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.
Metamorphosis of the Vampire, 1857
Translated by Edna St. Vincent Millay
Meanwhile from her red mouth the woman, in husky tones,
Twisting her body like a serpent upon hot stones
And straining her white breasts from their imprisonment,
Let fall these words, as potent as a heavy scent:
“My lips are moist and yielding, and I know the way
To keep the antique demon of remorse at bay.
All sorrows die upon my bosom. I can make
Old men laugh happily as children for make.
For him who sees me naked in my tresses, I
Replace the sun, the moon, and all the stars of the sky!
Believe me, learned sir, I am so deeply skilled
That when I wind a lover in my soft arms, and yield
My breasts like two ripe fruits for his devouring — both
Shy and voluptuous, insatiable and loath —
Upon this bed that groans and sighs luxuriously
Even the impotent angels would be damned for me!”
When she had drained me of my very marrow, and cold
And weak, I turned to give her one more kiss — behold,
There at my side was nothing but a hideous
Putrescent thing, ail faceless and exuding pus.
I closed my eyes and mercifully swooned till day:
And when I looked at morning for that beast of prey
Who seemed to have replenished her arteries from my own,
The wan, disjointed fragments of a skeleton
Wagged up and down in a lewd posture where she had lain,
Rattling with each convulsion like a weathervane
Or an old sign that creaks upon its bracket, right
Mournfully in the wind upon a winter’s night.
Le Vampire, 1857
Translated by Atti Viragh
You who, keen as a carving blade,
Into my plaintive heart has plunged,
You who, strong as a wild array
Of crazed and costumed cacodaemons,
Storming into my helpless soul
To make your bed and your domain;
— Tainted jade to whom I’m joined
Like a convict to his chain,
Like a gambler to his game,
Like a drunkard to his bottle,
Like maggot-worms to their cadaver,
Damn you, oh damn you I say!
I pleaded with the speedy sword
To win me back my liberty;
And finally, a desperate coward,
I turned to poison’s perfidy.
Alas, but poison and the sword
Had only scorn to offer me:
“You’re not worthy to be free
Of your wretched slavery,
You imbecile! — For if our means
Should release you from her reign,
You with your kisses would only breathe
New life into the vampire slain!”
You may read other translations of Baudelaire’s poems here, Les Fleurs du Mal.
Les Fleus du Mal, 1857, Charles Baudelaire, is the book of poetry I am secretly always looking for a vastly under priced first edition/early edition copy of, one with a beautifully embossed cover, in every scouring of every thrift or antique shop I enter. I have a paperback copy, Penguin Classics, containing the original verses in French, in addition to the English translations. I don’t know quite what it is about these verses that fascinates me so, as their lines do not seem to stay with me long after reading them, at least, not that I’m aware of. They are beautiful, horrible, poems. Influenced by the work of Edgar Allen Poe, Baudelaire was convicted on obscenity charges, for which he, the printer, and the publisher, were fined. Quite the interesting literary character, credited with coining the term “modernity,” about whom I am still educating myself. Interesting to me in this moment, however, as I am writing about vampires, are these two poems composed by Baudelaire about a vampire, that I’d read before however had not realized were written forty years prior to the publication of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” in 1897. Forty years is a lifetime when you consider that Baudelaire himself did not live beyond age forty-six… that we know of.
This has led me to a poem by Lord Byron, The Giaour, 1813, these lines are known as “The Vampire Passage”, said to be the first reference to vampire lore in English literature ( I’m learning some things) according to that site/link. ( I found a pdf copy of the complete poem, it’s fifty-one pages long. Later for that, eventually.)
- “But first, on earth as vampire sent,
- Thy corse shall from its tomb be rent:
- Then ghastly haunt thy native place,
- And suck the blood of all thy race;
- There from thy daughter, sister, wife,
- At midnight drain the stream of life;
- Yet loathe the banquet which perforce
- Must feed thy livid living corse:
- Thy victims ere they yet expire
- Shall know the demon for their sire,
- As cursing thee, thou cursing them,
- Thy flowers are withered on the stem.”
Quite frankly, I’m reminded of my own first scribbled poem (along with several other of my poems and not at all to compare myself to Lord Byron other than talking subject matter) when I’d no idea whatsoever who Lord Byron was, or knew anything at all about writing poems. I thought poems had to rhyme and when pressed to produce one for a school assignment, I figured all poems were depressing or had to be “lofty” somehow. (Yes, this is well covered territory.)
