Here be Monsters

A few posts back I promised to post some short reviews. Although not something new, (but certainly treasured) I’ll start with this little gem.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite authors. I randomly picked up Smoke and Mirrors when I was a teen and instantly fell in love. The man’s way with words is just…*swoon*. I have loved every book written by Gaiman, and I readily admit I’m biased. So if you’re looking for impartiality on this particular book, you won’t find it here.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane is childhood bound in words. You cannot read this book without seeing the world again through your own seven-year-old eyes. You’ll remember the wonder, the magic, the fear and hesitation. And you’ll be reminded that for all the whimsy found in your imagination, there were also monsters in the darkness that tried to lure you in. Was it all real or just pretend?

“Monsters come in all shapes and sizes. Some of them are things people are scared of. Some of them are things that look like things people used to be scared of a long time ago. Sometimes monsters are things people should be scared of, but they aren’t.”

This book is short, and packed full of loveliness that will leave you thinking for days. You’ll reminisce and consider. You’ll hurt and you’ll smile. Really, please, just give it a go.
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Lost and found and random thoughts

I love old books. Not just for the smell, or the delicate pages, or the heady recognition that many different hands have held this book, some of which are no longer alive. Old books have secrets, and when one happens to share even a hint of its past with me, I suddenly feel like the luckiest reader in the world. When you find one of those treasure troves of old novels or poems, tucked into little crowded bookstores, on the very bottom shelf that has you down on all fours, you just know that something brilliant is about to introduce itself.

Inscriptions are somewhat sacred—a beautifully scrawled dedication to a lover or dear friend, in a manner that has long been forgotten, a persistent declaration of the existence of someone before you. These can offer a beginning, a glimpse of the first hands that held your book. But I look for the tale hidden between the pages and behind the lines. Little mementos of sunny afternoons in a field of wildflowers—purples, cobalt, and corals—one of which has made its way to the beginning of a chapter that says so much more than its words. The postcard from a lonely soldier missing his mother; tear-stained edges worn with wear because the mother kept it near in every book she read, until her baby finally came home. Or a lovely little valentine, with an embossed purple heart against a bed of crimson poppies, declaring ardent love for “My darling Gemma.”

Some of my favorites are simple—receipts detailing purchases of buttons and ribbons, or pretty scraps of paper that brightens the yellowing pages. But my most treasured find from an antique copy of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, was a photo of a young woman astride a proud mahogany horse, her laughter clear in the genuine smile that’s been captured. I guestimate the photo was taken in the 40s based on the smooth curls around her shoulders and the jaunty dark cap on her head. She’s got that effortless glam look going on and I can’t help but wonder if this book belonged to the person behind the camera, someone who made this beautiful girl laugh. And then I questioned how something like this is lost. But truth is, much to my dismay, I too have lost this treasure in the mix of one too many moves. I like to imagine the next reader who will happen upon this prize, and which of my books will give it up. Will they consider all the possibilities of its origin? These tokens of the past become immortal with every journey, telling a new story to each reader lucky enough to find it. And you realize that these little secrets aren’t yours to keep, but just a glimpse into the life of a book that has chosen to share it with you.

I recently found a fabulous little website called Forgotten Bookmarks, run by a rare bookseller. Pages upon pages of things found in books are photographed and shared, cataloguing the brilliant and unforgettable. I have could spend hours looking at them, searching for that one hint that tells just a bit more than usual. And I consider all the things still out there, tucked between the pages. All those little secrets, just waiting to be found.

Circling around…

I’ve never been one to find a lot of benefit in offering excuses for long absences, however valid they may be. The point is, I haven’t been around. Here. I haven’t been around here. But I haven’t dropped off the planet completely. Let me tell you what I have been doing.

In October 2019 I took a position with a local newspaper, The Coastal Point, as the digital content specialist for their bridal division, Delaware Seaside Bride. They shortly promoted me to editor of the division’s magazine, and I have been creating, writing, and playing in the magazine world since.

In my spare time I have continued to write and create my own story worlds. I got heavily into Bookstagram (the bookish side of Instagram, if you aren’t in the know) for a while before realizing that social media content creation is fun, but not how I want to spend every waking hour. So now I only post occasionally, sharing new books and giving reviews. Some of which I will be sharing here. For all the pretty pictures, my Insta handle is @beachinbooks.

