Add It or Slash It?

When I edited A Lovely Wreckage, we (my editor Mark and I) made changes, of course. Not a whole lot, because they were individual poems that could stand alone without the collection.  However, Mark made some suggestions, and looking back I’m pretty sure I took all if not most of them, because they line4d up with the idea I had in mind.

Tuesday Afternoon ain’t like that.

When Zachary (new editor) suggested format changes, I was all for it, and here is why:  I wrote the piece for performance (more on that later.)  This was rewriting the piece for reading purposes.  It’s a different ballgame, and I am all for his format suggestions.  Also, there were some other aspects he suggested changes on…some I like, some I don’t.  Anyway, I made the fatal mistake of sending it to Sahar, who reads everything I write including various correspondence and many long text messages.  As my best friend, you would think she would have glowing things to say, but no, she hated it.  My mistake was not telling her in advance about the performance vs. reading thing.  Of course, she hated it.  She heard me read it…she heard me perform it.  So did Mark.  He’s going to hate it, too.

But as Kevin said to me during one of our deep conversations that we fit in between inside jokes and YouTube videos, you’re not writing for your friends and family, you’re writing for your fans.  Your friends and family are going to love whatever you do in the end.  They’re not the real audience.

So, my cousin Erin read it.  Yes, family, but Erin has the talent of being extremely blunt when asked to be, no holds barred.  And she enjoyed it.  Likely, because she never read the original.  But really…what is an original?

When I worked in theater, every single play I ever did went though massive edits during rehearsals, from straight-up script rewrites to blocking reworks.  Everything was moved around and crossed out and added on until you got the final product, and that is what is going on with this mini-chap.  That is what has always been going on for it.

It started with a line from a poem by another woman, for chrissake.  It was a challenge…take a line from her poem, and start a new one of your own with that line.  I picked a line; I wrote a poem.  I won a prize.  I polished the poem and deleted the other poet’s line.  I added to the poem…a lot.  I edited the poem.  I sent it off to be picked, and it was.  And so…I continue to edit the poem, changing things to make it better than it was, albeit different.  Enhanced, I prefer to think of it.

Kevin also said that the only person whose opinion really matters is my own, which is definitely true.  What comes out will be what I wanted it to be, no matter what is printed on the page.  Some of the edits are big leaps for me, but some that I am willing to take to put out the best possible finished product, just like I would do if I were working a show.  Kill your darlings, and all that jazz.

Sigh.  I suppose I am off to reread.  I will sit with it a bit, then make some more edits, then send it back to Zachary who will likely throw it back to me and so on and so forth until it’s ready to roll.  All I need is patience and a clear eye.

Schrodinger’s Chapbook

Now, I know very little about science, but somehow, I know about Schrodinger’s cat.  For those who don’t, here’s the link to the Wikipedia page, and also I will try to explain the most basic principle of it in kindergarten language. 

Say you put a cat in a box with a substance that may or may not kill it, and seal the box.  Now, with the box sealed you don’t know if the cat is dead or alive.  It’s a thought experiment, like that one about the trains and whether to save one or 100 people.  It has something to do with quantum mechanics and again, I have no idea how this information got into my head.  Anyway…

Sahar was in town a couple weeks ago.  Seeing as how our favorite restaurant that we’ve been going to for 20 years just went vegan, and we are most definitely meat eaters, we have been on the hunt for a new spot.  This found us at Dog Ear Bookstore and Café.

I love that place.  I have been there many times over the years and have consumed a great many cups of chai tea with friends.  This is the place where I discovered the poetry readings that I used to go to…I do wish they would start those up again!

I ordered a delightful roast beef sandwich called the Charles Dickens and we settled into a table for some conversation.  There wasn’t much honestly because texting exists, so Sahar and I have managed to remain joined at the hip despite being a state apart.  So, we ate our sandwiches and lamented the passing of our old restaurant.

