POEM: Gathering

2016DadwithHarmonica2015

“Gathering”

 

Sitting by the pool

my father and his friends drink

cheap beer from cold silver cans

I fetch for them from

a white igloo cooler.

My small bare feet make wet sounds

on the pale coral-colored patio,

mini splashes for each tiny puddle

in its pock marked surface.

My mother walks back and forth

between the kitchen and through

the sliding glass doors,

getting chips and dips

and anything else the men require

as they watch the game on TV,

drinking their bicentennial cheer

with a mixture of slow sips

and large cool gulps,

regulating their temperatures

from the warm Florida sun

 

 

 

*written last April for National Poetry Month, in memory of my father.

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POEM: Akron Art Museum (on a snowy day)

 

“Akron Art Museum (on a snowy day)”

.

Braving winter weather,

I venture inside, am greeted by,

am heated by

the red warmth of an amazing maze

–the reason that day’s,

adventuring took place.

Patrons’ laughter wiggles,

giggles, and jiggles

Awakens my sleeping senses

dulled by the ice-cold latticework

of Jack Frost’s handiwork.

.

Permanent residents

enclosed in glass

call to me with cool colorfields,

tapestries of reclaimed materials,

and the youthful bloom of a long dead girl

–she is a poem in paint,

an oil-based sonnet

written to the memory of a sister

much missed.

.

Art not only beautiful,

but unique, original

and absurd. GROSS ANATOMIES

expose themselves to my sometimes

unwilling eyes: sad sculptures

of pieced together little girls,

grotesques of acts better hid from the world,

and the ridiculous image

of a child pooping cupcakes–

Who knew defecation could be that sweet

and funny? I laugh for five full minutes

before wiping tears from my eyes.

.

Turning the page I find

the common translated–

a cement truck’s dull exterior

becomes solidly superior

intricately cut

stainless steel,

the metal pieces sliced

into solid stitches

of lovely, silver-toned lace.

Tea party participants mutate

into alluringly ludicrous,

fantastic freaks

with abnormal proportions,

others are created with the beastly heads

of cats and sharks

or machine parts. My own head

swims with sensory overload.

.

Mind and heart filled to

overflowing, I fill

my other emptiness in the cafe.

Eating my fill, I watch

the falling snow

beyond the transparent walls;

each flake freezes to the glass

and frames the dusting sugar

like a thousand fairies

dying in the cold.

.

.

.

**This poem is a departure from my normal style, since I usually don’t concentrate on the rhymes quite so much. I wanted something that would sound fun read aloud, stressing the ends of each line. Any feedback would be appreciated, thanks!

Books Read in 2016

books

Greetings!

In the interest of reflection, I am posting a list of the books I read in the past year. Included in my list are ebooks, audiobooks, paperbacks, and graphic novels. I do not discriminate due to the amount of pages or words in any given work, whether fiction or nonfiction.

If you read my list from last year, you will note that I read fewer books than the year before–eighty-nine versus fifty-eight, which I attribute to consuming more poetry and less graphic novels. I also read a few paperbacks, which tend to take more time than ebooks, primarily because I usually forget to take them with me. Mainly though, I take more time when I read poetry, because I don’t usually feel I’ve gotten the full meaning and impact of a poem with just one reading.

Also, I’ve created this handy little color code, to make things easier:

Ebooks (novels, non fiction, & graphic novels): Red

Audiobooks: Blue

Physical books: Black

Because the list is long, I’m not going to comment on each book. You’re welcome.

  1. The Autobiography of James T. Kirk

  by David A. Goodman (ebook via Overdrive)

  1. Mort(e) by Robert Repino (audiobook via Overdrive)

–a truly unique scifi story about a revolution where all the animals become sentient and (many) humanoid to overthrow the human race. In the midst of all this chaos, one sentient cat is searching for his best friend, the neighbor’s dog.

  1. Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk  (ebook via Overdrive)
  1. Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison (paperback)

–the book that Soylent Green was based on, though the movie bears very little resemblance to the novel. Harrison wrote this novel as a warning about unchecked population growth.

