Artists Are Nature’s Pinhole Cameras

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Artists are the pinhole cameras of society.  We create shadow plays of the events happening in our culture.  Sometimes the shadows are what you expect; sometimes every thing changes and moves, or even disappears.

I guess the point I’m trying to make is that ART (including fiction) is the safe place to watch the big, cosmic things happen.  You don’t need special equipment, or mechanical tricks of light and shadow.  This service we provide is a part of out nature if our voices are free.  We show you intangible things like eclipses and justice.  The feel of sunlight and hope.  Of darkness and despair.  We show you as much as we can, to the best of our ability, but also within our limits.  It’s up to you, and me, what we do with it.  We create the world we live in.

I keep forgetting to mention it, but I really do like hearing your points of view (and stories) on my various topics of writerly life.  Sometimes I’m slow on a response, or completely miss a comment, but I AM trying to make myself available as a sounding board.  It makes the whole thing seem less like self-imposed solitude.  NOBODY understands the creative weirdness of the artist/writer life like another artist/writer.  So feel free to comment, here or on Facebook.  (Twitter seems harder to follow threads, but also do-able.)

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Sometimes Family Comes First

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMeet Dexter, my latest excuse for not finishing my writing projects.  He took two days to complete from scratch, 3-D pattern-making as I went, because I couldn’t find one for sale on the internet.  The hands took five tries, but they are pose-able.

Why?  I’m glad you asked.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHer.  When you have a child with autism, you will do anything to make her feel accepted and liked.  And when she wants to cosplay an obscure video game character named Jak, you make a soft sculpture of the sidekick, Daxter.  Because you have the skill and you make the time.  And you watch her glow under the attention of excited fans of old video games, as they ask for pictures and reminisce over their misspent youth.

You end the day exhausted but happy, without a single word written for nearly a week, because you don’t waste chances like this.

When you are a writer, you WRITE EVERY DAY YOU CAN.  But you also put it down for moments like this.  Life gives you something to write about.  Don’t forget to LIVE!

Happy writing!

Strange Tales Case No. 748: Second Update

To the offices of Strange Tales Magazine for case no. 748: The Mayfly Bride: Second Update

Another item has been found, along with some additional information.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHonestly, I’m not sure what to think of the latest find.  On the advice of a former housekeeper, we searched an unused series of storage rooms deep in the recesses of the attic.  There we found what seems to be a hat box belonging to the daughter, Elisabeth Fair Darling.  That is where we found the shadow box of items.

I cleaned the glass to make it easier to photograph the items, since I can’t remove it without disassembling the box.  Pinned in place is another doll and some paper insects, much like a entomological display.  We are assuming that Elisabeth is the maker of the series of dolls at this point.  We are debating whether to pull the pieces out to inspect them more closely, or to leave it untouched in respect, as this is obviously an artifact of Memento Mori.  (Remember Death.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere is no new poem.  It is unfortunate, but not surprising, since the previous duo seem to be from the point-of-view of her father.  I know it is every Englishman’s duty to secretly write bad poetry, but what madness causes a man to create such fiction about his dead wife?

This object is by far the most disturbing of the three, in my opinion.  However, the Lady of the house and the housekeeper disagree.  They think the nesting pair are worse.  I wonder what our readers would think if polled.

What kind of father tells such tales to his daughter about her mother?  What child pins an effigy of their mother in a shadow box of insects?  What sort of man writes such poetry about a short marriage?

Mentioned in one of Elisabeth’s letters is her father’s secret hiding place for papers behind a false panel of the library.  We are trying to ascertain where it is before randomly destroying the woodwork.  I hope they are found, and not already lost to accident or madness.  Was he simply trying to ease a child from the reality of death by filling her head with fairy tales, or was he deluding himself as well?

In the trunk was also some correspondence from a Mary Darling, the elder sister of Edward.  This gives us another source of information, once she can be tracked down.  I will send updates as I can.

 

For more information, see;
Case no. 748: The Mayfly Bride (first part)
Case no. 748: The Mayfly Bride: Update

Strange Tales Case No. 748: Update

To the offices of Strange Tales Magazine regarding case no. 748: The Mayfly Bride: Update.

