay About Being and Becoming a Poetess

Late last night I finished work on another collection of poems, “Thelxiepeia.” This group of poems started out with a different title. When I began editing I knew that many of the poems would not make the final cut. They seemed parts of two books jammed together in a way that didn’t fit and so I opted for a cohesive finished selection and a new title. Thelxiepeia, in Greek mythology, is one of the Sirens, creatures whose seductive songs and music lured sailors to crash their ships. Sirens were often represented as being part woman and part bird. How I happened upon this story of Thelxiepeia was that I was watching an old movie called “Xanadu”, in which a muse, Kira, whose real name is Terpsichore, the muse of the dance, emerges from a mural, and falls in love with a mortal. There are fantastic musical numbers, Olivia Newton-John, Gene Kelly, Michael Beck, with music by Cliff Richard, The Tubes, and ELO. I’ve mentioned this movie before as it has most everything in it that an adolescent girl in 1981, one seeking some escape from excruciating pain, could require of a movie. I still think it’s a beautiful film, though from a completely different point of view this many years gone now. In watching it again I thought to look up the names of the Nine Muses of Olympus, one of whom is portrayed, though it isn’t a speaking part, by Sandahl Bergman, who is better known for her roles in “Conan the Barbarian”, “All That Jazz”, and “Red Sonja.” This led to looking up the names of the Sirens, and the writing of the poem, “Thelxiepeia.” Thematically overall, the collection has to do with the subject of muses and myths, with the stories we tell ourselves so that we can find a way to tell our stories, and those things that help us along the way in that.

xanadu-mural-muses

The Muses, “Xanadu”, 1980

 

In writing these poems, in watching “Xanadu” whenever it was, these poems were written several years ago, and remembering again that time of my life, I understood again how it is that I became a poetess, a writer, and how much of that, for me, relates to, or has or is entrenched in, films and music in someway. In 1981 I turned thirteen years old. Over the course of exactly one months time, I went from being a normal, healthy kid, to being emaciated and barely able to get out of bed. Five foot eight, at that time, my weight dropped to ninety-six pounds at one point. I couldn’t go to school, couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t not sleep, and after months of weeks of grueling visits to doctors, specialists, hospitals, they couldn’t find anything specifically wrong with me that they could diagnose as anything other than Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, since re-diagnosed as an adult as Still’s Disease, which is similar to Lupus. That’s back story, it took a year to recover enough, to be well enough again, to really return to school. Point being that I really couldn’t do much of anything other than watch television during most of that time. I didn’t have the ability to concentrate or focus enough to read books during that time as I was in too much pain, though I’d been an avid reader up to then. Being as I couldn’t really do much of anything else during that time other than watch television, many of the usual restrictions on what I was allowed to watch, were lifted. Nineteen-eighty and eighty-one weren’t bad years for film, though my viewing was limited to whatever cable movie channel it was that we had or whatever was making its “Network Television Premier” and that was usually about a year behind whatever was in the theaters. I’ve spoken before about watching the film “Altered States” and feeling a strange understanding of the transformation of the main character while wondering why in the world anyone would willing put themselves through what he does. ( It’s like “Jaws” in that you find yourself just wanting him to get out of the water.) Along those lines I also watched the other werewolf movies of the day, “An American Werewolf in London” and “Wolfen” and the like. The feeling that I had sometimes was very much that I didn’t want to be that, and that I was nonetheless turning into some inexplicable creature and the world was turning into a strange place that didn’t understand me, anymore than I could understand it.

Most of the time, I couldn’t hold a pen or a pencil, couldn’t do schoolwork, wore Ace bandages and wrist braces and homemade splints. I was in so much pain so constantly, the world slips away when it’s like that, for anyone experiencing anything like that I would guess. The way that everyone else keeps time is meaningless and useless and of no importance. On the better days, I’d wish I was at school, I’d think about all I was missing out on, dances, friends, boyfriends, classes I liked. I couldn’t ride my bicycle or play sports anymore and I’d always been the kid that was outside from sunup until dark, though really it was beyond wallowing. Whatever the future was going to hold for me was forever changed. My mother said, “You know, you could still write. You could try writing poems again.” I’d written poems in grade school, and for school, though I hadn’t considered “writer” or “poetess” as a job option outside of possibly being a journalist, a newswoman. And I thought, “I can’t even hold a pencil.” But she got a couple of small notebooks for me and I remember writing what I still consider to be my first serious poem, titled simply, “Alone”, while I was sitting in bed watching the film, “Private Benjamin.” That movie is a comedy, containing one of my all time favorite movie line exchanges.