After eating, we went into the back, into the book shop, on a mission.  See, this is the shop where I dropped off a couple copies of my chapbook a few months ago.  Honestly, it’s not worth it to me monetarily to sell it in stores; I get the most cash from Amazon purchases, but it was important to me to get it into at least one shop so I could say I did it.  And of course I took it directly to Dog Ears.

We browsed.  I searched the poetry shelf; Sahar looked in local authors.  No book.

I was perplexed.  What does this mean?  One would assume, I suppose, that it sold out.  Yet, the proprietor told me he would call for more copies if that happene4d.  He has not called.  Still, I could not find the book.

So…if you put a chapbook in a bookstore, with people who could possibly purchase it or not, is the book dead or alive?

Now, had I backbone in that moment, I would have simply asked.  Flung open the lid of the box and found out if the cat was dead, so to speak.  But no, I’m chicken, so we left quietly and I wondered all day instead.  But now it’s weeks later, and I’m still thinking about it, because that’s the way my stupid brain works.

It knows very little about science, but it’s a pro at over-analyzing.

Ramble

My stomach is the worst!

I really thought that by this point I wouldn’t be writing about it anymore.  At least, less  At least, it wouldn’t be throwing me flareups that wipe out whole days of my life every so often. 

I planned to go to my first musical event this past weekend…a cover band of a group I love, at my favorite bar.  Did I make it?  No, of course not.  Why, oh why, would my pyloric muscle ever allow such things?!  FUN?! NEVER!!

So, after feeling salty about that all day on Sunday, I woke up feeling a little better this morning, but also tired of worrying about my health.  However, I am making major health strides despite my stupid stomach.  For one, my sciatica is much improved due to the exercises I have been doing.  And speaking of exercise and diet related things, I am officially the thinnest I have ever been in my entire life.  I don’t suggest my diet of protein shakes and jello, but hey, it got results, I guess.  I do indeed fit into that bathing suit I mentioned some months ago.  That’s a nice thing.

I mean, I really still don’t give a crap about my weight but it’s nice to accomplish a goal, y’know?

And then the other health thing, in which I attempt to quit smoking.  Again.  They say the average smoker quits seven times before the big one…if that’s so I’m plugging along on attempt number five right now.  Hopefully it’s a good, long run.  In the meantime, I’m on the patch and having crazy dreams.  No, don’t tell me to take it off at night…I often wake up in the night wanting a smoke, so I have to keep it on then,  The dreams are actually mostly fun, not scary or anything, but the realism is something of a brain tease.

So, I’m losing weight and quitting smoking and still my stomach insists on behaving the way it does every time I try to do something fun.  One doc says it’s a fluke.  Another doc says it takes time for it to heal.  I don’t think either of them know what they’re talking about anymore.

I’m sitting in my desk with a pain in my shoulder as I type because I am simply not used to sitting at my desk and typing, as I have been away from the writing for so long.  My blog is in shambles, my poetry practically nonexistent, and while I did drop 350 words in the WIP the other day, that’s it for months now.  But this morning I found a poem.

Just a little something about a fish that I wrote while out one afternoon and forgot about.  Just a note on my phone, that I polished up and put into pretty words and saved in my poetry file.  It gave me a little hope, much like the fishies I wrote the poem about do.

That’s what I need to do!  Go fishing.

Anyway…thanks for listening to my ramble today.  There wasn’t much else on the agenda and I just had to get all these little thoughts out of my mind.

Happy Monday.

Chillin’ with Jesus

Sometimes, I’ll be sitting at my computer minding my business and Jesus will walk in and demand some of my time.

I wrote a poem about that once.

Anyway, today He comes in the door and tells me good things come to those who wait, and I tell him to get off my back already.  As Chuck Palahniuk wrote in Fight Club, “You can’t teach God anything.”

So, I go to check my email and sure enough there is word from a man named Zachary telling me to forward my manuscript to him…the MS that I have had in limbo for a year now, waiting to be put into print.  I understand the mix-up…they had staff changes and, y’know, a pandemic.  The world slowed down for us all.  I am just grateful that this morning I got a little nudge in the right direction.

