Monday, February 28, 2011

Edmund T. Blockhouse

Photo from the work of Kevin Cravillion
Find his work here

This idea came in a dream over a year ago. Immediately after waking, I found my journal and pen and started to write. I hope to have more to share about Edmund and his rare abilities later.  

Anything Edmund T. Blockhouse drew came to life. When he was four-years-old, acres and acres of flowers surrounded his home though he lived on the seventh floor of a Queens apartment building. A visitor to the Blockhouses would step off the elevator into a meadow of neon pink daisies and glittery, golden chrysanthemums. If he looked back to the elevator, he’d discover he stepped out of a hedge and had no choice but to walk through the sweet William and roses to the Blockhouse’s four-room castle. A visitor to anyone else on the hall would find the usual depression in the carpet and florescent lights, but walking past the Blockhouse apartment he’d smell honeysuckle and lilacs.

Mr. and Mrs. Blockhouse had no way to explain the phenomenon, no one on either side of the family exhibited any strange behavior, except Uncle Herman who taught his pet chicken to dance, and that wasn’t really the same thing, but since the garden didn’t require mulching and kept the door-to-door newspaper subscription sellers away, they were content to let it be. But Mrs. Blockhouse often wondered if the family spent time in the garden were they really sunning themselves in the vestibule or playing catch in the laundry room. No one complained, so by the time Edmund was four-and-three-quarters, she stopped worrying about that, too.

Around this time, Edmund discovered thunderstorms. Mrs. Blockhouse, arriving home from work on a fine December day, found a torrential downpour soaking the still perky flowers. She crouched in the hedge and called home on her cell phone—which got perfect reception in the garden—and asked Mr. Blockhouse to please ask Edmund to draw sunshine or at least an umbrella and galoshes.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Chapter 2: Beer & Einstein

I apologize in advance for the jumping around of chapters. Let's lay the blame on my muse, Gertrude. As clearly, she is as my mom would say, "Not wrapped right".

In this chapter, we get to abuse Seamus a little bit more. (Yes, I'm evil.)

Chapter 2: Beer & Einstein

It all started with one too many beers. Einstein is also to blame, but more on that later. All I know is that after my fourth (fifth) beer I found myself in a heated debate with a robust gentlemen, (fat dirt bag), about Einstein’s theory of relativity. Normally what happens when you pin a scrawny Irishman against a burly sailor from Albany the odds are pretty good that the scrawny Irishman will wind up with his nose broken. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Much Ado

Yeah, it's official. I'm having way too much fun with these silly little stories. But, hey! That's the point right? If you aren't having fun while you are writing, then something is dreadfully wrong.

Part Three: Better than a Snowball

Lulu often lamented her name when she was younger. Her father had told her once that Lulu wasn’t the name she was born with, but he refused to call her by that name because it was too silly. She couldn’t imagine what was so silly that Lulu became a more attractive alternative; she had imagined time and again that it was all some weird joke that the world was playing on her.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A little nonsense now and then...

Slowly and surely I am crawling my way out of the seasonal funk that seemed to grip a lot of people and I have managed to produce another installment in my odd little pet inspired storyline. I crave your indulgence while I get this out of my system. It seems to be the only thing my brain can work on at the moment.

Plus, it gives me a chance to use all the fun chapter titles I've been collectiong over the years!

Presenting Part Two: The Potable Persuasion

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Perfect Battlefield

Robert Henri, Girl Seated by the Sea, 1893

“The picture that looks as if it were done without an effort may have been a perfect battlefield in its making.” 
–Robert Henri

Henri’s quote applies as well to writing. It is up on my wall with this gem by Nathaniel Hawthorne: “Easy reading is damn hard writing.” Allow me to paraphrase. You can’t make magic without work. We all know it is true. So, for the rest of February, I’d like to have a discussion about the work.

