Thursday, May 27, 2010

May - Time for A Buslte in Your Hedegrow

May is almost over - hard to believe it.  This has been a busy month both with my work (lots of training and its actually been fun) and lots of marketing.  Something I'm not very good or diligent about.  But with my book signing for Shaman Circus on July 4th at Milagro Studios, it was time for me to send out press releases, which I did to many many places and most of them have responded at least with info on the signing and I've had requests for some to do reviews.  I was most thrilled though with publications in my home town of Lowell, Mass, which were not even in existence when I lived there to include info about my book on their website or print copies.  Wow - that felt surprisingly good.  I guess, as authors, we hope at least one publication in the town we live in will pick up the news, but I haven't lived in Lowell for 29 years so it really made me smile.  
I've also finished the 4th ending of Foxglove and hope it's the last.  We shall see.  It may still need a revision.  But my the 31st it will get sent out to at least one market that I've had my eye on, so it better be as good as it can be by then. 
This is also a busy month with school ending and my granddaughter busy with lots of things.  She just performed in four dance/song musical routines with three costume changes in a three hour show with the Phillis Wheatly Repertoire and the Phillis Wheatly Ballet Troupe. These groups are amazing and a huge shout out of Kudos! goes to Miss Jennings and Miss Wilson, the directors of the groups!!  The youngest child is in first grade and the oldest is in high school and they would knock you over with their talent.  Some of them need to be on American Idol.  They bring the audience to their feet, some with tears in their eyes!  (guilty)   
The first photo above is my granddaughter, Kendall, on the far left performing  "The Lion Sleeps Tonight"  a jazz dance number and the second she is portraying a child from Romania and singing "We Are the World" with the Repertoire. Her other two number were a Michael Jackson tribute and "Kumbaya."  She's a real trouper.  Her mother and I were exhausted after the performance and Kendall has been in school all day and then at her after school program so it was great those kids were so energetic and empowered to perform such a difficult program.
A Bustle in Your Hedgerow.   Can anyone guess where this reference comes from?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Fais do do - signing for Shaman Circus

Laissez les bon temp rouler!

(Let the good times roll)

Join us June 4th from 6-11pm

for "Fais do do"- A celebration of all things New Orleans.

With special Guest artist Ryan Calloway- http://creativeironworks.net/

Author Gail Gray will also be in the gallery signing her latest book " Shaman Circus"- A story set in post- Katrina New Orleans.

Along with Studio artists Kay Larch, Eric Benjamin & Suzanne Vitti.

*20% of all profits will go to - Make It Right - helping to rebuild New Orleans' 9th ward.

So come on down to the Fais do do! We will be serving Chef Hubsleys Crawfish Gumbo, Beignets & Snowballs (snowcones) in lots of New Orleans inspired flavors!

For more info call Milagro Studios at 864.905.6309

or check out our website at www.milagrogreenville.com

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Art shorthand as character triggers

Eventful weekends are not only inspiring my writing, but helping me to get out of hermit mode. The Art Bomb, a group of art studios where some of the most innovative local artists work, once again had one of their rare shows in their renovated historic building in Greenville, SC.
 Often one or two of the pieces I see at Art Bomb shows will infiltrate my imagination and end up in in my writing. 
The pieces are owned or viewed by my characters. In Shaman Circus, two characters are artists.  Mavis, the Katrina survivor is a painter, and Lily is a painter  who also  creates 3-d sculptures in copper and pottery. 
 I thugged this concept from my favorite author, John Fowles, whose character, Nick in the The Magus, visits a house on the Greek island of Phraxos. The house's charismatic and mysterious owner, Conchis traveled the world and owns  large valuable art collection. However, among, all the paintings, Nick is drawn to the Bonnards.
When I first read The Magus, I was unschooled in art. I was young and foolish, and didn't bother to look up the artwork, but years later, after about my 5th or 6th read, knowing the painter and his subject matter (nude and semi nude women in the boudoir or bath) added layers to the scene. Fowles used the painting, instead of words to speak volumes for those who knew Bonnard's work.
Granted some of the pieces I mention are not internationally known yet, but I believe they will be or should be. my character's reactions to the art, is another way for me to do characterization, even character development. I call this technique art shorthand.
 Twice these have been pieces by Greg Flint, but the artists there always offer something which challenges my preconceptions about art and writing, which then filters into my characters mindset. For instance, a piece I own of Greg's and its message of the hero's journey is incorporated in Shaman in Exile. The piece and it's meanings are touchstones throughout the entire book, reflecting one of the main themes. The characters refer to it over and over again, and even carry symbols of it as a talisman. A second a piece I drooled over but which was eventually bought by someone else inspired parts of Fireworks, Interference Equation. 
I know a lot of you who are writers already use music to augment your atmospheres, what your characters listen to hum or play, but don't forget art.  Look at your favorite pieces and see what they tell you.  They may tell your characters something as well, who will turn around and tell your readers, thereby  making your writing richer, deeper, multi-layered.
I'm curious, who of you out there have used art in your writing....and how?