I recently finished up an 8 week workshop with Kelli (Allen) Christian, Founding editor of Book of Matches literary journal, and an award-winning poet with multiple books. Kelli was one of my professors at Lindenwood during my MFA. Finding myself back in the workshop environment was exciting and surreal, especially since several other Alumni from my graduating class were also in attendance. We created beautiful words, shared, and critiqued with nothing but genuine support for one another. As a result I have several new pieces that I will be sending out into the world in the near future, potentially as a chapbook! Stay tuned for more updates.

Gut Roiling

As promised, here is the link to Literary Mama – newest home to my odd little piece, “Gut Roiling”.

One of the things people often ask regarding certain stories is how much of my own reality are they based on. This one is no different. When it comes to fiction, I like to take elements of truth and play with them. Twist them into something beautiful, or sad, as the story requires. But fabrication is a core definition of the term ‘fiction’, which means it has been manufactured; a creation of my mind, fashioned from half-truths, and far fetched ideas. You want to know the truths of this piece? I’ll say only this: the ocean is an extraordinary holder of secrets.

Under A Purple Moon

Well my friends, its been a while, and there’s been lots of changes happening in my life since the last time you heard from me. I won’t bore you with all the gory details; suffice it to say that sometimes the things we thought we’d never want, are exactly what we need.

A song that I adore: “Changes” by Langhorn Slim & The Law. There’s a line that goes:

Maybe it’s too soon
Under a purple moon
But I’d ride off with you in a big balloon

So my moon is glowing brilliant, I’ve chosen my balloon (it’s gorgeous I tell ya!) and whoever it is that’s going to join me on my next big adventure still remains to be seen. But I can tell you this, dear Reader, that this adventure in writing doesn’t stop here. It just can’t. Someone I consider to be a mentor recently said this about me, and I think he hit the nail on the head, “Writing is integral to her understanding of and engagement with the world.” Oh, all the warm fuzzies! Ahem…anyways. The point is, this isn’t the end. Not even close.

That said, keep your eyes peeled! I have another story being published in the next few weeks over at Literary Mama. I’ll share the link once it’s live.

In the meantime…for your enjoyment:

 

If I Know a Song of Africa

The Story Shack published my flash fiction piece yesterday, which means I can finally share it with you here!

This story is very dear to my heart, as it reflects thoughts of my own time in Africa.

For those who are curious about the title, it connects to the line that speaks of Karen Blixen, of songs and lost lands. The quote itself is one of my favorites, and perhaps that it why I’m overly attached to it. Below is the full quote.

“If I know a song of Africa, of the giraffe and the African new moon lying on her back, of the plows in the fields and the sweaty faces of the coffee pickers, does Africa know a song of me? Will the air over the plain quiver with a color that I have had on, or the children invent a game in which my name is, or the full moon throw a shadow over the gravel of the drive that was like me, or will the eagles of the Ngong Hills look out for me?”

If you’ve never read Out of Africa, I strongly suggest you pick up a copy.

Enjoy.

Reading From the Other Side of the Tracks

I’ve never been one to suggest reading books that don’t appeal based on genre, subject, or synopsis. But, if you choose not to read certain books just because they fall under one of those genres—sci-fi, fantasy, or romance—then you are an elitist snob, and we don’t want you in our club. Yes, we name call here, and if you can’t handle it you likely wouldn’t enjoy these genres anyways.

To deny yourself the pleasure of these genres based solely on how it makes you ‘look’ is to deprive yourself of some fabulous reading material. Some of my favorite quotes have come from these genres, and some of them are downright brilliant. And of course, the context in which they’re found is sometimes both ironic and hilarious. Case in point: a friend recently asked for everyone’s favorite quotes on love, and I sent her this line,

“Love is rarely flawless…Humans delude themselves by thinking it has to be. It is the imperfection that makes love perfect.”

She adored the quote and asked me what it was from. I told her Succubus Blues by Richelle Mead. My ears might be bleeding from her screeching laughter.

“Are you actually giving me love quotes from a Succubus?”

“Well, yeah…”

Anyways.

But seriously, good portions of those quotes you share on social media are from authors in these genres. Next time you repost a quote from an author you’re unfamiliar with, I dare you to immediately look that person up and then march yourself down to the library for any one of his/her books. If you like the quote, you’ll probably like the rest of the book too. Just sayin’.