“A flower starts out very small,
Then it will grow to be very tall,
then it will reach down and die,
Upon the ground, there it lies.”
It wasn’t fifty-one pages, but it got the job done, got an “A” for that in 1977. I had no emotion about that poem whatsoever other than wanting to be finished with the thing and being glad that I was. Looking at it now, that third line is strange to me, as though a flower were not wilting, as though it were tired of all that stretching upward toward the light. It rhymed. However, in some way, perhaps everything was right there in that first poem, these recurring themes in my own work. Perhaps it was always going this way, writing about vampires, and such.
I used a quote from Lord Byron’s poem “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage”, in The Slick Furies to begin Part Two of the book, “Among them, not of them, in a shroud.” Not because I was, or am, terribly familiar with that poem, but because I remembered that line, that quote as being something somewhat paraphrased or nearly so, from a scripture, “In the world, but not of it.”
I think, perhaps, what is of interest to me is the willingness of these writers to write such dark things at all. What is the light without the contrast? I feel at home with these discoveries, new to me. I am fascinated. The work continues.
Les Metomorphoses du Vampire
La femme cependant de sa bouche de fraise,
En se tordant ainsi qu’un serpent sur la braise,
Et pétrissant ses seins sur le fer de son buse,
Laissait couler ces mots tout imprégnés de musc:
— “Moi, j’ai la lèvre humide, et je sais la science
De perdre au fond d’un lit l’antique conscience.
Je sèche tous les pleurs sur mes seins triomphants
Et fais rire les vieux du rire des enfants.
Je remplace, pour qui me voit nue et sans voiles,
Le lune, le soleil, le ciel et les étoiles!
Je suis, mon cher savant, si docte aux voluptés,
Lorsque j’étouffe un homme en mes bras veloutés,
Ou lorsque j’abandonne aux morsures mon buste,
Timide et libertine, et fragile et robuste,
Que sur ces matelas qui se pâment d’émoi
Les Anges impuissants se damneraient pour moi!”
Quand elle eut de mes os sucé toute la moelle,
Et que languissamrnent je me tournai vers elle
Pour lui rendre un baiser d’amour, je ne vis plus
Qu’une outre aux flancs gluants, toute pleine de pus.’
Je fermai les deux yeux dans ma. froide épouvante,
Et, quand que les rouvris à la clarté vivante,
A mes côtés, au lieu du mannequin puissant
Qui semblait avoir fait provision de sang,
Tremblaient confusément des débris de squelette,
Qui d’eux-mÂmes rendaient le cri d’une girouette
Ou d’une enseiga’, au bout d’une tringle de fer,
Que balance le vent pendant les nuits d’hiver.
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.
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.
“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
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.
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.”
I’ve worked hard the last couple of years to get some books published, I’m thinking of them as there were “the first five,” and now there is “the magnificent seven.” I also have stories in three print anthologies, and I’m going to get those linked up with cover pictures, as well as having been published thirteen times various places online during the last six years. In the spring of 2018, I hope to release another collection of poetry, tentatively titled “Thelxiepeia”. After that, well I wouldn’t say what was next even if I had figured that out. I am a prolific writer, and that has always been the case. Even when I think I’m not really writing much, I’m always really writing something. I had a tremendous back catalogue of manuscripts, books, to publish. “Thelxiepeia” is work that was composed from 2011 to 2012 or thereabouts, so I’m getting closer to being caught up.
The books I’ve released in the last week, “Gold Mine” and “Maybelline Raven and The Wolf”, both came out of a nervous breakdown that began in 2008. Fact is, I’ve gotten a lot of writing, stories, out of that breakdown though I’d just as soon not got through anything like that again. “Gold Mine” is really, I think, something that was written, compiled, jammed together, like a panic attack during a panic attack in 2009. That book was very much the moment at the beginning of an avalanche. The title “Gold Mine” came out of some remembered fragment that life experiences are a writer’s gold mine, to which I thought “go mine your own business,” and then thinking that I might have thrown a gold mine worth of writing into a fire. “Maybelline Raven and The Wolf” was written during the first months of 2014, when I was recovering from the worst of it all and really at the beginning of sorting things out. Most people cannot put their house back in order in the middle of the storm. I’ve said before that much of my work is catharsis in that it is something of a coping mechanism, as much as it is a way to dream, it is also a way to understand things, to reason things out in some way, and sometimes, it’s very much a way to get rid of the poison. I’ve written some horror stories that aren’t anything I want to read, writing horror was way outside of my comfort zone as a writer, so if someone tells me they don’t like horror, I can respond honestly that I understand that completely. I’ve also used the “input/output” analogy on that one, the world isn’t always a nice place, all my experiences in this life haven’t been good, sometimes the writing is way to git rid of bad emotions or baggage, we’ve all got stuff. I’ve written some super hopeful, sappy, in love and in love with life stuff too. We learn to appreciate the balance between the “good” and the “bad,” to understand that sometimes those things change, and to sift the wheat from the chaff.