A second toy has been found, along with another poem, in the trunk of a Lord Earnest William Darling of the Denbighshire Darlings from the late 1800’s.  Lord Darling is on record with a brief, one year marriage, to a Lumia Fair, resulting in a daughter, named Elisabeth Fair Darling.  The church records also indicate the mother’s burial soon after the birth.  The daughter’s marriage, at nineteen, is recorded in the family bible.  The groom is a Kieran Mac Dhuibh.

Inquiries are continuing of all named persons, in both the church and community records, but this takes some time.  The lady of the house has become personally involved, and is now searching the household papers.

There is no doubt that the second set of dolls was made by the same hand.  We are wondering if they could be made by the child, Elisabeth, which is a disturbing thought.  I have photographed the toys in the bird’s nest it was found in, all wrapped in cloth.  (Possibly a swaddling cloth.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe color of the green fabric is much brighter than the previous nursery toy, possibly due to the protection of the trunk.  There is little staining, despite the organic nature of the nest.  The less said of the adult doll, the better.  It took some effort to lay it flat.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe poem found curled up under the dolls is brief, disturbing, and offers no additional insights.

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My Mayfly Bride
Curled-up and Dried

Having a name and an era should help our inquiries.  There is also a lead on a former housekeeper that may provide us a better direction for our search.  I will send updates as I can.

 

 

For additional information, see:
Case no. 748: The Mayfly Bride (part one)
Case no. 748: The Mayfly Bride: Second Update (6/25/17)

Strange Tales Case No. 748

To the offices of Strange Tales Magazine regarding case no. 748:

I have arrived and spent three weeks interviewing the residents and staff of Riverbend Manor on the subject of The Mayfly Bride fairy tale.  It seems to have originated from here, so I am on the right track.  The tale also seems to be a genuine family story, and not a fabrication in response to our call for new, unheard stories of the Fae Folk in the last issue.

The most complete version, compiled from the interviews, is as follows:

There once was a man, vain, foolish, and careless of those he hurt, who was tricked by the Fae.  He was be-spelled at a party to wed a Fairy, a most mesmerizing creature of air and light.  The entire courtship was a few hours of dancing, eating, and laughing.  He took her home from the party, to his house and bed, and they slept in each others arms.  When the man woke in the morning to an unfamiliar sound, he found his bride, a Mayfly Fairy, was no more than a dried husk, as if she had died from great age, and there was a babe nestled between them.

The moral of the story seems to change depending on the speaker.  Some say his punishment of raising a half Fae child–alone–was because of his careless life.  Others maintain that loosing his true love was the punishment, and the child a love token from a regretful bride.  I, personally, think raising a child that could have a vastly different lifespan than my own would be the true punishment, but then I remind myself that it is just a fairy tale.

Here are photographs of the original toy and poem that prompted the family to contact us.  I have arraigned it artfully with other items of the manor nursery, mostly of indeterminate age and origin.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe composition of the doll is cotton fabric over sticks, with no padding.  The construction gives it an oddly empty, disjointed feel in the hand.  The dress and details are of silks, cottons and a few pearls.  The wings are inked designs on hot pressed paper.  There is some damage and staining due to handling, probably by small children, but not as much as you would expect.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere are pictures and a typed version of the poem.  The penmanship is remarkable.  It seems the English tradition of bad poetry written in secret is well upheld.

My Mayfly Bride

We danced
A ball became a wedding
Petite-fours our cake
Fairy lights lit our way to my door
Why did I not question the spell?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe have searched the first of the manor storage rooms for any more physical evidence for the Mayfly Bride stories, but have found nothing.  The housekeeper has been helpful, but she is too new to know where anything is, or how the family organizes things.

I will send an update when we find something of note.

 

For more information, see;
Case no. 748: The Mayfly Bride: Update (6/24/17)
Case no. 748: The Mayfly Bride: Second Update (6/25/17)

Is the Writer Blocked, or Just Stupid?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASome writers believe in Writer’s Block, and some don’t.  Whatever you want to call it, there are times that the words don’t flow, or what does come out is garbage.  It happens.  The trick is to figure out why.

In my continuing quest to let you see my abby-normal brain working (no flash photography, please) let’s poke at the short story that has stalled out.

