I Regret Nothing: My Love Affair with a Punctuation Mark

 Kathy Waller UnCon 10 06 2016 written by M. K. Waller

2018-09-03 www semicolon (2)

ABRAHAM LINCOLN

“With educated people, I suppose, punctuation is a matter of rule; with me it is a matter of feeling. But I must say I have a great respect for the semi-colon; it’s a useful little chap.”
― Abraham Lincoln

LEWIS THOMAS

Sometimes you get a glimpse of a semicolon coming, a few lines farther on, and it is like climbing a steep path through woods and seeing a wooden bench just at a bend in the road ahead, a place where you can expect to sit for a moment, catching your breath.
 Lewis Thomas, M. D.

KURT VONNEGUT

“Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.” 
 Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country

GEORGE WILL

Semicolons . . . signal, rather than shout, a relationship. . . . A semicolon is a compliment from the writer to the reader. It says: “I don’t have to draw you a picture; a hint will do.”
— George Will

KATHY WALLER

I love semicolons.

My master’s thesis was rife with them.

But my critique group says I mustn’t use them any more. They say I should follow Kurt Vonnegut’s rule.

Mr. Vonnegut is wrong. The semicolon is not a transvestite hermaphrodite, representing absolutely nothing.

It is a compliment from the writer to the reader.

It is a wooden bench, where you can sit for a moment, catching your breath.

It’s a useful little chap.

When Mr. Vonnegut called the semicolon a transvestite hermaphrodite–well, bless his heart, he must have gotten up on the wrong side of the bed.

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This post originally appeared at Telling the Truth, Mainly, under the title “Abraham Lincoln, Lewis Thomas, George Will, & Me: Great Minds Think Alike; or, Kurt Vonnegut, Go Fly a Kite.”

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M. K. Waller’s stories appear in Austin Mystery Writers’ crime fiction anthologies, MURDER ON WHEELS and LONE STAR LAWLESS, in DAY OF THE DARK: STORIES OF ECLIPSE, and at Mysterical-E

She blogs at Telling the Truth, Mainly [http://kathywaller1.com]

 

Making a Killing

DSCN1633 (3) Cartoon by guest poster David Davis

 

2018-07-31 WWW DDAVIS COPYRIGHTED 157 mystery novel

Alien Resort © David Davis. All rights reserved.

 

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Before becoming a cartoonist, David Davis produced, directed, and wrote sci-fi videos. Notable among them is Invisible Men Invade Earth, which received the Judge’s Choice award at the 2017 What the Fest Film Festival (Dallas); the Out of This World award at the 2016 Lionshead Film Festival (Dallas); and the Most Original Concept award at the 2016 Houston Comedy Film Festival. His films also appeared at the 2017 Fort Worth Indie Film Showcase; 2017 Dallas Medianale; 2012 Boomtown Film and Music Festival in Beaumont, Texas, and the 2012 CosmiCon and Sci-Fi Film Festival in Roswell, New Mexico.

Andrew Whalen of Playerone.com writes that David’s Reverse Effects, screened at the 2015 Fantastic Fest (Austin) “is almost like a living comic strip, but undeniably vigorous and fascinating.” He also labeled David “eccentric,” but the jury is still out on that.

David is now working on his first animated cartoon video.

Getting Out of Bed by Stevie Turner

Writing Wranglers and Warriors
welcomes a new blogger,
Stevie Turner
Posted by Stevie Turner

For all of you living with stroppy teenagers, I thought I’d tell you of the time back in 1995 when my then 13 year old son Leon was at his worst…

Leon never wanted to get out of bed in the mornings.  On school days it was the devil of a job getting him out of the door.  He would lie in bed later and later.  All the shouting and cajoling had no effect.

It got to the stage where my husband had to physically lift him out of bed and put him in the car, still in his pyjamas.  He would then get dressed in the car as my husband drove him to school.  He would have had no breakfast, as he had refused to get out of bed.

This carried on for some months, until I returned to work.  I made an arrangement with another mother that my husband would take their daughter to school along with Leon, and she would bring Leon home at the end of the day, where my mum would be waiting for him.

On the evening before I went back to work I warned Leon that we would be taking one of his female classmates to school, and that he needed to get out of bed earlier in order to get dressed.  Did it work?  No… it did not.

There was Leon sitting half asleep in the car in his pyjamas, and a dainty teenage girl sitting on the back seat trying not to grin.  Of course he now couldn’t get dressed because the girl was watching, and so he turned up for school in his pyjamas.  He had to run into the boys’ toilets, get dressed, and then bring his pyjamas out to my husband who was waiting in the car.

Funnily enough that was the first and last time he ever went to school in his PJ’s, and he never had any trouble getting out of bed after that.  Now I have to laugh when he complains that his own teenage daughter won’t get out of bed in the mornings!

