Welcome to my blog Upstate Girl, (a.k.a Follow Your Bliss Part II), I am an independently published author. This blog is all about writing and the stuff that inspires me to write, the joys and obstacles that come along with the writer's life, and my fascination with the psychology of people and what makes them tick...the human condition, as is...and my love for words, playing with them and making sense of them...and I throw in a few photos from my acre of the world just to make things pretty...sometimes there are things I have no words for, only pictures will do.
*Copyright notice* All photos, writing, and artwork are mine (© Laura J. Wellner), unless otherwise noted, please be a peach, if you'd like to use my work for a project or you just love it and must have it, message me and we'll work out the details...it's simple...JUST ASK, please.
Saturday, September 17, 2016
I sez, "What writing on the wall have you been reading lately? I want to compare notes..."
I have a suspicion 'tis all, cuz these days I can't wrap my mind around what I comprehend. Things have been more than strange. I feel unsettled. "Everything's gone bat crap crazy," I sez, if you know what I mean. (I don't think you're listening.)
Have you seen it too? Heard it. Felt it. Smelled it in the wind. Tasted something not right. Something off. Spoiled. Rotten. Or am I just imagining things? Gone awry. Running scared. Jumping at shadows. My tinfoil hat has seen better days...'tis a bit askew. I've worn it a lot in various ways...trying for a better signal... cuz I'm seeing ghosts in the machine...have been for ages, but didn't want to admit it. Maybe I'm growing old before my time, cuz I've seen too much. Most likely, I'm wise beyond my years...cuz I feel too much.
"'tis time to go home," I sez. Batten down the hatches. Protect your own. Of late, I sez to you (joking of course) "Other people are Hell." That's the sad part...it shouldn't be that way...but it is. (For reasons unbeknownst to you...apparently.) It's time for me to step out of the way...'n duck. I'm not going to stop your face-first plunge into the cat box if that's what you want to do...I sez, "Not my monkeys, not my circus." I am going to be okay, but you, with your head up your ass, misreading the wall, be screwed.
Friday, September 9, 2016
This amusing creature and such things of myths and legends always interested me...a big part of writing fiction is making up shit, which is part of the fun...The Jackalope has a small, yet significant part in my novel Drinking from the Fishbowl (which is closer than ever to being done.) I found this postcard when I was out West once a very long time ago, but darn it, I can't lay my hands on it as I've squirreled it away somewhere in my treasure-trove of crap that I've collected over the years, so I Googled it and found a picture of it on an amusing website that included the greatest hits of legendary creatures like Bigfoot and Nessie:
Not meaning to get your hopes up (or down if you don't dig Bigfoot) the book isn't about any of them, but it is about dreams and realities, and the mythology that is invented about people who become "rich and famous."
Eugene Riley originates from a place where the mythological Jackalope has been rumored to leap around in mountain meadows...he is on a life journey in which the reality of his dreams isn't what he had expected, he is a successful actor and filmmaker, goodness yes, he seems to have the golden touch...and yet, no, he has plenty of stumbles along the way that are less than glamorous. The talented young man is determined to follow his dreams and make them happen, and has overcome the obstacles that get in the way, and from time to time as he progresses into his career from a finds himself in good company with the Jackalope. The media makes up stories about him throughout his career in Hollywood, the truth mixes with lies and the lies become a bizarre "truth" that the inquiring minds want to know...when in reality, Eugene is an ordinary fellow, he's really an introvert, but a few tips from a flask or hits from a joint smooths the rough spots and he's good to go. When seen in person without the make up, the costumes, the lighting, the dramatic camera angles, and of course, good editing, he's not as tall as you think, and his eyes, although they are blue, they are not really that blue, and his real hair is unruly dirty blond curls. The Hollywood media machine is riddled with rumors about him, some of the most outrageous things are typical fodder (who is he dating, who is he dumping, look who he's been caught in a love nest with while he's married to wife #whatever, is that baby his baby, is his wife going to leave him, did he beat his wife, he's a drug addict, he's a drunk, is he going to rehab, he's out of rehab, did he have a relapse, oops he did it again, did he just die in a fiery car crash, did he get kidnapped by aliens, where is he now, is Bat-Boy his big brother? Seriously...if you spend any time in the grocery store line, you know the drill, this shit is crazy.) The fabricated "royalty" that grace the glossy covers of magazines are a cultural fascination that flows between fairy tale and comic-tragedy, it's so bizarre.