“Maybelline Raven and The Wolf” began as I started to sort out my own ancestry, to research my own family tree. One of the biggest lessons to come out of that has been not to jump the gun. I started out with family stories, finally got to the 100% bottom of some things, researched the actual genealogy and family tree, did a DNA test only to then further read that such a test might not tell you what you want to know or even reveal the truth of your lineage because with each generation the bloodline thins, so to speak, and people migrated and mixed and so on. I learned that the descendants a person can verify and trace are generally the best indicator. I am of English, Irish, and Cherokee descent. It was ultimately easier for me than some as my parents are no mystery to me and I did grow up with a grandparents who were interested in the family history though there were discrepancies and oddities to be sorted out. For example, I grew up with a story that we were related to George Washington, as well as to an “Indian Princess,” to which my grandfather would say, “She wasn’t a princess. That wasn’t her real name.” When you hear stories like that as a kid, it’s ridiculous. Yeah right, sure. In researching the family tree, I found a George Washington, not thee George Washington, but a George Washington. From there I thought, “Okay, what other of these stories are true, and what have I had wrong?”
On my mother’s side of the family, I am able to trace back to the 1500’s in England, to Scotland and to 1800’s Ireland and a young man named Joseph Creighton, aged thirteen years, traveling alone, who arrived in New Orleans in 1847 aboard The Berlin, to Reverend David Caldwell and the Revolutionary War, and to Civil War soldiers who fought on both sides of the conflict. On my father’s side of the family, I am able to trace my ancestry to 1500’s England to Sir Robert Bell, Speaker of the House of Commons, to 1600’s Colonial England to Thomas Burgess whose affair with Lydia Gaunt led to the first ever divorce in Plymouth and to Cherokee Chief Doublehead ( a sixth great-grand-father), whose daughter, Cornblossum (Princess) Doublehead married Big Jake Troxell and their daughter, Margaret Troxell married James Bell in 1809, whose great-grandson, William, a great-grandfather, who married Lena Burgess, one of my great-grandmothers, and the sixth great-grandaughter of Thomas Burgess and Lydia Gaunt. There were also family stories of a relation to The Younger Brothers, of the James- Younger Gang by the marriage of a cousin, connected through the Carson family, though I was unable to verify those stories.
I went on my first cross-country trip to Mississippi and Louisiana before I was quite two years old, and I remember the highlights, including getting bit by a dog. These stories were swimming around in my head as I wrote the story of Maybelline. Maybelline Raven is a woman who has witnessed and experienced something horrific. As a result, her mind has found a way to compartmentalize and deal with the trauma as she remains terrified and trying to protect her children. Set in 1762 in a fictional village along the banks of the Mississippi River, this story was an important turning point for me, it is a story about courage, about strength, about the incredible power of the mind and the heart to heal, it is a story about resilience, survival, and love. Maybelline Raven is also a story that I believed in so much that I was will to roll the dice on publishing my own books, though it wasn’t the first book that I published. Creating “Maybelline” helped me understand my own processes of coping and healing.
I’m going to be taking a bit of a rest ( I already am, caught a bug, needed to sleep, etc.) and hopefully enjoying the holidays, sober,while trying to avoid eating too many delicious baked goods. I’ll probably be working on something. I’ll probably post again before the year is out, or not. Until then, “Gold Mine” and “Maybelline Raven and The Wolf”are available on Amazon. The paperback of Maybelline should be available any day now.
The year is 1762.
Maybelline Raven is waiting patiently along the banks of the Mississippi River for the return of her husband so they may venture north, with their children. When the people of the village begin to perish after Maybelline is attacked, it is feared that a wolf is in their midst. As Maybelline takes flight, rumors of witchcraft swirl around her, and the horrors of their past threaten to obtrude upon the present. Will she be able to get her family to safety? Or will they succumb to the dangers of the waters further south and the Atchafalaya?
Paperback coming soon!