*****

 

Stevie Turner works part-time as a medical secretary in a busy NHS hospital, and writes suspense, women’s fiction, and humorous novels in her spare time. She won a New Apple Book Award in 2014 and a Readers’ Favorite Gold Award in 2015 for her book ‘A House Without Windows’, and one of her short stories was published in the Creative Writing Institute’s 2016 anthology ‘Explain!’.

Stevie lives in the East of England, and is married with two sons and four grandchildren. She has also branched out into the world of audio books, screenplays, and translations. Most of her novels are now available as audio books, and one screenplay, ‘For the Sake of a Child’, won a silver award in the Spring 2017 Depth of Field International Film Festival. It is now being read by a New York media production company.

Stevie can be contacted at the following email address: stevie@stevie-turner-author.co.uk

About Me: https://about.me/stevie_turner/

Website http://www.stevie-turner-author.co.uk

Amazon page: http://bookShow.me/B00AV7YOTU

Blog:    https://steviet3.wordpress.com/

 

Take My Advice. Or Not.

Before

Posted by M. K. (Kathy) Waller

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If you read the October 15th post on my personal blog, you know my husband’s video “Invisible Men Invade Earth” won 1st place ~ Judges’ Pick at the What the Fest (hosted by Weresquirrel and Pocket Sandwich Theatre) in Dallas Saturday night. What only my husband and I know is that I had a panic attack, or maybe just a little panic, when I realized I’d missed my October 14th post deadline for Writing Wranglers and Warriors.

I had it all worked out that the 14th was the next Tuesday, but it was really yesterday, Saturday, and I’d missed it completely, and blah blah blah. How would I ever make it up because the October 15th person had already posted, and I couldn’t post after that one, and more blah blah blah.

1st place certificate. The white stuff is popcorn thrown at Mr. Hyde in the play that took place minutes before What the Fest started.

At some point, a little spark of sanity flew by: to make certain of the date, I could look on the schedule I always save to my hard drive. But no, I had my Chromebook with me, and I’m lax about moving documents from my laptop to the Google Drive. So I couldn’t look there.

But it would be on Facebook. Somewhere.

I don’t know how I found it–I’m not great at finding things on Facebook–but I did, and lo and behold, my day to post was Tuesday. The 17th. Not the 14th. Well, sometime in the past I posted on the 14th of something. Anyway, peace of mind ensued.

Then, this afternoon, I said to my husband, “Oh, dear, I have a blog post due tomorrow [October 17, not October 14]. I must get on that.”

Map, Interstate 35 in red. Released by Nick Nolte (Own Work) to the public domain. Via Wikipedia.

A minute ago, 9:03 p.m., when my sensible and no doubt tired–those festivals take a lot out of you–husband started up the stairs to bed, I said, “Remember that post I mentioned this afternoon? The one due tomorrow? Well…” I said I wouldn’t write too many more words, but I always write too many words, because it takes me a while to get past the introduction.

A student once remarked, “It seems like the trick to writing an essay is to start with a paragraph about something you’re not going to write about.” I agreed with him. I’d always thought it but had never mentioned it to students because I was afraid they would tell another English teacher I’d said it. It’s not something you find in the textbooks.

Much of what you need to know isn’t found in textbooks, but I didn’t say that either.

(Many of the things you do need to know are in the literature, math, biology, and foreign language texts. You need history, but most history texts are soporific, and I wouldn’t wish one on anybody. And forget about geography. I worked hard stuffing it into my head, and did fine on tests, and even took a class as an elective in college because I was feeling especially Victorian that day and decided it would be good for me, but I still don’t know where or in what direction anything is. Forget about home ec.)

Okay. Thus endeth my introduction, about what I’m not going to write about.

I still don’t know what I’m going to write about. I’ll just give some advice.

