I’ve planted roses in my bones,
and left the ashes of those years,
in an urn mixed with tears,
lit on fire with my fears,
disintegrated, gone away,
I couldn’t live with them any longer,
I don’t know if it made me stronger,
holding on and out for hope,
I’ve planted roses in a kaleidoscope.
Revealed a thing I didn’t want to see,
I couldn’t escape it and now I’m free,
it’s what they say the truth will do,
not the kind they thought they knew,
a rainbow through the looking-glass,
in every color, shade, and hue,
I’ve planted roses for me, and you.
I’ve let my hip bones turn to wings,
I’ve let my heart remember things,
I thought would break my soul in two,
I’ve planted roses and now I’m through,
With the thorns she gave to me,
I’ve closed the window. Shut the door.
I can’t hear her anymore.
I found a love that lets me be,
I’ve planted roses in my bones,
in among the sticks and stones,
in the tall grass, among the weeds,
I’ve planted roses, I’ve planted seeds.
Teri Skultety, 7/1/18
Some thoughts on current events in the world, I don’t know how other people deal with trauma, cope with reality, with being in the world. The doors to madness are too much reality, and not enough of it. The doors into madness are laced with too much philosophical contemplation about existence, not enough letting one’s self be. What that means is, each of us is finding our own way. I hope we can all do that with as much decency and kindness as possible.
Work continues on the sequel to The Slick Furies. It’s slower going than previous writes as I am plucking all the good bits from other beginnings of this novel. This book has a different tone, historical, a different degree of seriousness. Certainly there will be humor. I’m not in a rush with this write, it’s important to me to get my vision of this book, this story, onto the page as I’ve imagined it. As with any sequel, building on the first book’s history, characters, some of the emotional bonds are deeper. I feel like, think, The Slick Furies really had a sense of connection between the main characters. It’s important to me to make sure that carries on, that I capture that with this second book as well, though some of the dynamics have changed, and that’s what keeps stories like this interesting. These characters aren’t stagnate, they’ve been affected by the events of the story of their lives.
I’m about to begin proofreading, making corrections to, “The Edges of the Rain.” This is one of the novellas I wrote in 2011, rewrote earlier this year. It was easy to write, I wrote the original draft in two weeks. It was tougher after the fact when I read it and realized what I’d written. I’m hoping to release it this fall. This book is a psychological thriller, a nightmare of greed, a horror story of human nature, and all the ways we compartmentalize ourselves. I’m ready to get to publishing it, to be moving on to other things. So, there will be updates on this book as things progress.
Those two books should keep me busy for the remainder of the year. I haven’t been able to really write for a few days after crashing my bicycle, one of my better spills, jammed both wrists/hands, one side of my body is dinged up. It hurts to ride. It’s always something. I get up limping every day as is. But, if I give in to all the hurts and park it on the sofa indefinitely, then I’m done. So I do what I feel like I can, as I can. Living with the arthritis for as long as I have, it’s a balancing act of rest and motion, when possible. The last few days, not so much doing. I say that not in complaint, but as statement of fact and appreciation for those things I can do when I can do them. Something I’ve learned from this, is that in all our commonalities, the things we can empathize with another about, there’s very rarely any actual comparison one human to the next, what is the same about each of us is that we are individuals. Part of why I don’t ever compare what I can do ( or be) on any given day, or ever, to anyone else. ( At least, I try not to.)
Rest in peace, Margot Kidder, Ms. Lois Lane. A story about her from someone who knew her for a time was making the rounds, said she loved the wolves inhabiting the area around her Montana home and would regularly leave meat out for them. According to this chap, she said she hoped that when she died, her friends would find her, tell no one, put her on a bed-sheet and drag her up the mountain so she could be the last meal she gave to the wolves she loved. I don’t know if I’ll ever be quite that at peace with myself in this world, but that’s one of the coolest stories I’ve ever heard.
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.
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.
I’ve been exceptionally busy lately with no end to that in sight. I haven’t done any writing or editing in at least a week. So it goes sometimes. I was taking something of an unintentional “moment” as it were anyway, to catch my metaphorical breath.
