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.
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.
Sunday, February 21, 2016
You know how certain songs are part of your life soundtrack? Well, Mockingbird became meshed with the soundtrack of my life—it was in there, nudging me to think, to look, to be an observer, to be a writer—not much of what I do or have created had too much to do with what I learned in school—I did get exposed to things, some not so pleasant—I seemed to be forever swimming against the current of what was expected of me—I clearly had my way of doing things, and school, even college, never lived up to my expectations. I was looking for “immersion” and never truly found that, nor did I get much guidance—a few bits here and there, but not whole lot of encouragement that didn’t have tags of negativity about it being “hard” or something that implied I didn’t have a snowball’s chance to “make it.” Seriously, I’m more satisfied with creating the things I create than receiving prizes or praise—that’s the shit that makes me crawl under a rock and hide while shrieking “Don’t look at me!”—so if anyone understands Nelle dusting off her hands and saying “I’m done!” I do. I learn by doing things hands on, getting my hands dirty, breaking my fingernails, and absorbing or being so focused that nothing else gets in—and sure, making mistakes along the way. I don’t like being told what to do—or what I should be doing. It took a long time to achieve what I have envisioned for myself. A long, slow simmer in a pot of life experience—along the way, I have carried the essence of what I learned from reading To Kill a Mockingbird, it was a long time before I set down the first words for my first novel. In spite of my observations of Nelle, and stuff that I’ve read about her, I can’t pretend to know her at all, but the book I do know—I never felt compelled to meet her (meeting your heroes is rarely a good thing.) Mockingbird was magical, its vision precise and formidable—my various journeys through it over the course of my life—from a child to adult—I never faltered in my feeling for it—the wisdom, the quiet, thoughtful prose, the intensity of emotion, it was visual—partly because of the film, which I saw well before I read the book, but the book expanded the limited scope of the film, filled in those hungry places that I had gurgling in my brain’s belly—it’s always good to be a little bit hungry all the time. I’m always hungry.
To Kill a Mockingbird was the perfect book. Nelle didn’t need to write another, tho’ I selfishly wished she had because I sensed she had more to say—much more. Go Set a Watchman came along last year, as a surprise, and of course, the collective “they” made it into a literary scandal of sorts—to be honest, I didn’t see Atticus as the outrageous racist that they made him out to be in the headlines. He was a man of his time and place, he was mixing with them because he had to keep an eye on what they were up to, he saw them as dangerous—and he had his own personal concerns as well, perhaps selfish ones, and who isn’t? Especially, once you’ve become older and feeling vulnerable to the whims of others, it’s that time when the young are coming up behind you, tapping your shoulder, expecting you to step aside so they can take their place in society with their own vision of how things should be. Naturally, the elders feel threatened—(I catch myself saying to the twenty somethings—wait until you’re fifty, you’ll know then—I might still feel like I’m nine on the inside, but I’m not ignorant of the fact that I’m getting on in life, I’m flat out tired and cranky, and I have aches n’ pains that are annoying me to no end. It’s not a pretty sight.) I read Watchman and accepted it as it was—the firstborn. To Kill a Mockingbird grew from it, and it was well nurtured in comparison—it’s a big book—it was her gift to the world, and now it’s her memorial.
My sympathies go to her family and friends. May she rest in peace.
I will have to read it again.
Post from my website:
Saturday, February 13, 2016
Swearwords, dirty words, swears, cussing, profanity, salty language, foul language, slang, spicy talk, raw, naughty, shocking, rude, cheap, vulgar, racy, immature, ignorant, ugly, gratuitous, offensive, obscene, risqué, crude, objectionable…Some of these objections to “such language” are badges rightfully acquired. In my honest opinion, their relevance are at the discretion of the writer—therefore, readers beware—beyond this point, there be dragons—big motherfucking dragons…
Ooooo, you just swore, I’m going to tell your Mom!
Go ahead, I dare you—and I’ll tell your Mom what you said five minutes ago when you stepped in that big squishy pile of dog shit. (Wild giggling with hands firmly clamped over our mouths.)