  • Don’t go to the Cheesecake Factory at 6:00 p.m., after the only things you’ve eaten all day are a bowl of Rice Krispies and a Coke, because you’ll eat half of your Fettuccine Alfredo and not want anything more, but will order cheesecake anyway, because after all, you’re in the Cheesecake Factory, and you don’t run across cheesecake every day, and the piece will be about three times as large as the normal serving of cheesecake, and even though you don’t want it, you’ll eat it anyway, because it’s cheesecake.
  • English: Several cheesecakes in a display case...
    English: Several cheesecakes in a display case at The Cheesecake Factory in Naples, Florida. (Photo credit: Wikipedia). Released by Zchangu to the public domain.
  • And don’t go to a film festival that begins at 11:15 at night, when, not long before that, you dined at the Cheesecake Factory, and you didn’t take a nap between, and possibly if you did take a nap, when you’re scheduled to depart for the theatre at 10:00 p.m., you’ll be muy miserable, and your spouse will say something like, We don’t have to go to the festival, we can just spend the night and go home tomorrow, and you’ll say, Nonononono, and then, something like, I didn’t drive all the way from Austin to Dallas [the most boring drive in the world] just to turn around and go back home we are going to that festival.
  • English: Salsa
    English: Salsa (Photo credit: Wikipedia). Released by Miansari66 to the public domain.
  • And then don’t sit down at a table in the (sort of dinner) theatre, because your spouse will say, “I’m going to order pizza. Do you want some?” and you’ll hold your tongue and say, simply, “No, thank you,” and allow him to order you chips and salsa, and you’ll eat little, tiny pieces of chips, slowly, and you’ll want to just want to lie down and be left alone, but, because your days and nights are mixed up already due to your always staying up till the wee hours, you will suddenly come alive and feel ever so good, and will have a grand old time. And eat several great big chips.
  • And when you get back to the hotel, ecstatic your spouse’s video won first place and got all kinds of compliments from the judges [has a purity, comes from a place of love, we watched it over and over, I showed it to the women in my office…] you’ll start a blog post right then and there, and that will take some time, and putting in the pictures will take forever, because your spouse will have to get them off his camera (you forgot to bring yours) and send them to you, and then you’ll have to be polite while he shows you how to get them from your email to the Google Drive because you did put them on the Google Drive but now can’t find them, and you’ll want to slam the Chromebook to the floor, and the mouse will decide it wants to work only half of the time, and the touch pad will quit working entirely, and your spouse will say the Chromebook is old, and, also, one time he had to stick the back back on, and you’ll say you don’t remember that, and he’ll say he doesn’t remember when or how came off either, but he
    DSCF1426
    The dragon in the foyer of Pocket Sandwich Theatre, Dallas.

    remembers seeing a lot of circuit boards, or something, and you’ll struggle with getting the photos into the blog, as usual, and the best one will be a picture of the head of the dragon carved out of wood in the theatre foyer, which is the pits, and you won’t get to bed till 5:00 a.m., but you’ll have to get up and out of the room by noon, and somehow when you wake up, the cheesecake feeling will be back, and you’ll have to make that boring drive to Austin with all the UT-Austin fans who are either sad or mad that Oklahoma won, and you couldn’t care less, but you’ll be almost as sad and mad as they are.

Texas longhorn cow
Texas longhorn cow (Photo credit: Wikipedia). Released by Steve Parrett to the public domain.

 

So there’s my advice. If you take it, you’ll have a good time.

If you don’t take it, you’ll have a better one.

***

The Longhorn in the picture above is a cow. The mascot of the University of Texas – Austin is a steer. For the purposes of this post, a cow is close enough. That’s blasphemy to some, but they’ll get over it.

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My stories appear in two anthologies, Day of the Dark and Murder on Wheels, and on Mysterical-E. Another story will appear in Austin Mystery Writers’ second anthology, Longhorn Lawless, to be published by Wildside Press. I blog at Telling the Truth, Mainly. I’ve begun writing under the name M. K. Waller lest I be confused with the CFO of Coca~Cola.

I Stayed Up All Night Writing This

Posted by M. K. Waller

[Forgive me. This post is longer than I intended, but once I got started, I couldn’t stop. I had no idea I’m so enlightened. If you stop reading before the end, I’ll forgive you. But you’ll miss the good part.]

My husband once told me that when I tell stories, I should start with the headline. So here it is.

Before

My CT scan twelve months after completing radiation treatments was clear.

The first time I posted about having cancer, I said I would write about the experience. I am a writer, I said, so I will write, or words to that effect.

The statement dripped with drama. You can practically hear the rolling r‘s: I will wr-r-r-r-r-r-ite.

Such overstatement is normal. We newbie writers are always trying to reassure ourselves. We’re just starting out, we haven’t published much (or anything at all), we don’t make a living from writing* (we may make nothing at all), we ‘re not confident in our abilities, and–let’s face it–much of what we write stinks (and we don’t know it stinks until a member of a critique group tells us).

Established writers encourage us: If you write, you are a writer. Believe it. Say you’re a writer.

We believe it until someone asks what we do. Then we either clam up; shuffle our feet, look at the floor, and mumble, I’m a wmbrl; or declare, too loudly, I’m a WRITER. Then we blush and shuffle our feet. 

After publishing the aforementioned post, I re-read it, then blushed and shuffled my feet. I’m been shuffling ever since.

But moving on:

When I said I would write, I probably had the idea I would learn secrets of the universe and share them in capital letters and red ink.