  1. Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett (ebook via Overdrive)
  1. Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett (ebook via Overdrive)
  1. Planet of the Damned by Harry Harrison (ebook via manybooks.net, read using the Overdrive app)

–one of my favorite books, a man-versus-environment adventure that demonstrates the necessity of understanding versus a brute force approach to environmental and social problems. I know that description doesn’t sound exciting, but trust me. The entire book is filled with life and death struggles, assassination attempts, poison, you name it. If you haven’t read this yet, check it out NOW.

  1. Winter (The Lunar Chronicles) by Marissa Meyer (audiobooks via  audible)
  1. Doctor Horrible by various (graphic novel via my Barnes &  Noble gift card)
  1. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Primary Phase (audiobook via Audible),  by Douglas Adams
  1. Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein (ebook via Overdrive)

–a scifi book that takes place almost entirely on Earth from the point of view of a human raised by Martians. What else is there to say?

  1. Deathworld by Harry Harrison (paperback)
  1. Bossypants by Tina Fey (audiobook via Overdrive)
  1. Deathworld 2 by Harry Harrison (ebook via Overdrive)
  1. Doctor Who: Peacemaker by James Swallow (ebook via Overdrive)
  1. Leonard by William Shatner  (audiobook via Overdrive)
  1. Against the Fall of Night by Arthur C. Clarke (ebook via Overdrive)
  1. Doctor Who: Autonomy by Daniel Blythe (audiobook via Overdrive)
  1. Flow my tears, the Policeman said by Philip K. Dick (ebook via Overdrive)
  1.  UBIK by Philip K. Dick (audiobook via Overdrive)

–in this world created by PKD, people communicate (via technology) with the dead for a limited period of time after passing. Also, humans regularly travel to the moon, and there’s anti-psychics and conspiracies.

  1. The Trouble with Poetry by Billy Collins (ebook via Overdrive)
  1. The Forever War by Joe Haldeman  (ebook via Overdrive)
  1. Fool by Christopher Moore (ebook via Overdrive)
  1. The Walking Dead: No Turning Back (paperback graphic novel) by various authors
  1. Poetry on the Fly: 3WW by Tony Noland (ebook via Overdrive)
  1. Investigating Lois Lane by Tim Hanley (ebook via Overdrive)
  1. Aimless Love by Billy Collins (poetry) (ebook via Overdrive)
  1. Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist by Stephen Batchelor (audiobook via Overdrive)
  1. Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck (audiobook via Overdrive)
  1. The Places We Find Ourselves by Diane Kendig (paperback)
  1. And a Pencil to Write Your Name: poems from the Nicaraguan Poetry Workshop, translated by Diane Kendig (paperback)
  1.  I, Iago by Nicole Galland (ebook via Overdrive)
  1. Quantum Lyrics (poems) by Van Jordan (paperback)
  1. The Wasteland and Other Poems by TS Eliot (ebook via Overdrive)
  1. The Serpent of Venice by Christopher Moore (ebook via Overdrive)
  1. Geek Wisdom: the Sacred Teachings of Nerd Culture by Stephen H. Segal (ebook via Overdrive)
  1.  Crisis on Infinite Earths (graphic novel via Hoopla) by Marv Wolfman and George Perez
  1. Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss (paperback)
  1. Darth Plagueis by James Luceno (audiobook dvd)
  1.  Poets’ Corner compiled by John Lithgow (ebook and audiobook)
  1. Renascence and Other Poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay  (ebook via manybooks.net)
  1. A Few Figs from Thistles by Edna St. Vincent Millay (ebook via manybooks.net)
  1. The Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley (ebook via Overdrive)
  1. Yes Please by Amy Poehler (ebook and audiobook via Overdrive)

45.The Absolutely true diary of a part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie (ebook via Overdrive)

  1. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (audiobook via Overdrive)
  1. BLINK by Larry Koller  (beta–pdf)
  1. Confessions of a Crazy Cat Lady by Sandra Gurvis (paperback)
  1. Phantasmagoria and Other Poems by Lewis Carroll  (ebook via manybooks.net)
  1. The Walking Dead,  volume 25 (graphic novel via Hoopla)
  1. The Walking Dead, volume 26 (graphic novel via Hoopla)
  1. Crafting with Feminism by Bonnie Burton (ebook via Overdrive)
  1. On Writing by Stephen King (audiobook via Overdrive)
  1. The Geeky Chef by Cassandra Reeder (ebook via Hoopla)
  1. The Art of Peace by Morihei Ueshiba (audiobook via Hoopla)
  1. The Art of War by Sun Tzu  (ebook via Hoopla) (audiobook via Overdrive)
  1. Horoscopes for the Dead by Billy Collins (ebook via Overdrive)
  1.  Selected Poems of Langston Hughes, poetry collection by Langston Hughes (ebook via Overdrive)

.