During the fall months of 2008 and on into 2009, and on for a while, reality slipped away from me. Amid the avalanche of dissipating solidity descending into complete confusion and chaos of thought, I threw more than twenty years of writing, of work, into a cauldron of flames. Two file boxes of poems, stories, notes, one completed novel, and two poetry manuscripts, went into the fire. One of those manuscripts was for a book of poems titled “Winsome Vein”, that I thought was darker than anything I’d ever written, so much so that I was afraid of the direction my writing seemed to be taking. The truth is that I’ve always written darker words, as much as I’ve written hopeful ones. However, having filed that copyright on “Winsome Vein”, saved that work as I had set fire to all other copies. ( Some might say that was the right thing to do.)
Within days of having burned so much of my work, I experienced a moment of clarity, and panic. I became terrified that I might destroy more of my own work. I gathered the bits and pieces of what remained, jamming them together one after another in whatever way they seemed to make sense to me, along with other fragments that my mind had latched onto in the unraveling. Those salvaged bits became this book, “Gold Mine”. I filed my copyright on it as soon as it was finished, thinking that I was filing a copyright on a pile of scraps, of bits and pieces of salvage. I was trying to protect my work from my own want to destroy it. I later found an old notebook with many pages missing that I remembered rifling through one night in a fit of what I was thinking of as “editing”, as though all sentimentality and heart had taken leave of me along with my senses. The poems still intact in that notebook remain something of a godsend to me. I destroyed twenty years of work, of scraps, of notes, of stories, early rejection letters received when I was in my teens and twenties, journals, it all went, as I tried to deny myself, to say, “I am not this.” I looked at what remained and thought, These are the words I managed to save.
Coming out of that time I didn’t know if I would ever write anything again. For nearly two years, I didn’t. It is the only time in the last thirty-three years that I’ve ever ceased writing.
All my words are not always the best words, they are, however, the encapsulation of the moment in which they were written. The merit of a thing is sometimes the moment. I’ve learned as much from the bad poems and stories that I’ve written as I have from the good ones. Whether they are all worth publishing isn’t the point, they are all worth keeping and learning from.
I hadn’t looked at, read, much of this work since that time. In writing and editing this now, I’ve realized that I was leaving a message for myself for the future, for whenever I would get back to this. A message to not give up, not to quit. I found my guts again with this book.
I am a writer. ~ Teri Skultety, September 12, 2017, from “Gold Mine”.
Paperback coming soon!
A Sampling from the seventy-eight pieces of poetry and prose that make-up, “Gold Mine”, now available on Amazon.
I hope you buy this collection of my salvaged scribbles, I hope you read it and enjoy it. I hope it rocks your socks. Thank you so much for stopping by. Sincerely, Teri Skultety
I’ve been doing some serious thinking about the world lately.
Can you hear the quiet?
This serious thinking isn’t a new thing for me. This bout of thinking began with the drug induced suicide of a rock star. I’m referring to it as drug induced because we’ll never really know and the fact is that those kinds of drugs can cause those kinds of thoughts, so, I think, in this case, give it the benefit of the doubt. Still though, I couldn’t figure out what it was about it that bothered me so much, I mean, I didn’t know Chris Cornell personally. I realized that it was that it felt like something of a betrayal, not that he owed any of us anything. But it felt like he was fifty-two years old and he had everything, he’d made it through when many of his contemporaries hadn’t, and, how dare he bail out, this icon of my generation. But then, remembering, it was probably the drugs. Then Powers Boothe died, but, he died in his sleep at sixty-eight years old and the general consensus seemed to be, “Good show!” Then a bomb went off at a concert, where kids where watching a former Nickelodeon star turned pop-princess perform, the bomb killed twenty-two people, the youngest victim of the Manchester Attack was eight years old. Then Greg Allman died. Then it was June. This week the President of the U.S. withdrew from the Paris Agreement on climate change, and everyone lost their nut over it. If you’ve not read the agreement or anything about it and you’re interested in having an informed opinion, you should read it, and try to understand what it says and means, that’s my advice on having an opinion, take the time to educate yourself to figure what you actually think about whatever it is. At this point in the proceedings the internet became incredibly noisy.
Can you hear the quiet?
I got to thinking about some things, I’d been thinking about some things anyway.
Everyone is talking. No one is listening. Everyone has an opinion. Despite that, the first thing that I saw when I logged onto facebook was a post that read, “FUCK NO. Not again.” I haven’t read all the details of the latest incident in London. I’d gone out, to get some air, to get some quiet. To think. Despite my having gone out, and despite my sharing my thoughts on any number of things in the last day or so, this latest attack in London still occurred. Despite the multitude of opinions and thoughts offered up by everyone about everything, these things still happened, and they still happen.