Jesus looks at me and says: “Get up out of the dirt.”

I intend to accomplish several things in the coming weeks, all of which are scary and foreign to me, but which need to be done to better myself and my surroundings.  Today, I am out here working on my writing, so neglected since before my surgery, when I was at my sickest, and after, when I was at my weakest.  Now, I feel better and stronger, though tentative, but happy, also.  So, I shall take strides to improve the areas of my life that I have neglected, just like my writing.

Today I am going to my preferred bookshop/cafe with Sahar, my port in the storm.  Nothing could kick off my journey towards improvement better than lunch at one of my favorite places with one of my favorite people. 

Don’t get me wrong, my inner self still fights with Jesus.

He’s all “You can do it!  You’re so strong!”  and I’m over here incredulous.  What does Jesus know?  He’s only the Son of God.

Apologetic

Dear Blog,

I’m sorry.  I have been a terrible companion and I am here today asking for your forgiveness.  I have neglected you these past few weeks, and I am hoping I can make it up to you.  Do you want a domain name? I’ll save up, I swear.  Oh, but I know paltry gifts aren’t enough to win back your heart.

See, I was sick, and I became distant, and I am so sorry…I know it’s no excuse.  You know how much I love you, don’t you?

I loved you in 2001 when I sat in the computer lab at D’Youville College and signed up for Livejournal.  Our first platform, where we grew together over fourteen years!  I haven’t forgotten those early days, and I hope you haven’t either.  Now it’s 20 yeas later, and you’re still the one I take all my problems to.

Remember the time we tried to write every day for a year?  How naïve we were, pulling in to day 167 like we were on fire, then fizzling out on day 172.  But still, so many months we lasted, as my fingers danced over the keyboard and put my words into your mouth.

I love you so, my constant companion, my dear friend, my little soapbox.  Please forgive me.  I promise I will do better, try harder; I promise I will always be here for you. 

Well, on Mondays and Thursdays, at least.

Your best friend,

Brig

Happy Bookday!

I didn’t update Thursday for two reasons: one, I was behind already and updated on Wednesday, and two, I have a milestone today.

Today is my chapbook’s first birthday.

I finished it over the summer of 2019, and when it was picked up in early spring of 2020, I was flabbergasted.  If you go back and read some of my old posts from that time, you will find a giddy yet terrified recount of my attempts to complete and publish it.  And then, oh the imposter syndrome!  The feeling of being a fake, that my contribution didn’t really “count” for some reason.  That took months after publication to come to terms with…not until the day I was published in The Buffalo News.  And that poem wasn’t even in the book!

I have 4.9 stars on Amazon.  I have 17 ratings, and 12 reviews.  Recently, a few copies made their way over to my favorite tiny bookshop.  I have had two book blogger reviews and a radio review, and have set up both a podcast interview and an author blog interview for the future.  Three years ago, I couldn’t get myself to even talk about a poem I write to someone.  Just a thought.

Have I sold as many copies as I would like?  No, I have not.  I don’t know what that magic number is that would satisfy me, but we aren’t there yet.  I think I would be happy if I could generate enough sales to cover my web hosting costs for the year, actually.  I want to be able to make money that I can put back into my work, somehow.  Because it takes money to make money…I only get a percentage of each book.  Less if it’s overseas.  When it’s in a shop, it’s even less than that, and I have to FRONT the money for the supply.  I also have an illustrator I need to pay for another project, and two websites I need to host.  Like any business, you need to start with a little capital in order to generate more.  I, unfortunately, started with nothing but a dream, so I am taking the long way around.  For year one, I am sadly still in the red.  So, y’know…buy my book.

Ok, that’s enough of a shameless self-plug.  Happy birthday, A Lovely Wreckage.

It’s Memorial Day weekend, and the kiddos are here, so naturally there are things to do.  Like clean and reorganize their rooms, which is the big project for the weekend.  I think the Skylanders and Disney princess motifs are going out the window.  These kids are no longer as interested in these things as they once were.  Time for some teenage-style rooms.