On my critique group’s blog, we’re posting about our writing processes. Today I shared my process as a twelve-step program for novel writing. Which leads me to ask, what is your process for making magic? 

Happy Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Climbing the Walls

When I was trying to come up with something to post for this evening I had a bit of creative constipation. I had been trying all week to write and nothing was flowing. Let the record show that I showed up for work, and that it was Gertrude who was slacking off. Baba Yaga is furious with me for neglecting her for so long, Thadeus is patiently waiting in the wings, and Seamus is mouthing off while enjoying a pint. Needless to say, we all have the Winter Blues. Even taking down the Christmas tree hasn't helped. What's a gal to do?

As usual I plugged myself into my ipod, (what I lovingly refer to as my dialysis machine), and hoped for inspiration to strike. Which it did.

The Black Keys came on shuffle, and for whatever reason that got me to thinking about my first apartment where I would often blare the Keys. If only to annoy my obnoxious neighbor.

This apartment was probably one of the coolest places I will have ever lived. Located above a restaurant downtown I was always right where the action was.

What also made it interesting was the history behind it. Since the building in downtown between several other buildings most merchants would live above their shops. How this particular building stood out was that instead of having a merchant and his family, the upstairs was known to have been *ahem* a brothel.

Yup. I am not even kidding you. If those walls could talk, right?

There were only four apartments located in this building with mine being the second largest. The ceilings were at least twelve feet high, all hardwood floors, and very large rooms. When it came time to put in cabinets whomever was in charge decided to put two of them completely out of reach. In fact, they were put between the fridge... and the ceiling.

One night Clara and two of our friends were over. Being free runners the guys decided to see if they could climb up and get into the cabinets. Being far more agile and dextrous than Clara or I will ever be, we just hung back and watched. Crossing our fingers that they didn't fall and break their necks.

And, oh yeah, I got it on video. :)

(Please forgive the shaky camera as I got a serious case of the giggles watching the second fella trying to climb up.) 

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A Silly Story Follows

Ha! What did I tell you? Taking down my Christmas tree really did help! Not only do I have something to post this week, but  for the next few weeks as well.

Now, you all should know by now that I am a little off my rocker and that my inspirations are, well, let's say colorful. So, it shouldn't really come as a surprise to you when I say that, for reasons known not even to me, I have built a whole world and story line around my families pets.

I'll let you finish laughing... Done? Ok. It's weird, I know. But I dare you to stand there and tell me you haven't had a pet that was way too human in it's personality. I just happen to have an abundance of pets with neurosis, nervous ticks, and ebullient sweetness to build an entire storyline. And when your pets have names as odd as mine do, well, that just begs to be turned into a 50s crime syndicate.

I'll have a different pet-cum-character each week, and it will all tie together into a big happy mob family in the end (I hope).

May I present Part One: Inappropriate Footwear

Monday, February 7, 2011

Review of Edges by Léna Roy

In December, I told you how much I wanted Léna Roy’s debut novel, EDGES. It came to my local bookstore before Christmas and I snatched it up, but I didn’t want to read it after late nights staying up with family or between stops on the holiday tour. I had the right day in mind, one with hours of uninterrupted reading.

I settled down in the waiting room of the dentist’s office while my husband had a wisdom tooth removed. I’d read the first couple chapters before Christmas because I couldn’t wait (it was like trying to peek at your Christmas presents when you were a kid), but I started back at the beginning. I’m a slow reader, and it took me the entire appointment, but I didn’t move from my chair except to mute the television (Ava’s voice was starting to come out like the squeaky ones on kids’ cartoons). I’m an emotional reader, but I don’t like to cry in public. Edges had me tearing up without shame, right there in the waiting room.