Why on earth would I want to write about this... because I wanted to explore the emotional side of the person living with this burden. How does a man voted "The Sexiest Man Alive" feel about it? How does the actor who doesn't win the Oscar for Best Actor feel about it? How does he feel when the film he's directed gets the "Two Thumbs Up" and wins Best Picture? There is a real person riding that Hollywood wild horse. Living with all the ridiculous rumors about his private life swirling around in print (and feels compelled to call his mom, Grace Riley in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and his best friend, Georgia Sullivan in New York City to tell them to ignore it, he's alive and well.) His reality is this, he just happens to have a really cool job doing something that he loves. People fall in love with an image that he projects, a character, a fiction. It's a fickle life, and he's very aware that the ride can end at any time. Does he wait for it to throw him off, or does he stop the horse, get down, and walk away on his own.
Eugene Riley is a Jackalope.
Sunday, July 31, 2016
The process seems to be taking forever, and each time through it, I find "something" (it's a bit maddening, obsessive compulsive, and yet terribly FUN! I love editing, and I do love this book, my weird little soap opera about dreams and realities. For the last five years of writing, editing, and going line by line backwards and forwards, the word count and page count expands and contracts...pages, paragraphs, and words are cut...more are put in...
Sometimes I go several days not looking at it at all, or thinking about it...I've written a few poems, a short bit or two... I submitted a poem The Chronic Need for a Magic Bullet to The Sun, I'm waiting for a response...it's about my 7 months on Vicodin for nerve pain from the shingles, a timely piece, a bit rambling...a less refined version is posted on my Wordpress website: https://laurajwryan.wordpress.com/poe-ems-and-other-short-stuff/essays-compositions-pontifications-musings-noise-rants-and-other-what-not/chronic/
Balance. It's about balance. To do what I do I have to balance life and art...it's never easy...but I manage to do what I gotta do.
When it's been very hot, I've spent time under the Three Sisters, the pine trees (Norway spruce, I think) in the corner of our acre...it's nice, cool, the crows living there like me because I feed them peanuts every day so my table is not shit on...remarkable. (The Mr. & Mrs. raised another baby, man that is one big cry baby, nigh pitiful, often hilarious...big enough to fly, yet whiny and fussy as can be!)
Well, that's the news from my acre of the world in Upstate New York...
…“It’s a waste of time for a genius like me to peddle his art. I say get down to the bloody work, make something the world’s never seen, and when you’re dead perhaps they’ll find out about you—if they’re lucky!”
Oftentimes Ben would stop with his work and draw his hand through the air and say, “You see this? These paintings? These sculptures? They are perfectly meaningless things. And yet in making them I have felt what it feels like to be a king. And that stimulus to my brain, that knowledge of creation which I have gained...that, Jerome, is what all this making is about.” (p. 42)
Ark by Julian Tepper is a highly entertaining dark comedy, the plot is familiar and funny, it clips along at a steady, bite-sized pace—it does require a certain mindset to settle into the saddle for the fictional ride—and as with any book, I had trust in the author to tell the story from his unique vision. I say this because it is squirmy in that neurotic Woody Allen movie/ Seinfeld episode world that makes me roll my eyes—preparing myself for absurdities that are unreal, asking myself, “Who in their right mind behaves like this?” Well, people do act-out inappropriately depending on their circumstances—just open the newspaper on any given day and they are out there. The human condition is a curious state of affairs, like the fascination with disasters, people tie up traffic rubbernecking at car accidents; they peruse the front page of the tabloids at the checkout counter—yes, remarkable, we have a fixation on tragedy and scandal, but there wouldn’t be a story without it. I have to point out here, that there’s something special about New York City—the quirky stories about it and its inhabitants; it’s steeped in the American literary tradition. New York City is this big fabulous place constructed onto this small parcel of real estate, it’s jam packed with the human condition, and complex circumstances that can be unbelievable to some, but absolutely normal to those living it. I’m just a small town girl from Upstate New York, so the place alternately fascinates and puzzles me most of the time.