I follow Architectural Digest on the twitter. This evening they offered up this link to a story about Loulou de la Falaise, the “muse” of Yves Saint Laurent. Keeping in mind that she did not think of herself as a muse so much as a collaborator, as she was a designer in her own right and very hard-working, etc. I thought, “Those rooms look incredibly busy/cluttered. None of that stuff matches, but I see how it goes together.” (She mixed patterns like a boss, as they say.) Which makes it sound like I don’t grasp the concept of eclectic/bohemian/etc., when I’ve been looking at decorating and fashion magazines for as long as I could get my hands on them, but I digress. What I thought was, “But why does it work? What makes all of that seemingly mismatched stuff work?” I think it’s the idea, succinctly, that if you love it, it will go together. Still, not the point.
The point is that mixing all those things together isn’t necessarily going to be everyone’s cup of tea. (If you do an image search of Loulou de la Falaise homes, rooms, décor, you will find a plethora of seemingly mismatched bohemian bliss.) It isn’t what everyone would go in for, but if you look at photographs of the woman herself, she is emitting a vibe of fabulousness. The point is, it takes great courage to be happy.
It takes great courage to go your own way, do your own thing, and keep doing it. It takes great courage to own your happiness, to say, “Yes, I do like wearing flowers and plaids together.” or whatever it is, and own it. Embrace it. It seems a simple thing, to like what you like and love what you love, the living of it, however, takes practice.
It might also seem or sound frivolous, except that I promise you there’s nothing the least bit frivolous about happiness, about finding whatever it is in life that makes you smile or brings you joy.
“it takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” e.e. cummings
I thought I’d share that thought.
If you’re looking for me on facebook, I am not there.
I took my leave of it a couple of days ago. I will say this, it’s a kind of odd… feeling? I was a participant on facebook for seven years, that’s quite a chunk of time to be engaged in such timesuckage. I won’t discuss precisely what my habit was in terms of my social media usage, however, as with any habit, when you give it up “cold turkey” there’s something of an empty space where the habit was. There was a little bit of a feeling of free-falling for half a day, however, it passed quickly enough. Suffice it to say, it was the right decision for me. I do not regret deleting my facebook page. It is highly unlikely I will return to that particular social network. I will also say that if you use facebook and you are enjoying your use of it, well then good for you. I mean that sincerely. I figure we’re all finding our own way around in this here world, to each their own.
In other happenings, the editing/correcting of previous work continues. Let that be a lesson to me to proofread better. (It isn’t terribly exciting as a topic of conversation either but, there again, let that be a lesson to me to proofread better.) I’ve decided I will no longer publish poetry collections on Kindle. The formatting of poetry is different from novels/stories. I don’t like the way it looks on Kindle no matter how I’ve adjusted it. Editing poetry is particularly tedious as is. I gave it the old college try, as they say. I prefer to publish the poetry in paperback form. So shall it be. I will continue to publish my fiction, novels, novellas, stories, etc., in both paperback and on Kindle.
Something has changed. I can’t quite put my finger on it. I don’t know that I’d explain it if I could. I find myself wanting to say something about the things that make us happy, the ways in which we all find our ways of being in the world, but it seems to me in this moment, better not to break the spell of any such thing with too much deciphering. Perhaps that is some of it, that with eyes wide open, or “woke,” if you prefer, one realizes that awareness is a personal matter of which there may be no such thing as “fully aware” in that isn’t there always something somewhere one doesn’t know or isn’t aware of? Certainly. So it seems to the open eyes that the demystification of the world, is, in some regard, overrated. On the contrary, however, one may then engage in the making of at least marginally informed choices. One might make the comparison between drinking ( intoxicants) because one doesn’t know any better, and drinking because one does. ( I remain sober.) Or, if one were to wear “rose-colored glasses” as a matter of choice, rather than unaware oblivion, or naiveté, or frivolity. (Not that I just woke up, not hardly.) As I said, I can’t quite put my finger on it.
So pleased, excited, to have so many stories, books, to write, so much to do. On I go.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
great song from the film “Xanadu.”