I’ve got the characters, some dialogue, some introspection, some action, a twist, some creepy shit (it’s horror), and a decent circling back ending.  In the past I’ve been able to run with this much, and flesh out the story around these bones, but I only have about half.  Mostly what I’ve written this week is just not “muscle.”  It’s goo.  Or phlegm, or something like snot from a sinus infection.  There is not a lot of it, either, which is seriously screwing up my daily word count promise to myself.

I’ve picked at it during breaks in the day job.  I’ve taken walks.  I’ve read good books.  I’ve watched new TV shows.  I’ve organized part of the garage and attic.  I’ve napped.  I’ve sat down and just written oozing, stinking garbage to see if that will jar it loose.  It’s not budging, and I’m running out of time.  (It’s a self-imposed time restriction, so the only one hurt if I miss it is me.  But, shit, I’m tired of hurting myself.)

There’s a history book beside my knee that is the right time period for the story, but I haven’t cracked open.  Why?  I don’t know.  (I think I won’t like what I’ll find.)  There is also a book of the same genre that I’ve been meaning to read.  That could give it a jump-start, but I just leave it closed.  Why? I don’t know.  (Ditto.)

Something isn’t right, and I’m not sure if it’s one of the elements of the story, or that I’m just a shit writer.

If it’s the story, something will jar things loose.  Some small bit of information, or a sudden realization, or a casual comment dropped into a conversation.  I’ll adjust the elements to accommodate the changes, and be writing happily within minutes, without a frackin’ care in the world.  Magic.  Abra-cadabra-skippity-dee-do.  Familiar magic, at this point, but magic all the same.

If I’m just a shit writer…  Well, this could take a while.  Because I’m not a shit writer, and if my brain is telling me that I am, then there’s some fear burbling to the surface.  Fear of failure.  Fear of success.  Fear of being an imposter.

Fear.

It’s something all people deal with, and writers are certainly not exempt.  Unnecessary fear is the brain confusing one thing with another. Chemicals for one job applied accidentally to the wrong job, but it sucks the artist’s brain into a pit of self-loathing, and climbing back out is everything.

It might be time to step back, and take another run at “Art and Fear,” which I have mentioned here, and re-examine what the hell I am doing.  I’ll keep y’all posted.

Happy writing!

(Ignore the fake smile.)

 

 

Revision’s Threshold

I feel the edges of a new threshold pressing around me.  It’s the Cave of Revision, and it’s dark.

I take comfort in the knowledge that many other writers have passed this way, some famous, some not so much. Some of these writers are my friends, who have given me advice, or written books or blogs about how to keep going.  How to keep pushing yourself into a better writer.  How to push yourself toward being published, past the level of the hobby writer.

I do note, however, the few who wistfully warn me away from going any farther down this road.  Their forlorn words are weathered signposts, encouraging me to stay on the path of the blissful hobbyist.  Keep Away!  Turn Back Before It’s Too Late!  Don’t Go This Way!

But it is too late.  I need to tell the story that burns too brightly in me.  Not for fame; I see how it ruins so many lives.  Those it touches contort into impossible shapes to keep that limelight on themselves.  And not for riches; that is its own kind of hair shirt.  I have no need to get-rich-quick.  I simply want to be spoken of with affection by those that know me, and make a comfortable living doing something I love.

Writing is my second chance, my “do-over”, but only because I am already doing it.  I have other choices, and some of them could earn me a living if I focused on them.  Art is in my hands, and in my head, and in my heart.  I will still do other arts; I’ll never give up my anarchistic hobbies, and the soothing rhythm of needle and thread can free your mind to pull apart plots and characters, then stitch them back together, better.

My beta readers have given me enough to see my way, at least the first steps.  I have some hard work ahead, and even harder decisions to make. I’ll hone the edge of my skill against the words of my bookish mentors, and hopefully kill my darlings mercifully. They won’t stop the story burning its way out.  (Hey, maybe I should get a Doctor to check that.)

So, like the archetypical Hero, I ignore the warnings, tighten my belt, gird my loins, and check my weapons.  Looking back down the path, I see the lessons I’ve learned.  Some were painful, some were fun, all were necessary.  I glance at my companions, those I’ve gathered along the way, and step forward, into the Cave of Revision.

Damn, anybody got a light?