No matter where you’re from, or how wealthy you are (or not) the best of families can disintegrate into petty squabble-fests over things and money in a heartbeat (because someone’s heart ceased to beat)—blood is thicker than water, and then there’s familial shit slinging. The book immediately careens away from Ben’s peaceful and quirky morning routine, which until I viewed Ben from another perspective a few pages later, it was sad to see him differently than how he perceives himself. We’re all guilty of that—there are some days the mirror is unforgiving. Anyway, the true circumstances of the story immediately comes in the form of Ben’s wife, Eliza, as the broader issue of money and needing to acquire money to pay the bills. She suggests going to the Russian to sell diamonds—the suggestion made my core clench—this can only go badly in some form—the human condition bomb is ticking. At times, as I’ve gotten older, I look around me and wonder what I have to sell should things go financially south—I don’t have a clutch of diamonds. Writing books? Nah, no money in that (she laughs.) I do have a ton of artwork that I made, but I know no one will pay what I think it’s worth, so I’m a miser and hang on to most of them, when I’ve sold certain ones I always regret it. I have antiques, lots of bits of this and that from my mother’s house—one massive auction might solve things only if the prices are right—typically, not. I have my house, it’s paid for, but I intend to die here some day in a far off date in the future, so that’s not for sale. See, the magic of books is simply amazing—they get ya thinkin’ about stuff—generating empathy for the characters—so from that point, I was in. Ben and Eliza, the diamonds, the acquisition of funds—the story dominos were properly set up, then the telephone rang within another page, that’s when they all started the rapid clicking fall to the inevitable chaos of a thing called life with the Arkin family. Life can be ugly once the details unfold, family dynamics, damage done—who did what to who, when—the mystery of the human condition bomb, wired up, the timer winding down, ready to blow. The imposition of anxiety pulses through the narrative going from bad to worse, and just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, it does. It was relentless.
Serenity now! (*wink*)
I like to immerse myself into a book, live there, experience it, so when I finished Ark, I was glad it was over—not in a bad way—I needed time. Look at it like this, I’m the awkward little introvert at a party populated by extroverts, all I want to do is sit in a corner drinking wine while playing with the host’s cat, absorbing everything going on around me, waiting for the right time to leave, not wanting to be the first person out the door. If the cat and I are having fun interacting in the corner, I’ll be the last person out the door, tipsy, grinning foolishly at the host and telling them, “I had a wonderful time.” In this book, the cat and I had our brief quality time, but the cat ran off to hide under the bed because someone’s allergy to cats kicked in and the host was trying to catch it. I was ready to leave so I could digest all that I observed while people watching—I wasn’t drunk, I wasn’t sleepy either, I was overwhelmed, which is easy when the story has so much in so few pages, very little room to breathe. My little Upstate brain and I needed to take a turn sitting on the beach with a bottle of wine, tuning out everyone—if Ben and Eliza’s granddaughter, Rebecca, showed up, I’d kindly tell her to go find her own patch of beach. This is mine.