Also, I hope to get some fishing in, of course.  Yesterday I caught a few sunnies and a baby something-or-other, and Mark caught what I think was a small catfish.  So, the skunk is out of the boat, as they say.  And L brought his skateboard and K brought her rollerblades and E promised to help me in the garden and M and I are experimenting with new computer monitors so we all have something to do today.

If I can just get Mark out of bed.

Happy Friday.

Stuck in the Mud

Three weeks post-surgery, and I am trying very hard to get back into the swing of things.  I have been out fishing with Mark, and caught my first one of the year: a very tiny trout.  Mark caught a gobi, which is an invasive species that we typically throw to the seagulls.  Tiny fish in both cases, but still…first of the year.  I have also decided to take up hiking with Kevin, and am hoping to start that next week as I am going to be able to return to mostly full activity.  I still can’t lift or bend, but I can walk as far as my legs will carry me.  And then, there’s the writing…

I’m so stuck, in every aspect.

My novel, my baby, the one that’s going to make me that Netflix money someday, is stalled.  I simply cannot envision the final scene of part one.  I almost think I am sabotaging myself, because maybe I don’t want that part of the story to end.  I keep reminding myself that I will come back to it in edits, and be able to add all sorts of details I didn’t have in the first draft.  I tell myself that once part one is done, I can move on to part two, where the action really ramps up.  This both excites and terrifies me.  I haven’t written anything like this before, with murder and gunfights and secret plots.  My last novel (well, novella,) was a simple tale about a woman with depression.  That’s my wheelhouse.  The current WIP, though…that’s a whole different ballgame.

Meanwhile I am discouraged with my poetry.  It hasn’t been coming as smoothly as it usually does, and I haven’t received an acceptance in a while.  Sales are down on my chapbook, although I am quite happy to report that you can now purchase a copy of A Lovely Wreckage at Dog Ears Bookstore on Abbott Rd. in South Buffalo, my favorite tiny bookshop.  This all happened right before I got sick, so I wasn’t able to celebrate it much.  And then there is Me and Jesus, which is stalled.  I have emailed the publisher and am waiting to hear back.   Finally, (Un)Requited, which is out at a few places and I am patiently waiting to hear back from someone.  I feel like it isn’t going to happen, though.

Of course, I felt that way with A Lovely Wreckage, too. 

I am sitting in my office and forcing myself to peck out some words because my blog is already a day late.  I am kicking myself for that, but also reminding myself that while I do feel stuck, I am writing, even if its just in here twice a week.  It’s like an exercise.  It’s going to the gym, but for your brain.

Pretty soon I can eat food again.  I miss it, I do, but not as much now as I did that first week.  In a few months, I can eat whatever I want.  In a few months, I can lift and bend again.

In the meantime, I shall drink my protein shakes and write in my blog and hope that the inspiration for a poem or chapter strikes, because I am ready, finally.  My health seems to be at a place where I can get back to work on my projects, and I am very excited about that.

Of course, I am also very, very stuck.

We’re on a BOAT.

One evening in 2011, as I was clearing the table after dinner, my mother asked me if I would ever consider going on a cruise, which I thought was a strange question.  I said yes, I would try one, I had heard fun things about them.  My mother then asked if I would go on a cruise to the Bahamas in 2012 in order to chaperone my sister, whose dance troupe was invited to perform.  They’d cover the cost of both of us if I agreed to take her.

This was some serious left field shit from my parents, just so you know.  I don’t think Bernie thought for a hot second that they would ever consider lettering her do this, never mind actually let her do it.  I was flabbergasted by the invitation, too.  Both my parents were wary of sea travel, and not interested in going, but I was, so they figured I could take her.  So, for the next year, we raised money by selling candles and whatnot and December 4th 2012 found us on our very first plane ride.  Neither of us had traveled by air before, so that was interesting.  I’m not sure who calmed down whom.  I do recall badly wanting a cigarette, taking a Xanax instead, and falling asleep.