Can you hear the quiet?
I know that venting and opinionating and ranting and all of that, can be a great stress reliever. You read this stuff, you hear about it, you’ve got something to say because it’s getting to you or everyone, you’ve been sitting in traffic for too long, or dealing with rude people or you feel helpless and powerless and it seems like the world is going to hell in a hand-basket and enough already! ENOUGH! The internet gets very loud with people saying, in their own ways, “Enough.” I understand that. I do. I’ve been sucked into that storm many times. It can make it tough to hear yourself think.
Are you free?
Are you a free person, a person who enjoys freedom? Is your mind free, have you freed your mind?
What does that even mean?
I was thinking about the Terracotta Warriors, also known as The Terracotta Army. Qin Shi Huang ascended the throne at the age of thirteen and would become the first Emperor of China. The Terracotta Warriors are life-size sculptures depicting his army, his whole army. Each one is different, they were not cast from a single mold. They were buried with him, along with many treasures, in order to protect him in the afterlife. Qin Shi Huang believed that “Yes, you can take it with you” and he believed it, they believed it, so completely that he replicated his entire army in these terracotta statues, more than 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots, 520 horses, cavalry horses, as well as many other figures and statues. The scope of it is truly stunning, completely breathtaking, to contemplate.
My fascination with this subject isn’t new. I happen to have a Terracotta Warrior of my very own. I should name him. I’ll think about that.
What I got to thinking was about how Qin Shi Huang had the full conviction of his beliefs, or, did he have his army replicated you know, just in case? What about Egyptian beliefs about the afterlife, all the treasures sealed in their tombs?
Different people, peoples, believe all different sorts of things.
This got me thinking about the Ganges River. Do you know about the Ganges River? The Ganges River is sacred to Hindus, present day. Hindus believe that having at least their ashes thrown in the Ganges will end the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, allowing them to attain eternal liberation of the soul. Many unburned remains find their way into the Ganges, that is, the recently deceased are regularly, ritually, thrown into the Ganges. It is one of the most polluted rivers in the world. You can read about this, and you would look at it, and you would think that the solution, to begin with, seems simple. But, they believe what they believe, completely. The Most Polluted Rivers In the World.
This is where I’m not saying what I think about “science” that goes tripping off to Mars while we’ve got all kinds of problems right here on Earth.
Does me knowing about any of this, Does me getting stressed out about any of these things, does it do any good? Does one more voice added to the din do anything other than raise the level of noise pollution? The other day I took one of those just for fun quizzes about “What’s your purpose in life?” and it said that my purpose is to achieve world peace. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say, probably, that isn’t “really” my gig in life, and that the quiz came up with that answer based on information gleaned from my having shared a picture of Sandra Bullock as “Miss Congeniality” with the caption “And world peace.” Isn’t it enough to just take care of our own families, our own jobs, houses, cars, lives? ( Don’t litter.)
Can you hear the quiet?
So there’s this story about this woman, about her whole family, and how they went into the Siberian Wilderness during Stalin’s reign, and how at 71 years old, she has lived in the wilderness all of her life. The world has gone on, but, her lack of knowledge about what has gone on in the world hasn’t prevented her from living, that’s her reality. You can read that here.
Well, you’ve got to be informed. You’ve got to know what’s going on in the world! You’ve got to CARE! How can you can not care!
Are you free? There are a lot of people in the world who don’t pay any attention to any of the societal uproars and they’re just fine, people who never watch the news, they look outside if they want to know what the weather’s like, live their lives disengaged from the din. I think, in some ways, the internet is a kind of a modern Tower of Babel, and certainly, babble. You’ve got all these people from everywhere in the world able to connect and translate, using their computers, everything into one language, whatever their language is, that makes it all one language, able to read about and know, instantaneously in real-time, right now, if there is a high-speed car chase happening on the other coast, three thousand miles away. News of something that affects them not one bit, something that they can do nothing about, but that the knowledge of adds to, perhaps, depending on how they’re wired, their overall stress and anxiety level. The internet takes us out of the reality of where we are in our own actual present, and takes us into the reality of the world, the internet can make it feel like something that happened on the other side of the world, happened across the street. What that does is, as it affects people, it changes the way that people then go out into the world wherever they are. People are taking that stress from those faraway events into their own lives and then regurgitating it back out into the world, perpetuating stress and discord.