 

Friday, May 21, 2010

Author tour with Jack Cowardin and Ora and the Gem Star


Ora and the Gem Star
by Jack Cowardin


Ora begins her journey as an innocent sixteen-year-old daughter of the local fishing village’s chief—having the liberty to go freely on her way each day, swimming the turquoise lagoon and reveling in the undersea beauty which nature delivers. She suddenly discovers that the Gods have bestowed a powerful Gem Star—a magical gift from the heavens—upon her shoulders, forever changing her destiny. Ora's Mayan heritage and adventurous spirit inspires her to capture the flashy, fiery ball. She absorbs all the energy and enlightenment it pours forth, setting her life and village into a new direction. In a time when women were of a lower class and denied spiritual participation, Ora breaks these bonds and begins a journey of discovery and adventure, empowerment, and, eventually, leadership to save her people from the scourge and enslavement by the mighty King of the great City of the Gods, Teotihuacan.

APEX REVIEW:

When the events of a sudden, terrifying eclipse show young Ora the location of the tiny, yet powerful Gem Star, the sixteen-year-old is suddenly charged with the daunting mission of retrieving the precious jewel - by none other than the gods themselves. Though her subsequent journey is fraught with peril, Ora receives the support of key allies along the way as she strives to prevent the Gem Star from falling into the hands of the ruthless King Chan, who intends to use it to serve his own selfish purposes. With such a grave responsibility resting squarely on her shoulders, Ora must summon a courage she’s never known to protect the fate of the world from the malice of evil hearts. Intriguing, creative, and with a flair for the magical, Ora And The Gem Star is an engaging fantasy tale. Skillfully crafted by author Jack Cowardin, Ora takes the reader on a vicarious journey through a time long since passed, well before the contrived “adventures” of video games, virtual reality, and other modern technological advances. A genuine fantastical thriller, Ora also doubles as an edifying guide to the beliefs, customs, and practices of cultures that thrived and prospered long ago, ultimately helping to foster a deeper appreciation of the cultural folkways and mores that preceded our time. Furthermore, in Ora herself, Cowardin has created a rather admirable heroine, one who rises to the considerable challenge of a task that requires her to step outside of her own comfort zone for the sake of countless others. Such a feat is not an easy one to fulfill - particularly for a sheltered sixteen-year-old unaccustomed to danger and with a nod to grand, sweeping cultural epics, Ora And The Gem Star more than holds its own as an imaginative fantasy tale in the proud tradition of Tolkien and Herbert. A recommended read. http://www.apexreviews.net/

Join in the adventure of “Ora and the Gem Star.”

On the web: http://www.jackcowardinbooks.com/

Watch our video trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Ffzp3bdDfY

Jack on Facebook: http://bit.ly/cdVKyh%20Twitter: http://twitter.com/JackCowardin

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Circle of Friends Awards

I know I've been horribly amiss in handing out awards given to me so I'll attempt to address that this week.
In Circle of Friends which B. Miller gave me I chose to award these five bloggers who keep me educated and entertained and who I regularly visit even though I'm not the most constant user of the whole blogsphere.
PAINTED MOSAICS by Kay Larch - a great friend and awesome artist who supports the arts in a gazillion ways event hought she is a very busy woman with lots of demands on her life.  She is a true vision carrier for anyone with a creative touch and does the most amazing paintings in a mosaic style.  A constant inspiriation!
Nick Valentino - a great writer and an awesome guy who always has something up and positive to offer even when he's going through very trying times as he makes his way on tour all over the country promoting his novel
All Things That Matter Press - This goes out to Phil and Deb Harris who are two fo the most dedicated individuals in the small press industry.  They are true beleivers in the publishing of unique fiction and dont' stop for anything including from blizzards to emergency room visits.  They deserve more than this award - they deserve a really long vacation where they are waited on hand and foot!  But form all I can tell, they'd get bored and itching' to get back to reading or editing the next manuscript.  True troopers who are keeping literature alive!
Free the Princess - This is one blog I have to read every day I can.  Matt Dellman has inspired me in so many ways and brought to my literary world a whole new perspective.  His research is exhaustive and his conclusions brilliant.  That's all I can say.  You have to read it for yourself.  A scholar and a gentleman!
And last but certainly not least,. I don't know if I'm allowed to do this or not but my fifth blogger has to be my writing partner B. Miller, even though B gave me this award. Not just because B's one of my writing partners but because B. is one of the most prolific bloggers out there, with a blog choke full of insights, personal stories and awesome writing tips.  And you must check out her Pay It Forward Contest - the prizes are amazing!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Remembering Jason Scott, a talented colleague

On April 30th, I received news that Jason Scott, of Kings Mtn., North Carolina, one of our most talented staffers at Shadow Archer Press passed away. He was very young, only 29, and left behind a young daughter, Lily and wife, Amanda.
I have now added a Jason Scott Memorial page up at the Shadow Archer Press Website.  http://www.shadowarcherpress.com/jasonscottmemorialpag.htm
Already people are sending in their memories and thoughts about how Jason made an impact on their lives.  For any staffers, contributors or readers who would like to add anything:  writing, photos of Jason, poetry, music, art,...hell, his favorite movies, please send it to gail_gray@bellsouth.net and I'll gladly add it to his page.  Even the things we might think inconsequential such as how, the night Jason left us, B. Miller, Rick Huffman and Jason Cloninger and I met, talked about Jason, cried and watched zombie movies in Jason's honor. He loved zombie movies. It was the first time I ever sat all the way through a zombie movie. As much as I write horror, I can barely watch horror movies - (too many nightmares afterwards) so, even though I had to put my hand over my eyes and look a way from time to time, I hope Jason would be proud that I made it all the way through the movie.  I never would.ve done it for anyone else.
Please add your ideas about Jason, any plans you have for Jason type-activities, anything that will keep him alive in our minds and remind us of his many varying facets.  When we get enough, pages Ill print them all in a chapbook -maybe even a series of chapbooks for Amanda and Lily (hopefully this will help Lily remember her dad) -so don't forget the art. 
I met Jason through his friend, Brian K. Ladd, even before there was any idea for Fissure mgazine with Shadow Archer Press. Right form the start Jason was involved.
Jason could do everything. He was trained in North Carolina at the McDowell Technical Community College for Graphic Design.