I did notice that some books are easier to consume as audiobooks, depending on the skill of the reader. For instance, Mort(e) was an incredible audiobook; however, if I’d just read the text, I would have missed the reader’s insight and humor. On the other hand, I think I would have enjoyed Winter, the last installment of the Lunar Chronicles, much more as pure text. The voices the reader chose to give the characters didn’t necessarily fit, and sometimes I just found them annoying.

Poetry, in general, I prefer to consume in paperback form in order to preserve the formatting. However, some poetry books were either only available as ebooks or simply easier to acquire in digital form. Overdrive, the library checkout program I use, has a system in place for some poetry so that minimal formatting is lost.

If you’d like to discuss any of the books in my list, feel free to comment below or contact me through Twitter or FaceBook. In the meantime, have a lovely week!

Friday Flash: The Eve After Christmas

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The two moons illuminated the battlefield through the cloudless night. Five minutes had passed since the cease fire ended, yet no one fired. The enemy would move soon. She was ready, and they would not be allowed to pass the defenses.

The impromptu truce of the previous day had caught both sides by surprise. The enemies had met, face to face, for the first time since hostilities began and mingled, awkwardly at first, and then more easily as the hours passed. But the holiday was over now, a short twenty-six hour hiatus in this bitter, bloody war, an intermezzo in the great symphony of death.

One of the enemy soldiers, Antoine, had shared his rations with her. She’d done her best, under the circumstances, to look pleased with the pickled lizard he’d offered. He returned the courtesy when she gave him a tin of baked beans. They’d smiled, each thanked the other, and they forked the rations into their mouths, grins still plastered unconvincingly across their faces. Soon they were choking violently and spitting everything out. When they reached for the canteen at the same time, they’d looked at each other in alarm before bursting out laughing.

Rations were low on both sides, yet they’d giggled together nonstop for quite awhile. Feeling guilty for the wasted food, she’d glanced across the battlefield to see other groups of enemies and friends similarly disposed.

They’d talked, hesitatingly at first, and he’d played his harmonica. She told him about learning to play the keyboard, pounding out terrible off key melodies but proud of her accomplishment just the same. He’d shown her holos of his sons, boys that he might never see again, and she’d shared stories of her children at home. It turned out that they had a lot in common.

The temporary truce was over. No one had fired, but it was only a matter of time. The men would try to overrun their defenses, and they would be forced to defend themselves. They needed to hold the line, to maintain position against Antoine and his brothers in arms.

Against the enemy.

She was a soldier, and soldiers obeyed orders. Thinking too much got you dead fast. There must be no hesitation.

Vague shapes moved on the battleground, inching forward. Crouching low to peer through the heavy shadows, she guessed they were using wreckage from the mothership as makeshift shields. They crept closer. Still no one fired. It was too dark to make out clear targets.

They were the enemy. The poker games and camaraderie of fellow soldiers were distractions when battle was imminent. It was dangerous to form friendships with the opposition. It clouded your judgement. A soldier needed a clear head to survive.

They needed to accomplish their mission.

She wondered if the other soldiers felt as she did. She hoped it wouldn’t affect the battle. The defense of their home, the fight against oppression or even for their own freedom dwindled now in the face of their own personal survival. She wondered if she’d ever see her little ones again.

The thought of her children helped her to focus. They would see their mother again. The shadows loomed closer. On her left she heard a twig snap. She wheeled to see a man’s shadow running towards her. He held something in his hand. She fired, and he fell.

The spell broken, the silence ended, her fellow soldiers shouted and shot. Men fell, and the battlefield rang once more with screams of terror and agony. It lasted an eternity longer than any of the battles before, the ones where the enemy was a nameless, faceless evil.