But I’ve had no mystical experiences. Altogether, it’s been mostly humdrum. But I’ve learned a few things about myself, and about life in general, and I’ll share those:

  • Chemotherapy isn’t the same for everyone. I went around saying the side effects were mild.  When I’d been off the evil drug for a month or two, I realized I had felt pretty rotten. Still, I was lucky. It wasn’t that bad. Surgery wasn’t difficult either. Radiation was nothing: I showed up for twenty consecutive days, let the techs admire my cute socks, and went home. That was it. Lucky.
  • Being complimented on my taste in socks makes me feel good. The radiation techs liked the ninjas and the cats wearing glasses the best. The oncologist asked what the ninjas were; I had to tell him I didn’t know. One of the techs told me. I don’t know why the oncologist was looking at my socks.
  • Phase I

     

  • I have no vanity. Hats and turbans were hot. I tossed them, went around bald, and discovered my head, just like Hercule Poirot’s, is egg-shaped.
  • It’s possible to survive for months on Rice Krispies, as long as you don’t run out of sugar.
  • If you don’t drink enough water, you keel over in the oncologist’s office, where you went just to check that great big lymph node that popped up under your jaw, and end up in the hospital. If your temperature doesn’t go down, the night nurse comes in and jerks your three blankets off, and you spend the night under a thin little sheet, slowly turning into an icicle, but your temperature goes down. (That’s opposite to the way my mother did it, but whatever.) They call in a specialist in communicable diseases who orders tests, and when you ask the nurse what they found, she comes bopping in about midnight and says, “Guess what! You have the common cold.” And she’s so sweet and so cute, you feel bad about nearly (deliberately) knocking her off the bed while she was trying to do that nasal swab.
  • Airports have wheelchairs. Thinking you can get from gate to gate without one is dumb. Don’t try it.
  • Phase II

    Chemo brain is real. At present I am dumb as dirt, and not in the way mentioned above. I picked up a brochure about chemo brain at the clinic and, I am proud to say, was able to read (most of) it with my forty-five-year-old Spanish. Because I knew what it said before I picked it up: It’s real, don’t worry, talk to your family/friends/counselor/minister/doctor/whoever and tell them to get used to it, make a habit of writing-things-down-putting-your-keys-in-the-same-place-when-you’re-not-using-them-everything-you-ought-to-be-doing-now-anyway, and it’ll go away, maybe. I may have missed a couple of points. If I ever want to know what they are, I’ll google.

  • Chemo hair is curly. I knew it would be curlier than before, but it is c u r l y. I’m tempted to get it buzzed off again.
  • TRIGGER WARNING: THE FOLLOWING MATERIAL MAY NOT BE SUITABLE FOR ALL AUDIENCES: When a twelve-year-old flat-chested surgeon you have to see because your surgeon went on vacation–my doctors always go on vacation–insists you must wear a sports bra and says, “We’re going to get you out of that pretty lacy bra,” do not hold back. Tell her that pretty lacy bra is made of cast iron, and that all the bras you’ve ever had since like 1962 have been made of cast iron, and that sports bras might as well be made of spider webs, and she can take a long walk off a short pier. You’ll feel a lot better if you say that. I would have felt a lot better if I had.
  • The kindness of strangers is real. When they see a woman with no hair, they understand what’s going on. Women wearing turbans whisper, “Good luck.” People smile. If you wobble a bit, they run to prop you up and offer to help you get wherever you’re going. I didn’t have to take them up on the offers–my wobbling, like my reaction to chemo, was mild–but I appreciated every one of them. Mr. Rogers’ mother told him when things got scary, to “look for the helpers.” She was right. They’re out there.
  • In addition to boosting your immune system, a smile can lift your spirits. It’s good for your doctors, nurses, and everyone else in the clinic as well. Oncologists don’t have it easy. They need all the support they can get.
  • Phase Now

    According to my radiation oncologist, cancer is now a chronic disease. But in one way it’s the same as it was when I was a child: It’s kept under wraps. The word isn’t whispered as it was then, but it isn’t spoken too loudly. That’s one reason I didn’t cover my head. The topic needs to be brought out into the open. People need to see.

  • On the other hand, a little denial can be a good thing. And it can be balanced with acceptance.
  • I didn’t fall apart when told my prognosis, including the average length of survival. I’d always wondered what I would do under those circumstances, and now I know. That time, at least.

Most important, and over and over, I learned that David is good. Not a good husband, or a good man, but good. I knew it when I married him. Every day, he proves me right.

Finally, I learned something else I already knew: There isn’t enough time. We all know it, but the knowledge carries more weight for some of us than for others.

I think of Andrew Marvell:

Had we but world enough, and time,
This coyness, Lady, were no crime….
   But at my back I always hear
Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.