 He was a talented painter and writer who used these platforms to challenge people's pre-conceived concepts. He laid out a number of the covers for Fissure magazine. We published his poetry, rants and paintings in various issues of Fissure.
I knew him as a complex, highly intelligent, deep thinking person. Like many in the creative fields, he was as individual as you could get, with a quick, wry sense of humor and a love for all things horror.
Except for the horrors perpetrated on people by society’s limited viewpoints.
With his penetrating eyes, he was dramatic and thought-provoking, often giving you a sideways look to see how your brain worked when he tossed out a new concept or worldview. He taught me about being strong in the face of dissension and always, always being true to the self.
He also showed me a lot about the fine edge of humor and how, when used correctly, it can make people think. Everything he did, from his artwork to his conversations was to make people aware change was always necessary. Of all the people I've met in my life and in this field, he was the most adept at waking people up with one simple sentence. I never left even a brief conversation with him, without having something to turn over in my mind. It was often a two-fold challenge: the way the world was and how it could be different, but there was also an internal component. A profound challenge to reassess who we are and what we stand for.
He lived far away from the rest of the staff so he and I held our staff meetings at a McDonald's off US Interstate 85 in Kings Mtn. North Carolina. I'd never be able to find his place in the country without getting lost.
After a few humorous remarks, our discussions would get serious and we'd get down to work. I trusted his opinions and his technical knowledge regarding the printing business. I always drove back home on that highway with a different view of the world. This is a terrible loss to everyone, especially his family, but his friends now have huge holes in their hearts. Fissure and Shadow Archer Press are now bereft of the talent he had to offer and his personal unique, one of a kind, perspective. Hopefully, we can all carry a piece of Jason within us and remember to speak up in whatever media or forum when we see the need. Jason would not hesitate to do so. We must now be his voice.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Two for One - new books by Kenneth Weene

Widow’s Walk by Kenneth Weene tells the story of Mary Flanagan and her search for meaning, life, and love. It is also the story of her Irish roots and her immigration to America, her marriage, her husband’s life and death, and the lives of her two children. And it is the story of her relationship with Arnie Berger, a man who is totally different in background, religion, and approach to life. Theirs is a deep and meaningful love that gladdens the heart. If only things could always flow along with such ease. But they do not, and Widow’s Walk becomes a powerful tale of human pain and emotional conflict.


Recently released from ATTM Press, Kenneth Weene’s new novel, Memoirs From the Asylum, is a comi-tragic tale of madness and sanity, of desperation and hope, of possibilities and fate. Set in a state hospital, Memoirs From the Asylum focuses on three main characters, a narrator, who has taken refuge from his terror of the world, a catatonic schizophrenic, whose mind lives within a crack in the wall opposite her bed, and a young psychiatrist, who is dealing with his own father’s depression. This is a book that will have you laughing, crying, and discussing.