Don’t rob yourself of the joy that is American Gods, Solaris, or Practical Magic (This is totally the safe stuff, guys. Message me for the really juicy, campy goods.) If the title or cover art doesn’t do it for you, take another look. I will admit that I’m guilty of judging a book by its cover, I mean who doesn’t like to look at pretty things? And damn, some of those covers are just gorgeous (I’m looking at you, Euphoria.) But sometimes the packaging is deceiving, and it can go both ways. I’ve read some horrendous books that had a fab title and cover art, yet that book on the bottom of my pile, the one with a title that made no sense and a cover that had me sighing in disappointment, turned out to be my favorite of the haul. I often think that the artwork of these genres does a huge disservice to their content. I mean, can we get any more stereotypical with the busty broads, galaxy shots, and broadswords? Don’t answer that. Although the fantasy genre does seem to be making a greater effort lately—Have you seen the cover of The Golem and the Jinni? Total eyegasm.

The point is this, step outside your literary box. Jump the tracks to the not-so-literary side and you might surprise yourself with how many crossover novels you find. Exploration of character isn’t limited to 19th century Russia. Sometimes it’s found in a place outside of time and space, and sometimes it’s found on the moors of Scotland. And if you happen to get lost in another world, is that really so bad?

Publishing News

I’m thrilled to announce that the Story Shack has picked up my flash fiction piece, “If I Know a Song of Africa”. I’ll be posting the link once it goes live, June 17th. Additionally, I’ll be working with an illustrator to create accompanying artwork, which is quite exciting in my opinion. Waking up to such news was enough to make me hallucinate consider for a moment that I didn’t need my morning java. Sadly, even the best surprises can’t replace liquid life. But they sure as hell offer a euphoric kick!

Onward!

 

Sometimes, it’s OK to be a follower.

Tonight I find myself sipping a Long Island iced tea instead of my usual hot beverage, in hopes that a loose mind might meet loose fingers. And let’s face it, despite the love and devotion one might hold for caffeine, every now and then we need a different type of buzz.

The past few evenings I’ve found myself engaging in something that my favorite Prof. calls, “Playing the keys.” Now I’ve heard of this technique before—usually termed something like ‘Free Writing’, but there’s just something about his verbiage that makes it so much more appealing. For those not in the know, this procedure involves writing for a set period of time with zero regards to spelling, grammar, and subject matter. In essence, you’re writing absolute nonsense. The general goal is to clear the mind, get past perfectionist tendencies, and hopefully find some thread of thought that can develop into more. It’s something people like me need use to get out of their own heads. My first reaction to the concept was very open-minded and full of writer-ly enthusiasm. OR, it might have ended in a sniff as I reached for my Thesaurus.

But sometimes, even synonyms get tossed in disgust. So I surrendered and gave it a try after reading yet another lovely experience had by people who know more than I do. And I have to tell you, it’s fun. Of course, it’s also weird and nonsensical, and full of grating errors, but it’s a reflection of your brain, and the way thoughts develop; no longer floating around in the think-tank but in visual, tactile form.

Added bonus: You discover new things about yourself. For example, apparently I prefer an oblivious death, such as the sun engulfing the earth. A bit macabre perhaps, but true.

I was also surprised at some of the lyricism found in my thoughts; some of which were quite pretty (I swear I’m not a pompous person). Here are just a few—and do remember it’s not meant to make sense:

“The ice cold lakes below beckon with temptation and call for a life that is not my own. I dream of you, of pain and sorrow, reactions and moves that are not reality, but a message to myself that I must let you go.”

“A strange taste of copper has overtaken my tongue and my eyes long for the rosy blush that slides over bright metals in fake visions.”

“There is music in the whispers of your lips and songs hovering in the strands of your hair as you giggle and paint your love gold. “

I can’t honestly say that anything has inspired me in one direction or another, but I do feel more creative. And yes, we get touchy-feely here. So as someone who has jumped on the bandwagon, allow me to add my voice to the masses. Let go, play the keys, and dance with your words. You’ll feel better. I promise.

Waiting…

Waiting has never my strong suit, but apparently that’s the name of the game. You pour your heart and soul into every piece you write, you send it out into the literary world, and then…you wait. I have several short stories out for submission, which sadly means I can’t post them here. But in the meantime, I continue to write and caffeinate. This combination is really the only thing that keeps my mind off the question of whether I’ll be adding a lovely little ‘A’, or a glaring red ‘R’ to my submission log. In this constant nervous state, I’ve produced two new flash fiction pieces – “If I Know a Song of Africa” and “Living Imagination”. I’m rather attached to the first, because its in reference to one of my favorite Karen Blixen quotes from Out of Africa (the book, not the film). It’s a marvelous little read, and I always snag another copy to share whenever one crosses my path. If you happen to discover this little gem in your own journey, I strongly suggest you give it a go!