And of Keats:

When I have fears that I may cease to be 
   Before my pen has gleaned my teeming brain, 
Before high-pilèd books, in charactery, 
   Hold like rich garners the full ripened grain; 
When I behold, upon the night’s starred face, 
   Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance, 
And think that I may never live to trace 
   Their shadows with the magic hand of chance; 
And when I feel, fair creature of an hour, 
   That I shall never look upon thee more, 
Never have relish in the faery power 
   Of unreflecting love—then on the shore 
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think 
Till love and fame to nothingness do sink.

My brain isn’t teeming, and certainly not at the level of a Keats, but I would like to write more than I have. I’d like to do a number of things I won’t have time–would never have had time–to do. Time’s winged chariot is following close. Still, I commit the crime of wasting what I should spend. The post I wrote last month about playing Candy Crush is not fiction. But…

The next CT scan comes in March. Till then, I’ll write what I can, do what I can, and say what Anne Lamott calls little beggy prayers.

The Usual

In other words, I’ll go on with life as usual.

 

 

 

***

“Statue of Angelina Eberly” by Kit O’Connell is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0. Via Wikipedia.

The Usual photograph is detail from a statue of Angelina Eberly, the “Savior of Austin,” that stands at the corner of 6th Street and Congress Avenue in Austin, Texas. In 1842, following the Texas Revolution, Sam Houston sent Texas Rangers to Austin to remove the government archives to Washington-on-the-Brazos, where the Texas Declaration of Independence was signed (and very near the town of Houston). Houston claimed Austin was too vulnerable to Indian attack for the documents to be safe there.

Angelina and other residents of Austin, the capital of the Republic of Texas, claimed Houston was stealing the records because he wanted to make the city of Houston the capital. Angelina knew Sam Houston didn’t like Austin; he made no secret of his dislike, and while president of the Republic, had lived at her inn instead of at the official residence. The fact that the Rangers came under cover of darkness gave more credence to the her view.

When Angelina heard the Texas Rangers up to no good, she hurried to 6th and Congress and fired off the town cannon. She missed the Rangers but blew the side off the General Land Office building. Noise from the cannon alerted the populace, who came running and scared off the Rangers.

Thanks to Angelina Eberly, Austin remained the capital of the Republic of Texas, and is  capital of the State of Texas to this day.

The statue of Angelina Eberly was sculpted by cartoonist Pat Oliphant. The accompanying plaque attributes Austin’s continued status as Texas’ most premier city to Angelina’s combination of “vigilance and hot temper.”

***

*Stephen King makes a living by writing. Danielle Steel makes a living by writing. Mary Higgins Clark makes a living by writing. Agatha Christie made a whale of a living by writing. Other writers either have a day job or have won the lottery.

***

Literature does have its purpose. If you doubt it, see my post on Telling the Truth, Mainly: “A Mind Unhinged.” It isn’t as long as this one.

John Keats, “When I have fears”

Andrew Marvell, “To His Coy Mistress”

***

I am a writer and I wr-r-r-r-r-r-ite. My short stories appear in Austin Mystery Writers’ crime fiction anthology, Murder on Wheels; in the anthology Day of the Dark: Stories of Eclipse; and in the Fall/Winter 2012/2013 issue of the online magazine Mysterical-E (which I like to think of as the one with the dog on the cover). Another of my stories will appear in Austin Mystery Writers’ second anthology, Lone Star Lawless, coming soon from Wildside Press. I at Telling the Truth, Mainly and at Austin Mystery Writers.

The Old Man and the Fish

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Posted by MK Waller

A couple of months ago, I wrote that I’d planned to write about Ernest Hemingway but decided against it. I changed my mind because I wanted to be erudite but that night just didn’t have it in me.

The truth is, I never have erudite in me. I am not an erudite person. If people read my master’s thesis, they might think I’m erudite, and maybe I was, a little, when I wrote it in 1985–I used a lot of semicolons–but overall, I am just not erudite. And I’m too tired to pretend I am.

English: Hemingway posing for a dust jacket ph...
English: Hemingway posing for a dust jacket photo by Lloyd Arnold for the first edition of “For Whom the Bell Tolls”, at the Sun Valley Lodge, Idaho, late 1939. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Public domain.

So I’m going to write a little bit about Hemingway, but in a non-analytical, non-literary, non-scholarly, generally shallow way.

My working vocabulary has never been large, so I used thesaurus.com to find both synonyms and antonyms for erudite. I didn’t approve of the antonyms, so I put a few touches of my own on some synonyms, as one knows if one read the preceding paragraph.

(Using one in place of you and I smacks of scholarship, but it’s the only thing in this post that will smack of it.)

The antonyms I objected to are uneducated, ignorant, and uncultured. They don’t necessarily apply. I have a couple of degrees and I know a few things about Hemingway. As to culture, I make no claims, except to say I like opera, at least the old-fashioned ones with melodies, and I am never tempted to laugh when the soprano starts to sing.