Eternity ended, and silence fell once again like the blade of a guillotine. She finally turned to look at the man who had fallen so near her, her first kill. He held something small, probably a grenade, but that wasn’t what chilled her soul more than the wind and biting cold.

Antoine’s face was turned toward her. She looked away at the battlefield, where the fresh blood shown like the crimson ornaments of a holiday tree.

THE END

*Due to the holidays and other life issues, I’m posting this a little early. It’s a (mildly edited) repost of a story I wrote several years ago. I hope you liked it.

**originally posted for #fridayflash  on January 1, 2010. This story was inspired by the impromptu Xmas truces of previous wars.

***image courtesy of BigFoto.com

Update: 2016-12-08

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Yes, I know…Exciting title, right?

Now that the mayhem of NaNoWriMo is over, I have begun taking the advice given at the Cuyahoga Library’s recent Indie Authors’ Conference. To that end, I have created a separate author site and separate social media accounts for my author presence. If you’d like to check them out, the new page is at authorcatrussell.wordpress.com.

On the new site, you will find some prose and poetry writing samples. I tried to include a diverse selection, so odds are there will be something there you like! My other social media accounts are @THECatRussell on Twitter and also Cat Russell on FaceBook. I don’t have much going on the social media accounts yet, though the website content is fairly filled out. Now, I just need to work on the look.

Anyway, if you get a chance to check them out, I hope you like them. They are works in progress, so you’ve been warned. Don’t forget to prepare for the coming apocalypse, and–in the meantime–have a lovely week.

 

NaNoWriMo 2016 – Week TWO: The Sophomore Slump

nanowrimo_2016_webbanner_participant

For the month of November, I am participating in NaNoWriMo–National Novel Writing Month. This is a world-wide writing challenge where each participant attempts to write a 50,000 word rough-draft novel during the thirty days of November. There is a website with helpful information, resources, and forums for writers to connect with each other; in the forums, they answer questions, make suggestions, and even joke around if they have extra time. It’s really fun and exciting and a great way to get those creative juices flowing. The main idea behind NaNoWriMo is that when pressed by a looming deadline, writers stop procrastinating and free themselves to write badly. It’s a first draft, after all, and in the immortal words of Hemingway, “The first draft of anything is shit.”

I’m not normally that crude, but the quote is too perfect to resist.

So, week one started out great! You wrote a ton of words, some of them may have even made sense, and you (hopefully) used all that momentum to store up a nice buffer for…well, NOW. Week two is known as the Sophomore Slump, because it’s when budding November novelists such as yourself begin losing their momentum. You may run through your initial ideas earlier than expected, plot holes begin to gape and mock you, and that inner editor that you locked in the closet last week is clambering to get out. DON’T LET YOUR EDITOR OUT. You may want to slip that guy a cookie under the door though, because you’re going to need him in December.

Take a deep breath.

It’s okay.

Almost everyone goes through this. The number one thing you can do to get through this week is KEEP WRITING. In other terms, BICHOK–Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard. It doesn’t matter if it’s terrible. It doesn’t matter if it’s off topic. Writing this week is like dumping all the contents of your brain onto the page so you can get to the stuff you actually want. Your characters may not be acting logically and the plot might be sticking its tongue out at you, but remember to keep going and eventually they will begin to make sense. Don’t worry about all the nonsense that comes out now. Sometimes you need to slog through the moat to get to the castle.

The next thing you need to remember is EDITING IS FOR DECEMBER.

NaNoWriMo is not about writing a perfect first draft. No one does. Even Hemingway admitted it. NaNoWriMo is about getting words on the page. THAT’S IT. If you edit this month, not only are you not putting words down, you are taking them away! I’m going to repeat my pre-nano suggestion here and tell you, if you’re stuck, write yourself a memorable editing note for later. I hate writing fight scenes (which consequently take me forever to write), so what I do is HIGHLIGHT ALL CAPS a note, such as . Then I move on. I don’t want to get bogged down and lose the momentum I’ve built up in the story and all the new ideas sloshing around in my head. This way, in December, I can easily find what I need to write and where to put it. Another method is to write an unusual word in front of an ALL CAPS notation, such as scrumpdillyicious; you can do a search on it later to find all your editing spots.