“I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to snap at you. It’s all the bullshit about the Paris Agreement! And some ass-hat celebrity decided to voice another opinion that I don’t agree with!” She said, as she threw her aluminum can into the trash.
Can you hear the quiet?
I’ve made a decision not to watch the news anymore. I’ve made a conscious decision to avoid the infighting that’s going on, whether it’s the Right calling the Left “snowflakes” or the other way around, or just the seemingly endless reposting of “he said this and then…she said this!” it is all fueling the fire, adding to the noise, raising the overall stress level, and exacerbating the strife, except for those who thrive on it and those releasing their own stress ranting, but really, it isn’t doing much of anything else. Is it fake news? On which channel? I’ve made a decision to disengage from the divide and conquer propaganda permeating the world these days. I’m sure I can find something better to do, and be happier doing it.
Also, for anyone who thinks that a person can’t create viable, relevant work or art if they are “out of touch”, disengaged from the noise, and/or so on, I’m just going to say google up famous recluses and you’ll find many a list of some folks who did all right going their own way and thinking for themselves. I’m not saying I’m a recluse, just not interested in the bullshit, nor in the misconception that it is necessary to the creation of viable art.
Many, many, years ago, I lived in the desert. Now, this isn’t about the desert itself, and that is very much part of the point, though the desert, at that time, was the conduit for this experience and learning. The population where I was at, at that time, was about 1,200 people, spread out over a pretty wide area. There was no cable t.v. A few people had satellite dishes and this was back when that meant the huge satellite dish installed at ground level next to the house. You could get bad reception on one or two channels if you had a decent antenna, generally speaking, it wasn’t worth the trouble. During that eighteen months, the only television that I watched was, when it was airing, during the season, a weekly half-hour comedy show, at someone else’s house, and their reception was equally bad. Never watched the news, I don’t recall the television ever really being on. Trying to get a radio station to tune was an equally sketchy endeavor, though sometimes, late at night, I could get KLOS out of Los Angeles to tune in for a couple of hours. I used to borrow my brother’s cassette player, at length, to listen to tapes. We, I, had no idea what was going on in the rest of the world, no idea at all. If they’d dropped the bomb, we would have seen the mushroom cloud, same as everyone else everywhere else who had watched the news every night and spent every day all stressed out about something that they would have ultimately as much control over and foreknowledge of, as someone who hadn’t been paying attention at all.
What I was thinking was how quiet and peaceful that time was, in general. I thought, well, yeah, but there weren’t a lot of people out there in the desert. While that’s some of it, that isn’t the kind of quiet I’m talking about. There was an absence of external influence from the media, from popular culture, from society. What you find, also, is that you still manage to hear about the bigger things that go on in the world, through the periphery. It creates a peaceful mind, and a feeling of being very present in one’s surroundings. Is that “out of touch” with reality? Whose reality? I’m free not to watch the news. I’m free to disengage. You, ostensibly, can turn off the television anywhere, disengage from the “noise” wherever you are. I think that’s part of the problem with the world right now, we’re not, as individuals, obligated to take all that in. We’re not obligated to participate in the noise, especially if it does not serve us well. Some people thrive on it all. There’s that aphorism that says to take care of yourself, to nurture and feed your own soul, because what can you give if you haven’t taken care of you? How much more peaceful would the world be, if each person were at peace with themselves? I was thinking about that, at some point isn’t all the… social commentary, just someone else telling me how they think I should live MY life? (How many average people have it together enough that they should be telling anyone else – unasked- what to do or be or how to live?)(Personally, I’ve no use for the continuous spewing and promoting of the vitriol. In fact, I’ve had it with it. I’m going to quietly choose not to engage in it, whilst also dissociating myself from it and those who chose to engage in it because it is a choice. I’m not going to bother telling anyone how to behave, not my job. I’m saying this is what I’m doing. Each of us gets emotional on occasion, we all get defensive from time to time, making a habit of it makes that who you are. What’s that old saying? You never look good trying to make someone else look bad.)
I don’t know, but I can begin with me. If someone drops the bomb, I’m sure I’ll still see the mushroom cloud, same as everyone else. In the meantime, I’ll be happier, and that’s at least one person that I can improve the quality of life for. ( Really, don’t fucking litter.)
About 4 billion people in the world are NOT online and do not have internet access. Current world population estimated at 7.5 billion people. Between 600 million and 1 billion people do not have access to clean drinking water.