Anyway, I was reminded of Hemingway today while reading The Art of X-Ray Reading: How the Secrets of 25 Great Works of Literature Will Improve Your Writing. In a chapter devoted to Hemingway, author Roy Peter Clark, says, “Writers of my generation–the baby boomers–grew up being told that Ernest Hemingway was a great writer. We read his books, such as The Old Man and the Sea, as early as junior high, and our first inklings of authorial style came from the legendary writer’s pellucid prose.”

After quoting part of a review by Ford Madox Ford and then the opening paragraph of A Farewell to Arms, he continues:

I can say that as a young reader and writer I did not get Hemingway at all. My negativity may have been nothing more than a 1960s rebellion against the sensibilities of our parents. . . . 

While some would claim that the passage above [from A Farewell to Arms] is strong, clear, lean, direct and pure, all I could see was dry, repetitious, undecorated, and dull, a movie star without makeup.

Well. I liked The Art of X-Ray Reading–I enjoy reading literary criticism and analysis, so maybe I’m a little cultured. But when I reached that passage, I absolutely fell in love with it. Because I didn’t get Hemingway at all either.

No, I lie. I didn’t like Hemingway. I’m a baby boomer, too, but my distaste for his books had nothing to do with the generation gap.

I didn’t like him because of all the fishing.

American author Ernest Hemingway with Pauline,...
American author Ernest Hemingway with Pauline, Gregory, John, and Patrick Hemingway and four marlins on the dock in Bimini, 20 July 1935. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In my junior American literature class, we read “Big Two-Hearted River.” I’m sure it was a truncated version. But it seemed interminable. Nick, the main character, goes out into the forest to fish. He walks, sees a grasshopper attached to his sock, takes a nap, wakes up sore, sets up his tent, eats (pork and beans, spaghetti, and canned apricots), drinks coffee, kills a mosquito, and goes to sleep, all methodically, every move described in detail. But most of what Nick does is fish. Fish, fish, fish.

San Marcos River above Fentress, Texas. © MK Waller

My grandfather took me fishing a couple of times, and I liked the way he did it. In the evening, he set out trotlines across the river, and early the next morning he went out again to run the lines. Looking back, I see it as inhumane, and I wouldn’t do it today. I think trotlines are illegal now, so he wouldn’t do it either.

But the thing is–my grandfather didn’t stand out in the middle of the river, baiting his hook with grasshoppers, and hoping to catch one fish at a time. He used Crystal White Soap and caught lots of fish all at once. Fishing wasn’t so much a sport as an art or what might now be called a practice: he was meticulous, every movement deliberate, as methodical as Nick. But not nearly so boring.

Regarding the story, it might have helped if I’d known that after serving in World War I, Nick is trying to adapt to life at home, where no one understands what he’s experienced. But I was a sixteen-year-old girl, so it probably wouldn’t have, not really.

Years later, I took a graduate seminar in the novels of Hemingway and Faulkner. It’s amazing what a little education can do. Close textual analysis under the direction of a formidable scholar and professor (and a thoroughly delightful man) forged in me a sincere appreciation for the novels.

Excluding The Old Man and the Sea.

I expressed my negative feelings (quietly) to a classmate. She asked if this was the first time I read the book. I said yes.

“That’s the problem,” she said. “If you’d read it in seventh grade, you’d love it.”

Sure. Old man, boy, boat, sea, alone, forty days and forty nights, catch, sharks, dreaming of lions.

Nothing but fish, fish, fish.

And that’s my shallow, non-erudite dissertation on Hemingway.

*****

(Does anyone out there appreciate how difficult it is to compose a blog post with fifteen pounds of cat lying across your forearm, elbow to wrist, whence he has access to keys that can wipe out everything? If Hemingway had used a computer, with all those six-toed cats, he’d never have published a thing.)

American Author Ernest Hemingway with sons Pat...
American Author Ernest Hemingway with sons Patrick (left) and Gregory (right) with kittens in Finca Vigia, Cuba. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

*****

My memory of “Big Two-Hearted River” was helped along by Sparknotes.

MK Waller–who used to be,
and still is, Kathy Waller–
has published stories
in Austin Mystery Writers’
Murder on Wheels (Wildside, 2015)
and on
Mysterical-E,
Her story “I’ll Be a Sunbeam” will appear
in Kaye George’s anthology DAY OF THE DARK,
to be released by Wildside Press
on July 21, 2017,
exactly a month before the
August 2017 solar eclipse.
She blogs at Telling the Truth, Mainly.

I Said No to Hemingway

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Posted by Kathy Waller

 

Last weekend, I wrote a post about cows. It ran to over 1100 words, and I hadn’t covered even half of the cows I’d planned to. Furthermore, it was silly. I scrapped it.