An Excerpt From Widow’s Walk
People like Danny O’Brien don't just wash their cars – they bathe them with deliberation. First they get ready, which starts with the right clothes. Danny always changes into his cutoff jeans, the last pair he has left from college. He has to suck in his stomach to snap them shut, and they have long ago stopped feeling comfortable, but they represent his youth so he won’t throw them out. He doesn’t tuck his Grateful Dead T-shirt in. He probably wouldn’t have anyway, but with it hanging out no one can see if the snap on his shorts has opened. His old tennis shoes go on his bare feet, and he feels like he is ready to go back in time and play Frisbee in Hollis Quad.
His equipment, too, is laid out carefully. Sponges, clean rags, a plastic pail, the garden hose, Turtle Wash and Wax, a Dust Buster, and finally cleaners for the glass, the vinyl, the leather upholstery, the chrome, and especially the tires – the car will not be to his liking until the tires gleam – not like new, but shining beyond newness. Even the placement of the car is – to his mind – just right. It is carefully parked in a specific spot so that he can get maximum efficiency from the hose.
His neighbor, Harry Brown, is tending flowerbeds. Not particularly a lover of nature, Danny leaves that task to the gardener. "Hey, Harry, how's it going?" he calls to the neighbor, who is busily weeding around the azaleas.
"Damn weeds just keep growing." It is a ritual exchange. The two men aren’t close, but they have as many rituals as any fraternity. That is one of Danny's special qualities; his every relationship has rituals built in: little sayings or a special piece of body language that makes the other person feel that theirs is a special relationship
Danny is aware of a change in the light. He looks up and sees Kathleen watching him. He smiles. “Hi.”
She half smiles in response. Embarrassed by his notice, she starts slightly as if to move away.
"Do you like cars?" He isn’t sure where, but he knows that he has seen her before. “She’s cute enough,” he thinks. “Might as well chat her up.”
Kathleen, not having really taken a step, feels she has to respond. She smiles shyly – not flirtatious but friendly. "Actually, I don’t know much about them. I’ve never even learned how to drive."
"Seriously?" Even while he is saying this, Danny is wondering if he shouldn’t perhaps take a more serious tone, one more appropriate to the classy young woman he perceives her to be.
"Why? Is there something wrong?" She can feel herself tensing, pulling back, becoming defensive. "I always wanted to learn, but I never had the chance."
He takes another look at Kathleen and decides that she might be worth his time. "I tell you what. You help me wash, and I'll give you a driving lesson."
"I don't even know you," Kathleen responds with hesitancy.
"Harry here will vouch for me. Won't you Harry?"
"Lady, I'd stay far away from that crazy Irishman. You should never trust a man who doesn't garden."
"I don't really think I should," her voice conveys doubt and a hidden wish.
"Suit yourself. If you ever change your mind, stop by any weekend. If I'm not home, my mother almost always is. I'll tell her if a beautiful woman named …" He pauses.
At first Kathleen doesn’t understand why he is waiting. Then she wonders if it’s ok for her to answer. Finally she stammers, "My name is Kathleen, Kathleen Flanagan."
"Pleased to meet you, Kathleen Flanagan. Danny O’Brien at your service." Danny winks at her, and Kathleen feels a rush of confusion – her face flushes. "We Irish folks have to stick together especially around a Brit like Harry." Danny’s sweeping gesture toward his neighbor sprays her with soapy water from the sponge he’s holding.
The cold tingle of the water makes her laugh lightly.
"Good. A sense of humor is the thing to have, but I am sorry." He offers her a clean rag.
"That's all right! I'm sure I'll dry before I get back."
"Back where?"
"Subtle, boy," Harry comments.
"I live at the hospice, the one near the Star Market, in the staff housing."
Danny smiles broadly. "The freckles on his forehead seem to dance when he smiles," Kathleen observes to herself.
"Would the nuns be upset if I were to drop by some day?"
"That would depend on your intentions."
"Better than they were when I went to Saint Edward's."
He grins again, and Kathleen is struck by the sparkle in his eyes. She waves as she walks away.
"That's a nice girl, Danny." Harry remarks as Kathleen leaves. “Not a bad looker either.”
"That's for sure." Danny turns back to the car, but his mind is following Kathleen down the street.

Words of Praise for Widow’s Walk
“Here is a story whose breadth of vision is exceeded only by the depth of its characters.” (Jon Tuttle, author, The Trustus Plays)

“This story includes the passions of everyday life that will touch you in a special way.” (Abe F. March, author, To Beirut and Back, They Plotted Revenge Against America, and Journey Into The Past)

“Written in the present tense, Widow's Walk achieves the difficult balance of urgency and character-driven action possible with this technique. With deft humor and unexpected turns, universal dilemmas and unique perspectives, I believe Widow's Walk captures all the elements of great fiction.” (Jen Knox, author, Musical Chairs


An excerpt from Memoirs From the Asylum
Arthur and I are pacing up and down the dayroom. That way the aides don’t notice. As long as we look agitated, they don’t care about our conversations. They figure we must be ourselves: the simply crazy. If we were to sit down on the bilious green Naugahyde and chrome chairs and couches that have long since deteriorated to junkyard quality and talk like normal people, then they’d get pissed off. They count on us to be psycho, to appear nuts. It’s like the cops and the criminals. The criminals might not want the cops around, but the cops need the crooks so they have jobs. And, if the cops disappeared then everyone could commit the same criminal acts so there’d be no payoff for being a crook. So, bottom line, the staff needs us to keep getting their paychecks, and we need them to keep getting our rubber-rooms, straightjackets, and butts full of Valium.
But, the numbers are changing. The psycho drugs have reduced the size of all the hospitals. The staffs have shrunk; now they’re resisting every discharge. No normality here! Nobody should get out. That’s the rule.
So we are pacing and discussing the alleged newest member of our very nonselective club. Of course, it is all rumor and conjecture. The rolling TV never plays the news; it’s considered too upsetting.
Newspapers and magazines only make an appearance when an infrequent visitor happens to bring them, which is always well after they’re better suited for wrapping fish. Visitors are few and far between. We who have survived the medication boom and still live on the wards have few family members interested in us. The aides and nurses do bring gossipy magazines that they share with each other and then leave around for us. We always know the latest tittle-tattle from three weeks ago. We can always tell that our bleached out castaway clothing isn’t the latest from Paris.
“Maybe. But, then what’s to stop them from frying every nut case,” I pause for effect, “including us?”
“Would you do something like that?”
“No.”
“Well, neither would I.”
“Of course not, but you did attack those people.”
He giggles nervously. “God told me to.”
“I know, but maybe God told him.”
He raises his voice, always a foolish thing to do, but theology is always a hot button in the day room. “God would never tell him that – not something like that!”
One of the aides looks up at us. I catch her out of the corner of my eye, the one that I always keep directed at the nurses’ station.
“Sshhh,” I hiss at him. But he is way too far-gone. God’s prophet is on the pulpit, and nothing else matters. It only takes a minute before they drug him, wrap him, and carry him off to restraints.
They might decide I should get it, too, that I have been provoking him, that I might get others started – that I might be the “King of the Crazies” – and they talk about our paranoia. I walk away as fast as I can.
Too late! They have grabbed me and wrestled my ass to the floor. I’m not resisting. There would be no point. They still rough me up. One aide, this big hulk of an idiot, a sadist too afraid to take on anyone who can fight back, smacks me in the face – no reason, just his pleasure. My nose starts to bleed. They hold me down so that I’m coughing and choking on my own damn blood. One of the nurses brings the syringe. The big V to the rescue.