“Aunt Kissy: I hope my coat’s gonna be good enough. I had no idea it was gonna be so chilly.

Harriet Benjamin: It’s November here, Kissy.

Teddy Benjamin: It’s November everywhere, genius.”

But the film is ultimately about Judy Benjamin finding her sense of self, and the strength to be her own person, there was something in that that spoke to me beyond the ribald, raunchy, comedy, because in that place, the funniest thing in the world, isn’t quite so funny. In that place of so much pain, the funniest thing in the world seems illogical, senseless, and idiotic, I guess one way to put it would be like how the food fight in the film “Animal House” (1978), might not make you laugh if you’re not from a first world country where even waste is taken for granted, and what I was looking for were things that were hopeful in some way, or strong, resilient. It also may be that it was during that time that any remaining sense of humor I had, took a sardonic, somewhat self-deprecating, turn. I looked at the poem that I’d scribbled in the little notebook and that was the beginning, and I hope I never forget that moment. Additionally, it’s become evident to me that my brain might be hardwired for rhyme to some degree, and some of that comes from listening to music and song lyrics all my life. ( My father was a musician, both my parents could sing, there was live music in the house for much of my youth.) Eventually I was allowed to use my mother’s electric typewriter sometimes, when my hands were very swollen, as I could often still move my fingers on the keys for a while even if I couldn’t move my wrists or my hands, however much it hurt. I was a writer before that, but after that, I knew that I was, whether I’d claimed it or it had claimed me, and that was that. I’ve since tried not to be a writer a couple of times and that doesn’t ever work out. I used to say that my writing was my “human’s compensation,” like … yeah there’s all of whatever else there is, but then there’s my writing. God willing I’ll be able to keep writing and writing and writing. Human beings are resilient, and strong, courageous.

Finishing this collection of poems, and it isn’t quite as long as some of the others at only fifty-four pages, I could go right into editing another collection of poems but I found that I didn’t want to, I found myself wanting to work on some kind of story again, some fiction. Though really I am taking some time to organize and edit and clear the decks for the end of the year, hopefully do some fun things, spend some time with family. 2017 has gone quickly, hasn’t it? The last several years for me, I’ve realized, have been about finding myself as a writer again, finding my groove with it all, finding balance and self acceptance, allowing myself to be this and to honor it and the gift of it, to appreciate, and accept, and let be, my own muses. “Thelxiepeia”, I think, speaks very much to all of that. I hope to release it sometime next year, in early spring. I’m so grateful for this gift of being able to write, and I do consider it to be a gift. We all find inspiration or ideas in a lot of different things, people, places, it’s important to honor your muse(s), one of mine led me to Thelxiepeia. I’m uncertain in this moment if these poems were a farewell to the girl that I was or an homage, I feel like I can write about her, but I can’t ever again be her. I’m not sad about that, only grateful for having had the chance to be that girl, and to be looking now to the future as this woman. Becoming is ever ongoing.

 

Teri

 

Thelxiepeia

 

great song from the film “Xanadu.”

Being an Independent Author: How Much Work Is Involved in Making a Book?

How much work is involved in making a book, bringing a book to market, yourself?

I’d say that depends on the author. First you’ve got to write the thing and come up with, or out of it with, a final draft. I write it. I edit it. I format it. That is all me. I proofread it, again, and again, and probably again. I just finished the fifth page by page check of “Gold Mine”. I found a place in one of the pieces where “understand” needed to be changed to “understanding”. Spellcheck doesn’t catch that kind of thing, nor does it catch homophones, and sometimes a grammar check won’t catch those either. Editing poetry is far more tedious than editing stories or editing a novel. Editing a novel there is the forward motion of the story itself to keep you going, with poetry, each piece may be different, require different formatting. I also occasionally invent words and of course spellcheck doesn’t recognize those. I’m currently editing and publishing work from years ago, trying to get caught up. This is important, it doesn’t matter when a piece was written if it is good. No one looks at a Renoir and says, “That old thing?” Same goes for music and film, if something is good, then it’s good. Timelessness.