As an incentive during this week, the week when most people are likely to quit, I like to take a look at the prize I’ve bought myself for “winning.” As I’ve stated in a previous post, I do not allow myself to use my prize until I’ve met my NaNoWriMo writing goals for November. If I don’t finish, I give my beloved prize away. I can’t tell you how many times this has kept me going. You might want to employ a similar bribe/penalty to motivate yourself if/when your drive is at its lowest.

I wish you all the best of luck! Next week I will be posting about WEEK THREE. Until then, have a lovely week, and happy novelling!

UPDATE: My Writing Niche 2.0 podcast,  episode 3: NaNoWriMo Weeks 2-3!

Download HERE . 

 

 

 

*Due to a quirk of WordPress, I can’t highlight the text so I changed the color instead. But you get the idea.

**NaNoWriMo image taken from here.

***My previous podcast several years ago, My Writing Niche, was edited and even had a musical theme. This time, it is more informal.

****Also in the spirit of saving time to write on my Nano novel, I will be shamelessly reusing my introductory paragraph in each post this month, as well as pre-writing this month’s posts. In other words, I wrote this in October!

NaNoWriMo 2016 – Week ONE: Welcome to National Novel Writing Month 2016!

nanowrimo_2016_webbanner_participant

For the month of November, I am participating in NaNoWriMo–National Novel Writing Month. This is a world-wide writing challenge where each participant attempts to write a 50,000 word rough-draft novel during the thirty days of November. There is a website with helpful information, resources, and forums for writers to connect with each other; they answer questions, make suggestions, and even joke around if they manage to find extra time! It’s really fun and exciting and a great way to get those creative juices flowing. The main idea behind NaNoWriMo is that when pressed by a looming deadline, writers can free themselves to write badly. It’s a first draft, after all, and in the immortal words of Hemingway, “The first draft of anything is shit.”

I’m not normally that crude, but the quote is too perfect to resist.

So, for the uninitiated, the four weeks of NaNoWriMo roughly break down as follows:

Week One

–On Your Mark, Get Set, WRITE!

Everyone is so excited to start, they jump in and just write as much as they can. They frequently exceed the normal 1,667 daily words needed to win, which is terrific! Because they’ll need that extra word buffer during…

Week Two

–The Sophomore Slump

Many participants start to lose their initial momentum and drive. They aren’t as motivated. If they started off with a bunch of ideas, they may begin to run out and start mechanically writing to get the job done. If they lose track of where they are going, this is usually when that happens. To avoid this, I recommend having a loose outline or a list of a dozen or so writing prompts to fill in when the idea well begins running low.

Week Three

–Passing the Halfway Mark!

Things begin to pick up again. If they lost the thread of the story, this is where things may begin to make sense again. Plot holes are filled, words are typed, and some even reach their deadlines a little early.

Week Four

–The End is in Sight!

This is when everyone who hasn’t finished makes a final mad dash for the finish line by Midnight of the thirtieth! Many NaNoWriMo local groups have last minute meetups with word sprints to help participants reach their goals.

So, there you have it in a nutshell.

Last week I posted some pre-NaNoWriMo suggestions, but you can still do many of them if you are getting a late start. Also, don’t forget that when you are writing for long periods of time, you can develop neck and shoulder pain, so it’s a good idea to try to work as ergonomically as possible.

I may post a short podcast on this website, but it depends on time and my current tech.** If you get stuck, the NaNoWriMo site has forums for questions, forums with challenges as writing prompts, prize incentives for winners as motivation, and lots of other helpful tools. If there is a NaNoWriMo meetup in your area, I highly suggest you go; they are tons of fun and a great help.

Next week I will be posting about the Sophomore Slump. Until then, keep your inner editor locked away, have a lovely week, and happy novelling!

UPDATE: My Writing Niche 2.0 podcast,  episode 2: NaNoWriMo Weeks 1 -2!

Download HERE . 

 

 

 
*NaNoWriMo image taken from here.

**My previous podcast several years ago, My Writing Niche, was edited and even had a musical theme. This time, if I do podcast, it will be more informal.

***Also in the spirit of saving time to write on my Nano novel, I will be shamelessly reusing my introductory paragraph in each post this month, as well as pre-writing this month’s posts. In other words, I wrote this in October!