I wake up the next day on the medical ward. There is a hole in my throat where they inserted a tracheotomy tube. The bastard has nearly killed me. God, is my throat sore. I get to suck on ice chips and suffer. The bastard got to go home for his dinner.
A day later I am back on the ward. One of the women patients sidles over to me. “We heard they had to give you shock treatments,” she hisses.
“No,” I croak back pointing at my throat.
“I thought your brains were up here,” she says pointing to her head.
I try to laugh and then think better of it. I pat my ass. “No, down here,” I tell her.
She is still cackling as one of the nurses came out from behind their counter with the medication tray. My pills are different. I look at them and then at her. “Take your meds,” she commands firmly.
“They aren’t right.”
“The doctor changed them.”
“Why?”
“Ask him.”
“Come on, at least tell me why,” I plead, afraid of the side effects.
“We want to make sure that you behave yourself. No more incidents like yesterday.
I want to cry, but I just nod. I try to hold some of the pills in my cheek to spit them out once she has gone, but she checks my mouth and makes me take a second cup of the horrible juice they use. It tastes like a combination of the bug-juice they serve at summer camp and some powdered fruit drink straight from the army, and filled with saltpeter.
“Be a good boy,” she says as she walks away. I feel like I’m a dog being patted absentmindedly on the head by a totally indifferent and unfeeling clerk in a department store. “You really shouldn’t have your dog in here, mister; but keep him under control and we won’t shoot you full of meds.”
“Yes, ma’am; yes, ma’am, three bags full.”
No matter how fucked your head, you’ve got to hate the drooling and the shuffling. I try to control the tics and that damned unending pill rolling. I try, but I fail – failure is in the chemistry.

To learn more about Widow’s Walk visit the video at:
http://vidego.multicastmedia.com/player.php?p=wbgzb2yk

To learn more about Memoirs From the Asylum watch:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WGyl0JMTEJ4

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Steampunk Resources part 1

Here's a start!  Okay folks as you get ready for Upstate Steampunk Con or to submit art, fiction, poetry or nonfiction to the special steampunk issue of my magazine Fisssure, published by Shadow Archer Press: check out all these resources to get you motivated to:
 write a story
make a costume
build a contraption
and more...

And be sure to register with the local upstate
Steampunk Meetup Group.  It's FREE!
http://www.meetup.com/UpState-Steampunk/

Steampunk Magazine - a free PDF downloadable magazine or a $5.00 print magazine with color cover.  Lots of great articles including how to pieces. They're on issue #7.
http://www.steampunkmagazine.com/

The Gatehouse Gazette - free downloadable and printable magazine in business since 2006 for steampunk and diesel punk. Now on issue #12 - a feat in itself.  Polished looking newspaper style mag with art, nofiction and fiction.  A must for all steampunk and desiel punk fans.  Plus it's FREE!! 
http://www.ottens.co.uk/gatehouse/website.php

Aether Emporium - the end all and be all in all things steampunk, including the greated collection of steampunk photos I can find.  If you need ideas for your oufits and wearable mechanical wonders - this is the place to go.  Music, fashion, art, books, comics, movies, technology, inventions and science, kits, how to instructions, discussions of all kinds. Be prepared to spend hours and hours here in absolute bliss. 
http://etheremporium.pbworks.com/Wiki

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Shaman Circus book signing at Milagro Studios

I've been invited to do a book signing for my magical realism novel, Shaman Circus, at Fais do do, A Celebration of All Things New Orleans to be held at Milagro Studios during the First Friday Gallery Crawl on June 4, 2010.  I'm very excited as Milagro Studios (previously Vitti Tile and Pottery Gallery) is one of the places where I've shown my art in the Pendleton Arts District in Greenville,SC.
Milagro is located centrally in the Pendleton Street Arts District at 1263 Pendleton St.  It's a delightful gallery with a stunning courtyard and offers a selection of mosaics, art, jewelry, pottery,tile and ironwork by resident artists: Suzanne Vitti, Kay Larch, Eric Benjamin and Ryan Calloway.
 Stop by! There are many events planned for the evening.
I'll have copies of Shaman Circus for sale and for those who already own a copy, please bring them so I can sign them for you. I'll also have some of my poetry chap books and prints available and may even display a selection of the oil paintings I created of scenes from Shaman Circus.
Shaman Circus was published by a great small press in Maine at All Things That Matter Press (ATTMP). Thanks to the hard work of  publisher and editor Phil and Deb Harris, Shaman Circus is now available from their website or in print or kindle from Amazon.com.

Synopsis of Shaman Circus:
In New Orleans following Katrina all bets are of; all masks dissolved. "Don't forget the sham in shaman," Jacob Laguerre lies to his new apprentice, Alex Hampton. When Alex, a twenty-eight year-old anthropology professor goes on field-study to post-Katrina New Orleans, he enters a chaotic and altered landscape where he's psychologically, physically and spiritually challenged by the sarcastic mentoring of the mulatto, Laguerre, a current day voudou shaman. Both Laguerre's and Alex's psyches struggle through stages of transition and rebirth as their lives are enmeshed with a group of quirky fringe-dwellers, as colorful and eccentric as the New Orleans itself. Lily Hampton, a sculptor, torn between her love for both men; Mavis, an artist who spent nights in her attic, but survived the floods; Perry Laguerre, Jacob's hermaphroditic twin, and Bad Jacqui, lesbian owner of a French Quarter bar: are pulled together to form the cynical but ultimately idealistic team who vow to stay in post-Katrina New Orleans. They all follow a taut path between madness and redemption in the no man's land of Refrigerator Town as they assist in the aftermath and healing of both the city and those who remain.