Coy © David David
“Coy” © David David

Today I started a post in which I intended to compare a book by artist-author Shel Silverstein to the novels of Katherine Paterson. The first part–the Shel Silverstein part–ran to over 1300 words, and there were more to come.

That posed a problem, as most of the piece was to be about Katherine Paterson.  I liked what I’d written, and so would other English majors, some of them, maybe, but most people aren’t English majors. They find literary criticism tedious. So I scrapped it.

 

© David Davis
“Lmao” © David Davis

 

© David Davis
© David Davis

Then I thought about writing a brief post about symbolism, drawing from the novels and stories of Ernest Hemingway. It was going to be lighthearted and self-effacing–because symbolism is my least favorite literary device, owing to the fact that I rarely know it when I see it.

In my head, the post sounded both interesting and amusing. But before I could put fingers to keys, it began to sound like it could run to another thousand words or more. I’m glad I realized that before I wrote. Scrapping three posts, even justified scrapping, would hurt.

© David Davis
© David Davis

So here I am with no post. I’ll be traveling the next few days and want to get my post written and ready to go online before leaving. So I’m grabbing the next topic in the pile–Alien Life Forms on Earth.

Although NASA hasn’t officially admitted this, reliable sources within the organization swear that these beings not only visit Earth, but actually come here for rest and relaxation. Most gather at Alien Resort, “a favorite vacation spot known throughout the universe.” At the request of my husband, CEO (I guess that’s what he is) of Alien Resort, I’ve drawn pictures of some of the extraterrestrial visitors.

© David Davis
© David Davis

At first, I was reluctant to do the portraits. I used to produce marginally acceptable work using oils and acrylics, but give me a pencil and I’ll make a mess. MS Paint, however, is a miracle worker. My husband asked for two or three aliens, and I’ve already emailed him thirty-one.

The key to my success, I believe, is that I don’t care what the finished product looks like. I don’t have to care. Those puppies look like what I say they look like. 

Anyway, I’m posting some of the portraits. My husband gave me permission to use them. The aliens didn’t, but I doubt that will be an issue. As I understand it, they consider blogging passé and so will probably never see their likenesses here.

The first alien pictured–its name is Coy–and the second, Lmao, have already made their debuts at Alien Resort. The others might be introduced later, depending on which ones the CEO chooses to put before the public.

Now. Wasn’t this better than literary criticism?

 

 

© David Davis
© David Davis

See what the denizens of Alien Resort say to one another when they think we’re not listening at https://alienresort.net/cartoon-gallery/.

*

I’m home from my travels, so everything above set in present or future tense has now shifted to past.

*

Author’s Notes:

1. The resemblance of any of the aliens pictured here to spiders, bugs, dinosaurs, penguins, snakes, a coil of ribbon, a certain mouse, or anything else un-extraterrestrial is purely in the eye of the beholder.

2. I didn’t really scrap-scrap the pieces about Shel Silverstein and cows. I scrapped the plans to post them. I’m not about to scrap more than 2000 words of anything.

3. Speaking of cows, here are a blog and a Facebook page you might like to check out: Every Day I See a Cow (blog) and Every Day I See a Cow (Facebook).

*

© David Davis
© David Davis

Kathy Waller writes crime fiction and whatever else she has a mind to. She has published stories in Austin Mystery Writers’ anthology MURDER ON WHEELS and at Mysterical-E. She blogs at Telling the Truth, Mainly, and at Austin Mystery Writers, and edits the Sisters in Crime Heart of Texas chapter news blog. At present she is as mad as all get-out because the first thousand words of a story she’s working on disappeared from a certain cloud thingie and doesn’t look like it’s coming back.

 

A New Me

Abbie J. Taylor 010

Recently while my homemaker from the local senior center was cleaning, she found plaster falling from the ceiling near my kitchen door. Apparently, it had gotten wet. This could only mean one thing. My roof was leaking again.

Why didn’t I see this? Well, with my limited vision, I don’t see things unless they’re close to me. Although I walk by my kitchen door every day, it never occurred to me to look up.

When my homemaker pointed out the offending area, I saw it, and it looked awful. I could just reach it by standing on tiptoe, and when my finger touched the spot, more flecks of plaster went flying. Yuck!

My roof was replaced in 2008 when I bought the house, and I was assured it would last at least thirty years. It wasn’t even ten years old. I called the same roofer, and after taking a look, he reported that the material he used was only supposed to last ten years, and it was aging. Like me, I thought.

As long as I’m getting part of my roof replaced, why not have my me replaced? Maybe I could get a younger me who can see, a me who doesn’t recoil at the prospect of dealing with contractors and insurance bureaucrats, a me who doesn’t hate being around any kind of construction, a me who can drive and not rely on others to get me everywhere, especially in winter, a me with more confidence when walking in treacherous conditions and less fear of falling on ice, braking bones, and ending up in a nursing home.