When I finish reading a book, I retrace my steps within a day or two. I return to the parts that I think about or do a random drop in to reread a paragraph or two, sometimes more. I typically dog-ear pages or in the case of e-books bookmark, highlight, and I write notes. Where did I go? I revisited Jerome—he was the cat in the corner. I have to admire Jerome for his genuine concern, his patience, and especially his diligence to finish Ben’s last work of art—it was the most touching interlude because he still had hope—even if it was unpromising and a bit foolhardy—he still possessed enough unscathed innocence to hope. When Rebecca saw what he had been working on in Ben’s studio, she was impressed, Jerome was high on the energy that comes from creation, but she was too punch-drunk from the emotional battery to care about anything more than self-preservation. She did warn him to run, but he had his own vision to make Ben famous. This would mean becoming entangled in the Arkin family war, the fragmented clamoring hoard of the Arkin family goes on—life goes on after the book is done, as it should. It’s a tidy little package, I must say, even with the spite and spit of the bitter family feud.
“…I’ve told you before and I’ll tell you again…these are just meaningless objects. It’s the experience of making the work. That’s the thing!” …“Yes, I was there for the creation,” Ben continued. “That’s what it’s about, Jerome. The rest…the rest is all a lot of bullshit.” (p.47)
Ark by Julian Tepper
Publication Date: September 2016
Hardcover: 224 pages
Hardcover: 224 pages
[Synopsis: Ben Arkin, patriarch of the family, is an artist who has never sold a piece. His children, Sondra, Doris, and Oliver run a record label that has never produced a hit, and that Ben and his wife have bankrolled. When Doris strikes out to form her own label, Sondra sues the entire Arkin family, setting about a series of events that ultimately lead to their demise. The story is told primarily from the perspective of Oliver’s daughter, Rebecca, an attorney who might be the only redeeming member of the Arkin family. Rebecca attempts to keep the family from collapsing, while trying desperately to extricate herself from their grasp.]
Wednesday, April 6, 2016
The strangest things happen while writing a book—a whole lot of unexpected emerges from the fertile ground of the primary source (or the backbone) of the story. It always amazes me where the original idea takes me, it all seems so simple at first, then there’s this beautiful sense of wonder that occurs as pieces fall into place, I go with the flow because it feels right—it’s truly magical how it happens. The Fractured Hues of White Light turned out to be a bigger, far more complex story than I initially imagined, and there were times I feared I took on something too big. It surprises me that I wrote it in that “I really wrote this book!” sort of way. I’m a little bit partial to this one—I think “she’s” my favorite novel because it was so challenging to write it. I have a special attachment to it, maybe I’m a little sentimental about it—some might criticize me and say, “It’s done, it’s out of the nest, let it go.” It’s not that at all, it’s the experience of the creation that interests me most, when I revisit the book (I open it up and drop in now and then to say “Hi.”) I will remember the stuff that went into it, and the events surrounding the time I wrote it. It was a time in my life—a time when my writing started to make sense and I had to learn to juggle writing with life, work, home, and everything else that happens along the way. It’s an immersive experience, very much like falling in love, it’s exciting and exhausting at the time it’s happening, and when I “drop in” to visit the pages, it’s familiar like an old friend. I love what I do, I love what I’ve done.
The Fractured Hues of White Light—is the second one in the line-up of published books that I’ve put out there, but in the “birth-order” of creation, it was the third manuscript that came out of a creative sweet-spot that happened to me between 1999 and 2003. (I have archived files on my computer dating back to 2000-2001, pretty crazy.) It was as if my longtime dream to be a writer went supernova inside my head and all of it burst out at once, I couldn’t write fast enough it seemed. It’s so strange how the books start. It’s magical how they come together, fragments that grow into this larger story, full of layers and characters, their histories, their personalities, quirks, passions, and fears. It’s hard to explain. I love the process so much, the creating, the polishing, then the terrifying, yet satisfying part of putting it out there to be read—learning to accept the likes and dislikes as they come. I do enjoy hearing from readers about their experiences with my books. I’ve had readers tell me very personal reactions, like when I made them cry. Then I get all embarrassed and say stuff like, “Shucks, I’m sorry I made you cry—awwww—let’s hug!”