In addition, my author page is now up on Amazon.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Guilty of Ambiguity and Rushing the Ending

Guilty!!  Guilty as charged on all counts!!  Yes, I stand with head bowed before the bench in shame.  I am as guilty as they come.  And a repeat offender indeed.  I am once again, guilty of rushing the ending of my story.  This one is "The Foxglove Broadsides," a steampunk story  was fun to write. I was able to play with both Victorian culture but quirky characters. 
Twice I considered the story finished.  And twice was told --  not so.  The first time, there was no ending, just a cliff hanger leaving my hero locked in a basement.
The second time, my ending was too abrupt and explained nothing, leaving the Commissioner holding a broadside. No further info to inform my readers.
So I do plead guilty, but with extenuating circumstances.  And what are those?  You, my dear readers, may ask as judge and jury?
"A deadline for a cool mag on Duotrope."  I answer
And the judge stands in a fit of rage, bangs his gavel and sends me to the slammer.
Yes, I must now take a deep breath in my little cell, (thank goodness in my steampunk world they allow laptops) and will not be released until I  finish my story, instead of going for my modus operandi - the ambiguous ending.  I'll admit I'm addicted to them, as much as someone might be to heroin. 
But there are times they won't work.  Rushing to such ends stops me from thinking straight and do what's right which is to - SATISFY THE READER.

In my ADHD excitement I would have sent off my unfinished story and let down both my readers and myself. The story would certainly be rejected.
Thank goodness for my writing partner and for my peers, who I hope, would never let such a criminal act go unrevealed. And even though the story is now over 5,400 words, (over the limit of my targeted market)  it would be better to cut its innards than to slack on the ending.

So, who else will stand beside me in the box of the accused?  Have you ever been guilty of such a folly?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Indulging in the Arts

Another glorious weekend in South Carolina!  Mark and I discovered how far Greenville has come in broadening its outlook on the arts this weekend.  After the Saturday Downtown Farmers Market where I found my favorite barbecue sauce again, we headed to Artisphere, an annual arts event drawing both local and national artists.  They had unveiled the new Marriott Plaza and wow - it's stunning, with it's massive courtyard, Stone wall of water fountain but especially for the two new life size sculptures by Tuan, a Viet Namese sculptor brought to Greenville by Midtown Artery. 
The two sculptures involve three nude or semi-nude figures.  And they are gorgeous.  I'm so thrilled Greenville has opened up.  I remember the years when a nude was a no-no in this one-time conservative town. The art was great, we were exposed to all kinds of music, including the great Rumba drum circle. And since I'd gone to see Cindy's nephew and his band, sons of Iris, on Friday night at the Handlebar, it was a weekend full of the arts.  Songs of Iris were amazing! It was like hearing Jimmy Page and Pat Benatar on the same stage.  Very tight  originals with awesome lyrics and boy can their 18-year old female sing belt one out.  They had the audience mesmerized.
So I went home, let all the sensory input wash over me and not only finished my now close to 5,000 word streampunk, short story, The "Foxglove Broadsides" but also started designing and creating the Victorian corseted bustle dress in green satin and faux duponi copper-colored silk that I'll be wearing for the daytime part of the Upstate Steampunk Con.  I have another outfit chosen for the ball in the evening that's more appropriate for dancing. 
Becky and I had our writers group sitting out in the garden which has never looked so lovely. One of my foxgloves is five feet tall!  I'm only an a few inches taller!  And you wonder why I wrote about foxgloves.  Well, there's much more to that story, my dears!  Much much more!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Guest author - Vic Fortezza with A Hitch in Twilight

A Hitch in Twilight is a compilation of stories of The Twilight Zone-Alfred Hitchcock variety. Most involve ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. Lucifer appears in two. Most are set in New York, particularly Brooklyn. They are designed to make entertain and to foster thought. They are 20 tales of Warped Imagination.


Excerpt
Beneath the Boardwalk, somewhere along the Brighton Beach side, leeward of a dune formed by the bitter winter winds, lay a long, narrow cardboard box around which rats were scurrying. There was a restless, troubled murmuring within it. Suddenly the flaps flew aside and a man inside sprang to a sitting position like a jack-in-the-box, casting pages of a newspaper, his blankets, aside in his wake. He fought to regain his breath, muttering angrily, fearfully.
His attention was snared by a click. His paroxysm had been vanquished. His senses had never seemed so alive. He peered beyond the dune, past the small gap between its peak and the underside of the Boardwalk. A cigarette lighter flickered briefly, illuminating a hard though handsome face that featured a thick, neatly-trimmed black beard.

Review
Vic Fortezza writes about the trials and tribulations of life. Be it fiction or reality he captivates his audience with hard-boiled characterizations that catapult readers through drama and intrigue, at times with a touch of humor. Vic’s words flow with strength – he tells it like it is – through the eyes of a powerful, seasoned writer. By the time you’ve read the last page of A Hitch in Twilight, you’ll feel like you’ve lived each story.