Remember those days? Being nine and testing the waters with some bad words—I still smirk a little when I swear. I was quite young when I first let rip a few to try them out, and although I knew they were very naughty things to say, I found them hilarious. When George Carlin recorded his long list of words that couldn’t be said on television—the world of bad words changed forever. I still hear my mother’s voice chiding “Here-here, that’s not the way to talk.” It was impressed on me that a young lady, such as myself, shouldn’t say such things. Well, being the sort of girl who couldn’t resist the temptation to do something I was not supposed to do, swearing just tickled my fancy, it set me apart from the rest of the girls—I didn’t fit in anyway, so I let ‘em fly.
A side note, my mouth did get washed out with soap once. For the life of me I can’t remember what I said, I was so young at the time, I probably repeated something I heard, and didn’t know what I was saying was bad. Lot of good it did—
I must confess—I have seen and heard enough in my lifetime that I’m likely to drop and F-bomb before 8 AM—or as the image above implies, when I start using “fuck” like a comma, I can gauge how my day is going to be—it’ll be a real day. As I work my way through editing my manuscript, Drinking from the Fishbowl, I have made a point to deliberate over the use of “such language”—just because I should—yes, I counted them, there is a lot of them sprinkled around. Have I taken any of them out? No. I haven’t found a reason to—I figure my readers are adults or maybe precocious teens—I’m confident that they can handle it. Tho’ I do realize some adult readers can be sensitive—that cannot be helped—I understand “there’s an app for that” so censorship is alive and well in the e-book world. I’ve heard good old white-out is an option if one is so inclined, it’ll take more than one bottle, I’m sure…
A few years ago, while attending my mother’s wake, one of her friends came up to me, shook my hand and said, “I loved your book (Dusty Waters), but it had so many bad words.” The lady scrunched herself up into a guilty cringe; she giggled and smiled in that coy little way of proper ladies who might’ve done something that made them feel guilty—I’m not sure, but I think she meant to scold me, but couldn’t quite pull it off. Of course, I was still feeling stunned by my mother’s unexpected death from a stroke, but I was gracious enough to thank her for reading my book and was glad she liked it in spite of my liberal use of bad words. Yes, my character, Dusty Waters, has quite a potty mouth—I’m up front from page one how things are going to be so anyone cracking it open for a test drive will know right away if it’s their cup of tea or not. (In this SJW climate less than ten years later, I’m sure it’s politically incorrect, some readers might expect trigger warnings, comfort stations, and safe spaces…)
All of my characters creatively express themselves with less than polite language—It doesn’t make my characters bad people when they drop an F-bomb because they’re upset, or express their surprise with an expletive—or just casually cussing away in regular conversation, it’s their personality—not a character flaw. People do talk this way—not all of ‘em, just some of ‘em. It might not be proper, it might not be professional, it might not be ideal to say such things in front of the “little pictures” learning how to talk because they repeat EVERYTHING Mommy and Daddy says. (Just hear it, don’t say it, and especially, don’t let Gramma hear you say that! Tho’ Grampy might laugh.) Profanity exists in our language—it’s a revealing element pertaining to the reality of the human condition, the anger, the amusement, the frustrations, and distress of people as they experience life—life is certainly generous with one thing after another. It’s always something.
My mother’s friend isn’t the first or the only one to comment on my use of such language. Her cringing posture made me feel a little bad that my book forced her out of her comfort zone. To be honest, my comfort zone is challenged whenever I step out my front door to witness the world for as long as I can remember, so I can sympathize as I cringe too—yet I push myself to go “there”—where ever, whatever “there” is because it’s what I do. It’s part of being an observer, being a writer. I’m amazed when I meet people who have allowed themselves to remain sheltered and have never looked the cruel world in the eye and said, “What the fuck!” But I guess, some folks don’t want to look at it too closely—it’s safer in the over-rated protection of the shelter—or the trendy “safe space.” That’s fine. I’ve always been too aware of the world, so I tell it like it is—it might not be pretty, and not too many people want to hear it, but it is what it is. So I reach for the default phrase—“What the fuck.” (This use is casual, like a shrug, “C’est la vie!” It works just as well when it comes to the five-second rule.) Then I could say, “What the fuck?” (An inquiry in regards to something unbelievable, like that asshole who just did a U-turn from the right lane in front of all oncoming traffic to get to the far right lane going the other direction, it was truly amazing that he didn’t cause an accident—give that guy a gold star along with the finger.) And finally, “What the fuck!” (Dude, you scared me, I think I peed a little—or a bad-ass case of frustration, because something just wormed its way under my skin just enough to trigger righteous indignation.)
Ooooo, you just swore—
Yup, I did.