Making books this way is very much rebel book making. I’m not anti-establishment in that I wouldn’t ever say that I definitely wouldn’t seek to publish along traditional lines again. But, I am a person who believes in thinking for myself. I believe that my work is good, and I want to publish it in the way that I want to publish it, and in a timely manner. I’ve already vented my feelings about how I arrived at the decision to become an indie author. At this point I would say that it completely suits me. It allows for complete creative freedom and control. It allows for me to work at my own pace, or not work if I’m in too much pain. With my arthritis, I admit that I do always feel as though the clock is ticking on the longevity of my hands, I’ve got back and neck problems too ( as many writers do). Honestly, the physicality of my particular situation, I don’t know that I could do this any other way, it would have to be an unheard of super sweet deal of, “Sure, whenever, you want!” As yet, I am enjoying being an independent author.

I am also then in charge of getting my work our there, that’s the part that really isn’t my favorite because I’m not a natural salesperson. I’m a writer. I don’t have a team of anyone standing behind me, or as yet, an established fan base, or a publicist. Keeping in mind that each part of the process is time and effort. If you’re a writer who is handing things off to an editor or an agent, if you have an established fan base, then you’re not wearing quite as many hats as someone who is doing everything themselves.

I can tell you that having made the decision, I’m calmer, less emotionally invested in the b.s., hypocrisy, and politics, of any given situation, because I don’t have to be. And yes, that is a luxury, one that I’ve gifted myself with by opting out of the usual route. It is also a grace, something that I’m lucky to be able to do and I don’t take it for granted, I’m happy for it for however long it lasts. I’m incredibly grateful for my husband in that, he’s been supporting my work in one way or another for a very long time. I do not regret opting out of, for the most part, the fray. Quite honestly, recent situations within the entertainment industry only reaffirmed my decision to go rogue, to go rebel, and do this myself on my own terms.

All of this is a learn as you go process. How much work?

Like I said, this is the fifth time I’ve gone through this manuscript page by page. That’s after having written it in the first place. So write it, then edit it, then spellcheck it, then grammar check it, then proofread it, (when you’ve got your final draft, or close to it, I say file your copyright,) then format it, then check your formatting to make sure everything looks as it should on each page, again, check your acknowledgments, your credits, your permissions if needed and you’ll be teaching yourself all of that too. Then you’re going to design your cover, or have someone do that for you. My philosophy about that is not to over think it, I’m a writer, yes I want the covers to look good/decent, ultimately that’s the wrapping paper, but I’m not an artist or graphic designer and I can’t afford to hire one as yet. I’ll get better at the covers as I go, ultimately, I am a writer and it’s the words that matter the most to me. ( It’s who you are inside that counts right?) But, you’re going to do that too, design your covers.  Etc. Etc. Etc. It can all take anywhere from months to a few years. ( From what I’ve read around, going the traditional route to publishing a book, providing you get a book deal, is an average time of about two years from idea and pitch to finished manuscript and publication.)

It isn’t the way to go for everyone, or even most, perhaps, but it is working for me. Am I a selling millions of books? Well, not quite yet. There are no guarantees along those lines regardless of the publishing route you choose.

The cover of “Gold Mine” is a picture of an x-ray of the fused bones of my right hand and wrist, the cause arthritis ( Still’s Disease), from several years ago now, that’s it. I often wear a brace. The clock is ticking. “Gold Mine” is a collection of poetry and prose the last piece of which was written in 2009. Collections, whether it be poetry or stories, take longer to accumulate.

Each writer has their own goals in my mind for what they want to do and how they want to do it when it comes to their work. For now, this is working for me. “Gold Mine” should be available for purchase sometime in early November. There are several pieces from the book available to read for free here on this webpage, just type Gold Mine, into the search box, though I will list the links when the book is ready.

Teri Skultety