 When we got to the Orlando airport, I went outside for a smoke.  I took three drags, then hacked my way back inside, because Florida air is simply unbreathable.  I went back and we found our group, and took a cab to the dock, where we boarded the nice, air-conditioned ship. That afternoon, I fell asleep.  I missed all the little “welcome to the boat” festivities.  This made me sad.  However, I woke up the next morning in Freeport, the first of the three places we would be visiting.

What we saw of the island on the way to the “tourist” area was dismal.  Deserted houses, abandoned buildings, a hospital with only three cars in the parking lot…it was like a ghost town.  There were also huge oil reserve drums everywhere with big tropical fish painted on them, like that made it better.  When we got to our stop, we found an overpriced open air market.  Then we wandered over to a beach, and the kids (none of whom are really kids anymore) played in the water while I got some sun and took pictures.  It was…fine.  If it hadn’t been the first time my toe touched ocean in 20 years I probably wouldn’t have even registered the trip. 

The following day, we went to Half Moon Cay, a private island owned by Carnival cruise line, which was paradise on earth.  It had a gorgeous beach.  It was exactly what you think of when you think of a Caribbean island, and I wish we had gone there first, of course, that would have made Freeport a bigger let down, probably.  There were three details I loved about HMC: chickens, just running around at your feet; a tiny wedding chapel; a very tiny post office.  Bern and I spent a wonderful afternoon there, splashing and sunning and drinking (well, me, not her.)

The next day, we went to Nassau on New Providence Island.  We spent much of the day on Paradise Island, so I didn’t see much city, but there was a beautiful beach that we visited and Bernie went on a banana boat.  I wished we had simply stayed there.  I know that when I come back to the Bahamas, and I will, I will stay at a resort on New Providence, so I can experience the whole island and city.  Something about it struck me, the way NYC did when I went there when I was 16. 

Anyway, I’m telling you about this trip because it inspired the setting for my WIP.

I didn’t know it at the time.  I knew that my MC’s grew up on a small deserted island, much like Half Moon Cay, but I had no idea other events would end up taking place in Nassau.  I was aiming for Colorado in the beginning, but discovered the distance could not easily be crossed, so they will soon end up on Paradise Island.  I like using a setting I have a little familiarity with.  I have been researching a lot, though.

First, I took to Twitter, to see if I had any friends with any info, and I talked to a couple people who gave me their impressions of the Bahamas and some much needed information on firearms.  Then I thought, “gee, maybe you should ask someone who WENT ON THE TRIP WITH YOU.”  Cue my sister, of course, and her friend Audrey.  Audrey was only 12 at the time, and she spent most of the time off the boat with her family doing other things, so she had a lot of insight into the city and such that I did not get.  I wish I could contact the “kids” I spent my time with…I suppose I could, I’m still FB friends with them, but I feel weird being like “hi I haven’t talked to you in forever but what was your favorite thing about the cruise?”

I loved taking that cruise for many reasons, not just the islands.  I mean, they had 24-hour frozen yogurt.  But also, it’s when my little sister went from being my little sister, to being my friend.  Now, it’s 9 years later and she is one of my best friends, and my number one person (sorry, Mark.  But he knows how it is.)  So, when I look back on the cruise and the memories and try to relive it all, I feel a sort of peace and happiness well up inside, and I am hoping I can put that emotion on paper.  I want to convey everything I experienced and felt, and use my MC’s to do it. 

Anyways…I’m going to go drink some coffee and finish watching the news and try not to get mad at the stories.  It’s already too late.  Some idiot in my county scheduled SEVEN vaccine appointments.  Bro…leave a little for the rest of us.

Bernie, on Half Moon Cay.

Sickness and Writing

So, this time, I didn’t update on Monday because I was sick.  It was an easy ER trip, though.  The doc knew about my condition, so he did a quick exam and then gave me my meds and sent me to wait in a recliner until they kicked in and knocked me out.  A nurse came and asked if I was ready to go and I said no, because I still felt nauseous and probably couldn’t walk.  Then another half hour or so passed and the nurse was back, and I felt confident enough to be on my way. 