                                                               --  Victoria Valentine, Editor: Skyline Review

Follow Vic’s blog: Selling Books on the Streets of Brooklyn: http://www.amazon.com/gp/forum/cd/discussion.html/ref=ntt_mus_ep_cd_tft_tp?ie=UTF8&cdForum=Fx19PIWSO2UGA75&cdThread=Tx1J1SVA9V1ZPDV

See a video of Vic in action on You Tube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uYv9k5Su3wA

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Steampunk Travels, part 1

As a newcomer to the steampunk world, I was led on a quite diverse course to discover everything about the genre.  For those of you planning on writing something for steampunk issue of Fissure, or for those of you new to the genre, I invite you on the first stage of my travels to this exciting, terrifying, amazing, offbeat, colorful road. 
First I was introduced through the music of Vernian Process by fellow writes group member Brian K. Ladd. But then as synchronicity does, I was exposed to various angles of the steampunk world all at once, photos of Gypsey and Marla in steampunk costumes and also what they had been working on as steampunk influenced decorating at their home, I met Nick Valentino, author of Thomas Riley, a steampunk novel, at a writer's conference and read his book and then, as a long time fan of all things Victorian checked out photos of the garb and costumes and I was smitten!
Three weeks ago I walked into a thrift store and found a designer skirt and jacket for under $20.00.  It's over the top Victorian influences, could only be worn as evening wear by contemporary folks and it fit!  So I snapped it up having no idea Gypsey Teague was planning to host the Upstate Steampunk Con in my town, Greenville, SC.  Wow.  What luck.
Then I read Matthew Delman's brilliant, well-researched and highly informative four-part series on The Roots of Steampunk on his blog, Free the Princess and whew, things really took off.
I have now written two steampunk stories, Marquette de Fleur, a rather steamy steampunk story (in the romantic way) which involves an odd take on horticulture in the steampunk world - a twisted kind of horticulture.  It is now in the submission circulation mill.  And this weekend I finished a second story, The Foxglove Broadsheets. This is a story about steam-driven printing, poison and political intrigue.
Without music I would never have explored this genre or written these stories. The music inspires me to delve into my love of Victorian cultures, interiors, history and now the inventions and how we can torque them with steampunk ingenuity. 
Here are some recommendations so you can be inspired too:
Vernian Process - British band - wow - the ultimate in steampunk atmosphere - you will be flying over London in an airship over the head of the likes of Jack the Ripper just listening to this.
Abney Park  - I heard about this band from author, Gypsey Teague. From Seattle, male and female members produce everything from dance music, to stunning melodic ballads complete with cello, violin and more, female singer- very very steampunk, lots of cool sound effects, some middle eastern influences.
Life's Decay - steampunk pair from France, awesome goth edge, bittersweet, obviously classically trained, amazing instrumentation often with acoustic and strange instruments.The dark edge of steampunk, the boudoir side of steampunk, awesome staccato military drums, cello steam train sounds blended with incredible melodies on piano, cello and more. The female high soprano voice sings and whispers in French - delectable, from romantic to poignant to haunting. 

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Reedy River Rats - 2010 a year of abrubt change

This month has marked an end of an era for a number of  reasons.  Some I will elaborate on later.  But this week, it;s in regards to a rough jolt to the Reedy River Rats Guerilla Writing Group A key and founding member,
  Brian K. Ladd  will be moving to Durham North Carolina. 
Brian has been in the group since its inception and there were long periods when he and I were the only ones in the group. Yet we kept meeting on a mostly regular schedule at various coffee shops, homes, pubs and parks, but most often at Coffee Underground in downtown Greenville.  We both state that our novels, Trimalchio's Couch for Brian and Shaman Circus for me, would not have been written without the constant meetings. And I can say that about a lot of my short stories and poems. Brian is now embarking on another chapter to his life. At least he's still close enough for a meeting a few times a year and we hope to set up some kind of Skype type of online face to face conference writers meetings.
I'm sad for me and happy for him because he's going back to school to earn his degree in ancient languages.  He'll have to tell you the exact degree - I can never how to say the real names.
It's been sad over the years as our members move away. Shaggy Randall and Wendy Swearingin are in Florida, Chris Patrick is in Kings Mtn, NC, Donna Nyzio is in Beaufort, NC, and tragically, Jason Scott of NC passed away last week (I'm working on a future post about Jason).
 So that will leave B. Miller and I here in Greenville. I hope we all will vow to continue as we struggle along in this wayward addictive  lifestyle of weaving stories and creating artwork.  For B. Miller and I, at this point, we couldn't stop writing if we wanted to, and we won't stop meeting and improving.
So it will be another transition to have Brian in  another state, and a new interplay for the Rats. A Good writers group or magazine staff becomes a family, as B. Miller so beautifully wrote in her post about Jason. We all  worked hand in hand in this crazy publishing world.
And Brian has always been so generous with his knowledge of language and history, philosophy and character. He will be missed a great deal, but we'll be looking for him on the world stage where his craft will continue to be appreciated on an international level.  Sure, we'd like to keep him all to ourselves, keep him here running the streets of  Greenville with the Rats, but that would be unfair.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Steampunk issue of Fissure seeks submissions

Dig out your goggles, cogs, gears and Victorian fashions! Fissure is going steampunk!
Shadow Archer Press seeks submissions for a special Steampunk issue from Fissure magazine


Fissure Magazine is now open to submissions for our special Steampunk issue.
Open to submissions from May 1, 2010 to July 30, 2010. This special issue print edition will be released in November at the Upstate Steampunk Con in Greenville, SC and will be available as a print edition online.