I’ve pissed people off too—might as well while I’m at it. It’s part of the package. Books are a special thing, readers gobble them up, they lose time while they’re reading, and not every book works for them—it’s a subjective thing. A reader who loves commercial or genre fiction might not appreciate literary fiction. My books are literary—they are gritty, yet they have a silly streak in them, and dark humor—I do try to bring the reader back to a safe place after taking them into the darkest corners of shit happening—the examination of the human condition is messy and can be ugly. I write in the vein that goes deep into the interior of the character’s personality, what makes them tick. In Samantha Ryder’s world, specific things like the sound of the ocean, the texture and color of the old glass windows of her house in Gloucester, Massachusetts, dust motes in a shaft of sunlight, stones on the beach, the sugar bowl and creamer on the kitchen table, and the color yellow have special significance. The things that happen in the past have made her, and the future links with the past. I’ve written the book from four points of view—Samantha, Guthrie, Helena, and Sylvester—there is more than one side to the story, and this is another thing that interests me about writing—how characters influence one another, each one has their own interpretation of events and opinions about what’s happened—and where they’re going. I’ve populated all of my novels with people who have met before, so Guthrie has a small part in Drinking from the Fishbowl, which takes place before the events of The Fractured Hues of White Light. Sylvester pops up in two other books not yet published, but they will be someday, these things take time. A lot of being a writer is about patience.
When I started it, it began with two people driving through Wyoming having a conversation, from there I filled in around this one moment in time. I had no idea who these two were or why they were out there, where they were from, how old they were, their names, nothing, I knew nothing. It was just a conversation between a man and a woman, traveling companions, maybe lovers, maybe spouses, friends, or siblings—eventually, after a good deal of questioning, they became Guthrie and Samantha. Their complex relationship is complicated by the definition of love. It was tragic and yet, in the drama brewing in the cloister of a car driving through a springtime rainstorm in the Red Desert, they could laugh at themselves, and at how things are—by this part in the book, it was time for them to stop avoiding the inevitable and go home. Samantha, being autistic, rarely journeyed far from home where the familiar things keep her sense of security intact—although it was a journey of self-preservation, it was possible that it could’ve been her undoing as she withdrew inside herself, on the verge of shutting down. Then while looking out the car window at the rain, she spied a dildo on the shoulder of the road. Seeing that thing cracked her shell open enough to let out a giggle, and then she started to laugh her ass off. It’s these little happenings that make the experience of writing so fascinating—I’m making things up as I go along, it’s part of the fun.
Just so you know—I really did see a dildo on the side of the road one rainy night many years ago, it was the funniest random thing to see, that’s something you don’t see every day—I’ve seen some weird shit in my time, but that just seemed curious, standing up like it was hitching a ride. So odd. Who knows how it got there, god knows where it’s been! It’s long gone, but the memory is still there. When you see stuff like that, it’s all fodder for later. I have a head full of this nonsense. (It was on East Genesee Street in Syracuse, on the way to DeWitt, near Nottingham High School, as if that matters at all, but it’s funny every time I go by that spot, I still laugh.)
The Fractured Hues of White Light was a tough one to write in some respects, but once I started it, it flowed out of me like I knew what I was doing. Yet there were so many surprises that I did not foresee—like the ending. I had no idea how it was going to end when I started it. Most of the time, writers have the beginning and the ending figured out, it’s the stuff in the middle that’s hard to get through. I was all over the place while writing this one, and then printing it, and piecing it all together, sometimes getting out the scissors and tape. (Yikes, right?) Occasionally, I would ask myself “Where is this going?” Then I’d shrug and kept writing because I knew it could reveal itself eventually—“I’ll know it when I see it.” When it happened—I was surprised, yet not. It was there the whole time.
Patience. It takes patience to write a book.
I’ve also come to grips with the fact I’ll never get a six figure advance from Alfred Knopf—I’m okay with that, I’m not one of those real “go get-ers,” chomping on the bit to do a book tour, and all that, best seller list stuff. Nah, it’ll never happen, I have a lot of patience, but I don’t have the patience for that shit. Nope.