I got home and went to sleep.  I woke up around 430pm, and my sister brought me Gatorade.  Then I went back to sleep, and woke up around 7.  Then I went back to sleep at 9 and woke at 1230am. Which is why now, at 3am, I am writing my blog.

I didn’t have much to say.  I was just going to write about writer’s block.  I suffered a short-term case during the past few weeks, as evidenced by my lack of output.  But yesterday, I reworked the ending of part one of my WIP.  I introduced a character, small but important, who explains a few things that need to be known to my MC’s (main characters.)  The MC’s are on a major Caribbean island after living their life on a significantly smaller one with few people, no cars or big buildings, and relative quiet.  I was struggling with a scene, where I’m getting them off their rowboat and onto the island, and I obsessed over it for a week.  I know I should have moved on and come back to it, but it was the final scene of part one and I just had to finish it.  So, I brainstormed with Mark.

Mark is great for this, as he is not a writer, but he does have a vivid imagination.  He’s not much of a reader either, so I am kind of telling him the story as I go, which is also helpful.  But sometimes I get stuck and I go to him, and we spend half an hour or so going over my ideas.  He likes to give suggestions of where the story should go, and sometimes they are good.  A lot of times they aren’t applicable to what I’ve already got going on, in which case I say a simple “no,” and we move on.  He never gets mad if I shoot down his idea.  He knows this is my thing.

Anyway, we brainstormed, and out popped a character that the MC’s know as “the man with the hat,” but whom I secretly named Bernie after my sister and her youthful affinity for bucket hats.  (Photo below.)

This gentleman explains to my MC’s some very basic information that they need on the island, and points them in the right direction in their quest.  It’s probably a frowned upon trope, but I don’t care.  I needed it to get to where I had to be.  Plus…this is just a first draft. 

So, I am back on the writing train, and I am working hard on my WIP and hoping more ideas come to me soon for my blog, because I can’t write about the same things all the time…sickness and writing.  I mean I’m a pro at both, but I just need new topics.

But, I got past the part of my book where I was stuck.  I completed part one, at over 20k words.  That is certainly something to celebrate.

My sister, age 3.

Art Amidst the Chaos

The other night I got a Facebook notification that my cousin Dominic had gone live.  I tuned in and found him singing in his basement.  He did this a few times at the start of the pandemic, when we were completely locked down.  It was nice to tune into his one-man concerts and see my family all watching and supporting him.  So I was very happy to see him again on Friday night, playing his guitar and singing and pretending he was at a bar somewhere, on stage with his friends.  His band is called D. Hannon and Friends, and they’re a fun group to hear play.  They remind me of all the nights I spent in bars in my youth listening to my friends Nick’s various bands.  It’s a fun way to spend a Friday night, and you should check out their Facebook page.

Of course, I miss the outings of it all, the getting dressed up and going out and not being in my office on a Zoom call or Facebook live.  But it makes me happy to see art amidst the chaos.

Another thing I am enjoying during this time is people sharing their poetry.  I recently discovered a great podcast by a poet I like, and have been listening to her read her work and discuss the poems. And there is Poesia Live with Rachel Robles, which I know I have mentioned before, but is a Facebook Live show run by a very talented poet in my area.  My poem “On Fire” won a contest on her show, and then went on to be published in the Buffalo News, which was a big day.  I like watching her show because she has poets on who not only share their work and talk about their poetry, but also talk about topics of the day, and there’s a theme, sometimes.  This month celebrates Puerto Rican women.  Tune in Saturday if you are interested, or check out the page on Facebook.

I am also thinking of getting Kindle Unlimited, meaning that I will have a whole new world of books open to me.  I want to read indie authors, particularly poets, particularly those released in the past year or so-we all kind of got shafted by Covid when it came to releases, and I hope to read and review as many as possible.  I want to see the art you put in the world during this painful time.

Because it’s still possible.  I’m over here penning a novel, for goodness sake.  We’re still out there, we’re still creating.  And the world still needs it, maybe more now than ever.