I haven't talked about my small press on this blog much because of so many other things going on and taking a brief hiatus from the press.  But we're gearing back up and with a clockwork's worth of gears for our special Steampunk Issue of Fissure magazine.
Here are the guidelines and be sure to check out the website for more info.  I especially need to start looking at cover art so if you have a steampunk illustration sitting on your drafting table, please send me a jpeg at gail_gray@bellsouth.net.

Magazine Submission guidelines for the Fissure magazine special Steampunk issue


Non-fiction: How to articles (we appreciate hands-on illustrations or photos) fashion, mechanics, alchemy, history, book, music, film and gear reviews.
 
Fiction: Short stories, flash fiction and even novel excerpts will be considered in the steampunk genre. Adventure, quirky, funny, romantic, surreal, literary, edgy - we'll look at them all. We're more interested in character-driven stories than stories over-powered by steampunk technology. Try to avoid the predictable and tease our imaginations with your own take on the genre. Please avoid overly gratuitous violence.
We prefer your manuscript in 12 point, double spaced Times New Roman, with your name, address, phone number and e-mail in upper left hand corner, word count in upper right hand corner of first page. Pages must be numbered and submitted in order. Only accepted in either an attached Word document. Be sure to put the title of your piece and your last name in the subject line.
Short stories, word limit 2,400 words. (Contact the editor ahead of time if you have a longer story that deserves a read). Flash fiction, 350-500 words.

Poetry: limited to three poems per submission, no more than 2 pages per poem, 12 point, single space. Please do not submit another batch until hearing back on your first batch.

Original, unpublished work only. Simultaneous submissions accepted but please notify us as soon as your work is accepted elsewhere. Except for poetry, we do not accept multiple submissions.
Be sure to put the title of your piece and your last name in the subject line.

We only accept email submissions at this time: gail_gray@bellsouth.net

Cover Art and Internal art: jpegs no larger than 400 pixels, may be sent to the above email or submitted via snail mail on disc. Submit or contact Gail, the editor at gail_gray@bellsouth.net for any questions.

How We Work: At this point we ask for one time rights on your material for the Steampunk Fissure, then it reverts back to you. But please acknowledge Fissure is we publish your work and it appears in another publication afterwards. Response will be by e-mail. May take up to 60 days for a response with this special issue.

http://www.upstatesteampunk.com/

Thanks to the Graphics Fairy for the vintage illustration!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Arlee's A to Z Challenge - The Writer is Hero

First of all -
I want to shout out a massive HURRAY to all of you bloggers who participated in Arlee's A to Z challenge.  Wow!  I'm impressed. 
You have made me laugh, commiserate, think, explore and learn.  You've taught me so much about writing it's mind-boggling.  You've allowed me to explore other cities, learn new crafts, fine-tune my writing skills and best of all - get to know you! 
You've proved how different we all are, even as writers and hopefully you've proved to yourselves how much you can produce on deadline.  An amazing feat and you all deserve some very special rest right now!

I could never have done it, even though as a former photojournalist, when I wrote upwards of 3,000 words every weekday, I don't think I could have pulled this one off.  Especially right now as I shift between two jobs, one job in mental health to another in a  head injury program.  I've also been living between two houses as I'm house sitting at a stone house which has become a wonderful writing retreat for me as well as my own house. And I'm in between two stories: my current novel in progress, Fireworks: Interference Equation and a steampunk short story which won't let go. 

Ouch!  Don't you hate/love those times when you have more than one choice?  When the horizons open up and the opportunities await?  Those times are magic and terrifying all at the same time. When you think about it, this is the life of a writer every time they sit at their keyboard.  Which way do I take my story?  Which way do I showcase my character? Which characters die and who falls in love?  It's a heady sense of power and creation, and also the crossroads which can lead us to sell our soul (or sell out our story) or make it to the other side:  the creation of something which never existed before on this plant.

Wow.  Writers as creators.  Writers as inspiration, writers as the voices for those who don't leave records behind.  Whether we write fiction or non-fiction, we do our species a service no other species can, we leave a record:  or our times, of our cultures, of our philosophies.  And as time seems to speed up and as the globe shrinks, it's even more imperative that we keep writing:  our viewpoint may be personal, our stories may seem to inhabit a small world, our tales may be subtle of blatant:  but either way, people now and in the future will always be curious as to how another human lives, copes, despairs or overcomes the experiences they encounter.  That's why we read, to discover things about people unlike us having adventures we coulnd't imagine and at the same time connect with those kernals of human nature, when we realize - wow, that sounds like me.  Or I'd probably react that way when going through such and such a scenario. 

So as much as we torment ourselves with our doubts as we work on various projects - we must also acknowledge how brave and courageous we are in putting our words, thoughts, dreams and nightmares out there.  Human beings have been hungry for stories ever since they first sat around campfire curious as to how the other fellow's day went.  It feeds our imagination and fuels our own development.  So pat yourself on the back every time you sit down at that white page and summon the inner essence which drives you to write.  It's both a torment and a gift - and the fact that you choose to utilize it is equal to any hero brandishing a sword, flag or even magic.  For you are the spellbinders, the story tellers -  the voice in the dark.
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