When I suggested as much to a friend though, she pointed out that with better eyesight, I might not like the way the world looks. It also occurred to me that with no disability, I wouldn’t earn income from social security. To make car payments and support my writing habit, I’d have to go back to my forty-hour-a-week job conducting activities with nursing home residents who fell on ice and broke bones.

Although the other features of a new me would be nice, this investment will have to wait until I get the roof fixed. Apparently, although my homeowner’s insurance will cover fixing the plaster on my ceiling, it won’t cover the replacement of part of my roof unless the damage was a result of a storm. Hmm, maybe with a better me, I could get up on the roof and make it look like storm damage.

***

Note: After I wrote the above, the insurance adjuster came and said that a piece has fallen off the roof, so it’s definitely storm damage. Whether it’s the type of storm damage my policy covers remains to be seen.

***

Abbie Johnson Taylor is the author of a romance novel, two poetry collections, and a memoir. Her work has appeared in Labyrinth, Magnets and Ladders, and other publications. She lives in Sheridan, Wyoming, where for six years, she cared for her late husband, totally blind and partially paralyzed by two strokes.

***

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

 

It’s the Great Pumpkin Spice

your Profile PhotoThis post by Jennifer Flaten

Happy Autumn, or as I like to call it Pumpkin Spice day. The day when every other flavor dies and pumpkin spice becomes the only flavor available until the peppermint mocha days of December.

I like pumpkin spice the way God intended, in a pie. I don’t want it in my cheerios, oreos or coffee.

Other than the over abundance of pumpkin spice, I love fall. I think it is such a romantic season, with the trees all ablaze in color; plus darkness falling early means candles (and who doesn’t look their best in the glow of a candle?). Not to mention the cooler weather is perfect for snuggling under a blanket with someone special or your favorite book.

I don’t even mind that my garden is almost at its end. After a really long, hot summer I am happy to be released from watering duty. Also, I am already looking forward to next year’s garden.

And, most importantly fall is the start of knitting season. Yes, I knit during summer, but not as often, some days it was just too hot to be handling wool. Plus, I can start wearing all my knit items again.

What is your favorite part of fall?

Browse my jewelry on Etsy

IN A PICKLE?

 

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This post by L.Leander, Author of Fearless Fiction

What’s it like to be in a pickle? Is it a problem similar to Jonah’s after a huge gray whale swallowed him when he ran from God rather than do His bidding? Jonah lived in the belly of the whale for three days and three nights before he was spewed back onto dry land, very much alive and in good health, praising the Lord and ready to serve Him without question. During the time he was in the whale I’ll bet he was scared but it gave him time to think about why he was there in the first place.

Naw, can’t be that. For one, pickles are green. Wrong color. Secondly, pickles are too small to swallow a man – in fact that’s just plain silly.

We all have heard the term “in a pickle” and we know it means to be in some sort of file0001359828610position to which no easy answer can be found.

Here’s the history of being ‘in a pickle.’ It was first coined by the Dutch from the word “pekel” and referred to a vinegar mixture that was spiced and salted and used as a preservative. It was many years before actual pickles (mainly gherkins) were thrown into the solution and became a favorite snack. Throughout history the idiom took hold and it is a fairly well used phrase yet today, when someone is speaking of being in trouble with no foreseeable way out.

Shakespeare used the expression first in the English language in the year 1611 in ‘The Tempest.’ Of course, the Dutch had used it for many years prior.

DCF 1.0

I’ve been in a pickle before. I’ve had a major problem and no matter how hard I strategize or use critical thinking I can’t think of an answer that will be a good solution. So what do I do when I’m ‘in a pickle?’

Being ‘in a pickle’ can be frustrating if you let it. But if you slow down, do some research, maybe ask a friend or two and anyone you can find who is an expert on the subject, there’s a good chance you’ll solve the problem.

file891249393942Although I found no truth to this statement as I researched the idiom, what I did find made me wonder whether or not in early Deutschland it might have been a punishment to be ‘in a pickle’ by an offender either being doused with the brew or having to stay in it for a period of time.

I guess being ‘in a pickle’ is not fun, so I believe I’ll put this post and my research on the shelf. How about you? Ever been in a pickle? How about a whale?

 

Inzared Queen of the Elephant Riders Video Trailer

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Inzared, Queen of the Elephant Riders

Inzared, The Fortune Teller Video Trailer

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Inzared, The Fortune Teller (Book Two)

13 Extreme Tips to Self Publishing

 

 

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13 Extreme Tips to Marketing an ebook

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You can also find L.Leander here:

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