Edges opens with seventeen-year-old Luke settling into a trailer outside the Moonflower Motel in Moab, Utah, his home since he fled New York City and his alcoholic father. He moved west alone and cobbled together a family headed by Clare and Jim, the Moonflower’s owners. The story shifts between Luke’s present, New York in the past when Frank and Luke cope with the death of Luke’s mother, and New York in the present when Jim and Clare’s daughter Ava, a shiny new college student, attends Alcoholics Anonymous and meets Frank. A journey of forgiveness and redemption brings the characters together, but the novel never feels contrived. I believed it was possible for lives to intertwine and become stronger together.

I admired Léna’s unflinching portrayal of addiction. In college, a dear friend attended Alcoholics Anonymous and told me the most difficult thing about being sober was that she no longer had something to orient her day. Though she was about Ava’s age, drinking had been the objective of each day, and it was difficult to get through without another. I see that struggle truthfully and painfully portrayed in Ava, and I loved Ava for her strength and selflessness, even when it would be easy to focus only on her own recovery. Families torn by alcoholism are stitched back together, but Edges doesn’t ignore the scars that will remain, an awareness that makes the novel more moving. 

Addiction I was okay with, but I’ll admit, at first I was hesitant about the mystical elements in the book. There was never once a reason to roll my eyes; instead, I respected the beliefs and storyline because I respected the characters. Léna, unlike many authors I’ve read, did not use mystic events to add drama and mystery to the plot. Her novel focuses on characters the reader can love, and because the mysticism is part of the characters’ lives, I don’t doubt the novel’s sincerity. 

Lastly, the setting. There are books that make you want to pack your bags and travel. And there are books that bring the setting to you. Edges is both.

“Luke let Tangerine climb up the cable first. He was panting by the time he got to the top. The sun’s angle on the earth deepened the color of the rocks to a dark watermelon. The drop into the canyons was spellbinding. The world was vast, unknowable.”

The Utah landscape, both dangerous and comforting, is an apt canvas for the novel’s relationships. Few first novels find that delicate symbiosis.

I enthusiastically recommend Edges, an able debut of an author who, I know, will give us many years of enjoyable stories. If you live in Virginia and would like to meet Léna and get your copy of Edges signed, you can join me in line at Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia, on March 22 at 6:30pm. 

Friday, February 4, 2011

My reaction to the world

How do you cope with news you feel is out of your control? News about something you want to change but don't know where to begin?

I write. Tonight I'll break with previous posts and share something I first wrote in early 2008. I called it "Detainee 9732." 

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Chapter 5: The Witches of Huckle Hollow

Hey folks! Here's a little bit of flash fiction for you. I wrote this over a year ago and have no idea what to do with it. This snippet is the fifth chapter- and it's also the only chapter I've written. Go figure. :) Hope you enjoy it!

I had not long been released from my parents cellar when I heard the familiar sound of crackling leaves approaching. The footsteps behind me were moving too quickly for me to out-pace. I leapt to my left to hide in the brush and hopefully avoid being seen. Had I leapt to my right I might have been better off.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Better late than never...

Hey you guys. I’m not entirely sure, but I think I’ve found why I’m in such a funk. I’ve just realized that my Christmas tree is still up.

I know what you’re thinking. How could I fail to notice that my tree was still up and decorated? The answer is…I have no idea. But, since I am watching Doctor Who, I will borrow an analogy. It’s like my tree put a low level perception filter around itself; I knew it was there, but I just couldn’t really see it. Until last night, that is, when I just happened to glance out of the corner of my eye. There it was, sitting in the corner, pretty as you please.

As crazy as it sounds, I think my tree is trying to sabotage me. How else can I explain that it has stayed up a month longer than it should have? It’s certainly not because I’m lazy. No, not at all. It's definitely a plot to stifle my creative juices. So tonight, it's down with the tree and up with more seasonally appropriate decor. It's the Year of the Rabbit, but since I've no rabbits, I'll have to settle for a hedgehog.

Last February I started something new by sharing François with you. Hopefully, with the coming Chinese New Year and the removal of my evil Christmas tree, I can find something else new and exciting to share. Fingers crossed!